Did it snow when Jesus was born
The truth about the birth of Jesus:
Facts that will surprise you!
The biblical account of the birth of Jesus is surprisingly different from the traditions of Christianity of our time. How well can you distinguish fact from fiction?
By John Ross Schroeder and Doug Johnson
Most of us grew up with the traditional Christmas story - the story of how Jesus was born in a stable in Bethlehem on Christmas Day and how the Shepherds and the Three Wise Men looked at the manger.
But did that really happen? Many believe in it. But when you look more closely at what is really written in the Bible, there are some surprises. What does the Bible really say about the circumstances surrounding the birth of Christ?
The Gospels of Matthew and Luke describe the true story of the birth of Jesus. But they don't describe the Christmas story that is so popular at this time of the year.
Lukas ’important background
Luke the Evangelist was a doctor and historian. He tried to give all the pertinent facts.
He wrote in his foreword: “Many have tried to present a coherent description of the events that God allowed to happen among us and with which he kept his promises. These events are handed down to us in the reports of the eyewitnesses who had seen everything from the beginning and who were commissioned to pass on the message of God. So I decided to carefully follow all these traditions right up to the first beginnings and to write them down for you, dear Theophilus, in the right order and sequence. You should thereby recognize the reliability of the teaching, in which you were instructed ”(Luke 1: 1-4; Good News Bible; all italics by us).
In other words: Luke asked contemporary witnesses who knew a lot about Jesus' life. On this basis he wrote his gospel. After this important introduction, he begins the true story of the birth of Jesus with an account of Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist: “At the time of Herod, King of Judea, there lived a priest of the order Abijah, named Zacharias, and his wife was of the family Aaron and was called Elizabeth ”(verse 5). We later learn that Elizabeth was a relative of Mary (v. 36).
“But they were both righteous before God and lived blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. And they had no child; for Elizabeth was sterile and both were very old ”(verses 6-7).
Zacharias was of the "order of Abijah". But what does that mean? A thousand years earlier, King David had divided the Levitical priesthood into 24 orders. As explained in First Chronicles chapter 24, and especially verses 3, 10, and 19, there were many priests for the various temple duties.
To give everyone the opportunity to serve, David divided the priests into 24 orders. Every priest was supposed to serve twice a year for a specific week (Deuteronomy 16:16). During the three seasons of the biblical festivals, all priests should serve together. The question is, do we know the times when the order Abijah served in the temple? Yes, the times can be determined by the information in First Chronicles chapter 24 and the traditions of Judaism regarding performing temple duties during the year.
The evidence suggests that Zechariah's week mentioned by Luke occurred around Pentecost, which generally falls in late May to mid-June. Although God's holidays and feasts fall at fixed times in God's sacred calendar, their dates vary by a few weeks in the Roman calendar we use today.
So it seems that we can determine the time that Zechariah served his temple ministry. The source The Companion Bible dated this week on 13-19. June of the calculated year (1974, Appendix No. 179, page 200).
An unexpected angelic apparition
Luke goes on to report: “And it came to pass, when Zacharias was serving as priest before God, in his order, that according to the custom of the priesthood, he was called to offer the incense offering; and he went into the temple of the Lord ”(Luke 1: 8-9).
Then something happened that would have frightened anyone: “The angel of the Lord appeared to him. . . And when Zechariah saw him, he was frightened, and fear came over him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John” (verses 11-13).
Then the angel explained the task of Zacharias ’future son, John the Baptist:“ For he. . . will be filled with the Holy Spirit from the womb. . . And he will go before him [Jesus Christ the coming Messiah] in the spirit and power of Elijah. . . to prepare for the Lord a people well prepared ”(verses 15-17).
Even though Zacharias was a righteous man, he couldn't believe Gabriel's message at that moment. Because of his unbelief, he would not be able to speak until his son John was born (verses 18-20).
The time of Elizabeth and Mary's conception
“And it came to pass, when the time of his ministry was up, that he went home to his house. After these days his wife Elisabeth became pregnant and stayed hidden for five months " (Luke 1: 23-24). Assuming that Elisabeth became pregnant a few weeks after Zacharias 'return home, it would be after the five months in mid to late November, since Zacharias' temple service took place in mid-June.
The scene then turns to the birth of the Messiah: “In the sixth month, however, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin who was betrothed to a man called Joseph. . . And the angel came in to her and said, Greetings, you favored one! The Lord is with you, you blessed among women! ”(Verses 27-28; butcher's Bible).
This account clearly shows that Mary really was a remarkable young woman of the faith. The angel Gabriel said to her: “See, you will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you are to name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. . . and he shall reign over the house of Jacob [Israel] forever ”(verses 31-33).
Since Mary was unmarried and a virgin, she asked the obvious question. The answer was: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you" (v. 35).
The Archangel Gabriel emphasized the miraculous power of God: “And behold, Elisabeth, your relative, is also pregnant with a son, at her age, and is now in the sixth month, which is said to be sterile. For with God nothing is impossible ”(verses 36-37).
Maria and Elisabeth
So some time has passed. Elisabeth is now in her sixth month, maybe it will be the end of December or a little later. “But Mary arose in these days [during the same period] and went hurriedly into the mountains to a city in Judah and came to the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. And it came to pass, when Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the child leaped in her womb ”(verses 39-41).
Elisabeth was six months pregnant with John the Baptist at the time. It is easy to see from the preceding scriptures that Mary was also pregnant with Jesus. Elisabeth even speaks to Mary as if she knew that Mary is a future mother: “And how does it happen to me that my Lord's mother comes to me? For behold, when I heard the voice of your greeting, the child leaped for joy in my womb ”(verses 43-44).
Verse 56 says, “And Mary stayed with her about three months; after that she returned home. “It was now the end of March. Mary stayed with Elisabeth until shortly before the birth of John the Baptist. “And the time came for Elisabeth to give birth; and she gave birth to a son ”(v. 57).
Maria was about three months pregnant when Johannes was born. Johannes was born in late March or early April. So when was Jesus Christ born? Six months later it would be the end of September or the beginning of October - in the autumn of the year, not in winter, as so many people mistakenly believe these days.
The evidence of the Roman census
Is there biblical evidence that Jesus was born in autumn instead of winter? Yes, they really do exist!
Luke continues: “At that time, Emperor Augustus ordered that all people in his kingdom should be counted and recorded for taxes. This census was the first and was carried out when Quirinius was governor of the province of Syria. And all went to be registered, each in the hometown of his ancestors ”(Luke 2: 1-3; Good News Bible).
What kind of people were the Romans when it came to order and efficiency? They built bridges, roads and buildings that in some cases still exist today, 2000 years later. Its streets were architectural marvels. They built waterworks and sewers. Even today our town planning owes a lot to the Romans. Even the governments and the military copied much of the Romans. They were masters of organization and structure.
Is that why the Romans would have ordered a census in the middle of winter? Of course not. That would have been totally counterproductive! In winter, temperatures near Jerusalem can drop below freezing. The streets would have been muddy and wet, the weather cold and rainy. Occasionally it would have snowed. It would have been a terrible time to travel, especially for a woman about to give birth.
Scottish clergyman Cunnigham Geikie wrote that this census “could hardly have taken place at this time of year [winter]. Because this time would probably not have been selected by the officials for a public registration, which would have meant that the population would have to travel from everywhere to their places of birth. Storms and rain made winter travel both unsafe and unpleasant, unless it was a particularly mild winter. Snow is nothing unusual in Jerusalem during the winter months. I've seen it so high that people have lost their way outside the city gates ”(Cunningham Geikie,“ Christmas at Bethlehem ”, Holy Days and Holidays(Edward Deems, Editor, 1968, p. 405).
No sensible Roman official would have scheduled a winter census. For an agrarian society like that of Judea in the first century, a census in the fall, when the harvest was safely taken, would have made much more sense.
Why was there no accommodation in Bethlehem?
In the Gospel of Luke we find further biblical evidence for the real time of the birth of Jesus Christ: “Then Joseph also set off from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth. . . Because he was of the house and lineage of David, that he might be appreciated with Mary, his trusted wife; she was pregnant. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth ”(Luke 2: 4-6).
We don't know how much time they got in advance or how long they stayed for the census. The point, however, is that the most important birth in human history took place under these circumstances.
“And she gave birth to her first son and swaddled him and put him in a manger; for otherwise they had no room in the inn ”(verse 7). But why was there no shelter for Joseph and Mary in Bethlehem? We learn a lot when we understand the culture of that time.
If we have correctly assessed the timeframe, based on the fact that John was conceived shortly after the first order of Abijah around Pentecost, and his birth occurred nine months later, followed by Jesus' birth six months later in late September or early October, whichever any other event would have resulted in limited overnight accommodation in Bethlehem at this particular time?
The autumn feasts on the Hebrew calendar take place in late September and early October, one of the three times of the year families traveled to Jerusalem to keep God's feasts (see Deuteronomy 16:16). With the Jews of Israel still keeping this commandment, it is difficult to find a hotel room even today at this time of year!
The population of Jerusalem increased many times over during this period. This also affected neighboring cities, such as B. Bethlehem, a few kilometers south of Jerusalem. Because of this large influx of people, every house was occupied. Joseph and Mary found a place that was normally used to house animals. While it wasn't a luxury, they were probably very grateful for this accommodation.
The shepherds and their flocks
In the account of Luke we find further evidence that Jesus was not born in winter. Verse 8 tells us: "And there were shepherds in the same region in the field with the folds, watching over their flock by night."
This also shows that these events did not take place in winter. It was common for shepherds to graze their flocks in the open field from April to October. However, during the cold and wet winter months, they brought their flocks back home to the barn. The Interpreter’s one-volume commentary (1971) explains that this scripture "argues against the birth [of Christ] on December 25th because the weather would not have allowed" the shepherds to watch their flocks in the fields at night.
The Adam Clarke's Commentary points out that “the shepherds had not yet brought their sheep home. Because of this, October probably had not yet started, and consequently our Lord was not born on December 25th when there were no more herds in the fields at night. Nor could he have been born later than September, since the herds were then still in the fields at night. On this basis, the birth should be given up in December. The night-time grazing of the herds in the fields is a chronological fact that sheds considerable light on this point of contention. "
The evidence in Luke's Gospel points to a birth in late September.
The shepherds come to see Jesus
The story continues in Luke 2, verses 10 to 17: “And the angel said to them: Do not be afraid! Behold, I bring you good news of great joy, which will be to all people; for to you today the Savior is born, who is the Lord Christ, in the city of David. And that is a sign: you will find the child wrapped in diapers and lying in a crib. . . And they came quickly and found both Mary and Joseph and the child lying in the manger. But when they saw it, they spread the word that had been said to them about this child. "
It should be noted here that only the shepherds arrived on time to see Jesus in the manger. As we shall see, the wise men did not appear until later. “And when eight days were up and the child had to be circumcised, he was given the name Jesus, as he was called by the angel, before he was conceived in the womb. And when the days of their purification according to the law of Moses were over, they brought him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, as it is written in the law of the Lord: Any male who first breaks the womb shall be called sanctified to the Lord, and to offer the sacrifice. . . a pair of lovebirds or two young pigeons ”(Luke 2: 21-24; cf. Exodus 13: 2).
This is also called "triggering the firstborn". In Leviticus chapter 12, verses 2-3 and 6, we learn that this ceremony took place 40 days after the birth of a son. If Christ was born in late September, it is now mid-November.
The wise men and Herod
Now we continue the story in Matthew chapter 2, verses 1-3: “When Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea in the time of King Herod, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem and said: Where is the newborn king? Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him. When King Herod heard this, he was frightened and all Jerusalem with him. "
Why did Herod worry about this news? Other historical accounts attest Herod's great fear of overthrow. The news of the birth of a new King of the Jews threatened his position.
Obviously, Herod was very familiar with the traditions and prophecies regarding the Jewish Messiah. “And he brought together all the high priests and scribes of the people and inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. And they said to him, “In Bethlehem in Judea” (verses 4-5).
King Herod hid his murderous intentions very well. "Then Herod secretly called the wise men and inquired of them exactly, when the star would have appeared and sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the child; and if you find it, tell me again that I will come and adore it "(verses 7-8).
Herod did not name Jesus Infant, but "child". He knew how long the journey must have been for the wise men - perhaps they came entirely from Parthia or the region around Babylon, where the Israelites and Jews had been captured centuries ago. The King was aware that some time had passed since the star appeared and that he was no longer looking for a newborn baby, but an older male toddler.
In order to destroy any threat to his position, he left “in Bethlehem and the surrounding area all young boys up to two years of age kill. This corresponded to the period of time that he had taken from the information provided by the magicians ”(verse 16; Good News Bible). Herod ordered the murder of these two year old and younger boys to protect his throne.
It wasn't the traditional nativity scene
The wise men were miraculously led to the Christ Child (verses 9-10). “And when they came into the house, they saw the child with Mary” (verse 11; Elberfeld Bible). At this point the typical nativity scene falls completely apart. The crib is not mentioned here. Instead, it is reported that Jesus is in a house. Jesus was no longer a baby either, but a small child. Obviously, the wise men visited Jesus long after the shepherds visited - maybe a year or more.
The well-known nativity scene includes the three wise men. However, nowhere in the Bible is the actual number reported. However, she reports that three different gifts were given to Jesus - gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Why these gifts? Their symbolism is impressive when we understand them.
gold was a gift for kings - in this case for the chosen king of the Jews and the future "King of kings and Lord of all lords" who will reign over the whole earth (Revelation 19:16).
incense was in direct contact with the priesthood and temple sacrifices. It foretold that Jesus Christ would serve as our high priest and give himself as the perfect sacrifice to pay the penalty for all the sins of mankind (Hebrews 4: 14-15; 9: 11-14; 1 Peter 1:18 -19).
myrrh had a much sobering symbolism. When a person died, this fragrant embalming resin was used to cover up the smell of death. Jesus' body should be wrapped in linen with myrrh and aloe (John 19: 39-40).
Why Should We Keep the Biblical Feast Days?
The Evangelists Matthew and Luke reveal the true story of the birth of Jesus Christ and the general timing of the events involved. John the Baptist was born in the spring. His cousin Jesus was born six months later - probably in late September, maybe early October. The shepherds visited the newborn immediately, the wise men - their number is unknown - came much later.
It is tragic that real history has been so distorted by human traditions. It is also tragic that people ignore biblical instructions and instead make up their own. Jesus himself particularly condemned the religious leaders of his time: “So you override the word of God and replace it with your traditions. There are many other examples of this ”(Mark 7:13).
In Deuteronomy chapter 12 we find a strong and important biblical principle. It tells us why we should keep the annual feast days and feasts revealed by the Creator God in His Word and not the traditional holidays borrowed from paganism:
“You shall not serve the Lord your God in this way; for they have done to their gods everything that the Lord detests and that he hates. . . Everything I command you to keep and do accordingly. You should not add anything or take anything away ”(Deuteronomy 12: 31-13: 1).
Haven’t you ever wondered that two evangelists describe the circumstances of the birth of Christ (the other two do not even report the event) but neither mention the date of birth? Have you noticed that the Bible "Christmas" at no stead mentioned? And why doesn't a biblical author write about commemorating the birth of Jesus?
We do find clear instructions though, Jesus Christ Sacrifice and death to remember in our place (1 Corinthians 11: 23-26). We also find commandments about observing the other biblical feasts, the same feasts that Jesus and the New Testament Church celebrated. Isn't it time you looked in your Bible to see what God's Word, the manual for mankind, has to say about these festivals?
If you want to learn more about the true Christian feasts of the Bible, you can order our free booklet God's Feasts: God's Plan for the People or download it from the Internet as a PDF file.
Setting the date for Christmas
Gerard and Patricia Del Re explain the establishment of December 25th as the official Roman celebration: “Saturnalia and the new moon were the [pagan] celebrations best known to early Christians: April 17-24. December and 1-3. January. The tradition of December 25th as the celebration of the birth of Christ came to Rome from Persia. Mithra, the Persian god of light and sacred covenants, was born out of a rock on December 25th.
Rome was known for its fascination with foreign gods and cults. In the 3rd century [274 AD] the disbelieving Emperor Aurelian led the festival of This is Invicti Solis, the day of the invincible sun, on December 25th. Mithra represented the embodiment of the sun. The day of his rebirth was a major holiday in Mithraism, which, under the auspices of Aurelian, had become the newest official religion of Rome. Before his conversion to Christianity, the Roman emperor Constantine is said to have been a supporter of Mithraism. He was probably involved in establishing this important festival of his old religion in his new faith ”(The Christmas Almanac, 1979, page 17).
While it is impossible to say with certainty when December 25th was first celebrated as Christmas, historians generally agree that it was in the 4th century.
This is an amazingly late date! Christmas was not celebrated in Rome, the capital of the Roman Empire, until about 300 years after Christ's death. Consequently, its origin cannot be traced back to the teaching of Jesus, nor to the practice of his apostles and the early Christians. The introduction of Christmas as a “Christian” festival marks a significant departure from the original belief “which is handed down once and for all to the saints” (Jude 1: 3).
- Good news November-December 2010
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