For several years, I suggested that Jesus was probably born on September 11, 3 B.C., when Jupiter was in conjunction with Regulus between the feet of Leo. My confidence in this claim came from the book, “The Star that Astonished the World,” by Dr. Ernest L. Martin. He espoused the 3 B.C., date, and it seemed feasible to me at the time.
Furthermore, moving forward 33 1/2 years would cause the date of crucifixion to be on April 15, A.D. 32. That also seemed good to me, since a lunar eclipse occurred on the other side of the world, beginning around 9 A.M., Jerusalem time and concluding around noon, just in time for the sun to go out; in which case, the people on the night side of Earth would see a double lunar eclipse.
However, there is a fundamental flaw with that date. According to Starry Night Pro, an astronomy algorithm computer program with a week-by-week calendar, the full moon of Passover would have been observed on Monday evening, April 14, A.D. 32, and the crucifixion would have been on Tuesday. Whoops! I had a problem!
So I went back to the first-century Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus to see if I could determine the date of the nativity. Somehow, I had overlooked a wealth of documentation. To begin with, I wanted to know when Herod the Great died, and just how much “wiggle room” I could have to play with.
First of all, Herod was given Israel’s royal title in Rome in 40 B.C., three years before he established his rule. Herod conquered Jerusalem on Kislev 28 (January 1, 37 B.C.), during the “Sabbatical Year.” Israel observed a Sabbatical Year, beginning on October 8, 38 B.C., and continuing until September 26, 37 B.C. (Antiq. XIV, xvi, 2). This is irrefutable proof that locks in the chronology.
Furthermore, Herod conquered Jerusalem during the “185th Olympiad,” when “Marcus Agrippa and Caninius Gallus were consuls at Rome.” History agrees that these men came into office on January 1, 37 B.C. The 185th Olympiad began in July of 40 B.C., and continued for four years until July of 36 B.C. Josephus said that Herod’s victory over Jerusalem came on the same day on which Pompey had conquered Jerusalem “twenty-seven years” earlier. Pompey conquered Jerusalem on Kislev 28, (December 28, 63 B.C.), thus marking the beginning of Herod’s 34-year reign on January 1, 37 B.C. — in the 27th year (being 26 years) after Pompey conquered Jerusalem.
Furthermore, Josephus said that Herod ended the rule of the Hasmoneans after 126 years. That dates from the year, 163 B.C., when a peace treaty was struck between the Syrians and Judea (also a Sabbatical year), and Maccabeus was appointed to be the governor. Such a multitude of facts are impossible to ignore.
The Lunar Eclipse
According to Josephus, a lunar eclipse occurred during the final months of Herod’s illness. Josephus reported that a group of young adult men were arrested while pulling down the golden eagle from above the door of Herod’s Temple. Their trial took place in Jericho. Herod was there to testify against them, but had to recline on a couch because he was too ill to stand up. His disease was growing increasingly worse. Josephus wrote that the men were condemned to be burned, along with the High Priest, Matthias:
“Herod … burnt … Matthias, who had raised the sedition, with his companions, alive. And that very night there was an eclipse of the moon. But now Herod’s distemper greatly increased upon him after a severe manner, and this by God’s judgment upon him for his sins: for a fire glowed in him slowly, which did not so much appear to the touch outwardly as it augmented his pains inwardly” (Antiquities, XVII, vi, 4&5).
Dr. Martin had suggested the date of a lunar eclipse on January 10, 1 B.C. However, most historians hold to an earlier lunar eclipse that occurred on March 13, 4 B.C. According to Starry Night Pro, the moon began to show the earth’s shadow about 1:30 A.M., and finished around 6:30 A.M., with the darkest coverage being about 3:30 A.M., on the night of March 13, 4 B.C.
Shortly before his death, Herod received a letter from Augustus Caesar about the wickedness of his son, Antipater, and suggesting that he should be either banished or executed. Herod was so despondent, he tried to commit suicide, but was restrained. His wailing caused the soldiers to dispatch a squad to execute Antipater. Five days later, Herod succumbed to his illness. Josephus wrote that he died “… having reigned 34 years; but since he had been declared king by the Romans, thirty-seven” (Antiq., XVII, viii, 1). This fixes Herod’s death in 4 B.C., some months after the lunar eclipse of March 13, 4 B.C.
Josephus also records that Archelaus succeeded Herod as king, but was deposed after 10 years rule (Antiq., XVII, xiii, 2), and his kingdom was annexed to Syria, and placed under the jurisdiction of Cyrenius. This occurred in A.D. 6. Therefore, the date of Herod’s death had to be fixed in 4 B.C.
The Birth of Christ
Herod’s death in 4 B.C., presents a problem for a proposed 4 B.C. birth date. Even if Herod was alive, he would have been too ill to meet with the Magi. While attempting to determine the day of the week on which the crucifixion occurred, I learned that if the crucifixion occurred in A.D. 30, it would have been on Friday. The full moon of Passover was observed on Thursday evening, April 6. If this was the date, and if Jesus was 33 years and six months old when crucified, then He would have been born in 5 B.C., possibly on Rosh Hashanah, Tishri 1 (Oct. 3rd, 5 B.C.). If this is the case, then my elaborate theory about Jesus being born in 3 B.C., just “went down in flames” (so to speak).
Matthew wrote that Herod“… enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared” (Matt. 2:7). Later, he ordered the deaths of the male children “… from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men” (Matt. 2:16). The Magi unwittingly told Herod about the time the star appeared, leading Herod to think that the Christ child could not be over two years old. This seems to point to the triple conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn that occurred in 7 B.C., in the constellation Pisces.
In a book entitled, The Gospel in the Stars (published in 1882), by Joseph A. Seiss, there is a chapter entitled, The Star of Bethlehem, in which the author suggests that the Magi saw a triple conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in the sign of Pisces. As a matter of fact, the first conjunction between the two planets occurred on May 29, 7 B.C.; the second on September 30, 7 B.C.; and the third on December 5, 7 B.C.
If we hold to a 5 B.C. birth-date, then these conjunctions would have occurred two years before the birth of Christ. The king might have thought that since the conjunctions occurred two years earlier, the young pretender to his throne might be somewhat younger than two years of age. Perhaps this is what prompted Herod to condemn all of Bethlehem’s boys under two years of age.
After its third conjunction on December 5, 7 B.C., Jupiter continued on from Pisces, through Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer and arrived in Leo in 3 B.C., for the first of its triple conjunctions with Regulus (September 11, 3 B.C.; February 13, 2 B.C.; and May 8, 2 B.C.), and its brilliant conjunction with Venus on June 17, 2 B.C.
The Ancient Prophecy
In my new book, Daniel Reveals the Bloodline of the Antichrist, we noted that Jupiter was in Pisces on the first day of Creation, Sunday, September 25, 4004 B.C., and that Saturn entered the first of a triple conjunction with Regulus in Leo on that day. Perhaps these ancient astronomical signs set up the prophecy that Israel’s Messiah would be born when Jupiter and Saturn should have a triple conjunction in Pisces. According to ancient Greek astrology, Jupiter was to become the winner in its conflict with Saturn, and proceed to Leo, where it would replace Saturn as the king of heaven and earth.
Comparing the two occasions, we should note the following: During Creation week, Jupiter was in Pisces while Saturn launched a triple conjunction with Regulus. Some 4,000 years later, in 7 B.C., Both Jupiter and Saturn had a triple conjunction in Pisces, followed 4 years later by Jupiter launching a triple conjunction with Regulus. It sort of brings the story full circle — the story of the conflict between Jupiter and Saturn as told in the idolatrous religions of early civilizations. In Greek mythology, it was called the Battle of the Giants — the Titans versus the Olympians, and was depicted in stone relief around the altar of Zeus (Saturn) at Pergamos. This was the pavilion mentioned in the letter to Pergamos as Satan’s seat (Rev. 2:13). Today, that pavilion is housed in a museum in Berlin, Germany.
In 1882, Rev. Joseph Seiss quoted from a rabbinical commentary written by the esteemed 15th-century rabbi, Abarbanel (1437-1508), who told the story of Egyptian astrologers advising Pharaoh that a conjunction of the two planets foretold the birth of a Jewish leader: “By astronomical calculations we know that such a conjunction of these particular planets in that particular sign [Pisces]… was interpreted by the Egyptian astronomers and wise men as very favorable to the Jews and very unfavorable to the Egyptians. Their sacred scribes, noted for their skill and sagacity in these things, came to the king insisting that it foretokened the birth of a child among the Jews who, if allowed to live, would bring the Egyptian dominion very low, excel in virtue and glory, exalt the children of Israel to power and honor and be remembered throughout all ages” (Seiss, The Gospel in the Stars, p. 162). This prompted Pharaoh to order the deaths of all Jewish male infants. The Egyptian astrologers may have been quoting an ancient astrological prediction that referred to Israel’s future Messiah.
Moreover, many ancient mythologies in Babylon, Egypt, Greece and Rome taught that Saturn was the king of the gods during Earth’s golden age, but was overthrown and succeeded by Jupiter. Could the Magi have known about this ancient teaching and understood what the triple conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn in the constellation Pisces meant? That could have been their motivation for coming to Jerusalem. They wanted to worship the new King of the Jews — the one whom all civilizations anticipated since the days of Adam.
It is likely that all of the astronomical phenomenon were part of the celebration of Jesus’ birth. But the triple conjunctions of Jupiter and Saturn in Pisces in 7 B.C. launched the entire heavenly extravaganza.