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Thursday, December 24, 2009

When was Jesus Born?


I heard this on the radio the other day and just found a link to a site that has the info re: how the birth of Jesus was determined.....

"In the 6th Century, the Roman monk-mathematician-astronomer named Dionysis Exeguus (Dionysis the Little) reformed the calendar to pivot around the birth of Christ. He dated the Nativity 753 years from the founding of Rome, calculated to the date King Herod died. But Dionysis miscalculated, because Herod died only 749 years after the founding of Rome, thus 4BC.

Herod, who ordered all the babies in Bethlehem younger than 2 years killed, was, of course, alive when the Magi visited the baby Jesus. So we know that Jesus was born in or before 4BC, as astronomers point out when referring to the Star of Bethlehem.
The reference to the birth of Jesus "two thousand years ago" is wrong in two ways: a. there was no year 0, thus we have had only 1998 years since Dionysis (incorrectly) calculated the year of the Nativity. b. Dionysis's calculation was off by at least 5 years, as mentioned above.

In the year 274AD, solstice fell on 25th December, and Roman Emperor Aurelian proclaimed the date as "Natalis Solis Invicti," the festival of the birth of the invincible sun. In 320 AD, Pope Julius I specified the 25th of December as the official date of the birth of Jesus Christ. In 325AD, Constantine the Great, the first Christian Roman emperor, introduced Christmas as an immovable feast on 25 December. In 354AD, Bishop Liberius of Rome officially ordered his members to celebrate the birth of Jesus on 25 December.

In some parts of the Roman Empire (mostly the Eastern parts), solstice was celebrated on 6 January, the last festival day for those who started solstice on 25 December. (Saturnalia was held over 12 days.) The Orthodox Churches of Eastern Europe celebrate Christmas on 6 January. The most likely year that Jesus was born, is 6BC, probably in the month of March. There was no year 0 (zero) recorded, so the 2nd millennium celebration of the birth of Jesus should have been held in March 1995. But considering that Nativity was not celebrated at all for the first 300-or-so years, and that Christmas became widely popular only in the 19th Century, it remains remarkable that the birthday of Jesus Christ today is one of the biggest industries in the world. A rather apt acknowledgement."
Hope you found it interesting. Count your blessings and have a very Merry Christmas!

11 comments:

Ginx said...

I'd heard 7 BCE, but it's really splitting hairs.

I've also heard that the Announciation was traditionally celebrated on the spring solstice, so they counted 9 months forward and arrived at December 25th.

Very interesting indeed. Merry Christmas to you too!

JD Curtis said...

Thanks. It doesnt really bother me if the dates arent exact. If we take one day to celebrate His Birth and another His Resurrection, that's enough for me. I wouldnt want to be caught up in all this legalism over the exact date. It would be too tedious and in the end wouldnt be that big a deal anyway.

Ginx said...

I think it would be hilarious if Christians celebrated "Real Christmas" in March. Do I smell another holiday with days off work??

photogr said...

Does it really matter?

To some, I would imagine it is important to have a fixed date. The important fact is He was born as our Saviour if we choose to believe.
Something we can celebrate every day.

Tracy said...

It's interesting stuff but I agree with you guys that what matters is the fact that He did indeed to chose to come to earth for us.

JD Curtis said...

Photogr, insofar as the correct day, I am reminded of a Baptist minister that I knew who had recently took over pastoral duties at a church. There was a certain lady (member of the congregation) who was OBSESSING over the fact that the candles they lit during the service werent PURE white. He just looked at her and said "I don't even think He (God) cares".

Ginx said...

I need to bookmark this page when I get home. I want to remember forever the first time I ever read about even a small group of religious people all unanimously agreeing that God isn't really that interested in details.

Which Bible are you guys reading? The Hippy Liberal Politically Correct Bible of Acceptance? The Bible I'm reading portrays God as a micromanager who gets extremely pissed off when His exact orders aren't followed.

i.e. I'm reading the story of Noah at the moment, and God told him the precise dimensions AND what kind of wood to use. I am pretty sure you can randomly flip to any page and find another example.

photogr said...

Yes you can Ginx.There are a few in the Old Testaments. Moses comes to mind with the Ark of the Covenant and supplying water in the desert. If the details aren't His or are rather trival, I would imagine we have liberties.

JD Curtis said...

Getting back to the birth of Jesus, are any of you familiar with the admissibility of testimony of those employed in the shepherding trade in the first century ANE?

Tracy said...

Laughed when I read your comment Ginx; I haven't been linked with hippies in a really long time. I did used to send my oldest son to a camp he & I called "hippie camp" (he's now a Sr. at West Point so I'm sure the experience was good for him)for a couple of weeks in the summer.

I basically agree with Photogr's take on it. The context of scripture indicates if it's something God is very specific about or not. Scripture does not even require a actual cultural celebration of Christ's birth - so why would which date we pick be relevant?

As to political correctness - I don't think anyone could ever accuse JD of that one!

Ginx said...

I suppose that is sort of the problem with the Bible. It's full of instructions on what NOT to do. If it was full of what you SHOULD do, it would be a pamphlet.

I believe birthdays were not as important in those days. Shame we don't have an exact record.