My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue: "O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!"

22 December 2006

Merry Christmas, part 2

Several of the comments before regarding Christmas noted that Dr. Kinneer statements weren't supported by research. Grant Van Leuven, a friend who works for RPTS, sent me this link to Dr. Kinneer's expanded answers regarding commonly held Christmas myths. Grant also reminded me/us that Dr. Kinneer's purpose is not to debate the celebration of Christmas, but to defend the truth of the gospel accounts. It's very fascinating reading. [thanks, Grant!]

3 comments:

Kurt said...

And for an alternative view, from a Christian website (As you can see, depending on your presuppositions, you can build a case based on "facts." The key is - our presuppositions and are they Scriptural):

"Q: Was Jesus born on December 25, or in December at all?

Although it's not impossible, it seems unlikely. The Bible does not specify a date or month. One problem with December is that it would be unusual for shepherds to be "abiding in the field" at this cold time of year when fields were unproductive. The normal practice was to keep the flocks in the fields from Spring to Autumn. Also, winter would likely be an especially difficult time for pregnant Mary to travel the long distance from Nazareth to Bethlehem (70 miles).

"A more probable time would be late September, the time of the annual Feast of Tabernacles, when such travel was commonly accepted. Thus, it is rather commonly believed (though not certain) that Jesus' birth was around the last of September. The conception of Christ, however, may have taken place in late December of the previous year. Our Christmas celebration may well be recognized as an honored observation of the incarnation of 'the Word made flesh' (John 1:14).

…The probability is that this mighty angel, leading the heavenly host in their praises, was Michael the archangel; this occasion was later commemorated by the early church as Michaelmas ('Michael sent'), on September 29, the same as the date of the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles. It would have at least been appropriate for Christ to have been born on such a date, for it was at His birth that 'the Word was made flesh and dwelt (literally tabernacled) among us' (John 1:14).

This would mean, then, that His conception took place in late December. Thus, it might well be that when we today celebrate Christ's birth at what we call Christmas (i.e., 'Christ sent'), we are actually celebrating His miraculous conception, the time when the Father sent the Son into the world, in the virgin's womb. This darkest time of the year--the time of the pagan Saturnalia, and the time when the sun (the physical 'light of the world') is at its greatest distance from the Holy Land--would surely be an appropriate time for God to send the spiritual 'light of the world' into the world as the 'Savior, which is Christ the Lord' (Luke 2:11)" [Dr. Henry M. Morris, The Defender's Study Bible (notes for Luke 2:8,13)].

(The word "Christmas" means "Christ mass," a special celebration of the Lord's supper -- called a mass in the Roman Catholic Church and a Communion supper in most Protestant churches.)

Q: Why do many Christians celebrate Christmas on the 25th of December, if that is not when he was born?

The date was chosen by the Roman Catholic Church. Because Rome dominated most of the "Christian" world for centuries, the date became tradition throughout most of Christendom.

The original significance of December 25 is that it was a well-known festival day celebrating the annual return of the sun. December 21 is the winter solstice (shortest day of the year and thus a key date on the calendar), and December 25 is the first day that ancients could clearly note that the days were definitely getting longer and the sunlight was returning.

So, why was December 25 chosen to remember Jesus Christ's birth with a mass (or Communion supper)? Since no one knows the day of his birth, the Roman Catholic Church felt free to chose this date. The Church wished to replace the pagan festival with a Christian holy day (holiday). The psychology was that is easier to take away an unholy (but traditional) festival from the population, when you can replace it with a good one. Otherwise, the Church would have left a void where there was a long-standing tradition, and risked producing a discontented population and a rapid return to the old ways.

The various misconceptions about Christ's birth illustrate the need to always test everything we hear against God's Word, no matter what the source. The Bible is the final authority."

http://www.christiananswers.net/christmas/mythsaboutchristmas.html

Kurt said...

Here's another article based on research, though more succinct. (Can you can discover what presuppostions drive this website?):

"Why Jesus Christ Wasn't Born on December 25......

History convincingly shows that Dec. 25 was popularized as the date for Christmas, not because Christ was born on that day, but because it was already popular in pagan religious celebrations as the birthday of the sun.

But is it possible that Dec. 25 could be the day of Christ's birth?

"Lacking any scriptural pointers to Jesus's birthday, early Christian teachers suggested dates all over the calendar. Clement ... picked November 18. Hippolytus ... figured Christ must have been born on a Wednesday ... An anonymous document[,] believed to have been written in North Africa around A.D. 243, placed Jesus's birth on March 28" (Joseph L. Sheler, U.S. News & World Report, "In Search of Christmas," Dec. 23, 1996, p. 58).

A careful analysis of Scripture, however, clearly indicates that Dec. 25 is an unlikely date for Christ's birth. Here are two primary reasons:

First, we know that shepherds were in the fields watching their flocks at the time of Jesus' birth (Luke 2:7-8). Shepherds were not in the fields during December. According to Celebrations: The Complete Book of American Holidays, Luke's account "suggests that Jesus may have been born in summer or early fall. Since December is cold and rainy in Judea, it is likely the shepherds would have sought shelter for their flocks at night" (p. 309).

Similarly, The Interpreter's One-Volume Commentary says this passage argues "against the birth [of Christ] occurring on Dec. 25 since the weather would not have permitted" shepherds watching over their flocks in the fields at night.

Second, Jesus' parents came to Bethlehem to register in a Roman census (Luke 2:1-4). Such censuses were not taken in winter, when temperatures often dropped below freezing and roads were in poor condition. Taking a census under such conditions would have been self-defeating.

Given the difficulties and the desire to bring pagans into Christianity, "the important fact then which I have asked you to get clearly into your head is that the fixing of the date as December 25th was a compromise with paganism" (William Walsh, The Story of Santa Klaus, 1970, p. 62).

If Jesus Christ weren't born on Dec. 25, does the Bible indicate when He was born? The biblical accounts point to the fall of the year as the most likely time of Jesus' birth, based on the conception and birth of John the Baptist.

Since Elizabeth (John's mother) was in her sixth month of pregnancy when Jesus was conceived (Luke 1:24-36), we can determine the approximate time of year Jesus was born if we know when John was born. John's father, Zacharias, was a priest serving in the Jerusalem temple during the course of Abijah (Luke 1:5). Historical calculations indicate this course of service corresponded to June 13-19 in that year (The Companion Bible, 1974, Appendix 179, p. 200).

It was during this time of temple service that Zacharias learned that he and his wife, Elizabeth, would have a child (Luke 1:8-13). After he completed his service and traveled home, Elizabeth conceived (verses 23-24). Assuming John's conception took place near the end of June, adding nine months brings us to the end of March as the most likely time for John's birth. Adding another six months (the difference in ages between John and Jesus) brings us to the end of September as the likely time of Jesus' birth."

http://gnmagazine.org/booklets/HH/jcnotborndec25.htm

Jared said...

Kurt, I'm not sure where you're going by questioning presuppositions. Dr. Kinneer's stated goal was to show the validity of the incarnation and nativity story. Please help me understand what you mean speaking about presuppositions in this context...because I know Dr. Kinneer a little, I can say with certainty that he has no problem bucking the norm (practice of Christmas) if Scripture and scholarship lead him there.

Further, I would argue that what we're after is the best (most Biblical) scholarship. And, having read your two comments and Dr. Kinneer's article, my confidence is in his exegesism, exposition and scholarship. Especially enlightening is his historical research, contra the claim that the Roman Catholic Church (which, remember, was *our* church, too, before the 16th century) that December 25th was picked because it was a good and likely date - and nicely placed 8 days before the new year, when some of the church has remembered Christ's circumcision (see Barry York's recent post at sycamorerpc.blogspot.com). Again, no one's claiming Jesus was born on December 25, but simply saying that time of year seems a likely time for his birth. I'd rather see you or others deal with Dr. Kinneer's scholarship head-on than quote naysayers.

---by the way, I should have mentioned to others that you need to click on "Christmas Questions and Answers" on Dr. Kinneer's site to get the article.