2. In what year was Jesus born?
The Gospel of Matthew states that Jesus was born during the reign of King Herod the Great who reigned from 37-4 B.C. Most scholars believe Herod died in 4 B.C. This means that Jesus Christ was born several years Before Christ. Many scholars focus on 7-4 B.C.
The Gospel of Luke 2:2 states that Jesus was born during a census of the Roman Empire during the reign of Caesar Augustus (27 B.C. – 14 A.D.) while Quirinius was Governor of Syria. Quirinius was known to be governor from 6-9 A.D., and there was a famous census during that time, which Luke references in Acts 5:37. Luke calls the census in Luke 2:2 the first census, while the census in Acts 5:37 was the second. However, there is no definitive evidence that Quirinius served in Syria previously, though he was a famous soldier and politician for Rome for decades before and after his time in Syria.
Many scholars have tried to resolve the discrepancies between the known dates suggested in Matthew and Luke. Some claim that Quirinius was governor or a leading administrator in Syria from 9-6 B.C., and there was a census at that time though the governor was Sentius Saturninus. Others have claimed errors in translation, that Luke or Matthew made a mistake, or that the historical record is incorrect. Indeed, the historical evidence is limited, and we always need to question the motives and intended audiences of authors.
Why do we mark the year 1 as Anno Domini, “the year or our Lord?” In 525 A.D., Dionysius Exiguus, “Dennis the Small,” a monk and scholar, decided that Jesus’ conception had occurred 525 years earlier. We may never know Jesus’ birthday or year, but that does not need to cause a crisis of faith. He knows when He was born.
Editors Note: Travis Childs is a history instructor at Cameron University in Lawton, Okla. He is a graduate of Midway High School and lives in Bluegrove. He is currently president of the Clay County Historical Society.