The Year Jesus Was Born
There is no reference in the scriptures to the exact year in which Jesus was born. Certainly, the date of His birth was not December 25. But based on the historical details, Biblical scholars were able to know the time period during which He was born.
Matthew 2:1 says, that Christ was “born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king.” Herod the Great died in the spring of 4 BC, showing the latest time at which Christ could have been born. Matthew 2:16 says, Herod commanded all male children, two years old and younger, to be put to death in his attempt to kill the Savior. So, this added information would place the birth of Christ to around 6-4 BC.
The Gospel of Luke 2:1-2 points, “In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria.” Caesar Augustus reigned from 27 BC to 14 AD. Quirinius ordered one known census in 6-7 AD. And he served two times as leader in this area and ordered a census during his first reign. In all cases, this would fit the fact that Jesus was born around year 6-4 BC.
Also, Luke 3:23 says, Christ “Himself began His ministry at about thirty years of age.” And Luke 3:1-3 says, “Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, Herod being tetrarch of Galilee … the word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. And he went into all the region around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance.”
Based on a fall-to-fall year and the nonaccession-year system for figuring regnal years, the first year of Tiberius would be considered to have closed in the autumn of A.D. 14. Accordingly, his “fifteenth year” would begin in the autumn of A.D. 27 and continue until the autumn of A.D. 28. This calculation also fits Christ’s birth date between 6-4 BC.
And Christ’s ministry started after He was baptized by John the Baptist, who prepared the way for Him by preaching that the kingdom of God is at hand (Matthew 3:2). The kingdom that Christ established at His first advent was not the kingdom of glory, that would only be when He comes the second time (Matthew 25:31).
The terms Anno Domini (AD) and before Christ (BC) are used to label or number years in the Julian and Gregorian calendars. The term Anno Domini is Latin and means “in the year of the Lord.” It is taken from the full original phrase “anno Domini nostri Jesu Christi,” which translates to “in the year of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The creators of the Gregorian calendar felt that the most important marker in earth’s history was the coming of Christ. Therefore, the year that this new calendar marked 1 AD was the year that they thought Christ was born. There is no year zero in this plan; thus, the year AD 1 immediately follows the year 1 BC.
This dating system was devised in 525 by Dionysius Exiguus of Scythia Minor but was not widely used until the 9th century. Dionysius Exiguus used the Anno Domini dating system to identify the several Easters in his Easter table. But he did not apply it to date any historical event.
Before the making of this system, the years were marked by who was ruling. In the 6th century, people in power wanted to figure a new method to keep track of the years. The emperor, who the years were named after in the time of Dionysius, persecuted the believers in early Christianity. So, Dionysius’s annō Dominī set the standard for “the year of our lord” rather than the year of the emperor.
The Life and Times of Jesus
Jesus (also called the Christ) is the Son of God (John 1:34). He is the express image of God the Father (Hebrew 1:3) and the second Person in the Godhead (John 1:1-3). He is one with God the Father (John 10:30) and equal to Him (Philippians 2:5-6).
Christ is both the Creator (John 1:1-3, 14) and Redeemer of the world (Revelation 5:9). God the Father is love (1 John 4:8), and the Son came to demonstrate the Father’s love to humans (1 John 4:9). God’s love is unselfish (1 Corinthians 13: 4-5), as He only desires the best for His created beings (Jeremiah 29:11).
Because God’s kingdom is based on love, the Lord created humans with the freedom of choice. Humans may live forever in peace if they choose to obey God’s law of love (Isaiah 1:19). Sadly, our first parents listened to the devil and disobeyed God (Genesis 3:6). Thus, they disconnected themselves from Him by sin (Genesis 3:23).
The Godhead felt infinite compassion over the fallen human race. And Christ offered Himself as a ransom for the penalty of man’s sin (John 10:17-18). He came to the world and lived a perfect life to save fallen humanity (2 Corinthians 5:21). “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). There is no greater love than this, that someone would die for those whom they love (John 15:13).
Although God’s love encompasses all people, it benefits only those that accept it by faith (John 1:12). To believe on the name of Christ is to receive the benefits of salvation in Christ Jesus. Thus, the plan of salvation restores man’s opportunity to know God, to love Him, and to serve Him.
The Story of Jesus’ Birth
The story of Jesus’ birth (Matthew 1-2, Luke 1-2) starts when the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was.”
“Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:28-33).
Mary was engaged to Joseph. And she wondered how can this be, since she did not know a man? The angel answered her that with God nothing will be impossible. For the Holy Spirit will come upon her and the power of the Highest will overshadow her. And the One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. So, Mary responded, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).
Mary and her husband-to-be, Joseph, lived in a town called Nazareth in the land of Israel. But they had to travel to the city of Bethlehem to register for a census that the Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus ordered. When Joseph and Mary got to Bethlehem, there was no place for them to stay because the inn was full. So, they spend the night in a stable for animals. And that night, Jesus was born. So, Mary laid baby Jesus in a manger.
That night, some shepherds were in the fields near Bethlehem, keeping watch over their flocks of sheep. To their surprise, an angel appeared to them giving them the great news that the Savior, the Messiah, had been born. The angel informed the shepherds that they could find Jesus lying in a manger. Suddenly, a whole group of angels appeared singing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14). The shepherds went to Bethlehem and found Jesus lying in the manger, just as the angel had told them. So, joyfully, they spread the good news of the birth of the Messiah.
Sometime later, wise men, or magi, from the east saw a star in the sky that signaled the birth of a new king. So, they traveled to Judea looking for the new king because they wanted to worship Him. King Herod told them that the prophecies pointed that the new king would be born in Bethlehem. And he asked them to notify him of the place of the new king so that he could go and worship him, also. But his real intentions were evil.
The wise men went to Bethlehem by following the star until it stopped directly above the house where Jesus was. And they knelt and worshiped Him. Also, they brought Jesus gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Matthew 2:11). After that, the Lord warned them in a dream not to go back to King Herod. So, they took another route back to their country.
Then Herod, when he saw that his evil intentions were made known to the wise men, got exceedingly angry. And he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under. Then, it was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet saying: “A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, weeping, and great mourning” (Matthew 2:18).
But God had warned Joseph in a dream to escape to Egypt. So, Joseph took Mary and Jesus to live in Egypt where they would be away and safe from Herod. And they stayed in Egypt until Herod had died. After the passing of Herod, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, telling him go to the land of Israel. And Joseph came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene” (Matthew 2:23).
In His service,