When was Jesus really born? (spoiler: not in December!)

Dec 28, 2019 by

by Ian Paul, Psephizo:

One of the problems about the development of traditions around Christmas is that people writing hymns or plays set Jesus’ birth in their own world rather than in what we know of the first century. In particular, many assume that Jesus was born in winter, since Christmas is celebrated in winter in the northern hemisphere. (It would be interesting to see some genuinely antipodeal hymns: ‘In the deep midwinter’ would become ‘In the height of summer’…)

It is fairly widely recognised that the celebration of Christmas was not determined by the historical date of Jesus’ birth. There’s also a common (mostly anti-Christian) myth that the date of 25th December was chosen to displace the pagan festival of Sol Invictus, but Andrew McGowan of Yale University has demonstrated that this was 12th-century anti-Christmas propaganda. From the earliest times there appear to have been two contesting dates, December 25th in the West, and January 6th in the East of the empire. The December date comes from counting nine months on from the believed date of Jesus’ conception, March 25th, which was also (for theological reasons) believed to have been the same date that Jesus died on.

So can we know when in the year Jesus was born?

Read here


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