Biography of Jesus Christ When Was He Born

About the possible birth date and year of Jesus Christ.


The exact date of the birth of Jesus has never been determined for certain and probably never can be. There is not a single contemporaneous reference to Jesus in existence, either in or out of the Bible, and all specific and definite conclusions on the subject of the date of his birth rest upon a pyramid of presumptions. The Gospels, probably written between 50 and 100 years after the birth of Jesus, are vague and general in their references to historical persons, events, and facts. Attempts to determine the date of Jesus' birth from historical, archaeological, and astronomical data have resulted in doubtful success. The Jews and Romans had different methods of reckoning time and dating historical events. In all the Bible there is not one single date in the modern sense of the word.

The solution of the problem of the birth date of Jesus hinges on a very few events in the Gospels that can be determined with a fair measure of certainty. From Matt. 2:1 we learn that "Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king." History tells us that this Herod, surnamed the Great, died sometime in 4 B.C., according to our present calendar. Therefore Jesus must have been born in or before that year. The year of his birth has been placed by different authorities all the way from 4 B.C. to 20 B.C. Many suppose that Jesus was born at least two years before Herod's death. This is based on Matt. 2:16, which says that Herod, in his attempt to destroy Jesus, slew all the children "from two years old and under," indicating that the king thought that Jesus might be as much as two years of age at that time. We have no way of knowing, however, that this incident occurred during the last year of Herod's life. In Luke 2:1-2 we are told that in the days when Jesus was born "there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed" and that "this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria." This Cyrenius is generally believed to have been Publius Sulpicius Quirinius, who, we learn from Roman history, occupied important positions in Syria, which included Judaea, three different times--6-4 B.C., and 6-9 A.D. It is known that Augustus Caesar in 23 B.C. started the practice of making an enrollment of the taxpayers every 14 years. Accordingly, such an enrollment would have been due in Syria in 9 B.C. Such enrollments, however, probably required more than one year, and in some cases they may have been postponed a year or two for various reasons. Probably an enrollment took place sometime between 9 B.C. and 6 B.C., possibly the first year that Quirinius was proconsul of "Asia," which suggests 6 B.C. as the year of the birth of Jesus. There is not enough evidence to justify a definite conclusion. The best that can be said is that Jesus was probably born before 4 B.C., and very likely several years earlier. There is no evidence whatever to indicate what time of the year, month, or day he was born.

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