When Was Jesus Born?

When Was Jesus Christ Born?

When Was Jesus Born
LUKE 2 COMMENTARY
Luke 2:1 Caesar Augustus

Luke 2:2 (A) When Was Jesus Born?

Luke 2:2 (B) Quirinius
LUKE 2:2  2 This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governing Syria.

When was Jesus born?
Luke 2:2 fares prominently in the debate over when Jesus was born, as opponents of the Bible attack this verse to question not only when Jesus was born but also the inerrancy of the Bible.

How is Luke 2:2 related to when Jesus was born?
According to Luke chapter 2, including verse 6 (see Joseph and Mary), Jesus was born while “Quirinius was governing Syria” (Luke 2:2), which the best known Roman records indicate to have been from 6 AD to 12 AD.

What is the controversy?
Gospel of Matthew states that King Herod was ruling Israel when Jesus was born (see where was Jesus born?). King Herod questioned the wise men who came to worship Jesus about the star of Bethlehem to estimate when Jesus was born, and then slaughtered all boys in Bethlehem who were two years and younger (see slaughter of the innocents). Herod died in 4 BC, so the controversy is, was Jesus born before Herod died in 4 BC or during Quirinius’ governorship in Syria from 6 AD to 12 AD?

What is the answer?
Jesus was born before Herod died in 4 BC and during Quirinius' governorship in Syria, but not the one from 6 AD to 12 AD (see Quirinius).

How long before 4 BC was Jesus born?
While the Bible doesn’t pinpoint the year when Jesus was born, it does give us a narrow range, as follows. Jesus returned to Israel from Egypt and settled in Nazareth after Archelaus began to rule in Judea in 4 BC. Before taking Jesus from Nazareth to Jerusalem for the Passover feast when Jesus was “twelve years old” (Luke 2:42), the Bible says that Joseph and Mary “went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover” (Luke 2:41). “Every year,” as opposed to ‘one year’ or ‘both years,’ indicates at least three prior Passover visits to Jerusalem before the visit mentioned in Luke 2:41 that took place when Jesus was twelve years old. If there had been only three prior Passover visits and the one mentioned in Luke 2:41 is the fourth, and if Archelaus began to rule in Judea just before Jesus settled in Nazareth, four years would have passed since Archelaus' rule began in 4 BC, so the year would have been 0 AD. Since Jesus is indicated as being twelve years old at this time, it would mean that Jesus was born in 12 BC. If there had been four prior Passover visits and the one mentioned in Luke 2:41 is the fifth, five years would have passed since Archelaus' rule began in 4 BC, so the year would have been 1 AD. Since Jesus is indicated as being twelve years old at this time, it would mean that Jesus was born in 11 BC. Likewise, if there had been 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 prior Passover visits, Jesus would have been born in 10 BC, 9 BC, 8 BC, 7 BC, 6 BC, 5 BC, 4 BC, respectively.

Can this range be further narrowed?
Since the “census” mentioned in Luke 2:2 took place in 8 BC (see Caesar Augustus), Jesus was born between 8 BC and 4 BC.

Then what about “Quirinius... governing Syria” in Luke 2:2?
See next page.