Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Another look at the birth of Christ

I am going to go ahead and present the argument for Jesus' birth at the feast of Tabernacles, though according to that holiday is not for another six weeks (October 7) on the Jewish calendar. The Hebrew calendar is based on a lunar rather than a solar reckoning. As I understand it, the first month as redefined in the Old Testament is Abib in the spring. However, the CIVIL year begins in the fall, six months earlier. In order to allign the two systems, a thirteenth month is inserted periocically. As I understand it, the purists use the first appearance of ripening barley in Israel to determine the beginning of Abib (the months begin with the appearance of a thin crescent the day AFTER what we call the "new moon"). The official calendar has been standardized, though, to place the extra month three times in a seventeen year cycle. Since the anniversary of a particular date in history, when calculated in Hebrew terms, will fall on a different day each solar year, it is important to keep in mind WHICH system you are referring to.

So, basing our calculations on the Hebrew calendar, Jesus' birthday will be on Oct. 7 this year. And here is the Biblical reason I chose that date.

Luke was a very careful historian, and so, when he gave a date indicator you can trust it to be there for a reason. In the first chapter we see that Zacharias was doing his duties in his alloted course:

Luke 1:
5 ¶ There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth.

What is the course of Abia [Hebrew: Abijah]?

1 Chron. 24:
5 Thus were they divided by lot, one sort with another; for the governors of the sanctuary, and governors of the house of God, were of the sons of Eleazar, and of the sons of Ithamar.
6 And Shemaiah the son of Nethaneel the scribe, one of the Levites, wrote them before the king, and the princes, and Zadok the priest, and Ahimelech the son of Abiathar, and before the chief of the fathers of the priests and Levites: one principal household being taken for Eleazar, and one taken for Ithamar.
7 Now the first lot came forth to Jehoiarib, the second to Jedaiah,
8 The third to Harim, the fourth to Seorim,
9 The fifth to Malchijah, the sixth to Mijamin,
10 The seventh to Hakkoz, the eighth to Abijah,
11 The ninth to Jeshua, the tenth to Shecaniah,
12 The eleventh to Eliashib, the twelfth to Jakim,
13 The thirteenth to Huppah, the fourteenth to Jeshebeab,
14 The fifteenth to Bilgah, the sixteenth to Immer,
15 The seventeenth to Hezir, the eighteenth to Aphses,
16 The nineteenth to Pethahiah, the twentieth to Jehezekel,
17 The one and twentieth to Jachin, the two and twentieth to Gamul,
18 The three and twentieth to Delaiah, the four and twentieth to Maaziah.
19 These were the orderings of them in their service to come into the house of the LORD, according to their manner, under Aaron their father, as the LORD God of Israel had commanded him.

Twenty-four courses had been determined beforehand. Zachariah had been assigned the eighth two-week period in the religious caledar:

Mar2 Apr1 Apr2 May1 May2 Jun1 Jun2 Jul1

where "Mon1"=1-14. Thus Zacharias served in the first part of July, so John was conceived in late July.

Aug2 Sep2 Oct2 Nov2 Dec2 Jan2

Elizabeth's sixth month would then be early January. This was the "sixth month" in which Jesus was conceived. When you add nine months to this:

Feb2 Mar2 Apr2 May2 Jun2 Jul2 Aug2 Sep2 Oct2

We arrive at the fall of the year, the time of the holidays. The second part of October would be the time of the Feast of the Tabernacles. I have used Gregorian months for simplication, indicating the second half as the "15-30" part of a 30-day month. As noted above, 15 Tishri falls on 7 October this year. That is the day of the "full moon."

The only difference from the previous post's calculations is a matter of about a week. It is possible that Elizabeth's "sixth month" is inclusive of July and December. It is also possible that the annunciation came a week before the conception due to Mary's physiology. The miracle was enough of one without having to be doubled up in changing Mary's monthly cycle!

If then, the birth of Jesus came on 15 Tishri, 3760, that would translate to a solar date of Sept. 11, 2 BC. I don't remember if that was the Julian or Gregorian reckoning. It is possible, then, that the birthdate would correspond to the Gregorian Sept 21 (?). It is a real headache keeping these dates aligned. However, based on the Hebrew (Biblical) calendar, Jesus' birthday will "officially" be Oct. 7 this year.

Of course, He could have been born as earlier as Tabernacles 4 BC, if further evidence from Luke is interpreted to mean that Jesus started his ministry soon after John started his:

Luke 3:
1 ¶ Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene,
2 Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.

This is very definitely an exact reckoning. Unfortunately, there is some ambiguity in the determining of when Tiberius' reign began. It is assumed to be AD 14. That would put John's ministry beginning in AD 28 (inclusive) or AD 29 (exclusive). The alternate dates of many today for Jesus' ministry (AD 27 - 30) fall too early for Luke's record. It is better, then to assume that John had been preaching a while before Jesus was baptized in Hebrew year 3790, probably in the fall (Day of Atonement?)

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