Tertullian (ca. 155-240)
What years did the catholic3 church historians prefer before the fall of the Roman Empire? They had secular information that derived from a time before the destruction of records around the empire like the library of Alexandria. We cannot say they are error free, but it does say something that their ranges in 2 or 3 BC come quite a bit closer to the true date than recent speculations around 6 B.C.
Tertullian states, “Let us see, moreover, how in the forty-first year of the empire of Augustus, when he has been reigning for xx and viii  years after the death of Cleopatra, the Christ is born. (And the same Augustus survived, after Christ is born, xv  years; and the remaining times of years to the day of the birth of Christ will bring us to the xl first year [41st], which is the xx and viiith [28th] of Augustus after the death of Cleopatra.)”
Test. Ad Judaeos, Chapter 8.
Tertullian states the reign of Augustus in Egypt at 43 years, which means that he for certain considered the 28th year August 3 BC to August 2 BC. August 30 BC to August AD 14 is 43 years (30+14-1). He also puts the total reign of Augustus at 56 years, clearly from his consulship on 19 August, 43 B.C. (43+14-1=56). The 41st year, therefore, runs with virtually the same dates at the 28th year in August. These years are charted in the Scroll of Biblical Chronology starting in August of 43 BC labeled “Augustus” or the “2nd Triumvirate”. In 30 BC, a column begins labeled “Augustus reign Egypt.” The charts show 2 BC aligned with the 41st and 28th years between Jan. 1 and Aug. 19th, and between Aug. 19th and December 31 with the 42nd and 29th years.
Determining the 41st year of Augustus depends on determining a date upon which he seized dictatorial power. He did not succeed Julius Caesar by right of succession to be the Emperor. Caesar was murdered on March 15th, 44 BC by a powerful faction of Romans wanting the restoration of the Roman Republic, that is where laws were proposed and passed by the Roman Senate. Augustus’ was called Octavian at the time. He was but a young man. His rise to power occurred as follows. Mark Antony wanted justice for Julius Caesar against the assassins. But this brought him into opposition against the Republican Romans who restored the Republic after the the murder. So Republican Rome declared Antony an enemy of the State and declared war on him. To this end they appointed the two Roman consuls and Octavian to fight a civil war on behalf of Republican Rome to defeat Antony. Antony was marginally defeated and forced to withdraw his forces. The two consuls were killed in battle.
The Roman Senate was afraid that Octavian might be elevated and become too powerful. Therefore they saw to it that he got no reward for his services. They did not want to appoint him consul. Octavian marched his legions into Rome in August 43 BC and convinced the Senate to make him consul. That is, he extorted their cooperation. So they voted him consul on 19 August. Then they sent him off to make war against the enemies of the Republic, namely Mark Antony and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus. But instead of making war with them Octavian entered a covenant with his two opponents, to rule the Republic as a Triumvirate. Octavian was clearly the junior partner. He received only provinces in North Africa. However Octavian gained an advantage because part of the deal was that Lepidus would hand over seven legions to Octavian to defeat the remaining assassins of Caesar in the east. They entered the covenant sometime in October 43 BC. On November 26th, 43 BC they marched to Rome. On Nov. 27th, they made the Tribunes pass the Lex Titia which ended the Republic as far as the law was concerned.
Tacitus dates the reign of Augustus from 19 August, 43 BC. He writes,
There followed much talk about Augustus. People idly marveled that he had died on the same day as that one which he had first entered on power; in the same house, in the very room, at Nola, in which his father Octavius had breathed his last (Book 1, 9.1).
Octavian was perceived as a servant of the Republic until he marched his troops into Rome in August 43 BC and extorted the consulship. His status at this point was rebel. But the Senate voted it. The seizure of power was made legal in a three way partnership with Antony and Lepidus on Nov. 27th, 43 BC. Between the two dates, Nov. 27th, 43 B.C. is by far the more important. This is when Republican Rome knew that the Republic was ended. 300 Senators (Appian, Livy said 130) and 2000 Knights were made enemies of the State by the Triumvirate. Eventually Octavian would overthrow his two partners. Octavian kept the formality of being legitimized by Roman Law to the day of his death. He was merely a consul in August 43 BC, but on November 27th, 43 BC the Law gave him and his two co-rulers the power to be dictators. It is from this date that Augustus’ real and lasting power comes legally. It is also generally regarded as the date when the Republic ended.
Some sources date Augustus’ rule back to March 15, 44 BC. The figure 57 years, six months, and two days is mentioned by Josephus in War 2:168 (also Ant. 17.2.2). But this figure is by no means the obvious one. It is simply the most sympathetic figure. There are in fact no coins dated this way, nor documents. The only dates in this fashion are the calculations of historians who lived afterward according to how many years of “rule” they wanted to assign to Augustus. Tacitus’ dating is the more acceptable. Historians also give 56 years and 6 months, a date evidently devolving on March 43 BC, one year after Julius Caesar’s death. This dating is motivated by the old Roman calendar, in which March was the annual epoch. Fifty-six years and six months is simply dating the first year according to the annual epoch containing the date that Augustus forced the Senate to make him consul.
Reconciling Tertullian’s 41st year figure with September 1, 2 BC, therefore, is not very difficult as pointed out by Gerard Gertoux.6 It is merely necessary to count the years from the inception of the Second Triumvirate on Nov. 27th, 43 BC, or when it was planned in October 43 BC. We can also allow Tertullian to suppose any date between Nov. 27th, 3 BC and Nov. 26th 2 BC when he says the 41st year, but only by a bit of speculation. But should we suppose Tertullian himself allowed this? It is unlikely since we are dealing with a catholic source which avoided Jewish dates, and indeed even suppressed them. Tertullian was an advocate of Friday, March 25th in AD 29 for the crucifixion, and March 27th as Easter Sunday. He would not gravitate to Tishri 1 in that case. It is most likely, that he counted from 19 August 43 BC when Augustus extorted the consulship from the Senate. This allows a date between August 3 BC and August 2 BC. Tertullian does not offer an opinion on the exact date or even a season. The value of Tertullian is not that he knew the exact date and gave data exactly agreeing with it. The value of Tertullian is that he rules out all dates between 8 and 4 BC, which apparently were not even on the radar scope. Luke is the authority.
Augustus’ 28th year after the death of Cleopatra was the same year. Octavian took the city of Alexandria on August 1, 30 BC, a date which must be adjusted for the intercalation errors in the Roman Calendar of this period. The city fell on 8 Mesore in the Egyptian calendar. See T.C. Skeat. The exact date of Cleopatra’s death after this date is not precisely known as the relevant records have been lost. Skeat says,
The burial of Antony was followed by the illness of Cleopatra, her attempted self-starvation, which she abandoned when Octavian threatened reprisals against her children, and a period of convalescence, culminating in the famous interview between her and her conqueror. But whether these events occupied days, weeks, or even months we have no means of estimating (“The Last Days Of Cleopatra: A Chronological Problem” by T.C. Skeat, The Journal of Roman Studies, vol. 43 (1953), pp. 98-100). It may be that Cleopatra died after Thoth 1, and that Tertullian may be technically said to agree with a 1 Sept, 2 BC date, which would almost certainly be an accident, but it is almost certain he had the wrong season for Messiah’s birth. Also is very much less likely that he dated the reign from the death of Cleopatra, if it had occurred later than 1 Thoth. 1 Thoth was the standard.
P. Oxy. 1453 shows that Octavian reckoned his government from Thoth 1, which was the 31st [29th according to Skeat] of August in 30 BC (Almagest Emphemeris). (Skeat concludes that Cleopatra died 18 days before on 17 Mesore based on an interpretation of a remark by Clement of Alexandria.) In 2 BC Thoth 1 began on August 24th, which would commence the 29th year of Augustus (Almagest Emphemeris). The 28th year was August 24, 3 BC to August 24, 2 BC (Thoth 1 to Thoth 1). Tertullian has made a slight mistake, but it is the kind that historians ordinarily make when it comes to precise endpoint precision when they are not concerned with the end points. By his time the date has been forgotten and all he has to go on is a more general history of events, and Tertullian more likely than not has a date other than the fall of 2 BC in mind in which case his end point would not be important to him for the 28th year of Augustus, but this date he does not state. It should be noted that Tertullian’s dating is dangerously close enough to the Scriptural dating and rules out any date outside of 3-2 BC.1
Irenaeus was Born AD 128 ± 15 years. Died ca. 200 ± 10 years. Bishop of Lyons. He states that
Our Lord was born about the 41st year of Augustus (Against Heresies, 3.21.3). The date corresponds to 3-2 BC.
Clement of Alexandria (ca. 180)
Clement of Alexandria (AD 150-215) in Stromata, ca. AD 194, says,
And our Lord was born in the twenty-eighth year … in the reign of Augustus (1.21.145). This answers to August 3 BC to August 2 BC. In the same passage he also says,
From the birth of Christ … to the death of Commodus are, in all, 194 years, one month, thirteen days. Commudus was murdered on Dec. 31 AD 192. This makes 192 years complete for AD years. 1 BC and 2 BC make 194. Going back a month and 13 days brings us into November 3 BC, i.e. November 18, 3 BC (cf. Finegan, §488). On the other hand, Roland Bainton noticed that if the Egyptian wandering year is used (365 days), then the time is 365 * 194 + 30 + 13 days (=70853). Counting back from the Julian date of 31 Dec, 192 AD (1791550) brings us to Julian date 1720697. This corresponds to Jan. 6, 2 BC.1 The Armenian Church considers the birth of Messiah to be on this date, Jan. 6.
In other passage in Stomata, Clement puts the birth in the 15th year before the death of Augustus. August 19, 2 BC is exactly 15 years before his death. Even supposing he was counting years before using a Jan. 1 epoch, i.e. Jan. 1, AD 13 to Dec. 31, AD 13 being one year before, then we can only reach 2 BC.
Africanus (ca. AD 185-253 [170-240]), says that there were “5500 years to the appearing of the Savior,” and “and the resurrection 5531.” This is according to a Septuagint version of biblical chronology based on the speculative idea that Messiah was conceived exactly in the middle of the sixth millennium, i.e. year 5500. Africanus dated the Passion to Olympiad 202.II corresponding to AD 31 on March 23, and the resurrection on March 25 at the start of his year 5532. Working backwards, the date of the conception is at the end of year 5500 and the beginning of 5501 (25 March, 1 BC). Both dates he placed on 25 March which was the first day of the years of his world era. Thus there were 5500 years complete before the conception and 5531 years complete before the resurrection, and the two events took place in his years 5501 and 5532 respectively.2 Counting forward nine months from 25 March, 1 BC, obviously brings us to 25 December, 1 BC., eight days before Jan. 1, AD 1 (counting inclusively).
Hippolytus of Rome, AD 222
Hippolytus of Rome (AD 170-236) indicates 3/2 BC (cf. Finegan, §490). In fact, his dating is 2 April, 2 BC according to the Easter tables inscribed on his statute in Rome. His date for the passion is 25 March, AD 29.5
Origen of Alexandria (AD 185-253), after AD 231 (when he left Alexandria for Caesarea), writes in Homilies,
Christ was born in the 41st year of Caesar Augustus, who reigned for 56 years, and that after the birth of Christ there remained 15 years. Working from the ending dates, Augustus died on 19 August, AD 14. Fifteen complete years take us back to 19 August, 2 BC, which is just two weeks short of Sept. 1, 2 BC. It may be supposed that Origin preferred a spring or winter date. Now from 19 August 43 BC to 19 August AD 14 is exactly 56 years.
Eusebius was born AD 260-265. Died 339-40. Bishop of Caesarea. Around AD 325:
It was in the 42nd year of the reign of Augustus, and in the 28th year from the subjection of Egypt on the death of Antony and Cleopatra (Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History). The earliest the reign of Augustus can be said to occur is when he extorted the consulship on 19 August of 43 BC. Before that he was just a general who was perceived as an unrealized threat by the Senate. So the 42nd year runs from 19 August 2 BC to 19 August 1 BC. The 28th year over Egypt is from August 3 BC to August 2 BC. It is doubtful that Eusebius meant to place the birth during the possible few weeks in August for this overlap. So Eusebius may have had some other non-factual epoch in mind for the 42nd year, as chronologists are prone to invent, say March 1, 2 BC, but the point is that Eusebius knows his Luke, has access to Roman records, and even if the exact day is obscure to him, he rules out everything except 2 BC. Eusebius elsewhere puts Augustus’ whole reign at 56 years 6 months. It appears he is putting the inception point for the 42nd year back to a spring epoch. So for him the 42nd year is March 2 BC to March 1 BC. In his Chronicle, Eusebius gives the third year of the 194th Olympiad and the 42nd year of Augustus. The normal reckoning of both these systems is from the summer of 2 BC to the summer of 1 BC. If we try to reconcile all the datings of Eusebius with the normal reckonings of the epochs, with the exception that the 42nd year has to be backdated to the spring of 2 BC, the overlap is a few weeks in August of 2 BC. Again, this is an unlikely dating. Eusebius may have had two positions or used two sources which he did not bother to reconcile. It is thought that Eusebius backdated his Olympiads to month VIII preceding the July epoch of the Olympiad according to the Syro-Macedonian custom. In that case, Eusebius is pointing to a winter or spring date, i.e. late 3 BC or early 2 BC.
Epiphanius lived AD 315-403. Panarion 20.2, he states the reign of Augustus as 56 years and 6 months. It is therefore best to suppose he is counting from the spring of 43 BC. The old Roman Calendar dated from a spring epoch. In any case he says that the year of Messiah’s birth was the 42nd of Augustus, and this calculates between the spring of 2 BC and the spring of 1 BC supposing the March epoch for Augustus’ reign. He also says that the birth was when Augustus was consul for the XIIIth time with Silvanus. This answers to the year 2 BC. And they correspond to the whole of 2 BC. It should be noted that Epiphanius seems to be of two opinions, or that he contradicts himself. By putting the reign of Augustus at 56 years six months, he makes the 42nd year begin with March 2 BC. But he dates the birth to Jan 6, 2 BC. On the other hand, Epiphanius may be proleptically assuming a Jan. 1 epoch in the dating. If that is the case, then the 42nd year would begin on Jan. 1, 2 BC. By making this assumption, Epiphanius does not contradict himself. But he may indeed have contradicted his source by interpreting it this way. His source may have said it was the 42nd year of Augustus and meant after the usual manner, 19 August 2 BC to 19 August 1 BC. We may suppose this a parsimonious assumption for Epiphanius’ source, because obviously it was closer to Luke’s time, and obviously Messiah was born in the 42nd year of Augustus after the usual reckoning.
Hippolytus of Thebes (between AD 650 and 750)
Hippolytus of Thebes in fragments gives two dates, at one time in the 42nd, and in another place the 43rd year of Augustus. The 43rd year corresponds to 19 Aug. 1 BC to 19 Aug 1 AD after the usual reckoning. The only way the 43rd year can be made to agree with the facts is if, like Josephus, Hippolytus of Thebes (or his source) calculated Augustus’ reign at 57 years 6 months, starting in March 44 BC when Julius Caesar was assassinated. The 43rd year then comes out to March 2 BC to March 1 BC. Hippolytus’ ultimate source for the 42nd year agrees with the 1 Sept. 2 BC birth of Messiah calculated after the normal fashion, i.e. 19 Aug. 2 BC to 19 Aug 1 BC. It is not uncommon for ancient historians to fail to reconcile their sources, or to even realize a conflict. Josephus also gives variant or multiple numbers some rulers, i.e. for John Hyrcanus and Archelaus.
We can be sure that most historians based their statements on calculations from when Augustus became consul in August of 43 BC and when he assumed rule of Egypt in August of 30 BC. The 28th year is August 3 BC. to August 2 BC. So also the 41st year. They picked first factual years, and then second a March 43 BC. epoch, and then possibly a Jan. 1 epoch for the first year of Augustus, and in one case, it seems possible, March 44 BC. They did not read these years in their sources (unless it was a valid 42nd year figure from a good source). Rather they may have looked up the consular year for the census of Quirinius or have calculated it from Luke 3:1 and 3:23. But being bereft of the true date, known at Luke’s time, because they rejected the Law and Prophets, they did not correctly place the birth date of Messiah. Their calculations were put just off target by their assumptions as to the actual date. Since the actual date September 1, 2 BC is so near to the epoch of Augustus’ factual years, it is easy to see how an erring assumption will miss just to one side or the other of the correct year of Augustus. In other words, the only way one can give the correct dates of Augustus rule since 19 Aug. 43 BC and August 30 BC is to know the exact date of Messiah’s birth before one sets out to calculate the time in terms of Augustus’s years. One will miss to one side or the other at the end point. Almost all of them missed by being too early in 2 BC. The reason for this is that that Luke’s statement that Messiah was “about 30” is made with reference to the last moments of Tiberius’ 15th year, and the fact that they were trying to avoid Yom Terah or any suggestion of it. And this was because the Church rejected the Torah.
The Chronographer of year 354 lists the consuls for the year AD 1. Finegan rightly points out that this is incorrect. Orosius says it was the year of Rome 752. This is the same as 2 BC. Cassiodorus Senator gives consuls for the year 3 B.C. and also the 41st year of Augustus.
What is really proved here is that none of these historians were afraid of Jospehus’ errors, or errors in interpreting him made in the modern age. No doubt this was because they had better information on when the census of Quirinius was while the Roman archives were still intact.
The time of his birth would be correctly stated using similar terms as thus. Augustus reigned 56 years from the time he seized the consulship in Rome. Messiah was born in his 42nd year and in the consulship of Augustus XIII and Silvanus. Augustus survived his birth almost 15 full years. He was also born in the 29th year of Augustus’ rule over Egypt. This is what should have correctly been stated. The error was made not because they did not know the census time or the correct year BC, but because they opted for a winter or spring birth and then translated this into Augustus factual years.
Also of interest is that none of these church historians include a direct date of his birth in their statements. It seems that one can derive dates from some of the statements. But there is little notice of “this is the date.” Clement, who points us to Nov. 18, 3 BC (or Jan. 6, 2 BC) only allows us to calculate the date. The only exception seems to be Epiphanius who gives us the 8th day before the Ides of January and 13 days after the winter solstice (Panarion 51.22.4). This points to Jan. 6, 2 BC. It may be therefore that all these historians had traditions in their communities, and like Luke were content to give other chronological statements of a more general nature pointing to the year of birth. Most of the traditions probably put the birth sometime in the spring of 2 BC. The reason for these traditions for the actual day is not that they are actually based on the truth any more than December 25th, but because they came about after the Church rejected the date remembered by the Jewish faithful which underlined an important feast day in the Law of Moses. It should be noticed that in the Modern Church none of their appointed times actually match genuine feast days in Scripture. It appears very much that the leaders of the Church were zealous to purge all influences from the Law of Moses or Jewish custom from their observances.
The chart above represents the first degree of church historians going astray from the truth. And once error is started it tends to fester and grow, so that two thousand years later, even the truths the church historians felt they had to include, i.e. the 2 or 3 BC dating, have now been discarded in favor of reading (or misreading) a single Jewish Historian named Josephus, who is full of contradictions on the matter of chronology, both in the original, and in the matter of transmission, who had no real sympathy for Jewish Christians or non-Jewish Christians. Josephus is a historian that is so careless as to suggest that Moses did not die because it suits him. Modern humanistic scholars, and this means very greatly those pay lip service to the name of Messiah, think they can treat Josephus as more objective because he is Jewish or because he is not a Christian. They always suspect Christians of having an agenda and perverting their history to the agenda, and then they are unwilling to suspect non-Christians of doing the same. I am not here defending the Church Fathers or saying they are better. What I am saying is that historians have been using their sources with bias that cannot be justified. Therefore, they are not looking in the right places.
The Origin of 25 December
In the early third century two chronologies were put forth for the birth and crucifixion. The first was Julius Africanus, (25 March, 1 BC: conception; 25 December, 1 BC: birth; 23 March, AD 31: crucifixion; Sunday, 25 March, AD 31: resurrection). The second was Hippolytus of Rome, (2 April, 2 BC: birth; 25 March, 29 AD: crucifixion). This led to general dates in the Latin Western Church for 25 March for the crucifixion and 27 March for the resurrection, and in the Greek Church, 23 March for the crucifixion, and 25 March for the resurrection. The first Easter Tables used to justify the years AD 29 and AD 31 were notoriously inaccurate. Using modern astronomical precision calculations we know that such dates for either 14 or 15 Nisan in AD 29 and AD 31 are impossible. It appears that the Easter tables were calibrated to the lunar conjunction to justify those dates. By the time of the Bede, calculations had improved, but still the calculators of Easter tried then, and still try today to hide the true origin of Easter calculations, specifically obscuring whether a conjunction new moon was being used or a visible new moon. The Bede pointed out that 25 March would not land on a Friday in AD 34. On the other hand, 25 March in AD 34 was the only year with 25 March as Nisan 14 or 15!
The burning question, then, is if 25 March was a date that was picked because it was the traditional Roman date of the spring equinox, and because foolish speculators thought that it would be nice to have such a neat alignment for the cardinal dates of Christ’s life? Or was it picked because it has a basis in historical reality? And then was it preserved after a corrupt fashion because it lent itself well to the first idea? I believe that the latter idea is the case. 25 March has a basis in the real system of dates. But the only reason this date was kept was because it resulted from the conversion of Nisan 15 in AD 34 to a Roman date, and the Roman date was significant to Romans. It was married to Easter Sunday in the Greek Church, and to the Friday Crucifixion day in the Latin Church.
With this in mind, we have to re-consider the Quartodeciman argument. The Churches in Asia minor just before the times of Hippolytus and Africanus kept the Passover on the 14th day of the month, which date they thought to celebrate and not Easter Sunday. More or less our only information on the Quartodeciman practice comes from their enemies, who claimed that the Quartodecimans justified their practice based purely on a tradition handed down from the Apostle John. The Catholics themselves claimed that their tradition for Easter Sunday was the original and more ancient custom and that they were directed by their forefathers to sanctify Easter Sunday, or the Sunday after the Passion as the resurrection day. Of course the latter can only be justified by traditional hearsay. Should we then believe the claim of the Catholics that the Quartodecimans likewise justified their practice? By no means!
The actual Quartodeciman arguments were anathema to the Catholic Church, striking at the very foundation of its divisive existence. The Quartodecimans were in fact a divided remnant of the original faith, keeping the Passover on the 14th day of Nisan. Now we must keep in mind that the 14th day of Nisan at this time was equated to a Roman day epoch, so that the night at the end of Nisan 14 (sunset to 12 pm. was still Nisan 14 after a Roman usage. In post-temple Jewish usage this equates to the start of Nisan 15, or the first day of the feast of unleavened bread. However, in pre AD 70 Judaism, the 14th day of Nisan was reckoned on a sunrise basis. The feast of unleavened bread began at sunset on Nisan 14 after this fashion. For this reason Rome called the heretics Quartodeciman. The better part of them observed the Passover with the Jews on the very same day. At this time the Jews were still visibly observing their new moons. They were observing it as the memorial of the Passion. Rome wanted to change the date to keep to Easter Sunday. And no matter how they kept Easter, what they really wanted was to be rid of the Passover. The tale of the gentle treatment of the Quartodecimans by bishops other than Victor of Rome is not the truth. It is told by the Catholics. Yes, no doubt there were some liberal Quartodeciman bishops who could no more justify the 14th of Nisan than Catholics could Easter Sunday, who were quite willing to fellowship with the Catholics. But for the truly faithful observers of Passover who do keep it on the 14th day, the Easter innovation was lawless heresy.
We need look no further than the Scripture for the arguments of the Quartodecimans. The only reason we do not have writings of Quartodecimans repeating the Scriptural basis in the second century is that all such writings have been destroyed by Rome. While Rome allowed controversy and authors to disagree with it on other issues, on the point of Easter, they were most zealous to be rid of their opponents from the earliest times. This is why we are left to read between the lines of their polemics against observers of Torah. Of course we have to do so in the light of Scripture.
So let us now return to where March 25th comes from. When the Synoptic Evangelists were first published large numbers of Jewish and even greater numbers of non-Jewish faithful were under the mistaken impression that the crucifixion was on Nisan 15, the first day of unleavened bread. There were Jews who could explain that the head day of unleavened bread was Nisan 14, but they did not have enough authority to correct the mistaken interpretation. Also lawlessness was increasing among the Assemblies, and the Gnostics were innovating outrageous interpretations and writing their own false gospels. Even the Torah observant were divided into factions. Therefore John wrote to correct these problems, both the anti-Torah position and the mistaken chronology. John put the crucifixion upon Nisan 14. But John wrote late, after AD 70, when the Nisan 15 date had been widely believed. Further, this Nisan 15 date, I believe, had been already converted to the equivalent Roman date in AD 34: 25 March.
Now if one starts on 25 March, and counts 3 days, then the day of the resurrection might be on 27 March, which was the weekly sabbath in AD 34. 25 March was a Thursday. Careful readers of the Synoptic Evangelists would have noticed that the lambs were slain on the “head day” and that it could only be Nisan 14 (which converts to 24 March). Further, they could have noted that only 24 March (Wednesday) actually works right with Matthew 12:40. Therefore the three days and three nights start at dawn on 24 March and end at dawn on 27 March, being computed after the law of the burnt offering, comprehending a day for sacrifice to be a day and a night each. But the majority were lazy and simply assumed that the head day of unleavened bread was Nisan 15, equated to 25 March. This dispute was small potatoes compared to what was coming down the line. On the sidelines, masses of new Christians were simply buying the new Catholic doctrines that the crucifixion was on a Friday and the resurrection on a Sunday.
What the Catholics calculated was the first day of unleavened bread equated to the day of the full moon, which strangely in the Easter Computus they called the 14th day of the moon. Then they simply celebrated the following Sunday. And the Passion they reckoned to fall on 25 March. But they were not ever interested in accurate calculations to prove or disprove their doctrine. These inaccurate calculations caused disagreements among them. So some decided that the meaning of 25 March in their tradition was that it must be the day of the resurrection in AD 31, and other decided that 25 March in their tradition was that it was the day of the crucifixion. Now we know that the only accurate calculation is that 25 March lands on a Thursday in AD 34, and because this Thursday was the first day of the seven days of unleavened bread, it was the Annual Sabbath. As a result of this truth, the day before (Nisan 14 - March 24) was the day of the crucifixion. Sabbath, March 27th was the day of the resurrection, i.e. Nisan 17. I speculate that the Almighty was very clever in allowing the Roman calendar to be such that 25 March would be the first day of unleavened bread. For the dates given by the Latin Church at the time of Tertullian were 25 March for the crucifixion and 27 March for the resurrection. We know they days only work in AD 34. And the 27th of March is not Sunday. It is Sabbath. The Bede was kind enough also to point out that 25 March was not a Friday. Since it was Thursday, it is clear then that the crucifixion must have been on the eve of 25 March and not on the day itself. That is on the eve of Passover as the Talmud says.
Now that we see where 25 March comes from, we can also see why it is the only element of the true dates of the Passion that the Catholic Church thought fit to preserve. They thought it useful that 25 March was the traditional Roman date of the Equinox. And therefore, the holy grail, the ultimate achievement of their chronological speculations was to create a calendar upon which 1. Creation was synchronized to 25 March, the incarnation of Messiah was synchronized to 25 March and his birth to 25 December, thought to be the traditional winter solstice. And then as their computations would allow, or when they could get away with erring calculations, they found 29 AD and 31 AD to work with their erring computus to yield a 25 March on a Friday or a Sunday close enough to Nisan 15 or Nisan 17.
We don’t need to call this speculation pagan. But no doubt foolish speculation leads to pagan connections and mixture of pagan ideas. We only need to call it false. It is a lie, plain and simple. And the sad thing about lies are that they deprive us of the blessings and benefits of the truth.
Deviating From Truth
The true dates of the Passion and Resurrection are Wednesday March 24th, AD 34 and (Saturday) Sabbath March 27th AD 34, or in terms of the Scriptural Calendar, the 4th day on Nisan 14 and the 7th day on Nisan 17. A nice way to remember this is: 24 on 4 in 34 plus 3 is 27 on 7, which by the moon is 14 on 4 and 17 on 7. The first misunderstanding was the shift of the Passion date from Nisan 14 to Nisan 15, i.e. March 24th to March 25th. The second misunderstanding was that Annual Sabbaths do not exist. By this reasoning the resurrection was placed on Nisan 15 on a Friday and three days later on Nisan 17 a Sunday. Only the March 25th date was preserved from the original dating, being Nisan 15 in AD 34. For the Romans March 25th was the memorable date, it being the traditional spring equinox. It was not easy for them to find March 25th on a Friday by astronomical calculation. After fifteen centuries of trying the effort was judged a failure in increasing degrees as the science of astronomy advanced.
The crucifixion date was first moved from March 24 to March 25, Nisan 14 to 15 by mistaken interpretation of the Synoptic Evangelists (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). John wrote to correct this back to Nisan 14 (24 March).
What entered the picture next was the assumption that the day before a Sabbath is always a Friday. This dogmatism conveniently allowed anti-law sectarians to avoid the resurrection on the Sabbath and provided a day for them to solemnize, i.e. Easter Sunday, which had no previous connection to Jewish Law. These sectarians were eager to disassociate themselves from anything that seemed Jewish and the Church Fathers were eager to declare it. So at first they computed Friday March 25th in AD 29. When astronomical calculation failed to produce and acceptable theory of Daniel 9 and the assumed weekdays (Friday and Sunday), the date was moved from March 25 to March 23, and the resurrection day was claimed to be March 25th, again keeping that memorable and traditional Roman equinox date in the picture. The year for this theory was AD 31. Both of the mistaken theories led to speculation of the day of Messiah’s birth on 25 December, and a supporting date of his conception on 25 March.
The mistaken date of the crucifixion on Nisan 15 (25 March) among Jewish Christians and Torah observant non Jews, which was the first Notsri chronological schism, led to exploitation by an external and lawless sect that seized on the traditional Roman equinox idea and constructed chronologies of the passion and the birth based upon it. Soon this sect grew in power and dogmatism, and then proceeded to militantly wipe out the original faith along with the true chronology. Even the Scripture did not escape from their changes, wherein they changed the first of the Sabbaths into the “first day of the week.” The original faith was so successful that Satan saw himself loosing his dominion over the nations. Therefore, he sought to redefine the faith rather than fight the whole of it. His strategy began with causing schism among the Jews, and then making the Jews into the world’s pariah. Then he offered the alternative: his kind of Christianity vs. the original faith based on the truth handed down and preserved by the tribe of Judah.
When we remember that the nations were at first under the dominion of the evil one in the first place, it is no surprise that he cut his looses by inventing his version of the Church. The kingdom of the Almighty still advances, but mainly in a corrupted form under which guise lawlessness has crept into the Church. The lie eventually leads to a false message of salvation. But when a remnant nations who have embraced the kingdom realize how deprived they have been they are going to return to the unmixed truth with a sober desire for vengeance, and this time the devil will not again be able to divert them by making up his own version of the Church. This time the truth will crush his head.
1. Tertullian also says that Sentius Saturninus was the governor of Syria when Messiah was born. Of course we know Luke does not agree with this. It was when Quirinius was governor of Syria. It appears that Tertullian knew that Saturninus went out of office in the early summer of 2 BC and that Quirinius took over the position until Varus replaced him after September 2 BC. Tertullian is may be aiming at a spring date for the birth of Messiah, possibly March 25th, or a winter date, i.e. 25 Dec. 3 BC or Jan 6, 2 BC. The Saturninus claim tends to rule out the fall of 2 BC. For this reason he has to correct Luke. It is plain enough from Josephus that the changeover between Saturninus and Varus happened between during the seven month absence of Antipater in Rome. Saturninus remained governor for some time after Antipater left, most certainly past the month of March. Josephus reports Varus as governor when Antipater returns, passing completely over the brief administration of Quirinius. Josephus tells us that Varus was sent as Saturninus replacement. We do not have to fault Josephus in this remark simply by the following supposition. Quirinius was given the job of governor after Saturninus, which Josephus passes over due to its short duration (cf. Ant. 17:89). Josephus uses the word “successor,” διάδοχος, which does not mean immediate successor. The term diodochi is used for the successors of Alexander the Great even when the successors were not his immediate successors. Josephus omits the def. article, Οὔαρος Κοϊντίλιος διάδοχος μὲν Σατορνίνῳ so we may justly translate, “Quintilius Varus, a successor, indeed to Saturninus.” Even if Josephus supposed that Varus was sent to replace Saturninus and not Quirinius, due to his incomplete knowledge of the times, we merely only need to suppose that Josephus’ source stated the succession according to intention. Varus was intended to succeed Saturninus, but Quirinius was given the job during a temporary gap in administrations. This may be because both Varus and Saturninus were invited to the games in Rome in 2 BC. Saturninus was allowed to retire, and Varus was allowed to delay his coming during the ordinary time in the early summer to the fall so as not to miss the games.
2. It is a matter of controversy whether Africanus’ chronology works out to 2 BC and 30 AD or 1 BC and 31 AD respectively. Scholars appear to have overlooked checking his calculation of Daniel 9, which is based on a year length of 365 plus 5/19 of a day and an average lunation of 29.5 plus 3/94 of a day. The year length is close to a sidereal year. The month works out to 29.5319 days. Using these figures 490 lunar years without intercalation is 490 x 12 x 29.5319 days = 173647.6 days. Dividing by the year coverts this to 475.4 years. Thus the errors in the cycles, that Syncellus reports Africanus was aware of, result in an excess of .4 solar years. Now adding 445 BC to AD 30 is 475 years complete. If the crucifixion, therefore, is put in AD 30, Africanus would be forced into the position of explaining why the calculation ends after the crucifixion. For the basic data, see pages 389-393, The Easter Computus and the Origins of the Christian Era, Alden A. Mosshammer, 2008, Oxford University Press.
3. It has to be noted that all these sources are such that the Catholic Church saw fit to preserve or to transmit. Before the second Jewish revolt (AD 132-135) the key dates were known and published. But the founders of Catholic Christianity started different traditions countering the traditions of the Jewish faithful. They claimed they had received the new traditions from their fathers. The Catholic version of Christianity was much easier to sell and soon it became more powerful than the original faith. It suppressed the writings and opinions of its opposition where a little remained. That’s why the first and second centuries have been scrubbed clear of any contrary sources to their doctrine except the Scripture. But Scripture they had managed to neutralize with their traditional interpretations and later on strategic mistranslations.
4. Page 326, The Easter Computus and the Origins of the Christian Era, Alden A. Mosshammer, 2008, Oxford University Press.
5. Dating the Passion, C. Philipp E. Nothaft, Brill, 2012, page 43.
6. See Herod the Great and Jesus, Chronological, Historical and Archaeological Evidence, Gerard Gertoux, page 51 and 52. Gertoux argues that the evidence fixes the birth of Messiah between Sept. 1 and October 30, 2 BC. This is indeed the case if we use only the normal epochs for Augustus reign. But I would say it proves too much. The range of dates is between August 19th, 2 BC and the Egyptian date of 1 Thoth, a little later in the same month. There is no need to overstate the precision of the Church Fathers. They did use varying epochs of Augustus’ reign. The date may be solved directly from the Scriptures and firmer sources to 1 Sept. 2 BC.