Mark D. Roberts

Mark D. Roberts

Was Jesus Divine? Early Christian Perspectives – Introduction to the Series

“I’m okay with Jesus being a great teacher and even somehow a heavenly revealer,” a man once said to me, “but I’m just not into this whole notion of Jesus being God. I have a hard time with that one.” Sound familiar? Have you ever heard this? Maybe even said it yourself? Or maybe you haven’t said it, but deep inside you’ve wondered about how Jesus could possible have been divine.

Indeed, the deity of Jesus isn’t one of the easiest of Christian beliefs to grasp, though it is one of the most central, and, I might add, one of the most controversial. If Jesus was just an inspired human teacher, one who pointed the way (or a way) to God, this fits nicely within our contemporary religious milieu. But if Christians claim that Jesus was not merely a human prophet, as affirmed, for example, by Islam, but somehow also the one true God in the flesh, then this sets Christianity apart from other religions. It implies that Christ is not merely one possible way to God, but a unique way. In our world today, this claim can seem arrogant, if not antique.


Today, some folks who aren’t Christians don’t have a problem with the divinity of Jesus because they believe that all people are, in some sense, divine. Like the Gnostics of days gone by, these spiritual folk affirm that a spark of the divine dwells within each person. They claim that we will experience life most fully when we realize that we are all in some measure divine. From this perspective, Jesus’ divinity seems to pose no problem, since, in the end, all people are divine. Jesus is the Son of God? Not to worry, because we are all sons and daughters of God.

But Christian orthodoxy has always affirmed, not that Jesus was divine in a way common to all people, but in a unique way. Jesus didn’t simply have some element of the divine implanted within him. Rather, he was the unique and perfect incarnation of the one true God. Whether people are right or not in their belief about the divine spark in human beings, what is claimed about Jesus is radically different than this belief, even if it happens to be true.


One of the questions people commonly ask when considering the deity of Jesus is: “Where did this idea come from?” Or, to put the question somewhat differently: “Why did Jesus’ followers start thinking that he was, not just a human teacher and savior, but God in the flesh?” This is a crucial question, one that Christians should be able to answer. In this blog series I will attempt to answer this question by examining the historical records from earliest Christian belief. (Photo: An icon of Jesus Christ as Pantokrator, a Greek word meaning “ruler of all things.” From a Serbian monastery in Greece.)


The question of why the earliest Christians believed Jesus to be divine is important, not only as a matter of historical interest, but also because the divinity of Jesus is often rejected today on the grounds that it was not an essential part of earliest Christian faith but a latter addition. Because it came later, many have argued, it can be safely jettisoned, and we can all get back to the most authentic, politically-correct version of Christianity, in which Jesus is an inspired man, but only a man.


You can find this view in scholarly tomes tucked away in seminary libraries as well as in the pseudo-scholarly volumes on Jesus that fill the shelves of secular bookstores today. But one of the most popular vehicles for the dissemination of the “Jesus was just a great guy who later on got divinized” theory was the wildly successful novel The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, as well as the movie version starring Tom Hanks. Though the popularity of The Da Vinci Code has waned in the last few years, it still offers one of the most readable and influential statements of the “Jesus was just a man” theories.

Consider the following scene, for example, in which the “scholar” Sir Leigh Teabing explains to the ingénue Sophie Neveu what really happened at the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325:

“At this gathering,” Teabing said, “many aspects of Christianity were debated and voted on – the date of Easter, the role of the bishops, the administration of sacraments, and, of course, the divinity of Jesus.”
“I don’t follow. His divinity?”
“My dear,” Teabing declared, “until that moment in history, Jesus was viewed by His followers as a mortal prophet . . . a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless. A mortal.”
“Not the Son of God?”
“Right,” Teabing said. “Jesus’ establishment as ‘the Son of God’ was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicaea.”
“Hold on. You’re saying Jesus’ divinity was the result of a vote?”
“A relatively close vote at that,” Teabing added. (Da Vinci Code, p. 233)


I don’t have the time to refute the myriad of historical inaccuracies in Teabing/Brown’s description of the Council of Nicaea. But, in this present series, I do want to examine closely the historical roots of Christian belief in the divinity of Jesus. In particular, I want to examine historical evidence for the fact that the earliest Christians held Jesus to be, somehow, God in the flesh. I also want to explain why they came to this rather peculiar conviction.

If we find that the earliest Christians did indeed regard Jesus as divine, this doesn’t prove that they were right, of course. They might well have been mistaken. But if the historical record indicates that belief in Jesus’ deity goes back to the first Christians, then the popular notion of his divinity as a late addition to authentic Christianity will be revealed as a fiction. We will be encouraged to reject it, not because orthodox Christians don’t like it, but because it just doesn’t fit the facts.


In the interest of full disclosure, I should at this point mention that I am an orthodox Christian (or at least I try to be) who does in fact believe that Jesus was divine. Naturally, my personal beliefs may impact my scholarship, as is true for every human being, since none of us can be completely objective. Yet, I will do my best in this series to present information that is historically accurate. I have spent a fair amount of my life studying early Christianity, both during my days in graduate school and thereafter. As you read, if you think I’m skewing the evidence in favor of my personal beliefs, you are more than welcome to point this out in the comments or in an email to me.  

In my next post I’ll begin to examine some popular theories, some advocated by Christians and others favored by secularists, that seek to explain early Christian belief in the divinity of Jesus.

  • Ellie Dee

    I believe Chirst came into this world without guilt. That His life on earth, was to understand the nature of man, while living with the psyche of God. He was Gods Love incarnate. We know this because His life has changed mens lives, even today. Who among men, would be able to “forgive those who were killing Him”,knowing full well, “they didnt know what they were doing?” This kind of love,and truth, had never existed on earth before Him. He cricified the ego of man,rose above His own death,in order to establish the Consciousness of God in all men who sought to follow.

  • Wildstar

    In the Book of Hebrews, chapter 1, it reveals that Jesus is God. Starting in verse 5 through to verse 8. Particularly verse 8 where it specifically says: “but about the Son He says “Your throne, O God, will last forever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom.”
    In the Book of Genesis, it also states in chapter 1:26- “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…” Here the use of the word “us” implies there is more than one in the Godhead. Then in John 6:46 Jesus says: “No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father.” That means that the God of the Old Testament was Jesus before He came to Earth. The One who stuffed Moses in the crack of some rocks so that Moses could only see God from behind was Jesus. Every prophet from the Old Testament had contact with Jesus as the God of the Old Testament. The Person Ezekiel saw was the same One who laid down His life for us. We have the Word of God to testify for us exactly who Jesus is.

  • Ray

    It’s October already, if you can believe that, and soon the Christmas decorations will be showing up in the stores. Which leads me to wonder…why do we celebrate the “birth” of the savior rather than the incarnation of God? We Christians make a huge deal about Jesus’ birth in a stable, but we don’t seem to place an equal emphasis on Jesus as the eternally existent 2nd person of the trinity. Wasn’t Jesus (the Logos) there, actively creating way back there in the beginning (John 1)? That was a long time before that infamous night in Bethlehem. I just think we weaken the message of Jesus as God in the flesh when we make such a big deal about his “birth” as a human. Don’t get me wrong – I love Christmas, and I’m NOT Scrooge – I’m just saying….
    Merry Christmas!

  • Jay

    Ray- I totally agree with you. I think I am a “Scrooge” but that’s because I don’t believe that “Christmass” is biblical. Aren’t most of the traditions adapted from the early pagans? This holiday is so commercialized and so many that celebrated it do not live for Christ..

  • Edward T. Babinski

    There’s a series on the Divinity of Jesus online, by a seminary student who is quite well read and up to date in his research and who has a new book out as well!

  • Mark D. Roberts

    Edward: Thanks for the link. I have read a substantial chunk of Stark’s online book: “Oh My God Man.” His title rather reveals his bias, don’t you think? Stark makes many valid insights and has paid close attention to the world in which Jesus lives. Unfortunately, his bias leads him to readings that seem to twist the biblical language out of context. To argue that a first-century Jew could call Jesus Lord and God, and could worship Jesus, but still not think of Jesus as divine seems like a case of special pleading. Stark would be better off concluding, as have the vast majority of scholars who don’t affirm Christian orthodoxy, that the early Christians were simply wrong in believing Jesus to be divine. Trying to argue that those who wrote the New Testament didn’t think of Jesus as, in some sense, God, will stumble over the evidence of the New Testament. Still, I appreciate the link because I believe it’s always good to be challenged by alternative interpretations of the evidence.

  • Thom

    You think I’m biased because of my title? Your comments display some pretty severe ignorance. I believed in Jesus’ divinity until I studied the NT texts against the Second Temple Jewish background. Only then did I realize that such language fit within that world quite cleanly, without implying they thought Jesus was the one true God. It’s clear you haven’t read my argument very carefully at all, or else you wouldn’t have said things like this: “To argue that a first-century Jew could call Jesus Lord and God, and could worship Jesus, but still not think of Jesus as divine seems like a case of special pleading.” On the contrary, it’s special pleading to claim that they DID think he was divine after comparing the NT with the broader corpus of literature.
    You need to go back and read my series a lot more carefully. Otherwise, the only bias showing through here is your own.

  • Thom

    You’re aware, aren’t you, that my conclusions are largely shared by such scholars as James Dunn, John Collins, Adela Yarbro Collins, James McGrath, and many others?
    I’d like you to identify precisely what bias you think it is that I have that is forcing me to twist the evidence. If you can’t do that, then it’s clear you’re just throwing accusations around hoping that no one will realize they don’t stick.

  • Mark D. Roberts

    Thom: Thanks for your comments. I really can’t provide an adequate answer to your questions until I’ve worked through the evidence. But, let me ask you this. Does your conclusion that the early Christians did not believe Jesus was divine support your own personal views about Jesus?

  • Thom

    I already answered that. I was a Trinitarian UNTIL I looked at the evidence, and the evidence changed my mind. THEN I wrote my series and titled it. My own personal views about Jesus changed after my studies corrected it.
    What justification did you have for your claim that bias was distorting my view of the evidence? It seems to me rather that bias was distorting your conclusions about me.

  • Mark D. Roberts

    Thom: Sure. Let me provide an example of what I find unsettling in your work. Here’s a quote from your writing: “Once in the New Testament, Jesus is unambiguously referred to as God. It takes place after his resurrection. Doubting Thomas (coincidence?) puts his hands inside Jesus’ wounds and in astonishment proclaims, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28) Can’t really argue with that. But I will anyway, if only because I need to find some way to justify the arrogance in my heart and my flagrant rejection of the truth.” Now the way you talk about a piece of evidence that doesn’t fit your conclusion doesn’t exactly reassure your reader about your desire to deal fairly with the evidence. Moreover, John 20:28 isn’t just one instance, but rather a centerpiece of the Gospel of John, one might even see it as the pinnacle of the Gospel, which enables us to understand many things in the rest of the Gospel, like Jesus as Word/Wisdom, “I AM,” etc. etc. So, I’m left with the feeling that your particular perspective on things will cause you not to deal fairly with the evidence when it doesn’t fit your perspective. If I have misunderstood you, I apologize. But I have tried to take seriously what you have actually written.

  • Thom

    “if only because I need to find some way to justify the arrogance in my heart and my flagrant rejection of the truth.”
    It’s called sarcasm, Mark. Are you unsettled by sarcasm?
    I used the sarcasm to highlight the fact that although John 20:28 is SEEN by proponents of “orthodoxy” as a death blow to my thesis, in reality the verse fits right in with the broader material examined.

  • Edward T. Babinski

    Hi Mark, Have you read N. T. Wright’s take on C. S. Lewis’ trilemma argument? Wright is a major biblical scholar (coming out of a conservative Christian youth) who attempts to keep the historical Jesus and the theological/creedal Jesus joined as closely as possible. He doesn’t want there to be much of a gap between the two, however, even Wright was forced by the literary evidence of 2nd Temple Judaism to admit that some of the “God talk” about Jesus in the NT is not “equal-to-God” talk. To quote Wright, “What Lewis totally failed to see—as have, of course, many scholars in the field—was that Judaism already had a strong incarnational principle, namely the Temple, and that the language used of Shekinah, Torah, Wisdom, Word, and Spirit in the Old Testament—the language, in other words, upon which the earliest Christians drew when they were exploring and expounding what we have called Christology—was a language designed, long before Jesus’ day, to explain how the one true God could be both transcendent over the world and living and active within it, particularly within Israel. Lewis, at best, drastically short-circuits the argument. When Jesus says, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ he is not claiming straightforwardly to be God, but to give people, out on the street, what they would normally get by going to the Temple.”

  • Thom

    Look, in sum, I have no problem with you disagreeing with my interpretation of the data, but I find it startling that a Harvard-trained scholar would resort to the “bias” “argument” without any serious engagement with my material or substantive evidence to back up the claim. It really is startling, and highly objectionable. You’re telling your readers that my argument is not worth engaging because in reality I let my “bias” control my interpretation of the data. Your accusation was made in ignorance, obviously, since you just assumed I started out with the assumption that Jesus was not divine. The contrary is the reality, and all you have done is display how quickly and easily you dismiss those who disagree with your own commitments. I’m sorry if I seem stern, but honestly I am just taken aback to see this coming from somebody with your level of training.
    As for your claims about John’s christology, have you read the dissertation by James McGrath on the subject? (McGrath was one of Dunn’s students, now a chaired professor at Butler U.)

  • Mark D. Roberts

    Thom: If I have misinterpreted your sarcastic comments, then I apologize. That was my mistake. I accept your word that your interpretation of the evidence is not a reflection of your bias, but a genuine effort to make sense of the data. Thank you for your comments.

  • Thom

    Mark, thanks. I appreciate you taking the time to clear things up.

  • Thom

    So, have you read James McGrath’s dissertation? “John’s Apologetic Christology.” You’ll HAVE to engage it if you hope to make a successful case for the divinity of Jesus in John.

  • Mark D. Roberts

    Thom: I have not read this dissertation, but I have taken note of it. I wish it weren’t so expensive ($50 in print, $44 for Kindle version). Thank you for the encouragement. James, as you probably know already, is an active blogger ( I only know his work in this medium.

  • Thom

    Good deal. Maybe try inter-library loan?

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment David

    I. When was Jesus born?
    A. Popular myth puts his birth on December 25th in the year 1 C.E.
    B. The New Testament gives no date or year for Jesus’ birth. The earliest gospel – St. Mark’s, written about 65 CE – begins with the baptism of an adult Jesus. This suggests that the earliest Christians lacked interest in or knowledge of Jesus’ birthdate.
    C. The year of Jesus birth was determined by Dionysius Exiguus, a Scythian monk, “abbot of a Roman monastery. His calculation went as follows:
    a. In the Roman, pre-Christian era, years were counted from ab urbe condita (“the founding of the City” [Rome]). Thus 1 AUC signifies the year Rome was founded, 5 AUC signifies the 5th year of Rome’s reign, etc.
    b. Dionysius received a tradition that the Roman emperor Augustus reigned 43 years, and was followed by the emperor Tiberius.
    c. Luke 3:1,23 indicates that when Jesus turned 30 years old, it was the 15th year of Tiberius reign.
    d. If Jesus was 30 years old in Tiberius’ reign, then he lived 15 years under Augustus (placing Jesus birth in Augustus’ 28th year of reign).
    e. Augustus took power in 727 AUC. Therefore, Dionysius put Jesus birth in 754 AUC.
    f. However, Luke 1:5 places Jesus’ birth in the days of Herod, and Herod died in 750 AUC – four years before the year in which Dionysius places Jesus birth.
    D. Joseph A. Fitzmyer – Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies at the Catholic University of America, member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, and former president of the Catholic Biblical Association – writing in the Catholic Church’s official commentary on the New Testament[1], writes about the date of Jesus’ birth, “Though the year [of Jesus birth is not reckoned with certainty, the birth did not occur in AD 1. The Christian era, supposed to have its starting point in the year of Jesus birth, is based on a miscalculation introduced ca. 533 by Dionysius Exiguus.”
    E. The DePascha Computus, an anonymous document believed to have been written in North Africa around 243 CE, placed Jesus birth on March 28. Clement, a bishop of Alexandria (d. ca. 215 CE), thought Jesus was born on November 18. Based on historical records, Fitzmyer guesses that Jesus birth occurred on September 11, 3 BCE.

    II. How Did Christmas Come to Be Celebrated on December 25?

    A. Roman pagans first introduced the holiday of Saturnalia, a week long period of lawlessness celebrated between December 17-25. During this period, Roman courts were closed, and Roman law dictated that no one could be punished for damaging property or injuring people during the weeklong celebration. The festival began when Roman authorities chose “an enemy of the Roman people” to represent the “Lord of Misrule.” Each Roman community selected a victim whom they forced to indulge in food and other physical pleasures throughout the week. At the festival’s conclusion, December 25th, Roman authorities believed they were destroying the forces of darkness by brutally murdering this innocent man or woman.
    B. The ancient Greek writer poet and historian Lucian (in his dialogue entitled Saturnalia) describes the festival’s observance in his time. In addition to human sacrifice, he mentions these customs: widespread intoxication; going from house to house while singing naked; rape and other sexual license; and consuming human-shaped biscuits (still produced in some English and most German bakeries during the Christmas season).
    C. In the 4th century CE, Christianity imported the Saturnalia festival hoping to take the pagan masses in with it. Christian leaders succeeded in converting to Christianity large numbers of pagans by promising them that they could continue to celebrate the Saturnalia as Christians.[2]
    D. The problem was that there was nothing intrinsically Christian about Saturnalia. To remedy this, these Christian leaders named Saturnalia’s concluding day, December 25th, to be Jesus’ birthday.
    E. Christians had little success, however, refining the practices of Saturnalia. As Stephen Nissenbaum, professor history at the University of Massachussetts, Amherst, writes, “In return for ensuring massive observance of the anniversary of the Savior’s birth by assigning it to this resonant date, the Church for its part tacitly agreed to allow the holiday to be celebrated more or less the way it had always been.” The earliest Christmas holidays were celebrated by drinking, sexual indulgence, singing naked in the streets (a precursor of modern caroling), etc.
    F. The Reverend Increase Mather of Boston observed in 1687 that “the early Christians who first observed the Nativity on December 25 did not do so thinking that Christ was born in that Month, but because the Heathens’ Saturnalia was at that time kept in Rome, and they were willing to have those Pagan Holidays metamorphosed into Christian ones.”[3] Because of its known pagan origin, Christmas was banned by the Puritans and its observance was illegal in Massachusetts between 1659 and 1681.[4] However, Christmas was and still is celebrated by most Christians.
    G. Some of the most depraved customs of the Saturnalia carnival were intentionally revived by the Catholic Church in 1466 when Pope Paul II, for the amusement of his Roman citizens, forced Jews to race naked through the streets of the city. An eyewitness account reports, “Before they were to run, the Jews were richly fed, so as to make the race more difficult for them and at the same time more amusing for spectators. They ran… amid Rome’s taunting shrieks and peals of laughter, while the Holy Father stood upon a richly ornamented balcony and laughed heartily.”[5]
    H. As part of the Saturnalia carnival throughout the 18th and 19th centuries CE, rabbis of the ghetto inRome were forced to wear clownish outfits and march through the city streets to the jeers of the crowd, pelted by a variety of missiles. When the Jewish community of Rome sent a petition in1836 to Pope Gregory XVI begging him to stop the annual Saturnalia abuse of the Jewish community, he responded, “It is not opportune to make any innovation.”[6] On December 25, 1881, Christian leaders whipped the Polish masses into Antisemitic frenzies that led to riots across the country. In Warsaw 12 Jews were brutally murdered, huge numbers maimed, and many Jewish women were raped. Two million rubles worth of property was destroyed.

    III. The Origins of Christmas Customs
    A. The Origin of Christmas TreeJust as early Christians recruited Roman pagans by associating Christmas with the Saturnalia, so too worshippers of the Asheira cult and its offshoots were recruited by the Church sanctioning “Christmas Trees”.[7] Pagans had long worshipped trees in the forest, or brought them into their homes and decorated them, and this observance was adopted and painted with a Christian veneer by the Church.
    B. The Origin of MistletoeNorse mythology recounts how the god Balder was killed using a mistletoe arrow by his rival god Hoder while fighting for the female Nanna. Druid rituals use mistletoe to poison their human sacrificial victim.[8] The Christian custom of “kissing under the mistletoe” is a later synthesis of the sexual license of Saturnalia with the Druidic sacrificial cult.[9]
    C. The Origin of Christmas PresentsIn pre-Christian Rome, the emperors compelled their most despised citizens to bring offerings and gifts during the Saturnalia (in December) and Kalends (in January). Later, this ritual expanded to include gift-giving among the general populace. The Catholic Church gave this custom a Christian flavor by re-rooting it in the supposed gift-giving of Saint Nicholas (see below).[10]
    D. The Origin of Santa Claus
    a. Nicholas was born in Parara, Turkey in 270 CE and later became Bishop of Myra. He died in 345 CE on December 6th. He was only named a saint in the 19th century.
    b. Nicholas was among the most senior bishops who convened the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE and created the New Testament. The text they produced portrayed Jews as “the children of the devil”[11] who sentenced Jesus to death.
    c. In 1087, a group of sailors who idolized Nicholas moved his bones from Turkey to a sanctuary in Bari, Italy. There Nicholas supplanted a female boon-giving deity called The Grandmother, or Pasqua Epiphania, who used to fill the children’s stockings with her gifts. The Grandmother was ousted from her shrine at Bari, which became the center of the Nicholas cult. Members of this group gave each other gifts during a pageant they conducted annually on the anniversary of Nicholas’ death, December 6.
    d. The Nicholas cult spread north until it was adopted by German and Celtic pagans. These groups worshipped a pantheon led by Woden –their chief god and the father of Thor, Balder, and Tiw. Woden had a long, white beard and rode a horse through the heavens one evening each Autumn. When Nicholas merged with Woden, he shed his Mediterranean appearance, grew a beard, mounted a flying horse, rescheduled his flight for December, and donned heavy winter clothing.
    e. In a bid for pagan adherents in Northern Europe, the Catholic Church adopted the Nicholas cult and taught that he did (and they should) distribute gifts on December 25thinstead of December 6th.
    f. In 1809, the novelist Washington Irving (most famous his The Legend of Sleepy Hollowand Rip Van Winkle) wrote a satire of Dutch culture entitled Knickerbocker History. The satire refers several times to the white bearded, flying-horse riding Saint Nicholas using his Dutch name, Santa Claus.
    g. Dr. Clement Moore, a professor at Union Seminary, read Knickerbocker History, and in 1822 he published a poem based on the character Santa Claus: “Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in the hope that Saint Nicholas soon would be there…” Moore innovated by portraying a Santa with eight reindeer who descended through chimneys.
    h. The Bavarian illustrator Thomas Nast almost completed the modern picture of Santa Claus. From 1862 through 1886, based on Moore’s poem, Nast drew more than 2,200 cartoon images of Santa for Harper’s Weekly. Before Nast, Saint Nicholas had been pictured as everything from a stern looking bishop to a gnome-like figure in a frock. Nast also gave Santa a home at the North Pole, his workshop filled with elves, and his list of the good and bad children of the world. All Santa was missing was his red outfit.
    i. In 1931, the Coca Cola Corporation contracted the Swedish commercial artist Haddon Sundblom to create a coke-drinking Santa. Sundblom modeled his Santa on his friend Lou Prentice, chosen for his cheerful, chubby face. The corporation insisted that Santa’s fur-trimmed suit be bright, Coca Cola red. And Santa was born – a blend of Christian crusader, pagan god, and commercial idol.

    IV. The Christmas Challenge
    Christmas has always been a holiday celebrated carelessly. For millennia, pagans, Christians, and even Jews have been swept away in the season’s festivities, and very few people ever pause to consider the celebration’s intrinsic meaning, history, or origins.
    Christmas celebrates the birth of the Christian god who came to rescue mankind from the “curse of the Torah.” It is a 24-hour declaration that Judaism is no longer valid.
    Christmas is a lie. There is no Christian church with a tradition that Jesus was really born on December 25th.
    December 25 is a day on which Jews have been shamed, tortured, and murdered.
    Many of the most popular Christmas customs – including Christmas trees, mistletoe, Christmas presents, and Santa Claus – are modern incarnations of the most depraved pagan rituals ever practiced on earth.

    Many who are excitedly preparing for their Christmas celebrations would prefer not knowing about the holiday’s real significance. If they do know the history, they often object that their celebration has nothing to do with the holiday’s monstrous history and meaning. “We are just having fun.”
    Imagine that between 1933-45, the Nazi regime celebrated Adolf Hitler’s birthday – April 20 – as a holiday. Imagine that they named the day, “Hitlerday,” and observed the day with feasting, drunkenness, gift-giving, and various pagan practices. Imagine that on that day, Jews were historically subject to perverse tortures and abuse, and that this continued for centuries.
    Now, imagine that your great-great-great-grandchildren were about to celebrate Hitlerday. April 20tharrived. They had long forgotten about Auschwitz and Bergen Belsen. They had never heard of gas chambers or death marches. They had purchased champagne and caviar, and were about to begin the party, when someone reminded them of the day’s real history and their ancestors’ agony. Imagine that they initially objected, “We aren’t celebrating the Holocaust; we’re just having a little Hitlerday party.” If you could travel forward in time and meet them; if you could say a few words to them, what would you advise them to do on Hitlerday?
    On December 25, 1941, Julius Streicher, one of the most vicious of Hitler’s assistants, celebrated Christmas by penning the following editorial in his rabidly Antisemitic newspaper, Der Stuermer:
    If one really wants to put an end to the continued prospering of this curse from heaven that is the Jewish blood, there is only one way to do it: to eradicate this people, this Satan’s son, root and branch.
    It was an appropriate thought for the day. This Christmas, how will we celebrate?

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