On the evidence for Jesus

(Jon) #43

See now you are abandoning your original claim. Remember, you claimed that my footnote said “in one of your footnotes, Tammuz was recognized in connection with December 25 by the Babylonian priests”. But it not only says nothing about December 25, it says nothing about Babylonian priests. Nothing at all. Your claim was complete fiction.

You provided more than one quote from him that the idea that there was a specific pre-Christian festival on December 25 was fictional, because there is no evidence for it at all. I said exactly the same thing. Both of us said it in the context of the pre-Christian Roman empire. Both of us said that it’s possible that some pagan society somewhere in the world at some time in the pre-Christian era did hold some kind of festival on December 25, but we don’t have any evidence for this either.

The fact is that you went on and on and on about Christians borrowing the date December 25 from some preChristian pagan festival, but no matter how many times you were asked to identify this mysterious pagan festival you were completely unable to do so. You kept saying you were going to present the evidence, and you never did. You were told repeatedly that there was no evidence for such a festival and no evidence that Christians hijacked the date, and you continued to repeat the claim regardless. Now Tim has turned up and put you to the question yet again, and you’ve finally acknowledged that you have no evidence for the claim and you realise it was just an empty assumption. So you’ve finally acknowledged the fact which everyone else was telling you about repeatedly, weeks ago.


It’s comical to be acused of historical ignorance by someone claiming the December 25th date in Christianity can be pinpointed to paganism.

(George Brooks) #45


@Jonathan_Burke, I don’t even understand your protests anymore.
@Korvexius said there was no pagan connection to December 25 at all. You agreed with him.

And you are both wrong. And you are both wrong about something exceptionally silly to be wrong about.

Just accept it, Jon.


You still have produced no evidence for a pagan connection to December 25th. All you’ve done is say “it would be insane to think that there was no pagan group in the history of humanity that had a relationship with the december 25th date!!” But that claim is unfalsifiable and so doesn’t help your case. There’s still no evidence for the obvious fiction of paganism being connected with December 25th.

(RiderOnTheClouds) #47

Just look at the ridiculous misrepresentations of the historical evidence for Jesus by Cult of Dusty. He clearly hasn’t done the most basic amount of research, yet acts like Jesus historicists haven’t. It’s insulting to anyone who is reasonable and intellectually honest with themself.


(George Brooks) #48


I strongly advise you to take a “longer view” about the people with whom you correspond here at BioLogos. It is not wise to work yourself into such an awkward corner, even if you really, really, really think you are right.

You have seriously challenged me on a point of history about which I am relatively knowledgeable… with bold indictments that my view on ancient pagan interest in the Winter Solstice (or more specifically, December 25) is a Fiction… indeed, even an intentional lie by those who hate Christianity. And that I’m just foisting this lying fiction on a beguiled audience.

But your command of the facts, which could give you at least a plausible standing to make such accusations, is terribly flawed - - despite several attempts by me to send you in the correct direction!

Below are three parts of my response to your egregious accusations. It is based purely on an examination of Hijmans’ article from 2003 - - which in the several subsequent years even Hijmans, no doubt, has supplemented with more investigation and fact finding.

But my enabling your lack of general comprehension regarding astronomy (then and now) and the symbolic importance of elements of astronomy will end with Hijmans. If you want to impress me or anyone else, you will need to do your own investigating into the evidence to prove your charges (assuming Hijmans is actually insufficient to bring you out of darkness into light). He is no friend to my position, as you should know. And yet even he does not attempt to argue that the pagan connection to December 25 is a fiction. I would think his academic efforts would be enough to bring this episode to an end.

If I am wrong in my expectations, and you still think you have the capacity to demonstrate mine and Hijmans’ serious error in analysis, perhaps you could revisit your review of the term:

“Solstice”, in general, and “-stice” specifically.

Academics have pointed out that the English word is ultimately based on the Latin term for what could be translated as “Sun Standing Still”:
“Sol-” = Sun and -stice being a suffix variant of the Latin term for “to stand”.

You may recall your posting about your research into the root term “stice”; surely a sincere but badly executed effort.

For goodness sakes, man! At the very least, your tracing of the root “stice” to “sting” will make a great conversational topic at the annual “False Etymological Methodology” conference for years to come!

All you had to do was scroll down to the Etymological section of the dictionary page on the internet … and you would have seen it for yourself! As a courtesy, I provide the actual etymology for your review a little further below.

By the way, the reason modern dictionaries don’t equate the Winter Solstice with December 25 (or even mention it) is modern audiences have the benefit of exact astronomical instruments and precise math to assign the term “Winter Solstice” to the precise and single day on which the Sun rises at the southernmost part of the morning horizon!

As others have mentioned, the sun does start its progress back northwards beginning the very next day, but by such a tiny amount, the appearance is that the Sun is in a pause - - a pause of 3 days. Thus the ancients sometimes considered the entire 3 day period as the “solstice”. Prof. Hijmans himself, in the conclusion of his 2003 article, actually refers to the Winter Solstice as December 25 (either because this was a common practice by the classical societies and/or he didn’t, in 2003, know the full details of the sun’s behavior).

In any case, I will tell you (for your sake) the better approach is to look for an etymology of the original English word, so that you can benefit from the work of generations of linguists who have the experience to know where “stice”, in this very specific case, comes from. Looking up “stice” really isn’t going to cut it.

Here is what Dictionary.com tells the reader (frequently the internet dictionaries provide more than one version of the Etymology of a word, so be ready for that as well):
First used in 1200-1250; < 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)

Dictionary.com Unabridged - Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.

Related Anecdote:
It is not unusual for the modern citizen to be unaware of the origin of such linguistic roots as
"sis", as found in the name “the Sistine Chapel”. It certainly is not a reference to a Pope’s sister!

“Sis” comes from a Pope’s name - -

Word Origin and History for Sistine
first used in 1769, literally “pertaining to Pope Sixtus,” from Italian ‘sistino’, from ‘Sixtus’,
name of five popes, from Latin sextus “sixth” (see Sextus. My note: a name unimaginatively
given to one’s 6th child!).

The “chapel” is named for Sixtus IV (Francesco della Rovere), pope 1471-84, who had it built. The painting by Raphael known as the Sistine Madonna is so called because it also shows Sixtus II, a 3rd century martyr and saint…"

But enough of the entertainment. Below are my three parts from a review of the Hijmans 2003 article on
Jesus and December 25!



Christmas day and the pagan "Sol Invictus"

You spent a ridiculous amount of time to say that ‘solstice means sun standing still’. Perhaps being concise is not your strong point. You then repeat the same astronomical fiction that the sun ‘rises’ from the 22nd-25th, and you base this off of a Zeitgest video you found on YouTube that doesn’t give any of its sources.

As for that paper you quote, it’s an interesting one, but I’ll simply quote more scholars than you did to rest that part of your argument.

‘All this casts doubt on the contention that Christmas was instituted on December 25th to counteract a popular pagan religious festival, doubts that are reinforced when one looks at the underlying understanding of Sol and his cult.’, Steven E Hijmans, Sol: The Sun in the Art and Religions of Rome (S.l.; Groningen: s.n.; University Library Groningen 2009), 592.

‘In short, we have no firm evidence for a festival for Sol on December 25th until Julian wrote his hymn to Helios in December of 362. The entry in the calendar of 354 is probably for Sol, although only the epithet invictus is used (above, n. 4), and probably dates to 354, although it was possibly added later. Circumstantial evidence suggests that a festival of Sol on the winter solstice was not yet included in such calendars in the late 320s. As the Christian celebration of Christmas on December 25th can be attested in Rome by AD 336, at which point it may already have been well-established,34 and the celebration of Sol on that day cannot be attested before AD 354/362 and had not yet entered the calendar in the late 320s, it is impossible to postulate that Christmas arose in reaction to some solar festival. There is quite simply not one iota of explicit evidence for a major festival of Sol on December 25th prior to the establishment of Christmas, nor is there any circumstantial evidence that there was likely to have been one.’, Steven E Hijmans, “Usener’s Christmas: A Contribution to the Modern Construct of Late Antique Solar Syncretism”, in M. Espagne & P. Rabault-Feuerhahn (eds.), Hermann Usener und die Metamorphosen der Philologie. Wiesbaden, Harrassowitz no. 7 (Wiesbaden, Harrassowitz: 2011).

So we’re back to square one. Can you cite any astronomical source for the 22nd-25th standing/rising/whatever claim you made, and can you provide any pre-Christmas sources for a pagan festival on the 25th? And if you can’t do that, then why should anyone believe you?

(George Brooks) #50


Tell me specifically where your quote says that Pagans did not find symbolic/religious significance regarding December 25? The writer pretty much implies that the Pagans did have a celebration on December 25 at some point!

So… are you seriously suggesting that the Pagans got the idea of the celebration from Christianity?

One: that isn’t what Hijmans article says (and it is quoted in Part 1 of my 3 part exhibits):
"… the pagans were wont to celebrate the … the rising of the sun… on December 25, and to heighten the festivities they lit lights. They also let the Christians participate in these festivities."

Two: Hijmans goes through quite a bit of effort to interpret that sentence into a position surely more consistent with yours than mine. And yet the sentence, even re-interpreted still tells us that pagans celebrated December 25.

Do you think this is a lie? If it is a lie, it is certainly not one “moderns” invented (which you pointedly asserted in one of your amazing posts)! The whole topic was being discussed at least as early as the Middle Ages, if not even earlier.

Or maybe you think Pagans stole December 25 from the Christians? And they really didn’t have any thought about it until the rise of Christianity?

The whole point Hijmans was making was that Christianity didn’t borrow December 25 because they were trying to suppress Pagan theology; he asserts that Christians shared in the Cosmic Symbolism that December 25 represented to all cultures - - involving the global phenomenon of the Sun’s unique behavior - - at or around - - the Winter Solstice.

If you are seriously proposing that the Roman pagans, in fact, took December 25 from the Christians (and not the other way around), I want you to promise that you will never ever change your mind on that. Because it’s going to make the story of you searching for the etymology of “Solstice” in “origins of -stice” seem flat and dull !!!

(Jon) #51

He says specifically " it is impossible to postulate that Christmas arose in reaction to some solar festival", because there was no festival for Sol on the winter solstice until the late 320s, and there is no evidence for a festival for Sol on December 25 until even later, 364.

He says this.

There is quite simply not one iota of explicit evidence for a major festival of Sol on December 25th prior to the establishment of Christmas, nor is there any circumstantial evidence that there was likely to have been one.

How do you respond to that?

Hijmans actually says this cannot be ruled out, and suggests it seriously.

You are taking that completely out of context. Both Hijman and Tim O’Neill point out this is a twelfth century quotation from a Christian scholiast and they also point out it is not clear what his source is. It’s worthless.

But we know there’s no evidence for it. It’s just a twelfth century scholiast speculating on events 800 years before his own day, without having any accurate knowledge about them.


It precisely says that this happened after Christians did it. So the pagans did the borrowing. Nice try, though.

So… are you seriously suggesting that the Pagans got the idea of the celebration from Christianity?

Yes. That’s what the actual documentary evidence says. Your Hijmans article (outnumbered by the sources I gave) actually says, as Jonathan pointed out, that it’s a serious possibility that the pagans did the borrowing.

Or maybe you think Pagans stole December 25 from the Christians? And they really didn’t have any thought about it until the rise of Christianity?

You’re right on the money. The pagans did a LOT of borrowing from Christianity.

(George Brooks) #53


Ahhhhh… I love a scenario that comes together.

One: @Korvexius’s assertions were not just applicable to the pagans of Rome. He said there were no pagans … meaning, no pagans anywhere. So we must keep in mind the limits of what some of this evidence is discussing. When you cite someone talking about the Pagans of Rome, it is ignoring the Pagans of Egypt, of Babylon, of Persia… and even of the sub-continental Indians.

Two: Look at the quote you quote: “…there was no festival for Sol on the winter solstice until the late 320s…”

Bingo! Are you going to tell me the Pagans had a Solstice festival to Sol in the late 320’s, within just a few years of the Nicene Council, before there was even uniform agreement on Jesus being born on December 25?

Well, of course!

And this is because the pagans had an interest in that date for generations.

Or, @Jonathan_Burke, are you going to tell me that by the late 320’s, the Roman pagans stole the idea of December 25 from Christianity?

(George Brooks) #54

@Korvexius, yes? That’s not what your own quoted source seems to say:

“…there was no festival for Sol on the winter solstice until the late 320s…”

Or are you going to say the Pagans stole this idea from the Christians as early as the 320’s?

And we still haven’t begun to work on the Egyptian interest in December 25, the Babylonian interest in December 25, and probably Mithraism’s interest in December 25!

Are you really going to ride this train over the cliff of Dover? You are going up against centuries of academic belief that December 25 “predates Christianity”. And you say “no - t’ain’t so !” ?
Are you that stubborn?

(Jon) #55

No, I am telling you what Hijmans says, that there is no evidence for a festival to Sol until after Christians had already adopted the date for Christmas. This is the complete opposite of what you have been claiming.

Evidence please. You keep making this claim without evidence.

As you have been told repeatedly, this is exactly what Hijmans suggests.

Because you have been unable to find any evidence for the Egyptians, Babylonian,s or Mithraists having an interest in December 25.

(George Brooks) #56


I think you need to re-read his last few paragraphs.

Yes… he says he thinks a case can be made that some of the Pagan festivals could have been inspired by the Christians after they adopted December 25 as the birthday of Jesus.

But the last few paragraphs of the article talk about why the Christians adopted December 25!

He says it was not about Paganism. Okay, fair enough. But he says it is about the universal symbolism of the Sun … and my point has always been this is what the Pagans were the first to assign to the universal importance of the Sun’s behavior.

And nothing you can write will change the Hijmans conclusion.

(Jon) #57

So you agree now?

No, your point has always been that the Christians took the date and festival from the pagans. Hijmans simply points out that the symbolism of the sun was so universal that it’s obvious the Christians didn’t borrow it.

(George Brooks) #58


My entire array of argument would disagree with Hijmans… but Hijmans final paragraphs, about the universal and cosmic symbolism of the Sun’s behavior during the time of the Winter Solstice is a perfect match to my assertion about December 25.

You don’t want to see it… but you really can’t argue it any other way.

Hijmans may want to make it about the Sun, and not the Pagans. But my claim never attempted to make that fine a distinction. As soon as he said “Cosmic Symbolism”… you had lost.

(Jon) #59

Exactly. He draws a completely different conclusion to you. That’s why his article doesn’t support your argument.

(George Brooks) #60


It’s terribly obvious, Jonathan, that you are trying to prove something that cannot be proven.

His article doesn’t support all my arguments/conclusions. But it quite adequately supports the obvious point that the ancient Pagans found important symbolism in the sun’s behavior of December 25.



The End

Its Over.

Go home.


Remember, Julian calendar didn’t exist yet so no December 25.

It would be correct to say “ancient Pagans found important symbolism in the sun’s behavior an indeterminate number of solar days after the solstice.” It could be due to the movement of sunrise or to the length of the day. Length of the day is probably easier for a people with no clocks to notice but it doesn’t change very fast around the solstice.

(Juan Romero) #62

Now that I actually remember, I found this guy who claims to have 23 “good” reasons not to believe in Jesus.

The article is in Portuguese, but we have Google Translate for something:

Just by looking at the title, where it says that the Bible is a “book of fairy tales”, you may already know what he is up to.