Herod the Great: Appendix-When Did Herod die?

Because the Gospels of both Luke and Matthew tie the birth of Jesus to the death of Herod the Great, it is important to know when he died.  Josephus, the historian and Jewish general turned Roman loyalist, wrote that Herod died in the year of a lunar eclipse and near a Jewish feast.  Usually, this has been thought to be in the year 4 BC.

Recently, Professor John Cramer suggested a date of 1 BC because of its lunar eclipse, a similar Jewish feast, and its proximity to Church tradition which dates Jesus’ birth from a year later, 1 AD.

In a letter to Biblical Archaeology Review, published in the September/October 2014 issue, Professor Jeffrey Chadwick disputes this theory by observing that the date of 1BC does not comport with other historical facts.  According to Chadwick, Josephus reported that Herod’s son Archelaus succeeded Herod as King and reigned for ten years, until he was disposed by Caesar Augustus.  Quirinius, a legate, was assigned the task of traveling to Jerusalem to liquidate the estate of Archelaus (who was banished to Vienna by Augustus) and to conduct a registration of people and property in Archealus’ former realm.  It is these acts which are carefully dated by Josephus as having occurred in the 37th year after Caesar Augustus’ defeat of Marcus Antonius at Actium which occurred on March 2, 31 BC. Thus, the registration must have taken place in 6AD and thus the beginning of the reign of Archelaus must have been in 4 BC. Finally, as the lunar eclipse of 4 BC was on March 13th, Herod must have died after March 13th in 4 BC.

For a summary of other dates and other eclipses and thus other possible dates see, for example: http://www.johnpratt.com/items/docs/herod/herod.html

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