Constantine, Egyptian Sun Worship And Epiphany

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Last Updated By Bill's Bible Basics :
February 16, 2017

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Winter solstice is when, because of the earth's tilt, your hemisphere is leaning farthest away from the sun, and therefore: The daylight is the shortest. The sun has its lowest arc in the sky. When it's winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, the sun is directly overhead at noon only along the Tropic of Capricorn, on which lie such places as Sao Paulo, Brazil, southern Madagascar, and areas north of Brisbane, Australia.

Constantine - Early Ecumenist

A fascinating book "Holy Blood, Holy Grail", [ Baigent, Michael, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln. Holy Blood, Holy Grail. New York, Delacorte Press, 1982], discusses the pragmatic political motives of the fourth-century Roman emperor Constantine, who first moved the celebration of Christmas to December 25. The authors claim that Constantine followed the cult of Sol Invictus, a monotheistic form of sun worship that originated in Syria and was imposed by Roman emperors on their subjects a century earlier.

"His primary, indeed obsessive, objective was unity -- unity in politics, in religion, and in territory. A cult or state religion that included all other cults within it obviously helped to achieve this objective...In the interests of unity, Constantine deliberately chose to blur the distinctions among Christianity, Mithraism [another Sun cult of the time] and Sol Invictus..."

That's why Constantine decreed that Sunday -- "the venerable day of the sun" would be the official day of rest. (Early Christians before then celebrated their holy day on the Jewish Sabbath -- Saturday.)

That's also why -- by his edict, the book claims -- the celebration of Jesus' birthday was moved from January 6th (Epiphany today) to December 25, celebrated by the cult of Sol Invictus as Natilis Invictus, the rebirth of the sun (confused yet? don't be!)

And are you wondering about the concept of the 12 Days of Christmas? The midwinter festival of the ancient Egyptians celebrated the birth of Horus (the prototype of the earthly king) son of Isis (the divine mother-goddess). It was 12 days long, reflecting their 12-month calendar. This concept took firm root in many other cultures. In 567 AD, Christians adopted it. Church leaders proclaimed the 12 days from December 25 to Epiphany as a sacred, festive season.

January 6, 2000

Today is Epiphany, the feast of the Three Kings, also known as Twelfth Night. It's the final day of the 12 days of Christmas.

From The Encyclopedia Britannica:

In Egypt during the 5th millennium BC, astronomers in the Nile Delta region associated the annual inundation of the river--which covered wide areas with fertile soil--with celestial movements, especially that of the star Sirius (i.e., Sothis) and the sun. From such observations the Egyptians developed a solar calendar of 365 days, with 12 months of 30 days each and five festival days at the end of the year.

Though priests assumed important functions at the festivals centred about the fertility of the soil irrigated by the Nile and the life-giving warmth of the sun, the pharaoh, the sacred king, embodied the continuity between the realm of the sacred (i.e., the transcendent sphere) and the realm of the profane (i.e., the sphere of time, space, and cause and effect). The pharaoh was believed to be the son of the sun god Horus of the Horizon (Harakhte), symbolized by the falcon; the sun god was also known as Re, among other names.

The eastern horizon was viewed as the meeting point of the underworld of the dead and the world of the living. The sun god also was known as Atum, which means "to be at the end," or the west. Osiris, the god of the afterlife (the world of the dead) was believed to be embodied in the recently deceased pharaoh, who passed on his sacred powers and position to the new pharaoh, his son. At the sd festival, the new pharaoh, as the son of Horus and of Re, as well as of Osiris, was invested with both kingly and priestly powers. At his coronation festival the pharaoh was believed to gain the power to restore ma'at after the death of the previous pharaoh, and also to restore economic prosperity.

During the royal festivals--i.e., ascension to the throne, the coronation, and the sd festival--feasting presumably occurred. Festivals associated with seasonal renewal, however, involved sacrifices, eating, drinking, and sometimes dramatic or carnival-like events.

Some scholars hold that the Egyptian terms for festival, however, contain concepts that became extremely significant in later Hellenistic (Greco-Roman) religions--e.g., the mystery, or salvatory, religions, such as those of Mithra, Isis, and the Eleusinian mysteries--and Semitic-based religions--e.g., Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

According to this view Egyptian terms for festival, such as hb, h', and pr.t, all contain concepts of resurrection and epiphany (i.e., the manifestation of a god). In Eastern Orthodox Christianity, for example, the festival of the Epiphany (January 6) celebrates Christ's manifestation to the Magi of the East (presumably followers of Zoroaster, a 6th-century BC Iranian prophet) and his Baptism in the Jordan River.

The usual Greek designation for Epiphany is "the day of the light" (he hemera tou photou), in reference to the words in the Bible, in John 1:4, that Jesus is the "light of men." Under the influence of the Christian Catechetical school at Alexandria (led by Clement and Origen in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD), the earlier religious speculations of the Egyptians concerning their festivals were enhanced by further mystical and spiritual interpretations that affected Christian worship, piety, doctrine, and iconography, especially in Eastern Christianity

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