Christmas day and the pagan "Sol Invictus"

(George Brooks) #122


Try to visualize how an ancient person could have constructed an analemma … without any reference to modern time-keeping:

  1. Instead of going blind by looking towards the sun, they would erect a semi-permeable shadow stick. The Sun’s location would be inferred by precise measurements of the terminal end of the shadow from the shadow stick.

  2. Since there was no clock, they needed to calculate a full 24 hour period. Let’s say, through constant use and manufacture of candles with consistent burn rates, they know that in a secret closet of their temple, eight and 1/3 “half candles” - - as determined by a carefully measured half way mark on all the candles used - - combines to represent a full day & night period (aka, a full 24 hour period).

  3. Every day, at exactly 8 and 1/3 half candles, the shadow stick’s shadow would be measured. On cloudy days, the candles would continue to be lit and monitored, and on the next sunny day, the interpolations could be calculated for the cloudy day(s).

  4. I assume, the longer/taller the shadow stick, the precision of the shadow can extend to more and more decimal places (even if the user had never heard of decimal places).

I would agree with you that “without a clock”, the ancients would have a difficult time. But an analemma works off of 24 hour cycles… all they would need is a way to measure exact 24 hour periods.

Definition of an Analemma?: While the daily data obtained could be used to make an “Analemma” … it seems more likely they just kept the data in table format … with the focus being on the number of “degrees” the sunrise changed every day.

(Jon) #123

Which ancient civilizations did all that stuff, and where are the records proving they did so?

(George Brooks) #124


Maybe you should ask Prof. Hijmans.

[BioLogos readers, if you have not yet established your Free access to, I highly recommend it. In fact, @Jonathan_Burke has an extensive list of complete articles there for your review as well!]

You are asking something well beyond my pay grade. And yet you expect me to produce the information. Any “plain reading” of Hijmans’ “The Sun Which Did not Rise in the East” (2003) clearly confirms that pagan culture, from days immemorial … or at least untrackable to my finite knowledge … equated the Winter Solstice, or more specifically, December 25, to Cosmic Symbolism.

To say that this is erroneous is equivalent to saying that all the the Osiris connections (to the “ending of the Winter Solstice”), all the Tammuz connections (to the “ending of the Winter Solstice”), are all imaginary or fictional - - and that at most all the Sol Invictus connections only become true and historically traceable after they “stole” the symbolism from Christianity.

Your approach to this discussion seems less than admirable. It wold be equivalent to a crusty old blogger on some Greek Mythology list insisting that someone else produce the original Greek texts that prove Homer really lived. It’s one thing to challenge the implicit views of the writings associated with Homer … but yet quite another to argue whether Homer ever really existed: “no photos, it never happened”.

A) Modern astronomers can confirm and sustain the 3 day pause between the day when the Sun’s sunrise is at its most southerly point on the horizon vs. the day when the Sun begins again to move approximately a full degree back in the northerly direction.

B) Ancient writers write fulsomely on pagan mythologies concerning a “mythical” three days in the underworld, endured by either gods, or humans and associated with forces of nature - - once again sending the Sun back to its annual reunions with the Spring Equinox, the Summer Solstice, and finally the Fall Equinox, before returning once again to the Winter Solstice).

C) Implicit in all this is that some ancient culture, somewhere, spoke of this 3 day (or even 6 day?) pause in the daily pattern of sunrises. I do not know which of the ancient cultures accomplished this, or which one accomplished it first. Nor do I need to know. Once one culture discovered it, it would be natural for other cultures to assimilate this celestial reality, without going through the effort of re-proving it.

D) If Hijmans implicitly concurs there was Pagan interest in December 25 (whether rightly referred to by the term Winter Solstice or not, and whether the Winter Solstice was best understood as a single day or the conclusion of a series of days), then you will have to take it up with him (or whatever academic proxy you would like to select).

Jonathan, as you know from the Hijmans article, he actually agrees more with you and your multiple positions (than with me and a few of my positions). So I would think you would be gratified that I found a “witness”, very much hostile to some of my other claims, to support my specific assertion that at least some of the ancient pagans knew of, and had an interest in, the Solar pause leading up to December 25.

(Jon) #125

I am asking you to provide evidence for your very specific claim. As always, if you do not have evidence then you should not make claims. Simple. Pointing to someone else’s article which does not say the same as your claim, is just not good enough.

Do you know that Hijmans actually suggests that the pagans appropriated December 25 for Sol Invictus after the Christians had already connected it with Christ’s birth?

No. I am asking you to provide evidence for your specific claims. Simple. Homer’s existence doesn’t need to rest on “the original Greek texts that prove Homer really lived”, by the way. History isn’t done like that.

You are supposed to be providing evidence for what you claim ancient astronomers did, not what modern astronomers can do.

Which ones? How many? Which texts? When are they dated?

In other words this is just an assumption you have made, without any evidence to support it.


How do you measure 24 hours without a clock?

And more importantly how do you keep time with enough accuracy to be able to determine the analemma?

From Wikipedia

In other words, no analemma until the mid-17th century.

(George Brooks) #127


Again with the machine belt responses?

I’m telling you right up front, and consistent with my other comments to you about your kind of “grind-em-down” postings…

I am going to respond to as far as I could read without being disgusted. And this time, I could only get to the first sentence.

You wrote:
“I am asking you to provide evidence for your very specific claim.”

And I will refer you to my lengthy post I wrote as my sufficient evidence for my claim that I wrote to @Korvexius.

I am doubly amused by your posting:

  1. You seem to think that your question is different from @Korvexius’.
  2. You seem to think you deserve more than I wrote for Korvexius.

While I used to see your behavior as obtuse, I have now come to understand that you really can’t control it.

My answer to you and Korvexius is right here:


Is that supposed to be your way to evade the point that there is no astronomical event that takes place from the 22nd-25th?

(George Brooks) #129



Did you read this post from @Bill_II

Do you understand what Bill is describing? Unfortunately, his numbers end before he reaches Dec 25,
so you can see the jump to almost a whole degree in a day (365 days for 360 degrees).

But here’s an image that shows a comparison of the Summer and Winter azimuths…

Do you understand the significance of the analemma’s shape? This kind of “infinity-symbol” is only possible if the sun is slowing down and speeding up at various times of the year, and moving from north to south and back again. We know that the speeds are changing because sometimes there is more space between images of the sun in one part of the pathway, and there is less space in another part of the pathway (with, of course, the reliance that the photographer is keeping the time intervals between pictures constant).

I think you need to walk back all your accusations and denials about a simple astronomical truth…
there is a 3-day pause (at least 3 days) that occurs every winter.

(Jon) #130

It has already been explained to you several times that there’s no evidence the pagans were aware of any such pause. If they were, why is there no evidence for a festival of Sol at the winter solstice until well after December 25 was already established as the birthdate for Jesus?


As Jonathan noted, the pagans didn’t know of any such “pause”. But was there even a pause? These are the numbers you posted:

Dec 19 118.00 degrees
Dec 20 118.02
Dec 21 118.03
Dec 22 118.03
Dec 23 118.02
Dec 24 118.01

I don’t see a pause at all. It looks like the sun peaks in degrees on the 22nd, and then starts going down again. There’s no specific pattern, it continuously goes up until the 22nd and then starts declining. I don’t see a particular relationship here between the 22nd-25th (which is 4 days, not 3). So what’s up with this?

(George Brooks) #132


Ahhh… and now the moving target.

My assertion has been that Pagans were interested in December 25. I had a reason to think that.

You can attack the reason if you like… which, by the way, has not been verified either way yet.

But if you are now saying that “Yes, they were interested in December 25… but not because of why you say George” … .well, then the dispute is over.

My assertion was always couched as: “Yes, ancient pagans had a symbolic interest in December 25”.

Hijmans says so. Everybody says so… except @Korvexius
and I am guessing that you are starting to understand that even you have to say so… the Pagans had
an interest in December 25.

I knew you would eventually come around, @Jonathan_Burke.

Too bad about the kid, Korvexius, aye?

(George Brooks) #133

@Korvexius, shame on you.

Where’s December 25, my good sir?

You deliberately selected the 6 days of symmetrical slowdown… Could that have been accidental? I suppose it must be … because who would ordinarily do that?


everybody says so… except Korvexius

Not exactly. Hijman says there’s a serious possibility that the pagan December 25th date only rose as a reaction to Christmas. So perhaps the reason why pagans were interested is because of Christians, not astronomical datum they didn’t know existed.

Wouldn’t you agree with that?

Too bad about the kid, Korvexius, aye?


(Jon) #135

That’s the point. You keep making this claim without any evidence. That’s why it hasn’t been verified.

No that is not what I am saying. You have been trying to argue that they were interested in December 25 before Christians adopted the date for Christmas. I have consistently denied this. I have pointed out that the quotation from Hijmans proves that they didn’t become interested in December 25 until after Christians adopted the date for Christmas. I have said this consistently right from the start.

Where does Hijmans say that they had an interest in December 25 before Christians adopted the date?

(George Brooks) #136


I provided the key text from Hijman’s article: before there was Christianity, there was a universal symbolism in the winter behavior of the Sunrise.

You can say could-a and might-a as much as you want. But the one thing Hijmans does not say is that the Pagans never had any interest in December 25.

He quotes ancient sources that talked about the Pagan practices being copied by some early Christians. And that this might have been debated by Church Fathers.

But he says Christianity adopts the pagan interest in the symbolism because of universal and cosmic symbolism… not because the Christians were trying to suppress the Pagans.

That’s the point of his article.

Furthermore… we haven’t even begun to discuss the ancient Pagan cultures whose astronomy and mythology was well established even before the rise of Alexander the Great.

(Jon) #137

But he says nothing about the date December 25 of the complicated astronomical calculations you attribute to the pagans, or any festival on December 25, or that “three day pause” you keep talking about.

No, he quotes one single twelfth century Christian saying it was copied by Christians and dismisses the source because it’s 800 years after the fact and there’s no evidence supporting it.

(George Brooks) #138


He calls December 25 the Solstice (per Roman practice). That’s all he had to do.

It is clear in the article that he has no real awareness of a “slowdown” or a “pause”. As far as he is concerned,
simply the Sun going down, and then coming up, is all that was needed to justify the cosmic and universal importance of the Sun’s behavior.

There’s no academic anywhere (except maybe some Evangelical zealots) who would possibly go out on a limb and say that no pagans anywhere at any time (until the rise of Christianity) had any interest in the “uprising of the Sun during the time of the Winter Solstice”!

Drop, it Jonathan. You are trying to prove the impossible and the un-provable.

(Jon) #139

No that is not all he had to do.


And I haven’t said that either. Your entire argument has been that the Romans had a festival to Sol on December 25, and that the Christians hijacked this for Christmas. To date you have provided absolutely no evidence for this whatsoever, and you’ve been shown that academics dropped this idea decades ago.

(George Brooks) #140

No, @Jonathan_Burke

One: The fact Hijmans didn’t even understand there was a slowdown, and yet still argues for the cosmic symbolism of the Sun’s behavior shows that the 3 day pause is not the crucial issue.

Two: I have argued that Pagans, long before Christianity, had a symbolic interest in December 25. When asked why, I gave my fulsome explanation. You can’t penalize me just because Hijmans doesn’t know the fulsome discussion.

Three: I think you have a typo in your posting. Long ago, in the face of complexities and gaps in the evidence, I had to settle for the simple idea that the Pagans were interested in December 25 long before Christians settled on that date for the birth of Jesus.

Hijmans, by any standard, agrees with this position. In any case, I’ll ignore it. His final paragraphs prove it. That’s all he had to do. And he does so within the very article that he famous for … explaining why Christians didn’t adopt the date to suppress Pagans or whatever …

Ultimately, and days ago, that was not the assertion I was defending. You are done.

(Jon) #141

But you have made the “3 day pause” the crucial issue, specifically to try and get to December 25.

But you haven’t provided evidence that there was any pagan festival on December 25.

But you still haven’t shown this.