Thoughts Story 1
It is not possible for me to sort through all the contradictory theories that would date the birth of Jesus, and come to a firm conclusion. There is NO uncontested moment in history to anchor the birth of Jesus. Therefore, I will follow the general intent of the gospels and follow what I consider the most likely course.
I cannot begin to describe the complexities of the various calendars. The three calendars concerned are the Hebrew, Roman (Julian), and Modern (Gregorian). Each uses a solar year, but the Hebrew calendar uses the lunar month of 29-30 days (which leaves left over days) and results in 13 months in some years. Yet, in general, the month of the Hebrew calendar falls in the middle of the months of the Julian and Gregorian calendars.
The Gospels state:
- Zecharias was in the temple for the announcement
- John was conceived.
- Six months later Jesus was conceived.
- Three months later John was born.
- Six months later Jesus was born.
- The Magi visited Herod.
- Joseph and Mary fled.
- Herod killed the innocents.
- Herod the Great died.
According to Luke, Herod the Great was alive when Jesus was born. So I begin with the question, “When did Herod begin his reign?” and “When did Herod die”?
The Roman Senate made Herod the Great “King of Judea” in 39 BC. Josephus states that Herod captured Jerusalem and began to reign in 37 B.C., and lived for 34 years thereafter, implying his death was in 4/3 B.C. Other evidence, from both Josephus and coins, indicates that his successors began to reign in 4/3 B.C.
Josephus further states that Herod the Great died between a lunar eclipse and the festival of Passover. A lunar eclipse always happens at a full moon, which is always on the 14th day of a Jewish month. Only the eclipse occurring on March 13, 4 BC could have taken place in the month of Adar. Passover would have taken place on April 10/11, 4 BC.
Passover is in the spring (March/April).
IF: Herod died before the Passover of April 10/11 of 4 BC, following the March 13 eclipse
- Herod would slaughter the innocents in May of 5 BC when Jesus was 2 months old,
- The Magi would have visited in May of 5 BC,
- Jesus would have been born in March of 5 BC,
- John would have been born in October of 6 BC,
- Jesus would have been conceived in June of 6 BC,
- John would have been conceived in January of 6 BC,
- Zecharias would have been fulfilling his duties in the temple in December of 7 BC.
Josephus, The Antiquities of the Jews 17.6.4.
“But Herod deprived this Matthias of the high priesthood, and burnt the other Matthias, who had raised the sedition, with his companions, alive. And that very night there was an eclipse of the moon.”.
Josephus, The Antiquities of the Jews 17.8.1.
“When he [Herod] had done those things, he died, the fifth day after he had caused Antipater to be slain; having reigned, since he had procured Antigonus to be slain, thirty-four years; but since he had been declared king by the Romans, thirty-seven”.
Josephus, The Antiquities of the Jews 17.9.3.
“Now, upon the approach of that feast of unleavened bread which the law of their fathers had appointed for the Jews at this time, which feast is called the Passover”.
The temple service began on the first Sabbath of Nisan. There were 24 divisions of priests. All priests would be required to serve for Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles as well as their two appointed times. The division of Abijah, of which Zecharias was a member, would be expected to serve in June and December.
If Zecharias were chosen by lot to serve in June of 7 BC, then he would serve his week then Elizabeth would conceive near the end of June. If Zecharias were chosen by lot to serve in December of 7 BC, then John would be conceived in late December or early January of 6 BC.
As there is no evidence one way or the other, I feel that the latter is the more likely because Jesus was born in the spring and only if John were conceived in December/January could that happen.
To summarize: Zecharias served in December of 7 BC and Elizabeth conceived in January of 6 BC. Jesus was conceived in June/July of 6 BC. John would have been born in October of 6 BC. Jesus would have been born in March of 5 BC. Then the Magi would have visited in May and Herod would have slaughtered the innocents in Bethlehem. Herod would then be dead before the Passover of April 10, 4 BC.