Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Dating Jesus's Birth, Part II

Let me give the links to Adam's blog, "The Doctrinal Preacher," where he posted Part I and Part II. You can read them either here, or there. He also has many good sermons you can read or listen to.

So, here is Part II, in which he addresses the Scriptural evidence that Jesus was indeed born around December 25:

Many people believe that there is no evidence in the New Testament that helps us to determine the date of Christ's birth, but I hope to show that this is false.

Luke 1:26, 27, 31, 32 says, "In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendent of David. The virgin's name was Mary.... ‘You will be with child and give birth to a son and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.’"

This verse points us toward a date, the sixth month; all we have to do is to determine when it is in our calendar. But before we go on, I must tell you that I am assuming that Mary became pregnant with Jesus at this moment. The text does not explicitly tell us that this is so, but it does make sense within the context of the passage, and it is indicated in the text later when Mary goes to visit her cousin, Elizabeth.

Luke tells us that following the Annuciation that Mary "hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea" and that when Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting "the baby leaped in her [Elizabeth] womb" (Luke 1:41). Elizabeth, "filled with the Holy Spirit," said, "Blessed is the child you will bear" (Luke 1:42). So it seems obvious that Mary was already pregnant, and that she became pregnant in the sixth month.

Determining when the sixth month is, is complicated by the fact the the Hebrew Calendar comes in two forms, like ours today. The months are the same, but the year begins at different times. We are used to this. When we think about a year, we normally think January to December, but we also have something called a fiscal year which normally runs from October to September.

The Jewish civil calendar begins with the month of Tishri, which corresponds to September-October in our Calendar (see table below), while the religious year begins in the Month of Nisan, which corresponds to March-April.

According the Jewish tradition, Adam and Eve were created on 1 Tishri and that marks the beginning of the Hebrew Calendar. The year began on 1 Tishri (Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year) until the Exodus when God told the people, "This month [Nisan] is to be for you the first month," (Exodus 12:2) when he instituted the Passover; however, even though the Jewish religious year would now begin in the Spring with Nisan, the year count was still updated in the month of Tishri with Rosh Hashanah.

But which Calendar was Luke was using when he tells us that the angel came to Mary in the sixth month?

Both the civil and religious calendars existed side-by-side until the return from the exile in the middle of the 5th century B. C. when the civil calendar became dominant, so much so that Judaism today only uses the civil calendar. If we use the civil calendar with the Luke passage we find that the Annuciation occurred in February-March.

Hebrew Calendar
Month Religious Year Order Civil Year Order English Equivalent
Tishri 7 1 September-October
Cheshvan 8 2 October-November
Kislev 9 3 November-December
Tevet 10 4 December-January
Shevet 11 5 January-February
Adar I 12 6 February-March
Adar Beit 13 Leap Month "" February-March
Nisan 1 7 March-April
Iyar 2 8 April-May
Sivan 3 9 May-June
Tammuz 4 10 June-July
Av 5 11 July-August
Elul 6 12 August-September

So counting from Adar I, we arrive 10 lunar months later at a birth date of Jesus in December-January which is what tradition also tells us. There is no need to resort to an evolutionary view of the Christian faith and the adoption of pagan holidays, which is implied in the confounding of Natus Sol Invictus and Christmas.

In fact, an argument can easily be made that the pagans were trying to co-opt the Christian holiday of Christmas by moving the celebration of the Sun from August to December, rather than the other way around.

I hope that this brief study has been useful to you. Let me know.

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