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« The hollowness of "Hollow Men" | Main | Extraordinary stories for the Christmas season »

Comments

towaka

I think you are being a little soft on Aleister Crowley.Wasn`t he the one who was a satanist who claimed to be the antichrist?You talk about his accomplishments;the only one I can remember is him appearing on the cover of Sergent Peppers!

Now why you were on the subject of paganism and the
winter solstice you failed to mention Christmas`s conection to this.And the decorated trees etc which all have pagan origins.

Fugley

At least the pagans know they got the wrong day, unlike xtians who don't even know the actual birthdate of Jesus. All we know for sure is it was NOT Dec 25.

Ian Wishart

This is interesting from the Catholic News Service:

12/13/2006
Catholic News Service

CLEVELAND, Ohio (CNS) – The gospel accounts of the Nativity (Matthew 1-2, Luke 1-2) do not say what day Jesus was born. There were attempts to calculate the day, but by the third century Christians realized this was impossible.


REFLECTION OF ST. PETER'S BASILICA SEEN ON ORNAMENT – St. Peter's Basilica is seen reflected on a Christmas ornament hanging on the Christmas tree in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican last December. (CNS/Reuters)
So they tried other ways to determine a date for Jesus' birth:

- Many people believed the world was re-created on the first day of spring (March 25 of the Julian calendar followed in ancient Rome). How appropriate, then, for the world's redeemer to become incarnate that day!

- Other scholars argued that Jesus became incarnate not at his birth but at his conception. If Jesus was conceived March 25, he would be born nine months later, Dec. 25.

This date didn't catch on immediately, especially in the Eastern Mediterranean region where people believed Jesus was born Jan. 6. But in the West Dec. 25 had much appeal. Why?

Many Romans venerated the sun, whose birthday was Dec. 25, or a virility god named Mithra with the same birthday. Also, the Romans observed a raucous celebration called Saturnalia Dec. 17-23. Thus, Dec. 25 offered a date with a good theological basis that also would counter several pagan holidays.

Although we don't know the final steps, in 336 the church at Rome officially observed the "birth day of Christ" Dec. 25. This tradition spread. But what about Jan. 6? The church decided to use that day for Jesus' manifestation to the whole world, symbolized by the Magi.

The Magi were three kings, Melchior, Caspar and Balthasar, right? Not really. Matthew's Gospel speaks only of Magi; it doesn't call them kings, or say they rode camels or give their names.

The early Christians looked to the Old Testament for prophecies relating to Jesus. One prophecy in Isaiah said that foreigners traveling on camels would bring gold and frankincense to the Messiah, while a psalm spoke of kings coming.

Naturally the Christians interpreted the Messiah as Jesus, and the only foreigners who brought him gifts were the Magi. So by the third century we find Christians speaking of the Magi as kings riding camels.

How many Magi were there?

A great Egyptian scholar, Origen, found a Genesis passage in which three pagans honored the Hebrew patriarch Isaac. Origen said the three symbolized the Magi, but didn't say why.

Names for the Magi do not appear until the sixth century; all are fictional. "Balthasar" may be a corruption of Belteshazzar, a Babylonian king in the Book of Daniel. "Melchior" may be a combination of two Hebrew words for "king" and "light." And "Caspar" may derive from the name of an Indian king converted by early Christians.

These names first appear in the West in a sixth-century mosaic in the church of St. Apollinaris Nuovo in Ravenna, Italy.

The date for Christmas may have been settled by the fourth century, but legends of the Magi grew throughout the Middle Ages.

- - -

Joseph Kelly, the chair of the Department of Religious Studies at John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio, is the author of The Origins of Christmas.


- - -

Copyright (c) 2006 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

fugley

All very interesting Ian, but still doesn't change the fact that no one knows the date of Jesus' birthday. Or if indeed, he was born.

Why, no one even knows where he was (supposedly) born.

Was it in a house in Bethlehem as Matthew reports? Or in a manger as there was no room in the inn, as reported by Luke?

How can there be such a discrepancy about the birth of somone apparently so important?

Oh, and as a side issue. if Mary was impregnated by god, why was it so important to establish Joseph's lineage from King David? Surely that ONLY matters if Joseph IS the biological fatehr.

Ian

Ah Fugley...good questions...indeed, if the date of Jesus' birth had been significant it would have been recorded in the Bible...but it wasn't.

We know Jesus Christ was born, however, because of references to him outside of the Bible in contemporaneous Roman and Jewish writings.

The confusions over the gospel accounts arise from imprecise reading of the accounts in most cases...and your query whether "house or manger" is a perfect example.

If you read the Matthean account carefully in Chapter two, you will note that the wise men came to the house where Jesus was not at the time of his birth, but up to two years after it.

Specifically in Matt 2:7, (and later 2:16) it records that Herod was at great pains to find out when the star announcing Christ's birth had appeared, and then instructed his soldiers to slaughter all boy children under the age of two.

So in terms of timing it is extremely likely that toddler Jesus was by now living in a house rather than remaining in the manger.

Nowhere in the Bible will you find any suggestion that the Magi appeared on the night of his birth, despite what the Christmas Cards might depict.

Joseph's lineage was important because under Jewish inheritance law at the time Jesus was legally Joseph's son, so the lineage of Joseph depicts Christ's lawful line from King David, while the Marian line records his genetic inheritance.

Fugley

How could he be "legally Joseph's son", unless of course Joseph was the father?

Furthermore, in aht way would inheritance be affected by tracing lineage back (IIRC) 14 generations? Did David still have some unclaimed property?

ian

The "inheritance" was the claim through the male line to the House of King David, as the prophecies had indicated.

Just as with Maori today, tribal lineage and Tipuna were very important to the Jews.

Mary's line provided a genetic line to King David, whilst Joseph's provided the title.

And again, under Jewish customs of the day, and in fact still the basis of our adoption laws until recently, an adoptive child was an heir in every sense of the word.

Legally, Joseph was Christ's father.

Account Deleted

The point you have missed Fugley is that these Pagans gathered to celebrate an Astronomical event, the winter solstice and did so prematurely.

On the other hand Christians celebrate an historical event, the exact date of which (whether calculated according to the modern Gregorian calender, the older Julian calender or the Jewish Lunar Calender) has no relevance whatsoever to the true meaning of the festival.

Fugley

No, I didn't miss that point at all andrei, I simply pointed out that the date of the solstice is known, even though it is a moveable feast and will again occur on Dec 21 in 2008-9-10.

But I must dispute your assertion that " Christians celebrate an historical event" when no date can be put upon it.

Funny, but history usually turns on things such as dates. Only faith has no need of dates.

Try telling an American the the 4th July "...has no relevance whatsoever to the true meaning of the festival."

The meanings of festivals are in their dates.


Fugley

Ian - I must have missed the genealogy of Mary.

I see one in Matt and one in Luke showing Jesus' genealogy, although they appear quite different to my untrained eye.

Account Deleted

Fugley have you noticed that in NZ we celebrate the Queens Birthday on the first monday in June.

In Most of Australia it is celebrated on the 2nd monday in June

IN WA it is moveable but occurs sometime in late September or early October.

Whereas the Queen was born on April 21, 1926.

And would you deny the literary value of Geoffery Chaucer's works because we do not know the year he was born in.

Or of William Shakespeares plays because the exact day of his date of birth is unknown.

Finally in the USA Presidents' Day which officially is known as Washington's Birthday is celebrated on the third Monday in February. George Washington in most histories has his birth date given as 22 February 1732 but by the calendar reckoning at the time of his birth he was born on the 11th February 1731.

I'll have more to say on this at a later time.

Watch this space

towaka

I agree that Jesus exact date of birth is not given in the Gospels but you can make a ''educated guess''.

For a start you can say it was not just any random day!If you consider Jesus death it all tied in with the Jewish feast of Passover with Him being put to death at the exactly the same time as the passover lambs were being killed in the temple.

So we can reasonably deduct that his birth would have also have coincided with one of the Jewish feasts.Remember that Paul referred to these feasts as ''shadows of things to come''.

People who have studied this put Jesus birth into one of the Autumn feasts which are in October.This also fits in with the shepherds being in the ''fields at night''.

As for Dec.25 as Ian has posted this was instituted by the Roman Catholics to combine Christianity with Mithraism.As the Catholics started they have carried on with there mixing of ''truth and error''with the most glaring example being there Goddess worship and turning Mary into there version of Diana!

Fugley

You're right, of course andrei.

It doesn't matter that we don't know the exact dates as above, or that the Queen's Birthday isn't on Queen's Birthday.

Just as it doesn't matter, except to Ian, that pagans got their day wrong.

However, if he sees fit to mock their beliefs for an error of one day, I see no reason why I cannot question his beliefs when no one knows the date of the (supposed) birth of the man he claims is god.

Account Deleted

Fudgley;

I am responsible for the post above not Ian.

And the point of it, as you well know, was to illustrate that Paganism as practiced today is a modern invention with no substantive connection with Stonehenge nor the winter solstice rites as practiced anywhere, let alone there, 2000+ years ago.

The fact that Jesus of Nazareth lived is beyond dispute.

Deciding to accept his divinity (or not as the case may be) does not depend upon knowing the exact date of his birth according to the Gregorian calendar.

Paul Litterick

"The fact that Jesus of Nazareth lived is beyond dispute."

Regardless of the considerable dispute among theologians about whether Jesus existed, it is doubtful whether Nazareth existed:

No "ancient historians or geographers mention [Nazareth] before the beginning of the fourth century [AD]."[29]

Nazareth is not mentioned in the Old Testament, the Talmud, nor in the Apocrypha and it does not appear in any early rabbinic literature.

Nazareth was not included in the list of settlements of the tribes of Zebulon (Joshua 19:10-16) which mentions twelve towns and six villages.

Nazareth is not included among the 45 cities of Galilee that were mentioned by Josephus (37AD-100AD).

Nazareth is also missing from the 63 towns of Galilee mentioned in the Talmud.

See Zindler, F. "Where Jesus Never Walked," American Atheist, Winter 1996-97, pp. 33-42.


And another small problem: Bethelehem did not exist at the time Jesus was supposed to be born there.

towaka

Paul your post proves what an insignificant town Nazareth was not being mentioned in all the sources you quoted.Which in a way proves the reliability of the NT account where Jesus was referred to a ''nazarene''in a derogatory manner due to growing up in Nazareth.Also Nathanael`s remark ''can anything good come out of Nazareth'' sums up what the feeling towards the town was.

As for Bethlehem it has had continuous occupation right back to the time of King David.

It seems from your post that you are ignoring the Bible as source material when the reality is that modern archaeology has shown what a reliable source it is.

Also where did the modern town of Nazareth get its name from?

This reminds me what Napoleon once said ''people will believe anything as long as it is not from the Bible''!

ian wishart

Paul...the team at fundypost are seriously going to have to get their research straight.

Out of something like 12,000 academically accredited New Testament scholars in universities around the world, only two from memory - one of them being Michael Martin - support the idea that Jesus Christ did not exist.

Not even the ultra-liberal Jesus Seminar went that far out on the tree limb against the weight of the evidence. Two - or even 100 genuine scholars if you could find them - out of 12,000 is not a "considerable dispute".

Of Nazareth, while I agree it is not mentioned by name, absence of evidence 2000 years after the fact is not, of itself, evidence that the town itself was absent.

The atheist polemics may have deliberately left out the evidence that does exist about Nazareth, and it is this:

Excavations in 1900 and again in 1955 by Belarmino Bagatti have showed human settlement at the town known as Nazareth dating back to Iron Age II (900-600BC). They also found Roman artefacts there dating from the time of Christ.

It goes against all logic to suggest that the gospel writers "invented" a town that the leader of their faith came from, when copies of the gospels and certainly the gospel stories were circulating well before the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70.

If Nazareth were fictional, the error would have been patently obvious to every Jew at the time and since, yet there is no record in the ancient writings of anyone arguing against Christianity on the basis that Nazareth didn't exist - that's a modern phenomenon.

I certainly wouldn't be putting much stock in Zindler - many have demolished his efforts but I think this from Tektonics sums it up nicely: http://www.tektonics.org/uz/zindler01.html

The Bethlehem argument suffers from similar problems.

Happy New Year.

Paul Litterick

Ian,

if I had a team I would not be posting so early in the morning.

I realise that the number of experts who contend that Jesus did not live at all is small, but it does include significant figures such as Robert M Price and G A Wells. There is a controversy here, as there is in every aspect of study of the historical Jesus.

All I am saying is that the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth, the figure portrayed in the Gospels, is certainly not beyond doubt and the lack of evidence to corroborate the Gospel accounts (not to mention the inconsistencies within the Gospels) does not help the case for such a figure.

The absence of records of Nazareth is one problem; likewise those for Bethlehem. That the birth in Bethlehem is a fulfilment of a prophecy in Micah is also problematic, because it suggests that the story has been written to fit the prophecy (as in so many other cases in the Bible). The strong possibility that the original account referred to Jesus as a Nazarene is another problem for a literal interpretation.

The Gospels are obviously historic documents but not necessarily history. The similarities between the four Gospels are just as problematic as their differences. No historian could rely on such a document to establish an historical fact. Despite the claims of Biblical literalists, Archaeology will not help either.

Pascal's bookie

Ian
Perhaps you could use whatever source you have for your claims about the number and beliefs of academics to tell us what proportion of academically accredited biologists do not believe that humans share a common ancestor with chimpanzees.

This would give us a metric as to what you consider counts as a raging controversy

ian wishart

PB, I've wondered the same thing myself but haven't been able to find out how big the main sample is...what I do know is that the number of biologists and other scientists who don't agree with evolution and are willing to say so publicly has risen from 300 to more than 700 so far.

What I am interested in is Paul's source for this comment: "The strong possibility that the original account referred to Jesus as a Nazarene is another problem for a literal interpretation."

If you have one Paul, I'd love to see it.

Although I will tackle the points in more detail, I'd point out the circularity of your argument thus far:

You wrote: "That the birth in Bethlehem is a fulfilment of a prophecy in Micah is also problematic, because it suggests that the story has been written to fit the prophecy (as in so many other cases in the Bible)."

That paragraph is ridiculous, with respect Paul.

It presupposes that the prophecy cannot be true, therefore the Christ story must have been a backwards imposition.

Yet you give no objective evidence for doubting Micah except (I presume) your pre-existing anti-supernatural bias. If you assume before even commencing an investigation that prophecy is impossible by definition, then of course you are left with only one answer.

But if prophecy is in fact possible, your current conclusion would be false and you would be none the wiser.

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