The "American Wisdom Series"

Pamphlet #1010
Course of Abia
Conception of John the Baptist

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.

This verse holds the major key to determining the birth date of Jesus Christ. Do you know what it is? There is something of great importance in this verse and that is that Zacharias was a priest, a Levitical Priest, and he was performing the priestly duties assigned to the "Course of Abia". It is this course of Abia that will give us the key to the date of the conception and hence the birth of Jesus.

There is a reason we are given this information, and I want to add that it HAS BEEN HERE ALL ALONG, every Christmas season, year after year, right here in Luke 1:5. And who has questioned it and learned what it is? (Having said that, we are going to hold off studying about the significance of the "course of Abia" until we get to the 23rd verse.)

Luke 1:8 And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest's office before God in the order of his course,

The order of his course is Abia (I Chron. 24:10), and here is what his duties were:

[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.

So Zacharias is faithfully executing the priest's duties of the course of Abia. This is important to show the accuracy of the events that occur.

[10] And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense. [11] And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. [12] And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. [13] 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 1:23 And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house.

Now, this is extremely important. When were the days of Zacharias' ministration accomplished, i.e. over with? This is referring to that "course of Abia" in verse 5. You will find listed in I Chron. 24 that there were 24 priestly courses of ministration of which the course of Abia is the 8th. (8 in Biblical numerics means "new beginnings".) These courses were changed every week, beginning each with a Sabbath, and performed twice each year and all together at the three great feasts. They commenced on the 22nd day of Tisri (our September). Note: All of these dates are documented for you in appendix 179 of the Companion Bible.

So the dates for the two yearly ministrations of Abijah would be:
1st ministration: From 12-18 Chisleu which is our December 6-12.
2nd ministration: From 12-18 Sivan which is our June 13-19.

Now, we just read in verse 23 that Zacharias departed for home after his ministration had been accomplished, i.e. completed. His course of Abijah would have ended at sunset on Friday (they all ended on a Friday) June 19th. However, it was now a Sabbath day (Sivan 19) and so he would not have been able to travel, so he couldn't leave Jerusalem until Sunday, the 20th. So Zacharias, the aged man, left for his home which was in "the hill country" (see verse 39). It would have taken him a few days to get home, as the next verse shows.

[24] And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying,

"After those days", which would have been on June 23-24, Elizabeth conceived, and went into seclusion for 5 months.

[25] Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.

It was a reproach not to be able to bear a child. (Gen. 30:23)

Conception of Jesus

Luke 1:26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,

It is now December 24th - 25th, sixth months after the conception of John the Baptist. It is now the 1st of Tebeth, our 25th of December, and the angel Gabriel is dutifully, and I'm sure very delightedly, carrying out his directive from the Father to bring the good news to the Virgin Mary, who was chosen before the foundation of this earth age, that she would be the vessel, the mother, who would be blessed among women to bring forth the Perfect Child, the Son of God.

Luke 1:26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,

Just in case we miss the "fact" that this is six months from the conception of John the Baptist, which we documented was June 23-24, Gabriel will declare it AGAIN in verse 36. Sometimes we have to be told more than once before we "pick up" on that which we are supposed to know, and besides, repeating a fact gives emphasis to its importance. Also, remember that although today our calendar date changes at 12:00 midnight, back then the days were reckoned from sunset to sunset, so that when you see June 23-24 it is the same day from June 23rd sunset to June 24th sunset. The same applies to Dec. 24-25.

[27] To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. [28] And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. [29] And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. [30] And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. [31] And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. [32] He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: Luke 1:33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. [34] Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? [35] 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. [37] For with God nothing shall be impossible.

Amazing, isn't it? Here we have two seemingly impossible conceptions, one by a woman too old to bear children, and one by a woman perhaps too young, but nevertheless a virgin, one without a man.

And so it would come to pass that John, who would be called "the Baptist", would be born in the spring and Yashua, the Savior of the World, Emmanuel, the Messiah, the Anointed One, would be born that fall, six months later, on the 1st Day of the Feast of Tabernacles, the 29th of September.

And that is how and when the Miracle of the Begettal and the Birth of our Lord, the beginning of God Tabernacling with men, happened. Yes, "it happened on this wise". What then? Should we as Christians celebrate Christmas? If you do some research into the early apostolic church era, you will find this celebration was what September the 29th was all about.
BUT the "mystery of iniquity" which was "already working" even at the time of the apostle Paul (2 Thes. 2:7) quickly obscured and enshrouded this day and also the great day of the Lord's begetting on 1st Tebeth, December 25th.

There are a lot of people who know that there are valid arguments and reasons why Christ could not have been born in late December. We're not going to go into detail concerning them, but they are numerous and include the fact that the shepherds would not have been "abiding" in the open fields in late December, not just because of the weather, but because there wouldn't have been any pasturage for the sheep anyway.

And then there's the Roman authorities who wouldn't, and didn't, impose census taking and taxation at the most inclement and inconvenient season of the year, etc.

You can also discover beyond doubt that December the 25th was a pagan festival long before the time of the our Lord. It is often said, however, that "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing", and it certainly can be. Many sincere, albeit ill-informed Christians have allowed this discovery to rob them and their children of some of our rich Christian heritage. Don't let it happen to you!

Let's recap the dates we have learned.

The conception of John................... 23rd Sivan  = June 23-24
The birth of John................................ 7th Nisan = March 28-29

The Miraculous Begetting of Jesus.... 1st Tebeth  = December 25th
The Nativity..................................... 15th Tisri    = September 29th

And so it would come to pass that John, who would be called "the Baptist", would be born in the spring and Yashua, the Savior of the World, Emmanuel, the Messiah, the Anointed One, would be born that fall, six months later, on the 1st Day of the Feast of Tabernacles, the 29th of September.

Editors Note: Although we see nothing wrong with celebrating the birth of Christ on December 25, wouldn't it also be good to acknowledge September 29th each year in some way? Maybe private noncommercial family celebrations. How about it! No one in attendance but your family and the Lord.

To study the Bible is the noblest of all pursuits; to understand it, the highest of all goals.
We pray that with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, you accomplish both.

The "American Wisdom Series"


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