Bible Myths and their Parallels in other Religions Being a Comparison of the Old and New Testament Myths and Miracles with those of the Heathen Nations of Antiquity Considering also their Origin and Meaning

Page: 208

There was no uniformity in the period of observing the Nativity among the early Christian churches; some held the festival in the month of May or April, others in January.[359:1]

The year in which he was born is also as uncertain as the month or day. "The year in which it happened," says Mosheim, the ecclesiastical historian, "has not hitherto been fixed with certainty, notwithstanding the deep and laborious researches of the learned."[359:2]

According to Irenæus (A. D. 190), on the authority of "The Gospel," and "all the elders who were conversant in Asia with John, the disciple of the Lord," Christ Jesus lived to be nearly, if not quite, fifty years of age. If this celebrated Christian father is correct, and who can say he is not, Jesus was born some twenty years before the time which has been assigned as that of his birth.[359:3]

The Rev. Dr. Giles says:

"Concerning the time of Christ's birth there are even greater doubts than about the place; for, though the four Evangelists have noticed several contemporary facts, which would seem to settle this point, yet on comparing these dates with the general history of the period, we meet with serious discrepancies, which involve the subject in the greatest uncertainty."[359:4]

Again he says:

[Pg 360]

"Not only do we date our time from the exact year in which Christ is said to have been born, but our ecclesiastical calendar has determined with scrupulous minuteness the day and almost the hour at which every particular of Christ's wonderful life is stated to have happened. All this is implicitly believed by millions; yet all these things are among the most uncertain and shadowy that history has recorded. We have no clue to either the day or the time of year, or even the year itself, in which Christ was born."[360:1]

Some Christian writers fix the year 4 B. C., as the time when he was born, others the year 5 B. C., and again others place his time of birth at about 15 B. C. The Rev. Dr. Geikie, speaking of this, in his Life of Christ, says:

"The whole subject is very uncertain. Ewald appears to fix the date of the birth at five years earlier than our era. Petavius and Usher fix it on the 25th of December, five years before our era. Bengel on the 25th of December, four years before our era; Anger and Winer, four years before our era, in the Spring; Scaliger, three years before our era, in October; St. Jerome, three years before our era, on December 25th; Eusebius, two years before our era, on January 6th; and Idler, seven years before our era, in December."[360:2]

Albert Barnes writes in a manner which implies that he knew all about the year (although he does not give any authorities), but knew nothing about the month. He says:

"The birth of Christ took place four years before the common era. That era began to be used about A. D. 526, being first employed by Dionysius, and is supposed to have been placed about four years too late. Some make the difference two, others three, four, five, and even eight years. He was born at the commencement of the last year of the reign of Herod, or at the close of the year preceding."[360:3]

"The Jews sent out their flocks into the mountainous and desert regions during the summer months, and took them up in the latter part of October or the first of November, when the cold weather commenced. . . . It is clear from this that our Saviour was born before the 25th of December, or before what we call Christmas. At that time it is cold, and especially in the high and mountainous regions about Bethlehem. God has concealed the time of his birth. There is no way to ascertain it. By different learned men it has been fixed at each month in the year."[360:4]

Canon Farrar writes with a little more caution, as follows:

"Although the date of Christ's birth cannot be fixed with absolute certainty, there is at least a large amount of evidence to render it probable that he was born four years before our present era. It is universally admitted that our received chronology, which is not older than Dionysius Exiguus, in the sixth century, is wrong. But all attempts to discover the month and the day are useless. No data whatever exists to enable us to determine them with even approximate accuracy."[360:5]

[Pg 361]

Bunsen attempts to show (on the authority of Irenæus, above quoted), that Jesus was born some fifteen years before the time assigned, and that he lived to be nearly, if not quite, fifty years of age.[361:1]

According to Basnage,[361:2] the Jews placed his birth near a century sooner than the generally assumed epoch. Others have placed it even in the third century B. C. This belief is founded on a passage in the "Book of Wisdom,"[361:3] written about 250 B. C., which is supposed to refer to Christ Jesus, and none other. In speaking of some individual who lived at that time, it says:

"He professeth to have the knowledge of God, and he calleth himself the child of the Lord. He was made to reprove our thoughts. He is grievous unto us even to behold; for his life is not like other men's, his ways are of another fashion. We are esteemed of him as counterfeits; he abstaineth from our ways as from filthiness; he pronounceth the end of the just to be blessed, and maketh his boast that God is his father. Let us see if his words be true; and let us prove what shall happen in the end of him. For if the just man be the son of God, he (God) will help him, and deliver him from the hand of his enemies. Let us examine him with despitefulness and torture, that we may know his meekness, and prove his patience. Let us condemn him with a shameful death; for by his own saying he shall be respected."

This is a very important passage. Of course, the church claim it to be a prophecy of what Christ Jesus was to do and suffer, but this does not explain it.