How December 25 Became Christmas

This Bible History Daily feature was originally published in December 2012. It has been updated.—Ed.


 

A blanket of snow covers the little town of Bethlehem, in Pieter Bruegel’s oil painting from 1566. Although Jesus’ birth is celebrated every year on December 25, Luke and the other gospel writers offer no hint about the specific time of year he was born. Scala/Art Resource, NY

On December 25, Christians around the world will gather to celebrate Jesus’ birth. Joyful carols, special liturgies, brightly wrapped gifts, festive foods—these all characterize the feast today, at least in the northern hemisphere. But just how did the Christmas festival originate? How did December 25 come to be associated with Jesus’ birthday?

The Bible offers few clues: Celebrations of Jesus’ Nativity are not mentioned in the Gospels or Acts; the date is not given, not even the time of year. The biblical reference to shepherds tending their flocks at night when they hear the news of Jesus’ birth (Luke 2:8) might suggest the spring lambing season; in the cold month of December, on the other hand, sheep might well have been corralled. Yet most scholars would urge caution about extracting such a precise but incidental detail from a narrative whose focus is theological rather than calendrical.

The extrabiblical evidence from the first and second century is equally spare: There is no mention of birth celebrations in the writings of early Christian writers such as Irenaeus (c. 130–200) or Tertullian (c. 160–225). Origen of Alexandria (c. 165–264) goes so far as to mock Roman celebrations of birth anniversaries, dismissing them as “pagan” practices—a strong indication that Jesus’ birth was not marked with similar festivities at that place and time.1 As far as we can tell, Christmas was not celebrated at all at this point.

This stands in sharp contrast to the very early traditions surrounding Jesus’ last days. Each of the Four Gospels provides detailed information about the time of Jesus’ death. According to John, Jesus is crucified just as the Passover lambs are being sacrificed. This would have occurred on the 14th of the Hebrew month of Nisan, just before the Jewish holiday began at sundown (considered the beginning of the 15th day because in the Hebrew calendar, days begin at sundown). In Matthew, Mark and Luke, however, the Last Supper is held after sundown, on the beginning of the 15th. Jesus is crucified the next morning—still, the 15th.a

Interested in learning about the birth of Jesus? Learn more about the history of Christmas and the date of Jesus’ birth in the free eBook The First Christmas: The Story of Jesus’ Birth in History and Tradition.

Easter, a much earlier development than Christmas, was simply the gradual Christian reinterpretation of Passover in terms of Jesus’ Passion. Its observance could even be implied in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 5:7–8: “Our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us celebrate the festival…”); it was certainly a distinctively Christian feast by the mid-second century C.E., when the apocryphal text known as the Epistle to the Apostles has Jesus instruct his disciples to “make commemoration of [his] death, that is, the Passover.”

Jesus’ ministry, miracles, Passion and Resurrection were often of most interest to first- and early-second-century C.E. Christian writers. But over time, Jesus’ origins would become of increasing concern. We can begin to see this shift already in the New Testament. The earliest writings—Paul and Mark—make no mention of Jesus’ birth. The Gospels of Matthew and Luke provide well-known but quite different accounts of the event—although neither specifies a date. In the second century C.E., further details of Jesus’ birth and childhood are related in apocryphal writings such as the Infancy Gospel of Thomas and the Proto-Gospel of James.b These texts provide everything from the names of Jesus’ grandparents to the details of his education—but not the date of his birth.

Finally, in about 200 C.E., a Christian teacher in Egypt makes reference to the date Jesus was born. According to Clement of Alexandria, several different days had been proposed by various Christian groups. Surprising as it may seem, Clement doesn’t mention December 25 at all. Clement writes: “There are those who have determined not only the year of our Lord’s birth, but also the day; and they say that it took place in the 28th year of Augustus, and in the 25th day of [the Egyptian month] Pachon [May 20 in our calendar] … And treating of His Passion, with very great accuracy, some say that it took place in the 16th year of Tiberius, on the 25th of Phamenoth [March 21]; and others on the 25th of Pharmuthi [April 21] and others say that on the 19th of Pharmuthi [April 15] the Savior suffered. Further, others say that He was born on the 24th or 25th of Pharmuthi [April 20 or 21].”2

Clearly there was great uncertainty, but also a considerable amount of interest, in dating Jesus’ birth in the late second century. By the fourth century, however, we find references to two dates that were widely recognized—and now also celebrated—as Jesus’ birthday: December 25 in the western Roman Empire and January 6 in the East (especially in Egypt and Asia Minor). The modern Armenian church continues to celebrate Christmas on January 6; for most Christians, however, December 25 would prevail, while January 6 eventually came to be known as the Feast of the Epiphany, commemorating the arrival of the magi in Bethlehem. The period between became the holiday season later known as the 12 days of Christmas.

The earliest mention of December 25 as Jesus’ birthday comes from a mid-fourth-century Roman almanac that lists the death dates of various Christian bishops and martyrs. The first date listed, December 25, is marked: natus Christus in Betleem Judeae: “Christ was born in Bethlehem of Judea.”3 In about 400 C.E., Augustine of Hippo mentions a local dissident Christian group, the Donatists, who apparently kept Christmas festivals on December 25, but refused to celebrate the Epiphany on January 6, regarding it as an innovation. Since the Donatist group only emerged during the persecution under Diocletian in 312 C.E. and then remained stubbornly attached to the practices of that moment in time, they seem to represent an older North African Christian tradition.

In the East, January 6 was at first not associated with the magi alone, but with the Christmas story as a whole.

So, almost 300 years after Jesus was born, we finally find people observing his birth in mid-winter. But how had they settled on the dates December 25 and January 6?

There are two theories today: one extremely popular, the other less often heard outside scholarly circles (though far more ancient).4

The most loudly touted theory about the origins of the Christmas date(s) is that it was borrowed from pagan celebrations. The Romans had their mid-winter Saturnalia festival in late December; barbarian peoples of northern and western Europe kept holidays at similar times. To top it off, in 274 C.E., the Roman emperor Aurelian established a feast of the birth of Sol Invictus (the Unconquered Sun), on December 25. Christmas, the argument goes, is really a spin-off from these pagan solar festivals. According to this theory, early Christians deliberately chose these dates to encourage the spread of Christmas and Christianity throughout the Roman world: If Christmas looked like a pagan holiday, more pagans would be open to both the holiday and the God whose birth it celebrated.
 


 
In the five-part documentary An Archaeological Search for Jesus, Hershel Shanks travels from Galilee to Jerusalem in search of the first century world in which Jesus lived. Visit Nazareth, Sepphoris, Capernaum, Bethsaida, Qumran and other landmarks as Shanks interviews eminent archaeologists and New Testament scholars about the sites associated with Jesus and other gospel figures.
 

 
Despite its popularity today, this theory of Christmas’s origins has its problems. It is not found in any ancient Christian writings, for one thing. Christian authors of the time do note a connection between the solstice and Jesus’ birth: The church father Ambrose (c. 339–397), for example, described Christ as the true sun, who outshone the fallen gods of the old order. But early Christian writers never hint at any recent calendrical engineering; they clearly don’t think the date was chosen by the church. Rather they see the coincidence as a providential sign, as natural proof that God had selected Jesus over the false pagan gods.

It’s not until the 12th century that we find the first suggestion that Jesus’ birth celebration was deliberately set at the time of pagan feasts. A marginal note on a manuscript of the writings of the Syriac biblical commentator Dionysius bar-Salibi states that in ancient times the Christmas holiday was actually shifted from January 6 to December 25 so that it fell on the same date as the pagan Sol Invictus holiday.5 In the 18th and 19th centuries, Bible scholars spurred on by the new study of comparative religions latched on to this idea.6 They claimed that because the early Christians didn’t know when Jesus was born, they simply assimilated the pagan solstice festival for their own purposes, claiming it as the time of the Messiah’s birth and celebrating it accordingly.

More recent studies have shown that many of the holiday’s modern trappings do reflect pagan customs borrowed much later, as Christianity expanded into northern and western Europe. The Christmas tree, for example, has been linked with late medieval druidic practices. This has only encouraged modern audiences to assume that the date, too, must be pagan.

There are problems with this popular theory, however, as many scholars recognize. Most significantly, the first mention of a date for Christmas (c. 200) and the earliest celebrations that we know about (c. 250–300) come in a period when Christians were not borrowing heavily from pagan traditions of such an obvious character.

Granted, Christian belief and practice were not formed in isolation. Many early elements of Christian worship—including eucharistic meals, meals honoring martyrs and much early Christian funerary art—would have been quite comprehensible to pagan observers. Yet, in the first few centuries C.E., the persecuted Christian minority was greatly concerned with distancing itself from the larger, public pagan religious observances, such as sacrifices, games and holidays. This was still true as late as the violent persecutions of the Christians conducted by the Roman emperor Diocletian between 303 and 312 C.E.

This would change only after Constantine converted to Christianity. From the mid-fourth century on, we do find Christians deliberately adapting and Christianizing pagan festivals. A famous proponent of this practice was Pope Gregory the Great, who, in a letter written in 601 C.E. to a Christian missionary in Britain, recommended that local pagan temples not be destroyed but be converted into churches, and that pagan festivals be celebrated as feasts of Christian martyrs. At this late point, Christmas may well have acquired some pagan trappings. But we don’t have evidence of Christians adopting pagan festivals in the third century, at which point dates for Christmas were established. Thus, it seems unlikely that the date was simply selected to correspond with pagan solar festivals.

The December 25 feast seems to have existed before 312—before Constantine and his conversion, at least. As we have seen, the Donatist Christians in North Africa seem to have known it from before that time. Furthermore, in the mid- to late fourth century, church leaders in the eastern Empire concerned themselves not with introducing a celebration of Jesus’ birthday, but with the addition of the December date to their traditional celebration on January 6.7

There is another way to account for the origins of Christmas on December 25: Strange as it may seem, the key to dating Jesus’ birth may lie in the dating of Jesus’ death at Passover. This view was first suggested to the modern world by French scholar Louis Duchesne in the early 20th century and fully developed by American Thomas Talley in more recent years.8 But they were certainly not the first to note a connection between the traditional date of Jesus’ death and his birth.

The baby Jesus flies down from heaven on the back of a cross, in this detail from Master Bertram’s 14th-century Annunciation scene. Jesus’ conception carried with it the promise of salvation through his death. It may be no coincidence, then, that the early church celebrated Jesus’ conception and death on the same calendar day: March 25, exactly nine months before December 25. Kunsthalle, Hamburg/Bridgeman Art Library, NY

Around 200 C.E. Tertullian of Carthage reported the calculation that the 14th of Nisan (the day of the crucifixion according to the Gospel of John) in the year Jesus diedc was equivalent to March 25 in the Roman (solar) calendar.9 March 25 is, of course, nine months before December 25; it was later recognized as the Feast of the Annunciation—the commemoration of Jesus’ conception.10 Thus, Jesus was believed to have been conceived and crucified on the same day of the year. Exactly nine months later, Jesus was born, on December 25.d
 


 
Learn about the magi in art and literature in “Witnessing the Divine” by Robin M. Jensen, originally published in Bible Review and now available for free in Bible History Daily.
 

 
This idea appears in an anonymous Christian treatise titled On Solstices and Equinoxes, which appears to come from fourth-century North Africa. The treatise states: “Therefore our Lord was conceived on the eighth of the kalends of April in the month of March [March 25], which is the day of the passion of the Lord and of his conception. For on that day he was conceived on the same he suffered.”11 Based on this, the treatise dates Jesus’ birth to the winter solstice.

Augustine, too, was familiar with this association. In On the Trinity (c. 399–419) he writes: “For he [Jesus] is believed to have been conceived on the 25th of March, upon which day also he suffered; so the womb of the Virgin, in which he was conceived, where no one of mortals was begotten, corresponds to the new grave in which he was buried, wherein was never man laid, neither before him nor since. But he was born, according to tradition, upon December the 25th.”12

In the East, too, the dates of Jesus’ conception and death were linked. But instead of working from the 14th of Nisan in the Hebrew calendar, the easterners used the 14th of the first spring month (Artemisios) in their local Greek calendar—April 6 to us. April 6 is, of course, exactly nine months before January 6—the eastern date for Christmas. In the East, too, we have evidence that April was associated with Jesus’ conception and crucifixion. Bishop Epiphanius of Salamis writes that on April 6, “The lamb was shut up in the spotless womb of the holy virgin, he who took away and takes away in perpetual sacrifice the sins of the world.”13 Even today, the Armenian Church celebrates the Annunciation in early April (on the 7th, not the 6th) and Christmas on January 6.e

Thus, we have Christians in two parts of the world calculating Jesus’ birth on the basis that his death and conception took place on the same day (March 25 or April 6) and coming up with two close but different results (December 25 and January 6).

Connecting Jesus’ conception and death in this way will certainly seem odd to modern readers, but it reflects ancient and medieval understandings of the whole of salvation being bound up together. One of the most poignant expressions of this belief is found in Christian art. In numerous paintings of the angel’s Annunciation to Mary—the moment of Jesus’ conception—the baby Jesus is shown gliding down from heaven on or with a small cross (see photo above of detail from Master Bertram’s Annunciation scene); a visual reminder that the conception brings the promise of salvation through Jesus’ death.

The notion that creation and redemption should occur at the same time of year is also reflected in ancient Jewish tradition, recorded in the Talmud. The Babylonian Talmud preserves a dispute between two early-second-century C.E. rabbis who share this view, but disagree on the date: Rabbi Eliezer states: “In Nisan the world was created; in Nisan the Patriarchs were born; on Passover Isaac was born … and in Nisan they [our ancestors] will be redeemed in time to come.” (The other rabbi, Joshua, dates these same events to the following month, Tishri.)14 Thus, the dates of Christmas and Epiphany may well have resulted from Christian theological reflection on such chronologies: Jesus would have been conceived on the same date he died, and born nine months later.15

In the end we are left with a question: How did December 25 become Christmas? We cannot be entirely sure. Elements of the festival that developed from the fourth century until modern times may well derive from pagan traditions. Yet the actual date might really derive more from Judaism—from Jesus’ death at Passover, and from the rabbinic notion that great things might be expected, again and again, at the same time of the year—than from paganism. Then again, in this notion of cycles and the return of God’s redemption, we may perhaps also be touching upon something that the pagan Romans who celebrated Sol Invictus, and many other peoples since, would have understood and claimed for their own, too.16
 


 
“How December 25 Became Christmas” by Andrew McGowan originally appeared in Bible Review, December 2002.
 

 

Notes

1. Origen, Homily on Leviticus 8.

2. Clement, Stromateis 1.21.145. In addition, Christians in Clement’s native Egypt seem to have known a commemoration of Jesus’ baptism—sometimes understood as the moment of his divine choice, and hence as an alternate “incarnation” story—on the same date (Stromateis 1.21.146). See further on this point Thomas J. Talley, Origins of the Liturgical Year, 2nd ed. (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1991), pp. 118–120, drawing on Roland H. Bainton, “Basilidian Chronology and New Testament Interpretation,” Journal of Biblical Literature 42 (1923), pp. 81–134; and now especially Gabriele Winkler, “The Appearance of the Light at the Baptism of Jesus and the Origins of the Feast of the Epiphany,” in Maxwell Johnson, ed., Between Memory and Hope: Readings on the Liturgical Year (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2000), pp. 291–347.

3. The Philocalian Calendar.

4. Scholars of liturgical history in the English-speaking world are particularly skeptical of the “solstice” connection; see Susan K. Roll, “The Origins of Christmas: The State of the Question,” in Between Memory and Hope: Readings on the Liturgical Year (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2000), pp. 273–290, especially pp. 289–290.

5. A gloss on a manuscript of Dionysius Bar Salibi, d. 1171; see Talley, Origins, pp. 101–102.

6. Prominent among these was Paul Ernst Jablonski; on the history of scholarship, see especially Roll, “The Origins of Christmas,” pp. 277–283.

7. For example, Gregory of Nazianzen, Oratio 38; John Chrysostom, In Diem Natalem.

8. Louis Duchesne, Origines du culte Chrétien, 5th ed. (Paris: Thorin et Fontemoing, 1925), pp. 275–279; and Talley, Origins.

9. Tertullian, Adversus Iudaeos 8.

10. There are other relevant texts for this element of argument, including Hippolytus and the (pseudo-Cyprianic) De pascha computus; see Talley, Origins, pp. 86, 90–91.

11. De solstitia et aequinoctia conceptionis et nativitatis domini nostri iesu christi et iohannis baptistae.

12. Augustine, Sermon 202.

13. Epiphanius is quoted in Talley, Origins, p. 98.

14. b. Rosh Hashanah 10b–11a.

15. Talley, Origins, pp. 81–82.

16. On the two theories as false alternatives, see Roll, “Origins of Christmas.”

a. See Jonathan Klawans, “Was Jesus’ Last Supper a Seder?” BR 17:05.

b. See the following BR articles: David R. Cartlidge, “The Christian Apocrypha: Preserved in Art,” BR 13:03; Ronald F. Hock, “The Favored One,” BR 17:03; and Charles W. Hedrick, “The 34 Gospels,” BR 18:03.

c. For more on dating the year of Jesus’ birth, see Leonara Neville, “Fixing the Millennium,” AO 03:01.

d. The ancients were familiar with the 9-month gestation period based on the observance of women’s menstrual cycles, pregnancies and miscarriages.

e. In the West (and eventually everywhere), the Easter celebration was later shifted from the actual day to the following Sunday. The insistence of the eastern Christians in keeping Easter on the actual 14th day caused a major debate within the church, with the easterners sometimes referred to as the Quartodecimans, or “Fourteenthers.”

 


 
Formerly Warden and President of Trinity College at the University of Melbourne, Australia, and now President and Dean of the Berkeley Divinity School, Andrew McGowan’s work on early Christianity includes God in Early Christian Thought (Brill, 2009) and Ascetic Eucharists: Food and Drink in Early Christian Ritual Meals (Oxford, 1999).

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  1. Rose says

    The article is incomplete as it leaves the impression that the winter solstice is December 25th. The winter solstice in the year 1CE was December 25th under the Julian calendar, it is the day when the Sun is reborn (i.e. days become longer). Isaac Newton pointed this out because the Julian calendar was inaccurate and lost days over the years. The winter solstice went from the 25th to the 24th then the 23rd and finally the 22nd. Then in 1582 the Gregorian calendar (the one we use today) was implemented. This froze the winter solstice to December 22nd. So December 22 (modern calendar) is the same day of the year (Earth’s position in reference to the Sun) as December 25 was in 1CE. We should really be celebrating the ‘traditional’ birth of Jesus on the 22nd according to the Solar System (Gods Clock).

    The Temple Complex of Amun in Thebes is perfectly aligned to the winter solstice as well. Every year on the winter solstice at sunrise the glory of god would enter into the holiest place within the temple from the east.

    Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St. John, by Sir Isaac Newton, Chapter XI

    “The times of the Birth and Passion of Christ, with such like niceties, being not material to religion, were little regarded by the Christians of the first age. They who began first to celebrate them, placed them in the cardinal periods of the year; as the annunciation of the Virgin Mary, on the 25th of March, which when Julius Cæsar corrected the Calendar was the vernal Equinox; the feast of John Baptist on the 24th of June, which was the summer Solstice; the feast of St. Michael on Sept. 29, which was the autumnal Equinox; and the birth of Christ on the winter Solstice, Decemb. 25, with the feasts of St. Stephen, St. John and the Innocents, as near it as they could place them. And because the Solstice in time removed from the 25th of December to the 24th, the 23d, the 22d, and so on backwards, hence some in the following centuries placed the birth of Christ on Decemb. 23, and at length on Decemb. 20: and for the same reason they seem to have set the feast of St. Thomas on Decemb. 21, and that of St. Matthew on Sept. 21. So also at the entrance of the Sun into all the signs in the Julian Calendar, they placed the days of other Saints; as the conversion of Paul on Jan. 25″

  2. Stan says

    I always look for simple explanation. The second explanation is too complicated, and feels like the writer twisted the facts just to get his point across. Very Talmudic. First one, the Christians basically stole the date from pagans is more plausible and probably right.

  3. RICHARD says

    Excellant article! Very clear, factual & yet enjoyable to read. I look forward to reading more works of Andrew McGowan

  4. Ronald says

    Noted: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City, Utah) observes, by revelation in 1830, April 6th as the day of birth:

    Doctrine and Covenants 20:1

    1 The rise of the Church of Christ in these last days, being one thousand eight hundred and thirty years since the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the flesh, it being regularly organized and established agreeable to the laws of our country, by the will and commandments of God, in the fourth month, and on the sixth day of the month which is called April—

  5. Bruce says

    There’s one inaccuracy in the article. The Hebrew month of Tishrei is six months after Nisan, not one month as the article states.

  6. LINDA says

    Luke 2:1-28
    2:1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.
    2(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
    3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
    4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
    5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
    6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
    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.
    8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
    9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
    10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
    11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
    12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
    13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
    14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
    15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
    16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
    17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
    18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
    19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
    20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
    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.
    22 And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord;
    23(As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;)
    24 And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.
    25 And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.
    26 And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.
    27 And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law,
    28 Then took he him up in his arms, and
    KJV

    Luke 2:28-3:1
    blessed God, and said,
    29 Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:
    30 For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
    31 Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;
    32 A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.
    33 And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him.
    34 And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against;
    35(Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.
    36 And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity;
    37 And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.
    38 And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.
    39 And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.
    40 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.
    41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover.
    42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast.
    43 And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it.
    44 But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance.
    45 And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him.
    46 And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.
    47 And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.
    48 And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.
    49 And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?
    50 And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them.
    51 And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart.
    52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.

    KJV

    Luke 2:8; Luke 2:9

    Luke 2:8

    And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
    [There were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field There is no intimation here that these shepherds were exposed to the open air. They dwelt in the fields where they had their sheep penned up; but they undoubtedly had tents or booths under which they dwelt.
    [Keeping watch over their flock by night.] Or, as in the margin, keeping the watches of the night, i.e. each one keeping a watch (which ordinarily consisted of three hours) in his turn. The reason why they watched them in the field appears to have been, either to preserve the sheep from beasts of prey, such as wolves, foxes, etc., or from freebooting banditti, with which all the land of Judea was at that time much infested. It was a custom among the Jews to send out their sheep to the deserts, about the passover, and bring them home at the commencement of the first rain: during the time they were out, the shepherds watched them night and day. As the passover occurred in the spring, and the first rain began early in the month of Marchesvan, which answers to part of our October and November, we find that the sheep were kept out in the open country during the whole of the summer. And as these shepherds had not yet brought home their flocks, it is a presumptive argument that October had not yet commenced, and that, consequently, our Lord was not born on the 25 th of December, when no flocks were out in the fields; nor could he have been born later than September, as the flocks were still in the fields by night. On this very ground the nativity in December should be given up. The feeding of the flocks by night in the fields is a chronological fact, which casts considerable light upon this disputed point. See the quotations from the Talmudists in Lightfoot.
    The time in which Christ was born has been considered a subject of great importance among Christians. However, the matter has been considered of no moment by Him who inspired the evangelists; as not one hint is dropped on the subject, by which it might be possible even to guess nearly to the time, except the chronological fact mentioned above. A late writer makes the following remark: “The first Christians placed the baptism of Christ about the beginning of the fifteenth year of Tiberius; and thence reckoning back thirty years, they placed his birth in the forty-third year of the Julian period, the forty-second of Augustus, and the twenty-eighth after the victory at Actium. This opinion obtained till A.D. 527 AD, when Dionysius Exiguus invented the vulgar account. Learned and pious men have trifled egregiously on this subject, making that of importance which the Holy Spirit, by his silence, has plainly informed them is of none. Fabricius gives a catalogue of no less than 136 different opinions concerning the YEAR of Christ’s birth: and as to his birth DAY, that has been placed by Christian sects and learned men in every month in the year. The Egyptians placed it in January-Wagenseil, in February-Bochart, in March-some, mentioned by Clemens Alexandrinus, in April-others, in May-Epiphanius speaks of some who placed it in June-and of others who supposed it to have been in July-Wagenseil, who was not sure of February, fixed it probably in August-Lightfoot, on the 15 th of September-Scaliger, Casaubon, and Calvisius, in October-others, in November-but the Latin church, supreme in power, and infallible in judgment, placed it on the 25 th of December, the very day on which the ancient Romans celebrated the feast of their goddess Brutus.” See more in Robinson’s Notes on Claude’s Essay, vol. 1 p. 275, etc. Pope Julius I. was the person who made this alteration, and it appears to have been done for this reason: the sun now began his return toward the northern tropic, ending the winter, lengthening the short days, and introducing the spring. All this was probably deemed emblematical of the rising of the Sun of righteousness on the darkness of this world, and causing the day-spring from on high to visit mankind.

    Luke 2:9

    (from Adam Clarke’s Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1996, 2003 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

  7. Margaret says

    According to an Orthodox website, there are additional early witnesses to the feast,

    “The present Feast, commemorating the Nativity in the flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, was established by the Church. Its origin goes back to the time of the Apostles. In the Apostolic Constitutions (Section 3, 13) it says, “Brethren, observe the feastdays; and first of all the Birth of Christ, which you are to celebrate on the twenty-fifth day of the ninth month.” In another place it also says, “Celebrate the day of the Nativity of Christ, on which unseen grace is given man by the birth of the Word of God from the Virgin Mary for the salvation of the world.”

    In the second century St Clement of Alexandria also indicates that the day of the Nativity of Christ is December 25. In the third century St Hippolytus of Rome mentions the Feast of the Nativity of Christ, and appoints the Gospel readings for this day from the opening chapters of St Matthew. ”

    Most popular reports linking Christian observance to pagan holidays are later fabrications. The first Christian observances were based on the events from Passover/The Cruxificion to Pentecost/Pentecost. Eastern Christians for two thousand years have called those Christian feasts Pascha(Easter) and Pentecost. Jewish practice was formative of the Eastern Christian ecclessial calendar, not North European pagan practice.

  8. John says

    An interesting read but the question must be asked: Where is the bible-based, prophetic backing for any of it? While there is a great deal of prophecy pointing to the coming of the Messiah, which even points to the year of his birth, there is nothing that gives a definitive date for that birth. One reason for that is, as has been pointed out in the article, the Jews of the time did not celebrate either birth dates or birthdays.
    At no time did Jesus instruct his apostles to commemorate the date of his birth. He did, however, instruct them to commemorate his death (not the Passover, as is inferred in the article, because his death would mean the end of he Law and, therefore the end of such feasts), when he said, “Keep doing this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19)
    There is not a single piece of biblical support for the hypothesis that Jesus was conceived and died on the same date.

  9. CHRIS says

    Ok, Jesus, the J sound is not in the Aramaic or Latin language so where did that come from?
    And The Jesus person was a JEW. So if it is the salvation of the word he was sent to begin, why would not his birth and death be according to the Jewish Festivals? Since his death was during the Passover Remembrance then his birth would follow the Jewish Festival pattern. There is the 3 Matzos on the Seder Table the one in the middle is broken, one 1/2 is broken and eaten the other 1/2 is wrapped in a linen napkin and was hidden. At the end of the meal children are asked to find the 1/2 of Matzo wrapped in linen. The child who finds it ( in ancient times waited for his or her reward after the counting of the Omar) and this coincides with the Festival of Sukkot. In which all the men are required to go to the temple in Jerusalem. The Romans were not stupid. How else could you make certain of gathering a census?
    The place of birth was not in a stable but in a Suka. Which were 3 sided building built for the celebration. The 3 sides with no roof except branches to be able to see the sky. The idea is that you are putting your faith in G-d to be your covering. These structures were put out in the ancient fields as well as in the cites. In ancient times these buildings were a way for the farming community to watch over the harvest as well as it is an “appointed time” by G-d. The celebration is still being celebrated today all over Israel as well as by Jewish people the world around. Now we also can look at when the angel told the priest Zacharia he was going to have a son and what his name would be. Elizabeth was 6 months pregnant when Mary went to visit her. It is noted that the baby in Elizabeth’s womb jump with in her. Counting the days that brings us to the celebration of Sukkot. Which is Sept./ Oct each year on the Jewish calendar. The exact terms I am unsure of now but I did an extensive study at one time. And Being that G-d set things in motion every thing that I can see must coincide with the Festivals of the G-d who chose the Jews as his people. Who set the festivals in Leviticus and a close viewing of this Book even gives that the passover lamb was to be killed on a specific day in a specific way and that a pomegranate branch (piece of wood) was to go from the back of the lamb to the front and that the entrails were not to be removed but to be wound about the head of the lamb. Another stick was to cross the main branch (wood) to hold the cavity open. Does anyone but me see something very graphic here? So Leviticus is the key to what is in the Christian mind for the pagan Dec. 25 time that seems to be in such a quandary. True scholar ship seems to evade the Christian community to me it seems so plain as the “Appointed Festivals” of the G-d of the Hebrew people know as the Jewish People really have nothing done to do with the way the Christian theology presents G-d’s mission. Everything is tied to the Festivals of G-d laid out in Leviticus.

    Thank you for reading my discovery of what I see as truth. The quandary was mine a long time ago and I am so surprised that no one has seen it. and that the controversy keeps going on.

  10. Nathaniel says

    The quote from the Talmud is inaccurate, and moreover a passage a few rows down is better suited:
    “God fills the righteous’s years from month to month and from day to day” – Meaning that the righteous die on the date they were born on.

  11. Rose says

    How can we be sure of the day of Jesus’s birth when we don’t even know the year? The gospels reflect historical events that tell of the birth of Christianity. The Spirit of Christianity emerged when Herod the Great murdered the High Priest and hijacked the religion. Luke has the Spirit of Christianity emerging when Judas of Galilee raised up against the Romans about 6 CE.

    Historically Matthew’s account is based on the events in Josephus Antiquities book XV. Alexandra (Mariamne’s Aunt) wanted her son to be the High Priest. Alexandra realizes Herod has plans to kill her son (the future High Priest) and appeals to Cleopatra to allow an escape into Egypt. They return during the Feast of Tabernacles, and later Herod has Alexandra’s son (Aristobulus now High Priest at 17 years old) drown in a fish pond.

    It’s echoed in Matthew 23:35 as ‘Barachias’ is the Hebrew word for ‘fishpond’, and ‘Zacharias’ literally means ‘God remembers’, while the person between the Alter and the Temple is none other than the High Priest.

    Matthew 23:35
    That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.

    Every family saw this as their own child being murdered, (XV, 3, 4),”were in very great grief, every family looking on this calamity as if it had not belonged to another, but that one of themselves was slain”

    Herod then leaves his brother Joseph in charge of the kingdom while he was away, but Joseph has an eye for Herods wife named Mary (Mariamne). Herod accuses Mariamne of infidelity with Joseph, but Mary was innocent. Herod murders Joseph, then later he has Mary executed.

    All the events are there historically, the holy family fleeing into Egypt from Herod, then returning. The innocence of Mary and Joseph.

    XV, 2, 5. However, Alexandra, the daughter of Hyrcanus, and wife of Alexander, the son of Aristobulus the king, who had also brought Alexander [two] children, could not bear this indignity. Now this son was one of the greatest comeliness, and was called Aristobulus; and the daughter, Mariamne, was married to Herod, and eminent for her beauty also. This Alexandra was much disturbed, and took this indignity offered to her son exceeding ill, that while be was alive, any one else should be sent for to have the dignity of the high priesthood conferred upon him

    XV, 3, 2 She therefore sent to Cleopatra, and made a long complaint of the circumstances she was in, and entreated her to do her utmost for her assistance. Cleopatra hereupon advised her to take her son with her, and come away immediately to her into Egypt.

    XV, 3, 3. And now, upon the approach of the feast of tabernacles, which is a festival very much observed among us, he let those days pass over, and both he and the rest of the people were therein very merry; yet did the envy which at this time arose in him cause him to make haste to do what lie was about, and provoke him to it; for when this youth Aristobulus, who was now in the seventeenth year of his age, went up to the altar, according to the law, to offer the sacrifices, and this with the ornaments of his high priesthood, and when he performed the sacred offices, he seemed to be exceedingly comely, and taller than men usually were at that age, and to exhibit in his countenance a great deal of that high family he was sprung from

    the young man, at the instigation of Herod, went into the water among them, while such of Herod’s acquaintance, as he had appointed to do it, dipped him as he was swimming, and plunged him under water, in the dark of the evening, as if it had been done in sport only; nor did they desist till he was entirely suffocated. And thus was Aristobulus murdered, having lived no more in all than eighteen years, and kept the high priesthood one year only; which high priesthood Ananelus now recovered again.

    XV, 3, 4. When this sad accident was told the women, their joy was soon changed to lamentation, at the sight of the dead body that lay before them, and their sorrow was immoderate. The city also [of Jerusalem], upon the spreading of this news, were in very great grief, every family looking on this calamity as if it had not belonged to another, but that one of themselves was slain

    XV, 3, 9. Salome also added somewhat further against Joseph, though it was no more than a calumny, that he had often had criminal conversation with Mariamne. The reason of her saying so was this, that she for a long time bare her ill-will; for when they had differences with one another, Mariamne took great freedoms, and reproached the rest for the meanness of their birth. But Herod, whose affection to Mariamne was always very warm, was presently disturbed at this, and could not bear the torments of jealousy, but was still restrained from doing any rash thing to her by the love he had for her; yet did his vehement affection and jealousy together make him ask Mariamne by herself about this matter of Joseph; but she denied it upon her oath, and said all that an innocent woman could possibly say in her own defense;

    However, he gave order to slay Joseph, without permitting him to come into his sight; and as for Alexandra, he bound her, and kept her in custody, as the cause of all this mischief.

    XV, 6, 5 But as to Mariamne his wife, because of the misunderstanding between her and his sister, and his sister’s mother, which made it impossible for them to live together, he placed her at Alexandrium, with Alexandra her mother, and left his treasurer Joseph and Sohemus of Iturea to take care of that fortress. These two had been very faithful to him from the beginning, and were now left as a guard to the women. They also had it in charge, that if they should hear any mischief had befallen him, they should kill them both, and, as far as they were able, to preserve the kingdom for his sons, and for his brother Pheroras.

    XV, 7, 4 but Salome and her party labored hard to have the woman put to death; and they prevailed with the king to do so, and advised this out of caution, lest the multitude should be tumultuous if she were suffered to live; and thus was Mariamne led to execution.

  12. Michael says

    Good article, but I find myself wondering what an article in the Biblical Archaeology Society would use “C.E.” instead of “A. D.”.
    I also find it problematic that the author uncritically accepts the popular theory regarding the origin of the Christmas Tree.

  13. Jacques says

    @Rose.
    The year of our Lord’s birth could be confirmed as being the year 1 through new clues given by the Dead Sea scrolls. Indeed there were interesting datas about the cyclic periods of obligation in the appointment as high priests in the Temple of Jerusalem of the family of Zecharias, the father of John the Baptist, the cousin of Jesus who was born exactly 6months before Him.
    So all the investigations are aiming to the 25th december of the year 1 likely being the true date of birth of Jesus.

  14. Randy says

    In regard to the death of Herod, an examination of the manuscripts of Josephus in the 1990s revealed that a variant reading which crept in in the 1500s is responsible for the consensus 4 B.C. date. Manuscripts before the 1500s favored the death of Herod in 1 B.C. There is good astronomical evidence that Christ may have been born September 11, 3 B.C. and that the Wise Men discovered Him on December 25, 2 B.C. In the mists of history that discovery then morphed into a celebration of His birth on that date. It was the date of His revelation to the world at large. The brevity required for comments here is insufficient for me to back up these statements, but more information can be found if you google bethlehemstar followed by a point and a net, and hover on The Study and then click Academic Resources.

  15. Anita says

    I have one question. If the writer of this article is writing on the Biblical subject concerning Jesus, why does he continue to use thepopular term CE, Current Era, to describe the years mentioned? As far as I understand, that is a pagan term to discount the term AD, Anno Domini, Year of the Lord.

  16. Phillip says

    I find the information in the posts just as fascinating as the article! Thank you all for sharing as I have been exposed to much diligent research here! My only problem is that I don’t know where I will come down on this debate because there seems to be more information on the subject than I thought was available!

  17. I says

    “Bible History” surrendered to secularists and is using CE instead of AD and now we are expected to trust them to explain the date of The Incarnation?

    Dec 25 is the day Jesus was born and the idea that flocks in the field disprove that is silly. Check out the latitudes and temps and where flocks are in the field this moment.

    The acts of enrollment were kept in the public library in Rome and the early church used those records as part of conversion catechesis and “The Liturgical Year” by Dom Gueranger (Christmas, Book I) cites a famous sermon by Saint John Chrysostom that fixes the date of Dec 25 according to the fast of the 7th month that Zachary had the vision in the Temple…etc etc.

    The Catholic Church in Rome celebrated Dec 25th as the Birth of Christ from very early AD times.

  18. Rose says

    C.E. vs. A.D.
    The problem is if someone says, Jesus was born in 4 B.C….. invariably some nimrod will ask, How can Christ be born, “Before Christ”? Using CE and BCE dating eliminates such birdbrained (but cute) questions. It’s not anti-Christian in any way, it’s just a way to nullify flippant folk.

    The death of Herod the Great is in both Antiquities and Wars, so there would have to be variants of both texts to change the 4 BCE dating of Herod the Great’s death. Both Antiquities and Wars say Herod the Great died 37 years after being appointed king by the Romans and 34/35 years after obtaining the kingdom. The latest possible date for Herods death is 4 BCE.

    Herod is made king by Rome about 41 BCE in Josephus, 184th Olympiad 44 BCE to 41 BCE

    Ant. XIV, 14, 5 ; Antony also feasted Herod the first day of his reign. And thus did this man receive the kingdom, having obtained it on the hundred and eighty-fourth olympiad, when Caius Domitius Calvinus was consul the second time, and Caius Asinius Pollio [the first time].

    Herod kills Antigonus and takes Jerusalem (38 BCE), 185th Olympiad 40 BCE to 37 BCE

    Ant. XIV, 16,4 his destruction befell the city of Jerusalem when Marcus Agrippa and Caninius Gallus were consuls of Rome on the hundred eighty and fifth olympiad, on the third month, on the solemnity of the fast,…….giving Antony a great deal of money, endeavored to persuade him to have Antigonus slain, which if it were once done, he should be free from that fear. And thus did the government of the Asamoneans cease, a hundred twenty and six years after it was first set up.

    Battle of Actium according to many sources was September 2, 31 BC.

    Ant. XV, 5, 2 At this time it was that the fight happened at Actium, between Octavius Caesar and Antony, in the seventh year of the reign of Herod and then it was also that there was an earthquake in Judea,

    Ant. XVII, 8, 1 When he had done these things, he died, the fifth day after he had caused Antipater to be slain; having reigned, since he had procured Antigonus to be slain, thirty-four years; but since he had been declared king by the Romans, thirty-seven.

    Wars I, 33,8 So Herod, having survived the slaughter of his son five days, died, having reigned thirty-four years since he had caused Antigonus to be slain, and obtained his kingdom; but thirty-seven years since he had been made king by the Romans

    Randy> The year of our Lord’s birth could be confirmed as being the year 1 through new clues given by the Dead Sea scrolls.
    Rose> Do you have a source? I find the anticipation of the Messiah in the Dead Sea Scrolls, but never the appearance.

    Damascus Document, MS B, col 20 (anointed = Messiah)
    “the only teacher until there will arise the Anointed from Aaron and from Israel”

    shalom,
    Rose

  19. Brian says

    Dr. McGowan, thank you for the article. I am sharng it with my Bible Study Class.

    In other matters, please direct me to information concerning the development of Christianity outside of Europe.

  20. larry says

    Mr. Edelsheim on Flocks in the field in winter:

    And yet Jewish tradition may here prove both illustrative and helpful. That the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem, was a settled conviction. Equally so, was the belief , that He was to be revealed from Migdal Eder, ‘the tower of the flock.’ This Migdal Eder was not the watchtower for the ordinary flocks which pastured on the barren sheepground beyond Bethlehem, but lay close to the town, on the road to Jerusalem. A passage in the Mishnah [951] leads to the conclusion, that the flocks, which pastured there, were destined for Temple-sacrifices [952], and, accordingly, that the shepherds, who watched over them, were not ordinary shepherds. The latter were under the ban of Rabbinism, on account of their necessary isolation from religious ordinances, and their manner of life, which rendered strict legal observance unlikely, if not absolutely impossible. The same Mishnaic passage also leads us to infer, that these flocks lay out all the year round, since they are spoken of as in the fields thirty days before the Passover — that is, in the month of February, when in Palestine the average rainfall is nearly greatest.

    Thus, Jewish tradition in some dim manner apprehended the first revelation of the Messiah from that Migdal Eder, where shepherds watched the Temple-flocks all the year round. Of the deep symbolic significance of such a coincidence, it is needless to speak.

    It was, then, on that ‘wintry night’ of the 25th of December, that shepherds watched the flocks destined for sacrificial services, in the very place consecrated by tradition as that where the Messiah was to be first revealed. Of a sudden came the long-delayed, unthought-of announcement.

  21. Deacon says

    This article is interesting but misleading regarding eastern Christian traditions. The Armenian tradition (except when modified by Crusader influence) has never had “Christmas” at all. The feast on 6 January celebrates the manifestation of Christ, including his birth and baptism. Some historians think the 6 January feast began in Nile-centered Egypt; it is still observed (except in the West and in Armenia) as the baptism of Christ. [In the Greek Orthodox tradition, the visit of the magi is remembered on 25 December.] Even the Roman tradition includes the baptism and the miracle at Cana, not just the visit of the magi, in its Epiphany observances.

  22. Kalib says

    I think you will find more interesting information from the Poem of the Man-God written by visionary Maria Valtorta. It stated that Christ was born during the Jewish Festival of Lights

  23. Kalib says

    Read the Poem of the Man-God by Maria Valtorta. its enlightening!

  24. FRANK says

    I do not care about the date of the birth of Jesus. He was born and I am happy to commemorate that event no matter on which calendar date it occurred, which date will forever remain unknown. Seeing that there is almost universal acceptance of December 25, that is reason enough to choose that date.

  25. Rose says

    Another argument could also be made that the dating used in the Bible is based on a predetermined schematic and not simply recording actual dates as scholars like Gereshon Galil have suggested.

    Assuming the first day of the Jewish New year always fell on the new moon nearest the Spring Equinox, the 24 courses of priests (1 Chronicles 24:7-18) can be reconstructed and we find that Zacharias of the course of Abia would have served in the 3rd month which is called Sivan and falls in May /June of our Gregorian Calendar.
    Elizabeth conceived JTB at this time or immediately after and Mary conceived Jesus in the 6th month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy (Luke 1:26-31). That means Jesus was conceived in the Hebrew month of Kislev or November/December. Nine months later (40 weeks to the Hebrews) was when Mary’s baby would be at full term.

    The Hebrew calendar has 13 months every third year (intercalary month). The intercalary month adds a +/- 1 month error the calculations because we don’t know if these were intercalary years or not. However the schematic in Luke coupled with the 24 priestly courses has Jesus born between June and August.

    peace

  26. WIlliam says

    When a so-called Christian publication uses CE to indicate dates that had previously been marked AD (in the year of the Lord) I ceased to read. You have caved to the pagans who wish to root out any semblance of Christian civilzation from our society. It’s a shame. You lost me.

  27. Kenneth says

    There are 3 scriptural/historical proofs indicating the lunar month of the Annunciation. The middle of the 9th month from there fell on Kislev 25, or Hanukkah, which in 5 BC fell on December 25. This was the mnemonic that carried the memory of His birth. Jesus is the Light in the center of the Menorah. Details at http://doig.net/NT_Chronology.htm.

  28. Gonzo says

    Only one person has mentioned the STAR!! Take a look at http://www.bethlehemstar.net !

    It places the STAR on the night of June 17, 2 BC and the day of the cross on Friday April 3, 33 AD. All using Biblical references and the astronomical program Starry Night. It turns out that the Magi visited Jesus in the house (He was no longer in a stable) in Bethlehem on 12/25 of 2 BC, 6 months later, when the STAR stopped. Transposing our Gregorian calendar it turns out the first Christmas was on 12/25 but it had no meaning to them since they didn’t use our calendar system. Christ was already 6 months old. Bethlehem Star .net demonstrates all this. There is a DVD available on this site. Totally safe so check it out!

  29. maikel says

    congratulations Rose: your post # 25 is methodically correct.
    with a little fine tuning it reveals the historic truth.
    m.

  30. Rose says

    Sorry for any inaccuracy Maikel, I was going off the top of my head and June may be a little early ;-)
    The Dead Sea Scrolls; A New Translation, by Wise, Abegg and Cook lists several texts that give very specific details including dates and names of who was serving the 24 priestly courses and when. I’ve never seen anyone reconstruct the priestly service based on the DSS information. Correlating the DSS priestly courses to the Biblical priestly courses would surely reveal something (not sure exactly what, but something for sure).

    Conjunctions are very common even one planet eclipsing another. A conjunction wouldn’t ‘stand’ very long over a target (Bethlehem), They wouldn’t have been able to follow it as the conjunction only lasts an hour or so. Also Herod the Great died in 4 BCE, which is very problematic for a 2 BCE event.

    Personally I think the Star of Bethlehem was a comet like 255P/Levy (2006 T1)
    http://ssd.jpl.nasa.gov/sbdb.cgi?sstr=2006T1;orb=1;cov=0;log=0;cad=0#orb

    This comet passes between the earth and Venus every so often and comes very close to the Earth at times. In the Starry Night Database from 2006, this comet was called Levy (P/2006 T1), and use to stand like a sword plunging straight into the earth every night for a couple of months about 8 BCE.

    Matthew 2:9 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.

    It’s not in the latest Starry Night Database and I’m not sure why. Comets change their orbits and simulating a comet back 2000 years can be completely inaccurate. But some comets do stand up from the Earth or look like a sword. Some comets stay in the sky for months.

    The Magi if in the east would have seen the total solar eclipse of June 30, 10 BCE that was over Syria, Iraq and Iran, (but missed Israel and Egypt) would surely fit the criteria in Matthew’s version.

    http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/SEsearch/SEsearchmap.php?Ecl=-00090630

    That would fit with Herod not knowing the time and inquiring of the Magi. It would also fit the part of the story where Herod kills every boy 2 years old or less if the Magi spoke to Herod in 8 BCE.

    shalom

  31. JAllan says

    As a person of faith, but not a Biblical inerrantist, the citations of dates and prophecies mean, to me, not necessarily actual historical/scientific facts, but the history of the BELIEFS that people had in those days. I had always accepted the Winter Solstice takeover, since it makes a neat pun (sun/Son) IN ENGLISH, but not in the ancient languages. But it does suffer from the fact that Christian observance of Christmas did not become a “party” time for many centuries, so it would not have drawn many people away from Saturnalia.

    It is worth noting that Charlemagne was crowned Emperor of the newly founded Holy Roman Empire in Christmas Day 801AD (the 800th anniversary of the first Christmas), possibly as a sign that he was ruling as an agent of Christ; and the Pope was in on this also.

    But on a deeper historical level, we note that the earliest Christian writings, the Epistles of Paul, make no mention of the historical life of Jesus other than His being crucified. So Paul’s converts, from whom the majority of Christians by the time of Constantine may have “descended” in terms of conversion, were unconcerned during the first few decades even about the LIFE STORY of Jesus.

    Then, about 60-70 AD, after the Temple destruction, the Gospel of Mark is written. Mark apparently ASSUMES that Jesus was born in Nazareth, making no reference to his having moved from anywhere else as a child.

    Two or three decades AFTER Mark, people had developed the tradition that Jesus had to, somehow, have been BORN in Bethlehem and MOVED to Nazareth (to answer the Bethlehem-strict-constructionists among the Jews, perhaps). There were at least two traditions on HOW this happened, resulting in the CONTRADICTORY stories in Matthew and Luke. We tend to conflate them and ignore the contradictions, but they are there: (M) Jesus is conceived and born in Joseph’s house in Bethlehem, visited by the Magi, who “leak” the news to Herod, so they flee to Egypt, then after Herod dies, move to Nazareth to avoid Herod’s son; (L) Jesus is conceived in Nazareth where Joseph and Mary live, Mary makes TWO dangerous trips down south during her pregnancy, one to visit her cousin Elizabeth, and the more perilous one on short notice, to Bethlehem, where Jesus is born; then after Jesus’ briss (8th day) and Mary’s purification period (7 days after the end of the first menses after 40th day after childbirth, with no mention of any danger of interference from Herod), DIRECTLY back to Nazareth to raise the child.

    The presence of two contradictory accounts so many years later suggests that, by the time Christians CARED where Jesus was born, the source of the historical FACTS was no longer available: Mary was either dead or in hiding (personally, with no positive historical justification, I wonder if she, Mary M. and a few of the male apostles who are never mentioned after Pentecost, left for the desert to found what later became Gnostic Christianity, while the rest went on to start the Church, but this is pure speculation), and she was unable either to confirm that Jesus WAS born in Nazareth or to tell HOW He came to be born in Bethlehem and move to Nazareth, so Matthew’s and Luke’s sources each made up a story to fill in the blanks, and they made up contradictory stories.

    And strangely, even then, no one seemed to care WHEN Jesus was born, which Mary would have been able to confirm, so two centuries later, Christians were free to speculate on that detail. The idea that Jesus was killed on the anniversary of His conception, thus was born, conveniently, on or about the Winter Solstice when the pagans were partying, seems to be more plausible than the idea that the Christians wanted to party with the pagans but in the name of their God rather than the pagan gods.

    Whatever the historical facts are, the Spiritual Truth is that Jesus the Christ demonstrated the Christ Presence through His life, and taught us to seek out and nurture that Presence in ourselves and others. So, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah and/or Kwanzaa, and all other holidays of all people! God is with us, and in us, at all times, whether we know it or not.

  32. CHRIS says

    All this amuses me. Who came first the Jew or the Christian? G-d did not even have a burial place for Moses so there would be no “worshiping” of man. Only the”Jealous G-d of Israel” is to be revived. And all the laws Leviticus places all events at the “G-d Appointed Convocations” Rose is the most of the commentators that has studied quite well but her timing is off for the 24 coursers of the Priest Zacharias and yes it was 6 months but not in July /Aug as there are no “Appointed times” that is set aside for Temple worship. There are no Christian Traditions that come from Christianity. It is the G-d of Israel and the Jew who set the tone for all that has happened. Right down to the Revelations in the New Testament. Did the creation of Christianity change The G-d of Israel’s rules. If so how are they relevant to a Jew born 2,000 years ago?
    The term CE and BCE are very correct terms and place times in reality.

  33. JAllan says

    CHRIS, that goes along with my point. While it is interesting to speculate, and investigate others’ speculations, about the birth, life, and death of Jesus, his mission as it comes through in the Gospels was never to ask to be worshiped personally (e.g. Why callest thou me good? There is none good but the Father in heaven), or to be called upon for supernatural help (spiritual help, i.e. inspiration, is another matter) or miracles (e.g. The things that I do you can do also, and GREATER things can you do), but to use his life as an example. And it is the most wonderful example of living with a consciousness of God within oneself AND others; of course, there are other and lesser examples, such as Moses, Elijah, Buddha, Gandhi, etc. of teachers with the same message in other words.

    All the frills and decorations, physical and mental, that we add to our celebration of Christmas ought to be in SUPPORT OF, rather than IN PLACE OF, worshiping the I AM. December or June (and for Southern Hemisphere residents December has the same weather as June for us) makes no difference. And really, Bethlehem or Nazareth, virgin conception or natural marital love, tribe of David or not, was never an issue until early followers began to WORSHIP Jesus rather than following him.

    To this day, devout young Orthodox Jewish women, who do not live in Bethlehem and may not be aware of their tribal lineage, pray that they may give birth to the Messiah AFTER they marry and begin living with their husbands; they would never dream of being made pregnant directly by God, and the same was probably true in the first century also. More liberal Jews do not look for a personal Messiah, but a metaphorical Messianic Age in which all Jews and Gentiles become mutual messiahs and bring the world to peace.

    Whatever the details of your beliefs, honor them and the God within you.

    Amen!

  34. Tony says

    The author did not mention the feast or holidays of the Jews, which some align as being symbolically connected to important events on God’s time table. The Feast of Tabernacles has been cited and linked by some as the time when God began to dwell (or literally tabernacled) among us. The passover and the crucifixion are similarly linked.

  35. Yohanna says

    Great way to spend the Christmas holidays – speculating on how it came to be. As some have mentioned though, the crux of the matter is that Yeshua was born and died according to Scriptures and that He’ll come again to reign on the throne of David and to judge the living and the dead and to usher in the kingdom of the Almighty on earth.

  36. Rose says

    If the 24 courses of Priests in Luke seems to put the conception of Jesus at the time of the Winter Solstice (Christmas), then the birth would be about the time of the Day of Atonement. This fits the schematic theory very well. The Day of Atonement marked the end of the 7 sabbaths of years or 49 year period in Leviticus 25 and began the Jubile. Daniel 9 has the Messiah appearing at the end of the ‘seven weeks’. Note the word ‘seventy’ and ‘weeks’ in Daniel is the identical word. Seventy weeks in 9:24 is שבעים שבעים, or ‘sevens sevens’. The Jubile period was 62 weeks according to the Dead Sea Scroll 11Q13. This is because the 354 day Hebrew calendar (reconciling to 364 days per year every three years) still caused the days and nights to be out of season by about 60 days after 49 years (Jeremiah 33:20-21). The Jubile was an intercalary period. (See, The Dead Sea Scrolls a New Translation, Calendar Texts)

    Leviticus 25
    8 And thou shalt number seven sabbaths of years unto thee, seven times seven years; and the space of the seven sabbaths of years shall be unto thee forty and nine years.
    9 Then shalt thou cause the trumpet of the jubile to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month, in the day of atonement shall ye make the trumpet sound throughout all your land.

    Daniel 9
    25 Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.

    11Q13
    http://www.gnosis.org/library/commelc.htm

    C> Did the creation of Christianity change The G-d of Israel’s rules. If so how are they relevant to a Jew born 2,000 years ago?

    R> The purpose of Christ according to Hebrews 9 was to become the ‘sin offering’ or end the practice of animal sacrifice. Christianity seems to have misinterpreted this into Christ came to end ‘sin’ or evil deeds, but we all know after Newtown, Connecticut that evil has never gone away. This text in Hebrews 9 refers to the ‘sin offering’ or temple sacrifice. Christ ended the Sin Offering in the temple for all Jews. After Christ the temple became the synagogue or ‘gathering’.

    Hebrews 9
    24 For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:

    25 Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others;

    Shalom

  37. Rose says

    It’s no coincidence that the Septuagint or LXX was named after its most egregious translation error. The author of Matthews gospel was well aware of the seven sabbaths of years.

    Matthew 18:22
    Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.

    If Jesus spoke Hebrew\Aramaic then his actual utterance would have been שבעים שבעים as in Daniel 9:24. Matthews gospel also points to the Jubile or seven sabbaths of years which was the traditional time of redemption.

    The seven sabbaths of years is an old tradition as this letter (possibly from the king of Jerusalem) among the Amarna letters shows.

    Say to the king, my lord: Message of Abdi-Heba, your servant. I fall at the feet of my lord 7 times and 7 times…..EA 287

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abdi-Heba

    If I were to speculate then I would say Aaron the high priest of the Levites who separated from the tribes to worship the [solar] calf was probably the Pharaoh Nefertiti and her old man Akhenaton who left the high place to worship the solar calf. But I could be wrong.

    Peace

  38. Scott says

    Jesus was said to be about 30, when he appeared for baptism by John, in the 15th year of Tiberius. That was 29 AD! Go back 30 years from that late summer near to the fall equinox, 6 months after John was born (John was 6 months older, born in the spring passover season), and you get perhaps a Sept. date for Jesus birth, in 2 BC. what is so hard about that?

    for all things on various times of Jesus’ life, try the best source on earth, modesty aside:
    truth1.org/chrono-jesus.htm

  39. maikel says

    Rose writes@ 35: “If the 24 courses of Priests in Luke seems to put the conception of Jesus at the time of the Winter Solstice (Christmas), then the birth would be about the time of the Day of Atonement..”

    If we can accept this simple truth without trying to load it up with NT trivia, we shall more readily see the historical truth.

    Scott @ 37 writes:”Jesus was said to be about 30, when he appeared for baptism by John, in the 15th year of Tiberius. That was 29 AD! Go back 30 years from that late summer near to the fall equinox, 6 months after John was born (John was 6 months older, born in the spring passover season), and you get perhaps a Sept. date for Jesus birth, in 2 BC. what is so hard about that?”

    Which confirms the month but not the year. And an AD 29 baptism is also incorrect.
    Again NT trivia this time from Luke re the birth and all the synoptics re the baptism intrudes.

    Yet as Rose also says: “Christianity seems to have misinterpreted this into Christ came to end ‘sin’ or evil deeds, but we all know after Newtown, Connecticut that evil has never gone away. ”

    It is vital that we find the factual truth to realign Christianity with the message of Jesus the Jew.

    For the NT scriptural message of Jesus is symbolically available for all to see and confirm in our
    ‘people’s sky’.

    Surely we can learn to be like children and look with wonder at the ‘symbolic word of G-d’ that all can freely see.

  40. Rose says

    S> in the 15th year of Tiberius. That was 29 AD! Go back 30 years

    R> If we overlook the fact that Herod the Great died in 4 BCE, the problem with the 2 BCE date in the gospel of Luke is that Augustus himself wrote that he only took the lustrum or census in 28 BCE, 8 BCE and 14 BCE.
    Deeds of the Divine Augustus
    http://classics.mit.edu/Augustus/deeds.html

    peace

  41. Rose says

    should be 28 BCE, 8 BCE and 14 CE (sorry).

  42. maikel says

    Hi Rose,
    Yes the new nomenclature is prone to more typos.
    As I haven’t checked Scott’s “truth1.org/chrono-jesus.htm”, your reply re 29 AD seems to me obscure.

    However, as my reference to it now seems just as obscure, let me now clarify.
    “Jesus was said to be about 30, when he appeared for baptism by John.” is true but it does not mean he had or was just about to turn 30.

    As this was the the tradional age for the priesthood (?) i believe Like was just confirming that at as his baptism in 28 AD Jesus the model HEBREW fully qualified.

  43. Alan says

    First, if the BAS wishes to be pure and consider a reliable source for history they should be using the original terminology as defined by Dionysius (anno domini, A.D.), not the politically correct C.E.(Doesn’t that stand for ‘Christian Era’?).

    Second, there is a sermon by an early Church Father that lays out the second theory presented here (forgive me for not having the source handy). The end result of the sermon states how interesting it is that, after determining Christ’s birth by his death the date should fall on the celebration of Sol. It states something to the effect that the feast of the sun god should be replace the the feast of God’s Son. That sermon would be a very valuable piece of info.

  44. Rose says

    M> “Jesus was said to be about 30, when he appeared for baptism by John.” is true but it does not mean he had or was just about to turn 30.

    R> I agree with you, the Greek text says, “as if thirty”, not “exactly thirty” and a lot happens between the 15th year of Tiberus in 3:1 and Jesus being as if thirty in 3:23 including the imprisonment of JTB. I also agree with the 28 CE dating for the 15th year of Tiberus.

    I reconstructed the calendars in MS Excel and listed an entire 7 year period day by day (about 2500 rows). Assuming a schematic theory Luke seems to be referring to year 6 of the priestly cycle because none of the other time slots for Abijah harmonize so beautifully. Some say the cycle was interrupted during the Passover, but I can’t find this in the Bible or DSS, it seems that the 24 courses were not interrupted for the feast days.

    Although the 24 courses of priests reconcile every 6 years, the individual courses didn’t fall on the same months within the six year period. This is because 354 days per year is not divisible by 7 and there are two thirty day intercalary months in a 6 year period. The priestly service would begin with Jehoiarib on the first Sabbath. This puts the course of Abijah between the 25th day of the 2nd month and the 1st day of the 3rd month for the first year of the 6 year cycle, (assuming the first New Year of the cycle begins on Wednesday as per the DSS). Because of the 354 day year and 30 day intercalary month the course of Abijah would then fall about 50 days later or between the 14th and 20th days the 4th month in the sixth or final year of the cycle.

    Give Zacharias a day to go home and JTB was conceived (per schematic) on or about the 22nd day of the 4th month in the 6th year of the cycle
    .
    Elisabeth’s 6th month would be between 150 and 180 days later. Assuming the first day of the 6th year fell on the spring equinox or March 20 (Gregorian calendar) then the winter solstice would fall on the 168/169th day of Elizabeth’s pregnancy fitting the 6 months. This has Jesus conceived on the winter solstice (Christmas).

    Because the 6th year includes the intercalary month and a typical pregnancy is 280 days, the schematic has JTB born on the first of the year (1 Nisasan) of the 7th year. Coincidentally 279/280 days is also the start of the course of Abija again in the 7th year.

    This then has the Jesus born on the Day of Atonement in the 7th year. This would fulfill Mary’s baby in Luke’s gospel as the anticipated Messiah in Daniel 9 and Leviticus 25.

    The alignment is perfect if Zacharias’ course of Abijah was his first service in the 6th year of the priestly cycle.

    shalom

  45. Rose says

    There’s harmony with the Jubile in Leviticus 25 where the trumpet blew on the Day of Atonement of the 48th year and a special 49th and 50th year was created of about 62 weeks or 430 days because the 364 day year lost about 60 days to the tropical year over the 49 year period.

    In The ninth chapter of Daniel he interprets the Jubile calendar. The Jubile calendar is rewritten in the 12th chapter with the seventh sabbath of years being a seven year long period. The 1290 days is the period of time from Nissan 1 of the first day of the seventh sabbath of years ( first day of the 43rd year). 1290 days later is when the sacrifice is put away (end of the feast of tabernacles), in the seventh month of the 46th year. The 1260 days in the book of Revelation doesn’t count the one intercalary month.

    The 1335 days from the Day of Atonement in the seventh month of the 46th year until the end of the Jubile. This is 49 tropical years, or 48 Hebrew years + 62 weeks, or 42 Hebrew years + 1290 + 1335 days ( minus the 11 day overlap in the seventh month of the 46 th year).

    Luke doesn’t have these intercalary problems that were in Leviticus and Daniel. The author of Luke’s gospel seems to have JTB conceived in the sixth year of the seventh sabbath of years or the 48th year. The priestly courses would have begun on the first sabbath of the 43 year according to Luke’s schematic. The priestly courses fall in different months each of the six years but reconcile back to the same dates every six years.

    This has Jesus born on the Day of Atonement of the 49th year.

    Peace

  46. Rose says

    According to the Schematic outlined above JTB would be conceived on the Summer Solstice and Jesus conceived on the Winter Solstice. JTB born on Nissan 1 or the Spring Equinox and Jesus born on the Day of Atonement (Fall Equinox).

    Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St. John, by Sir Isaac Newton, Chapter XI
    “They who began first to celebrate them, placed them in the cardinal periods of the year; ………
    the feast of John Baptist on the 24th of June, ……..
    the birth of Christ on the winter Solstice, Decemb. 25,”

    HARMONY IN SCIENCE by Dr. Richard Schultz
    “In science, harmony is consistently sought, and frequently created, by the collection, interpretation, and integration of “cold hard facts” and empirical observations. Confusion and discord during early and diligent study of a scientific problem are eventually swept away by an overarching logical and systematic conceptual framework that unifies the data and creates a pleasing context. Frequently, the larger the problem, the simpler is the solution. These clear solutions, referred to somewhat reverently by the scientist as “elegant,” arise not simply from disciplined analytical reasoning and hard work, but with the aid of creative intuition and insight that are the lifeblood of first-rate scientists and scholars. Here again, discovery and discernment of the elegant harmony of basic (or fundamental) rules that govern complexly physical phenomena are the goal of the scientist, even when this neo-mystical quest goes unappreciated by the public at large.”

    Peace,
    Rose Stauros

  47. maikel says

    Hi Rose,
    Thank you for confirming the ‘lost’ primacy of Jesus’ Hebrew identity.
    It brings to the Religion of Truth an essential transfusion of the
    “lifeblood of first-rate scientists and scholars.”

    Although your method and mine differ, the results are equivalent.
    “JTB would be conceived on the Summer Solstice and Jesus conceived on the Winter Solstice. JTB born on Nissan 1 [14?] or the Spring Equinox and Jesus born on the Day of Atonement [Tishri ?] (Fall Equinox).”

    Newton was a sincere scientist; but he was not as Hebraic-aware as Einstein was. Yet both failed to receive and share the grace Jesus and JTB brought to Humankind to enable the ‘realignment’ of Time and Space. To once more recover a harmony of the solar and lunar measures [as in Genesis 1-2:4a].

    And his orientation, though harmonic scientifically, is a polar distortion of the Hebrew religion. For Christians corrupted the orignal Hebrew to match the pagan superstitions of a derivative synoptic Christianity.

    Your quote from Schultz explains how he was so disabled:
    “the larger the problem, the simpler is the solution… referred to by the scientist as ‘elegant,’ arise[s] not simply from disciplined analytical reasoning and hard work, but with the aid of creative intuition and insight. ”

    Yet his insghtful and ‘elegant’ Newtonian apple is here blighted by Christianity’s patriarchal Edenic deformation.

    But with the grace of Hebraic feminine wisdom “discovery and discernment of the elegant harmony of… rules that govern complexly physical phenomena are” readily received.

    Only by this ‘kabbalah’ is “the goal of the scientist, even when this neo-mystical quest goes unappreciated by the public at large.” revealed to all believers in Truth.

    with Justice in Peace,
    maikel annahlee

  48. maikel says

    Hi Alan,

    I agree. The term “Christian” is so ‘loaded’ with patriarchal supremacy that it is an affront to Humankind and especially non-Christians.
    And as it doesn’t make dating any more accurate, which is also an added insult to Christians.

    If BC and AD are to be replaced, then surely BJ [before Jesus] and AJ [after jesus] are their vernacular equivalents?
    Also the new abbreviation is confusing in conversation as well as in typing.

    Your second point on the sermon confirms how opportunistic Christianity deformed the original Hebraic tradition even before [?] Dionysius did.
    The irony of the continuing failure of Religion to validate Science and Science to validate Religion, is plain to see for all believers in Truth.

    So to affirm Jesus 2017th year of birth with self-respect to both him and us, we should:
    i) restore the primacy of the original gospel of John in all its redactions
    ii) reform the synoptics to accord with and not detract from John’s record of historical Truth.

    Thereby Religion and Science can finally be historical co-validators of gospel scripture for: “Truth cannot contradict Truth.”

  49. Rose says

    The practical problem with BC and AD dating is that BC means “Before Christ”. If we discover some scroll in a jar that is the actual Birth Certificate of Jesus (OK I know), and it says his birth was in the year 8 BCE (for example), then what? Do we re-write every history book? Does that mean Columbus discovered the world in 1500, not 1492? Would our current year jump from 2012 to 2020? Or do we just say Jesus was born 8 years before Christ?

    Historically the ‘AD’ dating system was devised in 525 CE by Dionysius Exiguus a Catholic Monk and member of the Sancta Sedes doicese, who never explained why he picked 1 CE as the birth year of Jesus. The AD/BC dating system was put in place by church administrators 500 years after the death of Jesus, and is equally used by Atheists with no regard to when Jesus was born.

    Thanks Maikel for the incentive to put all of this in the computer and crunch some numbers.

    Peace Everybody!

  50. maikel says

    Hi Rose,
    Number cunching? Surely not for BC/AD?

    1. Since these terms mix english and latin, AD sometimes becomes ‘after death’ .
    Since neither is accurate their only purpose is to define before and after the + and – change over.

    BC does so but AC is already ‘taken’.
    So why not keep to the vernacular with BJ/AJ?
    As Jesus never referred to himself as Christ or Lord BC and AD lack integrity.
    And the divide is unchanged by any proving of the date of his birth .

    2. Was Dionysius Exiguus so incompetent that he never had a latin partner for his AD?

    Whether you translate ‘C’ as Common or Christian BCE and CE creates a clumsy imbalance compared to BJ/AJ.

    Jesus is also a more authentic point of reference even for atheists.

    And since God’s record of the birth and death of Jesus and JB is available to us all without number crunching; we can reasonably expect even Benedict XVI to confirm them.

    For even the remaining scraps and patches of God’s scriptural record enable our Science to numerically validate Truth in our Monotheistic Religion.[sic]

    then why Catholic Monk and member of the Sancta Sedes doicese, who never explained why he picked 1 CE as the birth year of Jesus. The AD/BC dating system was put in place by church administrators 500 years after the death of Jesus, and is equally used by Atheists with no regard to when Jesus was born.

    Thanks Maikel for the incentive to put all of this in the computer and crunch some numbers.

    Peace Everybody

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    [...] was taken from the Roman celebration of Sol Invictus. More plausibly, December 25 happens to be 9 months after the death of Jesus. This would mean that he was killed and conceived on the same day, a nice [...]

  22. Could Seventh-day Adventist Celebrate Christmas? | Simul Justus Et Peccator Blog linked to this post on August 22, 2013

    [...] [15] Finally, in about 200 C.E., a Christian teacher in Egypt makes reference to the date Jesus was born. According to Clement of Alexandria, several different days had been proposed by various Christian groups. Surprising as it may seem, Clement doesn’t mention December 25 at all. Clement writes: “There are those who have determined not only the year of our Lord’s birth, but also the day; and they say that it took place in the 28th year of Augustus, and in the 25th day of [the Egyptian month] Pachon [May 20 in our calendar] … And treating of His Passion, with very great accuracy, some say that it took place in the 16th year of Tiberius, on the 25th of Phamenoth [March 21]; and others on the 25th of Pharmuthi [April 21] and others say that on the 19th of Pharmuthi [April 15] the Savior suffered. Further, others say that He was born on the 24th or 25th of Pharmuthi [April 20 or 21].” See: Clement, Stromateis 1.21.145. In addition, Christians in Clement’s native Egypt seem to have known a commemoration of Jesus’ baptism—sometimes understood as the moment of his divine choice, and hence as an alternate “incarnation” story—on the same date (Stromateis 1.21.146). See further on this point Thomas J. Talley, Origins of the Liturgical Year, 2nd ed. (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1991), pp. 118–120, drawing on Roland H. Bainton, “Basilidian Chronology and New Testament Interpretation,” Journal of Biblical Literature 42 (1923), pp. 81–134; and now especially Gabriele Winkler, “The Appearance of the Light at the Baptism of Jesus and the Origins of the Feast of the Epiphany,” in Maxwell Johnson, ed., Between Memory and Hope: Readings on the Liturgical Year (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2000), pp. 291–347. I am indebted to Andrew McGowan, on his article entitled, “How December 25 Became Christmas,” (http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-topics/new-testament/how-december-25-became-christ…). [...]

  23. The 12 things I hate about Christmas | blondehairbrowndog linked to this post on November 11, 2013

    [...] 2. Jesus wasn’t even BORN in December. He was more likely born in March.  Not the Winter. Do you really think that the Shepherds would have been tending to their flock outside in the middle of winter? No. It gets cold in Israel . It snows. Just not on Jesus’ birthday. There’s a great article about how December 25th became Christmas here [...]

  24. Voice in the Wilderness linked to this post on November 17, 2013

    [...] related in apocryphal writings such as the Infancy Gospel of Thomas and the Proto-Gospel of James.b These texts provide everything from the names of Jesus’ grandparents to the details of his [...]

  25. Christian Christmas Grinches | Briarwood & Cloud linked to this post on November 20, 2013

    [...] As though the Incarnation is not an essential, miraculous, mysterious, wondrous faith event to be contemplated and meditated on and celebrated in… oh… say February.  As though Jesus was really born on December 25th. [...]

  26. How the real meaning of Christmas has been forgotten by Ken Grant | Celebrations 360 linked to this post on November 25, 2013

    [...] Jesus. While the Easter celebration tradition is very early in the Christian historical record, the Christmas celebration took more time to develop. It was not until the fourth century that the western church tradition [...]

  27. How December 25th Became Christmas | New Life Narrabri linked to this post on December 1, 2013

    [...] indication that Jesus’ birth was not marked with similar festivities at that place and time.1 As far as we can tell, Christmas was not celebrated at all at this [...]

  28. The Christmas Propaganda War | Daniel Tomberlin linked to this post on December 2, 2013

    [...] honoring the Roman god Saturn. Early Christians had speculated that Jesus was born on December 25 (click here for more). The public controversy was political and [...]

  29. Word Up 245 — New Church Family newsletter | GayDaytona.com linked to this post on December 4, 2013

    [...] For more details, here is the link to McGowan’s article — http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-topics/new-testament/how-december-25-became-christ… [...]

  30. The reason for the season? | The Unpackaged Eye linked to this post on December 4, 2013

    [...] a claim than Jesus to be “the reason for the season” of Christmas. Scholars have also proposed that the date of Christmas was set at nine months after the Passover, on the assumption that Jesus [...]

  31. This Week’s Best in Catholic Apologetics -/- DavidLGray.INFO linked to this post on December 6, 2013

    [...] Abortion Is a Threat to the Very Existence of the Nation – Agenzia Fides TIMELY CLASSIC: How December 25 Became Christmas – Andrew McGowan VIDEO: Steven Lawson – Catholic Convert from Agnosticism – The [...]

  32. The coming of the light | ThinkBannedThoughts Blog linked to this post on December 6, 2013

    [...] No, not the baby Jesus, he was born in the spring. [...]

  33. December 25 | Young Adults of Christ the King linked to this post on December 9, 2013

    [...] By Nancy Mitchell When was Jesus born? Not on December 25th. Probably sometime in the spring, with an unwed mother and some dirty shepherds (and an angel choir) to celebrate the balmy night of his birth. So why do we celebrate his nativity at the very end of the year? Pagans. That’s when the Romans used to celebrate the winter solstice. It was their holiday, the story goes, and we stole it. Cleverly, we appropriated it, and made it all about a little baby born in a barn. Centuries before his birth, throughout the Roman world the end of December marked the celebration of ‘the waxing of the light.’* Living as we do in an age of electric lighting, I don’t think we truly understand darkness. I remember the first time I went camping. I was 14. I didn’t realize it was possible for it to be that dark. I literally could not see my hand in front of my face. The tenuous light of a flashlight, the faraway light of the stars: I had never known I could be so grateful for these little things. The pagans understood darkness. They lived with darkness. On the winter solstice they celebrated the longest night of the year. It was an article of faith to them that the light would come again. They had not been forgotten. It would not be this dark ever again. I don’t think we understand darkness. Our world is full of injustice, and we are far more complacent than we ought to be. Sometimes I hate to read the news, because there are so many bad things happening and it seems so hopeless. It would be easier not to think about it at all. But there is no reason to be afraid. We can face the darkness and still rejoice, because we know that the night is already over. The true light that gives light to all men has come into the world.** On the night that he was born, the darkness began to abate. Peace on earth, said the angels, and goodwill towards men. It would never be this dark, ever again. The pagans understood darkness. They knew what it mean to wait, in darkness, for a long, long time. They loved the light, and they celebrated its return. How appropriate, then, for us to celebrate his birth at the darkest time of the year. Our light has come. *Two Roman winter solstice festivals were Brumalia and Saturnalia. The festival of Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, or the birthday of the sun god, was celebrated in Rome on December 25, but it is unclear whether this festival predated Christmas or not. **This is John 1:9. ***Some scholars reject entirely the idea that the December 25th date was chosen for its coincidence with the Winter Solstice (or with the birthday of the sun god) and instead maintain that December 25th was chosen because it was nine months distant from March 25, celebrated as the day of the Annunciation. More on that here and here. [...]

  34. How December 25 Became Christmas | De Civitate Dei linked to this post on December 10, 2013

    [...] Read on here for more… Share this:Digg Pin ItShare on TumblrEmailPrintLike this:Like Loading… [...]

  35. A Blended Christmas Story | Simplicity Redesigned linked to this post on December 12, 2013

    [...] Bible History Daily [...]

  36. Why Christmas in December? | Writings of Branko's Blog linked to this post on December 13, 2013

    [...] from Andrew McGowan. It is quite inspiring and has a lot of interesting facts from the past: http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-topics/new-testament/how-december-25-became-christ… Share this:FacebookEmailTwitterPrintGoogleLinkedInLike this:Like [...]

  37. Reblog: How December 25 Became Christmas | Everywhere Present Filling All Things linked to this post on December 15, 2013

    [...] related in apocryphal writings such as the Infancy Gospel of Thomas and the Proto-Gospel of James.b These texts provide everything from the names of Jesus’ grandparents to the details of his [...]

  38. Why is Christmas on December 25? | Praedicare linked to this post on December 15, 2013

    [...] refer to this link.  I thank Biblical Archeology for this [...]

  39. Christmas Wars: Then and Now | Veracity linked to this post on December 17, 2013

    [...] Much of this post was adapted from the resources I link to above, but by far the most informative article I found was from BiblicalArchaeology.org, by Andrew McGowan, President …. [...]

  40. Julekildene | Bjørn Are Davidsens blogg linked to this post on December 18, 2013

    [...] den romerske delen har Andrew McGowan en bra gjennomgang i How December 25 became Christmas der han oppsummerer diskusjonen i lys av [...]

  41. Some of my Favorite Christmas Characters: Mary and Nicholas | Creation Science 4 Kids linked to this post on December 18, 2013

    [...] Biblical Archaeology: Why Dec 25th? [...]

  42. Onko joulu sittenkin alunperin kristillinen juhla? linked to this post on December 18, 2013

    [...] Andrew McGowan: How December 25 became Christmas? Bible History Daily, vierailtu 18.12. [...]

  43. Noah's Ark Has Been Found. Why Are They Keeping Us In The Dark? December 13, 2013 - Page 6 linked to this post on December 24, 2013

    [...] indication that Jesus’ birth was not marked with similar festivities at that place and time.1 As far as we can tell, Christmas was not celebrated at all at this point. This stands in sharp [...]

  44. Merry Christmas 2013 | Mr. Cool linked to this post on December 24, 2013

    [...] did some online research and found some interesting article. Rate this:Like this:Like [...]

  45. December 25 Feast of the Day – The Nativity of Our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ | The Onion Dome linked to this post on December 25, 2013

    [...] December 25 (Chronicon Blog) Sol Invictus evidently not a precursor to Christmas (Chronicon Blog) How December 25 Became Christmas (Bible History Daily) Sol Invictus (Wikipedia) Icon from stjohnmemphis.com (Public domain according to this rule). The [...]

  46. How December 25 Became Christmas | Taylor Halverson linked to this post on December 25, 2013

    [...] An insightful article on Biblical Archaeology about the dating of Christmas and other Christian holi…  Some argue that Jesus was conceived on April 6, born on January 6, and crucified on April 6.  Cyclical views of time where significant events fall on certain, specific, special days (perhaps borrowing from Judaism) may be more informative to the development of these dating traditions rather than linear notions of time, which are quite western. [...]

  47. I am a Muslim that Celebrates Christmas – And You Should Too | Pakistanis for Peace linked to this post on December 26, 2013

    [...] of the pagan god Mithra (also referred to as the sun) which was the pagan god of light. With Constantine accepting Hazrat Isa as the Messiah (meaning saviour) he declared that Hazrat Isa was the true [...]

  48. The holiday in disguise | Nova Safo linked to this post on December 26, 2013

    [...] And, of course, we know through lots of scholarly research that December 25 is almost certainly not the actual date of Jesus’ birth. Sure, we may spend a few hours in church. Personally, I love midnight mass on Christmas Eve, [...]

  49. Get It Right and Prepare For The Coming of The Lord | christisourvictory linked to this post on December 27, 2013

    [...] Maybe. The standard story is that December 25 was adopted after Constantine’s conversion to Christianity because it was on a pagan holiday and the winter solstice. Christians then co-opted the holiday and Christianized it. What’s interesting is that the early church put almost no emphasis on celebrating the birth of Christ. They were much more concerned with the resurrection. It’s not until AD 200 where possible dates are mentioned for the celebrating of Christ’s birth. By about AD 300 there were two dates: December 25 (for the west) and January 6 (for the east). There does seem to be a tradition of December 25 long before Constantine’s conversion, so that’s why I say maybe. This article from the Biblical Archaeology Review gives a good summary of “How December 25 Became Christmas.” http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-topics/new-testament/how-december-25-became-christ… [...]

  50. How December 25th Became Christmas | D's Blog linked to this post on December 27, 2013

    [...] indication that Jesus’ birth was not marked with similar festivities at that place and time.1As far as we can tell, Christmas was not celebrated at all at this [...]

  51. the Jesus Event | End of Year Happenings linked to this post on December 27, 2013

    [...] I wanted to share with you an excellent article from the Biblical Archaeological Review. You can check out the article over HERE. Spoiler alert- Jesus was probably, most definitely, not born on December 25. Find out [...]

  52. un-christmas | Find Your Niche linked to this post on December 28, 2013

    [...] Christmas-on-the-day is a farce anyway. Most scholars agree that historical Jesus wasn’t born anywhere near December 25. Mistletoe and the Yule log come straight from my ancestors, the pagan Norsemen. And the whole gift [...]

  53. The fetus is a parasite, abortion is like plucking out a hair: how much does Jerry Coyne really know about biology? | Uncommon Descent linked to this post on December 29, 2013

    [...] in pursuing the matter further, I would strongly recommend Andrew McGowan’s article, How December 25 became Christmas (Biblical Archaeology Society, December 7, [...]

  54. Ann Coulter Thinks Kwanzaa Isn’t a Holiday, but It’s No Less Real Than Christmas | Radio Free linked to this post on December 31, 2013

    [...] around the existing Winter Solstice as a means to convert pagans to Christianity. December 25 might not even be Jesus’s birthday. These dates were just useful to the early Christians. There’s also that whole thing about [...]

  55. Ann Coulter Thinks Kwanzaa Isn’t a Holiday, but It’s No Less Real Than Christmas « INTLFACES linked to this post on December 31, 2013

    [...] around the existing Winter Solstice as a means to convert pagans to Christianity. December 25 might not even be Jesus's birthday. These dates were just useful to the early Christians. There's also that whole thing about [...]

  56. Ann Coulter Thinks Kwanzaa Isn't a Holiday, but It's No Less Real Than Christmas - | Bharat Press linked to this post on December 31, 2013

    [...] Solstice as a means to convert pagans to Christianity. December 25 might not even be Jesus's birthday. These dates were just helpful [...]

  57. Ann Coulter Thinks Kwanzaa Isn’t a Holiday, but It’s No Less Real Than Christmas | Obsession Systems | Arash Dibazar Pick Up Artist · Psychology · Dating · Hypnosis · Lifestyle · Entertainment | Arash Dibazar PUA Mind Control · Voodoo Hy linked to this post on December 31, 2013

    [...] around the existing Winter Solstice as a means to convert pagans to Christianity. December 25 might not even be Jesus’s birthday. These dates were just useful to the early Christians. There’s also that whole thing about [...]

  58. Ann Coulter Thinks Kwanzaa Isn't a Holiday, but It's No Less Real Than Christmas - Right Kind of Revolution linked to this post on January 1, 2014

    [...] around the existing Winter Solstice as a means to convert pagans to Christianity . December 25 might not even be Jesus's birthday . These dates were just useful to the early Christians. There's also that whole thing about [...]

  59. Why is Christmas in the winter? Not the reason you thought, says New Testament scholar | Freethinking Jew linked to this post on January 4, 2014

    [...] this interesting article (here) in Biblical Archaeology Review, New Testament scholar Andrew McGowan goes through the sources and [...]

  60. Is January 6th The Real Christmas? - Cracked History linked to this post on January 6, 2014

    [...] main source for this entry on Cracked History was the online article available here, but additional information on Christmas in general, particularly the holiday’s evolution and [...]

  61. IN CHRISTMAS, whom we celebrate..., to Santa Calus, Harry Potter, or Jesus? - Page 6 - Religious Education Forum linked to this post on January 12, 2014

    [...] but since I don't have it with me, I can't directly quote. Instead I'd offer the following; How December 25 Became Christmas – Biblical Archaeology Society This doesn't actually support the pagan festival theory, and like I said, I'm trying to be [...]

  62. How Did December 25 Become Christmas? | Wascana Fellowship linked to this post on January 13, 2014

    [...] As it turns out, I may have been wrong about a pagan connection with the choosing of the date of December 25. It would seem that the church settled on that date due to some interesting, and probably Jewish-inspired, mental gymnastics. The details can be found in an article written for the Biblical Archaeological Society titled “How December 25 Became Christmas.” [...]

  63. Roman Emperor Constantine - Page 2 - Christian Chat Rooms & Forums linked to this post on January 21, 2014

    [...] on birth dates for the Patriarchs, particularly Isaac. All of what I've described is written about in more detail here, complete with a bibliography consisting mostly of primary writings from the people I mentioned. At the end of the day, I think [...]

  64. Who Needs Christ During Christmas? | Lost Little Lutheran linked to this post on February 8, 2014

    [...] December 25th. Actually, nobody knows what his truth birthday is. If you want to do some digging, here’s a good website that might help you along. In short, theologians struggled to figure out the exact date, and [...]

  65. Snow Day to the Future | We Write Together! linked to this post on March 18, 2014

    […] This has been accepted as fact. So, if Christ was actually born, when was he born? BiblicalArchaeology.org notes: “According to Clement of Alexandria, several different days had been proposed by various […]

  66. Ann Coulter Thinks Kwanzaa Isn’t a Holiday, but It’s No Less Real Than Christmas | Kinkementary Adult Personals-KinkementaryAdult Personals-Find a Sex Partner Free, Sex Personals Online, CasualEncounters, Adult Personals Online Sex Dating site linked to this post on March 25, 2014

    […] around the existing Winter Solstice as a means to convert pagans to Christianity. December 25 might not even be Jesus’s birthday. These dates were just useful to the early Christians. There’s also that whole thing about […]

  67. Who Needs Christ During Christmas? | Lost Little Lutheran linked to this post on May 5, 2014

    […] December 25th. Actually, nobody knows what his truth birthday is. If you want to do some digging, here’s a good website that might help you along. In short, theologians struggled to figure out the exact date, and […]

  68. Quora linked to this post on May 10, 2014

    What are the historical dates of the birth and death of Jesus Christ?

    WELL NUTS!!! MY MOBILE WONT LET ME EDIT AT THIS TIME SO TILL I CAN EDIT MG QUESTION I POST IT HERE…enjoy!!! ¢0: [EDIT] AS THE QUESTION GOT EXSPANDED ON, BUT HASN’T ALL THIS BEEN ASKED AND ANSWERED??? There us no clear date…I will give you speculat…

  69. De la Conception à la Résurrection - Pneumatis linked to this post on June 4, 2014

    […] McGowan, How December 25 became Christmas, […]

  70. Constantine and Christianity - Page 12 - Religious Education Forum linked to this post on June 15, 2014

    […] Can someone own a date? And I am not arguing that those dates were used to celebrate Pagan festivals. Quite the opposite actually, that those dates were chosen to celebrate Christian events in place of those Pagan festivals. I don't even know if Santa would be considered "pagan", but I would say that the Christmas tree could definitely be argued as a pagan tradition incorporated into the celebration of Christ's birth. How December 25 Became Christmas – Biblical Archaeology Society […]

  71. Idées reçues: Ces choses que l'on croit vrai. linked to this post on June 25, 2014

    […] FAUX, il n’existe aucune preuve de cette affirmation. La Bible ne fait jamais référence au fait que Jésus soit né un 25 décembre ; elle indiquerait plutôt une date proche de septembre, voire du printemps selon certaines interprétations. La date du 25 décembre est attribuée au pape Jules Ier, en l’an 350 il déclara le 25 décembre date officielle de la célébration. Cette date a pu être choisie pour correspondre au jour situé exactement 9 mois après l’Annonciation, au solstice d’hiver du calendrier romain, ou encore coïncider avec d’anciens festivals hivernaux. Source […]

  72. İsa Hangi Tarihte Doğdu? | Viktor Kopuşçu linked to this post on August 14, 2014

    […] McGowan, Andrew. “How December 25 Became Christmas.” 20/12/2013. http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-topics/new-testament/how-december-25-became-christ… […]

  73. Onko joulu sittenkin alunperin kristillinen juhla? - Areiopagi linked to this post on September 3, 2014

    […] Andrew McGowan: How December 25 became Christmas? Bible History Daily, vierailtu 18.12. […]

  74. How Far Is Too Far Christian Dating | Christian Dating linked to this post on September 20, 2014

    […] How December 25 Became Christmas – Biblical Archaeology … – Easter, a much earlier development than Christmas, was simply the gradual Christian reinterpretation of Passover in terms of Jesus’ Passion…. […]

  75. Born Again Christian Dating Site Free | Dating Around Me linked to this post on September 23, 2014

    […] How December 25 Became Christmas – Biblical … – Easter, a much earlier development than Christmas, was simply the gradual Christian reinterpretation of Passover in terms of Jesus’ Passion…. […]

  76. Born Again Christian Dating Ireland | Dating Around Me linked to this post on September 25, 2014

    […] How December 25 Became Christmas – Biblical Archaeology … – Easter, a much earlier development than Christmas, was simply the gradual Christian reinterpretation of Passover in terms of Jesus’ Passion…. […]


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