Is there any mention of a birthday celebration among Old Testament Israelites or New Testament Christians in the Holy Scriptures?

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    I'm voting to close this because it's a verse search question. – curiousdannii Jun 19 at 12:58
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    What is wrong with a verse search? I feel like this is an interesting question. And may be very difficult to search for yourself. as you can see from the comments on the answers, birthdays are still a surprisingly controversial topic. And It's not doubt many people in the future will look for information about this. – L1R Jun 19 at 17:17

Were birthdays celebrated by believers? The answer would turn on one's definition of "celebrate".

Does "celebrate" mean only the inclusion of cake, ice cream, balloons, streamers, presents, friends, and family singing songs, showing pictures, opening presents, pinning the tail on the donkey, and blowing out candles? Or how "celebrate" means only about dancing girls and beheading of enemies? Or would it be more mundane, as in I "celebrated" my birthday last month, realizing my age on the earth?

If the latter, than of course, they "celebrated" their birthdays. For example, they knew Jesus was 12 years old when He visited the temple. They knew John the Baptist was 30 years old when he became a priest. One can't know these things unless someone "celebrates" one's birthday.

Again, we don't know exactly what "celebrate" meant because it is not recorded exactly how they "celebrate" those birthdays, but we do know they didn't pretend the dates didn't exist or in fact were not material to their lives. Birthdays were obviously "celebrated".

Subsequent to the New Testament, there is the account of the Martyrdom of Polycarp. He knew he was 86 when he was tried in the fire and martyred. Of course once you are dead, no one is observing your birthday on earth, but what is interesting is their thinking they might observe his birthday into death.

Other answers posted quote scripture examples. There were obvious birthday "celebrations" too deviant, just as there might be today. But there are other birthday "celebrations" in the right spirit.

PS To add, according to this site, Isaac the first Jewish baby was weaned at 24 months. Abraham and Sarah had a great feast. Tradition places it on his second birthday.

  • I don't have to know my exact birthday to know my age. It is enogh to know "I was born in summer of that year." So it shows nothing, that people knew their age. – K-HB Jun 22 at 14:38
  • Given exact time limits like "From thirty years old and upward even unto fifty years old, every one that entereth into the service, for the work in the tabernacle of the congregation," Num 4:39, and the honor of serving, I have no doubt they knew exactly the day of their birth. As well, given birth rights (Ex 4:22, Deu 21:17), they would also know the day, not just the year of birth, as it may have been two children born in the same year. As to "celebrations" in observing, what happened may fall under the definitions. – SLM Jun 22 at 15:49

A simple text search of the Bible on BibleGateway returns 3 references in the King James Version:

And it came to pass the third day, which was Pharaoh's birthday, that he made a feast unto all his servants: and he lifted up the head of the chief butler and of the chief baker among his servants.

-- Genesis 40:20

But when Herod's birthday was kept, the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod.

-- Matthew 14:16

And when a convenient day was come, that Herod on his birthday made a supper to his lords, high captains, and chief estates of Galilee;

-- Mark 6:21 (Referencing the same event as the Matthew passage above)

Searching on the NIV instead turns up the three passages above, and also Job 1:4, where the translation claims that Job's sons' feasts on their "days" were birthday celebration.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Peter Turner Jun 20 at 3:08
  • to address Kris' point (now in chat) you may want to mention that no, Christians and legit Jews (not Herod) aren't called out as having celebrated birthdays since that's the question being asked here. Job's sons wouldn't be Israelites if the you accept him being a contemporary of Abraham (and a real person). – Peter Turner Jun 20 at 3:22

One example is omitted by the other answer (argument from silence inherent therein notwithstanding).

Job 1:4-5 And his sons would have a feast every man on his [birth]day at his own house, and would call for their three sisters to eat and drink with them. And when the days of the feast were concluded, Job would sanctify them, rising early in the morning and offering a burnt offering for them all, "in case," said he, "my sons have sinned, and have blessed God in their hearts." And so Job would do for each of their [birth]days.

(It's debated/debatable whether "blessed" is a euphemism for "cursed" here or not, or an expression of remorse or repentance—the former is more probable, and seems to be a convention used elsewhere in Job (1:11); it could have been an idiom of his day that has been lost to time.)

  • Job was not an Israelite nor a Christian was he? – Kris Jun 19 at 22:46
  • @kris knowing who Job or what he represented is a difficult answer. And Sola Gratia, you may want to include 2 Maccabees 6 if you want a more incomplete answer. But, the question at hand is did "Christians or Israelites" celebrate birthdays. I missed that part too when I first read the question, but our JW friends were quick to pick up on it. – Peter Turner Jun 20 at 3:26

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