On what day was Jesus actually born? What year? Does the timing matter? Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25, but virtually all Christians know that day isn’t the real birth date of the messiah. While that is certainly the case, has the birth date of Jesus been lost to time, or can it be reckoned. This episode of the podcast explores these questions and provides a solution draw from Scripture, backed by both Jewish messianic tradition and astronomy.
The episode is now live.
Is there a way we can pinpoint when the Magi arrived to Jesus with their gifts? So far the data is fantastic, since we can see the retrograde motion of Jupiter (starting on 11th September for 9 months) finishing in June 2 b.c., thus would this suggest that the movement of the star coincides with a June visitation of the Magi, or a 25th December visitation of the Magi, 1 year and 3 months after Jesus was born? Either way, this nicely fits with Herod’s death on 10th January of 1 b.c., coinciding with the full lunar eclipse at around 1 am, and thus with Matthew’s insights on Herod’s killing of male children 2 years and younger: “according to the time that he had determined from the wise men.” (Matthew 2:16)
Martin does that (Star that Astonished the World). I can’t recall what chapter off the top of my head.
Great Dr. Heiser! Just the kind of Jesus oriented content one needs this Christmas! I find it odd how most people these days remember Santa more than the Lord. *Sigh* At least CNN has something on about Jesus, though it seems to be about Mary Magdalen with Christ as the background for her story. People unfamiliar with the actual scholarship are going to believe all of it… *sigh* I already had one member of my family ask, “Is that true, was Jesus married?” Again… *sigh*
(At least the Shroud of Turin episode was more worthwhile.)
Anyways, Dr. Heiser, thank you for taking time from your Christmas holiday to provide this for people hungry for well informed Christian scholarship. May the Lord remember the love you have for him and his brothers, my friend. God bless.
There is also the recent book by the Biblical scholar Colin Nichol on it. See an interview that was released a few days ago: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_RF_gMw29w&t=01s
This has a different slant on the evidence.
No doubt. My astronomer (doing this for 40 years) has been through them all.
Hey Mike, any Divine Council connections to the heavenly host that appeared to the shepherds at Jesus’ birth?
nothing specific, other than their presence — which is significant given the “divine king” framework for all that. And if you take Isa 9:6 the way the LXX does (unlike MT “his name shall be called wonderful counselor, mighty God, prince of peace, etc.” LXX has “he shall be the messenger (angelos) of the great council”).
I immensely enjoyed this podcast! I’ve seen your Utube video on Rev 12 which was great but this goes into much more detail. You mentioned how some have also related Rev 12 to the second coming of the Messiah. The date of September 23, 2017 has the similar astronomical alignments as September 11 3b.c. Thank you for your comments about how this is a date setting fallacy and an irresponsible interpretation of scripture. Is there anything else you can say about this, or do I need to be patient and wait for your book that’s forthcoming on Astro-theology?
Thanks. I don’t know if the astro-theology book will be written. I won’t know for another month or so if I can get to it, or if I want to work on it ahead of something else. If you subscribe to my newsletter, you’ll know what my time constraints are. I just have to pick.
Hi Mike, I’m an amateur astronomer and even in my university days I created astronomy program to make simulations on planetary movements.
I have a couple of comments concerning the topic from Magi’s perspective.
I’m not convinced that the Jupiter’s triple conjunction with Regulus in 3 and 2 BC would be sufficient enough for Magi’s to conclude that there will be born Judean king. Granted, there is connection between kingship of Juda which is called lion (Gen 49:9-10).
The thing is that Jupiter is in conjunction with Regulus practically every year (//edit: correction every 12 years), so it is not something special. They would need something more beside that.
But I see it very speculative that Magi would give any significance for Sun and Moon in Virgo since they did not have Rev 12 written – and I’m not sure that they would be able to connect Sun and Moon in Virgo with Virgin birth alluded in Isaiah.
Even if they were expecting that kind of celestial arrangement there is very similar thing in Sept 6, 27 BC: Sun in midst of Virgo, Moon under her feet, Jupiter AND Saturn very near Regulus but we have no records of Magi going to Judea on that occasion.
Also similar alignment is on Aug 30, 10 AD.
ps: Jupiter is in (first) conjunction with Regulus not on Sept 11, but Sept 14, 3 BC.
Correct –it’s not special. It’s part of a larger complex of ideas. And they wouldn’t need to connect it with a VIRGIN birth, only the birth of a king (Isa 7 was directed to Ahaz, the Davidic king). The connection of these objects in ancient star lore with royal births is well documented in basically all the Mediterranean cultures whose star lore we have. We’re also working with naked eye astronomy, so a conjunction that would appear to the naked eye won’t be as precise as something with software. Any astronomy questions can be directed to my astronomer, so I’ve copied this to him. Be prepared if he decides to interact with it. He’s been doing this for 40 years and won’t hesitate to critique your work (usually nicely).
Thanks for the reply. Now I see that I got a lapsus: Jupiter can be at conjunction with Regulus every 12 years (as it’s orbital period around the Sun) and not every year. So if you don’t mind forwarding this my correction to you astronomer 🙂
No problem if he chooses to comment my comment 😉
I will do so!
Dear Dr. Heiser,
I came across your work just recently. Since then I have managed to read three of your books and started listening to Naked Bible podcast (some of them twice), with the last Podcast (What Day was Jesus Born?) being an exception: three times. I really appreciate your scholarly work and may God bless you with more academic insight for many years to come.
Perhaps this has already been addressed but why isn’t Serpens (the Serpent) a contender for the constellation of the dragon? It is also at the feet of Virgo and above his head is the constellation Corona Borealis (Southern Crown) which has seven stars (seven crowns). It is struggling with Orphiucus (representing the struggle of Michael and the Dragon), it’s next to the constellation Aquila the Eagle (Rev. 12:14) which is in turn next to Aquarius (Rev. 12:15). Of course there’s nothing that states that John isn’t looking at all the constellations from Draco down to Scorpoi/Libra when writing as dragons/serpents and fighting them runs through each. Or else I could just be reading far too much into it, I’ll admit.
A possible reason to doubt that the dragon is the Scorpio/Libra combo is that John seems to separate them in Rev. 6 in which the first horse is Sagittarius, the archer horesman, who is awarded the crown, Corona Australis, who is followed by Scorpio (Aqerab), then the third horseman holding the scales, Libra. But if the horsemen do derive from these constellations there isn’t any rule demanding that John can’t separate Scorpio and the new Roman constellation Libra in one instance and have the more traditional combination of the two in another.
I know you stress that the battle in Rev 12 doesn’t have pre-Jesus’ birth in view but do you think that it’s possible that John is trying to conjure the Watcher mythos here? Just as the woman represents both Mary and Israel/Church we do have some features in common such as descending celestial beings (like at Hermon), followed by the son being caught up to God similarly as God did for Enoch, followed by a flood. Obvious differences, of course, as this flood was caused by the dragon to kill the woman instead of by God to kill the Nephilim. A kind of type/anti-type, perhaps?
These were just some thoughts and I’d be interested in any comments.
It is a contender, and I believe I said that in the episode.
The advantage Hydra has is it’s connection to Leviathan/chaos, which is where the heads imagery comes from in the OT. The advantage of serpens/scorpio is that it’s on the ecliptic. But “before” (Greek: enopion) in 12:4 doesn’t require a position of under the woman (like scorpio is due to its ecliptic position).
I’ve listened to this episode three times already. Fascinating stuff. Dr. Heiser, you refer to Beale’s commentary several times in this
episode. Do you know his view on the 911, 3BC date?
He doesn’t take Rev 12 as astral prophecy, but I don’t think he’s actually considered it. Generally, I’m betting Malina’s over-use of it has ruined it for him. He does mention Malina’s book a few times and criticizes its dismissal of Revelation’s use of the OT (and I agree with Beale there). Malina also doesn’t try to use the information in Rev 12 to actually reconstruct a chronology based on astronomy, so in Beale’s rejection of Malina he isn’t rejecting the Sept 11 3 BC thing — he’s likely never heard of it, and/or is content with what other astronomers say about the star (who don’t factor in Rev 12).
It’s like ships passing in the night.
Someone mentioned in a comment section that their father was a doctor and calculated the conception date as very possibly being on the 25th of December with the birth date being September 11th. Thought it was interesting and I didn’t know if it had been mentioned before.
No idea; Martin (as memory serves) tries to link Dec 25 to the Magi visit. I think that’s a pointless conjecture.