Dates of the birth and death of Jesus- Jewish Temple Priest Rotation- Courses of Priest from 70 AD to 4 BC


The date of Jesus’ birth: The fulfillment of Tabernacles
Luke tells us that John the Baptist began his ministry in the 15th year of Tiberius Caesar (Lk 3:1), who reigned from September 17, 14 AD[1] to 37 AD.  That means his 15th year began on September 17, 28 AD and ended at his 15th anniversary which would have been Sept. 17, 29 AD. 
John was the son of a priest.  John would have been trained as a priest.  A priest began his ministry at age 30.  We also know that Jesus was 30 when He was baptized by John and began his ministry (Lk 3:23), about 6 months after John began his ministry.   So, if John was 30 by September 17, 29 AD then he was born in 2 BC or late 3 BC.  There was no year 0.  So, if he was born in 2 BC, he was 1 in 1 BC; 2 in 1 AD; and 30 in 29 AD.  Thus, John would have most likely been conceived in 3 BC. 
We know from scripture that Zechariah was serving in the temple during his divisions “normal” course of service when the angel appeared to him (Lk 1:11).  Normal course of service means he was not serving during one of the convocations during which a man from any division could serve for the Feast specific offerings.  We know that he was of the division of Abijah (Lk 1:5) which is the eighth division.  There were 24 divisions (1Chr 24:7-18), and each served for a week twice a year.  24 divisions twice a year is 48 weeks. There are 51 weeks (50 weeks and 4 days) in a year on the Jewish calendar.  In a leap year there is an additional 4 weeks and 2 days. The temptation is to consider that the extra weeks were all common weeks or that the rotation continued during the leap year but paused during the convocations: festival weeks of Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles, when all men were required to be in Jerusalem. [2]  However Gemera  Suka 55b-56a [3] and Rambam Hilchos Klei Hamkidash 4:4-6[4] indicate that during the festivals all Kohanim, priests, could serve in the service that was specific to the holiday.  They were selected by lot for that service. They would all share from the Lechem Hapanim, the showbread, and the two breads of Shavuos, the leavened bread offered at Pentecost, but other sacrifices were brought by the mishmar, the division of priests, of that week [5].  Thus, the weeks served by each division shifted from year to year.  That means a division could over time serve in any of the weeks.  The Division of Jehoiarib was serving on the 9th of Av in 70 AD when the temple was destroyed.[6], [7] Working backwards on the temple calendar from the 9th of Av in 70 AD (through 3800 weeks) we can find when the courses were serving[8].   There are only 2 cases to consider:
1) John was conceived Shevat 10, 3758 (Jan 26, 3 BC) which would imply that Jesus was born on Nisan 15, 3759[9]. That might explain why the caravansary was full (there was no room in the inn).
2) John was conceived Av 1, 3758 (July 13, 3 BC) which implies that Jesus was born on Tishrei 15, 3760 (Sept 13, 2 BC).  That explains: why the caravansary was full; why Jesus was born in a stable and laid in a manger; why shepherds were sent to the manger; and how the Feast of Tabernacles was fulfilled, and even fulfills the Feast of Chanukah.
We know that Mary conceived right away since, when Mary arrived in Ein Kerem seven days later, Elizabeth knew she was pregnant.  We could then assume that Elizabeth likewise conceived right away, especially since Zechariah was given great incentive to believe what the Angel told him.  Since Zechariah didn’t initially believe, to make his point the Angel struck him mute (Lk 1:20) .  Scripture tells us that Zechariah served the rest of his week before returning home (Lk 1:23).  If Elizabeth conceived on Av 1, 3758, the night Zechariah returned home; then Av, Elul, Tishrei, Cheshvan, and Kislev were the 1st thru 5th months of her pregnancy.  Tevet is Elizabeth’s 6th month.  If the Archangel Gabriel appeared to Mary on Tevet 2 then 278 days later (during the 40th week[10]), Mary gave birth on the 15th of Tishrei: The Feast of Tabernacles, The Feast of God with Us, The Feast of Emanuel.  That means the Incarnation occurred on the 8th day of Chanukah.  The number 8 stands for new beginnings and dedication to God:
·         Sukkoth lasts 8 days,
·         Boys are circumcised on the 8th day,
·         Temple dedication took 8 days. 
The 8th day of the celebration of the re-dedication of the Temple, after the temple had been polluted by Antiochus Epiphanies, marked a new beginning in the relationship between the Israelites and Yahweh.  That year, 3 BC, it was truly a new beginning in man’s relationship with God: God became man! 
The Feast of Tabernacles and the 8th day of Chanukah are the two celebrations of light in the Jewish religion.  On the eighth day of Chanukah all eight candles on the menorah are lit.  On that day Jesus, the light of the world, was conceived.  On the Feast of Tabernacles four giant menorahs were constructed in the court of women in the temple and lit[11].  The light from the four giant menorahs could be seen all over Jerusalem, making it light all night long, and the light from the 75’ menorahs could be seen in Bethlehem where Jesus, the light of the world, was born[12].
The Jewish tradition has been that Elijah would return on Passover, Nisan 15.  The angel told Zechariah that John would have the spirit of Elijah (Lk 1:17), so he would be born on Passover. [13]
All that being said, we could have simply looked at scripture.  Jesus fulfills all the Feasts of the Lord, so He also fulfills the Feast of Tabernacles with his birth on Tishrei 15.  Tabernacles celebrates God’s physical presence with the Israelites, in the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night during the Exodus and is also called the feast of Emanuel “God with us”.    
Thus, we have established from scripture the date of Jesus birth and validated it via the story of the conception of John the Baptist. There should be no further requirement, but our atheistic society demands extra biblical validation and Luke was kind enough to provide it.  The biggest obstacle to dating Christ birth is the belief that because Herod’s son began his reign in 4 BC, Herod must have died in 4 BC.  Thus, Jesus must have been born before Herod died.  However, Herod was reduced from a “friend” to a “subject” by Cesar Augustus in 4 BC[14] for sending troops into Arabia.  He did not die!  He then had to share his reign with his chosen heir, Antipater [15]
Antipater considered his two younger half-brothers who were of “Royal”, Hasmodean, descent a potential threat.  He connived to have them executed for treason.  Then Antipater plotted to kill Herod, so he would not have to wait to have control of the kingdom.  His plot was discovered and exposed.  Since Herod had been demoted, he had to get Varus, governor of Syria, to hear the case.  (That would be difficult to do while dead.)  Varus found Antipater guilty and left the punishment up to Herod.  Herod ordered him executed[16].  Herod then decided to split the kingdom between his three remaining sons: Archelaus, Antipas, and Philip.  Their reigns were antedated to when Herod was demoted to show the continuity of reign.  Coins confirm that antedating was common.  Herod died 3 years after Antipater was executed[17].
Josephus gives two indications of the length of the rule of Herod: 1) He says Herod had a reign of 37 years from the time he was proclaimed king by the Romans and; 2) He says he reigned for 34 years after the death of Antigonus, which happened shortly after Herod took Jerusalem.[18]  Herod took Jerusalem late in 36 BC (after the fast which occurs from the 3rd through the 9th of Tishrei; the 17th through the 23rd of September in 36 BC):  Josephus says Herod captured Jerusalem 27 years to the day that Pompey committed his abominations, which happened in 63 BC.  He also said it was on the occasion of the 185th Olympiad which began in July of 36 BC.[19]  Both clearly give 36 BC for Herod's capture of Jerusalem.  If we use the common accession method of counting years of rule [20], a practice the Jews copied from the Babylonians, the date to start his 34 years is on the 1st of Tishrei in 35 BC or on the 1st of Nisan in 35 BC (the beginning of the Temple year following the capture of Jerusalem).  So, Herod's 34th year of rule would start with the 1st of Tishrei in 2 BC and end with the 1st of Tishrei in 1 BC or would start with the 1st of Nisan in 2 BC and end with first of Nisan in 1 BC.  Now 34 years after 35 BC would give 1 BC for the death and end of the reign of Herod.  Because Josephus points out the fast that occurs from the 2nd to the 10th of Tishrei, it is likely he was using the Judean tradition of accession dating beginning the years with the Secular Calendar rather than the Northern kingdom tradition of non-accession dating beginning with the Religious calendar.
Josephus also tells us that Herod burned Matthias and his companions for raising a sedition. And that very night there was an eclipse of the moon.”[21] Herod died soon after the total eclipse of the moon as indicated by Josephus.  The eclipse occurred on Jan. 10, 1 BC. [22]
Jul Date
Time
Type
Umbra Magnitude
Duration
Lat
Lon
Jan 10, 1 BC
02:04:40
Total
1.7825
98.8
22N
16E


Luke also ties the birth of Jesus to a census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria (Lk 2:2).  This has caused problems because Quirinius reigned from 6 to 9 AD. But considering that: “there was found near Tibur (Tivoli) in AD.1764 a fragment of marble known as the Lapis Tiburtinus, with part of an inscription, which is now preserved in the Lateran Museum of Christian Antiquities, as one of the important monuments bearing on the history of Christianity:
Lapis Tiburtinus
The inscription records the career and honors of a Roman official who lived in the reign of Augustus, and who survived that emperor. He conquered a nation; he was rewarded with two Supplicationes and the Ornamenta Triumphalia, i.e., the gorgeous dress of a triumphing general, with ivory scepter and chariot, etc.; he governed Asia as proconsul; and he twice governed Syria as legatus of the divine Augustus.
Though the name has perished, yet these indications are sufficient to show with practical certainty (as all the highest authorities are agreed -- Mommsen, Borghesi, de Rossi, Henzen, Dessau, and others), that the officer who achieved this splendid career was Publius Sulpicius Quirinius.  His government of Syria in 6-9 AD, was therefore his second tenure of that office. He had administered Syria at some previous time. Is not this earlier administration the occasion to which Luke refers? [23]
“Here again, however, we are confronted with a serious difficulty. The supreme authority on the subject, Mommsen, considers that the most probable date for Quirinius's first government of Syria is about BC.3-1.” [24]
That serious difficulty evaporates when we realize that Jesus was born in 2 BC not sometime before 4 BC as was assumed by Mommsen and others.
We have established now that Quirinius was the Governor of Syria at the time of Jesus’ birth.  We still want to validate the rest of Luke’s statement, that there was a requirement to go to the ancestral home for taxation. The Romans levied both a Land Tax and a Poll tax.  The Land Tax was levied every 14 years and only affected the wealthy who owned property.  The Poll Tax was also levied every 14 years.  It affected both men (age 14 to 60) and women (age 12 to 60).  The Poll Tax required everyone to return to their home city and register.  The Poll Taxation occurred half way between the Land taxations.  There was a Land tax riot mentioned by Josephus which occurred in 6 AD.  Thus, the prior Land Tax would have occurred in 9BC and the Poll tax would have occurred in 2 BC and would have been executed by Quirinius during his first reign as governor of Syria from 3 to 1 BC.[25]


Jewish Temple Priest Rotation- Courses of Priest from 70 AD to 4 BC
This spreadsheet is very large so it will take a few moments to completely load onto screen. To scroll down use the scroll wheel on your mouse, or the scroll bar on the right side of the spreadsheet. Also, those interested can view the full document in Excel format here.

Dates of the Birth and Death of Jesus
As related in depth in the Joyful Mysteries section of this website, having extensively studied this calendar along with the Jewish Feasts and religious customs, Greg Biltz has concluded that Jesus was born on September 13th, 2BC (the Feast of Tabernacles), and that Jesus died on the Feast of Passover, April 3rd, 33AD.

Concerning the date of the Birth of Jesus he writes:
"If Jesus fulfills the Feast of God with us: Emanuel; that has to be the date [September 13, 2BC] as that is the date of the feast of Tabernacles in 2 BC.  It also is validated by the story in Luke of Zechariah of the division of Abjiah getting his vision.  We have always known that December 25 is nothing more than the feast of the Roman sun god.  Most Messianic Jews hold that Jesus was born on the feast of Tabernacles.   There is something about the date of Jesus’ birth that the devil just doesn’t want it known.  There has been centuries of obfuscation.  Herod died in 4 BC, Quirinius didn’t serve as governor of Syria until 6 AD, and there was no reason to register.  I have shown with sources referenced the answers to those objections.  I made nothing up.  The Feast of Tabernacles explains why there was no room in the inn: it was full of wealthy men’s tents (sukkot).  Why Jesus was born in a stable: it qualified as a sukkah and provided more privacy than a poor mans sukkah.  It fulfills both Jewish celebrations of light:  the incarnation on the last day of Chanukah and the great celebration of light at the feast of Tabernacles.  The year also has to be 2 BC  because that is the year of the taxation that required all to register.  That only happened every 14 years!"

In addition he adds: "One of the things about the story of the Nativity that struck me the most was that Jesus was born in a stable used to protect paschal lambs from the weather, He was inspected by Levitical shepherds and found without blemish thus set aside for sacrifice on Passover: the Lamb of God.  That would not have happened if He had not been born on the Feast of Tabernacles.  He would have been born in a family home, remember Joseph was from Bethlehem.  He certainly had friends and family there."

Through his studies he also believes that John the Baptist was born on Passover, March 20, 2BC, noting how the Jews always leave a place for Elijah at the table, as in Jewish custom and tradition he is believed to return on a Passover.

Some conclusions concerning the dates of the birth and death of Jesus that can be drawn from studying this calendar
By Greg Biltz

It is one thing to derive the approximate year of Jesus birth and to believe that Jesus fulfilled the feast of Tabernacles with his birth. It is another to show that is in accord with Luke’s description of the events surrounding the conception of John the Baptist. There is no reference in scripture as to which division of Priests was serving on any particular date. Once I found a reference in the Talmud: Mishnah (b. Ta?an 29a) that Jehoiarib was serving on the 9th of Av in 70 AD, Saturday, August 4th 70 AD and a correlative reference in Josephus Wars 6.4.5, I realized that the project was doable. All I had to do was to figure out the Hebrew calendar and walk it back in time. My brother, Mark, pointed me to a PC based Hebrew calendar program that he was using. It went back to the Gregorian year 1. 

All the historians seem to begin with establishing the date of Jesus’s death. Using a Hebrew calendar it was easy. There were only three occasions during Pilate’s reign, on which Passover was on a Saturday. The first year in AD 26, the year AD 33, and on the last year of his reign 36 AD. It could not have been his first or his last therefore there was only one possibility. It was apparent none of the historians bothered to look at the Hebrew calendar.

The walk back in time from the 9th of Av, August 4th in 70 AD to the year one was easy because I had a Hebrew Calendar app which showed both the Gregorian date and the Hebrew dates for each week. Then it got difficult because I had to establish the calendar myself to go back to 4 BC. That meant I had to figure out when the leap years were. Fortunately I found the pattern for leap years at: https://www.timeanddate.com/date/jewish-leap-year.html. There is a 19-year cycle for leap years: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19 where each bolded year is a leap year. A cycle began in the year 3 AD so 2 AD (year 19), 1 BC (year 17), and 4 BC (year 14) are leap years.

Once the spread sheet contained the parallel calendars all that was necessary was to lay in the rotation of priests. Luke specified that Zachariah was not serving on a common week. There are three common weeks per year: Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. There are 51 weeks per year and with 24 divisions that served twice a year that is 24 divisions * 2 cycles/year + 3 common weeks = 51. made sense, right? But what happened during leap years? Since the determination of a leap year was made based on the barley harvest on the last day of the month of Adar there would be no time to communicate to priests who lived more than a few hours walk from Jerusalem to prevent them from coming to serve when it was not necessary, so the rotation had to just continue. Thus, I ran the rotations based on that assumption and established the date of Jesus birth based on Zachariah serving from Tammuz 23 to 29, 3758, [26] July 7 to July 13, 3 BC.

A year or so later another Hebrew Calendar app came out that went back beyond the year 1. So, with great trepidation I checked my calculations and was off only one day (I had missed one of the adjustments made to the calendar to prevent Sabbaths from occurring back to back. That just meant gestation was a day longer. Jesus could still have been born on the Feast of Tabernacles.

In July of 2017, while reviewing what I had discovered, I realized I had made an assumption about the rotation of the priests because I realized that the common feasts did not all fall on the Sabbath, when the rotation of priests changed. So what did they do: change the rotation to split the week? When in doubt ask a rabbi! Rabbi Mordechai Cohen pointed me to Gemara Suka 55b-56a and Rambam Hilchos Klei Hamkidash 4:4-6 in the Talmud. He also indicated that the rotation changed at dawn on the Sabbath. Now was panic time: the rotation didn’t ever pause. There were Feast specific offerings that anyone from any division could serve and the service of those offerings were the ones determined by lot. I had finished the Joyful Mysteries and it all made so much sense, all the questions were answered and now it was all based on an invalid assumption. But this is a God thing. God's way is the truth, and if I sought the truth I must be willing to accept it when I find it. I ran the new rotation only to discover that there are 216 common weeks between Tammuz in 3 BC. and Av in 70 AD. 216 is exactly 9 cycles of priests. The date did not change.

Validation of the Jewish Calendar
Some scholars may complain that I used a derived calendar, whereas the Jews only started using a derived calendar after the destruction of the temple in 70 AD and therefore, all my dates are suspect at best because all the dates are on or before 70 AD.  However the derived calendar was derived based on 2000 years of practice. And was self correcting every spring. So to validate the calendar I will demonstrate its validity using NASA’s solar and lunar eclipse records.  All dates are going to be plus or minus 1 day because the date changes at sunset not midnight  and because the Jews tweaked the calendar to prevent back to back Sabbaths.  Because the Hebrew calendar is a lunar based calendar a total solar eclipse can only occur on the 1st of the month and a total lunar eclipse can only occur on the 15th of a month.

We have shown that the temple destruction began on the 9th of Av, of 70 AD and the Talmud establishes that on the 10 of Av the  priests were reciting the prayers for the afternoon of the first day of the week when the soldiers came into the Holy of Holies. On our derived calendar the 9th of Av is also a Saturday, August 4th and the 10th is thus also a Sunday the first day of the week: Sunday August 5th:  exactly right.

Once again the validity of the date of the crucifixion is easy because the moon rose over Jerusalem as a partial blood moon: in a partial eclipse on April 3rd of the year 33 AD. [27] (As referenced by Peter's speech referring to the day of Jesus' crucifixion on Pentecost (Acts 2:20) as a fulfillment of Joel's prophecy.(Joel 2:10) As shown in this Web publication the crucifixion happened on April 3rd, 33AD, the 14th of Nissan the eve of Passover.

To validate the calendar for the date of Jesus’ birth we have:
On February 15, 3 BC a total solar eclipse #4757 which occurred on the last day of Adar, 30 Adar
On January 10, 1BC a total lunar eclipse #4821 which occurred on the 15th of Shevat
On July 5, 1 BC a total lunar eclipse #4822 which occurred on the 14th of Tammuz

Since Jesus was born on Tishrei 15, of 2 BC, which is after the solar eclipse of February 15, 3 BC at which time the derived calendar was exactly right and before the total lunar eclipse of January 10th, 1 BC at which time the derived calendar was exactly right; we have established the date of his birth.
-Greg Biltz
___________________________________
Many more details concerning the birth and death of Jesus are related on this website in the Joyful Mysteries section, and also the Sorrowful Mysteries sections in particular.
[1] Tiberius Caesar did not become emperor until September 17th even though Augustus died on August 19, 14 AD. See: Tiberius roman emperor at http://Britannica.com
[2] There is some controversy over whether the weeks of the leap year were common weeks.  That cannot be the case as to travel just from Nazareth to Jerusalem took 6 days so priests living away from Jerusalem would be en route when the designated priest examined the barley to see if it was a leap year.  That would then imply that either the traveling priest had to return home or stay in Jerusalem for a month which is not logical. 
[5] Gemara Suka 55b-56a seems to imply that the priests assigned that week continued to serve and would complete their normal rotation in spite of the additional priests.  It makes no difference as there were 216 common weeks between Av of 70 AD and Tammuz of 3 BC.  That is exactly 9 rotations: oh, what a coincidence!
[6] Talmud Mishnah (b. Ta?an 29a).  Av 9 fell on Saturday, August 4th in 70 AD
[7] Josephus Wars 6.4.5
[9] Bethlehem was a town of about 400 people.  It was, at that time, the center for sheep production for the priests in the temple.  It had a caravansary which is an inn with a walled in courtyard.  The courtyard was used to protect pack animals and their owner’s property from wild animals and thieves.  Poor people slept on the ground inside the courtyard with the pack animals while the wealthy slept in the inn.  For the inn to be full means there had to be a very large celebration going on in Jerusalem which was 5 miles away.  Travelers to Jerusalem would have stayed there if they expected the inns in Jerusalem to be full.  There was nothing but sheep to attract people to stay in Bethlehem, but Jerusalem was only an hour away.
[11] http://www.jewishroots.net/library/holiday-articles/illumination-of-the-temple-ceremony.html
[12] Which celebration of light was greater:  The 8 candles on every menorah in 2 million homes throughout the world or 4 75ft, (23m) menorahs each fueled by a barrel of oil with wicks made of rolled up priestly garments?  Jesus’ birth required the public manifestation while the incarnation was the more significant event (my opinion).
[14] Antiquities’ of the Jews, Josephus Flavius Book 16, Chapter 9:3
[15] Herod’s sons were king in name only.  Herod retained his power and his sons the title
[16] Antiquities of the Jews, Josephus Flavius Book17 Chapter 7
[18] Antiquities of the Jews, Josephus Flavius Book 17 Chapter 8
[19] Antiquities of the Jews Book 14 Chapter 16
[21] Antiquities of the Jews, Josephus Flavius Book 17 Chapter 6 verse 4
[22]http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/LEcat5/LE-0099-0000.html : 04821 0000 Jan 10 02:04:40 (note: NASA uses a year 0 in the eclipse list but since there was no year 0 that year is actually 1 BC.) (note: NASA uses a year 0 in the eclipse list but since there was no year 0 that year is actually 1 BC.) href="http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/5MCLEmap/-0099-0000/LE0000-01-10T.gif"
[23] Arthur Eedle, Seven Steps to Bethlehem page 81 and http://www.torahtimes.org/writings/roman-governors-of-syria/article.html
[25] Author Eedle Seven Steps to Bethlehem p77-79
[26] Zachariah would have finished his service after the last sacrifices were offered Friday evening, after sunset. He could not travel more than 2000 cubits, less than a half a mile, since it was now the Sabbath. He would have had to wait until sunset on Saturday to walk the six miles home.
[27] https://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/5MCLEmap/0001-0100/LE0033-04-03P.gif

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