This is about a particular reason why it was not likely for Jesus to have been born in December, based on an explanation I remember hearing from a Jehovah's Witness over a decade ago.

I know that multiple arguments can be provided against a December birth date but this particular one is of interest mainly because I forgot the exact reasoning behind it and have not been able to find it explained anywhere.

From what I remember of it, it had to do with the Levite temple service schedule and possibly John the Baptizer's father serving at the temple.

If there is a reasoning along these lines, what was the explanation for it?

1 Answer 1


You have a good memory, and so did that Witness. I had never heard of this argument before, but with some research I found an article in a 1985 Watchtower which explains this line of reasoning.

[Box on page 28]
How does First Chronicles help to prove that Jesus was not born on December 25?

According to First Chronicles, King David organized the priests into 24 “courses,” or groups, each group being assigned to serve for a week at the temple. Thus, a member of each course would get to serve at the temple twice each year, at approximately six-month intervals.

The first course began serving immediately after the end of the Festival of Booths, around late September/early October. The eighth group, named after Abijah, served a week in late November/early December, and then another week in late June/early July. Why is the division of Abijah significant? Because, according to Luke’s account, John the Baptizer’s father, Zechariah, belonged to “the division of Abijah,” and he was actually serving in the temple when the angel appeared to him and announced the coming birth of John.—Luke 1:5, 8, 9.

As Luke’s record shows, John was conceived very soon after this. Hence, he was born nine months later, either early September or early April. Luke’s record also shows that Jesus was six months younger than John. (Luke 1:26) Thus this detail from the book of Chronicles shows that, rather than being born at the end of December, Jesus was born either early March, or early October. Other scriptures show that the latter is the correct time.—For more details, see The Watchtower, June 15, 1954, page 382.

w85 9/1 p. 28 "Read and Learn From the Two Books of Chronicles"

These days, Jehovah's Witnesses commonly use the explanation that the shepherds would not have been out of doors at night (Luke 2:8) during the winter months, since winter in Bethlehem is especially cold and rainy.

  • that's is it! thank you for digging this up. BTW that linked photo of Bethlehem looks cold indeed.
    – user19845
    Dec 16, 2017 at 15:53
  • December, the first month of the winter, in Bethlehem, is still a mild month, with temperature in the range of an average low of 7°C (44.6°F) and an average high of 14°C (57.2°F). In Bethlehem, the average high-temperature in December decreases, from an agreeable 20°C (68°F) in November, to a moderate 14°C (57.2°F). Weather in December » May 24, 2021 at 11:36
  • Doesn't this explanation require that the original levitical schedules were maintained even after all the captivities and temple reconstructions? Can this be demonstrated? May 24, 2021 at 11:37
  • @MikeBorden According to Luke 1:8, 9, "[Zechariah] was serving as priest in the assignment of his division before God, according to the established practice of the priesthood." This shows that the established practice of the priesthood was known at the time. I don't personally know where these established practices are documented in Jewish records, but apparently, that documentation exists, and so we know that the 1st division of priests would serve after the Festival of Booths.
    – user32540
    May 24, 2021 at 15:16
  • 2
    JWs aren't the only denomination that believes this. For instance, The Bullinger Companion Bible, appendix 179 presents the technical details, and WHEN WAS JESUS BORN? | Jewish Awareness Ministries presents a long explanation of it. May 24, 2021 at 19:18

You must log in to answer this question.