Notes 6 - The Gospels - Birth Narratives

Notes 6 - The Gospels - Birth Narratives - The Gospels...

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The Gospels – Birth Narratives As we begin looking at a brief life history if Jesus of Nazareth, there are some approximate dates that must be established. These include a birth date, a date for the beginning of his public ministry, and a crucifixion-resurrection date. According to our calendar, the approximate birth year of Jesus is 6-4 BCE. Some of you may have heard this before, but I am going to presume that most have not. How could Jesus have been born before Christ (or before the common era)? For some time after the founding of Rome, dates in the Roman Empire were delineated as AUC (which counts since Rome’s founding). In the 6th century CE, a Christian Scythian monk known as Dionysius Exiguus (Denys the Less) determined to re-write the calendar with the birth of the son of God as the starting point. Everything before that date would be designated BC (Before Christ) and all after that date would be AD (Anno Domini – the year of the Lord). However, Dionysius made an error in his calculations of about 4-6 years. According to his calendar, Herod the Great died in the spring of 4 BC(E). The NT states that Jesus was born in the latter reign of Herod the Great, so Jesus could not have been born later that 4 BC(E). By the time this error was discovered over 200 years later, it was too late to make changes to the calendar and everything else. Therefore, a “mental footnote” was made in history that the calendar was off. Also, since the rainy season begins in Palestine in December, it is unlikely that the shepherds would be watching sheep under starry skies. It is possible that when the early church finally determined to celebrate the birth of Jesus, they chose December 25, in part, because they were already off for the day for a Roman celebration. Jesus’ baptism signals the beginning of his public ministry. It is his way of announcing that he is leaving the carpenter’s shop to begin his public mission. This date would be around 27-28 CE. Luke writes that John the Baptizer was preaching in the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, and Jesus came to announce his ministry through his baptism. This would have been about 27 CE. If Jesus was about 30 as Luke states, the date would correspond to about 26 – 27 CE. The author of John states that at the Passover after Jesus’ baptism the Temple was in the 46th year of reconstruction, which would be about 27 – 28 CE. According to tradition and John, Jesus’ ministry lasted approximately 3 years. If the baptism was in 27 CE, then the date of the crucifixion-resurrection would be in 30 – 31 CE. Having established approximate dates from which to work, we will continue with the birth narratives. Matthew and Luke are the only Gospels to contain birth accounts. Mark begins with Jesus’ baptism, and John contains a prologue about Jesus’ pre-existence. As we look to Matthew and Luke, we will talk first about points they share in the birth accounts, and then will look at the differences that fill
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This note was uploaded on 05/27/2011 for the course REL 305 taught by Professor Null during the Spring '11 term at GWU.

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Notes 6 - The Gospels - Birth Narratives - The Gospels...

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