Jesus was not born on Christmas, but Newton was


“Christians and Muslims are brothers and sisters, and we must act as such.” Pope Francis


Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

Most of the Christians in Europe, North America and Australia are celebrating Christmas on December 25.


Saint Isaac Cathedral In St Petersburg Russia

The Orthodox Christians in Russia will be celebrating Christmas on January 7th.  There is a 40-day Lent preceding Christmas Day, when practicing Christians do not eat any meat. The Lent period ends with the first star in the night sky on January 6 – a symbol of Jesus Christ’s birth. Many Orthodox Christians go to the church to attend a Christmas liturgy that evening.

The Coptic Church will also celebrate Christmas on January 7th.  One of the Coptic website states:

The earliest known indication to such a celebration comes in a passing statement by St. Clement of Alexandria who mentions that the Egyptians of his time celebrated the Lord’s birth on May 20. At the end of the 3rd century, the Western Churches celebrated it in the winter, and this was only accepted in Rome in the middle of the 4th century.

No one knows the real birthday of Jesus! No date is given in the Bible, so why do we celebrate it on the 25th December? The early Christians certainly had many arguments as to when it should be celebrated! Also, the birth of Jesus probably didn’t happen in the year 1 AD but slightly earlier, somewhere between 2 BC and 7 BC (there isn’t a 0 AD – the years go from 1 BC to 1 AD!).

Jesus’ birth is mentioned in two of the four canonical gospels. By the early-to-mid 4th century, the Western Christian Church had placed Christmas on December 25,[17] a date later adopted in the East,[18][19] although some churches celebrate on the December 25 of the older Julian calendar, which corresponds to January in the modern-day Gregorian calendar. The date of Christmas may have initially been chosen to correspond with the day exactly nine months after early Christians believed Jesus to have been conceived,[20] or with one or more ancient polytheistic festivals that occurred near southern solstice (i.e., the Roman winter solstice); a further solar connection has been suggested because of a biblical verse[a] identifying Jesus as the “Sun of righteousness.”[20][21][22][23][24]

The first recorded date of Christmas being celebrated on December 25th was in 336 AD, during the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine (he was the first Christian Roman Emperor). A few years later, Pope Julius I officially declared that the birth of Jesus would be celebrated on the 25th December.

According to Encyclopedia Britannica:

The early Christian community distinguished between the identification of the date of Jesus’ birth and the liturgical celebration of that event. The actual observance of the day of Jesus’ birth was long in coming. In particular, during the first two centuries of Christianity there was strong opposition to recognizing birthdays of martyrs or, for that matter, of Jesus. Numerous Church Fathers offered sarcastic comments about the pagan custom of celebrating birthdays when, in fact, saints and martyrs should be honoured on the days of their martyrdom—their true “birthdays,” from the church’s perspective.

The precise origin of assigning December 25 as the birth date of Jesus is unclear. The New Testament provides no clues in this regard. December 25 was first identified as the date of Jesus’ birth by Sextus Julius Africanus in 221 and later became the universally accepted date. One widespread explanation of the origin of this date is that December 25 was the Christianizing of the dies solis invicti nati (“day of the birth of the unconquered sun”), a popular holiday in the Roman Empire that celebrated the winter solstice as a symbol of the resurgence of the sun, the casting away of winter and the heralding of the rebirth of spring and summer. Indeed, after December 25 had become widely accepted as the date of Jesus’ birth, Christian writers frequently made the connection between the rebirth of the sun and the birth of the Son. One of the difficulties with this view is that it suggests a nonchalant willingness on the part of the Christian church to appropriate a pagan festival when the early church was so intent on distinguishing itself categorically from pagan beliefs and practices.

The Holy Quran, however, describes the season, when Jesus, may peace be on him, was born.  In a chapter named after Jesus’ mother, the Holy Quran describes angel visiting mother Mary, when she gave birth to Jesus and reassured her and guided her in these words:

Then he (angel) called her (Mary) from beneath her, saying, ‘Grieve not. Thy Lord has placed a rivulet below thee; and shake towards thyself the trunk of the palm-tree; it will cause fresh ripe dates to fall upon thee.  So eat and drink, and cool thy eye.’ (Al Quran 19:25-27)

So, according to the literal word of God, the Holy Quran, Jesus was born, when dates are ripe in the Middle East, which is not December or January.

In short, there is controversy about, when Jesus was born and when Christmas should be celebrated.  But, one thing is certain that Sir Isaac Newton was born on December 25, 1642.

Alexander Pope composed a couplet, in honor of Newton.  In one line he raised Newton’s status to God sent. He said:

Nature and nature’s laws lay hid in Night. God said, ‘Let Newton be!’ and all was light!

The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History is a 1978 book by Michael H. Hart, reprinted in 1992 with revisions. It is a ranking of the 100 people who, according to Hart, most influenced human history.[1] 

“The 100″ is perhaps one of the greatest books on the analysis of history ever written.  He has sold more than 500,000 copies and the book has been translated into 15 languages.  The first person on Hart’s list is the Prophet of Islam Muhammad.[2] Hart asserted that Muhammad was “supremely successful” in both the religious and secular realms. He also believed that Muhammad’s role in the development of Islam was far more influential than Jesus’ collaboration in the development of Christianity. He attributes the development of Christianity to St. Paul, who played a pivotal role in its dissemination.  Another person, who supersedes Jesus, may peace be on him, in influence over the world, according to this book, is none other than Sir Isaac Newton.

The disciples of Jesus had prayed for Allah’s blessings, not only for their own generation, but for generations to come for centuries.  Their prayers were granted and it is recorded in the Holy Quran:

When the disciples said, ‘O Jesus, son of Mary, is thy Lord able to send down to us a table spread with food from heaven?’ he said, ‘Fear Allah, if you are believers.’

They said, ‘We desire that we may eat of it, and that our hearts be at rest and that we may know that thou hast spoken truth to us, and that we may be witnesses thereto.’

Said Jesus, son of Mary, ‘O Allah, our Lord, send down to us a table from heaven spread with food that it may be to us a festival, to the first of us and to the last of us, and a Sign from Thee; and provide sustenance for us, for Thou art the Best of sustainers.’

Allah said, ‘Surely, I will send it down to you, but whosoever of you disbelieves afterwards — I will surely punish them with a punishment.’ (Al Quran 5:113-116)

Sir Isaac Newton was indeed a fulfillment of those prayers of Jesus and his early disciples.

He was an English physicist and mathematician who is widely regarded as one of the most influential scientists of all time and as a key figure in the scientific revolution. His book Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica (“Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy”), first published in 1687, laid the foundations for most of classical mechanics. Newton also made seminal contributions to optics and shares credit with Gottfried Leibniz for the invention of the infinitesimal calculus.

Newton’s Principia formulated the laws of motion and universal gravitation that dominated scientists’ view of the physical universe for the next three centuries. It also demonstrated that the motion of objects on the Earth and that of celestial bodies could be described by the same principles. By deriving Kepler’s laws of planetary motion from his mathematical description of gravity, Newton removed the last doubts about the validity of the heliocentric model of the cosmos.

newton ii

Newton’s tomb in Westminster Abbey in London

Newton’s monument (1731) can be seen in Westminster Abbey, at the north of the entrance to the choir against the choir screen, near his tomb. The monument features a figure of Newton reclining on top of a sarcophagus, his right elbow resting on several of his great books and his left hand pointing to a scroll with a mathematical design. The Latin inscription on the base translates as:

Here is buried Isaac Newton, Knight, who by a strength of mind almost divine, and mathematical principles peculiarly his own, explored the course and figures of the planets, the paths of comets, the tides of the sea, the dissimilarities in rays of light, and, what no other scholar has previously imagined, the properties of the colours thus produced. Diligent, sagacious and faithful, in his expositions of nature, antiquity and the holy Scriptures, he vindicated by his philosophy the majesty of God mighty and good, and expressed the simplicity of the Gospel in his manners. Mortals rejoice that there has existed such and so great an ornament of the human race! He was born on 25 December 1642, and died on 20 March 1726/7. — Translation from G.L. Smyth, The Monuments and Genii of St. Paul’s Cathedral, and of Westminster Abbey (1826), ii, 703–4.[82]

From 1978 until 1988, an image of Newton designed by Harry Ecclestone appeared on Series D £1 banknotes issued by the Bank of England (the last £1 notes to be issued by the Bank of England). Newton was shown on the reverse of the notes holding a book and accompanied by a telescope, a prism and a map of the Solar System.[83]

A statue of Isaac Newton, looking at an apple at his feet, can also be seen at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.

Christmas began to be widely celebrated with a specific liturgy in the 9th century but did not attain the liturgical importance of either Good Friday or Easter, the other two major Christian holidays.

Christmas holiday has evolved over time, as is amply apparent from some of the snapshots, shared here.  With half of the population in Europe becoming agnostic and atheist, in the Western Europe, with their emphasis on science, it may be relevant to include Sir Isaac Newton’s birthday as part of Christmas celebrations, so people of other faiths and no faith can fully participate in the celebrations of the holidays in December.

Merry Christmas and happy Newton’s birthday!

Suggested Reading

This year, Prophet Muhammad’s birth coincides closely with Christmas

Categories: The Muslim Times

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