The chronology of Jesus birth and first few years


I think you mean 3 B.C.

Things were pretty quiet after Herod’s funeral in the fall of 4 B.C. through to the Passover of 3 B.C., when all hell broke loose.


“It’s really impossible to reconstruct the chronology of Jesus’ birth and childhood without knowing what was going on around him. I don’t have time to go into it, but there were revolts against a Roman Census, which was suppressed. There was the destruction of Herod Antipas’ army by his cuckolded brother Herod Philip (whose wife Herodias jumped husbands against Jewish law). Luke says Antipas killed John the Baptist because he preached against the illegitimate marriage; Josephus says Antipas killed John the Baptist because he was afraid of the crowds that were flocking to John).”

Several errors here, fnr. Most egregious, Antipas’ army was not destroyed by his brother Herod Philip. And that was a different Herod Philip who was the husband of Herodias.
You should read Hagan on this.


Fair enough. Looking at things a little more, I was confused by the reference in Mark 6:
"17 Herod was the one who had John arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, whom he had married. 18 John had said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”
In Jewish Antiquities, Josephus describes the conflict:

About this time Aretas, the king of the Arabian city Petra, and Herod Antipas had a quarrel. Herod the tetrarch had married the daughter of Aretas [called Phasaelis], and had lived with her a great while. But when he was once at Rome, he lodged with Herod, who was his brother indeed, but not by the same mother (this Herod was the son of the high priest Sireoh’s daughter). Here, he fell in love with Herodias, this other Herod’s wife, who was the daughter of Aristobulus their brother, and the sister of Agrippa the Great. Antipas ventured to talk to her about a marriage between them; when she admitted, an agreement was made for her to change her habitation, and come to him as soon as he should return from Rome: one article of this marriage also was that he should divorce Aretas’ daughter.

So Antipas made this agreement and returned home again. But his wife had discovered the agreement he had made before he had been able to tell her about it. She asked him to send her to Macherus, which is a place in the borders of the dominions of Aretas and Herod, without informing him of her intentions. So, Herod sent her thither, unaware that his wife had perceived something.

Earlier, she had sent to Macherus, and all things necessary for her journey were made already prepared for her by a general of Aretas’ army. Consequently, she soon arrived in Arabia, under the conduct of several generals, who carried her from one to another successively. She met her father, and told him of Herod’s intentions. So Aretas made this the first occasion of the enmity between him and Herod, who had also some quarrel with him about their limits near Gamala.

So both sides raised armies, prepared for war, and sent their generals to fight. When they joined battle,** Herod’s army was completely destroyed by the treachery of some fugitives, who, though they were from the tetrarchy of Philip,** had joined Aretas’ army. So Herod wrote about these affairs to the emperor Tiberius, who became very angry at the attempt made by Aretas, and wrote to Lucius Vitellius, the governor of Syria, to make war upon him, and either to take him alive and bring him to him in bonds, or to kill him and send him his head. This was the charge that Tiberius gave to the governor of Syria.

So I’m still a bit confused. Herod Philip I seems to be “Herod II” – who was the husband of Herodias. In Jewish Antiquities, Heroditus says:
"Herodias, …], was married to Herod, the son of Herod the Great by Mariamne II, the daughter of Simon the High Priest. [Herod II and Herodias] had a daughter, Salome… "
Cross-referencing Mark 6, Philip and “Herod, the son of Herod the Great” seem to be the same person.

I was in error by suggesting that the destruction of Antipas’ army took place close to the end of Herod the Great’s life. Reading farther, it appears that the conflict took place sometime between 27 and 36 AD. In that the death of John the Baptist is thought to have taken place in the late 20s, it would seem to place the events before 30 but after 27 AD.

“Judas of Galilee” did lead a census revolt in 6 AD, but the revolt was against the census in Judea. Another point of confusion for me.

Still, I think my major point still stands. Galilee was not a safe place for a woman with a young child to be hanging out. If only as a result of the suppression of Sepphoris, there is evidence of danger. Perhaps even leading up to the revolt.

Luke doesn’t give a firm date on when the Annunciation and Visitation occurred. It places Zechariah and Elizabeth’s time of barrenness within the reign of “Herod, King of Judea.” Assuming that means Herod the Great, that ended with his death in 4 BC (Luke 1:5). However, Luke places the migration of Joseph and Mary in the reign of Caesar Augustus (ruled 27 BC-14 AD) in the tenure of Quirinius as governor of Syria, which began in 6 AD.

If we take that chronology as given, there’s a historical problem in Luke. However, if we assume that “Herod, King of Judea” could actually be referring to Herod Archelaus (who did rule Judea as ethnarch from 4 BC to 6 AD), that would solve the historical problem in Luke.

However, that would raise problems with the historicity of Matthew’s birth narrative, which mentions Herod and the Magi, along with the slaughter of the infants, and Archelaus, whom Matthew credits with the reason the Holy Family moved to Nazareth.

Notably, Matthew never mentions that Mary and Joseph lived in Nazareth before the birth of Jesus. It’s only a result of Archelaus’ reign in Judea, according to Matthew.

The OP was asking for a chronology of Jesus’ birth and the first few years, and these are issues that need to be considered if we are to come up with an accurate chronology of those events.


You should read Hagan, because you’ll wind up with the same work and same conclusions.

There are no shortcuts to early Christian history.

First, you have to know Herod the Great, his history, and all of his offspring, cold.

Then, you have to know the Roman world cold- the politics, the politicians, the corruption.

Only THEN you can go to the New testament and try to put things together.

But it will be time well spent.


Do you have a link or a title?



Thanks. (pet peeve: not available as an ebook! :mad:)


I like the chronology of Jesus’s early years according to Todd977’s 1859 Hayden Bible. I paid close attention to the fact that the Child Jesus is presented to the Lord God in the temple. THEN the Magi come from the East. It is astounding how many people assume that the Three Kings came to see the Child Jesus at exactly the same time as the sheep herders.


It is also astounding that people assume there were three and also assume that they were kings. Scripture makes no mention of three kings.


Hi, here is my version, see if you like it.



I hold the truth and authority of the scriptures so the gospels can be compared, contrasted and reconciled. There is a great deal of information on Jesus’ early life. I have written several works that bear on the infancy of Jesus. The first the Venus The Star of Bethlehem supports the time of His birth, and since the magi arrived shortly after sundown as Passover was starting when He was three months old. I have done a chronology of Jesus’ entire life, but that includes His infancy see I have also made a chronological harmony of the gospels using the Douay
I believe that this can be taken even further since Mary was the Ark of the Covenant the travels of the Ark of the Covenant and before it the Tent of Meeting which Moses set up when he brought the tablets of the Law down from Sinai and Joshua (Jesus’ name in Hebrew) never left for the 8.5 months until the Ark was consecrated could further detail Mary’s life.
Grace and peace,


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