I love a good mystery. It’s fun to watch the clues come and the story unfold until at the end it becomes clear what really happened. In December of last year I wrote an article called Celebrating Christmas where I stated that “Clues from the Word let us know that the birth of Christ actually came during the Lord’s fall Feast of Tabernacles in 4 or 5 BC.”  I have been known to be wrong, and I think that may have been the case. Let’s take a look at the evidence together and see what you think.
This is not a plea to dump December 25 as a time to celebrate the birth of our Lord. The Christmas season is a joy at our house, filled with wonderful traditions and memories. What early church leaders did in melding Jesus’ nativity celebration with pre-existing midwinter festivals misses the wonder of seeing God’s hand in the timing of His birth. Proverbs 25:2 says, “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.” NIV We will take evidence from the Word and history to seek truth. The first two chapters of Luke will give you a refresher on the Christmas story.
In Luke 1 we are told that Gabriel came to Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, while he was serving in the temple in the course of Abijah and told him that his wife Elizabeth would conceive in her old age and have a son who was to be called John. The scripture leads us to believe that right after he went home, Elizabeth conceived. Then six months later Gabriel comes to Mary with the astounding news that she is the prophesied “chosen one”, the virgin who would bear the Son of God. He also tells her about Elizabeth.
Have you ever thought about why God had Gabriel tell Mary about Elizabeth? I hadn’t. There seems to be at least two reasons. One, to let her see that the impossible had already happened for her cousin. Two, to lead Mary to a wise older woman for a prophetic word and three months of preparation discussing what she would face. Look what happens. Mary doesn’t wait to see if she’s really pregnant; she goes immediately to Elizabeth. There were no telephones, Elizabeth did not know Mary was coming, she certainly didn’t know she was pregnant but the first thing out of her mouth is confirmation of Gabriel’s words. Don’t you know they spent the next three months talking about what had been written in scripture as well as what they were experiencing with their pregnancies?
Now back to looking at the clue about the course of Abijah highlighted above. We know from 1 Chronicles 24 that David divided the priestly descendants of Aaron into 24 groups. The week each group served was called a “course.” If we knew when the course of Abijah was, we would have some idea of when Jesus was born. Problem is, each group served twice a year so we will need even more evidence to confirm the time.
Daniel 12:4 tells us that knowledge shall increase until the time of the end. Well, it was nearly 2,000 years before the information became available that would let us know a date for the course of Abijah that related to John’s birth. There is a calendar in the Dead Sea Scrolls from which the dates can be figured and a specific course date is confirmed by a writing in the Talmud that gives the date the temple was destroyed and what course was on duty. From there with computers, we can go back. “…by the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every fact be confirmed.” Matt 18:16 NASB Guess what, they are the same date.
Another clue comes from Luke 2:8-11. From Luke 2:8 where the angels announce the birth “to shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.” The writings of the rabbis say shepherds took their flocks to the fields in Spring and stayed until Fall. But the time of keeping close watch is a two or three week period in Spring when the lambs are born. In Israel flocks were pastured in wilderness areas except for those kept around Bethlehem that were the sheep intended for sacrifice in the Temple. Could it be that the Lamb of God is born in the same place and time as the lambs raised for sacrifice?
John 1:14 says “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us,…” The word translated dwelt means to tabernacle or pitch a tent. Christ’s flesh – His body was His earthly tent, His tabernacle. The shadow of that Body is found in the Tabernacle of Moses. Moses got the plans for the Tabernacle from God and was told to build it exactly as directed. Amazingly, it is about nine months from the giving of the plans on Mt. Sinai to the day God said for it to be built. Exodus 40:1-2 tells us that Moses was told to erect the tabernacle on Nisan 1.
Nisan is the first month or of the sacred calendar thus the beginning of the new sacred year. Yom Kippur is known as the Jewish New Year, but it is the beginning of the civil rather than the sacred year. The dating of the feasts of Israel is by the sacred calendar. The feasts Jesus has fulfilled were done in order; first Passover, then First Fruits and finally Weeks (Pentecost). Tabernacles will be fulfilled at His coming. The birth has been fulfilled, so it should come first and on a specific scriptural day.
The life of Jesus brought about a calendar change. Now the calendar is set up by BCE, before the Christian era and AD, Anno Domini, which means in the year of our Lord, not after death. It is time measured from His birth. And when would that be scripturally? Exodus 12:2 says, This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you. God then begins to give the details for Passover so we know that the month is Nisan and the date Nisan 1.
What year? We know Herod was alive when Jesus was born and he died in 4 BCE. The Magi don’t come for a couple of years so the star must have risen in 6 BCE. There are other clues, but 6 BC is the probable year of His birth. As to the date, it was in March – some say the 20th, some the 21st.
There are two Messiahs described in scripture, one the suffering servant and one the King of Kings. We expect the King of Kings to fulfil the Feast of Tabernacles. Was the suffering servant born then too, or was it in the Spring on the first of Nisan? Take a look at the evidence and you decide.
 The case for Fall birth can be found at biblelight.net/sukkoth.htm
 This article was inspired by a YouTube video by Johnathan Cahn.
 December 25 was the last day of the pagan Saturnalia Festival.
 “Abiding in the fields” means to live in the fields, be under the open sky, even at night
 An earthly shadow or type is used to give information about the “real thing.”
 Ex. 12:2 “This month shall be the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year to you.
 Nisan was called Abib, meaning sheaf of ripened grain, before the Captivity in Babylon.