When Was Jesus Born?
Note: The following Post is taken from an upcoming book by Joseph Lenard entitled Mysteries of Jesus’ Life Revealed—His Birth, Death, Resurrection, and Ascensions. For an overview and complete chapter listing of this fascinating study, click here.
Background of “Signs” and the Biblical Zodiac
Signs in the Heavens
In this discussion we will find that even the stars and planets in the heavens point us to the actual date of Jesus’ birth. This astronomical/zodiacal evidence is our puzzle piece #2 in solving the “puzzle” of the birth date of Jesus.
Who has not looked up into the sky on a clear night and marveled at the vastness of the universe and wondered about the God who created all things? In Genesis, God explains His purpose for creating all those lights in the universe. He said,
“Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years; And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth; and it was so” (Genesis 1:14 KJV)
It is interesting that God created the stars, planets and other objects in the universe as “signs”, among the other reasons stated. Certainly, the Magi who came seeking the Jewish Messiah saw some kind of “sign” or “signs” in the heavens. The Bible calls our attention to starry objects, and the Psalmist gives us context in a poetic style, as the King James Version captures so well in its translation:
“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun . . .” (Psalm 19:1-4 KJV).
The heavens are for His glory, and they are there to teach us. It is wonderful that there is a reason for all these things we see. God has said so. Remember that He named each star (Isaiah 40:26) in spite of their vast number.
Scriptural References to the Stars and the Biblical Zodiac
It is interesting to note the number of times that the stars and the constellations are mentioned in Scripture. The Book of Job is reported by some commentators to be the oldest book of the Bible, going back to approximately 2,150 BC – 650 years before Moses wrote the Pentateuch. Job has several astronomical references in Chapters 8 and 38:
“[God] which alone spreadeth out the heavens, and treadeth upon the waves of the sea. Which maketh Arcturus, Orion, and Pleiades, and the chambers of the south.” (Job 9:8-9 KJV)
“Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion? Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth [Hebrew: “The Constellations of the Zodiac”] in his season? Or canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons? Knoweth thou the ordinances of heaven? Canst thou set the dominion thereof in the earth?” (Job 38:31-33 KJV)
Also, from the book of Amos:
“Seek him that maketh the seven stars [Pleiades] and Orion . . .” (Amos 5:8a KJV).
The original zodiac was given by God to man as a means to display the Gospel story to man before the written word came through Moses. The “Mazzaroth” mentioned in Job literally means “the twelve signs [constellations] of the zodiac.” God displays each of the twelve signs of the zodiac in their appropriate months during the year.
The graphical depiction of the zodiac – with its 12 starry constellations – is used in the occult arts, astrology and fortune-telling. It is well known that these acts are forbidden in the Bible (Leviticus 20:27), largely because they may involve demonic spirits (Acts 16:16-19). This is a corruption and not the original purpose of the zodiac – given by God.
Biblical Astronomy in Prophetic Themes
The Gospel in the Stars
Strangely, there are early writings from virtually all civilizations describing the major stars contained in the 12 “Constellations of the Zodiac.” The records of ancient Egypt, Persia, Assyria, or Babylonia, all mention this ancient zodiac. The chart of the zodiac displays 12 major constellations around the ecliptic, which is the apparent path of the sun through the heavens, caused by the earth’s path around the sun during a year’s time.
Where did the descriptions of these 12 constellations come from? As noted earlier, the likely earliest book of the Bible, the book of Job, mentions several of these constellations, as well as the “Mazzaroth” (Job 38:31-32), which is the zodiac. A really good case can be made that the constellations were originally established in the heavens by God and described by God to either Adam or a descendant of his. In fact, it has been argued that the constellations depict a picture story of God’s plan of salvation for mankind through His Redeemer Son, Jesus.
According to Arabic tradition, the signs of the zodiac came originally from Seth, the son of Adam, and Enosh, the son of Seth. We know that the protoevangelium (the first evangel, the first Gospel) was given by God to Adam in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:15); this is the story of the future Messiah, the Seed of the woman, crushing the head of the serpent (Satan).
Jesus Christ is the subject of the written Word of God from Genesis to Revelation. Likewise, He is also the subject of the Word of God written in the heavens from Virgo (the initial, lead constellation) to Leo (the last of the 12 constellations). Jesus is the promised Seed of the woman (Virgo) and the King of Glory, the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Leo). He is also depicted in the heavens as the sun—the Righteous One, the bridegroom (spoken of in Psalm 19:4-5) racing through the heavens to redeem and restore His bride to glory.
In Psalm 19 David said a message was proclaimed by the sun’s path through the constellations:
“Their sound has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world” (Psalm 19:4, NIV).
Of course, Scripture condemns astrology (Isaiah 47:13). Satan corrupted the use and purpose of the ancient zodiac. Instead of being simply the story of redemption through a future Redeemer (Jesus), the heavenly signs of the zodiac came to represent deities which influenced the daily lives of humans. This was not the original purpose. The word zodiac comes from the Hebrew sodi, and in Sanskrit means a Way, a Path, or a Step.
Balaam’s Prophecy (Numbers 22-24)
The prophecy of Balaam, as recorded by Moses, spoke about a “star” which was to arise in Israel that would be connected with ruler-ship or dominion:
“A star shall come out of Jacob and a scepter shall rise out of Israel” (Numbers 24:17 NIV).
Balaam’s reluctant, but divinely inspired, prophecy stated that a unique star associated with Israel would accompany a future King who – as we know from other Scripture – would eventually rule the world.
Revelation 12:1-6 Conveys the Exact Year, Day, and Hour of Jesus’ Birth!
Biblical Text of Revelation 12:1-6
The events of the birth of Jesus are recorded in only three places in the New Testament: Matthew’s Gospel, Luke’s Gospel, and in Chapter 12 of the Book of Revelation (Revelation 12:1-6). It is true that Revelation contains much figurative language which is highly symbolic. However, within this figurative language are contained clues which precisely date the birth of Jesus – both the day and precise hour of His birth!
An evaluation of Revelation 12 – including an analysis of the astronomy depicted – provides additional support for the birthdate of Jesus as derived from Luke’s Gospel, specifically the birthdate of John the Baptist and the eighth priestly course of Abijah, as discussed in the previous Post “Jesus’ Birth – Evidence from the Birth of John the Baptist”. Both point to the fall season, the Hebrew month of Tishri (September). However, it is an analysis of Revelation 12 that gives us the precise day and hour.
The Apostle John wrote the following account of the “Woman and the Dragon” in Revelation Chapter 12, which has a veiled reference to God’s plan of redemption for mankind – the birth of Jesus:
“A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days. (Revelation 12:1-6 NIV)
And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon has hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.” (Revelation 12:7-9 NIV)
The following images depict the symbols found in Revelation 12:1-6.
Interpretation of the Signs in Revelation 12:1-6
For sure, the scene described in Revelation 12:1–6 is highly symbolic. Remember that Genesis tells us that one of the reasons that celestial bodies were made by God was to provide signs (Genesis 1:14). The passage in Revelation does just that.
It should be noted that the depiction in Revelation 12 could not be a literal description of the Virgin Mary, as the “woman” in the passage had the heavens associated with her – the sun, the moon, and the twelve stars. In addition, John stated that the display was a wonder (KJV; a great sign) and that it was in heaven. Of the three “heavens” – where the birds fly; where the sun, moon, planets and stars exist (Genesis 1:17); and where God lives (II Corinthians 12:2) – the most reasonable interpretation of the “heaven” as used in Revelation is where the sun, moon and the twelve stars are located.
What is all this symbolism communicating to us and how exactly does it tell us the precise birth date of Jesus? The key to understanding the passage in Revelation 12 is to analyze the astronomy depicted in this account in Scripture. This is a case of the written Word and the Word written in the stars coming together in parallel truths.
The sign given in verse 1 is that of a woman. The only sign of the zodiac which depicts a woman is the constellation of Virgo. The birth of the Messiah is associated with this heavenly spectacle (Revelation 12:2). The vision given to John associates specific positions of the sun and the moon in relation to Virgo, located within the normal paths of the sun and moon across the heavens. The specific locations of the sun and moon in relation to the woman give us clues to the specific day and time for the birth of the Messiah.
According to Ernest Martin in his book The Star of Bethlehem: The Star that Astonished the World:
“The only time in the year that the Sun could be in a position to ‘clothe’ the celestial woman called Virgo (that is, to be mid-bodied to her, in the region where a pregnant woman carries a child) is when the Sun is located between about 150 and 170 degrees along the ecliptic. This ‘clothing’ of the woman by the Sun occurs for a 20-day period each year. This 20 degree spread could indicate the general time when Jesus was born. In 3 B.C., the Sun would have entered this celestial region about August 27 and exited from it about September 15. If John in the Book of Revelation is associating the birth of Jesus with the period when the Sun was mid-bodied to this woman called Virgo (and this is no doubt what he means), then Jesus would have to be born within that 20-day period. From the point of view of the Magi . . . this would have been the only logical sign under which the Jewish Messiah might be born, especially if he were to be born of a virgin”
The sign of the sun “clothing” the woman (Virgo) defines a period of 20-days (August 27 to September 15 for the year 3 BC). It is the additional sign of the moon being “under her feet” which actually pinpoints the nativity to within a day – to within 90 minutes on that day. In the year 3 BC, these two relationships of the sun and moon and Virgo came into alignment for only an 81-minute period, as observed from Palestine in the twilight period of September 11. This relationship began at 6:18 p.m. (sunset) and lasted until 7:39 p.m. (moonset).
It should also be noted that this is the only day (September 11) in the whole year (3 BC) that the astronomical phenomenon described in Revelation Chapter 12 could take place. That the birth of Jesus was after sunset is confirmed in Luke’s description:
“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them . . . Today [the day started at sundown] in the town of David a Savior has been born to you . . .” (Luke 2:8-9a NIV).
In addition, the timing of the sun and moon relationship with Virgo was a New Moon day, with the small sliver of the moon setting after the setting of the sun. Jesus was born at that time in the early evening. This New Moon day was Tishri 1 on the Jewish calendar (September 11, 3 BC), which is Yom Teruah (the Feast of Trumpets).
The vision of Revelation 12 – with Virgo giving birth – also has a “Near/Far” fulfillment, which is common in biblical prophecy. Obviously, on September 11, 3 BC Jesus fulfilled the vision of the birth of Messiah. Satan later tried to kill the Messiah through the actions of Herod, after the Magi arrived and left. There is, in addition, a future fulfillment of this vision, in the end times. How do we know this? We know this because of the usage of the future tense “has” – not “had” – in the original Greek language in Revelation 12:6:
“Then the woman fled into the wilderness where she ha(s) a place prepared by God, so that there she would be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days” (Revelation 12:6 NASB).
This particular insight belongs to Nelson Walters from an article on his website at http://www.thegospelintheendtimes.com/pictures-of-end-times-in-the-bible/christmas-end-times/.
Nelson states in his article:
“The actual word in the Greek is present tense “has”; but this confused the translators of the NASB. They translated it “had” and left a note that the actual word was “has” because they probably failed to see the near/far fulfillment. The time the woman is in the wilderness should catch prophecy students [sic] attention as well: 1260 days. This is the reign of the Antichrist. This is a picture of the flight of the righteous (Israel and the Church). . . Mary and Joseph’s flight to Egypt then is a prophetic picture of the flight of the righteous out of Israel at the Midpoint of the Tribulation.”
The above future fulfillment of Revelation 12, related to the vision of the huge red dragon (Satan) confronting a woman who is about to give birth (Israel), is further discussed by Mark Davidson in his book, Daniel Revisited—Discovering the Four Mideast Signs Leading to the Antichrist (2013).
However, for the purpose of this discussion, the important thing for us to take away from Revelation 12:1-6 is that it supports the birth of Jesus being on September 11, 3 BC – just after sunset, at the start of Tishri 1 on the Jewish calendar.
This date also conforms to the findings of other other evidence (the other puzzle pieces) regarding the date of the Jesus’ birth.
Note: In my next Post I will present evidence that Jesus was born on the Feast of Trumpets (Tishri 1).