We have been studying this at Church and I think everyone should know the truth. Go ahead and check out everything for yourself. It’s the truth.
I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
When was John the Baptist born?
In order to determine when Jesus was born, it is first necessary to look at when John (Yochanan in Hebrew) the Baptist was born. John’s father, Zechariah (Z’chariyahu in Hebrew), was of the priestly division of Abiah (or Abijah) (Lk. 1:5). There were 24 such divisions (1 Chr. 24:7-18) taking their turn over the course of the year. Abiah was the 8th division (1 Chr. 24:10).
According to the Mishnah (the Jewish commentary on the Torah), the priestly cycle began on the first Sabbath (Saturday) of Nisan, and each division ministered for one week. The cycle got delayed because all priests were required to attend the Holy Temple (Beit Hamikdash in Hebrew) at Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles. Thus, for the year 3754 AM (7 BC), the first few weeks of the duty roster would have been as follows:
||Start of service
Zechariah’s division (Abiah) served between Sivan 9 and Sivan 16 (Jun. 11th). Zechariah thus returned home on June 11th, 7 BC (Lk. 1:23).
From now on, we can no longer be exact, but Zechariah’s wife Elizabeth (Eli-Sheva in Hebrew) would probably have become pregnant some time over the course of the next month – let’s guess at June 25th (Sivan 30, 3754 AM) (Lk. 1:24).
The Passover was a sign that God would spare/save His people (Ex. 12:13). The sending of Elijah was also prophesied to be a sign that God would spare/save His people (Mal. 4:5-6). For this reason, the Jews expected that Elijah would come at Passover – it is their custom to put an extra cup of wine on the table at Passover in the hope that Elijah will come and drink it. We can see from our calculations that if Elizabeth became pregnant on June 25th, 7 BC, then adding nine months gives us March 25th, 6 BC. Passover (Nisan 14) in that year was March 31st, so we can see that it is entirely possible that John the Baptist, who is identified with Elijah (Mt. 11:14) was born on that date.
In which month was Jesus born?
The angel Gabriel made his announcement to Mary (Miriam in Hebrew) “in the sixth month” of Elizabeth’s pregnancy (Lk. 1:26, 36), i.e. any time between 5 and 6 months after June 25th, 7 BC – let’s guess at December 11th (Kislev 22, 3755 AM). The message was “you shall conceive” (Lk. 1:31), so again, it would be reasonable to assume that Mary became pregnant some time during the following month – let’s guess at December 25th (Teveth 6) – if only because that would be remarkably appropriate day! Jesus would then have been born some nine months later – say September 25th, 6 BC (Tishri 15, 3756 AM), which just happens to be the date of the Feast of Tabernacles.
The Feast of Tabernacles
Have you ever noticed that, apart from Christmas, all other Christian festivals coincide with Jewish festivals?
- Jesus died on the eve of Passover (Pesach in Hebrew) (Jn. 19:14, 31), which was Nisan 14 (Ex. 12:6, Lev. 23:5), i.e. in April, just as the lambs were being killed (1 Pet. 1:19).
- The Holy Spirit was given at Pentecost (Shavuot in Hebrew) (Acts 2:1), which commemorates the giving of the Law in Leviticus (Vayikrah in Hebrew) (Lev. 23:15-16). Paul contrasts the two (Rom. 8:2) and, while the original Pentecost caused 3000 people to die (Ex. 32:28), the new Pentecost gave life to 3000 people (Acts 2:41) – and to us too! (2 Cor. 3:6). Passover lasted for seven days (Lev. 23:8); Pentecost was 50 days later (on Sivan 6).
- So, is it therefore not possible that God arranged the birth of Christ to coincide with that other great Jewish festival, the Feast of Tabernacles? (Succot in Hebrew). This feast commemorates the provision of manna in the desert while the Israelites were living in tents (or “tabernacles”). It took place on Tishri 15 (Lev. 23:34) and it is also the Jewish harvest festival. Thus, if this theory is correct, Jesus was born on Monday September 25th, 6 BC (the Gregorian date corresponding to the Hebrew date of Tishri 15, 3756 AM) – but is there any evidence to back up this claim? Yes – in fact, there’s load of it!
Evidence for Jesus being born at the Feast of Tabernacles
The Jews expected the Messiah (Mashiach in Hebrew) to appear at the Feast of Tabernacles – this is why Jesus’s sceptical brothers taunted him to go to it (Jn. 7:2-3). What was the basis of this expectation?
Jeremiah 23:5-6 tells us that the Messiah would be a “Branch from David’s line“. Zechariah prophesies that the Branch will wipe away our guilt (Zech. 3:9), that he will build the temple of the Lord and have royal dignity (Zech. 6:12-13), and that “on that day”, the Line of David will be “like the Angel of the Lord going before them” (Zech. 12:8). When will “that day” be? It will be the Feast of Tabernacles! Zech. 14:16 tells us that that is when all nations are commanded to celebrate “that day”.
Acts 15:16, quoting Amos 9:11, explains that God has returned to re-build David‘s tabernacle, while Ezekial 37:24-28 prophesies that David, the servant shepherd, will become king (melech in Hebrew) and that His people will live “under the shelter of my dwelling”.
Isaiah (Yishaiyahu in Hebrew) explains that the Lord will save us in Jerusalem (Yerushali’im in Hebrew) – a “city of feasts” and a “sturdy tent” (Is. 33:20-22) – and that His throne shall be set up in David‘s tent (Is. 16:5).
In John 1:14, the word “dwelled” is literally “tabernacled” in the Greek – and this comes as the climax to John’s “version” of the story of Christ’s incarnation.
One ceremony associated with the Feast of Tabernacles involved lights. Each afternoon of the seven days, priests and pilgrims gathered at the Temple. Four large oil lamps illuminated the Court of the Women. The illumination from these lamps symbolized two things:
- The Shekinah (visible presence) of God which filled the Temple (1 Ki. 8:10–11).
- The Ha’or Gadol (the Great Light) who would come and bring light to those who were spiritually dead and dwelling in darkness (Is. 9:2).
John begins his gospel with a description of Christ coming into the world, and his description contains multiple references to light (ch. 1 vv. 4-5, 7-9) – another big clue that Christ came into the world at the Feast of Tabernacles.
According to Lev. 23:42, during Succot, Jewish families construct a flimsy shelter called a “Succah” (a tabernacle). In the Succah, the ceremony of “Ushpizin” takes place, in which they welcome God’s Shekinah (glory or presence) (cf. Lk. 2:9) and the seven “faithful shepherds” (Abraham/Avraham, Isaac/Yitzchak, Jacob/Yaacov, Joseph/Yosef, Moses/Moshe, Aaron/Aharon and David). Could this be why the angel appeared to a group of shepherds (Lk. 2:8)? Moreover, in the Ushpizin, the “faithful shepherds” are there to observe how their descendants are fulfilling God’s commandments; this is similar to the shepherds’ purpose – “to see this thing that has happened” (Lk. 2:15) – and where did they go to see Jesus but a flimsy shelter which we have traditionally called a “stable” but which was probably a Succah? Indeed, the Greek word for “manger” (Lk. 2:7, 12, 16) was probably the closest translation Luke could find for “Succah”.
The Feast of Tabernacles (Succot) is known as “the season of joy”, and it is also known as “the festival of the nations” – notice how many times the words “nation” and “nations” are mentioned in Zech. 14:16-19. The angel’s announcement of Jesus’s birth to the shepherds (Lk. 2:10) is “I bring you tidings of great joy to all mankind” (i.e. to all nations). This is obviously a “Tabernacles” greeting!
Jesus was circumcised eight days after His birth (Lk. 2:21) in accordance with scripture (Gen. 17:12). This would correspond to the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles (Tishri 21), which was originally called “Shemini Atzeret” (or the “Eighth day of Solemn Assembly”), and later called “Simchat Torah” (or “Rejoicing in the Torah”), when the annual cycle of Torah readings begins again at Genesis (Bereshit in Hebrew). This is considered to be a time of “fulfilment” of the Torah. This would seem to be a fitting time, since Jesus came “not to abolish the Law but to fulfil it” (Mt. 5:17).
Jesus Himself gives hints that His incarnation is connected to the Feast of Tabernacles. He compared the manna of the Feast with Himself as the “real bread that comes down from Heaven” (Jn. 6:31-58), and He said all of this “as the Feast of Tabernacles was close at hand” (Jn. 7:2). The last day of the Feast was when Jesus chose to speak of Himself as “living water”; this was appropriate because the Feast celebrates the harvest and the end of the Summer drought.
Was Isaiah hinting at a “Tabernacles Christmas” when he spoke of a virgin bearing a son called Emmanuel who would eat honey (Is. 7:13-15)? When the Israelites first saw manna, at the time when they were living in the desert in tents, they said “Man-hu?” (“What is that?”) (Ex. 16:15) and it tasted like honey (Ex. 16:31). Could “Emmanuel” (“God with us”) be a pun on “God is our manna”? (cf. Jn. 6:48).
At the transfiguration, is it coincidence that Peter wants to make tents (rather than, say, houses) for Moses (who instigated the Feast of Tabernacles), Elijah (Eliyahu in Hebrew) (who was to be the forerunner of Christ’s coming, see Mal. 4:5) and Jesus (who is the One who has come)? Is it also a coincidence that John the Baptist, who is identified with Elijah (Mt. 11:14), ate wild honey (Mk. 1:6)?
The Feast of Tabernacles celebrates how the Israelites were completely dependent on God as they wandered for 40 years in the desert and were led by “a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night” (Ex. 13:21-22). Because of this experience, Jews recall that “God is with us”. Again, there was a fiery (“bright”) cloud at Christ’s transfiguration (Mt. 17:5).
Finally, Rev. 21:2-3 talks of a wedding feast where God has his “tabernacle among men” and (literally) “God-with-us shall Himself be their God” – i.e. Emmanuel. And where do all the best wedding feasts take place (even today)? Why, in a marquee, of course – which is a big tent!
Incidentally, on the 8th day of the Feast of Tabernacles (Lev. 23:36), i.e. Tishri 22, Jews hold a wedding ceremony and get “married” to the Law (a scroll held by a rabbi under the canopy) (Deut. 31:10-11). One day, it will be the “Wedding of the Lamb” (Rev. 19:7-8), when we will all be given clean clothes (see also Mt. 22:1-14). Does this suggest that the Second Coming will also take place at the Feast of Tabernacles? The fact that it is immediately preceded by the Feast of Trumpets (Lev. 23:23-25), on Tishri 1, should settle the matter, for the Second Coming will be preceded by a fanfare of trumpets (Mt. 24:31, 1 Cor. 15:52, 1 Thes. 4:16, Rev. 11:15).
Does it matter?
If it was important enough to God that Jesus’s birth should be at this time, and if it was important enough to put so much evidence in the Bible, then it should be important to us too!