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Christmas I – When was Jesus born?

December 19, 2012

The year in which Jesus was born has been the subject of much discussion for years, as has the year of his death. It seems that we will need to find more information before we will be able to solve that problem. But we know that he was thirty-three, thirty-four, at most, when he died.

We also know that he died at the time of Passover, but what season he was born in has remained a question for many years. We know that shepherds were abiding in their fields by night, watching over their sheep. We also know that shepherds don’t do this in the winter in the Holy Land. Nor in the summer for that matter.

While there has been no consensus, the majority opinion has been that it was in the autumn. However, some years ago, while listening on the radio to a preacher that I have some respect for, I got a different answer.

He said that he had been interested in the question himself and had done extensive reading on the matter and found something rather interesting in Jewish writings of  the first century BC. Because of the dust they kick up and the smell of herds of sheep, the Sanhedrin had enacted a rule that shepherds could not get within a certain distance of Jerusalem except in the spring as Passover approached.

This circle around Jerusalem included nearby Bethlehem, so that the shepherds would have had to have been some distance from it in any other season than spring. It would not be likely that they would set out on a dark night, if they had a long distance to go: no streetlights in those days.

This makes a lot of sense, for, if Christ is our Passover, if He is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world, then why would he not be born when the Passover lambs were born? So, Jesus may well have been crucified on His birthday or very near to it. Something to ponder.

Perhaps, Mary and Joseph set out at the time they did, so, that after they had been enrolled in the census, they could stay on for Passover in Jerusalem, killing two birds with one stone. Travel had to be expensive, if only for the lost work a man could have been doing.

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