WHERE DID CHRISTMAS COME FROM?
WAS JESUS BORN? It is well-know among Biblical scholars that Jesus was
not born in December,
because the shepherds were never out in the fields with their sheep at
"There were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night." -Luke 2:8.
always brought their sheep in from the mountainsides and field and
corralled them not later than October 15; to protect them from the cold,
rainy, season that followed. (Also read Songs 2:11 and Ezra 10:9, 13.)
was an ancient custom among Jews of those days to send out their sheep
to the fields and deserts about the Passover [early spring], and bring
them home at commencement of the first rain. During the time they were
out, the shepherds watched them night and day. As . . the first rain
began early in the month of March, which answers to part of our October,
we find that the sheep were kept out in the open country during the
as these shepherds had not yet brought home their flocks [when Christ
was born in Bethlehem], it is a presumptive argument that October had
not yet commenced, and that, consequently, our Lord was not born on
the 25th of December, when no flocks were out in the fields; nor could
He have been born later than September, as the flocks were still in the
fields by night. On this very ground the nativity in December should be
given up. The feeding of the flocks by night in the fields is a
chronological fact. . See the quotations from the Talmudists in
Lightfoot:'-Adam Clarke, Commentary, Vol. 5, 370.
census of Caesar Augustus is mentioned in Luke 2: 1-2, but historians
are not certain when it was issued. But it is improbable that he would
call for the citizens of the Roman Empire to return to their native
homes, to be enrolled in the census in the middle of winter. Even his
armies avoided marching during the hazards of winter weather.
authorities believe that Christ was born in the spring of the year; but,
in the wisdom of God, the date of Christ's birth bas been hidden from
Why, then, does all the world celebrate the birth of Christ-not merely in December-but on a certain day in December?
We need to know (1) What is "Christmas?" (2) How did Christmas get into the Christian church? and (3) Why did it enter back in those early days? Here are answers to these questions:
word, "Christmas," means "Mass of Christ," or, as
it came to be shortened, "Christ-Mass." It came to the
modern world from the Roman Catholic Church. They not get it from the
Bible, but from paganism.
'Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the Church. . The
first evidence of the feast is from Egypt: 'Pagan customs centering
around the January calends [the pagan calendar] gravitated to
Christmas: "-Catholic Encyclopedia, 1911 ed.,
an early Christian writer, said this about celebrating birthdays in the
the Scriptures, no one is recorded to have kept the feast or held a
great banquet on his [Christ's] birthday. It is only sinners [like
Pharaoh or Herod] who make great rejoicings over the day in which they
were born into this world." -Catholic Encyclopedia, 11th ed.,
HOW DID CHRISTMAS GET INTO THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH?-In one brief paragraph, the New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge tells us how the December 25 holiday entered the Christian church:
much the date of the festival depended upon the pagan Brumalia [The
December 25 celebration], following the Saturnalia [an eight-day
December 17-24 festival preceding it], and celebrating the shortest
day of the year and the 'new sun' . . cannot be accurately determined.
The pagan Saturnalia and Brumalia were too deeply entrenched in
popular custom to be set aside by Christian influence. . The pagan
festival with its riot and merrymaking was so popular that Christians
were glad of an excuse to continue its celebration with little change
in spirit and in manner. Christian preachers of the West and the Near
East protested against the unseemly frivolity with which Christ's
birthday was celebrated, while Christians of Mesopotamia accused their
Western brethren of Idolatry and sun worship for adopting as Christian
this pagan festival. "-New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of
Religious Knowledge, "Christmas." Church leaders adopted a
pagan holiday, in spite of the protests of some godly local pastors. It
was considered idolatry to do this, since it was nothing more than a
heathen day of worship. In addition, the day for this worship had been
selected in honor of Mithra, the sun god. December 25 was dedicated to
the keeping of his birthday. Therefore sincere Christians considered it
to be a form of sun worship. The sun had reached its lowest angle in the
sky on December 21 (the winter solstice), and the 25th was the first
observable day in which it began rising in the noon sky. So December 25
had, for centuries, been celebrated as the "birth of the sun
earnest believers recognized that Christians dare not accept pagan
practices or pagan holidays. Those heathen customs could not be found in
the Bible, so they ought to be shunned by conscientious Christians.
Roman world was essentially pagan and many converts to Christianity had
come to enjoy those festivities, and did not want to forsake them
after baptism into the Christian church. When these half, converted
church members rose to leadership positions, they made policy changes in
agreement with contemporary heathen customs. And that is how we got
feast was established in memory of this event [Christ's birth] in the
fourth century. In the fifth century the Western Church ordered it to be
celebrated forever on the day of the old Roman feast of the birth of
Sol [the Latin word for 'sun'], as no certain knowledge of the day of
Christ's birth existed."-Encyclopedia Americana (1944 edition),
the Bible contained no certain knowledge of when Christ was born, then
we should not select a definite day on which to worship Him. Instead, we
should remain with the only weekly worship day God ever gave us, the
seventhday Sabbath (Genesis 2:1-3; Exodus 20:8-11). Sol, which means
"sun" in Latin, was another name for Mithra, the sun god. A
strong controversy arose in the Christian church over this latest
apostasy by Western church leaders:
Latins, as early as [A.D.] 354, may have transferred the birthday from
January 6th to December 25, which was then a Mithraic feast. . or
birthday of the unconquered sun. . The Syrians and Armenians accused the
Romans of sun worship and idolatry." -Encyclopedia Britannica,
was clearly understood by many that this pagan holiday should not be
adopted as the memorial day of the birth of Christ.
DID MITHRA WORSHIP BRING THESE THINGS INTO THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH? In
order to understand how and why Christmas came into the Christian church
back in those early centuries, we need to understand the tremendous
influence of pagan Mithraism in the first few centuries after the time
of Christ and how Christian leaders decided to adopt the customs of
paganism in order to win the battle against it.
following information is vital, and comes from an earlier study by the
PLANETARY WEEK The
various days of the week were in ancient times called the first day, and
second day, etc., for these were their Biblical names. But about the
time of Christ they were given new names. The non-Christians began
calling them the Day of the Sun, the Day of the Moon, etc., in honor of
different heavenly bodies. This was known as the "planetary
day was ruled over by a different god, but the most important of all
gods was given the rule of the first day of the week, with the idea in
mind that the first is always more important than that which follows it.
The most important of all gods was given the rule over the first of the
seven days. It was his day, the day of the Sun; and all the worship of
the week centered on his day. Now, although these names for the days of
the week were new, the Sun god's wasn't, forms worship came from a
devotion to that most powerful of natural objects. It was one of the
most ancient forms of worship and is represented by solar-disk images
found on nearly every continent of our world.
worship was the earliest idolatry." Fausset, Bible Dictionary,
Arabians appear to have worshiped it directly without using any statue
or symbol (Job 31 :26-27). Abraham was called out of all this when he
went to the promised land. Ra was the Sun god in Egypt, and On (Heliopolis)
was the city of Sun worship (see the Hebrew of Jer. 43:13). Entering
Canaan under Joshua, the Hebrews again met Sun worship. Baal of the
Phoenicians, Molech or Milcom of the Ammonites, Hadad of the Syrians,
and later the Persian Mitras or Mithra. Shemesh was an especially
important Sun god in the Middle East; and, later, in Egypt, Aton was the
god of the Sun Disk. The temple at Baalbek was dedicated to Sun worship.
associating with Sun worshipers, the Israelites frequently practiced
it themselves (Lev. 26:30; Isa. 17:8). King Manasseh practiced direct
Sun worship (2 Kgs. 21:3, 5). Josiah destroyed the chariots that were
dedicated to the Sun and worship processions (2 Kgs. 23:5, 1112). Sun
altars and incense were burned on the housetops for the sun (Zeph. 1:5).
And Ezekiel beheld the "greatest abomination": direct Sun
worship at the entry way to the temple of the true God. This was done by
facing eastward to the rising sun (Ezek. 8:16-17).
AND THE DAY OF THE SUN All
this time there was no particular day that was used for his heathen
worship. But then, about the time of Christ, or a little before, the
various days of the week were dedicated to specific pagan celestial
gods-dies Solis, the day of the Sun, dies Lunae, the day of the Moon,
and so on.
The sacred day of the Jews and Christians was the memorial of Creation, the true Sabbath, the seventh-day, the only Sabbath given in the Bible. The sacred day of paganism was the memorial of the Sun god, the first day of the week. His day was called. "the Venerable Day of the Sun."
keeping never occurred in the Old or New Testaments, nor was it
commanded. In the time of Christ and the Apostles, the official
religion of the Roman government did not have a sacred day, but
gradually Sunday keeping began to become common among the non-Christian
people of the empire.
planetary week, each day named after a different planet in the sky,
played a very important part in the worship of the sun. By the time of
Christ, Sun worship was most powerfully represented in Mithraism. Now,
Mithra (also called Mithras) was originally an ancient god of Iran, and
had been worshiped as the god of strength and war by the descendants of
the Persians. But, by the first century A.D., Mithra had been
transformed, oddly enough, into the leading Sun god and the foremost
pagan god of any kind, of the western civilized world. The Romans often
called him by a new name, Sol Invictus, "the Invincible Sun."
During the early centuries of the Christian Era, Mithra was the greatest
pagan rival of Christianity.
this was not without a carefully developed plan; for Satan had
arranged that Mithraism would closely approximate, in several ways,
the only true religion in the world Christianity. It had such features
as a dying-rising Saviour, special religious suppers, a special holy
day out of the weekly seven, the Sun Day, initial baptism of its
converts (in the blood of a slaughtered bull), and other similarities.
It counterfeited the religion of the true God more cleverly than any
other religion up to that time in history.
large numbers of non-Christians began observing Sunday as a holy day in
honor of Mithra. He was especially liked by the Roman soldiers, for his
worship included athletic feats of skill and "warlike
the worship of the Invincible Sun became even more popular and
widespread among the Roman Empire. Emperor Aurelian (A.D. 270-275),
whose mother was a priestess of the Sun, made this solar cult the
official religion of the empire. His biographer, Flavius Vopiscus,
says that the priests of the Temple of the Sun at Rome were called
pontiffs. They were priests of their dying-rising Saviour, Mithra, and
vicegerents in religious matters next to him.
this time, the middle of the second century, worldly Christians
apparently, from the records in Alexandria and Rome more than anywhere
else, in order to be better accepted by their pagan neighbors, began
keeping Sunday. In order to excuse their practice, since it was not
Scriptural, they called Sunday "the Lord's Day," even though
it was obvious to all that Revelation 1:10 said nothing about Sunday.
"Lord Mithra" was a favorite name given him by his worshipers.
worship continued to be the official religion of the empire until
Constantine I defeated Licinius in 323, after which it was replaced by
In every case that the present writer can locate, the few Christian leaders advocating Sunday keeping prior to A.D. 400 were the Christian philosophers at Alexandria and the Christian bishops in the city of Rome.
about this time, a youngster was growing up that was destined to
powerfully affect the Christian world for all time to come-a boy named
AND A STATE CHURCH
On the retirement of Emperor Diocletian in AD. 305, it was an uphill
fight among several men for the coveted title of Emperor. Fighting
continued on and off, from 305 till 323. But out of it, Constantine
emerged as the sole ruler of the vast Roman Empire. The crucial battle
occurred just north of Rome in October of 312. Just afterward, by the
Edict of Milan, Constantine gave Christianity full legal equality with
every other religion in the empire. More favors to the church soon
on March 7, 321, was issued the first national Sunday Law in history.
This was the first "blue law" to be issued by a civil government.
Here is the text of Constantine's Sunday Law Decree:
all judges and townspeople and occupations of all trades rest on the
Venerable Day of the Sun [Sunday]; nevertheless, let those who are situated
in the rural districts freely and with full liberty attend to the
cultivation of the fields, because it frequently happens that no other
day may be so fitting for ploughing grains or trenching vineyards, lest
at the time the advantage of the moment granted by the provision of
heaven be lost. Given on the Nones [seventh] of March, Crispus and
Constantine being consuls, each of them, for the second time."-The
Code of Justinian, Book 111, title 12, law 3.
additional Sunday Laws were to be issued by Constantine, within a very
few years, to strengthen this, his basic one.
It is to be observed that Constantine's Sunday Law was just that, a Sunday Law-and nothing more. It was a Sunday law that both Mithraists and compromising Christians could easily accept. In that law, Christianity is never mentioned. The day is called "the Venerable Day of the Sun" (venarabili die solis). This was the mystical name for the Day of the Sun god. Both the heathen and the Christians well knew this. It is a historical fact that, when Constantine issued that first imperial Sunday edict of 321, enforcing the observance of Sunday by the people of the Roman Empire, he was still a worshiper of Sol Invictus, "the Invincible Sun," as well as being the Pontifix Maximus (supreme pagan pontiff or priest) of Roman heathen worship as the state religion.
though Constantine meant the law to unite all contending religions into
one giant compromising conglomerate, Christian leaders in Rome saw it
as a great victory.
-Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea (270-338), generally considered to be
Constantine's outstanding flatterer in the church, made this remarkable
"All things whatsoever it was duty to do on the [seventh day] Sabbath, these we [the church] have transferred to the Lord's day [Sunday]."Commentary on the Psalms, in Migne, Patrologia Graeca, Vol. 23, Col. 1171.
on this heaven-daring statement, one historical writer made this
comment: "Not a single testimony of the Scriptures was produced in
proof of the new doctrine. Eusebius himself unwittingly acknowledges its
falsity, and points to the real authors of change. 'All things,' he
says, 'whatever that it was duty to do on the Sabbath, these we have
transferred to the Lord's day.' But the Sunday argument, groundless as
it was, served to embolden men in trampling upon the Sabbath of the
Lord. All who desired to be honored by the world accepted the popular
festival."-Great Controversy, 574.
was the beginning of something new and ominous within the Christian
church. Rome, itself, the capital of the mammoth empire, was more
licentious, dissipated, and political than any other city. The
influence of it all had reached to the local Christian church there, and
a concern to meet the world's standard, as well as a fascination with
power-politics had gripped it. From there, the apostasy spread outward
to other Christian churches. In A.D. 325 the Councll of Nicaea met, at
which time the church leaders decreed that all must honor the
resurrection of Christ by keeping the pagan Easter festival-and only on
a certain Sunday of each year. Immediately, following this ruling,
Constantine issued an imperial order commanding all Christians everywhere
to obey the decrees of that council. Church
and State had united; and, whenever in history this has happened,
persecution of religious dissenters has generally followed. Trouble
was ahead for the people of God.
BEGINS-From A.D. 350, onward, the persecution of Christians by their
fellow Christians began.
order to placate church and government authorities, there were those who
attempted to keep both days-Sabbath as well as Sunday holy-thus
endeavoring to obey God as well as man, for religious persecution
against non-observance of Sunday was growing stronger.
this reason, Sozomen, a church historian of that time, tells us that
"[Many Christians] were assembling together on the Sabbath as well
as on the first day of the week, which custom is never observed at Rome
or at Alexandria. .. -Sozomen, Ecclesiastical History, book 7, chapter
19, in A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, second
series, Vol. 2 [Luke 16:13, Acts 5:39].
at this late date, Rome and Alexandria continued to be the only
bulwarks of strict Sunday keeping. The keeping of both days might seem a
practical solution, but it wasn't. The seventh-day Sabbath was the
divinely ordained day for the worship of the Creator. God had never
changed it. The Sun day was a man-made institution of worship in honor
of a pagan god. To obey both was impossible (Matt. 6:24).
This was exactly the problem the three Hebrew worthies faced at Dura (Read Daniel 3.) Those three men were not, at that time, forbidden to worship the true God. They need only bow down, that day, with others in an appearance of worship to the false. But, of course, to do so would signify an acceptance of heathen worship.
this they could not do. They would rather die first. They would rather
die than lose something that many in our day consider to be of little
value The Sabbath of the Fourth Commandment given by the God of
it was that Christmas the birthday of the sun god,-and Sunday
sacredness both came into the Christian church; because early church
leaders in Rome and Alexandria, working with government leaders,
wanted to unite Christianity with Mithraism-by requiring Mithraic
practices in the worship of Christ.
in the centuries that followed, more and more Sabbathkeepers were hunted
down and slain until by the 11th century, there were only a few people
left who kept the Bible Sabbath on the seventh day of the week.
But there is even more information available from major historians,
about the true facts about Christmas.
the Israelites first settled in Canaan they acknowledged the principles
of the theocracy, and the nation prospered under the rule of Joshua. But
increase of population and intercourse with other nations brought a
change. The people adopted many of the customs of their heathen
neighbors and thus sacrificed to a great degree their own peculiar, holy
character. Gradually they lost their reverence for God and ceased to
prize the honor of being His chosen people."-Patriarchs and