BC, AD, and the year "zero" - The Myths of Christmas #5

December 23, 2020

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If BC means "Before Christ", was Jesus born in the year "zero"? In this fifth episode of "The Myths of Christmas", learn a bit more about the year Jesus was born, and why a partition of time around an important event is a very Biblical idea.


Hey friends, welcome to episode number five of The Myths of Christmas. Today’s myth: “On the calendar there’s BC and there’s AD, and so that means Jesus was born in the year zero.”

Well, not quite, because there’s no year zero. It wasn’t until the 6th century that Dionysius invented this particular calendar system that began to make these designations common, and then it wasn’t even widely used until after the year 800. BC is an English abbreviation for “Before Christ”, and therefore some often wrongly conclude that AD means “after death”, i.e. after the death of Jesus. But this would mean that there’s 32 or 33 years in between each of these designations, which of course doesn’t make sense. That’s because AD is a Latin abbreviation for anno domini, meaning “in the year of the Lord”.

So what does that mean for the year of Jesus’ birth? Well, there’s several different approaches that are normally used by historians and scholars but a common way is looking at the events recorded in the Gospels and lining them up with other ancient historians who recorded the same events. This would put the birth of Jesus sometime between 4BC and 6BC, and one of the big events that helps with that date is the death of Herod. According Matthew chapter 2 verse 1, Jesus was born during the days of Herod the king. And most historians place Herod’s death at 4BC. Now remember the story: after learning that Israel’s king had been born from the Magi who had come from the east, Herod had ordered all the young children two years old and under in Bethlehem to be killed. And so that’s when Mary, Joseph, and Jesus fled to Egypt after being warned in a dream by an angel. Matthew then says in Matthew 2 verse 15 that they remained in Egypt until the death of Herod. So if Herod’s death was in 4BC as historians and scholars tend to agree upon, Jesus must have been born at some point before that. So the year zero doesn’t exist, and has nothing to do with the birth of Jesus.

Now what I do want to highlight though is something interesting about the modern calendar system with its BC and AD, and even the more recent trend to BCE and CE - before the “common era” and the “common era”, and that’s the fact that time is divided into two distinct ages surrounding a unique event. This isn’t altogether foreign to the Jewish people and to the Biblical authors, because they too divide history into two distinct ages - this age and the age to come - the dividing line being a day that the prophets and Jesus and the apostles continually speak about called “the day of the Lord”. This is still a future reality, because the day of the Lord is going to bring about a number of things according to the scriptures - the return of Jesus, the restoration of the nation of Israel, the undoing of the curse of death, the resurrection of the dead, the defeat of God’s enemies, the wiping away of tears, no more sorrow or pain, and the list goes on. That means that in the mind of the Biblical authors, there is no “end of time”, nor did they think that when they died they were going to a timeless ethereal place called heaven where they would float on a cloud and play a harp forever.

Well what does this all have to do with Christmas? Well, Jesus was born, lived, died, and was raised and as the apostle Paul would write in Galatians, He gave himself for our sins to deliver us from this present evil age. This is why we ought to be stirred with hope and joy as we ponder the events of Jesus’ first coming, because it means that God will be faithful to do everything he’s promised. For those of us who have faith in him, he really will raise us from the grave to eternal life here on this very earth where the nations will flourish under the leadership of Jesus of Nazareth, the king of Israel.

Well, there’s more to come and much more on these subjects here on my channel, so subscribe if you haven’t, hit that like button, and share this video with your friends. God bless, see you in the next one.

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