Correcting the month Jesus was born

Since we know, with very little doubt that Jesus was actually born 2 years earlier than once thought (2 BC) the question becomes, can we know the real month of his birth? Most would answer: “December 25 of course!”

According to Luke, that doesn’t gel. Luke 2:8 says “there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night”. If it were December, the shepherds wouldn’t have been living in the fields. Not exactly warm, outdoor weather. Most likely, Jesus wasn’t born in the winter months. It is also unlikely that Joseph & Mary, being pregnant, would’ve made the 5 day trip in the winter. See the following quote from the Companion Bible (appendix 179).

“Shepherds & their flocks wouldn’t be found ‘abiding’ (or in Greek: agrauleo) in the open fields at night in December (Greek: Tebeth), for the major reason that there would be no grass for the flocks to eat. It was the custom then (as now) to withdraw the flocks during the Greek month Marchesven (our late October-November) from the open districts & house them for the winter.”

Question: How did we end up celebrating Christmas on December 25?

Answer: Early Christians didn’t celebrate Christmas. To them, the death, resurrection, and ascension to Heaven of Christ was far more important and reason to celebrate. Consider that our holidays are reversed. Easter was the big deal then (and is my favorite now), and Christmas was barely, if at all celebrated. It was not until the 4th century that anyone was interested in celebrating Christ’s birth. The problem they had been that nobody knew the date exactly. There were many ideas of when it was, and this caused a ton of controversy in 4th century Christian church leadership.

In the year 440, during the pagan conversions to Christianity, it was decided that since they celebrated the birth of their “Sun God” on December 25th, that it would be easy to pick that date to make the transition easier to worshipping the Son of God, who is called the “Sun of Righteousness” as in Malachi 4:2.

So, is it then really possible to find the real month? The gospel gives us some clues, indirectly, but most likely intentionally. The gospel hints about the conception of John the Baptist that may help us figure this out. Luke 1:5 tells us that Zechariah was a priest in the order of Abijah. The priests were divided into 24 groups (1 Chron 24:7-19) of which Abijah was the 8th (Luke 24:10). Luke 1:8 says that it was while the Abijah division was on duty that Gabriel visited Zechariah in the Temple. So the question now becomes: When was the division of Abijah on duty?

(immediately continued tomorrow)

Chris

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