It is established that the eclipse recorded in Josephus occurred on January 9, 1 B.C., and that it was not long before this that Herod interviewed the Magi concerning the appearance of the star (December of 2 B.C.). When Herod discovered that the Magi would not be returning, he arranged to have the children in Bethlehem killed, and specified that they must be “two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men,” Matthew 2:16 tells us. Herod would not have specified two years as the upper limit unless he knew from his diligent inquiry of the Magi that the child was born during 3 B.C.
Biblical, historical, and astronomical evidence converge on 3 B.C. as the year of Jesus Christ’s birth. Building on this information of 3 B.C. as the year of Christ’s birth, we can look at additional Biblical and astronomical testimony and determine with precision the date of Christ’s birth to the day and the hour. The twelfth chapter of the Book of Revelation presents essential information for pin-pointing this exact time.
And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.
Here in Revelation 12, events past and future are revealed regarding the spiritual warfare between the true God and the Devil. This passage describes a vision which God gave the Apostle John. The vision involves symbols and words full of great truths. Their meaning can be recaptured by a diligent search of God’s Word: first and foremost in the written Word and secondarily in the Word written in the stars. Parallel truths can be found in both. This entire passage in Revelation 12 takes on a profoundly significant dimension when analyzed in terms of astronomy.
Revelation 12:1 says, “there appeared a great wonder in heaven.” The word “wonder” is the Greek word smeion. In Greek literature smeion is used of any kind of sign, but a notable usage is in reference to a sign of the zodiac. This is particularly interesting in the context of Revelation 12 for the sign is said to have appeared “in heaven.”
The sign spoken of in verse 1 is a woman. And the only sign of the zodiac that could correspond to this description is the constellation Virgo.
Revelation 12 further specifies that the woman was “clothed with the sun,” another celestial body. The sun, as it appears to travel through the ecliptic each year, enters into the mid-body between the neck and the knees of the constellation Virgo, “clothing” her “with the sun,” for approximately a twenty-day period. So this one astronomical detail shown in John’s vision narrows down the astronomical event he is describing to a twenty-day period during any given year. In the year 3 B.C. the sun was in this position from August 27 through September 15.
The woman in Revelation 12 was not only “clothed with the sun,” but also the moon was “under her feet.” With these two specific details, the sun and moon found in Virgo, we can be very precise in our computation of time. In 3 B.C. this configuration of the sun and moon in Virgo occurred on one day only, and that was September 11. This configuration of the sun and the moon in the constellation Virgo was observable in Palestine between sunset and moonset, this twilight period being called “night.”2 On September 11, 3 B.C., sunset was at 6:18 P.M. and moonset at 7:39 P.M. Based on the information given in Revelation 12, it was during this eighty-one-minute period that Jesus Christ took his first breath of life and became a living soul, even as Adam did in Genesis 2:7, perhaps even at the beginning of this new day. The description given in Revelation 12:1 exactly chronicles the astronomical occurrence of the evening of September 11, 3 B.C.
Verse 2 of Revelation 12 describes the woman as being in labor, ready to give birth. Verses 3 and 4 recount symbolically the Adversary’s fall from heaven and his plan to slay the child as soon as he was born. In verses 4 and 5 the woman’s labor finishes and the child is brought forth. Verse 5 refers to the child’s birth and ascension to God’s throne. Clearly, from all these specifics the child can be none other than the Christ, the Messiah, the promised seed.
As if this were not enough evidence, there was yet another significant astronomical display on September 11, 3 B.C. From sunset of September 11 to sunset of September 12 was one day on the Hebrew calendar. Not only did the sign of Revelation 12:1 occur then, but also on this very day Jupiter and Regulus could be seen approaching conjunction before dawn. Although the precise astronomical conjunction occurred on September 14, the angle of observation and Jupiter’s slow apparent motion would have made their close rendezvous obvious as early as the predawn hours of Thursday, September 12, within hours of the Messiah’s birth. At this time the king planet (Jupiter) could be seen approaching the king star (Regulus) in the constellation of Leo, the sign of Judah from whose seed the Messiah, the promised seed, the ultimate ruler, came.
According to chronological tables, September 11, 3 B.C. fell on a Wednesday.4 Jesus Christ was born on the Hebrew day corresponding to our sunset September 11, Wednesday. Therefore Jesus Christ was born on Wednesday, September 11, 3 B.C., between 6:18 and 7:39 P.M., Palestine time. September 11 may appear to be of no particular significance to us, but in Biblical and Hebrew reckoning, this month and day held a special significance. On the evening of what we would call September 11, 3 B.C., the new moon first became visible in the west shortly after sunset. Since the Hebrew calendar months began on the evening that the new moon appeared, the evening of September 11 was the first day of a new month. The evening of September 11 to the evening of September 12 in 3 B.C. was the first day of the seventh month, the month of Tishri.
Hence, in Biblical terminology, Jesus was born on the first of Tishri, between 6:18 and 7:39 P.M. On this night the remarkable astronomical configuration described in Revelation 12:1 occurred: Virgo, the Woman, was clothed with the sun and the moon rested under her feet.
The “Great wonder” of Revelation 12:1 Sunset, 6:18 P.M., September 11, 3 B.C.
The diagram shows the sun half-way set. The sun is on the ecliptic, the dotted line, and the solid line is the celestial equator, which is directly overhead at the earth’s equator. At this point, the first thin crescent of the moon appears, marking the first of the new month, Tishri.