July 12, 2008

March 20, 4 BC

Here's a rewrite of another old piece from the files, which I felt like posting on tonight:

In my reconstruction of 4 BC, which I worked on from Nov.'06 to June'07, I gave the day of Herod's death as March 20. Even though I might have been the first one to suggest a specific date of death, I am/was fairly confident about it, give or take 1-2 days. But someday I'd like to work with a team of scholars to help strengthen the corroborating details of my reasoning. Until that day, here's a very simple record of what I considered at the time:

1) PTOLEMY:First of all, Ptolemy has to ride from Jericho to Antioch and back to Jerusalem before April 12th, when he leaves Jerusalem with Archelaus. The typical reading of Joesphus' lines about Varus coming to Caesarea overlooks the overlapping nature of Joesphus' constant flashbacks, flashforwards and asides which run heavily through his accounting of events in this busy, busy year. Such readings also ignore the logistic and chronological requirements of other events that must culminate by Pentecost on June 3rd, requirements which make it impossible for Varus to arrive so late in Caesarea.

2) EGYPT:Josephy & Mary have to "hear" about Archelaus ruling in Judea in such a way that causes them to be afraid. And the fear came before God "warned" Joseph in his dreams. So Joseph, Mary & Jesus cannot arrive in Judea before the slaughter on April 11. (Before that, there was no reason to fear Archelaus.) And according to Matthew, Joseph, Mary & Jesus have to leave Egypt the same night Herod dies.

Considering the travel requirements of each point leaves us with similar, overlapping ranges of dates or "windows of time" during which Herod's death could fall. But a final consideration simplifies the process of combining it all together.

Herod has to die early enough for Ptolemy's travel to end before April 11th, but Herod has to die late enough for Joseph's travel to end after April 11th.

When I figured all plausible travel times against this last consideration, only four dates seemed possible, and I felt like March 20th was the most likely, of the four.

If any scholars or graduate students want to research this further, my laptop holds dozens more pages of notes, calculations, worksheets and personal thoughts about these paramaters. I'd love to discuss the possibilities for further scholarship with someone who's interested. In fact, there is much more to say about Sabinus, Varus, Ptolemy & Caesarea alone. As far as I can tell, the year Four BC had never been reconstructed month-by-month and event-by-event before I did it. I stand by my efforts, but I'm sure they could use refinement. It's a complicated year. It deserves fuller scholarly treatment. And YOU, dear reader, may be or become the person who can do it. And I hope my work helps... so contact me, please! :)

Without help in this area, my online reconstruction may be as far as I can go... for now.

Check it out!

And yes, hopefully it will also be in print... someday. :)

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