It has become quite popular today to claim that Jesus was not born on December 25th. Some like to claim instead that he was born in Spring, or even in July. But when was Jesus born? Like…really? When was it?
When many posit the idea that Jesus was born in Spring or in some other time, they’re usually relying on vague and often contradictory information they’ve heard regarding what the culture was like around Jesus’ day.
For example, some might claim that it was uncommon for shepherds to watch their flock in the Winter and so, therefore, Jesus couldn’t have been born in December since his birth was announced by angels to shepherds who were “watching their flock”. In this, we’re expected to ignore the fact that Israel’s average temperature in December is about 15°C/59°F.
Another person may claim that Christmas was invented to replace the pagan festivals of Natalis Solis Invicti or Saturnalia. But Saturnalia was not celebrated on December 25th and Natalis Solis Invicti was most likely implemented by Julian the Apostate on December 25th in order to replace Christmas, not the other way around!
3 important witnesses are needed to answer our question of when was Jesus born. Let’s explore them now!
1st Witness: The Church Fathers
Hippolytus of Rome, a disciple of St. Irenaeus writes in 204AD in his Commentary on the book of Daniel, “For the first advent of our Lord in the flesh, when he was born in Bethlehem, was December 25th, Wednesday.”
Moreover, St. Augustine writes in De trinitate, Book 4, 5, “For [Jesus] is believed to have been conceived on the 25th of March”. With the average pregnancy lasting 280 days, this would mean Jesus would have been born on 30th December. But St. Augustine then finishes his thought with, “But he was born, according to tradition, upon December the 25th.”
Moreover, St. Augustine infers in one of his sermons how even the heretical North Arfican sect, the Donatists, celebrated Christmas on the 25th December.
St. Jerome in a sermon dating December 25th, 410AD teaches that the tradition of celebrating Christmas that day came from St. Paul and St. Peter.
Moreover, Christmas was celebrated on December 25th by Pope St. Telesphorus (67-137AD), St. Theophilus of Antioch (AD 120-184), Pope Liberius (310-366AD), St. Gregory Nazianzus (329-390AD), and St. Ambrose of Milan (337-397AD).
2nd + 3rd Witnesses: Jewish History & Scripture
Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, was the chief priest in the “division of Abijah” (Luke 1:5) which served in the temple in one week slots twice a year and was the 8th division out of a total of 24 (1 Chronicles 24:10). The division of Abijah served during the 8th week and the 32nd week of the year.
We also know from history that the 1st division of Jehoiarib was serving their week on the 2nd week of the Jewish month “Av” when Jerusalem was destroyed. Which, after some simple math, makes it clear that the division of Abijah would have served during the 2nd week of the Jewish month “Tishrei”.
This means that Zacharias, who was of the division of Abijah, would have been serving during the Day of Atonement which landed on 10th Tishrei. Therefore, Zacharias would have been serving sometime around September 22nd to October 8th.
This is important because John the Baptist was conceived immediately after Zacharias finished his slot (Luke 1:23-24), which makes it likely John the Baptist was conceived late September.
The Protoevangelium of James, written in the early 2nd Century, also confirms that John the Baptist was conceived late September since it includes Zacharias serving at the temple during the Day of Atonement.
This, therefore, places his birth sometime around late June. And the Catholic Church has always celebrated the birth of John the Baptist as June 24th from the feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist which takes place every June 24th.
Luke 1:36 reveals that John the Baptist was 6 months older than Jesus. Adding 6 months to June 24th gives December 24th.
So, When Was Jesus Born?
Well, as the Church Fathers, Jewish history, and Scripture reveal, Jesus Christ was almost certainly born on December 25th (or at least very close to it).
Rejecting this, in essence, is to hold to a position that is untraditional, contradicted by history and the Bible, and also unable to be convincingly substantiated.
Suggested next reading: Why A Charismatic Evangelical Joined The Catholic Church
Hi Chris. Very interesting article, thank you.
I was wondering if you would mind sharing some more information about the calculation of Zecheraih’s dates of service?
That is, historical records, calculations, etc.
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