Tag Archives: crucifixion

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;.

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.

Christian Traditions 025: Easter Triduum

Von Trapp Follow-Along: Maria talks about Good Friday and Holy Saturday in “HOLY WEEK” under “PASSIONTIDE” and about Easter Sunday under “PASCHALTIDE” in her book. She goes into quite a bit of detail about each day in the Easter Triduum. Naturally, Easter Sunday gets what is possibly the longest discussion of any day in her book, which is not surprising considering that Easter Sunday commemorates the most important and most foundational event in Christianity.

INTRODUCTION

The Easter Triduum encompasses Good Friday (beginning the evening prior, i.e., Holy Thursday evening), Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday (until sunset). As such, it commemorates Christ’s passion, death, burial, and resurrection.

Black-color-vector-backgroundCOLOR

The Easter Triduum used to be considered its own liturgical season but no longer is, so there is no one color for the entire Triduum. In the evening service on Holy Thursday, the color may be the white of Easter, the scarlet of Passiontide, or white and gold, depending on the denomination. On Good Friday, the liturgical color may be none, red, black, or black followed by violet. On Holy Saturday, there is technically no liturgical color because there is traditionally no service, though the Easter Night service held on the night of Holy Saturday may encompass black and/or violet. On Easter Sunday, the liturgical color is white, often with gold. The white liturgical color then continues throughout Eastertide.

Anastasis_Pio_Christiano_Inv31525SYMBOL

There are many symbols for the Easter Triduum. The symbol for Good Friday is the cross or crucifix because this is the day on which Christians commemorate Christ’s crucifixion. If there is a symbol for Holy Saturday, the only symbol I could find is the tomb, because Holy Saturday commemorates the day Jesus spent in the tomb. However, there are many symbols for Easter Sunday: Easter lilies are shaped like trumpets, and so are symbols of immortality (1 Corinthians 15:52); the butterfly’s life cycle is a symbol of eternal life, with the cocoon stage symbolizing burial and its emergence into a new and beautiful form symbolizing resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:53-54); eggs are symbols of fertility and immortality, and also the tomb from which Christ arose, with red eggs specifically symbolizing the resurrection (see Footnote 1); lights, candles, and bonfires symbolize the light of Christ; the cross, of course, symbolizes Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection; and the lamb symbolizes Jesus, who was the Lamb of God, the sacrificial lamb to pay the price for our sins (1 Corinthians 5:7). Other symbols of Easter include the lion (Jesus is “the Lion of Judah” [Revelation 5:5]), the whale (Jesus said He would be buried for three days and three nights the same as Jonah was in the belly of the whale for three days and three nights [Matthew 12:40; Jonah 1:17, 2:10]), and the sand dollar. According to the American Bible Society, “The markings on this shell [the sand dollar] symbolize components of Christ’s birth and death. The five-point outline on the front of the sand dollar represents the star of Bethlehem (Matthew 2:1,2). The five holes in the sand dollar represent the pierced hands, feet, and side of Christ (Psalm 22:16; John 20:26,27). When the sand dollar is opened, it reveals five tiny objects that look similar to flying doves. Doves symbolize the Holy Spirit (Luke 3:21,22).”

2 April to 5 April 2015WHEN IS IT?

Because the Easter Triduum includes Good Friday (beginning the evening prior, i.e., Holy Thursday), Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday, the Easter Triduum starts on the Thursday evening prior to Easter Sunday, or, three days before Easter Sunday. Therefore, the Easter Triduum may begin as early as 19 March (when Easter Sunday falls 22 March) or as late as 22 April (when Easter Sunday falls 25 April). This year, Easter Sunday falls 5 April, so the Easter Triduum begins at sunset on 2 April (Holy Thursday) and ends at sunset on 5 April (Easter Sunday).

WHAT IS IT?

The Easter Triduum, known since at least the second century as Pascha (Greek transliteration of the Hebrew word meaning “Passover”), was once a tiny liturgical season sandwiched between the liturgical seasons of Lent and Easter and which consisted of Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday. It’s still a term appropriately applied to those three days, but it’s no longer considered a separate liturgical season. Previously, I wrote about how the church bells must be silent from Holy Thursday until the Easter service. The tradition is that the same is true in the home. For example, any bell rung to bring people to dinner is silenced and alternatives are found for calling people to eat.

Much in relation to Easter is referred to as “Paschal.” I read one online forum about Easter wherein an apparently poorly-informed atheist claimed Easter obviously wasn’t originally a Christian holiday but rather a co-opted pagan holiday because of the name “Pascha.” I wonder what he thought the word means to have given him such a conclusion. As it happens, “pascha” comes from the Greek “pascha,” which is a transliteration of the Hebrew word “pesach,” which means “Passover.” Recall that Jesus died on the Passover. See my previous post on co-opted pagan holidays for more information.

last supper4/2: Holy Thursday

Because we commemorate Jesus’ crucifixion on Good Friday, and because His arrest occurred—and therefore the process of His trials and crucifixion began—the night before, the evening of Holy Thursday begins the Easter Triduum. In reality, Jesus’ Last Supper and arrest would have occurred on Tuesday (see my previous blog post for more information). (Also, see Footnote 2 for the brief explanation.) Otherwise, I discussed Holy Thursday in detail in my previous blog post on Holy Week, so refer back to that post for more information on Holy Thursday.

On the evening of Holy Thursday, it’s traditional for Christians to celebrate the Passover Seder. (Coincidentally, this year, the true Passover—14 Nisan on the Hebrew calendar—falls on Good Friday!) It was tradition in Christ’s day, when a good friend or family member was to depart the following morning, for those remaining behind to toast the soon-to-be-departed with wine and unleavened bread, with the breaking of the bread symbolizing their love for the departing one. This tradition, which started among Christians with Jesus’ own great farewell in the Passover Seder He celebrated with His disciples the night before He died, was adopted by early Christians, who called it an “agape” or “love [feast].”

 

good_friday4/3: Good Friday

Good Friday is also known as Holy Friday, Great Friday, and Black Friday. It is also sometimes known as Easter Friday, but this term technically refers to the Friday in Easter Week.

Good Friday commemorates Jesus’ crucifixion, death, and burial. In reality, this would have occurred on Wednesday and Jesus would have been in the tomb already on Friday (see my previous blog post for more information).

The Good Friday service sees the altar, bare since the Holy Thursday service, redressed (in black) and the sanctuary decorations, removed on Holy Thursday, return. This is considered fitting since it was on the cross that Jesus remade creation. The congregation, shoeless, walks down the church aisle, prostrating three times along the way, to the crucifix, where they kiss the feet of the crucified. When all the congregation has finished, the crucifix is placed on the altar and the congregation takes the Lord’s Supper. At the end of the service, the altar is again stripped.

Traditionally, the people fast on this day, though the fasting observed appears to vary by locale. In reality, the disciples may very well have fasted on the day Jesus died due to the approaching Sabbath and the probable lack of preparation for it while watching to see what would happen to their Rabbi. Talking is restricted to the bare minimum and is hushed, as it would be if a dearly beloved were dying or already dead in the home. From noon to 3 pm, the hours Christ spent on the cross (which in reality was 9 am to 3 pm; see my previous post on that topic), all activity in the house ceases and these hours are given to prayer, meditation, and spiritual reading with the occasional hymn sung. Furthermore, at about 3 pm, the hour of Jesus’ death, the vigil lamp (or “vigil light”) kept on the family altar is put out in honor of the death of the Light of the World.

titian-the-entombment-15594/4: Holy Saturday or Black Saturday

Holy Saturday commemorates the day Jesus spent in the tomb. In reality, He would have spent three days and three nights in the tomb (see my previous blog post on that topic).

On the morning of Holy Saturday, the paschal eggs (or, Easter eggs) are dyed and decorated. Maria Von Trapp tells that in her family, the children would take their dyed eggs to their rooms to decorate in secret, and many prepare a special Easter egg for someone else. The eggs are preserved until Easter Sunday morning, when they are eaten for breakfast. Most of the activity of Holy Saturday is merely preparation for Easter Sunday. Around 150 AD, a Christian writer identified that some Christians fasted for only one day, others for more, even up to forty days, and this may be the origin of the 40-day Lenten fast. As early as the 200s AD, the strict Easter Vigil fast ended after sundown on Holy Saturday, though by 313 AD, this fast was officially observed specifically by catechumens (new converts) about to be baptized (as they frequently were baptized during the Easter Vigil), and in the 400s AD, it was officially extended into a church-wide 40-day partial fast now known as Lent. Some today observe a partial version of this original Easter Vigil fast on Good Friday and not at all on Holy Saturday.

easter-candle_1427309951Recall that the church altar is stripped at the end of the Good Friday service. Normally, there is no morning service for Holy Saturday; hence, there is no liturgical color for this day. On Holy Saturday night, however, the Easter Night service begins. (The tradition of an Easter Night service was removed at some point and then later reinstated.) The “Feast of Light” occurs outside the church, where a bonfire is lit. The priest takes the Paschal candle and uses a knife to carve into it a cross, alpha, omega, and the current year. During the carving, he says, “Christ yesterday and today / the Beginning and the End / Alpha and Omega / His are the times and ages / To Him be glory and dominion / Through all ages of eternity / Amen.” Then the priest fixes five grains of incense in the cross on the candle, saying, “By His holy and glorious wounds / may he guard and preserve us / Christ the Lord. / Amen.” (Recall that Jesus was pierced with nails through His wrists and feet and by a spear through His side; hence, five piercings/wounds.) Finally, a separate candle is lit from the bonfire, and from this the priest lights the Paschal candle, saying, “May the light of Christ / In glory rising again, / Dispel the darkness of / Heart and mind.” The people then enter the church. At the threshold of the church, the priest/pastor and all the congregation lights their candles from the Paschal candle. Afterward, the service starts with singing. The priest/pastor, first dressed in Lenten violet, change into Easter white. After the service is over, each family lights a lantern from the Easter light (the bonfire) and takes it home to relight the family vigil lamp. Traditionally, families also take home blackened logs from the Easter fire and keep them at the fireplace to ward off danger from storms and lightning.

4/5: Easter Sunday

As discussed before, Easter Sunday will be presented in its own separate blog post.

Side Note: Technically, the Easter Night service, which begins at about 11 pm on Holy Saturday in some churches, crosses over midnight into Easter Sunday!

calendarLOOKING AHEAD

Easter Sunday marks the beginning of Eastertide or Easter Season, a 50-day liturgical season. Holy Saturday, therefore, is the last day of Lent and Passiontide.

STANDARD ACTIVITIES

There are many traditional activities for this mini-season.

  • Readings: The readings for this event are:
    • Thursday: see my previous post for this
    • Friday: Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Psalm 22; Hebrews 10:16-25; John 18:1-19:42
    • Saturday: Job 14:1-14; Psalm 31:1-4, 15-16; I Peter 4:1-8; Matthew 27:57-66
    • Sunday: see my next post for this
  • Passover Seder. Traditionally, Christians celebrate it on Thursday evening, the day Jesus was traditionally considered to have celebrated it with His disciples. In reality, He would have celebrated it on Tuesday evening. Furthermore, the real date for the Passover this year (2015) is Good Friday. Consider celebrating the Passover Seder this year.
  • Good Friday. There are several activities for this day.
    • Décor: Good Friday’s color is usually black but may also be red or none.
    • Fasting: Normally, the Lenten diet ends on Holy Thursday, but Christians traditionally fasted again on Good Friday, perhaps in memory of Jesus’ implicit command to His disciples to fast when the Bridegroom (Himself) was taken from them (Matthew 9:14-15; Mark 2:18-20).
    • Vigil: During the hours Jesus was on the cross (9 am to 3 pm, though traditionally 12 noon to 3 pm is used instead), activity ceases, people speak only if necessary and then only in hushed voices (as they would if a loved one was actively dying in the house), and the time is given to prayer, meditation, and singing of hymns.
    • Vigil Light: The candle on the family altar or in the chapel that represents Jesus is allowed to burn all day until 3 pm, the hour of Jesus’ death, at which time it is put out.
    • Good Friday Service: Consider attending a Good Friday church service.
  • Holy Saturday. There are several activities for this day.
    • Décor: Technically, Holy Saturday has no liturgical color, but they may use black in the Easter Night service.
    • Paschal Eggs: The eggs to be eaten on Easter Sunday are cooked and decorated today.
    • Fasting: The Easter Vigil fast which begins on Friday ends on Saturday evening.
    • Holy Saturday Service: Consider attending an Easter Night church service.

KNIT AND CROCHET ACTIVITIES

The Easter Triduum commemorates Jesus’ trials, passion, crucifixion, death, and burial. Consider working something very simple on this day: a cross.

  • Knitting Patterns: “Cross of Unity” by Melanie Schaab (here). (NOTE: Make just the cross, not the hoops.)
  • Crochet Patterns: “Christian Cross” by Suzanne Alise” (here). Note: I found information on the size of the cross, which measures 4” x 6.25” when finished, so much larger than I intended since all ornaments should be approximately 3” at the largest measurement (length/width/diameter), so you may have to adjust the number of stitches to get the appropriate size.

 

じゃあまたね!

 

FOOTNOTES

Footnote 1: Easter eggs and other symbols. Because Easter will be in another blog post of its own, I don’t want to go into too much detail here, but I wanted to briefly address the concern that certain Easter symbols are pagan in origin. Briefly, it’s true that some are and were probably intentionally co-opted, while others are pagan symbols but the connection to Easter is probably coincidental because both happen to occur in the spring, and still others are probably purely Christian. I’ll try to go into detail on each symbol in that post.

Footnote 2: The brief explanation. The brief explanation is that we know Jesus died on a Sabbath, and that the weekly Sabbath occurs on Saturday (beginning at sunset the evening prior, i.e., Friday); therefore, the church has traditionally held that Jesus must have died on a Friday a few hours before the Sabbath started at sunset. However, there are several additional Sabbaths throughout the year tied to a specific date rather than to a day of the week, and these Sabbaths, called “high Sabbaths,” most often fall during the week. One such Sabbath is the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which starts at sunset on the day after the Passover, and we know Jesus celebrated the Passover the evening before He died, so we know the following sunset (a few hours after His death) would have been a high Sabbath. In other words, because the Passover began at sunset the evening before Jesus died, we know that He died before a Sabbath (specifically, a “high Sabbath”) no matter what day of the week He died. Other evidence from Scripture—such as His prophecy that He would be in the tomb three days and three nights; facts regarding when He traveled to Bethany, and from Bethany to Jerusalem; and the use of the plural “Sabbaths” in the original Greek in the Gospel of Luke telling that Mary came to the tomb after the “Sabbaths”—demonstrate that there were two Sabbaths during Jesus’ entombment, one of which was the high Sabbath of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and the other of which was the weekly Sabbath on Saturday. Again, see my previous blog post for more details.

Christian Traditions 023: Holy Week

Von Trapp Follow-Along: Maria discusses Holy Week in “HOLY WEEK” under “PASSIONTIDE” in her book.

INTRODUCTION

Holy Week encompasses the last week before Easter. As such, it is the last week of Lent and of Passiontide and encompasses some of the Easter Triduum. This week commemorates Jesus’ last major events (e.g., the Last Supper), crucifixion, death, and burial. This is perhaps the most solemn week of the entire liturgical calendar.

redCOLOR

The Lenten violet or Passiontide scarlet continues through this time, with the exception of a brief appearance of white on Thursday.

30 March to 4 April 2015WHEN IS IT?

Some consider Holy Week to start on Palm Sunday whereas others consider it to start with Monday. Therefore, Holy Week encompasses either six or seven days and may fall in March and/or April since Easter falls anywhere from 22 March to 25 April. This year, Holy Monday falls on 30 March and Holy Saturday falls on 4 April. As discussed previously, I will discuss the Easter Triduum (which includes the evening of Maundy Thursday through Easter Sunday) in a separate post, so this blog post will only cover the first part of Holy Week, Holy Monday (30 March) through Maundy Thursday (2 April).

WHAT IS IT?

Holy Week is the final week of Lent before Easter. In traditionally Catholic communities, the week may be filled to the brim with daily community celebrations. (Personal note: Though not Catholic, I wish I lived in such a community! I would love to start a practice of daily Holy Week events in my local church.)

Traditionally, the first three days of Holy Week (Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday) were dedicated to spring cleaning. Because it was such a massive undertaking in the days before the vacuum cleaner, there was little time for cooking and so meals were made of leftovers and all three days were required to complete the project.

Jesus_Curses_Fig_Tree_Ilyas_Rahib_c16253/30: Holy Monday

As discussed above, this day is given to spring cleaning.

This day is considered to be the day on which Jesus cursed the fig tree (Matthew 21:18-22; Mark 11:20-26), the Pharisees questioned Jesus’ authority (Matthew 21:23-27), and/or the Cleansing of the Temple occurred (Matthew 21:12-17, 23-27; Mark 11:15-19, 27-33; Luke 19:45-48, 20:1-8). However, some of these events probably occurred in different years, considering the facts that these events are tied somewhat or specifically to a Passover and that Jesus’ ministry spanned at least two or three Passovers.

3/31: Holy Tuesday

As discussed above, this day is also given to spring cleaning.

In the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches, this day commemorates the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), which teaches about vigilance in awaiting the Bridegroom, which is Christ. This would actually have been the day of the Last Supper, and sunset would have marked the day the Passover began since Jewish days begin at sunset (see my previous blog post on that topic).

ahriman-caiaphas-judas4/1: Holy Wednesday or Spy Wednesday

As discussed above, this is the last day of Holy Week given to spring cleaning.

This day commemorates two events: that of the sinful woman washing Jesus’ feet with her tears and anointing His head with perfume, and that of Judas agreeing to betray Jesus. In reality, both events would have occurred Monday because Matthew 26:1-16 and Mark 14:1-11 tell us it occurred two days before Passover, which fell on a Wednesday (see my previous blog post about that topic). This day is called “Spy Wednesday” because, depending on the source you read, it commemorates either Judas’ intention to betray Jesus and thus proceeding to spy for a chance to do so over the next few days, or specifically commemorates Judas spying on Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Because the Orthodox Church holds that Judas agreed on a Wednesday to betray Jesus, it is a traditional practice among Orthodox Christians to fast on all Wednesdays throughout the year. (It is also traditional to fast on Fridays, but not for the same reason.)

In the Czech Republic, chimneys were traditionally swept on this day to be clean for Easter, hence the alternate names Ugly Wednesday, Soot-Sweeping Wednesday, or Black Wednesday.

Albrecht_Bouts_Simon_the_PhariseeIn some communities, as Maria tells, community-wide evening celebrations begin on Wednesday night; in Austria, it was known as the Feierabend (“evening celebration”). Every evening, work ends early and no unnecessary work is done so that the people can go into town and attend Tenebrae services. During these services, there are thirteen candles. After singing each of a dozen psalms, a candle is extinguished to remind us of how the disciples left Jesus one by one. Finally, only one candle is left lit, symbolizing Jesus left all alone. While the altar boy carries the lone candle away, leaving the church in darkness, the people sing the Miserere (Psalm 50). At the moment of darkness, a loud clash symbolizes Jesus’ death. At the end of the Miserere, the churchgoers engage in an ancient custom of banging the hymnals noisily, which symbolizes either the earthquake at Jesus’ death or the earthquake at His resurrection. After the “earthquake,” the altar boy brings the lone candle back into the church and sets it up on the candlestick, “a ray of hope anticipating the glorious Easter night.” (Trapp) In Malta, Holy Wednesday is also known as Wednesday of Shadows in reference to the Tenebrae service. Sometimes, this Tenebrae is celebrated on Maundy Thursday instead.

maundy-thursday-washing-desciples-feet14/2: Holy Thursday or Maundy Thursday

Holy Thursday is also known as Maundy Thursday, Covenant Thursday, Sheer Thursday, Thursday of Mysteries, and Green Thursday. None of the names are evenly distributed, with the “normal name” for the day varying by country and region, and even by liturgical and civil calendars. In fact, “Holy Thursday” is sometimes applied to the Feast of the Ascension, which commemorates Jesus’ ascension into heaven 40 days after His resurrection. According to some scholars, the term “maundy,” from which we get “Maundy Thursday,” originally comes from Jesus’ statement during the Last Supper, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (John 13:34) The words “a new commandment” in Latin are “Mandatum novum.” An alternative explanation is that “Maundy” comes from “maundsor baskets/purses” of alms that the king of England would distribute to the poor before Mass on that day, the old English “maund” meaning “to beg.” “Sheer” or “Shere Thursday” means “clean/bright Thursday” and refers either to the act of cleaning, or to the changing of colors from Lenten violet to Easter white, or because of a customary practice of shearing beards on that day. “Green Thursday” comes from the German word “greinen,” which means “to cry or moan.”

Holy Thursday commemorates the Maundy (Jesus washing His disciples’ feet) and the Last Supper that Jesus shared with His disciples. (In reality, the Maundy and Last Supper would have occurred on Tuesday evening since He died on a Wednesday and Thursday would have been the first day in the tomb, and coincidentally was also a high Sabbath. See my previous blog post about that topic.) In some churches, it is the practice of the bishops and abbots to kneel and wash the feet of the twelve oldest members of their communities. After washing the disciples’ feet, Jesus stood and instructed them, “For I have given you an example, that as I have done to you, so you do also.” This practice of washing the elders’ feet is meant to remind church members to take home this attitude of setting an example of putting others first and serving them. Interestingly, Maria comments, “because we Catholics [read: all Christians] have not awakened to this fact, we are rightly to be blamed for all the wrong and injustice and wars going on in the world!” (Trapp) It’s also traditional to commemorate the Lord’s Supper on this day.

last supperHoly Thursday also commemorates His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, as He prayed, “Oh, My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me: nevertheless not as I will, but what You will.” (Matthew 26:39; Mark 14:36) That is, it commemorates the fact that Jesus “humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2:8) For this reason, the music begins as festive and the church bells ring “once more for the last time because, right afterwards, Holy Church, as the Bride of Christ, goes into mourning as she accompanies the Bridegroom through His hours of unspeakable suffering.” (Trapp) Because the bells are silent after the morning Mass of Holy Thursday, a children’s legend teaches that after the service, the bells fly to Rome, where the Pope blesses them; afterward, they fly back to the church just in time for the Easter service.

Since the 300s AD, Maundy Thursday has been considered the last day of Lenten fasting, though some churches continue the Lenten fast but relax it to allow oil and wine. It has (since the 300s AD) also been considered the day of reconciliation—i.e., the day on which those excommunicated could repent and be reconciled to the Church (see my previous post on Ash Wednesday for more information on the process of temporary excommunication and penance). There is also a tradition of visiting seven churches on this day, a tradition which probably originated in Ancient Rome. Today, different countries have traditions for visiting a different number of churches, ranging anywhere from one to fourteen (for each of the fourteen Stations of the Cross).

The altar is draped in white instead of Lenten violet on this day in honor of the Lord’s Last Supper. Certain cheerful hymns also return to this service. However, at the end of the service, the cheerful white is stripped from the altar, symbolizing Christ being stripped by the Roman soldiers prior to His crucifixion, and the sanctuary decorations are removed while the congregation reads or chants Psalm 22, a Messianic psalm that predicts His death.

The evening of Maundy Thursday begins the Easter Triduum, which will be discussed in the next blog post.

calendarLOOKING AHEAD

The Easter Triduum begins the evening of Maundy Thursday (2 April) and runs through Easter Sunday (5 April).

STANDARD ACTIVITIES

There are several traditional practices during this week, as explained above.

  • Readings. The readings for this week are:
    • Monday: Isaiah 42:1-9; Psalm 36:5-11; Hebrews 9:11-15; John 12:1-11
    • Tuesday: Isaiah 49:1-7; Psalm 71:1-14; I Corinthians 1:18-31; John 12:20-36
    • Wednesday: Isaiah 50:4-9a; Psalm 70; Hebrews 12:1-3; John 13:21-32
    • Thursday: Exodus 12:1-4, 11-14; Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19; I Corinthians 11:23-26; John 13:1-17, 31b-35
  • Spring Cleaning. The first three days of the week, Monday through Wednesday, are traditionally given to spring cleaning.
  • Tenebrae Services. This day usually begins the evening services of Holy Week. If you can, consider attending such a service. If you are unable or wish to recreate such a service in your own home or in a small group setting, you may replace any of the typical Catholic hymns with Protestant or Evangelical hymns with which you are more familiar (Catholics, please don’t take offense; remember that this series is aimed at Evangelicals who know little or nothing about Christian traditions), and you may consider having this service or family observance on Tuesday evening, which is when the first events symbolized (the disciples abandoning Christ) by the service would have occurred.
  • Church Visitation. On Thursday, it is traditional to visit 1-14 other churches, with 7 being the most traditional. The tradition is believed to have originated in ancient Rome, where most churches were actually house churches; therefore, there would have been many churches in one city. My mother told me that her adult Sunday School group would occasionally have a large party where they would travel to one person’s house for the appetizer, then to another’s for the first course, and so on, until they had been to several homes and eaten a full meal in one evening. If you are trying to follow the Christian traditions in a small group setting, consider traveling to each other’s homes rather than to seven churches.
  • Lord’s Supper. On Thursday, it is traditional to observe the Lord’s Supper. The Last Supper would actually have occurred on Tuesday, so you could alternately observe the Lord’s Supper on Holy Tuesday instead.
  • Décor. It’s traditional to briefly drape the altar with white cloth in honor of the Lord’s Supper and then to strip it from the altar, symbolizing Christ being stripped by the Roman soldiers prior to His crucifixion. In reality, the Lord’s Supper would have occurred on Tuesday evening and Jesus would have been stripped on Wednesday morning. In place of the Lenten violet or Passiontide scarlet, you may choose to both apply a white cloth and remove it on Thursday, the traditional day for this observance, or to apply it Tuesday evening and strip it Wednesday morning, the days the events would have actually occurred.
  • Interactive Reading. During the Thursday service, it is traditional to read or chant Psalm 22, a Messianic psalm predicting His death. You may choose to read or chant this psalm with your family or small group at any time this week, perhaps especially on Monday, since there are few practices for that day.

KNIT AND CROCHET ACTIVITIES

Frankly, there is so much that happens during this week and so little that occurs on the days they would actually have occurred in reality that I’m having difficulty coming up with appropriate projects. I asked myself whether I really want to knit something for every day of the eight-day week these events encompass (Palm Sunday through Easter Sunday), and I think I might, but I don’t have the time this year. I may update next year with projects for every day of this week, but for now, I’ve chosen only to have a project for Easter Sunday.

 

じゃあまたね!

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.

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.