A Basic Historical Backdrop of The Nativity Scene

I.    The Regional Leadership Over Judea

  1. King Herod who was an Indumean was the political leader appointed over Judea by Rome during the time of Jesus’ birth. Indumea was a region south is Israel that had been inhabited by Edomites (descendants of Esau). Indumea had been conquered by Israel years before under the reign of Hyrcanus I and was forced to convert to Judaism.
  2. Herod’s father Antipater was established as the political leader over Judea due to his favor he had gained by supporting Julius Caesar during his rise to power over the Roman Senate. Antipater’s two sons Phasaelus who was appointed to rule over Jerusalem and Herod who was appointed to rule Galilee, would eventually get revenge and end a rebellion that had begun with the assassination of their father Antipater.
  3. Antigonus the son of Aristobulus II and rightful heir to the Hasmonean dynasty would go on to capture his uncle Hyrcanus II(the Jewish high-priest) and Phasaelus. The former committed suicide and Antigonus had the latter’s ears cut off so that he could no longer be the high-priest. In the midst of this capture Herod who had been warned in advance escaped Jerusalem just in time.
  4. Antigonus would go on to become both king and high-priest in 40 B.C. However, in the midst of this Herod sought the help of Mark Antony and Gaius Octavian (the great-nephew and successor of Julius Caesar who would eventually be known as Caesar Augustus). Thanks to his Roman help in 40 B.C. Herod was decreed the King of Judea.  In 37 B.C. King Herod with the support of roman troops, finally gained control over the territory of Judea and beheaded Antigonus, thus ending the Hasmonean dynasty and placing a descendant of Esau (Edomite from Idumea) as the King over Judea. A descendant of Esau was reigning over the descendants of Jacob and seated upon the throne of David.
  5. Herod over time would go on to put to death several of his family members, including his wife Mariamne and other rivals. Herod was very much a paranoid/power-hungry tyrant.
  6. Here at this point Elizabeth would be in her six month of pregnancy (hence “in the sixth month”) and Mary as we know is a virgin engaged or betrothed to Joseph.

II.   How We Get Our Dates

  1. At this point in time king Herod would be getting closer to the end of his life as he would eventually die in the spring of 750 A.U.C. or 4 B.C just before the Passover which would be around April 12th.[1]
  2. “If we follow the historically somewhat uncertain guidance of the date of the Birth of the Baptist, as furnished in this notice (Luke 1:5) of his annunciation to the his father, that Zacharias officiated in the Temple as on the ‘course of Abia’”[2]
  3. “At the time of the destruction of the Temple ‘the course of Jehoiarib,’ which was the first of the priestly courses, was on duty. That was on the 9-10 Ab of the year 823 A.U.C., or 5th of august of the year 70 of our era. If this calculation be correct (of which , however, we cannot feel quite sure), then counting ‘the courses’ of priests backwards, the course of Abia would, in the year 748 A.U.C. (the year before the birth of Christ) have been on duty from the 2nd to the 9th of October. This also would place the birth of Christ in the end of December of the following year (749), taking the expression ‘sixth month’ in Luke 1:26,36, in the sense of the running month (from the 5th to the 6th month, comp. Luke 1:24). But we repeat that absolute reliance cannot be placed on such calculations, at last so far as regards month and day.”[3]
  4. Therefore at this point in time it would most likely be spring time which would due to the dates which would land us with Christ’s birth at the time of December.

[1] Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, (U.S.: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1993), p 152.

[2] Ibid, p975

[3] Ibid, p 975


Posted on December 2, 2011, in On the Life of Christ and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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