MAY 1985 EDITORIAL Editorial: WHEN WAS JESUS BORN? SOME CONTROVERSIAL ISSUES That Jesus is the central figure and the very soul of Christian theology is manifestly clear. Without some kind of belief in his Christhood, whichever way may it be defined by various denomina- tions and scholarly theologians, the very foundations of Christianity are totally altered. Throughout the last two thousand years, hun- dreds of millions of Christians have been sustained in their beliefs through their deep faith in the life of Jesus. The miraculous character attributed to his birth, the stories of the miracles he per- formed, his encounters with the Romans, Israelites and other gen- tiles, and finally, his crucifixion provide the basic ingredients which have continued to nourish this leading religion of the Western world not only today but through the centuries past. Yet, it is rather strange, indeed ironic, that most important events of his life have always remained veiled in mystery. Was he born of a virgin mother? When was he born? Why is hardly anything known about his life from early infancy to the time when he proclaimed his ministry? How long did his ministry last? Who were really responsi- ble for his being led to the cross—hostile Jewish leaders or the Roman rulers? Did he really die during the few hours that he was on the cross or was he only unconscious when he was taken off the cfoss with unusual haste? If there was a resurrection, who were the eye witnesses, if any? What is the significance of the blood stains of the shroud in which he was temporarily wrapped and which is now preserved in the Cathedral of Turin, Italy? Did he leave Palestine for the eastern regions to accomplish his proclaimed mission of having come for the lost tribes of Israel? These and several other issues about the life of Jesus of Nazareth have continued to challenge the curiosity of the Christian as well as the non-Christian scholars. To illustrate, let us briefly comment on just one issue of his birth. Since as early as the second century A.D., the Christian world has been celebrating his birth on the 25th of December. The Christian calendar leads us to assume that he was born on this date, 1985 years ago. On the other hand, Christian scholars have never come to a consensus either on the exact year or the exact date of his birth. Mr. THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS MAY 1985 David E. Anderson, UPI Religion Writer, commented: “Scholars say that there is no hard exidence to determine the precise date of Jesus’ birthday although most biblical experts now place the date about 6 B. C.” (Newsday, December 22, 1983) Most biblical scholars of our times not only conclude that Jesus was born 6 years earlier than the popularly acknowledged year but they also do not accept the widely-held belief that he was born on December 25th. As David Anderson explains, this practice of celebrating Christmas on this date started in “reaction to the Roman Saturnalia, a harvest festival that marked the winter solstice—the return of the sun—and honor to Saturn, the god of sowing.” In other words, Christmas became “a means of replacing the worship- of the sun with worship of the Son.” He further observes that: “By 529 A.D., after Christianity had become the state religion of the Roman Empire, Emperor Justinian made Christmas a civil holiday and prohibited any work on that day.” From then on the observance of Christmas became so firmly established that even though English Parliament outlawed this holi- day on June 3, 1647; it was forced to repeal this law and restore Christmas observance under popular pressure. It is distinctly clear that the popular beliefs of both the year and the date of the birth of Jesus are totally erroneous and quite contrary to the findings of tĥ e historians, scholars and the experts of the Christian faith. The ‘question is this: if the same kind of fictional bases surround the story of the “resurrection,” does it not strike a fatal blow to the most fundamental pillars of the Christian theology such as atonement and belief in Jesus as the Savior? THE PROMISED MESSIAH SAID: “O my friends who have entered into a covenant with me, may God enable you to do what should please Him. Today your number is small and you are treated with contempt. You will be persecuted in every way and you will have to bear all sorts of disagreeable things … and you will have to pass through some heavenly trials also that you may be tried in every way… Your way to victory will not be through dry logic or your returning abuse with abuse… If God does not wish to destroy us, we cannot be destroyed by anyone… How shall we win His support? Through righteousness! Put forth every effort that you become righteous.” (Izala A uham, pp. 446-47)

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