The Virgin and Saint Joseph register for the census before Governor Quirinius. Byzantine mosaic at the Chora Church, Constantinople 1315–20.



When the Christian Church became powerful, it was the intention of the Roman Church to start a  common calendar that can be used by all denominations of the Christian Churches. The various churches were celebrating the Easter at different times at that time. It was the intention of Roman Church to make the calendar uniform throughout the world so that all Christians wherever they are in the world would celebrate the Easter together. This started the modern system of dating and is currently used all over the world.This defines BC and AD. Since it was a Christian calendar it was only logical to start the calendar with reference to the birth of Jesus.




Pope St.Paul I  and   Dionysius Exiguus

Dionysius Exiguus (Latin for "Dionysius the Humble"; c. AD 470 – c. AD 544) was a 6th-century monk born in Scythia Minor (probably modern Dobruja, in Romania and Bulgaria). He was a member of a community of Scythian monks concentrated in Tomis, the major city of Scythia Minor.  From about 500AD, he lived in Rome, where, as a learned member of the Roman Curia, he translated  401 ecclesiastical canons, including the apostolical canons from Greek into Latin; which contained the decrees of the councils of Nicaea, Constantinople, Chalcedon and Sardis; and a collection of the decretals of the popes from Siricius to Anastasius II. These Collectiones canonum Dionysianae had great authority in the West, and continues to guide church administrations. Dionysius also wrote a treatise on elementary mathematics.  


March 25: The Annunciation



Ancient System of Calendars

The Hebrew calendar,  is based on a concept known as Anno Mundi ("in the year of the world") which dates events from the beginning of the creation of the earth i.e starting with Gen 1:1 and as calculated through scripture using the Chronology in the Bible.  It was  based on information in the Greek Septuagint. In the calculation based on the Anno Mundi calendar,( years after the world was created based on the Biblical Chronology)  Jesus was born in the year 5500.


God made the heaven and the earth and the first man,
from that time unto the Flood are 2,212 years:
from the Flood unto the building of the tower 531 years:
from the building of the tower unto Abraham 606 years:
from Abraham unto the coming of the children of Israel out of Egypt 470 years:
 from the going of the children of Israel out of Egypt unto the building of the temple 511 years:
from the building of the temple unto the destruction of the same temple 464 years:
so far found we in the Bible of Esdras:
from the burning of the temple unto the coming of Christ and his birth we found it to be 636 years,
which together were five thousand and five hundred years
like as we found it written in the Bible that Michael the archangel declared before unto Seth the third son of Adam, that after five thousand and a half thousand years Christ the Son of God should come.
This is  from a chapter in the Gospel of Nicodemus 22:16-20


The Gospel of Nicodemus, also known as the Acts of Pilate (Latin: Acta Pilati; Greek: Πράξεις Πιλάτου), is an apocryphal gospel claimed to have been derived from an original Hebrew work written by Nicodemus, who appears in the Gospel of John as an associate of Jesus.and probably an uncle of Jesus.


The Orthodox tradition also gives the same number from Adam to Birth of Jesus

From Adam, the first man created by God, to Noah, at whose time the flood took place, there were ten generations.
The first, which was from God, was that of Adam.
The second, after 230 years, was that of Seth begotten of Adam.
The third, 205 years after Seth, was that of Enos begotten of Seth.
The fourth, 190 years after Enos, was that of Kainan begotten of Enos.
The fifth, 170 years after Kainan, was that of Mahaleel begotten of Kainan.
The sixth, 165 years after Mahaleel, was that of Jared begotten of Mahaleel.
The seventh, 162 years after Jared, was that of Enoch begotten of Jared.
The eighth, 165 years after Enoch, was that of Methuselah begotten of Enoch.
The ninth, 167 years after Methuselah, was that of Lamech begotten of Methuselah.
The tenth, 188 years after Lamech, was that of Noah. Noah was 600 years old when the flood of water came upon the earth.
Thus 2242 years may be counted from Adam to the flood.

There are also ten generations from the flood to Abraham numbering 1121 years.
Abraham was seventy-five years old when he moved to the land of Canaan from Mesopotamia, and having resided there twenty-five years he begat Isaac.
 Isaac begat two sons, Esau and Jacob.
When Jacob was 130 years old he went to Egypt with his twelve sons and grandchildren, seventy-five in number.
And Abraham with his offspring dwelt in the land of Canaan 433 years, and having multiplied they numbered twelve tribes; a multitude of 600,000 were reckoned from the twelve sons of Jacob whose names are as follows: Ruben, Symeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Dan, Joseph, and Benjamin.
Remaining in the wilderness forty years they were governed for twenty-five years by Joshua, son of Nun, and by the Judges for 454 years to the reign of Saul, the first king installed by them. During the first year of his reign the great David was born.
Thus from Abraham to David fourteen generations are numbered for a total of 1024 years.
From David to the deportation to Babylon [586 BC] there are fourteen generations totalling 609 years.
From the Babylonian Captivity to Christ there are fourteen generations totalling 504 years. 

By the sequence of Numbers we calculate the number of 5,500 years from the time of the first Adam to Christ."


“The beginning of Creation, the Incarnation, and the Resurrection of Christ.
 All these events happened, according to the Alexandrian chronology, on the 25th of March;

Furthermore, the first two events were separated by the period of exactly 5500 years;

The first and the third one occurred on Sunday—the sacred day of the beginning of the Creation and its renovation through Christ.”

Other early fathers did give slightly different years from Adam to Christ.  Here are a few instances taken from  (

“The earliest extant Christian writings on the age of the world according to the Biblical chronology are by St. Theophilus of Antioch (AD 115-181), the sixth bishop of Antioch from the Apostles, in his apologetic work To Autolycus, and by Julius Africanus (AD 200-245) in his Five Books of Chronology. Both of these early Christian writers, following the Septuagint version of the Old Testament, determined the age of the world to have been “Annus Adami” – “Era of Adam” 5,530 years at the birth of Christ.” This gives a difference of upto 30 years.

The argument for taking the beginning of the Anno Domini ran like this:

Christians in Rome by 336 AD, was celebrating the birth of Jesus, on December 25.

Christians in Antioch by 375 AD celebrated the birth of Jesus on January 6.

January 7 is Christmas Day in Russia, Ethiopia and Greece even today.

(Christians in Alexandria did not begin to celebrate Christmas at all until 430 AD.)

According to the Roman Regnal counting the regnal year start in the beginning of next year January which is the beginning of AD 1.  For other nations regal year includes the first year and Jan 6 or 7 would still fit in.

All calendars all over the world in all cultures were based on reign of the kings, or referred to some important events in history or nature or natural calamity etc .

One might say:  
"five years from the reign of King Shulgi" and,
In Egypt:  "three years after the last Opet Festival of Rameses who was the second of that name"
                "In the 10th year of the reign of Ramesses who triumphed at Kadesh"
In Rome: “100 years from the founding of the city -Rome.”(“ab urbe condita”)

               “two years after the great flood of river Pampa” etc

Thucydides says in his account of the year 428 BC: "It was the Olympiad in which the Rhodian Dorieus gained his second victory"  An ancient Olympiad was a period of four years grouped together, counting inclusively.

In 525 A.D. Dionysius Exiguus was preparing tables for determining the date of Easter on the Roman Calendar. He decided to abandon the Roman calendar which was based on the  year of the reign of Emperor Diocletian (29 Aug., 284). Thus it would be “Anno Diocletian”. His idea was to start a calendar “Anno Domini”, the “Year of Our Lord” based on  the year of the birth of Jesus Christ when word became flesh and tabernacled among men.  Some people think that this date is actually when Mary conceived Jesus.  Well the year will cover both.

Now the problem was to identify that year of birth in terms of the Julian Calendar which was the Roman calendar starting from the beginning of Rome.

Dionysius based his calculation on two verses:
Luke 3:1 - Jesus was baptized in the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius
Luke 3:23 says Jesus was about 30 years old at the start of his ministry, His baptism.
Taking that Jesus was about 30 years old on the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius.


Dionysius calls his count "anno ab incarnatione Domini Iesu Christi."
   “year since the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ"

History tells us that Tiberius Caesar was co-regent with Augustus Caesar starting earlier in A.D. 11/12. This occurred because Augustus wanted a successor to his throne. Augustus’ first choice of an heir to the throne died before Augustus did. So he adopted his grandson Tiberius Caesar Augustus as a son in A.D. 4 so that he would be the heir to the throne. In A.D. 11/12 he was made co-regent and consequently became the ruler in August 19, A.D. 14 upon Augustus’ death.

According to Roman law, the first year is counted as the year of succession and not as a year in which he would have reigned. The Regnal Year starts only in the first day of the beginning of the year after succession. Partial years are not counted. This can be confirmed by such Roman historians as Tacitus and Suetonius. Consequently, that would mean his reign is counted from A.D. 15. This impacts the dating of the start of John the Baptist’s ministry as given by Luke in Luke 3:1-2.



Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene
An inscription. (CIG, 4521) discovered at Abila established that there was a later “Lysanias the tetrarch.” The inscription related to the dedication of a temple contains the words, “on behalf of the salvation of the Lords Imperial and their whole household” by “Nymphaies, a freedman of Lysanias, the tetrarch.” The mention of “the Lords Imperial” may refer to the joint rule of Augustus and Tiberius (Leaney), placing the inscr. as late as a.d. 11, or, more prob., to Tiberius and his mother Julia (Ramsay), thus giving a time between a.d. 14 and 29.


Annas the High Priest

Annas officially served as High Priest for ten years (6–15 A.D.), when at the age of 36 he was deposed by the procurator Gratus. Yet while having been officially removed from office, he remained as one of the nation's most influential political and social individuals, aided greatly by the use of his five sons and his son-in-law Caiaphas as puppet High Priests.


Caiaphas who had married the daughter of Annas (John 18:13)


This means that John the Baptist would have started his ministry in A.D. 29. and Jesus in another six months.
Please note that A.D. 15 plus fifteen years results in A.D. 29. We count A.D. 15 as the first year and not AD 14. The second year is A.D. 16. If we continue the counting the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar would be A.D. 29.

AD 29 overlaps all these periods as Luke describes.

John and Jesus were nearly 5 months age difference. Thus the very fact that John started his ministry around AD 29 imply that he was born in BC2 or 1 and Jesus was born five months later in BC 2 or 1.  This will conflict with the date of death of Herod in 4 BC but will fit in with 1 BC and the calculation of Dionysius.

Tiberius was Roman emperor from 14 to 37 AD.. (Tiberius is known to have begun his reign a few weeks after the death of Augustus, in September AD 14) 15th year will be 29 AD. Counting back (about) 30 years, we arrived at a birth of Jesus in 1 BC.  If Jesus was born on Dec 25 of 1 BC, the Regnal year of Jesus will start the next January 1 which Dionysius called the start of the year AD

 1,  Using this and other data available to him, he calculated the probable year of Jesus birth as occurring in the 753rd since the founding of the Roman empire, which he called AD 1. This assumes that Jesus was born on 1 BC/ 1 AD using regnal year calculation method.

Evidently his calculation was in order. He fixed the beginning of AD based on the above calculation.  Apparently the approximations in the beginning and the end of the years might have made a difference.

The birth of Jesus was taken as the origin of reference from which the years were numbered.  AD would be positive counting 1,2,3 onwards and BC will be negative counting 1, 2,3 backwards.   It is the whole year as counted one.  




The year 1 AD starts from the birth of Jesus and runs 12 months when 2 AD starts and so on
The year 1 BC starts 12 months before Christ and ends with December 31 to start 1 AD Jan 1

There is no 0  year  which has a length of (12 months) one year.  It is a point with no dimension.

Year  always starts with January and ends with December and runs forward in that order


Even some great scholars seem to have missed this reality wanting whole year as AD 0.  Dionysius was correct in his setting AD1 sequent to BC1  

BC and AD & BCE and CE

The terms B.C. and A.D. stand for “Before Christ” and “Anno Domini,” which in Italian means “in the year of the Lord.” Before Christ implies the period before the birth of Jesus and then AD implies the period after the birth of Christ. This implies that we can actually pin point the day when Jesus was born.  These terms are used to mark years in the Gregorian and Julian calendars—with the birth of Jesus as the event that divides history. In theory, all the years before Jesus’ birth receive the label B.C., and all those after his birth get A.D. If Jesus had been born in 1 BC 31 midnight., these calenders would be completely accurate.  In fact the date of Christmas  before the Gregorian correction was indeed 6th of Jan.


AD means Anno Domini, or "Year of our Lord", referring to Christ's birth.

BC means Before Christ.

The Easter Computus and the Origins of the Christian Era By Alden A. Mosshamme
The Scythian Dionysius Exiguus and His Invention of Anno Domini by Rothwangl, Sepp


Dionysius devised his system to replace the Diocletian system, named after the 51st emperor of Rome, who ruled from A.D. 284 to A.D. 305. The first year in Dionysius' Easter table, “Anno Domini 532,” followed the year “Anno Diocletiani 247.” Dionysius made the change specifically to do away with the memory of this emperor who had been a ruthless persecutor of Christians.


Dionysius Exiguus in a letter to Bishop Petronius, says:

 "…Because the blessed Cyril began his first cycle in the 153rd year of Diocletian and ended his last cycle in the 247th year of Diocletian, we have to start in the 248th year of this man who was a tyrant rather than emperor. However, we did not want to preserve the memory of an impious persecutor of Christians in our cycles, but chose rather to mark the times with the years from the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, so that the commencement of our hope will appear more familiar to us and the origin of the redemption of mankind, that is the Passion of our Redeemer, will shine in a more glorious way." (Declerq, 2000)


As scholars and the Christian paradigm say, Dionysius had no concrete data for the date of Christ's birth, but was focused on a best-fitting Easter cycle and therefore he made a mistake in the date when he fixed his year of incarnation.


Anno Mundi and end of the world 

One of the main reason for the new calendar was the fear that the end of history was only for the 6000 years of history from the creation.  According to this teaching God’s Calendar is a Seven day calendar with a Sabbath falling on the seventh day when God will rest. According to Peter, the day of the Lord is a thousand years.  Thus it was the understanding of the Jews and the Christians that the world was going to end in a few years.   


2 Peter 3:8 But, beloved ones, let not this one matter be hidden from you: that with YHVH one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.


This made Dionysius to think that Jesus was born on the 11th hour of the history to bring redemption.


In the AM count, the date of Christ’s birth was adjusted in the middle of the sixth millennium day to the year AM 5500, because it corresponded with the 11th hour of the available 12 hour day of the working historic period of 6000 years which is 6 working days >>. (6000/ 12) x 11 = 5500). The world would have ended in around 500 AD in this calculation. By the time of doing the calculation by Dionysius, the world would have come to an end.  Thus some scholars believe that he was trying show these end time prophecy are false.


he actual translation of AD, Anno Domini, is “In The Year Of Our Lord”.


However we know that nobody thought the birth of Jesus in the manger was of any historic important.  Nobody cared to mark and declare that point from where to start AD.


 The use of AD and BC in numbering calendar years was invented by Dionysius Exiguus in 525 AD under the direction of Pope St. John I.


If the historical records of Rome which was followed by the Julian Calender was right. This would be right. When, in Julian calendar 527, he formalized the date of Jesus' birth. Jesus was born, he declared, on December 25 or Jan 6 (taking both the dates of Roman Church and Coptic Churches) of the Roman year 753.  Thus  January 1, 754 became the New Year's day in Rome counting the years from the birth of Jesus the Christ, King of Kings, Lion of Judah, the Son of God, the Savior of mankind as the first year in a new era of world history.  Christmas was not celebrated by the churches until much later.  But Easter, was the most important festival.


In our modern dating in the year 525 AD the Monk Dionysius Exiguus proposed his new system. According to which Jesus was Born on Jan 6 in the Year 1 AD and year calculated inclusive of the year of birth.  Our modern calendar was created by Pope Gregory in 1582.  He made some corrections in Dionysius’ setup forming the Gregorian Calendar.


Even though Dionysius Exiguus  made his calender,  it was not until the eighth century that it became widespread. It was Venerable Bede of Durham, England, who used Dionysius’s date in his work “Ecclesiastical History of the English People.”and made it popular.


Thus Dionysius had to figure out the year when Jesus was born from which  year  the new Christian Calendar was to start. The aim of Dionysius and Pope Paul I was to establish a common calendar when all the various Christian communities could celebrate Easter together.  Synchronizing the dates of various festivals of the church in all the various churches around the world was the problem for them. It was to be a Christian Calendar for the Christian world. The year in which it started did not come in conflict in accomplishing this aim.

Later on when contacts between Christian cultures and non-Christian cultures increased, the non-Christians  wanted secular terminologies which resulted in the use of BCE and CE.  It was just a change of terminologies as non-Christians felt uncomfortable with the association with Christ.


Here is how       presentsts this argument:

”To a Christian this may seem like simple common sense and the way the world works but not so to someone outside of that tradition. People of different cultures and belief systems should be able to access and discuss history without having to date it according to the Christian belief in Jesus as the son of God and the messiah.”



The Politically correct terminology became BCE and CE.

BCE means Before Common Era, which is an alternative name to BC.

CE means Common Era, which is an alternative name to AD.


It was probably the  Jewish academics who started the use of   CE and BCE  by the mid-19th century, such as in 1856, when Rabbi and historian Morris Jacob Raphall used the abbreviation in his book Post-Biblical History of The Jews. In general publications, in the 200 years between 1808 and 2008 the ratio of usage of BCE to BC has increased by about 20% and CE to AD by about 50%, primarily since 1980. (


The dating of any past historical event is complicated because of the lack of uniform calendar and dates as we have today. Due to the lack of such a system, events are dated based on landmarks in time. They include eclipses, earthquakes and special events such as the beginning of the rule of a King (These are referred to as the Regnal years. Regnal years start as zero year from the date of ascension to the end of that year.) Even local floods were used as reference before the establishment of AD system.  There is also the lack of data available when it is done several centuries after the fact.





Luke 2:1-2: Now it came about in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all were proceeding to register for the census, everyone to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him and was with child.


Since the reason for Joseph and Mary to make the trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem was the Roman Census,(Luke 2.3-7) if we could identify the time when this was done in Palestine we could pin point the birth of Jesus.

Luke 2.1-2 identifies a census taken throughout the Roman Empire during the reign of Caesar Augustus, by Cyrenius (also Quirinius) when he was governor of Syria.




Augustus ( Imperator Caesar Divi filius Augustus; 23 September 63 BC – 19 August AD 14)   became the first Emperor of the Roman Empire, controlling Imperial Rome from 27 BC until his death in AD 14.




So The census must have taken place betweem 27 BC and 14 AD. That is a long time.

However there is no historical record of this particular census in the annuls of Rome. Since the Roman Empire was very vast, census was spread over several years, and this particular census must have been following any of the earlier orders. This is implied in the statements referring to censes as “in the days of” the census showing a prolonged period of time. (See Luke 2 and Act 5:37). It is now known that the practice of occasional census was routine in the Roman Vassal States.  If that is so there is no need of a special order since it is a standing order to be repeated every 14 years which then lasted many years to cover all the areas of the empire of Rome.


There was a special occasion for another census:
After 7 B.C., Rome's wars ceased, and there seemed to be a Golden Age of peace throughout the empire. ….Finally on February 5, 2 B.C., the Roman Senate awarded Augustus the title of Pater Patriae, "Father of the Fatherland." Augustus Caesar himself wrote about this in his book, Res Getae, paragraph 35, which is quoted on page 19 of the book, “Roman Civilization”, by Lewis and Reinhold. The Emperor Augustus wrote,

“When I held my thirteenth consulship, the senate, the equestrian order, and the entire Roman people gave me the title of "Father of the Country."


When the Roman Senate passed this bill, they issued a decree throughout the entire Roman Empire that everyone under the authority of Rome should register their approval of this bill and swear an oath of allegiance to Augustus.

This is the probable enrollment, or registration, mentioned in Luke 2:1, which brought Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem, where Jesus was born


When Quirinius was Governor of Syria




 Publius Sulpicius Quirinius (c. 51 BC – AD 21) was a Roman aristocrat. After the banishment of the ethnarch Herod Archelaus (the son of Herod the Great ) from the tetrarchy of Judea in AD 6 by Caesar Augustus and made Judea under direct rule of Rome, Quirinius was appointed legate “governor of Syria”, to which the province of Judaea had been added for the purpose of a census.  Thus Quirinius was a ruler or one of the governing persons of Syria from AD 6. But there is more to it.  


 Quirinius, was a trusted agent of Emperor to the provinces of the Roman empire in that region which included Judea (Tacitus , Annals 3:48; Florus, Roman History 2:31). He had been in authority holdingg governing authority for a long period starting as early as 8 BC. There are indications pointing him as a co-ruler with the governor of Syria alongside of Quintilius Varus. First reign of Varus began in 12 B.C. as co-legate (not as a full Governor), and, indeed, he ordered a census in 9 B.C.  It is quite likely that Quirinius was placed in charge of the sensitive census in Judea during the time of Herod. Res Gestae Inscription and the Aemilius Secundus Inscription is said to confirm both the early census and the earlier co-reign of Quirinius.


The earliest historical account we have of Quirinius comes from an inscription found in Pisidian Antioch known as Res Gestae  - 'The Deeds of Augustus Caesar by Augustus'. The inscription places him as consul in 12 B.C. This position was attained by only two prominent Romans every year and they governed as the Roman heads of state. The inscription reads as follows:

      "A great crowd of people came together from all over Italy to my election, more then had ever gathered before in Rome, when Publius Sulpicius (Quirinius) and Gaius Valgius were consuls."  
(Res Gestae  10)


Thus we know that Quirinius was a high official in central Asia Minor since 8 BC, when he was in charge of the Army in Syria. It appears that he was able to repulse a local uprising that probably delayed the implementation of the poll tax in Syria for some time” 
(Wilson, C. 1980. Rocks, Relics and Biblical Reliability. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, p. 116)

The famous administration of Syria by Quirinius lasted from about AD.6 to 9; and during that time occurred “the Great Enrollment" and valuation of property in Palestine. Obviously the incidents described by Luke are irreconcilable with that date.This census is evidently being AD 6-9 is too late to be considered as what Luke is referring to.


Titulus Tibertinus Quirinius’ Epitaph

There was found near Tibur (Tivoli) in AD.1764 a fragment of marble with part of an inscription, which is now preserved in the Lateran Museum of Christian Antiquities.  This inscription records the career and honors of a Roman official whose name is missing in the epitah , who lived in the reign of Augustus, and survived that emperor. 

He conquered a nation; he was rewarded with two Supplicationes and the Ornamenta Triumphalia, i.e., the gorgeous dress of a triumphing general, with ivory scepter and chariot, etc.;he governed Asia as proconsul; and he twice governed Syria as legatus of the divine Augustus.

Though the actual name of the person is lost in the inscription as unreadable,  it is sufficient to identify the person as Publius Sulpicius Quirinius. ( Mommsen, Borghesi, de Rossi, Henzen, Dessau, and others are in agreement to this deduction).  In that case Quirinius was governor twice in Syria.  Mommsen, considers that the most probable date for Quirinius's first government of Syria is about BC.3-1. This then gives us the first period of Governorship of Quirinius as BC 3-1.  It will then give the death of Herod in BC 1 and Birth of Jesus within the range of BC 3-1.


The new listing is as follows:’s1B.C.Death Demonstrated by Synchronized Chronology.html


In fact Quirinius was a powerful presence (whatever the title) as Caesar’s right hand man, starting around 8 BC till 9 AD.



Smith's Bible Dictionary summarizes all the arguments as follows:

Cyrenius (warrior), the Greek form of the Roman name of Quirinus.
The full name is Publius Sulpicius Quirinus.
He was consul B.C. 12, and was made governor of Syria after the banishment of Archelaus in A.D. 6. He probably was twice governor of Syria; his first governorship extended from B.C. 4 to B.C. 1. It was during this time that he was sent to make the enrollment which caused Joseph and Mary to visit Bethlehem. (Luke 2:2) The second enrollment is mentioned in (Acts 5:37)


Historians have not been able to find any empire-wide census or registration in the years 7-5 B.C. but then these could be the continuation of an on going census  There is also a possible reference to such a registration of all the Roman people not long before 5 February 2 B.C. written by Caesar Augustus himself: "While I was administering my thirteenth consulship [2 B.C.] the senate and the equestrian order and the entire Roman people gave me the title Father of my Country “Pater Patriae”, " (Res Gestae 35).

 In order to give this award a consensus of the citizens were needed. It was then extended to include non-citizen within the empire. This award was given to Augustus on 5 February 2 B.C.  Hence the consensus of all within the Roman Empire must have taken place earlier than that.  How earlier we can only guess.



Titulus Venetus (CIL III 6687; ILS 2683)

Q[uintus] Aemilius Secundus son of Quintus, of the tribe Palatina, who served in the camps of the divine Augustus under P. Sulpicius Quirinius, legate of Caesar in Syria , decorated with honorary distinctions, prefect of the 1st cohort Augusta, prefect of the cohort II Classica.
by order of Quirinius I made the census in Apamea of citizens male 117 thousand.

Besides, sent on mission by Quirinius, against the Itureans, on Mount Lebanon I took their citadel. And prior military service, I was Prefect of the workers, detached by two consuls at the Ôaerarium  [The State Treasury]. And in the colony, quaestor, aedile twice, duumvir twice,  pontiff. Here were deposited Quintus Aemilius Secundus son of Quintus, of the tribe Palatina, my son and Aemilia Chia my freed. This monument is excluded from the inheritance.


In the decree breviarium totius imperii  published in Rome on Monday 12 May 2 BCE,
Caesar Augustus  announced his registration called the “inventory of the world”:

This census the first took place when  Quirinius was governor of Syria 3-2 BCE and everyone in  Judea went to his own town to beregistered    


Orosius, in the fifth century, also said that Roman records of his time revealed that a census was indeed held when Augustus was made "the first of men". Orosius dated the census to 3 B.C. Josephus also mentions this an oath of obedience to Augustus in Judea not long before the death of Herod (Antiquities I7:4I-45). The early (fifth century) Armenian historian, Moses of Khoren, said that, the census that brought Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem was conducted by Roman agents in Armenia where they set up "the image of Augustus Caesar in every temple.''. An Inscription in Turkey Paphlagonian also describes a similar oath census taken in 3 B.C


 The Deeds of Augustus says that Augustus had ordered three major censuses in his empire and that many local census were also conducted. In these censuses it was the practice that the whole family be present in their own home in their hometown as indicated in the quotes below.  This explains why Joseph was forced to take Mary with him.

Early in the twentieth century, a papyrus was discovered which contained an edict by G. Vibius Maximus, the Roman governor of Egypt, stating:

“Since the enrollment by households is approaching, it is necessary to command all who for any reason are out of their own district to return to their own home, in order to perform the usual business of the taxation…” 

(Cobern, C.M. 1929. The New Archeological Discoveries and their Bearing upon the New Testament. New York and London: Funk & Wagnalls, p. 47; Unger, M.F. 1962. Archaeology and the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, p. 64).


The same papyrus also confirms Luke’s assertion that a man had to bring his family with him when he traveled to his place of ancestry in order to be properly counted by the Roman authorities (Lk. 2:5). The document reads:

I register Pakebkis, the son born to me and my wife, Taasies and Taopis in the 10th year of Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus Imperator [Emperor], and request that the name of my aforesaid son Pakebkis be entered on the list”
 (Boyd, R.T. 1991. World’s Bible Handbook. Grand Rapids, MI: World Publishing, p. 415).


George A. Barton, Professor of Biblical Literature and Semitic Languages at Bryn Mawr and former Director of the American School of Oriental Research in Jerusalem, comments:

“Luke’s statement, that Joseph went up from Nazareth to Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to enroll himself with Mary (Luke 2:4, 5), turns out to be in exact accord with the governmental regulations as we now know them from the papyri” . (Barton, G.A. 1917. Archaeology and the Bible. Philadelphia: American Sunday-School Union, p. 435).

If I am right Jesus must have been born sometime between 3 and 1 BC.






Before the death of King Herod [Luke 1.5]

Evidently if Jesus was born in Dec BC 1 / Jan AD1 , Herod having outlived Jesus’ birth must have died sometime later in AD. In trying to determine the year of the birth of Christ the hint comes from the year of death of Herod since Jesus was born before that. If the information about the date of demise of Herod is insufficient it would be difficult to date it.  Even if we have it correct, Bible does not exactly define how long before the death of Herod was Jesus born. It will not surprising if we got the year wrong.  But then if with all the internet and availability of ancient and modern scholars at fingertips we have not been able to solve this exactly, we can understand why Dionysius went off track a few years.


Having accepted the new BC-AD system  and using it for over 1000 years, it will be difficult to go back and start all over again.  The best way out is to assume the current BC - AD origin since it is good calendar with good solar year and hence predictable seasons.  The first problem is to resettle the death of Herod and then we can settle the actual year of birth of Jesus in the current scheme. This will incidentally indicate the problems that Dinysius came across.


 First we know for certain that Jesus was born during the period the rulership of King Herod.  That means Jesus was born before the death of Herod.  How long before that we will still have to look into.




King of the Jews, Ruler of Galilee and Batanea:  Coin of king Herod (British Museum)

Copper coin of Herod, bearing the legend "ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΗΡΩΔΟΥ" (" Basileōs Hērōdou")

Uncertainity in the year of death of Herod.


There is an ongoing debate on the date of death of Herod even today. Evidently Dionysius’ assumption will require that Herod died sometime in AD.  All scholars today date the death of Herod  sometime in BC. Most assign it either to 4 BC or 1 BC.  Even if we assume the date of death of Herod, how far before was the birth of Jesus will still be a guess essentially because of lack of details.


Barnes, Timothy David. "The Date of Herod's Death," Journal of Theological Studies ns 19 (1968), 204–219

Bernegger, P. M. "Affirmation of Herod's Death in 4 B.C.", Journal of Theological Studies ns 34 (1983), 526–531.

“When Did Herod Die? And When Was Jesus Born?
Argument for 4 BC


Professor John Cramer’s suggest that an eclipse in 1 B.C.E. …cannot be reconciled with other historical facts recorded by Josephus.

As is well known, Herod’s son Archelaus succeeded him as the ruler of Judea, as reported by Josephus (Antiquities 8:459)… Josephus also recorded that Archelaus reigned over Judea and Samaria for ten years,(Antiquities 8:531).


Quirinius, the legate or governor of Syria, was assigned by the emperor to travel to Jerusalem and liquidate the estate of Archelaus, as well as to conduct a registration of persons and property in Archelaus’s former realm. This occurred immediately after Archelaus was deposed and was specifically dated by Josephus to the 37th year after Caesar’s victory over Mark Anthony at Actium (Antiquities 9:23).


The Battle of Actium is a well-known event in Roman history that took place in the Ionian Sea off the shore of Greece on September 2 of the year 31 B.C.E.

Counting 37 years forward from 31 B.C.E. yields a date of 6 C.E. for the tenth year of Archelaus, at which time he was deposed and Quirinius came to Judea.

And counting back ten years from that event yields a date of 4 B.C.E. for the year in which Herod died. (The beginning and ending years are both included in this count, since regnal years for both Augustus and the Herodians were so figured.)


These reports, and the chronology derived from them, provide compelling evidence for the generally accepted date of Herod’s death in the spring of 4 B.C.E., shortly after the lunar eclipse of March 13, regardless of the fact that eclipses also occurred in other years.

Jeffrey R. Chadwick

Jerusalem Center Professor of Archaeology and Near Eastern Studies
Brigham Young University
Provo, Utah”



Death of Herod based on Flavius Joseph - 4 BC or 1 BC ?

Herod's 1 B.C. Death Demonstrated by Synchronized Chronology at:'s%201%20B.C.%20Death%20Demonstrated%20by%20Syn..

Argument for 1 BC/1 AD

Flavius Josephus tells us that Herod died shortly after an eclipse of the moon (Antiquities of the Jews, Book XVII, Chapter VI, end of 4th paragraph), but prior to a Passover (Wars of the Jews, Book II, Chapter I, paragraph 3.) We know that there were eclipses of the moon on the following dates if we use Dionysius’ dates: 

Solar Eclipses Visible in Palestine

7 B.C. No eclipses

6 B.C. No eclipses

5 B.C. March 23. Total eclipse. Central at 8:30 pm. Elapsed time between eclipse and Passover: twenty-nine days.

5 B.C. September 15. Total eclipse. Central at 10:30 pm. Elapsed time between eclipse and Passover: seven months.

4 B.C. March 13. Partial eclipse. Central at 2:20 am. Elapsed time between eclipse and Passover: twenty-nine days

3 B.C. No eclipses

2 B.C. No eclipses

1 B.C. January 10. Total eclipse. Central at 1:00 am  Elapsed time between eclipse and Passover: twelve and a half weeks .

1 BC – December 29. Total Eclipse.  Time between eclipse and Passover was 88 days.

Which was the eclipse that was associated with Herod’s death?

Most theologians in the past have picked the one that occurred on March 13, 4 B.C.E.  But the majority of the early fathers of the Christian Church  placed the birth of Jesus from 3 to 1 B.C.E.

Thus we have no definite answer here. We have to make a choice…


Chuck Missler quotes another source Magillath Ta'anith, an ancient Jewish scroll contemporary with Jesus, which gives the death of King Herod as January 14, 1 B.C. 

In “The Date of Herod's Death: The Errors Corrected” by Murrell Selden ( gives arguments that leads to a date for the death of Herod the Great as January 26 (Shebat 2) in 1 B. C. 

" Every Josephus manuscript dated after 1544 has the same error 4 B.C. This has forced Christian historians to speculate that Jesus must have been born prior to that, as the Scripture is clear that Herod was alive at the time of Jesus’ birth and for some point afterward.  But recent historical scholarship has discovered that every single manuscript of Josephus’ writings prior to 1544 is in agreement that Herod died in 1 B.C.  This is a very important clue in our discovery of which year Jesus was born.  We are now able to consider the possibility that Jesus was born in 3 B.C. or 2 B.C., just as the ancient church fathers claimed."  


2011-12-25: Murrell Selden writes:

  "There has been considerable confusion among scholars as to the date of the death of Herod the Great. However, this writer believes the matter to be simple. This writer tries to find the date, assuming the traditional date of Shebat 2 for his death. The chief problem has been in finding the correct year. This writer uses the reference information from Antiquities of the Jews by Josephus ... My anchor for dating the regnal years for Herod the Great is a well known date, the battle for the Roman Empire at Actium. ... Based upon the writings of Josephus (which appear to be mostly accurate), the anchor date of the war between Antony and Octavius Caesar, and calculations of relevant lunar events, it appears that Herod the Great died on January 26 (Shebat 2) in 1 B.C.E."

B. Mahieu published her PhD thesis in which she proved that Herod died in the period 1 BCE - 1CE


 The calculation is based on the dating of battle for the Roman Empire at Actium.

Here is what Josephus tells us at page 320, Book XV, Chapter V, Section 2, as follows:

"2. At this time it was that the fight happened at Actium, between Octavius Caesar and Anthony in the seventh year of the reign of Herod; and then it was also that there was as earthquake in Judea, such a one as had not happened at any other time...."


Roman history tells us that the date of the battle was September 2nd of 31 B. C.

Then Herod began to rule in (31+ 6) BC 37.

Book XVII, Chapter VIII, Section 1, Josephus goes on to say: "When he had done those things, he died, the fifth day after he had caused Antipater to be slain; having reigned, since he procured Antigonus to be slain, thirty-four years; but since he had been declared king by the Romans, thirty-seven."


This takes us to the death of Herod as BC 1.

Book XVII, Chapter VI, Section 4, of Josephus goes on to say that during the period there was an eclipse of the moon.”Herod killed a person named Matthias and deprived another Matthias of the high priest position. It was a date of a fast before the death of Herod.’


So identifying the lunar eclipse near a fast will fix the year.

Shebat 2 is the traditional Jewish date for the death of Herod. Using a calendar computer program, Selden estimated that the best fit Shebat 2 as probably January 26 in 1 B. C.  

More specifically, he would have died between January 10, 1 B.C. (the date of the lunar eclipse) and April 11, 1 B.C. (the date of Passover).


Dr. John P. Pratt who is an astronomer prefer the   
1 BC – December 29. (December 29, 1BC/15 Tevet 3761)Total Eclipse.  Time between eclipse and Passover ( March 27/15 Nisan 3761) was 88 days.

If December 29, 1 BC is correct, then Herod died in early A.D.1 rather than early 1 B.C..

(Yet Another Eclipse for Herod –John P. Pratt.
This will make the birth off Jesus in BC 2 December 25 but the problem of census will still remain.


Herod, Age 70, Died in 1 B.C.

Josephus tells us that Herod was about 70 years of age when he died,

“And as he despaired of recovering (for he was about the seventieth year of his age), he grew fierce and indulged the bitterest anger upon all occasions.” (Antiquities of the Jews, XVII, vi, 1)

Josephus also tells us that Herod was 25 years old in 47 B.C. when his father appointed him governor of Galilee. (See Antiquities of the Jews, XIV, ix, 2.)

He was 70 during the year 2-1 B.C. when he died


Here we have two choices 4 BC or 1 BC for which we have arguments and support.

Assuming that Herod died in 4 BC or 1 BC we can now try to guess the year of birth of Jesus.

 Herod's 1 B.C. Death Demonstrated by Synchronized Chronology by Gerard Gertoux, Phd gives the following  synchronisation arguing for a date of 1 BC
”Astronomy enables us to date the events mentioned by Josephus:
(1) a memorial fasting followed by
(2) an eclipse of the moon and then
(3) Herod's death,
three events which succeeded in a short time before Passover: 

We may not be able to date the death of Herod exactly.  But we can be sure that it was in 1 BC and not 4 BC amidst the controversies.

Astronomical andHistorical Evidence for Dating the Nativity in 2 BC by James A. Nollet (

Gives the following conclusion: King Herod died, not in 4 BC as commonly believed, but either early in 1 BC before Passover,or early in AD 1, again before Passover.•If Herod died in 1 BC, Jesus was born between3BCand1BC.•If Herod died in AD 1, Jesus was born between2 BC and AD 1


It thus appears that Dionusius was not very far from the truth.



Events in the Life of Jesus

according to the Gospels


l Virgin birth and Adoration of the Shepherds

l Circumcision

l Presentation

l Adoration of the Magi

l Flight into Egypt > Massacre of the Innocents

l Death of Herod  

l Return to Nazareth 

Evidently the Shepherds saw Jesus in the manger.  

“And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called Jesus, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.” – Luke 2:21


On the 40th day Jesus was taken to the temple in Bethlehem to be presented before the Lord. The event is described in the Gospel of Luke (Luke 2:22–40).


 According to the gospel, Mary and Joseph took the Infant Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem forty days (inclusive) after his birth to complete Mary's ritual purification after childbirth, and to perform the redemption of the firstborn son, in obedience to the Torah (Leviticus 12, Exodus 13:12–15, etc.). Luke explicitly says that Joseph and Mary take the option provided for poor people (those who could not afford a lamb; Leviticus 12:8), sacrificing "a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons." Leviticus 12:1–4 indicates that this event should take place forty days after birth for a male child. Then they returned probably to Nazareth, the home of Joseph.


“In obedience to the Old Law, the Lord Jesus, the first-born, was presented in the Temple by his Blessed Mother and his foster father. This is another ‘epiphany’ celebration insofar as the Christ Child is revealed as the Messiah through the canticle and words of Simeon and the testimony of Anna the prophetess. Christ is the light of the nations, hence the blessing and procession of candles on this day. In the Middle Ages this feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, or ‘Candlemas,’ was of great importance.”  — From Ceremonies of the Liturgical Year

That counts for 40 days from the birth of Jesus.


Then we have the visit of magi.


Visit of Magi


Matthew 2:1-23 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem. 2 Saying, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him….

Therefore Jesus was not in the manger when the Magi met him. Matthew 2:10-11 states that the Magi "came into the house" - not a manger. Magi must have visited Jesus and  paid their respects with gift most probably in Nazareth within two years of the birth. Eusebius and Epiphanius, reasoning from Matthew 2:16, put the coming of the Magi two years after His birth.’’


The magi came to Herod and told him when they had seen the star of Christ in the East. Herod wanting to protect his royal line had all males in Bethlehem under two-year old killed. (Matthew 2.1) This 2 year limit must have been a safe upper limit from the date of the visit of Magi.  This might have been just one year or even less.  How long after this event did Herod die is still a guess.  The Holy family fled to Egypt to escape the massacre of infants. This must have been at least later than the “Presentation in the Temple” on the second month of birth.  We can assume certainly that Jesus was less than two years when they fled to Egypt.”
”This is all we can really know then:

1. The Magi (who knows how many) came to visit Jesus sometime AFTER His presentation in the Temple around 40 days after his birth.

2. Jesus was not still in a manger.

3. The Magi went to Nazareth. Matthew says they followed the "star" but he doesn't say they followed Herod's directions.

4. The Magi came to visit before Jesus was 2 years old. Matthew says that after the Magi left, Mary, Joseph took Jesus and fled to Egypt because Herod was out to kill him.

Someone might say they had to flee from Jerusalem because that's where Herod was going to kill all the children. Yes, Herod did that. But even so, when God warns Joseph in a dream, even though  they are not in Bethlehem, Joseph obeys and flees Nazareth after the Magi visited them.

5. Therefore the Magi visited Jesus, in a house, in Nazareth, roughly around age One.”

Two years was the ultimate safe limit that as above most scholars think, he might have been around age one only.


Let us take this as 1 to 2 years.



Flight to Egypt

Return from Egypt


Sometime after Herod had died, the holy family returns from Egypt. 


Taking Herod's death around 4 BC or 1 BC .   Upon learning that Herod Archelaus had succeeded his father in Judea, they continued on to Galilee. Archelaus was known for his cruelty and in response to complaints from the populace, in 6 AD he was deposed by Augustus and banished to Vienne in Gaul. Galilee was ruled by Archelaus's brother, Herod Antipas.


 They returned after the death of Herod from Egypt which according to the Infancy Gospel of Thomas was when Jesus was five years old.  Again this is only one reference we have and it can be wrong.  Some scholars even think that the stay in Egypt was probably less than an year - 6 to 7 months only. This can be either 3 years or 7 months  


 Taking the age of Jesus at massacre as between 6 months and 2 years + Flight to Egypt lasted 5years to 6 months we arrive at the possible error in calculation as 5 years maximum and one year minimum giving at the extremes error 5 years leading to 6 BC and at leat 2 BC.  Normally scholars prefer 2 BC taking death of Herod as 1 BC (or 5 - 7 BC by those who take the death of Herod as 4 BC.) Anyway this should not bother us much.  Only the event that Josephus gave us to date the birth of Jesus did not help us much.



The Return from Egypt by James Tissot














Luke 3:23 Jesus was about 30 when he was baptized by John

Luke 3.23 states that 'At the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius as emperor of Rome Jesus was about thirty years' old .

Tiberius Julius Caesar Augustus (November 16, 42 BC – March 16, AD 37), born Tiberius Claudius Nero, was Roman Emperor from 14 AD to 37 AD. Thus the regnal year started at 14 AD and 15th Regnal year will fall in 29 AD and Jesus was about 30 then.  If we count the Regnal year from the next start of year This would place the birth of Jesus at about 1 BC.

The statement “about thirty” does not allow us much accuracy. The only condition for holding any priestly office was that one should be over thirty. This is what Luke was referring to.





Seven Steps to Bethlehem By Arthur Eedle

Now we turn to the witness of the early fathers.


1. Sextus Julius Africanus (c. 160 – c. 240)




Africanus  wrote Chronographiai, a history of the world in five volumes. The work covers the period from Creation to the year AD 221. He calculated the period between Creation and Jesus as 5500 years, placing the Incarnation on the first day of AM 5501 (our modern March 25 1 BC)

It is this which formed the basis of the modern Anno Domini Era for Dionysius


2.  Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus, known as Tertullian (c. 160 – c. 220 AD)


Tertullian says in Ad Judaeos 2.8:

When Augustus had been reigning for twenty-eight years after the death of Cleopatra, Christ was born.,
and the same Augustus survived after Christ was born fifteen years;
and the remaining times of years to the day of the birth of Christ bring us to the forty-first year, which is the 28th of Augustus after the death of Cleopatra.


Here are the data:

‘Cleopatra reigned jointly with Augustus 13 years

After Cleopatra's death Augustus reigned 43 years

all the years of the reign of Augustus were 56 years

He died fifty-six years later, on 19 August, A.D. 14.


Tertullian dated the birth of Jesus in three ways.
1)  When Augustus had been reigning for twenty-eight years after the death of Cleopatra, Christ was born.
The death of Cleopatra VII, the last reigning ruler of Ptolemaic Egypt, occurred on either 10 or 12 August 30 BC in Alexandria, when she was 39 years old.
28 years after 30 BC is 2 BC


2)  Tertullian also tells us that Augustus lived 15 years after the birth of Jesus.
 Augustus died on August 19, 14 A.D.  
So Jesus would have been born about 15 years prior to 14 A.D. or 2 B.C.


3) Tertullian also says that the 41st year of Augustus (when Jesus was born) was the 28th year after the death of Cleopatra. One of the key dates in Roman history is the Battle of Actium, when Octavian's naval forces defeated those of Antony and Cleopatra. This battle is dated September 2, 31 B.C. A year later, rather than face captivity and possible execution,   Mark Antony and his wife Cleopatra committed suicide in August of 30 B.C.   Three years later, the Roman Senate proclaimed him "Augustus." The Roman Republic was dead; the Empire was fully born


3.    Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, Roman Empire (135 A.D. to 203 A.D.)



Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp, who, in turn was a disciple of the Apostle John.

Iraneus wrote “Our Lord was born about the forty-first year of the reign of Augustus.’ Since Augustus began his reign in the autumn of 43 B.C., this also substantiate the birth in 2 B.C 


4.   Hippolytus of Thebes, Rome (c 170 – c 236)



In his latin translation of his Chronicons , Hyppolytus says:  :

“And after the transmigration into Babylon until the birth of Christ, there were 14 generations, 660 years, and from the birth of Christ until the Passion there was 30 years and from the Passion up until this year which is the 13th year of the Emperor Alexander, there is 206 years.” Chronicon Section 687


The 13th year of Emperor Alexander Severus was 235 AD which makes 29AD for crucifixion of Jesus. Taking 30 years from it gives 1 AD for the Birth of Jesus. In Chronicon, Hippolytus says that Jesus died when he was 30, but in his Commentary on Daniel he says he was 33 years old. These may be manuscript errors. if we assume that the Armenian manuscript is more accurate than the Latin we arrive at Jesus being born in 3BC. Hence we have a range of possible years from 1 to 3 BC


5.   Eusebius of Caesarea (264-340 A.D.)




 Eusebius called Eusebius Pamphili became the Bishop of Caesarea in Palestine about the year 314 referred to as .the "Father of Church History," ascribes it to the 42nd year of the reign of Augustus and the 28th from the subjection of Egypt on the death of Anthony and Cleopatra. The 42nd year of Augustus ran from the autumn of 2 B.C. to the autumn of 1 B.C. The subjugation of Egypt into the Roman Empire occurred in the autumn of 30 B.C. The 28th year extended from the autumn of 3 B.C. to the autumn of 2 B.C. the only date that would meet both of these constraints would be the autumn of 2 B.C.


 The overlap between these two dates suggests around August ol BC 2.


6. Origen Adamantius, c.AD 185–254




Origen said that “Christ was born in the forty-first year of Caesar Augustus, that Augustus reigned fifty-six years, and that after the birth of Christ there remained fifteen years of his reign.”
His figures are evidently the same as those of Tertullian, and lead to the same result, namely that Christ was born around, 2 B.C


7.    Titus Flavius Clemens (c.150 - c. 215), known as Clement of Alexandria said:



 Our Lord was born in the twenty-eighth year, when the first census was ordered to be taken in the reign of Augustus.’


8.  Epiphanius of Salamis (ca. 310–320 – 403) was bishop of Salamis and metropolitan of Cyprus



 In his Panarion for the healing of all heresies, (20.2) he states that “Augustus reigned 56 years and 8 months, (which suggests that he is shunting the whole calendar year BC 43 as his ‘first year‘) and that Jesus was born in his 42nd year. This gives BC 2 as the year of birth of Jesus.. Later he says that this was the year when Octavian was Consul for the 13"‘ time.with Silvanus. The Ccmsul lisls give “Augusto XIII at Silvano" for BC 2.


He dates the Epiphany of Christ was in January of the year in which the consuls were Octavius for the thirteenth time, and Silvanus. Taking the term Epiphany as the first appearance of Christ which imply the conception of Mary took places sometime in January 2 B.C. This will lead to the birth of Jesus in October of 2 BC.








9.   Apollinarius of Laodicea, (c 310 - c 390 AD),



Apollinarius said that from the birth of Christ to the eighth year of Claudius Caesar was forty-nine years.

Claudius became emperor on 25 January, A.D. 41,

So his eighth year began in January, 48.

Hence according this Christ was born in the year 2 B.C.


10.   Dionysius Exiguus



 Dionysius Exiguus calculated the Birth of Jesus on December 25, 1BC This led to the starting of year of Our Lord – Anno Domini seven days later as January 1 , 1 AD.

Under the direction of Pope St. John I (A.D. 523-526), Dionysius Exiguus introduced the use of B.C. and A.D. With the Edict of Milan legitimizing Christianity in A.D. 413 and ultimately making it the official religion of the Roman Empire, the birth of Christ became the “epoch event” used for dating. B.C. stands for before Christ, and A.D. stands for anno domini, or “in the year of our Lord”


11.   Clement of Alexandria (born about 150 A.D.) also says Jesus was born in the 15th year before the death of Augustus Caesar-that is, in 2 B.C.



Thus the Early Christian traditions puts the birth of Jesus at around 2 BC. This will fit within the chronology only if Herod was alive until 1 BC and not in 4 BC.


12.  Justin Martyr (100-165)




Justin Martyr wrote in the mid-second century in his First Apology,


Now there is a village in the land of the Jews, thirty-five stadia from Jerusalem, in which Jesus was born, as you can ascertain also from the registers of the taxing made under Cyrenius, your first procurator in Judea.


Apparently, the record of the census was in existence and freely available in Rome for the early fathers to assert the date of birth of Jesus as sometime in 2 BC


There is a startling consensus among early Christian sources about the year of Jesus’ birth.

Here is a table adapted from Jack Finegan’s   Handbook of Biblical Chronology (p. 291) giving the dates proposed by different sources:



  3 BC is the most popular date.


 The sources in this table are quite ancient. Irenaeus of Lyon, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Julius Africanus, and Hippolytus of Rome all wrote in the late 100s or early 200s.

We thus have that Jesus was born in 3 or 2 B.C.






Matthew 1:20But after he had pondered these things, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to embrace Mary as your wife, for the One conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will give birth to a Son, and you shall give Him the name


 because He will save His people from their sins.” 22All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:…

Luke 2:21-When eight days had passed and the Child was circumcised, He was named JESUS, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.



The word Jesus is the Latin form of the Greek Iesous, which in turn is the transliteration of the Hebrew Jeshua, or Joshua, or again Jehoshua, meaning "Jehovah is salvation."

Jesus is the WORD took flesh

In the ancient script of the name of God in itself showed the identity of Jesus with the Father YHVH.
Each letter of the hebrew represent an idea. Using it the name YHVH would mean “Hand Behold, Nail Behold” which when translated would mean  “Look at my hands and see the nail” implying the crucified Jesus as YHVH





Yehoshua is a compound name consisting of two parts: The first part is the “prefix” form of the Tetragrammaton—God’s Four-Letter Name: Yod-He-Vav-He or YHVH.In the Hebrew Bible “Yeho-” is used at the beginning of certain proper names: Jehoshaphat, Jehoiachin, Jehonathan (In Medieval English the letter “J” was pronounced as “Y”). The “suffix” form of the Tetragrammaton is “-yah” (“-iah” in Greek, as in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zechariah, or Halleluiah).

The second part is a form of the Hebrew verb yasha which means to deliver, save, or rescue.

The name Yehoshua/Yeshua/Jesus translates as “God (YHVH) delivers or saves”  (his people).


Shin is the letter of fire and transformation. Shin literally means tooth and its shape is 3 branches of flame. These are the 3 pillars of the tree of life, reaching high like flames, purifying and changing the condition of our lives, teaching us to become aligned with the Whole of Creation. Hence the placing of shin inside human image of God is a symbol of God becoming man or it is the incarnation of God in human form. This is Adam Kadamon (the first before all creations - Pimeaval Adam) created from the Pentagramatton YHVH and represents Jesus. It then mean Immanuel, God with us. It is this spirit that is given to those who are in Christ which transforms them into the likeness of the Son of Man. In our material world of recent creation, because the first Adam fell and he was thrown out of the paradise with the shin fire taken from him, the Primeaval Adam was born as a Second Adam to reintroduce Shin int our world.
”Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Cor 5:7) 


There are other ways the name is written ans transliterated.



In ancient Hebrew alphabet YHVH and YHVShA


Yehoshua was name of Yoshua the son of Nun (יְהֹושֻׁעַ בִּן־נוּן YEHOSHUA BIN-NOON,Joshua 1:1).
יֵשׁוּעַ YESHUA is a shorter form of this name.


After the time of Yeshua the Messiah, this name ישוע Yeshua is not given to any Jewish man until recently, but earlier it was a common Jewish name. That name appears in the
Tanakh (Hebrew Old Testament) in the following verses: 1 Chr 24:11, 2 Chr 31:15, Ezra 2:2, 2:6, 2:36, 2:40, 3:2, 3:8, 3:9, 4:3, 5:2, 8:33, 10:18, Neh 3:19, 7:7, 7:11, 7:43, 8:7, 9:4, 9:5, 10:9, 11:26, 12:7, 12:8, 12:10, 12:24, 12:26.

How Yahushua became Jesus in Transliteration and Translation





The word Christ, Christos, the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word Messias, means "anointed."

According to the Old Law, priests (Exodus 29:29; Leviticus 4:3), kings (I Kings 10:1; 24:7), and prophets (Isaias 61:1) were supposed to be anointed for their respective offices; now, the Christ, or the Messias, combined this threefold dignity in His Person. It is not surprising, therefore, that for centuries the Jews had referred to their expected Deliverer as "the Anointed"; perhaps this designation alludes to Isaias 61:1, and Daniel 9:24-26, or even to Psalms 2:2; 19:7; 44:8.


 Thus the term Christ or Messias was a title rather than a proper name: "Non proprium nomen est, sed nuncupatio potestatis et regni", says Lactantius (Inst. Div., IV, vii). The Evangelists recognize the same truth; excepting Matthew 1:1, 18; Mark 1:1; John 1:17; 17:3; 9:22; Mark 9:40; Luke 2:11; 22:2, the word Christ is always preceded by the article.


Only after the Resurrection did the title gradually pass into a proper name, and the expression Jesus Christ or Christ Jesus became only one designation. But at this stage the Greeks and Romans understood little or nothing about the import of the word anointed; to them it did not convey any sacred conception. Hence they substituted Chrestus, or "excellent", for Christians or "anointed", and Chrestians instead of "Christians."  


The use of the definite article before the word Christ and its gradual development into a proper name show the Christians identified the bearer with the promised Messias of the Jews. He combined in His person the offices of prophet (John 6:14; Matthew 13:57; Luke 13:33; 24:19) of king (Luke 23:2; Acts 17:7; I Corinthians 15:24; Apocalypse 15:3),and of priest (Hebrew 2:17; etc.); he fulfilled all the Messianic predictions in a fuller and a higher sense than had been given them by the teachers of the Synagogue.A. J. MAAS

From the Catholic Encyclopedia




The 21st Hebrew letter is “shin”






Jesus was indeed the King of the Jews by legal right through Solomon as well as by flesh through Nathan.













 The Jewish calendar is primarily lunar, with each month beginning on the new moon. In old days when astronomy was not perfected,, the new months used to be determined by observation which was declared by the Sanhedrin on the testimony of two eyewitnesses. This practice is still used in the middle east by the muslims.

1 lunar month = 29.53059 days


Hebrew lunar calendar, is in fact lunisolar calendars. That is, months are kept on a lunar cycle, but then intercalary days are added to bring the lunar cycles in synchronisation with the solar year. In the wilderness days lunar months were perfect and was directly visible to people. Since the average value is about 29.5 days, months alternate between 29 and 30 days in the Hebrew calendar.


However as the Israelites settled down and became a community, based on agriculture, the solar integration became necessary in order that the cycle of seasons are predictable. One direct method to do this was by adding another 13th month – Adar II. This method is still practiced in Ethiopian Calendar. Within a one year period, 12 lunar cycles are completed in 12 X 29.5 = 354 days. Therefore the difference between 12 lunar cycles and one solar cycle is 365 – 354 = 11 days.









Lunar year, is 354 days which needs around 11 days to make a solar year. 13th month was inserted based on the agricultural calendar so that harvest will occur during the period of First Fruits.


“The year may be intercalated on three grounds: 'aviv [i.e.the ripeness of barley], fruits of trees, and the equinox. On two of these grounds it should be intercalated, but not on one of them alone.” (Tosefta Sanhedrin 2.2, Herbert Danby, Trans., Tractate Sanhedrin Mishnah and Tosefta, Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, London and New York, 1919, p. 31. Also quoted in Sacha Stern, Calendar and Community: A History of the Jewish Calendar Second Century BCE-Tenth Century CE, Oxford University Press, 2001, p. 70..

 In the fourth century, Hillel II established a fixed calendar based on mathematical and astronomical calculations. This is based on a 19 year cycle, The additional month of Adar II is added with a full 30 days in the 3rd, 6th, 8th, 11th, 14th, 17th and 19th years of the cycle.

 Numbering of Jewish Years


The Jewish years are counted based on the “year of creation” or rather based in the Adamic era from the date Adam started to count his days and then following the Chronology of the Patriarchs.

 Months of the Jewish Year


 There are actually two calendars in use. One starts from the month of Nissan, which celebrated the freedom of the Jewish people from the slavery of Egypt. The Jewish Civil New Year is in Tishri, the seventh month when the day of Atonement is celebrated as a renewal of the nation. The number of days between 1 of Nissan and 1 of Tishri will remain constant. Leap years changes the number of days from 8th month onwards to the beginning of next Nissan. The Jewish calendar has the following months:

 In the fourth century, a fixed calendar was developed by Jewish scholars to compensate for the fact that there are 12.4 lunar months in a solar year. The new version, used right to modern times, standardized the calendar for the course of a 19 year cycle, so that it meshes perfectly with the seasons. To do this, certain months had a set variable number of days, and a 13th month, Adar II, was added in the 3rd, 6th, 8th, 11th, 14th, 17th and 19th years of the cycle. In leap years, Adar has 30 days. In non-leap years, Adar has 29 days.


 Note that the number of days between Nissan and Tishri is always the same. Because of this, the time from the first major festival (Passover in Nissan) to the last major festival (Sukkot in Tishri) is always the same.


 The northern Kingdom of Israel counted years using the ecclesiastical new year starting on 1 Aviv (Nisan), while the southern Kingdom of Judah counted years using the civil new year starting on 1 Tishrei. By the time of Jesus, the Kingdom of Israel was gone and hence the only calendar used by the temple was the Civil Calendar starting 1 Tishrei. It started with the ending of the sins of the last year at the Day of Atonement.




 "New Year" is 1 Tishrei, which actually begins in the seventh month of the ecclesiastical year. On that day the formal New Year festival, Rosh Hashanah ("Head of the Year") is observed. (see Ezekiel 40:1, which uses the phrase "beginning of the year".) This is the civil new year, and the date on which the year number advances.







Various methods of arriving at the dates of birth have been employed throughout Christian History with lot of mud slinging from sponsors;

Four of these are explained below:

A.  Analysis based on astrological studies

B. Analysis based on the Lord's festivals and implications of what they mean.

C. Analysis based on the temple service of Zechariah

D. Early church Documents




1: The Arguments Based on Revelation 12:1-5

 By a very intricate astronomical argument following a statement from the book of Revelation, Dr. Ernest L. Martin ( proposes that Jesus was actually born on Rosh Ha-Shanah on September 11 in 3 BC between 6:15 and 7:45 PM The Argument runs as follows:

  Revelation 12:1-5

  "And there was a great wonder [sign] in heaven a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: and she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. And there appeared another wonder in heaven: and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his head. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron."

 This could hardly be a description of the Virgin Mary. This "Woman" had the heavens associated with her - the Sun, Moon and the Twelve Stars. John said that this particular display was a wonder (a sign) and that it was "in heaven."




The Bible speaks of three "heavens."


 The first is that in which the birds fly and all weather phenomena occur (Jeremiah 4:25; I Kings 18:45).

 The second is that of the Sun, Moon, planets and stars (Genesis 1:17).

 The third heaven is that where God lives (II Corinthians 12:2).

 The Woman in the first three verses is featured as being in heaven with both the Sun and the Moon . So this woman is in the second heaven and is not on earth.

 So the Woman represents a constellation - which fits the constellation Virgo the Virgin.


Virgo is often represented as a lady with the sheaf in hand - the first fruits of wheat. In the period of Jesus' birth, the Sun entered into the head position of the Virgo around August 13, and exited from her feet about October 2. The Sun was "clothing" or "adorning" the Woman so that the Sun in the vision was in a mid-bodied to the Woman The only time in the year that the Sun could be in a position to "clothe" the celestial Woman called Virgo (that is, to be mid-bodied to her, in the region where a pregnant woman carries a child) is when the Sun is located between about 150 and 170 degrees along the ecliptic. This "clothing" of the Woman by the Sun occurs for a 20-day period each year. This 20-degree spread indicates the general time when Jesus was born. In 3 BC, the Sun would have entered this celestial region about August 27 and exited from it about September

15.  Jesus the Man-Child would have to be born within that 20-day period. From the point of view of the Magi who were astrologers, this would have been the only logical sign under which the Jewish Messiah might be born.




 “Now, if the Great Sign of the Virgin is taken literally, it would appear in the sky as the Sun in Virgo with the Moon under her feet. This actually occurred September 11, 3 BC (Julian) as shown in the illustration. On that day the Sun was in Virgo and the Moon was under her feet. Since the actual New Moon was a 2:35 PM on September 9 in Bethlehem, the Moon was still near the Sun on September 11. For a brief time after Sunset on September 11, the Moon would have been visible until 7:13 PM.”


 Virgo is actually located within the last ten degrees of Leo. Thus, the story of Jesus and his mission on earth, as related by these heavenly symbols, should logically begin with his birth from a virgin and conclude with him being crowned king in the final sign of Leo the Lion (with its chief star being Regulus - the King Star).


 Prof. Thorley has shown that there are exactly twelve stars surrounding the head of Virgo as we see them from earth. They are (according to astronomical terminology): (1) Pi, (2) Nu, (3) Beta (near the ecliptic),

 (4) Sigma, (5) Chi, (6) Iota - these six stars form the southern hemisphere around the head of Virgo. Then there are (7) Theta, (8) Star 60, (9) Delta, (10) Star 93, (11) Beta (the second magnitude star) and (12) Omicron - these last six form the northern hemisphere around the head of Virgo. All these stars are visible ones that could have been witnessed by observers on earth.


Thus, the description of the apostle John in Revelation Twelve describes a perfectly normal heavenly scene that could be recognized by all people on the inhabitable areas of the earth. Here was Virgo with twelve stars around her head, while the Sun was in uterine position and the Moon under her feet. And again, the only time this could have occurred in 3 BC was on the Day of Trumpets (or Rosh Ha-Shanah).


 The position of the Moon in John's vision actually pinpoints the nativity to within a period of an hour and a half (within 90 minutes) on that day. This may appear an outlandish assessment to make, but it is quite possible. In short, the Book of Revelation shows the precise hour and a half of Jesus' birth!


 The key is the Moon. The apostle said it was located "under her feet gives about 6:15 p.m. (sunset), and lasted until around 7:45 p.m. (moonset )

 According to this evaluation 
Jesus was born   
Rosh Ha-Shanah = the Feast of the Trumpets
September 11 in 3 BC = Tishri 1 in 3 BC
6:18 and 7:39 PM.

Dr. Carl Baugh of the Creation Science Museum in Texas.
Jesus Christ Our Promised Seed by Victor Paul Wierwille give additional information about the significance of this day:

This date was also determined by the research of “The Way International.”
They documented their research in the book, 'Jesus Christ Our Promised Seed,' by Victor Paul Wierwille.  It presents this date as a conjunction three indications:

 1. Astrological indications

 l as given in Mathew ( Mathew 2) where the Magi saw this which led them to the one who was born to be the King of the jews and found him.

l As given in the Revelations to John regarding the Virgin arrayed in the sun and moon at her feet and crowned with 12 stars (Rev. 12)

 The remaining two arguments we will take in the next chapters as they form part of wider aspects of the problem.

 2.  The historical arguments given by Luke

l Historical importance of Tishri 1 in Jewish history

l The decree of Augustus, census

l Cyrenius as governing Syria (Luke 2:1-3)

3.Signs connected with Hebrew Temple:

The duty of Zachariah the High Priest


The Astronomical Signs

 The Astronomical Signs are cumulative for the date of 1 Tishri, 3 BC which is Septmber 11,3 BC in the Julian Calender.  This will explain the sign that the magi saw which gave them the certainity that the King of the Jews was born on that day.

 Jupitor represents the Kindom of the Nations -.  Jupiter   was the god of the sky and thunder and king of the gods in Ancient Roman religion and mythology. Jupiter was the chief deity of Roman state religion throughout the Republican and Imperial eras.  The consuls swore their oath of office in Jupiter's name, and honoured him on the annual feriae of the Capitol in September.

Regulus was known as “the King.” The Romans referred to it as “Rex,” which means “King” in Latin. In Arabia the star was known as the “Kingly One.” The Greeks called it the “King Star.” Of all the stars in the heavens, Regulus was universally associated by the ancient astrologers with the attributes of greatness and power.  In biblical symbolism, Regulus is the Star of the Messiah.. It is located practically on the ecliptic (the path which the Sun takes in traversing the heavens). It was thought that this position made it of special importance to the Sun. According to astrologers the Sun ruled the heavens. Thus, the major star closest to the ecliptic of the “ruling” Sun was Regulus. This close relationship to the Sun made Regulus a “royal star- the Son of the Sun, ” the one most associated with the conception or birth of kings. It was the star denoting rulership. 


l From sunset of September 10, 3 B.C (beginning of Hebrew day of 11th). through September 11, 3 B.C. Jupiter and Regulus could be seen approaching conjunction before dawn. Jupiter (the King planet), which had just united with Venus (the Mother) on August 12, 3 B.C.E., now joining itself with the King star Regulus (the star of the Jewish Messiah) in the zodiacal sign of Leo (the constellation of Judah),


Genesis 49:10  The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff (Regulus) from between his (Leo the lion’s) feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his. 


l Exactly one month before (on August 12) the world witnessed the close conjunction of Jupiter (reckoned astrologically as the Father) and Venus (the Mother).  On August 31, Venus came to within .36 degrees of Mercury

l On September 11th, the New Moon occurred which represented the Jewish New Year. This happened when Jupiter (the King planet) was then approaching Regulus (the King star).

l On September 14, Jupiter and Regulus came to their first of three conjunctions in this extraordinary year.

l Then, over an eight month period, Jupiter made its “crowning effect” over the King star Regulus.

”There could hardly have been a better astronomical testimony to the birth of the new messianic king from the Jewish point of view.


“Why? Because every one of these celestial occurrences I have mentioned happened with the Sun or planets being positioned within the constellation of Leo the Lion (the constellation of Judah — from whence the Messiah was destined to emerge) or in Virgo the Virgin.
The apostle John may have seen importance in these extraordinary occurrences when he symbolically showed that Jesus was born at the New Moon of Tishri, the Day of Trumpets (Revelation 12:1–3).”



 Other calculation yielded slightly different results:

 l E W Bullinger, who wrote seventy years earlier, believed Christ was born on September 29, 4 BC.

l  Jesus was born Near the end of Rosh Ha-Shana = the Feast of Trumpets  on August 30 in 2 BC at 5:30 PM


 The problem in this treatment is the validity of the assumption that this passage refers to the birth of Jesus. In the beginning of the book we are specifically told that:

 Rev 1:1 The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John


So the whole book of Revelation is concerning the period after the Patmos revelation and does not refer to the birth of Jesus or to the past history. The portion cannot be a bible code for the date of birth of Jesus. The remaining portion of Rev. 12 does not show any reasonable connection with the assumption. In other words this is a typical example of a text taken out of context. Revelation being a book which permits varying interpretations, this is not surprising. It a situation where the text is taken out of the context.



Analysis based on the Lord's Festivals and Implications of what they mean.

The Jewish Months and their Special Dates



 If we look at the Holidays of Hebrew, any of the days could be an explanation why Jesus could be born on that day





During leap year, the Adar holidays are postponed to Second Adar.

 We can always find an explanation why Jesus was born on any day of the festival.

a. Argument Based on Jewish expectation of arrival of Elijah. (Jesus was born on the day of Passover which is on Nissan (March-April)



The Jews always put an extra empty chair at the table and an extra cup of wine on the table during the Pesach meal. They also left the front door open during the Passover Seder in the hope that Elijah will come and join the meal heralding the coming of messiah. . Jesus identified John the Baptist as Elijah who was to come. Hence it can be assumed that he was born on Pesach.




"If John the Baptist was born at Pesach, Jesus must have been born during the High Holy Days or at Succoth (40 weeks later). In Luke 1:26 and 36 we are told that Jesus was six months younger than John."


 b. Argument Based on Emmanuel:  Jesus was born on Succoth (September /October)

"We are given a possible clue about the time of the birth by the angel who appeared to the shepherds. He said, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people" (Luke 2:10). There are actually two clues here. Succoth is a festival of joy, and it is also known as the "Festival of the Nations". The angel was actually giving them a greeting for the Festival of Succoth. This is the only festival where the nations are positively encouraged to participate (Zechariah 14:16-19). "


 "The birth of Yeshua at Succoth fulfils another prophecy: "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Emmanuel - which means, "God with us". (Matt. 1:23, a quotation from Isaiah 7:14)."



 John in his gospel mentions the idea of the Word coming to earth in a fleshly tabernacle.

 John 1:14 The Word became flesh and Tabernacle among us.



If the day of his birth were the first day of Succoth, the day of his circumcision would be the eighth day of Succoth, which, like the first day, is a day of sacred assembly.


 (Leviticus 23:39). On this day, or traditionally the day after, the Jews complete their annual cycle of Torah readings and start again from Bereshit (Genesis). It is called Simchat Torah (Rejoicing of the Law), and is considered to be a time of "fulfillment" of the Torah. The circumcision of Jesus at this time indicates how he had come to fulfill the Law and the Prophets (Matt. 5:17-18).

  "Starting from Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, and his first period of duty in the Temple, and doing a few simple calculations, we arrive at a result that gives a new and profound meaning to many passages of Scripture." - Excerpts from article, Birth of Yeshua, by Mike Gascoigne





For that reason, Yeshua is very likely to have been born at Succoth.


Lightfoot (Horæ Hebr, et Talm., II, 32), argues for a relation between Passover and Pentecost to Easter and Whitsuntide, connecting the Nativity with the feast of Tabernacles. He argues from Old Testament prophecy, e.g. Zacharias 14:16 -; combining, too, the fact of Christ's death in Nisan with Daniel's prophecy of a three and one-half years' ministry (9:27), he puts the birth in Tisri, i.e. September. – (The Catholic Encyclopedia)


 All arguments based on typology can at most justify a valid conclusion arrived otherwise. But it will be a mistake to build a conclusion on the basis of typological arguments alone.

 Chuck Misler argues vehemently on the Tishri date based on the typology. (Uri Marcus, Messiahmas? On the Birth Date of Jesus of Nazareth, (


 "However, there are many Messianic Believers who, from a Jewish perspective, are convinced that the time of year when Yeshua was really born was at the Succoth (the Feast of Tabernacles). Taking into account certain Jewish customs and traditions, and applying them to the biblical birth narrative, it's not difficult to calculate and arrive at this season, known as "the season of our Joy."

 After entering the Succah, and reciting certain prayers, the ceremony of Ushpizin bids us to partake in the privilege of inviting and welcoming the "Sh'kinah" (God's Presence) and the seven "faithful shepherds" who enter the succah with us as exalted guests. These guests come to observe how their descendants FULFILL the mitzvah (commandment) of the Succah, in which they dwell under God's protection, in accordance with what God had promised in the Torah. These seven faithful shepherds of Israel are: Avraham, Yitzchak, Ya'acov, Yosef, Moshe, Aharon, and Melech (King) David. Back in the Luke narrative, though the text does not specify "seven" shepherds who went to visit Meriam, there seems to be a hint, when one reads between the lines. Moreover, the purpose of their visit is recorded to be very similar with that of the Ushpizin, in which the text states that it was to "see this thing that had happened, which the Lord has told us about." (Luke 2:15).


 Likewise, during Succoth, Jewish families today in Israel construct a temporary tent called a "Succah", made of loosely assembled walls and a leafy overhead covering. In the Succah, they eat and sleep for seven days. This is a reminder that they were completely dependent on God as they wandered for forty years in the desert after departing from Egypt and were led by "a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night." Because of this experience, they recall and say "God is with us" (Emmanu-El).


 In this same narrative in Luke 2 regarding the Shepherds to whom an angel of the Lord appears, note that the text says that they were "watching over their flocks at night." The angel brings them a message that their Messiah was born in the town of David, during that day which had just passed to night. This message was accompanied by the appearance of a great heavenly host, praising God. When we consider the seasons in Israel, and the weather patterns, one might ask

 "What is the latest time of year in which shepherds would still be outside with their flocks in the Judean hills, at night?" November through February are far to cold in Israel to be doing this kind of activity. The answer of course points to the end of October, at the latest, for temperature reasons alone. Depending on the Hebrew calendar in any given year, as mentioned above, Succoth always falls in the September-October time frame, when the weather is still warm and pleasant outside, especially at night. For these reasons,  Yeshua is very likely was born at Succoth.

 Yeshua's birth was the first day of Succoth, and then the day of his circumcision would be the eighth day after Succoth which, in accordance with Torah is also the day of sacred assembly. ([Leviticus] 23:39). On this day, called "Shemini Atzeret," or "the Eighth day of Solemn Assembly" and later called "Simchat Torah" or "Rejoicing in Torah," we complete our annual cycle of Torah readings and start again from Genesis. It is considered to be a time of "fulfillment" of the Torah and also a new beginning for it, in our lives, since Torah is never abandoned. This indeed would seem to be a fitting holiday for Yeshua's circumcision and dedication before God, since He came to set the Torah on a firm foundation by correctly interpreting it and fulfilling it (i.e., becoming the goal to which the Law and the Prophets pointed), thereby making a way to renew the Torah in our lives. (Matt. 5:17-19). "


 Actually the birth of Jesus was near the feast of Hanukah when the Jewish nation celebrated the freedom through Maccabee revolution. It is a festival of Lights. Maccabee revolution was the typical messianic expectation, which failed to last. Jesus was asserting that true freedom is not political freedom but spiritual freedom. All through his ministry Jesus combated against this misplaced messianic notion and it was this that brought him to the cross. But such typological explanations are not valid reasons for the establishing an objective reality. The fact is that we could find a typological explanation for any of the dates.




 l Tishri 1 is the seventh month of the Jewish religious year and the first month of the civil year which was introduced later.

l Tishri 1 is the creation of the world.  So it is also the start of the recreation of the world

l It is the most significant month of festivities in Hebrew tradition - The Tabernacle




ARGUMENTS FOR TISHRI - the date of beginnings:

First Adam was created on Tishri 6.  Was the second Adam born on that day?



Noah became 600 years of age “in the first month [Tishri], the first day of the month [later to be called the Day of Trumpets]” (Genesis 8:13). So Noah was born on tishri 1.

The ark came to rest after the flesh on the seventh month Tishri also.

That was the very day when “Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and, behold, the face of the ground was dry” (v. 13). This was not only Noah’s official birthday, it became a new birth after the Flood for the earth as well.  


Ezra brought the book of the law and read it before the assembly on the first day of the seventh month. (Ezra 3:1-6)



A Sukkot context to the story also accounts for the angelic greetings of “Hosanna in the highest”—a pilgrimage-festival salutation connected with the recitation of the Hallel at Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot (

This season is a warm season and thus historically it is the best time for taking census and travelling



 Another method calculates backward from the date of Crucifixion.



 Luke 3:23 Now Yeshua himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph, the son of Heli.

 This Scripture indicates that Yeshua started his ministry when he became 30 years of age. Bible scholars indicate He continued this ministry for a period of 3 1/2 years. Since we know the exact date of his death, Passover, we only have to go back 1/2 year (6 months) to discover his birthday. Using the calendar provided above, we can see that if Yeshua died in the month of Nisan, then 6 months prior to that would be the month of Tishri.

Conclusion #1: Yeshua was born during the month Tishri.

 (From Internet article: "The Messiah's date of birth", Hilke Dokter )

The problem here is that nowhere in the Bible the exact period of ministry is stated as 3 and half years. We are not sure of this at all.


Arguments for other dates.

 There are found in ancient documents many dates given for the birth of Christ, some are more probable than others.

For instance: The Catholic Encyclopedia states:

 "Others reached the date of 24 or 25 Pharmuthi (19 or 20 April). With Clement's evidence may be mentioned the "De paschæ computus", written in 243 AD and falsely ascribed to Cyprian (P.L., IV, 963 sqq.), which places Christ's birth on 28 March, because on that day the material sun was created.


 But Lupi has shown that there is no month in the year to which respectable authorities have not assigned Christ's birth (Zaccaria, Dissertazioni ecc. del p. A.M. Lupi, Faenza, 1785, p. 219).

 Clement, however, also tells us that the Basilidians celebrated the Epiphany (Incarnation day), and with it, probably, the Nativity, on 15 or 11 Tybi (10 or 6 January). At any rate this double commemoration became popular, partly because the apparition to the shepherds was considered as one manifestation of Christ's glory, and was added to the greater manifestations celebrated on 6 January.



 Luke the historian starts the gospel narrative itself with the story of the birth of John the Baprist and connects this with the birth of Jesus. As a historian writing to a Roman nobleman who was contemperory with the events Luke is the most reliable person in historical matters. This is how Luke starts the gospel itself emphasizing this fact.


 “Dear Theophilus: Many people have done their best to write a report of the things that have taken place among us. They wrote what we have been told by those who saw these things from the beginning and who proclaimed the message. And so, Your Excellency, because I have carefully studied all these matters from their beginning, I thought it would be good to write an orderly account for you. “ (Luk 1:1-3)


 Relying on this assertion, this calculation is based on the temple service of Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist. According to Luke 1:5 he was a priest of the order of Abijah. He was performing his duties, burning incense in the Temple, when an angel told him that his wife Elizabeth will conceive a child who should be called John. Considering this as 0, Elizabeth conceived John after the termination of Zechariah’s duty anytime during the next seven days. Here we have an error of +/-7 days. Mary was told that she would conceive Jesus on the sixth month. This is usually taken to mean that “sixth month after Elizabeth conceived John. Though the text itself could mean as the sixth month of the year, Greek grammar contex can permit this interpretation.


Thus if we can identify the end of the service of Zechariah’s temple service we could identify

Annunciation of Mary took place after 150 days John’s Birth took place after 280 days Jesus’ birth took place after 430 days.


 Thus the birth of Jesus would be soon after (430-360/365) = 70/65 days of the final day of Succoth, Hoshana Raba (Rosh Hoshana) – the next year. We should also allow a week or two for Zechariah to travel back to his village home and for Elizabeth to conceive. The uncertain number of days in the Hebrew year should also be taken into account.


 1. Zechariah belonged to the Levitical division of Abijah.

Luke 1:5 In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron


 2. We can try to locate the time when Zechariah served as Priest in the temple from this.

David divided the levites into 24 divisions to serve at the temple. They served in order and in cycles,

I Chronicles 24:1- tells us that the family of Abhijah was allotted the eighth course


3. There were 24 courses in all.

 Deuteronomy 16:16 Three times a year all your men must appear before the Lord your God at the place he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Tabernacles

 Talmud also confirms this.

" Three times in the year all the twenty-four orders of priests were alike entitled to share the pieces of offerings of the festival, and in the shewbread; and on the Feast of Pentecost the distributors say to each priest: "Here is leavened bread for thee, and here is unleavened bread for thee." The order of priests whose regular time of service occurs in the festivals offer the continual daily offerings, vows, and voluntary offerings, and all congregational offerings, and every sacrifice." (Tract Succah (Booths), Bablyonian Talmud, Book 4: Tracts Pesachim, Yomah and Hagiga, tr. by Michael L. Rodkinson, [1918], at, Chapter V, Volume VII.)


 Thus three times a year during the festival all the adult were to assemble in Jerusalem before either temple, all these 24 priestly families were to work together


 4. We know that the period of service of each course was from the Sabbath to Sabbath with a duty of seven days. During end of Sabbath (Friday evening) they have to take charge and continue until the end of next Sabbath (Saturday evening . Though only one person could enter the Holy of Holies all brothers in the family served. This person was taken by lots.

 I Chronicles 9:25 Their brothers in their villages had to come from time to time and share their duties for seven-day periods.

1 Chronicles 23:1-8 –those who were going on duty on the Sabbath and those who were going off duty

 So, the week of service began and ended on the Sabbath.


 5. According to the Mishnah (also note I Chronicles 27:3), the cycle begins on the first Sabbat (Sabbath) of Nisan,

 The eighth course would therefore serve the first time during the tenth week having allowed for the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Feast of Weeks, which both occur during the first weeks of the year. Otherwise Zechariah must have served on the ( 24 first complete cycle +3 festivals+8 =) 35th week of the year.

We know from Mishna that when the Temples were destroyed on the ninth of Ab the course of Jehoiarib was on duty.


“On the ninth of Ab . . . the Temple was destroyed the first and second time.” (Mishna, Ta'anith 4:6; BT, Ta'anith 26b, quoted Kenneth F. Doig, New Testament Chronology).

 “Good things come to pass on an auspicious day, and bad things on an unlucky day. It is reported that the day on which the First Temple was destroyed was the eve of the ninth of Ab, a Sunday, and in the year following the Sabbatical year, and the Mishmar of the family of Jehoiarib were on duty and the Levites were chanting the Psalms standing on their Duchan (platform)...And hardly had they time to say, `The Lord our God will cut them off,' when the heathens came and captured them. The same thing too happened in the Second Temple." (Ta'anith 29a)


 "It is said, The day on which the first Temple was destroyed was the ninth of Ab, and it was at the going out of the Sabbath, and the end of the seventh [Sabbatical] year. The [priestly] guard was that of Jehoiarib, the priests and Levites were standing on their platform singing the song...They had no time to complete `The Lord our God will cut them off,' before the enemies came and overwhelmed them. The same happened the second time." (Arakin 11b) quoted Kenneth F. Doig, New Testament Chronology.


We can easily calculate backwards to the weeks when the courses of Abijah was in temple service starting from 70 A.D week of August 4 to August 11 by the course of Jehoiarib.


 In 1 Chronicles 24:7-19 we see that God specifically established (by lots) the divisions of the priests.

“Now the first lot came forth to Jehoiarib, the second to Jedaiah,
The third to Harim, the fourth to Seorim,
The fifth to Malchijah, the sixth to Mijamin,
The seventh to Hakkoz, the eighth to Abijah,
The ninth to Jeshuah, the tenth to Shecaniah,
The eleventh to Eliashib, the twelfth to Jakim,
The thirteenth to Huppah, the fourteenth to Jeshebeab,
The fifteenth to Bilgah, the sixteenth to Immer,
The seventeenth to Hezir, the eighteenth to Aphses,
The nineteenth to Pethahiah, the twentieth to Jehezekel,
The one and twentieth to Jachin, the two and twentieth to Gamul,
The three and twentieth to Delaiah, the four and twentieth to Maaziah.
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.”


Abijiah, a priest, was the head of a priestly family from whom King David consequently divided the priests into 24 distinct classes. Each course of priests served in the temple twice a year.
Abia (Abijiah) was of the 8th order. Zachariah was therefore required to serve in the temple on 8th week of the biblical year and the 32nd week of the biblical year.

All priests were also required to serve at the feast days of Passover, Pentecost and the fall feasts.

So here are the possible dates on which Zechariah could have served before the altar.

1. Week 3 Feast of the Passover /Unleavened Bread

2. Week 9 Pentecost (15+50=65 days after Nissan 14)

3. Week 10 Abijah on duty

4. Week 29 Tishri : festival of booths - Sukoth

5. Week 35  Abijah on duty

Week 3, Week 9 and Week 29 all 24 courses come into service and the specific services are also chosen by lot

Week 10 and Week 35 are done by Abijah course alone.

Proposed Correspondence of the 24 Priestly courses over an year and the months when Jesus could have been born on the basis of Zachariah’s possible service as High Priest/




1. Jehoiarib

2. Jedaiah

3RD WEEK PASSOVER > Possible birth of Jesus in Tammuz/ June/July

4. Harim

5. Seorim

6. Malchijah

7. Mijamin

8. Hakkoz

9TH WEEK PENTECOST> Possible birth of Jesus in Elul / Tishri  Sept/Oct

(Feast of Booths)

10. Abijah >>>Possible birth of Jesus in Elul/Tishri (Feast of Booths) Sept/Oct

11. Jeshua

12. Shecaniah

13. Eliashib

14. Jakim

15. Huppah

16. Jeshebeab

17. Bilgah

18. Immer

19. Hezir

20. Aphses

21. Pethahiah

24. Jehezekel

22. Jachin

25. Gamul

26. Delaiah

27. Maaziah

28. Jehoiarib

29. Jedaiah

FEAST OF WEEKS>>> Possible birth of Jesus in Tevet>>Dec/Jan


30. Seorim

31. Malchijah

32. Mijamin

33. Hakkoz

34. Abijah >>>Possible birth of Jesus in Adar>>>Feb/Mar >>>(Purim)

35. Jeshua

36. Shecaniah

37. Eliashib

38. Jakim

39. Huppah

40. Jeshebeab

41. Bilgah

42. Immer

43. Hezir

44. Aphses

45. Pethahiah

46. Jehezekel

47. Jachin

48. Gamul

49. Delaiah

50. Maaziah


These are the possible dates conception and of birth of Jesus based on all possible duty of the Abijah priests.


 Orthodox Churches assumes that the vision took place at the day of Atonement on the 29th week when Zachariah entered the Holy of Holies as the High Priest of the year..  The problem here is that the list of the HIgh Priests of the period do not indicate that Zachariah was the High Priest of the period. But it could be in any other days of the week of the feast of weeks as well as Priest selected by lots to serve at the incense table.  




Was Zechariah, the Father of John the Baptist, a High Priest






The High Priesthood of Zechariah
is Vital to the Liturgical Calendar of the Church


By St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite


That Zechariah was a High Priest is confirmed for us by Chrysostom, Augustine, Ambrose, Theophylact and Theodoret. Holy Scripture also testifies to this, where it says that no one else was to be in the Tabernacle when the High Priest was making atonement:


"No one is to be in the Tabernacle from the time Aaron goes in to make atonement in the Holy of Holies until he comes out, having made atonement for himself, his household and the whole community of Israel" (Lev. 16:17).


This is in agreement with what the Evangelist Luke writes about Zechariah: "And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the time of incense" (Lk. 1:10). The divine Chrysostom uses this verse from Scripture to show that Zechariah was a High Priest, and that when he entered into the Holy of Holies, it was the Day of Atonement which took place in the seventh month, namely September. Theodoret also testifies to this: "The altar of incense was located outside the curtain. If it had been inside, he would not have been ordered to take the coals in a censor and toss the incense once inside the curtain" (Quest. 22 on Leviticus). This was taught to us also by the blessed Luke, in his narration on Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist. At that time (namely the Day of Atonement which was in the seventh month, or September), he entered the Holy of Holies, and had a vision of an angel.


The entire Church of Christ also has this same mindset, that Zechariah was a High Priest, and in September, on the Day of Atonement, he received the annunciation. For this reason on the 23rd of September we celebrate the Conception of his son the Forerunner. From this follows the celebration of the Birth of the same Forerunner on the 24th of June, that is, after the completion of nine whole months. The Conception of the Forerunner is followed by the celebration of the conception of God the Word on the 25th of March, which took place six months after the conception of the Forerunner, when the Theotokos received the Annunciation. From the conception of God the Word follows the celebration of His Birth on the 25th of December. From the Birth of God the Word follows the celebration of the Reception forty days later [2nd of February]. Therefore if we concede that Zechariah was not a High Priest, and he did not receive the annunciation in the seventh month, we derail the above order of the Despotic Feasts, and the entire cycle is muddled. For all of the above feasts have a basis and foundation on the fact that the conception of the Forerunner took place in the seventh month.


Some bring forward the question, why does the Evangelist Luke call Zechariah a Priest and not a High Priest? We reply that the word Priest has a wide meaning that includes High Priest. The High Priest Aaron was called a Levite Priest: "Then he [the leper] shall be brought unto Aaron the Priest" (Lev. 13:2). And when David prophesied about the High Priest Christ, he calls Him a Priest: "You are a Priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek" (Ps. 109/110:4). Paul also calls Christ a Priest, saying: "And what we have said is even more clear if another Priest like Melchizedek appears" (Heb. 7:15). And in Numbers, one can see that the High Priest Aaron is called Priest in many places. Moreover, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom, in their writings on the Priesthood, while writing on the Priesthood, refer in actuality to the Archpriesthood [Bishops].


Some have also wondered, if Gabriel appeared to the right of the altar of incense where he made the announcement to Zechariah, and this altar was outside the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle, then Zechariah did not enter the Holy of Holies. To this we respond, that it is not impossible to reconcile the two. Zechariah as a High Priest entered the Holy of Holies to offer incense in a golden censor. Either while he was entering, or after he came out, Gabriel appeared to him outside to the right of the altar of incense.


As for those who say that no High Priest named Zechariah appears in the Jewish lists of High Priests, there is no strength to this argument. For the Jews were very much oppressed, and during the reign of Titus, the lists of their High Priests and the genealogies of their race were destroyed.






A list of the High Priest's Genealogy is found in First Chronicles 6. From Solomon to the exile there were 17 high priests according to Josephus  (or, 19 according to another source.)

Herodian-Roman period

High Priests appointed by

Herod the Great

·  Ananelus, 37-36 BC

·  Aristobulus III, grandson of Aristobulus II and Hyrcanus II, 36 BC
He was the last of the Hasmoneans; brother of Herod's second wife Mariamne I.

·  Ananelus (restored), 36-30 BC

·  Joshua ben Fabus, 30-23 BC

·  Simon ben Boethus, 23-5 BC (his daughter Mariamne II was third wife of Herod the Great)

·  Matthias ben Theophilus, 5-4 BC

·  Joazar ben Boethus, 4 BC

Appointed by Archelaus
Ethnarch of Judea, Samaria, Edom

·  Eleazar ben Boethus, 4-3 BC

·  Joshua ben Sie, 3 BC - ?

·  Joazar ben Boethus (restored), ? - 6 AD

·  Ananus ben Seth, 6-15


None of the available list gives Zachariah as a High Priest


Here is the stand of the Orthodox Churches around the world in this matter as expounded by Draganac Monastery.


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Was Zechariah, the Father of John the Baptist, a High Priest?


By John Sanidopoulos


According to the entire tradition of the Church, Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, was the High Priest who entered the Temple in Jerusalem on the Day of Atonement in September and received a revelation from an Angel of the Lord.


St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite informs us that it is for this reason that the Church celebrates the conception of John the Baptist on September 23rd and his birth on June 24th,

nine months after the conception. Since the Gospel of Luke tells us that

Jesus was conceived six months after John was conceived, the Church celebrates the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary on March 25th and the Birth of Christ nine months later on December 25th.


 Forty days later, on February 2nd, Jesus was presented to the Temple. Hence, according to St. Nikodemos, the immovable liturgical calendar of Despotic Feasts of the Orthodox Church revolves around the fact that Zechariah was the High Priest who entered the Temple on the Day of Atonement in September and received a revelation from an Angel of the Lord.

That Zechariah was a High Priest is testified to us not only by the early Protoevangelium of James, but also by many Church Fathers and writers, such as:
Origen of Alexandria (184 - 253 AD),
John Chrysostom (Archbishop of Constantinople c. 349 –407),
Augustine of Hippo  (354 –430 AD) was a Roman African, early Christian theologian) , Ambrose(Aurelius Ambrosius c. 340–397,  Archbishop of Milan) ,
Theodoret of Cyrus or Cyrrhus (c. AD 393 – c. 458/466 of the School of Antioch),
Dionysius the Areopagite(judge at the Areopagus Court in Athens, who lived in the first century. ),
Venerable Bede (672-735.) and
Theophylact  ( 1055–after 1107) was a Byzantine archbishop of Ohrid)  
 among others, not to mention the hymnography, iconography and entire tradition of the Church.

What took place annually on the Day of Atonement is described in Leviticus 16, while the Gospel of Luke only describes the parts mentioned in Leviticus 16:12, 13, and 17. According to Chrysostom, the fact that December 25th was chosen as the day for the Lord's Nativity to be celebrated was an ancient custom even for his time in the West and received by the East around the year 376, at which time it spread rapidly throughout the Church. Chrysostom says this date could be observed in the Roman archives from the time of the census of Emperor Augustus, which survived up until that time. If this is true, and Chrysostom is convinced it is, then it gives more reasons to believe that the conception of John occurred in late September during the time of Atonement. Also, Chrysostom states that Zechariah was High Priest based on the fact that he was in the Temple alone burning incense while the people were praying outside, which only took place on the Day of Atonement, as testified in Hebrews 9:1-7.


The objection arises that Luke merely says Zechariah was a "Priest" and not a High Priest. Yet it was common for the High Priest to only be referred to as a Priest. For example, Aaron who was High Priest is referred to as being a Priest numerous times in Numbers and also in Leviticus: "...they must be brought to Aaron the priest or to one of his sons who is a priest" (Lev. 13:2). David prophecies of Christ the High Priest: "You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek" (Ps. 110:4). Even St. Paul calls Christ a Priest: "And what we have said is even more clear if another priest like Melchizedek appears" (Heb. 7:15). A few verses later Paul refers to Christ as "High Priest", indicating the interchangeability of the title. This is even carried down through the tradition of the Church, as we see in Gregory the Theologian's and John Chrysostom's writings on the Priesthood, where Priest is used in fact to describe the High Priest, or Bishop. Lastly, it is assumed by many that the Gospel of Luke was written to the High Priest Theophilus (37-41 A.D). If this is the case, that Luke refers to Zechariah as a Priest could merely mean a familiarity on the part of Theophilus as to who Zechariah truly was as well as his duties.


It is also argued that if the Archangel Gabriel appeared to the right of the Altar of Incense from where he proclaimed the good news to Zechariah, and this Altar was outside the Holy of Holies in the Holy Place, then Zechariah never entered the Holy of Holies as was customarily done on the Day of Atonement. However, both are true. It was part of the ritual for the Day of Atonement for the High Priest to cense within the Holy of Holies with a golden censer, and the vision of the Archangel Gabriel could very well have taken place after this censing was completed and he returned to the Holy Place where the Altar of Incense was located.


Another objection is that the Hebrew and Roman records do not mention Zechariah as being High Priest at this time, therefore there is no support to the assumption that Zechariah was High Priest. However, when we examine the list of High Priests under the Romans, when they were chosen annually according to Roman law, and perhaps by lot according to Jewish tradition, we know there is a gap between the High Priests from 3 B.C. to 6 A.D. when we cannot say for sure who served as High Priest during that time and for how long, keeping in mind also that Herod had killed High Priests and appointed his own. Similarly, we know Herod murdered thousands of innocent people, as Josephus mentions, and even though it is not mentioned that he killed the innocent children at the time of the birth of Jesus or Zechariah in the Temple for not divulging the whereabouts of his infant son John (Matt. 23:35), it is a safe assumption that he at least could have. Also, Josephus even mentions that during the High Priesthood of Matthias another High Priest was appointed for a day to celebrate the Day of Atonement, though his name is given as Joseph. This could indicate however the lack of information about the records of High Priests at this time and how they changed so frequently in the time of Herod. Besides, as St. Nikodemos mentions, under Emperor Titus the records of the Temple were destroyed, so any information we have from this time is scant or missing completely.


What about the fact that Zechariah was said to be a Priest in the division of Abijah (a descendent of Eleazar, the son of Aaron) and chosen by lot to burn incense in his appointed order, which according to II Chronicles was usually a service performed twice a year by Priests for a week at a time? This can be clarified by the fact that all this is indeed true, that Zechariah was indeed a Priest of the division of Abijah, but that he was chosen by lot could very well indicate that he was chosen by lot to be High Priest at some point in time, and that he was to burn incense is one of the primary duties for the Day of Atonement, which at this time could have been during his appointed order as a Priest, thus indicating the contextual reason as to why Zechariah is called a Priest by Luke.


It is important to note that Luke says that after performing his service and receiving the vision of the Angel, Zechariah exited the Holy Place to find the multitudes worried (1:21-23).


Consider one detail pertinent but lacking in this story: When the High Priest would offer incense in the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement, he would say a brief prayer before exiting. If the High Priest was to die inside, the other Priests on duty would have to retrieve his body without entering the Holy of Holies. Therefore, the prayer of the Priest needed to be brief, lest the people grow concerned about his predicament, since his body could not be retrieved from the Holy of Holies (unless they pulled him out by a rope attached to him) nor could they enter the Holy Place when the incense was offered. Two Jewish texts illustrate this:


Mishnah, Yoma 5.1: "He did not make the prayer long so as to frighten Israel."


Jerusalem Talmud, Yoma 42c (regarding an incident that happened to a High Priest, Shim'on the Righteous who served as High Priest around 200 B.C.): "Once a certain high priest made a long prayer and [his fellow priests] decided to go in after him - they say this high priest was Shim'on the Righteous. They said to him: 'Why did you pray so long?' He said to them: 'I was praying that the temple of your God would not be destroyed.' They said to him: 'Even so, you should not have prayed so long.'"


So, when Zechariah exited the Holy of Holies and the Holy Place in late fashion, the people waiting outside would have naturally been worried. When the Angel of God appeared before Zechariah while he was offering the incense, he was troubled when [Zechariah] saw [Gabriel], and fear fell upon [Zechariah] (1:12). This was a natural reaction from Zechariah, as any activity out of the ordinary in the Holy of Holies and the Holy Place may have spelled death for the High Priest. But the Angel assured him to not be afraid, and that his prayer [according to Chrysostom, this prayer was for the remission of the sins of the people] had been answered (1:13) [it was answered with the birth of John who would be the prophet of the Messiah]. Luke does not say that Zechariah prayed. It is assumed by Luke that his reader, Theophilus, who was probably a High Priest, would have understood the procedure.


Lastly, there are three ancient accounts of divine visions that took place in the Temple of Jerusalem, and a close reading of all three show a common narrative (Ant. 11:326-328, Ant. 13:282-283, and Luke 1:5-23). The first two were written by Josephus in his Antiquities that refer to Jaddus the High Priest and Hyrcanus the High Priest, while the last refers to the story of Zechariah by Luke the Evangelist. There are sufficient differences between these three narratives to conclude that Luke is not directly dependent upon Josephus or vice-versa. Yet there are haunting similarities which suggest the possibility that both Josephus and the author of Luke-Acts may have known and used a common High Priestly narrative tradition. Among the similarities is that all three took place in the Temple after a sacrifice of some sort and bore a message of salvation for the people. In his excellent work on Hellenistic apologetic historiography Gregory Sterling observes the common intellectual heritage shared by Josephus and the author of Luke-Acts as Hellenistic Jewish apologists for their respective communities, Jewish and Christian. Now if this is true, then it would be safe to assume that since the other visions in the Temple were given to High Priests, why should not Zechariah be a High Priest as well.


Posted by John Sanidopoulos at 1:41:00 PM  73  68  




The Ritual of the Offering.

 On  the Day of Atonement. theHigh priest entered the Holy of Holies, carrying in his right hand the pan for the incense, filled with live coals, and in his left hand a spoon like vessel, called "kaf," containing the incense. After placing both of these utensils on the floor, the high priest took the incense from the kaf with the hollow of his hand, not with his fingers, and heaped it upon the pan containing the coals.  (Lev. xvi. 12; comp. Yoma i. 5, 47b).


On all other days one the levitical priests selected by lots from the 24 courses did the incense burning on the table which is placed in the Holy place.

  According to the description in I Kings vi. 20-22, vii. 48, the altar in the Temple consisted of a table of cedar-wood overlaid with gold. It stood in the sanctuary, near the entrance to the Holy of Holies. The fact that in the Epistle to the Hebrews (Heb. ix. 4) this altar was included in the Holy of Holies shows how sacred it was considered to be.


According to the Talmud (Tamid iii. 6, vi. 1-3), the ceremony was as follows:
After completing the preparations for the morning's burnt offering, such as the cleaning of the altar, etc., two priests removed the ashes from the altar of burnt offering and the lamps; then the sacrificial animals were killed; lots were drawn to decide which priest should offer the incense; and then followed the preparations for the sacrifice. A priest took live coals from the altar of burnt offering in a silver brazier ("maḥtah") and placed them on the incensealtar. The officiating priest then entered the sanctuary, carrying the incense in a jar ("bazak"), which he held over a shallow spoon-shaped utensil (kaf) to prevent any grains from dropping on the floor from the heaped jar; and when the command "burn the incense" issued from the chamber of the priests he spread upon the coals the incense in the jar. An assisting priest held the spoon; he was also to pour into the hollow hand of the officiant any grains that might drop into the spoon. Both priests then left the sanctuary. It is expressly stated that none of the other priests was to be present, and that no other person might be in the sanctuary. After the incense had been consumed the pieces of the tamid were placed on the altar of burnt offering.




These are the possible dates conception and of birth of Jesus based on all possible duty of the Abijah priests;  


This was the 24th week duty of that course that ran (June 13-19)of that year(Luke 1:8-9). If we omit here all three festivals because Luke refers to the time when Zachariah was serving the week for the Aaronic son group of Abija,  there are only two possible weeks 10th and 35th weeks

“In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron.  Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly.  But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years.  Once when Zechariah's division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen bylot, according to the custom of the priesthood.…” (Luke 1:5- 8) 

If we assume he served the seven days which ended on a Friday, he has to wait till the end of Saturday since he cannot travel more than one days journey back home.  So we should expect that he reached home four days later on June 24.  Elizabeth got pregnant on the same day.

 Luke 1:23-26 And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house.  And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying, “Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men. And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, and annunciation of mary takes place.
This will be around December 25 or sometime near about.


So "December Twenty-Fifth" is the date of the "Conception of Jesus”. In one sense, this is the day of incarnation when the word took flesh.  


From there adding 9 months to the fullness of gestation and delivery we will arrive arrive around September 29 when Jesus was born.  This is on the days of the festival of week when he emerged into human society, when God tabernacled among men - entered the society with the human body.  


 As I have mentioned later, there remains the issue of where did the angel meet Zachariah where other worshippers could not see him other than the Holy of Holies.  Even as a high priest, Zachariah could not enter into the Holy of Holies on any other day than on the day of Atonement on Tishri. Unless the angel met Zachariah in a side room as one of my colleagues humorously suggested.  But there is no preparation room for priests in the temple unlike our modern churches. Even if there was a parish elder could have ran in and advised him to come and bless the congregation before dispersing them. 

The problem here is that we have actually five choices. Which one is the right choice.  Left alone we will not be able to make any choice since all five are possible.  In all the five situations the Zachariah’s High Priestly status is as the member of the Abijah family.


However we are given more details to fix the date more exactly without going through all these calculations and leaving a number of choices and no hope for final choice. That choice is given in the description.  If we can find out when did the Angel confront Zachariah we have the right choice.  For that Luke gives details of where did the Angel meet Zachariah.


When and where was the vision of Zechariah?

Luke 1:8-11 Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside. Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense.


To understand this situation we need to understand the temple structure and the limits of entry for layleaders, priests and the high priest.


The jewish temple of Herod

The old temple built by Zerubbabel was replaced by a magnificent edifice under King Herod. An agreement was made between Herod and the Jewish religious authorities: the sacrificial rituals, called offerings, were to be continued unabated for the entire time of construction, and the Temple itself would be constructed by the priests.



Diagram of the Temple built by Herod the Great (73 to 4 BC).




According to the Talmud, the Women's Court was to the east and the main area of the Temple to the west.[20] The main area contained the butchering area for the sacrifices and the Outer Altar on which portions of most offerings were burned. An edifice contained the ulam (antechamber), the hekhal (the "sanctuary"), and the Holy of Holies. The sanctuary and the Holy of Holies were separated by a wall in the First Temple and by two curtains in the Second Temple. The sanctuary contained the seven branched candlestick, the table of showbread and the Incense Altar.

The Mishnah lists concentric circles of holiness surrounding the Temple:
Holy of Holies; Sanctuary; Vestibule; Court of the Priests; Court of the Israelites; Court of the Women; Temple Mount; the walled city of Jerusalem; all the walled cities of the Land of Israel; and the borders of the Land of Israel.

Ten Degrees of Holiness- Kedushah (Holiness) in Rabbinic Judaism

In fact, the view of the Mishnah is that there were ten degrees of holiness in ancient Judaism ( Mishnah Kelim 1:6-9).

Israel is more holy than any other land.
Walled cities within Israel are more holy than Israel itself.
Jerusalem is more holy than any other walled city.
The Temple Mount is more holy than Jerusalem.
The rampart upon which the Temple proper is built (separated from the Court of the Gentiles by the balustrade) is more holy than the Temple Mount.
The Court of Women is next in holiness.
The Court of the Israelites surpasses the Court of Women in holiness.
The Court of the Priests is more holy than the Court the Israelites.
The area between the Altar of Burnt Offering and the vestibule is holier than the Court of the Priests in general.
The Holy Place is still holier than the space.
Finally, the Holy of Holies is the most holy of all.
The temple, like that of Zerubbabel, had no ark. A stone was set in its place, on which the high priest placed the censer on the Day of Atonement.




 The Priesthood

The priesthood had a three-fold hierarchy with each order separate and distinct and with each having clearly defined duties. The high priest stood at the head of the hierarchy.


"The chief feature of his position was the conjunction in one person of a political and a priestly dignity. Not only was he the supreme officer in the filed of religion who alone had the right to perform certain cultic acts of the highest ritual significance, such as the offering of the sacrifice on the Day of Atonement; he was at the same time the political leader of the nation, the head of state,in so far, that is, as it was not under the domination of foreign overlords.    By law, he was obliged to do so only on the Day of Atonement, when he presented the great sin-offering of the nation to God (Lev. 16); according to later practice, he also offered the daily sacrifice  during the week preceding the Day of Atonement. Otherwise, he was completely free to sacrifice whenever he wished. According to Josephus, he did this as a rule every Sabbath day and on the feasts of New Moon and New Year.


Next to the high priest in rank were the priests. The main duties of the priests centered on the sacrifices (only priests could sacrifice) and the care of the vessels of the sanctuary (the candelabra, table of shewbread, and the altar of incense) which were in the Holy Place. Even within this order there was a hierarchy. The order of precedence went as follows.

First, was the Captain of the Temple who had supreme charge over the cultic actions of the Temple proper and who also was the chief of police on the Temple Mount.

Next, was the temple overseers (at least seven in all), who held the keys to the gates and supervised the physical arrangements of the Temple.

Finally, there were the three treasurers who administered the Temple income.

Worship in the Temple   

Public Worship   Public worship consisted of (1) the daily worship where the morning and evening burnt offering was performed, and (2) the yearly festivals of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles.

The Daily Worship.  The daily worship consisted of two public sacrificial offerings each known in the King James Bible as the burnt offering, often called the whole offering since the entire animal was consumed in flames.  These offerings were done both in the morning and the late afternoon.  The time between the morning and afternoon whole-offerings was used for private worship which will be discussed later. 

The rabbinical writings of the Mishnah describe the rite of the burnt offering as being performed in four parts with each part being determined by lot. 


The first lot was the clearing of the ashes from the Altar (Yoma 2:2; Tamid 1:4).  The ashes were cleared from the Altar “at cockcrow or close to it, either before or after it” but during “the Festivals at the first watch” for “before cockcrow time drew near the Forecourt was already filled with Israelites” (Yoma 1:8). Josephus tells us that the temple gates which were normally kept closed until morning were opened at midnight during festivals (The Antiquities of the Jews, 18.2.2). 

The second lot determined
 “who should slaughter [the burnt offering],
who should toss blood [on the altar], (and)
who should remove the ashes from the Inner Altar [the altar of Insence in the Holy Place], and
who should clear away the ashes from the Candlestick [also in the Holy Place], and
 who should take up the limbs [of the burnt offering] to the Altar-slope”
(Yoma 2:3; see also Tamid 3:1). 
The animal could not be slaughtered before dawn, therefore, the Captain of the Temple (sagan ha kohanim) said to one, “Go forth and see if the time has arrived for slaughtering.”  The priest went to a high point of the temple to see if the light of morning lit up the east “as far as Hebron” [which was due south of Jerusalem].  If so the animal could be slaughtered (Yoma 3:1; see also Tamid 3:2-7).  

The third lot determined who would offer the incense upon the altar of incense  (Yoma 2:4; Tamid 5:2-6:3). 

The fourth lot determined which priests would offer the burnt offering on the Altar (Yoma 2:5;  Tamid 4:3).   These being determined, the priests who drew the lots to go into the Holy Place to performed their functions.  The incense altar was cleared of the previous days ashes and new hot coals placed on the altar.  The candleabra was lit.   Then the priest who drawn lot to offer incense went in put the incese on the altar, which represented the prayers of the people (see Rev. 5:8).   Often, Israelites gathered in the courts around the temple and prayed while the incense burned.  The offering of the incense in the afternoon became known as "the hour of prayer" (Acts 3:1). 


After the incense was offered, "all the priests entered the sanctuary [the Holy Place], prostrated themselves, came out and stood upon the porch steps in order to bestow upon the people the priestly benediction" (Safrai, p. 889).  Then was burnt offering was offered on the Altar.  Levites, accompanied by musical instruments, sang sacred psalms.  "There was a prescribed chapter from the Psalms for each day of the week.  The daily psalm was divided into two or three parts; priests sounded the horn for each portion, and at each blast the people [Israelites who came to worship] prostrated themselves.  The end of the singing marked the conclusion of the morning [burnt-offering] ritual" (Safrai, p. 889).


No common Israelite may enter the Holy place which only the priests can enter, The priests themselves were prohibited from going beyond the veil into the holy of holies. The high priest alone can enter the holy of holiess and that with the blood of sacrifice.

This provides the background to Luke 1:5-23 where Zacharias, father of John the Baptist, was visited by an angel when officiating as a priest in the temple.\

In A.D. 70, on the evening of the anniversary of the destruction of the first temple, Herod’s temple was taken and destroyed by the army of Titus. A temple to Jupiter Capitolinus was erected on the site by Hadrian.


Temple services

Lev. 16: 34 “This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: Atonement is to be made once a year for all the sins of the Israelites.”

Heb.9:7 But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance
If Zachariah was the High Priest of the time

If the vision was inside the veil inside the Holy of Holies,
it can take place only on the Day of Atonement - Yom Kippur - Tishri 10.
 Tishri is the first month in the civil year calendar also.


The Horn blowing at the dawn of the Day of Atonement

The High Priest on the Day of Atonement wore white cloth and not the High Priestly dress

The top of the incense table with four horns

  According to the description in I Kings vi. 20-22, vii. 48, the altar in the Temple consisted of a table of cedar-wood overlaid with gold. It stood in the sanctuary, near the entrance to the Holy of Holies. The fact that in the Epistle to the Hebrews (Heb. ix. 4) this altar was included in the Holy of Holies shows how sacred it was considered to be. The High Priest after starting the incense pushed the altar inside the curtain to fill the Holy of Holies with smoke, before he enters it with blood.


The Incense ceremony on all other days are performed twice - one in the morning and the other in the afternoon in the following way by the selected Priest from the twenty four groups.


According to the Talmud (Tamid iii. 6, vi. 1-3), the ceremony was as follows:
After completing the preparations for the morning's burnt offering, such as the cleaning of the altar, etc., two priests removed the ashes from the altar of burnt offering and the lamps; then the sacrificial animals were killed; lots were drawn to decide which priest should offer the incense; and then followed the preparations for the sacrifice. A priest took live coals from the altar of burnt offering in a silver brazier ("maḥtah") and placed them on the incensealtar. The officiating priest then entered the sanctuary, carrying the incense in a jar ("bazak"), which he held over a shallow spoon-shaped utensil (kaf) to prevent any grains from dropping on the floor from the heaped jar; and when the command "burn the incense" issued from the chamber of the priests he spread upon the coals the incense in the jar. An assisting priest held the spoon; he was also to pour into the hollow hand of the officiant any grains that might drop into the spoon. Both priests then left the sanctuary. It is expressly stated that none of the other priests was to be present, and that no other person might be in the sanctuary . After the incense had been consumed the pieces of the tamid were placed on the altar of burnt offering.


The incensing priest and his assistants went first to the altar of burnt-offering, and filled a golden censer with incense, and placed burning coals from the altar in a golden bowl. As they passed into the court from the Holy Place they struck a large instrument called the Magrephah, which summoned all the ministers to their places. Ascending the steps to the holy place, the priests spread the coals on the golden altar, and arranged the incense, and the chief officiating priest was then left alone within the Holy Place to await the signal of the president to burn the incense. It was probably at this time that the angel appeared to Zacharias. When the signal was given, the whole multitude withdrew from the inner court, and fell down before the Lord. Silence pervaded the temple, while within, the clouds of incense rose up before Jehovah. (For a more detailed account see Edersheim, "The Temple, its Ministry," etc.).” The Temple--Its Ministry and Services  


Thus we see that any of the days in which Zachariah as a priest from the course of Abijah could render service at the incense table fit the description of Luke perfectly.  He does not have to be the High Priest. He has to be selected by lot procedure which I have indicated. Every day this ritual is done twice - morning and evening. It is done in the Holy place just before the curtain that seperates the Holy of Holies from Holy.


The priests that were not to share in the service of the day now removed their priestly garments and then, having delivered them to an attendant who placed them in the proper lockers, dressed themselves in their secular clothes and retired from the sanctuary to the open court.



As such this part of the description cannot give us an exact date of Christmas.  This we get from the date off annunciation of mary as I explain below.





Luke 1:26-33


On the sixth month God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, To a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, …. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, And he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.


If we note carefully  the statement is not in anyway referring to the sixth month of the pregnancy of Elizabeth even though it happens to be that also.  Here is the original statement of Luke in the original Greek.




Young's Literal Translation
And in the sixth month was the messenger Gabriel sent by God, to a city of Galilee, the name of which is Nazareth,


Most translators gives it correctly except a few as you can see below:


Holman Christian Standard Bible
In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth,
New American Standard Bible
Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth,
King James Bible
And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,

International Standard Version added what is not in the original
Now in the sixth month of her pregnancy, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth,
Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,
On the sixth month would then well be “on the sixth month of the civil year i.e. in the month of ‘Adar” which is also the “sixth month of pregnancy of Elizabeth.”


The Birth of Jesus must have been soon after 430 days from 22nd of Tishri. If we allow 20 days for discrepancies in the calendar adjustments and for Zachariah to get back home and for Elizabeth to conceive that will be a fair scenario. Thus adding 450 days we arrive at Teveth 3 which is exactly December 25th , if the year as we reckoned was indeed 6 BC. Whatever the year of birth was, the Hebrew month of Tevet always fell in December/January of the Gregorian calendar reckoning.


New Testament Chronology

(Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 1990)

Kenneth Frank Doig


Exact Dating of the Birth and Crucifixion of Jesus


In the New Testament the few events which can be dated are those that can be ascertained from the mention of the Jewish festivals. One probable exception is the dating given by Luke when he described the Annunciation:

"Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee, called Nazareth, to a virgin . . . and the virgin's name was Mary." (Luke 1:26-27) The Annunciation occurred in a sixth calendar month.


To establish the usefulness of this reference to the sixth month requires a two step examination. First, it is necessary to establish that Luke intended the "sixth month" as a reference to a calendar month. Second, which calendar system did Luke use?


I. The Sixth Calendar Month

It is clear from Scripture that the Annunciation occurred during the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy with John the Baptist. Such is the usual interpretation of the "sixth month." Elizabeth became pregnant after Zacharias served with the division of Abijah, and "she kept herself in seclusion for five months." (Luke 1:24) Then, "in the sixth month the angel Gabriel" visited Mary (Luke 1:26). After explaining that her child would be the Son of God, Gabriel said, "your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month." (Luke 1:36) Immediately after Gabriel left, "at this time Mary arose and went with haste to the hill country, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth, who said, `Blessed is the fruit of your womb!'" (Luke 1:39-40,42) "Mary stayed with her about three months, and then returned to her home." (Luke 1:56) After Mary left, "the time had come for Elizabeth to give birth, and she brought forth a son." (Luke 1:57) Mary visited Elizabeth from about month five and a half to month eight and a half of her pregnancy. The timing was as follows:



 A few points can be established from the forgoing sequence. The conception of Jesus happened almost immediately after Gabriel announced the event to Mary. Gabriel said that Elizabeth had "also conceived," thus saying Mary had already conceived. Also, she left immediately and hurried to greet Elizabeth, who blessed the fruit in Mary's womb, Jesus. Mary was already pregnant by the Holy Spirit.

Scriptural repetition is usually to emphasize strongly a point. However, what is the point of double noting that the Annunciation took place in the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy? It is possible to discern that fact even if it was not mentioned at the time of the Annunciation (Luke 1:26) and even if Gabriel did not repeat that note to Mary (Luke 1:36). That timing is found on Chart XIII with the noted five months in seclusion and the three months of Mary's visit after the fifth month and before the end of the ninth month. Why the additional two references?


One reason for noting the close relationship of the conception of John and Jesus is that by correctly aligning the beginning point with Zachariah's division of Abijah it is possible to establish the date of Jesus' conception. This will be described in the following chapter. Another would be the note that when Jesus was baptized He was about thirty years old (Luke 3:23). This would have been shortly after John the Baptist began his ministry; John was a Levite and would have likely become active when he became thirty. Is there another reason?


The note that the Annunciation took place in the sixth month is not repetitious, but redundant, if it was meant to refer to Elizabeth's sixth month of pregnancy. There is no spiritual message there, and the timing would be abundantly clear without that passage. The sixth month here must be something more than a reference to Elizabeth's condition. The "sixth month" can and should be interpreted as a reference to the sixth month of Luke's calendar.


II. The Syro-Macedonian Calendar

What calendar system would be used by Luke? Luke was a Greek from Antioch, and he wrote his gospel to Theophilus, another Greek in Antioch. The calendar system in use there was the Syro-Macedonian calendar, introduced by Alexander the Great over three centuries earlier. This calendar was the basis of the Seleucid Era, the standard for dating throughout the Middle East for many centuries. This calendar was likely that used by the Herods and other Eastern rulers for one method of dating their reigns. This Syro-Macedonian calendar is the expected reference by Luke. In this calendar system the new year began in the fall month of Dios, and the sixth month was Xanthikos.


Some suggest that Theophilus was a Roman rather than a Greek, and that Luke would have used Roman dating from January. This is based solely on the term of address that Luke used once in his opening to Theophilus, "most excellent." (Luke 1:3) This wording was also used when Lysias wrote to the Roman governor Felix and when Paul addressed Felix and the later Roman governor, Festus (Acts 23:26, 24:3, 26:25). It is then implied that this term of address was only applicable when speaking to a Roman, that Theophilus must be a Roman and that Luke must be using Roman dating. However, this ignores Theophilus' Greek name, Greek city of Antioch and Greek friend, Luke. Also, it has not been demonstrated that Luke addressed a Roman as "most excellent." He was only reporting the words of the Roman citizens Lysias and Paul when they addressed Romans. "Most excellent" was likely a term of official respect and not an ethnic term reserved for Romans. The use of Roman dating by Luke is not supported by any other Scriptural reference.


There is a high probability that the Annunciation in the sixth month is a reference to the sixth lunar month according to Luke's Syro-Macedonian calendar. In 5 BCE the sixth lunar month of Xanthikos was from March 10 to April 7. The middle of that month was about March 25, 5 BCE, the traditional date for the Annunciation. This was also the day of the Vernal Equinox.


The dates of the Vernal Equinox during this period occurred on March 22/23. See Jerusalem time is 2 hours and 13 minutes earlier.


III. Conclusion

If Luke was referring to the sixth calendar month, then that month would likely have been the sixth month of his Syro-Macedonian calendar. That month was Xanthikos, and the middle of that month in 5 BCE was March 25. This was also the first day of spring.

This is the first of three proofs leading to the same day. Next is a reappraisal of an old solution using the division of Abijah. Then it will seem no surprise that a nova appeared in the heavens on about March 25, 5 BCE, and remained visible for seventy days. This was the first Star of the Magi.



The Syro-Macedonian Calendar

1. Δίος (Dios, moon of October)

2. Ἀπελλαῖος (Apellaiios, moon of November, also a Dorian month - Apellaiōn was a Tenian month)

3. Αὐδυναῖος or Αὐδναῖος (Audunaios or Audnaios, moon of December, Cretan month also)

4. Περίτιος (Peritios, moon of January) (and festival of the month; Peritia)

5, Δύστρος (Dystros, moon of February)

6. Ξανδικός or Ξανθικός (Xandikos or Xanthikos, moon of March) (and festival of the month; Xanthika, purifying the army, Hesych.)

Ξανδικός Ἐμβόλιμος (Xandikos Embolimos, intercalated 6 times over a 19-year cycle)

7. Ἀρτεμίσιος or Ἀρταμίτιος (Artemisios or Artamitios, moon of April, also a Spartan, Rhodian and Epidaurian month - Artemisiōn was an Ionic month)

8. Δαίσιος (Daisios, moon of May)

9. Πάνημος or Πάναμος (Panēmos or Panamos, moon of June, also an Epidaurian, Miletian, Samian and Corinthian month)

10. Λώιος (Lōios, moon of July - Ὀμολώιος, Homolōios, was an Aetolian, Boeotian and Thessalian month)

11. Γορπιαῖος (Gorpiaios, moon of August)

12. Ὑπερβερεταῖος (Hyperberetaios, moon of September - Hyperberetos was a Cretan month)

Ὑπερβερεταῖος Ἑμβόλιμος (Hyperberetaios Embolimos, intercalated once over a 19-year cycle)



On the sixth month would then well be
“on the sixth month of the civil year i.e. in the month of ‘Adar”
which is also the “sixth month of pregnancy of Elizabeth.”

The Birth of Jesus must have been soon after 430 days from 22nd of Tishri. If we allow 20 days for discrepancies in the calendar adjustments and for Zachariah to get back home and for Elizabeth to conceive that will be a fair scenario. Thus adding 450 days we arrive at Teveth 3 which is exactly December 25th , if the year as we reckoned was indeed 6 BC. Whatever the year of birth was, the Hebrew month of Tevet always fell in December/January of the Gregorian calendar reckoning.

Sextus Julius Africanus (c. 160 – c. 240), a historian of the second century, maintained that Jesus of Nazareth was conceived on March 25, which the Christian Church came to celebrate as the Feast of the Annunciation. With the term of a pregnancy being nine months, Sextus Julius Africanus held that Jesus was born on December 25, which the Western Christian Church established as Christmas. Recorded in Sextus Julius Africanus's Chronographiai (AD 221), this thesis is corroborated by an interpretation of Gospel of Luke that places the appearance of Gabriel to Zechariah on the observance of Yom Kippur that occurs around October, as "the worshipers were praying outside of the Temple and not within" for "only the priest could enter the Temple at this time to conduct the proper rituals"; because Jesus was six months younger than his cousin John the Baptist, Jesus was conceived in March and born in late December. This was probably the oldest recording that dates the birth of Jesus exactly.

Thus the date of Christmas which we celebrate and given to us by tradition is indeed the correct Birthday of Jesus.


Chronology of Luke’s Presentation of the Birth of Jesus


Tishri (Ethanim) (30 days) (September/October)

10 Tishri: The Day of Atonement

Week 29:15-21 Succoth

Zachariah’s Vision Some time around Feast of weeks

Succoth (22nd – Feast of Conclusion :The Great Day)

Zachariah Gets Off Duty

Zachariah gets back home and Elizabeth become pregnant with John the Baptist

Cheshvan (Bul) (29 days) (October/November)
Kislev (30 days) (November/December)
Tevet (29 days) (December/January)
Shevat (30 days) (January/February)
Adar (29 days) (February/March) (8+29+30+29 +30 +29 =155)
Sixth month of Elizabeth’s Pregnancy. Elizabeth stay in hiding for five months.

Mary conceives sometime here


<<<<Mary goes and stays with her cousin Elizabeth till John was born.

Adar 3758 is 25 Feb 3 BC
13th month Compensatory days Adar II  
(Intercalary month – uncertain number of days depending on the year.)

Nissan (Aviv) (30 days) (March/April)
Iyar (zif) (29 days) (April/May)
Sivan (30 days) (May/June)
Tammuz (29days) (June/July)
Av (30 days) (July/August)
Elul (29 days) (August/Septemebr)
Tishri (Ethanim) (30 days) (Sepetember/October)
Cheshvan (Bul) (29 days) (October/November)
Kislev (30 days) (November/December)
(30+29 +30 +29 +30+29 +30 +29 +30 =266)

 Tevet (29 days) (December/January Tevet 14 completes 280 days
Jesus was certainly born sometime in this month



 If we extrapolate the Gregorian Calendar the Hebrew month of Tevet falls in the months of December/January whatever the year of Jesus’ birth was.
January 1, 1 AD is 18 Tevet a Monday


These are arrived at by using the fourth century calendar system. gives the following dates;

New Testament Chronology, (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 1990) Kenneth Frank Doig


Converters warn that these dates may not be exact due to the intercalary dates added in Adar.  But it will be most probably within +/- 5 days.

He arrived at the date of birth as Dec 25, 5 AD

There is always a possibility of error due to possible insertion of a 13th month of variable days as Adar II called intercalary month to correct the sidereal change to accommodate season. Along with that, we have some uncertainty  due to the uncertainty of the sixth  month of pregnancy of Elizabeth. This will introduce a difference of up to 15 + days either way.  This is exactly what we see here.  The date of birth we estimated was 14 Tevet 4 (+/-)15 is between 29 and 1 of Tevet or more which is equivalent to between 15th of December and January 15th which allows for extreme uncertainties in the pregnancy of Elizabeth and of Mary.

Christmas in fact was celebrated on January 7 for many Orthodox churches, January 6 for the Armenian Apostolic Church and January 19 for the Armenians of Jerusalem and the Holy Land.  It is certain that our range of the period during which Jesus was born is the only reasonable conclusion.


Alfred Edersheim, a Messianic Jew, wrote, “There is no adequate reason for questioning the historical accuracy of this date. The objections generally made rest on grounds which seem to me historically untenable.” He also mentions that the Jewish Megillot Taanit states that the 9th of Tevet is considered the day of Christ’s birth

 Argument for a late December Birth


The argument for assigning late December as the rightful date of the birth of Yeshua is based on the assumption that Zechariah was told that Elizabeth would conceive a child during the solemn holiday of Yom Kippur (i.e., the "Day of Atonement").


Yeshua's cousin, John the Baptist, was conceived just after Yom Kippur (Tishri 10) and born 40 weeks later in Tammuz (June/July), because:


John's father (Zechariah) was a Levite who was assigned to serve in the Temple during the course of "Aviyah," the 8th course of the year. However, the 8th course would serve both on the 10th week of the year (see above) as well as on the 35th week: 24 (first complete cycle) + 1 (Sukkot) + 10 = 35.


This places Zechariah's service in the Temple as during the High Holiday of Yom Kippur, and this seems to agree with the description given about how Gabriel spoke to Zechariah in the narrative (Luke 1:8-23).


It is written that John was conceived shortly after this tour of duty (Luke 1:23-4), perhaps on 17 Tishri. Therefore, John the Baptist was probably conceived shortly after the Yom Kippur and would have been born on the 17th of Tammuz (June/July).


2.Yeshua was conceived in Nisan (Mar/Apr), near Passover, and born 40 weeks later during late December, because Yeshua was conceived six months after John the Baptist (Luke 1:24-27, 36). Adding 6 months to Tammuz 17 leads us to Nisan 17 (two days after Passover).


Since Yeshua was born six months after John, we add six months John's birthday (the 17th of Tammuz) to arrive at the 17th Tevet (late December).


Circumstantial Evidences:


Church history since the time of the late first century has attested to a late December birth. Hippolytus, in the second century AD, argued that this was Christ's birthday. In the fourth century, John Chrysostom (347-407) argued that December 25th was the correct date. Chrysostom taught that Zechariah received the message about John's birth on the Day of Atonement and John the Baptist was born sometime in June or July, and the birth of Yeshua took place six months later, in late December (or early January). There was never a question about the period of Yeshua's birth either in the East or in the West; only in the recent years this date was challenged.


Early Jewish sources suggest that the sheep around Bethlehem were outside year-round. In the normal traffic of shepherds they move around and come near Bethlehem from November to March of the year. But then these were a special class of Levitical shepherds who kept the sacrificial lambs. They do not move around because they supply the lambs for daily sacrifice from whom people bought their approved lambs, which are blemishless. The fact that the Angels announced the arrival of the perfect sacrificial lamb to these shepherds indicates this.


Alfred Edersheim, a Messianic Jew, wrote, "There is no adequate reason for questioning the historical accuracy of this date. The objections generally made rest on grounds which seem to me historically untenable."


Edersheim wrote that an early Aramaic source document called "The Scroll of Fasts" (i.e., Megillat Ta'anit: מְגִילַת תַעֲנִית), which included additional commentary in medieval Hebrew (called scholium), may refer to the 10th of Tevet as the day of Yeshua's birth (i.e., sometime during late December in our Gregorian calendars). Note that Jewish history regards the month of Tevet to be one of national tragedy, marking the beginning of the destruction of the Holy Temple by Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon (in 587 BC).  After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 AD, the sages might have associated the birth of Yeshua as another reason for mourning the loss of the Temple on this date.


Since Zechariah served during Yom Kippur and Elizabeth conceived shortly thereafter, we can place the date of Yeshua' birth during the month of Tevet, in late December.


There is always a possibility of error due to possible insertion of a 13th month of variable days as Adar II called intercalary month to correct the sidereal change to accommodate season. Along with that, we have some uncertainty  due to the uncertainty of the sixth month of pregnancy of Elizabeth. This will introduce a difference of up to 15 + days either way.  This is exactly what we see here.  The date of birth we estimated was 14 Tevet 14 (+/-)15 is between 29 and 1 of Tevet or more which is equivalent to between 15th of December and January 15th which allows for extreme uncertainties in the pregnancy of Elizabeth and of Mary.


Christmas in fact was celebrated on January 7 for many Orthodox churches, January 6 for the Armenian Apostolic Church and January 19 for the Armenians of Jerusalem and the Holy Land.  It is certain that our range of the period during which Jesus was born is the only reasonable conclusion.


Alfred Edersheim, a Messianic Jew, wrote,

 “There is no adequate reason for questioning the historical accuracy of this date.
The objections generally made rest on grounds which seem to me historically untenable.”

He also mentions that the Jewish Megillot Taanit states that the 9th of Tevet is considered the day of Christ’s birth




Eastern and Slavic Orthodox churches celebrate Christmas on 6 and 7 January, coinciding with the Epiphany, still following the Julian rather than the Gregorian calendar.



The tradition for December 25th is actually quite ancient. Hippolytus, (202-211 AD) in the second century AD, argued that this was Christ’s birthday.

“For the first advent of our Lord in the flesh, when he was born in Bethlehem, eight days before the kalends of January [December 25th], the 4th day of the week [Wednesday], while Augustus was in his forty-second year, [2 or 3BC] but from Adam five thousand and five hundred years. He suffered in the thirty third year, 8 days before the kalends of April [March 25th], the Day of Preparation, the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar [29 or 30 AD], while Rufus and Roubellion and Gaius Caesar, for the 4th time, and Gaius Cestius Saturninus were Consuls.” ~Commentary on Daniel 4.23.3 202-211 AD.


The best manuscripts of Hippolytus mention both December 25th and April 2nd as possible dates for the birth of Jesus, although the April 2 date could be referring to the date of conception. Some scholars believe that the date of “word becoming flesh” was the date of conception not the birth itself.


It is safe thus to state that Hippolytus believed Jesus was conceived on the Passover, possibly also on the Vernal Equinox, that Jesus was born on December 25th, the Winter Solstice, and that Jesus died on the Passover, Friday, March 25th 29 AD, the Vernal Equinox.
(see Hippolytus and December 25th.pdf)


In the fourth century, John Chrysostom argued that December 25th was the correct date. John Chrysostom (347-407) Bishop of Constnatinople of the Eastern Church, taught that Zechariah received the message about John’s birth on the Day of Atonement and John the Baptist was born sometime in June or July, and the birth of Jesus took place six months later, in late December or early January.



The first recorded mention of December 25 is in the Calendar of Furius Dionysius Philocalus (354 A.D.) which assumed Jesus’ birth to be Friday, December 25, 1 A.D.


The original volume,dating the 8th-9th centuries, is lost, but copies were made at that time, the most complete and faithful are in a 17th-century manuscript from the Barberini collection (Vatican Library). On December 25 there is
"N.INVICTI.CM.XXX"  =Birthday of the unconquered, games ordered, thirty races
which is the oldest literary reference to the pagan feast of Sol Invictus,
"VIII kal. ian. natus Christus in Betleem Iudeae" =Birth of Christ in Bethlehem, Judea"

the oldest reference to Jesus' birth


December 25th was officially proclaimed by the church fathers in 440 A.D. Two dates December and January 6 are used by Western and Eastern Churches respectively. This difference is due essentially to difference in calendars that were followed.




Luke 2:1-7 mentions a tax census ordered by Augustus Caesar. The census records were eventually taken to Rome. Cyril of Jerusalem (348-386) requested that the true date of Jesus’ birth be taken from the census documents. He reported that the date he was given from these documents was December 25. Unfortunately, these records are no longer available. (Joseph Tkach )


Fifth, of eight books. Sec. III.–on feast days and fast days. A catalogue of the feasts of the lord which are to be kept, and when each of them ought to be observed. Presently, scholars date Constitutions from the late second or third century.


“XIII. Brethren, observe the festival days; and first of all the birthday which you are to celebrate on the twenty-fifth of the ninth month; after which let the Epiphany (January 6th) be to you the most honored, in which the Lord made to you a display of His own Godhead, and let it take place on the sixth of the tenth month; after which the fast of Lent is to be observed by you as containing a memorial of our Lord’s mode of life and legislation. But let this solemnity be observed before the fast of the Passover, beginning from the second day of the week, and ending at the day of the preparation. After which solemnities, breaking off your fast, begin the holy week of the Passover, fasting in the same all of you with fear and trembling, praying in them for those that are about to perish. “ “The Constitutions of the Holy Apostles”


There was never a question about the period of Jesus’ birth either in the East or in the West. Only in the recent years this date was challenged. However Christmas was not celebrated with the pomp and splendor of these days in the past, because normally birthdays were never celebrated by Christians. In the Malankara tradition birthdays are never celebrated. The Sixtieth year (Shadhiabtha purthi) was sometimes celebrated but that was not on the birthday. No wonder why there are scant documentations over this matter. That is why even the gospels are silent about it. Oriegen infact stated that the birthday is not important and the only Kings and sinners celebrated it.

Thus unlike what is generally stated – even from learned pulpits – Bible clearly indicates the date of birth of Jesus in terms of the Hebrew Calendar – in terms of both the Civil and the Religious Calendar. Vision of Zachariah could not have been on any other day than the Day of Atonement and the birth of Jesus 430 or so days after that. In any given year if we follow the Hebrew Calendar this falls in our modern calendar rendering in December/ January period. Calendars have always in modification and differed from culture to culture that it will be impossible and meaningless to state a day and date.


The Orthodox Churches continues to follow the older Julian calendar, according to which Christmas falls on Jan. 7. which is 13 days ahead of the Gregorian Calendar.

Hippolytus (170–236) gave the date of Jesus’ birth as December 25 which must have been a long cherished tradition, which was taken up by Dionysius.who really remade the calendar for the churches.

Dionysius’ argument went as follows:

His contemporaries claimed that God created the earth on March 25.

Therefore Jesus must have been conceived on March 25.

This meant that he must have been born nine months later— December 25.

When the calendar system of Anno Domini was first introduced by Dionysius Exiguus in AD 525, he assigned the beginning of the new year to March 25, since according to Christian theology, the era of grace began with the Incarnation of Christ. It was only later that he decided on January 1.

Even today the Feast of the Annunciation is one of the twelve Great Feasts of the church year and is fixed as March 25. As the action initiating the Incarnation of Christ, Annunciation has such an important place in Eastern theology that the Festal Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is always celebrated on March 25, regardless of what day it falls on.


Eastern Orthodox national churches, including those of Russia, Georgia, Ukraine, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and the Greek Patriarchate of Jerusalem mark feasts using the older Julian Calendar. December 25 on that calendar currently corresponds to January 7 on the more widely used Gregorian calendar. However, other Orthodox Christians, such as the churches of Greece, Romania, Antioch, Alexandria, Albania, Finland and the Orthodox Church in America, among others, began using the Revised Julian Calendar in the early 20th century, which corresponds exactly to the Gregorian Calendar. These Orthodox Churches celebrate Christmas on the same day as Western Christianity. Oriental Orthodox churches also use their own calendars, which are generally similar to the Julian calendar. The Armenian Apostolic Church celebrates the nativity in combination with the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6. 25 December of Julian year is 7 January Gregorian calendar.




Clement writes: “There are those who have determined not only the year of our Lord’s birth, but also the day; and they say that it took place in the 28th year of Augustus, and in the 25th day of [the Egyptian month] Pachon [May 20 in our calendar] … And treating of His Passion, with very great accuracy, some say that it took place in the 16th year of Tiberius, on the 25th of Phamenoth [March 21]; and others on the 25th of Pharmuthi [April 21] and others say that on the 19th of Pharmuthi [April 15] the Savior suffered. Further, others say that He was born on the 24th or 25th of Pharmuthi [April 20 or 21].”(Clement, Stromateis 1.21.145_”)


Clement quotes various authors who has arrived at a date for Jesus’ birthday.  He quotes their dates as March 21, April 15, April 19 or 20, May 20, November 18 and January 6. But December 25 was not among the listed.



In about 400 C.E., Augustine of Hippo mentions a local dissident Christian group, the Donatists, who apparently kept Christmas festivals on December 25,


By the time of Jerome and Augustine, the December feast is established, though Augustine  (Epp., II, liv, 12, in P.L., XXXIII, 200) omits it from a list of first-class festivals.

From the fourth century every Western calendar assigns it to 25 December…

Why December 25 (Celebrated by most Protestant Christians) and January 7 (Celebrated by Orthodox and Eastern Churches) are both Christmas?


We should not forget that the birth of Jesus cannot be determined exactly by any method of Calculation because of the variations in the Jewish calendar which has 13 months with arbitrary number of days added to synchronize with solar calendar. "December 25 on the Julian calendar actually falls on January 7 on the Gregorian calendar," said Archimandrite Christopher Calin, dean of the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of the Holy Virgin Protection.Jan 7, 2015.  We can only show that the birth of Christ falls at best within Dec 15 and Jan 15. As such those who celebrate Dec 25 and those who celebrate Jan 7 are both celebrating correctly. December 25 was determined as the Christmas day while Julian calendar was in use. (Julian calendar was used in Europe up until 1582, and in England until 1752).  It was converted into a modified calendar known today as Gregorian Calendar.


Pope Gregory XIII introduced the Gregorian calendar to correct the rounding off of real Solar year in Julian calendar.  The Julian calendar spaces leap years to make the average year 365.2425 days (365 days, and six hours) long, while the correct year is 365.2422-day (365 days, five hours, 48 minutes and 46 seconds.). The calendar was developed as a correction to the Julian calendar, shortening the average year by 0.0075 (11 minutes and 14 seconds) days to stop the drift of the calendar with respect to the equinoxes. To deal with the 10 days' difference (between calendar and reality) that this drift had already reached, the date was advanced so that 4 October 1582 was followed by 15 October 1582. There was no discontinuity in the cycle of weekdays or of the Anno Domini calendar era. This caused the Julian calendar to get out of synchronization with the sun and hence the seasons. In 1582, the Julian calendar was off by 10 days; by 1752, when England adopted the Gregorian calendar, the Julian calendar was off by 11 days.


Gap Between Julian and Gregorian til the turn of the 20th century, was  12 days; currently, it was 13 days behind the Gregorian calendar  until 2100, when the gap has become 14 days.  So you can see that it depends on what calendar we follow.

Eastern Orthodox celebrate Christmas (or, rather, the feast of the Nativity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, as it is called in the East) on December 25. Some join Catholics and Protestants in celebrating Christmas on December 25 on the Gregorian calendar, while the rest celebrate Christmas on December 25 on the Julian calendar.  


In other words, there is no dispute between Catholics and Orthodox over the date of Christ's birth. The difference is entirely the result of the use of different calendars. What is Dec 25 of Julian calendar now converted to Gregorian calendar.  Does it really matter whether it is the exact date as long as it is a remebrance?



The day when Julian calendar turned into Gregorian calender

Skipping 11 days.


for different purposes.


The Jewish calendar traditionally has four different days dedicated to the new year, each with a different purpose.  


First of Nisan

The first new year's day is the first day of the Hebrew month of Nisan, usually in the early spring (April). Nisan is considered the first month of the Hebrew calendar, though years are counted from the first day of Tishrei, the seventh month. The First of Nisan was considered the new year for counting the years of the reigns of kings in ancient Israel. It is also the new year for ordering the Jewish holidays. The month of Nisan is closely tied with the festival of Passover; and while Rosh Hashanah is seen as the anniversary of the creation of the world, the first day of Nisan is seen as the anniversary of the founding of the Jewish people when they escaped from Egypt during the Passover story.


First of Elul

The second new year's day is on the first day of Elul, the sixth month of the Hebrew calendar, which usually falls in the late summer (August). According to the Mishnah, this was the new year for animal tithes. It was used to determine the start date for the animal tithe to the priestly class in ancient Israel, similar to how we use April 15th in the U.S. as tax day. Generally, this new year's day is no longer observed, although the month of Elul does mark the beginning of preparations for Rosh Hashanah.


First of Tishrei, aka Rosh Hashanah 

Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish new year with which we are most familiar. It falls on the first day of Tishrei, the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar, which usually corresponds to the month of September. It marks the day when the Jewish calendar year advances and is seen traditionally as the date when the world was created. In ancient times, it was also used for calculating certain tithes, such as those for vegetables, and for calculating the start of Sabbatical and Jubilee years when land was left fallow. 


15th of Shvat, aka Tu B'Shvat 

Tu B'Shvat is considered the new year's day for trees, usually falling between January and February. According to the Torah, fruits cannot be consumed from trees less than three years old, and Tu B'Shvat was used as the starting date for determining the age of the trees. Unlike the first of Nisan and the first of Elul, Tu B'Shvat is still widely observed as a minor Jewish holiday. 


Origins of the Four New Year's Days in Judaism

The main textual origin for the four new year's days comes from the Mishnah in Rosh Hashanah 1:1. There are references to several of these new year's days in the Torah, as well. The new year on the first of Nisan is mentioned in both Exodus 12:2 and Deuteronomy 16:1. Rosh Hashanah on the first day of Tishrei is described in Numbers 29:1-2 and Leviticus 23:24-25.









 In the second century, Justin tells us that Jesus was born in a cave outside the city of Bethlehem.



Bethlehem (Courtesy of Bible Lands Pictorial Library)

“But when the child was born in Bethlehem, since Joseph could not find a lodging in that village, he took up his quarters in a certain cave near the village; and while they were there Mary brought forth the Christ and placed Him in a manger, and here the Magi came from Arabia and found Him. I have repeated to you...what Isaiah foretold about the sign which foreshadowed the Cave.”



Map of first century Palestine. The journey of Joseph and Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem was around a 100 miles (This is to avoid the antagonistic Samaria), a long distance for an expectant mother to have traveled in those days.  They were going back to their ancestral home. They were both from the lineage of David.  Joseph was the legal heir to the throne through Solomon and Mary was the lineage of David through Nathan - another son of David.  There were lot of relatives still in Bethlehem. We should expect them to be going to their relatives home, if we assume a normal family.  They were after all going back because they belonged to the family of David.

“Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.”


For all reasonable assumption they were going into one of the relatives. Relatives coming from a 100 miles, several days journey (at least a five or six day journey) specially with fully pregnant wife who also belonged to the same family. No family member will allow them to go and find a hotel room as we do today.


The ancient Christian tradition says that Mary delivered her first born in a cave - a room below the ground level . All agricultural based homes in Palestine in that period had  lower level caves which was used as a cattle shed.


 The Apocryphar Protevangelium of James, has a different story. where the “days were fulfilled” not in the cave, but along the way. Joseph and Mary have to stop because, as Mary says, “the child within me presses me, to come forth.”  But we will stick to the Bible version.

Luke uses two different words which are usually translated as “inn”—kataluma and pandocheion.
Kataluma means a guest room
pandocheion means a regular inn or hotel

In the story of the Good Samaritan, Luke uses the word pandocheion—indicating a commercial inn.
When writing the account of disciples acquiring the Upper Room—a guest room that was part of someone’s home—Luke 22:11 and Mark 14:14 both uses the word kataluma. ( κατάλυμα )
The 2011 update to the NIV now reads, “because there was no guest room available for them.”

The guest room was probably filled because there were many other relatives visiting for the same census purpose,


So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the kataluma. (Luke 2:4–7).  

“While they were there, the days were completed for” Jesus to be born .  This clearly states that while Joseph and Mary were staying in that guest house of their relative, Mary felt the labor pain.  If there were other relatives in the guest room, naturally they have to find an alternate place for delivery which is secluded .  ( C. S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, 194; B. Witherington, “Birth of Jesus,” DJG, 69-70)  Of course Mary cannot deliver the baby in the midst of the large number of guests in the guests room.  So she went down to the ground floor.  Probably some of ladies from the guests might have been a help.  They have to take a bath to get purified before joining the party.

From the circumstances it appears again that Mary and Joseph were staying most probably in the home of a Levite Shepherd. It is quite possible since we know Mary was staying with her cousin Elizabeth who was of the "daughters of Aaron" (Luke 1:5).  Luke 1:36 says that Elizabeth was a relative of Mary.  The term Luke uses is syngenis simply means “cousin” (KJV), “relative” (NKJV, NASB, NIV) or “kinswoman” (ASV, RSV). It is “a general term, meaning ‘of the same family’” (Vincent, 1997).  . There is no need of doubt about the fact that John and Jesus were cousins. John was a Levite and Jesus was of Judah.  


 Elizabeth was of the tribe of Levi (Luke 1:5); Mary was of the tribe of Judah (vs. 27, 32). If Mary was of Judah, Mary’s father would also be of Judah, If Elizabeth was of the tribe of Levi , her father is Levite.   Therefore it is probable that Mary’s connection with Elizabeth was through their mothers  .It is simple logic to see that their mothers were probably sisters which would make them first cousins.  This is the most likely relationship seeing their closeness.  


We know that Mary and Elizabeth were very close.”At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea” to Elizabeth’s house as soon as she found herself pregnant probably hiding from the eyes of the society. Mary went to Elizabeth to her hill country soon after the conception and stays with Elizabeth until she delivered John. ( Luke 1:56  And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home.) It shows not only relationship but also close friendship. So we see that Mary had certain genealogy from Aaron though through her mother. It is a long time to stay with a very distant cousin.

 Most probably: Anna, the Mary's mother, and Elizabeth, John the Baptist's mother, were sisters.
This is implied actually in the statement of Jesus as Prophet, Priest (Aaronic descent) and King(Davidic descent).


Mary would be more comfortable with her mother’s relations in the situation of her virgin motherhood. So there would be no difficulty in assuming that Joseph and Mary lived with a Levite cousin or uncle of theirs who was a Levite Shepherd living in a tower of the flock taking care of the sacrificial lambs around the temple region.. He might have been a cousin of Joseph also through his mother.  They sell unblemished lambs for daily sacrifice and for personal sacrifices of the whole Israel and make their living. This alone will explain all the described facts related to the birth of Jesus and the Shepherds as we shall see.


Mary and Joseph were already in Bethlehem for a number of days. Luke tells us plainly, “And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem … And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered” (Luke 2: 4-6). In fact they did stay in the guest room of their relative for at least another 40 days more before returning.

(Luke 2:22): "And when the days of her purification ... were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord". They would not have travelled another 200 miles to and fro from Bethlehem to Nazareth and back for this purification soon after delivery.


According to Leviticus 12:1-8, because of the bleeding associated with childbirth, a woman is ceremonially unclean after giving birth, just as she is unclean during her menstrual period. The uncleanness is for seven days if she bears a boy (vs. 2), and for fourteen days if she bears a girl (vs. 5). The mother must wait thirty-three additional days after a boy and sixty-six days after a girl to be finally “purified from her bleeding” (vss. 4-5). At the end of her time of uncleanness, she is to bring a sacrifice to the priest (vss. 6-8).


Leviticus 15:23-28 gives the laws of impurity due to emission of blood when the girls should be seperated from the family even for seven days. So then, according to the Old Testament, a woman has to be isolated during her monthly period and she contaminates all who touch her. They also become "unclean."

1. And every thing that she lieth upon in her separation shall be unclean: every thing also that she sitteth upon shall be unclean.

2. And whosoever toucheth her bed shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even.

3. And whosoever toucheth any thing that she sat upon shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even.

For this purpose they used the ground floor room. They are to be seperated from the rest of the family.  Thus Mary went down to the ground floor “cave” for her delivery.  So we should not be surprised that Mary delivered the baby in a cave as reported by early fathers.


Typical Israelite Home of the Iron Age ca. 1,300 BC - 600 BC


KJV Everyday Study Bible, British Tan Leathertouch By Csb Bibles By Holman, Holman Bible Publishers



Logos software



An ancient levitical shepherd’s home


In those days in Israel, even the common man’s home had the living quarters either on top of the animal quarter (the garage) or on the other side of it.  A similar structure is seen in the tower of the shepherds with a cave like ground floor or even under the floor and the living quarters and watchtower area on the top of it all.


 Almost all early homes in Bethlehem began as shepherd home where the sheep lived with the family. It was the rule that at least the sacrificial lamb of Passover must live with the family for three days.

“…on the tenth day of this month each family must choose a lamb… The animal you select must be…with no defects...take special care of this chosen animal until the evening of the fourteenth day of this first month”.  So it is natural for Mary to be taken down into this area for safe delivery.  These places were kept scrupulously clean for the delivery of the ewe lambs.

 There were of course much bigger homes with elaborate rooms and living facilities in the towers of the flock if the family was large.  These were known as Migdal Eder the Tower of the Flock which we will go in detail in the next chapter.


The Catholic Encyclopedia cites  

“About 150 AD we find St. Justin Martyr referring (Dialogue with Trypho 78) to the Savior's birth as having taken place in a cave near the village of Bethlehem ; such cave stables are not rare in Palestine.
(Cf. Massie in Hast., Dict. of the Bible, III, 234; Expository Times, May, 1903, 384; Bonaccorsi, "Il Natale", Rome, 1903, 16-20.)
The tradition of the birth in a cave was widely accepted...
It is reproduced also in the apocryphal gospels (Pseudo-Matt., xiii...)
[Arbez, Edward. Bethlehem.
The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 2. Nihil Obstat. 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.  New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. 26 Dec. 2009 (].


None of the Gospels in the Bible provide much detail about the actual birth of Jesus; Luke merely says that Mary gave birth to him, and Matthew says even less. But the Protoevangelium of James,(which as I have mentioned earlier is an apocryphal work) gives us a description which present  two midwives who helped with the delivery and also asserts the virginity of Mary, before, during and after the childbirth!!  Midwives were common among the Jews long ago while they were slaves in Egypt. They were probably part of the guests living with them in the guest room.  May be they were called in by Joseph and the household where they lived.




Salome (right) and the midwife "Emea" (left), bathing the infant Jesus, is a common figure in Orthodox icons of the Nativity of Jesus; here in a 12th-century fresco from Cappadocia.

Certainly the lady of house, her daughters and some of the ladies among the guests were there to comfort and hold Mary’s hand and to encourage her.


The Gospel of James, also known as the Infancy Gospel of James, the Book of James, and the Protoevangelium of James, is an apocryphal gospel probably written about AD 145.  The purported author is thus James, the brother of Jesus.

 Here’s the part where Jesus is miraculously delivered and a post-partum inspection by an attending midwife:

“And Joseph said to her: Come and see. And the midwife went away with him. And they stood in the place of the cave, and behold a luminous cloud overshadowed the cave. And the midwife said: My soul has been magnified this day, because mine eyes have seen strange things -- because salvation has been brought forth to Israel. And immediately the cloud disappeared out of the cave, and a great light shone in the cave, so that the eyes could not bear it. And in a little that light gradually decreased, until the infant appeared, and went and took the breast from His mother Mary. And the midwife cried out, and said: This is a great day to me, because I have seen this strange sight. And the midwife went forth out of the cave, and Salome met her. And she said to her: Salome, Salome, I have a strange sight to relate to thee: a virgin has brought forth -- a thing which her nature admits not of. Then said Salome: As the Lord my God liveth, unless I thrust in my finger, and search the parts, I will not believe that a virgin has brought forth.


“20. And the midwife went in, and said to Mary: Show thyself; for no small controversy has arisen about thee. And Salome put in her finger, and cried out, and said: Woe is me for mine iniquity and mine unbelief, because I have tempted the living God; and, behold, my hand is dropping off as if burned with fire. And she bent her knees before the Lord, saying: O God of my fathers, remember that I am the seed of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob; do not make a show of me to the sons of Israel, but restore me to the poor; for Thou knowest, O Lord, that in Thy name I have performed my services, and that I have received my reward at Thy hand. And, behold, an angel of the Lord stood by her, saying to her: Salome, Salome, the Lord hath heard thee. Put thy hand to the infant, and carry it, and thou wilt have safety and joy. And Salome went and carried it, saying: I will worship Him, because a great King has been born to Israel. And, behold, Salome was immediately cured, and she went forth out of the cave justified. And behold a voice saying: Salome, Salome, tell not the strange things thou hast seen, until the child has come into Jerusalem.”




Midwives Salome and Zelomi bathe the newborn Christ.  Other ladies are there help and to encourage Mary.
Jospeh is waiting as usual outside for the verdict, “It is a boy”
 (from the Daphni Monastery in Greece, circa 1100).


 As Saint Gregory Nazianz in 381 A.D. said, “Believe in the Son of God….born of the Virgin Mary in an indescribable and stainless way…” 

And Saint Ambrose of Milan said in 392 A.D., “Mary is the gate through which Christ entered this world, when He was brought forth in the virginal birth and the manner of His birth did not break the seals of virginity.” 

Martin Luther said of Christ’s birth “It is an article of faith that Mary is Mother of the Lord and still a virgin…Christ, we believe, came forth from a womb left perfectly intact.” 

Ulrich Zwingli, another Protestant Reformer said likewise when he commented that “I firmly believe that Mary, according to the words of the Gospel, as a pure Virgin brought forth for us the Son of God and in childbirth and after childbirth forever remained a pure, intact Virgin.” 

To remain a virgin during child birth would mean that no violation whatsoever occurred to Mary’s physical purity. Christ’s Birth was therefore altogether a singular event in human history. Just as Jesus passed through closed doors and resurrected and came out without the tomb stone moved, he passed through the womb.  As the Son of God he was in multiple dimensions beyond human dimensions (we usually call it Divine dimensions) and could come out through other dimensions into our dimensions.  Once he became man he himself constricted within the human boundaries. This was the incarnation.

Phil 2:6-8 “Who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross.…”


Once he was resurrected he went back to his original Divine dimensions.

 Roman Catholic Church declared that Mary’s real and perpetual virginity indeed extended even unto the act of giving birth to the Christ Child. Lumen Gentium, one of the great documents of The Second Vatican Council, declares that “Christ’s birth “did not diminish his mother’s virginal integrity, but sanctified it.”
Did Mary remain a virgin all her life?  Are the borthers and sisters of Jesus not really his brothers and sisters through his mother Mary?  Bible does not answer.

 Biblical basis of virgin birth

 The first prediction, of course, concerns His conception. This Messianic prophecy comes Isaiah who wrote it four centuries before Christ.. The prophet wrote:

“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel” (Isa. 7:14 NASB).


Many scholars have refuted the virgin birth since word used is “almah” which can also mean “a young maiden.”instead of “betulah”, which clearly means “virgin”,  

 “ In fact, virgins never give birth anywhere in the Bible and scientifically it is impossible. The idea is to be found only in pagan mythology.”

 But if we take the contexts of the usage of Almah, we will see only six usages - Genesis 24:43; Exodus 2:8; Psalm 68:26; Proverbs 30:19; Song of Songs 1:3; 6:8. - and in every one of them it was referring to mean a virgin. When the Old Testament was translated by the Seventy Scholars into Greek during the third and second centuries Before.Christ, they translated almah in Isaiah 7:14 by the Greek term parthenos, which could mean only ‘virgin.’ All the seventy translators doing them independently came to the same conclusion!!


Elizabeth meets Mariam
Opened womb meets closed womb both preganant
This is represented in the Hebrew alphabet by two forms of “mem”
Mem represents womb because of the connection of water.  
The Paleo Hebrew symbol for Mem was  water
Life starts in water.

Rabbis associated the letter mem with the womb (Sefer Yetzira 3:4, Bahir 85, Etz Chaim, Shaar HaYereach  3,  p. 176).  

A closed mem is a closed womb; an open mem is the womb opening to give birth (Bahir  84).
Virgin pregnancy is a closed womb and is represented by the Mem Sofit since the creation of the fetus occurs from another dimension outside of the physical dimensions of man.


There is one place in the Hebrew Bible, where a closed mem occurs inside a word. This entry, which defies the rules of Hebrew grammar and spelling, is found in Isaiah’s famous prophecy of the coming Messiah: It was probably inserted to indicate extradimensional entry of Messiah into physical dimension. He then emerged into the human world through the gate of Virgin Mary. 




The closed mem appears within the word (l’marbeh), which is translated by the phrase “to the increase

 ”For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on his shoulders;  and  his  name  will  be  called Wonderful  Counselor,  Mighty  God,  Eternal  Father,  Prince  of  Peace. There  will  be  no  end  to  the  increase  of  his  government  or  of  peace,  on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it  with  justice  and  righteousness  from  then  on  and  forever  more. (Isa. 9:6).

 What does this tell us about the child in Isaiah’s prophecy? It tells us that this child will be concealed inside a closed womb, i.e., the womb of the Virgin spoken of in Isaiah 7:14:“Therefore  the  Lord  Himself  will  give  you  a  sign:  Behold.  a  virgin  will be with child and bear a son, and she will call his name Immanuel [God with us].”

 In light of all this, we can see why the Holy Spirit inspired Isaiah to break the rules of Hebrew grammar and spelling to  draw  our  attention  to  the  letter  mem,  where  we see  the initial  of  Miriam,  the  mother  of  the  Child.  We  also  see  it  as  the  initial  for me’em, “womb,” which in this case is a closed womb-the closed womb of the Virgin Miriam, which opened at the time of Redemption to give birth to the Child spoken of in this prophecy.


Ambrose and Augustine and the Eastern Fathers interpreted Ezekiel’s prophecy  (Ezek 44:1-3) about the Temple’s closed eastern gate as a prophecy of the virgin birth of Christ. 

 Ezekiel 44:1-3 New American Standard Bible (NASB) Gate for the Prince

“44 Then He brought me back by the way of the outer gate of the sanctuary, which faces the east; and it was shut. 2 The Lord said to me, “This gate shall be shut; it shall not be opened, and no one shall enter by it, for the Lord God of Israel has entered by it; therefore it shall be shut. 3 As for the prince, he shall sit in it as prince to eat bread before the Lord; he shall enter by way of the porch of the gate and shall go out by the same way.”

 “Who is this gate (Ezekiel 44:1-4), if not Mary? Is it not closed because she is a virgin? Mary is the gate through which Christ entered this world, when He was brought forth in the virginal birth and the manner of His birth did not break the seals of virginity.” – Saint Ambrose of Milan (ca AD 390)

“It is written (Ezekiel 44, 2): ‘This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall pass through it. Because the Lord the God of Israel hath entered in by it…’ What means this closed gate in the house of the Lord, except that Mary is to be ever inviolate? What does it mean that ‘no man shall pass through it,’ save that Joseph shall not know her? And what is this – ‘The Lord alone enters in and goeth out by it,’ except that the Holy Ghost shall impregnate her, and that the Lord of Angels shall be born of her? And what means this – ‘It shall be shut for evermore,’ but that Mary is a Virgin before His birth, a Virgin in His birth, and a Virgin after His birth.” – Saint Augustine  (De Annunt. Dom. iii)(ca AD 430)


The Virgin birth of Jesus is clear in the gospels.  But does not imply that she remained virgin all her life?  Catholic and the Eastern Churches claim that Mary remained a Virgin all her life.  But most evangelical churches do not, based on these verses:

 Matthew 13:55, “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas?  Aren’t all his sisters with us?

 Matthew 1:25 :But he had no union with her as her husband until she had borne her firstborn Son; and he called His name Jesus.

 This will guarantee that Joseph had no sexual relation with Mary until Jesus was born.  We have no certain scripture about Mary’s eternal virginity.  In fact it is not really a necesary part of the faith.

The relevant verses are: Matthew 13.55, Mark 6.3, John 2.12, John 7.3, John 7.5, John 7.10, Acts 1.14, 1 Corinthians 9.5, and Galatians 1.19

 I have dealt with the issue in my book Development of Mariolatory: Prof.M.M.Ninan

  Mirium’s name contain both open and closed mems.


The name Mirium (Mary) contains both the closed and the open mems.


The mosaic of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary is taken from the mosaics in
Santa Maria in Trastevere, Rome (1296-1300), by Pietro Cavallini.




And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.


 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.   And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,  Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.


And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even to Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.


 One argument raised against the December date is that there were shepherds keeping watch at night at that time in the field (Luke2:8). December is pretty cold and normally shepherds would not be out there.



Werner Keller in his book The Bible as History presses this point hard thus: “Meteorologists as well as historians and astronomers have something of importance to contribute to this question of fixing the date of the birth of Jesus. According to St. Luke: ‘And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night’ (Luke 2:8).

 “Meteorologists have made exact recordings of the temperature at Hebron. This spot in the southern highlands of Judah exhibits the same climatic conditions as Bethlehem, which is not far distant. The temperature readings show over a period of three months that the incidence of frost is as follows: December – 2.8 degrees; January – 1.6 degrees; February ---0.1 degrees. The first two months have also the greatest rainfall in the year: approximately 6 inches in December, and nearly 8 inches in January. According to all existing information the climate of Palestine has not changed appreciably in the last 2,000 years, consequently modern meteorological observations can be taken as a basis.

 “At Christmas-time Bethlehem is in the grip of frost, and in the Promised Land no cattle would have been in the fields in that temperature. This fact is born out by a remark in the Talmud to the effect that in that neighborhood the flocks were put out to grass in March and brought in again at the beginning of November. They remained out in the open for almost eight months.

 “Around Christmas-time nowadays both animals and shepherds are under cover in Palestine.

 “What St. Luke tells us points therefore to the birth of Jesus having taken place BEFORE the onset of winter…” (p. 331-332).


In fact, early Jewish sources suggest that the sheep around Bethlehem were outside year-round. In the normal traffic of shepherds they move around and come near Bethlehem from November to March of the year.



Winter grazing

 The sheep of Israel is covered with thick wool that it is estimated that they can withstand temperatures well below the freezing upto -40 C

In fact because of their thick coat, Sheep prefer cold than hot.



Fat tailed sheep.  
The center one has the wool shorn to show the tail clearly and the thickness of the coat


 Winter Sheep Care

by Mary Gessert DVM

Originally Published in The Shepherd Magazine

 “Sheep have some very effective ways of keeping warm. Their wool insulates them, holding in body heat and resisting the penetration of water. Those of you in snowy climates have seen sheep with a fresh layer of snow on their backs. The reason it doesn't melt right away is because the body heat is kept in by the fleece. In addition, the process of rumination, with its fermentation of fibrous materials, generates a great deal of heat. The more forage a ruminant eats, the more heat its body produces. Pregnant ewes, in which growth of the fetus results in heat production, stay even warmer as their pregnancy progresses. In fact, ewes carrying multiple fetuses have to increase their respiratory rate just to get rid of body heat….

 Keeping sheep outside during the winter benefits both the sheep and the shepherd. The sheep benefit from better ventilation and increased exercise. Most of the cases of respiratory disease that I treat in sheep occur in animals that are housed in a barn during cold weather. The cause is the build-up of moisture and ammonia in the air. …

 Flocks kept outside during the winter have a few special needs. These include shelter from the wind, proper nutrition and water. During storms, they need access to a windbreak. Shelter need not be fancy. It can be a tree line, the down wind side of a hill, a row of round bales, or the side of a building. On very cold calm nights the sheep will bed down comfortably but their long wool may become frozen to the ground by morning. Smaller sheep may need help getting up. …..

 Sheep readily eat snow to meet their water needs. ….

While adult sheep can handle severe cold and wet quite well, newborn lambs cannot.. ….


 Wintertime Ventilation Needs of Sheep

Robert Chambers P.Eng

Engineer, Swine and Sheep Housing and Equipment

 “Mature sheep have a large comfort temperature range. Research from Norway concludes that full fleeced, well fed, healthy mature ewes housed in a dry draft free environment can withstand temperatures as low as - 40 oC. Sheep can withstand cold temperatures as long as they are dry. Even a healthy, dried off and fed newborn can withstand temperatures to -10 oC provided the environment is dry and draft free.”


 But then these were a special class of shepherds who were Levites who kept the sacrificial lambs. They do not move around because they supply the lambs for daily sacrifice, from whom people bought their approved lambs, which are without blemish. The fact that the Angels announced the arrival of the perfect sacrificial lamb to these shepherds indicates this. Why would God choose the shepherds to know the birth of the Lamb of God the Bread that came down from heaven first.

 These shepherds lived in Migdal Eder – “Tower of the Flock”

MIGDAL (Tower) of EDER (Flock)

 There were several of them in those days. This spread within five miles from the Temple.

This was the place, where Rachel was buried after her death at delivery of Benjamin.

Genesis 35:19-20 And Rachel died, and was buried on the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem. And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave: that is the pillar of Rachel's grave unto this day.


Rachel’s burial place 1800 AD and now
Genesis 48:7 (Jacob, aka Israel, speaking) And as for me, when I came from Paddan, death overtook Rachel on the way, when we were still some distance from Ephrath; and I put her to rest there on the road to Ephrath, which is Beit el Hem

 Gen 35:2 “And Jakob proceeded and spread his tent beyond the tower of Eder, the place from whence, it is to be, the King Messiah will be revealed at the end of the days.”

Ephrata was the ancient name of Bethlehem. It was there beyond the tower of Eder that Jacob buried his beloved Rachel after she died giving birth to Benjamin.

It was also the birthplace of David and where he was crowned as king of Israel by Samuel. It came to be known as the City of David. At the time of Jesus’ birth, the Roman government had recently ordered everyone to their ancestral hometown for census and taxation, which is why Joseph and Mary, David’s descendants, were in Bethlehem. Jesus was a direct descendant from the line of David. They were not rich as Joseph was only a carpenter.

When they found that the Inn was full, they sought shelter in the Migdal Eder nearby.






Migdal Eder or "Tower of the Flock," is where Jacob grazed his sheep on his journey to Hebron after the death of Rachel.
"And Israel journeyed, and spread his tent beyond the tower of Edar" (Genesis 35:21).

Prophet Micah alluded this place to the coming of Messiah.
"And thou, O tower of the flock, the strong hold of the daughter of Zion, unto thee shall it come, even the first dominion; the kingdom shall come to the daughter of Jerusalem" (Micah 4:8).

Notice the coming of the Kingdom to the daughter of Jerusalem indicating that the Son who inherited the Kingdom by direct legal lineage from David through Solomon to Joseph was to a son who was born not to his blood, but to a son of one of the daughter of David through Nathan.  

Later, Christian traditions applied Migdal Eder to the watchtowers where shepherds kept watch on their grazing sheep at the time of Christ's birth. 
"And there were in the same country shepherds living in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night" (Luke 2:8).

The usual watch tower may have been just two stories, the top level acting as a watchpost
there must have been several of them distributed all over the sheep are about 5 miles in radius from the temple.




These towers show two stories with the upper level used as a housing and a lookout post



One of the tallest “Tower of Eder”s where several Levite Shepherds might have lived with their families. There were shorter two storied ones too.
This must have housed several families.
They all gathered on the top terrace watching the sheep together around a fire.


A map illustrating the distribution of agricultural towers near the Palestinian village of Battir. Note the “sprinkles” of squares on the right hand side of the orange colored area. These are documented towers. The red dot in the center of the map is Battir. The village of Bayt Jala is located on the right edge. Bethlehem (Beyt-lahem) is just off the map to the east, Jerusalem is just off the map to the north. From here.


Micah 5:2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me, The One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.”


Micah’s prophecy was written down 700 years before the birth of Jesus prophesying the coming of the mesiah from that little town.   


When Herod was asked of the wise men, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him” (Matthew 2:2), it was already known from prophecy, it was a settled conviction from the days of eternity, regarding the place in Israel where the Ruler would be born.


“And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.


So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel” Matthew 2:4-6.


The Mishnah, Jewish sacred writings which include the Torah, describes Migdal Eder as the watchtower of the flock; the flocks that were specifically destined for the Passover sacrifices at the Temple in Jerusalem. Special shepherds, Levites hired and taught by the Temple priests, cared for these flocks. The regulations specified that the flocks had to be within 5 miles of the Temple. The male sheep was a ‘burnt’ (sin) offering and the female was for a ‘peace’ offering.

These watchtowers of the flock (Migdal Eder) were agricultural “forts” where the shepherds would watch over their flock from the second story and where they birthed the newborn lambs in the lower portion of the towers in the fields of Bethlehem. 

Alfred Eldersheim (1825-1889)

 The following paragraph is from The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Alfred Edersheim.

“At the time of the birth of Jesus, Migdal Eder was a specific place. It was the location where shepherds brought their sheep. The sheep were to be sacrificed at the Temple. These were not just any flock and herd. The shepherds who kept them were men who were specifically trained for this royal task. They were educated in what an animal that was to be sacrificed had to be and it was their job to make sure that none of the animals were hurt, damaged or blemished. During lambing season the sheep were brought to the tower from the fields, as the lower level functioned as the birthing room for sacrificial lambs. Being themselves under special rabbinical care, these priests would strictly maintain a ceremonially clean birthing place. Once birthed, the priestly shepherds would routinely place the lambs in the hewn depression of a limestone rock known as “the manger” and “wrap the newborn lambs in swaddling clothes,” preventing them from thrashing about and harming themselves “until they had calmed down” so they could be inspected for the quality of being “without spot or blemish”.


Custom of the day utilized swaddling cloths for newborn infants as well as sacrificial lambs. These cloths or bands were also used for restraining lambs prior to sacrifice. The swaddling bands held the lambs for inspection to insure they met the standard set forth in the law (Numbers 28:3, Exodus 12:1-6). The lambs were restrained to keep them from harming themselves and disqualifying them from sacrifice. Lambs had to be without blemish.

Luke 2:7 She(Mirium)  gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth (swadling clothes) and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the village inn.

The angel had directions for the shepherds in the hills. Luke 2:12 “This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Notice, the shepherds did not need guidance.This  Migdal Eder was a destination which  any shepherd in the area knew the exact location. Directions were not necessary. They knew the where to go.

Luke 2:15 When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.




Swadling Clothes


Swaddling clothes in the Aramaic is azrura which really means a bandage. The Greek word  esparganosen or parganoo is the root word used in the phrase “swaddling clothes,” and it means “to clothe in strips of cloth. The Hebrew word used here is chatal. עזרורא

Swaddling is an age-old practice of wrapping infants in blankets or similar cloths so that movement of the limbs is tightly restricted. Swaddling bands were often used to further restrict the infant. Swaddling fell out of favor in the 17th century


“The practice of swaddling is very ancient practice.  It is believed to have been devised around the Paleolithic times about  4500 years ago during the Bronze Age around 2600 BC.  Archaeologists have uncovered little models of babies wrapped in swaddling clothes dating back to this period. After an infant was born the umbilical cord was cut and tied.  In this case, as there was no midwife, either Mary or Joseph would have had to do this.  They would then sprinkle the baby with a powder made of dried myrtle leaves. Then they would gently rub the baby’s skin with a very small  amount of salt that has been finely grounded into a sort of  mortar.  It was believed this would make his or her flesh firm.  For young Jewish parents this represented a testimony that that the parents would raise the child to be truthful and faithful.


“The swaddling clothes was a square yard of cloth which had a narrow band attached at one corner.  The mother would wrap the child in this swaddle with its arms close to its body and its legs stretched out.  She would then wind the narrow band around the body from the shoulders to the ankles until the poor little beggar looked like an Egyptian mummy. This little ritual was performed as often as we would change a diaper today and would be done until the child was potty trained.  In a practical sense it was meant to help the bodies grow strong and firm.

 “.…  To the Jewish parent, however, this practice carried symbolic meaning, … This was a sign to the parents that they would teach the child to become honest, straightforward, and freed from crookedness.






Sacrificial lamb

Immediately following their birth, the shepherds would meticulously look over and inspect the lambs making sure they were flawless and without fault. The shepherds would then wrap the perfect lambs in swaddling clothes, certifying their birth was a “holy birth.” This outward, physical display of cloths wrapped securely around the lambs meant they were deemed an acceptable sacrifice.


And what of the birth of Jesus? Luke 2:7 says “She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” Mary took what was available to her, strips of cloth used for the swaddling of little newborn lambs, and tightly wrapped them around her baby boy. The Perfect Lamb, born to save the world, was swaddled in the exact manor the Temple lambs were swaddled. The significance of this act spoke volumes to those who understood what the swaddling represented: the certification of a holy birth. The message woven within the cloths; this One is holy.




If swaddling "cloths" were used in the handling of newborn babies, swaddling "bands" (as referenced in Job 38:9) were used for subduing animals prior to sacrifice. Once the animal is inspected and found fit for sacrifice prior to the sacrifice, the animal is bound  (Hebrew `aqad) with strips of clothes till the sacrifice is completed.  We see this in the case of Isaac.  . A sacrifice had to be "bound" in order to be valid. The Hebrew word is  an animal for sacrifice is the Hebrew הָעֲקֵידָה Ha-Aqedah, -Aqeidah  . It is possible that the newborn Jesus born in "the manger" of the birthing room of Migdal Eder have been “swaddled" in the bands used on the tamyid lambs since there were not much of a choice there. Swaddling was referred to as an indication that a baby was properly cared for though many scholars associate this with the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus for mankind.




The Manger

Luke 2:16 So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.

Jesus, the Lamb of God, was born in the same location as sacrificial lambs for the Temple. Jesus was wrapped “snugly” in swaddling cloth like a sacrificial lamb for inspection.

I am told that the name Yehoshua, which is in Hebrew has the same numerical value as the “Lamb of God” (שה האלהים). John 1:29, 35-36).


Limestone Manger (Courtesy of Bible Lands Pictorial Library)



Swaddling a Baby

quoted from Burnston, "Portraying the Eighteenth Century Baby & Child", Muzzleloader, Jan/Feb 2004, Pp. 49-50
taken from


As a midwife of 1671 put it: ". . roul it up in soft cloths and lay it in the cradle but in the swaddling of it be sure that all parts be bound up in due place and order gently without any crookedness or rugged foldings; for infants are tender twigs and as you use them, so will they grow straight or crooked. . lay the arms right down by the sides that they may grow right. . After four months let them loose the arms, but still roul the breast and feet to keep out cold air for a year till the child have gained strength. Shift the child’s clouts often for the Piss and Dung." [quoted in Buck, p. 24]

Although she recommends swaddling for a year, by the mid 18th century, babies were usually swaddled for only the first two or three months, the exact length of time depending on the weather, the child’s constitution, the family’s resources and other factors.


Over the swaddling band, the baby would wear a waistcoat, mantle or robe, sleeved or sleeveless, open down the front, made of linen, wool or silk, and extending at least 12" below the baby’s feet. Over that went a bib about 12" long.


Babies wore two or three biggins or caps until one year of age, plus the forehead cloth, 2" x 15", which passed over the top of the baby’s head and was pinned to its shoulders to securely stabilize the head and neck. Sometimes the forehead cloth was replaced by a more elaborate garment that passed over the top of the baby’s head, pinned to its shoulders, and extended down both sides of its body all the way to the feet. This was called the "long stay".


Over everything else went two or three blankets . . In actual practice, you could leave off a good many of the period baby’s layers and no one would notice. A reasonable minimum for a reenacting baby is a linen shirt, linen clout (diaper), linen or wool barrow, linen cap, a linen belly band about 3" x 45" to secure the barrow, and perhaps one light wool blanket. If hot weather is a problem, remember that linen is far and away the coolest fabric to wear and well worth the expense.



Swaddled Native American baby of the Nez Perce tribe, in 1911




Those shepherds who were levites, were likely not mere “boys” but closer to 30 years old, trained as priests and given the special responsibility of caring for the sheep that are sacrificed at the Temple Mount. The shepherds would wrap the newborn lambs in swaddling ‘cloths’ to protect the body of the lambs which would be offered as sacrifice at the Temple just five miles away in Jerusalem. Wrapped in swaddling cloths to keep the new lambs without spot or blemish, they would be laid in a manger until they had calmed down.


The ‘special shepherds’ keeping watch over the temple sacrifices were the ones to whom God announced, through His angel, the birth of the ultimate “sacrificial Lamb.” They were always looking forward to the ideal sacrificial lamb for sacrifice as the ultimate redemption of mankind.  Here now are the angels who proclaim the birth of the lamb slain before the creation of this world. These priestly shepherds knew the ‘swaddling’ procedure and, when told it would be a sign, they recalled Micah 4:8 and, with haste (Luke 2:16) ran to see the newborn Jesus, the Son of God.  There was no need for the angel to give these shepherds directions to the birth place because they already knew. They who raised the sacrificial lambs for the Temple, knew exactly where to go, as Luke 2 indicates, for the sign of a manger could only mean a manger at the tower of the flock in their fields.


They made the connection to Messiah, just as it had been told them. Then, they made known everything they had seen and heard.


“Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” Luke 2:8-12

“So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.”Luke 2:15-20


Watchtower, Shepherd’s Fields, Bethlehem (circa. 1934)


Bible historian Alfred Edersheim suggests Migdal Eder— located on the northern outskirts of Bethlehem—was a watchtower used for the protection of temple flocks!


The precise location is unknown; however, some scholars believe Migdal Eder was a short distance from the main road linking Jerusalem to Bethlehem. Today, it is called the “Old Hebron Road” entering Bethlehem from the northeast. 


When Helena the mother Emperor became Christian, she travelled herself through the land of Israel and took pain to identify the special placed connected to Jesus.  Among them was a the cave over which a church was built in 326 AD. Construction for the first church of the Nativity began in 327. It was dedicated to Mary on May 31, 339.  Was it the right Migdal Eder she chose? We cannot say.  That was what the people around assured her.


 In 529 AD,during the Samaritan revolt the church was burned with fire and it was rebuilt between 531 and 539AD by Justinian;  the grandson of Helena.


In Persian sack of 614AD,  the invading army general, Shahrbaraz, spotted mosaics of the Magi in Persian dress on the church’s walls. Touched by what he understood to be a show of respect for his people, Shahrbaraz spared the church.






 Entrance to the Nativity Church and Icon of Mother Mary and the child near the staircase next to the entry into the cave.

The entrace was a large arch gate which was later reduced in size so that people wont ride into it on horse back



Under the central arch is the cave where Jesus was born.  The exact spot is marked by an eight point star.



The 14 point star that marks the spot of the birth of Jesus


The steps that leads into the ground floor cave


In 614 AD  there was a Persian invasion. . However they spared the nativity church becausse of a mosaic art which showed the worship of magi. The mosaic was a picture of the three wise men - the Kings that came from the East. One of them was from Persia, one from India and one from Arabia. This brought in a sense of sacredness to this church and they left it alone.  History tells us that they burned monastery and all other churches in the Holy land.  Thus this church is the oldest church in Israel today.


 The following quote is from the net tours a tourist agency who gives an excellent well researched summary.


The Church of the Nativity

The Manger

The focal point of the church is the cave of the birth. The Gospels do not mention a cave in this connection, but the tradition goes back at least to 150 AD, when Justin of Nablus recorded it. The cave he knew must have been the one that the Christian philosopher Origen wrote about in 248 AD, adding: "For the heathens, too, it is a well known matter." Two years later, however, when the Roman emperor Decius carried out the first empire-wide persecution of Christianity, heathens turned the cave into a sanctuary of Adonis. This profanation went on for almost a hundred years.

In the late 4th or early 5th century, Jerome wrote a friend: "Bethlehem, which now is ours, was overshadowed  by the grove of Tammuz, that is, Adonis, and in the cave where once the infant Jesus whimpered, people bewailed the lover of Venus." 


In Luke 2:7 we read: "She brought forth her firstborn son, and she wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a feeding trough, because there was no room for them in the inn." The Greek word translated as "inn" is katalyma, which in ordinary usage meant simply a large room (Kroll, p. 49). The slopes of Judaea contain many caves, and often people used to build their houses in such a way as to incorporate one; here the animals might be kept, as well as their feeding troughs or "mangers." We may picture a house built against the western slope of the tell, containing a large room busy with people, and beneath it this cave.

Today we enter by descending a few steps on the south side of the church. Beneath an altar on our right is a fourteen-pointed star. It marks the place where, in Christian belief, God became human. We cannot know for sure that this was the spot, but we do know that Jesus was born at a particular place and time, and here we have the place to remember that fact. When we come down the steps, on our left stand three candle holders, representing the magi. (One may insert a candle, bought from the cleric above.) Below them is a slightly deeper chamber, and on its far (western) side is a trough in the rock, covered with marble, in which lamps burn. This represents the manger.


The visitor may sympathize with the reaction of Saint Jerome, recorded more than 1500 years ago: “Oh that I might see the manger in which the Lord lay! Now we Christians, as though we were honoring Christ, have taken away that manger of clay and set a silver one in its place. For me, however, the one they've taken away is greater in worth. The heathen world reveres gold and silver; the Christian faith serves that manger of clay. He who was born in this manger has no regard for gold and silver. I do not despise those whose reverence led them to install the manger of silver, just as I do not despise those people who wrought golden vessels for the Temple. But I feel awe before the Lord, Creator of the universe, who was born not between gold and silver, rather on clay.” Bibliothek der Kirchenvaeter 15, 211    

The church as a whole

The Emperor Constantine the Great funded the first church here, a huge basilica, finished by 334. Fire destroyed it in the early 6th century, perhaps during the Samaritan revolt of 529. Pieces of its mosaic floor may be viewed by opening trap doors inside. Its atrium (or forecourt) lay in the open space west of the present building, from which one normally enters the church.

Standing in this open space, we can view successive gates, all filled except for today's small opening. The majestic lintel of Justinian I surmounts what was the central gate of three.

The church we have today is essentially the one rebuilt by this great ruler. It is the oldest church still standing in the land, indeed one of the three or four oldest in the world. It owes its survival to a number of peculiar facts:  The church's designers put a mosaic over the outer door, showing the scene of Jesus' birth, including the wise men (Magi). Since these came from the east, the artists clothed them in Persian dress, complete with Mithras caps. (Similar Magi may still be seen at Justinian's church in Ravenna.) In 614, the Persians broke into the Byzantine Empire. They massacred Christians and destroyed their churches. On reaching this one, however, "they were amazed at the picture of the Persian Magi, the astrologers, their fellow countrymen. In respect and affection for their ancestors...they spared the church" (Baldi, p. 105, n.2). This report stems from a letter written long after the event, at the Jerusalem Synod of 836, in the midst of the iconoclast controversy: the point was to show that images had saved a major church. 

Justinian's church was later saved by another feature as well. The architects designed the eastern end as a cross, with large apses facing east, south and north. The southern apse could be interpreted as a Muslim mihrab . After the Islamic conquest in 638, the Caliph Omar visited Bethlehem. Revering Jesus as a prophet and servant of God, he prayed in this southern apse. (Ibn al-Batriq, cited in Marmardji, p. 4). Then he gave the Christians a written guarantee that Muslims would pray there as individuals only. When the Caliph al-Hakim, still in his Muslim phase, carried out a great destruction of churches in 1009, he had to leave this one alone because Muslims prayed here.

Thus Justinian's church of 529 has survived to this day. The Crusaders filled in most of his great gate, leaving one formed by their typical pointed arch. Through it went the Crusader kings of Jerusalem to be crowned: they eschewed a golden coronation in the city where their Savior had been crowned with thorns. Later Christians walled up most of the Crusader gate as well, leaving an entrance smaller than an ordinary doorway, forcing all but children to stoop. (See the photograph above.) This too had its reason. In the mid-nineteenth century, the Greek Orthodox walled off the choir, abandoning the main part of the church, which merchants then used as a market, and "the Janissaries of the Pasha and the Beduins of the desert went there to tie up their horses to the abandoned columns of the nave" (Les Eglises de la Terre Sainte, Paris, 1860).

After receiving permission to expel the market, the clergy walled up most of the Crusader gate so that no one could get a horse in. That explains today's tiny entrance. The result, for a Christian, is fitting: One has to make oneself small to visit the place where God made Himself small. For a detailed explanation of the church, see Freeman-Grenville . Here are a few pointers:

The basic structure, which we see on entering, goes back to Justinian (529 AD), who raised the floor above Constantine's and provided the 44 pillars, then unpainted. Its octagonal baptismal font, once on the eastern end, is now in the southern aisle.



There were and are no seats. People would normally stand throughout the Byzantine service, which sometimes lasted for seven hours or more.
"And now we are entered on our travail and anguish," wrote Paul of Aleppo in the 17th century on entering Orthodox Russia, "For all their churches are empty of seats. There is not one, even for the bishop; you see the people all through the service standing like rocks... God help us for the length of their prayers and chants and Masses, for we suffered great pain, so that our very souls were tortured with fatigue and anguish" (Ridding, p. 14).

From descriptions by pilgrims, we know that Justinian's church was covered with mosaics, but the fragments we see today date from the 12th century. On the side walls of the nave, in the lowest band, the artists represented the ancestors of Jesus: on the south wall according to Matthew, on the north according to Luke. Above that, on the north wall, they put summaries of the decisions by the Six Provincial Councils of the Orthodox: we can still see Sardis and Antioch. Opposite these, on the south wall, were summaries of the Seven Ecumenical Councils. Today only that from the first Council of Constantinople remains (held in 381 AD): it confirmed the condemnation of Arianism. That condemnation had originally occurred at the Council of Nicaea (325 AD), which decided that Jesus is co-eternal with God the Father and of the same substance with Him. The mosaic summarizing Nicaea is gone. Fortunately, a monk made a copy before it disappeared:

The Holy Synod of 318 holy Fathers against Arius, who claimed that the son and the Word of God were created, met under the Emperor Constantine the Great. The Holy Synod decreed and confessed that the only Son and Word of God, by whom all things were made, is co-eternal and consubstantial with the Father, begotten and not made.

In order to overcome Arianism, Eastern Christendom surrounded the Lord's Table (the altar) with splendor and mystery, befitting one who is consubstantial with God the Father. We can still sense something of the old splendor in this Nativity church. As for mystery, we find it in the development of the iconostasis or screen, such as the one in the eastern apse. There was no such separation in churches before Arius, but in opposition to his doctrine, Christians of the East sought to stress the awesome mystery of Christ by concealing the holy Table from the eyes of the congregation. At first they used curtains. Justinian added a standing screen with doors, full of icons (hence "iconostasis"), at his great church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. Other Eastern churches copied this feature, until it became the rule (Chadwick, pp. 266-67).

Crusader artists painted thirty of Justinian's 44 pillars. Today they make up one of the world's most complete collections of medieval paintings. The practice of polishing them with oil is responsible for their present dullness, although the smoke of the lamps has contributed too. The figures include not only the usual saints, but also saintly kings, such as Canute of England (1017-35) and Olaf of Norway (1016-29). If we stand in the middle aisle, we can easily find Elijah being fed by the raven (fourth pillar from the east). One pillar shows Onuphrius, a Byzantine monk who went naked; he was able to retain his modesty thanks to the amplitude of his beard. The Nativity church has been a place of strife among the Christian communities, although the matter has rested (with occasional exceptions) since the Crimean War and the Treaty of Paris (1856). Here the European powers accepted a firman (decree) by the Turkish sultan, assigning rights in the holy places. The Sultan's ruling re-affirmed the Status Quo ante bellum, dating from 1757. In accordance with it, the Greek Orthodox have almost the entire church, although the Armenians and the Roman Catholics also hold carefully specified rights.

Passing through the northern transept (under Armenian control), we leave the church and immediately enter another: The Roman Catholic Church of Saint Catherine of Alexandria, built in 1881 on the ruins of a Crusader sanctuary. It has recently been redesigned. The Christmas Eve Mass on December 24 is celebrated here. In the southern aisle is a staircase leading down to a series of caves. (These grottoes connect to the cave of the manger, but the door is usually shut.) A number of traditions were linked to these caves, mainly in the Middle Ages. On our left, when we come down the stairs, is a low-ceilinged chapel believed to contain the graves of the innocent children. Before us is a chapel where Christians locate the angel's warning to Joseph, to take his family and flee to Egypt. Through an opening on the right, we find several grave markers with inscriptions, including St. Jerome's and that of his helper, St. Paula. Jerome himself described Paula's burial "beside the Cave of the Lord," so her grave is probably authentic. Jerome's was here as well, but a Byzantine emperor moved the body of the cantankerous Bible translator to Constantinople, and later it is thought by some to have been moved to the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. The chamber beside Jerome's grave came to be known as his study, where the Vulgate originated.

It is well worth a visit to the Holy land.
We cherished every moment of it.








Matthew 2:1-2 says, "Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.'"

Matthew uses two Greek expressions for areas east of Palestine. First, Matthew says the Magi are from "the East" or "eastern parts"—Greek, or the distant East - ton anatolon. Magi saw the star “in the East" - te anatole



The Magi are popularly referred to as wise men and kings. The word magi is the plural of Latin magus, borrowed from Greek μάγος (magos), as used in the original Greek text of the Gospel of Matthew (in the plural: μάγοι, magoi). Greek magos itself is derived from Old Persian maguŝ from the Avestan magâunô, i.e., the religious caste into which Zoroaster was born (see Yasna 33.7: "ýâ sruyê parê magâunô" = "so I can be heard beyond Magi")  


The Greek word is attested from the fifth century B.C.E. as a direct loan from the term maguš, which is a Persian u-stem adjective from an Indo-Iranian root *magh, "powerful, rich." This root (*magh-) appears to have expressed ability, which is also seen in Attic Greek mekhos (cf. mechanics) and in Germanic magan (English may), magts. The original significance of the name for the Magi thus seems to have been "the powerful."



The earliest known depiction of the magi is this mid-third-century C.E. fresco decorating the Catacomb of Priscilla, one of Rome’s oldest Christian cemeteries. Photo: Scala/Art Resource.


The Zoroastrian connection

The term refers to the Persian priestly caste of Zoroastrianism. As part of their religion, these priests paid particular attention to the stars and gained an international reputation for astrology, which was at that time highly regarded as a science. The sun, moon and the stars are “for signs and for seasons”  The term magic was derived from that.  Evidently modern science is derived from these magi.


Avestan has the related terms maga and magauuan, meaning "sacrifice" and "sacrificer" and the modern Persian high title “Mobed” is derived from an Old Persian compound magu-pati, "Lord Priest." Zoroastrianism was in fact strongly opposed to sorcery. The King James Version translates the term as wise men; the same translation is applied to the wise men led by Daniel of earlier Hebrew Scriptures (Daniel 2:48). The same word is given as sorcerer and sorcery when describing "Elymas the sorcerer" in Acts 13:6–11, and Simon Magus, considered a heretic by the early Church, in Acts 8:9–13. Several translations refer to the men outright as astrologers at Matthew Chapter 2.


Magi as Kings


The identification of the Magi as kings is linked to Old Testament prophecies that describe the Messiah being worshipped by kings in Isaiah 60:3, Psalm 68:29, and Psalm 72:10, which reads,
"Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations serve him."


Magi as Scientists

The Witness of the Stars by E. W. Bullinger "For Signs and For Seasons"

"Let them be for signs and for seasons."Genesis 1:14
Here the word "signs" is othoth (plural of oth, from the root to come).
Hence, a sign of something or some One to come.
In Jeremiah 10:2 Jehovah says, "And be not dismayed at the signs of the heavens, for the heathen are dismayed at them."

The statement implies that the astronomical elements can predicts things to come.  This is the foundation of the oldest science of Astrology. The new NIV has translated it as:
Let them be signs to mark the seasons, days, and years avoiding the signs as sign for things to come. Evidently astronomical signs have been used by the magi to come to Bethlehem and it predicted the coming of God into human race. And their interpretation was correct to the point where and when and how of the birth of Jesus. The star led them to the place Jesus lay.

Genesis 1:14 is therefore, "They (the sun, moon, and stars) shall be for signs (things to come) and for cycles (appointed times)."


We can see these extraordinary signs used as predictions in ( Joel 2:30,31 )
 I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke.The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.  


Jesus himself points to the signs of the last destruction of Jerusalem, and of his coming, and of the end of the world, ( Matthew 24:3 Matthew 24:29 )
24:3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
29Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:
( Luke 21:25-28 ).25 “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars.

Here, then, we have a distinct declaration from God, that the heavens contain not only a Revelation concerning things to come in the "Signs," but also concerning appointed times in the wondrous movements of the sun, and moon, and stars.

Based on this interpretation is this the book of Revelation presents sign of things to happen.

Zoroastrian Connection


According to the Greek writer Herodotus, the word magos was held by aristocrats of the Median nation and specifically to Zoroastrian astronomer-priests. In Herodotus' writings, the term magos usually referred to a member of the tribe of the Medes (1.101) who could interpret dreams (7.37). However, with the spread of Hellenism, magos started to be used as an adjective, meaning "magical," as in magas techne, "ars magica" (e.g. used by Philostratus).


Some translations of the Bible, such as the King James Version and the New Revised Standard Version, render magos as "Wise Men." Yet, the same Greek word is rendered as "sorcerer" or magician in the account of "Elymas" the sorcerer in Acts of the Apostles 13. The term is also used to identify Simon Magus in Acts 8.


Since the passage in Matthew implies that they were observers of the stars, most conclude that the intended meaning of magos is "astrologer-priests." Indeed, John Wycliffe's (c. 1330–1384 C.E.) translation of the Gospel reads not "wise men" but "astrologers" because in ancient times "astrology" encompassed both astrology and astronomy. Ludolph of Saxony (died 1378) thus wrote:

“The three pagan kings were called Magi not because they were magicians but because of the great science of astrology which was theirs. Those whom the Hebrews called scribes and the Greeks, philosophers, and the Latins, wise men, the Persians called Magi. And the reason that they were called kings is that in those days it was the custom for the philosophers and wise men to be rulers” (Vita Christi).


The Encyclopedia gives the connection to magi and magic:
"Magus, plural Magi, [Latin from Greek Magos -- more at magic]
 1 a: a member of a hereditary priestly class among the ancient Medes and Persians

b: often capital: one of the traditionally three wise men from the East paying homage to the infant Jesus

2: Magician, sorcerer"
(Webster New College Dictionary).

" followers of Zoroaster, the Persian teacher and prophet. Gradually, the religion of the magi incorporated Babylonian elements, including astrology, demonology, and magic."  (Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia, 1983)  


The phrase "from the east" (ἀπὸ ἀνατολῶν, apo anatolon), more literally "from the rising [of the sun]", is the only information Matthew provides about the region from which they came. The Parthian Empire, centered in Persia, occupied virtually all of the land east of Judea and Syria (except for the deserts of Arabia to the southeast). We will be taking up the details on Parthian Empire to follow this indication for details.


Though the empire was tolerant of other religions, its dominant religion was Zoroastrianism, with its priestly magos class.


Zoroastrianism, the ancient pre-Islamic religion of Iran that survives there in isolated areas and, more prosperously, in India, where the descendants of Zoroastrian Iranian (Persian) immigrants are known as Parsees.


The Iranian prophet and religious reformer Zarathustra (flourished before the 6th century bce) is traditionally regarded as the founder of the religion. Zoroastrianism contains both monotheistic and dualistic features. There are historians who believe that most of the theology of Judaism were formed in clarity after their return from Babylonial exile.  They assimilated most of the basic teachings of Monotheism, Heaven and Hell, resurrection, messiah, and Satan as a cosmic villain and final judgement from Zorastrianism.   




Zarathustra the founder of Zoroastrianism one of the earliest monotheistic religions of the world.

The Evangelium Infantiae, Codex Apocryphus Novi Testamenti edited by Ioannes Carolus Tbilo, Lipsiae, 1832, an “apocryphal gospel” says:  
“Magi came from the East to Jerusalem in conformity with the prophecy of Zoroaster, and they had with them gifts, gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and they worshipped him [Jesus].” 

According to Salomon, Bishop of Basra, and Theodore bar Konai Zoroaster said to his favorite disciples:
 “At the end of time and at the final dissolution, a child shall be conceived in the womb of a virgin… They will take him and crucify him upon a tree, and heaven and earth shall sit in mourning for his sake… He will come [again] with the armies of light, and be borne aloft on white clouds… He shall descend from my family, for I am he and he is I. He is in me and I am in him.”

The Magi were the sacred caste of the Medes from ancient Media (inhabitants of Persia), who were responsible for the religious and funerary practices, and who eventually accepted the Zoroastrian religion.


The Magi organized Persian society after the fall of Assyria and Babylon. However, their power was curtailed by Persian Emperor Cyrus the Great (c 585 – 529 B.C.E.), founder of the Persian Empire, and by his son Cambyses II; the Magi revolted against Cambyses and set up a rival claimant to the throne, one of their own, who took the name of Smerdis. Smerdis and his forces were defeated by the Persians under Darius I. The sect of the Magi continued in Persia, though its influence was limited after this political setback.

During the Classical era (555 B.C.E. – 300 AD.), some Magi migrated westward , settling in Greece, and then Italy. For more than a century, Mithraism, a religion derived from Persia, was the largest single religion in Rome. The Magi were likely involved in its practice. Classical authors such as Herodotus, Strabo, Pompeius Trogus, Apuleius, and Ammianus Marcellinus have provided significant information on the religion of the Magi. According to the statements of some of them, the Magi were disciples and followers of Zoroaster. 


The Book of Jeremiah (39:3, 39:13) gives a title rab mag ("chief magus") to the head of the Magi, Nergal Sharezar. It is also believed by Christians that the Jewish prophet Daniel was "rab mag" and entrusted a Messianic vision (to be announced in due time by a "star") to a secret sect of the Magi for its eventual fulfillment (Daniel 4:9; 5:11). 


Although Matthew's account does not explicitly cite the motivation for their journey (other than seeing the star in the east, which they took to be the star of the King of the Jews), the Syriac Infancy Gospel provides some clarity by stating explicitly in the third chapter that they were pursuing a prophecy from their prophet, Zoradascht (Zoroaster).


I have heard this directly from my Parsi friends that the Zoroastrian religion would have come to an end when the Magi met Jesus because the coming of the Savior of the world was prophesied by Zoroaster. They point to the rise of a star predicting the birth of a ruler - hence the King of he Jews - and with myths describing the manifestation of a divine figure - hence the Savior of the world -in fire and light.


There might have been many other magi scientists from various cultures of the East as Matthew seem to suggest.


In fact a similar homage of the Magi occured when King Tiridates I of Armenia, with his magi journeyed all the way to Rome to pay homage to the Emperor Nero.  This took place in 66 AD.


Lost tribes of Israel and the magi

This alternate theory is proposed here where, the magi are the descendants of the Judah and from the lost tribes of Israel in dispersion.  This is identified as the great Parthian Empire.

Parthia was a great empire east of the Euphrates—biblically "the distant east." Euphrates area, had Babylon as its capital and included the areas of Mesopotamia, Armenia and Iran. The Parthians rose to power around 250 B.C. and were the powerful contenders against Roman Empire. The empire lasted till AD 226. This was the East—the land of the Magi. It was into this area the Israel was taken captive by the Assyrians (2 Kings 15:29; 17:23; 18:11; 1 Chronicles 5:26). These are the lost 10 tribes of Israel. They were also descendants of Abraham. Eventually the Jewish people became powerful in the empire.


To see this relation we have to look into the history of the lost ten tribes:


After the death of King Solomon in c. 931 BC, Israel had been divided into two : The Kingdom of Israel in the North with its capital city of Samaria, consisting of the Ten Tribes; and the Kingdom of Judaea in the South with the capital city of Jerusalem, consisting of the Tribes of Judah, Benjamin. The Levites were distributed with many in Jerusalem. This took place in 930 BC (I Kings 12:19; II Chronicles 10:19).



Kingdom of Israel had lasted 209 years from 930 -721 BC. In the year 721 BCE they were taken captive by Babylon and we have no further record of them in the Bible.  They are always referred to as the “Lost Tribes of Israel”.

 In II Kings 24:8-15, the last kings of Judah, Jehoiachin, was carried captive to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar.


 What most Biblical scholars don’t realize is that, this was not the end but a new beginning.  After 37 years in the dungeon of Babylon II Kings 25:27-30 says the King “…did lift up the head of Jehoiachin king of Judah out of prison; and he spake kindly to him, and set his throne above the thrones of the kings that were with him in Babylon… ”(KJV)







 Thus not only that Johoiakim was made a vassal King, but he was given a higher position ruling over several vassal kingdoms in the Babylonian Empire. We should assume that Johoiakim was made ruler over the vassals who were themselves of the lost tribes. Jehoiakim himself may have appointed others from the tribes of Israel, who were themselves Princes of the tribes who led the migration - as his own vassals.  They were placed in the Median cities of Halah, and Habor, by the river of Gozan (2 Kings 17:3-6) and they were not a few people but a large nation still together.

 Since Jehoiachin was a descendant of King David (of the Phares line), his descendants apparently established a dynasty which continued to rule over descendants of the ten tribes when they regained their independence. In fact I Chronicles 3:16-24 records that the royal family of Judah did not die out, but produced many descendants during the generations after the fall of Jerusalem.  First chronicles gives us the names of descendants of Jehoiachin.-  the sons of Jehoiakim



The silver drachma of Arsaces I of Parthia ( c. 247–211 BC) with the Greek language inscription ΑΡΣΑΚΟΥ "of Arsaces"


Drachma of Phraates IV of Parthia ( c. 38–2 BC). Reverse side: Tyche/Khvarenah bestowing the attributes of power (palm, cornucopia) on the king; inscription ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΝ ΑΡΣΑΚΟΥ ΕΥΕΡΓΕΤΟΥ ΕΠΙΦΑΝΟΥΣ ΦΙΛΕΛΛΗΝΟΣ "of the King of Kings Arsaces the Renowned/Manifest Benefactor Philhellene"



 Indo-Parthian Kingdom – Davidic Kingdom?




 Flavius Josephus (37 – c.100 AD) the well known historian wrote this in “Antiquities of The Jews” (Book XI – Chapter V – Verse 2.)
“Wherefore there are but two tribes (Yahudah and Benjamin plus the Levites) in Asia and Europe subject to the Romans, while the ten tribes are beyond the Euphrates till now, and are in immense multitude, and not to be estimated by numbers. Josephus knew that their population had become too numerous to estimate, and that the Euphrates River served as their western border.”

 Steven M. Collins – ‘The “Lost” – Ten Tribes of Israel – Found!’– CPA Books – PO Box 596 – Boring Oregon 97009.



 ‘Thus has the Lord, God of Israel, spoken:
“Your fathers dwelt in olden times beyond the River [Euphrates], Terach, the father of Abraham and the father of Nachor, and they served other gods. And I took your father Abraham from beyond the River and led him through all the land of Canaan….”


 Thus what has happened was they were back to the land from which the Patriarchs started their journey. The Parthian Empire existed in and around Aram from where Abram came. This is the land of Mesopotamia, the land between the two Rivers. Many Jews found shelter in various other countries as well. 


 But majority of them were in Mesopotamia where they rose to become of the great powers of the period which contended with the Roman Empire. The Parthian empire occupied all of modern Iran, Iraq and Armenia, parts of Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan, and -for brief periods- territories in Pakistan, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Palestine .”
George Rawlinson, Parthia and The Sixth Great Oriental Monarchy


 [email protected]@@@@@@@@@@@@@@


 This included the Indus Valley from where Abraham had some roots through his second wife Keturah.  These form the modern Dravidians of India who established the Upanishads and the later monotheism as against the polytheistic nature worshipping invader Aryans. gives a good study on the dispersion of the children of Israel right from the time of their liberation from Egypt and along the way. These people are all over the world from Greece to China. But we are concentrating on the dispersed of the East from where the magi came to visit Jesus.

 Various officials of the Achaemenid Persian Empire were from the Israelite tribe of Judah, and the Parthians were themselves descendants of the ten tribes of Israel. The term “Iran” comes from the ‘Ephraimite clan named after “Eran,” and even the name of the language “Pahlavi” contains the name of the Israelite tribe of Levi. The name Parthia itself comes from the consonants are “B-R-TH,” the consonants of the Hebrew word for “Covenant.” The name Parthia simply means People of the Covenant. The very language of the Parthian Kingdom was Pahlavi which is same as Aramaic the language spoken by Jesus – of Semitic origin.  The Dravidian kingdom of South India called Pallavas came from them. Recent evidence indicate that some mystics even migrated as far as China.


 Chiang-Min China

 "Behold, These are coming from afar. These from the north and the west and these from the land of Sinim." Isaiah 49:12


Most translations render it as:  The return of exiles from the most distant parts of the earth.

”the prophecy had been written four or five centuries later this hypothesis would be more plausible than it is. The word might be the same as the Arabic and Syriac name for China (צין), although there is a difference in the first consonant which would excite misgivings. But it is generally considered that this name is derived from that of the Tsin-dynasty, which dates from 255 b.c.”

  “This prophecy, spoken by Isaiah, promised the return of Lost Israelites from all corners of the Earth and from Sinim. Interestingly, Sinim is the Hebrew word for China. In fort-like villages in the high mountain ranges on the Chinese-Tibetan border live the Chiang-Min of West Szechuan. It has been claimed that the Chiang-Min are descendants of the ancient Israelites who arrived in China several hundred years before Christ.”

The Lost Ten Tribes

· Reuben

· Issachar

· Zebulun

· Dan

· Naphtali

· Gad

· Asher

· Ephraim

· Manasseh.

· In addition, some members of Tribe of Levi, who had no land allocation


Nathan Ausubel’s list

Nathan Ausubel wrote:There are quite a number of peoples today who cling to the ancient tradition that they are descended from the Jewish Lost Tribes: the tribesmen of Afghanistan, the Mohammedan Berbers of West Africa, and the six million Christian Igbo people of Nigeria. Unquestionably, they all practice certain ancient Hebraic customs and beliefs, which lends some credibility to their fantastic-sounding claims.

In his 1953 work Pictorial History of the Jewish People, Nathan Ausubel compiled the following list of peoples connected in one way or another to this legend:

· Baghdad

· Iran

· Kurdistan

· Yemen

· Georgia

· Bokhara

· Hadhramaut

· Mountain Jews

· Afghanistan

· Bene-Israel

· Cochin Jews

· China

· Egypt

· Algeria

· Morocco

· Libya

· Tunisia

· Djerba

· The Sahara

· Cave Dwellers = Atlas Mountains south of Tripolitania and Tunisia. Closely related to the Jews of the Sahara, they believe that their ancestors were brought as captives from Judea by Titus after 70 AD. They cut out tiny paper boats which decorate their synagogues where they pray: May a boat soon come and carry us to Jerusalem.


Falashas = Lake Tana, Ethiopia. Claim to have come with the Queen of Sheba to visit King Solomon.

· The Samaritans = Nablus (Shechem). Claim to be from the tribes of Ephraim, Menashe, and Levi, and built a rival Temple on Mount Gerizim in the days of Ezra


The Magi were powerful members of one of the two assemblies which elected Parthian monarchs and wielded great influence within the empire.


 One assembly was composed of members of the royal family (the Arsacids), and the other consisted of the priests (the Magi) and influential Parthians of non-royal blood (the Wise Men). The Magi and Wise Men were jointly known as the Megistanes.The Greek word translated "wise men" is "magian," literally means "Persian astronomer or priest." The priests included the Levites who were also part of the Jewish dispersion from Israel.


 Parthia had long governed all Persian territory at the time of Christ, and the Wise Men cited in the Bible were clearly members of the Megistanes - very high Parthian officials. The Magi from which we got the word magic and magicians were “wise men” which actually meant in todays terminology scientists. Science grew out of magic and even witchcraft. That involved occult arts of healing mind and body, mantra, tantra, yantra, Astronomy, Astrology, forth telling, prophecy and interpretation of dreams. In those days they were the advisers to kings and rulers just like Daniel. Daniel was the chief of the magi – Rab Mag - in his time.


 It appears that both the Parthians and the Scythians were the displaced members of the “lost ten tribes of Israel.”



 The Silk route would have taken them further into China along the Wakhan corridor. During the long period of separation, these people like the Dravids of India developed new forms of religion. They were certainly mystics.



 The “Wakhan Corridor is commonly used as a synonym for Wakhan, the area of far northeastern Afghanistan which forms a land link or ‘corridor’ between Afghanistan and China.  ” (Wikipedia “Wakhan Corridor.”).   This corridor remained as the route through which many of mystic and rationalistic religions like Buddhism transmitted to China from India.




This will give some insight into their interest in the Jewish prophecy.


 As such we should expect that the Magi represented a delegation from the Jewish diaspora with official diplomatic status of a super power. The Bible does not give the number of delegates in this delegation even though tradition numbers them as three which probably was because of the three gifts named. They must have come with large retinue of caravans.  The Magi’s caravan would have included large numbers of servants, animal-handlers, cooks, etc. for such a long journey. These people alone would have constituted many hundreds of people! Given the fact that many high Parthian officials and very expensive treasures were in the caravan, there may have been many thousands of Parthian soldiers escorting the caravan.  Josephus records that treasure caravans bringing expensive offerings to Jerusalem from Jews living in Parthian territory did so with “many ten thousand men” as escorts (.Josephus, Antiquities, XVIII, IX, 1)


They went direct to Herod the King who received them. If they were of lordinary men we should not expect them to go straight to the palace of Herod the King.  Evidently they were dignitaries. And they were a multitude that their arrival disturbed the whole Judea.

 “Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem. Saying, where is He that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen His star in the east, and are come to worship him. When Herod the king heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.”  

Traditional identities and symbolism

Traditions identify a variety of different names for the Magi.

 In the Western Christian church they have been commonly known as: Melchior , Caspar or Gaspar and Balthasar.

These names apparently derive from a Greek manuscript probably composed in Alexandria around 500 A.D.

Gasper is usually identified with the Indian Parthian King Gondophores whom St.Thomas baptized during his Taxila mission. A 14th century Armenian tradition identifies them as Balthasar, King of Arabia; Melchior, King of Persia; and Gasper, King of India.

There is an Armenian tradition identifying the "Magi of Bethlehem"
as Balthasar of Arabia,
Melchior of Persia,
and Gaspar of India.

Caspar appears in the Acts of Thomas as Gondophares (21 – c. AD 47), i.e., Gudapharasa (from which "Caspar" might derive as corruption of "Gaspar"). This Gondophares declared independence from the Arsacids to become the first Indo-Parthian king, and he was allegedly visited by Thomas the Apostle. According to Ernst Herzfeld, his name is perpetuated in the name of the Afghan city Kandahar, which he is said to have founded under the name Gundopharron.  Historian John of Hildesheim relates a tradition in the ancient silk road city of Taxila (in Pakistan) that one of the Magi passed through the city on the way to Bethlehem. Gondaphores was the first Indo-Parthian King of the Indus Valley.


There was a tradition that the Central Asian Naimans -a tribe originating in Mongolia- and their Christian relatives, the Keraites, were descended from the biblical Magi. This heritage passed to the Mongol dynasty of Genghis Khan and his successor, Toghrul became identified as one of the possible with  legendary Central Asian Christian king, Prester John.   The legendary Christian ruler of Central Asia, Prester John was reportedly a descendant of one of the Magi. 


Apart from their names, the three Magi developed distinct characteristics in Christian tradition, so that between them they represented the three ages of (adult) man, three geographical and cultural areas,etc.  In one tradition, reflected in art by the 14th century (for example in the Arena Chapel by Giotto in 1305)


l Caspar is old, normally with a white beard, and gives the gold; he is "King of Tarsus, land of merchants" on the Mediterranean coast of modern Turkey, and is first in line to kneel to Christ.

l Melchior is middle-aged, giving frankincense from his native Arabia.. and

l Balthazar is a young man, very often and increasingly black-skinned, with myrrh from Saba (Yemen/ Ethiopia/India)  


Sixth-century mosaic of the Magi from Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna, Italy.


 Their ages were often given as 60, 40 and 20 respectively, and their geographical origins were rather variable. These assignments vary from culture to culture. They belong to the world.

by Jan van Bijlert. Oil on panel. Circa 1640–1650




The Magi came from Shir … a land of silk, at the extreme east

Revelation of the Magi: The Lost Tale of the Wise Men's Journey to Bethlehem



Landau, now an associate professor at Oklahoma University, writes the following summary in the opening of his dissertation:

Introduction—The Sages and the Star-Child:

The Revelation of the Magi, An Ancient Christian Apocryphon

(1:2). The Magi are said to be both kings and wise men, and the text gives a patronymic list of their names (2:3). They live in the land of Shir, which is described as being at the easternmost edge of the inhabited world, at the shore of the great Ocean


(2:4). They are descendents of Seth, the son of Adam and Eve, who received commandments from his father and wrote them in books, the first books which appeared in the history of the world (3:3-4). These books contained instructions for Seth’s offspring to wait for the appearance of a star, which would signal the birth of God in human form (4:2-10).


In expectation of this event, on the twenty-fifth day of every month the Magi purify themselves in a sacred spring, and then on the first day of the next month they ascend their country’s most sacred mountain, the Mountain of Victories, to glorify God in silent prayer (5:2-7). After praying in silence upon the mountain’s pinnacle for two days, on the third of the month they enter the Cave of Treasures of Hidden Mysteries, where Seth’s books were kept and where treasures were housed in expectation of the star (5:8). When the rituals have ended and the Magi descend from the mountain, they instruct their families and the people of their country who wish to learn about their mysteries (5:9). The Magi carry on this ritual throughout the generations, with a son or a close family member taking the place of his father when the father has died (5:10).


After the RevMagi introduces the Magi, their lineage, the prophecy of the star, and their ritual system, the flow of the narrative is interrupted by an excerpt from the books of revelation written by Seth (6:1-10:7). In this excerpt, Adam tells Seth about the prophecy of the coming star, since he had seen it standing over the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden before he sinned, at which point the star disappeared (6:2-3). Adam warns Seth not to obey Eve and the deceitful serpent as he did (8:8), predicts that at the end of time his lineage will be in rebellion (9:2-6), but promises that if Seth’s

descendents ask for mercy, God will hear them (10:5-7).


After this excerpt from the books of revelation, the text narrates the moment when the star appears to the Magi at the Mountain of Victories, just when they are gathering to commence their monthly rituals (11:3). The star appears in the sky, descends from the heavens, and enters the cave, inviting the Magi to come inside (12:3-5). In the cave, the star takes the form of a small and humble human being and tells the Magi that such a form is necessary for the inhabitants of the world to see the Son of the Father — indicating that this star-child is none other than Christ himself (13:1-2).


Christ tells the Magi that he has been sent from the Father for the salvation of all humanity, and instructs them to follow the star to Bethlehem to see his birth in human form (13:8-13). As they set out for the journey, the Magi discuss what they saw in the cave, and learn that each of them witnessed Christ in a different form, each of which corresponds to a stage in Christ’s life (14:3-9). While they are marveling at this, a voice from heaven — revealed to be the Father himself — calls out to them and tells them that what they have seen is only a very small portion of the power of the Father and the Son (15:1-10). Once the Magi have gathered their traveling supplies, the star leads them on the journey to Judea, making the mountains and valleys level in front of them, relieving their fatigue and increasing their food supply through the power of its light, and making the lengthy journey impossibly short (16:3-7).


When they reach Jerusalem in the month of April, the star leads them into the city. Herod and the scribes ask the Magi why they have come, and the Magi say that the savior of the world is to be born in this region (17:1-3). Having been informed that this will take place in Bethlehem, the Magi again see their star and go on their way, scorning the blindness of the inhabitants of Jerusalem (17:6-8). At Bethlehem, the Magi find a cave, into which the star enters and transforms itself into a luminous infant (18:2-8). The child blesses them and commands them to be witnesses to the Gospel along with his disciples (19:1-6). As the Magi are exiting the cave, Mary and Joseph approach them, concerned that the impending departure of the star with the Magi means that the child who has just appeared in their house is being taken from them


(22:2-5). After the Magi reassure Mary that the child is still in their house despite his continuing presence with the Magi in the form of the star (23:2-4), the child blesses Mary and tells her that his mission is the redemption of all humanity (25:1-4). The star leads the Magi on the journey back to their country, again miraculously refilling their food supply through its power (26:1-7). When they return to the land of Shir, the Magi tell the inhabitants of the wondrous visions and revelations which they saw, and they give the people some of the food that the star had supplied for them (27:1-11). The people eat the food, which immediately produces visions for them of the life of Christ, and many of the inhabitants convert to the faith proclaimed by the Magi (28:1-4).


After some time has passed, the Apostle Judas Thomas arrives in the land of the Magi and converts people to the faith of Jesus Christ through mighty deeds (29:1).


When the Magi hear that he has arrived, they realize that he is one of the disciples about whom the Christ child had spoken (29:2). They go to him and tell him about the appearance of the star and their journey to Bethlehem, and Judas Thomas recognizes that they have received the gift of the Lord (29:3-4). He tells them of his experiences with the earthly Jesus, and the Magi ask him to give them the seal of the Lord (29:4-5). Early on Sunday morning, Judas Thomas leads the Magi to a spring, takes oil, and sings a hymn over it (30:1-9). He baptizes the Magi, and when they come up from the water, Christ descends to them from heaven in the form of a glorious youth (31:1). He produces a loaf of bread and gives it to Judas Thomas and to all of the Magi, proclaims to the Magi that their ancient mysteries have been accomplished, and ascends once more to heaven (31:2-3).


At the closing of the RevMagi, Judas Thomas commissions the Magi to preach throughout the entire world (31:10), and they depart, doing mighty works and urging hearers to flee from the coming judgment of fire through faith in Christ (32:1-3).]]]]


In 2010 Brent Landau, Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Oklahoma, published a translation of a Syriac book Revelation of The Magi, which is written around 8th c AD. Landau asserts that the original of this book might have been probably written as eaarly as the 2nd or 3rd century AD. A collector in the 18th century had discovered it in a Turkish monastery and presented it to the Vatican Library, where the document, written on vellum, remained archived   Landau  came across it during his doctoral research and got it translated.  He believes it is about 1,700 years old story, even if the scroll itself is only 1,200 years.   

The original is written in the first person as though it was written by one of magi himself.  Evidently it is not written by one of the magi, but a version which could well have been written based on some historical basis.  It is was written in Syriac which is interesting since syriac is not a language common in China. The Syriac Orthodox Church claims the status as the most ancient Christian church in the world by apostolic succession from the Patriarchate of Antioch. According to Saint Luke, "The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch" (New Testament, Acts 11:26). Landau Says the Ancient Text Is a Lost Message From Early Christians.

China’s contact with the Jewish people came as a result of commerce along the Silk Road, an ancient trade route linking China with the Middle East and Europe that was created during the Han Dynasty in 206 BCE.  There already were an existing trade routes established over 200 years earlier by the Persian Achaemenid Empire. Most of the cultural transmissions took place along this route. It also took place along the sea route - spice route. This is a later development.

According to this tradition the Magi came from the  land of Shir, “located in the extreme east of the world, at the shore of the Great Ocean.”; “ a place from where silk comes from,” indicating their origin most probably as China. We don’t have a place called Shir in China today.

Shir is a word common in Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Afghanistan—all places once inhabited by Iranians, and mostly once part of Persia—even Syria! It is an Iranian word meaning “lion”, a symbol associated with Israel. It is not a Chinese word. Part of Khorasan, in the northeast of Iran and on the Silk Road, is called Shir, and there are several towns around there, close to the Silk Road, with names like Shirabad, Shirwan, Sera, and so on. Iranians consider it a holy land. The Shir-Kuh mountains are in central Iran. Indeed, Shiraz is a town in Fars itself quite close to where Persepolis once stood.”

It is quite possible that there was a group of mystics in China who formed part of the world wide magi with their own form of worship etc.  This certainly claims the biblical lineage.

They are an ancient mystical sect “…descendants of Seth, the righteous third son of Adam, and the guardians of an age-old prophecy that a star of indescribable brightness would someday appear “heralding the birth of God in human form….This same star had initially hovered over the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden.”


Seth of course is the common ancestor of all mankind living today as the flood destroyed all others except the family of Noah..  


 Adam->Seth-> ... ->Methuselah->Lamech->Noah->(Noah's Sons)->Flood .... -> Only Noah and his three sonsand their wives escaped the flood.  All humans now living came from those.


Both Miao and Chinese traditions assume several Biblical sounding aspects. Miao legends mention an original "golden age" lost to mankind through disobedience, a great flood and the subsequent dispersal of the human family throughout the world. Chinese tradition possesses no fall Story, and no migration epic, but lists a number of pre-flood characters who are very similar to those found in the Bible.  


  Stories of the first ten emperors of China follow a chronology much like that of the first ten generations of Genesis. Like Adam, the first emperor was specially created, ruled "over the earth" (Genesis 1 :28) and wore the skins of animals. Shen-nung, the second emperor, was like Adam's son Cain in that he was the first farmer, who invented the plow and instigated the first markets. During another emperor's reign cattle were first herded, pitch pipes were invented and the first instruments of bronze and iron fashioned: Genesis 4:19-22 attributes these innovations to the sons of Lamech. The seventh man of each list was a bigamist. Noah and Yu, the tenth members of their lists, were flood heroes who developed a limp during the course of their labours and who were associated with the discovery of wine.10 The comparisons between Chinese and Biblical chronology are so many that many mythologists have admitted that they must have been inspired by the same source. These modern scholars suggest that both traditions evolved from Sumerian legends, but there are far more resemblances between Chinese and Biblical tradition than exist between the myths of Sumeria and China  



Could it be that the Legendary Period recalls a time when the ancestors of China’s first dynasties were indeed kin to Noah’s descendants before the great dispersion of mankind over the earth?

Since all peoples of earth are descended from Noah or his sons, the early Chinese ancestors were likely contemporaries of Noah, who lived 350 years after the flood (Genesis 9:28). Therefore, information could have been passed to them by word-of-mouth, even Noah himself. He in turn, obtained historical data from his father Lamech, who was 56 years old when Adam died.

Thus, all the details of creation and life before the flood could have been passed to the Chinese from Adam with only two intermediaries, Lamech and Noah



 Thus it is possible that the traditions and basics of faith were transmitted from Adam and Seth through Noah to the Chinese community who continued to transmit them through a group of spiritual teachers.  


 Magi of China are a group of mystic monks who “pray in silence”.  Apparently 12 leads the group. . They are the recipients of the teachings of Seth, the righteous third son of Adam. They are the guardians of an age-old prophecy that a star of indescribable brightness would someday appear “heralding the birth of God in human form. As a religious routine they waited for this star standing for days at a time on top of a sacred mountain, bathing in a purifying spring, and seeing visions after eating certain foods. They sit together and commune with each other of their visions and dreams.  These reminds us of the group we now know as Rastafarians.  


 They waited for this star all those years on “The Mountain of Victories”,until finally it appeared and descended on the earth and transformed into a human.  Each magi actually saw this in different form - showing them the various stages of the growth of Christ.  He then instructed them to proceed to see the child being born,  The star led them all the way to Bethlehem. The 12 Magi, led a group the size of a small army were led to Jerusalem.  It took them two years to reach Bethlehem during which wandering, they were protected and provided for their provisions/ When finally he revealed to them by transforming into a “star child” the God in human form, in a cave in the outskirt of Bethlehem. He commissioned them to be his witness in the lands of the East.


“The names of the wise men and kings were called as follows:
Zaharwandad son of Artaban; Hormizd son of Sanatruq; Austazp son of Gudaphar;
Arsak son of Mihruq; Zarwand son of Wadwad; Ariho son of Kosrau; Artahsisat son of Hawilat; Astanbozan son of Sisrawan; Mihruq son of Humam; Ahsiras son of Sahban;
Nasardih son of Baladan; Merodak son of Bil.
These are kings, sons of Eastern kings, in the land of Shir
which is the outer part of the entire East of the world inhabited by human beings, at the Ocean, the great sea beyond the world, east of the land of Nod that place in which dwelt Adam, head and chief of all the families of the world.” 



 According to the tradition of the Church in India, the Apostle Thomas finished his mission there in 64 AD., and left from Meliapouram (near Madras) for China at the beginning of… 65 AD. China and Japan claim that St. Thomas personally brought Christianity to China and Japan in 64 and 70 C.E., respectively. This view is promulgated by the Keikyo Institute.


 « His mission in China would last three years, the length of time required to train disciples, deacons and elders, to organise a well-structured Church that would subsist after the departure of its founding Apostle. He was accompanied by a collaborator acting as an interpreter, whom he would leave there as resident bishop.


As soon as he arrived, St. Thomas undoubtedly went directly to the capital, Luoyang, where Emperor Mingdi resided. He seems to have given St. Thomas a free hand to preach, and even to build a church, the chancel of which, according to the hypothesis of Mr. Perrier, was the base of a wooden tower reputed to be the first pagoda in China.


The half-brother of Mingdi, Prince Liu Ying, converted at the preaching of St. Thomas. This prince, the Chronicles say, disappointed by the official religion that had become formalist and artificial, was searching for the daô, the true “way” that leads to Heaven. It was not in Buddhism that he found it, but in the Gospel! As he was the governor of the maritime province of Zhu, St. Thomas went to see him at Xuzhou (today Jiangsu), where it seems that the first Chinese Christian community came into being.


 St. Thomas had to leave China after three years. The sculpture of KongWang Shan, which celebrates his stay in China, was probably executed with the consent of the imperial authorities just after his departure in 68-69. Shortly afterwards, however, Confucian Court scholars laid siege to the emperor to have him close this new “way”, and stop this new religion from spreading, because they understood that it supplanted their “wisdom” and would prevent them from dominating the people. Mingdi yielded to their entreaties, and Prince Ying, according to the chronicle, had to resign his office, was exiled and condemned to commit suicide in 71 AD., as was the custom in China when one had ceased to please the emperor. »

Relying on the authority of Chinese historians, the sinologist Andre Muller found that “in AD 65, XACA (Sakya), an Indian Philosopher, came to China and preached amongst other doctrines that of the Divine Three-in-One.


 This faith in Mahayana language is that of the Trinity – the Three in One

 The Indian tradition says, while he was in India he baptized three wise men who were from India.  So it is quite reasonable to assume that he knew about any wise men who came to visit the child Jesus and he went after them confirming and teaching them the new way.



In the Chaldean breviary, one can read:  “By St. Thomas, the Kingdom of Heaven took wings and flew all the way to the Chinese.”


The three Magi (named Patisar, Caspar and Melchior), from Herrad of Landsberg's Hortus deliciarum (12th century)


 About 2000 years ago, "…after the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of king Herod the "Wise men" from the east (The Magi) reached Bethlehem through Jerusalem. A "star"   directed them till they reached the home of Jesus… They saw the young child on the lap of mother Mary, knelt down and worshiped him. They opened their treasures and presented gifts to him: Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh (St. Mathew 2:1-11) And they returned with exceeding joy and satisfaction to their home land in the east.


 The Wise men (Holy kings) were scientists, scholars, rulers and devotees. The legends name them as Melchior, Gaspar and Balthazar. Old Melchior, middle aged Gaspar  and young Belthazar visited Infant Jesus. When they reached back their homeland, they built an edifice in the Indian style and here they began to worship the Holy infant. As such Piravom Valiyapally is the first church in the world, where worshiping Jesus Christ started. ‘Megusans’ (MAGI), who made offerings to Infant Jesus had been sanctified as Christians in India by St.Thomas, when he was in missionary tour in Kerala in AD 52..  During the 5th Century, this building may have been rebuilt as a Christian church as we now see.


 Some consider Caspar to be King Gondophares (AD 21 – c.AD 47) mentioned in the Acts of Thomas. Gondaphores is not associated with Piravom, Kerala though they may have been in contact with each other. The town by name Piravom in Kerala State, Southern India has for long claimed that one of the three Biblical Magi went from there. The name Piravom in the local Malayalam language translates to "birth". It is believed that the name originated from a reference to the Nativity of Jesus. There is a concentration of three churches named after the Biblical Magi in and around Piravom, as against only another three so named in the rest of India.


At any rate these Magi came from all countries of the east. Celtic regions of Eurotpe, Ethiopia, Yemen, China and India. There must have been at least a dozen of them with their own group with attendants and helpers through the journey.  So they must have represented a lot of geographic areas and cultures.


 By James Tissot - Online Collection of Brooklyn Museum; Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 2006, 00.159.30_PS1.jpg, Public Domain,

 The Syrian Christians name the Magi Larvandad, Gushnasaph, and Hormisdas.

The Ethiopians called them Hor, Karsudan, and Basanater.

The Armenians have it as Kagpha, Badadakharida and Badadilma.

 Many Chinese Christians believe that one of the magi came from China.

 Encyclopædia Britannica states that "according to Western church tradition, Balthasar is often represented as a king of Arabia, Melchior as a king of Persia, and Caspar as a king of India." Historian John of Hildesheim relates a tradition in the ancient silk road city of ancient Taxila that one of the Magi passed through the city on the way to Bethlehem.

Caspar is named to be the Indian king.


An article in the 1913 Encyclopædia Britannica states that "according to Western church tradition, Balthasar is often represented as a king of Arabia, Melchior as a king of Persia, and Caspar as a king of India."


Historian John of Hildesheim relates a tradition in the ancient silk road city of ancient Taxila that one of the Magi passed through the city on the way to Bethlehem.



Some consider Caspar to be King Gondophares (AD 19 – 46) mentioned in the Acts of Thomas. Who ruled the Indo-Parthian Kingdom of the Indus Valley Civilization.  In old Armenian, it is "Gastaphar". “Gundaparnah” was apparently the Eastern Iranian form of the name.


Johannes Schöner on Gaspar magus, or Saint Caspar: "The region of Egrisilla, in which there are Brahman [i.e. Indian] Christians; there Gaspar the Magus held dominion," Luculentissima quaedam terrae totius descriptio.


Johannes Schöner on his globe of 1515. marks the position of King Gasper in his map in the region of Egrisilla in India Superior on the peninsula that forms the eastern side of the Sinus Magnus (Gulf of Thailand).  In the explanatory treatise which accompanied the globe, Schöner explains it as: “The region of Egrisilla, in which there are Brahman Christians; there Gaspar the Magus held dominion”    The phrase hic rex caspar habitavit (here lived King Caspar) is inscribed over the Golden Chersonese  which is today called Malay Peninsula  On the map of Andreas Walsperger, c.1448,the homeland of King Caspar is given as in the Aurea Cersonese, the Golden Peninsula, near Java in the Indian Ocean. This island is known from ancient days as the  Suvarṇabhūmi or Golden land  and  appears in many ancient Indian puranas and Buddhist texts.



The First Christian Church in the World


Kerala of South India who claim descent from early Jewish and Indian aristocracy has a tradition that one of their Kings formed part of the delegation. The Church of the Kings is in the place called Piravam which mean “The Birth” or Incarnation.



Piravam Church.
The First Christian Church in the World




An ancient painting in the church

(St. Mary with infant Jesus being worshiped by MAGI)


According to the ancient legend handed down to us this is the first Christian church in the world.    This is at least the only church in world established by the Holy Kings (MAGI) and remains faithful witness to the birth of Christ.  The church has been invariably known as Piravom Valiyapally, Marthamariyam Pally, Rajakkalude Pally, St.Mary’s Jacobite Syrian Church etc.



There is strong evidence that one of the Magi came from Kerala coast near Muvattupuzha near Cochin . According to tradition, Thomas the Apostle visited this church decades later. The town by name Piravom in Kerala State, Southern India has for long claimed that one of the three Biblical Magi went from there. The name Piravom in the local Malayalam language translates to "birth". It is believed that the name originated from a reference to the Nativity of Jesus. There is a concentration of three churches named after the Biblical Magi in and around Piravom, as against only another three so named in the rest of India.


The Magi are now not considered by some to have been kings. The reference to "kings" is believed to have originated due to the reference in
Psalms 72:10-11 Their coming was foretold. "The kings of Tarshish and the Isles shall offer gifts, the kings of Arabia and Seba shall bring tribute. All kings shall pay Him homage, all nations shall serve Him"  
And also Isaiah 60:6 "Caravans of camels shall fill you, dromedaries from Midian and Ephah; all from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense, and proclaiming the praises of the Lord" 


Painting of Adoration of Magi in the Church





Three altars where there is triple mass said every day


There are three churches in the same place.  The main church belongs to the Orthodox and the others of Roman Catholic and Kananaya Denominations



Procession celebrating the baptism of Jesus.
'Denha Perunal' (Annual celebration of the Holy Baptism of Jesus Christ) on January 6th


‘Denaha’ (Annual celebration of the holy Baptism of Christ) on January 6th is the main celebration in the church. Piravom is in a festive mood for one week from the 1st of January every year. The best attraction of the festival is the procession. Three Priests adorned in royal ecclesiastical robes and wielding golden crosses move under the MEKKATTY along with the procession blessing the devotees. "Kuda, (decorated umbrellas), pon-velli-kurishukal," (Gold and Silver Crosses) and  embellishments accompany the procession of   5Kms.from ‘Peppathi Chapel’ to Piravom Church. A big congregation takes part in the procession, singing hymns. Several sorts of musical instruments are played all along the procession road which stands bathed in illumination. Many are the troops who play band, chenda melam and nadaswaram. The church and its campus will be in full splendour with decoration. People take part in the celebrations regardless of religion. In short, the celebration on 6th January can be regarded as the national festival of Piravom


"Kallitta  Thirunal"   (Celebration of the laying of Foundation Stone )

Kallita Perunal = The celebration of Festical celebrating the laying of the Foundation Stone

 It is on 8th October (Kanni 23). It is believed that the Holy Kings on their return from Bethlehem began construction of the church building on this day.

The scepter of the Holy Kings is revered in celebrations only on this day. The descendants of the servants (dependants) of the  Piravathu Rajakkal (King of the Kingdom of Piravam) are honoured with presents on this day. ‘Chalassery Panickar’ is honoured with "Anchekalum Koppum"    ( Five and a Quarter and the additions which is 5¼ measures of (idengazhi) rice, coconut, pumkin, yam, and banana, one bundle of ‘pappad’, betel leaf and arecanuts)  All these are arranged in a beautiful new basket and placed on a table. The function of presenting the "Anchekalum koppum" to the Chalassery Panickar is held from the very inception of the church. Chalassery Panickar was the commander-in-chief of the Kingdom of Piravam at that time. The senior most of the nobles of the Chalassery Tharavadu reach the church on this day every year without fail and receive the present after paying homage to the Rajakkal, and the celebrations come to a close.


The three gifts of the magi:
gold, frankincense, and myrrh



One of the earliest known depictions from a third-century sarcophagus (Vatican Museums). The clothing of the Magi here is typical of Parthian nobles.



 Three gifts are explicitly identified in Matthew: gold, frankincense, and myrrh, in Koine Greek: chrysós (χρυσός), líbanos (λίβανος) and smýrna (σμύρνα.
Many different theories of the meaning and symbolism of the gifts have been brought forward. 

The three gifts had a spiritual meaning:
Jesus the King: Gold is a symbol of kingship on earth,  
Jesus the High Priest: Frankincense (an incense) as a symbol of deity,  
Jesus the Lamb of God: myrrh (an embalming oil) as a symbol of death.

The Magi brought Jesus the Incarnate God:
gold to show that He was a king;
frankincense to honor Him as God;
and myrrh to greet Him as man.


Martyrdom traditions OF THE MAGI

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, there is a story traceable to an Arian writer of the sixth century, known  as "Opus imperfectum in Matthæum" reported by St. Chrysostom. This author drawing upon the apocryphal Book of Seth, writes: "Having undergone many trials and fatigues for the Gospel, the three wise men met at Sewa (Sebaste in Armenia) in 54 (AD) to celebrate the feast of Christmas. Thereupon, after the celebration of Mass, they died: St. Melchior on 1st of January, aged 116; St. Balthasar on 6th of January, aged 112; and St. Gaspar on 11th of January, aged 109."  They became martyrs and were buried in the walls of Jerusalem. 

There are several traditions on where the remains of the Magi are located. None of the traditions is considered as an established fact or even as particularly likely according to  scholars. 
It is clained that they died as martys.  The details of this martyrdom is not known. We have no documentation for these.


The Roman Tradition

“:January 6 is the feast of these three Magi,
who brought Jesus gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
The Magi brought Jesus gold to show that He was a king;
frankincense to honor Him as God;
and myrrh to greet Him as man.
These Magi first saw the star which led them to Bethlehem
on the previous March 25, the day, and at the moment, that Jesus was conceived in Mary’s womb.
It took the Magi nine months and twelve days to reach Bethlehem, guided by the star.
The star left them when they were in Jerusalem.
But it shone again after the Magi left Jerusalem, and led them to the cave of Bethlehem.
Our Lady let each of the Magi hold Jesus in his arms.
They were given some of His baby clothes to bring back to the East by way of relics.
The Magi returned to the East, to Persia and later were baptized there by Saint Thomas the Apostle, in the year 40.
All three of the Magi were martyred for the Catholic Faith.
Their names are now, and should always be called, Saint Gaspar, Saint Melchior and Saint Balthasar. The bodies of Saint Gaspar, Saint Melchior and Saint Balthasar were first brought to Constantinople,
and then to Milan, and in the twelfth century they were placed in the Cathedral of Cologne, in Germany, where they are venerated with much love by the Christians who worship





 Inside The Shrine of the Three Kings in Cologne Cathedral.

The Sarcophagus



The Shrine of the Three Kings in Cologne Cathedral, Germany, c. 1200.

A Shrine of the Three Kings at Cologne Cathedral, according to tradition, contains the bones of the Three Wise Men.

The front end of the shrine, the only one to be fashioned out of pure gold, was donated by King Otto IV around the year 1200. It features the largest and most precious of the antique intaglios and cameos. The trapezoidal panel between the upper and the lower sections of the shrine can be removed to reveal a grille through which the skulls of the Magi can be seen. This structure allowed the relics to be shown to pilgrims. Tongs were also used to touch the relics with small pieces of paper or material, on which prayers were written and which were often decorated with an image of the Magi. These third-class relics would then be given to the pilgrims as proof that they had made the pilgrimage to Cologne.
Dr. Rolf Lauer, Kunsthistoriker


Reputedly they were first discovered by Saint Helena mother of Emperor Constantine on her famous pilgrimage to Palestine and the Holy Lands in 325 AD.  She took the remains to the church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople; they were later moved to Milan before being sent to their current resting place by the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I in 1164. The Milanese celebrate their part in the tradition by holding a medieval costume parade every 6 January.

Eustorgio I, ninth bishop of Milan, received the remains of the Magi inside a huge Roman marble sarcophagus from the Emperor Constantine I (circa 288-337), and brought them to Milan on a wooden cart pulled by a team of oxen. The cart entered the city through Porta Ticinese, and then sank into the mud. Eustorgio decided that this was a sign from God, and built the first basilica on that site.


In 1163 or 1164,  the Holy Roman Emperor Friedrich I presented it  to Germany as a gift which were transported in three ships. In Germany the goldsmith Nikolaus von Verdun worked 50 years in the crafting of a golden shrine to house the relics (1180-1230).  The Cathedral was built over it in 1248 by the Archbishop Konrad von Hochstaden, which were rebuilt over a long period of 632 years. A  In 1906, some of the bones were returned to Milan and are now kept in an urn just above the altar of the Magi. The cathedral was severely damaged by Allied bombing during WWII. The restoration was finished in 1956. However, the golden shrine which contained the relics was not damaged.



Marco Polo (1254–1324)the Iralian merchant traveller, claimed that he was shown the three tombs of the Magi at Saveh south of Tehran in the 1270s:

“In Persia is the city of Saba, from which the Three Magi set out when they went to worship Jesus Christ; and in this city they are buried, in three very large and beautiful monuments, side by side. And above them there is a square building, carefully kept. The bodies are still entire, with the hair and beard remaining.”
— Marco Polo, Polo, Marco, The Book of the Million, book I, chapter 13


A possible time line










 A little cultural Anthropology

 There are many who opposes the use of symbols that are used by various cultures to worship their gods, to celebrate special occasions, different forms of festivities etc.  

 One of the commands to the disciples just before the ascension of Jesus was:
Mark 16:15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.

I have taught Cultural Anthropology for Mission in the Sudan Theological College in Juba which we started in 1904.  This is what I have gathered as I taught in a totally different culture to mine.

This is the possible reaction of someone who enters a new culture:



Entering into a new culture which are alien to our own can lead to rejection of their culture and alienation from them.   


We can define culture as a comprehensive system of meanings, norms and values by which people give form (meaning) to their material existence in a certain time and context. This concept of culture keeps the notions of “superstructure” and “substructure” together. Among them are the languages, the symbols and every form of action. Hence the great commission was to go into every culture and embed the gospel in the cultural forms and symbols.  Jesus was from the dimension beyond ours.  The very reason that the Son of Man has to incarnate into the Earth was because he has to express himself in the language of the humans.  Since humans have many cultures, the Son of God choose one culture - the Hebrew culture - to embed his message.  He was then asking his disciples whom he had been training to do the same into all the other culture.  This involves putting it in the language of the people, use their mode of symbols, worship forms, behaviour patters etc to embed the message.  


We see this action only in the letters of Paul where he embeds the message in the Greco-Roman culture.


We see the worship forms of Christian Church, rules of behavior, conducts,etc in terms of Greek culture.  There was no alters, nor large Cathedrals, nor kneeling down to take the communion etc in Hebrew culture nor was it there in the early church in Israel where it all began.  But these were part of the symbols and forms with their meaning of the Roman culture.  Look at women covering the head for example.  Where does that come from?  Thus it may be absolutely necessary to borrow the symbolism and words and arguments from the local culture to teach and embed the message of salvation.


 Why I am making this statement is that, there are many who opposes the use of many of the Christian symbolism and practices and new traditions to oppose the celebration of the birth of Christ, its various symbolism etc. We see this in the internet without fail.


 Is the celebration of Christmas and its varying symbols pagan and hence anathema?  Should we use the Aramaic language and their greeting methods which Jesus used or the Greek which the Palestinian Jewish disciples used?  Is that what Christianity is all about?


 Should not we be using our own cultural symbols to make the message clear? The answer is a loud yes.  That is why we take all the pain to translate the Bible in the languages of the  world.  Have we not seen the difference. God even used the Astrological symbols to talk to the cultures of the east.


 The question simply is does it reflect the centrality of the message of the gospel? Does the message that go across is the message of Christian faith?


 It is certainly true that early Jews did not celebrate their birthdays.  

They could not take up religious offices unless they are 30.  That is why the gospel state ‘Jesus was about 30 years when he was baptized’.  How could they know it, if his birthday was not known.

 The first century Jewish historian Josephus noted that Jewish families did not celebrate birthdays:

“Nay, indeed, the law does not permit us to make festivals at the birth of our children, and

thereby afford occasion of drinking to excess”(Josephus.. Against Apion, Book II, Chapter 26.)

 Why did they avoid it?  Not because it was against the teachings of the bible but because it often led to excesses. Does that not happen in the wedding gatherings?  Jesus himself made extra wine for it.



Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma = Balarama Varma who was born in the Star of Chitira
He was the last king of Travancore.
There was distribution of sweets in the school on that day.


This is true of all cultures around the world. In our younger days we never celebrated birthdays.   Birthdays were celebrated only by the Kings. In fact in the Travancore State of India (now Kerala)  the kings added the name of the star in which he was born as part of their name.  As the Bible seem to corroborate this was the case all over world.

“But we all kept the counting of the years” which requires knowing the birthday.  explains:

“A number of Jewish traditions are associated with marking special birthdays, such as the second or third birthday, when parents traditionally marked a child’s weaning. The Bible mentions Abraham hosting a feast to celebrate Isaac’s weaning (Genesis 21:8).

Other special birthdays include turning 3, when many traditional Jews cut a son’s hair for the first time — a practice referred to as upsheren — and 13, the age of bar/bat mitzvah. (Traditionally, many girls marked their bat mitzvah at age 12.)

Pirke Avot (5:21) specifies several important birthdays as milestones of sorts:

The age of 5 for the study of the Bible; then 10 for the study of the Mishna; 13 for the commandments; 15 for the study of Talmud; 18 for marriage; 20 for earning a living; 30 for power; 40 for understanding; 50 for giving advice; 60 for old age, 70 for grey hairs; 80 for special strength, 90 for bowed back; 100 =it is as if he had died and passed away.


  Every Jew was to complete certain age to have their mitzvah done.  

Bar Mitzvah (Hebrew: בַּר מִצְוָה‬) is a Jewish coming of age ritual for boys. Bat Mitzvah (Hebrew: בַּת מִצְוָה‬; Ashkenazi pronunciation: Bas Mitzvah) is a Jewish coming of age ritual for girls. According to Jewish law, when Jewish boys become 13 years old, they become accountable for their actions and become a bar mitzvah. A girl becomes a bat mitzvah at the age of 12 according to Orthodox and Conservative Jews, and at the age of 13 according to Reform Jews.

“ The Encyclopedia Judaica states:


“The celebration of birthdays is unknown in traditional Jewish ritual. A comparatively late exception, however, is the *bar mitzvah and the bat mitzvah. The only reference to a birthday in the Bible is that celebrated by Pharaoh (Gen. 40:20). In Reform and Conservative synagogues, special prayers of thanksgiving are recited on the occasion of significant birthdays (e.g., 50th, 70th, 80th, etc.) and at silver and golden wedding anniversaries.”



Bar Mitzvah ceremony


All the kings in the early history celebrated their birthdays as a national festival. This is true not only of Pharoah and Herod, ( the Egyptian Pharaoh in Joseph’s time (Genesis 40:20), and King Herod in Jesus’ time (Matthew 14:6; Mark 6:21) )but of all Kings of all the earth. But Jesus was the King of Kings.  The only difference was he came as a servant into this world.  No servants ever celebrated their birthdays.


Now that as believers who recognize Jesus as the legitimate King of the Jews (even Herod knew it) and also the King of Kings of all creation, should we celebrate his incarnation.?  Should we be thankful for the sacrifice he made to save the fallen mankind?

  Here is what Origen wrote:


...of all the holy people in the Scriptures, no one is recorded to have kept a feast or held a

great banquet on his birthday. It is only sinners (like Pharaoh and Herod) who make great

rejoicings over the day on which they were born into this world below (Origen, in Levit.,

Hom. VIII, in Migne P.G., XII, 495) 


 Here is what the Jewish Scholarship assert. 
What’s So Special About Your Jewish Birthday?

Be Grateful

First and foremost, a birthday is a day to feel grateful. It's a day for parents to be grateful to Gd for the precious gift He granted them. A day for the Jewish nation to be grateful for the addition of a new member of the nation-family. And, of course, it is a day for the birthday celebrant to express gratitude to Gd for the gift of life.


This is the day when you were given the mandate to change the world. The day when Gd entrusted you with the mission to challenge a world that is hostile to spirituality and transform it into Gd's private sanctum. And in accomplishing this goal, you, too, were given the ability to achieve incredible spiritual heights—heights unimaginable to the soul before it was dispatched from its lofty heavenly abode to inhabit a physical body.


Celebrating a birthday is also a demonstration of confidenceCelebrating a birthday is thus also a demonstration of confidence. Confidence that you are and will continue to be worthy of Gd's trust. No matter the obstacles, you will persevere and live up to Gd's expectations of you.


This day takes on additional significance if you are above the age of bar or bat mitzvah. The word "mitzvah" means commandments, but is also related to the word "tzaveta," which means "connection." Fulfilling Gd's commandments is the vehicle through which we connect to Gd. Until bar and bat mitzvah, mitzvot are primarily an educational experience—the commandment element kicking in upon adulthood. That means greater responsibility, but an infinitely greater connection, too. Your birthday is also the anniversary of that momentous occasion. Another reason to be grateful…


Time is like a spiral. Annually, on the anniversary of any momentous event, we have the ability to tap into the same spiritual energy that originally caused that event (hence the concept of Jewish holidays).


When you were born, Gd invested within you a soul abounding with talents and qualities. Your mazel was shining and at full strength. That same energy is present once again every year on the anniversary of that date. On this day you have the ability to accomplish that which would perhaps be very difficult on another day.



Rosh Hashanah is so special because it is the birthday of humankind—it is the day when Adam and Eve were created. Your birthday is your personal Rosh Hashanah—utilize it to its utmost!

How Birthdays Ended Up Being Observed

 Another usual allegation is that the day we ce

lebrate the birth of Jesus happens to be a day of celebration of the Sun god of Rome.  In a country such as India where I was born there are 3000 gods for the Hindus. Which would mean there must be around 10 god’s had some sort of celebration every day of the year leaving no day for the Christians for Christmas nor for Easter.


 By the way why is Easter called Easter instead of Day of Resurrection?
Venerable Bede, a British monk who lived in the late seventh and early eighth century wrote that the month in which English Christians were celebrating the resurrection of Jesus had been called Eosturmonath in Old English, referring to a goddess named Eostre. And even though Christians had begun affirming the Christian meaning of the celebration, they continued to use the name of the goddess to designate the season.  Leave alone Easter bunnies and Easter eggs.  Can we find just two days to find for Jesus without a pagan connection?


 In the fourth century that Roman emperors began to accept some form of Christianity.

Wikipedia notes:

 “Christmas is also relevant because December 25th was the day of celebration of the birthday of the sun-god Mithra. Perhaps it should also be mentioned that one of the key features of Mithraism was Sunday observance. The reason that this seems to be relevant is that the Roman Emperor Constantine, the first Roman Emperor to make a profession of Christ, was also the first Emperor to make Sunday laws--which he began to do on March 7, 321. Also, a few years later, the Council of Nicea that Constantine convened in 325 A.D declared Sunday to be the "Christian day" of worship.”

 Sunday was chosen as the day of worship and gathering together by the first Christians long before it came to Rome. What other day should we be worshipping?


 Notice also the following:

The first recorded date of Christmas being celebrated on December 25th was in 336AD, during the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine (he was the first Christian Roman Emperor). A few years later, Pope Julius I officially declared that the birth of Jesus would be celebrated on the 25th December. 


 Most early churches faced towards the east facing the sun. This was based on the verse

Mat.24:27Forjust as the lightning comes from the east and flashes as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 
Should it be considered as Sun worship?

It is a question of how we incorporate gospel in terms of the local culture.  There are dangers involved and also advantages.  But there are no dangers in celebrating birthdays except as Josephus points out - that of excess. It is certainly important emphasis the self assertion as part of Yetser Hara in relation to Yetser Hatov. In fact it can build up self confidence in the children.

Apparently this problem was there even in the transmission of the gospel into Roman culture as Paul says:

“One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord” (Romans 14:5–6). 
As time goes on culture and traditions change.  The meaning of symbols and methods of interpretations change.  So it is necessary that forms of celebrations and even worship and festivities has to change.  These brings us to the modern forms of Christmas celebration and their meanings.

 Birth of Christ and the Winter Solstice connection

 Even if we do not know the exact date of the birth of Christ, by symbolic connection what better date can we find than the December 21st when the sun is in solstice and the days are getting warmer and brighter.

 Even in the bible there is an ongoing link between the sun-light and the Son.  This is also linked with the Christians worshiping turning towards the East looking at the rising sun and glory that shows the icons that shine through the glass as the worshipers face to the East.  It is from the East that Christ comes to take his bride.

 “For since the creation of the world, His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead.”


       gives you a detailed allegorical connection as expressed in the BIble.

 “ Malachi 4:2 refers to the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, declaring unreservedly that the “sun of righteousness” refers to him as cited by the priest Zecharias, “who blended Malachi 4:2 and Isaiah 9:2 in the messianic situation of Luke 1:76-79.”

(by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven 79 to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”)

 In this sense, the birth of Jesus on December 25 symbolizes a new birth when the light will grow in our hearts and there is a new beginning and new era.  This symbolism is often reflected throughout the Bible.  Just as we use today total immersion and lifting as a symbol of new birth, the winter solstice is a symbol of new beginning, entering into a new dimension in life etc.

 Similar opinions were expressed by some of the early church fathers.

 Thus Ambrose wrote concerning the sun of righteousness in Malachi 4:2:

“Do not, therefore, without due consideration put your trust in the sun. . . . When you admire it, give consideration to its creator. . . . If the sun which the succession of the seasons advances or recedes is mighty, how mighty must he be also who ‘when he emptied himself’ that now that we might be able to see him who ‘was the true light that enlightens every man who comes into the world’”




St.Boniface and the Christmas Tree


The earliest reference to the use of an ever green tree as a symbol the child Jesus is attributed to St.Boniface (680-754). The story as given in


  Boniface is regarded as “probably the greatest missionary since St. Paul” for his extensive travels and successful evangelization efforts in modern-day Germany.[1] While he is well known as a great bishop and evangelizer, Catholic legend, based on actual historical events, also holds that Boniface is the founder of the use of a Christmas tree to celebrate the birth of the Christ Child.

Bonifice was actually born in England who went to Rome to Pope Gregory II to become a missionary to the Germans. Pope Gregory  consecrated him archbishop for all Germany east of the Rhine  in 723 AD

It was the custom that in winter the inhabitants of the village of Geismar gathered around a huge old oak tree (known as the “Thunder Oak”) dedicated to the god Thor. This annual event of worship centered on sacrificing a small child at the foot of the Oak tree to Thor.  Bonifice and his fellow Christians approached the tree area on the Christmas Eve when the sacrifice was supposed to take place.

Boniface said to the gathering  “Here is the Thunder Oak; and here the cross of Christ shall break the hammer of the false god Thor.” With a small child laid out for the sacrifice, the executioner raised his hammer high. But on the downswing, Boniface extended his crozier to block the blow, miraculously breaking the great stone hammer and saving the child’s life. Boniface grabbed an axe and chopped down the Thunder Oak of mighty Thor.

The Germans were astounded. Bonifice preached the Gospel to the people and used a little fir tree that was behind the now felled oak tree as a tool of evangelization. Pointing to it he said,

“This little tree, a young child of the forest, shall be your holy tree tonight. It is the wood of peace… It is the sign of an endless life, for its leaves are ever green. See how it points upward to heaven. Let this be called the tree of the Christ-child; gather about it, not in the wild wood, but in your own homes; there it will shelter no deeds of blood, but loving gifts and rites of kindness.”


He was martyred later in 754 AD.  In the centuries that followed, the Catholic tradition of using an evergreen tree to celebrate the birth of Jesus spread throughout Germany, and German immigrants in the eighteenth century brought the custom to the New World.
As you can see the pagan practices were overshadowed with the new religion and their symbols.  Among them which became a festival that outweighs was thee birth of the Sun of God.




Paradise trees

Bringing home “Christmas”
The Book of Christmas by Thomas K Hervey 1888


Evidently Christmas trees started in the area corresponding to the modern Germany beginning in Latvia in 1510 and Strasbourg in 1521.  

The first recorded Christmas tree can be found on the keystone sculpture of a private home in Turckheim, Alsace (then part of Germany, today France), dating 1576

The most likely theory is that Christmas trees started with medieval plays. In the days when Bibles were not available in printed form to the common man, dramas were used to tell biblical stories.  In most of out ancient churches in Southern India that predates a 1000 years there still are the areas on the sides of the central madbhaha the altar area on either side a dramatic porch where these dramas were performed.  These began as part of the church's worship.  But by the late Middle Ages,  they were performed in the open air.  The Garden of Eden story was symbolized by a "paradise tree".  Modern Christmas trees have been related to these "tree of paradise" of medieval mystery plays that were performed on 24th of December, the commemoration and name day of Adam and Eve in various countries. In such plays, a tree decorated with apples (to represent the forbidden fruit) and wafers (to represent the Eucharist and redemption) was used as a setting for the play.  The apples were replaced by round objects such as shiny red balls. 

Encyclopædia Britannica,however connects it to non-christian traditions: "The use of evergreen trees, wreaths, and garlands to symbolize eternal life was a custom of the ancient Egyptians, Chinese, and Hebrews. Tree worship was common among the pagan Europeans and survived their conversion to Christianity in the Scandinavian customs of decorating the house and barn with evergreens at the New Year to scare away the devil and of setting up a tree for the birds during Christmas time.”

The earliest Christmas trees (or evergreen branches) used in homes were referred to as "paradises."

At least historical records suggest that the Christmas tree tradition was started in the 16th century by Germans who decorated fir trees inside their homes.


The Protestant Reformer Martin Luther is considered to be the first to bring in the decoration of the trees.  

It is said that while walking through snowy woods under a bright starlit sky, the beauty of the scene so moved Luther that he wanted to recreate it at home. So, he cut down a fresh tree, brought it inside, and decorated it with real candles. He is told to have started the lighting of the candles and decorating the Christmas trees.

“One tale describes Martin Luther as attempting to explain to his wife and children the beauty of a snow-covered forest under the glittering star sprinkled sky. Suddenly an idea suggested itself. He went into the garden,cut off a little fir tree, dragged it into the nursery, put some candles on its branches and lighted them.” (Book of Christmas 1909

 What is known of certainty is that The Great Reformer composed many of the Christmas carol still sung today: “From Heaven above to earth I come, To bear good news to every home.” He also moved the date gifts were given from Saint Nicholas’ Day, December 6th, to Christmas Eve, December 24th.


Even if the legends are exagerated, this much is certain.  A Christmas tree is a decorated tree, usually an evergreen conifer such as spruce, pine, or fir or an artificial tree of similar appearance, associated with the celebration of Christmas, originating in Northern Europe.

The evergreen trees that survive the gross winter symbolises eternal life and the triangular shape of the coniferous tree symbolises the Trinity. The light and the star reminds of the magi and their visit.

union with Hanover, George III's German-born wife, Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, introduced a Christmas tree at a party she gave for children in 1800. The custom did not at first spread much beyond the royal family. Queen Victoria as a child was familiar with it and a tree was placed in her room every Christmas. In her journal for Christmas Eve 1832, the delighted 13-year-old princess wrote:

    After dinner... we then went into the drawing-room near the dining-room... There were two large round tables on which were placed two trees hung with lights and sugar ornaments. All the presents being placed round the trees...

After Victoria's marriage to her German cousin Prince Albert, by 1841 the custom became even more widespread as wealthier middle-class families followed the fashion. In 1842 a newspaper advert for Christmas trees makes clear their smart cachet, German origins and association with children and gift-giving. An illustrated book, The Christmas Tree, describing their use and origins in detail, was on sale in December 1844




The custom was developed in medieval Livonia (present-day Estonia and Latvia), and in early modern Germany where Protestant Germans brought decorated trees into their homes. It acquired popularity beyond the Lutheran areas of Germany and the Baltic countries during the second half of the 19th century, at first among the upper classes. 


The tree was traditionally decorated with "roses made of colored paper, apples, wafers, tinsel, and sweetmeats". In the 18th century, it began to be illuminated by candles, which were ultimately replaced by Christmas lights after the advent of electrification. Today, there is a wide variety of traditional ornaments, such as garlands, baubles, tinsel, and candy canes. An angel or star might be placed at the top of the tree to represent the Angel Gabriel or the Star of Bethlehem, respectively, from the Nativity. Edible items such as gingerbread, chocolate and other sweets are also popular and are tied to or hung from the tree's branches with ribbons.


The poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) visited Mecklenburg-Strelitz in December, 1798, and was much struck by the yew-branch ceremony that he witnessed there, the following account of which he wrote in a letter to his wife dated April 23rd, 1799:  ‘On the evening before Christmas Day, one of the parlours is lighted up by the children, into which the parents must not go; a great yew bough is fastened on the table at a little distance from the wall, a multitude of little tapers are fixed in the bough ... and coloured paper etc. hangs and flutters from the twigs. Under this bough the children lay out the presents they mean for their parents, still concealing in their pockets what they intend for each other. Then the parents are introduced, and each presents his little gift; they then bring out the remainder one by one from their pockets, and present them with kisses and embraces’. (Https://


 Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s consort, is usually credited with having introduced the Christmas tree into England in 1840.though the German wife of King George III, is said to have  set up the first known English tree at Queen’s Lodge, Windsor, in December, 1800.




An engraving published in the 1848 of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert  
The royal family with their tree in Windsor Castle, Illustrated London News, December 1848, accessed British Library.


Christmas Tree in America

Several cities in the United States with German connections lay claim to that country's first Christmas tree:
Windsor Locks, Connecticut, claims that a Hessian soldier put up a Christmas tree in 1777 while imprisoned at the Noden-Reed House.
The "First Christmas Tree in America" is also claimed by Easton, Pennsylvania, where German settlers purportedly erected a Christmas tree in 1816. I
n his diary, Matthew Zahm of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, recorded the use of a Christmas tree in 1821, leading Lancaster to also lay claim to the first Christmas tree in America.

Other accounts credit Charles Follen, a German immigrant to Boston, for being the first to introduce to America the custom of decorating a Christmas tree.

August Imgard, a German immigrant living in Wooster, Ohio, is said to be the first to popularize the practice of decorating a tree with candy canes.[Wiki]


 An 1853 article on Christmas customs in Pennsylvania defines them as mostly "German in origin", including the Christmas tree, which is "planted in a flower pot filled with earth, and its branches are covered with presents, chiefly of confectionary, for the younger members of the family."


Christmas was not recognized as an official, federal holiday in America until 1870. Christmas celebrations, as they were sporadically celebrated in the new nation, got a bad name in the 1826 Eggnog Riot just as Josephus had proclaimed. A bunch of whiskey was smuggled into the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and at least a third of the cadets — including Jefferson Davis, future president of the Confederacy — got so drunk on their spiked eggnog that they rioted until Christmas morning.


Puritan ban on Christmas’

“The Puritans who first colonized Massachusetts were Christians. They were radical in the eyes of the established Anglican Church of England in the 1600’s, and so were persecuted. Wanting to worship according to their Bible-based beliefs, they came to America to start a community that would be built solely on the Bible they loved. They called it “a city on a hill,” which is a Biblical reference to a parable Jesus told in Matthew 5: 14-15, which explained that such a city could not be hidden, and its light of righteousness would be visible for all the world to see. This is what the Puritans wanted for their colony, without the worldly influence of other religions.


Therefore, when they came to America, the Puritans immediately outlawed the celebration of Christmas within the Massachusetts colony. They treated it just like any other day and gave it no special recognition.


Unlike the Anglican church or the Christian churches of most other European nations, the Puritan church believed there were no legitimate holy days authorized by scripture except the Sabbath. They looked upon Christmas as a pagan celebration with Roman roots and considered it an abomination that included idolatry. No good Christian would celebrate Christmas, in the official Puritan doctrine.”


 They also felt that due to the holiday’s loose pagan origins, celebrating it would constitute idolatry. The Puritan community found no Scriptural justification for celebrating Christmas, and associated such celebrations with paganism and idolatry. Indeed, Christmas celebrations in 17th-century England involved Carnival-like behavior  and often led to role inversion, heavy drinking, and sexual liberties. It extended to Easter and Whitsunday.  Important historical celebrations, were also forbidden. Bans like these would continue through the 18th and 19th centuries (the US House of Representatives even convened on Christmas in 1802).  


In Puritans at Play (1995), Bruce Colin Daniels writes "Christmas occupied a special place in the ideological religious warfare of Reformation Europe." Most Anabaptists, Quakers, and Congregational and Presbyterian Puritans, he observes, regarded the day as an abomination while Anglicans, Lutherans, the Dutch Reformed, and other denominations celebrated the day as did Roman Catholics. When the Church of England promoted the Feast of the Nativity as a major religious holiday, the Puritans attacked it as "residual Papist idolatry".


Puritans heaped contempt on Christmas, Daniels writes, calling it 'Foolstide' and suppressing any attempts to celebrate it for several reasons.
First, no holy days except the Sabbath were sanctioned in Scripture, 
Second, the most egregious behaviors were exercised in its celebration,and
third, December 25 was ahistorical.
Christmas was banned in Boston from 1659 to 1681.


“The Puritan Governor interrupting the Christmas Sports,” by Howard Pyle c. 1883

European settlers in other American colonies continued to celebrate it. Although the change was gradual, people began to once again embrace the holiday until Christmas as we know it today  I
t was declared a National Holiday in 1870.


When Edward H. Johnson was vice president of the Edison Electric Light Company, a predecessor of Con Edison, he created the first known electrically illuminated Christmas tree at his home in New York City in 1882. Johnson became the "Father of Electric Christmas Tree Lights".

The Christmas Tree came to India only in the 1900s when the Anglican Missionaries came and started the Anglican Missions.  The first time I saw the Christmas tree was probably around 1946 when my father who was the headmaster of the Sunday School in our church, that year decided to give the prizes of the Sunday School of our Parish around the Christmas tree.  But the the Santa Claus and the Carols were of later origin with us though it is a roaring festival today.





Saint Francis of Assisi is credited with creating the first nativity scene in 1223 at Greccio, central Italy, in an attempt to place the emphasis of Christmas upon the worship of Christ rather than upon secular materialism and gift giving. The nativity scene created by Francis is described by Saint Bonaventure in his Life of Saint Francis of Assisi written around 1260. Staged in a cave near Greccio, Saint Francis' nativity scene was a living one with humans and animals cast in the Biblical roles. Pope Honorius III gave his blessing to the exhibit.


Such reenactment pantomimes became hugely popular and spread throughout Christendom. Within a hundred years every church in Italy was expected to have a nativity scene at Christmastime. It had the disadvantage that the actors has to go home.  


Hence, instead of the human actors they were represented by art objects which will be more permanent display. It became more common way to display a nativity scene, and are the most common type of nativity scene today. They come in all shapes, sizes, and styles, from children’s figurines to tell a story to life sized, ornately constructed and painted figures to place in an outdoor setting.



Kissing under the mistletoe




Mistletoe is a partial parasite (a "hemiparasite"). As a parasitic plant, it grows on the branches or trunk of a tree where it actually sends out roots that penetrate into the tree and take up nutrients and live as a part of the tree. But mistletoe is also capable for growing on its own; like other plants it can produce its own food by photosynthesis.  The European mistletoe is a green shrub with small, yellow flowers and white, sticky berries which are considered poisonous.  The rarer oak mistletoe was greatly venerated by the ancient Celts and Germans and used as a ceremonial plant by early Europeans.  There are two types of mistletoe. The mistletoe that is commonly used as a Christmas decoration (Phoradendron flavescens) is native to North America   The other type is of European origin.  


Kissing under the mistletoe is first found associated with the Greek festival of Saturnalia and later with ancient marriage rites.  In Scandinavia, mistletoe was considered a plant of peace, under which enemies could declare a truce or warring spouses kiss and make-up.  At Christmas time a young lady standing under a ball of mistletoe, brightly trimmed with evergreens, ribbons, and ornaments, cannot refuse to be kissed. Such a kiss could mean deep romance or lasting friendship and goodwill. If the girl remained unkissed, she cannot expect not to marry the following year.

In some parts of England the Christmas mistletoe is burned on the twelfth night lest all the boys and girls who have kissed under it never marry. If a couple exchanges a kiss under the mistletoe, it is interpreted as a promise to marry.






Christmas Carols

As for the word carols, "carol" is a derivative of the French word caroller, the interpretation of which means dancing around in a circle. Carol and carols, eventually came to mean not only to dance but included music and lyrics - hence Christmas Caroling.


In the 13th century, in France, Germany, and particularly, Italy, under the influence of Francis of Assisi a strong tradition of popular Christmas songs in regional native languages developed.

Christmas carols in English first appear in a 1426 work of John Awdlay, a Shropshire chaplain, who lists twenty five "caroles of Cristemas", probably sung by groups of 'wassailers', who went from house to house.  The house-visiting wassail is the practice of people going door-to-door, singing and offering a drink from the wassail bowl in exchange for gifts.This was an old feudal practice. Wassail comes from the Middle English Waes thu hael, “Be thou hale [well]”  In the U.K. and Ireland, revelers would go “wassailing” at Christmastime – singing traditional holiday songs from house to house. Inside, the family of the house would have prepared a warming punch (a “wassail bowl”) to cheer the carolers at the door. Wassail is a beverage of hot mulled cider.

 sharing the wassail bowl (wicki)


Carols gained in popularity after the Reformation in the countries where Protestant churches gained prominence (as well-known Reformers like Martin Luther authored carols and encouraged their use in worship). This was a consequence of the fact that the Lutheran reformation warmly welcomed music.


 The publication of Christmas music books in the 19th century helped to widen the popular appeal of carols.  As religious observances in the United States and England were closely linked the popularity of Christmas carols grew in both countries in the 19th century.





The “Father of Christmas carols” was again Saint Francis of Assisi. In Greccio, Italy, in the year  AD 1223, St. Francis created nativity scenes in a cave, complete with live animals, and invited the villagers to gather around the manger while he spoke about baby Jesus. Worshippers then sang hymns, or “canticles,” as St. Francis called them. It was then followed by some caroles in their native language in which the whole village partook as a form of praise and worship. This idea quickly spread to France, Spain, and Germany before spreading further afield in Europe.

Caroling had become more widespread when the first English carols emerged in the early 1400s. It was an English priest Rev. John Audelay, who  composed a number o hymns in English which a group of carolers used singing from house to house.  It was essentially  themes based on repentence and regeneration.  But the idea of caroling caught up which became centered on the incarnation .



In the 1500s, King Henry VIII (1491-1547) wrote a carol called, “Green Groweth the Holly”.

It got an impetus with the reformation under Martin Luther.  Since 1523, Luther wrote 37 hymns, " Luther made significant developments to music in Church services and therefore contributed to the evolution of praise and worship and also Christmas caroling. The whole process got further impetus with the discovery of the printing press by Gutenberg. The first printed carol book was produced in 1521 by the Wynkyn de Word.


The celebration and caroling continued until Oliver Cromwell and the Puritan movement outlawed the public singing of carols in 1644.  It was only by 1800s the celebration and the carolling resurrected.

Silent Night:
The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce (December 24–25, 1914)

Christmas Truce by Frederic Villiers

The Illustrated London News's illustration of the Christmas Truce: "British and German Soldiers Arm-in-Arm Exchanging Headgear: A Christmas Truce between Opposing Trenches" The subcaption reads "Saxons and Anglo-Saxons fraterni sing on the field of battle at the season of peace and goodwill: Officers and men from the German and British trenches meet and greet one another—A German officer photographing a group of foes and friends."


There is a miraculous story of the power of the Christmas message and its celebration in the midst of the World War I waged between the Triple Entente—consisting of France, Russia and Britain—and the Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy which took over 15 million lives in its course that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918.I

It was in the middle of the World War I (WWI) when 1 Pope Benedict XV, who took office that September, called for a Christmas truce on the 7th of December 1914, an idea that was officially rejected. However in the week leading to 25 of December Christmas music broke out from the trenches.

“It was a Christmas card Christmas eve. There was white beautiful moonlight, frost on the ground — almost white everywhere. And round about — I should think 7 or 8 in the evening we heard this singing and a lot of commotion …. Then all of a sudden lights appeared all along the German trench and I thought ‘There’s a funny thing’ and then the German’s started singing ‘Stille nacht, heilige nacht’.

“I woke up — well all the other sentries did the same thing — we all woke up the other people to come along and see this — what on earth’s going on. They finished their carol, we applauded them, then we thought we must retaliate in some way so we replied with ‘The First Noel’. When we finished they all began clapping then they struck up their other favourite carol of theirs ‘O Tannenbaum’ which is the same tune as ‘The Red Flag’.


“So we went on, first the Germans singing one of their carols then we’d sing another of ours. Then we started up ‘O come all ye faithful’ and the Germans immediately joined in singing the same thing to the Latin words of ‘Adeste Fideles’. Well I thought this was rather an extraordinary thing really, to think of the two nations both singing the same carol in the middle of a war.”


But that was only the beginning. Frederick James Davies, of Lampeter, Ceredigion, described meeting enemy soldiers across No Man’s Land on 25 December 1914.


…”They (the German soldiers) were only 50 yards away from us in the trenches. They came out and we went to meet them,” he wrote. “We shook hands with them. We gave them cigs, jam and corn beef. They also gave us cigars but they didn’t have much food. I think they are hard up for it. They were fed up with the war.”

Stanley Weintraub, author of Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce, described it:
“The Germans set trees on trench parapets and lit the candles. Then, they began singing carols, and though their language was unfamiliar to their enemies, the tunes were not. After a few trees were shot at, the British became more curious than belligerent and crawled forward to watch and listen. And after a while, they began to sing.


By Christmas morning, the “no man’s land” between the trenches was filled with fraternizing soldiers, sharing rations and gifts, singing and (more solemnly) burying their dead between the lines. Soon they were even playing soccer, mostly with improvised balls.


According to the official war diary of the 133rd Saxon Regiment, “Tommy and Fritz” kicked about a real football supplied by a Scot. “This developed into a regulation football match with caps casually laid out as goals. The frozen ground was no great matter … The game ended 3-2 for Fritz.”

Graham Williams of the Fifth London Rifle Brigade described it in even greater detail:

“First the Germans would sing one of their carols and then we would sing one of ours, until when we started up ‘O Come, All Ye Faithful’ the Germans immediately joined in singing the same hymn to the Latin words Adeste Fideles. And I thought, well, this is really a most extraordinary thing – two nations both singing the same carol in the middle of a war.”

The next morning, in some places, German soldiers emerged from their trenches, calling out “Merry Christmas” in English. Allied soldiers came out warily to greet them. In others, Germans held up signs reading “You no shoot, we no shoot.” Over the course of the day, troops exchanged gifts of cigarettes, food, buttons and hats. The Christmas truce also allowed both sides to finally bury their dead comrades, whose bodies had lain for weeks on “no man’s land,” the ground between opposing trenches.




The Christmas Card

Borne out of having too little time, the holiday greeting has boomed into a major industry

The first Christmas Card (Wikimedia Commons)

Sir,.Henry Cole was an educator in early Victorian England, and had the misfortune of having too many friends.


During the holiday season of 1843,  when the British postal service started the “Penny Post,” whereby a sender can send a letter anywhere for a penny.  

Sir Cole asked his artist friend J.C. Horsley, to design a painting showing a family at a table celebrating the Christmas day.  He got a thousand copies made by a London printer  printed on a piece of stiff cardboard 5 1/8 x 3 1/4 inches in size. At the top of each was the salutation, “TO:_____” allowing Cole to personalize his responses, which included the generic greeting “A Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year To You.”

It was the first Christmas card.

Louis Prang and his Christmas card 1880


Louis Prang, a Prussian immigrant with a print shop near Boston, is credited with creating the first Christmas card originating in the United States in 1875. The card was a painting of a flower, and it read “Merry Christmas.”  He encouraged female artists to contribute to the making of the cards. In 1875 he printed his first Christmas cards and exported them to London. They were a big hit. The next year, he sold them throughout the Northeast. It took but two more years for him to corner the greeting card market in the United States. By 1881, he was printing more than 5 million Christmas cards a year.


President Johnson's 1967 White House Christmas card




The Twelve Days of Christmas, also known as Twelvetide, is a festive Christian season celebrating the Nativity of Jesus. In most Western ecclesiastical traditions, "Christmas Day" is considered the "First Day of Christmas" and the Twelve Days are 25 December – 5 January, inclusive. For many Christian denominations—for example, the Anglican Communion and Lutheran Church—the Twelve Days are identical to Christmastide, but for others, e.g., the Roman Catholic Church, Christmastide lasts longer than the Twelve Days of Christmas.

The 12 Days of Christmas start on Christmas Day and last until the evening of the 5th January - also known as Twelfth Night. The 12 Days have been celebrated in Europe since before the middle ages and were a time of celebration remembering those who died for their faith.



The 12 Days each traditionally celebrate a feast day for a saint and/or have different celebrations:


· Day 1 (25th December): Christmas Day 

· Day 2 (26th December Boxing Day):The name is a reference to charity driveswhen a box to collect money for the poor traditionally and placed in Churches on Christmas day and opened the next day - Boxing Day. It is also St Stephen’s Day




· Day 3 (27th December): St John the Apostle day



· Day 4 (28th December): The Feast of the Holy Innocents - remembering the massacre of the babies  by King Herod  


· Day 5 (29th December): St Thomas Becket. Archbishop of Canterbury in the 12th century who was murdered on 29th December 1170 for challenging the King’s authority over the Church.



· Day 6 (30th December): Holy Family day

· Day 7 (31st December): New Year's Eve

· Day 8 (1st January): 1st January - Mary, the Mother of Jesus

· Day 9 (2nd January): St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen, 




 Day 10 (3rd January): Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus. This remembers when Jesus was officially 'named' in the Jewish Temple.

· Day 11 (4th January): St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first American saint, who lived in the 18th and 19th centuries.


· Day 12 (5th January) Epiphany Eve. The three wise men,  St. John Neumann who was the first Bishop in America. He lived in the 19th century.



Twelfth Night

Twelfth Night was a big time of celebration with people holding large parties. During these parties, often the roles in society were reversed with the servants being served by the rich people. This dated back to medieval and Tudor times when Twelfth Night marked the end of 'winter' which had started on 31st October with All Hallows Eve (Halloween).




At the start of Twelfth Night the Twelfth Night cake was eaten. This was a rich cake made with eggs and butter, fruit, nuts and spices. A dried pea or bean was cooked in the cake. Whoever found it was the Lord (or Lady) of Misrule for night. The Lord of Misrule led the celebrations and was dressed like a King (or Queen). This tradition goes back to the Roman celebrations of Saturnalia. In later times, from about the Georgian period onwards, to make the Twelfth Night 'gentile', two tokens were put in the cake (one for a man and one for a women) and whoever found them became the the 'King' and 'Queen' of the Twelfth Night party.




In English Cathedrals, during the middle ages, there was the custom of the 'Boy Bishop' where a boy from the Cathedral or monastery school was elected as a Bishop on 6th December (St Nicholas's Day) and had the authority of a Bishop (except to perform Mass) until 28th December. King Henry VIII banned the practise in 1542 although it came back briefly under Mary I in 1552 but Elizabeth I finally stopped it during her reign.

During Twelfth Night it was traditional for different types of pipes to be played, especially bagpipes. Lots of games were played including ones with eggs. These included tossing an egg between two people moving further apart during each throw - drop it and you lose; and passing an egg around on spoons. Another popular game was 'snapdragon' where you picked raisins or other dried fruit out of a tray of flaming brandy!


The first Monday after the Christmas feast has finished was known as ‘Plough Monday’ as this was when farming work would all begin again!

It's also traditional to take your Christmas decorations down following Twelfth Night.










Plum pudding's association with Christmas goes back to a custom in medieval England.
Traditionally, the preparation of this food was imbued with a great deal of religious symbolism.


The "pudding is made on the 25th Sunday after Trinity. Christmas pudding recipes called for exactly thirteen ingredients, in honor of Christ and the twelve apostles. (Can you name them all?)  
These are the 13 ingredients commonly used: raisins, currents, suet (Suet is the raw, hard fat of beef or mutton found around the loins and kidneys), brown sugar, bread crumbs, citron, lemon peel, orange peel, flour, mixed spices, eggs, milk, and brandy. Mixed spice is a blend that consists of: cinnamon, coriander seed, caraway, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, allspice and mace



Christmas puddings are often dried out on hooks for weeks prior to serving in order to enhance the flavour. This pudding has been prepared with a traditional cloth rather than a basin.

Stir-Up Sunday


The collect for the Sunday before Advent in the Church of England's Book of Common Prayer begins with the words "Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works...". This led to the custom of preparing Christmas puddings on that day which became known as Stir-up Sunday.


They should use a wooden spoon to represent the manger in which Jesus was laid. Every family member stir it in turn three rounds from east to west to honour the Magi and their journey in that direction.


It was usual to add some gold or silver things to the mixture. This is usually a silver three-penny bit or a silver sixpence.  A ring, a button or a thimble are also common. The person who received the ring in their portion would be married within the year, the button finder would die an old bachelor, the recipient of the thimble would die an old maid and the finder of the sixpence would have good luck for the next year. (


After the mixture was assembled, each family member (including the servants) took their turn stirring the batter in a clockwise direction; this was to honor the Magi who traveled east to west on their way to Bethlehem to see the baby Jesus. A silent wish for the New Year by each participant added mystery to the ritual. Steamed for 4–6 hours and stored for five weeks, the pudding would be decorated with a sprig of variegated holly to ward off witches, doused with liquor and brought flaming to the table. It was believed that all those who ate Christmas pudding made on Stir-up Sunday would receive God’s blessing.


Stirring the Christmas Pudding, by Henry Woods (1881).

It was required that every person in the household, including servants, took turns stirring the pudding.


Each person was to stir three times. As each person stirred in the pudding they would concentrate on making a wish; one wish for each round. Out of the three wishes, it was told that one would be granted.


Other traditions told that it was expected that the person stirring the pudding made twelve rounds. They would make a wish for each of the twelve rounds. The twelve rounds represented the twelve months of the year and they made one wish for each month.


Images of the Crucifixion were also incorporated into the presentation and serving of the pudding. A flaming halo of brandy came to represent Christ’s passion, while the holly stuck on top symbolized the crown of thorns.


Brandy is normally used to provide the fuel: ethanol. The ethanol molecule contains some oxygen, so it burns with a clear, hot, blue flame, unlike the hydrocarbons in candle wax, which give a yellow flame.



The Yule log, Yule clog, or Christmas block is a specially selected log burnt on a hearth as a Christmas tradition in a number of countries in Europe. The origin of the folk custom is unclear. the yule log was one of the most widespread Christmas traditions in early modern Europe, with the first recording of its appearance dating to 1184



The "Yule log" is a custom found only in the west.  It is known under different names in different cultures.   "Yule Clog"( in north-east England),  "Yule Block"( in the Midlands and West Country) , "Gule Block"( in Lincolnshire).; "Stock of the Mock" (In Cornwal  ), cosse de Nau (in Berry), mouchon de Nau( in Angoumois), chuquet (in Normandy), souche (in the Île de France), and tréfouiau (in the Vendée)” ,“Blocyn y Gwyliau”  (in Wales)  Yeel Carline (the Christmas Old Wife- in Scotland) and Bloc na Nollaig (the Christmas Block in Ireland.),bûche de noël.(in France), " bluķa vilkšana(inLatvian); : blukio vilkimo( inLithuanian) etc. Evidently it was a common practice all over Europe. It is seldom found in the East. As a fire sacrifice it reminds us of the ancient Jewish practice of sacrifice in the court of the temple.  Prayers were offered as the log is taken round the house by the grandfather of the house and then ceremoniously lighted . It is a village program in some place where the tree is pulled ceremoniously around the village before burning.

The custom is to cut down some large fruit tree and bring in to the house in which the whole family take part and ceremoniously burn it.  The fire is expected to burn through 12 days.  If some remains it is used next year.

This custom is now being replaced by a log-shaped cake, also named Bûche de Noël which is eaten together by the whole family on the new years eve.

Yule log cake

Sometimes even a log shaped candle is used instead which burns out through the 12 days. This candle will be carefully crafted with natural wax, a pure cotton wick, and a high amount of essential/essence oils of holly berries, sweet berries, ivy, pine, and more to fill up the home with the scent of the holidays.

It has transformed itself now into some form of Christmas decoration
 or even a candle which is the traditional christian symbol of sacrifice that burn out.