Friday 25 December 2015


Let me say right from the start of this piece that there is no doubt in my mind that Jesus Christ really did exist. Flavius Josephus, a contemporary of his times who was a Jew and also a Roman citizen and a prolific writer, stated in one of his writings that there was a prophet in Jerusalem called Jesus who was crucified on the orders of the Roman governor. This makes Jesus’ existence, a matter of fact.

But the question that has plagued historians, scientists and religious leaders is; how much of the Christmas story is really fact and what parts are myths? It is my purpose in this piece to give you some of the facts that we already know and compare them with the myths.

Was Jesus born on December 25th?

That question is the easiest to answer. He was not born on that date. The early Christian church did not celebrate Jesus' birth. It wasn't until 440 A.D., that the church officially proclaimed December 25th as the birth of Christ. This was not based on any religious evidence but on a pagan feast. Saturnalia was a tradition inherited by the Roman pagans from an earlier Babylonian priesthood on December 25th and it was used as a celebration of the birthday of the sun god. It was observed during the winter solstice. The early Christians were well aware of the dangers facing them under Roman rule so they wisely decided that they would celebrate the birth of Jesus on the same day as the pagan feast, Saturnalia. That way, anyone else seeing them celebrating Jesus’ birth would presume that they are really celebrating the pagan feast.

December 25th was the winter solstice according to the old Julian calendar, and it was on that day that Mithraism, chief rivals to Christianity during the fourth century, celebrated the birth of their god, Mithra. The Christians figured that those who believed in Mithraism would assume that the early Christians were also celebrating that religion when in actual fact; they were celebrating the birth of Jesus and wouldn’t be harassed by the non-believers.

The Bible itself tells us that December 25th is an unlikely date for Jesus’ birth. Palestine is very cold in December. It was much too cold to ask the Roman citizens to travel to the city of their fathers to register for taxes. Also according to the New Testament, the shepherds were in the fields (Luke 2:8-12). Shepherds were not in the fields in the winter time. They were only in the fields early in March until early October. This would place Jesus' birth in the spring or early fall. It is also known that Jesus lived for 33.5 years and died at the feast of the Passover, which is at Easter time. He must therefore have been born six months prior to Easter thereby making the date of his birth around September or early October.

John the Baptist also helps us determine that December 25th is not the day that Jesus was born. Elizabeth, John's mother, was a cousin of Mary. John began his ministry in the 15th year of Tiberius Caesar. Jesus began his ministry when he was 30 years old. As Emperor Augustus died on August 19, A.D. 14, that was the accession year for Tiberius. If John was born on April 19-20, 2 B.C., his 30th birthday would have been April 19-20, A.D. 29, or the 15th year of Tiberius. This would seem to imply that the year Jesus was born was 2 B.C. Since John was 5 months older, this implies that Jesus was born sometime in the autumn of 2 B.C.

I am however more inclined to believe that Jesus was not born in 2 B.C., but instead, he was born in 10 B.C. Most experts agree that Jesus was born between 12 and 4 B.C., as King Herod, who ruled over Judea at the time, is recorded as dying in 4.B.C. therefore his alleged murder of the babies in Bethlehem had to have obviously occurred prior to his own death. Augustus had held a complete census of Roman citizens three times during his rule. They were held in the years 29 B.C., 8 B.C., and 14 A.D. The reason why Joseph who was living in Narzareth at that time, went to Bethlehem in 8 B.C., was that he always went to Jerusalem once a year for religious purposes, not unlike Muslims going to Mecca at least once in their lives if at all possible. The year 14 A.D. is obviously not the year of Jesus birth and 29 B.C. simply goes too far back. This leaves us with the year of Jesus birth as being 10 B.C. since he was already two years old when he and his parents arrived in Bethlehem to stay while visiting Jerusalem nearby. I will explain that later in this piece.

Matthew claims that the birth of Jesus occurred during the reign of Herod the Great of Judea, a puppet king of the Romans, whom we know died in 4 B.C. Luke also tells us that Jesus birth happened during Herod's reign. Luke even adds what appears to be detailed and historical evidence of the period. He writes that Jesus was born during a census or registration of the populace ordered by emperor Augustus at the time that Quirinius was Roman governor of Syria (Luke 2:1-3). In reality, this has to be a fabrication because Quirinius was not the governor of Syria and Judea during Herod's kingship. Direct Roman rule over the province of Judea, where Bethlehem was located, was not established until 6 A.D. In other words, ten years separated the rule of Quirinius from Herod.

Based on the foregoing, the birth of Jesus being the 25th of December in the first century is a myth.

Was it a star that drew the three wise men from the east to Bethlehem?

Ask yourself this question. How far away is our nearest star from Earth? Proxima Centauri is the closest star to Earth. It is 4.2 light years from us. Sirius is the brightest star in the sky but it is 8.6 light years from us. Neither of those two stars (other than our own sun) are the brightest lights in the sky at night. The brightest light in the sky (other than the sun and moon) is the planet Venus. It follows that neither the light of the two stars or the reflection of the sun from Venus would be sufficient enough to be lighting up Bethlehem even on the clearest of nights.

It therefore follows that the existence of the star we have seen countless times in paintings, Christmas cards and in the movies showing Bethlehem being lit up by a star, is a myth.

First of all, let me clear up another myth right now. The three men were not kings. It had been said that they were from the Orient. That does not mean that they were from China, Korea or Japan. The term ‘Orient’ is derived from the Latin word ‘oriens’ meaning ‘east’. The word ‘magi’ refers to the ancient Zoroastrian priests, so they would most likely have come from a country where the Zoroastrian religion was widely practiced. This would be either Iran or Iraq which is obviously east of Bethlehem. The three men were astrologers. That would justify calling them ‘wise men’. Babylonian astrologers were thoroughly familiar with the movements of the stars and planets and that is what makes me believe that these three men came from Babylon, Iraq which was located 85 kilometres (53 miles) south of Baghdad

The Bible says this about the star, “And, lo, the star, which they saw in the East, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.” unquote This would imply that a star began moving from the east and stood on top of Bethlehem. Stars don’t move and then suddenly stop, because when the Earth turns each day, the position of Earth in relation to the stars in the sky shifts. For the star of Bethlehem to stop would mean that the Earth would have stopped spinning. Obviously the star stopping and then standing over Bethlehem is another myth.

It is also hard to believe that the so-called star was needed as a guide to direct the astrologers from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, a mere eight kilometers away especially since there was a road that led directly from Jerusalem to Bethlehem and I might add, still does. I know. I have been on it.

What then were these three men following? They weren’t following anything because to follow something is to follow an object, person or animal that is moving and the light that drew them to Jerusalem was stationary. What then was the light in the sky that made them choose to go westward to Jerusalem?

Scientists have extrapolated the stars and planets back to 8 B.C. and have concluded that during that year that Jesus was two years of age, there were two planets in the western sky that caused a great light to shine from them. They were Jupiter and Saturn. Now normally these two planets are not in line with each other however there is an ancient Babylonian clay tablet dated at 8 BC, which describes the celestial events for the upcoming 13 months. The tablet shows that Jupiter and Saturn would remain together in the constellation of Pisces for eleven months and come in close conjunction three times. This would account for the much larger light in the sky during that time.

To the Babylonian astrologers, Jupiter represented the star of Marduk, the supreme Babylonian god. Saturn was the steady one of the two planets because it was the planet Jupiter that moved in line with Saturn. The conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in the sky predicted from the Babylonian's viewpoint, the end of the old world order and the birth of a new king chosen by God. To the three astrologers, this meant that a new king was being born west of them and the only kingdom west of them was the Kingdom of Herod. They likely had read and discussed the Messianic prophecies and were anxious to see when this Messianic King would appear and if so, their interpretation of the conjunction of the two planets would be correct in foretelling of the birth of a new king in Judea.

The Bible tells us remarkably little about the star, with only the Gospel of St Matthew mentioning it. He records the wise men asking: “Where is he who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east and have come to worship him.” unquote I believe that when they said that they saw Jesus’ star in the east, they really meant that they were in the east when they saw the star. My conclusion is based on logic because if they were heading towards it, the light from the two planets would have been west of them.

The three Wise Men from Babylon saw the conjunctions of Jupiter and Saturn all three times during that the eleventh-month period and by the time it occurred the third time, it was then that they decided to go to Jerusalem to see if their theory about a new king being born west of them was true. They would have arrived there sometime in the autumn of 8 B.C.

Why didn’t the three Wise Men go directly to Bethlehem?

I don’t know how much the three Wise Men knew about the history of the kings that ruled west of them but I think I am safe in saying that they at least knew that King Herod ruled Judea and that his palace was in Jerusalem, hence their journey to Jerusalem was to confirm their belief that a new king had been  born in Jerusalem.

According to the Gospel of Mathew, the three Wise Men, from the East are said to have visited Jesus after his birth, bearing gifts. They are mentioned only in the Gospel of Matthew, which says that they came “from the east to Jerusalem to worship the Christ, “born King of the Jews”. unquote I don’t see how these three men could have possible suspected that a baby called Jesus would eventually be called the King of the Jews many years after his birth so that part of the Gospel is a myth.

Why did they then after being in Jerusalem, go directly to Bethlehem?

King Herod always feared that he would be usurped. That is why he ordered the deaths of two of his own sons. When he learned that there were three men from the east making enquires as to where the new born king was, he had his soldiers search for them and bring them to him.

The New Testament describes the three Wise Men explaining to Herod about the purpose of their visit by the use of a quote from a prophet: “But you, Ephrathah (it was an earlier name for Bethlehem) though you are little among the thousands of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.—Micah 5:1-3

Let me quote from the Gospel of Mathew. “When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it is written by the prophet: `And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will govern my people Israel.’ Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star appeared; and he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.’ unquote

Of course, it is conceivable that the prophet was referring to King David who was born a thousand years earlier. In any case, Matthew's introduction of the three Wise Men gives the reader no reason to believe that they were present on the day of the Jesus’ birth. It is conceivable that they found Jesus around two years after his birth, rather than on the exact day of his birth. This may explain why later in the scripture, Herod allegedly ordered that all babies in Bethlehem who were two years old or younger were to be killed. If he thought the so-called new king had just been born, he would have ordered only the newborns to be killed.

Herod must have concluded that if there was a new king having been born within the previous two years, he would have been born in that small town just four miles southeast of Jerusalem. Now who better to send to Bethlehem than the three men who proclaimed that their purpose for the visit to Herod’s kingdom was to find the new king? They wouldn’t raise any suspicions.

According to Mathew, King Herod told the three Wise Men to go to Bethlehem and find the new king and to then report to him where the new king was so that he too could worship the new king. Of course, he had no intentions of worshiping anyone other than God. He actually hoped to kill the young usurper.

Did the three wise men arrive in Bethlehem on the night of Jesus’ birth?

Matthew's introduction of the three Wise Men gives the reader no reason to believe that they were present on the day of the Jesus’ birth. It is common knowledge nowadays that they found Jesus around two years after his birth, rather than on the exact day of his birth. This may explain why later in the scripture, Herod allegedly ordered that all babies in Bethlehem who were two years old or younger were to be killed. In the words of Matthew 2:16-18: “Herod perceiving that he was deluded by the wise men, was exceeding angry; and sending (soldiers), killed all the men children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the borders thereof, from two years old and under.” unquote

I have to accept the common belief that the three Wise Men found a baby they believed may have been the new king and that baby was Jesus when he was two years old. Why they chose him rather than another is beyond my comprehension.  By the way, they were not kings. If they were kings, they wouldn’t have come alone.

Did King Herod really order the murder of the infants in Bethlehem?

This cruel deed of Herod is not mentioned by the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus or any other historian of those times, including the writer Luke although Josephus relates quite a number of atrocities committed by the king during the last years of his reign. If he did order the slaughter of the small children in Bethlehem, the number of these children would have been so small that this crime would have appeared as being insignificant amongst the other misdeeds of Herod and subsequently not mentioned at all. Further, King Herod needed Roman authority to kill that many people since he needed that kind of authority when he asked the Roman emperor for permission to execute his own grown sons. There doesn’t appear to be any record of him asking for Roman authority to kill the babies in Bethlehem.

This then raises the likelihood that the reported massacre and its association with King Herod were introduced into the scriptures by the writer of Matthew in order to give Jesus at least as high a human standing within emerging Christianity as Moses held within Judaism.

If the massacre did take place, it does not make sense that the Herod's surviving son later recalls nothing about Jesus nor his importance later as he was preaching to the multitudes. If his father had ordered the murder of the babies in Bethlehem in order to eliminate any possible usurper taking his kingdom from him, Herod's son wouldn't be oblivious of a man called Jesus. Moreover, if Herod and all the people of Jerusalem knew of Jesus’ birth (Mathew. 2:3), why is it that later in Jesus' career, the same author of Matthew claims that people had not heard of his miraculous origin and still questioned his miracles and his teachings (Mathew. 13:54-56)? I think Herod got a bum rap for a crime he didn’t commit.

Was Jesus really born in Bethlehem as we know it?

Surprisingly, Luke knows nothing about the star, nor the three Wise Men, nor the exact place Jesus was born other than it was in a manger, but note that there is also no reference to a stable and animals surrounding the birth of Jesus. This scene is a product of later Christian imagination based on a text from Isaiah, “......the ox knows its owner and the donkey its master's crib (manger), but Israel, does not know, my people do not understand.” Isaiah 1:3).

Luke's reference to the baby being wrapped in swaddling clothes is copied from the birth of Israel's famous King Solomon, son of David. This sign of identification sends an important message to Luke's Jewish-Christian readers that Jesus was to be even greater than Israel's wisest king. Luke's gospel describes the visitors to the baby Jesus as shepherds, not the Wise Men. According to the later writers of the gospels, the shepherds hear of the birth from an extraterrestrial, which the Bible calls an angel. That version would even make Jesus’ birth appear as if he is divine when in fact it was simply a normal birth. I should add that many Roman emperors tried to convince the populace that their births were also divine.

The Bible mentions two Bethlehems. The one most familiar to Christians is Bethlehem south of Jerusalem. (Micah 5:2) It is one of the oldest towns in Palestine, and was already in existence at the time of Jacob’s return to the country. Its earliest name was EPHRATAH, or EPHRATH or EPHRATAH. (Genesis 35:16,19; 48:7) After the conquest, Bethlehem appears under its own name, BETHLEHEM-JUDAH. (Judges 17:7; 1 Samuel 17:12; Ruth 1:1,2) The book of Ruth is a page from the domestic history of Bethlehem. It was the home of Ruth, (Ruth 1:19) and of David. (1 Samuel 17:12) It was fortified by Rehoboam. (2 Chronicles 11:6) It was here that Jesus was supposedly born, (Matthew 2:1) and here that he was visited by the shepherds, (Luke 2:15-17) and the Magi. (Matthew 2.)

There is another Bethlehem that lies 71 miles north of Bethlehem-Judah. After Israel’s entry into the Promised Land, when the land was being divided up among Jacob’s twelve sons, Bethlehem is listed as one of the cities given to Zebulun, not Judah. (Joshua 19:15) This particular Bethlehem is in Galilee and is located 6 miles north west of Nazareth and north east of Tivon, on the northwest side of the Jezreel valley not far from Mount Carmel. That is the area where Jesus grew up as a child and as a young man.

We know that there was a Roman census two years after the time of Jesus birth and all heads of Roman families and their families were to report to the towns of their births. Luke got his facts wrong about the census of Augustus. Such an imperial census would only apply to Roman citizens of the empire, not to the Jews and since Joseph was a Galilean, therefore he was not under direct Roman rule. That being as it is, it is beyond me as to why Joseph, who was not an ignorant man, would take his wife and child on a long journey to Bethlehem for the census taking which didn’t apply to him. Now he did visit Jerusalem each year and he knew that to do so at the time of the census taking, it would be crowded in the Bethlehem that was close to Jerusalem, so I am wondering why he chose that particular time to go there when he would have had to know that village of Bethlehem that is just east of Jerusalem would be overcrowded. But go there he did nevertheless and as to be expected, he couldn’t find any decent place to stay at so he ended up spending the night  in one of the many caves surrounding the village.

The Gospels do not, unfortunately, give the date and place of Joseph's birth nor his death so we have no idea for sure as to whether or not Joseph was born in the Bethlehem near Nazareth or the one near Jerusalem but for some reason for which I do not understand, he chose to take himself and his betrothed, Mary to the Bethlehem near Jerusalem unless it was to stay there during one of their annual visits to Jerusalem.

All that is known from the canonical Gospels is that Joseph lived at times in Nazareth in Galilee and also stayed for a couple of years in Bethlehem in Judea. This may be proof that Jesus was born two years previous to the visit by the three Wise Men since according to the gospel of Mathew; Joseph would have fled Bethlehem shortly after the visit by the three Wise Men in 8 B.C.

It was important, however, for the authors of both of these gospels, (Mathew and Luke) to sate that Jesus be born in Bethlehem (next to Jerusalem) because it was the city of David from where, it was prophesied, Israel's ruler would come (Micah 5:2). Even so, John's gospel, contrary to Matthew and Luke, relates the common knowledge that Jesus was not born in Bethlehem, and that he was not a descendant of David (John 7:41-42).

Was Joseph a descendant of King David?

One of the first examples of things not ringing true can be found in the attempts by the authors of Matthew and Luke to trace the ancestry of Jesus back to the Jewish king, David. It was from the royal house of David that the messiah was expected. However, upon close examination, the tables of descent in these gospels become transparently artificial, with many errors and downright contradictions. For example, the two gospels cannot agree on the lineage of Joseph, the father of Jesus. Matthew has 28 generations between David and Jesus, while Luke has 41 for the same period of about 1,000 years. In Matthew's gospel, Joseph's father (i.e. Jesus' grandfather) is said to be Jacob, while in Luke it is claimed that he is Heli. They cannot both be right. I guess we will never know the answer to that question.

The claims in the early chapters of Matthew and Luke that Jesus was of royal lineage are further weakened by the fact that elsewhere in all four gospels, there is no indication during the ministry of Jesus that he and his father were of noble descent. Rather, he appears as a man of humble background from an obscure rural village in Galilee. Furthermore, according to Mark, Jesus himself appears to reject the belief that his Messiahship was dependent on Davidic descent (Mark 12:35-37).

Was Jesus conceived by a holy spirit?

The apostle Paul makes no reference to the virginal conception by the mother of Jesus when speaking of Jesus' origins and divinity. His epistles were written during the 50's A.D. and predate all of the four gospels. Although Paul never met Jesus (who died about 30 A.D.), he personally did know James, the brother of Jesus and yet, despite this eye-witness link to Jesus, Paul apparently knew nothing of the virgin birth, for he states only that Jesus was ‘born of a woman’ (Galatians 4:4) and was ‘descended from David, according to  Romans 1:3, thereby implying a normal birth. Why then does the Bible say that Jesus was conceived by a holy spirit?

Mary and Joseph were betrothed at the time Jesus was conceived and being betrothed in those days meant that a man and woman could live together but they could not sleep together until they were married. That meant in simplest terms; no sex until they were married. When it became apparent that Mary was pregnant, this created a great problem for Joseph. The law of the land at that time was that if a woman who was betrothed became pregnant as a result of having sex with another man who was not her betrothed; the betrothed man was obligated to stone his betrothed wife to death. Joseph was very much in love with Mary and the last thing he wanted to do was to admit that he made her pregnant and if he didn’t make her pregnant, then another man did and if that was so, he didn’t wish to kill Mary, his betrothed.

I am convinced that Joseph impregnated Mary but since it was considered a sin for him to do so while they weren’t married, he and Mary had no other choice but to declare that a holy spirit impregnated her. Nowadays, if a man told us that was how his wife became pregnant, we would say he was nuts. But in those days, the people were highly superstitious and such a claim would be believed it if was uttered by someone who was highly respected. The doctrine of the virgin birth of Jesus, so central to the traditional Christmas story, was not part of the teachings of the first Christians, whom it should be remembered, also remained within the Jewish faith in those early years of Christianity.

The silence of the earliest Jewish-Christian authors about the miraculous birth of Jesus seems strange, given that they were trying to convince their readers that Jesus was divine. This silence raises doubts about the authenticity of the later nativity stories with which we are so familiar.

Was Jesus born in a manger?

According to the Bible, Jesus was born in a manger in Bethlehem in Judea. As I said earlier, Jesus was born in 10 B.C. and his birth wasn’t in Bethlehem, Judea. Further, I don’t believe that he was born in the Bethlehem near Nazareth since Joseph already had a home in Nazareth as that was where his carpenter shop was located.

A manger was a stable or what we now call a barn where animals were kept. I don’t question the fact that Joseph and his wife and child went to Bethlehem in Judea for their annual visit but when they arrived, they had no other choice but to spend their initial time in such a shelter. Many Roman citizens living in Jerusalem also were born in Bethlehem so they had to go there and stay there temporarily while the census was being taken. Bethlehem was therefore terribly overcrowded at that time.

My wife and I have visited the so-called birth place of Jesus and when I saw it, I realized then that it was not possible that Jesus was born in that exact location. Bethlehem is rife with caves and it follows that the holy family would have had no other choice but to stay in a cave until they could get better lodgings. It was the practice in those days that the shepherds would keep many of their sheep inside the caves at night because of the cold weather.

The so-called birthplace of Jesus is on flat terrain and it is not conceivable that it was previously a cave. Admittedly, there is a nearby hill but that could have had caves in it but that is not where the church says that Jesus was born. The holy family could have been in a cave in that hill or another nearby hill where they stayed. The road to Jerusalem from Nazareth was a long one and if Joseph didn’t have enough money to rent lodgings in Jerusalem, it would cost them nothing to sleep in one of the many caves surrounding Bethlehem which was only four miles from Jerusalem.

Did Joseph really flee to Egypt?

According to the Gospel of Mathew, Joseph had a dream that told him to flee to Egypt soon after Jesus was born. I don’t doubt that Joseph may have had a dream to flee Bethlehem but it wasn’t right after Jesus was born since Jesus was born approximately two years earlier. Remember that he was born in 10 B.C., and in 8 B.C., his father Joseph took him to Bethlehem with his mother during one of their annual visits to Jerusalem. Then the three of them stayed in Bethlehem for two years before he had his dream and left that town and headed back to Nazareth.

It is also impossible to reconcile Luke's account of the family of the newborn Jesus soon returning to Nazareth in Galilee, with Matthew's assertion that the family of Jesus immediately fled to Egypt for several years to escape Herod's wrath (Matthew 2:13-14). Luke has Joseph and Mary present with Jesus in the temple in Jerusalem when he was forty days old, and then returns straightaway to Nazareth (Luke 2:22,39). Also, Luke records that each year the family went to Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover (Luke 2:41) this does not tally with Matthew's claim that they were hiding out in Egypt. Matthew, with his predilection that Old Testament prophecies be fulfilled in the life of Jesus, appears to have invented the massacre of the innocents to fulfill a prophecy of Jeremiah (31:15), and the consequential flight to Egypt to fulfill Hosea's prediction that “out of Egypt I have called my son.” (Hosea 11:1).

I don’t believe that Joseph took his family to Egypt. The journey would have been a fairly long one. They would have had to have traveled to the coast and then south along the coast to the border of Egypt. The distance would be at least 80 miles. Then to get to an Egyptian city the size of Jerusalem in Egypt would be Qantara el Sharqiya which is another 120 miles. That means he would have chosen to go 200 miles into a country he knew nothing about. If he wanted to flee, he would take his family directly back to Nazareth which was his original home and which was only about 70 miles north of him along a route he was familiar with. He would be safe in Nazareth since Herod’s authority didn’t reach that far.

Matthew's stories of the Wise Men's visit to Herod and Jesus and Herod's massacre of the innocents which caused the holy family to flee to Egypt; are all historically improbable. Moreover, it should be noted that Luke also got his facts wrong about the census of Augustus. As I said earlier, such an imperial census would only apply to Roman citizens of the empire, not to the Galileans such as Joseph because the Galileans were not under Roman rule at that time.   

In ancient times it was often claimed that important people had miraculous births. Plato was said to have been born by the union of the god Apollo with his mother. Likewise, Alexander the Great was said to have been conceived when a thunderbolt fell from heaven and made his mother Olympias pregnant before her marriage to Philip of Macedon. In the Book of Genesis we read that sons of gods had intercourse with women to produce heroes (Genesis. 6:4). Even the recently discovered Dead Sea Scrolls tell of the miraculous birth of Noah and how his father Lamech was suspicious that his wife had been made pregnant by an angel. Also the writings of Philo of Alexandria, who was born about 20 B.C., contain evidence that some Jews of the period were speculating about miraculous births of religious heroes. Philo relates how Hebrew notables such as Isaac and Samuel were conceived by barren women by the intervention of the divine Spirit.

Fundamental Christians believe that the Bible is the ‘word of God’, an infallible record of the Almighty's influence on his creation, and therefore to be taken at face value. The Bible is definitely the word of Man and the last interpretation of it took place in the Sixteenth Century when King James ordered that the Gospels were to be rewritten into one final book. A careful study of the nativity narratives of Matthew and Luke indicate that the supposedly unerring ‘word of God’ is full of contradictions and inventions. The most plausible conclusion is that the familiar Christmas stories in Matthew and Luke are religious myths, awkwardly grafted onto an earlier non-miraculous tradition about Jesus' birth. They appear to be legends recorded by later Jewish-Christian writers who were attempting to explain the origins of a man whom they considered divine.

None of what I have written here is intended to belittle the man called Jesus. He existed and his teachings which have been passed down to us for almost two thousand years; are still as valid now as they were when he told them.

Christmas has always been a great time of the year for me and my family and no doubt many millions of people around the world. But as time has moved on, there have been attempts at trying to push Christmas aside. For example, In Texas, a fight has erupted over whether to remove a nativity scene from a courthouse. In England, the idea of replacing “Christmas” in some areas with the term “Winterval” has provoked outrage and rightly so. Many people disagree over whether it’s a time of religious observance or as an alternative, a commercialized revel. What really pisses me off is the many stores around the country commercializing Christmas in November. They could at least wait until the beginning of December.

The early Christian church, as it did with many things, kind of appropriated or co-opted the holidays or festivities that were already going on, that had nothing to do with Christ or with the Christian church. They finally chose December 25th as the day of Jesus’ birth.

Although the so-called wise men brought gifts to the baby Jesus, this didn’t bring about Christmas gifts for centuries after that particular time in history. For many centuries, Christmas was celebrated by feasts and revelry and of course, much drinking of alcoholic beverages. Of course, times haven’t changed anything. That still goes on nowadays also. That aspect was maintained in the Christmas festivities in Britain and in much of Europe well into the late Renaissance, even into the 18th century. You have in the Renaissance all kinds of partying and every court, every household, would appoint a “Lord of Misrule” who was a master of the party for the 12 days of Christmas. His job was to stir up the revelry, stir up the disobedience, and play with the idea that this was a time to break from the ordinary routines of their lives. The church didn’t like that aspect, but that’s how people celebrated the days before and on Christmas in years past.

How then did Christmas re-emerge as a quiet family event in the home?

That was really a 19th-century development. By the beginning of the 19th century, a lot of the Christmas festivities had gone out of fashion. The Puritans completely turned up their noses at the Christmas revelry. They felt it was inappropriate for the occasion. They passed laws against the public celebration of Christmas. Various invested parties in the 1830s, 1840s started to revive interest in Christmas. They were reviving a nostalgic vision of merry old England, a vision that never really existed, but it was attractive—this idea of the family getting together. At this point Britain was getting increasingly urban, so there was this movement the cities that advocated bringing the celebration of Jesus’ birth into the house rather than a public celebration in the streets or in the village.

There wasn’t a lot of gift giving associated with Christmas at all during those years. The gift-giving event was on New Year’s. Christmas wasn’t declared a bank holiday until 1834. In the late 17th century, when the Puritans had a lot of sway, there were years there when Parliament sat on Christmas Day. It was a workday. And even after it was declared an official holiday in Britain in 1834, a lot of people preferred to take New Year’s as their holiday. You may recall that in Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, Scrooge wanted his clerk working in his office all Christmas Day. Dickens in the manuscript wrote about Scrooge’s clerk wanting Christmas Day off so he could be with his family that day.

"You'll want all day to-morrow, I suppose?" said Scrooge. "If it's quite convenient, Sir." "It's not convenient," said Scrooge, "and it's not fair.”

This makes me suspect that in England and elsewhere, everyone who had a job had to go to work on Christmas day as if it was simply another work day. Of course, if Christmas fell on a Sunday, they wouldn’t have to go to work.

So singing carols and a quiet night with the family—that really didn’t exist that much in the upper class or the lower class. It existed among the middle class. So if you had the money to have a household staff to run that, then you would have done that. It cost a lot to acquire all the accessories to create that kind of scene, to bring in the food, to create all of that glamorous elegance.

It was Queen Victoria's German-born husband, Albert who popularized the Christmas tree in Britain after their marriage in 1841, the first Christmas card in 1843, and a revival in carol singing. However, it turns out that according to the rules of polite English behavior, Christmas trees shouldn’t be put in in the home until Christmas Eve. I for one and I sure that I speak for millions of people, would like to see my tree up for at least a week before Christmas and at least a week after Christmas.

Some families open their presents after a late supper on Christmas Eve. My family opens their presents after breakfast on Christmas Day. Some people believe that Christmas presents should not be placed under the tree. My family members place the presents under the tree. It’s fun watching my grandchildren prowling under the Christmas tree to see if any presents have been left behind. One thing I have noticed about Christmas trees is that rarely does anyone buy the ‘icicles’ (thin strips of silver paper) to throw onto the trees anymore. They were hard to remove for the next year.

Boxing Day was a far more charitable day than Christmas was. It referred to the literal boxes that might be given by a landowner to his workers. Boxes were also given to the poor. By the 19th century those boxes would eventually be given to your household staff. They’d be working like dogs on Christmas Day to support your party, and on Boxing Day they might have a half-day off or a full day holiday, and they might be given a little box of money, small tokens, some biscuits or homemade wine.

I have always loved Christmas. The carols and other Christmas songs certainly bring cheer to Christians everywhere and no doubt many non-Christians also. When I lived in the small town of Wells in the middle of British Columbia, a group of singers would go up and down the small streets singing carols on Christmas Eve. I would get all goose pimply when I would hear I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas because in Wells, during every Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, soft snow was always falling to the ground.

As a child, I always believed in Santa Claus. I was never convinced however that he only brought toys to good children. I think even us bad children got toys at Christmas rather the infamous lump of coal. When I lived in that small mining town in British Columbia as a young child during World War II, the two mines bought toys for every child in the town and Santa was there at the community centre handing them out to our outstretched hands when our names were called. When my two daughters were of an age when they would no longer believe in Santa Claus, my wife and I told them that we would stop hanging the stockings from the mantel of our fireplace. I said however that if they still believed in Santa Claus, he would visit us and fill their stockings. My daughter’s weren’t stupid. They told us they believed in Santa Claus even when they were in their late teens and Santa always filed their stocking at the mantel above the fireplace year after year.

How did the kindly Christian saint, good Bishop Nicholas, become a roly-poly red-suited symbol for merry holiday festivity and commercial activity? History tells the tale.

The year 1821 brought some new joys of Christmas with publication of the first lithographed book in America, the Children's Friend. This ‘Santa Claus’ arrived from the North in a sleigh with a flying reindeer. The anonymous poem and illustrations proved pivotal in shifting imagery away from a saintly bishop. Santa Claus fit a didactic mode, rewarding good behavior and punishing bad, leaving a long, black birchen rod, directs a parent's hand to use when virtue's path his sons refuse. Gifts were safe toys, pretty doll, peg-top, or a ball; no crackers, cannons, squibs, or rockets to blow their eyes up, or their pockets. No drums to stun their mother's ear, nor swords to make their sisters fear; but pretty books to store their mind with knowledge of each various kind. The sleigh itself even sported a bookshelf for the pretty books. The book also notably marked Santa Claus' first appearance on Christmas Eve, rather than December 6th. The jolly elf image received another big boost in 1823, from a poem destined to become immensely popular, A Visit from St. Nicholas, now better known as The Night Before Christmas.

One year, I gave my grand children a special gift that was in book form. It was The Night Before Christmas. Except, I read the story and my voice was recorded in the book and when they turned each page, music would follow and then my voice would continue reading them the story.

I sincerely hope that your Christmas are an enjoyable time for you and your families. To those of you who don’t celebrate Christmas, I wish you Seasons Greetings.

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