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What Really Happened On December 25?
by Wayne Blank
"Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that Holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren." (Luke 1:30-36 KJV)
When Was Jesus Christ Actually Born?
The date of the birth of Jesus Christ is not recorded anywhere in The Holy Bible, or anywhere in secular history. No one knows the specific date of Christ's birth on the Roman calendar, or on the Bible/Hebrew calendar, or on any other calendar.
Theologians, whether Protestant or Roman Catholic, and secular historians, do not dispute how, and why, the December 25 date was arbitrarily chosen by the Roman church in the fourth century (i.e. "Christmas" did not begin to be observed until hundreds of years after Christ's birth) for no other reason than to attempt to supercede (even though a number of the same activities from the pagan festival were adopted into the traditional Christmas observance that is seen today, including yule logs, mistletoe, and the Christmas tree itself - see the article just below) a centuries-old Roman pagan holiday, Sol Invictus ("the invincible sun") that was held on that date to celebrate "the return of the sun" (i.e. longer daylight) after the passing of the Winter Solstice on December 21.
An excerpt from the highly respected Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th Edition, provides us with independent documentation of this well-known truth:
"The traditional customs connected with Christmas have developed from several sources as a result of the coincidence of the celebration of the birth of Christ with the pagan agricultural and solar observances at mid-winter. In the Roman world, the Saturnalia, December 17, was a time of merry-making and exchange of gifts. December 25 was also regarded as the birth date of the Iranian mystery god Mithra, the "Sun of Righteousness." On the Roman New Year, January 1, houses were decorated with greenery and lights, and gifts were given to children and the poor. To these observances were added the German and Celtic rites when the Teutonic tribes penetrated into Gaul, Britain and central Europe. Food and good fellowship, the Yule log and Yule cakes, greenery and fir trees, gifts and greetings all commemorated different aspects of this festive season. Fires and lights, symbols of warmth and lasting life, have always been associated with the winter festival, both pagan and Christian. Since the Middle Ages, evergreens, as symbols of survival, have been associated with Christmas."
All things being equal, as a simple matter of probability, December 25 has a 1 out of 365 (days of the year) chance of being the date of Christ's birth (if the Roman festival that Christmas was intended to replace had been on, for example, July 1, then Christmas would today be observed on July 1, and so on - December 25 was chosen simply because the pagan festival, that was observed long before the birth of Christ, was observed on December 25). But, as we shall see, based on all available Biblical facts, December 25 actually has a far less than 1 in 365 chance of being the right date.
If we can't know the specific date of Christ's birth, can we at least know the season with reasonable certainty? Answer, yes. Ironically, one of the most well-known "Christmas" verses of the Bible, quoted below, proves that Christ was not born in the winter. The land of Israel has a relatively moderate climate, at least in comparison to many other places on earth, but in winter it is commonly cold and wet (as lightly-clothed Christmas tourists arriving in Bethlehem from other parts of the world have sometimes been learning, the hard way, for centuries), with light snow also possible. Good shepherds back then, and now, do not leave their sheep, or themselves, out in the open country in winter. The reality of the Scriptures make plain that the Christ was not born in the winter, but at some time during the fair weather months.
"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. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night." (Luke 2:7-8 KJV)
For the same reason, the famous census that brought Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem would not have been ordered to be done in winter. Having an entire population traveling, in the open, on foot or on donkeys, during the worst weather of the year is just plain foolish - and the Romans weren't fools. Brutes, yes, fools, no. They were very practical and methodical. They would have done the census when the weather, and the agriculture-based society that the Romans were taxing (i.e. they wouldn't want to do anything that would reduce the people's crops, and thereby reduce tax revenue) could best afford the people to be away - in the early autumn when the harvests were mostly done, about the time of The Feast Of Tabernacles (that Jesus and His family always observed, e.g. John 7:14), when the people usually travelled, not "home for the holidays," but "home for the Holy Days," anyway.
"And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria. And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; because he was of the house and lineage of David: To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 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." (Luke 2:1-7 KJV)
Can we then also know, from the Holy Scriptures, approximately what month the Messiah was born? Yes. The Bible plainly states that John the Baptist was born 6 months before Jesus Christ, i.e. Elizabeth was "in her sixth month" when Mary was herself just then with child:
"thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her" (Luke 1:36 KJV)
But when was John the Baptist born? Are there indications of that, based on the Bible? Yes.
John's father Zechariah was a Levite priest. The priests served in regularly-scheduled groups, or courses, at the Temple, as specified in 1 Chronicles 24:7-19. Zechariah, or Zacharias, was in the course of Abijah, or Abia, which was the eighth course (1 Chronicles 24:10). Numerous Christian and Jewish researchers have calculated (which I have been unable to find any problems with, and neither have thousands of others who have tried) that Zechariah's course served in the month of Sivan, of the Hebrew calendar, which corresponds roughly to June on the Roman calendar. The Bible says that Elizabeth conceived immediately after Zechariah's service was completed, therefore, in June or July.
"There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth" (Luke 1:5 KJV)
With John the Baptist conceived in June or July, according to the Scripture information provided, he would have been born 9 months later, in March or April. We already know that John was born 6 months before Jesus, so with John born in March or April, Jesus would have been born in September or October. That means that Jesus Christ was conceived, not born, around December 25. The first paragraph of this study, which I repeat below, very likely is what really happened around December 25 on the Roman calendar.
"And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call His name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of his father David: And He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His Kingdom there shall be no end."