The Birth of Christ in 2 BC?
The Bible records that "Magi" (meaning "men expert in the study of stars") viewed a star at the time of Christ's birth, in fulfillment of Numbers 24:17. Scholars tell us that these "wise men" were from Babylon and possibly of the same order that Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah occupied 600 years before, during the Babylonian captivity. Upon observing the star, the wise men (not necessarily three) began to travel toward it. Babylon is over 500 miles from Bethlehem, a three to four month journey (Ezra 7:9). Since the star appeared at the time of His birth (Matthew 2:1,2), Jesus would have been born at least three months before the Magi saw him. As we shall see, this alone would preclude the wise men from being present at Christ's manger in Bethlehem, as is often typified in Christmas cards but nowhere recorded in Scripture.
Joseph, Mary and the new-born Jesus stayed in Bethlehem for 40 days after His birth. During this time, Jesus was circumcised (eight days after His birth) and Mary's purification was completed 33 days later (Luke 2:21,22, Leviticus 12:2-6). After 40 days, in accordance with the law of Moses, they went up to the Temple in Jerusalem to make the appropriate sacrificial offerings. Bear in mind that the Magi were still in transit from Babylon and did not arrive in Jerusalem until well after Christ's birth. Upon arriving in Jerusalem, Herod told them to seek the child in Bethlehem. The scripture, however, does not say that the wise men actually went to Bethlehem, but rather they "followed the star" to where He was (Matthew 2:9). Just as they did not obey Herod's instruction to return to him after they found the Christ, so they felt no obligation to follow his directive to seek Christ in Bethlehem. Or, they may have gone to Bethlehem, were informed that the family had departed, and were then led by the star to Joseph's home in Nazareth. It is my firm belief that the star led them to Nazareth in Galilee, where Joseph and Mary lived (Luke 2:4).
Matthew 2:9-11 indicates that by that time, Jesus was referred to as a young child. The scripture also says that the wise men paid their homage at "the house" (of Joseph, Mary and Jesus). Because they had no house in Bethlehem (He had to be born in a cave or barn), the Magis' visit must have occurred in Nazareth, when Jesus was at least three months old. His age at the time of their visit is established on the basis that the family went to Jerusalem when He was six weeks old (Luke 2:21,22). If the family returned to their house in Nazareth immediately after their ceremonial visit to Jerusalem (and Luke 2:39 indicates they did), Jesus would have been approximately six or seven weeks old by the time they arrived home in Nazareth, 100 miles to the north. We have no way of knowing precisely how long they were in Nazareth before the wise men arrived, but many scholars, including Dr. Harold W. Hoehner, say their visit with the Christ child occurred on the sixth of January. While in Nazareth, the wise men were warned in a dream not to return to Jerusalem and report the news of Jesus' whereabouts to Herod. They instead returned to Babylon by another route. At the same time, Joseph was also warned in a dream to flee to Egypt to avoid Herod's slaughter of children under the age of two. The fact that Herod killed the young up to two years old indicates that Jesus was not a newborn infant when the Magi found Him.
Astronomical records tell us that a full eclipse of the moon occurred on January 9, 1 B.C. It is my belief that this eclipse was a divine act of God to facilitate Joseph, Mary and Jesus' escape under darkness to Egypt. As we will also see, this eclipse provides strong evidence that Jesus was born no earlier than 3 B.C., not 4 - 6 B.C., as is often alleged. The family remained in Egypt a short time, until Herod died. The Jewish historian of the day, Flavius Josephus, recorded that Herod was struck with a severe intestinal disorder when he began to kill the innocents and died before Passover in early April of that year. Upon receiving news of Herod's death (again through divine revelation), Joseph immediately took his family back to their home in Nazareth (Matthew 2:19-23). Although Matthew's account seems to indicate that they were entering Nazareth for the first time, Luke makes it unequivocally certain that they lived in Nazareth before Jesus was born (see Luke 1:26,27; 2:4).
- THE YEAR –
Daniel's Prophecy - In the late 19th century, Sir Robert Anderson, in his book The Coming Prince, documented the prophecy of Daniel's 69 weeks (Daniel 9:24-27), indicating that Jesus Christ was crucified on April 10, A.D. 32. This date was astronomically verified by the Greenwich Royal Observatory. Hippolytus, Bishop of Rome in A.D. 240, recorded that "Christ died in His 33rd year, in the 18th year of Tiberius Caesar." If Christ was born in 2 B.C., He would have been 33 ½ years old in the spring of A.D. 32 when He was crucified (He would have been 34 in September of that year). A.D. 32 was "the 18th year of Tiberius Caesar."
Historical Records - Early Church Father, Tertullian, wrote that Augustus Caesar died 15 years after the birth of Jesus Christ. Augustus' death on August 19, A.D. 14 places Christ's birth in the year 2 B.C. (there is just one year between 1 B.C. and A.D. 1). Irenaeus, another early Church Father, also recorded that Jesus was born in the 41st year of Augustus Caesar's reign, which began in 43 B.C. Tertullian and Eusebius (commonly known as the "Father of Church History") wrote that Cleopatra's death (Fall, 30 B.C.) occurred twenty eight years prior to the birth of Christ. Avi Ben Mordechai, author of Signs in the Heavens: A Jewish Messianic Perspective of the Last Days and Coming Millennium, quotes and agrees with Professor Wacholder's findings that Christ was born in a Sabbatical year (Shmita). The Jewish Shmita occurs every seventh year, starting on Rosh Ha Shana. The Rabbis say that Messiah will come in a Sabbatical year. Ben Mordechai and Professor Wacholder affirm that 2 BC was a Sabbatical year, lending more credence to Christ's birth being in the year 2 B.C.
The Great Pyramid - It has long been thought that the Great Pyramid of Giza, constructed in Egypt in 2623 B.C., was designed by God. There are many good reasons for believing that this amazing structure has divine origin and many books have been written which attest to that premise. One of the best is The Delicate Balance by scientist John Zajac. In the book, he documents the prophetic dates revealed in the measurements of this "altar," as it is referred to in Isaiah 19:19. Included in a bevy of prophetical information is the date of Christ's birth in 2 B.C.
Astronomical Data - It is often said that Herod the Great died in 4 B.C., implicating a date earlier than 2 B.C. for Christ's birth. The time of Herod's death is largely determined from the writings of Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, who recorded that Herod the Great died in a year that there was a lunar eclipse. Because a partial eclipse occurred on March 13, 4 B.C., some historians have concluded that 4 B.C. was the year of Herod's death. However, astronomical records show that several lunar eclipses occurred between 5 B.C. and 1 B.C. In fact, a full (not partial) eclipse took place on January 9, 1 B.C. - indicating that Herod's death did not occur in 4 B.C. If this was the eclipse that Josephus referred to, then Herod died in 1 B.C., thereby increasing the probability of Christ's birth being in 2 B.C. Moreover, Josephus wrote that Herod died between the time of the eclipse and the Feast of Passover (April 5 in 2 B.C.). Josephus and other historians have recorded the events that took place in Herod's life between the time of the eclipse and his death prior to Passover. The cumulative time required for these events to transpire was at least 60 days. March 13, 4 B.C. was less than a month before Passover, an insufficient amount of time to accommodate the recorded events; however, the January 9, 1 B.C. eclipse preceded Passover by three months - more than ample time for the recorded events of history to transpire. This evidence lends strong support to Christ's birth being in the year 2 B.C.
- THE MONTH -
We can determine the month of our Lord's birth by knowing when His cousin John the Baptist was born. We know from the Gospel of Luke that Elizabeth became pregnant at the time that Zacharias was serving in the Temple. We also know from 1 Chronicles 24:7-18 that the 24 divisions of the priesthood (mishmarot) served at specific times during the year. The 24 divisions served consecutively for a period of one week, twice a year. Each order had about 300 members, subdivided into six families of 50. According to the schedule rotation, which began 1 NISAN (March/April), Zacharias would have been performing his duty during early summer. Because he was in the eighth division (Abijah, Luke 1:5), he would have been serving at least eight weeks into the sacred year. The Hag haMatzah and Shavuot observances and requirements for the laws of separation added another four weeks, extending the time of his service to June or early July. This time frame is substantiated by the rotation schedule that was posted at the Temple. It indicated that the Abijah division served during the month of June.
Eighth course of Abijah 8 weeks
All Courses present for
Hag haMatzah and Shavuot 2 weeks
Requirements of laws of separation 2 weeks March/April to June/July 12 weeks
Luke 1:24 indicates that Elizabeth conceived soon after the angel's visit to Zacharias. Dr. Chuck Missler believes her conception occurred on July 13, 3 B.C. He arrives at that date by counting back from August 5, A.D. 70 when, according to the Talmud, the first priestly course was in place when the Temple was destroyed.
If John was conceived on July 13, 3 B.C., he would have been born on Passover which was 280 days later - April 19-20, 2 B.C. John's birth on Pesach is highly likely in that Elijah was supposed to appear on Passover - the very person that Jesus identified as John the Baptist (Matthew 11:14). His birth on Passover also seems to be supported in John's repeated references to Christ as the "Lamb" of God.
John's birth on Passover of course puts Christ's birth in late September, 2 B.C. - just over five months later (Luke 1:24-26). Christ's birth in the fall of the year is substantiated by the fact that there were sheep in the open pasture at the time of His birth (Luke 2:8). Since sheep are not kept in open pasture in Israel after mid October, His birth had to be prior to November. Dr. J.R. Church teaches that Christ was Divinely conceived on 25 CHISLEV (December), on the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah) and born nine months later on September 29, 2 B.C., or 1 TISHRI, the Feast of Trumpets. Other theologians agree that Christ was born on September 29. The Talmud, in Sanhedrin 38B, says that Adam (the first man) was created on the Feast of Trumpets. Is it not fitting that the second man (1 Corinthians 15:47) would be born on the same day? The festival's theme of "new beginnings" would certainly be appropriate to Christ's being born on September 29, 2 B.C.
- CHRONOLOGICAL RECAP -
Event Date Age
1 - Christ conceived on Hanukkah December 2, 3 B.C.
2 - Born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2) September 29, 2 B.C.
3 - Brought up to Jerusalem (Luke 2:22) November 8, 2 B.C. 1 month
4 - Arrive back in Nazareth (Luke 2:4,39) November 20, 2 B.C. 2 months
5 - Magi visit Nazareth (Matthew 2:9-11) January 6, 1 B.C. 3 months
6 - Flight to Egypt (Matthew 2:13) January 7, 1 B.C. 3 months
7 - Herod kills babies/Eclipse (Matthew 2:16) January 9, 1 B.C. 3 months
8 - Herod dies/family returns (Matthew 2:19,20) January 31, 1 B.C. 4 months
9 - Feast of Passover April 5, 1 B.C. 6 months
Jesus was not born on Christmas, December 25.
He was born on Rosh HaShanah, September 29, 2 B.C.
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