When Was Jesus Born?

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In an earlier blog post, I wrote about the question of whether or not Jesus was born on December 25. To continue the conversation, here is what I continue to be the best article on the subject, by Paul Maier, Russell H. Seibert Professor of Ancient History at the University of Michigan. The piece appeared originally in Chronos, Karis, Christos: Nativity and Chronological Studies presented to Jack Fingan (ed. J. Vardaman; Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1989), and appears here with permission of the author. Maier writes,

“In 1968 I published an article that offered fresh evidence in support of Friday, 3 April A.D. 33, as the date of the Crucifixion. Since then, much attention has focused on the other terminus of Jesus’ life in response to recent recalculations of dates for the death of Herod the Great and the birth of Christ. Although a precise date, as in the case of the Crucifixion, still seems unattainable for the Nativity, some further refinement within the usual range of 7 to 4 B.C. is possible, which would suggest late 5 B.C. as the most probably time for the first Christmas. This time frame, along with 3 April A.D. 33 for the Crucifixion, provides a very balanced correlation of all surviving chronological clues in the New Testament, as well as the extrabiblical sources. Earlier or later dates, in either case, tend to disregard or manipulate at least one or more of the sources. Using the form of a running commentary on the relevant chronological sedes in the New Testament, I will respond briefly to the current status of research on each. . . .”

To read the rest of Maier’s article, click here.


  1. Maier answers the often used argument about the shepherds being out in the fields in winter but he doesn’t seem to answer another argument against a winter birth which is that, so the argument goes, the Romans would never have imposed a census in winter time because of the difficulty of travel in such poor weather – something which would have needlessly upset their Jewish subects. Are there any good answers to that point? I’ve heard some say the census may have been ordered earlier in the year but that Mary and Joseph only got around to travelling in the winter.

  2. Thank you for sharing this…very interesting.

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