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series D christmas special - the date of Jesus birth

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Celebaelin
863973.  Sat Nov 12, 2011 11:49 am Reply with quote

 
CB27
864024.  Sat Nov 12, 2011 2:22 pm Reply with quote

dmottram wrote:
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and that there were a number of festivals and celebrations on that day, both Roman and Pagan.
Name one and then give your supporting evidence, please.
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Anyway, I think for most Christians I don't think it's so important to know that 25th December is a precise date, more that it represents the birth of Jesus.
That much is true.

You can try Sol Invictus, which came from Syria.

A very common example is Brumalia, which was Roman.

There's the fact that early Christian writers did not even discuss the date of the birth of Jesus. Origen Adamantius wrote in his Homily on Leviticus that the celebration of births were a Pagan idea.

One of the earliest mentions of discussion of a date within the church is shown in the writings of Titus Flavius Clemens, and of the various dates he mentions, 25th December is not one of them.

And there are others.

But if you agree that the precise date is not important, why are you making such a big deal of it?

 
Efros
864027.  Sat Nov 12, 2011 2:27 pm Reply with quote

I thought Saturnalia was the one most commonly associated with Christmas.

 
dmottram
864157.  Sun Nov 13, 2011 7:51 am Reply with quote

People do often speculate about Saturnalia because it just happens to be the nearest Roman festival which is known to predate Christmas. It was a harvest festival on December 17th with celebration for at most 7 days (till the 23rd).

 
dmottram
864159.  Sun Nov 13, 2011 8:06 am Reply with quote

Quote:
You can try Sol Invictus, which came from Syria.

As far as I know the only early evidence for this is in a 4th century calendar which, as well as labelling December 25th as the birth of Christ, also calls it "Natalis Invicti" . Now people widely assume that this is a reference to a festival of "Sol Invictus" but there is otherwise no evidence of it ever being celebrated. It may be simply a reference to astronomy - the "birth" of the Sun. after the Solstice. Alternatively, it could be a reference to Christ - "Christus Invictus", a term used by Augustine of Hippo.

We do know that the cult of worshipping the sun was a relatively late Roman phenomenon which arose during the late 3rd century. It seems to have been as much about the Emperor, who wanted to be identified with the Sun, as anything else.
Quote:
A very common example is Brumalia, which was Roman.
As far as I know, this was simply the name for the gloomy time of year. Perhaps you could point me to the Roman sources which talk about it?

What you actually have here are the results of attempts, by some protestant groups, to prove that the Roman church was corrupt and adopted pagan practices. Historical evidence to back up thiose claims is missing, so people made it up.[/quote]

 
Efros
864160.  Sun Nov 13, 2011 8:25 am Reply with quote

People making stuff up about a religion... for shame!

 
exnihilo
864166.  Sun Nov 13, 2011 9:07 am Reply with quote

Bloody protestants. Splitters. Should have burned the lot.

 
Efros
864199.  Sun Nov 13, 2011 11:12 am Reply with quote

they tried that themselves, too.

 
CB27
864251.  Sun Nov 13, 2011 4:55 pm Reply with quote

dmottram wrote:
Quote:
You can try Sol Invictus, which came from Syria.

As far as I know the only early evidence for this is in a 4th century calendar

Saying so does not make it true.

Emperor Aurelian introduced it as an official Roman cult as far back as 274AD, this assimilated, among others, Elagabalus, which is even earlier.

dmottram wrote:
We do know that the cult of worshipping the sun was a relatively late Roman phenomenon which arose during the late 3rd century. It seems to have been as much about the Emperor, who wanted to be identified with the Sun, as anything else.

Again, simply saying so does not make it true. The second part, it being about the emperor makes no difference because the emperor was bound with the state religion at that time.

The Circus Maximus was dedicated to the sun god. Virgil (1st century BC) writes thaty he is the grandfather of Latinus, and thre are a number of feasts celebratde in various places long before 3rd century AD.

Brumalia was the name of a festival for Bacchus, not just a "time of the year".

dmottram wrote:
What you actually have here are the results of attempts, by some protestant groups, to prove that the Roman church was corrupt and adopted pagan practices. Historical evidence to back up thiose claims is missing, so people made it up.

You've completely lost any semblance of a sensible argument with this paragraph. May I suggest reading less Dan Brown in future.

 
dmottram
864337.  Mon Nov 14, 2011 4:41 am Reply with quote

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As far as I know the only early evidence for this is in a 4th century calendar
You don't seem to understand but the way to rebut this argument is to provide evidence of the supposed feast of "Sol Invictus" from an earlier date. Is there any?
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>Brumalia was the name of a festival for Bacchus, not just a "time of the year".
>According to which Roman source?
This site has some images of actual Roman calendars of feasts (Fasti) [url]http://www.aerobiologicalengineering.com/wxk116/Roman/Calendar/romecbib.html [/url]. See what you can find. (Wiki doesn't count as a Roman source)

There was indeed an earlier sun God. His name was Apollo. His major feast day was in August. He carried the Sun in his chariot.

"Elagabalus" was local to Syria and enjoyed a brief presence in Rome under the 4 year reign of his namesake.

 
CB27
864374.  Mon Nov 14, 2011 8:19 am Reply with quote

Ahh, the definitive voice on Roman calendars, "aero biological engineering".

BTW, last time I checked, 274AD is before 4th century.

My mention of Circus Maximus and Virgil was in relation to this:
Quote:
We do know that the cult of worshipping the sun was a relatively late Roman phenomenon which arose during the late 3rd century

As for major feast days, Apollo, like others, had several feast days. Picking August out alone has nothing to do with anything.

 
dmottram
864384.  Mon Nov 14, 2011 9:15 am Reply with quote

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Ahh, the definitive voice on Roman calendars, "aero biological engineering".
No, just a site that has a few images of them. Do you have anything better? A Roman Fasti that does show a festival on December 25th, perhaps ?
Quote:
274AD is before 4th century.
Indeed. So what? What evidence from 274 AD is there of a "Sol Invictus" celebration on December 25th?

 
rogerpearse
864726.  Tue Nov 15, 2011 12:16 pm Reply with quote

I happened to see this thread by accident, and wonder if I might contribute something? I got interested in the question of Sol Invictus and 25 Dec. some time back, and started researching it and putting online whatever I could find in the primary sources.

The primary sources about Sol Invictus are very few indeed. There is a mass of inscriptions, and only a limited number of literary texts. The inscriptions tend not to help much here. The result is that we know very little about the cult. I did locate the sources (from Halsberghe, The Cult of Sol Invictus), and placed them online -- they are here. Many of them probably don't refer to our deity, tho: "Sol Invictus" is a Latin title meaning "unconquered sun" -- it appears attached to various deities in the early-middle imperial period, and especially Baal of Emesa, the god of Elagabalus, but none of these are the god to whom we refer. The state cult Sol Invictus was created by the emperor Aurelian in 274 AD, and you will see references to him doing so.

The main festival of Sol Invictus was in October. But a "dies natalis solis invicti" is listed in the Chronography of 354, part 6. This is the only reference in Roman or Greek literature to such a festival. The calendar lists the state holidays, so this was definitely a state holiday (which Christmas was not and did not become, incidentally).

But what does it mean? Two possibilities:

1. It could be "birthday of the unconquered sun" -- the "birth of the sun" was used in astrological texts such as Antiochus of Athens to indicate the winter solstice, and there was a general belief in antiquity that 25 Dec. was that solstice (although educated people knew it was a few days earlier).

2. But it could equally mean "anniversary of the consecration of the temple of Sol Invictus", and there are other such festivals in the calendar which must have such a meaning.

If we prefer the latter, then, as we know that Aurelian consecrated the temple of the sun in 274, we can presume that he did so on 25 Dec., and that this holiday was created by him to mark the occasion.

But of course if we prefer the former, then we have no idea whether the festival predates 354, or when it starts being celebrated. It is fairly obvious that it predates the Christian emperors; clearly before 313 at least, unless we believe that Constantine and Constantius would have created it.

Moving on, I saw a number of claims that the church "borrowed" this date from Sol Invictus. The basis for this claim is a statement by John Chrysostom ca.400 and living in Antioch that the church had created a festival on this date to compete with the pagan celebration. This story then appears in later writers. But the Greek East is not the same as the Latin West. Certainly the winter solstice was being celebrated in pagan areas in the East in the 6th century, even, as Thomas of Edessa tells us. But it is questionable whether any of this relates to events in Rome.

And why 25 Dec? The main Roman festival was Saturnalia, from 17-23 Dec., so it isn't easy to see why picking 25 Dec. would achieve anything. We don't *have* any records of Roman celebration of the winter solstice from before the calendar of 354. So ... scepticism would seem to be in order on these sorts of claims.

I tend to feel that we should not accept all these rather large claims of "borrowing", because they fall for lack of actual primary evidence. There is no source that tells us this, who did it, and why, so we're dealing with theory, not fact.

As a theory, it looks a bit suspect: the early church did not "borrow stuff" from paganism -- it was anti-syncretistic, and determined to wipe out paganism.

In the absence of actual evidence as to how Christmas came to be on 25 Dec., I tend to think that agnosticism is a good choice. We don't actually know; why not say so? Do we have to make a statement, and if so, who is paying us to?

May I make a plea for some scepticism here? I know everyone is writing in good faith. But the trouble is that there are people out there who are NOT writing in good faith, who are boiling with hatred of Christians -- presumably they had a bad experience at Sunday School or something! --, and not above inventing stories of this kind. This may sound weird, but you may find such things easily enough online. Once invented, such stories are eagerly believed and eagerly circulated and indeed embroidered. (I saw a cracker about Mithras the other day!)

It's got so bad that I have, in self-defence, resorted to refusing to accept any statement of this kind about Christian origins unless the author can and does produce some ancient evidence for it. (I don't mean in the sense "prove it to me" -- I'm more than willing to go and look myself if there is anything to look at) Mostly these authors can't; they don't know themselves.

Try it yourselves anyway -- this habit of asking for sources for supposedly factual statements about antiquity really does dispose of a lot of rubbish. And these days, the ancient sources are mostly online and a click or two away, so it isn't the impossibility it once was.

I hope that helps! Surely no-one's interests are served by the raw data being wrong, whatever our beliefs?

All the best,

Roger Pearse

PS: I know the context of all this is a claim that "lots" of deities had a festival on 25 Dec., and Sol Invictus is the sole example specified so far, and for all I know it might be so. But ... be very sceptical, hey? We've all heard that claim before. Have any of us seen any attempt to list them specifically, with primary sources for each? That should be a red light for us all on this sort of stuff. Ask our sources for their sources. If none appear, then get cautious.

 
rogerpearse
864728.  Tue Nov 15, 2011 12:18 pm Reply with quote

I saw a claim about Brumalia as the festival of Dionysus. Do we have a reference to an ancient source for that claim?

In John the Lydian, it's a code word for "Saturnalia" in the now Christian empire.

 
dmottram
864740.  Tue Nov 15, 2011 12:51 pm Reply with quote

rogerpearse wrote:
The main festival of Sol Invictus was in October. But a "dies natalis solis invicti" is listed in the Chronography of 354, part 6.

Caution - the calendar does not mention solis - just "N Invicti" - the "birth of the unconquered one" which opens a much wider rnage of possiblities for what it was actually about. I might also mention that Invictus was also a title given to Christ as he is believed to have been unconquered by death.

Otherwise I pretty much agree with your analysis.

And, by the way, some of the most ardent supporters of the "stolen from pagans" hypothesis call themselves Christians. Jehovah's Witnesses are particularly keen on it, their non-celebration of festivals being one way they distance themselves from mainstream Christianity.

 

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