In which I dig till I find the birthday of God (pt1 of 2)

by Craig on December 19, 2011


So when is it the birthday of Jesus?
We celebrate it now but it’s not his actual birthday.

And oh, have I had a tough couple of weeks, and we can all use a break from me bringin’ the heavy. So I spent about 6 hours yesterday figuring this out for you.

This makes me happy.
I hope it makes you happy too.

The earliest Church Father we have taking a stab at the year for the birth of Our Lord is Irenaeus from the mid 100’s, and he says Jesus was born 4BC.

A bunch of later Church Fathers (200’s 300’s AD) guestimate 3 or 2 BC.
But they can’t be right because Matthew tells us that Jesus was born “in the days of King Herod” (MT 2:1).

And Herod exited history…stage left…in 4 BC…
just after an eclipse and before Passover of that year.
The only eclipse in 4BC was March 12th. …
and Passover that year was Mid April…
So we can get pretty tight with the date of…passing.

(props to Josephus and million astronomers)

So we know Our Lord was born during the time this coin was circulating…



… but before 4 BC.

Now, Luke tells us that Joseph and Mary were in Bethlehem because of a census conducted while a guy named Quirinius was governor of Syria (Luke 2:l,2). And he was in that line of work between 6 and 3 BC.

Since we know Jesus was born while Herod was alive it places the birth in 6 or 5 BC.

Now a bunch of stuff happened before Herod said his final goodbye’s.

There has to be time for Jesus to be born…
and the Magi to visit King Herod…
and then visit Mary, Joseph, and the swaddled up baby…
and then meander home by the scenic route…
presumably to throw King Herod off the track (MT 2:12)…
and a circumcision for the baby…
and a purification rite for Mary and the baby…
both in Luke 2…
and then an angel to tell Joseph to skidaddle to Egypt (MT 2:12)…
and sadly, King Herod to kill babies (MT 2:16-18)…
and then some time to pass for Herod to keep looking for the baby…
because he was paranoid like that…
and then his date with destiny in 4 BC…
and Joseph and the family coming back home – probably 3 BC-ish.

So it makes me lean toward 6 BC more than 5 BC.


…therefore I’m stickin’ with 6 BC as the year of Our Lord’s birth.

Now for the actual day of Our Lord’s birth.
I’ll leave that for tomorrow – but here’s a hint.

Zechariah, the hubs of Elizabeth (Mary’s cousin and mom to the Baptist) was in “Temple Service” that year. And his “division’s turn before God” (LK 2:8) would have been until May or June. During which time there would be no baby making.

Assuming a fond reunion of Zechariah and his lovely bride, and a quick to act promise of God (LK 2:13), this would make the conception of John the Baptist happening sometime in June.

We know that John the Baptist was 6 months older than his cousin Jesus. (LK 2:36.)

So this puts the Immaculate Conception of Jesus in December…
maybe even December 25th…
wouldn’t that be nice?

And it would make the due date of baby Jesus to be September-ish in 6BC

But there’s a wee problem with a September birth date.

Tomorrow Christmas arrives early

please come back.

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Sylvia December 19, 2011 at 9:57 am

Very interesting. And a fun break. Which I’m ready for! Thanks


Craig December 19, 2011 at 10:13 am

me too Sylvia, this was written in a flurry of God study – the kind of thing that lifts me up when I’m really down. Digging through all the history, and what if’s and what came before’s and what goes where – I heart this kind of stuff. Merry Christmas, and God bless you.


Shannon December 19, 2011 at 10:07 am

You are such a hanger of cliffs lol!
I put my youth ministry blog on here so you can see what God revealed to me last night while writing the weekly devo (which btw I’d be honored for you to read)
Read ya tomorrow!


Craig December 19, 2011 at 10:19 am

hanger of cliffs… Funny! And I read the blog – and commented – full of awesome. See you tomorrow Shannon, God bless and keep you.


Gwyn December 19, 2011 at 10:47 am

I just found your blog, and I find it fascinating!!! I am looking forward to tomorrow and also reading what you have written before.


Craig December 19, 2011 at 11:37 am

Gwyn – short for Guinevere by the way? Thank you for finding me,and thank you for your kind words. And if you read stuff – read the newer stuff! I write in an absolutely different and better way than I did a year ago – at least I like it more! ツthank you again Gwyn, and God bless and keep you and all of yours – and Merry Christmas!


Andrea Dawn December 19, 2011 at 11:12 am

Enjoying the results of your research . . . FYI . . . the 6BC image you posted contains the shield version of the coat of arms of my province of British Columbia (BC) . . . recognized it immediately. Made me smile. Thanks and blessings on your day.


Craig December 19, 2011 at 11:39 am

so that’s what that was – I really like that coat of arms – it looks like it could be a coat of arms for Jesus – God bless the province of British Columbia! And to know that you smiled – that makes me smile – thank you Andrea Dawn. Merry Christmas!


A. December 19, 2011 at 12:16 pm

This is great, Craig! After reading something on Deb Feller’s blog a couple of days ago, I was wondering anew about the actual birthdate-or even month-of Jesus, so YAY to this post and the next!!


Craig December 19, 2011 at 2:10 pm

tadaaaaaaaaaaaa ツ Yay Deb – yay you!! God Bless!!


Victoria December 19, 2011 at 1:14 pm

Craig, I love, love, love this kind of digging. It’s like your picture up top…the Bible is a mine shaft FULL of little and some big gems. I think there are various levels in this mine shaft and I think there are varying degrees of gem value. Some of God’s people are happy visiting His mine shaft and coming out with the obvious finds…the easy stuff and that’s ok. Some of us like to dig deeper and even put two and two together as we search for the deepest most special gems that are full (indescribably full) of clarity. I love this kind of hunt and I love this kind of find.

I had always leaned to a September 25th ish birth (loving the irony of a December 25ish conception). Rosh Hashanah in a lot of ways would have been the perfect…blowing of the trumpets, letting go of sin, the New Year…very symbolic and pretty perfect.

I’m looking forward to what tomorrow’s dig will present. Thanks for working in the mine and bringing out some gems for us.


Craig December 19, 2011 at 2:15 pm

I’ve used an analogy before – a lot like yours Victoria – kind of like layers of an onion – the outer layer is onion – and the deepest layer is onion – it’s all onion – it’s all good – the important thing is just to have onions. You know? And about the birthday NOT being on Jewish Feast Day or time – I read something about how much emphasis the feasts are given in the Gospels – especially Passover at the end – so the reasoning would be that if Our Lord were born on a feast – the same sort of emphasis would be given – that kind of make sense. It’s one of those things that is another proof of how factual, and real the Gospels are. I heart that! And Victoria – I heart digging – and I heart that you’re there to see what comes out of the mine. Thank you, and Merry Christmas!


Martha Orlando December 19, 2011 at 2:44 pm

Just fascinating! I had heard that, of course, the day we celebrate the birth of Christ is certainly not the real one, but I’ve never seen it explained with such precision and detail. Can’t wait for tomorrow!
Blessings, Craig!


Craig December 19, 2011 at 3:25 pm

Martha, I remember the analogy that was used by a seminary professor – he used the image of clothing pens on a clothing line – and once you find out where one event is you put him on the line – then you can arrange events outward from that pin. And that’s how THEY date stuff. It was a necessary distraction, and a blessed one, to research this. Thank you, of course, for reading, and God bless you as always Martha.


Debbie December 20, 2011 at 12:54 am

I’m so glad He gave you this idea to post about, because it lifts you and Him. :) Thanks so much for doing the digging for us and blessing us! God bless you!


Craig December 20, 2011 at 10:55 am

I’m easily distracted, and HE knows that – and he knows that digging through this kind of stuff makes me happy. A little Christmas happiness – not a bad thing. Merry Christmas Debbie!


Michelle December 20, 2011 at 4:51 am

Looking forward to the rest. I had leaned, vaguely toward 3BC, but I also don’t have your learnin’ and therefore aren’t as smart as you. 😉 Though, I do know that if the shepherds were in the fields, it must have been spring/summer, otherwise the sheep would have been penned up down below…..


Craig December 20, 2011 at 10:59 am

yup – 3 BC is out because Herod died in 4 BC. it’s really fun piecing this together – but one important point – never mistake education for smarts. Although thank you for the compliment. And I always thought that about the shepherds too – but in the study I uncovered that shepherds take their sheep out to the pastures – sometimes even as late as December. So even that’s not as big a hint as it once was for me – although – for certain – shepherds would’ve been in the fields in August. And one more fun point for you – the shepherds went and told everybody. If it was a midnight birth – there would’ve been a lot of angry people in Bethlehem because of the noisy shepherds. ツ Merry Christmas Michelle.


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