1. Christmas is not in the Bible and neither is the Timing of Yeshua’s Birth
And neither is Hanukah for that matter and I love to celebrate it. We are never commanded to celebrate the birth of the Messiah. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t. I have many God-honoring traditions in my life that are not commanded in the Bible. John 10:22 tells us that Yeshua celebrated the aforementioned extra-biblical holiday of Hanukah. But regarding Christmas, it should be stated that for centuries it never occurred to the first believers that they should celebrate His birth, nor did they know when he was born.
“With no Biblical directive to do so and no mention in the Gospels of the correct date, it wasn’t until the fourth century that church leaders in Rome embraced the holiday.” (click for source)
If I had to guess—and I’m no expert in this—Yeshua was born just before Passover. Here’s why in a nutshell.
- Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, was a priest and according to the Luke passage there are only five possible times that someone in the Abijah division, as was Zechariah, could have been serving. During one of the three feasts or the tenth week after the beginning of the year or nine weeks after Rosh Hashanah.[i]
- For sure, one of these dates (the Feast of Tabernacles), assuming that Elizabeth conceived within a short period of time after Zechariah came home from the Temple, could lead to a winter birth. We know that Yeshua was born 15 months after Elizabeth conceived as Miriam conceives in Elizabeth’s sixth month.
- However, it would be highly unlikely for shepherds to be outside on a cold and possibly wet winter night. It would make more since that they were with their lambs in the warmer spring in preparation for the Passover, when Lambs would be needed all over Jerusalem. According to Dr. Ziony Zevit, lambing season—when lambs were born—was at this time.[ii]
- It is unlikely that Caesar Augustus would call for a census in the middle of the winter, when the rains could make for a cold, muddy trip. Although it could rain in the spring, it is less likely at the end of March/April and a lot warmer.
- It would make sense that Yeshua not only died as the lamb of God on Passover, but was born at the time that the Passover Lamb would have been.
Of course, this is just a hypothesis—but a cool one.
[i] This is based on the fact that according to the Bible that Abijah was the eighth division of 24 (1 Chronicles 24:7-19). All priests would serve during the three major feasts and then Zechariah’s grouping would come once in the spring and then again in the fall. I am assuming that each half year grouping would begin on the first day of the first month and the first day of the second month.
[ii] The Religions of Ancient Israel: A Synthesis of Parallactic Approaches, Dr. Ziony Zevit, pg. 450, Continuum, 2001