Was Jesus Born December 25th?


UnknownQ. Was Jesus really born on December 25th? I have heard he was born in the spring.

A. ARGUMENT FOR DECEMBER BIRTHDATE OF JESUS

 God has allowed His Church to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on the right day or very close to it. This is not mandatory or a matter of faith, but why doubt it without very good reason?

The argument for assigning late December as the rightful date of the birth of Yeshua is based on the time Zacharias was told that Elizabeth would conceive a child.

Osservatore Romano: December 24,1998

“December 25 is an historical date,” Professor Tommaso Federici, Professor at the Pontifical Urbanian University and a consultant to two Vatican Congregations, has stressed. In an article in the Osservatore Romano on December 24, he wrote: “December 25 is explained as the ‘Christianization’ of a pagan feast, ‘birth of the Sol Invictus’; or as the symmetrical balance, an aesthetic balance between the winter solstice (Dec. 21-22) and the spring equinox (March 23-24).

But a discovery of recent years has shed definitive light on the date of the Lord’s birth. As long ago as 1958, the Israeli scholar Shemaryahu Talmon published an in-depth study on the calendar of the Qumran sect [Ed. based , in part, on Parchment Number 321 — 4 Q 321 — of the Qumran Dead Sea Scrolls,], and he reconstructed without the shadow of doubt the order of the sacerdotal rota system for the temple of Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 24, 7-18) in New Testament times.

Here the family of Abijah, of which Zechariah was a descendant, father of John the herald and forerunner (Luke 1, 5), was required to officiate twice a year, on the days 8-14 of the third month, and on the days 24-30 of the eighth month. This latter period fell at about the end of September. It is not without reason that the Byzantine calendar celebrated ‘John’s conception’ on September 23 and his birth nine months later, on June 24. The ‘six months’ after the Annunciation established as a liturgical feast on March 25, comes three months before the forerunner’s birth, prelude to the nine months in December: December 25 is a date of history.”

Therefore, If Zacharias served during the end of September and Elizabeth conceived shortly thereafter, we can place the date of Jesus’ birth during the month of Tevet, in late December. The explanation is as follows:


1. Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist, was conceived just after Yom Kippur (late Sept) and born 9 months later in (late June).

* John’s father (Zacharias) was a Levite of the house of Abijah who was assigned to serve in the temple during the 8th and 34 weeks of the year. If the Angel’s announcement to Zechariah was the 34th week that would have been during the High Holiday of Yom Kippur.
* It is written that John was conceived shortly after this tour of duty (Luke 1:23-4), and Yom Kippur. Thus, John would have been born around (late June).

2. Jesus was conceived in (late March), six months after John the Baptist (Luke 1:24-27, 36) near Passover, and born 9 months later during late December.

Luke 1:36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month.

3. Circumstantial Evidences:

Church history, since the time of the late first century, has attested to a late December birth.

Hippolytus, in the second century AD, argued that this was Christ’s birthday.

In the fourth century,

John Chrysostom (347-407) argued that December 25th was the correct date. Chrysostom taught that Zechariah received the message about John’s birth on the Day of Atonement and John the Baptist was born sometime in June or July, and the birth of Jesus took place six months later, in late December (or early January). There was never a question about the period of Jesus’ birth either in the East or in the West; only in the recent years this date was challenged.
Early Jewish sources suggest that the sheep around Bethlehem were outside year-round. In the normal traffic of shepherds they move around and come near Bethlehem from November to March of the year. But then these were a special class of Levitical shepherds who kept the sacrificial lambs. They do not move around because they supply the lambs for daily sacrifice from whom people bought their approved lambs, which are blemishless. The fact that the Angels announced the arrival of the perfect sacrificial lamb to these shepherds indicates this. The climate near Bethlehem is more like Southern California, it is after all Mediterranian. It is not a Canadian or Russian climate.

Alfred Edersheim, a Messianic Jew, wrote, “There is no adequate reason for questioning the historical accuracy of this date. The objections generally made rest on grounds which seem to me historically untenable.”

Edersheim notes that Megillot Taanit states that the 9th of Tevet is considered the day of Christ’s birth, and that puts the birth of Yeshua sometime during late December.

Summary:
If Zacharias served during Yom Kippur and Elizabeth conceived shortly thereafter, we can place the date of Jesus’ birth during the month of Tevet, in late December.

Both views can be seen HERE

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5 Responses

  1. ‘For the first advent of our Lord in the flesh, when he was born in Bethlehem, was December 25th, Wednesday, while Augustus was in his forty-second year, but from Adam, five thousand and five hundred years. He suffered in the thirty-third year, March 25th, Friday, the eighteenth year of Tiberius Caesar, while Rufus and Roubellion were Consuls.’
    Hippolytus of Rome, Commentary on the Book of Daniel (c. A.D. 204)

    In the Chronicon, Hippolytus explains that Jesus was born nine months after the anniversary of Creation. According to his calculations, the world was created on the vernal equinox, March 25, which would mean Jesus was born nine months later, on December 25.

  2. First of all it is Zacharias and not the prophet Zechariah! Secondly Yom Kippur occurs on the 10th day of Tishri, the 7th month unlike your confabulation of the 8th month. Plus only 4 levitical courses came out of exile and so nowhere is anything written how the priestly rotations were handled after the exile although by lot. Luke does not say Elisabeth got pregnant right after! Luke says in the 6th month (of the Hebrew year, Elul… August/September) she was in her 6th month when Mary was visited and also conceived.John was born in Kislev around December. Jesus was born in the month of Sivan! This points toward Pentecost, the feast indicating newness!

    • According to Luke 1:27, the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary in the “sixth month” of Elul (September) at which time Elizabeth was already pregnant for six months. Thus, she conceived John in the first month of Nisan (early April). The Gospels don’t record the month in which Mary conceived Jesus. One can only presume that she might have conceived him at the Annunciation. If, in fact, Mary conceived Jesus in the twelfth month of Adar (March), then Jesus would have been born in the ninth month of Kislev (December).

  3. I should add there is a high probability among scholars that the Annunciation in the sixth month is a reference to the sixth lunar month according to Luke’s Syro-Macedonian calendar. In 5 BCE the sixth lunar month of Xanthikos was from March 10 to April 7. The middle of that month was about March 25, 5 BCE, the traditional date for the Annunciation. This was also the day of the Vernal Equinox. What calendar system would be used by Luke? Luke was a Greek from Antioch, and he wrote his gospel to Theophilus, another Greek in Antioch. The calendar system in use there was the Syro-Macedonian calendar, introduced by Alexander the Great over three centuries earlier. This calendar was the basis of the Seleucid Era, the standard for dating throughout the Middle East for many centuries. This calendar was likely that used by the Herods and other Eastern rulers for one method of dating their reigns. This Syro-Macedonian calendar is the expected reference by Luke. In this calendar system the new year began in the fall month of Dios, and the sixth month was Xanthikos. Hence, the birth of Christ would be in December. This is how the early Church calculated the conception and birth of Christ. These dates concur with ancient Catholic tradition. I myself don’t believe that Luke means the sixth Hebrew calendar month, since the person he wrote his Gospel for wasn’t Jewish. Matthew would be a different story.

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