CHRISTMAS - DECEMBER 25 - is the day designated on our calendars
as the day of Christ's birth. But is this really the day upon
which Christ was born? Are today's customs at this season of the
year of Christian origin? Or, is Christmas another result of a
mixture between paganism and Christianity?
WHEN WAS CHRIST BORN?
By Keith Hunt
The word "Christmas" is not found anywhere in the scriptures of
course, and as we shall see, December 25 is definitely not the
date on which Christ was born. It is evident that our saviour
was not born during the middle of winter, for at the time of his
birth the shepherds were living out in the fields with their
As the scripture says,"There were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field,
keeping watch over their flock by night"(Luke 2:8).
As is well known, the shepherds in Palestine do not "abide in the fields"
during the winter season. The shepherds always bring their flocks
in from the mountain slopes and fields not later than about the
fifteenth of October.
It is quite evident then that Christ was not actually born in the
middle of the winter season. But, on the other hand, do the
scriptures tell us what season of the year He was born? Yes, the
scriptures indicate that He was born in the FALL of the year.
For example, our Lord's public ministry lasted for three and a
half years (Dan. 9:27, etc.).
His ministry came to an end at the time of the Passover (John
18:39), which was in the Spring of the year. And so three and a
half years before this would make the beginning of His ministry
the FALL of the year.
Now, when Jesus began His ministry, He was about thirty years of
age (Luke 3:23).
This was the recognized age for a priest before he could become
an official minister under the Old Testament (Numbers 4:3).
Therefore, since Christ began his ministry at the age of about
30, and since this was in the fall season of the year, then
thirty years before this would mark His birth as being in the
early FALL, not December 25.
While the scriptures do not tell the exact date of the birth of
Jesus, there is a way to figure the approximate time of the birth
of John the Baptist; and since John was born six months before
Jesus. By comparing the two, we can again determine at least the
SEASON in which Christ was born, as we shall see below.
John's father, Zacharias, was a priest in the temple at
Jerusalem. During those times, each priest had a definite period
of the year in which to serve in the temple. There were 24 such
time divisions or "courses" when each priest would serve during
the year. The names of these courses are given in I Chronicles
According to Josephus [Antiquities of the Jews, Vol.7,
p.14,7], each of these courses lasted for one week, the first
course began serving in the first month, Nisan, in the very early
spring (1 Chron. 27:1,2). Each priest in order would then serve
his course. After six months, this order of courses would be
repeated, so that each priest served a week - twice a year. Then
three weeks out of the year all of the priests served together -
during the periods of the Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of
With these facts for our foundation, let us notice what course it
was that Zacharias served: "There was in the days of Herod, the
king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, OF THE COURSE OF
ABIA" - or, in Hebrew, Abijah - "and it came to pass that while
he executed the priest's office before God in the order of his
course there appeared unto him an angel." The angel revealed
that to him and his wife Elizabeth - though they were advanced in
years - a son would be born (Luke 1:5-13).
But what time of the year was it that Zacharias served the course
According to 1 Chronicles 24:10, the course of Abijah was the
EIGHTH in order. This would have been lyar 27 to Sivan 5; that
is, June 1 to 8. Following his week of service in the temple,
Zacharias was obligated to remain another week - for the
following week was Pentecost. But as soon as this ministry was
accomplished, he returned to his home in the hill country - which
was approximately 30 miles south of Jerusalem, and his wife
conceived (Luke 1:23-24). This was about the middle of
June. By adding nine months then, we arrive at the approximate
date of John's birth.
According to this, John was born in the early spring of the year.
Now, since Jesus was six months younger than John (verses 26,36),
we simply add these six months to the time of John's birth in the
early spring and come to Mid-September as the approximate time of
the birth of Christ. Again, the evidence indicates that our Lord
was born in the FALL of the year; not December 25.
Still further proof of this conclusion may be seen from the fact
that at the time Jesus was born Joseph and ~Mary had gone to
Bethlehem to be taxed (Luke 2:1-5). There are no records of this
period whatsoever that would indicate the middle of the winter
was the time of taxing. On the other hand, there is evidence
that taxes were paid in the fall season of the year. This was the
logical time for the taxes to be paid - since this was at the end
of their harvest. There is also evidence that when Joseph and
Mary made this trip it was the time of a great feast at
Jerusalem. This is the most logical reason why Mary went with
Joseph - to attend the feast (as they also did on later occasions
- See Luke 2:41), for there was no law that required a woman's
presence at a taxing.
We know that the time they went to pay taxes was also the time of
one of the great feasts at Jerusalem because of the enormous
crowd - so enormous, in fact, "there was no room in the inn at
Bethlehem (Luke 2:7). Jerusalem was normally a city of only
120,000 inhabitants, but, according to Josephus, during the
feasts sometimes as many as two million Jews would gather there.
With such vast throngs of people coming to the feast, not only
would Jerusalem be filled, but the surrounding towns also,
including Bethlehem, which was only five miles to the south. Mere
taxation would not cause a crowd this big to be in Bethlehem, for
each person returned to his own city to be taxed. And so, taking
all these things into consideration, it seems evident that Joseph
and Mary made the journey, not only to pay their taxes, but also
to attend a great feast at Jerusalem. This was at the end of the
harvest season that they were taxed; and this was also the time
of the Feast of Tabernacles.
All of this - as well as the evidence already given - would mark the birth of Christ in the
fall, not December 25th.