But if we judge the idea that three-fourths of people who ever lived are alive today to be a ridiculous statement, have demographers come up with a better estimate?
Any such exercise can be only a highly speculative enterprise, to be undertaken with far less seriousness than most demographic inquiries.
Both Luke and Matthew mention Jesus’ birth as occurring during Herod’s reign (Luke 1:5; Matthew 2:1). This is generally regarded as a reference to a lunar eclipse in 4 B. Therefore it is often said that Jesus was born in 4 B. C., which would place Herod’s death—and Jesus’ birth—at the turn of the era. This date is based on Josephus’s remark in 17.6.4 that there was a lunar eclipse shortly before Herod died. Using so-called inclusive counting, this, too, places Herod’s death in 4 B. Third, we know that the reign over Samaria and Judea of Herod’s son and successor Archelaus began in 4 B. The difficulty is that we have a fair amount of information, but it is equivocal.
Cramer, in a letter to BAR, has pointed out that there was another lunar eclipse visible in Judea—in fact, two—in 1 B. based on the fact that both Luke and Matthew associate Jesus’ birth with Herod’s reign—Ed.] Readers may be interested to learn there is reason to reconsider the date of Herod’s death. Thus, Schürer concluded that “Herod died at Jericho in B. 4, unwept by those of his own house, and hated by all the people.” Jeroen H. Tempelman New York, New York Trying to date the death of Herod the Great is attended by considerable uncertainty, and I do not mean to claim I know the right answer. Tempelman does a good job of pointing out arguments in favor of a 4 B. date following the arguments advanced long ago by Emil Schürer.
Carbon-14 is a naturally occurring isotope of the element carbon.
(October 2011) The question of how many people have ever lived on Earth is a perennial one among information calls to PRB.
First published in 1995 and updated in 2002, this latest 2011 article includes data through mid-2011 and a short video explaining the estimate.
Below, read letters published in the Q&C section of BAR debating the dates of Herod’s death, Jesus’ birth and to which lunar eclipse Josephus was referring. Q&C, BAR, July/August 2013 Let me add a footnote to Suzanne Singer’s report on the final journey of Herod the Great (Strata, BAR, March/April 2013): She gives the standard date of his death as 4 B. This is traditionally ascribed to the eclipse of March 13, 4 B. Unfortunately, this eclipse was visible only very late that night in Judea and was additionally a minor and only partial eclipse. These reasons were articulated by Emil Schürer in A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ, also published in the 19th century. Second, Josephus writes that Herod reigned for 37 years from the time of his appointment in 40 B. and 34 years from his conquest of Jerusalem in 37 B. C., based on the fact that he was deposed by Caesar in A. The key information comes, of course, from Josephus who brackets the death by “a fast” and the Passover.
There were no lunar eclipses visible in Judea thereafter until two occurred in the year 1 B. Of these two, the one on December 29, just two days before the change of eras, gets my vote since it was the one most likely to be seen and remembered. First, Josephus informs us that Herod died shortly before a Passover ( 2.1.3), making a lunar eclipse in March (the time of the 4 B. He says that on the night of the fast there was a lunar eclipse—the only eclipse mentioned in the entire corpus of his work. The first eclipse fits Yom Kippur, almost too early, but possible. eclipse seems too far from Yom Kippur and much too close to Passover.
C., who ordered the execution of John the Baptist (Mark –29) and who had a supporting role in Jesus’ trial (Luke 23:7–12), we have coins that make reference to the 43rd year of his rule, placing its beginning in 4 B. at the latest (see Morten Hørning Jensen, “Antipas—The Herod Jesus Knew,” BAR, September/October 2012).