April 3, AD 33: Why We Believe We Can Know the Exact Date Jesus Died

I try to avoid quoting entire blog posts on this page. Instead I try to highlight helpful quotes of a short or medium length. However, this post in essential in its entirety for it is fascinating and it reminds us that our faith is historical. I have posted this before, but it has been six years and now seems right to repost it since Dr. Köstenberger thought it wise to repost it today.

We believe God became flesh in Jesus who was a real man who was born, and who lived, died, was buried, and rose again here on the earth. Since he is real and we know his promises are true, we can be confident that he is coming back to judge the living and the dead and to reward all who seek God in truth. How happy are all who place their trust in him. #ComeQuicklyLordJesus

From the pen of Andres Köstenberger at https://cbs.mbts.edu/2020/04/08/april-3-ad-33-why-we-believe-we-can-know-the-exact-date-jesus-died/

“In our book, The Final Days of Jesus: The Most Important Week of the Most Important Person Who Ever Lived, Justin Taylor and I assume but do not argue for a precise date of Jesus’s crucifixion.

Virtually all scholars believe, for various reasons, that Jesus was crucified in the spring of either AD 30 or AD 33, with the majority opting for the former. (The evidence from astronomy narrows the possibilities to AD 27, 30, 33, or 34). However, we want to set forth our case for the date of Friday, April 3, AD 33 as the exact day that Christ died for our sins.

To be clear, the Bible does not explicitly specify the precise date of Jesus’s crucifixion and it is not an essential salvation truth. But that does not make it unknowable or unimportant. Because Christianity is a historical religion and the events of Christ’s life did take place in human history alongside other known events, it is helpful to locate Jesus’s death—as precisely as the available evidence allows—within the larger context of human history.

Among the Gospel writers, no one makes this point more strongly than Luke, the Gentile physician turned historian and inspired chronicler of early Christianity.

The Year John the Baptist’s Ministry Began

Luke implies that John the Baptist began his public ministry shortly before Jesus did, and he gives us a historical reference point for when the Baptist’s ministry began: “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar . . .” (Luke 3:1).

We know from Roman historians that Tiberius succeeded Augustus as emperor and was confirmed by the Roman Senate on August 19, AD 14. He ruled until AD 37. “The fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar” sounds like a straightforward date, but there are some ambiguities, beginning with when one starts the calculation. Most likely, Tiberius’s reign was counted either from the day he took office in AD 14 or from January 1 of the following year, AD 15. The earliest possible date at which Tiberius’s “fifteenth year” began is August 19, AD 28, and the latest possible date at which his “fifteenth year” ended is December 31, AD 29. So John the Baptist’s ministry began anywhere from mid-AD 28 until sometime in AD 29.

The Year Jesus’s Ministry Began

If Jesus, as the Gospels seem to indicate, began his ministry not long after John, then based on the calculations above, the earliest date for Jesus’s baptism would be in late AD 28 at the very earliest. However, it is more probable to place it sometime in the first half of the year AD 29, because a few months probably elapsed between the beginning of John’s ministry and that of Jesus (and the year AD 30 is the latest possible date). So Jesus’s ministry must have begun between the end of AD 28 at the earliest and AD 30 at the latest.

This coheres with Luke’s mention that “Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age” (Luke 3:23). If he was born in 6 or 5 BC, as is most likely, Jesus would have been approximately thirty-two to thirty-four years old in late AD 28 until AD 30, which falls well within the range of him being “about thirty years of age.”

The Length of Jesus’s Ministry

Now we need to know how long Jesus’s public ministry lasted, because if it went on for two or more years, this would seem to rule out spring of AD 30 as a possible date for the crucifixion.

John’s Gospel mentions that Jesus attended at least three Passovers (possibly four), which took place once a year in the spring:

  • There was a Passover in Jerusalem at the start of his public ministry (John 2:13, 23).
  • There was a Passover in Galilee midway through his public ministry (John 6:4).
  • There was a final Passover in Jerusalem at the end of his public ministry, that is, the time of his crucifixion (John 11:55; 12:1).
  • And Jesus may have attended one more Passover not recorded in John but perhaps in one or several of the Synoptic Gospels (i.e., Matthew, Mark, and Luke).

Even if there were only three Passovers, this would still make a date of a.d. 30 all but impossible for the date of the crucifixion. As noted above, the earliest likely date for the beginning of Jesus’s ministry from Luke 3:1 is late a.d. 28. So the first of these Passovers (at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry; John 2:13) would fall on Nisan 15 in a.d. 29 (because Nisan is in March/April, near the beginning of a year). The second would fall in a.d. 30 at the earliest, and the third would fall in 31 at the earliest. This means that if Jesus’s ministry coincided with at least three Passovers, and if the first Passover was in AD 29, he could not have been crucified in a.d. 30.

But if John the Baptist began his ministry in AD 29, then Jesus probably began his ministry in late AD 29 or early a.d. 30. Then the Passovers in John would occur on the following dates:Nisan 15AD 30John 2:13Nisan 15AD 31Either the unnamed feast in John 5:1 or else a Passover that John does not mention (but that may be implied in the Synoptics)Nisan 15AD 32John 6:4Nisan 15AD 33John 11:55, the Passover at which Jesus was crucified

Jesus Was Crucified on the Day of Preparation for the Passover

John also mentions that Jesus was crucified on “the day of Preparation” (John 19:31), that is, the Friday before the Sabbath of Passover week (Mark 15:42). The night before, on Thursday evening, Jesus ate a Passover meal with the Twelve (Mark 14:12), his “Last Supper.”

In the Pharisaic-rabbinic calendar commonly used in Jesus’s day, Passover always falls on the fifteenth day of Nisan (Exodus 12:6), which begins Thursday after sundown and ends Friday at sundown. In the year a.d. 33, the most likely year of Jesus’s crucifixion, Nisan 15 fell on April 3, yielding April 3, a.d. 33, as the most likely date for the crucifixion. In The Final Days of Jesus, we therefore constructed the following chart to show the dates for Jesus’s final week in a.d. 33:April 2Nissan 14Thursday (Wednesday nightfall to Thursday nightfall)Day of Passover preparationLast SupperApril 3Nissan 15Friday (Thursday nightfall to Friday nightfall)Passover; Feast of Unleavened Bread, beginsCrucifixionApril 4Nissan 16Saturday (Friday nightfall to Saturday nightfall)SabbathApril 5Nissan 17Sunday (Saturday nightfall to Sunday nightfall)First day of the weekResurrection

Conclusion

The above calculations may appear complicated, but in a nutshell the argument runs like this:HISTORICAL INFORMATIONYEARBeginning of Tiberius’s reignAD 14Fifteenth year of Tiberius’s reign: Beginning of John the Baptist’s ministryAD 28A few months later: Beginning of Jesus’s ministryAD 29Minimum three-year duration of Jesus’ ministry: Most likely date of Jesus’s crucifixionAD 33 (April 3)

While this is in our judgment the most likely scenario, it should be acknowledged that many believe Jesus was crucified in the year AD 30, not 33. However, if the beginning of Tiberius’s reign is placed in the year AD 14, it is virtually impossible to accommodate fifteen years of Tiberius’s reign and three years of Jesus’ ministry between AD 14 and 30. For this reason, some have postulated a co-regency (joint rule) of Tiberius and Augustus during the last few years of Augustus’s reign. However, there is no reliable ancient historical evidence for such co-regency.

We conclude that Jesus was most likely crucified on April 3, AD 33. While other dates are possible, believers can take great assurance from the fact that the most important historical events in Jesus’s life, such as the crucifixion, are firmly anchored in human history. As we celebrate Easter, and as we walk with Jesus every day of the year, we can therefore be confident that our faith is based not only on subjective personal assurance but on reliable historical data, which makes ours an eminently reasonable faith.”

This article first appeared at First Things on April 3, 2014. Justin Taylor is executive vice president and publisher for books at Crossway. He and Andreas Köstenberger have co-authored The Final Days of Jesus: The Most Important Week of the Most Important Person Who Ever Lived (Crossway, 2014).

Posted here: https://cbs.mbts.edu/2020/04/08/april-3-ad-33-why-we-believe-we-can-know-the-exact-date-jesus-died/

The Great Commission

The Great Commission (Matt. 28:16-20; Luke 24:45-49; John 20:21-23; Acts 1:8)

A. From Matthew

“Matthew 28:18-20 contains what is commonly called the Great Commission. These are Jesus’ last words recorded in Matthew’s Gospel, although we know from the other Gospels and Acts that these were not Jesus’s final words before His ascension. By ending his Gospel with these words, Matthew draws attention to the importance and centrality of the commission–for Matthew, the Great Commission summed up Jesus’s entire post-resurrection message.

Matthew provides some context for these important words.

Following the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the eleven disciples travel to Galilee to a certain mountain in obedience to Jesus’s instructions. Matthew notes that when Jesus appears to them, they worship him, but some continue to doubt. There on the mountain Jesus communicates the earth-shaking results of his resurrection–Jesus now has all authority in heaven and on earth. As a result, his followers must now go out into the entire world to make disciples of all nations by baptizing them and teaching them everything that he has commanded.

The central command of the commission is to make disciples, that is, the develop genuine, lifelong followers of Jesus.

Jesus’s command to baptize “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” Points to a Trinitarian understanding of God and to the deity of Jesus. Jesus affirms his continued presence and empowerment until the end of the age. His followers are not being called upon to embark on this mission alone. Jesus will be with them.

Because of Jesus’s resurrection, the message of God’s kingdom is no longer to be limited to the Jewish nation but must be proclaimed to every nation and every person everywhere in the world.

Matthew makes clear that this is a direct command from Jesus, the resurrected king of the world, to his followers. The Great Commission is not a mere wish or suggestion; it is a command that is just as valid and relevant for Jesus’s followers today as it was when it was first given.

B. From Luke

Luke’s version of the Great Commission is recorded in two places and was spoken near Jerusalem just prior to the ascension. The Lukan Great Commission states that “repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

You will be witnesses of these things” (Luke 24:47-48), accompanied by Jesus’ promise that “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

Matthew’s description of perpetual presence is repeated in Luke’s account in terms of supernatural empowerment of the Holy Spirit for the activity of witness to the entire world.

C. From John

The Johannine Great Commission–“As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you”–is followed by the symbolic impartation of the Spirit and a description of the forgiveness of sins that will accompany the church’s proclamation of the gospel. The followers of Jesus are sent by Jesus into the world just as God sent Jesus into the world. Jesus’s followers share his mandate and missions and are empowered by the Spirit in their work.

D. Contradictions?

The continual reappearance of the Great Commission motif using different words in different contexts indicates not that the individual Gospel authors mixed up Jesus’s words but that the theme of the Great Commission is a major element of his post-resurrection teaching (Matt. 28:18-20; Luke 24:47-48; John 20:21-23; Acts 1:8), which goes on over a period of forty days (Acts 1:3).

Jesus continually emphasizes it in different contexts and with different words. It is imperative that the disciples not miss this important command. They are to go into the entire world in the power of the Spirit, sent by Jesus as witnesses to his resurrection and his kingdom. The centrality of this element of Jesus’s post-resurrection appearances must not be missed or downplayed.

E. Conclusion:

Being a Christian is defined in Jesus’s post-resurrection teaching as obeying the Great Commission. It is the mandate that is to define the very existence of his followers.”

-Andreas J. Köstenberger and Justin Taylor with Alexander Stewart. The Final Days of Jesus: The Most Important Week of the Most Important Person Who Ever Lived (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2014), 199-202.

APRIL 3, AD 33 – Why We Believe We Can Know the Exact Date Jesus Died

By Andreas J. Köstenberger and Justin Taylor

“In our new book, The Final Days of Jesus: The Most Important Week of the Most Important Person Who Ever Lived, we assume but do not argue for a precise date of Jesus’s crucifixion. Virtually all scholars believe, for various reasons, that Jesus was crucified in the spring of either a.d. 30 or a.d. 33, with the majority opting for the former. (The evidence from astronomy narrows the possibilities to a.d. 27, 30, 33, or 34). However, we want to set forth our case for the date of Friday, April 3, a.d. 33 as the exact day that Christ died for our sins.

To be clear, the Bible does not explicitly specify the precise date of Jesus’s crucifixion and it is not an essential salvation truth. But that does not make it unknowable or unimportant. Because Christianity is a historical religion and the events of Christ’s life did take place in human history alongside other known events, it is helpful to locate Jesus’s death—as precisely as the available evidence allows—within the larger context of human history”

HISTORICAL INFORMATION YEAR
Beginning of Tiberius’s reign a.d. 14
Fifteenth year of Tiberius’s reign: Beginning of John the Baptist’s ministry (Luke 3:1) a.d. 28
A few months later: Beginning of Jesus’s ministry a.d. 29
Minimum three-year duration of Jesus’ ministry: Most likely date of Jesus’s crucifixion a.d. 33 (April 3)

John’s Gospel mentions that Jesus attended at least three Passovers (possibly four), which took place once a year in the spring:

•There was a Passover in Jerusalem at the start of his public ministry (John 2:13, 23).

•There was a Passover in Galilee midway through his public ministry (John 6:4).

•There was a final Passover in Jerusalem at the end of his public ministry, that is, the time of his crucifixion (John 11:55; 12:1).

•And Jesus may have attended one more Passover not recorded in John but perhaps in one or several of the Synoptic Gospels (i.e., Matthew, Mark, and Luke).

Nisan 14 a.d. 30 John 2:13
Nisan 14 a.d. 31 either the unnamed feast in John 5:1 or else a Passover that John does not mention (but that may be implied in the Synoptics)
Nisan 14 a.d. 32 John 6:4
Nisan 14 a.d. 33 John 11:55, the Passover at which Jesus was crucified

For more details, read the rest of the article: http://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2014/04/april-3-ad-33