Christmas or Hannukah?

by Rabbi Hector Gomez on October 11th, 2011

CHRIST'S MASS

The word Christmas is a shortened form of “Christ’s Mass”. The word “Mass” is a Latin word meaning “offering”. Thus “Christ’s Mass” literally means “Messiah’s Offering”. Messiah’s offering was of course his crucifixion, not his birth. When a person says “Merry Christmas” they are actually saying “Merry Crucifixion of Messiah.” Moreover Christians observe “Christmas” (Messiah’s Offering) once a year. However the Scriptures tell us that Messiah was offered once for all time and is not offered again and again once a year (Hebrews 10:1-4, 10-14). An annual “Christ’s Mass” is therefore clearly unscriptural.

JESUS’ BIRTHDAY?

The Christian Book of Why admits that December 25th was NOT the birthday if Messiah:

…Most biblical scholars agree that the birth, in fact,
did not take place in December at all…
(CBW p. 205)

When Yeshua was born the shepherds were at watch in their fields (Lk. 2:8) which could not have been in the Winter. In fact it can be shown that Messiah was born at Sukkot (Boothes/Tabernacles) in 4 B.C.E..

The key to calculating the date of the birth of Messiah is Luke 1:5 where we learn that Zechariah the father of Yochanan was a priest of the course of Abijah.

The priests became to numerous to all serve at the Temple all the time, so they were divided into 24 courses (1Chron. 24). Each course served for two weeks each year, once in the former rain (first half of the year) and once in the latter rain (second half of the year). There were also three weeks in which all the priests were required to serve, these were the three pilgrimage festivals (Dt. 16:16). 24 times 2 is 48 plus three is 51. 51 weeks is 357 days fitting nicely within the 360 day lunar year.

The course of Abijah is the eighth course (1Chron. 24:10) which serves the tenth week during the former rain portion of the year (this is because during Passover and Shavuot (Pentecost) all fo the priests serve together Dt. 16:16). Zechariah had his vision while serving in the course of Abijah in the tenth week (It will become apparent that he was serving his first course not his second as the timing will show as we progress). Thus Zechariah's vision took place during the 10th week of the year (The religious year beginning at Nisan/Abib around 14 days before Passover). We must add two additional weeks before Yochanon (John) could be conceived, due to the purity laws (Lev. 12:5; 15:19, 25). So Yochanon was concieved in the 12th week of the year. He was born about 40 weeks later during the 52nd week of the year (12 + 40 = 52) which brings us to Passover. Thus Yochanon was born at Passover, the very time that Elijah was, according to Jewish tradition, supposed to appear.

Yeshua was conceived 6 months (about 25 weeks) after Yochanon's conception. This means Yeshua was conceived around the 37th week around Chanukah. This would mean the light of the world was conceived during the festival of lights.

Yeshua was born 40 weeks later (around week 77 that is week 25 of the following year) this brings us to the time of the fall feasts.

There are several clues that Yeshua was born at Sukkot:

1. Bethleham was "booked solid." This would not have been due census which would have taken place over the period of a year. Every Jew was required to come to Jerusalem for Sukkot (Dt. 16:16) this would have over run Jerusalem as well as Bethleham just five miles away.

2. Yeshua was born in a stable. The Hebrew word for "stable" is "sukkah"
(as in Gen. 33:17) so it is likely that Yeshua was born in a Sukkah/booth.

3. If Yeshua was born on the first day of Sukkot then he would have been circumcised on the "eighth great day" a festival following Sukkot. This day was the original "Simchat Torah" (Rejoicing in the Torah) which is now held the following day in Rabbinic Judaism. So Yeshua would have entered the covenant on the day of "rejoicing in the Torah."

4. When the angels appeared to the shepherds they made a statement which closely echos the ancient Sukkot liturgy "...behold, we have come to declare to you glad tidings of great joy." (Lk. 2:10-11)

5. Sukkot is symbolic of God dwelling in a "tabernacle" (body?) with us.

Now in Mt. 2:7-8, 16 Herod kills all the children two and under. The fact that he killed such a wide range indicates that he did not know quite how long ago Messiah had been born. Yeshua's parents fled to Egypt until they heard Herod was dead. They were back in Bethleham in time to perform Miriam's (Mary's) purification and Yeshua's dedication on the 4oth day after Yeshua's birth (as required by Torah) (Luke 2:22-38.

By this time Herod had to be dead or they could not have come to the Temple in Jerusalem. Herod had to have died during the 40 days between Yeshua's birth, and his dedication 40 days later. Herod is known to have died in September of 4 B.C.E. So Yeshua had to have born in the fall (this rueles out that Zechariah could have been serving during Abijah's second course of the year, since that would place Yeshua's birth in the Spring and not allow for Herod's death during the 40 days after his birth in the fall). This also tells us that the year of Yeshua's birth was 4 B.C.E.


THE PAGAN ORIGIN OF CHRISTMAS

As early as the first century converts from Pagan backgrounds (who “did service unto them which by nature are no gods”) were attempting to incorporate their old pagan festivals into the Messianic movement and Paul rebuked them for this:

8: Howbeit then, when ye knew not God,
ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods.
9: But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God,
how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements,
whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?
10: Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.
11: I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.
(Gal. 4:8-11; KJV)

About the year 230 the Gentile Christian "Church Father" Tertullian wrote:

By us [Gentile Christians] who are strangers to (Jewish)
Sabbaths, and new moons, and festivals, once acceptable
to God, the Saturnalia, the feasts of January, the Brumalia,
and Matronalia are now frequented, with gifts being carried
to and fro.

That Christmas is of pagan origin is hardly a matter of debate. It is a matter of fact that the same date was celebrated by the Pagan Romans as the Birthday of the Sun god and had originated in the Babylonian Mystery Religion.

Most encyclopedias readily admit this fact under their articles on Christmas. Even the Christian Book of Why CBW) (which in general advocates observance of Christmas) admits the pagan origin of Christmas.
One of the first questions this book answers about Christmas is “Why was Christmas not celebrated by Christians of the Early Church?” (a point even the Christian Book of Why does not dispute). The CBW answers this
question:

Christians of the first century did not celebrate the
festival honoring the birth of Jesus…. It was the feeling
at that time by all Christians that the celebration…
was a custom of the pagans. In an effort to divorce
themselves from all pagan practices, the early Christians
refused to set aside a date marking Jesus’ birth. As
a result, the first celebration of Christmas by Christians
did not take place until the fourth century.
(CBW p. 205)

The next question answered by the Christian Book of Why is “Why is Christmas celebrated on December 25th?” The CBW answers:

…Most biblical scholars agree that the birth, in fact,
did not take place in December at all… Why then the
25th of December? Actually, the date was chosen not
by Christians, but by Romans, the traditional antagonists
of the Early Church. … the Romans celebrated the “Feast
of Sol Invictus” (The Feast of the Unconquerable Sun) on
December 25th. Bishop Liberius of Rome ordered in 354
that all Christians celebrate the birth of the Christ child on
that day.
(CBW pp. 205-206)

To obtain more adherents to Roman Catholicism it was the policy of the papacy to amalgamate the heathen festivals with things of Christendom.
Pope Gregory wrote to Augustine the first missionary to the British Isles (C.E. 597):

Do not destroy the temples of the English G-ds;
change them to Christian churches. Do not forbid
the "harmless" customs which have been associated
with the old religions; consecrate them to Christian use.

Thus Rome retained a pagan form for "Xmas" but could not restrain its pagan spirit-- existing to this day. Most of the major elements one generally associates with Christmas can be shown to be of pagan origin.

Mistletoe, holly berries, wreaths, Christmas ham, the Christmas goose, the yule log, the Christmas tree and even Santa Clause can be traced back to pagan origins.

Mistletoe is a parasite which the Druids used as a charm. Holly Berries were believed to be sacred to the Sun god. Wreaths were used by pagan Druids as well. The boar and goose were animals commonly offered by Pagans to the Sun god. The Norse and Anglo Saxon tribes would burn a “Yule Log” to honor Thor. The Scandinavians even adopted the word Yule (wheel, sun) as their word for “Christmas”. The Christmas tree may be traced back to the worship of Oak trees by the Anglo and Germanic tribes but goes even further back to the use of trees in the worship of Tammuz by the Babylonians.

Santa has a pagan origin as well. When the Norse burned the yule log they believed that the goddess Hertha would appear in the fireplace and bring good luck upon the home. Christians replaced the goddess Hertha with St.
Nicholas, and anti-Semitic fourth century “Saint” whose feast day was near Christmas time. The Dutch called St. Nicholas “Sinter Klause” which was picked up in America as “Santa Clause”. Santa Clause retains godlike qualities. He is apparently omnisent (he knows who is naughty and nice) omnipresent (visits all of the children of the world in one night) and perhaps even omnipotent (at the very least has magical powers). It is interesting that “Santa” is an anagram of “Satan” and that both are often called “Old Nick”.

In fact because of its well known pagan origins Christmas was actually illegal in early colonial America and only gradually became a legal holiday in the United States. In fact the Christian Book of Why even includes the Question “Why was the celebration of Christmas once banned in the United States?” (p. 206). It was not until 1856 that Christmas was made a legal holiday in Massachusetts, the last of the US states to accept Christmas as a legal holiday.

Although many Christians see Christmas as a “Christian” holiday, Christmas is actually a very worldly holiday. Non-Jews do not join with Jews to celebrate Jewish holidays. Non-Muslims do not join with Muslims to celebrate Muslim holidays. So why do non-Christians join with Christians in the celebration of Christmas? Why do pornographic magazines feature special Christmas issues? Why do topless bars, gay bars and strip joints host Christmas parties? Why do non-believers love Christmas? Because Christmas is clearly a worldly holiday. On this day Christians and non-believers join in the celebration of the high carnival of the year, while Nazarene Jews and others abstaining from this pagan holiday are called “ignorant”, “narrow minded” and “crack pots” for objecting to Christmas observance. On this day the whole world pretends to love Messiah, even though Messiah said the whole world hates him (Jn. 7:7).

"Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them."
(Eph. 5:11).

The birth of Jesus is remembered each year but Yeshua is contemptuously set at naught.

The Torah reminds us:

"You shall not follow a multitude to do evil"
(Ex. 23:2)

And as Yeshua himself said:

"That which is highly esteemed among men is abominable in the sight of Elohim"
(Luke 16:15)

And as Paul writes:

"Be you not conformed to this world but be you transformed by the renewing of your mind,
that you may know what is that good and acceptable and wholehearted will of God."
(Rom. 12:2)

We are commanded to come out from Babylon, be separate and not to partake of her sins (2Cor. 6:14-18; Rev. 18:2-5; Is. 48:20; 52:11; Jer. 50:8; 51:6, 45; Zech. 2:6-7).


Meat Offered to Idols

It has been suggested that Paul's statements in 1Cor. 8:1-13; 10:7, 14-28 conflict with the ruling against eating meat offered up to idols (Acts 15:10, 29; 21:25; Rev. 2:14, 20). However there is in reality no conflict.
Let me explain:

Acts chapter 15 does not give an exhaustive enumeration of all of the laws which apply to gentiles, but rather the "greater burden" or outer lying limits of the Noachdic or Gentile Law (Acts 15:28). This is based on a Jewish principle called "KOL V'KHOMER" (light and heavy) which recognizes that certain commandments are of greater weight than others (see Mt. 23:23; the principle is used in Mt. 12:11-12 & Jn. 7:22-23). There was never any question as to whether Gentiles could forsake justice, blaspheme, murder or steal; so there was no need to list these with the greatest burden of Gentile Law.

The Noachdic Law against idolatry is given very strict borders. Idolatry is to include eating meat offered to idols.

Now in 1Cor. 8:1-13; 10:7, 14-28 Paul agrees that one may not knowingly eat meat offered up to idols. The halachic issue Paul questions, is whether or not one must ask, when purchasing meat, whether or not it has been offered to idols. Paul argues (based on Ps. 24:1=1Cor. 10:26, 28) that meat is not actually altered by the idol but that eating such meat appears to others to endorse the idol to which it was offered. If meat is advertised as having been offered to idols, then believers may not eat it, since this would appear to endorse the idol. However, since the idol has no real power over the meat, believers are not required to ask, since this would imply that the believer believed that the idol had power over the meat, thus ascribing power to the idol and endorsing idolatry by acknowledging the idol's alleged power.

A basis for Paul's argument can be found by comparing Paul's summation of his argument in 1Cor. 10:28 to the story of the martyr Eleazar in 2Maccabbes 6:1-29. Eleazer was a prominent Jew under the Helene rule. A day came when all of the Jews were to show their loyalty by eating meat offered to idols at a public feast. Eleazar was not willing to do so, but because of his prominence, the authorities offered to allow him to sneak kosher meat into the feast and eat it instead, thus only appearing to eat meat offered up to idols. Eleazer refused, knowing that this would appear to endorse idolatry, despite the fact that the meat would be kosher. As a result Eleazar was executed. This story demonstrates that eating meat offered to idols is wrong, not because of the meat itself, but because of the implied endorsement of the idolatry. Thus, Paul's interpretation does not conflict with Acts 15 but actually implies a very strict interpretation, by which eating kosher meat would also be forbidden, if the meat were falsely advertised as having been offered to an idol.

The December 25th holiday (Christmas) is a holiday which has been offered up to idols. The idols have not changed the day, but observance of December 25th appears to support idolatry. It is a well known fact (found in most any encyclopedia and even the Christian Book of Why) that Christmas is simply a Christian adoption of a pagan holiday. Believers who observe Christmas appear to endorse idolatry. This can have the effect of making the believers testimony to his faith appear false (or hypocritical) while driving non-believers to other faiths which may be apostate in other areas but which abstain from Pagan holidays (for example the Jehovah’s Witnesses). Those who witness to the truth in other areas but observe Christmas dishonor the truth and make it look as if it must be false. And this is part of the message of Chanukah as we will see later.


What about Romans 14?

Some Christians will quote Romans 14:5-6 in an effort to prove that we should not object to observing Christmas as a special day. The problem is that they take Rom. 14:5-6 out of context.

In Romans 14 Paul is comparing those who are weak in the faith with those who are not (14:1-2). He first compares non-vegetarians to vegetarians (14:2) and finds that while vegetarians are weak in the faith, we should not “despise” them (14:3).

Then Paul compares those who “esteem one day above another” to one who “esteems every day alike” (14:5). If we compare with the parallelism of the previous example it would seem that Paul is saying that those who esteem every day alike are weak in the faith just as vegetarians are weak in the faith. Thus the “correct” position described in Rom. 14:5 is to “esteem one day above another” (as required by Torah). In context those who “esteem one day above another” in Rom. 14:5 are those who observe sacred days as laid out in Torah. They are NOT those observing pagan festivals. The ones we are told not to judge are not Christmas keepers either but the ones who “esteem every day alike” (i.e. who do not observe any holidays at all).

The following chart will help illustrate the point:

[One who is not weak] “One who is weak”
“Believes he may eat all things” “eats only herbs”
“esteems one day above another” “esteems every day alike”

Paul is saying that these weaker brothers should be strengthened in the faith, not despised and judged. However Paul speaks very differently about those who attempt to incorporate Pagan holidays into the true faith:

8: Howbeit then, when ye knew not God,
ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods.
9: But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God,
how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements,
whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?
10: Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.
11: I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.
(Gal. 4:8-11; KJV)


Chanukah not Christmas

While the early believers did not observe Christmas, Yeshua himself observed Chanukah as recorded in John 10:22-23:

And it was at Jerusalem the Feast of the Dedication (Chanukah),
and it was winter.
And Yeshua walked in the Temple in Solomon’s porch.

It is sad that Chanukah is often thought of a Jewish equivalent of Christmas. Christmas and Chanukah are complete opposites. Christmas is the result of assimilation into Pagan Helenistic culture. Chanukah has to do with resisting assimilation into Pagan Helenistic culture, even to the point of death. Why do we observe Chanukah?

When the Greek Helene Empire was split after the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BCE, there were continuous attempts by the Greeks to force our people to abandon Torah and Judaism and adopt Helenistic ideas, customs and practices. In 175 BCE King Antiochus force was employed to persecute all Jews who held to Judaism. He looted the Templeforced all Jews to bow down to idols he placed there and sacrificed a pig on the Holy Alter.

Of course this defilement of the Temple and persecution resulted in a Jewish uprising. The leader of this uprising was Judah Maccabee. On the 25th of Kislev, exactly three years to the day after the defilement of the Temple, the Greeks were driven out in the year 165 BCE. Thus on the 25th of Kislev the Temple was rededicated.

This event is recorded in the First Book of the Maccabees as follows:

Then said Judas and his brothers, "Behold, our enemies are crushed; let us
go up to cleanse the sanctuary and dedicate it."
So all the army assembled and they went up to Mount Zion.
And they saw the sanctuary desolate, the altar profaned, and the gates
burned. In the courts they saw bushes sprung up as in a thicket,
or as on one of the mountains. They saw also the chambers
of the priests in ruins.
Then they rent their clothes, and mourned with great lamentation, and
sprinkled themselves with ashes.
They fell face down on the ground, and sounded the signal on the trumpets,
and cried out to Heaven.
Then Judas detailed men to fight against those in the citadel until he had
cleansed the sanctuary.
He chose blameless priests devoted to the law, and they cleansed
the sanctuary and removed the defiled stones to an unclean place.
They deliberated what to do about the altar of burnt offering, which had
been profaned.
And they thought it best to tear it down, lest it bring reproach upon them,
for the Gentiles had defiled it. So they tore down the altar,
and stored the stones in a convenient place on the temple hill until there
should come a prophet to tell what to do with them.
Then they took unhewn stones, as the law directs, and built a new altar
like the former one.
They also rebuilt the sanctuary and the interior of the temple, and
consecrated the courts.
They made new holy vessels, and brought the lampstand, the altar of
incense, and the table into the temple.
Then they burned incense on the altar and lighted the lamps on the
lampstand, and these gave light in the temple.
They placed the bread on the table and hung up the curtains. Thus they
finished all the work they had undertaken.
Early in the morning on the twenty-fifth day of the ninth month, which is
the month of Chislev, in the one hundred and forty-eighth year,
they rose and offered sacrifice, as the law directs, on the new altar of
burnt offering which they had built.
At the very season and on the very day that the Gentiles had profaned it,
it was dedicated with songs and harps and lutes
and cymbals.
All the people fell on their faces and worshiped and blessed Heaven, who
had prospered them.
So they celebrated the dedication of the altar for eight days, and offered
burnt offerings with gladness; they offered a sacrifice of deliverance and praise.
They decorated the front of the temple with golden crowns and small shields; they restored the gates and the chambers for the priests, and furnished them with doors.
There was very great gladness among the people, and the reproach of the
Gentiles was removed.
Then Judas and his brothers and all the assembly of Israel determined that
every year at that season the days of dedication of
the altar should be observed with gladness and joy for eight days,
beginning with the twenty-fifth day of the month of Chislev.
(1Maccabees 4:36-59)

The Talmud add the following information:

What is the reason for Chanukah? For our Rabbis taught:
On the 25th of Kislev begin the days of Chanukah,
which are eight, during which lamentation for the dead
and fasting are forbidden. For when the Greeks entered
the Temple, they defiled all the oils in it, and when the
Hasmonean dynasty prevailed against and defeated them,
they [the Hasmoneans] searched and found only one cruse
of oil which possessed the seal of the High Priest, but which
contained sufficient oil for only one day's lighting; yet
a miracle occurred there and they lit [the lamp] for eight days.
The following year these days were appointed a Festival with
the recitation of Hallel and thanksgiving.
(b.Shabbat 21b)

(See also: 2Macc. 10:5-8 and Josephus Ant. 12:7:6-7)

Let us remember the true message of Chanukah and what for us is the "reason for the season"... resisting Pagan helenistic influences such as Christmas.


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