The date on which Jesus was born is not stated in the 4 Gospels, which recorded his entire life on earth, from birth to death. Also, there is no historical source that has information about the same. Postulations by most biblical sources point to a date between 6 BC and 4 BC (the year during which Herod I is thought to have died). The fact that the Bible does not mention a specific date on which Jesus was leaves most scholars and Christians alike wondering, when was Jesus born?
Jesus was born between 6 BC and 4 BC. Biblical scholars use three methods to approximate the day Jesus was born. The first is analyzing Mathew and Luke’s references to known historical events; the second is astronomical alignment; the third is working back from the date Jesus is thought to have started his ministry.
Does the Bible give a specific date of Jesus’ birth? When do bible scholars believe Jesus was born? Historical clues that estimate Jesus’ birthday. Why do people celebrate Jesus’ birthday on December 25? Does Christmas have a pagan origin? If Jesus was not born on December 25, why do we celebrate his birthday on Christmas? Keep reading to learn more.
Does the Bible give a specific date of Jesus’ birth?
The Holy Scriptures do not give a specific date of Jesus’ birth. The Gospels’ authors mainly focused on the theological elements of Jesus’ life rather than the historical chronologies. However, the nativity accounts mentioned in the books of Mathew and Luke can help estimate the year when Jesus was born.
When do bible scholars believe Jesus was born?
As I mentioned, Bible scholars believe that Jesus was born between 6 and 4 BC (the year Herod I died). This period is arrived at by analyzing Mathew and Luke’s references to known historical events and figures.
Both Mathew and Luke state that Jesus was born during the reign of Herod I (Herod the Great). “Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod, the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,” Mathew 2:1. From Historical accounts, it is estimated that King Herod died in 4 BC.
“There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth,” Luke 1:5. “(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.). And all went to be taxed everyone into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:),” Luke 2: 2-4. It was while Bethlehem that Jesus was born. According to Historical records, Cyrenius’s governorship in Syria began in AD 6. The taxing (census) mentioned in Luke occurred during his tenure between AD 6 and 7. This places the birth of Jesus around AD 6 to 7.
Since Herod I died many years ago (4 BC), most scholars disregard the census and accept 6 to 4 BC (the year during which Herod I died). Therefore, although the Gospels do not give a specific date of Jesus’ birth, these nativity accounts are crucial because they help Biblical scholars and historians to estimate precisely the year when Jesus was born.
Historical clues that estimate Jesus’ birthday
The time chosen by Pope Julius I and Constantine to celebrate the birth of Jesus is based on something other than good biblical and historical evidence. Here are some Historical clues that estimate Jesus’ birthday.
- The first clue can be found in Luke 1:5. “There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth.” According to Qumran sources and rabbinic commentaries (the Talmud), the service of the Abijah priests was timed for the last 2 weeks of the 4th Jewish religious calendar month, 15-29 Tammuz (June-July). It is immediately after Zacharia’s service that Elizabeth conceived.
- The second clue is found in Luke 1:36. “And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.” Therefore, if Elizabeth conceived between June and July, then Angel Gabriel visited Mary the Virgin in December, which is the time when Jesus was conceived.
- The third clue is found in Luke 1:41-42. “And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb,” immediately after Angel Gabriel’s visit, Mary embarked a three days journey to visit Elizabeth. When she arrived, Elizabeth stated that Mary was blessed because she had conceived a blessed child by the Holy Spirit.
- It is common knowledge that a child takes about nine months in its mother’s womb. Therefore, Jesus was probably born during the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) September-October (15-21 Tishrei).
Therefore, If Jesus was born during the feast of Tabernacles (which was scheduled on September 29), in 5 BC, His conception took place during Hanukkah, possibly as late as December 25 in 6 BC. It is also possible the wise men (Magi) visited Jesus on December 25, 5 BC, 3 months after His birth. Herod I died in 4 BC, Probably less than one year after the birth of Jesus.
Why do people celebrate Jesus’ birthday on December 25?
In ancient times, December 25 was observed as the birthday of Tammuz (the child of the sun god). Later, Emperor Constantine, in 336 AD, assigned the day as the day for the remembrance of the birth of Christ. His objective was to make Christianity more attractive than other religions.
Does Christmas have a pagan origin?
Yes, Christmas has a pagan origin. As mentioned, in ancient times, December 25 was a holiday because it marked the day Tammuz (the child of the sun god) was supposedly born. Later, Emperor Constantine, in 336 AD, assigned the day as the day for the remembrance of the birth of Christ. His objective was to make Christianity more attractive than other religions.
If Jesus was not born on December 25, why do we celebrate his birthday on Christmas?
We celebrate Jesus’ birthday on December 25 because it is the date Emperor Constantine set aside for Christ’s birthday. However, those that feel that Christmas has a pagan origin are free to celebrate Jesus’ birthday on any day they like.
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