Oct 6, 2006

Happy Birthday, Jesus!

We love to celebrate our Lord’s birth, but we celebrate it at a time that is different from most folks, so we thought we would share a little bit of that with you. We have discovered that God was the inventor of holidays (Holy Days), most of which can be found in Leviticus 23. Now we realize that many people think those Feasts were for the Israelites or that they ceased with Jesus’ ascension to heaven or even the destruction of the temple, but we have discovered some interesting things in God’s Word! While our family does celebrate all the biblical feasts, we would like to tell you a little bit about the one when we believe Jesus was born – The Feast of Tabernacles, which begins at sundown tonight, and goes through October 14 this year (exact dates differ from year to year according to the Jewish calendar).

The Feast of Tabernacles has many different aspects to it. It is a time of remembering the booths that the Israelites lived in during their 40 years in the wilderness, so a sukkah (booth) is built for this feast – a temporary dwelling place, usually in the back yard. (There are too many mosquitoes in Texas this time of year, so we set up a sukkah in our living room!) We use sheets to make a temporary room where we eat and sleep and celebrate. Then we decorate with pumpkins and pears and apples and other fall harvest items, since this is also a harvest thanksgiving feast. The sukkahs are supposed to be decorated, so we have Bible pictures all over the sheets. God’s Word also tells us to take the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook to wave before the Lord as we celebrate and rejoice, so since we are blessed here in Texas with lots of palm trees, we also use them in our celebration.

Leviticus 23 tells us that this 8-day Feast of Tabernacles shall be a statute forever. Now, although this verse pertains to the Israelites, it is interesting to note in Zechariah 14, that all nations shall go to Jerusalem from year to year (during the millenial reign) to keep the Feast of Tabernacles and there will be a curse of no rain if they do not come up for the Feast. (The curse does not apply to today – this is a future prophecy, future curse.) Now, we just happen to believe that if God told the Jews (His chosen people) to celebrate this Holy Day FOREVER, and all nations of the earth will celebrate it when Jesus reigns for 1000 years, then we would like to practice now, especially since God has chosen us as well!

The word “tabernacle” literally means “God dwelling with man.” This gives us a huge clue as to what this feast means (all the feasts were a shadow of what was to come). We know that God tabernacled with the Israelites for 40 years in the wilderness, and that is part of this Holy Day. We also know that God, in the form of Jesus, tabernacled with man 2000 years ago. We also have the hope that God, in the form of Jesus, will tabernacle with men again for 1000 years in the future.

So, why do we celebrate Jesus’ birth during the Feast of Tabernacles? We know that shepherds were keeping their flocks in the field at night, but this would not be possible in the winter time because of night time temperatures and December being their rainy season. There is no way shepherds would be out in the fields at night during December.

We also know that Jesus was conceived six months after John the Baptist was conceived. Zacharias received word during Sivan 12-18, (June/July) the eighth course of Abia, which was his time to serve in the temple (undisputed Jewish dates of temple service) that he would have a son. It took about three to four days to get home. John would have been conceived on or about Sivan 23. Six months later (Jesus’ conception) would be around the 25th of Kislev (December - also Chanakuh). John the Baptist would have been born around Passover time, Nissan 14, (March/April), and if Jesus was conceived six months after John was conceived, he would have been born six months later, about Tishri 15 (September/October), or the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles. At age 30, Jesus started his ministry, which lasted 3½ years. He was crucified at Passover (March/April) when He was 33½ years old. Count backwards from Passover ½ year and you come to the 15th day of the 7th Jewish month (Tishri), which is the first day of Sukkoth, the Feast of Tabernacles.

The eighth day of the Feast of Tabernacles is also called the day of circumcision. Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day. Important events surrounding Jesus’ life are all marked by God’s festivals: Passover foretold Jesus’ sacrifice; the Feast of First Fruits is Jesus’ resurrection; Pentecost was the birthday of the church - the giving of the Holy Spirit; and Rosh Hashanah (the Feast of Trumpets) points to His second coming. Why would Jesus’ birth be any different?


Chad Degenhart said...

Its always surprising to find other reformed folk that understand the Tabernacles/Advent connection. Bullinger's notes are a good resource on this topic.

Sounds like we have very different views on the eschatoalogical implications, but nevertheless this is a rich topic.

One other thing I'd like to add is that I think its better to use the biblical names of the months rather than those adopted by the Jews during the Babylonian captivity. During this time many pagan rites and ideas were incorporated into the calendar and festivals.

Lindon said...

Great Post! Very exciting. I linked this from my blog.

Jen said...

Chad, I originally wrote this one year ago, and just put this up because I didn't have time to write a new one. I noticed I've changed a lot in the last year, and if I were writing it now, I would have definitely used the biblical names, which I much prefer. If my memory serves me correctly, I used several reference books in writing this, as well as researching the Scriptures and dates for myself. However, I failed to use the best terminology.

Thanks for keeping me on my toes!

Jen said...

Chad, I was thinking about what you said about differences in eschatology. The more I study the biblical feasts, the more I see them as the framework of the whole Bible. They are what brought everything together for me, including eschatology. I also include Jesus' parables when studying eschatology. And in order to understand all the implications, we have to study it all from a Hebrew perspective, since the Bible was not written from a modern-day American point of view!

I'll check out Bullinger.

Brandon Giromini said...

Interesting article. Unforntunately, most Christians would rather have pagan elements associated with Christ's birth then partake in the the accurate elements associated with Feast of Tabernacle, if that was the time of his birth. It would worthy to investigate this one day.

Denise said...

Wonderful, just wonderful to find others who understand that the Holy Days aren't just "for the Jews"! I am not Jewish but I am Hebraic in my beliefs and consider myself one who sojourns with the Jews, therefore I want to keep the feasts, also.

I recently purchased Bullinger's Companion Bible and find it to be very helpful. As always, use discernment but I think it's great.

I've researched the issue of "christmas" and Yeshua's birth for years and am convinced that our savior was born during Tabernacles.

Blessings to you, Jen!

Edersheim reader said...

Jen,did you include Alfred Edersheim in your research. He has a helpful insight on the winter birth of Jesus:
"A passage in the Mishnah {Shek. 7:4.} 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 Mishnic 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."

This adds rich insight to the first ones to greet the Lamb of God--they were shepherds dedicated to watching sheep destined for sacrifice.

Jen said...

Edersheim Reader, that is an interesting thought, but it sounds to me as if that is a far-fetched justification to celebrate Christmas in December rather than to celebrate Christ's birth according to God's time. Yes, sheep were in the pasture in both the spring and the fall, but it would have been very late in February, most likely in March, for the situation you are describing. Passover generally falls during our April and once in a while in late March. Check again the biblical timeline I have offered.

Edersheim reader said...

Jen, have you read Edersheim?

He also presents a timeline based on the priestly service of Zacharias.

The rain and temperature averages for December, February, and March are relatively close. That sheep were required to be in the fields in the late February-early March period demonstrates that the December climate is not prohibitive.

Jen said...

No, Edersheim Reader, I have not read his works on this subject. However, I believe you are stuck in the "mud," while you should be considering the dates surrounding the birth of John the Baptist!

Jen said...

Also, when you study the Feasts, you get a sense that every important event in the life of Jesus and in future prophecy is foretold in these Feasts. I wonder why God would have left out Christ's birth?

edersheim reader said...

Jen, my reference to the priestly service of Zacharias addresses your interest in the birth of John the Baptist.

You should read Edersheim. As a scholarly Jew who trusted Christ, he gave masterful interaction of secular and rabbinic historical information with the biblical text.

It seems a more sound approach to deal directly with the biblical and historical data rather than giving undue weight to typological interpretations.

Jen said...

Since this is a subject of deep interest to me, I shall add Edersheim to my list of reference materials. Thank you for pursuing it!

Marvin Cotten said...

Your Tabernacles nativity calculation is intriguing. In fact I have seen variations of it all over the internet. In fact about the same time I also posted on it. Only I am afraid I cannot agree with your conclusion. My post on it is at asphaleia.blogspot.com.

The main problem is that on closer examination we really do not have sufficient information to make the calculation that you do. You are assuming certain things that are not in evidence from the Scriptures.

I will summarize briefly. First the date of the Abijah course is NOT undisputed. In fact it varies each year because it always starts on a Sabbath. I believe it can start as early as Iyar 27 in fact. This is for the first of two annual weeks of service. It could just as likely have been the second, half a year later. Also how long afterward was John conceived? The text only says "after these days." It could have been weeks or even months. Furthermore, everyone I've seen uses wrong numbers. Human gestation from conception is 28 weeks not 40 (40 is called the obstetrical gestation period and begins with the first day of a woman's last normal menstrual period--14 days prior to conception.) Anyway, normal gestation is actually a range from 26-40 weeks with 38 being the average. Also, the text does not indicate that Jesus was six months younger than John, probably closer to five (Elizabeth was IN her sixth month, not at the end of it).

I am not saying by this that Jesus was born in December. Only that I am afraid the Tabernacles theory fails to hold up to close scrutiny.

Merry Christmas anyway.

Marvin Cotten said...

The above contains (at least) 2 typos. The numbers 26 and 28 should of course be 36 and 38, sorry.