The Origins Of Christmas And The Date Of Christ’s Birth -- By: Kurt M. Simmons

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 58:2 (Jun 2015)
Article: The Origins Of Christmas And The Date Of Christ’s Birth
Author: Kurt M. Simmons

The Origins Of Christmas And The Date Of Christ’s Birth

Kurt M. Simmons*

* Kurt Simmons may be contacted at 1628 N. Guadalupe St., Carlsbad, NM 88220.

The origins of Christmas and the date of Christ’s birth are separate but related questions. However, Christmas is usually assumed to have no connection with the actual date of Christ’s birth. Discussions regarding the origins of Christmas typically omit reference to the birth of Christ, unless it is to affirm it is unlikely he was born December 25th. This is unfortunate because it has skewed discussion and taken it in directions which tend to impugn the legitimacy of Christmas itself. However, chronological evidence strongly favors December 25th being the actual date of the nativity, such that the assumption that Christmas is unconnected with the date of Christ’s birth is no longer academically defensible or sound.

I. Genesis Of The Discussion

Discussion regarding the origins of Christmas stems largely from the Reformation. Although many Reformers took no exception to Christmas, various Calvinist sects, including Puritans and Scottish Presbyterians, saw it as a piece of fiction, and went so far as to prohibit its observance in England, Scotland, and the American Colonies. The sentiments of John Knox were typical of the time:

By contrary Doctrine, we understand whatsoever men, by Laws, Councils, or Constitutions have imposed upon the consciences of men, without the expressed commandment of God's word: such as be vows of chastity, foreswearing of marriage, binding of men and women to several and disguised apparels, to the superstitious observation of fasting days, difference of meat for conscience sake, prayer for the dead; and keeping of holy days of certain Saints commanded by men, such as be all those that the Papists have invented, as the Feasts (as they term them) of Apostles, Martyrs, Virgins, of Christmas, Circumcision, Epiphany, Purification, and other fond feasts of our Lady. Which things, because in God's scriptures they neither have commandment nor assurance, we judge them utterly to be abolished from this Realm; affirming further, that the obstinate maintainers and teachers of such abominations ought not to escape the punishment of the Civil Magistrate.1

Although both Protestants and Catholics are likely to take exception to at least some things listed above, few today would include Christmas. Christmas an

abomination to be punished by the civil magistrate? Surely that is going a bit too far. Yet, such was the animus that gave birth to the dispute over the origins of...

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