Part 2: Calculating the Christmas Date


The second part examining the origins of the Christmas date. If you want to catch up to speed click here, which is an overview of those who support the pagan History of Religions Theory and Calculation Theory objections.

If you’re already caught up, let’s begin.

Susan Roll explains that March 25 early in the history of Christianity was established as the date of the crucifixion, as well as evidence were both the death and conception occurred on the same day.[1] One of the primary documents that examine early Christians belief is Sermo 190 of Augustine of Hippo, “ So they win some, they lose some, but, I’m quick to point out, the one day they can’t choose is their own birthday. There’s only one person who can do that, and He’s the Son of God. He can choose, with no fear of error, the very best days for everything, including His own birthday.”[2] Susan Roll highlights another document, Quaestionum in Heptateuchum II, of Augustine’s that connects both the death and conception of Christ being on the same day citing a passage that speaks about a law in Exodus “that prohibits cooking a lamb in its mother’s milk.”[3] Most of the textual evidence from Augustine is cited as textual proof by Thomas J. Talley.[4]

Roll’s thesis is connected to intra-doctrinal dispute with Arians as she attempts to place the date as a result of the Council of Nicaea.[5] However, the reason why the council has been convened is far later than the dates of the two sources that are supported by Nothaft and still doesn’t settle the matter of the differing dates between January 6th and December 25th.

Framing a proper date based on CT theory, a proper examination of primary documents would be the best starting point. The best document on the topic would be the Gospel of Luke. The Gospel of Luke frames the Nativity story with a timeline of events. By opening the story with Zechariah in the temple as the high priest outside the Holy of Holies it places Zechariah in the temple during the Day of Atonement.[6]The Gospel readers, “Once when he was serving as priest in his division’s turn before God, according to the practice of the priestly service, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord to burn incense. 10 Then, when the whole assembly of the people was praying outside at the hour of the incense offering, 11 the angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right of the altar of incense. 12 Zechariah was troubled by what he saw, and fear came upon him.13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John.”[7] Many scholars have rejected the idea of Zechariah being the High Priest during the Day of Atonement, but John Chrysostom reaffirms this notation, “But Whence will this fact be known to us? From the Divine Scriptures—just as the Holy Gospel says that the angel announced the glad tidings to Zachariah who was inside the Holy of Holies,”[8] Although some scholars dismiss Zechariah’s role within the nativity story, Nothaft asserts that it should be taken seriously due to supporting evidence “in the Gospel commentary of St. Ambrose, in the works of Ephrem and his disciple Aba, in a commentary on Luke ascribed to Epiphanius, and –most importantly—in the Protoevangelium of James. In this mid-second century infancy Gospel, Zechariah appears as the High Priest.”[9]

The Infancy Gospel of James indicates two things about the birth of Christ, the first, being that there was interest in the birth of Christ during the second century A.D. and also further evidence that Zechariah was seen to be the high priest by Christians during the period, “And the priest went in taking the vestment with twelve bells into the holy of holies and prayed about her. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord stood before him, saying, “Zachariah, Zachariah, depart from here and gather the widowers of the people and let each one carry a staff.”[10] It’s important to reiterate a proper perception of early Christians, as Nothaft explains, “Chrysostom’s chronological embellishment of Luke’s story thus has roots that precede the fourth century.[11] By placing Zechariah in the temple on the Day of Atonement it would place John’s conception in late September around the fall equinox, which following the continuation of the Gospel of Luke 1:24-16: “ After this time his wife Elizabeth conceived, and she went into seclusion for five months, saying, 25 “So has the Lord done for me at a time when he has seen fit to take away my disgrace before others.”26 In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,”[12] By following the dates given in the Gospel, Christians would be to establish the date of the feast Christmas from the fall equinox to the winter equinox, around December 25th.

Establishing the date of Christ based on the Gospel of Luke may indicate that primary evidence that supports CT theory indicates a Bishop-led establishment of the date. However, the best indication by the debate between the day of January 6th or December 25th indicates a lack of uniformity within Christians and would rule out a top-down approach from a hierarchal church. Christmas was most likely founded by popular consensus and overtime established as December 25th by a consolidation of doctrine at a later date.

[1] Roll, 95.

[2] Augustine of Hippo and William Griffin, Sermons of the People: Advent, Christmas, New Year’s, Epiphany (New York: Image Books Double Day), 91.

[3] Roll, 101.

[4] Ibid, 95.

[5] Ibid, 177.

[6] Edward Sri, Dawn of the Messiah: The Coming of Christ in Scripture (Cincinnati: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2005), 10.

[7] Lk: 1:8-13

[8] John Chrysostom, On the Day of the Birth of Our Savior Jesus Christ.

[9] Nothaft, 261.

[10][10] Anonymous, The Infancy Gospel of James.

[11] Nothaft, 261.

[12] Lk 1:24-26


  1. Reblogged this on The American Post-Standard and commented:
    The History Channel told me last night the Christmas date was related to the Pagan Saturnalia feast, but here’s a post that explains the possibility of the Christian origin of the date found in the Gospel of Luke!


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