One of the most-asked questions during this time of year regards the date of Christ's birth. In fact, historians and theologians have been musing on that topic since early in church history. How do we know? Because we have some of their writings on our site.
Here's just one such examination from Samuel James Andrews from his classic work The Life of Our Lord upon the Earth.
We take as our starting point in this inquiry the statement of Matthew, (ii. 1-9,) that Jesus was born before the death of Herod the Great. We must, therefore, first ascertain when Herod died. According to Josephus,1 " he died the fifth day after he had caused Antipater to be slain; having reigned since he caused Antigonus to be slain, thirty-four years, but since he had been declared king by the Romans, thirty-seven." He was so declared king in 714. This would bring his death in the year from 1st Nisan 750 to 1st Nisan 751, according to Jewish computation, at the age of seventy.
But the date of his death may be more definitely fixed. Josephus relates1 that he executed the insurgents, Matthias and his companions, on the night of an eclipse of the moon. This eclipse took place, as has been ascertained by astronomical calculations,3 on the night of the 12th and 13th March, 750; yet he was dead before the 5th of April, for the Passover of that year fell upon the 12th April, and Josephus states1 that before this feast his son and successor Archelaus observed the usual seven days' mourning for the dead. His death must therefore be placed between the 13th March and 4th April, 750. We may take the 1st of April as an approximate date.2
How long before Herod's death was the Lord born? The Evangelists Matthew and Luke relate certain events that occurred between His birth and Herod's death, His circumcision upon the eighth day, the presentation at the Temple on the fortieth, the visit of the Magi, the flight into Egypt, the murder of the Innocents. Whatever view may be taken as to the order of these events, they can scarcely have occupied less than two months. This would bring His birth into January, or February at latest, 750.
And he's just getting warmed up. Keep reading this fascinating account as you celebrate the season of Christ's birth.
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