Saturday, December 24, 2011

Was Jesus really born on December 25th? / Does the Bible say when Jesus was born?

“Merry Christmas!” Centuries old, those cheery words are still being spoken each December by countless millions of people, some of whom do not even believe in Jesus Christ. As we write, the world is once again approaching “the Holiday Season,” when the name of Jesus Christ takes center stage for a few weeks. For many people, “Christmas” is their favorite time of year.

Tradition teaches that Jesus was born on December 25, when it is very cold, and sometimes snowy, in Bethlehem. We believe the evidence supports the conclusion that Jesus was born in September. Tradition would have us believe that there were three wise men, and that they came to the manger. The truth is that there were quite a number of those who came from the East, and that they came to see Jesus when he was between 18 and 24 months old.

In this brief article, we cannot fully set forth the many pertinent biblical details, but we will give you the important facts, and we encourage you to pursue this via the avenues of study mentioned above. It is important to note that the actual chronology of events regarding the birth of Christ must be put together from what is recorded in Matthew and Luke (with some overlapping in time), as follows: Luke 1:5-25; 1:26-38; 1:39-56; 1:57-80; Matthew 1:18-24; 1:25a; Luke 2:1-20; Matthew 1:25b; Luke 2:21; 2:22-24; 2:25-35; 2:36-38; Matthew 2:1-12; 2:13-22; 2:23; Luke 2:39; 2:40; 2:41-50; 2:51 and 52.

Luke 1:5-25 is the record of the angel’s announcement to Zecharias that he and his wife, Elizabeth, would have a son, whom they were to call John. Verse 5 contains a little phrase that is one important key to determining that Jesus was born in September, not December. It says that Zechariah “belonged to the priestly division [KJV: “course”] of Abijah.” A study will show that from the time of David, Jewish priests were organized into 24 “courses,” named after the heads of the priestly families. These courses of service in the Temple started on Nisan 1 (which corresponds to March or April on our calendar) and spanned the calendar year. Because the Hebrews used a lunar calendar and we use a solar calendar, Nisan 1 changes on our calendar each year. The course of Abijah was the eighth course, and, like each course, occurred twice during the year. In 4 B.C., the year prior to Christ’s birth, the first of those two courses took place during the last week of our month of May.

Zechariah and Elizabeth were quite elderly, and had no children, and the angel gave them the wonderful news that they would have a son, to be named John. Verses 23 and 24 tell us that when Zechariah finished his service in the Temple, he returned home (which would have been in early June). Upon his return, Elizabeth became pregnant. Verse 26 then says that in her sixth month of pregnancy (December), the angel Gabriel came to Mary to tell her that she was about to become pregnant with the Son of God. Nine months later would have been September.

How else do we know that Jesus was not born in the Winter? Luke 2:8 speaks about the shepherds near Bethlehem who were in the fields, watching their flocks at night. Shepherds in that region did not keep their sheep out at night during the Winter because it was cold and sometimes even snowy, but they did keep them in the fields during the Fall, after the end-of-Summer harvest. At that time, the sheep could eat the stalks of grain left over after the harvest, and they would then fertilize the ground prior to the late Fall planting.

Also, Luke 2:1 says that when Mary was just about to give birth to Jesus, she and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem to fulfill their obligation to be counted in a Roman census. They did not travel in the Winter because it would have been much too hard. Rather, people traveled in the Fall, between the heat of Summer and the cold of Winter. And at that time of year the grain, and also some fruit, were ripe, and travelers were allowed to eat some of the “gleanings” as they passed by (Lev. 23:22).

A study of the now computerized data by which we can very accurately determine astronomical events of that time gives us another piece of the puzzle to dating the birth of Christ in September of 3 B.C. In particular, the very noticeable celestial activity of Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, Regulus (the King star), and Venus (the Queen star), and their various combinations of conjunctions in Leo during the nine months leading up to Christ’s birth are vital signs to determine the September birth date of Jesus. And we believe that research shows that he was born on September 11 (Tishri 1 on the Jewish calendar), on which day the sun was in Virgo, as per the prophecy in Revelation 12:1 of “a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon beneath her feet” (Rev. 12:1). [1]

So then how did December 25 come to be the date that most all Christians recognize as the birth date of Christ? We quote from Jesus Christ Our Promised Seed:

“In 274 A.D., the Romans designated December 25 as the birthday of the unconquered sun, being the time when the sun begins noticeably to show an increase in light, resulting in longer daylight hours. By 336 A.D., the church in Rome was adapting this festival, spiritualizing its significance as a reference to Jesus Christ and calling it the ‘Feast of the Nativity of the Sun of Righteousness.’ Attempting to Christianize and incorporate the pagan traditions of antiquity, the church in Rome adopted this midwinter holiday celebrating the birth of the sun god as one of its own observances, somewhat changing its significance, but retaining many customs of the pagan festival. As the Roman church spread its influence religiously and militarily, this holiday of December 25 became the most popular date in Christendom to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. A special mass was established for Christ, hence, the name, ‘Christmass,’ abbreviated ‘Christmas.’”

What about the “three wise men”? First, the Bible never says there were three. It says that they brought three gifts: “gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” In that time, three men with such precious treasure traveling such a great distance, some of it through the land of their country’s enemies, would have been easy prey for enemy soldiers or the many robbers who prowled the roads. It is therefore almost certain that they would have traveled in a much larger group, with adequate protection.

Who were those men who took note of the many astronomical phenomena heralding the birth of Christ in Judea, and then traveled to find him, arriving when he was about 18 months old? Scripture calls them “Magi,” and they were scholarly men from Persia well versed in astronomy, history, and religion. It is most significant that their ancestors were those over whom King Nebuchadnezzar had appointed Daniel in what was then called Babylon (Dan. 2:28 and 5:11 says he was appointed “master of the magicians [Magi]”).

It is very significant that there were some religious sects in Persia, including Zoroastrianism, that looked forward to a coming Redeemer, a prophet to be sent by God to save mankind. And that is why they would have been most interested in learning from Daniel about Judaism’s hallmark prophecies of a coming Messiah, especially as these prophecies related to the celestial motions of the planets, something they studied diligently.

In any case, the striking celestial activity told them of the birth of that promised Redeemer, and they set out to find him. Matthew 2:11 tells us that they came to “the house,” not a manger, and saw “the child” (the Greek word paidion), not a “newborn baby” (the Greek word brephos). As the NIV Study Bible says regarding that verse: “Contrary to tradition, the Magi did not visit Jesus at the manger on the night of his birth as did the shepherds. They first came to Jerusalem, apparently thinking that in the capital city of Israel they should be able to find out where the king had been born. After King Herod told them he had been born in Bethlehem, they went there and found him as a ‘child’ in his ‘house.’”

That explains why Herod, who had consulted with the Magi as to the time when they saw the star (Matt. 2:7), determined to kill all the Israeli boys under two years old. He knew that Jesus was no longer an infant, and set two years as a safe limit to how old he would have been, which we believe was about 18 months.

The evidence shows that Jesus Christ was born in September, 3 B.C., and that the local shepherds were the only ones who came to see him at the manger. It is significant that in that culture, shepherds were generally considered extremely faithful and trustworthy men, and certainly those particular ones were, because they immediately acted on what the angel told them, and after they had found Jesus, they “spread the word” concerning what the angel had told them. You might want to take a moment, put yourself in their place, and let the magnitude of their experience sink into your heart.

We think it is sad that so many people on earth associate the birth of Jesus Christ with a fictitious being called “Santa Claus,” who has come to be known as the Giver of good gifts. As we rudely learn at an early age, there is no Santa Claus.

The Christmas season is a golden opportunity to do just what those shepherds of long ago did—spread the word about Jesus Christ. Now that’s something to rejoice about!

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  1. Don't you worry all Christians have know about this..

  2. This is a fact. But as you give reference to Many Bible words, and still conveniently forget the central truth of Bible, That is, Jesus Came in to the world to save sinners. Mathew :26:26 says the only celebration needed for believers today. that is to remember the death of Jesus Christ (1 Corinth :11- 30). Those who Receive Lord Jesus become the the children of God John : 1:12 and when they believe in Lord Jesus Christ receives the Gift of Holy spirit 1 Ephe:1:13 & 14. Receive Lord Jesus as per Romans : 10:9 and receive salvation.

  3. You religious people crack me up. You use holy books as other evidence against other holy books. None are holy..Judaism was plagiarized from Greek mythology. Christianity plagiarized from Judaism and basically wrote the entire New Testament to "fulfill" old testament prophecy..convenient eh? Islam plagiarized from the above 3. AHHH but Islam was rather clever..the question was "How do we stop another faction of people from having their own prophet?" Well..we will simply say that Jesus was just a prophet and we will make our Muhammad THE FINAL PROPHET. The Koran was written roughly a hundred years after muh muh's death so er all his accounts are second person? It really is a shame that in the 21st century religious people are still harping on the garbage that 12th century peasants took for fact..glad to know you're intellect is equal to that of a peasant. "Religion is considered as the truth for the masses, false by the wise and useful by the politicians" - Roman philosopher Seneca


  4. @ Anonymous - what are u basing your arguments on? You cannot say religions are copied from one another. Also, saying the Qur'an was written 100 years after the demise of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) has serious implications for your argument. I won't get into that because I need to consider your mind set - by actually using no points to support such a hilarious idea. Why don't u read the Qur'an and ask yourself honestly, could this be mans word? An honest answer would surely be, 'no'. Truth is, Islam was always there - from the very beginning. Problem is, man tampered with the Messages brought to them by their Prophets and deviated from the straight path by Worshipping creation over the Creator. That, clearly, is deception from the devil and his army. For the future, I urge you to learn more about Islam, evidences from Islam and not just say things you hear from others if has rotten motives. Think of it, you were Created and surely, your Creator Deserves all Praise. I wish you a successful search within yourself to find the correct answers to what clearly seems to be a problem to you. The same luck and best wishes be extended to your folk and family too. Ameen

  5. How come you say the Holy Bible is corrupt and conveniently took references from it to explain what you called the truth. You are establishing the truth from the bible then I think if any Muslim wants to believe this, there is no problem in believing the whole Bible... Jesus is The Way, the Truth and The Life... Jesus says all the scriptures is about him... "You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me,yet you refuse to come to me to have life." John5vs39,40... Jesus is the Only Way to heaven and to God.

    1. My dear friend...just for the sake of reference and not trying to offend you or any other Christians.. the reason we don't accept the entire bible to be truth is because of verses such as "Revelation 7:1
      And after these things I saw four angels standing on FOUR CORNERS OF THE EARTH, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree. (KJV)". We do know the earth is spherical and does not have corners. if it did, it would have been a cube or a square get the point.

      We do believe the bible as long as it does not contradict with Quran or itself and we do believe it has been altered by scholars of christian doctrine down the years. (please google)

      "It is He who created the night and the day, and the sun and the moon, all (the celestial bodies) swim along, each in its orbit with its own motion. (The Noble Quran, 21:33)"


  6. @unknown- if you interpret it literally, that the earth has 4 corners like a square, u will surely be mislead. the 4 corners that refers in here are the North, East, West and South.