This post is not about the existence of Jesus, we assume that here.

It is well-known that Jesus of Nazareth was not born on December 25th 1 BC.
The historians are agree for a year between 7 and 2 BC.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus (see the references cited by this wikipedia page)

Question: what is the most likely year? And mainly, what is about the day? Is it still December 25th? Else what are the possible days, and what is the most likely day?

  • 3
    He was likely born in summer, the only reason his birth is celebrated on December 25 is because people were already doing pagan celebration at this time of the year when hey were Christianized.
    – Bregalad
    Jun 23 '15 at 13:52
  • 1
    The historicity of Jesus is disputed, see any of the works of Richard Carrier In particular The Historicity of Jesus for arguments against. You don't have to agree with his arguments to see that there are people who argue against the historicity of Jesus, since he does. Jun 23 '15 at 14:48
  • 4
    @CGCampbell Don't misunderstand me, the Bible is no historical document. I think anyone who believes Jesus didn't exist likely hates Christianity so much that goes beyond reason. The most atheist-neutral point of view is that he existed, claimed to be son of God, and convinced many people to follow him. Pretending he did't exist makes no sense whatsoever.
    – Bregalad
    Jun 23 '15 at 16:33
  • 2
    As your name suggest you are of French origin (I'm sorry if I made wrong assumption), there is a French Wikipedia article over this subject.
    – Voitcus
    Jun 24 '15 at 5:42
  • 1
    @ConradTurner - Carrier and people like him are widely regarded as crackpots in the academic community. The Jesus Myth proponents are a tiny, discredited fringe in the scholarly world. They aren't taken seriously, nor should they be.
    – Wad Cheber
    Aug 15 '15 at 14:17

The short answer is we aren't sure.

There are two basic methods that are commonly used to derive a birth year based on information from the Gospels.

The first is the nativity accounts in Luke and Mathew. Both reference the reign of Herod the Great. Since he died in 4 BC, that means it couldn't possibly have been any later than then. The main issue with this approach is that the nativity stories aren't generally accepted as historical. Worse yet, Luke also said it happened during the Census of Quirinius, which was 4 AD*.

The second is to take Luke 3:23's statement that Jesus was "about 30" when he started preaching, and try to work back from there. Combine this with some knowledge of the dates of the death of John the Baptist and the construction of the Great Temple and Jesus' visit there from John's Gospel, and you get around 1 BC. The big problem here is that there's a large chain of facts that have to be correct for this derived date to be accurate.

As for the actual day of year, the mention in Luke of shepherds out grazing their flocks implies that it could not have happened during the winter or late fall, but doesn't nail it down any better than that (and again, that's only if you accept Luke's nativity as historical).

* - This is a bit of an issue for those forced to work within a framework of Biblical Inerrancy. Fortunately as historians we are free to wield Occam's razor, which tells us one (at least) of these stated facts in Luke is in error.

  • Historicity of Luke aside, Bethlehem has mild enough winters that shepherds could have been out grazing in winter. One example here. Non-winter seems more likely than winter, but obviously there isn't much to go on here. The safest conclusion is to say no more other than the choice of Dec 25th is decidedly post hoc.
    – two sheds
    Jun 23 '15 at 18:14
  • Really the only time that shepherds would likely have been out with their flocks at night is in the spring, during lambing time.
    – jamesqf
    Jun 23 '15 at 18:50
  • Also, some astronomical phenomena are considered while dating the nativity of Jesus.
    – Voitcus
    Jun 24 '15 at 5:44

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