Monday, June 6, 2016

The Lunar Eclipse preceding the Death of Herod The Great

I have in the past long favored the January 1 BC Eclipse.  But I have recently come to feel the mainstream view of it being the March 4 BC Eclipse is more supportable then we thought.

This may change my view on the year Jesus was born but it won't significantly for when in the year.

Herod died when Passover was the next High Holy Day no matter what, and I still feel strongly convinced that comparing Matthew and Luke's accounts must place Herod's death before Jesus was presented in The Temple on the 40th Day.  Unless some really shocking chronological argument can be made.  Because I feel it doesn't make sense for the presentation to happen in Jerusalem before the Magi arrive.  So Jesus was most likely born in a winter month.

Taken from this exchange.
There are three principal reasons why the 4 B.C. date has prevailed over 1 B.C. These reasons were articulated by Emil Schürer in A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ, also published in the 19th century. First, Josephus informs us that Herod died shortly before a Passover (Antiquities 17.9.3, The Jewish War 2.1.3), making a lunar eclipse in March (the time of the 4 B.C. eclipse) much more likely than one in December.
Second, Josephus writes that Herod reigned for 37 years from the time of his appointment in 40 B.C. and 34 years from his conquest of Jerusalem in 37 B.C. (Antiquities 17.8.1, War1.33.8). Using so-called inclusive counting, this, too, places Herod’s death in 4 B.C.
Third, we know that the reign over Samaria and Judea of Herod’s son and successor Archelaus began in 4 B.C., based on the fact that he was deposed by Caesar in A.U.C. (Anno Urbis Conditae [in the year the city was founded]) 759, or A.D. 6, in the tenth year of his reign (Dio Cassius, Roman History 55.27.6; Josephus, Antiquities 17.13.2). Counting backward his reign began in 4 B.C. In addition, from Herod the Great’s son and successor Herod Antipas, who ruled over Galilee until 39 B.C., who ordered the execution of John the Baptist (Mark 6:14–29) and who had a supporting role in Jesus’ trial (Luke 23:7–12), we have coins that make reference to the 43rd year of his rule, placing its beginning in 4 B.C. at the latest (see Morten Hørning Jensen, “Antipas—The Herod Jesus Knew,” BAR, September/October 2012).
Thus, Schürer concluded that “Herod died at Jericho in B.C. 4, unwept by those of his own house, and hated by all the people.”
Jeroen H.C. Tempelman
New York, New York
While I know you can play games on how to reckon what Josephus said of the length of Herod's reign.  The argument we've made that the reigns of Antipas and Archelus must have included Co-Regencies simply doesn't work.  The death of Antipater is synchronized to the Death of Herod, Herod died 5 days later.  So you can't move Herod's death to a later year but keep Antipater's in 4 BC as I've seen some but not all 1 BC arguments do.  It was after Antipater died that Herod changed his will to the arrangement that wound up happening.

The reference connecting the Eclipse to a Fast has been used by 1 BC and September 5 BC advocates to support making it Yom Kippur.  This connects to a desire to see any unspecified Fast as Yom Kippur even though that day isn't stickily a Fast day though it's popular to Fast on it, and is not even the main fast day of it's own month. (that would be Yom Gedlaiah, the third of Tishri).

Here is the thing I've noticed that even most arguing for the March 4 BC Eclipse overlook.  What Josephus says is that the Eclipse of the Moon happened the night the Fast day ended, no gap.

First in case you didn't know, Jewish days begin and end at Sunset.

Second the Biblical New Moon/Rosh Codesh is the first visible crescent, not the day the Moon is invisible.  So Full Moons (the only day a Lunar Eclipse can happen) are the 14th day of each Hebrew Month, not the 15th as the Blood Moon theorists claimed.

In other words, this Fast must have been the Thirteenth day of it's Hebrew Month. So that doesn't fit Yom Kippur which is the 10th, or any of the 4 major Fast days linked to the fall of Jerusalem which are the 9th, 17th, 3rd and 10th days of their months.

The only Jewish Fast day we know of that was being kept at that time that would have been the 13th day of the Month, was the Fast of Esther, which is the 13th of Adar, the day before Purim.  Meaning this Full Moon was Purim, meaning of the 4 days considered likely only March 4 BC fits.

Now I should mention that since I and others have seen "Blood Moons" on Full Moons that neither Stelarium or other Astronomers recognize as such (like in August of 2015).  I'm not confident the Eclipse Josephus mentioned can be identified by any modern means at all.  But either way it must be a 14th day of a Month and of known Fasts only Adar has one on the 13th.

Now the argument still remains that one month between the Eclipse and Passover doesn't quite seem enough for everything Josephus says happened.  It could be there was a Second Adar (Modern Rabbinic Judaism observes Purim in 2nd Adar but the Biblical reckoning favored by Kariates which may have still been the one used at this time clearly defines it as in the 12th Month which second Adar wouldn't be).  Or maybe all these events caused Passover to be pushed back to Second Passover.  Or maybe Joesphus who sometimes was less chronological then you'd expect wasn't putting as much in that time-frame as we think.

Some have calculated 20 or 21 days from the Death of Herod till Passover.  Which could put the Death of Herod on the 25th of Adar, same day traditionally viewed as the Death of Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 52:31).

Is it possible Jesus was presented in The Temple on the first of Nisan?  Same day the Tabernacle was first set up according to Exodus 40?  Or that his birth was Shevet 24, the day Zechariah was given the Prophecy recorded in Chapter 1 verses 7-16?  Would not quite match the traditional date but be closer to it then others.

The main reason why many Christians regardless of what day of the year they favor feel the need to push Herod's death later is assumptions that I feel are mistaken about what we're told in Luke 3.

 Another factor is a desire to affiliate the Census of Luke 2 with a 3 or 2 BC Oath of Obedience to Augustus, which I've argued for myself in the past.  But I now just focus on that the main Imperial Censusus Augustus ordered he allowed 5 years to be carried out in the various regions, so you can go with the 8 BC Census and still have it carried out in Judea, Syria and Cyrene anywhere between then and 3 BC.

The first error of how we commonly view Luke 3 is saying it placed the Baptism of Jesus when he began to be about 30 in the 15th Year of Tiberius.  But it doesn't, the reference to the 15th Year of Tiberius at the start of the Chapter is totally unconnected to the Baptism account.  Paul in Acts 13 says John "Completed his course" before he Baptized Jesus. I'm not sure what that means exactly. but I think it's good evidence against assuming the Baptism was the same year John began his ministry or any other key event of Luke 3.  But doesn't rule it out entirely either.

BTW, I've become convinced of an argument that what Luke meant by the Greek phrase translated "Began to be about 30" was that Jesus was "almost" 30.

Luke 3 is clearly not being purely strictly Chronological since verse 20 has John put in Prison then verse 21 describes his Baptism of Jesus.

Luke 3:1-2 tells us that the "Word of God" came unto John in the wilderness in the 15th Year of Tiberius.  Then we get a basic account of who John was and what he was doing.  Then it talks about him preaching against Antipas and Heordias and getting imprisoned for it.

It could be the 15th Year of Tiberius is when he preached against Herod Antipas marriage to Heordias, (perhaps because that was the year he married her) and was imprisoned for it.  And that this doesn't tell us when John began his ministry at all.  And so both that and Jesus Baptism could have preceded the 15th year of Tiberius.

My argument above would have Jesus turn 30 before Passover in early 27 AD.

I'm not entirely willing to throw out the chronology of Jesus Birth I argued for before.  But I feel I must acknowledge that the 4 BC Death of Herod is fitting pretty well with my latest research.

I absolutely still believe Jesus ministry was less then a year.  And still heavily favor 30 AD as the Crucifixion. date.  What I'm now willing to consider is that there was more time then you'd expect between the Baptism and the beginning of His proper Ministry.

Luke 4 tells us his time in the Wilderness and Temptation was soon after his Baptism.  Then He returned to Galilee and had a local ministry of sorts for an unspecified amount of time (Luke 4:14-15).  Then Luke 4:16 begins the account of His proper main Ministry.

Returning to the Eclipse in question.  The argument for the Fast being Yom Kippur is the emphasis on the High Priest having duties that day.  As the Jewish Encyclopedia says.  While Yom Kippur is the busiest day of the year for the High Priest, it's not the only day he has responsibilities.  At any-rate if Josephus was exaggerating when he made it sound like the Eclipse was the very next day, which is what you'd have to argue for it to be Yom Kippur, then the statement mostly becomes chronologically useless.  If it was Yom Kippur then it still must have been the next full moon which makes only the September 15 5 BC fit in which case the next Passover is still the same Passover.


  1. Can someone show us the Sign of Jonah in the sky, i.e. Jesus being vomited out of the belly of Pisces out its mouth at 6PM, Saturday April 24, A.D. 34?

  2. Can someone show us the Sign of Jonah in the sky, i.e. Jesus being vomited out of the belly of Pisces out its mouth at 6PM, Saturday April 24, A.D. 34?

    1. The Sign of of Jonah was the literal Resurrection, it wasn't an Astronomical Sign.