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Prior to about a week ago, I've never known Christ's birthday to be anything other than December 25th. However, my kids are starting to tell me about how they're hearing claims from peers that this is not the case. Couple this with the latest Simpson's couch gag (23 seconds in):

94 DAYS TILL MARCH 28

...and now I'm curious. Are these mad claims, or is there actual proof out there of Christ's birthday falling on this "March 28th" date?

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    Related: skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/1624/… – Sklivvz Dec 14 '13 at 22:05
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    While there are Gospel-based arguments about the date of Christ's birthday, they are better asked on Christianity SE or Biblical Hermeneutics SE – Oddthinking Dec 14 '13 at 23:27
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    Note: I explicitly stated the Gospel-based arguments were better presented on those sites. Arguing that shepherds were watching their flocks in Luke 2:8 quickly leads to the question of whether the Luke 2:8 is an authority and how it should be interpreted, which leads directly to Hermeneutics. – Oddthinking Dec 17 '13 at 3:00
  • An important and exhaustive reference regarding Jesus from the purely historical viewpoint, is "A marginal Jew" by John P. Meier. – leonbloy Dec 18 '13 at 18:25
  • Of direct relevance. youtube.com/watch?v=zPHKg0M3mEo . This person does not claim to know when Christ was born. However he will make a compelling case that the Magi found Christ on December 25th. I don't think I'll get around to making a real answer, but basically there is a great deal of other evidence to dismiss the common claims that Christ's birthday was not December 25th, however there is also no direct evidence that it was either. – UserZer0 Dec 27 '13 at 10:07
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We don't have a clear idea of the date on which he was born. In fact, we don't even know the year he was born. Some historians like Robert Price even disagree on his historicity or existence.

In another skeptics answer we have shown some indirect historical evidence for his existence, and to be fair, most historians agree that someone like him existed (from Galilee, preached, was crucified by Pilate), even though there are different and diverging theories to who he was or what he did exactly.

Most scholars agree that Jesus was a Jewish teacher or rabbi from Galilee [...] Scholars have constructed various portraits of the historical Jesus, which often depict him as having one or more of the following roles: the leader of an apocalyptic movement, Messiah, a charismatic healer, a sage and philosopher, or an egalitarian social reformer. - Jesus (Wikipedia)

But as to date, we come up empty of any direct evidence - all evidence beyond the Gospels speaks in general terms of him, and even the gospels do not set an exact date for his birth.

Even the historicity of the Gospels is object of debate among historians:

Although some claim that all four canonical gospels meet the five criteria for historical reliability, others say that little in the gospels is considered to be historically reliable. _ Historical reliability of the Gospels (Wikipedia)

A believable birth date therefore is out of the question.

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    @Ilya: This is where it gets confusing. I can provide references to show that the March 28 is notable, but that's very different to showing it definitely was that date. – Oddthinking Dec 15 '13 at 11:32
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    I think this is the best answer that can be expected on this site. A discussion of the various theories of the date of Christ's birth would be a better fit for History.SE. A discussion of the theological reasons for various dates would be a better fit for Christianity.SE or Hermeneutics.SE. – Flimzy Dec 17 '13 at 15:03
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    When the primary sources make no claim about the birthday, it is unlikely we will find strong evidence about an exact date. No mainstream religious authority ever though December 25 was it (the date is arbitrary and designed to hijack the date of an older festival for christian purposes). – matt_black Dec 17 '13 at 18:24
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    @LarianLeQuella Actually no. The evidence for the existence of a person called Jesus isn't circular and isn't bad .My actual point was that the church never claimed christmas as his birthday: the date of the festival was chosen with no consideration at all about the date of the birth. This leaves us fairly sure it wasn't December 25 but with no enlightenment at all on the actual date, which is irrelevant whether you are religiously inclined or not. – matt_black Feb 15 '15 at 20:33
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    @AnthonyX The Julian calendar was developed before the epoch we currently used, and didn't describe any epoch (the Romans didn't number years this way). According to Wikipedia, the AD epoch wasn't used until 525 AD. Many other epochs have been used with the Julian year organization in various parts of the world. Again going only by Wikipedia, it appears that the monk who invented AD mostly went by numerical neatness to come up with the particular epoch year, though no hard evidence exists for his methods. – Sebastian Redl May 2 at 6:45
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Before we get started, it's worth observing that the appearance of a date on a poster inside an episode of The Simpsons can hardly be taken as an assertion of historical fact. The show is known for being provocative and including parodies of reality. Bart Simpson should hardly be our go-to expert on history1 even though it turns out this instance wasn't just a fabrication for the silver screen. The original source appears to have been an anonymous tip — albeit a very old anonymous tip that has been floating around on Catholic document archives since before there were comics2.

As far as the current state of historical records takes us, the claim first surfaces in a document known as De Pasha Computus (pdf) believed to have originated in North Africa around A.D. 2433. The document, written in Latin, is anonymous. It's possible the author had something to base his assertions on, but without knowing what his sources were (or even his identity) it is hard to judge whether the case holds water. Besides the DOB calculations, other assertions are made but there is no particular attempt to defend them. They are just commentary not apologetics. Additionally troublesome is the fact that a key word in the text could possibly be rendered 'conceived' instead 'born'4, a possibility that would put the birth closer to the popular notion of late December.

Besides the unknown veracity of this source, there is another obvious issue: that document is far from the only source available. Many dates have been forwarded, some by more trustworthy sources than De Pasha Computus. In his first century work Adversus Haereses, Irenaeus identifies the birth of Christ as having taken place on the now popular date of December 25th.

While popular, that date too is not without its critics. Certain logistical problems are posited as hard to reconcile with the account found in the canonical Gospels. For one thing, a national census and extensive traveling in winter seem unlikely.

This brings us to our final two points:

  • The primary source for most of the detailed accounts of Jesus life come from the four Gospel books of the Biblical canon. While an argument can be made for the historical veracity of these witnesses, one need not even accept such a case to settle this question: none of the four even attempts to precisely identify the date. No source accepted as authoritative either by religious institutions or secular history makes a positive claim on the date.

  • In the absence of primary sources the best we can do is estimate based on circumstantial data, which is itself slim. The Gospel accounts give some historical events as a frame of reference, but these are not even enough to conclusively establish the year much less the day. While the advent of the logos is without a doubt of massive importance to Christianity, the actual date has never been considered that important. There are no special sacraments associated with the day and the early church didn't even observe it as a festival. When the tradition to celebrate on a particular day was begun, various differing calculations eventually led to different branches observing different days.

With not even the year of his birth known beyond a reasonable doubt and the primary historical sources not providing the particular detail it is unlikely that any claim can be sufficiently corroborated to label as definitive. Certainly the claim by the poster in the episode of The Simpsons stands on dubious ground. I wouldn't call it a mad claim, but neither would I go rewriting your calenders just yet.

As an aside —because it is a common source for confusion— its worth noting that this question is not about the observance of the Christian holiday 'Christmas' but only about the historical date of the birth of a human5. Of course there is a correlation between the two and the historical date is a factor often brought up in discussions of the festival, but there are also other considerations and it falls to religion to weigh these and decide when (and what) to celebrate. For this question we will only consider the historical date. Disputing the exact date should not be allowed to pass for disputing the validity of the holiday.


  1. If your children's knowledge about history is gleaned from The Simpsons and their peers (who likely have similar sources), the date of Christmas is going to be the least of your worries!

  2. I totally just pulled that claim out of a hat, so shoot me. It's even falsifiable if cave paintings count as comics.

  3. A.D. 243 date per U.S. News & World Report article “In Search of Christmas” by Joseph L. Sheler, December 23, 1996, page 58. The Catholic Document Archives label it 200-258 A.D. from Carthage.

  4. Dies_Natalis_Solis_Invicti (Wikipedia)

  5. Another question on this site addresses the issue Did Jesus live?

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    I agree with Sklivvz. This would be a better answer if you just started at (the now) paragraph 2. – user5582 Dec 17 '13 at 17:25
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By definition this question would be best asked on Christianity.SE and it has. What is clear is that he was probably born in the spring or summer as that is when shepherds watch over their flocks (Luke 2:8). March 28 is far more plausible than December 25.

They watched over their flocks in the field in the spring because that is when there was food. Other times, the sheep were brought food - especially in the winter:

One of the principal duties at all seasons of the year is for the shepherd to plan food for his flock. In the springtime there is an abundance of green pasture, and usually the sheep are allowed to graze near to the village where the shepherd's home is located. After the grain is reaped, and the poor have had an opportunity to glean what is left for them, then the shepherd brings in his flock, and the sheep feed on certain fresh growths, or dried blades, or an occasional ear of grain that the reapers may have left, or was overlooked by the gleaners. When this source of food is exhausted then the pasture is sought in other places. The wilderness of Judea which is located along the western side of the Jordan Valley is carpeted in the spring with a certain amount of grass and this turns into standing hay as the hot weather comes, and this becomes food for the sheep during part of the summer.12 Scripture often refers to shepherds looking for pasture for their flocks. "And they went to the entrance of Gedor, even unto the east side of the valley, to seek pasture for their flocks" (I Chronicles 4:39). The Psalmist thanks GOD for the pasturage which the LORD as Shepherd provides for His people: "So we thy people and sheep of thy pasture will give thee thanks for ever" (Psalm 79:13). In the late autumn or winter months, there are times when the shepherd can find no pasturage that is available for his flock, and then he must become responsible for feeding the animals himself. If the flock is small there may be times when it is stabled within the peasant house, and the family lives on a sort of mezzanine floor above it. At such seasons of the year the shepherd must provide the food. This is what Isaiah meant when he said: "He shall feed his flock like a shepherd" (Isaiah 40:11). In some sections of Syria, flocks are taken at this season to places in the mountain country, where the shepherd busies himself with the bushy trees, cutting down branches that have green leaves or tender twigs, that the sheep and goats can eat. Micah was probably speaking of this custom of providing food for the sheep, when he said: "Feed thy people with thy rod, the flock of thine heritage" (Micah 7:14). [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]

Secondly December 25th is not a birthday party. It's a feast day to celebrate the incarnation of the logos. I'm not sure that any denomination says that his birthday was in December. I'm very confident that the bible does not claim that this was his birthday. Please, do not bring your noise makers and cone hats, it's not a birthday party.

Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University has a nice question and answer here. It may even suggest a possible relationship to March 28th:

In fact, both Christmas and the Annunciation celebrate different aspects of the mystery of the Incarnation and do so with relatively little attention to biological or chronological precision.

The feast of Christmas originated in the city of Rome and was first celebrated about the year 330, some 15 years after the end of the persecutions, and, perhaps, in the recently completed basilica of St. Peter's.

The earliest traces of a feast of the Annunciation are found in Egypt in 624. The testimonies increase after that date in various areas of Christendom. From the beginning it was celebrated on March 25 due to the belief that the spring equinox was both the day of the creation and of the start of the new creation in Christ.

This date caused a difficulty for some Churches, such as the Spanish Mozarabic rite and the Ambrosian rite of Milan, due to their strict prohibition of all festivities during Lent. They thus opted for celebrating the Annunciation on Dec. 18, a practice that continues to this day.

  • I don't see why March 28 and not May 28 or April 1st. Your reference does not support your conclusion... – Sklivvz Dec 16 '13 at 20:31
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    The reference describes the reason why shepherds generally only watch over their flock in the late spring to summer. My point is that his birthday could be any date other than a day in the winter. The closer it is to winter, the less likely that it is his birthday. The fact is, nobody really knows when his birthday was as birthdays were not celebrated. If you look at the real history of the Christmas celebration, you'd find it peculiar that Christians would even want to associate his birthday on that day. – Some Freemason Dec 16 '13 at 21:20
  • It's a bit harsh on Christianity.SE when the top-voted answers for both your referenced question and a related question agree with your position. – Oddthinking Dec 17 '13 at 2:54
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    Your argument relies on the authority of Luke 2:8, which is a reference that may have religious authority, but not scientific credibility. How do you know that it isn't the case that Jesus was born on Dec 25th and Luke 2:8 is wrong? – Oddthinking Dec 17 '13 at 3:02
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    @SomeFreeMason: That "incarnation of the logos" claim needs a reference. I am not suggesting the bible is in error. I am suggesting it is an unsuitable reference for a definitive answer about fact on a Skeptics site. It is a perfect reference on Christianity.SE. – Oddthinking Dec 17 '13 at 3:40
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Is Jesus Christ's birthday March 28th?

Could Robert Price be correct about his date of Christ's actual birthday? Possibly, but probably not.

Most sources claim that the Catholic Church was the source of a December 25 birthday of Jesus Christ. But to be honest, they themselves are not even a 100% sure. In fact, December 25 was not even the first date suggested.

We apply the name of Christmas to the forty days which begin with the Nativity of our Lord, December 25, and end with the Purification of the Blessed Virgin, February 2. It is a period which forms a distinct portion of the Liturgical Year, as distinct, by its own special spirit, from every other, as are Advent, Lent, Easter, or Pentecost. One same Mystery is celebrated and kept in view during the whole forty days. Neither the Feasts of the Saints, which so abound during this Season; nor the time of Septuagesima, with its mournful Purple, which often begins before Christmastide is over, seem able to distract our Holy Mother the Church from the immense joy of which she received the good tidings from the Angels [St Luke ii 10] on that glorious Night for which the world had been longing four thousand years. The Faithful will remember that the Liturgy commemorates this long expectation by the four penitential weeks of Advent.

But it was not till the fourth century that the Churches of the East began to keep the Feast of our Saviour’s Birth in the month of December. Up to that period they had kept it at one time on the sixth of January, thus uniting it, under the generic term of Epiphany, with the Manifestation of our Saviour made to the Magi, and in them to the Gentiles; at another time, as Clement of Alexandria tells us, they kept it on the 25th of the month Pachon (May 15), or on the 25th of the month Pharmuth (April 20). St John Chrysostom, in the Homily we have just cited, which he gave in 386, tells us that the Roman custom of celebrating the Birth of our Saviour on December 25 had then only been observed ten years in the Church of Antioch. It is probable that this change had been introduced in obedience to the wishes of the Apostolic See, wishes which received additional weight by the edict of the Emperors Theodosius and Valentinian, which appeared towards the close of the fourth century, and decreed that the Nativity and Epiphany of our Lord should be made two distinct Festivals. The only Church that has maintained the custom of celebrating the two mysteries on January 6 is that of Armenia; owing, no doubt, to the circumstance of that country not being under the authority of the Emperors; as also because it was withdrawn at an early period from the influence of Rome by schism and heresy. - The History of Christmas (Dom Guéranger)

The Catholic Encyclopedia admits that Scriptures are of little help in this domain:

The gospels

Concerning the date of Christ's birth the Gospels give no help; upon their data contradictory arguments are based. The census would have been impossible in winter: a whole population could not then be put in motion. Again, in winter it must have been; then only field labour was suspended. But Rome was not thus considerate. Authorities moreover differ as to whether shepherds could or would keep flocks exposed during the nights of the rainy season. - Christmas (Catholic Encyclopedia)

The date of March 28 as the date of Christ's birth is at most possible, but doubtful. We need more historical evidence to make such a case credible.

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