Pope Benedict XVI has jumped into the Jesus controversy by speaking to a matter of great interest to people of all religious backgrounds. The Pope has revealed that Jesus may have been born before the date on which we thought he was born. The difference is more than just a few days, and changes the manner through which we measure our calendars today.
Dionysius Exiguus, a 6th century monk, did the original calculation, and this is the one that Pope is calling into question. Exiguus was the inventor of the Christian calendar and the pope says, that he “made a mistake in his calculations by several years. The actual date of Jesus’ birth was several years before.”
The debate over the date and year on which Jesus was born has been subject to a great deal of debate, and this is just the latest. Pope Benedict’s book, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, lays out the details of his analysis. The book has printed over a million copies and is expected to be a huge seller. It is also expected to be translated into 20 languages for 72 countries.
Pope Benedict makes some controversial statements in the book. He writes of how the Gospel of Matthew claims that Jesus was born when Herod the Great ruled in Judea. However, given that Herod died in 4 B.C., Jesus must have been born earlier than Exiguus originally documented. Arguments surrounding Jesus’ exact date of birth have confounded scholars for centuries. Even the Gospel of Luke contends that the birth took place when Quirinius was governor of Syria in A.D. 6.
The author takes the opportunity not only to dispute the date of Jesus’ birth, but also to reaffirm the doctrine of the virgin birth as an “unequivocal” truth of faith. Reuters writes that Benedict reminds his readers that sexual intercourse did not play a part in the conception of Jesus. He states that a belief in the virgin birth of Christ is a “cornerstone of faith” and a sign of “God’s creative power.” “If God does not also have power over matter, then he simply is not God,” the Pope argues. “But he does have this power, and through the conception and resurrection of Jesus Christ he has ushered in a new creation.”