To determine the actual calendar for the passion of Jesus, we have to establish a few things first. We must first determine in what year the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus occurred. The year A.D 30 is the most commonly accepted year of the passion of Jesus. Can we prove this to be the case from Scripture?
I believe that we can. Using the Bible, historical events, and the Jewish feast days, I believe that we will show that A.D 30 is the year of Jesus' passion.
We first will want to discover when Jesus began his ministry, then we will calculate the duration of his ministry, which should take us right to the year of the passion.
There are several possible ways to determine this date. We will triangulate the date using three different approaches, as being the best and most likely from a historical and Biblical standpoint.
WITNESS ONE: In John 2:20, a statement is made by the Jews during the first Passover mentioned in John, that the temple had been under construction for 46 years. Some may call into question the historical accuracy of this statement. However, it should only be doubted if there is sufficient reason. In my viewpoint and research, none is found.
We should understand this statement to mean, at the time it was made, that the temple had been in the process of building for 46 years. It is widely admitted, that the temple complex was not completed until A.D 63. Here in John 2:20, the Greek term for 'temple' refers to the whole temple complex, and not just the sanctuary itself.
According to the Jewish historian, Josephus, Herod began actual work on the temple in the eighteenth year of his reign. Herod began his actual reign of Judea in 717 AUC (AUC means from the founding of Rome), or about 37 B.C. Edersheim states that the temple construction began in the month of Kislev, 734 AUC, which corresponds to Nov/Dec. of 19 B.C. By counting forward 46 years from December 19 B.C., we come to December, A.D. 27. Thus, by the Passover of A.D. 28, the temple had been in the process of building a full 46 years. So the first Passover recorded in John's Gospel, would have occurred in the year A.D. 28.
WITNESS TWO: In Luke 3:1, we have the statement concerning the appearance of John the Baptizer in the Fifteenth year of Tiberius' reign. Edersheim says,
"It was, according to St. Luke's exact statement, in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar reckoning as provincials would do, from his co-regency with Augustus, which commenced two years before his sole reign. . ."
To calculate what year would be determined as the fifteenth year of Tiberius' reign, we would need to begin counting from the first year of his co-regency with Augustus. Since Augustus died A.D. 14, we would count 15 years from A.D. 12, allowing for the two years of Tiberius' co-regency, and arrive at the year A.D. 27. If this is the year of John's appearance, this would make Jesus' public ministry beginning late A.D. 27 or early A.D. 28.
Again we see, the first Passover after Jesus' baptism would be the Passover of A.D. 28.
WITNESS THREE: In Luke 3:23, Luke states that at the beginning of Jesus' public ministry, ' . . . He began to be about 30 years old.' The Greek word translated about, when used with numbers, means approximately. So when Jesus began his ministry, he was approximately 30 years old.
According to Edersheim, Herod the Great died 750 AUC, or about 4 B.C*. He states, "Indeed, there is scarcely any historical date on which competent writers are more agreed than that of Herod's death."
Therefore, if the dates of 5 or 4 B.C. are accepted for Jesus' birth, then by adding 30 years, in A.D. 28, Jesus would be between the age of 30 and 32, depending upon the year and time of year of his birth.
Considering the best evidence at hand, the year A.D. 28 seems to be the best calculated year for the beginning of Jesus' public ministry.
WITNESS FOUR: According to the prophecy of the seventy weeks found in Daniel 9, the end of the sixty-nine weeks to the appearing of the Messiah, would bring us to AD 26/27.
The gospel of John seems to give us the most complete chronology for Jesus' public ministry. The synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) mention only one Passover, being the final one of his passion. If the chronology of John is accurate, and there is no reason to doubt it, then the following would best represent his ministry duration, using the seasonal feasts as our chronological markers.
John's gospel mentions three Passovers, one Tabernacles, one Chanukah, and one unnamed feast. Using A.D. 28 as the starting point of his public ministry, the duration of his ministry works like this.
1. First Passover of Jesus' ministry - John 2:13,22. This would be the Passover, Sunday, March 26 A.D. 28.
2. The Unnamed Feast - John 5:1. Some have counted this feast as another Passover, but this is not likely for the following reason. The Greek word here for 'feast,' is used without the Greek definite article. In every other place when John specifically mentions a Passover, he always signifies it as 'the feast,' using the definite article. It is quite unlikely that he would use the article with the mention of every Passover but one. Edersheim states that this unknown feast was likely either the feast of Wood-offering, which took place in August, or it could be the Feast of Trumpets, occurring in September. Either way, this is the fall of A.D. 28.
3. Second Passover - John 6:4. During this Passover, the account of Jesus feeding the 5,000 is given. The synoptics report this event, but only John gives the timeframe. This would be Passover, Friday, April 13, A.D. 29.
4. Tabernacles - John 7:2 This would be Sukkot, October 8-16, A.D. 29.
5. Chanukah - John 10:22 This occurring December 16-24, A.D. 29.
6. The Last Passover - John 13-19. Passover night, took place on Tuesday, April 2, A.D. 30.
I realize that this date for Passover will likely go against the grain of most traditionalists, and may ruffle the feathers on a few old birds. However, this date was arrived at using several means. One means used to arrive at this date, was a computer-based Jewish calendar. Also used, with the help of the director of the Kirkpatrick Planetarium in Oklahoma City, was the calculations of the phases of the moon, for the year A.D. 30.
Without going into great detail, the first day of Nisan, the first Jewish month, began on Wednesday, March 22. Then counting fourteen days, Passover would begin on Tuesday, April 2 at sunset, the time of the full moon. All of these western dates are according to the Julian calendar, with the feasts beginning at sunset on that date.
Some may argue, as some will always do, that John may not have recorded the entire record of the duration of Jesus' ministry. That in actuality, there may be more than what is recorded by John. This is true, but the problem arises, how are you going to prove it? If you look at the record of the synoptic Gospels, they only record one passover. If we take the chronology of these gospels, then the duration of Jesus' ministry was less than a year. I don't know of any decent Biblical scholar who holds to this.
The point here, and as stated elsewhere, John's purpose in writing was to 'fill in the gaps' of what the others had passed over. The other writers had passed over these feasts as markers of time and how they related to the events in Jesus life. John obviously felt it important to include them.
There is no real reason to doubt that John did not give the full chronology of Jesus' ministry and its duration, based on the time markers of the feasts.
Continue to The Passion Week.