The vast majority of Christians celebrate Christmas without any thought as to whether they should, whereas others insist that pagan elements associated with the day forbid the church from any observance. For instance, the ancient druids worshiped trees (especially the oak), and pagan motivations resulted in the decoration of the tree. Others question the legend and role of Saint Nicholas in Christmas celebrations and other popular customs. The observance or non-observance of Christmas continues to provoke lively discussions among Christians.
Since the third century, the virgin birth of Christ is generally observed to have been 25 December, which is an extremely unlikely date. The most popular deity in ancient times was the sun god. Within the Babylonian religion, the wife of Nimrod was Semiramis. Nimrod and Semiramis were the ancient god and goddess of Babylon. According to the Babylonian mythology, Semiramis claimed to have a virgin-born son, subsequent to Nimrod’s death, which was the beginning of the mother and child cult. The worship of the goddess and her son was the fundamental character of the religion of ancient Babylon. The corrupt religion is a perversion on the part of Satan to counterfeit the genuine virgin birth of the Messiah, and to cause disrepute upon the actual historical event in the gospels.
The worship of the sun god began in Babylon and permeated the entire world until nearly every culture worshiped the pagan deity. Apparently, the early church began celebrating Jesus’ incarnation on 25 December as a declaration against the pagan deity that the unbelievers worshiped. When the Apostle Paul spoke in the midst of the Areopagus, he faulted the Athenians for worshiping an “UNKNOWN GOD . . . in ignorance” (Acts 17:22-23). Seizing the opportunity to proclaim Jesus as Lord God and Savior, the apostle used an established pagan altar to demonstrate the true worship of God. Historically, the early church adopted a similar practice with regard to Christmas.
Most believers know that the Greek word logos is translated in English as “Word” in John 1:1. However, what the majority of Christians do not know is that the manner in which the Apostle John used the word logos was in a manner similar to how Greek philosophers understood it. The Greek word sometimes denoted the faculty of reason or thought, and sometimes denoted the expression of thought (speech or word, that is, logic). The word connected both Jewish and Gentile readers because logos was a significant idea and term.
As a term, logos can be traced to Heraclitus (535-475 B.C.) who referred to the first (unitary) principle of existence, which he called variously God, Reason, Justice, Fire or Logos. Stoic philosophers commonly used the word logos abstractly as simply reason. The Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria (born late first century B.C.) used the term logos more than 1,300 times, primarily abstractly as reason or Divine intelligence. Philo would not have used logos in the fully personal sense that John did. In other words, there was little understanding of logos as a personal being.
Within the Old Testament, the word logos was a common and important idea because often the Word of God is simply God Himself speaking, that is, bringing the creation into being by His word, or delivering His people by His word, or coming to His prophets to disclose His truth and will. All the various uses of the word logos indicate that when John wrote concerning “the Word,” he was using a term and concept that was familiar to all his readers and listeners.
John used the word logos with complete knowledge of its general meaning within the religious and philosophical vocabulary of his time. However, the apostle adapted the vocabulary of his day to proclaim the meaning that he intended. His readers were to understand the Lord Jesus as the “Living Word,” the communication of the Divine wisdom: Jesus is the personal revelation of the truth of God. He was not merely a communicator of the truth of God, but the communication of truth itself: He is “the truth” (John 14:6).
How could the Apostle John do otherwise than adapt the vocabulary of his time to accomplish his purpose? If the apostle did not use the word logos because it had connotations contrary to his meaning, he would have been forced to remain silent for lack of an appropriate expression. Just as the usage of logos in the gospel of John must be understood in terms of its own definition, so the early church celebrated the birth of Christ on 25 December to proclaim that the true God “dwelt among us” (John 1:14).
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Dr. Ron J. Bigalke serves as the Georgia state minister for Capitol Commission. He also pastors a church plant through Biblical Ministries Worldwide and has taught for Bible colleges and seminaries—serving as a research associate with the University of Pretoria (missions and ethics project). He is a frequent contributor and editor for various publications through Eternal Ministries, Inc., writes for Midnight Call magazine and is general editor of the Journal of Dispensational Theology. It is with great enthusiasm that we include him as a contributing author to Dispensational Publishing House.
This article originally appeared in the December 2015 issue of Midnight Call Magazine ([December 2015]: 17-20).
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