Date of Birth of Jesus

General Information

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 (named Dionysius Exiguus) who developed the concept, was apparently off in his calculations by around 4 years, as to exactly when Jesus was born. This results in the fact that Jesus was apparently born in around 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.

Historically, it is known that Herod the Great died in 4 BC, and the Gospels mention him, 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) brings us to about 26 or 27 AD for that first Passover. This again suggests that Jesus was probably born around 4 BC.

 

Scientifically, astronomers have determined that a very rare series of "conjunctions" of the brightest planets (among the brightest things in the night sky) occurred during 4 BC. Some suggest that this might be an explanation for the "star in the East". The logic behind this seems weak, partly because travelers from the East would have had to see something in the WESTERN sky to be drawn toward the West and Bethlehem. If they saw any bright object in the eastern sky, it seems that they would have gone toward India!

 


Date of Birth of Jesus

The Date Of The Nativity Of Our Lord

(From Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah
by Alfred Edersheim, 1886, Appendix VII)

Advanced Information

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. 29 a 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.)

 


Author Edersheim refers to MANY reference sources in his works. As a Bibliography resource, we have created a separate Edersheim References list. All of his bracketed references indicate the page numbers in the works referenced.

 


Nativ'ity of Christ

Advanced Information

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)

 


Actual Scientific Data Regarding the First Full
Moon after the Vernal Equinox (U.S. Naval Observatory)

Advanced Information

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 Grennwich 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.

 

VERNAL EQUINOX

Julian

Greenwich

 

Julian

Greenwich

 

Calendar Date

Time

Day of Week

Calendar Date

Time

Day of Week

BCE

March

 

CE

March

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

16

23

0*

Thursday

16

22

Noon

Sunday

15

23

6 a.m.

Friday

17

22

6 p.m.

Monday

14

23

Noon

Saturday

18

23

0*

Wednesday

13

22

6 p.m.

Sunday

19

23

6 a.m.

Thursday

12

22

11 p.m.

Monday

20

22

Noon

Friday

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

(CE)

 

32

22

9 a.m.

Saturday

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

Following equinox

Julian Calendar

Greenwich

 

Julian Cal.

Greenwich

Julian Cal.

Greenwich

Year

Date

Time

Week Day

Date

Time

Date

Time

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.