The Star of Bethlehem
Chapter 13 

The Chronology of Josephus

The new historical information which has now come to light focuses on the fact of Herod’s death in 1 B.C.E. and the birth of Jesus in 3 B.C.E. But the main reason historians have accepted the 13 March, 4 B.C.E. eclipse as the one associated with Herod’s death is because of two primary factors: the first is a chronological indication made by Josephus concerning Herod’s length of reign, and the second involves the lengths of reign of the sons of Herod who were his successors.

Let us note what Josephus said about the year lengths of Herod’s reign. We have to say “lengths” (in the plural) because Josephus gave two such indications. He said that Herod had a reign of 37 years from the time he was proclaimed king by the Romans and 34 years from the death of Antigonus which occurred after Herod captured Jerusalem. 1 Scholars have been prone to say that these indications would date the death of Herod to the year 3 B.C.E., but there was no eclipse of the Moon in that year. The nearest eclipse was that of 13 March, 4 B.C.E. Since astronomical data are such powerful evidences, many scholars within the last hundred years have felt it necessary to stretch the chronological statements of Josephus to make them fit the time of this eclipse. They do not mind stretching the facts in this regard because they have to in order to rescue the 13 March eclipse as the one associated with Herod’s death. This is why professors Vermes and Millar acknowledged that Josephus reckoned one year too many. 2

All scholars recognize this discrepancy in trying to resolve Josephus’ chronological statements. To mend the disparity, it is assumed that Josephus has adopted a scheme of reckoning parts of one year (only the first few days of a year) as answering in a legal sense to a whole year. If two or three days can be accepted as representing a whole year in Josephus’ account of the number of years for Herod’s reign, then these few days could allow Herod’s last year to be extended back to the first of Nisan on the Jewish calendar (March 29) in 4 B.C.E. and then a whole year can be awarded to him in a de jure sense.

With this type of reasoning, modern scholars suggest that Herod would have died two or three days after 1 Nisan (the start of the Jewish ecclesiastical year), but for legal reasons in reckoning Herod’s reign, the whole year from 1 Nisan, 4 B.C.E. to 1 Nisan, 3 B.C.E. is considered by them as the last regnal year of Herod. Not everyone, however, buys this explanation. Professor Barnes will not accept the eclipse of 13 March, 4 B.C. as proper. Barnes made it clear that the time between Herod’s death and the next Passover (which Josephus said occurred after Herod’s death) is too short an interval to witness all the recorded events associated with Herod’s funeral procession, the period for his mourning, and the other events that occurred before that Passover. 3

This does not end the matter however. The second reason many scholars have placed Herod’s death in 4 B.C.E. is because it has been supposed that Herod’s three successors seem to have their reigns commencing in that year. But this is not so. I have shown previously in this book that David W. Beyer in his work titled, “Josephus Re-examined: Unraveling the Twenty-Second Year of Tiberius” demonstrated with a great deal of competent research into the manuscripts of Josephus that shows Herod’s son Philip began his reign in 1 B.C.E. and had a 37 year reign, dying in the twenty-second year of Tiberius (as the older manuscripts of Josephus show) and not the twentieth year of Tiberius that scholars have accepted today. (I will discuss the seeming chronological disparities regarding Herod’s other two sons shortly.)

These disparities have allowed scholars in the past to accept the eclipse of 13 March, 4 B.C.E. (as untenable as it is!). They felt justified in stretching the historical records almost beyond recognition to make them fit their chronological interpretations. While they were well aware that their assumptions had considerable difficulties associated with them, they did not think it necessary to tell the public in most of their general works or encyclopaedias that there were major “problems” in accepting these appraisals. But the public has a right to know the facts involving the historical circumstances concerning this important period of time. If scholars would simply state that their appraisals are mere possibilities among other explanations, then their guessing might be acceptable as conjectures to explain the difficulties. But more often than not, this is the time when scholars express their blatant dogmatisms. They do this in spite of the fact that classical historians state that the period from 6 B.C.E. to C.E. 4 is one of the most obscure decades in the history of the Roman Empire as far as reliable records are concerned. This is where the difficulty arises in evaluating historical events of this obscure period. Still, utter dogmatism prevails. The theologians who make their dogmatic assumptions that they expect the general public to accept have thrown caution to the wind.

It is now time to bring these problems out into the open for all to evaluate. Thankfully, it is gratifying to see that some scholars are now beginning to recognize that their past assumptions are not compatible with the facts of history. This is a welcome trend. When finally all professionals seriously join the quest to attempt to sort out the truth, I have not the slightest doubt that it will be seen that Herod died not long after an eclipse of the Moon on 10 January, 1 B.C.E., and not a few days after the eclipse of 13 March, 4 B.C.E.

The Anomalies of Josephus

Josephus is not an easy author to understand relative to his chronological statements regarding earlier historical events of which he was not an eyewitness. As mentioned in an earlier chapter, besides the clear editing that has happened in the manuscripts that make many of his chronological indications suspect, even the text of Josephus that can be reasonably trusted as being unedited is at times inconsistent in his chronological information. For certain periods he avoids giving any chronological details at all, often at the very times when the modern historian needs them the most. For example, the main years of Archelaus, Herod’s successor, are glossed over with one or two general statements, and the period from C.E. 6 to the time of Pilate in C.E. 26 is practically blank. No one knows why these discrepancies exist in Josephus, but they are there.

There are, without doubt, several anomalies in Josephus’ treatment of Herod’s reign. During the first years of Herod, he buttressed his history with known and reliable chronological eras of time. He equated Herod’s seventh year with the year following the Battle of Actium and he also gave reference to the Olympiads. 4 Josephus continued giving exact dates supported by internationally known benchmarks until Herod’s twenty-eighth year (a few years before the birth of Jesus). 5 But from then on, for some strange reason, Josephus stopped giving chronological indications which would link the latter years of Herod’s reign with known historical eras. He did not resume his normal international cross-references until the tenth year of Archelaus (son of Herod) in C.E. 6. From then until the Jewish War of C.E. 66 to C.E. 73, when Josephus gives chronological references, they are sensible.

Why did Josephus abandon prime chronological indications in the latter years of Herod and the beginning of Archelaus’ reign? This is a mystery. The fact is, some of the most important events in Palestinian history were occurring during that period: when the sons of Mariamme (one of Herod’s wives) were slain, when the oath of loyalty took place and over 6000 Pharisees refused to sign the oath, when Antipater (Herod’s rebellious son) went to Rome, when Herod’s brother Pheroras died, when the trial of Antipater happened, when the golden eagle was destroyed, when the two rabbis were executed and when Antipater was slain. For these events, there is not one cross-reference to the Olympiads, the Battle of Actium, or other international benchmarks. This lack gives the historian a great deal of difficulty in precisely dating the events.

Harmonizing the Chronological Difficulties

Let us now look at some possible reasons why Josephus in the period of Herod treated chronological matters in the way he did. Josephus tells us that Herod died after a reign of 37 years from the time he was made king by the Romans and 34 years from the death of Antigonus. On the surface scholars think this leads us to the year 3 B.C.E. for Herod’s death (or by reckoning two or three days of a year as a whole year, it could be stretched back to 4 B.C.E.). But other historical data I will show in this book will not allow either 4 or 3 B.C.E. for Herod’s death. I give historical information in Appendix Four that shows the sequence of Sabbatical Years for our period under discussion. Without doubt, the evidence indicates that Herod captured Jerusalem in the Sabbatical Year ending in late summer of 36 B.C.E. (indeed, it was on the Day of Atonement at the conclusion of that Sabbatical Year). Since Antigonus was killed at a later period, Herod’s rule of 34 years from the death of Antigonus works out nicely with what I am showing in this book — his year 34 would be from 2 to 1 B.C.E.

Galloway in the last century saw the problem and suggested that Herod’s 34 years mentioned by Josephus were to be counted from the death of Antigonus some three years later. He did not believe Antony killed Antigonus immediately after Herod’s conquest of Jerusalem, but had him executed three years later when Antony went to war against the Armenians. 6 This explanation was also maintained by Cunninghame. 7 The fact is, however, the interval of three years for Antigonus’ death that these historians have suggested is not required and there is no substantiation of it in the records. As a matter of fact, Antigonus could have been killed a few months after Herod captured Jerusalem in 36 B.C.E. and still Herod’s death would work out to 1 B.C.E.

Yet there are problems with these appraisals. Josephus called Herod a “king” at least a dozen times between the day he was proclaimed king by the Romans and when he actually began to rule after capturing Jerusalem. His 37 years must be reckoned from the proclamation of his kingship by the Romans, and this would seemingly bring Herod’s last regnal year to 3 B.C.E. And there are the indications that two of Herod’s sons who succeeded him in his government seemingly have their reigns dated from 4 B.C.E.

The Suggestions of W.E. Filmer

An ingenious solution has been offered. In October, 1966, the Journal of Theological Studies carried an article by W.E. Filmer which suggested a solution to the problem concerning the years of Herod’s reign ― especially the year of his death. His suggestions can be summarized as follows: most scholars feel that Herod’s 37 years’ reign began in 40 B.C.E. and his 34 years from the capture of Jerusalem which they think was in 37 B.C.E. This brings us to 3 B.C.E. for Herod’s death. But this is one year beyond the 13 March, 4 B.C.E. eclipse. Most scholars today have failed to take this disparity into account. This is not the case with Professors Vermes and Millar. They have noticed this major fault and it prompts them to write, “We know that Josephus reckons one year too many.” 8 The reason that they are willing to admit that Josephus is off one year is in order (one would surmise) to protect the eclipse of 13 March, 4 B.C.E. as being the one referred to by Josephus. The acceptance of that eclipse as the proper one has forced scholars to bend the rules in several ways. That is why that early eclipse deserves no protection. Look at what the retention of this wrong eclipse has done.

To accommodate the eclipse of 4 B.C., scholars have been forced to count Josephus’ years inclusively. This means they are willing to allow a mere two or three days of Nisan in 4 B.C.E. (when the Jewish ecclesiastical year began) to be counted as a whole year in the reckoning of Josephus. Filmer, however, has given good evidence to show that Josephus did not count his years in this inclusive manner. This is also shown by Ormund Edwards in his New Chronology of the Gospels (pp. 27–33). Furthermore, Filmer also showed reasons that the capture of Jerusalem by Herod was not in 37 B.C.E., but in 36 B.C.E. and I have demonstrated in Appendix Four of this book that the Sabbatical Year at that time in which Jerusalem was captured was truly in 36 B.C.E.

Filmer’s suggestion is absolutely correct. Herod’s 34 years of reign from the time of Antigonus’ death after he captured Jerusalem must be reckoned from 36 B.C.E. ― not from 37 B.C.E. Filmer showed several reasons for this. Two of them involved sacred seasons of the Jews. When such seasons are mentioned in the historical sources, a greater amount of credibility can be given to the chronological statements in the records because the Jewish authorities would have long remembered important events that occurred on their holy days or sacred seasons. It was not uncommon for the general populace to place theological or prophetical significance to such occasions. So, what were the two sacred seasons that happened when Herod finally captured Jerusalem?

Josephus said that Herod’s siege was during a Sabbatical Year and that a great scarcity of food was evident because of it. 9 Sabbatical Years occur every seventh year on the Jewish calendar. Modern studies of Wacholder and others clearly demonstrate that 36 B.C.E. was indeed the end of a Sabbatical Year, 10 and I show the results of that new research in Appendix Four. And, Professor Marcus in his notes to the Loeb edition of Josephus shows that there are very good reasons for believing that the Sabbatical Year under discussion was to be reckoned from October, 37 B.C.E. to October, 36 B.C.E. Herod would have captured Jerusalem at the end of that sacred period.

And there is one other historical reference involving a Jewish sacred day that substantiates this conclusion even more. All Sabbatical Years according to the Law of Moses ended on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), and Josephus said that Herod’s capture of Jerusalem coincided exactly with a Day of Atonement. 11 He further stated that it was precisely to the very day, 27 years after the Roman general Pompey conquered Jerusalem in 63 B.C.E. 12 Clearly, this chronological fact leads one to 25 October, 36 B.C.E. for Herod’s capture of Jerusalem.

This indication is powerful evidence in which any scholar can place the highest confidence that Herod’s 34 years of reign from Antigonus’ death has to have 36 B.C.E, as a beginning benchmark. This is because Sabbatical Years stood out very remarkably to Jews who lived in Palestine at the time. This was a time when food was in short supply and when the whole of agricultural activity ceased. When a major event like Herod capturing Jerusalem took place in a, Sabbatical Year, that would have been long remembered. This was especially so because his capture was also on the Day of Atonement.

Actually, though, Josephus got even more precise than simply the time Herod captured Jerusalem. He said that Herod’s 34 years are to be reckoned from the death of Antigonus (which happened at a later period) and not simply from the day of Herod’s conquest of Jerusalem. There were at least a few months after Jerusalem’s fall before Antigonus was executed. By using the ordinary accession method of counting regnal years of Judaean rulers, the actual date for the commencing of Herod’s 34 years was with the first of Nisan in 35 B.C.E. This makes Herod’s 34th year to start with Nisan in 2 B.C.E. and it ends with Nisan in 1 B.C.E.

It must be remembered that all priestly years were reckoned from Nisan and not from the autumn month of Tishri. The Hasmoneans who ruled Judaea before Herod (and whom Herod succeeded) were of priestly origin. It became common under their priestly rule for the kings in Jerusalem to reckon their years from Nisan and not from Tishri. In the Talmud, the later Jews understood this fact and stated that the later kings of Judah were accustomed to the Nisan to Nisan reckoning. 13 In the earlier biblical period, the custom for Judah was a Tishri to Tishri reckoning. 14

The Reasonableness of These Historical References

These historical indications are powerful witnesses that Herod’s conquest of Jerusalem was in late 36 B.C.E. and Antigonus’ death was some time later. And remember, Josephus said Herod’s 34 years commenced with the death of Antigonus, not at Herod’s capture of Jerusalem.

Professors Vermes and Millar state that these historical indications represent “a considerable difficulty” to those scholars who wish to maintain either the year 38 B.C.E. or 37 B.C.E. as the year Herod took Jerusalem. 15 In truth, these factors make it impossible to consider the earlier years of 38 and 37 B.C.E. that have been guessed by some theologians.

The Jewish people would have long remembered that Sabbatical Year and the holy day season regarding the taking of Jerusalem by Herod. Pressing the siege especially at the very end of a Sabbatical Year and on the Day of Atonement would have made Herod an abominable character as far as the Jews were concerned, and they would never have forgotten the outrage. Even Josephus remembered it well and he stated that it was precisely 27 years to the day that Pompey previously committed his abominations.

The Major Problem with Filmer’s Suggestions

While Filmer’s treatment of Josephus’ reckoning for Herod’s years of reign appears reasonable, there is one major stumblingblock to it. Barnes, in his review of Filmer’s position, 16 made it pretty clear that the historical records show that some of Herod’s successors began their reigns in 4 B.C.E., and not as one might expect in 1 B.C.E. The Roman historian Dio said that Herod’s son Archelaus was deposed in his tenth year of reign in the consulship of Aemalius Lepidus and L. Arruntuis. 17 This answers to C.E. 6 and it means that Archelaus took over from Herod sometime in 4 B.C.E. ― or at least it looks that way. There is even more evidence of this. Antipas was deposed by Caligula in C.E. 39, and there are coins which record his forty-third year. This evidence also leads one back to 4 B.C.E. for the beginning of Antipas’ reign.

The fact that these two sons of Herod (Archelaus and Antipas) seem to be reigning in 4 B.C. is the main problem to the thesis of Filmer. If Herod died in early 1 B.C.E. (as Filmer and the evidence of this book suggest), why were two of Herod’s successors reckoned as reigning as early as 4 B.C.E.? This, on the other hand, is not the case with Herod’s son Philip. I have shown how David W. Beyer has made it clear that the early manuscripts of Josephus show Philip to have started his 37 years of rule in 1 B.C.E. But why do the other two sons of Herod seemingly show 4 B.C.E.? There are historical reasons why this happened. And once they are understood, it shows that Filmer is right after all in his solutions to the problem.

Toward An Answer

Josephus said that in the summer before Herod’s death, Varus became governor of Syria. He took over the position from Saturninus. We have shown that this tenure would have been Varus’ second governorship (2 B.C.E. to C.E. 1). Saturninus was governor the previous two years (from early 4 B.C.E. to the summer of 2 B.C.E.). Varus had also been governor the first time before the rule of Saturninus (from 7 or 6 B.C.E. to 4 B.C.E.). Josephus said the governor before Varus’ first governorship was a man named Titius. 18

Now notice what Josephus said happened just after Saturninus assumed the governorship of Syria (which would have been in early 4 B.C.E. according to my dating in this book). Herod sent a part of his army to Arabia to put an end to the activities of robbers who were hiding in the area and to collect a major debt that was owed him by the Arabian ruler. And though the governors of Syria had given Herod permission for the action, Augustus was misinformed by Syliaeus the Arabian about the whole affair. Augustus responded by sending a stinging rebuke to Herod. The message from Caesar was devastating, “Whereas of old he [Augustus] had used him as his friend, he should now use him as his subject. 19

This declaration of Augustus was not a simple displeasure at Herod’s actions. It had very serious political implications attached to it. To be a friend of Caesar was a title (amici Caesaris) which was awarded to special individuals by the Roman government to show a close political relationship to the emperor. So pleased was Herod of Chalcis to have the designation that he had the title stamped on the coins of his realm. 20 At the time of Jesus’ crucifixion, Pilate must have had the same honor because “the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar’s friend.” 21 In regard to Pilate, this was tantamount to saying he did not respect his title as “Caesar’s Friend.” Pilate took the charge seriously. But Herod took it even more so. Herod had now not only been stripped of his honorable title by the emperor himself, but he was further relegated to an even lower position by being reckoned as a “subject.” True enough, Herod was later reconciled to Augustus, but not before some tactical and strategic damage had been done to Herod’s governmental standing with Augustus.

This official reduction of Herod’s authority may well have prompted some major revisions in the way Rome looked on his government. Remarkably, a short time after Herod’s power was diminished, we find that Antipater, Herod’s eldest son, was now being acknowledged as reigning jointly with his father. 22 Antipater was allowed to wear the purple robe, the symbol of rulership. 23 Even Herod later admitted that his son had been given one-half the kingdom. 24 It could well be that Roman authorities began (from the summer of 4 B.C.E.) to acknowledge a permanent joint rulership over the region of Judaea. Obviously, Antipater could not have assumed such authority by himself and Herod was also unable to bestow these honors on any of his sons unless Augustus gave permission. Josephus could well have figured this event into his reckoning of the reigns of Herod’s successors. If Antipater could have a joint rule with his father, why not the other two sons?

But Josephus’ assessments may have been swayed by another important occasion that occurred about two years (in 4 B.C.E.) before Herod’s death. This was an event that angered Josephus so much and most of the Jewish nation that he never forgave Herod for it.

Herod’s Murder of His Sons

From the time of Judas Maccabeus to that of Herod, the priestly family of the Hasmoneans had governed the Jewish nation. When Herod came to power, he wished to solidify his political position in the nation by marrying Mariamme, one of the surviving descendants of this dynasty. She was considered a “queen.” Herod had two sons by her ― Alexander and Aristobulus. As these sons grew up they became very popular with the people, and many in the nation were hoping that they would gain the crown upon the death of Herod. This would have meant a legitimate continuation of the Hasmonean dynasty. The designated heir of Herod, however, was Antipater. This older son saw the two sons of Mariamme as a danger to his own aspirations to rule. According to Josephus, Antipater concocted many false accusations against them and finally got the Hasmoneans alienated from the affection of Herod. In his reflections about Antipater’s schemes, Josephus waxed hot in anger. He also castigated Herod for going along with the false invectives of Antipater and for having the monstrous gall of finally having the two “royal” sons killed about two years before Herod died.

Josephus spent considerable space in his histories utterly abhorring the whole affair. Indeed, it could well be said that he went overboard in his condemnation of Herod and Antipater. Why he did so is not difficult to answer. He had a double reason to be indignant with them both. First, he felt that the mistreatment of the Hasmonean sons and their consequent executions were completely unjust. Secondly, Josephus was himself a descendant on his mother’s side from this same Hasmonean family. So, when Herod came under “subjection” to Caesar, and with the legitimate heirs to Herod’s kingdom now dead, Josephus, as well as the Jewish people, could have considered legal government at an end in Jerusalem. Even Augustus may have been deeply concerned over Herod’s execution of the “royal” sons (though Augustus gave permission for Herod to do it). Professor Hoehner has shown that Augustus must have had a personal acquaintance with the Hasmonean sons and they had been held in high esteem at Rome. 25

Augustus Assumed Personal Control

Augustus could well have decided that some governmental change was now necessary for the Judaean area of the Empire. After all, Herod was now quite old and with affairs in his own family in chaos, Augustus felt it was time to take more direct control in Judaea. He revoked Herod’s award as being “Caesar’s Friend” and demoted him further to being one of subject class. And recall, it was just after this time that Augustus also decreed that a registration of the Empire should take place. 26 Such a registration was a direct interference by Augustus into the governmental affairs of Judaea. The oath that accompanied it, as I have said before, was no doubt a part of the registration mentioned by Luke. Such an oath was also administered to the people of Judaea at the accession of Caligula to the emperorship, 27 and it too was prompted by a change of government. Professor Burkhill, writing in the revised Schurer, p. 376, states that

“the oath of allegiance to the emperor which the people were obliged to take, presumably on every change of government [italics mine], was mandatory already in the days of Herod.”

The fact that Augustus demanded the direct registration and oath for the people of Judaea is a clear sign that he was becoming concerned over the political state of the area. It was a personal intrusion of the emperor into the government of Herod. The insistence upon the oath was also an indication to the people of Judaea that they now owed their allegiance directly to the emperor and not to Herod alone. By signing the oath, the Judaeans were showing acceptance to the new political status of Rome in their affairs. “The oath was used as the conclusion of all kinds of legal dealings, particularly in political administration, taxation, and public documents.” 28

Rome Took Direct Control

This change of governmental status in Judaea is reflected in another way ― a way which is very evident to anyone who studies the judicial powers of Herod during his time of reign. When Herod was first coming to power in Judaea, he was to be tried by the Sanhedrin at Jerusalem (the Supreme Court of the Jews) for high crimes. 29 But notice this important point. This trial was convened without any appeal to Rome for permission to execute Herod if the sentence went in that direction. Later, when Herod himself came to power in Judaea, he and the Sanhedrin executed Hyrcanus without getting authority from Rome to do it. 30 Herod put to death the royal Queen Mariamme 31 and Aristobulus, 32 and the royal sons of Baba 33 without consulting Caesar. And even later, Herod’s son Alexander (one well liked by Augustus) admitted that Herod still had power to execute him and his brother if he desired. 34 But, and it is important to note this point, once Herod was demoted from being Caesar’s Friend, Herod’s power for executive action in regard to capital crimes was invalidated for persons of high rank. When Herod finally decided that Alexander and Aristobulus should be executed for their supposed crimes against him, he had to have Caesar’s representatives in the province of Syria hear the case. In fact, Augustus even ordered that the trial be held in Beirut (a major city within the province of Syria) rather than at Jerusalem as one might expect in deference to Herod.

Indeed, at Beirut Augustus ordered a whole battery of important people to judge the case: Saturninus governor of Syria with his sons, Volumnius, the Syrian military administrator, a special envoy named Pedanius (with his own adjudicators). 35 It was these Roman officials who made the final decision in the case, not Herod himself. And even later, when Herod’s son Antipater was tried for high crimes, Varus the governor of Syria was in Jerusalem to hear the case. 36 Even then Herod had no power to execute Antipater unless Augustus himself gave the permission. All of this shows a profound reduction of governmental authority for Herod (especially in the judicial sense). His decline in power began with his demotion from being Caesar’s Friend, and we have shown this to have happened about two or three years before his death. This demotion would have occurred in 4 B.C.E. Even the later demand of Augustus for an oath of allegiance from the people of Judaea with a registration of their names is also a clear sign that a governmental change had happened in Herod’s realm.

These things show that Herod lost much personal power in 4 B.C.E. There is another way of demonstrating governmental changes in his administration at this time. Recall that during the rule of Saturninus (4–2 B.C.E.), Josephus spoke about “governors” in Syria. Why this change to “governors”? Even Quirinius had been sent to the region as a special procurator of the emperor to oversee its political affairs. Technically, Herod’s kingdom was under the influence of the Syrian governors. If governmental changes were then taking place in Syria, such adjustments could well be reflected in Herod’s domains. This is especially true when one realizes that Herod was near the end of his life and Augustus knew that an unstable political situation was already developing in Judaea. This could have been a factor why Quirinius was sent to conduct the census and the registration of loyalty to Augustus among Herod’s subjects. Recall that Justin Martyr said that Quirinius was in actual fact a procurator when he was in Syria and Palestine. This meant he was a special envoy of Augustus to conduct important governmental duties in these eastern areas. This also shows the concern that Augustus had about this important region of the Empire.

There is another important reason why the time of 4 to 2 B.C.E. could have been a period of governmental reorganization in Judaea. From 4 B.C.E. onward, there was the joint reign of Antipater with Herod. This joint rule is clearly stated by Josephus.

The Two-Year Co-Rulership of Antipater With Herod

From what Josephus records about the evil actions of Antipater (the designated heir of Herod), he must be acknowledged as one of the most iniquitous sons any father ever had. Though Josephus said Antipater was “co-ruler with his father and in no way different from a king,” 37 for the two-year period after the deaths of Alexander and Aristobulus, it was Antipater’s constant activity to think up ways to kill his father. He involved many people in his plots and even prompted Herod’s brother Pheroras into a plan to poison him. While Antipater was on a trip to Rome, Herod found out about his schemes. Indeed, as time went on, the magnitude of the whole affair and the great number of people involved caused Herod to recall Antipater from Rome. He did not tell him the reason for his return, but Herod’s object was to judge Antipater before a court of law and have him executed for his crimes.

When Antipater got back to Jerusalem he was brought to trial at once and in one day was convicted of high treason, murder, and attempted parricide. Herod immediately sent messages to Caesar asking permission to execute Antipater. Herod had to ask the emperor at this time, and this shows his decline in authority.

Herod then altered his will by excluding Antipater from any inheritance. The message finally came back from Caesar that Herod could either banish him to a remote part of the Empire or kill him. Banishment for severe offenses meant a complete loss of all rights ― including citizenship, family privileges, and even sonship. When Augustus’ daughter Julia was banished about the same time (2 B.C.E.) he considered her no longer his daughter. When Julia’s name would come up in chance conversation, Augustus would sometimes quote a line from Homer, “Better to have never married, and childless to have died.” 38 Was there an expunging of such a person’s name from official or family documents? This certainly was allowed in a Jewish environment. In the Bible it is mentioned that if a person, family, or tribe left the true religion, he was to be excommunicated from the nation and his name blotted out “from under heaven” (Deuteronomy 29:17–21). Because of the idolatry of the tribe of Dan, it was little heard of in the latter part of the Old Testament, and in the New Testament the tribe is not even reckoned among the twelve tribes of Israel (Revelation 7:4–8).

Erasing Names in Genealogical Lists Was Common

Herod would have found enough biblical precedents for expunging Antipater’s name from the public records (including his two years of joint rule with Herod when he was also reckoned as a king). There are historical examples of such things, e.g., chiseling away names from the monuments of Egypt (even attempting to destroy the written records of Pharaoh Akenaton) and Nabonassar obliterating the accounts of previous Babylonian kings. And now, Herod received permission to either banish his son (this could have meant the loss of sonship for Antipater) or to kill him. Herod decided to execute him, but he no doubt stripped him of all family associations in an effort to degrade him completely.

Note that Herod again changed his will immediately after killing Antipater. Directions for such a “blotting out” could well have been in his final testament. It could have been that Antipater’s joint rule with Herod was now awarded retroactively to Herod’s true successors to secure the “blotting out” of Antipater’s memory. This is even suggested by what Josephus said about Archelaus, the chief successor of Herod. There is the obscure reference that Archelaus was recognized as one that “had long exercised royal authority.” 39 This was not actually true to fact. The mind of Herod had been poisoned against Archelaus. Only at the last moment of his life, when in desperation, did Herod appoint Archelaus to be the heir to the kingdom. 40 Why then was Archelaus reckoned as having authority with Herod in the latter years of Herod’s reign when everyone knows he was not in such power? He was no doubt awarded the years of Antipater’s joint rule in a de jure sense ― replacing Antipater’s joint rulership associated with his father in the Judaean kingdom when the two royal Hasmonean sons were killed (4 B.C.E.).

The Evidence of Coins

The immediate successors to Herod were reckoned in some way as reigning in 4 B.C.E. But this was the year when Herod was demoted in Augustus’ eyes and when Alexander and Aristobulus were slain. This year was not when Herod died. It appears that Herod’s successors were awarded regnal years in which they did not rule alone over their lands. When we analyze the historical data after the death of Herod, we find interesting evidence which justifies this appraisal. The first information comes from coins that were minted by Herod’s later successors.

The grandson of Herod the Great through his Hasmonean wife Mariamme was Herod Agrippa I. He reigned over Judaea from C.E. 38 to C.E. 44 (a seven-year period). But strange as it may seem, he had coins minted in his eighth and ninth years. 41 There can be little doubt that Herod Agrippa I died in the year of the Caesarean games established by King Herod in 9 B.C.E. They were held every four years. This makes the seven years’ reign of Agrippa I terminate in C.E. 44, just as Josephus attests. But for some reason he had coins dated to his eighth and ninth years. Did he reckon his regnal years as beginning at least two years before Josephus allowed him an official reign? It looks like it.

It should also be mentioned that Agrippa I was awarded the government over Palestine by Caligula in C.E. 37. Agrippa, however, did not go immediately to Jerusalem to commence his rule but remained in Rome almost a year and a half after his appointment. He actually governed the area of Judaea in absentia. Then in late autumn of C.E. 38, he took up personal rulership at Jerusalem. He then began to mint coins. On them he showed his regnal years, yet he reckoned those years as beginning before he actually ruled in Palestine. Others could have done the same thing. At any rate, scholars recognize that the coins often show de jure dates. Meyshan says, “This is additional proof that coins always record conditions de jure not de facto. 42

When it comes to Herod Agrippa II (the son of Agrippa I) the evidence from his coins shows conclusively that he dated his reign from at least two different eras, and Madden suggested four. On some of his coins he indicated two years of significance, e.g., the sixth and eleventh. His official reign over the small territory of Chalcis near Damascus began in C.E. 50 ― and this is the time that Josephus said he assumed the throne. 43 But the coins do not square with this. There are some scholars who feel his regnal years should start as far back as the death of his father in C.E. 44, though Meyshan, one of the main Israeli numismatists who has studied the problems at length, does not think this is possible.  44

The numismatist Meshorer feels that one of Agrippa’s eras should start with C.E. 56, and another in C.E. 61. 45 But there is much confusion in the evidence. Meshorer points out that some of his coins bear the names of three Roman emperors ― Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian ― and they have identical dates on them. 46 How could these be dated from one era while all three emperors reigned at different times? No one really knows why these coins have the doubtful dates they do. But, whatever the case, some of the coins do not agree with the years of Agrippa II as indicated by Josephus. Meshorer has seen the problem and informs us that: “the date mentioned by Josephus as the first regnal year of Agrippa II is incompatible with at least some of his coins.” 47

Even more important, however, are coins that were apparently minted by Antipas ― one of the immediate successors of Herod the Great. Antipas was removed from his throne in C.E. 39 and banished to Europe. 48  If one dates his reign from 4 B.C.E., it means he would have had a reign of 43 years. Indeed, there are three coins of Antipas marked with the regnal year 43. 49 However, there is a coin mentioned by Vaillant (and it is also referred to by Garland in his travel narratives who found it at Jericho in 1674) that has the year 44 inscribed on it. 50 But this would have Antipas commencing his reign in 5 B.C.E. This seems impossible. Much debate has surrounded the interpretation of the year mentioned on this coin. The general opinion is that the date on the coin was probably misread. Since the coin can no longer be traced, it is conjectured that this explanation is probably the best, but no one can be sure.

Coins Often Give Political Data, Not Real History

Worse yet, during the last century a coin came to light which showed year 45 for Antipas’ reign. This would have extended Antipas’ rule back to 6 B.C.E. What can be done with this coin? Some scholars have thought Antipas’ reign might be extended beyond C.E. 39, but this explanation is very unsatisfactory and cannot account for these two unknown regnal years. Still, having Antipas reigning in 6 B.C.E. seems like an absurd assessment. As a result, many scholars simply call the coin a forgery. This is the easy way to cut the Gordian Knot. But why a forgery? There is not the slightest external evidence for the problem except the date on the coin. But even the coins of Agrippa I and Agrippa II (who lived within the later years of Antipas) also have regnal years recorded on them before Josephus reported them reigning, and few dispute these coins.

No one knows why any of these coins record earlier years than Josephus sometimes allows, but they do. Since inscriptions on coins show legal or governmental recognition about matters of state (often for symbolic reasons), they could be accepted as real evidence that different types of regnal years were in vogue among the sons and grandsons of Herod. Certainly, the years of rule could not have been placed on the coins without the approval of Rome. This is clear evidence that Rome allowed de jure regnal years, which Josephus sometimes, or sometimes did not, reckon in his year-lengths of the Herodian successors.

Indeed, even Herod himself had three of his regnal years awarded in the de jure manner (from the time he was appointed king by the Romans until his capture of Jerusalem three years later). Should it seem odd that Herod’s successors should in similar fashion have years of reign assigned to them by the Romans? Even Archelaus, the immediate successor to Herod, had a reign which was acknowledged by Josephus as nine years in one place and ten years in another. 51

These discrepancies could legitimately be explained in the de jure manner. The fact is, it was common practice to award special years to Herod and his successors. And while the Roman emperors observed no such regnal years in this manner, the practice was widespread in Judaea and in other eastern areas of the Empire.

The Pivotal Problems Resolved

It looks like two or three years were awarded to Archelaus and Antipas in which they did not rule alone over Herod’s domains. The coins certainly reveal the existence of de jure years, but most historians find such things confusing. In our western world there is a natural resistance toward the acceptance of such a reckoning because it is disruptive to a uniform and consistent chronological plan. Anyone with common sense would share a distaste for using “awarded” years. The fact is, however, anyone working with the regnal years of the kings and rulers within the Hellenistic period will have to get used to them. It was common practice in the Hellenistic east (of which the region of Judaea was a part) for rulers to ascribe even in an official way extra years to their lengths of reign that fictitiously gave them more years than they actually ruled.

Antedating Was Commonly Practiced in the Ancient World

Professor E.J. Bickerman has collected a great deal of historical material to show how usual it was for Hellenistic rulers to inflate their lengths of reign, normally by antedating their years of rule. “Like Ptolemaeus I, Seleucus I, etc., Attalus [of Pergamus] antedated his kingship, and computed his regnal years from his succession to Eumenes, in 240 B.C.E.” 52 Bickerman continues:

“An official date is not necessarily the authentic one. When a Hellenistic ruler succeeded in gaining the sovereignty, the symbol of which was the royal title, he often antedated the initial year of his kingship. For instance, in the second century B.C.E. the kings of Pontus computed their regnal years from 336 B.C.E. when the reputed ancestor Mithridates was established as governor of Cius, although the dynasty had not assumed the royal title before Mithridates III, brother in law of Seleucus II. The Arsacids followed the same patterns.” 53

With the rulers of Bithynia there is the evidence of using a de jure or a fictitious era. 54

The Herodian kingdom was a direct outgrowth of this historical and political environment. Antedating reigns (overlapping of years) was certainly nothing new to the Jews. They were well accustomed to it even within the biblical period. 55 And lest one think that antedating of reigns was limited simply to the nations of the east in the Hellenistic period, Bickerman points out that Charles II of England was crowned king on 29 May, 1660 but for political reasons he counted his years of reign from the death of Charles I on 30 January, 1649. 56 It should not seem odd that the Herodian successors would do the same thing ― especially since the east had a long history of accepting such a practice. And since the coins certainly do show de jure years of reign for the Herodians which cannot be accounted for historically, it would be very unwise to dismiss this deduction as being of little consequence. This is especially so since virtually all the other historical evidence that I have shown in this book points to Herod’s death as being in 1 B.C.E.

The Reason for Antedating

It appears clear that Archelaus and Antipas reckoned their reigns as commencing in 4 B.C.E. at the very time their half-brother Antipater became co-ruler with Herod and acted every bit as a “king.” Why would these two sons want to adopt the practice of antedating? Though the procedure was often used, there still must be some reason why Herod’s successors utilized it for dating the beginning of their reigns.

When one understands the political and religious positions which the family of the Hasmoneans had with the general Jewish population (both in Palestine and in the Roman world) a reason for antedating becomes evident. Recall that Alexander and Aristobulus (the two Hasmonean sons of Herod) met their deaths almost three years before Herod himself died. This was a tragic circumstance to all the Jewish people because the two brothers were considered of royal stock and the legitimate heirs to the throne of Judaea. They were considered legal heirs to kingship.

Look at the matter carefully. Herod the Great was a commoner. Actually, he was not even a Jew by race, but a mixture of Idumaean and Arabian stock. 57 He, however, had been made king by the Romans to replace Hyrcanus who was a Hasmonean. The Hasmoneans were descendants of the Maccabees who were of priestly ancestry. These people were reckoned to be of royal, priestly blood. 58 The Jewish population considered the Hasmoneans as the only royal line with legal vouchers until someone of the Davidic dynasty could show he had messianic credentials. 59

This fact was well recognized by the Jews. Even Herod saw the importance of the Hasmoneans in his own time of rulership. Herod, in order to legalize his own rule, married Mariamme of the royal Hasmonean house. She was reckoned by the Jewish people as “Queen.” 60 But Herod was regarded as “base of birth.” 61 Herod felt he had to marry the royal Mariamme. 62 She gave Herod two sons. They were acknowledged by the Jewish people as the “royal sons” and the only ones who could legally be claimants to the throne. 63 One of the main reasons for this was because the two sons (Alexander and Aristobulus) were born after Herod had assumed the kingship of Judaea. 64 These two sons outshone all the other children of Herod in prestige because they were the only regal children. They were reckoned as being of “noble birth,” 65 of the “royal family,” 66 of “royal lineage,” 67 they expressed “royal conceit,” 68 and they exulted in their “Pride of birth.” 69

The exclusive feeling of royalty attached to these two sons of Mariamme (at the expense of all the other “common” children of Herod), was accepted by the Jewish people. 70 Both young men had “the goodwill of the masses” behind them because of their regal connections. 71 When these two sons were killed, “royalty” ceased in Judaea.

Rome Accepted the Royal Sons

Such lineal attachment to ancient dynastic houses was important to the people who lived in the 1st century. Both the Jews and Romans looked upon noble lineage as significant. An example of this is seen in the remarks of Glaphyra, the wife of Alexander (the first son of Mariamme and Herod). She expressed pride in the fact that she was the daughter of the King of Cappadocia and was descended on her father’s side from Temenus (one of the important kings of ancient Macedonia) and on her mother’s side from Darius, the son of Hystapses of Persia. 72 Glaphyra chided Herod, his other wives, and their children, because of “their low birth.” 73 Sir Ronald Syme has shown that even the Romans were no less interested in family connections with ancient and modern houses. 74 It might be said that dynastic connections were the main themes that granted reasons to rule. Royal descent was looked on as important.

But what happened to the two Hasmonean sons? It was a real blow to Judaic society when Herod had the two royal sons killed and as a consequence promoted Antipater (born of a common woman from Idumaea) to be his heir. This was almost too much. Antipater knew that he had no right to the throne by any reason of birth. 75 But when the two royal sons were killed, Antipater assumed undisputed claim to the succession. 76 This is when Antipater became joint-ruler with Herod and he began to be considered as a “king” in his own right.

In time, however, Herod came to see the extreme wickedness of Antipater and, just before his own death, Herod executed Antipater and gave his kingdom (his joint-rule with Antipater) to his other three sons ― all commoners! They were Archelaus, Antipas and Philip. The first two had a Samaritan woman for a mother and Philip’s mother was a common woman of Judah. 

Not one of these three successors of Herod had any “royal” connections whatever. To them, this must have represented a great disadvantage in securing the legal right to rule in the eyes of the Jews. It was only the command of Herod and Augustus that gave them their jurisdiction. The Jews themselves would have looked on these commoners as usurpers. In fact, at the death of Herod, many Jews went to Rome to plead with Augustus to make Judaea a part of the province of Syria, and no longer ruled by kings. 77 There was then no one of age of prime Hasmonean stock to assume any kingship and many Jews did not want these commoners ruling over them. If someone would have been old enough of Hasmonean stock, it may have been a different story. Witness the false Alexander who duped many Jews just after the death of Herod. 78 The Jews did not mind legal claimants to the throne ruling over them, but not commoners like Archelaus, Antipas and Philip.

What does this show to our question? Very much. It indicates that the Jewish people made a distinct separation between commoners and those of royal lineage. They were willing to accept legitimate Hasmoneans, but others had no legal right to rule. A problem arose, however. Herod and Augustus had accepted the “commoners” Archelaus, Antipas and Philip. They had no biblical, traditional, or dynastic right to rule over the Jews. These three successors of Herod would no doubt have understood the difficulty in the matter. How could they, in some possible way, secure at least a limited amount of legal approbation from the Jews? Since neither they nor their father Herod were of royal Hasmonean stock, some device was needed to gain a measure of legitimate succession.

Antedating Secured Dynastic Continuance

Since the Jews (and most kingdoms of the Hellenistic east) were used to antedating reigns to give political or dynastic significance to present rulership, why not antedate the reigns of the three Herodian successors back to the deaths of the two “royal sons”? Such a thing would have gained some respect in the minds of the Jewish populace. It not only would have “blotted out” Antipater’s two year joint rule with Herod when he was reckoned as a “king,” but it would have linked up the reigns of the three successors with the two royal children.

Later history of Palestine and the Middle East certainly supports this proposition. Look at what happened with those three successors. Archelaus was deposed in C.E. 6 and banished to Gaul. No successor to Archelaus was appointed. His region of rule was then annexed to the Empire. Judaea became a part of the Syrian province of Rome. Philip died in C.E. 36 and his territory was eventually given to Agrippa I (a Hasmonean). Antipas also died in exile and Agrippa I came to rule his region as well. The fact is, after the reign of these three “commoners” was over, the sovereigns connected with the Herodian family that later ruled in regions of the east were descendants of royal Hasmonean stock. This must be significant.

Indeed, when the emperor Claudius bestowed royal power on Agrippa 1, he not only gave him all the lands that had formerly been under the rule of his grandfather Herod, but Claudius specifically said he was awarded the grant because it “was due to his family.” 79 That family, or dynasty, was that of the Hasmoneans. It was the only family with a legal right to rule in Judaea. Even Josephus (who wrote in the last part of the 1st century) stated that ― in Jewish opinion ― a connection with the priesthood is the hallmark of “an illustrious line.” 80 The Hasmoneans were such priests. Josephus himself said, “On my mother’s side I am of royal blood, from the posterity of the Hasmoneans.” 81

There can be no doubt of the importance of the Hasmoneans among the Jews as the only legal heirs to the Judaean throne, and after the deaths of the three successors of Herod (who were all commoners), nothing but Hasmoneans were allowed to rule in Judaea (and even in some other eastern areas) by the Romans. Note the following table of kings and queens.

Agrippa (Hasmonean)
Agrippa II (Hasmonean)
Herod of Calcia (Hasmonean)
Aristobulus of Lesser Armenia (Hasmonean)
Tigranes IV of Armenia (Hasmonean)
Tigranes V of Armenia (Hasmonean)
Alexander of Cilicia (Hasmonean)
Drusilla, Queen of Emesa and then wife of Felix (Hasmonean)
Bernice, Queen of Calcia and then of Cilicia (Hasmonean)

This proclivity to accept only Hasmonean stock for later rulers in certain eastern areas surely shows that the Jews desired the Romans to allow only legitimate lineage to reign. Rome consistently accepted the concept as the proper one to follow.

Antedating Was Used to Achieve Dynastic Association

Even as early as the time of Herod the inclination for such legal rule was evident among the Jews. This gives good reason why two of the successors of Herod would have had their regnal years reckoned back to the deaths of the legal recipients to the throne. Since antedating was so prevalent in the Hellenistic east, such a procedure would not have appeared odd at all. Even Herod may have desired it. Just before Herod’s death, when he finally came to realize that Antipater had lied about the two royal sons to get them killed, Herod expressed remorse for the deaths of his Hasmonean children. 82

It could well have been recorded in his final will that all recognition of Antipater be expunged from the records (to follow the biblical usage ― Deuteronomy 29:17–21). Herod also desired the children of the two “royal sons” to be accepted by the Jews and other members of his family. 83 Antedating the reigns of Archelaus and Antipas (to comprise the two years of the joint-rule of Antipater) could have been one way to secure this recognition as well as giving some legitimacy to the three “commoners” in their own rulerships. With Philip, however, we now know from the research of Beyer, 84 that the early manuscripts of Josephus show that Philip commenced his reign at the exact time of Herod’s death in 1 B.C.E. and ruled for 37 years, dying in C.E. 36 (the twenty-second year of Tiberius). All this makes perfectly good sense.

The Reasonableness of These Explanations

Something approaching this explanation must be the reason why the successors of Herod commenced the reckoning of their regnal years in 4 B.C.E. In no way could Herod have died in 4 B.C.E. The historical evidence I provided in this book is decidedly against such a proposition. Perhaps the obscure statement of Josephus that Archelaus, only a few weeks after receiving his right to rule, was accused by his opponents as having “long exercised royal authority” 85 can make better sense. This certainly was not true in actual fact, but through the practice of antedating, such a statement could be accepted in a de jure manner. Thus, the obscure chronology of Josephus in regard to Herod’s death and the regnal years of his successors can be solved in a satisfactory way and in accord with accepted practices in the Hellenistic east that were in existence at that time.

In closing, it would be profitable to mention that Josephus was well aware of the tendency within the Judaean kingdoms (whether of Herod’s or earlier ones) to have joint-rules of some of their sovereigns. Josephus mentioned the early 1st century B.C.E. co-rulership of Hyreanus II when he came to power in 70/69 B.C.E. 86 with that of his mother Queen Alexandra. For Hyrcanus’ first two years, he was jointly ruling with his mother. 87 Such joint-rules were common in this period. Thus, Antipater jointly ruled with Herod, and it appears that the other two “common” sons of Herod also were awarded such rules. 

Whatever the case, the evidence of history, archaeology and astronomy is now showing that Herod died in early 1 B.C.E. and that Jesus was born in 3 B.C.E. This is the period of time (3 to 2 B.C.E.) when the majority of early Christian historians place the nativity of Jesus. And they were correct. What we are beginning to discover is that the “obscure decade” from 6 B.C.E. to C.E. 4 in Roman history is now taking on a great deal of light. And the key to the illumination happens to be the historical and chronological indications contained in the New Testament.

Chronological Rundown

The nativity occurred on September 11, 3 B.C.E. Note the following sequence of historical events.

  1. Joseph and Mary’s journey to Bethlehem for the “census” occurred at the very close of the Jewish civil year ― an apt time for a registration of peoples to happen. It was in the summer season and before the rains set in that would have made it difficult.
     
  2. Jesus was born in a stable in the twilight period of September 11th, the Day of Trumpets, 3 B.C.E.
     
  3. He was circumcised on September 18, 3 B.C.E. (the eighth day for the circumcision rite is reckoned inclusively).
     
  4. He was dedicated in the temple on October 20/21, 3 B.C.E.
     
  5. Luke says: they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth (Luke 2:39). This means they did not go to Egypt after the birth of Jesus. After all, they had only gone to Bethlehem for the “census,” not to move there. So, the family returned to Nazareth in the latter part of October, 3 B.C.E.
     
  6. Then for some reason, they decided to move to Bethlehem. This could have been in the spring or summer of 2 B.C.E. They set up house, having no need for the temporary type of shelter they had when Jesus was born (Matthew 2:11).
     
  7. On December 5th (Kislev 7) of 2 B.C.E. the youth tore down the eagle from the east entrance to the temple.
     
  8. Then on December 25, 2 B.C.E., when the King planet Jupiter came to its stationary point in mid-Virgo the Virgin, it would have been seen “stopped over Bethlehem” as viewed from Jerusalem. The Magi then went to Bethlehem and gave the child the gifts they brought from the east. Jesus was now a paidion (Greek: toddler) not a brephos (Greek: infant, as in Luke). He was old enough to stand and to walk. In the papyrus codex Bodmer V of the Proto-Evangelium of James written in Egypt in the 4th century, it even states that the Magi were able to see Jesus standing by the side of his mother Mary” (21:3). This shows early opinion that the visit of the Magi to give gifts to Jesus was long after his birth. This giving of gifts by the Magi would have occurred during the days of Hanukkah when Jewish fathers were accustomed to give gifts to their children. This would have appeared quite proper to Jewish people.
     
  9. With the warnings of the Magi, Joseph and Mary immediately took Jesus to Egypt in late December of 2 B.C.E.
     
  10. Immediately after this, Herod killed all the male children “from two years old and under” (Matthew 2:16). This matter of killing children two years old can now make better sense. If Jesus was born on 11 September, 3 B.C.E., the slaying of the innocents was about 15 months after his birth. If the conception period were also considered, it comes to 24 months exactly. This may be a helpful clue that Jesus was indeed born in September, 3 B.C.E. and why the Magi saw Jesus standing by the side of his mother Mary.”
     
  11. Soon afterward, the two illustrious rabbis were tried and sentenced by the Sanhedrin. This could have been in early January of 1 B.C.E., and then a few days later (on January 10th) the eclipse of the Moon occurred that Josephus mentioned.
     
  12. Herod then died about January 28th (Schebat 2) in 1 B.C.E.
     
  13. Later, in the spring of 1 B.C.E., the Passover occurred during which 3000 Jewish worshippers lost their lives in the temple.
     
  14. In the summer and autumn of that year (1 B.C.E.) The War of Varus took place.
     
  15. Then, about twenty-eight years later, Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist sometime in either October or November of C.E. 27 at the beginning of a Sabbatical Year. Jesus then began his official ministry with the Passover and Pentecost season of C.E. 28 and was finally crucified in C.E. 30.

If what I am suggesting in this book is true, a new understanding in the life of Jesus emerges. Not only do many obscure passages in Josephus make sense, but the chronological and theological indications of the New Testament about the birth of Jesus also become clearer. Roman history as well becomes more understandable for the middle years of Augustus. And while none of us was living some 2000 years ago to prove these points as an eyewitness, there is enough evidence available to give us some reasonable assurance that this new information brings us pretty close to the truth.

This means that the Star of Bethlehem can be identified and that it fits into the over-all historical theme to make this period in human history more understandable. This is just another reason why all historians who want to comprehend the proper history of Rome in the early Empire period need to focus their attention on “The Star that Astonished the World.”


1 Josephus, Antiquities XVII. 190; War I.665.

2 Vermes and Millar, The New Schurer, 326.

3 Barnes, T., The Journal of Theological Studies, XIX (1968), 209.

4 Josephus, Antiquities XV.121.

5 Ibid., XVI.136.

6 Galloway, The Chain of Ages (c. 1860), 460–465.

7 Cunningharne, The Fullness of Times (1836), 94–97.

8 Vermes and Millar, The New Schurer, 326.

9 Josephus, Antiquities, XIV.475.

10 See Appendix Four of this book.

11 Josephus, Antiquities, XIV.487.

12 Ibid.

13 Abodah Zarah, 10a.

14 See chapter 6 of this book for details.

15 Vermes and Millar, The New Schurer, 285.

16 Barnes, T., The Journal of Theological Studies, XIX (1968), 204–209.

17 Dio Cassius, LV.27.6.

18 Josephus, Antiquities XVI.270.

19 Ibid., 291.

20 Reifenberg, A., Ancient Jewish Coins (1947), 15.

21 John 19:12.

22 Josephus, Antiquities XVII.2.

23 Ibid., 90.

24 Ibid., 96.

25 Luke 2:1–5.

26 Hoehner, Herod Antipas, 271.

27 Josephus, Antiquities XVIII. 124.

28 Kittel, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, V.459.

29 Josephus, Antiquities XIV. 168–176; War I.210–211.

30 Josephus, Antiquities XV. 164–178.

31 Ibid., 232–236.

32 Ibid., 247–252.

33 Ibid., 259–266.

34 Ibid., XVI.106, 109.

35 Josephus, War I.538–539.

36 Ibid., 620–640.

37 Josephus, Antiquities XVII.2.

38 Suetonius, Augustus, 65.

39 Josephus, War II.26.

40 Josephus, War 168; Antiquities XVII.188.

41 Thompson, W.R., Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, I.822.

42 Meyshan, Essays in Jewish Numismatics, 72.

43 Josephus, Antiquities XX. 104; War II.223.

44 Josephus, Antiquities 73.

45 Meshorer, Y., Jewish Coins of the Second Temple Period, 82–84.

46 Ibid., 81.

47 Ibid

48 Josephus, Antiquities XVIII.252.

49 Madden, Coins of the Jews (1881), 121f.

50 Vermes and Millar, The New Schurer, 327.

51 Josephus, Antiquities XVII.345; War II. 112.

52 Bickerman, E.J., Beryutus (1944), 77.

53 Ibid., 81.

54 Robert, Etudes Anatoliennes (1937), 231.

55 Thiele, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, 207.

56 Bickerman, E. J., Chronology of the Ancient World, 90.

57 Josephus, Antiquities XIV. 121.

58 Josephus, Life I.1.

59 Klausner, The Messianic Idea in Israel, 256f, 313, 455f, 469, 514.

60 Josephus, Antiquities XVI.381.

61 phus, War I.522.

62 Ibid., 241.

63 Ibid., 521, 546.

64 Ibid., 435–436.

65 Ibid., 458.

66 Ibid., 483.

67 Ibid., 522.

68 Josephus, Antiquities XVI.399.

69 Josephus, War I.449, 468.

70 Ibid., 560.

71 Josephus, Antiquities XV. 167–168.

72 Josephus, War I.476.

73 Ibid., 467.

74 Sir Ronald Syme, The Roman Revolution, 378.

75 Josephus, Antiquities XVI.78–81.

76 Josephus, War I.552. 272

77 Josephus, Antiquities XV11.299–314.

78 Josephus, War II.101–110.

79 Josephus, Antiquities XIX.275.

80 Josephus, Life I.1.

81 Ibid., 2.

82 Josephus, Antiquities XVII.120.

83 Ibid., 12–15.

84 Beyer, “Josephus Re-examined: Unraveling the Twenty-Second Year of Tiberius.”

85 Josephus, War II.26.

86 Josephus, Antiquities XIV.4.

87 Josephus, War I. 120.


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