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The Birth Month Of Christ













Bear in mind that the reason The Bible is silent upon the birth month of Christ, is that God did not want us making a big deal of it (celebrating it).  Also, we have the most detailed version of Christ’s birth by Doctor Luke.  And if it was on a major feast day, he most likely would have mentioned that instead of focusing upon a Roman census.






The year of Jesus’ birth is broadly accepted as B.C. 4.  The primary reason stems from conclusions derived from Josephus’ recording of an eclipse, assumed to be on March 13, B.C. 4, shortly before Herod died.  One of the problems with this is the fact that it was more likely that the eclipse occurred on or around December 29, B.C. 1.  Considerable time elapsed between Jesus’ birth and Herod’s death since the family fled to Egypt to escape Herod’sedict; and they didn’t return until after Herod’s death.  Furthermore, Herod died on January 14, B.C. 1.  Most Bible commentators will argue with me here that no, it was in B.C. 4.


Tertullian (born about 160 A.D.) stated that Augustus Caesar began to rule 41 years before the birth of Jesus and died 15 years after that event.  We know that Augustus died on August 19, 14 A.D., placing Jesus’ birth in the year B.C. 2. Tertullian also notes that Jesus was born 28 years after the death of Cleopatra in B.C. 30, which would also be consistent with a date of B.C. 2.  Irenaeus, born about a century after Jesus, also notes that our Lord was born in the 41st year of the reign of Augustus.  Since Augustus began his reign in the autumn of B.C. 43, this also appears to substantiate Jesus’ birth in B.C. 2.


Eusebius (264-340 A.D.), the “Father of Church History,” ascribes it to the 42nd year of the reign of Augustus and the 28th from the subjection of Egypt on the death of Anthony and Cleopatra.  The 42nd year of Augustus ran from the autumn of B.C. 2 to the autumn of B.C. 1.  The subjugation of Egypt into the Roman Empire occurred in the autumn of B.C. 30.  The 28th year extended from the autumn of B.C. 3 to the autumn of B.C. 2.  The only date that would meet both of these constraints would be the autumn of B.C. 2.


However, there is no mention in the New Testament of any celebration or anniversary of the birth of our Lord.  In fact, in reviewing the infancy narratives in the four Gospels, one quickly realizes the limited information on dates that are available to us.  The four Gospel accounts of Jesus’ birth are very brief, consisting only of few verses.


By contrast, the accounts of what is known as “The Passion Week,” we are given lengthier discourses, taking up to several Chapters.  Actually, according to some estimates, about one third of each Gospel is devoted to the Passion Week.  Therefore, it is evident, that from the perspective of the Gospel writers, Christ’s death is more important for our salvation than His birth.  The reason is obvious:  That through His atoning death Christ secured our eternal salvation.






Having stated all the above, according to Luke 1:26-27:  “(26) And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, (27) To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.”


Here we have a possible clear reference as to the time of our Lord’s birth.  We must remember however, that the Jewish “sixth month” would be “Elul,” as found in Nehemiah 6:15, which corresponds to our month of September.  Our key here in this verse is the phrase, “sixth month.”  This particular phrase can be understood in three ways.


Option 1) The most unorthodox way, and moving away from the context of the Chapter, is that this phrase, “sixth month,” is not referring to Elisabeth’ pregnancy at all, but rather to the actual month in which “the angel Gabriel” came to visit Mary.  Now if we stay in the context of the Chapter, this “sixth month” would be speaking of the “sixth month” of Mary’s cousin Elisabeth’s pregnancy.  However, if we consider that this is a new dialogue, separate from the Elisabeth dialogue, then we can determine the birth of our Lord as being in the third month of the year (because that would be nine months later from the “sixth month”).  If this is in fact the case, we simply add the nine months for the pregnancy of Mary to the “sixth month” and we come up with the third month of the year, which would be the Jewish month of “Sivan,” as found in Esther 8:9, which correlates to our month of June.  Thus, the solution for option one is that our Lord was born in the Gregorian calendar month of June.


Option 2) This option considers that the phrase “sixth month,” as stated by the angel Gabriel, has a dual application, in that he was both speaking of Elisabeth’s pregnancy and the actual “sixth month” of the year in which he visited Mary.  If this is in fact the case, then our conclusion for the birth month of our Lord is the same as option one, i.e., our Gregorian calendar month of June.


Option 3) If we stay with the context, as to not changing in regard to continuing to focus upon the pregnancy of Elisabeth (see Luke 1:36), than we will have to resort to another way of determining when the birth of our Lord is (see below).  Based upon the suggestion that we stay with the context of Luke, Chapter One, which deals with the pregnancy of Mary’s cousin, Elisabeth (although I believe that all contexts of our Lord’s Word is always focused upon, our Lord), there are four Biblical references to consider, Luke 1:24 & 26 & 36 & 56, which are the only explicit references available in the Gospel accounts associated with the timing of our Lord’s birth.


These four verses leave the dating rather inconclusive to say the least.  However, since in this option, that Mary’s conception is related to Elizabeth’s, then there is a clear indication that Elizabeth’s conception took place “six months” before Mary’s (Luke 1:24 “five months,” continuing the narrative, “sixth month,” of Luke 1:26), giving us a total of six months, plus Mary’s nine months, would equal 15 months later as to the date of Jesus’ birth (However, this does not tell us how far along Jesus/Mary was at this time; see Luke 1:41).  Thus, the indication of when our Lord’s birth took place is locked up in Elizabeth’s time of conception and not Mary’s, as in options one and two.


For a discovery of when Elisabeth became pregnant, we need to focus upon Zacharias, her husband, to whom the angel announced his impending fatherhood in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.  The “key” that unlocks a plausible time indication is in a single word innocuously located in Luke 1:5, and that word is, “Abia.”  “There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia,” Luke 1:5.  Here we are given a particular division of the priestly orders in which the rosters and duties in the Temple has a particular time sequence within the calendar year.


For an understanding of a specific time indication of Zacharias’ time of duty in the annual priestly roster in the Temple, we need to turn to First Chronicles, Chapter 24.  This Chapter lists the divisions of the priests on duty in the Temple.  In preparing his son Solomon to build the Temple, king David not only arranged for the building materials, but also organized these twenty-four heads of households, the remaining descendants of Aaron, into an annual roster for their priestly duties in the Temple.


Assisted by Zadok and Abimelech (both direct descendants from the two remaining sons of Aaron), David rostered these twenty-four households into divisions according to “their appointed duties in their service,” First Chronicles 24:3 & 18.  This order was established by drawing lots impartially as to who would go first and who would follow, in a chronological sequence (see 1Ch. 24:5).  In the drawing of their appointed order, Abijah (our “Abia” of Luke 1:5) fell on the eighth slot (1Ch. 24:10).  When the twenty-four divisions were rostered annually in this way, each month would have two divisions on duty, and “Abijah,” as the eighth, would fall in the second half of the fourth month.  We now have a time indication here.


Since the priestly group of “Abijah” would be scheduled to serve in the second half of the fourth month, Tammuz (our July), we count nine months from the next month “Ab,” the fifth month, to get to the birth of John the Baptist, because Zacharias would have been serving in the temple in the month of Tammuz and gone home to Elisabeth in the month “Ab” (which is our August).  Nine months later would bring us to the second month, i.e., “Iyar” (which is our May), for the birth of John the Baptist.






According to Luke 1:56, Mary would then (in the month of “Iyar,” our May) have been three months along.  Adding six more months to Mary’s pregnancy brings us to the birth month of our Lord, i.e., the eighth month of Marcheshvan, or Heshvan (which is our November).


However, let us back up a little.  If we have Zacharias going home to Elisabeth in the same month, the fourth month of Tammuz (our July), we count nine months from there and come up with John the Baptist’s birth as being in the first month of Nisan (our April; Neh. 2:1; Est. 3:7).  Adding six months to that we come up with our Lord’s birth in the seventh month of Tisri, or Tishre (which is our October).


The Jewish people followed the lunar calendar, consisting of twelve lunar months, in which there are two New Year’s:  the religious New Year that began in their month of Nissan, and the civil New Year that began in their month of “Tishre,” which was seven months from Nissan.  As you may recall, it was on the 14th day of Nissan that the Feast of Passover was and is celebrated.  Since this is a priestly order, it is likely that the priests began their roster with this month of Nissan.


The month of “Tishre” (Westerners month of October), as the seventh month in the Jewish/Hebrew calendar, is a very special month in autumn.  This is the only month that begins with one of the seven feasts of the Lord (Lev. 23:24), called the “Feast of Trumpets.”  Ten days after this new moon sighting (considered as ten days of holy awe), the most holy day in the whole Jewish calendar year is observed, called “Yom Kippur” (the “Day of Atonement”).  Five days later, begins the final of the seven Feasts of the Lord, called the “Feast of Tabernacles.”  This is the most joyous of all of the Feasts with a distinct Command attached to it, i.e., to “rejoice.”  It begins on the fifteenth day and lasts for eight days.  The “Feast of Tabernacles” thus marks the final ingathering of the harvest.  Therefore, the entire seventh month has a special significance.


The word “tabernacle” has a corroborating significance in the Gospel of John.  In John 1:14, the Apostle declares that “The Word,” referring to our Lord Jesus, became flesh and made His dwelling among us.  In speaking of the incarnation (God becoming flesh), the Word “dwelling” is sometimes also translated “tabernacle,” as Jesus “tabernacled” in our midst.  Could it be that Jesus’ birth occurred on the “Feast of Tabernacles,” which is the fifteenth of “Tishre,” and His circumcision took place eight days later when Jesus is taken to the Temple?  Just a thought.  This would stay in line with the events that have corresponding importance and significance to our Lord.


In fact, if, as it is generally agreed, Christ’s ministry began when He was about thirty years of age (Luke 3:23), and lasted three and one-half years until His death at “Passover” in April, we therefore, by backtracking, we arrive at the month of October.  October also pans out to be the most likely month of the date of Christ’s birth because it would correspond to the time of the “Feast of Tabernacles,” known also as the “Feast of Booths.”  This Feast was the last and most important pilgrimage of the year for the Jewish people.  The overcrowded conditions at the time of Christ’s birth, i.e., “there was no place for them in the inn,” Luke 2:7, could be related not only to the census taken by the Romans at that time, but also to the many pilgrims that overran the area, especially during the “Feast of Tabernacles,” a good time for the Romans to call for the census, knowing that the people would be gathered there anyway.  Makes sense to me.


Also, the more logical time of taxation would be after the harvest, i.e., after a payday (in this case, in the fall).  By the same token, Christ could well have been born at the time of the “Feast of Tabernacles,” since the feast typifies God’s First Coming to dwell among us through the incarnation of His Son and His Second Coming to dwell with His people (Rev. 21:3) throughout eternity.  As the ancient Israelites “rejoiced before the Lord” (Lev. 23:40) at the “Feast of Tabernacles” by waving palm branches, singing, playing instruments, and feasting, so the countless multitude of the redeemed will rejoice before the throne of God, by waving palm branches (Rev. 7:9), singing anthems of praise (Rev. 7:10; 14:3; 15:2-4; 19:1-3), playing harps (Rev. 14:2), and participating in the great marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:9).


 In a final interesting sideline supporting the possibility that Christ was born at the very time of the “Feast of Tabernacles,” is the reference to the “wise men” that came from the East to visit Christ (Mat. 2:1).  The land of the East is most likely Babylon, where many Jews still lived at the time of Christ’s birth.  Only a remnant of the Jews returned from the Babylonian exile to Palestine during the Persian period.  The “wise men,” most likely, were rabbis known in Hebrew as “chakamin,” which means, “wise men.”  See my Bible Study:  “WISE MEN, THE MAGI.”


We are told in Matthew 2:1, that the “wise men” made their journey from the East to Bethlehem because they had seen “the star in the East.”  Watching the stars was associated especially with the “Feast of Tabernacles.”  This statement is proven by the fact that the roof of the booth was built with leafy branches carefully spaced so that the inhabitants would screen out the sunlight without blocking the visibility of the stars.  The people watched for the stars at night during the “Feast of Tabernacles,” because of the prophecy in Numbers 24:17:  “a star shall come out of Jacob.”  It is possible that it was during the “Feast of Tabernacles,” the special season of star watching, that the “wise men” saw the Messianic star and “rejoiced exceedingly with great joy,” Matthew 2:10.  The booth’s also fittingly serve to celebrate Christ’s willingness to become a human being and pitch His tent among us in order to become our Savior.






The connection between Christ’s birth and the “Feast of Tabernacles” proposed above, was proposed by our early Christian Fathers.  In his classic study, “The Bible and Liturgy,” by Jean Danielou, he discusses the connection between the “Feast of Tabernacles” and that of the Nativity.  He notes, for example, that in his Sermon on the Nativity, Gregory of Nazianzus, who lived in 329-389 A.D., connected the Feast of the Nativity of December 25th with the “Feast of Tabernacles:”


“The subject of today’s feast (25th December) is the true Feast of Tabernacles.  Indeed, in this feast, the human tabernacle was built up by Him Who put on human nature because of us.  Our tabernacles, which were struck down by death, are raised up again by Him Who built our dwelling from the beginning.  Therefore, harmonizing our voices with that of David, let us also sing the Psalm:  ‘Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord.’  Psa. 118:26.  This verse was sung during the procession of the Feast of Tabernacles.  The Coming of Christ, His birth, thus is seen to be the inauguration of the true Feast of Tabernacles.”  Jean Danielou (note 8), page 345.


The Tabernacle given to Moses to build in the wilderness was expressly intended for God to dwell in the midst of the people for the centrality of worship in their newly constituted theocratic nationhood (Exo. 25:8 & 9).  Therefore, when He Whose Name is “Emmanuel,” i.e., “God with us” (Mat. 1:23), was born, He dwelt with us so that we may, as John puts it in John, Chapter 1, verse 14, “beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father.”

Therefore, could the idea of “tabernacling” also offer us a clue as to the more likely time of the calendar year for Jesus’ Coming in His First Advent:  as well as in His Second Advent, as being in October (as the Adventist pioneers had it in 1844)?  Perhaps the relevance of this review is not just one of historical accuracy, but also of eschatological alignment, by proposing not only a review of our Lord’s birth, but also a renewal of the Festivals of our Lord.  If you must celebrate Christ’s birth, let’s incorporate these essential elements:  Worship, Giving, and Praise.






In small review and change of Option 3 above):  By approaching the date of Jesus’ birth from information about John the Baptist, we learn that Elisabeth, John the Baptists mother, was a cousin of Mary and the wife of a priest named Zacharias, who was of the “course” of “Abijah” (Priests were divided into 24 courses and each course officiated in the Temple for one week, from Sabbath to Sabbath).  When the Temple was destroyed by Titus on August 5, 70 A.D., the first course of priests had just taken office.


Since the course of “Abijah” was the eighth course, we can track backwards and determine that Zacharias would have ended his duties on July 13, B.C. 3.  If the birth of John took place 280 days later, it would have been on April 19-20, B.C. 2 (precisely on Passover of that year).  John began his ministry in the 15th year of Tiberius Caesar (Luke 3:1).  The minimum age for the ministry was 30.  Now since we know that Augustus Caesar died on August 19, 14 A.D., that would make it the accession year for Tiberius Caesar.  Therefore, if John was born on April 19-20, B.C. 2, his 30th birthday would have been April 19-20, 29 A.D., or the 15th year of Tiberius.  This seems to confirm the B.C. 2 date, and, since John was five/six months older than our Lord, this also confirms the autumn birth date for Jesus.

Elisabeth hid herself for “five months,” and then the Angel Gabriel announced to Mary both Elisabeth’s condition and that Mary also would bear a Son Who would be called Jesus.  Mary went “with haste” to visit Elisabeth, who was then in the first week of her “sixth month,” or the fourth week of December, B.C. 3.  If Jesus was born 280 days later, it would place the date of his birth on September 29, B.C. 2.  If Jesus was born on September 29, B.C. 2, it is interesting to note that it was also the “First of Tishri,” the day of the “Feast of Trumpets.”


Finally, we are encouraged to keep this Feast sacred even today:  “Well would it be for the people of God at the present time to have a Feast of Tabernacles -- a joyous commemoration of the blessings of God to them.  As the children of Israel celebrated the deliverance that God had wrought for their fathers, and His miraculous preservation of them during their journeying from Egypt, so should gratefully call to mind the various ways He has devised for bringing us out of the world, and from the darkness of error, into the precious light of His grace and truth.”  PP:540.6.


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