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TorahTimes Messianic Ministry

Teaching Truths about Torah, Time, and Messiah

The Date of Herod’s Death

Scripture gives no date for the death of Herod the Great. The fundamental problem is not that a date cannot be figured from Scripture in harmony with other data. The fundamental problem is that the interpreters reject the solution that is harmonious with the Torah and the Prophets, because they do their work in the midst of an anti-Torah world view that long ago decided that a solution pointing back to the Law of the Almighty was unacceptable. The way back—the way to the solution—is to allow the Scriptural connections to Torah regarding appointed times to function correctly. Without consciously doing this the interpreter falls into the black hole of traditional assumptions, which are inherently anti-Torah in their biases. We shall see that ultimately only Scripture seen under the lens of Torah can straighten out the ambiguities in outside non-Scriptural chronology, which has been bent to serve the ends of the anti-Torah tradition. When this is done, it may be observed that the most parsimonious explanation of the outside data has been given on its own merits, that is the result will show that while the outside chronology is not error free, we will be able to accept the largest part of it as error free, or a greater part of it than the anti-Torah tradition can. It will be seen that the tradition must posit a greater number of errors in the outside sources than the interpretation of those sources on the basis of accepting Torah as the valid Law of God.

Once again, the reason interpreters have gone off the track is because the right track leads straight to the conclusion that the Law was never abolished (cf. Mat. 5:7-20). The right track is therefore mocked and maligned. Now there are some who accept Torah who are nevertheless misled by the traditional assumptions. This is because they believe or disbelieve things based on perception of authority outside the Scripture rather than careful scientific investigation with a humble and prayerful heart. And there may be some with proper fealty to the Law and Prophets and Messiah who err in their teaching who may not have the fault I just mentioned. I would not know the reason. However, let it be said to them (and only to them, and not those rejecting Torah) that my findings came about precisely because I believed the Torah and submitted my chronological researches to prayer and research every time I was stuck. Furthermore, let it be said that I know of no results that better explain Torah and use the appointed times of the Almighty. For the rest, who reject Torah, I will not answer this way, but I will disprove your errors using the hard evidence.

Herod the Great was appointed King of Judaea by the Romans in the same year as Gnaeus Domitius Calvinus and Gaius Asinius Pollio were consuls, and the 184th Olympiad (Ant. 14:389). The consular date corresponds to 40 BC. The 184th Olympiad ended either in July 40 BC or October 40 BC, depending on whether you ask a Greek or a Syrian, or for those who don’t believe the Syrians dated Olympiads from the fall, Josephus is charged with making a mistake. This is because Herod could not have been appointed king until after Mark Antony and Octavian arrived at a peace settlement from their civil war in 40 BC well after July 40 BC. Now the reason that Herod managed to get appointed king was that he was the tetrarch of Galilee from 42 BC under John Hyrcanus, and the next Jewish King Mattathias Antigonus, of Hasmonean descent from the Maccabees, had switched loyalty to the Parthians when they invaded Judea in the spring of 40 BC. The former king Hyrcanus II having been subject to the Romans. So the Romans were ready to back anyone in a position to overthrow Antigonus, with their help, of course.

Edward Greswell gives an eloquent argument on the date of Herod’s inauguration and the completion of the Temple and its celebration at the feast of Tabernacles (cf. Ant. 15:421-423), and he finds a synchronism for 19 BC. The first problem with this is that it is not the only synchronism possible. The second problem is that starting the 46 years of John 2:20 at this point will cause the 46 years to end in AD 28 on Tishri 1 (Sept. 9). This date was before even Yoɦanan began his ministry, and it was also before the 15th year of Tiberius. So it is unacceptable. Allowing enough time for the ministry of Yoɦanan is necessary. The earliest the Passover of John 2:13 can be is AD 30. So now I would like to repeat Greswells arguments, and then do the calculations for 17 BC instead, which work better than 19 BC, and which also make sense out of the 15th year notation of Josephus for the building of the outer structures of the Temple. Please note that Greswell uses the era of the founding of Rome, i.e. A.U.C. dates. These are marked in the charts in red next to the BC dates so that the reader may easily follow the Greswell’s logic.

The work thus begun, as far as concerned the rebuilding of the Ναὸς in particular, was completed in eighteen months' time—and the period of the completion coincided both with one of the feasts, and with the anniversary of Herod's appointment to be kingc. This anniversary could be nothing but the periodical return of the day when, under circumstances so honourable, and so unexpected to himself, he had first been declared king. The year of this appointment was A.U. 714. and the time of the year may be precisely determined as follows.

I. The irruption [invasion] of the Parthians, which took place A.U. 714d. took place between the Passover and the Pentecost of that yeare—and the consequent departure of Herod to Romef, which was soon after that irruption [invasion], was soon after the feast of Pentecost. The time of this departure, therefore, was midsummer A.U. 714.—and great, indeed, is the oversight committed by those critics who have confounded it with midwinter. The mention of χειμωνος, which occurs in the account of his voyageg, can imply nothing more than stormy weather, such as is often encountered about the tropical points of the year—and of which Tacitus also furnishes an instanceh–but not the winter season. It agrees with the same conclusion, that when Herod left Egypt the civil wars in Italy were known to be at their height.

II. When he arrived at Brundisium both Antony and Caesar were at Rome. But they were never at Rome, A.U. 714, until after the peace of Brundisium, concluded the same year.

III. The time of this peace was late in the summer of A.U. 714: for the Ludi Apollinares, which were celebrated about the Nones of July, were either over, or passing, before the war itself broke outi. It was later also than the operations of Augustus in Gaul—than the arrival of Antony at Brundisium, from Asia (where he was in the spring) —than Augustus' sickness at Canusium—and than the commencement of the siege of Brundisium, posterior to all.

IV. The pacification which ensued was due partly to the death of Fulviak, and partly to the instrumentality of Cocceius and Maecenas, of which Appian has given a particular accountl. This fact is sufficient to prove that the well-known satire of Horacem, which describes his journey from Rome to Brundisium, was composed a little before this pacification. It mentions the meeting of Maecenas and Cocceius at Anxurn or Tarracina:

Huc venturus erat Maecenas, optimus atque Cocceius—missi magnis de rebus uterque Legati, aversos soliti componere amicos.

And at verse 32, it mentions also Fonteius Capito, another friend of Antony's;

• • • • Antoni, nonut magis alter, amicus.

Now in this satire there are clear allusions to the autumnal season, or the approach of the autumnal equinoxo, which prove that the peace was concluded about that period of the year.

V. After this, Antony and Augustus went to Rome to celebrate the nuptials of Octavia and Antony: and the time of their presence there may be thus determined.

I. It was after the usual period when the corn-ships ought to have arrivedp; that is, not earlier than the be ginning of September.

II. It was during the Hippodromia or Ludi Circenses, that is, between September 15. and September 19. at leastq. All these events, both the peace with Antony—the expected arrival of the corn-ships—the celebration of the games—and the news of the renewal of hostilities by Sextus Pompeius—are mentioned by Dio as nearly coincident. According to this historianr, the two parties were still at Rome on the last days of the year—according to Appians, they went away, apparently soon after their arrival, to Baiae. Yet he supposes them to have returned again from Baiae to Rome, after making peace with Sextus; and then to have set out, Caesar for Gaul, Antony for Greece, where he spent the winter with Octavia at Athens; whence it appears that this departure to Baiae, and the peace con cluded with Sextus, took place A.U. 715. If so, the very mention of it, so soon after their arrival in the city, proves that they could not have come to Rome much before the end of the year.

VI. It appears from Diot, that for a time after their arrival, especially during the Ludi Circenses, there were great disturbances at Rome—by which the life of Augustus him self was once seriously endangered. Nor did these cease until the people had carried their point; which was to oblige Antony and Augustus to make peace with Sextus Pompeius. I think it is clear from the account of Josephus that these commotions were over at the time of the arrival of Herod. If so, he did not arrive until after the Ludi Circenses; that is, until after September 19. in this year. Accordingly, about the third week in September I place the precise time of his arrival—which would thus coincide with the celebration of the Jewish feast of Tabernacles; for that began A.U. 714. on September 14 [The correct date is 15 October]. And as he was detained only seven days in allu, after his arrival and before his departure, the anniversary of his appointment would necessarily fall almost every year about the time of this feast. That it did so, at least, the year when he had rebuilt the temple in particular, may thus be proved.

Dissertations, Greswell

It is now necessary to leave off from Greswell’s dissertation and do the calculations correctly. First he places the inauguration date of Herod in the last week of September, after he was there almost seven days. So now if we check on 17 BC we find that the first day of Tabernacles landed on September 30th! Turning back to 40 BC we see that Sept 30 was the last day of Olympiad 184 (Syrio-Macedonian style).

It took Herod 4 years to take possession of Judaea—40, 39, 38, 37 BC. And during most of the time he was busy fighting the Parthians or Antigonus or planning their defeat. He was only able to do it when a Roman army was sent to help him take Jerusalem. And this he managed to do in the summer of 37 BC 125 years after the Hasmoneans had made a treaty with Rome. He took Antigonus captive and kept him in bonds until after Tishri of 37 BC and possibly as far as the spring of 36 BC. After the fall of 37 BC, and probably early in 36 BC, Mark Antony executed Antigonus putting an end to the Hasmonean kings who had arguably broken their treaty with Rome made 126 years earlier. Josephus also tells us that the fall of the city was 27 years from when Pompey had taken it. And that was in 63 BC. Further he tells us that it was taken on the same annual fast date and in the third month. There is but one traditional fast in the month of Sivan, and this is the fast for Jeroboam’s rebellion. The 27 years work out exactly when counting inclusively.

Now Matthew is clear that Herod died after Messiah was born (Mat. 2:1; cf. Luke 1:5), which we have placed in 2 BC in Tishri. Josephus records and eclipse prior to Herod’s death, and using this and the 2 BC birth day, we arrive at the Jan. 9/10 total eclipse in 1 BC. It follows then that Herod died in 1 BC between that date and the following Passover. It therefore remains to explain the mistakes of scholars with the Jewish historian Josephus and the contradictions left unsolved by them who suppose that Herod died in 4 BC. They believe they have built a majority vote that Herod died in 4 BC. The problem with this poll is that Scripture contradicts it (cf. Luke 3:1, 3:23) and they have made assumptions to support their 4 BC candidate which fall apart when other assumptions are substituted, assumptions pointing back in the direction of God’s Laws and agreeing with Luke. Often, but not always, things come down to assumptions vs. assumptions. Only one set of assumptions agrees with Scripture and the sound teaching of the Law, and the other set does not. Since Luke’s age for Messiah and the dates of Tiberius reign logically reduce to a 2 BC birth date, replacing the assumptions used in the 4 BC argument in regard to non-biblical sources with better assumptions leads to a date for the death of Herod in 1 BC. What most Christians do not realize is that secular humanist scholars have gotten involved in the debate, and they do not know how to value Scripture above other sources, or Torah like most other Christians. Therefore they place Josephus on the same level as Scripture. Their rejection of the accuracy of Scripture is just the logical next step to the Christian rejection of Torah. There is also a problem with Christianity. It is not the faith once delivered to the saints. And so it resists any attempts to correct its problems and to return it to the original faith. They put other sources first even when Scripture is contradicted. But when Scripture is considered the primary source and the errors in the other sources are worked out of them, then it is seen that the the best interpretation of the other sources, i.e. having to postulate the least number of errors, actually confirms the Scripture account.

Luke dates the beginning of Yoɦanan’s ministry in the 15th year of Tiberius (Luke 3:1). This by all contemporary historians is Sept. 17th, AD 28 to Sept 17th, AD 29. I am using the date here that the Roman Senate appointed Tiberius to be Emperor (17 Sept.), and not the date that Augustus died (19 Aug.), which was about a month before. Tiberius would not accept the position until it was legally ratified. It is the only secular reign date that the Apostolic Writings condescend to use. We may therefore consider the Scripture’s stooping to use this figure as confirming our faith that the figure would have a valid support framework from contemporary history. (Such has also proven to be the case with Scripture’s use of Neo-Babylonian and Persian dates,) but not Assyrian dates, which Scripture does not deign to use, because the Assyrian records are too corrupt. The Scriptural use vs. non-use distinction is something that erring chronologists like Edwin Thiele, Leslie McFall, and Andrew Steinmann fail to note. They built their chronologies based on outside sources and then dismissed Scripture texts that contradicted the outside sources. They should have noticed this and observed that the Scripture does not use Assyrian for two reasons. First, the outside Assyrian chronology was too corrupt. Second, where no outside connection is supplied, the Scripture makes up the difference and supplies everything needed for a complete chronology. On the other hand, where Scripture adds in an outside source, such as Neo-Babylonian and Persian dates or a Roman one in our present case, then the outside source is necessary to complete the chronology. So this is how we must regard Luke’s dating of the 15th year of Tiberius. It is included because the date is necessary. And a necessary date must necessarily be interpreted according to the contemporary norms, and not by what the Church later assumed about it. Also Luke, in the same chapter, says Messiah was about 30, which must mean that Luke is saying he was almost 30. These Scriptural facts lead straight to the conclusion that Messiah was born in 2 BC. Therefore, something must be wrong with scholars interpretation of other sources, or scholars are somehow unable to detect critical errors in those sources. So let us examine those sources to see where they do not measure up, and how we may correct them.

It is no accident that the only data connecting Messiah’s age to real history is found together in Luke 3. It is also no accident that Luke did not just say 29 years old, but “about 30” meaning “almost 30,” which is more precise than just saying 29. I will say more on this later. But we must notice that the non-accident of the 15th year of Tiberius and “about 30” landing in the same chapter, and likewise no other such data occurring any where else in the Apostolic Writings argue very loudly that Luke intended to give us all the necessary information, and that he never intended interpreters to reduce his presentation to ambiguous interpretations involving “about 30” meaning it was a guess, or the 15th year of Tiberius open to coregency speculations. And ultimately it will be seen that these ad hoc interpretations are precisely the result of Torah rejection. Such may not be admitted by many, but you listen long enough then you will come to see this is the case, because I will have shown you. For there is a straightforward and harmonious solution, but it points us straight to the validity of Torah, something the Church just cannot have. You have heard the tale of the old woman that swallowed the fly, who then swallowed a spider to eat the fly, that ticked and wiggled inside her? Well, the Church swallowed the anti-Torah drug, and then since that is the case, must follow it up with all sorts of speculations and assumptions, which must be swallowed, to cure the side effects of the original drug, and then yet more cures to deal with the side effect of further false cures. Pursuing this kind of reasoning headlong long enough leads to disbelief in Scripture, then disloyalty to Messiah, and then finally to rejection of Messiah, and one it we can blame the whole disintegration of Christianity and the culture around it.

First, I have to take apart some of the traditional arguments. It will be seen that taking apart traditional arguments is possible, but not that it is absolute proof. And the evidence may favor Torah but does not have to be bent that way. And that is the point where the Torah world view must be added into the picture. It clears up which way we should go. And I think that Scripture does this on purpose, so that we must go through Torah as well as Messiah to find the harmonious answer.

The Death of Herod Philip

The argument goes like this. Josephus writes that Philip died in the 20th year of Tiberius (AD 34) and we have at coin for the 37th year, and Josephus states he was tetrarch 37 years (Ant. 18:106). Therefore, Philip began to rule in 4 or 3 BC, and therefore Herod must have died in 4 BC.

What they do not tell you is that the Greek Josephus and the Latin Josephus contradict each other on this matter. All ancient Latin copies of Herod Philip state that he died in the 22nd year of Tiberius, while the extant Greek copies say it was the 20th year of Tiberius! That’s Josephus contradicting Josephus. It really does not matter how the different numbers got there since we do not know. The fact of the different numbers re-opens the entire case, and shows that traditionalist dogmatism is misleading. The Greek copies state Philip’s reign at 37 years and the Latin copies at 32 and 35 years. The 32 and 35 year figures do not make sense since they would put the beginning of Philip’s reign in AD 2 or AD 5 when used in combination with the Latin text’s date of death in the 22nd year of Tiberius. This leaves open the question of whether the 20th year is correct (Greek) or the 22nd year of Tiberius (Latin). I check both figures with 37 years of reign for Philip since the 32 and 35 year figures are so obviously errors. The figures 20 and 37 years argue for a 4 BC death of Herod and the first year of Philip to start between Tishri 1, 4 BC and Tishri 1, 3 BC. The figures 22 and 37 argue that Philip’s first year was between Tishri 1, 2 BC and Tishri 1, 1 BC, implying Herod died in 1 BC. So the variant reading in the Latin texts re-opens an otherwise closed case with respect to Josephus. Josephus does offer us some further evidence to decide whether 20 or 22 is correct.

A second witness is Josephus’ narrative of the death of Herod Philip and the events just preceding it. Josephus writes, “And at that time also [Τότε δὲ καὶ] Philip, Herod’s brother, died, in the twentieth year [or 22nd] of the reign of Tiberius, after he had been tetrarch of Trachonitis and Gaulanitis, and of the nation of the Bataneans also, thirty-seven years [32 and 35 rejected]. He had showed himself a person of moderation and quietness in the conduct of his life and government” (Ant. 18:106). What time was that? Josephus had related how Vitellius had gotten angry and held a grudge against Herod Antipas when Antipas had bested him in sending a detailed report to Tiberius first (Ant. 18:104-105). Also, the dismissal of Pilate is noted in the same context (Ant. 18:89). Greswell has shown that Pilate was deposed in the 22nd year of Tiberius. Likewise, Vitellius was not governor of Syria until the consulship of Cestius and Servilius, taking office sometime in the summer of AD 35. It follows then from Josephus’ narrative that Herod Philip did die at the very end of Tiberius 22nd year just before Sept. 17th, AD 36. So with this witness we can now decide that the Latin version is correct with the 22nd year, and the Greek version must have acquired an error.

No doubt, some will say that Josephus sometimes puts things out of chronological order. This may be so, but it would be a special pleading to defend the 20th year reading by saying he did in this case since Josephus introduces Philip’s death with a forceful time phrase, Τότε δὲ καὶ: “and at that time also....” immediately following the acts of Vitellius. Most of Josephus’ apparent out of order narratives fit the genera for which the word “Meanwhile” is used in English to introduce a story. But the narrative of Vitellius does not fit this simple explanation. We would expect a simple “And” (δε, και) to introduce it in that case. Therefore, it is unparsimonious to claim he got things out of order. The order he does put things in, is, in fact, a witness against the 20th year and for the 22nd. This is one less thing we have to say Josephus got wrong. It may be pointed out that Josephus inserts the story of the temple of Isis and Paulina and the banishment of Jews from Rome in AD 19 after he has related to us Pilate’s attempt to abolish Jewish laws (AD 26), and his abuse of the temple money (AD 33), but one can clearly see Josephus arranging the narrative according to his sources. He comes first to disturbances in Judea against the Jews with Pilate (AD 26-34). He then digresses to fill in disturbances in Rome from another source (AD 19), and then he returns to the Judean narrative (AD 35-37). This is because his topic is negative political disturbances among the Jews, and not chronology per se. Each of his sources, of course, does put things in chronological order. But he has two sources, one Judean and another Roman. He does not bother to put the two sources in order. And this may be seen from the time phrase he uses to introduce the Roman source, “And about the same time...” Καὶ ὑπὸ τοὺς αὐτοὺς χρόνους. Whiston translated, “about the same time,” which I take as correct. This is more vague than the introduction to Philip’s death which comes out of his Judean source. Josephus writing from a post-AD 70 perspective is thinking about a span of time from AD 19 to AD 34 subjectively as “about the same time,” in his own words, and not from either source. So we see that Josephus’ method or sloppiness can be revolved by dissecting his sources from his own commentary. The 4 BC theory cannot excuse Josephus via his sources here, but must claim he got events out of order saying that the words, “At that time also...” are wrong. But it must be considered that the 4 BC argument is made from Josephus in the first place. And if Josephus is wrong about the placement of Herod Philip’s death in his narrative after Vitellius, then could he not also be wrong on the point of th 20th year of Tiberius? And we actually have the Latin evidence that it should be the 22nd year.

The narrative evidence argues eloquently against the numeric error in the Greek text. Numbers are the most fragile elements of textual transmission since they are easy to miscalculate and easy to change to what a scribe thinks or is told is correct. And even that may be an error. Narrative is very hard, if not impossible, to rearrange, and the implications of narrative almost escape the notice of simple calculators seeking to sweep away the most obvious evidence, yet leave behind all the more subtle evidence contradicting them. For this reason we should trust the narrative and not the numbers to resolve a discrepancy.

The 22nd vs 20th year problem was just recently detected, though it is mentioned by Filmer and a few others. When the manuscript copies of Josephus were transferred to printed books the printer made a decision (or received orders) to print according to the Greek copies. In Antiquities 18:106 the printer neglected the word for “two” found in Latin manuscript copies in favor of the Greek. It was thus the Greek text, with the 20th year, that became the widely known version of Josephus. But the Latin copies said that the 22nd year of Tiberius was the same as the year of Herod Philip’s death. This means that the first year of Herod Philip begins with the fall of 2 BC, and that he actually ruled from the spring of 1 BC with the first year being partial. David W. Beyer examined 46 early Latin editions of Antiquities published before 1700, twenty-seven had “twenty-second year.” Of the 27 texts, all but three were published prior to 1544. Also, not a single copy was found in the British Library with just the reading of “twentieth year.” Beyer writes:

Timothy Barnes’ articulate response to W.E. Filmer’s thesis is hereby challenged—not by another theory—but instead by thirty-two editions of Josephus’s Antiquities still extant in the British Library and the Library of Congress. The work of Filmer is vindicated—Herod did die in 1 B.C.

Beyer, David W., “Josephus Reexamined: Unraveling the Twenty-Second year of Tiberius”,
Chronos, Kairos, Christos Two, pages 85-96

Beyer reports the variant readings of year 32 and year 35 parallel to the 22nd year of Tiberius in the Latin manuscripts, and the absence of the reading year 37, which he says came into existence at the time that year twenty-two was changed to twenty. This is not correct. The 37 figure was in the Greek versions. The question is if the 37 year figure has other support outside of Josephus. It does, besides the fact that 32 and 35 make no sense of the chronology. Coin expert, Madden, in his History said there was a year 37 coin for Herod Philip, pg. 102. The drawing of the coin shows L. ΛΖ (= year 37) between the columns. Obv. TIBEPIOC CEBACTOC KAICAP. Head of Tiberius, to right, bare; before it a branch (of laurel?). Rev. ΦIΛIΠΠOC TET... Tretrasyle temple: between the columns L. ΛΖ (= year 37). (Cab. of E. Wigan, Esq.). There are no doubts about this coin expressed by Madden. Further, the most recent top coin expert David Hendin also shows the 37th year coin of Philip. So the 32 and 35 year numbers are clearly scribal changes to Josephus—and this should alert us again to the fallibility of Jospehus’ numbers, though we do see that in this case, the correct synchronism to Tiberius is in the Latin version, and the correct number of years in the Greek version.

Though the 32 and 35 year numbers are a puzzle, there is a possible explanation. The 35 year number for Herod Philip corresponds to the spring of AD 2 and acceptance of year 22 of Tiberius for Philip’s death, and the 32 year number to AD 3 in the spring, and acceptance of the year 20 figure for Philip’s death. The question is why would anyone place the death of Herod in AD 2 or AD 3? The answer is simple: because they believed that Christ was born in the spring of 1 BC or the spring of AD 1, and that the Magi had come 2 years later, and then Herod had died. This would put the death of Herod in AD 2 or 3. It appears there is some evidence that the 4th-5th century Latin Church put the birth of Christ between the late winter of 1 BC and the spring of AD 1, and this assumption when combined with the assumption that Herod survived the birth by two years leads to AD 2 and AD 3 for the death of Herod by his successors. It is not impossible that the figure 37 was changed in the Latin text for these reasons.

In the 6th century Dionysius Exiguus placed the birth of Christ either March 25th 1 BC, December 25th 1 BC, or March 25th AD 1. I have not decided which theory is the best for Exiguus, but in this case it does not matter. Based on the assumptions stated it would point to a faction in the Latin Church that placed the death of Herod in AD 2 or 3. Jerome appears to have put the death of Herod in AD 3 or 4. In Bede the date was AD 1, moving back in the right direction. Hippolytus of Thebes began the rule of Herod Antipas in AD 4, suggesting that Herod died in AD 3. I have taken these figures from the research of Charles A. Sullivan, and have not yet vetted them. But the argument does seem reasonable assuming the commencement of the common era with the birth. Also if one counts inclusively from AD 4 one might end up at 32 or 32 years and some months in the 22nd year of Tiberius.

Again this suggests that as late as the 5th century scribes were adjusting the figures for Herod Philip’s reign in their Latin copies of Josephus. But neither the Latin Josephus nor the Greek Josephus is mistake free, and we should not assume the Greek Josephus is immune from tampering or Josephus himself immune from error. His Greek texts probably spent plenty of time in the hands of Byzantine Greeks. Numbers are some of the most fragile pieces of evidence, both from a transmission point of view, and a point of view of scribes who think they know better than the numbers they receive but cannot make work with their prophetical or historical theories, and then so proceed to change the numbers in their sources. On the other hand, my study of biblical chronology has shown that Scripture itself has been preserved from such tampering, but we should not be naive about non-biblical sources which Scripture does not deign to use. Numbers are the easiest things to fiddle with in a narrative and this seems to be just what has happened to sources outside Scripture. It is much harder to fiddle with the subtle chronological clues in a narrative which the fiddlers are usually unaware of.

March 13, 4 BC, 2:57 a.m. JMT
Partial Eclipse, 69 minutes, Mag. 4.3-37%
JMT = UT + 2h21m

Beyer’s evidence is based on the examinations of Latin copies as far as I can see. But even though Josephus wrote in Greek, he was translated into Latin for Cassiodorus (ca. AD 485-585) He speaks of having an earlier edition of the Jewish War. He also mentions Jerome in this connection, but is uncertain.

It has been pointed out that the omission of the word “two” by accident is much more likely than the addition of the same word by accident. The numbers 32 and 35 seems to have an explanation, and the number 37 is confirmed by coin evidence. The year 22 is confirmed by Josephus narrative sequence from his Judean source.

If Herod Philip died in the 22nd year of Tiberius after a reign of 37 years, then this would mean that he began to reign in the spring of 1 BC. His first year would be the part year between Nisan 1 BC and Tishri 1 BC. It appears then at least possible that Herod Philip did not antedate his reign to the first year of Antipater’s coregency with Herod, and accordingly Herod died in 1 BC.

Josephus’ Order of Events

   Germanicus Murdered               Ant. 18:54                 Roman  AD 19
Pilate tries to Abolish Torah        Ant. 18:55  Judean  AD 26
Pilate’s Aqueduct and Temple Money   Ant. 18:60  Judean  AD 33
Pilate’s Crucifixion of Yeshua       Ant. 18:63  Judean  AD 34
   Paulina and Mundus                Ant. 18:65                 Roman  AD 19
   The Jewish Religious Swindler     Ant. 18:31                 Roman  AD 19
   Jews banished from Rome           Ant. 18:83                 Roman  AD 19
Pilate’s Samaritan Massacre          Ant. 18:85  Judean  AD 35
Pilate ordered to Rome by Vitellius  Ant. 18:89  Judean  AD 36

At Ant. 18:90 Josephus retraces his narrative to the summer before the dismissal of Pilate with the following words, “Now Vitellius into Judea having arrived had come to Jerusalem. It had been for them the traditional feast of Passover...” By this introduction he interrupts the sequence with a new sequence which has to be integrated to the one above. This is done like this:

   Germanicus Murdered               Ant. 18:54                 Roman  AD 19
Pilate tries to Abolish Torah        Ant. 18:55  Judean  AD 26
Pilate’s Aqueduct and Temple Money   Ant. 18:60  Judean  AD 33
Pilate’s Crucifixion of Yeshua       Ant. 18:63  Judean  AD 34
   Paulina and Mundus                Ant. 18:65                 Roman  AD 19
   The Jewish Religious Swindler     Ant. 18:31                 Roman  AD 19
   Jews banished from Rome           Ant. 18:83                 Roman  AD 19
Vitellius comes to Passover          Ant. 18:90  Judean  AD 36
Tiberius orders peace with Parthia   Ant. 18:96                 Roman  AD 36
Herod offends Vitellius              Ant. 18:104 Judean  AD 36
Herod Philip dies                    Ant. 18:106 Judean  AD 36
Pilate’s Samaritan Massacre          Ant. 18:85  Judean  AD 36 autumn
Aretas’ war with Antipas             Ant. 18:109 Judean  AD 36 autumn
Pilate ordered to Rome by Vitellius  Ant. 18:89  Judean  AD 36 ca. December
Vitellius sent against Aretas        Ant. 18:115 Judean  AD 37 early spring
Vitellius cancels the war            Ant. 18:124 Judean  AD 37 spring

With the introduction of Vitellius in Ant. 18:90 after relating events of Pilate, Josephus begins a new sequence of events. This solves what is often thought to be a problem with Pilate’s inability to reach Rome before Tiberius dies. This is allowed because Josephus introduces Vitellius with an aorist participle (ἀφικόμενος) and an imperfect (ἀνῄει) which easily translate into the past perfect. The internal chronology shows this is correct because if Pilate’s dismissal falls before this Passover, as some have thought, then he has a whole year to reach Rome before Tiberius dies. The narration of Herod Philip, on the other hand, opens up with “At that time...” (Τότε δὲ καὶ Φίλιππος, 18:106). If the 20th year reading is taken as correct, then Jospehus himself has to be charged with a major error here instead of just a later scribe changing the figure. So we see that starting Herod Philip’s tetrarchy in 1 BC is a more parsimonious treatment of Josephus.

The Eclipse

Scholars also try to date Herod’s death via a lunar eclipse mentioned by Josephus without realizing that an eclipse is poor evidence unless one can find other evidence to go with it to either confirm of disconfirm that eclipse. Another eclipse might fit better. Josephus reports an eclipse at the time of Herod’s death. Scholars identified this with a partial lunar eclipse on March 13 of 4 BC. However, since we know from Scripture that Herod died in 1 BC, the eclipse in question must have been the total eclipse on Jan 9, 1 BC. This is confirmed by a careful reading of the events Josephus says took place between the eclipse and the next Passover. The number and duration of the events he records simply will not fit the four weeks available in 4 BC. Even Timothy Barnes saw this problem. But they do fit the weeks available in 1 BC. Jan 9, 1 BC to April 8, 1 BC is a lot longer time than March 13, 4 BC to April 11, 4 BC. Ernest L. Martin explained how Josephus’ narrative of events between the death of Herod and the following Passover simply will not fit the 4 BC theory. Martin’s work, once again, illustrates the primacy of narrative over numbers in the case of a discrepancy involving a non-biblical source. It should be pointed out that Finegan and others actually implicitly denied that the eclipse of 1 BC even existed. The reason for this is not far to seek. Anytime coin evidence or astronomical evidence is mentioned, the public naively gobbles it up as the magic bullet argument that proves whatever the author is saying. Of course, this only works when any other eclipses that might compete with the assured results of the consensus are not mentioned.

The 4 BC eclipse was only 37% and was at maximum near 3 am in the morning JMT. This is the hour when almost everyone is asleep, and would have been noted by few people. The Jan. 9, 1 BC eclipse was total and was maximum at 1:25 AM. It would have been noticed by a greater number of people who stayed up just past midnight. However many people observed the eclipse, the report of it would have gotten out that it was total, which is more impressive and hence all the more memorable. The omen rating and consequent propaganda value of the total eclipse, of course, is also greater, especially due to the fact that Josephus reports the execution of two very beloved teachers on the eve of the eclipse.

Timothy Barnes and Kenneth Doig try to build the chronology around the 5 BC eclipse, which fell on Sabbath Tishri 13 (Sept. 15-16). So these scholars are expecting us to believe that the High Priest defiled himself and could not serve on Tishri 10, that the eagle was torn down after Yom Kippur (Tishri 11), the perpetrators were caught, taken to Jericho, whereupon all the elders of Israel were summoned, and then the guilty tried before them, and then executed on Friday, and the high priest fired and replaced, all in two days before an eclipse on the Sabbath. More importantly the perpetrators were from Galilee. Therefore a summons would be sent to the elders in Galilee to show up at the trial. It is about 80 miles from Jericho to Northern Galilee. It is unlikely that a messenger will reach there and then they would all come (Ant. 17:161) in the space of two days between Yom Kippur and the Sabbath. The message would take three days to reach all parts and three days more for all the important men to show up. For these reasons the 5 BC eclipse is just as difficult as the 4 BC eclipse.

January 9, 1 BC, 1:25 a.m. local
Total Eclipse, 107 minutes, mag. 21.5-100%

W. E. Filmer’s Thesis

W. E. Filmer rightly pointed out that according to Scripture Herod must have died in 1 BC: “But Luke 3:23 says that Jesus was 'about thirty years of age' when he began his ministry, and this could not have been earlier than A.D. 29” (The Chronology of the Reign of Herod the Great). I have cut Filmer off here where he was slightly incorrect (so as not to confuse us too much), but it does not make any difference. Scripture tells us that John began his ministry in the 15th year of Tiberius (Luke 3:1), which was Sept AD 28 to Sept AD 29. It does not make any difference if Messiah was almost 30 in AD 28 or AD 29 because these two years only count back to 3 or 2 BC, in which two years there were no eclipses of the moon. And if Herod died in 4 BC, then the birth would have to go in 5 BC which would make Messiah almost 32 in the 15th year of Tiberius and not almost 30. Filmer remarks, “We find ourselves obliged either to accept Luke’s statement with an unduly large degree of latitude, or to question the evidence for the date of Herod’s death as early as 4 B.C.” Filmer is correct. Filmer did not know the reason however for the consensus, which is a long chain of assumptions leading back to the rejection of Torah. Now Luke wrote “about 30” which in Greek may mean “almost 30,” or “nearly 30.” This I have verified by inspecting several lexicons which supply those very words as glosses. The other reason for writing this way is if one does not have exact knowledge, and is merely guessing. It turns out that if one does have exact knowledge, and a birthday is near, but not quite yet, then one says “almost 30” in the interests of more precision or accuracy. But if one does not know when a person was born, then “about 30” is just a best guess. So the question turns on whether Luke knew the answer in the first place. The answer to this question is without a doubt he did. He knew Messiah’s mother face to face and conducted interviews with her to establish the facts. He knew details about the life of Miryam that only a careful interview would reveal. He also had access to the information from men like James, the brother of Messiah. And no historian would settle for a guess “about 30,” when the matter could be cleared up by inquiry. We must conclude, therefore, that Luke meant “almost” or “nearly” 30, and that he said it this way in the interests of greater precision than merely stating the age of Messiah as 29. So on Scriptural grounds the 5 BC to 8 BC birth years with the death of Herod in 4 BC must be categorically rejected as unbiblical.

Luke gives further evidence that he knew the exact year of Messiah’s birth because he tells us in Luke 2:1 that Messiah was born when the “first” registration had been ordered when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Luke cannot possibly say this and be in ignorance of the birth year. The inclusion of the 15th year of Tiberius and the “almost 30” notation would be totally out of character for Luke, who gives us precise information. Indeed, as I have shown, it is detailed enough to draw up a precise and complete time line of Messiah’s birth. But, of course, the disdain for Torah in the Church has caused scholars to avoid exactly what Luke is teaching.

Herod’s reign lengths

A birth of Messiah after 5 BC is rejected because this statement of Josephus is interpreted incorrectly, “So Herod, having survived the slaughter of his son five days, died, having reigned thirty-four years since he had caused Antigonus to be slain, and obtained his kingdom; but thirty-seven years since he had been made king by the Romans” (War 1:665).

The strange thing here that we must notice is that there are two ways of reckoning Herod’s reign. In fact there were three, as I will show. It just happens that two of the three come to 37 years. We have to note that Josephus gives us three reign lengths for John Hyrcanus, 33, 31, and 30 years respectively, in view of the fact of whether Ptolemy the governor of Jericho was perceived as the lawful successor of Simon or not. We should also note that the Babylonians started Cyrus reign in 539 BC. But that is not when Cyrus became king of the Medes and Persians. He was made king earlier by them, and we may assume that years were counted from then. So reign lengths depend on who is doing the reckoning. Also it may be observed that Romans count Augustus reign from 43 BC, but Egyptians from 30 BC coming to 56 and 43 years at his death in AD 14. It all depends on from whose point of view the reckoning is made. Now the reign years of Scripture are free of this problem because they are all written from one point of view. But we should not expect this to be the case with outside sources, especially when it is clear that Josephus neither vetted his sources nor worked out the discrepancies in them. And there are many other cases of dual reigns in Babylonian and Assyrian history depending on who subjugated who and when. So Josephus should be measured by these standards and not by the unified approach taken by the Torah and Prophets.

Josephus may be partially rescued from Luke’s impeachment by the following breakdown: First there are three reign reckonings of Herod, 1. A Roman reign from 40 BC in Rome antedated to the tail end of the 184th Olympiad, 2. A factual Reign from 37 BC when the city of Jerusalem was taken, and the last Hasmonean king taken prisoner, and 3. A Jewish reign reckoned from the execution of Antigonus in 36 BC after some time in prison. The Roman reign was from 40 BC to 4 BC when Herod fell out of favor with Caesar over an incident with the Arabians. Because of this Caesar treated Herod as a subject and no longer as king or friend. Herod continued to rule, but only with the status of a subject, and not the status of king in the eyes of Rome. Caesar was later reconciled to Herod, but really only in terms of friendship. The massive political damage had already been done. Herod was made to split up the administrative duties of his kingdom at that point to his sons Antipater and Antipas. Antipater was made co-king and given half the kingdom. Josephus is saved from being incorrect simply by the assumption that his Roman status of being king did end in 4 BC at 37 years. And clearly by this time, with the execution of the Hasmonean princes, Augustus had at least concluded that Herod was being negligent in the matters of the kingdom, even if he was acquitted of guilt in slaying 2500 Arabians (Ant. 16:350-352). Therefore, Herod continued to be called king in the eyes of the Judeans, but not Rome.

The Roman reign presents a problem for 4 BC advocates. For while they say Herod died in 4 BC, they all agree that he died before Nisan 1, 4 BC. Counting 37 years from Nisan 40 BC, the first year of his Roman rule puts the 37th year after Nisan 1, 4 BC. Also Josephus tells us that Herod’s third year from being crowned in Rome was between Nisan 1, 38 BC and Nisan 1, 37 BC. This is because he says the siege was begun at the end of winter, i.e. before Nisan 1, 37 BC, in his third year. The problem is equally unsolvable with the Tishri epoch because then the third year would have ended with Tishri 1, 38 BC instead of Nisan 1, 37 BC. Neither will a Jan epoch work out. We must say the 37th of the Roman reign comes after Nisan 1, 4 BC. And it was after this point that Herod’s status was downgraded, and after this point that the council of Berytus (Beirut) was held. This is only possible if Herod died in 1 BC. I believe Filmer and others have noted 4 BC advocates think that Josephus has counted one year too many with the 37 figure. This would be so with that theory. But with the 1 BC dating, we do not have to charge Josephus with this error. This makes the interpretation more parsimonious.

Turning now to the factual reign. This also was 37 years, lasting from 37 BC to 1 BC. Herod took Jerusalem in the 3rd month in 37 BC. His first year was reckoned by a non-accession method up to Tishri 37 BC. The 37th year started in Tishri 2 BC and ended with his death in 1 BC. Most of Josephus’ dates are given according to Herod’s factual reign in his 7th year, 13th year, 15th year, after his 17th year, and 28th year. This reign is confirmed by two synchronisms. One is the battle of Actium in 31 BC, and the other is Caesar’s visit to Syria after the 17th year of Herod.

Finally, the Jewish reign is reckoned from the execution of Antigonus in 36 BC, i.e. between Tishri 1 37 BC and Tishri 1 36 BC by Mark Antony when he set out in the spring of 36 BC to invade Parthia. The year he was slain by Herod is counted as Herod’s accession year so that year 1 of Herod’s Jewish reign commences with Tishri 36 BC. Year 34 is between Tishri 3 BC and Tishri 2 BC. Herod still lived 5 months after this, so that his actual reign was 34 years 5 months. Josephus should have stated it at 35 years, however, Josephus is known in other cases to understate the length of a reign by one year, namely that of Herod Agrippa, which he puts at seven years, but the coins show eight. Josephus rounded down. Again, it seems that Josephus also rounded some months off of Pilate’s tenure as procurator of Judea. What I seek to do here is explain Josephus and correct as much as can be, realizing, that he must be interpreted. Where the interpretation ends is where the Torah and Scriptural facts come in. As we have seen Luke takes us back to 2 BC, and not 4 BC.

With this accounting, nearly everything Josephus said in this statement may be regarded as correct. His Roman reign was 37 years till his status was reduced in 4 BC. His factual reign was 37 years till 1 BC, and his Jewish reign 34 years till Tishri 2 BC, with a slight rounding error on Josephus’ part, or on the part of a source he used. It should be observed that 37 years and 34 years also date Herod’s sole reign till the time he appointed Antipater as co-regent in 4 BC. The practice of dating a sole reign, even though a king reigned longer is not unknown in scripture. We have such case with Jotham king of Judah, whose sole reign was 16 years, but who reigned as co-regent under Uzziah, and also co-regent over his son Ahaz for the first 4 years of his reign. So Jotham actually was king for 20+ years. And one text does refer to Jotham’s 20th year. In another case Jehoash reigned in the 37th year of Joash, and then his sole reign is given at 16 year leaving out the first 2.5 years because they were years of his co-regency. It may then be that a Jewish reign was stated at 34 years until when Antipater was made co-regent, and of course it is the party that hated Herod the most that would reckon this way.

If the 34 year sole reign explanation is not correct, we need only charge Josephus with rounding off 5 months. But it is shown elsewhere that he has the propensity for this kind of error, i.e. giving reign lengths that differ by one year, viz. Archelaus (9 vs. 10), Hyrcanus (31 vs. 30) and Arippa (7 vs. coins for 8).

4 BC advocates regard the Jewish reign the same as the factual reign. This may be disproved by the 46 years stated in John 2:20. These 46 years last from Tishri 17 BC to Tishri AD 30. The statement in John was made during Passover in AD 30. The 46th year was Tishri AD 29 to Tishri AD 30. Now the temple was finished in 17 BC. Josephus informs us that it took eight years to build the outer structures, and he dates this in the 15th year of Herod’s factual reign (From Tishri 24 BC). Eight years (counting inclusive) bring us to 17 BC. But we are also informed that he proposed at the start of his 18th year to rebuild the inner Temple, and then took 1.5 years doing it. Allowing six months of preparation, and 1.5 years of actual building, it follows that this 18th year started in Tishri 19 BC. Two years brings us again to 17 BC. So evidently this 18th year date comes from a source using the Jewish Reign, exactly as I have stated it from Antigonus’ execution in 36 BC.

Those who argue Herod died in 4 BC regard this 18th year as dating from 37 BC, but then this creates a contradiction with John 2:20 or Luke 3:1, and invariably the solution given is to start John’s ministry before the 15th year of Tiberius, which contradicts a figure secured by Scripture. Also confirming reckoning from 36 BC a Jewish reign using the accession year method is Josephus notice that Antigonus was deposed and put in bonds after three years and three months (Ant. 20:246). Reckoning from the spring of 40 BC when the Parthians invaded and made him king, three years and three months bring us to Sivan of 37 BC. Antigonus was not executed until after Tishri that year, and Herod did not consider his kingdom secure until he was dead. This is because while Antigonus was alive, there was still hope that the fickle Romans might change their mind. Josephus correctly dates the Jewish reign from the death of Antigonus. Using the normal accession year method then, the Hasmonean faction which Herod feared, would count a 4th year for Antigonus from Tishri 1, 37 BC until his execution. Then the remainder of this 4th year would become Herod’s accession year. We see that merely by making the right assumptions about extra-biblical sources we can reconcile them to Scripture. The death of Herod in 1 BC preserves the integrity of Luke. And it is Josephus that should be subjected to source criticism and not Luke or other Scripture.

Herod was appointed king by the Romans in 40 BC sometime in late September, just after a civil war between Mark Antony and Augustus. This appointment time is acceptable, as dated by Josephus using the Roman consuls, dates which involve no calculations or guesses. Although Josephus counts three years from this point, and gives his summary statement from this point, none of his other synchronisms actually depend on 40 BC. That is, no reign year datings start from 40 BC, except a passing reference to the third year when he was laying siege to Jerusalem about Adar of 37 BC. The dating synchronisms show his factual reign beginning in 37 BC with non-accession counting on a Tishri epoch 38/37 BC (=yr 1), and his Jewish reign beginning in 36 BC with an accession year beginning on a Tishri epoch (37/36 BC = yr 0). The total years for the Jewish reign is 35 in whole numbers, but there where only 5 months of the 35th year, which incorrectly got rounded off to 34. Positing this error is not ad hoc since it is made elsewhere. Josephus did undercount Herod Agrippa’s years (seven). The actual number is eight according to the coins. He also counts one year difference in Archelaus’ reign (9 vs. 10). And he seems to understated Pilate’s term by some months. He also give variant lengths of reign for John Hyrcanus (30 vs. 31 vs. 33). Now the actual Jewish reign was 34 years and 5 months. This should have been stated at 35 years. But Josephus puts 34. Josephus could be vindicated on his round off error by making two assumptions, a. that his Jewish reign followed a Nisan epoch, and b. that Mark Antony executed him after Nisan 1, 36 BC. I find this rather doubtful though. It is easier to see the execution before Nisan 1, 36 BC, and to impute to Josephus the kind of error for which is is well known. Or Josephus could be acquitted by noting that 34 years date the sole factual reign of Herod before he gave Antipater half the kingdom.

Another witness that the inception point of the Jewish reign follows the factual reign by one year is given to the one year difference in the starting points. Josephus puts the factual reign, in Herod’s words, after 125 years of Hasmonean rule, but then he puts the Jewish reign from Antigonus’s execution after 126 years of Hasmonean rule. This is the red flag that the two counts differ by one factual year, and that in fact, three reckonings exist. One is after 125 years. One is after 126 years and the other is from 40 BC. Another year is gained by the non-accession beginning of the factual reign (from 37 BC), and the accession beginning of the Jewish reign (from 36 BC). And the third year is gained by Josephus’ slight mistake in rounding 34 years and 5 months down to 34 instead of putting it at 35. Now did Herod use a non-accession method for the factual reign? Of course. It is because as the victorious king he is going to count from 1 and not 0 (an accession year). Accession years are not typically used by conquerors. Why did the Jews use an accession year? This is because they hated Herod and still wanted to acknowledge Antigonus as king as long as possible. Therefore, Herod’s reign does not begin for them until the old king, although in jail, is executed, and then Herod’s reign only starts with the next Tishri epoch. Contrary to the Talmud, Tishri is the Jewish epoch for Jewish kings, with the only exception being the rule of High Priests before Aristobulus, who did not take the title of King. Nisan is the epoch for foreign kings, like Persians, Assyrians, and Babylonians. But even this rule is broken at times, and a Tishri epoch is imposed. From the Biblical point of view a Nisan epoch applied to Herod would be a sly Hasmonean insult. Jewish regnal years are always from Tishri. The proof is found in Solomon and Josiah’s reigns. Yet most chronologers ignore the Scripture and listen to the Talmud and tradition which claims Jews went by Nisan. The exceptions to the Tishri epoch are 1. The kings of the northern kingdom, 2. Zedekiah (appointed by Babylon), and 3. Jewish High Priests from Judah Maccabee to John Hyrcanus, who did not so violate Torah as to unite kingship with the priesthood.

The chart will clarify a lot. Now the reason the factual reign does not date from 40 BC and the Jewish reign from 37 BC with inclusive counting is that they would end in 4 or 3 BC, a point which contradicts Scripture, which puts the birth of Messiah in 2 BC on Tishri 1 (Sept 1, 2 BC). And of course, Herod still has to be alive. And Herod was alive when the star stopped. It must be remembered that Josephus’ facts and figures are frequently wrong (as admitted by almost every scholar of Josephus), and that he must be rescued via source criticism and a plausible explanation as to why he got things wrong without, if possible, of accusing him of malicious negligence. The way Josephus must not be handled is to maximize his numbers in favor of himself against Scripture. Any wrong system is agreeable to people rejecting the true one. That is why scholars take a fideistic approach to Josephus and then subject the Scripture to higher criticism, i.e. the idea that contradictory sources have been meshed together by the most recent authors. It is ironic. We should take the fideistic approach to Scripture and put Josephus under the knife of source criticism! He deserves it. The internal contradictions really are there, just as they are not evident in Scripture. Of course many straw men contradictions have been imputed to Scripture, but they break down on investigation.

In the case of the 37 and 34 years, Josephus was not very clear, but I have submitted a parsimonius explanation which is agreeable to Scripture.

There are two kinds of historians in the world. There are those who check out all their sources and confirm or prove everything before they repeat it lest they pass along an error, and there are those that just copy the tradition and add their own subjective commentary, which often reflects a misunderstanding of their source. Luke and other biblical writers are in the first category. And they had the Holy Spirit double checking also. Josephus, on the other hand, is obviously the sloppy sort of historian that copies what he sees without checking it (legends and fables included, as well as hearsay), and who puts his own opinion in, when he may not have a basis for an opinion, because he misunderstands the source. This is clear enough because he gives contradictory numbers between the Jewish War and the Jewish Antiquities. It is invariably the case where I have been led astray in chronology, the error has been because I trusted a source outside the Scripture and did not cross-check it.

Upon arriving back in Galilee in AD 39, Herod had to fight for his kingdom. He was not able to end the Hasmonean Jewish Kingdom until 37 BC in the third month of the year (Ant. 14:487). The part year left to Tishri 1, 37 BC was Herod’s first year. This was also 27 years after Pompey took Jerusalem in 63 BC, in the third month (Ant. 14:66). (Now, I formerly used Dio Cassius’ 38 BC dates, and reckoned an unnumbered accession year for Herod, but Edward Greswell has shown to my satisfaction that Dio Cassius reckoning does not fit the careful reading of Roman history. There was no accession year for Herod. Also, he overthrew the previous dynasty, so one was not required.) Herod’s reign years can be established from two independent synchronisms, and accordingly I have stated them the same as before, even when I used to prefer Dio’s date. First, the battle of Actium between Caesar and Mark Antony was fought on September 2, 31 BC in the seventh year of Herod (Ant. 15:121, ἑβδόμου δ᾽ ὄντος Ἡρώδῃ). Accordingly, the 7th year of Herod ended at the new moon of Tishri of 31 BC (20 Sept, 31 BC), which comes after the battle. Second, Augustus Caesar visited Syria after 10 years, just after the 17th year of Herod. When Herod had already reigned 17 years, Caesar came into Syria (Ant. 15:354) ten years after his first visit, which was in the fall of 30 BC in Roman history. So, his second visit was in the summer of 20 BC. (The visit in 20 BC is confirmed by Roman sources, much less open to error due to using the consular year system.) And this agrees exactly that the 18th year of Herod ended Tishri 1, 20 BC. So this makes two witnesses to the correspondence between Herod’s reign years and Roman events, and thus to BC dates. But mark this well, these synchronisms are according to Herod’s factual reign, from Nicolaus of Damascus and not his Jewish reign coming from a Hasmonean priestly faction. Year 1 of the factual reign was delayed till Herod took Jerusalem. The years before he took the kingdom simply were not counted in the factual reign by which most all the datings are given.

Even though there is a bit of ambiguity as to the actual case (34 years 5 months rounded to 34 years vs. 35 years, Nisan vs. Tishri), either case will harmonize with the Scripture. And that is the point. When Luke said that Messiah was about 30 years old he said it because 1. He interviewed his mother. 2. He knew the birth date, and 3. He knew his baptism was just before his 30th birthday, so in the interests of greater accuracy he said he was almost 30, and not just 29 years old. Going back from the 15th year of Tiberius (17 Sept 28 AD to 17 Sept 29 AD), we arrive at 2 BC.

Herod’s True Factual Reign Years vs. Incorrect Versions

For example, Herod’s first year cannot start in either *Tishri of 37 BC or **April of 36 BC. Note the *’s in the diagram. For in both cases the 7th year would begin after Tishri 1, 31 BC (Sept. 20), and that year would not contain the battle of Actium. And Josephus says it does (Ant. 15:121).

The usual explanation is that the synchronisms are according to the Jewish reign of 34 years and that the Roman reign dating from 40 BC is never used. This is very unparsimonious. The Jewish reign was seditious. The Roman reign was official. Herod’s enemies were not in his face most of the time. They were cowed by his totalitarian rule marked by frequent murders and injustices. Are we to really think that Herod’s friend and biographer, Nicolaus of Damascus, is going to date his years from the death of Antigonus if the official reign really does come from 40 BC? The only way of justifying Nicolaus’ dates is if Nicolaus is giving the factual reign from Herod’s taking of Jerusalem and that the Jewish reign is not the same as the factual reign. For that would make it competition with the Roman reign. As a result there are three reckonings, and two of them were acceptable to Herod. The Jewish reign from 36 BC was not. And Herod does make the distinction himself, putting his factual reign after 125 years, whereas from the death of Antigonus it is after 126.

I will now presently observe that there is one synchronism that is given in terms of the unsympathetic priestly source, i.e. the Jewish reign. It is usually explained that when Josephus says that the Temple was built in the 15th year of Herod that this is an error and that the 18th year is really meant. This is because both dates are construed as dating from 37 BC, the so called Jewish reign (which is really the factual one). This matter is straightened out on the charts. The 15th year is according to the factual reign from 37 BC. The outer structures of the Temple were started in 24 BC with the year of Jubilee, and took 8 years to build ending in 17 BC. Rebuilding of the main temple got underway in the 18th year of Herod according to his Jewish reign. It took 1 1/2 years and was finished at the same time that the outer structures were in 17 BC. Here are some confirmations:

The Jewish reign 18th year is meant in Josephus’ source from 36 BC. He is using a religious source to date this event, which the priesthood would date from the death of Antigonus in 36 BC counting an accession year. This may be proved as follows. 1.5 years building, after all preparations, take us to the start of the first year of the era instituted at the completion of the Temple. Herod’s inauguration as king synchronized with the feast of Tabernacles. This matches Tishri 17 BC exactly. The first day of Sukkot fell on Sept 30 [non-proleptic Julian = 29 Sept], the day Herod was appointed king in Rome. Now in 18 BC at Sukkot, 15 Tishri came on 11 October, which was almost two weeks after his inauguration. So the Temple era cannot have started in 18 BC. See Ant. 15:421-423. This observation shows that the 46th year (John 2:20) was parallel to the 16th year of Tiberius, and not the 15th year of Tiberius. Also in 19 BC, the 30th was after the seven days of Sukkot [R. 29]. In 20 BC the inauguration date was almost a week before Sukkot. Only the 17 BC date fits exactly. The only alternative is to say Josephus made a mistake with the 184th Olympiad as no version of the Olympiad can be made to work with a date later than Sept 30, 40 BC.

The above may seem a bit complex. So I’ll make it plain. The feast of Tabernacles and Herod’s inauguration anniversary in Rome as king synchronized in the year the Temple was finished. And this in turn synchronizes with the 46 year era recorded in John. Josephus says the feast and the inauguration were at the same time. This match does not work for 18 BC, 19 BC or 20 BC. It just works for 17 BC. And this leads directly to AD 30 as the first Passover of John.

So you see, if we unscramble Josephus’ sources, we can figure out the history. But you have to start with the Scripture to see where to slice and dice him. Things went so far off track because the Church swallowed the anti-Torah fly. They then swallowed many little spiders (false assumptions) to keep the anti-Torah dates and seasons afloat. Then of course people forgot the reasons for the assumptions, which were to run away from Torah solutions.

I cannot agree with Filmer and others that Herod took the city in 36 BC (like Ben Zion Wacholder) or that his reign years are counted otherwise than I have stated them. Making 39 BC the year of Herod’s appointment is untenable with Roman History. One could call 39 BC an accession year and count the 37th year between Tishri 2 BC and Tishri 1 BC. One can also speculate that a 34 year reign was calculated after Antigonus’ execution in 36 BC (assuming after Nisan 1), reckoning that year an accession year also so that year 1 began with Nisan 1, 35. One can also speculate that Antigonus was executed when Antony came back from Parthia instead of before he went. However, appointment in 39 BC in Rome does not agree with the Roman history. Neither does 36 BC agree with Roman history for the taking of the city. It rejects Josephus’ consular dates for 40 BC. It also rejects Josephus’ consular dates for 37 BC. If Josephus had been wrong about the consular dates, his first Greek speaking Romans would have corrected him. I believe there is an easier solution. The 37 years date the time when Herod was actually king in the eyes of the Romans until 4 BC when he was demoted, and if the demotion theory is wrong then it is better just to emend Josephus numbers to end in 1 BC. That would be much better than rejecting the consular dates, since scribal fiddling with the numbers is likelier.

Josephus does make mistakes, but it is not with his consular dates, not with the 40 BC appointment in Rome or the 37 BC taking of the city. The mistake in Antiquities 17:191 was in his interpretation of the starting point for the 37 years. Josephus is technically correct about the 34 years. It does date from the execution of Antigonus. But he failed to see that the three years are explained right there simply by taking the 37 years to start with the fall of the city. Counting methods take care of the rest with the one year difference between the fall of the city and the execution of the king by Mark Antony just before his disastrous expedition into Parthia in the spring of 36 BC.

A Sabbatical Year Mistake Compounds the Problem

Josephus attempts to date the fall of Jerusalem in a Sabbatic year (Ant. 14:475) in the third month on the fast of Sivan 22-23 (Ant. 14:487). In Ant. 15:7 the Sabbatic year is said to be still going on. Ant. 14:475 makes it very clear that the proposed Sabbatic year was in force for the duration of the siege, and then after Herod’s taking of the city. It should be clear that Josephus could not have considered this if the fast day mentioned was the Day of Atonement. For in that case 14:475 could not be true. There would, in fact, be no famine due to a sabbatical year if it was only 10 days old when the city fell. It follows that Josephus means the third month when he says the third month. The city fell in Sivan on a fast day ascribed to the apostasy of Jeroboam. It was June 21-22, 37 BC. The siege lasted five months (War. 1:351) and so was begun in Adar I. It was Adar I, Adar II, Nisan, Iyyar, Sivan. War 5:398 states six months as the siege. If that is the case, it started by Feb. 3., but a date between Feb. 4 and March 3 seems more likely. Herod marched unopposed by any army in the field to besiege Jerusalem as soon as winter allowed his army to take to the field (Ant. 14:465). Now as winter was ending, Herod marched to Jerusalem.... (War 1:343). The narrative does not allow a capture of the city in the seventh month. For that would imply that the siege began at the earliest on May 2.

Now 38/37 BC agrees with Zuckermann’s reckoning of the Sabbath years. But this is another detail that contradicts Scripture and also history at various points. The proper sabbatical year is 39/38 BC, the year before Herod’s taking of Jerusalem. What then has caused Josephus to make this error? Josephus was not ignorant about the timing of the seventh year, but again, he did not actually check his knowledge of the contemporary seventh year with his consular date for the fall of Jerusalem. He simply trusted his source. The most likely theory is that the source was a Jewish one which stated that it was the “going out of the Sabbatical year,” מוֹצָאֵי שַׁבָּת. Guggenheimer (Seder Olam) translates the phrase, “at the end of a Sabbatical year,” and Wacholder as “during a post-Sabbatical year.” Which is correct? It would seem that philologically Guggenheimer is correct. But “motzei” is idiomatically used with the weekly Sabbath to mean just after it ended. Analogy would suggest Wacholder’s translation is correct. Seder Olam itself settles the issue. Jehoiachin is said to be exiled in the 4th year of the Sabbatical cycle, From a bad dog comes no good whelp. Jehoiachin was exiled in the middle of a Jubilee cycle, in the fourth year of a Sabbatical cycle. The mid year of a Jubilee is year 25, to the next Jubilee add 11 years and 14 years (25 years). There were 11 years to the fall of the city and 14 years after it according to Ezekiel. The 11th year was the last year of Zedekiah when the city fell. Counting forward 11 years leads us to year 1 of the cycle. 5,6,7,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,1. There are then 14 years left to the Jubilee, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 42, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50. Note that according to Jewish tradition the 14th year was the Jubilee. If the 11th year is moved back one year, which is to assume inclusive counting, then there is a gap between the 11 years and the 14 years. This appears to imply that “post-sabbatical year” is the correct sense. Also, it is well known that Seder Olam puts the capture of Jerusalem by Titus in AD 69. I have determined on Scriptural grounds that the Sabbatic year was AD 67/68, so that makes AD 69 post-sabbatical. Even though these Seder Olam dates are contrived, the contrivance only works with a real sabbatical year if they assumed the phrase meant “post-sabbatical.” However, it is clear that the Jews confused themselves with the phrase, some Jews saying it means post-sabbatical, and other saying it means toward the end of a Sabbath year. But I have given here three witnesses that it means post-sabbatical.

Josephus’s source, or the source of his source must have put some such phrase as the “end of a Sabbatical year,” which was assumed to be “in the Sabbatical year.” It should be observed that the lack of provision would not be acutely felt in the Sabbatical year itself. If 38/37 BC were sabbatical, and the siege commenced in Adar I, then they would normally be using the old crop (as in any other year) for Adar I, Adar II, and Nisan, which are three months, or 2 1/2 months of the siege. Between Nisan 16, 37 BC and June 21, 37 BC are 65 days. That is hardly enough time to feel the effects of a famine caused by a Sabbatical year. On the other hand, with the Sabbatical year in 39/38 BC, siege was laid to the city just before the new crop of year one of the cycle was to come in. That would be a severe hardship. So I have to conclude that Josephus’ source, or the source of his source habitually misunderstood the end of a Sabbatical year as still in the Sabbatical year.

Fifteen years or Twenty-five years?

Josephus contradicts himself in this matter, since he states the Herod was 15 years old in 47 BC (Ant. 14:158, The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ, vol. 1, Schurer, pg. 248) and then was about 70 when he died (Ant. 17:148). The age 15 is clearly an error for 25 years old (πεντε καί δεκα vs. πέντε καὶ εἴκοσιν or IE vs. KE). The passage in Josephus is dated by Julius Caesar’s departure from Egypt in June of 47 BC to go to Antioch (Ant. 14:156). It is at this time that Herod is appointed governor of Galilee. The easiest error to make is in the tens figure. Twenty-five corrects the number exactly. Josephus tells us that Herod was around 70 at his death (περὶ ἔτος ἑβδομηκοστὸν). If he had died in 4 BC then he should have been 67. In ordinary speech “about 70” means 70 ± 0.5 yr. Nikolaus of Damascus could not have been very far off, since he states the age of 25. He would know how old Herod was when he died. About 70 makes sense. The 4 BC theory is forced to assume that the 15 year figure is not just partly wrong, but wholly wrong or that “about 70” was a whole three years off the target. So we see already here that the explanatory power of a 1 BC date for the death of Herod minimizes what we have to identify as error in Josephus. Imputing a three year error here to Josephus or Nikolaus and badly correcting the 15 year error is rank speculation and dead reckoning. It is not in the same class as simply saying Josephus miscalculated because he was not aware of Antipas’ back dating. Josephus was not even aware that his narrative on Philip’s death did not agree with his results. There are good reasons for the latter error. There is no good reason for the error the 4 BC theory is forced to assume.

Most Scholars think that Josephus’s fifteen year figure is a mistake for twenty-five. Some scholars try to “solve” the problem of Herod’s appointment as governor in 47 BC by changing the age to “twenty-seven” in order to make sure that Herod dies in 4 BC, because they are aware that Josephus said he was “about 70” when he died. For example see Knoblet, Herod the Great, pg. 28. The fifteen year figure is clearly accidental, but since it is composed of two characters or three words, the parsimonious error is the corruption of one figure, namely 20 to 10. Supposing that 27 got changed into 15 assumes deliberateness. But why would anyone make a deliberate change to a figure that everyone agrees is false?

Herod’s Sons

Confusion came about in Herod’s reign after the execution of the Hasmonean princes Alexander and Aristobulous. After 34 of factual reign years Herod promoted Antipater to the status of coregent and set him over half the kingdom (assumed based on War 9:93). At the same time it is likely that he gave his other two sons, Archelaus and Antipas governing responsibilities. Antipas would have administrated in Galilee while Antipater was put over the kingdom, but only administrated a portion of it. Archelaus and Philip would also have administrative duties. I propose then that Antipas was effective Tetrarch (governor) of Galilee from 4 BC. Then when Antipater’s treachery was discovered, Herod decided that Antipas would take his place over the kingdom and altered his will to this effect. During this short time as crown prince Antipas only continued to administrate Galilee. But then later, just before Herod died, he changed his will so that Archelaus would be over the kingdom and Antipas would only be confirmed as tetrarch, a position which, according to my proposal he was administrating already. Now Antipas had been educated in Rome, but he was not in Rome when the contention over the succession of the kingdom came up. He sailed to Rome, which means his education was finished at that time. Naturally, then, it seems reasonable that he would have been given administrative responsibility in that part of the kingdom that was not being directly controlled by Antipater, or administered by Archelaus or Philip.

This raises the question of Antipas’ coins, since Antipas was always a tetrarch and never a king in the eyes of Rome, though he was informally called king by the Jews in Galilee. The Hebrew word melech, in fact is ambiguous, meaning a ruler and not necessarily a sovereign. Not even Herod the Great was sovereign. Being king was a title, but it was not bestowed on Antipas by Caesar. It may be then that the title tetrarch was bestowed on Antipas ex post facto in recognition of his service to Rome from the time Antipater was appointed coregent in 4 BC, and also in light of his swift action in Varus’ war to put down the revolt in Galilee. Officially, then, Antipas’ confirmation as tetrarch was merely a continuation of his preceding responsibility. It may be that Antipas counted the years of his tetrarchy back to that point at which Herod had handed responsibilities to his sons in 4 BC. In such case, he would date his coins from 4 BC. Another reason, Antipas may have done this is that he was hoping to be confirmed as king over the whole kingdom, and he was competing for it with his brother Archelaus. By so counting the years of his tetrarchy, Antipas was underlining the inception point of his governing responsibility. The explanation of the coins to Rome would be that they dated his tetrarchy, and not that he was king. But the explanation to the Jews in Galilee would be that he was king, or at least he would be called king, and it might be carelessly assumed by a Jew born in AD 37 that Antipas dated his coins upon Herod’s death, or that Antipas’ coins dated the official grant of the tetrarchy to him by Caesar instead of his prior informal responsibilities. Accordingly, it appears that Antipas issued no coins at all from 4 BC to 2 BC. His first coin is dated to year 4. It is a bronze prutah with a grain and the legend “Tetrarch [year] 4.” On the reverse is a palm tree with seven branches (cf. Gregory Jenks, Jesus Then and Jesus Now). Jenks says it is Antipas’ first coin and calls it a “trial coin issue.” Then he remarks that no coins were issued after AD 6 till AD 19/20 marking the 24th year, because Antipas had no further need to compete with his older brother.

David Hendin and Ya'akov Meshorer assign the year 3 coin of Herod the Great to 40 BC, and state that it dates Herod’s time as Tetrarch of Galilee from 42 BC! These men are the worlds two top coin experts on Jewish coins. Herod put “king” on the year 3 coin as a kind of commemorative of when he became king. No other coins for Herod bear dates. My theory is that Antipas felt the same way, he administrated Galilee under his father from 4 BC to 1 BC. When he was confirmed as Tetrarch by Caesar, then he put year 4, dating the coin from his responsibilities, but adding “Tetrarch.” What it then means is that he became tetrarch in the 4th year of his administrative duties in the eyes of Rome, but like his father he used the fact that he had some administrative experience prior to his appointment to justify a date on the coin going back to the inception of the duty.

This practice might seem rather slippery for a coin dated year 4 and with tetrarch on it, but where the 4 refers to some such lesser position as tetrarch-in-training or whatever his position was called before confirmation, and going back several years. But we must remember that Herod the Great did the same slippery thing, but just with a higher set of titles. First he was tetrarch from 42 BC, but then he put year 4 and king on his first coin, where 4 did not refer to years as king, but years as tetrarch, which is the lesser title before he was king. So even though we do not know Antipas’ lesser title, it still follows the pattern for him to use a lesser title to justify a date on a coin that does not correspond to his years as tetrarch. Antipas surely would have known about his father’s third year coin and inquired at some point what the “3” stood for. Clearly this gave him the same bright idea, in light of the fact that he thought he should have been king instead of Antipater, and that his father appointed him king over Archelaus in his first will.

Since this point that Antipas’ year 4 coin did not date his appointment as tetrarch, but some lesser position in the kingdom, is so important, and that before Herod died, I will now cite the argument of Ya‘akov Meshorer, the world’s leading Jewish coin expert, keeping in mind that what was done by Herod the Great was copied by his son Antipas, only with lesser titles, and where one of the titles is unknown because it was less than tetrarch, and is not reported to us. Herod the Great sets the precedent. Let us now hear Meshorer:

The Mint of Samaria/Sebaste-the Dated Coins (Nos. 44-47)

“One of the main questions arising from the observation of Herod’s coins is why only a single year is marked on a few of them. Why was the date LΓ, year three, so prominently emphasized on four different denominations, while none of his other coins bear any date? Most scholars were tempted to believe that the year in question was 37 B.C.E., when Herod seized Jerusalem from Mattathias Antigonus and became sole king of Judaea. The numismatists’ reckoning was based on the following: if Herod had been granted his title and dominion by the Romans in 40 B.C.E., it can be assumed that in ‘year 3’ he became the sole ruler, in Jerusalem the capital. In their view, this fact justified the emphasizing of the event by the minting of coins in four different denominations. As early as 1881, F.W. Madden had noted a chronological problem in this reckoning: ‘The year three has been referred by Eckhel to the year of Rome 718 (B.C. 36), and by De Saulcy to B.C. 37, the actual year of the capture of Jerusalem; but it may be that the years on his coins count from the time when he received the title of ‘King of Judaea’ from the Romans in 714 (B.C. 40), and in this case his third year would be 716 (B.C. 38), or from the death of Antigonus in B.C. 37, when the third year would be B.C. 35,’ i.e., that year 3 was 38 and not 37 B.C.E., and therefore was not the year of Jerusalem’s conquest. Madden also maintained that the year count should be started from the death of Antigonus in 37 B.C.E., and then 35 B.C.E. would be Herod’s third regnal year.”

We are trying to solve the problem in another way that is based on the Greek monogram on the coins: ⳨ [See image at left]. This monogram, made up of the two Greek letters ΤΡ, accompanies the date. Some scholars have suggested that it should be considered an expression of the Greek word ΤΡΙΤΟΣ, i.e. “three,” the intention being the date — the third year. This proposal has shortcomings: there was no point to marking the date a second time, and certainly not by means of a cryptic monogram whose significance had to be guessed. Others thought that it represented the intial letters of “Trachonitis,” a territory that Herod was granted in 24 B.C.E., and that the third year of his reign over it was thus 22 C.E. Indeed, monograms, on account of their very nature, lend themselves to various interpretations and speculations. We have suggested a different one based on an identical monogram that is present on coins of Chalcis in Lebanon from the same period. This is the coinage of Ptolemy king of Chalcis, who reigned in the years 85-40 B.C.E. He held the title of tetrarch and his coinage that depicts the same monogram can thus be compared to that of Herod who was also a tetrarch (ΤΕΤΡΑΡΧΗΣ). Josephus relates that Mark Antony appointed Herod the tetrarch of Samaria in 42 B.C.E. If this is the explanation of the monogram, the date appearing on the coins of Herod can be understood as follows: LΓ ⳨ [See image at left] “year 3 of the tetrarchy,” i.e., 40 B.C.E. This date accords with the historical reality and with the coins themselves. Herod was crowned king of Judaea in Rome in 40 B.C.E., at a time when his Hasmonean opponent, Mattathias Antigonus, was enthroned by the Parthians. Since the Romans dictated political moves in the Land of Israel as from 63 B.C.E. Herod was in effect legally king of Judaea, and it is very reasonable that he would mint coins immediately, at the start of his legal reign, this being the customary way of expressing authority. Antigonus, who was not the official monarch crowned by the Romans, also minted rather impressive coins as one of the means of expressing his rule. The “year 3” date on Herod’s dated coins is in conformity with a reckoning of the years according to the era beginning with his receipt of the title “tetrarch”: “in year 3 of his being tetrarch — King Herod.”

This conclusion is corroborated by other data. The dated coins constitute only 2%, and perhaps even less, of all the Herodian coins. The excavations recently conducted in Jerusalem have revealed hundreds of Herodian coins, of which only 1% are of the dated group. In the Masada excavations, only one of the 393 Herodian coins uncovered was dated, i.e. only one-quarter of one percent. On the other hand, the digs carried out in Samaria/Sebaste itself brought to light very different finds — 23% of the coins belong to the dated group. In the excavations of G.A. Reisner, seven of the 18 coins of Herod that were found were the dated ones. J.W. Crowfoot’s excavations uncovered 60 coins of Herod, 11 of them of the dated group. From experience we learn that bronze coins become rarer as the distance between the excavation site and their mint increases. The discovery of so many dated coins in Samaria is firm evidence that they were minted there.

This conclusion enables us to solve all the problems relating to Herod’s coins. Their division into two groups, one of which is made up of the dated coins minted in Samaria at the beginning of his reign, and the other consisting of the undated coints that were struck in Jerusalem after its conquest in 37 B.C.E., makes it easier to explain the nature of the symbols on Herod’s coins as well as other phenomena.

pg. 61-63, A Treasury of Jewish Coins, Ya’akov Meshorer, 2001.

It appears then then there is no need for the theory of de jure regnal years to be assigned to Antipas. This is because Antipas was never made king by Rome. Antipas merely dated the coins to his factual assumption of responsibilities in Galilee. The error is therefore with those who make the assumption that the coins date the confirmation of his tetrarchy by Caesar rather than his previous responsibilities. Now some may call this argument from silence, but the silence is not complete. Herod the Great pulled a similar maneuver with his year 3 coin. And some such explanation is necessary due to the fact that Luke puts the birth in 2 BC and so Herod must die in 1 BC.

Herod Philip apparently only dated his coins from his official confirmation as tetrarch, and not from the assumption of prior administrative responsibility, nor Archelaus, as we shall see, who was in a more precarious position in Judea at the beginning of his reign.

Dating Archelaus Rule of Judea

Josephus variously dates the rule of Archelaus at 9 years and 10 years. Josephus had records that Archelaus was deposed in AD 6. This goes back to 4 BC. The occasion of the error is when Josephus reports a dream relating to Archelaus involving ears of corn and the number of years he would rule. Doubtless the legend is inspired by Pharoah's dreams told to Joseph, and the proper number ought to be seven years instead of the 9 or 10 in Josephus. None of the coinage of Archelaus is dated with years, only the title “Ethnarch” (he wanted to avoid using tetrarch), so the only evidence we have for the length is 9 or 10 years in Josephus. The only source is Josephus written history, there being no archaeological evidence for the reign length. Also Josephus contradicts himself, ascribing 9 years to Archelaus in another place. It is not impossible that the numbers 9 and 10 were edited into Josephus, as clearly the introductions to Josephus’ books were edited in, and clearly certain doctrinal statements that Josephus would never make were edited into the passage about Messiah. It is most likely that Josephus’s source of the legend of Archelaus short rule read “seven years.” And this, in fact is exactly correct. Archelaus ruled seven years from 1 BC to AD 6. If Josephus put seven years then he is vindicated on this point, and the editor is guilty. Whoever put 9 and 10 years must have made the correction to just one of Josephus’ books at a time and then not realized a parallel passage existed (Ant. 17:345; War 2:112). And in fact, Josephus’ 37 and 34 year figures could be later corrections of the same nature. Someone counted Herod Antipas’s reign back to 4 BC and then may have corrected an original 40 year figure for the reign of Herod down to 37. If the 9 year reign is based on an accession year method, then perhaps it was Josephus himself who assumed this for War, but then the date is changed to 10 years (non-accession) in Antiquities.

Regardless of how the mistake was made, we may suppose that the dream story was a piece of political propaganda or satire, and that as such, it was told true to form with “seven years,” and not 9 or 10. And why so? Because that is what a seven year rule would inspire. The story really looses its zing without the magic number. That’s what is expected to be in this satire of Joseph’s dream. What makes the most sense is that the story was a satirical joke that became popular after Archelaus was deposed.

Caius Caesar’s presence in Rome in the summer of 1 BC

Josephus places Caius Caesar in Rome when Archelaus and Antipas went to Rome to argue their merits to be appointed king. If this happened in the summer of 1 BC, then Caius Caesar would have to be in Rome in 1 BC. Timothy Barnes and others have tried to argue the impossibility of this by proposing that Caius was already gone East and could not have been in Rome. Caius was clearly in Rome in 2 BC, and then he was sent off to the Danube frontier for his officer training. At some point after 2 BC he was married to Julia. Greswell and other propose early 1 BC for Caius appointment to the East and his travel to the Greek Islands to meet Tiberius. From my study of these events as related by the Roman historians, I see that Barnes and his supporters have not accounted for every movement and moment of Caius life to prevent him from being in Rome about June or July of 1 BC. Their argument does not amount to a detailed proof forbidding any exceptions. Rather it amounts to a claim based on these scholars perceived authority in Roman History that Caius could not have been in Rome in 1 BC. And they are defending this knowing that Filmer has already put a knife to the 4 BC theory. Timothy Barnes simply failed to demonstrate what he so dogmatically claims. I do not wish to speculate whether Caius came from the Danube frontier to Tiberius on Chios and then went to Rome with a letter or any other such theory, though some good Roman historians have suggested just that. It is just as possible that Caius returned from the Danube to Rome and then went to see Tiberius on his way east. Other scholars argue based on the slim evidence of Roman coins with victory standards that Caius was supposed to be the first one sent forth from the temple of Mars, and therefore went east in 2 BC or very early 1 BC. Such is an assumption and not demonstrated in fact. We are on much firmer ground with Luke. Herod died in 1 BC. And therefore Caius was in Rome in the summer of 1 BC. And therefore, he went east after Josephus records him being in Rome. It is my prediction that further examination of Roman History will demonstrate there is room enough for Caius to be there.

The building of Julia-Bethsaida

Josephus tells us that Herod Philip built the city of Julia which bore the name of Caesar’s daughter. This was assumed to be Julia the disgraced and banished daughter of Augustus in 2 BC. And therefore, Timothy Barnes argued that this city must have been built before the disgrace of Julia. But now scholars are saying that Augustus actually adopted Julia his wife as his daughter. That’s strange, but it is how Roman adoptions work. The conclusion of the matter then is that Barnes assumed Josephus meant the wrong Julia. The city was, in fact, built much later. Barnes argument thus collapses, and all the dogmatism descended from it is now shamefaced. One can still dispute whether Bethsaida-Julia has been uncovered, but the dogmatism has now been shown to be most foolish.

Adding up the factors

So what exactly is the 4 BC theory based on? 1. That the 37 year figure dates from 40 BC. We have seen the 3rd year coin will not back up a synchronism of the Roman reign with year 3 in 37 BC. We have seen that Josephus reference to year 3 goes before Nisan 1 37, BC and that further, the 37th year goes after Nisan 1, 4 B.C. In short, the Roman reign does not fit dating to a 4 BC death of Herod. It might point to 3 B.C., but there was no eclipse in that year, so this has to be rejected. The answer to this is that the 37th year does start with Nisan 1, 4 B.C., and that it dates the year in which Herod lost his favored status with the Romans. And this assumption which is not refuted is much better than an assumption which is refuted and disagrees with Luke, and so is twice refuted.

2. An assumed eclipse in 4 BC. We have seen a problem with fitting events between Herod’s death and the following Passover. Further, the 5 BC eclipse is also disproved by a problem with gathering the elders of Israel to Jericho in just two days between two holy days. The 1 BC eclipse, on the other hand, does not have these problems.

3. Herod Antipas’s coins. We have seen that a date on Herod the Great’s coins does not in fact refer to the 3rd year of his reign as king. Applying this precedent to his son refutes the dogmatism that claims Antipas’s year 4 coin is from year 4 of his reign as king, or for that matter any other dated coin of Antipas. What is dated is his assumption of some responsibility in Galilee, a date from which he thought he should have been king after the revelations of Antipater’s treachery.

4. Herod Philip, 37 years, and the 20th year of Tiberius. We have shown good reasons to believe that he died in the 22nd year of Tiberius and that Josephus’ narrative in fact places his death in the context of events belonging to that year.

5. 9 or 10 years for Archelaus, deposed in AD 6. The undated nature of Archelaus’ coins is strike one against confidence in these 9 or 10 years. The second strike is the discrepancy between the figure 9 and 10 years, between the Jewish War and Antiquities. The final strike is that the political satire of the dream indicating the length of Archelaus rule was clearly inspired by Pharaoh’s dreams related to Joseph. The punch line is the number seven. Someone down through time changed the numbers. Time may reveal some other explanation that agrees with Luke, but this one is parsimonious enough for the present.

6. The argument that Caius Caesar could not have been in Rome in the summer of 1 BC was based on a dogmatic reconstruction of Roman history wherein the assumptions were hidden from view.

7. 4 BC supporters spend most of their time proving that Herod was appointed in Rome in 40 BC and took Jerusalem in 37 BC. So at this point, I should affirm that Josephus’ consular dates for the appointment of Herod in 40 BC are valid. Further his consular dates for the conquest of Jerusalem are valid. The only thing invalid is the sabbatical year dating, likely due to misunderstanding of what is meant by the “end of the Sabbatical year.”

8. We have also seen that Herod’s age at death and the fifteen year mistake combine to point to 1 BC. Yet the fifteen year number is a mistake, and agreed so by all.

9. Josephus’s reference to the oath of loyalty to Augustus comes after 5 Feb. 2 BC on the time line according to Roman sources. Otherwise this oath is misplaced into 5 BC. Since Varus was governor when Herod died, the 4 BC camp has moved Varus back to 4 BC forcing the conclusion that the sequence was Varus - Saturninus - Varus again. But Jospehus’ narrative does not allow for so short a tenure of Saturninus to be squashed between two terms of Varus. I conclude then that the superior evidence of Josephus’ narrative confirms a 1 BC date for the death of Herod.

10. It may be pointed out that Greswell, a supporter of 4 BC argued that the Varus coins are invalid since they are in fact Varro coins.

11. The argument based on Julia has collapsed.

12. The place of the 18th and 15th years of Herod have been explained and the completion of both phases of the Temple in 17 BC at the same time as Herod’s inauguration date.

13. Josephus statement, “When he had done these things, he died, the fifth day after he had caused Antipater to be slain; having reigned, since he had procured Antigonus to be slain, thirty-four years; but since he had been declared king by the Romans, thirty-seven” (Ant. 17:191) and “So Herod, having survived the slaughter of his son five days, died, having reigned thirty-four years since he had caused Antigonus to be slain, and obtained his kingdom; but thirty-seven years since he had been made king by the Romans” (War 1:665) is explained by realizing that Josephus has left out the factual reign from 37 BC entirely since he dates from 36 BC when Antigonus was slain (we do not expect Josephus to know that he was slain the next year), and then observing that the synchronisms later provided imply the factual reign from 37 BC, which comes to 37 years in 1 BC. Josephus was probably faced with this data: 1. Herod was made king by the Romans in 40 BC. 2. His reign ended at 37 years. 3. A Jewish reign was counted from when Antigonus was slain, ending at 34 years and some months. 4. It was the end of a Sabbatical year. From this he concluded that the 37 years started in Rome and the 34 years when the city was taken and that it was a sabbatical year. What he should have concluded was He was made king by the Romans. This reign was not counted in years. He took the city and from there his 37 years are counted. And later Antigonus was slain, and from there the 34 years and some months are counted. Finally, the end of a Sabbatical year is the first year of the cycle. It is possible then that there may never have been a Roman reign as Josephus presents it. He just misinterpreted his sources. Or there may have been a Roman reign, and Josephus did not realize it ended in 4 BC with Herod’s demotion. One way or another, it appears our Jewish historian was confused on the 37 years of the Roman reign, for which there is little evidence of counting. The evidence of actual counting is for the factual reign from 37 BC and the Jewish reign from 36 BC, both ending in 1 BC. So with that said, the Roman reign I have put into the charts may be an artificial construct. The factual and Jewish reigns are not.

Flaws in the 4 BC theory

The first flaw is that the oath of loyalty refused by the Pharisees is dislocated from 2 BC when the Romans imposed it. The second flaw is that Herod Philip’s death fits the history of the 22nd year of Tiberius and not the 20th. The third flaw is that this theory has to dismiss the best correction of the 15 year figure to 25 and propose a death date closer to 67 years than 70 as stated by Josephus. The 4th flaw is that this theory cannot make the inauguration date of Herod’s appointment in Rome agree with the time of the feast of Tabernacles at the completion of the Temple. The 5th flaw is that the 15th year of Herod for the building of the Temple is dismissed as an error by this theory. The 6th flaw is that the 15th year of Tiberius and the first Passover of John in AD 30 cannot be brought together with the 46th year of the temple being built and the figures of Josephus for beginning it in the 18th year and finishing it 1.5 years later. The 7th flaw is that makes Luke guess at the age of Messiah. The 8th flaw is that for the 4 BC theory 37 years is in fact one year too many. The 9th flaw is that the Jewish revolt coming after Herod’s death is missing from Roman history until after 2 BC! The 10th flaw is that the neither the 4 BC nor 5 BC eclipse can be justified time constraints.

All this is stacked up against the following: 1. Josephus misinterpreted a sabbatical year reference, 2. Josephus misinterpreted the exact sense of the 37 years. 3. Josephus’ contradictory figures for 9 and 10 years for Archelaus were somehow changed from 7. 4. Josephus conflated his sources on the census and proposed two revolts and two depositions of the same high priest. Now please notice the difference between the faults admitted here and the faults of the 4 BC theory. They are of a qualitative difference. The flaws in the 4 BC are both logical and historical, and also more numerous. The flaws we admit for Josephus are simply those kind of faults for which historians are known for. Finally, the 4 BC theory contradicts Luke and it prevents us from making the obvious connections to Torah. It is the result of step by step retreat from the knowledge found in the Law of the Almighty.

Demonstrating Luke’s Dating

Just how old would Messiah actually be if he was born in Tishri of 5 BC (or before) as required by the 4 BC theory?

fall 5 BC to fall 4 BC       Year  0  
fall 4 BC to fall 3 BC       Year  1  
fall 3 BC to fall 2 BC       Year  2  
fall 2 BC to fall 1 BC       Year  3  
fall 1 BC to fall 1 AD       Year  4  
fall 1 AD to fall 2 AD       Year  5  
   +27            +27              +27
fall 28 AD to fall 29 AD     Year 32  

Nearing the fall of AD 29, it would be correct say say he was nearly 33. That is to say, Luke’s “about 30” would be expressing ignorance on Luke’s part to the extent of 3 years. This can hardly be the case since he investigated everything carefully and interviewed Yeshu‘a’s mother.

A further problem is Luke 1:80. Yoɦanan began preaching that year, And the child continued to grow, and to become strong in spirit, and he lived in the deserts until the day of his public installation for Yisra’ɛl. The day of public inauguration is age 30 for a priest. This implies that he entered his prophetic ministry when he was ordained. But Messiah is only 5 months and 1 day younger, and therefore he cannot be almost 33. Age 30 was also the customary age among Jews for teachers to enter a teaching ministry and to call their first students.

Do we suppose that Luke did not know how old Messiah was? Do we suppose that Luke did not care and was careless? Do we suppose that Luke wanted to mislead us? All of these assumptions fly in the face of the other evidence in Luke and in the face of his own statements. Apostate Christianity wants us to believe that the Scripture has spiritual value while at the same time they deny that it has objective historical value in every way. They say Scripture has spiritual value, but then they deny that it is as accurate or more accurate than human sources. This faithless treatment of a first hand witness to these events is the traitorous activity of wolves in sheep clothing. Their traditions then come to be based on a lie which they say has the spiritual value of scripture, but not objective truth. But the two cannot be separated. By following the tradition they are showing where their real loyalty lies.


Luke’s statements are very deliberate. Luke does not say that Messiah was almost 30 several chapters removed from the chapter that he states it was the 15th year of Tiberius. He states it in the same chapter and in conjunction with the beginning of Yoɦanan’s preaching. Luke 3:1 is the only chronological benchmark formally stated in the entire corpus of the Apostolic Writings. The Torah and Prophets are very concerned to give times and dates for important events which go together into a complete chronology. Do we then suppose that the Spirit of the Almighty willed Luke to not only cut all the links to history for the birth of his Son, but also to make him make misleading statements? Which side does the error lie on scholars? Does the error belong to Luke and the the Almighty, or does it belong with outside human sources? Does it also lie with humans opposing the Almighty who wish to deceive? You choose. Is God faithless or are humans faithless?

The constant argument of liberals is that Matthew contradicts Luke. Matthew puts the birth before Herod died. Luke only mentioned Herod with respect to Yoɦanan’s conception. That is easy to reconcile. Luke simply does not give all the detail on Herod that Matthew does. Yet the wolves wish us to use Luke 3:1, 23 to arrive at a 2 or 3 BC date of his birth, and then say that this cannot be so because based on external sources, a.k.a. Josephus, that Herod died in 4 BC! Therefore Luke contradicts Matthew. How about this answer for the liberal harlots. Matthew and Luke agree with each other and disagree with their erring external sources. As long as Luke and Matthew exist to correct the world, the Almighty sees no need to correct the external sources. The correction has already been given. It is Luke. The external sources do well at contradicting themselves, e.g. Dio Cassius date of 38 BC vs. Josephus of 37 BC for the fall of Jerusalem, Josephus disagreeing with himself on 9 or 10 years, and disagreeing with the proper number related to Joseph’s dream.

Another reason we need to take Josephus with much more care than other Roman historians. Josephus has long been at the center of scholarly religious wars over the true history of the times. Josephus has been transmitted by many with motives and interpreted by many with motives. Therefore, we should give the other Roman historians more grace. And when a source has obvious errors, like the fifteen year age for Herod, and a host of other errors which scholars have documented through the ages, why then should we hold Josephus over Luke? The scholars simply do not want to go by a reliable source against one proved less reliable. That is because they somehow think the spiritual message is less worthy. Ultimately the reasons of their reasons are based on rejection Torah.

Now then things are given in parables for those with eyes to see. I should let the parables do their work. He who has ears let him hear. A sign has appeared in heaven, the greatest sign where the sun goes, and clothes the woman, who is a virgin, and the moon lines up under her feet. In anticipation of the sign, the Messenger speaks to a priest of the eighth division, and his wife just after conceives on the new moon day. On the sixth new moon the Messenger speaks to the virgin during the winter feast. The child is then born at term according to the sign given on the new moon day of the seventh month. Meanwhile the Magi interpret their signs in heaven and see a star rise out of the sun on that very day, and they follow that star until it stops, likely presenting their gifts on the new moon day.

Everything the Almighty can be expected to do he has done. The timing of the two most important events in history have not been neglected. Listen to the Word, and not to men. Open your eyes and trust sources which men cannot easily corrupt or turn into mere opinion. The dragon is in a rage standing before the woman to devour her and her child and all the truth with it.