The story that a pagan Emperor of the Western Roman Empire forced Christians to change the celebration of the birthday of Jesus Christ to December 25, must have started because Pope Marcellinus, the 29th Pontiff (296 – 304) of the Catholic Church, succumbed to worship idols during the persecution of Christians by Emperor Diocletian which began in 302. He did so to escape torture and execution. This was unlike some of his predecessors who during their pontificates also faced suppression
During the massacre by Emperor Diocletian many Christians were killed while those of them who were in the army were demobilized. The Holy Bible and other Christian publications were destroyed and all church property confiscated. The monarch resorted to the persecution when many pagans were converting to Christianity and the religion grew rapidly and his palace was destroyed on two occasions by fire outbreaks. He accused the Christians as those behind the incidents.
But within a few months of offering incense and worshipping pagan idols, Pope Marcellinus repented and confessed the faith of Christ. For refusing to continue to serve his idols the Emperor tortured him and this is believed to have been responsible for his death on April 1, 304, about two years after the persecution of Christians started. Because he repented church elders decided to pardon Pope Marcellinus and this explains why he was eventually canonized and became a Saint as the 28 Pontiffs before him.
Although Pope Marcellinus worshipped idols briefly there is no evidence that he changed the celebration of the birthday of Jesus from the original date to December 25. Even if he had done so, would Emperor Constantine I, The Great, a pagan who ascended the throne in 306 and converted to Christianity in 312, not have gone back to marking Christmas on the original date Jesus came into world?
Especially given the circumstances in which the monarch became a Christian. The story is that he converted as a result of the victory of his soldiers over the troops of General Maxentius in the battle of the Milvian Bridge outside Rome in October 312. The General had more men and they were better equipped than his soldiers. Consequently, Emperor Constantine I, The Great was therefore sure that he would lose the battle. In the circumstance, he decided to try the God of his mother, Helena, who was a Christian. As a result, he began to pray to Him for help.
A few days after he started doing this, he was to have had a dream one night in which Jesus Christ appeared in the sky with a symbol on which was written “conquer by this.” The symbol was XP which was made up of the first two letters of Christ written in Greek which were Chi (X) and Rho (P).
Jesus Christ was said to have instructed him in the dream to have the sign XP inscribed on the shields of his soldiers. In the morning he carried out the instruction and a few days later his men defeated the troops of General Maxentius.
Shortly after the battle Emperor Constantine I, The Great was said to have had leprosy and that he was cured with the baptismal water blessed by Pope Julius I (337 – 52) when he was still a cardinal.
The stories I had been writing in this series in the last six weeks on the origin of the celebration of the birthday of Jesus Christ on December 25 are available in documents online on Christmas, Emperor Constantine I, the Great and others. Therefore, pastors and prophets in Nigeria and elsewhere should know that we are now in the Internet Age when facts on most issues in the world can be seen and read on the computer or telephone sets with the facility to do so. Consequently, they should know that they cannot get away with incorrect statements on the origin of Christmas and other issues in the Bible.
I hope the General Overseers of the two churches who said that the celebration of the birthday of Jesus on December 25, had idolatry origin and other clerics like them, are also not preaching that God is against Christians taking alcoholic drinks and herbal medicine as some born – again or Pentecostal clerics say. Because like the issue of polygamy which I wrote about two weeks ago, the Lord in the Bible did not say so.
To be continued next Wednesday
Adieu Dr. Adesokan (1934–2020), My favourite cousin
On both my father and mother’s sides, Dr. Elkanah Olusola Adesokan, a medical practitioner, was the cousin or relative I was closest to and most fond of. His parents, Reverend John Adesokan and his wife, were from Ijare, a town near Akure and from where my maternal great grandmother was also from.
But it is not in Ijare we were related, it is Akure. High Chief Fayehun the Ojomu of Akure in the mid – 1800s who gave birth to my maternal grandfather, High Chief Abraham Fayehun Fadoju, the Osodi of Akure, who passed on in 1944, was also the father of Dr. Adesokan’s paternal grandmother who married an Ijare husband.
Paternal or maternal cousin, Dr. Adesokan was the first I ever met in my life. And this was because he used to come to Osogbo where his elder sister and only sibling and some Ijare people were living for his vacation job when he was a medical student at the University of Ibadan in the 1950s.
My dad and his family too were resident in Osogbo from the early 1930s through December 1958. Consequently, in 1957 when I was on vacation in my first year at Osogbo Grammar School, it was with him that I spent my pioneer holiday with at Idominasi, a village between Osogbo and Ilesa, where he was teaching during a long vacation from the University of Ibadan.
In 1969 when I moved to work in Lagos after teaching for a year at the Aquinas College, Akure, Dr. Adesokan insisted I must come to live with him at 31, Kingsway Road, Ikoyi, instead of wasting my money to rent a place or live with a friend. It was a block of six flats in which one of the residents became a Minister of Health in Lagos State in the 1970s and another one the Secretary to the Government of the Federation in the last 21 years.
More to come next week