Cool Discovery About the Birth of Christ!

by Jimmy Akin

in Apologetics, Bible History

Nativity2 A few days ago I blogged about my discovery that the Christmas Proclamation of the Birth of Christ has a not-so-great translation in the United States.

The same day I made that unfortunate discovery, I also made a fortunate one!

As I mentioned previously, we have multiple lines of evidence converging to show that Jesus was born in the year 3/2 B.C.

There are multiple sources from the early Church (around a dozen) that show this to be the case. While there are a tiny number of sources suggesting other years, the overwhelming majority indicate 3/2 B.C. as being the correct time frame for Our Lord's birth.

Most of the sources we have that address the subject are a couple three (four) centuries after the time of Christ and so are open to some question, though the convergence of all of them on this year is quite weighty.

As I was thinking about this, my mind went back to the chronological references in Luke's gospel, and I realized something that caused me to cheer. I'd never done the math before, but as soon as I did, it was obvious!

As is well known, Luke introduces the Annunciation this way in chapter 2 of his gospel:

[1] In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. [2] This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 

Now, the enrollment under Quinirius has long been a subject of discussion. If you assume it was a census, as many do, then it's going to cause you problems, because there was no census in the appropriate time frame. There was, however, a broad-based registration or "enrollment," that occurred in this period, but that's a story for another post.

But the big point is that Jesus was born during the reign of Augustus Caesar–a point also confirmed by the fact both Matthew and Luke record him as being born during the reign of Herod the Great, who reigned during the time of Augustus (precisely when Herod died during that reign is also a point of discussion–and a subject for another post).

So when did Augustus reign?

In part, it depends on when you count the beginning of his reign. He was the grand nephew of Julius Caesar, and Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 B.C. Augustus (who at different points in his career was also known as Octavius and Octavian) became his posthumously-adopted heir and successor. In 43 B.C. the Roman Senate awarded him the title "Imperator," which in English is "Emperor." He thus became the first Roman emperor.

Later, after the Battle of Actium in 31 B.C. and the suicides of Mark Anthony and Cleopatra in 30 B.C., Augustus became sole ruler of the empire.

You can thus date his reign either from around 44/43 B.C. or 30/31 B.C.

However you chose to reckong it, Augustus had a remarkably lengthy reign, which finally came to a close in A.D. 14, when he died.

He was then succeeded by his adopted son, Tiberius, who became the second Roman emperor.

Taking a broad view, Augustus reigned from 43 B.C. to A.D. 14, and both Luke and (by implication) Matthew, place his reign in this period.

Good enough. But can we make the date more specific?

If we turn the page and start reading Luke chapter 3, we find the following statement regarding the ministry of John the Baptist:

[1] In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Iturae'a and Trachoni'tis, and Lysa'ni-as tetrarch of Abile'ne,[2] in the high-priesthood of Annas and Ca'iaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechari'ah in the wilderness; [3] and he went into all the region about the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. [4] As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness"

The Herod in t.his passage isn't Herod the Great–he was long dead–but the important part of the quote is the reference to the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar, who had succeeded Augustus upon the latter's death.

The way things worked in the ancient world, they often counted the first part of a year of a ruler's reign as that ruler's first year, then changing to the second year when the next civil new year began.

To give a somewhat bent example based on our own practice of having the civil new year begin on January 1st (a practice that was not universal in the ancient world), if Ruler X began his reign on September 1st in year Y then the period from September 1st to December 31st would be reckoned as his first year. His "second year" would then begin on January 1st.

Given that parts of years could count as a ruler's first year, the fifteenth year of Tiberius could be either in what we would reckon as his fourteenth or fifteenth year.

So when was that?

Augustus died in A.D. 14, so in Luke 3:1, the Evangelist is giving us a pretty specific reference to A.D. 28-29 (A.D. 14 + 14/15 years of Tiberius's rule = A.D. 28/29).

Fine. What does this have to do with the birth of Jesus?

Luke describes the (apparent) beginning of John the Baptist's ministry in A.D. 28/29, and right here in chapter 3 of the gospel he refers to Jesus' baptism and the beginning of Jesus' ministry. He doesn't say that these occurred in the same year, but he certainly gives that impression–or at least the impression that there wasn't a significant lapse of time between them.

So what?

So this: Luke also records in chapter 3 that, after the baptism and before the testing in the wilderness, that:

[23] Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age . . .

Thus, if we assume that Jesus began his ministry shortly after John the Baptist, as Luke seems to imply, and if John the Baptist began his ministry in A.D. 28/29, and if Jesus was approximately 30 years old at this point, then all we need to do is subtract 30 from the current year to find out the approximate year of Jesus' birth.

Using a modern number line that includes the number 0, one would thus think that Jesus' birth occurred in -2/-1.

But they didn't have the number 0 in the Roman world, and there is no "Year 0" on the B.C./A.D. timeline. The A.D. (Latin, Anno Domini = "Year of the Lord") years are the years counting from Jesus birth (the first year of his birth, the second year, etc.). The B.C. ("Before Christ") years are the years before his birth (the first year before, the second year, etc.). On neither reckoning is there a "Year 0." 

As a result, we need to subtract an additional year to any B.C. dates to account for the lack of a 0 year.

This means that if Christ was born in what you'd think would be -2/-1 then it would really be 3/2 B.C.–the exact same year that we have multiple independent sources from early Church history pointing to.

Only here we have St. Luke himself–an undisputed first century author (who was, based on internal evidence in the gospel and Acts, almost certainly writing from Rome around the year A.D. 62).

That's important and early testimony about when Our Lord was born!

Cool, huh?

What do you think?

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{ 40 comments }

Chuck Reed May 6, 2011 at 6:30 am

Absolutely Cool!
I have read from multiple sources that the birth of our Lord was ( approx 4 B.C.) Reading your synopsis was more detailed and conversed to me the “Joe Schmo”. I can’t wait for the “subjects of another post” to make your blog! Great job Jimmy!
You make Walter-Net proud, ;-)

Titus May 6, 2011 at 6:35 am

That’s certainly a reasonable analysis, and, I believe, a common one. The more interesting question seems to be, why we’re two years off. The early medieval scholars who devised the modern system of years had access to the Roman records, yet they quite clearly goofed on figuring out what year they were living in. What happened?

Dave Mueller May 6, 2011 at 6:56 am

I once read the following online book, which was quite detailed and postulates that Jesus was born on September 11th of 3 B.C. I honestly can’t remember the lines of argument any more, but I was quite convinced at the time.
This also seems to fit into the timeframe you calculated, Jimmy. He also says that the visit of the Magi occurred on December 25th of 2 B.C. which is also very interesting.
Here is the link to the book, which is quite long:
http://www.askelm.com/star/index.asp

Al May 6, 2011 at 7:09 am

Irenaeus says Jesus was in his 40′s when crucified because He was challenged with being “not yet 50″ in scripture. An odd charge for someone younger than 40.

Steven Brandt May 6, 2011 at 7:12 am

Cool. Now I want to read about the enrollment.

The Masked Chicken May 6, 2011 at 7:19 am

Technical, Jesus could not have been born in -3/2 B. C.. Think about it. He was born three years before he was born? It is proper to say that he was born in 1 A. D., which date was formerly miscalculated by three years. Gotta love semantics.
It would be really nice to realize that our calendar were off by three years, since I would love to have those three years back!

c matt May 6, 2011 at 7:23 am

not yet 50
Maybe odd. But it would literally apply to a 30 yo. Is there some significance to being 50 – ie., is that when you would be considered to have attained enough experience and wisdom to be worth listening to, and “elder”?

Titus May 6, 2011 at 7:45 am

Technical, Jesus could not have been born in -3/2 B. C.. Think about it. He was born three years before he was born? It is proper to say that he was born in 1 A. D., which date was formerly miscalculated by three years. Gotta love semantics.
Well, no, that’s not right. Christ was born on a specific historical date. That date, according to Jimmy’s reckoning, was in the year 2 or 3 B.C., according to the Gregorian calendar. That’s not mere semantics: that’s a cogent statement of fact.
The reality, in terms of salvation history, that the year of Christ’s birth was one “of our Lord” is a distinct matter. Christ was obviously born in the first year of his Incarnation, but while the dating system references that event, it is quite obviously not linked to it with precision. Yet the dating system has a meaning of its own, and it does violence to that meaning to go around saying that Christ was born in A.D. 1. That’s simply not the case.

David May 6, 2011 at 8:01 am

But what about the slaughter of the innocents, recorded in Matthew’s gospel? Jesus was born before this event, and obviously Herod would still have to be alive. Herod’s death is fairly reliably dated to 4 BC, so Jesus’ birth could not be any later than 4 BC.

Joe May 6, 2011 at 8:16 am

Three halves BC? You mean June of 2 BC?

Chuck Reed May 6, 2011 at 9:13 am

I don’t know about all of you, but I am sure glad he was born, in whatever year!

The Masked Chicken May 6, 2011 at 9:36 am

Yet the dating system has a meaning of its own, and it does violence to that meaning to go around saying that Christ was born in A.D. 1. That’s simply not the case.
The dating system has NO meaning outside of the birth of Christ. It is the case that Christ was born in 1 A. D. Any linear transformation of the dating system does not alter that fact in a relational sense, since isomorphism is maintained. If one wants to, by convention, make the transform: YEAR’ = YEAR – 3, where YEAR’ is the Gregorian standard, then fine. That is a matter of convention. The year of Christ’s birth, properly speaking, must be 1 A. D., the first year of Our Lord. We can chose to redefine it as we wish, but it is a fixed point in history, no matter what the label.
The Chicken

Alan May 6, 2011 at 9:44 am

But, besides this, those very Jews who then disputed with the Lord Jesus Christ have most clearly indicated the same thing. For when the Lord said to them, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day; and he saw it, and was glad,” they answered Him, “Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast Thou seen Abraham?” Now, such language is fittingly applied to one who has already passed the age of forty, without having as yet reached his fiftieth year, yet is not far from this latter period. But to one who is only thirty years old it would unquestionably be said, “Thou art not yet forty years old.” For those who wished to convict Him of falsehood would certainly not extend the number of His years far beyond the age which they saw He had attained; but they mentioned a period near His real age, whether they had truly ascertained this out of the entry in the public register, or simply made a conjecture from what they observed that He was above forty years old, and that He certainly was not one of only thirty years of age. For it is altogether unreasonable to suppose that they were mistaken by twenty years, when they wished to prove Him younger than the times of Abraham. For what they saw, that they also expressed; and He whom they beheld was not a mere phantasm, but an actual being of flesh and blood. He did not then wont much of being fifty years old; and, in accordance with that fact, they said to Him, “Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast Thou seen Abraham?”
St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies (~AD 180)
St. Irenaeus was a hearer of St. John, a student of St. Polycarp who was the disciple of St John. Is there any testimony closer and more reliable than his? I dont think so.
“Jesus answered, and said to them: Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. The Jews then said: Six and forty years was this temple in building; and wilt thou raise it up in three days? But he spoke of the temple of his body.”
John 2:19-21
Like most people, when I read that verse. I would think the 46 years is talking about the age of the building. But is it unreasonable to think John would also give the real age of Jesus through this wonderful metaphor?
It is also interesting to note that the number 46 has some significance on its own. The word “man/adam” totals to the number 46 in Greek. This would be meaningless if we didn’t first consider John is the writer of the Apocalypse with its use of numerals derived from summed letters of words.
St. John also used numbers in a in both ways here (Jn 21:11). He numbered the fish caught at 153 because there were 153 parts to the Torah. So this whole idea that numbers can have duel meanings, both real and figurative, is something that came very natural to the apostle.

Alan May 6, 2011 at 9:49 am

c matt,
Sorry I dont know the answer to that.

Andrew O May 6, 2011 at 11:31 am

@ Masked Chicken
You said, It would be really nice to realize that our calendar were off by three years, since I would love to have those three years back!
But you got this backwards. If we adjust the calendar to reflect the fact that Jesus was born three years earlier than we thought, we would not get three years back, we would lose three. (If Jesus was born in the year commonly thought of as 3 BC, then we are currently living 2014 (=2011+3) years later.)
@ c matt and Alan, regarding the age of 50
Check out Numbers 4, where there are 7 references to the fact that priestly service was limited to those between the ages of 30 and 50, which explains both why Jesus’ ministry didn’t start until he was 30 and why the Jews ridiculed him for not yet being 50. Levites who had reached the age of 50 would be retired from active service in the temple and would thus be in the position to serve as literal “elders.” (This also, incidentally has implications with regard to Zechariah and Elizabeth, since Zechariah was still young enough to be serving in the Temple.)
Ordinarily, I’m a big fan of Irenaeus, but I think in this case, he’s just wrong. The point that he was a disciple of Polycarp the disciple of John is a strong one, but if that pedigree is intended to show that Irenaeus knew how old Jesus really was, why doesn’t he just tell us how old Jesus really was? Seems more likely to me that John or Polycarp forgot to mention that little detail, and Irenaeus tried to figure it out on his own later (getting it wrong in the process).
Tradition seems pretty clear that Jesus was 33 at the time of the Cruficixion. Also the idea that Jesus was in his mid-forties at the time of the Crucifixion is a dog that won’t hunt.
If we know that Jesus began in his ministry around the year 28/29 at about the age of thirty (facts which we do know from Luke) and we believe that Jesus was crucified somewhere in his mid-40s, then the Crucifixion would have to take place somewhere around the year 45, if not later. But this would contradict all kinds of other information we have about the events of the New Testament. To take one example, almost at random, we have Pontius Pilate presiding over the trial and sentencing of Jesus, Pilate, whom history tells us left his position as Prefect in 36 AD and was almost certainly dead by 41 AD (if not several years earlier). So, basically, you can either take Irenaeus, or you can take the Bible + historical facts about the Roman Empire. But not both.
@ Jimmy. Great post, thanks!

Mark May 6, 2011 at 11:52 am

There is an essay in the Navarre Bible (St. Mark p.45ff) that also considers these questions in some detail. They point out the same thing that David does, above: Josephus puts Herod’s death in the year 750 from the foundation of Rome (4 B.C.), such that Jesus was most likely born in 6 B.C. given the account of the Holy Innocents.
However, this may put too much stock in Josephus’ date for Herod’s death. The editors of the Navarre seem to take it for granted that he is correct.

Jimmy Akin May 6, 2011 at 12:10 pm

Bingo. Josephus does not *say* that Herod died in 750 A.U.C. That is an inference that was made in the late 1800s based on the misidentification of an eclipse. Also, Josephus is one source and we’ve got multiple sources converging on when Christ was born.

Tom May 6, 2011 at 12:40 pm

Very, very cool indeed, Jimmy.
BTW, in the vein of your posts about the day of the Crucifixion, I just stumbled upon a 1983 article from Nature magazine which discusses it in light of the phasing and apparent color of the moon. Pretty interesting; if you like I can send a copy to you, just email me.

Bob May 6, 2011 at 1:09 pm

(If Jesus was born in the year commonly thought of as 3 BC, then we are currently living 2014 (=2011+3) years later.)
Nope.
2011 AD+ 3 BC = 2008 AD
Look at it this way:
2011 + (-3)
which is just 2011-3, as adding a negative number is the same as subtracting a positive number.
2011-31 equals 2008.
We’d be moving three years back.
God Bless.

Bob May 6, 2011 at 1:11 pm

Correction 2011-3* = 2008
Also, great analysis Jimmy! It makes a lot of sense!
A book I recommend for everyone is “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses” there are some good arguments in that book that the four Gospels are actually eye-witness accounts of Jesus’ life, and not just mere “stories”.

Will May 6, 2011 at 1:50 pm

If Jesus were born in AD 3, it would be 2008. If Jesus were born in BC 3, it would be 2014. Alan is correct.
Going by St. Anne Catherine Emmerich, she believed it was 4 BC I think. She also stated that in the year that Jesus was born, according to the Jewish Calendar, the year had 13 months instead of the normal 12. I

Alan May 6, 2011 at 3:13 pm

Andrew O,
Thank you for citing Numbers 4. However, St. Irenaeus was saying 40′s which meant He was still qualified. Also, the quote from St. John may say 46, which means He would still be qualified. I would also throw in that the Shroud of Turin is not a 33 year old man, but a man in his 40′s.
Where is the oldest church father reference saying he was 33? I think it is many centuries after St. Irenaeus. The tradition that He was 33 was an extrapolation from scripture verses that are not chronological but rather episodic in nature. Very few people would have challenged scripture directly unless they had other knowledge. St Irenaeus may have had other reasons, but he was more focused on refuting one aspect of a heresy, not establishing the age of Christ.
God Bless,
Alan
I am not convinced of it myself…. but I dont think it can be so easily discounted.

Nick May 6, 2011 at 11:53 pm

Not that it matters to one’s salvation, but, if Christ was born in 3 B.C., then it would be 2014 today.
3 years before Christ does not represent a negative number. It is 3 years before a starting point.
Think about a thermometer. The difference between ten degrees above zero, and ten degrees below zero, is 20 degrees. Not -10 + 10, which would equal zero. The number of degrees between -6 degrees and 20 degrees is 26 degrees.
Hope this helps.

The Masked Chicken May 7, 2011 at 6:21 am

(If Jesus was born in the year commonly thought of as 3 BC, then we are currently living 2014 (=2011+3) years later.)
Let me try to clear up the calendar confusion. If all one is doing is moving the calendar back three years (1AD, -1AD, -2AD, -3AD) then every date moves back three years. Consider the sequence: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. If it started at -3, to cover the exact same span of 5 places, it would be: -3, -2, -1, 0, 1. We have covered a fixed amount of history since Christ’s birth. Let us call that point, A. Then, if Christ’s original birth were in 1AD as on the current calendar, then we have cover 2011 years since point A. Now, if Christ were really born in -3 AD (3BC), on the Gregorian Calendar that we currently use, the date would be adjusted backwards to 2008, however, on a calendar that renumbered 3BC to the new 1AD, but keeping the same step size as the current Gregorian calendar, the year would be 2014 . I am pretty sure this is correct (I do this sort of stuff for a living) .
In any case, my comment and mathematical transform in my original comment is correct, if a bit too vague, leading to the confusion in dating some of the commentors have indicated, above.
The Chicken

Jimmy Akin May 7, 2011 at 12:45 pm

Ron Conte,
From your comments here and elsewhere it is clear that your perception of me and your writing about me are colored by considerable animosity and ill will. Among other things, you have–in my combox and elsewhere–accused me, repeatedly, cavalierly, and falsely of teaching heresy.
You make no effort to interact charitably with my reasoning or consider your own objections in a critical light. You show no sign of seeking to honor the exhortations of the eighth commandment to consider the statements of others in a favorable light and to avoid rash judgment, detraction, and calumny. You also presume to judge my motives and the sinful dispositions that you consider responsible for the things of which you accuse me.
Respectful and charitable disagreement are one thing. What you are doing is something fundamentally different. To make such grave allegations so casually and irresponsibly is not only an offense against truth, but strikes at the foundation of the spirit of rational dialog and discussion that I seek to foster on my blog.
You are hereby disinvited from participation in this blog. Do not post here again.

Rob F, May 7, 2011 at 6:54 pm

I agree that the Fathers tended to date Jesus’ birth to 2/3 BC. The old martyrology also placed his birth in 2BC. Oddly enough, the new Latin Martyrology has moved his birth year to one year later, to 1 BC. Does anyone know what’s up with that?

Laura p May 7, 2011 at 7:34 pm

Great post, Jimmy! Has anyone on here heard of the DVD and website called “The Star of Bethlehem”? http://www.bethlehemstar.net The presenter mentions that there is confusion over the date of Herod’s death because of a typesetting error in the year 1544. According to him, all the copies of Josephus’ Antiquities before that year support a date of 1 BC for Herod’s death, which would put Jesus’ birth in 2 or 3 BC. All the copies in 1544 and later have 4 BC as Herod’s death. He says that as a result, people have looked in the wrong years to find evidence of a phenomenon that could be the Star of Bethlehem, but when one looks in 2 or 3 BC, there are lots of interesting things. It’s worth a look if anyone wants to check it out.

Brin Ingram May 8, 2011 at 1:40 am

I believe that Christ was born around 6BC. He certainly was born before Herod the Great, who the overwhelming evidence tells us, died in 4BC. Also his birth in 6BC tries in with Luke’s Gospel Chp 2:1 “A decree from Caeser Augustus went out that the whole Roman world should be enrolled” The Greek verb is apographo, which literally means to “enrol” or “register” as in an official listing of citizens. During his reign Augustus authorised three empire wide censuses, in 28 B.C., 8 B.C., and 14 A.D. The one in 8 B.C. is the one the Luke mentions in the birth of Jesus. It was implemented province by province. Provincial Italy was enrolled in 8/7 BC. Rome itself 7/6 BC. The date of Christ’s birth in 6 B.C. fits as it would have taken a good two years to implement and complete in the province of Syria and the Kingdom of Judea which were under direct and indirect control of Rome. Josephus in his Antiquities of the Jews: Book 18 – Chapter 1 says that Judea, was not under the political administrating of the Syrian province until 6 AD, it was still administratively self governing, However Herod in 8 BC after upsetting Augustus was demoted by and became a subject, losing his former privileges, he was completely dependent on Roman wishes in whatever affairs they considered important enough to control directly but was subject directly to the Roman Emperor. In 7BC as part of this new relationship Herod demanded an oath of loyalty to the Emperor from his subjects [Giuseppe Ricciotti The History of Israel, 2 vols. Milwaukee 1955 II 349-350] The change of status to subject of Rome would require Herod and his Judean subjects to comply with the census of 8 B.C.
Most translation of Luke Chp 2:2 states that (the census was made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) [RSV] We immediately run into a problem because in 6BC the Roman Governor in Syria was Gaius Sentius Saturninus not Quirinius. Also Josephus in his Antiquities of the Jews: Book 18 – Chapter 1 says that Judea, was not under the political administrating of the Syrian Governor until 6 AD, it was still administratively self governing, but subject directly to the Roman Emperor. Therefore the Syrian Governor had no direct administrative power over Herod and Judea. However the problem is not in Luke’s account but in its translation into the English. The Greek word ‘hegemoneuo’ which has been translated as Governor can mean
1) to be leader, to lead the way
2) to rule, command
2a) of a province, to be governor of a province
2b) said of a proconsul, of a procurator
Also one of the early Church Fathers, Justin Martyr, (100-165 A.D), who wrote in his [First Apology, 34] lends credance to this “Now there is a village in the land of the Jews, thirty-five stadia from Jerusalem, in which Christ was born, as you can ascertain also from the registries of the taxing under Quirinius your first procurator in Judea.” He also asserts that in his day it was a matter of public record that Christ was born and that the registerstration of his birth was done under Quirnius. A Procurator was an employee of the Roman emperor in civil affairs, especially in finance and taxes, in management of imperial estates and properties, and in governing minor provinces. It was in this role that Quirinius carried out the census called for in the enrolment decree of 8BC as apposed to the census he was involved in AD 6 as the Governor. However his role in Judea was confined only to the census not to any other administration governorship, he would have worked with Herod and his government to implement it.

Deacon William Gallerizzo May 8, 2011 at 8:35 am

In the historical account of Josephus, the murder of the innocents is not presented. That does not presume, however, that it did not happen. Bethlehem, was and still is a small backwater, an event happening in such a location would not have seemed significant to Josephus. He does say that Herod the Great would stoop to nothing to insure or secure his position as king. His own family members meant nothig to him; therefore, babies would have been insignificant to him. Some tradition does place Elizabeth escaping to the desert with Baby John while Zaccariah stayed behind to delay Herod’s death squad, resulting in his own murder, and Johns survival and desert upbringing.
Interestingly, the “world census” alluded to in the Gospels does not show in the Roman record. However, Augustus did require that an accounting be taken of each territory so as to grasp the magnitude of the Empire. This could have been interpreted as a census of the world to people in the territories while Rome would have looked at it as basic routine and not that significant from their own perspective.

Nick2 May 8, 2011 at 11:38 am

I can see many people are objecting with the same caution I felt when I read this. It seems to me and others that there is a campaign among liberal scholars (which Mr Akin is *not* a part of) to do whatever they can to undermine Catholicism at any point.
In this case, by using the fallacy of ‘scholarly consensus’ (and by that they mean liberal scholars on their team), they ‘dogmatically’ place the birth of Jesus outside the strict 1BC/1AD timeframe so as to put a permanent black mark of mockery on the Church’s (Gregorian) Calendar. And for those who don’t get it – which sadly is many – this is not good news, for it makes a total mockery of Catholicism by insinuating we are operating on a bogus calendar but are going along with it anyway because ‘religion’ keeps us stupid.
It’s not much different than the liberal campaign to say Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were not written by the actual men whom the books are named after, but rather a collection of stories eventually written down by this or that community depending on their taste and spin and preference for myth. The goal here is to ultimately undermine the Gospel accounts by making them look like a book of myths since they weren’t even written by the Apostles. Then, just like the calendar issue, the world and liberal Catholic “scholars” can point and say “see, these folks believe in something that clearly isn’t true in ‘reality’, but for the sake of religion we will go with it for those poor uneducated folks.”
St Pius X solemnly and explicitly *condemned* (in Lamentabili Sane) the idea one is free to “construct premises from which it follows that dogmas are historically false or doubtful as long as he does not directly deny the dogmas themselves”. In other words, what is condemned is the idea we are free to construct cases that say the traditional birth date we’ve used for centuries is a joke, even if that individual maintains the validity of the calendar they just insinuated is a joke.
What is really the most sad of this is that how hard is it to make 1AD/1BC work when you’ve come just by secular standards as close as 2BC? Do people really think historical records are so dogmatic that there isn’t even room for error or even likelyhood of 1 year leeway? This ‘dogmatization’ of atheistic science is called the heresy of Modernism.

Brin Ingram May 8, 2011 at 1:24 pm

To Deacon William Gallerizzo
The following is Augustus own record of census taking:
“. . . during my sixth term as consul (28 B.C.), I along with my comrade Marcus Agrippa, commanded a census be taken of the people. I directed a lustrum, the first in forty-one years, in which 4,063,000 Roman citizens were counted. And once again, with imperial authority, I single handedly authorized a lustrum when the consuls of Rome were Gaius Censorinus and Gaius Asinius (8 B.C.), during which time 4,233,000 Roman citizens were counted.” (Res Gestae 8 – The Deeds of Augustus by Augustus)

tim baugh May 8, 2011 at 2:51 pm

ron conte, stop writing any of the things that you think. you are substantially less impressive a scholar than the tone of your posts would show us that you believe you are. these are truths, verifiable by history, and corroborated by independent data (see nasa star chart records) that Jimmy presents. your undermining of his wisdom and ability shows only two things clearly, that you think yourself smarter than you are, and that you covet the good standing and public approval that Jimmy has been blessed with from on high as the result of his selfless sharing of truth.
later hater

Jayson May 8, 2011 at 5:41 pm
Jimmy Akin May 8, 2011 at 6:38 pm

Jayson: He seems to have taken down the article you link. I assume it was likely in connection with his currently in-progress series of inaccurate eschatological predictions for this year, including his soon-to-not-happen prediction that the “third secret of Medjugorje” and the “miracle of Garabandal” will happen this Thursday, May 12, 2011.

Jimmy Akin May 8, 2011 at 6:44 pm
Veritas May 8, 2011 at 9:04 pm

I think Deacon William Gallerizzo has a very good point.
I get very weary of “scholars” doing their best to prove that the Church has got it wrong in this or that point of doctrine or Scripture.
We could go around in circles arguing about exactly when Our Blessed Lord was Incarnate but I , for one, prefer to trust that God has guided His Church to give us the correct date.

Optimus May 9, 2011 at 4:52 am

Nick2,
The Magisterium has no teaching on the year of Christ’s birth or death. The current calendar system used by the Church is not based on any article of faith that would require us to believe that Jesus was born in 1 BC. So scholars are free to propose other dates.

amy2boys May 10, 2011 at 1:50 pm

Well this was certainly fascinating reading. 2008, 2011(?), 2014 — blam! Mass Confusion. (pun)
Jimmy I’m a BIG fan from listening to you constantly on Catholic Answers Live, which is just the best thing ever.
Peace to you.

Matthew May 10, 2011 at 8:59 pm

This was a very interesting article Jimmy, well done in your research. My only question to you is based on differing accounts of the date of Christ’s death, from all that I have looked into the most probable date of the death of Jesus is April 3rd of 33 A.D., how is this reconciled with a dating of 3/2 B.C. for his birth? I’m open to any explanation because I think the dating you calculated looks really accurate. Have you heard of the dating of April 3 33 A.D? I’d be interested in hearing your opinion on the matter. Thanks for your work Jimmy and God Bless!
Here’s some references:
http://www.bethlehemstar.net/day/day.htm#dating
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crucifixion_of_Jesus#Date_of_the_crucifixion

Steve May 20, 2011 at 7:58 pm

Thank you for additional confirmation on the birth date of Christ using deduction. I do have a question concerning chronology in the second chapter of Luke. In it we read that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, presented in the Temple at Jerusalem when he was a week old, the Holy Family then return to Nazareth, then leave for Egypt, but somehow they meet up with the Magi in Bethlehem when Jesus was a toddler. I’m not sure sure how to rectify the timeline transition from Bethlehem to Jerusalem to Nazareth to Bethlehem to Egypt? Can you help shed some light on the subject?
Thanks for your time and attention to my question, and I appreciate the information you share with all of us on a regular basis via Catholic Answers.

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