Posted 11/8/98


Authored by: Kenneth M. Hoeck

This question has been argued and debated for many centuries. Do you understand what reading and comprehending the truth of this matter may mean to you? Do you even care when Christ was born? Let us look into the matter in the light of truth rather than traditions of men.

The scriptures and history are not devoid of information pertaining to the timing of the Messiah's birth.

The Period of King Herod's reign Bears Record

One of the events that will help us understand what year it was when Jesus was born is if we can calculate the dates of when the evil King Herod reigned and died. Let us read in Matthew of the time shortly after the birth of Jesus.

Matthew 2:13 And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. 14 When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: 15 And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.

We can thank the first century Jewish Historian, Josephus, for keeping records of important events of that era. Josephus tells us that "Antony also feasted Herod the first day of his reign. And thus did this man receive the kingdom, having obtained it on the hundred and eighty-fourth olympiad, when Caius Domitius Calvinus was consul the second time and Caius Asinius Pollio [the first time]." ~Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 14:14:5

Even though an "olympiad" was a four year span of time (just as, the  pagan originated Olympic Games today occurring every four years) and that the 184th olympiad was from 44-40 B.C. we can still narrow down the timing of Herod's Kingship. It is known that the two consuls mentioned by Josephus were in office in the year 40 B.C. which places Herod's coronation in the same year.

Josephus offers more insight in the next chapter of his 'Antiquities'. "When the rigour of winter was over, Herod removed his army, and came near to Jerusalem and pitched his camp hard by the city. Now this was the third year since he had been made king at Rome;..."~ Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 14:15:14 And he adds "This destruction befell the city of Jerusalem when Marcus Agrippa and Canninius Gallus were consuls of Rome, on the hundred and eighty-fifth olympiad, on the third month, on the solemnity of the fast..." ~ Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 14:16:4 .- These quotes confirm that Herod took Jerusalem in 37 B.C. only three years since his coronation in 40 B.C.

Again, knowing when these two consuls were in office (37 B.C.) verifies the date when Herod finally took over the land of Jerusalem over which he had been made king some three years prior. Further supporting evidence is plainly laid out by Josephus here: "When he had done those things, he died, the fifth day after he had caused Antipater to be slain; having reignd, since he had procured Antigonus to be slain, thirty-four years, but since he had been declared king by the Romans, thirty-seven." ~ Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 17:8:1

"Herod the Great, who died in 4 B.C., is mentioned in Luke 1:5."~Nelson's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Bible Facts, Vol.3 New Testament Times

By Roman or Jewish count of years we see that Herod died  early in the year 4 B.C. and we thereby know that Jesus Christ was not born after 4 B.C. In fact, we know from the gospels that Jesus' parents took Him to Egypt for a short time to wait out the death of Herod which would place His birth in the preceding year of 5 B.C. (You count backward when dealing with B.C. dates....year 4 B.C. comes after 5 B.C.) We also know as we will show, that Jesus' cousin, John the Baptist, was six months older than Him- being conceived in the year 6 B.C.

Let us find out the time/season of year by further study.

The Conception and Birth of John The Baptist

An essential matter revolves around the timing of the priestly courses who ministered in the temple of God and to Jesus' cousin John (the Baptist). Zacharias was a priest in the temple of God and also became the father of John the Baptist. Zacharias -Luke1:5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth.

This "course of Abia" holds an important key to understanding the timing of John the Baptist's conception and birth. If we can place the timing of these events then we can use that information to find the approximate time of Christ's begattal and subsequent birth.

King David divided the temple duties into 24 courses back in 1Chronicles 24:3 And David distributed them, both Zadok of the sons of Eleazar, and Ahimelech of the sons of Ithamar, according to their offices in their service. 4 And there were more chief men found of the sons of Eleazar than of the sons of Ithamar; and thus were they divided. Among the sons of Eleazar there were sixteen chief men of the house of their fathers, and eight among the sons of Ithamar according to the house of their fathers. 5 Thus were they divided by lot, one sort with another; for the governors of the sanctuary, and governors of the house of God, were of the sons of Eleazar, and of the sons of Ithamar. ...10 The seventh to Hakkoz, the eighth to Abijah, ...19 These were the orderings of them in their service to come into the house of the LORD, according to their manner, under Aaron their father, as the LORD God of Israel had commanded him.

Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown- Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (1871): "course of Abia--or Abijah; the eighth of the twenty-four orders of courses into which David divided the priests (see 1Ch 24:1,4,10). Of these courses only four returned after the captivity (Ezr 2:34-39), which were again subdivided into twenty-four--retaining the ancient name and order of each. They took the whole temple service for a week each."

This cycle of priests was carried on through the entire period up to the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D. The courses started on the first day of the year which to the priests was always Nisan 1 ( this fell on the Gregorian date of March 20 in 6 B.C.). All courses of the priests worked on the Holydays.

During the third week of the year, Passover and the Feast of Unleavens interupts the cycle of the courses so that the third course is actually serving during the fourth week of the year. The eighth week transverses the last week of the second Hebrew month of Iyar and the first week of the third month of Sivan, and again in the tenth week all of the priests worked in the temple for the Holyday of Pentecost (Feast of Weeks).

These ninth and tenth weeks of the year was the time that Zacharias served his course and joined the other courses of priests in serving during the Holyday of Pentecost. It was during this time that the angel Gabriel brought the message to Zacharias that his wife, Elisabeth, would conceive a son, to be called John. 

Luke 1:8 And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest's office before God in the order of his course, 9 According to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense. 11 And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.

Luke1:13 But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. 14 And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. 15 For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb. 16 And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. 17 And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

These verses (16-17) are very important as we will soon see. Come, let us read on in the book of Luke and gain a bit more information then we shall elaborate.

Luke1:18 And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years. 19 And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings. 20 And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season. 21 And the people waited for Zacharias, and marvelled that he tarried so long in the temple. 22 And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless.

This was quite a shocking experience, as you may well imagine. How did Zacharias handle it? How would you if you were in his place?

Luke 1:23 And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house. 24 And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying, 25 Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.

If we count the time of a normal term of pregnancy ( 9 months) from the time of the ending of the priests holyday course during the tenth week of the year ( last week of May in 6 B.C) and allowing old Zacharias a couple of weeks time to shake off the vision of the angel and the shock of his loss of speech (dumbness) and to lay with his wife, we should come up with the approximate birth date of John.

Since we know that the priestly courses began on Nisan 1 in 6 B.C. we can know that the corresponding Roman calendar date would be March 20th that year by tracking back the calendar. We then, by counting the weeks of the courses and remembering the holyday insertions, can find that the last day of Zacharias' temple service ended Sivan 12th (May 29th in 6 B.C.).

Since we are accurately "in the ballpark" now, allow me to speculate a little and see if this doesn't pan out. Enough proof and supporting circumstantial evidence will be examined to show the truth.

It is possible that Zacharias taried some time at the temple because his angelic vision and subsequent dumbness of speech had shocked him. He was made mute because he did not believe what Gabriel had said was going to happen, probably because the advanced age of he and his wife, so he probably wasn't of the mindset "to go home and fulfill the prophecy". He traveled on home and spent a couple weeks trying to find a way to communicate with his wife in his speechless condition and attempting to believe what was told him. If this period of time encompassed about a month and then he went in to his wife - that could bring us to somewheres around Tammuz 15 (July 1 in 6 B.C.). Nine months later would bring us to Nisan 15 or the First Day of Unleavened Bread. Wouldn't it be fitting that this prophet be born on a day holy to God? This means he would be circumcised on the Last Day of the Unleavens, another holyday. Stay with me as we take this just a little further.

Remember I mentioned that Luke 1:16-17 would be important later? Well, let's take another look at them. Luke 1:16 And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. 17 And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.  Many of the children of Israel began to be "unleavened" or "turned to the Lord" by John's preaching of baptism and repentence. He goes before Christ "in the spirit and power of Elijah" the prophet. Now, let me ask you a question.... In Judaism (which is not God's "religion" but is of the Babylonian Mysteries), who do they wait for and even set a place-setting for on Nisan 15? ... If you said 'Elijah' you are correct!

Matthew 17:10 And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come? 11 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things. 12 But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them. 13 Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist.  

Jesus called John "Elijah" (meaning the one who Elijah was a type of). The Jews knew "Elijah" was to come before the Messiah....they even looked for his arrival on Nisan 15 each year ( as some do to this day). Jesus knew that the Jews expected Elijah and told them that he already came yet they did not know it! John arrived on the day the Jews waited for Elijah but they perceived it not.

Major Christ-professing religions have a difficult time avoiding the truth of all this. They seem to not have a clue to any of this so they dance vaguely around the answers and justify the days they keep by humanistic reasoning. Realize that many seek to keep the truth from we, the people, and purposefully lay snares for our feet. Let us quote the Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)~ "As to the date of the birth of John the Baptist, nothing can be said with certainty. The Gospel suggests that the Precursor was born about six months before Christ; but the year of Christ's nativity has not so far been ascertained. Nor is there anything certain about the season of Christ's birth, for it is well known that the assignment of the feast of Christmas to the twenty-fifth of December is not grounded on historical evidence, but is possibly suggested by merely astronomical considerations, also, perhaps, inferred from astronomico-theological reasonings."  Even today, June 24th is kept by saint-worshipping religions as "Saint John's Day" in honor of his supposed birth at this time but as you have just seen this day is actually closer to John's conception.

Well, maybe the Catholics are not certain about the season of Christ's birth but we can be because we seek God and follow His commanded Holydays which are a shadow of things to come and typify other scriptural moments in time.

The Miraculous Conception of Jesus

Luke 1:26 And in the sixth month (of Elisabeth's pregnancy) the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, 27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. 28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. 29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. 30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. 31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. 32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: 33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. 34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? 35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshdow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. 36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing shall be impossible. 38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

Elisabeth was in her sixth month when Mary was conceived of the holy spirit from God. This would be in the winter, mid to late December, so we see that the world's view of when Jesus was born is actually closer to the  time of conception. Nine months from Tebeth would end in Tishri. Or since we calculate that John was born at the Passover/Feast of Unleavened Bread, we learn the time of Jesus' birth by counting six (Hebrew) months from that time. The Feast of Unleavened Bread begins on Nisan 15 and six months later another of God's Holydays, The Feast of Tabernacles, begins on Tishri 15. Therefore, Christ was born on the first day of  the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot). It is a high day, a time of great rejoicing, a  very special Sabbath.

Some people believe that His birth was two weeks earlier on the Day of Trumpets (that is OK.. as this is hardly a salvational matter of dispute) We believe that there is a bit more evidence to support the Feast of Tabernacles as the most likely date. The gospel account holds more truth that we can wring out into our "cup-o-truth" until it runneth over. Lets continue.

The Census

Luke 2:1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. 2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

This taxation was decreed by Caesar Augustus and appears to be a per capita tax. The Romans had instituted capitation tax (personal tax - like an income tax), land tax, excise tax and customs taxes.

The Roman authorities would intelligently find the path of least resistance to initiate the taxing. The census/taxation was applied at the time when the inhabitants of Judea were already making a pilgrammage for the Feast of Tabernacles. The authorities also knew that per "Jewish Custom" (actually scriptural instruction) that many would be carrying various sums of money from which to partake of the Festival and this was an opportune time to obtain the proper tax from each individual.

The Birth Of Christ

4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. - Bethlehem means "House of Bread" and this was a very fitting location for Jesus to be born as He is called the Bread of Life.

6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

The was no room at the inn  which is translated from [Strong's# 2646 Greek] "kataluma" meaning a lodging-place, guest-chamber. In Luke 9:12 a variation of same word is translated as "lodge" and used in the context of temporary lodging. Yes, the taxation would bring others to return to Bethlehem but there was a greater reason...The Feast! Bethlehem is only 3-4 miles from Jerusalem and any overflow of "Feasters" from Jerusalem, which was probably booked up first, would also take up accomodations in the surrounding towns.

It is God's command that during the Feast that all Israel was to live in "tabernacles" or "temporary dwellings"  In seeking temporary living quarters- the inns and house guestrooms would be the first places acquired. Since there was "no room for them in the inn" they had to seek other accomodations. It was a common custom to erect sukkots or tabernacles made of various tree branches and to observe the Feast while dwelling in them and this is what Joseph did since they could not book a room. Jesus Christ was not born in a barn or a cave at all, but rather in a temporary tabernacle which had been built for the festival.

Leviticus 23:40 And ye shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and ye shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days. 41 And ye shall keep it a feast unto the LORD seven days in the year. It shall be a statute for ever in your generations: ye shall celebrate it in the seventh month. 42 Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths. The word booths is used interchangeably with tent or tabernacles.

These "tree tents" were erected to house families with some bare necessities and food for the eight days. The word that the KJV inappropriately renders "manger" is the Greek word "phatne" (from the verb pateomai meaning to eat) and is correctly translated as a crib for food. Food was stored within the tabernacle by placing it in a crib or a stall for made for that very purpose. This was a commom practice of "tent dwellers". Jesus was placed in this food crib to demonstrate in type that He is the Bread of Life from Heaven. John 6:33 For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. Remember also that Bethlehem means "House of Bread".  The symbolism of the Feast is saturated into the text of the original languages.

We find a hint to the birth date of Jesus being on the Feast of Tabernacles in John 1:14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. The Word translated as dwelt is skeeno in the original Greek, meaning to tabernacle, to occupy a tent.

The Word of God became flesh and tabernacled among us! This is an exciting addition to the heap of evidence already provided as to the true date of the birth of Christ.

The Shepherds Occupation

Luke2:8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

The text in Luke 2:8 shows us a hint as to the season of the year that this was. In Jerusalem, the autumn lasts until around the end of our October then the winter comes... and with it the cold rains (and occasional sleet or snow). The shepherds, even to this day, do not abide in the fields past autumn.  

Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown- Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (1871)~" abiding in the fields--staying there, probably in huts or tents. watch . . . by night--or, night watches, taking their turn of watching. From about passover time in April until autumn, the flocks pastured constantly in the open fields, the shepherds lodging there all that time. (From this it seems plain that the period of the year usually assigned to our Lord's birth is too late)".

Another concurring quote. "Shepherds and their flocks would not be found "abiding" (Gr. agrauleo) in the open fields at night in December (Tebeth), for the paramount reason that there would be no pasturage at that time. It was the custom then (as now) to withdraw the flocks during the month Marchesvan (Oct- Nov) from the open districts and house them for the winter."~ Bullinger's Companion Bible, Appendix 179:5:(ii)

Festival Season of Joy & The Last Great Day

Luke 2:10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

The Feast of '"Sukkot (Tabernacles) is called "the season of our joy" and "the feast of the nations." With this in mind, in Luke 2:10 it is written, "And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings [basar in Hebrew; otherwise known as the gospel] of great joy [Sukkot is called the 'season of our joy'], which shall be to all people [Sukkot is called 'the feast of the nations']." So, we can see from this that the terminology the angel used to announce the birth of Yeshua (Jesus) were themes and messages associated with the Feast of Sukkot (Tabernacles).'" [Source: The Seven Festivals of the Messiah by Eddie Chumney]

There is only one Festival of God in which we are told to rejoice (have great joy) and that is the Feast of Tabernacles. Leviticus 23:40 And ye shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and ye shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days.

In John1 verse 14 the scripture says that Jesus "became flesh and "dwelt" [literal Greek means tabernacled] among us". The Jews identified water with spiritual joy and with the Feast of Tabernacles. Isaiah 12:3 Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation. 4 And in that day shall ye say, Praise the LORD, call upon his name, declare his doings among the people, make mention that his name is exalted. 5 Sing unto the LORD; for he hath done excellent things: this is known in all the earth. 6 Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion: for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee. This depicts when the Holy One will be tabernacling with us once again in His Kingdom ...a time also shadowed by the Feast of Tabernacles/Last Great day

Recorded in the Jewish Mishnah (Succah 5) the relationship between water and joy during the days of the Feast is shown to have been so great that there was an elaborate celebration that took place in the Temple consisting of ritualistic water pouring . This is nowhere in the scriptures commanded by God but the practioners of Judaism cared more about great pomp than the desires or commands of God. The Talmud which the Jews hold in higher esteem than scripture states, "He who has not seen the rejoicing at the place of the water-drawing has never seen rejoicing in his life".

It was on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles that Jesus spoke these words in John 7:37: " In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. 38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. 39 (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)." The Lord shouted this to show that the water ceremonies and rituals were of no consequence to joy or salvation. To experience true joy you must be freed from this body sin and that is only possible through Jesus Christ.  [Refer to Isaiah 44:3 For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring: 4 And they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses. / Jeremiah 2:13 For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.]

Luke 2:21 And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

"The Circumcision of our Lord took place therefore on the eighth day, the last day of the Feast, the "Great Day of the Feast" of John 7.37 ("Tabernacles" had eight days. The Feast of Unleavened Bread had seven days, and Pentecost one. See Lev. 23)" ~ Bullinger's Companion Bible, Appendix 179:4

Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day according to the scriptural command. For an Israelite male, this is what accomplishes a complete Hebrew birth; and for a spiritual Israelite, when the flesh is fully circumcised and we become spirit is what accomplishes a full spiritual birth. The eighth and Last Great Day of the Feast depicts a time when Israel shall be circumcised from their corruptible fleshly tabernacles and be gifted with eternal spiritual bodies.


We have seen together the truth of the evidence provided by the scriptures. This is not a salvational matter but has been a source of debate and speculation within God's churches. The use of types and similitudes, portrayed by the Holydays, provide substantial credence to our claim that Jesus Christ was born on the First day of the Feast of Tabernacles, which occurs in the autumn-time. God does not command us to celebrate Jesus' fleshly birth (see our article on Celebrate The Nativity? ) but we can rejoice that the event (Last Great Day following the Feast)depicts our spiritual birth into God's family!

This we do hold to be of a truth, that the pagan originated Christmas disguises the beauty and power of the scriptures and the exceeding joy that is represented by God's own commanded Feast of Tabernacles. [end~ kh]

Other articles pertaining to God's Holydays Vs Mankind's Holidays

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