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   When was the Messiah born? Tradition says on December 25, but this date was decided upon in order to convert a festival of Mithra – the deity referred to as the “Invincible Sun” during a religious festival of the Roman Empire and which today, remains a fundamental part of the Roman Catholic Church and its daughters of Protestantism.
   Is there a way to determine Yahshua’s date of birth? Many believe Yahshua (transliterated “Jesus” through four languages) was born on the High Sabbath of the Feast of Tabernacles. This is consistent with Scripture, historical events and Jewish culture. More importantly, it is consistent with Yahweh’s prophetic foreshadowing of major events. The feasts of Yahweh (detailed in Leviticus 23) are rehearsals foreshadowing the coming of the Messiah.
   So, with that brief introduction, let us consider the amazing work of Yahweh.

Conception of John
   In order to establish the date of the Messiah’s birth, we must first rely on clues found in Scripture, then add external historical and cultural elements. The birth of John (in Hebrew, Yahchanan, which means “The Mercy of Yah”) is a key factor, as he announces the coming of the Messiah (John 1:21-23).
   First Chronicles 24:3-19 tells us that the Levitical priesthood was divided into 24 courses of priests. The ancient Jewish Historian Josephus (Antiquities 7) tells us that each division served for a period of one week. The first division began its period of service on the first day of the year — Abib 1 — as Elohim had established the calendar in Exodus 12:2 (and which occurs in March of the Catholic, or Gregorian calendar). Three weeks out of each year — during the week of Pesach (Passover and Unleavened Bread), Shavuot (Pentecost), and Sukkot (Tabernacles) — all 24,000 priests served together (1 Chron. 23:4).
   As Zechariah (John’s father) was in the division of Abiyah (Luke 1:5), his term of service began in early Spring on the first day of the eighth week (27th day of the 2nd Scriptural month) and ran for one week through the 4th day of the 3rd month. As the following week (days 5-11 of the 3rd month) was Shavuot, the Feast of Pentecost, he would have stayed in the temple and served that week also with all the priests. Luke 1:23-24 tells us that Zachariah finished his duties at the Temple, and that Elizabeth conceived shortly after his return home. This sets the date for John’s conception at approximately the third week of the 3rd month.  [Editor’s note: currently in 2022, of the Gregorian year, that week corresponds to around the 3rd week of June. Adding nine months to that date puts the birth of John sometime near the 3rd week in the Gregorian month of March 2023, as an example]

Conception of Yahshua
   We know from scripture that Yahshua was conceived after John (Yahchanan), furthermore, with this information we can now ascertain when Yahshua was conceived.
   Near the end of the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her about Elizabeth saying, “This is the sixth month with her who was called barren.” Mary immediately left Nazareth (Luke 1:36-39, “with haste”) and went to the “hill country” near Jerusalem to the home of Zachariah and Elizabeth. We know for sure that Mary was already pregnant with Yahshua because John, still in Elizabeth’s womb, recognized the unborn Yahshua.
   This sets the conception of Yahshua about the end of 10th month during Hanukkah, the Feast of Dedication (also known as the “Feast of Lights” for the miracle of the 1-day jar of olive oil for the light of the Menorah that lasted for 8 days, thus demonstrating in a very special way that Yahshua is the Light of the World).
   “Yahshua was at the Temple in Jerusalem on Hanukkah in John 10:22, 23. It is at this celebration that He declares ‘I and My Father are One’ (John 10:30), which testifies to His Divine origin in His conception. It also reinforces Hanukkah as the time of His conception.” 

Birth of John
   Given the above events, it is now straight forward to calculate when John was born. The prophet Malachi tells us that Eliyah (Elijah) the prophet must come to prepare the hearts of the fathers and their children before Mashiach comes.
   Remember the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded to him in Horeb for all Israel, even statutes and ordinances. Behold, I will send you Eliyah the prophet before the great and terrible day of Yahweh comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the Earth with a curse, Malachi 4:4-6 HNV.
   The way in which Gabriel worded his announce-ment to Zachariah makes it clear that John was to be the fulfillment of Malachi’s prophecy: “He will turn many of the children of Israel to Yahweh, their Elohim. He will go before his face in the spirit and power of Eliyah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for Yahweh” (Luke 1:17).
   Luke 1:56 tells us that Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months, which would have been until the time John was born. We can now calculate the date of John’s birth with a great deal of accuracy:
      • A full-term pregnancy term is 41 weeks.
      • There are 27 weeks in the first six months (two trimesters) of pregnancy.
      • There are 27 weeks from the spring service of Abiyah to Hanukkah.
      • There are 14 weeks remaining to accomplish the last trimester and bring the pregnancy to full term.
      • There are exactly 14 weeks from Hanukkah to Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Days 14-21 [inclusive] of the 1st month of the year, called Abib).
   Therefore, John was born on the Day of Passover. He was circumcised on the eighth day, which would be the last day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.His birth therefore exactly fulfills both Malachi’s prophecy and the Jewish expectation of that fulfillment to occur at Passover.

The Birth of Yahshua
   So we have established that John was born at Passover. Given this, and knowing Yahshua was conceived toward the end of December (10th month), we come to the time of His birth. Adding 9 months to the 10th month will bring you to the 7th month; Sukkot occurs in the Hebrew 7th month (September/October).
   For the past several hundred years, Christians have taught that Mary and Joseph were commanded to go to Bethlehem to register for their taxes, and that there were so many people trying to register at the same time that all the hotels were full. It’s a beautiful story, but it’s simply not true ... it’s only a tradition.
First of all, when the decree was issued, citizens were given a full year during which to register for the census. There was absolutely no reason for thousands of Bethlehemites to have to come to their hometown all at once to register. That being the case, we must ask why Joseph would bring his wife Mary all the way from Nazareth to Bethlehem to register when her pregnancy was so far along. 
   There were three great feasts during the year when the people of Yahweh were expected to make every reasonable effort to attend in Jerusalem: Pesach (Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread), Shavuot (Pentecost, the Feast of Weeks, 50 days after the 1st day of the week (Sunday) in the middle of the week of Unleavened Bread – the day of the Sheaf Wave offering of Firstfruits), and Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles, ingathering, or booths). Exodus 23:14 reads, “You shall observe a feast to me three times a year.”
   During these three feasts, the population of “the metropolitan Jerusalem area” would swell from about a hundred twenty thousand to something over two million people (according to Josephus). Every home in the entire area was open to guests, and of course all the hotels and motels would have been booked up for months.
   However, during the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot), every family was expected to live at least part of each day in their tabernacle or booth, called a sukkah, which is a temporary dwelling usually made out of palm or willow branches, to remind them that for 40 years their ancestors had lived in temporary shelters in the wilderness on their trek to the Promised Land. At night, these sukkot (the plural form of sukkah) were available for the overnight lodging of out-of-towners, and the homeowners would stock them with food for the travelers. The food was placed on a food-tray attached to the inside wall of the Sukkah to keep it up off the ground.
   Bethlehem (Beit-Lechem, which means “house of bread”) was a small village in the suburbs just about four miles south of Jerusalem. Mary and Joseph had apparently decided to register with the census-takers when they came up to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles. Evidently, they had intended to stop overnight in Bethlehem, register in the morning, and then proceed to Jerusalem for the feast. When they checked the hotel for available rooms, as there were no vacancies the innkeeper offered them shelter in his Sukkah, his Tabernacle, which had been erected and well-stocked with food for the express purpose of sheltering feast-keepers. It was not a shelter for animals at all. And when their Baby was born, they laid Him on the food shelf to keep Him up off the damp ground. When the (probably agnostic) Gentiles who translated the “King James” Bible got to this passage in Luke’s gospel, they had no knowledge of Jewish tradition or how Tabernacles was observed. Thinking only in terms of life in Medieval England, they translated the word for “food tray” as “manger” and the whole Gentile myth of Yahshua’s birth in a barn was created out of an ignorant error in translation.
   We can know for sure that December is wrong for the birth. The shepherds provide the answer.
   As to establishing the date for His birth, one thing is very certain … He was certainly not born during the winter. Luke 2:8 tells us: There were shepherds in the same country staying in the field, and keeping watch by night over their flock.
   The weather in Israel is very similar to that in central California. By December, it is quite cold, and the sheep have all been brought into the fold for the winter.    As is well known, the shepherds in Palestine do not ‘abide in the fields’ during the winter season. The shepherds always bring their flocks in from the mountain slopes and fields no later than the fifteenth of October!
   Since we have already demonstrated that Yahshua was exactly six months younger than John, it is now easy to establish the time of His birth as the middle of the 7th Month, probably on the first day of Sukkot (the 15th day of the 7th Biblical month). The only reason that Bethlehem would be crowded in the middle of the 7th Month would be for Tabernacles. The first day of the Feast of Tabernacles, and the 8th Day (the “Last Great Day”) were “high Sabbaths,” and travel on those days was forbidden. Therefore, Joseph would have planned their trip to arrive no later than a few hours before sunset preceding the first day of Tabernacles. According to Luke’s account, Yahshua was born that night, on the 15th day of the 7th Month.

The Circumcision of Yahshua
   To someone growing up in the Assembly, and probably never being taught the culture & History of the “Roots of His Faith”, the circumcision may seem unimportant. But in the culture, and to fulfill the commands of Yahweh, this event is critical.
   The “birth” of an Hebrew baby boy was not considered complete until he had been circumcised on the eighth day. On the eighth day, Yahshua’s “presentation” in the Temple included His circumcision according to Torah. Thus, we see that the birth of Yahshua ha Mashiach spanned the entire eight days of Tabernacles, including His birth on the holy Shabbat which was the first day of Tabernacles and His circumcision on the holy Shabbat which was The Eighth Day following the 7-day Festival of Tabernacles.

The Bread of Life
   If indeed our inquiry is correct, then it adds even more meaning to the “Bread of Life” analogy. Scripture says that Tabernacles will be celebrated even by the gentiles, for all time. Could the reason be that it points to, and remembers, the greatest miracle of all, that Yahweh begat an only Son, born of His Spirit through Mary (Miriam), Yahshua the Messiah, who, according to Yahweh’s Plan of Salvation, offered Himself as a propitiation for our sins?
   At His birth he was placed on the food tray in the Sukkah, thus demonstrating that He is indeed the true Bread of Life (John 6:33-51). Yahweh’s preparation of the Feast of Tabernacles centuries before His birth gives extra significance to John’s comment, The Word became flesh, and lived [literally, “tabernacled”] among us. We saw his glory, such glory as of the one and only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth, John 1:14.
   Note that Yahweh provided two holy feasts that lasted eight days, Passover/Unleavened Bread and the Feast of Tabernacles. John the Baptist, the forerunner of Messiah, was born and circumcised in the eight days of the first, then six months later Yahshua, the Messiah, was born and circumcised the eight days of the second. John came in the first month of the year and Yahshua came in the seventh month. In ministry, John introduced the Way through Messiah and then Yahshua perfected it, even as the first and seventh months signify.
   The Feast of Tabernacles is a most important commemoration. Zechariah 14:16-17 tells us that one day all nations will be required by law to honor this Feast. For what greater reason, than it is the first coming of the King of Kings! Why should we delay?”

-Elder John Fisher (deceased)

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