Biblegems #44 Does the Bible say what year Jesus was born? Also, who decided that we were going to recognize Jesus' Birthday on the 25th of December, and in what year did they decide this was going to take place? Just wondering. Merianne.
Jesus was likely born somewhere between 4 B.C and 6 B.C. The discrepancy is based upon an error made by a Christian in the 6th century named Dionysius Exiguus, who intended to create a calendar based on the birth of Jesus. However, he miscalculated the year of Herod’s death, which was not recognized until many centuries later.
It is commonly held that December 25th on our current calendar was not the actual birth date of Jesus. Here is what we do know for sure:
We know Jesus was conceived in the six month of Mary’s cousin Elizabeth’s pregnancy (Lk. 1:24-27); and we know (based on when her husband Zacharias served in the temple) that Elizabeth conceived John the Baptist around the last week of the Hebrew month of Sivan (Lk. 1: 5, 8, 23-24). This would place the conception of Jesus in the month of Kislev (November – December). Nine months later would be the month of Tishri (September – October, according to our current calendar).
This means that the likely month of Jesus’ conception is the month when Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, is celebrated by the Jews. Interestingly, Jesus is described in the NT as “the light of the world” (John 8:12, 9:5, 12:46). And the month of Jesus’ birth marks the last feast of the year on the Jewish calendar, the Feast of Tabernacles. As it says in John, 1:14, The Word became flesh and made his dwelling (lit., “tabernacled”) among us.
The first century church, apparently, did not celebrate Jesus’ birth. This started to become more popular in the 2nd – 3rd century. Because the exact date of His birth was unknown, the church tended to mark His birth at the time of the Winter Solstice, taking advantage of the symbolism involved in the increased light of the lengthening days to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the “light of the world” (Jn. 8:12). While some have often tried to condemn the tradition as yielding to pagan practices of sun worship, nothing could be further from the truth. If anything, Christianity took pagan practices and replaced them with a celebration of the birth of the Savior of the world!
About the Author: I serve as Sr.Pastor of Friendship Bible Church of the Christian And Missionary Alliance in Keystone Heights, Florida. I am also a coach for pastors and Christian workers, an author, Bible teacher and seminar speaker. I have been in ministry with my wife Lynn since 1981. We have three grown children—the youngest of whom went to be with the Lord in July of 2011—and eight grandchildren. My greatest joy is helping believers grow in faith and maturity through a deeper walk with Christ and a growing knowledge of His Word. My blog, Bible Gems For Friendship, is a weekly response to readers' questions about the Bible in 500 words or less: www.biblegems-pastorcoleman.blogspot.com