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Are we going all round the houses debating whether it was autumn, winter, or spring when Jesus was born, when it’s what the Bible does not say about the date of his birth that should speak volumes to us? Are we apparently deaf to that?

What I mean is that if the date of Jesus’ birth was important, would it not have been clear, in scripture? If God wanted us to note the date of Jesus’ birth, the Bible surely would have stated it?

Further, if God wanted us to annually celebrate that birth-date, would there not have been a command to do that, in the Bible? After all, Jesus expressly told his followers to remember his death, even though the exact date of it is debatable, given that the year of his death depends on knowing the year of his birth, and that’s not known as a fact. Yet the omission in the Bible as to any kind of celebration of Christ’s birth stands in stark contrast to the command to remember his death.

I'm not wanting this question to turn into reasons as to why we should celebrate Jesus' birth every year, or not. I just want to know if anyone else has pondered the absence of information about this, in the Bible, and your thoughts.

I look for answers from Christians who believe that Jesus Christ “became flesh and dwelt among us” as stated in John 1:1-14, obtaining his human nature from the virgin Mary.

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    @Ken Graham Thanks for refreshing my memory on that Q, which I'd answered myself. But the most profound statement came in Mr Rankin's answer when he said that the Bible shows "what God really wanted to communicate", and that may be key to answering my Q! Because so many related issues spring from the problem of ambiguities, I've confined the matter to an inconclusive date for Jesus' birth and no command to celebrate it.
    – Anne
    Dec 25, 2021 at 15:47

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The feasts (Yom Kippur, tabernacles etc) are all well documented as to month and day.

If the birth of Jesus Christ were to be so memorialised, it would be so documented : and it is not.

What is to be memorialised (by Jesus' own command) is the remembrance of Him in his sufferings and death : 'This do, in remembrance of me'.

The date of his death is well documented but the indication is a more than annual event, as is made clear in the Corinthian epistle where it is evidently a regular memorial on a weekly (at least) basis.

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    This answer reads a bit ambiguously. It could be read to claim that Jesus' birth should not be memorialized, or simply to claim that God has not commanded that it be memorialized. The latter claim is clearly true, at least with respect to the Bible as we know it today, but the former would be a more controversial claim. Dec 26, 2021 at 18:50
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    @JohnBollinger What's ambiguous about 'If the birth of Jesus Christ were to be so memorialised, it would be so documented : and it is not…' please? Are you suggesting that doesn't mean exactly the same as 'Since it is not so documented, the birth of Jesus Christ is not to be memorialised…'? Dec 29, 2021 at 1:18
  • @RobbieGoodwin, my comment already presents the two different ways I see to read the remark in question. I do not know which of those meanings (if either) Nigel intended, but I am indeed inclined to guess that the intention was more along the lines of "Since it is not so documented, God does not command that the birth of Jesus Christ be memorialized" than "[...] the birth of Jesus Christ is not to be memorialized". The latter is a more natural reading of Nigel's words, but it is inconsistent with the interpretation of a substantial majority of Christians. Dec 31, 2021 at 16:20
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Does the ambiguity in the NT regarding the date of Jesus's birth and the lack of explicit command to celebrate it every year (compared to explicit instruction to memorialize the Lord's supper) in itself a teaching?

From Sola Scriptura perspective, I think it's safe to derive from the Bible alone that Christmas celebration is optional and that the customary date itself is not important. Therefore, we can deduce that God would be fine leaving Christian movements to abstain from this celebration, most notably Quakers, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Churches of Christ.

But given the early church's tradition (within about 150 years, cf. St. Hippolytus of Rome quote dated c. 204 AD) the birth was seen as an important milestone to celebrate, especially if we see the growing recognition of the role incarnation played in more and more doctrines such as theological anthropology and atonement.

I think it is safe to deduce from these early experiences of Trinitarian Christians that God the Son's taking flesh to add a second nature of 100% human being to the human form of a Jewish male Jesus of Nazareth is worth commemorating, especially in the face of Gnostic threat that downplayed the materiality of Jesus or other early church heresies (like adoptionism, apollinarism, docetism, etc.) that regarded Jesus as less than God.

What better way to counter those heresies than by celebrating the following events to emphasize the different aspects of God became man?

INCARNATION is the whole point of celebrating Christmas. For Christians, every activity (singing carols, gift exchange, Christmas tree, nativity scene re-enactment, joyful spirit over Christmas meals, singing Handel's Messiah) needs to point to this one way or the other. This doctrine is fully supported by the Bible, see 10 Key Bible Verses on the Incarnation:

  • John 1:14 (which you mentioned): And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
  • Heb 1:1-2: Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.
  • Isa 9:6: For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
  • Gal 4:4-5: But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
  • etc.

For more readings on how an extremely influential early church father Irenaeus of Lyons (c. 130-202 AD) linked incarnation to other doctrines, see

Conclusion

While the Bible is silent on the date and the command to celebrate Christmas, when we reflect on the significance of Incarnation which the Bible clearly teaches, it is incumbent for us Trinitarian Christians to celebrate Incarnation as well as the Lord's supper. We can see the ambiguity as God's teaching us to prioritize Eucharist over Christmas (if we have to choose), but we also have Biblical justification to celebrate Christmas to remind us of Incarnation, an important plank for our salvation.

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  • @KenGraham I think it would be perfectly natural if in fact the early church fathers started celebrating Christmas to counter heresies AND to have an alternative to Hannukah? Dec 26, 2021 at 3:27
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    I would certainly agree that this is a good justification for celebrating Christmas (and moreso for those during the mentioned time period where the heresies you mentioned were much more prevalent,) but I don't really see anything here to support saying that it's incumbent upon Trinitarian Christians to celebrate it.
    – reirab
    Dec 26, 2021 at 17:54
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A "Why didn't God include a certain piece of information in Scripture?" question is most likely to generate only speculation (which is fine as long as it is identified as such). Here is mine:

I think it is likely that, since the Word becoming flesh was first, a penultimate act of condescension and humility (God in flesh and blood) and second, a necessary means to an end (no atoning death without a birth first), a dateless birth is well in keeping with both the mind and purpose of Christ.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. - Philippians 2:5-8

Another important aspect is that the birth of Jesus (the man) is not the beginning of the Son of God. Perhaps the exact date is left out as emphasizing that, in the beginning, "the Word was with God and the Word was God". The one who has always existed "took on flesh" but did not "come into being". This is different from any other human birth.

The Son of God has no birthday!

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    Using Phil.2:5-8 to reason that "a dateless birth is well in keeping with both the mind and purpose of Christ" gives a biblical answer. You also picked up on the difference between the Son of God (who has no birth/beginning) and Jesus the man, whose birth date is not given due to his uniqueness. Worldly reasoning might argue that that should make his birth date all the more important, but Phil.2:5-8 helps show why the date is with-held in the Bible.
    – Anne
    Dec 27, 2021 at 13:52
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    "No birthday Jesus" is a good insight. But Christmas is rarely celebrated as a "birthday" if we look at the greeting cards and the carols. It's a celebration of Immanuel, Incarnation, solidarity of God to participate in human struggles, the birth of Messianic hero in disguise, a humble baby protected by God to symbolize hope of the most vulnerable of the Godly, and of course all the sentiments embedded in the lyrics of "Joy to the world". I am more inclined to see the ambiguity as inviting our voluntary joyful response to this gift from God. Dec 27, 2021 at 14:37
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    @Anne I beg to differ about moving from the non-mention of the date to saying that specific date is not important. Defending that the birth happened in a specific time and place was very important to the 1st century church. I came across a lecture by an author of scholarly book about Coptic documents bolstering 25 December even earlier than 204 AD that someday when I have time I would use to update my answer to another question. I also plan to update my answer with the voluntary reason too. Dec 27, 2021 at 14:51
  • @GratefulDisciple We're saying that the lack of a specific date is significant. Also, the birth of Jesus to the virgin Mary is very important which is why it's curious that no exact date is given. But my Q is NOT about whether 25 December has to be established, so please don't go into that. By all means update your answer and I will consider it, but going on about the correctness of 25 December only shows lack of understanding the question.
    – Anne
    Dec 27, 2021 at 15:01
  • GD, “ Defending that the birth happened in a specific time and place was very important to the 1st century church.” As it is also to those in our modern era. The narrative that the early church just made up a date feeds into a narrative that the N.T. accounts themselves were made up stories to counter pagan stories.
    – Jess
    Dec 27, 2021 at 19:05
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Given many questions as to whether Jesus was born on 25 December or not, I ask if the ambiguity in scripture is meant to teach us something?

Some things are simply not mentioned in biblical texts!

Given the nature of this question, I would like to give a more roundabout perspective taken from a Catholic perspective, if that is okay.

Strictly speaking there is no ambiguity in Scriptures on the subject matter of keeping or celebrating Jesus’ birthday. It simply is not mentioned in Scriptures. Some traditions chose to do so; while others chose not to do so. If I may be condemned for celebrating Christmas, so be it. I am not Ebenezer Scrooge and I do not humbug this subject matter as Ebenezer Scrooge would.

Yes, the Scriptures do not say anything about celebrating the Birth of Christ as we commonly say as Christmas, but the the Sacred Scriptures do not directly forbid it either.

As decided Christians, we can not all be in accord with this idea of celebrating the Birth of Jesus, in his incarnation and physically dwelt amongst men.

Yet, St. Paul himself admits, be it in a roundabout way, that some things may not be written down in Sacred Scriptures. I am not trying to be argumentative here. But rather point out that Catholics see things in a different light. As long as Christendom is divided there will be no unity in thought, tradition or beliefs to one degree or another.

So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings[a] we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. - 2 Thessalonians 2:15

According to St. John Chrysostom the custom of celebrating the Solemnity of our Saviour’s Nativity in his Homily for this Feast, that the Western Churches had, from the very commencement of Christianity, kept it on December 25th.

Here is what the now famous liturgist Dom Guéranger, the foremost authority on the liturgy in his Liturgical Year has to say about this matter:

The Feast of Mary’s Purification is, therefore, part of that of Jesus’ Birth; and the custom of keeping this holy and glorious period of forty days as one continued Festival has every appearance of being a very ancient one, at least in the Roman Church. And firstly, with regard to our Saviour’s Birth on December 25, we have St John Chrysostom telling us, in his Homily for this Feast, that the Western Churches had, from the very commencement of Christianity, kept it on this day. He is not satisfied with merely mentioning the tradition; he undertakes to show that it is well founded, inasmuch as the Church of Rome had every means of knowing the true day of our Saviour’s Birth, since the acts of the Enrolment, taken in Judea by command of Augustus, were kept in the public archives of Rome. The holy Doctor adduces a second argument, which he founds upon the Gospel of St Luke, and he reasons thus: we know from the sacred Scriptures that it must have been in the fast of the seventh month [Lev. xxiii 24 and following verses. The seventh month (or Tisri) corresponded to the end of our September and beginning of our October. -Tr.] that the Priest Zachary had the vision in the Temple; after which Elizabeth, his wife, conceived St John the Baptist: hence it follows that the Blessed Virgin Mary having, as the Evangelist St Luke relates, received the Angel Gabriel’s visit, and conceived the Saviour of the world in the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, that is to say, in March, the Birth of Jesus must have taken place in the month of December. - The History of Christmas (The Liturgical Year)

And now for St. John Chrysostom in his own words:

There is something which long ago patriarchs painfully longed for, prophets foretold and the righteous set their hearts on. Now it has come to pass and had its consummation today. God was seen on earth through flesh and dwelt among humankind. So then, beloved, let us rejoice with great gladness. For if John leapt in his mother’s womb when Mary visited Elizabeth, consider that we have actually seen our Saviour born today. So now we, much more, must leap, rejoice, and be full of wonder and astonishment at the grandeur of God’s plan which exceeds all thought. Think how great it would be to see the sun coming down from the heavens, running on the earth and sending out its beams on everybody from here. If the sight of such splendour would astound all who behold it, consider and contemplate now how great it is to see the sun of righteousness (Malachi 4: 2), sending out beams from our own flesh and illuminating our souls. Long ago I set my heart on seeing this day, and not just seeing it, but seeing it with such a great gathering of people. I continually prayed that our place of meeting would be filled just as we now see it filled. So this has come to pass and had its consummation. Although it is not yet the tenth year since this day became clear and familiar to us, through your zeal, it has now flourished as though it was given from the beginning many years ago. Because of this one would not be far wrong in saying that it is both new and old: new because it has only recently been made known to you, old and venerable because it has swiftly become similar in stature to days long recognised and it feels as though it is of similar age to them. It is as with carefully bred and cultivated plants (the ones that reach an impressive height almost as soon as they are placed in the earth, and are laden with fruit). This day was known from the beginning to those in the West: now it has been brought to us and before the passing of many years, has swiftly shot up, bearing such fruit as you now see – the precincts full and the church packed with the crowd who have gathered together. Expect a repayment worthy of such zeal from Christ who is born today in the flesh. He will reward you for this enthusiasm. Your heartfelt zeal for this day is a great sign of your love for the one who is born. If it is necessary for anything to be contributed by us, your fellow servants, then, as we are able, we will contribute it; or rather whatever words the grace of God gives me to build you up. What do you wish to hear today? You want, of course, to hear about this day. I well know that many are still debating with each other about it, some arguing against, some for. Everywhere there is a lot of conversation about this day, some saying accusingly that the day is a new innovation which has only recently been introduced, while others contend that it is ancient and venerable, that the prophets spoke in advance about his birth and that from the beginning it was plain and clear to those living from Thrace to Cadiz. So come then and let us begin to give an account of these things. At the moment a day which is debated among you enjoys significant goodwill. If it became more familiar to you it is obvious that it would enjoy even greater zeal. Clarity of teaching will consolidate its position among you.

I have three convincing arguments to share with you through which we will know for sure that this is the time at which our Lord Jesus Christ, God the Word, was born. Of the three the first is that the news about the feast was swiftly circulated everywhere; it increased in prominence and the feast flourished. Gamaliel said of the proclamation of the Gospel – if it is from men and women it will come to an end, but if it is from God you will not be able to bring it to an end lest you are found to be fighting against God. I would confidently say of this day that, since God the Word is of God, far from it coming to an end, it is increasing in prominence each year and becoming better and better known. Within a few years the preaching of the Gospel had taken hold of the entire world even though it was shared in each place by ordinary people of little education like tentmakers and fishermen. The modest circumstances of its servants did it no harm, but the power of the message won over everything, brought to nothing whatever got in the way and demonstrated a strength of its own. - John Chrysostom - Homily on the Date of Christmas

Objections to celebrate Christmas will always exists as long a disunity exists. I guess as Catholics we have to help eliminate those objections to Christmas and the Dec. 25th Birth of Christ made Flesh?

Objection: The Dec. 25th birth of Christ invented by the Catholic Church in the 4th century.

Answer: There is no evidence supporting any part of this allegation. There is good evidence that the Nativity has been celebrated from as early as the second century, hundreds of years before the Catholic Church even existed.

The Catholic Church and Papacy as we know them today did not grow up until the 6th and 7th centuries. Boniface III, in 607, was the first Bishop to actually use the term "Pope." Prior to this, there was no centralized authority in the church to institute observance of the Nativity, and what customs existed grew up spontaneously by the common consent of the collective church. Not even the emperor Constantine (AD 242-337), who is sometimes associated with the beginnings of Catholicism and a centralized power in the church, ever addressed the issue of the Nativity.

Objection: If there was no Catholic Church or Papacy prior to the 6th or 7th centuries responsible for instituting celebration of Christ's birth Dec. 25th, what about an ecumenical council?

Answer: Here again there is no evidence supporting this supposition.

The first ecumenical council was the Council of Nicea in AD 325, long after the Nativity was already being celebrated. This council took up the question of the uniform celebration of the Pasche (Easter), but history is silent about it or any other council instituting the Feast of the Nativity. So far as may be authoritatively shown, if not set in the church by the apostles, celebration of the Nativity grew up spontaneously as a way of commemorating important events in sacred history, like the miracle at Cana, the Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension. In the East, January 6th (Epiphany) was kept as the date of Christ's birth until late in the fourth century, (though the same date was supposed by others to commemorate Jesus' baptism, the arrival of the Magi, or the miracle at Cana). In the West, the Nativity was celebrated Dec. 25th for as long as history remembers. The fact that the Nativity was celebrated differently in differnt places proves that no pope or council established the Feast of the Nativity, for if that were the case there would be no place for this difference to have grown up. Among the earliest testimonies to celebration the Nativity include the following:

  • Theophilus, Bishop of Caesarea (A.D. 115-181) - Theophilus lived in the time of Emperor Commodus; he lived within 100 years of the apostles, and was bishop of Caesarea in Palestine, the very fount whence sprang our faith.

We ought to celebrate the birth-day of our Lord on what day soever the 25th of December shall happen." Magdeburgenses, Cent. 2. c. 6. Hospinian, de orign Festorum Chirstianorum

  • Clement of Alexandria (AD 153-217) - In the second century, Alexandria became the intellectual center of Christianity, beginning with Clement, followed by his student, Origen.

*"And there are those who have determined not only the year of our Lord's birth, but also the day; and they say that it took place in the twenty-eighth year of Augustus, and in the twenty-fifth day of Pachon." (Stromata, I, xxi)

Counting from the death of Antony in 30 B.C., the 28th year of Augustus would have been 2 B.C. The first month of the Egyptian calendar was Thoth, answering to late August (Thoth 1 = August 29). The ninth month was Pachon. The 25th of Pachon answers to the 20th of May. However, this is usually explained by the fact that the months originally took their names from where they occurred in the year. Hence, October, November and December were the eighth, ninth, and tenth months counting from March in the original Roman calendar, which had only ten months. But the Greek Fathers frequently took April, instead of March, for the first month of the year, as we see expressly in St. Chrysostom, in Anastasius Patriarch of Antioch, the Apostolic Constitutions, in Macarius, Stephanus, Gobarus, and other of the ancients. This would make December the ninth counting from April. Supposing therefore that some were informed Christ was born the 25th day of ninth month, who then transferred it to the Egyptian calendar, the 25th of Pachon would be the result. This is the belief of John Selden and Johannes Keppler.

  • Hippolytus of Rome (A.D. 170-240) - Hippolytus of Rome provides one of the earliest known references to the December 25 birth of Christ in his commentary on Daniel. Chrysostom says that the Feast of the Nativity was kept “from the beginning” by those in the west, and we find corroboration of this in Hippolytus:

“The first coming of our Lord, that in the flesh, in which he was born at Bethlehem, took place eight days before the calends of January, a Wednesday, in the forty-second year of the reign of Augustus, 5500 years from Adam.” (Commentary on Daniel 4:23)

The eighth before the calends of January is the twenty-fifth day of December, and the forty-second year of Augustus counting from the death of Julius Caesar was 2 BC.

  • Apostolic Constitutions (circa A.D. 70-250) - The Apostolic Constitutions are a compilation, whose material is derived from sources differing in age. Early writers were inclined to assign them to the apostolic age and to Clement Romanus (A.D. 70), but they are now generally assigned to the second or third century. In the Fifth book, Sec. III, we find:

"Brethren, observe the festival days; and first of all the birthday which you are to celebrate on the twenty-fifth of the ninth month.

The ninth month counting from Nisan (April) is Casleu in the Jewish calendar. Transferred to our Roman calendar, the ninth month answers to December.

Diocletian (A.D. 303-304) - Nicephorus wrote an ecclesiastical history in which he reports Diocletian's destruction of a church on Dec. 25th, filled with worshippers celebrating the Lord's Nativity:

"At Nicomedia (a city of Bithynia) when the festival of Christ's birth-day came, and a multitude of Christians in all ages had assembled together in the temple to celebrate that birth-day. Diocletian the tyrant, having gotten an advantageous occasion whereby he might accomplish his madness and fury, sent men thither to enclose the temple, and to set it on fire round about, and so consumed them all to ashes, even twenty thousand persons."

John Selden in his monumental work, Theanthropos (1661, pp. 33, 34), confirms Nicephorus' report, saying that ancient Greek and Roman martyrologies date this event to Dec. 25th. It is probable that this occurred in A.D. 303-304.

Objection: Dec. 25th was assigned for celebration of Christ's birth to Christianize the pagan solstice, Saturnalia, Feast of the Unconquered Sun, and other pagan festivals.

Answer: Not one word from antiquity has ever been produced supporting this assertion. The whole notion is supposition at best, or deliberate slander at worst. The church fathers never spoke of Dec. 25th in connection with Christ's birth except as the traditional, received date of the Nativity.

  • Saturnalia - The Saturnalia was originally celebrated on only one day, the fourteenth Kalends of January (Dec. 17). With the Julian reform of the calendar, two days were added to December, causing the festival to fall on the sixteenth Kalends of January. Macrobius reports that the addition of two days to December caused the festival to be celebrated more days than one, which, coupled with the Sigarillaria, came to be celebrated a full week, or Dec. 17-23.

"I judge that I've now abundantly demonstrated that the Saturnalia used to be celebrated on one day only, the fourteenth before the Kalends, but that it was later extended to three, first as a result of the days that Caesar added to the month, and then by the edict of Augustus in which he assigned to the Saturnialia a three day holiday. As a result, they begin on the sixteenth day before the Kalends and end on the fourteenth, when the one day observance was formerly held. But the addition of the Sigillaria extends the public bustle and religious celebration to seven days." Saturnalia I.10.23, 24

Thus, the Saturnalia reached only as far as Dec. 23rd and therefore cannot account for Christmas occurring Dec. 25th.

  • Solstice - It is true that pagan peoples throughout the ancient world had various celebrations at the major turning points of the calendar, including the winter solstice, and that this anciently fell upon Dec. 25th. However, due to defects in the Roman calendar, by the time of Jesus' birth the winter solstice anticipated Dec. 25th by about two days. By the Council of Nicea in A.D. 325, the astronomical event anticipated the calendar by four days. Therefore, to correct this deficiency and provide for the uniform observance of the Pasche (Easter), the council set the vernal equinox, which anciently fell on March 25th, to March 21st, moving it four days. But in correcting the civil date of the vernal equinox to correspond with the astronomical event, the winter solstice was also necessarily corrected, for the two stand in fixed relation one to another. Hence, the solstice now falls on Dec. 21st. However, the coincidence that the Nativity is celebrated on the day the solstice anciently occurred in the civil calendar is no more evidence that the date is contrived than the coincidence that Christ's passion and resurrection occurred near the vernal equinox. Indeed, might not God have chosen man's salvation to come about precisely this way because of its poetic symbolism and value? Malachi associated Christ with the sun over 400 years before his birth, saying, "the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in his wings" (Mal. 4:2). New Testament writers make similar use of the metaphor (Lk. 1:78; Jn. 1:4, 9; 2 Pet. 1:19). Thus, it is altogether fitting that Christ should come into the world in the dark of winter, bringing spiritual light and salvation, and be raised from the dead in the spring when the earth is reborn after the pall of sin and winter death. Sol Invictus - This is a facet of the winter solstice, but we treat it here separately. In A.D. 274 following his victories in the east, the emperor Aurelius built a temple and instituted quadrennial games in behalf of Sol Invictus, a pagan sun god to whom he attributed his victories. An illuminated codex manuscript produced for a wealthy Christian named Valentinus contains, in part six, a calendar for the year 354 (the Chronography of 354). (The Codex is available on-line here) This calendar bears the following inscription for Dec. 25th: "N INVICTI CM XXX". N = Natalis ("birthday/nativity"). INVICTI = "Of the Unconquered one". CM = Circenses missus ("games ordered"). XXX = 30. Thus, for birthday of the "unconquered one" that year, thirty games were ordered. Many believe this refers to Sol Invictus and the "birthday" of the sun god worshipped by the Roman Emperor Aurelius. Although this has been questioned and others believe the games instituted by Aurelius were kept in October, we may accept as true for present purposes that Sol Invictus was honored Dec. 25th.

Objection: Shepherds would not have been in the field keeping watch over sheep in winter.

Answer: This argument assumes that weather conditions in Jerusalem and Judea are similar to those of Europe and other northern climes. However, Judea is a desert climate. Its average high temperature in December is 57.2° Fahrenheit; its average low is 47.1°. Its record high in December is 79°. The Bible fully confirms the ability of shepherds to be in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks in December. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob lived year round in tents their whole lives (Heb. 11:9; cf. Gen. 128; 13:3, 18; 18:1, 9), as did many of the Jews for centuries after conquering Canaan (Jud. 4:18; Jer. 35:7, 10). Moreover, scripture specifically relates that Jacob kept watch over Laban's flocks by winter frost at night (Gen. 31:40). The pictures below were taken in Bethlehem at Christmas 1890 and 2006. As may be seen, the climate is perfectly suitable for being out of doors. Hence, there is simply no basis to this objection.

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Bethlehem Christmas Pilgrims, 1890

Outdoor Service  Christmas Eve, 2006

Outdoor Service Christmas Eve, 2006

Objection: Jesus was probably born in September.

Answer: The usual method used as proof Jesus was born in September is the priestly courses. A second method is an interpretation of Rev. 12:1-5 vis-à-vis astronomical events. Both are wrong.

Priestly Courses: We know that Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, was a priest and was executing his priestly office when told that his wife, Elizabeth, would conceive a son (Lk. 1:5, 9). John was conceived six months before our Lord (Lk. 1:24, 26, 36). If it can be determined when John was conceived, it can be identified when Jesus was born some fifteen months later. There were twenty-four courses of priests (I Chron. 24:18). Zechariah was a member of the course of Abijah, the eighth course (Lk. 1:5; I Chron. 24:10). If it is assumed that the courses began their ministration in the spring on Nisan 1, the course of Abijah would have been serving the week of Jyar 20-26 (the eight weeks are as follows: Nisan 1-7, 8-14, 15-21, 22-28, 29-5 Jyar, 6-12, 13-19, 20-26). This is sometimes extended a week based upon the assumption that the normal progression of the course was interrupted by Passover Nisan 14. If so, Zechariah would then have been serving the week of 27 Jyar - 4 Sivan. Working from this latter date, and assuming John was conceived the first week Zechariah returned home, a normal 38 week gestation would place John's birth the week of Shebat 29- Adar 5. Jesus' birth 6 months (26 weeks) later would thus fall on Elul 4-10. If it is then assumed that Nisan 1 answers to April 1, Elul would then translate into September 4-10, for it is the fifth month from Nisan. In this way, therefore, it is argued that Jesus was born in September. However, there are several errors and oversights in this approach that render it untenable.

First, postponing of the normal service of Abijah in the eighth week cannot be justified. Although the Mishna indicates all the courses served at the three great feasts of the year (Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles) (Finegan, p. 133, § 241), there is no basis for assuming that the normal rotation of the courses was suspended, rather then merely supplemented. The extra work associated with the great feasts might require additional courses to serve, but the regular evening and morning sacrifices and other priestly duties still had to be made throughout the remainder of the week. Hence, we would expect this responsibility to fall to the course whose duty it was to minister that week. The better view therefore is that the course whose turn it was to serve received assistance of other courses, not that the normal rotation was entirely suspended. Second, there were twenty-four courses of priests, but about 51 1/2 weeks in the Jewish lunar year of 354 days (about 54 3/4 weeks in leap years of 384 days). Each course therefore served twice annually, plus such additional weeks as necessary to fill out the year (e.g., some courses served a third time). The model above assumes Zechariah was serving in the first weekly ministration and does not allow for the possibility he was serving six months later, which would place Jesus' birth in March. Third, and most important, the best scholarship agrees that the priestly courses began their annual rotations in the fall on Tishri 1, not in the spring on Nisan 1 as proposed by the model above (Finegan, p. 134 § 243). It was the seventh month when the temple was dedicated by Solomon for which the courses were created in the first place, and the seventh month when the sacrifices resumed again under Ezra after the Babylonian captivity (I Kn. 8:2; Ezra 3:6). Hence, Tishri is the correct point for the annual rotation to begin, not Nisan. The most basic assumption underlying September birth model is therefore false. On the other hand, we have shown in our tables of priestly courses that, working from 1 Tishri and constructing the courses in twenty-four year cycles from A.D. 70 backward to 21 B.C., it is fully possible that John was conceived in the fall and born in June, placing Jesus' birth six months later in December.

Rev. 12:1-5: Another method of placing Jesus' birth in September was proposed by Ernest L. Martin in his book, The Star that Astonished the World (ASK Publications, 1996). Therein, Martin asserts that Rev. 12:1-5 provides an exact time for the birth of Christ, right down to the day and hour. Martin is able to do this by interpreting the woman as the constellation Virgo. He then urges that her being “clothed with the sun” signifies that the sun was midway in the constellation, thus clothing her. For Martin, the key is the moon beneath her feet, which he says could only happen within a 90 minute window one day in the year 3 BC. Thus, according to Martin, we have the precise means of dating Jesus’ birth:

“The Moon has to be positioned somewhere under that 7 degree arc to satisfy the description of Revelation 12. But the Moon also has to be in that exact location when the Sun is mid-bodied to Virgo. In the year 3 B.C.E., these two factors came to precise agreement for about an hour and a half, as observed from Palestine or Patmos, in the twilight period of September 11th The relationship began about 6:15 p.m. (sunset), and lasted until around 7:45 p.m. (moonset). This is the only day in the whole year that the astronomical phenomenon described in the twelfth chapter of Revelation could take place.”

Of course, at the critical moment that the moon is allegedly in position the sun has set, so it difficult to see how Martin can argue for the literalness of the vision. Moreover, the constellation Draco does not answer the description of the dragon in Revelation, nor for that matter does Virgo match the description of the woman (Virgo does not have a crown of twelve stars and Draco does not have seven heads and ten horns). Hence, Martin insists upon the literalness of the vision only when it suits him and not at all points. However, by far the most glaring discrepancy between Martin's account and scripture is the year of Jesus' birth. Luke is emphatic that Jesus was 29 going on 30 at his baptism in the fall of 15th of Tiberius (A.D. 29). This would place Jesus' birth in 2 B.C. Thus, Martin's interpretation of Rev. 12:1-5 is contradicted by God's inspired word. (For a full refutation of Martin, click here).

Conclusion

None of the normal objections put forward against Christmas and the Dec. 25th birth of Christ have any factual basis.

Objections to Christmas and the Dec. 25th Birth of Christ Answered

PS. Merry Christmas everyone!

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    A Catholic perspective is welcome, as Catholics fit the scope of the Q. This is just to mention that I did specify, "I'm not wanting this question to turn into reasons as to why we should celebrate Jesus' birth every year, or not. I just want to know if anyone else has pondered the absence of information about this, in the Bible, and your thoughts." It's not the December date that is in question - just the lack of any date. Unfortunately, this renders much of your answer a non-answer, interesting though it all is! May you, and yours, have a joyful and blessed day.
    – Anne
    Dec 25, 2021 at 20:56
  • @Anne Agreed, but I started with the explication that it was an unwritten tradition dating back to St. Paul. For the rest, I am covering more bases! Thank you for your blessings.
    – Ken Graham
    Dec 25, 2021 at 21:00
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    Your reference to what Paul said in 2 Thess.2:15 was about what the 12 apostles had taught, including verbal instruction, but it's stretching it a bit to make that cover future verbal traditions centuries on beyond the apostles! I don't follow rationalisation trying to pin the date on Paul, however! I do agree that Catholics see it differently than Protestants on matters of traditions, so I understand why you dealt with that the way you did.
    – Anne
    Dec 25, 2021 at 21:04
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    @Anne Thank you for your understanding. If I come across another manner of thought according to our perspective, I will alter my response. Pax.
    – Ken Graham
    Dec 25, 2021 at 21:07
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I just want to know if anyone else has pondered the absence of information about this, in the Bible, and your thoughts.

For what it's worth, growing up in the Churches of Christ, I've heard this exact question posed many times and quite a lot of people do hold either the position that, due to the silence of scripture on the subject, either it should not be celebrated or that such celebration is optional. Personally, I would fall into the latter of those categories.

While I do believe that the writings of the early church fathers and known practices of the church in the second century are useful for study and providing insight about the beliefs of early Christians, I don't believe that they are, of themselves, in any way binding on modern Christians. And I would agree with your interpretation of 2 Thess 2:15 as referring specifically to what that the church at Thessalonika had been taught by word from the apostles and those appointed by them, not just any teaching they eventually may have received from anyone claiming to be a Christian. Indeed, there were already plenty of heresies being taught at the time that Paul obviously would not have wanted them to believe, as evidenced by his own epistles specifically addressing several of them. And, of course, the church at Thessalonika at the time Paul wrote 2 Thessalonians obviously didn't have the complete Bible as we have today, as some of it still had not yet been written.

As for celebrating Christmas - or any other religious holiday - there is neither instruction for Christians to do so, nor for them not to. And there are Biblical examples of Christians who did celebrate religious holidays (such as the Jewish feasts,) as well as those who did not. And both were explicitly approved as acceptable practice, for example, in Romans 14 and 15.

One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks.

Romans 14:5-6 NASB

So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. 13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way. 14 I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. 15 Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died. 16 Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil; 17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men.

Romans 14:12-18 NASB

In addition to explicitly saying that each practice is acceptable to God, the apostle Paul also commands both those who do and don't observe the feasts to not judge each other and additionally commands them not to exercise their liberty (either to observe or not to) in such a way that could cause division or cause a brother to stumble by violating his own conscious. Paul further mentions in verse 14 (and reiterates in verse 23) that observing in violation of one's own conscious, however, would be a sin.

While Romans 14 (and 15) wasn't referring to Christmas specifically, it sets out principles that apply generally to situations where there is disagreement among Christians on matters that are not set out in scripture. I would therefore apply those same principles to this situation: I wouldn't judge anyone either for observing or not observing a religious holiday such as Christmas, nor would I exercise my liberty to observe it or not in a way that might cause a brother to stumble or cause division.

The Silence of Scripture

As far as why we're not given the date of Jesus' birth in scripture, I would say that it is simply because it isn't at all necessary for us to know. If God deemed it important for us to celebrate the day of Christ's birth, then He surely would have told us what it was. As Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:16-17,

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV

If something were necessary for us to know in order to be "complete, equipped for every good work," it would have been recorded for us in scripture. That's not to say that there aren't things that are useful or interesting to know that aren't recorded in scripture - such as, for example, the aforementioned writings of the early church fathers - but they aren't necessary for anyone to know the nature of God, what He has done for us, or how He wants us to live. If celebrating Christmas as the birth of Christ were something God definitely wanted us to do, He would have told us so and told us when it was. Similarly, if it were vitally important for us not to celebrate it, He would have told us that, too.

There are many subjects on which scripture is silent because it simply isn't important for us to know or have a single, universal practice. It is on these subjects where what Paul discusses in Romans 14 and 15 comes into play. One particular practice may be useful to Christians from one time, place, and background in their devotion and service to God, but not necessarily to those from another. Most customary practices were useful to some group of Christians at some point, but that doesn't mean that they're useful, let alone necessary, for all Christians in all times.

For this particular example, GratefulDisciple's answer mentions good reasons why celebrating Christmas was a useful practice at the time it was introduced. However, Gnosticism and such heresies aren't significant threats to the church in most places in modern times, so some of the early reasons for its usefulness aren't applicable to nearly as much (or perhaps any) of the church today as they were then.

The same could undoubtedly be said of countless other practices among Christians that have differed both from one time period to another as well as from one place or background to another in the same time. For example, the use of song books for singing hymns was undoubtedly a useful practice for very many Christians throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. However, Christians prior to that time mostly didn't have the technology for those to be feasible to mass produce (and much of the population wasn't literate anyway.) And, now, yet other technological developments (e.g. projectors and PowerPoint) have rendered them largely obsolete to many Christians, having been replaced by a more useful practice for the time.

Song books are a somewhat trivial (and intentionally chosen to be not overly controversial) example, but the same principles apply to many practices that may have been (or may currently be) useful for some Christians in some places for fulfilling the desires that God has expressed for us, but which are less useful, not useful, or even counterproductive for Christians in other times or places. If a particular practice were the most useful option for all Christians for all time, then I do believe that God would have provided us the information we need for that practice in scripture. For example, practices like singing, reading scripture, prayer, preaching, and communion are indeed useful practices to all Christians in all times and we are given those as commands and examples in scripture. The minute details of the most useful ways for Christians to carry out those practices, however, do vary from one place and time to another and scripture remains largely silent on those, leaving them up to Christians in each place and time to work out.

So, I would say that the reason for the omission of the date of Christ's birth from scripture is likely the same reason that the names of the songs sung by the first century church in worship are omitted from scripture: it's just not that important for us to know and there's no need for us to be placing undue attention to those details that could be better spent elsewhere. Scripture leaves it up to Christians in different times and places to decide whether and when celebrating Christmas is most useful for them, just as it does for which songs are sung and what aids are used to that end.

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    Your ponderings are good, given valuable inclusion of Romans chapters 14 & 15 about celebrating special days. Indeed this shows freedom to treat some days as special, or not to. A main point is that celebrating in a way that would stumble others is to be avoided. But could you add anything about why Jesus' actual birth date is not stated in Scripture?
    – Anne
    Dec 27, 2021 at 10:22
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    @Anne Updated to add discussion on the reasons for silence in scripture.
    – reirab
    Dec 28, 2021 at 6:28
  • The update completes your answer - appreciated. Just one of your points: "Gnosticism and such heresies aren't significant threats to the church in most places in modern times". Alas, all the old heresies are still with us, in modern guise, so that most Christians who are ignorant of church history are unaware and can get drawn into them, unwittingly. But that's another matter - another question!
    – Anne
    Dec 28, 2021 at 10:02
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Our confusion is not to say there isn't an accurate answer. Ambiguity embraced is to see both sides.

Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually. Heb 7:3

The reference is to Melchizedek of which priesthood is Christ and who is a pattern to Christ. It is said of having neither beginning or ending of life. No one knows the specific birth or death dates. As in God.

Yet, there is this.

Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. 1 Peter 1:10-11

We might read this and think it refer only to Messiah's sufferings, but not so. It means the whole of Messiah on earth. The grace that should come; as in God with us.

  1. The time, and the manner of the times, wherein the Messiah was to appear. Matthew Henry
  1. what--Greek, "In reference to what, or what manner of time." What expresses the time absolutely: what was to be the era of Messiah's coming; what manner of time; what events and features should characterize the time of His coming. Jamieson, Fausset & Brown

As well, the magi from the east didn't miss His star at His birth (Mt 2:1). Were they watching for it, inquiring to the time?

<there came wise men--literally, "Magi" or "Magians," probably of the learned class who cultivated astrology and kindred sciences. Balaam's prophecy ( Num 24:17 ), and perhaps Daniel's ( Dan 9:24, &c.), might have come down to them by tradition; but nothing definite is known of them. Jamieson, Fausset & Brown

Herod the king was troubled at a baby. Was he watching for the time?

When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

Why were they troubled? It had been prophesied of a King.

The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be. Gen 49:10

Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre. Psalm 45:6

Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this. Isa 9:7

Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. Dan 9:24

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Is 7:14

Moreover, John (the baptist) the son of Zechariah had been born.

All of these things point to a specific time for Messiah's birth. All of these things erase ambiguity. They could count the times and they did.

There is no reason to continue with further details such as the 490 years of Daniel. There is lots of ambiguity there now as well. The point is at that time, they were looking for the fulfillment of prophecy. There was no ambiguity.

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  • Important points about anticipation of Messiah's arrival, searching to establish when it would happen - which makes lack of an exact date all the more intriguing? As to the Magi, the record implies that they did not arrive on the birth day or the next day. The date of their arrival is not stated. Herod had all boys from birth to 2 years murdered, so he only had a vague idea. Yet given that Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, Simeon & Anna at the temple all knew the exact date, why is it not stated in scripture? There must be a reason!
    – Anne
    Dec 27, 2021 at 10:13
  • @Anne Gutsy to look at the king of the Jews (Herod) and ask where is the King of the Jews, but they were sure. Daniel's prophecy requires Messiah be born within that frame after the decree, then anointed and cut off at the mid-point of the last 7 (3 1/2) years (Dan 9:24-27). We have other historical facts from the bible and secular about the time, like Jesus being thirty and baptized. Anyway, it's clear enough He was born on the first day of Tabernacles and circumcised on 8th day the Great Day of that Feast. After His baptism about age 30, 3 1/2 years later He was crucified at Passover.
    – SLM
    Dec 27, 2021 at 16:35
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"Birthday" is mentioned only three times in the Bible:

Now it came to pass on the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday, that he made a feast for all his servants; and he lifted up the head of the chief butler and of the chief baker among his servants. Then he restored the chief butler to his butlership again, and he placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand. But he hanged the chief baker, as Joseph had interpreted to them. — Genesis 40:20–22

But when Herod’s birthday was celebrated, the daughter of Herodias danced before them and pleased Herod. Therefore he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask.

So she, having been prompted by her mother, said, “Give me John the Baptist’s head here on a platter.”

And the king was sorry; nevertheless, because of the oaths and because of those who sat with him, he commanded it to be given to her. So he sent and had John beheaded in prison. And his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. — Matthew 14:6–11

[Same account as Matthew] — Mark 6:21–28

Notice that they are celebrated by rulers, and that things don't go well for other people.

The Bible says nothing else about anyone's birthday, indicating that it is not something that Christians should concern themselves with. Celebrating the anniversary of one's own birth is an example of pride and vanity.

Even Jesus's birth has significance only because it made his death possible. It is Jesus's death and suffering that Christians are told to commemorate:

And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you. — Luke 22:19–20

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  • I thought I was reading a Jehovah's Witness answer - until I saw your name! My only comment is about you saying, "Jesus's birth has significance only because it made his death possible". Are you saying the virgin's conception, Elizabeth's baby leaping for joy in her womb when Mary appeared (due to the Holy Spirit) and the heavenly choirs rejoicing at his birth have no significance? I feel another question coming on!
    – Anne
    Dec 25, 2021 at 17:44
  • If we had never been told about the events you mentioned, Christianity would not be significantly different. It's good information to have, but not essential for our lives or salvation. If we hadn't been told about Jesus's death, that would be significant. Dec 25, 2021 at 19:13
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    @Anne "I thought I was reading a Jehovah's Witness answer". As I typed that line about pride and vanity, I had exactly the same thought myself. It seemed to fit though, so I left it alone. Dec 25, 2021 at 19:22
  • Ah, so you don’t believe Jesus is the Word of God who left heaven to be born to Mary; but I’m looking for answers from Christians who do believe John 1:1-14 (I have to scope the Q to a particular group if it is to be acceptable on Stack Christianity.)
    – Anne
    Dec 25, 2021 at 19:35
  • @Anne. My answers are generally from a binitarian perspective, and so are almost all unliked by either trinitarians or unitarians. But subject to the implications of that, I think I interpret John 1 the same as trinitarians would. Dec 25, 2021 at 19:47
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One of the things the ambiguity of Scripture indicates is that Scripture was never meant to be read like some read it today, as having the answer for every question. Instead, it demonstrates the need for Church authority which is quite clear in Scripture (think of the erring fellow to whom we go privately to correct, then with one or two brothers, etc., and then bring him before the Church). That parenthesized reference demonstrates clearly that there are individuals in the Church that have authority to welcome the erring party into the Church or to exclude that one from communion.

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