||Note on the
date of Christmas, from 30 Days, an Italian Catholic publication:
"December 25 is
an historical date," Professor Tommaso Federici, Professor at the Pontifical
Urbanian University and a consultant to two Vatican Congregations, has stressed.
In an article in the Osservatore Romano on December 24, he wrote:
"December 25 is explained as the 'Christianization' of a pagan feast, 'birth
of the Sol Invictus'; or as the symmetrical balance, an aesthetic balance
between the winter solstice (Dec. 21-22) and the spring equinox (March 23-24).
But a discovery of recent years has shed definitive light on the date of
the Lord's birth. As long ago as 1958, the Israeli scholar Shemaryahu Talmon
published an in-depth study on the calendar of the Qumran sect [Ed.
based , in part, on Parchment
Number 321 -- 4 Q
321 -- of the Qumran Dead Sea Scrolls, see picture at left], and he
reconstructed without the shadow of doubt the order of the
sacerdotal rota system for the temple of Jerusalem (1
Paralipomenon/Chronicles 24, 7-18) in New Testament times. Here the
family of Abijah, of which Zechariah (Zachary) was a
descendant, father of John the herald and forerunner (Luke 1, 5),
was required to officiate twice a year, on the days 8-14 of the
third month, and on the days 24-30 of the eighth month. This latter
period fell at about the end of September. It is not without reason
that the Byzantine calendar celebrated 'John's conception' on
September 23 and his birth nine months later, on June 24. The 'six
months' after the Annunciation established as a liturgical feast on
March 25, comes three months before the forerunner's birth, prelude
to the nine months in December: December 25 is a date of
In other words, according to the evidence of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Sacred
Scripture, our liturgical calendar is accurate:
end of September
"executed his priestly function" (Luke 1:8) according to his class. His wife,
Elizabeth, conceived (the Church traditionally holds St. John's conception
to have taken place on 23 September) just as St. Gabriel said (Luke 1:24)
and hid herself away for 5 months.
25 March, the Feast
of the Annunciation
In the sixth month
of Elizabeth's pregnancy (Luke 1:26), St. Gabriel appears to Mary to tell
her she is to have a child
24 June, the Feast
of St. John the Baptist
Three months after
St. John the Baptist was born, at a time when the days were becoming shorter
Nine months after
the Annunciation, Jesus was born, at a time when the days were becoming longer.
In addition to
this, the ancient "integral age" tradition is that the Prophets died on the
same day they were conceived. With Passover set at 25 March, the Annunciation
would have taken place on that same date -- and the Nativity would've taken
place 9 months later, on 25 December.
To rebut the idea that Jesus had to have been born (rather than conceived)
in the Spring because the shepherds were in their fields, which wouldn't
have been so in the Winter, there's this, from the Anglican scholar, Alfred
Edersheim, in his "The Life and Times of Jesus The Messiah":
And yet Jewish
tradition may here prove both illustrative and helpful. That the Messiah
was to be born in Bethlehem, was a settled conviction. Equally so, was the
belief , that He was to be revealed from Migdal Eder, 'the tower of the flock.'
This Migdal Eder was not the watchtower for the ordinary flocks which pastured
on the barren sheepground beyond Bethlehem, but lay close to the town, on
the road to Jerusalem. A passage in the Mishnah  leads to the conclusion,
that the flocks, which pastured there, were destined for Temple-sacrifices
, and, accordingly, that the shepherds, who watched over them, were
not ordinary shepherds. The latter were under the ban of Rabbinism, on account
of their necessary isolation from religious ordinances, and their manner
of life, which rendered strict legal observance unlikely, if not absolutely
impossible. The same Mishnaic passage also leads us to infer, that these
flocks lay out all the year round, since they are spoken of as in the
fields thirty days before the Passover -- that is, in the month of February,
when in Palestine the average rainfall is nearly greatest.
Thus, Jewish tradition in some dim manner apprehended the first revelation
of the Messiah from that Migdal Eder, where shepherds watched the
Temple-flocks all the year round. Of the deep symbolic significance of
such a coincidence, it is needless to speak.
It was, then, on that wintry night of the 25th of December, that
shepherds watched the flocks destined for sacrificial services, in the very
place consecrated by tradition as that where the Messiah was to be first
revealed. Of a sudden came the long-delayed, unthought-of announcement.
951: Shek. vii. 4.
952: In fact the
Mishnah (Baba K. vii. 7) expressly forbids the keeping of flocks throughout
the land of Israel, except in the wilderness - and the only flocks otherwise
kept, would be those for the Temple-services (Baba K. 80 a).