Finding silliness in religion-related journalism is almost as easy as finding silliness in science-related journalism, but, even so, this half-baked article from The Telegraph qualifies as an unusually egregious example. The article is occasioned by the publication of Pope Benedict XVI’s third volume on the life of Christ, which is devoted to the infancy narratives in the Gospels.
The Telegraph is aghast at the scandalous revelations that have dripped from the pen of the pontiff! To wit:
“The calculation of the beginning of our calendar – based on the birth of Jesus – was made by Dionysius Exiguus, who made a mistake in his calculations by several years,” the Pope writes in the book, which went on sale around the world with an initial print run of a million copies.
“The actual date of Jesus’s birth was several years before.”
“Christ’s birth date is not the only controversy raised by the Pope in his new book – he also said that contrary to the traditional Nativity scene, there were no oxen, donkeys or other animals at Jesus’s birth.”
“The idea that Christ was born on Dec 25 also has no basis in historical fact.”
To an audience ignorant of Christian history I can see that this might be somewhat surprising, but that any of it has the authentic whiff of scandal is ridiculous. The folks at Get Religion have written a good commentary, which I recommend.
The same Telegraph article repeats the old story about the date of Christmas being related to pagan festivals. As I always do when this comes up, I will recommend a good article by William Tighe that was published a few years ago in Touchstone; it deserves wide exposure. (I notice the Get Religion commentary also links to it, which is great.)
Apparently not picking up on the absurdity of the Telegraph article, our very own National Post has piled on with an opinion column (by Kelly McParland) proposing that the Pope’s book provides the Church with an “excuse” to move her celebration of Christmas from December 25 to some other date when it won’t interfere with everyone else’s celebration of … something or other.
If this is a good idea, then I have another: we should move the date of New Years out of deference to those who do not observe the Western calendar but who love to stay up late singing “Auld Lang Syne” ten days or so after the winter solstice.