There are as many theories on when Jesus was born as there are theories on the Loch Ness Monster, but did you know the Bible comes very close to telling us when?
For me, I go to the core of things and that is why Jesus' birthday meant nothing to the apostles who lived with Him for some 3 1/2 years. Why did His birthday mean nothing through the 30 years of Acts, which documents the spread of disciples of Jesus throughout the Roman Empire? Why is there no mention of His birthday in any of the letters of the New Testament? And finally, why did only Matthew and Luke record the event and Mark and John did not? Clearly it wasn't important to them, and in the final analysis, it shouldn't be important to us either.
But it is helpful and educational to know the approximate time of His birth because it sets the context for the days in which He was born. It helps us understand the culture and society and politics of the day.
I am surprised at the boldness of some, the 'know it all' attitude of so many who assert with great confidence that He was born in such and such time of year because of such and such. Most of them however leave out other considerations to focus on their 'pet' belief.
There are theories based on the Star of Bethlehem ranging from the supernova the Chinese record in about 10BC that was visible in daytime even to the time of the resurrection. There are star theories about the constellations that were considered Jewish and the planets that crossed path with them.
There are attempts at dating the time of Herod's death, date the time of the census which was why Joseph and Mary were in Bethlehem, and date when shepherds were in the fields with their flocks.
Some careful researchers even understand that ancient Israelites being oriental, counted birthdays from conception, in what is known as 'age reckoning', not from birth. "Age reckoning" is still in use in parts of the Orient today - China, Tibet, Korea, and in some Japanese ceremonies. (Israel is considered Oriental, the Bible an Oriental book - the Far East and Middle East both oriental.)
And once in a while someone will consider the culture of the day that was looking for Messiah and what the Rabbi's taught about the season He would appear.
Putting it all together
Can we put all these elements together? If we simply follow the clues Dr. Luke leaves us in his narrative, all these other things fall into place. But so few actually examine what Luke wrote.
But first: Looking for Messiah
In Daniel 9:21 the angel Gabriel appears to Daniel, and tells him 70 weeks of years, or 490 years is the total until Messiah brings in everlasting righteousness.
In v25 Gabriel states that Messiah will come at week 69 or 483 years, and then 'die, but not for Himself.' Gabriel said the countdown of those 483 years to Messiah would start at the command to rebuild Jerusalem.
The command to rebuild Jerusalem came in 455BC from Artaxerxes in the 20th year of his reign. (Nehemiah 2:1-8) Counting 483 years forward from 455BC we arrive at the year 28 or 29AD - when Jesus died on the cross 'but not for Himself', just as Gabriel had said.
Realizing that priests in Israel could not start their ministry until age 30 but could not be over age 50 (Numbers 4:3), ancient Israel started looking for Messiah to be born around the 10BC time frame. Israel was expecting Messiah!
Second: Star talk
From the Roman point of view several things were happening in the stars which would seem to point to their divine appointment as the heavenly blessed Empire. They considered the planets to be predictors of events as did much of Europe and the Orient. In that time frame from 10 to 3BC there was a 'gathering' of planets. Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, Venus, Mercury, all seemed to be gathering in the same general area of the sky, so they agreed there was a purpose for that and something was about to happen.
In 3BC the path of Jupiter, which was to them the 'King planet', appeared over weeks to circle the 'King star' which was Regulus. That the King planet circled the King star seemed to confirm Augustus Caesar as 'the anointed king'.
This circling of the King planet around the King star in 3BC was the 25th year of Augustus' rise to power as Caesar. It was the 750th (priestly/ceremonial) anniversary of the founding of Rome, and is the year the Senate of Rome conferred the title on Augustus of 'Father of the Country'. To Rome it seemed even the universe agreed Augustus was THE King and Rome had divine right to conquer the world.
So when Rome was concluding the stars confirmed Augustus and Rome as divine, the True Messiah was being born in a humble stable in Israel. In another part of the world the 'wise men' saw the confirming of Gabriel's words to Daniel in the stars, which caused them to skip the celebrations in Rome, understanding the True King was in Israel. And that's where we'll pick it up next week. Until then, blessings,
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