This is in Exile in Exile


The Mother of All Pagan Holidays
Part Two

By Rabbi Shlomo Nachman © December 29, 2010 (last updated December 17, 2017 )

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         'Tis the season to debate Christmas, Falalalalalalalala! So Let's Continue!

Go to: Part 1: The Mother of All Pagan Holidays
This is: Part 2: The Birth of Yeshua ben Yosef
Go to: Part 3: The Real Reason for the Season
Go to: Part 4: The Dark Truth About Santa Claus
Go to: Part 5: Saint Nicholas and the Nicolaitan Heresy
Go to: Part 6: A Christmas Song

The Birth of Yeshua ben Yosef (Jesus, son of Joseph)

Here's the main Gospel account of his birth:

Luke 2:1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.
2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger [i.e. a phatnay in Greek, which translates as sukkah in Hebrew]; because there was no room for them in the inn.
8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a deliverer [Greek soter], who is anointed [Greek christos] of the Lord.
12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger [i.e. a phatnay in Greek, which translates as sukkah in Hebrew].
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger [i.e. a phatnay in Greek, which translates as sukkah in Hebrew].
17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

This tells us a lot!

A phatnay or sukkah (verses 7,12,16) is a temporary shelter erected by Jews in honor of the festival of Sukkot (in remembrance of the Exodus from Egypt). Sukkot is a biblically mandated holiday (Leviticus 23:34) observed on the Jewish calendar on Tishri 15-21.

Note that Yosef, Miriam and Yeshua stayed in a sukkah rather than in an animal stable as normally depicted in the Christmas creches. The Greeks, having no such festival, used the word phatne to convey the idea of the small temporary Jewish dwellings. This verse, along with the other hints given, suggests that Yeshua (Jesus) was probably born during this important Jewish festival in a traditional Jewish sukkah. More on this below.

Verse 11 quotes the angel ("messenger") as saying: "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a deliverer..." [Greek: soter]. Most Christian Bibles translate soter as Savior here to establish their belief in his believed propitiatory death. That this was the intended meaning of author however is far from certain. The word soter is used to reference the following (among others):

    It is a title of Pagan Gods:
  • Poseidon Soter,
  • Zeus Soter,
  • Dionysus Soter,
  • Athena Soteria
  • Hecate Soteria.

    It is also used of mythical figures. In this usage Soter is synonymous with the Daimon leaders of the Hellenistic dynasties. For example:
  • Ptolemy I Soter
  • Antiochus I Soter
  • Demetrius I Soter
  • Rabbel II Soter
  • Attalus I
  • Seleucus III Ceraunus
  • Ptolemy IX
  • Diodotus I
  • Strato II
  • Strato I
  • Menander I

Based on the common usage of the word it is clear that the word does not mean "savior" nor mashiach (messiah) in the Christian sense. At most the Greek text says the child born would be a great hero or leader.

The similarities between the Christian Jesus and the Greek Dionysus soter are far too many to be coincidental, including the fact that Dionysus was said to have been one of many Pagan gods born on Christmas day! He had 12 disciples, performed public miracles and so on.

When was Yeshua Born?

Governor Publius Sulpicius Quirinius:

One question scholars have debated since the founding of the Roman Universalist ("universalist" is catholic in Latin) religion is the year of Jesus' birth. This reference by Luke (above) clarifies the matter somewhat. We should be able to find this decree in the Roman archives and establish the year this particular census took place and, thereby, determine the exact date of his birth. Alas its not that easy.

Our text says that this Roman census -- the Greek word apographo does not refer to a "taxation" as in the King James Version but to a written census or registration for identification purposes -- was "the first census made when Quirinius was governor of Syria."

According to the noted Roman historian Florus, around 14 BCE Quirinius defeated a desert-dwelling tribe of outlaws (known as the Marmaridae) while he was governor of Crete and Cyrene. This victory brought him to the notice of Augustus as a rising star.

We know that Quirinius had significant clout with the Roman hierarchy at the time Yeshua is believed to have born (circa 7-4 BCE). However, he was not yet governor of Syria as Luke says here at that time.

In 6 CE the Roman Province of Iudaea -- i.e. Samaria, Judea and Idumea combined -- was placed under direct Roman governance. At that time Coponius was named Prefect of Iudaea and Quirinius (Cyrenius in the KJV) was appointed Legate or Governor of Syria (so he was governor of Syria as Luke says, just a bit later than he has it). One of his first duties as governor was to conduct this census/registration for the purpose of enabling Rome to more efficiently tax the people of his province later (so the census was to make the future taxation more efficient, but was not itself the taxation as Luke says).

The text literally says this was to be a "census" of "all the world" but the context refers only to "the Roman world." This was common Roman ethnocentrism. According to well established Roman records this census occurred in 6 or 7 CE (i.e. AD) which fits with Quirinius' known service to Rome as established elsewhere. Luke therefore, while a bit off in his time line, gives us essentially accurate information to work with.

Based on this information, we can conclude that the historic Yeshua ben Yosef was around 7 to 10 years old when the census was taken. This changes nothing essential in his accepted story.

We know that in 12 CE Quirinius returned to Rome as a close associate of Tiberius and nine years later he died and was given a public funeral.

According to both Luke (Luke 1:5) and Matthew (Matthew 2:12) the historic Yeshua was born during the reign of Herod the Great (who lived 73/74 BCE - 4 BCE depending to who you ask; i.e. based on Josephus' description of a specific lunar eclipse that occurred verses certain Roman documents; for scholarly debate on this see notes 1-5 here). If Yeshua was born during the reign of Herod of the Great -- not to be confused with his son Herod Antipas (born some time before 20 BCE and died at some point after 39 CE) who ruled Galilee between 4 BCE - 39 CE – then, the historic Yeshua had to have been born before Quirinius' 6 or 7 CE census was taken and indeed at some point prior to 4 BCE. This further supports my view that his birth took place between 7 - 4 BCE while Herod the Great was still on the scene, as the New Testament describes.

Since we know the date of Herod the Great's death (i.e. 4 BCE) and Herod Antipas' reign from well established records, the earlier date for Yeshua's birth, that being circa 7-4 BCE seems fairly well established, Luke's imprecise comment about Quirinius' census dates not withstanding.

Can we narrow this down a bit more? We can.

Matthew 2:19 records that Yeshua was living with his parents in Egypt (where they had fled for safety) when Herod the Great died (i.e. in 4 BCE):

Matthew 2:19 But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Yosef in Egypt, saying,
2:20 "Arise and take the young child and his mother, and go into Eretz-Y'israel, for those who sought the young child's life are dead."
2:21 He arose and took the young child and his mother, and came into Eretz-Y'israel.
According to the texts Yeshua was born, his family fled to Egypt, and then they returned to Eretz Y'israel in or after 4 BCE (having heard of Herod's death). His being born in 7 BCE then is supported by this account, again, Quirinius' census dates not withstanding. We can with fairly reasonable certitude say therefore that Yeshua was born in or near 7 BCE because there had to be the passage of time between his going to and returning from Egypt for his birth to be reconciled with known history.

Having established this, we now turn to the time of the year he was born.

December 25th in Israel:

Our text informs us:

Luke 2:8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
These shepherds were "abiding" or "camping" in the wilderness and watching over their flocks all night to protect them from wild animals, poachers and so on. This would not be the case in the middle of winter! The animals would have been stabled during December, not subjected to the winter cold, rains and occasional snow. The shepherds might arguably have taken them out to nearby grazing fields in the daytime, but the text specifically states that the shepherds were camped out with their flocks all night long. Northern Israel's weather is Mediterranean, essentially like the Central California Coast. This means hot dry summers and cold, wet winters. Late December and January are the coldest months of the year in Israel with temperatures ranging from 1 - 13 degrees Celsius (33-55 degrees Fahrenheit).

Assuming Luke is correct on this point Yeshua was not born in the dead of winter according to the New Testament records. So, if Yeshua was not born in December where did we get that date?

The Catholic Church openly acknowledges the intentional misdirection of the December 25 date but are reticent to acknowledge its real origin. Here's their version of what happened:

The Calculation of Dionysus Exiguus

We are told that a noted Catholic Scythian monk and abbot named Dionysius Exiguus sought to determine the birth day of Yeshua ben Yosef and erred in his calculations. His supposedly honest mistake is said to have resulted in the inaccurate Christmas date and the Church saw no reason to correct it.

As we will show below however there was much more to choosing this date than an honest error of calculation. Indeed, had it been an honest mistake the Church certainly would have had every reason for correcting it! Surely they would want to protect the Church from Pagan practices, right?

According to the Vatican here's what happened:

Under Roman rule dates were counted from ab urbe condita: AUC (which is to say, dates were based on the founding of the City of Rome by Romulus and Remus). Therefore what they date as the year 753 BCE was calculated as their (Roman) year 1 AUC (i.e. the year Rome was founded) and all Roman dating goes forward from that point (as the modern calendar begins with year 1 CE).

Dionysius Exiguus thus began his calculations based on the known dates of Roman Emperor Augustus (who reigned 43 years) and those of Emperor Tiberius who succeeded him. Luke 3:1 and 3:23 tells us that Yeshua turned 30 years old during the 15th year of Tiberius' reign. Dionysius Exiguus therefore concluded that Yeshua lived 15 years under Augustus (thus placing his birth during the 28th year of Augustus).

It is known that Augustus came to power in 727 AUC, and so Dionysius established the birth year of Yeshua as 754 AUC, which is to say, the year 1 CE according to modern calculations. Makes perfect sense, even though its incorrect.

As discussed above however, Herod the Great died in 750 AUC and both Matthew and Luke place the birth during his reign. So the problem again is with Luke's (altered?) text as we now have it.

I am convinced that all four Gospel accounts were originally written in Hebrew (and later translated into Greek, and from the Greek into Aramaic). If this is correct, the error (or deliberate alteration) doubtless slipped in during the third or fourth century as the Greek translations of Luke's account were proliferating and before the Aramaic became popular, because the Aramaic version in the Peshitta contains the same discrepancy here.

Joseph A. Fitzmyer, Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies at the Catholic University of America and member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission and former president of the Catholic Biblical Association, acknowledges that "the year of Jesus birth, is based on a miscalculation introduced ca. 533 by Dionysius Exiguus." (see Addison G. Wright, Roland E. Murphy, Joseph A. Fitzmyer, "A History of Israel" in The Jerome Biblical Commentary, Prentice Hall: Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1990, p. 1247).

Consider this also:

The DePascha Computus, an anonymous document believed to have been written in North Africa around 243 CE, placed Jesus birth on March 28. Clement, a bishop of Alexandria (d. ca. 215 CE), thought Jesus was born on November 18. Based on historical records, Fitzmyer guesses that Jesus birth occurred on September 11, 3 BCE.
The scholars disagree.

My conclusion on this issue: Yeshua's Likely Birth Date:

The simple fact is that at this point we do not know for certain when the historic Yeshua ben Yosef was born nor when he was executed by the Romans. I completely disagree with those who maintain that he never lived; his existence is certain in my opinion. We do not however know the exact year, month nor the day with certainty. It seems most likely to me from what we do have that his birth occurred during the eight day Jewish festival of Sukkot, as discussed briefly above. This biblical festival begins on Tishri 15 (five days after Yom Kippur as described at Leviticus 23:33-44).

As for the time of year it was certainly not midwinter based on Luke's description of the 'shepherds abiding in the fields by night'. The description of the child being born in a sukkah or a phatne in the Greek version, supports the idea of a Sukkot birth and this fits everything else that is known.

This coupled with the elevation of Publius Sulpicius Quirinius (as Herod Antipas was making his influence known in Rome during the waning years of Herod the Great) makes the following the most likely date for his birthday:

Thursday, October 6, 7 BCE

By my calculations this would make his likely birthday on or a few days after Thursday, October 6, 7 BCE (on the Gregorian calender or October 8, 7 BCE on the Julian) which was the first day of Sukkot that year. This date is also harmonious with Matthew and Luke's accounts and explains why there were sukkot available for the family to dwell in.

As For His Death:

As for his death, the scholarly confirmation of the Judas Osuary seems to have settled this for those who accept objective evidence. The debate of course will continue. From my Facebook post:

The question of Jesus' existence as a real flesh and blood human being seems to have been laid to rest at last. I've been following this for years. The “Jesus Family tomb” appears to have past another confirmation hurdle.

I am now personally convinced that this is the actual family remains based on the evidence.

From the piece:

Through methodical scientific testing, Shimron and Jacobovici say that were able to connect the James ossuary ... archeologically and statistically proving the existence of Jesus Christ. The discovery, according to the researchers, proves that Jesus was buried in Jerusalem along with nine other people, one being “Judah, son of Jesus,” another his supposed wife, Mary."

While this discovery and its repeated vindication disproves the resurrection, his lifelong celibacy (which would have been impossible if he was a "rabbi" as the New Testament states), it does open the door to rediscovering the historic Yeshua ben Yosef and his reformist teachings. It also includes James (the Way sect elder and author of the Book of James), Jesus' brother, which the Catholic Church denies, claiming that Mary only had one child and remained a perpetual virgin.

For my Facebook discussion on this: Go here.

  Continue to Part Three

Go to: Part 1: The Mother of All Pagan Holidays
Go to: Part 3: The Real Reason for the Season
Go to: Part 4: The Dark Truth About Santa Claus
Go to: Part 5: Saint Nicholas and the Nicolaitan Heresy
Go to: Part 6: A Christmas Song

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