Was Jesus Really Born On Christmas Day?

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

  1. Lowly Layman

    Lowly Layman Well-Known Member

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    as to your last point, i suppose that it would depend on the circumstances. in the case of faith and morals, the holy scripture is the supreme and final authority on all matters. Where it speaks plainly on any subject, it is considered settled. Where the meaning is veiled or ambiguous, scripture interprets scripture. Where there is still question about some point, sacred tradition should be consulted. if the issue is novel and no clear answer is given by scripture or interpreted by tradition, one should prayerly use the light of there own reason to determine the best path.
     
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  2. Spherelink

    Spherelink Active Member

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    it would be more correct to say there are seeming inconsistencies. Which could be found for any text under the sun.

    Christians have always maintained that those easily reconcile into a full narrative. A search for "unity of the gospels" among books and blogs would do you much good.
     
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  3. Alcibiades

    Alcibiades Member

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    Better yet, why not recommend me some of those you find the best please? I presume you would know the wheat from the chaff in these matters.
     
  4. AnglicanAgnostic

    AnglicanAgnostic Well-Known Member

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    Can I ask Sperelink how these books and blogs harmonise Luke 2 and Matthew 2.
    Luke has Jesus being born, Mary staying in Jeruselam for her purification period(a few weeks) and then returning to Nazareth. Matthew has Jesus being born and then the whole family hightailing it to Egypt?
     
  5. Spherelink

    Spherelink Active Member

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  6. Old Christendom

    Old Christendom Well-Known Member

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    Obviously.

    The Scriptures alone are the word of God. This is the axiom of the Christian religion.

    If the Scriptures truly contradict themselves internally - as opposed to having apparent contradictions - then it would logically follow that they cannot be the word of God. And if the Scriptures are false and unreliable, so is Christianity itself. In such a case, it would be better to shut everything down, close the churches and go home.
     
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  7. Alcibiades

    Alcibiades Member

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    Well I hope you had a very Merry Christmas!

    I myself did, even went to midnight mass. Marvelous affair, think I even espied a genuine cloth of Gold Fiddleback- ad majoram Dei gloriam indeed, if you can permit me to be easily impressed.

    Anyway, I've read this over several times and I wonder if we are even disagreeing at all if this is your evidence. There is in it, after all, no attempt to try and reconcile the two narratives to either each other or to 'what actually happened' as it were, but instead explains the differences as being a matter of theological preference. If you read it again, you could see this would be just as plausible an explanation if both writers had completely fabricated the narratives.

    I'm not saying they are necessarily total fabrications by any means, but I should point out that there is absolutely nothing in it that liberal christians or even atheists could disagree with, because it's about authorial intention, not historical accuracy. It doesn't attempt to explain these stories in terms of the historical Jesus, or resolve conflicting narrative points.

    First of all, welcome back after a long absence, and Merry Christmas to you as well!

    After that though, I fear I may not give you much cause for festive cheer after this. For whatever reason, we always seem to come down on opposing sides of most questions.

    In this case, I would have thought that if I were going to pick 'the' axiom of Christianity, it would probably have something to do with Jesus Christ.

    Maybe that Christ alone is the Word of God. Before the bible existed as a single book, before the canon, before anything was written of him, before writing itself...was the Word.

    No Christian I'm sure would deny that Scriptures are revelatory, but you must agree that it is not the Scriptures in themselves that are God's revelation (as you would say it was with the Torah, the Prophets or the Qu'ran for instance) but rather what they talk about; the fullness of the revelation in God is through the man Jesus.

    A man who, coincidentally didn't write anything except a few doodles in the sand. If Christianity is supposed to have a text as an ultimate authority...why did its founder so conspicuously fail to write one?

    The Word became flesh...how can this be grasped by mere words? How can this be conceptualized at all?

    Which makes me wonder about your other assertion:

    I would suggest if Christianity were so brittle in outlook it deserves to perish. Fortunately I think most Christians actually disagree and for the reasons lined out above.

    The bible still remains the work of human hands, communicating through human ideas in a human language with all its human foibles and such. I think actually it's less God's word, and more about people, transformed by this Christ-experience, talking about God. I think Christianity is actually much more about encounter with Christ in the World than about textual accuracy.

    I suppose I'd say it's influence is more formative than prescriptive I suppose. It provides a grammar we can participate in which makes sense of human experiences, but it cannot be a substitute for the living activity of participation in an infinite reality that is beyond all human knowing, comprehending and experience.

    I guess I could sum up by saying that prayer, actually, is more fundamental than the bible to Christian religion. The Bible of course plays a huge part in forming people in the habit of prayer, and provides a language both for and of prayer...but it isn't a substitute for it.
     
  8. Old Christendom

    Old Christendom Well-Known Member

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    Likewise, Alcibiades.

    I'm not sure I'll be posting frequently, though. I check this website just every two months or so these days.

    Of course. God pre-exists time itself and Christ, being God, pre-exists the revealed texts.

    In any case, this misses the point. The only way anyone actually knows anything about Jesus Christ is through the inspired Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, which alone are the word of God given to us. The Church herself has no other way of knowing the object of her faith.

    I'm not sure I follow.

    The Scriptures are God's revelation to the Church. Nothing else is. They contain the full revelation of God to man in those very pages you and I can read and understand.

    Except He did.

    The whole corpus of the Bible has none other than God for its author. The human agents (Prophets and Apostles) wrote exactly what He ordained from all eternity for them to pen down, i.e., all the necessary facts about creation, the history of His people and the redemption in Christ that lead the elect to have saving faith in Him.

    The only way you and anyone else on this planet knows anything about Christ is through the Scriptures. God, in His essence, is unfathomable and the Incarnation is indeed a mystery of faith but, nonetheless, factual truths about God can be apprehended by humans. Faith is a conglomerate of logical propositions about God that we assent to, and through them He reveals Himself to us and ignites our trust in His word and promises.

    I'm afraid this take on scriptural inspiration is rooted in modernist notions. If the text isn't reliable, as a divine work must be, neither is its message.

    Apples and oranges, I'm afraid.

    Prayer is the sustenance of spiritual life. This cannot be doubted. But without the Scriptures to reveal to us our heavenly Father and the work of redemption of Christ, you cannot actually know the object of your faith. Everyone can pray, even pagans. Experience is not a substitute for doctrine. Christianity is not a mere subjective religious experience. Rather, it's the truth of God that encompasses our whole being: mind and senses.
     
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2013
  9. Richter Belmont

    Richter Belmont New Member

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    I hope everyone had a great Christmas!

    For my part, I just look at December 25 as a major Feast Day which observes Christ's birth, rather than claiming that it is the actual day. I don't think we necessarily know when his birth took place (at least, I don't). But I think that the observance of the Feast on December 25 is just as good as the day itself, in the absence of its specific date.
     
  10. Alcibiades

    Alcibiades Member

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    Well OC, I cannot deny that you argue your position with a deep consistency. As flawed as I think the premises are, at least I think we are both agreed on what the consequences of a viewpoint such as you espouse, in distinction to those who maintain divine inspiration and Sola Scriptura but then mumble and clear their throats over the passages that awkwardly stick out.

    Though I wonder if perhaps you over-dichotomise the situation, presenting it as Truth or lies, God or the World? Or perhaps the misunerstanding is in presenting the debate as being between 'your understanding of a book vs everything else.'

    I've been puzzling over what you've been saying, how I might offer a reply. But I'm not sure I can, because I don't think you want to know. It probably doesn't bother you in the slightest that in Mark Jesus makes a complete factual error regarding Abiathar, nor that Matthew's quote 'He will be called a Nazorean' isn't taken from any piece of scripture we possess, or that The Spirit comes down during the Baptism of Jesus in Matthew and Mark, but only when he's got out of the lake in Luke, and the whole water baptism is ignored by John. Nor will you be fazed that in John the scourging of the temple happens at the start and in the synoptics it happens at the end, or that Mark has a blanket ban on divorce, whereas MAtthew makes an exception, or that in MAtthew Jesus rides two animals, whereas there is only one donkey in the other accounts. In Matthew and Luke there are different beatitudes, different versions of the Lord's prayer, different geneologies, John the baptist has an entirely different role in John than any of the Synoptics, and the Johannine Jesus is in fact rather different altogether form the synoptic Jesus. Or that the Synoptic Jesus inveighs against Pharisees and scribes but in John its just 'the Jews' including that absurd passage where the Jewish parents of the blind man were afraid of 'the Jews'. And that's just a few bits from the gospels, and never minding the differences in ordering, there additions and omissions and edits.

    You will find any explanation, no matter how implausible or unlikely, and hold to it for the sake of your desperately held view of scriptural inerrancy. These things will not faze you, but they happen to bother me, actually, because how can they be literal history when they don't even add up coherently?

    But there has always been more than one way of giving prominence to Scripture without staking out your position- Barth always insisted Christ was the unitive point of the scriptures, not the texts. The Church Fathers read in the light of tradition and 'spiritual reading (all things have spiritual meaning, not all have literal meaning in the bible) the early middle ages made impressive use of Lectio...and even contextual readings- queer, feminist, liberation, existential place 'the book' in a great, great prominence as doing...all those things you have claimed for it in your last post, but without making the same (idolotorous) mistake of assume an equivalence between written words and the Living Word. As Augustine says, nobody will be readin the Bible in heaven- who will need it? They were lamps for the world but their brightness is inconsequential next to the true reality of God.

    But then, I don't think you can follow this at all, if you sincerely believe that:

    Who ever thought this? Who thinks this today? Where is the scriptural basis for this assertion? All I see are people writing about how to live a certain life. Love isn't a logical proposition. Mary is not a logical proposition. Letting the blind see is not a logical proposition. These are people, unique, contextualized, and above all particular, rather than general. The Bible doesn't give us guidelines, but stories.

    Belief is a physical action and powerful volition and not an intellectual question, or else it is dead.
     
  11. Spherelink

    Spherelink Active Member

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    That's pure Karl Barth. He tried to say (over a course of 12 volumes, circa 10,000 pages) that the Scriptures are not a revelation, or even inspired, that only Christ was inspired and only he the revelation, whatever that means. Needless to say he was heretical.

    He wrote the Old as well as the New testaments, as well as created the universe (Gen 1.1). Not sure what you were trying to say.

    I would take a different tack from OC on this one. It can be conceptualized quite easily. Reason and Nature speak of God quite apart from Scripture so only the obstreperous would say they dont see. Theologianslike Augustine, Anselm and Aquinas and onward have answered your question thoroughly and completely.



    OC was quite correct in his answer, it having nothing to do with brittleness. All systems of ideas rest on some foundation. Taking away that foundation can't help but take away whatever was built upon it. It works with buildings, it works with atheism's system, and so it works in Christianity.
     
  12. Alcibiades

    Alcibiades Member

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    It is quite Barthian, but I don't think Church Dogmatics, a work of systematic theology, was simply about that. Also, it is actually the Patristic, Mediaeval, modern Catholic and Orthodox and dare I say it, Scriptural position- 'I am the way the truth and the life, whoever believes in me will have life eternal' It's about the proper place of the bible as a tool, a rough record 'But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.'! but not actually being the centre of Christianity:

    'When I heard some saying, If I do not find it in the ancient Scriptures, I will not believe the Gospel; on my saying to them, It is written, they answered me, That remains to be proved. But to me Jesus Christ is in the place of all that is ancient: His cross, and death, and resurrection, and the faith which is by Him, are undefiled monuments of antiquity; by which I desire, through your prayers, to be justified.' - Ignatius of Antioch

    I think you'll also find that Basil the Great also established the Spirit as the third person of the Trinity not based on scriptural arguments (because he encountered these people who read it in another way) but by way of Baptismal formulas. Athanasius argued the Divinity of the Son by pointing out that he was worshipped in Church in the face of persuasive scriptural and philosophical arguments from the Arians.

    But probably needless to say, all these gospel writers and Chruch Fathers are heretics too. So just ignore me!


    I'm not sure what you are trying to say either! It's a pity he didn't keep the publishing rights, he could've made a fortune! Or did he simply create the universe in order to have someone to promote his book to? He probably should've put those 'x begat y' geneaologies in an appendix though. He also could've done a tidier job on the gospels quite frankly. Why even write 4? Did he just look at his drafts and thought 'ah, they'll all do!'


    Is nothing sacred these days? I don't think any of these thinkers have tried to conceptualise the incarnation. They may be able to talk about why it was necessary, and what consequences it entailed, but explaining exactly how God the Son becomes a human being. They would probably insist these things are beyond human understanding. You do realise that Aquinas insisted God cannot actually be spoken of accurately in human words? He was of the opinion that they were analogues at best.

    But please, prove me wrong! Or explain the Trinity without using concepts of space, or time, or being (since God cam be none of these things, at least humanly understood)

    What even is Atheism's 'system'? And it is brittle, if you find one discrepancy in the text that you can't honestly pretend isn't there (although you seem to have a particular genius for this) his whole system comes crashing down.

    And such a tremendous waste of energy, seeing as most Christians seem to have systems that are more resiliant to the obvious problems of the historicity of the bible.
     
  13. Nevis

    Nevis Active Member

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    not in winter …. I agree
     
  14. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    It almost certainly was not a 'star' that the 'wise men'/'Kings' (actually astrologers ***), 'followed'. They probably told Mary that they had been directed by 'the stars'. i.e. a conjuction by which they had calculated, by casting an ephemeris, predicting a great king would be born at a particular place and time in the Kingdom of the Jews. Mary, knowing, as every Good Jewish girl, NOTHING of astrology assumed they had followed 'A star' and reported this to Matthew or one of Matthew's sources in her account of the events surounding the birth of her firstborn Son Jesus. Matthew then faithfully recorded Mary's true and honest account, which subsequently has become 'scripture'.

    Jesus was actually probably born sometime in the spring or summer of 5BC less than a year before the death of Herod the Great in 4BC. The discrepancy between the year zero and this date can be accounted for by errors made in the sixth century, by those who made the calculations to pinpoint the year zero, i.e. the year Christ was supposed to have been born. Although Luke 2:2 (Youngs Literal Translation) says 'this enrolment first came to pass when Cyrenius was governor of Syria", it is perfectly possible to translate the Greek of the sentence as follows, 'this enrolment was before that made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria'. Some, but by no means all translators actually prefer this as a possiblity. On the actual historical evidence that one such census carried out in Gaul in the same Roman Empire took 40 years to complete, because of various communication difficulties and resistance from the population, it is not too much of a stretch of the imagination to conclude that a 2 year discepancy on the census year of Quirinius, (Cyrenius), is by any means beyond comprehension.

    So spring/summer of 5BC seems the nearest guess we can make for the actual birth date of Jesus, but I have to ask, "How important is it to know that" there were very FEW people at that time who could tell anyone exactly what hour, day or even year they were actually born on. The ONLY person who would have known by the time Matthew or Luke wrote the information down, was Mary herself. The only other person present throught the whole incident, to hold that information, was Joseph, and he was long since deceased.

    ***
    μάγος
    STRONG’S Dictionary Definitiong 3097. μάγος magos; of foreign origin (h7248);
    a Magian, i.e. Oriental scientist; by implication, a magician: — sorcerer, wise man.
    AV (6) - wise man 4, sorcerer 2;
    a magusthe name given by the Babylonians (Chaldeans), Medes, Persians, and others, to the wise men, teachers, priests, physicians, astrologers, seers, interpreters of dreams, augers, soothsayers, sorcerers etc.the oriental wise men (astrologers) who, (having discovered by the rising of a remarkable star ?), that the Messiah had just been born, came to Jerusalem to worship him.
    .
     
  15. Mockingbird

    Mockingbird Member

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    The midwinter birth of Jesus was proposed by Christian storytellers of the 2nd century. They told the tale that Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, was not only a priest but the High Priest, and that his vision of the angel Gabriel was on the Day of Atonement, near the time of the Fall equinox. This, together with the 6-month difference in John the Baptist's and Jesus' ages, locked in a midsummer birth date for John the Baptist, and a midwinter birth date for Jesus.