Do you think that Jesus was born on December 25 of the Gregorian calendar, or could He have been born at a time that aligned with the Hebraic calendar of feasts and festivals?

Email Received:

On the Gregorian calendar, used by most of the world, December 25 or "Christmas" generally is accepted to be the birthday of Jesus Christ. During the time of Jesus, though, the Gregorian calendar did not exist. Instead, the Hebraic calendar was used.

Jesus died on the cross on the day of Passover, which was followed by the week-long Feast of Unleavened Bread. So is it possible that He also was born during some other Hebraic feast rather than on December 25?

Ted’s Response:

There is no doubt in my mind that Jesus was not born on the Gregorian calendar date of December 25. Of course, that is merely a purported date, since the Gregorian calendar did not even exist until Pope Gregory XIII introduced it in 1582.

Evidently, that date was suggested by Emperor Constantine in 336 A.D., as a blending of Christian and pagan traditions. One seasonal festival at that time was Saturnalia, a time for feasting, goodwill, generosity to the poor, the exchange of gifts and the decoration of trees. Basically, Constantine merged customs from popular pagan festivals, such as Saturnalia, with the nativity story in the Bible, and that became Christmas.

I agree that Jesus died on Passover, which takes place on the 14th day of the Hebraic month of Nisan or Aviv. Indeed, it was and is followed by the 7-day Hebraic Feast of Unleavened Bread. I also do believe it is likely that Jesus was born on the first day of another Hebraic feast: the Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot, which begins on the 15th day of the Hebraic month of Tishrei or Tishri.

Interestingly, there always is a full moon on that day, just as there always is a full moon on Passover six months later. Therefore, it would seem appropriate and fitting that Jesus was born and died on days with full moons.

Nowhere in the Bible does it state directly that Jesus was born during the Feast of Tabernacles. However, I do feel there are several verses, when connected, that point to this as a probability.

Luke 1:1-80 delineates the fortelling of the birth of John the Baptist to Elizabeth and Zechariah, the fortelling of the birth of Jesus to Mary and Joseph, and the birth of John the Baptist. It also talks about Mary's visit to Elizabeth while both of of them were pregnant, Mary's song of praise to God, and Zechariah's song of praise to God.

In Luke 1:5, it states that Zechariah was a priest belonging to the priestly division of Abijah. 1 Chronicles 24:1-19 names the 24 divisions of the priests, who were descendants of the first high priest Aaron (brother of Moses). The eighth division was Abijah (24:10).

The priests in each division were to travel to Jerusalem and minister in the temple for a week, twice a year, beginning in the first month of the holy year: Nisan (also called Aviv). Also, the priests in all divisions would minister together two weeks of the year: during the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:6-8) and during the Feast of Tabernacles (23:34).

Since Zechariah belonged to the priestly division of Abijah (Luke 1:5), he would have ministered during the third week of Nisan (the Feast of Unleavened Bread) and then during the sixth week after that. The latter would have been nine weeks following the onset of Nisan, which typically begins from late March to mid April on the Gregorian calendar. That would have placed his ministry in the temple in late May to early June on the Gregorian calendar.

While Zechariah was in the temple of the Lord burning incense, an angel of the Lord appeared to him and said that his wife, Elizabeth, would bear him a son, John (Luke 1:11-13).  When his time of service ended he returned home, which probably would have taken a few days, and then Elizabeth became pregnant (probably during June on the Gregorian calendar) and remained in seclusion for five months (1:23,24).

In the sixth month (following Elizabeth's impregnation and the five months of her seclusion), God sent the angel Gabriel to Mary in Nazareth (Luke 1:26,27). She was told that she would be with child, a son, and should give Him the name Jesus (Yeshua), the Son of the Most High God (1:31). Gabriel also added that Mary's relative, Elizabeth, was in her sixth month of pregnancy (1:36). This would have been in early to mid December on the eventual Gregorian calendar, which is when Hanukkah usually takes place (although, in some years, it is a little earlier or later).

Thus, it is very likely that Jesus was conceived within Mary, by the Holy Spirit, during Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights. Since a person's life begins at conception, then it would make sense that Jesus was the "Light of the world" (John 3:19, 8:12) who began his mortal life within Mary's womb on the Festival of Lights. Also, Jesus, who was Jewish, observed Hanukkah = the Feast of Dedication (John 10:22,23). It probably was during the week that began with the anniversary of His conception.

The average length of human gestation in the womb is about 40 weeks, which is a little over 9 months.  If we add this to the timing of Hanukkah, usually in early to mid December, we arrive at late September to early October, which is when the Feast of Tabernacles typically takes place. Thus, it appears likely that Jesus was born at this time on the Hebraic calendar of feasts and festivals.

Furthermore, the Feast of Tabernacles lasts for seven days, with a final sacred assembly on the eighth day (Leviticus 23:34-36,39). A Jewish baby boy is circumcised on the eighth day following birth. Thus, it seems likely that Jesus was born on the first day, and circumcised on the eighth day, of the Feast of Tabernacles = Sukkot.

So Jesus, whose birth was in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:1), most likely was born in a sukkah during Sukkot, not in a stable in December. The word "tabernacle," used as a verb, means "to take up temporary residence, especially to inhabit a physical body" (see tabernacle verb at Merriam-Webster Dictionary).

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the Only Begotten, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

The words in that verse translated as "made his dwelling among us" are literally translated as "did tabernacle among us":

And the Word became flesh, and did tabernacle among us, and we beheld his glory, glory as of an only begotten of a father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14—Young's Literal Translation)

So Jesus tabernacled with mankind for a few decades while He was here the first time. Also, being a Jew, Jesus celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles and even taught in the temple courts during the days of this feast (John 7:1-44).

There were three times a year when all Jewish/Israeli men were to appear before the Lord in Jerusalem (Exodus 23:14-17; Deuteronomy 16:16):

It was convenient, at that time, that Caesar Augustus had issued a decree that a census should be taken and that everyone would go to his own town to register (Luke 2:1,3). With so many people in Israel going to Jerusalem and nearby locations, including Bethlehem, this would explain why there was no room for Joseph and Mary in an inn (Luke 2:7), or wherever many of those visiting Jerusalem would stay. Most likely then, since it probably was Sukkot, they stayed in a sukkah which often is translated as "booth" (Leviticus 23:42,43; Nehemiah 8:14-17).

For out-of-town visitors, sukkahs were provided for those with debilitating conditions such as weakness, an infirmity or a pregnancy. Mangers or feeding troughs were provided for their animals, such as donkeys that they rode when coming to Jerusalem. So this would explain why Jesus was laid in a manger after He was born (Luke 2:7,12,16).

Also, shepherds were tending their flocks by night at this time (Luke 2:8). They would not have been doing this in late December (including on December 25), as the nights would have been too cold at that time of year. However, they still would have been doing this in late September to early October, when the Feast of Tabernacles was taking place.

In the future, after Jesus returns to earth to rule and reign:

The LORD will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one LORD, and his name the only name. ... Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. (Zechariah 14:9,16)

Thus, in the future Messianic era, during the Millennium, Yeshua/Jesus the Messiah will return to tabernacle with us again. Representatives from the nations of the world will go to Jerusalem, where King Yeshua will be sitting on His throne, to observe the Feast of Tabernacles—essentially, a tremendous birthday celebration for the Lord Jesus!

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