Friday, 28 December 2018 16:38

Christmas history Part III: When was Jesus born?

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Christmas history Part III: When was Jesus born? Image courtesy of Pixabay

As the actual date of the birth of Jesus has been debated throughout the centuries, there have been proposals to alter the recognized celebration away from the arguably arbitrary Dec. 25.  

One such idea regarding the celebration of the birth of Jesus has been to return to the “original” date of Jan. 6. This date is significant for at least three reasons: It has been cited as the time of the revelation that Jesus was God’s son (the Epiphany); it is denoted as the date of His baptism; and it is also thought to be the date of the visit by the “Wise Men.” 

Yet another factor that might favor recognition of the “Three Kings Day” of Jan. 6 as the “real” Christmas is the history of the calendar itself. While time itself cannot be altered, the means by which humans measure it has been. The Gregorian Calendar, implemented by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582, is what most of us would consider the calendar that is currently used in most of the western culture. Prior to the mid-16th century, though, the Julian (for Julius Caesar) or “Roman” calendar was in use. In fact, although the original change was decreed by the pope in October of 1582, it was almost three centuries before the United Kingdom and its colonies reluctantly recognized the “current” metric of months and the days therein.  

Given that the Julian calendar was much less accurate (it had too many days to stay in sync with the actual seasons), 11 days were simply deleted when the adjustment was made.  The first occurrence in 1582 resulted in the day that followed Oct. 4 to become denoted as the 15th.  Similarly, when England and its empire finally adopted the modern calendar in 1752, the 2nd of September was followed by the 13th. Thus, in some parts of Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Jan. 6 (the date that Christmas would have been celebrated had the calendar not changed in 1752) remains “Old Christmas” and is celebrated accordingly.  

Another — and perhaps the most compelling — alternative date for Christmas might be sometime between April and September. There is strong evidence to indicate that, not only was Jesus not born in the month of December, but it was probably not even winter when He entered this world.  

Several points have been derived from Biblical citations to support this contention by scholars.  One is the weather itself. It gets very cold in that part of the world in December so it is highly unlikely that shepherds would have had their flocks out at all, much less in the mountains or hills as described in the Bible.