When Was Jesus Born?

I’ve got Taylor Marshall’s new book on my desk and can’t wait to read it. Here’s an excerpt in which he argues that the traditional dates for the birth of Christ are correct.

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  • Matthew the Wayfarer

    Mr. Marshall is so wrong. He can be somewhat of a cracked pot at times and this is one of them. He has swallowed the Catholic Church’s consoling liquid bottle and all. I’ll eventually purchase his book but not now.
    Greater men than he have looked into this and Jesus was not born any where near December 25 or January 6.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      Is that an assertion or an argument?

    • Paul Rodden

      What is a ‘Great Man’, Matthew?

      Richard Dawkins is undoubtedly a ‘great man’ in Genetics, but religion? To the theologically minded, he’s just the Atheist’s Benny Hinn, without the comb-over. When I watch ‘University Challenge’ I’m amazed at all the complex and difficult questions until it comes to Philosophy or Theology, then I realise all the questions are ‘SubjectX 101′ in their respective domains. What sounds ‘great’ to one, is kindergarten to another.

      It’s about the character of the thinker as well as the cogency and conclusions, isn’t it? I turned to people like Bernard Lonergan, J Budziszewski, and Amelie-Oksenberg-Rorty, among others, on bias, neutralism, the akratic and self-deception to help me investigate what was good reasoning and what was merely articulate polemic. ‘It’s the soundness of an argument, not it’s sound’, as someone once said (Stephen Fry’s rants against Catholicism fall into that category).

      I think the Aristotlelian notion of ‘megalopsychia’ is the place to begin. A good character, even if mistaken, is unlikely to be conspiratorial, and is likely to be the first to admit they’d made a mistake. I, for one, am more likely to take a Church which is ‘striving for excellence’ and has integrity/probity at its core, despite the odd ‘bad apple’, than a ‘school’ (latest fad) or someone who’s real motives are unclear. The difference between the ‘magna anima’ and the ‘pusilla anima’ makes all the difference.

      If that’s true, doesn’t intelligence require a certain graciousness? Noblesse Oblige is ‘out’ but I think we have to ask the real reasons why it’s out… (sorry for finishing on a preposition)

  • http://PortaCaeli Patricius

    It is perplexing that the holy father appears to think differently.

  • veritas


    Matthew the Wayfarer,

    I have read a number of very logical and historical arguments in support of the traditional birth date for Our Lord.

    Your angry dismissal of these arguments shows that you have an agenda you are pushing that you do not want facts to get in the way of.

    • Matthew the Wayfarer

      First, we have read different books and articles.
      Second, I am hardly angry and you would never want to be around me when I am, trust me.
      Third, I don’t have an agenda other than voicing personal opinions based on my own readings, studies and research. As far as Dr. Taylor is concerned I find him amusing at times and he does tend to puff himself up quite a lot in his own opinions.
      Since you don’t know me or anything about me all I will say to you is that you should not end a sentence with “of’.

  • FW Ken

    Pope Benedict has made it clear that his theological ruminations are not a matter of magesterial teaching. In other words, he is not making, nor claiming to make, papal pronouncements. It’s worth noting that in this, he shows a good deal bit more humility than some of his detractors.

    The date of the Lord’s birth is in no wise a matter of Faith. When I was a kid, it was commonly held that He was born in the spring, since that’s (supposedly) when shepherds stayed out with their flocks. Having assumed a spring nativity, I find interesting the evidence mounting for a December birth. Let the debate continue!

  • Stephen G.

    What about the whole thing about when Quirinias was governor of Syria? And the great census.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      Here is a discussion of the question: http://christianthinktank.com/quirinius.html. What interests me is another question: If you were really interested in the answer why didn’t you find this webpage yourself?

  • John

    EWTN has run a show in the past called the Star of Bethlehem. It is by a lawyer who walks through his theory using a computer program that depict the stars as they appear at any time in history. He makes a pretty startling claim — that the stars just a few months before Jesus’s birth alligned in such a way that the constellation Virgo (the Virgin) rose as the sun was rising. In fact, at the time the sun was right over Virgo, and the moon rose shortly after, at the Virgin’s feet. He claims that this lines up perfectly with the Book of Revelation, in which John sees a vision of a Virgin clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet. He says that this was a sign (the sign later recorded in Revelations) that got the Magi moving. This guys also claims that Jesus was born in 1 BC, and was crucified in AD 33. However, he pinpoints Dec. 25 as the date that the Magi visit Jesus, after his birth when Jesus is in a home in Bethlehem. I am interested in this subject, but not so much that I have done any independent research into it, so I know enough to be dangerous, but not enough to really speak on the subject. So, anyone seen this show — agree/disagree with this show’s conclusions?

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      I have this video and watched it the other night. We’ll be showing it at our parish on Sunday evening.

  • Paul Rodden

    I have to admit that the accuracy of the date of Jesus’ birth is not a exactly ‘deal-breaker’ for me.
    I’m no Fideist, but I do worry we can tend, at times, to be rather too ‘Protestant’ about all this.

    Reading our beloved saints always brings me back down to earth and provides the necessary counterbalance and sanity when I’m tempted in the direction of thinking the problem or solution’s one of ‘evidence’, ‘reason’, or ‘ethics’.

    • John

      I’m not the most theologically informed person in this virtual room. (I had to look up the word, fideist, for example, to know what you were talking about.) I’m also not quite sure what you meant by being “Protestant” in this regard, unless you’re talking about being somewhat literal or fundamentalist in terms of interpreting Scripture. All that aside, I don’t see any of what you’re describing in Fr. Longenecker’s column. I believe he would agree that a coincidence of Jesus actual birthday with the day on which we happen to celebrate it does not represent any kind of necessary condition of faith. That said, it would be edifying, at least to me, if evidence turned out to indicate that such a concordance were real. I might, in that circumstance, take it as another instance of the Holy Spirit guiding the Church even in the minute matter of assigning feast days. A neat thought, even if now just a conjecture.