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When was Jesus born?

   By WCG Ministry Page 1 2 Reprint Article 1975

TRUE or false? Jesus was born on Christmas Day. Believe it or not, this statement about Jesus Christ is completely false! Yet multiple thousands believe it to be true. Why? Because they have never taken the trouble to examine the source of their beliefs and check up on them in their own Bibles without prejudice and without bias.


When Was Christ Born?

Did the three (?) wise men meet Jesus in a manger scene just like it's always pictured in Christmas plays and on various Yuletide postcards and paintings? You've seen it before: the wise men coming into a stable or barn carrying a cute little gold coffer, with goats and camels munching on a lot of hay scattered around. This nativity scene is repeated endlessly year after yeas so that it has become so firmly fixed in our minds it is very difficult, if not well-nigh impossible, to dislodge.

But flash back to another scene that supposedly occurred not long before. An angel suddenly appears somewhere just outside of Jerusalem on a rolling hill all covered with snow, very near to where men are shepherding their flocks, scares the daylights out of them, and announces Jesus' birth.

It's a pity nobody ever seems to stop to think about the difference between these Christmas plays, postcards, or paintings showing a beautiful — albeit cold and uncomfortable — winter scene and the fact that it never snows in or near Jerusalem at the actual time of Jesus' birth.

Luke 2:8 tells us in no uncertain words that "there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night." But these shepherds were not walking around in the midst of great drifts of snow as commonly depicted in the obligatory "white" Christmas scene.

If it were wintertime, these keepers

of the flock would have exhibited a little common sense; they would have penned their flocks, laid up plenty of hay and forage in the barns and carefully and painstakingly prepared the lofts, sheds and sheepfolds.

Sheep have to be meticulously cared for, fed and sheltered during the winter. The shepherds or the sheep could hardly have been out in the snow-covered fields. Yet Luke records the irrevocable biblical fact that they were out in the fields at the time of Jesus' birth (see Luke 2:8-12). Simple logic, then, tells us there was no snow and it was not December and in the middle of the winter when Christ was born — but much earlier in the year, by about three months!


Further Proof

In Judea, shepherds simply did not have their — flocks — in the field during — December. They always rounded up the sheep and goats from the mountain-sides and the fields — corralling them usually not later than October 15. Even if it did not snow, the cold, rainy season would have been too much for the sheep (see Song of Solomon 2:11; Ezra 10:9, 13).

Says Adam Clarke's commentary: "It was a custom among the Jews to send out their sheep . . . about the Passover, and bring them home at the commencement of the first rain; during the time — they were out, the shepherds watched them day and night. As the Passover occurred in the spring, and the first rain began early in the month of Marchesvan [Jewish sacred calendar], which answers to part of our October and November, we find that the sheep were kept out in the open country during the whole of the summer. And as these shepherds had not yet brought home their flocks, it is a presumptive argument that October had not yet commenced, and that consequently, our Lord was not born on the twenty-fifth of December, when no flocks were out in the fields" (one volume edition, abridged by Ralph Earle, p. 857, emphasis mine).

Jamieson, Fausset and Brown's Commentary on the Whole Bible concurs (one volume edition, see pp. 991-992). Almost any authoritative commentary or encyclopedia will tell you that there is no evidence that Jesus Christ of Nazareth was born on December 25.


Myths About the Magi

Turn now to the second chapter of Matthew, where some diametric opposites about what is commonly believed about Jesus' birth will be found. Verse one: "Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men [Greek, magi) from the east to Jerusalem." First of all, as an aside, it nowhere says, either in this verse or elsewhere that there were three wise men.

Verse 2: "Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him." Do you actually believe that this was a real star — a celestial body in the heavens that is still there today? I don't!

Picture the scene. These wise men suddenly saw this "star" in the east and according to their calculations, "triangulations" and celestial navigation finally found Jesus in the manger. But is that the way it happened?

Check the context of the chapter — particularly verse 9: "When they [the wise men} had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east f the same one mentioned in verse 2), went before them, till it came and stood over where the young  child was." Have you ever seen a real star act like that? Obviously the star described in this chapter of Matthew is not a normal star in the classical astronomical body –that would be an illogical impossibility.

Turn briefly to the first chapter of the book of Revelation. Jesus Christ is pictured in a divine vision as having seven stars in His right hand (verse 16). Drop down to verse 20: "The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand . . . The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches. . . ." A star, in symbolic biblical language, can be a great angelic being. Lucifer — before he sinned and became Satan the devil — was known as "the Shining Star of the Dawn." The expression "Lucifer" literally means "Day Star."

Notice again Matthew 2:2. Employing a personal pronoun, the expression used is "his star." A similar expression — "his angel" — is also used in a number of biblical passages. For example, see the very first verse of the book of Revelation: "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John" (cf. Acts 12:11, 15; Dan. 6:22; Heb. 1:7; Ps. 103:20). A personal pronoun indicating possession is even used in connection with barely converted new babes in Christ. Jesus said: "Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones [newly converted Christians]; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels [not necessarily implying a guardian angel for every single person on earth] do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 18:10).

All the biblical evidence, taken together, clearly indicates that this star was indeed an angelic messenger of God.


How Long Did the journey Take?

Herod the Great was king in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus' birth. "When Herod the king had heard these things [about Jesus' birth and the wise men], he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him . . . . Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star [angel] appeared" (Matt. 2:3, 7).

Herod sent the wise men on to Bethlehem (verses 5,8-9). And believe it or not, this whole journey (from wherever they originally were east of Jerusalem, to Jerusalem, and then to Bethlehem) could have taken up quite a long period of time. Here's why.

Herod the Great had privately called the wise men and carefully tried to pinpoint the time of the star's appearance. Why? Because he guessed that it marked the approximate time of Jesus' birth (verses 1, 7). Now notice this important point in verse 16: "Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men" (the time at which the star, or angel, had appeared).

This was a horrible, bloody, unbelievable slaughter — one of the worst in history! What circumstances would make this vassal king, Herod, under the authority of the Roman governorship, take such a big gamble? He was obviously risking one of the most unbelievable riots you ever heard of in your life. Can you imagine someone actually assassinating all the male babies in an entire area?

Stop to think about it logically. If Herod had known that Jesus could not have been more than one month of age, why would he have risked killing all the other thousands of babies? Obviously there was a big question in his mind as to exactly how old Jesus might be. He must have been guessing by at least as much as one full year. So he ordered mass death for male children two years of age and under.


A House or a Manger?

Commonly portrayed in literature and Christmas greeting cards is the scene in which Mary, Joseph and the wise men (magi) are all gathered around the manger. But is this a true portrayal or a completely false one? Let the Bible itself give the answer!

Verse 11: "And when they [the wise men] were come into the house [very definitely not a stable scene complete with a manger], they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh."

Since three categories of gifts are mentioned, people have assumed that there were three wise men; but there could have been two, or seven, or twelve, or even twenty — we simply don't know! Here's another one of those biblical opposites.

Jesus was in a house — apparently a rented home — when the wise men arrived. It could have been the home of a relative or friend, but more probably it was rented. When the family first came to Jerusalem, the biblical account says every available dwelling was filled and no remaining space was available (see Luke 2:7). Jesus' family had no abode of their own and apparently were not well acquainted with anybody in Bethlehem — being from the hill country in Galilee.

But the point is this: the common manger scene cannot possibly be correct, because by the time the wise men arrived Jesus was in a house, not a manger.