The birth of Jesus Christ is the one of the most significant events in all of history and when we understand the truths regarding the true date of his birth it will thrill and inspire your heart. Tradition has made December 25th the birthday of Jesus. but the Bible clearly reveals he was not born on that day. It was not until the 4th century after Christ that December 25th began to be celebrated as the day of Christ’s birth. It was the old pagan holiday celebrating the winter solstice and the birth of the sun god and celebrated when the days began to get longer. In Rome it was the festival called Saturnalia and later the Roman Empire baptized it and began to celebrate it as the birth of Jesus. All biblical scholars know that Jesus was not born on December 25th.
In the year 3 B.C. which we later show by other celestial events in the heavens to be the year of the birth of Jesus Christ, the sun was in this position from August 27th through September 15th. We can pinpoint the birth of Christ very precisely. In 3 B.C. the sun and the moon in Virgo occurred on only one day and that was September 11. The configuration of the sun and the moon was visible in Palestine between sunset and moonset, this twilight period being called “night” in the Bible. On September 11, 3 B.C., sunset was at 6:18pm and moonset at 7:39pm. Jesus Christ was born on September 11, 3 B.C sometime in that eighty-one minute span of time between 6:18pm and 7:39pm. Amazingly this corresponds to Tishri 1 on the Jewish Calendar which is the First day of the festival of the Feast of Trumpets.
On September 11, 3 B.C. Jupiter and Regulus could be seen approaching conjunction before dawn. Although the precise astronomical conjunction occurred on September 14, the angle of observation and Jupiter’s slow apparent motion would have made their close rendezvous obvious as early as the predawn hours of Thursday, September 12, within hours of the Messiah’s birth. At that time the king planet Jupiter could be seen approaching the king star Regulus in the constellation of Leo, the sign of Judah from whose seed the Messiah, the promised seed came.
Exactly one month before (on August 12) the world would have witnessed the close conjunction of Jupiter (reckoned astrologically as the Father) and Venus (the Mother) when they were only .07 degrees from one another when they appeared as morning stars on the eastern horizon. This was a very close union. But then, nineteen days later (August 31), Venus came to within .36 degrees of Mercury in a very similar astronomical display. Then, on September 11th, the New Moon occurred which represented the Jewish New Year. This happened when Jupiter (the King planet) was then approaching Regulus (the King star). And, on September 14, Jupiter and Regulus came to their first of three conjunctions in this extraordinary year. Then, over an eight month period, Jupiter made its “crowning effect” over the King star Regulus.
If one can realize that the New Testament shows Jesus born on the Day of Trumpets (the first day of Tishri ― the start of the Jewish civil year) an impressive amount of symbolic features emerge on the biblical and prophetic scenes. Before the period of the Exodus in the time of Moses, this was the day that began the biblical year. It also looks like this was the day when people were advanced one year of life ― no matter at what month of the year they were actually born.
Notice that the patriarch Noah became 600 years of age “in the first month [Tishri], the first day of the month [later to be called the Day of Trumpets]” (Genesis 8:13). That was the very day when “Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and, behold, the face of the ground was dry” (v. 13). This was not only Noah’s official birthday, it became a new birth after the Flood for the earth as well.
There is more. Even the first day of creation mentioned in Genesis 1:1–5 could be reckoned as being this very day. The early Jews discussed whether the actual creation took place in spring or in autumn. But since the autumn commenced all biblical years before the Exodus (Exodus 12:2), and since all the fruit was then on the trees ready for Adam and Eve to eat (Genesis 1:29; 2:9, 16–17), it suggests that the month of Tishri was the creation month, beginning near the autumn. If so, then the first day of creation mentioned in Genesis was also the first of Tishri (at least, Moses no doubt intended to give that impression). This means that not only was this the birthday of the new earth in Noah’s day and what was later to become the Day of Trumpets on the Mosaic calendar, but it was also the day which ushered in the original creation of the heavens and the earth.
Among the Jews this day was called Rosh ha-Shanah (the Feast of the New Year). The majority belief of Jewish elders (which still dominates the services of the synagogues) was that the Day of Trumpets was the memorial day that commemorated the beginning of the world. Authorized opinion prevailed that the first of Tishri was the first day of Genesis 1:1–5. It “came to be regarded as the birthday of the world.” It was even more than an anniversary of the physical creation. The Jewish historian Theodor H. Gaster states,
“Judaism regards New Year’s Day not merely as an anniversary of creation ― but more importantly ― as a renewal of it. This is when the world is reborn.”
The matter does not stop there. Each of the Jewish months was officially introduced by the blowing of trumpets (Numbers 10:10). Since the festival year in which all the Mosaic festivals were found was seven months long, the last month (Tishri) was the last month for a festival trumpet. This is one of the reasons that the day was called “the Day of Trumpets.” The last trumpet in the seven months’ series was always sounded on this New Moon day. This made it the final trumpets’ day (Leviticus 23:24; Numbers 29:1).
This was the exact day that many of the ancient kings and rulers of Judah reckoned as their inauguration day of rule. This procedure was followed consistently in the time of Solomon, Jeremiah, and Ezra . The Day of Trumpets was also acknowledged as the time for counting the years of their kingly rule. Indeed, it was customary that the final ceremony in the coronation of kings was the blowing of trumpets.
- For Solomon, “Blow ye the trumpet, and say, ‘God save king Solomon’” (1 Kings 1:34).
- For Jehu, “And [they] blew with trumpets, saying, ‘Jehu is king’” (2 Kings 9:13).
- At the enthronement of Jehoash, “The people of the land rejoiced, and blew with trumpets” (2 Kings 11:11).
The early Jews also recognized that the Day of Trumpets was a memorial day for considering those who had died. It was not a simple type of “Memorial Day” that we moderns are accustomed to. It was a symbolic time when “the dead return to rejoin their descendants at the beginning of the year.” Such a day was a time when Israel would rally to the call of God for the inauguration of God’s kingdom on earth.
The blowing of trumpets was the sign that kings could then begin to rule (1 Kings 1:34; 2 Kings 9:13; 11:11). Jewish authorities long acknowledged this royal import to the Day of Trumpets.
It is postulated by many scholars that in Israel, Yahweh was crowned annually at the “New Year feast of Yahweh.” The scholar Mowinckel has argued that the “enthronement psalms”(Psalms 47, 93, 96–99) in which Yahweh reigns were a part of the liturgy of the ancient synagogues. There is no doubt that this is true. This was also the very day when Jesus was born.
If one will look at Norton’s Star Atlas, twelve visible stars will be seen around Virgo’s head. They are (according to astronomical terminology): (1) Pi, (2)Nu, (3) Beta (near the ecliptic), (4) Sigma, (5) Chi, (6) Iota — these six stars form the southern hemisphere around the head of Virgo. Then there are (7) Theta, (8) Star 60, (9)Delta, (10) Star 93, (11) Beta (the 2nd magnitude star) and (12) Omicron — these last six form the northern hemisphere around the head of Virgo. All these stars are visible and could have been witnessed by observers on earth.
The Twelve Stars around the head of Virgo is that it represents the headship position (the “head” of Virgo is situated in the last ten degrees of Leo) for the beginning of the story found within the Twelve Constellations as reckoned in the biblical Zodiac. In the biblical Zodiac, the tribe of Judah (the Lion, or Leo) was situated around the Tabernacle directly east of its entrance. This meant that half of the tribe of Judah was south and the other half north of the east/west line from the Holy of Holies through the court of Israel and then eastward through the camp of Israel (in this case, Judah) to encounter the altar outside the camp where the Red Heifer was burnt to ashes. This means, unlike some Gentile reckonings which started their zodiacal story with the zero line between Cancer and Leo (that is, at the very commencement of Leo), the biblical Zodiac began with the 15th degree of Leo (Judah). This signifies that the first constellation to be met with in this celestial story would have been the “head” of Virgo the Virgin which occupied the last ten degrees of Leo.
The Day of Trumpets in the biblical and Jewish calendars is New Year’s Day for commercial and royal reckonings (just as we have January the first on our Roman calendar as the start of our New Year). This New Year’s Day signified a time of “new beginnings” to all those in Israel who accepted the teachings of the Bible. As a matter of fact, the Jews over the centuries have held to the belief that the Day of Trumpets was a cardinal date in the history of Adam (our first parent). It was the very day when Adam and Eve came to the recognition of whether to obey God or to defy him. But that was not all that occurred on that day. No day in the year could be reckoned as being of more esteemed value and symbolic influence than Rosh Ha-Shanah. That day is important for the birth of the Messiah in several ways that are very profound in Jewish symbolism.
The book The Complete Artscroll Machzor gives some chronological details that the early Jewish theologians and scholars worked out from indications in the Old Testament to show when important individuals were born or major events happened in association with their lives. And what an array of significant things occurred on the Day of Trumpets and the month of Tishri. The book gives a summary of accounts found in the Jewish Talmud (Rosh Ha-Shanah 10b–11a).
Note what the Machzor states about this particular Day of Trumpets. The quotes are interesting and of value,
“The Patriarchs Abraham and Jacob were born on Rosh Ha-Shanah. Abraham was a new beginning for mankind after its [mankind’s] failure to realize the promise of Adam and Noah. Jacob was a new beginning for the Jewish people, for it was with him that Jews advanced from the status of individuals to that of a united family on the threshold of nationhood”
- Artscroll Machzor, p.xvi, italics and bracketed word mine
The Machzor does not stop with Abraham and Jacob. Look at the following quote,
“On Rosh Ha-Shanah God remembered three barren women, the Matriarchs Sarah and Rachel, and Hannah the mother of the prophet Samuel and decreed that they would give birth. Not only was Rosh Ha-Shanah a turning point in the lives of these great and worthy women, but the births of their children were momentous events for all Jewry, because they were the historic figures Isaac, Joseph, and Samuel.”
Jewish chronological evaluations show other important events associated with the Day of Trumpets (Rosh Ha-Shanah). The Machzor continues,
“On Rosh Ha-Shanah, Joseph was freed from an Egyptian prison after twelve years of incarceration. He became viceroy of Egypt, provider to the world during the years of famine, and the leader of Jacob’s family.
This shows Rosh ha-Shanah as a day of freedom. There is more on the theme of freedom. The Machzor continues:
“On Rosh Ha-Shanah, the Jewish people in Egypt stopped their slave labor[they began their time of liberty and freedom], while they waited for the Ten Plagues to play themselves out so that Moses could lead them to freedom”
This is the central reason why the apostle John in Revelation 12:1–5 shows that the birth of Jesus occurred within the first few minutes (the twilight period) of the Day of Trumpets that works out to be September 11th in 3 B.C.E.
A study of the now computerized data by which we can very accurately determine astronomical events of that time gives us another piece of the puzzle to dating the birth of Christ in September of 3 B.C. In particular, the very noticeable celestial activity of Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, Regulus (the King star), and Venus (the Queen star), and their various combinations of conjunctions in Leo during the nine months leading up to Christ’s birth are vital signs to determine the September birth date of our Lord Jesus. And we believe that research shows that he was born on September 11 (Tishri 1 on the Jewish calendar), on which day the sun was in Virgo, as per the prophecy in Revelation 12:1 of “a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon beneath her feet” (Rev. 12:1).
Both Luke and Matthew mention Jesus’ birth as occurring during Herod’s reign (Luke 1:5; Matthew 2:1). Josephus relates Herod’s death to a lunar eclipse. This is generally regarded as a reference to a lunar eclipse in 4 B.C. Therefore it is often said that Jesus was born in 4 B.C.
There was another lunar eclipse visible in Judea—in fact, two—in 1 B.C., which would place Herod’s death—and Jesus’ birth—at the turn of the era.
The 4 B.C. date is based on Josephus’s remark in Antiquities 17.6.4 that there was a lunar eclipse shortly before Herod died. This is traditionally ascribed to the eclipse of March 13, 4 B.C. Unfortunately, this eclipse was visible only very late that night in Judea and was additionally a minor and only partial eclipse.
There were no lunar eclipses visible in Judea thereafter until two occurred in the year 1 B.C. That then dates the death of Herod the Great into the first year of the current era, four years after the usual date.
Herod the Great most likely died shortly after the lunar eclipse of December 29, 1 B.C., rather than that of March 13, 4 B.C., which is the eclipse traditionally associated with Josephus’s description in Jewish Antiquities 17.6.4 and which is used as a basis to reckon Jesus’ birth shortly before 4 B.C. This argument was made in the 19th century by scholars such as Édouard Caspari and Florian Riess.
There are three principal reasons why the 4 B.C. date has prevailed over 1 B.C. These reasons were articulated by Emil Schürer in A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ, also published in the 19th century. First, Josephus informs us that Herod died shortly before a Passover (Antiquities 17.9.3, The Jewish War 2.1.3), making a lunar eclipse in March (the time of the 4 B.C. eclipse) much more likely than one in December.
Second, Josephus writes that Herod reigned for 37 years from the time of his appointment in 40 B.C. and 34 years from his conquest of Jerusalem in 37 B.C. (Antiquities 17.8.1, War 1.33.8). Using so-called inclusive counting, this, too, places Herod’s death in 4 B.C.
Third, we know that the reign over Samaria and Judea of Herod’s son and successor Archelaus began in 4 B.C., based on the fact that he was deposed by Caesar in A.U.C. (Anno Urbis Conditae [in the year the city was founded]) 759, or A.D. 6, in the tenth year of his reign (Dio Cassius, Roman History 55.27.6; Josephus, Antiquities 17.13.2). Counting backward his reign began in 4 B.C. In addition, from Herod the Great’s son and successor Herod Antipas, who ruled over Galilee until 39 B.C., who ordered the execution of John the Baptist (Mark 6:14–29) and who had a supporting role in Jesus’ trial (Luke 23:7–12), we have coins that make reference to the 43rd year of his rule, placing its beginning in 4 B.C. at the latest).
The key information comes, of course, from Josephus who brackets the death by “a fast” and the Passover. He says that on the night of the fast there was a lunar eclipse—the only eclipse mentioned in the entire corpus of his work. Correlation of Josephus with the Talmud and Mishnah indicate the fast was probably Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur occurs on the tenth day of the seventh month (mid-September to mid-October) and Passover on the 15th day of the first month (March or April) of the religious calendar. Josephus does not indicate when within that time interval the death occurred.
Only four lunar eclipses occurred in the likely time frame: September 15, 5 B.C., March 12–13, 4 B.C., January 10, 1 B.C. and December 29, 1 B.C. The first eclipse fits Yom Kippur, almost too early, but possible. It was a total eclipse that became noticeable several hours after sundown, but it is widely regarded as too early to fit other information on the date. The favorite 4 B.C. eclipse seems too far from Yom Kippur and much too close to Passover. This was a partial eclipse that commenced after midnight. It hardly seems a candidate for being remembered and noted by Josephus. The 1 B.C. dates require either that the fast was not Yom Kippur or that the calendar was rejiggered for some reason. The January 10 eclipse was total but commenced shortly before midnight on a winter night. Lastly, in the December 29 eclipse the moon rose at 53 percent eclipse and its most visible aspect was over by 6 p.m. It is the most likely of the four to have been noted and commented on.
If Jesus was born in Bethlehem, why is he called a Nazorean and a Galilean throughout the New Testament?
An eclipse in 1 B.C.E. would place Herod’s death in that year, rather than the generally accepted 4 B.C.E., cannot be reconciled with other historical facts recorded by Josephus.
As is well known, Herod’s son Archelaus succeeded him as the ruler of Judea, as reported by Josephus (Antiquities 8:459). Josephus also recorded that Archelaus reigned over Judea and Samaria for ten years, and that in his tenth year, due to complaints against him from both Jews and Samaritans, he was deposed by Caesar Augustus and banished to Vienna (Antiquities 8:531). Quirinius, the legate or governor of Syria, was assigned by the emperor to travel to Jerusalem and liquidate the estate of Archelaus, as well as to conduct a registration of persons and property in Archelaus’s former realm. This occurred immediately after Archelaus was deposed and was specifically dated by Josephus to the 37th year after Caesar’s victory over Mark Anthony at Actium (Antiquities 9:23). The Battle of Actium is a well-known event in Roman history that took place in the Ionian Sea off the shore of Greece on September 2 of the year 31 B.C.E. Counting 37 years forward from 31 B.C.E. yields a date of 6 C.E. for the tenth year of Archelaus, at which time he was deposed and Quirinus came to Judea. And counting back ten years from that event yields a date of 4 B.C.E. for the year in which Herod died. (The beginning and ending years are both included in this count, since regnal years for both Augustus and the Herodians were so figured.)
These reports, and the chronology derived from them, provide compelling evidence for the generally accepted date of Herod’s death in the spring of 4 B.C.E., shortly after the lunar eclipse of March 13, regardless of the fact that eclipses also occurred in other years.
Originally Herod had named his son Antipater to be his heir and had groomed Antipater to take over upon his death. However, a little over two years before Herod’s death Antipater had his uncle, Herod’s younger brother Pheroras murdered. Pheroras had been tetrarch of Galilee under Herod. Antipater’s plot was discovered, and Archelaus was named Herod’s successor in place of Antipater. Seven months passed before Antipater, who was in Rome, was informed that he had been charged with murder. Late in the next year he would be placed on trial before Varus, governor of Syria. Eventually Herod received permission from Rome to execute Antipater. During his last year Herod wrote a will disinheriting Archelaus and granting the kingdom to Antipas. In a later will, however, he once again left the kingdom to Archelaus. Following his death his kingdom would eventually be split into three parts among Archelaus, Antipas, and Philip.
Josephus is careful to note that during his last year Herod was forbidden by Augustus from naming his sons as his successors. However, in several passages Josephus also notes that Herod bestowed royalty and its honors on his sons. At Antipater’s trial Josephus quotes Herod as testifying that he had yielded up royal authority to Antipater. He also quotes Antipater claiming that he was already a king because Herod had made him a king.
When Archelaus replaced Antipater as Herod’s heir apparent some two years before Herod’s death, Antipater may have been given the same prerogatives as Archelaus had previously enjoyed. After Herod’s death Archelaus went to Rome to have his authority confirmed by Augustus. His enemies charged him with seemingly contradictory indictments: that Archelaus had already exercised royal authority for some time and that Herod did not appoint Archelaus as his heir until he was demented and dying. These are not as contradictory as they seem, however. Herod initially named Archelaus his heir, and at this point Archelaus may have assumed royal authority under his father. Then Herod revoked his will, naming Antipas his heir. Ultimately, when he was ill and dying, Herod once again named Archelaus his heir. Thus, Archelaus may not have legally been king until after Herod’s death in early 1 B.C., but may have chosen to reckon his reign from a little over two years earlier in late 4 B.C. when he first replaced Antipater as Herod’s heir.
Since Antipas would eventually rule Galilee, it is entirely possible that under Herod he already had been given jurisdiction over Galilee in the wake of Pheroras’ death. This may explain why Herod briefly named Antipas as his heir in the year before his death. Since Antipas may have assumed the jurisdiction over Galilee upon Pheroras’ death sometime in 4 B.C., like Archelaus, he also may have reckoned his reign from that time, even though he was not officially named tetrarch of Galilee by the Romans until after Herod’s death.
Philip also appears to have exercised a measure of royal authority before Herod’s death in 1 B.C. Philip refounded the cities of Julias and Caesarea Philippi (Paneas). Julias was apparently named after Augustus’ daughter, who was arrested for adultery and treason in 2 B.C. Apparently Julias was refounded before that date. As for Caesarea Philippi, the date of its refounding was used to date an era, and the first year of the era was 3 B.C. Apparently Philip chose to antedate his reign to 4 B.C., which apparently was the time when Herod first entrusted him with supervision of Gaulanitis.
Additional support for Philip having been officially appointed tetrarch after the death of his father in 1 B.C. may be found in numismatics. A number of coins issued by Philip during his reign are known. The earliest bear the date “year 5,” which would correspond to A.D. 1. This fits well with Philip serving as administrator under his father from 4–1 B.C. He counted those as the first four years of his reign, but since he was not officially recognized by Rome as an independent client ruler, he had no authority to issue coins during those years. However, he was in position to issue coinage soon after being named tetrarch sometime in 1 B.C., and the first coins appear the next year, A.D. 1, antedating his reign to 4 B.C. While the numismatic evidence is not conclusive proof of Herod’s death in 1 B.C., it is highly suggestive.
Given the explicit statements of Josephus about the authority and honor Herod had granted his sons during the last years of his life, we can understand why all three of his successors decided to antedate their reigns to the time when they were granted a measure of royal authority while their father was still alive. Although they were not officially recognized by Rome as ethnarch or tetrarchs until after Herod’s death, they nevertheless appear to have reckoned their reigns from about 4 B.C.
So then how did December 25 come to be the date that most all Christians recognize as the birth date of Christ? We quote from Jesus Christ Our Promised Seed:
“In 274 A.D., the Romans designated December 25 as the birthday of the unconquered sun, being the time when the sun begins noticeably to show an increase in light, resulting in longer daylight hours. By 336 A.D., the church in Rome was adapting this festival, spiritualizing its significance as a reference to Jesus Christ and calling it the ‘Feast of the Nativity of the Sun of Righteousness.’ Attempting to Christianize and incorporate the pagan traditions of antiquity, the church in Rome adopted this midwinter holiday celebrating the birth of the sun god as one of its own observances, somewhat changing its significance, but retaining many customs of the pagan festival. As the Roman church spread its influence religiously and militarily, this holiday of December 25 became the most popular date in Christendom to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. A special mass was established for Christ, hence, the name, ‘Christmass,’ abbreviated ‘Christmas.’”
Some of the belief that Jesus was born on 911 is based on the work of E. L. Martin’s The Star that Astonished the World . Most academics are unaware of Martin’s research because he wasn’t a member of the biblical studies guild. Others reject it out of hand because of Martin’s involvement with the old Worldwide Church of God.
Most of the criticisms of Martin’s work revolve around the fact that it requires a date of 1 BC for the death of Herod the Great, something that flies in the face of the (current) consensus of 4 BC for that event. A date of 1 BC for Herod’s death is not only possible, but more accurately reflects the data now available. The two best sources for defending Herod’s death in 1 BC — which, again, seem utterly neglected in criticisms of Martin’s work — are:
1) The difficult to find article by Ormond Edwards, “Herodian Chronology,” Palestine Exploration Quarterly 114 (1982): 29-42. Edwards’s article is a study of Herodian coinage and its implications for dating Herod’s reign, including his death. Edwards’ research shows that the death of Herod the Great was Tishri 1, 3 BC (Martin’s Sept 11) by the civil new year’s calendar, or Nisan 1, 2 BC using the ecclesiastical calendar. Edwards writes in his conclusion:
“It is concluded that Josephus in Jewish War was mistaken in his handling of the calendars of the Herodian period. He dated all the Herods’ reigns from the spring new year, whereas the earlier Herods (excluding Agrippa II) dated their coins from the autumn civil new year’s day preceding accession. The error comes to light only when the data in Josephus is compared with the coin dates.”
2) The more recent article by an expert in biblical chronology, Andrew Steinmann, “When Did Herod the Great Reign?” Novum Testamentum 51 (2009) 1-29. The abstract of this article reads:
For about 100 years there has been a consensus among scholars that Herod the Great reigned from 37 to 4 BCE. However, there have been several challenges to this consensus over the past four decades, the most notable being the objection raised by W. E. Filmer. This paper argues that Herod most likely reigned from late 39 BCE to early 1 BCE, and that this reconstruction of his reign can account for all of the surviving historical references to the events of Herod’s reign more logically than the current consensus can. Moreover, the reconstruction of Herod’s reign proposed in this paper accounts for all of the datable evidence relating to Herod’s reign, whereas the current consensus is unable to explain some of the evidence that it dismisses as ancient errors or that it simply ignores.