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Was Jesus Born in December? (Part 1)

Dr. Jeffrey Chadwick, New Testament scholar at BYU has done a lot of research to identify when Jesus was born. He thinks Jesus was born December of 5 BC.  How does he come to that conclusion?

GT:  I know you wrote a BYU Studies article about eight years ago, I think it was.

Jeff: It was in 2010, December of 2010. The article appeared, dating the birth of Jesus Christ. So when was Jesus born? Well, [we ] have data that we have that are connected to what we call the Christmas story, both from the texts in Matthew, the texts in Luke, the associated texts in Josephus that talk about Herod the Great, and for us as Latter-day Saints, the Book of Mormon. All of the evidence put together from those texts suggest to me that Jesus was born late in the year 5 BC, actually in early winter of 5/4 BC. So for us, that essentially means December.

In this first episode, we’ll dig deep into the census mentioned in Luke 2.  Many scholars believe this census happened in 6 AD.  How does Dr. Chadwick reconcile this?

Jeff: King James is a translation of the Greek and it doesn’t say census there. It’s says enrollment. Let me just see, and pick it up there. But, the idea that is a census is something that has bounced around 20th century scholarship. But, I don’t feel that what was happening there was a census in the word that we’re used to it.

GT: All the world should be taxed, right?

Jeff: Taxed. It’s a taxing. This taxing first occurred, says Luke 2, when Cyrenius, or as we would call him, Quirinius, was the governor of Syria. Well, the word taxing here in your King James version, if you’re using a nice LDS edition, if you go down to the footnote, you will see that the word taxing is called enrollment. It’s not the word census that is used in that Greek alternative. It’s enrollment. And what this was in reality was a city register. If you’ve lived in America, you’ve never had to enroll. But if you go to any city in Europe, I served in Germany for example. If you move to a city, you have to register with the government for that city to let them know you’re moving there and will be a citizen. If you leave that city, you unregister and the new city you go to, you register it. And this is a European tradition that that comes clear from the Roman Empire.

Check out our conversation…..

Dr. Jeffrey Chadwick believes Jesus born in December.
Dr. Jeffrey Chadwick believes Jesus born in December.

If you would like a different perspective, see our previous interview with Dr. Thom Wayment.  He doesn’t think the birth of Christ can be dated so precisely.

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Separating Fact from Fiction on the Birth of Christ (Part 1)

I’m excited to have Dr. Thomas Wayment discuss fact and fiction surrounding stories of the birth of Christ.  Dr. Wayment is a New Testament scholar at BYU.  You may want to bookmark this page as later in the week we will compare notes with fellow scholar Dr. Jeffrey Chadwick, who think Jesus was born in December.  Is there such clarity in the New Testament?  Tom and co-author Lincoln Blumell wrote an article in BYU Studies on the dating of Christ’s birth.

Tom:  Our intent wasn’t to say, “It’s not really December, it’s April.”  Our intent was to say “We can’t know within that kind of time frame, especially not a month.”  A year, we might get within a year or two is about the best we can do.

What is the span of years that we can pinpoint the birth of Jesus?

Tom:  It seems that everyone agrees that Herod was alive when Jesus was born.  That gives us a pretty good point after which we can start talking.  Herod dies in 4 B.C.  That’s a date there is not a lot of dispute about.  I’ve seen a recent monograph and some are saying maybe spring of 5 B.C.

One real monkey-wrench here is that Luke says that there was a census by a man named Quirinius or Cyrenius in translation that a lot of Latter-day Saints use, and he is governor in Syria in 6 A.D.  So there is no possible way that Herod is alive and Cyrenius does a census.

So there is a decade gap between these two dates.  What does Tom think is the best date?  Check out our conversation….

Is it true that estimate range from 5 B.C. to 6 A.D for the birth of Jesus?
Is it true that estimate range from 5 B.C. to 6 A.D for the birth of Jesus?
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Conspiracy Theories: Sam Smith, William Smith, James Strang (Part 4)

Steve Shields and I discuss the conspiracy theories against William & Sam Smith following the death of Joseph & Hyrum.

Following the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, brother Samuel died within a month.  Was Samuel poisoned?

Steve:  You know, conspiracy theorists. Okay, fine. Was he poisoned deliberately? Who knows? There’s no way to know. The typical story had been that he, was [ill with] was it pneumonia or cholera or, I can’t remember what. In those days, in the Midwest, in the summer months, you had malaria, you had typhus, you had cholera. I mean, that stuff was rampant. Their food sanitation was different from what we would have today. It could’ve been any number of things, I think. There’s no way to ever know for sure now, even if we were to exhume his remains, there’s not enough left to do any of that kind of study, probably. Was he poisoned deliberately by somebody? Well, it could be, but why? Maybe I have a different view of Brigham young and his colleagues than some, I’m not willing to just write Brigham Young off and call him an evil, you know, usurper.

Were people out to kill the other prophet’s brother William?

GT:  Back to William Smith. So he came to Nauvoo [in] September of 1844.

Steve:   By the end of August, early September, he was back in Nauvoo, I’m pretty sure.

GT:  And Brigham ordained him as patriarch.

Steve: He was called as patriarch and I presume they ordained him. I don’t know, because I’m not sure that all that ritual stuff had really been solidified at that early time. I don’t know. Today, of course we would always do that. Did they need to? He was already an apostle. Maybe he just needed to be designated that. I don’t know.

What about James Strang?

Steve:  Within weeks of affiliating, William Smith was disaffiliated, and that was before Strang ever got involved, ever publicly announced polygamy. I’m not sure when he [William] got involved in it. Somebody knows those dates, I just can’t remember them.

William Smith was there long enough to write this hymn that was published in Strang’s paper at Voree, which is near Burlington, Wisconsin. Actually, it’s now part of the city limits, but it [the hymn] was an ode to Voree, and it has something like 15 verses.

Check out our conversation…

Here’s the first 3 parts with Steve Shields!

226: Sidney’s Unsung Role in Restoration (Shields)

225: Steve’s Shields Own Divergent Path

224: Who Owns the Temple Lot? (Shields)