Now that's interesting!
Apparently there was a prediction running around in heathen circles in
St Augustine's time to the effect that Christianity would last for 365
years and then come to an end. In order to disprove this prediction,
Augustine shows that the Christian church has, in fact, been around for
longer than 365 years. He first argues that the church should be dated
from the year of Christ's birth, but then picks on the founding of the
church after the Day of Pentecost.
"We must still inquire when the three hundred and sixty-five years must
be completed, counting from that year. Now Christ died when the Gemini
were consuls, on the eighth day before the kalends of April."
gives a list of all the consuls, from 500 BC onwards and the only year I
have found in the likely range (ie. AD 20-40) is the year AD 29 when C.
Fufius Geminus and L. Rubellius Geminus were consuls.
That is an interesting date. Jesus was "about thirty years of age" when
He was baptised and it is believed that His ministry lasted 3.5 years,
so if Jesus was crucified in AD 29, that means that He was born in
either 6 or 5 BC.
We know that He cannot have been born any later than 4 BC because that
was the year Herod the Great died. It is unlikely that He was born in 4
BC because when the wise men turned up and Herod decided to kill the
Innocent in Bethlehem, he specified "two years old or younger",
indicating - assuming that the massacre at Bethlehem was shortly before
the old monster died - that the time when the star appeared to the magi
must have been in 6 or 5 BC.
Unfortunately Augustine does not give his source for the statement that
Jesus died in the year when the Gemini were consuls, so it is possible
that he is mistaken.
The "Res Gestae" erected by Augustus in various locations list three
dates when an empire-wide census was conducted. These were 28 BC, 8 BC
and AD 14. The first and last are clearly impossible, which means that
the census that affected Joseph and Mary must be the 8 BC one.
The only trouble is that the legate of Syria between 9 BC and 7 BC was
Gaius Sentius Saturninus. However he was a bit too friendly with Herod
and it has been suggested that he delayed the execution of the census to
save embarrassing Herod - indeed, he may have prevaricated to the extent
that Qurinius was sent out to implement it.
Tertullian states that the census happened under Gaius Sentius
Saturninus. Luke, who is normally careful to give people their proper
titles, does not call Qurinius "legate" of Syria but "hegemon", which
may point to some sort of special power granted to him during the census.
Just to muddy the waters still further, Eusebius states the "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."
Unfortunately, depending on what Eusebius thought of as the event which
marked the start of Augustus' reign, the date he gives is either 2 BC or
1 BC, dates which are clearly impossible as Herod was cold in his coffin
I just wish the Luke had used the Olympiad method of dating in his
biography of Jesus.
Kendall K. Down