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Bible Q

When was Jesus born?

Despite our modern calendar having dates specified by AD (in the year of our Lord) and BC (before Christ), Jesus was not born in the year 0. In fact, there was no year zero.

According to our calendar, the year 1 BC was followed by the year AD 1. Apparently a Scythian monk, Dionysius Exiguus, forgot to include the year 0 between 1 BC and AD 1, when he was instructed to develop a new calendar in the 6th century AD. This anomaly must be accounted for when calculating time periods that begin BC and finish AD.

This hapless monk also overlooked some years of the Roman emperor, Augustus. Thus, the birth of Jesus is actually dated BC! The most likely date is around 5 or 6 BC. Despite the celebration of Christmas, we don’t actually know what time of year he was born.

For more detail on biblical chronology, see The Times.

6 Replies to “When was Jesus born?”

  1. Hi Rob,
    Actually Dennis the Little was right not to include a year 0 because 0 is simply a reference point and has no quanity. It’s like a thermometer where everything is counted above or below the reference point of 0

  2. On a thermometer, the difference between -1 and +1 is 2 degrees. With BC/AD dates, the difference between 1BC and 1AD is 1 year. That is the problem.

  3. I would have thought that from Jan. BC1 until Dec. AD1 would be two years ie 24 months. From 12 months below zero to 12 months above zero just the same as a thermometer.

  4. Yes, from 1 Jan BC1 to 31 Dec AD1 is 2 years. But that is not equivalent to going from -1 to +1 degrees as it is not at the same time in each year. It is like going from -1degrees to +1.99 degrees.

  5. Hi Rob,

    I’ve heard it said that Luke 2:8 – where it says ‘there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night’ – might indicate that Jesus was born in warmer months (i.e. definitely not in winter; the shepherds would not have been outside in the cold winter), but I don’t know anything about Mediterranean seasons or shepherds to know if this is right.

    Do you know anything about this?

  6. It can snow around bethlehem in winter. It’s pretty widely accepted that the Christmas date of 25Dec is of pagan origin. But that doesn’t really help us know exactly when Jesus was born