A FORMER Bible smuggler living in Wanborough says he’s plotted the day of Christ’s birth.

David Hamshire is the author of a newly-published book called When was Jesus Really Born?

Armed with faith, a Bible, Hebrew calendars and a talent for maths, he believes he has solved a mystery that has taxed religious scholars for centuries.

The devout Christian’s research led him to conclude that Christ was born on the Day of Atonement, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, which falls on a different day of the Western calendar from year to year.

Most people realise that the Western Christmas Day - December 25 - isn’t the true anniversary of Christ’s birth. Some believe it was laid over pre-Christian religions’ winter traditions.

“My understanding,” said David, “is that Christmas was not officially December 25 until three or four hundred years after He died.

“When you come to the shortest day you need to feel that things are getting better. Midwinter was a time of gloom, so we had this good news of the birth of the Saviour.”

David, 70, is married to Janet and the couple have two daughters and five grandchildren. A son died in infancy.

School was followed by the RAF, in which he served as a military aircraft technician until the age of 30, working on machines including Britannias and Hercules. A Lyneham posting led to him settling in the area.

David later worked as an engineer for Rank Xerox and as a financial consultant.

His unwavering Christian faith dates from childhood. “My brother, Ronald, when he was 15 and I was about nine or 10, contracted polio.

“He was very seriously ill and my parents were advised that he would not survive. When we came home one evening, as a result of having been given that news, my parents went round to our neighbours’ - I supposed because they were so depressed and had to share the news with somebody.”

The neighbours were Christians and they said they would pray for Ronald.

David added: “When my mother phoned the hospital the following morning they told her that not only was he alive but that he had made an excellent recovery during the night. He’s now 77 years old.

“We started going to our neighbours’ church...”

From 1983 to 1990 David worked for an organisation called Open Doors, which aids persecuted Christians worldwide.

His role included smuggling runs with other missionaries behind the Iron Curtain and to other oppressive countries, driving vehicles packed with hidden Bibles.

“I was discovered once, going through Czechoslovakia on the way to Poland. We were arrested and locked up for 24 hours under armed guard, isolated from one another. They eventually let us go.”

The issue of Christ’s birth date had niggled at David for some time before he began his calculations and search for evidence.

He and his wife had celebrated Christmas, albeit in a way that shunned commercialism in favour of prayer and reflection.

“You hear of people borrowing money to buy presents for their kids,” he said, “and there are more family break-ups at Christmas than at any other time of the year.”

David details his search for the true birth date in his book. For what amounts to a work of Biblical scholarship it makes for lively, closely-argued reading.

David credits prayer, careful reading of scripture and direct inspiration from God with setting him on the right track.

Factors he took into account include Christ’s age at His crucifixion, the length of His ministry as detailed in the Gospels and various differences between the Jewish Calendar and ours.

He was led inexorably to the Day of Atonement, which fell on September 14 last year and is on October 4 this year. David marked last year’s with a day of prayer and fasting, pronouncing the experience “fantastic”.

When was Jesus Really Born? is selling well. In a recent 48-hour period nearly 150 copies were ordered by people in seven countries. David has also won favourable reviews from laypeople and scholars alike.

The book can be ordered from Amazon, and further information about David and his work can be found at whenwasjesusborn.net.

David can be contacted on 01793 791140.