Bible Study Notes

 

Enter keywords to find content in the New and Old Testaments and related study papers.

Christ’s Birth and Death Dates

Christ’s Birth, Death & Resurrection Dates
db’s Bible Study Notes

Various dates for the birth and death of Christ have been proposed.  There is not even universal agreement regarding the length of his life.  The reason, of course, is that we have conflicting information about the dates pertaining to so many of the events in Christ’s life.

This author of this paper proposes that the preponderance of the evidence supports his personal belief that Jesus was born in April of 1 B.C; died on April 1, 33 A.D.; and was resurrected on Sunday, April 3, 33 A.D.

There is general agreement regarding the following pertaining to the life of Jesus Christ:

  • He was born in Bethlehem of Judea.
  • A Roman census was in progress at the time of his birth.
  • He was born near the end of the reign of Herod the Great.
  • His birth was heralded by a “new star” in the heavens.
  • Shepherds were tending their flocks by night, indicating that Jesus was born during the lambing season as is consistent with a (spring) Passover birth.
  • He was visited by the Magi while still an infant because they had seen his star.
  • Herod had all male infants in Bethlehem under age two put to death.
  • He was about six months younger than his cousin, John the Baptist.
  • His baptism occurred shortly after John began his ministry during the 15th year of the reign of the Roman Emperor Tiberius.
  • He was baptized by John when he was about 30 years of age.
  • His mortal ministry lasted at least 3 years and probably not more than 4 years.
  • The sun was darkened at the time of the crucifixion.
  • He was crucified on a day of preparation preceding a Passover.
  • It was prophesied the he would rise from the dead within three days.
  • He was resurrected on the first day of the week, which today is called Sunday.
  • The only astronomically possible years for the resurrection, in order of likelihood, are 33 A.D and 30 A.D.

Most of what we know regarding the life of Herod the Great comes from the Jewish historian Josephus who wrote approximately a century following Herod.  His 34-year reign began in 37 B.C. indicating he died in 4 or 3 B.C., with 4 B.C. being the traditionally accepted date for the death for Herod the Great.

There is much evidence supporting the traditional view that Herod died in 4 B.C.  Josephus mentions there was a lunar eclipse about a month before Herod died.   It has long been known that a lunar eclipse occurred in Judea on March 13, 4 B.C.  (There was no lunar eclipse in Judea during 3 B.C.)   In the spring of 6 B.C. there were three conjunctions of Jupiter and Saturn in Pieces (one of the Zodiac signs thought to govern Judea) while in the spring of 7 B.C. Mars joined the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn.   Many believe one of these conjunctions was the “new star” heralding the birth of Christ, indicating Jesus was born in 7 or 6 B.C.  This would be consistent with the slaying of all infants under two years of age were their deaths to have occurred in 4 B.C.  Josephus as well as coins found by archeologists indicates the successors of Herod began their reigns in 4-3 B.C.

Josephus records numerous details surrounding death of Herod.  Between the lunar eclipse and Passover Josephus states the following occurred:

  • Herod died a lingering death; his body putrefying with part of it breading worms.
  • He was taken a distance of ten miles for treatment in hot baths.
  • He returned home when the treatment proved ineffective.
  • Herod ordered notables from throughout the kingdom to attend him.  The sending of the summons and arrival of the men summoned would be a time consuming event in those days.
  • Herod’s son Antipater was executed five days prior to his death.
  • Herod received a lavish funeral, with his body being carried 23 miles to its final resting place.
  • A funeral feast was held at the conclusion of a 7-day mourning period.
  • A separate period of public mourning was held for the Jewish patriots who were executed on the night following the lunar eclipse that preceded Herod’s death.

All these events are stated to have occurred between the lunar eclipse and Passover.  It seems very unlikely that all this could have occurred between March 13, 4 B.C. and March 29, 4 B.C., which would be necessary if Herod died in 4 B.C.   This has created the problem that historians refer to as the “impossible month.”

In addition to the problems associated with the “impossible month” there are other items recorded by Josephus that cast doubt on the traditional view that Herod died in 4 B.C.  Several of these are worth consideration.

Josephus states that Varus was the governor of Syria when Herod died, replacing Saturninus who had been governor for two years prior to the death of Herod.  Coins have been found indicating that Varus was governor in both 6 and 5 B.C.   This obviously argues against Herod’s death occurring in 4 B.C.

A Roman census was being conducted at the time Christ was born.  (Even in modern times a census is not conducted in a single day.  In that era it was a process requiring a year or more to complete.)  No record of a Roman census being conducted around 4 B.C has ever been found.  It has usually been thought this referred to the taxation of 8 B.C.  However, the 8 B.C. taxation only applied to Roman citizens so it has never been adequately explained why it would require Joseph to travel to Bethlehem to be counted.

The death of Herod the Great in 4 B.C. necessitates Christ being born in 7 or 6 B.C. in order for his birth to have been heralded by a new star.  The earliest possible date for his resurrection is 30 A.D. This means he would have been in his mid thirties—not about 30 as indicated by Luke—when he began his mortal ministry.  This objection is easily ignored today because such a discrepancy is consistent with our method of reckoning time.  There is, however, a reason this discrepancy should not be ignored.

Christ dutifully fulfilled the Law of Moses.  His expressed purpose for being baptized was to fulfill all righteousness.  Delaying the commencement of his ministry would have been breaking the Law of Moses.  Under the Law of Moses (see Numbers 4:3Numbers 4:3
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

3 From thirty years old and upward even until fifty years old, all that enter into the host, to do the work in the tabernacle of the congregation.  

WP-Bible plugin
) his ministry should have begun at age thirty.  For him to have delayed his ministry by a few years would be an act totally incongruous with the rest of his life.

Lunar eclipses were common in Palestine during Herod’s era, yet Josephus only mentions the one prior to the death of Herod.  The question “why” deserves consideration.  There are two parts to the probable answer.  The first is the eclipse was widely observed.  The second is that it occurred on the night following the execution of numerous Jewish patriots.   It should be noted that the eclipse in 4 B.C. occurred more than six hours after sunset making it unlikely that it was widely observed by the Jews.

In consideration of all the reasons mentioned above (and others not mentioned) many scholars doubt the 4 B.C. eclipse was the one that preceded Herod’s death.   For the same reasons they doubt Herod the Great died in 4 B.C.

Various alternatives have been proposed for the eclipse preceding Herod’s death.  Barnes proposes the eclipse of September 15, 5 B.C.  Filmer proposes the eclipse of January 10, 1 B.C.  Pratt proposes the December 29, 1 B.C. eclipse.

The September 15, 5 B.C. eclipse occurred 3 hours after sundown, while the January 10, 1 B.C. eclipse occurred 6 hours after sundown.  Both of these seem to have occurred too late at night to have been widely observed.  Additionally, they do not seem as good a fit for the historical data pertaining to both Herod and Christ.  In contrast the eclipse proposed by Pratt seems to fulfill all the appropriate requirements.

During the December 29, 1 B.C. eclipse (Pratt’s proposal) the full moon was nearly half eclipsed when it would first be seen rising from the Eastern sky about 20 minutes following sundown.  Thus it was widely visible by the people for over an hour.

 

At Herod’s death the kingdom was split between Archelaus, Antipas, and Philip.  All reckoned their reigns as commencing in 4-3 B.C.  It is likely the reason Antipater traveled to Rome prior to his death is that he anticipated the infighting and breakup of the kingdom, which would follow Herod’s death.  His trip to Rome was probably to advance his claim to the entire kingdom.  Had Antipater lived (as stated above, he died before Herod) it is possible the kingdom would not have been divided and he would have been name king of a united kingdom as was his father, Herod the Great.  When Archelaus put forth his claim to the entire kingdom he argued that he was in reality continuing the rule of his brother Antipater, who was the proper heir to the entire kingdom.  Thus he antedated the commencement of his reign to the 4 B.C. co-regency in order to have the superior claim to the entire kingdom.  To avoid being disadvantaged Antipas and Philip adopted the same practice.  Thus all of Herod’s successors claimed to have commenced their reign in 4 B.C.; whereas in reality none of them started ruling before 1 A.D.  In effect all chose to consider the appointment of a co-regent as ending Herod’s reign and all considered themselves the rightful sole king whose rightful reign commenced at the end of Herod’s reign.

 

As noted above, almost all that is known about Herod the Great comes from Josephus—who was most self-serving and far from unbiased.  (As is well known, in addition to being a plagiarist, Josephus was the “Benedict Arnold” of the Jewish revolt—and sought forever afterward to justify his actions.)  As others have noted regarding the accuracy of this writings:

 

The vast bulk of what we know about this period derives form the testimony of an ancient Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus.  Josephus was a complicated man, and his writings are not always easy to work with.  As one scholar notes, “Sometimes the historian working with Flavius Josephus feels like a lawyer forced to build his case in court upon the testimony of a felon.  While there may be some truth in what the witness says, the problem is always to separate it from self-serving obfuscation and outright lies.”

(Shaye J.D. Cohen, Ancient Isreal, p. 267 quoting Michael Wise, Thunder in Gemini, p. 51.)

 

At Herod’s death, Josephus states that Herod ruled 34 years, but then adds he ruled 37 years from the time he was named king in 40 B.C.  All other dates used by Josephus are reckoned from 37 B.C. when Herod took control of Jerusalem.  Why the change in dating methodology?  Again, the answer is interesting.

 

The probable answer is that Josephus was using source material that stated Herod the Great ruled 37 years.  (His principle source–who he plagiarized–is Nicolaus of Damascus, Herod’s “official” historian.  Which partly explains why Josephus is able to cover the reign of Herod in great detail, in contrast to Herod’s successors.)  This would be consistent with an A.D. 1 death if the beginning of his reign was measured from the time Herod took control of Jerusalem—the practice Josephus, like his source, followed.  However, if Josephus did not know that Herod’s successors antedated the dates on which they claimed their reigns commenced it is easy to see how Josephus would conclude that his source obtained the 37 years for the length of Herod’s reign by counting from 40 B.C. instead of 37 B.C.

 

Is it possible that Josephus was unaware that Herod’s successors antedated the commencement of their reigns?   There are two possible answers.  One is that it was not politically expedient for him to publicly expose their practice, which resulted in his “cooking the books.”  The second is that he was unaware of what happened.   Josephus devotes 30 chapters to Herod the Great.  In contrast his successors are scarcely mentioned.  Thus it appears well within the realm of probability that Josephus was unaware that Herod’s successors antedated the date on which they claimed to have commenced their reign.  (It should also be remembers these events did not occur during the adult life of Josephus.  Josephus’s situation is somewhat analogous to a veteran of Desert Storm writing about World War One.)

 

The earliest coins found for any of Herod’s successors is “year 5.”   This is exactly what would be expected if they had claimed to have begun their rule in 4 B.C. but had not actually coined money until 1 A.D.—the year they truthfully began to reign.

 

As mentioned above, Josephus says that Varus was governor of Syria at the time of Herod’s death.  It is not known who was governor of Syria around 1 A.D.  However, an inscription found near the villa of Varus speaks of a man who was twice governor of Syria.  It therefore seems safe to conclude that Varus was twice governor of Syria.  The first time around 6-5 B.C. and the second around 1 A.D.

 

As stated above, the 8 B.C. taxation only applied to Roman citizens.  Supporters of the 4 B.C. death date for Herod’s death think it was the census requiring Mary and Joseph to undertake their journey to Bethlehem.   There is a better option.

 

On February 5, 2 B.C. the Roman Senate awarded Augustas Caesar the title of “Pater Patriae” (Father of the Country).   It is thought by many that the census mentioned by Luke also required an oath of allegiance to Augustus Caesar.   Josephus states that a year or so before Herod died that over 6,000 Pharisees refused to pledge their good will to Caesar.   If an oath was administered as part of the census it is easy to understand how Josephus knew the number of non-compliant Pharisees; without a census it would be more formidable task.

 

Orosius, a fifth century historian, also links an oath of allegiance to the census.  He identifies the census as occurring in 2 B.C.  Conducting a census took a long period of time, as it required both informing provincial leaders of what was expected as well as enrolling all the subjects of the empire.  Consequently this 2 B.C. census seems a perfect fit for the census mentioned by Luke if Christ were born in the spring of 1 B.C.  Refusing to take the oath of allegiance accompanying the 2 B.C. census might also explain the death of the Jewish patriots at a lunar eclipse preceding Herod’s death.   It should also be noted that Luke’s phrase “in those days a decree went forth” refers back to the birth of John the Baptist, in 2 B.C., making this an even better fit for the census that brought Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem so Joseph could be counted as being of the house and linage of David.

 

One possibility for the Star of Bethlehem deserves serious consideration.   On June 17, 2ne 17, 2
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

Izbrano poglavje ne obstaja!

WP-Bible plugin
B.C. there was a conjunction of Jupiter and Venus rear the king-star, Regulus, in Leo.  The two planets seemed to merge.  In the 2000 years before and after this 2 B.C. conjunction there has never been another such perfect conjunction of Jupiter and Venus near Regulus.

 

The sign of the tribe of Judah, of course, is the lion.  Regulus, within Leo, is associated both with kings and with the kingdom of Judah.  Jupiter was the father god and was often associated with the birth of kings.  Venus was the mother god as well as the goddess of love and fertility.   Thus it is likely that the Magi seeing Jupiter and Venus join together in “marriage union” near Regulus would predict, not the birth of a king of Judah, but rather the conception of the king of Judah.

 

This explanation for the Star of Bethlehem fits well for a 1 B.C. birth of Christ.  It also supports two ancient Christian traditions mentioned by a fourth century churchman named Epipanius.  The first is that Christ was conceived on June 20th, which is very close to the June 17th conjunction.  The second is that Mary’s pregnancy lasted 10 months.

 

There was a Passover feast on April 9, 1 B.C.   The Law of Moses was interpreted as requiring parents to present a newborn child at the temple within 40 days of birth.  It is likely that Joseph and Mary would combine their enrollment in the Roman census together with a Passover visit to Jerusalem.  A trip to Jerusalem for Passover is the likely reason there was “no room at the inn” for them.  Jerusalem was always packed during Passover.  The uncertainties of travel being what they were in those days it is likely Mary and Joseph would try to arrive in Jerusalem a few days prior to Passover.  Thus a birth date for Jesus early in April of 1 B.C. seems probable, as that would put Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem shortly before Passover.  (Bethlehem is a suburb of Jerusalem located about 5 miles distant from the center of the larger city.  Then as now, those residing in the surrounding suburbs were consider to be “in Jerusalem” for Passover.)

 

Shepherds are recorded as tending their flocks by night.  This is a common practice during the lambing season.  A Passover birth would coincide with the spring lambing season.  The Biblical mention of shepherds tending their flocks by night is consistent with a Passover birth in 1 B.C.

 

If the “new star” was indeed a sign of Christ’s conception, rather than his birth, it might also help explain other events.  It would explain how the Magi had sufficient time to arrive when the Christ child was still an infant in or near Bethlehem.   Especially when one considers that it is likely Mary and Joseph would remain near Jerusalem in order to be able to present Jesus at the temple 40 days following his birth as was required by the Law of Moses.

 

Herod is reported to have killed the male infants of Bethlehem under age two after receiving the Magi.   It is likely that he wanted to take no chance that the Magi made an error.  Herod might have feared that an earlier conjunction—perhaps that of September 14, 3 B.C.—was the sign of either Christ’s conception or birth.

 

There were other events in the skies during the pervious years that might also had made him select age two in order to be sure his perceived rival did not escape.  They are worth discussing as they also help us to understand why the Magi would view the June 17, 2ne 17, 2
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

Izbrano poglavje ne obstaja!

WP-Bible plugin
B.C. conjunction as the sign of Christ’s conception.

 

Jupiter is brighter in the night sky than any star or planet except Venus.  As viewed from the Earth, planets generally move eastward through a series of constellations known as the Zodiac.  However, planets do not always move eastward, sometimes they move westward for a few months before again moving eastward.  This westward movement is known as retrograde motion.

 

(Retrograde motion occurs in the planets that are further from the Sun than is the Earth because these planets take longer to complete their orbit.  For example, Jupiter appears to move eastward until the Earth overtakes it in its orbit, then for a time Jupiter appears to move westward.  The effect is similar to what a person experiences when traveling in a car that overtakes another car.  At the moment the faster car overtakes the slower car, the slower car appears to move backward.)

 

Astronomers tell us that on September 14, 3 B.C., Jupiter appeared to pass very close to the star Regulus, “the King’s star.”  This conjunction of Jupiter and Regulus appeared in the eastern sky.  In the following months at first Jupiter continued its eastward movement, it then—as viewed form the Earth—it stopped and moved westward for a period of time.  On February 17, 2 B.C. Jupiter passed even closer to Regulus than it had on September 14, 3 B.C.  On May 8, 2 B.C. Jupiter passed Regulus a third time.

 

Thus, over a period of nearly eight months the Magi saw Jupiter appear to draw a circle, or crown, above “the King’s star,” beginning in the east.  Astrologers would probably have predicated the coming birth of a king in Judea after observing this movement.

 

Then on the evening of June 17, 2ne 17, 2
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

Izbrano poglavje ne obstaja!

WP-Bible plugin
B.C. as the sky became dark over Babylonia, Jupiter and Venus drew closer and closer together until at 8:51 p.m. that night over Babylon they appeared to merge into a single, brilliant star—a marriage union—in the western sky.  It would to be seen as pointing towards Bethlehem.  Thus it is likely the Magi concluded that a new king of Jews, the promised Messiah, had been conceived and shortly thereafter began their journey to worship him.   It is possible a ten-month pregnancy was needed for the Magi to arrive in Jerusalem when Jesus was born.  Or that with a shorter pregnancy Mary would have delivered in Nazareth.  (Information regarding the above conjunctions is taken from Cosmic Discoveries, by David and Wendee Levy, published by Prometheus Books.  The author of this paper is responsible for the conclusions.)

 

The only date given in the Gospels that can be cross referenced with external dating systems is given by Luke (3:1) when he states that John the Baptist began his ministry “in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar.”   Luke (3:23) also indicates that shortly after John the Baptist began his ministry that Jesus went to him to be baptized.  Additionally we are told that Jesus was about 30 years of age when he was baptized.  As has been mentioned before, attainment of age 30 was required under the Law of Moses for commencement of the work performed by both John and Jesus.  It would be incongruous with the rest of his life for Christ to delay beginning his ministry past age 30.  That John and Jesus would both delay the commencement of their ministry, and delay it the same number of years, seems highly unlikely.

 

Following Christ’s baptism the Gospels record that Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness where he finished preparing for his mortal ministry.  The probability is Jesus was baptized shortly before his thirtieth birthday and emerged from the wilderness shortly after turning thirty, at which time he began his ministry.

 

It is most likely that the 15th year of Tiberius was calculated from the death of Augustus in 14 A.D.  If so, John the Baptist began his ministry between August/September 28 A.D. and August/September 29. A.D.   Some have suggested that Tiberius calculated his reign from his co-regency with Augustus.  The early Christian writer Tertullian used both methods.  With the expectation of Tertullian (who used both methods), there are no documents, coins, or other evidence that Tiberius calculated his reign from his co-regency.  Thus it is most likely Christ was baptized in 28 or 29 A.D. when he was nearing his 30th birthday.  This is consistent with his birth having occurred in 1 B.C. and his crucifixion in 33 A.D.

 

The Gospel of John specifically names three Passovers, including the one that occurred when Christ was crucified.  (See John 2:13John 2:13
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

13 And the Jews' passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem,  

WP-Bible plugin
, John 6:4John 6:4
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

4 And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh.  

WP-Bible plugin
, and John 11:55John 11:55
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

55 And the Jews' passover was nigh at hand: and many went out of the country up to Jerusalem before the passover, to purify themselves.  

WP-Bible plugin
.)   John also implies an extra year between the first two Passovers because he discusses a spring harvest plus another Jewish feast is mentioned.   (See John 4:35,45John 4:35,45
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

35 Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. 45 Then when he was come into Galilee, the Galilaeans received him, having seen all the things that he did at Jerusalem at the feast: for they also went unto the feast.  

WP-Bible plugin
)   Consequently it is generally accepted that Christ’s mortal ministry lasted not less than three and one-half years and included at least four Passovers.

 

If Christ were baptized about age thirty and his mortal ministry lasted between three and four years then he should have been 33 or 34 at the time of his death.  This is totally consistent with a birth shortly before Passover in 1 B.C. and crucifixion during the 33 A.D. Passover.

 

When Christ was crucified, Pilate was the Roman procurator and Caiaphas was the Jewish high priest.  Historical records indicate this means the crucifixion had to have occurred between 26 and 36 A.D.  If Christ began his ministry in 28-29 A.D. when he was about 30 and in the 15th (or 16th) year of the reign of Tiberius then after four Passovers had passed it would indicate he was crucified in 32-33 A.D.  If his ministry were to have begun in 26 A.D. (as would be the case if his ministry were reckoned from the co-regency of Tiberias) then Christ was crucified about 29 A.D.   Thus the internal dating of Gospels is consistent with secular records regarding the date of the crucifixion.

 

It is important to note that following the death of Sejanus in October of 31 A.D that Pilate was most conciliatory when confronted with Jewish demands.  Prior to that time the Jews had found him inflexible.  Thus a crucifixion date after 31 A.D. is more plausible than an earlier date.

 

An understanding of the Jewish lunisolar calendar is helpful in evaluating possible dates for the crucifixion.  In the Jewish calendar, years are based upon the movements of the sun while the moon determines the months.  Months begin the first evening that the slim crescent of the new moon becomes visible.  Days are measured from evening until the following evening.  The lunar calendar is tied to the solar calendar through the selection of the month of Nisan.  The month of Nisan, the first month of the Jewish calendar, is the first month to begin following the spring equinox, when the sun rises the closest to due east.  Thus the feast of Unleavened Bread and the Passover can never occur prior to the spring equinox.  Since twelve lunar months are about eleven days short of a solar year about every three years a thirteenth or “leap month” is added to the lunisolar year.  (In somewhat the same way February 29th is added to our calendar every fourth year.)

 

All the Gospel writers state that Christ was crucified on a day of preparation preceding a Sabbath.  (See Matthew 27:62Matthew 27:62
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

62 Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate,  

WP-Bible plugin
, Mark 15:42Mark 15:42
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

42 And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath,  

WP-Bible plugin
, Luke 23:54Luke 23:54
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

54 And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on.  

WP-Bible plugin
and John 19:42John 19:42
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

42 There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews' preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand.  

WP-Bible plugin
.)  A Sabbath could be either the weekly Sabbath (a Saturday) or a feast day.  It is important to understand that in Biblical times the Jews counted inclusively.  Thus, according to the Jewish manner of reckoning time, any part of Friday, Saturday, and any part of Sunday would be counted as three days and three nights.  John specifically states the day of preparation on which Christ was crucified was the day of preparation for the Passover.  (See John 19:14John 19:14
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

14 And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!  

WP-Bible plugin
.)   All the Gospel writers are in agreement that Christ rose from the dead on the first day of week, which we call Sunday.  Furthermore, he was hurriedly laid in his tomb because of the approaching Sabbath.   The women returned on Sunday to finish the task of anointing and preparing his body for internment only to find he has risen from the dead.   Thus I am comfortable with the traditional view that Christ was crucified on a Friday and rose from the dead on a Sunday with the intervening Saturday being both the weekly Sabbath and a Passover.   Traditionally the Pascal lamb was slain on day of preparation for the Passover.

 

It should be noted that Christ had prophesied that he would rise from the dead within three days.  Hence it is necessary to select a three-day period that both allows Christ to have been crucified on the day of preparation for Passover—in harmony with the symbolism of his being the Pascal lamb—and well as his rising from the dead on a Sunday as many witnesses testified happened.   Thus a Saturday Passover is required to comply with the prophecy that Christ would rise from the dead in three days, the symbolism that Jesus is the Pascal lamb, and the testimony of witness that the Savior rose from the dead on a Sunday.

 

The symbolism of Christ as the Pascal lamb, the author feels, should be given considerable importance.  If Christ were crucified on a Friday preceding a Saturday Passover he would have been crucified at the same time the Pascal lambs were slain for the Passover meal.   This is another reason the author feels Christ was crucified on a Friday preceding a Saturday Passover.

 

The following table lists some of the important symbolism that adds weight to the selection of this day for the crucifixion.

 

Modern DateJewish DatePassover EventEvent in Christ’s Life
Monday, March 28, 3310 Nisan

Passover lamb chosen

Triumphal entry proclaiming Jesus to be the Messiah

Friday, April 1, 33 AD14 Nisan

Lamb sacrificed

Christ’s Crucifixion – Lamb of God slain for sins of the world

Saturday, April 2, 3315 Nisan

Feast commemorating the liberation from bondage in Egypt

Salvation preached to the captives in the sprit world

Sunday, April 3, 33 AD16 Nisan

First fruits of the harvest presented to the Lord

First fruits of the resurrection come forth

 

 

 

The following table shows the day of preparation preceding Passover during the years that Pilate was governor of Judea and Caiaphas was high priest.

 

Day of Preparation (14 Nisan)

YearDayDate
26 ADSundayApril 19, 1 AD
27 ADThursdayApril 8, 27 AD
28 ADTuesdayMarch 28, 28 AD
29 ADMondayApril 16, 29 AD
30 ADFridayApril 5, 20 AD
31 ADTuesdayMarch 25, 31 AD
32 ADSundayApril 11, 32 AD
33 ADFridayApril 1, 33 AD
34 ADWednesdayMarch 22, 34 AD
35 ADTuesdayApril 10, 35 AD
36 ADSaturdayMarch 29, 36 AD

 

As can be seen, the only years in which the day of preparation for the Passover fell on a Friday were in 30 A.D. and 33 A.D.  Remember that Pilate’s conciliatory behavior favors a date after 31 A.D.  The year 33 A.D. is clearly the better candidate for Christ’s death and resurrection for additional reasons as will be explained below.

 

The scriptures indicate the sun was darkened for three hours at the crucifixion.  Peter’s remarks (Acts 2:20Acts 2:20
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

20 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come:  

WP-Bible plugin
) about the sun darkening and the moon turning to blood are often thought to also refer to events accompanying the crucifixion.

 

Because the Jews use a lunisolar calendar, on 14 Nisan (the day of preparation preceding Passover) the moon is always full.   Solar eclipses occur when the moon is new, not full.  However, a lunar eclipse can occur at a full moon, which causes the moon to turn a dark reddish color.

 

No known lunar eclipse or other astronomical event that would make the sun appear darkened and/or the moon turn to blood was visible in Judea during the 30 A.D. Passover.  That is not the case, however, with the 33 A.D. Passover.

 

There was a lunar eclipse lasting at least 30 minutes visible in Jerusalem on Friday, April 1, 33 A.D.  Furthermore, because the Jews were likely to have been looking for the full moon beginning Passover it is probable the 33 A.D. lunar eclipse was widely observed.  This 33 A.D. eclipse is consistent with statements of the sun being darkened and the moon turning to blood.  Thus the best candidate for the date on which Christ was crucified is Friday, April 1, 33 A.D.

 

If Christ were crucified on Friday, April 1, 33 AD—as seems likely—it is completely compatible with a birth date just before Passover in 1 B.C since Christ would be 33-34 years old, which is consistent with his having been baptized about age 30.   A birth date of 7-6 B.C. or even 4 B.C. does not provide this same internal consistency with either a 30 A.D. or 33 A.D. crucifixion.

 

These conclusions are totally consistent with the work of the sixth century scholar Dionysis Exiguus who calculated that Christ was born in 1 B.C.   If Christ had actually been born in 7-6 B.C. or even 4 B.C. no satisfactory answer has ever been given to the question of how he made an error of such magnitude.  It should be remembered that in addition to the works of Josephus he probably had access to other materials that are no longer available to scholars.

 

For the reasons cited above, this author feels that a birth date shortly before Passover in 1 B.C. combined with a crucifixion during the 33 A.D Passover fit the preponderance of the known historical and astronomical evidence regarding the life of Christ.  The author of this paper feels that if the reader carefully reviews the criteria of what is known about the life of Christ (as listed at the beginning of this paper) that the reader will also concluded these are the most probable dates for the birth and death of Jesus Christ.

 

 

 

Sources

 

Levy,  David and Wendee, Cosmic Discoveries, published by Prometheus Books.

 

Pratt, John P.  “Yet Another Eclipse for Herod,” The Planetarian, vol. 19, no. 4, Dec. 1990, pp. 8-14.

(http://www/griffithobs.org/IPSPPlanPlatt.html accessed on March 20, 2004.)

 

Shanks, Hershel, editor.  Ancient Israel:  From Abraham to the Roman Destruction of the Temple, Biblical

Archaeology Society:  Washington, D.C., 1999.

 

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.