What's Jesus' Birth-date?



Around Christmas time I get asked a lot about the dating of the birth of Jesus.  In light of this, I wanted to share some scholarly material on this question by one of my favorite biblical scholars, Dr. Harold W. Hoehner.  I hope you will enjoy this academic article on the birth of our Lord. 


The Date of Christ’s Birth
Harold W. Hoehner, PhD

Bibliotheca Sacra Volume 130, 520 (Dallas, TX: Dallas Theological Seminary, 1973), pp.337-51.


Jesus Christ entered into the history of our world. Christianity, therefore, has historical basis. The backbone of history is chronology. Whereas history is a systematic account of events in relation to a nation, institution, science, or art; chronology is a science of time. It seeks to establish and arrange the dates of past events in their proper sequence. Thus chronology serves as a necessary framework upon which the events of history may be fitted.

In the present series of articles there will be an attempt to establish certain fixed dates in our Lord’s life. The first of these deals with His birth.

The Year of Christ’s Birth

The earliest Christians were not as much concerned about the date as the fact of the birth of Christ. Chronological notes, such as “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius” (Luke 3:1) marking the commencement of John the Baptist’s ministry, were sufficient.

In A.D. 525 Pope John I asked Dionysius, a Scythian monk, to prepare a standard calendar for the Western Church. Dionysius modified the Alexandrian system of dating, which used as its base the reign of Diocletian, for he did not want the years of history to be reckoned from the life of a persecutor of the church, but from the incarnation of Christ. The commencement of the Christian era was January 1, 754 A.U.C. (anno urbis conditae = from the foundation of the city [of Rome]) and Christ’s birth was thought to have been on December 25th immediately preceding. So 754 A.U.C. became A.D. 1 in the calendar of Dionysius.

The years before this date are denoted by B.C. (before Christ) and after by A.D. (anno Domini = in the year of the Lord) with no zero between 1 B.C. and A.D. 1. However, later researches indicated that the latest year for Herod’s death was 750 A.U.C. and Christ’s birth, according to Matthew, occurred before Herod’s death.1  Hence, today it is generally recognized that the birth of Christ did not occur in A.D. 1 but some time before that.

As to how soon before A.D. 1 Christ was born, there is great divergence of opinion. King2  dates it 15 B.C. and more recently Ogg dates it as early as 11 B.C.3  On the other hand Filmer would probably date it somewhere between 3 and 1 B.C.4  Hence there is a span up to fourteen years.

In the broadest terms Luke 2:1 states that Christ was born in the reign of Caesar Augustus (who reigned from March 15, 44 B.C. to August 19, A.D. 145 ). Since this is so broad, one needs to narrow the limits. In the attempt to arrive at a more specific date, it is essential to establish two concrete limits, the termini a quo (the earliest limiting point in time) and ad quem (the final limiting point in time). With respect to this, the terminus ad quem is the death of Herod the Great, and the terminus ad quo is the census of Quirinius (Cyrenius).

Terminus Ad Quem: The Death of Herod the Great

According to Matthew 2:1 and Luke 1:5, Christ’s birth came before Herod’s death. Herod was proclaimed king of the Jews by the Roman Senate in late 40 B.C. by nomination of Antony and Octavian6  and with the help of the Roman army he gained the possession of his domain in 37 B.C.7  He reigned for thirty-seven years from the time he was made king or thirty-four years from the time of his possession of the land.8

According to Josephus, an eclipse of the moon occurred shortly before Herod’s death.9  It is the only eclipse ever mentioned by Josephus and this occurred on March 12/13, 4 B.C.10  After his death there was the celebration of the Passover,11  the first day of which would have occurred on April 11, 4 B.C.12  Hence, his death occurred sometime between March 12th and April 11th. Since the thirty-fourth year of his reign would have begun on Nisan 1, 4 B.C. (March 29, 4 B.C.13 ). his death would have occurred some time between March 29 and April 11, 4 B.C.14  Therefore, Christ could not have been born later than March/April of 4 B.C.

Terminus A Quo: The Census of Quirinius

According to Luke 2:1–5 a census was taken just before Christ’s birth. Thus, Christ could not have been born before the census. The purpose of a census was to provide statistical data for the levy of taxes in the provinces. This census mentioned by Luke is one of the thorny problems of the New Testament and the major portion of this article will be concerned with it. Schürer states that Luke cannot be historically accurate because: (1) nothing is known in history of a general census in the time of Augustus; (2) in a Roman census Joseph would not have had to travel to Bethlehem, but would have registered in the principal town of his residence, and Mary would not have had to register at all; (3) no Roman census would have been made in Palestine during Herod’s reign; (4) Josephus records nothing of a Roman census in Palestine in the time of Herod, rather the census of A.D. 6-7 was something new among the Jews; and (5) a census held under Quirinius could not have occurred during Herod’s reign for Quirinius was not governor until after Herod’s death.15  As weighty as these objections may seem, they do have answers.

(1) Census in Augustus reign. There is sufficient evidence of a census being taken periodically under the Republic and by Augustus in 28 B.C. and on subsequent occasions. In Gaul, where there was resistance, censuses were conducted in 27 and 12 B.C. and in Cyrene in 7 B.C.16  In Egypt there were censuses taken in fourteen year intervals beginning with 9 B.C.17  Luke’s statement: “In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world was to be taxed” has been challenged by those who claim that there never was a single census of the entire Roman Empire. However, is this what Luke meant? Probably not. What is meant is that censuses were taken at different times in different provinces—Augustus being the first one in history to order a census or tax assessment of the whole provincial empire.18  This is further substantiated by the fact that Luke uses the present tense indicating that Augustus ordered censuses to be taken regularly rather than only one time.19  Thus there was an order of a general census in the time of Augustus.

(2) Travel to home for a census. According to Schürer, Joseph as well as Mary would not have been compelled to go to Bethlehem. Roman law states that the property owner had to register for taxation in the district in which his land was situated.20  But there is a papyrus of A.D. 104 where the prefect of Egypt orders Egyptians to return to their home in order that the census might be carried out.21  Since the Jews’ property was the property of the fathers’ estates the Romans would comply to the custom of laying claim to one’s family estate in order to assess it for taxation. Every person needed to appear in order to be questioned so as to make a proper assessment of their property. Because of this Mary would have needed to go.22  Since Mary’s pregnancy was near its end, Joseph and Mary may have wanted to go to Bethlehem because they knew that Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (Mic 5:1). Additionally, Joseph may not have wanted to leave her behind in Nazareth for fear that she would be treated with insults when the child was born.23  Finally, one may conclude that going to their home for a census points to a time before Herod the Great’s death and the division of his kingdom. It is highly implausible that after the division of the kingdom, the residents of Herod Antipas’ territory (Nazareth) would go to Archelaus’ territory (Bethlehem) for a census for purposes of taxation.24

(3) Roman census in Herods reign. Schürer did not think that Augustus would have a census taken in Palestine during Herod’s reign. Certainly Herod had enough autonomy as indicated by his being allowed to mint coins. However, the Romans did take a census in vassal kingdoms. In fact, in Venice a gravestone of a Roman officer was found which states that he was ordered by P. Sulpicius Quirinius to conduct a census of Apamea, a city of 117,000 inhabitants, located on the Orontes in Syria,25  which was an autonomous city state that minted its own copper coins.26  In A.D. 36 under Tiberius a census was imposed on the client kingdom of Archelaus of Cappadocia.27  Again, the powerful Nabatean kings in Petra, who had the right to mint coins were, it seems, obliged to have the Roman financial officers in their domain.28  Another indication of Augustus’ role in the finances of client kingdoms occurs when Herod’s domain was divided among his three sons. Augustus ordered that the Samaritan’s taxes should be reduced by one-fourth (because they had not revolted against Varus)29  and this was before Samaria became a part of a Roman province.30  Hence, it is seen that the Roman emperor became involved in taking censuses in the vassal kingdoms.

Normally, it seems that Herod collected his own taxes and paid tribute to Rome.31  However, in 8/7 B.C. Herod came into disfavor with Augustus and was treated as a subject rather than a friend.32  This would mean Herod’s autonomy would be taken away. It is interesting to note that the people of Herod’s domain took an oath of allegiance to Augustus and Herod33  which points to a greater involvement of Augustus in Herod’s realm. Herod was getting old and ill and he had much trouble with his sons who were struggling to acquire the throne. Hence, it would have been a good time for Augustus to have an assessment of the domain before Herod’s death in order to prepare for the future rule of his realm. Therefore, since Augustus had taken censuses in other vassal kingdoms and since Herod had come into the emperor’s disfavor as well as having troubles in his realm, it is more than probable that Augustus had conducted a census assessing Herod’s kingdom while Herod was still alive.

(4) No confusion of the censuses. Schürer states that Josephus mentions nothing of a Roman census in Palestine in the time of Herod and that the census taken after Archelaus’ deposition in A.D. 6 was something new and unheard of. However, the first part of the above objection is an argument from silence. There could have been a census with no disturbance and hence nothing worthwhile or significant to be mentioned by Josephus. No doubt the revolt with the census in A.D. 6 caused it to be recorded in Josephus34 and in Acts 5:37. Ogg argues that since there is no revolt mentioned in Luke 2:2, this indicates that the first census by Quirinius was in A.D. 6-7.35  But there are reasons for the revolt in A.D. 6-7. There was a Jewish and Samaritan delegation which made a formal complaint to the emperor asking that Archelaus be deposed.36  They were sick of Herodian rule and probably wanted direct Roman rule. Subsequently Quirinius came to take a census which led to a revolt. This is understandable. First, the rebels may not have wanted direct Roman rule, hence disagreeing with the delegation. Second, the revolt was easier to start in A.D. 6 because Archelaus was summoned to Rome, leaviny a vacuum in leadership in Palestine. A Roman census in Herod’s time would have been conducted while he was in power. Third, there were Romans who came in to take the census which gave evidence that Rome was going to rule, whereas in Herod’s time, he would have conducted the census according to the Jewish custom. Fourth,, now that Herod’s kingdom was divided, the census would be according to the normal Roman style spelled out in their law that the property owner had to register in the district in which his land was situated rather than going back to his ancestral home. The rebels would consider this another move on the part of the Romans to break down the national fiber of the Jews. Judas, the rebel leader, did not revolt because of taxes, but the fact that there was no stable leadership and that he opposed direct Roman rule which would not be sensitive to the needs of the Jewish customs. Therefore, it is easy to see why most likely there would have been a peaceable census under Herod’s rule.

(5) Quirinius governorship and the census. Schürer says that a census held under Quirinius could not have occurred during death. This is the most formidable objection. This raises questions about the historicity of Luke. The critics say that Luke’s dating of the birth of Christ with the census of Judea, which Josephus places after the deposition of Archelaus in A.D. 6, is a clear historical blunder.37  But certainly Luke was conscious of chronology in his works. This is seen, for example, in Luke 3:1 and 3:22. Luke was not ignorant of the census mentioned by Josephus which was conducted by Quirinius in A.D. 6-7 since he mentions it in Acts 5:37. He knew that Jesus was not born that late, for he states in Luke 1:5 that both of the births of John the Baptist and Jesus took place in the days of Herod. This certainly agrees with Matthew’s chronology (Matt 2:1). Also, Luke is consistent with himself in stating that Jesus was about thirty years of age when He began His ministry (Luke 3:23) which was shortly preceded by John the Baptist’s that began in the fifteenth year of Tiberius (Luke 3:1–2). Since the fifteenth year of Tiberius can be dated around A.D. 27 to 29, 38  it would mean that if Christ were born in A.D. 6, He would only have been twenty-one to twenty-three years old, not about thirty years old.

Still, what does one do with Luke’s statement about the census? Stauffer has argued strongly that there should be a distinction between the first stage of a census, namely, ἀπογραφή (the registration of taxable persons and objects) of which Luke speaks; and the final stage of a census ἀποτίμησις (the official assessment of the taxes) which is described by Josephus as occurring after Archelaus’ deposition in A.D. 6.39  But Stauffer’s distinctions collapse when one looks at Josephus’ account of the census in A.D. 6-7 where both terms are used in the same context40  and in Acts 5:37 where the same event uses the term ἀπογραφή.

On the basis of inscriptional evidence, Ramsay argues that Quirinius was governor of Syria twice, once from 11/10 to 8/7 B.C. and then a decade later (A.D. 6-7).41  This has been questioned because this involves Quirinius as legate of Syria when he conquered the HomanadensianS.42  Some scholars argue that he was legate of Galatia when he was involved in the Homanadensian war.43  Furthermore, the dating of this war is difficult to determine. Ramsay felt that the enrollment by Quirinius was made in 8-7 B.C., but argues that in Palestine it was delayed until around 6 B.C.44  One can see that there are quite a few conditions that must be assumed before this theory works. This considerably weakens the case.

Sherwin-White argues for a double legateship of Quirinius. Quirinius was well known in the Syrian area during the period around the time of Christ’s birth, but he specifically thinks that Quirinius’ first term was after Varus who was governor from 6 to 4 B.C.45  Since it is unknown who was governor between Varus and Gaius Caesar (1 B.C.-A.D. 4), it is felt that Quirinius could have been governor at that time. However, this is after Herod the Great’s death if one dates it in the spring of 4 B.C.

Another consideration is the one that was first proposed by Herwartus of the seventeenth century and revived in 1911 by Lagrange46  and more recently by Heichelheim,47  Turner,48  and Bruce49  by translating Luke 2:2 as following: “This census was before that [census] when Quirinius was governor of Syria.” Strictly speaking πρῶτος “first” is the superlative meaning number one among at least three, while πρότερος “former” is the comparative form which compares only two. However, in later Greek the true comparative “πρότερος has surrendered the meaning ‘the first of two’ to πρῶτος and now means only ‘earlier’.”50  Speaking

BSac 130:520 (Oct 73) p. 347

classically this would have been the first census of a series, but hellenistically it could mean the first of two.51  The examples cited of πρῶτος having a comparative force are John 1:15 and 30  (πρῶτός μου ἧν = “he was before me”), and the comparison is direct. In Luke 2:2 something has to be supplied, namely, “this census was earlier than [the census] when Quirinius was governor of Syria.” Other examples of a concise statement where something has to be supplied are John 5:36 and 1 Corinthians 1:25. However, one notable difference between Luke 2:2 and the other passages cited is that Luke 2:2 has the participle phrase “when Quirinius was governor of Syria” which is cumbersome, namely, “This census was earlier than [the census] when Quirinius was governor of Syria.”

Moving along the same line of argumentation, a better solution is the one suggested by Higgins. In John 15:18 the πρῶτος used abverbially is equivalent to πρό, that is, “It [the world] has hated me before it hated you.” “If this is conceded, there is no need to infer a compendious comparison, and πρώτη governs the participial phrase. The Greek means, ‘This census took place before Quirinius was governor of Syria’. Luke is not distinguishing an earlier census from one during the governorship of Quirinius, but is merely stating that the census at the time of the nativity took place some time before Quirinius held office.”52  This gives good sense to the passage at hand. As stated above, Quirinius was governor of Syria in A.D. 6-7 and possibly also, as Sherwin-White has argued, in 3-2 B.C. If this has reference to his governorship in A.D. 6-7 then this census is before the governorship when he had conducted the well known census mentioned in Josephus and Luke. On the other hand, this also fits nicely if he were governor in 3-2 B.C.; for Luke is then stating that just before Quirinius was governor in Syria in 3-2 B.C. there was a census in Herod’s domains.

The exact date of the census cannot be determined with precision. However, it is reasonable to think that the census would have been after Herod came into disfavor with Augustus in 8/7 B.C. More specifically it was probably after Herod’s execution of his sons Alexander and Aristobulus in 7 B.C. when there was an intense struggle for the throne by his other sons which resulted in Herod’s changing his will three times before his death in the spring of 4 B.C.53  In 7 B.C. Herod named Antipater as sole heir, and then in 5 B.C. a new will was drawn up, making Antipas as the heir. Finally five days before Herod’s death Antipater was executed and a final will was drawn up, naming Archelaus as king of the whole realm. Furthermore, not only were there the intrigues within the household, but Herod’s illness became more intense. His death was imminent. With such instability and such a bad state of health, it would have been an opportune time for Augustus to have had a census taken in order to assess the situation before Herod’s death. It must also be noted that Augustus was well aware of the situation in Palestine because each time Herod changed his will and each time he wanted to get rid of one of his sons, he had to ask the emperor’s permission. Therefore, a census within the last year or two of Herod’s reign would have been reasonable, and in fact, most probable.

The exact year of this census, which would mark the terminus a quo of Christ’s birth is difficult to pinpoint but it was probably taken sometime between 6 and 4 B.C., preferably the latter part of this span of time. This fits well with both Matthew’s and Luke’s chronologies which seem to indicate that the census and Christ’s birth were shortly before Herod’s death.

Other Chronological Considerations

Having narrowed the date of Christ’s birth between 6 and 4 B.C. other chronological notes are to be considered.

Not yet fifty years old.” In John 8:57 the Jews said to Jesus, “You are not yet fifty years old.” Irenaeus held that Jesus was in His forties, for if Jesus were in His thirties they would have said, “You are not yet forty years old.”54  Ogg takes this chronological note in John 8:57 seriously and doubts that Luke 3:22 can serve any chronological purpose. Ogg, then, dates the birth of Christ somewhere between 11 and 9 B.C.55  But certainly the opposite is more likely. Luke 3:22 is a precise statement whereas John 8:57 indicates that the Jews were emphasizing Jesus’ youth in contrast to His claim that He existed before Abraham. Therefore, John 8:57 is not helpful in trying to narrow the date of Christ’s birth.

Two years old and under.” In Matthew 2:16 Herod saw that he had been tricked by the Magi56  when they did not return to re-port the location of Jesus and consequently Herod slew all the male children two years old and under in Bethlehem and its surrounding area. The question arises whether Matthew is speaking of the same time as Luke or a later time. Madison attempts to demonstrate that the Magi visited Christ when He was about two years of age by noting that the Lukan narrative uses the term βρέφος (2:12) which is used to refer to an unborn, a newborn child, or an infant whereas Matthew uses the words παιδίον (2:8, 9, 11, 13 bis,14, 20 bis,21) and παῖς  (2:16) which are used of a child that is at least one year old rather than an infant. The fact that the wise men came to the house (in Matthew’s account) rather than a manger (in Luke’s account) would also indicate that Jesus was older when Herod slew the children.57  Thus Luke is talking about the time of Christ’s birth whereas Matthew is talking about two years after Christ’s birth.

However, the distinction is not so clear-cut as Madison would have one to believe. The term παιδίον is used of infants (Luke 1:59, 66, 76; 2:17, 27; John 16:21; Heb 11:23) and βρέφος is used of a young child (2 Tim 3:15). The word παῖς is used in the New Testament of a child six out of twenty-four times (the other eighteen occurrences speak of a servant). In the Old Testament the meaning “servant” is almost unanimous. In Matthew 2:16 παῖς would fall into the same age category as παιδίον since the latter term is used nine times in the same context. Furthermore, to say that Jesus was no longer an infant because the Magi visited Him in a house rather than a stable is quite weak. Certainly they would have moved to a house as soon as it was possible. Indeed the tone of Matthew 2:1 is that the Magi visited Christ soon after His birth. That Herod killed children up to two years old was only to be sure he got Jesus. This is not out of character with Herod. Therefore, the slaying of the children soon after Christ’s birth is tenable.

About thirty years of age.” In Luke 3:23 it states that Jesus began His ministry when He was about thirty years of age. This was preceded by the commencement of John the Baptist’s ministry which according to Luke 3:1 occurred in the fifteenth year of Tiberius. These passages will be studied in a later article in greater detail, but suffice it here, the fifteenth year of Tiberius was around (depending on how one reckons it) A.D. 27 to 29. How much latitude can one allow for ὡσεί “about” thirty years of age? It seems that no more than two or three years on either side of thirty is feasible. Hence, if Christ’s ministry began in A.D. 27 or 29, His birth would have had to be no earlier than 5 B.C. and it seems that late 5 B.C. or early 4 B.C. best satisfies all the evidence.58 

Conclusion. Having considered some of ‘these chronological notes it seems that the evidence would lead one to conclude that Christ’s birth occurred sometime in the winter of 5/4 B.C.

The Day of Christ’s Birth

There have been lengthy discussions on the day of Christ’s birth.59  Those who have studied the question, have advocates for almost every month of the year. Since it is beyond the scope of this article to do a detailed study of the day of Christ’s birth, only the two traditional dates will be mentioned.

The traditional dates for the birth of Christ from as early as Hippolytus (c. A.D. 165-235)60  has been December 25th. In the Eastern Church January 6th was the date for not only Christ’s birth, but also the arrival of the Magi on Christ’s second birthday, His baptism on His twenty-ninth year, and the sign at Cana on His thirtieth year. However, Chrysostom (A.D. 345-407) in 386 stated that December 25th is the correct date and hence it became the official date for Christ’s birth in the Eastern Church (January 6th was considered the day for the manifestations of the coming of the Magi, the baptism, and the sign at Cana).61

Although the exact date may not be pinpointed it seems that there is “a relatively old tradition of a midwinter birth, therefore a date in December or January is not in itself unlikely.”62

The one objection raised for the winter date is the fact of the shepherds attending their flock in the night (Luke 2:8). Usually, it is noted, the sheep were taken into enclosures from November until March and were not in the fields at night.63  However, this is not conclusive evidence against December being the time of Christ’s birth for the following reasons. First, it could have been a mild winter and hence the shepherds would have been outside with their sheep Second, it is not at all certain that sheep were brought under cover during the winter months.64  Third, it is true that during the winter months the sheep were brought in from the wilderness. The Lukan narrative states that the shepherds were around Bethlehem (rather than the wild thus indicating that the nativity was in the winter months. Finally, the Mishnah65  infers that the sheep around Bethlehem were outside all year, and those that were worthy for the Passover offerings were in the fields thirty days before the feast—which would be as early as February—one of the coldest and rainiest months of the year.66  Therefore, a December date for the nativity is acceptable.67

In conclusion, the exact date of the birth of Christ is difficult to know with finality. However, a midwinter date is most likely.


It is clear that Christ was born before Herod the Great’s death and after the census. In looking at the birth narratives of Matthew and Luke one would need to conclude that Christ was born of Mary within a year or two of Herod’s death. In looking to some of the other chronological notations in the gospels, the evidence led to the conclusion that Christ was born in the winter of 5/4 B.C. Although the exact date of Christ’s birth cannot be known, either December, 5 B.C. or January, 4 B.C. is most reasonable.


1  For more discussion on this, see Jack Finegan, Handbook of Biblical Chronology (Princeton, 1964), pp. 132-34; John Adam Robson, “Chronology: VIII Christian,” Encyclopaedia Britannica, V (1972), 728. 

2  Charles King, “The Outlines of New Testament Chronology,” The Church Quarterly Review, CXXIX (January-March, 1945), 142. 

3  G. Ogg, “Chronology of the New Testament,” Peakes Commentary on the Bible, ed. by Matthew Black (London, 1962), p. 728; G. Ogg, “Chronology of the New Testament,” The New Bible Dictionary, ed. by J. D. Douglas (1962), 223. 

4  W. E. Filmer, “The Chronology of the Reign of Herod the Great,” Journal of Theological Studies, XVII (October, 1966), 283–98. 

5  Appian Bella Civilia ii. 149; Plutarch Caesar lxii-lxvii; Seutonius Caesar lxxxi. 2; Suetonius Augustus c. 1; Dio Cassius lvi. 30; Josephus Antiquitates Judaicae xviii. 2. 2 § 32;  Bellum Judaicum ii. 9. 1 § 168 [hereafter Jos. Ant. and BJ respectively]. 

6  Jos. Ant. xiv. 14. 6 §§ 381–85; BJ i. 14. 4 §§ 282–85; cf. also Strabo xvi. 2.46; Appian Bella Civilia v. 75; Tacitus Historiae v. 9. 

7  Jos. Ant. xiv. 16. 2 §§ 470–80; BJ i. 18 2 §§ 349–52; Tacitus Historiae v. 9; Dio Cassius xlix. 22. 

8  Jos. Ant. xvii. 8. 1 § 191; BJ 1. 33. 8 § 665. 

9  Jos. Ant. xvii. 6. 4 § 167. 

10  Emil Schürer, A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Christ, trans. by John MacPherson, Sophia Taylor, and Peter Christie (2nd ed; Edinburgh, 1896), I, 1, 465 n. 165. 

11  Jos. BJ ii. 1. 3 § 10; Ant. xvii. 9. 3 § 213. 

12  Richard A. Parker and Waldo H. Dubberstein, Babylonian Chronology 626 B.C.-A.D. 75 (2nd ed.; Providence, 1956), p. 45. 

13  Ibid

14  Filmer (Journal of Theological Studies, XVII, 283–98) attempted to argue for January 1 B.C. for Herod’s death. But his theory will not stand as demonstrated by Timothy D. Barnes, “The Date of Herod’s Death,” Journal of Theological Studies, XIX (April, 1968), 204–9. 

15  Schürer, I, ii, 105–43. More recently Moehring has also argued that Luke is inaccurate historically and that the census is an apologetic device used by Luke to demonstrate that the Christian movement (along with Joseph’s family) was obedient to the Roman government as opposed to the rebel movement of the Zealots, Horst R. Moehring, “The Census in Luke as an Apologetic Device,” Studies in the New Testament and Early Christian Literature, ed. by David Edward Aune, Supplements to Novum Testamentum, XXXIII (Leiden, 1972), pp. 144-60. If it is an inaccurate historical account, how can it have any apologetic value? 

16  G. H. Stevenson, “The Imperial Administration,” The Cambridge Ancient History, ed. by S. A. Cook, F. E. Adcock, and M. P. Charlesworth (Cambridge, 1934), X, 192–93. 

17  Cf. W. M. Ramsay, The Bearing of Recent Discoveries on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament (4th ed.; London, 1920), pp. 255-74. 

18  A. N. Sherwin-White, Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament (Oxford, 1963), p. 168. 

19  W. M. Ramsey, Was Christ Born at Bethlehem? (London, 1898), pp. 123-24. 

20  Ulpian Iustiniani Digesta 1. 15. 4. 2. 

21  Adolf Deismann, Light from the Ancient East, trans. by Lionel R. M. Strachen (4th ed; New York, 1927), pp. 270-71. 

22  Ethelbert Stauffer, Jesus and His Story, trans. by Dorothea M. Barton (London, 1960), p. 35; cf. also Ramsay, Bearing of Recent Discoveries, pp. 258-74; Ramsay, Born at Bethlehem, pp. 131-48. 

23  Norval Geldenhuys, Commentary on the Gospel of Luke (London, 1950), pp. 100-101. 

24  Bo Reicke, The New Testament Era, trans. by David E. Green (Philadelphia, 1968), p. 106. 

25  Cf. Stauffer, p. 32; Finegan, p. 237. 

26  A. R. Bellinger, The Coins, Final Report VI of The Excavations at Dura-Europos, ed. by M. I. Rostovtzeff, et al. (New Haven, 1949), p. 86, nos. 1832, 1833.  

27  Tacitus Annales vi. 41. 

28  Stauffer, pp. 31-32. 

29  Jos. Ant. xvii. 11. 4 § 319; BJ ii. 6. 3 § 96. 

30  Alfred Plummer, The Gospel According to S. Luke (2nd ed; Edinburgh, 1898), p. 49. 

31  Cf. Harold W. Hoehner, Herod Antipas (Cambridge, 1972), pp. 298-300. 

32  Jos. Ant. xvi. 9. 3 § 290. 

33  Jos. Ant. xvii. 2. 4 § 42. 

34  Jos. Ant. xviii. 1. 1 §§ 1–10. 

35  George Ogg, “The Quirinius Question To-day,” The Expository Times, LXXIX (May, 1968), 235. 

36  Jos. Ant. xvii. 13. 2 §§ 342–44; BJ ii. 7. 3 §§ 111–13. 

37  Cf. Reicke, pp. 106, 135-36. 

38  This question will be treated in a subsequent article. 

39  Stauffer, pp. 30-31; cf. also L. Dupraz, De lassociation de Tibre au principat à la naissance du Christ, Vol. XLIII of Studia Friburgensia (Fribourg, 1966), pp. 143-220. 

40  ᾿Απογραφ̓ή in Jos. Ant. xviii. 1. 1 § 3 and ἀποτίμησις in xviii. 1.1 §§ 2, 4. 

41  Ramsay, Bearing of Recent Discoveries, pp. 275-300. 

42  Tacitus Annales iii. 48. 

43  Cf. Lily Ross Taylor, “Quirinius and the Census of Judaea,” The American Journal of Philology, LIV (April, May, June, 1933), 120–33; Ronald Syme, “Galatia and Pamphylia under Augustus: the Governorships of Piso, Quirinius, and Silvanus,” Klio, XXVII (1934), 131–38; A. G. Roos, “Die Quirinius-Inschrift,” Mnemosyne, IV (1941), 306–18. 

44  Ramsay, Born at Bethlehem, pp. 174-96. 

45  Sherwin-White, pp. 164-66. 

46  M.-J. Lagrange, “Où en est la question du recensement de Quirinius?” Revue Biblique, VIII (Janvier, 1911), 60–84. 

47  F. M. Heichelheim, “Roman Syria,” An Economic Survey of Ancient Rome, ed. by Tenney Frank (Baltimore, 1938), IV, 160–62. 

48  Nigel Turner, Grammatical Insights into the New Testament (Edinburgh, 1965), pp. 23-24. 

49  F. F. Bruce, New Testament History (London, 1969), p. 32 n. 1. This is a change from his earlier view, see Frederick Fyvie Bruce, “Census,” Twentieth Century Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, ed. by Lefferts A. Loetscher, I (1955), 222 and F. F. Bruce, “Quirinius,” The New Bible Dictionary, ed. by J. D. Douglas (1962), p. 1069. 

50  F. Blass and A. Debrunner, A Greek Grammar of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, trans. by Robert W. Funk (Chicago, 1961), 62; cf. also James Hope Moulton, Prolegomena, Vol. I of A Grammar of New Testament Greek (3rd ed; Edinburgh, 1908), pp. 79, 107; A. T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research (4th ed; New York, 1923), p. 669. Maximilian Zerwick, Biblical Greek, trans. adapted from the 4th Latin ed. by Joseph Smith (Rome, 1963), p. 50; Henry George Liddell and Robert Scott (comps.), A Greek-English Lexicon, new ed. rev. and augmented by Henry Stuart Jones (9th ed; Oxford, 1940), p. 1535; Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, trans. and adaptation of the 4th rev. and augmented ed. by William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich (Cambridge and Chicago, 1957), p. 733. 

51  Nigel Turner, Syntax, Vol. III of A Grammar of New Testament Greek (Edinburgh, 1963), p. 32. 

52  A. B. J. Higgins, “Sidelights on Christian Beginnings in the Graeco-Roman World,” The Evangelical Quarterly, XLI (October, 1969), 200–201. 

53  Cf. Hoehner, pp. 269-76. 

54  Irenaeus Adversus Haereses ii. 22. 6. 

55  Ogg, Peakes Commentary on the Bible, p. 728. 

56  The star which the Magi followed does not give any help in pinpointing the date of Christ’s birth. For a discussion of the star, see Kenneth D. Boa, “The Star of Bethlehem” (unpublished Th.M. thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1972). 

57  Leslie P. Madison, “Problems of Chronology in the Life of Christ” (unpublished Th.D. dissertation, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1963), pp. 25-27. 

58  Finegan (p. 248) comes to the same date though he uses some different data. 

59  Ibid., pp. 248-59; F. C. Conybeare, “The History of Christmas,” The American Journal of Theology, III (January, 1899), 1–21; Kirsopp Lake, “Christmas,” Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, ed. by James Hastings, III (1910), 601–8; J. Lamar Jackson, “Christmas,” Review and Expositor, XLI (October, 1944), 388–96; E. O. James, Seasonal Feasts and Festivals (New York, 1961), pp. 228-32. 

60  Hippolytus Comentarii in Danielem iv. 23. 3. 

61  Finegan, p. 258. 

62  Ibid., p. 259. 

63  A. T. Robertson, A Harmony of the Gospels for Students of the Life of Christ (New York, 1922), p. 267; Madison, pp. 53-54.  

64  Plummer, p. 55; William F. Arndt, The Gospel According to St. Luke (St. Louis, 1956), pp. 80-81. 

65  Shekalim vii. 4. 

66  Cf. Denis Baly, The Geography of the Bible (New York, 1957), pp. 41-66. 

67  Cf. also Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (3rd ed; London, 1886), I, 186–87; Samuel J. Andrews, The Life of Our Land upon the Earth (4th ed; New York, 1891), pp. 12-21, 87–89.