For some reason, the date of Nativity caused a heated polemics among my friends and readers:
Lane, Miami wrote: ‘I am reluctant to ask: It was my understanding, or somewhere along the line I thought I had learned, that the actual time of Christ's birth was in September. Am I correct, were you taking poetic license, or are the facts not known?’
Shanaz from Saudi Arabia: ‘By the way, Jesus was born in April and not December… check it out.’
Prof. J. W. from Virginia: ‘You may be aware that most historians believe that Jesus must have been born in September, under the sign of the Virgin. The Church moved his "official birthday" to just after the shortest day of the year in order to emphasize that he was the Light of the World.’
Bryce from Atlanta: ‘Factually speaking, most scholars will agree that Jesus was born in mid-late October (a kindred Libran), and he was in fact, Jewish.’
Such a variety of proposed dates, and all of them actual, and agreed by most experts! The last issue of “The Economist” also gives a few pages to the discussion, and probably other papers as well, at Yuletide. Is it a meaningful controversy? I think it is, and I shall try and explain myself. There isn’t and can’t be any new historical knowledge about the Nativity, that was not available to, say, St Jerome of Bethlehem or Eusebius of Caesarea. As centuries and millennia pass by, we do not learn more about these times, we just forget. Attempts to pinpoint the Nativity by the Star could not possibly provide us with the date, not even with the year, as there are many possibilities as to the nature of the Star. People of Bethlehem are not likely to remember the fact of birth of a humble refugee from Galilee. The church decided on the date on the basis of the best data available at the time. The persons who decided were men of great faith, curiosity, desire to establish true facts, and I see no reason to doubt their decision.
Could the Church move his birthday in order to emphasize that he was the Light of the World? Before replying to this question, I shall quote an amusing booklet published in the second half of 19th century under the title “Napoleon as a Solar Myth.” The author proves, tongue-in-cheek, that Napoleon never existed, but he was just a new version of the Solar Myth, and his 12 marshals were, yes, you guessed it, twelve months or signs of Zodiac. In the same vein, one could argue that Sabbatai Zevi, the great Jewish prophet of 17th century, was an invention, as he died (and was born!) on 9th of Ab, the day of Destruction of the Temple. Vladimir Lenin was born at vernal equinox and many other important men were born on auspicious dates.
Why would not Christ be born on such a day?
Doubt about the Nativity date hides a greater doubt, the doubt of divinity, doubt of predestination, doubt of God’s existence. If God exists, and if He arranged for the Star to announce the coming of Christ, is it strange that Christ would be born on the day of great importance to all mankind? No, it would be logical. The birth of Son of Man was a cosmic event, and it would be expected to happen on a special day. As he was the Light of the World, he was born after the winter solstice. Even more important, the darkest time of the year hints to the darkest place on earth. Jerusalem was the focal point of the system of double morals, of inward love and outward enmity. Christ chose to be born here as he felt: this idea is the most dangerous one the mankind faces, and it has to be taken on. This connection is overlooked by the evangelical Zionists, who misunderstand his birth in Palestine as a sign of special election of the people he was born amongst. The Jews were chosen worthy to give birth to Christ, they preach. One could think Christ was born in the purple. The date is especially relevant as it confirms what we know: he was born in the Heart of the Darkness. If you doubt Christ, then it makes sense to doubt the cosmically significant date of Nativity. And then you can find yourself on a wrong side of the frontline that goes through New York and Bethlehem, as the struggle is far from over.
“The Washington Times” (28.11.01) published an interesting article called “Calendars for Advent” appear more secularised. A newspaper reporter visited a few bookshops in the US, from Barnes and Noble to Borders, and found that the Advent calendars dropped Nativity. There are mice, bunnies, Santa Claus, bears, Nutcracker, but no Bethlehem, no Nativity. The stores do not want to offend any non-Christian shoppers, offers an explanation by an interviewee. Who are those non-Christians? Surely not Muslims, who commemorate the Nativity of Christ as much as anybody, and who are anyway disregarded in the US. There are not too many Neo-Pagans, either. So, why could not they write in less oblique way? The shop owners feel the Jews do not want to see anything connected to Christ? Probably because it would be a painful truth. The Orthodox Jews have even a special routine for Christmas. The preferred occupations are cutting toilet paper for the forthcoming month and suchlike, reported the local Jerusalem newspaper “Kol Ha-Ir.” Non-religious Jews forgot the reason why, but still keep fighting Christ and Christianity.
“The Washington Times” quotes Patrick Scully of the Catholic League: “We witness neutering of Christmas.” Christmas suffered a direct hit from this secularisation. One is allowed to see symbolism in Kwanzaa, while a Nativity scene may mean a battle with the (heavily Jewish) ACLU. As the Christians of the US prefer to avoid battle with ACLU, Israelis can battle the besieged Bethlehem with greater ease, I would add. But who knows, which front of this battle is the most important one for the combatants?
I do not know what sort of arguments convinced my correspondents to prefer an unorthodox date of Nativity. The attempts to sow doubts about Christ are regularly done by some Jewish scholars, who usually try to downgrade Christ. If he existed, they claim, he surely was just an ordinary bloke, a vagrant teacher from Galilee, who was born anywhere but in Bethlehem, anytime but on an auspicious date, and grew up anywhere but in Nazareth. If he existed he surely did not care about Goyim, non-Jews, they say. Why indeed would a good Jewish Rabbi care about the rest of mankind? (This is the underlying idea of the book of Hiyam Maccobi, for instance, where the Jewish nationalist writer claims Christ was a Jewish extreme nationalist, a Rabbi Kahane of his days). For Jewish scholars, newspaper owners, and opinion-makers, the fight against Christ was and still remains an important part of the agenda, and denial of Nativity is a weapon in this struggle. It is not the only weapon, and I shall give you an example.
[PICTURE: 'The Face of Christ' featured in The Washington Post: see footnote.]
“The Washington Post” printed in its last Easter edition on the first page (not far from its usual glorification of Israel) a feature called The Face of Christ (pictured above), containing a police-style e-fit. It showed a rather crude and brutish face of a man, with low forehead, darkish skin, eyes expressive of cunning, a type of lowly menial worker. It bore a caption, “Face of Christ.” Bold headlines advised the reader that now the latest tools of science were used in order to find out how Jesus Christ looked, on basis of some skulls found in Jerusalem. Well, 90 p.c. of the readership does not go beyond the bold headlines, into petite letters, and they would remain with a feeling that after all, a skull of Jesus was discovered, and he turned out to be quite an unpleasant fellow.
Only careful perusal of the feature article shows the face being a reconstruction of a Jewish contemporary of Christ, based on a few skulls found in Palestine. The authors could call the brutish e-fit, The High Priest of Jews. They could remain neutral and unbiased and call the e-fit a face of a Jewish contemporary of Christ, but they preferred the misleading legend Face of Christ, with its implication that Christ actually looked like a low criminal.
With absolutely the same license, they could make a composite photo of a few women from the local old folks house and publish it as a face of Marilyn Monroe. But then, this newspaper has its own agenda. On this agenda, fighting Christ has higher priority, than debunking Marilyn Monroe. And this newspaper does not stand alone, but it liases with other media outlets all over the US, Canada, England. The picture of the face of Christ, appeared in all of them, and afterwards, probably, in every major newspaper, as who would give away such a scoop?
What is the reason for this war, should you ask? We could look for an answer on Mount Gerizim, the mountain near Nablus, the central Palestinian city of Samaria. On top of it, the Israeli archaeologists uncovered ruins of the great Samaritan temple built in the days of Alexander the Great. This temple competed with the temple of the Jews in Jerusalem, and promoted non-exclusive version of the Israelite faith, as it was built by the priests who did not want to expel their non-Israelite wives. That is why it was burned and thoroughly destroyed by the Maccabean kings of Jews, the priests were killed and a great massacre of Samaritans ensued. The Maccabean feats are celebrated on Chanukah, the Jewish answer to Christmas. Destruction of temples and fight against gods of the defeated people was an important part of the Jewish paradigm as described in the Old Testament and detailed in Talmud. But the struggle against Christianity and Christ is the raison d,être of Judaism, as Christ symbolises the end of Jewish chosenness. We are truly blessed that nowadays, the Jewish war against Christ is expressed just in the siege of Bethlehem and a ban on Christ in Christmas,.
POST SCRIPTUM. Among my readers there are many Jews and descendents of Jews, good people and supporters of Palestine, who feel troubled, annoyed and even threatened by such articles. They often feel the need to defend the Jews. They usually object to generalities, to accusation of the whole people, or hate-mongering. At first, I was taken aback by their response. Afterwards, I thought that their reasoning is so good that it could be used by others as well. Pity to waste a good thing. For instance,
- How do you dare to say The Americans nuked Hiroshima? I am an American, and I did not nuke Hiroshima.
- You say, English rule India. What nonsense! I know hundreds of poor English workers who do not rule India.
- You call for liberation of Algeria. This is anti-Frenchism! The real difference is not between French and native Algerians, but between cultured people and Muslim fanatics.
- Russian imperialist policy? It is a racist remark designed to cause hate to the Russians.
Probably you recognise it sounds silly. The policies are decided by elites, carried out by more or less willing middle classes and the poor people suffer the consequences. The Jews are not different from the rest of mankind. They have policies, and are able to change them. Until 1968, the Jews of America and Europe supported liberal, progressive and humanist policies. In 1968, the Jewish leadership changed the goals and choose a new set of partners. Nowadays they are friends with Pat Robertson, supporters of G.W. Bush, they call for eradication of freedoms in the US and Canada, for genocidal war in the Middle East, for ever-growing gap between the haves and have-nots. It was good while this powerful organisation called The Jewish People was on the side of angels. But it is not there anymore. In my opinion, its positive role was a short-lived aberration, while now it is back where it usually was, at the right hand of the strongest power. My Jewish sisters, brothers and friends, it is a right time for us to apply the adage, we found the enemy, and it is us. Remember, it was painful for Americans to speak against their involvement in Vietnam, as for French against their colonial war in Algeria. Now it is our turn to prove that we are able to confront our own elites, not only the Gentile elites. Defending the Jews, means now just one thing, a support of the Jewish leadership and its policies. Israel Shamir
Footnote: the reconstructed face of a contemporary of Christ referred to above first featured in a major BBC TV documentary 'The Son of God'. The lavish production was presented by a professed non-believer, Jeremy Bowen; while the program itself labelled Mary as “a single mother saved from tragic death by Joseph.” And to cap it all, the Immaculate Conception was described as a ruse used to hide “a dangerous liaison with a Roman soldier.”
So, it's not only the Jewish elite who is engaged in this sort of thing. The British establishment are too, in fact, they are past masters at it. And as you can see the reconstructed face billed as “The Son of God” looks more like a common criminal. But maybe that was the intention. Ed.
Last updated 29/06/2004