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When Jesus Was Born

December 17, 2023  -  Comments 0

Did you know . . .

. . . that Jesus was not born on December 25th . . . and that he was not born in the year 1. Although these dates are as good as any for Christmas celebrations, scholars and historians who care about precision now think that Jesus was born between 4 and 6 BC (as years are commonly reckoned) and in the latter half of the year.

The Bible, of course, does not say exactly. Only that Jesus was “about thirty years old” when he was baptized and began his ministry (Luke 3:23). If Jesus had a three to four year ministry (following the more likely chronology of John’s Gospel), and was crucified in the year 30, then a birth between 4 and 6 BC becomes credible.

Of course, when Jesus was born there was no BC or AD. When and why, then, did our calendar start with the year 1, and why was December 25th chosen as the day of Jesus’ birth? The timeline of various calendars, from Old Egypt to the modern era, is a labyrinth of twists and turns, and different parts of the world adopted and adapted various calendars to suit their own needs and cultural histories.

Here is the bottom line: The calendar in use when Jesus was born was created by Julius Caesar in 45 BC, with the years being numbered according to the reign of the various Caesars and subsequent monarchs. So Jesus was born about the 26th year of Augustus (Caesar), or about the 40th year of the reign of King Herod the Great. In what became known as 525 AD (Anno Domini, Year of our Lord), a monk named Dionysius Exiguus invented the Year 1 as the year Jesus was born, but that idea didn’t catch on until Pope Gregory XIII revised the Julian calendar in 1582. Even then, the Gregorian calendar wasn’t adopted by England until 1752 when as a result 11 days in September were “lost” in the shuffle!

Somewhere in the 5th to 7th centuries (exact dates are murky), Christmas was designated as December 25th in the Christian West and January 6th in the Egyptian-Syrian East. While there are several theories, mostly about the winter solstice, scholars are not definitive why December 25th was the chosen date for Jesus’ birth. But it works!

We have a couple of Engravings that depict the birth of Jesus as well as  Bible Leaves from the Gospels that depict the birth of Jesus (Links below) (Adoration of the Magi and Annunciation of Mary)

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