Calculating December 25 as the Birth of Jesus in Hippolytus’ Canon and Chronicon

In: Vigiliae Christianae
Thomas C. Schmidt Yale, Religious studies New Haven, ct 06511 USA

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This article argues that around 235 ce Hippolytus of Rome placed the birth of Jesus on December 25. While this has been theorized in the past, this article brings forward hitherto unheralded evidence about Jesus’ birth from Hippolytus’ Canon and his Chronicon. First, the Canon marks the Passover as the γένεσις of Jesus, a word which scholars have previously thought refers to birth. This article however uses evidence from an extensive word study to show that the term most likely refers to conception, which would then place the birth of Jesus sometime in late fall or early winter. Secondly, the article shows that in his Chronicon Hippolytus placed Jesus’ birth exactly nine months after the anniversary of the world’s creation. Calculations in his Chronicon and Canon indicate that Hippolytus thought the world was created on March 25, meaning that he likely believed that Jesus was born on December 25.

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