When was Jesus born?

During the Advent season, most parishes are in a countdown to Jesus' birthday party: they count the days until Christmas. It is not uncommon to hear of discussions during this time of the year about the 24. December is the right day to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, and whether it is appropriate to celebrate that day at all. The search for the exact year, month and day of the birth of Jesus is not new. Theologians have been dealing with this for about two thousand years and here are some of their ideas.

  • Clemens of Alexandria (at 150-220) named various possible data, including the 18. November, 6. January and the day of the Passover, which depends on the year at the 21. March, 24. / 25. April or on the 20. May was.
  • Sextus Iulias Africanus (at 160-240) called the 25. March.
  • Hippolytus of Rome (170-235), a disciple of Irenaeus, mentioned in his commentary on the book of Daniel two separate days: "The first apparition of our Lord in flesh took place in Bethlehem eight days before the calendar of January (25, December) fourth day (Wednesday), held under the rule of Augustus in the year 5500. "In another document and in a registration of a statue of Hippolytus becomes the 2. April called date.
  • According to the Jewish historian Flavius ​​Josephus, some place the birth of Jesus in the 12 period. March to 11. April in the year 4 before Christ, since Christ was born before the death of Herod.
  • John Chrysostom (at 347-407) called the 25. December as date of birth.
  • In the calculations of Passion, an anonymous work of probably North African origin, the 28. Called in March.
  • Augustine (354-430) writes in De Trinitate that "it is believed that he is on 25. Was received in March. On the day he also suffered and after the tradition at 25. December was born ".
  • Messianic Jews call several possible birthdays. The most representative considerations are based on the priestly services (more precisely, "of the order of Abiah" (Lk 1,5).) This approach leads to the fact that they tie the birth of Jesus to the Sukkot / Feast of Tabernacles Festivities took place.

It is interesting to speculate that Jesus may be born (or received) during the Passover or the Feast of Tabernacles. I like the idea that Jesus reversed the work of the death angel when it happened during the Passover. There would be a satisfactory symmetry in his arrival if he was received or born during the Feast of Tabernacles. However, there is not enough evidence to be sure on which day Jesus came to earth, but perhaps with the few pieces of evidence available, one can estimate a good estimate.

In Luke 2,1-5, we can read that the Emperor Augustus passed a resolution on the taxation of the Roman Empire and therefore everyone should return to his own city to pay that tax. Joseph and Mary also returned to Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus. It is to be assumed that such a census did not take place at any time in history. After all, she should not have agreed with the harvest season. It may also be assumed that such a count would not have been prescribed in the winter if the weather made the journey more difficult. The land was ordered in the spring. It may be that autumn, after the harvest season, was a time for such a census and therefore the time for the birth of Jesus. However, it is not clear from the biblical texts how long Mary and Joseph stayed in Bethlehem. Maybe Jesus was born several weeks after the census. Ultimately, we can not determine the date of birth of Jesus with certainty. Mockers cling to this uncertainty and claim that everything is just a myth and that Jesus never existed. But even if the date of birth of Jesus can not be named clearly, his birth is based on historically verifiable events.

The biblical scientist FF Bruce says the following about doubters:
"Some writers play with the idea of ​​the Christ myth, but they do not do so on the basis of historical evidence. The historicity of Christ is axiomatic, that is, it is neither provable nor does it require proof as well as the historicity of Julius Caesar. It is not the historians who propagate the Christ myth "(in The New Testament Documents, p. 123).

The people of the time of Jesus knew by prophecy when to expect the Messiah. But neither the prophecies, nor the gospels, set an exact date for the arrival of the Messiah, even if modern historians desire it. It is not the goal of the Bible to give us a precise time, because it can "instruct you [...] to blessing through faith in Christ Jesus" (2, Tim 3,15).

The focus of the writers of the New Testament is not the day of Jesus' birth, but that God the Father has sent His own Son to earth at just the right time in history to fulfill His promises and bring salvation.

The apostle Paul said:
"But when the time was come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, and done under the law, that he might redeem those who were under the law, that we might conceive the children" (Gal 4,4-5). In the Gospel of Mark, we read, "After John was imprisoned, Jesus came to Galilee and preached the gospel of God, saying, The time has come, and the kingdom of God has come. Repent and believe the gospel! "(Mk 1,14-15).

The knowledge of the exact date of the birth of Christ is historically interesting, but completely irrelevant theologically. We just have to know that it happened and why he was born. These questions are answered clearly by the Bible. Let's keep this look for the Advent season and not focus on small details.

by Joseph Tkach

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