Beliefnet
I have been studying with the Witnesses, who state that December 25th probably wasn't when Jesus was born. They reason that it would have been too cold for shepherds to be out with their sheep in December. They point to the fact that the 25th was in fact already celebrated as winter solstice and is just used now to make things simple. I would appreciate any information you may be able to give me. --Nholm

There is partial truth to this view. The winter solstice, however, was December 21st, not 25th. In the Greco-Roman calendar December 25th was the festival of Saturnalia, a holiday during which masters became slaves and slaves became masters for a day. It was the day of reversals.

While it is possible that Jesus was born in the winter, this is far from certain, and the fact that the shepherds and sheep were out in the fields might well suggest the birth occurred during some other season of the year. If Jesus' birth was heralded by a partial conjunction of planets, it might be possible to be more certain as to the time of year. But the Magi story in Matthew suggests something more supernatural than an ordinary cosmic event.

The church probably began to celebrate the birth of Christ when they did in order to replace pagan holidays with Christian ones. Beginning with the emperor Constantine, who converted to Christianity, there was a decided movement in this direction.

What we can say with certainty is that since Jesus was born during the reign of Herod the Great, and we know that Herod the Great died in or before 2 B.C., we also know that Jesus was not born right at the turn of the era (in the "year zero"). The monk who set up the calendar was clearly off a few years.

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In the history of the Bible, how many times was the holy book revised? During the revision, is there any possibility that God's verses were amended to suit the needs of the scholars concerned?



The Bible has not really been revised over the ages, as you are suggesting. However, words and passages have at times been miscopied or mistranslated.

If you are wondering if there has been a scholarly conspiracy to amend the Bible to suit particular theological views, the answer is basically no, unless you are dealing with versions like the New World Translation by the Jehovah's Witnesses.

But bear in mind that every translation is already an interpretation of the original language text, and scholars do debate what the proper translation of this or that foreign word or phrase may be. Words only have meaning in context, and as with English, many Greek or Hebrew words have multiple possible meanings. Only careful study of the context helps determine what the inspired author may have meant.

I would like you to explain how the concept of the Trinity came about and comment on the acceptance of it in various Christian denominations. Are there things about the Trinity that certain denominations believe and others don't? --Barbara G.

The Trinity has been an accepted doctrine of the Christian church in all its major branches (Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox), and indeed was an accepted doctrine even before it was officially ratified at major church conclaves in A.D. 325 (at Nicea) and in A.D. 450 (at Chalcedon).

All Christian denominations affirm the Trinity as an essential doctrine of the faith. Some offshoots from the church (for example, the Jehovah's Witnesses or the Unitarians) have not accepted this concept, but they have chosen to go their own way, and are not part of the fellowship of Christian churches worldwide.

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