Some claim that the Bible has the “ring of truth” about it. What they mean by this is that it has a warts-and-all portrayal of man and his frailties. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Bible and the events depicted exist in a realm outside of human existence the mystical teachings of jesus . The characters are larger than life. The episodes miraculous and unlikely.
Even events which have the least amount of time between the happening and the recording fail to have the ring of truth about them. Apparently there was a man who walked the land of Israel two-thousand years ago, and he had the ability to cure people of their ailments merely by speaking a word or “rebuking a spirit. ” However, the fact that mankind generally accepted this phenomenon with a collective shrug testifies to its unlikelihood. Yes, the gospels often portray onlookers as being amazed or “giving glory to God, ” but this claim tends to land with a dull thud when nobody but the Christians were impressed enough to attempt to document the claims – and even then thirty years or more after the event.
One of the problems is that the individual events themselves fail to impress with their scale. They are presented without any sense of awe, as if the writer was so aware of their impossibility that he erred on the side of the perfunctory because that might make it appear more real. Although Jesus is shown in scenes where large numbers of sick and crippled are cast at his feet and he “cured them all”, there are only a handful of direct references to curing, and even these turn out to be vehicles for conveying a different message. The miracle is a MacGuffin. Of further note, a birth at Passover time would be consistent with Jewish expectations for the birth of the Messiah. For example, Jewish scholar Abarbanal, writing in 1497 C. E. and still expecting the coming of the Messiah, stated that the messianic redemption would come in the month of Nisan (March-April period) since the “cup of Elijah” at the Passover meal preserves the symbolism that the new redemption will come during the same season as the Exodus from Egypt.
The 5 BC date for the Star of Bethlehem also fits well with the textual evidence for the length of stay of Jesus and his family in Egypt. According to Matthew 2: 13-15, after the Magi had left Bethlehem, Joseph was warned that Herod planned to kill Jesus, so the family left for Egypt (a classic refuge for those trying to flee the tyranny of Palestine) and returned after Herod died. Both Origen and Eusebius stated that Jesus and his family were in Egypt for two years, and returned in the first year of the reign of Archelaus. Archelaus, one of Herod’s sons, started his reign when Herod died at the end of March, 4 BC. Thus, the first year of the reign of Archelaus was from April 4 BC to April 3 BC, and would match the two-year exodus described by the early Church fathers. The period in question also explains why King Herod ordered the execution of boys ages 2 and under (Matthew 2: 16). The Magi’s first noted astrological event was the triple conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter in 7 BC. Thus, Herod would have worried that if Jesus had been born at the earliest sign, he would have been two years old by the time of the arrival of the Magi.
After all the evidence is examined, we still have only locked down a two-week period, 13-27 April, 5 BC. However, returning to an early church tradition on the dates of Jesus’ birth, we find three dates that would agree exactly, and a fourth plausibly (if the Magi were a little slow to arrive): April 18th, 19th, and 21st and possibly May 1st, 5 BC. Still, the April dates may be most likely if Jesus was indeed born during the feast of Passover. However, until we can develop new research data it’s unlikely we’ll be able to refine this birth date any further. But then, does an exact date really matter? The spirit of Christmas, of remembering Christ’s arrival and the importance of His message – i. e. to love one another, and to treat each other as we would prefer to be treated our self – is important no matter what day of the year we decide to celebrate it.