Monthly Archives: December 2010

The Birth-Year of Christ and the History of Calendars: the Regnal System

One of the first systems used for measuring time in year epochs was the regnal system.

This system counted from the start reign of a leader and reset at the introduction of a new leader. It was widely used throughout the ancient Middle East and Mediterranean area and popularized by the Romans.

The Biblical author Luke used this system on at least two occasions: to describe the birth of Christ under the Governorship of Quirinius,(1) Luke 2:2 and Jesus’ baptism being in the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius.(2) Luke 3:1ff

This 15th year of Tiberius is critical in many computations, as this is the only solid evidence about the life of Christ that can be accurately measured.

This regnal system was used by the early Church historians, such as the third century Bishop, Eusebius of Caesarea, who claimed that Christ was born in the 42nd year of the reign of Caesar Augustus and the 28th year after the Battle of Actium.(3) Eusebius, Church History, Book III:V “It was in the forty-second year of the reign of Augustus and the twenty-eighth after the subjugation of Egypt and the death of Antony and Cleopatra, with whom the dynasty of the Ptolemies in Egypt came to an end, that our Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem of Judea, according to the prophecies which had been uttered concerning him. His birth took place during the first census, while Cyrenius was governor of Syria.” http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/250101.htm If one assumes that Eusebius’ dates are consistent with standard history, this would make Christ’s birth at 3 BC, or if we use a later Christian document called the Chronological Tables that used Eusebius’ account as the basis, it oddly changes the date to 1 BC/AD.

Clement of Alexandria also used the regnal system, “From Julius Caesar, therefore, to the death of Commodus, are two hundred and thirty-six years”.(4)< a href="http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/clement-stromata-book1.html"> http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/clement-stromata-book1.html Commodus, the Roman emporer in the late 2nd century was his reference point for determining the birth of Christ. Based on his calculations, the death of Commodus was 192 AD, which is consistent with history.(5)< a href=" http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04166a.htm"> http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04166a.htm He then goes on to write, “From the birth of Christ, therefore, to the death of Commodus are, in all, a hundred and ninety-four years.”(6) IBID < a href=" http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/clement-stromata-book1.html"> http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/clement-stromata-book1.html This would make Christ’s birth at 2 BC.

A later editor or Clement himself contradicted this date elsewhere. In another section he employed the reign of Augustus to date the birth of Christ stating “our Lord was born in the twenty-eighth year, when first the census was ordered to be taken in the reign of Augustus.”(7) IBID < a href=" http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/clement-stromata-book1.html"> http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/clement-stromata-book1.html Clement does not indicate what he believed was the start date of Augustus’ reign. It was quite common for some at this time to date Augustus start by the historic war battle of Actium. This is commonly held to be at 31 BC. If Clement agreed with this date, then Christ’s birth would have been 3 BC. Perhaps the first date of 2 BC was common opinion during his era and 3 BC was the historic Church position.

Continue reading The Birth-Year of Christ and the History of Calendars: the Regnal System

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A Chronology of the Herods: More Details

This article has been removed. The results have been added to the following article, The Chronology of the Herods.

A Chronology of the Herods

Charting the dates and lives of the Herods in relation to the birth of Christ and making sense of the differences between competing histories.

Herod the Great was a living character described by the Bible narrators in reference to the birth of Christ,(1) See Matthew chapter 2 therefore the reign dates of this leader and his family are of particular value.

Herod the Great
Herod the Great, founder of a family dynasty in the Middle East.

However, there are conflicting time-frames in the major historical sources; especially between the first century Jewish-Roman historian Josephus and a number of ancient church accounts. The goal of this work is to first define what exactly Josephus and the church authorities wrote on the subject, compare the dates, find any common patterns, and hopefully reconcile the differences.

The original writers of the Gospels never related time in relationship to the Herod dynasty. This was likely done on purpose because the Gospels were directed to a universal audience who wouldn’t know or even care about the Herod family. Neither did the christian writers want to refer them in relation to time because they were so cruel and barbarous. This action would be too honorific.

Josephus’ Account of the Herods

Josephus
A 19th century woodcut portrait of Josephus

Here is a chart to visually demonstrate Josephus’ dating. An explanation and analysis is given afterwards:

Josephus First Century Account of the Herods
Name Start Date End Date Total Reign
Herod the Great 37 B.C. 3 B.C. 34 years
Archelaus 3 B.C. 7 A.D. 10 years
Philip 3 B.C. 34 A.D. 37 years
Herod the Tetrarch 3 B.C. 38 A.D. 41 years
Lysinias N/A 38 A.D. N/A
Agrippa I 39 A.D. 44 A.D. 5 years
Agrippa II Not Sure Not Sure

An explanation of Josephus’ calculations.

Josephus wrote the most detailed accounts of the Herods, starting with the rise of Herod the Great’s father, and then installation of Herod as the defacto leader of the Jews and about his later posterity. No other ancient manuscript available today contains the same amount of details as his does. He dated the inception of Herod with this statement:

“And thus did this man [Herod] receive the kingdom, having obtained it on the hundred and eighty-fourth Olympiad, when Caius Domitius Calvinus was consul the second time, and Caius Asinius Pollio [the first time]”(2) Flavius Josephus. Antiquities of the Jews. William Whiston trans. USA: Hendrickson Publishers. 1982. Book XIV:XIV:5, p. 366

The 184th Olympiad would traditionally date anywhere from 44/43 to 41/40 BC. However, the mentioning of Caius Domitius Calvinus and Caius Asinius Pollio, who were consuls together at Rome during the year of 40 BC only, strengthens Josephus command that Herod was installed at 40 BC.(3) http://ancienthistory.about.com/library/bl/bl_consuls_endofrepublic.htm, and The Project Gutenberg EBook of Dio’s Rome, Vol. III, by Cassius Dio, [-15], http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/1/0/1/6/10162/10162.txt

Josephus believed that the Romans and the Jews had two totally different concepts of measuring time and to rule out any uncertainty, he had to address both groups. He knew that the 40 BC installation date by Rome was not recognized by the Jewish people. It was common belief by the Jews that rulership only began with the death of their leader.

He remedied this problem by addressing both issues. Josephus claimed that Herod lived 37 years after the Romans had declared him king(4) William Whiston trans. AOJ Book VII:VIII:1, p. 366 and 34 years after the death of Antigonus, the last Jewish leader.

He documented the fall of Jerusalem and the death of Antigonus at 37 BC: “The destruction befell the city of Jerusalem when Marcus Agrippa and Caninius Gallus were consuls at Rome, on the hundred and eighty-fifth Olympiad, on the third month, on the solemnity of the fast”(5) William Whiston trans. AOJ Book XIV:XVI:4, p. 313 The politicized death of Antigonus was also documented with the fall of Jerusalem. The fast reference is unknown at this time as to what it means, though Josephus intended it for targeting a specific date. The Olympiad puts the destruction of Jerusalem anywhere between 40 and 36 BC but the mentioning of the consuls explicitly dated it at 37 BC.

Either way, whether 37 years from the instalment of Herod by Rome at 40 BC or 34 years from the death of Antigonus at 37 BC, it would place Herods death at 3 BC. This forces historians to place Christ’s birth before 3 BC and not 2 BC or later stated by many ancient christian writers.

Josephus wrote clearly about the dynasty of the Herods, the length of time each one served, when and the important politics that surrounded their offices.

“But in the tenth year of Archelaus’s government… [Caesar] banished him, and appointed Vienna, a city of Gaul, to be the place of his habitation.”(6) IBID Whiston, AOJ Book XVII:XIII:2, pg. 375

Archelaus reigned according to Josephus from approximately 3 BC to 7 AD.

He also stated that Archelaus was willed the whole Herodian empire, but due to his ruthlessness and an appeal to Caesar by some dignitaries, it was never completely fulfilled. Instead, Caesar decided that Archelaus would rule half of what Herod the Great occupied, “But for the other half, he divided it into two parts, and gave it to two other of Herod’s sons, to Philip and to Antipas, that Antipas who disputed with Archelaus for the whole kingdom.”(7) IBID Whiston, AOJ Book XVII:XI:4, pg. 373

Philip’s 37 year reign then was from approximately 3 BC to 34 AD. This was understood from the following: “…Philip, Herod’s brother,(8) What exactly he means here by “Herod’s brother” is not altogether clear, though I think it is referring to Herod Antipas. departed this life, in the twentieth year of the reign of Tiberius”.(9) IBID Whiston, AOJ Book XVIII:IV:6, pg. 381

Josephus did not give a clear end-date for Antipas, who was known by two other names: Herod, and Herod the Tetrarch. It is easy to suggest that Josephus believed the start to be 3 BC, and judging from some clues in his book, Antiquity of the Jews, Book XVIII:VII,(10) IBID Whiston, AOJ Book XVIII:VI:11: Josephus accounts that Agrippa left from Rome back to Judea in the 2nd year of Caligula. The events of Herod the Tetrarchs banishment occur shortly thereafter. AOJ Book XVIII:VII:1 suggests that it may likely have happened in the first or second year of Caligula, but it is not certain. his end rule to be the first or second year of Caligula, whom banished him and handed over the tetrarchy to a nephew, Agrippa. His reign likely lasted 41 years from 3 BC to 38 AD.

Herod Agrippa, grandson of Herod the Great, received fortune instead of prison bars at the death of Tiberius due to the rise of his friend Caligula to the throne. He initially received Philip’s and Lysinias’ tetrarchs in 38 or 39 AD, then acquired Herod the Tetrarch’s territory from Caligula, and finally granted the whole kingdom of Herod the Great by the emperor Claudius. Three years into the reign of Claudius, Agrippa died.(11) Inheriting Philips kingdom, IBID Whiston, AOJ Book XVIII:VI:4, pg. 363; Receiving Herod the Tetrarchs territory, AOJ XVIII:VII:2, pg. 388; Received the whole Kingdom through Claudius, XIX:V:1, pg. 409. Three years into the reign of Claudius, AOJ XIX:VII:2, pg. 412 and 413 This would make a five or six year rule from 38 or 39 AD to 44 AD.

The whole kingdom should naturally go to Agrippa’s son, Agrippa II, but was initially denied by the Emperor Claudius, due to Agrippa II’s young age.(12) IBID Whiston, AOJ XIX:VIII:2, pg. 412 and 413. Agrippa II was later given the Tetrarchy of Philip and a bit more(13) IBID Whiston, AOJ XX:VII:1, pg. 420 by Claudius, and his estate was minorly enlarged by Claudius’ successor Nero.(14) IBID Whiston, AOJ XX:VIII:4, pg. 421. Nero gave him a “certain part of Galilee, Tiberius and Taricheae, and ordered them to submit to his jurisdiction. He gave him also Julias, a city of Perea, with fourteen villages that lay about it”.

Josephus was very scant on information concerning Herod the Tetrarch and Lysinias. He does not give any information on how they received their respective tetrarchies, nor does he make any reference to Lysinias as being a relative of the Herod family.

The Christian Chronographies on the Herodian dates.

Turning now to the ancient christian chronologies. They all demonstrate later dates on Herod the Great and the majority of his posterity. These chronologies will be graphed, documented and compared to Josephus and will attempt to answer the question, why are they different?

The first impression concerning the difference is an internal theological influence. Julius Africanus, Tertullian, Eusebius, Jerome and later the Chronicon Paschale represent historical chronologies heavily influenced by the interpretation of an ancient Biblical prophecy found in the Book of Daniel.

An important exception is the Venerable Bede, the great 8th century chronographer and his portrait is covered in detail later on in this article.

Daniel was a Jewish prophet that lived around the 6th century BC. He had a dream about the future of Israel. God spoke to him and concluded that 70 weeks were required for the restoration of Israel to everlasting righteousness.(15) Daniel 9:24 The term 70 weeks is controversial and a ubiquitous meaning in scholarly, orthodox, or fundamentalist camps has never been established.

The ancient chronographers came up with various numbers to figure out the 70 weeks. Some calculated 475, while others have 483 or 490 years, depending on how they interpreted the vision. Whatever number they used became a basis for their calendar system. This influence can often be found in the various dating systems: whether the birth of Christ, the passion of Christ, the destruction of Jerusalem, or combination of these.

Many documents relating to historic events between 521 BC to 70 AD owe its existence to this.

Tertullian stretched some historical facts to make it work. For example his dating the first year of office for Darius the Great was dated at 437 BC rather than the recognized 521 BC.

From their concern on correlating this dream with actual timed events, one can find ancient publications highly focused on identifying the actual dates of the Herods with the life of Christ.

The chronological work of Julius Africanus never became authoritative due to perceived flaws in his Daniel calculations. Later Church writers did not reference Tertullian’s claims. The work of Eusebius, which is now only known to us from the liberal usage by Jerome, became the standard.

The Life of Herods According to Jerome

Jerome lived in Bethlehem during the fourth-century. He is considered a theological and historical literary giant. His writings combined elements of the sacred and vulgar, and also synthesized Greek, Hebrew and Latin works.

Jerome’s Fourth Century Chronological Table
Name Start Date End Date Total Reign
Herod the Great 33/32 B.C. 3/4 A.D. 36 years
Archelaus
Philip
Herod the Tetrarch
Lysinias
Agrippa I 37/38 A.D. 44/45 A.D. 7 years
Agrippa II 44/45 A.D. 70/71 A.D. 26 Years

A commentary on Jerome’s Herodian dynasty calculations.

One must realize that Jerome and many of the Church fathers were not so much concerned about historical correctness to dating accuracy of the Herods, but their main emphasis was to align Daniel’s prophecy within a historical framework.

Jerome argued that time period Daniel prophesied began from the rebuilding of the Temple at the 65th Olympiad or 520/519 BC, and ended at the last successive High Priest in Olympiad 186.4 (33/32 BC).

“The rule of the high priests comes to an end, and Herodes, a foreigner, became King of the Jews for 37 years.”(16)http://attalus.org/translate/jerome2.html. St. Jerome ( Hieronymus ): Chronological Tables

520 to 33 BC is 487 years. What the 487 signifies, and why the symbolic religious numbers of 490 or 483 were not used is not known.

According to Jerome, the first appointment of Herod by Augustus as King of Judea was a ceremonial recognition in 35 BC. Then in 33 BC, when Herod killed all the remnants of the Hyrcanian dynasty, he gained ultimate control, and was not only ceremonially King, but defacto. The term King of the Jews is then used as his title. I think here the significance by Jerome of the second 33/32 BC date is the emphasis on the destruction of the Hyrcanian dynasty and the fulfillment of Daniels prophecy.

In trying to match the Daniel prophecy with the incarnation of Christ, we learn Jerome and/or Eusebius believed that Herod the Great reigned 33/32 BC to 3/4 AD.

There is a dating problem between Jerome’s Chronological Tables and Josephus’ account. Both agree that Herod reigned 37 years but they disagree on the start date and whose death to go by. Josephus believed that Herod the Great’s reign began when he was appointed by Rome at 40 BC, and that Antigonus, the last bloodline Jewish King died at 37 BC. The Chronological Tables boldly state that the 37 years should begin 33/32 BC at the death of the last traditional Jewish High Priest called Hyrcanus. This was surprising to find a contradiction with Josephus, as Jerome and Eusebius were aware of his writings and even quoted him. For example, Jerome thought it important to pen the arrival of his books in his Chronological Tables, “In these days Flavius Josephus writes the twenty books of the Antiquities.”(17) http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/jerome_chronicle_03_part2.htm He dated the time of publication at 93 AD Perhaps he simply did not agree with Josephus’ chronology, or the Josephus manuscript he read from was different than ours. It is odd why the ancient christian authors never acknowledged a difference in dating between the accounts.

The discrepancy between Josephus and Church accounts is puzzling.

The Chronicon Paschale

“Chronicon Paschale (the Paschal Chronicle), also called Chronicum Alexandrinum, Constantinopolitanum or Fasti Siculi) is the conventional name of a 7th-century Greek christian chronicle of the world. Its name comes from its system of chronology based on the christian paschal cycle; its Greek author named it Epitome of the ages from Adam the first man to the 20th year of the reign of the most August Heraclius.”(18)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronicon_Paschale

Chronicon Paschale’s Seventh Century account of the Herods
Name Start Date End Date Total Reign
Herod the Great 34 B.C. 3 B.C. 37 years
Archelaus 4 A.D. 13 A.D. 9 years
Philip
Herod the Tetrarch 14 A.D. 42 A.D. 28 years
Lysinias
Agrippa I
Agrippa II

A commentary on Chronicon Paschale’s Herodian dynasty calculations.

The Chronicon Paschale discarded Jerome’s assertion that Daniel’s prophecy had ended at 33 BC with the death of the last Hyrcanian leader and instead it was at the death of the last Hasmonean priest, Alexander Jannaeus in 74 BC.

“The anointed leaders lasted from Cyrus the king of the Persians up until Janneaus Alexander, for 483 years, which is 69 “sevens” of years, which were foretold by Daniel in this way”.(19) http://www.attalus.org/translate/paschal.html: See Olympiad 201.4

The first year of Augustus Caesar’s reign according to this table was 42 BC, therefore the start reign of Herod was 34 BC, if calculating from the start reign of Augustus, or 35/34 BC based on the Olympiads. “In the 8th year of Augustus Caesar, the Romans gave the kingdom of Judaea to Herodes the son of Antipar and of Cypris, an Arabian woman. Herodes killed Hyrcanus and bestowed the high priesthood not according to the traditional succession, but to some insignificant men.”(20) http://www.attalus.org/translate/paschal.html: See Olympiad 186.2

It does succinctly state that in Olympiad 186.2 (35/34 BC), “In the 8th year of Augustus Caesar, the Romans gave the kingdom of Judaea to Herodes the son of Antipar and of Cypris, an Arabian woman. Herodes killed Hyrcanus and bestowed the high priesthood not according to the traditional succession, but to some insignificant men.”(21) http://www.attalus.org/translate/paschal.html: See Olympiad 186.2 The first year of Augustus Caesar’s reign according to this table was 42 BC, therefore the start reign of Herod was 34 BC, if calculating from the start reign of Augustus, or 35 BC based on the Olympiads.

The Chronicon Paschale then follows with the statement, “Herodes was king of the Jews for 37 years. In his 35th year, Jesus Christ was born at Bethlehem in Judea”.(22) IBID http://www.attalus.org/translate/paschal.html: See Olympiad 186.2 This passage had an earlier illustration that Herod was installed in the “8th year of Augustus Caesar”,(23) IBID http://www.attalus.org/translate/paschal.html http://www.attalus.org/translate/paschal.html which subtracted from 42 BC, according to the Chronicon Paschale, would make Herod the Great’s rule from 34 BC to 3 AD and the birth of Christ at 1 AD.

The Venerable Bede

Bede was an eighth-century monk who lived in the Kingdom of Northumbria (northern England, south-east Scotland). He had a comprehensive set of skills from music, astronomy, theology, to natural studies. He is best known for his Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis AnglorumThe Ecclesiastical History of the English People. He had a particular interest in calendar systems and is one of the best sources on the subject.

The Venerable Bede’s Late Seventh Century account of the Herods
Name Start Date End Date Total Reign
Herod the Great 35 B.C. 1 A.D. 36 years
Archelaus 1 A.D. 10 A.D. 9 years
Philip
Herod the Tetrarch 10 A.D. 34 A.D. 24 years
Lysinias
Agrippa I
Agrippa II

A commentary on the Venerable Bede’s Herodian dynasty calculations.

The Venerable Bede’s chronology of the Herods published in his De Tempore Ratione noted that Herod the Great received his title in 35 BC and reigned for 36 years:

“Lacking in the 11th year of Augustus a principle leader in Judaea, Herod has no relation to go with, since indeed is the son of Antipatri of Ascalon and of Cyprid of Arabia, he assumed the leadership of Judaea under the Romans, which he held fast for 36 years.” (24) Bede, De Temporum Ratione, MPL. Vol. 90, pg. 544. Translation is mine

The text here relates the difficulty that Herod had in becoming a recognized King, as he was not a Jew by lineage, and his title was forced upon the Jewish nation by Rome. One must note that there was no reference to the death of the high priest as a reference point similar to what previous christian authorities had done. Herod’s year of death was clarified by his statement, “In the 47th year of Augustus, Herod with a disease of intercuris(25) I am assuming here ‘intercuris acquae’ means infection, but can’t be sure. Can’t find a meaning for intercuris, and the copy I am working from is very faint, and I may have even misspelled it. water, and worms gushing all over the body, miserably and worthily died.”

He further wrote:

“. . .Archelaus, he reigned 9 years, that is, until the end of Augustus himself. But certainly at this time does not carry on beyond for the ferocity of the Jews against him in the accusations before Augustus, he was exiled to Vienna, a city of the Gauls and for the purpose of reducing the power of the kingship of the Jews, for the arrogance had to be subdued, tetrarchies were made for the four brothers instead of him; Herod, Antipar, Lysias(26) Most modern scholars believe Lysias, Tetrarch of Abiline, to be incorrect and exclude him from any official designation. and Philip, of which Philip and Herod who was first called Antipas, the tetrarchies were also allotted from the living Archelaus.”

This would make the time of Archelaus reign from 1 – 10 AD.

The text concerning the tetrarchy is confusing. Bede suggests that the tetrarchy, which literally means divided by four, was given immediately to the four brothers from Archelaus, but if one reads further, especially the last sentence, Philip and Herod Antipas (later known as Herod the Tetrarch) received their allotment sooner.

This contradicts Josephus. Josephus believed the area of Judea, including Jerusalem, became a Roman protectorate, never being restored to the Herods again. This is not included in Bede’s analysis.

Then Bede proceeded to state, “Herod the Tetrarch(27) Why Bede calls Antipas “Herod the Tetrarch” and not “Herod Antipas” as commonly used today, is not known. One can only surmise, but perhaps it is because Bede believed there were perceived gaps in the Herodian chronology and just to be safe, he leaves this title ambiguous. holds on as leader of the Jews for 24 years”.(28) IBID Bede, De Temporum Ratione This would make Herod the Tetrarch’s reign from 10 AD to 34 AD.

The dates given by Bede have been adjusted to correlate with his view that the Church’s conception of 1 AD was wrong and believed the real 1 AD started at our 2 BC. For more information see Bede on the Problem of 1 AD

Bede’s table in this article did not originally have this incorporated in the table and it has been updated.

Hippolyti Thebani

Hippolyti Thebani, otherwise known in English as Hippolyti of Thebes, is an elusive one to describe. The EJ Brill website describes him this way:

6th-9th century. Greece. Author of a universal chronicle (“Χρονικόν”) in Greek prose, which survives only in fragments. The only clues to the date of composition are doctrinal information apparently known to the author, which places him not earlier than the sixth century, and the manuscript tradition, which begins in the ninth. As he apparently was not familiar with Egyptian geography, we conclude that the Thebes in his toponym is Thebes in Greece (Boeotia).(29)http://referenceworks.brillonline.com/entries/encyclopedia-of-the-medieval-chronicle/hippolytus-of-thebes-EMCSIM_000918?s.num=5

Hippolytus of Thebes early 11th Century account of the Herods
Name Start Date End Date Total Reign
Herod the Great
Archelaus
Philip
Herod the Tetrarch 4 A.D. 34 A.D. 30 years
Lysinias
Agrippa I 34 A.D. 41 A.D. 7 years
Agrippa II 41 A.D. 67 A.D. 26 years

A commentary on Hippolyti Thebani’s Herodian dynasty calculations.

“For in the fifteenth year of the year of Tiberius was the Divine crucifixion and the Creator of Life was made alive from the dead. And thus Antipas, the son of Herod reigned for 24 years [The Latin reads 23 years]. This is clearly the Herod who struck down the Forerunner [John the Baptist] and on the occasion of the passion of the divine in Jerusalem, he took audience and judged the Lord. And he reigned for another five years after the Creator of Life rose from the dead. He was sent into exile with Herodias to Vienne. After him Agrippas reigned, a descendant of Herod, the son of Aristoboulous, from Miriam, of the son of the first Herod. For this Agrippa, also of Herodian descent, is the one who put to death Jacob Zebedaiah. And he wished to put to death Peter the leader of the Apostles, in order that he would be accepted by the Jews. For he reigned seven years. And after him Agrippa II reigned, under whom Paul was judicially examined along with Festus, 26 years.”(30) MPG: Fragmenta, Vol. 117, Ch. IX, Col. 253

He based all his calculations on the emperorship of Tiberius Caesar, whom we know began his reign in AD 14. The crucifixion of Christ would then have happened at AD 29. This is a very tight date, as Jesus’ baptism was in the same year, based on the fact that the author Luke said He was baptized in the 15th year of Tiberius Caesar and the Apostle John wrote that lived on earth three passovers after this.(31) Some argue that the Book of John suggests three Passovers after Christ’s Baptism, Jn 2:13, Jn 6:4, Jn 11:55ff; This appears to be sound logic. Hippolyti then goes on to write that Herod Antipas reigned 24 years before the crucifixion, which would make the beginning of his reign at 4 or 5 AD. He adds that Antipas reigned 5 years after the crucifixion, which would make the end of his rule to be 34 AD, while most historians mark his end at 39 AD.

The start and end-date of Herod the Tetrarch has an 11-year discrepancy between Josephus and himself.

Hippolyti also left Archelaus totally out of his history. He may have rightly argued that his rulership was not important to his chronology and that Herod the Tetrarch was the central figure in the Biblical narrative.

But there is something unusual going on between the Greek and Latin parallel text in Migne Patrilogia. The Greek states that Antipas reigned 24 years before the crucifixion, and the Latin reads 23. Why? Was the Latin translator aware that there was some error or some history that we do not have today that he had to correct the text? Shouldn’t he have added years than decrease them? A reply to this question cannot be made as we do not have this alternate version available.(32) MPG: Fragmenta, Vol. 117, Ch. IX, Col. 253

But this problem may have just been a transcription error.

Agrippas I then reigned for seven years after him, which would make his rule from 34/35 to 41/42 AD. The chronology of seven years is correct with most historians, but many note his rule was from 37-44 AD not Hippolyti’s calculation as above,(33) For this portion of comparisons with standard historical dating of the Herods, I am referring to the dates given in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 2 pg. 695ff, “Herods” written by H.W. Hoehner. though it is very close.

Then after Agrippa I’s reign came Agrippa II, whom many historians tend to date his rulership to begin six years after the end of Agrippa I’s reign, 50-100 AD. The six-year lapse was explained by Josephus to be a time in waiting for the young Agrippa II, who was then only 17, to mature. The Romans reduced this region to a province during this interval.(34) William Whiston trans. AOJ Book XIX:IX:2, p. 413

Hippolyti doesn’t give a six-year interval at all and begins his reign directly after Agrippa I’s.

Hippolyti puts his reign from 41 to 67 AD. A total of 26 years compared to 50 years by many historians. The end date according to Hippolyti is likely according to Jewish, not Roman calculations. If using Josephus’ previous Jewish example where he dated Herod the Great’s reign from the fall of Jerusalem, then Agrippa II would be dated to end according to the fall of Jerusalem. Agrippa II lost his power when the revolt began in AD 67.

Dating According to a Lunar Eclipse.

Herod died shortly after an eclipse of the moon according to Josephus(35) William Whiston trans. The Works of Josephus, “The Antiquities of the Jews” Book XVII: VI:4, p. 365 and modern history has used this passage, along with Whiston’s commentary to define the death date of Herod. William Whiston, who translated Josephus into English and his edition is ubiquitous in the English world, boldly asserted:

This eclipse of the moon (which is the only eclipse of either of the luminaries mentioned by our Josephus in any of his writings) is of the greatest consequence for the determination of the time for the death of Herod and Antipater, and for the birth and entire chronology of Jesus Christ. It happened March 13th, in the year of the Julian period 4710, and the 4th year before the christian era. See its calculation by the rules of astronomy, at the end of the Astronomical Lectures, edit. Lat. p. 451, 452.” (36) This footnote in Whiston’s publication only appears in its entirety in the 1895 version used by Perseus. My 1982 version published by Hendrickson does not have it. The reference Flavius Josephus. The Works of Flavius Josephus. Translated by. William Whiston, A.M. Auburn and Buffalo. John E. Beardsley. 1895 is found at Perseus website.

Whiston attempted to champion a point not intended by Josephus. Josephus did not write about the eclipse as a date identifier but as a solemn sign of a significant event. Josephus’ dating by Olympiads and regnants are totally sufficient, making a lunar eclipse an unnecessary symbol for dating.

He tried to date the eclipse using information and technology from the 1700s and his conclusion today is questionable. The NASA Eclipse website has a listing of all the historic eclipses according to mathematical calculations. If these historical solar eclipses are correct then no eclipse would have been visible in either Rome, or in Israel. from 6 to 1 BC. The lunar eclipse used by Whiston therefore was incorrect and cannot be used as a valid reference point.

The math doesn’t make sense either. Josephus clearly stated that Herod lived until 3 BC. Whiston’s attempt to date Herod’s death at 4 BC is in contradiction to Josephus’ account himself.

For more information on the death of Herod and the lunar eclipse, the following links may be of help, The Lunar Eclipse of Josephus, and Yet Another Eclipse for Herod.

Jewish Sources

The assumption throughout this essay has been that Josephus and his copious use of Roman sources is the definitive guide to dating the year of the birth of Christ, and that christian tradition has based much of its dating presuppositions on faulty logic with the Daniel prophecy. However, Jewish tradition surprisingly supports the historic christian position.

Both the Talmud Babli and the much later Otzar Midrashim, which is a re-composition of midrashim texts, succinctly confirm this.

Abodah Zarah 9.1 (עבודה זרה ) reads:

מלכות פרס בפני הבית שלשים וארבע שנה מלכות יון בפני הבית מאה ושמונים שנה מלכות חשמונאי בפני הבית מאה ושלש מלכות בית הורדוס מאה
(37)http://he.wikisource.org/wiki/עבודה_זרה_ט_א

Persian rule lasted thirty-four years after the building of the Temple, Greece ruled one hundred eighty years during the existence of the Temple, the Hasmonean rule lasted one hundred three years during temple times, the House of Herod ruled one hundred three years. Thence onward, one should go on counting the years as from the Destruction of the Temple.(38)http://instonebrewer.com/RabbinicTraditions/

Most importantly, the writer stated that the house of Herod reigned 103 years. This timeframe was found not only in Abodah Zarah, but also Otzar Midrashim The Diaspora Chapter 5, and again in Chapter 25. It appears that the different chapters have different authors as the details of other events do not remain consistent, but the dates of the Herod dynasty are the same. It was clear from both Abodah Zarah, and the Otzar Midrashim The Diaspora, that the dates were relevant to the destruction of the Temple. If one subtracts the 103 years of the dynasty of the Herodian dynasty from the modern accepted date of AD 70 of the destruction of the Second Temple by Titus and Vespasian, then King Herod’s rule would have begun in 33 BC. There are no records in the Talmud that give the length of Herod the Great’s rule, though if one adds either the traditional 34 or 37 year numbers for number of years Herod reigned, this would make Herod’s death at either 1 or 4 AD.

It can certainly be argued that this 103-year date was sheer conjecture from the Jewish sages, as good math was abandoned for an important theological statement relating to their perception of Daniel’s prophecy. It also could be argued that Abodah Zarah, being published in the sixth century or later, was contaminated by christian influences or forced to render the dates under severe Church censorship.(39)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avodah_Zarah

Julius Eisenstein in his 1915 collection of minor midrashims called Otzar Midrashim (אוצר מדרשים) continued to leave the 103 year phrase with no change. If the concept of 103 years was forced, it would have been corrected or addressed by the time of Eisenstein’s work.

If one calculates up all the Herods together that Josephus documented, the sum adds up to 107 years – 4 years off from the Talmud.

Conclusion

The research so far has succeeded in one of its two aims. The first goal was to establish exactly what dates Josephus and the Church leaders selected in their chronologies.

It however fails to resolve why the two parties differ. The Church leaders knew and well-respected Josephus’ works, but on the issue of historically mapping the dates around the 80 or so years surrounding the birth of Christ, they differ considerably. None of the Church fathers make mention of the difference and try to resolve the disparity.

While examining these calendars, along with others not listed here, many, if not most, ancient histories have a 4–10 year discrepancy in their accounts. A comparison between the accounts demonstrate the 4–10 year window never appears in the same place. It is difficult to find any pattern.

One possibility is that the histories did not agree on how to convert older lunar-based accounts into their solar calendars. The exclusive lunar year was shorter by about 11 days a year. Over a 165 year period, the lunar calendar is off by 5 years. For example starting a history at 200 B.C. and tracing the history over a 165 year period, the solar date would be 35 B.C. and the lunar date would be 30 B.C.(40)Here’s the formula I used for this calculation based on 354.37 days per lunar year and 365.24 days per solar year. 165 (365.25)=x(354.37), x=170.06. 200-170=30 It may be that every account has reconciled the lunar-solar calendar problem at different points in their histories. This has not been confirmed but it is a possibility that has to be looked into further.

A second solution may be found in understanding the complete work of the medieval Church writing, Chronicon Paschale. The Chronicon Paschale has a historical record that dates epochs earlier than the time of Christ. It also includes a parallel Roman consular list. The comparing of the Chronicon’s consular list with a Roman-based one, especially the Fasti Consulares and the Varronian Chronology may uncover the difference between Josephus and other accounts.

A third alternative is based on a theological conflict. Many of the Church writers wrote a chronological history to align with a prophecy given by a prophet named Daniel in 580 BC that is slightly obscure but perceived to be fulfilled near the arrival or passion of Christ, the destruction of Jerusalem or a mixture of these and other elements. The Church fathers were not so much concerned about historical correctness regarding accuracy of the Herods, but their main emphasis was to align Daniel’s prophecy within a historical framework.

The attempt to explain the difference because of the theological influence of Daniel’s vision in christian writings appeared tenable, but the Talmud weakened such an argument.

Another answer is that of perspective. Maybe the ancient christian chronographers never recognized the Church’s authoritative stance that Christ only lived 30 years before His passion, and held onto the idea that it was 33 years. This would mean most ancient Christian chronologies understood 1 AD to be our 2 BC. This means that modern historians should always should calculate this variance in all their citations.

This problem of a 4 – 10 year variance in historical chronographies cannot be solved by doing a comparative literature study on the lives of the Herods. The answer is found somewhere else, but that somewhere still remains a mystery.

For more information:

Charting the dates and lives of the Herods in relation to the birth of Christ and making sense of the differences between competing histories.

Herod the Great was a living character described by the Bible narrators in reference to the birth of Christ,(41) See Matthew chapter 2 therefore the reign dates of this leader and his family are of particular value.

Herod the Great
Herod the Great, founder of a family dynasty in the Middle East.

However, there are conflicting time-frames in the major historical sources; especially between the first century Jewish-Roman historian Josephus and a number of ancient church accounts. The goal of this work is to first define what exactly Josephus and the church authorities wrote on the subject, compare the dates, find any common patterns, and hopefully reconcile the differences.

The original writers of the Gospels never related time in relationship to the Herod dynasty. This was likely done on purpose because the Gospels were directed to a universal audience who wouldn’t know or even care about the Herod family. Neither did the christian writers want to refer them in relation to time because they were so cruel and barbarous. This action would be too honorific.

Josephus’ Account of the Herods

Josephus
An 18th century woodcut portrait of Josephus

Here is a chart to visually demonstrate Josephus’ dating. An explanation and analysis is given afterwards:

Josephus First Century Account of the Herods
Name Start Date End Date Total Reign
Herod the Great 37 B.C. 3 B.C. 34 years
Archelaus 3 B.C. 7 A.D. 10 years
Philip 3 B.C. 34 A.D. 37 years
Herod the Tetrarch 3 B.C. 38 A.D. 41 years
Lysinias N/A 38 A.D. N/A
Agrippa I 39 A.D. 44 A.D. 5 years
Agrippa II Not Sure Not Sure

An explanation of Josephus’ calculations.

Josephus wrote the most detailed accounts of the Herods, starting with the rise of Herod the Great’s father, and then installation of Herod as the defacto leader of the Jews and about his later posterity. No other ancient manuscript available today contains the same amount of details as his does. He dated the inception of Herod with this statement:

“And thus did this man [Herod] receive the kingdom, having obtained it on the hundred and eighty-fourth Olympiad, when Caius Domitius Calvinus was consul the second time, and Caius Asinius Pollio [the first time]”(42) Flavius Josephus. Antiquities of the Jews. William Whiston trans. USA: Hendrickson Publishers. 1982. Book XIV:XIV:5, p. 366

The 184th Olympiad would traditionally date anywhere from 44/43 to 41/40 BC. However, the mentioning of Caius Domitius Calvinus and Caius Asinius Pollio, who were consuls together at Rome during the year of 40 BC only, strengthens Josephus command that Herod was installed at 40 BC.(43) http://ancienthistory.about.com/library/bl/bl_consuls_endofrepublic.htm, and The Project Gutenberg EBook of Dio’s Rome, Vol. III, by Cassius Dio, [-15], http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/1/0/1/6/10162/10162.txt

Josephus believed that the Romans and the Jews had two totally different concepts of measuring time and to rule out any uncertainty, he had to address both groups. He knew that the 40 BC installation date by Rome was not recognized by the Jewish people. It was common belief by the Jews that rulership only began with the death of their leader.

He remedied this problem by addressing both issues. Josephus claimed that Herod lived 37 years after the Romans had declared him king(44) William Whiston trans. AOJ Book VII:VIII:1, p. 366 and 34 years after the death of Antigonus, the last Jewish leader.

He documented the fall of Jerusalem and the death of Antigonus at 37 BC: “The destruction befell the city of Jerusalem when Marcus Agrippa and Caninius Gallus were consuls at Rome, on the hundred and eighty-fifth Olympiad, on the third month, on the solemnity of the fast”(45) William Whiston trans. AOJ Book XIV:XVI:4, p. 313 The politicized death of Antigonus was also documented with the fall of Jerusalem. The fast reference is unknown at this time as to what it means, though Josephus intended it for targeting a specific date. The Olympiad puts the destruction of Jerusalem anywhere between 40 and 36 BC but the mentioning of the consuls explicitly dated it at 37 BC.

Either way, whether 37 years from the instalment of Herod by Rome at 40 BC or 34 years from the death of Antigonus at 37 BC, it would place Herods death at 3 BC. This forces historians to place Christ’s birth before 3 BC and not 2 BC or later stated by many ancient christian writers.

Josephus wrote clearly about the dynasty of the Herods, the length of time each one served, when and the important politics that surrounded their offices.

“But in the tenth year of Archelaus’s government… [Caesar] banished him, and appointed Vienna, a city of Gaul, to be the place of his habitation.”(46) IBID Whiston, AOJ Book XVII:XIII:2, pg. 375

Archelaus reigned according to Josephus from approximately 3 BC to 7 AD.

He also stated that Archelaus was willed the whole Herodian empire, but due to his ruthlessness and an appeal to Caesar by some dignitaries, it was never completely fulfilled. Instead, Caesar decided that Archelaus would rule half of what Herod the Great occupied, “But for the other half, he divided it into two parts, and gave it to two other of Herod’s sons, to Philip and to Antipas, that Antipas who disputed with Archelaus for the whole kingdom.”(47) IBID Whiston, AOJ Book XVII:XI:4, pg. 373

Philip’s 37 year reign then was from approximately 3 BC to 34 AD. This was understood from the following: “…Philip, Herod’s brother,(48) What exactly he means here by “Herod’s brother” is not altogether clear, though I think it is referring to Herod Antipas. departed this life, in the twentieth year of the reign of Tiberius”.(49) IBID Whiston, AOJ Book XVIII:IV:6, pg. 381

Josephus did not give a clear end-date for Antipas, who was known by two other names: Herod, and Herod the Tetrarch. It is easy to suggest that Josephus believed the start to be 3 BC, and judging from some clues in his book, Antiquity of the Jews, Book XVIII:VII,(50) IBID Whiston, AOJ Book XVIII:VI:11: Josephus accounts that Agrippa left from Rome back to Judea in the 2nd year of Caligula. The events of Herod the Tetrarchs banishment occur shortly thereafter. AOJ Book XVIII:VII:1 suggests that it may likely have happened in the first or second year of Caligula, but it is not certain. his end rule to be the first or second year of Caligula, whom banished him and handed over the tetrarchy to a nephew, Agrippa. His reign likely lasted 41 years from 3 BC to 38 AD.

Herod Agrippa, grandson of Herod the Great, received fortune instead of prison bars at the death of Tiberius due to the rise of his friend Caligula to the throne. He initially received Philip’s and Lysinias’ tetrarchs in 38 or 39 AD, then acquired Herod the Tetrarch’s territory from Caligula, and finally granted the whole kingdom of Herod the Great by the emperor Claudius. Three years into the reign of Claudius, Agrippa died.(51) Inheriting Philips kingdom, IBID Whiston, AOJ Book XVIII:VI:4, pg. 363; Receiving Herod the Tetrarchs territory, AOJ XVIII:VII:2, pg. 388; Received the whole Kingdom through Claudius, XIX:V:1, pg. 409. Three years into the reign of Claudius, AOJ XIX:VII:2, pg. 412 and 413 This would make a five or six year rule from 38 or 39 AD to 44 AD.

The whole kingdom should naturally go to Agrippa’s son, Agrippa II, but was initially denied by the Emperor Claudius, due to Agrippa II’s young age.(52) IBID Whiston, AOJ XIX:VIII:2, pg. 412 and 413. Agrippa II was later given the Tetrarchy of Philip and a bit more(53) IBID Whiston, AOJ XX:VII:1, pg. 420 by Claudius, and his estate was minorly enlarged by Claudius’ successor Nero.(54) IBID Whiston, AOJ XX:VIII:4, pg. 421. Nero gave him a “certain part of Galilee, Tiberius and Taricheae, and ordered them to submit to his jurisdiction. He gave him also Julias, a city of Perea, with fourteen villages that lay about it”.

Josephus was very scant on information concerning Herod the Tetrarch and Lysinias. He does not give any information on how they received their respective tetrarchies, nor does he make any reference to Lysinias as being a relative of the Herod family.

The Christian Chronographies on the Herodian dates.

Turning now to the ancient christian chronologies. They all demonstrate later dates on Herod the Great and the majority of his posterity. These chronologies will be graphed, documented and compared to Josephus and will attempt to answer the question, why are they different?

The first impression concerning the difference is an internal theological influence. Julius Africanus, Tertullian, Eusebius, Jerome and later the Chronicon Paschale represent historical chronologies heavily influenced by the interpretation of an ancient Biblical prophecy found in the Book of Daniel.

An important exception is the Venerable Bede, the great 8th century chronographer and his portrait is covered in detail later on in this article.

Daniel was a Jewish prophet that lived around the 6th century BC. He had a dream about the future of Israel. God spoke to him and concluded that 70 weeks were required for the restoration of Israel to everlasting righteousness.(55) Daniel 9:24 The term 70 weeks is controversial and a ubiquitous meaning in scholarly, orthodox, or fundamentalist camps has never been established.

In general terms, the ancient chronographers were trying to fit 475, 483 or 490 years, depending on how they interpreted the vision, in order to link the historical record into a number of calendar schemes: whether dating by the birth of Christ, the passion of Christ, the destruction of Jerusalem, or combination of these.

Many documents relating to historic events between 521 BC to 70 AD owe its existence to this.

Tertullian stretched some historical facts to make it work. For example his dating the first year of office for Darius the Great was dated at 437 BC rather than the recognized 521 BC.

From their concern on correlating this dream with actual timed events, one can find ancient publications highly focused on identifying the actual dates of the Herods with the life of Christ.

The chronological work of Julius Africanus never became authoritative due to perceived flaws in his Daniel calculations. Later Church writers did not reference Tertullian’s claims. The work of Eusebius, which is now only known to us from the liberal usage by Jerome, became the standard.

The Life of Herods According to Jerome

Jerome lived in Bethlehem during the fourth-century. He is considered a theological and historical literary giant. His writings combined elements of the sacred and vulgar, and also synthesized Greek, Hebrew and Latin works.

Jerome’s Fourth Century Chronological Table
Name Start Date End Date Total Reign
Herod the Great 33/32 B.C. 3/4 A.D. 36 years
Archelaus
Philip
Herod the Tetrarch
Lysinias
Agrippa I 37/38 A.D. 44/45 A.D. 7 years
Agrippa II 44/45 A.D. 70/71 A.D. 26 Years

A commentary on Jerome’s Herodian dynasty calculations.

One must realize that Jerome and many of the Church fathers were not so much concerned about historical correctness to dating accuracy of the Herods, but their main emphasis was to align Daniel’s prophecy within a historical framework.

Jerome argued that time period Daniel prophesied began from the rebuilding of the Temple at the 65th Olympiad or 520/519 BC, and ended at the last successive High Priest in Olympiad 186.4 (33/32 BC).

“The rule of the high priests comes to an end, and Herodes, a foreigner, became King of the Jews for 37 years.”(56)http://attalus.org/translate/jerome2.html. St. Jerome ( Hieronymus ): Chronological Tables

520 to 33 BC is 487 years. What the 487 signifies, and why the symbolic religious numbers of 490 or 483 were not used is not known.

According to Jerome, the first appointment of Herod by Augustus as King of Judea was a ceremonial recognition in 35 BC. Then in 33 BC, when Herod killed all the remnants of the Hyrcanian dynasty, he gained ultimate control, and was not only ceremonially King, but defacto. The term King of the Jews is then used as his title. I think here the significance by Jerome of the second 33/32 BC date is the emphasis on the destruction of the Hyrcanian dynasty and the fulfillment of Daniels prophecy.

In trying to match the Daniel prophecy with the incarnation of Christ, we learn Jerome and/or Eusebius believed that Herod the Great reigned 33/32 BC to 3/4 AD.

There is a dating problem between Jerome’s Chronological Tables and Josephus’ account. Both agree that Herod reigned 37 years but they disagree on the start date and whose death to go by. Josephus believed that Herod the Great’s reign began when he was appointed by Rome at 40 BC, and that Antigonus, the last bloodline Jewish King died at 37 BC. The Chronological Tables boldly state that the 37 years should begin 33/32 BC at the death of the last traditional Jewish High Priest called Hyrcanus. This was surprising to find a contradiction with Josephus, as Jerome and Eusebius were aware of his writings and even quoted him. For example, Jerome thought it important to pen the arrival of his books in his Chronological Tables, “In these days Flavius Josephus writes the twenty books of the Antiquities.”(57) http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/jerome_chronicle_03_part2.htm He dated the time of publication at 93 AD Perhaps he simply did not agree with Josephus’ chronology, or the Josephus manuscript he read from was different than ours. It is odd why the ancient christian authors never acknowledged a difference in dating between the accounts.

The discrepancy between Josephus and Church accounts is puzzling.

The Chronicon Paschale

“Chronicon Paschale (the Paschal Chronicle), also called Chronicum Alexandrinum, Constantinopolitanum or Fasti Siculi) is the conventional name of a 7th-century Greek christian chronicle of the world. Its name comes from its system of chronology based on the christian paschal cycle; its Greek author named it Epitome of the ages from Adam the first man to the 20th year of the reign of the most August Heraclius.”(58)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronicon_Paschale

Chronicon Paschale’s Seventh Century account of the Herods
Name Start Date End Date Total Reign
Herod the Great 34 B.C. 3 B.C. 37 years
Archelaus 4 A.D. 13 A.D. 9 years
Philip
Herod the Tetrarch 14 A.D. 42 A.D. 28 years
Lysinias
Agrippa I
Agrippa II

A commentary on Chronicon Paschale’s Herodian dynasty calculations.

The Chronicon Paschale discarded Jerome’s assertion that Daniel’s prophecy had ended at 33 BC with the death of the last Hyrcanian leader and instead it was at the death of the last Hasmonean priest, Alexander Jannaeus in 74 BC.

“The anointed leaders lasted from Cyrus the king of the Persians up until Janneaus Alexander, for 483 years, which is 69 “sevens” of years, which were foretold by Daniel in this way”.(59) http://www.attalus.org/translate/paschal.html: See Olympiad 201.4

The first year of Augustus Caesar’s reign according to this table was 42 BC, therefore the start reign of Herod was 34 BC, if calculating from the start reign of Augustus, or 35/34 BC based on the Olympiads. “In the 8th year of Augustus Caesar, the Romans gave the kingdom of Judaea to Herodes the son of Antipar and of Cypris, an Arabian woman. Herodes killed Hyrcanus and bestowed the high priesthood not according to the traditional succession, but to some insignificant men.”(60) http://www.attalus.org/translate/paschal.html: See Olympiad 186.2

It does succinctly state that in Olympiad 186.2 (35/34 BC), “In the 8th year of Augustus Caesar, the Romans gave the kingdom of Judaea to Herodes the son of Antipar and of Cypris, an Arabian woman. Herodes killed Hyrcanus and bestowed the high priesthood not according to the traditional succession, but to some insignificant men.”(61) http://www.attalus.org/translate/paschal.html: See Olympiad 186.2 The first year of Augustus Caesar’s reign according to this table was 42 BC, therefore the start reign of Herod was 34 BC, if calculating from the start reign of Augustus, or 35 BC based on the Olympiads.

The Chronicon Paschale then follows with the statement, “Herodes was king of the Jews for 37 years. In his 35th year, Jesus Christ was born at Bethlehem in Judea”.(62) IBID http://www.attalus.org/translate/paschal.html: See Olympiad 186.2 This passage had an earlier illustration that Herod was installed in the “8th year of Augustus Caesar”,(63) IBID http://www.attalus.org/translate/paschal.html http://www.attalus.org/translate/paschal.html which subtracted from 42 BC, according to the Chronicon Paschale, would make Herod the Great’s rule from 34 BC to 3 AD and the birth of Christ at 1 AD.

The Venerable Bede

Bede was an eighth-century monk who lived in the Kingdom of Northumbria (northern England, south-east Scotland). He had a comprehensive set of skills from music, astronomy, theology, to natural studies. He is best known for his Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis AnglorumThe Ecclesiastical History of the English People. He had a particular interest in calendar systems and is one of the best sources on the subject.

The Venerable Bede’s Late Seventh Century account of the Herods
Name Start Date End Date Total Reign
Herod the Great 35 B.C. 1 A.D. 36 years
Archelaus 1 A.D. 10 A.D. 9 years
Philip
Herod the Tetrarch 10 A.D. 34 A.D. 24 years
Lysinias
Agrippa I
Agrippa II

A commentary on the Venerable Bede’s Herodian dynasty calculations.

The Venerable Bede’s chronology of the Herods published in his De Tempore Ratione noted that Herod the Great received his title in 35 BC and reigned for 36 years:

“Lacking in the 11th year of Augustus a principle leader in Judaea, Herod has no relation to go with, since indeed is the son of Antipatri of Ascalon and of Cyprid of Arabia, he assumed the leadership of Judaea under the Romans, which he held fast for 36 years.” (64) Bede, De Temporum Ratione, MPL. Vol. 90, pg. 544. Translation is mine

The text here relates the difficulty that Herod had in becoming a recognized King, as he was not a Jew by lineage, and his title was forced upon the Jewish nation by Rome. One must note that there was no reference to the death of the high priest as a reference point similar to what previous christian authorities had done. Herod’s year of death was clarified by his statement, “In the 47th year of Augustus, Herod with a disease of intercuris(65) I am assuming here ‘intercuris acquae’ means infection, but can’t be sure. Can’t find a meaning for intercuris, and the copy I am working from is very faint, and I may have even misspelled it. water, and worms gushing all over the body, miserably and worthily died.”

He further wrote:

“. . .Archelaus, he reigned 9 years, that is, until the end of Augustus himself. But certainly at this time does not carry on beyond for the ferocity of the Jews against him in the accusations before Augustus, he was exiled to Vienna, a city of the Gauls and for the purpose of reducing the power of the kingship of the Jews, for the arrogance had to be subdued, tetrarchies were made for the four brothers instead of him; Herod, Antipar, Lysias(66) Most modern scholars believe Lysias, Tetrarch of Abiline, to be incorrect and exclude him from any official designation. and Philip, of which Philip and Herod who was first called Antipas, the tetrarchies were also allotted from the living Archelaus.”

This would make the time of Archelaus reign from 1 – 10 AD.

The text concerning the tetrarchy is confusing. Bede suggests that the tetrarchy, which literally means divided by four, was given immediately to the four brothers from Archelaus, but if one reads further, especially the last sentence, Philip and Herod Antipas (later known as Herod the Tetrarch) received their allotment sooner.

This contradicts Josephus. Josephus believed the area of Judea, including Jerusalem, became a Roman protectorate, never being restored to the Herods again. This is not included in Bede’s analysis.

Then Bede proceeded to state, “Herod the Tetrarch(67) Why Bede calls Antipas “Herod the Tetrarch” and not “Herod Antipas” as commonly used today, is not known. One can only surmise, but perhaps it is because Bede believed there were perceived gaps in the Herodian chronology and just to be safe, he leaves this title ambiguous. holds on as leader of the Jews for 24 years”.(68) IBID Bede, De Temporum Ratione This would make Herod the Tetrarch’s reign from 10 AD to 34 AD.

The dates given by Bede have been adjusted to correlate with his view that the Church’s conception of 1 AD was wrong and believed the real 1 AD started at our 2 BC. For more information see Bede on the Problem of 1 AD

Bede’s table in this article did not originally have this incorporated in the table and it has been updated.

Hippolyti Thebani

Hippolyti Thebani, otherwise known in English as Hippolyti of Thebes, is an elusive one to describe. The EJ Brill website describes him this way:

6th-9th century. Greece. Author of a universal chronicle (“Χρονικόν”) in Greek prose, which survives only in fragments. The only clues to the date of composition are doctrinal information apparently known to the author, which places him not earlier than the sixth century, and the manuscript tradition, which begins in the ninth. As he apparently was not familiar with Egyptian geography, we conclude that the Thebes in his toponym is Thebes in Greece (Boeotia).(69)http://referenceworks.brillonline.com/entries/encyclopedia-of-the-medieval-chronicle/hippolytus-of-thebes-EMCSIM_000918?s.num=5

Hippolytus of Thebes early 11th Century account of the Herods
Name Start Date End Date Total Reign
Herod the Great
Archelaus
Philip
Herod the Tetrarch 4 A.D. 34 A.D. 30 years
Lysinias
Agrippa I 34 A.D. 41 A.D. 7 years
Agrippa II 41 A.D. 67 A.D. 26 years

A commentary on Hippolyti Thebani’s Herodian dynasty calculations.

“For in the fifteenth year of the year of Tiberius was the Divine crucifixion and the Creator of Life was made alive from the dead. And thus Antipas, the son of Herod reigned for 24 years [The Latin reads 23 years]. This is clearly the Herod who struck down the Forerunner [John the Baptist] and on the occasion of the passion of the divine in Jerusalem, he took audience and judged the Lord. And he reigned for another five years after the Creator of Life rose from the dead. He was sent into exile with Herodias to Vienne. After him Agrippas reigned, a descendant of Herod, the son of Aristoboulous, from Miriam, of the son of the first Herod. For this Agrippa, also of Herodian descent, is the one who put to death Jacob Zebedaiah. And he wished to put to death Peter the leader of the Apostles, in order that he would be accepted by the Jews. For he reigned seven years. And after him Agrippa II reigned, under whom Paul was judicially examined along with Festus, 26 years.”(70) MPG: Fragmenta, Vol. 117, Ch. IX, Col. 253

He based all his calculations on the emperorship of Tiberius Caesar, whom we know began his reign in AD 14. The crucifixion of Christ would then have happened at AD 29. This is a very tight date, as Jesus’ baptism was in the same year, based on the fact that the author Luke said He was baptized in the 15th year of Tiberius Caesar and the Apostle John wrote that lived on earth three passovers after this.(71) Some argue that the Book of John suggests three Passovers after Christ’s Baptism, Jn 2:13, Jn 6:4, Jn 11:55ff; This appears to be sound logic. Hippolyti then goes on to write that Herod Antipas reigned 24 years before the crucifixion, which would make the beginning of his reign at 4 or 5 AD. He adds that Antipas reigned 5 years after the crucifixion, which would make the end of his rule to be 34 AD, while most historians mark his end at 39 AD.

The start and end-date of Herod the Tetrarch has an 11-year discrepancy between Josephus and himself.

Hippolyti also left Archelaus totally out of his history. He may have rightly argued that his rulership was not important to his chronology and that Herod the Tetrarch was the central figure in the Biblical narrative.

But there is something unusual going on between the Greek and Latin parallel text in Migne Patrilogia. The Greek states that Antipas reigned 24 years before the crucifixion, and the Latin reads 23. Why? Was the Latin translator aware that there was some error or some history that we do not have today that he had to correct the text? Shouldn’t he have added years than decrease them? A reply to this question cannot be made as we do not have this alternate version available.(72) MPG: Fragmenta, Vol. 117, Ch. IX, Col. 253

But this problem may have just been a transcription error.

Agrippas I then reigned for seven years after him, which would make his rule from 34/35 to 41/42 AD. The chronology of seven years is correct with most historians, but many note his rule was from 37-44 AD not Hippolyti’s calculation as above,(73) For this portion of comparisons with standard historical dating of the Herods, I am referring to the dates given in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 2 pg. 695ff, “Herods” written by H.W. Hoehner. though it is very close.

Then after Agrippa I’s reign came Agrippa II, whom many historians tend to date his rulership to begin six years after the end of Agrippa I’s reign, 50-100 AD. The six-year lapse was explained by Josephus to be a time in waiting for the young Agrippa II, who was then only 17, to mature. The Romans reduced this region to a province during this interval.(74) William Whiston trans. AOJ Book XIX:IX:2, p. 413

Hippolyti doesn’t give a six-year interval at all and begins his reign directly after Agrippa I’s.

Hippolyti puts his reign from 41 to 67 AD. A total of 26 years compared to 50 years by many historians. The end date according to Hippolyti is likely according to Jewish, not Roman calculations. If using Josephus’ previous Jewish example where he dated Herod the Great’s reign from the fall of Jerusalem, then Agrippa II would be dated to end according to the fall of Jerusalem. Agrippa II lost his power when the revolt began in AD 67.

Dating According to a Lunar Eclipse.

Herod died shortly after an eclipse of the moon according to Josephus(75) William Whiston trans. The Works of Josephus, “The Antiquities of the Jews” Book XVII: VI:4, p. 365 and modern history has used this passage, along with Whiston’s commentary to define the death date of Herod. William Whiston, who translated Josephus into English and his edition is ubiquitous in the English world, boldly asserted:

This eclipse of the moon (which is the only eclipse of either of the luminaries mentioned by our Josephus in any of his writings) is of the greatest consequence for the determination of the time for the death of Herod and Antipater, and for the birth and entire chronology of Jesus Christ. It happened March 13th, in the year of the Julian period 4710, and the 4th year before the christian era. See its calculation by the rules of astronomy, at the end of the Astronomical Lectures, edit. Lat. p. 451, 452.” (76) This footnote in Whiston’s publication only appears in its entirety in the 1895 version used by Perseus. My 1982 version published by Hendrickson does not have it. The reference Flavius Josephus. The Works of Flavius Josephus. Translated by. William Whiston, A.M. Auburn and Buffalo. John E. Beardsley. 1895 is found at Perseus website.

Whiston attempted to champion a point not intended by Josephus. Josephus did not write about the eclipse as a date identifier but as a solemn sign of a significant event. Josephus’ dating by Olympiads and regnants are totally sufficient, making a lunar eclipse an unnecessary symbol for dating.

He tried to date the eclipse using information and technology from the 1700s and his conclusion today is questionable. The NASA Eclipse website has a listing of all the historic eclipses according to mathematical calculations. If these historical solar eclipses are correct then no eclipse would have been visible in either Rome, or in Israel. from 6 to 1 BC. The lunar eclipse used by Whiston therefore was incorrect and cannot be used as a valid reference point.

The math doesn’t make sense either. Josephus clearly stated that Herod lived until 3 BC. Whiston’s attempt to date Herod’s death at 4 BC is in contradiction to Josephus’ account himself.

For more information on the death of Herod and the lunar eclipse, the following links may be of help, The Lunar Eclipse of Josephus, and Yet Another Eclipse for Herod.

Jewish Sources

The assumption throughout this essay has been that Josephus and his copious use of Roman sources is the definitive guide to dating the year of the birth of Christ, and that christian tradition has based much of its dating presuppositions on faulty logic with the Daniel prophecy. However, Jewish tradition surprisingly supports the historic christian position.

Both the Talmud Babli and the much later Otzar Midrashim, which is a re-composition of midrashim texts, succinctly confirm this.

Abodah Zarah 9.1 (עבודה זרה ) reads:

מלכות פרס בפני הבית שלשים וארבע שנה מלכות יון בפני הבית מאה ושמונים שנה מלכות חשמונאי בפני הבית מאה ושלש מלכות בית הורדוס מאה
(77)http://he.wikisource.org/wiki/עבודה_זרה_ט_א

Persian rule lasted thirty-four years after the building of the Temple, Greece ruled one hundred eighty years during the existence of the Temple, the Hasmonean rule lasted one hundred three years during temple times, the House of Herod ruled one hundred three years. Thence onward, one should go on counting the years as from the Destruction of the Temple.(78)http://instonebrewer.com/RabbinicTraditions/

Most importantly, the writer stated that the house of Herod reigned 103 years. This timeframe was found not only in Abodah Zarah, but also Otzar Midrashim The Diaspora Chapter 5, and again in Chapter 25. It appears that the different chapters have different authors as the details of other events do not remain consistent, but the dates of the Herod dynasty are the same. It was clear from both Abodah Zarah, and the Otzar Midrashim The Diaspora, that the dates were relevant to the destruction of the Temple. If one subtracts the 103 years of the dynasty of the Herodian dynasty from the modern accepted date of AD 70 of the destruction of the Second Temple by Titus and Vespasian, then King Herod’s rule would have begun in 33 BC. There are no records in the Talmud that give the length of Herod the Great’s rule, though if one adds either the traditional 34 or 37 year numbers for number of years Herod reigned, this would make Herod’s death at either 1 or 4 AD.

It can certainly be argued that this 103-year date was sheer conjecture from the Jewish sages, as good math was abandoned for an important theological statement relating to their perception of Daniel’s prophecy. It also could be argued that Abodah Zarah, being published in the sixth century or later, was contaminated by christian influences or forced to render the dates under severe Church censorship.(79)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avodah_Zarah

Julius Eisenstein in his 1915 collection of minor midrashims called Otzar Midrashim (אוצר מדרשים) continued to leave the 103 year phrase with no change. If the concept of 103 years was forced, it would have been corrected or addressed by the time of Eisenstein’s work.

If one calculates up all the Herods together that Josephus documented, the sum adds up to 107 years – 4 years off from the Talmud.

Conclusion

The research so far has succeeded in one of its two aims. The first goal was to establish exactly what dates Josephus and the Church leaders selected in their chronologies.

It however fails to resolve why the two parties differ. The Church leaders knew and well-respected Josephus’ works, but on the issue of historically mapping the dates around the 80 or so years surrounding the birth of Christ, they differ considerably. None of the Church fathers make mention of the difference and try to resolve the disparity.

While examining these calendars, along with others not listed here, many, if not most, ancient histories have a 4–10 year discrepancy in their accounts. A comparison between the accounts demonstrate the 4–10 year window never appears in the same place. It is difficult to find any pattern.

One possibility is that the histories did not agree on how to convert older lunar-based accounts into their solar calendars. The exclusive lunar year was shorter by about 11 days a year. Over a 165 year period, the lunar calendar is off by 5 years. For example starting a history at 200 B.C. and tracing the history over a 165 year period, the solar date would be 35 B.C. and the lunar date would be 30 B.C.(80)Here’s the formula I used for this calculation based on 354.37 days per lunar year and 365.24 days per solar year. 165 (365.25)=x(354.37), x=170.06. 200-170=30 It may be that every account has reconciled the lunar-solar calendar problem at different points in their histories. This has not been confirmed but it is a possibility that has to be looked into further.

A second solution may be found in understanding the complete work of the medieval Church writing, Chronicon Paschale. The Chronicon Paschale has a historical record that dates epochs earlier than the time of Christ. It also includes a parallel Roman consular list. The comparing of the Chronicon’s consular list with a Roman-based one, especially the Fasti Consulares and the Varronian Chronology may uncover the difference between Josephus and other accounts.

A third alternative is based on a theological conflict. Many of the Church writers wrote a chronological history to align with a prophecy given by a prophet named Daniel in 580 BC that is slightly obscure but perceived to be fulfilled near the arrival or passion of Christ, the destruction of Jerusalem or a mixture of these and other elements. The Church fathers were not so much concerned about historical correctness regarding accuracy of the Herods, but their main emphasis was to align Daniel’s prophecy within a historical framework.

The attempt to explain the difference because of the theological influence of Daniel’s vision in christian writings appeared tenable, but the Talmud weakened such an argument.

Another answer is that of perspective. Maybe the ancient christian chronographers never recognized the Church’s authoritative stance that Christ only lived 30 years before His passion, and held onto the idea that it was 33 years. This would mean most ancient Christian chronologies understood 1 AD to be our 2 BC. This means that modern historians should always should calculate this variance in all their citations.

This problem of a 4 – 10 year variance in historical chronographies cannot be solved by doing a comparative literature study on the lives of the Herods. The answer is found somewhere else, but that somewhere still remains a mystery.

For more information:

References   [ + ]

History of Glossolalia: Patristic Citation

How ecclesiastical literature has been woefully neglected by the sourcebooks in drawing conclusions on the christian doctrine of tongues and reasons why this happened.

There is a considerable amount of literature devoted by many christian writers over the first thousand years since the inception of the church on this topic. However, many are not popularly available in English. They remain in their Greek, Latin, Syriac and likely many more original forms, waiting to be rediscovered.

Had the last few generations had access to this literature in their modern language, then the tongues argument would be significantly different. The Gift of Tongues Project demonstrates that the arguments from both the pro and con camps are based on ignorance of ecclesiastical literature.

The selective and inaccurate use of Church writings make the topic appear historically obscure. The lack of comprehensiveness naturally produces an outcome of glossolalia.

Glossolalia may not necessarily be the wrong the conclusion but it has omitted very important ecclesiastical writings in the process.

The deficiency of ecclesiastical usage is clearly found throughout:

Moulton and Milligan’s, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament, alluded to the fact that the tongues in Acts were ecstatic. Not a single reference was made from the Church Fathers.(1)J.H. Moulton and G. Milligan. The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament. London: Hodder and Stoughton Ltd. ND. Pg. 128

Walter Bauer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament tried to develop a connection between Hellenistic ecstasy and christian tongues. The author or the revisionist of this dictionary used only one patristic writing to emphasize the concept, and it is a weak one – Origen’s writing, Against Celsus.(2)Walter Bauer, ed. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature: Second Edition. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. 1979. Pg. 162

Thayer’s A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Being Grimm’s Wilke’s Clavis Nove Testamenti declared the Corinthian problem was people in ecstasy and made no reference to early Church writings.(3)A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Bing Grmm’s Wilke’s Clavis Nove Testamenti. Trans. By Joseph Henry Thayer. New York: American Book Company. 1889. Pg. 118

Johannes Behm’s article, γλῶσσα, in the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, also failed to give a comprehensive account of tongues in the early Church. The author does quote Origen from the book, Against Celsus, and Irenaeous, Against Heresies, to support his view that the Christian gift of tongues parallels similar phenomena in different religious systems and various time periods.(4)Johannes Behm. γλῶσσα as found in Gerhard Kittel, ed. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. G.W. Bromiley Trans. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. Vol. 1. 1964. Pg. 722 However, Behm failed to point out that in both his examples, the word γλῶσσα does not even occur. He neglected the use of γλῶσσα employed by Origen and Irenaeous elsewhere.

Behm is an interesting and controversial figure within theological circles and is debated whether his contributions should be blotted out of the historical records. He was ignominiously deposed from his position at the Friedrich Wilhelms University in Berlin after World War II in 1945 because of his Nazi affiliation. It is unclear what happened to him after he was dismissed.(5)https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johannes_Behm

The Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament used only one Patristic reference, Clement of Alexandria’s Stromata to substantiate their connection of tongues with Hellenism.(6)Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament. Horst Blatz, Gerhard Schneider ed. Transl. by Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. co. USA: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1990. Pg. 253

Lampe’s, 1978 version of the Patristic Greek Lexicon does touch on some relevant passages but fails to be comprehensive. It does refer to nine distinct writers but does not offer anything new outside of the standard modern interpretations.(7)A Patristic Greek Lexicon. G.H. Lampe ed. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1978. Pg. 316

Hans Conzelmann’s well received, A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians used only Origen to support his claim that “speaking with tongues is unintelligible to a normal man, even a Christian.” However, if one examines the source text quoted more closely, there is little about tongues and more about prophecy. It is a weak correlation.(8)Hans Conzelmann. A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians. George W. MacRae ed. Philadelphia: Fortress Press. 1975. Pg. 234

The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, which claims to be an authority of Patristic interpretation on Scripture, quotes nine church fathers, including a weak reference to Augustine, neglecting his larger and more important works on the subject. The Ancient Christian Commentary has a strong emphasis on Chrysostom’s commentary on Corinthians – a book far from being definitive. Their coverage makes it appear that there is little Patristic literature on the subject.(9)Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament: I and II Corinthians. Gerald Bray ed. Illinois: Intervarsity Press. Pg. 138ff

The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible in Five Volumes, defined the New Testament doctrine of Tongues as “ecstatic spirititual utterances not consciously or rationally controlled by the speaker,” without one reference to ancient Church literature.(10)The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible in Five Volumes. Merril C. Tenney ed. Volume V. “Tongues, Gift of” by R.A. Cole. NP. ND. Pg. 775

The New International Bible Encyclopedia gave scant reference to the ancient Church sages on the subject, quoting Irenaeous, Tertullian, and Chrysostom as found in the source-books. He does use Origen’s commentary on Romans to demonstrate briefly the view of tongues as a foreign language. He also believed tongues as an ecstatic utterance needs to be tempered but fails to give a clear alternative.(11)New International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Geoffrey W. Bromiley ed. “Tongues, Gift of: by C.M. Robeck Jr. Vol. 4. USA: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. co. 1984? Pg. 872ff

Many discussions on the historical definition from a Pentecostal perspective can be traced to George H. Williams and Edith Waldvogel’s analysis which is found in The Charismatic Movement, Michael P. Hamilton ed. The authors surveyed the glossolalic movement from the early Church onwards. It is well-written and one of the better researched publications but it has a number of important flaws as it relates to the ecclesiastical writings:

  • It follows the same pattern and almost identically cites the same Church Fathers found in the source-books. One can see a heavy influence here; especially the focus on Montanism.(12)“As for Montanism, the more important movement for our survey, it was a rigorist challenge, beginning in Phrygia, to an increasingly organized and structured Church.” as found in The Charismatic Movement. Michael P. Hamilton ed. “A History of Speaking in Tongues and Related Gifts” by George H. Williams and Edith Valdvogel. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1975. Pg. 65. It does add Pope Leo I, Pachomius, Bede and Thomas Aquinas to the historical record but fails to clearly show the reader that all these examples specifically demonstrate the miracle being speaking or hearing in a foreign language.

  • Williams and Waldvogel limited their analysis of Church literature to those already translated into English. As noted above, most of the critical literature on the subject is not popularly available in English. They made a critical mistake to assume already existent English translations are fairly representative of the historic Christian doctrine.

  • Neither do they alert the reader to different historic movements, perceptions or doctrines that existed during early centuries of the Church that differed from their own. Consequently, they made no effort to resolve any historical tensions.

  • Williams’ and Waldvogel’s historical record regarded three forms of tongues as equally authentic: ecstatic, foreign languages and as a psychological phenomenon.(13) As found in The Charismatic Movement. Michael P. Hamilton ed. “A History of Speaking in Tongues and Related Gifts” by George H. Williams and Edith Valdvogel. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1975. Pg. 105 They aggregated all three together as one comprehensive unit without first establishing a historical precedent for doing such. These three streams could be independent of each other, each one introduced at different time periods, or simply one or more could be a wrong assumption.

  • They do briefly recognize Augustine and Gregory Nazianzus’ contribution but fail to recognize how powerful their opinions, and the ensuing controversies surrounding especially Nazianzus, influenced the Church for over a thousand years.

An analysis of the Patristic literature cited in the sourcebooks.

There are numerous references from the ecclesiastical writers on the Christian doctrine of tongues. From personally looking at and indexing approximately 135 volumes of Migne Patrologia Graeca, there are at least 34 passages that clearly define the gift of tongues, 51 more references that are strong indicators, 109 indirect references or parallels and Biblical citations about the tongues phenomena. There are 360 occurrences of keywords that can be analyzed for grammar, syntax and comparative work and 35 references to early Church liturgy that helps understand the context of tongues. This is a conservative tally, there are more that are coming to light as this study proceeds.

Out of the 34 or more passages covered by Ecclesiastical writers spanning over a one thousand year period, only seven have been popularly used in the primary sourcebooks. These seven are not the best choices regarding the topic at hand, but better fit in with the ideology that the Christian rite of tongues is a syncretization of Greek pagan practices — an effort to transform the Christian message into an international one.

Many of the other 34 can be found at the Gift of Tongues Project Intro page. Not all are available because they have yet to be analyzed, digitized, or translated.

The seven typically used to affirm tongues as an ecstatic utterance will be analyzed and compared to the historical corpus of literature available on the subject. They are going to be listed along with the relevant quote, and some commentary.

1. Irenaeous:

Against Haeresies I, 13, 3

It appears probable enough that this man possesses a demon as his familiar spirit, by means of whom he seems able to prophesy, and also enables as many as he counts worthy to be partakers of his Charis themselves to prophesy. He devotes himself especially to women, and those such as are well-bred, and elegantly attired, and of great wealth, whom he frequently seeks to draw after him, by addressing them in such seductive words as these: “I am eager to make you a partaker of my Charis, since the Father of all does continually behold your angel before His face. Now the place of your angel is among us: it behooves us to become one. Receive first from me and by me [the gift of] Charis. Adorn yourself as a bride who is expecting her bridegroom, that you may be what I am, and I what you are. Establish the germ of light in your nuptial chamber. Receive from me a spouse, and become receptive of him, while you are received by him. Behold Charis has descended upon you; open your mouth and prophesy.” On the woman replying, “I have never at any time prophesied, nor do I know how to prophesy;” then engaging, for the second time, in certain invocations, so as to astound his deluded victim, he says to her, “Open your mouth, speak whatsoever occurs to you, and you shall prophesy.” She then, vainly puffed up and elated by these words, and greatly excited in soul by the expectation that it is herself who is to prophesy, her heart beating violently [from emotion], reaches the requisite pitch of audacity, and idly as well as impudently utters some nonsense as it happens to occur to her, such as might be expected from one heated by an empty spirit. (Referring to this, one superior to me has observed, that the soul is both audacious and impudent when heated with empty air.) Henceforth she reckons herself a prophetess, and expresses her thanks to Marcus for having imparted to her of his own Charis. She then makes the effort to reward him, not only by the gift of her possessions (in which way he has collected a very large fortune), but also by yielding up to him her person, desiring in every way to be united to him, that she may become altogether one with him.(14)Against Heresies (Book I, Chapter 13) Translated by Alexander Roberts and William Rambaut. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight.

This passage is weak in establishing the nature and definition of tongues. It would make a stronger case for defining the office of prophecy. The Greek word for tongues, γλῶσσα, does not appear in the text.

The more relevant passage that ought to have been quoted is from Irenaeous’ Against Heresies text, Book V, Chapter 6:1:

For this reason does the apostle declare, “We speak wisdom among them that are perfect,” [1 Corinthians 2:6] terming those persons “perfect” who have received the Spirit of God, and who through the Spirit of God do speak in all languages, as he used Himself also to speak. In like manner we do also hear many brethren in the Church, who possess prophetic gifts, and who through the Spirit speak all kinds of languages, and bring to light for the general benefit the hidden things of men, and declare the mysteries of God, whom also the apostle terms “spiritual,” they being spiritual because they partake of the Spirit, and not because their flesh has been stripped off and taken away, and because they have become purely spiritual.(15) Translated by Alexander Roberts and William Rambaut. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. .

There are others too, not so strong as the above that allude to foreign languages such as Against Heresies Book 3, Chapter 12:1, and Book 3, Chapter 17:2. None of these are mentioned or wrestled with in the source-books when drawing up their conclusion of tongues as an ecstatic utterance.

2. Origen

This third century writer is the most quoted. Why he was chosen as the leading Church writer on the subject is questionable. It may be that he was one of the earlier writers on the subject, along with the fact that his works have such a high standard of both piety and intellectual foresight that many other writers shortly after him lacked. As demonstrated in my previous article, Origen on the Gift of Tongues, his contribution to the subject is very small compared to other writers such as Gregory Nazianzus or Augustine, Bishop of Hippo.

Against Celsius VII:8-9

” Then he goes on to say: “To these promises are added strange, fanatical, and quite unintelligible words, of which no rational person can find the meaning: for so dark are they, as to have no meaning at all; but they give occasion to every fool or impostor to apply them to suit his own purposes.”(16)Fuller documentation and citation can be found at my articleOrigen on the Gift of Tongues.

A number of authors use this passaged to correlate the historical gift of tongues with ecstasy. However, it does not have the word for tongues γλῶσσα in it. Nor does Origen even propose or intend this to be a didactic on tongues.

The following have used this to support their position: Frederick Farrar, The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Johannes Behm: Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Bauer: A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament.

Origen’s Commentary in the Epistle to the Romans is closer to what he believed, though it is seldom found or discussed in the major works.

Commentary in the Epistle to the Romans 1:13

Now one must ask how the Apostle is under obligation to the Greeks and the non-Greeks with the teachers of wisdom and the foolish ones. How is it then he heard from these very ones from which he was bound under obligation? I indeed believe thereupon him to have accomplished the obligation within the diverse nations that he received through the grace of the Holy Spirit [the ability] to speak in the languages of all the nations, even as he himself says, “I speak in tongues more than you all,” because then the knowledge of languages is not according to anything within himself, but he received on behalf of those which were about to be preached. The obligation is being brought forth in all those which he receives from God the knowledge of language.

C.M. Robeck Jr. in The New International Bible Encyclopedia wrote about Origen’s Commentary in the Epistle to the Romans 1:13 as an affirmation that he “viewed it as a bridge to cross-cultural preaching.”(17)Geoffrey W. Bromiley. The New International Bible Encyclopedia. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans. 1984? Vol. 4. “Tongues, Gift of” by C.M. Robeck Jr. Pg. 874 Romans 1:13, is a good argument, but he then cited 7:6 which is very vague. It is difficult to find the correlation with 7:6 and he may be stretching his argument here. This discussion once again can be found in more detail inside the previous article, Origen on the Gift of Tongues.

The most important Origen contribution has been overlooked by most authors. His position is defined in Against Celsus 8:37: “if I may so say, but one voice, expressing itself in different dialects.” This is the first time the concept of one voice — many dialects occurs in any Patristic writing. This tongues doctrine may be the earliest definition found by any writer on the subject. Gregory Nazianzus covered this one voice — many dialects position and caused more tension than resolution. This is a very serious oversight.

3. Eusebius

Ecclesiastical History V:16

There is said to be a certain village called Ardabau in that part of Mysia, which borders upon Phrygia. There first, they say, when Gratus was proconsul of Asia, a recent convert, Montanus by name, through his unquenchable desire for leadership, gave the adversary opportunity against him. And he became beside himself, and being suddenly in a sort of frenzy and ecstasy, he raved, and began to babble and utter strange things, prophesying in a manner contrary to the constant custom of the Church handed down by tradition from the beginning.(18)Translated by Arthur Cushman McGiffert. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 1. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1890.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight.

Almost all authors who trace tongues as an ecstatic utterance ultimately arrive at this passage for validation. The problem with this passage is twofold. Number one, the greek word for tongues, γλῶσσα, does not appear, and secondly Eusebius does not make any correlation between the Montanist ecstasy and the gift of tongues. It is extrapolated by modern researchers.

If the higher criticists were more familiar with ancient church writings, they would have been able to build a stronger case around the Donatists than the Montanists (see An Analysis of Augustine on Tongues and the Donatists for details). However, the Donatists were not even mentioned in any source work.

This whole controversy is an important one. It is covered in more detail here: A Critical Look at Tongues and Montanism.

4. Tertullian

Against Marcionem V: 8

Let Marcion then exhibit, as gifts of his god, some prophets, such as have not spoken by human sense, but with the Spirit of God, such as have both predicted things to come, and have made manifest the secrets of the heart; let him produce a psalm, a vision, a prayer – only let it be by the Spirit, in an ecstasy, that is, in a rapture, whenever an interpretation of tongues has occurred to him; let him show to me also, that any woman of boastful tongue in his community has ever prophesied from among those specially holy sisters of his.(19)Translated by Peter Holmes. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 3. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight.

This is the first time the Greek word γλῶσσα is used in the primary proof-texts of tongues as ecstasy. It is an obscure passage though. It does not give enough information to build an argument.

Irenaeous, Origen, Eusebius and Tertullian, these four are the most referenced and earliest citations on the gift of tongues. These Church writers are all first cited together in August Neander’s 1832 publication Geschichte der Pflanzung und Leitung der christlichen Kirche durch die Apostel later translated into English as History of the Planting and training of the Christian Church by the Apostles.(20)August Neander. History of the Planting and training of the Christian Church by the Apostles. Translated by J.E. Ryland. New York: Leavitt, Trow. 1847. Pg. 24 As outlined earlier in A History of Glossolalia: Origins Neander is one of the leading founders of the modern definition. The Patristic construct that he promoted has not been analyzed or changed much since his publishing in the mid 1800s.

5. Epiphanius, Bishop of Salamis

PKE Feine’s account found in the The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge is the only modern author found to use Epiphanius’ account as validation for tongues as ecstasy.

Against Haeresies XlVIII: 4 (MPG: Vol. 41. Col. 861ff)

There is no translation given because the subject matter does not make a compelling argument and it is a waste of resources and time to translate from the Greek into English.

It is difficult to pin-point exactly why this passage was referenced in relation to the gift of tongues. Tongues is not directly referenced and it is a problem to even find the inference. The greek key-word γλῶσσα is not used in this passage, nor any noun of the equivalent meaning. The word ecstasy is located but only in relation to prophecy.

He described the Montanist practice of ecstatic utterance from Epiphanius’ book, Against Heresies (Adversus Haereses XLVIII:4) to strengthen his argument but then neglected to mention Epiphanius’ direct discourse on Pentecost (Adversus Haereses XXXIX) and incredible description of the Corinthian tongues (Adversus Haereses XLII) — a place where Epiphanius argued that the conflict in Corinth was about ethnic problems between Attic, Aeolic and Doric Greeks. Both of these passages, which the writer ignored, seriously erodes his argument of tongues as an ecstatic utterance relative to the Greek culture of the time. Feine also quoted the Montanist practice from Eusebius’ book, Ecclesiastical History, where the term γλῶσσα does not occur.

The discussion of Epiphanius on the tongues of Corinth, Adversus Haereses XLII, omitted by all the source-books, can be found here: Epiphanius on the Problem Tongues of Corinth.

6. John Chrysostom

Homily 29 on I First Corinthians

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant. You know that when you were Gentiles, you were led away unto those dumb idols, howsoever ye might be led.

This whole place is very obscure: but the obscurity is produced by our ignorance of the facts referred to and by their cessation, being such as then used to occur but now no longer take place. And why do they not happen now? Why look now, the cause too of the obscurity has produced us again another question: namely, why did they then happen, and now do so no more?(21) Translated by Talbot W. Chambers. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 12. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1889.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. .

This passage has been utilized and interpreted many ways. It is not used by the majority of the source books, but does exist in the more conservative religious publications. Some have used it to mean the gift had died in the earliest ages of Christianity. Others have interpreted it to mean that the institutional Church quelched it, and later it was re-introduced by the Montanist movement.

The utilization of Chrysostom’s statement makes it appear as a final event that already happened in history and is not bound to be repeated again.

Unfortunately, the majority of publications are being too selective here. He wrote more on this subject that gives some insights.

It is clear from reading Chrysostom’s Homilies on I Corinthians, especially 29-36 that he believed it was speaking in foreign languages. There is no doubt. For example he wrote in Homily 35:

There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and no kind is without signification:” i.e., so many tongues, so many voices of Scythians, Thracians, Romans, Persians, Moors, Indians, Egyptians, innumerable other nations.(22) Translated by Talbot W. Chambers. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 12. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1889.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. .

One of the most important contributions that Chrysostom wrote which reflected the mood and theological position of his era has been left out in any publication. It is found in Homily 35 in his Homilies on I Corinthians:

At this point he makes a comparison between the gifts, and lowers that of the tongues, showing it to be neither altogether useless, nor very profitable by itself. For in fact they were greatly puffed up on account of this, because the gift was considered to be a great one. And it was thought great because the Apostles received it first, and with so great display; it was not however therefore to be esteemed above all the others. Wherefore then did the Apostles receive it before the rest? Because they were to go abroad every where. And as in the time of building the tower the one tongue was divided into many; so then the many tongues frequently met in one man, and the same person used to discourse both in the Persian, and the Roman, and the Indian, and many other tongues, the Spirit sounding within him: and the gift was called the gift of tongues because he could all at once speak various languages.(23) Translated by Talbot W. Chambers. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 12. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1889.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. .

Here Chrysostom outlined a framework to the miracle of tongues very similar to that of Origen, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Augustine Bishop of Hippo asserted. The idea of tongues as a supernatural endowment of foreign language(s) unknown beforehand by the speaker.

There may be more in Chrysostom’s writings on the subject too. He has not been covered in any detail yet in the Gift of Tongues Project. This is just a preliminary finding.

Whether it continued or ceased in the Church is a different question than the nature and definition of tongues.

7. Clement of Alexandria

Stromata I:431:1?

Plato attributes a dialect also to the gods, forming this conjecture mainly from dreams and oracles, and especially from demoniacs, who do not speak their own language or dialect, but that of the demons who have taken possession of them. He thinks also that the irrational creatures have dialects, which those that belong to the same genus understand.(24) Translated by William Wilson. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. .

This early Church writer is quoted only occasionally to prove that the miracle of tongues was an ecstatic utterance.

The Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament used this citation to support the claim of tongues as an ecstatic utterance.(25) Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament. Horst Blatz, Gerhard Schneider ed. USA:William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1990. Pg. 253 It is difficult to find the actual quote due to different numbering and chapter conventions between English translations. The chapter and verse subdivision I:431:1 is not typical and cannot be confirmed. Conjecture postulates that it would likely be 1:2 in the English translation of the Ante-Nicene Fathers and this is the quote given above.

Clement made no allusion or direct correlation between Plato’s discourse and that of the miracle of tongues in the Bible.

The above seven are the main Ecclesiastical citations used by most of the major books on defining the gift of tongues. There are other seldom used citations such as the Testament of Job,(26)I can’t find the exact reference but from reading suppose it it this: “And she sang angelic hymns in the voice of angels, and she chanted forth the angelic praise of God while dancing.”The Testament of Job11:21 Justyn Martyr(27)”“For the prophetical gifts remain with us, even to the present time.”ANF01. The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, Cyprian, Hippolytus(28)http://books.google.ca/books?id=9nJLAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA244&lpg=PA244&dq=hippolytus+gift+of+tongues&source=bl&ots=97_YzdbC7S&sig=7bSfGBTicBXs4maI52BQUQCV5DU&hl=en&ei=uaQCTf23EMyVnweEqsnlDQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=9&ved=0CDwQ6AEwCA#v=onepage&q=tongues&f=false, Novatian(29)”This is He who places prophets in the Church, instructs teachers, directs tongues, gives powers and healings, does wonderful works, offers discrimination of spirits, affords powers of government, suggests counsels, and orders and arranges whatever other gifts there are of charismata; and thus make the Lord’s Church everywhere, and in all, perfected and completed.”ANF05. Fathers of the Third Century: Hippolytus. Pg. 641, a certain Dionysius,(30)It is mentioned by Ronald A. Kidd in his Charismatic Gifts in the Early Church. Massachusetts: Hendrickson. 1984. Pg. 81 but I haven’t been able to validate where exactly he quoted from. and Firmilian,(31)Once again it is mentioned by Ronald A. Kidd in his Charismatic Gifts in the Early Church. Massachusetts: Hendrickson. 1984. Pg. 83 but I haven’t been able to validate where exactly he quoted from. but these have not been repetitively used within scholastic circles such as the ones stated above. They offer no further contribution to the nature and definition of tongues but all, except for the Testament of Job, are more aimed at the continuance or cessation of the miraculous in the Church.

Hilary of Poitiers is referred to but his position is under-appreciated: “And we learn that all this prophecy was fulfilled in the case of the Apostles, when, after the sending of the Holy Spirit, they all spoke with the tongues of the Gentiles.”(32)as found in On the TrinityVIII:5, Pg. 144. He clearly defined the miracle as foreign languages but few have seriously consulted his position.

Patristic citations severely under-reported.

In comparing what works are available and what have been cited in the source-books, it has been found that the majority of church writings available are severely under-utilized, and the ones that are chosen are very selective and weak. Most of the important ones cited in major dictionaries do not even contain the word γλῶσσα in it. This is what has led to the current theological dilemma.

Why have the ancient Church records been neglected on this subject?

There is a number of reasons why patristics and ecclesiastical writings have been ignored within major source-books on this subject. One of the reasons is the rejection of patristics as a valid source of history. There was once a time where Patristic studies had an elevated status, but for various reasons, had to be dethroned. Most of the primary source books come from an era that reflects this. This is outside the scope of this article. More on this can be found at The Historical Rejection of Patristics and its Legacy, which documents the rise of the rationalist movement and the de-authorization of Patristics and Ecclesiastical writings.

The second reason is because there are so few that have access to, or knowledge of the Church Fathers in Latin or Greek. Access to ecclesiastical writings have always been very limited until the advent of digital technologies. It would be a very difficult task to sew together the various writers manually. The last ten years have opened up the availability of Church writers in a way unheard of in the vestibules of history. This subject can be reopened under a new light.

Another problem is the lack of Protestant scholars trained in patristics. The contemporary practice and debate of the tongues doctrine is largely restricted to a number of protestant sects — it hardly dints the catholic psyche. There are few, if any, Protestants, especially those of the the gifts of the spirit persuasion that are trained in Latin or Greek. The contemporary catholic scholars on the other hand, many who have the expertise, have had little interest in the subject, because it has little impact on their communities. This has also added to the contemporary tension on the christian doctrine of tongues.

For further reading:

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