As I stated earlier, there are three things that need to be contextualized:
3. The biblical record
I have given a large part of the context regarding astronomy so my next step is to give the historical context.
A number of items need to be looked at, that help identify the birthdate of Jesus with more exactness. The 1st of these is that Jesus was born within the reign of Herod the great, before he died. Herod reigned from 36 B.C.E. to 1 B.C.E.
Josephus, the Historian said that Herod’s capture of Jerusalem coincided exactly with a Day of Atonement. 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. Clearly, this chronological fact leads one to 25 October, 36 B.C. for Herod’s capture of Jerusalem.
This destruction befell the city of Jerusalem when Marcus Agrippa and Caninius Gallus were consuls of Rome on the hundred eighty and fifth olympiad, on the third month, on the solemnity of the fast, as if a periodical revolution of calamities had returned since that which befell the Jews under Pompey; for the Jews were taken by him on the same day, and this was after twenty-seven years' time.
See also the list of Consuls and their respective dates... List of Consuls
Comemorative coins have been found that show this. Coins minted by Herod the Great to comemorate his victory in Jerusalem in 37/36 B.C. specifically on 10th of Tishrei, 3726 (Yom Kippur - Day of Atonement).
As you may know the Olympiads count 4 year periods, the 185th was from July 40 B.C. to June 36 B.C. but the Consuls were elected in December and started ruling on the Kalends of January (1st of January). Something that was instituted in 153 B.C. according to historical data. (See: Consul)
Thus we can establish that if we are to trust Josephus, The consuls could only have been elected for the year of 36 B.C. if we are to follow the sabbatical years and the olyimpiads.
According to Josephus, we also read...
When he had done these things, he died, the fifth day after he had caused Antipater to be slain; having reigned, since he had procured Antigonus to be slain, thirty-four years; but since he had been declared king by the Romans, thirty-seven.
Antigonus was executed a few months after the fall of Jerusalem, so it could not be earlier than September 22, 36 B.C (Gregorian). Thus according to my calculations 36 - 34 gives a date of 2 B.C.E for Herods death. This makes Herod’s 34th year start in Nisan in 2 B.C. (March 4, 2 B.C.) and it ends with Nisan in 1 B.C. (March 23, 1 B.C). Reigning dates of Monarchs are counted inclusively, which means the year he died was counted, whether he made it to the end of the year or not.
This leaves us with an actual date of 1 B.C for Herods death. In fact we can state that he died in January of 1 B.C. soon after a total lunar eclipse which occured on the 10th of January. The only reason people give a date of 4 B.C. is because of a partial lunar eclipse in that year, because according to the traditional counting done by historians, he would have died in 3 B.C. That is why they all state that Josephus counted one year too many...
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Head of Pompey.The Pompeian Era was a calendar era used by Hellenistic cities in Roman Palestine, in particular the cities of the Decapolis. The calendar counted the years from the region's conquest by the Roman general Pompey in 63 BCE. Many of these cities had been self-governing poleis before the Jewish Hasmoneans had conquered them in the 2nd century BCE. The Romans restored their self-governing status, so the conquest amounted to a "new foundation" of the cities, and they made that date the epochal year of their calendars. Some other nearby cities, such as Philadelphia, adopted the era even though they had never been under Hasmonean rule.
When archaeologists find Pompeian dates on a city's coins and inscriptions, they use them as evidence of the city's membership in the Decapolis league. However, some cities that ancient writers listed in the Decapolis did not use Pompeian dates. In particular, Damascus continued to reckon dates using the Seleucid era.
The region continued to use the Pompeian era during the Byzantine period, long after the term "Decapolis" had fallen out of use. The calendar was used even after the Muslim conquest of Syria in the 7th century CE. A church in Khilda, near Philadelphia (Amman), is inscribed with the Pompeian year 750, or 687 CE, several years after the Muslim conquest.
Dates in the Pompeian Era
1 PE = 63 BCE
63 PE = 1 BCE
64 PE = 1 CE
699 PE = 636 CE (Battle of Yarmouk)
2073 PE = 2010 CE
Source: The Pompeian Era
Now we come to another aspect that is well known regarding the birth of Jesus and that is the so called worldwide census ordered by the Roman Empire, the one that would have forced Joseph and Mary to go to Bethlehem, from which their family was originally from as part of the Davidic line.
An inscription found in Paphlagonia (north central Asia Minor) that is clearly dated to 3 B.C. records an oath of obedience "taken by the inhabitants of Paphlagonia and the Roman businessmen dwelling among them." (Lewis and Reinhold, Roman Civilization, II.Pages 34–35).
In the third year from the twelfth consulship of the Emperor Caesar Augustus, son of a god, March 6, in the … at Gangra, the following Oath was taken by the inhabitants of Paphlagonia and the Roman businessmen dwelling among them:
“I swear by Jupiter, Earth, Sun, by all the gods and goddesses, and by Augustus himself, that I will be loyal to Caesar Augustus and to his children and descendants all my life in word, in deed, and in thought, regarding as friends whomever they so regard, and considering as enemies whomever they so adjudge; that in defense of their interests I will spare neither body, soul, life, not children, but will in every way undergo every danger in defense of their interests; that whenever I perceive or hear anything being said or planned or done against them I will lodge information about this and will be an enemy to whoever says or plans or does any such thing; and that whomever they adjudge to be enemies I will by land and sea, with weapons and sword, pursue and punish. But if I do anything contrary to this oath, or not in conformity with what I swore, I myself call down upon myself, my body, my soul, my life, my children, and all my family and property, utter ruin and utter destruction unto all my issue and all my descendants, and may neither earth nor sea receive the bodies of my family or my descendants, or yield fruits to them.”
The same Oath was sworn by all the people in the land at altars of Augustus in the temples of Augustus in the various districts. In this manner did the people of Phazimon, who inhabit the city now called Neapolis, all together swear the Oath in the temple of Augustus at the altar of Augustus.
The inscription states that Romans as well as non-citizens took the oath. And importantly, the whole of the population were required to swear it. "The same oath was sworn also by all the people in the land at the altars of Augustus in the temples of Augustus in the various districts." This was in 3 B.C.
Also, in Judaea an oath was required of all the people at the same time. It is likely that the oath mentioned by Josephus was the same that the people of Paphlagonia were required to give.
For there was a certain sect of men that were Jews, who valued themselves highly upon the exact skill they had in the law of their fathers, and made men believe they were highly favored by God, by whom this set of women were inveigled. These are those that are called the sect of the Pharisees, who were in a capacity of greatly opposing kings. A cunning sect they were, and soon elevated to a pitch of open fighting and doing mischief. Accordingly, when all the people of the Jews gave assurance of their good-will to Caesar, and to the king's government, these very men did not swear, being above six thousand; and when the king imposed a fine upon them, Pheroras's wife paid their fine for them. In order to requite which kindness of hers, since they were believed to have the foreknowledge of things to come by Divine inspiration, they foretold how God had decreed that Herod's government should cease, and his posterity should be deprived of it; but that the kingdom should come to her and Pheroras, and to their children. These predictions were not concealed from Salome, but were told the king; as also how they had perverted some persons about the palace itself; so the king slew such of the Pharisees as were principally accused, and Bagoas the eunuch, and one Carus, who exceeded all men of that time in comeliness, and one that was his catamite. He slew also all those of his own family who had consented to what the Pharisees foretold; and for Bagoas, he had been puffed up by them, as though he should be named the father and the benefactor of him who, by the prediction, was foretold to be their appointed king; for that this king would have all things in his power, and would enable Bagoas to marry, and to have children of his own body begotten.
So we have the very oath mentioned by dozens of independant sources all over the Empire. An oath taken by all peoples Roman and Non Roman that were under the power of the Roman Empire at the time. Or was Israel the sole exception?
The Armenian historian Moses of Khoren said that the native sources he had available showed that in the second year of Abgar, king of Armenia in 3 B.C., this oath of allegience brought Roman agents to Armenia, bringing the image of Augustus Caesar, which they set up in every temple. Abgar then a problem with Herod (who is supposed to be dead at this time). He also states categorically that this is the census referred to by Luke.
R.W. Thomson, Moses of Khoren's History of the Armenians, II.26.
Here is another source for this oath of allegience...
“[Augustus] ordered that a census be taken of each province everywhere and that all men be enrolled. ... This is the earliest and most famous public acknowledgment which marked Caesar as the first of all men and the Romans as lords of the world, a published list of all men entered individually .... This first and greatest census was taken, since in this one name of Caesar all the peoples of the great nations took oath, and at the same time, through the participation in the census, were made apart of one society”
As we can see, all the evidence points to the year 3 BC as the year of Jesus birth. so how do we know which month it was?
The bible is not specific but a number of illuminating passages help us to get more information. We know that it happened after the anouncement of the universal oath required by Caesar Augustus and decreed by King Herod. This universal oath of allegience was presented on February 5, 2 B.C. Augustus was given the title Pater Patriae (Father of the Country) by decree of the Senate and the people of Rome. The festivities coincided with his 25the jubilee year of being emperor of Rome and the 750the year of the founding of Rome.
Thus we know that Jesus was certainly born before this time. The oath would have been signed or marked by each person taking the oath, a list would then be compiled of all the people who took the oath and this list numbering in the millions would then have been presented to Caesar Augustus on that day. The oath is mentioned by a number of historians and attested to historically.
Thus the oath itself would have been required during the preceeding year, of 3 B.C, for all the people to participate in the oath of allegience. Historically these census' and other registrations usually took place between July and October. Ther was a practical reason for this, the summer months provided excellent travelling conditions, while earlier in the year, rainfall would have caused populations, problems in obeying official eddicts. When this is connected with the priestly courses of the priesthood, we get to Septemebr, 3 B.C.
We know that Jesus was born in September due to another aspect found in the bible...
“There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zechariah, of the course Abijah and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.”
This verse tells us something about the parents of John the Baptist. Zechariah was a priest whose duty it was, on certain occasions, to offer the national sacrifices in the temple at Jerusalem. While he was accomplishing his assigned requirements, Luke said an angel came to him and told him that his wife Elizabeth would bear a child. Zechariah could hardly believe what he was told because Elizabeth was beyond the age of childbearing. The angel understood his reason for disbelief; so, Zechariah was struck dumb to prove the certainty of what was prophesied. When Zechariah came out of the inner temple, the people perceived that he had seen a vision and were amazed that he was unable to speak. They realized that something significant had been pointed out to Zechariah.
Luke tells us that all this happened while Zechariah “executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course” (Luke 1:8). He was performing his priestly duties “according to the custom of the priest’s office” (Luke 1:9).
The period for the eighth course of Abijah would have been from May 19 to May 26. If it were in this springtime administration when the angelic messenger came to Zechariah about his wife having a child, then we have a chronological hint of the period for John the Baptist’s conception — because it must have happened immediately after that time.
Indeed, because Zechariah was struck dumb during his administration, he was disqualified at once from exercising the priest’s office (Leviticus 21:16–23). He no doubt left very soon for home. Thus, somewhere near May 26 to June 1, Elizabeth must have conceived. The human gestation period is about 280 days (40 weeks). This shows the birth of John the Baptist near March 10, 3 B.C.
Thus Mary became pregnant at the end of December to Mid-January. She went to visit Elizabeth who was six months pregnant at the time, and she stayed there in or around Jerusalem until shortly before John the Baptist was born, in March.
All this is quite clear in Luke Chapter 1
This naturally allows us to calculate that Jesus was thus born sometime in September. When we add the astronomical information given in my 1st post we get 11th September 3 B.C.E.