DALLAS — Today, most babies get a birth certificate, making it easy to prove what day you're born on.
But in the time of Jesus, it didn’t work that way. So, was Jesus actually born on Dec. 25?
For answers, I'm looking at early historical and biblical references to Jesus and talking to Robert Hunt, a theology professor at SMU.
“Was Jesus born on Dec. 25?” I asked him.
“We don't know. That's the short answer,” Hunt said.
Why not? Well, let's start with the Bible. It does not offer a date.
The Gospels of Matthew and Luke do tell the story of Jesus' birth, but they do not offer concrete evidence of a date.
And while there is limited archaeological or physical evidence of Jesus, he was referenced by many historians of his time. Flavius Josephus is considered to be the first historian to talk about Jesus in a historical way.
He mentions him by way of referencing Jesus' brother, James.
"The brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James," the historian wrote. That reference allowed scholars to begin placing Jesus' birth into a historical range of events.
“We start with Josephus, and then we move to other Roman sources. The issue then is always to triangulate from these references about Jesus, backward to a birth date,” Hunt said.
“But it's more an art than a science?” I asked.
“It's more art than a science,” Hunt said.
Instead, between the second and fourth centuries, Christians began settling on the date of Dec. 25, Hunt said. But not all.
“What we get is a reasonable date in late November through sometime in early January in the 5th year Before the Common Era,” Hunt said.
So, was Jesus born on Dec. 25? We don’t know.
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