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12 Hope of Israel Ministries BIBLE Correspondence Course Lesson 1

spring, and the birth in the midwinter at a time in According to a rather cyclical argument it is
line with many of the old traditions. concluded that as the paschal lamb was a type of
the Messiah, he must be born at the time of the
One extremely fanciful approach to this Passover. March 25 and 28 are obviously
problem, with its origins in deep antiquity, relies nowhere near the traditional midwinter
on a “plan of the ages.” According to this the Christmas and so the suggestion that the nativity
seven days of creation represent seven periods of occurred in March was freely taken to mean that
a thousand years. The Sabbath, or the seventh this was the day of conception, so making
millennium which it becomes, represents the December 25 the date of birth. Another tradition
time in which the Messiah will reign. It was in favor of the March conception can be traced as
argued that the first coming of the Messiah was far back as Tertullian, according to whom there
in the middle of the sixth day, leaving five is an exact number of years in a “divine” life, so
hundred years to run before the end. The theory that Yeshua must have been conceived at the
has now already been falsified by the passage of same time of the year as his crucifixion.
The Christmas feast was instituted in a
rather complex way. Before the fourth century
the celebration of the nativity, if it occurred at
all, was on January 6, which is the Epiphany or
Feast of the Baptism. It is also the feast day on
which the visit of the Magi and the miracle at the
wedding of Cana are celebrated. The nativity
was displaced from this date in Rome in A.D.
353/354 by Pope Liberius, being on January 6 in
A.D. 353 and December 25 in A.D. 354. The
minor point as to the date of the intervening
Christmas is uncertain. It is possible that the
institution of Christmas on December 25 is
A depiction of the Messiah’s baptism which was associated with the foundation of the Church of
observed on January 6. S. Maria Maggiore, which was the center of the
Roman celebration of the feast. Christmas
In the words of Cyprian, written about services in Rome are now centered on the
A.D. 243, there is an account of the lost research Church of Liberius while those of Epiphany are
work by Hippolytus in which a very complicated in the older basilica of St. Peter. From Rome the
proof was given that the nativity occurred on celebration on December 25 spread throughout
March 28. This was based on the idea that the Christendom. In Constantinople it was
first day of creation was the vernal equinox, introduced by Gregory Nazianzen in about A.D.
Sunday March 25, the Sun and Moon being 379. Before then, in the time of Theodosius,
created on Wednesday March 28. Hippolytus Constantinople was Aryan and January 6 was the
concluded that the day of the nativity was the favored day.
same day as that of the creation of the Sun.
Christian tradition follows him here and often The two sermons of Chrysostom that we
places the Messiah’s birth on a Wednesday. have discussed previously were given in Antioch
Another equally dubious argument simply puts at Christmas time A.D. 386. It is thought that
the Messiah’s birthday on the feast of the these were delivered at the first December
Passover, which in A.D. 225 fell on March 25. celebration of the nativity at that church. In

The Pagan Origins of Christmas
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