Part II: Conception
Date vs. Birth Date of Jesus
Time of Year of Jesus' Birth
(and of his conception)
By Marty Cohen
I touched on a very sensitive topic.
Today, I am going to barge ahead with vigor! Although it deals with a holiday celebrated
in a few months, it is, I believe, very closely connected
to this Feast which ends tonight.
You will probably need to print this one out and study
it for while, but please do not dismiss it until you do.
I think Every year, we are confronted by Christians who ask
me what about celebrating Christmas. Carol and
I have raised five children, two from Carol's previous marriage
and three from mine. Hers grew up in the Catholic church,
and mine grew up as secular Gentiles, raised by their mother
and her second husband. In their later years, three of them were raised
in our home and were exposed to and came to embrace a personal
relationship with the L-rd, Yeshua. Although at home in Messianic
worship and observance, they always expected a tree and
at the end of the year. Year after year, we struggled and
year after year, we succumbed to their happiness. This year,
they are all grown, and we decided to spend the season renewing
our understanding of the people, the place, and the time of
His birth. That time was almost certainly not December 25th,
and in this teaching, I will address that issue among others.
The New Testament itself is the source for the calculation of the date
of the birth of the Messiah. The birth of Yeshua during the
week of Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles) and specifically
on Simhat Torah (the last day of the feast)coincides with
the one feast and the one week of the Hebrew year which commemorates
the Sh'chinah (Glory of God) tabernacling among men"
and the Torah itself "coming to life."
This birth date would establish a Chanukah (around December 25) "miraculous
conception" of the Messiah. And, this would more literally
"fulfill" the inspired and revelatory purposes of
both of these celebrations: Simhat Torah commemorates the
advent of the Torah. And, as the Gospel of John tells us,
"the Word became flesh." Chanukah is the commemoration
of a miraculous eight-day supply of oil for the light in the
Temple menorah, when the supply should only have been sufficient
for one day. What better day for the Radiant Glory of HaShem
to bring the "Light of the World" into the womb
of a young Jewish virgin?
look at the time span of about nine months from the first
day of Chanukah to the first day of Sukkot and the last day
of Sukkot, 285 to 293 days, respectively. This is within the
normal human gestation period or the period from conception
to delivery. The first day of Sukkot is a viable option for
the birth of Yeshua since the circumcision would have occurred
on Simhat Torah and life is counted as beginning when a male
child survives to the day of circumcision eight days after
his birth, at which time he formally receives his name.
First, we must establish the date of Miriam's (Mary's) conception by marking
the birth of Jochanan (John the Baptist), who preceded Yeshua
in birth by six Hebrew months. In order to determine this
date we must first determine the date of Zacharias' angelic
visitation. This is provided through the cycle of duties of
the priests in the Temple and through knowing the "course"
of service under which Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist,
The Bible tells us clearly that Elisheva (Elizabeth, the mother of John)conceived
immediately after Zacharias returned home from his priestly
service. Luke 1:5 also
states that Zacharias was a priest of the "course of
Abijah." 1 Chronicles 24 divides the priestly families
into 24 groups or "courses." 1 Chronicles 24:10
designates the "eighth course" as that of Abijah.
Each course had Temple
duty two weeks out of the 50-week and four-day Hebrew year;
one week in the first half of the year, another week in the
last half. But since there are only 24 courses, this leaves
two weeks and four days unaccounted for. These 18 days correspond
to the 8 day Hebrew feasts of Passover, and Sukkot (Tabernacles),
and the 2-day festival of Shavu'ot (Pentecost) when ALL of
the priests would be assigned duty in the Temple
to handle the abundance of sacrifices and other priestly duties
necessitated by these mandatory pilgrimages
of the men of Israel.
Zacharias' first course of duty therefore fell from 27 Iyar to the eve
of Shavu'ot (Pentecost) on the fifth day of the month of Sivan.
During the two-day festival of Shavu'ot, Zacharias would have
been obligated to remain and serve with all of the priests
in Jerusalem even though he was unable to speak during this
So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order
of his division, according to the custom of the priesthood,
his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple
of the L-rd. And the whole multitude of the people was praying
outside at the hour of incense. Then an angel of the L-rd
appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of
incense. And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and
fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, "Do not
be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife
Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name
John. (Luke 1:8-13)
Zacharias would have returned home to his wife, Elisheva on 8 Sivan. So
8 Sivan becomes the earliest possible date for the conception
of Yochanan by Elisheva. Assuming
the long-held belief that the menstrual cycle usually coincided
with the phases of the moon, with most women having their
most fertile period during the first week of the new moon,
(which also marks the beginning of Hebrew months), she could
have conceived that very day. Luke 1 indicates that the conception
occurred "soon after" Yochanan returned from his
priestly duties. Knowing the desire of a childless man for a
son, most probably very soon after.
And so it was, as soon as the days of his service were completed, that
he departed to his own house. Now after those days (of his
Temple service) his wife Elizabeth
conceived; and she hid herself five months, saying, "Thus
the L-rd has dealt with me, in the days when He looked on
me, to take away my reproach among people." Now in the
sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of
Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose
name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name
was Mary. (Luke 1:23-27)
Assuming that Elisheva conceived on 8 Sivan, she would have hidden herself
the five months of Sivan, Tammuz, Av, Elul, Tishrei and the
first week of Cheshvan. So
the angel, Gabriel would have been sent to Miriam in the sixth
month of Elisheva's pregnancy or during the latter part of
Cheshvan or early part of the month of Kislev. We know that
the conception took place sometime after the appearance of
the angel from two accounts:
And when eight days were completed for the circumcision
of the child, his name was called Yeshua, the name given by
the angel before he was conceived in the womb. (Luke 2:21)
And having come in, the angel said to her, "Rejoice,
highly favored one, the L-rd is with you; blessed are you
among women!" But when she saw him, she was troubled
at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this
was. Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God. "And behold, you will
conceive in your womb and bring forth a son, and shall call
his name Yeshua. "He will be great, and will be called
the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give him the
throne of his father David. "And he will reign over the
house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no
end." Then Mary said to the angel, "How can this
be, since I do not know a man?"
And the angel answered and said to her, "The Holy
Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will
overshadow you;; therefore, also, that holy one who is to
be born will be called the Son of God. (Luke 1:28-35)
The most appropriate time and the most appropriate celebration for an
unusual conception by Miriam would have been the first day
of Chanukah, which commemorates a "miracle" of light
and which is probably the day that Miriam was herself overshadowed
by the Ruach Hakodesh (Holy Spirit) and conceived.
The evening of the 24th of Kislev marks the beginning of Chanukah, which
celebrates the occasion of the rededication of the Temple
when oil for the menorah expected to last only one day actually
lasted eight days. Chanukah, also called the Feast of Dedication,
would have occurred from the 164th to the 172nd
days of Elisheva's pregnancy or just as she was about to enter
her third trimester.
"Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in
her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was
called barren. "For with God nothing will be impossible.
Until God could send an angel to speak to Joseph about Miriam's unusual
Miriam went to live with Elisheva and her husband Zacharias,
to assist her cousin with the demands of her pregnancy. She
remained with Elisheva for three months. Again, assuming a
conception on 8 Sivan, Elisheva would have been, during the
week of Passover, at full-term, especially for a child born
from the womb of a mother of advanced years.
And Mary remained with her about three months, and
returned to her house. Now Elizabeth's full time came for
her to be delivered, and she brought forth a son. (Luke 1:56-57)
Remember that Yeshua himself identified Yochanan as having the mantle
of Eliyahu. Interestingly, the Jewish people to this day,
set a place for Eliyahu (Elijah) during the Passover Seder
meal. Passover would therefore be the most appropriate week
for the birth of Eliyahu and of Yochanan HaMikvot (John the
Baptiser). Making the 8th day of Passover the day which actually
coincided with Yochanan's circumcision.
Exactly six months later, from Nisan 15 to Tishrei 15, the first day of
Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles) follows the Passover. If
Miriam conceived on Kislev 24, the first day of Chanukah,
Yeshua would have been full-term (in a younger woman) on the
15th to 22nd of Tishrei. Again, since life is reckoned to
begin after a male child is circumcised and the child is customarily
not given a name unless it survives to be circumcised, either
date qualifies as a "birthday" for Yeshua.
The 22nd of Tishrei (8th day of the Feast), is Simhat Torah, which literally
means "the rejoicing of the Torah." On this day,
the rabbis in the synagogues take the Torah scrolls out of
their sacred places and dance with them around the synagogue
and even in the surrounding streets as though the Torah had
come to life.
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory,
glory as of the only begotten from the Father), full of grace
and truth. (John 1:14)
During the Feast of Tabernacles, every male Israelite is required to come
to Jerusalem and abide in tents or primitive lean-tos called
sukkot. The Hebrew word sukkot describes "stables"
or lodging places for animals as reflected in Genesis 33:17.
And Jacob journeyed to Sukkoth, built himself a house, and made Sukkoth
(booths)for his livestock. Therefore the name of the place
is called Sukkoth. (Genesis 33:17).
Dwelling in these booths seven days and nights out of every year, which
were no better than shelters constructed for animals, served
to remind the Hebrew people that these were their ancestor's
normal shelters for the 40 years their ancestors lived in
Could this animal shelter be the traditional place known by the Greek
term "manger" in which the Child was laid? Having
"no room in the inn" on the Feast of Tabernacles
these holy pilgrims to Jerusalem could have found a place
in one of these Sukkot.
to scripture, they could not return to their homes immediately
because they must register for the census imposed by Herod.
This massive annual visitation to Jerusalem during Sukkot
was the most logical time for Herod to impose his census and
tax. It is important to note that the Chanukah season, which
coincides with the traditional December 25th birthdate for
Yeshua, does not make such a demand for the sons of Israel
to journey to Jerusalem, and would have been a very impractical
time to collect a tax and to count the population.
Matthew 2:7-8, 16 states that Herod inquired "diligently" of
the wise men (magi). These magi are believed to be Parthian
mystics who lived East and North of the Euphrates at the end
of the Persian empire. Parthia was a kingdom whose power rivaled
Rome in the First Century. The royal class (from which Parthian
kings were chosen by a combined vote of the magi and the royal
class) were known as "Kings of Kings." Apparently
this custom carried over from earlier Persian rule. For instance,
both Artaxerxes and Nebuchadnezzar, are referred to in
by this title. (Ezra 7:12, Ezekiel 26:7 and Daniel 2:37).
The magi also believed that the blessing of Jacob to Judah, that the scepter
(of rule) should not depart from Judah (Genesis 49:10) meant
that even the nations (other people groups) should be ruled
by kings of Israel. This belief coupled by the appearance
of the Star of Bethlehem convinced them that a true "King
of Kings" selected by the hand of God, was to be found
among the House of David within Judea.
As a "king of the Jews" Yeshua was an early candidate for kingship
in the Parthian empire, which had always remained friendly
to Judah, and which many scholars -- including the first century
historian, Josephus - wrote, comprised the vast hordes of
the assimilated northern kingdom who had escaped Assyrian
At any rate, Herod had inquired of these knowledgeable magi and must surely
have known when Yeshua was born although they did not return
to him as he had commanded.
Now when they (the magi) had seen him, they made widely known the saying
which was told them concerning this child. (Luke 2:17)
This would make it dangerous for Joseph and Miriam to bring Yeshua to
for his formal dedication 40 days after his birth unless Herod
had died. Indeed an angel warned Joseph and Miriam to flee
to Egypt until that time. The Jewish
historian Josephus, who lived during the First Century, documents
in detail the death of King Herod.
Josephus relates that Herod became very ill immediately following an act
of impiety against the priesthood, at which time an eclipse
of the moon occurred. This
eclipse, the only one mentioned by Josephus, happened March
13, 4 BC. Herod's death
occurred "about September" meaning he would have
been ill for several months before dying in the fall, according
to Josephus' record. The seven days of Sukkot fall in mid-September
to October, according to the Julian calendar. This means that
Herod, who first grew sick in the spring of 4 BC, died after
the Feast of Tabernacles and shortly after Joseph and Miriam
had fled with
Yeshua. But they returned, after Herod's death, in time for
his dedication in the Temple, when Yeshua was 40 days old,
around Kislev 12 or the day we now call Thanksgiving Day.
An interesting aside is that many believe our observance of
Thanksgiving is due to the Pilgrim's keeping the Torah's tradition
of this Feast of Tabernacles.
During this presentation of the infant Yeshua in the Temple, the prophecies
of Simeon and Hanna were delivered to Joseph and Miriam. Those
prophecies from Isaiah, coincide with the readings of the
prophets read in the synagogue only one time a year ... the
week of Kislev 12.
Then, there is the prophecy of Simeon as he beheld the infant Yeshua in
the Temple when he was 40 days old.
And when eight days were completed for the circumcision of the child,
his name was called Yeshua, the name given by the angel before
he was conceived in the womb. Now when the days of her purification
according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought
him to Jerusalem to present him to the L-rd (as it is written
in the law of the L-rd, "Every male who opens the womb
shall be called holy to the L-rd"), and to offer a sacrifice
according to what is said in the law of the L-rd, "A
pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons." And behold,
there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this
man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel,
These words by Simeon paraphrase the two-pronged mission of Messiah recorded
in Isaiah 49:5-6: "And now the L-rd says, Who formed
me from the womb to be His servant, to bring Jacob back to
Him, so that Israel is gathered to Him (For I shall be glorious
in the eyes of the L-rd, and my God shall be my strength),
Indeed He says, 'It is too small a thing that you should be
my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob,and to restore
the household of Israel; I will also give you as a light to
the Gentiles, that you should be My salvation to the ends
of the earth.'"
As Yeshua may have hinted, the first mission of "restoring the preserved
of Israel" would be last, and the last mission "becoming
a light of salvation to the Gentiles" would be first.
So, how have we gotten so confused in our observation of the birth of
Yeshua? Many speculate and accuse the Church of heresy and
of pagan practice. Many bring condemnation upon the Church
for straying so far from Torah and from the Times of the L-rd.
That is not my mission; that is not the purpose to which I
have been called. I have been called to be a "light for
the gentiles." I have been called to the Gentile majority
of the Body of Messiah. I have been called to present to you
the truth, but with the love of Aaron, who always sought unity
for the sake of the Word of G-d and always went out of his
way to bring peace to the people of G-d. It is that peace
that I bring to you.
Was Jesus born on December 25th? Probably not. Was He born? Absolutely.
Is He the very nature of G-d, bodily sent to reveal the Father
to His children? Without
question. He was, in fact, probably conceived on the day to
which we ascribe His birth. When does life begin? At birth?
At conception? When your youngest graduates from college,
gets married and has a good job in a state far away? Life
for us must begin when we allow Yeshua, the Giver of life
to rule and to reign in our hearts. He is the reason we celebrate
the Feasts of the L-rd and He is the reason we celebrate Christmas.
He is the focus of our lives and of our ministry. When
you sit in your Sukkah and share special times with your family,
realize that it is to celebrate that Yeshua tabernacles with
us. When you decorate
your homes and adorn a tree this December, realize that it
is G-d who gives us the power to get wealth. Realize that
2000 years ago, in a town just South of Jerusalem, the King
of kings was sent to die for us all. Remember that Jesus is
the reason for the season. Focus on the manger (or the Sukkah)
not on the gifts under the tree. Focus on Jesus, not Santa
Clause. We are not going to change over a thousand years of
tradition with this message. But we can change our hearts,
we can change our plans, we can change our future.
This season, pray for the peace of Jerusalem. This season, pray like never before that the
people through whom the Messiah came would see Him for Who
He is. Psalm 122 commands that we pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
James 5: 16 promises that the effective fervent prayer of
a righteous man avails much. Does that mean that if we pray
really hard, for peace that we will see it? No, it means we
must pray effectively. How? "The nations cry, "Peace,
peace, but here is no peace." And there will be no peace
in Jerusalem until the Prince of Peace rules in the heart
of every Jewish person in the world; Jerusalem is the heart
of every Jew and we must all rest in shalom.
So, pray for the salvation of Jewish people. Pray for the salvation of
a Jewish person whom the L-rd has placed into your life. Next,
be their friend. Send them cards at Chanukah, at Passover,
and at Rosh Hashanah. Be there for them. And "have a
good answer when you are asked of the hope that is in you."
Expect to be asked why you are always there, why you are always
confident, why you are always so expectant of good. Then,
let our answer always be Yeshua is the Messiah of Israel and
He is my hope. Never shrink back from an opportunity to bring
the truth of the gospel to a Jewish person; to do so is to
be involved in the greatest holocaust in history.
you still love me and will continue to pray for us.
is not being provided to stir controversy in the seemingly
never-ending debate about the actual time of year Jesus was
born on. To my way of looking at it, Marty's information
is pretty sound. Looking
at the information provided by the Scriptures in the four
gospels through a Jewish lens or paradigm seems to yield information
about the conception and birth dates of Yeshua that Gentile
Christian scholars have for centuries been unable to decipher.
Why? The cipher is a Jewish one, which best unlocks the missing information within the
four gospels, which were written by the Holy Spirit through
four Jewish men. This information should help us to put together and understand some
pretty awesome miracles God was performing to protect the
Jewish ethnic culture Jesus would be born into, to restore
the sanctity of the temple where essential legal ceremonial
rituals would have to be performed for and on Jesus right
after his birth, all necessary if he were to fulfill the requirements
of being the Messiah. So
we find the Festival of Lights itself has a far deeper and
more significant meaning, in that the Light of the world John
spoke of in John 1, actually entered into Mary and brought
about her immaculate conception of the Himself, the Savior,
Jesus, Yeshua of Nazareth.
It's very interesting how at Christmas time the neighborhood
fills up with lights, everywhere trees, houses, shrubs, all
lighted up with lights, Christmas trees lighted up with lights
everywhere--how truly symbolic of the time when this very
brilliant (but invisible to human eyes) speck of light came
down from the heavens and entered into Mary and caused one
of her eggs to become a invisibly brilliant glowing embryo
who nine months later would became Jesus, Yeshua of Nazareth. That is how the Messianic Jewish believers are
beginning to see this history, as they begin to unravel it
using a Jewish lens, paradigm, to unlock Scriptures inspired
by the Holy Spirit, but written by Jews.