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The Saint Who Would Be Santa Claus

The True Life and Trials of Nicholas of Myra

By Adam C. English

Publication Year: 2012

With his rosy cheeks and matching red suit—and ever-present elf and reindeer companions—Santa Claus may be the most identifiable of fantastical characters. But what do we really know of jolly old Saint Nicholas,"patron saint"of Christmastime? Ask about the human behind the suit, and the tale we know so well quickly fades into myth and folklore.

In The Saint Who Would Be Santa Claus, religious historian Adam English tells the true and compelling tale of Saint Nicholas, bishop of Myra. Around the fourth century in what is now Turkey, a boy of humble circumstance became a man revered for his many virtues. Chief among them was dealing generously with his possessions, once lifting an entire family out of poverty with a single—and secret—gift of gold, so legend tells. Yet he was much more than virtuous. As English reveals, Saint Nicholas was of integral influence in events that would significantly impact the history and development of the Christian church, including the Council of Nicaea, the destruction of the temple to Artemis in Myra, and a miraculous rescue of three falsely accused military officers. And Nicholas became the patron saint of children and sailors, merchants and thieves, as well as France, Russia, Greece, and myriad others.

Weaving together the best historical and archaeological evidence available with the folklore and legends handed down through generations, English creates a stunning image of this much venerated Christian saint. With prose as enjoyable as it is informative, he shows why the life—and death—of Nicholas of Myra so radically influenced the formation of Western history and Christian thought, and did so in ways many have never realized.

For more, including photos, author interviews, news, and author appearances, visit SaintWhoWouldBeSanta.com.

Published by: Baylor University Press


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pp. 1-1

Half Title Page, Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. 8-9

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-11

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pp. xi-xii

Some things can be written in solitude with little more than access to a good library. This is not one of those things. I am deeply indebted to many wonderful individuals who believed in this project and helped it see the light of day: Gerardo Cioffari for providing a place to start; ...

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1. Finding St. Nicholas

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pp. 1-18

The image of Santa Claus appears on dolls, cookie cutters, ornaments, stamps, stickers, and T-shirts that read, “Beware of fat men bearing gifts.” Coffee mugs feature the big man cruising in a hot rod, and neckties depict him relaxing in a Hawaiian shirt and sunglasses. He can be embroidered, ...

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2. Out of a Dying World Comes a Light

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pp. 19-53

In 1863 the British Museum funded an architectural archaeologist, John Turtle Wood, to search for a site in the ancient city of Ephesus where once stood a temple dedicated to the goddess Artemis. Once considered the crown jewel of the world’s seven wonders, not a single trace of it remained to ...

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3. Three Gifts and One Election

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pp. 55-96

The boy Nicholas, now about eighteen, grieved for his dead parents. He had received from them love and the blessing of baptism. He had seen in them the virtues of service, selflessness, and devotion. In death, they bestowed one more gift: all their worldly wealth. In their will they had left their ...

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4. The Work of Victory

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pp. 97-130

Within months of liberating the eastern provinces from Licinius and outlawing the persecution of Christians, Constantine, who now bore the title of maximus Augustus and ruled everything from the sun-baked borders of Persia to the ocean’s edge of Portugal, sent out a sealed notice to every known bishop. ...

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5. Riots, Beheadings, and Other Near Misfortunes

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pp. 131-163

Between the years 330 and 332, bad weather forced a convoy of military ships to land at Andriake, the port of Myra. The ships were destined for Phrygia Adaifalorum, where the Romans intended to put down a Gothic revolt on the border. The Gothic tribe known as the Taifales was once again wreaking havoc.1 ...

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6. Death Is Only the Beginning

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pp. 165-192

“After living for some time in the city of Myra and perfuming all with the sweetly fragrant and piously scented conduct of his life and pastoral duties, he left his mortal life to enter eternal rest.”1 Thus reads the humble entry of Michael the Archimandrite on the death of the saint. Michael uses the ...


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pp. 193-224

Recommended Reading

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pp. 225-226


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pp. 227-230

E-ISBN-13: 9781602586369
E-ISBN-10: 1602586365
Print-ISBN-13: 9781602586345
Print-ISBN-10: 1602586349

Page Count: 246
Illustrations: 12 b/w images
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 868219479
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Saint Who Would Be Santa Claus