IDENTIFYING CHRIST BIRTHDAY: A BIBLE STUDY ON CHRISTMAS (Part 1)


Christmas: Should We Celebrate It?

Among the faithful, those seeking to obey all that the Holy Spirit has revealed to humanity through the Scripture, there have been a never ending discussion that often spring up every year about CHRISTMAS. The question most Youths and Elders in Church often ask is: “Should we celebrate Christmas?” And I would say, “This is a sincere question which, if asked with the desire to know the truth, the Holy Spirit, through His revealed word will give an answer.” In this series of articles which I would divide in parts due to length, the reader will have an answer to the following questions:

  1. Can we know when Christ was given birth from the Bible?
  2. Is Christmas Biblical?
  3. Where does it come from?
  4. What does history and scholars have to say?
  5. What does Ellen G. White say?

Also my intention is not to make this topic too long to avoid boredom, thus I will divide them in parts for every day reading. To have an exhaustive discussion of the historical study, I will direct us to download a fascinating book written by Elder Vance Ferrell titled The real story behind: Christmas, Easter, and Halloween. Just click on the title of the book and it will download in PDF format. Before downloading, make sure you have adobe reader on your device. Some of what the reader will learn from these series of article will be extracted from the Book. My primary focus is to compare the Old testament with the New testament to give us an understanding. This present article is the first part and subsequent parts will be posted soon. I will welcome any criticism and comment  but let us base it on the word and in Love.

Q: Why this study?

As sincere Christian, there is nothing wrong when we ask questions about the prevailing customs in our day and we should not rest until he receives an answer because Christ will ask judge us according to our works (Rev 22:12).  We should be ready to give an answer to them that ask of the hope that is us. Apostle Peter wrote, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear”1 Peter 3:15. As Bible Christians, we should say like the Psalmist, “I will speak of thy testimonies also before kings, and will not be ashamed” Psalms 119:46. As Christians, when we as asked about Bible topic, we should with meekness and fear in the Lord give an answer to them and never walk out on them. But this reply can only come when we have the word abiding in us and the Holy Spirit teaching us. The Holy Spirit cannot remind you of what He has not taught you. He will bring all things to your remembrance when you have previously learn from Him in your private devotional time. When it comes to the issue of Christmas, you cannot give a true testimony with meekness and Love when you have not been under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit.

I once argued about this particular topic and I found myself doing more harm to the hearer than blessing them, all because I didn’t allow the Holy Spirit to teach me. I discussed the issue in the flesh and allowed my emotion to give way. I pray the readers of this article would not be like the old me. It is better we humble ourselves before the Lord and exalt His word, than exalting ourselves before the Lord which often leads to spiritual disaster.

Q: Was Christ born on December 25TH?

“The twenty-fifth of December is supposed to be the day of the birth of Jesus Christ, and its observance has become customary and popular. But yet there is no certainty that we are keeping the veritable day of our Saviour’s birth. History gives us no certain assurance of this. The Bible does not give us the precise time. Had the Lord deemed this knowledge essential to our salvation, He would have spoken through His prophets and apostles, that we might know all about the matter. But the silence of the Scriptures upon this point evidences to us that it is hidden from us for the wisest purposes.”[1]

It is true the Bible did not give us the precise time of Christ birth, but we can induce from Scripture evidences using the Old Testament feast days and types to locate the likely time period Christ was born.

Was He actually born on the 25th of December as generally accepted by the world both with believers and unbelievers? Can we determine the likely date of Christ birth from the Scripture? These and many more will be looked into in this fascinating question and answer study.

To understand Christ birth, we need to understand his cousin’s birth, John the Baptist. The Birth of John the Baptist will shed more light on Christ birth. Malachi wrote about John as the messenger that will prepare the way of the Lord.

“Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts” Mal 3:1.

John was the lesser light that was to shed light on God’s word for people of God in relation to Jesus ministry. Therefore, in God’s infinite wisdom, John’s birth will shed light on Christ birth.

Q: Of what course (class) was Zachariah, the father of John Baptist, from?

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. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. 7 And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years. 8 And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course, 9 According to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord.” Luke 1:5-9

As a priest, Zachariah was of the course of Abia. It was his duty to execute the priest’s office before God according to the order of courses. An angel appeared to him and gave him a message about his unborn son and after which he went home.

23 And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house. 24 And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying” Luke 1:23-24

Q: Into how many groups did king David divided the sons of Aaron, Ithamar and Eleazar?

“Now these are the divisions of the sons of Aaron. The sons of Aaron; Nadab, and Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. 2 But Nadab and Abihu died before their father, and had no children: therefore Eleazar and Ithamar executed the priest’s office. 3 And David distributed them, both Zadok of the sons of Eleazar, and Ahimelech of the sons of Ithamar, according to their offices in their service. 4 And there were more chief men found of the sons of Eleazar than of the sons of Ithamar; and thus were they divided. Among the sons of Eleazar there were sixteen chief men of the house of their fathers, and eight among the sons of Ithamar according to the house of their fathers.” 1 Chron 24:1-4.

Not that, sixteen chief me from the sons of Eleazar plus eight among the sons of Ithamar will give us 24 priests.

“11 Then David gave to Solomon his son the pattern of the porch, and of the houses thereof, and of the treasuries thereof, and of the upper chambers thereof, and of the inner parlours thereof, and of the place of the mercy seat, 12 And the pattern of all that he had by the spirit, of the courts of the house of the LORD, and of all the chambers round about, of the treasuries of the house of God, and of the treasuries of the dedicated things: 13 Also for the courses of the priests and the Levites, and for all the work of the service of the house of the LORD, and for all the vessels of service in the house of the LORD.” 1 Chron 28:11-13

King David divided them into 24 groups and setup a schedule by which the temple of the Lord was to be staffed and organized all year by the priests. Lots were drawn to determine the sequence in which each group is to serve in the Temple (see 1 Chron 24:7-19).

Q: When is each of the 24 courses of priests to begin and end their Temple services?

“So the Levites and all Judah did according to all things that Jehoiada the priest had commanded, and took every man his men that were to come in on the sabbath, with them that were to go out on the sabbath: for Jehoiada the priest dismissed not the courses.” 2 Chron 23:8

“And the seventh year Jehoiada sent and fetched the rulers over hundreds, with the captains and the guard, and brought them to him into the house of the LORD, and made a covenant with them, and took an oath of them in the house of the LORD, and shewed them the king’s son. 5 And he commanded them, saying, This is the thing that ye shall do; A third part of you that enter in on the sabbath shall even be keepers of the watch of the king’s house; 6 And a third part shall be at the gate of Sur; and a third part at the gate behind the guard: so shall ye keep the watch of the house, that it be not broken down. 7 And two parts of all you that go forth on the sabbath, even they shall keep the watch of the house of the LORD about the king. 8 And ye shall compass the king round about, every man with his weapons in his hand: and he that cometh within the ranges, let him be slain: and be ye with the king as he goeth out and as he cometh in. 9 And the captains over the hundreds did according to all things that Jehoiada the priest commanded: and they took every man his men that were to come in on the sabbath, with them that should go out on the sabbath, and came to Jehoiada the priest.” 2 Kings 11:4-9

The Priest in each course was to begin on the evening of the Sabbath and end the evening of the following Sabbath. That is, the tour of duty was to be for one week from Sabbath to Sabbath.

Q: How many times were the men of Israel to appear before the Lord in a year to celebrate God’s festivals?

Three times thou shalt keep a feast unto me in the year. 15 Thou shalt keep the feast of unleavened bread: (thou shalt eat unleavened bread seven days, as I commanded thee, in the time appointed of the month Abib; for in it thou camest out from Egypt: and none shall appear before me empty:) 16 And the feast of harvest, the firstfruits of thy labours, which thou hast sown in the field: and the feast of ingathering, which is in the end of the year, when thou hast gathered in thy labours out of the field. 17 Three times in the year all thy males shall appear before the Lord GOD.” Ex 23:14-17.

Thrice in the year shall all your men children appear before the Lord GOD, the God of Israel.” Ex 34:23.

Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the LORD thy God in the place which he shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles: and they shall not appear before the LORD empty” Deut 16:16.

They were to appear 3 times in a year to celebrate 3 major festivals which include:

  • Feast of Unleavened bread;
  • Feast of weeks (or Feast of Pentecost);
  • Feast of Tabernacles or Feast of ingathering or Feast of Booths.

Q: When does the Jewish Calendar begins and when does it end?

In the first month, that is, the month Nisan, in the twelfth year of king Ahasuerus, they cast Pur, that is, the lot, before Haman from day to day, and from month to month, to the twelfth month, that is, the month Adar.”  Esth 3:7

“And the letters were sent by posts into all the king’s provinces, to destroy, to kill, and to cause to perish, all Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day, even upon the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month Adar, and to take the spoil of them for a prey.” Esth 3:13.

Now in the twelfth month, that is, the month Adar, on the thirteenth day of the same, when the king’s commandment and his decree drew near to be put in execution, in the day that the enemies of the Jews hoped to have power over them, (though it was turned to the contrary, that the Jews had rule over them that hated them;)  . . . To stablish this among them, that they should keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar, and the fifteenth day of the same, yearly.” Esth. 9:1, 12.

According to Holman Bible Dictionary:

“The earliest practice was to use the Canaanite month-names, of which four survive in the Bible: Abib (March-April); Ziv (April-May); Ethanim (September-October); and Bul (October-November) (Ex. 13:4; 23:15; 34:18; 1 Kings 6:1,37-38; 8:3). The other Canaanite months are known from Phoenician inscriptions. These are all agricultural names and reflect a seasonal pattern of reckoning, as in the Gezer calendar. . .

When the Jews returned from Babylonian Exile, they brought with them the names of the Babylonian calendar, at the same time counting the new year from the spring. Although the rabbis returned to an autumnal new year, Judaism retains these Babylonian names as its own: Nisan (March-April); Iyyar (April-May); Sivan (May-June); Tammuz (June-July); Ab (July-August); Elul (August-September); Tishri (September-October); Marcheshvan (October-November); Chishylev (November-December); Tebeth (December-January); Shebat (January-February); Adar (February-March). The intercalated year is called WeAdar, “and-Adar.”[1]

The Jewish calendar begins in the spring during the month of Nisan (or Abib) and the 12th month, which is the last month of the year, is the month of Adar.  We are presently using the Gregorian calendar which is different from the Calendar in Bible times. Therefore, in this study we are focusing on the Bible calendar.

Let us now go back to the 24 course of priest and their duties. The first course of priest would be the family of Jehoiarib (1 Chron 24:7). According to the instruction given from the Lord to David, this family of priest will serve in the first month of Nisan (Abib) from Sabbath to Sabbath making 7 days. This family will serve in the first week of the first month.

The second week will then be the the responsibility of the course of Jedaiah (1 Chron 24:7). The 3rd week would be the feast of unleavened bread. This is what the Lord said about this feast:

“In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at even, ye shall eat unleavened bread, until the one and twentieth day of the month at even.” Ex 12:18

“Seven days thou shalt eat unleavened bread, and in the seventh day shall be a feast to the LORD. 7 Unleavened bread shall be eaten seven days; and there shall no leavened bread be seen with thee, neither shall there be leaven seen with thee in all thy quarters.” Ex 13:6-7.

“Thou shalt keep the feast of unleavened bread: (thou shalt eat unleavened bread seven days, as I commanded thee, in the time appointed of the month Abib; for in it thou camest out from Egypt: and none shall appear before me empty:)” Ex 23:15.

“The Passover was also called the feast of unleavened bread (Ex. 23:15; Deut. 16:16) because only unleavened bread was eaten during the seven days immediately following Passover (Ex. 12:15-20; 13:6-8; Deut. 16:3-8).” —Holman Bible Dictionary.

The Month of Nisan is also called Abib (Ex 23:15; Esther 3:7). The month of Abib is the month of Exodus and Passover which is falls from March-April. Abib is the month of young barley ears or tender Crop. It is the first month of the Jewish calendar year.

Therefore, in the beginning of the third week at Sabbath evening, which is “fourteenth day of the month at even” in the month of Nisan or Abib, all priest were to gather in Jerusalem for the service and to celebrate the feast of unleavened bread.

After this week, the schedule will begin in the fourth week with the family of Harim in the evening of the Sabbath as the feast of unleavened bread is ending (1 Chron 24:8). The rotation will continue to the 24th course after which the priest the cycle will repeat its course.

51 weeks will be covered or 357 days. This means that, in one year, each course of priest would have served in the temple twice. When we add to their schedules the 3 major festivals, each of the priest duty in the temple would be 5 weeks because in the remaining 3 weeks added, all the priest must be present in Jerusalem to partake in the temple services.

Having this background and knowledge of the priestly service, duty and the major feasts let us now turn our attention to the life of Zachariah, Elizabeth and John the Baptist their son.

Continued in the next study . . . Watch out.

[1] Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for ‘Calendars’. Holman Bible Dictionary. http://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hbd/c/calendars.html. 1991

[1] Ellen G. White, Adventist Home, 477

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