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!"

15 December 2006

Merry Christmas

I'm so happy about this. Dr. Jack Kinneer was one of my professors at RPTS. This Christmas season he's done some good work debunking popular Christmas myths, especially the ones about Christmas being based on a pagan holiday and Jesus being born in the Spring or Summer. So if your conscience permits you, have a merry Christmas!

25 comments:

Tamara said...

It may not be a pagan holiday, but it for sure isn't a Christian holiday. Not mandated in the Bible thus I don't have to like it. Bah Humbug! :)

Nate said...

I am with Tamara.

Alicia said...

The bits about the Magi coming soon after His birth and the start appearing 2-3 years before His birth is fascinating, AND the bit about the winter timing of Herod's death and Jesus' birth. Plus the comments about the stable birth...I never realized that. Thanks for posting...I may put it on my blog as well.

Kurt said...

Jared said, "....he's done some good work debunking popular Christmas myths, especially the ones about Christmas being based on a pagan holiday and Jesus being born in the Spring or Summer."

Based on the link that you gave, he did no such thing. Here are his quotes:

"Popular Myth: The dating of Christmas on December 25 is an arbitrary accommodation to a pagan feast.

Kinneer’s Reply: In fact, the dating is a computation based on the presumption of when the angel appeared to Zechariah during his priestly duties and his wife Elizabeth became pregnant with John the Baptist."

I see no supportive explanation as how this turns out to be December 25, do you? In fact, I give an alternate time of year (see below) that uses the same presumption he does.

"Popular Myth: We can only vaguely date when Jesus was born within years.

Kinneer’s Reply: Scripture, ancient historical records, and modern astronomy enable us to pinpoint the birth of Jesus within a few months prior to the death of Herod over the winter of 5-4 B.C."

Note that Kinneer said that he can pinpoint Christ's birth within a FEW MONTHS of Herod's death. That a far cry from saying Christ was born during the winter and on December 25, in particular.

I submit the following discourse gives a more viable, supportive reasoned explanation based on Scriptural and historic evidence that Jesus was born during the Fall. However, even this still leaves much doubt (http://www.btinternet.com/~prgreetham/Wisemen/chron3.html) as there are assumptions that have to be made with this theory, too!

I think we still have the best argument for not celebrating Christ's birth as God has obviously obscured the date and timing of His birth and that there is no command to celebrate it, thus graciously helping us to avoid turning this day into an idol.

The following is taken from The Feasts of the Lord:

(http://en.preterism.com/index.php?title=The_Feasts_of_the_Lord#The_Service_of_the_Feast_of_Tabernacles)

I believe that Jesus Christ, the Living water, was born into this world during the Feast of Tabernacles. I would like to give you some facts that prove that Jesus was born on the first day of Sukkot. First, I trust that you understand that December 25th is not the real date of Jesus' birth. The December 25th date is simply tradition. December 25th was not recognized as the date of Messiah's birth until the fourth century when Constantine Christianized all of the pagan holidays. To understand the date of Jesus' birth, we must correctly establish the date of John the Baptist's birth. Luke 1:26 indicates that there were exactly six months difference between the conception of John and the conception of Jesus. If their conceptions were six months apart, then their births would also be six months apart. So let's see if we can figure out when John was born. Luke 1:5 and 1:8 states that John the Baptist's dad, Zechariah, belonged to the priestly division of Abijah and was serving in the Temple when he received the news that Elizabeth would be with child. 1 Chronicles 24:10 says that Zechariah's priestly division, Abijah, was the eighth division to serve at the Temple. The Mishnah (Oral Torah) states that each division had to serve twice in one year (but not consecutively), with the first division starting on the first week of Nissan. Each division served a one-week period and all priestly divisions had to serve during the three pilgrim Festivals.

The following is the order of the priestly divisions in relation to the Feasts:

* 1st week of Nisan, 1st priestly division of Jehoiarib serves

* 2nd week of Nisan, 2nd priestly division of Jedaiah serves

* 3rd week of Nisan, Passover/Feast of Unleavened Bread, all priests serve

* 4th week of Nisan, 3rd priestly division of Harim serves

* 1st week of Iyar, 4th priestly division of Seorin serves

* 2nd week of Iyar, 5th priestly division of Malkijah serves

* 3rd week of Iyar, 6th priestly division of Mijamin serves

* 4th week of Iyar, 7th priestly division of Hakkoz serves

* 1st week of Sivan, 8th priestly division of Abijah serves

* 2nd week of Sivan, Shavuot, all priests serve (including the division of Abijah)

Zechariah serves during the first week of Sivan and then is required to serve the following week for Shavuot. During Shavuot, the priests would draw lots to see who would get the honor of going into the Holy Place to burn incense on the altar. Only once during a priest's lifetime could his lot be drawn for this service. Zechariah's lot was drawn (Luke 1:9), and it was his time to offer the incense. Zechariah would enter the Holy Place, offer incense, and then would return back outside to give the blessing over the worshipers. As Zechariah is offering incense, to his surprise, an angel of the Lord appears to him and informs him that his prayers have been answered, and that his wife will be with child. Zechariah doubted the angel's announcement, and he lost the ability to speak (Luke 1:19-20). The worshipers began to wonder what was taking Zechariah so long ,and then he appeared to give the blessing, but soon realized he could not speak (Luke 1:21-22). After Zechariah's service was completed, he returned home; and Elizabeth, his wife, conceived. John the Baptist was conceived some time after Shavuot. If John were conceived sometime after Shavuot, then John the Baptist would have been born in the month of Nisan. I would like to propose that John was born on Nisan 15, the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread and Passover, based on these facts. First, Malachi 4:5-6 indicates that Elijah must come prior to the arrival of the Day of the Lord. In Matthew 11:11-14, Messiah says that John the Baptist is the Elijah who was to come. John came as the forerunner to Christ's ministry; John prepared the hearts and minds of people for Christ. John was the Elijah to come as prophesied by Malachi. When were the Jewish people expecting Elijah? At every Passover Seder a place is set for Elijah, and a child will open the door to see if Elijah has come. If John the Baptist is the Elijah to come, and he was conceived sometime after Shavuot, then I believe that John was born on Passover (Nisan 15).

Remember that Messiah was born six months after John the Baptist. If John was born on Nisan 15, then Messiah would have to be born on Tishri 15. I believe Messiah was born on the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles. John says, "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us..." The Greek word for "dwelt or dwelling" is skenoo and means: "to occupy (as a mansion) or (spec.) to reside (as God did in the Tabernacle of old, a symbol of protection and communion)" The sukkah is a perfect picture of Christ. The sukkah is not an attractive structure, just as there wasn't anything of Christ that would attract us to Him (Isaiah 53:2). If Christ's life and ministry revolved around the Feast's of the Lord, then even His birth had to be in conjunction with a Feast. The Feast of Tabernacles fits perfectly with Messiah's birth. The Savior of the world was born in a lowly sukkah on the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles.

If Messiah was born on Tishri 15, then His circumcision would have taken place on the eighth day of Sukkot. The Jews have a tradition associated with the eight day called "Simchat Torah" and means "Rejoicing in the Torah." Luke 2:21-38 says that on the eighth day they brought the baby Messiah up to the Temple to circumcise Him and to name Him, and when Simeon and Anna saw Israel's Savior, they rejoiced over Him. These two righteous people were rejoicing over the Living Torah of God. Every aspect of Messiah's birth, including the day of His circumcision, is a picture designed to teach us more about Him.

As we have stated earlier, the Feast of Tabernacle is called "the season of our joy" and "the feast of the nations." With this in mind, notice what Luke writes:

Luke 2:10 (NKJV) Then the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.

Here the birth of Christ is announced as a time of great joy [Sukkot is called the "season of our joy"], which shall be to all people [Sukkot is called "the feast of the nations"]. So, we can see from this that the terminology the angel used to announce the birth of Jesus were themes and messages associated with the Feast of Tabernacles.

In Luke 2:12, the baby Jesus was wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger. The swaddling cloths were also used as wicks to light the 16 vats of oil within the court of the women during the festival of Sukkot. So, swaddling cloths are associated with the festival of Sukkot.

During the Feast of Tabernacles, God required that all male Jews come to Jerusalem (Deuteronomy 16:16). For this reason, the city would be overcrowded with people, and would explain why Mary and Joseph could not find lodging in and around Jerusalem (Luke 2:7). Bethlehem, the place where Jesus was born, is only about four miles from Jerusalem.

Jared said...

Kurt, I should have mentioned in my post that I was simply glad that someone I know and respect has done this research (although it's not available in that article, I'm sure he'd make it available for the cost of an email). I hope not to offend, but to encourage those who love to celebrate the incarnation.

But...I need to protest against quoting anything from preterism.com. Full (or hyper-) preterism has long been recognized by the church as outright heresy. This isn't simply a few folks I squabble with over a couple minor points. These are heretics that cannot be trusted with the Word of God. As long as they hold the position of full preterism, they are not within the church of Jesus Christ. Obviously, this casts great shadows over anything they would write.

Kurt said...

Jared,

Not wishing to offend, but your position of not considering a person's point of view because of a certain belief he has, commits, in part or in whole, four logical fallacies of argumentation: Ad Hominim, Genetic Fallacy, Guilt by Association, and Poisoning the Well.

Personally, I am very thankful for "heretics" like Hus and Luther, who proved to be faithful Christians in time, even though all their views didn't match up with the status quo.

Josh said...

People, can't we all get along? (partly joking here). I just want to say that I too am thankful for Dr. Kineer's study and am thankful for this time of year.

I love Christmas, and we should actually think it interesting that if Christians did take it from a pagan holiday, that the pagans are trying to take it back. Now that's more intersting than Christians bickering over the substance of a non-biblical Christian holiday. Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't Jesus also celebrate feasts, or holidays that were not recognized by the Jewish Old Testament? I seem to remember James Faris pointing that out to me.

Kurt said...

Josh,

If we are looking for ways to justify celebrating Christmas, there is a plethora of very reasonable ones.

It is interesting that the pagans are trying to take it back, but even more interesting that Christians are so desperately trying to hold on to it!!!

Wouldn't it be better to let them have it, and thus more clearly demarcate the differences between God's people and the heathen?

We have the Lord's Day, the consummation of his birth, life, and resurrection. Why do we need more? Calvin didn't think so!

Jared said...

Kurt, regarding quoting from preterism.com and the logical fallacies you accuse me of:

1. An ad hominem attack seeks to nullify a statement based on the character of the person. In my opinion, this is only a logical fallacy in some instances. That is, if we're in an area (i.e., Christian life and practice) where character is a prerequisite for good judgment, then said person's character is vital to the debate, not tangential.

2. If I had said people from preterism.com can never get anything right, then I would be committing the genetic fallacy. But again, when in the realm of spiritual life and practice, heretics cannot be trusted one inch, even if they do get some things right. Everything good they have to say is surely said elsewhere by more reliable people. Again, this isn't me disagreeing with someone over baptism and then discrediting everything they say - these are men whom the whole church has denounced as heretics, and you want the rest of us to take them seriously?

3. I also don't think I've committed the error of guilt by association. If I had argued for observing Christmas because the men at preterism.com disagree with Christmas, then I have committed guilt by association. As it is, I have simply said that they cannot be trusted to instruct the church in matters of faith and life, because they have placed themselves outside of the church by their heresy.

4. Finally, I fully admit to having "poisoned the well" or, more aptly, pointed out that the well is indeed poisoned. Once again, though I might trust men from preterism.com to tell me that 2+2=4, I will not trust them in any matters regarding the faith and practice of Christ's bride - why? Because the well is poisoned! Though I might get a sip or two that's decent, it's surrounded by gallons that will kill me spiritually!

Finally, your identification of full-preterists with men like Luther and Hus is incredibly disturbing. With that line of thinking, we could be incredibly thankful for Warren Jeffs or David Kouresh. Full preterists deny the resurrection of the body and rob the church of her God-given inheritance in glory. They cannot be trusted. At all.

Kurt said...

Jared,

I'll just make one comment about your response that is representative. You trust a preterist to tell you 2+2=4 because you already believe it. The things you don't believe, you use the fact that they are preterists, not to consider the argument they present. That kind of thinking is disturbing!

I didn't mention it before, but I could also have indicated that you used the double-standard fallacy as well. Last year, you quoted a Roman Catholic scholar on the argument that Christmas was not of pagan origins. Unless you are prepared to admit that Roman Catholicism is not heretical, then you don't have a leg to stand on denying arguments presented by a preterist.

Jared said...
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Jared said...

Kurt, that's really not what I said. I'll believe hyper-preterists regarding math because it's not an area where their mind is tarnished, because it's not within a realm where they have exhibited a grave and dreadful lack of the Holy Spirit. Just like I'll believe a non-Christian plumber when he tells me what's wrong with my pipes but not when he tells me how to raise my kids.

And yes, I do think there's a difference between RCism and hyper-preterism. That is, I believe one can be a Roman Catholic and be a true believer in Jesus Christ. I do not believe the same about those who are confessedly hyper-preterists.

Kurt said...

Jared,

What authority declares this view of eschatology as "heresy" and believers in it as NOT true believers in Jesus Christ? In other words, I would appreciate a citation from a historical synod, council, or pope officially declaring preterism as heresy, and believers in it as NON-Christians.

If you can't find any or can't cite a viable authority speaking for the Church, I would appreciate your arguments that support your belief.

Thanks.

Jared said...

Kurt, I will be happy to do more work on this, but here is a couple points to begin:

1. See Ken Gentry's article at http://www.reformed.org/eschaton/index.html?mainframe=/eschaton/gentry_preterism.html - especially important is his first point, "creedal failure". Gentry: "First, hyper-preterism is heterodox. It is outside the creedal orthodoxy of Christianity. No creed allows any second Advent in A. D. 70. No creed allows any other type of resurrection than a bodily one. Historic creeds speak of the universal, personal judgment of all men, not of a representative judgment in A. D. 70."

2. Here's a book review of Keith Mathison's recent book When Shall These Things Be? refuting hyper-preterism: http://www.opc.org/review.html?review_id=13
To quote the reviewer: "The implications of this position are wide ranging, and hyper-preterists have not been slow to accept them: (1) The world is now in its final state. (2) There is no future resurrection; any existence after death is purely spiritual. (3) If the Lord's Supper is designed to 'proclaim the Lord's death until he comes," then the sacraments were only intended for the first century.'

3. Few ecclesiastical bodies have officially declared hyper-preterism heretical (because it is such a new fad, historically-speaking) - though some have. Other churches I know have dealt with it head-on in the local church and have given it no quarter as a viable option for believers.

It is enough for me that they deny the resurrection of the body, which is an essential and indispensable piece of our salvation. Because of this, I cannot say strongly enough how dangerous this theology is.

Kurt said...

Jared,

You note some good concerns broached by others, but if you do a little digging yourself, there are viable answers.

Rather than relying on what others have concluded about preterism, a good start into your own study might be listening to the following audio:

http://covenantradio.com/topic-eschatology.html

Jared said...

Hi everybody,

Re: the topic of hyper-preterism - I'm hoping to continue this conversation in private with Kurt. My strong encouragement to you would be to not delve into hyper-preterism as it can only lead to trouble. If you are curious about it, please talk to your pastor or email me.

If you feel you need to study the topic of eschatology more, I would suggest two books: along the postmillennial lines would be Keith Mathison's book, Postmillennialism: An Eschatology of Hope. Along the amillennial lines would be Kim Riddlebarger's book Amillennialism.

Have a great day!

Jeff Kessler said...

Jared:
How can you not mention something for those who want to study pre-mill dispensationalism? I would suggest the video game mentioned in your blog a few days ago.:)

Jeff K

Sir Ryan said...

A hyper-preterist guy (and his wife and daughter) were part of our church for a while. Ironically enough, he chose the week after Gordon got here to "come out" and started writing emails to the congregation, telling us that we didn't need pastors, we could all preach and serve communion.

He's no longer welcome at our church.

I've never understood the reason for trying to pinpoint the day of Christ's birth. Dec. 25th is just a day, and it just so happens to be a day that we've decided to give special attention to the birth of Christ.

The church has historically had liturgical calendars (I think the Episcopalians still do) which I believe were designed to help Christians focus on different aspects of the life of Christ and stuff all throughout the year. I can't see anything wrong with that.

I guess it all comes down to Romans 14: 5-6

5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.

Kurt said...

Jared,

Thanks for your concern about preterism. I have some 39 books on eschatology, including two of the books you mentioned. However, I have been studying preterism off and on now for years. As far as I can tell, I haven't grown any warts from exposure to it! :>)

Kurt said...

Interesting...

I just got done reading J. Gresham Machen's "What Is Orthodoxy?" I quote him below, which ends his article:

"Orthodoxy means, as we have seen, 'straight doxy' [or 'straight teaching, straight doctrine']. Well, how do we tell whether a thing is straight or not? The answer is plain. By comparing it with a rule or plumb line. Our rule or plumb line is the Bible. A thing is 'orthodox' if it is in accordance with the Bible. I think we might well revive the word. But whether we revive the word or not, we certainly ought to hold to the thing that is designated by the word."

Maybe, we should take his words to heart and use the "plumb line" - Scripture - to determine what orthodoxy is...or is not, rather than leaning too heavily on tradition or creedal authority. If we don't, how can we keep "reforming and ever reforming?"

Justin said...

Interesting article, but as was said, he doesn't give a lot to back up his claims/myth debunking. Some of it seems sound, some seems like speculation, and some I've just plain never heard before from anyone else. But an interesting read!

On another, non-peterian note, it's always interesting to hear Christians take a stand against celebrating Christmas. Certainly, we should not turn a mere day into an "idol", but neither is it bad to shun it because there's no strict biblical mandate putting Christmas into place. There's none for my birthday either (shame, that), but we celebrate because it's a joyous occasion for family and friends to remember. Is it bad to celebrate, to feast, to be with family, and to recall with fondness Christ's birth? Every December 25th, is Jesus standing up there in heaven, waving his arms and shouting "Stop it! Stop celebrating me!"? Or, instead, does Jesus revel in the glory that we give him, and work to show a world living in darkness what a taste of the light is like? Maybe that's pointless speculation on my part, but it is in the Bible that Jesus loved it when people showered him with adoration and festivity, even if it wasn't point-perfect or mandated by the prophets. Jesus does talk about, often, the grand feast we will have with him in heaven. What I don't understand is why Christians aren't celebrating *more*, as joyous children of the King, and instead tromp around as if bearing the weight of a million serious theological thoughts and rules.

Anonymous said...
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Jared said...

Hi everybody,

FYI - I removed the last post because it contained attacks against an elder in God's church, not substantiated by two or more witnesses and not taken through the right channels. This isn't clamping down on freedom of speech or anything, but attempting to abide by Biblical rules for discussion about the church.

-Jared

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