Most Christians celebrate Christmas (Jesus birthday) on December 25th. Is there evidence to conclude that it is actually the birth date of Jesus?
Is the birth date of Jesus in December?
Early in the fourth century, Church leaders decided they needed a celebration to rival the popular pagan solstice celebrations. This holiday, they thought, would make Christianity more appealing to non-believers. They chose December 25th as the day to celebrate the birth date of Jesus even though the birth date of Jesus had never been celebrated before. Whether the Christians in the fourth century realized it or not, they had blended the pagan religions of the day with their Christianity.
Was there any theological reasons for choosing December 25th as the birth date of Jesus? Third century theologians reckoned that the world was created on the spring equinox, and four days later, on March 25th, light was created. Because Jesus coming signaled a new beginning, or new creation, it made sense to assume that Jesus conception would have also been on March 25th. This would place the birth date of Jesus nine months later, in December.
Is the birth date of Jesus in Autumn?
There are many problems with the December 25th theory for the birth date of Jesus. December in Palestine is very cold, much too cold for people to have been traveling to pay taxes. Also, shepherds were in the fields with the sheep when Jesus was born. They were not in the fields in winter, but usually from late March to early October.
It is believed by many that Jesus lived 33.5 years and He died at the feast of the Passover, which is at Easter time. He must have been born six months from Easter, which makes the birth date of Jesus around September or October, not December.
One early writing notes that the birth date of Jesus was in the 41st year of the reign of Augustus. Since Augustus started his reign in the Autumn of 43 B.C., it seems logical that the birth date of Jesus would be Autumn of 2 B.C.
Another early writing says Jesus was born the 28th year from the death of Anthony and Cleopatra in Egypt. Egypt joined the Roman Empire in the Autumn of 30 B.C., so this information would also place the birth date of Jesus in the Autumn of 2 B.C.
John the Baptist was, of course, the forerunner of Jesus. He was Jesus’ cousin, and was born just six months before the birth date of Jesus. By calculating when Zacharias (the father of John the Baptist) would have served in the Temple, we can assume that John was conceived around May or June. This would place the conception (not birth) of Jesus in December. Again, this would place the birth date of Jesus in Autumn, on the first day of the feast of Tabernacles, in September or October.
If the birth date of Jesus was on or near this Jewish holiday, it would explain the lack of room in the inns of Bethlehem. People would have been traveling to Jerusalem from all over and everything would have been crowded.
The feast of Tabernacles is a celebration of the harvest. It seems fitting that the birth date of Jesus would have been on the first day of this celebration. Some people even believe that it is the day that Jesus will return, and the only question is what year it will be.
Is it important to know the birth date of Jesus?
There appears to be little evidence that the birth date of Jesus is in December. More of the evidence points to Autumn as the probable season of Jesus birth. Does it really matter when Jesus was born? Should we let this affect our faith in Him? As Christians, we don’t need a special day to celebrate the birth date of Jesus. We must celebrate Him and what He did for us everyday. By revisiting that familiar story in Luke 1-2, we can discover what God wanted us to know about the birth of Jesus. Apparently, the exact birth date of Jesus doesn’t matter too much.