January 6, 2013
Running the numbers on Jesus. Dennis the Shrimp was right...
...Doubts over the birth year of Christ arose in the 1600s. Scholars became aware of the chronology provided by the Jewish historian Josephus. Josephus places the death of King Herod the Great in what Dionysius called 4 B.C. Since Herod tried to kill the infant Christ, then it would necessarily be the case that Christ would be born before the death of Herod. If Herod died in 4 B.C., then Christ would need to be born before 4 B.C. And so, ever since the seventeenth century, people have been claiming that Dionysius got it wrong and that Christ was born four years before Christ.
What do we make of all this? Well, either Josephus is correct or Dionysius is correct. Both cannot be right. Until recently most scholars agreed with Josephus because: A) Josephus lived in the century of Christ, B) Josephus was Jewish, and C) Josephus was a professional historian. Dionysius was just a monk living in Rome over five hundred years later.
However, there is now good reason for believing that Josephus got it wrong. Further studies of Josephus reveal that he was most certainly not consistent or accurate in dating several key events in Jewish and Roman history. In fact, Josephus contradicts verified history, the Bible, and even his own chronology about one hundred times. His dates are not very accurate. The French archaeologist, jurist, and historian Theodore Reinarch was one of the first to document the many factual and chronological errors of Josephus. Reinarch’s translation of Josephus is steadily interrupted by comments such as “this is a mistake” or “in another book his figures are different.”[ii]
The following is an example of the poor chronology of Josephus. Josephus records in his Jewish War that Hyrcanus reigned for thirty-three years. Yet in his Antiquities of the Jews, that Hyrcanus reigned thirty-two years.[iii] Yet in another place in his Antiquities, Josephus says that Hyrcanus reigned only thirty years. That’s three contradictory claims—two in the same book!...
Note: Our system of dates comes from a 6th century monk known as Dionysius Exiguus. In English that would be "Little Dennis." I think of him as Dennis the Shrimp. His real mistake was to not start with a zero" century. That's why the year 1950 is in the 20th century, causing endless confusion.Posted by John Weidner at January 6, 2013 8:21 AM