THE DATE OF THE FIRST ADVENT  


 

An Investigation of the Uses of History

 

by Jared L. Olar

 

``A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep.''- Saul Bellow

 

My article ``Let's Celebrate the Advent Season!'' in the debut issue of Grace and Knowledge included a discussion of the controversial subject of the date of the birth of Jesus Christ.  In this follow-up article, I have chosen to respond to several historically inaccurate statements that have appeared in recent years in publications of my church, the Worldwide Church of God (WCG), regarding the date of Jesus' birth and the adoption of December 25 as the festival of His nativity.  I sincerely request that any flaws or inaccuracies in my discussion below be brought to my attention.

 

To start, I would like to review some of my church's recent history relating to this subject.  Since the end of 1995 the WCG has been gradually introducing into its worship culture the annual celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ on December 25.  For instance, in the Dec. 5, 1995 issue of The Worldwide News (WN), one of our elders, Michael Morrison, put forth various arguments in favor of the celebration of Christmas on December 25.  At that stage he argued only that such a thing was not forbidden, as we had formerly taught for many decades.  However, he tentatively proposed that Jesus may in fact have been born on December 25, something that most serious and qualified historians no longer maintain.  (I shall explain the reasons for this scholarly consensus below.)  Also, from the end of 1995 both The Worldwide News and The Plain Truth (PT) magazine--formerly the flagship publication of the WCG, now a separate Christian ministry though still tenuously affiliated with the WCG--have replaced their traditional special coverage of the biblical festivals of the autumn with special coverage of Christmas.  Again, the Pastor General and ruling elders of the WCG have even instructed all of our church pastors to preach sermons in December on the story of Jesus' birth and the miracle of the Incarnation.

 

Finally, the WCG member letter from the Pastor General for the month of December 1998 was devoted to certain controversies which are threatening the WCG with further loss of members, if not formal schisms in the years ahead.  These are the controversies regarding the date of Jesus' birth and the propriety and timing of the celebration of that event.  In this discussion, I will touch on the issues of propriety and timing only incidentally if at all.  Instead, my focus will be fixed upon the historical controversy over the date of Jesus' birth and my church's use of history.  In his letter, our Pastor General, Joseph Tkach, Jr., offered a few arguments in favor of the traditional December 25 date of Jesus' birth, along with (a slightly garbled version of) the argument in favor of the Tishri date of His birth which I mentioned in our last issue.

 

Therefore, I will compile various crucial quotations from the abovementioned sources and offer responses.  The historical dispute about the date of Jesus' birth generally revolves around three issues: 1) the shepherds living out in the fields, 2) the time of year that John the Baptist's father served in the Temple, and 3) the relationship between the December 25 nativity tradition and the pagan Mithras festival which was celebrated on the same date.  Because my church's recent publications have focused upon those very three issues, I also will direct my attention to the same things.  I will begin the discussion with these words from the article on page 4 of the December 5, 1995, issue of theWN:

 

``Some people have claimed that Jesus was born near the fall festivals. That is possible, but it is not proven. It is not likely that Augustus would risk a rebellion by requiring each person to go to his own city at the same time as the local religion required everyone to go to Jerusalem.''

 

One of the unspoken assumptions apparently behind this reasoning is that Augustus' decree was fully implemented in the same year that it was issued.  The other assumption is that the decree of Augustus required that everyone register for this census at their own cities.  There is no explicit biblical or extra-biblical basis for either of these assumptions.  On the contrary, it is quite conceivable to suppose that so unprecedented an undertaking as this empire-wide census would have to have been implemented over the course of a few years.  Certain regions and provinces would have been registered before other areas.

 

In truth, difficulties in determining the date of the decree of Emperor Augustus, and of reconciling the known dates of Quirinius' governorship with  the various proposed dates of Jesus' birth (see Luke 2:2), could indicate that Joseph and Mary were not registered in the same year of the decree.  In that case, we have absolutely no reason to assume that there was any conflict between the decree of Augustus and the obedience to that decree whenever and however it was implemented in the Holy Land. No rebellion need have been risked from Augustus' decision to take a census of his dominions, because his representatives in the Holy Land are not known to have required the Jews to abstain from their pilgrim feasts in order to register for the census.  Nor is it likely that his officials would have implemented so unwise a policy as to impose such a requirement.

 

However, for the same reasons explained above, we cannot put too much stock in the objection that Joseph and Mary would not have made a difficult journey in mid-winter when Mary was near the end of her pregnancy.  If Jesus were born in the months of Kislev or Tebeth (December and January), does that mean His parents made their journey in the winter?  Luke's words could safely and easily be interpreted to mean that Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem a few months before the start of winter.  There is no necessity to conclude that Jesus was born immediately after His parents' arrival in Bethlehem.  Indeed, Matthew's testimony seems to imply that Joseph and Mary came to Bethlehem intending to stay there for a good while.  If so, then a move such as Luke describes would normally have been something well planned, not an unanticipated development that was forced upon them by a sudden imperial decree.  Rather, they may well have intended to register for the census and then remain in Bethlehem until Jesus and Mary could travel back to Nazareth.

 

Continuing with the same article:

 

``Many people have objected to the idea that Jesus was born in December, since there were shepherds in their fields (Luke 2:8), and shepherds didn't normally do that in December. But we must remember that this was not a normal year. Augustus had told everyone to go to his or her own city (verse 3), but the shepherds had not--they were living in the fields! They may have been tax evaders. They had reason to stay away from town as long as they could. Of course, this doesn't prove that Jesus was born in December, but it does show that the chief objection to a December birth isn't necessarily conclusive.''

 

Frankly, I cannot help but feel embarrassment for my church when our representatives commit these sorts of historical blunders.  Consider the following problems with this hypothesis:  First, Luke would be presenting us with the image of God's angels selecting not merely smelly social outcasts (which is how shepherds generally were looked upon), but actual criminals in their hideouts, to be the first to hear the news of the birth of the Messiah.  This raises the humorous possibility of the shepherds' fright resulting from their mistaking the angels for Roman census officials.  It would surely make for an interesting nativity scene:  one of the shepherds standing guard outside Jesus' birthplace lest Roman sentries discover their presence and drag them down to the nearest census registrar!  (Indeed, those shepherds must not have chosen a very good disguise.  How long, I wonder, would it have taken the Roman authorities to realise that those particular shepherds should not be out in the fields during winter?)  What I am getting at with this bit of levity is that outlaw shepherds would not be as able to serve as effective newsbearers of the Messiah's birth (consider Luke 2:18-20).

 

One of the first and most important rules of historical inquiry is to respect the sources.  This hypothesis fails to do that.  Notice that nothing whatsoever in the text of Luke indicates that these shepherds were breaking Roman law.  Rather, Luke is explicit about what these shepherds were doing and why they were there:

 

``There were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.'' (Luke 2:8)

 

Nothing here about ``shepherds hiding out in the fields nearby, keeping watch lest Roman officials find them and make them register for the census.''  If that is what they were doing, why did Luke say they were merely watching over their flocks?  Luke's words about everyone going to his own city to register were clearly meant to explain how Joseph and Mary ended up in Bethlehem, not hint at why the shepherds were out in the fields.  It seems to me that it did not occur to us (or to the source whence we derived this argument) that these shepherds may have already registered for the census before taking their flocks out to summer pasture.  Alternately, they may have planned to register as soon as they had brought their flocks in from their pastures.  Either instance fully accounts for Luke's choice of words as they appear in the text.  This WN article raises the spectre of a Jewish revolt against a hypothetical requirement to omit the annual festivals in order to register for this census.  But to require agricultural laborers to set aside their seasonal duties in order to register for a census would have been just as controversial--to do that could lead to famine.  It is therefore reasonable to posit temporary exemptions and extended deadlines, in order to allow everyone time and opportunity to register at his ancestral dwelling place.

 

Now, as mentioned above, one of the frequent objections to the traditional December birthdate is that cold or rainy weather would have prevented shepherds in the Holy Land to stay outdoors with their flocks by night.  In truth, such a thing generally seems to have been rare for animal husbandmen in the Holy Land in the time of Christ.  Most livestock already been brought back from their summer pastures by the month of Kislev.

 

However, Ralph Woodrow in his book Christmas Reconsidered has presented information and reasoning on this point which is far superior to the implausible and unnecessary tax evader hypothesis.  His authority was Alfred Edersheim's classic The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, which argued that Jesus was in fact born on the eve of December 25 (Tebeth 9 on the Hebrew calendar).  Following Edersheim, Woodrow shows that around the time of Christ, some flocks, including flocks near Bethlehem and Jerusalem, were left out of doors all winter--though whether any shepherds lived out in the fields all winter is less clear.  Second, he suggests that the shepherds mentioned by Luke were forced by poverty to keep their flocks out when normally they would have been brought in to winter quarters.  This latter suggestion, though unfalsifiable, is at least more plausible than the tax evader theory.  Frankly the tax evader scenario is nothing more than special pleading.  Even as we have suggested that the shepherds were tax evaders, we may with almost as much reason (and with the same sort of violence to the text, the same sort of lack of respect for the primary sources) argue, as some have, that Jesus was actually a woman posing as a man. Sure, it is possible, and it accounts for some of the evidence, but we have no justifiable cause to alter the obvious meaning of the text so drastically.

 

The WN article next shows this astounding sentence:

 

``In the year 221 (long before the time of Constantine), Julius Africanus came up with Dec. 25 as the date of Jesus' birth. He doesn't tell us how he came up with this date, ....''

 

Let us go back to the primary sources.  I have before me a copy of every one of the few surviving fragments of the five volumes of the Chronographiai of Julius Africanus, which were completed and published in 221 A.D.  I can assure my readers that Africanus says nothing whatsoever regarding the date of Jesus' birth.  He does devote special attention to the Seventy Weeks Prophecy of Daniel 9, but his calculations based on Daniel's prophecy are concerned with the year that Jesus commenced His ministry, not with the year or season of Jesus' birth.  This fact, incidentally, is why I am not surprised that Africanus did not explain how he arrived at the date of December 25--because whatever he might have written about the date of Jesus' birth (assuming he ever wrote anything at all) has not survived.

 

I suspect that this error resulted from the fact that all we have left of Africanus' chronological treatises are those passages fortunate enough to be incorporated into later sources such as the world chronicle of Eusebius Pamphilii.  One of those sources undoubtedly shows December 25 as the date of Jesus' birth, and perhaps that entry appears near enough on the page to an extract from Africanus that we (or more likely, the tertiary source upon which we relied) concluded that the December 25 date derived from Africanus.

 

If in fact so early and influential an authority as Africanus had preserved the date of December 25 for the birth of Jesus, it is extremely unlikely that there would have been the controversy and doubt regarding this issue which Christendom has perennially experienced.  This statement of ours is, I regret to say, just an example of shoddy historical research.  We may therefore dismiss everything else on this particular topic found in the article's succeeding few paragraphs.  In those paragraphs may be found the claim that the choice of December 25 for the festival of Jesus' nativity may have had nothing to do with pagan influence on fourth century Christianity, because Africanus (``long before the time of Constantine'') supposedly claimed Jesus was born on that date. However, there is scant evidence that anyone before the time of Constantine claimed that Jesus was born on December 25.  There is certainly no evidence that Africanus said anything of the sort.

 

Indeed, the earliest evidence of a Christian observance of December 25 as the festival of Jesus' birth is still that which is found in a document dated 354 A.D.  This document, the Depositio Martyrum, indicates that by 336 A.D. the church at Rome had begun to celebrate the nativity of Jesus on December 25.  We have no earlier trace of a Christian link between Jesus' birth and December 25.

 

Nor indeed are we able to ascertain how anyone in those days could have determined the Roman equivalent of the Hebrew date of Jesus' birth.  I am not aware of any evidence that the Romans customarily recorded the dates of Jewish births in their registers.  Nothing Luke wrote, and no primary source prior to the fourth century, indicates that the date of Jesus' birth was recorded in the census records, although such is not impossible.  Also, supposing that Jesus was born in the winter months of Kislev or Tebeth (roughly equivalent to our modern December and January), the date of His birth on the Hebrew calendar would not have remained constant on the old Julian calendar.  When the story of the December 25 nativity first appears in the historical record during the fourth century, why was there no accompanying controversy concerning ``Hebrew date versus Roman date''?

 

Although it is true that we may not (to use the WN article's words)``dogmatically say that the Dec. 25 date was contrived simply because a pagan festival already existed on that date,'' there is a real probability that is what happened.  Motives for said contrivance are debatable, of course--the WN article's assertion that it arose as a rival to the Mithras feast is possible, but the primary sources are silent on that question.  Therefore it follows that we must reject these statements of Hank Hanegraaff on page 23 of the November-December1998 issue of the PT:

 

``While we do not know the exact date that Christ was born, we do know why the early Christian church chose to celebrate Christmas on December 25.  The church was not Christianizing a pagan festival, but was establishing the celebration of the birth of Christ as a rival celebration.''                          

 

Hanegraaff is going farther than the primary sources can take us.  It is not an undisputable fact that the December 25 custom arose as a rival to the pagan December 25 festival.  In any event, I must point out that to the impartial observer there is no meaningful difference between ``Christianizing a pagan festival'' and ``establishing the celebration of the birth of Christ as a rival celebration.''  These two apparent alternatives in fact are not really alternatives at all, but, like the Johannine witnesses of I John 5, they ``agree in one.''  Further, I would sincerely like to know how, in the absence of primary sources, we could ever  discern the reasons and motives behind the institution of the December 25 nativity festival in the fourth century.  To repeat my above words, the hypothesis that it arose as a rival to the Mithras feast is one of two possibilities, but it is one for which there is only circumstantial evidence, if that.

 

However, the cultural and political realities of the reign of Emperor Constantine, when Christmas first appears in the historical record, make it probable that Christmas did indeed originate against the background of Constantine's well-documented policy of amalgamation of Christian and pagan systems.  We need to keep in mind that the fourth century was a crucial era in the history of Christianity.  This was the era when Christianity finally was granted toleration and the persecutions ended.  In a relatively short period of time, the Emperor would give up his patronage or support for the old pagan cults, and instead would begin to provide financial patronage and moral support for Christianity, and even begin to meddle in ecclesiastical affairs.  Although he was favorable to the Christian religion, nevertheless Constantine delayed baptism until the end of his life and did not make a clean break with paganism.  These things may or may not matter to modern Christians, but we should not close our eyes to what happened during the fourth century, regardless of our beliefs and practices regarding the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.  Nor should political and religious propaganda from the era of Constantine be taken out of its cultural context for use in our own liturgical battles.

 

I will here place parallel two quotes, one from the already-cited WN article (left), and one from Mr. Joseph Tkach, Jr.'s December 1998 member/co-worker letter (right):

 

``..., but a later author calculates the

``Some early Christian writers

date in this way:  Zechariah was serving

(John Chrysostom, 347-407) taught that

 

in the temple during the fall festivals

Zecharias (sic) received the message

when Gabriel told him that his wife

about John's birth on Atonement,

 

would conceive (Luke 1:8, 23). Jesus

which falls in September or October.

was conceived six months later (verse 26),

This would place John the Baptist's

 

near the spring equinox. Jesus would

birth in June, and the birth of

therefore be born in late December.''

Jesus six months later, in December.''



Both presentations of Chrysostom's theory display what I find to be astounding credulity.  We may dismiss this scenario without hesitation, primarily because Chrysostom made the blunder of having Zacharias serve in the Temple on the Day of Atonement.  In order to understand how Chrysostom came up with this calculation, there are a few important facts we need first to examine.

 

The reason that Chrysostom placed Zacharias in the Holy of  Holies on the Day of Atonement to receive the angel's message is because he mistakenly had accepted the Protevangelion as an authentic relic of  the Apostolic Age.  To the contrary, this is an apocryphal work written in the second century and falsely attributed to Jesus' brother James.  In this forgery or work of religious fiction, we find the biblical stories of Jephthah's daughter and the birth of Samuel the Seer attached to Jesus' mother Mary.  We also find Jesus' reference to the murder of ``Zacharias, son of Barachias'' (Matt. 23:35), manifestly the prophet who wrote the Book of Zechariah, erroneously attached to John the Baptist's father Zacharias the Priest.  But most significant of all, in the Protevangelion, Zacharias is the High Priest.  Interestingly, it is a priest named Samuel who serves as High Priest while Zacharias is incapable of speech.  I wonder if this is the author's wink to his audience acknowledging his borrowing from and rewriting of biblical history (cf. the above reference to Samuel the Seer).  Finally, according to this source, following the murder of Zacharias, the Jews appoint Simeon (none other than the Simeon of Luke 2:25) as their next High Priest.

 

However, the Protevangelion, like other forged gospels of that era which purport to tell of Jesus' birth and infancy, is silent about the timing of the angel's coming to him in the Temple.  That part of the story seems to have been Chrysostom's own contribution to the legend. (But even if it antedated Chrysostom, it is still baseless and contrary to the text of Luke's gospel.)  Chrysostom relied upon the Protevangelion to transform Zacharias into the High Priest, and then interpreted Luke's text in order to claim that Zacharias the High Priest was performing the Atonement ritual when the angel appeared to him.

 

Needless to say, the succession of the High Priests derived from Josephus and later Jewish sources shows no priests named Zacharias, Samuel, and Simeon at the time of Jesus' conception and birth. Furthermore, Luke makes no mention of the Atonement ritual, nor of Zacharias entering the Holy of Holies.  Rather, Luke wrote:

 

``In the time of Herod, King of Judaea, there was a priest named Zacharias, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah.... Once when Zacharias' division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the Temple of the Lord to burn incense. When the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshippers were praying outside....'' (Luke 1:5, 8-10)

 

During the feasts, all twenty-four priestly divisions were present and available for service in the Temple.  But Luke says nothing here about any annual festivals, nor does he breathe a word of the Yom Kippur rituals.  Instead, he says pretty plainly that this occurred ``when Zacharias' division was on duty.''  What he says here of the incense offering parallels exactly the   Mishnah's laws relating to it.  We must therefore conclude that most likely he was exercising his priestly functions during an ordinary rotation.  That could only have been one of two times in the year.

 

However, in the latest member/co-worker letter, we find the claim that definite knowledge of the customs and rules pertaining to the rotation of the priestly divisions is no longer available.  It is true that complete certainty may not be attainable, but a comparison of biblical testimony with post-biblical sources (including calendar texts among the Dead Sea Scrolls only made available to the public in the last few years) tends to lend a great deal of support to the scenario outlined by Dr. Ernest Martin in his 1961 PT article, ``When Was Christ Born?'' Abijah's division almost certainly served in the Temple (omitting the festivals, when all divisions were present) in the third and eighth months of the Hebrew year.  There is far less doubt about these issues than the member/co-worker letter seems to imply.  Consequently, if Zacharias was visited by Gabriel in the third month, then Jesus would have been born close to or on the Feast of Trumpets.  If it was the seventh month, during the fall festivals, then Jesus would have been born in December or January.

 

But if it was the eighth month, then Jesus would have been born in late winter or early spring, close to or during the month of Nisan.  Surprisingly, my church has never had much, if anything, to say about the springtime theory of Jesus' birth, which is just as old as the legendary December 25 birthdate.  Significantly, the WCG formerly supported the autumn theory, using it as a reason to abstain from the observance of the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox nativity festivals.  But now my church supports (with reservation) the winter theory, using it as a reason to participate in the Catholic nativity festival.  It is therefore natural that we would focus our attention upon the autumn and winter theories.  After all, I cannot escape the conclusion that, then and now, my church's interest in Christian history has not primarily been out of a noble pursuit of truth, but instead out of an attempt to find seemingly historical evidence to support policies and practices.  I long for theday when my church puts historical truth above temporary agendas such as the bolstering of liturgical innovations.

 

If it is truth in which we are interested--and we Christians are supposed to care about truth, even (or especially) historical truth--then we in the WCG will sooner or later have to put away our simplistic approaches to the history of early Christianity.  If we do that, we will observe that the fourth century, the era in which Chrysostom lived, was a century rife with forged pseudo-historical documents coming from the hands of Christians.  With Christendom then divided into several opposing doctrinal and liturgical camps (sounds awfully familiar), some proponents of various doctrines and policies had no qualms about composing falsehoods and just-so stories to provide ``historical'' support for their beliefs. Chrysostom's arguments in favor of the December 25 birthdate fall into that category.  So too do the claims of Cyril of Jerusalem, cited in the latest member/co-worker letter as follows:

 

``Early Christian authors such as Tertullian and Justin Martyr mention the tax census ordered by Augustus Caesar (Luke 2:1-7). The census records were eventually taken to Rome. Cyril of Jerusalem (348-386) requested that the true date of Jesus' birth be taken from the census documents. The date he was given from these documents was December 25.''

 

We have uncritically offered this story, not asking why it was that for the first three centuries of Christian history no one seemed to know the date of  Jesus' birth.  Only in the fourth century do we find early Church Fathers such as Cyril and Chrysostom providing us with``historical'' arguments in favor of a winter birth of our Savior.  At the same time these two Fathers were writing about the birth of Jesus, others were composing spurious reports on Jesus' crucifixion purportedly from the pen of Pontius Pilate.  That no one in nearly three centuries of Christian history seems to have ever bothered to take the  simple step of consulting the census records to learn the date of Jesus' birth is a very good indication that Cyril's census record is in the same class as the Gospel of Nicodemus or the Epistle of Lentulus.  Of course, Cyril may deliberately have been misled.  I would again like to point out that the Gospel of Luke gives us no reason to believe that the date of Jesus' birth was entered into the Roman census records.

 

In all likelihood, during the first two centuries of Christianity, Christians did not care about Jesus' birth--because in those days neither Christians nor Jews engaged in the (to them) pagan custom of birthday celebrations.  Of the four canonical gospels, only two mention the birth of Jesus--and Luke alone describes it, while Matthew merely alludes to it--and neither of those two gospels expresses the slightest interest in the date of His physical birth.  However, all four gospels describe Jesus' baptism and the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Him in the form of a dove.  This event in Jesus' life is, I perceive, something my church has never really understood, nor adequately tried to explain.  Interestingly, in the minds of some early Christians (not just Gnostic heretics, contrary to Ralph Woodrow's statements in Christmas Reconsidered), Jesus' baptism and the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Him was erroneously regarded as the human birth of the Son of God, the moment when ``the Word was made flesh and set up His tabernacle among us.''  (That opinion, known as ``Adoptianism,'' came to be formally excluded as heresy.)  We have evidence of the Christian celebration of Jesus' baptism well before we have any indication of interest in celebrating the virgin birth.  If our church is truly serious about the annual celebration of the events of the life of Jesus, can we omit a festival to commemorate His baptism?  (Pentecost might be an appropriate occasion for such a commemoration.)

 

In closing, I would like to respond to Joseph Tkach's expressed opposition to Christians ``becoming side-tracked with irrelevant debate about the exact day of [Jesus'] birth.''  I cannot but agree with his insistence that we not allow controversies pertaining to the observance of nativity festivals to divide us and render our gospel witness ineffective.  Nor do I wish to condemn Christians who participate in the traditional Catholic nativity festival in the month of December.  I and my family celebrate the first advent of our Lord during the fall festival season--which may well (though perhaps may not) be the actual season of Jesus' birth, and in any event is filled with Hebrew liturgical symbolism pointing to the Incarnation and Coming of Christ--and we have no desire to be involved in Western Civilisation's ancient winter solstice festivities.  But I see no need, nor can I deem it very beneficial, to heap abuse on Christians who participate in so old and so majestic a liturgical tradition as the Roman Catholic Christmas Midnight Mass.

 

However, I believe that as Christians we are to care about truth in all its forms, and that includes a striving for historical accuracy, and for excellence in our scholarship.  It does us no credit to recycle stale old arguments, to breathe new life into pseudo-historical Christian legends, or to engage in shoddy historical scholarship in support of any position. If it is really true that Christians are free to observe the December 25 nativity feast regardless of whether Jesus was actually born on that date, then dredging up the just-so stories of Chrysostom and Cyril is unnecessary.  However, it is significant that acceptance of Christmas was originally accomplished in part by the invention of that kind of ``proof.''  Sadly and shamefully, lies helped to establish the annual and understandably well-loved celebration of one of the central truths of the gospel.   It is also significant that even today the liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church declares December 25 as the actual date of Jesus' birth, not merely as the longstanding traditional date of the commemoration of His birth.  It would appear that my own church's acceptance of the Catholic nativity feast is being supported by the same sort of questionable historical arguments.

 

My hope and prayer is that we in the WCG abandon our old habit of misuse of Christian history.  Whenever and however we Christians celebrate Jesus' birth--or even if we abstain from such celebrations altogether--we ought to seek historical truth, and accept it, even if it tells us things that are inconvenient to our own plans and policies.  The Church of God has nothing to fear from the truth.  Debate and inquiry that lead us to truth is never irrelevant.

 

``Truth is deemed a sadly dull and unromantic thing. It is not for truth that men seek, but for that which is pleasant to believe. Poor, ill-clad, shivering truth stands pitiful by the way-men have ever passed her by in search of that which they desire.'' - J. Horace Round


Issue 2

 

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