According To The Scriptures
I have many times heard, "No one knows the
exact date of Christ's birth, but most Christians observe Christmas on December 25."
I looked in the World Book Encyclopedia under "Christmas," and that is
the exact wording of the second sentence in that article. That troubled me because I have
also heard many times, and believe that, "if something is worth doing, it's worth
To appreciate the seriousness of the matter, consider the examples and consequences from the Bible involving improper religious practicesRead in Leviticus 10:1-2 about Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, whom God killed for adding to His instructions for worship.
Consider God's reaction in 1 Chronicles 13 when the ark was being moved in a way that God had not instructed. Verse 10 says:
God has not changed.
Notice the precision of God's instructions in the Old Testament regarding the days for the feasts and other things. [See Calendar] Those Jewish feast days were accurately kept up with and are still noted on many calendars. If we are to observe an event of such magnitude as "Christmas", shouldn't we get the date right?
In Luke 1:5, speaking of the father of John the Baptist, the Bible says that he was "a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia." It was "while he executed the priest's office before God in the order of his course," (Luke 1:8) that an "angel of the Lord" (v.11) told him, ". . . thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John" (v.13).
In I Chronicles 24:10, it is found that the eighth course of priestly duty was assigned to Abia or "Abijah" as it is spelled there. There were twenty-four such courses of duty, each course being one week in duration. Counting one week for the Feast of Unleavened Bread and one week for Pentecost, when all were on duty, Zacharias' course would be the tenth week of the year on the religious calendar in use at that time. Zacharias would also have had another "course" of priestly duty the thirty-fifth week, when his turn would come again, counting one week for the Feast of Tabernacles.
By the wording of Luke 1:23-24, it would seem most probable that Elisabeth conceived as soon as this course of Zacharias' was over. That would have been either about the twenty-first day of the month of Sivan or about the twenty-first day of Heshvan. We can see from Luke 1:56-57 and Luke 2:6 that the birth of John and the birth of Jesus were both at full term. According to Luke 1:36 John was six months older than Jesus. With all this we can be fairly confident that Jesus was born either in mid to late September or mid to late January, as it would come out on our calendar today. The exact date varies from year to year, because of the difference in a lunar based calendar and a solar based calendar.
A close look at Matthew 2:13-23 and Luke 2:21-39, in light of "the law of Moses" (Luke 2:22), which is found in Leviticus 12:1-8, reveals that Mary, Joseph, and Jesus fled to Egypt (Matthew 2:13-14) "And was there until the death of Herod . . ." (v.15).
According to these verses, Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to Jerusalem forty-one days after He was born. Herod must have died less than forty days after Jesus' birth.
Josephus wrote quite a bit about this Herod, and described in much detail his illness leading to his death. Josephus even gave a date during that illness of Herod of March 13, 4 B.C., when there was an eclipse of the moon. Josephus then continued telling of Herod's illness and other events up until the time of his death, which was probably several months later. While it looks like Josephus could easily have given us the date of Herod's death, we are left conspicuously without one.
Polycarp could very well have known the date of Jesus' birth. Polycarp, a pastor at Smyrna, was born around 69 A.D., and was martyred on February 23, 155. Irenaeus, in a letter to Florinus wrote of his remembrance of hearing Polycarp preach and talk of his acquaintance
This information can be found in the 1957 edition of Encyclopedia Britannica, in the article on Polycarp.
Under "Christmas," in Encyclopedia Britannica (1957) we read that Polycarp ". . . set His birth on Sunday, when the world's creation began . . . ," but to my knowledge, he never gave a date in any of his writings. Jesus' birthday was obviously not observed or celebrated by Polycarp or by the Christians of that time.
One would think that Mary, Joseph, Elisabeth, Zacharias, the shepherds, the wise men, Simeon, or Anna, realizing what had happened, would have noted and remembered the date of Jesus' birth and one of the writers of the New Testament would have recorded it.
Adam Clark, John Gill, Albert Barnes, J.B. Lightfoot, Joseph Mede, and many other commentators question the likelihood of shepherds being in the fields in winter. For several reasons, I believe the September date, which would be the same date as the first day of creation and of the Feast of Trumpets (marked Rosh Hashanah on many calendars today) to be the most likely, but it must be admitted that we can only speculate as to which of the two dates is correct.
Why does the Bible leave us hanging with those two dates without specifying one? Why has God kept the writers of history from recording the date? Could it be that God did not intend for us to know the date or to celebrate Jesus' birth? I believe that that is precisely the case, and as we continue to investigate, it will be shown why. I believe God has blessed us with the two dates so that we can know that December 25 is not a celebration of Jesus' birth, yet left the ambiguity to show that we are not to celebrate the occasion at all.
All this should lead us to ask, "How did December 25 get chosen for this celebration, and if God didn't give us the holiday, who did?"
Not long after the world had been destroyed by the flood of Noah's time, people were again being led by, and following, the same spirit as had "Cain, who was of that wicked one" (I John 3:12). In every age there have been false prophets such as the "certain men crept in unawares"in Jude verse 4. They, like "the angels which kept not their first estate" in Jude verse 6, and "despise dominion"(v.8), "speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves" (v.10).
In making his offering to God, Cain taught error in his typological preaching, and rather than repent, he rebelled.
Rejecting God, the people corrupted themselves with "what they know naturally as brute beasts." Recognizing the heat from the sun as the primary cause of the earth's production, the heathen people thought of the sun as the father of all living things, and the earth as a goddess, fertilized by the rays of the sun. That most likely was the religious belief of the builders of the tower of Babel.
That is also the origin of the terms, "Mother Earth" and "Mother Nature" which are experiencing great revival today.
Evidence of the worship of "father sun" and "mother earth," and the many religions that have developed from it, can be found world-wide and in almost every time period. Its influence can be seen in many ways. Notice the similarity and relationship of the words "mother," "maternity," and "maternal," derived from the Latin word "mater," and the words "matter," and "material," which come from the Latin word "materia." Notice how the theme of the fertile mating of the earth and sky is central and universal in about all mythology.
In The Two Babylons, Alexander Hislop traces the development of the Babylonian mystery religion back to Semiramis, the wife of Noah's great-grandson Nimrod. Speaking of the worship of Semiramis by the Babylonians, and how she bore a child whom she declared was miraculously conceived, Hislop says on page 21 that:
On page 291 of Lectures on the Revelation, H.A. Ironside says:
In Egypt was the myth of Isis, "the Great Mother." Will Durant, in volume one (pages 200-201) of his nine volume The Story of Civilization says:
In a later chapter of volume one of The Story of Civilization (page 235) Durant says:
Durant then quotes from The Mothers by Robert Briffault, a Babylonian litany in which they address Ishtar as "Queen of Heaven."
A couple of pages later (p.238) Durant says:
On the next page, Durant says:
Two chapters later, on page 295, Durant says:
Encyclopedia Britannica (1957), which also contains much of this information, says:
In Persia, at the time of Artaxerxes II (404-359 B.C.), the worship of Mithra became strong. In chapter 13, on page 372, Durant says:
Encyclopedia Britannica mentions the date of December 25 as being a Mithraic feast in the fourth century.
Instead of believing the first verse of the Bible that, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth," those worshipers believe that the gods were created by the earth and sun.
In Encyclopedia Britannica(1957), the article on "Christmas" says:
Notice that God did not instruct us to have any such celebration or observance and gave us no date for it. It was "the fathers of the church" who "decided" upon the celebration and the date. It is important to recognize that the "church" we are talking about here is the "church" whose "father's" also had about two-hundred years earlier "decided" on the false doctrine of baptism being necessary for the obtaining of salvation, and about one-hundred years earlier, had "decided" that babies must be baptized to keep them from going to hell. It is the same "church" that has killed over fifty-million people for refusing to recognize their baptism ("picture-preaching") as valid.
In Mark 11:28 Jesus was asked the question:
Jesus answered their question with a question, saying in verse 30:
In our evaluation of or participation with this so called "church" or her daughter "churches" (those who protested out of her) or her baptisms, ceremonies, and holidays, I believe it is imperative that we ask the question, "Is it from heaven or of men?"
The next item concerning the history and development of the holidays that I want to present is a quotation of Pope Gregory I, from the writings of Bede.
Bede was born in 672 or 673, and lived until 735. He was a Catholic priest and according to his autobiography, spent his whole life, from the age of seven, in a monastery. In 731 Bede wrote the Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation. Encyclopedia Britannica says of Bede:
Bede had at his disposal the library of books collected by Benedict Biscop. In Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation, Bede quoted instructions given by Pope Gregory I, in 601 A.D., to missionaries sent from Rome. In those instructions, Pope Gregory I said:
That quotation is in the Encyclopedia Britannica (1957), under "Christmas."
In 719, Pope Gregory II commisioned St. Boniface as a missionary to Germany. While in Germany, St. Boniface found that the Teutonic people had a tradition of sacrificing a child each year under a large oak tree. St. Boniface suggested that rather than sacrifice the child, they should cut a fir tree and celebrate around it at home. The Christmas tree tradition continued down through the years in Germany and, in the sixteenth century, Martin Luther decorated one with candles. From that, the decorating with lights and ornaments caught on. Early in the nineteenth century (less than two hundred years ago), the Christmas tree tradition was brought into America by German settlers.
Most of this information can be gleaned from Encyclopedia Britannica under "Boniface, Saint," "Christmas," and "Teutonic Peoples."
World Book Encyclopedia (1985) says:
Let us now look at what the Bible says about the worship of these gods and goddesses of the sun and the earth. Review the paragraphs, a few pages ago, about Ashtoreth, Ishtar, and Isis. In Judges 2:13 we find that Israel was worshiping Ashtaroth.
Baal is also synonymous with Tammuz. Notice God's response in verses 14 and 15:
I Kings 11:5 says:
Verse 6 says:
It will be shown that God considers participating in the worship of those gods and goddesses to be adultery. It is not that Solomon totally renounced God, or came to the point of no longer believing in God, but that he tried to serve both; he "went not fully after the LORD." Notice also that spiritual adultery is far more serious than physical adultery. David had committed physical adultery with Bathsheba, which was wrong, and even had her husband murdered, which was wrong, but Solomon's spiritual adultery was far worse.
In Matthew Henry's commentary on this eleventh chapter of I Kings, he says that Solomon "left his first love." Reading farther, verses 9-11 say:
Nergal, mentioned in II Kings 17:30, is the sun god Horus, the "divine child" of Isis ("Mother of God" to the Egyptians), mentioned earlier.
In I Samuel chapter 7, we also find record of a time when the Israelites were worshiping Ashtaroth. Note that they had not intentionally abandoned God and renounced Him, but were trying to hang on to both. Verse 2 says that, ". . . all the house of Israel lamented after the LORD." They wanted God and His blessings, but they were sinning against Him, committing adultery with the "strange gods and Ashtaroth."
They repented with a genuine repentance and verse 9 says that ". . . the LORD heard . . . ."
Not long afterwards, in I Samuel 12:10, the same people were again serving Baalim and Ashtaroth.
We know that adultery does not necessarily mean the divorcing or total abandonment of one's spouse for another, but is often an attempt to love more than one. One need only give the appearance of having an "affair" to show dishonor and disrespect. These things are true in the spiritual sense as well.
In II Kings 23 we see the proper action taken by Josiah, regarding the "high places . . . which Solomon the king of Israel had builded for Ashtoreth (v.13). In verse 14, Josiah "brake in pieces the images, and cut down the groves."
Israel, as the wife of God, is to be seen as a type of the bride of Christ, to whom He has engaged Himself to be married. The bride of Christ, I believe, will consist of the saved who have followed Christ in proper baptism, served Him as obedient members of one of His true congregations, and have kept themselves pure by ecclesiastical separation and going "fully after the LORD." Every person who is saved will not be in the bride of Christ, although one who is saved can be, by repenting of what is wrong and making it right. While all who go to Heaven will be clothed in the imputed righteousness of Christ, Revelation 19:7 shows that the Lamb's wife will have "made herself ready." We can start today. We can learn much from the study of the typology of the wife of God.
I Corinthians 10:6-11 says:
Isaiah 54:5-6 says to Israel:
In Jeremiah 3:8 God said:
In verse 11 He said:
Verse 14 says:
In Jeremiah 31:31-32, God said of Israel and Judah, ". . . I was an husband unto them."
In Hosea chapters 1 and 2, Israel is pictured as the cast off wife.
I believe Jesus made the formal announcement and declaration of His engagement and intention to marry His bride elect in Matthew 26:29 when He said:
He then went on to say:
Notice that He said, "are many mansions" (as in already are), yet promised, "I go to prepare a place for you" (His bride).
I believe that that indicates that while all who are truly saved by God's grace through faith in Christ will go to Heaven, there will be something special for those who have followed Christ in proper baptism and serving in one of His congregations with obedience, ecclesiastical separation, and spiritual purity. We may stumble, fall, and fail many times, like Peter did that night, when he denied the Lord. Matthew 26:75 says, ". . . And he went out, and wept bitterly." God stands ready to forgive, if we will turn to Him in sincere repentance.
I find that my beliefs concerning the bride of Christ are strongly rejected, hated and despised among most of professing Christianity. Often, when those beliefs have been defended with the Bible, the response is, "What does it matter anyway? The main thing is getting people saved." That is just the point; salvation is important, but it is God that does the saving, and He has chosen to use the truth in doing it. God may occasionally save someone where false doctrine is being preached, but we can be sure that He did not use the false doctrine to accomplish it. Too many have decided that God can save more people if we can just trick them into believing. Is that "from heaven, or of men"?
Ephesians 5:22-32 should leave no doubt but that the Lord's true congregations are the ones engaged to be His bride. Notice especially verse 27: ". . . not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish." How can we teach, or support and encourage, error and false doctrine and not have spot, or wrinkle, or blemish?
Seeing the connection of the typology of Israel and Judah as the wife of God, and how it applies to those engaged to be married to the Lamb, ("For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning . . . " Romans 15:4) let us go back and study further of their spiritual adulteries. If God regarded Judah's sin as worse than Israel's because she should have learned from Israel's mistakes, where does that put us who have the examples of both?
Go back and review the pages on Ishtar/Ashtoreth and Tammuz/Adonis, and notice also the names with which the Babylonians spoke of Ishtar/Ashtoreth, such as "The Holy Virgin," "The Virgin Mother," and "Queen of Heaven." As we study through the books of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, we find that much is said about all this.
It is observed that the "green tree" has always been much a part of the adulterous observance of "Christmas." In Jeremiah 3:6, God accused Israel of having gone "under every green tree, and there hath played the harlot."
Jeremiah 10:1-2 says:
Remember how the heathen were dismayed by the shortening of the days toward winter solstice, and worshiped the sun to encourage it back to life? In Matthew Henry's comments on these verses, he says:
Continuing in verses 3 and 4 of Jeremiah 10, God said:
The involvement of green trees in the worship of false gods and goddesses is found in Deuteronomy 12:2; I Kings 14:23; II Kings 16:4; II Kings 17:10; II Chronicles 28:4; Isaiah 57:5; Jeremiah 2:20; Jeremiah 3:6,13; Jeremiah 17:2; and Ezekiel 6:13.
Groves are mentioned in that context in Exodus 34:13; Deuteronomy 7:5; 12:3; 16:21; Judges 3:7; 6:25, 26, 28, 30; I Kings 14:15,23; 15:13; 16:33; 18:19; II Kings 13:6; 17:10, 16; 18:4; 21:3,7; 23:4,6,7,14,15; II Chronicles 14:3; 15;16; 17:6; 19:3; 24:18; 31:1; 33:3,19; 34:3,4,7; Isaiah 17:8; 27:9; Jeremiah 17:2; Micah 5:14.
Look at the celebration going on in Jeremiah 7:17-19 where God said:
Notice that the "queen of heaven" was being worshiped there by the people of Judah. You will remember this was one of the titles given to Ishtar/Ashtaroth by the Babylonians. Judah had learned "the way of the heathen" in that holiday celebration.
God's response in verse 20 was:
In verses 25 and 26, God said:
Remember that Romans 15:4 says:
And I Corinthians 10:6-7 says:
Notice again verses 11 and 12:
If the people of Judah, having the examples of their fathers, and God's repeated warnings and chastisement, "did worse than their fathers," then how much worse it must be for us today to be involved in the same holiday observances!
Notice how that the heathen holidays, dressed up as "Christian Holidays," gain more and more influence and emphasis each year, while going "fully after the LORD," and true Christianity, has become almost extinct. "Christmas" was hardly even observed in our country two hundred years ago. World Book Encyclopedia says:
Encyclopedia Britannica says:
There are people living today, who have, in their lifetime, seen the holiday grow from when they "were little the boys got firecrackers, the girls got a corn-shuck doll, and everybody got an apple, and sometimes an orange if daddy was able to get them," to the enormous affair that it is now, starting about a week earlier each year. In twenty years, Easter has gone from hunting Easter eggs and "dressing up" on Easter Sunday, to Easter gifts, Easter cards, Easter plays, Easter egg trees, and now, even lights. All sorts of community wide inter-denominational "holy week" activities go on.
I Corinthians 10:14 says:
Verse 21 says:
In the next chapter, teaching on the Lord's supper, I Corinthians 11:27-29, says:
How can we fool with Santa Claus (Saint Nicholas) and the Easter Bunny and with Ashtaroth and Tammuz celebrations, and then observe the Lord's supper without eating and drinking "unworthily"? I Corinthians 10:30 says:
Is it any wonder that our world is "going to hell in a handbasket," and that so many of the Lord's congregations are so weak? Is it any wonder that our families are falling apart, and that loved ones are going to hell? Is it any wonder we are perceived, like Lot was, "as one who mocked"?
Let us return to the book of Jeremiah, and in chapter 19, notice the descriptions of the observances there in verses 4 and 13.
It is striking that we repeatedly see the sacrificing of children in connection with these pagan observances. It should not surprise us that the practice of abortion and the murdering of children is enjoying an increase of popularity in proportion to that of Christmas and Easter. There are about 4400 legalized abortions per day in America. There are twice as many legalized abortions per year, in America, than the total casualties of the Civil War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War combined. Without any research or much thought, I can think of about ten children who have been allegedly murdered by their own parents in the past year.
Notice that the worship of Baal, mentioned in verse 5 above, is often spoken of in the Bible, and often, as in Judges 2:13 in connection with Ashtaroth ("The Holy Virgin" and "Queen of Heaven). Encyclopedia Britannica (1957) says:
Reference to Baal is found in Numbers 22:41; Judges 2:13; 6:25,28,30,31,32; I Kings 16:31,32; 18:19,21,25,26,40; 19:18; 22:53; II Kings 3:2; 10:18,19,20,21,22,23,25,26,27,28; 11:18; 17:16; 21:3; 23:4,5; I Chronicles 4:33; 5:5; 8:30; 9:36; II Chronicles 23:17; Jeremiah 2:8; 7:9; 11:13,17; 12:16; 19:5; 23:13,27; 32:29,35; Hosea 2:8; 13:1; Zephaniah 1:4; and Romans 11:4.
Now look at Jeremiah 44:15-29, where the people are again worshiping "the queen of heaven," Ashtaroth, the mother of Tammuz, the sun god.
Speaking further about the Babylonian mystery-religion, on pages 292 and 293 of Lectures on the Revelation, H.A. Ironside says:
Those things are covered in great detail in The Two Babylons, by Hislop.
Finally, let us read Ezekiel 8. In this chapter, Ezekiel, who was in Babylon at the time, was taken by God, in a vision, to Jerusalem, to see the idolatry going on there. Verse 14 says:
There, there were "women weeping for Tammuz," like the Babylonians, only they were doing it at "the LORD'S house." In verse 16, Ezekiel said:
They were having a "sunrise service" in God's house and He was not pleased with it.
In verse 18, God said:
God is still God, and does not change. We, having these examples can expect no more leniency than those of old, who are our examples. Proverbs 28:9 is still true :
Encyclopedia Britannica(1957) says that, according to Bede (introduced earlier), in Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation written in 731 A.D., that:
Encyclopedia Britannica goes on to say: