EVERY TIME THE YEAR-END GIFTS-AND-PARTY MADNESS APPROACHES, I THINK OF MY FAVORITE "CHRISTMAS" CHARACTER, H.R. GONDING, AND I WONDER WHAT HAPPENED TO HIM.
In 1965 Gonding, at that time a Navy officer stationed in Columbus, Ohio, celebrated "Christmas" by illuminating his front yard with hundreds of blinking red and green light bulbs spelling out the immortal words of Ebenezer Scrooge: “Bah, humbug!”
Scrooge had it right at the start, but Charles Dickens became mushy later in his "Christmas Carol" story, converting Scrooge into a believer in the second oldest fraud of "Christianity." The oldest fraud is that "Jesus Christ" is the name of someone who actually existed, and the second oldest is that he was born on December 25th.
Since there is no record of any Hebrew (or Jew) known as Yeshua mashiah (Joshua the messiah), the most likely choice for the name of the messiah of "Christianity" before it was preposterously Anglicized as "Jesus Christ," early "Christians" who wanted to celebrate his birthday were faced with the same kind of problem that anyone would have in trying to establish a birth date for the Christmas grinch. No date of birth is provided in the fiction of the ancient scribes who invented "Jesus." So, the early perpetrators of the hoax decided to create one.
The day they chose, the early Roman calendar equivalent to our December 25th, was reputed to have been that of the Sun's new birth after the winter solstice. It was also purported to have been the day on which the gods Apollo, Bacchus, and Mithra(s) were born, according to their cult worshippers. [The original name of the Persian god Mithra was changed to Mithras by the Romans – for what reason is unknown.]
Until the early Catholics convinced Constantine [Roman Emperor, 306-337 A.D./C.E.] to change the state religion of the Roman Empire to "Christianity," the official religion was Mithraism. Stories associated with the god Mithras - virgin birth, martyrdom, resurrection, judgment day - were much the same as those ascribed to "Jesus." Hence, conversion of the one deity's purported birth date to that of the other seemed appropriate to Constantine and his advisors.
It is theorized by some scholars that the reason for the adoption of a birth date for "Jesus" was not so much the need to destroy Mithraic belief as it was to combat the so-called Manichaein Movement that became extraordinarily strong around 350 A.D./C.E. Manichaeism is supposed to have originated with the Persian priest Mani (c. 216-276 A.D./C.E.), who was "crucified" (i.e., hanged or impaled on a stake) for his beliefs: whether on imperial or papal edict is unclear. Not only did his execution fail to halt the spread of Manichaeism, but instead it fomented more support for Mani's ideas, including his insistence that "Jesus" was never born. It was to rebut that "heresy," so goes the story, that the early Catholics invented and Constantine accepted the designation of a birth day for the "christ child."
Some of the early Catholic officials were vehemently opposed to the idea of fashioning a birth date for the superhuman they construed as God incarnate. For example, the Second-Century Catholic theologian Clement of Alexandria condemned the notion of a birth date for "Jesus" as odious superstition. According to scholars who have written about Clement, however, he eventually changed his mind and wrote that "Jesus" was born on November 17th, 3 B.C./B.C.E.
[Caveat: Any attempt to authenticate writings of Clement is on shaky ground, since none of his original manuscripts exist and what remains for source material is only what later writers attributed to him.]
Sometime between 250 and 254 A.D./C.E., in a homily on the Old Testament Book of Leviticus, the most influential of all Third-Century Roman Catholic clerics, Origen, wrote that the birth date of "Jesus" was unknown and the very idea of ascribing one to him and keeping it for celebration, "as if he were a king or pharoah," was blasphemous and sinful.
[Further caveat: That is from a translation of writings attributed to Origen. But though scholars have a better shot at authenticating his writings than those of Clement, they are still on treacherous foundations because Origen's work was subjected to severe censorship and revision by Catholic officials.]
Despite the opposition, sometime between 350 and 380 A.D./C.E. the celebration of December 25th as the birth date of "Jesus" began in Rome, though it was not observed widely at first, since many Romans continued to worship Mithras. In an effort to dissociate "Jesus" from Mithras, the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople, Chrysostom (c. 347-407 A.D./C.E.), later "canonized" as St. John, began preaching that Mithraic belief was false doctrine and December 25th belonged exclusively to "Jesus."
By the time of Pope Anastasius (398-400 A.D./C.E. are the years most commonly accorded to his papacy), dozens of major Catholic theologians were recognizing December 25th as the birth date of "Jesus." In 400 A.D./C.E. an imperial order was issued in Rome to close theaters and other secular places on "Christmas" day.
Of course the day was not called "Christmas" in the Roman Empire. That name used in English-language countries is derived from the Old English term Christes Maesse (Christ Mass, or more accurately Messiah Mass, since the christes comes from crestus, Latin for christos, which was the translation into Greek of the Hebrew word mashiah, meaning messiah or more technically anointed one). [Note: Translations depend on transliterations which comprise the way a translator sounds out the words. It has to be done that way because the different languages have completely dissimilar alphabets.]
Over the centuries there have been periodic attempts to establish December 25th as the authentic birth date of "Jesus" through faked writings that have all been identified as forgeries. Nor have scholars or theologians been able to agree on any year as the year when "Jesus" was born to "Mary" (Miriam), since no date is provided in the scriptures compiled as the New Testament, and those scriptures constitute the sole source for the stories about "Jesus."
Disgusted with the entire business, the Puritans in England and New England organized assiduous efforts to abolish "Christmas" altogether, partly because they construed the concept of a birth date for "the Lord Jesus" to be blasphemous, and partly because the celebration of the purported "holy day" already had become a thoroughly commercialized farce, staged for no seeming purpose other than to party and exchange gifts. Because their efforts to rid the world of this annual nuisance failed, we are stuck with the pressure to spend money on frivolous gifts, with the wasteful cutting down and decorating of soon discarded trees, with the cornball songs, and with the insufferable recitation of the "merry Christmas" greeting to which we are expected to respond with a repetition of it and a forced smile.
Where are you, H.R. Gonding?