Estimated Dates of Events Prior to the Savior’s Birth

The dates in this article start from a basis of the Savior’s Birth being in late December BC 5 or early January BC 4, perhaps even on my suggested date of the morning of December 23, BC 5, as described in this article.

Annunciation to Zachariah

BYU’s Comparative Civilizations Review, Article 5 “A Broader Comparative Civilizations Approach to the Bible’s Nativity Story” by Milo Kearney, The University of Texas at Brownsville and Sean Kearney, page 55 states:

…This dating is based on Luke’s account of Zachariah being told, while serving in the Temple, that his aged wife Elizabeth will bear a child. Zachariah was a priest who served in the Temple in the course of Abia. This term means that he served twice a year, on the 12-18 of Chisleu (or 6-12 December) and on the 12-18 of Sivan (the 13-19 June). Luke 1:24 says that after the days of his ministration, his wife conceived John the Baptist. If she conceived immediately, that means that she was six months pregnant in late June or late December,…the Bible does not say that either Elizabeth or Mary conceived immediately after the angels announced the coming births. It seems rash, in the light of the long period of time that followed God’s promise of a son to Abraham before its realization, to conclude that they did.

This citation does not contain sources.

McConkie states, without providing sources:

Twice each year, in April and October, the priests of the course of Abia, named for Abijah, traveled from their village homes to the House of the Lord in Jerusalem, there to take their week-long turns at performing those sacred rites and ordinances which for fifteen hundred years had been the center of Israel’s worship. (McConkie, Bruce R.. The Messiah Series . Deseret Book Company. Kindle Edition.)

So the date could be either June or October.  Given the late, 1996 date for the scholarly article, we’ll suggest it would have been the week of June 13 – 19, and based upon the below suggest the year was 6 BC.

Conception of John the Baptist

Talmage suggests in “Jesus the Christ” that “About fifteen months prior to the Savior’s birth,” (Jesus the Christ, chapter 7), John the Baptist was conceived. This is because when Gabriel spoke with Mary, he said, “And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.” (Luke 1:36).

If the Savior’s conception was on the same day as his crucifixion, April 6, (the conception in 5 BC,) then John’s conception would have been in approximately October, 6 BC. It could have ranged from perhaps September 1st (depending on how long prior to April 6th Gabriel spoke to Mary), through mid to late October 6 BC.

Annunciation to Mary

As noted in my post on the birth of the Savior, Andrew McGowan’s article  “How December 25 Became Christmas” (originally appeared in Bible Review, December 2002) notes:

In the East, too, the dates of Jesus’ conception and death were linked. But instead of working from the 14th of Nisan in the Hebrew calendar, the easterners used the 14th of the first spring month (Artemisios) in their local Greek calendar—April 6 to us. April 6 is, of course, exactly nine months before January 6—the eastern date for Christmas. In the East, too, we have evidence that April was associated with Jesus’ conception and crucifixion….Even today, the Armenian Church celebrates the Annunciation in early April (on the 7th, not the 6th) and Christmas on January 6.

Based upon this, the annunciation to Mary occurred in either March or the first week of April, 6 BC.

Visit by Mary

“And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda” (Luke 1:39) Mary went soon after the announcement to see Elizabeth. It seems likely she was already pregnant when she arrived there, because of the reaction of Elizabeth and the child in her womb, but perhaps not necessarily. I can imagine Mary being there by April 15th, as it says “in those days” which is more than that same day Gabriel spoke to her; perhaps even a week or more, for such a journey for perhaps such a planned length of stay, and yet to still be “in haste.”

56 And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house.

57 Now Elisabeth’s full time came that she should be delivered; and she brought forth a son. (Luke 1:56-57)

This passage might indicate Mary returned home before the birth of John, but that seems unlikely.  Since Elisabeth was six month’s pregnant, according to the words of the angle, and Mary stayed for about three months, it seems probable to me that she would have stayed with Elizabeth until after John’s birth, and possibly the naming eight days later. It is more likely she stayed until Elisabeth was full term.

This is also likely  as Elisabeth’s “cousins…rejoiced with her” (Luke 1:58). Of course the plural “cousins” indicates it was more than just Mary involved (given Elizabeth’s age and childless condition, cousins may have been the only living family). And since Mary already knew “how the Lord had shewed great mercy upon her”, perhaps this passage about John’s birth is not referring to Mary.  I chose to believe she is included, and that she assisted Elizabeth immediately after the birth.  So although Clark suggests March to April, I have chosen April to June, 5 BC.

John’s Birth

John’s birth would have been in June or July of 5 BC.

On the day of John’s circumcision, as required in Leviticus 12:3, he was also ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood.

26 And the lesser priesthood continued, which priesthood holdeth the key of the ministering of angels and the preparatory gospel;

27 Which gospel is the gospel of repentance and of baptism, and the remission of sins, and the law of carnal commandments, which the Lord in his wrath caused to continue with the house of Aaron among the children of Israel until John, whom God raised up, being filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother’s womb.

28 For he was baptized while he was yet in his childhood, and was ordained by the angel of God at the time he was eight days old unto this power, to overthrow the kingdom of the Jews, and to make straight the way of the Lord before the face of his people, to prepare them for the coming of the Lord, in whose hand is given all power. (D&C 84:26-28 emphasis added.)

(Note that I do not believe this passage means John was baptized at eight days old; the Book of Mormon is very clear on God’s feelings about doing so.  Rather, I believe John the Baptist was the perfect choice to ordain Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery to the priesthood and then give instructions to them on how to perform baptisms. )

Mary and Joseph’s Marriage

Joseph’s discovery of Mary’s condition, the visit to him by an angel, and his marriage of her occurred certainly after the visit to Elizabeth, since Mary went “with haste” to Elizabeth.  If her visit was long enough, she may have already begun to show, thus causing greater shock to Joseph upon her return. So we’ll estimate the wedding to have occurred between the end of June but before the birth of the Savior, in December, 5 BC. (Matt 1:18-15).  Row 7 of the LDS chronology, the Annunciation to Joesph is thus moved after Mary’s visit, John’s birth, and the events of his circumcision.

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