Tonight we’re discussing what’s known as the reason for the season: The virgin birth of Jesus in the manger at Bethlehem, the star in the east, the three wise men, the flight into Egypt…and hopefully we can get all the way through how Jesus got to be so darn popular.

For background we’ve suggested looking at The God Who Wasn’t There, directed by Brian Flemming, a former evangelical Christian who questions many aspects of the Biblical story:

>Jesus as a mythological being, with 19 major aspects of a folkloric hero

>The Gospel having been written at least 70 years after Jesus’ death (and resurrection)

>Paul, who did not know Jesus nor of his history/background but was active spreading the word of Jesus with his Epistles which were written before the Gospels.

Now books like Holy Blood, Holy Grail and The Da Vinci Code purport that Jesus was real and his bloodlines continued for centuries, but then there’s Caesar’s Messiah which purports that the story of Jesus was a propaganda effort by Emperor Vespasian, using historian Josephus, designed to subdue the rebellious Roman province of Judea.

So to unravel aspects of the historical Jesus, Paul, the Gospels, and the history of Christmas we have as our guest the acclaimed scholar James D. Rietveld, PhD. of Claremont College, author of an upcoming book on the Artemis of Ephesus; Ephesus and its worship of Artemis played a key part in Paul’s Epistles.  An expert in pre- and post- Christian Middle Eastern religions, Dr. Rietveld brings his knowledge, humor, and enthusiasm to the discussion.

And while we’re at it, let’s ask him about Santa Claus, too!