In 36 BCE, an Idumean named Herod took over as king of Judea. Known as Herod the Great, he apparently suffered from paranoia and ruled with ruthless brutality. He put to death forty-six leading members of the Sanhedrin and killed all the remaining members of the Hasmonean family, including, eventually, his own wife and children.
Sanhedrin: the central rabbinical supreme court of ancient Israel, composed of 71 sages, which emerged as an especially crucial source of leadership following the destruction of the Second Temple.
Both Luke and Matthew mention Jesus’ birth as occurring during Herod’s reign (Luke 1:5; Matthew 2:1). Josephus relates Herod’s death to a lunar eclipse. This is generally regarded as a reference to a lunar eclipse in 4 B.C. Therefore it is often said that Jesus was born in 4 B.C.
But physics professor John A. Cramer, in a letter to BAR, has pointed out that there was another lunar eclipse visible in Judea—in fact, two—in 1 B.C., which would place Herod’s death—and Jesus’ birth—at the turn of the era. Below, read letters published in the Q&C section of BARdebating the dates of Herod’s death, Jesus’ birth and to which lunar eclipse Josephus was referring.