for the Faith
The Date of Jesus' Birth
Tuesday, December 23, 2014 at 10:00am
Preface: Many Christians acknowledge that
one knows the exact day Jesus was born. The precise date of
Jesus’ birth is not critical, and speculation and controversy about this
topic can cause us to lose focus.
It is important that we rejoice and
celebrate the central events in the life of Jesus Christ because he is
the core and foundation of our faith.
Jesus is the reason for
the season. We do not celebrate a day,
but rather we celebrate the fact that God, in the person of Jesus
Christ, came to save us from our sins."
It was in Jesus that God gave us
the greatest gift. He came
to save us, to give us
salvation, and eternal life. He gives us that gift freely, by the
riches of his grace. We
celebrate the extravagant and lavish love of God that is demonstrated by
the birth of Jesus Christ.
When we think about and ponder
the birth of our messiah,
there are many issues that are mysterious and profound for us. God came
to us, taking human flesh, and dwelling with us, so that we might be
Jesus (the 2nd person of the
Holy Trinity), never stopped being God, but He also became human.
He was born of a virgin as
prophesied, and began his
human life as a helpless and dependent baby, just as we all do.
"Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through
the prophet [Isaiah]: Behold, the virgin shall be with child and
shall bear a Son, and they shall
call His name Immanuel,” which
translated means, “God
with us.” (Matthew
Matthew’s quotation here of
Isaiah 7:14 confirms that the prophet did in fact
predict the virgin birth of Jesus Christ.
“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will
be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name
How and why he did all of that for us is
beyond our comprehension, but
it is a subject that causes us to marvel and to worship.
Every December, Christians (and many others who are not Christians but
hear the gospel message nonetheless) center their lives in
the miracle and mystery of the
birth of our Lord.
When the early church first
began celebrating Christmas, it had nothing to do with trees and
holly and reindeer. All those were added centuries later in northern
Europe. The fact that non-Christian customs were later associated with
the festival does not prove that
the date itself originated in paganism.
It may have been based on
We can discover that Christ was born in late December
by first observing
the time of year in which Luke describes
Zacharias in the temple. This
provides us with the approximate conception date of John the Baptist.
From there we can follow the chronology that Luke gives, and that
right smack at the end of December.
It begins with
Luke 1:5, where we read that
Zechariah, the father of John
the Baptist, was serving in the
8th course of Abijah in the temple.
"In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named
Zacharias, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife from the
daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth."
1 Chronicles 24:7-19 indicates that there were
A course was a
specific time when priests served in the temple.
According to the Biblical account of Christ’s birth,
Mary conceived in
the 6th month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. In
Gabriel came to Mary and said to her: "Do not be afraid, Mary; for you
have found favor with God" and And behold, you will conceive in your
womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus."
Luke 1:36-37 "And behold,
even your relative Elizabeth has also
conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in
her sixth month. For nothing will be impossible with God."
I love the words in the King James Version of
Luke 1:38, "...be it unto
me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her."
Church Fathers Testify to December 25
Although it was not initially
celebrated as a Holy Day,
Church history since the time of the late first century has attested to
a late December birth.
In the second century AD (long before Constantine),
St. Hippolytus argued that this was Christ's birthday.
In the fourth century, John Chrysostom (347-407)
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.
Luke 2:1-7 mentions a tax census ordered by Augustus Caesar.
The census records were eventually taken to Rome.
Cyril of Jerusalem
(348-386) requested that the true date of Jesus’ birth be taken from the
census documents. He reported that the date he was given from these
documents was December 25. Unfortunately, these records are no longer
The earliest mention of some sort of observance on that
date is in the Philoclian Calendar, representing Roman practice, of the
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 by “scholars” who believe they
know something those in the “Early Church” didn’t.
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 there were a special class of
Levitical shepherds who kept the sacrificial lambs.
They did not move around because
they supplied the lambs for daily sacrifice from whom people bought
their approved lambs, which are without blemish.
The fact that the Angels announced the arrival of the perfect
sacrificial lamb to these shepherds is providential.
When the Babylonian Captivity occurred, the Temple was destroyed - so
there was no more service to be done. The date this occurred became a
well-known fast-day for the Jews, the 9th of Av, B.C. 586. According to
traditional sources, when they returned to the land 70 years later, it
was a very “bumpy” restart to the Temple services over the course of
many years. They memorialized this fast-day by re-beginning the Courses
beginning at the 9th of Av.
The Temple was gradually rebuilt (called
“the Second Temple”) and added to by the Herods (during the time of
Jesus Birth). But it was destroyed again by the Romans in A.D. 70 — ON
THE SAME DAY! The 9th of Av, A.D. 70.
What is important to this
discussion is that according to both Josephus (Jewish historian, AD 37 –
c. 100) and more recent work done by Friedlieb (Leben J. Christi des
Erlösers, Münster, 1887, p. 312), it was the First Course that was
serving at the time of the destruction of the Second Temple in A.D. 70 -
in the second week of Av.
Stepping back 70 years (and assuming the courses were running then as
they ran in 70 A.D.) to the time of Jesus’ birth, the First Course of
priests (Jehoiarib) would serve during the second week of Av, Sabbath to
Sabbath, followed in the third week by the Second Course (Jedaiah). The
fourth week would fall to the Third Course (Harim). By the time the
Eighth Course (Abijah) was called to service it was the
second week of
Tishri and the High Holy Day of Yom Kippur -
The Day of Atonement (10 Tishri)
- roughly, in the first week of
When the temple was destroyed in A.D. 70, the priestly course of
Jehoiarib was serving. If the priestly service was unbroken from the
time of Zechariah to the destruction of the temple, this calculation has
the course of Abijah in the first week of October. This would place John
the Baptist’s birth in June or July, and the birth of Jesus six months
later, in late December or early January. Some advocates of this second
method believe that December 25 is the correct day of Jesus’ birth,
while others believe that January 6 is the correct day.
The truth is we simply don’t know the exact date of our Savior’s birth.
In fact, we don’t even know for sure the year in which He was born.
Scholars believe it was somewhere between 6 B.C. and 4 B.C. One thing is
clear: if God felt it was important for us to know the exact date of the
Savior’s birth, He certainly would have told us in His Word. The Gospel
of Luke gives very specific details about the event, even down to what
the baby was wearing - “swaddling clothes” - and where he slept - “in a
manger” (Luke 2:12). These details are important because they speak of
His nature and character, meek and lowly. But the exact date of His
birth has no significance whatsoever, which may be why God chose not to
The fact is that He was born, that He came into the world to atone for
our sins, that He was bodily resurrected, and that He’s alive
today. The angel that announced the birth to the shepherds brought “... good
news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10). Surely
here is the cause for celebration every day, not just once a year.
Regardless of when Jesus was actually born,
our hearts overflow with
thanksgiving and joy that God chose to send his Son into the world for
our redemption and salvation.
While the gospel does not require the celebration of Christmas. The
does not forbid the observance of Christmas, either.
It is fitting that we come together as Christian brothers and sisters to
celebrate God’s love whenever we meet. Whether it be on Christian
festivals such as Christmas and Easter, or some other annual occasions,
we are free to joyfully give praise and honor to God as his beloved
children. Every celebration is an expression of our love and devotion to
God. Let each of us learn how to celebrate "unto the Lord" without
condemning those who do so in a different way.
Source: Adapted in
www.taylormarshall.com , and
Scripture references are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB)
for emphasis and
www.biblegateway.com are mine. ... phh
"Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be
or email me if you have questions.
Amen and God bless you.
"Saint Pete", Sr.