|Institutions||University of Graz, Austria|
|Known for||the first to suggest that Christ was actually born in 4 BC, not AD 1|
Laurentius Suslyga or Laurence Suslyga (Polish: Wawrzyniec Suslyga) (1570–1640), was a Polish Jesuit historian, chronologist, and an author of Baroque visual poetry. He was the first person to claim that Jesus Christ was in fact born around 4 BC, not in AD 1, as the Christian era would imply. Suslyga was thus questioning the Anno Domini chronology introduced by Dionysius Exiguus in AD 525. Suslyga presented this theory in his 1605 doctoral thesis entitled Theoremata de anno ortus et mortis Domini, deque universa Jesu Christi in carne oeconomia at the University of Graz. Among other arguments, Suslyga's treatise included the following: Herod's son, Philip the Tetrarch, renamed a city (Bethsaida) after Augustus's daughter, Julia. Since she had been exiled from Rome by Augustus in 2 BC, Philip must have renamed the city prior to that date, and Herod must have died prior to Philip's becoming a ruler, which pushes the Massacre of the Innocents at least 3, if not more, years before AD 1. Suslyga's work was in turn used by Kepler to bolster Kepler's theory that the Star of Bethlehem was in fact a great conjunction of the three planets: Jupiter, Saturn and Mars. According to Kepler's calculations, this conjunction occurred around 7/6 BC. This was followed by Christ's birth a year or two later (Herod ordered the killing of all newborn boys up to 2 years of age), which fits in with Suslyga's reckoning.
Frederick M. Strickert and others have pointed out that the identity of Augustus’ daughter in Flavius Josephus' texts about the renaming of Bethsaida (Antiquities of the Jews 18.2.1, The Wars of the Jews 2.9.1) is not beyond dispute. It was assumed by Suslyga and many other scholars in recent centuries that Josephus was referring to Julia the Elder, the physical daughter of the emperor Augustus, concerning the renaming of Bethsaida as Julias. However, through his will, Augustus also officially adopted his wife Livia into the Julian family as his daughter, and gave her a new name, Julia. It is by her name Julia that Josephus always made reference to Livia, the emperor’s wife, even in his descriptions of events before Augustus’ death and deification in A.D. 14. The Roman historian Velleius Paterculus (c. 19 B.C. - c. A.D. 31) confirms that Livia was known as Augustus’ daughter: “Take for example Livia. She, the daughter of the brave and noble Drusus Claudianus, most eminent of Roman women in birth, in sincerity, and in beauty, she, whom we later saw as the wife of Augustus, and as his priestess and daughter after his deification.”  Many scholars now believe that Philip renamed Bethsaida as Julias in honor of Livia (Julia) following her death in A.D. 29. This would also explain why the name Julias persisted for generations. Otherwise the name would have probably disappeared not long after the disgrace of Julia the Elder. Pliny the Elder uses the name Julias for Bethsaida in about A.D. 77 and Claudius Ptolemy, the geographer, uses it in the second century A.D. Identifying Julias with Livia, instead of Julia the Elder, essentially renders invalid one of Suslyga’s main arguments for a 4 B.C. date of the death of Herod the Great.
- Duncan Steel, Marking Time p.324.
- A.J. Sachs, "Kepler's View of the Star of Bethlehem"
- Velificatio seu theoremata de anno ortus ac mortis domini, deque vniuersa Iesu Christi in carne oeconomia. 1605.
- W. Burke-Gaffney, "Kepler and the Star of Bethlehem"
- Frederick M. Strickert, Philip’s City: From Bethsaida to Julias, (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical, 2011), pp. 163-188.
- Strickert, Philip’s City, pp. 163-188.
- Velleius Paterculus, Roman History 2.75.3
- Pliny, Natural History 5.15.71
- Ptolemy, Geographia 5.16.4
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