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Evangelical, Non-Evangelistic

Is that so or is that not a contradiction in terms? Either way, I suppose I'm probably only "Evangelical" in theory. That is, I believe in evangelism but I do not tend to urge or practice evangelism. But it occured to me profoundly today that evangelical scholarship is so darn obsessed with refuting unbelievers because it is so, DUH, evangelistic. Well, so am I. Sortof.

I was partly raised on Young Life. I still passionately believe in Lifestyle Evangelism, but I believe it most properly requires a church, not an individual, to lead someone substantially and profitably both towards and into new and everlasting life in the Lord. (Translation: I'm not much into catch and release.) I promised myself fourteen years ago, the moment I find a decent church to be part of, I'll start contributing to evangelism again. Maybe it's my fault that hasn't happened yet (you may well say) but the point is still valid. Without a strong, heatlhy church, what on Earth is there to evangelize somebody TO? It needs to be evidently true that Jesus Christ IS the visible image of the invisible God. That don't happen so often in pews. (At least, certainly not in my experience.) But believe me, I long to bring people - believers and unbelievers - to HIM, in bodily form. I'm not a pure idealist, but the best way to come to the Lord, is through the Church!

Anyway, one happy accident of holding this position is that I wound up spending a decade focused on christians and postponing evangelism. Among other things, that gave me what seems to be a less common position among those attempting to do faith based scholarship. "Hang the Enlightenment. Assume Scriptural details are historically factual. Then just preach to the Choir!" (That's my practical approach, not my complete view of what all christian academics should be about.)

Simply put, I think ONE of the needs we must meet, in order to grow a more well developed body of christ, is to give christians a more well developed view of the New Testament Story.

At any rate, that largely explains how and why I got here. For today, I'll just leave it at that. ;^)

Class Distinctions in Friendship

From the cutting room floor, so to speak: a paragraph that won’t make it into a new blog series I’m preparing:
In this world, friendship is based on mutual benefit, depending on class. At the poverty level, folks depend more on family and spend most of their resources on family members. That is, until they have no family left, in which case poor folks adopt one another from a sheer need to survive. Middle class folks (who have virtually no counterpart in the ancient world) generally choose friends based on common interests, but share with them only leisure time and surplus resources (relatively speaking). Tough times test middle class friendships because family still trumps when the chip-stack is down. The wealthy, however, keep friends on a whole other level. Charity is performed dutifully, but the valuable friendships are where you really get to trade off significant favors. Having so much to protect means you choose your friends very carefully. Thus, all friendship is really a luxury, and wealth based friendships prove the strongest human bonds are based on mutual benefit.
For more fascinating facts on class distinctions, read Ruby Payne. By the way, IMHO, church groups can stand as exceptions to all of these patterns, but sadly not as often as we’d like or wish. Of course, religious charity as a laying up for personal reward in heaven doesn’t actually break these rules at all. Love without needing love? Only GOD can do that. Or, perhaps also, Christ in His Body. Amen?

Anyway, as you can tell, the upcoming series has something to do with my thoughts on “friendship”. It also has to do with the relationship between Jesus and Peter in John 21. You won't want to miss it...

Stay tuned!

VII, XII - You Know, Whatever it Takes

HAHA! Michael Barber was impressed by my Dictionary modification, but a little offended by my marks on the Loeb spines. Well. While I'm thrilled at the extra attention - and flattered that Michael wants to round up an international academic posse to keep my magic markers off something called "4Q521", which I will now fail to pretend to know anything about - I must beg to differ.

I don't have enough extra brain space to memorize whether the Loeb Volume VII on Josephus is Antiquities Book 17 or 18... let alone whether Antiquities Book 18 stops at 4 BC or 6 AD. And I don't want to flip through the TOC every time I need to check a reference. In fact, on checking it now, I see that it's volume XII that contains Book 18 which begins with events of 6 AD. Hunh. At least those numbers got into the brain pan together. But see, Michael? That's why I write on the spines!

;^p

Modifying Books

This morning, I have just cut out the one page "Articles Index" from the last page of IVP's Dictionary of Jesus & the Gospels and fixed it permanently to the outside front cover with clear packing tape. Like so:


I think I understand the editors' rationale for their limited selection of topics, but I've never had much sense of when to reach for the book and when not to bother. Hopefully, this should help a lot. (Hey, IVP: on the next printing, put this page up near the front!)

To me, books are tools. Dust jackets fly off faster than a wedding dress and I usually prefer paperbacks to hardbacks. I don't care if my copy outlives me - I just want to get what I need out of it, which is almost always more than what's merely printed on it's pages. Like a hammer, a good book should be made to last a lifetime, maybe two. The ones that manage to keep getting reprinted are probably the only ones that deserve to last for hundreds of years anyway.

Speaking of which, my Loeb Classical Library editions all have magic marker dates on the spines, too. See?


By the way, Jeff Bezos, when the Amazon Kindle has touch screen writing (and highlighting) AND saves my scribbles (with a feature to toggle them on or off), THEN I'll start saving to buy one. Until that happens, I'll never own a kindle. Books are for writing in!

Historical Advent - Index of posts on 9/8/7 BC

As of today, I've posted at least 25 times on this topic. This page may roll to the top on occasion, as it gets updated. There is much more, yet to be said...

The need for a full reconstruction:
A Historic Nativity - We Can Do Better - 1
Quirinius, Again - 1
Which Star of Bethlehem? - 1 (the point is, it's not about the "Star")

The case for the Historical Census:
Did Drusus' Death Hurt Herod in 9 BC? - 1, 2, 3
Josephus on 9/8/7 BC - 1, 2, 3, "3.5", 4, (...more to come here...)
Luke 2:1-5 as Historical Evidence - preface, 1, 2, 3, 4 (...here, too...)

What if Jesus was Twelve at Archelaus' Exile?
Matthew 2:22 explains Luke 2:42 - 1
Jesus was born in 7 BC - 1
Historical Jesus Math - 1

Related Chronological Issues:
Condensed Gospel Chronology - 1 (with more links)

Herod's Death:
The Eclipse of Purim, 4 BC - 1
Give up on 1 BC - 1

Estimating John's conception is merely a footnote:
Zeke, Liz & Gabe - 1, 2, 3, 4

(Page updated 11/30/09)

Generational Poverty and Merited Favor

For both Greeks and Hebrews, the ancient world was po, po, po. One thing about entrenched generational poverty is that it makes any good fortune seem random, given that hard work over time so rarely seems to pay off. Poor people buy most lotto tickets because it's as good an option as any. And when folks in poverty see somebody doing well, they all say he or she was just lucky.

With that in mind, I'm wondering if ancient folks were capable of thinking in terms of "merited favor", at least, towards salvation? In other words, if you can't even imagine working or saving up for a better tomorrow, how could you possibly think in terms of making lifelong efforts to earn your way into eternity? I'm no theologian, but I suspect this is one more way of showing that biblical teaching only makes sense in a relational context.

Some random Galatian may never have seen a balance sheet get wiped clean, much less taken out or paid off their own loan, but they'd all seen mama get unhappy, and they'd all tried to find ways to make mama happy again. Likewise, some random Jew might lose favor within his community, but I suspect the right manner of winning his way back into the synagogue had a lot more to do with convincing those who felt most strongly about things that he was sincere - rather than with how well or how many times he performed the requirements.

In any culture, folks raised in generational poverty know that money always disappears as soon as somebody gets any, because a survival mentality makes all property communal. Because of this, poor folks also know that the people you bind yourself to are, by far, your most valuable resource. So once again, favor is social. You don't have to keep points. You just have to keep people happy.

I'm sure no theologian, but maybe this helps illustrate that God's Grace was never about failing to do enough and then getting full credit anyway. Grace is social. Favor is social. Forgiveness means letting someone back in when they had previously been out... and it comes by whatever grounds for acceptance the wronged party feels is appropriate.

We didn't fail to do "enough". We failed to be Jesus Christ. Only the Son ever totally pleased the Father. His sacrifice was enough BECAUSE GOD DECIDED IT WAS ENOUGH. That makes sense to an ancient mind, and that makes sense to me. "My God is pleased with Jesus Christ and I am lost inside of Him."

There are ways to keep Galatian mammas happy, and ways to keep Jewish synagogue leaders happy, and one way to keep God the Father happy. Be IN Jesus Christ, and stay there. (Thanks again and again for your endless mercy with my failures, Lord.)

Now, can all the Po Folks out there shout "Amen"?

Faith and Logical Argument

Faith and reason are perfectly and most properly compatible when faith informs reason and does not beg it. This ought to be elementary. We know that all conditional logic begins with some assumption, normally called a premise, which may be accepted as given. The premise does not necessarily have to be proven in order to spur valid arguments, and a valid conclusion is conditionally sound, if and only if the premise is true.

For example, Einstein’s relativity, an un-provable theory, has stood thus far as the foundation of much scientific advancement and will continue to do so, as long as the theory cannot be disproved. That’s why Einstein said “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Creative thinking can suggest new vantage points for old problems. Some bold new premises are quickly disproved, but others lead to great new discoveries.

Faith is the substance of things hoped for. Faith is the evidence for things not yet seen. Faith can be the foundation for logical thought. But faith does not properly fit as the conclusion of anyone’s syllogism. By definition, faith is the foundation.

Thus, the most properly faith-based methodologies for working with scripture and history ought to begin bald-faced, by declaring that scriptural events may simply be taken as factual. If something seems problematic, we can save it for later, as long as there’s enough else to start from. This, too, is good logic. It is also good strategy, in more ways than one.

Our priority should not be to defend that which we cannot (yet) explain. Our defense should be in the comfort that our foundation cannot be destroyed, no matter how much it may come under attack. We do not serve our own faith by fixating on problems or working from defensive positions.

Faith informs reason and cannot work in reverse. Logical arguments proceed from sound premises, which do not have to be provable. We focus on what we believe and on what facts we do know. We proceed from there. Always.

This really should be elementary.

Birth Years of NT Era Figures

If you put these into a spreadsheet with 79 columns, it's an instant reference for how old they each were in any given year. That's what I did. Anyway, these are major historical figures who were active or born from 9 BC to 70 AD. The printed chart is much cooler, but too big to post as an image. Enjoy, my fellow history geeks. :-)

NAME & BIRTH YEAR:
Herod, -73; Salome I, -65; Strabo, -64; Augustus, 9/28/-63; Livia, -58 or -57*; H.Antipater, -45; Varus, ~43 (?); Tiberius, 11/16/-42; Julia 1, -39; Drusus I, -38; Antonia, -36; H.Alexander, -36; H.Aristobulus, -35; Aretas, King From -9; H.Archelaus, -23; H.Philip I, -22; H.Antipas, -21; Gaius I, -20; H.Philip II, -20; Julia 2, -19; Lucius, -17; Germanicus, 5/24/-16 or -15*; Agrippina I, -14; Drusus II, -13; H.Agrippa, -13; Livilla I, -13; Posthumous, -12; Claudius, 8/1/-10; JOHN, 11/-8; JESUS, 5*/-7; Galba, 12/24/-3; Nero-Julius, 6?; Drusus-Julius, 7; Vespasian, 11/17/9; Gaius II (=Caligula), 8/31/12; Salome III, 14 (?); Agrippina II, 11/6/15; L. Vitellius, 15; Julia Drusilla, 16; Julia Livilla, 18; V.Mesalina, 19; Gemellus, 19; Pliny the Elder, 23; Agrippa II, 27; Berenice, 28; Otho, 4/25/32; Mariamme (d.Agrippa), 34; Nero, 12/15/37; Josephus, 37 or 38*; Drusilla (d.Agrippa), 38; Titus Ves., 12/30/41; Domitian, 10/24/51; Tacitus, 56; Pliny the Younger, 61

KEY:
*questionable dates
(?) estimated dates
Kings, Emperors, Tetrarchs
BOLD - according to me!

Cut, Cut, Cut, Summarize

Two years ago I finished my first attempt to summarize the events of 4 BC. Tonight, I finally finished editing it down from 33 thousand words to about 10 thousand. It will probably continue to get shorter, but it definitely looks like the final form will be a long chapter instead of a short book. I could have reached 50 thousand words with a prologue, epilogue and suppliments. But why? Seriously, there's more than enough material for someone to do a full length scholarly work on the year 4 BC - and I hope that person will call me when they're working on it - but that person will not be me. (Thank you God!)

In another sense, all this means is that 4 BC is a first draft again. (Sigh.) But this is a great step for me, personally. I am *praying* for a productive summer this year. Stay tuned.

By the way, if anyone who enjoyed my post this morning wants to read through the 30 page version, just let me know. I'll e-mail you a copy. I won't even charge you! ;)

The Judean War of 4 BC and Two Small Boys, Whose Names You Know

The summer of 4 BC saw revolt all over Judea. The Herodian family had sailed for Italy by May, at which point a Legion of Rome put down one rebellion but sparked two more by their mere presence. The recent memory of 3,000 trampled at Passover was replaced by thousands more killed in the streets during Pentecost, by Roman swords. The Legion burned down the Temple Complex and left hundreds of corpses there in the Courtyards. Retreating to its fortified camp, just outside Jerusalem, the Legion was besieged by a partly spontaneous army of up to 10,000, which declared itself to be fighting for Israel's independence.

Essentially, chaos now ruled Judea. Mob rule set in to the south and the east. The Sanhedrin was temporarily powerless. So the Roman Proconsul Quinctillius Varus brought down two more Legions from Syria, obliterated Emmaus, routed Israel's army and reclaimed Jerusalem. Then the Governor sent out his cohorts to scour Judea's villages for rebel instigators. Before it was all done, Varus crucified 2,000 instigators and sent dozens more in chains to Augustus. The Pax Romana reasserted itself in Judea with some weeks left before the autumn festivals.

Varus did his work so well, Judea would not revolt again for 69 more years. But for that summer, thousands of men all over Judea were joining the rebellion - either swept along in the fury of the moment, being coerced to by their neighbors. Thirty-seven years under King Herod the Great stored up a lot of hostility that erupted for one summer, killing many thousands of Judean men.

So what of the Judeans whom we know by name, from the Gospels?

Somewhere in the hill country of Judea at that time was a very small boy named John. We don't know for sure how long his parents lived, but Zechariah & Elizabeth probably had several years left in them when their only son was born - the one God charged them to take care of. If we assume they lived until John was at least ten to thirteen, because God wanted them to, then what I'm about to say is still an interesting footnote. In a way, it's even a special grace.

One of the factors keeping John's family safe during that horribly dangerous summer was simply that his father was elderly. No one was likely to drag an old man into the fighting, a priest, whose only son was so small. I like to think this is one way God used to make sure John could grow up with a dad.

It's a nice little touch, in my opinion. With a war coming soon, John was born to an elderly priest. Say "praise the lord" if you want to.

Now, this next part is fairly certain, historically.

We also know three special, displaced Judeans, who came home this same year. Since Joseph, Mary & Jesus left Egypt the night King Herod died - according to Matthew, whose testimony I simply accept - then the Lord's family would not quite have reached Bethlehem when the news went out about the Passover massacre, caused by Herod-Archelaus. Joseph's natural fear of the younger Herod began that day, but God's instructions came that night. Move to Galilee.

If Joseph & Mary kept a steady pace, resting at least on the Sabbaths, then they reached Nazareth about the same time Rome's Legion was making camp outside Jerusalem's walls - some weeks between Passover and Pentecost. In other words, the Lord's family landed safely in Galilee just before Judea erupted.

We know all of this because King Herod died about three weeks or so before Passover. The timing is virtually certain... not to mention absolutely perfect. Since Herod the Great died a week or so after Purim, Joseph, Mary & little Jesus just missed the massacre and the revolt.

How about that? Yeah. Say praise the Lord on that one.

That's Bible/History.

Word. :-)

Urban High School Education

A rare post about the day job. Originally posted on my Facebook page March 12.

I wasn't going to post this until George F. Will quoted new DOE secretary Arne Duncan this week: dumbing down standards is the same thing as lying to children and their parents. So let's talk standards.

Your school district probably expects less than 10% dropout rates, but only requires about 60% of students to score a 60% or better on the Big Test. That means your government expects about three quarters of Test failers to be class passers. Does your child's teacher expect more? Well, that all depends...

High Standards "for all" sounds great but reality doesn't change. Enforcing strict standards with actual consequences would flood our urban areas with tons of frustrated dropouts, so we find ways to reward kids for whatever tasks they did well. That makes passing easy, but the Big Test is still difficult.

The only way to make underclassmen prepare for something so obviously inconsequential (at least, to them) is for teachers to motivate them through personal exuberance. Our personal input is pitted solely and directly against all other obstacles. And some people wonder why so many teachers burn out.

In the real world, a High School Diploma tells an employer the graduate learned to do three things: (1) show up on time, (2) follow instructions, and (3) complete tasks. That alone should be enough to take pride in. However, most districts also require *all* graduates to pass "college prep" courses, even though less than half of them go on to attend college, let alone finish. What does that tell you about the curriculum?

A good alternative, rarely offered in High School, is vocational training, which provides real self esteem and a practical future for kids that won't wind up in college. Unfortunately, vocational programs cause political problems in urban districts where such aptitude or merit-based "sorting" could seem discriminatory. Evidently, appearance counts more than reality.

Arne Duncan said we have been lying to parents, but too many low income parents seem perfectly happy to keep being lied to. Call it "the self-bigotry of faux expectations". But seriously, should public education risk creating an angry public? If our goal is to preserve the contentment of a stable lower class, then (ironically) the historical platitudes of the liberal program seem to be accomplishing precisely that. Why rock the boat?

If, however, the goal of public education is to cultivate our national human resources to maximum profit - for the ultimate welfare of all - then the US system is failing miserably. High (minimum) standards for all drags down as many as it raises up.

Every time Bright Bobby and Smart Suzie see Dim Danny and Slow Sally struggle but pass (in a "college prep" curriculum) they begin to conclude working hard is for dummies. So Bobby and Suzie slack off - and why not? They have rightfully deduced the true goal is to pretend we're all equal.

And how do I deal with all this? I'm super-teacher. I'm a dedicated professional who's currently overcoming all the problems of urban education with compassion, energy, teamwork and boundless enthusiasm. On my campus, that continues to produce genuine student success.

Seriously.

Relatively.

Amen, Professor

Dutch Historian Jona Lendering wrote this today on the New at LacusCurtius & Livius Blog:
"The historian’s first task is to get the sequence of events right. The more important issues, like explaining the events and explaining their significance, must wait until the chronology has been established."
As nobody will be shocked to hear, I absolutely LOVE this statement. Of course, my feeling is that New Testament Chronology has not yet been established in full. That's one reason I don't pay too much attention to theology. The entire world of Biblical Scholarship is still in transition because, a few decades ago, somebody pointed out the apostle Paul was never a Lutheran! That proves that History trumps. Events tend to dictate the value we 'give' to them.

But theology isn't the only area where anachronism is affecting christendom today. Ecclesiology is at an enormous crossroads, and most protestants are still defending the practices of reformed catholocism as "biblical". Heh. (sigh) It's not hard to see the church-at-large is flailing a bit. But so what? What am _I_ doing to make a positive contribution? How am I trying to become part of the solution?

I'm working on chronology. Hope it (eventually) helps.

We shall see...

Jesus' Literate Followers

I've seen scholars estimate 5 to 10 percent literacy in the ancient world, in general. Depending on who we count, the Gospels name anywhere from 20 to 40 specific persons who were associated with Jesus' movement during his public ministry. How many of them should we expect to be readers and/or writers? The same 5 to 10 percent? Maaaaybe...

Statistically, we might expect 1 to 4 literate persons, out of 20 to 40. Or perhaps the numbers should skew high, because certain ones among these persons were notable to begin with. Or perhaps that high skewing should balance out because the twelve were said to be "uneducated". (Though uneducated does not mean illiterate.)

To get specific, there are reasons to doubt that certain ones were literate, and reasons to believe that certain other ones were very literate. Peter? Probably not so much. Nicodemus? Oh, yes, we should think definitely. And so on. But after all the educated guesswork, the statistical question remains. Out of those 30-ish persons, how many should we consider likely to have been capable of reading and/or writing?

Moving beyond the persons actually named, what percent of the 120 were literate? Five percent nets us six literate persons. Ten gets us twelve. Of course, the ability to write doesn't mean they all spent time writing, much less took the effort to work out and put down an elaborate composition, much less 'publish' anything. But then again, it only takes one person of those 120 to have made such efforts, to give us an early written source from within Jesus' circle itself. I'd like to say these statistics alone suggest this is far more likely than not.

And remember, one hundred percent of Jesus' Jewish followers were used to being listeners. The culture was 100% literate when you include passive participation in aural recitation. It's impossible for me to imagine the 120 growing up in synagogues with their critical emphasis on hearing the word read aloud... and then think that *all* 119 of them didn't demand of at least one writer among them that he sit down and record something about Jesus' words and deeds, so they could keep it to hear read aloud, from time to time, in their own lifetimes.

It only takes ONE person to feel the need strongly enough to start badgering ONE literate person to get the job done. Again, the statistics of that seem more likely than not, by far, at least to me.

But hey. Officially, I'm somewhat uneducated. So what do y'all think? ;-)

The Desk

Because I'm such a follower, and everybody's doing it. ;)


Titus, Who Was With Me

If I don't get some major writing done this summer, I'll be stuck in the same decades I've been focusing on for the past three years - 9 BC to 14 AD. I'm hoping to spend much more time on the 30's after August (if not before). The second half of 33 AD is the reason I keep at this so hard, but all the fun stuff is the Paul stuff - the reason I got interested in scripture's historical context to begin with.

So this is just to say it will probably be a few years before I can make the case that Titus and Luke carried Paul's Galatian letter (in 50 AD) from Antioch to the four churches in southern Galatia. That's how those saints knew who Titus was. Titus was a brilliant choice as an eyewitness of the Jerusalem Council.

Besides, that's how Luke (and Titus) wound up at Troas. They needed to deliver the letter, work with the churches, and then move on. The churches needed time to digest Paul's letter before the apostle himself came in for his follow up visit. And for geography's sake - Titus & Luke needed to wait for Paul & Silas at some rendevous point. From Antioch of Syria, if you had to go past Galatia and pick one spot to meet up at - a spot that everyone knew about and so anyone you met along the road could point you in the direction of - wouldn't you pick the famous site of the Trojan war? (Or at least, the nearby town of the same name.) (Clarification: Yes, the Trojan War as told by Homer is absolute legend, but the legend was known to be centered on a real historical site - just in case you didn't know.)

Yep. Titus carried Galatians. Makes a beautiful story, dont'cha think?

Someday, I'll do much more with it. Story. And History.

Someday.

(heavy sigh)

A Modest Proposal

IF the Gospel stories about Jesus Christ may be accurately called biography... and IF the chronological details within them are accurate... THEN we may attempt to reconstruct an historical event sequence from them. I believe that we, as believers, have a responsibility to stand on and work from this collossal IF. By trusting these scriptural documents and the testimony of the church through the centuries, we may confidently proclaim: The Story of Jesus is History.

In compliment to this view, I agree, it is patently wrong to assert as factual any details that honesty demands we admit are unprovable. This is extremely important because, sadly, overzealous apologetics can instigate more reactive doubt than receptive faith. On the other hand, we should not compromise our faith to make God more attractive to outsiders. If unbelievers are to be convinced, then I pray, Dear God, let it be only by the power of the Holy Spirit calling them into the household of faith. (Not that a healthy, vibrant, mature church is so easy to find; but nevertheless, Lord, let it one day be so.)

Meanwhile, what is this strangely ironic affliction, that communication with unbelievers seems to hold the primary and controlling interest over the goals of our faith-based research?

Who came up with that dumb idea?!?!?

Let's get rid of it. Shall we?

Condensed Gospel Chronology

The crucifixion of Jesus was either 30 or 33 AD. The 15th year of Tiberius was either 29 or 28 AD. The public ministry of Jesus lasted either 3 or 4 years. Taken all together, these points eliminate 30 AD for the cross. Thefore, the crucifixion was in 33. Our interpretation [of Luke's interpretation] of the 15th year of Tiberius may now depend on the duration of the Lord's public ministry.

John’s Gospel lists three Passovers; the Synoptics include a fourth; Matthew & Luke strongly suggest a 5th Passover, between John’s 2nd & 3rd. Five Passovers contain a 4 year chronology of Jesus' public ministry, which dates Herod Antipas' beheading of John (and Jesus' subsequent withdrawals from Galilee) more fittingly prior to the fall of Sejanus (ie, John died in early 31 AD, not 32). This circumstancial evidence explains much which the alternative view leaves in doubt, providing further weight for accepting the 5th Passover, and thus, the four year chronology.

The four year chronology begins with Jesus' baptism in 28 AD, which allows us to date the Lord's birth as early as 7 BC, keeping strictly to Luke 3:23. Indeed, 28 AD falls 34.5 chronological years after the spring of 7 BC, which fits two other plausible theories on dating the nativity - 12 years prior to Archelaus' exile and two years after Herod's punishment in 9 BC. (In this view, the census must have been organized during Herod's year of disfavor in 8 BC and completed by 7 BC.)

Two incidental points remain. First, astronomical data for the initial "star" of the Magi fits as well in 7 BC as for any other year. And finally, arguments from John 2:20 are unfortunately irrelevant because the amount of time spent on the pre-construction phase of Herods Temple project is completely unknown.

Therefore, it seems most likely Jesus was crucified in 33 AD, baptized in 28 AD, and born in 7 BC.

********************
That's my effort, today, to be succinct. It's not airtight "proof" but it's internally consistent and might be the most comprehensive view yet presented of all the data. After three years of working on this chronology of the gospels, I can't find any problems with it. Can you?

Cheney on Jesus' Manner

"A four-year ministry would also provide ample time to accommodate the many events in the final portion of Jesus' ministry, and is more in keeping with Jesus' usual manner of confronting individuals. His final tour, on which he continued to search for penitent hearts, was hardly a feverish whirlwind campaign through the countryside..." --Johnston Cheney, The Greatest Story (1996) page 275
This is not the most airtight support for Cheney's view, but it's the point that sings most to my heart. It's not the argument that convinced me of the 4 year chronology, but of his observations, it's the one I most love. Anyway, Cheney's other arguments are more substantial and much more defensible. They'll make a good series of posts someday...