When Was Jesus Really Born?


When Was Jesus Really Born?

Though the resurrection of Jesus was celebrated from the earliest times of church history, the celebration of the birth of Jesus developed relatively later. Still today, people debate the “true” date of Christmas. Many wonder, when was Jesus really born?

The answer is not as easy as it would seem. In contrast with our modern world that often emphasizes the celebration of birthdays, the ancient world often failed to emphasize the dates of one’s birth or birthday celebrations. The birth accounts of Jesus do not mention the date, nor do the rest of the New Testament.

Instead, our modern Christmas celebration on December 25 is derived from later sources. Some argue Christmas relates to a pagan celebration on this date called Sol Invictus. However, the earliest source for this view is not found until the twelfth century. The first dates regarding the birth of Jesus appear from the late second to early third century.

Historian Andrew McGowan notes the modern dating of Christmas on December 25 is most likely found in connection with the date of Jesus’ death. He writes, “Thus, we have Christians in two parts of the world calculating Jesus’ birth on the basis that his death and conception took place on the same day (March 25 or April 6) and coming up with two close but different results (December 25 and January 6).”

It is clear the date for Christmas is not definitively known. However, are there any clues in Scripture that would suggest a particular date or time of year?

Some argue that the reference to shepherds watching their flocks by night in the fields would assume a warmer time of the year. However, in Israel shepherds are commonly outdoors year-round.


Another suggestion has been to connect the timing of Christ’s birth to either the time of the census or the star seen by the wise men. However, in both cases, too little information is known to specifically narrow the date of Jesus’ birth with any certainty.

In terms of the year of Christ’s birth, most scholars now agree on a date of 6-4 B.C. Why? Herod died in 4 B.C. yet had all male children two years or younger in Bethlehem killed in his attempt to destroy Jesus(Matthew 2). Many who hold this view argue 5-4 B.C. is more likely, while adding any census would not have taken place during a planting or harvest time in an agricultural society. Based upon Herod’s death in early 4 B.C., Jesus was most likely born in 5 B.C., with the winter months (or possibly summer months) most likely.

New Testament scholar Daniel B. Wallace observes:

Now, of course, we can’t be absolutely certain of the day of Christ’s birth. At least, not this side of heaven. But an early winter date seems as reasonable a guess as any. And December 25th has been the frontrunner for eighteen centuries.With out more evidence, there seems no good reason to change the celebration date now.

Wrap Up On When Was Jesus Really Born?

We can blame the ancient church for a large part of our uncertainty. You see, they did not celebrate Christs birth. At all. To them, it was insignificant. They were far more concerned with his death . . . and resurrection.

Though the exact date of Christ’s birth is uncertain, we are clearly called to celebrate—and worship—Christ every day.

Go Deeper


  1. Jerry Teets on December 22, 2018 at 1:02 am

    Jesus, in fulfillment as our Passover Lamb was born before Nisan 10 when the Passover lambs were a year old. Luke 1 gives us definite times we can study out to bear this out.

    The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats….The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. Exodus 12:1-29

  2. L Lorence on December 22, 2018 at 12:39 pm

    The Great Christ Comet: Revealing the True Star of Bethlehem Colin R. Nicholl Best book on the subject so far

  3. David Locke on December 28, 2023 at 2:52 am

    What I am about to reveal is the best thing you will ever hear as to when Daniel prophesied the year of the nativity of the Messiah. Most scholars are simply wrong about changing the year of Christ’s birth from 1 AD to some other year, and they can’t even agree on what that year is. Their whole point is to elevate their unimportant questions about the year of death of Herod, as somehow being more important than the stated truth of the scripture. They simply don’t know when Herod died, but feel free to speculate as if their opinion could supplant what is known about when Christ was actually born, 1 AD. The wise men from the east had access to the prophecy of Daniel 9:25-26a: “Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off,” The wise men also had the writings of the exiled Nehemiah as to when he performed the going forth of the commandment to restore and build Jerusalem. Nehemiah 12:6-7a “But in all this time was not I at Jerusalem: for in the two and thirtieth year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon came I unto the king, and after certain days obtained I leave of the king: And I came to Jerusalem,” The command came from Artaxerxes (first year of his reign was 465 BC) in his twentieth year (445 BC), and it took Nehemiah another 12 years to procure materials from the king’s forest and then go to Jerusalem in the fulfillment of the going forth of the commandment to restore and build the wall at Jerusalem. Nehemiah arrived there in the 32nd year of Artaxerxes, finished the job in 52 days, in that same year, which was 434 BC. So relook at Daniel’s prophecy for the first coming of the Messiah: “after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off” refers to the going forth of the commandment by Nehemiah to restore and to build Jerusalem in 434 BC after which the Messiah is to come and after which be cut off. Most scholars mistakenly add the seven weeks, but the scripture is clear that after that 62 weeks the Messiah shall arrive then is to be cut off! So the wise men calculated the 62 weeks, which is (62 x 7 = 434) 434 years after 434 BC, to be the 1 AD birth of the Messiah. “Where is he who is born the king of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east…” The wise men calculated the year when the Messiah was to be born, and so the star was the sign to them to confirm the scripture of the Messiah’s birth. Nehemiah and Daniel together agree as to the year of the birth of Christ. Herod diligently inquired this information of them, otherwise the wise men would be seen as mockers to Herod and he might well have killed them if they couldn’t explain their reasoning convincingly. “Oh, we saw this really special star,” just doesn’t meet royal standard. There must be prophetic scripture as well to be credibly correlated to. Today’s scholars are mockers of scripture and would have been killed by Herod with their meaningless assertions to deny scripture.

Leave a Comment