Friday, 26 December 2014

Estranged Notions Omnibus: Dating Jesus' Birth

Conveniently, the posts over the past week have been on a single topic, so I'll collect them together in one thread here:

The 100-Year Old Mistake About the Birth of Jesus

Jesus’ Birth and when Herod the Great *Really* Died

What Year Was Jesus Born? The Answer May Surprise You

Does Luke Contradict Himself on When Jesus Was Born?

The overall summary for these could be phrased as: “any secular source is invalidated by the slightest inconsistency, while any apparent inconsistencies in Christian sources must be explained, regardless of how improbable the source text or the explanation is”.

The fact is, as both secular and many Christian historians would agree, that even assuming Jesus did exist there is simply no reliable evidence for his birth year. The infancy narratives are late, ahistorical, and contradictory (both with each other and with external evidence); the earliest known writers who wrote on the subject are another century later and had no better sources to work from. The most reliable dating evidence is the association with Pilate (whose prefecture ran 26-36 AD), and the fact that Jesus is nowhere portrayed as notably young or old. This easily gives a window of at least 12 years around 1 BC as the likely range, with no strong reason to prefer any specific year over others.

Edited to add: almost all of Akin's claims are comprehensively rebutted in Carrier's article The Date of the Nativity in Luke. H/t to MichaelNewsham in the comments for the reminder.