Christmas: December 25?

NOT, says Pastor Arnold Murray of the Shepherd’s Chapel in Gravett Arkansas.

There was an encore broadcast of an episode of his bible study program (tape 517) on 12/13/05. He carefully was reading Luke to explain the circumstances of Christ’s birth, and particularly to indicate the approximate time of Christ’s birth.

Any resident of the holy land would probably recognize that there were not shepherds abiding in the fields in December. The harvest would occur in September, and there would probably not be grazing food for sheep beyond mid-October, he says.

But, that was not his starting point.

He started at verse 1 in chap 1 of Luke and pointed out that Zecharias’ temple duty was in early to mid June. The conception of John the Baptist (who was a Levite, having Levite parents) was probably around June 25. Then, as the gospel records, Mary conceived six months later, which would be approximately Dec 25. Then, go nine months out, and there you are around Sept 25 abiding in the fields with the shepherds before the harvest is completed.

He closed with an explanation of the symbolism that God uses in the bible. And, indeed, Hosea 14:4 uses the symbolism of a tree (which Murray’s bible translates as a fir tree) for God. Not that a tree becomes an idol. But, because this type of tree does not shed leaves, it suggests everlasting life, and therefore symbolizes God.

As I understand it :slight_smile: the date of the celebration of Christ’s birth is based on an theory that holy people should live lives of exact length in years. Not that they do, but they should. This way we can count how long they lived easier. Apparently in the earliest centuries [pre-computers] it was easier to count full years rather than ‘he lived 32 years, 3 months and 7 days’.

So somebody thought the crucifixion took place on March 25. So Jesus would need to be concieved on March 25 for this age thing to work. That put his birth at Dec 25. So the celebration is based on his death, rather than his actual birth.

Of course, you need to count from conception because of psalms that say things like ‘I called you from your mother’s womb’, or ‘before you were born I knew you’.

As an aside, in Carl Olsen’s book “The Davinci Hoax” He mentions that the use of Dec25 by Christians as the celebration of the nativity of God, was the reason the cult of Sol Invictus used that day for the birth of their God when they created him in the 3rd Century. Some also used the Solstice (Dec 21).

I don’t think birthdays were big back then, if they celebrated the fact you were born…fine, but it was not important on which day. Kind of like horses today. Their birthday is always Jan 1 (or so I understand).

Good News: Jesus Christ was born on December 25, 1 BC.

Well there’s a 1 in 365 chance he was born on Dec 25-- not likely at all of course. It doesn’t matter-- the Church chose a date on which to celebrate his birthday, his conception, and every other feast on the Liturgical calendar. Pastor Arnold may have some interesting theories, but really – * it doesn’t matter on what day or in what year he was born!*

No one is *absolutely * sure when His birth was. HOWEVER, St. Augustine wrote in the 4th century that the celebration of St. John the Baptist’s birthday (on June 24th) was already a long standing tradition during his time. Then, referencing the beginning of Luke’s Gospel, which states that John the Baptist and Jesus had an age difference of 6 months, the Holy Catholic Church chose Dec. 25th to be the day to celebrate Christ’s birth. To this day, the Church only celebrates 2 birthdays - Jesus’s and John the Baptist’s. I hope that helps. Just a word of warning, don’t look to non-Catholic/non-Christian scholars when it comes to matters of the Faith. They usually have an agenda behind their research and are trying to discredit our Holy Religion. Obviously, this would cause them to exclude such evidence as I’ve stated above in their research. God bless & have a very Merry Christmas!

There have been some thoughtful responses so far, to my original post.

The reference to Robert Sungenis is appreciated. I tend to agree with him. It will take me some time to read and digest his lengthy paper.

There is certainly a problem with competing and erroneous and imprecise measurements of days and years in biblical times.
For example, the Romans and Greeks had different calendars, and they were both imprecise.

But, the gospel of Luke doesn’t appeal to the Roman or Greek calendars. This might make this discussion a bit more interesting.

Murray’s point (which I truthfully don’t totally understand) is this.
There is actually a calendar reference in Luke to the Jewish calendar, but it’s not obvious. Luke’s gospel introduces Zacharias as a priest (Levite) but more precisely says that he is of the division of Levites known as Abia (KJV) or Abijah (NAB).

You have to go back to 1 Chron 24 to see that the divisions of Levites were made to set up an order of service in the Temple. So, that means that Abia or Abijah tells us something about the time of year when Zacharias was performing the service of incense burning in the Temple, when the angel Gabriel appeared to him.

Murray was somehow quite specific that Zacharias was in the Temple from June 13 to June 19. And, then a Sabbath would occur. And then Zacharias and Elizabeth procreated a child, to be John the Baptist, on about June 25. So, six months later, on Dec 25, is the conception of Jesus (or Annunciation as we would say). And, that throws Jesus’ birth into September. And, as I said above, that would be a reasonable month for shepherds to be abiding in the field with their flocks.

So, if you can buy into the June 13-June 19, part, than you’re in Murray’s camp. And, that sounds quite reasonable, except that I surely don’t have the absolute assurance of that yet.

Yet, the matter of Luke 2:8 about the shepherds abiding in the field, is quite independent of the Jewish calendar, and makes ordinary sense based on the seasons of the year.

And, Murray is only appealing to the gospel of Luke, not to Augustine, Josephus, or the Roman or Greek calendars, as does Sungenis.

Occam’s razor says look for the simpler explanation. So far, Murray and the Gospel of Luke are running ahead in my judgment.But, all relevant comments are welcome.

I am slightly confused. Are you saying that Jesus was conceived on the 25th then? This is not what is celebrated. We talk about the wise men and Jesus’ physical birth.

It is my understanding that the shepherds didn’t stay out in the fields with their flocks because it was too cold in the middle of winter.

I think Christmas is a fine holiday. I celebrate the birth of Jesus. That doesn’t mean that I am celebrating his actual birthday. Easter is the more important holiday anyway; it is Easter that makes us Christians, not Christmas.

[quote=dkward2]I am slightly confused. Are you saying that Jesus was conceived on the 25th then? This is not what is celebrated. We talk about the wise men and Jesus’ physical birth.
[/quote]

I thought that the 3 Magi came at Epiphany which isn’t until after Christmas, right? :confused:

[quote=dkward2]I am slightly confused. Are you saying that Jesus was conceived on the 25th then? This is not what is celebrated. We talk about the wise men and Jesus’ physical birth.

It is my understanding that the shepherds didn’t stay out in the fields with their flocks because it was too cold in the middle of winter.

I think Christmas is a fine holiday. I celebrate the birth of Jesus. That doesn’t mean that I am celebrating his actual birthday. Easter is the more important holiday anyway; it is Easter that makes us Christians, not Christmas.
[/quote]

8[4]("http://www.usccb.org/nab/bible/luke/luke2.htm#foot4") Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock.

 [left]In Palestine during the summer there isn't much to graze, the hills are bare.  In winter, the rainy season, the hills are lush with green.  The average winter temp is 55 deg F.[/left]
 [left]

[/left]

hmm…thanks for the new info

[quote=JSmitty2005]No one is *absolutely *sure when His birth was. HOWEVER, St. Augustine wrote in the 4th century that the celebration of St. John the Baptist’s birthday (on June 24th) was already a long standing tradition during his time.

This is correct, nobody knows the year, the month or the day. For whatever reasons, December 25 was chosen. There are plenty of theories, take your pick.

[/quote]

[quote=JSmitty2005]I thought that the 3 Magi came at Epiphany which isn’t until after Christmas, right? :confused:
[/quote]

The three Magi came within two years after Jesus was born, reported to Herod and then found Jesus in Bethlehem. Later the Magi did not return to Herod. Seeing he had been fooled by the Magi, Herod killed all the children in Bethlehem two years old and under according to the time which had been given him for Jesus’ birth by the Magi. See Matthew 2: 1-16. This time spread is hard to understand but probably Herod either wanted to err on the side of caution or the time frame the Magi gave him was very vague.

[quote=dkward2]I am slightly confused. Are you saying that Jesus was conceived on the 25th then? This is not what is celebrated. We talk about the wise men and Jesus’ physical birth.

It is my understanding that the shepherds didn’t stay out in the fields with their flocks because it was too cold in the middle of winter.

I think Christmas is a fine holiday. I celebrate the birth of Jesus. That doesn’t mean that I am celebrating his actual birthday. Easter is the more important holiday anyway; it is Easter that makes us Christians, not Christmas.
[/quote]

dkward2:

I believe that part of your confusion (as well as that of JSmitty2005) comes from the sentence in your last paragraph (I celebrate the birth of Jesus.).

You see, We just don’t celebrate the birth or the FIRST COMING OF JESUS THE MESSIAH, but we also celebrate his SECOND COMING IN GLORY, when:

*Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them (as their God). He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, (for) the old order has passed away.” Rev. 21:1-4 NAB*

To do this, the Church saw a need for a period of preparation. Advent used to start on the Feast of Christ the King, which was in the middle of November on the Old Calendar. That gave Christians 6 weeks of preparation for receiving the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords as their houseguest.

After harvest (which would occur in Sept./Oct.) was one of the few times when people had the time to devote to the examination of conscience, penance, prayer and contemplation and the weather would be miserable enough that people would actually do those things rather than go out and play.

And, there was these situated PEGAN Holiday that needed to be co-opted (the Saturnalia in Rome and the “Winter Solstace” for the Germans and the Celts)… So, Dec. the 25th it was.

I hope this makes it a little easier to understand.

Jesus is Coming Back Again. Michael

From what I can gather, when Christianity had become the offical state religion, the celebration of Christ’s birth was placed overtop of the pagan celebration of the winter solstice, which was centered around sun worship. It is no co-incidence that so many different faiths, including pagan, celebrate around the same time of year because it is rooted on worship of the sun. Likewise, easter, the name of a pagan god, is celebrated to overlap the pagan celebration of spring, when the sun returns to bring full light to the earth.

Thus pagan holidays were replaced with Christian ones.

I know this is 4 years later, but I was listening to EWTN and heard someone call in and ask about the date of the birth of Christ. My ears perked up because I was forced to listen to Pastor Murray while growing up. What I think may be true (based on listening to him via satellite 24 hours a day) turns out in most cases to be completely false. (I’m currently in the process of trying to root out his false teachings, and fully understand the teachings of the Church). So, when I heard the question come up about the birth of Christ, I just assumed that it had to really be in September like PM said. It just seems so simple when he explains the feasts and dates and so on. Well, one caller mentioned that there was a book where Father Teres explains why he believes that Christ really was born around the 25th of December. That caused me to do a web search which is where I found this thread.

Anyway, I am of the opinion that it is the reason not necessarily the day for celebration that is important. This is an argument I have to use with my father (who still listens to PM) regarding many Christian celebrations including Easter. However, I’m always interested in debunking PM’s theories in order to have a defense when speaking with my dad.

I found a website of one of his followers that uses 1 Chronicles 9:25 and 24:10, 2 Chronicles 23:8, Duet 16:16 as proof for this claim of a September birth. Here’s the problem that I see:

1 Chronicles 24:1-19 lists the descendents of Levi and their duties as determined by lots. There were the priests in charge of liturgical duties such as Abijah (verse 10) and then there were gatekeepers. 1 Chronicles 9:25 mentions the one week at a time…but if I understand from the context of verses 17-27, this is specifically talking about the gatekeepers. 2 Chronicles 23:8 is the story of the priest Jehoiada taking back the throne from the wicked Queen Athaliah. These were instruction from him to the other priests and sons of Judah regarding the revolt. Deut 16:16 is specifically talking about all male Israelites (unless I’m misreading the passage) so again, this doesn’t make sense to me.
He doesn’t take into account that each priest is required to serve twice a year since there are only 24 rotations. So, even if his math is correct regarding the June 13th date (which in my opinion is debatable), there is the possibility that Zachariah was at the temple during his second rotation which would be about 6 months later in Dec. I think that if the Calendar year begins in Nisan as PM uses, then counting the dates appropriately would actually put the 1st rotation closer to April or May instead of June, pushing the second rotation back to October/November. Either way, I don’t believe there is substantial proof here to say without a doubt that Zachariah was in the temple during June like PM claims.

I found another theory that Zachariah was actually serving during Atonement which would be around Sept/Oct. If John the Baptist is 6 months older than Jesus, then 9 months from Sept/Oct would be May/June and then 6 months later Nov/Dec…the thought behind this is the fact that Luke 1:10 mentions the “whole assembly was outside of the temple praying at the hour of the incense offering” and that Leviticus 16:12 &17 mentions that during the day of Atonement the priest offers up incense and no one can enter the temple…so some conclude that Luke 1:10 is making reference to the day of atonement.

Not a solid theory, but interesting, and could fall in line with the second rotation of the 8th lot. I’m almost positive that the rotations did not fall on the exact days each year so there is room for +/- days/months in this whole birth estimation.

Regardless, the Church has chosen December 25th as the day that we Christians celebrate His coming, and that is the day that I will celebrate.

The popular dating for Christmas became December 25 around the 4th century. Doctor St Ephraim the Syrian said Jesus was conceived on 10 Nisan (significance being the date the passover lamb was chosen). And this would fall on our calendar around March-early April. 9 months afterwards would be December-January.

I invite you to check this out:

Good News: Jesus Christ was born on December 25, 1 BC.

June 17 is very likely date. See Rick Larson’s website www.bethtehemstar.net
Don’t forget the web site is a .net not .com
I don’t think Jesus was very concerned about us knowing his birthday since he was always the son of God. Also on Rick’s website 3 wisemen could have arrived in Bethlehem around Dec. 25. Don’t throw out your nativity sets ::slight_smile: Also - email me if you want to get Rick’s DVD Some folks at NASA like it.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.