Category Archives: Bible

The True Date of Jesus’ Death: Part V: Full Date of Jesus’ Death

INTRODUCTION

As discussed in the previous blog posts on this topic, I decided to write an article on when Jesus died so I can shorten my other blog posts on Christian traditions by simply referring back to the article every time the topic comes up. However, there was so much information to go over that I was forced to divide it into several blog posts.

When considering the time of day, day of the week, year, and month and day of Jesus’ death, we find that these interplay deeply with each other and affect how we determine each. Previous blog posts addressed:

  • Part I: Facts from the Bible
  • Part II: Time of Jesus’ Death
  • Part III: Day of the Week of Jesus’ Death
  • Part IV: Year of Jesus’ Death: Chapter 1: Year of Jesus’ Birth
  • Part IV: Year of Jesus’ Death: Chapter 2: Year of Jesus’ Ministry

To determine the exact date of Jesus’ death (see Footnote 1), we have to consider all of it: the time of His death, the day of the week of His death, the year of His birth, the year of His ministry, and His approximate death year.

 

 V. MONTH, DAY, AND YEAR OF JESUS’ DEATH

Although we know Jesus died on 15 Nisan, the Jewish calendar is vastly different from the Roman calendar, so it requires some backwards extrapolation to determine the date He died on the Roman calendar.

In the Western Church (that near Rome) in 200 A.D., Tertullian of Carthage wrote that he had calculated the Roman calendrical day on which 15 Nisan fell in the year Jesus died to be 25 March. Because of his extrapolation, Christians began to celebrate Easter on 25 March every year. When Julius Sextus Africanus in 221 A.D. suggested that Jesus entered the world and left the world on the same day—that is, that he was conceived on the same day he died—Christians began to commemorate Jesus’ date of conception as 25 March as well. Because that was the alleged date of His conception, they began celebrating the date of His birth as 25 December sometime around 250-300 B.C.

Coincidentally, the Eastern Church (that near Jerusalem) had calculated a different date based on the same basic rules. The Eastern Church knew that Nisan is the first spring month on the Hebrew calendar (in fact, it’s engineered to occur when spring begins), and that Jesus died on the 14th day of the month, so they set His death as having occurred on the 14th day of the first spring month according to their local Greek calendar, which translated to 6 April on the Roman calendar. They also liked Julius Sextus Africanus’ idea and commemorated His conception on the same day as His death and, like the Western Church, added nine months to that date to obtain 6 January as the date of His birth. In fact, much of the Eastern Church to this day celebrates Christmas on 6 January.

So who was right and who was wrong? Or if neither was right, which was “less wrong”? Finally, does it matter?

  1. Date of Jesus’ Death

As discussed in Part II, Jesus died in the afternoon at about 3 pm on the Passover. Thanks to this information, we were better able to determine the day of the week of His death, which, as discussed in Part III, was Wednesday. That is, Passover occurred on a Wednesday in the year that Jesus died (specifically, it started Tuesday evening, but is considered to have occurred on Wednesday because approximately 18 of the 24 hours of the event occurred on Wednesday and only approximately 6 of the 24 hours occurred on Tuesday). As discussed in Part IV, Chapter 1, Jesus was most likely born 3 B.C. Using that data and information about Jesus’ ministry, we were able to estimate the year of His death as 29 or 30 A.D. in Part IV, Chapter 2.

So basically, we need to find a year on which the Passover occurred on a Wednesday.

Using the Hebrew calendar converter, I converted the dates for Nisan 14, the day Jesus died, into the date on the Gregorian calendar in the 10 years surrounding His approximate death. Here are the dates on which Passover occurred for the years surrounding Jesus’ death:

  • 25 A.D.: March 31, Monday
  • 26 A.D.: March 20, Friday
  • 27 A.D.: April 7, Wednesday
  • 28 A.D.: March 27, Monday
  • 29 A.D.: April 14, Saturday
  • 30 A.D.: April 3, Wednesday
  • 31 A.D.: March 24, Monday
  • 32 A.D.: April 12, Monday
  • 33 A.D.: April 1, Friday
  • 34 A.D.: March 20, Monday
  • 35 A.D.: April 9, Monday

I marked the dates on which Passover fell on a Wednesday in the 10 years surrounding Jesus’ possible death in red. As you can see, the closest possibilities are 27 A.D. and 30 A.D. Since our estimates for the year of His death were 29 A.D. and 30 A.D., 30 A.D. is the most likely year. In that case, He most likely died Wednesday, April 3, 30 A.D. at 3 pm. According to the same Hebrew calendar linked above, this date on the Gregorian calendar corresponds to April 5 on the Julian calendar. If true (we must always accept room for error), that means the Eastern Church was only off by one day (late), whereas the Western Church was off by about eleven days (early).

Do I really think we can know for certain the exact date Jesus died? Personally, no, I don’t think we can. Many Hebrew calendar sources specifically state that we don’t know for certain how the Hebrew calendar was figured in the first century. Furthermore, there are many issues to take into account, as described in sources like this and this. Interestingly, though, even when we have confusion as to the exact date, or even the exact year, there is no change to the day of the week–that is, the evidence that Jesus died on a Wednesday remains, even though the exact date (14 Nisan, 15 Nisan, etc.) may change.

  1. Does it Matter?

In my personal opinion, it kind of does and kind of doesn’t.

From a theological standpoint, it matters in that it holds up to the theory of Scriptural infallibility. For example, if Luke said that Jesus was born during an empire-wide census while Quirinius was governor, and Quirinius was never governor during any empire-wide census, that makes the rest of Luke’s narrative unreliable and demonstrates that the Bible is fallible. (See Part IV: Chapter 1 for details about how the correct translation is that Quirinius was administrating his duties, not that he was the provincial governor.) As another example, if Jesus said He would be buried for three days and three nights, but He was buried for 1.5 days (one day and two nights), that makes Him a false prophet and therefore not God, which undermines the entire Christian faith. (See Part III for information on how Jesus truly was buried three days and three nights.)

In my research, I’ve seen lots of posts from people about encountering remarkably well-informed skeptics who questioned various aspects of His dates of birth and death, which makes it quite reasonable that we might encounter such skeptics in the future. I keep thinking of Josh McDowell, who was a very dedicated atheist in college and was constantly questioning his Christian friends. Finally, one of these friends, weary from these constant attacks, challenged him to prove Christianity wrong. Josh eagerly set out on the mission to do so, but quickly discovered that he needed to do more research than he had originally bargained for, and ended up traveling to Europe and the Middle East in his quest to prove his Christian friends wrong. In the end, unable to prove them wrong and able only to find more and more evidence in support of Christianity, he converted and wrote many books on the topic. The research he conducted in college and abroad which convinced him of the truth of Christianity is compiled into two volumes called Evidence That Demands a Verdict, and one of my favorite short pieces of his, which is elegant in its simple logic, is called More Than a Carpenter. He was one of the foremost Christian apologists in the 1990s.

So to some degree… Yes, it does matter when He died. When He was born and when He died determines whether the Bible is true, whether Jesus was a false prophet, and whether our faith is founded on a rock or on sand.

On the other hand, from a theological standpoint, I don’t think it matters in relation to how we commemorate His birth, death, and resurrection. For one thing, He never commanded us to commemorate His birth. He did seem to command His disciples to fast when He was “taken from them” (Matthew 9:15), and early Christians took this as a command to commemorate His death annually with fasting, though it could possibly have meant that His disciples were to fast on the day He died (which they may have done coincidentally anyway because it was a Sabbath and they had spent the day watching to see what would happen to Jesus rather than preparing for the Sabbath). He also commanded them to observe the Lord’s Supper (the Eucharist) in remembrance of Him, but did not specify how frequently this was to be done. Consequently, some churches commemorate it every week while others commemorate it once per year.

I don’t think we can know with perfect accuracy the exact date Jesus died due to numerous changes to the Hebrew and other calendars over the millennia (see Footnote 2). And if we did know the exact date, we’d either be using a mostly manmade Hebrew calendar or a mostly manmade Roman calendar, and any calendar is fallible, so are we really commemorating His death on the exact day of the year on which it would have occurred? I think that’s unlikely. For this, I refer back to what Paul had to say about Abraham. In Romans 4:1-22, Paul reminds us that the Scriptures say Abraham’s faith in God was credited to him as righteousness (a reference to Genesis 15:6). He goes on to explain that we are not justified by works, and that righteousness comes from faith. In another book, Paul explains further that like Abraham, those who rely on faith are equally blessed, implying (as he wrote explicitly in Romans 4) that our faith is imputed to us as righteousness (Galatians 3:6-9).

In other words, I don’t think it’s important that we commemorate Jesus’ death on the exact day of His death and I believe there’s sound Scriptural reason, as outlined above, to believe that God counts it as righteousness when we act in faith.

 

CONCLUSION

The facts we know regarding the time, day of the week, year, and exact date of Jesus’ death, along with facts from history, help us to estimate the date and time of death for Jesus as Wednesday, April 3, 30 A.D. at 3 pm. This fits with all the dateable facts of Jesus’ birth, ministry, and death and with dateable facts from history. Knowing how the date of His death upholds the entire Scriptural account can help us to respond to skeptics the way Peter instructed us: “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (I Peter 3:15). However, knowing the exact, or even the approximate, date and time of Jesus’ death is not necessary in my opinion to please God. As Paul wrote, when we act in faith, God will count it toward us for righteousness (Romans 4:1-22; Galatians 3:6-9). What matters most is that we act in faith.

 

じゃあまたね!

 

 

FOOTNOTES

Footnote 1: Exact Date of Jesus’ Death. In case I wasn’t clear enough in the rest of this series, I hesitate to say “exact date” of Jesus’ death. Even if we use all the available data possible and it shows only one possibility–as I think it does in this case–it’s always possible we overlooked something or that we will discover more data at a later date, such as records we didn’t know existed or an error in our calendars. So if you were planning to make a big deal about this blog post series, please don’t. If you were planning to adjust your entire doctrine based on the information in this blog post series, please think carefully before doing so. If you were thinking it’s sinful for Christians to celebrate Easter on any day other than that I provided here, please think again. I can’t emphasize enough that, as much as I enjoyed researching and writing this series, it is very important not to make a huge deal out of the information it provides. Yes, rest assured that the Bible is correct where it references dates surrounding Jesus’ life. But please don’t use this post series to radically change anything or accuse anyone of sin or even ignorance.

Footnote 2: Changes to ancient calendars. I briefly mentioned that we can’t know the exact date for certain due to changes in ancient calendars. The Hebrew calendar changed at some unknown point from an observation-based calendar to a rule-based calendar. This change occurred sometime before 358 AD, the first date on which it is recorded in ancient writings (specifically, by Patriarch Hillel II). When using a calendar that calculates any exact date on the Hebrew calendar, it does so by extrapolating the current formula back in time and therefore provides only an estimate of what the dates were and, according to one scholar, may be off by as much as a month (Eldridge, 1997). Therefore, even if we take the difference between the current Gregorian calendar and the ancient Julian calendar into account, we cannot extrapolate backward and convert to the date on the Hebrew calendar to figure out the actual dates on the Julian calendar (or the Gregorian, extrapolated backward) on which the Passover fell during years around or before 358 AD without allowing for some (possibly very significant) error.

Another possibility is taking information we have from the Old Testament regarding days of the week on which certain dates from the Hebrew calendar fell. For example, we can know with certainty that in the year of the first Passover, 10 Nisan and 17 Nisan both fell on a Saturday, and 14 Nisan (the Passover) fell on a Wednesday (Reinhold, 2010). However, it is impossible to extrapolate forward from that for one incredible reason. According to all extant ancient records, ancient peoples had a 360-day calendar composed of 12 months of 30 days each. Furthermore, ancient astronomers also wrote of exactly 15 day waxing and 15 day waning in the lunar cycle, thus having a lunar cycle of exactly 30 days. Then, sometime around approximately 725 BC to 675 BC, over a period of about 50 years, the entire world’s calendars (including 30 cultures from the Incas and Mayas of the Americas, to the Persians, Sumerians, Babylonians, Assyrians, and Egyptians of the Near East, to the Indians and Chinese of the Far East) were essentially rewritten and ancient peoples added 5 or 5.25 days to the calendar to come to a total of 365.25 days in the solar cycle (we now know each year is 365.2425 days, so those changes were pretty darn accurate) and a lunar cycle of 29.5 days. Why the change? And why all over the entire world at the same time, even between cultures that had no contact with each other whatsoever? One theory is that the earth had a near-collision with a planet-sized object, which tilted the earth’s axis just enough to throw off the previous calendar. One Biblical scholar points out that the event in which God made the sundial reverse 10 degrees for King Hezekiah (II Kings 20:8-11) occurred approximately 713 BC, right before the worldwide calendrical flux, and suggests that God accomplished this by moving the orbits of the earth and moon (Reinhold, 2010). At any rate, the point is that we can’t really approach the first century AD with data from the Hebrew calendar in 1446 BC (the year of the Exodus) due to the worldwide flux in calendars that occurred approximately 725-675 BC.

 

APPENDIX: REFERENCES FOR THE SERIES

Following is my list of references for the entire series of blog posts on when Jesus died.

Akin, J. (10 April 2013a). “7 clues tell us *precisely* when Jesus died (the year, month, day, and hour revealed).” National Catholic Register. Retrieved from <http://www.ncregister.com/blog/jimmy-akin/when-precisely-did-jesus-die-the-year-month-day-and-hour-revealed/&gt;.

Akin, J. (13 April 2013b). “The 100-year old *mistake* about the Birth of Jesus.” National Catholic Register. Retrieved from <http://www.ncregister.com/blog/jimmy-akin/the-100-year-old-mistake-about-the-birth-of-jesus/&gt;.

Akin, J. (17 April 2013c). “Jesus’ birth and when Herod the Great *really* died.” National Catholic Register. Retrieved from <http://www.ncregister.com/blog/jimmy-akin/jesus-birth-and-when-herod-the-great-really-died&gt;.

Akin, J. (21 April 2013d). “What year was Jesus born? The answer may surprise you.” National Catholic Register. Retrieved from <http://www.ncregister.com/blog/jimmy-akin/what-year-was-jesus-born-the-answer-may-surprise-you/&gt;.

Bucher, R.P. (N.d.). “Caesar Augustus, Quirinius, and the Census.” Our Redeemer Lutheran Church. Retrieved from <http://www.orlutheran.com/html/census.html#Anchor4&gt;.

Conte, R.L. (2003). “The Chronology of Herod the Great’s Reign.” BibleChronology.com. Retrieved from: <http://www.biblicalchronology.com/herod.htm&gt;.

Eldridge, L. (1997). “What Day of the Week Was Christ Crucified?” Retrieved from <http://www.loriswebs.com/lorispoetry/crucifix.html&gt;.

Reinhold, R.A. (2010). “What Day of the Week Did the Original Passover Occur?” Retrieved from <http://ad2004.com/prophecytruths/Articles/OriginalPassover.pdf&gt;.

Wellman, J. (2014). “Was Jesus a Jew? Did Jesus Follow Jewish Rituals?” Christian Crier. Retrieved from <http://www.patheos.com/blogs/christiancrier/2014/06/13/was-jesus-a-jew-did-jesus-follow-jewish-rituals/&gt;.

United Church of God (N.d.). “When Was Jesus Christ Crucified and Resurrected?” In Jesus Christ: The Real Story. Retrieved from <http://www.ucg.org/booklet/jesus-christ-real-story/did-jesus-really-die-and-live-again/when-was-jesus-christ-crucified-/&gt;.

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The True Date of Jesus’ Death: Part IV: Year of Jesus’ Death: Chapter 2: Year of Jesus’ Ministry

INTRODUCTION

As discussed in the previous blog posts on this topic, I decided to write an article on when Jesus died so I can shorten my other blog posts on Christian traditions by simply referring back to the article every time the topic comes up. However, there was so much information to go over that I was forced to divide it into several blog posts.

When considering the time of day, day of the week, year, and month and day of Jesus’ death, we find that these interplay deeply with each other and affect how we determine each. Previous blog posts addressed:

  • Part I: Facts from the Bible
  • Part II: Time of Jesus’ Death
  • Part III: Day of the Week of Jesus’ Death
  • Part IV: Year of Jesus’ Death: Chapter 1: Year of Jesus’ Birth

To determine the year of Jesus’ death, we have to consider the interplay of the various possible dates for the years of His birth, His ministry’s beginning, other important events, and His death. The determination of the year in which Jesus died is too complicated to cover one blog post, so it will be divided into two “chapters.” The second chapter, offered in this post, will address the year of Jesus’ ministry.

 IV. YEAR OF JESUS’ DEATH

To determine the year of Jesus’ death, we have to consider the interplay of the various possible dates for the years of His birth, His ministry’s beginning, other important events, and His death.

It should be noted that His birth was traditionally dated at 1 A.D. by Dionysius Exiguus in the 6th century (there is no 0 A.D. or 0 B.C.), but that he set the date incorrectly. Specifically, he dated Jesus’ birth after the death of Herod the Great, as described above. Even the latest dates given for Herod’s death do not come in A.D., so Jesus had to have been born in B.C. In other words, if you thought Jesus was born in 1 A.D. and you’re basing your calculations of His birth and death on that concept, you should abandon that idea now.

Chapter 2. Year of Jesus’ Ministry.

In Fact 3, we learned that John the Baptist’s ministry started in Tiberius Caesar’s 15th year of reign; and in Fact 4, we learned that Jesus’ ministry started after John the Baptist’s ministry began. As mentioned above, John the Baptist’s ministry started in the 15th year of Tiberius Caesar’s reign while Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea and Caiaphas was High Priest (the other facts about the various other personages don’t really help us much). In those days, it was common for successors to co-reign with the previous monarch for at least a few years before the previous monarch’s death. This was the case with Tiberius, who began co-regency with Caesar Augustus in 11 A.D. and began his full reign on Augustus’s death in 14 A.D. Therefore, 15 years into Tiberius’s reign could be approximately 26 A.D. or 29 A.D. Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea from 26 A.D. to 36 A.D. and Caiaphas was High Priest from 18 A.D. to 36 A.D., so either date for the 15th year of Tiberius’s reign fits the other data and is therefore equally possible.

As also discussed in Fact 3, the Bible doesn’t say how long John the Baptist was preaching before Jesus came to him to get baptized, shortly after which Jesus Himself began His own ministry. However, it’s reasonable to believe that John had been preaching for a year, give or take some months, to gain the level of notoriety implied in the stories from Matthew and Luke about his arrest and eventual execution. If John began preaching in 26 A.D., using this estimate would give us 27 A.D. for the year Jesus’ ministry started. If he began preaching in 29 A.D., that would give us 30 A.D. for the year Jesus’ ministry started. As discussed in Fact 5, Jesus’ ministry started when He was about 30 years old; and as discussed in Chapter 1, Jesus was most likely born in 3 B.C. Remembering that there is no 0 B.C. or 0 A.D., adding 30 years to His birth in 3 B.C. gives us 27 A.D. for the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.

As discussed in Fact 8, Jesus made a prophecy at the beginning of His ministry, to which the Jews responded that the Temple had been under construction for 46 years (John 2:19-20). Herod the Great started the construction in the eighteenth year of his reign. According to Josephus, Herod was anointed king by the Romans 37 years before his death, but he began to reign over Jerusalem 34 years before his death. Josephus also identifies the year in which Herod began to reign over Jerusalem as 37 B.C. in one of his writings and as 36 B.C. in another. For many reasons, the 37 B.C. date is the most likely (Akin, 2013b; Akin, 2013c). Eighteen years after the start of his kingship began would be 19 B.C., and 18 years after the star of his reign over Jerusalem would be 16 B.C. From other sources, we know the Temple was completed in 64 A.D. Adding 46 years to the possible dates that construction began gives us approximately 27 A.D. or 30 A.D. for the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. As discussed above and in Chapter 1, Jesus was most likely born in 3 B.C. and He was about 30 years old at the time of the start of His ministry. Again, we will add 30 years to His birth in 3 B.C. and get 27 A.D. for the start of His ministry.

As discussed in Fact 6, Jesus’ ministry spanned approximately three Passovers. So His ministry had to span at least a day longer than 2 years from the day before the Passover on one year to the day of the Passover two years later (recalling that He died on the day of the Passover). Of course, using only this data point, it could just as easily have lasted over three years. Nevertheless, this gives us a general understanding that we can add 2 or 3 years to the date His ministry started. As discussed above, the most likely date for the start of His ministry is 27 A.D., so 2 or 3 years later would give us an approximate year of death as 29 or 30 A.D.

 

SUMMARY

Based on the previously discussed information regarding Jesus’ birth year, and based on facts regarding John the Baptist’s ministry, Jesus’ ministry, the age of the Temple of Jerusalem, and the length of Jesus’ ministry, we can estimate that Jesus’ ministry started in 27 A.D. and ended approximately 29 or 30 A.D. As we will learn in Part V, it’s actually possible to know the exact date of Jesus’ death based on other facts.

The last post will address:

  • Part V: Full Date of Jesus’ Death

 

じゃあまたね!

 

REFERENCES

Akin, J. (13 April 2013b). “The 100-year old *mistake* about the Birth of Jesus.” National Catholic Register. Retrieved from <http://www.ncregister.com/blog/jimmy-akin/the-100-year-old-mistake-about-the-birth-of-jesus/&gt;.

Akin, J. (17 April 2013c). “Jesus’ birth and when Herod the Great *really* died.” National Catholic Register. Retrieved from <http://www.ncregister.com/blog/jimmy-akin/jesus-birth-and-when-herod-the-great-really-died&gt;.

 

EDITS

I will edit this post to add the link to the final post in this series when it is published.

The True Date of Jesus’ Death: Part IV: Year of Jesus’ Death: Chapter 1: Year of Jesus’ Birth

INTRODUCTION

As discussed in the previous blog posts on this topic, I decided to write an article on when Jesus died so I can shorten my other blog posts on Christian traditions by simply referring back to the article every time the topic comes up. However, there was so much information to go over that I was forced to divide it into several blog posts.

When considering the time of day, day of the week, year, and month and day of Jesus’ death, we find that these interplay deeply with each other and affect how we determine each. Previous blog posts addressed:

  • Part I: Facts from the Bible
  • Part II: Time of Jesus’ Death
  • Part III: Day of the Week of Jesus’ Death

To determine the year of Jesus’ death, we have to consider the interplay of the various possible dates for the years of His birth, His ministry’s beginning, other important events, and His death. The determination of the year in which Jesus died is too complicated to cover one blog post, so it will be divided into two “chapters.” The first chapter, offered in this post, will address the year of Jesus’ birth.

 IV. YEAR OF JESUS’ DEATH

To determine the year of Jesus’ death, we have to consider the interplay of the various possible dates for the years of His birth, His ministry’s beginning, other important events, and His death.

It should be noted that His birth was traditionally dated at 1 A.D. by Dionysius Exiguus in the 6th century (there is no 0 A.D. or 0 B.C.), but that he set the date incorrectly. Specifically, he dated Jesus’ birth after the death of Herod the Great. Even the latest dates given for Herod’s death do not come in A.D., so Jesus had to have been born in B.C. In other words, if you thought Jesus was born in 1 A.D. and you’re basing your calculations of His birth and death on that concept, you should abandon that idea now.

Chapter 1. Year of Jesus’ Birth.

In Fact 1, we learned that Jesus was born after Caesar Augustus’s tax decree during or before the governorship of Cyrenius/Quirinius, and that this decree required people to return to their cities of origin.

The Greek verb translated “to be taxed” in Luke 2:1-3 is apographo and actually means to be enrolled or registered in an official listing of citizens. Essentially, it would have been a census taken for the purposes of counting the people and making them swear allegiance to the emperor and did not necessarily involve taxation to Rome. This was especially true in Judea because Judea did not pay taxes to Rome during all of Herod’s reign (they paid their taxes directly to Herod) and for roughly a decade past it until 6 or 7 A.D. Nevertheless, taxation to either Rome or to the local governorship likely occurred during a census. Oaths were normally ordered in conjunction with censuses, though Josephus records at least one instance in which 6,000 Pharisees refused to swear the oath to Augustus and Herod due to their belief in the coming Messiah, leading ultimately to Herod murdering many Pharisees, members of his own family, and others who sympathized with the Pharisees.

Among Roman citizens, the male head of a household had to travel to his home of origin for all censuses, though Joseph and Mary probably did not hold Roman citizenship, which was a rare and highly prized possession. However, in an Egyptian census document from 104 A.D., the male heads of households, citizens or not, were specifically instructed to return to their original homes for the census, so it makes sense that the same might have been true for non-citizens living in the province of Syria, such as the Jews. However, it’s especially important to note that both Joseph and Mary were descendants of King David and therefore claimants to the throne of Judea (should such a throne ever come to exist), and all claimants to a throne were required to make an oath of allegiance to the emperor. Therefore, although a wife would normally not be required to accompany her husband to a census and oath, Mary would have been thanks to her royal lineage. This was true regardless of the circumstances, but also most especially at this time in history, because the Jews had engaged in a few recent minor rebellions and loudly expressed expectation of the Messiah, Who would come from the line of David, according to prophecy. Therefore, although other Roman censuses did require non-citizen male heads of households to return to their original city—that is, the city where they were born—as descendants of King David and therefore claimants to the throne, Joseph and Mary would have been required to return to the City of David. (Bucher, N.d.; Martin, 1996)

Although Roman citizens were required to undergo Rome-sponsored census registration and oath-taking every five years, non-citizens were not, with few empire-wide exceptions and numerous local exceptions. The census mentioned in Matthew and Luke seems to have been one of those exceptions, as Luke specifically states that Augustus commanded that “all the [Roman] world be taxed [registered].” Caesar Augustus, whose real name was Gaius Octavius, reigned over the Roman Empire from 27 B.C. to 14 A.D. The Acts of Augustus lists three empire-wide censuses that Augustus ordered: in the years 28 B.C., 8 B.C., and 14 A.D. It would have taken several years for the bureaucracy of the census to reach Palestine, so the census ordered in 8 B.C. would not have been conducted in Palestine in 8 B.C. but at least a few years later. In fact, an ancient Armenian historian named Moses of Khorene reported that the Roman census agents arrived in Armenia in 3 B.C., five years after the census was ordered. It’s quite reasonable to think they arrived in Judea around the same time. (Bucher, N.d.; Martin, 1996)

The whole of the Roman Empire had to swear fealty to Augustus in 27 B.C., shortly after he became emperor, and 2 B.C. was his Silver Jubilee, so it seems quite reasonable that the Roman empire would again be made to swear fealty to him on such an auspicious occasion, which itself was accompanied by celebrations and senatorial decorations the likes of which had never been seen before or since. In 2 B.C., Augustus received the title “Father of My Country” due to actions possibly involving the census (which would therefore have to have been completed probably by late 3 B.C., which fits with the aforementioned Armenian historian’s report). Specifically, all people of the Roman Empire, citizens and non-citizens alike, had to swear fealty to Augustus, and it’s probable that this oath-taking was required during the census, especially considering that oaths to the emperor were required during all other censuses. Furthermore, as discussed above, censuses normally occurred for Roman citizens every five years, and as it happens, 8 B.C. was one of those years, which means 3 B.C. (five years later) was another. An inscription in Paphlagonia dated to 3 B.C. records that all inhabitants of Paphlagonia, both citizens and non-citizens, were required to take an oath of obedience to Augustus. Therefore, it’s quite sensible to think that the every-five-year requirement that all Roman citizens be registered in 3 B.C. was combined with the previously-announced requirement that all non-citizens be registered and make their oath. (Bucher, N.d.; Martin, 1996)

Jesus is generally accepted to have been born sometime between 7 B.C. and 1 B.C., for reasons I’ll discuss below. During this time, the provincial governor of Syria was a man named Saturninus until spring of 2 B.C., the governor for the summer of 2 B.C. is not listed (which is not surprising, since during this time, all provincial governors would have wanted to be in Rome for the celebration of Augustus’ Silver Jubilee), and Quintilius Varus took over governorship after the summer of 2 B.C. The historian Josephus mentions that there were multiple governors in Syria during the governorship of Saturninus as opposed to a single governor during each of the governorships of Titius and Quintilius Varus. (Martin, 1996)

As discussed in Fact 1, the Greek is a bit nonspecific and could mean that the census occurred during or before Quirinius was governor of Syria. Furthermore, the Greek word rendered “governor” in Luke 2:2 regarding Quirinius is hegemoneuontos, a verb which refers to someone who ruling or administrating his official duties from the highest to the lowest rank (Prof. Martin [1996] gives the example of “an exalted President” down to “the local dogcatcher for the city”). It is not a title of power or rank, such as “governor.” In fact, in the next chapter, Luke (3:1) refers to Pontius Pilate with the exact same word and grammatical structure, but Pilate was a Praefectus Judaeae, not a Legatus (governor). This makes it clear that Luke was not necessarily referring to Legatus (provincial governor) when he mentioned Quirinius, but rather to a leader or administrator of some sort. (Martin, 1996)

Quirinius’ sole (unshared), official governorship over the province of Syria started sometime in 6 or 7 A.D., long after Jesus was probably born. However, he was in Syria previously in another leadership role and Roman historical records indicate he was a “procurator” in Judea at the time of the 3 B.C. census—in fact, that he was probably responsible for administrating the census. Prof. Ernest Martin (1996) explains, “A procurator was normally a personal advocate of the emperor with special authority quite distinct from the residential governor.” (para. 8). Furthermore, according to the Cambridge Ancient History, “Each province had its equestrian procurator who in the eyes of the provincials was almost as important as the governor himself.” (Martin, 1996, para. 9). The procurators had so much power that there was usually a very icy relationship between them and the local governors. Therefore, it’s probable that Luke’s reference to Quirinius administrating his duties in Syria is more accurately a reference to him as procurator. (Bucher, N.d.; Martin, 1996)

To summarize the above, all evidence regarding Augustus’ decree for the Roman world to be registered and make an oath of fealty to him and regarding Quirinius’ administrative duties suggest that Joseph and Mary were in Bethlehem for the census in 3 B.C.

In Fact 2, we learned that Jesus was born during the reign of Herod the Great. Herod the Great was most likely king from approximately 37 B.C. to 1 B.C. (side note: he was appointed king by the Romans about three years before he began his reign over Jerusalem, and these dates are based on Josephus’s writings, which themselves contain contradictory dates). Some scholars have argued that Herod died in 8 B.C. However, as noted above, the census decree predated Jesus’ birth probably by a few years, Jesus’ birth predated Herod’s death, and the tax decree was issued in 8 B.C., so Herod certainly could not have died in 8 B.C. According to the Jewish historian Josephus, Herod died between a lunar eclipse and the Passover (which takes place in March or April every year), and so, if this is true (scholars find some reasons to doubt certain things Josephus has written, so it may be the relationship between a lunar eclipse and Herod’s death is mythical), Herod probably died in the beginning of the Roman calendar year 1 B.C., in which year the lunar eclipse was January 10 and the Passover was April 11. (Akin, 2013b; Akin, 2013c; Conte, 2003)

As demonstrated by the fact that Herod ordered the deaths of males under the age of two, Herod thought that the Christ may have been born as early as two years before this event. However, since he probably died in the beginning of a Roman calendar year, he most likely ordered the Massacre of Innocents at the end of the Roman calendar year at the latest, so toward the end of 2 B.C. (Of course, it’s possible that Herod ordered the Massacre of Innocents and then died several years later, in which case he probably ordered the Massacre of Innocents no later than the end of 3 B.C. but probably still died in 1 B.C.) Therefore, Jesus may most likely have been born either in 3-2 B.C. at the latest according to Herod’s death year. Coincidentally, the majority of ancient Christian writers supported 3-2 B.C. as Jesus’ birth year, and that dating was most accepted among the earliest Christian writers and least accepted among the latest Christian writers (see Footnote 1).

As an additional note, Luke specifies that Mary was heavily pregnant at the time that she and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem for the census, so it’s probable that she gave birth shortly after arrival in Bethlehem. I’m sure there were many people in Bethlehem at the time—in fact, probably all the living descendants of King David, which generation was approximately 28 generations after King David and so had had plenty of time to expand to a very large number—and there may have been a rather long line to get registered and take your oath. We can’t know for sure, but it may very well have taken 2-3 months of waiting for your turn. At any rate, my point is that, since Mary was heavily pregnant at the time, they probably didn’t have to spend long in Bethlehem before Jesus was born and they were probably still going through the registration process at the time of the birth.

To summarize the above, all evidence regarding Herod’s reign over Jerusalem suggest that Jesus was born in 3 B.C. or 2 B.C.

 

SUMMARY

To summarize what we know from just Facts 1 and 2:

  • the census ordered by Augustus and during which Quirinius was in Syria was likely completed in 3 B.C.;
  • Jesus was probably born while the census was ongoing;
  • the date of Herod’s death is probably the spring of 1 B.C.;
  • the Massacre of Innocents probably occurred no later than the winter of 2 B.C.; and
  • Jesus was probably not older than 2 years at the time of the Massacre of Innocents.

In conclusion, Jesus was most likely born in 3 B.C.

The next posts will address:

  • Part IV: Year of Jesus’ Death: Chapter 2: Year of Jesus’ Ministry
  • Part V: Full Date of Jesus’ Death

 

FOOTNOTES

Footnote 1: Early Christian Writers on Jesus’ Birth Year. (Akin, 2013d)

Person/Group Date Century of Publication
Cassiodorus Senator 3 B.C. 5th to 6th
St. Irenaeus of Lyon 2-3 B.C. 2nd
Tertullian of Carthage 2-3 B.C. 2nd to 3rd
Julius Africanus 2-3 B.C. 2nd to 3rd
St. Hippolytus of Rome 2-3 B.C. 2nd to 3rd
Hippolytus of Thebes 2-3 B.C. 7th to 8th
Origen of Alexandria 2-3 B.C. 2nd to 3rd
Eusebius of Caesarea 2-3 B.C. 3rd to 4th
Epiphanius of Salamis 2-3 B.C. 4th to 5th
Orosius 2 B.C. 4th to 5th
The Alogoi 4 B.C. or 9 A.D. 2nd to 3rd
Dionysius Exiguus 1 B.C. 6th
The Chronographer of the Year 354 1 A.D. 4th

As seen in the above table, there’s good reason from other ancient sources to select 2-3 B.C. as Jesus’ date of birth. Out of 13 early Christian writers, 10 (77%) dated it to 3-2 B.C., and 1 each dated it to 1 B.C., 1 A.D., and 4 B.C. or 9 A.D. (See Footnote 1.) Of those selecting 3-2 B.C., 50% published in the 2nd-3rd centuries, 30% published in the 3rd-5th centuries, and 20% published in the 5th century or later. Of those selecting another date, 33% published in the 2nd-3rd centuries, 33% in the 3rd-5th centuries, and 33% in the 5th century or later. Another way of looking at it is that 83% publishing in the 2nd-3rd centuries agreed on 2-3 B.C., 75% publishing in the 3rd-5th centuries agreed on 2-3 B.C., and 67% publishing in the 5th century or later agreed on 2-3 B.C. Therefore, among early Christian writers, there was a great consensus (77%) that Jesus was born in 2-3 B.C., and that consensus was greatest among the very earliest of writers.

 

REFERENCES

Akin, J. (13 April 2013b). “The 100-year old *mistake* about the Birth of Jesus.” National Catholic Register. Retrieved from <http://www.ncregister.com/blog/jimmy-akin/the-100-year-old-mistake-about-the-birth-of-jesus/&gt;.

Akin, J. (17 April 2013c). “Jesus’ birth and when Herod the Great *really* died.” National Catholic Register. Retrieved from <http://www.ncregister.com/blog/jimmy-akin/jesus-birth-and-when-herod-the-great-really-died&gt;.

Akin, J. (21 April 2013d). “What year was Jesus born? The answer may surprise you.” National Catholic Register. Retrieved from <http://www.ncregister.com/blog/jimmy-akin/what-year-was-jesus-born-the-answer-may-surprise-you/&gt;.

Bucher, R.P. (N.d.). “Caesar Augustus, Quirinius, and the Census.” Our Redeemer Lutheran Church. Retrieved from <http://www.orlutheran.com/html/census.html#Anchor4&gt;.

Conte, R.L. (2003). “The Chronology of Herod the Great’s Reign.” BibleChronology.com. Retrieved from: <http://www.biblicalchronology.com/herod.htm&gt;.

 

EDITS

I will periodically edit this post to add links to the following posts in this series as they are published.

The True Date of Jesus’ Death: Part III: Day of the Week of Jesus’ Death

INTRODUCTION

As discussed in the previous blog posts on this topic, I decided to write an article on when Jesus died so I can shorten my other blog posts on Christian traditions by simply referring back to the article every time the topic comes up. However, there was so much information to go over that I was forced to divide it into several blog posts.

When considering the time of day, day of the week, year, and month and day of Jesus’ death, we find that these interplay deeply with each other and affect how we determine each. However, the time of day is the simplest and requires the least amount of extrapolation, so I chose to start with that. Previous blog posts addressed:

This post will address the day of the week on which Jesus died.

 

III. DAY OF THE WEEK OF JESUS’ DEATH

It has been traditionally accepted that the Passover on which Jesus was crucified fell on Friday because He died before the Sabbath, and the Sabbath falls on Saturday. The Passover began on a Friday in the years 30 A.D. and 33 A.D.; between those two years, most scholars accept 30 A.D. (Akin, 2013a). (Note: As you’ll see in a later blog post, a Hebrew Calendar Converter came up with different dates–that is, that Passover was not on a Friday in 30 A.D. I’ve contacted the calendar converter administrators and one writer who quoted the Friday Passover dates listed above to see where the error lies, but have yet to hear back.) However, the assumption that He died on a Friday is erroneous. By referring back to the facts in Part I of this series, I’ll demonstrate why. For specific details on each of the facts referenced, please refer back to Part I.

  1. Day of Travel.

In Fact 9, we learned that Jesus came to Bethany 6 days before the Passover and to Jerusalem the following day. A long journey—such as that to Bethany—cannot take place on a Sabbath (Exodus 16:29), but a journey to a nearby Temple would be permitted. That is, His journey to Bethany could not occur on a Sabbath, but His journey from Bethany to Jerusalem could take place on the Sabbath—that is, six days before His death was not a Sabbath. If He died on Friday, that means He traveled on the Sabbath, which was prohibited, so we know He did not die on a Friday. If the latest day in the week that Jesus arrived in Bethany was Friday and He died six days afterward, the latest He could have died was Thursday. In other words, from a purely intellectual standpoint, we automatically have to abandon the idea that Jesus died on Friday. (See Footnote 1 about Jesus observing Jewish law.)

  1. Day of Resurrection.

The women found the tomb already empty before sunrise on Sunday morning (Fact 14), and so Jesus had to have resurrected no later than the night of Saturday-Sunday. From this fact alone, we know He could have resurrected as late as approximately 5:30 am on Sunday (that is approximately when sunrise occurs in Jerusalem in the spring), but it doesn’t tell us the earliest He could have resurrected.

  1. Length of Burial.

In Fact 7, we learned that Jesus very unequivocally prophesied that He would be buried three days and three nights before His resurrection. If He died on Friday and resurrected on Sunday morning, as is traditionally believed, He would have spent Friday night, Saturday day, and Saturday night in the tomb—one day and two nights, not three days and three nights. In other words, if He died and was buried on Friday and resurrected on Sunday morning, He made a false prophecy and therefore was not God. In other words, from a theological standpoint, we again must reject the idea that He died on Friday.

As discussed above, based on His travel data, the earliest He could have died is Thursday. If He died and was buried on Thursday afternoon, He would have resurrected Sunday afternoon, which is many hours after the women visited the tomb. However, if He died and was buried on Wednesday just before sunset, He would have resurrected Saturday just before sunset, which the women wouldn’t have known because the Bible makes it clear that they did not visit the tomb until after the Sabbath (see Fact 16). (United Church of God, N.d.)

  1. Which Sabbath?

Just from these few items, it seems quite clear that Jesus died and was buried Wednesday afternoon just before sunset and that He resurrected at around sunset on Saturday. However, the Bible talks about Jesus dying before the Sabbath (see Fact 10) and, as we all know, the Sabbath occurs on a Saturday. It seems like a fault in the Biblical account. However, that’s only because we’re assuming the Sabbath in question was the weekly Saturday Sabbath.

As discussed in Facts 11 and 12, Jesus celebrated the Passover the night before He died, and the Passover starts at sunset on Nisan 14 every year (see Footnote 2), and that He died before the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which starts at sunset on Nisan 15 every year. Because both the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread are tied to a specific month/day date, they may fall on any day of the week and, in fact, usually do not fall on the weekly Sabbath (this is a simple matter of numbers—only 1 of 7 days of the week is Saturday, so it’s far more likely that a particular date will fall on a weekday rather than on a Saturday). As discussed in Fact 12, the first and last days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread are known as miqra in Hebrew or as “high days” or “high Sabbaths” in English. High Sabbaths or miqra are annual holidays wherein Jews are required to follow all the Sabbath laws, and so they may be referred to simply as Sabbaths. Because the Feast of Unleavened Bread follows the Passover (see Fact 12 for all the confusing details of why that is), the day after the Passover is a Sabbath, regardless of what day of the week it occurs. Therefore, by itself, the fact that Jesus died before the Sabbath tells us nothing about the day of the week on which He died. However, it can be used in combination with other facts to help us figure out the day of the week. (United Church of God, N.d.)

  1. Two Sabbaths.

As discussed in Facts 16 and 17, the women watched Jesus get buried immediately prior to the Sabbath, apparently in such a rush that the people burying Him did not have the time to properly prepare the body with spices. Apparently, all Joseph of Arimathea had time to do was quickly wrap the body and lay it in the tomb (Luke 23:53). The women then went home to prepare the spices for Jesus’ body, though the Bible specifically states that they rested on the Sabbath (Luke 23:55-56). The Bible also tells us that they bought the spices (Mark 16:1). So they had to both buy the spices and prepare the spices. Obviously, they couldn’t buy the spices on the Sabbath, but they also couldn’t prepare the spices on the Sabbath. As discussed in Fact 16, they had to have purchased and prepared the spices on Friday morning, after which they and all the shopkeepers would have spent the afternoon preparing for the Sabbath (therefore, shops were closed on Friday afternoon). However, they were present to watch Jesus being buried right before sunset, so they couldn’t have quickly run into town to buy some spices before the Sabbath, which means Jesus couldn’t have died on Friday (again, with that Friday thing!). (United Church of God, N.d.)

EDIT (27 March 2015): I was just made aware of the fact that the original Greek text for Matthew 28:1 reads “after the Sabbaths” (plural), changing the verse from “Now after the Sabbath…” to “Now after the Sabbaths, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb.”

  1. Conclusion.

So here’s the thing… we know that Jesus died on the Passover before the high Sabbath that is the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. We also know that He rose by sunrise on Sunday at the latest, which means He was in the tomb through Saturday, another Sabbath. Although it’s technically possible that the high Sabbath also coincidentally fell on the weekly Sabbath, we also know, as described above, that Jesus died and was buried no later than Wednesday afternoon, or else He made a false prophecy when He said He would remain buried for three days and three nights. So the high Sabbath had to have occurred on Thursday, and the women would have purchased and prepared the spices on Friday, and then the weekly Sabbath occurred on Saturday, and the women finally came to anoint His body with the spices Sunday morning before sunrise.

Therefore, Jesus died on Wednesday afternoon and was buried right before sunset, remained in the tomb Thursday through Saturday, and arose at about sunset on Saturday.

 

SUMMARY

In this post, using the facts from the four Gospel accounts regarding the important feasts, weekly events, and days of the week surrounding Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, I demonstrated that Jesus died on Wednesday and resurrected on Saturday.

The following posts will address:

  • Part IV: Year of Jesus’ Death: Chapter 1: Year of Jesus’ Birth
  • Part IV: Year of Jesus’ Death: Chapter 2: Year of Jesus’ Ministry
  • Part V: Full Date of Jesus’ Death

 

じゃあまたね!

 

FOOTNOTES

Footnote 1: Jesus Observed Jewish Law. I have to address what many might argue, that Jesus may not have followed the Jewish law’s prohibition against traveling on the Sabbath. I think it’s especially important to address this argument because when people have issues fitting the day of the week Jesus died into the Biblical narrative based on their own preconceived ideas, they often argue that Jesus, being King of the Universe and God Himself, could very well have chosen to disobey a law He Himself had written thousands of years before from heaven. Briefly, I’ll just state that such an idea is actually quite foolish. All four Gospels, many other New Testament books, some Old Testament prophecies, and even extra-Biblical historical evidence all very clearly state or else very strongly point to Jesus having obeyed all of the rules set down in the Mosaic Law. Any time the priests or Pharisees complained that He was breaking a law, it was always one of the non-Mosaic, extra-Biblical manmade traditions that the Jews had added to the Mosaic Law over the next couple thousand years after it was first written. In fact, Jesus specifically called them out on their ridiculous, unscriptural additions to the law, as in Mark 7:9-13. So Jesus did not obey extra-Biblical manmade traditions, but He did obey the whole of the Mosaic Law—and the example given above of Jesus not traveling on the Sabbath comes from the Mosaic Law. See this article (Wellman, 2014) for more details.

Footnote 2: Jesus Died on Passover. The evidence that Jesus died on the Passover is overwhelming, as discussed in Facts 11 and 12. However, some (ex: Akin, 2013a) who want to believe Jesus died on Friday point out that the high priests had apparently not yet eaten the Passover meal, as evidenced by John 18:28, which says, “Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment: and it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the passover.” That is, they couldn’t go into the Gentile structure, because doing so would defile them and make them unable to eat the Passover meal. As a result, Pontius Pilate had to come out to them (John 18:29). This could mean that the Passover was actually going to start the following day, which is what these people believe it means, but that doesn’t fit with the rest of the Gospel narrative. Alternatively, it could also mean that they were working so hard to arrest and try Him that they hadn’t yet eaten the Passover, and this fits better with the Gospel narrative.

 

REFERENCES

Akin, J. (10 April 2013a). “7 clues tell us *precisely* when Jesus died (the year, month, day, and hour revealed).” National Catholic Register. Retrieved from <http://www.ncregister.com/blog/jimmy-akin/when-precisely-did-jesus-die-the-year-month-day-and-hour-revealed/&gt;.

Wellman, J. (2014). “Was Jesus a Jew? Did Jesus Follow Jewish Rituals?” Christian Crier. Retrieved from < http://www.patheos.com/blogs/christiancrier/2014/06/13/was-jesus-a-jew-did-jesus-follow-jewish-rituals/&gt;.

United Church of God (N.d.). “When Was Jesus Christ Crucified and Resurrected?” In Jesus Christ: The Real Story. Retrieved from <http://www.ucg.org/booklet/jesus-christ-real-story/did-jesus-really-die-and-live-again/when-was-jesus-christ-crucified-/&gt;.

 

EDITS

I will periodically edit this post to add links to following posts in this series as they are published.

Christian Traditions 018: St. Joseph’s Day

Von Trapp Follow-Along: Maria makes no mention of this event.

INTRODUCTION

St. Joseph’s Day is a feast day that commemorates the husband of Mary and foster father of Jesus. It is far more recent in origin than most major saints’ days, and gained popularity among Italian/Sicilian and Polish immigrants to the U.S., holding the same importance to them that St. Patrick’s Day does to the Irish.

redCOLOR

Red. In Italian/Sicilian and Polish communities within the U.S., the wearing of red is as traditional on this day as is the wearing of green on St. Patrick’s Day. (See Footnote 1.)

fava_beans_pile_570SYMBOL

Fava Bean. In the Middle Ages, legend holds that there was a severe drought in Sicily and that the people prayed that Joseph would send them rain, promising that in return, they would prepare a large feast to honor him. The rain came, and the Sicilians prepared a feast in his honor and made him their patron saint. The crop which saved the population from starvation was the fava bean, and so the fava bean is now traditionally added to the St. Joseph’s Day meal.

Hollyhock. St. Joseph is also associated with the hollyhock, a flower from China which was introduced to the Holy Land by travelers on the Silk Road.

Carpentry Tools and Saw Dust. For obvious reasons.

19 March 2015WHEN IS IT?

St. Joseph’s Day is held 19 March every year; this year, that’s Thursday. If it falls on a Sunday other than Palm Sunday, it’s observed the next available day (usually Monday 20 March) unless another feast falls on that day. In 2006, an additional rule was added (and has been observed since 2008) that if St. Joseph’s Day falls within Holy Week (the week prior to Easter Sunday), it is moved to the closest possible day before 19 March, which is usually the Saturday before Holy Week. In Italy and Spain, 19 March is also Father’s Day.

stjosWHAT IS IT?

This event commemorates Joseph, the husband of Mary and, by extension, stepfather and foster father of Jesus. Because Joseph was given the responsibility to protect and care for Jesus (and Mary), he is considered the patron and protector of the entire Church. His day has been celebrated in the Western church since at least the 900s AD and was established in Rome by 1479 AD. Today, St. Joseph’s Day is a feast day. However, it was a solemnity until 1955 (see Footnote 2).

As we know from Scripture, Joseph was a carpenter (Matthew 13:55, Mark 6:3) who descended from Bethlehem. As told in Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2, Joseph was betrothed to Mary, and upon finding out she was pregnant, he decided to quietly divorce her so as not to make a spectacle of her or put her at risk of death as a punishment for adultery. However, an angel told Joseph that Mary was pregnant by the power of the Holy Ghost and that she carried the Messiah. Joseph then married her but did not sleep with her until after she had given birth to Jesus (Matthew 1:24-25). Because he was descended from Bethlehem, he had to take a very pregnant Mary with him to Bethlehem to be registered for taxes, wherein Jesus was born. Joseph also took Jesus and Mary to the Temple in Jerusalem for their ritual presentation and purification, respectively (see my post about Candlemas for more information). When King Herod sought to kill Jesus, Joseph took his family to Egypt under the command of an angel to wait until it was safe to return. After Herod died, Joseph again moved his family under the command of an angel, this time back to Israel. However, upon their arrival, he learned that Herod’s son, who was just as evil as Herod, now reigned in Israel, so—again, upon the instruction of God—he moved to Galilee and settled in a city called Nazareth. Joseph took his family to Jerusalem every year at the Passover and, the year Jesus was 12 years old, he and Mary discovered on their way back that they had accidentally left Him in Jerusalem. Although Joseph’s words to Jesus upon finding Him are not recorded (only Mary’s are), he was apparently just as worried as was Mary, according to her words, “…Son, why have you dealt with us this way? Your father and I sought you anxiously.” (Luke 2:48) If we are to take Mary’s words literally, it seems that Joseph considered himself as much Jesus’ father as Mary was His mother, and loved Him as his own child. Joseph and Mary had at least six other children after Jesus (see Footnote 3), but Joseph is not otherwise mentioned except as the father of Jesus (e.g., Matthew 13:55). The Scripture implies that Mary was a widow at the time of Jesus’ death (John 19:26-27), but the exact time of Joseph’s death is not mentioned. Although Scripture references to Joseph are few, we see a picture of him as a very merciful, understanding, and loving man; a man who put God first; a protector; and a good father and husband.

feastofstjosephpaintingBecause St. Joseph’s Day falls within Lent, the meals on this day are traditionally meatless. A food traditionally added to St. Joseph’s Day meals in Italy and Sicily or Italian and Sicilian communities is the fava bean, as discussed above regarding the legend of famine and salvation from starvation by fava bean. Because of this legend, it is also traditional to give food to the needy on this day. Foods are also traditionally served containing bread crumbs to represent saw dust since Joseph was a carpenter. Other foods traditionally eaten on this day include a Neapolitan pastry called zeppola/zeppole, Maccu di San Giuseppe (which is primarily maccu, a soup dating back to ancient times wherein fava beans are the primary ingredient), and Sfinge di San Giuseppe (St. Joseph’s Cream Puffs).

Because New Orleans, Louisiana (USA) was a major port city for Sicilian immigrants in the late 1800s, St. Joseph’s Day is an important event in the city. As in other countries, an altar is often prepared in honor of the saint, where the people of the church contribute food items like a potluck. However, the food from the altars in New Orleans is generally given to charity after the altar is dismantled—that is, the churchgoers don’t eat it—in contrast to most other locales, where the churchgoers eat the meal together. The altar or table is decorated with many symbolic items, such as carpentry tools. After the eating is done, the altar is smashed and three children dressed as the Holy Family (Joseph, Mary, and Jesus) perform a re-enactment called “Tupa, Tupa” (“Knock, Knock”). In this re-enactment, the three children go knocking on three doors asking for shelter. They are refused at the first two and welcomed at the third. This re-enactment is held in commemoration of the Holy Family’s seeking hospitality in Bethlehem before Jesus’ birth. At the end of the day, participants take home a bag filled with various gifts (bread, fruit, pastries, cookies, a blessed fava bean, a medal of St. Joseph, etc.).

Another tradition is for children to give gifts to their fathers on this day.

calendarLOOKING AHEAD

Another event commemorating Joseph, Memorial of St. Joseph the Worker, occurs on 1 May. It is discussed in Footnote 1. Because it is such a minor observance, I don’t think there will be a blog post on it.

STANDARD ACTIVITIES

Most of the traditional activities involve food.

  • Readings. Read the story of Joseph in Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2.
  • Fashion (Recent Traditional). Wear red.
  • Food (Traditional). Several traditional recipes can be found at Fish Eaters. In general, any Italian/Sicilian food and some Polish foods are traditional for St. Joseph’s Day.
  • Joseph’s Table (Traditional). As discussed above, both churches and private homes would set up a table with various traditional foods and have a feast. In some churches, the food would be donated to charity, though most churches ate the food as a potluck. Traditional décor for the table included symbols associated with Joseph (such as carpentry tools and a statue of Joseph). You may do this at home or host a potluck in your church. The following prayer said over St. Joseph’s Table is traditional. It’s a little Catholic (it refers to a saint praying for us, which is not supported by Scripture), but you may adapt it if you are Evangelical.
    • “All-provident God, the good things that grace this table remind us of Your many good gifts. Bless this food, and may the prayers of St. Joseph who provided bread for Your Son and good for the poor sustain us and all our brothers and sisters on our journey toward Your heavenly kingdom. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.”
  • Skit (Traditional). The “Tupa, Tupa” skit, described above, is traditionally performed in church by three children dressed as Joseph, Mary, and Jesus on this day. If you have children in your family, small group, or church, consider re-enacting this skit.
  • Charity (Traditional). As discussed above, it is traditional on this day to donate food to charity. You may consider donated canned goods to the local charitable food pantry or even hosting a dinner for the homeless at your church.
  • Goody Bag (Recent Traditional). As discussed above, when the church celebrates St. Joseph’s Day with a potluck dinner, after the event, participants take home a bag filled with various gifts (bread, fruit, pastries, cookies, a blessed fava bean, a medal of St. Joseph, etc.). If you are celebrating in a family with children or in a small group or church setting, consider creating goody bags.

KNIT AND CROCHET ACTIVITIES

You may create any of the items traditionally associated with Joseph. As discussed above, these include the fava bean (which looks like a string bean in the pod or just a plain green-colored bean out of the pod), the hollyhock flower, or carpentry tools. Most of these patterns will have to be significantly adjusted for size.

  • Knitting Patterns.
    • “Tiny Bean” by Tokkyu2222 (here) (note: knit it in green, like the fava bean)
    • “Stuffed String Beans” by Kim Engelmann (here) (note: although these are technically string beans, they have the appearance of a fava bean in the pod)
  • Crochet Patterns.
    • “Green Bean Amigurumi” by Jessica Evans (here) (note: although this is technically a green bean, it has the same appearance of a fava bean in the pod)
    • “Glam up Your Hexipuff – Hollyhock” by minja (here) (note: this pattern will have to be significantly altered for size if you do only the flower)
    • “Hammer” by Myshelle Cole (here)

 

じゃあまたね!

 

FOOTNOTES

Footnote 1: Red as the Color of St. Joseph’s Day. In my research on this topic, I mostly found people asking the same question—“why do Italians [or Polish] wear red on St. Joseph’s Day?”—and others trying to answer but not fully answering the question.

One explanation seemed to be a slight confusion of the Memorial of St. Joseph the Worker with St. Joseph’s Day. The best I could piece together was that 1 May was the national holiday of the Communist Party in Italy, called “May Day” or “Festa Del Lavoro” (basically, “Labor Day”). On this day, some people wore red for communism. However, Pope Pius XII added a celebration of “San Giuseppe Lavoratore” (“St. Joseph the Worker”) on the same day in 1955. His stated reason for doing so was to accentuate the dignity of labor and to bring a spiritual dimension to labor unions, which is completely contrary to others’ claims that he created the observance to contrast communism. In fact, previous popes (most notably Pope Leo XIII in 1891 and Pope Pius XI in 1931) specifically decried harsh conditions in the industrial workplace and exploitation of workers. I could not find information on how red came to be associated with the 19 March commemoration of St. Joseph’s Day in accordance with this explanation—in fact, when giving this explanation, the authors usually falsely claim that Italians and Polish do not wear red on St. Joseph’s Day at all—so I think it may not be the true reason for the association of red with St. Joseph’s Day (19 March), though it offers a good explanation for the association of red with the Memorial of St. Joseph the Worker (1 May).

Another explanation for the association of red with St. Joseph’s Day (19 March) that makes more sense to me involves the interplay of Italian and Polish immigrants to America with the more established Irish Catholic immigrants in the 1890s-1930s. The Italian and Polish immigrants found themselves in a new land where Catholic dioceses were mostly run by Irish immigrants and people of Irish descent, who looked down on Southern and Eastern European Catholics. The Italians and Polish felt unwelcome and judged, and mostly ended up creating their own culturally-specific parishes and religious societies. In Chicago, the two groups expressed their disagreement most vividly. In this city, St. Patrick’s Day (17 March) was very visibly celebrated with such demonstrations as a massive parade and turning the Chicago River green. In multi-ethnic Catholic schools, kids of Irish heritage demonstrated their Irish pride with “the wearing of the green” on this day. Therefore, probably mostly if not entirely in reaction to St. Patrick’s Day, St. Joseph’s Day (19 March, just two days after St. Patrick’s Day) became more important to the Polish and Italian communities. Both national flags of Poland and Italy have red, which contrasts very sharply to the Irish green, and so Polish and Italian Americans took this day to celebrate their patron saint and their cultural heritages with “the wearing of the red,” especially among kids in Catholic schools. Simultaneously, many Polish traditions were adopted by the Italians, and many Sicilian and Italian traditions were adopted by the Polish. Eventually, many of these Italian/Sicilian and Polish traditions were adopted by the Catholic Church of Chicago as a whole. You can read the historical account plus some traditional activities for this day here.

Footnote 2: St. Joseph’s Day as a Solemnity. This day was once considered a solemnity, which is the highest ranking level of liturgical commemoration and commemorates an event in the life of Jesus or Mary or celebrates a saint who is important to all Christianity or to a local community. (That is, a celebration of a particular saint may be a memorial or a feast in the world in general but a solemnity in the area for which that saint was especially important, such as Saint Patrick’s Day, which is a feast day around the world but a solemnity in Ireland.) For examples Evangelicals would understand, other solemnities include Christmas and Easter. When a solemnity falls on a Sunday (except in Advent, Lent, or Eastertide), it supersedes the Sunday itself—that is, it is celebrated in place of the Sunday. However, because St. Joseph’s Day falls within Lent, if it fell on a Sunday, it would be moved to another day.

Footnote 3: Joseph and Mary’s Other Children. In other places in Scripture, we find that Jesus had siblings, presumably younger siblings (since older siblings are not mentioned in the accounts of His birth) who were therefore the children of Joseph and Mary. For example, in Mark 6:3 (and also Matthew 13:55-56), the people in the synagogue who heard Him preaching questioned, “Isn’t this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joseph, and of Jude, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?…” (In Matthew 13:55, He is referred to as “the son of the carpenter.”) This demonstrates that Joseph and Mary had at least six children after Jesus, the four sons named in this verse plus at least two sisters. Other passages also refer in passing to His siblings, only once more by name (see Mark 3:31-35, John 7:3-10, Acts 1:14, and Galatians 1:19). Further evidence in support of this idea is that the oldest son is given the father’s name where later sons may get the grandfather’s name; however, the oldest of Jesus’ four brothers is named James, after his grandfather (Joseph’s father), rather than being named after his father (Joseph), as was typical for firstborn sons.

The word used to describe Jesus’ siblings is adelphos, which originally comes from a-delphys (“of the same womb”) but came to mean people born to the same parents, extended family, and brethren in the wider sense of a community. Nevertheless, the earliest scholars (and many modern scholars as well) agreed that the most natural inference is that they were the children of Mary and Joseph born after Jesus, and this view was accepted by Christian writers from as early as the first and second centuries. In fact, the Greek word adelphos (“brother,” as described above) is distinct from the Greek word for “cousin” (anepsios), and both were used carefully by a second-century Christian writer named Hegesippus to distinguish between Jesus’ cousins and His brothers.

However, beginning in the 3rd century, a new doctrine arose suggesting that Mary was always a virgin (contrary to Matthew 1:24-25, which says Joseph didn’t have sex with her until after Jesus was born—in other words, pretty plainly stating that they started having sex after Jesus’ birth), and if true, that would make it impossible for Mary to have had other children. Therefore, certain groups (primarily the Catholic Church and a few Protestant churches) which hold to the theological construct of Sacred Tradition (see my earlier post on that topic) reject the possibility that these children were Joseph and Mary’s natural children and engage in all sorts of mental gymnastics to explain where they came from, most often insisting that they were His cousins (a view, as described above, that was very specifically rejected by the earliest Christian scholars) or that they were Joseph’s children from a previous marriage (which, as stated above, does not explain why this rather large family of six children was not mentioned at all in the records of the events surrounding Jesus’ conception and birth).

The True Date of Jesus’ Death: Part II: Time of Jesus’ Death

INTRODUCTION

As discussed in the previous blog post on this topic, I decided to write an article on when Jesus died so I can shorten my other blog posts on Christian traditions by simply referring back to the article every time the topic comes up. However, there was so much information to go over that I was forced to divide it into several blog posts.

When considering the time of day, day of the week, year, and month and day of Jesus’ death, we find that these interplay deeply with each other and affect how we determine each. However, the time of day is the simplest and requires the least amount of extrapolation, so I chose to start with that. In the previous blog post, I listed the facts we know from the Bible. This post will discuss the time of His death, and future posts will discuss the day of the week, the year, and the month/day of His death in light of the aforementioned facts from the Bible.

II. TIME OF JESUS’ DEATH

I’ll answer the question of what time of day Jesus died by referring back to the facts from the Bible in Part I of this series. For specific details on each of the facts referenced, please refer back to Part I.

As we learned in Facts 13-15: Pilate handed Jesus over to the Jews in early morning at the sixth hour (John 19:14); Jesus was crucified mid-morning at about the third hour (Mark 15:25); and Jesus died in the afternoon at about the ninth hour (Matthew 27:45-50; Mark 15:34-37; Luke 23:44-46).

For the three above facts, three deeply intertwining data points have to be considered—namely, the times of these events. If we assume the authors were all using the same method of determining time, it appears as though Jesus was crucified three hours before His trial with Pilate. This means we have to first know what method each author used to determine time.

The Roman method of determining time is the one we still use today, wherein the hours of the day start at midnight and end the following midnight. As discussed above, Jewish days started at sunset and ended at the following sunset, so the first hour of the day would begin at one sunset and end at the following sunset. Sunset (and therefore the first hour of the Jewish day) at the beginning of spring (note that the Passover, when Jesus died, is always in the spring) in Jerusalem occurs at approximately 6 pm by the Roman method. Like us, both Jews and Romans divided their 24-hour period into two 12-hour periods. So the twelfth hour by the Jewish method would be the sixth hour (6 am) by the Roman method and noon (12 pm), or the first hour of the second 12-hour period, by the Roman method would be the sixth hour (that is, the sixth hour of the second 12-hour period) by the Jewish method. (Major, 1999)

As discussed in Fact 13, John and Mark both say that Jesus had His second audience with Pilate in the early morning (John 18:28; Mark 15:1). John 19:14 says Pilate presented Jesus to the Jews for crucifixion at about the sixth hour. By the Roman method, this would be 6 am or 6 pm; and by the Jewish method in Jerusalem in the spring, this would be about midnight or noon. Since it happened in the early morning, it’s likely that John was using the Roman method and that Pilate therefore handed Jesus over to the Jews for crucifixion at 6 am.

As discussed in Fact 14, we know Jesus probably wasn’t crucified immediately after being handed over to the Jews because some preparation had to take place for both Him and the two criminals with whom He was crucified, and they had to make the slow journey through Jerusalem and up the hill to Calvary/Golgotha. Mark 15:25 tells us that Jesus was crucified at the third hour. By the Roman method, this would be 3 am or 3 pm; and by the Jewish method, this would be 9 am or 9 pm. Because His crucifixion apparently occurred within a few hours after He was handed over to the Jews, because He was not crucified before sunrise (as discussed above, He was handed over to the Jews in early morning) or after sunset (as discussed in Fact 10, He died before the Sabbath, which starts at sunset), He probably was crucified at either 9 am (Jewish method) or 3 pm (Roman method). Because of Fact 15, which I’ll discuss below, He was probably crucified at 9 am, which means Mark was using the Jewish method.

As discussed in Fact 15, the Jews rushed to get Jesus and the criminals dead and buried before the Sabbath, which starts at sunset. This means Jesus had to have died in the afternoon at the latest. Three of the Gospels record the time of Jesus’ death at about the ninth hour (Matthew 27:45-50; Mark 15:34-37; Luke 23:44-46). By the Roman method, this would be 9 am or 9 pm; and by the Jewish method, this would be 3 am or 3 pm. To figure out which one, there are several factors to consider.

  • Obviously, He couldn’t have died before His trial. As discussed above, His trial concluded at around sunrise, ruling out 3 am.
  • He couldn’t have died after sunset because, as discussed in Fact 10, sunset marks the beginning of Sabbath and we know He died before the Sabbath. This rules out 9 pm.
  • He couldn’t have died at night. Jewish law prohibits leaving out overnight the dead body of someone who was hung (Deuteronomy 21:22-23). The Jews obviously cared about following the Sabbath law, so it makes sense that they would care about this law as well. This also rules out 3 am and 9 pm.
  • Obviously, He couldn’t have died before or at the exact moment of His crucifixion. As discussed above, His crucifixion occurred at either 9 am or 3 pm.

Since He had to first be crucified and then die, and since His crucifixion was at either 9 am or 3 pm, and since His death was at either 9 am or 3 pm (recall that 3 am and 9 pm were ruled out using the factors above), it makes most sense that He was crucified at 9 am and died at 3 pm. This means Matthew, Mark, and Luke were all using the Jewish method of timing. This also means that Mark was using the Jewish method for both the time of His crucifixion and the time of His death, rather than switching between Jewish and Roman methods, so it fits well within the context. John appears to be the only one using the Roman method.

 

SUMMARY

In this post, I presented the facts known about the times of Jesus’ trial, crucifixion, and death, and how they interplay with each other to help us determine the approximate time of each. Using the four Gospel accounts, we can see that Jesus’ second trial with Pilate ended and Pilate handed Him over to the Jews at about 6 am; that Jesus was crucified at about 9 am; and that Jesus died at about 3 pm.

The following posts will address:

  • Part III: Day of the Week of Jesus’ Death
  • Part IV: Year of Jesus’ Death: Chapter 1: Year of Jesus’ Birth
  • Part IV: Year of Jesus’ Death: Chapter 2: Year of Jesus’ Ministry
  • Part V: Full Date of Jesus’ Death

 

じゃあまたね!

 

REFERENCES

Major, T. (1999). “Did Jesus Die at the Third or the Sixth Hour?” Apologetics Press. Retrieved from <http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=6&article=584&gt;. From Geisler, N., & Thomas, H. (1992). When Critics Ask. (Wheaton, IL: Victor).

 

EDITS

I will periodically edit this post to add links to the following posts in this series as they are published.

The True Date of Jesus’ Death: Part I: Facts from the Bible

INTRODUCTION

In my writings on Christian traditions, I’ve frequently had to refer back to the date of Jesus’ death, correcting long-held misconceptions. In order to shorten those posts, I’ve decided to simply collect it all here so that I can briefly refer back to this article rather than re-writing a long explanation every time the topic comes up. However, the information is so legion that I found I had to divide it into multiple blog posts.

I’m going to tackle this in as orderly a fashion as I can. The four major dating considerations for Jesus’ death are time of day, day of the week, year, and month and day. As we will see, these interplay with each other and affect how we determine each. In this series, we’ll first review the date and time facts the Bible gives regarding Jesus’ birth, ministry, and death, and then we will discuss the time, the day of the week, the year, and the exact date of His death in light of those facts.

 I. FACTS FROM THE BIBLE

I’ll bring out these facts in the order in which they appear, chronologically speaking. In other words, even though it’s His death date we want to know, the first facts I discuss will be about His birth.

  1. Jesus Was Born Following Caesar Augustus’ Census Decree.

Luke 2:1-5 (KJV) tells us that Caesar Augustus put out a decree during the governorship of Cyrenius (or Quirinius) in Syria that the Roman Empire should be taxed, and that this law required everyone to go back to his city of origin. Because Joseph was of the lineage of King David, he had to take his still-pregnant wife Mary with him to Bethlehem to be registered for taxation. However, special note should be taken of the assertion that it was the first census taken during Quirinius’ governorship because the Greek word translated “first” can also mean “before,” so Luke could have meant that this census was taken before Quirinius was governor. On the other hand, it could mean that it was the first census of the area and fell during Quirinius’s governorship, or that it was the first of more than one census that Quirinius oversaw. Coincidentally, Luke mentions another census in Acts 5:37, which took place in 6 A.D., when we know Quirinius was governor. So it seems more likely that Luke meant this census occurred under Quirinius’ leadership, alluding to the next census he mentions in his next book, Acts. Another special note should be taken of the phrase translated “to be taxed,” which more accurately means “to be registered” as for a census that would involve swearing an oath of loyalty to the emperor and probably also taxation. Finally, special note should also be taken of the word translated “governor.” It’s actually a verb, not a noun, and means “administrating one’s duties”; it is not a title, such as Legatus (governor). In fact, most English versions of the Bible don’t use the term “governor.” (I’ll discuss all of these translation issues in more detail in Part IV: Chapter 1.)

  1. Jesus Was Born During the Reign of Herod the Great.

Matthew 2:1 says “…Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king…” In Matthew 2, we read about how King Herod found out from the chief priests and scribes that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, and then tried to trick the wise men into telling him where in Bethlehem the infant Jesus was living so that he could kill Him. The wise men, however, did not return to Herod but went home by a different route, and so Herod had all boys in Bethlehem under the age of 2 years killed (a fulfillment of prophecy by Jeremiah), an event which is now known as the Massacre of Innocents. At that point, Joseph had already picked up his family under the instruction of an angel and fled to Egypt, so the infant Jesus survived the attack.

But as it turns out, there was more than one Herod in the first centuries B.C. and A.D. (In fact, Jesus died during the reign of another King Herod.) So during which Herod’s reign was Jesus born? Matthew 2 continues the story, explaining that after Herod died, an angel told Joseph to return to Israel, where he found that “Archelaus reigned in Judea in place of his father Herod” (Mathew 2:22). So the Herod during whose reign Jesus was born was succeeded by a son named Archelaus, which identifies him as Herod the Great.

  1. John the Baptist’s Ministry Began in the 15th Year of Tiberius Caesar.

Actually, there are lots of little factoids in this descriptor from Luke 3:1-2. Luke tells us that it was the 15th year of Tiberius Caesar’s reign, that Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, that Herod was the tetrarch of Galilee, that Herod’s brother Philip was tetrarch of Ituraea and Trachonitis, that Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, and that Annas and Caiaphas were the high priests. As we’ll see later, the only facts that really help us are those regarding Tiberius, Pilate, Herod, and Caiaphas. Luke 3:2-3 goes on to explain that it was in this year that John the Baptist began preaching and baptizing.

  1. Jesus’ Ministry Began After John the Baptist’s.

In Luke 3:15-17 (see also Matthew 3:11-12), the people hear John the Baptist preaching and begin to muse that he might be the Christ, but he quickly strips them of that notion and explains that the Messiah is coming after him. After this, Jesus came to John to be baptized (Matthew 3:13-17), then went on a 40-day fast (Matthew 4:1-11), and upon hearing that John had been cast into prison after His own baptism (Matthew 4:12; Luke 3:19-22), He returned to Galilee and began to preach (Matthew 4:17). So it appears that Jesus’ ministry began maybe two or three months after His baptism, and His baptism occurred after John the Baptist’s ministry was already established. However, we don’t know for certain how long John the Baptist was preaching before Jesus came along to get baptized. However, for John the Baptist to have gained such notoriety as is implied in the stories about him, he must have been preaching for a while. I think it’s safe to guess that he had been preaching for about a year, give or take several months, before Jesus came to him to be baptized.

  1. Jesus Was About 30 Years Old at the Beginning of His Ministry.

Luke 3:23—“And Jesus Himself began to be about thirty years of age…” This verse comes immediately after His baptism and is followed by the first story of His ministry. When Luke gives the age of Jairus’s daughter, he says she was “about twelve” (Luke 8:42), so he’s probably not doing a massive rounding of the number for Jesus’ age. That is, it’s likely Jesus was in His thirtieth year or that he was about to turn thirty when He began His ministry.

  1. There Were 3 Passovers During Jesus’ Ministry.

The book of John records three Passovers during Jesus’ ministry. Passover #1 (John 2:13) occurred near the beginning of His ministry. Passover #2 (John 6:4) probably occurred in the middle of Jesus’ ministry. Finally, Passover #3 (John 11:55) occurred at the end of Jesus’ ministry, the night before and day of His death (see Fact 11). There may have been more than three Passovers during His ministry, but I think it’s a pretty safe reading to assume there were exactly three. For one thing, the stories of the Passovers are spaced relatively evenly throughout John’s book. For another, if he recorded three Passovers, why wouldn’t he have recorded a hypothetical fourth? Of course, there may be arguments either way, but a total of three Passovers during Jesus’ ministry is a convenient and probably very safe way to estimate it.

(I should note that some people point to John 5:1 as the source of a fourth Passover. It says, “After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.” However, there were seven annual feast days for the Jews and this one is not specifically identified as a Passover, like the other three are, so in my opinion, there’s no reason to conclusively state that it was another Passover.)

  1. Jesus Prophesied 3 Days Between Death and Resurrection.

This is extremely important, for reasons I will discuss in detail in Part III. In Matthew 12:40, Jesus told the scribes and Pharisees, who had asked (v. 38) for a sign proving He was Messiah, that “as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” In John 2:18-19, He says “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Two verses later, John explains Jesus was referring to the temple of His body, not the temple at Jerusalem. I can’t stress how incredibly important this fact is. In this instance, He references Jonah 1:17, which states very plainly, “Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” Jesus draws the comparison to His own length of burial, stating unequivocally that it will encompass three days and three nights, which must correctly be understood to mean three full days and three full nights. Furthermore, the chief priests and Pharisees came to Pilate the day after Jesus’ death, informing him of this prophecy and asking that the tomb be guarded through the third day (Matthew 27:62-66). Again, I’ll go into far more detail later about why this is so important.

  1. At the Time of the Above Prophecy, the Temple was 46 Years in the Making.

As described above, Jesus made the prophecy while referring to His body as “this temple,” but the Jews misunderstood Him to be referring to the Temple of Jerusalem, in which they were standing at the time of the prophecy (John 2:18-22). They responded, “Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days?” (John 2:20) Or, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?”

  1. Jesus Came to Bethany 6 Days and Jerusalem 5 Days Before the Passover.

According to John, Jesus arrived in Bethany to visit Lazarus, Mary, and Martha six days before the Passover (John 12:1). The day after His arrival at Bethany, He made his Triumphal Entry in Jerusalem (John 12:12-15). Making the long journey to either Bethany could not legally be done on a Sabbath, so 6 days before His death could not be Saturday—that is, He had to have made the journey to Bethany no later than Friday. This is important also, for reasons I will discuss in the next post.

  1. Jesus Died Before the Sabbath.

Facts 8-10 are a little out of order chronologically, but it can get confusing if I put them in chronological order, so we’ll start with this one. John 19:31 describes how the Jews were anxious for Jesus and the robbers to die quickly because they had to bury the bodies before the Sabbath, which starts at sundown, and so they requested of Pilate that the legs be broken so as to speed up their deaths. Mark 14:42-46 also describes how Jesus died during the preparation, the day before the Sabbath, and so Joseph of Arimathea sought Jesus’ body from Pilate and rushed to bury it. Luke 23:50-54 also describes how Joseph of Arimathea begged for the body from Pilate and buried it on the day of the preparation with the Sabbath coming quickly.

  1. Jesus Celebrated the Passover the Night Before His Death.

The Passover is mentioned numerous times, and is specifically described as approaching before His triumphal entry (Mark 11:1-11; John 11:55, 12:1, 10-15). It is described after His triumphal entry but before the Last Supper as still approaching (Matthew 26:2; Mark 14:1-3; Luke 22:1; John 13:1). When the Passover lamb had just been killed (therefore, the evening of Nisan 14), Jesus’ disciples asked him where He wanted to eat the Passover and He sent them on an errand where they found a room ready for them, and that evening He and his disciples sat down to eat the Passover supper (Matthew 26:17-21; Mark 14:12-16; Luke 22:7-14). After eating, while it was still night, Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane with His disciples, where He was arrested (Matthew 26:36-57; Mark 14:17-50; John 18)

John 18:28 explains that the high priest and Pharisees had not yet eaten the Passover meal. This could mean they were working so hard to arrest and try Him that they hadn’t yet eaten the Passover, or it could mean that the Passover was actually going to start the following day. That’s part of why the next fact is very important.

However, we already have our answer later in the same chapter. In John 18:39, where Pilate is trying to save Jesus by offering them a choice between Jesus and Barabbas, he reminds them that the Jews had a custom wherein the governor (in this case, Pilate) would release a prisoner to them at the Passover, and he asked whether they desired the release of Jesus or the release of Barabbas. Remember that Passover starts at sunset Nisan 14 and ends at sunset on Nisan 15, so the Passover day on which the governor released a prisoner would have been Nisan 15. All of Jesus’ trials (with the priests/Pharisees, Pilate, Herod, and Pilate again) happened at night. The day of the Passover is referred to as the day of the preparation. During the day after Jesus’ trials, the day on which Jesus died, the Scripture indicates that it was “the preparation of the Passover” (John 19:14; also Mark 15:42). Furthermore, Matthew 27:62 identifies the day after Jesus’ death as the day after the preparation.

The Apostle Paul identifies Jesus as being our Passover (I Corinthians 5:7); however, he makes no mention of the exact day on which Jesus died.

EDIT (28 March 2015): There is plenty of evidence throughout Scripture that Jesus followed the letter of God’s Law rather than the traditions introduced by the Jewish leaders throughout the centuries (for one small example, see Mark 3:1-6 and Luke 13:10-17 when Jesus healed on a Sabbath in violation of the Jews’ modern laws and He made it clear in His responses to the Pharisees that He was not violating God’s Law). According to this source, there is plenty of evidence that in Jesus’ day, the Jews ate their Passover meal on the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, but that Jesus celebrated the Passover in accordance with God’s Law (rather than according to accumulated tradition) the day before the Feast of Unleavened Bread. I highly recommend reading the above linked article for more information.

  1. Jesus Died During the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

Four days before the Passover, on Nisan 10, the Passover lamb is to be set aside (Exodus 12:3), and it is to be killed in the evening on Nisan 14 (Exodus 12:6) and eaten that night (Exodus 12:8). Leviticus 23:5-7 explains that Nisan 14 from sunset to sunset is the Passover, and that Nisan 15 starts the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which lasts seven days (see also Exodus 12:15). Beginning with Passover on 14 Nisan and ending with the last day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread on 21 Nisan, no unleavened bread may be eaten; this lasts a full seven days (Exodus 12:15-20). Furthermore, the Leviticus passage describes the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread as a holy convocation (Exodus 12:16 describes the first and last days thus), the same as the Sabbath, and states plainly that they cannot work on that day.

There are seven such annual festivals, which occur on a set date every year and therefore do not necessarily fall on Saturday, but which follow the same rules as the weekly Sabbaths, such as prohibition of working. These special Sabbaths, which may (and usually do) occur on a weekday, are called miqra in Hebrew and are now known in English as “high days” or “high Sabbaths” due to the King James Version’s use of the term in John 19:31. In modern times, the Passover may be the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, may precede the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, or may itself be the weeklong Feast of Unleavened Bread. And to be fair, the Exodus and Leviticus passages are a bit confusing in that one (Leviticus) specifies that Passover starts on Nisan 14 while the 7-day-long Feast of Unleavened Bread starts on Nisan 15, but the other (Exodus) specifies that the Jewish people may not eat leavened bread for 7 days, including Passover. Judging by the passages in Exodus, Leviticus, and the four Gospels, it seems the Jews celebrated the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread the day after the Passover as the miqra but colloquially referred to the Passover as part of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, probably because of their proximity and deep connection.

Three of the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) specify that Jesus died during or before the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Matthew 26:17; Mark 14:1, 12; Luke 22:1, 7). John is a little more ambiguous. He tells us that the approaching Sabbath, which would start at sunset just a few hours after Jesus’ death, was a “high day” or “high Sabbath” (John 19:31). We already know Jesus died on the Passover, and so we can easily extrapolate that the Sabbath before which He died was a high Sabbath—specifically, the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which may or may not have occurred on a Saturday.

  1. Pilate Handed Jesus Over to the Jews Early Morning.

Jesus’ audience with Pilate occurred in the early morning (John 18:28), and this is also stated by Mark (15:1). After this trial, Pilate handed Him over to the Jews; the Apostle identifies the time at which Pilate presented Jesus to the Jews for crucifixion as about the sixth hour (John 19:14).

  1. Jesus Was Crucified Mid-Morning.

After being handed over to the Jews, Jesus was crucified. However, it wouldn’t have happened immediately, since some preparation must take place, especially considering that there were two other criminals who were to be crucified the same day and that all three had to carry their crosses to the hill where they were to be crucified. Therefore, Jesus was probably crucified at least an hour or two after being handed over to the Jews. Mark 15:25 records the exact time as the third hour.

  1. Jesus Died In the Afternoon.

As discussed in Fact 10, the Jews were in a rush to get Jesus and the criminals dead and buried because the Sabbath was approaching, and that they succeeded partly because Jesus was already dead and partly because they broke the legs of the two criminals to speed up their deaths. The Sabbath starts at sunset, so Jesus had to have died sometime in the afternoon. Three of the Gospels record Jesus’ death as occurring at about the ninth hour (Matthew 27:45-50; Mark 15:34-37; Luke 23:44-46).

  1. The Women Bought Spices to Anoint Jesus.

Yes, I said “bought,” not “brought.” The “bought” is the most important part of that. Mark 16:1 says that the women came to anoint Jesus at sunrise on Sunday with spices they “had bought.” They couldn’t have purchased the spices on Sunday, because they arrived at or before sunrise, before any shops would have been open. They couldn’t have purchased the spices on Saturday, because it was a Sabbath, during which time they couldn’t do any unnecessary work. This means they had to have purchased the spices on Friday. However, it’s important to note that Friday, being the day before the Sabbath (or, more accurately, the day on which the Sabbath starts, since it begins at sunset on Friday and ends at sunset on Saturday), is only a half-day of work because people spend the afternoon preparing for the Sabbath. This means the women would have had only the morning to purchase and prepare the spices, after which the shops would be closed and all Jews, including these women, would have been preparing for the Sabbath. Again, this is important, and I will explain why in the next post in this series.

Luke 23:55-56 also describes how the women watched Jesus get buried, then went home, prepared spices and ointments, and rested on the Sabbath. These passages are very explicit that the women did not visit the tomb until the first day of the week, after the Sabbath.

  1. The Tomb Was Empty Before Sunday Morning.

All four Gospels describe the group of women (except John, who describes only Mary Magdalene) coming to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body with spices (except Matthew, who says they came to see the tomb, making no mention of the spices) at the end of the Sabbath, on the first day of the week (Sunday), either right before sunrise while it was still dark or right at sunrise, and found the stone rolled away and the tomb already empty (Matthew 28:1-2; Mark 16:1-4; Luke 24:1-3; John 20:1). This means the tomb was empty and Jesus had resurrected during the night spanning Saturday to Sunday at the latest, though He could have resurrected at almost any time on Saturday without the Jews knowing about it since they couldn’t visit the tomb.

As described earlier, the chief priests came to Pilate after the Passover to request guards be placed watching the tomb (Matthew 27:62-66). Matthew 28 describes the tomb opening as the women approach at about sunrise accompanied by an earthquake and an angel, and that the guards were so frightened by the angel that they fainted (vv. 1-4); however, the angel explains to the women that Jesus is already risen (vv. 5-6). (See Footnote 1.)

 

SUMMARY

In this post, I have presented seventeen basic facts including dates and times from the Bible which will help us determine when Jesus was born, when He died, and when He resurrected. The following posts will address:

  • Part II: Time of Jesus’ Death
  • Part III: Day of the Week of Jesus’ Death
  • Part IV: Year of Jesus’ Death: Chapter 1: Year of Jesus’ Birth
  • Part IV: Year of Jesus’ Death: Chapter 2: Year of Jesus’ Ministry
  • Part V: Full Date of Jesus’ Death

 

じゃあまたね!

 

FOOTNOTES

Footnote 1: Sleeping Guards. This comes back to the stolen body theory, about which I will write a very brief synopsis. Articles about the stolen body theory abound, so I won’t go into much detail since you can easily find the information elsewhere.

Since at least 110 B.C., the Roman law held that a Roman soldier who fell asleep on duty would be punished by fustuarium, a fierce beating that most often resulted in his death: “If the Roman soldier is found guilty (of falling asleep on duty), he is punished by fustuarium. This is carried out as follows. The tribune takes a cudgel and lightly touches the condemned man with it, whereupon all the soldiers fall upon him with clubs and stones, and usually kill him…” (Simkin, N.d.). Therefore, it’s unlikely that every one of the Roman soldiers guarding Jesus’ tomb really did fall asleep on duty, because to do so would mean almost certain death.

As mentioned above in Fact 17, Matthew explains that the guards passed out in fear at the sight of the angel. He continues the story in 28:11-15, telling how the guards then went to the chief priests, rather than to their superior officers, to tell them what happened. This makes sense within the context of the Roman law, because they would have known that their superior officers wouldn’t believe them and would simply think that they had fallen asleep and were trying to make up a story to save their skins, and then order fustuarium. However, the soldiers would also have thought that the Jews, whom the Romans viewed as superstitious, might believe them. Furthermore, they would also have known that the Jewish leaders hated Jesus and did not want Jesus’ body stolen because that was the whole reason the soldiers were given this duty in the first place. After hearing the Roman soldiers’ story, the priests and elders gave them a lot of money and told them to say that Jesus’ disciples came and stole the body while the guards were sleeping, adding that if the governor (Pilate) were to find out about it, the priests and elders would protect the guards from any repercussions.

 

REFERENCES

Simkin, J. (N.d.). “The Roman Army.” Spartacus Educational. Retrieved from <http://spartacus-educational.com/ROMarmy.htm&gt;.

 

EDITS

I will periodically edit this post to add links to the next posts in this series as they are published.