How December 25 became Christmas

How December 25 became Christmas.

The most loudly touted theory about the origins of the Christmas date(s) is that it was borrowed from pagan celebrations. There is another way to account for the origins of Christmas on December 25: Strange as it may seem, the key to dating Jesus’ birth may lie in the dating of Jesus’ death at Passover.

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bruegel-bethlehem
A blanket of snow covers the little town of Bethlehem, in Pieter Bruegel’s oil painting from 1566. Although Jesus’ birth is celebrated every year on December 25, Luke and the other gospel writers offer no hint about the specific time of year he was born. Photo: Scala/Art Resource, NY.

 

The earliest mention of December 25 as Jesus’ birthday comes from a mid-fourth-century Roman almanac that lists the death dates of various Christian bishops and martyrs. The first date listed, December 25, is marked: natus Christus in Betleem Judeae: “Christ was born in Bethlehem of Judea.”3 In about 400 C.E., Augustine of Hippo mentions a local dissident Christian group, the Donatists, who apparently kept Christmas festivals on December 25, but refused to celebrate the Epiphany on January 6, regarding it as an innovation. Since the Donatist group only emerged during the persecution under Diocletian in 312 C.E. and then remained stubbornly attached to the practices of that moment in time, they seem to represent an older North African Christian tradition.

In the East, January 6 [now Epiphany] was at first not associated with the magi alone, but with the Christmas story as a whole.

So, almost 300 years after Jesus was born, we finally find people observing his birth in mid-winter. But how had they settled on the dates December 25 and January 6?

There are two theories today: one extremely popular, the other less often heard outside scholarly circles (though far more ancient).4

The most loudly touted theory about the origins of the Christmas date(s) is that it was borrowed from pagan celebrations. The Romans had their mid-winter Saturnalia festival in late December; barbarian peoples of northern and western Europe kept holidays at similar times. To top it off, in 274 C.E., the Roman emperor Aurelian established a feast of the birth of Sol Invictus (the Unconquered Sun), on December 25. Christmas, the argument goes, is really a spin-off from these pagan solar festivals. According to this theory, early Christians deliberately chose these dates to encourage the spread of Christmas and Christianity throughout the Roman world: If Christmas looked like a pagan holiday, more pagans would be open to both the holiday and the God whose birth it celebrated.   …

Connection between the traditional date of Jesus’ death and his birth.

There is another way to account for the origins of Christmas on December 25: Strange as it may seem, the key to dating Jesus’ birth may lie in the dating of Jesus’ death at Passover. This view was first suggested to the modern world by French scholar Louis Duchesne in the early 20th century and fully developed by American Thomas Talley in more recent years.8 But they were certainly not the first to note a connection between the traditional date of Jesus’ death and his birth.


The baby Jesus flies down from heaven on the back of a cross, in this detail from Master Bertram’s 14th-century Annunciation scene. Jesus’ conception carried with it the promise of salvation through his death. It may be no coincidence, then, that the early church celebrated Jesus’ conception and death on the same calendar day: March 25, exactly nine months before December 25. Kunsthalle, Hamburg/Bridgeman Art Library, NY

Around 200 C.E. Tertullian of Carthage reported the calculation that the 14th of Nisan (the day of the crucifixion according to the Gospel of John) in the year Jesus diedc was equivalent to March 25 in the Roman (solar) calendar.9 March 25 is, of course, nine months before December 25; it was later recognized as the Feast of the Annunciation—the commemoration of Jesus’ conception.10 Thus, Jesus was believed to have been conceived and crucified on the same day of the year. Exactly nine months later, Jesus was born, on December 25.d

This idea appears in an anonymous Christian treatise titled On Solstices and Equinoxes, which appears to come from fourth-century North Africa. The treatise states: “Therefore our Lord was conceived on the eighth of the kalends of April in the month of March [March 25], which is the day of the passion of the Lord and of his conception. For on that day he was conceived on the same he suffered.”11 Based on this, the treatise dates Jesus’ birth to the winter solstice.

Augustine, too, was familiar with this association. In On the Trinity (c. 399–419) he writes: “For he [Jesus] is believed to have been conceived on the 25th of March, upon which day also he suffered; so the womb of the Virgin, in which he was conceived, where no one of mortals was begotten, corresponds to the new grave in which he was buried, wherein was never man laid, neither before him nor since. But he was born, according to tradition, upon December the 25th.”12


Learn about the magi in art and literature in “Witnessing the Divine” by Robin M. Jensen, originally published in Bible Review and now available for free in Bible History Daily.


In the East, too, the dates of Jesus’ conception and death were linked. But instead of working from the 14th of Nisan in the Hebrew calendar, the easterners used the 14th of the first spring month (Artemisios) in their local Greek calendar—April 6 to us. April 6 is, of course, exactly nine months before January 6—the eastern date for Christmas. In the East, too, we have evidence that April was associated with Jesus’ conception and crucifixion. Bishop Epiphanius of Salamis writes that on April 6, “The lamb was shut up in the spotless womb of the holy virgin, he who took away and takes away in perpetual sacrifice the sins of the world.”13 Even today, the Armenian Church celebrates the Annunciation in early April (on the 7th, not the 6th) and Christmas on January 6.e

Thus, we have Christians in two parts of the world calculating Jesus’ birth on the basis that his death and conception took place on the same day (March 25 or April 6) and coming up with two close but different results (December 25 and January 6).

Connecting Jesus’ conception and death in this way will certainly seem odd to modern readers, but it reflects ancient and medieval understandings of the whole of salvation being bound up together. One of the most poignant expressions of this belief is found in Christian art. In numerous paintings of the angel’s Annunciation to Mary—the moment of Jesus’ conception—the baby Jesus is shown gliding down from heaven on or with a small cross (see photo above of detail from Master Bertram’s Annunciation scene); a visual reminder that the conception brings the promise of salvation through Jesus’ death.

The notion that creation and redemption should occur at the same time of year is also reflected in ancient Jewish tradition, recorded in the Talmud. The Babylonian Talmud preserves a dispute between two early-second-century C.E. rabbis who share this view, but disagree on the date: Rabbi Eliezer states: “In Nisan the world was created; in Nisan the Patriarchs were born; on Passover Isaac was born … and in Nisan they [our ancestors] will be redeemed in time to come.” (The other rabbi, Joshua, dates these same events to the following month, Tishri.)14 Thus, the dates of Christmas and Epiphany may well have resulted from Christian theological reflection on such chronologies: Jesus would have been conceived on the same date he died, and born nine months later.15

In the end we are left with a question: How did December 25 become Christmas? We cannot be entirely sure. Elements of the festival that developed from the fourth century until modern times may well derive from pagan traditions. Yet the actual date might really derive more from Judaism—from Jesus’ death at Passover, and from the rabbinic notion that great things might be expected, again and again, at the same time of the year—than from paganism. Then again, in this notion of cycles and the return of God’s redemption, we may perhaps also be touching upon something that the pagan Romans who celebrated Sol Invictus, and many other peoples since, would have understood and claimed for their own, too.16

Source: How December 25 became Christmas, by Andrew McGowan in Bible History Daily, September 24, 2020.

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Radicals can’t stop the Jesus Film – Central Asia

Central Asia: Radicals can’t stop the Jesus Film

Jesus Film Project team members had arranged for a film showing outside a Central Asian village. Upon arrival near the community, an area they knew to be dangerous because of religious radicals, they sensed something was not right.

With no moon, all the team members could see were faint silhouettes of buildings and trees. They felt an unsettling and eerie foreboding but began playing music through the speakers to attract people from the nearby community to the film showing.

Nobody came, which almost never happens. Suddenly, they heard the sound of rustling bushes and the cracking of branches breaking under the feet of 12 radicals rushing toward them. Waving machetes, they screamed, “We are going to kill you and every infidel with you!” The three team members fled for their lives, running as fast as they could to their Jeep. With hearts pounding and fumbling to get the Jeep started, they sped away.

A year later, through prayer, they recognised that those people still needed to hear the Gospel, so they asked the Lord what they should do. In agreement, they felt God urging them to go back, although the risk was great. The members loaded the ‘JESUS’ film and equipment back into their Jeep, along with three boxes of Bibles, and headed for the village, several hours away.

‘Can you give me a ride?’ the police officer asked

On the road, they came to a police checkpoint – a potentially dangerous stop in the road considering the load of Bibles. The officer asked where they were going. Trying to be noncommittal, they said, “We are headed south.” To their surprise, he said “Well so am I. Can you give me a ride?” There was no way they could refuse the officer’s request. Insisting on climbing into the back of the Jeep, the officer sat on a box full of Bibles. They feared if the officer looked into the box, they could be arrested or possibly killed.

So they prayed and drove on. Soon, the team approached another police checkpoint. Popping his head out from the back of the Jeep, the first police officer told the other officers, “I’m with them. You don’t need to search the vehicle.” The police waved them through. This happened at three more police checkpoints, and all three times he got them through. At his request, they drove the officer to his home, where he invited them in for tea. Once there, he asked what they were planning. “We’ve come to show a film about the Great Prophet Isa (Jesus).”

In gratitude for their kindness, the officer asked, “What do you need?” This was the same village where radicals chased them out a year earlier, nearly killing them with machetes. “We need permission,” they answered. “Oh, that’s no problem. My brother is the mayor. Where do you want to show this film?” They asked, “Could we use the town square?” (This is where they had tried unsuccessfully before.) The policeman replied: “Sure, but you know we have some radical elements here. So I’m going to have my police guard you as you show the film.”

That night 167 people came to Christ

The team prayed and set up their equipment. Once again, as they had a year earlier, they played music as darkness fell to draw the people. This time a crowd gathered, sat down and watched ‘JESUS’, hearing the Word of God in their heart language. For the first time in their lives, they learned who Jesus really was. The Holy Spirit ministered to their hearts. Jesus was not just a great prophet, but the Son of God who demonstrated power and authority over sickness and death, was raised from the dead, and offered all who believed in Him eternal life. That night 167 people came to Christ!

These new believers need the support of trained church leaders, but training programs are lacking. And due to the threat of extreme violence, any evangelism must be carried out with sensitivity and wisdom. Please pray for the safety, growth and spiritual maturity of those in underground house churches. Ask God for a miraculous explosion of religious freedom and that believers would be bold in sharing their faith with family and friends.

Source: Jesus Film Project

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The Jesus Film

The history of the Jesus Film Project

1979: “JESUS” premieres in 250 U.S. theaters.

1980: “JESUS” has first international showing in Hindi to 21 million Indian viewers. First “JESUS” film teams launch in the Philippines.

1984: “JESUS” film translations reach 100.

1985: The ministry “The JESUS Film Project” is founded.

1989: First Soviet Union language premier in Georgia, the birthplace of Stalin.

1991: First convocations on Christian morals and ethics, linked with the “JESUS” film, are held for Russian educators. It becomes the International School Project.

1993: “JESUS” reaches an astonishing one-half billion viewings.

1997: “JESUS” reaches one billion viewings and is translated into 400th language. Dramatic audio/radio versions of “JESUS” developed.

1999: “JESUS” reaches 500 translations. “The Story of Jesus for Children” is produced.

2001: “JESUS” is shown in every country around the globe. Audio/radio translations reach 200. The “JESUS” film is distributed in New York after the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks.

2002: Total viewings: 5 billions, Translations reach 700.

2003: “JESUS” film translations 800, audio/radio translations 300, “JESUS: Fact or Fiction?” apologetic DVD produced and packaged with “JESUS” film.

2004: The Global Short Film Network begins.

2007: 1,000th translation of “JESUS”. The film “Magdalena: Released from Shame” premiers at the United Nations, NY—and in 22 countries.

2009: Film translations: 1,071, Audio/radio translations (“The Story of Jesus”): 423, Translations of “The Story of Jesus for Children”: 135, Translations of “Magdalena: Released from Shame”: 48.

2012: Erick Schenkel named executive director of Jesus Film Project. Jesus Film Project app is released.

2013: 10,000th projector shipped.

2015: Enhanced 35th-anniversary Blu-ray edition of “JESUS” released. Version 2.0 of the Jesus Film Project app makes it easier for people to find videos of Jesus in their own language. Jesus Film Project sets goal to reach 5 billion people by 2025.

2017: 1,500th language produced for the Daasanach people.

Today: Jesus Film Project carries more than than 30 short and feature length films, and has partnered with more than 1,500 ministries to see more than 500 million indicate decisions to follow Jesus.

Many missions organizations have called the JESUS film “one of the greatest evangelistic success stories of all time.”

Jesus Film Project’s goal is to help people experience Jesus in their own language using media tools and momentum-building strategies. The fact that “JESUS” has been recognized by The Guinness Book of World Records as the “Most Translated Film” in history reveals how seriously we take the objective to share the gospel with people from every nation, tribe, and tongue.

Similarly, the Bible is the most translated book in history.

The Bible has been translated into many languages from the biblical languages of HebrewAramaic and Greek. As of October 2019 the full Bible has been translated into 698 languages, the New Testament has been translated into an additional 1,548 languages and Bible portions or stories into 1,138 other languages. Thus at least some portions of the Bible have been translated into 3,384 languages. (Wikipedia)

Noah’s Ark Museum – now sailing

Noah’s Ark Museum – now sailing

 

Noah’s Ark in the port of Ipswich.

A Christian who took the Brexit to heart is Dutch artist and theatre producer Aad Peters. He owns a 70 meters long replica of Noah’s Ark and sailed this ship to the English port of Ipswich. It’s the largest Bible museum in Europe.

The boat was launched nearly ten years ago and has travelled across Europe visiting more than 50 different ports welcoming more than half a million visitors.

“I came to England because I want to make a statement that you guys are not alone,” he told British broadcaster ITV. “We’re here as friends, as brothers, and the Ark is also a sign of hope.

What makes me sad about England is the mistrust which creates all the discussions and people taking sides. In the Ark we share King Solomon’s story who threatened to kill a baby in order to find out who the baby’s true mother was. It is a challenge to today’s Remainers and Leavers to simply get along with each other as well as the rest of Europe. If you don’t love each other, you might kill the baby.”

Source: Aad Peters

Joel News International, #1150,  December 2, 2019

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Bible Story Pictures & Models

Bible Story Pictures & Models

Children’s Picture & Model Book activity book

Bible Story Pictures & Models – PDF

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* Bible Story Pictures & Models stands out above the rest, looks and sounds original, fun and very inspirational.  Your wonderful children’s activity book seems to have it all and is exactly what we look for in an excellent Christian activity book for children. Your stories are great for teaching children basic Bible stories. Your illustrations and models are all terrific for them to color and create. It is all very well done and inviting for your targeted young readers.   Ellery Alouette ~ A Kids Lit Book Café.

*  This is an excellent children’s bible story and activity book. Our family loves it and enjoys it everyday reading a different story and creating our own pictures and models. Thanks to the author for putting this wonderful book together for families to learn more about the Lord’s Word while enjoying some creativity time as well.  ~  Jewell Hart, Chick Lit Café.

Bible Story Pictures & Models by Geoffrey Waugh is a wonderful and inspirational children’s coloring, painting and models activity and workbook packed full of a variety of basic Bible stories to learn from and study throughout the year. It is an amazing and fun children’s activity book to be used in any Sunday school or homeschool classroom to ensure a strong Biblical foundation is laid for your children and students. This hands-on, easy-to-use guide is laid out perfectly to use as a creative tool for simple to understand Bible lessons with fun and enjoyable illustrations, pictures and models to colour and create. It can also be used as a supplemental workbook to go along with other Biblical resources.
This versatile creative book can be used in many different imaginative ways and also has a supportive introduction with some helpful tips and suggestions on ways the book can be utilized at home or Sunday school for a child to learn about God and His word. It also includes some fun tidbits about the author and his own Sunday school experience and his recommendations on how to get the full benefits when using this book. Coloring, painting or making copies straight from the book are all great ways this book can be applied.
Bible Story Picture & Models by Geoffrey Waugh is a fun and creative book that I would highly recommend to any teacher or parent looking to give their children and students a full enriching journey through the gentle guidance of this outstanding Bible story coloring activity book & models. Our homeschooling family absolutely loves this wonderful book and has already started using it. Our children are especially enjoying it with excitement while they learn more about the Bible through the stories, along with coloring, painting and creating with the fun-packed inspirational activities. Bible Story Picture & Models by Geoffrey comes highly recommended by Kids Lit Book Café.  Book reviewed by Beatrix Bloom for A Kids Lit Book Café.

Contents

Introductions

58 Pictures & Models

Songs

Notes

Appendix

 

Introduction

Bible Story Pictures & Models is an activity book with 58 pictures and models for children and parents or teachers to enjoy.

You can download the PDF and/or Word versions of these models and pictures and reproduce them with a printer or photocopier. These models are freely available in PDF and Word documents here, ready for you to use. You can print a page on stout paper or cardboard to use personally or in a class. If you have small children they can colour a picture or you can cut out the models for them to colour.

I received them freely and I make them freely available for you on my Renewal Journal website, along with my other books. This book, of course, is available in paperback. It makes a useful activity book gift for children to colour.

Bible verses in large print give clues to the stories and are useful as memory verses. This book gives you a year of weekly stories and activities.

You can, of course, adapt or improve these pictures and models yourself if you wish. They can give you creative ideas to use at home or in Sunday School or Children’s Church or Religious Education in school.

Parents can enjoy time with their children and their children’s friends. Teachers can enjoy time with their classes using these materials. You don’t have to use the sequence in this book. Pick your own sequence, for example at Christmas and Easter.

When I was a young boy, my mother and Sunday School teachers gave me these models.  They copied the models onto coloured cardboard using tracing paper and carbon paper. So I enjoyed countless hours making or colouring or playing with these models and pictures. I learned and was fascinated by the stories that these pictures and models illustrated for me.

My mother gave me copies of copies of these pages and I, in turn, copied them when, about 16, I began teaching children in Sunday School. I don’t think I ever saw the original drawings. So these pictures are copies of copies of copies! In this book, I have kept a lot of the story titles my mother used and also the original printing by hand in some of the pictures and models.

May the Good News of God’s great love spread far and wide.  Be blessed.

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