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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
DON'T JUST SCRAP IT, BUT FIRST, THINK ABOUT IT.
Today it is popular for preachers and teachers to dispel the "myths" of Christmas. It makes for great sensationalism but not for great reason or accuracy. There are several aspects of the traditional Christmas story that are under fire. While no one can positively set the exact time and scene of the first Christmas there is no biblical necessity for scrapping the biggest majority of our traditional understanding of these events.
I. Jesus could easily have been born on December 25.
The traditional date of December 25 for Christmas may well be in the proper time frame even if it is not perfectly correct. It has been the date commemorated for almost 1800 years.
Edersheim wrote, "There is no adequate reason for questioning the historical accuracy of this date. The objections generally made rest on grounds which seem to me historically untenable."
"The subject has been fully discussed in an article by Cassel in Herzog's Real. Enc. xvii. pp.588-594. But a curious piece of evidence comes to us from a Jewish source. In the addition to the Megillath Taanith (ed. Warsh. p. 20) the 9th Tebheth is marked as a fast day, and it is added, but the reason for this addition is not stated. Now, Jewish chronologists have fixed on that day as that of Christ's birth, and it is remarkable that, between the years of 500 and 816 A.D. the 25th of December fell no less than twelve times on the 9th Tebheth. If the 9th Tebheth, 25th December, was regarded as the birthday of Christ we can understand the concealment about it."
II. The shepherds did stay in the fields in December.
"Equally so was the belief that He (the birth of Messiah) was to be revealed from Migdal Eder, the 'tower of the flock.' This Migdal Eder was not the watch-tower for the ordinary flocks which pastured on the barren sheep ground beyond Bethlehem, but lay close to the town, on the road to Jerusalem. A passage in the Mishnah leads to the conclusion that the flocks, which pastured there, were destined for the temple-sacrifices, and, accordingly, that the shepherds, who watched over them, were not ordinary shepherds.
The latter were under the ban of Rabbinism on account of their necessary isolation from religious ordinances, and their manner of life which rendered strict legal observance unlikely, if not impossible. The same Mishnic passage also leads us to infer that these flocks lay out all the year round, since they are spoken of as in the fields thirty days before the Passover--that is in the month of February when in Palestine the average rainfall is nearly greatest." Edersheim
III. The wise men came while Jesus was still an infant.
There are several time landmarks in the gospels by which we can ascertain the time of the wise men's visit to the infant Christ.
1. The taxing of the world by Caesar Augustus while Cyrenius was governor of Syria.
2. The death of Herod the Great.
3. The fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar.
4. Jesus' age at the beginning of his public ministry.
Any time setting for the visit of the magi must be consistent with all four of these dates.
Caesar Augustus reigned from 31 BC until 14 A.D. Cyrenius was governor of Syria in 8 BC and again in 7 AD. Augustus conducted censuses three times in Italy: 28 BC. 8 BC. and 14 AD. He taxed Gaul in 27 BC. Egypt was taxed every 14 years starting in 20 BC.
While we have no direct local records of such taxing in Palestine there is no reason not to believe that Caesar ordered the census and taxation of Palestine during the first governorship of Cyrenius. This helps to validate the general history of the account but is not specific enough to help us in the actual time placement of events.
Luke 3:1 tells us that John began his ministry in the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar. The same chapter v. 23 says that Jesus was baptized and began his public ministry when he "began to be about thirty years old." Tiberius came to the royal purple in 14 A.D. Working forward, his fifteenth year (counting the year of ascendancy as a year) would be A.D. 27. Subtracting the 30 years of Jesus' age brings us to 4 BC. Jesus must have been born between August of 5 BC and April of 4 BC (the month in which Herod died).
Historically we know that Herod left Jerusalem a few months before he died so that February of 4 BC is the latest that the wise men could have found him in Jerusalem. Even if Jesus was born in late August of 5 BC he could not have been more than five months old when worshiped by the wise men.
In Luke 1:5 we see additional evidence for the December 25th date for Christ's birth.
John the Baptist's father was said to serve in the Temple and was of the course of Abia, one of the twenty-four classes or courses of priests according to 1 Chron. 24.
Each course served for one week, twice a year. During the special sabbaths all of the courses served.
It was while he was serving in the Temple that the announcement of the birth of John was made to him. Elizabeth conceived after his course of duty in the Temple.
John was six months older then the Lord.
When did the course of Abiah serve? According to the Mishnah,from the third week to the fourth week of September. So, if John was conceived in late September, he would have been born 9 months later, in late June. If Christ was six months younger, He would have been born in late December!
Think About It!