RSS

Monthly Archives: December 2014

‘Lost Gospel’ depicts a married political activist Rabbi Jesus

‘Lost Gospel’ depicts a married political activist Rabbi Jesus
Simcha Jacobovici and Barrie Wilson’s bestseller portrays a Jesus married to Canaanite priestess Mary Magdalene, who, after the crucifixion, founds the Church of the Gentiles
BY MICHAEL POSNER December 30, 2014, 4:50 pm 102
Detail from 'Noli me tangere' by Titian, c. 1512, depicting a meeting between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. (public domain via wikipedia)

Detail from ‘Noli me tangere’ by Titian, c. 1512, depicting a meeting between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. (public domain via wikipedia)NEWSROOM

For almost 1,700 years, Christian theology has been dominated by Pauline orthodoxy – a faith based on the New Testament gospels of the apostles, Mark, Luke, Matthew and John. Concurrently, smaller numbers of Christian adherents have also been drawn to a minor, second strain: a Torah-observant faith originally centered in Jerusalem, led by Jesus’ brother, James the Just.

But in recent years, a growing number of scholars have made claims for a third, more esoteric branch of the Jesus movement — Gnosticism — that flourished in the first centuries after his death.
In the long battle for supremacy among Christians, the Gnostics were ultimately the losers. In 325 CE, the Roman emperor Constantine declared the winner — the Pauline church — and thereafter destroyed or suppressed any gospel that strayed from the mainstream view of Christ.

Our fragmentary knowledge of Gnostic theology derives largely from a series of documents discovered in 1947, hidden in jars in Nag Hammadi, Egypt. These writings, comprising among others the gospels of Thomas, Peter, Mark, Judas and Mary, depict a Christianity connected with a more human Jesus, perhaps more like the historical Nazarene rabbi of the first century.

Now, a controversial new book (and accompanying documentary film) is attempting to add another gospel candidate, to the collection — and to significantly advance the Gnostic case. Since its November release, “The Lost Gospel: Decoding the Ancient Text That Reveals Jesus Marriage to Mary the Magdalene” (Pegasus), has soared to the top of best-seller lists.

Documentary filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici shows a life-size replica of one of the ossuaries found in 'Patio Tomb', a first century burial cave located beneath an apartment building on April 4, 2012 in Jerusalem,Israel. The artifacts, believed to date from the first century, are the subject of Jacobovici's documentary The Resurrection Tomb, which aims to unearth new findings on Jesus' earliest followers. The limestone Jewish ossuaries, or 'bone boxes', were captured on film using a camera on a robotic arm and have prompted scepticism from certain quarters over the objects' veracity. PHOTO BY Lior Mizrahi / FLASH 90Documentary filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici shows a life-size replica of one of the ossuaries found in ‘Patio Tomb’, a first century burial cave located beneath an apartment building on April 4, 2012 in Jerusalem,Israel.

 

The artifacts, believed to date from the first century, are the subject of Jacobovici’s documentary The Resurrection Tomb, which aims to unearth new findings on Jesus’ earliest followers. The limestone Jewish ossuaries, or ‘bone boxes’, were captured on film using a camera on a robotic arm and have prompted scepticism from certain quarters over the objects’ veracity. PHOTO BY Lior Mizrahi / FLASH 90
Documentary filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici shows a life-size replica of one of the ossuaries found in ‘Patio Tomb,’ a first century burial cave located beneath an apartment building on April 4, 2012 in Jerusalem, Israel. (Lior Mizrahi / FLASH 90)

Written by Canadian-Israeli journalist and documentary filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici and Canadian religious scholar Barrie Wilson, the book makes a series of provocative claims. Among them is not only that that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were husband and wife, but that she gave birth to two sons by him; that more than a decade before his Crucifixion by the Romans, Jesus was deeply embroiled in political activism, and had, with his family, become the target of assassination attempts; and that, after his death, Mary Magdalene — a Canaanite priestess — became the revered center of a Church of the Gentiles movement based on his teachings.

At the core of that controversial message lay a belief in the importance and sanctity of sex – the very antithesis of the desexualized version of Christ promulgated by the celibate Pauline Church.

In the orthodox Christian school adopted by the Romans in the fourth century, salvation was gained not in life, but in death. Gnosticism turned that idea precisely on its head, insisting that what mattered most was not suffering and salvation in the after-life, but life itself, symbolized by the marriage bed.

Mary Madalene’s Church of the Gentiles is the link that connects Jesus’ earliest followers with the emergence of Gnosticism in second-century Egypt
Indeed, Jacobovici and Wilson believe that Mary Madalene’s Church of the Gentiles is the link that connects Jesus’ earliest followers with the emergence of Gnosticism in second-century Egypt.

The thesis of The Lost Gospel is based on an ancient vellum manuscript called The Chronicle of Pseudo-Zacharias Rhetor, archived in the rare books section of the British Library in London. The library acquired it from the British Museum, which bought it in 1847 from a trader who claimed it came from the St. Macarius Monastery in Egypt. Other scholars that have studied the manuscript have considered it marginal.

At least 1,450 years old, the chronicle is written in Syriac, a later form of Aramaic, the language that Jesus spoke. The so-called lost gospel is a chapter from that book, called the Story of Joseph and Aseneth.

Wilson and Jacobovici retained York University scholar Tony Burke to provide the first ever translation of the chronicle’s text into English. But the sixth century Syriac account is itself a translation of a much older, Greek version that the authors think may date from the time of Jesus himself.

Joseph Accused by Potiphar's Wife, by Rembrandt van Rijn, 1655. (public domain via wikipedia)

Joseph Accused by Potiphar’s Wife, by Rembrandt van Rijn, 1655. (public domain via wikipedia)

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the surface, the Story of Joseph and Aseneth appears to chronicle the union of the Biblical Joseph and Aseneth, daughter of the Egyptian priest of On (Heliopolis). But Jacobovici and Wilson argue that, properly deciphered, Joseph and Aseneth are encrypted stand-ins for characters Gnostic Christians would have understood to be Jesus and Mary Magdalene.

This form of typology— in which Old Testament personages are said to represent or foreshadow the emergence of New Testament figures — was commonly adopted by Gnostic writers trying to evade the long, censorial arm of mainstream Christianity, which, as of the fourth century, outlawed all non-canonical texts. Only by speaking and reading in a kind of code could Gnostic adherents avoid repression or worse.

Thus, Aseneth and Joseph are described in language more appropriate to Jesus and Mary, and engage in rituals that have nothing to do with biblical Judaism and far more to do with Christianity.

Joseph, for example, is called the son of God, while Aseneth is dubbed “the Bride of God.” At one point in the narrative, after an angel-like figure marks a piece of honeycomb in blood with the sign of the cross, Aseneth eats a section of honeycomb, and is told: “Now you have eaten the bread of life and drunk the cup of life.”

“None of this is remotely Jewish,” Jacobovici tells The Times of Israel. “But it is deeply resonant of Christianity, specifically, the Communion ritual.”

‘Never once does Paul argue that Christians should be celibate, because Jesus was celibate’
Aseneth, the manuscript also says, lives in a tower. The Hebrew for “tower” is “Migdal,” the town Mary Magdalene hails from. Hence, Mary the Magdalene is Mary the Tower Lady.

The notion that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married, he maintains, is almost the historical equivalent of a slam dunk. Jesus was a rabbi and, then as now in Judaism, rabbis were traditionally married. Moreover, none of the four traditional Gospels makes reference to his celibacy. Jesus as Celibate was the invention of the apostle Paul.

Cover of 'The Lost Gospel: Decoding the Ancient Text That Reveals Jesus Marriage to Mary the Magdalene' (courtesy)

Cover of ‘The Lost Gospel: Decoding the Ancient Text That Reveals Jesus Marriage to Mary the Magdalene’ (courtesy)

“Had Jesus been celibate, Paul would certainly have invoked him as an example when arguing for celibacy,” Jacobovici argues. “But he doesn’t. Never once does Paul argue that Christians should be celibate, because Jesus was celibate.”

Finally, the Gospels record that Mary Magdalene prepared Jesus’ body for burial. But in the first century, no woman would touch the naked body of a dead rabbi, unless she was family.

“Jesus was whipped, beat and crucified,” Jacobovici, an observant Jew, says. “No woman would wash the blood and sweat off his private parts unless she was his wife.

If the allegory of Aseneth equals Mary Magdalene, and Joseph equal Jesus is correct, then the sexual nature of Jesus’ marriage is not in doubt. After a seven-day wedding feast, the text reads, “Joseph had intercourse with Aseneth… And Aseneth conceived from Joseph and gave birth to Manasseh and his brother Ephraim in Joseph’s house.”

The suggestion that there might indeed be a hidden layer of meaning in the Joseph and Aseneth story is supported by two letters
The suggestion that there might indeed be a hidden layer of meaning in the Joseph and Aseneth story is supported by two letters, written to Moses of Ingila, the monk charged with translating the work from Greek to Syriac. These were found attached to the manuscript. One of the letters explicitly says the document contains an “inner meaning” about “our Lord, our God, the Word.” But just as the letter is about to reveal what that meaning is, the letter is literally excised — according to the Lost Gospel authors, a blatant act of censorship. Elsewhere, the unknown author of the letters uses the ancient equivalents of “loose lips sink ships,” writing to Moses of Ingila, “The babbling mouth draws ruin near,” and “he who guards his mouth will preserve his life.”

Early reaction to the “Lost Gospel,” now being translated into French, Russian, Hungarian and Portuguese, has varied widely, from reflexively dismissive to cautiously positive. In the former category is University of Iowa professor of religion Robert Cargill, Jacobovici’s long-time intellectual adversary.

In a blog posting, Cargill contends that the lost gospel is neither lost (because it has long been known to scholars) nor a true gospel. It was written, Cargill contends, “to solve the later theological problem of Joseph, a Hebrew patriarch, marrying a non-Israelite woman (Aseneth), in direct violation of biblical commands (albeit later commands) that prohibit Hebrews/Jews/Israelites from intermarrying with other peoples.”

‘We’re pattern-making animals, so we love a conspiracy’
Diarmaid MacCulloch, professor of the History of the Church at the University of Oxford, was equally dismissive. “We’re pattern-making animals, so we love a conspiracy,” he told the Daily Beast. “The Bible has never said enough about the lives of its characters to satisfy piety, so pious folk make things up.”

In the supportive camp stand Hartford University professor Richard Freund (“The book is sure to revolutionize future scholarship and excavations in the history of ancient Christianity and Judaism.”), and James Tabor, Professor of Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity at the University of North Carolina (“The public will find it fascinating, clerics will denounce it, and some academics will likely dismiss it as sensational—but it is well worth a careful read.”).

The most reasoned analysis so far has come from University of St. Andrews scholar Richard Bauckham, who has web-posted a detailed seven-part critique. Bauckham agrees that Joseph and Aseneth is a Christian manuscript, but sees no evidence for associating Aseneth with Mary Magdalene, or of reading the text as coded. He even finds echoes of Pauline ideas embedded in the story.

September 5, 2012, file photo shows a fragment of papyrus that divinity professor Karen L. King said is the only existing ancient text that quotes Jesus explicitly referring to having a wife. (photo credit: AP/Harvard University, Karen L. King, File)

September 5, 2012, file photo shows a fragment of papyrus that divinity professor Karen L. King said is the only existing ancient text that quotes Jesus explicitly referring to having a wife. (photo credit: AP/Harvard University, Karen L. King, File)

Nor is the theological linkage of the Aseneth-Joseph tale with Mary Magdalene and Jesus of Nazareth the end of Jacobovici and Wilson’s story. “The Lost Gospel” deconstructs the last portion of the ancient text to proffer more details of Jesus’ history.

In the Aseneth tale, the son of the pharaoh tries to kill Joseph and is himself later murdered. Jacobovici and Wilson find the first century CE parallel in Germanicus, adopted son of the Roman emperor, Tiberius, who was living in the region. He may have orchestrated unsuccessful plots on the lives of Jesus, Mary Magdalene and their sons, and was later killed.

Wilson, a professor of religious studies at York University in Toronto, acknowledges the book’s many detractors, but tells The Times of Israel, these are “typically people with a vested theological interest who either dismiss the book out of hand because of its findings, or who argue that the divine Jesus couldn’t have been married. While Christianity affirms that Jesus was both divine and human, many Christians… think of him as divine and therefore exempt from sexuality, marriage and family life.”

Other critics, he adds, have commented negatively without having read the book, “the publishing equivalent of a restaurant critic attacking an establishment he never even bothered to visit.”

The heel bone and nail from the ossuary of Yehohanan. (photo credit: Courtesy of the Israel Museum. Photographer: Ilan Shtulman)

The heel bone and nail from the ossuary of Yehohanan. (photo credit: Courtesy of the Israel Museum. Photographer: Ilan Shtulman)

Jacobovici, who made aliyah to Israel several years ago, is an Emmy-award winning filmmaker who has lately specialized in Biblical archaeology. His recent films have claimed to have found tombs belonging to Jesus’ family and his followers and the actual nails used at his crucifixion — attracting a loud chorus of criticism.

But Jacobovici thinks the reception accorded the new book has been significantly different in tone.

“Having Barrie Wilson gives the whole endeavour more credibility, “ he says. “And we are starting to see serious scholars assessing the work, not just knee-jerk dismissals from underwear bloggers. And at a minimum, we are getting credit for doing a service, providing the first English translation of the work.”

Read more: ‘Lost Gospel’ depicts a married political activist Rabbi Jesus | The Times of Israel http://www.timesofisrael.com/lost-gospel-depicts-a-married-political-activist-rabbi-jesus/#ixzz3NX1S9t9P
Follow us: @timesofisrael on Twitter | timesofisrael on Facebook

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 31, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

How the Palestinian UN Bid Was Defeated

How the Palestinian UN Bid Was Defeated

(Photo: wikicommons/ Patrick Gruban)

In today’s Daily Dispatch, we report on the Palestinians’ failed bid for statehood – struck down yesterday by the United Nations Security Council – that called for Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank, as well as East Jerusalem being established as the Palestinian capital. Yediot Achronot’s Itamar Eichner analyzes just how the resolution was defeated, in large part due to the close bond between Israel and the United States:

“There was a clear message from the international community to the Palestinians: Do not try to use tricks to replace negotiations,” a top Foreign Ministry official told Ynet, but the American effort to torpedo the Palestinian’s UN Security Council resolution demanding Israel end its ‘occupation’ of the West Bank proved once again the importance of maintaining good relations with Washington.

Furthermore, the abstention by African nations also demonstrated the importance of the visits made by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman to the African continent. However, the change of power set to take place in the Security Council on Thursday will change the balance of power against Israel. 

The rejection of the Palestinian resolution by the UN Security Council on Tuesday night was a reminder of the great extent to which Israel-US relations serve as a critical factor in Israeli national security. It only strengthens the need for Israel to maintain good relations with Washington in general and more specifically with the White House, and prevent disagreements such as the one that occurred between Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and US Secretary of State John Kerry.

Israeli diplomats say that the US played a crucial role in the effort to block the Palestinian resolution which sought to set a time table for Israel’s disengagement from territories for a future Palestinian state without direct negotiations.

“The US had a very significant role,” said a high-ranking official at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem. “Not only were they willing to veto, they also worked side-by-side with Israeli diplomats in order to prevent support for the decision within the Security Council. It’s not that they just said they would vote against it. They worked. There were phone calls and messages. The American diplomatic effort is noteworthy.”

Read more: http://www.blog.standforisrael.org/articles/how-the-palestinian-un-bid-was-defeated#ixzz3NVbqFCJ6
Follow us: @StandForIsrael on Twitter | StandforIsrael on Facebook

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 31, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

¿Acabará algún día el terrorismo?

¿Acabará algún día el terrorismo?

Un ejemplo de vida

La masacre terrorista ocurrida en Jerusalem nos impactó a todos. El hecho dejó como saldo cinco viudas y muchos más niños huérfanos. Esto parece reforzar el sentimiento de desesperanza que existe en relación con este conflicto. ¿Acabará algún día? ¿Existe todavía algún tipo de esperanza? ¿Cómo ganaremos esta guerra?

Respuesta:

Una vez más, el pueblo judío se aúna en el sentimiento de luto. Esos sagrados hermanos, cuyas almas regresaron junto a su Creador en medio de rezos, se suman a la larga lista de mártires inocentes que cayeron a lo largo de los años y cuyas vidas fueron cruelmente arrebatadas sin motivo alguno más que por el simple hecho de ser judíos.

Pero hubo otro mártir en este ataque. El policía Israelí Zidan Saif, quien heroicamente entró a la sinagoga luego de escuchar que un grupo de terroristas había desatado una matanza en el interior de la institución y quien, a pesar de ser simplemente un policía de tránsito y de no contar con el equipamiento necesario para una misión de esa magnitud, logró salvar cientos de vidas. Pero, lamentablemente, Zidan fue baleado y falleció a causa de sus heridas, dejando atrás a su mujer y a su hija de solo siete meses.

Zidan es un héroe de Israel. Sin embargo, no era judío sino árabe. A pesar de estar más cerca en términos étnicos de los terroristas que de las víctimas judías, ideológicamente no podía estar más alejado del pensamiento de los perpetradores.

Zidan era miembro de la comunidad Drusa, una religión monoteísta que se desprendió del Islam pero que sin embargo difiere de éste en muchos aspectos. Uno de ellos es que los Drusos ejercen su lealtad hacia la comunidad que los alberga, donde sea que vivan. En Israel, participan en el ejército y muchos drusos, como Zidan, han hecho un sacrificio supremo por su país.

Los Drusos rinden culto a Itró, el suegro de Moisés, quien es su mayor profeta. Curiosamente, la tradición judía enseña que luego de que Itro se convirtiera al judaísmo, no acompañó a los judíos en su travesía hacia la Tierra Prometida, sino que regreso con su pueblo para enseñarles la Torá. No existe un registro en las escrituras judías acerca de si Itro tuvo éxito predicando el mensaje de Moisés. Pero quizás los Drusos son el fruto de dicho esfuerzo. En la actualidad, este pueblo respeta las Siete Leyes de Noé que constituyen el código moral de la Torá para toda la humanidad.

La historia de Zidan nos muestra claramente que la batalla en Israel no es racial ni territorial, sino ideológica. Existe una ideología que se rehúsa a convivir en paz con otras. Ése es el Islam fundamentalista.

La tradición Talmúdica registra una profecía escalofriante acerca del Final de los Tiempos, cuando los hijos de Ishmael – los árabes – causarán un dolor extremo a los hijos de Israel. Sin embargo, el nombre Ishmael significa “Di-s escuchará”. Y así será. Di-s escuchará el llanto de las víctimas y responderá, y en ese momento llegará el Mashiaj.

Zidan fue enterrado en una ceremonia rodeado de sus hermanos Drusos y acompañado por cientos de judíos de sombrero negro quienes se acercaron para brindar sus respetos a un hombre justo. En medio de la tragedia, debemos aferrarnos a estas muestras de unidad entre pueblos de diferentes religiones, sirviendo a Di-s codo a codo, con mutuo respeto. Una pequeña luz puede disipar hasta la oscuridad más profunda. El Bien triunfará.

Segun tomado de, http://www.es.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/2810228/jewish/Acabar-algn-da-el-terrorismo.htm el domingo, 28 de dic. de 2014.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 28, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

El significado del número 120 en el pensamiento judío.

120: Eso es vida

120: Eso es vida

El significado del número 120 en el pensamiento judío.

por Osher Jaim Levene con Rav Yehoshúa Hartman

El número 120 marca una vida completa. El tiempo de vida humana promedio (y la medida estándar de una generación) se asocia con el número 70: “Los días de nuestros años son 70 años” (1). Sin embargo, la longitud óptima de vida, como decimos en la bendición que acostumbramos a dar para una vida larga (‘Que vivas hasta los 120′) llega a los 120 años. Esto epitomiza la suma de años que una persona debe vivir su vida.

La literatura rabínica registra muchos eruditos dentro del período histórico de la Mishná que vivieron 120 años (2), pero el individuo más famoso cuya vida de 120 años se encuentra registrada en la Torá es el líder más grande de la historia judía: Moshé Rabeinu.

La vida de Moshé

La vida de Moshé comienza con su nacimiento en secreto debido al edicto egipcio que instruía a matar a todo niño judío que naciera. Fue rescatado del Río Nilo por la hija del faraón, quien lo sacó del agua (3). Mientras crecía en el palacio real, sintió la carga de sus oprimidos hermanos, quienes estaban siendo brutalmente forzados a realizar una labor quebrantadora (4). Después de huir de Egipto, Dios lo eligió en la zarza ardiente para que se convirtiera en el redentor de Israel (5). Moshé tenía 80 años cuando se paró frente al faraón para exigirle que dejara ir al pueblo judío (6). Los 40 años de liderazgo de Moshé duraron desde el Éxodo y el paso por el desierto hasta justo antes de la entrada a la Tierra Santa (7).

La Torá destaca que la destreza física y mental de Moshé no disminuyó con la edad (8). Antes de su muerte, Moshé dio testimonio de que todas sus facultades continuaban completamente funcionales e intactas. Su incapacidad para entrar a la Tierra Santa se debió sólo a que Dios así lo había decretado. En consonancia con los rectos, cuyos años son completos (9), Moshé murió en el mismo día de su nacimiento (10); su vida duró exactamente 120 años (11).

La característica más determinante de la vida de Moshé fue la revelación de la Torá. Su rol en la redención de los Hijos de Israel de Egipto fue sólo para que pudieran recibir la Torá de Dios en Sinaí, y él tuvo un rol esencial en su transmisión al pueblo judío (12). De hecho, hay un paralelo entre días y años en el proceso de recepción de la Torá por parte de Moshé. En su ascensión a la montaña para recibir la Torá hubo tres períodos de 40 días, es decir 120 días en total (13). Esto contiene en un microcosmos los 120 años de la vida de Moshé, la cual estuvo dedicada a enseñarle Torá al pueblo judío (14).

120: Sobre el agua

La hija del faraón le dio al bebé judío el nombre de Moshé porque lo salvó de una canasta que flotaba sobre el Río Nilo: “porque lo saqué del agua”. Esto refleja la naturaleza espiritual única de Moshé en su afinidad con la tzurá, ‘forma’, que es tomada y elevada por sobre el nivel del jómer, la ‘materia’. Eljómer es ejemplificado por el agua, cuyo estado líquido no tiene forma definitiva (16).

El Talmud ve una alusión criptica a Moshé en el episodio que relata la corrupción en el mundo previo al Diluvio. “Dios dijo: ‘Mi espíritu no permanecerá en el hombre por mucho tiempo, puesto que él también es carne; por lo tanto, sus días serán ciento veinte años” (17). La frase “puesto que él también” tiene el mismo valor numérico (equivalente a 345) que el nombre Moshé (18). Más aún, el período de 120 años en el versículo es una clara referencia a los años de la vida de Moshé (19).

Hay muchas similitudes sorprendentes entre el período del Diluvio y la vida de Moshé. Interesantemente, la idea de sucumbir o elevarse por sobre las aguas aparece con fuerza en ambas.

Tal como Moshé sobrevivió por medio de ser sacado del agua, de la misma forma la humanidad se salvó temporalmente de las aguas del Diluvio gracias al mérito de Moshé durante un período de 120 años (20). Durante esos 120 años Dios contuvo Su ira. No castigó a los malvados de inmediato, sino que les dio la oportunidad de arrepentirse (21). La instrucción Divina que recibió Noaj de construir el arca en público (22) fue el medio mediante el cual Dios le advirtió a la humanidad que traería el Diluvio destructivo (23).

Los niños recién nacidos en el exilio egipcio fueron condenados a ser arrojados al agua (24); el único que sobrevivió fue Moshé, quien estaba contenido dentro de su arca. Esto tiene su paralelo en los tiempos del Diluvio, cuando toda la civilización se ahogó a excepción de Noaj y los remanentes de la civilización, quienes fueron preservados gracias a haber sido albergados dentro del arca (25).

El arca construida por Noaj durante 120 años simbolizó “la duración de una vida”. Fue el entorno en que los últimos remanentes de la civilización vivirían y sobrevivirían hasta después del Diluvio; después de este, se restablecerían en tierra firme.

120: La vida en ciclos de jubileo

Tal como el arca fue utilizada para restablecer la vida en la Tierra después del Diluvio, de la misma forma Moshé fue el responsable de la aceptación de la Torá, la cual le daría al mundo su resiliencia. De hecho, incluso la creación del mundo tiene una conexión con Moshé: la primera palabra de la Torá, Bereshit, “en el comienzo de…” contiene una alusión a Moshé, quien también es descrito con el término de reshit, ‘primero’ (26).

Por extensión, el período de vida de Moshé de 120 años está relacionado con la completa secuencia continua del tiempo (27). La extensión máxima de tiempo destinada para el universo físico es de seis milenios: “El mundo existirá durante 6.000 años” (28). El tiempo está organizado en unidades concéntricas. Las horas se convierten en días, los días en meses, los meses en años, los años en ciclos sabáticos y, finalmente, los ciclos sabáticos en ciclos de Iovel, el ‘jubileo’ del quincuagésimo año. Este es el ciclo supremo, ya que la llegada de Iovelmarca el punto en el que un ciclo está completo. Ahora se da comienzo a un nuevo ciclo (29).

Si uno divide los 6.000 años de la existencia del mundo en estos ciclos de jubileo de 50 años, se alcanza un total de 120. Tal como un período de 50 años se clasifica como una “época”, la expresión expandida del tiempo de vida del universo (6.000) se encuentra manifiesta en la combinación de Iovel —50 años— y el período de tiempo de una vida —120 años— combinados (50×120=6.000).

120: De Moshé a los Hombres de la Gran Asamblea

El impresionante legado de los 120 años de vida de Moshé se transmitiría exitosamente a lo largo de las generaciones. La primera cadena histórica de transmisión de Torá, la cual aparece documentada en la primera mishná dePirkei Avot, comenzó con Moshé y se extendió hasta los Anshei Knéset Haguedolá, los Hombres de la Gran Asamblea, quienes vivieron en el comienzo del período del Segundo Templo (30).

Este linaje representa la transición de la revelación profética de la Torá Escrita (Moshé) al entendimiento de la Torá Oral (Anshei Knéset Haguedolá). Esta asamblea incluyó a los profetas sobrevivientes de la era del Primer Templo. Entre sus miembros estaban Mordejai, Ezra y Nejemia. Ellos instituyeron muchos decretos para reflejar el cambio de circunstancias (por ejemplo, la formulación textual estándar de las plegarias de la amidá).

Funcionando en calidad de un Gran Sanedrín y teniendo sobre sus hombros la responsabilidad de la preservación de la vida judía en una nueva época de la historia judía, la composición total de los Anshei Knéset Haguedolá era de 120 miembros (31). Interesantemente, el tamaño de una comunidad judía que necesita un Sanedrín es una congregación de no menos de 120 personas (32).

120: De Moshé hasta hoy

En realidad, la marca de la vida de Moshé continúa sintiéndose en todas las generaciones posteriores, hasta este día. El hecho que Moshé haya muerto en su cumpleaños número 120 simboliza que hay un ciclo infinito. Este fue el error fatal de Amán: creyó que el mes de adar, en el que murió Moshé, era una fecha trágica en la historia judía. El hecho de que haya sido en su cumpleaños significa que Moshé simbólicamente sigue viviendo, no a través de sí mismo sino por medio de sus sucesores. En lugar de crear un vacío, su muerte denota un estado de renovación constante por medio de los eruditos en Torá posteriores (33).

Se dice que la “esencia” de Moshé se reencarna en líderes judíos de cada era, quienes continúan la tarea sagrada de consagrar una vida de observancia de Torá que anima a la existencia y a la vida. Esa es la esencia de la vida humana, una vida que, si Dios quiere, se extiende por la misma longitud que la de Moshé: 120 años.


1. Tehilim 90:10. Ver “70: La suma de las partes”.

2. Ver Bereshit Rabá 100:10 sobre Rabí Akiva, Rabí Iojanán ben Zakai, etc. Ver también Rosh Hashaná 31b.

3. Shemot 2:5-6, 10.

4. Ibíd. 2:11-13.

5. Ibíd. 3:1-10.

6. Ibíd. 7:7. Ver “80: Con gran poder”.

7. Ver “40: El comportamiento esperado”

8. Devarim 31:2 y Rashi ad loc. 34:7.

9. Ver Tosafot, Jaguigá 17a citando el Ierushalmi, Jaguigá 2:3, el cual declara que David murió en Shavuot. Ver Kidushín 38a y Sotá 13b sobre los justos que mueren en el día de su cumpleaños.

10. Sotá 12b.

11. Devarim 31:2, 34:7.

12. Pirkei Avot 1:1.

13. Ver Rashi, Shemot 32:1 and 33:11.

14. RokéajDevarim 34:7.

15. Shemot 2:10.

16. Maharal, Guevurot Hashem 14. Ver “39: En desarrollo” y “40: El comportamiento esperado”.

17. Bereshit 6:3.

18. Julín 139b.

19. Ver Rashi, Julín 139b.

20. Maharal, Jidushei HagadotJulín 139b (Vol. 4, pp. 115-116).

21. Rashi, Bereshit 6:3.

22. Bereshit 6:13-16.

23. Rashi, ibíd. 6:14.

24. Shemot 1:22.

25. Nota la descripción similar que hace la Torá de la tevá de Noaj y de la tevá de Moshé: ambas fueron embardunadas con brea (Bereshit 6:14 y Shemot 2:3, ver Rashi en Bereshit 6:14).

26. Bereshit Rabá 1:4.

27. Tanto Adam como Noaj vivieron casi 1.000 años (930 y 950 años respectivamente). La suma de los años que no vivió cada uno para llegar a los 1.000 da como resultado 120 años, el tiempo de vida de Moshé. Ver Jidá, Dvash Lefi, Erej Moshé.

28. Rosh Hashaná 31a; Avodá Zará 9a. Ver “6.000: El fin del mundo”.

29. Ver “50: El número de la trascendencia”.

30. Pirkei Avot 1:1.

31. Meguilá 17b.

32. Sanedrín 2b y 17b; ver Rambam, Hiljot Sanedrín 1:10.

33 Ver Tanjumá, Ki Tisá 3, mencionado en el contexto de Parashat Shekalim.

Segun tomado de, http://www.aishlatino.com/e/f/120-Eso-es-vida.html?s=show el sábado, 27 de dic. de 2014.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 27, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Little Left of Cuban Jewry’s Rich Past

Little Left of Cuban Jewry’s Rich Past

JNS.org The new U.S. policy of rapprochement with Cuba, which was accompanied by the celebrated release of imprisoned Jewish aid worker Alan Gross, probably will give American Jews greater access to a Jewish community with which few are familiar. But visitors will find that the years have not been kind to once-thriving Cuban Jewry.

During the centuries of Spanish rule in Cuba, no more than a scattered handful of Jews lived there. Catholicism was the only religion the Spanish colonial authorities permitted. The modern Jewish connection to Cuba began in the 1890s, when a number of American Jews lent their support to the Cuban liberation movement, headed by Jose Marti.

After the Spanish-American war of 1898 resulted in Cuban independence, American Jewish businessmen began settling on the island. By 1904, the Cuban Jewish community, numbering more than 300 families, established its first synagogue, the United Hebrew Congregation, which was part of the Reform movement. During the years leading up to World War One, more than 5,000 Sephardic Jews from Turkey and North Africa settled in Cuba. Thanks to their fluency in Ladino, they were able to adjust quickly to life in a Spanish-speaking country. The island’s first Orthodox synagogue was founded in 1914.

As the U.S. tightened its immigration restrictions in the 1920s, more European Jews went instead to Cuba, although in many cases they saw it merely as a way station until they could enter America. The Cuban Jewish population grew to more than 20,000, and Havana, although still the center of the community, was now supplemented by clusters of Jews in smaller cities on the island.

Cuban Jews first began to experience serious anti-Semitism in the 1930s, as the impact of the worldwide depression stimulated extreme nationalism and ethnic scapegoating. Nazi agents seeking to spread Hitler’s influence in Latin America helped stir up anti-Jewish resentment in Cuba, and the country’s oldest newspaper, Didrio de la Marina, began reprinting articles from Julius Streicher’s Nazi publication Der Sturmer. Rumors on Yom Kippur eve in 1933 that Jews planned to aid anti-government strikers resulted in the police forcing dozens of Jewish businessmen to open their stores on the holy day.

Military strongman Fulgenico Batista, who took power in 1933, for the first time allowed Jews to apply for full citizenship. But he also pushed through a law requiring that at least 50 percent of all employees of businesses be Cuban-born. Although not aimed at Jews, it had the effect of ousting many Jews from their jobs. Nevertheless, the Cuban Jewish community felt reasonably secure and continued to gradually expand, reaching a peak of more than 20,000 in the 1930s.

American Jewish vacationers were regular patrons of the fabled Havana nightlife. In his autobiography, Hollywood screenwriter Ben Hecht described how he and a colleague would sometimes, on a whim, bring dozens of friends to Havana for a week of drunken revelry. “Cafes were raided and native female entertainers were carried off,” he recalled cheerfully. “Americans were still loved and grinned at by foreign eyes, [so] there was a minimum of broken heads.”

In the wake of the German annexation of Austria and the growing number of German and Austrian Jews seeking havens, about 3,000 Jewish refugees were permitted to enter Cuba in 1938-1939. One U.S. newspaper columnist speculated that President Franklin D. Roosevelt had secretly agreed to lower tariffs on Cuban sugar imports in return for Cuba opening its doors to refugees. That theory was soon discredited, however, when the Cuban authorities refused to permit the landing of the 930 passengers on the St. Louis refugee ship in May 1939. In 1942, Cuba imposed a ban on all immigrants from Axis countries.

Many Cuban leaders sympathized with the Zionist cause, and the Cuban Senate in 1947 unanimously reaffirmed its previous endorsement of the Balfour Declaration (in which a British dignitary recognized the need for a Jewish homeland in Israel). The Cuban ambassador’s vote against the United Nations plan to partition the Palestine mandate thus surprised many. The reasons for that about-face remain a source of controversy among historians. In any event, the installation of a new Cuban government in 1949 resulted in Cuban recognition of the state of Israel.

The 1950s were a time of relative prosperity for Cuban Jewry, crowned by the construction of an expensive and elaborate cultural center in the Havana suburb of Vedado. Cuban Jews also established their own social clubs, medical clinics, and a monthly magazine, Israelia.

The Communist revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power in 1959 changed everything for Cuba’s Jews. Although some individual Jews were part of Castro’s government, his policy of nationalizing private businesses decimated the Jewish community. Within the first two years of the Castro regime, nearly 7,000 Cuban Jews, including most Jewish leaders, fled the country. Altogether, about 90 percent of Cuba’s Jews left. Most went to America, and a small number immigrated to Israel or South America.

Castro adopted a harsh anti-Israel line, and hosted Third World conferences where extreme denunciations of Israel were the norm. Castro also established close relations with the Palestine Liberation Organization, which reportedly helped Cuba supply weapons to Communist revolutionary groups in Latin America. A Cuban diplomat who defected to the West reported that throughout the 1970s, Cuba’s embassy in Damascus in turn shipped arms to Palestinian terrorist groups in Lebanon. Whether the new U.S.-Cuba rapprochement will result in friendlier Cuban relations with Israel remains to be seen.

Visitors to Cuba today will find only about 1,500 Jews. There are just a handful of functioning synagogues and a single kosher butcher. The community’s last rabbi passed away in 1975. A New York Timescorrespondent who visited Cuba in 2007 reported that it was so difficult to find the required quorum of 10 adult males for morning prayers that the Jewish community initiated a custom of counting its Torah scrolls as members of the minyan. Forthcoming visitors are not likely to find that the situation has changed very much since then.

Dr. Rafael Medoff is founding director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, and author of 15 books on the Holocaust, Zionism, and Jewish histo

Segun tomado de, http://www.algemeiner.com/2014/12/24/little-left-of-cuban-jewry%E2%80%99s-rich-past/ el jueves 25 de dic. de 2014.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 25, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

The Story of Joseph and the Dawn of Forgiveness

The Story of Joseph and the Dawn of Forgiveness

There are moments that change the world: 1439 when Johannes Gutenberg invented the movable-type printing press (though the Chinese had developed it four centuries before), or 1821 when Faraday invented the electric motor, or 1990 when Tim Berners-Lee created the World Wide Web. There is such a moment in this week’s parsha, and in its way it may have been no less transformative than any of the above. It happened when Joseph finally revealed his identity to his brothers. While they were silent and in a state of shock, he went on to say these words:

“I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God.” (Gen. 45: 4-8)

This is the first recorded moment in history in which one human being forgives another.

According to the Midrash, God had forgiven before this, but not according to the plain sense of the text. Forgiveness is conspicuously lacking as an element in the stories of the Flood, the Tower of Babel, and Sodom and the cities of the plain. When Abraham prayed his audacious prayer for the people of Sodom, he did not ask God to forgive them. His argument was about justice not forgiveness. Perhaps there were innocent people there, fifty or even ten. It would be unjust for them to die. Their merit should therefore save the others, says Abraham. That is quite different from asking God to forgive.

Joseph forgave. That was a first in history. Yet the Torah hints that the brothers did not fully appreciate the significance of his words. After all, he did not explicitly use the word ‘forgive.’ He told them not to be distressed. He said, ‘It was not you but God.’ He told them their act had resulted in a positive outcome. But all of this was theoretically compatible with holding them guilty and deserving of punishment. That is why the Torah recounts a second event, years later, after Jacob had died. The brothers sought a meeting with Joseph fearing that he would now take revenge. They concocted a story:

They sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructions before he died: ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you toforgive your brothers for the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept. [Gen. 50: 16-18]

What they said was a white lie, but Joseph understood why they said it. The brothers used the word “forgive” – this is the first time it appears explicitly in the Torah – because they were still unsure about what Joseph meant. Does someone truly forgive those who sold him into slavery? Joseph wept that his brothers had not fully understood that he had forgiven them long before. He no longer felt ill-will toward them. He had no anger, no lingering resentment, no desire for revenge. He had conquered his emotions and reframed his understanding of events.

Forgiveness does not appear in every culture. It is not a human universal, nor is it a biological imperative. We know this from a fascinating study by American classicist David Konstan, Before Forgiveness: the origins of a moral idea (2010). In it he argues that there was no concept of forgiveness in the literature of the ancient Greeks. There was something else, often mistaken for forgiveness. There is appeasement of anger.

When someone does harm to someone else, the victim is angry and seeks revenge. This is clearly dangerous for the perpetrator and he or she may try to get the victim to calm down and move on. They may make excuses: It wasn’t me, it was someone else. Or, it was me but I couldn’t help it. Or, it was me but it was a small wrong, and I have done you much good in the past, so on balance you should let it pass.

Alternatively, or in conjunction with these other strategies, the perpetrator may beg, plead, and perform some ritual of abasement or humiliation. This is a way of saying to the victim, “I am not really a threat.” The Greek word sugnome, sometimes translated as forgiveness, really means, says Konstan, exculpation or absolution. It is not that I forgive you for what you did, but that I understand why you did it – you could not really help it, you were caught up in circumstances beyond your control – or, alternatively, I do not need to take revenge because you have now shown by your deference to me that you hold me in proper respect. My dignity has been restored.

There is a classic example of appeasement in the Torah: Jacob’s behaviour toward Esau when they meet again after a long separation. Jacob had fled home after Rebekah overheard Esau resolving to kill him after Isaac’s death (Gen. 27: 41). Prior to the meeting Jacob sends him a huge gift of cattle, saying “I will appease him with the present that goes before me, and afterward I will see his face; perhaps he will accept me.” (Gen. 32: 21). When the brothers meet, Jacob bows down to Esau seven times, a classic abasement ritual. The brothers meet, kiss, embrace, and go their separate ways, but not because Esau has forgiven Jacob but because either he has forgotten or he has been placated.

Appeasement as a form of conflict management exists even among non-humans. Frans de Waal, the primatologist, has described peacemaking rituals among chimpanzees, bonobos and mountain gorillas. There are contests for dominance among the social animals, but there must also be ways of restoring harmony to the group if it is to survive at all. So there are forms of appeasement and peacemaking that are pre-moral and have existed since the birth of humanity.

Forgiveness has not. Konstan argues that its first appearance is in the Hebrew Bible and he cites the case of Joseph. What he does not make clear is why Joseph forgives, and why the idea and institution are born specifically within Judaism.

The answer is that within Judaism a new form of morality was born. Judaism is (primarily) an ethic of guilt, as opposed to most other systems, which are ethics of shame. One of the fundamental differences between them is that shame attaches to the person. Guilt attaches to the act. In shame cultures when a person does wrong he or she is, as it were, stained, marked, defiled. In guilt cultures what is wrong is not the doer but the deed, not the sinner but the sin. The person retains his or her fundamental worth (“the soul you gave me is pure,” as we say in our prayers). It is the act that has somehow to be put right. That is why in guilt cultures there are processes of repentance, atonement, and forgiveness.

That is the explanation for Joseph’s behaviour from the moment the brothers appear before him in Egypt for the first time to the point where, in this week’s parsha, he announces his identity and forgives his brothers. It is a textbook case of putting the brothers through a course in atonement, the first in literature. Joseph is thus teaching them, and the Torah is teaching us, what it is to earn forgiveness.

Recall what happens. First he accuses the brothers of a crime they have not committed. He says they are spies. He has them imprisoned for three days. Then, holding Shimon as a hostage, he tells them that they must now go back home and bring back their youngest brother Benjamin. In other words, he is forcing them to re-enact that earlier occasion when they came back to their father with one of the brothers, Joseph, missing. Note what happens next:

They said to one another, “Surely we deserve to be punished [ashemim] because of our brother. We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen; that’s why this distress has come on us” … They did not realize that Joseph could understand them, since he was using an interpreter. [Gen. 42: 21-23]

This is the first stage of repentance. They admit they have done wrong.

Next, after the second meeting, Joseph has his special silver cup planted in Benjamin’s sack. It is found and the brothers are brought back. They are told that Benjamin must stay as a slave.

“What can we say to my lord?” Judah replied. “What can we say? How can we prove our innocence? God has uncovered your servants’ guilt. We are now my lord’s slaves—we ourselves and the one who was found to have the cup.” [Gen. 44: 16]

This is the second stage of repentance. They confess. They do more: they admit collective responsibility. This is important. When the brothers sold Joseph into slavery it was Judah who proposed the crime (37: 26-27), but they were all (except Reuben) complicit in it.

Finally, at the climax of the story Judah himself says “So now let me remain as your slave in place of the lad. Let the lad go back with his brothers!” (42: 33). Judah, who sold Joseph as a slave, is now willing to become a slave so that his brother Benjamin can go free. This is what the sages and Maimonides define as complete repentance, namely when circumstances repeat themselves and you have an opportunity to commit the same crime again, but you refrain from doing so because you have changed.

Now Joseph can forgive, because his brothers, led by Judah, have gone through all three stages of repentance: [1] admission of guilt, [2] confession, and [3] behavioural change.

Forgiveness only exists in a culture in which repentance exists. Repentance presupposes that we are free and morally responsible agents who are capable of change, specifically the change that comes about when we recognise that something we have done is wrong and we are responsible for it and we must never do it again. The possibility of that kind of moral transformation simply did not exist in ancient Greece or any other pagan culture. Greece was a shame-and-honour culture that turned on the twin concepts of character and fate.

Judaism was a repentance-and-forgiveness culture whose central concepts are will and choice. The idea of forgiveness was then adopted by Christianity, making the Judeo-Christian ethic the primary vehicle of forgiveness in history.

Repentance and forgiveness are not just two ideas among many. They transformed the human situation. For the first time, repentance established the possibility that we are not condemned endlessly to repeat the past. When I repent I show I can change. The future is not predestined. I can make it different from what it might have been. Forgiveness liberates us from the past. Forgiveness breaks the irreversibility of reaction and revenge. It is the undoing of what has been done.

Humanity changed the day Joseph forgave his brothers. When we forgive and are worthy of being forgiven, we are no longer prisoners of our past.

Segun tomado de, http://www.algemeiner.com/2014/12/25/the-story-of-joseph-and-the-dawn-of-forgiveness/ el jueves, 25 de dic. de 2014.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 25, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

How December 25 Became Christmas

How December 25 Became Christmas

 Andrew McGowan   •  08/12/2014

Read Andrew McGowan’s article “How December 25 Became Christmas” as it originally appeared inBible Review, December 2002. The article was first republished in Bible History Daily in December 2012.—Ed.


On December 25, Christians around the world will gather to celebrate Jesus’ birth. Joyful carols, special liturgies, brightly wrapped gifts, festive foods—these all characterize the feast today, at least in the northern hemisphere. But just how did the Christmas festival originate? How did December 25 come to be associated with Jesus’ birthday?The Bible offers few clues: Celebrations of Jesus’ Nativity are not mentioned in the Gospels or Acts; the date is not given, not even the time of year. The biblical reference to shepherds tending their flocks at night when they hear the news of Jesus’ birth (Luke 2:8) might suggest the spring lambing season; in the cold month of December, on the other hand, sheep might well have been corralled. Yet most scholars would urge caution about extracting such a precise but incidental detail from a narrative whose focus is theological rather than calendrical.

The extrabiblical evidence from the first and second century is equally spare: There is no mention of birth celebrations in the writings of early Christian writers such as Irenaeus (c. 130–200) or Tertullian (c. 160–225). Origen of Alexandria (c. 165–264) goes so far as to mock Roman celebrations of birth anniversaries, dismissing them as “pagan” practices—a strong indication that Jesus’ birth was not marked with similar festivities at that place and time.1 As far as we can tell, Christmas was not celebrated at all at this point.

This stands in sharp contrast to the very early traditions surrounding Jesus’ last days. Each of the Four Gospels provides detailed information about the time of Jesus’ death. According to John, Jesus is crucified just as the Passover lambs are being sacrificed. This would have occurred on the 14th of the Hebrew month of Nisan, just before the Jewish holiday began at sundown (considered the beginning of the 15th day because in the Hebrew calendar, days begin at sundown). In Matthew, Mark and Luke, however, the Last Supper is held after sundown, on the beginning of the 15th. Jesus is crucified the next morning—still, the 15th.a
Easter, a much earlier development than Christmas, was simply the gradual Christian reinterpretation of Passover in terms of Jesus’ Passion. Its observance could even be implied in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 5:7–8: “Our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us celebrate the festival…”); it was certainly a distinctively Christian feast by the mid-second century C.E., when the apocryphal text known as the Epistle to the Apostles has Jesus instruct his disciples to “make commemoration of [his] death, that is, the Passover.”Jesus’ ministry, miracles, Passion and Resurrection were often of most interest to first- and early-second-century C.E. Christian writers. But over time, Jesus’ origins would become of increasing concern. We can begin to see this shift already in the New Testament. The earliest writings—Paul and Mark—make no mention of Jesus’ birth. The Gospels of Matthew and Luke provide well-known but quite different accounts of the event—although neither specifies a date. In the second century C.E., further details of Jesus’ birth and childhood are related in apocryphal writings such as the Infancy Gospel of Thomas and the Proto-Gospel of James.b These texts provide everything from the names of Jesus’ grandparents to the details of his education—but not the date of his birth.

Finally, in about 200 C.E., a Christian teacher in Egypt makes reference to the date Jesus was born. According to Clement of Alexandria, several different days had been proposed by various Christian groups. Surprising as it may seem, Clement doesn’t mention December 25 at all. Clement writes: “There are those who have determined not only the year of our Lord’s birth, but also the day; and they say that it took place in the 28th year of Augustus, and in the 25th day of [the Egyptian month] Pachon [May 20 in our calendar] … And treating of His Passion, with very great accuracy, some say that it took place in the 16th year of Tiberius, on the 25th of Phamenoth [March 21]; and others on the 25th of Pharmuthi [April 21] and others say that on the 19th of Pharmuthi [April 15] the Savior suffered. Further, others say that He was born on the 24th or 25th of Pharmuthi [April 20 or 21].”2

Clearly there was great uncertainty, but also a considerable amount of interest, in dating Jesus’ birth in the late second century. By the fourth century, however, we find references to two dates that were widely recognized—and now also celebrated—as Jesus’ birthday: December 25 in the western Roman Empire and January 6 in the East (especially in Egypt and Asia Minor). The modern Armenian church continues to celebrate Christmas on January 6; for most Christians, however, December 25 would prevail, while January 6 eventually came to be known as the Feast of the Epiphany, commemorating the arrival of the magi in Bethlehem. The period between became the holiday season later known as the 12 days of Christmas.

The earliest mention of December 25 as Jesus’ birthday comes from a mid-fourth-century Roman almanac that lists the death dates of various Christian bishops and martyrs. The first date listed, December 25, is marked: natus Christus in Betleem Judeae: “Christ was born in Bethlehem of Judea.”3 In about 400 C.E., Augustine of Hippo mentions a local dissident Christian group, the Donatists, who apparently kept Christmas festivals on December 25, but refused to celebrate the Epiphany on January 6, regarding it as an innovation. Since the Donatist group only emerged during the persecution under Diocletian in 312 C.E. and then remained stubbornly attached to the practices of that moment in time, they seem to represent an older North African Christian tradition.

In the East, January 6 was at first not associated with the magi alone, but with the Christmas story as a whole.

So, almost 300 years after Jesus was born, we finally find people observing his birth in mid-winter. But how had they settled on the dates December 25 and January 6?

There are two theories today: one extremely popular, the other less often heard outside scholarly circles (though far more ancient).4

The most loudly touted theory about the origins of the Christmas date(s) is that it was borrowed from pagan celebrations. The Romans had their mid-winter Saturnalia festival in late December; barbarian peoples of northern and western Europe kept holidays at similar times. To top it off, in 274 C.E., the Roman emperor Aurelian established a feast of the birth of Sol Invictus (the Unconquered Sun), on December 25. Christmas, the argument goes, is really a spin-off from these pagan solar festivals. According to this theory, early Christians deliberately chose these dates to encourage the spread of Christmas and Christianity throughout the Roman world: If Christmas looked like a pagan holiday, more pagans would be open to both the holiday and the God whose birth it celebrated.


Despite its popularity today, this theory of Christmas’s origins has its problems. It is not found in any ancient Christian writings, for one thing. Christian authors of the time do note a connection between the solstice and Jesus’ birth: The church father Ambrose (c. 339–397), for example, described Christ as the true sun, who outshone the fallen gods of the old order. But early Christian writers never hint at any recent calendrical engineering; they clearly don’t think the date was chosen by the church. Rather they see the coincidence as a providential sign, as natural proof that God had selected Jesus over the false pagan gods.It’s not until the 12th century that we find the first suggestion that Jesus’ birth celebration was deliberately set at the time of pagan feasts. A marginal note on a manuscript of the writings of the Syriac biblical commentator Dionysius bar-Salibi states that in ancient times the Christmas holiday was actually shifted from January 6 to December 25 so that it fell on the same date as the pagan Sol Invictus holiday.5 In the 18th and 19th centuries, Bible scholars spurred on by the new study of comparative religions latched on to this idea.6 They claimed that because the early Christians didn’t know when Jesus was born, they simply assimilated the pagan solstice festival for their own purposes, claiming it as the time of the Messiah’s birth and celebrating it accordingly.

More recent studies have shown that many of the holiday’s modern trappings do reflect pagan customs borrowed much later, as Christianity expanded into northern and western Europe. The Christmas tree, for example, has been linked with late medieval druidic practices. This has only encouraged modern audiences to assume that the date, too, must be pagan.

There are problems with this popular theory, however, as many scholars recognize. Most significantly, the first mention of a date for Christmas (c. 200) and the earliest celebrations that we know about (c. 250–300) come in a period when Christians were not borrowing heavily from pagan traditions of such an obvious character.

Granted, Christian belief and practice were not formed in isolation. Many early elements of Christian worship—including eucharistic meals, meals honoring martyrs and much early Christian funerary art—would have been quite comprehensible to pagan observers. Yet, in the first few centuries C.E., the persecuted Christian minority was greatly concerned with distancing itself from the larger, public pagan religious observances, such as sacrifices, games and holidays. This was still true as late as the violent persecutions of the Christians conducted by the Roman emperor Diocletian between 303 and 312 C.E.

This would change only after Constantine converted to Christianity. From the mid-fourth century on, we do find Christians deliberately adapting and Christianizing pagan festivals. A famous proponent of this practice was Pope Gregory the Great, who, in a letter written in 601 C.E. to a Christian missionary in Britain, recommended that local pagan temples not be destroyed but be converted into churches, and that pagan festivals be celebrated as feasts of Christian martyrs. At this late point, Christmas may well have acquired some pagan trappings. But we don’t have evidence of Christians adopting pagan festivals in the third century, at which point dates for Christmas were established. Thus, it seems unlikely that the date was simply selected to correspond with pagan solar festivals.

The December 25 feast seems to have existed before 312—before Constantine and his conversion, at least. As we have seen, the Donatist Christians in North Africa seem to have known it from before that time. Furthermore, in the mid- to late fourth century, church leaders in the eastern Empire concerned themselves not with introducing a celebration of Jesus’ birthday, but with the addition of the December date to their traditional celebration on January 6.7


There is another way to account for the origins of Christmas on December 25: Strange as it may seem, the key to dating Jesus’ birth may lie in the dating of Jesus’ death at Passover. This view was first suggested to the modern world by French scholar Louis Duchesne in the early 20th century and fully developed by American Thomas Talley in more recent years.8 But they were certainly not the first to note a connection between the traditional date of Jesus’ death and his birth.

Around 200 C.E. Tertullian of Carthage reported the calculation that the 14th of Nisan (the day of the crucifixion according to the Gospel of John) in the year Jesus diedc was equivalent to March 25 in the Roman (solar) calendar.9 March 25 is, of course, nine months before December 25; it was later recognized as the Feast of the Annunciation—the commemoration of Jesus’ conception.10 Thus, Jesus was believed to have been conceived and crucified on the same day of the year. Exactly nine months later, Jesus was born, on December 25.d

This idea appears in an anonymous Christian treatise titled On Solstices and Equinoxes, which appears to come from fourth-century North Africa. The treatise states: “Therefore our Lord was conceived on the eighth of the kalends of April in the month of March [March 25], which is the day of the passion of the Lord and of his conception. For on that day he was conceived on the same he suffered.”11 Based on this, the treatise dates Jesus’ birth to the winter solstice.

Augustine, too, was familiar with this association. In On the Trinity (c. 399–419) he writes: “For he [Jesus] is believed to have been conceived on the 25th of March, upon which day also he suffered; so the womb of the Virgin, in which he was conceived, where no one of mortals was begotten, corresponds to the new grave in which he was buried, wherein was never man laid, neither before him nor since. But he was born, according to tradition, upon December the 25th.”12


In the East, too, the dates of Jesus’ conception and death were linked. But instead of working from the 14th of Nisan in the Hebrew calendar, the easterners used the 14th of the first spring month (Artemisios) in their local Greek calendar—April 6 to us. April 6 is, of course, exactly nine months before January 6—the eastern date for Christmas. In the East, too, we have evidence that April was associated with Jesus’ conception and crucifixion. Bishop Epiphanius of Salamis writes that on April 6, “The lamb was shut up in the spotless womb of the holy virgin, he who took away and takes away in perpetual sacrifice the sins of the world.”13 Even today, the Armenian Church celebrates the Annunciation in early April (on the 7th, not the 6th) and Christmas on January 6.eThus, we have Christians in two parts of the world calculating Jesus’ birth on the basis that his death and conception took place on the same day (March 25 or April 6) and coming up with two close but different results (December 25 and January 6).

Connecting Jesus’ conception and death in this way will certainly seem odd to modern readers, but it reflects ancient and medieval understandings of the whole of salvation being bound up together. One of the most poignant expressions of this belief is found in Christian art. In numerous paintings of the angel’s Annunciation to Mary—the moment of Jesus’ conception—the baby Jesus is shown gliding down from heaven on or with a small cross (see photo above of detail from Master Bertram’s Annunciation scene); a visual reminder that the conception brings the promise of salvation through Jesus’ death.

The notion that creation and redemption should occur at the same time of year is also reflected in ancient Jewish tradition, recorded in the Talmud. The Babylonian Talmud preserves a dispute between two early-second-century C.E. rabbis who share this view, but disagree on the date: Rabbi Eliezer states: “In Nisan the world was created; in Nisan the Patriarchs were born; on Passover Isaac was born … and in Nisan they [our ancestors] will be redeemed in time to come.” (The other rabbi, Joshua, dates these same events to the following month, Tishri.)14 Thus, the dates of Christmas and Epiphany may well have resulted from Christian theological reflection on such chronologies: Jesus would have been conceived on the same date he died, and born nine months later.15

In the end we are left with a question: How did December 25 become Christmas? We cannot be entirely sure. Elements of the festival that developed from the fourth century until modern times may well derive from pagan traditions. Yet the actual date might really derive more from Judaism—from Jesus’ death at Passover, and from the rabbinic notion that great things might be expected, again and again, at the same time of the year—than from paganism. Then again, in this notion of cycles and the return of God’s redemption, we may perhaps also be touching upon something that the pagan Romans who celebrated Sol Invictus, and many other peoples since, would have understood and claimed for their own, too.16


“How December 25 Became Christmas” by Andrew McGowan originally appeared in Bible Review, December 2002.


Andrew McGowan, formerly Warden and President of Trinity College at the University of Melbourne, Australia, is now President and Dean of the Berkeley Divinity School. His work on early Christianity includes God in Early Christian Thought (Brill, 2009) and Ascetic Eucharists: Food and Drink in Early Christian Ritual Meals (Oxford, 1999).

Segun tomado de, http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-topics/new-testament/how-december-25-became-christmas/?mqsc=E3785252&utm_source=WhatCountsEmail&utm_medium=BHD+Daily%20Newsletter&utm_campaign=E4BD23 el martes, 23 de dic. de 2014.
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 23, 2014 in Uncategorized