It’s a subject that Beowulf broached originally and is much more important than it seems at first glance. The question is – “Exactly when was Jesus born?” We have only two of the gospels giving any information about the birth of Jesus, Matthew and Luke. Mark, the oldest of the canonical gospels (between 85 and 105 CE) makes no mention of it at all and neither does the “youngest” gospel John (probably 124 CE or later). Matthew has Jesus born during the reign of Herod the Great (73 – 4 BCE) and Luke has his birth during the Syrian governorship of “Cyrenius” (real name – Publius Sulpicius Quirinius) (6 – 9 CE), at least a 10 year difference exists between the dates reported by the two.
This discrepancy is aggravated by the reports of two later Bishops of the early church, Irenaeus and Epiphanius. In Against Heresies, Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons (125-202 CE) stated: "From the 40th and 50th year a man begins to decline towards old age, which our Lord possessed while He still fulfilled the office of a Teacher, even as the Gospel and all the elders testify; those who were conversant in Asia with John, the disciple of the Lord, affirming that John conveyed to them that information. And he remained among them up to the times of Trajan. (reigned 98 to 117 CE)" This statement does several things, it shows a lack of knowledge of the gospels at a period they supposedly were being circulated, it intimates that Jesus lived well past middle age (and if you use the “accepted” year of birth, would have been over 100 years old when he died) and it shows a singular lack of knowledge of the physical existence of Jesus. Living less than a century after the supposed time of Jesus, you would think that a Bishop of the Church would be cognizant with the basic facts of the personage that he extolled as the Savior of the World, instead we find a gentleman that flies in the face of the gospels and reports a long life, no mention of crucifixion or resurrection, and journeys in Asia in the presence of the Apostle John!
The second bishop, Epiphanius of Salamis (310-403 CE) reported in Haer 29.3: “For with the advent of the Christ, the succession of the princes from Judah, who reigned until the Christ Himself, ceased. The order failed and stopped at the time when He was born in Bethlehem of Judaea, in the days of Alexander, who was of high-priestly and royal race …And this Alexander, one of the anointed and ruling princes placed the crown on his own head ...After this a foreign king, Herod, and those who were no longer of the family of David, assumed the crown." Now we have a bishop of a later period that would lead us to believe that Jesus was born at least 66 years prior to the “accepted” date. It seems at that late a date the personal information on Jesus is not readily available, even to members of the hierarchy of the church! Since Salamis (an island just off the coast of Athens) was well inside the area supposedly evangelized by the Apostles, it would seem that this information would be readily available to laity and clergy alike! With these last two reports and that of the gospels of Luke and Matthews, the period of discrepancy has been opened from 10 years to well over a century or nearly 2 centuries, depending on how you look at it (Alexander Janneus ruled Judea from 103 to 76 BCE and Trajan ruled Rome from 98 to 117 CE)!
Now what does all this have to do with the “price of tea”? Good question! Have you ever noticed that one of the arguments for the validity of the gospels is that they came out so soon after the crucifixion. If you can’t pin point the date of birth and date of death of a character that is only reported in a small collection of theistic literature, with no supporting contemporary secular material, you can by no means state how soon after the execution these gospels were written. You might possibly be able to pinpoint when they were actually written (this is not possible at present, although evidence for a date later than most Christians want is strong), but you can’t say how close in time they were to the actual events! There were several Jesus characters in the preceding years before the currently held period of Jesus’ life that could be the very model or models that his persona was built on. One, Jesus ben Pandira is believed to have been the “Great Teacher” of the Essene sect of Judaism. It is entirely possible that Christianity is a mere spin off of the Essene sect, sanitized and modified for Gentiles and perpetrated by Paul and Peter.
Without a valid birth date and a valid contemporary and secularly supported date of death/execution, the very existence of Jesus is called into question. We actually know the traditional birth date of his closest competitor, Mithra. Mithra was born on Dec 25th 272 BCE of the virgin Anahita, in a cave in the Persian province of Sistan (did I get that right Mythra?). We know the basic life information (Mithra ascended into heaven in 208 BCE) on this Savior that Christians deny, yet we have no real idea of when their Savior was born or died! With a singular lack of non-contradictory information from the early Christians and two gospels that do not mention his birth (only his death) and two that disagree by at least 10 years on when he was born, one might easily draw the conclusion that the true Christianity (Gnosticism) was cut out and replaced by a copy of the Mystery Cults so popular in the Roman Empire of that period! Does anyone wish to show us a valid birth date (agreeing with both gospels and history) and clear this all up?