There is no shortage of internet blogs about Christmas being a “pagan” holiday that is tied to the winter solstice. Don’t worry: this is not one of them. It’s true that in 274 CE Emperor Aurelian established December 25 as the festival of Sol Invictus (unconquered sun); the decked out trees, presents, Santa Claus and jingle bells did not originate in the Gospels either. But the popularly-propagated theory that early Christians simply appropriated the solstice for celebrating the birth of their Savior may be fiction as well.

Even the third-century church leaders did not know on which day Yeshua was born. Historians trace the first mention of December 25th as Jesus’ birthday to a mid-fourth century Depositio Martyrum — a list of dates copied by Furius Dionisyus Philocalus, a friend of Pope Damascus. According to Augustine of Hippo, the Donatist heretics celebrated Christ’s birth on December 25th sometime in the fourth century as well. Yes, it took over 400 years for this exact date to surface among Christians, long after Aurelian and Constantine. Christian writers have speculated about Yeshua’s day of birth for centuries, but more importantly, they wanted to know the day of his conception — the true moment of the incarnation. But unlike pagans, Jews did not exactly celebrate birthdays in antiquity and there was no solid tradition to lean on for ascertaining Jesus’ birthdate.

The ancient rabbis believed that many great people were born and died in conjunction with the most important dates on the calendar. According to Rabbi Yehoshua, “In [the Jewish month of] Nisan the world was created; in Nisan the Patriarchs were born; in Nisan the Patriarchs died; on Passover Isaac was born; on Rosh HaShana Sarah, Rachel, and Hannah were remembered by God and conceived sons… in Nisan the Jewish people were redeemed from Egypt; and in Nisan in the future the Jewish people will be redeemed in the final redemption.” (b. Rosh Hashanah 10a).

In a similar fashion, Clement of Alexandria (third century CE) believed that since Jesus died around Passover, he was born around Passover. The theory is that, originally, the date of Jesus’ incarnation (conception) was the focus, not his birth. The further transformation of December 25th in the Christian tradition is another mystery.

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47 COMMENTS

  1. Gen 7:11  In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. 
    Gen 7:12  And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights.
    Nov 2+40 days and 40 nights = Chanukkah 1 Kislev 25th Conception of Yeshua.
  2. Could you have gotten the math and or feasts wrong? If Yeshua's birth was on Passover, you count backward not forward 9 months putting the conception in June. A more likely scenario is His conception on Chanukkah Kislev 25 and birth on Sukkot/Tabernacles 15th of Tishrei.

    Just saying....
    • The Father’s timing is always amazing.
      It makes sense that the, “Light of the World” YESHUA, would come into the world, conception, on Chanukkah, the Festival of Lights. Conception is when life begins and His blood first appeared on earth.
    • I agree Luis. It makes sense that Y'shua stood up and said, I am the light of the world, if conceived at Hanukah. It makes sense that He was born at Sukkot as He came to tabernacle with us. And He said, I am the bread from heaven.
  3. I don't believe Joseph would travel from Nazereth to Bethlaham in the dead of winter with his wife being 8 months pregnant. So therefore I believe that his conception was around dec. 25th and was probly born in September.
  4. The tabernacle took nine month to build and on the first of Nisan it was raised by Moses. it its more likely that Yeshua the tabernacle that dwellt among us was born on that day. Rosh Chodesh were the shofar was blown for the coming of the king. So from there He went through all the feasts except the feast of tabernacles.
    When Yeshua was born on passover or one of the feasts its was probably told.
    • Not necessarily. Historically-speaking Jews did not celebrate birthdays and actually ignored them. It was always seen a pagan custom which drew attention to one's own importance. This fact alone can explain why there is silence on the topic. It is simply irrelevant to the people to whom the message is addressed.

      + More answers (4)
  5. Jesus' birthday isn't important. Contrast this with the Bible describing in detail that He was born in a manger and covered in swaddling cloths - that's important! it shows He's meek and lowly. The goodnews that His birth brings must be celebrated everyday and not just once a year.
  6. Luke 1:5 Zechariah was of the division of Abijah May/June (Pentecost) 1:24 Elizabeth hid herself for five months, 1:26 Mary conceives late November/December (Hanukkah) 1:56 visits her for three months until John’s delivery March/April (Passover) 2:1-21 Jesus is born September/October (Tabernacles)
  7. It's unknown when Jesus was born, but shepherds were "out with their flocks by night," so it could have been lambing season, which is February -March. This would have put the holy birth near or on Passover.
  8. Thank you Prof. Shir on the information concerning Jewish attitude to birthdays. That is so important. Luke 2:1ff gives a little hint on the year of Yeshua’s birth. All in all it is not His birthDAY or birthDATE that is celebrated, but His BIRTH. He was here.
  9. December just does not fit with the shepherds in the fields as it states in Luke We are also told that Mary was told in the 6th month(Hebrew) that she will be with child; the question is when (in Those days)
    was conception accomplished
  10. Conception must have been soon after the announcement that Mary went to visit Elizabeth and Mary was pregnant at that time. This opens the possibility that Jesus birth could be at the time of Pentecost.
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