It might seem obvious that Jesus was born in the year 1 (of the Christian era, AD, Anno Domini). However, the Christian calendar was only developed around 500 years later, and it took another 500 years before it was generally accepted. As it happens, the Monk, Dionysius Exiguus, who developed the concept, was apparently off in his calculations by around 4 years, as to exactly when Jesus was born. That really was amazingly accurate, given the information which was then available to him! This results in the fact that Jesus was apparently born early in the year, in probably what we now call 4 BC, an odd statement!
The actual calendar that was used during Jesus' life was the Roman calendar. His family would have described His birth to have occurred in (probably) 750 AUC. THAT calendar system was based on the beginning of the Roman Empire, that is, 750 years later.
Historically, it is known that Herod the Great died in 4 BC, and the Gospels mention him as involved with Jesus' Birth, so Jesus was born prior to his death.
Luke gives the age of Jesus at His Baptism as "about thirty years" (Luke 3:23). This would put the time of the Baptism as being about 26 AD. Historical records show that Herod the Great had begun the reconstruction of the Temple in 20 BC, so the "forty and six years" mentioned by the Jews at the first Passover during Jesus' public Ministry (John2:13-22) also brings us to about 26 or 27 AD for that first Passover. This again suggests that Jesus was probably born around 4 BC.
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Also, astronomical conjunctions rarely result in the two objects appearing as close as people commonly seem to assume. Most Conjunctions occur when the planets are one or two arc-degrees apart in the sky (two to four times the apparent diameter of the Moon) so Conjunctions are NOT as spectacular as Christians seem to want to make them. Each planet is less than ONE arc-minute in apparent diameter, so this means there is a LOT of empty space between them in the sky! However, extremely close Conjunctions (from an astronomical perspective) do occasionally occur regarding the planets, and so very rarely two planets CAN pass within 1/4 arc-degree in the sky, which WOULD have been seen as a very rare and special event. However, even that would not be the event that Christians seem to believe happens, where one planet COVERS the other as in an Eclipse of the Sun by the Moon! The planets appear to us to be less than one arc-minute in diameter, so even if two of them passed within 1/4 arc-degree (15 arc-minutes), they would still have about a full diameter of the Moon between them, and there is still always a lot of space between the two images from our perspective.
A related fact is that IF the Magi had come from Baghdad, one of the largest cities to the East of Jerusalem, that would have been more than a 500 mile camel trip across inhospitable deserts. If they had come from Tehran, which is in about the same direction, that would have been around a thousand-mile camel trip. Camels are not particularly fast, especially when plodding across the deep sands of a hot desert, so the trip of the Magi certainly would have taken weeks or even months to accomplish. The planets appear to move in the sky and they never appear to stay near each other except for on a specific day. So there is a time consideration in trying to attribute the Star in the East to be a conjunction of planets. Astronomers know that Venus and Jupiter did have two fairly close conjunctions in the early months of 4 BC, so there is still a possibility for this explanation.
So much, that is generally accessible, has of late been written on this subject, and such accord exists on the general question, that only the briefest statement seems requisite in this place, the space at our command being necessarily reserved for subjects which have either not been treated of by previous writers, or in a manner or form that seemed to make a fresh investigation desirable.
At the outset it must be admitted, that absolute certainty is impossible as to the exact date of Christ's Nativity, the precise year even, and still more the month and the day. But in regard to the year, we possess such data as to invest it with such probability, as almost to amount to certainty.
1. The first and most certain date is that of the death of Herod the Great. Our Lord was born before the death of Herod, and, as we judge from the Gospel - history, very shortly before that event. Now the year of Herod's death has been ascertained with, we may say, absolute certainty, as shortly before the Passover of the year 750 A U C, which corresponds to about the 12th of April of the year 4 before Christ, according to our common reckoning. More particularly, shortly before the death of Herod there was a lunar eclipse (Jos. Ant. xvii. 6. 4), which, it is astronomically ascertained, occurred on the night from the 12th to the 13th of March of the year 4 before Christ. Thus the death of Herod must have taken place between the 12th of March and the 12th of April, or, say, about the end of March (comp. Ant. xvii. 8. 1).
Again, the Gospel - history necessitates an interval of, at the least, seven or eight weeks before that date for the birth of Christ (we have to insert the purification of the Virgin, at the earliest, six weeks after the Birth, The Visit of the Magi, and the murder of the children at Bethlehem, and, at any rate, some days more before the death of Herod). Thus the Birth of Christ could not have possibly occurred after the beginning of February 4 BC, and most likely several weeks earlier.
This brings us close to the ecclesiastical date, the 25th of December, in confirmation of which we refer to what has been stated in vol. i. p. 187, see especially note 3. At any rate, the often repeated, but very superficial objection, as to the impossibility of shepherds tending flocks in the open at that season, must now be dismissed as utterly untenable, not only for the reasons stated in vol. i. p. 187, but even for this, that if the question is to be decided on the ground of rain - fall, the probabilities are in favour of December as compared with February, later than which it is impossible to place the birth of Christ.
2. No certain inference can, of course, be drawn from the appearance of 'the star' that guided the Magi. That, and on what grounds, our investigations have pointed to a confirmation of the date of the Nativity, as given above, has been fully explained in vol. i. ch. vi... (see specially p. 213).
3. On the taxing of Quirinius, see vol. i. pp. 181, 182.
4. The next historical datum furnished by the Gospels is that of the beginning of John the Baptist's ministry, which, according to Luke, was in the fifteenth year of Tiberius, and when Jesus was 'about thirty years old' (Luke 3:23). The accord of this with our reckoning of the date of the Nativity has been shown in vol. i. p. 264.
5. A similar conclusion would be reached by following the somewhat vague and general indication furnished in John 2:20.
6. Lastly, we reach the same goal if we follow the historically somewhat uncertain guidance of the date of the Birth of the Baptist, as furnished in this notice (Luke 1:5) of his annunication to his father, that Zacharias officiated in the Temple as on of 'the course of Abia' (see here vol. i. p. 135). In Taan. 29a we have the notice, with which that of Josephus agrees (War vi. 4, 1, 5), that at the time of the destruction of the Temple 'the course of Jehoiarib,' which was the first of the priestly courses, was on duty.
That was on the 9 - 10 Ab of the year 823 A U C, or the 5th August of the year 70 of our era. If this calculation be correct (of which, however, we cannot feel quite sure), then counting 'the courses' of priests backwards, the course of Abia would, in the year 748 A U C (the year before the birth of Christ) have been on duty from the 2nd to the 9th of October. This also would place the birth of Christ in the end of December of the following year (749), taking the expression 'sixth month' in St. Luke 1:26, 36, in the sense of the running month (from the 5th to the 6th month, comp. Luke 1:24). But we repeat that absolute reliance cannot be placed on such calculations, at least sofar as regards month and day. (Comp. here generally Wieseler, Synopse, and his Beitrage.)
The birth of our Lord took place at the time and place predicted by the prophets (Gen. 49:10; Isa. 7:14; Jer. 31:15; Micah 5:2; Hag. 2: 6-9; Dan. 9:24, 25). Joseph and Mary were providentially led to go up to Bethlehem at this period, and there Christ was born (Matt. 2:1, 6; Luke 2:1, 7). The exact year or month or day of his birth cannot, however, now be exactly ascertained. We know, however, that it took place in the "fulness of the time" (Gal. 4:4), i.e., at the fittest time in the world's history. Chronologists are now generally agreed that the year 4 before the Christian era was the year of Christ's nativity, and consequently that he was about four years old in the year 1 A.D.
(Easton Illustrated Dictionary)
The first table below gives the Julian calendar dates and Greenwich times of the astronomical vernal equinox for the years 25 BCE to 38 CE inclusive. (Israel Local Time is two hours later than Greenwich Mean Time). The second table gives, for these years, the Julian calendar dates and Greenwich times of the astronomical Full Moons which occurred on or after the date of the equinox, and the dates and times of the astronomical New Moons on or preceding, and after, the date of the equinox. The days of the week are given for the equinoxes and the Full Moons, from which the days of the week may readily be found for the New Moons.
The times given in the tables are accurate to within two or three hours for 25 to 5 BCE, and one or two hours for 4 BCE to 38 CE.
|Calendar Date||Time||Day of Week||Calendar Date||Time||Day of Week|
|25||22||8 p.m.||Saturday||7||23||8 a.m.||Wednesday|
|24||23||2 a.m.||Monday||8||22||2 p.m.||Thursday|
|23||23||8 a.m.||Tuesday||9||22||8 p.m.||Friday|
|22||23||1 p.m.||Wednesday||10||23||1 a.m.||Sunday|
|21||22||7 p.m.||Thursday||11||23||7 a.m.||Monday|
|20||23||1 a.m.||Saturday||12||22||1 p.m.||Tuesday|
|19||23||7 a.m.||Sunday||13||22||7 p.m.||Wednesday|
|18||23||1 p.m.||Monday||14||23||1 a.m.||Friday|
|17||22||6 p.m.||Tuesday||15||23||7 a.m.||Saturday|
|15||23||6 a.m.||Friday||17||22||6 p.m.||Monday|
|13||22||6 p.m.||Sunday||19||23||6 a.m.||Thursday|
|11||23||5 a.m.||Wednesday||21||22||6 p.m.||Saturday|
|10||23||11 a.m.||Thursday||22||22||11 p.m.||Sunday|
|9||22||5 p.m.||Friday||23||23||5 a.m.||Tuesday|
|8||22||11 p.m.||Saturday||24||22||11 a.m.||Wednesday|
|7||23||5 a.m.||Monday||25||22||5 p.m.||Thursday|
|6||23||10 a.m.||Tuesday||26||22||10 p.m.||Friday|
|5||22||4 p.m.||Wednesday||27||23||4 a.m.||Sunday|
|4||22||10 p.m.||Thursday||28||22||10 a.m.||Monday|
|3||23||4 a.m.||Saturday||29||22||4 p.m.||Tuesday|
|2||23||10 a.m.||Sunday||30||22||10 p.m.||Wednesday|
|1 BCE||22||3 p.m.||Monday||31||23||3 a.m.||Friday|
|1 CE||22||9 p.m.||Tuesday||33||22||3 p.m.||Sunday|
|2||23||3 a.m.||Thursday||34||22||9 p.m.||Monday|
|3||23||9 a.m.||Friday||35||23||3 a.m.||Wednesday|
|4||22||3 p m.||Saturday||36||22||9 a.m.||Thursday|
|5||22||8 p.m.||Sunday||37||22||2 p.m.||Friday|
|6||23||2 a.m.||Tuesday||38||22||8 p.m.||Saturday|
* Midnight at the beginning of March 23.
|FULL MOON||NEW MOON|
|On or next after date of equinox||On or preceding|
date of equinox
|Julian Calendar||Greenwich||Julian Cal.||Greenwich||Julian Cal.||Greenwich|
|25 BCE||April 3||4 a.m.||Thu.||March 19||Noon||April 18||4 a.m.|
|24||March 23||9 p.m.||Mon.||March 8||2 p.m.||April 7||5 a.m.|
|23||April 11||9 p.m.||Sun.||Feb. 25||8 p.m.||March 27||9 a.m.|
|22||April 1||6 a.m.||Fri.||March 16||7 p.m.||April 15||6 a.m.|
|21||April 19||1 a.m.||Thu.||March 5||11 a.m.||April 3||7 p.m.|
|20||April 8||3 a.m.||Mon.||Feb. 23||4 a.m.||March 24||1 p.m.|
|19||March 28||5 a.m.||Fri.||March 14||4 a.m.||April 12||1 p.m.|
|18||April 16||0*||Thu.||March 3||Noon||April 2||2 a.m.|
|17||April 4||Noon||Mon.||March 21||8 a.m.||April 19||9 p.m.|
|16||March 25||4 a.m.||Sat.||March 10||8 a.m.||April 9||0*|
|15||April 13||5 a.m.||Fri.||Feb. 27||10 a.m.||March 29||1 a.m.|
|14||April 2||7 p.m.||Tue.||March 18||6 a.m.||April 16||7 p.m.|
|13||April 20||5 p.m.||Mon.||March 6||6 p.m.||April 5||4 a.m.|
|12||April 9||9 p.m.||Fri.||Feb. 24||11 a.m.||March 25||7 p.m.|
|11||March 29||10 p.m.||Tue.||March 15||Noon||April 13||8 p.m.|
|10||April 17||4 p.m.||Mon.||March 5||2 a.m.||April 3||Noon|
|9||April 5||10 p.m.||Fri.||March 22||11 p.m.||April 21||11 a.m.|
|8||March 26||11 a.m.||Wed.||March 12||3 a.m.||April 10||6 p.m.|
|7||April 14||Noon||Tue.||March 1||3 a.m.||March 30||7 p.m.|
|6||April 4||5 a.m.||Sun.||March 19||9 p.m.||April 18||Noon|
|5||March 23||6 p.m.||Thu.||March 8||5 a.m.||April 6||5 p.m.|
|4||April 11||3 p.m.||Wed.||Feb. 25||6 p.m.||March 27||4 a.m.|
|3||March 31||6 p.m.||Sun.||March 16||7 p.m.||April 15||4 a.m.|
|2||April 19||10 a.m.||Sat.||March 6||Noon||April 4||9 p.m.|
|1 BCE||April 7||Noon||Wed.||Feb. 24||0*||March 24||Noon|
|1 CE||March 27||9 p.m.||Sun.||March 13||8 p.m.||April 12||9 a.m.|
|2||April 15||7 p.m.||Sat.||March 2||10 p.m.||April 1||2 p.m.|
|3||April 5||Noon||Thu.||March 21||3 p.m.||April 20||7 a.m.|
|4||March 25||5 a.m.||Tue.||March 9||6 p.m.||April 8||9 a.m.|
|5||April 13||3 a.m.||Mon.||Feb. 27||3 a.m.||March 28||2 p.m.|
|6||April 2||11 a.m.||Fri.||March 18||3 a.m.||April 16||Noon|
|7||April 21||5 a.m.||Thu. (1)||March 7||8 p.m.||April 6||4 a.m.|
|8||April 9||6 a.m.||Mon.||Feb. 25||Noon||March 25||9 p.m.|
|9||March 29||9 a.m.||Fri.||March 15||10 a.m.||April 13||9 p.m.|
|10||April 17||6 a.m.||Thu.||March 4||4 p.m.||April 3||6 a.m.|
|11||April 6||7 p.m.||Mon.||March 23||10 a.m.||April 22||1 a.m.|
|12||March 26||Noon||Sat.||March 11||11 a.m.||April 10||3 a.m.|
|13||April 14||Noon||Fri.||Feb. 28||3 p.m.||March 30||5 a.m.|
|14||April 4||2 a.m.||Wed.||March 19||Noon||April 18||0*|
|15||March 24||7 a.m.||Sun.||March 9||2 a.m.||April 7||11 a.m.|
|16||April 11||0*||Sat.||Feb. 26||8 p.m.||March 27||4 a.m.|
|17||March 31||1 a.m.||Wed.||March 16||8 p.m.||April 15||4 a.m.|
|18||April 18||7 p.m.||Mon.||March 6||7 a.m.||April 4||7 p.m.|
|19||April 8||4 a.m.||Sat.||Feb. 23||Noon||March 25||3 a.m.|
|20||March 27||7 p.m.||Wed.||March 13||5 a.m.||April 11||9 p.m.|
|21||April 15||8 p.m.||Tue.||March 2||6 a.m.||March 31||10 p.m.|
|22||April 5||Noon||Sun.||March 21||1 a.m.||April 19||3 p.m.|
|23||March 25||11 p.m.||Thu.||March 10||11 a.m.||April 8||10 p.m.|
|24||April 12||6 p.m.||Wed.||Feb. 28||2 a.m.||March 28||11 a.m.|
|25||April 1||7 p.m.||Sun.||March 18||4 a.m.||April 16||Noon|
|26||April 20||Noon||Sat. (2)||March 7||7 p.m.||April 6||5 a.m.|
|27||April 9||4 p.m.||Wed.||Feb. 25||4 a.m.||March 26||5 p.m.|
|28||March 29||3 a.m.||Mon.||March 15||0*||April 13||2 p.m.|
|29||April 17||3 a.m.||Sun.||March 4||0*||April 2||5 p.m.|
|30||April 6||8 p.m.||Thu.||March 22||6 p.m.||April 21||9 a.m.|
|31||March 27||11 a.m.||Tue.||March 11||11 p.m.||April 10||Noon|
|32||April 14||9 a.m.||Mon.||Feb. 29||10 a.m.||March 29||8 p.m.|
|33||April 3||3 p.m.||Fri.||March 19||10 a.m.||April 17||7 p.m.|
|34||March 23||3 p.m.||Tue.||March 9||4 a.m.||April 7||Noon|
|35||April 11||8 a.m.||Mon.||Feb. 26||6 p.m.||March 28||4 a.m.|
|36||March 30||2 p.m.||Fri.||March 16||3 p.m.||April 15||3 a.m.|
|37||April 18||Noon||Thu.||March 5||7 p.m.||April 4||10 a.m.|
|38 CE||April 8||3 a.m.||Tue.||Feb. 22||7 p.m.||March 24||Noon|
(1) Preceding Full Moon, March 22, 1 p.m.
(2) Preceding Full Moon, March 21, 9 p.m.
* Midnight at the beginning of the given date.
Celebrated December 25
by Fr George Poulos
The birth of Jesus Christ of Nazareth has split history in two so that each calendar is reckoned before or after His birth. The year in which He was born marks the period known as Anno Domini, and the years before that as BC. ('Before Christ').
Our Lord's Nativity is observed on December 25. The early church fathers made the birthdate of our Lord deliberately to coincide with and offset the pagan celebration of Saturnalia, that festive pagan day of celebration in which the sun crossed the imaginary line drawn on the later-day maps as the equator.
To the pagans it signified a rebirth of the sun, now returning to the north to assert its full power and bring on the spring season; but to the Christians it marked the birthday celebration of Jesus Christ, the Son of God who had created not only the sun, but all the other stars and planets of the universe.
Jesus Christ who on more than one occasion said simply, "Follow me", leaving no chart but that which lies in the true Christian heart and which requires no formula beyond that which we call "love".
The Old Testament abounds in testimony of the coming Messiah, long anticipated by the prophets, who were aware that the original sin of man who was stained by evil in the Garden of Eden could only be cleansed by the blood of a Messiah sent by God. The theological recognition of god as representing universal love also recognised that God chose to share love with man, and for that purpose was man and woman created.
A second premise is that man has it within his grasp to find happiness; and a third, that in doing so he glorifies God in whose image he was created. That placed man in harmony with God and nature; but this harmony was shattered by Adam and Eve who, in the disobedience of God in paradise, lost their membership in the alliance and were at the mercy of nature, as well as the mercy of God.
Man had fallen from grace and had no mastery over nature; but God, in his infinite mercy, was not about to obliterate that which was cast in His own image. Therefore, He saw to it that with the ascendancy of a sun in winter He gave to the world His only begotten Son.
The Christian soul has been spared because on December 25 the Saviour was born, and God so loved the world He had created that He sacrificed his Son thirty-three short years later for the redemption of all mankind. The star that shone over Bethlehem on the eve of the Saviour's birth to light the way for the Wise Men of the East still shines as an eternal beacon in the hearts of all those who have Jesus Christ in their hearts.
Dismissal Hymn (Fourth
Your Nativity, O Christ our God, has shone to the world the Light of wisdom! For by it, those who worshipped the stars, were taught by a Star to adore You, the Sun of Righteousness, and to know You, the Orient from on High. O Lord, glory to You!
Kontakion (Third Tone)
Today the Virgin gives birth to the Transcendent One, and the earth offers a cave to the Unapproachable One! Angels with shepherds glorify Him! The wise men journey with a star! Since for our sake the Eternal God was born as a Little Child!
Chronology of Jesus' Life (Catholic Article)
Early Documents Regarding the History of Jesus' Life
Miracles Performed by Jesus
OT Prophecies Fulfilled by Jesus
Sequence of all important in Christianity
Date of Birth of Jesus, by several Analytical Methods
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