What was the real date of Jesus' birth?

Published: Friday, Dec. 24 2010 4:39 p.m. MST

The biggest clue, by far, appears to be the death of King Herod the Great. The Bible has Jesus born before Herod's death. Chadwick wrote that the historical record places Herod's death at the end of March or beginning of April in 4 B.C. This date is confirmed by both the mention of a lunar eclipse before Herod's death and the date his son was deposed by Caesar Augustus. Both those fixed events fit together to confirm Herod's death.

Needless to say, if Herod was dead in 4 B.C., a 1 B.C. birthday of Christ is impossible.

So if Jesus had to be born before April 4 B.C., can the time be narrowed further?

Chadwick's article in BYU Studies goes on for pages, using fixed dates to extrapolate other dates. He looked closely at the time of Jesus' death, for example, tied it to the length of Jesus' life given in the Book of Mormon, added such things as time for Jesus' circumcision eight days after his birth, Mary's 40 days of ritual purification, the visit of wise men from the east and a two-week journey to Egypt. All those events show that "at a minimum, Jesus would have to have been born eight weeks prior to Herod's death at the beginning of April (4 B.C.)."

Chadwick then looks at the Annunciation to Mary that she would have a son named Jesus. Luke 1:26 placed this event in the sixth month — which at the time was from mid-to-late February to mid-to-late March. March of 5 B.C.?

Add nine months.

"When all is said and done," Chadwick wrote, "the facts from the New Testament, the Book of Mormon, and the history of Josephus, combined with input from archaeological and astronomical research, all point to a day in December of 5 B.C. (late in the Jewish month of Kislev) for the date of Jesus' birth."

This means that the real date of Christmas may have, indeed, been on Dec. 25.

"It is just as possible that Jesus was born on the calendar date we call Dec. 25 as on any other date in the few weeks preceding it or following it," Chadwick wrote. "(H)is birth occurred within those December weeks that we now commonly refer to as the Christmas season."

e-mail: mdegroote@desnews.com

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