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Discussions and questions pertaining to Christmas: when and where was Jesus born? The Shepherds, the Wise men, the descent into Egypt, the star, the manger, and the Virgin Birth. Let's talk.

What year was Jesus born?

Postby Hender Williamshot » Sun Aug 26, 2018 3:29 pm

How old would Jesus have been when Herod the Great died in 4 BC?
Hender Williamshot

Re: What year was Jesus born?

Postby jimwalton » Sun Sep 16, 2018 6:56 pm

Most scholars have arrived at a date of about 6 BC, give or take. It's impossible to pinpoint without a standardized calendar and with some fluid historical markers recorded for us. It could have been anywhere from 5-7 BC (though some scholars put it more like 2-4, or even at "1"—with those scholars I disagree). (The creators of the Julian calendar, that we use, and base our AD and BC on, were wrong in their calculations.) Some feel Jesus was born in the spring, while others put it in the fall. The shepherds were out in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night, and that is most likely a spring or fall scenario in Bethlehem.

According to Josephus (Antiquities 17.6.4), Herod the Great, who tried to kill the baby Jesus by sending soldiers to Bethlehem to slaughter all the babies, died in 4 BC (according to our current knowledge, and is most likely accurate), so Jesus was born before that, and was probably younger than 2 at the time.

Josephus mentions a lunar eclipse in Judea shortly before Herod died. There was one on March 13, 4 BC, and then two in 1 BC. Since Josephus is considered by many detractors to be unreliable, especially in any information to do with Jesus, we have to wonder about his information here also. Though it is obvious that most scholars take Herod's date of death to be in 4 BC, and so we go with that until more information surfaces. Herod's death in 1 BC cannot be reconciled with other historical facts, whereas 4 BC fits better.

This date also ties in with what we know of Roman censuses. We have hard data about the one in AD 6 and another in AD 20, and there is reason to believe they happened every 14 years, which would put a previous one at 8 BC in the time of Augustus. If it were delayed a couple of years in Palestine by Herod the Great for multiple reasons, the date of Jesus's birth would be about 6 BC, which agree with the other known data.

It seems that a birthdate for Jesus in spring or fall of around 6 BC makes the most sense. That would make Jesus around 2 years old, give or take, when Herod died.

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