Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Jesus' Birthday

When was Jesus born?



Most Christians don’t speculate about the date of Jesus’ birth, but celebrate it on 25 December, even though they may suspect there is no Biblical basis for choosing that date. However, in Israel at that time of the year, it's usually much too cold for shepherds to have their sheep out at night, and there's a widespread belief that Jesus was actually born around late September to early October.

In fact if we know what to look for in the Bible, the true date of Jesus’ birth is quite easy to identify.

Conception of John the Baptist

John’s father Zacharias was a priest, a descendant of Abijah (Luke 1:5). The priests of Abijah ministered in the temple during the eighth week of the Hebrew year (1 Chr 24:10). The eighth week begins near the end of the second Hebrew month (Iyar), and continues into the third Hebrew month (Sivan). This is the anchor point for discovering Jesus’ birth date.

Luke 1:24 tells us that when this week ended and Zacharias went home, his wife Elizabeth conceived. This was likely to be Shavuot or the Feast of Pentecost, which is in the second week of Sivan.

Conception of Jesus

Six months later, the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary (Luke 1:26). It was now near the end of the ninth Hebrew month of Kislev.

Mary immediately went to visit her relative Elizabeth (Luke 1:39), which is estimated at about three days travel. When she arrived, Elizabeth called her “the mother of my Lord”, confirming that Mary was now pregnant (Luke 1:43).

Because Jesus is "the light that has come into the world" (John 8:12, 9:5, 12:46), it is likely He was conceived on 25 Kislev, which is the first day of the Festival of Lights (Hanukkah). We need to remember that God did not pick random dates for the feasts, but positioned them carefully in the Hebrew calendar some 1500 years earlier, to help identify the coming Messiah.

Birth of John the Baptist

Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months (Luke 1:56), until the birth of John the Baptist. Since a full pregnancy term is 41 weeks, by counting the weeks we discover he was born around the middle of Nisan, when Passover is observed.

According to the law, John would have been circumcised on the eighth day. Therefore it is likely he was born on the first day of Passover (15 Nisan), and circumcised on the eighth day (Feast of Unleavened Bread).

Birth of Jesus

Jesus was born six months later, around the middle of Tishri (the seventh Hebrew month), which coincides with the Feast of Tabernacles. Luke 2:21 tells us He was circumcised on the eighth day.

As this feast also runs for eight days, it is likely He was born on the first day of the feast (15 Tishri), and circumcised on the last day of the feast. In 2006, 15 Tishri falls on Saturday 7 October. (To find the date in other years, go to http://www.hebcal.com/converter/).

The year is less certain, but commonly believed to be around 3 or 4 BC. The actual year is not significant here.

Only Two Feasts are 8 Days long

God provided two feasts that were exactly eight days long, the first corresponding to the birth of John the Baptist, and the second corresponding to the birth of Jesus. In both cases, the eight days corresponds to the time between birth and circumcision. All other Biblical feasts are of shorter duration.

One of these Feasts is Very Special

“And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. And it shall be that whichever of the families of the earth do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, on them there will be no rain...” (Zech 14:16)

When Jesus returns, and the nations are expected to go to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles each year, is it coincidence that this will “just happen” to coincide with His birthday, and even allow for a temporary period of living away from one's normal home (Lev 23:42)?


Many nations commemorate the birthday of their head of state, even having a national holiday in their honor. How much more worthy is the King of Kings to have His birthday honored, on the day set by Him?

“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever.” (Isaiah 9:6)

This season of Tabernacles, may we give the honor due to Jesus, who (because of His great love toward us) came into this world to give His life in exchange for ours, that we might be saved and live forever with Him!

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