When was John the Baptist born?

In order to determine when Jesus was born, it is first necessary to look at when John (Yochanan in Hebrew) the Baptist was born. John's father, Zechariah (Z'chariyahu in Hebrew), was of the priestly division of Abiah (or Abijah) (Lk. 1:5). There were 24 such divisions (1 Chr. 24:7-18) taking their turn over the course of the year. Abiah was the 8th division (1 Chr. 24:10).

According to the Mishnah (the Jewish commentary on the Torah), the priestly cycle began on the first Sabbath (Saturday) of Nisan, and each division ministered for one week. The cycle got delayed because all priests were required to attend the Holy Temple (Beit Hamikdash in Hebrew) at Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles. Thus, for the year 3754 AM (7 BC), the first few weeks of the duty roster would have been as follows:

Division No.

Family Name

Start of service

Equivalent date

1

Jehoiarib

Nisan 5

Apr. 2

2

Jedaiah

Nisan 12

Apr. 9

(Passover)

All priests

Nisan 14

Apr. 11

2 (cont.)

Jedaiah

Nisan 21

Apr. 18

3

Harim

Nisan 26

Apr. 23

4

Seorim

Iyyar 3

Apr. 30

5

Malchiah

Iyyar 10

May 7

6

Mijamin

Iyyar 17

May 14

7

Hakkoz

Iyyar 24

May 21

(Pentecost)

All priests

Sivan 2

May 28

8

Abiah

Sivan 9

Jun. 4

9

Jeshua

Sivan 16

Jun. 11

Zechariah's division (Abiah) served between Sivan 9 and Sivan 16 (Jun. 11th). Zechariah thus returned home on June 11th, 7 BC (Lk. 1:23).

From now on, we can no longer be exact, but Zechariah’s wife Elizabeth (Eli-Sheva in Hebrew) would probably have become pregnant some time over the course of the next month – let’s guess at June 25th (Sivan 30, 3754 AM) (Lk. 1:24).

The Passover was a sign that God would spare/save His people (Ex. 12:13). The sending of Elijah was also prophesied to be a sign that God would spare/save His people (Mal. 4:5-6). For this reason, the Jews expected that Elijah would come at Passover – it is their custom to put an extra cup of wine on the table at Passover in the hope that Elijah will come and drink it. We can see from our calculations that if Elizabeth became pregnant on June 25th, 7 BC, then adding nine months gives us March 25th, 6 BC. Passover (Nisan 14) in that year was March 31st, so we can see that it is entirely possible that John the Baptist, who is identified with Elijah (Mt. 11:14) was born on that date.

In which month was Jesus born?

The angel Gabriel made his announcement to Mary (Miriam in Hebrew) “in the sixth month” of Elizabeth’s pregnancy (Lk. 1:26, 36), i.e. any time between 5 and 6 months after June 25th, 7 BC – let’s guess at December 11th (Kislev 22, 3755 AM). The message was “you shall conceive” (Lk. 1:31), so again, it would be reasonable to assume that Mary became pregnant some time during the following month – let’s guess at December 25th (Teveth 6) – if only because that would be remarkably appropriate day! Jesus would then have been born some nine months later – say September 25th, 6 BC (Tishri 15, 3756 AM), which just happens to be the date of the Feast of Tabernacles!

At what time of day was Jesus born?

We obviously can't get a time of birth from the Christmas star. There is nowhere in the Bible where it says that the star appeared at the exact moment of Jesus's birth, as some have suggested, and the fact thar Herod wanted to kill every baby under the age of two suggests that Jesus was no longer a newborn when the Wise Men followed the star. The star that the most likely to be the Bethlehem star is a nova that was observed in southern Aquila in mid-March 5 BC - six months after Jesus's probable birth date of September 25th, 6 BC. Certainly at the time of Jesus's presentation at the temple (Luke 2:22-24), when He would have been 41 days old (8 days till circumcision plus a further 33 days according to Lev. 12:3-4), the Wise Men hadn't yet given their gift of gold, because Mary and Joseph gave a poor family's offering of two turtle doves for cleansing!

On the other hand there is a time clue to Jesus's birth from the angels' visit to the shepherds (Lk. 2:8-9) which was "at night", while v.11 states that Jesus was born on "this day", and since the Hebrew day begins at 6 p.m., Jesus must have been born some time between 6 p.m. and whatever time of night the angels appeared to the shepherds. We can't narrow it down any further than that, I'm afraid, but we can definitley say that Jesus was born at night..

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