July 28, 2007

Year-by-Year: 6 AD

Jesus turns 12 in May, two months after Passover. Augustus banishes Archelaus and adds Judea to the Syrian Province. Quirinius takes the SECOND Census of Southern Israel. And just as Tiberius is marching into Bohemia, two Major Rebellions break out in Illyricum!

In January, 6 AD, Jesus was 11 years & 7 months old.

Just before April, Joseph & Mary went to Passover in Jerusalem, but left Jesus in Nazareth, as usual. Joseph didn’t know it, but this was the last year he’d have to worry about Archelaus.

Jesus turned twelve on May 27th of 6 AD.[1]


Now, during that past winter, a secret had been uncovered in Judea!

Somehow, the leading Jews found out what Caesar had ordered Archelaus, last year. The Jewish Ethnarch was supposed to treat his people more mildly. And these Jews felt strongly that their ruler was ignoring his orders!

These Judeans were so eager to get rid of Herod’s son, they even went to their despised neighbors, the Samaritans. By springtime, a group of leading Jews & Samaritans gathered evidence to bring to Rome.

As soon as Passover Week was over, on April 10th, they sailed to Italy, to report to Augustus. But for all this time, Archelaus never knew anyone had discovered his secret orders from the Emperor!

The westbound Leaders are going to get to Rome before June. But Archelaus won’t have a clue until July!


The young Herodian had just celebrated his 10th Passover as ruler of Judea & Southern Israel. He went ahead and gathered the spring harvest. Then he collected the taxes that came due after that.

This year, for the second time in ten years, Archelaus broke the law by taking a harvest during the Jewish Year of Rest![2] Of course, this just gave the Jews one extra reason to hate him.

That is, aside from his cruelty. And Glaphyra.

Glaphyra, by the way, was just about sick of all the scorn she’d been getting in Israel.

Remember, Glaphyra was her husband’s former sister-in-law. The men of Judea were too careful to rebuke their Ruler about it. But the women of Judea were able to punish Glaphyra with looks and subtle gestures. And Glaphyra, as a woman, was painfully aware.

The guilt and shame had been building for about two years. And this spring, it had a serious effect on Glaphyra’s health.

One night, around June, the Ethnarch’s wife had a very bad dream. In it, Glaphyra saw the ghost of her former husband, Alexander, who insulted & accused her. The dream-ghost then promised to kill her so they could be together again!

Glaphyra died a few days after this dream.[3]

People said Archelaus truly loved his second wife. But he wasn’t going to get much time to mourn…

By June, the Leading Jews & Samaritans had reached Rome. And they were very surprised when their request to see the Emperor was answered right away!

Of course, there were good reasons, this year, why Augustus was in such a hurry to see them.


Augustus had no time to waste with the Jews. In 37 years as the First Man in Rome, he’d never faced so many problems all at once, until now!

Here’s a brief idea of how Caesar’s year was going.

In January of 6 AD, Augustus was still sad about losing his grandsons. Also, he had an ongoing financial crisis (see 5 AD). He was losing sleep because his chief Heir, Tiberius, was about to take 12 Legions into a difficult part of South Germany. And suddenly there seemed to be a shortage of Senators able (or willing) to go serve as Governors in the Provinces.

And that was just in January!

By March, Augustus learned about two major uprisings in Illyricum (across the Sea, east of Italy. The Emperor knew this would force Tiberius to abandon Bohemia. Losing that part of Germany was a disaster by itself, but Caesar also believed the Illyrian Rebels were planning a huge invasion of Italy. (More on these wars, in a while.)

That’s still not all. It kept getting worse!

There were Pirates in the Sea, west of Italy. Galatia and North Africa reported minor uprisings. And cities all around the Empire were sending reports that people were angry, getting closer to hostile!

There was even a fire in the city, at some point this year, that destroyed parts of Rome. And the famine of recent years came back with a vengeance. Thousands had to leave the city for lack of shelter or food, including some Senators!

There were rumors of new taxes, and with the famine going on, someone in the city started posting signs that called for a Revolution against the Emperor!

The famine and the other threats went on all year.[4]

By the way, Augustus himself was facing his 68th birthday, later this year. All that extra stress, plus all the normal burdens of running an Empire – altogether, it was more than extremely inhuman.

The fact is, the old man was pushed to his limit like never before. It was truly Caesar’s darkest hour. And at some point in this horrible year, the ruler of the civilized world honestly, seriously considered the option of actually taking his own life.

So that’s the kind of year Augustus Caesar was having.

And it was somewhere in the middle of all that mess and royal stress… that the Jews & Samaritans came to complain about their selfish young Ethnarch!

So you see, this year, more than any year ever…

Archelaus didn’t have a ghost of a chance.


Now let’s get back to this meeting in Rome.

It was right around June 1st, and the Emperor needed to settle his problem in Judea quickly, with as little effort or hassle as possible. Caesar listened to the Jews & Samaritans, thanked them, and dismissed them.[5] But he told them to wait in Rome until he could summon their Ruler Archelaus to a hearing.

The hearing was just a formality. Augustus already knew what he was going to do… even though he wasn’t telling the Jews or Samaritans just yet![6]

Now, Archelaus the Ethnarch kept a servant in Rome. (Oddly, the servant’s name was also Archelaus.) So Caesar called for this servant and sent him to bring back his master. And it was around June 1st or 2nd when the servant Archelaus sailed for Judea, to bring back his master, the Ethnarch.

After that, Caesar got extra speedy!

Augustus called in a recently newlywed Senator who he knew was available. This man had proven to be an excellent Governor, a strong General, and a loyal supporter of Caesar’s personal family.

The Proconsul Quirinius came to answer Caesar’s call.[7]

Augustus told Quirinius about the situation. Caesar declared that Judea, Samaria & Idumea were to be annexed into the Province of Syria! A Roman Procurator was going to supervise the whole region – which would now be referred to altogether as “Judea”. Quirinius was going to go as the new Syrian Governor. And Augustus chose another man named Coponius to be Judea’s first Procurator.

The Emperor told Quirinius & Coponius to go to Syria, wait for Archelaus to leave, and then head down into Judea as soon as possible.

Augustus knew the Jews in power had been ready to welcome direct Roman rule since the death of Herod. (See 4 BC.) But direct Roman rule meant direct Roman tax! So Augustus had one more command.

The Emperor told Quirinius to refresh the Census in Southern Judea.[8]

Then, finally, Augustus told Quirinius to claim, seize or sell all the property of Archelaus, for the Emperor.

Caesar decided Judea could help with his financial problems, while they were at it!


Quirinius & Coponius sailed from Italy a few days into June. Moving quickly east, they were in Antioch, Syria, before mid-July.[9]

The new Governor of Syria and the new Judean Procurator had to prepare a whole census in a very short time! Lucky for them, the Government archives in Antioch had records of the first Census, under Sentius Saturninus.

Now, everyone knows how much easier things are the second time around, than they are when someone doesn’t have a clue what they’re doing!

In 8 BC, Saturninus took a whole year to prepare a that first census. He mastered Israel’s culture & geography, designed an elaborate schedule for Jewish men to revisit their ancestral homes, announced it, ran it, and left extensive notes for those who would come after him.

Right away, the new Governor put a team of scribes straight to work on the old records. They went through all the names, by birth-cities, and made new lists with maps, by current towns. Also, the scribes only had to make lists of men who lived in Southern Israel. The territories of Philip & Herod Antipas were not being counted, this time.

So Quirinius’ census only had to cover half as much ground as the first one did!

When the rolls were all reviewed, Quirinius had a list of all the men in each town of Southern Israel who’d been registered before. His agents would only have to double-check it, and add to it. And there were four Legions of soldiers in Antioch he could call on, for help.[10]

This was a special census, done super-fast style!

Now, in a more normal year, maybe Quirinius would have taken more time to prepare, just on principle. But with the schedule Augustus gave, there just wasn’t time.[11] They had to finish the census by winter, so they could send Roman tax collectors around the next spring.

All in all, Quirinius & Coponius managed to prepare their new lists in about two weeks flat![12]

Then they marched down to Judea, around the turn of August.


Naturally, Archelaus was gone when they got there.

Here’s how that happened:

The Ethnarch mourned for a while after Glaphyra died. But it wasn’t long before he went back to his favorite activity – which was feasting every night with his friends!

Then, one night after a feast, Archelaus had a very simple dream about oxen eating ten heads of grain. But the selfish Ruler woke up feeling very nervous about it. His wife’s recent experience (plus a feeling he couldn’t explain) made Archelaus feel like it must be important.

So Archelaus sent for his advisors and all the dream experts he could find. One of them was a man named Simon the Essene.[13] And when no one else could interpret the dream, Simon spoke up.

Basically, Simon told Archelaus the ten grain heads were his ten years in power. Then Simon told him his days of ruling Southern Israel were over.[14]

And five days later, it came true!

Around July 1st, Archelaus’ man in Rome got to Israel and found his master. The servant told the Ethnarch it was time to go see Caesar, right away.

Archelaus didn’t delay for long.[15] He filled his money bag at the Palace of Caesarea and sailed away before August.[16] .

The oldest living son of Herod the Great was gone forever. Finally, the Jews had no more Ruler or King…

Except Caesar.


About two months later, Archelaus finally reached Italy and went to see Augustus. The Emperor, remember, was still trying to manage his year-long parade of disasters.

Caesar called a meeting with Archelaus and the Leading Jews & Samaritans who’d accused him, in June. First, Augustus made sure everyone got to speak. And then he announced his decision!

Caesar exiled Archelaus to a city in Gaul and told the young Ruler that Rome now claimed all his possessions in Israel.[17] Naturally, Augustus didn’t mention that he’d already made this decision back in June!

And by now, it was nearly October!

Archelaus didn’t know that Rome had been ruling Judea for almost two months already!


Let’s go back to early August.

Shortly after Archelaus went to Sea, Quirinius and Coponius marched into Judea with one or more Legions. They sent Soldiers around to the cities, to make their official announcements. Judea, Samaria & Idumea were now under Rome, thru the province of Syria![18]

The Soldiers also announced the new tax registration.

Now, the wealthy Jews & Samaritans were thrilled to be ruled by Rome at last. They didn’t mind being part of Syria, and taxes were taxes, as long as they didn’t go up![19] So the Jews had no problem with another census.

But then they learned this census was a bit different.

Unlike Saturninus’ turn in 7 BC, this registration was not only for counting heads. Quirinius also wanted to know the value of everyone’s possessions! This one detail worried the upper classes, and they started to complain.

So Quirinius sent Joazar the High Priest[20] around to calm the wealthy. Which he did… but the common people were another story! Despite Joazar’s best efforts, the poorest Jews were getting more and more upset about the new census!

As everyone soon discovered, the commoners were getting stirred up by a stranger from out-of-town!


We now introduce the single most infamous rebel in all of Judean history!

Meet Judas[21], from Galilee.[22]

Judas came down to Judea this year with nothing but rebellion on his mind, even though he wasn’t much of a fighter. Actually, Judas was a talker! Or, you might say, he was a traveling teacher of a new radical philosophy.

As a rebel, Judas’ only weapons were ideas! But these ideas were truly fresh, and very dangerous.

Here’s how Judas got started:

Really big news from Jerusalem always travels fast, even up to Northeast Galilee. So it was still August when Judas heard that Rome was taking over in the South.

Judas felt like God must be deeply offended by Rome’s complete, sudden takeover.[23]

So Judas had a long talk with his wife. Then he left her and their two small boys (James & Simon) with nearby family. Judas kissed them all goodbye and left forever. But some of his parting words to them were, “Israel must have no Lord but God.”

And then Judas went down from Galilee to Judea.

By September, Judas was going all over the South, talking up a storm with his Galilean accent. His first topic, with new people, was always the census. Even the poorest Jews were irritated about the property registration, and Judas worked those sparks into flames. But he didn’t talk about the money. The issue, Judas told them, was about Roman control.

Judas repeated his main idea often: “Israel must have no Lord but God!”

Naturally, the wealthy Jews ignored him while the poor Jews listened eagerly. Soon, Judas found a Pharisee named Saddok who joined the cause and helped him spread the word.

Judas & Saddok built up a wave of strong feelings in Judea. For weeks, they went from town to town and house to house. Some of what they said was typical rebellion kind of talk, but some was very, very new.

Here’s what Judas & Saddok were telling the Jews:

First – the census is enslavement and we should be independent to enrich ourselves, not Rome. That part was no surprise, but the next part was.

Next, Judas told the poor Jews that failure and even death would be as good as success, in this case. He said that dying for this noble cause would be a great honor. The Galilean said that God would bring success to Israel someday, if each generation would just keep giving their lives for the future of their nation.

Finally, Judas always added one more thing. He said that God expected them to kill and shed as much blood as they had to, to free Israel! Now that was a very hard line, but it sold.
Many of the Jews were convinced, in their hearts. Soon, Judas began planning an actual revolution! Everyone who’d agreed with Judas joined the plot, and prepared themselves to strike, when Judas gave the word.

But Judas never got to call that strike.

Somewhere in the middle of all his plotting & speechmaking, Judas got picked up by the Romans. They had no trouble proving his crime, and he was quickly executed. Right away, Saddok & everyone hiding with him quit the movement! They just scattered. They never caused trouble again.

The plot was dead before the rebellion had even begun![24]

The rebellion by Judas of Galilee was even deader than he was. But the ideas from Judas of Galilee lived on, secretly, in the hearts of those he’d spoken to. No one else in Israel is going to even mention rebellion, like Judas did, for forty more years. But everyone, every once in a while, would think about it.

The idea had been planted. The seed just needed time to take root. And that’s why Judas the Galilean (who never actually rebelled) would one day become the most famous Judean rebel in Israel’s history, since the Macabees.[25]

Judas himself ended up being all talk and no action.

But his ZEAL became legendary…


There’s one more thing that must be said, about Judas. His wife lived on in Gamala (near Galilee), and honored his memory. For the rest of her life, this nameless woman, “wife-of-Judas”, taught her sons about their dad and his beliefs.

In about forty years, these tiny boys (James & Simon) are going to be as old as grandfathers. And at that time – in their father’s name and for his memory – these boys are going to revive his new, zealous ideas!

If these Year Books make it as far as 47 AD… we are going to see James & Simon of Galilee, again!


Now, back to the action!

The Romans were making good progress completing the census. They were on schedule to finish by winter, which meant the Governor & Procurator could start hiring tax collectors to be ready in time for late Spring.

You know, nobody ever said Roman Government came cheap! Speaking of which, don’t forget… Quirinius & Coponius themselves spent the whole Autumn stealing and selling all the former Ethnarch’s things!

Remember, Augustus also told Quirinius to reclaim all of Archelaus wealth, and to sell all his property. So the Governor legally claimed & looted every palace, tower, fortress and treasury in the whole region.[26]

Of course, Quirinius had to sell the larger items. The former Prince’s farms, fields, herds and houses were sold off at bargain prices. Everything had to go in a hurry, because Augustus was eager to get the extra cash.

But the Palaces were a problem. Rome didn’t need them, and nobody in Israel could afford to buy them, much less pay for the annual upkeep and staff they required.

Nobody, that is, except one man.


This year, Archelaus’ brother, Antipas, bought his father’s old Palace at Jerusalem.

Now, Antipas still had no power in Judea. But from now on, the Tetrarch of Galilee could visit and maintain a presence in Jerusalem, just in case that might ever work to his benefit. And at the very least, Antipas raised his own status in the eyes of his subjects in Galilee!

Antipas also took one other thing his brother used to own. For ten years, Archelaus had been using the name “Herod” on his coins and official documents. But now Antipas claimed that right.

After 6 AD, Antipas became known as Herod Antipas.

Using the Palace at festivals and printing “Herod” on every shekel boosted Antipas’ image in Galilee, and even Judea. “Herod Antipas” was now the most powerful man in Israel, aside from the Romans!

This is why – after a few years – the Jews all over Israel are going to start calling him, simply…


Anyway, Quirinius finished selling all the old Royal assets and went back to Antioch, Syria. The money & treasure were kept safe at Caesarea for next sailing season, but the Governor himself rode away from Israel and into the pages of History.

This was the last major event of Quirinius’ great career.

We need to take a minute to review just why this one Roman remained so famous, even among the Jews.

Publius Sulpicius Quirinius was a Senator, a Proconsul, a close ally of the Emperor-to-be, and a celebrated Army hero. He was the first man in his bloodline to rise to such great ranks. Quirinius was famous even among powerful Romans, long before he ever came to Israel. Many men in Italy would remember the name Sulpicius Quirinius for decades, for all that he’d done.

The Jews remembered him mainly because of this year.

The census of Quirinius in 6 AD was uneventful, except for complaints and some plotting. But it was that very thing that made it so memorable.

Normally, when Israel changed rulers, things got violent! (See 4 BC.) So the fact that Quirinius kept everyone at peace all year was simply amazing. The Jews were surprised, but very grateful. And they gave all the credit to their new Governor.

At some point, too, the wealthy Jews learned what a great Roman Quirinius really was. Caesar hadn’t sent just anyone to handle this takeover they’d longed for.[27] Instead, the Emperor had purposely sent them a highly qualified, greatly honored, capable and experienced Governor to safeguard their transition. So now the Jews were sure about their opinion.

Quirinius was the main reason things went so smoothly.

From that day on, the name Quirinius was known and remembered among the Jews of high status, especially in the Holy City and Caesarea-by-the-Sea. Not just because of his census, but because his census came with a peaceful transition!

Likewise, Quirinius’ census was remembered for its own sake, too, because it was part of the takeover.[28]

By the way, that all really needed to be said! [29]

And with it said, now… we move on!


Coponius the Procurator stayed in Judea after Quirinius left. It was his job to finish the census, and then stay there to govern Judea. And so the Procurator made sure all tax rolls were complete before 6 AD ended.

The second Roman census of Judea was now history.

But the Procurator did one other key thing this year.

Coponius found a new man to appoint as high priest,[30] a powerful Jerusalemite named Annas, son of Seth[31]. Now, this was a very big, very important decision.

Over time, it turned out the Procurator made a wise choice.

Annas was a High Priest who proved to have great influence over both the wealthy and the common Jews alike, especially in Jerusalem. This helped bring a new stability to Judea that started this year. But it’s going to last for as long as Augustus & Tiberius are Emperors!

Annas himself is going to be high priest for about 10 years. But he’s going to actually stay in power far longer than that. In fact, Annas is going to make sure his family controls the Sanhedrin until 44 AD![32]

In other words, Coponius’ strong appointment, this year, is going to help keep Judea out of any major troubles for nearly four decades.[33]

The Peace of Rome had claimed all Southern Israel.

And yet, at the very same time, the Wars of Rome were raging around the rest of the Emprie!


Let’s go back to early 6 AD, in Central Europe.

In early March, Augustus’ new Heir, the General Tiberius, had Twelve Legions marching into Southwest Germany.[34] But Tiberius had to make peace there[35], because a major revolt broke out suddenly, in Illyricum![36]

Actually, it was two revolts. One in North Illyricum, and one in the South. Oddly enough, each revolt’s leader was named Bato!

The Northern Bato led his tribe (the Breuci) to revolt because the Illyrian Legions were away, with Tiberius. Other Northern Tribes[37] joined what became mass violence against Roman settlers. And Bato the Breucian claimed a Mountain as their Rebel Base.

The Southern Rebellion was different. The Southern Tribes raised an Army because Tiberius asked them to help in Bohemia. But the Tribesmen were so impressed with themselves as an Army, they refused to obey! That’s when the Southern Bato urged them to revolt and became their leader.

The Southern Bato actually had vision. He wanted to unite all the Illyrian Peoples against Rome, like the Southern Illyrians[38] had united to form their new Army. Bato’s forces fought Romans and recruited Illyrian Tribesmen all over the South and below, into West Macedonia.[39] Then Bato led his Army up into Pannonia, to unite with their Northern kinsmen.

Bato the Breucian accepted the Southern Bato as co-leader of the rebellion. Their united force now boasted well over a hundred thousand fighting men, and swelled past two hundred after the Southern Bato went recruiting all over Pannonia.[40]

Together, the united Illyrian Rebels dominated the countryside and outnumbered the Legions who came back, by mid-year, to oppose them.[41] The Rebels had some success against the Romans, and survived three major defeats[42] – mainly because Tiberius was (wisely) unwilling to stage one single, decisive battle against four-to-one odds!

Cautiously, the General stayed by his fortified positions in West Pannonia[43], while the United Illyrian Rebels made expeditions from their Mountain Base in the East. By Harvest time, the Pannonians burned their fields in the west, to deprive the Romans of food. But Tiberius had the plains of North Italy at his back, and decided his disciplined soldiers could outlast a wild bunch that had four times as many stomachs to fill!

So Tiberius hunkered down for winter. The Seven Illyrian Legions guarded the roads into Italy. And they waited for spring.


Now, this is still 6 AD, but the reason we covered so much about Illyricum is for background to future events. So, with this same purpose in mind, we must now visit two other provinces that affect things in the 50’s, AD.

First, we go to the Province Moesia, on the Danube, NE of Greece. And after that, we’ll see the last war Rome ever had to fight in Southern Galatia!


The Moesian Governor, Caecina Severus, brought Legion IV (Scythia) to the boundary of Pannonia and defeated the Rebels who came against him there.[44] But Severus wasn’t legally allowed to march his Legion into another Province without Rome’s permission. So the Governor waited on the border, ready to go in.[45] But just after clearance arrived from Rome, another message came that Barbarians had crossed the Eastern Danube, raiding Moesia!

Caecina Severus had to go back, and he cleared the Barbarians out of Moesia by the start of winter. But Severus had the same problem again when he saw the Rebels making a raid into Macedonia’s Province… and once again, Roman Law prevented a Governor from defending a helpless province![46]

Tiberius is going to address this problem, when he becomes Emperor. And his decision is going to affect the boundaries of Greece for three decades. (See 15 AD.)[47]

For now, Caecina had to stay where the Senate told him to. But in was starting to look like the Eastern Danube might need extra Legions as much as Illyricum.

And speaking of extra Legions…


The Galatian Governor, Silvanus Plautius, brought Legions V & VII against the Isaurians in Lycaonia.[48] These were the mountain people who bought slaves from Quirinius in 3 BC, after the end of the Homanadensian War. (See 3 BC.) Evidently, they’d rebelled, because Silvanus had to put them down this year.

This was the last native uprising in Galatia, and the Province is going to stay peaceful from this point on![49]

But in 6 AD, it was a good thing Silvanus didn’t need much time to finish the Isaurians. He’s going to get a call to bring the Fifth & Seventh Legions to Illyricum… next year, of course!


Now, before we leave 6 AD, we have to wrap up a few details at Rome.

Tiberius managed to leave Pannonia and visit Rome several times, during the Autumn & Winter. The General was still also the Emperor-to-be, and he had to make his appearances. Mostly, Tiberius was afraid Augustus would start favoring someone else.

In fact, Augustus was actually looking for ways to get Germanicus involved in the War. The young man was 22, in prime position to start winning battles. Indeed, Tiberius’ new heir, Germanicus, was all set to become his next rival! But next year, they’re going to be partners in Illyricum!

Meanwhile, the Emperor’ worst year ever had a few small up-turns. The grain shortage finally let up, before winter, which helped end the calls for revolt in Rome. And the big fire led Augustus to create a permanent, paid fire department… not that that was cheap!

But Caesar’s personal finances got a boost when word came (by December) that Quirinius had reclaimed or sold all the Herodian wealth in South Israel. Augustus claimed it all, and made up everything he’d donated to the Legions’ Retirement Fund, nearly two years before.[50] (Early 5 AD.)[51] But most of the Emperor’s other problems kept on till next year.

So anyway, Tiberius visited Rome often, and learned all this news. But he preferred to be at winter camp, with the Army. Tiberius liked being a General, and saw his future role as Emperor mainly as a duty!

So the future Emperor spent most of the winter near the battlefront, preparing, like a good General, for next year…


What an incredibly busy year – 6 AD! But there’s still one last detail… one more very important event in Judea that has gone totally overlooked by history, but it should not!

Here it comes…


In November of 6 AD, the Lord’s cousin John turned 13!

Roughly six months before Jesus’ own 13th birthday, John son of Zechariah became a man in the eyes of his people. Reaching this bar-mitzvah age wasn’t only symbolic. Turning thirteen was important for practical reasons, too. In Israel, in ancient times, a thirteen year old was considered able to care for himself.

We can also guess that John’s elderly parents had either recently died, or did not have much time left, by now.[52]

This much, we know for sure:

In November of 6 AD, or sometime not far past it, John the future Baptizer left the Judean hill country of his childhood home. John crossed over the Jordan River and moved beyond its valley. There in the wilderness, John learned to live off the land. God’s future front-man, as a young teenager, began learning how to depend totally on God.[53]

By the way, John left Judea shortly after Rome took it. And we have no record that says John ever set foot again into Roman Judea. [54]

We will not see John again until after Tiberius begins his 15th year as Emperor. The grown man John will come back to the Jordan at age 35. His preaching and baptizing is going to begin that Spring, in 28 AD. [55]

But we have a long way to go, before that happens…


The events of 6 AD are now completely told. So now, let’s close this Year Book like we opened it.

In December of 6 AD, Jesus Christ was 12 years & 6 months old, if you count “chronologically”.
Remember, there are three ways to count years: 7 AD is going to be the Lord’s fourteenth calendar year on the Earth. Some Jews would have said he was mid-way through his thirteenth year. But a gentile would simply say Jesus was just “twelve years old”.

Now, the Lord’s bar-mitzvah is next year, in May… which means he will still be “twelve years old” at the Passover!

So what that all means, is this:

Next year, in 7 AD, Jesus finally visits Jerusalem!

Next Year Book: 7 AD!


[1] Please note: Jesus will still be “twelve years old” (almost thirteen) at next year’s Passover, in 7 AD.

[2] Josephus reports (thru Simon the Essene, who appears shortly) that Archelaus collected ten years of harvests in his time as ruler, even though the fiscal years in 3/2 BC and 5/6 AD were supposed to be free of work and harvesting, up until Autumn. By the way, the planting season began in November. So the Jews and Samaritans would have been able to gather unripe shoots of wheat, as part of their evidence, before they left!

[3] Unless we believe she was actually killed by a ghost (?!?) Glaphyra probably starved herself to death, or died from health problems brought on by intense, chronic guilt & stress. She lived for two years (or more) with what must have been universal, ongoing, subtle derision that her husband was unwilling or unable to control. This seems the most likely explanation. But since we cannot prove there was no ghost… you’ll just have to judge for yourself!

[4] Also, at some point this year, Augustus even had to exile his last living Grandson! Young Posthumous Agrippa spent all his time fishing, or behaving badly, with a violent temper against Caesar & Livia. So Augustus disowned Posthumous, seized his property, and sent him to live in Surrentum, in southern Italy. (Naturally, the property went to help the military retirement fund.) Posthumous turned 17 this year. But we will hear his name again and even see him another time or two, before Tiberius is Emperor…

[5] Augustus also told them to stay in Rome awhile.

[6] Caesar had been gradually preparing himself for this decision since the Jews started complaining about Archelaus in 4 BC. So he didn’t need to decide slowly, as he normally preferred. Besides, Augustus knew Archelaus wouldn’t get to Rome until September at the earliest. And September would be too late to take action from overseas, with winter coming on. This background, the calendar, and the Emperor’s difficult circumstances, altogether, dictated Augustus’ fast decision. The fact that he failed to inform Archelaus or the Jews ahead of time was simply a smooth move!

[7] Did you recognize that impressive resume, before you saw the name? It so happens that we’ve followed the activities of Publius Sulpicius Quirinius in almost every Year Book now, since 4 BC!

[8] The first Roman Census of Israel took place in 7 BC. Luke’s Gospel (2:2) has often been mistranslated, but the verse should say, “this census took place before Quirinius was Governor of Syria.” (For more on this, see notes to Year Books 9, 8, & 7 BC.) Now, the issue of why Luke knew and cited Quirinius’ name (instead of Saturninus) will be explained by the story that now follows, thru the rest of this Year Book.

[9] Remember, sailing east was always faster than sailing west, in the Mediterranean. For the record, Quirinius replaces L.Volusius Saturninus as Governor this summer. Volusius, of course, is not the same Saturninus as the one who ran the original census of Judea, from 8 to 7 BC. That Saturninus, remember, is on the borders of Bohemia this year, leading the Rhine Legions as Govenror of Upper (or Lower?) Germany.

[10] The fourth, Legio X Fretensis, moved from Macedonia to Syria sometime during Archelaus’ rule. The other three Syrian Legions – III Gallica, VI Ferrata, and XII Fulminata – had been there for years.

[11] It’s true the Romans loved to prepare and to organize, before taking action, but they were also masterful pragmatists. Whenever they got in a tight spot, they always managed to improvise!

[12] This is about all the time they have, after we finish cramming all the events of this year into its calendar! By the way, such a quick preparation would have been completely impossible had this truly been the very first Roman census of the province! The second one was only able to go quickly because of the notes Saturninus [naturally must have] left after the first one.

[13] Josephus says the Essenes were devoted to righteousness and farming! There were about four thousand of them in various parts of Israel. They lived without wives or slaves, and elected managers to control their crops and money and do the cooking. They also held their own peculiar rituals for purification and for sacrifices, which always kept the Essenes excluded from the Temple in Jerusalem. Apparently, they recruited new members on a regular basis, because they seem to have kept their numbers up for several decades of the first century.

This is about the only time any Essenes actually take part in any major events of history. But it’s interesting that it was an Essene – devoted to the Law and to Agriculture – who stepped up and interpreted a dream about growing crops that also happened to represent a transgression of the law! It’s also interesting to notice that Simon the Essene didn’t dare mention the issue of the broken Sabbatical Years. But his interpretation alone is probably what any Essene (and certainly, many Pharisees, too) might have expected to see happen, because of the two extra, forbidden harvests! And he did say the word “ten”, which would have sounded conspicuous to anyone present who knew that it should have been “eight”.

[14] Josephus suggests this dream was a message from God, but Archelaus’ own mind was already working overtime. He knew the Jews all wanted him gone. He must have heard a report or at least a rumor that there might be a group reporting to Caesar about him. And of course, he knew he was ignoring the Emperor’s letter, which he had to believe (at least deep down) was going to catch up with him eventually. On top of this, Archelaus may have felt a twinge of guilt for breaking the Jewish laws, as he’d been doing. He knew what Glaphyra had been feeling, and he knew he was over twice as guilty as she was! Deep down, Archelaus had every reason to believe his time was up. So the dream might have been a warning from God, but it seems most likely it was just his subconscious mind manifesting his guilt over the ten harvests (which was two too many) combined with a sneaking suspicion that his crimes were about to catch up with him.

Of course, we have no way to judge, really. We each have to decide if this dream might have been supernatural, or just a bad leg of lamb, plus his own mental anxieties! Naturally, there’s no proving or disproving such claims. Just like the dream of Glaphyra (this year) and just like the miracles of Jesus, you either believe what the writer said happened, or you don’t. For the record, the author here believes in the miracles of Jesus and doubts that the dreams of Archelaus & Glaphyra necessarily had anything to do with ghosts or with God. But the point is, you can’t always argue historically about supernatural claims. Many times, it just comes down to belief!

[15] If Archelaus waited until August, he knew he’d be facing the rough NE winds that cause ships to take roundabout routes west, like Paul’s trip in 59 AD. Either way, the Ethnarch knew Caesar expected him in Rome ASAP, and the sailing season would be over by October. No matter what was expecting to face from Caesar, Archelaus must have been gone before August.

[16] Archelaus can’t possibly arrive in Rome before mid-September. And that’s given the already rapid pace of back-and-forth sailing that started in May. This means that if Augustus had actually waited until mid or late September to make a decision, he couldn’t have sent Quirinius to take the census in this year at all! It simply would have been too late to sail so far away, much less to leave time for census taking, which history tells us did happen in this year, in 6 AD.

So the sailing schedule is what proves that Augustus had already decided, in June this year, to depose Archelaus. Because Quirinius had to arrive in Judea just barely a short time after Archelaus himself even left, or else the rest of this year’s events wouldn’t fit where they belong.

[17] Archelaus was sent straight ahead to a town called Vienna and given a place to live there. He had ruled Southern Israel for 9 years and 6 months. This year, before or after his exile, he turned 28 years old.

[18] Not to be too dramatic, but it is just now that Rome, the Fourth Beast of Daniel has finally taken full, direct control over Jerusalem and the Southern Kingdom. This is one of the things Daniel prophesied would happen before the end of the 69 “weeks” and the coming of the Messiah. (For more on this, see the notes to 9 BC. Also see the Prologue, and the Bonus Material in the back.)

[19] An old treaty of Julius Caesar still promised the Jews they would pay no tribute on their Sabbatical Year. So right away, that’s at least fourteen percent better than what Archelaus had been charging them! By the way, the Jews had been paying this tribute since 63 BC, originally. But the main financial change this year was the difference from indirect Tribute to direct taxation.

[20] The High Priest at this exact moment was a man Archelaus deposed years before. Joazar son of Boethus had been replace by his brother Eleazar, and then by Jesus son of See. But apparently Quirinius & Coponius decided Jesus son of See must have been Archelaus’ crony or stooge. Or else, they just wanted to establish right from the start that Rome was in charge of appointing the high priest from now on! Either way, Quirinius & Coponius deposed Jesus son of See and reinstated Joazar, who’d been accused once of not doing enough to discourage the rebellions of 4 BC. And so they told him, naturally, to make sure that he did discourage such things, this time, just as hard as he could!

[21] This is the man known to historians as "Judas the Galilean", even though his hometown was Gamala, which was actually in Gaulonitis, in Philip's tetrarchy. But Gamala was close to the boundary of Galilee, and so many Jerusalemites called him "Judas of Galilee". (See Acts 5:37.)

Now, this Judas is not the same man as the rebel leader from Sepphoris, in 4 BC. That man, Judas, son of Ezekias, was later called Theudas by the Jews from Jerusalem – mainly to tell him apart in their histories, from the Judas of this year. (See Acts 5:36 and also the text and notes of 4 BC.) The Judas of this year affected the Judeans more, because his attempted rebellion actually took place in Judea (even though he, himself, was a Galilean). So this man is the Judas who kept his real name, and the other one (the less important one, from a Judean perspective) became “Theudas”.

Years from now, in 33 AD, the Pharisee Gamaliel is going to make a speech to the Sanhedrin about Jesus’ Disciples and the new church in Jerusalem. In that speech, he’s going to mention this Judas as well as the previous man, by that time being called “Theudas”. In his speech, Gamaliel was trying to show that no uprising from Galilee ever had much effect on Jerusalem. In other words, he was trying to convince the Sanhedrin to ignore Peter, John and their new church, because the Disciples were all Galileans.

So Gamaliel’s speech proves that the Judas of 4 BC was called “Theudas” in Judea, because there was no other rebel named “Theudas” – and no other Galilean rebels – before that time. But the Judas from this year is the one usually called "Judas the Galilean".

[22] Judas was actually from Gamala, in the Golan Heights, in Philip’s Tetrarchy, but lived near the Lake, which made him a “Galilean” as far as Judeans were concerned. (The Apostle Peter, from Bethsaida, is a similar example.)

[23] We don’t know if Judas felt the same way about Archelaus or Herod before him. But then again, nobody ever said righteous indignation always has to be logical!

[24] It’s amazing that Judas is the most famous Judean rebel, as the leader of a rebellion that never actually rebelled! In fact, if we read Josephus carefully, Judas never did anything at all, besides talking and planning, and Josephus didn’t even bother to record his final fate. (That we have to learn from Gamaliel, in Acts.) But all of this just goes to show how serious an event his IDEAS were, all by themselves. Now, his ideas were 40 to 60 years ahead of their time, and no one is going to revive those ideas until 47 AD… but Judas was still the first man to spread the ideas! Josephus actually blamed Judas for planting the seed that caused Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD! That’s why he’s famous – because he said “No Lord but God” was worth dying for.

[25] Judas Maccabeus fought against Syria in the 160’s BC. See the Prologue, “Way Before”.

[26] Naturally, Quirinius & Coponius also dissolved the Hebrew Army of Southern Israel. And so Rome claimed the Fortress Antonia in Jerusalem and stationed a permanent garrison there, as a base for whenever the Roman Officials came to the city. This old fortress of Herod the Great is where Jesus will stand trial before Pilate, in 33 AD.

[27] It had only been 9 years since 50 Jewish Elders from Jerusalem’s Sanhedrin Council had stood before Caesar in Rome. That year they’d begged him to give their whole nation to Syria. This year, he’d done it.

[28] This was unlike the easily forgotten first census (7 BC) which had no direct effect on Israel, at that time. By the way, the Governor of Syria that year, Gaius Sentius Saturninus, was nearly as forgettable to history as Quirinius was memorable! Saturninus gave Herod permission to invade Nabatea (9 BC) and he listened when Herod wanted to kill two of his sons (7 BC). Other than that, all he did was lead Legions into Bohemia (this year) where he had to stand down and make peace, instead of getting to fight. Overall, Saturninus never actually did one single thing that was impressive or praiseworthy in a popular way. His name was nothing special in Rome. But compare that to Quirinius’ resume!

[29] The Gospel writer Luke sat in Caesarea-by-the-Sea from 57 to 59 AD, while Paul was in Prison, and this is when he did all his research on the Lord’s life to begin writing his Gospel and Acts. Now, since Luke was largely writing a defense of Paul, mainly to give at Paul’s trial, we know Luke’s primary audience was Roman. That helps explain why he would refer to Quirinius – because Quirinius and his career were famous in Rome! But Saturninus, who ran the census when Jesus was born, was not. (See notes to 7 BC and Bonus Material in the back.)

Besides, Quirinius was more famous in Palestine, too. When Luke was preparing to write about the census of 7 BC, he couldn’t find anyone who even remembered the name of the Syrian Governor from that first census. But LOTS of people remembered the name “Quirinius”. (The wealthy Jews in Caesarea were nearly as grateful as those in Jerusalem, because many of them had frequent business dealings, getting food and other goods up to Jerusalem, from the Sea.)

So either Luke couldn’t find the name “Saturninus” or else he decided it was still better to reference the far, far more famous name, “Quirinius”. And Luke wrote something that basically said Jesus was born during a census which came before the famous census everyone remembered so well.

Now the only problem was that Luke used a Greek word which is sometimes an adjective and sometimes an adverb. So some translators said “this was the first census” and some said “this census first took place”. But the best translation is to say “before” instead of “first”, giving us “this census took place before”. And the final line should be, “This census took place before Quirinius was Governor of Syria.”

(**Grammar Alert: The actual Greek word order is: “this the registration PROTE took place when was governor of Syria Quirinius”. Once we realize that PROTE can be an adverb here (even though the word ending of PROTE looks like an adjective, such exceptions are common in all languages) the only other question is – do we translate the word PROTE as “first” or as “before” – because “first took place” or “took place before” would have opposite meanings! But judging by the text alone, we absolutely cannot decide which is better! So Grammar alone will not solve this small problem. End Grammar Section! **)

Everyone who studies the Greek grammar closely always admits that it’s a difficult and unclear sentence to work with. Therefore, the only way to figure out what Luke meant is to rely on the actual history. Ironically, the ambiguity of the scripture’s grammar is what actually saves the scripture itself! This situation demands that the best translation be chosen based on context.

Since Luke already told us that Jesus was born before Herod’s death, we cannot reasonably decide that he has meant to write the Census was during Quirinius’ term, and this eliminates the choice of writing “first census” or “first took place”. (Besides, “first census” makes no sense in 6 AD because we have no record of any further censuses after that date, and Tiberius does not seem to have refreshed any censuses outside Italy, as Augustus sometimes did in certain provinces.) That leaves the happy alternative, “took place before” which is equally plausible in Grammar to the other choices, and far superior when placed in historical context.

In short, the odd phrasing of Luke 2:2 does seem tricky. But it’s precisely the oddness of it that should prevent anyone from claiming a contradiction! As long as the translation is in doubt, grammatically, then the context should determine the statement’s true meaning. And based on Luke’s other content, there can be no other possibility except that he meant to say, “This census took place before Quirinius was Governor.”

That takes care of the translating concerns. The rest is simply this: Why would Luke say “before Quirinius was Governor”? Why didn’t he just say “when Saturninus was Governor?”

We just need a plausible explanation, and the best answer is explained in the story, and at the beginning of this footnote. Quirinius was famous, both in Rome and in Palestine, and his census was connected with a major Roman event. But Saturninus was not a memorable figure, and his census was not a factor that influenced other events at all, whatsoever.

Once again, Luke actually wrote: “This was before the census when Quirinius was Governor of Syria.” And the problem is not solving grammar. But the problem is to explain why he named Quirinius. Which we have now done.

(See also notes to the Year Books of 9, 8, & 7 BC, plus the Back Bonus Sections.)

[30] Quirinius & Coponius had already deposed the last high priest of Archelaus and reinstated Eleazar, who supported the census. But now Coponius replaced Eleazar, after a very short term. Maybe Coponius simply found a better man, but it may also be that Coponius blamed Eleazar for failing to influence the common Jews heavily enough, during the stir about Judas from Galilee! If so, then Eleazar got fired again for the same reason as before, in 3 BC!

[31] Josephus spells it “Ananus” but this is the same man whom the Gospels call “Annas” (High Priest from 6 to 15 AD). It is this Annas and his son-in-law Caiaphas (high priest from 18 to 36 AD) who are going to help get Jesus Crucified in 33 AD.

[32] Annas, five sons, a son-in-law, and a grandson are going to hold the High Priesthood itself in every year, virtually uninterrupted, until Herod Agrippa comes to power and reshapes Judean politics in his own image, in 44 AD. Actually, only two Procurators are going to buck Annas on appointees, a total of three times. But each time, Annas is going to persuade them (in less than a year) to put one of his own boys back into the post. Now that means Annas basically ran Jerusalem, either in front of or behind the scenes, for almost 38 years!

[33] Another factor keeping the peace in South Israel for the next few decades was the fact that Augustus & Tiberius sent Italian Procurators. The population of Israel was mixed between Jews, Samaritans & Syrian-Greeks. But Italian Procurators were always seen as impartial judges in disputes.

[34] Seven Legions crossed the Danube in two groups, under Tiberius and Messallinus (Governor of Illyricum), while Five of the Seven German Legions followed Sentius Saturninus (the man whose Census brought Jesus to Bethlehem in 7 BC) over the Rhine. They were five miles from converging on Bohemia when the news reached Tiberius.

[35] Saturninus stayed behind to work out the terms with Marobroduus, leader of the Marcomanni Tribes. Then Saturninus took his Legions back to the Rhine. We will not see Saturninus again.

[36] The Roman Province of Illyricum covered all the land across the Adriatic Sea from Italy; North of Provincial Macedonia; South of the Danube; East of the Alps; and West from the Dreinos River Valley. Roman Illyricum (of 6 AD) would (today) cover the fomer Yugoslav republics along with parts of Austria & Hungary. But Ancient Illyricum was below this, in Maceonia, which is Albania today. (This affects New Testament Geography. Stay tuned for more in a bit.)

[37] The North Region was called Pannonia, and it’s native tribes were all descended from the original Illyrian peoples, who began on the border of Roman Illyricum & Macedonia. By this time, the Northern Tribes were also known as Pannonians.

[38] Southern Illyricum was also called Dalmatia. The many different Dalmatian tribes were also, of course, descended from the original Illyrians.

[39] Bato’s forces could raid Roman settlements anywhere. They went into West Macedonia because it was the ancient Kingdom of Illyricum, which was conquered gradually by Rome, around 200 BC. Bato, the visionary, was trying to unite all the Illyrian Peoples – which is the main reason he went North, and one reason why he stays & puts up with the wilder, unorganized Bato for as long as he does.

[40] He also sent another expedition into Macedonia, after winter came. The Southern Bato had a nationalistic m.o. which included his belief that Western Macedonia was properly a part of Illyricum. And truly, he was correct, according to the old Ethnic boundaries that had never been forgotten.

Technically, Rome’s “Provincia Illyricum” stopped at the Drillon River where Rome’s “Macedonia” began. But the region around Dyrrachium & Apollonia (where Via Egnatia began) was the original land of Illyricum, founded by the first Illyrii Tribe that lived on either side of the Drillon itself.

Now, Rome put the old Illyricum into its new “Macedonia” in 168 BC. But Rome didn’t try to claim or govern Dalmatia & Pannonia until more than a century later, in the days of Julius Caesar. And in Caesar’s days, they named those regions “Illyricum” because all the Tribes there were descended from the original Illyrians. The new Province “Illyricum” was wild and unorganized, while West Macedonia had a road and two major ports! So the old “Illyricum” remained in “Macedonia”.

But many people still remembered the region’s old Ethnic boundaries, and often called it by its ancient name. The most famous example is Paul of Tarsus, who traveled to West Macedonia (in 55 & 56 AD) and then called it Illyricum (in 57 AD). (See Year Books 54 thru 57, and compare Acts 20:1-2 with Romans 15:19.)

By the way, people still do this all the time, everywhere. My loving mother called the corner store by our house the “Pack-a-sack” for many years, long after it was purchased by “Seven-Eleven”. And she never called it 7-11 until the day it became a “Circle K”! J

Now of course, Paul’s future trip is the reason we spent so much time, just now, talking about this! So remember, West Macedonia = Ancient Illyricum. Bato knew it in 6 AD, and Paul did too, in 55!

[41] Tiberius was delayed because he couldn’t take Legions into Illyricum that had been reassigned to his campaign in Germany! (Aside from breaking Roman Law, people could have accused him of trying to start a civil war, and he could even be killed for it.) Messengers had to be sent to Rome and the Senate actually held a debate (!) before Augustus urged them to believe Italy itself was at risk. Finally, Rome gave the War to Tiberius and sent messengers back. But by the time Tiberius got into Pannonia, and met his new assistant commander, Velleius Paterculus (the historian who preserved these events), the two Batos had already joined forces and set the field, so to speak. It was a costly delay.

[42] The Dalmatians engaged half the 20th Legion under Messallinus, early this year, when their Bato was still in the South. (Tiberius sent this detachment from Bohemia as an early scouting expedition.) Messalinus fled, but ambushed and routed the rebels. Then the Roman Governor had to pull back to the Alps again, for defensive concerns. But that was defeat number one. Defeats two & three will be covered momentarily.

[43] Tiberius & Velleius marched to Siscia, where the 9th Legion used to base itself, in the heart of the Breucian territory! But the Breucian men were all east at this time, on Mount Alma, near Sirmium.

[44] This happened east of Sirmium, not far beyond the junction of the Drave & Danube Rivers.

[45] This is the same problem that kept Tiberius in Bohemia for too long. Desperately, Severus enlisted the Thracian King Rhoemetalces and convinced him Rome would both forgive and reward his selfless actions. (There was no room to accuse Thrace of playing politics!) Severus then sent his allies ahead and joined them at Mount Alma after Rome’s messenger came. Ironically, Thrace was doing better against the Rebels before the Legion showed up, than after! But just at that point, Legion IV had to go…

[46] Once again, Severus sent the Thracians over Provincial boundaries to find & face Rebels he couldn’t chase himself. And they found Bato’s forces in the West, on their second drive down that coast. (Dio 55.30.5-6)

[47] In 15 AD, Tiberius is going to put all of Macedonia & Greece under the Governor of Moesia – just in case something like this happened again! But after the Danube situation stabilizes (over three decades!), the old arrangement is going to come back – under Claudius, in 44 AD. Now, this has a small bearing on New Testament events, because it shows historical consistency in Luke’s account to see that Paul does not get into Greece until after that Province was allowed to have its own Governors again. (See 51-53 AD.)

[48] The Isaurians lived on the Lycaonian side of the Taurus Mountains, below Lystra. These are the same lands mentioned in Acts 13-14, which will now be (95%) pacified in time for Paul & Barnabas’ trip!

[49] We’ve had a lot of Galatian background in Volume One. But this is the last major event in Galatian history until the Apostles’ go there; for which story, see Year Books 46 thru 50 AD.

[50] Remember, Augustus gave 170 million sesterces, early in 5 AD. Now, this year, the seizure of Archelaus’ property may account, at least partly, for Dio’s statement about “voluntary contributions from kings and certain communities”. Even Antipas’ purchase money might qualify, here. Whatever Dio meant, it’s practically the same event, however it’s qualified. There is no mere coincidence in the fact that Quirinius liquidated Herod’s wealth just as Rome (and thus Augustus) was facing a financial crisis!

[51] This year (6 AD) the Emperor finally solved the actual funding problem with a 5% inheritance tax. Ironically, the Senators (who didn’t want to solve this problem, back in January) were among those who got hit the hardest. But the big news was this meant the Roman Army could continue to exist without having to constantly go out conquering new lands and stealing their wealth to pay for itself!

This was actually hugely important. The inheritance tax, because it paid for the Legions’ Retirement Fund, is actually a major reason why Rome does NOT wind up conquering Germany! (Aside from the practical reasons, which began to unfold this year, and climax very soon, in 9 AD!) And the freedom of Germany, arguably, has a huge effect on the rest of Western History.

[52] One of these two things is true: If Zechariah & Elizabeth were still alive, then John stayed to care for them until they died. But if his elderly parents were already gone, then John must have been living with relatives until his bar-mitzvah. Either way, John was able to move out onto his own by age 13. And whenever his parents died, at that point John became free to go, as well. This means John could have been both able AND orphaned as early as this November. And since Zechariah & Elizabeth were already “very old” in late 9 BC, there is every chance they did not live another 14 years, to this point. So it’s possible John stayed awhile after this year, but it seems more likely he was free to go this year.

[53] According to Gabriel’s prophecy, John also got to practice being filled with God’s Spirit. In the solitude, in special moments over the next 20 years, God is going to use that ability to give John an awareness of what he will need to do, to announce the coming of Jesus as the Messiah.

[54] This may or may not mean much, but it’s an interesting coincidence. In John’s whole adulthood, the only spots we can place him at are beyond the Jordan and along its valley. Now, the narrow Jordan valley was Antipas’ territory, which the Jews called it “Peraea”. The Jordan valley itself was not part of what the Jews considered “Judea”, and it was not taken over by Rome in 6 AD.

[55] Luke writes that John began baptizing in Tiberius’ 15th year. But other historians would have called it that Emperor’s 14th year. Many have tried to say Luke was therefore wrong, but he wasn’t. Here’s why.

There is more than one way to count an Emperor’s years. Basically, there’s the Roman way, and there’s the Jewish way, and then there’s Luke’s way! But no one can tell, just by guessing, whether Luke would have used the Roman or Jewish method… or even some other method!

The only thing we can do is work backwards from the Lord’s Passion Year. The Passover of Jesus’ Crucifixion was in April of 33 AD. That was the fifth Passover of his ministry (see notes on Cheney’s chronology). So the five Passovers were in 29, 30, 31, 32 & 33. That puts John the Baptist’s ministry in 28 – spring, summer & fall! (See also the bonus material for the upcoming Volume Two.)

Now, in March of 28 AD, Tiberius had been Emperor for thirteen years and about six months, chronologically. So we could say that makes it his fourteenth year of actual rule. But we can also say that 28 AD was the fifteenth calendar year in which he ruled. Altogether, that makes three different ways to count and name the same amount of time! But only one of those methods matches actual events.

We may never know how or why Luke chose that method of counting, but it doesn’t matter. That method is the one he used because it’s the only one that fits with all the facts… and that’s just the best we can do to explain Luke 3:1!

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