Did Jesus know John the Baptist before and after the baptism?
Monday, October 26, 2020
Sunday, October 18, 2020
The Gospel of Matthew says that Joseph, Mariam and Jesus came to live in Nazareth. That fulfilled the words spoken by the prophets that 'He shall be called a Nazarene (Nazarean, Greek: nazooraios).' So says Matt 2:23.
What was the prophecy and where is it? Bible sceptics say that nowhere in the Bible is there such a prophecy written. They say that shows Matthew made up false stories. But these sceptics do not tend to point out that Matthew says the prophecy was spoken, not written.
But there is another grave error, a humongous one. In fact the prophecy encompasses more or less every prophecy ever written or spoken by Israelite prophets.
There is a key factor that such commentators willingly leave out. They are too often microscopically concentrated on not only the letters of the text, (not even the meaning of the words). They become victims of unsubstantiated theories about how and when the gospel of Matthew was written.
Let's first deal with the historical facts.
What most commentators leave out is the historical context – Herodian despotism. Herod killed his own sons because he merely suspected them of disloyalty. How do you think he would react to everyone calling Jesus: Jesus the Messiah, the king, the rightful son of David, and only legitimate heir to rule Israel?
|Herod's Massacre of the Innocents (Kerold)|
Herod's record was as clear as red blood on a white linen cloth. When it came to Jewish pretenders to what he considered his throne, given him by Rome, he wiped from the face of the earth anyone who could claim Davidic heritage.
He burned the family archives and the city of Bethlehem.
When Parthian Magi announced that the Davidic Messiah was born he ordered a baby genocide. He killed all children under two in an area from Bethlehem in the south to the northern suburbs of Jerusalem.
No one even dared to name a child David in Herod’s time.
Joseph, Jacob, Simon, Judas, yes.
David absolutely not.
What has this to do with Nazareth?
Imagine someone who supported the Czar in the time of Stalin’s USSR. Would they call the group, the ‘Czarist’ group? Would they proclaim: ‘I am a Czarist’?
They would be dead men.
Subtly and truth are required. The prophets referred to in Matt 2 most obviously include those such as Isaiah, Ezekiel and Micah that refer to the Davidic Messiah – the Branch (Netzer) of David.
Why is Nazareth mentioned frequently in the NT and Nazarene describes the followers of Christ? The answer is the same to the question: why is the capital of Galilee, Sepphoris, not mentioned at all?
|Nazareth in Ceasarea inscription |
of priestly courses
Sepphoris became a pagan Roman town. Nazareth was a suburb of the capital. The name of the town, Nazareth, was found on a stone tablet in Caesarea in 1962. It lists the priestly courses or mishmarot and their geographical assembly points. It is clear from the spelling Nazareth has nothing to do with the Nasarites of Num 6.
Nazareth was holy. Sepphoris was unholy and Roman. It was previously a center of rebellion. It had been the center of Israelites and Jews reclaiming their hereditary land after the return from Babylonian captivity. In a revolt against Roman oppression of their religious beliefs, the population had been slaughtered or sent into slavery. It had been rebuilt. Now it was ultra loyal to Herodian Rome.
Jews and Israelites still returned. According to Josephus, millions of the faithful attended the annual festivals in Jerusalem. Only those who could prove that they were legitimate Israelites with proven genealogy could attend.
Talmudic sources say the genealogical history of all legitimate Israelites (and a few non-Israelites too) was found in the archives of the Depository (Jeshana) of Sepphoris. It had pedigree records (copies or originals) of material Herod tried to destroy in the family archives in Jerusalem to assure his dominance.
For priests and Israelites,
‘If his father’s name was found in the archives at Sepphoris, no further inquiry was made.’
Evidently this vital history of Israel and material for its future was not in the city center where pagan riots could burn them. It was on a defendable hill as the NT describes for Nazareth.
Israel a society ruled by pedigree.
Proof of genealogical pedigree was essential in all levels of Israelite society. Israel was probably the strictest and most prominent genealogically-centered society on earth.
It was impossible to enter the Temple without proof of descent – legitimate descent reinforced at least by 2 or 3 honest witnesses– from one of the twelve tribes.
Priestly pedigree had even stricter rules. They had to marry virgins from a tribe of Israel. Israelites were allowed to marry virgins of converted gentiles.
Thus protecting the identity of an authentic descendant of David from Herod required subtlety and ruse. Hence the term 'Nazarene' was used. It meant the Messiah who fulfilled the Tanakh prophetic promises from Genesis to Chronicles.
But it was camouflage for Romans and Herodians. To foreigners and gentiles it meant a man from a small town near the Rome-loyal city of Sepphoris. That is evident in the varieties of describing a man from Nazareth. How did these Nazarene variations arise and by whom?
There are variations of the term of Nazarene: nazooraios or nazarinos. The town of Nazareth itself is spelt in several ways, ending with -a, -ath, -eth or -et. These may be due to local use or in the case of non-believers like the servant girl who accused Peter as understanding it to refer to a geographical location of a suburb of the Galilean capital Sepphoris. ‘His speech betrays him.’
For the faithful Hebrew-speakers the name Nazareth could mean the city of Genealogies or Branches. The Hebrew word 'Netzer' means branch or off-shoot or descendant.
Jesus the Nazarene means Jesus of the Branch of David. It encompasses the main prophecies of the whole Bible.
Centuries of Regicide
The term ‘Nazarene’ derives from Netzer, an off-shoot or branch, someone who was a legitimate Davidic descendant or part of this Davidic group. That is Hebrew. Few gentiles knew Hebrew and even less had access to the records.
In Herod’s time anyone saying ‘I can prove I am a Son of David’ outside the Temple (where gentiles were not allowed) would be killed by Herod’s men. Nazarene or ‘Branchist’ implied a Davidic descent without being overt.
The Helenistic Syrians under the Seleucids did their level best to eradicate the Davidic line. The Maccabees or Hasmoneans liberated the land from this pagan oppression. But they did not want a Davidic king to replace their military power based on their high priests. Instead they claimed to be 'ethnarchs' or rulers of the people. And then they succumbed to self-pride and made themselves kings.
The Hasmoneans were not able to resist the intrusion of Roman power. But in the Roman civil wars they allied themselves to Julius Caesar and won recognition 'for ever' as rulers of Israel. They had no interest in seeing a Davidic king. Then Rome decided to make Herod king of Judea. The high priest was demoted to be a Quisling of Roman power. Herod was ruthless in wiping out any opposition.
|Herod the Great Despot|
In all these centuries of the post-exile world up till Joseph, father of Jesus, the identity and even the existence of the Davidic line was obscured to the point of its assumed non-existence. The rigidly enforced Herodian/ Roman ‘registration’ of the Bethlehem property forced Joseph to courageously step forward and reveal his royal lineage. He had been able previously to distract attention because he also held priestly (Levitical) lineage.
The danger without
Jesus would be killed, if, outside the Temple, he openly proclaimed that he was the Son of David. But the death sentence would also apply to those who Herod thought would support this assertion. Outside the Temple the people took their life in their hands to call Jesus, Son of David. That would be deadly for Jesus and anyone who was seen concurring with the title. He told people bluntly not to say this title.
Desperate people sometimes make desperate moves.
In Matt 9:27 two blind men cried out: Son of David, have mercy on us!
He asked them whether they believed he could heal them and did so. Then he charged them: 'See that no man know it.' v30. It was dangerous for the newly sighted men and anyone who agreed with them. Later other blind people used the same psychological technique to be cured because they knew he could heal them, Matt 20:30. In Mk 10:47, Bartimeus, after regaining his sight, stuck with him as the safest place. In Luke 18:39 the crowds rebuked the blind man, for crying out, Son of David, -- before he was healed.
After the Resurrection
After the Resurrection, it was different. It was witnessed and affirmed officially by Romans.
In the 60s, decades after the Resurrection, believers were all normally referred to as Nazarenes. Paul was called a Nazarene in Acts 24:5. It was proof of Christ's future active kingship of the planet.
Jesus Christ (=Jesus the anointed king) came from the seed of David according to the flesh.’ Rom 1:1-3.
When, in John 1:46-9, Nathanael acclaims ‘Jesus the son of Joseph who is from Nazareth’ to be ‘Son of God and king of Israel’ it was completely verified in the most authentic genealogical archives of Israel and unchallengeable.
The early ekklesia was Nazarene, not Christian
Paul was not a Christian. He was a Nazarene.
Once Jesus had proved his Messiahship, by the resurrection and the Romans acknowledged it, it was more easy to overtly identify as Nazarene followers, like Paul and the early ekklesia.
The Hebrew term, Nazarene, was the normal name for Christ’s followers.
Around the time of Caligula in 41 CE, when he was trying to destroy all Judaism, the term ‘Christian’ was first invented. It was used as an insult by gentile Greeks of Antioch, Acts 11:26. This belittles the prophetic resonance of Nazarene, the legitimate Davidic King, destined to rule the world, to a mere leader of a movement. The significance of holy oil and anointing was lost on pagans. ‘Christian’ became the official term for the imperial Roman syncretic religion.
The faithful Nazarenes were excluded and persecuted.
The other deadly exposure of linguistic Davidism was also relieved after the resurrection. Those who supported Davidic legitimacy and purity across all Israel were known as Essenes or more correctly Esseans. Josephus uses both terms.
Essene comes from the Latin usage. Where does the term Essean come from? It relates to Yesse or Jesse, the father of David. As late as the 400s CE Epiphanius, the bishop of Constantia of the imperial church, a converted Jew who knew Hebrew, wrote a list of the origin and beliefs of early Christian groups. He wanted them eliminated. http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/5819-epiphanius
On the Nazarenes he said:
‘These people did not give themselves the name of Christ or Jesus’ own name, but that of Nazoreans. They also came to be called ‘Jesseans’ for a short while, before the disciples began to be called Christians at Antioch. But they were called Jesseans because of Jesse, I suppose, since David was descended from Jesse…’ Panarion 2.29.
This shows that 'Nazarene' relates directly to the genealogical prophecies of the whole Bible. The parallel name of Esseans is also of genealogical origin. Both have significance for the prophecies of the Messiah made over the many centuries of Israel’s history.
Thursday, August 13, 2020
|John the Baptist, |
by Brueghel the Elder
He wore a black belt.
Thanks to the tireless work of Nehemia Gordon and his team, some 21 Hebrew manuscripts have been found and checked in Museums like the British Museum, Israel and even in the recesses at the Vatican. Those derived from the Hebrew Matthew manuscript of Shem-Tov, known as 'the Ancient', a fourteenth century Jewish polemicist, repeat one word:
The Greek and the Latin Vulgate do not say that. Nor do other translations. The Greek Matthew and the KJV say that John wore a coat of camel hair and was girded with a leather belt. It says nothing of the color.
So why are the Hebrew versions so adamant on the color being black?
History records that Matthew wrote his gospel first in Hebrew. What we have today are a variety of documents, but none of them are originals from the first century. They are either copies of copies etc of the originals with variations and mistakes or some may be translations from the Greek for use in the grand and dangerous debates between Jews and Roman Catholics. In these debates the Jews had to maintain a position without contradicting Catholic doctrine. A difficult and sometimes lethal game of words.
But whoever wrote these multiple documents, whether free or persecuted, careful or not, they all wrote a word that is not found in Greek: black.
What is the significance of the black belt? Black belt has a special connotation today: martial arts. Obviously this black belt does not relate to Judo. What about Judah? Hebrew descriptions must have something to do with Jews! Why do all the Jewish scribes writing over several centuries and in different countries and cultures, emphasise black? How could it be coordinated so widely and accurately?
But does it really even relate to Jews? Is there a deeper, traumatic story about Israel that no one could forget? Why was the 'black' belt not relevant for Gentile/ Greek Christians who had the Greek NT?
Rabbi John the Baptist
John is called a Rabbi in the Greek NT, John 3:26. This has nothing to do with a modern Jewish synagogue rabbi – the NT and other writings use another term for the ruler of the synagogue, ‘archon’. ‘Rabbi’ in the first century meant a member of the Council of the Temple, or perhaps the Great Council (sanhedrin). It was most likely the anointed head of the Temple Council. Only two people in all the NT are called rabbi: John and Jesus. Paul is not called a rabbi.
This restricted sense of Rabbi as an anointed post is confirmed by the Hebrew version of Josephus’s ‘Jewish War’ known as the ‘Destruction of Jerusalem’ by ‘Josephus ben Gorion’. Flavius Josephus said he wrote his first account to his countrymen, that is Israelites, and identified them as Scythians, Parthians and Kelts. They spoke many languages with Hebrew and Aramaic as a common tongue. Despised and feared by Romans, Latins and Greeks, who called them ‘the Upper Barbarians,’ they lived and roamed across the whole earth North of Rome from the Steppes to Northern Europe.
With the rise of biblical scholarship, this Hebrew Destruction of Jerusalem was translated and first printed in English in 1558 by Peter Morvyn. Many reprints followed. Thus it predates the English translation of the Greek Flavius Josephus. It was much better known until Whiston's translation of the Greek became a standard in Christian homes alongside the Bible.
The Hebrew version, known as Josippon, has some surprises.
In it John is not only called Rabbi but ‘Rabbi John Baptist the High Priest.’
First what did Rabbi mean? Historically the word ‘rabbi’ appears in writing first in the NT. At that time it may have been an Aramaic title—it means ‘anointed’ in Aramaic.
It is not in the Dead Sea Scrolls.
In the first century it was later confused by Christ's enemies with Hebrew for ‘my master’, as Jesus says, Matt 23. The scholars 'have sat down on' or placed themselves falsely on 'Moses's seat' (took it over). They act holy but are hypocrites. They prostrate themselves in the streets, then shout ‘my master’ to each other in the market place, hoping the common people would understand it as Aramaic ‘Anointed One’. (The scholars were NOT anointed.)
Jesus told the disciples not to call each other Rabbi = Christos or Messiah.
Did the false scholars stop? Obviously not.
‘Rabbi’ became a common term in the Talmud, (2nd/3rd century) synagogues or among Jewish scholars of the Pharisaic persuasion. Some Jews including Karaites objected to this title. They dismissively called such people ‘rabbinites’.
So what of the black belt? Why do the Jewish MSS insist on it? Simply because the high priest did not wear a black leather belt. He does not wear any leather. In the Temple he wore linen and no leather, not even sandals. In the synagogue pious Jews do not wear leather, especially on fasting days such as the Day of Atonement. They don't even wash. Yet the Torah scrolls themselves are made of leather.
As for camels, a single camel hair might render a priest ceremonially unclean.
The High Priest’s dress is specified in the Bible, Ex 28. No camels, no leather!
The Jewish versions are trying to insist that John was not a regular high priest. The NT is also shouting this out.
Why did John have a black leather belt? A priest has a white linen girdle. The Pharisees might say:
Imagine that! Black leather! Is he really an Aaronic high priest?
Yes, he was.
An additional fact supports the case. The Romans' economy required leather in large quantities. Their tanning process produced brown cow leather in large amounts, but outside towns and cities. The tanning process caused bad and persistent smells.
This leather was not only for belts and clothes but for military tents. If leather was tawed with alum it became softer and had a lighter tone but could then be dyed. Sheep leather is also softer; goat leather may be tougher. Softer leather is not best for a testing environment like a desert. So if it was dyed black by the Roman process it would be too soft for a sturdy belt. Roman leather was typically brown. A brown belt would be normal in a Roman context.
Black was unusual for Romans. Did it identify the wearer as coming from Parthia? Methods of curing leather vary with social cultures. East of the Roman Empire smoking and the use of special green leaves and fats would have produced a different-looking product.
This character, Rabbi John the Baptist the high priest, was wearing clothes that were not typical of Jews, certainly not of high priests like Annas, and not of Romans.
The Camel Superpower
The further clue is in the other part of his dress: a garment of camel hair. This was even more removed from the Torah's byssus, sparkling white linen, from the flax plant. More so, camel hair was foreign and, to some, inappropriate and even unclean. The camel was not a sacrificially pure animal. Moreover it was so basically foreign, no Jew in Israel would wear it.
Camels today are associated with regions like Arabia. In the first century they were a symbol of powerful lands further East like Parthia and Bactria. (The Bactrian camel famously has two humps.)
It was mighty in battle too. It had defeated Roman legions several times and even liberated Israel from Rome. It installed its own high priest there.
Parthia, under its Semitic kings, the Arsacids, with major populations of Israelites and Jews, was intimately involved with the priesthood.
So the NT is saying that John came from those many worshippers in Parthia (as mentioned in Acts 2:9, and the Parthian Magi of Matt 2).
|Phraates IV, defeated Mark Antony.|
Augustus made a peace treaty with him.
Who did John proclaim to?
The KJV says that John proclaimed the coming of God's ruler, the Messiah, and his Kingdom of the Heavens at the Jordan river. Why not Jerusalem? Why not elsewhere?
Those who came to him came from 'Jerusalem and all Judea and all the country around about the Jordan.' KJV. 'All the adjacent region' is somewhat vague in Greek and may have been so phrased with political sensitivity as the Greek text was read by Romans and Gentiles.
But the Hebrew says much more. It is not just the countryside that is mentioned in the Hebrew, or the cities.
It says they came from 'all the kingdom around about the Jordan.'
Legally speaking only Herod had been proclaimed a king, that of Judea, by the Romans. Is that what is meant? Judea is already mentioned without the name of the hated Herod. So 'kingdom' must be elsewhere.
The Hebrew Malkhut can be translated 'kingdom' but also 'Empire'.
For those in the East of Israel that was an unmistakable reference. Israel was living next to the big superpower of Parthian Empire and its satellite kingdoms. These were part of the Israelite 'family business' -- members of the Arsacid dynasty as distinct from Rome where the most powerful military leader became the Caesar. Israel was a small State captured by Rome next to a huge empire. Imagine being occupied by the Soviet Union with a major superpower just across the borders!
So those who came to hear John herald the coming Kingdom of Heaven would know that
(a) John was speaking about a regime change of both Rome and Parthia and everyone else.
(b) John's dress showed he knew what he was talking about when it came to Parthia and military power.
(c) the Roman-Parthia peace treaty and the Temple was the start of something really BIG.
Preserving the Aaronic line
John as an infant may have been taken in Parthia for safety after the turmoil around the death of Herod and the bloody civil and religious war and the subsequent Roman war of Varus against Jews, which devastated the country. Two thousand people were crucified. Jesus was taken to Egypt for safety.
Later in the same condemnation of Matt 23, Jesus denounces the cultic high priests (the sons of Annas, the son of Seth) and Pharisees who had taken over the high priesthood. He says they were hypocrites taking control of holy things while being responsible for the death of Zacharias (the father of John?), slain between the Holy Place and Altar.
The key fact that is often forgotten is that John’s mother and Mariam, the mother of Jesus, were cousins, Luke 1:36. Both were registered in genealogical archives not only as being of the priestly Levitical tribe but direct descendants of Aaron, Luke 1:5. That made their sons far more legitimate than Annas, Caiaphas and the later sons of Annas, who claimed the office.
Both women gave birth, one to John, and Mariam to Jesus, in their old age (Greek, gera. Luke 1:36 Elizabeth has ALSO conceived a son in her old age.) There is no evidence that Mariam was 14 years old. The NT says the opposite. These names reflect back to Miriam, the sister of Moses, who also gave birth in her old age, and Elizabeth = Hebrew Elisheva, the Jewish wife of Aaron.
John became the true Aaronic priest at 30 years.
Outside the Temple, authentic high priests do not have to wear white linen garments, as some Pharisees might have said. He can wear a black leather belt and also camel hair garments like the Magi from Parthia.
If John had been living in Parthia, he would have known from the Magi that they had proof that the Messiah of royal David descent had been born in the Davidic city of Bethlehem. His genealogy was confirmed not only in the Jewish archives but by the Roman authorities who had demanded the registration of families.
Monday, May 4, 2020
Physical reality can really exercise your mind!
That implies an explosion where information and order is destroyed in a BANG.
With a Black Hole we move from changes of shape as might happen in a car crash or composition as might happen in a chemical reaction, or even the effects of an atomic bomb to something beyond violent destruction. A Black Hole makes mincemeat of atoms and even atomic particles and its most intimate substructures, crushing them to seeming oblivion.
Can information be 'done in' too?
When matter is pulverized in a Black Hole, where does the information go? After some controversy among physicists they came to a common understanding. Information can't be lost. (Crushing does not go on forever. Matter and radiation is eventually spewed out in devastatingly powerful beams.)
The information relating to shape and form of a theoretical space ship falling into it is held at the 'event horizon' . That is the border where we see object around or crashing into a Black Hole and them disappearing to be crushed to pieces and where light cannot leave the hole because the gravity is so strong.
In fact everything can be considered in the same way as a hologram.
He says the permanence of information is more sure than, in effect, the physicality of the universe (such as what happens inside a black hole). All the information inside the Black Hole can be converted to information in (bit-like) information units on its surface area.
All the material information in the universe can be written on its surface. What is the surface of the universe? Where does it end? It is not only expanding but accelerating in the expansion.
Great is God above all 'gods'. The heaven and heaven of the heavens cannot contain him.
'Can anyone hide himself in secret places, so I shall not see him?' says the Eternal.So 3-D information in our universe can be seen as a two dimensional hologram.
'Do I not fill heaven and earth?' says the Eternal.'
What about TIME? Four dimensions of Space-Time of Relativity can be considered to be like a graph paper. In effect, we can move our finger to a point in the graph but the line of the graph exists of itself.
A satellite around the earth has a different clock than a clock on surface. Why? Because it is moving at speed. We all have a different clock. The universe too. It started as a huge expansion with small space and compressed time.
How much? A million million seconds!
The God-perspective of the Creator sees it as six days. The factor of expansion is a million million, and six times a million million DAYS equals around 15 billion years. This must be the only way to look at it if time is relative. Recent discoveries found the cosmic microwave radiation background temperature to be around 2.73 degrees Kelvin (from the 3.03 it would be otherwise) and astoundingly that the universe is accelerating in its expansion. Schroeder is able to correct the age of the universe in our terms to be about 14 billion years.
Viewed from God's angle as Creator, the days of the universe would measure in our years:
Day 1 7.1 billion years
Day 2 3.6 billion years
Day 3 1.8 billion years
Day 4 0.89 billion years
Day 5 450million years
Day 6 230 million years
It is quite different from the system scientists use today which is Caesium isotope decay.
We live in a culture dominated by the false Hellenistic world view. That makes it harder for us to grasp some of these concepts. Schroeder shows that the Jews had a long tradition about a view of the Six Days of Genesis that is entirely in harmony with modern physics, and our understanding of the age of the universe as we see it. It also provides material for further scientific investigation.
Real Reality lies outside our experience. We may be creations in the mind of God. Physics shows us that we are in some ways imaginary in a greater mind.
Thursday, December 19, 2019
No year Zero!
Most people know that it wasn't a Year Zero. Why? Because the year zero does not exist in the system of BC and AD (Before Christ and Anno Domini= year of our Lord).
The system of dating goes from one BC and then directly to one AD. It does not pass by year Zero. It is not like mathematics where a graph has an origin of zero and to the left is -1 and to the right is +1.
Common Era where no implications about the year of the birth of Jesus are involved. That's because the BC/ AD system was introduced in Rome by a learned, multilingual Scythian monk, Dionysius Exiguus, (c470-c544) who got his arithmetic slightly wrong.
However the CE system makes little difference to the dates as 1999 AD = 1999 CE and 444 BC = 444 BCE (Before the Common Era).
The Astronomer Johannes Kepler is generally credited with starting the system of Common Era as it was necessary for years to be properly identified without ambiguity when scientists were discussing the years when planets and comets approached the earth in their orbits.
When was Jesus born?
It would have been simpler for scientists and historians to correct Dionysius's mathematics and leave it at that. However there was still a slight disagreement among specialists about which year that was.
All the early chroniclers and historians were in agreement that the birth happened within a very few years of around 2 or 3 BCE. There are slight variations as various calendar systems were used in different locations. Some calendars begin in January, others in August or October. The Hebrew calendar begins in the autumnal month of Tishrei, based on a 19 year cycle that is automatically adjusted to the seasons.
Here's what the various authorities said, adjusted to our calendar:
Irenaeus (late 2nd century) 41st year of Augustus = Aug 3 to Aug 2 BCE
Tertullian c 200 41st year of Augustus = Aug 3 to Aug 2 BCE
Origen (early third century) 41st year of Augustus = Aug 3 to Aug 2 BCE
Clement of Alexandria (c 200) 28 years after Cleopatra's death = Aug 3 to Aug 2 BCE
Julius Africanus (c 200) . 2nd yr 194 Olympics . = Oct 3 to Sept 2 BCE
Hippolytus of Rome 2nd yr 194 Olympics . = Oct 3 to Sept 2 BCE
Eusebius (c 300) 42 year of Augustus from 44 = 2 BCE
28 yrs after Cleopatra's death = 2 BCE
3rd yr of 194 Olympics = 2 BCE
42 yr from 43 BCE = 2 BCE
Epiphanius c400 3rd yr of 194 Olympics = 2 BCE
42 yr from 43 BCE = 2 BCE
Dionysius Exiguus early 500s 1 BCE
Appolinarius of Laodicea = 2 BCE
Paulus Orosius end 42 yr Augustus = 2 BCE
752 AUC = 2 BCE
Hippolytus of Thebes 9th century 42 yr of Augustus
43 yr of Augustus = 2/3 BCE
These dates are all fairly consistent but a year or two off from the date of Dionysius. He had translated from Greek to Latin the canons of the synods from Nicea (325) to Chalcedon (451) giving the new doctrines of the centralised Gentile church based in Constantinople. The computation of the Easter Table was a central part of his work. It was based on Egyptian calculations.
The annual date for Easter was a sensitive matter for the Roman church. The pagan Roman Pontifex Maximus had authority over the calendar and public festivals of the gods. From Julius Caesar on, it was passed on as part of the powers of all Roman emperors. In the late fourth century Emperor Gratian, now nominally Christian, refused the title as being too pagan. The bishop of Rome (pope) Damasus took up the title.
Easter was the church's alternative to the biblical Passover. One of the directives was not to make the Christian festival coincide with the biblical date but exactly the opposite. To make sure that it didn't! Eventually the Easter calculation became the standard one of today, although the Orthodox retain a difference because of the Gregorian calendar adjustment.
The chronology of Dionysius had to fit in with what was Constantine's now centuries-old, well-established but falsified doctrine of Sunday-worship. His aim was to overturn the Hebrew calendar and apply one that allowed both Sunday worship and the pagan Easter tradition to replace the biblical Passover.
A harmony of the Gospels shows that Jesus was crucified on the Preparation Day of the Festival Sabbath of Unleavened Bread, that is Wednesday. The biblical holy days do not fall on the same days each year. It was obviously not the Preparation for the weekly Sabbath, Friday. He rose after three days and three nights in the tomb. The Resurrection is recorded as happening as the (weekly) Sabbath ended towards the first day of the week. These dates can be calculated to show the year with these characteristics. Hence the year of the Crucifixion is fixed mathematically. Then it is simple Hebrew mathematics to work back to the year of Christ's birth.
As the Dionysius Easter Table was also based on a mathematical 19-year cycle, it could be calculated which years coincided exactly with the new Easter doctrine (with its Friday crucifixion and Sunday resurrection, itself difficult to reconcile with a three days and three nights period of the NT) around 30s CE.
Dionysius also tried to simplify the complicated system of dating that existed in Rome, based on the consulates in power each year. Dionysius also made a revolutionary innovation that few of his contemporaries probably understood. He used the term zero (Latin nulla or nihil). There was no zero in the Roman mathematics system. It was not until the Middle Ages that the idea of zero (originating from India) came into use.
These may be the main reasons why his dating was a little bit off. It is significant that his dating system was the one that was used by the Roman Catholic 'missionaries' in Britain after the arrival the pope's emissary Augustine around 400 CE. In Britain the Roman churchmen who attempted to convert the Anglo-Saxons found that the native Britons were keeping their Christian festivals on a different day. Passover was kept like Jews and Nazarenes on the fourteenth day of the first spring month. The Britons had been doing so for hundreds of years before Augustine arrived. With the spread of the Roman doctrines, the Easter computation, reinforced by the work of Bede, became that recognised from East to West.
The Dionysius system of dating was common during the thousand years of Roman control of books and learning.
With the onset of printing and the publishing of the Bible in native languages people began to question intensely why this date was taken as correct.
Science and historical research began to probe the facts and offer other solutions.
The 4 BCE error
How did Christian scholars move from the dates of both Dionysius and just about all early writers and historians of the first centuries to what is found in many Bibles? According to the King James version, Christ was born in 4 BCE. An even broader range of dates is now proposed and the dates of all the early writers is treated as error. Why?
Firstly, let us explore why the KJV came up with 4 BCE. This was a predominant date around the time the Bible was published in English. How was the earlier date eliminated?
The answer is a mixture of good science and bad history.
This date derived from one of Europe's greatest scientists, Johannes Kepler, the astronomer and a Polish historian. By careful observation and mathematics Kepler was able to deduce the conjunction of major planets such as Jupiter, Saturn and Mars. He thought that this close visual encounter of the planets might have accounted for the Bethlehem Star. His calculations gave him a date of around 22 June in 7 BCE.
If the star appeared in the East, he argued, the birth might have occurred a year or two later, 6 or 5 BCE. He ruled out the theory that it could have been a comet, as Origen had surmised. In his book he argued that the Magi came from pagan Chaldea and applied Chaldean techniques for interpreting the heavenly phenomenon. God provided the material events for the Chaldeans to this conclusion. he said it must be a conjunction of the major planets.
This rested on two or more bits of guesswork: what did the gospels mean by a star? How could a star seen in the East in Parthia then stand over a house in Bethlehem? What principles of astronomy did ancient Parthian Magi use? Isaiah 47:17 and other scriptures make clear there is a right and wrong interpretation of 'astrology'. How were the stars tied into biblical prophecy? Was what was mentioned related to the movement of the planets, the usual focus of such studies?
While he was observing a conjunction in 1605 a bright new star appeared, a nova stella. Maybe this Nova was a solution.
While reflecting on the problem, Kepler found his book, calling for a revision of the datings, in a shop in Graz. Examining secular history, he challenged the traditional dating of Dionysius. Suslyga came up with a date of 4 BCE or earlier. But Kepler went further.
First, how did Suslyga come to the date of 4 BCE?
Enter Philip and Julias
Suslyga was among the first to suggest that the date of Herod's death must have been no later than 4 BCE.
His argument revolves around a son of Herod called Philip, born of his fifth wife, Cleopatra of Jerusalem.
Suslyga's argument involved the town of Bethsaida. Philip had renamed Bethsaida as Julias after Julia, the daughter of Augustus, Suslyga maintained. But Augustus exiled her in 2 BCE so Philip would have had to come up with the idea well before that, when she was in favour.
So Herod must have died well before that so his son Philip could reign in part of his territory afterwards. This seemed a good argument for Kepler at the time. But modern scholars now believe this scheme of things is not necessarily so. Augustus also gave Julian honours to his wife Livia, and renamed her Julia to emphasise a connection with Julius Caesar and the imperial family. So Philip could have renamed the town of Bethsaida, Julias, at any time up to the time of her death in 29 CE. In the second century the geographer Claudius Ptolemy identified the town of Julias with Livia.
Search for the eclipses
A new line of argument revolves around eclipses in history at the time of Jesus. This helped to solidify what is a common belief that the date was 4 BCE.
But this includes several errors that logically would eliminate them from consideration.
Eclipses of the moon are also predictable both into the future but back in the past.
Why are eclipses important?
This is where the Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, enters the scene. He describes how Herod was in Jericho suffering and dying from an atrocious disease. He also describes quite a number of events including killings of Jews that fought for the purity of the Temple, in expectation of the Messiah. All these events need to be taken into consideration as they mark temporal dates in sequence.
He died and then his body was brought in a solemn procession from Jericho. to Jerusalem That year was marked by a remarkable eclipse of the moon over the land of Israel.
Which was it?
The New Testament also gives a quite clear timing of events in the Gospels. Christ was born during the reign of Herod the Great. So if we have the exact dates of his reign, we know they must include the birth of Jesus. But some while after his birth Herod ordered the massacre of infants from the north of Jerusalem to the south. This happened soon after the Parthian Magi arrived to celebrate the birth of Israel's Messiah. The Greek NT text says they visited Jesus in his Bethlehem home when he was then a toddler (paidion), that is, a year or two old.
So the birth of Jesus was a year or two before Herod died.
When did he die? When was the eclipse?
From the work of mathematical astronomers like Kepler, we now know the exact days when eclipses happened in the Holy Land from 7 BCE to 1 BCE.
The dates are:
- 23 March 5 BCE
- 15 September 5 BCE
- 13 March 4 BCE
- 10 January 1 BCE.
Eternal God, creator of the Universe
Humans are subject to error and tempted by deliberate deceit. Humans cannot muck with movement of the planets, comets and stars. That was the reason that Kepler, Newton, Whiston and other believing scientists tried to determine what, when and where was the Star of Bethlehem.
The heavens have an extraordinary, clear and unambiguous message. But what is it? We should not seek it in pagan, Chaldean astrology.
What does the Bible say? What is the configuration of the heavens in the autumn of 3/2 BCE?
Astronomers in the past could work this out. Many people in the early centuries were far more skilled and literate in astronomy and its real significance than people today -- in spite of so-called popular astrologers.
They looked at the sky at night and knew the stars and the movements.
But how do you see what was happening way back in the past?
You can also this ancient stellar display in the heavens at a planetarium when they set the mechanism back 2000 years.
Now with the help of the computer and software it is possible for anyone at home to see exactly the movement of the planets back into the distant past.
What did the night sky look like in 3/2 BCE?
It is an extraordinary fact, as Dr Ernest L Martin points out, that
- on only one day in 3 BCE was the moon under the feet of the constellation of Virgo, the virgin and the sun 'clothed' her.
- It was when it was the first crescent of the New Moon.
- It occurred on 11 September.
- It remained there for only a few hours.
'And there appeared a great wonder in the heaven; a woman clothed with the sun and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars.'
This year is also confirmed by Luke's statement that Jesus was 'about thirty years old' when he began his work as chief priest and teacher in the Temple. This has to be understood in relation to the Hebrew inclusive arithmetic system and the Jewish secular new year (common through the eastern Roman Empire). It is also defined by the known dates for the reconstruction of the Temple by Simon Boethus under Herod the Great.
The date of the birth of Jesus is 1st Tishrei in year 3 BCE in the autumn.
This fits all the criteria of
- historical events in the NT and Josephus
- Hebrew chronology
- Hebrew festivals
- Hebrew interpretation of the movement of the planets in 3 BCE,
- The near unanimous report of nearly all early writers of the first centuries.
Why do Historians reject 1 BCE?
The scholars, have however, rejected the eclipse of January 1 BCE and plumbed for 4 BCE.
They are convinced (or have convinced themselves) that Herod's death took place in 4 BCE. That would eliminate any recourse to the eclipse of 1 BCE as the one mentioned in Josephus. It would also cause problems with the chronologies about Jesus's thirty years and many other events in order in Josephus. It flies in the face of both secular and religious writers of the early years.
However historians today are often adamant (and sometimes aggressively supportive) about the idea that Jesus must have been born in or before 4 BCE.
Herod and Philip
Did Herod die after the spectacular total eclipse of the moon in 1 BCE or after the partial one of 4 BCE? Why does historians' choice of the year for Herod's death fall nowadays on 4 BCE? That eliminates the 1 BCE date as Jesus was born when he was alive. But is this correct? How do scholars come up with the date? Josephus mentions only one eclipse in all his long and detailed writings of history. (Hundreds took place in the course of centuries that he describes.) So it must be significant.
The simple answer is to see how today's historians take it from a passage they read in Josephus's Antiquities book 18 about Herod's son Philip. He reigned in the eastern part of the Holy Land, the Tetrarchy of Batanaea and rugged Trachonitis (modern day Golan, parts of Syria and Jordan).
Josephus says, in the English translation of Antiquities, that Philip died in the twentieth year of Tiberius after ruling 37 years. The twentieth year of Tiberius is 34 CE. Therefore 37 years back would be the start of his reign, the year thatHerod died. Remembering there is no year zero, that should be 4 BCE.
Simple and concise! What could be wrong with this arithmetic? Facts are not always obvious. The detective work of David W Beyer started to reveal some hidden or rather buried clues. The first trace was published by W E Filmer in an article in 1966 in the Journal of Theological Studies. Filmer reported that divergent chronologies about the reign of Philip were noted in the nineteenth century. They had disappeared from scholarly view. In a 1798 dissertation, a monk, Molkenbuhr, reported seeing several Josephus manuscripts where the text read 'the twenty-second year of Tiberius.' Filmer remarked that this was the last remaining obstacle for the acceptance of Herod's death in 1 BCE. The existence of such manuscripts would make it difficult to argue that Herod died in 4 BCE.
Beyer went on the hunt for the manuscripts.
The evidence was in a fairly obvious place. In the British Library Beyer found 46 editions of Josephus published before 1700. Of these the majority -- twenty-seven -- had the reading of 'twenty-second year of Tiberius.' Of these 27, not a single edition published before 1544 had the reading 'twentieth year of Tiberius.' This is of crucial importance.
In 1994 Beyer examined the copies of Josephus in the Library of Congress. Five more editions were found having 'twenty-second year of Tiberius'. Among the others none published before 1544 supported the reading 'twentieth year of Tiberius.'
Writing in the Festschrift study, Chronos, Kairos Christos II, Beyer says the cover argument for 4 BCE is no longer tenable. These early more authoritative manuscripts show Philip reigned to 36 CE. With a reign of 37 years, he must have begun his rule in 1 BCE. And this must be the year Herod died.
Early Manuscripts all with 22 years and 32 years for his reign
Royal 13 D VII 12th century
Additional 22, 860 13th century
Additional 15, 280 13th century
Harley 5116 ?
Harley 3883 1 ?
Harley 4962 14th- 15th century
Harley 3699 1478/ 1469?
Arundel 94fl ?
Printed Editions (first stage) all with 22 years of Tiberius and 32 years for his reign
IC 50150 1475
IC 9806 1480?
IC 9807 1480?
4515 f9 1511 (Paris)
Printed Editions (second stage) with 22 years of Tiberius and 35 years of Philip's reign
C 13 d9 1470
(G) 8333 . 1470?
IB 20662 1481 Venice
IB 23112 1486 Venice
IB 23201 1499 Venice
C 55 hl 1510 Venice
L 22 b5 1514, 13
Third and fourth stage. Eight other editions printed in various locations like Basel, Strasbourg and Venice give 22nd year of Tiberius and various durations for Philip's reign from 22 to 32 or 35 years.
In the fifth stage, Beyer lists two dozen printed editions from 1544 to 1701. Three Venice editions have the 22nd year of Tiberius. All the rest have the 20th year.
In the Library of Congress, five editions from 1470 to 1481 (Augsburg and Venice) give the 22nd years of Tiberius. Four from 1559 to 1597 give the 20th year of Tiberius.
In the Renaissance and early Reform period Greek manuscripts became the treasures of the libraries of Venice and Florence where a free press was allowed. Many printers from Germany and northern Europe set up their presses there.
The Latin translation attributed to Rufinus (who lived at the time of Jerome around 400) has the translation 'twenty-second year of Tiberius'. This clearly used the Greek texts extant at the time.
However the main text has that of Froben 'twenty years'.
This is the text that all English translators use -- with the 20th year implying that Herod died in 4 BCE.
William Whiston, author of the most widespread version of the Works of Josephus, goes along with this text. He even adds a note supporting it.
However, it is clear that after the death of Herod a vicious civil war erupted in Israel. Herod had killed Jewish scholars who had defended the Temple. He planned to kill one member of each Jewish family so the whole nation would mourn his passing.
That did not happen but later that year a civil war broke out. One great issue was the correct dates and celebration of Passover and Pentecost. Two great Jewish scholars, Judas and Matthias, knowing that Herod was dying, pulled down the massive golden eagle, symbol of Rome, that defiled the Temple.
Herod was alive enough to deprive the high priest (also called Matthias but of Boethus) of his office and burn the other Matthias, son of Margalothus and many of his colleagues alive.
'And that very night,' says Josephus, 'there was an eclipse of the moon.' Antiq 17.167.At the Pentecost after Herod's death of that year of 1 BCE, the righteous high priest of Simon of Boethus and his family (related to Mariam (Mary), Joseph and his son Jesus) were all removed. (Joseph had officiated once as a Mishnah High Priest (cohen moreh) at a previous Day of Atonement.) The Boethusian family was replaced by the 'sons of Seth' whose offspring included Annas and Theophilus of the NT. Caiaphas was the son-in-law of Annas.
The Jewish people rose in rebellion once Herod was dead and demanded Archelaus that the purer high priesthood be restored. In vain. Archelaus's position had not been confirmed by Rome. Jerusalem was in turmoil and fighting. 'Ten thousand' other disturbances broke out in Judea, Antiq 17.269. Robber bands roamed the country as it fell into disorder.
Varus was president of Syria with supreme powers in charge of Rome's eastern possessions.
The Pentecost, after Herod's death, saw increasing disturbances.
That is when Varus acted. There was one legion in the country. He brought in two others and four troops of horsemen. He also drew on several auxiliary forces that were supplied by kings and tetrarchs (286). The capital city of Galilee, Sepphoris, of which Nazareth is a suburb, and several other cities were burnt to the ground. Two thousand Jews were crucified and 30,000 Jews sold into slavery (17.295) before order was restored.
This major war with the Jews could not have happened when Augustus was being celebrated as bringing peace to the whole empire. It is known as the War of Varus (Antiquities bk 17.10-11 250-). It is also known that Philip received the title of Tetrarch after this war had ended. That accounts for the some of the doubts about when he started his reign, either legally (de jure) or in practice (de facto).
But it also renders impossible the supposed 4 BCE chronology with Philip taking over immediately Herod died.
'Ernest L Martin has solidly demonstrated that the conclusion of that major conflict occurred in late 1 BC,' Beyer wrote. 'Thus Philip's appointment as tetrarch most likely took place shortly thereafter, in 1 AD. This is the de jure date referred to by the twenty-two/thirty-five chronology. The tremendous political instability of the entire region very likely prevented Philip rom assuming full administrative authority for some of the period of time. This is by no means unusual for it was also the case with his own father. Herod the Great was declared king by Caesar Augustus in 39 BC but assumed de facto control with the capture of Jerusalem in 36 BC. The thirty-two year tenure provided by the twelfth- to fifteenth century texts mark the de facto date of Philip's reign beginning in AD 4.'Coins of Philip show that his de jure date of accession is antedated to 1 BCE just after the death of Herod.
Let's hope that the penny drops more widely in the scholarly community and for the public in general. The year of the birth of Jesus was 1 Tishrei in the autumn of 3/2 BCE.