Was Jesus Really Born On Christmas Day?

Discussion in 'Feasts, Fasts, and Church Calendar' started by Jay83, Dec 11, 2013.

  1. Jay83

    Jay83 New Member

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  2. seagull

    seagull Active Member

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    Well, the Daily Mail is often wrong (though not as often as the Daily Express) and I was under the impression that Christ's birth was probably in February when the Census took place.

    I imagine that most of us know that in (I think) the fourth century, we adapted a pagan mid-winter festival to celebrate Christ's birth. The Pagans have now retaken it with a vengeance.
     
  3. Alcibiades

    Alcibiades Member

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    Actually, I must admit I am rather convinced by the idea that it was simple pagan
    plagerism: http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-topics/new-testament/how-december-25-became-christmas/

    Of course, for it to coincide with Sol Invictus does make it one of the happiest calendrical coincidences...
    To be honest, I would be less worried about whether he was actually born on Dec 25th (Which, let's face it seems a fairly unlikely hapstance) and more about the fact that if said star is the 'Christmas star' and it did appear circa 2BC, Herod had already been dead for 2 years...
     
  4. Mockingbird

    Mockingbird Member

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    According to Luke's account, Jesus was born when "there were shepherds in the fields." In North America sheep are not pastured in the winter, but things may be different in the Near East.

    The astronomical approach based on Matthew's Gospel is no better or worse than any other. The calculation in the linked article, though, is inconsistent with the testimony of the Gospel. It accepts the appearance of an astronomical phenomenon, but disregard's Matthew's explicit statement that Jesus was born "in the days of Herod the King," by placing his birth in the time of Archelaeus.
     
  5. Admin

    Admin Administrator Staff Member Typist Anglican

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    This being the Advent season please tread carefully on Christian traditions. Give the benefit of the doubt wherever necessary.
     
  6. Alcibiades

    Alcibiades Member

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    What doubt is there benefit to give to? The Lukan and Matthean accounts do not match the historical or astronomical record as best we understand it, it would seem. It's remarkable that there should even be some correlated evidence, seeing as the two accounts are so wildly different from each other (let alone the other two gospels which don't even bother to mention the birth) that any historian would have to be deeply skeptical that anyone would have any clue as to what happened in those early years.
     
  7. Admin

    Admin Administrator Staff Member Typist Anglican

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    The obvious shouldn't need to be pointed out that the proof of positive is proof positive, but the absence of proof positive is not proof negative. On atheist forums the assumption gives the benefit of the doubt to naturalism. On this board the benefit of the doubt is given to the supernatural. Unless we have proof positive that the account could NOT happen as recorded, it remains untouched by criticism.
     
  8. AnglicanAgnostic

    AnglicanAgnostic Well-Known Member

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    Hey I sort of agree with Admin. I don't understand Alcibiades story of Luke and Matthews account not matching the astronomical record. Lets face it whatever the "star" was and it was probably just the name given to the unknown light phenomenon, no celestial star or object would have the ability to guide you to one particular house. The object would have to be at a far lower altitude.
    There is endless speculation over the historical record, and it's possible contradictions, but it may be less problematical if Luke or Matthews mention of the census being during Quirinius's time, is as some claim better translated as "before the time of Quirinius"
     
  9. Lowly Layman

    Lowly Layman Well-Known Member

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    I'll stick with the evangelists who recorded the facts as reported to them within a generation of Jesus' earthly ministry, not the notions and theories devised 2 millennia removed from him.
     
  10. Alcibiades

    Alcibiades Member

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    I'm afraid that sounds rather like special pleading to me and I don't think it is an argument that carries much weight in a sincere search for truth. This a forum, how can ther ebe discussion if there are not differing points of view? Furthermore, it's rather irrelevant special pleading at that; as far as I'm aware, there has been no mention of supernaturalism. I have merely expressed a certain skepticism regarding how far both these accounts can be regarded as completely accurate in topographical and chronological detail since they tell two different stories.

    Then why (or how?) would it have been noticed by astronomers from the far east?
    I think the liklihood of a bright star (or constellation) more likely, and the part where said object leads it with pinpoint accuracy to the house the more unlikely bit than vice versa?
    My point was relateing back to the first article which suggested a certain astronomic event can be pinpointed to around that time, if we take that as 'the' sign, then it raises questions of chronology, nothing more.

    I think it's a mistake to make it an either/or question. We do after all, have the benefit of being able to study it from multiple sides rather than rely on one or two scraps of evidence for each pericope in the gospels as presumably the evangelists did. We know that Quirinus is governor in 5/6 AD but Herod dies in 4BC, we also know that had Joseph and Mary had to return to Bethlehem to register for a census, it would be completely unprecendented and unrepeated in the entire roman legal system as we know it.

    The thing I find hard about your position is though is that Matthew and Luke, despite having an enormous amount of agreement over the teachings and deeds of Jesus in the rest of the gospels, somehow managed to hear basically two infancy stories. Did the Annunciation just slip Matthew's mind? Did Luke simply decide the Kings weren't needed? Why do angels communicate with Mary in Luke? But Jospeh in Matthew? All they share are the names Mary and Joseph and a birth of a boy called Jesus (and then offer two differing genealogies to trace his ancestry).

    Furthermore, why would Mark, the earliest evangelist then have apparently heard nothing of his infancy?

    What seems far more likely (as I must confess, I do think two millennia of thought on the matter has not been entirely wasted) is that there's been a certain amount of doctoring going on, whether at the level of the oral tradition or the evangelists themselves to re-touch evidence to suit their evangelistic purposes- whether that's a Lukan concern for humility or a Matthean concern for Kingship expressed in these narratives.

    And I don't think there's anything wrong with that. The ancients regard historical truth not as a matter of factual accuracy but of the deeper point being made, that of Emmanuel, that of Messiah, and if the story needs to be altered to fulfill messianic prophecy, well then, that must be what happened despite the lack of evidence saying so, so we'll fill it in ourselves. The gospels are works of Theology first, Historicity (a modern invention anyway) is at best, a secondary concern.

    I might turn on all three of you and ask why exactly is it so important that all these actually happened exactly as described? What does it add to the story?
     
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2013
  11. Onlooker

    Onlooker Active Member

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    Yes, but I think Admin's theological and historical opinion is "C'mon you guys, it's Christmas!" – an opinion with which I have a certain degree of sympathy.
     
  12. Admin

    Admin Administrator Staff Member Typist Anglican

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  13. Alcibiades

    Alcibiades Member

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    Clearly I just must be of more puritan stock!

    Well, I have nothing more to add to my case, so I place it for others to pick over as they please.

    ...Although I can hardly resist remarking that I thought Advent was a time of introspection and self-examination with regards to one's alignment vis-a-vis the divine?
     
  14. Lowly Layman

    Lowly Layman Well-Known Member

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    As for me, when trying to navigate the murky waters of science v. scripture, I try to follow the advice of Archbishop Cranmer: "the most sure and plain way is, to cleave unto holy Scripture. Wherein whatsoever is found, must be taken for a most sure ground and an infallible truth; and whatsoever cannot be grounded upon the same (touching our faith) is man’s device, changeable and uncertain." As humans in search of truth, we have a duty to see what can be plainly seen, hear what is plainly heard, no matter the consequences. As christians in declaring the truth, we have a duty to cling tenaciously to the authority of the Word of God, no matter its popularity.
     
  15. Alcibiades

    Alcibiades Member

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    There's a lot that I could remark upon. Instead I'm going to go with just one cheeky observation which is that I find somewhat strange that you would take as your source for the overriding authority of scripture...a non-scriptural source.

    Funny that, isn't it?
     
  16. Lowly Layman

    Lowly Layman Well-Known Member

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    not really, but bless your heart for trying ;)
    it's usually a nonstarter to respond to someone who questions the innerrancy and authority of scripture with a quote from scripture. plus you do me a disservice if you think that the bible is my only source. it is not. it is my final and ultimate one. however, if you prefer, 2Tim3:16
     
  17. Alcibiades

    Alcibiades Member

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    Correct me if I'm wrong though, but it would seem that if there is a conflict between the bible and what something non-biblical says, the bible takes precedence?

    moreover, what happens when scripture contradicts itself internally?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 21, 2013
  18. Lowly Layman

    Lowly Layman Well-Known Member

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    when interpreted correctly, i dont believe it ever does.
     
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  19. Alcibiades

    Alcibiades Member

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    Ah, I see.

    I shall assume within that statement is the tacit acknowledgement that at the level of the texts themselves there are clear inconsistencies.

    Yet now you see, we're on the same page; it's all in the interpretation. Now we're merely haggling over what should inform our particular readings of a passage, are we not?

    Also, I was genuinely curious to know whether you opt for biblical texts over other forms of knowledge when they differ in opinion. Am I wrong to think this?
     
  20. Lowly Layman

    Lowly Layman Well-Known Member

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    Asume what you will but nothing like that was stated or implied by me.

    i really doubt we are on the same page regarding either the weight or interpretation of scripture in general or with regard to specific passages.