The perfect timing of Christ’s birth

“but when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, come of woman, come under law, that he might redeem those under law, that we might receive sonship.” (Galatians 4:4-5)

The verses that we just read tell us that the Lord came to die and redeem us at the exact time appointed by God. That “fulness of the time” is God’s perfect and sovereign timing. God ordered everything in a way that the time when Jesus came was the best time for His ministry and death and resurrection and also for the ministry of the Apostles. All was prepared sovereignly for the accomplishment of the prophecies related to the first coming of Christ: the people, the events, the politicians, the geography, the history, and even the star that appeared in the East!… All was perfectly timed. The time had come for the shadows of the Old Covenant to be replaced with the appearance of the Substance which is Christ Himself (cf. Colossians 2:17). The sovereign hand of God is clear in the ministry of the Lord and in that quick spread of the Gospel through the Apostles in the first century A.D.

Now, it is clear in the Word of God that Christ was born to die. That’s what the above quoted verses say. The Lord Jesus Himself clearly said it: “For also the Son of man did not come to be ministered to, but to minister, and give his life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45) The whole of Christ’s life on earth was centered on the cross, so much that He always talked about that, saying: mine hour has not yet come” (John 2:4) or my time is not yet fulfilled.” (John 7:8) This hour or time of Christ is the time appointed by God when the Messiah would reveal Himself in the way God wanted Him to do it, in the humble and non-showy way of the Heavenly King who doesn’t seek worldly glory, but has chosen the glory of the cross where sin is condemned and the great love and Grace of God are revealed in the fullest way. As this hour of Christ was the central time of all history, so the birth of Christ also is centered on it. And God had made this hour or time of Christ very clear in the prophets! Through the details of the context of Christ’s birth and death, described by the prophets before Christ’s coming, God had made it clear about the kind of time in which His Son would come, so much that many Jews were already waiting for Him to appear, such as Simeon (cf. Luke 2:25-26) and Anna the prophetess (cf. Luke 2:36-38). We will concentrate here on a prophecy about the exact time of His death which gives us the time of His birth. This prophecy was written almost 500 years before Christ’s birth by the prophet Daniel.

The prophecy says:

“Seventy weeks are apportioned out upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to close the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make expiation for iniquity, and to bring in the righteousness of the ages, and to seal the vision and prophet, and to anoint the holy of holies. Know therefore and understand: From the going forth of the word to restore and to build Jerusalem unto Messiah, the Prince, are seven weeks, and sixty-two weeks. The street and the moat shall be built again, even in troublous times. And after the sixty-two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, and shall have nothing; and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with an overflow, and unto the end, war, — the desolations determined. And he shall confirm a covenant with the many [for] one week; and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and because of the protection of abominations [there shall be] a desolator, even until that the consumption and what is determined shall be poured out upon the desolate.” (Daniel 9:24-27)

In this prophecy, we have many details about the exact time of Christ’s birth and death; it even mentions “the abomination of desolation, which is spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in [what is a] holy place” (Matthew 24:15) and which should have happened after the death of the Messiah, as the prophecy says and as also Jesus said and as actually happened and will happen (read more details in our article This generation will not pass away until all these things take place). But, as I said, we will concentrate here on the date of Christ’s death to which is related the date of His birth.

In this prophecy, the weeks are seven years, because that’s how the biblical authors used to express the “seven years” in biblical Hebrew. The word used for “weeks” in this passage is the Hebrew “šā·ḇu·‘îm” which is literally “seveneds” or “groups of seven” and which is specifically used of years (i.e. groups of seven years or years week). When the same author, Daniel, wanted to talk about day weeks, he wrote “šā·ḇu·‘îm yā·mîm” which is literally “seveneds of days” and which can be translated as “day weeks” or “groups of seven days”(cf. Daniel 10:2-3). And this is of course not the first time a biblical author uses this form of expression to express “seven years”, but we also find it in other places in Scripture; for instance, we read in Leviticus 25:8: “And thou shalt count seven sabbaths of years, seven times seven years; so that the days of the seven sabbaths of years be unto thee forty-nine years.”

So the weeks in this prophecy are seven years.

The prophecy says that From the going forth of the word to restore and to build Jerusalem unto Messiah, the Prince, are seven weeks, and sixty-two weeks.

The word (or the order) to restore and to build Jerusalem was given by the Persian king Artaxerxes I in the year 445 B.C. (see Nehemiah 2:1-8, and read history).

After this order is given by Artaxerxes I, we have 7 weeks + 62 weeks until the Messiah is crucified (“cut off”). Let’s calculate them:

7 + 62 = 69 weeks = 69 x 7 years (because 1 week = 7 years).

69 x 7 years = 483 biblical years.

The biblical year is 360 days: see Revelation 12:6 and Revelation 11:3 where the 1260 days are the equivalent of the 42 months of Revelation 11:2 and of the 3 years and a half of Revelation 12:14. 42 months are 3 years and a half or 1260 days, so the biblical year is 360 days and not ~365.5 days like the solar year. So if we want to know how many solar years are the 483 biblical years, we need to convert them to solar years in the following way:

483 x 360 = 173880 days => 173880/365.5 = 475.73187 solar years = 475 solar years and 9 months approximately.

(Note: The solar year is not exactly 365.5 days, so we may make a little mistake in months because of this fact. Besides this, sometimes one month is added on the Jewish year in order to make the feasts come on their seasons, and this also may cause a little error in months).

And now let’s see when the crucifixion of Christ should have happened according to the calculations:

– 445 B.C. + 475 solar years = 30 A.D.

A.D. 30

Indeed! The 30th year A.D.!!

(Note: A little error in years may be caused by our lack of exact knowledge of the year of Christ’s birth according to the Gregorian Calendar, as we will see, and of the exact year in which the order of Artaxerxes I of Persia was issued — 445 B.C. or 444 B.C. The error may be at the most 1 to 1.5 year which is insignificant, because no one other than Jesus was crucified as Messiah during those times, who at the same time fulfilled all the rest of the prophecies. Note that the error is in our calculations and in our exact knowledge, and it is so small, and it is not in the prophecy itself).

The Gregorian Calendar according to which we are now in A.D. 2010 was proved to be in an error of a few years. This calendar has counted the birth of Jesus to be in the year zero of the same calendar, i.e. all the other dates before and after Christ are referenced by the date of Christ’s wrong date of birth assumed by the calculations of this calendar. According to this calendar, Jesus would have died in ~34 A.D., because He was about 30 years old when He began His public ministry and He was crucified after about 3 years and a half (as we will shortly see). But this calendar was proved to be in an error of a few years, and the birth of Jesus is placed by the right calculations between 6 and 4 B.C. of the Gregorian Calendar. To say it in another way, if we take the real year of Christ’s birth, we will now be in 2014 or 2015 or 2016 after Christ’s birth, and thus the crucifixion of Christ has happened in ~30 A.D. (by Gregorian Calendar) which is exactly the date that we got in our calculations based on the prophecy above!! God had revealed to the prophet Daniel the exact date of Christ’s death, as we have seen, and thus we can know the approximate year of Christ’s birth and the exact time interval in which He was born and which had to be in that exact historical context sovereignly chosen by God, as we have seen above.

Indeed, God says that Jesus was “born in Bethlehem of Judaea, in the days of Herod the king (Matthew 2:1). Herod the king died in ~4 B.C. At this date, Jesus should have been at least some months old because of the following facts:

– The magi saw the star of Jesus in the East and came to do Him homage (cf. Matthew 2:2). That star appeared to announce the birth of Jesus. So when the magi saw that star in the East, they had to do their calculations and/or assumptions and/or researches, then prepare to depart, and then travel the whole way from the East to Jerusalem.This should have taken some time; let’s say one month and a half at least.

– When the magi arrived to Jerusalem, Herod was still alive, so it was still before ~4 B.C.

– Herod asked the magi about the date when the star appeared, and they told him. We don’t know what was that date, but when Herod wanted to kill Jesus, he concluded from that date given by the magi that, in order to make sure Jesus was killed, he should slay all the boys of Bethlehem who were under the two years of age. Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean that Jesus was two years old. In order to make sure that Jesus was killed, Herod has surely decided to take a bigger interval of age in relation to the age calculated based on the date given by the magi. We can say this makes us conclude that Jesus was at least a few months old when those boys of Bethlehem were slain.

– Meanwhile, after Jesus was born, all what was commanded in the Law should have been done to Him. First He was circumcised on the eighth day after His birth (cf. Luke 2:21 and Leviticus 12:1-3); this could have been done in Bethlehem. But for forty days from the birth of the male child, i.e. for 33 days from his circumcision (the day of the circumcision included), the mother is unclean ceremonially. On the fortieth day, the boy should be brought to Jerusalem and be presented to the Lord, and an offering should be presented (cf. Luke 12:1-8). This is exactly what Joseph and Mary did with Jesus on the fortieth day (cf. Luke 2:22-24 and Exodus 34:19-20). After this, they came back to Bethlehem. Luke doesn’t mention the details after the events that took place in Jerusalem, and he passes directly to their return to Galilee which happened after their return from Egypt after the death of Herod (cf. Luke 2:39 and Matthew 2:19-23). But before the massacre of the boys of Bethlehem, the magi came to Jesus in Bethlehem; so this means that Joseph and Mary came back with the child to Bethlehem after presenting Him in Jerusalem. It seems that Joseph and Mary were planning to stay in Bethlehem and not to return to Galilee, as we also may conclude from Matthew 2:22 where it is said that they were afraid to go back to Judea (Bethlehem), thus showing that they had plans to go back and stay in Bethlehem. All these details make us conclude that at least 40 days passed from the birth of Jesus before the magi arrived to Bethlehem.

– After the magi arrived (we saw that this is at least 40 days after the birth of Jesus), Herod wanted to kill the child, so Joseph took Him with His mother and fled to Egypt by an order from God. They came back from there when Herod was dead, and they went to Galilee (cf. Matthew 2:19-23). Herod was dead at ~4 B.C., so we can say that all this happened at least in some months in the year 4 B.C. (one year more or one year less does not really matter when we’re not sure of the exact year and day of Herod’s death).

So these details make us place the birth of Jesus in 4 B.C. (5 B.C. and 6 B.C. and even 3 and 2 B.C. also are probable if there is a little error in the date of Herod’s death). And Luke also says that, when He began His public ministry, Jesus was about thirty years of age (cf. Luke 3:23), which doesn’t necessarily mean that He was exactly 30 years old; it means that He was around 30. The details of His ministry in the Gospel accounts make us conclude that His public ministry’s duration was almost 3 years and 3 months or so, and thus He was crucified when He was about 33 or 34 years old. Given the fact that He was born in 4 B.C. and was crucified when He was about 34, then this makes us conclude that the crucifixion happened in 30 A.D. (-4 B.C. + 34 years = 30 A.D.) And this is exactly the year that we got in our calculations based on the above quoted prophecy! Add to this that Luke says also that, when Jesus began His public ministry at about 30 years of age, it was the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar (cf. Luke 3:1). The reign of Tiberius Caesar began in the year 767 of the Julian Roman Calendar, i.e. in the year 14 A.D. of the Gregorian Calendar that we are using now. So if we count 15 years from that date, we will have 29 A.D. as the year of the beginning of Christ’s ministry. But actually the different historical references, especially by Roman historians, show that the years of the reign of Tiberius began to be counted from the time he was co-emperor with Augustus, i.e from 764 of the Julian Roman Calendar, i.e. from the year 11 A.D. of the Gregorian Calendar. By adding 15 years we get to 26 A.D. as the year of the beginning of Christ’s ministry. After about 3 years and a half of ministry, the year 26 included (we don’t know exactly in which month of this year Jesus began His ministry), we get to 30 A.D., which is the exact date that we got in our calculations based on the above quoted prophecy!!

Indeed, God has sovereignly appointed the date of His Son’s crucifixion and the time of His birth. The Lord Jesus was in sovereign control of the year and time of His birth and death. The birth of Jesus Christ was perfectly and sovereignly timed by God.

Grace be with you!
Disciple of Jesus Christ

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