On Christmas and Unsound Arguments

At every Christmas period, the social media is awash with anti-Christmas zealots. The spectrum ranges from dye-in-wool fundamentalists to heretical sects (like Jehovah’s Witnesses) to the Hebrew-Roots adherents who present Hanukkah as a viable alternative. Here, I will be responding to the unsound sticks of one Femi Aribisala who heads the Healing Wings cult.

Since 2012 when I first came across Femi Aribisala’s articles, he has carved a niche for himself as a critic of the Bible, Christianity and Christian holidays. His articles are often well-circulated by Muslims and other anti-Christians who are always eager to throw any media propaganda trash at the Bible. I will be responding to his article titled “Why Christians Should not Celebrate Christmas” and I appeal to all those who loll out their tongues at his write-ups to double-check them and think critically before accepting his claims. His words will be in bold.

Jesus never told anyone to celebrate his birthday. If he wanted to do so, he would have told us when and how. He did not.

Typical anti-Christmas talking point. This argument presumes that every celebration that is not directly commanded by Christ must be an innovative error. Did Mr Femi receive a command from Jesus to start writing newspaper articles before he did? Did the Lord command him to start his “Healing Wings” group? Did Jesus tell him when and how? I’m sure He didn’t. In the same vein, the Lord Jesus doesn’t have to command His birth to be celebrated before it’s deemed acceptable. Celebrating Christmas is a personal decision, and as much as non-essential matters are concerned, “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind” (Rom. 14:5). God does not structure us into a labyrinth of rules or produce Christians on a factory assembly line.

Moreover, we know from the Scriptures that the early church never celebrated Jesus’ birthday. There is no such record in the Acts of the Apostles. We are told to remember the Lord’s death (Lk. 22:16) and not to celebrate his birth.

This is straight out of Watchtower writings. The hypocrisy here is that Aribisala believes apostle Paul was never a true Christian, that the Epistles are his perversions of Christ’s teachings. Yet the very Acts of the Apostles he is appealing to offer credible evidence to the contrary. If the book of Acts is a reliable account of the early church, it must also be reliable enough to prove apostle Paul was a true Christian.

Now, if Jesus’ birth was as insignificant as this man wants us to believe, the Gospel writers wouldn’t have recorded it. Christ’s conception was announced by an angel; His birth was heralded by angels and His infancy was protected by God. The events surrounding His birth were fulfillment of Bible prophecies just as His death. Aribisala goes on to parrot the Jehovah’s Witness argument that celebrating birthdays is bad because Pharaoh and Herod executed people on their birthdays (Gen. 40:20-22, Mt. 14:6-11). Nice try, but Pharaoh and Herod were basically evil people who killed people on every other day, not just on their birthdays.

December 25 celebrations actually started with sun worshippers during the time of Nimrod, the man who supervised the building of the tower of Babel. His widow, Semiramis, said to be queen of heaven had a son called Tammuz; venerated by many as the god of the sun.

This drivel is straight out of Jack Chick’s tracts and comics. In his crusader comic, The Force, we read: “The queen of Babylon (Semiramis) ordered the world to celebrate the birth of her son, ‘Tammuz.’ He of course, was the sun god, Baal…” (p 26). This sensational story suffers from a host of problems:

a) There is no Biblical evidence that Nimrod supervised the building of the tower of Babel. The Bible says little about him and there is no historical record of him. The Chickian tales of Nimrod starting a religion or killed by Shem should be taken with a pinch of Abakaliki salt.

b) Nimrod didn’t live in the same century as Semiramis, so it’s impossible for them to have been husband and wife. No reference work – Encyclopedia Britannica, Encyclopedia Americana, Encyclopedia Judaica, Encyclopedia of Religion or World Book Encyclopedia – puts Nimrod and Semiramis as contemporaries let alone as a couple.

c) Semiramis was never worshipped as a goddess or the queen of heaven. In fact, there is no trace of Semiramis in Sumerian or Babylonian records. She ruled over Assyria, not Babylon and lived in 9th century BC. Worship of the queen of heaven goddesses predates Semiramis by many centuries. For example, an inscription on Asherah (queen of heaven) shows it dating as far back as the 18th century BC. (Anne Baring and Jules Cashford, Myth of the Goddess, 1991, 454)

d) Tammuz was a Sumerian deity who was a lover to Inanna (later Ishtar) and a child to Enki and Ninsun. Tammuz is never described as an actual person and never mentioned as the son of Semiramis or Nimrod in any standard encyclopedia. It’s a shame that a writer would still be publicly peddling old, discredited fictions in this Information Age.

It was believed Tammuz died on December 22 and rose from the dead three days later

More powdered sparrow eggs from the stables of Hislop and Chick. The Easton’s Bible Dictionary under Tammuz says: “In the Chaldean calendar there was a month set apart in honour of this god, the month of June to July, the beginning of the summer solstice.” Fausset’s Bible Dictionary says “An annual feast was kept to him in June.” Aribisala obviously has a very poor information source at his disposal.

Emperor Aurelian of Rome proclaimed the sun god Tammuz to be principal patron of the Roman Empire on December 25, 274 AD. The date corresponds with the winter solstice when pagans celebrated the renewed power of the sun.

Aurelian’s institution of the pagan festival on this date seems to have been to rival Christians who observed the date. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church notes an old tradition that fixed the date of Christ’s birth by counting 9 months after March 25 (or April 7), the vernal equinox on which some early Christians celebrated His conception giving rise to December 25. Early church writers before Aurelian, like Julius Africanus “argues in his Chronicle (A.D. 221) for a date in the winter, December 25.” (Everett F. Encyclopedia of Christianity, 1999, 251)

December 25 had no significance in the Roman pagan festal calendar before Aurelian. Thomas Talley notes that although Aurelian dedicated a temple to the sun god, “the cult of the sun in pagan Rome ironically did not celebrate the winter solstice nor any of the other quarter-tense days as one might expect.” (Michael Anderson, Symbols of Saints, ProQuest, 2008, 42-46).

Constantine…forced all the pagans of his empire to be baptised into the Christian church…December 25, the date of Tammuz’s alleged rebirth was then designated as also the birthday of Jesus.

There you have it. Constantine forced all pagans into the church, even though the emperor himself is depicted on the Arch in Rome sacrificing to pagan deities! This man uses one myth to prop up another myth but he missed one fact: setting up a Christian holiday to replace a pagan holiday is not equivalent to marrying Christianity to paganism. What ancient pagans did on December 25 has no relevance to what modern Christians do on this date.

“For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.” Jeremiah 10:3-4

This is allegedly condemning the Christmas tree, but these folks all stop the quote at vs 4. Verse 5 says “Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good.” This is referring to gods made out of wood. Nothing here describes modern Christmas tree.

The same scenario is described in Isaiah 44 about carpenters shaping wood “in form of man…that it may dwell in a shrine…he makes a god, his idol; he bows to it and worships it.” (vs 13, 17) That pagans in the past worshipped a tree doesn’t mean Christians who decorate a Christmas tree today are doing the same thing. I don’t see Christians bowing and praying to Christmas trees. If they were idols, no one would be throwing them out in the trash after a while.

[Pagan Greeks] used it [decorated trees] to worship their god Adonia. They claimed Adonia was killed and brought to life by the serpent Aessulapius

What has this man been reading? National Enquirer? Aliens? Adonia is the name of a festival, not a god. The proper name is Adonis. Asklepios (Latin: Aesculapius) is a Greek god of healing and medicine depicted holding a staff with a coiled serpent. Again, Aribisala can’t get simple spellings or facts right. The feast of Adonia was not celebrated during winter and obviously not with “Christmas trees” either.

Smith’s Bible Dictionary says “A festival in honor of Adonis was celebrated at Byblus in Phoenicia…It took place in July, and it was accompanied by obscene rites.” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says “The women of Gebal used to repair to this temple [of Venus] in midsummer to celebrate the death of Adonis or Tammuz.” Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible says the river named after Adonis “was fabled to run blood at his festival in August. The women of Phoenicia, Assyria, and Judea worshipped him as dead, with deep lamentation, wearing priapi and other obscene images all the while…”

That Aribisala had such chutzpa to publish this gobbledygook on at least two national newspapers speaks a lot of volumes. He seems to know his fans on the social space too well – ignorant, gullible and fanatical. But there is one thing I’m certain of, if you have truths on your side, you don’t need to bend facts or resort to fictions.

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