The focus of this article will be on the birth of Jesus Christ. I want to look at the records in Luke and Matthew to see what the Bible really says about the birth of Jesus. But before we look at the records of Jesus Christ’s birth, let’s look briefly at the date of his birth.
I am not going to get too in depth with the science and astronomy aspect of Jesus Christ’s birth in this article. Instead, I just want to look briefly at how a precise study of the Word on this subject can give you precise answers.
In Genesis 3:15 we find the first prophecy of Jesus Christ.
And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
Jesus Christ’s death was this figurative “heel bruise”—it sucked, but it didn’t stop him. Jesus Christ’s rise and ascension was part of this “head bruise” to the Devil. He lost completely and eternally when Jesus Christ paid the price to give us the opportunity to be saved.
Now, in Revelation 12:1 we find a description of a very unique star arrangement that some Biblical interpreters, including Ernest L. Martin, say took place at the birth of Jesus Christ:
And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:
The constellation Virgo is the one that corresponds to the woman. So here, the Bible mentions a time when the sun was in the constellation Virgo and the moon was under her feet. Because the stars all move precisely, it is possible for astronomers to know what the sky looked like going back thousands of years. And this arrangement was visible in Palestine from sunset at 6:18pm until moonset at 7:39pm of September 11, 3 B.C. So it was during this eighty-one-minute period that Jesus Christ was born in a stable in Bethlehem.
There are several books available that discuss, in much detail, the complete historical, scientific, and Biblical basis for this conclusion. One such book is Ernest L. Martin’s The Star that Astonished the World, which is available online for free at his website (see http://www.askelm.com/star/index.asp). This book goes into great detail about the Biblical, historical, and scientific data involved in determining the exact date of Jesus Christ’s birth. Here we see that, using the scientific precision of astronomy and the information found in the Bible relating to Jesus Christ’s birth, it is available to pinpoint the date and time to an 81 minute time span. How amazing is that?!
Now that we have a greater understanding about the actual time period of Jesus Christ’s birth, let’s look at the record of Jesus’ birth in Luke 2.
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.
There is actually historical evidence that there was a registration in 3 B.C. throughout the Roman Empire and its subject states. And, September was a very logical time of year to have this happen because the weather would have been good for travel and the crops would have already been harvested.
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.
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.
Swaddling clothes had a very important meaning in that culture. When a baby was born, it was salted and swaddled as a sign to God that the parents would raise the child to be upright before the Lord. The child was normally only left in these clothes for a brief period of time while the parents meditated on their commitment to God. For more information on this custom, please see Bowen’s Strange Scriptures that Perplex the Western Mind (pages 36-37) and James Freeman’s Manners and Customs of the Bible (page 405).
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.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
It’s interesting to note here that the only people present at the birth of Jesus in this record are the shepherds. They were the ones that God chose to tell about the birth of His only son. God could have told the high priests or some other powerful Judean leaders, but instead he told these humble shepherds. And you know what? Those shepherds heard the Word of God and moved immediately and found Jesus with his parents. But they didn’t stop there! They spread the good news abroad! Where were the Magi? Let’s look at Matthew 2 and see what the Bible has to say about them.
Matthew 2:1-3, 7-11
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.
When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.
And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.
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.
And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.
Unlike the traditions these days that say the Magi found Jesus on the day of his birth in the manger with the shepherds and his parents, the Bible tells us that they found him as a young child in a house with his mother. In Luke 2:16 we just read that the shepherds found Jesus as a babe in a manger. The Greek word used in Luke to describe Jesus is brephos, which is used in the bible for an unborn child or a new-born infant. The Greek word for “manger” is phatnē which is used for animal stalls or the crib to hold fodder for livestock.
The words “young child” used here to describe Jesus when the Magi find him are the Greek word paidion which is used in the bible for recently born children and toddlers. The Greek word for “house” is oikia which is used for the family property or dwelling.
Matthew 2:12, 16
And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.
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.
Herod didn’t just randomly decide to kill all of the children under two years old. It says he chose that age because of the time that the Magi had given him. These men had studied the stars; they came to Bethlehem looking for a young child not a newborn babe.
After looking at the birth of Jesus in detail and letting the Bible tell us what happened instead of relying on tradition, we now know that Jesus was actually born on September 11, 3 B.C., and that the only people present within the first few hours were his parents and the shepherds. We also looked at the record with the Magi and learned that they didn’t actually find Jesus until he was a young child. It is such a blessing to know that the Bible is so accurate and detailed that we can always go to it knowing that we will be able to find the truth.