January 14, 2011
Was Jesus Born During the Spring?
There is a lot we don’t know for sure about Jesus’s birth. Such as - the year and the date. In fact, the gospels present different and even contradictory narratives regarding all aspects of this important event. The most familiar version, featuring shepherds, a star and the flight to Egypt is actually a blend of the gospels of Matthew and Luke. (An interesting fact is that neither Mark nor John, the earlier written gospels, wrote about the birth of Christ.) Matthew and Luke did not provide an actual date for the event. The most commonly accepted range concerning the birth year is between 7 and 4 BC. This would place Jesus’ birth during the reign of King Herod, as the gospel of Matthew suggests. To help us determine time of year, we can look to Luke 2:8, which states “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.” It is cold and rainy during the winter in Judea and sheep would be placed in corrals. In spring, shepherds would stay with their flocks night and day, tending new births. It follows that Jesus had a spring birthday.
So where did the December 25th date come from? December 25th was one of the dates speculated as Jesus’s birth by the early Christians - along with January 6 and March 28. During early attempts to Christianize the Roman calendar, some dates and festivals were absorbed. The majority consensus of biblical scholars is that the date of the winter solstice and the birthday of Mithras (an ancient sun god) were converted to what we now know as Christmas by early Christians to strategically win over pagans.
Resources: Scripting Jesus by L. Michael White