Catholic Church


  • 05-Dec-2022, 18:51



Why Was December 25th Chosen?



The birth year was not “zero,” but between 7 and 4 B. C.

Dionysius Exiguus, a monk, in A. D. 526 worked out the A. D./B. C. dating. He placed the birth of Jesus at 753 AUC (from the founding of Rome). He was off at least 4 to 6 years.

2. Other information harmonizes to place the birth of the Lord at between 7 to 4 B. C.

a. Herod the Great died in 4 B. C. (M. C. Tenney, New Testament Times, p. 367).

b. Information from the papyri leads us to believe that a census was taken every 14 years. One was taken in Egypt, which was under Roman rule, in A. D. 104. This inscription required everyone to return to his ancestral home for the census. The Luke 2 census could probably be placed at 7 or 8 B. C. (Blaiklock, Out of the Earth, p. 14ff). 

c. Cyrenius (or Quirinius) was governor of Syria in A. D. 6. He also served as head of the government there (over two other men) some time between 9 and 4 B. C. (Tenney, Ibid., p. 137; Cf. Lk. 2:2).

Month and Day

1. Some scholars say that it was not likely in December. The shepherds were watching their flocks by night (Lk. 2:8), and this was not done in the winter months. Dr. William Arndt replies to this as follows: “Scholars have pointed out that the considerably lower altitude of the field may not be without significance, but may explain why even in winter shepherds would not find these fields too cold for their flocks” (Dr. William Arndt, From the Nile to the Waters of Damascus, p. 52).

2. Can the EXACT date be known? a. Albert Barnes (Presbyterian): “But the exact time of His birth is unknown; there is no way to ascertain it. By different learned men it has been fixed at each month in the year. Nor is it of consequence to know the time; if it were, God would have preserved the record of it. Matters of moment are clearly revealed; those which He regards as of no importance are concealed.” b. Collier’s Encyclopedia: “It is impossible to determine the exact date of the birth of Christ, either from the evidence of the gospels, or from any sound tradition.” c. The Catholic Encyclopedia: “Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the Church” (III:724-728). d. Adam Clarke (Methodist): “The time in which Christ was born has been considered a subject of great importance among Christians. However, the matter has been considered of no moment by Him who inspired the evangelists; as not one hint is dropped on the subject by which it might be possible to guess nearly to the time. Learned and pious men have trifled egregiously on this subject, making that of importance which the Holy Spirit, by His silence has plainly informed them is of none” (Clarke’s Commentary, on Lk. 2:8, Vol. V, p. 227). e. Oscar Cullman: The early Christians “altogether rejected such a festival as unchristian” (“The Origin of Christmas,” The Early Church, p. 34).

Why Was December 25th Chosen?

a. In the 3rd and 4th centuries the Church was already observing Epiphany on Jan. 6, “and in so doing conjoined the baptism and the birth of Christ” (Cullman, p. 25). Some also linked the adoration by the wise men and the first miracle at Cana as part of the Epiphany celebration (The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church, p. 346).

(1) EPIPHANY means “appearing.” A heretical sect in the second century held that “the divine Christ first appeared on earth at the baptism of Jesus; and their festival of the baptism was accordingly called Ephiphany…” (Cullman, p. 24).

(2) Later, the Orthodox Eastern Church began to observe the festival of baptism on Jan. 6. These regarded the birth of Jesus as his real appearing on the earth.

(3) The early part of the 4th century was when the controversy over the divinity of Christ was at its height. b.

So, how came Christmas to be celebrated on Dec. 25th?

 (1) The Romans celebrated the Mithraic feast of the Sun God. The Roman Saturnalia and other pagan feasts came at this time also. The idea of light, which appeared in Christ and dispersed the darkness is certainly basic in Christianity. John 1:5ff. The Emperor Constantine the Great “pursued the deliberate policy of uniting the worship of the Sun with that of Christ” (Cullman, p. 29). “Sometime before 336 the Church in Rome, unable to stamp out this pagan festival, spiritualized it as the Feast of the Nativity of the Sun of Righteousness” (James Taylor, “Christmas,” The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church, p. 223). Note: New Testament Christians gathered for worship on the Lord’s Day; the New Testament never uses the word “Sunday.” The term “Sunday” was applied to the Lord’s Day in the second century. Constantine, in A. D. 321, officially recognized Sunday as a day of rest in the empire. This was a day that had already been dedicated to the Sun god by the Romans.

(2) The first observance on Dec. 25th probably took place in Rome between A. D. 325 and 354. The reason for selecting Dec. 25 was theological. The Council of Nicaea (A. D. 325) expressly condemned the doctrine that God did not become incarnate in Jesus at his birth.

(3) “We find it first in Rome, in the time of the bishop Liberius (Catholics consider him as a Pope), who on the twenty-fifth of December, 360, consecrated Marcella, the sister of St. Ambrose, nun or bride of Christ, and addressed her with the words: ‘Thou seest what multitudes are come to the birth-festival of thy bridegroom.’ This passage implies that the festival was already existing and familiar” (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, III:395). Cullman points out that the source from which this information was taken has been re-dated and was written before October A. D. 336 (p. 29).

(4) “It took Christians 300 years to get around to celebrating their Lord’s birthday. Christmas was first observed in Rome about 336. Another century went by before the festival became general throughout the Christian world” (The Orthodox Herald, Jan., 1964. Published for Russian Orthodox Church of North America).

(5) The spread of the observance of Christmas on Dec. 25th.

 (a) Constantinople. Introduced by Gregory of Nazianzus, the defender of the divinity of Christ, in A. D. 379.

(b) Antioch (A. D. 386). Chrysostom said that Christ was actually born on that day. (To my knowledge, he was the first to say so. F.J.) (c) Egypt continued opposition, but finally submitted in A. D. 431. 

(d) Jerusalem showed the greatest reluctance to change from Jan. 6 to Dec. 25th (Cullman, pp. 32-33). 

C. Christmas began with the apostate church which was developing into what we know as the Roman Catholic Church. 

D. Christmas did not originate by the authority of God, Christ, or the Apostles.

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