“If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animated contest of freedom, go from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen!” – Samuel Adams

December 25 and the Origin of Christmas

(Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Ever since I grew old enough to begin the complicated process of starting to separate the myths we are often fed as children from the truth, I’ve been told that the long-held date of December 25 to celebrate the birth of Christ, Christmas, isn’t really the date upon which Christ was born as a human baby.

I’ve heard the stories that December 25 was just a pagan holiday that Christians “took over” once the Christian religion gained ascendancy in the Roman Empire.  I’ve heard that due to the wintery time of year and the shepherds out in the field in the Christmas narrative, December 25 couldn’t be the time of the birth of Christ.

But since our planet has one through great periods of climate change going back even farther than the time of the Roman Empire, I’ve long wondered if there really might be something to the date of December 25.

Then a couple of weeks ago I came across an  article in an archaeology magazine that had me thinking about these things afresh.

From Biblical Archaeology Review:

There is another way to account for the origins of Christmas on December 25: Strange as it may seem, the key to dating Jesus’ birth may lie in the dating of Jesus’ death at Passover. This view was first suggested to the modern world by French scholar Louis Duchesne in the early 20th century and fully developed by American Thomas Talley in more recent years.8 But they were certainly not the first to note a connection between the traditional date of Jesus’ death and his birth.

Around 200 C.E. Tertullian of Carthage reported the calculation that the 14th of Nisan (the day of the crucifixion according to the Gospel of John) in the year Jesus diedc was equivalent to March 25 in the Roman (solar) calendar.9 March 25 is, of course, nine months before December 25; it was later recognized as the Feast of the Annunciation—the commemoration of Jesus’ conception.10 Thus, Jesus was believed to have been conceived and crucified on the same day of the year. Exactly nine months later, Jesus was born, on December 25.

This idea appears in an anonymous Christian treatise titled On Solstices and Equinoxes, which appears to come from fourth-century North Africa. The treatise states: “Therefore our Lord was conceived on the eighth of the kalends of April in the month of March [March 25], which is the day of the passion of the Lord and of his conception. For on that day he was conceived on the same he suffered.”11 Based on this, the treatise dates Jesus’ birth to the winter solstice.

Augustine, too, was familiar with this association. In On the Trinity (c. 399–419) he writes: “For he [Jesus] is believed to have been conceived on the 25th of March, upon which day also he suffered; so the womb of the Virgin, in which he was conceived, where no one of mortals was begotten, corresponds to the new grave in which he was buried, wherein was never man laid, neither before him nor since. But he was born, according to tradition, upon December the 25th.”

This gives me something new to ponder this Christmas, and hopefully you, too. Regardless of whether Christ was born on December 25 or not, there is little room for doubt in history that he was indeed born, and set in motion an unprecedented change on the earth that is still powerfully working today.

Not only history tells me that, but the change Christ has wrought in my own lost, self-destructive life tells me that. As I searched in vain for meaning everywhere but in Christ, there was no reason for my life to continue doing anything other than what it already was–spiraling downward into nothing.

I’m grateful Christ came to earth to live as one of us some 2,000 years ago. I’m grateful he loved me more than his own life, so that he was willing to give his life for me, his enemy. And I’m grateful that he stuck with me through long years of obstinence and rebellion, until I finally allowed him to repair my wreck of a life.

If you haven’t examined the truth-claims of Christ found in the Bible, there is no time better than today. If you haven’t put your faith in Christ and trusted him to remake your existence into the abundant life, there’s no time like today. Let this Christmas be the Christmas your life changed immeasurably for the better; let this Christmas be the Christmas you joined the land of the living.

Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”


Try us out at the new location: American Clarion!


30 Responses to “December 25 and the Origin of Christmas”

  1. Amen to that, Bob!

    How fortunate we are that God so loved the world. Merry Christmas, everyone!

  2. surley if we were meant to celebrate his birth the exact date would have been put down for us. like keep doing this in rememberance of me on nissan 14th. There is never any mention of him celebrating his birthday either.

  3. One thing I'll never understand about Christianity is that if God loves the world so much, why do those who do not go to heaven, have to be sentenced for eternity to pain, misery and intense suffering in hell. Seems like a more loving solution would be for this God to just let them die and go nowhere. Just dead. Wouldn't that be punishment enough-not going to heaven, rather than sending the ones he 'loves' to eternal fire. Why punish someone you love so vindictively and forever, when lying in a painless, unconscious state and not allowing them access to heaven, would be severe enough.

  4. It's often very difficult to understand this because of the dirtiness of our own hearts.

    God is holy, which for practical purposes means he has no evil in his nature whatsoever. As creator of the universe, he sets the standard of right and wrong based on his own character. Any deviation or failure to live up to God's character, or any embrace of anything untrue, falls short of God's standard.

    God cannot allow anything impure or unholy in his presence, and when Adam chose to elevate his own intellect over God's, when Adam chose to believe the lie that a way other than God's could lead to even greater benefit to him, he tainted himself and everything under his dominion, which was creation. Adam took on a fallen nature inclined to sin, and he could only pass onto his children his own nature (just as an apple tree can only produce apples, a sinner can only reproduce sinners).

    But God was not content to see all of humanity die in a fallen state, and allowed his son Jesus to live a sinless life as a human being and then–having no sins of his own to atone for–accepted Christ's sacrificial death on the cross as a “stand in” payment for anyone who put their faith in Christ and the redemptive power of his sacrifice.

    Hell was never meant for human beings, but was intended for Satan and all his angels who rebelled against God. Unfortunately, when human beings choose Satan's way over God's way, in doing so they choose the same destiny as Satan.

    God's justice demands a commensurate penalty for the crime of having sinned against him, just as our society demands commensurate penalty for our crimes. If we chose rebellion with Satan and simply died, to exist no more in any state (as evolutionists desperately hope is the case), there would be no real penalty paid. If your soul is unconscious or ceases to exist altogether, there is no real penalty for the rebellion.

    God loved the world so much he gave up his son to a painful death on the cross, and Jesus so loved the world that he was willing to endure that for us–even while we are still his enemies. God would rather we all end our rebellion and accept pardon through Christ, but most of us exercise the gift of free will to remain in rebellion…and send ourselves to Hell.

    Ultimately, God doesn't send us to Hell; if we reject Christ's pardon, we choose to go there with our master Satan.

    The Good News is that we have a choice. You, too, can make that choice for eternal life, Brian. I hope you will.

  5. I do know ( if the story is true) that Jesus did suffer for a brief time on the cross, but HE KNEW He was going to heaven. I think most people today would do the same-suffer briefly on a cross or the equivalent- if they knew ahead of time they would spend eternity in heaven. Many humans suffer worse than Jesus did with agonizing illnesses.That is why I don't understand why the suffering of Jesus is held in such high esteem when He knew He would briefly suffer, then go to heaven and also because such suffering is seen commonplace in the world today.It isn't unusual at all to suffer like Jesus did.

  6. Jesus did know he would be going back to Heaven after his death, but I think you dismiss too lightly the suffering he went through in the hours on the way to the cross and on the cross.

    A good place to begin appreciating the suffering he went through (for people who hated him) would be the movie “The Passion of the Christ” that came out about 5 years ago. Knowing he would be going back to Heaven didn't alleviate the slightest bit of that suffering.

    I have to tell you, while I'm pretty darn sure I'd give my life for my wife or children, if I had time to contemplate things and KNEW that kind of suffering would be involved…I'm not 100% sure I'd have the love and courage to go through with it anyway.

    And I can tell you flatly that I wouldn't go through it for most people, and certainly not people who were my enemies, who hated me and reviled me.

    And I haven't lived a sinless, blameless life like Christ did. If I died like he did, I would have earned it–and then some–for all the rebellion and sin I've done in my life. But Christ never even thought a sinful thought. He never even thought something like, “I'd like to slap the face off that jerk” or “Man, I'd sure like to get some time in the sack with her” or any such thing..

    Though some people have probably suffered more in aggregate than Christ did in his final 24 hours, none have been even remotely blameless as he was.

    And he was under no obligation to sacrifice himself for us in the first place! God could have stood by and let us all split Hell wide open without lifting a finger, and would have been perfectly justified in doing nothing, because we chose to sin, we chose our destiny.

    When you consider all these things, it's beyond astonishing that a morally perfect being would endure such humiliation and suffering for a bunch of reprobate dirtbags like me.

    But he did. And that's why we esteem Him at Christmas and at Easter, and hopefully each day.

  7. You mentioned that Jesus was under no obligation to sacrifice himself, but Timothy and John say that Jesus was God in the flesh and that God and Jesus are one in the same. God and Jesus( God in the flesh0 knew full well that this Jesus was going to sacrifice himself. It was God's plan was it not?

    And if Jesus was God In the flesh, of course we would expect Him to lead a sinless life. God-Jesus are perfect and I would expect nothing less.It would seem to me that Jesus( God in the flesh) couldn't sin if He had wanted to. He's God is He not.

  8. Yes, it was God's plan that the Trinity willingly chose to carry out. They were under no obligation to carry out the plan of Christ's sacrificial death on the cross because they had no sin to atone for; they chose this course of action because of their great love for humanity, which they created in their image.

    I, on the other hand, am obligated to pay for my sins. One of the ways I will do that is my physical death, and unless I placed my faith in the sufficiency of Christ's sacrifice for me, I would pay for eternity with my soul in torment and separation from God.

    God is indeed perfect, in all members of the Trinity. But remember that when God the Son lived here on earth in the human form of Jesus, he was a human being like the rest of us. That is why God went to the trouble of having he Holy Spirit impregnate Mary; you had the joining of God's holy nature with physical human nature, in the form of Jesus the man. If you read the Gospels (and more) you'll find that he was subject to temptation just like the rest of us. There was the incident where Satan made several specific tempting offers to Jesus, but I'm reasonably sure he continued to face more every-day temptations like the rest of us face, for the rest of his life. He got tired like the rest of us. He had the same emotional responses to become angry (but unlike the rest of us, he never let his anger cross over into sinful thought or behavior). He was even tempted hours before his crucifixion not to go through with it at all, in his human frailty. He knew with more certainty than someone on death row what was going to happen to him the next day, and exactly how excruciating it would be if he went through with it. And in his human frailty he begged the Father that if there was any other way to accomplish this task, that he be allowed to do it another way. But unlike the rest of us rebellious humans, he resigned himself to God's will and the fact that this was the only way that could satisfy both God's holiness and God's love.

    I've heard it said that it wasn't nails that held Christ on the cross, but rather his love. And knowing that Jesus had the power to make the lame walk, the blind to see and the dead to walk out of their tomb, Jesus could have easily brought himself down off the cross or avoided it altogether.

    But he loved me and he loved you so much, he was willing to endure that pain and give up his life so that you and I could be pardoned from what we deserve.

  9. I deeply respect your love for what Jesus did for mankind, but don't understand statements like your first sentence that said ” it was God's plan that the Trinity 'willingly' chose to carry out”. Well God is part of this Trinity-the Father , Son and Holy Spirit. So in saying that the Trinity 'willingly' chose to carry out this plan, means that since God is part of the Trinity that He willingly chose to carry out His own plan. God is perfect. He doesn't sit around as part of the Trinity and willingly decide whether or not to carry out His own plan. He is perfect and doesn't look at the options of what to carry out. Willingly implies that He had to decide what the best approach would be and a perfect God as part of a Trinity doesn't have to decide or willingly decide to do anything. He knows what to do.

  10. What I'm trying to convey here is that God was under no obligation to do this, that unlike us when we die or otherwise suffer for our sins, God had no debt to pay. It was also not a hypothetical case of “Well I made them, I have to bail them out of their mess,” or anything similar.

    Christ's suffering and sacrifice in our stead was pure, undeserved mercy.

  11. Well all I know is that Timothy says that Jesus is God in the flesh, so it is quite obvious that Jesus was just another form of God himself, unless you are saying that Jesus was some sort of hybrid.Part man and part God. Seems like your either God or not. Didn't Jesus say He was Lord God when in John he said 'All things came into being through Him' He claerly was saying He was God. Are you saying that God gave himself human qualities on earth, but was really God. That would mean that Jesus, who was God was tempted on earth but was still God at the same time.

  12. Remember several days ago on another thread when we briefly discussed the Trinity, and I said that it was immensely difficult to fully grasp? This is just a small part of what I meant.

    That is also true to a lesser degree of the humanity of Christ. He was at one time during his human life of 33 years or so here on earth, both fully God and fully human. The essence of God the Son, a member of the Trinity, was present from conception inside Mary's womb in the human body of Jesus. His spirit or consciousness if you will was divine, yet housed inside a frail human body that was susceptible to fatigue and injury, and temptation.

    Yet he willingly chose not to exercise the tremendous power at his disposal to avoid the crucifixion, instead choosing to suffer and die to pardon tiny, sinful creatures like and and me.

    How incomprehensibly amazing! Though I don't fully understand it all, I'm immensely grateful that the creator of the universe was willing to suffer like this to save one of his wretched creations like me.

  13. Brian, I'm back home in Texas for Christmas, so I didn't see your “Merry Christmas” reply until this morning. Bob did a really fine job of explaining to you the answers to your questions.

    If you, or anyone in the world, really want to know the Lord, He is readily available to you. If you HONESTLY want to know the answers to the questions you ask, you could simply ask the Lord, and He would gladly make Himself known to you. I can see that you've read at least some of the Bible, so you are already equipped with many of the answers, if you actually want to know them.

    Bob is very patient with you and takes time to explain what the Word of God tells us regarding your challenges to us. I'm not nearly as patient as Bob. If I sense disingenousness, I tend to be a bit brusque; I'm weak in that way. But, I know that if you get a single glimpse of the Lord and who He is and what He's done for you, you can only feel overwhelming gratitude and awe at the magnitude of His love. However, until or unless you are truly seeking to know Him, you will only be an antagonist who will remain apart from Him. Like Bob, I hope you accept the Truth before your end.

    Now, we're off for our nearly twelve-hour drive back home. I pray we make it safely back, so I can wish everyone a Happy New Year!

  14. Gina,

    Hope you and your family travel safely. And yes Bob has been patient and I appreciate it

  15. You mentioned that His frail, human,body was susceptible to fatigue, injury and temptation. Also that His consciousness and spirit were divine. But it isn't 'a body' that gives in to temptation—it is the spirit or person's conscious that does. And that part of Jesus was divine so He couldn't have felt or given in to temptation because that was His Godly part. His spirit and conscious thought were divine so it was perfect. It was the spirit of God in his mind and consciousness and that is why things like 'Temptation of Christ' seem odd becasue his mind and spirit were Godly and thus not susceptible to such things. It would seem to me that since God and the soul or spirit of Jesus, one in the same, were perfect and thus Jesus had no choice but to be perfect himself. He couldn't of acted any other way with the divine spirit in Him. God and Jesus' spirit can't be tempted because they are perfect , pure etc by nature. Jesus couldn't have had the same choices that we do when temptation knocks due to his Godly soul and spirit. Right ?

  16. With the indentation, this thread is getting pretty narrow, so I'm going start a new one here.

  17. Brian said: You mentioned that His frail, human,body was susceptible to fatigue, injury and temptation. Also that His consciousness and spirit were divine. But it isn't 'a body' that gives in to temptation—it is the spirit or person's conscious that does. And that part of Jesus was divine so He couldn't have felt or given in to temptation because that was His Godly part. His spirit and conscious thought were divine so it was perfect. It was the spirit of God in his mind and consciousness and that is why things like 'Temptation of Christ' seem odd becasue his mind and spirit were Godly and thus not susceptible to such things. It would seem to me that since God and the soul or spirit of Jesus, one in the same, were perfect and thus Jesus had no choice but to be perfect himself. He couldn't of acted any other way with the divine spirit in Him. God and Jesus' spirit can't be tempted because they are perfect , pure etc by nature. Jesus couldn't have had the same choices that we do when temptation knocks due to his Godly soul and spirit. Right ?

    Our body and spirit are indeed separate. But they work together here in this corporeal existence, and one has influence on the other. Though it's not a perfect analogy, I like to think of it as a person driving a car. Both the mechanics of the car, along with the will and expertise of the driver, work together to move them both from one place to another. If the car's mechanics fail, the driver may have a difficult time avoiding an accident, no matter how skilled the driver. On the other side of the coin, the most functional car in the world wont' work well with a drunk driver behind the wheel.

    Christ's nature was divine, but his body was the same kind of body the rest of us have, and I believe it exerted a pull on his spirit. The Bible makes it clear (Matthew 4, Mark 1, Luke 4, Hebrews 2, Hebrews 4) that Christ was tempted in every way that the rest of us are, yet he resisted that temptation. Did he have an advantage that we don't have in resisting that temptation? Yes. But he still faced the pull of it, and successfully resisted it.

    Because he resisted every temptation to sin, and had no sin-debt of his own to pay, he was able to die sacrificially as the only man in history who wasn't under the obligation to pay for his sins with his life. Because of that sacrificial death Christ died on the cross, God accepts his death as a “stand in” to pay for our sin-debt…so long as we place our faith in the deity of Christ and the sufficiency of his sacrifice for us in paying our sin debt.

  18. I always liked Matthew 4 when Satan tried to tempt Jesus, but Jesus kept saying ” It was written”. Yes it was written into Jesus' own fabric, His mind, his soul, His being. It was written into His spirit because His spirit and Gods are one in the same.He didn't read it somewhere or have to hear God tell Him, because His soul and spirit were God. It was inherently encased in some body. So when Satan was tempting Jesus, He was really tempting God. I guess you could say Jesus' spirit was tempted , but since his spirit was really God, would He not then be impervious to such temptation because god and jesus are perfect by defintion. It would seem if God or Jesus wanted to be imperfect that they couldn't because their whole essence is perfect.

    I think that goes back to the old Christian belief that 'the body has needs'. or somehow makes demands on you. It is the soul, the spirit, the conscious, the free will in us that has needs and succumbs.Jesus' perfect soul was God's essence and by nature can't succumb to temptaion. Satan could tempt it, but this divine spirit of jesus had no choice in succumbing due to its perfect inherent nature.

    I can accept God sending His spirit in a body form so us dense humans can get the picture, but I can't accept God's spirit in the form of Jesus being susceptible to sin because it is impossible. Jesus is God in a worhtless body- a mass of cells and tissue that has no desires.

  19. I know, it's difficult to grasp how the whole “divine spirit inside a human body” thing works. Nevertheless, the Bible makes it clear that Jesus was the divine Son of God in a human body–a fallen, imperfect body.

    The Bible also makes it clear multiple times in multiple instances that Jesus was tempted in every way the rest of us humans are. You may have difficulty accepting that, and I can appreciate that, but you'll have to take it up with the authors of the Bible. I would suggest you read the book of Hebrews–especially the chapters I mentioned–and meditate on them a few hours if not a few days.

  20. Hebrews it is. We Texans think it is cold ( 45 degrees ) so I don't plan to venture out much and instead will read some Hebrews. Thanks for the reference

  21. Texas is a great place to winter (I spent a Jan-Feb in San Antonio one year), but we Dakotans are feeling pretty warm today at 20 degrees. Still have to dig our way out of some snow drifts several feet deep.

    Enjoy Hebrews and stay warm!

  22. You're a Texan, too, Brian! We can't wait for the Alabama/Texas game. My husband is from Alabama (and a HUGE 'Bama fan), and, I'm from Abilene and always said, “Hook 'em Horns!” But, I'm a bit torn over this game. I kinda want Alabama to win. So, this time it may be, “Roll Tide!” Either way, it's just another distraction of this world. HA!

    It got down to 15 degrees while we were in Abilene. We saw a white Christmas and ice on the roads for a large area of West Texas. About two hundred cars were stranded for over six hours along I-20 between Abilene and Dallas on Christmas Eve. Highway patrol and firemen came in by helicopter and ATV to assist stranded motorists.

    We left yesterday after all the ice was gone. We had a safe, looooong trip and are very glad to be back home on the Coast.

  23. I wondered if you guys got caught in the 'elements' when you mentioned you were in Texas. I feel the same way about the Texas/Alabama game. Would normally root for the Horns, but this time gotta go for Bama. Plus, if Texas losses, my little school-T.C.U.- now ranked fourth in the country, could climb to number 2. Roll Tide and go Horned Frogs

  24. Then, good luck to Alabama, and by proxy, TCU! :-D

  25. You're a Texan, too, Brian! We can't wait for the Alabama/Texas game. My husband is from Alabama (and a HUGE 'Bama fan), and, I'm from Abilene and always said, “Hook 'em Horns!” But, I'm a bit torn over this game. I kinda want Alabama to win. So, this time it may be, “Roll Tide!” Either way, it's just another distraction of this world. HA!

    It got down to 15 degrees while we were in Abilene. We saw a white Christmas and ice on the roads for a large area of West Texas. About two hundred cars were stranded for over six hours along I-20 between Abilene and Dallas on Christmas Eve. Highway patrol and firemen came in by helicopter and ATV to assist stranded motorists.

    We left yesterday after all the ice was gone. We had a safe, looooong trip and are very glad to be back home on the Coast.

  26. I wondered if you guys got caught in the 'elements' when you mentioned you were in Texas. I feel the same way about the Texas/Alabama game. Would normally root for the Horns, but this time gotta go for Bama. Plus, if Texas losses, my little school-T.C.U.- now ranked fourth in the country, could climb to number 2. Roll Tide and go Horned Frogs

  27. Then, good luck to Alabama, and by proxy, TCU! :-D