Many calculations based on Old Testament prophecies have been made to determine the year of Jesus Christ’s birth. Estimates and links with Roman traditions were also made to fix the day Jesus was born in the manger in Bethlehem.
According to historical accounts, Jesus Christ was born in a cave on the 25th of December. The month and day of Jesus’ birth remain unknown. 25 December is the Roman feast of the winter solstice (Day of the Birth of the Victorious Sun), which Christians transformed into the Day of the Birth of Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, making it an imperial, holy, and obligatory holiday. Knowing that Herod, in whose time Jesus was born, had died in April 4 BC, the Nativity of the Lord most likely took place in the autumn of 5 BC.
About 720 years earlier, the exact place of His birth, Bethlehem, was predicted, although His parents were from Nazareth of Galilee. Nearly 530 years earlier, the time of His appearance (27 AD) and, therefore, His birth (5 BC) was predicted.
What is the history of the Nativity?
The Church fought against the pagan cult of the Birth of the Sun God (Dies Natalis Solis invicti) with the celebration of the Nativity on 25 December, especially after Emperor Aurelian introduced the pagan festival of the Eastern god Mithras in Rome in 274, which was popular, especially among the Roman army. So 25 December, a day of celebration of the Nativity of Jesus Christ, has both theological and pastoral-missionary significance.
As far as the history of the Nativity is concerned, it is known that in the East, until the second half of the 4th century, the Nativity of the Lord was celebrated on the same day as the Baptism of the Lord, 6 January; this double feast was generally called the Feast of the Annunciation (Theophany and Epiphany). It was believed that Jesus Christ was born on the same day of the year He was later baptized thirty years later.
The time of the Lord’s birth occurred towards the end of Herod’s reign (74-4 BC) and was fixed by St Dionysius the Exiguous as the year 753 from the founding of Rome. Since when the years of the Christian era are counted? “And if Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king” (Matthew 2:1).
Where was Jesus born?
Some 720 years before the birth of the Messiah, the prophet Micah foretold the place where the infant Jesus Christ would be born: “And you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the thousands of Judah, out of you shall come forth a ruler over Israel, and from the beginning, from the days of eternity” (5:1).
The Bible accurately says that Jesus was born in the city of Bethlehem, which, although it was the place of King David’s birth (I Kings 16:2-4), was a relatively small and insignificant place. In Joshua’s census of the cities, “Ephrathah or Bethlehem” (15:59) appears on Judah’s side. This is also where Rachel’s traditional tomb is found.
Bethlehem, originally called Bit Lahmi (known from about 1440 BC), then Beyth Léhem, was rendered in the Greek of the Gospels as Bethlehem, later pronounced Vithleem, Vicleim, Viflaim, and others, among our carols, come.
Read also: Why Did Jesus Ride a Donkey into Jerusalem?
What was the role of the cave where Jesus was born?
And the virgin shall bear a Son, and they shall call his name Immanuel. Which is written, God is with us. Joseph awoke from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took his betrothed to himself. And Joseph did not know her, but Mary gave birth to his only begotten Son, whom she named Jesus.
The cave where Jesus was born served as a stable for the animals, where the Blessed Virgin, in the middle of the night, praying to God with intense fervor and with her mind set on God, burning with His desire and love, gave birth without pain to our Lord Jesus Christ on the twenty-fifth day of December.
Let’s consider the information from Matthew and Luke, what the historian Josephus Flavius says about the end of Herod’s life, and the data provided by modern astronomy. To the data supplied by modern astronomy, we can say that the birth of Jesus took place in the winter between 5 and 4 BC, before Herod’s death. However, some historians push the birth of the Lord to 7-6 years before the Christian era, based on information from modern astronomy.
Read also: What Was the Transfiguration of Jesus?
What did the angels say when Jesus was born?
They believed without a doubt that this was Christ the Lord, the awaited Messiah. Those who came into the world to save mankind worshipped Him and told all they had heard. And were told by the angel about this Child. Then all who attended, Joseph and Salome, and those who happened to come there at that time. Marveled at what the shepherds had spoken. Especially the Blessed Virgin Mary. Who had been born without corruption, kept all these sayings, putting them into her heart. And the shepherds returned, praising and blessing God.
The angel spoke to them when Jesus was born, and immediately angelic hosts were heard in the air praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.” And when the shepherds had seen the angel and heard the songs. They took counsel and went quickly to Bethlehem to see if what the angel said was true. And they found the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Birth of God. And St. Joseph her betrothed, and the Child wrapped and laid in a manger.
Such was the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be honor and glory. Worship and thanksgiving, even from sinners, with His Father without beginning. And with Him who is ever one, the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages.
Read also: Did Jesus descend into Hell?
Key Verse related to Jesus’ Birthday
What happened at the time of the Lord’s birth?
And near the cave where Christ was born, there was a tower about a thousand miles away called Ader, which was the dwelling place of the shepherds. There it happened that night that three shepherds were not asleep. And they were watching their flock, and behold, the first-born among the heavenly powers – whom St. Cyprian reckons to be the benefactor Gabriel – appeared to them in great light—shining with divine glory and the same light shining on them. And they, seeing him, were greatly afraid.
According to biblical and historical sources, great miracles were also performed at the time and moment of the Lord’s birth throughout the world, for in that hour through which our Lord passed through the gate of virginity sealed with purity. Also, in the cave, a spring of water gushed forth from the rock in that same hour. In Rome, a spring of oil came out of the earth and flowed into the River Tiber.
And an idolatrous mountain, called everlasting, fell; the idols were broken, and there were also three suns in heaven. The same night, a cloud brighter than the sun appeared in Spain. In the land of Judah, the vineyards of Engaddius sprang up, it being winter. And above all, as it is written in the Gospel, angels descended from heaven with songs and appeared to men in the sight of their eyes.
Read also: What did Jesus do after His Resurrection?
Who announced the coming of the Old Testament Messiah?
Regarding the time of the coming, the first landmark is the words of the prophet Haggai: “I will shake all nations, and all nations will come with precious things, and I will fill this temple with glory, says the Lord Sabaoth. My silver is mine, my gold is mine, says the Lord of hosts. And the glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former, saith the Lord Sabaoth, and in this place will I establish peace, saith the Lord Sabaoth.” (2:7-9), announcing the coming of the Messiah during the second temple.
The Old Testament prophet Daniel announces the coming of the Messiah after a time of “seventy weeks”: Seventy weeks are appointed for your people and your holy city until iniquity shall pass away, and sin shall be sealed, and iniquity atoned for until everlasting righteousness shall come, and vision and prophecy shall be filled, and the Holy of Holies shall be anointed.
Know and understand that from the going forth of the commandment for the building again of Jerusalem to the Anointed One – the One clothed – are seven weeks and sixty-two weeks, respectively; and likewise, shall the markets and the outer wall be built in times of trouble.
Read also: Pontius Pilate’s letter about Jesus.
When did Daniel foretell the birth of Jesus?
Perhaps even more brilliant is Daniel’s prediction of the rising Sun of Christianity and the world. The period of 69 “weeks” (69×7) after the decree of civil restoration (457 BC) is 483 years. From which, subtracting the 457 before the Christian era, we arrive at AD 27. When, according to the prophecy, the Messiah the Ruler was to appear in public. Counting back 30-31 years, the age of maturity, and the beginning of Jesus’ mission, we arrive at -4 or -3 (4 or 5 BC).
According to biblical sources, the prophecy of Daniel was made in the first year after the conquest of Babylon by the Medes and Persians (Daniel 9:1; cf. 5:30-31), 538 BC. The angel says that the period mentioned by the prophecy should be calculated from the mandate to legalize restitution. And reconstruction of Jerusalem, in other words, the civil (political) restoration of the Jews after the Babylonian exile.
Four centuries after the birth of Christ, when the well-known Christian monk Dionysius invented the Christian era. The calculation was wrong for at least four years. Thus, Daniel’s prophecy calls for the date of Jesus’ public appearance to be the 27th year of the Christian era and His birth 30-31 years earlier.
- It is known that in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, and in some places even later, the Eastern Church used to celebrate the Nativity on the date of Baptism, conventionally set on 6 January. Moreover, even for Christians, the actual birth, the birth of God (“of water and the Spirit”), coincides with Baptism.
- We do not know the day and month of His birth; we have the approximate year. Yet the prophecy is astonishingly accurate. Some 720 years earlier, the exact place of His birth, Bethlehem, was predicted, even though His parents were from Nazareth of Galilee. About 530 years earlier, the time of His appearance (27 AD) and, therefore, His birth (5 BC) was predicted.
- St. John Chrysostom states, “And if you will count the years spoken by the angel to Daniel and included in the number of weeks, from the building of Jerusalem to the birth of Christ. You will see that these years give us the exact date of Christ’s birth.”
Read also: How Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament?
Every year on 25 December, the whole world – Christians and non-Christians alike – celebrates Christmas. White, black, yellow, and red, everyone celebrates Christmas. They are giving presents to each other and spending time around a decorated tree in an outpouring of joy and good cheer. Merchants are happy, too, as their sales keep up with the ‘holiday spirit. Beyond this cocooning and hijacking of the meaning of the holiday, on 25 December, most Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.
Historically, the date of the Lord’s birth was fixed by the Church late, only in the 5th century. While in the early Church, there was no official celebration because no one (anymore) remembered the date of Christ’s birth. The feast of His birth, when it was kept, was kept on different dates in different places.
The “seventy weeks” of Daniel’s prophecy have been interpreted as “seventy weeks of years,” 70×7 = 490 years. These years would be calculated from the proclamation of deliverance from Babylonian bondage in 458 BC when the temple rebuilding began.
Thank you for taking the time to read about the birth of the Lord. Have a wonderful day! If you would like to access some Scripture Quizzes, you can go to the following link: Bible Trivia.
- Mussies, G. (1998). THE DATE OF JESUS’BIRTH IN JEWISH AND SAMARITAN SOURCES. Journal for the Study of Judaism in the Persian, Hellenistic, and Roman Period, 29(4), 416-437.
- Rist, J. M. (2005). Luke 2: 2: Making sense of the date of Jesus’ birth. The journal of theological studies, 56(2), 489-491.
- Hepworth, J. T. Dating the Birth of Jesus Christ. Sunstone (January-February 1984), 9-13.
- Smith, M. D. (2000). Of Jesus and Quirinius. The Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 62(2), 278-293.
- Depuydt, L. (2002). The date of death of Jesus of Nazareth. Journal of the American Oriental Society, 466-480.