On that day the Magi, the Wise Men from the East came bearing gifts!
Even though the Biblical record doesn’t give us the date when Jesus was born, we can however with a little biblical and historical detective work determine, within the very narrow prophetic window given in Scripture, not only the time of year, or season as it were of His birth (as it relates to the Jewish Festivals); but also we can narrow it down pretty close to the month anyway, when He was born, as we know from Scripture that Yeshua (Jesus) was exactly six months younger than His cousin, John the Baptist.
So if we can first determine when John the Baptist was born, then we can from that information deduce the approximate time of Yeshua Ha’Mashiach’s birth.
Now I also want to say here, that even though we can know that Messiah Jesus’ birth most certainly did NOT happen on the date that is traditionally recognized, which is on December 25th, that fact should not in any way detract the Christian world from celebrating His birth in this time, as any day and everyday is appropriate for us to give honor and to celebrate the reason for His coming.
Which meaning is found in the message of the Gospel, in that for this reason Christ did come, to redeem all of mankind, of all those of Adam’s seed, who both acknowledge and receive through faith God’s forgiveness for their sins, and redemption offered through Yeshua (Jesus–Saviour), and be reconciled back into God’s family.
His coming then fulfilles another prophecy, which was given by the prophet Isaiah.
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (Isa 9:6)
What’s more, the prophet Daniel (in Daniel 9:24-27) gives us the exact date when the Messiah would be revealed to the world, in what amounts to a mathematical prophecy that caused the “Wise Men” from the East (from the area around Babylon), who had been taught the prophecies of Daniel, to come looking for the newly born King, the Jewish Messiah; as they came bearing Him gifts; and by the way, this prophecy also gives us the exact numbers the days from the time the degree was given to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple (after the 70 years of Babylon captivity), until the Messiah would be revealed to the world and then subsequently cut off (meaning killed) for the sins of the people.
After which Daniel’s prophecy goes on to say that the Jewish Temple (which was Harrod’s Temple) would be destroyed a second time (which happened in 70 AD); the first time it was destroyed happened to Solomon’s Temple, when it was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar; after he had carried the children of Israel off into captivity, that again (as Jeremiah prophesied) was to last a period of 70 years.
So anyway, in our quest to determine when Yeshua was born, as is appropriate with all things regarding the truth on this subject, regarding the Messiah, we must begin in the Tanakh (the Jewish Old Testament), and then as we look to the New Testament, we can clearly see how these over 300 prophecies were and are today being fulfilled in the life of Jesus.
The first mention or promise of a coming Messiah, that is found in the Bible, is in Genesis 3:15, when God talks about how the Seed of the Woman would crush the Serpent’s head (who is Lucifer—the Devil).
This is interesting to note because women don’t have seeds, they have eggs. The seed is the sperm, and it comes from the male; which at the very outset identifies a supernatural occurrence, in that the Tanakh says that Messiah would be born of a virgin:
14 Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel (meaning God with us).
This is but another fulfillment of the over 300 prophecies, that are given in the Bible, that identify who the Messiah would be, and how He was to be recognized, when He came.
Well, let’s get back to my original subject… when was Jesus born?
To determine when that happened, or at least to determine the season of the year it was prophesied to happen, we must look at the seven Jewish Festivals.
Messiah is the center figure in each of these seven feasts (or festivals); and the way in which Messiah Jesus fulfilled the Jewish feasts is a fascinating study.
In the Hebrew Scriptures, the Jewish prophet Amos records that God declared He would do nothing without first revealing it to His servants, the Prophets (Amos 3:7).
From the Old Covenant to the New (Genesis to Revelation), God provides picture after picture of His entire plan for mankind and one of the most startling prophetic pictures is outlined for us in the Jewish Feasts of Leviticus 23.
The Hebrew word for feasts (moadim) literally means “appointed times.”
God has carefully planned and orchestrated the timing and sequence of each of these seven feasts to reveal to us a special story.
The seven annual feasts of Israel were spread over seven months of the Jewish calendar, at set times appointed by God.
They are still celebrated by the Orthodox Jews today; but for both Jews and non-Jews who have placed their faith in Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, and have been Born-again, these special days demonstrate the work of redemption through God’s Son.
The first four of the seven feasts occured during the springtime (Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, and Weeks) and they ALL have already been fulfilled by Christ in the New Testament.
The final three holidays (Trumpets, The Day of Atonement, and Tabernacles) occur during the fall, all within a short fifteen-day period.
It is also believed that Jesus’ first coming, the time of His birth, happened during the Feast of Trumpets, which occurs typically in September, which would make sense, since that would have been the logical time to do a census, to have the people travel to their traditional ancestral city, to be counted and pay their taxes; and it would not make sense to have them do this in the dead of Winter, which would be when December 25th happened; but rather they would do it at the end of the harvest, when the people still would have money to spend, in order to pay their taxes.
Also there is the scripture that the Apostle Paul makes mention of that speaks of the “Last Trumpet,” that would be blown just before the catching away of the church (also known as the Rapture), that is to happen just before Messiah Jesus would return to earth a second time in order to set up His Millennium Kingdom:
Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.
This time is also called Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year), and there is a ram’s horn (a shofar) that is blown a total of 100 times during this time.
Also, you will note that this Shofar is also called a trumpet; in fact, Jews commonly called this event the “Feast of the Trumpets” for that reason.
And so during this feast (as mentioned before) there is a series of trumpet blasts, from the shofar, and there is what is called “The Last Trumpet blast,” which is believed to be what the Apostle Paul is referencing in the above scripture verse.
As each of the four spring feasts were fulfilled literally and right on the actual feast day in connection with Christ’s first coming; likewise, these three fall feasts, it is believed, will be fulfilled literally in connection to the Lord’s second coming.
In a nutshell, here is the prophetic significance of each of the seven Levitical feasts of Israel:
1) Passover (Leviticus 23:5) – Pointed to the Messiah as our Passover lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7) whose blood would be shed for our sins. Jesus was crucified on the day of preparation for the Passover at the same hour that the lambs were being slaughtered for the Passover meal that evening.
2) Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:6) – Pointed to the Messiah’s sinless life (as leaven is a picture of sin in the Bible), making Him the perfect sacrifice for our sins. Jesus’ body was in the grave during the first days of this feast, like a kernel of wheat planted and waiting to burst forth as the bread of life.
3) First Fruits (Leviticus 23:10) – Pointed to the Messiah’s resurrection as the first fruits of the righteous. Jesus was resurrected on this very day, which is one of the reasons that Paul refers to him in I Corinthians 15:20 as the “first fruits from the dead.”
4) Weeks or Pentecost (Leviticus 23:16) – Occurred fifty days after the beginning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread and pointed to the great harvest of souls and the gift of the Holy Spirit for both Jew and Gentile, who would be brought into the kingdom of God during the Church Age (see Acts 2). The Church was actually established on this day when God poured out His Holy Spirit and 3,000 Jews responded to Peter’s great sermon and his first proclamation of the Gospel.
5) Trumpets (Leviticus 23:24) – The first of the fall feasts. Many believe this day points to the first coming of Jesus; and also the Rapture of the Church when the Messiah Jesus will appear in the heavens as He comes for His bride, the Church. The Rapture is always associated in Scripture with the blowing of a loud trumpet (I Thessalonians 4:13-18 and I Corinthians 15:52).
6) Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:27) – Many believe this prophetically points to the day of the Second Coming of Jesus when He will return to earth. That will be the Day of Atonement for the Jewish remnant when they “look upon Him whom they have pierced,” repent of their sins, and receive Him as their Messiah (Zechariah 12:10 and Romans 11:1-6, 25-36).
7) Tabernacles or Booths (Leviticus 23:34) – Many scholars believe that this feast day points to the Lord’s promise that He will once again “tabernacle” with His people when He returns to reign over all the world (Micah 4:1-7).
On the question as to whether Christians should celebrate these Levitical feast days today? I believe that to be a matter of conscience for the individual Christian; however it is my opinion that it is much more appropriate to do that, rather than celebrate the pagan substitution for these Holy Days; but I won’t be dogmatic on that point.
In fact Colossians 2:16-17 tells us “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”
Whereas Christians are not bound under Old Testament law to observe the Jewish feasts, in the way it is prescribed in the Old Testament, we should not criticize those who do; and neither should we criticize those who don’t (see Romans 14:5).
I also enjoy this time of year; but I do believe it is important for us to know and to teach the truth, so as to eliminate confusion on this subject.
The point is, while it is not required for Christians to celebrate the Jewish feast days, it is beneficial to study them; and certainly it could be beneficial to celebrate these days if it leads one to a greater understanding and appreciation for Christ’s death and resurrection and the future promise of His coming.
As Christians, if we choose to celebrate these special days, we should put Christ in the center of our celebration, as the One who came to fulfill the prophetic significance of each of them.
Back to my original subject, as I mentioned before, in order for us to answer the question, as to when Christ was born, we must first determine when John the Baptist was born?
On What Day Was Jesus Born?
While much of the world celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ on the 25th of December, can the actual day of Jesus’ birth be determined from scripture? This question will be explored in some detail, and will yield a result that is quite intriguing. The first passage we will consider begins with the father of John the Baptist, Zacharias:
Luke 1:5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth.
Luke 1:8 And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course, …
Luke 1:23 And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house.
The clue given to us here is that Zacharias was of the “course” of Abia.
The 24 Courses of the Temple Priesthood.
7. But David, being desirous of ordaining his son king of all the people, called together their rulers to Jerusalem, with the priests and the Levites; and having first numbered the Levites, he found them to be thirty-eight thousand, from thirty years old to fifty; out of which he appointed twenty-three thousand to take care of the building of the temple, and out of the same, six thousand to be judges of the people and scribes, four thousand for porters to the house of God, and as many for singers, to sing to the instruments which David had prepared, as we have said already. He divided them also into courses: and when he had separated the priests from them, he found of these priests twenty-four courses, sixteen of the house of Eleazar, and eight of that of Ithamar; and he ordained that one course should minister to God eight days, from sabbath to sabbath. And thus were the courses distributed by lot, in the presence of David, and Zadok and Abiathar the high priests, and of all the rulers; and that course which came up first was written down as the first, and accordingly the second, and so on to the twenty-fourth; and this partition hath remained to this day. — Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book 7, Chapter 14, Paragraph 7.
King David on God’s instructions (1 Chr 28:11-13) had divided the sons of Aaron into 24 groups (1 Chr 24:1-4), to setup a schedule by which the Temple of the Lord could be staffed with priests all year round in an orderly manner. After the 24 groups of priests were established, lots were drawn to determine the sequence in which each group would serve in the Temple. (1 Chr 24: 7-19). That sequence is as follows:
1 Chr 24:19 These were the orderings of them in their service to come into the house of the LORD, according to their manner, under Aaron their father, as the LORD God of Israel had commanded him.
Now each one of the 24 “courses” of priests would begin and end their service in the Temple on the Sabbath, a tour of duty being for one week (2 Chr 23:8, 1 Chr 9:25). On three occasions during the year, all the men of Israel were required to travel to Jerusalem for festivals of the Lord, so on those occasions all the priests would be needed in the Temple to accommodate the crowds. Those three festivals were Unleavened Bread, Pentecost, and Tabernacles (Deut 16:16).
The Yearly Cycle of Service in the Temple.
The Jewish calendar begins in the spring, during the month of Nisan, so the first “course” of priests, would be that of the family of Jehoiarib, who would serve for one week, Sabbath to Sabbath. The second week would then be the responsibility of the family of Jedaiah. The third week would be the feast of Unleavened Bread, and all priests would be present for service. Then the schedule would resume with the third course of priests, the family of Harim. By this plan, when the 24th course was completed, the general cycle of courses would repeat. This schedule would cover 51 weeks or 357 days, enough for the lunar Jewish calendar (about 354 days). So, in a period of a year, each group of priests would serve in the Temple twice on their scheduled course, in addition to the 3 major festivals, for a total of about five weeks of duty.
The Conception of John the Baptist.
Now back to Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist.
Luke 1:23 And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house.
Beginning with the first month, Nisan, in the spring (March-April), the schedule of the priest’s courses would result with Zacharias serving during the 10th week of the year. This is because he was a member of the course of Abia (Abijah), the 8th course, and both the Feast of Unleavened Bread (15-21 Nisan) and Pentecost (6 Sivan) would have occurred before his scheduled duty. This places Zacharias’ administration in the Temple as beginning on the second Sabbath of the third month, Sivan (May-June).
Having completed his Temple service on the third Sabbath of Sivan, Zacharias returned home and soon conceived his son John. So John the Baptist was probably conceived shortly after the third Sabbath of the month of Sivan.
The Conception of Jesus Christ.
Now the reason that the information about John is important, is because according to Luke, Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the sixth month of Elisabeth’s pregnancy:
Luke 1:24 And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying,
Note that verse 26 above refers to the sixth month of Elisabeth’s pregnancy, not Elul, the sixth month of the Hebrew calendar, and this is made plain by the context of verse 24 and again in verse 36:
Luke 1:36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.
Mary stayed with Elizabeth for the last 3 months of her pregnancy, until the time that John was born.
Luke 1:56 And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house.
Now working from the information about John’s conception late in the third month, Sivan, and advancing six months, we arrive late in the 9th month of Kislev (Nov-Dec) for the time frame for the conception of Jesus. It is notable here that the first day of the Jewish festival of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, is celebrated on the 25th day of Kislev, and Jesus is called the light of the world (John 8:12, 9:5, 12:46). This does not appear to be a mere coincidence. In the book of John, Hanukkah is called the feast of dedication (John 10:22). Hanukkah is an eight day festival of rejoicing, celebrating deliverance from enemies by the relighting of the menorah in the rededicated Temple, which according to the story, stayed lit miraculously for eight days on only one day’s supply of oil.
The Birth of John the Baptist.
Based on a conception shortly after the third Sabbath of the month of Sivan, projecting forward an average term of about 10 lunar months (40 weeks), we arrive in the month of Nisan. It would appear that John the Baptist may have been born in the middle of the month, which would coincide with Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. It is interesting to note, that even today, it is customary for the Jews to set out a special goblet of wine during the Passover Seder meal, in anticipation of the arrival of Elijah that week, which is based on the prophecy of Malachi:
Mal 4:5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD:
Jesus identified John as the “Elijah” that the Jews had expected:
Mat 17:10 And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come?
The angel that appeared to Zacharias in the temple also indicated that John would be the expected “Elias”:
Luke 1:17 And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
So then, the Feast of Unleavened Bread begins on the 15th day of the 1st month, Nisan, and this is a likely date for the birth of John the Baptist, the expected “Elijah”.
The Birth of Jesus Christ.
Since Jesus was conceived six months after John the Baptist, and we have established a likely date for John’s birth, we need only move six months farther down the Jewish calendar to arrive at a likely date for the birth of Jesus. From the 15th day of the 1st month, Nisan, we go to the 15th day of the 7th month, Tishri. And what do we find on that date? It is the festival of Tabernacles! The 15th day of Tishri begins the third and last festival of the year to which all the men of Israel were to gather in Jerusalem for Temple services. (Lev 23:34)
Isa 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
Immanuel means “God with us”. The Son of God had come to dwell with, or tabernacle on earth with His people.
John 1:14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
The Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot), occurs five days after the Day of Atonement, and is a festival of rejoicing and celebration of deliverance from slavery in Egypt (Leviticus 23:42-43).
Luke 2:7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
Why was there no room at the inn? Bethlehem is only about 5 miles from Jerusalem, and all the men of Israel had come to attend the festival of Tabernacles as required by the law of Moses. Every room for miles around Jerusalem would have been already taken by pilgrims, so all that Mary and Joseph could find for shelter was a stable. During Tabernacles, everyone was to live in temporary booths (Sukkot), as a memorial to Israel’s pilgrimage out of Egypt – Lev. 23:42-43. The birth of the Savior, in what amounted to a temporary dwelling rather than a house, signaled the coming deliverance of God’s people from slavery to sin, and their departing for the promised land, which is symbolized by Tabernacles.
Also of note is the fact that the Feast of Tabernacles is an eight day feast (Lev 23:36, 39). Why eight days? It may be because an infant was dedicated to God by performing circumcision on the eighth day after birth:
Luke 2:21 And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
So the infant Jesus would have been circumcised on the eighth and last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, a Sabbath day. The Jews today consider this a separate festival from Tabernacles, and they call it Shemini Atzeret.
So, if you have followed the above reasoning, based on the scriptural evidence, a case can apparently be made that Jesus Christ was born on the 15th day of the month of Tishri, on the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles, which corresponds to the September – October timeframe of our present calendar!
Tabernacles Future Fulfillment
It is also interesting to note that Tabernacles was a feast of ingathering of the Harvest (Exo 23:16 and 34:22). If Jesus’ first coming was indeed on 15 Tishri, the first day of Tabernacles, then it is quite reasonable to presume that the harvest of this earth, the ingathering of the second coming of Jesus Christ, will also occur on precisely the same date. The unknown factor would be the year that this would happen.
May each of you have a Merry Christmas and have a blessed and prosperous New Year!