Calendar inscription from Priene
The familiar Christmas motifs of the birth of the Saviour and “Redeemer” who brings “peace on earth”, who is born of a “virgin” and whose sign is a “star” - they were well known at the time when the Gospels of the New Testament were written. Among other things, from the Roman imperial cult.
The language of the imperial cult
An inscription published in the year 9 BC for a calendar reform of the cities of Asia Minor in the town of Priene speaks the language of the imperial cult: there, the birth of Emperor Augustus, the “Son of God”, is a “birth of God”, bringing the “Saviour” and creating “peace” - the beginning - literally in Greek - of all the “Gospels”. With the birthday of the emperor, the new calendar is to begin.
On this “Calendar Inscription of Priene”, which came to the Collection of Classical Antiquities in Berlin from an excavation in 1899, the proximity between the biblical narrative of the birth of Christ and the imperial cult is palpable. The New Testament writings reinterpret all this: The Christ-birth trumps the emperor, the holy gospel is quite different from the imperial “gospel” of bloody victory-peace with which the Roman emperors subjugated the world.