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Can We Know When Jesus Was Born?

Posted by Donna Dawson on March 27, 2018 at 8:30 AM

December 25th.  It's the date that North America has deemed as Jesus' birthday.  But then again, North Americans tend to think Jesus had fair skin, blond hair and blue eyes too.  In the same way that we don't get to tell the Middle Eastern world what they should look like, so we shouldn't get to designate Jesus' birthday to a date that's convenient for us.  So a little history lesson.


December 25th has been a pagan holiday for thousands of years.  From Saturnus to Janus, a variety of gods have been petitioned on that day to bring back the sun needed to grow crops.  And it has been celebrated in a variety of ways--from...um...enthusiastic frolicking before statues made in the god's image to...sigh...the sacrificing of children in the most brutal ways possible.  So how did such a vile day become part of the Christian calendar?  Well, it's like anything in the church.  Someone starts asking the question:  Is it really so bad?  I mean, we don't do that stuff anymore.  Maybe we could confiscate the day for our faith and that would somehow make it right.  Except that it doesn't usually work out that way.  Christmas is no different. 


In 336 Constantine, as a Christian, celebrated Christ's birth on December 25th in an effort to stop the pagan worship that took place.  Well meaning but short sighted--you can't change a society until you change their hearts.  It wasn't until Pope Julius I declared the date as Jesus' official birth date shortly after Constantine's celebration that it became official.  Over the course of time society waffled back and forth between recognizing it as a legitimate declaration and declaring it heresy because it sat squarely on one of the most violent holidays on the pagan calendar.  So how could two men be so sure they were right--and what if they weren't?   


Enter the Old Testament documents.  In the book of Daniel chapter 9 we read about the prophecy of the Messiah's coming.  The word goes out that from the declaration of the rebuilding of the temple there would be seven weeks and 62 weeks.  Based on how the Jewish calendar marked years we can deduce that the weeks here are markings for groups of seven years each.  Scripture backs the thinking.  We just have to read about the Jubilee years and recognize they marked them as seven weeks or seven groups of seven years.  They declared a Sabbath week at the end of every seven 'weeks' and to this day the Shemitahs are still observed.  So...69 weeks were actually 69 groups of seven years.  What is really important here is that Messiah would show up for the 70th 'week' and half way through would be cut off (think crucifixion).  As in the 69 'weeks' this final 70th 'week' also represents years.  In Luke it states that Jesus was 30 years old when he began his ministry.  That 30th year marked the begin of his 'week' or seven years. According to the Mishnah Avot 5:21 the stages of a Jewish man are laid out and the age of authority is from 30 years old on.  So we know that Jesus had turned 30 when he began preaching.  He might have even been just approaching his 30th birthday when Mary approached him at the wedding in Cana.  It would explain his statement to Mary that his time had not yet come since he knew that he needed to be 30 for his authority to be recognized before the Jewish nation.  Prior to his 30th year, no one would take his authority seriously so...it is safe to assume his birthday marks the beginning of the seven years.


Jesus travels through the early ministry and does all he set out to do.  And then Messiah (Y'shua--Jesus) is crucified.  Both through studying the lunar calendar of the past 2000 years and through astonomical process of elimination it is determine that his death took place on April 3, A.D. 33 (see http://www.tyndalehouse.com/tynbul/library/tynbull_1992_43_2_06_humphreys_datechristscrucifixion.pdf )So...Jesus was 33 when he died on April 3, 33 but he wasn't really 33 was he?  He was 33 1/2.  How do I know?  Daniel said that he would be cut off from his ministry 3 1/2 years into it.  If he died in April and he was 33 1/2 at the time, when was his birthday?  Again, assuming he had just turned or was close to turning 30 at the time of the wedding, and again, knowing he had to fulfill Daniel's 3 1/2 years, it is safe to assume that Jesus was born sometime around October 3rd.  This follows Biblical timing.  I've been to Israel.  In October, the weather is still warm.  The sheep are out in the fields.  The evenings are beautiful.  Even pushing it into November the weather can become fickle.  Rain, cold and wind can crash down upon the nation quickly.  Most certainly, December would not see sheep in the fields nor shepherds sleeping there.  (Think about the big snow storm in Jerusalem in 2013).  I say all this to ask the question:  Why is the Christian community still celebrating the birth of our Saviour on a violent pagan holiday when it is most likely that he was born in October?  Perhaps the Canadian thanksgiving holiday is more appropriate?  Or the fall Jewish feasts?  Interestingly, the Feast of Trumpets is one of the fall feasts--a feast to celebrate the coming of the King of Israel.  Hm.  Just a thought.

Categories: theology in the raw

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