WE THOUGHT PAGANS BEAT JESUS TO CHRISTMAS. That’s what historians have taught us:
Christians started celebrating Christmas because Romans were already throwing a party to the sun God Sol on December 25.
It looks like historians got that wrong.
Christians, it seems, beat Romans to the party by half a century or more. That’s the revelation of a recent translation of an ancient passage by a Christian writer. He lived before the time Romans celebrated the pagan festival.
You can look it up in the winter issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, in an article called “Calculating Christmas,” by Yale-educated New Testament associate professor T.C. Schmidt, of Fairfield University in Connecticut.
First Christian claim to December 25
The first person on record to claim Jesus was born on December 25 was the Christian writer Hippolytus (hip POLY tus) of Rome (b. about AD 170- d. 235).
Dr. Schmidt says the first possible date Romans could have celebrated the pagan festival to Sol was AD 274. That’s the earliest emperor Aurelian could have established it. And he may have done it later.
That’s half a century after the December 25 birthday of Jesus was engraved on the oldest surviving statue from the early Christian era. That statue, dated about AD 222, is of Hippolytus.
Genesis of Christ and Christmas
Hippolytus apparently arrived at December 25 from the starting date of Passover on April 2, 2 BC, which he called the “Genesis of Christ.”
Genesis, according to Dr. Schmidt, means the conception of Jesus. Genesis is from the same Greek word the Gospel of Matthew used to begin the story of Jesus by reporting the conception,
“Mary got pregnant when she was engaged to Joseph, before they were intimate” (Matthew 1:18, Casual English Bible).
Hippolytus did the math. And he came to a birthday of around December 25. He may have settled on that date, the darkest day of the year, because that’s when the world starts turning from darkness to light, and to brighter days ahead.
How he came up with April 2 is a mystery. Especially since Jews developed a custom of not having sex on the first night of Passover.
But on the other hand, that could argue for Mary’s celestial conception, which Matthew describes as not of this earth, but of Spirit.
The conception date could have come from stories Mary told about when the angel Gabriel said she would become pregnant. Relatives as curious as I would have been would have asked her about it.
Amos paraphrased and mapped
On another note, I’ve just finished paraphrasing and mapping the prophecies of Amos.
You can read the chapters, notes, and see the maps here: Amos, Casual English Bible.
Here’s a peek at Amos’ world:
Comprehensive Atlas updated to over 700 maps
And I updated the Casual English Bible Comprehensive Atlas, adding maps for several Bible books of prophecy.
- More than 700 maps.
- All the maps in the Casual English Bible.
- Free updates as we add more Old Testament books.
- If you’ve ordered this in the past, download the new one for free.
Huge mug with Bible maps
Here’s a link to a 360-degree view of a mug I created as a Christmas gift for donors who help support the Casual English Bible:
If you’d like one, you can order it directly from the supplier, Shutterfly.
I don’t have an affiliate relationship with Shutterfly. Price they quote today with a discount is about $20.
This is an extra-large cup for a big splash of your favorite coffee, tea, or latte. Great for cereal, soup, dessert and holding down papers when the wind blows doggone hard. And how about sassafras tea on a cold morning? With sugar.
- Holds 25 ounces (that’s no typo)
- Made for hot beverages
- Microwave and dishwasher safe
- Comes loaded with 3 very cool Casual English Bible maps: Jordan River, Jerusalem, and Philippi in Greece
This is a one-of-a-kind cup for you, unless you buy two or more.
I didn’t create this mug art to sell mugs. They’re intended as a thank you to a small group of devoted contributors. But the cup turned out so big and pretty, I thought I’d give you a chance to get one for yourself.
An early Merry Christmas to you. We own December 25.