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A Birthday Celebration?

Article by Bill Petri

Matthew begins his presentation of Jesus with the simple fact that Jesus is King of Israel. It is interesting to note that Matthew is the only book that records the wise men in the events surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ.

Matthew 2:1-2

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, [2] 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.

This account of the wise men coming into Jerusalem is something we need to look at in some detail. The first thing that stands out about this account is the wise men using the term King of the Jews. Jesus is never referred to as King to the Body of Christ. The Apostle Paul always uses the term Lord in the relationship between Jesus and the Body of Christ. This term of King is a title showing Jesus' relationship to Israel, and their relationship to the Gentile nations.

Matthew 2:5-6

And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, [6] And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.

These verses leave no doubt that Jesus came to this planet to rule Israel ( His people ). The idea of Jesus being King is related very closely with the idea of a virgin birth. Moreover, the Old Testament leaves little doubt that Israel's Messiah would be virgin-born.

Isa 7:14

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Isa 9:6

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

Isa 9:7

Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

Matthew tells us this was all fulfilled with the birth of Jesus. Unfortunately, many so-called textual critics try to deny the virgin birth because they fail to realize the claim to the throne of David can only come from Mary, not Joseph. Furthermore, this accounts for the seeming contradictions in the genealogies recorded in Matthew and Luke.

Luke Matthew & Luke Matthew

Adam

Seth

Enosh

Kenan

Mahalalel

Lamech

Noah

Shem

Arphaxad

Salah

Eber

Peleg

Reu

Serug

Nahor

Terah

Abraham

Isaac

Jacob

Judah

Pharez

Hezron

Ram

Amminadah

Nahshon

Salmon

Boaz

Obed

Jesse

David

Nathan

Mattaha

Menan

Melea

Eliakim

Jonan

Joseph

Juda

Simeon

Levi

Matthat

Jorim

Eliezer

Jose

Er

Elmodam

Cosam

Addi

Melchi

Zerubbabel

Rhesa

Joanna

Juda

Joseph

Semei

Mattathias

Maath

Nagge

Esli

Naum

Amos

Mattathias

Joseph

Janna

Melchi

Levi

Matthat

Heli

(Mary)

Solomon

Rehaboam

Abijah

Asa

Jehoshaphat

Jehoram

Ahaziah*

Joash*

Amaziah*

* All died violent deaths, God dealing with idolatry literally to the third and fourth generations (Exodus 20:4-5); their names were therefore "blotted out" according to the law(Deut.29:20).

Uzziah

Jotham

Ahaz

Hezekiah

Manasseh

Amon

Josiah

Jehoiakim^

Jehoiachin^

^ Christ's claim to the throne of David cannot be through this line (Jer.22:24-30), hence, the claim must now be through Mary

(Gen.3:15) and the law of Zelophehad (Num.26:30-33).

Salathiel

Zerubbabel

Abiud

Eliakim

Azor

Sadoc

Achim

Eliud

Eleazar

Matthan

Jacob

Joseph

What we shall prove from these names is that Jesus' claim to the throne of David could only come through a virgin birth. One way to view the issue is to address one of the problems it solves. God announced very early that His plan for redemption involved the Messiah being brought forth from the tribe of Judah, and specifically from the line of David.

Gen 49:10

The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.

Ruth 4:22

And Obed begat Jesse, and Jesse begat David.

2Sa 7:15

But my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee.

2Sa 7:16

And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever.

2 Sa 7:17

According to all these words, and according to all this vision, so did Nathan speak unto David.

The succession of subsequent kings proved to be, with only a few exceptions, a dismal chain. As the succeeding Kings of Judah go from bad to worse, we eventually encounter Jeconiah (also known as Johoiachin) upon whom God pronounces a "blood curse:"

Jer 22:30

Thus saith the LORD, Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah.

This curse created a rather grim and perplexing paradox: the Messiah had to come from the royal line, yet now there was a "blood curse" on that very line of descent!

The answer emerges in the differing genealogies of Jesus Christ recorded in the gospels. Matthew, as a Levite, focuses his gospel on the Messiahship of Jesus and presents Him as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. Thus, Matthew traces the legal line from Abraham (as any Jew would) through David, then through Solomon (the "royal" line) to Joseph, the legal father of Jesus. On the other hand, Luke, as a physician, focuses on the humanity of Jesus and presents Him as the Son of Man. Luke traces the blood line from Adam (the first man) through to David -- and his genealogy from Abraham through David is identical to Matthew's.

However, after David, Luke departs from the path taken by Matthew and traces the family tree through another son of David ( the second surviving son of Bathsheba), Nathan, down through Heli, the father of Mary, the mother of Jesus.

One should also note the exception to the law which permitted inheritance through the daughter if no sons were available and she married within her tribe. The daughters of Zelophehad had petitioned Moses for a special exception, which was granted when they entered the land under Joshua.

I believe it was C.I. Scofield who first noted that the claims of Christ depend upon this peculiar exception granted to the family of Zelophehad in the Torah. Heli, Mary's father, apparently had no sons and Mary married within her tribe of Judah. Jesus was born of the virgin Mary, of the house and lineage of David and carrying legal title to the line, but without the "blood curse" of Jeconiah.

This was no afterthought or post facto remedy, of course. It was first announced in the Garden of Eden when God declared war on Satan:

Gen 3:15

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.

The "Seed of the Woman" thus becomes one of the prophetic titles of the Messiah. This biological contradiction is the first hint --- in the early chapters of Genesis --- of the virgin birth.

Hence, this was the only point in history when Jesus could have been born. That is what Paul insinuates in the book of Galatians:

Gal 4:4

But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,

We can rest assured that the differing genealogies prove the virgin birth, and Paul confirms the accuracy of Matthew and Luke. We now need to ask ourselves: was Jesus born on Christmas day? Are we really celebrating the virgin birth of Jesus Christ? Let us turn our attention to December 25.

The early Christians did not celebrate Christmas, or even the birth of Christ. Hence, they had little interest in the true date of His birth. December 25 was celebrated by early pagans for centuries before the birth of Christ to worship the birth of a new sun. Collier's Encyclopaedia relates December 25 as "the day the Romans celebrated the Mithraic feast of the sun god." Placing the birth of Christ on a date to conform with the pagan birthday celebration of the sun god is a case study in how far apostate religious ringleaders will go in their efforts to fuse truth and error.

By the fifth century there were a lot of divergent dates given for the Savior's birth: January 6, March 25, April 9, May 20, and November 17, to mention the most popular. The date of December 25 was fixed upon when the bishop of Rome asked his sages what the sanctioned date should be. They settled on December 25. Almost all historians agree that December 25 was chosen because that date was the winter solstice under the Julian calendar. It is important to note in the year 1582 the Gregorian Calendar, the one we use today, was adapted. It was a little different from the earlier Julian Calendar and the date of the winter solstice changed from December 25 to December 21.

The worship of the sun god presiding over many lesser gods was prevalent in the Roman Empire. The Emperor Aurelius had decreed the old Persian sun god, Mithra, to be the principle patron of the empire. Hence, they celebrated his birthday on the date of the winter solstice. It was this pagan religious cult which fostered the celebration of December 25 as a holiday throughout the Roman and Greek worlds. This winter festival was called "the Nativity" - the "nativity of the sun." In fact, the winter solstice was the time at which all the sun gods from Osiris to Jupiter and Mithra had celebrated their birthdays. The celebration was adorned with evergreens (the Christmas tree is a carry over from paganism. See Jer.10:1-5 cf. Deut.12:2, 2 Kings 16:4), and wreaths of Adonis (symbols of life), the holly and mistletoe of Saturn (symbols of fertility and eternal life), along with the drinking of toasts from Wassail bowls (forerunner of our eggnog), exchanging gifts, the feeling of geniality among the populace, and so forth.

The Emperor Constantine helped bring December 25 into Christendom by choosing Jesus over Mithra as the one to celebrate. Hence, the festival of the sun god's birth - with all its traditions - was transformed into a celebration of Jesus' birth. Therefore, Christmas (literally "Christ's Mass) was adopted by the Roman church during the fifth and sixth centuries as a part of Rome's consistent pattern of assimilating paganism into the developing church's life.

Often we will hear the admission that December 25 is not really Christ's birthday. However, this is often followed with the statement that we do not really know when He was born. This is not true, the fact is the Scriptures do indeed inform us of when Christ was born. Scriptures also will shed light on why December 25 has been so universally a part of pagan celebrations of the sun god and what part it really plays in the purposes of God.

Luke 1:5-9

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. [6] And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. [7] And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years. [8] And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest's office before God in the order of his course, [9] According to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord.

Zacharias was a priest. When his "course" of ministry in the temple at Jerusalem came, he was found there faithfully discharging his duties. It was at this point he learned he and Elizabeth would be the parents of a special child. This child would be the one who would "be great in the sight of the Lord" and who would "go before him, in the spirit and power of Elias (Luke 1:15,17).

Luke 1:23-24

And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house. [24] And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying...

After his service in the temple, Zacharias travelled home with the good news. He lived in the hill country some 30 miles south of Jerusalem (v.39). Hence, we know that Elizabeth conceived John at this time.

Luke 1:26-27

And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, [27] To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.

Luke 1:35-36

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. [36] 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.

Six months after the conception of John, the angel Gabriel announced to Mary the supernatural conception of Israel's Messiah. "Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call His name Jesus."

Hence, we know Scripture is very clear that Christ was conceived, and thus born six months after John the Baptist. If we can fix the time of John's conception, we can then easily pinpoint everything else. Believe it or not, we have already read the verses which will identify this for us.

Luke 1:5

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.

Luke 1:8

And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest's office before God in the order of his course,

Very clearly Zacharias was in Jerusalem ministering in the temple during "the course of Abia." It is important for us to note that Abia is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Abijah. Names are often spelled differently in different languages (i.e. Elias - Elijah, Noe - Noah).

1 Chronicles 24 tells us of the arrangements set in place by King David for the ministry of the priests in the temple. There were to be twenty four courses, or divisions, when each priestly family would serve in the temple at Jerusalem. Each course lasted one week.

2 Kings 11:9

And the captains over the hundreds did according to all things that Jehoiada the priest commanded: and they took every man his men that were to come in on the sabbath, with them that should go out on the sabbath, and came to Jehoiada the priest.

2 Chron. 23:8

So the Levites and all Judah did according to all things that Jehoiada the priest had commanded, and took every man his men that were to come in on the sabbath, with them that were to go out on the sabbath: for Jehoiada the priest dismissed not the courses.

Thus, we clearly see that each priest would serve "in the order of his course" for one week every six months.

Each Israelite male (including the priests) was required to travel to Jerusalem for the three great pilgrimage feasts: Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles (see Deut.16:16). Hence, David instructed that each week between Passover and Tabernacles and between Tabernacles and Passover a different family of priests would serve in the Temple. Then, three weeks out of the year, all the priests served together during Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles.

1 Chron. 24:10

The seventh to Hakkoz, the eighth to Abijah,

According to this passage the course of Abijah was the eighth in order. Eight weeks after the Passover puts the course of Abijah in the middle of June. Hence, this would be the time that Zacharias was serving in the Temple and had the conversation with the angel about the birth of John.

After Zacharias' week of service, he then travelled the thirty miles to his home in Judah, and at this time Elizabeth became pregnant with John. Hence, John's conception would be in late June. It was in the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy when Gabriel announced to Mary the conception of Jesus. Hence, we would count six months from Elizabeth's conception (late June) to arrive at the date for the conception of Jesus (late December)! Therefore, the conception of Jesus is late December, the time of the winter solstice! Hence, the birth of Christ would be late September!

The miracle of all this is not the birth of Christ. The birth process itself was perfectly natural. It was a normal birth. The surroundings were touching and instructive, but there was nothing unusual in the birth itself. The real miracle is found in the fact that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Ghost in the womb of a virgin:

Matthew 1:22-23

Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, [23] Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

Note the phrase "Emmanuel - God with us!" The one whom Jehovah calls His equal is with man:

Zech. 13:7

Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones. (Fellow - in Hebrew amiyth - it means a kindred man, an equal among associates!)

Hence, we read that this Jesus is called God by Jehovah, and will possess a throne forever.

Hebrews 1:8-9

But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. [9] Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.

We know that God came in the likeness of sinful flesh (Rom.8:3) to save sinners (1 Tim.1:15). Hence, God the Father declared through the prophet:

Zech. 12:10

And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.

This was all done because "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself" (2 Cor.5:19). Therefore, Jesus Christ is the most unique person of the entire universe. He is the manifestation of the Godhead!:

Col. 2:9

For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.

Jesus Christ is the one mediator between God and men, hence the bridge between God and men, between heaven and earth.

What a privilege it is to worship a God who has stepped out of eternity, into time, to set forth the profound truth that He is a God who loves us enough to enter into the events of human history - into the events of our lives - all through the person of Jesus Christ.

Many believers have been correctly troubled over the use of the birthday of pagan gods (December 25) to honour the birth of the true God. However, once we recognize the central truth of the incarnation of Christ- the real miracle is the conception, a conception which took place on or about December 25 - it becomes obvious that the pagan winter festivals are only Satanic corruption's of a pre-existing marvellous truth. We are free to use this time of year to give thanks for the miracle which is the cornerstone of the Christian faith.

1 Tim. 1:15

This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.

1 Cor. 15:1-4

Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; [2] By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. [3] For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; [4] And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

What a fantastic thing resulted from this miraculous conception! Christ came to save sinners, and that salvation is given to us freely by just simply believing the above gospel. We indeed are free to celebrate at this time of year. What we celebrate is the freedom that was won for us by Jesus Christ. A freedom that was made possible by a conception beyond human comprehension. God indeed gave us a fantastic gift!

2 Cor. 8:9

For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich. return to home page



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