Frequently Asked Questions About Christianity, Answered Honestly!
Can We know What Year Jesus Christ was Born?
-by Tony Warren
In what year was Christ born? Well, that depends on what calendar you use. Our calendar of world history is actually based upon time periods before and after Christ because He is a dividing point in world history. Thus to a large degree world history is actually dated in terms of B.C., which stands for "Before Christ," and A.D., which stands for "Anno Domini." This is a Latin term meaning "the year of our Lord."
So in theory the years of the age before Christ was born would be B.C., and A.D. would be the years after He was born. Thus as I write this article we would be living 1998 years “in the year of our Lord.” Actually, it was a 6th-century monk born in Scythia Minor named Dionysius Exiguus (Latin for Dionysius the Humble) who introduced the A.D. system. This took place when the Roman Empire became Christianized (generally) in 525 A.D. From a Christian perspective, viewing the New Testament age of history as “the year of our Lord” is both Biblically and historically appropriate, because since Christ we have been living in the period of His millennial reign and expansion of His Kingdom. It is especially appropriate as the end of this age draws near.
However, Dionysius Exiguus erred in calculating the exact birth year of the Christ, which has caused many who came later to speculate wildly about the actual time of Christ's birth. Some say 20 B.C. but most place it somewhere between 8 and 2 B.C. To place it in 1 B.C. as Dionysius did, was clearly an error. In addition to this, the year 0 was not counted, and the time between the Gregorian and Julian calenders were not harmonized. But rather than bore you with a lot of redundant math and extraneous calculations, since this is a brief F.A.Q. overview and not an all encompassing and Exhaustive study, we will endeavor simply to illustrate succintly, and mostly from the Biblical record, that the birth date of Christ is probably 7 B.C.
- "Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:
- That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;
- And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
What year was Jesus born? The Christian world generally celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ on the 25th of December, but it is highly unlikely that this is the actual date of His birth. I do not see where God has provided enough information in scripture where we could say with absolute certainty the specific day of Christ's birth. Nevertheless, if we would work it out from the 24 Priestly "courses" in the biblical record, I believe we can justly conclude that Jesus was born in the fall of the year, sometime between September and October of 7 B.C.
In truth, the actual day is insignificant with regards to any Christian celebration of His birth because we are not commanded to do so, nor are we commanded against observing such a day. Those of us who do, choose to do this as a special remembrance of His birth as the greatest gift bestowed upon man. While we should celebrate his birth on every day of the year, there is no prohibition of also choosing to set aside a special day of observance and celebration.
This brings us to the question, when was Jesus born and can we know the actual year of the Lord's birth? From my studies I conclude that we can know with relative (yet not absolute) certainty from the evidence in scripture, and make a very strong Biblical case that Christ was born in 7 B.C. The circumstantial evidence in the scriptures also points to that year, and while not authoritative, the secular information also agrees favorably. When we examine the Scriptural record, there are some things that we can know with certainty. For one thing, the birth of Christ took place after Joseph and Mary went into nazareth of Judaea for a required census.
We know when the census was and that year is consistent with Scripture illustrating that christ was born in the year 7 B.C., immediately after this Augustus' census. For another thing, the time immediately after Christ's birth coincides exactly with the time that we know Herod ruled.
- "And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.
- (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
- And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
- And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
- To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
What year was Christ born is a question that is somewhat complicated by a lack of records. Again, we know from history that there was an appearance of a very bright triple conjunction of the star Jupiter and Saturn in the sign of Pisces (land in the west) eastward in May until December of the year 7 B.C., which would have most certainly been a sign to the magi and coincides perfectly with the September / October date of birth. Moreover Matthew 2:1 tells us that the birth of Jesus Christ was at the time when king Herod the Great ruled, which we can also date. As per the Biblical record, the king would have been troubled because the prophesy was of a king coming to rule Israel, which he had to view as a danger to his seat on the throne and would have been problematic for him. This prompted him to call the Magi before him.
- "Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
- Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
- When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
- And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.
- And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet,"
Secretly, the King didn't want to worship the Christ, he wanted to find out if this was true so that he could kill the child (Matthew 2:13) because He had heard He would become a King. He told the wise men to bring back word of the child's birth, but the wise men had been warned by God (Matthew 2:12) and never returned to Herod to report on the Child King.
- "Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.
- And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also."
So we know that from the time of His birth when the wise men came and presented Him gifts, Joseph, Mary and Christ departed into the land of Egypt and remained there until after the king had died--which is a date that we also know.
- "And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.
- And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.
- When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt:"
Note carefully from the infallible Biblical record that two years had passed since King Herod had inquired of the wise men, and it was only "then" that he proceeded to kill the children of Bethlehem in an attempt to destroy Christ. That tells us three things. King Herod was still ruling two years after Christ was born and had been taken into Egypt, that he committed this terrible crime against the children of Bethlehem two years after that inquiry of the Magi, and that considerable time elapsed between Jesus' birth and King Herod's death. Reliable secular records states that king Herod died 37 years from the time the Romans declared him King, and 34 years from the time that he actually became King. That places his death at 4 B.C. Therefore, if the Biblical record is correct (and as Bible Believing Christians we know it is), then Jesus had to have been born long before 4 B.C. Thus, considering that the Bible tells us that two years passed after King Herod had enquired of the wise men, and before he had the children of Bethlehem killed, we can add at least two years to the date Herod died in 4 B.C., which makes it absolutely clear Jesus must have been born at least sometime around or before 6 B.C., as 4 plus 2 equals 6.
- "And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.
- then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men.
- Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying,
- In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not."
What year was Jesus born? This passage tells us that when Herod the great died in 4 B.C. His son Herod Archelaus came to rule and Joseph feared taking Jesus with him into Judaea because of that, but God comforted him. We also see in Luke that Joseph left Christ in Galilee every year at the time of his Passover Sojourn until Christ was 12 years old. Archelaus left Judaea in the middle of 6 A.D., and Joseph took Jesus to His first Passover in March, 7 A.D. when He would have been 12.
- "But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt,
- Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child's life.
- And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel.
- But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee:
- And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene."
"And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.
Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover.
And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast."
Matthew 2:22 explains Luke 2:41-42, and also places Luke 2:41-51 in the year 7 A.D. This puts the birth of Christ less than 12 months prior to March of 6 B.C. which means that Christ could have been born as early as April or May of 7 B.C. By knowing that Jesus was 12 years old at this time gives us the year 6 A.D. (7 B.C. plus 6 A.D., minus 1 because there is no year zero) when He went to Jerusalem with His Parents. At any rate, from Herod's death in 4 B.C. to "at least" 2 years before when Christ was born places His birth a minimum of 6 B.C. which effectively rules out all dates before that. Scripture is clear they they did not leave Egypt until after Herod's death (Matthew 2:19-20). Considering that it is highly unlikely Herod died as soon as he made the proclamation to kill all the Children of Bethlehem and when Jesus went into Egypt (we can reasonably assume some time passed after he made his death edict, before he himself died), the likely date of Christ's birth would both biblically and logically be assumed as sometime in 7 B.C.
There is other Biblical data that also points to the year 7 B.C. as the likely year of Christ's birth. Not the least of which is that 7 B.C. was a Jubilee [yowbel] year, which commemorates the year of liberty by the blowing of the Ram's horn. We know that God uses Holy days as "types" which point to the reality, and so it would certainly be in line with prophetic scripture that God would bring such a momentous occasion as Christ's Birth to fulfillment, by denoting it in such a Holy Year as the Jubilee. The Year of Liberty personifies Christ, as He was born to proclaim liberty.
The Jubilee was the fiftieth year after seven sevens (or weeks of years) when the land was to experience a Sabbath of rest. What better year for our Lord (our Sabbath of rest) to come than in the Jubilee year. It is in Him that our work would cease.
The Holy days and the designated years instituted by God always point to something. And the jubilee year points to Christ as our Sabbath of Rest. it is the day of our Lord wherein we are born into Christian liberty and cease from our works. It is in Him that God's people can truly find rest. Therefore, what better year for Christ to be born than this year of Jubilee and Liberty. If we count every fifty years from their entrance into canaan in 1407 B.C., to the first 49 (7x7) plus the 50th (Jubilee Year) in 1357 B.C., to exactly 28 Jubilee years later, it brings us to 7 B.C. [see "The Biblical Time line" study], and 7 B.C. fits perfectly as the year of our Lord's birth.
- "than shall thou cause the trumpet of the jubilee to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month, in the day of atonement shall ye make the trumpet sound throughout all your land.
- and ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a Jubilee unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family.
- A Jubilee shall that fiftieth year be unto you: ye shall not sow, neither reap that which groweth of itself in it, nor gather the grapes in it of thy vine undressed.
- for it is a Jubilee; it shall be Holy unto you: ye shall eat the increase thereof out of the field."
Another scripture that seems to point to a jubilee year as the time relating to the Lord's coming is the prophecy of the 70 weeks of Daniel 9.
When we compare scripture with scriptures the seven sevens (weeks) points us back to Leviticus and the seven sevens of the Jubilee year. Thus the coming of the Messiah is intimately identified with this Jubilee year of 7 B.C. It is also interesting to note that 7 B.C. is exactly 2000 years from the year that Jacob (Israel) was born (2007 B.C.) and we know that Christ is the Israel of God(e.g. Ho 11:1; Mt 2:15). Therefore it follows (knowing that God does nothing by coincidence), that Christ would be born on this date. i.e., the birth of Israel.
- "know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build jerusalem unto Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks; the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times."
We also note that 7 B.C. is exactly 1000 years after David ascended to the throne to reign in 1007 B.C., and we know that David is a "type" of Christ, who was born king of Israel.
Christ was born king of Israel and exactly 1000 years after David ascended to the throne, which again brings us to 7 B.C. Likewise, in connection with John's birth (6 months prior to our Lord's) and the Priestly office of Zecharias, there is also a great deal of evidence which would lead us to believe that Jesus might have been born on the Day of atonement in the month of Tisri (Lev. 25:9), which was the ushering in of the Jubilee year of 7 B.C., and later the feast of tabernacles.
- "Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
- Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him."
It's interesting that there had previously been some secular speculation that there was no census because no one could find any records. But Archaeological
finds indeed showed that the scriptures are accurate (not that faithful Christians doubted it) when they discovered that the Romans had a regular enrollment of taxpayers, and that Augustus Caesar began a census that took place every 14 years. A papyrus found in Egypt states:
"Because of the approaching census it is necessary that all those residing for any cause away from their home should at once prepare to return to their own governments in order that they may complete the family registration of the enrollment."
This of course would also explain why Mary and Joseph found no room in the Inn, as Jerusalem and the neighboring communities would have no doubt been inundated with Jews who would have come from all over Israel to celebrate the Jubilee and feast days of the seventh month.
God's word is clear that God's Holy days look forward to, point to and were a shadow of God's plan in Christ for our salvation through the birth, death, and
resurrection of Christ. It is therefore more than reasonable to surmise that as He fulfilled His holy days exactly on the dates of the Jewish calendar, He would also fulfil the Jubilee exactly on the dates of the Jewish calendar. In the 7th month, and perhaps even on the day of atonement.
So then What year was Christ born? Our conclusion, based on all the available historical and Biblical evidence at hand, is that Jesus Christ was "likely" born in 7 B.C., and that a biblical case can be made that He was born sometime between September and October, near the month of Tishri. It could also mean that the 40th year of His life, would be 33 AD, the year of His death. If Christ was born in 7 BC (and I believe that He was), then Christ would have spent 40 years in the wilderness of sin in this world before ascending to His throne in the promised land of heaven. This forty years fulfilling the type where Israel sojoured in the wilderness 40 years before entering their promised land, and also spiritually illustrating our sojourn in Christ on this sin cursed earth before we enter into the promised land.
May God give us all the wisdom to discern the truth of His most Holy word.
Copyright 1998 Tony Warren
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