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The Hebrew Roots Movement, the Law and Christmas

I have been visiting a few Hebrew Roots Movement pages on Facebook and the web over the last few days since they are all abuzz again with the pagan/Christmas myths. I have literally (and kindly) asked them to provide evidence that would prove the myth of any pagan deity’s birthday, festival or feast day being honored on December 25th before Christians noted and observed it beginning in the 2nd century. Needless to say, not one has provided anything thus far.

Sadly the Hebrew Roots Movement and their teachers are blind to the historical evidence that supports the fact that the December 25th date is solely Christian in origin. While some of the trimmings may be attributed to paganism -Santa Claus, Yule Logs, etc- the date itself is not. However, the myths still persist without any historical basis with the Hebrew Roots Movement seeming very content in parroting this myth and persecuting Christians, even though doing so goes against the Law of the Bible and Jesus’ words that all lies are of Satan:

John 8:44: You are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father you desire to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has not stood in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks from his own [resources], for he is a liar, and the father of lies.

Since there is no historical proof that the December 25th date is pagan, it is a blatant lie. Furthermore, the Bible prescribes a specific amount of witnesses to verify a fact, or what is truth, when making claims against someone:

Matthew 18:15-16: “And if your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have won your brother. 16 But if he does not hear, take along with you one or two more, so that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’

John 8:17:  It is also written in your law that the testimony of two men is valid.

The Hebrew Roots Movement insists that Christians are committing an abomination by observing Jesus’ birth since they assert that it is pagan. However, where is their proof that it was a pagan date and we are committing a crime as required by the Bible?

Deuteronomy 19:15 One witness shall not stand to testify against a man for any iniquity, or for any fault, or for any sin which he may commit; by the mouth of two witnesses, or by the mouth of three witnesses, shall every word be established.

1 Timothy 5:19: Do not receive an accusation against an elder unless on [the basis of] two or three witnesses.

Going completely against the very Law they claim to follow, the Hebrew Roots Movement bases their claim that observing Jesus’ birth on December 25th originated in paganism on the testimony of only ONE semi-ancient witness in a vague mention to Sol in the Chronography of 354, which states that:

“…on December 25 “N·INVICTI·CM·XXX” = “Birthday of the unconquered, games ordered, thirty races” -Chronography of 345 Part 6 via Tertullian.org

This is the OLDEST reference to the birth of Sol on December 25th.  There is absolutely nothing else in history before 354 which links Sol or even Mithras to December 25th.

Aurelian in 274 is often pointed to however, those games where in August, October and on December 11th.

So going back to the sole source using the December 25th date, there are several problems with this citation as “proof” that the December 25th date is pagan. First, Scholars do not even know for a fact IF this was in reference to Sol or to Christ as Jesus was called the unconquered sun or Invicti by some Roman Christians:

The latter celebration attributed to Sol in the calendar of 354 could well mean Jesus as His birth is listed and the Bible along with the early Church did in fact consider Christ to be the Sun:

By “the sun of righteousness” in Malachi 4:2 “the fathers, from Justin downward, and nearly all the earlier commentators understand Christ, who is supposed to be described as the rising sun”.[65] -Carl Friedrich Keil, Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament (Eerdmans 1969), vol. 25, p. 468;

The New Testament itself contains a hymn fragment: “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”[66] -Ephesians 5:14

Clement of Alexandria wrote of “the Sun of the Resurrection, he who was born before the dawn, whose beams give light”.[67]-Clement of Alexandria, Protreptius 9:84″, quoted in David R. Cartlidge, James Keith Elliott, The Art of Christian Legend (Routledge 2001 ISBN 978-0-41523392-7), p. 64 -Wikipedia article on Sol Invictus and Christmas

Second, this does not pre-date the Christian application of the date to Jesus.

In order to prove that the date is pagan one would need two or three witnesses from BEFORE Christians first used the date in the 2nd century. But nothing of this sort exists!

There are no text, no inscriptions, nothing at all from the actual Cults of Sol or Mithras nor is there any from the festival of Saturnalia.

Bottom line, nothing in history predates the Christian application of the date to Christ, as the earliest witnesses to the December 25th date for Jesus’ birth come from the 2nd and early 3rd century A.D.  In all there are at least five witness, Clement of Alexandria (196 A.D), Hippolytus of Rome  (200 A.D. and 234 A.D),  Tertullian, Julianus Africanus (221 A.D) and The Constitutions of the Holy Apostles (unknown to 250 A.D).

But this is not the only that December 25th was not observed by pagans before the early Church. There are multiple Modern Scholars who have debunked the myth of pagan origins as well:

In point of fact, the evidence for a religious festival of any kind for the sun god on December 25 is not only meager but also exceptionally late, as it dates to the second half of the fourth century AD. In fact, it postdates our earliest evidence for the celebration of Christmas.- Prof. Steven Hijmans,

‘There is quite simply not one iota of explicit evidence for a major festival of Sol on December 25th prior to the establishment of Christmas, nor is there any circumstantial evidence that there was likely to have been one.’,- Prof Steven Hijmans,

It should be noted that Professor Hijmans is a notable Scholar and Professor of Roman History, Art and Archaeology.

‘There is no evidence of any kind, not even a hint,from within the cult that this, or any other winter day, was important in the Mithraic calendar. Although three seasonal zodiacal signs are singled out in the iconography (Taurus, Leo and Scorpius), Aquarius, the sign that would correspond to notional mid-winter, being diametrically opposite to Leo, is never paid special attention. No Mithraic votive is dated 25th December (VIII A.D. KAL. IAN.). -Jaime Alvar Ezquerra {2}, ‘Romanising oriental Gods: myth, salvation, and ethics in the cults of Cybele, Isis and Mithras’, in Gordon (ed. trans.), Religions in the Graeco-Roman World, p. 410 (2008).

Jaime Alvar Ezquerra is a Spanish historian, author and professor at the Charles III University of Madrid, specializing in ancient history.

There is no evidence of any kind, not even a hint, from within the cult that this, or any other winter day, was important in the Mithraic calendar. – Dr. Alvar, 410

‘Of the mystery cult of Sol Invictus Mithras we know little with certainty, and even if we leave aside the problem of the relationship between the Mithraic mysteries and the public cult of Sol, the notion that Mithraists celebrated December 25th in some fashion is a modern invention for which there is simply no evidence.‘, – Prof, Steven Hijmans

Polemicists (and The Da Vinci Code) frequently state that 25 December was Mithras’ birthday, yet the renowned Mithraic scholar, Dr Richard Gordon has corresponded to me that he is unaware of ‘a single date on a Mithraic inscription that falls in the winter, let alone late in December… We know NOTHING about the cycle of rituals in the cult…’ So, Christmas owes nothing to Mithraism. – Quote from Dr. Richard Gordon from answering-islam. org

Dr. Richard L. Gordon was honorary professor of Religionsgeschichte der Antike at the University of Erfurt, Thuringen.

Many Christians think that Christians celebrate Christ’s birth on December 25th because the church fathers appropriated the date of a pagan festival. Almost no one minds, except for a few groups on the fringes of American Evangelicalism, who seem to think that this makes Christmas itself a pagan festival. But it is perhaps interesting to know that the choice of December 25th is the result of attempts among the earliest Christians to figure out the date of Jesus’ birth based on calendrical calculations that had nothing to do with pagan festivals.

Rather, the pagan festival of the “Birth of the Unconquered Son” instituted by the Roman Emperor Aurelian on 25 December 274, was almost certainly an attempt to create a pagan alternative to a date that was already of some significance to Roman Christians. Thus the “pagan origins of Christmas” is a myth without historical substance. -Dr. William Tighe, Touchstone Magazine, Professor of History at Muhlenburg College

Add to this list, Anglican Scholar Andrew McGowan, French scholar Louis Duchesne and Thomas Talley among many others and that is well beyond the two or three witnesses prescribed by the Bible to establish a matter versus one witness from 354 A.D that could have been a reference to Christ anyway.

Plus there is not even one witness that pre-dates Christians in the establishment of the December 25th date for Jesus’ birth date. You see the problem is that Authors and Scholars from the 18th and 19th century made a crass presumption. The presumed that December 25th was kept for Mithras, Tammuz and so on dating back to Ancient Babylon based solely on the Chronography of 354. It was presumed that Sol was Mithras therefore this link was made backwards through history without any proof text aside from the Chronography. Scholars have never found any ancient references to December 25th to prove this presumption.

Many modern encyclopedias, including the Encyclopedia Britannica, reflect this fact in their updated works:

This view presumes—as does the view associating the origin of Christmas on December 25 with pagan celebrations of the winter equinox—that Christians appropriated pagan names and holidays for their highest festivals. Given the determination with which Christians combated all forms of paganism, this appears a rather dubious presumption. -Encyclopedia Britannica Online, Easter

Conclusion

Based on the abundance of actual evidence and not presumption and the complete lack of evidence from any ancient source to prove the December 25th was ever kept as anything but Jesus’ birth date before the 2nd century, the Hebrew Roots Movement sadly appears to be breaking God’s Law, even though they claim to follow it, and as usual have very little shame in doing so.

Image by bluartpapelaria from Pixabay

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