Friday, January 20, 2006

Strike Three! Year Out!

Was Jesus born April 6, 00?

An otherwise-grounded gospel-doctrine teacher of the Practical Mormon's acquaintance argues yes. We're here to argue the contrary.

Our teaching friend is not alone in his assumption. One Richard Kirkham, for example, takes as a given that "Jesus was born at Passover," as does John Pratt.

Here are the scriptures our friend points to in support of his argument:
THE rise of the Church of Christ in these last days, being one thousand eight hundred and thirty years since the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the flesh, it being regularly organized and established agreeable to the laws of our country, by the will and commandments of God, in the fourth month, and on the sixth day of the month which is called April—...(D&C 20:1)

Which church was organized and established in the year of your Lord eighteen hundred and thirty, in the fourth month, and on the sixth day of the month which is called April...(D&C 21:3)
Arguments for our teacher's position:
  • Literalists have something to point to.
Arguments against:
  • We Latter-day Saints are not literalists[*]. Nor are we sign-seekers.
  • While April 6th may, interestingly, be the Lord's birthday (those shepherds certainly weren't tending the newborn lambies on winter Solstice), the naming of the year in those D&C scriptures is merely common usage, not a secret insight into the birthdate of Christ.
  • Our common dating system is only an approximation of Christ's birth, not a scientifically or historically confirmable year. In fact, Jewish historian Josephus puts Herod's death at 4 BCE. Christ's birth is widely held to have occurred at least the previous year.
  • The wording of the revelation is simply the way people wrote (and sometimes still write) formally. You'd do the same thing today in making a sober, serious announcement.
  • Revealing the date of the Savior's birth ain't the point of the revelation. The revelations are about the fact of the organization of the Church. It's highly unlikely the Prophet himself ever contemplated that it would be understood to be anything else.
  • Practically speaking, the calendar has changed multiple times (thanks, Julius and Gregory) since the time of the Savior. Any given date is just a random assignment, not an inspired one.
  • Judaism, like most of the Eastern world, adheres to a lunar calendar, not a solar one. April 6th has no correlation to a lunar calendar.
  • The Joseph ben Jacob family wasn't, apparently, in Bethlehem celebrating Passover. They were there for the tax census.
Proclaiming Jesus' birth as having occurred at the wrong time, and basing the assertion on a wrong understanding of modern scripture, makes Latter-day Saints look silly. Stop it.

Thus does the Practical Mormon steady the ark on this twentieth day of January, in the Year of Our Lord two thousand and six…er…eleven…er, whatever.

* We don't believe in hell, in the modern sense of the word. We don't believe matter was created; it was organized. We don't believe the world was created in seven 24-hour periods. We don't believe Elohim and Jehovah (or married people, either) are literally One. Shall we go on?

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