The month of December is an important month for Christians as they celebrate Christmas and their perception of the birth of Jesus Christ. They start preparing for it months in advance. Everywhere one goes, one sees colorful Christmas decorations and posters regarding Christmas celebrations plastered in stores and malls. People also happily decorate their homes with ornately decorated Christmas trees, twinkling lights, and Christmas-themed paraphernalia.
According to Christians, Christmas Day is a holy day that marks the birth of Jesus (as), whom they believe to be God’s son. It is generally believed that Jesus (as) was born on December 25th.
While looking up the history of December 25th, we see that initially, it was a pagan festival to celebrate the birthday of the sun god, Mithra. Later, the birth of Christ also began to be celebrated on this day.
In this regard, it is written in Chambers Encyclopedia that:
“In the second place, the winter solstice was regarded as the birthday of the sun, and at Rome, December 25th was observed as a pagan festival of the nativity of Sol-Invictus. The Church, unable to stamp out this popular festival, spiritualized it as the feast of the Nativity of the Sun of Righteousness” (1).
We also read:
“December 25th was the date of the Roman pagan festival inaugurated in A.D. 274 as the birthday of the unconquered sun, which begins again to show an increase in light at the winter solstice. Sometime before A.D. 336, the Church in Rome, unable to stamp out this pagan festival, spiritualized it as the Feast of the Nativity of the Sun of Righteousness” (2).
The question is, is December 25th the actual birth date of Jesus (as)? While the obvious response is “no,” it becomes a considerable claim since Christians have believed for centuries that Jesus (as) was born on this day.
In this article, we will look at the Holy Bible and the Holy Qur’an to see if they shed light on the timing of the birth of Jesus (as).
December 25th, as the birth date of Jesus (as), is contradicted by the Holy Qur’an, history, and even the writers of the New Testament itself. Nowhere in the Bible does it mention the exact date of the birth of Jesus (as), though it does provide a critical clue concerning his birth season.
In Luke Chapter 2, verses 6 to 8, it is stated:
“And so, it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.”
According to these Biblical verses, it can be deduced that the birth of Jesus (as) took place when shepherds were watching their flocks at night, which is in the lambing season, not winter, but around the months of August and September.
Regarding these verses of Luke, some Christian scholars have also written that it is not possible for Jesus (as) to be born in the month of December. Bishop Barns writes:
“There is, moreover, no authority for the belief that December 25th was the actual birthday of Jesus. We can give any credence to the birth story of Luke, with the shepherds keeping watch by night in the fields near Bethlehem. The birth of Jesus did not take place in winter when the night temperature is so low in the hill country of Judaea that snow is not uncommon. After much argument, our Christmas day seems to have been accepted about A.D. 300” (3).
This is an unequivocal statement that if we take the narration of Luke to be accurate, then it is not possible to keep a newborn child, a shepherds and their flock outside due to severe cold weather in that area (the current day Israel and Palestine area).
This view of Bishop Barns is supported by the writers of the article on “Christmas” in Encyclopedia Britannica:
“The exact day and year of Christ’s birth have never been satisfactorily settled; but when the fathers of the Church in A.D. 340 decided upon a date to celebrate the event, they wisely chose the day of the winter solstice which was firmly fixed in the minds of the people and which was their most important festival. Owing to changes in man-made calendars, the time of the solstice and the date of Christmas day vary by a few days” (4).
From these narrations of the Bible and the writings of Christian scholars, we can clearly say that Jesus (as) was not born in the month of December but rather in a summer month. The incident referred to in Luke most likely took place in the month of August or September.
During these months, fresh ripe dates are found on palm trees in Judaea. The Holy Qur’an, when describing the period immediately after the birth of Jesus (as), also mentions this time when Allah commanded Mary (as) to shake the palm tree and cause fresh dates to fall. God Almighty states: “And shake towards thyself the trunk of the palm tree; it will cause fresh ripe dates to fall upon thee” (5).
Thus, the Gospel of Luke inadvertently has lent excellent support to the Qur’anic view about the birth of Jesus (as) having taken place in the month of August or September, which is the season of fresh ripe dates in Judaea.
Dr. John D. Davis, in the Dictionary of the Bible, has written under the word “year” that “dates become ripe in the Jewish month of Elul.”
Also, in Commentary on the Bible, Dr. Arthur S. Peake has written:
“The month of Elul corresponds to the months of August-September” (6).
In conclusion, it is evident that Jesus (as) was not born on December 25th or even in the month of December. Instead, he was born in the summer months of August or September when the weather was such that his mother, Mary (as), according to the Bible, was allegedly able to keep him in a basic outer dwelling in the manger and as written in the Qur’an, fresh ripe dates were available for her to eat after the birth of her child.
- Chambers Encyclopedia, 1970, P. 538, Article: Christmas.
- James Dixon Douglas (1978), “New International Dictionary of the Christian Church,” P. 223, The Zondervan Corporation, Grand Rapids, MI, USA.
- Ernest William Barnes, 1948, “Rise of Christianity,” P. 79, Third Impression, 1948, Longman, Green and Co, Ltd. London.
- Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th Edition, Vol. 5, Pp. 642 and 642A
- The Holy Qur’an (19:26)
- A. R. S. Kennedy (1920), “Weights, Measures, Money and Time,” P. 117 in “A Commentary on the Bible,” Publisher: Thomas Nelson & Sons, New York
Last modified: January 2023