BORN IN THE AUTUMN
BORN IN THE AUTUMN
We read that Jesus began His ministry when he turned 30 years old, after being baptized by John the Baptist (Luke 3:21-23). Age thirty was considered the required age to perform important official service (Gen 41:46, Numbers chapter 4, 2 Sam 5:4). (Age 20 was considered the age of adulthood - Ex 30:14, Num 1:18, 32:11.) If Jesus had begun his ministry before age 30, He may not have been recognized as a fully qualified master or teacher. There can be little doubt that Jesus was anxious to fulfill His mission, assigned to Him by His Father (John 5:30, 6:38; 14:24, 20:21). So we should expect that He began His ministry just as soon as he turned thirty years old. It was prophesied that Messiah (Jesus) was to be cut off in the middle of the week, that being a prophetic week of seven years (Dan 9:26-27). The gospel books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John cover that three and one half year time period. Jesus was crucified on the Passover day in the spring. This is the event that the Passover foreshadowed. Jesus is referred to in the New Testament as "the Lamb of God" and also as "our Passover" (John 1:29, 1 Cor 5:7). If one counts backward three and one half years from the spring to the beginning of Jesus' ministry, they arrive at the autumn. So Jesus was born at that season 30 years earlier. The autumn festival season of the Bible is six months opposite from the Passover, and meanings associated with those days include the importance of Jesus' birth. Given that Jesus was clearly born in the autumn, further support is found when we look at the timing of the birth of Christ in relation to the birth of John the Baptist. Luke describes the conception and birth of John the Baptist. John's father Zacharias served in the temple on a rotation called the division or course of Abijah (Luke 1:5). It was the 8th of 24 week-long divisions, which then repeated. But all priests served for three weeks of the year during the festival seasons. These included the 3rd and 10th weeks of the Hebrew calendar year, which begins in the spring. So Zacharias' 8th division first fell during the 9th week. But he had to stay to serve with all the priests during the 10th week, returning home in about early June of our calendar. Zacharias was told by an angel that he would have a son, and should name his son John (Luke 1:8-13). Zacharias' wife Elizabeth had been barren, but conceived not long after the return of her husband from his temple service (Luke 1:23-24). Given nine months for John to be born, John was born in the spring. When Mary had conceived Jesus by the working of the Father's holy spirit, an angel told Mary that her cousin Elizabeth had conceived and was six months pregnant (Luke 1:35-37, John 15:26). So being born six months after John the Baptist, Jesus was born in the autumn.
Shepherds were in the fields watching their flocks by night (Luke 2:8). In the winter, it is too cold to do this. So it is not plausible that Jesus was born in late December. In Bethlehem, the average daytime high temperature in December is 44.6 degrees Fahrenheit, with the cooler temperatures near the end of the month. Nighttime lows are often below the freezing mark. Historically, flocks were put in the fields in the spring, and brought in before the first rain in late October. The rainy season lasts from then until March, and sometimes includes snow.
In answering His disciples questions about the end of the age, Christ said that folks should pray that they would not have to flee in the winter or on the Sabbath day during the greatest tribulation in history (Matt 24:3, 20-21). Surely the Father would not have allowed His Son to be born on one of the coldest winter nights of the year, and laid in a feeding trough (manger) in a barn that would no doubt be chilly. Nor would the Father have allowed Joseph and a very expectant Mary to travel the 70 mile route from Nazareth (elevation 1830 feet) to Bethlehem (elevation 2564 feet) through cold wet winter weather, risking sickness and exhaustion.
Given their efficiency, it makes little sense that the Romans would require folks to travel during the winter. Many would not be able to endure the journey, and probably many would refuse to go. In fact, autumn time after the harvest, and before the rainy season, would be good weather for traveling. It would also be the very best time of year in terms of people having money from their crop harvests with which to travel. And many did travel to keep the autumn festivals in Jerusalem. The Romans were familiar with the timing of the Biblical festivals, the Roman ruler Herod himself having been raised in a family that had converted to Judaism. So it would have
been logical for the Romans to conduct their census registration in the autumn.