Was Jesus Born in 4 BC?

Dear Catholic Exchange,

On page 6 of your Guide to the Passion, question #4, you state that Christians believe that God at a specific moment in time took on human flesh (about 4 BC). Please explain the 4 BC. I thought BC meant before Christ. Shouldn’t it be 1 BC — BC stopped when Christ was born. He died 33 AD.

Thank you,


Dear Joe:

Actually, 4 BC is correct. The date of Christ's birth was first worked out in the Middle Ages by a monk named Dennis the Little. Unfortunately, Dennis got his figures wrong and placed the birth of Christ in the wrong year. We know it was the wrong year because, if we rely in Dennis' calendar, we find that Jesus was born after King Herod's death. So the dating of Jesus' birth was re-adjusted. But by then, Dennis' calendar was widely established in the Christian world. So we live now in a strange world where Jesus was born roughly four years “before Christ”.

Mark Shea

Senior Content Editor

Catholic Exchange

See also:

A Guide to the Passion order information

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