From: Curtis Johnson
To: Steve Hayes
Date: Oct 2 1997 4:07:32 am
Subject: Festivals
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-=> Quoting Steve Hayes to Curtis Johnson <=-

CJ> Conybeare says nothing about the Saturnalia angle, but the
CJ> Mithraic angle looks solid.

SH> Thanks very much for posting it. Saved for future reference.

SH> I had not come across the infant baptism angle before, and found it
SH> somewhat contrived. Also the absence of any reference to the Arian
SH> controversy, which occupied the minds of Christians in the second and
SH> third quarters of the 4th century, and which seems to me a far more
SH> likely reason for Christians to begin celebrating the birth of Christ.

I hadn't seen the infant baptism notion either; I suspect
it may be original with Conybeare.  It is interesting; and Conybeare
was a scholar on early Christian origins who still gets cited.
My reaction is to suspend judgment on that particular angle.
There's no reaction to Arianism that I can imagine offhand
in the celebration of Christmas.  The Arians were Arians, after
all, because they denied a divinity to Christ, whereas a celebration
of the birth could only underscore his humanity.  The denial of
divinity to Jesus seems to have been a theological position taken
by at least some from the first.
It would be interesting to see if there were a correlation
between the growth of the Mary cultus and a holiday which only
served to increase her status.  Of course, here there might be
a chicken-and-egg question--and a probable influence from another
mystery cult, that of Isis, whose art had an Isis-holding-the-baby
-Horus motif.  (Note also that the women of Mithraists gravitated
largely toward the Isis mystery religion.)

SH> The reference to Britain seemed a bit odd. The English had not begun
SH> arriving in Britain in significant numbers before the 5th century,
SH> and, as is well-known, Christians began celebrating the birth of
SH> Christ (as a separate event from his baptism) some time in the second
SH> quarter of the 4th century.

I don't believe Conybeare was contending a direct influence
from the British holiday.  Since the Enc. Brit. really was British
in this edition, he had to say something British before he ran out
of space.  (Notice the one small paragraph devoted to modern and
world customs.)
That holiday was likely was a solstice celebration
if it was entirely native in origin (whether Anglo-Saxon or the
earlier populace).  It is worth noting, and wondering if it is
mere coincidence, that Britain was one of the strongholds of
Mithraism.  (And Constantine the Great and his father were
Roman soldiers stationed in Britain.)

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