A History of Christmas

“In AD 274 Emperor Aurelian (AD 270-275) declared Deus Sol Invictus the official deity of the Roman Empire. A temple in his honor was built in Rome, and his birthday was celebrated on December 25. Due to the association of Mithras with the Sun, his birthday was also celebrate on December 25, to convey his victory over darkness and night. The feast of the Nativity was officially added to the Christian holy days in the course of the fourth century. By recognizing the birth of Christ on December 25, the empire affirmed the triumph of Christianity over paganism and its solar monotheism, and the victory of Christ, the ‘Sun of Righteousness’, over Mithras.”

(Kesich, Veselin, The Church in History (Vol 1, Part 1): Formation and Struggles: The Birth of the Church, AD 33-200, pg 69)


There is a hazy feeling that the ancient world was so open to tales of theophanies that it is no great surprise that Jesus attracted such assents.  Yet the association of a historical man with such depth of divine description appears to be unprecedented.  Dunn’s conclusion, after a search for parallels, is that “we have found nothing in pre-Christian Judaism or the wider religions of the Hellenistic world  which provides sufficient explanation of the origin of the doctrine of the doctrine of the incarnation, no way of speaking about God, the gods, or intermediary beings which so far as we can tell would have given birth to this doctrine apart from Christianity.”     (Polkinghorne, John, The Faith of a Physicist, pgs127-128)