Linking facts with common sense
By: Amin George Forji
When was Jesus actually born? Was it on December 25th or Christmas day as the day has now been universally baptized? For some reason, theologians and biblical scholars prefer to leave the question unanswered; for fear that any such attempt in questioning the exact date of Christ will end up destroying the faith of many faithful. At the time of Christ’s birth, there were no birth certificates, birth acts, social security numbers and similar instruments that various nations use today to keep an accurate account of every living person.

The law at the time was mostly the law of nature, and survival of the fittest. There were no passports or travel documents. Jesus also had none of these documents, from which it could have been very easy to consult the archives. Since every people or nation was generally always homogenous in a way, physical look remained the best available means to distinguish races and nations. Jesus and the Lunar Calendar.

In some way, everyone in the world consciously or unconsciously believes in Jesus Christ, in one way or the other, because the calendar as we have it today is primarily based on the live of Christ as decreed by Julius Caesar of Rome on January 1, 45 BC, with the 1st century BC being the date of the founding of Rome. According to the Ceasar’s decree, BC or BCE was used to denote the era Before Christ, while AD (Anno Domini, in the year of the Lord) was used to refer to the Christian Era, or CE. In other words, every date now centered on the live of Christ. But despite this sequence, the exact date of Jesus’ birth was still not evident.

The one thing that Biblical scholars generally agree on is that Christ was not born in 1AD. Even at the time of Julius Ceasar’s decree, Jesus’ birthday remained a prediction. In 525 AD, Pope John I commissioned the sholar Monk, Dionysius Exiguus to draw up an unquestionable religious calendar for the church. Dionysius having failed to lay hands on any clear-cut historical records, reached the decision that the best calendar will have to follow that already in used by the Roman Empire.

It was discovered at the time the church was bound to live with a nuance in the calendar, being that there is no AD 0 in the calendar. It skipped from BC1 to AD 1 without any intervening year of AD 0. By Dionysius’ calendar, one remarkable date became December 25th, set aside as the birth day of Christ. It should be noted here that prior to Dionysius’ innovation, the day was already celebrated as the anniversary of the sun. One way of trying to deduce the exact birthday of Christ will be to examine the lives of rulers who lived in Christ times. Jesus was born when Augustus Ceasar was Emperor of Rome. Augustus himself lived between 44BCE to 14CE. But Christ birth happened in a “relatively low profile” manner that no account was taken about how old Ceasar was, or how many years he may have governed already.

Another very important personality whose life could be of useful clue is Herod the Great, the Roman-client King who reigned over Jerusalem at the time that Jesus was born. There are conflicting records showing that Herod the Great died in 1BC, 4BC and 5 BC. With this uncertainty, it is also very unlikely to trace the exact date of birth of Christ. Jesus Birthday according to Biblical allusions The Bible remains the principal source of information about the live of Jesus Christ.

As aforesaid, his birth happened in a very low-profile manner that it was almost impossible to keep any record. In Luke 2:1-7, we are told that Emperor Augustus Caesar at the time of Christ’s birth decreed that a census be carried out throughout the Roman Empire, at the consequence of which Joseph and Mary went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth into Bethlehem. It is not clear whether they ever undertook the census, because Mary is said to have given birth as soon as they got there, and they were preoccupied about the baby. Moreover, there is said to be no official account of such a census.

If we were to go by common sense, we would only agree that such a census which required all people to travel to their natal cities, could by no means be called in winter, when it would have been so cold for people to walk hundreds of miles to different cities for the count.(Just as Joseph and his family did).The most salutary thing to do will have been to call for it at the earliest time by April, at the dawn of Spring. If this argument stands true, the December 25th cannot be the true birthday of Jesus Christ.

In Matthew 2:1-14, we are told that Herod the Great upon hearing of Christ’s birth from the three wise men who followed the star to Jesus’ manger, decided to go on a killing spree, eliminating all children under the age of two, which age Christ was forecasted to fall within from the explanation of the wise men. Luckily, an Angel had appeared to Joseph in a dream prior to the killings and directed them to flee to Egypt with Jesus. Since the killings by Herod were kept secret, there is no record to tract down the year when the atrocities happened, in which case it will have been so easy to know for sure which year Christ was born. If we go by the conflicting records that show that Herod the Great died in 1BC, 4BC and 5 BC, it will go without saying however that Christ was at least three years at the time of Herod’s death. Born on Christmas day?

From the above, can it be said that Christ was born on December 25th, which is Christmas day? Very unlikely! Luke in his account of Christ’s birth wrote that “There were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night.” (Luke 2:8) December is normally winter in Israel and Palestine. Israeli meteologists having tracked her weather patterns for several years have come to the conclusion that by and large, the Israeli climate has remained constant during the last 2,000 years or so. (See: R.B.Y. Scott, Vol. 3, Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1962, p. 625).If shepherds were keeping watch over the flocks throughout the night, then it goes without saying that Christ’s birth must have happened around Spring or Summer.

The common practice at the time in Israel was that shepherds cater for the flocks in the fields between April to October, when it was quite warm, and return with them at home by November at the dawn of winter, to give them home shelter. An appropriate month of birth of Our Lord by this reasoning could therefore be around April.

Last Remarks
So, how must we construe the said day of Christmas? Well, personally, I think it is a good thing to set one day aside to remember the birth of Christ. If that is the reasoning behind Christmas, then I think it is time we revisit the traditions of Christmas and make adjustment so that it resembles a truly religious feast. It will be important that the Christ be made to dominate the feats, and not Santa Claus for example. Whatever the case, and however we go, I will say that it is not actually the day that matter so much at the end of the day, but rather our faith. How much are we going to learn more about Christ at this Christmas?

A toast for everyone feasting!

[Edited by Simon – Format]



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