02-10-2010, 07:02 AM
We don't really know, but I've heard that it could have been around Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Which usually falls sometime in September, but can be as late as the early part of October.
The reason I believe this is because the Jewish festivals were designed by GOD to be shadows of things to come. In the month preceding Rosh Hashanah, the shofar is blown every morning to wake the Jewish people from their "slumbers" and alert them to the coming judgment.
If you think about it, that was the exact purpose of John the Baptist who preceded Jesus in his birth and in the early days of his ministry.
Again, we can only guess and the fact that the Bible never really gives an exact date probably just means that it's not really important. I think Orthodox Christians were celebrating Christ's birth on January 19th long before the date of December 25th was set by Roman Catholics.
02-10-2010, 07:15 AM
There was only one Roman census in 100 years. You had to go to the village your family was from which is why they had to travel to the city of David and why there was no room in the inn. everyone was traveling. You had to be in the city before a certain time for the census .. so we do have a few month window ..
Plus, travel would have taken weeks or even months back then, especially with a pregnant woman.
Play The Man
02-10-2010, 08:32 AM
Here is an article from Biblical Archaeology Review that discusses how December 25th came to be celebrated as the date of Christ's birth:http://www.bib-arch.org/e-features/christmas.asp#location1
On December 25, Christians around the world will gather to celebrate Jesus’ birth. Joyful carols, special liturgies, brightly wrapped gifts, festive foods—these all characterize the feast today, at least in the northern hemisphere. But just how did the Christmas festival originate? How did December 25 come to be associated with Jesus’ birthday?
The Bible offers few clues: Celebrations of Jesus’ Nativity are not mentioned in the Gospels or Acts; the date is not given, not even the time of year. The biblical reference to shepherds tending their flocks at night when they hear the news of Jesus’ birth (Luke 2:8) might suggest the spring lambing season; in the cold month of December, on the other hand, sheep might well have been corralled. Yet most scholars would urge caution about extracting such a precise but incidental detail from a narrative whose focus is theological rather than calendrical.
The extrabiblical evidence from the first and second century is equally spare: There is no mention of birth celebrations in the writings of early Christian writers such as Irenaeus (c. 130–200) or Tertullian (c. 160–225). Origen of Alexandria (c. 165–264) goes so far as to mock Roman celebrations of birth anniversaries, dismissing them as “pagan” practices—a strong indication that Jesus’ birth was not marked with similar festivities at that place and time.1 As far as we can tell, Christmas was not celebrated at all at this point.
This stands in sharp contrast to the very early traditions surrounding Jesus’ last days. Each of the Four Gospels provides detailed information about the time of Jesus’ death. According to John, Jesus is crucified just as the Passover lambs are being sacrificed. This would have occurred on the 14th of the Hebrew month of Nisan, just before the Jewish holiday began at sundown (considered the beginning of the 15th day because in the Hebrew calendar, days begin at sundown). In Matthew, Mark and Luke, however, the Last Supper is held after sundown, on the beginning of the 15th. Jesus is crucified the next morning—still, the 15th.a
Easter, a much earlier development than Christmas, was simply the gradual Christian reinterpretation of Passover in terms of Jesus’ Passion. Its observance could even be implied in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 5:7–8: “Our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us celebrate the festival...”); it was certainly a distinctively Christian feast by the mid-second century C.E., when the apocryphal text known as the Epistle to the Apostles has Jesus instruct his disciples to “make commemoration of [his] death, that is, the Passover.”
Jesus’ ministry, miracles, Passion and Resurrection were often of most interest to first- and early-second-century C.E. Christian writers. But over time, Jesus’ origins would become of increasing concern. We can begin to see this shift already in the New Testament. The earliest writings—Paul and Mark—make no mention of Jesus’ birth. The Gospels of Matthew and Luke provide well-known but quite different accounts of the event—although neither specifies a date. In the second century C.E., further details of Jesus’ birth and childhood are related in apocryphal writings such as the Infancy Gospel of Thomas and the Proto-Gospel of James.b These texts provide everything from the names of Jesus’ grandparents to the details of his education—but not the date of his birth.
Finally, in about 200 C.E., a Christian teacher in Egypt makes reference to the date Jesus was born. According to Clement of Alexandria, several different days had been proposed by various Christian groups. Surprising as it may seem, Clement doesn’t mention December 25 at all. Clement writes: “There are those who have determined not only the year of our Lord’s birth, but also the day; and they say that it took place in the 28th year of Augustus, and in the 25th day of [the Egyptian month] Pachon [May 20 in our calendar]...And treating of His Passion, with very great accuracy, some say that it took place in the 16th year of Tiberius, on the 25th of Phamenoth [March 21]; and others on the 25th of Pharmuthi [April 21] and others say that on the 19th of Pharmuthi [April 15] the Savior suffered. Further, others say that He was born on the 24th or 25th of Pharmuthi [April 20 or 21].”2
Clearly there was great uncertainty, but also a considerable amount of interest, in dating Jesus’ birth in the late second century. By the fourth century, however, we find references to two dates that were widely recognized—and now also celebrated—as Jesus’ birthday: December 25 in the western Roman Empire and January 6 in the East (especially in Egypt and Asia Minor). The modern Armenian church continues to celebrate Christmas on January 6; for most Christians, however, December 25 would prevail, while January 6 eventually came to be known as the Feast of the Epiphany, commemorating the arrival of the magi in Bethlehem. The period between became the holiday season later known as the 12 days of Christmas.
The earliest mention of December 25 as Jesus’ birthday comes from a mid-fourth-century Roman almanac that lists the death dates of various Christian bishops and martyrs. The first date listed, December 25, is marked: natus Christus in Betleem Judeae: “Christ was born in Bethlehem of Judea.”3 In about 400 C.E., Augustine of Hippo mentions a local dissident Christian group, the Donatists, who apparently kept Christmas festivals on December 25, but refused to celebrate the Epiphany on January 6, regarding it as an innovation. Since the Donatist group only emerged during the persecution under Diocletian in 312 C.E. and then remained stubbornly attached to the practices of that moment in time, they seem to represent an older North African Christian tradition.
In the East, January 6 was at first not associated with the magi alone, but with the Christmas story as a whole.
So, almost 300 years after Jesus was born, we finally find people observing his birth in midwinter. But how had they settled on the dates December 25 and January 6?
There are two theories today: one extremely popular, the other less often heard outside scholarly circles (though far more ancient).4
The most loudly touted theory about the origins of the Christmas date(s) is that it was borrowed from pagan celebrations. The Romans had their mid-winter Saturnalia festival in late December; barbarian peoples of northern and western Europe kept holidays at similar times. To top it off, in 274 C.E., the Roman emperor Aurelian established a feast of the birth of Sol Invictus (the Unconquered Sun), on December 25. Christmas, the argument goes, is really a spin-off from these pagan solar festivals. According to this theory, early Christians deliberately chose these dates to encourage the spread of Christmas and Christianity throughout the Roman world: If Christmas looked like a pagan holiday, more pagans would be open to both the holiday and the God whose birth it celebrated.
Despite its popularity today, this theory of Christmas’s origins has its problems. It is not found in any ancient Christian writings, for one thing. Christian authors of the time do note a connection between the solstice and Jesus’ birth: The church father Ambrose (c. 339–397), for example, described Christ as the true sun, who outshone the fallen gods of the old order. But early Christian writers never hint at any recent calendrical engineering; they clearly don’t think the date was chosen by the church. Rather they see the coincidence as a providential sign, as natural proof that God had selected Jesus over the false pagan gods.
It’s not until the 12th century that we find the first suggestion that Jesus’ birth celebration was deliberately set at the time of pagan feasts. A marginal note on a manuscript of the writings of the Syriac biblical commentator Dionysius bar-Salibi states that in ancient times the Christmas holiday was actually shifted from January 6 to December 25 so that it fell on the same date as the pagan Sol Invictus holiday.5 In the 18th and 19th centuries, Bible scholars spurred on by the new study of comparative religions latched on to this idea.6 They claimed that because the early Christians didn’t know when Jesus was born, they simply assimilated the pagan solstice festival for their own purposes, claiming it as the time of the Messiah’s birth and celebrating it accordingly.
More recent studies have shown that many of the holiday’s modern trappings do reflect pagan customs borrowed much later, as Christianity expanded into northern and western Europe. The Christmas tree, for example, has been linked with late medieval druidic practices. This has only encouraged modern audiences to assume that the date, too, must be pagan.
There are problems with this popular theory, however, as many scholars recognize. Most significantly, the first mention of a date for Christmas (c. 200) and the earliest celebrations that we know about (c. 250–300) come in a period when Christians were not borrowing heavily from pagan traditions of such an obvious character.
Granted, Christian belief and practice were not formed in isolation. Many early elements of Christian worship—including eucharistic meals, meals honoring martyrs and much early Christian funerary art—would have been quite comprehensible to pagan observers. Yet, in the first few centuries C.E., the persecuted Christian minority was greatly concerned with distancing itself from the larger, public pagan religious observances, such as sacrifices, games and holidays. This was still true as late as the violent persecutions of the Christians conducted by the Roman emperor Diocletian between 303 and 312 C.E.
This would change only after Constantine converted to Christianity. From the mid-fourth century on, we do find Christians deliberately adapting and Christianizing pagan festivals. A famous proponent of this practice was Pope Gregory the Great, who, in a letter written in 601 C.E. to a Christian missionary in Britain, recommended that local pagan temples not be destroyed but be converted into churches, and that pagan festivals be celebrated as feasts of Christian martyrs. At this late point, Christmas may well have acquired some pagan trappings. But we don’t have evidence of Christians adopting pagan festivals in the third century, at which point dates for Christmas were established. Thus, it seems unlikely that the date was simply selected to correspond with pagan solar festivals.
The December 25 feast seems to have existed before 312—before Constantine and his conversion, at least. As we have seen, the Donatist Christians in North Africa seem to have know it from before that time. Furthermore, in the mid- to late fourth century, church leaders in the eastern Empire concerned themselves not with introducing a celebration of Jesus’ birthday, but with the addition of the December date to their traditional celebration on January 6.7
There is another way to account for the origins of Christmas on December 25: Strange as it may seem, the key to dating Jesus’ birth may lie in the dating of Jesus’ death at Passover. This view was first suggested to the modern world by French scholar Louis Duchesne in the early 20th century and fully developed by American Thomas Talley in more recent years.8 But they were certainly not the first to note a connection between the traditional date of Jesus’ death and his birth.
Around 200 C.E. Tertullian of Carthage reported the calculation that the 14th of Nisan (the day of the crucifixion according to the Gospel of John) in the year Jesus diedc was equivalent to March 25 in the Roman (solar) calendar.9 March 25 is, of course, nine months before December 25; it was later recognized as the Feast of the Annunciation—the commemoration of Jesus’ conception.10 Thus, Jesus was believed to have been conceived and crucified on the same day of the year. Exactly nine months later, Jesus was born, on December 25.d
This idea appears in an anonymous Christian treatise titled On Solstices and Equinoxes, which appears to come from fourth-century North Africa. The treatise states: “Therefore our Lord was conceived on the eighth of the kalends of April in the month of March [March 25], which is the day of the passion of the Lord and of his conception. For on that day he was conceived on the same he suffered.”11 Based on this, the treatise dates Jesus’ birth to the winter solstice.
Augustine, too, was familiar with this association. In On the Trinity (c. 399–419) he writes: “For he [Jesus] is believed to have been conceived on the 25th of March, upon which day also he suffered; so the womb of the Virgin, in which he was conceived, where no one of mortals was begotten, corresponds to the new grave in which he was buried, wherein was never man laid, neither before him nor since. But he was born, according to tradition, upon December the 25th.”12
In the East, too, the dates of Jesus’ conception and death were linked. But instead of working from the 14th of Nisan in the Hebrew calendar, the easterners used the 14th of the first spring month (Artemisios) in their local Greek calendar—April 6 to us. April 6 is, of course, exactly nine months before January 6—the eastern date for Christmas. In the East too, we have evidence that April was associated with Jesus’ conception and crucifixion. Bishop Epiphanius of Salamis writes that on April 6, “The lamb was shut up in the spotless womb of the holy virgin, he who took away and takes away in perpetual sacrifice the sins of the world.”13 Even today, the Armenian Church celebrates the Annunciation in early April (on the 7th, not the 6th) and Christmas on January 6.e
Thus, we have Christians in two parts of the world calculating Jesus’ birth on the basis that his death and conception took place on the same day (March 25 or April 6) and coming up with two close but different results (December 25 and January 6).
Connecting Jesus’ conception and death in this way will certainly seem odd to modern readers, but it reflects ancient and medieval understandings of the whole of salvation being bound up together. One of the most poignant expressions of this belief is found in Christian art. In numerous paintings of the angel’s Annunciation to Mary—the moment of Jesus’ conception—the baby Jesus is shown gliding down from heaven on or with a small cross (see photo of detail from Master Bertram’s Annunciation scene); a visual reminder that the conception brings the promise of salvation through Jesus’ death.
The notion that creation and redemption should occur at the same time of year is also reflected in ancient Jewish tradition, recorded in the Talmud. The Babylonian Talmud preserves a dispute between two early-second-century C.E. rabbis who share this view, but disagree on the date: Rabbi Eliezer states: “In Nisan the world was created; in Nisan the Patriarchs were born; on Passover Isaac was born...and in Nisan they [our ancestors] will be redeemed in time to come.” (The other rabbi, Joshua, dates these same events to the following month, Tishri.)14 Thus, the dates of Christmas and Epiphany may well have resulted from Christian theological reflection on such chronologies: Jesus would have been conceived on the same date he died, and born nine months later.15
In the end we are left with a question: How did December 25 become Christmas? We cannot be entirely sure. Elements of the festival that developed from the fourth century until modern times may well derive from pagan traditions. Yet the actual date might really derive more from Judaism—from Jesus’ death at Passover, and from the rabbinic notion that great things might be expected, again and again, at the same time of the year—than from paganism. Then again, in this notion of cycles and the return of God’s redemption, we may perhaps also be touching upon something that the pagan Romans who celebrated Sol Invictus, and many other peoples since, would have understood and claimed for their own too.16
Play The Man
02-10-2010, 08:41 AM
Here is a very plausible article arguing that December 25th likely was the actual birth date of Jesus:
Lambs are born at the Christmas season
Is there evidence Jesus was born at Christmas??
By John Stormer
For too many years, pastors and teachers have said, “Of course we don’t know when Christ was actually born – but the time of year is not really important.” Jehovah’s Witnesses and others have taught that Christmas was “invented” in the fourth or fifth centuries. The supposed goal was giving a “Christian” facade or influence to the wild pagan or Satanic holiday observances during the winter solstice (the shortest days of the year).
What’s the real story? Is there any real evidence that Jesus Christ was born at Christmas? A careful examination of a number of seemingly unrelated Bible passages gives clear indication that the Lord Jesus was indeed born at Christmas time. Such study will give new emphasis to what Christ came to do. It will also provide a much deeper appreciation of all that is hidden in the Word of God which can be discovered by those who prayerfully search the scriptures.
Every word in the Bible is there because God put it there. He has a purpose for every one of His words. Therefore, seemingly casual listing of periods of time, genealogical references, etc. have significance which can be discovered through prayerful study.
In Luke Chapter 1, the Bible records seemingly unimportant details about what a priest named Zacharias was doing when an angel announced to him that he and his wife were to have a child. The child was to be John the Baptist who would prepare the way for the Messiah, Jesus Christ. The Bible further records that the Lord Jesus was conceived in the sixth month after John the Baptist was conceived. Therefore, if the time of the conception of John the Baptist could be determined, the birth date of the Lord Jesus could be calculated.
The scriptures say : “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. And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course… ” Luke 1:5,8.
At this point Zacharias demonstrated his amazing faithfulness to his duties as a priest. Even though he had been given the wonderful news by the angel that he and Elisabeth would have a son, Zacharias stayed in the temple until the days of his course were completed.
“And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house. And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months…” Luke 1:23-24.
The passage then describes how an angel came to Mary to announce that she was to be the virgin mother of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus. The scripture says: “And in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth. To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary…” Luke 1:26-27.
“And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Judah; and entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth.” Luke 1:39-40
Contained within these quoted passages are scriptures which point to the exact time when Jesus was born. (Remember that God puts every word and every detail into the Bible exactly as He wants it and for a purpose.)
In Luke 1:5 and Luke 1:8, we are told that Zacharias was a priest of the course of Abia and that he fulfilled his priestly duties in the order of his course. To understand the importance of the course of Abia and its bearing on the date of John the Baptist’s conception, it is necessary to turn to 1Chronicles 24:1-10. This passage describes how a thousand years before Christ, King David established the courses for priestly service in the coming temple. Twenty-four courses were established and numbered by drawing lots – twelve courses for sanctuary service and twelve for the government of the house of God.
Members of each course would serve during a month starting with the Hebrew month of Nisan. (Because of the way the Hebrew calendar fluctuates, the month Nisan can start anytime between early March and early April.) The sons of Abijah (the Old Testament spelling for Abia) were in the eighth course. Priests of Abia like Zacharias would, therefore, have each ministered for some days during the eighth month which in some years because of the fluctuation in the Hebrew calendar started as early as the fifth day of our month of October. Zacharias would have returned home when his days of service were accomplished and John the Baptist could have been conceived sometime between October 15 and the end of the month.
After conception the scripture says that Elisabeth hid herself for five months. Then in the sixth month of her pregnancy (which, based on the above calculation, would have started about March 15 and continued until April 15) the angel announced to the Virgin Mary that the Lord Jesus would be conceived in her womb by the Holy Ghost. If this took place on or about April 1 a “normal” gestation period of 270 days would have then had the Lord Jesus due on or about December 25. How about that!
There are other scriptural and natural indicators that confirm that the Lord was born at Christmas time. In the account of His birth in Luke 2:8, we read: “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.”
My son-in-law, who has a degree in agriculture, after hearing the above presentation, told me, “Certainly, the Lord Jesus was born at Christmas. The only time shepherds spend the night in the fields with their sheep is during the time when the lambs are born. The ewes become ‘attractive’ to the rams in the month after June 21, the longest day of the year. The normal gestation period is five months so the ewes start lambing about mid-December.” He added: Isn’t it natural that the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world would be born when all the other lambs are born?
This “coincidence” was too amazing for me to accept until I checked it out. A former teacher from the school where I am the administrator is married to a Montana sheep rancher. She confirmed what I had been told. She said, “Oh, yes! None of the men who have flocks are in church for weeks at Christmas. They have to be in the fields day and night to clean up and care for the lambs as soon as they are born or many would perish in the cold.”
Isn’t that neat? God’s Lamb, who was to die for the sins of the world, was born when all the other little lambs are born. Because He came and died the centuries old practice of sacrificing lambs for sin could end.
There is another neat confirmation that God had His Son born at Christmas. The days at the end of December are the shortest (and therefore the darkest days) of the year. Jesus Christ said, “I am the light of the world.” So at the time of the year when the darkness is greatest, God the Father sent God the Son to be the Light of the world.
The Lord Jesus Christ came to earth, lived a sinless life and was therefore qualified to pay the penalty for the sins of all mankind (which is death). He paid it all – but all do not benefit from the wondrous gift God bestowed on mankind at Christmas.
“He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” John 1:11-12
(John Stormer, pastor emeritus, Heritage Baptist Church, Florissant, Mo., from the Pensacola Christian College magazine, The ABeka, Winter 1996.) HT
02-12-2010, 12:15 AM
We don't really know, but I've heard that it could have been around Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Which usually falls sometime in September, but can be as late as the early part of October.
Tabbernackles....my best guess would be Tabbernackles...which would be in the fall...because Jesus died at passover...and there is a nother major festival about the Harvest...Feast of The Tabbernackles...I reckon that is probably when he was born :)
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