Birth of Jesus Timeline

(7 B.C. to October 5 B.C.)
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This is the first in our series of timelines covering the life and ministry of Jesus. This article reveals when the "wise men" of the east first witnessed a bright star that led to them planning the difficult journey to Judea so that they could worship the "King of the Jews." It also covers the miraculous conception and birth of both John the Baptist and Jesus Christ. Other timelines in this series are listed at the bottom of this article.

The oldest prophecy

The Bible's first and oldest written prophecy, given directly by God, is found in the opening chapters of Genesis. It alludes to the miraculous birth of Jesus.

The Messiah is prophesied to oppose the devil, overcome his attacks and ultimately seal his eternal fate. The book of Genesis states, "And I will put enmity between you (the devil) and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed (an illusion to the virgin birth); He (Jesus) will bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel" (Genesis 3:15, HBFV).

The birth of man's Savior, more than two thousand years ago, is one of the most pivotal events to have ever occurred in the universe! This appearance of Jesus, sometimes referred to as the Incarnation, is an eternal witness of perfect love. It shows that God's love is so profound that he was willing to make the greatest sacrifice, through the birth of His Son, and take the greatest risk, in order that his greatest creation could live forever with him.

7 B.C.

Wise men or Magi "from the east" (Matthew 2:1) begin to see what appears to be a bright star appearing in the sky. They firmly believe that this miraculous beacon will lead them to the "King of the Jews" (Jesus) whose birth they can rejoice over (verse 2).

The Magi, and the large caravan that will accompany them, decide to undertake what will become a 1,000+ mile (1,609+ kilometer) journey. Preparations are begun to transport these important men (and many others) westward in a caravan laden with gold, frankincense and myrrh.

The Mystical Nativity by Botticelli
The Mystical Nativity
Sandro Botticelli (c. 1500)

6 B.C.

Mid-May to Early June

A man named Zacharias begins his work at Jerusalem's temple during the "course of Abijah (Abia)" (Luke 1:5, 8 - 9), which is the eighth of twenty-four "shifts" priests could serve within (1Chronicles 24:10). Shifts ran from noon on one Sabbath (Saturday) to the next.

The first shift this year runs from March 20 (Nisan 1) to 27, meaning that Zecharias' shift ran from May 15 to 22. Since May 23, however, is Pentecost, and all priests are required to work during the three busy Festival seasons (the other two being Passover and Tabernacles), his time of service lasts until May 29.

While fulfilling his priestly duties, the archangel Gabriel (likely on Pentecost, since John's birth was a major fulfillment of prophecy) visits Zacharias. This powerful angelic being informs him that his barren wife Elizabeth will miraculously bear him a son. This son, to be named John, will be filled with God's spirit from conception and will be raised under the Nazarite vow (Luke 1:5 - 15).

Because Zacharias doubts the veracity of what the angel states, he is rendered unable to speak until the birth of John (Luke 1:18 - 20, 57 - 64). John the Baptist, in early June, is conceived (Luke 1:23 - 24).

Late November - Early December

Gabriel, during Elizabeth's sixth month of pregnancy, is sent to a young virgin named Mary in the city of Nazareth (Luke 1:26 - 27). She is betrothed to a man named Joseph. The archangel informs her that she will miraculously conceive and give birth to (through the power of God) the Savior of mankind (verses 28 - 37)!

Mary, though amazed at what she is told, accepts God's will for her (verse 38) and Jesus is miraculously conceived in her womb. She then leaves Nazareth to spend about three months (Luke 1:39 - 40, 56) with her cousin Elizabeth.

5 B.C.

Late February - Early March

Mary leaves Elizabeth and travels back to Nazareth (Luke 1:56). Elizabeth then gives birth to John between February 27 and March 11, six months before the arrival of Jesus (Luke 1:26, 36). Zacharias, on the day his son is circumcised, is able to again speak after he writes down that his name should be John (Luke 1:59 - 64).

Joseph soon discovers that his espoused wife Mary is three months pregnant (Matthew 1:18). Although he believes she has committed adultery (punishable by death, see Leviticus 20:10), he considers saving her through a private divorce (Matthew 1:19).

An angel appears to Joseph in a dream and tells him the child in Mary's womb was miraculously created by God. Joseph believes the angel and decides to stay married to Mary. He also chooses not to have sex with her until after the birth of Jesus (verses 20 - 25).

Late August - Early September

The small city of Bethlehem, when Mary and Joseph arrive in order to pay Roman taxes, is inundated with people (Luke 2:1 - 3). The couple, since all available lodging in the city is taken, must stay in a stable. Jesus is born in this location and laid in a manger (verse 7).

The Lord's birth occurs between August 27 and September 9, with it highly likely occurring (due to its symbolism) on Saturday, September 2. This Saturday is special, in that it is Tishri 1, or the first day of Hebrew civil year 3757. It is also the Biblical holy day known as the Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah).

An angel proclaims to shepherds tending their flocks that man's Savior has been born (Luke 2:8 - 11)! He also tells them that the unique location of his birth, along with what he is wrapped in, will be the sign that they have the right child (verse 12).

The shepherds, after countless angels appear in the sky to praise God, travel into Bethlehem to look for Jesus (Luke 2:13 - 16). Jesus, on the eighth day after his birth, is circumcised in obedience to God's law (Leviticus 12:3, Luke 2:21).

Early October

The Magi arrive in Jerusalem and are important enough dignitaries to warrant an immediate audience with Herod the Great. Since the star that has led them on their journey has disappeared, they seek any information he can provide regarding the King they are seeking. The size of their caravan, which includes armed soldiers, alarms both Herod and the city (Matthew 2:1 - 3). Herod immediately sets out to gather all the city's chief priests and scribes (verse 4).


After Mary's forty days of impurity after Jesus' birth are completed (Leviticus 12:1 - 4), she and Joseph travel to Jerusalem so that Jesus can be presented to God in the temple (Luke 2:22 - 24). While at the temple Simeon blesses the family and gives several prophecies (verses 25 - 35). A prophetess named Anna recognizes the Savior and tells others concerning him (verses 36 - 38). The family heads back to Bethlehem.

Herod tersely demands the priests and scribes tell him where the Messiah's birth is to take place (Matthew 2:4). They quote to him Micah 5:2 where it states he will come out of Bethlehem (verses 5 - 6). He then arranges a secret meeting with the Magi and finds out the star they originally saw in the sky appeared two years ago.

Herod reveals to the Magi that the King they are seeking (Jesus) is in Bethlehem. He requests that after they find exactly where the child is located they come back to Jerusalem to tell him (Matthew 2:7 - 8).

The star the Magi saw, which had disappeared, appears again when they leave Jerusalem! It shines and moves before them such that it leads them directly to a home (not a stable!) where they find Mary and Jesus (Matthew 2:9 - 11). They present their gifts to the family.

The Magi, although they had planned to return to Jerusalem and report what they found to Herod, are warned in a dream not to do so. They take another route back home that bypasses Jerusalem (Matthew 2:12).

Joseph, right after the Magi leave, is warned in a dream to flee to Egypt until Herod dies (Matthew 2:13 - 15). This is done because Herod will soon seek to murder the Christ child.

Late October in 5 B.C.

Herod, falsely believing that the Magi are mocking him by not coming back to Jerusalem after they worship Jesus' birth, flies into a rage. Remembering that they told him they first saw the star two years ago, he orders all male children in Bethlehem (and the surrounding areas!) two years old or younger murdered (Matthew 2:16 - 18). This impulsive act of mass murder fulfills prophecy (Jeremiah 31:15).

Recommended Articles
How Does Jesus Bruise the Devil's Head?
Why Didn't Jesus Bring Peace to Earth?
Journeys of Mary and Joseph Map
What Does the Nativity Have Wrong?
What Exactly is Frankincense?
What Makes Myrrh Symbolically Special?
Who Are the Magi?
Why Was Jesus Born?
Life of Jesus Timelines
Birth of Jesus and John the Baptist
Jesus' Baptism and Temptation
The First Miracle at Cana
In Jerusalem for Feast of Tabernacles
In Jerusalem for Hanukkah
Visiting Home for the Last Time
Final Trips before Crucifixion
The Last Week of Jesus' Life
Appearances after Resurrection!

Series References
AMG Concise Bible Dictionary
Appointed Times of Jesus the Messiah
Barnes' Notes on the New Testament
Bible Knowledge Commentary
Harmony of the Gospels in Modern English
Holy Bible, a Faithful Version
New Manners and Customs