Is there life outside Earth?

 

Short answer:

 

The existence of life outside our world has been a mystery since ancient times. In 1971, eighty-four of the world’s leading authorities in various fields of science converged in Armenia for a conference jointly sponsored by the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Objective: Solve an equation formulated to determine if certain radio signals came from extraterrestrial beings. Result: The world’s top scientists arrived at the consensus that there was only one technical civilization in the Milky Way Galaxy – the one on planet Earth.

What about UFOs? Biblically, there is nothing about alien conveyances. The closest things to flying saucers in the Scriptures are the flaming wheels that the prophets Daniel and Ezekiel saw beneath the throne of God. Regarding man’s dream of journeying to the stars, the Bible says God has fixed “the bounds of their habitation” and has “appointed his bounds that he cannot pass.”

Many reports describe strange lights in the sky. Angels are lights. Satan can manifest as “an angel of light.” UFOs are said to execute improbable aerial maneuvers at fantastic speeds. According to the Bible, Satan is “the prince of the power of the air.” He can thus perform incredible feats in the atmosphere: “the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders.”

 

 

Detailed explanation:

 

Are there humans, humanoids, or even other forms of extraterrestrial intelligent life out there in the vastness of outer space? Servants of pharaohs and soldiers of Alexander the Great told of “shields” in the sky. Medieval monks reported flying vessels. In modern times, H.G. Wells’ book, The War of the Worlds, sparked public interest in 1898; its radio dramatization caused panic in 1938 when many Americans thought Martians had actually invaded New Jersey. Since then, alien life has become de rigueur in science fiction books, comics, TV series, movies, video games.

 

UFOs and ETs. 

Countless news reports, articles, and books about close encounters -- sightings, communication, even abductions – with unidentified flying objects (UFOs) and extraterrestrials (ETs) have been written since the mid-20th century. The first widely publicized UFO sighting took place in 1947, when American businessman Kenneth Arnold, flying a small plane near Mount Rainier in Washington, claimed seeing nine crescent-shaped objects flying at the incredible speed of several thousand mph. In the newspaper report, Arnold said they moved “like saucers skipping on water,” giving birth to the term “flying saucer.”

Over 90% of reported UFO's have been dismissed as bright planets, stars, meteors, aircraft, missiles, satellites, weather balloons, auroras, peculiar clouds, searchlights, aerial flares, kites, birds, insect swarms. Radar sightings are more reliable, but they do not distinguish between artificial objects and meteor trails, ionized gas, rain, or thermal discontinuities in the atmosphere. Recollections of abductions are highly doubtful, because of the use of hypnosis to obtain forgotten, or probably imaginary, information. Many psychologists suggest that the temporary immobility and sensation of being watched experienced by “abductees” could be the effects of a common occurrence called “sleep paralysis.”

Close encounter of the dead kind. The most celebrated close encounter with UFOs and ETs is the alleged crash of an alien spacecraft in New Mexico and the retrieval of the vessel and its dead crew.

The crash supposedly took place on July 3, 1947. Rancher Mac Brazel found the wreckage a few days later and notified Sheriff Geo. Wilcox. Irrigation water surveyor Grady Barnett, as well as a group of archeologists and their students, also saw the debris field. A detail from the nearby Roswell Army Air Field, led by intelligence officer Major Jesse A. Marcel, was said to have recovered the partially-crushed saucer-shaped vehicle and four lifeless non-human bodies in and around it. The July 8, 1947, issue of the Roswell Daily Record blared: “RAAF Captures Flying Saucer on Ranch in Roswell Region.” However, the newspaper made an abrupt about-face the following day: “Gen. Ramey Empties Roswell Saucer.” The news read: “An examination by the army revealed last night that the mysterious object found on a lonely New Mexico ranch was a harmless high altitude weather balloon – not a grounded flying disk.”

Case closed? UFO researchers later pieced together an incredible picture: The creatures, with large hairless heads, huge slanted eyes, and long arms with hands of just four fingers, were wearing skin-tight suits with no visible fasteners. At the airfield, dozens of witnesses allegedly saw the actions taken to examine the aliens’ bodies. Dr. Jesse Johnson, Roswell base pathologist, purportedly revealed the bodies weighed about 40 pounds each. They had heavy brow ridges; almond-shaped eyes without pupils; mere slits for ears, mouths, and noses unconnected to internal organs. They had no teeth, gastrointestinal tracts and alimentary canals, showing they did not eat to stay alive. Their skin, pinkish-gray with a mesh-like appearance, was tough and leathery. In lieu of blood, there was only a clear liquid. The bodies were reportedly packed in ice and flown to Fort Worth, Texas; later, to Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio.

 Project Blue Book. As sightings increased, in 1948 the U.S. Air Force initiated an investigation called “Project Sign.” “Project Grudge” followed within a year. In 1952, “Project Blue Book” began at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, to determine if UFOs posed a threat to national security. Out of 12,618 UFO cases, 701 (5.6%) were classified as “unexplained.” The USAF also commissioned a study at the University of Colorado from 1966 to 1968. Scientists later concluded that further study of UFOs would not produce any useful information about a security threat, and Project Blue Book ended in 1969.

In 1997 the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) admitted hiding information about high-altitude spy planes -- the U-2A and SR-71. These had accounted for over 50% of the UFO sightings in the late 1950s and 1960s.

 

From CETI to SETI.

In September 1971, eighty-four of the world’s leading authorities in various fields of science converged at the Byurakan Astrophysical Observatory in Yerevan, Armenia, for a conference jointly sponsored by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Soviet Union’s Akademiia nauk SSSR. The forum, called “Communication with Extraterrestrial Intelligence” (CETI), aimed to solve the Green Bank equation formulated by Dr. Frank Drake of Project Ozma, which attempted to detect radio signals from extraterrestrial civilizations in 1960.

Green Bank equation. The formula was N = R*fpneflfifcL, where:

N is the product showing the number of extant civilizations in the Milky Way Galaxy at or beyond our level of technological development;

R* is the rate of star formation, averaged over the lifetime of the galaxy, in units of number of stars per year (astrophysics);

fp is the fraction of stars which have planetary systems (astrophysics);

ne is the mean number of planets within such planetary systems which are ecologically suited for life (astronomy and biology);

fl is the fraction of such planets on which origin of life actually occurs (organic chemistry and biochemistry);

fi is the fraction of such planets on which, after life arises, intelligence in some form develops (neurophysiology and evolution of advanced organisms);

fc is the fraction of such planets on which the intelligent beings advance to a communicative stage (anthropology, archaeology, and history); and

L is the mean lifetime of such technical civilizations (psychology, psychopathology, history, politics, sociology, etc.).

Result? The world’s brightest minds in their respective fields arrived at the consensus that there was only one technical civilization in the Milky Way Galaxy – the one on planet Earth. As astronomer Carl Sagan once said, life on Earth is unique, “a miracle rather than a statistic.”

Despite the conclusion reached by CETI, a project called Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) at Palo Alto, California, continued. Clearly, however, the once highly hopeful “communication” plan (CETI) had been downgraded to “search” mode (SETI). Undeterred, astronomers at the Harvard/Smithsonian observatory began using the Million-channel Extra-Terrestrial Assay (META), a 26-meter, steerable Cassegrainian radio telescope, in 1985.

Exercise in futility? What are the prospects of SETI? The nearest star system is Alpha Centauri, some 4.3 light years away. In the remote event that radio signals transmitted by intelligent beings are actually received from that sector of outer space, communication between them and us would require patience. An exchange of a “hi” and “hello” by radio signals traveling at the speed of light would take 8.6 years, assuming both parties respond promptly. Fair enough. However, farther out from the Earth the conversation could bore the parties to death, literally, since introductions alone would take hundreds or even thousands of earth years. Aldebaran, the brightest star in the constellation of Taurus, is 130 light years away. Regulus, the brightest star in Leo, 150 light years. Spica, the brightest star in Virgo, more than 500 light years. Pleiades, nearly 800 light years. Orion, 3,000 light years. The Crab Nebula, 12,000 light years. And these handful are the nearest.

Space travel beyond our solar system may simply be no more than a pipe dream. Intergalactic journeys would have to be made at the speed of light, which is physically impossible. Light travels at the speed of, well, light, because photons have no mass. Hence, no physical object with mass, such as a spacecraft, can travel at the speed of light.

Referring to men, the Bible says God has fixed " the bounds of their habitation" (Acts 17:26b) and has “appointed his bounds that he cannot pass” (Job 14:5b). Luke, in the first verse, speaks of space limitations; while Job, in the second verse, talks about time limits. In Einstein’s theory of relativity, time and space are interchangeable. So, the message is clear: there are space-time boundaries that man cannot transcend or go beyond.

Invaders or saviors? The ETs reportedly belong to two categories. One group consists of invaders who want to take over Earth and even the bodies of its inhabitants. The second group is made up of do-gooders with a mission to save mankind from destroying itself in a nuclear holocaust, ecological devastation, or some other global calamity. Thus, if or when they eventually reveal themselves, they would be hailed as saviors! They would pre-empt the anticipated return of the Messiah. “For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect” (Mark 13:22).

Some New Age cults nurture the idea that every inhabited planet in the cosmos has its own avatar or incarnated savior. Christ’s mission of redemption therefore is only for planet Earth. The Scriptures, though, declare that salvation through Christ is universal: “And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven” (Col 1:20). The phrase “things in heaven” evidently means all matters pertaining to the universe.

Extraterrestrial creators? Others, including some prominent scientists like Nobel Prize laureate Francis Crick, theorize that the seed of life came to Earth through ancient alien astronauts. ETs are thus man’s alleged creators, just visiting the planet occasionally to check on the condition of their creation. In 1968, writer Erich Von Daniken (Chariots of the Gods, Gods from Outer Space) started broaching the idea that aliens must be the God of the Old Testament and man the product of an intergalactic experiment.

One self-declared contactee, Frenchman Claude Vorilhon (Space Aliens Took Me to Their Planet, 1975), purportedly renamed “Rael” (“light of the Elohim” or “Ambassador of the Elohiim”?), claims to have been told: “There is no God and no soul.” With a claimed following of 55,000 in 84 countries, he established an “embassy” in Israel in preparation for the return of his “creators” from outer space.

What does the Bible say? “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” (Ps 14:1). “And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world” (1 John 4:3).

 

Demonic deception.

There is no hint about UFOs in Scriptures. The closest things to flying disks from outer space in the Bible are the flaming wheels that the prophets Daniel (Dan 7:9) and Ezekiel (Ezek 10:1-17) saw beneath the throne of God. If ancient and medieval men saw ETs, what would they have called them? They probably did and called them elves, gnomes, trolls, fairies, etc.

Many reports describe UF0s as strange lights racing across the sky. Angels are lights (James 1:17, Heb 1:17). Satan can manifest as “an angel of light” (2 Cor 11:14). UFOs reportedly execute improbable aerial maneuvers, such as blinding acceleration to vanishing point and right-angle turns at fantastic speeds. According to the Bible, Satan is “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph 2:2), able to perform seemingly miraculous feats: “the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders” (2 Thess 2:9b).

Alien anatomy. Although humanoid, the Roswell ETs were said to differ anatomically from humans -- with mere slits for ears, mouths, and noses unconnected to internal organs; and without respiratory, digestive, and excretory systems. How could any living organism live without breathing and eating? Alleged victims of abductions say ETs act like droids without minds of their own. Could they have a connection to the cases of mysterious cattle mutilations in the American West, where body parts of cows appear surgically removed with some kind of laser? Are those little gray aliens simply organically made up dummies or droids put together with animal parts?

Occasionally reported directing the little ETs are reptilian or tall, blond, Nordic-looking masters of seemingly great intelligence and beauty. This brings to mind the various forms of Satan, “the dragon, that old serpent” (Rev 20:2), who was also an angel whose “heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor” (Ezek 28:17, NIV).

The image of God. Christ, on the other hand, “is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature” (Col 1:15; cf. 2 Cor 4:4, Heb 1:3). Man has also been created in the “image” and “likeness” of God (Gen 1:26-27). That image has countless examples of the golden ratio or divine proportion (1:618). ETs, from the way they are said to look, do not have the divine proportion. This is of utmost importance, “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom 8:29).

God made Christ and man look alike, because the spiritually saved will become the brothers and sisters of His firstborn Son! Obviously, the strange looking ETs are unlikely candidates to become the brethren of Christ. Besides, without blood in their systems, the aliens cannot possibly be among the sinners for whom Christ substituted His own blood on the cross as a ransom or payment for sin.

HalleluYah! Amen.


Excerpted from the book The Deep Things of God and the booklet Cryptic Creatures by M.M. Tauson. Printed copies available at Amazon.com – For free pdf copies of our e-booklets, click the Booklets and/or Google Drive tabs on the menu bar.

Bible quotations are from the King James Version (KJV) unless otherwise indicated.

What happens to Jews who reject Christ?


Short answer:

 

Christ illustrated what happens to the spirits of men after death. Lazarus the beggar and a rich man, whose falling crumbs he ate, went to separate destinations. The rich man found himself in a place of torment, but he saw Lazarus on Abraham’s bosom.

 

The two places are in Hades, the underground region of the dead. The “bosom of Abraham” (Paradise) and the “place of torment” (Gehenna) are temporary dwellings for the spirits of the dead, whether Jews or Gentile Christians, while they await the Last Judgment.

 

Full of remorse, the rich man asked Abraham to send Lazarus back to warn his brothers. Abraham replied that following the teachings of Moses and the prophets was enough for them to get into Paradise.

 

Christ preached to spirits of the dead after His crucifixion. Jews, because they do not accept Christ as the Savior, are considered enemies of the gospel; but because of their faithful forefathers, who have made them God’s chosen people, they are beloved.

 

In the kingdom of heaven, disharmony cannot exist – with one group acknowledging Christ as the Son of God and Savior of mankind, and another group rejecting Him as such. “For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit” (1 Peter 4:6).

All those in the kingdom of heaven must be of one mind, in accord with the whole will of God.

 

 

Detailed explanation:

 

Christ illustrated to His disciples what happens to the spirits of men after death. “There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.

“And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried. And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom” (Luke 16:19-23).

Lazarus the beggar and the rich man went to two separate destinations after death. The rich man had a rude surprise; he found himself in a place of torment. (“Hell” in the passage is the English translation of the Greek Hades [Sheol in Hebrew], which refers to the underground region of the dead, not the “lake of fire”.)

 

Two regions in Hades.

The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia explains: “Hades is here the comprehensive designation of the locality where the dead reside, and is divided into two regions, ‘the bosom of Abraham’ and the place of torment…” The New Unger's Bible Dictionary similarly concludes that “it seems clear that Hades was in two compartments, the residence respectively of saved and unsaved spirits.”

Bosom of Abraham. According to Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, “The Jews expressed the happiness of the righteous at death three ways: they go to the garden of Eden: they go to be under the throne of glory; and they go to the bosom of Abraham…” The three places are probably one and the same: Abraham is in the Garden of Eden (Gan Eden in Hebrew), also known as Paradise, which is presumably under God’s throne.

All saved spirits, whether Jews or Gentile Christians, go to the “bosom of Abraham”. After all, “if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29).

Gehenna. The “place of torment” is Gehenna, Greek for Ge-Hinnom (Valley of Hinnom), an actual deep, narrow valley below the southern slope of Jerusalem. It had an area called Topeth, where pagan worshippers sacrificed children (Jeremiah 7:31) to Moloch, god of the Ammonites and Phoenicians. It was turned into a garbage dump where the city’s waste and dead animals were burned continuously. Flies abounded and their maggots covered the remains of carcasses. It became an image of the place of punishment because of its ever-burning fires.

 

Temporary dwelling places.

Both the bosom of Abraham and Gehenna are only temporary dwelling places for the spirits of the dead while awaiting the Last Judgment. Jewish historian Flavius Josephus wrote that the saved will be in the Bosom of Abraham “while they wait for that rest and eternal new life in heaven, which is to succeed this region.” The New Unger's Bible Dictionary similarly states, “The rich man, who is evidently still in Hades, is a representative case and describes the unjudged condition in the intermediate state of the wicked.”

 

The rich man’s plea.

The rich man was desperate from great thirst in the unbearable heat. “And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame” (Luke 16:24).

The Greek word translated “flame” is phlox, which is the gaseous part of fire, not the fire itself (pyros), showing that Gehenna is not the lake of fire, but is simply adjacent and so close to it that the heat and flames make it a place of torment.

Separated by a canyon. The rich man’s plea cannot be granted. Abraham said, “between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence” (Luke 16:26).

Josephus (ca. 37-100) echoes Luke’s Gospel account (ca. 56-58) – “a chaos deep and large is fixed between them; insomuch that a just man that hath compassion upon them cannot be admitted, nor can one that is unjust, if he were bold enough to attempt it, pass over it.”

A Jewish tradition has it that at the bottom of the impassable canyon separating Gan Eden and Gehenna is a river flowing with cool, refreshing waters. However, whenever anyone from Gehenna goes down and tries to scoop some water from the river, the water draws back! This is repeated at every attempt endlessly. That was why the rich man begged Abraham to send down Lazarus to dip his finger in the water for him. He was in front of the water, and yet was unable to refresh himself!

 

Moses and the prophets sufficient.

As Lazarus reclined contentedly on Abraham’s bosom in Paradise, the rich man, full of remorse, was inconsolable in excruciatingly hot Gehenna. He told Abraham: “’I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father's house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.'

“Abraham replied, `They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them’” (Luke 16:27-29, NIV). Abraham said that following the teachings of Moses and the prophets was enough for them to get into Paradise. (That was before Christ sacrificed His life on the cross for the sins of the world.)

Christ preached to spirits of the dead.

“For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison…” (1 Peter 3:18-19, NIV).

It looks like some of the dead still have some things to learn in the afterlife that they did not know while still living. What could Christ have possibly preached to them? We get a notion from the apostle Paul.

Enemies of the gospel. “As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes” (Romans 11:28). For not believing the good news of salvation through Christ, many Jews are considered enemies of the gospel. 

Loved by God. However, although they do not accept Christ as the much awaited Jewish Messiah, they are nevertheless much loved because their faithful and law observant forefathers have made them God’s chosen people.

No factions in the kingdom. In the kingdom of heaven, there cannot be disharmony – one group acknowledging Christ as the Son of God and Savior of mankind, and another group rejecting Him as such. Their differences have to be harmonized.

“For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit” (1 Peter 4:6). Christ taught the spirits of the dead that all those in the kingdom of heaven must be of one accord with the whole will of God. 

The spiritually saved believers are called “saints”. They observe two things: “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus" (Revelation 14:12).

Christians baptized for the dead. It was probably this knowledge that led some early Christians to be baptized as proxies for their brethren and loved ones who had died without accepting Christ and being baptized in His name. “Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them?” (1 Corinthians 15:29-30, NIV). 


Excerpted from the booklet MORE Bible Secrets by M.M. Tauson. Printed copies available at Amazon.com - For free pdf copies of our booklets, click the Booklets and/or Google Drive tabs on the menu bar. 


Bible quotations are from the King James Version (KJV) unless otherwise indicated. 


Was Christ born on December 25?


 Short answer:


The first Christians did not celebrate the Messiah’s birth, so the date has been forgotten. It was first assumed that Christ was born on December 25 in a calendar in 354 A.D.

The Bible says there were shepherds in the field when the Messiah was born. However, the Holy Land is cold, rainy, and sometimes snowy in December. The shepherds and their flocks would not be out in the fields on cold winter nights. They would be so only in spring and autumn when they watched over the lambs being born.

John the Baptist was six months older than Christ, his cousin. John was conceived about June or July. Hence Christ was conceived around December or January and was born nine months later in September or October. The shepherds and their flocks would be out in the fields then.

Joseph and Mary traveled to Bethlehem to be taxed when Cyrenius was governor of Syria in 6 to 1 B.C. The taxation was completed by 3 B.C.; so Christ must have been born between 6 B.C. and 3 B.C.

King Herod died after the birth of Christ. It was he who ordered the slaughter of children in Bethlehem. He is known to have died after a lunar eclipse before the feast of Passover in April. There was a lunar eclipse visible in Israel on March 13, 4 B.C. Most chronologists assume Herod died on April 1, 4 B.C.

The Bible tells us: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us…” (John 1:14a). The use of the Greek word translated “dwelt” is very unusual. It means “tabernacled.” Therefore, “dwelt among us” should have been literally translated as “tabernacled among us.” It is a very clear Biblical sign to us that the Messiah was born during the Feast of Tabernacles in October of 5 B.C. 


Detailed explanation:


Virtually all Christians are familiar with the Biblical story of the birth of the Messiah. We find a brief account in the book of Luke. “And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:7-11).

One piece of basic detail, however, is missing – a reference to the date. When was the Messiah born? The Bible does not plainly give us the answer. Author Alexander Hislop (The Two Babylons, 1957) explains: “The early Christian church did not celebrate Jesus’ birth, and therefore the exact date was not preserved in festivals.”    

 

December 25?

Yet, much of the world today celebrates Christmas Day on December 25 as Christ’s birthday. According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, “December 25 was first identified as the date of Christ’s birth by Sextus Julius Africanus in 221 A.D.” Editor Richard Cavendish, in the magazine series Man, Myth & Magic (1995, Vol. 3, p. 480), noted: “It was only in the 4th century that 25 December was officially decreed to be the birthday of Christ.”

The supposed birth of Christ on December 25 was proclaimed by the Church fathers in A.D. 440. Around 550 A.D., December 25 became an official holiday in Rome under Emperor Justinian. Cavendish added that it “was another 500 years (9th century)” before the original term for the festival, Midwinter Feast, “was abandoned in favor of the word Christmas.”

 

Winter birth?

Was the Messiah really born on December 25 in midwinter? It is highly doubtful – for several reasons:   

Cold winter weather. The Holy Land is cold, rainy, and sometimes snowy in December, which is well into the winter season. The shepherds and their flocks in the Bible story would not have stayed out in the fields on cold nights during winter.

Seedlings growing. September to October in autumn were the usual sowing time in Judea. By December, the plants would have grown quite tall, and the farmers would not have allowed the shepherds’ animals foraging in their fields.

People’s animosity. Emperor Augustus Caesar would not have risked ordering a census and taxation requiring Roman subjects to travel to their hometowns in the cold winter weather. It could have provoked protests and even revolts.

 

Probable seasons.

There were only two seasons in the year when shepherds in Judea watched over their flocks in the fields at night – in spring and autumn when lambs were being born. At other times of the year, the flocks were kept in sheepfolds to protect them from the weather and wild animals.

 

Christ’s cousin, John the Baptist.

We can find clues to the date of Christ’s birth from the story of His cousin, John the Baptist. John was conceived six months earlier than Christ. 

God sent the angel Gabriel to speak to a young virgin named Mary in the town of Nazareth in Galilee. “And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren” (Luke 1:36). Mary was a cousin of John’s mother, Elisabeth, who was already six months pregnant when Gabriel appeared to Mary. Soon thereafter, Mary conceived. Hence, John was some six months older than Christ.

 

John’s father, Zacharias.

John’s father was a priest named Zacharias. “There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years” (Luke 1:5-7).

Groupings of priests. Zacharias was a member of the priestly course or group of Abia (Abijah), the 8th among the 24 courses of priests who served in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, as had been arranged centuries earlier by King David. 

“And David divided them into courses among the sons of Levi… Thus were they divided by lot, one sort with another… Now the first lot came forth to Jehoiarib, the second to Jedaiah, The third to Harim, the fourth to Seorim, The fifth to Malchijah, the sixth to Mijamin, The seventh to Hakkoz, the eighth to Abijah… The three and twentieth to Delaiah, the four and twentieth to Maaziah. These were the orderings of them in their service to come into the house of the LORD, according to their manner, under Aaron their father, as the LORD God of Israel had commanded him” (1 Chron 23:6a; 24:5a, 7-10,18-19).

Each course or group served for one week in the Temple, beginning in Nisan (March-April), the first month of the Hebrew religious year (Ex 12:2), which began at the first sighting of the new moon crescent on or after the spring equinox (equal lengths of night and day), today  on March 19, 20, or 21 in the modern-day Gregorian calendar.

So, if Nisan (Abib or Aviv in today’s Jewish calendar) began in late March, Zacharias must have begun serving at the Holy Temple in late May.

 

Angel appears to Zacharias.

The angel Gabriel came and foretold the birth of a son to Zacharias and Elisabeth in their old age. “And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest's office before God in the order of his course, According to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense. And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense… But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John” (Luke 1:8-11,13).

“And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house. And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying, Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men” (Luke 1:23-25). Zacharias must have ended his Temple service and gone home at the end of May or early June. Gabriel’s message came true as foretold. Elisabeth conceived. Considering the travel time on foot in those days and Zacharias’s and Elisabeth’s advanced ages, she probably conceived in late June or even early July.

 

Conception by Mary.

 Six months later, the angel Gabriel also appeared to Mary, Elisabeth’s cousin. “And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary… And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS… Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:26-27,31,34-35).

The angel Gabriel announced the coming birth of the Messiah to Mary when Elisabeth was six months pregnant. So, Mary probably conceived in late December or early January. Therefore, the birth of Christ nine months later must have been in late September or early October. This falls within the autumn lambing season, when the shepherds were out in the fields watching over the lambs being born.

How beautiful! How wise the Almighty Father! The Lamb of God was born during one of the year’s lambing seasons! Now, if we can only find out what particular day and year that was. 

 

Hebrew

months

Modern-day

equivalents

Event

Iyar

April-May

Zacharias at Temple

Sivan

May-June

Zacharias went home

Tammuz

June-July

Elisabeth conceived

Av

July-August

(1)

Elul

August-September

(2)

Tishri

September-October

(3)

Heshvan

October-November

(4)

Kislev

November-December

(5)

Tevet

December-January

(6) Mary conceived

Shevat

January-February

(1)

Adar

February-March

(2)

Nisan

March-April

(3)

Iyar

April-May

(4)

Sivan

May-June

(5)

Tammuz

June-July

(6)

Av

July-August

(7)

Elul

August-September

(8)

Tishri

September-October

(9) Christ was born

 

Taxation by Augustus Caesar.

Joseph and Mary traveled to Bethlehem to comply with an order from the Roman Emperor. “And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)” (Luke 2:1-2). Emperor Augustus Caesar ordered an empire-wide census and taxation to know the exact resources of the Roman Empire. This decree required every man to return to the city of his family’s origin.

“And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)  To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child” (Luke 2:3-5). Bethlehem was the city of all those descended from King David, including Joseph, Mary’s husband.

 

Birth year of the Messiah.

The Encarta Encyclopedia (article Millennium) informs us that, according to many scholars, Dionysius Exiguus, the monk who introduced the B.C./A.D. dating system in 532 A.D., had made various errors in calculating Christ’s birth year. Historical evidence indicates that the Messiah was not born in 1 B.C., but earlier.

Pope agreed. Reporter Sorcha Pollak in her article “Pope Benedict Disputes Jesus’ Date of Birth” (Nov. 22, 2012; Internet) wrote that the Pope “revealed in the third installment of his trilogy… that Jesus may have been born earlier than previously thought… the Pope explains in his book that Exiguus, who is considered the inventor of the Christian calendar, ‘made a mistake in his calculations by several years.’ The actual date of Jesus’ birth was several years before.”

Cyrenius twice governor. Historical records show that the census and taxation was ordered by Augustus Caesar in 8 B.C., but it was implemented province by province. Provincial Italy was taxed in 8-7 B.C., and Rome itself was taxed in 7-6 B.C. As for the Roman province of Judea, Luke said it was taxed when “Cyrenius was governor of Syria.” When was that?

Cyrenius, also known as Roman senator Publius Sulpicius Quirinius, was twice governor of Syria (which included Judea). His first term was for 5 years between 6 B.C. and 1 B.C.; the second was in 6 to 7 A.D. Since the latter period is much later than the traditionally presumed birth of Christ in 1 B.C., the taxation must have taken place sometime within 6 to 1 B.C. Although decreed in 8 B.C. (but not carried out in Judea until 2 years later), the taxation was completed by late 3 B.C. This suggests that Christ was born sometime between 6 B.C. and 3 B.C.

 

Birth of the Messiah.

A journey of some 90 miles on foot and a donkey must have been quite exhausting for a woman in her ninth month of pregnancy. Mary gave birth soon after she and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem. “And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:6-7).

No room in the inn. The inns being full supports the belief that it was the time of one of the festivals that God has commanded to Israel. “Three times in the year all thy males shall appear before the Lord GOD” (Ex 23:17). These festivals are: Passover (March or April); Pentecost (May or June); and Feast of Tabernacles (September or October). Jerusalem was filled with pilgrims to the Holy Temple, many of whom had to look for lodging in nearby towns, such as Bethlehem.

 

Wise men from the east.

“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him” (Matt 2:1-2). The wise men had the temerity to ask King Herod for the whereabouts of the newly born Jewish king. It was a thinly veiled insult. (Herod, the Rome-appointed king of Judea, was an Idumaean, a non-Jew.)

Three kings? The wise men were not kings, nor were there only three. The word used for “wise men” in the New Testament’s Greek text was magoi, transliterated as magi in English. They were members of a hereditary priestly class among the ancient Medes and Persians, and part of a council equivalent to a modern Parliament that ruled the Parthian Empire. Their functions included the election of the Parthian monarch. Hence, the magi were king-makers, not kings.

Jewish wise men? The wise men could have been Jews, descendants of the prophet Daniel and others who were taken captive to Babylon after the invasions of Judah in 606 and 586 B.C., but who chose to stay in the east and did not return to Jerusalem following the fall of Babylon to the Medo-Persians in 539 B.C. Why else would they come looking for the “King of the Jews” to worship if they were not themselves Jews? Judea at the time was just a province of the Roman Empire.

 

The star of Bethlehem.

The wise men told Herod that they had followed a star they saw from the east. “Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared” (Matt 2:7). Herod asked them to tell him where they would find the child, pretending he would also pay homage to the newborn king.

 “When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy” (Matt 2:9-10).

The child was already in a house when the wise men found him. “And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him…” (Matt 2:11a).

A nova or a comet? According to astronomer Barry Setterfield, the star of Bethlehem could be anything that shone and moved across the sky, such as a planet or grouping of planets, a nova, or a comet. Novae or unstable stars shine long; there was one faint nova in 4 B.C. Comets can travel through the background stars at the rate of 1 or 2 degrees per day. They may be visible to the naked eye for 100 days or so. On a journey to Judea from Persia of about 6 weeks, a comet would have been visible long enough for the magi to see. A comet swept across the heavens in 4 B.C.

 

Slaughter of children.

The wise men avoided Herod on their way home. “And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way” (Matt 2:12).

Realizing the magi had ignored him and left, Herod ordered the slaughter of infants in Bethlehem. “Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men” (Matt 2:16).

“Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not” (Matt 2:17-18).

 

Day the Messiah was born.

The gospel writer John hinted that the Messiah was born during the Feast of Tabernacles. “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us… (John 1:14a; underscoring by the author).

The use of the Greek word translated “dwelt” (skenosen) is very unusual. It came from skenos (to tent, encamp) and skeno (hut, booth, temporary dwelling) and is also the root-word of Skenopegia, Feast of Tabernacles or Booths, when Jews stayed in booths or temporary shelters to commemorate their 40 years of wandering in the wilderness after the Exodus from Egypt on their way to the Promised Land.

Feast of Tabernacles.  Therefore, “dwelt among us” should have been literally rendered as “tabernacled among us.” It is a very strong Biblical hint that Christ was born during the Feast of Tabernacles! 

The seven-day Feast of Tabernacles, as commanded by God to Israel, is usually celebrated in early October – more specifically, on the 15th-21st days from the new moon on or after the autumn equinox (September 22 or 23). “And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the feast of tabernacles for seven days unto the LORD” (Lev 23:33-34).

 

Herod's death. As we know, Christ was born before Herod died. In the book Antiquities of the Jews (XVII, 167), Jewish historian Flavius Josephus recorded that King Herod, who ordered the slaughter of children in Bethlehem, died after an eclipse of the moon, sometime before Passover (early April) in spring. The Encyclopaedia Britannica reports (under Eclipse) that the “only springtime lunar eclipses visible in Israel between 17 BCE and 3 CE took place on March 23, 5 BCE, and March 13, 4 BCE… the latter date is usually preferred by chronologists – implying that Herod died in the spring of 4 BCE.” It is thus often assumed that Herod died about April 1, 4 B.C. In that case, the Feast of Tabernacles before that was in October of 5 B.C.

 

Feast of Tabernacles 5 B.C.

Conclusion: the Messiah was most likely born in the autumn lambing season – during the seven-day Feast of Tabernacles in October of 5 B.C.

 

Birth of the Messiah

(Summary of Events)

Date

Year

Event

Note

 

8 BC

Census and taxation

Caesar’s decree

 

6-3 BC

Taxation in Judea

Cyrenius governor

October

5 BC

Feast of Tabernacles

Christ was born

 

 

Wise men arrived*

 

 

 

Children slaughtered

Herod’s order

March 13

4 BC

Lunar eclipse

 

April 1

4 BC

Herod died

 

April

4 BC

Passover

 

*4 BC, a nova and a comet appeared – star of Bethlehem?

 

 

Excerpted from the booklet The Forgotten Messiah (28 pages) by M.M. Tauson. Printed copies available at Amazon.com - For free pdf copies of our booklets, click the Booklets and/or Google Drive tabs on the menu bar. 


Bible quotations are from the King James Version (KJV) unless otherwise indicated.