The Gilead Institute of America

When Was Christ Really Born?

The gospel of Luke tells us that at the time of Christ's birth "there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed" (Luke 2:1). However, there is no record showing that the time of taxing took place in the month of December, or during any of the other winter months. It is more logical to conclude that this particular taxing period occurred sometime in the autumn.

Since the final harvest of the year took place in the fall, this would have been a most convenient time for the Jews to be able to pay their taxes. And the decree to pay taxes, would cause a great influx of travelers and visitors into Jerusalem, the holy city, and the surrounding towns, such as Bethlehem. This would even explain why it was that "there was no room for them in the inn" (Luke 2:7) when Mary and Joseph sought a place to stay on that notable night of Christ's birth.

Just as it is illogical for shepherds to be watching their flocks out in the fields on a cold winter night, certainly it is illogical to conclude that Mary and Joseph and all the other travelers would have made their way to the city on a cold winter night. Many of the travelers may have had to journey from very long distances to get to the city, and it is unlikely that they would have done so in the cold of winter. It is also unlikely that the Roman ruler, who would have been more concerned about receiving the taxes, would have taken the risk of trying to get all the Jews to make their way to their "own city" (Luke 2:4) during the winter season.

Therefore, we can safely conclude that Mary and Joseph were not refused lodging at the inn on a cold night in the month of December, as some may want us to believe, but instead sometime during the autumn season when many were assembled in the city for the payment of taxes.

There was a very good reason that the Most High allowed Caesar Augustus to issue his taxation decree around the autumn, which was the very season God had ordained, many years in advance, that His people should gather their final harvest and come together for the final Feast of the year. Both of these occasions fell within the comfortable climate of the autumn season. Thus our heavenly Father made it possible for all of Israel to be present for the birth of our Lord, if they so desired. But sad to say, the majority were blind to the sacred event and glorious opportunity.

Certainly if Mary and Joseph had a choice as to when their child should be born, they would not have chosen December or any other month within the winter season. They would have settled for a more suitable time, especially if they had to travel. If man is wise enough to consider these matters in light of his own convenience and what would be best overall, then certainly the Great I Am definitely took all of these things into consideration centuries ahead of time. 

The time of Jesus' birth can be greatly determined by the following events surrounding His life. Since it is widely known and accepted that our Saviour died in the spring during the time of the Passover (John 18:39), and since it is also known that He labored for three and a half years before He died, then it is clear that Jesus' baptism in the river of Jordan (three and a half years prior to His death) took place in the fall or autumn. The Bible also teaches that Christ's baptism and work began when He turned thirty years of age (Luke 3:23). Therefore, since Christ was baptized (in autumn) exactly thirty years after His birth, we can safely conclude that Christ was definitely born in the autumn and not in the winter. 

(A careful examination of the experience of Mary's cousin Elizabeth, as well as the time her husband officiated as a priest in the Jewish temple, provide additional proof to the theory of Christ's autumn birth. Study Luke 1:5-38; 2 Chron. 23:8; 1 Chron. 24:10.) 

Surely God took everything into consideration before sending His Son into the world. Our heavenly Father and all the inhabitants of heaven were, from the very beginning of time, looking forward to the appearance of the Son of God on earth as man's glorious deliverer and Messiah. Therefore, the most appropriate time and season was divinely appointed by our heavenly Father for such a momentous occasion involving the birth of His beloved Son, Jesus Christ.

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