Wise Men HeaderThe Date of Christ's Birth.

By Rev. Phil Greetham. © Copyright 1996. This Version, 2012.

2: The Tabernacles Theory.

Recent Jewish examination of the New Testament account of Jesus birth in the light of Old Testament has produced this interesting theory.

Twenty four divisions of priests served the temple rota. It is known that Zechariah, John the Baptist's father served the Abijah division. (Luke 1:5) and that the Abijah division was number eight on the rota. (1 Chron 24:10). Now the Jewish New Year depends on the appearance of the new moon around the spring equinox (as does the Christian Easter). For argument's sake an average date of the 14th March is used. In the simplified year used by the Jews there are 12 months of 28 days. Therefore each rota division would be on duty for 2 weeks. Zechariah's group, Abijah, would be on duty from the 20th June until the 3rd of July. After this time Zechariah returned home. (Lk 1:23) It appears that soon afterwards his wife, Elizabeth became pregnant. Mary became pregnant 6 Jewish months (or 168 days) later (Lk 1:26). Allowing a few days, say four days, for Zechariah to return home, this places the conception of Jesus on the 28th December. Assuming an average pregnancy, 280 days later he was born, on the 4th October - The Feast of Tabernacles. (Sukkot)

Of course the start of the Jewish New Year can not exactly be known, but it would have been within 3 weeks of the working date. However, there is doubt as to whether the priests served for one 2 week period a year, or two 1 week periods a year. The latter would give 2 possible alternative dates for the birth of Jesus of 4th August or 19th January. In addition we don't know for certain that the rota always reverted to order at the beginning of the year; because it is a simplified year a 'leap month' was inserted every so many years. Who looked after the temple at that time, and what happened to the rota?

If we could find the answers to these questions then this theory could begin to clarify the answer we need. Until we have more information we would be wise not to build on these conclusions.
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