Bible Questions and Answers

 
     
 

Bible Question:We know that Jesus was not born on December 25. What time of the year was it?

Bible Answer: When was Jesus born? There are several issues we need to consider. First, why have Christians doubted December 25, and then what have historians said was the date of His birth?
Reasons For Doubt. The major reason Christians have doubted that December 25th was the day of Jesus' birth is that they do not believe the shepherds were out in the cold night watching their sheep.

And in the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields, and keeping watch over their flock by night. (NASB) Luke 2:8

Here is an interesting experience from Dr. Harry Mulder of the Netherlands.

During the brief Christmas vacation my wife and I traveled from Beirut to Jerusalem . . . On Christmas Eve in Shepherd Field a crowd had gathered to sing Christmas carols. We joined this crowd and took part in the singing. Right near us a few flocks of sheep nestled. Even the lambs were not lacking. It was a moving sight. It is therefore definitely not impossible that the Lord Jesus was born in December.[1]

This is not proof that Jesus was born in December, but it does show that shepherds could have been in the field in the Israeli winter. It is easy to come to wrong conclusions and arrive at the wrong reason for saying that Jesus was not born on December 25.
Historians Speak Out. Ancient historians have claimed that Jesus was born on December 25 or January 6. The first date is supported by Clement of Alexandria and Epiphanius (A.D. 315-403). Here are the words of Epiphanius.

. . . Christ was born on the eighth day before the Ides of January, thirteen days after the winter solstice and the beginning of the increase of light and the day. (Panarion 51.22.4) [2]

The Ides is an old Roman expression referring to the fifteenth day of the month. If we count eight days backward from January fifteen, we arrive at January 6. This is the thirteenth day after the winter solstice which is December 25. Epiphanius also states that Jesus was conceived on May 20. January 6 is approximately eight and one half months away. Epiphanius is very precise in his dating, giving numerous alternate dating methods not only for Jesus' birth date but the year of His birth as well. Hippolytus of Rome and John Chrysostom add support to a winter birth and give other support for a December 25th birth date.

Conclusion:When was Jesus born? The Bible does not tell us. As a result, we cannot know with confidence. Ancient data supports a May date for His conception and December/January for Jesus' birth day. We have discovered that Israeli shepherds and their flocks along with their lambs are in the fields in December. Does this prove that Jesus was born somewhere between December 25 and January 6? The answer is no. This is not proof, but it appears that December/January are reasonable dates.

 

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References:

1.Hendricksen, William. Matthew (NTC; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1973), p. 182.

2.Finegan, Jack. Handbook of Biblical Chronology. Hendricksen. Grand Rapids. 1998., p. 555.

 

 

 

 
     
 
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