Most of us presume that Christ was born in the year “zero” and turned one in 1AD. That would make logical sense. However, firstly there is no “year zero.” BC years end at 1BC and the AD series starts at 1AD. A 6th C monk, Dionysius Exiguus, was the originator of the BC and AD calendar, and apparently he miscalculated Christ’s birth to 1BC. However, most scholars today believe that Christ was born somewhere between 6 to 4BC.
So what does the Bible say? Well, the Bible doesn’t actually give us a year, but does give us info to help us work out at least a window of time. Mt 2:1 says that Jesus was born during the reign of King Herod (who died in 4BC). Herod, in trying to kill the infant Jesus, ordered that all the boys in Bethlehem 2yo and under, be killed. This indicates that Christ could have been as old as 2 when Herod died in 4BC, making Christ’s birth around 6 to 5BC.
Lk 2:2 says that the Roman Empire census was taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria. History books claim that a census, which included Judea, took place in 6BC. We know from other biblical data that Jesus began his public ministry around 27AD. “Jesus was about 30yo when he began His public ministry,” Lk 3:23. Therefore He may have been 32yo, which would take us back to 5BC.
Confused yet? Don’t worry! If this fact was really important to God He would have clearly stated the exact year Christ was born. All things considered it was somewhere around 6 to 4BC. And what about the day of Christ’s birth? Our tradition of Dec 25 wasn’t developed until long after the NT period. However, what is important is that Christ’s birth changed the lives of people forever and He is working to redeem creation back to Himself. That we are sure of. That’s what matters.
He is who we celebrate.