The Mystery of Jesus' Date of Birth
Part 2

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Copyright 1994 - 2020 Bill's Bible Basics

Authored By  :
Bill Kochman

Published On :
December 28, 2019

Last Updated :
December 28, 2019


Scriptural Reminders Of Coming Resurrection From The Dead, Jesus' Death And Resurrection Is Central Pivot Of Our Hope And Of Our Faith, Jesus Is Firstfruits Of The Resurrection, We Shall Be Changed Into The Likeness Of Christ, Estimated Dates Of Christ's Birth, Jesus' Death And Resurrection Are More Important Than The Date Of His Birth, Personal Theory Regarding Why Jesus' Date Of Birth Was Hidden, Circumcision In The Temple, Joseph And Mary Return To Nazareth, Jesus In The Temple At Twelve Years Old, Herod The Great Orders The Extermination Of Bethlehem's Children, The Flight To Egypt, Herod's Death And Return To Israel, Joseph's Protective Caution, Annual Pilgrimages To Jerusalem, Jesus Had Both Physical And Spiritual Enemies From The Moment That He Was Born, Power Of The Herods, Joseph And Mary's Endeavors to Protect Jesus, Reaction Of Childless Parents In Bethlehem, The Jerusalemites Looked Down Upon Their Northern Brethren, Nathaniel's Famous Question, Ambiguity Surrounding Jesus' Early Life And Age, Luke: Physician Writer And Companion To The Apostle Paul, Luke's Accurate Understanding Of Events




Consider also the following verses where the Apostle Paul and other writers of the New Testament constantly reminded their followers of their hope in their coming resurrection from the dead. This hope is what kept them going, and this same hope is what keeps us going today as well, despite any adversities we may face in this present life:

"For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it."
Romans 8:18-25, KJV


"Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope;"
1 Timothy 1:1, KJV


"Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness; In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;"
Titus 1:1-2, KJV


"That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life."
Titus 3:7, KJV


"And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after; But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end."
Hebrews 3:5-6, KJV


"And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end:"
Hebrews 6:11, KJV


"Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ . . . Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God."
1 Peter 1:13, 21, KJV


"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time."
1 Peter 1:3-5, KJV


Now, in case it isn't fully evident to you, all of the faith, and all of the hope that is expressed in the previous set of verses is based on one thing: Christ's Death and Resurrection from the dead. Jesus' Death and Resurrection is the central pivot of our faith and of our hope. By His clear example and victory over death, Jesus Christ proved that God's Word is true. He proved that death can be overcome. He proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is an afterlife. Really think about that. Many men are born every single day, and many men die everyday as well. There is nothing remarkable or even extraordinary about it. But only one man -- Jesus Christ -- died and rose from the dead about two thousand years ago. In that way, He became the Firstfruits of the Resurrection, the Firstborn among many brethren, and the First Begotten of the dead, as we clearly see by the following group of verses:

"For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he [Jesus] might be THE FIRSTBORN AMONG MANY BRETHREN."
Romans 8:29, KJV


"If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the FIRSTFRUITS of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: CHRIST THE FIRSTFRUITS; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming."
1 Corinthians 15:19-23, KJV


"Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: Who is the image of the invisible God, THE FIRSTBORN OF EVERY CREATURE . . . And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, THE FIRSTBORN FROM THE DEAD; that in all things he might have the preeminence."
Colossians 1:12-15, 18, KJV


"To the general assembly and CHURCH OF THE FIRSTBORN, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,"
Hebrews 12:23, KJV


"And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and THE FIRST BEGOTTEN OF THE DEAD, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood . . . I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death."
Revelation 1:5, 18, KJV


That is precisely why our spiritual forefathers emphasized Christ's Death and Resurrection, and not His birth date, which to our present day remains shrouded in total mystery. That is why early Christians were willing to endure mockery, persecution, incarceration, scourgings, torture, being torn apart by wild animals, beheadings, being stoned to death, being cut down by the sword, being burned alive, and so much more. Their faith and hope in the Resurrection to come gave them the strength and the faith to endure their sufferings. This same strong faith and hope in their Resurrection and Transformation reveals itself in the following group of verses as well:

"Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:"
Romans 6:4-5, KJV


"Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself."
Philippians 3:21, KJV


"Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure."
1 John 3:2-3, KJV


"There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed."
1 Corinthians 15:40-52, KJV


As I mentioned earlier, the birth date of Jesus Christ has been shrouded in mystery for over two thousand years now. While some estimations have been made which range from 2 BC to 4 BC, no one knows with absolute certainty. Now while His birth is obviously very important, as we have seen, it is in fact Christ's Death and Resurrection which has changed the world and given us all hope for the past two thousand years. As I pondered this mystery regarding Jesus' date of birth, I came to consider the possibility that perhaps this mystery was intentionally created by God the Father, and maybe even nursed along by Joseph and Mary as well. While it is just a personal theory on my part, perhaps Joseph and Mary took the added precaution of concealing Jesus' date of birth in order to protect Him at a young age.

As I said, this is just something which I have personally considered. It is not an established doctrine. However, if we stop to consider all of the events which were occurring at that time in Israel, concealing the date of the Savior's birth does seem like something both reasonable and practical which Joseph and Mary might possibly have done. Following His birth, one of Jesus' first public appearances was when at the age of eight days old, He was taken to the temple in Jerusalem in order to be circumcised according to Jewish custom, as we see by the following group of verses:

"And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.‭ ‭‭And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present ‭him‭ to the Lord;‭ ‭‭(As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;)‭ And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons."
Luke 2:21-24, KJV


Following these events, and the prophecies which were given by Simeon and Anna, Luke informs us that Joseph, Mary and Jesus returned to Nazareth in Galilee where Jesus continued to grow, as becomes evident by the following set of verses:

"‭‭And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.‭ And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him."
Luke 2:39-40, KJV


According to Luke's account, the next thing we learn is that the years passed, and that at the age of twelve, during one of their annual Passover pilgrimages to Jerusalem, the young boy Jesus remained behind, and began to teach in the temple, to the dismay of everyone around Him, as we see here:

"‭‭Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover.‭ ‭‭And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast.‭ And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not ‭of it‭.‭ But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day's journey; and they sought him among ‭their‭ kinsfolk and acquaintance.‭ And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him.‭ And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.‭ And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.‭ And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.‭ And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?‭ And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them.‭ And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart.‭ And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man."
Luke 2:41-52, KJV


Following this account, Luke then fast-forwards approximately eighteen years to the revelation of John the Baptist who has begun preaching in the wilderness area of the Jordan River valley. As some of you will no doubt have already realized, a very important event is missing from Luke's account. I am of course referring to what happened not long after Jesus was born in Bethlehem. As we learned in part one, King Herod -- that is, Herod the Great, who expanded the rebuilt temple of Solomon -- was filled with great rage when the Magi failed to return to his court, because he was determined to kill the boy Jesus before He became a political threat to him. Thus, during the final years of his reign, King Herod ordered the cruel extermination of all children two years of age and under, as we can determine by the following set of verses:

"And when they [the Magi] were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.‭ ‭‭When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt:‭ And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.‭ ‭‭Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men.‭ Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying,‭ In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping ‭for‭ her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.‭ But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt,‭ ‭‭Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child's life.‭ And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel.‭ But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee:‭ And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene."
Matthew 2:13-23, KJV


It is at this point in the narration where Matthew also fast-forwards in time, and his account coincides with Luke's account regarding the ministry of John the Baptist. So what we see then is that shortly after His birth, Jesus was taken to Egypt by His parents in order to escape the wrath of King Herod the Great. Considering that this happened towards the end of Herod the Great's reign, it doesn't seem likely that they spent very many years in Egypt. In fact, in the previous verses, Matthew describes Jesus as being a "young child" when they returned to Israel. But please notice that even though Herod the Great was now dead, Joseph was still concerned, and did not want to return to Judea, because Archelaus, who was one of the sons of King Herod, now ruled there. This then is how they came to be in Nazareth, and explains how each year they traveled from Nazareth to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration. It also dovetails with Luke's account regarding how Jesus remained at the temple at the age of twelve during one of those pilgrimages from Nazareth.

One of the points I wish to make with all of these details, is that from the time that Jesus was born, He had enemies; both physical, earthly enemies -- such as the Herods -- as well as spiritual enemies, who were out for His blood. The Devil and his minions certainly knew who Jesus was. Going by the actions they took, and considering what they had already been through, I think it is safe to say that Joseph and Mary were also fully aware of the dangers which their son faced. That being the case, it makes perfect sense that they would be cautious upon returning to Israel. And, as I mentioned earlier, they might not have wanted to be too forthcoming regarding the exact age of their son, and when and where He was born. After all, the Herods were still in power, and would remain in power for many years to come, up until the first Jewish- Roman War of 66 AD to 73 AD. What if Archelaus had learned that his father's murderous scheme to kill his competition had failed? So due caution was in order for Joseph and Mary upon their return to Israel.

Looking at this issue from another angle, in addition to the potential threat which was posed by Herod's clan, I can see another possible reason why Joseph and Mary might be hesitant to return to Judea, and more specifically, to the town of Bethlehem. Consider all of the children who had been murdered in cold blood by Herod the Great; and yet Jesus had somehow survived that massacre. It makes me wonder how those other parents would have felt to know that Joseph and Mary's child survived, while theirs did not. How well would Joseph and Mary have been received there? Again, this is just personal speculation on my part, but I think it is something worth pondering.

As we all know, in later years, the fact that Jesus had His share of enemies became even more evident when He and His followers left northern Israel, and began to travel down towards Jerusalem. As I point out in a few other articles, the people of Jerusalem -- and particularly the political and religious leadership there -- had a rather dim view of their Galilean brethren to the north, due to the bad history which existed between them. Not only did the northerners speak differently, but they were not highbred either. Thus, when rumors began to circulate regarding Jesus being the promised Messiah, it did not sit well with those pompous, stiff-collared rulers in Jerusalem. In fact, apparently, even some of the northerners looked down upon the people of Nazareth, even though they were both northerners. You may recall the following famous incident:

"And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see."
John 1:46, KJV


One thing which this current discussion establishes, is that there is substantial ambiguity concerning the early life of Jesus, prior to the beginning of His public ministry. We see a large gap from the time that He was a toddler until He was at the age of twelve, and then another large gap from the age of twelve until the age of thirty. While certain people have made some wild speculations regarding what happened in His life during these time frames, I think it is safer to adhere closer to the Scriptures, and simply accept that Jesus led a normal life in Nazareth -- probably helping His father with his carpentry work -- with perhaps some occasional preaching at the temple during their annual pilgrimages to Jerusalem. More than that is just too much speculation, in my view.

The precise date of Jesus' birth is clearly a part of this fuzzy historical picture as well. But as I noted earlier, this could all have been by God's design -- and perhaps even by the design of His parents -- in order to protect Him until the time of His revelation to Israel. We find a small hint in the Gospel of Luke which possibly reveals the ambiguity that surrounded Jesus' age during that time over two millennia ago. Consider what Luke wrote:

"And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli,"
Luke 3:23, KJV


Being a physician, I suspect that Luke was probably a rather meticulous person when it came to recording specific facts and details. As you may know, it has been long-believed that Luke was the author of both the Gospel of Luke, as well as the Book of Acts. This is because both Books are addressed to the same person -- that being Theophilus -- and also because the opening verse of the Book of Acts appears to pick up where the Gospel of Luke leaves off. Consider the following verses which validate this point:

"Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us,‭ Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word;‭ It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus,‭ That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed."
Luke 1:1-4, KJV


"‭‭The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,‭ ‭‭Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen:‭ To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:‭ And, being assembled together with ‭them‭, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, ‭saith he‭, ye have heard of me."
Acts 1:1-4, KJV


There is likewise evidence that Luke also had a hand in writing some of the Epistles of the Apostle Paul, in addition to being his personal physician who accompanied Paul during his many travels throughout Israel and the Mediterranean region. He was also known as Lucas, which was a shortened form of the Latin "Lucanus". Consider the following verses:

"‭‭Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas, greet you."
Colossians 4:14, KJV


"‭‭Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry."
2 Timothy 4:11, KJV


"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, ‭be‭ with you all. Amen. ‭[‭The second ‭epistle‭ to the Corinthians was written from Philippi, ‭a city‭ of Macedonia, by Titus and Lucas.‭]"‭‭
2 Corinthians 13:13, KJV


"‭‭Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Lucas, my fellowlabourers."
Philemon 1:24, KJV


But going back to Luke 3:23, as I said, there is a hint that perhaps even Luke wasn't absolutely certain regarding Jesus' precise age when He began His public ministry. Let me share that verse with you again:

"And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli,"
Luke 3:23, KJV


Regarding the phrase "as was supposed", I am not certain if those words were penned by Luke himself, or by some scribe at a later date for the sake of clarification. If the words were indeed written by Luke, then my current understanding is that his intended meaning is that while everyone supposed that Jesus was the biological son of Joseph, personally, Luke fully understood that Jesus was in reality the Son of God who was created in Mary's womb by way of the Holy Spirit. In fact, this is exactly what Luke tells us in the first chapter of his Gospel, as we see by the following verses:

"Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?‭ And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God."
Luke 1:34-35, KJV


You may also recall that in addressing Theophilus, Luke told him that he had a "perfect understanding" -- or an accurate understanding -- "of all things from the very first".

But it is the other part of the verse where Luke says that Jesus "began to be about thirty years of age" which caught my attention. Considering how detailed Luke is in all of his other writings, providing precise names, places, events, etc., was he just being a bit lazy here by saying "began to be about"; or did he honestly not know the Lord's precise age at the time? I don't think it was laziness, because right after that, Luke provides a very detailed genealogy of the Lord's ancestors. One possibility is that Luke just didn't consider it important enough to be precise concerning the Lord's age. This would be in line with what I said earlier regarding the Apostles and Disciples viewing Jesus' Death and Resurrection as being more important than His physical age and the time of His birth. I do find it interesting that Luke is the only one of the four Gospel writers who even attempts to place an age on Jesus. That point itself could be making a statement to us.

Please go to part three for the conclusion of this series.

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