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(3760 - 2080 BCE)
(2080 - 1240 BCE)
(1240 - 400 BCE)
(400 BCE - 440 CE)
(440 - 1280 CE)
(1280 - 2120 CE)
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Antigonus and the Parthians
(3720 AM - 40 BCE)
(3717 AM - 37 BCE)
Earthquake in Judea
(3729 AM - 31 BCE)
The Zugot Hillel and Shammai
(3729 AM - 31 BCE)
Death of Hyrcanus
(3730 AM - 30 BCE)
Death of Mariamne and Alexandra
(3731 AM - 29 BCE)
Reconstruction of the Second Temple
(3750 AM - 10 BCE)
The stele of Clermont-Ganneau
Execution of Herod's sons
(3753 AM - 7 BCE)
Birth of Jesus
(3756 AM - 4 BCE)
Death of Herod
(3757 AM - 4 BCE)
Dispute over Herod's succession
(3758 AM - 2 BCE)
Judea becomes Roman Province
(3766 AM - 6 CE)
Death of Hillel
(3769 AM - 9 CE)
Simeon ben Hillel
(3770 AM - 10 CE)
(3780 AM - 20 CE)
(3786 AM - 26 CE)
"I am Gabriel" stone
(3790 AM - 30 CE)
The Sanhedrin leaves the Temple
(3790 AM - 30 CE)
John the Baptist
(3792 AM - 32 CE)
Crucifixion of Jesus
(3793 AM - 33 CE)
Previous << Generation 32 >> Next
Hebrew years 3720 to 3840 (40 BCE - 80 CE)
~~~ Part I ~~~ Part II ~~~ Part III ~~~ Part IV ~~~ Part V ~~~
When Octavian ruled from Rome, Antony shared power and ruled over the Eastern provinces from Alexandria where he started a liaison with Cleopatra. In Spring 40 BCE, he returned to Rome to settle the political affairs and married Octavian’s sister. This is when the quarrel between Antony and Octavian started.
Meanwhile, unrest began in Judea when Antigonus, son of Aristobulus II, made an alliance with the Parthians to overthrow Hyrcanus II and Herod son of Antipater, the allies of Rome. The alliance succeeded when the Parthians conquered Jerusalem in 40 BCE, and it resulted in Antigonus ruling over Judea, while Hyrcanus II was emprisoned then exiled to Babylon: As of Herod, he first fled to a fortress south from Jerusalem (where he later built for himself a palace, Herodion, and nearly got captured. He had to flee again by night to a more defensible fortress in the Judean desert, Masada. There he left his family with a garrison and fled to Rome to ask for support from Octavian. His family succeeded to remain in Masada until his return three years later. In Rome, Herod was made King of the Jews by the Roman Senate.
These traumatic moments for Herod were never forgotten: he later made of Masada a bigger abode, with palaces and water reservoirs that would enable him and his royal entourage to sustain an eventual prolonged siege in case of need. As of Herodion, he named the new fortress after his own name and prepared it for his final resting place.
After about 3 years in Rome, Herod returned to the region to reconquer Jerusalem while Antony engaged in a campaign against the Parthians with an army mostly composed of foreign allies, because Octavian would not send him any Roman troop. This campaign failed and Antony retreated to Egypt. He however left the Roman part of his army to help Herod regain Judea. Antigonus retreated to Jerusalem and prepared for a long siege. Finally Herod, helped by the Roman soldiers, succeeded to take over the city, and had great difficulty to prevent the killing of civilians by the Romans and their intent to plunder the Temple. But Herod succeeded to put a stop to it.
As of Antigonus, he was taken prisoner and brought to Egypt where Antony slew him (also in 37 BCE), thus putting an end to the Hasmonean dynasty that had lasted about 126 years, from the death of Antiochus Epiphanes and the rise of Judah Maccabee.
The road was paved for Herod to become the sole ruler over the Jewish nation. But he was hated by the people. He thought to be accepted by the Jewish people by marrying Mariamne, the last Hasmonean princess, daughter of Alexander (son of Aristobulus II) and Alexandra (daughter of Hyrcanus II).
He [Herod] employed himself in advancing the dignities, in kindnesses and promotions, of those who were well inclined to him and obeyed his will. He also exerted himself in destroying those persons, together with their families, and in plundering their cattle and their goods, who had opposed him, furnishing aid against him. And he oppressed persons, taking away their property, and despoiling all those who had shaken off obedience to the Jews; and slew those who resisted him, and plundered their goods. Also he made an agreement with all who were obedient to him, that they should pay him money. He also stationed guards at the gates of the Holy House, who might search those who went out, and take whatever gold or silver they should find on any one, and bring it to him. He also ordered the coffins of the dead to be searched; and whatever money any person might endeavour to carry out by stratagem, the same to be taken. And he heaped together so much money as none of the kings of the second house had amassed. --- Maccabees, Book V, 54:2-8
Through deceipt, Herod also got rid in 35 BCE of the popular 16 years old brother of his wife Mariamne, Aristobulus III, by fear that he may one day rise to power against him. But one obstacle remained: Hyrcanus II, the former master of Herod's father Antipater, was still alive in Babylon, captive of the Parthians. Although Antigonus had cut his ear so that he could not be High Priest again, he represented a threat to Herod’s legitimacy to power. Nonetheless Herod sought to attract some aristocracy back into Jerusalem, so he granted special conditions to rich Jews of Babylon to come and settle in Jerusalem. It is from this time that the Upper City of Jerusalem was constructed with large mansions for this Jewish aristocracy from Babylon (the excavations called "Herodian Quarter" in the present-day Jewish Quarter show the remains of these spectacular mansions). Some of these newcomers were of Levite descent, such as the family Kathros mentioned in the Talmud (their house has been found in Jerusalem, and is now the "Burned House" museum), who employed themselves in the Temple service until its destruction by the Romans. Beside rich houses, the new population also brought from Babylon the fashion of spectacular mausoleum as burial sites, as witnessed by those that remained in the Kidron Valley (such as the so-called Absalom Tomb, Zechariah Tomb and Tomb of Bnei-Hezir). Herod himself adopted this sort of mausoleum for his tomb.
In Herod’s court however, Alexandra, the mother of Aristobulus and Mariamne, thus also the mother-in-law of Herod, hated the king for what he had done to her son Aristobulus III. She conspired with Cleopatra and others to get rid of Herod, but failed several times.
Judea experienced a powerful earthquake in year 31 BCE that killed tens of thousands of people:
And there happened a great earthquake in the land of Judah, such as had not occurred since the time of king Harbah [Uzziah], in which a great number of men and of animals was destroyed. And this alarmed Herod much, and caused him great fear, and broke down his spirit. He therefore took counsel with the elders of Judah about making an agreement with all nations round about them; designing peace, and tranquillity, and the removal of wars and bloodshed. He sent also ambassadors on these matters to the surrounding nations, all of whom embraced the peace to which he had invited them, except the king of the Arabians who ordered the ambassadors whom Herod had sent to him to be put to death, for he supposed that Herod had done this because his men had been destroyed in the earthquake, and therefore, being weakened, he had turned himself to making peace. Wherefore he resolved to go to war with Herod; and having collected a large and wellprovided army, he marched against him. --- Maccabees, Book V, 56:18-22 Outraged by the proceedings of killing ambassadors, Herod raised an angry Jewish army who utterly defeated the Arabian army.
Meanwhile, in the Roman Empire, the war began between Octavian and Antony in 31 BCE. After the naval battle of Actium in that year, Antony fled to Egypt with Cleopatra. In 30 BCE, Octavian invaded Egypt and Antony committed suicide. Cleopatra managed to also take her life when she realised she would not be allowed on the throne again. And Octavian put Ptolemy XV “Cesarion”, the son she had with Julius Caesar, to death, but he spared the children she had with Antony.
The death of Cleopatra, Jean-André Rixens, 1874 (Musée des Augustins, Toulouse)
After Shemaiah's death, the role of nassi was left vacant during a few years, owing to the political troubles of the nation. Then, in 31 BCE, when Herod finally stabilized his power over the nation, Hillel and Shammai were elected as nassi and av beth din at the head of the Sanhedrin. Hillel was born in 110 BCE in Babylonia and converted to Judaism at the age of 40. He went to Judea to live a Jewish spiritual life and spent the next 40 years in study. But he was poor when he arrived to Judea and could barely afford to pay for his learning:
It was reported about Hillel the Elder that every day he used to work and earn one tropaik, half of which he would give to the guard at the House of Learning, the other half being spent for his food and for that of his family. One day he found nothing to earn and the guard at the House of Learning would not permit him to enter. He climbed up and sat upon the window [on the roof], to hear the words of the living God from the mouth of Shemaiah and Abtalion. They say, that day was the eve of Sabbath in the winter solstice and snow fell down upon him from heaven. When the dawn rose, Shemaiah said to Abtalion: Brother Abtalion, on every day this house is light and today it is dark, is it perhaps a cloudy day. They looked up and saw the figure of a man in the window. They went up and found him covered by three cubits of snow. They removed him, bathed and anointed him and placed him opposite the fire and they said: This man deserves that the Sabbath be profaned on his behalf. --- Talmud, Yoma, 35b
At the age of 80, he was one of the most important religious leader and had many disciples, commonly called the House of Hillel. This is when he was then chosen as nassi, the Head of the Sanhedrin. Hillel's teachings were generally more liberal than the more stricter Shammai who also had many disciples united as the House of Shammai. Together they analysed issues of the commandments and greatly contributed to the redaction of the Mishna. They were the last of the period called the Zugot (the “pairs”). In most cases, the ruling from Hillel took precedence over the one from Shammai, even if the later was righter according to the strict Scripture. Or, in many cases, the two diverging opinions were mentioned in the Talmud with no definite solution. Here is one argument that Shammai finally won, a rare occasion caused by events that guided the debate:
It has been taught: Beth Hillel [the House of Hillel] said to Beth Shammai: according to you, if one ate at the top of the Temple Mount and forgot and descended without having said grace [he forgot so the mistake was accidental], he should return to the top of the Temple Mount and say grace? Beth Shammai replied to Beth Hillel: According to you, if one forgot a purse at the top of the Temple Mount, is he not to go up and get it? And if he will ascend for his own sake, surely he should do so all the more for the honour of Heaven! There were once two disciples who omitted to say grace. One who did it accidentally followed the rule of Beth Shammai and found a purse of gold, while the other who did it purposely [being in a hurry going somewhere else] followed the rule of Beth Hillel, and he was eaten by a lion. --- Talmud, Berachot, 53b
The character of the two religious leaders was also compared to the advantage of Hillel:
Our Rabbis taught: A man should always be gentle like Hillel, and not impatient like Shammai. It once happened that two men made a wager with each other, saying, He who goes and makes Hillel angry shall receive four hundred zuz. Said one, ‘I will go and incense him.’ That day was the Sabbath eve, and Hillel was washing his head. He went, passed by the door of his house, and called out, ‘Is Hillel here, is Hillel here?’ Thereupon he robed and went out to him, saying, ‘My son, what do you require?’ ‘I have a question to ask,’ said he. ‘Ask, my son,’ he prompted. Thereupon he asked: ‘Why are the heads of the Babylonians round? ‘My son, you have asked a great question,’ replied he: ‘because they have no skillful midwives.’ He departed, tarried a while, returned, and called out, ‘Is Hillel here; is Hillel here?’ He robed and went out to him, saying, ‘My son, what do you require?’ ‘I have a question to ask,’ said he. ‘Ask, my son,’ he prompted. Thereupon he asked: ‘Why are the eyes of the Palmyreans bleared?’ ‘My son, you have asked a great question, replied he: ‘because they live in sandy places.’ He departed, tarried a while, returned, and called out, ‘Is Hillel here; is Hillel here?’ He robed and went out to him, saying, ‘My son, what do you require?’ ‘I have a question to ask,’ said he. ‘Ask, my son,’ he prompted. He asked, ‘Why are the feet of the Africans wide?’ ‘My son, you have asked a great question,’ said he; ‘because they live in watery marshes.’ ‘I have many questions to ask,’ said he, ‘but fear that you may become angry.’ Thereupon he robed, sat before him and said, ‘Ask all the questions you have to ask,’ ‘Are you the Hillel who is called the Nasi of Israel?’ ‘Yes,’ he replied. ‘If that is you,’ he retorted, may there not be many like you in Israel. ‘ ‘ Why, my son?’ queried he. ‘Because I have lost four hundred zuz through you,’ complained he. ‘Be careful of your moods,’ he answered. ‘Hillel is worth it that you should lose four hundred zuz and yet another four hundred zuz through him, yet Hillel shall not lose his temper.’ --- Talmud, Shabbat, 30b-31a
The preference for Hillel is also mentioned in the following anecdote about his humble character:
R. Abba stated in the name of Samuel: For three years there was a dispute between Beth Shammai and Beth Hillel, the former asserting, ‘The halachah is in agreement with our views’ and the latter contending, ‘The halachah is in agreement with our views’. Then a bath kol issued announcing, ‘[The utterances of] both are the words of the living God, but the halachah is in agreement with the rulings of Beth Hillel’. Since, however, both are the words of the living God’ what was it that entitled Beth Hillel to have the halachah fixed in agreement with their rulings? Because they were kindly and modest, they studied their own rulings and those of Beth Shammai, and were even so [humble] as to mention the words of Beth Shammai before theirs. --- Talmud, Eiruvin, 13b
Herod offered to Hyrcanus to return to Jerusalem with the honours. Despite the words of caution expressed to him by the Babylonian Jews where he had found shelter during his political captiity, and because he was was old and longed to be back to Jerusalem, Hyrcanus ignored the warnings and returned to Judea. As he could not be High Priest again, having being mutilated in the ear by his nephew Antigonus, Herod offered him a seat of the state, and the situation lasted some years with no trouble.
But in 30 BCE, Herod unveiled an attempt of Hyrcanus to flee from Jerusalem with the help of the king of the Nabateans. After defeating them, Herold confounded Hyrcanus with the proofs he had against him and had him beheaded in 30 BCE for treason. Hyrcanus was 80 years old when he met his death.
The biggest threat for Herod was now Octavian who knew that the King of the Jews had been a supporter of Antony and even assisted Antony against him during the Roman civil war. But after their meeting in Egypt, Octavian forgave Herod on the principle that he had only done his duty towards an ally, and that Antony had deceived him on advice of Cleopatra. Octavian also appreciated that Herod defeated the Nabateans alone, which were also enemies of Rome. The Roman emperor further enlarged Herod’s realm by giving him back all the territories that Antony had taken away from Judea to give to Cleopatra. And Rome granted him even more, so Herod reigned over a larger kingdom than any of the Hasmonean kings ever conquered. Furthermore he was confirmed as Friend of the Roman People, which is a very rare distinction. As a result he was no longer due to provide money and pay tax duties to Rome ! This enabled Herod to collect a lot of money and start a program of building the country. He built in Judea of course, but also in other Roman provinces (such as Cyprus) and even in Rome ! In Judea, one of his major projects was the construction of a new important harbour, to compete in maritime trade against the Phoenician harbour of Tyre in the north and the Egyptian harbour of Alexandria in the south: this project was the city harbour of Caesaria, named after the Caesar of Rome. And in order to make the new harbour attractive to ships and their crews, he built the city with an hippodrome for games, public facilities, and so on.
Before going to Egypt to meet with Octavian, and thinking that he may meet his death there, Herod had given secret orders to execute his wife Mariamne and her mother Alexandra, the last survivors of the Hasmonean dynasty, should he not come back alive. These orders came to be known to Mariamne who then hated her husband Herod more than ever. And he could not reconcile the matter with her after he came back from Egypt. Herod’s sister, the wicked Salome who hated Mariamne, took this opportunity to make false claims that Mariamne intended to poison her husband, and she got her brother's approval to have her executed without trial.
Mariamne and Herod, John William Waterhouse, 1887
After Mariamne’s death, her mother Alexandra was certain that her turn would come next. She conspired against Herod and he came to know it. He then had her executed as well:
Now Herod had begotten of her [Mariamne] two sons, namely, Alexander and Aristobulus, who, when their mother was slain, were living at Rome for he had sent them thither, to learn the literature and language of the Romans. Afterwards, Herod repented that he had killed his wife and he was affected with grief to that degree on account of her death, that by it he contracted a disease, of which he had nearly died. --- Maccabees, Book V, 58:20-21
Herod and his dynasty
The two sons of Herod and Mariamne returned to Jerusalem from Rome as soon as they learned about their mother’s execution.
Alexander was married to the daughter of Archelaus, king of Cappadocia in Macedonia, and Aristobulus was married to Bernice, Salome’s daughter. But Herod also had another son called Antipater, named after his father, whom he had from a first wife, before Mariamne. Unsure about his two sons’ feelings after the execution of their mother, Herod got closer to his elder son Antipater and made known his intent to have him as his successor. From this moment, Antipater endeavoured to convince Herod to execute his two other sons, making up accusations that they conspired against both Herod and Antipater in order to regain the throne to their noble family of Hasmoneans.
The Second Temple, completed in 516 BCE, had not undergone any restoration work for almost 500 years. In 20 BCE, Herod issued a proposal to have it rebuilt entirely. This was met with suscipions that the king wanted to destroy the Temple and not even rebuild a new one. The work however started and was completed in about 10 years to the magnificence known to archaeologists today. Additional construction works on the Temple Mount actually continued for many years after Herod's death.
The Second Temple rebuilt by Herod in 19-10 BCE
A certain number of artifacts have been discovered over the past 150 years about the Temple built by King Herod. One of them was found by French archaeologists Clermont-Ganneau in the early 1870's when he examined the wall of a Muslim construction near the Temple Mount. This construction used a stone taken from the Temple of the time of Herod. How do we know this? Because the stone bears the following inscription in Greek, thus it was destined to the Gentiles to be read:
No foreigner may enter within the tryphactos [balustrade] or the peribole [enclosure] around the hieron [sanctuary]. Whoever is caught [trespassing], can put the blame [on himself] for the death which will follow.--- Clermont-Ganneau, Une stèle du Temple de Jérusalem, Revue Archéologique, 1872, No. 23, pp. 214-234
This was an important finding because, as Clermont-Ganneau explained, this warning was put around the Temple Mount at several locations. And indeed other such warning steles have been found over the years after the French archaeologist's discovery. Josephus mentioned that the warnings were inscribed in both Greek and Latin but only Greek ones have been found thus far. One of the references in Josephus' writings is as follows:
Thus was the first enclosure. In the midst of which, and not far from it, was the second, to be gone up to by a few steps: this was encompassed by a stone wall for a partition, with an inscription, which forbade any foreigner to go in under pain of death.--- Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, book XV, 11:5 (XV, 410)
How Clermont-Ganneau found the stele
Around 12 BCE, Herod travelled to Rome with his son Alexander for a visit to Octavian, who was now known as Emperor Augustus. As he started to have some serious illness, he accused his son in front of the Roman leader of intent to kill him, which Alexander vehemently denied. Augustus rebuked Herod's suspicions and convinced him to make peace with his son. So when he returned to Jerusalem, Herod declared to the Elders that all his three sons would have equal authority. Antipater became angry at seeing his inheritance being at stake but he hid his feelings. After a couple of years, in 9 BCE, he designed a plan with his uncle, Herod’s brother Pheroras, of false accusation that the two sons wanted to murder the king. They were thrown into jail. But Alexander’s father-in-law, King Archelaus, came to Jerusalem to investigate the matter and unveiled the plot. He nonetheless succeeded to avoid punishment against Pheroras, in exchange of a full testimonial. In the end, all Herod’s family was reconciled, at least in appearance because Antipater still had in mind to get rid of his half brothers.
In 7 BCE an evil man called Gaius Julius Eurycles, a Spartan who had Roman citizenship, came to Judea and became friend with Herod. Seizing the opportunity of this friendship, Antipater paid him to insinuate to Herod that his son Alexander was again plotting to murder him. This time the plot could not easily be denounced and both Alexander and his brother Aristobulus were executed in the town of Sebaste (today the town of Sebastia which was the old capital Samaria) and buried in the fort of Alexandrium, which was built by their ancestor Alexander Jannai (Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, book 16, 11:7).
Ruins of the Fort Alexandrium, in Jebel al-Melekh
Alexander’s wife, Glaphyra, was sent back to her father to Armenia but Herod kept his two grandsons, Alexander’s sons, who remained with him until his death. He also tried to pre-arrange their marriage so that they would keep a part of their dead father’s inheritance. But Antipater, fearing that these fatherless sons would eventually rise against him, and hate him for what he had done to their fathers, endeavoured to change the plans that the ageing Herod had wished (Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, book 17, 1:2).
When Pheroras died, Herod suspected that he had been poisoned by his wife, who was then disgraced from the king’s court. But investigations led him to discover that the conspiration of poisoning was aiming at his own person, and was directed by his own son Antipater who, at the time, was travelling to Rome. Antipater chose the timing of this travel in order to coincide with Herod’s death so that no suscipion would rise against him. Upon his return from Rome, Antipater was tried against the accusation of parricide. Herod, disappointed by the actions of his heir and the indirect role of two of his other sons, Archelaus and Philip, chose his youngest son, Antipas, as the new heir. Antipas was the son of a Samaritan wife of Herod. He later married Herodias, the daughter of Aristobulus who was first married to Philip, one of the disgraced sons of Herod. At the time, Herod was in his 70’s, according to Josephus (Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, book 17, 146).
In the last years of his life, Herod was also subject to the hatred and misunderstanding from his people, in particular of the religious sects who found that the changes he made to the Second Temple were not in accordance with the Jewish Law. Herod put on trial two of their religious leaders, Judas and Matthias, who led a sedition:
But the people, on account of Herod's barbarous temper, and for fear he should be so cruel and to inflict punishment on them, said what was done [by the two accused men] was done without their approbation, and that it seemed to them that the actors might well be punished for what they had done. But as for Herod, he dealt more mildly with others [of the assembly] but he deprived Matthias of the high priesthood, as in part an occasion of this action, and made Joazar, who was Matthias's wife's brother, high priest in his stead. Now it happened, that during the time of the high priesthood of this Matthias, there was another person made high priest for a single day, that very day which the Jews observed as a fast. The occasion was this: This Matthias the high priest, on the night before that day when the fast was to be celebrated, seemed, in a dream, to have conversation with his wife; and because he could not officiate himself on that account, Joseph, the son of Ellemus, his kinsman, assisted him in that sacred office. But Herod deprived this Matthias of the high priesthood, and burnt the other Matthias, who had raised the sedition, with his companions, alive. And that very night there was an eclipse of the moon. --- Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, book 17, 164
Herod spent most of his last years in the winter palace that he built lavishly at the end of the Wadi Qelt, on the Western side of Jericho.
The mention of the lunar eclipse by Josephus is important as there were just a few of such occurences in the end of the reign of Herod. The mention of the High Priest and the day of fast are equally important details as they leave the option that this lunar eclipse was probably the one which occurred on the 15th September, 4 BCE, in the month of Tishri, and not in the month of Adar or Nisan as it is generally thought. The fast would have been the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. On that month of Tishri, the Hebrew year just changed from 3756 to 3757.
Some time before this New Hebrew year, Herod’s health had declined very rapidly. He moved to the region of the Dead Sea, in his palace of Jericho, hoping to heal his ailment which caused him great pains. He was also angry about the idea that, when he will die, the nation will actually be joyful and will not mourn him. So he gave an extraordinary order:
Now any one may easily discover the temper of this man's mind, which not only took pleasure in doing what he had done formerly against his relations, out of the love of life, but by those commands of his which savored of no humanity; since he took care, when he was departing out of this life, that the whole nation should be put into mourning, and indeed made desolate of their dearest kindred, when he gave order that one out of every family should be slain, although they had done nothing that was unjust, or that was against him, nor were they accused of any other crimes; while it is usual for those who have any regard to virtue to lay aside their hatred at such a time, even with respect to those they justly esteemed their enemies. --- Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, book 17, 180
The Gospels of Luke and Matthew both place the birth of Jesus during the reign of Herod. As it is later attested that Jesus died in his 30’s, this would mean that he was born in the last year(s) of Herod. We can consider that his parents fled to Egypt at the time of the above decree to slain one member of each family, a circumstance which reminds the Christian story called the Massacre of the Innocents. There is no evidence however that this decree from Herod was ever put into execution by his sister. To the contrary, Tradition tells that she hid the news of the death of her brother for some time until all prisoners were released from jail. Yet, the birth of a new child in this time could have meant his death. Bethlehem was probably on the way from Nazareth towards Egypt where the parents of Jesus were fleeing. So, overall, it is likely that Jesus was born in 4 BCE, but before the change of Hebrew year to 3757.
Massacre of the Innocents, Raphael study, 1510 (British Museum)
As for the Chronicles of Eusebius, he placed the birth of Jesus in the 3rd year of the 194th Olympiad which corresponds to the year 2 + (193 x 4) -776 = 2 BCE. And he placed the death of Herod in the 4th year of the 195th Olympiad, thus 3 AD. However, Historians consider that Herod rather died about 4 BCE, and that Jesus was born before Herod's death.
Before Herod's death, rumours that he died circulated in Jerusalem. Two religious scholars, Judah and Mattathias, believed the rumour to be true and asked their students to remove the Roman golden eagle that adorned the entrance to the Temple. It was placed there on order from Herod when the Temple was completed. Although very ill by then, Herod ordered the two scholars to be burned alive.
After the New Jewish Year, Herod also executed his son Antipater upon reports that he was eager to see his father dead and replace him on the throne. He then changed his will to name Archelaus, the older brother of Antipas, as the new heir to the throne.
Herod died in Jericho five days after the execution of Antipater. He had reigned 34 years, since the death of Antigonus. His tomb has recently been discovered on Herodium, a hill south of Jerusalem, which proved the account of the funerals from Josephus to be historically correct.[8a]
One Israeli historian (Abraham Schalit) who researched on Herod's time,and divided his reign into three periods (37-27 BCE, 27-13 BCE, 13-4 BCE), stated that "he raised to power as a bull, reigned as a lion, and died as a dog".
The Jewish people, instead of mourning Herod, rather were sorry not to have been able to mourn the priests Judah and Mattathias out of fear of reprisal from the ageing king. But when the feast of Passover was approaching, the multitude of pilgrims who came to Jerusalem and the general resentment against Herod’s family caused trouble:
At Herod's death, without waiting for the imperial decision, a certain Simon usurped the title of king.[8b] He was dealt with by the governor of Syria, Quintilius Varus, while the Jews were disciplined and divided up into three kingdoms ruled by Herod's sons [Archelaus, Herod Antipas and Philip]. In Tiberius' reign all was quiet. --- Tacitus, Histories, 5:9
While Archelaus sailed to Rome to get approval from Augustus of his new status of king, Varus, the governor of Roman Syria who looked after the affairs in Judea, dealt harshly against the Jewish population. And when he left Judea, he placed the procurator Sabinus with one legion entrenched in the fortress of Jerusalem (what was previously Herod's Palace, near present-day Jaffa Gate). Sabinus caused even more tensions:
For after Varus was gone away, Sabinus, Caesar's procurator, stayed behind, and greatly distressed the Jews, relying on the forces that were left there that they would by their multitude protect him; for he made use of them, and armed them as his guards, thereby so oppressing the Jews, and giving them so great disturbance, that at length they rebelled; for he used force in seizing the citadels, and zealously pressed on the search after the king's money, in order to seize upon it by force, on account of his love of gain and his extraordinary covetousness. --- Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, book 17, 250
Sabinus’ actions aggravated further the resentment against Herod’s family and their Roman protectors. His theft of the Temple’s money sparked resentment throughout the land which was turned later as a rebellion led by a new group called the Zealots (see below).
A Jewish deputation was sent to Rome who declared to Emperor Augustus the people's dislike for Herod and their wish to be under a foreign political rule rather than under any abusing tyrant who would call himself king, as long as they would be allowed to live according to their religious laws:
Now the main thing they desired was this: That they might be delivered from kingly and the like forms of government, 1 and might be added to Syria, and be put under the authority of such presidents of theirs as should be sent to them; for that it would thereby be made evident, whether they be really a seditious people, and generally fond of innovations, or whether they would live in an orderly manner, if they might have governors of any sort of moderation set over them. --- Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, book 17, 304
Following these representations, and those of Archelaus’ siblings who also disputed the will of their father’s kingdom to give everything to him, Augustus decided to split the inheritance into three parts. Archelaus received the main share (Judea) but was ordered by Augustus to behave moderatly towards his people.
Herod’s kingdom divided between his sons
Perea was the region of Judea that was beyond the Jordan river (Pera means the other side). This region, along with the Galilee, was given to Herod Antipas, the youngest son of Herod. During his rule, Antipas rebuilt Sepphoris which had been badly destroyed during the Roman campaign of Varus, and made it his capital. He also founded the city of Tiberias.
Due to Archelaus’ bad reputation among the people, many families of Judea migrated to the north into Galilee. This was the case of Jesus’ family who moved from Bethlehem, the place where Jesus was born, to Nazareth:
But because he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there; and having been divinely instructed in a dream, he departed into the regions of Galilee. --- Gospel of Matthew, 2:22
The Northern region (Ituraea and Trachontinis, which encompass present-day the Hula Valley and the Golan Heights) was given to Herod Philip. He was married to the beautiful Herodias, with whom he had a daughter called Salome. But the mariage was not happy and Herodias was in love with Philip's half-brother, Herod Antipas. During his rule, Herod Philip founded the city of Bethsaida on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. But he made Banyas (Panyas or Paneum) as his capital since his father Herod had already built a palace there, as well as a temple for Augustus. Herod Philip renamed this city after his name, "Caesarea Philippi": it is known as such from writings of this period such as the Gospels.
As of Varus, he was eventually removed from his Syrian post and called back to Rome. A few years later, in 9 CE, he led three Roman legions against the German tribes but will be defeated in the forest of Teutoburg, which would become one of the worst military disasters that Rome ever suffered.
Archelaus’ actions in Judea exarcerbated the population who complained again to Augustus. In addition Archelaus did something prohibited by Jewish law: he married his brother Alexander’s widow after she already had children from him. But Archelaus had always loved Glaphyra, of Armenian origin, so he ultimately married her. To do so, he repudied his own wife, a cousin, and Glaphyra also had to divorce from her second husband, the king Juba II of Numidia, who was a protégé of Augustus. But Glaphyra did not live long with Archelaus as she died soon after returning to Jerusalem, following a premonition dream (Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, book 17, 349).
This time, Augustus decided to punish Archelaus because of the poor management of his realm, and maybe also for personal reasons for having caused sorrow to Juba II. He called him to Rome and then banished him to Vienne, in Gaul. As of Judea, it was added to the authority of the Syrian province, where Cyrenius had replaced Varus, and started to be ruled by a Roman Procurator. Because Judea was considered in the Roman Empire as a poor province, and because of the troubles it caused, procurators were usually appointed and removed over a short period during which they were mostly interested in making as much money for themselves from their post in Judea. As a result, over the years, this system of procurators caused more and more anger in the Jewish population. Their residence was in Caesaria, which became the defacto capital of the Judea province in the Roman Empire.
The first procurator to be named was Coponius. One of his earliest act was to make a census of the new Roman province of Judea, and of its richnesses, in order to impose new taxes and make money for himself. This caused rebellious feelings and the enrollment of more supporters in the new seditious factions: the Zealots, and its off-spring the Sicarii.
Finally Varus had to intervene so he brought two other legions he had in Syria, and Arabian auxiliaries as well, back in Judea. He succeeded to overcome the rebellious sedition which, in Jerusalem, was mostly led by the Pharisees who wanted to defend their religious rights and the sanctity of the Temple from political combinations from the royal family.
The Zealots were a group created in the city of Sepphoris by Judah the Galilean, who was finally caught and put to death by Herod Antipas:
And now Archelaus's part of Judea was reduced into a province, and Coponius, one of the equestrian order among the Romans, was sent as a procurator, having the power of [life and] death put into his hands by Caesar. Under his administration it was that a certain Galilean, whose name was Judah, prevailed with his countrymen to revolt, and said they were cowards if they would endure to pay a tax to the Romans and would after God submit to mortal men as their lords. This man was a teacher of a peculiar sect of his own, and was not at all like the rest of those their leaders.--- Josephus, War of the Jews, book 2, 117
For Josephus, this Zealot faction was the root cause of the catastrophies that fell upon the Jewish nation in the following years:
All sorts of misfortunes also sprang from these men, and the nation was infected with this doctrine to an incredible degree; one violent war came upon us after another, and we lost our friends which used to alleviate our pains; there were also very great robberies and murder of our principal men. This was done in pretense indeed for the public welfare, but in reality for the hopes of gain to themselves; whence arose seditions, and from them murders of men, which sometimes fell on those of their own people, (by the madness of these men towards one another, while their desire was that none of the adverse party might be left,) and sometimes on their enemies; a famine also coming upon us, reduced us to the last degree of despair, as did also the taking and demolishing of cities; nay, the sedition at last increased so high, that the very temple of God was burnt down by their enemies' fire. --- Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, book 18, 1
Josephus saw the Sicarii as criminals because, beside the fact that tey carried out murders of Romans, they would not hesitate to rob or kill their own brethen as well if they suspected them to be cooperating with the Romans.
This assessment has to be taken with caution because Josephus wrote this works when he had become a Roman citizen living in Rome. He had to blame the forthcoming events on these factions or sects, rather than on the Romans despite their exactions and robberies perpetrated against the Jewish people and their religious worship.
At that time, the Jewish people were divided into four factions (the first three started at the time of the Hasmonean rule):
- the Pharisees who represented the vast majority of the people and followed the Jewish faith and commandments (and ran the Sanhedrin); they accepted the foreign rule as long as their religious freedom was maintained
- the Saduccees who were in minority and came from the aristocraty; they generally assimilated to foreign cultures, first Greek then Roman (while they would argue to keep the position of High Priest as honorific for one of their members)
- the Essenes who counted about 4000 followers (Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, book 18, 18) and lived a unmarried life in remote locations such as Qumran in the desert
- this new group called the Zealots who were issued from the Pharisees but refused to accept foreign rule and fought to restore the independence of Judea from the Roman yoke
Hillel died at the age of 120, like Moses. Beside his great patience which was reknown, Hillel is remembered for having stated the following:
On another occasion it happened that a certain heathen came before Shammai and said to him,‘Make me a proselyte, on condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot.’ Thereupon he repulsed him with the builder's cubit which was in his hand. When he went before Hillel, he said to him, ‘What is hateful to you, do not to your neighbour: that is the whole Torah, while the rest is the commentary thereof; go and learn it.’ --- Talmud, Shabbat, 31a
This principle, derived from the divine commandment, You shall love your neighbour as yourself (Leviticus 19:18), is the basis of a good and peaceful society.
After Hillel and Shammai, the system of Zugot was abandoned and then only one member of the religious leaders was elected as nassi, as President of the Sanhedrin (the Beth Din), who held all the religious authority. This task was given to the descendants of Hillel. From his own election in 31 BCE until the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, four people took successively this charge from father to son, over a 100 years period: Hillel, then Simeon, then Gamaliel "the Elder", then Shimon II.
Hillel was succeeded as nassi by his son, Simeon ben Hillel. Little is known concerning him and it is unclear if he held this post for a few months (replaced then by Shammai, who was still alive, as acting nassi), or until the year 20 CE when his successor is known to have taken the role at that time.
Simeon ben Hillel was succeeded as nassi by his son Gamaliel who held this post until 50 CE, so 20 years before the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. Gamaliel had such a great reputation that, in the Talmud, he is the first to be referred as Rabban (our master). His main teaching is as follows:
Rabban Gamaliel used to say: Appoint a teacher for yourself and avoid doubt, and make not a habit of tithing by guesswork. --- Talmud, Avot 1:16
Gamaliel is mentioned in the Talmud for having stated the following about the cycle of the Moon:
Rabban Gamaliel said to them [the Amoraim rabbis]: I have it on the authority of the house of my father's father [the House of Hillel] that the renewal of the moon takes place after not less than twenty-nine days and a half and two-thirds of an hour and seventy-three halakim.--- Talmud, Rosh Hashanah, 25a
The helek (halakim in plural) was used by our Sages as a unit of time, such as one hour = 1080 halakim. Brought into minutes, one minute = 18 halakim. So 2/3 of one hour + 73 halakim make 793 halakim, or 44 minutes 3 1/3 seconds. So according to Gamaliel, the cycle of the Moon is no less than 29 days 12 hours 44 minutes and 3 1/3 seconds, whereas calendar convention considers the Moon Phase (as being the Lunar Month) as 29 days 12 hours 44 minutes. But real scientific measurement, published in 1988,[11a] gives a value of 29.530589 days. If we bring the value given by Gamaliel, converted into day unit, it is 29 days + 0.5 day + 793/1080 /24 (the amount of halakim converted in day) = 29.530594 days. So the difference between Gamaliel and precise scientific measurement published 2000 years later is 0.000005 day, in other words 0.4 seconds... not even half a second of precision ! And Gamaliel mentioned that he received the tradition of this data from his grandfather, Hillel, who lived before the Common Era.[11b]
The great scholar Rashi, who lived in France in the Middle-Age, was a descendant of Gamaliel by his great grandson Yohanan Hasandlar.
Twenty years passed since Judea became a province of the Roman Empire. Augustus had died in 14 CE and was succeeded by Tiberius who appointed Pilate to Judea and Flaccus to Egypt. Both caused tensions with the Jews. It did not take long for Pilate to bring upon himself the wrath of the people:
But now Pilate, the procurator of Judea, removed the army from Cesarea to Jerusalem, to take their winter quarters there [in Herod's Palace, near present-day Jaffa Gate], in order to abolish the Jewish laws. So he introduced Caesar's effigies, which were upon the ensigns, and brought them into the city; whereas our law forbids us the very making of images; on which account the former procurators were wont to make their entry into the city with such ensigns as had not those ornaments. Pilate was the first who brought those images to Jerusalem, and set them up there; which was done without the knowledge of the people, because it was done in the night time; but as soon as they knew it, they came in multitudes to Cesarea, and interceded with Pilate many days that he would remove the images; and when he would not grant their requests, because it would tend to the injury of Caesar, while yet they persevered in their request, on the sixth day he ordered his soldiers to have their weapons privately, while he came and sat upon his judgment-seat, which seat was so prepared in the open place of the city, that it concealed the army that lay ready to oppress them; and when the Jews petitioned him again, he gave a signal to the soldiers to encompass them routed, and threatened that their punishment should be no less than immediate death, unless they would leave off disturbing him, and go their ways home. But they threw themselves upon the ground, and laid their necks bare, and said they would take their death very willingly, rather than the wisdom of their laws should be transgressed; upon which Pilate was deeply affected with their firm resolution to keep their laws inviolable, and presently commanded the images to be carried back from Jerusalem to Cesarea. --- Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, book 18, 55
This was one of many examples of Pilate’s actions who exarcerbated the Jewish population, especially in the holy city of Jerusalem which was against the status quo that prevailed so far, whereas the Jews were to be left quietly with their customs in Jerusalem, as long as taxes were paid.
About the historicity of Pilate, a stone has been found in Israel in 1961 which bears the name of Tiberieum (probably a place named after Tiberius) and Pilatus “Prefect of Judea”. The last mention proves the authencity of the stone because Pilate was prefect and not only procurator as it is generally assumed. A prefect had power over civil matters and could pronounce death sentences, which he did against Jesus.
Pilate Stone (Israel Museum, Jerusalem)
In Rome, Tiberius became wary of the influence of the Jews over the Romans:
As there had been a large influx of Jews into Rome and they were converting many of the native inhabitants to their principles he expelled the great majority of them. --- Cassius Dio, Roman History, volume 57, CE 19
A large stone found by Beduins in 2000 in Israel near the Dead Sea came to display for the first time in 2013.[9a] Its engraving starts with the words "I am Gabriel", alluding to the angel who will appear in Messianic times.[9b] It assumed to date back from the 1st century CE when, after the death of Herod, chaos ensued in Judea and apocalyptic movements and preachers were numerous to tell about the forthcoming end of the world.
The stone is in a rather bad condition as only 40% of it could eventually be read, although not without some level of interpretation. It caused a sensation in the Christian world in 2008 because one expert claimed that it contained the words "in three days you shall live", alluding to the resurrection of Jesus, a claim that was not substantiated by further analysis. In fact, there is no concensus yet about the transciption of the text as experts are currently divided between four versions. But all the experts agree that this stone is a text of apocalyptic nature, typical of the era between the death of Herod and the destruction of the Second Temple.
"I am Gabriel" stone - Israel Museum, Jerusalem
(photo credit: Eretz magazine, No. 138, June 2013)
In these times, the Sanhedrin moved from their traditional location in the Temple precinct, which was the Chamber of the Hewn Stones ("Lishkat ha-Gazith"), and relocated outside on the Temple Mount. This was due to the corrupt manner with which the High Priest, nominated by the Roman authorities, was driving the religious duties. This move had been considered by the Talmudists as the last straw in the catastrophes that led to the destruction of 70 CE:
180 years before the destruction of the Temple, the wicked state [Rome] spread over Israel.[9c] 80 years before the destruction of the Temple, uncleanness was imposed in respect of the country of heathens and glassware. 40 years before the destruction of the Temple the Sanhedrin went into exile [from the Chamber of the Hewn Stones] and took its seat in the Trade Halls. --- Talmud, Shabbat, 15a
This corruption in the Temple, echoed by the departure of the Sanhedrin from it, was seen by the Sages as one of the steps that led to the catastrophes that enfolded:
Correspondingly the Sanhedrin wandered to ten places of banishment, as we know from tradition, namely from the Chamber of Hewn Stone to Hanuth [the "Bazaar", which was still located in the Temple Mount], and from Hanuth to [inside the city of] Jerusalem, and from Jerusalem to Javneh [before the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE], and from Javneh to Usha [at the time of Rabbam Gamaliel II, during the persecutions of Hadrian], and from Usha [back] to Javneh, and from Javneh [back] to Usha, and from Usha to Shefar'am [during Rabbi Simeon ben Gamaliel II], and from Shefar'am to Beth She'arim [in the time of Rabbi Juda ha-Nassi], and from Beth She'arim to Sepphoris, and from Sepphoris to Tiberias [also during the time of Rabbi]; and Tiberias is the lowest-lying of them all, as it says, [Isaiah 29:4] "And brought down you shall speak out of the ground." --- Talmud, Rosh Hashanah, 31a-b
John the Baptist was an itinerant preacher who would go from city to city to tell people that the apocalypse was soon to come and that they had to purify themselves. This was a belief similar to the Essenes', who were already preparing themselves for the coming of the Messiah. But they isolated themselves in their refuges and remote cities while some others, like John, were preaching this belief in their itinaries. It is during one of his predications that Jesus met him, probably in 30 CE, and was baptized (purified) by John in the Jordan River. Then their roads parted and Jesus followed his own destiny of preacher.
It was in this time that Herod Antipas was defeated in a war against Aretas IV, king of the Nabateans, seated in Petra. The cause of this war, besides contest about borders, was that Herod Antipas had repudied his wife, the daughter of Aretas, in order to marry his sister-in-law Herodias, who divorced his half-brother Herod Philip. This union of Antipas and Herodias was against Jewish Law because Philip was still alive (he also had one child from Herodias, a daughter called Salome). The war that ensued, and cost Antipas his army, was seen as a divine sign against Antipas’ sin. This sin is what John the Baptist chose to denounced publicly. As a reprisal, John was beheaded by orders from Herod Antipas in year 31 or 32 CE in the fortress of Machearus (Eastern side of the Dead Sea). According to the New Testament in Mark 6, 21-26, Salome danced in front of her father-in-law and this pleased him. As a result he told her that she could ask anything and he will execute her will. On the advice of her mother Herodias, she asked for the head of John the Baptist. This circonstance is however not mentioned by Josephus, so can be questionable.
A theatrical scene of Salome with the head of John the Baptist
Now some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod [Antipas]'s army came from God, and that very justly, as a punishment of what he did against John, that was called the Baptist: for Herod slew him, who was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness towards one another, and piety towards God, and so to come to baptism; for that the washing [with water] would be acceptable to him, if they made use of it, not in order to the putting away [or the remission] of some sins [only], but for the purification of the body; supposing still that the soul was thoroughly purified beforehand by righteousness. Now when [many] others came in crowds about him, for they were very greatly moved [or pleased] by hearing his words, Herod, who feared lest the great influence John had over the people might put it into his power and inclination to raise a rebellion, (for they seemed ready to do any thing he should advise,) thought it best, by putting him to death, to prevent any mischief he might cause, and not bring himself into difficulties, by sparing a man who might make him repent of it when it would be too late. Accordingly he was sent a prisoner, out of Herod's suspicious temper, to Macherus, the castle I before mentioned, and was there put to death. --- Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, book 18, 116
Jesus’ adoption of John’s mission to preach in the country also brought him to a tragid end. Josephus has reported the existence of Jesus in his Jewish Antiquities, chapter 18,63. But the original text had greatly been altered by Christians, probably in the Middle-Age, and it was kept as such in subsequent versions. This passage is called the Testimonium Flavianum. But the original more faithful version of Josephus is probably the one which was found in an Arabic translation, dated 12th century:
At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus, and his conduct was good, and he was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. And those who had become his disciples did not abandon their loyalty to him. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion, and that he was alive. Accordingly they believed that he was the Messiah, concerning whom the Prophets have recounted wonders. --- Transcription, source UNC Charlotte
In the later version Testimonium Flavianum, there is, among other alterations, the addition of the sentence: He [Jesus] was the Christ [or Messiah]. But it is very unlikely that Josephus would have openly stated that he was the Christ, meaning the Annointed or Messiah, when he was himself devoid of religious belief. At best he would have written that Jesus’ followers believed him to be the Messiah.
It is well known that Jesus was crucified on a Friday at the eve of the festival of Passover. So the Last Supper was not the celebration of Passover Eve, because it happened the night before the crucifixion. This puts his crucifixion on the Hebrew date of 14 Nisan, which was just before a full moon (on the 15th). The only years when a 14 Nisan fell on a Friday, during Pilate’s assignment from 26 to 36 CE, were the years 26, 33 and 36 CE. The year 33 CE is the most likely to have been the one when Jesus was crucified, in his 30’s, although the years 26 and 36 CE would also be possible. As Pilate just arrived to Judea in 26 CE, the crucifixion is unlikely to have occurred then, not until he would have ascertained his authority of new prefect. As of a crucifixion in the year 36 CE, it can be unlikely as he was sent back to Rome to be judged by Tiberius. When Pilate reached Rome in 37 CE, Tiberius had died and was already replaced by Caius Caligula.
The reason for Jesus' death was that he exarcerbated the people in charge of the Temple. But, in these days, the charge was completely corrupt: the High Priest was nominated by the Romans, and they would elect a person who was likely to bring them the highest revenue. The High Priest in turn distributed the roles in the Temple based on the richest families in the city, all Sadducees. The High Priest and his staff were collaborating with the Roman authorities. As of the real religious authorities, the Sanhedrin, composed of Pharisees, they already publicly acknowledged the corruption taking place in the Temple and moved away from it a couple of years before Jesus was arrested and put to death by the Romans. The later accusation by the Chritian world that "the Jews killed Jesus" is unfounded because Judea was a Roman province at these times (since the year 6 CE), and they alone had the right of life or death on individuals. The High Priest was a mere collaborator and did not represent the entire Jewish nation which was broadly against the Roman occupation.
The Last Supper (Gustave Doré, 1868)
In 1980, a cave had been found in Talpiot, a close suburb in the South-East of modern-day Jerusalem, that contained several ossuaries from a same family, one of them bearing the name "Jeshua bar Yossef", in other words "Jesus son of Joseph"... The datation of these items proved to be from the Second Temple period. Of course, there would have been many people called Jeshua son of Joseph in the Judea of these times, because these were very common names, but the fact that the other ossuaries bore other names related to the historicity of Jesus, such as Miriam for Maria/Mary, has helped build a case that this cave was indeed used to place the ossuaries of Jesus and his family. Furthermore, one of the ossuaries bears the name of "Yehuda bar Jeshua", in other words Judah son of Jesus. Jesus would have been married and had one son ! This would not be surprising for a practising Jew of these times and his age (in his thirties) but this detail sounds impossible to Christians who believe Jesus was not flesh but God Himself.
Entrance to the Talpiot tomb, as found in 1980
A few centuries later, the Christian theologians accused the Jews of having crucified Jesus. It was more convenient to do so, and not accuse the Romans instead who, by that time, had adopted Christianity as a state religion. This was the case of Orosius who re-wrote History about 400 CE to fit the new paradigm:
In the seventeenth year of this emperor [Tiberius], the Lord Jesus Christ of His own free will submitted to His passion. Nevertheless, it was through their own impiety that the Jews arrested Him and nailed Him to the cross. --- Orosius, A History against the Pagans, book 7, part 4
After the departure of Pilate from Judea, Vitellius, the Roman governor of Syrian province, came from Antioch to Jerusalem and restored quiet with tact and without antagonism. He even appointed the former High Priest to his role, an act which pleased the Pharisees.
Go to >> Part II
 The earthquake during the time of King Uzziah is mentioned in Zechariah 14 and Amos 1
 This question was meant to annoy Hillel who was Babylonian of origin
 The Palmyreans used to sell lighting materials by wandering at night in the city, which is an oasis city at the middle of the Syrian desert
 Due to religious law of impurity for the high priest during the period preceding the holy day
 Thus this Joseph was made High Priest on that single day of Kippur
 To check the lunar eclipses of this era, see Wikipedia
 After an astronomical event that took place in 1604, Kepler made some calculation and estimatation that Jesus was born in the 6th year before the Common Era (CE)
[8a] Herodium was built in 23 BCE to commemorate Herod's victory over the Parthians; for more information, read article from The Times of Israel
[8b] This Simon, who led a rebellion, is mentioned in Josephus, book 17, 273
[9a] To read the article on Haaretz newspaper, click here
[9b] The angle Gabriel is mentioned in the Bible at Daniel's vision in Daniel 8:16 and 9:21
[9c] About 110 BCE, the king John Hyrcanus moved away from traditional Judaism and became a Saduccee; as a result he persecuted the Pharisees and this opened the door for the Hasmonean dynasty to adopt foreign culture after him (Rome, in their case); after his death, his two sons fought for power and sought after foreign support; the "sin" of John Hyrcanus cursed the Hasmonean Dynasty to be doomed until it disappeared with the rise of Herod, a foreign king that Rome placed over the Jews
 This would be the year of 30 CE, but this is wrong, as explained above, if we assume the correctness of the assumption that Jesus was crucified on a Friday, 14 Nisan
[11a] To check the astronomical data, click here
[11b] The value of the synodic month as 29.530594 days was known in the Antiquity; the Greeks used it but admitted they learned it from the Babylonians (Ptolemy published it in a book called the Almagest, and section IV:2; to see the Latin text online, click here); and it is assumed that the Babylonians knew it about 500 BCE, but there is no evidence of the way they either calculated this value or where they learned it from; eye observation of the moon cycles would not be sufficient to predict the synodic month with such a precision of less than half a second; even the Greek astronomer Meton of Athens, who lived about 430 BC and gave his name to the Metonic cycle, estimated that 19 solar years corresponded to 235 lunar months or 6940 days, and therefore that the synodic month would be 6940/235 = 29.531915, so roughly 2 minutes difference (which is in the range of human eye observation); but the knowledge to reach less than half a second precision must have been given to the Babylonians and the only people able to do that in these times where the Hebrews, after the Babylonians took with them all the scriptures and the sages from Jerusalem into captivity; also, the fact that the Talmudic Sages, who did not have access to secular knowledge as we do today, and were able to design the Hebrew calendar on this very same value of the synodic month tends to show that they had this knowledge too, regardless of how the Babylonians acquired it themselves
 Another proof of this date seems to be found in the study of earthquakes in the region around that period; some have speculated by the date of Jesus' crucifixion was 3 April 33; to read more information, click here
 The city of Beitsaida was the previous capital of the kingdom of Geshur (its king once was the father-in-law of Absalom, the rebellious son of David); Josephus mentioned that, at the time that Herod Philip rebuilt it, it called Julias (War of the Jews, book 2, 167); it was a city of fishermen where some of Jesus' disciples came from
 He was called Galilean but was originated from Gamla (Gamala), a city in the south of the Golan Heights; in these days, unlike the present-day, this Golan region was considered to be part of the Galilee; according to Josephus, Judah the Galilean also caused people to believe that the Messiah was coming, with the help of another man who stated that Elijah had come back to announce the Messianic venue
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