I have received many tweets asking for my opinion on several theories revolving around the supposed 3 BCE birth of Jesus. Traditional historians, using the works of Jewish historian Josephus, dated the death of Herod to 4 BCE. This was based mainly on a lunar eclipse Josephus mentioned that occurred during a fast shortly before Herod’s death. He wrote in Antiquities of the Jews Book 17, Chapter 6, Verse 4, “But Herod deprived this Matthias of the high priesthood, and burnt the other Matthias, who had raised the sedition, with his companion alive. And that very night there was an eclipse of the moon.” According the NASA, based on what Josephus mentions, this eclipse occurred on March 13, 4 BCE. This happened during the Fast of Esther which begins on Adir 13, one month before the Passover month of Nissan, and last for three days. Thus, the fast would have occurred during this lunar eclipse. The excuse some historians use for this not being the eclipse shorty before Herod’s death is that this eclipse was late at night and not a total eclipse only a partial. Very thin indeed.
The 3BCE birth theories ignore the traditional date of 4 BCE for the death of Herod by mentioning another lunar eclipse that occurred on January 9, 1 BCE. There is a fast that occurs during this time, but it occurs on the 10th of Tevet and lasts only one day, therefore missing the day of the lunar eclipse by five days. Although the 4 BCE date fits better than the 1 BCE date with the fast mentioned by Josephus, there is even more from Josephus that fits better with the 4 BCE date.
Josephus writes in Antiquities of the Jews Book 17, Chapter 8, Verse 1 about the death and testament of Herod. He writes, “When he had done those things he died, the fifth day after he had caused Antipater to be slain; having reigned, since he had procured Antigonus to be slain, thirty-four years; but since he had been declared king by the Romans, thirty-seven.” We know the Roman senate, under the suggestion of Mark Anthony, declared Herod King of Judea in 40 BCE, and that Antigonus was beheaded after a war with Herod in 37 BCE. Therefore, Herod reigned from 40 BCE until his death in 4 BCE, or 37 years. Based on this, a 1 BCE death of Herod is not possible. Therefore, ANY dates for the Nativity or death of Herod that occur after 4 BCE are suspect. They have no primary sources to back them up. I challenge Larson, Martin, Steinmann, and anyone else who believes in a 1 BCE death of Herod to show me a primary source for his death, and stop making excuses for the only existing primary source available. If you are going to dismiss Josephus’ 37 reign year of Herod, then you must dismiss everything he said, including the eclipse before Herod’s death. If this is done then your 1 BCE death of Herod has no proof. Enough, focus on the dates before 4 BCE and not ones after. Your theoris are not valid until a primary source is discovered. Do the work. In the meantime, I will focus some attention on Mark Anthony’s time with Herod to find a Roman source that could validate Josephus.
14 years ago I became interested in the date that Jesus was born. This led to several years of research, I quickly realized that there was no valid information that provided any real answers to this question. Since this website is getting some interest I will post from time to time some of the information I learned during this quest.