Christmas or Xmas? When Was Jesus Born?
By Simon Lam
Does “Xmas” properly represent Christmas?
Christmas is sometimes known as Xmas. People think it’s incorrect to take ‘Christ’ out of Christmas.
Christmas in Old English is Cristes Maesse, the Mass of Christ, was first found in 1038, and Cristes-messe, in 1131.
The word “Christ” and its compounds, “Christmas”, have been abbreviated in English for at least the past 1,000 years, before “Xmas” was used. “Christ” was often written as “Xρ” or “Xt back in 1021. X and P arose from the Greek letters χ (Ch) and ρ (R) used in ancient abbreviations for Χριστος (Greek for “Christ”). The labarum, an amalgamation of the two Greek letters rendered as ☧, is a symbol often used to represent Christ in Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox Churches.
So, “Xmas” seems to legitimately represent Christmas.
How about Jesus’ birthday; was it December 25 year 1?
The date of birth of Jesus is not stated in the gospels. Two approaches for estimating the year are: 1. Analyzing events mentioned in the nativity accounts in the Gospels; 2. Working backwards from the estimation of the start of Jesus’ ministry.
Estimation via the Nativity accounts:
Luke and Matthew associate Jesus’ birth with the time of Herod the Great. Jesus could be two years old at the year, Magi-visit, which Herod ordered the murder of all boys up to two-years-old. Most scholars agree that Herod died in 4 BC. That placed the year at 6 BC.
Luke 1:5 places the birth during the Census of Quirinius, which took place ten years later in 6 AD as confirmed by the historian Josephus. This points to 4 BC.
Working backwards from when Jesus began preaching:
Luke 3:23: “about 30 years of age.” Jesus began to preach after being baptized by John the Baptist. Luke 3:1-2 says John began baptizing people in “the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar”, would be in about 28–29 AD. Working backward, it would appear that Jesus was probably born no later than 1 BC. However, if the phrase “about 30” is interpreted to mean 32 years old, this could fit a year within the reign of Herod, who died in 4 BC.
This date is independently confirmed by John 2:20, the Temple being in its 46th year of construction during Passover when Jesus began his ministry, which corresponds to around 27–29 AD.
Therefore, it is generally accepted, the year of birth was 6 to 4 BC.
Christmas Celebration Date
The earliest source stating “25 December” is likely by Hippolytus of Rome, 3rd century, based on the assumption that the conception of Jesus took place at the Spring equinox which was March 25 by adding nine months. John Chrysostom in late 4th century argued for 25 December basing the assumption that the offering of incense in Luke 1:8–11 was the offering of incense by a high priest on Yom Kippur (early October), counting fifteen months forward. December was the month.
Therefore, December 25th, 6 or 4 AD was probably Jesus’ birthday.December 31, 2017