Christmas day and the pagan "Sol Invictus"


You need to define what you mean. If you are talking about the azimuth of the sun setting or rising changing by a full degree that can take 12 days. Around the time of the solstice the daily change is small (0.01 degree), but not zero. My point is since the “pause” is a subjective judgement it could be 3 days, it could be 5 days, or it could be 2 weeks. It all depends on the observer. It also depends on how the observer is making this judgment. They would need to have a reference point to which they could compare the sunset position and they would have to always make the observation from the same point. Given they had no idea of the distance to the sun they wouldn’t be aware of the requirement to always use the same observation location.

Can ancient people make accurate observations of the sunrise/sunset position at the solstice? Yes they can but when they do they will notice that it hits the southern most location on only one day.

(George Brooks) #54


Quote your source on the five days.

I myself have not once bumped into an “appearance of a 5 day pause”. But I would love to be corrected. Since I have only heard of the 3 day appearance of a pause, you can understand why I didn’t attempt to distinguish between the two periods.

By the way, I’m not yet convinced that any of the ancient astronomers could consistently distinguish or perceive 1 one hundredth of a degree. That would be something like 14 minutes difference, right?.. 14 minutes out of 365 days.

I figure the Vatican had the resources to accomplish a distinction in solar readings of 14 minutes… but did the Egyptians or the Babylonians?


Ignorance? Sorry that a YouTube video wasn’t on my list of research. Virtually every astronomical claim on that video was invented out of thin air. The Southern Cross (Crux) constellation was discovered in the mid-15th century, and so has no relevance to the December 25th date of Christmas.

I’m still aware of no archaeological/textual evidence of a December 25th date of any signifance before Christmas. Offering a Zeitgest-type youtube video isn’t changing that.

(George Brooks) #56


Oh for goodness sake… I disavow the Southern Cross. It wasn’t a clip to prove the southern cross. Obviously the fellow who made the video thinks it’s better than sliced bread… so he pulls in other ideas…

The video clip to show you what it was meant by the 3 day pause.

And that is not made up. That is exactly what happens between the Winter Solstice and December 25.

That’s actually why the suffix “stice” is in the word Solstice!

1200-50; < Middle English < Old French < Latin sōlstitium,
equivalent to sōl sun

  • -stit-, combining form of stat-,
    variant stem of sistere to make stand (see stand)
  • -ium -ium; see -ice)

(Ronald Myers) #57

To answer Jonathan Burke’s question about which holiday. From memory I would answer Saturnalia. Now looking it up in Wikipedia, the dates are close but not exact. It is unlikely that the Romans had a second holiday follow closely on this one so I conclude that there is a date error of some sort. It could be anything from the date for Saturnalia moved from the time it was noted in the Roman historical record to the time Christmas was established to simply that the two dates are not at all connected. One should be cautious in using the classical writers since a date from one century may not apply to all Roman era centuries. As important is the need to think of December 25 as anything but an arbitrary choice. What Christian doctrine or practice would change if either December 25 were known to be the exact date, or that the exact date was some other date? Indeed, what doctrine would change if we decided to celebrate Christmas on October 20th?


I checked out your dictionary link and Washington Post link. Neither of them mentioned the 25th of December. This entire three days sub thing after the solstice is astronomical fiction.

The only thing I found about the suffice -stice is from wiktionary that says it’s the proto-Germanic word for prick/sting/stitch.

I don’t know if that’s what you’re looking for. There is no pagan celebration on the 25th, moderners made that up to attack Christmas.

On the evidence for Jesus

There is no date of error, Saturnalia is on a different day than Christmas. If you looked hard enough, you could probably find a pagan celebration close to almost any time of the year.

The origins of the 25th of December date are pretty well understood, you should scroll up this forum. In either the late 2nd or 3rd century, some people started claiming that the date of Jesus conception was March 25th. Since women are pregnant for nine months, some ancients thought “if Jesus conception was March 25th, and he was born nine months later, the date of Jesus birth must be December 25th.” Just read a book written by a historian, it’s not a secret.

(Jon) #60

I already dealt with Saturnalia. The dates are all different. Here’s what I wrote.

Nor was December 25 connected with Saturnalia; this festival was typically celebrated on December 17, sometimes from December 14 to 17,[34] [35] and even when it was later extended to a week it still ended on December 23, not December 25.[36] [37]

Additionally, there is no positive historical evidence indicating that Saturnalia was influential on the choice of December 25 as the date of the birth of Jesus, still less the much later celebration of the feast of the nativity which came to be known as Christmas. This absence of evidence is not positive evidence that Saturnalia was not influential in such a way (that would be an argument from silence), but it is negative evidence contra-indicating the theory that Saturnalia was influential in such a way.

[34] ‘But all our surviving calendars that preserve the month of December mark 17 December as the date for the Saturnalia. In his discussion of the origins of the Saturnalia, Macrobius explains that the Saturnalia was often celebrated over three days from 14 to 17 December, since the former was the date given by the Numan calendar, the latter the date given by the Julian calendar after Caesar added two days to the month.’, Newlands, ‘Statiu’s Silvae and the poetics of Empire’, p. 236 (2006).
[35] ‘The Saturnalia occupy a position exactly between the Consualia of the 15th and the Opalia of the 19th of December.’, Versnel, ‘Inconsistencies in Greek and Roman Religion 2: Transition and reversal in myth’, p. 165 (1993).
[36] ‘Eventually, the carnival expanded to a full seven days, December 17 to 23.’, Littleton, ‘Gods, goddesses, and mythology’, volume 11, p. 1255 (2005).

(Jon) #61

So what? Those are not sources I quoted. They’re also plain wrong.


The Sun or Moon Altitude/Azimuth Table on the US Naval Observatory web site and an estimation of how much of a change could be detected.

My point exactly. With no fixed observation position it would be very difficult. With a fixed observation position it would be possible, think Stonehenge,

36 minutes. And you are making my point for me. If ancient astronomers couldn’t distinguish 0.01 degree then it would take more than 3 days to see the difference. BTW the sun’s angular diameter is 0.53 degrees. It takes 9 days for the azimuth at sunset to change that much. If you can figure out how much of a change they could distinguish it would tell you how long a period of time would be considered a “pause”, but I bet somebody decided it was “3 days” to make it agree with a pet theory.

The Babylonians had a highly developed system of astronomy and probably knew the solstice only lasted one day because they measured the length of the solstice day.

So to get to a 3 day pause you need an observer that was skilled, but not too skilled. Who do you believe came up with the 3 day pause?

(George Brooks) #63


Huh? You are going to stick with that story ? That there was no celebration anywhere in the Pagan world on December 25?

Man, you are one brave dude…You don’t even know how much you don’t know … and you are adamantly denying all of it…

Here’s an Online SunTool …

Learn something…

(George Brooks) #64


You really have no idea what you are talking about. You describe the Babylonians as if they knew the Sun and the Planets were in elliptical orbits around Earth.

The reason the Planets, the Moon and the Sun were characterized as intelligent beings is because they were unpredictable.

And the general belief was that these celestial objects were communicating information to the mortals below by their every irregularity (and by some of their regularities too).

The modern astronomical analemma creates a geometric table showing the viewer how the Sun sped up and slowed down at various times of the year. These changes were filled with meaning… foolishly derived meaning perhaps… but not just randomness.

Frankly, I didn’t expect to pick up two people in the audience who virtually reject a common and accepted understanding of interpreting solstices in the A.N.E. For at least one here, the very meaning or interpretation of the word “solstice” is up for grabs! How do you two expect to defeat the atheists in the world if you don’t know your histories?

(Jon) #65

You’re not answering the question George. Here’s the question again.

(George Brooks) #66


Priestly astronomers who wanted to derive some meaning from the 3 day slow-down/pause. The interpretation became broadly accepted, and triggered secondary and tertiary interpretations over the course of multiple centuries.

But if you have a better answer, I’m eager to hear it.

(Jon) #67

Ok great. Which priestly astronomers? Who were they? When did they live? Where did they live? Where’s the documentary evidence for all this?

(George Brooks) #68


Look, I still haven’t put together the time necessary to answer your prior questions. Why don’t You answer this one this time. I actually have some pressing matters on this side of the world that don’t have anything to do with BioLogos. And the questions you are asking are not really my area of expertise. But based on the challenges I have been facing from our other 2 correspondents, there is a lot of room for lack of expertise.

How would you answer @Bill_II’s question, in the stunning @Jonathan_Burke way? I’m sure I would find your version of your answer to be quite informative.

(Jon) #69

Pro tip, don’t make claims that you can’t support. This will save you a lot of time and angst in the future. In this thread you keep making claims for which you have no evidence, and consequently the amount of work you need to do in order to substantiate your hasty claims, just keeps pilling up.

Why? Because I don’t know. Like him, I don’t know any ancient observer who came up with the idea of this “three day pause” you keep claiming was observed, recorded, and celebrated by some ancient priests who you can’t identify. That’s your claim, and you have to support it. It’s not other people’s job to look for evidence for your claims.

(George Brooks) #70


So are you here to score debating points? Or are you here to advance the discussion of facts?

I’ve asked you nicely to contribute. I don’t have time right now. And instead of responding to my request, you characterize my lack of time as some sort of grandiosity of ignorance on my part.

Look… I’m serious. I’ve got plenty of things on the fires here … and if you need my permission to take a nap, then here it is. I don’t have time to play “dueling questions” with you … especially if you reject my request to have a turn with the questions in the duel.

So your idea of a duel is: you have a machine gun, and I have a white flag? Ha. Wait your turn or help out, Jonathan. You don’t want to win the All Time Bloviating Award every year, do you? I have some matters to attend to.

(Jon) #71

Advance the discussion of facts. That’s why I made a fact filled post which was thoroughly supported by a range of scholarly sources.

And I have contributed. You’ve asked me to find something which I don’t think exists, and I’ve told you I don’t think it exists.


Huh? You are going to stick with that story ? That there was no celebration anywhere in the Pagan world on December 25?

I never said there were none, I simply said that if you really wanted to, you could probably find a pagan celebration close to almost any date in the year. Thus, saying that Saturnalia is “close enough” to Christmas in time isn’t enough. No matter when Christmas happened, there would probably be some pagan holiday close to it in time.

As far as I’m concerned, 1) If there are any pagan celebrations, I’m not aware of them, and 2) if there are any such pagan celebrations or events, it definitely isn’t the solstice or saturnalia.

I could try using that sun earth tool, but it’d take a bit for me to figure it out. Pretty complicated. Are you telling me that your use of the sun earth tool has proven a rise of the sun after the solstice for exactly three days?

Or maybe you can admit that there are no pagan events relating to December 25th and that the entire claim is a modern fiction.