Posted September 11, 2017
by Victor Wierwille
When was Jesus Christ born?
The scriptures do not give the exact date and time according to the calendar. However, the Bible does leave us a trail of crumbs to follow.
Because this question is not totally addressed in the scriptures, it becomes a scientific question. Specifically, the science of chronology. We will need to consider the record of events from historians. Also, because of the nature of the evidence given in the scriptures, we will need to consider astronomy, the genuine study of the stars.
True science and scripture never conflict with each other. If there seems to be a conflict, then it is only an artificial one; it is only an apparent conflict. Science dealing with observable data and properly applied and interpreted will never conflict with the Word of Truth when that Word is “rightly divided” (II Tim. 2:15).
Yes, there is a single intended interpretation of the Bible. People are committed to their belief that the Bible can mean one thing to you but mean a different thing to me. Many times when two people interpret the Bible in whichever they feel, those two people will absolutely contradict each other. That is not good diligence. That is not how you diligently endeavor to rightly divide the Word of Truth. If we applied the same method to science, we would still think the earth is the center of the solar system, because, after all, I feel that the solar system ought to revolve around me. In both science and scripture, you have to decide: Do you want to know the truth? Or, do you want to support your own preconceived hypothesis? You can’t have it both ways.
The scriptures are complete and consistent, and therefore they can define themselves and give their own interpretation. For instance, if I want to know what the Bible says about marriage, I can make the mistake of starting in the back of the book and read one section about a husband and a wife and interpret it according to what I already know and believe about marriage. Or, the more diligent endeavor would be to go back to the first place that the husband-and-wife relationship is mentioned and let the scriptures define it throughout the whole book. Then, the scriptures will interpret themselves and I would have access to the truth of that matter.
As a matter of sources for learning, the scriptures, when rightly divided, are the top authority. The historians can make mistakes, scientists can make mistakes, but God does not. The source of the scriptures when they were originally written was God (II Tim. 3:16). However, to answer our question about the timing of the birth of Christ, we will need to consider other sources. But, keep in mind that the scriptures carry the most authoritative weight.
Back to our original question: When was Jesus Christ born?
Let’s start with the scriptures and follow the trail from there.
And there appeared a great wonder [sign] in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.
In this section of scripture, it is referring to the birth of Christ and informs us of a wonder, or sign, in heaven. According to Genesis 1:14, among other things, the lights in the heavens are given for signs. The configuration described here in Revelation 12 lines up perfectly with an astronomical configuration.
Throughout the course of every year, as the earth revolves around the sun, the sun will appear to travel through the same thirteen constellations. Those are the constellations referred to as the “zodiac.” So that narrows down where we need to look for this configuration. It has to be where the sun can “clothe” a woman. There is only one woman constellation in the zodiac, it is called Virgo.
Note: The ancient names of the stars are what is important. That is how the story of redemption was recorded in the stars. The stars and constellations were given names. The stars would act as memory pegs and the names would tell the story. Many star names date so far back in history, that no one can trace the origin of the names. It is possible that the origin of those names trace back to Adam and God when they named the visible stars and passed down the story through the generations until the scriptures began to be written down. Since that time, some of the names have been lost, but not all of them.
Now using astronomical calculations, we can trace back to see exactly what point in history this configuration from Revelation 12:1-2 came to pass.
Let’s consider the configuration one more time. Remember how I told you that there are thirteen constellations in the zodiac? Well, if Virgo is the first one, then the twelve “stars” crowning her head would be the remaining twelve constellations of the zodiac. The woman is clothed with the sun, and at the same time the moon is under her feet.
When does this configuration happen? Unfortunately, it happens on one day every year. For simplicity sake, it would be convenient if this only happened once in the history of mankind. However, all is not lost. Since this only happens on one day in a year, if we know what year Jesus was born, then we can determine the exact day of that particular year that his birth occurred! How exciting.
Back to the Bible: Matthew 2
At this point, you will need to open your Bible and diligently inquire of the record of events around the birth of Jesus in the days of Herod in book of Matthew, chapter 2. The word for “wise men” is the Greek word referring to a specific group of people called “magi.” It is not a broad statement like “a bunch of wise people.” It is more similar to the words we use like“hippies” and “Gypsies.” If we said “hippies from the east came to Kansas,” we would understand they were a people of a common background but not the ones from California. Another way to communicate it might be the literal use of the word “gypsy.” Gypsies were specific groups of traveling people that spoke a common language and had similar trades. Similarly, the word “magi” during biblical times was referring to a specific sect of people known for their religion and knowledge of astronomy.
The magi observed the stars in their natural motion. They saw something among the stars that accurately communicated to them that a king of the Judeans had been born. The important part in reference to chronology is that King Herod inquired of them diligently, or “exactly,” at what time the star appeared (Matt 2:7). Herod now knows an age for the young child. So, he orders to put to death all the male children in and near Bethlehem who are 2 years old and under according to the time that he exactly inquired of the magi. Therefore, we know that by the time the magi arrived from the east, Jesus was already approaching 2 years old. Herod dies very soon after his failed assault on the young child.
If we can find in the history records the year of Herod’s death, then we will be able to determine the year Jesus was born! Remember, once we know the year Jesus is born, we can use the astronomical calculations to find out what day it was during that year, according to the information given in Revelation 12:1-2.
The year of Herod’s death has been proposed by scholars to be between 7 BC and 1 BC. A historian who lived in the time of Christ, Josephus, records events surrounding the death of Herod. He notes a lunar eclipse that happens shortly before Herod died. Then, he notes other transitional events leading up to the Passover feast of that year.
Back to Astronomy:
Thankfully, lunar eclipses can be mathematically calculated with great accuracy. The traditional year for the death of Herod is 4 BC because of a partial eclipse that occurred around that time. However, there are persuasive arguments against that date. The most convincing arguments are made for a total lunar eclipse that occurred on January 9, 1 BC. That would give us the date for Herod’s death around late February in 1 BC!
If we know the year of Herod’s death is 1 BC and Jesus was approaching 2 years old at that time, then Jesus must have been born in the year 3 BC!
Coming in full circle, we are back to looking for the configuration of the heavenly bodies that is given in Revelation 12:1-2. Mary was travailing in birth with Jesus when the constellation Virgo was clothed with the sun and the moon was under her feet. When in the year 3 BC did that configuration occur? It occurred on the Hebrew calendar on 1 Tishri which corresponded to our September 11 in the year 3 BC.
For more details, such as what the magi would have seen in the sky and much more evidence to support the timing of the birth of Jesus Christ, review these other sources:
- Dr. Wierwille, Jesus Christ our Promised Seed.
This book covers the chronology of all the events of Christ’s birth as they are recorded in the Bible. It also has a scientific section that is easier for the less-scientific person to read and understand. It is a healthy combination of scriptures and science giving you the whole picture of the childhood of Jesus Christ.
- Rev. John Crouch, His Star: Dating the Birth of Jesus Christ.
This is a new release DVD presentation now available at Amazon.com. Crouch reveals the information for dating the birth of Jesus Christ concisely in a live presentation. This video is unique in that he shows you the movement of the stars that the magi would have seen in their courses in a time-laps fashion. It provides both written and visual learning.
- Dr. Ernest Martin, The Star that Astonished the World.
This book is very detailed in the historical and astronomical facts concerning the timing of the birth of Jesus Christ. It addresses more details that overwhelming prove his point. Martin was the first to present a strong case for dating Herod’s death in 1 BC and therefore, Christ’s birth in 3 BC.
In honor of our heavenly Father on this Father’s Day, I am thankful to say that a new DVD has just become available on Amazon.com called “His Star: Dating the Birth of Jesus Christ” by John Crouch (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07216SHGD).
It is a wonderful presentation that answers the question of what the Magi saw in the sky that would allow them say, “For we have seen his star in the east and are come to worship him” (Mathew 2:2).
It was over 30 years ago that John Crouch was researching this topic to help aid Dr. Wierwille as he was developing the book “Jesus Christ our Promised Seed.” Dr. Wierwille wrote, “John Crouch’s scientific contribution to Part I of this study regarding astronomy is most illuminating and exciting in bringing to light the unparalleled accuracy and depth of God’s dynamic Word written in the stars.” John Crouch has been teaching it live ever since. We finally have his presentation preserved on DVD for the whole family to watch. When paired together with the book “Jesus Christ our Promised Seed,” you will have the greatest illumination of God’s Word on the subject of the birth of Christ.
On this Father’s Day, let’s remember the birth and life of Jesus Christ.
What do we really know about when Jesus Christ was born?
* Where do science and Scripture agree?
* Who were the Magi; what did they actually see in the night sky?
* What does history tell us about these pivotal times; how does this fit with Scripture?
Follow this link to purchase your own copy on Amazon.com: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07216SHGD
This picture is a Google Earth view showing the terrain as it is today in Greece, but what used to be called the area of Macedonia in the Bible times. However, I have marked out the locations of the cities that existed when Paul traveled through Macedonia in Acts 16 and 17. In the Bible we can read his letters written back to the church in two of these cities after he had visited them. The first two are to the “church of the Thessalonians” and one letter to “all the saints who are at Philippi.” You can use this map to visualize where Paul and his companions were located while you read Acts 16:11 — 17:15. Also, more details and truths are given as you read the epistles of I & II Thessalonians and Philippians.
Paul and his companions began by landing at Neapolis in the top right corner of this map. After traveling through the area, Paul left from the coast after teaching in Berea. I traced a line in orange which is only approximate of the path Paul that may have traveled. From this satellite view, you can see the urban area where Thessalonica used to be located (today it is called Thessaloniki). Also you can see how the lower valleys are used for agriculture, while the mountains are less inhabited and less traveled. This area is the first recorded place where the Word of God of the New Testament moved from the Eastern world to the West.