|Listen to the Bible|
Thoughts and Commentary on Today's ReadingHaving done a four-day segment on the paganism behind Christmas, a question naturally comes up... So, since we know Yahshua wasn't born on December 25, when was He born?
Leviticus 23:39-41 "Also in the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when ye have gathered in the fruit of the land, ye shall keep a Feast unto Yahweh seven days: on the first day shall be a Sabbath, and on the eighth day shall be a Sabbath.
And ye shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and ye shall rejoice before Yahweh your God seven days.
And ye shall keep it a feast unto Yahweh seven days in the year. It shall be a statute for ever in your generations: ye shall celebrate it in the seventh month."
Sukkot lasts seven days (Tishri 15-21). But the eighth day is also an annual Sabbath, which was called the "Last Great Day" (John 7:37). by the Hebrew people. Similarly to how Passover sits next to the Feast of Unleavened Bread, but technically isn't a part of it; so also the Last Great Day sits next to the Feast of Tabernacles, but is actually its own, separate Feast Day.
As Scripture shows, Yahshua was born on the first Sabbath of Sukkot (Tishri 15) and was circumcised on the 8th day (which would have been the Last Great Day). So, how do we arrive at Sukkot being the time of Yahshua’s birth?
1) Calculating Yahshua's Birth from John's
Scripture tells us that John the Baptist was exactly 6 months older than Yahshua. Thus, by determining the timing of John's birth, we may calculate Yahshua's.
We are able to determine that Yahshua’s cousin, John the Baptist was conceived in mid Sivan on the Biblical Calendar (which is in May/June on a modern calendar) and born 40 weeks later on the Passover, which is on the 14th of Abib (the first Biblical month of the year, which falls in April/May). How can we know this, Scripturally? Consider the following:
- Since the cycle of service in the Temple began on the first Shabbat of Abib (The Biblical calendar starts at the new moon before Passover — which is the 1st of Abib).
- We also know that both Passover and Shavu’ot (the Hebrew word for Pentecost) required all priestly courses to serve. We can calculate that the actual time of the 8th course where Zacharias served in the Temple was during the 10th week of the year. The first day of that tenth week is Pentecost (Shavu'ot)! Thus, the angel would have appeared to Zacharias in the Temple on the Feast of Pentecost (which falls somewhere in May/June on the modern calendar). This is no real surprise - this is God's normal Pattern. He always does His big things on His holy Days!
- By Divine injunction, John the Baptist was conceived shortly after Zacharias’ service in the Temple (Luke 1:23-24)
- Counting the full nine months for pregnancy, John the Baptist (who was the second Elijah) was born about the timing of eating the Passover meal! The Hebrew people have always expected Elijah to come at Passover to herald the coming of the Messiah. Even today, at the Passover Seder meal, a special cup and plate are set on the Seder table for Elijah, in anticipation of the arrival of Elijah for the festival! Yahshua said that John the Baptist was a type of Elijah the prophet (Matthew 17:10-13, Luke 1:17), therefore it is no surprise that John the Baptist (a type of Elijah) was born at Passover!
- Scripture tells us that Yahshua was conceived six months after John the Baptist was conceived (Luke 1:24-27, 36). It is important to note here that the “sixth” month refers to the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, not the 6th Biblical month (Luke 1:36).
- Placing the time of the conception of Yahshua in the timing of Hanukah (known as the Festival of Lights and the Feast of Dedication) also makes sense by the fact that He is called the Light of the world (John 8:12, 9:5, 12:46). Based on the above, we can place the time of Jesus’ conception during the Jewish Festival of Chanukah.
- Adding six months from the 15th day of Abib (John the Baptist’s birthday was at the timing of eating the Passover, which was eaten the night of the 14th day, which is the eve or beginning of the 15th day), we arrive at the 15th day of the 7th month, Tishri – the first day of the festival of Sukkot.
- On the baby’s eighth day, Mary and Joseph had him circumcised as the Mosaic Law required, naming him Jesus, as directed. (Luke 1:31) Traditionally, a father would perform the circumcision for his own child, so it is very likely that Joseph performed this circumcision. Because of Mary's time of purification, they did not take the Child to Jerusalem until after that period of time was over.
- Then, on the 40th day, Mary and Joseph took Yahshua from Bethlehem to the temple in Jerusalem, some six miles (about 10 km) away, and presented the purification offerings that the Law allowed for poorer folk—two turtledoves or two pigeons—Luke 2:21-24
- As we have seen, in accordance with the Torah command, Yahshua was circumcised the “eight day” after birth. Given He was born on the first day of Sukkot, the eighth day falls on the Last Great Day. This is a significant day on the Biblical calendar, which the Hebrews called Shemini Atzeret / Sinchat Torah, which, like the first day, is a day of sacred assembly (Leviticus 23:39).
On this day, the Hebrew people complete their annual cycle of Torah readings and start again from Bereshit (Genesis). Therefore Simchat Torah is considered by the Jews to be a time of “fulfillment” of the Torah. The circumcision of Yahshua at this time indicates how He had come to fulfill (fully keep) the Law (Torah) and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17-18).
- John 1:14 states that the “Word became flesh and “dwelt” with us. The Greek word “dwelt” [skeinao] comes from the word skeinos, which the (LXX) Septuagint uses for the mishkan (tabernacle). The name given for the Feast of Tabernacles itself is called Herotei Skeinon in the Septuagint.
- Shepherds would not be out with their sheep in the dead of winter in Israel. The last time when they were found in the hillsides before winter was Sukkot.
- The angel who appeared to the shepherds said, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10). Since Sukkot was known as both a festival of joy and also as the “Festival of the Nations,” the angel was actually giving them a greeting for the Festival of Sukkot!
- One of Yahshua's Names is Emmanuel (Matthew 1:23). Emmanuel means God with us. Tabernacles is about God dwelling with man. In fact, Yahshua was the Tabernacle, or Dwelling Place of Yahweh. In Him dwelled the fullness of God, as it says in John 1:14 and Colossians 2:9.
It's interesting to recall also that Yahshua referred to Himself as Yah's Temple - His Tabernacle. He said that if "this Temple" was destroyed, He would raise it again in three days. And the Temple (Tabernacle) He was speaking of was His Own Body.
Finally, and I share this only as an interesting additional note, since this is historical... there may be evidence that the early Jewish believers commemorated Christ's birth at Sukkot.
A medieval collection of anti-Christian Jewish folklore titled The Story about Shim’on Kefa (Aggadta DeShim’on Kefa, אגדתא דשמען כיפא) preserves Jewish traditions about the early Jewish believers and early Christians.5 Aggadta DeShim’on Kefa is similar to other fictional, Jewish apologetic legends like Toldedot Yeshu which contain anti-Christian legends that originated in the early days of Jewish-Christian polemics.
In the story, the notable sages of the day are distressed by the number of Nazarenes among the Jewish people, and they are eager to find a way to easily distinguish between believers in Yahshua and other Jews. The story is set in the mid-apostolic era (circa 60 AD), but in reality, it better reflects second- and third-century interactions between Jewish believers and the larger Jewish community.
In the story, the sages use the influence of a sage named Shim’on Kefa to help push Jewish believers away from Torah observance. Their goal is to separate the believers from the rest of Judaism. The sages encourage the Jewish believers to abandon Sabbath observance and circumcision, and they prescribe a new liturgical calendar for the Jewish believers.
This story offers a glimpse of the sect of the Nazarenes from the perspective of mainstream Judaism. It attests to a collective, community memory of the Nazarene believers as Torah-keeping Jews who, at one time, were virtually indistinguishable from the rest of the Jewish community. The legend also tries to explain the evolution of Christianity as an anti-Jewish religion outside of Torah observance.
In the legend, the sages try to steer the believers away from keeping the three pilgrimage festivals: Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles in the same manner as the rest of the Jewish community. They accomplish this by encouraging the believers to focus on the Messianic significance of each festival, distancing them from mainstream Judaism, but in an acceptable way, since it was connected with Yahshua of Nazareth. The sages proposed the following to the Torah-keeping, Messianic Jews:
You will not celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread (Chag HaMatzot) but instead celebrate the day of his death (He died on Passover, so no date change here). And in the place of the festival of Shavuot, celebrate the forty days from His Execution until after His ascension to the firmament. And in the place of the festival of Sukkot, you will celebrate the day of His Birth (this suggests that they knew that Yahshua was born on Sukkot), and on the eighth day from His Birth, you will celebrate His Circumcision. (Aggadta DeShim’on Kefa)
The fictitious story attempts to credit the leadership of the Jewish community with the creation of Christianity, but what kind of Christianity is this? Church history tells us that second-century Christians (the so called Quartodecimans) did observe the day of the Master’s death on Passover (Abib 14)...
The story remembers a time when believers still kept the Biblical festivals but attached Messianic significance to their observance of the Jewish holy days. Since the believers in the story are Jewish, the legend may provide us a glimpse of the early Jewish believers celebrating the Master’s birth at the festival of Sukkot.