New International Version (NIV)
The Birth of Jesus
2 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.
4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.
In his latest book on the early years of Jesus the Pope has admitted that we don’t know the birth date of Jesus. Yes there are clues we can judge from but only speculation of the actual date. Did it happen 2012 years ago in December? Just as the Pope wondered so do we. There were several clues in Luke but they are ambiguous. Yes Augustus was the emperor of Rome as he is known for trying to organize the empire and certainly a census would be one way to start in order to determine how many people there were and how they were situated. As to a law mandating that each person return to their place of birth to be registered this would not really be a practical measure to be taken. Joseph returning to Bethlehem might fulfill prophecy for the Messiah being born in the City of David but aside from that it would not make much sense.
Could this however fit in this timeline? Well yes since Augustus became emporer in 31 BC and ruled for 45 years and died in AD 14 so he would have been alive when Jesus was born and Herod would have to have been alive to meet with the wise men in order to order the slaughter of the innocents in an attempt to kill Jesus and remain in power. So one question is when did Herod die. Was it in the time line? No, Herod died in 4 BC which meant that Jesus had to be born before then probably around 5 or 6 BC. That certainly destroys and dating ideas that puts him not being born in 1 AD. BC means before Christ and AD after his birth. So let’s picture the Pope in his private office licking on a pencil and talking to his secretary while working on the book.
“Cardinal Soprano go down to the library and bring me back the copy we have of the Bethlehem Times parchment with the announcement of the birth.”
(Cardinal Soprano) “What date would that be? Is it in 1 BC?”
“Yes because that is the beginning of the BC and AD dating though they wouldn’t be aware of that. That means a different dating system was used. We aren’t sure what timeline they followed. One might start with the ascension of Augustus or the Ascension of Herod to be King of the Jews and then end when he died. Nowadays Jesus is the seminal date we start at and since he is still considered by some to be alive this dating supposedly from his birth may be wrong and it may really be 2008 we will continue this error. This also goes up against the Jewish caledar that started recording dayes approximately 6,000 years ago and certainly does not take into account the birth of Jesus. From Wikipedia we learn: The Jewish dating system is taken primarily from a book called “Seder Olam Rabba,” dating back to the 2nd century CE and attributed to Rabbi Yosef ben Halafta. The sources for the dates in Halafta’s book come from rabbinic traditions recorded in the Talmud as well as numerous chronologies written in the Hebrew Bible.
It is also essential to remember that traditional Jewish chronologies (since the beginning of the Jewish calendar almost 6,000 years ago) are based on the highly accurate astronomical phenomenon of the moon orbiting the earth (months) and the earth around the sun (years). This gives traditional Jewish chronology a high degree of accuracy, especially when it comes to the major events of Jewish history.
Actually, the “secular” calendar has experienced many difficulties in trying to properly “align itself with the stars.” Back in 46 BCE, the calendar had become hopelessly confused. Julius Caesar was forced to abandon the previous lunar system, replacing it with a tropical year of 365.25 days. Further, to correct the accumulation of previous errors, a total of 90 intercalary days had to be added to 46 BCE, meaning that January 1, 45 BCE, occurred in what would have been the middle of March.
Over the next 1,600 years, the disagreement between the Julian year of 365.25 days and the tropical year of 365.242199 gradually produced significant errors. The discrepancy mounted at a rate of 11 minutes 14 seconds per year – until it reached a full 10 days. In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII proclaimed that 10 days should be skipped in order to bring the calendar back into line. This was accomplished by designating that October 5 become October 15. In other words, the dates October 5-14, 1582 were simply eliminated.
“ OK now I’m really confused. ”
Actually the arbitrary dividing of dates by BC and AD presents some major problems with the dates leading up to and then going away from gives us a strange view of historical events. Herod dying 4 years before Jesus is supposed to have been born but written about as if he actually was involved also presents the necessity for some mental gymnastics in the Gospels.
The Pope then proceeds to tell him that until Jesus is actually born there is no BC or AD. That starting a date means there has to be a seminal event. In this case Jesus’ birth starts the clock running but officially that hadn’t happened yet. Of course it starts because this is the date of the Messiah which the parchment would not have been aware yet. In fact there was probably no birth certificate but that when they returned to Nazareth their Rabbi might record it in the temple records. First though they fled to Egypt for a few years supposedly until Herod died but again if you follow the accepted guide line he would already be dead. As for the date of 25 December they might not be aware of the actual date though it was a little cool. Bethlehem is moderately chilly in December though probably shepherds with their flocks may have been in shelters such as caves with a fire going. The average temperature in December has a high of 57 and a low of 45 with maybe one day of snow though still a need to provide warmth at a fire and being wrapped in swaddling clothes for a newborn baby which indeed is how the wise men and the visiting shepherds are described as finding him lying in a manger. Of course putting the date for the birth as December 25th tied it into the pagan ceremonies honoring the winter solstice at December 21st. Actually this would be a great place to start the new year as it does on January 1st. The 21st marks the day when the tilt of the earth begins to turn around. For once it is a date that actually makes sense. Of course at the time dates were assigned those in authority were not aware of what was happening since they still believed the earth was the center of the universe and the sun revolved around it. As for a tilt of the earth’s axis such an event was not even remotely thought possible.
The gospel tells of how the wise-men first went to Herod in Jerusalem to explain their mission to find out why there was this strange star in the East. Herod fearful of a rival for his reign supposedly orders any male children under 2 to be put to death but again jst as evidence for other biblical stories there is no collaboration in history though Herod was known to be capable of such actions.
So despite all of the clues we are still in doubt as to when Jesus was born. Does it matter? This morning I asked Pastor John Ormond in Greenville, North Carolina and he said to me, “We don’t know when the actual date of his birth was the but instead what is important to us is that he was born.”
As for the Pope’s book it is nice to know that he is willing to admit he doesn’t know quite a change from when Bruno was condemn