why was jesus born in 4 bc
It s obvious that Jesus was born on December 25, A. D. 1, right? Not so fast. What we do know is that
(who killed all the babies in Bethlehem younger than two years of age) died in the Spring of 4 B. C. according to the Jewish historian Josephus 1. В The king was quite alive during the visit of the В in the Nativity story told in the Gospel of Matthew. So Jesus would have to have been born before this time, anywhere from 7 B. C to 4 B. C. (Before Christ, or before himself! ) Why is there a gap of this much time in our modern calendar? We owe this to a Roman monk-mathematician-astronomer named Dionysius Exiguus, known to his friends as Dennis the Little. During the 6th century A. D. , he unwittingly committed what has become history s greatest numerical error as it relates to the calendar. As he tried to reform the Western calendar to center around Jesus birth, he erroneously placed the date of the Nativity in the year 753 from the founding of Rome (753 a. u. c. or Ab Urbe Condita ), even though Herod died only 749 years after the founding of the city of Rome. The cumulative effect of Dionysis calendar error, which is the same calendar we use today, was to give the correct traditional date for the founding of Rome.
Ultimately, however, the calendar is at least 4 to 7 years off for the birth of Christ. Did you celebrate the Y2K change of Millennium in 1997? Some recent research suggests that the dating of Herod s death might be up for debate and could be dated 1 B. C. The argument is that either the counting of his reign was off, or that there is a typesetting error in all editions of Josephus since 1544. I tried to get to the bottom of this by researching an earlier edition of Josephus at the British Library in London, but could only get my hands on a French translation from 1492. Regrettably, I couldn t read medieval French. Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian If you enjoyed this article, please consider leaving a comment, or subscribing to the to have future articles delivered to your feed reader, or to your. Although millions of people celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on Dec. 25, most scholars agree that he wasn t born on that day, or even in the year 1 A. D. Researchers believe the settled on Dec. 25 for many reasons, such as that date s ties to the winter solstice and Saturnalia, a festival dedicated to the Roman deity Saturn.
By choosing this day to celebrate Jesus birthday, the church could co-opt the popular pagan festival, as well as the winter celebrations of other pagan religions. But nobody really knows exactly when Jesus was born. Some scholars think that he was born between 6 B. C. and 4 B. C. , based partly on the biblical story of Herod the Great. Not long before Herod s demise, which is believed to have occurred in 4 B. C. , the ruler of Judea supposedly ordered the death of all male infants who were under the age of two and lived in the vicinity of Bethlehem, in an attempt to kill Jesus. But historians disagree about Herod s actual year of death. What s more, the horrific mass infanticide is legend, not fact, Reza Aslan, a biblical scholar and author of Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth (Random House, 2013), told. To pinpoint Jesus birth year, other scholars have tried to correlate the Star of Bethlehem, which supposedly heralded Jesus birth, with actual astronomical events.
For example, in a 1991 article in the Quarterly Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society, astronomer Colin Humphreys proposed that the fabled star was actually a slow-moving comet, which Chinese observers recorded in 5 B. C. Scholars also debate the month of Jesus birth. In 2008, astronomer Dave Reneke argued that Jesus was born in the summer. The Star of Bethlehem, Reneke told, may have been Venus and Jupiter coming together to form a bright light in the sky. Using computer models, Reneke determined that this rare event occurred on June 17, in the year 2 B. C. Other researchers have claimed that a similar conjunction, one between Saturn and Jupiter, occurred in October of 7 B. C. , making Jesus an autumn baby. Theologians have also suggested that Jesus was born in the spring, based on the biblical narrative that shepherds were watching over their flocks in the fields on the night of Jesus birth something they would have done in the spring, not the winter. Follow Joseph Castro on Twitter. Follow us @livescience, Facebook Google+.
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