Jesus turned 30 yr. after his baptism, but before Dec. 31st, A.D. 29:
- First, we observe that Jewish law and convention required men to be 30 yrs. old before making disciples and undertaking active, public teaching.
- Next, we notice Luke said Jesus was on the threshold of his 30th birthday when baptized in the 15th year of Tiberius before beginning his public ministry (Lk. 2:1, 23). The 15th year of Tiberius was the calendar years A.D. 29.
- Since Jesus was 29 going on 30 A.D. 29, he would have been born in 2 B.C. This date is also given by many church fathers, who say Jesus was born in the 42nd (regnal) year of Augustus.
- A person born in 2 B.C. would have turned 30 yrs. old before December 31, A.D. 29.
- Thus, Jesus would have turned 30 yrs. old sometime after his baptism but before December 31st, and only then begun public ministry.
Christ’s baptism and the length of his earthly ministry:
- If we can identify when Jesus was baptized, we can determine the time remaining to the calendar year and the range of weeks or months in which his birthday would have occurred.
- To determine when Jesus was baptized, we reckon backward from his crucifixion.
- Jesus had a 3 ½ year ministry. He was crucified Nisan 15 (April 2), A.D. 33. Reckoning backward 3 ½ years from Jesus’ crucifixion will bring us to Heshvan 15 (Nov. 8), A.D., 29.
- Based upon a Heshvan 15 (Nov. 8) baptism, there would have been 53 days remaining to the calendar year in which Jesus’ birthday occurred.
Where to Place Jesus’ Birthday in the 53-day Window:
- We begin with the observation that the one date historically associated with Jesus’ birthday occurred within the narrow window remaining to the calendar year following his baptism (e.g., Dec. 25th). At worst, this fails to negative the traditional date; at best it prima facie validates it.
- Next, we observe that Jesus undertook a 40-day fast in preparation for his ministry. This brings us to December 18, A.D. 29 (Nov. 8 + 40 = Dec. 18).
- In final preparation for his ministry, Jesus’ fast was followed by a period of temptation. If we allow seven days in which this was accomplished, this will bring us to December 25th.
- Jesus fast and temptation, and 30th birthday were threshold events he had to cross before beginning his ministry. It would make no sence for Jesus, having reached the age of a teacher, to errect a barrier to beginning his life’s work by undertaking an extended fast. Hence, it is most likely that his fast and temptation were so timed at to anticipate his birthday and that Jesus’ birthday intersected that point where his fast and temptation concluded. If so, Jesus birthday would have been Dec.25th.
That Jesus’ Birthday occurred about this Time may be Corroborated:
- Noting that Christ needed to be 30 yrs. old before making disciples, Irenaeus wrote:
“For how could he have had disciples, if He did not teach? And how could He have taught, unless He had reached the age of a Master? For when He came to be baptized, He had not yet completed thirty years of age (for thus Luke, who has mentioned His years, has expressed it: ‘Now Jesus was, as it were, beginning to be thirty years old,’ when He came to be baptized).”
- Following his fast and temptation, Jesus returned to John at Bethabara where he made his first disciples (Andrew, Peter, Phillip, and Nathaniel).
- The disciples call him “Rabbi,” implying that Jesus is now 30 yrs. old.
- Seven days following his return to John, Jesus attended a wedding in Cana of Galilee where he manifested his glory to his disciples. This miracle has been commemorated from the earliest times by the feast of Epiphany on January 6th.
- Reckoning backward 7 days from January 6th brings us to December 31st. This is the point at which Jesus would have returned to John, having already turned 30 yrs. old.
- From this we see that Jesus was born in 2 B.C. and thus turned 30 yrs. old before the end of the Julian year. We also see that his birthday would have fallen on or near Dec.25th.
Summary of this Part:
In summary of this part, we find that that there remained to the year following Jesus’ baptism only about 53 days; that the traditional date of Christ’s birth fell within this compass of this narrow span, and that Jesus himself turned 30 yrs. old within this space. Moreover, we see that Jewish law required men attain 30 yrs. of age before making disciples and assuming the role of rabbi. Jesus underwent a period of fasting and temptation in preparation for his ministry, which simple chronology shows would have ended on or about Dec.25th. Since Jesus had to be 30 yrs. old before beginning his ministry, and since his fast and temptation were taken in preparation thereunto, it is probable that Jesus’ temptation was timed to end about the time he turned 30 yrs. old, thus placing Jesus’ birthday on or about Dec.25th.
Evidence from the Priestly Courses :
- There were 24 courses of priests that served in the temple twice annually, plus such additional weeks necessary to fill out the year. The names of the courses according to their father’s houses are given in I Chrn. 24:7-18. The two courses that concern us here are Jehoiarib, the first, and Abijah, the eighth.
- Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, belonged to the course of Abijah, and was serving in the temple when Gabriel announced that Elizabeth, Zechariah’s wife, would conceive. John was six months older than our Lord. If it can once be determined when Zechariah was serving and John conceived, we can identify when Christ would have been born 15 odd months later.
- Rabbi Yose ben Halafta, who was active 80 years after the event, reported that the course of Jehoiarib was serving the 9th of Ab, when the temple was destroyed by the Romans.
- Assuming the courses advanced one step annually to fulfill 24 years when the courses would begin anew, Jehoiarib would have been in its 21st year of the 24-year cycle that began A.D. 50. Reckoning backward in 24-year periods, we find the cycle Zechariah was serving would have consisted in the years 23 B.C. to A.D. 1. Counting forward from 23 B.C. to 3 B.C. when John would have been conceived, we find the course of Abijah served the weeks of Nisan 14-20 (March 28-April 3) and Elul 27-Tishri 4 (Sept. 5-11).
- Women are fertile about 7 days of a 28 day cycle. Normal gestation is 38 weeks for a woman to come to full term. Assuming Elizabeth conceived toward the end of the first month Zechariah completed his ministration, or about Tishri 26-Heshvan 2 (Oct. 3-9), John would have been born 38 weeks later at Tammuz 20-26 (June 20-26), 2 B.C. Reckoning six months (26 weeks) more, we find Jesus would have been born the week of Tebet 26-Shebat 3, which answers to Dec.21-27.
Evidence from the Chronology of Herod’s Death and the Arrival of the Magi:
- About the time of Jesus’ birth, it was rumored that Herod the Great had died. Certain Jews seized the opportunity to rebel, removing the Roman eagle that adorned the temple gate. For this crime, Herod had the leaders burned alive. The Jewish historian Josephus reports that the night of the execution, there was a lunar eclipse. Astronomers date this eclipse to January 10, 1 B.C.
- Forty-days after the birth of Christ, the holy family made the required sacrifices at the temple for Mary and baby Jesus, and then returned home to Nazareth in Galilee.
- Several weeks pass and the Magi arrive from at Jerusalem, seeking the Christ-child. Having sounded the scribes and elders of the Jews where Christ was to be born, Herod sends the Magi to Bethlehem, requesting that they bring him word when they have found the child.
- Interposed by Heaven, the star that the Magi had seen in the east wondrously reappears, leading them to the child who by now is at Nazareth, not Bethlehem. Warned that Herod will seek the child to destroy him, the holy family flees to Egypt and the Magi return home another way.
- Herod, whose health is rapidly deteriorating, receives permission from Caesar Augustus to deal with his son Antipater as he sees best, including death. Antipater is in the palace prison for treason, seeking to poison Herod and accede the throne.
- Shortly before Passover 1 B.C., Herod tries to kill himself with a small paring knife; the palace is filled with crying and screams. It is rumored that the king has died. These rumors reach Antipater in the palace prison who attempts to bribe the jailor to release him with promise of rewards. The jailor reports this to Herod, who in a rage orders Antipater slain.
- History records that, at the same time Antipater is slain, Herod ordered the Slaughter of the Innocents. According to Macrobius, when Augustus learned that Antipater had been executed during the Slaughter of the Innocents he remarked “It is better to be Herod’s hog than his son.”
- Herod survived Antipater by only five days, dying sometime before Passover 1 B.C.
The fact that history joins the Slaughter of the Innocents to the execution of Antipater shows that the Magi arrived sometime after the holy family had returned to Nazareth, a few weeks before Passover in 1 B.C. If we allow that the Magi arrived several weeks after the holy family returned home, then reckon backward 40 days more for the period before sacrifices were made for Mary and the Babe at the temple, this will place Jesus’ birth near the traditional date of Dec.25th.
 Irenaeus, Contra Haeresies, II, 4, 5; Anti-Nicene Fathers, Vol. I, p. 391.
Next article: “Unto You is Born this Day” – Kurt Simmons