First, when was Yeshua Born? Short answer... Nobody knows for sure. According to Clement of Alexandria
“There are those who have determined not only the year of our Lord’s birth, but also the day; and they say that it took place in the 28th year of Augustus, and in the 25th day of [the Egyptian month] Pachon [May 20] … And treating of His Passion, with very great accuracy, some say that it took place in the 16th year of Tiberius, on the 25th of Phamenoth [March 21]; and others on the 25th of Pharmuthi [April 21] and others say that on the 19th of Pharmuthi [April 15] the Savior suffered. Further, others say that He was born on the 24th or 25th of Pharmuthi [April 20 or 21].”
December 25th is not even in the running according to Clement. According to Clement Yeshua was born on May 20th, April 20th or 21st. But December 25th does have a defender in Augustine of Hippo who says
“For He [Yeshua] is believed to have been conceived on the 25th of March, upon which day also He suffered; so the womb of the Virgin, in which He was conceived, where no one of mortals was begotten, corresponds to the new grave in which He was buried, wherein was never man laid, neither before Him nor since. But He was born, according to tradition, upon December the 25th.”
On The Trinity, Sermon 202
Here we see Augustine arguing that Yeshua was conceived the same day He died which if true would place his birth some time around December 25th. But neither Clement or Augustine have Scriptural support for there positions. Just tradition. So what does Scripture have to say about when Yeshua was born?
Luke1:5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Yehudah, a certain priest named Zekharyah, of the course of Aviyah: and his wife was of the daughters of Aharon, and her name was Elisheva.
Here we see that Zekharyah is of the Priestly course of Aviyah. This is important to note.
Luke1:8 And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest's office before Elohim in the order of his course,
It is vital to determine when Zekharyah's course served in the Temple in order to see what time of the year Yeshua was born!
1Chronicles24:3 And David distributed them, both Tsadok of the sons of El'azar, and Achimelekh of the sons of Itamar, according to their offices in their service.
1Chronicles24:10 The seventh to Hakkots, the eighth to Aviyah,
Here we see that David set up the Priestly courses and that the course of Aviyah was the eighth course. Josephus describes how this worked:
He divided them also into courses: and when he had separated the priests from them, he found of these priests twenty-four courses, sixteen of the house of El'azar, and eight of that of Itamar; and he ordained that one course should minister to Elohim eight days, from Shabbat to Shabbat. And thus were the courses distributed by lot, in the presence of David, and Tsadok and Aviatar the high priests, and of all the rulers; and that course which came up first was written down as the first, and accordingly the second, and so on to the twenty-fourth; and this partition hath remained to this day.
Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 7.14.7
Here we see that each course served from Shabbat to Shabbat. This implies that every Shabbat two courses would serve, one ending its service and one beginning its service. Also this is a witness that this is the system in use during Zekharyah's day. Also this would mean that each course would have to serve twice a year. Making it 48 weeks of service in a year for 24 courses. Also according to the Talmud Sukkah 55b all the courses would serve for the three weeks during the pilgrimage Feasts of Pesakh(Passover), Shavuot(Pentacost) and Sukkot(Tabernacles). Which brings us to the 51 weeks of the Hebrew year. So when did the course of Aviyah serve? It served five weeks a year, one week for Pesakh, one week for Shavuot, one week for Sukkot, one week in the first half of the year and one week in the last half of the year. So which of these weeks did Zekharyah receive the word about his son? Based on Luke 1:8 I think we can safely eliminate the three Feast weeks being how it says that he was specifically acting according to the order of his course. This means that he spoke to Gavriel(Gabriel) during either his first regular course or second regular course of the year. Because we know that the course of Aviyah was the eighth course of Priests, we know that its first week of service would have been the 10th week of the Hebrew year around the 12th to 18th of the third month of the Hebrew calendar(May-June). Its second week of service would have been the 35th week of the year around the 10th to 16th of the ninth month of the Hebrew calendar(November-December).
Luke1:23 And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house.24 And after those days his wife Elisheva conceived, and hid herself five months, saying,
This implies that Yokhanan was conceived shortly after his fathers week of service. "After those days" can only be referring to Zekharyah's ministration as Priest. And that it was a short amount of time between his service and Yokhanan's conception. So if we use Zekharyah's first week of service sometime in May-June then it would be safe to say that Yokhanan was conceived sometime in June-July. Making his birth nine months later, in March-April. Or if we use the second week of service in November-December then it would be safe to say that Yokhanan was conceived sometime in December-January. Making his birth sometime in September-October. That's great some of you are saying, but just because you can prove that Yokhanan was born either in the spring or fall does not prove what time of year Yeshua was born. Oh, but it does.
Luke1:36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisheva, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.
So Yokhanan was six months older than Yeshua! That means that if one is born in the spring the other was born in the fall and vice versus! But how can we determine which service week of Aviyah was Yokhanan conceived after? The 10th week or the 35th week? There is a Scripture that I believe answers that question.
Haggai2:18 Consider now from this day and upward, from the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, even from the day that the foundation of the temple of YHWH was laid, consider it.
I believe this verse to be a Messianic prophecy. Yes it probably is speaking of the literal foundation of the Temple but I also think that it Speaks of Yeshua the Foundation of the Temple, the Chief Cornerstone as well. If I am correct in this thinking then what this passage is saying is that Yeshua was conceived the day before Hanukkah sometime in December. This would put His birth nine months later sometime in September! This is in agreement with the first service week of Aviyah. Of course it is impossible to come to an exact Roman calendar day of His birth. But I think that there are two front runners for an exact date in the Hebrew calendar. They are the Feast of Yom Teruah(Day of Trumpets) on the first day of the seventh month. And Sukkot on the 15th day of the seventh month. Why those days? First because they are the right time of year being fall feasts. And also because of something Shaul(Paul) said.
Col 2:16 Let no man therefore judge you in food, or in drink, or in respect of a Feast, or of the New Moon, or of the Shabbat days:17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Mashiakh.
A lot of people use this verse to justify not keeping the Feasts of YHWH. I completely disagree with
that interpretation. But I'm not wanting to focus on that part of the verse, maybe in another article. What I want to point out is that Shaul says that the Feasts, New Moons and Shabbats are Shadows of things to come. What things to come? Pesakh was a shadow of His death. So it makes sense that His birth would be shadowed by a Feast as well. And being how it looks like He was born in the fall then it makes sense that He was born on a fall Feast. There are many arguments for both Yom Teruah and Sukkot. I am not convinced either way. But I really do believe that Yeshua was born on one or the other. That is my understanding of Scripture and what I believe it says about the birth of Yeshua. So, was Yeshua born on December 25th? No, I don't believe so. He was born sometime in the fall according to my understanding of Scripture. Does it matter? No, because I don't think we should be celebrating His birthday anyway. More on that later.
So why do people celebrate His birth on December 25th? According to Christianity Today
"The eventual choice of December 25, made perhaps as early as 273, reflects a convergence of Origen's concern about pagan gods and the church's identification of God's son with the celestial sun. December 25 already hosted two other related festivals: natalis solis invicti (the Roman "birth of the unconquered sun"), and the birthday of Mithras, the Iranian "Sun of Righteousness" whose worship was popular with Roman soldiers. The winter solstice, another celebration of the sun, fell just a few days earlier. Seeing that pagans were already exalting deities with some parallels to the true deity, church leaders decided to commandeer the date and introduce a new festival."
According to the above quote December 25th was a pagan holiday honoring the births of the Roman and Persian sun gods. Which was commandeered by the Church in 273 A.D.
"The precise origin of assigning December 25 as the birth date of Jesus is unclear. The New Testament provides no clues in this regard. December 25 was first identified as the date of Jesus’ birth by Sextus Julius Africanus in 221 and later became the universally accepted date. One widespread explanation of the origin of this date is that December 25 was the Christianizing of the dies solis invicti nati (“day of the birth of the unconquered sun”), a popular holiday in the Roman Empire that celebrated the winter solstice as a symbol of the resurgence of the sun, the casting away of winter and the heralding of the rebirth of spring and summer. Indeed, after December 25 had become widely accepted as the date of Jesus’ birth, Christian writers frequently made the connection between the rebirth of the sun and the birth of the Son."
Encyclopedia Britannica, Article on Christmas
Here we see that the first time December 25th is identified as Yeshua's birthday is by Sextus Julius Africanus in 221. And again the widespread explanation for choosing that date is the "Christianizing" of a pagan holiday celebrating the birthday of the sun god! Now some people argue that the Church of the third and fourth centuries would never willingly adopt a pagan festival as the birth of Yeshua. They say that the Church always tried to distance itself from paganism. But the very fact that they are celebrating His birth at all is proof that they were already adopting pagan practices.
"The actual observance of the day of Jesus’ birth was long in coming. In particular, during the first two centuries of Christianity there was strong opposition to recognizing birthdays of martyrs or, for that matter, of Jesus. Numerous Church Fathers offered sarcastic comments about the pagan custom of celebrating birthdays when, in fact, saints and martyrs should be honoured on the days of their martyrdom—their true “birthdays,” from the church’s perspective."
Encyclopedia Britannica, Article on Christmas
The Christians of the first and second centuries did not celebrate birthdays at all because it was a pagan custom! And then the Christians of the third and fourth centuries start to adopt this pagan custom of celebrating birthdays and that is why it became important to them to celebrate Yeshua's birthday. And people really try to argue that they would not have chosen a pagan gods birthday to celebrate Yeshua's birthday! When celebrating His birthday at all was itself a pagan custom that the earlier Christians would not and did not participate in! Elements of paganism were indeed being adopted by the Church of the third and fourth centuries. Some argue that December 25th was chosen because (as Augustine of Hippo believed) Yeshua was conceived on March 25th which would put his birth on December 25th. The problem is that even if one could prove Yeshua was conceived on that date (which one can't) one can't prove that Yeshua was born exactly nine months later to the day. Also according to Clement the older tradition was that Yeshua was not conceived in the spring but born in the spring (which according to my understanding of the Gospel of Luke is very possible) which would imply that the newer tradition of Augustine was a tweaking of the older tradition of Clement to bring it into agreement with the December 25th birth date. So why do people celebrate His birth on December 25th? It is my understanding of early Church history that that date was chosen in an attempt to Christianize a pagan holiday. This was probably to make it easier for pagans to convert. Much like some Christians today are starting to teach that Homosexuality is no longer a sin in order to make it easier for homosexuals to convert. Sadly Church history is full of compromises like this in order to make it easier for the unbeliever to convert.
Should we be celebrating Yeshua's birthday? As you can tell by what I've written earlier in this article that I think that we should not. Why did the early Christians not celebrate birthdays even Yeshua's? First, birthdays were not celebrated by Jewish people in the first century.
Nay, indeed, the law does not permit us to make festivals at the birth of our children, and thereby afford occasion of drinking to excess
Josephus, Against Apion, 2.25
For as long as men and women have been being born, they've had birthdays. Birthday parties are not that ancient, but they do go back at least 3,500 years (the book of Genesis mentions a banquet in honor of a Pharaoh's birthday back in 1534 bce). The interesting thing about birthday celebrations is that, for much of our history, they were not a very "Jewish" custom.
This is not to say that there are no sources in Torah for the concept of a birthday. The Talmud speaks of the specialness of a person's date of birth as a time of empowerment and opportunity for him or her. One of the most important days of the Jewish year is Rosh Hashanah, Adam's--and mankind's--birthday. But as a rule, Jews did not celebrate their birthdays. Indeed, while the dates of passing (yahrtzeit) of the great figures of Jewish history are recorded and commemorated, their dates of birth are mostly unknown.
(Your Jewish Birthday. Chabad-Lubavitch Media Center. http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/2527/jewish/What-Happened-on-Your-Birthday.htm)
So according to the above quotes it was not a Jewish practice to celebrate their birthdays. Josephus goes so far as to say it was against the Torah to celebrate the birth of even ones own children. But is that true? To answer that question we need to determine the origins of birthdays.
“Birthdays are intimately linked with the stars, since without the calendar, no one could tell when to celebrate his birthday. They are also indebted to the stars in another way, for in early days the chief importance of birthday records was to enable the astrologers to chart horoscopes”
Linton, Ralph and Adelin Linton. 1952. The Lore of Birthdays. New York: Schuman P. 53
So the important reason for birthdays in the early days was for astrological purposes. We are commanded
Devarim(Deuteronomy)18:10 There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch.11 Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.12 For all that do these things are an abomination unto YHWH: and because of these abominations YHWH thy Elohim doth drive them out from before thee.
This is a very clear verse basically telling us not to get involved in any kind of witchcraft. So if birthdays were originally observed by pagans chiefly for astrological purposes but Israelites did not observe them at all then why do we? Is it just a coincidence that nearly every pagan culture in the world from the Egyptians to the Persians to the Greeks and Romans celebrated the birthdays of their gods and kings yet the Jews did not! We are commanded
Devarim(Deuteronomy)12:30 Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before thee; and that thou enquire not after their elohim, saying, How did these nations serve their elohim? even so will I do likewise.31 Thou shalt not do so unto YHWH thy Elohim: for every abomination to YHWH, which he hateth, have they done unto their elohim; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their elohim.32 What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.
This verse is very clear that we should not worship our Elohim the way the pagans worship theirs. So if pagans worship their elohim by celebrating the birthdays of their elohim then why do Christians celebrate Yeshua's birthday at all? They previously did not.
...of all the holy people in the Scriptures, no one is recorded to have kept a feast or held a great banquet on his birthday. It is only sinners who make great rejoicings over the day on which they were born into this world below
Origen, in Levit., Hom. VIII
Here we have an early Gentile Christian condemning birthday celebrations as something only sinners (Pharaoh and Herod) would do! YHWH is very good at giving us dates for feasts and celebrations. See Leviticus 23. The Scriptures are full of dates and times. So why did he not do the same for Yeshua's or anyone's birthday? As far as I know there are no recorded birthday dates in all of Scripture. We are not told the birthday dates of any man of faith in Scripture from Adam to Yeshua! Why? He could have easily given us the info we needed but He chose not to. Could it be that He does not want us celebrating their birthdays? I think so. Now some will argue that YHWH never specifically said not to celebrate birthdays so it has to be ok. But remember nowhere did He specifically say not to practice polygamy, concubines, slavery, drugs, pedophilia, rape of an unmarried woman, or consensual sex before marriage. These things are all implied to be wrong, or not the best by certain Scriptures and overall themes but never specifically condemned. So be careful when you say its ok because YHWH never specifically said don't do that. I agree with the older Jewish and Christian understanding of Scripture, that birthday celebrations were pagan practices steeped in witchcraft and worship of false elohim that we should not observe. Especially if we are celebrating the birth of our Elohim! So should we celebrate Yeshua's birth at all? I think not.