The Paganism of Christmas

To many, Christmas is a special time of celebration, a time of family, a time of “peace on earth and good will toward men.” Christmas is a season set aside to remember and honor the birth of our Saviour Jesus Christ. However, others loo upon the Christmas season with great suspicion. They believe that it is not possible that Jesus Christ was born on !or around" #ecember $%th. They believe and teach that Christmas was originally a pagan festival in honor to the Sun god. This anti&Christmas position teaches that any involvement in the Christmas season is sinful.

's Christians see ing to serve the (ord in purity, when we hear that a custom or holiday may be of pagan origins, it is easy to assume that particular custom is bad. )s Christmas simply an ancient pagan festival to which the name of Christ has been falsely attached* The anti&Christmas position re+ects the Christmas holiday on these five basic points. ,. Christmas is the “mass of Christ-” “mass” is a service in honor of the dead. $. The early church did not celebrate the birth of Christ. .. Jesus Christ was not born in the winter or #ec. $%th. /. Christmas was originally a pagan holiday. %. Jeremiah chapter ten condemns the Christmas tree. ,. Christmas is the “mass of Christ” The anti&Christmas position teaches that the word “mass” i.e. the 0oman Catholic service is a “service in honor of the dead.” Thus, “Christ 1 mass” is a service in honor of a “dead Christ.” However, this is 23T the proper definition of “mass.” 4ven in Catholic terminology, “mass is a memorial in which the death and 0esurrection of Jesus Christ are sacramentally reenacted” !4ncyclopedia 5ritannica, “mass”". The word “mass” is not a bad word. “6ass” comes from the (atin “missa” which was originally lin ed with the “dismissal” of a service. )t was later used to describe the liturgy, receiving of sacraments, and the entire service. Therefore the “Christ&mass” is NOT a service in honor of a “dead Christ”. )t is service to honor the “death and 0esurrection of Christ.” $. The early church did not celebrate the birth of Christ. )t is true that there is no record in the 2ew Testament of the apostles celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. However, does this ma e celebrating Christ7s birth wrong* 8e have no

record in the 2ew Testament of the apostles performing a wedding ceremony, baby dedication, or holding a “tent&revival,” but this does not ma e these things wrong. The early church believed, based on (u e .9$., that Jesus was bapti:ed on His thirtieth birthday, which they taught was January ;th. They called this celebration of His birth and baptism 4piphany, meaning “manifestation.” The earliest evidence of this festival is recorded by Clement of 'le<andria !Stromata i., $," circa ,=> '#. Therefore, the celebration of the “birth of Christ” is a much older “holy day” than some believe. The fact that there is no direct 'postolic “command” to celebrate Christ7s birth does not ma e it sinful to observe Christmas. 6any of the Jewish “holy days” !holidays" were observed out of custom, and not command !e<. Judges ,,9/>- 4ster =9,=". 4ven Jesus, himself, observed the Jewish holy day of “Hanu ah” !John ,>9$$&$."- a “holy day” that is not commanded within the 3ld Testament (aw. )n the early church, there arose a sect of the ?nostics, the 'doptianist heresy, who believed that Jesus became the “Christ” at his baptism, that this was when ?od was “manifested” in the flesh. Therefore to emphasi:e that Jesus was “Christ from His birth,” it was decided to set aside a day to honor His birth alone !James Hasting, 0eligious 4ncyclopedia, “Christmas”". 0esearch was done to determine the correct date of Christ7s birth. John Chrysostom claimed that #ecember $%th was supported by the actual census@ta< records of the Holy Aamily when they registered in 5ethlehem. Chrysostom records !Homil. #iem 2atal., $- B(, /=, %%$ff" that Cyril bishop of Jerusalem !./C&.C;", reDuested Julius, bishop of 0ome, to e<amine the official records of the 0oman census brought from Jerusalem to 0ome by the Jews in the time of Titus !circa E> '.#." to determine the correct date of Christ7s birth. Julius sent to Cyril a calculation in favor of #ecember $%th. .. Jesus Christ was not born in the winter or #ec. $%th. The real “clue” as to the time of the birth of Christ is found in (u e ,9%. 'ccording to this passage, Facharias wor ed in the temple during the “course of 'bia.” 'bout si< months later !(u e ,9$;" 6ary conceived by the Holy ?host the Christ child. 2ine to ten months later, the Christ child was born. The “course of 'bia” was the eighth course of the twenty&four divisions or courses of priest that ministered in the temple !, Chron. $/9E& ,=". 4ach course ministered from Sabbath to Sabbath, twice a year. )f it can be determined which wee the “course of 'bia” fell, then we could calculate the time of the birth of Christ. The anti&Christmas position claims that the “course of 'bia” !(u e ,9%" fell on the first wee of June !S. Hancoc , tract 8hat7s 8rong with Christmas". This would then place the conception of 6ary in #ecember- and the birth of Christ in September, around the time of the Aeast of Tabernacles. This, however, is neither historically nor factually true. Titus destroyed the temple in Jerusalem during the first wee of 'ugust E> '# !'lfred 4dersheim, The (ife and Times of Jesus the 6essiah, p.E>%". 'ccording to Jewish tradition, as recorded in the Talmud !Ta7anith $=a" and Josephus !8ar G), /, ,, %" the priestly “course of Jehoiarib” was on duty at this time. This was the first of the twenty& four courses. Counting out the courses, Sabbath to Sabbath, calculates that the “course of 'bia,” to which Facharias belonged, would have been serving during the first wee of

3ctober. This would place the conception of 6ary in early 6arch- and the birth of Christ in ('T4 #4C46540H This is a conclusion based upon historical facts. 'nother ob+ection to a winter date for the birth of Christ is the fact that the shepherds were watching over their floc “by night” !(u e $9C". The anti&Christmas position claims that winter nights in Balestine are “very piercing” and the floc s were usually brought home by 3ctober ,%th !'le<ander Hislop, Two 5abylons, p. =,". However, 'lfred 4dersheim, The (ife and Times of Jesus the 6essiah, p. ,CE, shows from passages in the 6ishna that there were floc s that “lay out all the year round,” and states, “There is no adeDuate reason for Duestioning the historical accuracy of this date !#ec. $%th". The ob+ections generally made rest on grounds, which seem to me historically untenable.” 4vidence that some shepherds did face cold weather may be seen in Jacob7s complaint to (aban that he had suffered from frost by night !?en. .,9/>". The 5ible does not tell us the e<act date of Christ7s birth. However, there is no historical reason for us to not celebrate His birth on #ecember $%th.

/. Christmas was originally a pagan holiday. The anti&Christmas position teaches that #ecember $%th was originally the date that was set aside to worship the birth of the Sun god. This is based largely on the boo Two 5abylons, by 'le<ander Hislop. 8ithin this boo , Hislop set out to e<pose the practices and customs of the Catholic Church as originating from pagan 5abylon. However, Hislop was not satisfied in +ust proving certain church customs originated from pagan 5abylonhe attac ed the very fundamental Christian doctrines as having originated from paganism. Aor e<ample, Hislop taught that “baptism for the remission of sins” originated from paganism !p. ,.E"- “anointing with oil” originated from paganism !p. ,;%"- “instrumental music” originated from paganism !p. ,E/"- and he even claimed that the very image of the Cross originated from paganism !p. ,=="H 3ne thing that seems to give a lot of credibility to Hislop7s boo is the use of many footnote references 1 “over $;> original sources of facts,” a publisher7s note says. However, if one would put forth the effort to find many of the old boo s to which he refers, you will find that the references often do not match his claims. )n a nutshell, Hislop claims that our Christmas celebration !and the 5abylonian religion" began with 2imrod of ?en. ,>9C, =. Hislop claims that 2imrod married Semiramis, and that Semiramis gave birth to Tammu: whose birth was celebrated on #ecember $%th. Then by comparing various mythologies from different countries, Hislop composes this detailed history of 2imrod, Semiramis, and Tammu:. 5ear in mind, any information

about 2imrod and Semiramis in any history boo is, at best, s etchy. )n the 5ible, 2imrod is only mentioned A3I0 T)64S 1 and his wife is 24G40 mentionedH 2evertheless, Hislop claims to now all inds of detailed information about 2imrod and his wife. Hislop7s method of trying to produce “history” based on mythology is often contradictory. Two 5abylons p. EC states that 2imrod7s wife was his daughterH 3n p. //, his wife is his sisterH 3n p. .,E, she is his motherH 3n p. .>E, 2imrod is a man with two mothersH 3n p. E;, he is the son of nine virgins. 8ith such contradictory statements, how can any of his words be ta en as true* Hislop claims that 2imrod and Semiramis were husband and wife. ) have chec ed many recogni:ed reference wor s, including the following9 The 4ncyclopedia 'mericana, The 4ncyclopedia 5ritannica, The 4ncyclopedia Judaica, The Iniversal Jewish 4ncyclopedia, The 2ew Catholic 4ncyclopedia, J The 8orld 5oo 4ncyclopedia. 23T 324 S'KS '2KTH)2? '53IT 2)603# '2# S46)0'6)S 54)2? HIS5'2# '2# 8)A4H 2ot only is there no mention of 2imrod being married to Semiramis, the information given tends to rule this out entirely. 2ot even Jewish historian, Josephus refers to them as husband and wife. Josephus refers to 2imrod as having lived during the time after the flood of 2oah- but refers to Semiramis as having lived during the time of 2ebuchadne::ar !'gainst 'pion, ), $>", thousands of years apartH The 4ncyclopedia 'mericana states, “The historical Semiramis, who was called Sammuramat by the 'ssyrians, was the wife of the 'ssyrian ing Shamshi&'dad G !reigned C$.&C,, 5.C." and the mother of 'dadnirari ))) !reigned C,>&EC.". She was Dueen regent during the minority of her son from about C,> to C>;.” 2imrod lived some time around $/>> 5C, and Semiramis lived around C$> 5C. This information shows that it is impossible for 2imrod and Semiramis to have been husband and wife, they did not even live in the same centuryH 2ot only this, but after chec ing the various encyclopedias, Tammu: is never even described as an actual personH He is never mentioned as the son of 2imrodH Semiramis is never mentioned as his motherH These are all inventions of HislopH Tammu:7s birth is never mentioned, because Tammu: was never bornH He was a mythological Syrian deity, and the festival held in his honor occurred in July, not #ecemberH Therefore the very foundation of the anti&Christmas position that Christmas is really an ancient festival in honor of Tammu:, 2imrod7s son, has been proven false. 4ven if it could be proven that pagans worshipped the Sun god on #ec. $%th, what would this prove about Christmas* 5y emphasi:ing a few similarities, while ignoring many differences, almost any day, rite, or custom can be lin ed with paganism in some way. )f we showed that the Hindu immerse in the ?anges 0iver as a purification rite, would this prove that baptism by immersion is pagan* 23H The same principle applies to the Christmas season. 4very day of the wee is named in honor of a pagan deity !SI2day 1 “sun god”- 632day 1 “moon god”TI4Sday 1 “Tiw7s day”- etc." #oes this mean that worshipping ?od on SI2day really means you are worshipping the Sun* 2o, because the origin of a custom does not necessarily determine it7s present meaning. Hislop, Two 5abylons, p. =. states, “That Christmas was originally a Bagan festival, is beyond all doubt. The time of the year, and the ceremonies, with which it is still celebrated, prove its origin. )n 4gypt, the son of )sis...was born at this very time Labout

the time of the winter solstice7.” Therefore, Hislop concluded that the birth of the “son of )sis” was celebrated around #ecember $%th. However, when you chec the reference he gives !8il erson, 'ncient 4gyptians, vol. /, p. />%", it does not bac up his claim. )t does say that )sis gave birth to a son “about the time of the winter solstice,” but this was a premature birth, causing him to be “lame in his lower limbs,” and the 4gyptians “celebrate the feast of his mother7s delivery +ust after the Gernal 4Duino<” 1 )2 SB0)2?H Ta en in conte<t, this obviously provides no origin for a #ecember celebration. %. Jeremiah chapter ten condemns the Christmas tree. The idea that there is some pagan connection with the Christmas tree also originated from 'le<ander Hislop. Two 5abylons, p. =C states, “2ow the great god, cut off in the midst of his power and glory, was symboli:ed as a huge tree, stripped of all it branches, and cut& down almost to the ground...2ow the Kule (og is the dead stoc of 2imrod, deified as the sun&god, but cut down by his enemies- the Christmas&tree is 2imrod redivivus !revived i.e. raised from the dead".” 's proof to this statement, Hislop offers the following illustration ta en from 6aurice, )ndians 'ntiDuities, vol. G), p. .;E !,E=;".

3nce again, Hislop7s reference does not support his claim. )ndian 'ntiDuities states that this was a coin used in commerce between Bhoenicia and the 5ritish )sles. The image has absolutely nothing to do with either 2imrod or ChristmasH Hislop simply formed a conclusion that was not verified by the source material he cited. This brings us to the passage in Jeremiah ,>9.&,/ “(earn not the way of the heathen...the customs of the people are vain9 for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the wor of the hands of the wor man, with the a<. They dec it with silver and with gold- they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not. They are upright as the palm tree, but spea not9 they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. 5e not afraid of them- for they cannot do evil...4very founder is confounded by the graven image9 for his molten image is falsehood, and there is no breath in them.”

5ecause of their pre+udice against the Christmas season, the anti&Christmas position teaches that these verses forbid the use of the Christmas tree. There are five points about this passage that should be carefully noticed9 '. The word “wor man” in the te<t does not describe a “lumber+ac ” as some suppose. The same word is used in )sa. />9,=&$>, to describe a “carver” i.e. “wor man to prepare a “graven image.” 5. The tool the “wor man” uses is called an “a<.” The word “a<” is found ,C times in the 5ible, but the word “a<” in the Jeremiah te<t is a different word. The word in this te<t refers to a “carving tool.” The 2)G te<t translates this word “chisel.” C. The language Jeremiah uses “spea not9 they must needs be borne !carried"” implies that the wor man carved an idol to loo li e a living being, yet was lifeless cf. Bsalm ,,%9/&E. #. These idols were dressed in clothing. “ and purple is their clothing” !Jer. ,>9=". ' Christmas tree may be decorated, by no one puts clothing on a Christmas tree. 4. Jeremiah comes right out and uses the term “graven !carved" image” !Jer. ,>9,/" 1 not a Christmas tree 1 but an idol carved in the li eness of man, which is plated !“dec ed”" with silver and gold. 5y simply applying sound, recogni:ed, and basic rules of biblical interpretation, it is clear that Jeremiah described one who carves an idol out of a tree, and not a Christmas tree. The Christmas tree is not an ancient pagan symbol. Hasting7s 0eligious 4ncyclopedia, “Christmas customs” states that the “fir tree, cannot be traced further bac than the ,Eth cent., and it was not in general use before the end of the ,Cth.” 8hat are the fruits of the anti&Christmas position* 'bsolutely none. )t causes confusion, hinders the gospel, and results in people being needlessly +udgmental of others. There is no reason to suppose that observing Christmas, or not observing Christmas, is an essential of the Christian faith. 8hen Christ was born at 5ethlehem, there was no room for Him in the inn, but since that time millions have made room for Him in their hearts and He has brought them peace, +oy, and life “more abundantly.”