Sunday, December 19

Was Jesus Born in December?

Frankly, God doesn't give us an exact date for the birth of Christ. However, he does provide a few clues that help to narrow down when he was born. Why does it matter when Christ was born, if Christmas is a celebration of his birth and not an actual birthday party? Many believe that Christmas is actually a pagan holiday. So do Christians today celebrated the birth of Christ thinking Christmas is not a pagan holiday - but it actually is? (Photo Credit to: Paramount Pictures, "The Nativity Story," 2006, starring Keisha Castle-Hughes and Shohreh Aghdashloo)

Good question. It has been said that Christmas is based off a pagan holiday. Do Christians actually celebrate this pagan holiday? The pagan celebration ran from December 17-23, and was called Saturnalia. Saturnalia was a Roman holiday which celebrated their god Saturn - who is analogous to the Greek god Cronus/Kronos. But when was Jesus born? Luke 1:26 says, "In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David." (NKJV) In verse 36, the angel says, "Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month." (NIV)

From this, we can determine that in the sixth month of the Jewish year, Gabriel came to visit Mary, and Elizabeth, who is mentioned, had been pregnant for 6 months - so she became pregnant in the first month of the year. The angel indicated that Mary would become pregnant very shortly after. (verses 28, 35) Now, the Jewish calendar consists of twelve months of about 30 days each month, considering leap years into the equation as well.

This chart helps to illustrate this point:

Month Name Scripture Reference Modern Gregorian Calendar Equivalent
First Nisan Esther 3:7 March–April
Second Iyar (Iyyar) N/A April–May
Third Sivan Esther 8:9 May–June
Fourth Tammuz N/A June–July
Fifth Ab (Av) N/A July–August
Sixth Elul Nehemiah 6:15 August–September
Seventh Tishri N/A September–October
Eighth Marchesvan (Heshvan) N/A October–November
Ninth Chislev (Kislev) Nehemiah 1:1; Zechariah 7:1 November–December
Tenth Tebet (Tevet) Esther 2:16 December–January
Eleventh Sheni (Shevat) N/A January–February
Twelfth Adar Esther 3:7, 9:1 February–March
Leap month (intercalary) Adar Sheni (second Adar) N/A February–March on leap years

By this basis, it appears that John the Baptist was born around November or December. Also, if the Holy Spirit came upon Mary in the sixth month (around August or September), then Jesus would have been born about nine months later - around May or June. This also takes into account that John pleat for joy in the presence of Jesus in the womb of Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-42), which indicates that the conception had to have taken place within the following three months, before John was born. The end result, May/June, is not December.

However, there are a few assumptions utilized, such as there being no leap month - along with the date of the Jewish new year. Though Nisan is recognized as the first month, there are other "new years," such as Rosh Hashanah. If Rosh Hashanah was the first of the year - that year, around February or March, then Jesus may have been born around November or December. Julius Africanus (220 AD), a Christian writer, believed that Jesus was conceived on March 25 and thus was born on December 25. Many other Christians attempt to make cases for December as the birth month.

To answer the questions, no, Christians are not worshiping a Pagan holiday, it is merely that we celebrate Christmas around the same time the Romans had their celebration. If two people have a birthday on the same day, but you are celebrating one, by that logic, wouldn't you be celebrating the others, even though you have never met this individual? No. The focus of Christmas is supposed to be a celebration of the birth of the savior, the Messiah, Jesus Christ. It is important that we maintain the true focus of Christmas. Is it okay to put up a few decorations, give gifts, watch movies, the like, with family, sing carols and whatnot? Yes. We give because He gave. But do not lose sight of the true focus of Christmas: The Birth of the Savior who would die for us. The Creator entered into HIS Creation to suffer and die for his Creation... why? It is because he loves us.

All this happened to fulfill the prophecies found in Numbers, the Psalms, Isaiah, Micah, and others. Jesus Christ, the Messiah, was born to the virgin Mary, a descendant of King David just like Joseph, in the city of David - Bethlehem. Two years later he was visited by magi, and his birth was heralded not only by a star, but by a Heavenly Host to shepherds who came to worship him. Jesus, the most influential person in history, was born that night - and about 33 years later, gave up his life for the sake of all humanity, so that we can live in him and be free.

Troy Hillman

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