Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Date of the birth of Jesus according to Luke

The ministry of John the Baptist began, according to Luke in the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar. The imperial rule of Tiberius Caesar began on the 19th day of August, 14 C.E. when Caesar Augustus died. 14 + 15 equals 29 C.E. Scholars have suggested a number of explanations to justify an earlier beginning date so that they can maintain the three year ministry of Jesus began when he was about thirty years of age and ended on the cross in 30 C.E. These explanations are not supported by the text or by the evidence.

At this time of the year I usually wonder about when Jesus was born. Ernest Martin says on the Day of Triumphs, Rosh Hoshanna; but I think Luke says 40 days before Yom Kippur. Luke dates the birth of Jesus in late September early October. He tells us that Mary came to the Temple on the 40th day after the birth of Jesus. Anna is fasting which is appropriate for Yom Kippur and perhaps even for the forty days before.

Yom Kippur is sometimes referred to as the day of fast or simply νηστεα . Luke uses this Greek word in Acts 27:9 for Yom Kippur using it as a chronological reference point to indicate that travel past this point in the year was dangerous. Luke’s casual usage is also an indication that Luke and his audience consider the Fast as part of their religious experience because they observed it. Daniel Stökl Ben Ezra has stated in The Impact of Yom Kippur on Early Christianity that “In the late Second Temple period, νηστεα had become the most common Greek name for Yom Kippur.”[1]

The theme of prayer being common in Luke-Acts has distracted our attention from the possibility that Anna fasting is a significant date marker.

This is a work in progress.

Copyrighted 2008

[1] The author also notes that Yom Kippur appears in Lev. 23:27; 25:9 and Isa. 1:13-14 LXX as “day of atonement.”


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