jesus birth

Many people have researched and tried to answer the question, “What year was Jesus born?” Jesus’ birth was a critical moment in history and has long been a subject of theological contemplation and scholarly debate. The Nativity of Jesus Christ is typically celebrated on Christmas Day, December 25, but let’s look into whether this was actually Jesus’ birthday. The Gospels of Luke and Matthew give accounts of Jesus’ birth, including facts like the names of Joseph and Mary, the location of Bethlehem, and the angels who appeared to the shepherds. However, they don’t provide a specific date or year for this momentous event.

As a result, the question of when Jesus was born has given rise to several hypotheses and theories throughout the centuries. The biblical story doesn’t give the year Jesus was born, so how was the date of Christmas determined, and when was Jesus born?

What year was Jesus Christ born?

The Bible doesn’t give the exact day or year in which Jesus was born in Bethlehem. However, a close examination of the chronological details in history narrows down the possibilities to a sensible time window. The details of Jesus’ birth are found in the Gospels. Matthew 2:1 says that Jesus was born in the days of Herod the King. Herod died in 4 B.C., so there’s one parameter to work with. After Mary and Joseph fled Bethlehem with Jesus, Herod ordered that all boys under two years old and younger in the area be killed, which indicates that Jesus could’ve been as old as two years old before Herod’s death, placing the year of His birth between 6 and 4 B.C.

Luke 2:1-2 highlights several other factors to consider. It says that Caesar Augustus passed a decree that the world should be registered, which was the first registration of Quirinius’ governorship of Syria. Caesar reigned from 27 B.C. to A.D. 14, and Quirinius ruled Syria during this same period, with records of a census that included Judea in 6 B.C. Some scholars debate whether it’s the census mentioned in Luke, but it appears to be the same. Based on these historical factors, the most likely time of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem is 6 – 5 B.C. The Gospel of Luke mentions another detail concerning this timeline. In Luke 3:23, we read that Jesus started His ministry when He was about 30 years old.

He started His ministry when John the Baptist ministered in the wilds, and John’s ministry started in the 15th year of Tiberius Caesar’s rule, Pontius Pilate serving as governor of Judea and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, according to Luke 3:1-2. The only time that fits these facts is A.D. 27-29. If Jesus was 30 years old by A.D. 27, His being born between 6 and 4 B.C. fits the chronology. More specifically, Jesus would’ve been 32 years old when His ministry started, which is still about 30 years old.

What about the day of Jesus’ birth? The tradition of December 25 was created years after the New Testament period. It’s the day Christians agreed to celebrate Jesus’ birth, but the exact day of His birth is unknown. What’s known is that historical and biblical details point to an approximate year of birth. Jesus was born in Bethlehem in approximately 6 – 4 B.C. to His mother, Mary. His birth changed the world forever, along with the lives of countless people worldwide.

Was Jesus actually born in September?

The time of year that Jesus was born is a subject of debate, but the exact timing of His birth is nothing to be inflexible about, given the Bible’s lack of detail on the matter. While the traditional date of celebrating Jesus’ birth is December 25, nowhere in the Bible points to His being born in mid-winter. One alternate theory is that Jesus was born in September. Those who suggest that Jesus was born in September make their case using the subsequent points: at the time of His birth, there were shepherds in the fields watching their flocks, according to Luke 2:8. Some sources indicate that shepherds weren’t typically in the fields during December due to the wet and cold conditions in Judea during that time of year. Therefore, Luke’s account suggests that Jesus might’ve been born in late summer or early fall, like September. The issue with this line of reasoning is that the low temperature in Bethlehem in December averages around the mid to low 40s.

Secondly, the idea that Jesus was born in September includes considering a census affecting Joseph and Mary. Some believe that Roman censuses wouldn’t have been taken in winter, as the cold temperatures and poor road conditions would’ve made participating in a census challenging. However, others say that the Roman officials weren’t particularly concerned with the burdens they put on the citizenry. It was either obey Caesar or else, so convenience and ease didn’t factor into the law-making process. Third, and perhaps most significant, the idea that Jesus was born in September rests on the timing of John the Baptist’s birth. These biblical facts lay the foundation. Zechariah, a priest and John’s father, was taking his place to serve in the temple when the angel Gabriel came to him and proclaimed that Zechariah’s wife, Elizabeth, would conceive a son.

Luke 1:23-24 tells us that after Zechariah came home, his wife conceived, just as the angel foretold. Then, Gabriel visited Mary to share the miraculous conception of Jesus, a visit that came in the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. Another critical detail to note is that Zechariah belonged to Abijah, a priestly division, as detailed in Luke 1:5. Using this information, we can calculate that the priests in the Abijah division functioned from June 13 to June 19. Assuming that Elizabeth conceived after Gabriel’s announcement to Zechariah, the sixth month would be December or January. Assuming that Mary conceived shortly after Gabriel shared the announcement with her, Jesus would’ve been born nine months later, in August or September.

Still, there’s one issue with using those calculations. We’re unsure of when the Abijah division of priests served. David created the priestly divisions, which were instituted under Solomon’s reign. However, the Babylonian exile demanded a reset of the divisions and their rotations, so Zechariah’s division could’ve served in mid-June, but other sources indicated Abijah’s course to have finished on October 9 of the same year. An October conception of John would put Jesus’ birth in December or January.

Celebrating Jesus’ birth on Christmas holds deep significance in Christian tradition, even in light of His life, death, resurrection, and ascension. His birth marks the fulfillment of several Old Testament prophecies, highlighting His identity as the promised Messiah. This celebration confirms the belief that God’s plan of salvation foretold in the Bible, came to fruition through Jesus.

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