Christmas

The day of the birth of Jesus celebrated as Christmas, is based on a feast rather than historical analysis. The festival of the Nativity which later turned into Christmas was a 4th-century feast in the Western Church notably in Rome and North Africa.

Francis Assisi is known for the creation of the Christmas creche or Nativity Scene with real animals.

Date of birth The two major, and independent, approaches to estimating the year of the birth of Jesus combine the accounts given in some of the Canonical gospels with non-biblical historical data to arrive at a date range, as discussed in the two sub-sections below. There are a wide range of more speculative theories, and some are discussed at the end of this article in the “other approaches” section.

Nativity accounts: Luke and Matthew The nativity-based approach to estimating the year of birth of Jesus relies on the analysis of the nativity accounts in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew along with corresponding historical sources. Most mainstream scholars do not see the Luke and Matthew nativity stories as historically factual. For this reason they do not consider them a reliable method for determining the date of birth. Karl Rahner states that the authors of the gospels generally focus on theological elements rather than historical chronologies. However, both Luke and Matthew associate Jesus’ birth with the time of Herod the Great. As a result, scholars generally accept a date of birth between 6 and 4 BC. It is generally agreed that Herod the Great died in 4 BCE, placing the birth of Jesus before then. Matthew 2:1 states that “Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king” and implies that Jesus could have been as much as two years old at the time of the visit of the Magi, before Herod’s death. Luke 1:5 mentions the reign of Herod shortly before the birth of Jesus, but places the birth during the Census of Quirinius, ten years later. Scholars have attempted to address the contradiction between the two accounts. Most believe Luke made an error in referring to the census, although traditionally scholars attempted to reconcile the two accounts. Neither gospel account mentions the time of year during which the events they describe takes place. However, the Gospel of Luke reference to shepherds grazing their sheep in the fields has been taken to imply a birth during the springtime, summer or early fall. The day of the birth of Jesus celebrated as Christmas, is based on a feast rather than historical analysis. In the 1st and 2nd centuries, the Lord’s Day (Sunday) was the earliest Christian celebration and included a number of theological themes. In the 2nd century, the Resurrection of Jesus became a separate feast as Easter and in the same century, Epiphany began to be celebrated in the Churches of the East on 6 January. The festival of the Nativity which later turned into Christmas was a 4th-century feast in the Western Church notably in Rome and North Africa, although it is uncertain exactly where and when it was first celebrated.

The earliest source stating 25 December as the date of birth of Jesus is likely by Hippolytus of Rome, written very early in the 3rd century, based on the assumption that the conception of Jesus took place at the Spring equinox which he placed on March 25, and then added 9th months – festivals on that date were then celebrated. John Chrysostom also argued for a 25 December date in the late 4th century, basing his argument on the assumption that the offering of incense in Luke 1:8-11 was the offering of incense by a high priest on Yom Kippur (early October), and, as above, counting fifteen months forward. However, this was very likely a retrospective justification of a choice already made rather than a genuine attempt to derive the correct birth date. The early church suggested the following dates for Jesus’ birth: January 2, January 6, March 21, March 25, April 18, April 19, May 20, May 28, November 17. All we can take from this is that the precise date was unknown to them even though they were much closer to the historical event that we are.

 

 

Advent Wreath