THE BIRTH OF OUR LORD AND THE CHRISTIAN ERA
FROM time to time the question is asked, "Why is it that although our calendar is dated Anno Domini (i.e., the year of our Lord) yet His birth is stated to have taken place in 4 B.C.?" How could our Blessed Lord have been born four years "before Christ"? In actual fact, two mistakes have been perpetuated in connection with the commemoration of our Lord's Birth. The day selected is now known to be the wrong day, and the year is proved to be the wrong year.
When the matter is considered, it is easy to see how these mistakes arose. In the first place, no thought of dating an era could possibly have occurred to the early disciples; they were given the sure and certain promise that their Lord would come again; but, for their good, the knowledge of the centuries that must first elapse was withheld from them; and it was not until about A.D. 325 that the Roman Church settled that the 25th December was to be observed as Christ's birthday. (The Greek Church decided to follow this custom some ten years later.)
It was in the sixth century that Dionysius Exiguus calculated back to fix the commencing date of the Christian Era at A.D. 1.
Sir Isaac Newton explained the matter thus: "The times of the birth and passion of Christ being not material to religion, were little regarded by the Christians of the first age. They who began first to celebrate them placed them in the cardinal periods of the year; as the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary on the 25th March ... the vernal equinox ... and the Birth of Christ on the winter solstice ... all which shows that these dates were fixed in the first Christian calendars by mathematicians, at pleasure, without any ground in tradition; and that the Christians afterwards took up with what they found in the calendar."
Mr David Davidson has shown from his study of the scientific revelation of the Great Pyramid,* that the actual date indicated for the great event is 5th October (Julian), 4 B.C.; and that the day coincided with 15th Tisri, the commencement of the Feast of Tabernacles.
Dionysius's mistake is patent at once, when it is pointed out that his date for our Lord's Birth falls after the death of Herod the Great; whereas the Gospel story tells how Herod tried to kill the Infant Saviour, by the massacre of the babies of Bethlehem.
Date guides to our Lord's Birth are given by both St Matthew and St Luke, as being before Herod's death; and St Luke (chapter 3) gives the period when our Lord "began to be about thirty years of age," as the fifteenth year *of Tiberius; having previously stated that He was born in the reign of Augustus.
The times of Augustus and Tiberius are known exactly from Ptolemy's Canon, and the time of the death of Herod is fixed for us by Josephus (Antiquities XVII. 4).
Dionysius's dating aroused great controversy, into which the astronomer Kepler joined, placing the date of Christ's Birth in 6 B.C. Mr Davidson's great contribution on this subject is well known; and the late Dr. Grattan Guinness discussed it at considerable length in The Approaching End of the Age.
* The Date of the Crucifixion and the Era of New Birth by David Davidson M.C., M.I.Struct.E.
Joseph, elevated to regal dignity in Egypt under Apepi II last of the Hyksos Pharaohs, came into Egypt unknown to the Pharaoh, sold by his brethren. When Joseph's presence was revealed by the imprisoned and released butler it was to lead to Joseph's presentation to the Pharaoh and to become the saviour of Egypt in the approaching famine, to receive the high honour of ruling with the Pharaoh. Of the same race as the Pharaoh Joseph could, with studied significance, present 5 of his brethren to the Egyptian monarch. (Gen. 47: 2). Nevertheless, in view of the hatred of the Egyptians towards the Hyksos, Joseph warned his family to avoid the term "shepherd" while in Egypt since 'Every shepherd is an abomination unto the Egyptians' (Gen. 46: 34).
The High Priests in Egypt were always Princes and so we have Potiphera, Prince or Priest of On, a Semitic office under the Hyksos. His daughter, Asenath, was given in marriage to Joseph, and became the mother of Ephraim and Manasseh. It is commonly believed that Asenath was an Egyptian. This is not so. The name Asenath is of Hebrew origin. "Such names are well attested in the Hyksos period of Egyptian history, corresponding to the age of the Patriarchs and Joseph." (The New Bible Dictionary, p.94).
Taken from Truth Never Dies by 1. Hill Elder.
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