Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Christian Era

Part 2 of Daniel's Messianic Prophecy

When the sixth century abbot, Dionysius Exiguus, was calculating the date to begin the calendar based on the Christian Era, he determined that December 25, in the 753rd year since the founding of the city of Rome, was Christ’s date of birth. Because January 1 was celebrated as New Year’s Day in sixth century Rome, the abbot chose January 1, 754 A.U.C. (from the founding of Rome) as a suitable date to begin the Christian Era. Thus 754 A.U.C. became 1 AD, the year of our Lord.

Dionysius erred in his calculation of the year in which Christ was born. According to Matthew's Gospel, Jesus wasn’t born after the reign of Herod the Great but rather during the reign of that same Herod.

After Herod ascertained when and where the Messiah was born, he ordered the slaughter of all male babies in Bethlehem and its suburbs causing the flight of Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus to Egypt. Upon Herod’s death, the holy trio returned to Palestine.

An eclipse of the moon occurred on March 13, 750 A.U.C. shortly before the death of Herod the Great. That was documented by Josephus in his Antiquities (17.6.4). Thus Christ was most likely born in 749 A.U.C., the year before Herod's death.

Remember, 754 A.U.C. equals 1 AD. The abbot’s system of numbering years did not allow for a year zero. When 1 BC ended, 1 AD began. Therefore, if we synchronize Christ’s actual birth to the abbot’s system of numbering years, He was born in 5 BC.


  1. Simply put: 754-749=5 years; if we go back 5 years before 1 AD, we arrive @ 5 BC.

  2. Most scholars believe that Christ was born 7- 4 BC.

  3. Scriptures determining Christ’s year of birth:
    Luke 3:1: Jesus was baptized in the 15th year of Tiberius Caesar which was 28 AD.
    John 2:20: In the first year of Christ’s ministry, shortly after his baptism, He cleansed the temple in Jerusalem. The temple had been under construction for 46 years up to that time. The manner in which the work was performed did not interrupt the temple services. In his ANTIQUITIES, Josephus cites 20/19 BC as the date Herod began construction on the temple e.g. the Jewish year starts in late September or early October. Forty-six years later, we arrive at the sabbatical year 27/28 AD.
    Luke 3:23: Christ was “about” 30 years old in 28 AD. If His 30th birthday was in 28 AD, His year of birth would have been 3 BC. That’s too late. Herod died shortly after March 13, 4 BC. Christ was born before Herod’s death. If His 32nd birthday was in 28 AD, His year of birth would have been 5 BC.
    Hence Jesus was 31 years of age when He began His ministry. I am assuming that He was baptized in the spring of 28 AD before the April 28th Passover and that His 32nd birthday was later that year.

  4. I can see why many use the abbreviations BCE (before the Christian Era) & CE (the Christian Era). It may be confusing to some that Christ was born about 5 years before Christ.

  5. Related articles: Type Christ’s Year of Birth into my search bar.

  6. Antiquities 17.6.4: “...But Herod deprived this Matthias of the high priesthood, and burnt the other Matthias, who had raised the sedition, with his companions, alive. And that very night there was an eclipse of the moon.” The date of March 13, 4 BC was calculated by the rules of astronomy.

  7. Antiquities 15.11.1: “And now Herod, in the eighteenth year of his reign, and after the acts already mentioned, undertook a very great work, that is, to build himself the temple of God.” In 37 BC, Rome captured Jerusalem and Herod the Great was appointed King of the Jews. The first year of his reign was 37/36 BC. Hence 20/19 BC was the eighteenth year of his reign.