If you come across someone who says “Merry Christmas” to you today, Sept. 11, rest assured that this person isn’t celebrating the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil in our history.
Years before 9/11 became synonymous with terror and mourning, followers of The Way International celebrated it as Jesus’ actual birthday.
The Way’s founder, Victor Paul Wierwille, outlined his reasoning in his 1982 book Jesus Christ Our Promised Seed, available on Amazon.com for a price so ridiculously high (as of this writing) that the only recommendation I have is to respond with laughter.
Now, a quick Google search will reveal that other groups have come to the same conclusion, so I’m not going to examine their sources to try to trace them back to Wierwille. Besides, it’s probably easier to trace them to Wierwille’s source, Ernest L. Martin, whose book is far more ridiculously priced on Amazon. Martin was part of a different cult, The Worldwide Church of God, before that group went mainstream.
Martin’s book, The Birth of Christ Recalculated, was published in 1980, and Wierwille cites him as a source. This was a new thing for Wierwille, as his previous books lifted passages from other sources wholesale without attribution. It helps to understand that Jesus Christ Our Promised Seed was written by a committee under Wierwille’s supervision, with Wierwille taking credit and responsibility for the contents. The contributors to Wierwille’s book were scrupulous in adhering to publishing standards regarding plagiarism in a way that Wierwille previously had not been.
So here’s what they did, in a nutshell. First, Martin calculated the death of the Biblical character Herod by comparing historical accounts to astronomical data. It seems Herod’s death took place between a lunar eclipse and the Passover feast that year, and given all the other events that took place (according to historians) the only year when that could have happened was 1 B.C. Other eclipse-Passover pairings left either not enough time or too much time to be practical.
Jesus would have to have been a toddler around the time of Herod’s death, placing his birth sometime in 3 BC.
From there, Martin (and later Wierwille) seized on a verse in Revelation that they interpreted as references to the Zodiac sign of Virgo (I’m not kidding). Revelation 12:1 refers to a sign in heaven (the sky): A woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of 12 stars on her head. If that is a reference to the constellation Virgo, then the only time in 3 BC that matched this description was (by our calendar) Sept. 11, between 6:15 p.m. and 7:45 p.m.
That date, incidentally, would have been Rosh Hashana on the Hebrew Calendar, which means shofar (trumpet) blasts would have signaled the birth of the savior.
Now, all of this is contingent on the Bible accurately recording that Jesus was born while Herod was in power. That gets complicated, because the census in Luke that supposedly compelled Jesus to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem (because for some reason Rome conducted a census that cared more about where your ancestor lived 1,000 years before instead of where you live now) didn’t take place until years after Herod’s death.
But that’s another story.
It also means the writer of Revelation was making an explicit reference to the Zodiac constellation of Virgo. And that the verse in question is talking about the past and not the future.
But whatever, according to Ernest L. Martin, Victor Paul Wierwille and a handful of other Christian groups, Happy Birthday Jesus! And a Merry Christmas to one and all.