Let us begin with a bit of a dark picture. Nowhere in the Holy Scriptures are we told about a celebration commemorating the birth of Christ Jesus. Nothing in the Scriptures gives us any sure evidence about the date of this magnificent event. (The article you are reading was inspired by a larger article that goes into a lot of more detail about the same topic. To access it click here.)

The lack of Scriptural specificity about the facts surrounding the birth of the Judean King stands in sharp contrast to the details available about his death (each of the four Gospels provide the exact timing of Jesus’ death).

In the late second century, the Greek Church Father Origen mocked yearly celebrations of Roman birth anniversaries, discounting them as deeply pagan practices. This suggests that Christian communities did not yet celebrate Christmas during Origen’s lifetime (c.165-264). The first church figure to discuss the date of Jesus’ birth was Clement (c. 200), an Egyptian preacher from Alexandria.  However, December 25 was not even mentioned. By the middle of the fourth century, however, we find that Western churches were already celebrating the Birth of Christ on December 25, while the Eastern Churches did so on Jan. 7th.

How did the early Christians arrive at this dating?

Surprisingly, the early church followed a very Jewish idea – that the beginning and the end of important redemptive events often happen on the same date (Babylonian Talmud, Rosh Hashana 10b-11a). In the beginning of the third century, Tertullian reported that since he knew precisely when Jesus died (14th of Nissan or March 25), he also knew exactly when he was conceived! He was most-likely wrong in his conclusions, but at least we can now see how they arrived to date of Christmas.

The logic went as follows: If Jesus was conceived on March 25 then counting forward to the 9 months of Mary’s pregnancy would place His birth on December 25. This is especially intriguing because January 1st used to be celebrated as the Day of Christ’s circumcision (8 days from the evening of Dec. 24).

It is very important to note that it was not until the 4th-6th centuries of the Common Era that Christians began to “Christianize” the local pagan celebrations of the peoples they sought to evangelize. There is no doubt that it was at this time, but not before, that Christmas began to acquire some of its pagan traditions. Why? Because until c.300-320 CE, Christians were fighting a counter-cultural war with the pagans of the Roman and Persian world. Consequently, they were not in the mood for cultural adaptations just yet.

Since December 25 as the supposed date of Christ’s birth was circulated 100-150 years before the practice of “Christianizing” pagan celebrations commenced, it is unreasonable to conclude that this date was adopted to please the Roman pagans as popular conspiracy theory suggests.

It is true that in 274 CE a Roman Emperor declared December 25 to be, “The Day of the Unconquered Sun,” (Sol Invictus). However, that was some 70 years after Christians had settled on December 25 as their Christmas date. (Moreover, the decree itself may have been issued to help stamp out the newly established Christian celebration). Before answering our main question, I think we should answer few related ones:

Is Christmas a Biblical Holiday?

No. It was not commanded by God in the Bible.

Does the celebration of Christmas contain elements that are pagan in origin?

Absolutely. There is no doubt about that whatsoever.

Is December 25 the correct date for celebration of the Birth?

Possible, but highly unlikely.

And finally, is Christmas a Pagan Holiday?

There is nothing pagan about speculating that December 25 is the birthday of Jesus.

Inaccurate?

Probably.

Pagan?

No

BEGIN YOUR JOURNEY OF DISCOVERY

372 COMMENTS

  1. Alright, friends. As promised.... here comes the most controversial post of the year. I anticipate a lot of "hate" mail to come my way. Please, prove me wrong!
    • I submit that just because God did not commend celebrating Christ’s birthday is insufficient reasoning to not do so. God did not commend the Feast of Dedication yet Jesus himself participated and used the occasion to declare “I am the Light of the world”. If the host of heaven could demonstrate such joy, we the redeemed certainly have reason to celebrate. To me the “date” is a “curious” but non critical matter.

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    • Hi Dr. Eli, I have no objections to the well thought out article. I would like your input on a video called the Bethlehem Star https://youtu.be/oGUlWa2r-bk.

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    • MERRY Christmas to you in JESUS Holy Name amen, God bless You. I don't celebrate Christmas like the pagans did. Since the OT says that we can set aside any day as unto him then I set aside December 25th to the Lord Jesus Christ, personally

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  2. I have a question not about Christmas, but a very serious topic about Yeshua as a Messianic I have been told that some Messianics do not believe in the deity of Yeshua and don’t believe in the father, son, and Holy Spirit that they r one.please help! Confused !
    • Some so called Messianics do not believe in the deity of Yeshua. However these would more honestly call themselves Ebionites- a sect that split away from the Nazareens in the late 1st century primarily over this question. However the shaliachim (apostles) clearly did believe in His deity, as did Yeshua Himself. He forgave sins; a thing which only God could do. A lot of organizations from these Ebionites to cults to Hebrew Roots try to fly the Messianic flag. That doesn't make them Messianic, any more than Jim Jones was a Christian.
    • "Right" question. There is only one perfect answer. The historical Jesus from Nazareth has never considered himself as God (Mark 10:18 and parallel Synoptics) but he prayed to God as Father (the most famous prayer: "Our Father who art in heaven..)After and because of his resurrection, he was called the Son of God (Rom1:4).A plain logic (with semantics) teaches the relation between terms: "father" and "son or daughter" -as relational names not having meanings on their own like individual or general ones - is absolute or eternal. There is nothing "mysterious" or magical in the term "Trinity" as generally assumed.
    • That is absolutely not true!!!!!. The Messianic faith does believe in the Father, Son, Holy Spirit, which we call the Trinity, even though the word "Trinity" does not appear in the Bible. I am not sure where you got your information from.
  3. I believe that Luke 1 gives three time clues that show Jesus' birth to be during the Feast of Tabernacles...late September to early October. I have read studies that verify this in my spirit. It's not a big thing one way or another, but it surely helps me accept all the secular nonsense attached to Jesus" birth date of December 25th. I celebrate during the Feast of tabernacles and enjoy the secular stuff in December! It's a win-win for me! God bless you and Happy Christmas season!!
  4. Happy to leave you wrong. A well balanced response. Christians need to be careful about how they practice and emphasize the holiday, but finding a conspiracy of paganism around every corner is counterproductive. (Paul’s teachings about food sacrificed to idols seems to apply in principle here)
    • Absolutely right and because the census was always taken in september and joseph and mary went to bethelham to register but every inn was full so they had to use a cave , a place where they kept the animals!According to the early jewish writings, JESUS was born on Seot. 11! It goes by when the census was taken and that was in september always! And that is when JESUS is coming back, at when the feast of trumpets! When we celebrate Jesus birth, we remember that he was born but born to die for all of humanity!
  5. I look forward to your posts. My former teacher/ pastor of Ed. emphasized that we "think Hebrew" when we studied scripture. You add just that insight and truth to the written word, Thank you for your dedication.
  6. Hate mail should never exist, however, let Wisdom be to our Ehad all Glory for He is our giver of all Wisdom. Very controversial topic but let the Truth shine.
  7. Thank you for this post, Dr. Eli. I am sorry that there will likely be hate mail generated by the content; it is a sad commentary. I found it thought provoking and interesting. Those who feel impelled to send nasty notes are insecure at best....
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