• Strange Notions Strange Notions Strange Notions

Jesus’ Birth and when Herod the Great *Really* Died

Nativity

The Gospel of Matthew tells us that Jesus Christ was born in the final years of the tyrant known as Herod the Great. He tells us that when Jesus was born, Herod panicked and had all the baby boys in Bethlehem killed. Fortunately, the Jesus' family escaped to Egypt and remained there until Herod was dead.

They didn't have to stay long, though. Here's when Herod the Great actually died . . .
 

Setting Aside a Common Mistake

 
For just over a hundred years, the question of when Herod the Great died has been dominated by a proposal by the German scholar Emil Schurer. He suggested that Herod died in 4 B.C., and this view took off in scholarly circles. But in recent decades, it's been challenged and, as we saw in a previous post, the arguments for this position are exceptionally weak.

So when did Herod actually die?
 

The Length of Herod's Reign

 
Here is how the Jewish historian Josephus describes the timing of Herod's death:

"So Herod, having survived the slaughter of his son [Antipater] five days, died, having reigned thirty-four years, since he had caused Antigonus to be slain, and obtained his kingdom; but thirty-seven years since he had been made king by the Romans."  [War of the Jews, 1:33:8 (665); cf. Antiquities of the Jews 17:8:1 (191)]

In this place, Josephus dates Herod's death by three events:

  1. Five days after the execution of his son Antipater.
  2. Thirty-four years after he "obtained his kingdom" (i.e., conquered Jerusalem and had its Hasmonean king, Antigonus, killed).
  3. Thirty-seven years after "he had been made king by the Romans."

The death of Antipater isn't a particularly helpful clue, but the two ways of reckoning the length of his reign are.

First, though, we need to answer one question . . .
 

How Is Josephus Counting Years?

 
Kings don't tend to come into office on New Year's Day, and so they often serve a partial year before the next calendar year begins (regardless of which calendar is used). They also don't die on the last day of the year, typically, so they also serve a partial year at the end of their reigns. This creates complications for historians, because ancient authors sometimes count these additional part-years (especially the one at the beginning of the reign) as a full year. Or they ignore the calendar year and treat the time that a king came into office as a kind of birthday and reckon his reign in years from that point.

What scheme was Josephus using?

Advocates of the idea that Herod died in 4 B.C. argue that he was named king in 40 B.C. To square that with a 37-year reign ending in 4. B.C., they must count the part year at the beginning of his reign and the part year at the end of it as years. That's the only way the math will work out.

The problem is that this is not how Josephus would have reckoned the years. Biblical chronology scholar Andrew E. Steinmann comments:

"[T]here is no evidence for this [inclusive way of reckoning the partial years]--and every other reign in this period, including those of the Jewish high priests, are reckoned non-inclusively by Josephus." (From Abraham to Paul, 223)

In other words, Josephus does not count the partial first year when dating reigns in this period.

Knowing that, what would we make of Josephus's two ways of dating Herod's reign?
 

Herod Appointed King

 
As we saw in the previous post, Josephus gave an impossible date (one that did not exist) for Herod's appointment as king. He said it was in the 184th Olympiad, which ended in midyear 40 B.C. and that it was in the consulship of Calvinus and Pollio, which began in late 40 and extended into 39. Those can't both be right, but one of them could be.

Which one? The evidence points to 39 B.C., because we have another source on this: the Roman historians Appian and Dio Cassius. Appian wrote a history of the Roman civil wars in which he discusses the appointment of Herod in the midst of other events. By comparing this set of events to how they are dated in Dio Cassius's Roman History, it can be shown that the events in question--including the appointment of Herod--took place in 39 B.C.

Given how Josephus dates reigns in this period, he would not have counted Herod's partial first year in 39 B.C. but would have started his count with 38 B.C.

Count 37 years forward from that and you have 1 B.C.
 

Herod Conquers Jerusalem

 
As we saw in the previous post, Josephus gives contradictory dating information for Herod's conquest of Jerusalem. Some of the dating information he provides points to 37 B.C. and some points to 36 B.C. Josephus said Herod died 34 years after the event.

Bearing in mind that Josephus wasn't counting partial first years, that would put Herod's death either in 2 B.C. (if he conquered Jerusalem in 37) or in 1 B.C. (if he conquered the city in 36).

There are various ways to try to resolve which, but some are rather complex.

At least one, however, is quite straightforward . . .
 

Herod's Lunar Eclipse

 
We saw in the previous post that Josephus said Herod died between a lunar eclipse and Passover. While there was a partial lunar eclipsed before Passover in 4 B.C. there was a total lunar eclipse before Passover in 1 B.C. Further, the lunar eclipse in 1 B.C. better fits the situation Josephus describes (see the previous post for details).

Since 4 B.C. is outside the range indicated above, and since the 1 B.C. lunar eclipse fits the situation better, that lets us decide between 2 B.C. and 1 B.C. in favor of the latter. There was no lunar eclipse in 2 B.C., pointing us toward 1 B.C.
 

Final Answer?

 
Putting together the pieces above, we have:

  • Reason to think Herod died in 1 B.C. based on the amount of time he served after being appointed king by the Romans.
  • Reason to think Herod died in either 2 or 1 B.C. based on the amount of time he served after conquering Jerusalem.
  • Reason to think Herod died in 1 B.C. because of the lunar eclipse that occurred before Passover.

More specifically, he would have died between January 10, 1 B.C. (the date of the lunar eclipse) and April 11, 1 B.C. (the date of Passover).

Most likely, it was closer to the latter date, since Josephus records a bunch of things Herod did after the eclipse and before his death, some of which required significant travel time.

There is also one more reason that we should reject the death of Herod in 4 B.C. in favor of a 1 B.C. date . . .
 

We Know When Jesus Was Born

 
We don't have to restrict our knowledge of when Herod died to the sources and events mentioned above. We can also date his death relative to the birth of Christ. For some reason, moderns seem to think that the dating of Herod's death should govern when Jesus was born, but the logic works both ways: if we know when Jesus was born, that tells us something about when Herod died.

And we, in fact, have quite good information about the year in which Jesus was born.

It was after 4 B.C., ruling out that date.

So . . . what year was Jesus born?

Stay tuned for my post tomorrow on Christmas Day. . . 
 
 
 
PS. If you like the information I've presented here, you should join my Secret Information Club. If you're not familiar with it, the Secret Information Club is a free service that I operate by email. I send out information on a variety of fascinating topics connected with theology, science, history, and more.

Just sign up at www.SecretInfoClub.com or use this handy sign-up form:

If you have any difficulty, email me at jimmy@secretinfoclub.com.
 
 
Originally posted at National Catholic Register. Used with permission.

Jimmy Akin

Written by

Jimmy Akin is a Senior Apologist at Catholic Answers, a member on the Catholic Answers Speakers Bureau, a weekly guest on the global radio program, Catholic Answers LIVE, and a contributing editor for Catholic Answers Magazine. He's the author of numerous publications, including the books The Fathers Know Best (Catholic Answers, 2010); The Salvation Controversy (Catholic Answers, 2001); and Mass Confusion: The Do's & Don'ts of Catholic Worship (Catholic Answers, 1999). Many of Jimmy's books are also integrated into the Logos software. Follow Jimmy's writing at JimmyAkin.com.

Note: Our goal is to cultivate serious and respectful dialogue. While it's OK to disagree—even encouraged!—any snarky, offensive, or off-topic comments will be deleted. Before commenting please read the Commenting Rules and Tips. If you're having trouble commenting, read the Commenting Instructions.

  • Loreen Lee

    Oh dear! I must now confess that I did not read the article with all the care and diligence that it deserves. I find that J. Akin's purpose in writing this was to contest the accepted date of the death of Herod. But at least I did some investigating and found, (my understanding) that the Julian calendar was introduced circa 45B.C. I guess the curia adapted this to make the date of Jesus' birth as what? 1B.C.? 1A.D.? 0???? Oh well, I guess I won't join a conspiracy theory club out of desperation for an answer, but I do hope I don't lose any sleep over this. At least Jimmy has promised me an answer tomorrow on Christmas Day. The day of the Birth of Jesus. I couldn't hope for a better present.

  • Doug Shaver

    Still waiting to find out why this is of great importance. Maybe the next post will tell me.

    • David Nickol

      Do I detect hints of "Bah! Humbug!"? :P

      It may be of no practical importance or no religious significance, but one of the things historians are interested in is when things happened. So pinpointing the exact date of birth for any major historical figure is of great historical importance.

      It recently came to my attention that C.S. Lewis, Aldous Huxley, and John F. Kennedy all died on the same day (November 22, 1963). That is a rather striking fact, I think, even though if there is anything at all important about it, I can't imagine what it would be.

      If someone were to definitively determine the exact birth date of Jesus by some calculations based upon historical hints hitherto unnoticed, it would, in my opinion, be a pretty major achievement. It would, however, be of no practical importance or religious significance.

      • Doug Shaver

        So pinpointing the exact date of birth for any major historical figure is of great historical importance.

        Sure. I get that. But this is not a history forum as such. It is a Christian apologetics forum. One supposes that a series of posts about the date of Jesus' birth would have some bearing on the credibility of Christian doctrines about Jesus, such as his divinity and resurrection.

      • Upphouse

        Well, someone has calculated the exact day of Jesus' birth using:
        Clement of Alexandria
        Computer cross-reference of Hebrew, Egyptian, Julian(astronomy) and Gregorian dating
        Josephus and a battery of historical testimony

        E.W. Faulstich found that Jesus' birth was on May 14th, 6BCE, which is a major achievement. The greater achievement was the One who made sure that the Great Flood and the Rebirth of Israel (1948 CE) fell on the same date (gregorian). Seems to be of highly significant religious importance...

        • David Nickol

          E.W. Faulstich found that Jesus' birth was on May 14th, 6BCE, which is a major achievement.

          No exact time of day? No birth weight?

          I can't find anything good with the limited amount of googling I am willing to do on this topic, but it seems to me that trying to pinpoint exact dates for events in ancient history is a fool's errand. The Gregorian Calendar is in some ways arbitrary, and could easily have been done differently. Exactly why, for example, when we have leap days, are they on February 29th? Why aren't they at the end of the year? It would be perfectly legitimate to put leap days anywhere in a Gregorian-style calendar, and that would change a lot of dates.

          It seems rather foolish to imagine that God calculated Old Testament events based on the yet-to-be invented Gregorian calendar! Of course, I suppose one could imagine that God inspired the Gregorian calendar so he Old Testament deeds would fall on the same dates (in different years) on the the Gregorian calendar beginning in 1582.

          • Upphouse

            "If someone were to definitively determine the exact birth date of Jesus
            by some calculations based upon historical hints hitherto unnoticed, it
            would, in my opinion, be a pretty major achievement." --Nickol

            This is what you said above. I'm responding to that. I grew up being told by those answering the question, "Jesus wasn't born on the 25th of Dec., when was he really born?" that "we don't have any dates for when Jesus was born." Which is not true, if you are allowed to read some church fathers. Clement of Alexandria had some access to records and claimed he was born on the 25th of Pachom, an Egyptian date. (to my scanty knowledge I don't know of any more testimony as to his TOB, or BW.) Now, I find Faulstich's work compelling because astronomy is rather precise and all of the Bible's dates are astronomical dates, and the Gregorian is a precise solar calendar, and the day we put as a leap day is immaterial, as well as the length of the months.

            Also, his work synchronises the sabbath years and weekly sections of the priests. His work is robust and unparalleled.

          • Will

            he earliest known discussion of the calendar date of Jesus’ birth comes from Clement of Alexandria (Stromata 1:21), who writes: “From the birth of Christ, therefore, to the death of Commodus are, in all, a hundred and ninety-four years, one month, thirteen days.” Using the Roman calendar, this works out to November 18, 3 BC. But this is a highly doubtful conclusion, affirmed by no other ancient source. More likely, Clement was using the Egyptian calendar, which did not make provisions for leap years. By that calendar, counting backwards from emperor Commodus’ death on December 31, AD 192, an interval of 194 years (each exactly 365 days), one month (thirty days), and thirteen days yields a date of January 6, 2 BC. This works out to Shevat 1, AM 3759 on the Jewish calendar. Clement’s testimony thus harmonizes perfectly with a face-value calculation from Chrysostom’s dating of the annunciation to Zechariah.

            https://pursiful.com/2006/12/19/when-was-jesus-born-clement-of-alexandria/

            Try November 18, 3 BC :) Have a source for your date?

          • Upphouse

            Give me a minute. I use the clement date to spur discussion and it usually doesn't go anywhere. but all these references are to be weighed with each other and astronomy

          • Upphouse

            OK, Faulstich's program is a source. It is produced by the Chronology History Research Institute. It synchronizes the dates. If we take December 31, 192, subtract 30 days then 13 days, then subtract 365*194=70810 days you come to
            Shebat 1, 3999 AM Day 1,460,525 (Jews redacted 160 or so yrs)
            Julian Jan 7, -1 Astro day# 1720698
            Egypt sliding 5 Tybi 17
            Egypt fixed 6 Mechir 22 Epoch #3
            Seleucid 11 peritos 1 310 SE
            Olympiad 194 year 2
            Sabbath year 202 + 6
            Priestly cycle 19 Pethahiah
            As you can see, this date does not come out to Pachom 25 in the egyptian.

          • David Nickol

            From the Chronology History Research Institute website

            Called by God
            Reared on an Iowa farm, Mr.. Faulstich (a modestly successful inventor, industrialist, and practical electronics engineer) was exposed to the Bible inerrancy controversy in the early 1970's through a division within the Lutheran denomination to which he belonged. He felt compelled to do something to resolve the dilemma.

            What was His Response?
            He sold his business, and founded an institute to further investigate the inerrancy question. This institute employed a computer programmer and astronomer. It also employed a man with his doctorate in Near East studies. A building was purchased, and the necessary clerical and maintenance help was also employed. For eight years a program of research took place. Their method was to develop calendar conversion programs so that the Biblical dates and calendars could be understood and tested. Then they researched all other ancient historical records to evaluate them.

            God Honored Their Response
            God allowed them to find accuracies which evaded previous scholars. The dates in the Bible were found to be precisely testable and accurate to the day. Twenty monographs and four volumes were published on their findings. Through them: 1) We can use the scientific method, to show that Christianity is the only true religion. 2) We can settle many questions which divide Christians. 3) We can keep our young from falling for the pseudo science called "evolution." 4) We can examine the many modern interpretations of Daniel's prophecies and make up our own mind about the things we read.

          • Upphouse

            Yes you can download the program and one of his books from there.

        • Will

          No one can give a precise date to the Great Flood, as evidence shows there was more than one major Mesopotamian flood:

          Initially, some assumed with great eagerness that the flood levels at Ur and Kish were identical and provided marvelous evidence for a historical kernel of the Genesis Flood story (Peake, 1930), but the enthusiasm could not be maintained. The level of the great flood at Ur was sandwiched between remains of the Al Ubaid cultural phase, the last purely prehistoric period of southern Mesopotamia, and a layer of debris from the early Protoliterate period. The great Ur flood, thus, can be dated with a high degree of certainty to about 3500 BCE. Kish, however, produced evidence of two floods at the end of the Early Dynastic I and beginning of the Early Dynastic II periods, around 3000 to 2900 BCE, and a still more impressive flood dating to the Early Dynastic III period, around 2600 BCE. All three of the Kish floods were much later than the great flood at Ur. Watelin argued that the earliest of these three was the deluge of the Bible and cuneiform literature.

          Within a few years, excavations of a third Mesopotamian site, Shuruppak, also uncovered a flood stratum (Schmidt, 1931). It is of particular interest because, according to the Mesopotamian legend, Shuruppak was the home of Ziusudra, the Sumerian Noah. (The Sumerian Ziusudra means "life of long days." The Akkadian equivalent, Utnapishtim, is "he found life," while the alternative Atra-hasis means "exceedingly wise.") This flood level separated late Protoliterate and Early Dynastic I remains and dates from around 2950 to 2850 BCE. Perhaps, but not certainly, the Shuruppak flood may be equated with the earliest flood at Kish. No other Mesopotamian sites have produced flood remains of significance (Mallowan, 1964).

          Which, if any, of these floods is to be equated with that recounted in the Bible? Despite the assurances of biblical literalists, no exact date or even close approximation can reasonably be derived from Genesis for the Flood or many other events. Simplistic compilation of patriarchal ages in the manner of the famous Bishop Usher is just not adequate. Crucial Hebrew concepts and terms, even those translated by explicit English words, such as generation, frequently carry in Hebrew a variety of meanings, some of which are neither commensurate with English nor immediately evident. Biblical genealogies, for instance, can and do sometimes contain omissions (Hyers, 1983, pp. 13-15). Biblical materials by themselves are inadequate to distinguish among the Mesopotamian flood strata.

          https://ncse.com/cej/8/2/flood-mesopotamian-archaeological-evidence

          • Upphouse

            Well, they were none of those. The Great Flood, the flood which most cultures world-wide have a memory of, occurred in 2345 BCE. This was:
            11 In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, on the seventeenth day of the second month—on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened.

            Now, all I am going to say at this instance is that the date you see, the 17th of Iyyar (Ziv) is an astronomical date. And that means that it should be identifiable if you have the right year. And Faulstich's work checks out on so many dates and aligns with astronomy that I believe it will be the go to in the future.

          • Will

            The Great Flood, the flood which most cultures world-wide have a memory of, occurred in 2345 BCE.

            What evidence do you have to support that date? You claim it like it's a well known fact or something.

          • Upphouse

            Sorry, yes, it is Faulstich's dating.
            Adam to Noah 1656
            Noah to Jacob 2110
            Jacob to Exodus 2540
            Entrance 2580
            Entrance to 1st Exile: (17 jubilees, Talmud 833 years 17jubilees) 3413 = 588 BCE.
            I don't have enough space right here to explain but the short of it is 588 is the only year to be one year after a sabbath year, and other requirements. So this brings us to 4001 BCE as the total years. please look at biblechronologybooks.com
            to connect with his organization.

          • Will

            This is problematic in principle. The first humans go back to over 100,000 years ago, and even if you reject evolution, you would also have to reject geology, archaeology, and anthropology (not to mention cosmology and physics in general). Gobekli TepeGobekli Tepe is from around 10,000 B.C. itself, and Eridu was founded around 5400 B.C. The first flood myth was called Eridu Genesis which dates to around 2400 B.C., well over 1000 years before Genesis was written (nearly 2000 according to later dates of the Torah).

            If you are interested, here is an article from no less that Biblical archaeology that discusses a recently discovered Babylonian tablet from 1800 B.C. (still centuries before the Torah) that talks about the animals entering "two by two" just like Genesis. The flood myth was also in the Epic of Gilgamesh (2000 B.C.) It's account is quite similar to Genesis. Since Genesis was probably written in Babylon hundreds of years later, it's pretty obvious where the story came from, as these myths were in the library in Babylon.

            I'm not trying to be offensive, but trying to count back dates like that using the Bible is quite unworkable. The Bible never claims to be a super accurate history book, of course.

          • Upphouse

            Respectfully, not so, friend! The Bible is the ONLY holy book that presents itself as a testable account with precise anchor dates. It is true that it has been a relative history since it ends for all intents and purposes at the 37th year of Nebuchadnezzar's reign, but this is why Faulstich's work is important and the sun moon and stars. Geology and other similar extrapolative sciences create another narrative which is imposed on the features of the Earth. The "geological column" for example is not science per se, as you need observers but none can be provided.

            As for the flood, it is great that there are accounts of it all over the world, as we should expect! The babylonian tablet is one of them. It did happen quite some time before Moses put down an account of things, 924 years, to be precise.

          • Will

            The "geological column" for example is not science per se, as you need observers but none can be provided.

            I'm not sure what this means.

            As for the flood, it is great that there are accounts of it all over the world, as we should expect!

            Not really. There are different accounts of different floods at different times and different places in the world. Here where are talking specifically about the mesopotamian floods experience by Sumer and Sumer alone. Egypt existed at the time, and was not flooded. The largest flood was about 400 miles long and 40 miles wide. It matches up pretty well with the Sumerian myths, as indicated by the first article I linked.
            I've always wondered why on earth would someone think an omnipotent God would use a flood to kill humans? The most efficient method would be a virus and granting immunity to those God wanted to save. Animals wouldn't be affected so there would be no need for an ark.
            Early humans anthropomorphized nature and attributed everything from disease to lightning strikes to deities. The early Jews just continued this pagan tradition. I mean, do you think God brought floods to Oklahoma and Texas?

            https://weather.com/storms/severe/news/flood-fatigue-2015-2016-texas-louisiana-oklahoma

            These are God fearing Bible believers that got flooded, not "wicked" pagans. How about the black death in Europe. Considering natural disasters to be divine judgement is deeply problematic because of collateral damage. Were all the Sumerian babies who drowned horribly wicked? How about murdering the Egyptian firstborn? The U.S. military can do much better in avoiding killing children than an omnipotent God? I don't understand how anyone can believe the Hebrew Bible is true. If God exists, how can he not find such slander offensive? It offends me. God is better than that, he has to be.

          • Upphouse

            The geological column I was saying has an imposed narrative of 'millions/billions' of years. This is not observed, but imposed as a narrative. One cannot observe millions of years.

            As to Egypt, there is a strange break in the story at the sixth dynasty. Which is when the flood occurred.

            What is scary about God is that he can do whatever he wants. He's God. If he wanted to use a flood, then he can use a flood. What is nice about a flood is that all the features on the earth are from the flood. Including the grand canyon. I personally am very intruiged by the idea that the Earth 'grew' to separate all the continents. (Neal Adams, expanding earth theory) I think this could have been the reason why the fountains of the great deep broke open. And Genesis relates that at the time of Peleg the "earth was divided."

            As to calamity on earth, I hesitate to say whether or not something was divine judgment, however Genesis does not allow for the amiguity in the Flood. But yes, it would have killed all the 'innocent' babies. Doesn't change what He did. But your disbelief/trust in this God won't come about because of evidence of a flood. so I am not going to get mad about it...

          • Will

            As to Egypt, there is a strange break in the story at the sixth dynasty. Which is when the flood occurred.

            Can you source any evidence of this "break? I'm fairly familiar with ancient Egypt, and I have no idea what you are talking about. Here is a decent timeline, no obvious break:

            http://www.historyembalmed.org/egyptian-pharaohs/pharaohs-timeline.htm

            How do you make sense of Egyptian culture existing before the flood, everyone suddenly dying, and then Egyptian culture suddenly resuming not long afterward. Surely Noah knew nothing of Egypt.

            Sumer documents the flood quite clearly in the Sumerian King's list.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sumerian_King_List

            Sumer continued after the flood, of course. The King that survived the Great flood's name was Ziusudra

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ziusudra

            Since it was written long before Genesis, why would you think Genesis is accurate? It's like believing someone writing a story about Jesus now would be more accurate than the Gospel of Mark? Again, it makes no sense. If you want accurate information about an event (as accurate as we can get) you go to the people that the event happened to, no an entire different nation over 1000 years later. This is known as historical method

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_method

            What is nice about a flood is that all the features on the earth are from the flood. Including the grand canyon.

            This makes no sense. If the flood formed the Grand Canyon, why aren't there Grand Canyons everywhere?

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geology_of_the_Grand_Canyon_area

            What is scary about God is that he can do whatever he wants. He's God.

            Why on earth would he want to do this? Why would you think this same deity is Jesus Christ, who healed children? Can't you see the blatant contradiction between Yahweh and Jesus? Jesus is a good deity who wants to help people, and Yahweh, the storm God? Of course, El Elyon (the top Canaanite deity) that brought the Great Flood (says it right in Genesis). Yahweh, the God of Moses was his son.

            El and his sons made up the Assembly of the Gods, each member of which had a human nation under his care, and a textual variant of Deuteronomy 32:8–9 describes the sons of El, including Yahweh, each receiving his own people:[25]

            When the Most High (Elyon, i.e., El) gave the nations their inheritance,
            when he separated humanity,
            he fixed the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of divine beings,
            for Yahweh's portion is his people,
            Jacob his allotted heritage.[Notes 3]

            In the earliest literature such as the Song of the Sea (Exodus 15:1–18, celebrating Yahweh's victory over Egypt at the exodus), Yahweh is a warrior for his people, a storm-god typical of ancient Near Eastern myths, marching out from a region to the south or south-east of Israel with the heavenly host of stars and planets that make up his army.[30] Israel's battles are Yahweh's battles, Israel's victories are his victories, and while other peoples have other gods, Israel's god is Yahweh, who will procure a fertile resting-place for them:[31]

            There is none like God, O Jeshurun (i.e., Israel)
            who rides through the heavens to your help ...
            he subdues the ancient gods, shatters the forces of old ...
            so Israel lives in safety, untroubled is Jacob's abode ...
            Your enemies shall come fawning to you,
            and you shall tread on their backs. (Deuteronomy 33:26–29)

            The early Jews were not even monotheistic, they were henotheistic. We have learned a great deal from the ancient Canaanite city of Ugarit.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_(deity)

          • Upphouse

            This is getting quite a long ways from Herod. But let me ask you first: when were the accounts of Sumer and Egypt written?

          • Will

            Sorry, I don't see the point of continuing this kind of conversation who takes Geology lessons from comic book artist. Have a great one.

          • Upphouse

            Hey, you weren't there, either, high-and-mighty.

          • Sample1

            It's not about your point William, it's about theirs. To keep you talking. Just talk. It's about their belief that you simply being here is a sign of their mission. It's never about you.

            Sigh.

            Mike

          • Will

            Maybe the only reason I'm here is because of my mission ;P People believing in an expanding earth (which violates conservation of mass/energy)...fascinating. I guess if it's a miracle...

          • Will

            What is scary about God is that he can do whatever he wants. He's God. If he wanted to use a flood, then he can use a flood.

            Why would anyone think God would want to do this? Just because the author of Genesis says so? Why on earth should we believe him?

            The oldest myth, Eridu Genesis, says the gods brought the flood because people wouldn't be silent at night and were keeping them away, lol. Oh, and if God judges, why didn't he flood Hitler? Or do something? Wasn't he pretty wicked?

            http://www.piney.com/EriduGen.html

            I link these things because I don't expect you to take my word for it. Sourcing is critical. Any critical thinker should closely analyze and reference sources.

            Out of curiosity, do you believe God created the universe to appear old? If so, how do you know it wasn't created 5 minutes ago, everyone complete with their memories?

          • Upphouse

            I don't think it appears old. And I don't hear anyone credible saying the world was created 5 minutes ago. And we can believe Moses because Jesus respected him and he was raised from the dead.

          • Will

            "Rational discussion is useful only when there is a significant base of shared assumptions." Noam Chomsky

            We can't have a rational conversation because we like that base. It would take way to long to drill down into what should count as evidence and why. Perhaps you can find someone with that base or is willing to back way up to general epistemology, good luck :)

          • Upphouse

            Point taken. Good day!

          • Upphouse

            I don't know the full mind of God.

          • Will

            Oh, I just wanted to through out this on expanding earth theory. There are essential no credible scientists who believe it to be plausible

            The hypothesis had never developed a plausible and verifiable mechanism of action.[10] During the 1960s, the theory of plate tectonics—initially based on the assumption that Earth's size remains constant, and relating the subduction zones to burying of lithosphere at a scale comparable to seafloor spreading[10]—became the accepted explanation in the Earth Sciences.

            The scientific community finds that significant evidence contradicts the Expanding Earth theory, and that evidence used in support of it is better explained by plate tectonics:

            Measurements with modern high-precision geodetic techniques and modelization of the measurements by the horizontal motions of independent rigid plates at the surface of a globe of free radius, were proposed as evidence that Earth is not currently increasing in size to within a measurement accuracy of 0.2 mm per year.[18] The lead author of the study stated "Our study provides an independent confirmation that the solid Earth is not getting larger at present, within current measurement uncertainties".[19]
            The motions of tectonic plates and subduction zones measured by a large range of geological, geodetic and geophysical techniques supports plate tectonics.[20][21][22]
            Imaging of lithosphere fragments within the mantle supports lithosphere consumption by subduction.[21][22]
            Mass accretion on a scale required to change Earth's radius is contradicted by the current accretion rate of Earth, and by Earth's average internal temperature: any accretion releases a lot of energy, which would warm the planet's interior.[citation needed]
            Expanding Earth models based on thermal expansion contradict most modern principles from rheology, and fail to provide an acceptable explanation for the proposed melting and phase transitions.[citation needed]
            Paleomagnetic data has been used to calculate that the radius of Earth 400 million years ago was 102 ± 2.8 percent of today's radius.[23][24] However, the methodology employed has been criticised by the Russian geologist Yuriy Chudinov.[25]
            Examinations of data from the Paleozoic and Earth's moment of inertia suggest that there has been no significant change of Earth's radius in the last 620 million years.[26]
            Iapetus Ocean: geological, paleontological, paleomagnetic evidences that North America and Europe were separated before Pangaea.[citation needed]

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expanding_Earth

          • Upphouse

            Adams is the one that thinks the earth is still expanding. I say it was a discrete event in the past. so most of the above is irrelevant.

          • Will

            I found this:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJfBSc6e7QQ

            You believe this conspiracy theory nonsense? Sorry, but that's hilarious! Sorry if that is offensive, but just telling you the truth. Why would you believe some random guy on youtube names Neil Adams? I know why, it makes you feel special. You are one of the elite few in the know, the scientists are the evil conspirators trying to dupe everyone, and the rest of us are the naive dubs. It's takes a special kind of ego to be into this stuff.

            http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/insights-into-the-personalities-conspiracy-theorists/

            I'm quite a skeptic, but conspiracy theorists never apply skepticism to there own pet theories. Thanks for the laugh from this video! I mean, Neal Adams is a comic book guy

            http://www.wired.com/2001/03/adams/

          • Upphouse

            When were the accounts of Egypt and Sumer written?

          • Doug Shaver

            The "geological column" for example is not science per se, as you need observers but none can be provided.

            I'm not sure what this means.

            It means, "If I don't believe it, then it isn't science."

          • Will

            Sounds about right.

          • David Nickol

            The Great Flood, the flood which most cultures world-wide have a memory of, occurred in 2345 BCE.

            Why would different cultures have different memories of the Great Flood? All existing cultures in 2345 BCE would have been wiped out in the flood, and only Noah and his family would have survived. This would mean that any culture that has a memory of the flood is a culture that developed after 2345 BCE. So the Native Americans, the Chinese, the Indians, the Africans, and all ancient cultures have sprung into being since 2345 BCE, all of them made up of descendants from the survivors who rode out the flood in Noah's Ark. While it is true that many cultures have their own stories of a great flood, they are all different. And yet they are allegedly all about Noah and the Ark!

          • Upphouse

            It's not like we live in the year 2300 BCE. There's been lots of time, so I guess I don't see why it is unreasonable that cultures over time played telephone with the story. Don't forget that there was a great diaspora of all nations after babel as well. But the very presence of SOME sort of flood account with survivors in a boat that is all over the world is significant. A team and I went to middle Alaska where the Athabaskans live. They have a Flood tradition in their stories. And they include a raven as well. I attribute their story to the account Moses gave because I respect the ones who gave it. Because Jesus rose from the dead, the God of Israel made good on His promises to them (including bringing them back from diaspora after 1900 years) and controls History. I don't know what else to say. The propagation of the Flood account in all cultures does something but I suppose it doesn't go so far as to say they have a rigorous account of history.

    • ClayJames

      Because it is Christmas tomorrow. Merry Christmas Doug!

      • Doug Shaver

        Thank you very much, Clay. And Merry Christmas to you, too.

        • Lazarus

          Good to see you're back, Doug, and Merry Christmas to you and your family.

          • Doug Shaver

            Thank you both. I'm afraid I can't stick around, but I didn't want to be standoffish. Merry Christmas to everyone.

        • OldSearcher

          I am very glad of seeing you around again. Have happy and safe holidays, Doug.

  • Okay, but since we're talking about Josephus and the nativity stories. Can we talk a bit about the glaring omissions in Josephus' history with respect to the gospels.

    It simply doesn't make sense that Josephus would leave out the summary execution of all Jewish newborns. This would be like writing the history of the United States in the early twentieth century and failing to mention the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

    In fact Josephus mentions none of the events in the nativity stories, neither does Paul or the other two gospels.

    No credible historian accepts these events as historical. Fine if you believe this for faith or theological reasons. But they are not established to the standards of history.

    • Lazarus

      Before we go too far with this, please note that I am agnostic about this question about Josephus not mentioning the killings explicitly, and it is of no consequence either way for my faith.

      As an amateur history fan I would however have to say that a pretty decent counter argument has been mounted by (admittedly) Christian apologists. This would amount to a fair bit of reading, but essentially the points are made that -

      1. Josephus does make mention of Herod's atrocities, and that the killing of these babies would not be incongruous with the picture painted by Josephus of this madman ;

      2. The numbers in the gospel rendition of the killings may simply have been exaggerated and that from Josephus' view they were simply a part of a larger picture of atrocities ;

      3. We also do not find any historians, Josephus included, denying the gospel version. In fact, in 430 AD we see this from Macrobius, no mean historian himself:

      "When it was heard that, as part of the slaughter of boys up to two years old, Herod, king of the Jews, had ordered his own son to be killed, he [the Emperor Augustus] remarked, ‘It is better to be Herod’s pig [Gr. hys] than his son’ [Gr. huios], Macrobius, Saturnalia, Book II, chap. 4:11 (c. 430 A.D.)"

      So, yes, the omission in Josephus is an important one, and has to be explained by the historian / Christian who are concerned by such matters, but a quite plausible explanation has been given, obviously in longer form than my combox effort.

      As to Paul and the the other Gospels not mentioning it, I would suggest that here such omissions are easily explained by it simply not being important to the authors' respective theological aims. They each leave out facts mentioned by others, without negative conclusions being established simply by such omissions.

      I also like your example of 9/11. Here we have a massive tragedy, playing out on international television, with all of the modern advantages of the media, a bit more than a decade ago, and yet we still argue passionately as to what happened, who did it, how many died, and in some cases even whether significant aspects of the event happened at all.

      That's history for you, a glass darkly. We stare into it, screw up our eyes a bit, and try to make sense of the shapes we see. Or think we see.

      • Ignatius Reilly

        "When it was heard that, as part of the slaughter of boys up to two years old, Herod, king of the Jews, had ordered his own son to be killed, he [the Emperor Augustus] remarked, ‘It is better to be Herod’s pig [Gr. hys] than his son’ [Gr. huios], Macrobius, Saturnalia, Book II, chap. 4:11 (c. 430 A.D.)"

        I don't think I would take that one to the bank.

        Outside of the gospel of Matthew, we have zero near contemporaneous support for the event. Given that Matthew often wrote with what he thought were Old Testament prophecies in mind, we can very plausibly assume that the slaughter of innocents did not happen. Indeed, it is probably the most likely explanation. None of the other Gospels mention it. Paul does not mention it. There is no other external evidence for such an event.

        That's history for you, a glass darkly. We stare into it, screw up our eyes a bit, and try to make sense of the shapes we see. Or think we see.

        Yes and no. I know Rome had a great fire in 64 AD. What I do not know is who or what caused it and to what extent Christians were persecuted afterwards.

        • Lazarus

          If I had to cast a simple vote on whether these killings happened in any significant manner as they are described in the Bible I will vote with you on this. But that is simply my personal opinion. All I am trying to show is that the situation is not as open and shut as some would have us believe, and that a rather decent counter argument has been presented by theologians.

          Maybe the point about the perspective, the size of the Jewish killings is an important one. J. P. Holding tells us :

          "How many boys aged two and under could there have been in and around the tiny city of Bethlehem? Five? Ten? Matthew does not give a number. Josephus says that Herod murdered a vast number of people, and was so cruel to those he didn't kill that the living considered the dead to be fortunate. Thus, indirectly, Josephus tells us that there were many atrocities that Herod committed that he does not mention in his histories - and it is probable that authorizing the killing of the presumably few male infants in the vicinity of Bethlehem was a minuscule blot of the blackness that was the reign of Herod. Being that the events of the reign of Herod involved practically one atrocity after another - it is observed by one writer, with a minimum of hyperbole, that hardly a day in his 36-year reign passed when someone wasn't sentenced to death - why should any one event in particular have touched off a rebellion, when others in particular, including those recorded by Josephus, did not?"

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I would call it more along the lines of: It is possible that Herod massacred children, but we only have scant evidence to support it. So, if by open and shut, you mean that this event 100% did not happen, then yes I agree with you. However, I think the apologetics arguments in support of it are very weak.

            Josephus does make mention of Herod's atrocities, and that the killing of these babies would not be incongruous with the picture painted by Josephus of this madman

            This does increase the probability of Herod killing male newborns.

            The numbers in the gospel rendition of the killings may simply have been exaggerated and that from Josephus' view they were simply a part of a larger picture of atrocities

            So, either way, the Gospel is factually incorrect on a matter of history. Of course, I do question the type of God who intervenes miraculously, but in his intervention can't say a few newborns. This is beyond the scope of this thread, but I can't help but think that if it is historical this makes God look like a worse God.

            We also do not find any historians, Josephus included, denying the gospel version. In fact, in 430 AD we see this from Macrobius, no mean historian himself:

            I think this argues for my side. If he makes no mention of it that means that it was so small that no one knew about it. Therefore, it is unlikely that the writer of Matthew knew about. Furthermore, his arguing against it would at least mean that the idea was in circulation at the time of his writing. Josephus not arguing against it is a point to my side.

            A) It happened, but was small and beneath the notice of Josephus. So small that only one Gospel writer knew about it. So small, that it's happening did not significantly add to Josephus's list of atrocities. So small that Josephus did not take notice of it in the for or against, because it was so small.

            B) It did not happen. The rumor of it happening could not have been very big, because no one mentions it arguing for or against it. Even the early Christians are unaware. Matthew mentions it because he thinks it fits a prophecy narrative.

            (B) is far more likely. I don't think A can be held without previous theological convictions.

          • Lazarus

            Ok, but the Josephus angle still amounts to nothing but an argument from silence. How far does that take us?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            It takes us to the point where we admit that if it did happen, it was a very small event. Nobody but the writer of Matthew noticed it and there weren't any arguments pro or contra.*

            Since we can't find any corroborating sources, we ask, where did Matthew here it, and why have his sources left no other trace of a cruel atrocity.

            Remembering that Matthew is also interested in writing about Jesus through the lens of "OT prophecy" we have a very good competing theory.

            *In general, there is a contradiction in the Gospels. On one hand these are great earth shattering events that are being relayed. Jesus amasses thousands of followers, the ire of the Jewish authorities, is crucified accompanied by miraculous signs, rises, and his followers perform miracles though out the land. Yet, contemporary sources are silent about all of this, and the people in closest proximity to the events are not the ones that convert and drive the religion forward.

          • Lazarus

            You myther, you.

            We've then moved over into wider expanses than just the Jewish baby killings. Still an argument from silence. And how can we discount the Jewish Christian community that were there from day one? Paul and company operated well within a very Jewish context for much of the time. But we may now be getting off topic slightly.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            You myther, you.

            Naw, I think there was a historical figure that corresponds to the Jesus figure in the Gospels. I think he was likely a rabble rouser of some kind and was eventually executed. However, since most of the Jews at the time seemed to miss the God connection (they were there) I tend to think that those who think they know he was God 2000 years later are operating under questionable assumptions, especially if they are operating under arguments from scripture. ;-) (I am more sympathetic to more existential type arguments. Not that this is about my sympathies.)

            When it comes to these biblical/history type questions, I am largely talking out of my....well I'll let you fill in the blank. I've read a few books and am not afraid to offer up my opinions, but still they are just my opinions, though they are very important to me.

            We've then moved over into wider expanses than just the Jewish baby killings. Still an argument from silence. And how can we discount the Jewish Christian community that were there from day one? Paul and company operated well within a very Jewish context for much of the time. But we may now be getting off topic slightly.

            I am more than willing to move the conversation beyond the article, as long as it is interesting to the both of us. I'm off today, and do not intend on doing anything besides relax and argue on the internet.
            Although, before we venture there, I think there is an important point that I want to highlight. It isn't just an argument form silence. It is an argument from how the writer of Matthew tends to write. He likes to write a narrative that includes OT prophecies. Just like we question Livy when he praises the courage and greatness of Rome, we should be highly skeptical of Matthew's passages that are about prophecies, especially if there is no other collaboration.

          • Lazarus

            I've just started a three week summer holiday, buddy, so I can out-argue you on the Internet long time ;)

            Let's look at how Matthew writes. Can we also look at Josephus's biases, agendas and shortcomings? Of course the Gospel authors had agendas and theological biases. Does that necessarily disqualify what they say? Of course not. Your "atheist agenda" ;) does not turn what you have to say into untruth. What part of the broad strokes of the counter-argument that I have presented here can be thrown out on anything other than a personal view? You yourself allowed that, if we accept that the events happened, it would be a small event. So there - isn't that all that the apologist need establish?

            Do I think the apologist's case has been proven? No, I don't. Do I think that it has been shown to be an implausible explanation? No, I don't.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I've just started a three week summer holiday, buddy, so I can out-argue you on the Internet long time ;)

            I have to go back on the fourth. I want an extra week!

            Let's look at how Matthew writes. Can we also look at Josephus's biases, agendas and shortcomings? Of course the Gospel authors had agendas and theological biases. Does that necessarily disqualify what they say?

            What do you think are Josephus's biases, agendas, and shortcomings? Of course the Gospel writers are not disqualified by their agendas and theological biases, but I think we need to be very careful about treating them historically. Going back to that Markian scholar we talked about the other day. It was his opinion that Mark did not intend his Gospel to be taken historically. In his opinion the book was an example of apocalyptic writing like Daniel.

            What part of the broad strokes of the counter-argument that I have presented here can be thrown out on anything other than a personal view? You yourself allowed that, if we accept that the events happened, it would be a small event. So there - isn't that all that the apologist need establish?

            Are the apologists trying to establish that historicity is the best solution or that historicity is an option, even if it is only an unlikely one. I think an unbiased historian would write something to the effect, "It is unlikely (though possible) that the slaughter of innocents happened, because of the manner in which the writer of Matthew presents the story and because we have no corroborating evidence."

            Do I think the apologist's case has been proven? No, I don't. Do I think that it has been shown to be an implausible explanation? No, I don't.

            I suppose this depends on what we mean by implausible. I think it is possible but unlikely, just like the unbiased historian. ;-)

          • Lazarus

            Josephus was of course a complex character, and with his love of philosophy and poetry, with his extended stays in Rome, he saw events around him through those lenses. His love of and loyalty to the Jewish nation has been called into question, to the point of him being called a traitor. He often strawmanned the Romans, depicting them as two-dimensional figures, while spending more time on showing the nuances of Jewish life and motives. Like all of us, he had his biases.

            Have a look at Paul Maier's arguments, and acceptance of the historicity of the events. Maier is a respected historian and he argues for historicity as best, most probable option. Again, I am not trying to establish any scholarly consensus in favor of the historicity, I am simply arguing that the case for such historicity is far more credible and respectable than what some detractors wish to argue for.

            Edit : Apologies, but it's just gone past midnight here, so I better have some sleep if I want to Argue On The Internet some more tomorrow. These time zone differences .. very disruptive sometimes.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I read Paul Maier's Flames of Rome in high school and many times afterwards. Love that book. Do you have a particular book of his that I should read?

          • Lazarus

            I haven't read much of his work, but I did read, and enjoy, his "In the Fullness of Time". Other than that, mostly articles and essays by and about him.

      • Re 9/11, some people argue over what happened, but no one argues about whether it happened.

        Look this story is clearly included as part of a stylisitc approach that Jewish people applied in writing their mythology. The authors were trying to recall the Passover slaughter in the Old Testament. Their writings are filled with this kind of call back.

        You can believe what you want from a theological perspective, but the evidence for the slaughter of the innocents is not there from a historical perspective.

        • Lazarus

          And yet, there are people like Paul Maier. If you said that the slaughter is not generally accepted by historians I would have granted you that, if you say however, as you do, that there is no evidence from a historical perspective, then you are overstating your case.

          • Doug Shaver

            if you say however, as you do, that there is no evidence from a historical perspective, then you are overstating your case.

            I agree. One of the gospels says it happened. That is evidence that it happened. For some of us, though, it's not very good evidence.

    • Lazarus

      Sorry Brian, you also mention credible historians. I know Paul Maier, who is a very respected historian, does accept the historicity of the events.

      • Are you saying he accepts the nativity stories as history? I am not sure he is credible or respected, particularly on this issue. What is your source?

        • Lazarus

          He accepts the execution story as probably true. He is comfortable with accepting that the events would have been a small scale event.

          From Wiki :

          ^ Maier, Paul L. (1998). "Herod and the Infants of Bethlehem". In Vardaman, E. Jerry. Chronos, Kairos, Christos II. Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press. p. 172. ISBN 0865545820. In any case, the flat declarations by these authors that the massacre is legend and not historical has slender support based on argumentation and no real documentation.

          As to Maier's credentials, also from Wiki :

          Paul L. Maier (born May 31, 1930)[1][2] is an historian and novelist. He has written several works of scholarly and popular non-fiction about Christianity and novels about Christian historians. He is the former Russell H. Seibert Professor of Ancient History at Western Michigan University, from which he retired in 2011, retaining the title of professor emeritus in the Department of History. He serves as Third Vice President of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod.

          • I will concede the point that there it is not true that no credible historian accepts them as true.

            That said, in researching this, I have found some interesting things. Aware that this quote may have more context to it, Maier did say on Penn & Teller's Bullshit that "I am not trying to say that now I have proof that the Bible is authoratative, is accurate historically, of course not, you still have to have faith!"

            I also note that the publication you cited was co-edited by Jerry Vardaman who appears to have been considered dishonest, incompetent, and dangerous to the practice of archeology by his peers. You can see a letter written by Dr. G. Ernest Wright, President, American Schools of Oriental Research, seriously warning against supporting an archeological expedition by Vardaman in the strongest of terms. http://www.mythicistpapers.com/2013/08/25/vardaman-6/

            The other editor teaches greek in seminary. I am not at all sure I would call this publication a decent source for history. But I am not sure it isn't either to be fair.

            In any event, you are right I went to far and should have said virtually no credible historian accepts the nativity as historic.

            I am getting my perspective from Dale Martin's lecture at Yale on the historicity of Jesus. Again, he says most of us [historians] don't think we know anything about the birth of Jesus. I was probably remembering his comment that no reputable historian would be accept that the nativity stories in Luke and Matthew can be harmonized.

            https://youtu.be/d_dOhg-Fpu0?t=3m22s

          • Lazarus

            Please remember my first post to you on this topic. Personally, I am agnostic on the entire question, and as far as its influence on my faith goes, either way, I can barely muster a "meh". I simply wanted to show that maybe the case against the historicity of the slaughter is not that slam-dunk, and that a reasonable counter argument has been put forward. If I had to argue against the historicity of it, I would have quite a lot to say, most of which you have raised.

  • Here is a fun idea, if you believe that you can, with firm historical sources, correct the date of Herod the Great's reign. Go on Wikipedia and change it. Source your citations properly and be prepared to defend them.

    • D Foster

      How is that fundamentally different than writing the article that the author has written?

      Personally, I'm not terribly concerned about the specific date of Herod's death, but don't see why Wikipedia should be the arbiter of this or any other particular debate.

      • I say this because I expect you will not be able to find credible sources to meet even Wikipedia's relatively low standards, in trying to justify this take on history.

        I don't think it is even a fringe theory of history. It is theist trying to gain the imprimatur of historical, to events that are clearly not supported as history by mainstream historians.

        • D Foster

          Given what I've encountered on Wikipedia, the sources already mentioned in this article would work well enough to be placed there.

          You're free to disagree with the conclusion of the article. I personally don't have a dog in that fight. But simply claiming that Wikipedia would reject these sources hasn't done anything to persuade me (or, presumably, anyone else who didn't already disagree with the article). A better approach would be to present some historians yourself—ones who address arguments similar to the one listed above.

          • Sure, the majority of historians who specialize in New Testament studies say we cannot know really anything about the birth of Jesus. This is from Dale Martin, a Christian historian teaching the introduction to New Testament at Yale. Professor Martin also says that the nativity stories in Matthew and Luke cannot be harmonized and no reputable historian will accept that they can.

            This is significant, particularly since it is an introductory course at one of the worlds most respected universities. It would not be advancing controversial historical positions, without comment.

            The only sources advanced for the nativity gospels that are dated at minimum several decades after the fact and even if you accept they were eyewitness accounts of Jesus' later life, they couldn't be for his birth.

          • Lazarus

            I have never heard of Dale Martin, but would rather take my cue from Catholic scholar and author Richard Bauckham, who in "Jesus and the Eyewitnesses" argues forcefully for much of the Gospels being eyewitness accounts, but even he concedes without any shots fired that the birth narrative does not fall under that argument :

            "It is not plausible, as has recently been suggested, that the “beginning” to which Luke refers is the events of chs. 1–2 of his Gospel and that the “eyewitnesses” include the characters in these preliminary stories. Rather Luke abides by the starting point for the history of Jesus that in his time was generally agreed and which the oral testimony of the eyewitnesses observed, but added a preliminary account of events that would give his main story an appropriate background and context."

            The "starting point" that Bauckham refers to (and from which he commences his argument across the Gospels) is the baptism of Jesus. Martin and Bauckham seems to agree on this point.

            Now this of course raises one or two difficult questions for the Christian apologist, but I don't think that for the non-fundamentalist/ non-literalist these need to pose any significant concerns.

          • Have a watch of Martin's course on the New Testament, if you can. What is great about it is that it is careful to make distinctions between history and theology. Martin's course appears to be to help students study the New Testament as history and he also distinguishes his own views when they are not widely accepted. For example, he will note some of the letters of Paul are accepted as being legitimately authored by Paul, some are disputed, some are widely regarded as pseudonymous.

            As lay people I think the best that we can do is look to the best credentialed academics who lack the appearance of bias.

            While looks like Bauckham has excellent credentials, he also teaches theology. So I would wonder if the things he says are being advanced as conclusions on a historical basis, or a theological one.

            I've also listened to Bart Ehrman's Great Lectures series on Audible, which was fantastic.

            I also agree that the baptism is probably the starting point. I am not a mysticist and I will defer to what is generally accepted by reputable historians.

            Good discussion, thanks Lazarus.

          • Lazarus

            Ok, you've convinced me, I will give Martin a try.
            I didn't know Ehrman is on Audible, must give that a listen right now.

          • David Nickol

            Catholic scholar and author Richard Bauckham

            Bauckham describes himself as an Anglican in this interview.

          • Lazarus

            Sorry, my bad, my very bad. I read "Jesus and the Eyewitnesses" about a year ago, after reading something about it in First Things, if I remember correctly. I simply assumed for some reason that he was Catholic.

            The old mind really is going...

          • D Foster

            That's much better, in my view. And I do happen to agree that the date is uncertain.

            As I'm not engaged in the specific topic, I'd not have much to add. I suppose all I could say is this:

            I'm not aware of any claim (here, or in the broader debate) which is countered by the fact that the Gospels were written "several decades after the fact". In terms of ancient history, that is close to the events.

            So, while I'm not convinced by the article here, it is simply not because of the fact that decades passed between the birth of Christ and the penning of the Gospels. I don't follow that logic at all.

  • OldSearcher

    I wish everyone here a peaceful and safe Christmas.

    • Lazarus

      Thank you very much, and I wish you and your family a wonderful Christmas also, with lots of joy and happiness.

  • Lazarus

    Well, it's nearly Christmas morning here in my neck of the woods, so I wish everyone here a blessed, peaceful and safe Christmas. It is my hope that we can appreciate and value our differences and maybe briefly pause and just enjoy for a few moments the wondrous human journey we are all on, with all its difficulties and beauty.

    To Brandon and all who make SN possible : a sincere thank you, I think that this is a difficult but worthwhile task.

    Merry Christmas x

  • Paul Brandon Rimmer

    In keeping with the Christmas spirit, my favourite Christmas Hymn (Byzantine):

    Your Nativity, O Christ our God,
    Has shone to the world the Light of wisdom!
    For by it, those who worshipped the stars,
    Were taught by a Star to adore You,
    The Sun of Righteousness,
    And to know You, the Orient from on High.
    O Lord, glory to You!

    Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

  • Sample1

    Strange Notions is a toxic dump.

    Mike

  • Amrita Sharma

    For just over a hundred years, the question of when Herod the Great died
    has been dominated by a proposal by the German scholar Emil Schurer. He
    suggested that Herod died in 4 B.C., and this view took off in
    scholarly circles.

    http://www.fightofdestiny.com/numerology-compatibility-for-love/

  • Upphouse

    I want to know why people think Josephus did not count inclusively. This is a Jewish way to count. The very first instance is that Arpaxhad was born "two years after the Flood," which is slightly unclear. Two years after it began? Ended? How long was it? The Flood touched two years. So Faulstich chose two years after the flood ended after the 2nd year, which is to be counted inclusively. So: 1656-1658 Flood 1658-1660 then Arpaxhad was born. One is forced to make a choice here, but this choice gives interesting results: At creation week in 4001 BCE there is a fantastic alignment of the planets that makes them seem like they are in a "start position." For what it's worth.

  • Upphouse

    "More specifically, he would have died between January 10, 1 B.C. (the
    date of the lunar eclipse) and April 11, 1 B.C. (the date of Passover)."

    This comes out to Monday, Tebeth 16, 3999 AM. Now, this is kind of late for eclipses, which makes me want to check this claim out. the full moon usually is 14th or 15th of the Jewish month. But the key issue here, is that Tebeth 16 is not a Jewish fast day. Only 4 BCE fits the lunar eclipse on the Jewish fast (Purim).

    On the posterior side of this argument, really cool peculiarities pop up... Such as Jesus' birth being May 14, 6BCE (Iyyar 28) is 666 days until this eclipse of Purim in 4BCE. And his birthday is 8 days before Sivan 6, Pentecost day. And it is 713,317 days until Israel's independence day in 1948. And this only scratches the surface!