WHEN WAS YAH'SHUA BORN?
25 DECEMBER, 6 JANUARY, FEAST OF
TABERNACLES, OR PASSOVER, 6 APRIL 1 BC?
Second Edition, 27 December 2011
The Western, or Catholic, Church and its numerous Protestant off-shoots celebrate 25 December as the birthday of Messiah with the Eastern Orthodox Church celebrating a 6 January birth. Most Messianic Jews and Israelites believe that Messiah was born during the autumnal Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) but do not have any formal observance. This ministry is perhaps unique in the Christian/Messianic world in that it used to celebrate the birth of Christ on 6 April and now on Passover. Though a number of Restoration churches also acknowledge this date as the birth of Christ, few if any actually celebrate it on that day. Formal observance ceased around 1999-2000 when this ministry abandoned the Gregorian Calendar and adopted the Hebrew one.
To many people knowing the actual date of Messiah's birth is unimportant. Most in the orthodox Christian world recognise that Yah'shua (Jesus) was not born on 25 December but celebrate this day anyway because it is recognised by the bulk of Christendom. A few groups like the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Worldwide Church of God shun the 25 December festival but, not knowing the precise date of Yah'shua's (Jesus') birth, refrain from celebrating it altogether. Certainly, the Bible nowhere commands our observance of it and birthday celebration in general was litle known anciently, save amongst the rich and powerful, and only became popular during the last few centuries.
The Elohim of Time, Order and Intelligence
We believe in an orderly, intelligent and purposeful Elohim (God) who does nothing haphazzardly. The birth of Messiah was the incarnation of the Divine Life that would culminate in the central event of the universe into which everything would flow impure and flow out redeemed. The death and resurrection of Messiah occured at a special time in harmony with prophecies uttered in the Tanakh (Old Testament). There is good reason to believe that the Eternal Elohim (God) planned not only the exact day of these events but the very hours also. It follows that if Yahweh were implementing a foreordained plan with the intricacy and precision of cosmic intelligence, as is evidenced by the precise forms and timings of the Mosaic ordinances which were shadows of the atonement of Yah'shua (Jesus), that He would organise the birth of the Son of Man with equal precision.
The universe is an integral whole linked together by the Light of Messiah which permeates all matter and space. That which affects one part of the Cosmos affects the whole. Only on this basis could the atonement of Messiah be cosmic and universal, penetrating every corner of both the inanimate and animate Creation. Everything has been precisely set into time periods called dispensations, of which the Creator ordained seven. And each dispensation has itself been subdivided into time zones in which certain events were foreordained by Heaven. It is only on this basis that the work of the prophets can be understood and their ability, through the impress of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) on their minds, to predict with astonishing precision the events of future history. There are, of course, numerous examples of such prophecy in the Tanakh (Old Testament), many foretelling events in the future to the very day of their fulfilment. I have always been struck by the precision of the Infinite Mind and the inability of our finite minds to grasp the mechanics of Divine Intelligence. How, for example, could an ordinary man have predicted the very day that the city of Jerusalem would fall to the British army in 1917 three thousand years before the event? And yet the Bible does. The human mind, faced with such an astonishing feat, bows in humility before the Almighty.
Because Yahweh chooses to work in this fashion it is not unreasonable to assume that He ordained the birth of His Son as precisely as He predicted certain historical events, one of which we have made mention of. There is purpose and intelligence in all that He does. What, for example, would the birth of the Son of Elohim (God) on a particular day mean to us when seen within its seasonal, geographical, theological and political context? Would, for example, there be a reason for the Messiah being born in the spring rather than in the summer, autumn (fall) or winter? We know, for example, that Yah'shua (Jesus) was crucified and resurrected in the spring-time during the Passover Festival -- both Christendom and the secular historians accept this though they do not affix a definite date with any certainty -- why was He not crucified in the winter or during some other Jewish festival? Yahweh overlooks no detail; all that He does is reflected in everything going on, and all that is going on reflects back on what He is doing, each bearing witness of the other, and thus of Yahweh Himself. The divine signature is indellible in every divine act and is duplicated, as it were, by numerous pieces of carbon paper interleaved between numerous events and processs.
Almighty Elohim (God) is precise and operates in divine tavnith or pattern. He is not wasteful, and no human economy can begin to approach or compare with the Divine Economy. We may, with absolute confidence, depend and rely upon an Elohim (God) who is without variableness, whose intelligence and ahavah (love) is matchless. We may comfortably rest our emunah (faith) in Him and know that we will not be disappointed. What He does is purposeful, as is also what He allows, whether it be positive or negative, as we suppose. As the apostle has testified, all things work for the good of those who trust in Elohim (God), whether trials or seasons of simcha (joy).
Christianity and Paganism
It is a well established fact that following the death, resurrection and ascension of Messiah that paganism steadily crept into the Christian religion leading finally to a politicised and essentially apostate Church/Messianic Community. And as all Christian Restorationists have maintained, there followed a spiritual darkness with the loss of the prophetic and other spiritual gifts.
In order to make Christianity palitable to the pagan masses, strenuous efforts were made to associate Messiah with the Roman Sun-god, Sol Invictus. Pagan symbols were abstracted in order to teach the Christian Gospel, and Messiah was readily associated with SOL INVICTUS -- the Invincible Sun. It was thus inevitable that the chief pagan sun-worshipping day, 25 December, the Birthday of the Sun, became associated with the Birth of Messiah. Indeed, the adoption of 25 December for the celebration of Christmas is perhaps the most explicit example of Sun-worship's influence on the orthodox Christian liturgical calendar. Many of the Christmas traditions known and beloved by the West are, as we know, direct adoptions of idolatrous pagan customs.
Having adopted 25 December as the Birthday of Messiah the Roman Catholic fathers were anxious to distance themselves from the responsibility of having borrowed a pagan festival and to avoid being accused of being betrayers of the Faith. Augustine and Leo the Great, for instance, strongly reprimanded those Christians who at Christmas worshipped the sun rather than the birth of Messiah (Augustine, Sermo in Nativitate Domine 7, PL 38, 1007 & 1032). It was the opinion of some of the fathers that both the conception and passion of Messiah occurred at the time of the vernal equinox on 25 March. Reckoning from that date the nine months of pregnancy of Mary, the date of the birth of Messiah was computed to be the 25 December. More recently, some Christians have assumed that Yah'shua (Jesus) was CONCEIVED on 6 April and born nine months later, on 6 January, thus supporting the Eastern Orthodox position and the earlier position of the fathers before the festival was transferred to 25 December. Which ever date is defended -- 25 December or 6 January -- the computations used to defend them represent an a posteriori rationale advanced to justify an already existing date and practice. As far as 25 December is concerned, J.A.Jungmann has written: "It has become progressively clear that the real reason for the choice of 25 December was the pagan feast of the DIES NATALIS SOLIS INVICTI which was celebrated in those days with great splendour." (Joseph A. Jungmann, The Early Liturgy to the Time of Gregory the Great, 1962, p.147).
But what of the 6 January tradition for the Birth of Messiah? Where did this originate before the Western Church transferred it to 25 December? In the Orient the birth and baptism of Yah'shua (Jesus) were celebrated by the Eastern Church on the 5 & 6 January, respectively. All the available evidence strongly indicates that the 5/6 January date for Messiah's birth was a syncretisation of ANOTHER pagan festival, namely the Epiphany, which commemorated the birth and growth of light (B.Botte, Les Denominations du dimanche dans la tradition chretienne, LE DIMANCHE, Lex Orandi 39, 1965, pp.14f). The term 'Epiphany', which still remains in the orthodox liturgical calendar in the Catholic and Protestant world, literally means the "manifestation of a superhuman being". As O. Cullmann has explicitly stated: "The choice of the dates themselves, both January 6th and December 25th, was determined by the fact that both these dates were pagan festivals whose meaning provided a starting point for the specifically Christian conception of Christmas." (O. Cullmann, "The Early Church", 1956, p.35)
All the scholarly evidence therefore clearly points to the pagan origins of the traditional birthdays celebrated by the Western and Eastern Churches and their ultilisation to merely justify syncretisation of paganism with Christianity. There is no evidence that Yah'shua (Jesus) was born on either 25 December or 6 January.
The Testator Luke
By a judicious study of the Bible it is possible to affix the birth of Yah'shua (Jesus) somewhere between mid-March and mid-October. The more enlightened and honest scriptorians, freed from doctrinal axe-grinding, have variously suggested dates between the spring and autumn/fall. We shall look at the evidence for this presently.
Let us now consider the evidence within the Bible itself. The first clues are to be found in Luke's Gospel and thus the testimony of this writer is most important. Luke was a Greek-speaking Gentile (probably from Antioch) who was an educated physician and fellow-traveller of the apostle Paul. From the contents of the third Gospel and Acts we learn to know the author in a very intimate way. He is a humble and disciplined writer, who keeps himself in the background, and lets all the light fall on the great theme of his two-fold book, namely the glad tidings that Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) is both Master (Lord) and Deliverer (Saviour), and that the victorious Redeemer chose, equipped, and used His apostles, and especially Paul, to proclaim the Gospel throughout the then know world. Although Luke in self-effacing loyalty to his Master refrained from pushing himself into the limelight, he does not hesitate, however, to claim in the prologue to his Gospel that he had done a THOROUGH AND INTENSIVE WORK IN INVESTIGATING ALL THE RELEVANT FACTS before he wrote his book. And in the "we-sections" in Acts (16:10-17; 20:5; 21:18; 27:1-28:16) Luke unequivocally claims to be an intimate companion of Paul and an eye-witness of the happenings related in those sections. From the literary style of Luke and Acts, and from the character of the contents of the books, it is clear that Luke was a well-educated Greek. His fine qualities as one of the very best and reliable historians of antiquity are today being admitted by most impartial scholars.
I make especial note of the qualities of Luke and his writings deliberately because there has been a tendency on the part of some to attack the historical reliability of the Gospels because they have not harmonised with their own pre-conceived beliefs. It is not uncommon to blame Roman Catholics for "tampering with the texts" when a scripture is disjunctive with a church's particular belief (Mormons are especially guilty of this accusation). In a few instances the accusation is valid and indeed the occasional passage here and there has been shown to be an interpolation because it is not to be found in the earliest manuscripts (MSS). But for the greater part there is no evidence that the B'rit Chadashah Scriptures (New Testament) has been manipulated by scheming priests; indeed it is astonishing just how consistent the Bible manuscripts are from widely differing time periods. It has been suggested by some that the story of the nativity has been changed by "designing and scheming men" in order to fit in with Catholic beliefs but it never seems to have occured to such persons that if such scheming Catholics had deliberately manipulated the text to create a virgin birth myth to fit in with emerging Catholic doctrines they would not have forgotten to change the text to demonstrate that Yah'shua (Jesus) was born on 25 December or on 6 January too. But they did not. It is inconceivable that intelligent men, changing the original story of a natural conception to a supernatural one, would have ommitted to alter the date of Yah'shua's (Jesus') conception and birth as well. And why such men did not deliberately insert more Catholic doctrines such as the question of papal succession begs further answers.
The "conspiracy theory" becomes quite absurd when examined critically, and has certainly become distorted by sects seeking justification for their peculiar beliefs. It is easy to set up a straw man and blame unidentified (and probably ficticious) Catholic priests for parts of the scriptures not in harmony with pre-conceived doctrine. That Catholics LATER began manipulating history by writing pseudo-Gospels is undeniable but this in no way discredits the existing Bible texts.
A Spring Birth?
The detail found in this account strongly suggests that Luke obtained his information directly from Mary herself. Why was he particular to identify the time of Mary's pregnancy as being in the sixth month of her cousin Elizabeth's pregnancy? He must have considered it important enough to record, for the nature of his style is that he wrote nothing that was not relevant to his message. Luke continues:
"In the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy Elohim (God) sent the malak (angel) Gabriel to a town in Galilee named Nazareth. He had a message for a girl promised in marriage to a man named Jospeh, who was a descendant of King David. The girl's name was Mary. The angel came to her and said, "Peace be with you! Yahweh is with you, and has greatly blessed you!" Mary was deeply troubled by the malak's (angel's) message, and she wondered what his words meant. The malak (angel) said to her, "Don't be afraid, Mary, because Elohim (God) has been gracious to you. You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you will name him Yah'shua (Jesus)....(Luke 1:26-31, TEV).
The sixth month of the Hebrew calendar is August-September, or late summer. Soon after that Mary went to visit Elizabeth and it is clear that Mary had become pregnant a while before she visited her cousin. From Matthew's account it would appear that Joseph and Mary were married before Mary set off for Judea (probably Hebron) to see Elizabeth. Mary spent three months in Hebron with Elizabeth. Since Mary's pregnancy commenced a little before the sixth month, i.e. around July, or perhaps even a little earlier (the scriptures are not definite), Yah'shua (Jesus) would be born somewhere around March-June, i.e. in the SPRING. John the Baptist would have been born in the autumn/fall or early winter, probably around October/November.
"He (Yah'shua/Jesus) will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High Elohim (God). Yahweh-Elohim will make him a king, as his ancestor David was, and he will be the king of the descendants of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end!" Mary said to the malak (angel), "I am a virgin (see Matt.1:18-25). How, then, can this be? " The malak (angel) answered, "The Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) will come on you, and Elohim's (God's) power will rest upon you. For this reason the holy child will be called the Son of Elohim (God). Remember your relative [cousin] Elizabeth. It is said that she cannot have children; but she herself is now [at this time] six months pregnant, even though she is very old. For there is not a thing that Elohim (God) cannot do. (i.e. if Elohim (God) can cause an old woman to become pregnant, then He can cause a young virgin to become pregnant also by supernatural means, because nothing is impossible for Yahweh]. "I am Yahweh's servant," said Mary; "may it happen to me as you have said." And the malak (angel) left her. Soon afterward Mary got ready and hurried off to the hill country, to a town in Judea. She went into Zechariah's house and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby moved ('leaped', KJV) within her. Elizabeth was filled with the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit), and spoke in a loud voice, "You are most blessed of all women, and blessed is the child you will bear! Why should this great thing happen to me, that my Master's mother comes to visit me? For as soon as I heard your greeting, the baby within me jumped with gladness. How happy are you to believe that Yahweh's message to you will come true!" (Luke 1:32-45, TEV - clarifications added).
Is there any further evidence that Yah'shua (Jesus) was born in the spring? Indeed there is, and it is probably the most devastating evidence against those who believe in a 25 December or 6 January birth: "And she brought forth her firstborn son (Yah'shua/Jesus), and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger; because there was no room at the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the fields , keeping watch over their flock by night" (Luke 2:7-8, AV). In Palestine sheep are brought in from the fields in the middle of October for the duration of the winter, which is VERY COLD on the hills of the Holy Land. The fact the shepherds were watching over their flocks by night, in the fields, shows conclusively that the time of the birth of Yah'shua (Jesus) could NOT have been in the autumn or winter (i.e. 25 December or 6 January). After the cold season the sheep are let out into the fields again in about MID-MARCH.
THEREFORE YAH'SHUA (JESUS) HAD TO HAVE BEEN BORN BETWEEN MID-MARCH AND MID-OCTOBER unless it is argued that this text has been tampered with also. And the story of Mary's conception narrows it down to March-June.
 Why We Believe Messiah was Born on Passover
 Springtime for Yah'shua: The Tavnith of Messiah's Birth Revealed
Return to Index of Articles on Messiah's True Birthday
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Last updated on 28 October 2013
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