Smoky Mountain Bible Institute
(Est. 2009) Lesson #77
Last month we covered the time between the testaments and while we touched on some things on the AD side of history let’s start this month with the birth of Christ. The exact date of Jesus birth is not known for a number of reasons so let’s address that question. When was Jesus born? Chapter 11 of Andrew Steinmann’s book “From Abraham to Paul” gives the question a very thorough treatment, what I will try to do here is give a summary overview of the many historical elements that affect how we understand the date of Jesus birth.
First the traditional view based on a biblical chronology has Jesus birth falling somewhere between 3 and 1 BC, while the modern consensus view dates the birth before 4 BC. The consensus view is primarily based on the estimate of Herod the Grate’s death in 4 BC. There are a number of dating contradictions and inconsistencies between ancient sources when trying to nail down a reliable chronology of Herod the Great. Without getting into any great detail I will give a summary of datable events in Herod’s reign based on Steinmann’s well-argued chronology.
Late 39 BC Herod is appointed King.
38 BC Herod begins his first full regnal year.
36 BC Herod conquers Jerusalem.
35 BC Herod begins his first full regnal year in Jerusalem.
31 BC The battle of Actium takes place on September the 2nd .
20 BC Caesar is in Syria and Herod begins work on the Temple.
Late 19 Early 18 BC Work on the Temple complete.
12 BC Work on the temple precincts completed.
11 or 10 BC work completed on Caesarea Sebaste also known as Caesarea Marittima.
5 BC Magi observe the star.
4 BC Pheroras murdered, Antipater deposed, Archelaus named Herod’s heir.
3 or 2 BC Tax Revolt of Judas.
Mid 3 BC John the Baptist is born.
Late 3 Early 2 BC Jesus Born.
40 to 50 days later Jesus family escapes to Egypt.
First quarter of 1 BC Herod dies.
Later in 1 BC Jesus family returns to Nazareth.
Because of the fragmented and conflicting nature of the ancient evidence associated with the life and times of Herod the Great. No chronology can assert with absolute certainty the accuracy of their time line. However, we can affirm the sound scholarship that lays behind such a chronology. We can also say the with all the evidence in consideration that Jesus was born Somewhere between 6 and 2 BC. In my mind it is quite amazing that we can have such a small window of time for an event two millennia in the past.
Next month we will examine the Chronology of the life of Christ