When was Jesus born? This is not an attack on Christmas, it is a correction of the traditions of men, yet it is the Savior of this universe that is important, not when men choose to celebrate His birth, please see my conclusion in order to gain a greater understanding of what I mean.
The key is Luke 3:1, it can help determine when Christ was crucified.
If we know when Jesus was crucified, and we understand that He was 33 and half years old when this occurred, we can determine when He was born by counting backwards 33 1/2 years (see Footnote #1).
This is the basis for Sir Robert Anderson’s book “The Coming Prince,” published in the 1890s.
Luke 3:1, which dates the start of Jesus’ ministry, He was 30 years old (Luke 3:23, “about” – He was 30 1/2) at Passover, in April (the 14th of Nisan on the Hebrew calendar).
“Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene.
Luke 3:22, is where Jesus enters the scene, at the same time.
…Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased…
To summarize Sir Robert Anderson’s work; according to Luke 3:1, Jesus started his Ministry during (in) the 15th year of Tiberius. Tiberias was appointed during the year 14 AD (Augustus died August 19, 14 AD), therefore Jesus started his public Ministry in the year 29 AD.
We know that according to scripture Jesus was crucified on the fourth Passover after starting his public Ministry by utilizing the four Gospels, 3 are which are synoptic (Matthew, Mark, Luke) and can be aligned chronologically.
Therefore, Jesus was crucified on Passover, the 14th of Nisan (Hebrew calendar) in the year 32, which would’ve been April 10 in the year 32 AD on the Gregorian calendar.
Jesus would be 33 1/2 years old on this date, counting backwards would mean that He was born 1 BC (see Footnote #2), in the Hebrew month, “Tishri,” (at the last of the month September on the Gregorian calendar), on the 1st of Tishri, know to the Hebrews as the “Feast of Trumpets.”
There is a special significance in this Feast! (see Footnote #3)
So what does this mean? As for me, I choose to celebrate the birth of my Savior on December 25 as a point of remembrance, understanding that we do not have the exact date of His birth because the first century church was consumed with the Resurrection of Jesus, wherein He died for the sins of the world, as opposed to His birth.
The point I’m making is that it is not the innocent child born in the manger that we should be is consumed with, as much as the savior who died for the sins of the world, yet remembering the end of the book (God’s Word) foretells of Christ second coming. And this will not be a newborn child, but the “LORD OF LORDS, AND KING OF KINGS,” Who will destroy all who are not His own (Rev. 19:11-21).
Therefore, I celebrate and glorify God for the day that our Savior entered this sinful existence to live for 33 and a half years on this hostile plane, in order that He would die for me, for my sins, and all of those that would choose to put their faith in Him.
What’s most important is not when I celebrate, but WHO I celebrate, and that I do so NOT just one day a year, but continue to do so all year round.
(Shorted form the article: “The Date Jesus was Born.” This full version is: LINK)
1. Jesus was 33 and a half when Crucified. (Font color formatting added)
Tiberius came to rule in 14 AD, therefore this was the year 29 AD – this is the start of Jesus ministry, with the Gospels recording yet 3 years (3 Passovers) until His death, therefore He died in the year 32 AD – and since the Torah required a priest to be 30 years old when he would start in the ministry of the Temple of God, as a servant of the most High, therefore Jesus was 33 years old when He died, meaning He was born in the year 1 BC (there was no year “0”), during the fall, while the shepherds were using the “fields” to graze there sheep (also according to when John the Baptist’s father, Zacharias was serving one of the 24 course at the temple [Luke 1:8], and John was 5/6 months older than Jesus [Luke 1:24]), during September or October.
By Adam Clarke, 1715-1832; “Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible“, states:
Fifteenth year – This was the fifteenth of his principality and thirteenth of his monarchy: for he was two years joint emperor, previously to the death of Augustus.
Tiberius Caesar – This emperor succeeded Augustus, in whose reign Christ was born. He began his reign August 19, a.d. 14, reigned twenty-three years, and died March 16, a.d. 37, aged seventy-eight years. He was a most infamous character. During the latter part of his reign especially, he did all the mischief he possibly could; and that his tyranny might not end with his life, he chose Caius Caligula for his successor, merely on account of his bad qualities; and of whom he was accustomed to say, This young prince will be a Serpent to the Roman people, and a Phaethon to the rest of mankind.
Herod – This was Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great who murdered the innocents. It was the same Herod who beheaded John Baptist, and to whom our Lord was sent by Pilate. (See Adam Clarkes note on the account of the Herod family in the notes on Matt. 2:1.)
Iturea and Trachonitis – Two provinces of Syria, on the confines of Judea.
Abilene – Another province of Syria, which had its name from Abila, its chief city.
These estates were left to Herod Antipas and his brother Philip by the will of their father, Herod the Great; and were confirmed to them by the decree of Augustus.
That Philip was tetrarch of Trachonitis, in the fifteenth year of Tiberius, we are assured by Josephus, who says that Philip the brother of Herod died in the twentieth year of Tiberius, after he had governed Trachonitis, Batanea, and Gaulonitis thirty-seven years. Antiq. b. xviii. c. 5, s. 6. And Herod continued tetrarch of Galilee till he was removed by Caligula, the successor of Tiberius. Antiq. b. xviii. c. 8, s. 2.
That Lysanius was tetrarch of Abilene is also evident from Josephus. He continued in this government till the Emperor Claudius took it from him, a.d. 42, and made a present of it to Agrippa. See Antiq. b. xix. c. 5, s. 1.
Tetrarch signifies the ruler of the fourth part of a country. See the note on Matthew 14:1. (e-Sword, 2016)
By Archibald Thomas Robertson, 1863-1934; “Word Pictures in the New Testament“, states:
Now in the fifteenth year (en etei de pentekaidekatoi). Tiberius Caesar was ruler in the provinces two years before Augustus Caesar died. Luke makes a six-fold attempt here to indicate the time when John the Baptist began his ministry. John revived the function of the prophet (Ecce Homo, p. 2) and it was a momentous event after centuries of prophetic silence. Luke begins with the Roman Emperor, then mentions Pontius Pilate Procurator of Judea, Herod Antipas Tetrarch of Galilee (and Perea), Philip, Tetrarch of Iturea and Trachonitis, Lysanias, Tetrarch of Abilene (all with the genitive absolute construction) and concludes with the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas (son-in-law and successor of Annas). The ancients did not have our modern system of chronology, the names of rulers as here being the common way. Objection has been made to the mention of Lysanias here because Josephus (Ant. XXVII. I) tells of a Lysanias who was King of Abila up to b.c. 36 as the one referred to by Luke with the wrong date. But an inscription has been found on the site of Abilene with mention of “Lysanias the tetrarch” and at the time to which Luke refers (see my Luke the Historian in the Light of Research, pp. 167f.). So Luke is vindicated again by the rocks. (e-Sword, 2016)
By the website, “Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry“, states:
We do not know for sure the exact age of Jesus when He was crucified, but He was probably 33 years old. Here is the argument.
Jesus was baptized. But the reason He was baptized was to “fulfill all righteousness,” (Matt. 3:15). He had to fulfill the legal requirements for entering into the priesthood after the order of Melchizedek (Psalm 110:4; Heb. 5:8-10; 6:20). Priests offered sacrifice to God on behalf of the people. Jesus became a sacrifice for our sin (1 Pet. 2:24; 2 Cor. 5:21) in His role as priest.
To be consecrated as a priest, Jesus had to be:
1) washed with water – baptism – (Lev. 8:6; Exodus 29:4, Matt. 3:16).
2) Anointed with oil – the Holy Spirit – (Lev. 8:12; Exodus 29:7; Matt. 3:16).
3) Additionally, He may have needed to be 30 years old, Num. 4:3, “from thirty years and upward, even to fifty years old, all who enter the service to do the work in the tent of meeting.”
Therefore we can conclude that Jesus began His earthly ministry at the age of 30.
Since it went on for 3 1/2 years before Jesus was crucified, it is safe to say that He was [at least] 33 at the time of His death. (Taken from “Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry,” https://carm.org/questions/about-jesus/how-old-was-jesus-when-he-was-crucified)
“Proof That Christ Lived On This Earth For 33 1/2 Years” (Original author unknown, though reprinted by ministries without stating this fact.)
As with several other issues in the Christian faith, many people are in the dark as to how many years our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ lived during his earthly ministry. This situation need not arise as the Bible record leaves no room for doubt.
In discoursing the subject, certain facts should be borne in mind. These are facts about when Christ was born and when he was baptized. Jesus Christ was born in the seventh month of the Jews called Ethanim or Tishri which corresponds to our October. How do we know this? Zacharias the priest finished his officiation in early July; John the Baptist was conceived that very month. (1 Chronicles 24:10; Luke 1:5, 23, 24) John the Baptist was six months older than Jesus Christ and was born in April, meaning that Christ was born six months later, in October. Moreover, since Christ was conceived in January as confirmed by Elizabeth’s declaration, his birth doubtless took place in the tenth month, which is October. (Luke 1:26, 27, 36, 37; 39-41, 56, 57).
How then can one know that Christ lived for 33½ years on earth? When Jesus attained the age of 30, the age of maturity, as stated in the law, he was baptized by John the Baptist. (Numbers 4:3, 23; Luke 3: 21-23; Matthew 3:13-17) The month of October in that part of the world is a period of fair weather which allows people who came for baptism to be safely immersed in cold water. After the baptism, Christ was anointed with the Holy Spirit and given the commission by God to start his ministry.
That apart, God commanded the Jews through Moses to celebrate the Passover on the 14th day of Nisan or Abib, the first month of the Jewish year which corresponds to our April (Exodus 12:6-17, 23:15, Leviticus 23:4,5, etc.) With this annual celebration of the Passover feasts in the month of April in mind, we have a solid base to count the years Jesus Christ lived on earth after his baptism in the month of October when he was 30 years old.
The first feast of Passover Christ celebrated after his baptism was that recorded in John 2:13-25. While at Jerusalem for the occasion he found in the temple those that sold oxen, sheep and doves, and the changers of money. He made a whip and drove them all out of the temple. Counting from November the first month after his baptism to April when the first Passover feast came up we would have six months. This therefore means that at this time Jesus Christ had attained the age of 30 years and six months.
The second feast of Passover celebrated by Christ after his baptism was recorded in the Book of John Chapter 5. On this occasion, Apostle John reports that Christ went to Jerusalem and found “a great multitude” of sick people “waiting for the moving of the water”. There at the pool of Bethesda Jesus Christ cured a man who “had an infirmity 38 years”. (John 5:1-9) By this second Passover celebration after his baptism Jesus Christ can be seen to have attained the age of 31 years, six months or one and a half years of his ministry.
Christ’s celebration of the third Passover feast after his baptism was that which followed his miraculous feeding of 5,000 people with only five barley loaves and two fishes. (John 6:1-14) At this time Christ had already attained the age of 32 years six months or two and a half years of his ministry. Jesus Christ celebrated his fourth and last Passover before his crucifixion (Luke 22:1-14; John 11:55; John 13:1). He arrived Bethany six days before the Passover feast (John 12:1) It was then Mary poured an alabaster box of precious ointment on his head as he sat at meat at the house of Simon the leper. (Matthew 26: 2-13, 17-29: Mark 14:3-9; John 12:1-8)
At this time, the Jews came to see Jesus and Lazarus whom he had raised from the dead and if possible to kill Lazarus. (John 12:9-11) This period was also marked by His triumphant entry to Jerusalem as the future king of God’s Kingdom. (John 12:12-19) Firstly, when all the Jews had gathered at Jerusalem for the feast, the chief priests and Pharisees gave order that any one who found Christ should report so that he could be arrested. (John 11:55-57) It was during this occasion, he was arrested, put on trial and crucified. (Matthew 26: 2,18,26-56; John 18:1-14).
To further show that it was at this fourth Passover after his baptism Christ was killed. St John reports that before the very day of the feast Jesus knew that “his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father”. (John 13:1) After eating the last supper with his Apostles, and just before he was arrested he took water in a basin and washed his disciples’ feet. (John 13:2-16) On the eve of the Passover (the day of preparation) when Jesus was brought to Pontius Pilate, the Jews who were aware of the law of God about self-purification in “preparation” for the celebration, refused to enter the judgment hall, “lest they should be defiled: but that they might eat the Passover”. (Chapter 18:28, 29, 19:14) This, no doubt seals the fact that Jesus Christ was actually killed during this 4th Passover, celebrated always in April, and his age then stood at 33 years, six months.
From the above biblical proofs, it is evident that our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, lived on this earth for 33½ years. His 33rd birth anniversary took place in October and six months later, in April, he was killed.
2. When was Christ Born
Each year at Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. After the New Year, we struggle to remember to add a year as we date our checks, which should remind us that the entire Western World reckons its calendar from the birth of the One who changed the world more than any other before or since.
Yet, it is disturbing to discover that much of what we have been taught about the Christmas season seems to be more tradition than truth.
Most serious Bible students realize that Jesus was probably not born on December 25th. The shepherds had their flocks in open fields, which implies a date prior to October. Furthermore, no competent Roman administrator would require registration involving travel during the season when Judea was generally impassable.
If Jesus wasn’t born on December 25, just when was he born? Although the Bible doesn’t explicitly identify the birthday of our Lord, many scholars have developed diverse opinions as to the likely birthday of Jesus.
The early Christian church did not celebrate Jesus’ birth, and therefore the exact date was not preserved in festivals. The first recorded mention of December 25th is in the Calendar of Philocalus (AD 354), which assumed Jesus’ birth to be Friday, December 25th, AD 1.
This was subsequent to Constantine’s Edict of Toleration in AD 313, which officially ended the government-sanctioned persecution of the Christians.
The date of December 25th, which was officially proclaimed by the church fathers in AD 440, was actually a vestige of the Roman holiday of Saturnalia, observed near the winter solstice, which itself was among the many pagan traditions inherited from the earlier Babylonian priesthood.
The year of Jesus’ birth is broadly accepted as 4 BC, primarily from erroneous conclusions derived from Josephus’ recording of an eclipse, assumed to be on March 13, 4 BC, “shortly before Herod died.”
There are a number of problems with this in addition to the fact that it was more likely the eclipse occurred on December 29, 1 B.C. Considerable time elapsed between Jesus’ birth and Herod’s death since the family fled to Egypt to escape Herod’s edict and they didn’t return until after Herod’s death. Furthermore, Herod died on January 14, 1 BC.
Tertullian (born about 160 AD), stated that Augustus began to rule 41 years before the birth of Jesus and died 15 years after that event. Augustus died on August 19, 14 AD, placing Jesus’ birth at 2 BC.
Tertullian also notes that Jesus was born 28 years after the death of Cleopatra in 30 BC, which is consistent with a date of 2 BC. Irenaeus, born about a century after Jesus, also notes that the Lord was born in the 41st year of the reign of Augustus. Since Augustus began his reign in the autumn of 43 BC, this also appears to substantiate the birth in 2 BC.
Eusebius (264-340 AD), the “Father of Church History,” ascribes it to the 42nd year of the reign of Augustus and the 28th from the subjection of Egypt on the death of Anthony and Cleopatra. The 42nd year of Augustus ran from the autumn of 2 BC to the autumn of 1 BC.
The subjugation of Egypt into the Roman Empire occurred in the autumn of 30 BC. The 28th year extended from the autumn of 3 BC to the autumn of 2 BC. The only date that would meet both of these constraints would be the autumn of 2 BC.
Another approach in determining the date of Jesus’ birth is from information about John the Baptist. Elisabeth, John’s mother, was a cousin of Mary and the wife of a priest named Zacharias who was of the “course” of Abijah (Priests were divided into 24 courses and each course officiated in the Temple for one week, from Sabbath to Sabbath).
When the Temple was destroyed by Titus on August 5, 70 AD, the first course of priests had just taken office. Since the course of Abijah was the eighth course, we can track backwards and determine that Zacharias would have ended his duties on July 13, 3 BC.
If the birth of John took place 280 days later, it would have been on April 19-20, 2 BC (precisely on Passover of that year).
John began his ministry in the 15th year of Tiberius Caesar. The minimum age for the ministry was 30. As Augustus died on August 19, 14 AD, that was the accession year for Tiberius.
If John was born on April 19-20, 2 BC, his 30th birthday would have been April 19-20, 29 AD, or the 15th year of Tiberius. This seems to confirm the 2 BC date and, since John was five months older, this also confirms the autumn birth date for Jesus.
Elisabeth hid herself for five months and then the Angel Gabriel announced to Mary both Elisabeth’s condition and that Mary also would bear a son who would be called Jesus. Mary went “with haste” to visit Elisabeth, who was then in the first week of her sixth month, or the fourth week of December, 3 BC.
If Jesus was born 280 days later it would place the date of his birth on September 29, 2 BC. If Jesus was born on September 29, 2 BC, it is interesting to note that it was also the First of Tishri, the day of the Feast of Trumpets. [see Footnote #3]. (by: KOINONIA HOUSE, Founder: Chuck Missler, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho 83816, USA, 2008, eNews, electronic media.)
3. Feast of Trumpets – Rosh Ha’ Shana (5th Feast)
The First and second of Tishri on the Hebrew calendar, which begins the Jewish New Year, is the celebration of “Rosh Hashanah” (English pronunciation) is referred to as the “The Head of the Year” and also known as the Feast of Trumpets. This day begins Israel’s civil year and is celebrated for two days (the second day was added by the rabbis around 500 B.C.).
The Feast of Trumpets, also referred to as Yom Teruah (Hebrew for the Feast of Trumpets) is a celebration that actually begins 29 days earlier: a series of over 90 trumpet blasts occur for a final blowing of the blasts on the climax of the celebration, the Teki’ah Gedolah, “the Great Blowing.”
Rosh Hashanah is often referred to as the beginning of the Jewish New Year. However, the Hebrew month of Nissan, in which Passover is celebrated, is the first month of the Jewish calendar.
Rosh Hashanah is actually only one of four symbolic Jewish new year celebrations. The concept of having multiple new years may seem strange, but keep in mind that in America we celebrate the New Year in January, and the new school year in September. Likewise, businesses often have a fiscal year that does not coincide with the beginning of the calendar year (for example October 1st marks the beginning of the fiscal year for the US government).
The commandment to observe Rosh Hashanah is found in Leviticus 23:23-25:
“And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, ‘Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a Sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation. Ye shall do no servile work therein: but ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD.'”
It is also mentioned in Numbers 29:1:
“And in the seventh month, on the first day of the month, ye shall have an holy convocation; ye shall do no servile work: it is a day of blowing the trumpets unto you.”
One of the central features of Rosh Hashanah is the shofar.
The shofar is an instrument made from a ram’s horn that sounds somewhat like a trumpet.
In the Bible, Rosh Hashanah is referred to as Yom Teruah, the day of the sounding of the shofar, otherwise known as the Feast of Trumpets.
The shofar is often representative of Abraham offering Isaac to God as a sacrifice on Mount Moriah (Genesis 22). It was then that God provided Abraham with a ram, caught by its horns in a thicket, as a substitute for Isaac.
Rosh Hashanah is a time of both celebration and repentance. It is a time of spiritual renewal through prayer and deep personal reflection leading up to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, on the 10th day of Tishri (Leviticus 23:26-28).
Rosh Hashanah is when the Jewish people recognize God as King and Judge over all living things.
On Rosh Hashanah we celebrate the creation of the world, when as stated in Genesis 1:31:
“God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.”
The last Trump
In the rabbinical literature, there are many details that are quite provocative. Among the most significant is the use of the shofar, the ram’s horn, instead of the usual silver Temple trumpets.
The shofar is associated with the Akedah, Abraham’s offering of Isaac, as detailed in Genesis 22.
Rabbinical tradition associates the left horn of the ram as the “first trump” and the right horn as the “last trump”.
A distinguishing feature of the celebration is the last, climatic blast, the Teki’at shofar. This is not the usual series of short bursts, signaling alarm or bad news. Rather, it is a long blast, signaling victory or good news. It is this last blast that is referred to as the last trump.
It is good to Remember that Abraham was God’s choice to be the first man to present the oracles of God to the world. Because of this, he is referred to as the father of the faith. Through him and his seed – Isaac and then Jacob and then his 12 sons which would become 12 tribes that would make up the nation of Israel, God’s chosen people – to not only herald God’s good news to men but to produce through their lives living examples which defined God’s word to man enabling faith through prophecies and other miraculous deeds all culminating in God presenting His Son as the lamb slain for the sins of the world.
Rosh Hashanah (Feast of Trumpets), was set as a memorial commemorating the event of Abraham’s obedience to God by his faithfulness to the command to sacrifice his son on a mountain. That mountain would later be called Golgotha, and the event was a shadow of what God would Himself co 2000 years later at that same spot, when he sacrificed His Son Jesus to pay the required justice for each of our sins.
This celebration marks the entry into the realm of humanity of God’s sacrifice, his son Jesus Christ, which occurred on the very day of his birth. That is what we celebrate when we celebrate Christmas.
The Feast of Trumpets recognizes God in His sovereignty as King and Judge of the universe and settled forever through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ.
So whether you celebrate the coming of Jesus at the Feast of Trumpets (where the first blowing of the shofar celebrates God coming to the world in power and majesty in the person of Jesus Christ, and the second blowing of the shofar will announce his second coming) or you celebrate the birth of our King at Christmas, what is important is that you celebrate this not only one day of the year, but celebrate the Lordship of Jesus every day of the year in your life.
Something to think about.