When Was Jesus Born?

What do you do to celebrate birthdays in your family? When our children were little, we had a special “Happy Birthday plate” that would be set for the birthday child at dinner. That day Kim would prepare their favorite meal as we celebrated their special day.

Perhaps your birthday is a bigger event. If you’re famous like Columbus Washington, you might have an entire nation celebrating your birth!

Jesus Christ is deserving of the greatest birthday celebration of all, which is why we celebrate Christmas. But do we know for sure the day Jesus was born?

Today I will conclude the series “Christmas Through the Ages.” As we travel back today to the very first Christmas, I want us to consider whether or not we know the day on which Jesus was born, and why this may really matter.

First, let’s answer the question what DAY was Christ Born? The Traditional Day of December 25 has been celebrated for centuries as the birthday of Christ. But the early church was not unanimous on this date.
The First reference to December 25 as the birthday of Christ is from Hippolytus around 200 AD. At that time, the Eastern Church was celebrating Christ’s birth on January 6. They also hold that the visit of the Magi, the Baptism of Jesus, and the wedding at Cana all took place on January 6, referred to as Epiphany.

In 386, Chrysostom (Early Church Father) declared Dec. 25 as the birth of Jesus.

Some have argued that the reason that early Christians choose December 25 was because Sun worshiping PAGANS celebrated 8 days of unrestrained passion from Dec 17-24 culminating with “The Day of the Nativity of the Unconquered Son” on December 25. The beginning of lengthening days was celebrated in their Sun Worship.

Others, including Edersheim note that December 25 is long regarded by early Jews and Christians. “One fourth century theologian penned, “We hold this day holy, not like the pagans because of the birth of the sun, but because of Him who made it.” (Mary Fairchild, “Why Do Christians Celebrate Christmas on December 25?” http://christianity.about.com/od/christmas/f/christmashistor.htm)

Some theologians also connect 25 Kislev (the Dedication of the Temple – Chanukkah) and 25 December. It was on 25 Kislev that the light from one oil lamp miraculously lasted long enough to allow the Temple to be cleansed and rededicated. It seems fitting to me that early Christians, most of whom were Jewish, would worship the Light of the Word coming into the world on the same day that the Jews celebrated the Festival of Lights or Dedication.
The birth of Christ most likely occurred in the winter months, and December 25 is the best historical date that we have. Ultimately, we do not know with 100% certainty.

So the next quesiton is what YEAR was Christ born?
Not 1 AD
There was an error when the calendar was originally calculated. In 525 AD, Pope John I asked a monk named Dionysius to create a new calendar. The calendar in use dated from Emperor Diocletian who persecuted the church. Pope John didn’t want to use a date connected to a persecutor of the church.

Dionysius dated Anno Donomine (the year of our Lord) as the first full year of his life, with the birth taking place in December (1 BC).
BUT he calculated wrong. We know this because Herod was already dead by 1 AD. He was the King who sought to kill Jesus and ordered the murder of all boys under 2. We read this in Matthew. “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem,” (Matthew 2:1, ESV)

Herod died in March or April of 4 BC (Josephus)

Jesus had to be born BEFORE March/April of 4 BC

There are some DATE MARKERS that help us determine the date of Christ’s birth a little more closely
“Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli,” (Luke 3:23, ESV)
This verse tells us that Jesus was “About 30.” The language here allows that he could be as old as 31 or 32. So…. Jesus born between Nov of 5 BC and March of 4 BC

Why Didn’t God Give us the Date of Christ’s Birth?
OTHER dates are specified in the Bible!
Babylonian Invasion of Jerusalem. “And in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, on the tenth day of the month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came with all his army against Jerusalem and laid siege to it. And they built siegeworks all around it.” (2 Kings 25:1, ESV)
Nehemiah’s knowledge of Jerusalem. “The words of Nehemiah the son of Hacaliah. Now it happened in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Susa the citadel,” (Nehemiah 1:1, ESV)
Nehemiah’s plea to the King. “In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, I took up the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had not been sad in his presence.” (Nehemiah 2:1, ESV)
Completion of the walls. “So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty-two days.” (Nehemiah 6:15, ESV)
Daniel’s Prayer. “In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, by descent a Mede, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans—” (Daniel 9:1, ESV)
And MANY OTHER events!

Couldn’t God have given us the precise day of Christ’s Birth?
The answer is that God certainly could have given us the precise day on which Jesus was born.

But what about the day the Christ died? Did God reveal that to us? I believe that God has given us the precise day on which Jesus died. Here’s a brief analysis of that study.

Jesus died on PASSOVER.
“When Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said to his disciples, “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.”” (Mat 26:1–2, ESV) .
“Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?”” (Matthew 26:17, ESV)

Further, Jesus is referred to as our Passover Lamb. “For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.” (1 Cor 5:7, ESV).

So we know that Jesus died on Passover. But there is another important bit of information we find in the Gospels. Jesus died on FRIDAY.
“Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away.” (John 19:31, ESV)

While there are some who argue that Jesus died on Thursday, the evidence in Scripture seems clear that he died on Friday. In light of this evidence, Dr. Harold Hoehner concludes, “Jesus died on Friday, Nisan 14 at three P.M. This means that Christ died when the Jews were slaying their paschal lambs which according to Josephus was from the ninth to the eleventh hour, that is, from three to five P.M.” (Harold Hoehner, BibSac, October 1, 1974)

So, the question is asked, “When was there a Passover that occurred on Friday?” ASTRONOMERS provide four dates that fit within the life of Jesus. These dates are when Passover occurred on a Friday. They are AD 27, 30, 33 and 36

The following information helps us narrow this further.
CAIAPHAS was the High Priest. (Matthew 26:3–4). His rule was from AD 18-36.
PILATE was the Roman Governor. (Matthew 27:24–26). His governorship was from 26-36

SO.. Jesus had to die on 14 Nissan, between AD 26 and 36 when PASSOVER fell on a Friday.

Another Date marker. Luke 3:1-2. “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness.” (Luke 3:1–2, ESV)

Jesus began his ministry by being baptized by John and the DATE is CLEARLY GIVEN… It was during the 15th year of Tiberias.
The 15th year of Tiberias was 29 AD
The Gospels record 3 Passovers, meaning that Jesus had a 3 ½ year ministry
So, the only possible date that satisfies the Biblical information is that Jesus died at 3 PM on Friday, 14 Nissan, AD 33. IN THAT YEAR, 14 Nissan corresponds to April 3. This Easter, will mark 1,981 years since Jesus died! We Celebrate Easter ACCURATELY, according to the PASSOVER Calendar. We CELEBRATE Easter on 14 Nissan!

So What’s the Big Deal?
Every other leader is remembered by the day of his BIRTH
February 22, 1732. George Washington
February 12, 1809. Abraham Lincoln
April 13, 1743. Thomas Jefferson.

God does not give us the PRECISE Day Jesus was born.

But he does give the PRECISE DAY and the very HOUR. “Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.” And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split.” (Matthew 27:45–51, ESV)

Forgiveness of Sin and Restoration with God does not come by Christ’s BIRTH, it comes by his DEATH
“he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,” (Colossians 1:22, ESV)
“For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” (Romans 5:10, ESV)

At CHRISTMAS, let the BABY in the MANGER lead you to the SAVIOR on the CROSS.

From Sharon Jaynes’ book, “Celebrating a Christ-centered Christmas”:

An African boy listened carefully as his teacher explained why Christians give presents to each other on Christmas day. “The gift is an expression of our joy over the birth of Jesus and our friendship for each other,” she said.

When Christmas day came, the boy brought the teacher a seashell of lustrous beauty. “Where did you ever find such a beautiful shell?” the teacher asked.

The youth told her that there was only one spot where such extraordinary shells could be found. When he named the place, a certain bay several miles away, the teacher was left speechless

“Why … why, it’s gorgeous … wonderful, but you shouldn’t have gone all that way to get the gift for me.”

His eyes brightening, the boy answered, “Long walk part of gift.”

Christ took a long walk for you. It led him to Calvary. Even though we are celebrating Christmas, remember that the reason that Jesus came was so that he could redeem you. Let the manger lead you to the cross.