I held to the September 11th 3 BC theory for a long time, including in my last Christmas related post on this blog I made fairly recently. My basic point of that post I still stand by, that there is nothing wrong with celebrating Jesus Birth on the wrong day. And I'll say the same for those who even after reading my argument still here feel compelled to celebrate it during the Fall Feasts.
I still support the 3-2 BC range for the year of his Birth. Africanus specifies the date in terms that can be understood as 3/2 BC. Both Irenaeus and Tertullian assign Jesus' birth to the forty-first year of Augustus. If this date presumes that the reign of Augustus began when he was elevated to consulship in August 43 BC, the year intended is 2 BC. Tertullian conveniently confirms this conclusion by adding that Christ's birth was 28 years after the death of Cleopatra and fifteen years before the death of Augustus. Cleopatra died in August 30 BC, and Augustus died in August AD 14. Konradin Ferrari d'Occhieppo has demonstrated that the date which Clement of Alexandria furnishes for the birth of Jesus is equivalent to 6 January 2 BC.
Nothing in Matthew 2 actually says the Star was seen by the Magi the day he was born. Which means I can still support the same basic view I have before on the Star of Bethlehem, as well as viewing the visit of the Magi as being in December of of 2 BC. There were three Jupiter-Regulus Conjunctions, I don't think they'd have fully understood their significance till all three happened. Herod rounded up to two years because he wanted to make absolutely sure.
Likewise I still stand by my prior posts on the Census of Luke 2. Josephus' reference we commonly cite and that I did there (Antiquities, XVII, 41-45 ), however is probably not a specific Oath but to this sect in general rejecting Rome.
First I want to express my objection to him being born on either Passover or Tabernacles. There is no way Rome would have enforced a Census requiring presence in their hometown in Judea on a day their religion demanded most people to pilgrimage to Jerusalem. I feel this makes Trumpets and Tom Kippur unlikely too, that's still to close to the pilgrimage day.
Shepherds in Winter
The Biblical Argument against a winter birth for Jesus is a claim that Shepherds would not have had their flocks outdoors in winter. These people are forgetting that Israel does not have the climate of Northern Europe or America. The Weather can indeed be very bad in Winter there sometimes but not always, plenty of areas around the same latitude like the Southern US often have nice weather at this time. I live in one of the Coldest part of the US, Wisconsin, and sometimes we don't get Snow till after Christmas has passed.
Genesis 31:38-40: "This twenty years have I been with thee; thy ewes and thy she goats have not cast their young, and the rams of thy flock have I not eaten. That which was torn of beasts I brought not unto thee; I bare the loss of it; of my hand didst thou require it, whether stolen by day, or stolen by night. That which was torn of beasts I brought not unto thee; I bare the loss of it; of my hand didst thou require it, whether stolen by day, or stolen by night. Thus I was; in the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night; and my sleep departed from mine eyes. "
Jacob was at this time much further north then Bethlehem, yet he was engaged in Shepherding during the winter. So using the no shepherds in winter argument calls Scripture a liar. Research into Migdal Eder mentioned in Genesis 35:21 is what is more directly relevant to Bethlehem.
James Kelso, an archaeologist who spent a number of years living in Palestine and who has done extensive research there says this:
Also there is Canon H.B TristramThe best season for the shepherds of Bethlehem is the winter when heavy rains bring up a luscious crop of new grass. After the rains the once-barren, brown desert earth is suddenly a field of brilliant green. One year when excavating at New Testament Jericho, I lived in Jerusalem and drove through this area twice every day. At one single point along the road, I could see at times as many as five shepherds with their flocks on one hillside. One shepherd stayed with his flock at the same point for three weeks, so lush was the grass. But as soon as the rains stopped in the spring, the land quickly took on its normal desert look once again.Since there seem to have been a number of shepherds who came to see the Christ child, December or January would be the most likely months (James Kelso, An Archaeologist Looks At The Gospels, p. 23-24).
“A little knoll of olive trees surrounding a group of ruins marks the traditional site of the angels’ appearance to the shepherds, Migdol Eder, ‘the tower of the flock’. But the place where the first ‘Gloria in excelsis’ was sung was probably further east, where the bare hills of the wilderness begin, and a large tract is claimed by the Bethlehemites as a common pasturage. Here the sheep would be too far off to be led into the town at night; and exposed to the attacks of wild beasts from the eastern ravines, where the wolf and the jackal still prowl, and where of old the yet more formidable lion and bear had their covert, they needed the shepherds’ watchful care during the winter and spring months, when alone pasturage is to be found on these bleak uplands“. Picturesque Palestine Vol 1 page 124Also note this excerpt from Messianic Jewish Scholars Alfred Edersheim:
I've also seen it claimed by Chuck Missler and others that Israel is "impassable" during winter, and Mary and Joseph couldn't have traveled south at this time. But John 10:21-22 tells us Jesus traveled to Jerusalem to keep the feast of the Dedication/Hannukah. Indeed I take from this passage that Hanukkah while not one of the required pilgrimage days became an unofficial additional one, since it was intimately about Jerusalem and The Temple.“That the Messiah was born in Bethlehem was a settled conviction. Equally so, was the belief that He was to be revealed from Migdal Eder , the tower of the flock.This Migdal Eder, was not the watch tower for ordinary flocks which pastured on the barren sheep ground beyond Bethlehem, but lay close to town, on the road to Jerusalem. A passage in the Mishnah leads to the conclusion that the flocks which pastured there were destined for Temple Sacrifices, and accordingly that the Shepherds who watched over them were, no ordinary Shepherds. The latter were under the ban of Rabbinism on the account of their necessary isolation from religious ordinances, and their manner of life, which rendered strict legal observances unlikely, if not absolutely impossible.The same Mishnic also leads us to infer, that these flocks lay out all year round , since they are spoken of as in the fields thirty days before Passover- that is, in the month of February, when in Palestine the average rainfall is nearly greatest. Thus Jewish traditions in some dim manner apprehended the first revelation of the Messiah from Migdal Eder, where Shepherds watched the Temple flocks all year round. Of the deep symbolic significance of such a coincidence, it is needless to speak -The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah By Alfred Edersheim
The course of Abijah
Those arguing for Jesus being born in Tishri will claim the documentation places the course of Abijah operating in the Summer, around June/July. However the agreement on this is far from universal.
Josef Heinrich Friedlieb’s Leben J. Christi des Erlösers. Münster, 1887, p. 312. Strongly argues that Joarib was the course operating when the Temple was destroyed on the 9th of Av. This would place the course of Abijah about the second week of Tishri, which happens to be when Yom Kippur happens. The Dead Sea Scrolls seem to back up this chronology.
The apocryphal Infancy Gospel of James, is clearly not inspired, but it's an early witness being from the first half of the second century. It promotes Zacharias to being The High Priest which is clearly wrong. But the key thing is it says Yom Kippur is when Gabriel appeared to him. John Crysostom also refers to Zachariahs being in The Temple during Tishri.
John The Baptist was conceived pretty much immediately after the course ended, which would place it possibly during Tabernacles or just before it, (in 3 BC the 15th of Tishri tell on September 25th, since it is well known September 11th that year was the First of Tishri). Six months latter is when Jesus was conceived, which would be during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Nine months after that would be December or January.
John being convinced on Tabernacles or the Eve of it, and the Visitation happening during Passover/Unleavened Bread, could likely place John's birth on the 17th of Tammuz, which is an interesting date. That agrees with the traditional date for his birth on our calendar being June 24th or 25th.
Early Church References
It is frequently claimed that it was a long time before Christians starting celebrating the Birth of Christ at all. The very Early Christians indeed didn't have the time (dealing with persecution) to create new celebrations. But there is evidence of a winter date for Christ's birth showing up fairly early.
Hippolytus of Rome (170-235 AD), who was a student of Ireaneus, who was a student of Polycarp, who was a student of John, to whom Jesus entrusted the care of his Mother. Placed the Birth of Jesus on December 25th, and the Crucifixion on March 25th. He was off by one on the year on the Crucifixion placing it in 29 AD.
For the first advent of our Lord in the flesh, when he was born in Bethlehem, eight days before the kalends of January [December 25th], the 4th day of the week [Wednesday], while Augustus was in his forty-second year, [2 or 3BC] but from Adam five thousand and five hundred years. He suffered in the thirty third year, 8 days before the kalends of April [March 25th], the Day of Preparation, the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar [29 or 30 AD], while Rufus and Roubellion and Gaius Caesar, for the 4th time, and Gaius Cestius Saturninus were Consuls.From his Daniel commentary, he also spoke elsewhere on believing Jesus Conception and Death were the same day. Clement of Alexandria, Jullius Africanus and Theophilus of Caesarea are also cited as early sources for these dates. The Constitutions of the Apostles dated to 250 AD also refers to December 25th.
Irenaeus (130-202 AD) and Julius Sextus Africanus (160-240 AD) in his work Adversus Haereses, both gave March 25th as the day of Jesus Conception.
The Early Church belief in a winter birth seems to be related to a belief that Jesus was conceived about the same day of the Hebrew year as his Death or Resurrection. The Western/Latin Church favored December 25th for Christmas and March 25th exactly 270 days earlier for the conception. Whether they placed the Crucifixion or Resurrection on March 25th varies. The Eastern/Greek church favored January 6th for Christmas and April 6 for the Crucifixion/Conception. My argument for a 30 AD Crucifixion agrees with April 6th.
First Fruits did fall on March 25th in 37 AD, it seems some early Christians in Egypt got confused and gave 37 AD as the Crucifixion year. Might be because that's when the 70 Weeks would have ended without a gap.
You may be thinking, "Wouldn't Mary have been in Jerusalem rather then Nazareth if the annunciation was during Passover/Unleavened bread?" It's actually only males at least 12 years old the Law required to be in Jerusalem for the three pilgrimage Holy Days. Now often husbands brought their wives and children with but that wasn't obligated, Elizabeth may have stayed behind due to being six months pregnant. Mary wasn't married yet, only betrothed. The Bride is traditionally supposed to be separated from the groom during betrothal. And I have reasons to think Mary was perhaps older then we assume and was at this time a single woman not in her father's house. The men of the story are all absent during the Annunciation and Visitation narrative.
Cyril of Jerusalem in the late 4th century requested the date of Jesus birth be determined from the Census documents which apparently still existed in Rome. He said they verified it to be December 25th. Now that's late enough we should take it with a grain of salt, but it's there.
One of the first Protestants to oppose the 25th of December Christmas was Isaac Newton, who was a good scientist but also a Neo-Pagan and Alchemist.. Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel, and the Apocalypse of St. John, Volume 1 (London: J. Darby, T. Browne & All, 1733), 144-65.
As far as the death and conception correlation goes. Genesis 4 seems to hint at Seth being conceived very shortly after Abel died. Abel is considered a type of Christ.
Lots of people in the Hebrew Roots movement and other Messianic fellowships that don't deny Grace, have an insistence that Jesus must have been born on one of the Appointed Times of Leviticus 23.
If Jesus birth was meant to be a fulfillment of one of those like his Death was Luke or Matthew would have made that clear, we wouldn't have to deduce it from elsewhere. The fulfillment of the Fall Feast days lies in the middle of the 70th Week of Daniel.
As far as Revelation 12 goes. There is a symbolic summery of history there but those signs being seen in Heaven is part of the events of the Seventh Trumpet, the chapter divisions weren't in the original text. I deal with that here.
My main argument against Jesus being born on any of the Leviticus 23 Holy Days is it's absurd to think Rome would not have enforced a Census in Judea requiring people to be in different scattered towns close to any of the days where there local religion required people to be in Jerusalem.
Mary and Joseph happened to have been headed closer to Jerusalem then they were before so we don't think of that implication a lot. But other people would have been just the opposite (there could hypothetically have been people living in Bethlehem who were required by this to go to Galilee). Jerusalem itself had lots of citizens who's family origin wasn't in it. So you'd have people who usually didn't have to worry about the Pilgrimage requirement at all suddenly having that matter over complicated.
Now you can argue that Yom Teruah and Yom Kippur are not pilgrimage days themselves. In fact I've seen Rob Skiba use Sukkot's pilgrimage day status against it arguing in favor of Yom Teruah. But those two days are still way to close. One is 5 days before and the other is 14 days before. And Sukkot required being in Jerusalem an entire week. My family has even with modern conveniences making travel a lot easier never gone on a week long trip without beginning the preparations more then three weeks in advance.
The time around the Winter Solstice was about as far away from the pilgrimage days as you can get. And the date I've come to favor puts it like a month after Hanukkah and over a month away from Purim, so the Census would need not disrupt those less important Holy Days either.
Attempting to determine which year
Using Stellarium, it seems the 14th of Nisan of 3 BC could likely have fallen on April 1st.
However in 2 BC Passover and March lined up almost exactly the same as they did in 37 AD, with a discrepancy of less then 24 hours. Maybe that is also a factor in the confusion.
And it was December 25th of 2 BC that Jupiter stopped in the night sky in exactly the right conditions to match Matthew 2. I've seen an argument against the usual view that the Magi must have arrived a significant amount of time latter.
They have decent responses to most of the usual arguments, about the Greek word translated "young Child" (Luke 2:17 uses the same term for a an infant Jesus) and moving to a house (Joseph could very well have done that the next day). And insist the tone of Matthew 2:1 is clearly that they arrived in Jerusalem when Jesus was born.
We should consider the possibility that both the flight into Egypt and return (and in-between Herod's Death) happened before the presentation in The Temple. May was supposed to be set aside for her Purification, Joseph could have found a way to do this even with them doing some traveling. And it could explain why Mary is not a very active part of the story in Matthew 2, as she is in Matthew 1 and everything in Luke that's largely her POV. Some have suggested January 28th 1 BC as the Day Herod died. The presentation in The Temple would be about February 2.
Matthew 2:1 "now when Jesus was born", implies that the one event speedily followed the other. Directly after the presentation, Jesus went with His parents to Nazareth (Luke 2), therefore the presentation must have been preceded by their visit. At the coming of the Magi, Herod first heard of the birth of Jesus, but if the presentation at the Temple had previously taken place, he must have heard of it, as it had been made public by Anna (Luke 2:38).
I feel placing the specific Oath of Allegiance 15-12 months before Herod's death may be flawed. When Moses of Khorone refers to the same Oath, we learn it came with Imperial Idols. Josephus in Antiquities 17.6 refers to a Golden Eagle Herod had erected that was torn down by upset Jews possibly very close to his death, when he was already ill. If the tearing down of the Eagle happened immediately after it was set up (which I find highly likely), then it's interesting that this seems to have been fairly close to when Herod died..
The major problem for a 2 BC date is the length of Jesus ministry, which begins after he turns 30. The notion that it's 3 or 3.5 years I refute in my 30 AD study, it's confusion based on not realizing John isn't chronological. But it does seem to be nearly a whole year. And we know from John 7-10 that a Tabernacles and Hanukkah happened during it. And Jesus being born December 25th of 2 BC had Jesus turn 30 around December of 29/30 BC.
However maybe Luke 3 isn't saying what we assume. I've often been curious about how it seems exact (saying began) and vague (saying about) at the same time. Given the way Ancient Hebrews didn't even do Birthdays how we do, what if it really means the beginning of the year in which he turned 30? Which would be Nisan of 29 AD if he was born around December 25th of 2 BC. That could work quite well.
It was at Jesus Baptism that John proclaimed him "The Lamb of God who takes away the Sins of the World". So it'd be fitting if this was around the Passover season the year before the ultimate Passover. And maybe Jesus 40 days in the wilderness correlates a year in advance to the 40 days from the Resurrection to the Ascension.
Or another alternative is it could have meant the beginning of his 30th year. Which would be when he turned 29.
If Jesus was 30 when he died in 30 AD, then He was Crowned with the Crown of Thrones the same age David was crowned in Hebron. David had a second coronation 7 years latter, Jesus will have a second one too. Possibly 2007 years latter, but I'm not certain on that.
(Update: I've come to think it maybe more likely December 25th or after is when the Magi vistied Jesus, but they arrived in Jerusalem before. The 25th of Tevet would have been the 23rd of 24th of December that year.)
What makes this model fascinating to me is the possibly of Jesus being Conceived on Passover or First Fruits, why? Because of an insight made by Zola Levitt, about a possible correlation between the Gestation process and the High Holy Days of Leviticus 23. One of the briefer websites describing it.
The one thing wrong here is the Hanukkah tie in fudged the numbers a bit. Though maybe not as much as I at first thought. This makes all the Leviticus 23 Holy Days potentially significant to the Nativity of Jesus.After the end of woman’s monthly cycle, the new cycle begins. On the fourteenth day of that first month, the egg appears. This matches Passover, which is the fourteenth day of the first month of God’s calendar. (Leviticus 23:5)The egg must be fertilized within twenty-four hours, or it cannot be fertilized at all and will pass through her body. Twenty-four hours after Passover is the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which falls on the fifteenth day of the first month. (Leviticus 23:6)If the egg does become fertilized, it attaches to the mother’s uterus within 2 – 6 days. This corresponds to the Feast of Firstfruits, which falls anywhere from 2 – 6 days after Passover. Passover and Unleavened Bread can fall on any day of the week, and then Firstfruits is the Sunday after the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which is why the timing is a flexible date. (Leviticus 23:11)After another fifty days, the embryo begins to look like a human. You can clearly see the head with eyes, the arms with hands and fingers, and the legs with feet and toes. The fiftieth day after Firstfruits is Pentecost (which is the Greek word for fifty). (Leviticus 23:15-16)By the beginning of the seventh month, the baby’s hearing is developed. The first day of the seventh month of God’s calendar is the Feast of Trumpets, sometimes called the Day of Shouting. (Leviticus 23:24) It is the day in God’s calendar that includes a sound to alert his people of the last call to come out of false worship and sin, referred to as Babylon.By the tenth day of the seventh month, the baby’s bone marrow is starting to produce red blood cells. The tenth day of the seventh month of God’s calendar is the Day of Atonement, the most holy day on the calendar. (Leviticus 23:27) This was the only day that the priest would take the blood sacrifice into the Holy Place of the Sanctuary, to place the blood on the mercy seat to obtain forgiveness of all confessed sins. We are told in Hebrews 9:22, that “Without shedding of blood, there is no remission.”By the middle of the seventh month, the baby’s lungs have fully developed. This corresponds to the Feast of Tabernacles on the fifteenth of the seventh month (Leviticus 23:34), which is a day of celebrating our reunion with our spiritual Father and his Son. The Greek word for “spirit” is “pneuma” which relates to the lungs (as in the English word pneumonia).The human gestation cycle is 280 days. Nine months of 30 days each is 270 days, so on the tenth day after the ninth month, the baby is born. Nine months and ten days after the Feast of Unleavened Bread is the Feast of Hanukkah, also called the Feast of Dedication in John 10:22. This festival lasts for eight days. The eighth day after birth is the day God commanded circumcision (Genesis 17:12).
The Birth of someone conceived around Passover is likely to be in Tevet (The Tenth Month), and December 25th can fall in Tevet almost as often as it can in Kislev. If Jesus was born on the Fast of the Tenth Month, that'd be pretty interesting considering Zachariah 8:19. Messianic Scholar Alfred Edersheim has suggested a theory that the 9th of Tevet was affiliated with Christmas by early Medieval Jewish tradition.
for this section: There is no adequate reason for questioning the historical accuracy of this date. The objections generally made rest on grounds which seem to me historically untenable. …but a curious piece of evidence comes to us from a Jewish source. In the addition to the Megilloth Taanith, the 9th Tebbeth is marked as a fast day, and it is added that the reason for this is not stated. Now, Jewish chronologist have fixed on that day as that of Christ’s birth and it is remarkable that, between the years 500 and 816 A.D. the 25th of December fell no less than twelve times on the 9th of Tebbeth. If the 9th Tebbeth, or 25th December, was regarded as the birthday of Christ, we can understand the concealment about it. — The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah By Alfred EdersheimHere is a Jewish website on Tevet (Update: that Link isn't working now and I don't know how to find the same information again), which may give insight into significance to The Messiah being around the 24th or 25th of Tevet. But of course I don't want to build doctrine on Rabbinic sources.
According to Esther 2:16 the Tenth month is when Esther was made Queen. But we're not told when in the month exactly. Since the same books gives further significance to the time I place the Resurrection and thus now possibly Conception of Jesus (the 17th of Nisan) it is interesting.
It seems the 25th of Tevet was the day Alexander The Great met with the High Priest in Talmudic sources. But Josephus disagrees with the Talmud on many details here, and he doesn't imply a date directly. However he places Alexander coming to Jerusalem after he takes Tyre and and Gaza but before he went went to Egypt. That wouldn't fit well with placing this event in Tevet(December-January) since Alexander was Crowned Pharaoh of Egypt November 14th.
Other inaccuracies in the Talmud account include who was High Priest at that time, and a claim Alexander let the Jews punish the Samaritans, the Samaritan got the same positive treatment from Alexander the Jews did.
Could be a reason for the confusion is the Rabbis wanted a reason for a holiday they'd forgotten the origin for. Or perhaps confusing the history of Alexander with something else Simon the Just did.
Many people discussing the Magi arriving in Jerusalem or Bethlehem on the 25th of December 2 BC think that was at the end of Kislev (during Hanukkah). But since I've decided Passover must have been around the 22nd of March 2 BC the 25th of December that year must have been near the end of Tevet. 1 BC probably had a second Adar. Remember Judaism hadn't entirely settled on it's current leap year system yet so that could explain by some scholars are confused.
It should be noted that around the 22nd of Tevet is generally when the Moon is under Virgo's feet during it's Tevet cycle. In 2 BC it was under the feet of Virgo on the 19th of December, 7 days before a Solar Eclipse on the 26th of December and 29th of Tevet. The day after that was a New Moon (beginning of a Hebrew Month) and the 14 days later was the Full Moon/Lunar Eclipse described by Josephus as proceeding the death of Herod. It could be Jesus was born on the 22nd and Circumcised on the 29th.
If Jesus was born around the 22-25th of Tevet he could have been presented in The Temple on the 2nd of Adar, the same day the Second Temple was originally completed.
Some out there like to believe Jesus was born on the 25th of Kislev and Circumscribed on last day of Hanukkah. That model doesn't fit well with a Passover Conception unless he was slightly premature. But if someone wants to try arguing for Jesus being convinced on Purim, that could be interesting.
It could be the Rabbis were observing them a month off from the accurate dates the year in question. And that the Jews were observing Hanukkah during what was Biblically Tevet. I should note that the theory Herod died on the 2nd of Shevat of 1 BC based on conjectures of the Scholion of Megillat Ta'anit, place the 25th of December 2 BC during Hanukkah rather then Tevet. The January 10th Lunar Eclipse would have been the 14th of Shevat in my preferred model.
I will do a separate post on the Paganism of Secular Christmas, which I'm not at all trying to justify.
I will say here as one key thing
The Sun, Moon and stars move the way they do because God designed them to. The Bible says the Sun, Moon and stars are for discerning times and seasons.
Malachi 4:2 calls Jesus "the Sun of righteousness".
So maybe when the Sun appears to move in a way that could be interpreted as it being "reborn", is exactly the time God intended The Sun of Righteousness to be born. Likewise when Jess was crucified on April 6th 30 AD the Sun was in Aries The Ram (see Genesis 22).
That Pagans saw significance in those same movements doesn't mean they weren't part of God's design.