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First published: 25 December 2015 (GMT+10)
Re-featured on homepage: 25 December 2019 (GMT+10)
Re-featured on homepage: 24 December 2020 (GMT+10)
Wikimedia Commons Christmas
The adoration of the shepherds, as depicted by Dutch Golden Age painter Gerard van Honthorst in 1622.

In most Western countries, Christmas Day is celebrated on December 25th as the traditional birthday of Jesus, although no one knows for certain the exact day when Jesus was born, even though we know reasonably well when He was here on Earth. The Bible says: “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son” (Galatians 4:4), so this was at exactly the right time in God’s master plan.

Angelic instructions

When this right time had come, God sent an angel named Gabriel to a young woman named Mary, who lived in Nazareth, to tell her that she would have a son and that she should call His name Jesus (Luke 1:26–33). Mary was greatly surprised to hear this because she was not married and so she was a virgin. However, the angel told her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). One reason for this is that when Jesus lived on Earth, not only was He fully human, He was also God incarnate.

An angel from God also appeared in a dream to Joseph, who was engaged to be married to Mary. The angel said, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:20–22).

The word Jesus is the English form of Iesous (Ἰησοῦς), which is the Greek rendering of the Hebrew name Yeshua, a shortened form of Yehoshua (יְהוֹשׁ֫וּעַ). This latter is an abbreviation of God’s four-letter name YHVH (יהוה Jehovah/Yahweh) combined with a form of the Hebrew verb yasha (ישע) meaning to save, deliver, or rescue. Hence the name Jesus means Saviour. The English word Christ is not Jesus’ surname, but is a title. It comes from the Greek Christos (Χριστός), meaning anointed one, which is the Greek rendering of the Hebrew Mashiach (משיח), usually rendered in English as ‘Messiah’. So Jesus Christ means Jesus the Anointed One, or Jesus the Messiah.

Caesar Augustus fulfils an Old Testament prophecy

In due time, Jesus was born in Bethlehem. This came about because the Roman Emperor, Caesar Augustus, wanted to have a census conducted and so everyone in the Roman world had to go to their ancestral home town to be registered there (Luke 2:1–7). The Greek wording suggests that this was a census before the famous one under Governor Quirinius (cf. Acts 5:37). Under God’s oversight, Augustus thus fulfilled the Old Testament prophecy in Micah 5:2, which said that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.

Joseph had to take Mary from Nazareth to his own home town of Bethlehem, a distance of about 110 km (70 miles). While there, Mary gave birth to Jesus (Luke 2:1–7).

The very first people to whom God announced this were some nearby shepherds. An angel told them that Christ the Lord had just been born. When this happened, the glory of the Lord shone around them and a great company of angels appeared, praising God (Luke 2:8–14).

Wise men wondrously worship and wittingly withdraw

A year or so later, some ‘wise men’ (magi, Greek μάγοι magoi) living in another country to the east saw a strange new light in the sky. They thought it was a special star that announced the birth of a new king, whom they were meant to go and worship. Later, when they got to Jerusalem, they went to the palace of King Herod, expecting that this was where any new king would be. Herod was dumfounded. He sent for the Jewish leaders and asked them where the Christ was to be born. They told him that the prophet Micah had foretold that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:1–6). So off the wise men went again.

The light led them to a house in Bethlehem where the infant Jesus now was. Stars, a conjunction of planets (formerly ‘wandering star’), or a comet, don’t normally move like that, and certainly don’t illuminate just one particular house. Therefore it is more likely that the light that the wise men saw and followed was the glory of God, sometimes called the Shekinah glory or a divine visitation of the presence of God. This was “the glory of the Lord” that had appeared to the shepherds.

When the wise men saw the child Jesus, they worshipped Him and gave Him costly gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Gold was a symbol of Jesus’ kingship. Frankincense was incense used by the priests in the worship of God and so represented homage to the Christ-child as God, as well as being a symbol of Jesus’ priesthood. Myrrh was oil used to embalm bodies for burial and so was a symbol of Jesus’ future suffering and death. The Bible doesn’t say how many wise men there were;1 just that there were three gifts.

God warned the wise men in a dream not to go back to Herod. This was because Herod was planning to murder all the male children two years old and under to make sure of killing Jesus, whom he now regarded as a rival. God also warned Joseph in a dream to take Mary and the child Jesus and escape to Egypt (Matthew 2:7–12). The gold was probably God’s provision to pay for their needs there before they could return to Nazareth after Herod died.

Does Christmas have anything to do with Genesis?

Yes, very much so. The Lord Jesus, is none other than the Creator God who brought the whole universe into existence. In his Gospel, the Apostle John, a great creation evangelist, referring to Jesus, tells us that, “All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:1–3). And the Apostle Paul, speaking of Jesus, tells us that all things “in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible … were created through Him and for Him” (Colossians 1:16).

The first reference to Jesus in the Bible is in the promise given to Adam and Eve immediately after they had sinned against God. In Genesis 3:15, God says to Satan, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” Eve’s descendant would be the Lord Jesus Christ. He is called the “seed” of the woman because He had no human father, but through the miraculous power of God would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:20, 23). He would then live a sinless life, die on the cross for the sins of the whole world, and be resurrected back to life, thereby defeating the power of the devil (Hebrews 2:14). See The Importance of the Resurrection of Christ to our salvation.

Earth © iStockphoto/enot-poloskun resurrection
The reason for the Christmas season is that Jesus came to Earth to die for the sins of the world, and then to rise again to give new life to all who put their faith and trust in Him

Why was it necessary for Jesus to be a descendant of Adam?

In the Old Testament, the prophet Isaiah calls the coming Messiah a “Kinsman-Redeemer” (Isaiah 59:20). This meant that the Messiah must be a blood-relative of those He redeems. So it was necessary for Jesus to be born into the human race, via physical descent from Mary, a descendant of Adam, not just for Him to suddenly appear, as angels did from time to time in the Old Testament (nor was Mary a sort of surrogate mother). This means that only Adam’s descendants can be saved. Angels could not save us; indeed angels themselves that sinned cannot be saved through the death of Christ (Hebrews 2:16), because they are not Adam’s descendants.

Was Jesus born on Christmas Day?

Nobody knows exactly which day Jesus was born. But an argument against 25 December that some people have made is that shepherds would not have been watching their flocks by night in December because it would have been too cold. But it’s most unlikely that these people have ever been to Bethlehem, because shepherds really do have their flocks out in December. Actually Bethlehem is not usually very cold at Christmas—a ‘white Christmas’ is very rare (although it happened in the severe northern winter of 2013). The average minimum temperature in December is 6°C (43°F), so it is about the same as northern Florida. It is also a lot rainier in December than the previous half-year,2 so much grass had grown by then, so it is a good month for sheep.

These claimants are also likely unfamiliar with sheep farming. Sheep have their own home-grown insulation all over their bodies—their wool, which keeps them warm even in snowy weather, and the wool’s lanolin stops any moisture on the wool from penetrating to the skin. Jacob tended his uncle Laban’s flocks outdoors even when the nights were frosty (Genesis 31:38–40), and this was much further north in Paddan-aram (Haran), so a lot colder than Bethlehem.

If sheep are kept indoors in cold weather they are more likely to catch pneumonia due to a build-up in barns of ammonia and stale moisture that promote the spread of viruses. Sheep are much healthier living outdoors, provided they can shelter from winter winds, such as by means of a few trees.3 Finally, it would be very labour-intensive to provide all the water and grass for a large flock of sheep inside, as well as to regularly clean out their droppings—far better to let them forage.4

The reason that the early Christians chose 25th December as Jesus’ birthday is the Jewish ‘integral year’ tradition: a prophet’s lifespan would be an exact number of years from conception to death. Jesus’ death was calculated as 25 March by the Western Church, and 6 April by the Eastern Church. Therefore this same date was celebrated as the date Christ was conceived. Nine months later is 25 December or 6 January, and the latter date is still celebrated in the Eastern Orthodox Church (and many branches of the Western Church celebrate ‘Epiphany’ on the same day, now to commemorate the arrival of the magi and their three gifts). Thus Christians were celebrating Christ’s birth on 25 December over 70 years before the Romans copied that date for their Sol Invictus, or ‘Unconquered Sun’ festival. See discussion in Is there anything about Christmas that’s genuinely Christian?

What does Santa have to do with Christmas?

In countries today that celebrate Christmas, it is only Christians who truly worship Jesus for coming to Earth as God. Everybody else just has a party and perhaps a holiday. And, indeed, Christmas trees, lights, decorations, exchanging cards and presents, family reunions, and enjoying a delicious Christmas dinner are all fun things to have or to do.

However, all this means that Christmas for most people is just a giant shopping spree, with people giving gifts to each other, but not paying homage to Jesus as the shepherds and the Wise Men did. Also, nowadays, the celebration of Christmas often involves a jolly fat man in a red suit, who supposedly lives at the North Pole and travels all over the world by snow sledge on Christmas Eve distributing presents to children who have ‘been good’. This of course is a fairy story, but it is also idolatry when used as a substitute for worshipping Jesus. God, not Santa, is the One who knows all that we say and do.

The modern Santa Claus is a corruption of the name of a real man, Saint Nicholas (270–343). He was Bishop of Myra in modern day Turkey and famous for his generosity. A legend says that he provided dowries for three daughters of a poor man—under the cover of night, he threw three purses full of gold coins through the window. But the real Nicholas would be horrified at the claims about Santa Claus.5

So as we enjoy all the good things about Christmas, we also need to remember that the ‘reason for the season’ is that Jesus came to Earth to be born, to live, and to die for the sins of the world, and then to rise again to give new life to all who put their faith and trust in Him.

References and notes

  1. The wise men would obviously have had a retinue of folk to protect them on their journey, carry provisions, prepare meals, and otherwise look after them. Return to text
  2. See graphs in http://www.myweather2.com/City-Town/Israel/Bethlehem/climate-profile.aspx. Return to text
  3. See Gessert, M., Winter Sheep Care – LittleHats.net. Return to text
  4. MYTH: Too cold for shepherds to Tend Flocks in December: Logistics of feeding a flock of sheep, jesus-reasonforseason.com/. Return to text
  5. A very late legend says that Nicholas listened to the heretic Arius’s blasphemous denial of the Deity of Christ and slapped him. See Pearse, R., Did St Nicholas of Myra / Santa Claus punch Arius at the Council of Nicaea? roger-pearse.com. Return to text

Helpful Resources

Readers’ comments

Christopher H.
I think the day Zacharias saw the angel in the Temple was likely the Day of Atonement. The people marvelled because he stayed in the Temple so long, yet they didn't go inside to check on him. Why? Because they were not allowed. Atonement is usually in early October. Add up the months and you get late December to early January for Christ's birth. Right around Hannukah time.
That's an excellent article! When I am challenged about the idea that December 25 could not be right, I can feel an anti-Christian argument coming. My simple reply is, "How do we know about the exact weather that month? Maybe it was an exceptional year? For it was an exception event, wasn't it?"
Jonathan Sarfati
True. The only quibble is: as explained in the article, sheep out in the fields at night was normal in Bethlehem in late December.
Chris B.
I consider the apparent worship by many of “Santa Claus” to be a cult of idolatry. People in my church and others I've spoken with about this don't get it. Many people even put out offerings (a sacrifice if you will) of cookies and milk. The tree and the decorations are all trappings of a cult.
I've been told by “good church-attending folk” that I’m crazy. I think they don't understand what idol worship really is.
Tammy S.
According to a law passed in 1659, “whosoever shall be found observing any such day as Christmas or the like, either by forbearing of labor, feasting, or any other way” would be slapped with a five-shilling fine in the Massachusetts Bay Colony - founded in 1630 by a group of Puritan refugees from England.

While most Americans today probably can’t imagine the Christmas season without Santa Claus, Christmas trees, hanging stockings and giving gifts, most of those traditions didn’t get started until the 19th century. In the pre-Revolutionary War era, people living in the original 13 colonies disagreed fiercely over the question of how to celebrate Christmas—and even whether to celebrate it at all.

English settlers who traveled to the New World brought the debate over Christmas with them. By the late 16th century, a group of Protestant reformers known as Puritans sought to purify the Church of England, and purge it of Roman Catholic traditions they saw as excessive. At the time, celebrations of Christmas in England lasted for nearly two weeks—from the (alleged) day of Jesus Christ’s birth, December 25, to Twelfth Day, January 6—and consisted of rowdy celebrations including feasting, gambling, drinking, and masquerade balls.

This is largely taken from a historical article on how the original 13 colonies dealt with Christmas. Just thought it interesting to point out that American division on this topic is not at all strange or new.
Danny R.
God isn’t a god of approximates but an accurate God. so if he was the origin of the star, the star would have lead the magoi to the right place. the star has lead them to the worst enemy on earth so it must have originated or directed by Satan.
Jonathan Sarfati
Did the star lead them to Herod? According to Matthew 2, the star appeared in the East, indicating to these Magoi that the Messiah prophesied by Daniel had appeared. The star reappeared when they left Herod and guided them to the house where Jesus was now, almost two years after He was born. This is no star as we define it today, but does fit the Greek meaning of ἀστήρ (astēr).

It was certainly not Satanic. The magoi wanted to worship the newborn Messiah, showing that they recognized His divinity. Satan hates people worshipping Jesus.
Will B.
My response to your reply:
WB: If the ministry of Jesus was for the duration of 3 years and 6 months (and this is possible by counting the number of festivals mentioned in the gospel accounts) the approx date of His birth can be calculated to late September/early October.
There are many such articles on this topic and as you seem to be of the view that December may very well be inaccurate it seems not unreasonable to examine other possible dates giving consideration to the details.
[link deleted per feedback rules]

JS: The Magi were probably true believers in the one true God etc
WB: However, in your article you are arguing for the view that the Magi (astrologers) were following a “special star that announced the birth of a new king.”
How could those Magi (astrologers) ‘probably be true believers’ when they engaged in astrology which is condemned in Scripture? Would not true believers abandon such practices?

JS: Balaam… prophesied about a star coming from Jacob (Numbers 24:15–25).
WB: It appears that you are taking the words of Balaam – whom Jesus spoke of in Revelation 2:14 - literally in that the star was a real entity in the night sky.

Would you not consider “A star will come out of Jacob, a sceptre will rise out of Israel…” refers to the Person of Jesus Christ?

Given that the Magi disclosed to Herod the foretold Messiah and was the reason why they followed the ‘star’ leading to the ‘slaughter of the innocents’ which the Enemy hoped would serve his purpose it seems more likely the Enemy with supernatural powers caused appearance of a guiding ‘star.’

JB:So, there is the strong possibility that my article is accurate on this point. ;)

WB: If so, I'll be pleased to change view. But there's no record of apostles celebrating His birthday
Jonathan Sarfati
The problem is, we don't know the exact age when Jesus started ministry. Luke says "about 30". Is this to the nearest year or to the nearest decade? Either way, you couldn't derive a date to the nearest month.

That article you linked to is clearly wrong. E.g. it states, "The weather in Israel turns very cold in the late fall, and it would have been too cold for the flocks to have been in the fields overnight.” This was refuted in the article. Articles about the weather in Israel tend to be more reliable if they are written by people who are familiar with weather in Israel.

About the Feast of Tabernacles, see my response to Kevan Q. NZ December 24th, 2015 below the article, for why I think this was highly unlikely. However, we don't mind if people want to celebrate the birth then if they want to. We have the freedom to celebrate, or not to celebrate, whatever day we want.

Where does it say that the magoi practised astrology? Where is any condemnation for these men who came to worship the promised King of the Jews? Somehow, they understood that this babe was worthy of worship. Astrologers would not.

I do consider that the Star from Jacob is the Messiah. So probably did the magoi. That was one of my points.

Do we need to be told to celebrate the most important birth in history? I endorse the comments of Kevin M. US January 3rd, 2017 below the article Celebrating Christmas?
Bill P.
I've heard for yrs. those who want to make a debate about the day, month, our Lord and Savior was born. IMO the only thing that is important is what Scripture has to say, "At The Fullness of Time" etc. My point is The Creator of heaven and earth set aside HIS glory for a time to be born a helpless baby to grow into a man w/the aim of fulfilling ALL written about HIS 1st. coming. To humble Himself and become a servant to mankind. To willingly go to the cross on our behalf shedding HIS blood to redeem us to His GOD and our GOD, to His Father and our Father.
Abraham, the true prophets of GOD, King David, and more longed to see that day with their own eyes. I am in AWE of HIM. With the power and glory to create from nothing the heavens and the earth and yet to make Himself a humble servant to save us from eternal death.
To those who have fear HIM in every generation HE has returned our fear of HIM with an intimate love and so great a salvation. Not like men who take advantage of those who fear them.
So if I may repeat myself. The most important thing is GOD put on flesh, helpless like every other baby born into this world with the goal of giving HIS life to redeem us to GOD.
Now in these last hours we wait form HIM to gather us in the clouds to take us home to our GOD and Heavenly Father. (For myself HE Is My Exceedingly Great Reward).
I don't care if it was Dec. 25th or The 4th. of July, The fact is HE came at the appointed time, HE kept HIS Word as He always has done.
Who is like the LORD, from everlasting to everlasting HE Is GOD and there is no other. HE unconditionally loves those who fear HIM and call on HIM to be saved.
Even now in this late hour HE works (HE taps of the door of their heart)calling them by name in the hope they will hear HIM, to save them.
Yvonne R.
Why Christmas ? One understanding is the Church Fathers decided in 202 AD that a day in recognition of the birth of the one and only LORD and SAVIOUR should be distinguished by establishing a day to be recognised to celebrate HIS birth. Were they led by the HOLY SPIRIT? Did they receive confirmation from GOD? Did they test the spirits to be sure this is of GOD? We do not know. Christmas has been with us now many centuries. Christmas presents giving and receiving can be a pleasant experience. I find as a Christian when Christ is not the ONE to lead me into a situation, I do not want to be there. There is no joy without the joy of our LORD. As with other abuses against our LORD so is the meaning of Christmas abused. For myself I stand apart—when people say to me merry Christmas, I say “only JESUS for me”. Whatever the process was for establishing 25th December as the day for Christmas, people still understand that JESUS' birth is the reason for Christmas. That alone is a reminder of the truth that JESUS CHRIST was born and died on a cross for all our sakes.
Will B.
I should like to respond to your article ‘Christmas – Why?’ by making three observations.

Firstly, without going into all the details at this stage there is a fairly strong argument, based on the premise that the ministry of our Lord was for a period of three years and six months and that he was crucified on Nisan 14 i.e. April, that He was born in late September/early October.

Secondly, the Magi who followed the ‘star’ were astrologers. And astrology as a form of divination is expressly forbidden in the Bible. Det. 18
Given what followed the visit of those three astrologers, namely, the slaughter of the children it is very hard indeed to accept that God would ‘light the way by means of a star’ for those astrologers no matter how well intentioned they may have been and it is not beyond the realms of possibility that the Enemy with supernatural powers had some hand in that affair.

Thirdly, if the above is an accurate comment then it follows that the interpretation of the ‘shekinah’ glory is misapplied. And when this supposed ‘shekinah’ as mentioned in your article is compared with Scripture at, say, Exodus 13 there is the strong possibility that your article is inaccurate on this point.
Jonathan Sarfati
There is no more evidence for a Sep/Oct birth date than a December date.

The Magi were probably true believers in the one true God, and they probably knew of Daniel. You might recall that King Nebuchadnezzar threatened to execute all astronomers who could not tell him a dream and its interpretation. Daniel could do both, which saved the lives of all the astrologers (Daniel 2). Some of them were probably not just grateful, but also realized that Daniel didn’t get his information from the stars but from the Creator of the stars. Thus some of them passed on Daniel’s teachings and his book. Daniel was also held in the highest esteem by the Medo-Persian conquerors of Babylon.

From the 70 Sevens prophecy in Daniel 9, they knew that a Messiah was imminent. Add to that, the Balaam, who likely hailed from Babylon, prophesied about a star coming from Jacob (Numbers 24:15–25). An appearance of the Shekinah glory would tie into what the believing Magoi would have expected. But the Magoi didn’t know about the Micah 5:2 prophesy of Jesus's birth place, so went to Jerusalem, the ancient and current capital of Israel.

So, there is the strong possibility that my article is accurate on this point. ;)
Deon B.
Having read your article and the commentaries, I find this sentence very misleading. "Thus Christians were celebrating Christ’s birth on 25 December over 70 years before the Romans copied that date for their Sol Invictus, or ‘Unconquered Sun’ festival". Firstly, nowhere in the NT is anything written about Christians celebrating Jesus' 'birthday'. The only birthday mentioned is that of Herod(Math.14:6) when John the Baptist was murdered(A king decided on his fate).
The only other birthday mentioned in Scripture is that of Pharaoh(Gen.40:20) when the baker was executed(A king decided his fate).
Those are the only birthdays mentioned in all of Scripture - so it seems that people did not make a big thing of birthdays. I don't belittle the coming of our Saviour, but I strongly oppose the way that 'Christians' and some that use that name for partying and don't even know Him, 'celebrate' His coming. My wife and I(family as well when they are visiting), have meal together. No trees, no blinkers, no mistletoe, no candles, and so on.
And please young parents - stop lying to your children be telling them "it's Jesus' birthday".
Jonathan Sarfati
None of this makes birthday celebrations sinful. The Bible neither commands nor forbids them. In those days, hardly anyone would know their birthdays apart from royalty.

Similarly, as explained in a subsequent article Celebrating Christmas?, the Bible neither commands nor forbids Christmas celebrations. It's notable that the Shepherds were happy to celebrate the birth of Jesus though.

I am not sure how you could be sure that it was not Jesus’s birthday.
Terry D P.
These two Scriptures are quoted above:
However, the angel told her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).

An angel from God also appeared in a dream to Joseph, who was engaged to be married to Mary. The angel said, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:20–22).

        They tell us that Jesus Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit. So, wherever in the NT Jesus, the Son of God, speaks of “his” or “my” or “our” Father he is in fact speaking of the God the Holy Spirit.
Jonathan Sarfati
No, Jesus, God the Son, is speaking of God the Father. God the Holy Spirit is the helper and teacher that Jesus promised that the Father would send. Notice the passage where all three Persons of the Triune God are in view:

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. (John 14:6)
Jeffrey C.
Aside from the Feast of Dedication, other man-made festivals commemorating acts of God were certain fasts (Zechariah 8:19). These were acceptable observances intended to seek and honor Him.

Of course, even keeping festivals the LORD Himself instituted can be done in a way that does not constitute worship of the Father in spirit and in truth: “even now in your holy festivals, aren’t you eating and drinking just to please yourselves?” (Zechariah 7:6 NLT).

God is Judge of all we do. The prime directive of the Kingdom of God: “Follow none but the LORD your God and revere none but Him; observe His commandments alone, and heed only His orders; worship none but Him, and hold fast to Him” (Deuteronomy. 13:5, Tanakh).

Our Creator provided for seasons of worship from the very beginning (Genesis 1:14). From the beginning, before even there was any sin, He blessed the seventh day and made it holy (Genesis 2:3).

Other scriptural days of specific purpose, originating from Him, He declares to be “My holy days”—days for those “called to be holy" to devote to worshipping Him in sacred assembly for purposes He proposes as proclamations of His holiness! Days prophesied to be kept by all the earth under the Christ’s kingship after He returns!

Holy days scripturally ordained by the Creator nearly unknown and rather ignored by hundreds of millions of Christians who instead uphold extra-biblical traditions instituted by church authorities. The message seems to be: “Put your trust in us!”

In their rebellions, the Jews cost the Romans dear; they were hated in early centuries. Huge pressure to differentiate Christians from Jews to avoid persecution and scorn—as recently from worldly ‘science’ against the biblical account of Creation, the Deluge, and Babel! Similar scriptural compromises?
Peter T.
As has been stated “Nobody knows exactly which day Jesus was born.” But can we rely on Jewish tradition and early church beliefs, irrespective of the Romans copying this date 70 years later, as an indicator of the time of the Messiah’s birth? Luke's gospel chapter 1 verses 26–28 indicate that Mary was possibly conceived of the Holy Ghost in the sixth month at the time when she was visited by the angel Gabriel. The sixth month of the Biblical calendar is Elul. (See also verses 35–38). Elizabeth was now six months pregnant with John. Nine months from this time takes us to Sivan (May–June) which happens to be Springtime and lambing season in Israel.
By this time the constellation of Virgo is rising high in the northern sky having risen earlier in the year in the eastern sky. Reported conjunctions of Jupiter, Venus and Regulus with positioning of the moon below Virgo may have been further heavenly confirmations to the “wise men” of what was to unfold as they also journeyed from the east (Matthew 2:1) having followed “His Star”, maybe Gabriel again, from the east to where it “stood over where the young child was.” (Matthew 2:10)
Jonathan Sarfati
The problem, as explained also to Kevan Q. NZ December 24th, 2015, is that we are uncertain about the Jewish calendar dates, because we just have rabbinic writings that don't agree with each other. Others have used them to point to a September birth around the time of the Feast of Tabernacles. Roman Catholic scholars have even used them to point to a December date. This just reinforces the uncertainly of trying to pin down the exact date.
Tim L.
Regardless of when Jesus was actually born or conceived, I think it's interesting that it seems quite likely that the timing of Christmas has its origins in the early church’s (which was mostly Jewish) celebration of Hanukkah (which occurs on 12/25 on the Jewish calendar). The celebration of Hanukkah is full of typology related to Christ's birth, and there seems to be strong evidence that the early Christians added their own traditions (e.g. the middle candle on the menorah) to the Hanukkah celebration Jews continue to celebrate today. Maybe Christian scholars later added further justification for choosing this date with the integral year argument (which may or may not be true).
Tammy S.
Dr Sarfati, with respect, terms like “the earliest recorded Christian celebration” and “the early Christian writers” have little to with the search for biblical support of the holiday in question. The expanded quote from Colossians is still referring to the fact that one cannot be supposed to be any more godly or holy by simply observing known Jewish regulations of that current time period. Christ-mass, a man-made invention that came well after the death of Paul, is not what Paul is referring to. I do understand what your article is saying, but the Bible is not saying what your article is saying, that's the sticking point many believers share.
Jonathan Sarfati
As we keep pointing out, the Bible neither commands nor forbids Christmas celebrations. It also didn’t command the Hanukkah or Dedication celebration but Jesus celebrated it anyway.

Terms like “the earliest recorded Christian celebration” and “the early Christian writers” are mentioned to refute the false history of those who claim that Christmas is pagan.

And as pointed out elsewhere, people should not make too much of the English term “Christmas”, while ignoring other language terms for the same celebration that just mean “Christ’s birth” or “Holy Birth”. This is also explained in Celebrating Christmas?
Jeffrey C.
The birth of Christ is certainly a notable event in the good news of God's kingdom!

What concerns me is the substitutionary nature of the world's Christian calendar — its important days of worship being every Sunday, Christmas, and Easter. When the Teacher criticizes Jewish rules for worship, His complaint is "you ignore God's law and substitute your own tradition" (Mark 7:8). The traditions in view there do not seem to be syncretistic — not even traditions that came from borrowing anything from paganism. They were traditions instituted by Jewish authorities who likely considered what they required to honor God. So what about days for worshipping God instituted by Christian authorities?

Some such days might indeed be acceptable to the Judge of all!

But -- at Creation, and before there was any sin, the seventh day was declared holy (Genesis 2:3). Other days, all of which foreshadow the ministry of Messiah, are also biblically ordained as holy, most of which are also days of assembly (Leviticus 23). Worldly Christianity no longer considers these days holy, and hardly even worthy of note. The question is, what is the ORIGIN of this ignoring the holiness of all scriptural holy days to instead substitute Sunday-Christmas-Easter?

The scriptural holy days mentioned in Colossians 2:16 did and do foreshadow "things to come" in Christ! They overflow with Christological meaning -- well understood, no doubt by the apostolic assembly. But Christ was rejected by as Messiah by the temple authorities and many Jewish synagogues. Look carefully into the Greek of Colossians 2:17; the apostolic "body of Christ" is rightful judge of HOW to observe God's holy days!.

Why ignore God's holy days to keep instead humanly devised days and ways of worship of obscure origins and authority?
Jonathan Sarfati
We never said that these celebrations were mandatory, just that they are not forbidden. And let's see the sort of things Jesus was talking about in Mark 7:

6 He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:

“‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.

7 They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.’

8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”

9 And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ 11 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God)— 12 then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. 13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”

As explained in other comments and in the article Celebrating Christmas?, Jesus had no problem with celebrating the man-made festival of Dedication or Hanukkah.
Tammy S.
The context of Colossians 2:16 is explained in Colossians 2:17 - "which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is Christ". These verses are referring to the Old Testament festivals instituted by God, which point to Christ and are the ones in controversy at the time. There is no apostolic basis for including Christmas in what this verse is referring to. Also considering that the writer of both Colossians and Romans was dead by about 70 AD, it seems highly unlikely that, in addressing the audiences of these two books, he had a completely different future "celebration" in mind, namely Christmas, which at best has unclear origins and at worst is a flat out re-mix of some form of paganism.
Jonathan Sarfati
There is no warrant to try to rescue legalism from this verse. The whole passage from Colossians 2 should make this clear:

16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.

20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

This article documents that the earliest recorded Christian celebration on 25 Dec predates the earliest recorded pagan celebration. It also explains the integral year tradition by which the early Christian writers explained their choice of the date.
Felix K.
The whole thing is historical from beginning to the end. …
Our very date Christmas Day 25th December attests to events more than 2000 years ago. The CREATOR visited His creation supra-scientifically. ALLELUIA is all one can shout!
Joanne L.
Hi, I've noticed that John 10:22–23 has often been cited as proof that the Lord was celebrating a “man-made” festival, and so there's nothing wrong in celebrating Christmas.
Perhaps, if we try to read verses 22 to 24 as follows:
John 10:22–24 (KJV), “And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon’s porch. Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly.”
We find that it was mentioned that it was the “feast of the dedication" and “it was winter”; and the Lord “walked in the temple in Solomon’s porch” when the Jew came to Him to ask a question. The words do not speak of Him celebrating the “feast of dedication” but that He “walked” in the temple. Is it possible that the people were celebrating the feast and He was merely amongst them, and He could have His purpose to be there—He has a message for them, verses 25–30. They reacted to His message by which the Jews “took up stones again to stone him” (v. 31). After He spoke further with them, in verse 39, “they sought again to take him.”
In the context, is it possible that He was “celebrating” the feast with them?
Thank you.
Jonathan Sarfati
Of course Jesus was celebrating the Feast of Dedication or Hanukkah or Feast of Lights. He was at the Temple because the feast was about the rededication of the Temple by the Maccabees, who threw out the pagan (Seleucid Greek) defiler Antiochus IV ‘Epiphanes’, and re-lit the Menorah. So the Festival of Lights was a perfect time for Jesus to proclaim that He is the Light of the World.

But the context of the question to Jesus is: Hanukkah celebrates the overthrow of one pagan occupier by a righteous priestly deliverer, and many Jews expected the Messiah or Christ to be a “super-Maccabee”, who would overthrow their current pagan occupier, the Romans. So the question, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly” was saying: are you the one who will deliver us from Roman bondage, and if so, be clear about it, and prove it by actions.

Jesus’ response was far more than they bargained for. He was indeed a deliverer, but from a far greater problem than the Roman occupation: our sins.

Mitch C.
I suggest that your etymology of the word Easter may not have gone far enough back in history.

Wikipedia (see “Eostre”) traces the origin of the word "Easter" to a pagan source, and cites an 8th century work by St. Bede (“the Venerable”, who was respected as "The Father of English History") in support ...

Ēostre or Ostara (Old English: Ēastre, Northumbrian dialect Ēostre; Old High German: *Ôstara (reconstructed form)) is a Germanic divinity who, by way of the Germanic month bearing her name (Northumbrian: Ēosturmōnaþ; West Saxon: Ēastermōnaþ; Old High German: Ôstarmânoth), is the namesake of the festival of Easter. Ēostre is attested solely by Bede in his 8th-century work The Reckoning of Time, where Bede states that during Ēosturmōnaþ (the equivalent of April), pagan Anglo-Saxons had held feasts in Eostre's honor, but that this tradition had died out by his time, replaced by the Christian Paschal month, a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus.

Jonathan Sarfati
Wikipedia is hardly a reliable sourcem since anyone can edit it. It has been called ‘The Abomination that Causes Misinformation’. Compare Refutation of New Scientist’s Evolution: 24 myths and misconceptions: Mangling misotheists’ ignorant attacks on the Bible.

Unfortunately, there is no evidence outside Bede to support any ‘Eostre’—nothing in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, no inscriptions, idols, carvings, etc. Also, if it really came from paganism, then why are “Easter” and its cognates found only in Germanic languages, while other languages have a word similar to pascha?

Here is an off-site article: The modern myth of the Easter bunny.
Mitch C.
Even if Hislop was incorrect about the relationship of Nimrod to Semiramis and Tammuz, it seems to me a case of ‘throwing the baby out with the bathwater’ to dismiss everything he says in his book. Many of the practices associated with Christmas, such as mistletoe, gift giving and decorated trees has no basis in Scripture, but does have precedent in paganism. Likewise, rabbits and colored eggs have no basis in scripture, but are clearly fertility symbols borrowed from paganism. The name ‘Easter’ is an obvious variation of ‘Istar’, ‘Ishtar’, ‘Ashtoreth’, etc. and has its roots in pagan idolatry.

It was with good reason that Luther wrote his book The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, and that the Reformers regarded many Roman Catholic customs (purgatory, praying for the dead, etc.) to have their origins in pagan superstition. Hislop’s thesis that many of the pagan religions had a common source is supported, for example, by parallels in the pantheons of Greece and Rome: Zeus=Jove/Jupiter, Hera=Juno, Artemis=Diana, Eros=Cupid, Ares=Mars, etc. And if there had been an ancient pagan story of the death and resurrection of a deity, then it was simply Satan’s perversion of the various prophecies concerning the coming Messiah, which dates all the way back to Eden (Gen 3:15). I think careful, objective research demands that we examine each of Hislop’s claims individually, and not that we dismiss his entire work because of one or two errors.
Jonathan Sarfati
My critique of Hislop in The Genesis Account was centred around the Semiramis connection on which he bases so much. I could have written about much more but didn't want to go too much off-topic in a Genesis commentary.

Elsewhere I have pointed out his fallacies about Easter—see Does Easter have a pagan derivation? The word has merely superficial sound similarities to the pagan Goddesses, and in reality it was a common term for Passover in German and in Old and Middle English, used frequently in Tyndale’s Bible.

Here’s yet another example of how atrocious Hislop’s book is. He claims that IHS on Catholic communion wafers really stand for Isis, Horus, and Seb, or “The Mother, Child, and Father of the gods”, which he claims is “the Egyptian Trinity” (p. 239). He doesn't even get that right, since in the Egyptian mythology, Horus’ father was Osiris, who was murdered by Seb (Set), his brother. But the real origin of the three letter is a faulty Latin transliteration of the Greek contraction ΙΗΣ for ΙΗΣΟΥΣ (Jesus), another nomen sacrum as I’ve explained above to Gian Carlo B. This was later rationalized to Iesus Hominum Salvator = Jesus Saviour of Men (mankind). This would also fit with the RC transubstantiation doctrine that regards the wafer as becoming the body of Christ.

Just as evolution deserves to be criticized but we should not resort to fallacious arguments against it, likewise as an Evangelical Protestant ministry we disagree with Roman Catholicism but likewise oppose fallacious arguments against this as well.
Craig F.
With respect to the tradition of giving gifts at this time, I note in Esther 9:20–23 that the 14th and 15th day of Adar (the 12 month) was made a festival in which gifts were sent to one another in rememberance of the ‘salvation’ of the Jews from Haman's plot to kill all the Jews. Could this not also be a forerunner of the gift giving that has continued? As indicated in CMI articles, the tradtion of celebrating Christmas was indicated to be already well established by the early Church Fathers.
Thomas M.
The real question is “is Christmas even Christian?” Or the invention of men. Maybe somebody can show me from the Scriptures where God has authorized “Christ mass” as a day to worship Him, or maybe an approved apostolic example of the practice can be found, or maybe someone can deduce from other scriptures God’s approval. Has not God already given us a day, an approved day, the Lord’s day (Sunday) to celebrate the birth, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus?
Jonathan Sarfati
As I’ve replied to other people with similar objections:
We most certainly do base our thinking in every area on Scripture, and are concerned that a brother in Christ might think otherwise.

One of the texts we base this on is 2 Timothy 3:15–­17

15 and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,
17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Scripture is able to make a man ‘wise unto salvation’ and ‘thoroughly furnished unto all good works’. This implies that Scripture contains all the doctrine and moral law we need. Thus all things necessary for our faith and life are either expressly set down in Scripture or may be deduced by good and necessary consequence from Scripture. So if something is sinful, it will be forbidden by Scripture, either expressly or by logical deduction. A corollary: if something is not forbidden by Scripture, then it is permissible.

We think Christmas is an example. Scripture neither commands nor forbids it. Therefore Christians have the freedom in Christ to celebrate or ignore it, as long as the means of celebration are not anti-scriptural.

Romans 14:5–6 says:

One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.

Colossians 2:16 says:

Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath [emphasis added].

Another point to add comes from the feast of Hanukkah. This celebrates the ‘re-booting’ of the Second Temple after the Maccabees got rid of the Seleucid defiler Antiochus IV, who proclaimed himself ‘Epiphanes’ meaning ([God] manifest). This included lighting the Menorah, the multi-part candle, and the story goes that one day’s supply of oil lasted all eight days.

In John 10:22–23, we see Yeshua/Jesus walking on the Temple Mount during Hanukkah, using this Feast of Lights to explain how He is the Light of the World, and God (the Second Person of the Trinity) come in the flesh! Thus He saw nothing wrong with celebrating a ‘man-made’ festival that was not commanded in Scripture.

Many Messianic Jews even make the celebration into an illustration of the Messiah. On Hanukkah, Jews light the middle candle, the Shamash, meaning ‘Servant’, then use this to light the other candles. This represents our Lord Jesus, the Suffering Servant prophesied in Isaiah 53, who is the Light of the World. The other candles represent believers in Him, both Jew and Gentile, who should show His light not hide it under a bushel (Matthew 5:15).

So likewise I see nothing wrong with celebrating Christmas, and the 25 December date comes from a Jewish tradition that later pagans plagiarized.

I hope this explains our position.
Jay M.
So are we officially debunking the “The early Church merely appropriated Saturnalia” atheist lie then?
Jonathan Sarfati
Most definitely. Saturnalia was 17 December, and was thus too early to be the model for Christmas on 25 Dec, even when Saturnalia was later extended for a week so it lasted 17–23 Dec.
Aleksandar K.
Does Yeshua have the same meaning as Joshua?
Jonathan Sarfati
Yes. They are both short forms of Yehoshua. Indeed, the Septuagint renders the famous Joshua the son of Nun as Ἰησοῦς υἱὸς Ναυη (Iēsous huios Nauē, Joshua the son of Nauē).
Ronald W.
I really appreciate this timely article.
I also really appreciate Dr Sarfati’s response to Neil F. reagrding A. Hislop’s The Two Babylons. It is truly unfortunate that this book is used by many to ‘blast’ the celebration of Christmas and Easter even though it is profoundly unreliable. I personally find it very interesting that the Dec 25 / Jan 6 dates for Christmas can be traced to a Jewish tradition.
Keep up the great work and God bless CMI :).
Julie M.
This article really blessed me, and I also read the one about Easter from the link in the comments. Thank you so much for encouraging information that is fascinating, even when it isn't directly about evolution. I had given a gift to you earlier, and now I'm even more glad that I did. You are such a blessing. Keep up the good work, and Merry Christmas!
Neil F.
Mary Christ Mass Sounds heathen to me. For centuries before the birth of Christ the heathen were worshiping on Dec. 25, see the Two Babylons by A. Hislop, pp 91–101. Jeremiah 10. Paganism is so deeply entrenched in the so called Christian church, that I am saddened. Worship GOD in spirit and TRUTH!! Worship HIM who made heaven, the earth, the sea, and the fountains of waters. Rev. 14:7. JESUS is Lord. The Bible says “learn not the way of the heathen” Jeremiah 10:2. Narrow is the way, and few be that find it. Matt. 7:14. The END is here and the true people of GOD are coming out of the darkness. Wake up!!!!!
Jonathan Sarfati
As is common with many pagan derivation theories, the pagan celebrations actually post-date the Christian ones, so if there was any borrowing, it was not by Christians but from them. See Was Christianity plagiarized from pagan myths? Refuting the copycat thesis. This was true of 25 December. The earliest recorded Sol Invictus or Mithra celebrations on this date were long after the earliest recorded Christian celebration (see Is there anything about Christmas that’s genuinely Christian?). And the Winter Solstice and Saturnalia were both a few days before the 25th, so are too early to have inspired this date.

I’m sorry to say that this is an exceedingly unreliable book. In my Genesis 1–11 commentary, The Genesis Account, I have a section as follows:

Nimrod and Semiramis? Fantasy masquerading as history

Alexander Hislop (1807–1865), a Free Church of Scotland minister, wrote a book called The Two Babylons (1853). Its subtitle tells us its main thesis: Papal worship revealed to be the worship of Nimrod and his wife. That is, Hislop tried to trace various Roman Catholic practices to ancient paganism. To do so, he proposed that Nimrod was not only the instigator of the Babel rebellion, but also had a wife called Semiramis. Together, they had a child called Tammuz, but Nimrod was killed before he was born. So Semiramis claimed that Tammuz was Nimrod reincarnated. Supposedly this triad of father, mother, and child was the founder of many pagan religions, e.g. Isis, Horus, Seth of Egypt. And this was allegedly the forerunner of many Roman Catholic practices.

However, to make his claims, Hislop pieced together characters from history and legend that were never connected in antiquity. Indeed, Semiramis was a legendary queen, but in the legends she was married to Ninus. So Hislop arbitrarily equates Ninus with Nimrod. Further, the legendary queen Semiramis might have been based on a historical queen named Shammuramat. She was queen of Assyria for a number of years around 800 bc. After the death of her husband King Shamshi-Adad V, she ruled Assyria as a regent for her son, King Adad-nirari III, until he was old enough to rule. He might have been the King of Nineveh in Jonah’s time who ordered city-wide repentance (Jonah 3:6–9).

But if Semiramis was a legendary version of this historical queen, then she is well over a thousand years too late to have been married to the biblical Nimrod. An inscription to Shammuramat was found in the city called Nimrud. Arabs named this ancient Assyrian city after Nimrod, but this is very different from Shammuramat being married to Nimrod. The city Nimrud was in ancient times called Kalhu, which might well have been the biblical Calah built by Nimrod.

Tammuz likewise has no historical or legendary connection to the Nimrod of Genesis. He was a Babylonian god of shepherds and crops, and had a life-death-rebirth cycle every year. Ezekiel mentions the pagans mourning his death at winter time (Ezekiel 8:14–15). However, none of this provides the slightest evidence that the biblical Nimrod had a son called Tammuz.

However, leaving aside all the Greek gods, there is nothing here to support Hislop. For one thing, this is from Shem, while Nimrod was from Ham. And Ninus is not the husband of Semiramis but a son (or maybe stepson).

It is sadly ironic—Hislop was a minister of a Church that taught Sola Scriptura, and was attacking Roman Catholicism which denies it. Yet Hislop’s whole thesis relies on a random mix of extra-biblical traditions, in contrast to the Bible, which mentions no wife or son of Nimrod.

A good critique comes from Ralph Woodrow, who was once an admirer of Hislop’s book, and wrote his own book based on this. But then Woodrow decided to research the primary sources, and found that Hislop’s claims simply didn’t follow from them. So to his credit, he withdrew his own book and wrote a replacement.[1]

[1]. See Woodrow, R., A case study in poor methodology, a review of The Two Babylons, Christian Research Journal 22(2), 2000; equip.org.

See also Does Easter have a pagan derivation?
Gian Carlo B.
Hi Dr Sarfati. I read your reply rather early, LOL.

It is interesting regarding the abbreviation history of Christ, and to my honesty, was not aware of that either, but as many atheists do (and to also prove your point of their unawareness [like their unawareness in theology and Scripture]), their motive to put X over Christ is because they are aware the Christ in Christmas is more than just a partridge in a pear tree or 12 gifts of ‘xmas’, it is actually the birth of our Saviour. But now that you mention the fact of the nomina sacra, it seems indeed atheists have nowhere to hide from God. :)
Gian Carlo B.
Great insightful article, Russell, like your work.

Regarding what you said about Santa, it’s also one facet of how many atheists and agnostics want to ‘take the Christ out of Christmas’ and just put ‘Xmas’ because supposedly it is imposing religious connotations especially to people who don’t believe. I of course, and many genuine Christians would agree that is a very ludicrous and outright immature tactic and actually makes pretty much every holiday the same holiday, so much for ‘celebrating diversity’, these babies want the same holiday for everyone yet they preach their double standard of diversity. We can argue the date for Christmas, but not the reason, which is literally the Gospel and his Redemption prophesied in the OT.
Jonathan Sarfati
It’s certainly likely that many christophobes write Xmas to take Christ out of it. But they are unaware that this expression was originally a Christian abbreviation, because the X was the Greek letter chi, the first letter of Χριστός. Here is one interesting off-site article.

Some of the earliest NT manuscripts also abbreviate sacred names (Latin term nomina sacra, singular nomen sacrum). E.g. they would abbreviate the nominative ΧΡΙΣΤΌΣ to ΧΣ, which was often written as ΧC, and the genitive ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥ as XY, and the abbreviations would have a line over them, which I can’t do here. In this icon from the great Hagia Sophia cathedral in Byzantium/Constantinople/Istanbul, there are the nomina sacra ΙΣ ΧΣ standing for ΙΗΣΟΥΣ ΧΡΙΣΤΌΣ, Jesus Christ
Alan S.
In English “Christmas” starts with “Christ”. It’s obvious; so is its meaning.
Praise His name!
Tomislav O.
God doesn’t have a master plan. We have a plan for grocery shopping or a plan to build a house because we might forget something. God, however, does not forget things. God doesn’t have a plan, He has a will. It’s the will of God, not the plan of God.
Jonathan Sarfati
That’s an unusual definition of a plan. A chessmaster certainly doesn’t plan because he forgets something, but because he hopefully understands the depths of a chess position.
Ian R L.
I’m grateful to our Lord & Master Jesus Christ (Yeshua Ha Mashiach) for you publishing this info. For Scripture clearly states, the Truth of the matter. Christ Jesus clearly stated: “I and the Father are One! Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father” (see Jn 10:30; Jn 14:7–12). He also said: “Before Abraham was, I Am.” (Jn 8:58).
Malan G.
The statement “Iesous (Ἰησοῦς), which is the Greek rendering of the Hebrew name Yeshua, a shortened form of Yehoshua (יְהוֹשׁ֫וּעַ)” is incorrect. The word Yeshua is found in the Aramaic sections of the OT, e.g. Neh 8:17. It is the Aramaic form of the word “Yehoshua”.
Jonathan Sarfati
It’s doubtful that this verse was in Aramaic—it certainly looks Hebrew to me. The name Yeshua (יֵשׁ֫וּעַ) is also found in 1 Chronicles 24:11 and 2 Chronicles 31:15.
Kevan Q.
Although the Bible gives no command to celebrate Jesus' birth, it does indicate when Jesus was born.

Luke 1:5, "There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judæa, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth." Elisabeth was in her 6th month when Jesus was conceived: Luke 1:36 ”... this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.”

1 Chronicles 24:10 confirms that Abijah's was the 8th of 24 courses of priests serving in the temple. The year begins with Passover in March on the Gregorian calendar, so Zacharias' service in Abijah’s course would be in late June.

Adding nine months for John’s gestation, plus the six months in Luke 1:36 would place the birth of Jesus in Tishri, the seventh month of the Jewish calendar, (September/October).

As the feasts are all prophetic of Christ, it would be surprising if Jesus was not born on the Feast of Tabernacles, in the middle of that seventh Hebrew month of Tishri, coming to earth in the temporary tabernacle of the human body. Ironically, this would make his conception on Hanukah, 22–25 December.

But what year? Matthew 2:16 tells us that Herod was sent forth and killed all the male children 2 years and under according to the time he diligently enquired of the wise men. Jesus was obviously born before Herod died in 4 BC, which would suggest that Jesus was born in 5 BC.

Put the pieces together: Jesus was born in September 5 BC.
Jonathan Sarfati
Here is an article (off-site) by Dr Arnold Fruchtenbaum, a fellow Hebrew Christian or Messianic Jew, which I think fairly explains the case against Jesus being born on a feast day:

If we knew for certain exactly when the course of Abia functioned in the Temple, we could certainly determine very closely the exact time of year that Yeshua was born. Unfortunately, this source of information is in rabbinic writings which are contradictory. Because of the contradictions, we cannot be 100% sure which ones are right, or even if any of those rabbinic traditions are correct. For that reason, scholars who work with the sources must come to the conclusion that the date of the Lord's birth is still indefinite.

I personally have deep doubts that Yeshua was born on the Feast of Tabernacles (or during Passover as some others try to argue) or on any other Jewish holiday. One thing I have noticed in the Gospels is the fact that if Yeshua said or did anything on a specific Jewish Holy Day, the writer always mentions it. It would seem to me that if Yeshua was born on any specific Jewish holiday, Matthew and Luke would have mentioned it, as these are the writers who deal with the birth of the Messiah. This would certainly be true of Matthew, who was writing to a Jewish audience; he would have found this significant enough to mention. But the total silence of both Matthew and Luke in connecting Yeshua's birth with any Jewish Holy Day tells me that Yeshua was born on a normal day, therefore, the Gospel writers do not make mention of the date.

This is not an argument from silence, which in formal logical terms is a type of invalid argument called denying the antecedent (see the explanation in Conditional Statements and Implications). But the above is an argument from conspicuous absence, which is a valid argument called denying the consequent.

I think you are in the right ballpark with the year, and your reasoning is sound.

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