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Pope Benedict Disputes Jesus' Birth Date. - December 4th 2012, 10:36 AM

Hi everyone.

I came across this while browsing today and was quite surprised. Mostly because my bedroom is currently housing a large cardboard sheep for a Nativity on Friday.

Link.

And in case you can't be bothered clicking it:

Quote:
Pope Benedict XVI has revealed in the third installment of his trilogy, dedicated to the life of Christ, that Jesus may have been born earlier than previously thought. The calendar we use today, which commences with the birth of Christ and was created by a Dionysius Exiguus, a 6th century monk, may be mistaken. According to the Telegraph, the Pope explains in his book that Exiguus, who is considered the inventor of the Christian calendar, “made a mistake in his calculations by several years. The actual date of Jesus’ birth was several years before.” The suggestion that Jesus wasn’t actually born on Dec. 25 has been tirelessly debated by theologians, historians and spiritual leaders, but what makes this case different is that now the leader of the Catholic Church is the one asking the questions.

Pope Benedict’s book, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, was published on Tuesday. Like the previous two installments, it’s predicted to be a best seller, and a million copies of the book have already been printed. It is expected that the book will be translated into another 20 languages for publication in 72 countries. The Infancy Narratives follows the life of Jesus from conception to his presentation in the temple at the age of 12. The Pope describes this third book as a “small antechamber” to the trilogy on Jesus of Nazareth, reports the Vatican Press Office.

(MORE: Holy Hashtags! The Pope Will Soon Join the Tweeting Masses)

Pope Benedict makes some controversial statements in the book. He writes of how the Gospel of Matthew claims that Jesus was born when Herod the Great ruled in Judea. However, given that Herod died in 4 B.C., Jesus must have been born earlier than Exiguus originally documented. Arguments surrounding Jesus’ exact date of birth have confounded scholars for centuries. Even the Gospel of Luke contends that the birth took place when Quirinius was governor of Syria in A.D. 6.

The author takes the opportunity not only to dispute the date of Jesus’ birth, but also to reaffirm the doctrine of the virgin birth as an “unequivocal” truth of faith. Reuters writes that Benedict reminds his readers that sexual intercourse did not play a part in the conception of Jesus. He states that a belief in the virgin birth of Christ is a “cornerstone of faith” and a sign of “God’s creative power.” “If God does not also have power over matter, then he simply is not God,” the Pope argues. “But he does have this power, and through the conception and resurrection of Jesus Christ he has ushered in a new creation.”

Pope Benedict also examines the “question of interpreted history,” referring in particular to the attempts of the Gospels, like those of Matthew and Luke, to make sense of events after they had occurred, notes Reuters. “The aim of the evangelists was not to produce an exhaustive account,” the Pope explains, “but a record of what seemed important for the nascent faith community in the light of the word. The infancy narratives are interpreted history, condensed and written down in accordance with the interpretation.”

(MORE: Why Popes Never Have to Say Sorry)

There have been countless interpretations of the birth, life and death of Christ throughout history. One such interpreter is Bill Darlison, former Unitarian Church minister and current vice president of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches in the United Kingdom. Like others before him, he asks whether Christ was actually born on Dec. 25 or whether perhaps he was born “on one of about 150 other dates which have been proposed down through the centuries. Was he born in Nazareth or in Bethlehem and, if Bethlehem, was it Bethlehem in Judea or Bethlehem in Galilee?” He also argues that the spiritual birth “is always a virgin birth, because it is not related in any sense (except symbolically) to physical birth.” In 2004, TIME asked the same question, with David Van Biema wondering if “one might be tempted to abandon the whole Nativity story as ‘unhistoric,’ mere theological backing and filling.”

The historical revisionism continues with the Pope raising the issue of the presence of animals at the birth of Christ. He reveals in Jesus of Nazareth that “there is no mention of animals in the Gospels.” This may come as a shock to the thousands of schools currently preparing their Nativity plays. But Pope Benedict reassures his readers not to worry — that “no one will give up the oxen and the donkey in their Nativity scenes,” notes the Telegraph. Even if animals did not feature at the birth, the Vatican seems happy to keep up the myth as it presents an elaborate life-size Nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square this Christmas.

Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives is available in English and published by Image Books. It follows the first two books, which dealt with Christ’s adult life and death.

This article has been amended. The original version referred to the conception of Jesus as “the Immaculate Conception.” The term refers to the life of Mary, mother of Jesus.
What do you think about this? Why has it taken this long for someone so high up in the Church (talking about previous Popes as well, here) to notice the inconsistencies here?


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Re: Pope Benedict Disputes Jesus' Birth Date. - December 4th 2012, 11:27 AM

I guess I'm in the minority here, because for me neither of these are a surprise nor particularly controversial. The bit about Exiguus' calendar being out by a few years is something I've been aware of since the start of secondary school (it's about 7 years out if memory serves me correctly), and the notion of it not being December 25th that Jesus was actually born on is logical. Shepherds wouldn't be watching their flocks on the hills at that time of year, for example - they'd all be indoors, even in a climate like the Middle East. A date sometime in Spring is more likely, probably around March. By my understanding, December 25th was adopted by the Church because it was also marked as a public holiday owing to the winter solstice (or similar) and their logic was if their followers were going to mark the date it would be better for them to mark it for a Christian reason rather than other deities knocking about at the time. I think both points are something which have been known of and accepted by the Church for quite some time now - it's just that no one's been curious enough about it to ask them to publish a written explanation as the Pope has done now. But if you went to any Catholic priest and asked them about these two issues, more likely than not they would have agreed with both and given the explanation I have. It's certainly come up in a fair few homilies over the years.


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Re: Pope Benedict Disputes Jesus' Birth Date. - December 4th 2012, 02:17 PM

I thought that pretty much everyone knew that Jesus wasn’t actually born on December 25th, that is just the day it was celebrated on. Guess not!




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Re: Pope Benedict Disputes Jesus' Birth Date. - December 4th 2012, 07:50 PM

It HAS NOT taken people this long to notice it. It has just taken this long for the pope to ACCEPT it. There is a shocking high amount of inconsistencies in the Bible, I am not trying to make this a bad thing and anyone who's read the Bible SHOULD have picked up on this if they are not just blindly following along with what ever they're being told. It doesn't necessarily affect the validity of Christianity as a religion, it's just that it DOES make an accurate chronology exceptionally difficult. And for starters, Jesus was reported to have DIED in O CE (common era, aka as AD) this was not when people thought he was born, but with some fluctuations that could have been AFTER this (around 28-29 CE assuming he started preaching at 30 and died around 33 years of age). But again, like I said, because his life was more of a hagiography (followers told it how they wanted it to be told) it wasn't really recorded with the eye of a historian which makes chronology so challenging. A lot of things were also lost, like there is actually a Gospel of Mary Magdalene but a patriarchal religion is NOT about to allow women to have this much religious authority, not that early on, it's barely accepted even nowadays. And there is also a Gospel of Judas, but since he was painted a traitor there is no way he was getting in there either. You have to remember that there was a lot of, erm, what's the word? Oh, yeah, the early church people had somewhat of an agenda TO AN EXTENT (ex. choosing December 25th was because it matched up with a major Pagan holiday and that's what Constantine choose and it was partially to placate the pagans, now that might not be 100% positive, but I also don't think anyone necessarily new the EXACT date of Jesus' birthday so yeah...), plus because it was largely an oral tradition to begin with and many things were passed down that way before being recorded in writing THAT accounts of fluctuations as well. There is somewhat of a challenge when it comes to questioning authenticity... Especially when people are trying not to completely discount ALL the validity of their religion in the process, which, of course probably would never happen because there IS a lot of validity to Christianity and Judaism, but I think that stuff like this can be a challenge for people because some people are just used to following blindly with their religions and this challenges what they were taught, it teaches people to think critically about their beliefs and not all people want to do that.




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Re: Pope Benedict Disputes Jesus' Birth Date. - December 4th 2012, 07:57 PM

I have to agree with Lizzie, I thought most people knew that Christmas was just a day chosen to celebrate his birth. But, honestly, I think that there are many inconsistencies in the bible that are either ignored or people just don't pay attention.


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Re: Pope Benedict Disputes Jesus' Birth Date. - December 5th 2012, 10:26 AM

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Originally Posted by Lizzie View Post
I thought that pretty much everyone knew that Jesus wasn’t actually born on December 25th, that is just the day it was celebrated on. Guess not!
I knew that December 25th was wrong, I didn't know they had the year so far off. That and the thing about the animals surprised me. I also didn't know there had been a gospel by Judas. Shows how much attention I pay to the religion I've been forced into for nearly 20 years!


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Re: Pope Benedict Disputes Jesus' Birth Date. - December 5th 2012, 04:44 PM

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It HAS NOT taken people this long to notice it. It has just taken this long for the pope to ACCEPT it.
No, it hasn't. The Catholic Church - and by definition, the Pope - has accepted this for a number of centuries, as I pointed out in my post. There is a difference between someone accepting something within their doctrine and someone publicly putting out a statement saying they accept it, and the only reason it hasn't come up to date is because frankly no one's bothered to ask. This has been a done deal for as long as I've been in the Church (25 years and counting), so please don't infer stubbornness where (on this issue at least) none exists.


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Re: Pope Benedict Disputes Jesus' Birth Date. - December 6th 2012, 04:35 AM

Semantics...The pope is not necessarily the one who accepted it per se, but yeah, this is old news, but up until the 1850's or so people probably wouldn't have questioned this fact very much, so technically 150 years vs. 1800 years is a pretty recent acknowledgement. And my point went to an overall choice of people not asking, there are a lot of people who don't know about this sort of stuff... I know a lot of people who don't even know that the gospels were written well after the death of Jesus and that the Gospels were handed down orally to others before being written down and that ex. Mark was not ACTUALLY Mark who chilled with Jesus. So while this stuff is easy to find out to who ever bothers to ask, it is pretty new for even the Pope to be publically announcing this stuff, my point of saying that it's taken the pope this long to accept it has a lot more meaning to it than is worth explaining because I know it won't make any sense because it's drawing from to many places... If you continued reading you'd NOTICE that I said that people could easily find all of this stuff out IF they bothered to ask and just didn't follow with what ever they heard with in a sermon (which doesn't typically include an scholarly analysis of what ever passages are in use)




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Re: Pope Benedict Disputes Jesus' Birth Date. - December 6th 2012, 09:38 AM

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Semantics...The pope is not necessarily the one who accepted it per se, but yeah, this is old news, but up until the 1850's or so people probably wouldn't have questioned this fact very much, so technically 150 years vs. 1800 years is a pretty recent acknowledgement.
Any particular reason why you feel it's only been accepted in the last 150 years? Also, accuracy isn't a question of semantics.

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And my point went to an overall choice of people not asking, there are a lot of people who don't know about this sort of stuff... I know a lot of people who don't even know that the gospels were written well after the death of Jesus and that the Gospels were handed down orally to others before being written down and that ex. Mark was not ACTUALLY Mark who chilled with Jesus. So while this stuff is easy to find out to who ever bothers to ask, it is pretty new for even the Pope to be publically announcing this stuff
Yes, it is new for the Pope to discuss it in this manner - but as I said, that doesn't mean he's only just cottoned onto it himself. There is a difference between the two.

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my point of saying that it's taken the pope this long to accept it has a lot more meaning to it than is worth explaining because I know it won't make any sense because it's drawing from to many places...
With all due respect, I really don't understand where you're coming from with this. Saying that "It has just taken this long for the pope to ACCEPT it" has a pretty clear-cut meaning, and this is coming from a student lawyer. As such, if you wish to claim it has "a lot more meaning to it" I'm afraid you're going to have to elaborate a little.

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If you continued reading you'd NOTICE that I said that people could easily find all of this stuff out IF they bothered to ask and just didn't follow with what ever they heard with in a sermon (which doesn't typically include an scholarly analysis of what ever passages are in use)
I did notice, and I would point out there is no need to resort to capitalising words. I am quite capable of reading and understanding a sentence without them. I had no issue with this part, hence why I did not comment on it - it was your first section inferring wilful blindness on the part of the Pope on this issue which I found somewhat questionable.


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Re: Pope Benedict Disputes Jesus' Birth Date. - December 6th 2012, 03:58 PM

I do not want to argue about this, but for the record I actually study religion in school so do I know what I am talking about even if my initial sentence was misleading (which I apologize for), but I guess since it does only seem to be my first bit you are contradicting I won't take it all that personally as a hit on my overall knowledge haha... And capitalizing particular words tends to be whereever I put emphasis into a word in my head, I don't know why I do that sometimes, weird habit I guess, it's not meant to be specifically emphasized for your notice haha
But it wasn't the Pope I was talking about when I said he was following blindly, some how I doubt that that could be applied to the pope. Rereading my post I see how it isn't clear where I changed from the "pope" to the "general public", the transition wasn't exactly clear there, all I was getting at was that the pope is trying to correct (or confirm, or explain) historical inaccuracies (accuracies, inconsistencies, questions, what have you) in the Bible to the public. What i meant in them finally accepting it mostly was that it has mostly to do with the wide spread acknowledgement/acceptance. The historical accuracies (or inaccuracies/inconsistencies, pick your choice of word) is not something that's just randomly emerged with secularism/scientific/non-theological ways of approaching Christianity, priests/pastors/popes/monks/Christian people have been studying the Bible basically since it's inception, and since I would never call these people stupid they were sure as hell likely to pick up on the chronology of the life of Jesus and try to figure out the order of it. I don't know what year it was that they found out the actual death of Herod (or whether they knew and just weren't changing their time line despite the misleading inaccuracy of it), but when that was discovered they also would have also had to acknowledge how that changed things for the chronology of Jesus by moving his time line a few years in which ever direction, and considering how many (but not all) things were recorded back then it isn't all that uncommon for their to be a few slips in the time line like that, especially when historical is almost always told from one side/a particular view, there will generally be facts that one person doesn't know (ex. Anne Boleyn was accused of adultery and incest, but in reality I don't know whether it actually happened or whether she was falsely accused because there is no evidence where anyone got an honest account from her), I hope that makes sense, it's a bit vague because it just goes to over all history, some of which is extremely Accurate and some of which has missing pieces or inconsistencies. But in any case I don't doubt that the pope knew this before, but it's a relatively recent thing to him to publicly acknowledge/accept/admit to it (previous popes would have said so if asked but weren't exactly writing books about it to my knowledge, I bet they all wrote but this is for the public to read and not some theological thing), though I am sure if any one bothered to ask they'd have known (lot's of people do after all), but it's not like you go to church and always hear about what is consistent/inconsistent and what is accurate/inaccurate, but he's now telling people how it actually is, and thus I think my point more has to do with accepting that people have to know? I honestly know if that makes sense, but it's like he knew, right, but instead of just keeping it within the realm of "those who know/ask about it" it's being given to anyone, like it's the fact that now even the pope wants to make sure people know the reality (difference/more accurate explanation, which ever) that is significant for me... I hope that makes sense, I don't have time to try to explain better/more




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Re: Pope Benedict Disputes Jesus' Birth Date. - December 8th 2012, 05:00 AM

Considering Nazareth wasn't even around in 33 CE, it'd be even less likely that Jesus, if he was born at all, was born prior to 1 CE. In fact, it would have to of been around 160 CE for him to have accurately existed according to history. But, then again, I guess you run into the Herod problem. At least most storytellers get their story chronologically correct.


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Re: Pope Benedict Disputes Jesus' Birth Date. - December 8th 2012, 10:06 AM

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Considering Nazareth wasn't even around in 33 CE, it'd be even less likely that Jesus, if he was born at all, was born prior to 1 CE. In fact, it would have to of been around 160 CE for him to have accurately existed according to history. But, then again, I guess you run into the Herod problem. At least most storytellers get their story chronologically correct.
While the archaeology around modern-day Nazareth is sporadic at best, there is evidence that a settlement did exist around the time of Jesus' presumed birth. In addition, the canonical gospels are all estimated to have been written considerably before 160 CE, so with respect it is your own chronology you may wish to revisit.

@bumble bee: It does make sense, don't worry. I think perhaps what you meant was that it's taken this long for it to be publicly acknowledged as such, even though within the Church it's been accepted that the dates were likely out for some time. The way it was worded before made it sound like he'd only just given in to the reality of the situation, though, hence why I queried it.


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Re: Pope Benedict Disputes Jesus' Birth Date. - December 8th 2012, 02:30 PM

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While the archaeology around modern-day Nazareth is sporadic at best, there is evidence that a settlement did exist around the time of Jesus' presumed birth. In addition, the canonical gospels are all estimated to have been written considerably before 160 CE, so with respect it is your own chronology you may wish to revisit.
Most, if not all, of those dates given are given by biased believers, who would of course tell you it was written much earlier. Why? Because for Christ's followers to have genuinely written the Gospels, Epistles, etc. they would have had to of been written relatively after Christ's death. Many other less biased scholars will tell you they weren't even written until the late second century.

But, even if we assume those dates are correct, they make it even more unlikely that the disciples wrote them because if Christ was born considerably before 1 CE, that would make his apostles (probably) much older, and less likely to be living at that age.

Nazareth in the bible is described as a city, as such there should be more than just a "settlement." Outside of the bible there is no credible mention of Nazareth until the 4th century, neither by geographer or scholar. It isn't even mentioned by Paul or any of the Jewish leaders who talked considerably about a Jesus. It's not even mentioned by Josephus.


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Re: Pope Benedict Disputes Jesus' Birth Date. - December 9th 2012, 04:20 PM

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Most, if not all, of those dates given are given by biased believers, who would of course tell you it was written much earlier. Why? Because for Christ's followers to have genuinely written the Gospels, Epistles, etc. they would have had to of been written relatively after Christ's death. Many other less biased scholars will tell you they weren't even written until the late second century.
Source, perhaps? In particular, asserting bias on the part of a scholar without evidence to support it is pretty poor form. In addition, the earliest of those dates is still some 30 years after the presumed date of Jesus' crucifixion, which while it doesn't hole you explanation below the waterline does damage its credibility somewhat. It would also do you some credit to cite which sources you refer to as being "less biased".

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But, even if we assume those dates are correct, they make it even more unlikely that the disciples wrote them because if Christ was born considerably before 1 CE, that would make his apostles (probably) much older, and less likely to be living at that age.
Without knowing the age of the apostles at the time of Jesus' presumed ministry (c.30-33 CE), the actual life expectancy of Judea at the time or indeed whether any other transcripts were made upon which the Gospels would then be based (the Gospels themselves being composed by scribes anyway, after all), that claim is based on pure assertion and is a poor argument.

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Nazareth in the bible is described as a city, as such there should be more than just a "settlement." Outside of the bible there is no credible mention of Nazareth until the 4th century, neither by geographer or scholar. It isn't even mentioned by Paul or any of the Jewish leaders who talked considerably about a Jesus. It's not even mentioned by Josephus.
I would hope I don't need to explain to you the pitfall of relying upon the choice of a word in a particular translation of the New Testament. Even these days, "city" has a particularly loose meaning depending on the jurisdiction so I'm not sure quite what you're looking to prove here. You also seem to have conveniently overlooked the fact that your primary claim - that Nazareth wasn't even around in 33 CE - has been undermined by the fact that a dig has revealed evidence of a settlement on that site within the Roman period, so unless you are seeking to be particularly facetious that would constitute decent prima facie evidence that there was a village/town/city in that area around the time of Jesus' supposed life. Whether he actually lived or worked there is a different matter, but seeking to dispute the existence of something in the face of archaeology to the contrary is dubious.

Also, I don't see why Josephus would have mentioned a settlement presumed to have a population of c.500-2000 (depending on your source) unless something else particularly historic occurred there or it played a significant role in the Jewish-Roman Wars (which no one has claimed on either count), so aside from name-dropping I don't see what, if anything, that demonstrates. Likewise, I fail to see why Jesus being from Nazareth would be of such significance for Paul or the other Jewish leaders to mention it to persons not from Judea whom they were seeking to convert. It's like saying that the fact David Cameron was born in London is of any relevance to the merits of his policies - it's nonsense.


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