Christ’s Date of Birth

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Gene Wei ’23

 At the beginning of December, families start preparing for Christmas, known as Jesus Christ’s birthday. When is Jesus’s birthday? Most people think it is December 23. However, this isn’t the correct date of Christ’s birth day. 

During Jesus’s time the Julian calendar was invented by Julius Caesar in 45 BCE, but this calendar only has 29 days per month, and each century the gap between our calendar and Julian calendar increases from the four year jump. Not only that, but time back then wasn’t properly recorded and maintained. 

Before diving deeper into this topic, I would like to say for the record that I firmly believe in Jesus Christ, our savior and messiah. I believe he rose from the dead and ascended to heaven, so when discussing the date of birth of Christ, I only wish to question whether or not the common date for His birth is accurate and not question Jesus or disprove him in any way.

By using historical records from the ancient Roman Empire, astronomic events, the Bible, and “The Star that Astonished the World” written by Ernest L. Martin, we can estimate the date of Jesus’ birth is September 11, 3 BC. 

To start, Martin wrote the book to discover the identity of the Star of Bethlehem. He made the conclusion of the exact date of the birth of Christ just stated. Martin’s astronomical identification is supported by Roman and Jewish records that lead to Martin’s conclusion that this star is indeed the star that the Magi of the East saw. Who were the Magi of the East? They are the wise men. Magi back then were high-ranking officials, interpreting dreams for kings, interpreters of heavenly signs. These Magi were trained in an astronomical religion, similar to the one Daniel was head of (Book of Daniel 2:48). In a nutshell, these men knew what they were looking for. In the period of 3 – 2 BC, a rare event occurred involving the alignment of Jupiter called the Great Conjunction. The Magi observed a conjunction between Venus and Jupiter in August 12, 3 BC and another in June 17, 2 BC. In ancient cultures, this timeframe was considered a period of 2 years. This is why Herod the Great ordered to kill every son that was two years or younger (Matthew 2:16).

According to the Gospel of Luke, Jesus started his ministry around age 30. Meanwhile, Tiberius Caesar Augustus had been a Roman Emperor for 15 years. Caesar became an emperor on August 19, 14 AD and killed Jesus during his reign. Caesar chose the year August 14 AD – August 15 AD as a symbol of his power making every year during his reign to start in August and end in August. Subtracting from the point during Caesar’s 15th year of reign would be August 27 – August 28 AD. Subtracting from that, Jesus’ age, we would get 3 BC as Jesus’ birth year.

We figured out the year, but determining the month would require the 24 priestly courses. In I Chronicles 9:22, King David made a system where every week, the first family of priests began their service at noon on a Sabbath (Saturday) and finished on the following Sabbath noon. The 24 priestly courses required one family of priests, and 24 courses took six months to finish. The father of John the Baptist, Zacharias, serves the eighth course (I Chronicles 24:10). These 24 priestly courses began the first month of Nisan (March-April) in the Jewish calendar, and the first day in the 2022 solar calendar is April 2. The first course is April 2 – 8, second April 9 – 15 with the Passover after noon on April 15, followed by the annual holiday celebration from April 16 – 22. The third course begins, then forth, etc. Zacharias‘ eighth week took place May 28 – June 3; fortunately, Zacharias’ wife would conceive a baby after the eight priestly courses around the week of June 13th (Luke 1:13, 23-24). Since the message was delivered by an angel, the pregnancy would have taken 280 days, making John the Baptist’s birthday in the next March. In Luke 1:26, it indicated that Jesus’ birth would take place 6 months prior to John the Baptist’s birth, meaning Jesus was born in September. 

By using the Bible, Magi, Martins’ book, and Historical records of Caesar, we are able to determine Jesus’ birthday with an encouraging level of accuracy. However, this topic is still open to investigation and debate.