The Feast of Tabernacles, Hanukkah, and…Christmas? (Part 7: What Year Was Jesus Born?)

The earliest church fathers all agreed that Jesus was born from 3 B.C. to 2 B.C.  The challenge though, is that the ancients didn’t use our dating system.  We must infer when events happened, mostly by the lives of leaders and the writings about them.  The ancient Jewish historian, Josephus, wrote that Herod died shortly after a total lunar eclipse.  With modern astronomy software, we can determine the time and date of every lunar eclipse in history.  But a transcription error with Josephus’ writings has caused historians to incorrectly determine which lunar eclipse Josephus connected with Herod’s death.

Every Josephus manuscript dated after 1544 has the same error, stating that Herod died in 4 B.C. This has forced Christian historians to speculate that Jesus must have been born prior to that, as the Scripture is clear that Herod was alive at the time of Jesus’ birth and for some point afterward.  But recent historical scholarship has discovered that every single manuscript of Josephus’ writings prior to 1544 is in agreement that Herod died in 1 B.C.  This is a very important clue in our discovery of which year Jesus was born.  We are now able to consider the possibility that he was born in 3 B.C. or 2 B.C., just as the ancient church fathers claimed.


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