Calculating December 25 as the Birth of Jesus in Hippolytus’ Canon and Chronicon

In: Vigiliae Christianae
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  • 1 Yale, Religious studies, New Haven, ct 06511, USA

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This article argues that around 235 ce Hippolytus of Rome placed the birth of Jesus on December 25. While this has been theorized in the past, this article brings forward hitherto unheralded evidence about Jesus’ birth from Hippolytus’ Canon and his Chronicon. First, the Canon marks the Passover as the γένεσις of Jesus, a word which scholars have previously thought refers to birth. This article however uses evidence from an extensive word study to show that the term most likely refers to conception, which would then place the birth of Jesus sometime in late fall or early winter. Secondly, the article shows that in his Chronicon Hippolytus placed Jesus’ birth exactly nine months after the anniversary of the world’s creation. Calculations in his Chronicon and Canon indicate that Hippolytus thought the world was created on March 25, meaning that he likely believed that Jesus was born on December 25.

  • 9

    St. E. Hijmans, ‘Sol Invictus, the Winter Solstice, and the Origins of Christmas,’ Mouseion 47 (2003), 377-98; St. E. Hijmans, ‘Sol: The Sun in the Art and Religions of Rome’ (PhD dissertation University of Groningen, 2009) http://dissertations.ub.rug.nl/faculties/arts/2009/s.e.hijmans/, 583-95.

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  • 11

    Förster, Die Anfänge von Weihnachten und Epiphanias, 306-08.

  • 12

    Nothaft, ‘Early Christian Chronology,’ 264.

  • 21

    Brent, Hippolytus and the Roman Church in the Third Century, 5-50. Brent persuasively argues that the statue was indeed found in the Via Tiburtina contra Margherita Guarducci, ‘La Statua di sant’Ippolito’e la sua provenienza,’ Nuove ricerche su Ippolito. Studia Ephemeridis Augustinianum 30 (1989), 61-74.

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  • 24

    Pliny, Natural History 18.66; Columella, De re rustica 9.14; John Lydus, De mensibus 61.

  • 30

    G. Liddell, R. Scott, St. Jones, eds., ‘γένεσις,’ The Liddell-Scott-Jones Greek-English Lexicon, 343.

  • 35

    Brent, Hippolytus and the Roman Church in the Third Century, 297-99; Marcovich, Hippolytus Refutatio Omnium Haeresium, 8-17.

  • 37

    Liddell, Scott, Jones, ‘ἢ,’ The Liddell-Scott-Jones Greek-English Lexicon, 761.

  • 51

    Nothaft, Dating the Passion: The Life of Jesus and the Emergence of Scientific Chronology (200-1600), 42-43.

  • 63

    Helm and Bauer, Hippolytus Werke: Die Chronik, 115.

  • 86

    Bainton, ‘Basilidian Chronology,’ 96.

  • 88

    Bainton, ‘Basilidian Chronology,’ 109-110.

  • 89

    Bainton, ‘Basilidian Chronology,’ 84.

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