Jesus Christ is one of the most popular figures of history and religion. Though the historical evidence of him living is not so substantial, there is enough data to claim he was a real person. However, with his existence assured by information outside the Bible, there are still many mysteries about him. One such conundrum is when he was born. In fact, “when was Jesus born” is a top search on the internet. There are many theories about when he was born in terms of the year and month, and even day. These theories have been clouded by popular myths, cultural norms, and a lack of concrete evidence. However, this essay will delve into the various theories behind his birthdate and try to get to the bottom of the question.
Though most people celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25th in the form of Christmas, most scholars agree that this is not the date he was born. In fact, as stated by History.com, “The oldest existing record of a Christmas celebration is found in a Roman almanac that tells of a Christ’s Nativity festival led by the church of Rome in 336 A.D. The precise reason why Christmas came to be celebrated on December 25 remains obscure, but most researchers believe that Christmas originated as a Christian substitute for pagan celebrations of the winter solstice” (“Christ Is Born?”). So, celebrating his birth on December 25th was more of an adaptation to pagan rituals rather than an adherence to an exact date.
Some scholars look at the Bible for evidence of when he was born. For instance, LiveScience states that, “Some scholars think that he was born between 6 B.C. and 4 B.C., based partly on the biblical story of Herod the Great. Not long before Herod’s demise, which is believed to have occurred in 4 B.C., the ruler of Judea supposedly ordered the death of all male infants who were under the age of two and lived in the vicinity of Bethlehem, in an attempt to kill Jesus. But historians disagree about Herod’s actual year of death” (Castro, Joseph). Also, scholars generally assume the mass infanticide described in the Bible to be a legend rather a historical fact. In addition, the Star of Bethlehem expounded on in the Bible appearing on the day Jesus was born is sometimes connected to an astronomical event that happened on 5 B.C. that was noted by Chinese astronomers as a slow moving comet (Castro, Joseph). As a side note, some Bible scholars believe Christ was born in the spring or summer due to shepherds watching over their flocks as stated in the Bible, which would not have happened in winter.
Surprisingly, even computer models have been used to calculate the year of Jesus’ birth date based on astronomy. According to LiveScience, “In 2008, astronomer Dave Reneke argued that Jesus was born in the summer. The Star of Bethlehem, Reneke told New Scientist, may have been Venus and Jupiter coming together to form a bright light in the sky. Using computer models, Reneke determined that this rare event occurred on June 17, in the year 2 B.C.” (Castro, Joseph). However, opposite assumptions have been made by scientists, by placing Jesus’ birth in autumn with a rare astronomical event happening at 7 B.C.
Finally, it is generally believed, with some doubts about its accuracy, that the Roman empire took a census during the time of Jesus’ life. This census was mentioned in the Bible, though it seems there might be errors in terms of dates mentioned. Anyways, if there were a census during Jesus’ life, then there is some evidence for the approximate time he was born. According to GotQuestions.org, “Quirinius governed Syria during this same time period, with records of a census that included Judea in approximately 6 B.C. Some scholars debate whether this is the census mentioned by Luke, but it does appear to be the same event. Based on these historical details, the most likely time of Christ’s birth in Bethlehem is 6-5 B.C.” (“What Year Was Jesus Christ Born?”). Thus, with some help from historical records, we can place Jesus’ date of birth as quite close to the start of the A.D. timeline.
Though we cannot be certain about Jesus’ time of birth, most scholars assume through historical records, the Bible, and astronomy that he was born around the time of 1 AD in either the summer or spring. There are a multitude of theories, despite the lack of evidence that we have. And because of this, there might always be uncertainty about Jesus’ date and time of birth.
“Christ Is Born?” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 4 Mar. 2010, www.history.com/this-day-in-history/christ-is-born.
Castro, Joseph. “When Was Jesus Born?” LiveScience, Purch, 30 Jan. 2014, www.livescience.com/42976-when-was-jesus-born.html.
“What Year Was Jesus Christ Born?” GotQuestions.org, 8 Dec. 2014, www.gotquestions.org/what-year-was-Jesus-born.html.
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