Saturday, December 20, 2008

Was Jesus born on December 25? #1: Watchtower arguments against

It is commonplace for Christians (as I did for ~40 years) to accept

[Above (click to enlarge): "Report: Palestinian shepherds displaced by Israeli military," IMEMC News, December 24, 2007, Saed Bannoura. The photo shows Palestinian shepherds with their sheep out in the fields in late December (perhaps Christmas Eve) 2007!]

uncritically the oft-repeated claim that Jesus was not born on the traditional date of Christmas, December 25. While it is true that the Bible does not state on what day Jesus was born, and it does not really matter on what particular day of the year we celebrate Jesus' birth, it does not therefore follow that Jesus was not born on December 25.

Moreover, for the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society (Jehovah's Witnesses), it is an article of faith that Jesus was not born on December 25. Indeed, as Bowman pointed out, a Jehovah's Witness might be more shaken by criticisms of one of their distinctive secondary doctrines, like not celebrating Christmas on December 25, than of one of their primary doctrines, like the rejection of the Trinity:

"...secondary doctrinal matters ... for many Jehovah's Witnesses if these secondary doctrines are suspect the whole religion is suspect. ... especially the Jehovah's Witness `don'ts': ... various celebrations (Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, birthdays) ... many people are attracted to the Witnesses because of one or more of these `don'ts,' and thus would feel even more challenged by criticisms of these doctrines than of the Witness rejection of the Trinity ... Because the Jehovah's Witnesses are typically alone in their views on these matters, their distinctive position is regarded by Witnesses as further evidence that they have `the truth.' ... many Jehovah's Witnesses remain confident about their views on God and Christ, even when they are soundly refuted by evangelical apologists, because they know they are right about not celebrating birthdays and Christmas!" (Bowman, 1991, "Understanding Jehovah's Witnesses," pp.93-94).

But as we shall see in part #4 of this four-part series: "Was Jesus born on December 25? #4: The case for," there actually is evidence, albeit not conclusive, that Jesus was born on December 25.

And even if it cannot be proved that Jesus was born on December 25, as we shall see in part #3, claims by the Watchtower Society (and others) that the Church adopted December 25 as the birth date of Jesus from Roman paganism's Saturnalia and/or Sol Invictus festivals are false.

In fact, as I will show in part #3, the tottering pagan Roman Empire in AD 274 adopted the centuries-old Christian celebration of December 25 as the date of Jesus' birth, and named it Sol Invictus (Unconquered Sun). So Christianity did not borrow December 25 from the pagans-the pagans borrowed December 25 from the Christians!

Reasons the Watchtower Society gives for its claim that December 25 is not the date of Jesus' birth include:

December 25 is not mentioned in the Bible as the date of Jesus birth:

"The popular date of December 25 as the day of Jesus' birth therefore has no basis in Scripture." (WB&TS, 1988, "Insight on the Scriptures" p.2:58).

"... the Bible does not reveal the exact day of Jesus' birth." (WB&TS, 1995, "Knowledge That Leads to Everlasting Life," p.126).

The Bible gives few (if any) exact dates of events. But that does not mean they did not happen on an exact date. No exact date is mentioned in the Bible as Jesus' date of birth, but nevertheless He had a date of birth (Mt 1:25; Lk 2:7)! It is an Argument from Silence fallacy to claim that because the Bible does not say that Jesus was born on December 25, therefore he was not born on December 25.

December 25 was not the date of Jesus' birth, it being in October:

"The fact is, December 25 is not the date of Jesus' birth.." (WB&TS, 1989, "You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth," pp.212-213).

"Evidently Jesus was born sometime in the early autumn of the year. Luke 2:1-20; Micah 5:2." (WB&TS, 1991, "The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived," Ch. 5).

"But that was not the date of Jesus' birth, for it evidently took place in October." (WB&TS, 2005, Ibid, pp.157-158).

Neither the Watchtower Society, nor anyone else, can know that December 25 was not the date of Jesus' birth. There is no evidence that Jesus' birth was in "October" or "autumn." The verses cited above say nothing about what time of the year it was.

December 25 was not the date of Jesus' birth because He died in the Spring of AD 33 at 33½ years of age

"'I thought Jesus was born on December 25!' some may exclaim. This is not possible because he died in the spring of 33 C.E. at 33 1/2 years of age." (WB&TS, 1995, Ibid, p.126).

Neither does the Bible does not tell us that "Jesus .. died in ... 33 C.E. at 33 1/2 years of age"!

And in fact this claim by the Watchtower is demonstrably false. If Jesus died in AD 33 at 33½ years of age then He would have been born in 2 BC (there being no year zero between 1 BC and AD 1). But the Bible indicates that Jesus was born during the reign of Herod I the Great (Mt 2:1-22) who died in 4 BC ("Herod the Great," Wikipedia, 18 December 2008). So Jesus had to be born in or before 4 BC (see "Chronology of Jesus: Year of birth," Wikipedia). Which means that either Jesus did not die in AD 33 (it was more likely AD 30 - see "Chronology of Jesus: Year of death," Wikipedia) and/or Jesus was not 33 1/2 years old when he died.

But even if Jesus did die in April AD 33 at 33½ years of age (ignoring for the sake of argument the Herod the Great constraint), He could still have been born on December 25, 2 BC and then He would have been 33 1/3 years old on April 3, 33 (one of the only two possible dates in that period, when Passover was also a sabbath, the other more likely one being April 7, 30), which is close enough to 33½ years old.

So the Watchtower is wrong (and probably doubly wrong) on that objection!

December 25 is winter in Israel and so shepherds would not be out in the fields with their flocks:

"... the most obvious evidence of the incorrectness of the December 25 date is the Scriptural fact that shepherds were in the fields tending their flocks on the night of Jesus' birth. (Lu 2:8, 12) ... and flocks were brought into protected shelters at night." (WB&TS, 1988, Ibid, p.2:58).

"Many people today believe that Jesus was born on December 25. But December is a rainy, cold season in Bethlehem. Shepherds would not be out in the fields overnight with their flocks at that time of the year." (WB&TS, 1991, Ibid, Ch. 5).

"Moreover, at the time of his birth, shepherds were "living out of doors and keeping watches in the night over their flocks." (Luke 2:8) In the land of Israel, late December is a cold, rainy season during which sheep would be kept in shelters overnight to protect them from the winter weather." (WB&TS, 1995, Ibid, p.126).

Although this is often claimed, even by Christians, it is factually false. As can be seen in the photo above, Palestinian shepherds even today are out in the fields with their flocks in late December. And here are statements that "the flocks lay out all the year round;" "On Christmas eve in Shepherd Field [Jerusalem]... near us a few flocks of sheep were nestled" and "the shepherds were pasturing flocks destined for the temple sacrifices ... [and] might be thus in the fields in winter":

"... the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem ... He was to be revealed from ... 'the tower of the flock.' ... which ... lay close to the town, on the road to Jerusalem. ... the flocks, which pastured there, were destined for Temple-sacrifices ... these flocks lay out all the year round ... It was, then, on that 'wintry night' of the 25th of December, that shepherds watched the flocks destined for sacrificial services ... There is no adequate reason for questioning the historical accuracy of this date." (Edersheim, 1886, "The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah," p.i.187).

"... late December should not be ruled out in the belief that at that time of the year there could not have been `shepherds ... out in the field, keeping watch at night over their flock' (Luke 2:8) ... Dr. Harry Mulder ... writes `During the brief Christmas vacation my wife and I traveled ... to Jerusalem. ... I can also answer your question regarding the presence of sheep around Bethlehem in the month of December. On Christmas eve in Shepherd Field a crowd had gathered to sing Christmas carols. ... Right near us a few flocks of sheep were nestled. .... It is therefore definitely not impossible that the Lord Jesus was born in December." (Hendriksen, 1974, "The Gospel of Matthew," p.182).

"... [Lk ]2:8-20) 8. It is not unlikely that the shepherds were pasturing flocks destined for the temple sacrifices. ... a rabbinic rule provides that any animal found between Jerusalem and a spot near Bethlehem must be presumed to be a sacrificial victim ...The same rule speaks of finding Passover offerings within thirty days of that feast, i.e. in February. Since flocks might be thus in the fields in winter the traditional date for the birth of Jesus, December 25, is not ruled out." (Morris, 1974, "The Gospel According to Luke," p.84).

Indeed it is not merely false, but the exact opposite of the truth. The fact is that in "Judea ... December" is "an ideal time to graze sheep ... when the perennial grasses began to turn green ... and the annual grasses had sprouted anew" therefore "climatically ... Christ's birth between December 25 and January 6 is possible:"

"... the exact day of Jesus' birth ... Some say that the birth could not have happened in the deep winter, because the Bible says that shepherds spent the night outdoors with their flocks when Jesus was born (Luke 2:8). ... Mediterranean climates such as Judea's have mild winters reaching their coolest in late February. Thus December nights can be quite balmy and warm enough to graze sheep. Moreover, December/January would have been an ideal time to graze sheep to take advantage of the winter rains. ... the end of December was the time when the perennial grasses began to turn green again and the annual grasses had sprouted anew. Thus, climatically ... Christ's birth between December 25 and January 6 is possible." ("Chronology of Jesus," Wikipedia, 14 December 2008).

The Romans would not force Jews to register for a census in winter:

"... weighing against a December date is that it would be most unlikely for the Roman emperor to choose such a wintry, rainy month as the time for his Jewish subjects ... to travel `each one to his own city' to be registered.-Lu 2:1-3 ..." (WB&TS, 1988, Ibid, p.2:58).

"Also, the Roman Caesar would not likely have required a people who were already inclined to revolt against him to make that trip in the dead of winter to register." (WB&TS, 1991, Ibid, Ch. 5).

This is the weakest argument of all! Apart from the fact that the Romans would not care if Jews had to travel in winter, the Bible does not say that everyone in Judea travelled in the same month (which it would an administrative nightmare for the Romans) but only that:

"Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. ... And everyone went to his own town to register." (Lk 2:1,3).

It does not say that "everyone" in "the entire Roman world," nor even in Judea, "went to his own town" in the same month "to register." The most administratively logical arrangement is that the registration was staggered over the year, or even several years. In that case, December of that year would have been the appointed time for those who "belonged to the house and line of David" to return to their clan's ancestral town "Bethlehem" (Lk 2:3-4).

Moreover, the Bible does not say that Joseph and Mary travelled to Bethlehem in December, but only that "While they were there," i.e. already in Bethlehem "the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son."

That "there was no room for them in the inn" does not necessarily mean they arrived in Bethlehem immediately before Jesus' birth, too late to find a room. It could simply mean that there was no available accommodation in Bethlehem, even though Joseph and Mary had arrived (say) a month earlier. And/or it could mean that since Mary was only "pledged to be married" to Joseph, yet "expecting a child," there "was no room for them in the inn"!

Jesus told His followers to commemorated his death, not his birth:

"Jesus told his followers to observe a memorial of his death, not of his birth. (1 Corinthians 11:24-26) ." (WB&TS, 1989, Ibid, pp.212-213).

This too is fallacious. First, that Jesus' followers, "when [they] ... come together as a church" all partake of "the Lord's Supper ... in remembrance of " Jesus (1Cor 11:17-18), e.g. weekly as we do in the Church of Christ, does not preclude them from once a year, commemorating Jesus' birth at Christmas.

In fact, Jehovah's Witnesses don't even when they "come together ... eat the Lord's evening meal" (1Cor 11:20 NWT), as "a memorial of" Jesus' death." Instead they have an annual "memorial service at which the vast majority of Witnesses do not and indeed cannot partake, it being only for the 144,000 of which there are only about 9,000 left on earth:

"Jehovah's Witnesses commemorate Christ's death ... once each year ... ' Of those who attend the Memorial, a small minority worldwide will partake of the unleavened bread and wine. This is because Jehovah's Witnesses believe that ... Only... the 144.000, or the `anointed,' are commanded to partake of the bread and wine. ... in 2007, the number of persons who actually partook worldwide was 9,105, whereas, the number who attended was 17,672,443. [i.e. 0.05%!]" ("Beliefs and practices of Jehovah's Witnesses: Memorial of Christ's death," Wikipedia, 16 December 2008)

Second, Christians don't remember Jesus' birth because He told us to. We remember it because we love Him!

Besides, the angels announcing Jesus' birth to the shepherds said it was "good news of great joy that will be for all the people":

Lk 2:8-12 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

So if ordinary birthdays can be remembered (and I have heard many ex-Jehovah's Witnesses testimonies that Jehovah's Witnesses do, hypocritically, remember theirs, and members of their family's, birthdays), why should not the greatest birthday of them all?

"....December 25 is not the date of Jesus' birth.. It could not have been, since the Bible shows that at the time of his birth shepherds were still in the fields at night. They would not have been there in the cold, rainy season of winter. (Luke 2:8-12) ." (WB&TS, 1989, Ibid, pp.212-213).

December 25 was not commemorated as the date of Jesus' birth until hundreds of years later:

"Christmas is a prominent religious holiday today. But history shows that it was not a celebration observed by the very early Christians." (WB&TS, 1989, Ibid, pp.212-213).

"It was not until several hundred years after Jesus lived on the earth that people began to commemorate his birth on December 25." (WB&TS, 2005, "What Does the Bible Really Teach?," p.157).

History does not show that Jesus' birthday was not observed by the earliest Christians. History can show when something was observed, but it cannot show us what was not observed. However, as we shall see in part #4, there is evidence, albeit not conclusive, that Jesus birthday was commemorated on 25 December, from the earliest times.

December 25 was the birthday of the Unconquered Sun (Sol Invictus), so the Church adopted it as Jesus' birth day:

"The popular date of December 25 as the day of Jesus' birth ... stems from a pagan holiday." (WB&TS, 1988, Ibid, p.2:58).

"... the occasion for the celebration of the day December 25 was the festival that the pagans were celebrating on this day. ... `the birthday of the unconquered sun.' " (WB&TS, 1988, Ibid, p.2:58).

"Actually, December 25 was set aside by the Romans as the birthday of their sun god. Centuries after Jesus was on earth, apostate Christians adopted this date for the celebration of Christ's birth. ." (WB&TS, 1995, Ibid, p.126).

"So why was December 25 chosen? Some who later claimed to be Christian likely `wished the date to coincide with the pagan Roman festival marking the `birthday of the unconquered sun.' ... In winter, when the sun seemed weakest, pagans held ceremonies to get this source of warmth and light to come back from its distant travels. December 25 was thought to be the day that the sun began its return. In an effort to convert pagans, religious leaders adopted this festival and tried to make it seem `Christian.'." (WB&TS, 2005, Ibid, p.158).

See next for my comment.

December 25 was the Roman festival of Saturnalia so the Church adopted it as Jesus' birth day:

"Actually December 25 was chosen as the date to celebrate Jesus' birth because, as The World Book Encyclopedia explains: `The people of Rome already observed it as the Feast of Saturn, celebrating the birthday of the sun.'" (WB&TS, 1989, Ibid, pp.212-213).

"The Saturnalia also played a part in the choice of December 25. This festival honoring the Roman god of agriculture took place on December 17-24. Feasting, merrymaking, and gift-giving took place during the Saturnalia ." (WB&TS, 2005, Ibid, p.158).

The World Book Encyclopedia, if it is quoted correctly, is simply confused. Last time I looked, "Saturn" was not "the sun"!

The Watchtower also cannot make up its mind, whether it was Sol Invictus on "December 25" or Saturnalia on "December 17-24."

All this may sound plausible (indeed many Christian sources uncritically say something similar) but the fact is that there is no evidence that the early Christians adopted December 25 as the date of Jesus' birth because it was the date of a pagan festival, whether Sol Invictus or Saturnalia. You can be sure that if there was such evidence, e.g. an early church father stating that December 25 was not the date of Jesus' birth but the Church just adopted it to replace an existing pagan festival, the Watchtower Society would quote it ad nauseam! But it does not so there is not:

"While one frequently encounters assertions that Christmas was timed to coincide with the celebration of Sol Invictus, these never seem to be backed up by evidence. ... they are never backed up by quotations from the early Christians saying, `We decided to time this celebration to coincide with Sol Invictus, and this is why ...' If the early Church had deliberately decided to time the celebrations to coincide, this ought to be reflected in its writings, but it isn't. Witnesses never produce quotes from early Christians saying that Christmas was timed to coincide with a pagan festival." (Evert, 2001, "Answering Jehovah's Witnesses," pp.145-146).

And if Jesus was born on December 25 and there was also an existing Roman celebration on that day, then it would be just a coincidence (or Divine planning - see part #4). But then correlation does not imply causation, that being the fallacy of cum hoc ergo propter hoc ("with this, therefore because of this") or false cause.

But in fact, as previously stated, as we shall see in part #3, there is strong (if not conclusive) evidence that the collapsing Roman Empire in AD 274 adopted December 25 as the date of a new Sol invictus ("Unconquered Sun") celebration, to provide a pagan alternative to long-existing Christian celebrations of Jesus' birth on that date.

Continued in "Was Jesus born on December 25? #2: Pagan origin so shouldn't be celebrated?."

Stephen E. Jones.
My other blogs: CreationEvolutionDesign & TheShroudofTurin


1Cor 11:17-26 17In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. 18In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. 19No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God's approval. 20When you come together, it is not the Lord's Supper you eat, 21for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk. 22Don't you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you for this? Certainly not! 23For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." 25In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." 26For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.

"The second level of doctrinal reinforcement is what I call the secondary doctrinal matters. These are doctrines of the Jehovah's Witnesses that do not tie into the primary doctrinal system and could be altered or dropped without any logical impact on the primary system. Yet; their importance is such that for many Jehovah's Witnesses if these secondary doctrines are suspect the whole religion is suspect. The kinds of doctrines I have in mind here are especially the Jehovah's Witness `don'ts': blood transfusions, war, participation in political affairs, various celebrations (Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, birthdays), the use of the cross as a religious symbol, and the like. On most or all of these issues Jehovah's Witnesses have changed or reversed their earlier positions, with no appreciable impact on their belief system generally. Yet many people are attracted to the Witnesses because of one or more of these `don'ts,' and thus would feel even more challenged by criticisms of these doctrines than of the Witness rejection of the Trinity, for instance. Because the Jehovah's Witnesses are typically alone in their views on these matters, their distinctive position is regarded by Witnesses as further evidence that they have `the truth.' If the Bible forbids blood transfusions, they reason, and if we Jehovah's Witnesses are the only ones who recognize this, then obviously we must be blessed by God with the truth. Thus many Jehovah's Witnesses remain confident about their views on God and Christ, even when they are soundly refuted by evangelical apologists, because they know they are right about not celebrating birthdays and Christmas!" (Bowman, R.M., Jr. , 1991, "Understanding Jehovah's Witnesses: Why They Read the Bible the Way They Do," Baker: Grand Rapids MI, pp.93-94).

"That the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem, was a settled conviction. Equally so was the belief, that He was to be revealed from Migdal Eder, 'the tower of the flock.' [Targum Pseudo. Jon. on Gen. xxxv 21] This Migdal Eder was not the watchtower for the ordinary flocks which pastured on the barren sheep ground beyond Bethlehem, but lay close to the town, on the road to Jerusalem. A passage in the Mishnah [Shek. vii. 4] leads to the conclusion, that the flocks, which pastured there, were destined for Temple-sacrifices ... The same Mishnic passage also leads us to infer, that these flocks lay out all the year round, since they are spoken of as in the fields thirty days before the Passover--that is, in the month of February, when in Palestine the average rainfall is nearly greatest. ... It was, then, on that 'wintry night' of the 25th of December, that shepherds watched the flocks destined for sacrificial services ... There is no adequate reason for questioning the historical accuracy of this date. The objections generally made rest on grounds, which seem to me historically untenable." (Edersheim, A., 1886, "The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah," [1883], Hendrickson Publishers: Peabody MA, Third Edition, Reprinted, 1988, p.i.187).

"Christmas Is Christmas a pagan celebration merely because it is celebrated at the same time of the year as ancient pagan feasts honoring a sun god? ... the Watchtower seeks to convince the world that to win the favor of pagans, the early `apostate Church' established Christmas at the time of the pagan feast of Sol Invictus. This feast of `the unconquerable sun' celebrated at the time of the winter solstice-was when the sun began to return to the northern skies and the days grew longer. It was essentially a celebration of the return of sunlight. While one frequently encounters assertions that Christmas was timed to coincide with the celebration of Sol Invictus, these never seem to be backed up by evidence. In particular, they are never backed up by quotations from the early Christians saying, `We decided to time this celebration to coincide with Sol Invictus, and this is why ...' If the early Church had deliberately decided to time the celebrations to coincide, this ought to be reflected in its writings, but it isn't. Witnesses never produce quotes from early Christians saying that Christmas was timed to coincide with a pagan festival. That is sheer speculation." (Evert, J., 2001, "Answering Jehovah's Witnesses," Catholic Answers: El Cajon CA, pp.145-146).

"On the other hand, late December should not be ruled out in the belief that at that time of the year there could not have been `shepherds in that same region, out in the field, keeping watch at night over their flock' (Luke 2:8). In a letter dated January 16, 1967 the New Testament scholar Dr. Harry Mulder of The Netherlands writes (my translation from the Dutch): `During the brief Christmas vacation my wife and I traveled from Beirut [where he was teaching at the time] to Jerusalem. In this connection I can also answer your question regarding the presence of sheep around Bethlehem in the month of December. On Christmas eve in Shepherd Field a crowd had gathered to sing Christmas carols. We joined this crowd and took part in the singing. Right near us a few flocks of sheep were nestled. Even the lambs were not lacking. It was a moving sight. It is therefore definitely not impossible that the Lord Jesus was born in December.'" (Hendriksen, W., 1974, "The Gospel of Matthew: New Testament Commentary," Banner of Truth: Edinburgh UK, 1974, Reprinted, 1982, p.182).

"The angels and the shepherds ([Lk ]2:8-20) 8. It is not unlikely that the shepherds were pasturing flocks destined for the temple sacrifices. Flocks were supposed to be kept only in the wilderness (Mishnah, Baba Kamma 7:7; Talmud, Baba Kamma 79b-80a), and a rabbinic rule provides that any animal found between Jerusalem and a spot near Bethlehem must be presumed to be a sacrificial victim (Mishnah, Shekalim 7:4.). The same rule speaks of finding Passover offerings within thirty days of that feast, i.e. in February. Since flocks might be thus in the fields in winter the traditional date for the birth of Jesus, December 25, is not ruled out." (Morris, L.L., 1974, "The Gospel According to Luke: An Introduction and Commentary," Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, Inter-Varsity Press Leicester UK, Reprinted, 1986, p.84).

"JESUS CHRIST No basis for winter date of birth. The popular date of December 25 as the day of Jesus' birth therefore has no basis in Scripture. As many reference works show, it stems from a pagan holiday. Regarding the origin for the celebration of the day December 25, the Jesuit scholar Urbanus Holzmeister wrote: `Today it is commonly admitted that the occasion for the celebration of the day December 25 was the festival that the pagans were celebrating on this day. Petavius [French Jesuit scholar, 1583-1652] already has rightly observed that on December 25 was celebrated `the birthday of the unconquered sun.' `Witnesses for this festival are: (a) The Calendar of Furius Dionysius Filocalus, composed in the year 354 [C.E.], in which it is noted: `December 25, the B(irthday) of the unconquered (Sun).' (b) The calendar of astrologer Antiochus (composed about 200 [C.E.]): `Month of December ... 25 ... The birthday of the Sun; daylight increases.' (c) Caesar Julian [Julian the Apostate, emperor 361-363 C.E.] recommended the games that were celebrated at the end of the year in honor of the sun, which was called `the unconquered sun.'-Chronologia vitae Christi (Chronology of the Life of Christ), Pontificium Institutum Biblicum, Rome, 1933, p. 46. Perhaps the most obvious evidence of the incorrectness of the December 25 date is the Scriptural fact that shepherds were in the fields tending their flocks on the night of Jesus' birth. (Lu 2:8, 12) Already by the autumn month of Bul (October-November) the rainy season was starting (De 11:14), and flocks were brought into protected shelters at night. The next month, Chislev (the ninth month of the Jewish calendar, November-December), was a month of cold and rain (Jer 36:22; Ezr 10:9, 13), and Tebeth (December-January) saw the lowest temperatures of the year, with occasional snows in the highlands area. The presence of shepherds in the fields at night therefore harmonizes with the evidence pointing to the early autumn month of Ethanim as the time of Jesus' birth.-See BUL; CHISLEV. Also weighing against a December date is that it would be most unlikely for the Roman emperor to choose such a wintry, rainy month as the time for his Jewish subjects (often rebellious) to travel `each one to his own city' to be registered.-Lu 2:1-3; compare Mt 24:20..." (WB&TS, 1988, "Insight on the Scriptures: Volume 2: Jehovah - ZuZim," Watchtower Bible & Tract Society: Brooklyn NY, p.58. Emphasis original).

"Christmas is a prominent religious holiday today. But history shows that it was not a celebration observed by the very early Christians. Jesus told his followers to observe a memorial of his death, not of his birth. (1 Corinthians 11:24-26) The fact is, December 25 is not the date of Jesus' birth. It could not have been, since the Bible shows that at the time of his birth shepherds were still in the fields at night. They would not have been there in the cold, rainy season of winter. (Luke 2:8-12) Actually December 25 was chosen as the date to celebrate Jesus' birth because, as The World Book Encyclopedia explains: `The people of Rome already observed it as the Feast of Saturn, celebrating the birthday of the sun.'" (WB&TS, 1989, "You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth," [1982], Watchtower Bible & Tract Society of New York: Brooklyn NY, Second edition, pp.212-213).

"Many people today believe that Jesus was born on December 25. But December is a rainy, cold season in Bethlehem. Shepherds would not be out in the fields overnight with their flocks at that time of the year. Also, the Roman Caesar would not likely have required a people who were already inclined to revolt against him to make that trip in the dead of winter to register. Evidently Jesus was born sometime in the early autumn of the year. Luke 2:1-20; Micah 5:2." (WB&TS, 1991, "The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived," Watchtower Bible & Tract Society of New York: Brooklyn NY, Ch.5).

"A godly life frees us from the often burdensome celebrating of worldly holidays. For instance, the Bible does not reveal the exact day of Jesus' birth. 'I thought Jesus was born on December 25!' some may exclaim. This is not possible because he died in the spring of 33 C.E. at 33 1/2 years of age. Moreover, at the time of his birth, shepherds were "living out of doors and keeping watches in the night over their flocks." (Luke 2:8) In the land of Israel, late December is a cold, rainy season during which sheep would be kept in shelters overnight to protect them from the winter weather. Actually, December 25 was set aside by the Romans as the birthday of their sun god. Centuries after Jesus was on earth, apostate Christians adopted this date for the celebration of Christ's birth.) (WB&TS, 1995, "Knowledge That Leads to Everlasting Life ," [1984], Watchtower Bible & Tract Society of New York: Brooklyn NY, Second edition, p.126).

"THE ORIGIN OF CHRISTMAS It was not until several hundred years after Jesus lived on the earth that people began to commemorate his birth on December 25. But that was not the date of Jesus' birth, for it evidently took place in October. So why was December 25 chosen? Some who later claimed to be Christian likely `wished the date to coincide with the pagan Roman festival marking the `birthday of the unconquered sun.' (The New Encyclop├Ždia Britannica) In winter, when the sun seemed weakest, pagans held ceremonies to get this source of warmth and light to come back from its distant travels. December 25 was thought to be the day that the sun began its return. In an effort to convert pagans, religious leaders adopted this festival and tried to make it seem `Christian.' ... The Saturnalia also played a part in the choice of December 25. This festival honoring the Roman god of agriculture took place on December 17-24. Feasting, merrymaking, and gift-giving took place during the Saturnalia. The pagan roots of Christmas have long been recognized. ... Because of the connections that Christmas has with false religion, however, those who want to please God do not celebrate it or any other holiday that has its roots in pagan worship." (WB&TS, 2005, "What Does the Bible Really Teach?," Watchtower Bible & Tract Society of New York: Brooklyn NY, pp.157-159).

"Memorial of Christ's death Jehovah's Witnesses commemorate Christ's death as a ransom or propitiatory sacrifice by observing The Lord's Evening Meal, or Memorial. They celebrate it once each year, noting that it was instituted on the Passover, which is annual. They observe it on Nisan 14 according to the ancient Jewish lunisolar calendar. Jehovah's Witnesses believe that this is the only celebration commanded for Christians in the Bible. In support, they often cite Jesus' words found at 1 Corinthians 11:24, 25, NWT, `'Keep doing this in remembrance of me.' Of those who attend the Memorial, a small minority worldwide will partake of the unleavened bread and wine. This is because Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the majority of the faithful have an earthly hope. Only those with a heavenly hope, the 144.000, or the `anointed,' are commanded to partake of the bread and wine. Thus, for instance, in 2007, the number of persons who actually partook worldwide was 9,105, whereas, the number who attended was 17,672,443, though Jehovah's Witnesses believe that some of the 9,105 may be in error about their claim, such as those ignorant of Jehovah's Witness belief. In the last few years, the number of partakers has been rising." ("Beliefs and practices of Jehovah's Witnesses," Wikipedia, 16 December 2008).

"Chronology of Jesus ... Day of birth Determining the exact day of Jesus' birth is even more problematic than the year. Some say that the birth could not have happened in the deep winter, because the Bible says that shepherds spent the night outdoors with their flocks when Jesus was born (Luke 2:8). November/January Mediterranean climates such as Judea's have mild winters reaching their coolest in late February. Thus December nights can be quite balmy and warm enough to graze sheep. Moreover, December/January would have been an ideal time to graze sheep to take advantage of the winter rains. During the hot months, conditions can be quite barren and the grasses dry. But the end of December was the time when the perennial grasses began to turn green again and the annual grasses had sprouted anew. Thus, climatically the ecclesiastical practice of placing Christ's birth between December 25 and January 6 is possible." ("Chronology of Jesus," Wikipedia, 14 December 2008).

"Herod the Great Herod ... also known as Herod I or Herod the Great (73 BC - 4 BC in Jericho), was a Roman client king of Judaea.... New Testament references ... Herod the Great appears in The Gospel according to Matthew (Ch. 2), which describes an event known as the Massacre of the Innocents. According to Matthew's gospel, shortly after the birth of Jesus, Magi from the East visited Herod to inquire the whereabouts of "the one having been born king of the Jews", because they had seen his star in the east and therefore wanted to pay him homage. Herod, who was himself King of Judea, was alarmed at the prospect of the newborn king usurping his rule. In the story, Herod was advised by the assembled chief priests and scribes of the people that the Prophet had written that the "Anointed One" (Greek: ho christos) was to be born in Bethlehem of Judea. Herod therefore sent the Magi to Bethlehem, instructing them to search for the child and, after they had found him, to "report to me, so that I too may go and worship him". However, after they had found Jesus, the Magi were warned in a dream not to report back to Herod. Similarly, Joseph was warned in a dream that Herod intended to kill Jesus, so he and his family fled to Egypt. When Herod realized he had been outwitted by the Magi, he gave orders to kill all boys of the age of two and under in Bethlehem and its vicinity. Joseph and his family stayed in Egypt until Herod's death, then moved to Nazareth in Galilee in order to avoid living under Herod's son Archelaus. ... The scholarly consensus, based on Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews is that Herod died at the end of March or early April in 4 BC. Josephus wrote that Herod died 37 years after being named as King by the Romans, and 34 years after the death of Antigonus. This would imply that he died in 4 BC. This is confirmed by the fact that his three sons, between whom his kingdom was divided, dated their rule from 4 BC. For instance, he states that Herod Philip II's death took place after a 37-year reign in the 20th year of Tiberius, which would imply that he took over on Herod's death in 4 BC. In addition, Josephus wrote that Herod died after a lunar eclipse, and a partial eclipse took place in 4 BC. It has been suggested that 5 BC might be a more likely date - there were two total eclipses in that year. However, the 4 B.C. date is almost universally accepted." ("Herod the Great," Wikipedia, 18 December 2008).

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