Thursday, December 29, 2011

Of Calendars, God-Men and the Date of Christmas (Part 2)

The Roman Sol Invictus image bearing the inscription: "The most holy and sacred Sun"

We now continue with the complaints of one disgruntled fundamentalist blogger:

"The chapter then turns to what Mr. Muncaster did with this information. It shows that after studying the Greek word translated “believe” in John 3:16 and learning that it had a deeper meaning than to simply intellectually acknowledge a fact, but that it carried the sense of “to put one’s trust in,” he came to the conclusion that he needed to do more than simply know the truth; he needed a close relationship with Jesus—he needed to place his trust completely in Him. "

But, of course, if Jesus existed in no real historical place (at least as determined by the historians of the time, or even the OT) then this amounts to pure question begging. In effect, if Nazareth didn't exist as a true historical place it likely means no events associated with it ever existed, and then we have a whole cloth fabrication, as many have already shown (e.g. Geza Vermes, Bart D. Ehrman, John Dominic Crossan etc.) Thus, whether John 3:16 says anything in Greek, or Latin or even Hindu is irrelevant. If basic historical markers aren't met, then one must suspect the whole thing as fabricated. Indeed, no less than one of the historians of the Catholic Church, The Rev. Thomas Bokenkotter, in his monograph ‘A Concise History of the Catholic Church’, notes (page 17):

The Gospels were not meant to be a historical or biographical account of Jesus. They were written to convert unbelievers to faith in Jesus as the Messiah, or God.”

This is a shattering admission indeed, and from a historian of Christendom’s largest Church. It is a de facto admission that no historical support exists for any of the accounts in the New Testament. Indeed, if they ‘were not meant to be historical’ (or accurate), then we cannot be sure if any are! Quite possibly, none of the accounts should be taken seriously.

Whatever one may think of his religion, at least Bokenkotter is honest! The illustration of the Nazareth site as a late 4th century confection also illustrates the point.

Nonethless our impetuous blogger waxes on:

"He realized that the study he had engaged in had changed his mind completely, that now he knew that the Bible and Christianity were based on facts—lots of facts and evidence that could be verified. It was not based on blind faith."

And yet that is exactly what Muncaster's conclusions are based upon: blind faith. Muncaster already knew what it was he wanted to find and then simply excavated it from the assorted nether regions of his brain's OAA (Orientation activation area). Presto magicko! I have found truth, facts and .....statistical certainty! Except never once did he compute a single solitary statistical probability as I illustrated in my last blog (graphic). Our only conclusion to make is that Muncaster is a fraud, a tool, and a willing obscurantist, in his own way no different from Jason Lisle and his "young Sun" bollocks.

The only "facts and evidence" are what he himself conjures up, simply dismissing the much vaster scholarly bona fides of those who have spent many more years on these issues - like John Allegro and John Dominic Crossan. But why be surprised? The True Believers will always find what they want to find, if it suits their fancies! They are congenital perpetrators of the logical fallacy known as "affirming the consequent' and most don't even know it!

Our fundie moves on:

"All that being said , the unbelievers now point to the fact that December 25th was NOT the date of Jesus' birth. And you know what? I , AGREE WITH THEM! But here again , that's a red herring."

This is interesting in that he agrees with me, but decides it's a "red herring". But, it can only be a red herring if it is not relevant! Let's see what he says next:

"One atheist blogger had wasted much time on this subject , writing how Christians should not celebrate Christ's birth because Dec. 25th was not His actual birth date. He goes on to write how Christmas had its origin in pagan religious customs. And here again , I AGREE with him! "

Now, this is very interesting, because...first, I never said or wrote "Christians should not celebrate Christ's birth". What I did was ask, at the very end, DO Christians KNOW what they are celebrating when they DO celebrate the occasion of Dec. 25th as a putative "Savior's" birth date? In other words, do they know which savior that is? This is a different thing from how the blogger has phrased it. Second, I never insisted December 25th was not his "actual birth date" only that this date is suspicious because it had been the original winter solstice and was celebrated as the birth date (from antiquity) of the Roman Sun god, Sol Invictus. Thus, I intimated it to be a coincidence of the highest order to have two saviors' birth dates exactly the same! (And again, I remind readers, that Sol Invictus' came before Jesus. And up to 354 A.D. no firm date was known for the latter's birth).

In addition, I dispute it is a "waste of time". I warrant MOST people are not aware of the many changes in the calendar, including that 10 days were simply lopped off between October 4 and 15, 1582. If most people don't know these things, then bringing them to their attention is emphatically not a "waste of time".

One wonders then what all the kerfuffle is about when he agrees with me, but he moves on:

"He then goes on ( wasting more time and space ) , explaining the various "calendar types" ( e.g., The Roman Republican Calendar , Alterations in the Julian Calendar , and The Gregorian Calendar ). BUT....he leaves out the Philoclian Calendar. Speculation as to the time of Jesus’ birth dates back to the 3rd century, when Hyppolytus (ca. 170-236) claimed that Jesus was born on December 25. The earliest mention of some sort of observance on that date is in the Philoclian Calendar, representing Roman practice, of the year 336."

Actually, in this passage he confirms my point that the details of the altered calendars were NOT a "waste of time"!

First, it isn't the "Philoclian Calendar" but the Philocalian Calendar. In fact, I didn't "leave it out" I just didn't call it by name. But I did refer to the earliest versions of the Roman Republican Calendar, of which the Philocalian was one version. Thus, the first certain record associating December 25 with the birthday of Sol Invictus is the ROMAN Chronography of AD 354 where, in the part known as the Philocalian Calendar, VIII Kal. Jan. is identified as N INVICTI CM XXX (Natalis Invicti; CM abbreviates circenses missus or circus races)

"Natalis Invictii" refers to the birth of Sol Invictus, NOT Christ. (See graphic attached of a Roman rendering of Sol Invictus). The celebratory factor in the inscription is punctuated by the fact XXX (30) races were to be scheduled in the Roman Circus. This would NEVER be done to commemorate the exclusive birth of a Jewish Messiah! Even given that the Edict of Milan was formalized some 40 years earlier. But Christians still trudged on shaky ground and many Romans exhibited suspicion or outright hostility.

Coincidentally, this is also the earliest reference to December 25 as the birthday of Jesus. In a commemoration of Christian martyrs, the notation for VIII Kal. Jan. is natus Christus in Betleem Judeae ("Christ was born in Bethlehem of Judea"). Because the Depositio Martyrum was completed in AD 336, the first celebration of Christmas can be dated to that year as well. In the list of consuls, there also is the note: "Dominus Iesus Christus natus est VIII kal. Ian".

Note the first celebration can be dated to the year 336, but it was not formalized! As I noted in my last blog, it wasn't until 29 years after the Council of Nicaea, in 354 A.D. that the newly liberated Christians formally claimed December 25th - the designated original birth date of the Sun god Mithra- as their own nativity for Christ. This exactly parallels the timing already cited for the Chronography of AD 354 where, in the part known as the Philocalian Calendar the date first emerges in a written record.

Given he misses all this information, it was obviously not only a good thing I "wasted my time" on the original blog, but the last two as well!

Again, the more salient points I made are all fully validated! Thus, neither Mark nor Paul made any reference whatever to when Jesus was born, and Matthew and Luke do not mention the date. When Clement of Alexander (d. ca. AD 215) does refer to the day of Jesus' birth, December 25 is not included among the possibilities. The church did not agree upon December 25 as the Nativity of Jesus until the fifth century. Even then, the winter solstice, which coincided with the Christian festival, still was recognized.

Which, again, bears out my earlier point to do with the suspicious coincidence of the Christian "Savior's" birth date with the much earlier one for Sol Invictus.

He then continues, in a most intriguing remark:

"The church thereby offered people a Christian alternative to the pagan festivities and eventually reinterpreted many of their symbols and actions in ways acceptable to Christian faith and practice"

This is interesting because he essentially admits the Christians stole the Roman celebrations and date to "reinterpret" and recast them to make them "acceptable"! Well, this is certainly one way of looking at what happened. But another equally legitimate, if not more legitimate take is what I wrote in my Dec. 25th blog, "There are many speculations as to why Christians appropriated this particular date when the eastern orthodox and other variants stuck with January 6th. The most plausible one is probably because the conflation allowed Christian Rome to pay homage to the earlier Emperor Constantine who had expedited their liberation".

Bear in mind the climate at the time! Think about it! You had been scum of the Earth, worms of pity and even persecution for hundred of years. Tossed to lions for the cheering of Coliseum spectators and roasted on spits. Then Voila! One day you are decreed by Emperor Constantine to be fellow citizens able to go about your business unimpeded. Why would you not express gratitude? The ultimate gratitude would be to make your most sacred date, for your Savior's birth, identical to that of the Emperor's god, Sol Invictus!

Indeed, the fundie blogger basically agrees with me in a follow up remark:

"Was He born on December 25th? Probably not - that's a date chosen by the early Roman church (Catholicism ) , to correspond to a preexistent Winter solstice festival. "

My only complaint here is he again conveniently isolates the "Catholic" church when at that time, it was the ONLY church, and hence THE Christian Church - neither Protestants nor evangelicals emerging for at least another 1300 years. Thus, instead of accepting the miscues of the original CHRISTIAN religion, he selectively blames the Catholics. But this isn't cricket. It could only be cricket if both evangelicals and Catholics existed at the same time. They didn't. Thus, the history of the Catholic church is the history of the Christian church at least until Martin Luther's reformation.

Finally he remarks:

"Oh yeah , this atheist blogger ( in a recent post ) , also likes to quote Buddhist philosopher Alan Watts. Now , both Matthew and Luke were willing to lay their lives on the line to authenticate the credibility of their messages about the birth of Christ. Now , consider the data relative to the alleged “miraculous” birth of “the Buddha” — one of the supposed parallels, to which appeal is commonly made"

Which, of course, is totally irrelevant to the issues at hand: 1) the meaning and signficance of December 25th in antiquity, and 2) whether in fact Jesus was really a "god man" or savior. All the evidence points to the answer for (1) being that December 25th has always been a pagan commemoration, marking the birth of the Sun god, or Sol Invictus. Meanwhile, for (2) I do agree that a Jesus was born but not that he was a divine entity. There is no evidence for that, and all the 'miracles" etc. attributed to him were all confections that can be easily explained.

Consider the claim of a miracle: Jesus “walking on water”. Prof. Hugh Schonfeld has a simple explanation for this: a mistranslation of the Hebrew word “al” which can mean “by” or “on”. So, when a scribe really wrote “walking by the water” it was retranslated to “walking on the water”.

Next apply David Hume "miracle" test that reads: "No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavors to establish."

Let us then apply the Hume test: Is the Schonfeld claim of mistranslation MORE or LESS miraculous than a man actually violating the law of gravity and walking on water? It doesn’t require a lot of thought or effort to see that the mistranslation of a passage of the New Testament is LESS miraculous (or if you prefer, less improbable) than that a man actually, literally walked on water.

As for the Buddha, there is vastly more information and knowledge of his activities over the major portions of his life, than for Christ. Interested readers can find more here:

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