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Dating Birth of Christ (Part 1 of 9 John Pratt)

Thanksgiving is the unoffical start to the Christmas season. I’m both excited and sad to share this episode with our listeners.  I’m excited to introduce you an astronomer, Dr. John Pratt. In this first episode, we’ll talk about dating both the First Vision and the birth of Christ. It turns out that John says these events are related!

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John:  So, if you look at when is the Friday the 14th of Nisan, it’s either A.D. 30 or 33. you’ve got two choices. When you read the ancient fathers, Eusebius and those, they tell you about when Christ was born, and it’s about either two or one B.C.  That would make him 33 years old when he’s crucified. That’s what everybody believed until different things happened, and everybody switched things. If you believe in Josephus, who is wrong on so many things, he gives the date of the death of Herod. He had, I believe, two records in front of him and he gives two different dates. He picked between them, and he picked the wrong date. I have a whole paper on this. So, he says, he basically is saying the Herod died about 3 B.C. Then, modern scholars say, “Well, we don’t like 3, but 4 B.C. there was an eclipse to the moon, when he died.”  So, they’re all excited about 4 B.C., eclipse of the moon. Then, if he died in 4 B.C., that means you’ve got to pick the earlier date for his resurrection, AD 30.

GT:  Okay.

John:  But, there was a total eclipse of the sun on December 27th, 1 BC, which is the actual eclipse.  Anyway, they’ve had it wrong all this time. About 10% of scholars believe in the A.D. 33 date, but something like 90% believe in the A.D. 30 date.

GT:  So, you think he was born in 1 BC?

John:  Yeah, April 6th, 1 B.C.

GT:  April 6th, 1 B.C.

John: It’s right out of James Talmage [book], Jesus the Christ. “We believe Jesus was born…” He’s actually born on the evening before, just like we hold Christmas Eve pageants, the night before, when the shepherds are in the field. So, we would technically call it April 5th, after sunset, but on the Hebrew calendar, after sunset is part of the next day. The day to celebrate is April 6.

GT:  This is interesting. I’m just going to throw it out there really quickly. Dr. Jeffrey Chadwick at BYU

John:  Yes, I know.

GT:  He thinks it was in December.

John:  Oh my goodness.

GT:  And then Thomas Wayment says you really can’t pick a date.

John:  I know.  Bless their hearts.  They’re doing the best they can. Everybody’s trying the best they can. I read Chadwick’s 55-page letter to BYU Studies. He’s doing the best he can.

GT:  I think we’re going to have to make this a good Christmas episode.  This will be good. There’s more dispute about…

John:  The thing I have that Chadwick and nobody else has, is there’s a whole series of sacred calendars on his birth date. I mean, I’ll just [say this.] There’s a whole series and his birth date is very important and new stars are appearing and things. It’s a holy day on many calendars.

When do you think Christ was born?

I interviewed Dr. John Pratt back in June, and I’m extremely sad to report that John passed away on October 12, 2021, from COVID pneumonia. I wish he had a chance to see it before he passed. So, I’d like to dedicate this interview to his family. We’ve lost a brilliant mind and spirit and I mourn the loss for all of us.  I hope you enjoy our conversation….

Dr. John Pratt discusses the birth of Christ.

Don’t miss our other conversations about the Birth of Christ!

Dr. Jeffrey Chadwick: Jesus Was Born in December

Dr. Jeffrey Chadwick is a New Testament scholar at BYU. He uses the Book of Mormon and BIble to calculate Christ's birth in December.
Dr. Jeffrey Chadwick is a New Testament scholar at BYU. He uses the Book of Mormon and Bible to calculate Christ’s birth in December.

235: Myth of the Lambing Season (Chadwick)

234: Is Christmas a Celebration of Sun? (Chadwick)

233: How Jesus’s Death Relates to his Birth Date (Chadwick)

231: Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, & Birth of Christ (Chadwick)

229: Was Jesus Born in December? (Chadwick)


Dr. Thomas Wayment Talks New Testament Scholarship, JST

Thomas Wayment discusses JST, Bible translations, and the Christmas stories.
BYU professor Dr. Thomas Wayment discusses JST, Bible translations, and the Christmas stories.

230: Christmas Legends: Herod, Wise Men, the Star (Wayment)

228: Separating Fact and Fiction on Birth of Christ (Wayment)

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Strangite Teachings about Jesus (Part 5 of 6)

Most Christians believe that God, not Joseph, is the biological father of Jesus.  I was surprised to learn that Strangites break with most Christians on this important point.  Historian Bill Shepard will tell us more about Strangite beliefs about Jesus.

GT:  I remember reading in your book that Strangites believe that God has a body of flesh and bone.

Bill:  That’s right.

GT:  So that would be very similar with the Utah church, in that regard.

Bill:  Yeah, it’d be similar, particularly with The Lectures on Faith, the first and sixth Lectures on Faith.

GT:  It’s interesting that you say that because I remember when I read Lectures on Faith, it seemed very Trinitarian to me.

Bill  60:14  I think it was, but it was saying that God cannot change. Where the difference would be, the Brighamites, with the eternal progression–I’m not shooting at Brighamites. I’m just saying that that the idea comes in that God can change.  There can be evolution in God, where the Strangites, of course, would be so strongly different is that God cannot change.

GT:  Okay.  So let’s move on to Jesus, because what you said, I think it is a very different belief with regards to Jesus.  Jesus was the son of Joseph and Mary, like the literal son, not [the son of] Mary and God.

Bill:  Yeah. That’s right.

GT:  I think that’s really surprising to people.

Bill:  The idea of the immaculate conception, Isaiah 7:14, “A virgin shall conceive and bear a child and it shall be [called Immanuel].”  So this idea is rejected. That prophecy is fulfilled. It was given to Ahaz and it was fulfilled at that time, and it was plucked out by the evolving Christian Church to make Christ more palatable to people who believed in virgin birth. So Strang is going to teach that Jesus…I think there’s a lot we don’t understand or maybe I don’t understand, but that Jesus is born in the natural way. Whether it was through administered by angels or something, but he is going to realize that, as he is evolving, that he is special. The Book of the Law is going to say that, during this period, that Jesus was wholly harmless, and without sin.  He never stepped aside once from the path of rectitude to do a single evil deed.  Jesus would never do anything to imperil his brethren and so forth like this. We believe that Jesus is caught up by the angel, taken into the wilderness, the 40 days, the 40 nights. We believe that he is ordained by an angel.  We don’t know when, but that when he comes out of the wilderness, he is armed. He is a first-degree law-giver prophet, or the prophet. He is not God. He is armed with the priesthood and through the power of the priesthood, and his immaculate good works. Again, the phrase the Strangites like to use is wholly harmless, and without sin. He is never stepping aside from the path of rectitude to do a single evil deed.  Christ maintained this sinless mortal life. Because he was able to maintain this with total allegiance to God, the relationship that he never seemingly took [upon himself], he gave the credit to God. So anyway, at the Mount of Transfiguration, the Strangites believe and it talks when Peter, James and John go to a high mountain apart, they believe that God appeared, himself, and ordained him.

GT: Ordained Jesus?

Bill:  [The angels] ordained Jesus to be the Son of God. He is elevated by the power of the priesthood. We say Jesus did not have his full power at that time. Strangites would say that it is only after he is resurrected, the only person Christ would resurrect. With the resurrection, Jesus is going to say to various people that he is now perfected, because he has the keys of death and hell. So he came by this on his total faith that he would be resurrected. They believe that the person that appeared to Peter and the other people and the ladies and so forth, that this was, indeed the Son of God.

Check out our conversation…

Strangites don’t believe in the Immaculate Conception. James Strang taught Jesus had human parents like everyone else.

Don’t miss our other conversations with Bill!

400: Martyrdom of James Strang (Shepard)

399: Strang’s Prophetic Role as Translator (Shepard)

398: Strang’s Mormon Missions (Shepard)

397: “The Other Mormons”-Intro to James Strang

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Myth of the Lambing Season (Part 5 of 5)

We’re finishing our conversation with Dr. Jeff Chadwick, a New Testament scholar at BYU.  We’ll talk about what he calls, the myth of the lambing season.  How cold is it in Israel in December?

Jeff:  The average day in Jerusalem in December and January is partly cloudy with green grass and jacket temperatures, nothing like the winters of Utah and Idaho. That brings up another thing and this is what I call the myth of the lambing season.

GT: Oh really?

Jeff:  Yeah, because, you know, the idea that Jesus was born in the Spring, was not unique to Latter-day Saints in the 1800’s. Others were suggesting this as well. Protestant writers in America familiar with freezing North American winters, because they were usually from New England or somewhere like that, couldn’t imagine how shepherds could be in the fields abiding by their flocks in December, “Aww, just much too cold. No shepherd could be out with his flocks in December,” they ruled. So, it must be in the springtime because spring is when the lambs are born and since Jesus was the lamb of God, that’s when he would have been born, too, is in the spring. This, of course, plays in really well with the tradition among the Latter-day Saints that Jesus was born in April. The problem is it’s an entire falsity. The reason why is that shepherds did and still do go out with their flocks all Winter long.

I have stood in the fields outside of Bethlehem on several Christmas Eves because I get to be there from time to time and the shepherds are out there with their sheep and little lambs have been born already in December. They don’t wait. Now here in our climate, just because of the way that the lambs and the sheep bear, they’ll wait until it’s a little warmer and they’ll lamb in March and April. But that’s not the way that it works in the holy land because the climate doesn’t require it. Biology works partially because of its climate.

We’ll also talk about what projects he is working on.  Check out our conversation…

Would shepherds really be in their fields in December?  Isn't it too cold for that?
Would shepherds really be in their fields in December? Isn’t it too cold for that?

Check out our other conversations with Dr. Chadwick!

234: Is Christmas a Celebration of Sun? (Chadwick)

233: How Jesus’s Death Relates to his Birth Date (Chadwick)

231: Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, & Birth of Christ (Chadwick)

229: Was Jesus Born in December? (Chadwick)