Ultimate Christmas Quiz – Answer #4

4. So what day was Jesus really born? 

a. Jan 6
b. Feb 2 (Groundhog Day)
c. March 25
d. We can’t be certain.
e. During Sukkoth, the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles

Note: Actually, different Christians have argued for all of these dates and still more. January 6th became the traditional date of Jesus’ baptism and Epiphany (the twelfth day of Christmas and the traditional day the Wise Men visited the baby Jesus). Interestingly enough, it was also the date of the solstice on the older Zoroastrian calendar. This Dec. 25 vs. Jan. 6 dispute was a real contention among believers; the Syrians and Armenians refused to accept December 25, accusing the Romans of sun worship and idolatry. In Eastern Orthodox tradition, January 6 is still the most important day of the Christmas season and Armenians consider it Jesus’ real birthday even today.

         And there were plenty of other guesses about Jesus’ birthday.  Clement of Alexandria reported that some used the Egyptian calendar, placing it on 25 Pachon (May 20), others on the 24th or 25th of Pharmuthi (19th or 20 April). Other traditions used the Jewish calendar and had Jesus born during Hanukkah (which falls anywhere between late November and late December) or during Sukkoth, the Feast of Tabernacles (which comes anywhere from late September to late October).   Clement dismissed them all as superstitions – and maintained Jesus’ real birthday was November 17, 3 BCE.

         Today Bible scholars are in no better shape and can only point to the clue that the shepherds were in their fields, concluding it must have been sometime in the fall – or maybe the spring… Still other birthdates for Jesus celebrated by Christian sects have included February 2 (Yes, Groundhog Day!) and March 25, (which is also the Spring Equinox) now celebrated as the Annunciation and considered the date of Jesus’ conception; Needless to say, even though December 25th finally won out over January 6th and the rest of the competition (in the West, anyway), no one had any idea what day Jesus was really supposed to have been born – if he was ever a real person at all in the first place… (see my book Nailed for more details on that…)

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One Response to Ultimate Christmas Quiz – Answer #4

  1. Darrel says:

    “We can’t be certain” is too weak. Better: “we haven’t the foggiest idea.”

    Assuming he existed and the Bible can be trusted on this, not only do we not know the month, we don’t even know the year:

    “Most scholars generally assume a date of birth between 6 and 4 BC/BCE.[68] Other scholars assume that Jesus was born sometime between 7–2 BC/BCE.[69][70][71][72][73]”

    If you go by the gospel claim that his birth correlates with “the reign of Herod the Great,” you get around 4 BCE. If you go with the claim in Luke that his birth was during the first census of the Roman provinces of Syria and Iudaea, then this gives you about 6 AD, almost a decade difference.

    What a mess.

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