BIBLICAL FULFILLMENT
Was Christ Born on December 25th?
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Was Christ Born on December 25th?

 

Strange as it may seem, there is no Biblical authority for the celebration of Christmas.  This may surprise you.

The facts about the origin of Christmas may be new to you.  Abundant historical evidence proves beyond doubt that Christmas is not of Biblical origin at all.  The festival, believe it or not, had its beginning hundreds of years before the birth of Christianity.  The custom now called Christmas was being observed by almost the whole western world centuries before Christ was born.

 

Whence Comes Christmas?

 

The largest religious cult which celebrated December 25th as a holiday throughout the Roman and Greek worlds were the pagan sun worshipers of Mithraism.  The chief deity in this religion was the Sun goddess; the oriental goddess of the heavens, called the “Queen of Heaven.”  The season of the year when this goddess received her greatest adoration from the pagan world was at the time of the winter solstice in December.  The winter festival was called “The Nativity.”  “Nativity” meant “birth” of the Sun. 

The Golden Bough shows Christmas to be a relic of the long struggle between Christianity and Mithraism, which the Church borrowed from its heathen rival.  In the Julian calendar, the Dec. 25th was regarded as the Nativity of the Sun.  The ritual of Nativity, as celebrated in Syria and Egypt, was clear.  The celebrants retired into certain inner chambers, from which at midnight they issued a loud noisy cry, “The Virgin has brought forth.  The light is waxing.”  The Egyptians even represented the new born Sun by the image of an infant, (in the days before Christ) which they brought forth and exhibited to his worshippers.  (The Golden Bough, St. Martins ed. pp. 471-472.)  The similarity between this ancient pagan rite and the modern Christmas is as obvious as a sore thumb.

 

Can the Birthday of Christ Be Known?

 

Hardly any early church scholars believed that Christ was born on December 25th.  In fact, there were all types of guesses by the men of the fourth and fifth centuries, and almost every one disagreed.  (See Smith’s Dictionary of Christian Antiquities, vol. 1, p. 358).  But the people just could not give up celebrating the season.

The truth is, no man knows when Christ was born.  The four Gospels say nothing about the exact date.  This lack of evidence in itself is significant.  If God had wanted us to celebrate Christ’s birthday, surely he would have told his people when this day was.  The omission of such from the gospels shows that the Gospel writers were unconcerned over the exact date Christ was born.

To the early Christians there was no real reason to celebrate someone’s birthday.  There are in fact, two instances referred to in the Bible of birthday celebrations and both of these were evil men.  Notice Genesis 40:20 where Pharaoh’s birthday was observed, and Matthew 14:6-10 where the Gospel describes Herod’s birthday party where John the Baptist was beheaded.  The Bible records only heathens celebrating birthdays in Bible times.  After all, the Bible is our only authority in these matters.

There is no wonder then, that early Christians did not observe or celebrate December 25th as Christ’s birthday.  That was a custom of heathen worshippers, not God’s people.  The Catholic Encyclopedia states:  “In the scriptures, sinners alone, not Christians celebrate their birthdays.”  (Christmas 1908 edition, vol. 3, p. 724)

 

Then In What Season Was Christ Born?

 

Even though there is no “Birth Certificate” of Christ’s birth, there is sufficient evidence in the Bible to indicate that he was not born on December 25, as is widely believed.  First, to reveal this, let us study the time of Christ’s ministry in the Bible.

Daniel 9:27 shows that Christ would preach the Gospel three and one half years.  (One half of a prophetic week.)  Just as a week has seven days, a prophetic week has seven prophetic days wherein each day equals one year.  (Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:6).  Daniel then is speaking of a seven year period.  In the midst of that period, that is at the end of three and one half years of three and one half prophetic days, Christ would end his personal ministry.

What does this prove?  Much!  Christ’s ministry came to an end at Passover in the year AD 31. Three and a half years preceding the spring of AD 31 would place the beginning of his ministry in the early autumn of AD 27.

The Gospel tells us Christ began his ministry when he was about thirty years of age (Luke 3:23).  This was the age required by the Old Testament before one could minister as a priest in the temple (Numbers 4:3)  The Jews also considered a person of thirty years as being mature.

Since Christ was about thirty when he began his personal ministry in autumn AD 27, this means he was born sometime in the autumn of 4 BC, thirty years before.

 

Autumn Was the Only Possible Season

 

There are many proofs to indicate Christ was born in early autumn.  For example, if Christ had been born in any of the seasons preceding autumn 4 BC he would have been past thirty years of age when he began his ministry, but the scripture says he was about or approaching thirty.

Let us study the seasons immediately after autumn 4 BC.  The winter, if Christ had been born in the winter of 4 BC., then he would have been under thirty when he began preaching according to the Gospel, and this would have violated the law of the Jews.  But this season is out of question.  We have the plain truth of the Scriptures that at the time of Christ’s birth the flocks were still in the fields or pastures (Luke 2:8).  In Palestine the flocks were never in the pastures during the winter season.  History tells us that during the winter season the flocks were housed in barns or in other places prepared for protection against the cold.  This winter period was from mid October till mid March.  (See Clarke’s Commentary on Luke 2:8).  The late autumn and winter months were too cold for the flocks to remain in the pastures unprotected from the cold rains, wind, and frost.  (See Matthew 24:20 for a study of the Palestinian winters.)  These facts alone prove that an early autumn in 4 BC was the conceivable period in which Christ was born.

 

The Temple Ritual Is Further Proof

 

Remember first of all that all dates used herein are from the Jewish Sacred Calendar except those that mention Herod’s birthday and that of Pharaoh which came under the Jewish Civil Calendar.  The Jewish sacred calendar was used for all festivals, whereas the Jewish civil was used for childbirth contracts and was used by the Kings as their official calendar.

For example, January and February was known as Shebat and was the fifth month of the civil calendar, whereas by the sacred it would have been the 11th month.  In the New Testament we have another important chronological feature which will show the season of Christ’s birth.  It concerns the time periods in which the Levitical Priesthood served in the Temple.  By comparing these prescribed times with certain New Testament references, we can arrive at the very season for the birth of Christ.

In the days of Christ, the Aaronic priesthood which offered the sacrifice in the Temple at Jerusalem, was divided into twenty-four separate divisions, each division or course had one chief priest who was chosen by lot to represent the whole division in the temple for a week’s period.  This chief priest was to offer the evening and morning sacrifices and the incense offering.  The Priesthood had been divided into twenty-four courses by David.  In this time there were so many priests that all could not possibly serve in the sanctuary at the same time.  So David divided them into twenty-four courses and gave instructions that one course should serve in the Sanctuary for one week.  These 24 courses are described in 1 Chron. 24. The names of each course are given in verses 7-19.

Each course began serving at noon on one Sabbath and continued until noon the following Sabbath.  One week.  (See Babylonian Talmud, Sukkah, 55b footnote 5, p. 270.)  The Jewish historian Josephus, who lived during the time of the Apostle Paul and was himself a priest belonging to the first of the twenty-four courses also tells us that each one of these courses served for one week from Sabbath to Sabbath.  (Josephus, Antiquities, vii, 14,7.)

The Jewish records tell us that the courses served twice each year.  The first course began serving in the spring of the year, on the first week of the Sacred Year.  The second course would serve the following week and so on, until all 24 courses served.  Then in the autumn, all the courses would repeat the process.  Thus, on each of 48 weeks during the year, one particular course of priests would serve.

Added to these 48 weeks are 3 extra weeks in which all 24 of the courses served together.  These three extra weeks were during the three major festivals.  The Passover in the beginning of the spring, Pentecost in the late spring, and Tabernacles in the early autumn.  Multitudes of people were in Jerusalem at these times, so all 24 courses were needed.  (Babylonian Talmud, Sukkah, 55b)

This accounts for 51 weeks of the Hebrew calendar.  It is important to realize that the first course of these twenty-four divisions began its ministration with the first Sabbath in the month of Nissan, in the early spring (1 Chron. 27:1-16).  Knowing this, it is possible to discern the particular week in which each of the twenty-four priestly courses served in the Temple, and thus know the time in which certain New Testament events took place.

How does this relate to the birth of Christ?  In the Gospel of Luke we are told that a certain Priest named Zacharias was performing his service in the Temple at Jerusalem when a marvelous thing happened.  He was privately told that his wife, Elizabeth, who was advanced in age was going to conceive a son and his name would be John.  This is familiar to most of us, but how many of us noticed the time when Zacharias heard this?  Notice what Luke says.  “There was in the days of Herod, the King of Judea, a certain Priest names Zacharias, of the course of Abia [Abijah in Hebrew]:  and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.” (Luke 1:5)  This says plainly that the particular course of the 24 that Zacharias was serving in was the course of Abijah.

A further study reveals, “And it came to pass that while he executed the Priest’s office before God in the order of his course according to the custom of the Priest’s office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the Temple of the Lord.” (Luke 1 :8,9)  This shows that Zacharias was serving at his prescribed time.  The words “in the order of his course ” means that he was ministering in the ninth week after the beginning in the month Nissan.  The reason that it was the ninth week and not the eighth week is that the Passover always occurs in the first month and during the third week.  Since all 24 courses served during that week, according to the laws set down by David, this means Zacharias served during the ninth week after the beginning of Nissan, the first month of spring.

Now the question could be asked, “Then on what days did Zacharias serve?”  The year in which all this occurred was 5 BC.  The first day of Nissan in this priestly course began its administration.  On our Roman calendar, this day was April 6, thus Zacharias who served in the ninth week was serving from Iyar 27 to Sivan 5, or June 1 to June 8. This was the time Zacharias was told that his wife was going to conceive and bear a son.  But there was no chance of Zacharias leaving at once after the ninth week to return home, because the next week was the festival of Pentecost.  Zacharias was obligated to remain one more week with the other 23 priestly courses.  This extra service kept him in Jerusalem until Sivan 12, or June 15th.

These dates are very important.  Notice what else the Gospel writer Luke says.  (Luke 1:23)  “And it came to pass that as soon as the administration of his days were over, he departed to his own house.”  This means that Zacharias most likely returned home immediately after his administration, and his wife Elizabeth conceived about the first week after Zacharias left Jerusalem.

The angel Gabriel told him that he must remain mute, without speech until after the child was born.  It is obvious that John was conceived the week after Pentecost.  This was Sivan 12 or 19, or mid June.  With this evidence we are able to determine not only the exact season of John the Baptist’s birth, but also the time of Jesus’ birth.

The human gestation period is near 280 days, or nine months and some few days.  If we go forward this amount of time from Sivan 16 in 5 BC., we arrive at about the first of Nissan, or March 27, 4 BC.  The birth of John was undoubtedly near this time in the very early spring.  Now, let us come to the main question at issue:  “What about the birth of Christ?”  The gospel says that Christ was just six months younger than John the Baptist.  (Luke 1:26,27,36).  Thus, by adding this six months to the time of John’s birth, the first of Nissan, we come to about the first of Tishri near mid-September for the birth of Christ, and thus again we arrive at an early autumn date for the birth of Christ.  So Christ was not born in the winter after all, and of all dates, December 25th would not be the date.

We want to consider other evidences which show early autumn for the birth of Christ.  We are told in Luke 2:1,2 that Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem to be taxed.  At first thought we might get the idea this was the only reason for their journey from Galilee to Bethlehem, but this was not the case.  If the journey of Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem was for taxation purposes only, then it would not have been necessary for Mary to go along.  Only Joseph the head of the house would have been required to go, but yet Mary went with Joseph.  Then why was Mary present?  The truth is that this taxation was coincident with the end of agriculture year in Palestine.  That is to say, the time was in the early autumn just before the Feast of Tabernacles.  It was customary to pay taxes on agriculture products at the end of the civil year, at the end of harvest.  For example, the law of God commanded that the tithes of agriculture products be paid year by year.  (Deut. 14:22) The civil year for tithes and taxes was reckoned from early autumn to early autumn.  Jews today still reckon the end of the civil year by this method.  In ancient Judea, the agricultural or civil year ended and began on the first of Tishri in early autumn.

Some however, assert that while all this was true among the Jews, this particular taxation was decreed by Augustus Caesar, the Roman Emperor (Luke 2:1), and thus they conclude it must have been conducted in the Roman manner and not dependent upon Jewish Laws.  This assumption, however, is not consistent with the facts of history.  At the time of taxation, Judea was a mere protectorate of Rome.  The Romans did not exact direct taxes from the people during this early period.  They were receiving tribute from Herod, but the Romans allowed Herod to gather the taxes as he saw fit.  And it is plainly known that Herod was endeavoring to follow the customary laws of the Jews.  Even the most critical scholars agree that this particular taxation which the Bible indicates as happening in 4 BC was conducted purely in the Jewish manner.  (Encyclopedia Bibica Cols. 3994-3996)  This is, then a plain indication that the taxation was very near the first of Tishri (the early autumn).  This was the ending of the civil year in Palestine when such things were common.

This again shows an early autumn birth for Christ.  The question would then be asked, “Why was there no room in the Inn?”  I am sure many people have wondered why was there so many people in Bethlehem at the time of Christ’s birth.  Of course there was the taxation at the time (Luke 2:1), but it never was customary for many people to crowd a town and stay there for a period of time just for taxation purposes, and as we have already mentioned, why did Mary journey to the south with Joseph when there was no Roman or Jewish Law which commanded her presence at such a place of taxation?

The reason for so much confusion about Christ’s birth is that most fail to realize the true time of year when all these things took place.  Actually, Joseph and Mary had gone to Bethlehem just at the end of the Jewish civil year.  They would have been at just the beginning of the Hebrew seventh month of Tishri, during this particular time.  Jerusalem and all the immediate towns were filled with people who had come to observe the Holy Days in this seventh month; the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement and the Feast of the Tabernacles.

Bethlehem was one of the towns near Jerusalem (5 or 6 miles south) and was considered in the festival area of Jerusalem.  (See Babylonian Talmud, Shekalim, VII, 4.)  When people came to keep the ordained Holy Days of God, Bethlehem became filled with people.  Josephus, the Jewish historian of the first century, mentions that it was customary for over 2 million Jews to go to Jerusalem for the Passover.  (Josephus Wars, VI, 93)  Normally, Jerusalem had a population of some 120,000.  Can you imagine what two million people would do for a place this size?  Can it now be understood why there was no room in the Inn?

The time in which Jesus was born was at a time and season when Jerusalem was filled with people coming to observe the Holy days at Jerusalem.  No wonder then we find Mary with Joseph.  It was customary for Joseph and Mary, and later their family to go to Jerusalem for the Holy Festivals, (Luke 2:41; John 7:1-10), and since early autumn time was the beginning of the civil year in Judea, and tax paying time, Mary went along to observe the Feast, after the taxes were paid.

The Inn that is referred to is mentioned only twice in the New Testament.  (Mark 14:14 and Luke 2:11)  The word in Greek refers exclusively to temporary guest chambers in which people were housed during the festivals in Jerusalem, and since Bethlehem was one of the overflow towns which housed many of the people coming to Jerusalem for the Holy Days, it is understandable why such guest chambers would be in Bethlehem as well as Jerusalem.

Actually these guest chambers were primarily in the private homes of people who had spare rooms in the home or in surrounding buildings.  These guest chambers were opened up for people attending the feast.  Rather than remaining at home as most pregnant women would have done, Mary had come to Bethlehem and while residing in the overflow town of Bethlehem, there being no room for them elsewhere, Jesus was born in a manger.

So we can confidently place the birth of Christ sometime in early autumn, and unquestionably in the seventh month.  It could not possibly have been another season.

Yet with all these indications of the proper season of Christ’s birth, we still do not know the exact day when Christ was born.  The fact is that God never intended us to know.  We do have enough evidence, however, to show that Christ was not born on December 25th, as is widely proclaimed and practiced.  Christian people are observing a pagan ritual day for the birth of Christ.  In their doing so, we would wonder if God would be pleased for his people doing something he himself did not authorize.  However Satan and his angels would be happy indeed for us to continue to observe December 25th as Christ’s birthday and so teach our children by word and example.  The time is at hand when we must be learned Christians, and we must put away world things.  Christ said, “He that is guilty of the least is also guilty of the whole.”

Do not be puzzled when you read that Christ was born in 4 BC.  Think a moment, did all the world suddenly begin to reckon time differently at the birth of Christ:  Did everyone announce that from this point on, they would begin the year AD 1?  (Anno Domini, or in the year of our Lord.)  Did the whole western world begin counting time the same way you have counted time?  Of course not.  King Herod himself did not know the exact time of Christ’s birth when he ordered the male children up to two years old to be killed.  He must have been guessing by as much as one full year.  Thus he ordered all the children in Bethlehem and the coasts thereof be killed from two years old and under.  Therefore, no one fully recognized the birth of Christ until he was about four years old.  At that time the pagan calendar was changed.  Believe it or not our whole system of counting time is pagan.  Let us understand God did not instruct man regarding the manner of reckoning time according to AD or BC.  This is the devising of man, and like all other things the ungodly have attempted to do, the reckoning of time is corrupt.

God commands his people to “study to show themselves approved unto God, as workmen that need not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth, and shunning profane and vain babblings.” (2 Timothy 2:15,16a)

 

Other recommended books of Biblical history:

Mainstream Of Civilization

The Decline and Fall of The Roman Empire

History of the Christian Church

The Bible Encyclopedia

 


 

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© Copyright 2015 by Jessie Mills. All Rights Reserved by the author, Jessie E. Mills, Jr. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or otherwise, without the prior express written permission of the publisher, except for brief quotations in critical reviews or other publications. Such quotations must be used with proper reference to their context and give appropriate credit to their authorship.