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Merry Non-Pagan Christmas

This time of year brings back memories of childhood and family, at least for those of us who were blessed to have parents who made Christmas a memorable time.  As a parent myself, there was a special joy in creating similar Christmas memories for our daughter when she was young.

As I grew in my walk with the Lord, however, our culture’s annual celebration of the holiday began to bother me.  The rank commercialism is so out of character with what the birth of Christ means for the world that being part of it felt more wrong with each passing year.

Recently, there’s been a growing trend among some Christians to take it further.  It’s not just the trees and decorations that appear before Halloween, it’s the day itself that some Christians object to.

A belief has been growing that Christmas is based on pagan celebrations.  December 25 was selected for Christmas, it’s believed, because it was the date of the annual Saturnalia, a Roman festival for the winter solstice.  It was celebrated with a sacrifice in Rome’s Temple of Saturn was followed by a big party—a public feast, private gift-giving, and temporary suspension of social rules with masters waiting on slaves, gambling, and general drunkenness.

It’s probable that the church sometimes adopted days celebrated by pagan religions and Christianized them—which is not to say the pagan holy days were made Christian, just given a Christian veneer.  For example, All Hallows Eve and All Saints Day, which likely developed out of the Celtic festival of the dead, Samhain.  So, the logic goes, it must also have happened with Christmas—the “Christ mass”—and Saturnalia.

Or Christmas might have been an attempt to hijack the birthday celebration for Sol Invictus, the “unconquered sun” god of Rome.

Some take the rites back even farther in time and claim that December 25 was celebrated in the ancient Near East as the birthday of the world’s first emperor, Nimrod.  The belief is that Christmas originated as a celebration of the birth of Nimrod, king of Babylon, to his wife-mother, Semiramis.  You see, she didn’t like the idea of giving up the lifestyle of a queen just because of Nimrod’s untimely and inconsiderate death, and so she produced another child—either Nimrod’s unborn son or through an affair—who she claimed was the resurrected Nimrod.  She declared Nimrod a god, a sun god by most accounts, thus making herself a goddess.  The yule log represents Nimrod, who’s also sometimes identified as Ba’al, and the Christmas tree represents Nimrod resurrected as his son, Tammuz.

On top of all that, we’re told that we also celebrate the birth of Christ on the wrong day.  We can’t know for sure, but clues in the Bible suggest a birthday in the spring or fall.  (There is an excellent analysis of prophetic clues in Revelation 12:1-5, the passages referring to “the woman clothed with the sun,” by E.L. Martin in his book The Star of Bethlehem: The Star That Astonished the World, pointing to the precise arrangement of the skies over Jerusalem on September 11, 3 B.C.)  Some feel that the birth of the Messiah, if it’s going to be celebrated at all, should at least be remembered on the correct day—or as correct as we can be, anyway.

So what shall we say then?  Should we just chuck Christmas out with the uneaten Thanksgiving leftovers?

No.  Not necessarily.

The questions we need to ask are these:

  • Is Christmas really based on the worship of pagan gods?
  • When did the early church begin celebrating Christmas?
  • Why did they settle on December 25 for the holiday?

The answer to the first question is a resounding “no.”  First of all, the concept of Nimrod as a god is a non-starter.  Let me make this very clear: There is no evidence whatsoever from the ancient Near East that Nimrod was ever worshiped as a god in any way, shape, or form.

In fact, the myths that grew up around the memory of Nimrod were probably based on a Babylonian god—most likely the warrior god Ninurta—instead of the other way around!

Furthermore, Semiramis, the Assyrian queen Sammuramat, reigned between 811 and 808 B.C. or from 809 to 792 B.C.  She was one of the first women in history to rule an empire.  However, to put Nimrod at the Tower of Babel (which was not at Babylon—but I’ll spare you the explanation because it is in my book, The Great Inception, see below), we have to go back about 2,300 years before Semiramis.

It’s tough to have children when you live 2,300 years apart.

Much of the information about Nimrod, Semiramis, and Tammuz comes from Alexander Hislop’s 1858 book The Two Babylons.  With all due respect, because he was no doubt sincere in his desire to warn the world about what he believed was the false religion of the Roman Catholic Church, Hislop’s scholarship was poor at best.  It looks like he took the names of literally dozens of ancient gods and goddesses and mixed them up into an ancient myth smoothie.  Hislop may have meant well, but he’s misled Christians for more than 150 years.

Now, that’s not to say Nimrod got a bum rap.  There was a reason God came down to personally stop construction at Babel.  You’ll have to wait for the book for that explanation, too.

In short, Nimrod was not a sun god and he wasn’t Ba’al, either.  In fact, Ba’al would probably be insulted you said so.  Nimrod was only human, while Ba’al was a god of storms, rain, and vegetation.  He was worshiped for a time as one of the ancient Near East’s “dying and rising gods”—like Tammuz.  (Who was worshiped as a god in Sumer long before Semiramis came on the scene.)  As such, Ba’al and Tammuz would have been mourned in the fall and celebrated in the spring.  Neither of those seasons matches December 25.

So when did Christians begin to celebrate Christmas?  The earliest record of its observance comes from Clement of Alexandria around 200 A.D.  But the first suggestion that Christmas might be linked to pagan worship didn’t come until the 12th century, about 900 years later.

In other words, as far as historians can tell, none of the Christians from the 3rd through 12th centuries seemed to think they were accidentally worshiping a pagan god.

The Donatist sect in North Africa celebrated Jesus’ birth on December 25 in the early 4th century, before Constantine became emperor of Rome (so we can’t blame him).  And while it’s true that the emperor Aurelian, who really hated Christians, made veneration of Sol Invictus the law throughout the Roman Empire in 274, a collection of ancient writings called Inscriptiones Latinae Selectae records the feast day during the reign of Licinius (308-324 A.D.) as being on the 18th of November.

There is limited evidence that a feast for Sol Invictus was held on December 25 before the middle of the 4th century.  And remember, Christians were celebrating the birth of Christ on December 25 about half a century earlier.

In other words, we can just as easily say that pagans moved the feast of Sol Invictus to hijack a Christian tradition!

So, given that nobody in the first century thought to write down the actual date of Jesus’ birth, how did the early church arrive at December 25?  It’s a little complex, but it illustrates the motives of the church fathers—which, you might have guessed, was not to sneak pagan worship into the faith.

It seems that second-century Latin Christians in Rome and North Africa wanted to determine the exact date of the Lord’s death.  For reasons that escape us, they settled on March 25, 29 A.D.  (The reasons escape us because March 25 was not a Friday that year, nor was it Passover Eve, nor did Passover Eve fall on a Friday in 29 A.D., or even in the month of March, for that matter.  Still, there we are.)

Now, there was a widespread belief in Judaism back then in the “integral age” of great Jewish prophets.  It was thought that the prophets of Israel died on the same day they were conceived.

It’s not biblical, but that’s not the point.  The early church believed it and that’s what led to their conclusion:  When you add nine months to March 25, you arrive at… December 25.

There you have it.  No pagan influence, just a desire to know the dates that forever changed the history of the world.

Now, are there unbiblical, and even un-Christian, traditions in our culture that surround the Christmas holiday?  Absolutely!  And if they lead you to avoid Christmas, then by all means you are correct to do so.

But if you are satisfied in your mind that Christmas is a time to reflect, remember, and give thanks to a loving God who willingly came to Earth as one of us, ultimately to sacrifice Himself for our sins, then by all means celebrate the day without a trace of guilt.

If God judges us on accidental paganism, we’re all doomed.  The wedding ring is a tradition that started in ancient Egypt.  The days of the week are named for pagan gods (in English, anyway).

The apostle Paul put it best:

One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.

Romans 14:5-6 (ESV)

Be convinced in your own mind. If you keep Christmas, or if you do not, do it for the Lord.

Merry Christmas, and may God richly bless you and your family.

_______

Derek Gilbert
www.derekpgilbert.com

Last Clash of the Titans: The Prophesied War Between Jesus Christ and the Gods of Antiquity | LastClashOfTheTitans.com
The Great Inception: Satan’s PSYOPs from Eden to Armageddon | TheGreatInception.com

The Day the Earth Stands Still: Unmasking the Old Gods Behind ETs and UFOs (with Josh Peck) | OfficialDisclosure.com

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My podcast: A View from the Bunker – live Sundays 7-9 PM Central Time
Weekly Bible study: The Gilbert House Fellowship

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Derek Gilbert Bio

Derek P. Gilbert hosts SkyWatchTV, a Christian television program that airs on several national networks, the long-running interview podcast A View from the Bunker, and co-hosts SciFriday, a weekly television program that analyzes science news with his wife, author Sharon K. Gilbert.
Before joining SkyWatchTV in 2015, his secular broadcasting career spanned more than 25 years with stops at radio stations in Philadelphia, Saint Louis, Little Rock, and suburban Chicago.
Derek is a Christian, a husband and a father. He’s been a regular speaker at Bible prophecy conferences in recent years. Derek’s most recent book is The Great Inception: Satan’s PSYOPs from Eden to Armageddon. He has also published the novels The God Conspiracy and Iron Dragons, and he’s a contributing author to the nonfiction anthologies God’s Ghostbusters, Blood on the Altar, I Predict: What 12 Global Experts Believe You Will See by 2025, and When Once We Were a Nation.

Nimrod and the Return to Babel

The end of the Sumerian poem Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta is mostly missing, but it appears that Enmerkar ultimately triumphed over his rival. Other stories suggest that Enmerkar, who I believe was the biblical Nimrod (I make that case in my book, The Great Inception), later marched the army of Uruk to Aratta and conquered it.

This is consistent with archaeological evidence of the Uruk Expansion, which covers the period from about 3500 B.C. to about 3100 B.C. Although scholars usually downplay the violence that created the world’s first empire, Uruk spread its influence as far away as northwest Iran and southeastern Turkey. Pottery from Uruk has been found are more than 500 miles away from the city. To put it into context, Uruk at its peak controlled more territory than Iraq under Saddam Hussein.

This was not always a peaceful endeavor. An ancient city called Hamoukar in northeast Syria was destroyed and burned by an army from Uruk sometime around 3500 B.C. Scholars have identified the origin of the army by the pottery they left behind. Hamoukar was overwhelmed and then burned by attackers who used clay bullets fired from slings to defeat the city’s defenders. Strangely, what appears to have been a trading post from Uruk outside the city was destroyed, too, suggesting that maybe the men sent by Uruk to keep the locals in line had gone native.

That was how the kingdom of Nimrod obtained materials like jewels, copper, silver, lead, gold, timber, wine, and other things that were scarce in the plains of Sumer.

Of course, there is no way we’ll ever know for certain that Nimrod was Enmerkar, and that he was responsible for the Uruk Expansion—which is a nice way of describing the process of conquering everybody within a two-month march of home. Artifacts from Uruk are found everywhere in the Near East, especially a type of pottery called the beveled-rim bowl. This is significant because it offers a glimpse into the way the society of Uruk was organized.

Scholars have found that the society just before the Uruk period, the Ubaid culture, became more stratified as people moved from rural settlements to cities. The Ubaid civilization produced high-quality pottery, identified by black geometric designs on buff or green-colored ceramic. In contrast, around 3500 B.C., the Uruk culture developed the world’s first mass-produced product, the beveled-rim bowl.

The beveled-rim bowl is crude compared to the pottery from the Ubaid culture, but archaeologists have found a lotof them. About three-quarters of all pottery found at Uruk period sites are beveled-rim bowls. Scholars agree that these simple, undecorated bowls were made in molds rather than on wheels, and that they were probably used to measure out barley and oil for workers’ rations.

The way they were produced left the hardened clay too porous to hold liquids like water or beer. (Yes, the Sumerians brewed beer. Enki’s alternate name, Nudimmud, is a compound word: nu = “likeness” + dim = “make” + mud = “beer.” One could argue that Enki is the spirit of our age.)  The bowls were cheap and easy to make, so much so that they may have been disposable. At some archaeological sites, large numbers of used, unbroken bowls have been found in big piles. Basically, these cheap bowls were the Sumerian version of Styrofoam fast-food containers.

The concept of measuring out rations implies an employer or controlling central authority responsible for doling out grain and oil to laborers. It’s not a coincidence that the development of these crude bowls happened alongside Uruk’s emergence as an empire. After the flood, which we theorize marked the end of the Ubaid period, people again gravitated to urban settlements where they apparently exchanged their freedom for government rations.

It looks like that’s how Nimrod and his successors, including Gilgamesh, controlled their subjects—moving them off the land and into cities, keeping a tight rein on the means of production and distribution of food and resources.

Now, it’s possible we’re reading more into the evidence than is truly there. It could be that the beveled-rim bowl was nothing more than an easy way for people to carry lunch to work. Will future archaeologists conclude that Americans were paid in carry-out hamburgers because of the billions of Styrofoam containers in our landfills?

Still, given the unprecedented growth of the Uruk empire between about 3500 B.C. and 3100 B.C., it’s not going too far to speculate that the use of mass-produced ration bowls was a symptom of the stratification of society under the rule of Nimrod/Enmerkar and his successors. As in the Ubaid culture, citizens of Uruk found themselves working for hereditary leaders—kings, who justified their rule as ordained by the gods.

As an example, the Sumerian myth Enki and Inanna tells the story of how the divine gifts of civilization, the mes (sounds like “mezz”), were stolen from Enki by the Inanna and transferred from Eridu to Uruk. Enki, always ready for a romp with a goddess, tried to ply Inanna with beer. She maintained her virtue while Enki got drunk, offering her gift after gift as his heart grew merry and his mind grew dim. When he awoke the next day with a hangover, Inanna and the mes were no longer in the abzu. The enraged god sent out his horrible gallu demons (sometimes translated “sea monsters”) to retrieve them, but Inanna escaped and arrived safely back at Uruk, where she dispensed the hundred or so mes to the cheers of a grateful city. Enki realized he’d been duped and accepted a treaty of everlasting peace with Uruk. This tale may be a bit of religious propaganda to justify the transfer of political authority to Uruk.

One more thing:  We mentioned earlier that archaeologists at Eridu have found 18 construction layers at the site of Enki’s temple. Some of those layers are below an eight-foot deposit of silt from a massive flood. The most impressive layer of construction, called Temple 1, was huge, a temple on a massive platform with evidence of an even larger foundation that would have risen up to almost the height of the temple itself.

Here’s the thing:  Temple 1 was never finished. At the peak of the builders’ architectural achievement, Eridu was suddenly and completely abandoned.

… the Uruk Period … appears to have been brought to a conclusion by no less an event than the total abandonment of the site. … In what appears to have been an almost incredibly short time, drifting sand had filled the deserted buildings of the temple-complex and obliterated all traces of the once prosperous little community.i

Why? What would possibly cause people who’d committed to building the largest ziggurat in Mesopotamia at the most ancient and important religious site in the known world to just stop work and leave Eridu with the E-abzu unfinished? Could it be…

“Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. (Genesis 11:8-9, ESV, emphasis added)

To the Sumerians, and later the Akkadians and Babylonians (who knew him as Ea), Enki was the supernatural actor with the most influence on human history. He was the caretaker of the divine gifts of civilization, the mes (at least until he was tricked by Inanna), and he retained enough prestige for powerful men to justify their reign by claiming kingship over his city, Eridu, for 2,500 years after the city around the temple complex was abandoned.

For one moment in human history, Enki induced a human dupe—Nimrod, the Sumerian king Enmerkar—to build what he hoped would be a new abode of the gods, the bāb ilu, to rival Yahweh’s mount of assembly. It was to be the heart of a one-world totalitarian government.

Yahweh put a stop to it. But as George Santayana wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

The sin of Nimrod is being repeated today by the globalist movement, which is slowly but surely leading us back to Babel.

i Safar, Fuʼād; Lloyd, Seton; Muṣṭafá, Muḥammad ʻAlī; Muʼassasah al-ʻĀmmah lil-Āthār wa-al-Turāth. Eridu. Republic of Iraq, Ministry of Culture and Information, State Organization of Antiquites and Heritage, Baghdad, 1981.

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Derek Gilbert Bio

Derek P. Gilbert hosts SkyWatchTV, a Christian television program that airs on several national networks, the long-running interview podcast A View from the Bunker, and co-hosts SciFriday, a weekly television program that analyzes science news with his wife, author Sharon K. Gilbert.
Before joining SkyWatchTV in 2015, his secular broadcasting career spanned more than 25 years with stops at radio stations in Philadelphia, Saint Louis, Little Rock, and suburban Chicago.
Derek is a Christian, a husband and a father. He’s been a regular speaker at Bible prophecy conferences in recent years. Derek’s most recent book is The Great Inception: Satan’s PSYOPs from Eden to Armageddon. He has also published the novels The God Conspiracy and Iron Dragons, and he’s a contributing author to the nonfiction anthologies God’s Ghostbusters, Blood on the Altar, I Predict: What 12 Global Experts Believe You Will See by 2025, and When Once We Were a Nation.