When and What Time Was Jesus Born?
by Brian Chilton
This past Sunday, I received a wonderful question by a young man in our church. Matthew Cleary was in Sunday school and asked his teacher, who in turn asked me, “What time of night was Jesus born? Was it at midnight?” To be honest, I had never really thought about the question. While it is impossible to provide a detailed time of Christ’s birth with great certainty, certain clues provide us hints at the time and date of Jesus’s birth. The time of Jesus’s birth is intricately tied to the date of his birth. While Scripture does not grant us a large amount of information of the day and time, it does offer a few clues.
Clue 1: Details of Jesus’s Birth Point to an Autumn Birthday.
In Luke’s account of Jesus’s birth, the Evangelist notes that when Jesus was born, “shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flock” (Lk. 2:8). The sheep that were used for temple sacrifices in Jerusalem were often kept in Bethlehem.December 25th does not mesh with this aspect of the birth story. First, the sheep would have been taken to Jerusalem by December. In addition, December 25th would have been too cold for the shepherds and the sheep to have been staying in the fields at this time. However, the sheep and shepherds would have been in the fields in autumn, especially around the time of the Feast of Trumpets.
Clue 2: Details of the Star of Bethlehem and the Magi’s Appearance.
This may disappoint many who read these words, but the Magi (wise men) were not at the stable when Jesus was born. In fact, it is possible that Jesus would have been one or two years old by the time they made it to Bethlehem. Matthew describes the Magi following a star which led them to the Christ child. The star could have been one individual star, or it may have been an astronomical configuration. Nevertheless, the Magi were filled with joy (Mt. 2:10) and entered “the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and falling to their knees, they worshiped him” (Mt. 2:11). The Star of Bethlehem guided the Magi to the Christ child after the child was born. The timing of the star is subsequent to the time of Jesus’s birth. The star could have presented a December visitation of the Magi, but since this was later than the birth of Christ, then the birth would have preceded this event…
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