A few have tried dating Jesus’ birth from Zechariah’s conversation with Gabriel. But even if we could be certain precisely which weeks the family of Abijah was able to draw lots for temple service, in any particular year, we can only use this data as a starting point for projecting a range of possible dates for Christ’s birth. Yes, Mary’s pregnancy can be dated from Elizabeth’s, but Elizabeth did not necessarily conceive the moment her husband got home.
We do not know how long it took Zechariah to get his wife pregnant and we should not assume God wanted it done with efficiency. Even if the old man came home with renewed faith and immediately began trying to conceive, Elizabeth had probably never so much as menstruated, let alone timed her own ovulation. None of this was bound to be purely mechanical. The major challenges involved were biological, emotional and spiritual. Blood, sweat and tears were all due to come, and that would take time – weeks, perhaps months. And after all, isn’t that how God usually works?
Therefore, the date of Zechariah’s service – even if we could know it with certainty – would still only tell us when Gabriel told him to go home and make his wife pregnant. It would not tell us how quickly John was conceived. What, then, can we say?
To be continued…