SO, WHEN WAS JESUS REALLY BORN?
By now you might guess it wasn’t December 25th. You now know that the 25th of December is the time of the Winter Solstice and is the claimed birth date of all the major pagan deities. Now, looking to Israeli meteorologists, they actually tracked December weather patterns for many years and concluded that the climate in Israel has been essentially constant for at least the last 2,000 years. The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible states that, "broadly speaking, weather phenomena and climatic conditions as pictured in the Bible correspond with conditions as observed today" (R.B.Y. Scott, Vol. 3, Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1962, p. 625).
So this means the temperature in the area of Bethlehem in December, which averages around 44 degrees Fahrenheit (7 degrees Celsius) but can drop to well below freezing, especially at night, is essentially the same as it was at the time of Jesus. Describing the weather there, Sara Ruhin, chief of the Israeli weather service, noted in a 1990 press release that the area has three months of frost: December with 29 F. [minus 1.6 C.]; January with 30 F. [minus 1.1 C.] and February with 32 F. [0 C.]. Snow is common for two or three days in Jerusalem and nearby Bethlehem in December and January. These were the winter months of increased precipitation in Jesus’ time, when the roads became practically unusable and people stayed mostly indoors.
This is important evidence to disprove a December date for Jesus’ birth. Note that, at the time of Jesus' birth, the shepherds tended their flocks in the fields at night and there was a census, so every male was traveling back to the place of their birth, this would have been impractical during the winter months. "Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields," wrote one Gospel writer, "keeping watch over their flock by night" (Luke 2:8). A common practice of shepherds was keeping their flocks in the field from April to October, but in the cold and rainy winter months they took their flocks back home and sheltered them.
One commentary admits that, "as these shepherds had not yet brought home their flocks, it is a presumptive argument that October had not yet commenced, and that, consequently, our Lord was not born on the 25th of December, when no flocks were out in the fields; nor could He have been born later than September, as the flocks were still in the fields by night. On this very ground the nativity in December should be given up. The feeding of the flocks by night in the fields is a chronological fact, which casts considerable light upon this disputed point" (Adam Clarke's Commentary, Abingdon Press, Nashville, note on Luke 2:8).
Another study source agrees: "These humble pastoral folk are out in the field at night with their flock—a feature of the story which would argue against the birth [of Christ] occurring on Dec. 25 since the weather would not have permitted it" (The Interpreter's One-Volume Commentary, Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1971, note on Luke 2:4-7).
The Companion Bible, Appendix 179 says:
Shepherds and their flocks would not be found "abiding" (Gr. agrauleo) in the open fields at night in December (Tebeth), for the paramount reason that there would be no pasturage at that time. It was the custom then (as now) to withdraw the flocks during the month Marchesven (Oct.-Nov.) from the open districts and house them for the winter.
The census described by Luke
Other evidence arguing against a December birth of Jesus is the Roman census recorded by Luke. "And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered... So all went to be registered everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem..., to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son..." (Luke 2:1-7).
The Roman and Judean rulers knew that taking a census in winter would have been impractical and unpopular. Generally a census would take place after the harvest season, in September or October, when it would not seriously affect the economy, the weather was good and the roads were still dry enough to allow easy travel. According to the normal dates for the census, this would probably be the season of Christ's birth. Another author states that this census "could hardly have been at that season [December 25], however, for such a time would surely not have been chosen by the authorities for a public enrollment, which necessitated the population's traveling from all parts to their natal districts, storms and rain making journeys both unsafe and unpleasant in winter, except in specially favorable years" ("Christmas at Bethlehem," Holy-Days and Holidays, Cunningham Geikie).
Luke's account of the census argues strongly against a December date for Christ's birth. For such an agricultural society, an autumn post-harvest census was much more likely.
THE YEAR OF CHRIST’S BIRTH
Jesus wasn't born in A.D. 0 either as many may believe. In 525 Pope John I commissioned the scholar Dionysius Exiguus to establish a feast calendar for the Roman Church. Dionysius also estimated the year of Christ's birth based upon the founding of the city of Rome. Unfortunately because of insufficient historical data he arrived at a date at least a few years later than the actual event. The Gospels record Jesus' birth as occurring during the reign of Herod the Great. Herod's death is recorded by Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews, Josephus, Book 17, Chapter 8 ) and occurred in the spring of 4 B.C. (New Testament History, F.F. Bruce, Anchor Books, p.23). Therefore, Christ's birth had to take place at least four years before the traditional date of A.D. 0 for historically there is no such date.
In Rome December 25th was made popular by Pope Liberius in 354 and became the rule in the West in 435 when the first "Christ mass" was officiated by Pope Sixtus III. This coincided with the date of a celebration by the Romans to the sun god Mithras, who is said to have been born December 25th. The Roman Catholic writer Mario Righetti candidly admits that, "to facilitate the acceptance of the faith by the pagan masses, the Church of Rome found it convenient to institute the 25th of December as the feast of the birth of Christ to divert them from the pagan feast, celebrated on the same day in honor of the 'Invincible Sun' Mithras, the conqueror of darkness" (Manual of Liturgical History, 1955, Vol. 2, p. 67).
Because the Mithraic religion was an oral tradition; given through the Mithraic priesthood, there where no official writings or liturgical history. Thus, the Roman Church adopted those of the Messianic Jews and Messianic Gentiles (1st Century Christians) as its official canon of sacred writings while teaching and maintaining the oral tradition. This is why most Roman Catholics have very little knowledge of scripture, but they know all the days to fast, the saints, chants, and holidays. It’s also interesting to note here that most of the major Roman Catholic Cathedrals are built upon Mithraic shrines.
Protestant historian Henry Chadwick sums up the controversy: "Moreover, early in the fourth century there begins in the West (where first and by whom is not known) the celebration of December 25th, the birthday of the Sun-god at the winter solstice, as the date for the nativity of Christ. How easy it was for Christianity and solar religion to become entangled at the popular level is strikingly illustrated by a mid-fifth century sermon of Pope Leo the Great, rebuking his over-cautious flock for paying reverence to the Sun on the steps of St. Peter's before turning their back on it to worship inside the westward-facing basilica" (The Early Church, Penguin Books, London, 1967, p. 126).
The Encyclopedia Americana makes this clear: "In the fifth century, the Western Church ordered it [Christ's birth] to be observed forever on the day of the old Roman feast of the birth of Sol Invictus [Invincible Sun- the sun god], as no certain knowledge of the day of Christ's birth existed" (1944 edition, "Christmas").
Paul warned against observing "days, and months, and times, and years" (Gal. 4: 10). There were religious events unauthorized by God. The scriptures say nothing of Christmas or the continued celebration of the birth of Christ. They are post-apostolic; hence, unauthorized by God’s word in the context that we celebrate them today (see Gal. 1: 6-9; Rev. 22: 18, 19).
Christ’s yearly birthday celebration owes its beginning to man, not God. For Jesus always was, always is, and always will be according to the book of John: John 1:1-2 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” Therefore to celebrate a birth seems erroneous as He has always been and always will be!
So, when was Jesus born?
First, we must come to agree that Jesus always has been (John 1:1-2), once we understand that then we can begin to look for the season in which Jesus came to dwell among man. To begin this study, let’s begin in the book of Daniel. Often times when we think of the book of Daniel we think of a young man being thrown into a den of hungry lions or a kid in a fiery furnace; but did you know that Daniel was actually around 80 years old when he was thrown in the lions den? He had been a ruler of Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, and now Darius, the latter of which was tricked into having his vice-president (Daniel) executed.
Daniel and his companions, Azriyah, Haniniyah, and Misha’el where Jewish, where raised in Jerusalem and had been taught Torah (God’s Instructions) from their youth. When they where carried away into Babylon as captives, they where renamed Belteshazzar, Shadrack, Meshech, and Abed-nego and made eunuchs, trained for service in the court of King Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 1:1-7). Daniel accurately interpreted one of the kinds dreams and was promoted to Prime Minister, which made him wealthy. The scripture also state that he was multiplied in wealth twice more: during the reigns of Belshazzar and Darius the Mede, making him one of the richest men in the kingdom. Daniel was in charge of the “Chaldeans”, a group of highly trained astronomers and intellectuals, many of which where Jewish captives. During his life, Daniel had many dreams and visions of kingdoms that would come and go.
During the end of his life, he was visited by the angel Gabriel and given specific timing of the coming of the Messiah and he was instructed to seal up some information, which no one was to know but himself. Then we find that Daniel dies a eunuch in Babylon…what happened to his vast fortune? With a fortune so vast there would have been some sort of account for it, it certainly wouldn’t have been left or tossed away… As we read through the historical books we come to find that many Jews stayed behind in Babylon after the captivity had ended, especially those in positions of responsibility. One noted such person is Mordechai and his niece Haddasah (known as Queen Esther). Daniel would have surely delegated the reasonability of his will to trusted companions, the Jewish Chaldean astronomers whom he has trained and who remained behind in Babylon.
Jumping ahead 500 years we see the treasure of Daniel reappear in the Scriptures!
We find that the magi- the Latin translation of a Greek word for an oriental scientist or astronomer have seen the sign of the Messiah in the sky above. Could it be that the same group, once trained by the prophet Daniel to look for signs in the heavens, have come to see the Messiah? For what reason would they seek Him? Let’s find out… in a moment…
Ask anyone you meet “How many wise men came to present gifts to Jesus, where did they find Him and how was He dressed?” As you already know, the common answer will be “Three wise men found Jesus lying in swaddling clothes in a manger.” That however is not what the scriptures teach! We actually read in the King James Version in Matthew 2:11 that an undesignated number of wise men (magi) came to the house where they found the young child, Jesus, living with His mother Mary, step-father, and Joseph. In the Gospels we find that only the shepherds arrived at the manger (Luke 2:8-20).
It’s really absurd to suggest a group of three men traveled in the middle of winter through the desert without an armed caravan. Wise men they would not have been if that was the case… The magi where in fact Chaldeans, astronomers from the east; those of the line trained by the Prophet Daniel. The same entrusted with Daniel’s treasure. Following Daniels instruction, the astronomers watched the skies for 500 years awaiting the Great Sign in the heavens that finally occurred on Tishri 1, and the end of the fourth millennium (Revelation 12:1-5). The constellation Bethula (Hebrew), the Virgin (Virgo [Latin]) was clothed with the setting sun at the time that the first sliver of the new moon appeared beneath her feet. In the twelve stars above her head, the planet Ha Tzadek (The Righteous [Jupiter, pagan]) came into conjunction with the star Ha Maleck (The King [Regulus, Latin]) that is between the feet of the constellation of Ariel (Hebrew [Leo, Latin]), the Lion of Judah.
On the first day of the month of Tishri, on Yom Teruah, the Feast of Trumpets, this one-time celestial alignment announced the coming birth of the Maleck-Tzadeck or Melchizadek, the King of Righteousness of the Tribe of Judah, who of course is Jesus the Messiah (Hebrews 7:11-26). During this feast the trumpets (shofars) are sounded signaling the coming of the Messiah, thus the astronomers (magi) left for Jerusalem. During their journey the Messiah arrived the fifteenth day of the seventh month on the Biblical Calendar (Tishri 15) on the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles. How do we know this?
According to the Torah men where required to live in a sukkah of tabernacle for seven days, while women where free to live in the home. However, because a census has been called many men had to travel back to their homelands to be counted, so there was an unusual amount of travel away from Jerusalem. As we read in the Gospels, Mary couldn’t stay in the inn because it was booked up, no room, so she had to stay in a Sukkah (Manger/Stall is a Latin translation) with Joseph. She gave birth in the sukkah and at this moment “the word was made flesh and sukkoted (or tabernacled) among us.” In the King James Version, tabernacled was translated as “dwelt” among us (John 1:14).
40 days after the birth of Jesus, the law required an offering to be made. So, Mary and Joseph went to the temple, but where so poor they could only afford the minimal offering of two pigeons. So, they where obviously not yet in possession of the gold, frankincense, and myrrh as recorded in Luke 2:22-24.
A time later, actually about 500 years after Daniel passed, the executors of his will have brought Daniels treasure laden caravan to the gates of Jerusalem with the proclamation, “We have come to worship Him who is born King of the Jews.” Herod sent them to the neighboring village of Bethlehem, where the prophet Micah said the Messiah would be born (Micah 5:2). However, before Herod sent the magi to Bethlehem, he took private counsel with them asking them to him with information concerning the location of the Messiah.
After the magi delivered Daniels treasure to the Messiah, they where warned in a vision to secretly depart from Israel. Herod became angry that the magi ignored his request, so he ordered all male children throughout the country of Bethlehem “two years old and under according to the time which he had diligently inquired of these wise men” (Matthew 2:16). But this time, Joseph and Mary with the young Jesus where well on their way to Egypt a trip they could not have made unless the Lord set up their flight beforehand (Revelation 12:1-5)! The truth is always so much more awesome than the tradition!