Jesus was most likely born in the month of September around 4-6 B.C. More importantly, He was born (came to Earth as God in the flesh) exactly when God the Father chose for Him to be—at the fullness of time and in perfect fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.
For many, it may seem irrelevant, but for some, arguments about Jesus’ birth raise doubts and questions. Let’s take a closer look at some of the details and evidence that point us closer to Christ’s true birthday and how God faithfully fulfilled the promise that He made thousands of years earlier.
What Year was Jesus Born?
Logic would tell you that Jesus was born in 1 A.D. But you would be wrong.
The B.C (before Christ), and A.D (annum Domini – the year of our Lord) calendar was incorrectly initiated by a Romanian monk, Dionysius Exiguus, in the 6th century. At the time, he wrongly recorded that the current Roman Consul had been instated 525 years after Christ’s birth. He was a few years off the mark!
According to this calendar, King Herod (the king who wanted baby Jesus killed in Matt 2:13) died around 4 B.C. But Jesus must have been born before King Herod died! Based on this argument, Jesus’ birth happened somewhere between 4-6 B.C. If He then died between 30 and 33 AD, He would have been somewhere around 35 when He died. And we know He was around thirty when He was baptized. So with those in mind, what can we learn about when Jesus was born?
Written By: John Stott
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Was Jesus Born on December, 25th?
It is speculated that the Roman emperor, Constantine, in the year 336 A.D initiated the celebration of Jesus’ birth (Christmas) on December 25th to interrupt the Pagan celebrations at that time. So when was Jesus’ actual birthdate?
The Bible is rich in detail and the Jewish records and traditions support what is written in the scriptures. Investigating the text and understanding the rhythms and patterns of the times help us to estimate a more accurate birthdate for Jesus.
The Shepherds Keeping Watch
The shepherds in the beloved Christmas story are a significant clue in the mystery of Christ’s birthday. The fact that they were outside at night with their sheep out to pasture tells us it was during a warmer part of the year in Bethlehem where Jesus was born—sometime during the spring or summer (May – September).
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.Luke 2:8-9 (ESV)
The Conception of John the Baptist
Another major clue is the conception of Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist.
His mother, Elizabeth, was barren. His father, Zechariah, was a priest of the division of Abijah (Luke 1:5). The division of Abijah—the 8th priestly course out of 24 (1 Chron 24:6-19), served during the 10th week. According to the Jewish calendar, this cycle would’ve ended around mid-June. And since John was conceived after his father completed his priestly duties in the temple, it marks his conception.
Luke 1:24 (ESV) After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden.
You might be interested in: How Old Were Joseph and Mary When They Got Married?
The next clue is that Jesus’ conception was announced when Elizabeth was six months pregnant with John—around mid December.
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.Luke 1:26-27, 30-31 (ESV)
Assuming Mary was pregnant for nine months, Jesus would’ve been born in or around September.
Jesus’ Incarnation – The Fulfillment of Prophecy
What’s more important than the dates and timelines, is the truth and reliability of scripture regarding Jesus’ birth. Jesus’ birth is the fulfillment of a series of promises that God made to His people in the Old Testament. Jesus’ incarnation was always God’s plan.
Jesus’ Birth Prophesied
There are numerous passages that refer to the promised Messiah, Jesus. Let’s just look at a couple.
When man sinned in the garden, and broke their perfect relationship with God, He already knew (and promised) that a man would come, a Son of Man who would crush the head of Satan.
Genesis 3:15 (ESV) I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.
Much later, around 700 years before Jesus was born, Isaiah prophesied His birth. Immanuel is one of the names of God that means “God with us.” He lived with us, that we might one day live in union with Him.
Isaiah 7:14 (ESV) Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
He became flesh – just like us. He endured hardships like we do and He enjoyed the best parts of life as we do. He had friends, favorite meals, and favorite colors.
He Was Born at The Fullness of Time
We can wrestle with details and make our best estimates but we must remember that Jesus’ incarnation was no surprise or mystery to God the Father. He came to Earth at the exact moment that God ordained for Him to be born—at the fullness of time. Every detail was designed, right down to the humble stable and lowly shepherds. It was perfect.
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.Galations 4:4 (ESV)
Looking at the historical and biblical evidence of Jesus’ birth is exciting—it reminds us that He really did come! Jesus, God Himself, gave up the glories of Heaven to come to Earth as a man, to fulfill scripture, to bring glory to God, and to redeem lost sinners in a display of love the world will never fully understand (Phil 2:6-11). He would live around 34 years, undergo an unfair trial, and carry His cross to be crucified.
Ultimately, Jesus was born to die for us.
Have you made room for Him? Will you receive this precious gift?