by Matt Slick
No one knows for sure what was the month--not to mention which day--on which Jesus was born. Various theories have been raised that put Jesus' birth in March, April, October, and September. But no one knows for sure. December 25 was a popular pagan holiday that dealt with the winter solstice which was the shortest day of the year and signaled the approach of spring. It was a day celebrated by many in the Roman Empire. In order to replace pagan practices, the early church adopted that day and celebrated it as Christ's birthday. But, we know that most probably it was not the correct day. How do we know? We have biblical clues about the time of His birth.
"And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. 8 In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night," (Luke 2:7-8).
The time of Jesus birth coincided with shepherds being out in the field. They would not have been out during winter, so this removes the possibility of Christ birth being at that time.
"Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. 2 This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. 4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David," (Luke 2:1-4).
The trip from Galilee to Bethlehem is about 80 miles. During the winter the traveling conditions would've been very bad which would've made travel quite difficult. Since Caesar Augustus wanted a census of the people, it would make more sense for him to require it during a time when people could return to their cities of origin in order to be counted.
Different Dates are proposed for Jesus' birth
- "Since John was born on Passover, the 15th day of Nisan (the 1st Jewish month), Jesus would have been born six months later on the 15th day of Tishri (the 7th Jewish month). The 15th day of the 7th month begins the Feast of Tabernacles (Lev. 23:34-35), also known as Sukkot. Jesus was born on the 1st day of the Feast of Tabernacles! In the year 5 BCE, this fell in the month of September." (herealittletherealittle.net/index.cfm?page_name=Jesus-Birthday)
- "It is probable, because of the circumstances shown in Luke 1, that Mary conceived during the last two weeks of Elizabeth's sixth month. Thus, John was born in the spring of 4 BC, probably between March 18 and 31. By projecting forward another six months to Jesus' birth, the most probable time for His birth occurred between September 16 and 29." (cgg.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Library.sr/CT/ARTB/k/568/When-Was-Jesus-Born.htm)
- "From the 15th day of Nisan (John's birthday), we add six months to arrive at the 15th day of the 7th month, Tishri - the first day of the festival of Sukkot." (hebrew4christians.com/Articles/Christmas/christmas.html)
- "Theologians have also suggested that Jesus was born in the spring, based on the biblical narrative that shepherds were watching over their flocks in the fields on the night of Jesus' birth — something they would have done in the spring, not the winter." (livescience.com/42976-when-was-jesus-born.html)