Gospel dating and interpretation - not mainstream
Brooklyn Museum - The Magi (Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar) Journeying (Les rois mages en voyage) - James Tissot.
Apart from their names, the three Magi developed distinct characteristics in Christian tradition, so that between them they represented the three ages of (adult) man, three geographical and cultural areas, and sometimes other things. In one tradition, reflected in art by the 14th century (for example in the Arena Chapel by Giotto in 1305) Caspar is old, normally with a white beard, and gives the gold; he is "King of Tarsus, land of merchants" on the Mediterranean coast of modern Turkey, and is first in line to kneel to Christ. Melchior is middle-aged, giving frankincense from Arabia, and Balthazar is a young man, very often and increasingly black-skinned, with myrrh from Saba (modern southern Yemen).
Their ages were often given as 60, 40 and 20 respectively, and their geographical origins were rather variable, with Balthazar increasingly coming from Aksum or other parts of Africa, and being represented accordingly. Balthazar's blackness has been the subject of considerable recent scholarly attention; in art, it is found mostly in northern Europe, beginning from the 12th century, and becoming very common in the north by the 15th. The subject of which king is which and who brought which gift is not without some variation depending on the tradition. The gift of gold is sometimes associated with Melchior as well and in some traditions, Melchior is the old man of the three Magi
The Gospel of Luke, Chapter 2:1-5 indicates the date of the nativity of Jesus took place during the census of Publius Sulpicius Quirinius, Roman governor of Syria, in 6 AD:
“In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration, and all went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child.” (Luke 2:1-5)
The Gospel of Luke records the birth of Jesus as taking place in Bethlehem during this census. (Likely between 6 BC and 1 BC). However, the Gospel also places the birth of Jesus during the reign of Herod the Great (Luke 1:5) who died in 4 BC, nine years before the earliest possible date of the census.
Matthew 2:1 records that "Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king". He also implies that Jesus could have been as much as two years old at the time of the visit of the Magi, because Herod ordered the murder of all boys up to the age of two years," in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi". Most scholars agree that Herod died in 4 BC, although a case has also been made that Herod died only in 1 BC.
In 6 BC the rulers of the Roman Empire deposed Herod Archelaus, who ruled the largest section of Judea as a Roman client king, and converted his territory into the Roman province of Judea. Publius Sulpicius Quirinius, the newly-appointed Imperial Legate (governor) of the province of Roman Syria, was assigned to carry out a tax census of the new province. According to Josephus, a Jewish historian writing in the late first century CE, Jews reacted negatively to this census. Most were convinced to comply with it by the high priest, but some joined a rebellion led by Judas of Galilee.
There was no single census of the entire empire under Augustus; no Roman census required people to travel from their own homes to those of distant ancestors; and the census of Judea would not have affected Joseph and his family, living in Galilee. The Romans apparently did not directly tax client kingdoms, and the hostile reaction of the Jews in 6 AD suggests direct taxation by Rome was new at the time.
Sitting around a campfire in Kabul in July 2004, with a multi-national crowd, we would often delve into sensitive questions on every subject imaginable. One evening, the discussion turned to the question of "when was Christ born?" Well, to give you some idea of how complicated the answer proved to be, we learned that scholars have come with some tremendously conflicting timelines and curious details concerning the dating of Christ’s birth. Jewish Law is even more complicated, but we discussed the research of Dr. Barbara Thiering and her “Pesher” interpretation of the New Testament. We discovered that she had some surprising intellectual (and highly controversial) interpretations and information about Mary and Joseph, Christ’s parents, and Mary his first wife, at this website: (http://www.peshertechnique.infinitesoulutions.com/).
Christ is reported to have been married to Mary Magdalene for 15 years prior to his death. By Jewish Law, only an immediate family member could carry out the anointing ceremony after a death. As his wife, Mary went to carry out the task, but of course found the grave empty. It would appear that she was designated to be his next in succession as head of the church. It is possible they had three children. One researcher indicates they were Jesus II, Josephus, and Demaris (or Tamara). Another researcher, using the same data, interprets the information to mean that Tamara was born first, then Jesus II(who perhaps died young) and Joseph, who carried on the bloodline which the Saint Clair and Plantard families claim to carry today.
Beginning with the mixed bag of details on the time of the birth of Christ – scholarly estimates (very little agreement among them, except that it wasn’t on 25 Dec 0). Here is a summary of one interpretation:
A. Joseph and Mary journeyed to Bethlehem for the “census” (registration) at the very close of the Jewish civil year (an apt time for a registration of peoples to occur) in late Summer, 3 BC, Lk.2:1.
B. Jesus was born in a stable in the early evening hours (just as the Jewish calendar advanced to 1 Tishri) of 11 September 3 BC.
C. He was circumcised on 19 September 3 BC, Lk.2:21
D. He was dedicated in the Temple on 21 October 3 BC. Luke says, “they returned to Galilee, to their own city of Nazareth”, Lk.2:39. This means that they did not go to Egypt after the birth of Christ. After all, they had only gone to Bethlehem for the “census”, not to move there. So, the family returned to Nazareth in the latter part of October (during that time, they located a house to live in).
E. Then for some reason (they probably thought that a better place to raise the Messiah would be in Jerusalem’s back yard) they decided to move to Bethlehem. This could have been in the Spring or Summer of 2 BC. They set up house there, Mt.2:11.
F. Then on 25 December 2 BC, when the planet Jupiter came to its stationary point in mid-Virgo and was in meridian over Bethlehem, the Magi arrived in Bethlehem bearing gifts meant for a king.
G. Joseph and Mary fled to Egypt, having been forewarned by an angel in late December, 2 BC.
H. Herod killed the male children “in Bethlehem and in all its environs, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the magi”, Mt.2:16. This matter of killing two-year-old children can now make sense. If Jesus was born in September, 3 BC, the slaying of infants was about 15 months after His birth. If the conception period were also considered, it comes to 24 months exactly.
I. Joseph and Mary returned from Egypt, having been told that Herod was dead (Herod died in January, 1 BC) and took up residence in Nazareth, Mt.2:19-23.
J. In the spring of 11 AD, Jesus visited Jerusalem with His parents and observed Passover, Lk.2:41-42.
K. Jesus began his public ministry just after he reached the age of 31, in October or November, 29 AD. This satisfies the statement in Lk.3:23 “And when He began His ministry, Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age…”.
Here is another interpretation:
The Gospels tell us that Christ’s birth was shortly before Herod the Great died. Herod’s death can be fixed with certainty. Josephus records an eclipse of the moon just before Herod passed on. This occurred on 12 or 13 March 4 BC. Josephus also tells us that Herod expired just before Passover. This feast took place on 11 April, in the same year, 4 BC From other details supplied by Josephus, we can pinpoint Herod the Great’s demise as occurring between 29 March and 4 April4 BC. Jesus Christ was born no later than 4 BC. (The modern calendar which splits time between BC and AD was not invented until AD525. At that time, Pope John the First asked a monk named Dionysius to prepare a standardized calendar for the western Church. Dionysius missed the real BC/AD division by at least four years). Matthew tells us that Herod killed Bethlehem’s babies two years old and under. The earliest Jesus could have been born, therefore, is 6 BC. Through a variety of other time indicators, we can be relatively confident that the one called Messiah was born in either late 5 BC or early 4 BC.
Now to complicate matters, not all scholars agree on when Christ was born. Placement of Herod’s death in 1 BC allows us to accept the ancient tradition that Jesus was born in 3 or 2 BC. The four earliest Christian writers who report the date of Jesus’ birth are Irenaeus (late second century),Clement of Alexandria (about AD 200), Tertullian (early third century), and Africanus (early third century). Africanus specifies the date in terms that can be understood as 3/2BC. Both Irenaeus and Tertullian assign Jesus’ birth to the forty-first year of Augustus. If this date presumes that the reign of Augustus began when he was elevated to consulship in August 43 BC, the year intended is 2 BC. Tertullian conveniently confirms this conclusion by adding that Christ’s birth was 28years after the death of Cleopatra and fifteen years before the death of Augustus. Cleopatra died in August 30 BC, and Augustus died in August AD 14. Konradin Ferrari d’Occhieppo has demonstrated that the date which Clement of Alexandria furnishes for the birth of Jesus is equivalent to 6 January 2 BC. The consensus among writers of the late second and early third centuries that he was born in 2 BC probably rested not on historical fact but on their understanding of the Gospels. The easy but simplistic interpretation of Luke 3:1 and Luke 3:23 is that Jesus turned age thirty in the fifteenth year of Tiberius (AD 29). Hence, many early Christians deduced by calculation that he was born in 2 BC.
Clement of Alexandria says, “From the birth of Christ, therefore, to the death of Commodus [the Roman emperor who died on 31 December AD 192 are, in all, a hundred and ninety-four years, one month, thirteen days”. If we suppose that he is using the Roman calendar, we deduce that Clement set Christ’s birth on 18 November 3 BC. But it is highly doubtful that this date, affirmed by no other ancient source, is the one he so confidently espouses. We arrive at a different date if we suppose that Clement, a resident of Egypt, is using the Egyptian calendar without intercalation. Measuring backward from Commodus’ death an interval of 194 years (each exactly 365 days), one month(thirty days), and thirteen days brings us to 6 January 2 BC. It so happens that before the church as a whole fixed the date of the Nativity as 25 December, the generally accepted date in the Eastern church and possibly also in the Western church was 6 January. Apart from Clement, the earliest sources affirming this date do not precede the fourth century (19), yet Clement’s testimony proves that the association of Christ’s birth with 6 January was a tradition rooted centuries earlier, perhaps in the early church itself, perhaps even in historical fact. Several considerations strengthen the probability that 6 January was the actual birthday of Christ.
The Magi came perhaps as much as two years after Christ was born (about the time of the census of Caesar Augustus) “in the days of King Herod“ (Matthew 2:1), i.e. before the year 4 BC (AUC 750), the probable date of Herod’s death at Jericho. Archelaus, Herod’s son, succeeded as ethnarch to a part of his father’s realm, and was deposed either in his ninth (Josephus, Bel. Jud., II, vii, 3) or tenth (Josephus, Antiq., XVII, xviii, 2) year of office during the consulship of Lepidus and Arruntius (Dion Cassis, lv,27), i.e., AD 6. Moreover, the Magi camewhile King Herod was in Jerusalem (vv. 3, 7), not in Jericho, i.e., either the beginning of 4 BC or the end of 5 BC. Lastly, it was probably a year, or a little more than a year, after the birth of Christ. Herod had found out from the Magi the time of the star’s appearance. Taking this for the time of the Child’s birth, he slew the male children of two years old and under in Bethlehem and its borders (v. 16). From Persia, whence the Magi are supposed to have come, to Jerusalem was a journey of between 1000 and 1200 miles. Such a distance may have taken any time between three and twelve months by camel. Besides the time of travel, there were probably many weeks of preparation. The Magi could scarcely have reached Jerusalem till a year or more had elapsed from the time of the appearance of the star. The star may have been a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn (7 BC), or of Jupiter and Venus (6 BC). The Magi may have seen a stellanova, a star which suddenly increases in magnitude and brilliancy and then fades away.
The tradition for 25 December is actually quite ancient. Hippolytus, in the second century AD, argued that this was Christ’s birthday. Meanwhile, in the eastern Church, 6 January was the date followed. But in the fourth century, John Chrysostom argued that 25 December was the correct date and from that day till now, the Church in the East, as well as the West, has observed the 25th of December as the official date of Christ’s birth.
The interpretation attached (not accepted by the mainstream, but interesting) has the following information about the origin of the Gospels:
The origin of the Gospels - These New Testament records had their origin in the following circumstances:
1. The Gospel by Mark. John Mark wrote the earliest (excepting the notes of Andrew), briefest, and most simple record of Jesus’ life. He presented the Master as a minister, as man among men. Although Mark was a lad lingering about many of the scenes which he depicts, his record is in reality the Gospel according to Simon Peter. He was early associated with Peter; later with Paul. Mark wrote this record at the instigation of Peter and on the earnest petition of the church at Rome. Knowing how consistently the Master refused to write out his teachings when on earth and in the flesh, Mark, like the apostles and other leading disciples, was hesitant to put them in writing. But Peter felt the church at Rome required the assistance of such a written narrative, and Mark consented to undertake its preparation. He made many notes before Peter died in AD 67,and in accordance with the outline approved by Peter and for the church at Rome, he began his writing soon after Peter’s death. The Gospel was completed near the end of AD 68. Mark wrote entirely from his own memory and Peter’s memory. The record has since been considerably changed, numerous passages having been taken out and some later matter added at the end to replace the latter one fifth of the original Gospel, which was lost from the first manuscript before it was ever copied. This record by Mark, in conjunction with Andrew’s and Matthew’s notes, was the written basis of all subsequent Gospel narratives which sought to portray the life and teachings of Jesus.
2.The Gospel of Matthew. The so-called Gospel according to Matthew is the record of the Master’s life which was written for the edification of Jewish Christians. The author of this record constantly seeks to show in Jesus’ life that much which he did was that “it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet.” Matthew’s Gospel portrays Jesus as a son of David, picturing him as showing great respect for the law and the prophets.
The Apostle Matthew did not write this Gospel. It was written by Isador, one of his disciples, who had as a help in his work not only Matthew’s personal remembrance of these events but also a certain record which the latter had made of the sayings of Jesus directly after the crucifixion. This record by Matthew was written in Aramaic; Isador wrote in Greek. There was no intent to deceive in accrediting the production to Matthew. It was the custom in those days for pupils thus to honour their teachers.
Matthew’s original record was edited and added to in AD 40 just before he left Jerusalem to engage in evangelistic preaching. It was a private record, the last copy having been destroyed in the burning of a Syrian monastery in AD 416.
Isador escaped from Jerusalem in AD 70 after the investment of the city by the armies of Titus, taking with him to Pella a copy of Matthew’s notes. In the year 71, while living at Pella, Isador wrote the Gospel according to Matthew. He also had with him the first four-fifths of Mark’s narrative.
3. The Gospel by Luke. Luke, the physician of Antioch in Pisidia, was a gentile convert of Paul, and he wrote quite a different story of the Master’s life. He began to follow Paul and learn of the life and teachings of Jesus in AD 47. Luke preserves much of the “grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” in his record as he gathered up these facts from Paul and others. Luke presents the Master as “the friend of publicans and sinners.” He did not formulate his many notes into the Gospel until after Paul’s death. Luke wrote in the year AD 82 in Achaia. He planned three books dealing with the history of Christ and Christianity but died in AD 90 just before he finished the second of these works, the “Acts of the Apostles.”
As material for the compilation of his Gospel, Luke first depended upon the story of Jesus’ life as Paul had related it to him. Luke’s Gospel is, therefore, in some ways the Gospel according to Paul. But Luke had other sources of information. He not only interviewed scores of eyewitnesses to the numerous episodes of Jesus’ life which he records, but he also had with him a copy of Mark’s Gospel, that is ,the first four fifths, Isador’s narrative, and a brief record made in the year AD 78 at Antioch by a believer named Cedes. Luke also had a mutilated and much-edited copy of some notes purported to have been made by the Apostle Andrew.
4. The Gospel of John. The Gospel according to John relates much of Jesus’ work in Judea and around Jerusalem which is not contained in the other records. This is the so-called Gospel according to John the son of Zebedee, and though John did not write it, he did inspire it. Since its first writing it has several times been edited to make it appear to have been written by John himself. When this record was made, John had the other Gospels, and he saw that much had been omitted; accordingly, in the year AD 101 he encouraged his associate, Nathan, a Greek Jew from Caesarea, to begin the writing. John supplied his material from memory and by reference to the three records already in existence. He had no written records of his own. The Epistle known as “First John” was written by John himself as a covering letter for the work which Nathan executed under his direction.
All these writers presented honest pictures of Jesus as they saw, remembered, or had learned of him, and as their concepts of these distant events were affected by their subsequent espousal of Paul’s theology of Christianity. And these records, imperfect as they are, have been sufficient to change the course of history for almost two thousand years.
Book of U. This is an exchange I had with a visitor through a channel once upon a time: You might be interested in a comment provided to me by a translator known as “Go-by-one” who represented a watcher called a Queen, saying: “We watch over where the beginnings of certain races take them. We do not interfere, but there are times when merely remembering the beginnings will change the course, and always we can allow, we can prod, to remember the beginnings. That is the only interference we are allowed in our structures, in our beingness, in our purpose for existence. We are that which keeps alive the beginnings, because that is where the power began. It is abstract in your structured place. This is understanding to us, why we are able to assist through you. We did not question, but we did not understand that you knew your beginnings, and of course that is why we are sent. For we cannot work with those who do not know their beginnings.”
Now if you can picture us in Kabul surrounded by the opportunity to ask questions of people from dozens of different countries and seizing the chance with both hands, you can imagine what it would be like asking these guides any question you can think of. I also wanted to know what kinds of questions the Afghans had for us. On this occasion, I decided to ask the guides what they wanted to know. The response was most interesting:
"Amen. Answers this you?”
“Further from us?”
Yes. It always seems that I am asking the questions. This time, I have the sense that you have a question for me. Would it be permissible to try and answer it?
“We are startled. One minute please.”
(At this point, the interpreter indicated that the guides appeared to have “left.” It was as though a curtain had been drawn, but after awhile, they returned).
“Excuse please. We search among all our beginnings, to see if there is, among the times, a question. And it is decided among us that our question is, Why do you, and by you we mean your tribes, not trust your beginnings? Why are your beginnings recorded, but discounted? Why are they structured in your language and your stories, but none of their power is present? Why do you not trust your beginnings?”
I responded, "The first, and incomplete but simple answer, is fear. We are afraid. All of us. For if we knew the beginnings, then there would be a requirement to be open to the possibility of God and life and the source and all of the things that are not something you can put your hand on and see and touch and feel. And what you cannot see and touch and feel but you know is there, you are afraid of, and therefore we hide it in stories without the power. Because if one acknowledges the power and the source and the oneness and the origin, then one must acknowledge the responsibility that goes with it. To be part of it. To live well and to look after those about you, and to make the most of what we have, and that would mean a change. And second to the fear is the fear of change, because we would have to change if we knew what we were. And unfortunately, I think many suspect, if they don’t already know, that the change will take place whether we choose it to or not. And in order to prevent being taken away by that change, it will have to be acknowledged. And sometimes, like an ostrich or a bird that buries its head in the sand, it is easier to pretend it doesn’t exist, or will it away, or make up a story that says 'it never happened'. But so many know that something is not right. Something is changing. And they are afraid, and it is easier to pretend something isn’t real, than it is to deal with it in many cases. My hope is that there will be many of us who are trying to deal with it by not being afraid of it. By trying to understand it and then to move forward. But I believe the answer to your question is simple, and fear is that word."
“We would like to know, what fear is. We do not want to touch it, but could you tell us? We have glimpsed it often. It is an important…tribute in your place of structure.”
“But what is it that you call fear?”
"It starts from something basic…an instinct, I suspect one would call it, that if you are going to be hurt…and that means to be injured…the pain and senses in your body that know hurt, if you are going to be hurt you want to prevent that. But in our way, hurt comes in many forms. There is a physical hurt, a wound, being injured, losing a hand or a foot or being hit in the head or being broken or smashed and made to bleed. That is a ‘painful’ experience which each of us is afraid of. We are afraid of losing someone very dear in our ‘loving’ and interpersonal relationships with our family and friends and those we interact with, and those for whom we have developed strong feelings, of comfort. We want to be proud of those close to us, we want to be happy with and to love our children, our families, our mates, and losing them is more than some can bear, and there is a great fear of that. There is the fear dying. Many don’t know or don’t want to believe that we have been here before, that although we are here now and must one day leave, we will be here again, and that the soul is eternal. And therefore they think, when they are gone, that something terrible will happen to them in the hereafter, or nothing will happen, which would be even worse, and they are afraid of that. So to sum it up, their fear, they are afraid of being hurt on the outside in the physical body. They are afraid of being hurt on the inside, in the temporal, ‘head and heart’ you would call it, the family, their relationships, the interaction with others about them that they value tremendously, and they are afraid of what is to come, because they don’t know what is to come. And in fact, the greatest fear is the fear of what they don’t know. The difficult part is to seek the information and find it, which requires the courage to face what you don’t know. And sometimes it is easier to live not knowing, and to fight against everything around you to prevent knowing, than it is to know."
“It is curious to us, the complications. For in our realm, all of your fears?”
“Are answered by the power of the beginnings, and so it is complicated, and confusing. Again, why do you not trust your beginnings? It would undo the very thing you say ‘stops’ you from trusting your beginnings. We now understand why so many enjoy the challenge of your structure. For experience. Your planet, it is complicated.”
"There are many, though, if I might add to the story, who want to make a difference, who want to make a change".
“Then all you must do is return to your beginnings. We do not excuse. We do not mean to criticize, but the solution is always in the beginnings. From our realm that is all we see. And we have now known as much of your complications as we can tolerate. It is harmful, your complications.”
“And we ask to receive no more. It is uncomfortable to us.”
"May I offer something to you, in return, to balance that?"
“Not necessary, but we accept a gift as it is intended.”
"Yes, and what I would request is that you would imagine, not me, but as it comes through me as perhaps you have seen, the gift of light and well-being and a place of no fear but of comfort. To make you aware that there are those here who do have at least some understanding and some willingness to give that. And the more it grows and the more it spreads the less fear there will be, and that there is hope, which is a major, major part of what we are about. A hope and a will to try and make things better. The fear part is a sad part, but it is not the only part of our complicated makeup. And for a few moments I am going to ask you to imagine, as a representative of us, with your permission, this wonderful warm, all loving, all encompassing light from God, that he has given us, that is as free to you as it is to me."
“This is your beginnings. This is how we know you. This is your beginnings.”
"And this is freely shared."
“And we have shared. For we have access to all beginnings. It is what takes you from your beginning. There is harmful and confusing. But we accept your sharing, because it does show us that you know of what we call ‘beginnings’ and that we have made to your heart clear our meanings of our word, beginnings. And we support in your structured planet place, all your beginnings to grow. That is why we come to remind each of their beginnings, for we are the beginnings. Do you understand us?”
"And of those, in a way, you are saying I am of you and you are of me, and we are all part of that, and there is great hope. And much to be happy for in the future. There will be more of what has gone in the past, but there will always be the good side as well."
"And I ask that you not - despair, over how we are going. We will find a way forward."
“Amen to you then.”
"And also to you."
“We are complete in the sharings from the Queen, do await your request to share in the space of learning, from our libraries. Always they are open to you. But your access must be through your beginnings. To bring any of your fear, you will not find our space. Are you clear?”
"I have many, many questions. I should be fair about that, and I look forward to accessing the library."
“That is what the library is for. But we will not dance complication. We are simple in our approach. Always to the beginnings. Amen.”
That session ended - I hope you found it to be of interest. Live well and prosper.