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The Origins Of The Liturgical Year: Second, Emended Edition (Pueblo Books) 2nd Edition
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The book feels to be a sort of anthology of articles around related themes. Talley has certainly written this book for scholars, as each article or essay is a fairly tightly-reasoned analysis of some small collection of evidence. It's excellent for scholars, and any student of Christian liturgy should consider this (as well as Between Memory and Hope: Readings on the Liturgical Year).
One tiny caveat must be mentioned. In his treatment of the development of Lent, Talley draws on a document known as "the secret gospel of Mark". Since the publication of The Origins of the Liturgical Year (Pueblo Books), this document has been shown to be a hoax. Plenty of other scholars have considered it authentic, however, and this isn't meant to be a criticism of Talley's excellent work.
He reviews the textually-disputed passage in Hippolytus' 'Commentary on Daniel 4.23,' and concludes, "there seems no basis at present on which we can depend on ... [Hippolytus] for help in establishing the origin of the feast of the nativity of Christ on December 25." (Pg. 86)
However, he notes that Augustine's Epiphany sermon (#202) "says that the Donatists... do not celebrate 'with us' the feast of the Epiphany... this festival in question is the celebration of the visit of the Magi... [since] it seems certain that Christmas was established before the Epiphany, one is left with the strong sense that the Donatists did celebrate Christmas. In such a case, that festival must antedate the Donatist schism, and the date of its establishment would thus be earlier than 311. Indeed... its observance would date from as early as 300 or even earlier..." (Pg. 86-87)
He argues, "[since this was] prior to Constantine's ... ensuing protection of the Church, it becomes much more difficult to understand the adoption by a still only tentatively tolerated Church of a relatively new pagan festival [Natalis Solis Invicti]... that had significant counter-Christian associations. The likelihood of such adoption of Aurelian's festival would surely become still more remote after the beginning of Diocletian's persecution in 303." He adds, "we must... view with a much more cautious eye the standard explanation that that nativity of Christ on December 25 is only a Christian adoption of the pagan Roman Dies natalis solis invicti." (Pg. 90)
He also cites 'De pascha computus' [243 CE] wherein "the author takes March 25 to be the historical date of the passion... the author takes it to be also the first day of creation. It was only on the fourth day, however, that the sun and moon were created; therefore the incarnation, assigned to ... March 28, coincides with the creation of the sun." (Pg. 90) He then cites a work called 'De solstitiis et aequinoctiis,' which "begins with the conception of [John] the Baptist, identifying the time of the annunciation to Zechariah by reference to his priestly duties in connection with the festivals of Tishri. This sets the conception of the Baptist at the autumnal equinox... [which] places the birth of John at the summer solstice... The birth of Jesus, therefore, was ... at the winter solstice." (Pg. 94)
He admits, however, "We must be impressed with the fact that there was a Roman public festival on December 25 by the time of our clear historical evidence for the Christian festival at the ... same date... The very precision of that attribution of the festival to the city [Rome] where we also find the pagan festival's institution lends a degree of verisimilitude to the supposition of interplay between the two..." (Pg. 102)
He also documents that Clement of Alexandria (d. 215) in his 'Stromateis' [1.21.145] would place Jesus' birth either on November 18, or January 6. (Pg. 118-119), depending upon one's reconciliation with the Roman calendar.
Definitely not a "coffee table book," this study is absolutely ESSENTIAL READING for anyone seriously studying the birthdate of Jesus, as well as the establishment of early Church festivals.