The Light of Life Magazine
A ministry of Christian writing

December 2010

Luther S. Rath

Several reasons to establish the date.

Jesus took birth for the salvation of sinful mankind. But his date of birth is not known. December 25 is internationally celebrated as His birthday. A Roman monk Dionysius Exiguous had first assigned in 525 AD Jesus' date of birth to 0 BC/AD which by itself is illogical as the year ought to be 1 BC or 1 AD. The monk had also miscalculated the reign of the then Emperors and Kings.

When Was Jesus Born?
1) Emperor Augustus, King Herod and Governor Quirinius ruled over Rome and Judea at the time of the birth of Jesus. 2) Emperor Augustus decreed the first ever census in the Roman Empire. 3) A bright star appeared during the birth of Jesus.

Augustus ruled from 27 BC to 14 AD, Herod from 37 BC to 4 BC and Quirinius ruled from 12 BC to 2 BC in his first term of rule. The census was ordered during the common ruling period of the above rulers i.e., from 12 BC to 4 BC.

In the Middle East, summer season covers from March to September and winter from October to February. Temperature in Jerusalem in December is as low as 00 C. So Augustus would not have thought of conducting a census at this time, as it would not be possible for any inhabitant, especially pregnant women and children, to travel hundreds of miles on donkey's back, leaving aside problems of accommodation. The problem could be the same in extreme summer because of hot days with possibility of wind storms. The Hebrews had a lunar calendar of 12 + 1 months, the thirteenth month coming in every third year like a leap year. The seventh month Tishrei was the beginning of their civil year and fell in September-October in the Gregorian calendar. So the Roman Emperor Augustus and King Herod of Judea could have thought of the first ever census to be conducted in this month, with beginning of the civil year between summer and winter. There is no mention of any year for any event, according to the Hebrew calendar. Therefore, some clues can be taken from astronomy which calculates and records the transits of Sun, Moon and all planets revolving around the Sun continuously and at a regular velocity as observed from the earth. According to ephemeris, the star which appeared in the sky on the day of Jesus' birth could be the conjunction of planets Jupiter and Saturn which appeared like a nova. The conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn does not recur within 22 years. Such a bright conjunction once occurred in 6 BC in Gregorian calendar. Jupiter and Saturn in conjunction were transiting at a speed of 7.2 sec/day and 3.6 sec/day respectively, in retrograde motion. Because of this slow speed in retrogression, the nova was visible continuously for at least 17 days in the night from the twenty seventh day of the Jewish month of Elul to the fifteenth day of Tishrei. The period corresponds to September 19-October 5, 6 BC.

The Hebrew months began on the new-moon days. The month Tishrei, the beginning of the civil year, also began on a new-moon-day on September 21, 6 BC. The dark night of this new-moon must have been a great contributing factor to make the nova of the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction be the clearest and the brightest.

Birth Of John The Baptist
The date of the virgin Mary's conception can be derived with reference to conception of Elizabeth, wife of Zechariah. When Zechariah worshipped in his turn in the second half of the Hebrew month Tammuz, "The angel said to him, 'Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer is heard and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John'" (Lk.1:13). This period corresponds from July 19 to August 3, 7 BC. Now Elizabeth must have conceived on August 4 from the blessing of God since Zechariah returned home on August 4 only. Then Elizabeth hid herself for five months, Avi, Elul, Tishrei, Mar and Kislev. The sixth month began on new-moon day on December 29, 7 BC. In this sixth month the angel announced to Mary, "Don't be afraid, Mary. God has been gracious to you. You will become pregnant and give birth to a Son, and you will name Him Jesus" (Matt.1:30-31). This month of Tivet began on December 29, 7 BC. So, when the real gestation period of 266 days is added to this date, the date of Jesus' birth falls on September 21, 6 BC. This was the beginning of the month of Tishrei and a new-moon-day and also beginning of the civil year. Emperor Augustus would have ordered the first ever census for the entire Roman Empire.

When Jesus was born, the shepherds, out in the fields watching their flock of sheep, saw a bright light in the new-moon dark night. "An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.'" The wise men from the East, probably from the then Persia and Mesopotamia, saw a so-called star (the bright nova of the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn) in the East. Obviously, they consulted each other and came to know that the King of the Jews was born.

They took up a journey of about 1200 to 1300 km through the Syrian Desert to Jerusalem to the palace of Herod, the King of the Jews. They enquired from the king, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him" (Matt.2:2). The time of their journey is not known except for another astronomical occurrence. When the wise men left disappointed from Jerusalem for Bethlehem, they saw another bright star. This was not a star, but a conjunction between Venus and Mars which occurred on June 29, 5 BC. Jesus was then more than 9 months old. So, to be on the safer side, Herod ordered all male children below 2 years to be killed.

Confirmation Of Date Of Birth
1. Emperor Augustus ruled over Roman Empire from 27 BC to 14 AD.
2. Herod the Great ruled over Judea from 37 to 4 BC.
3. Quirinius ruled as Governor from 12 to 2 BC.
4. Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn took place three times in 6 BC.
5. The conjunction was visible for longer period during September-October 6 BC as Jupiter and Saturn were in retrograde motion.
6. The first census in the Roman Empire was possible in September-October between summer and winter.
7. September-October was a suitable period for the shepherds to be in the fields in the night. December happens to be severely cold in the region for them to be out in the night in the mountainous place.
8. Mary and Joseph had to travel for about 113 km from Nazareth to Bethlehem. It could be utterly impossible in the month of cold December; but season during September and October was quite suitable.
9. 'His star' could be prominently visible to the wise men during dark nights in second and third weeks in September.
10.September 21, 6 BC was the darkest night as it was a new-moon-day.
11.September 21 was the first day of the year in Jewish calendar.
12.September 21 was the first day of the month of Tishrei, the first month of the year.
13.September 21 was a special day for Sabbath in a year announced by God.
14.Date of conception of Mary was found to be December 29, 7 BC.

Thus the date of birth of Jesus falls on September 21, 6 BC.

2010 Light of Life