There is considerable confusion over when the Messiah was born, how long he lived and when he died. A look on internet forums will confirm this point. It seems to be a subject that many people are interested in and have an opinion on, no matter what level of research they have conducted. As it is such a pivotal matter spawning an ideology – the religion of Christianity – based on the life of one Yeshua/Joshua/Jesus, the anointed Messiah/Christos/Saviour, we will survey the subject comprehensively, attempting to cover the pertinent facts. There is much we can glean from the Bible and secular sources in answering these questions. Those who have studied the subject will recognise some or more of what we will cover and hopefully, maybe be interestingly surprised with additional information they may not have been aware until now. As the identity of the nations in our modern world and the prophecies attached to them is the single biggest proof that the Bible is not just any other book, but a Book apart; so to is the identifying of when exactly in history the Messiah lived, the foundational proof, that someone lived who was not just any other man, but a Man apart.
We learn when Christ began his ministry from Luke 3:1-2, 23 ESV:
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea [26-36/37 CE], and Herod [Antipas, son of Herod the Great] being tetrarch of Galilee [4 BCE – 39 CE], and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis [4 BCE – 34 CE], and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas… Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age…
Christ was about or began to be thirty, when he started his ministry – baptised by his cousin, John the Baptist – in the fifteenth year of Emperor Tiberius. Tiberius was appointed co-regent with Augustus on July 1st in 11 CE. Fifteen years later is 26 CE. Pontius Pilate began his governorship of Judea in 26 CE. There is no debate on this, though there is on when he either left office or died in either 36 or 37 CE.
If Christ began his ministry in 26 CE; first, how long was His ministry, second what year did He die and third, which year was He born? During the course of His ministry, three Passovers are directly mentioned in John 2:13, 6:4 and His final one in 11:55-57, 12:1. Thus we know Christ’s ministry was at least two years. Many scholars agree that there is a Passover account missing between John chapters two and six, to fit in all the events in the gospels. This missing Passover is indirectly mentioned in John 5:1. The Passovers during Christ’s ministry would be in 27, 28, 29 and the fourth Passover would be in the year 30 CE.
The Jerusalem Talmud recounts: ‘Forty years before [30 CE] the destruction of the Temple [in 70 CE], the western light went out, the crimson thread remained crimson, and the lot for the Lord always came up in the left hand. They would close the gates of the Temple by night and get up in the morning and find them wide open.’
The Babylonian Talmud corroborates: ‘During the last forty years before the destruction of the Temple the lot (‘For the Lord’) did not come up in the right hand; nor did the crimson-colored strap become white; nor did the western most light shine; and the doors of the Hekel [Temple] would open by themselves.’
On the Day of Atonement [Yom Kippur] was a random choosing of a ‘lot’. As already discussed, this determined which of two goats would be ‘for the Lord’ and which goat would be the ‘Azazel’ or scapegoat. For the two hundred years before 30 CE, when the High Priest picked one of two stones, he would select either a black stone or a white stone by chance. Sensationally for forty years in a row, the High Priest always picked the black stone. ‘The odds against this happening are astronomical (2 to the 40th power). In other words, the chances of this occurring are 1 in approximately 1,099,511,627,776 – or over one trillion to one.’ This was considered a dire omen, portraying a significant change in the ritual. The transition from Old to New Covenant, lasting forty years had begun, unbeknown to the Priesthood.
A crimson strip or cloth was tied to the Azazel goat. Some of the red cloth was removed from the goat and tied to the Temple door. Every year the red cloth on the Temple door turned white to signify the atonement of another Yom Kippur was acceptable to the Eternal. This event happened without fail until 30 CE when from then on until the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, the cloth remained crimson, never again turning white. Sin of the nation was represented by the colour red for blood and placed on the Azazel goat; the goat’s death removed the sins of the people. Sins were not being forgiven anymore, or made white.
English Standard Version
“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.
Christ was now the only Saviour and redeemer. The continual sacrifice of animal’s blood was now of no effect. Atonement and reconciliation with the Father was through His son and His shed blood, sacrificed once, forgiveness offered to all.
It is recorded by the leader of the Jewish community of the time, Rabban Yohanan Ben Zakkai, that the Temple doors swung open every night of their own accord, for forty straight years beginning in 30 CE. Symbolically, the doors were opening so that all may now enter the Temple, even to its innermost holy section. The Almighty’s presence had visibly departed from the Temple. Access was no longer just for High Priests alone, but the doors swung open so that all can enter the Eternal’s house of worship.
The seven branched candle stick had the most important lamp of the Menorah in the Temple go out, no matter what. Every single night for forty years – over 12,500 nights in a row – the main lamp of the Temple lamp stand went out of its own accord; regardless what attempts and precautions the priests took to safeguard against it happening.
The Significance of the Year CE 30, Earnest Martin, 1994:
‘In fact, we are told in the Talmud that at dusk the lamps that were unlit in the daytime (the middle four lamps remained unlit, while the two eastern lamps normally stayed lit during the day) were to be re-lit from the flames of the western lamp (which was a lamp that was supposed to stay lit all the time – it was like the ‘eternal’ flame that we see today in some national monuments)… This ‘western lamp’ was to be kept lit at all times. For that reason, the priests kept extra reservoirs of olive oil and other implements in ready supply to make sure that the ‘western lamp’ (under all circumstances) would stay lit. But what happened in the forty years from the very year Messiah said the physical Temple would be destroyed? Every night for forty years the western lamp went out, and this in spite of the priests each evening preparing in a special way the western lamp so that it would remain constantly burning all night!’
The chances of the main lamp going out every night is as amazing as the preceding three miraculous occurrences. There is really no other way to explain them all, other than a supernatural origin. The light of the Menorah, symbolic of the presence of the Eternal was clearly removed. This phenomenon began 30 CE, lasting until the Temples destruction in 70 CE. Exactly forty years. This period of time in the Bible is synonymous with periods of testing and trial – of the Almighty building character in a person or people. For example the forty years the Israelites spent wandering in the Sinai and the forty days Christ fasted and was tested by the Devil, Samael. Forty is comprised of four times ten. The number four being representative of the Creator – as a foundation, builder, designer and moulder – and ten the number of judgement and perfection.
The Messiah predicted trials and trouble for Judea in Luke 23:28-31, ESV:
28 But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ 30 Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ 31 For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
The Apostle John says that the Jews in rebuttal to Jesus’ statement: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” They said: “Forty and six years was this temple in building, and will thou rear it up in three days?” [John 2:19-20, KJV]. Their statement is significant as the temple was still under construction and was not completed until 64 CE – and then ironically destroyed some six years later. Christ predicted the temples destruction.
English Standard Version
Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. 2 But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”
On August 10th, in 70 CE – the 9th of Av on the Hebrew Calendar – the very day when the King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar II burned the first Temple – originally built by King Solomon – in 586 BCE, the Temple, would you believe was burned again. Roman Emperor Titus, took the city of Jerusalem and put it to the torch, in the process destroying the Temple.
The temple work had been begun by Herod the Great in the eighteenth year of his reign in 19 BCE. Counting forty-six years forward from 19 BCE brings us to the year 27 CE. Christ was in Jerusalem for the observance of the first Passover of His ministry when this discussion occurred [John 2:13]. As John records three other Passovers observed by Christ during His ministry, then His death was at least three years later, during the Passover of 30 CE.
The Messiah arrived in Bethany six days before the Passover [John 12:1]. This, as it turns out is pivotal information in the last week of Christ’s life. Passover is the day the lambs were killed [Mark 14:1,12, Luke 22:1,7)] and it was on the 14th day of the first month of Abib or Nisan [Exodus 12:6, Leviticus 23:5] every year. The actual day of the 14th alternates each year. Within the debate and confusion surrounding the death of the Messiah are three main areas of argument. First, what year did Christ die. Second, which day of the week did Christ die? Third, the day Christ died, was it the 14th of Abib, the day of the Passover day; or the 15th of Abib, the first day of the seven day Feast of Unleavened Bread.
The first day, the 15th and the last day, the 21st were both Holy Sabbaths or high days. Where rest and convocation were commanded, similar to the weekly Sabbath [Leviticus 23:3,7].
The most popular alternative year proposed by many researchers, apart from 30 CE is 33 CE. The remarkable mind of Sir Isaac Newton as well as being an enthusiastic Biblical prophecy scholar, concluded it was 34 CE. The only years that had a Friday fall on the 14th of Abib, during the years 22 to 36 CE were the 26, 33 and 36 CE. The first is too early and the last, too late. Those that espouse 33 CE, advocate a Friday crucifixion on the 14th. In the year Christ was crucified, the 14th day of Abib came six days after He arrived in Bethany. If we count six days back from a Friday, we arrive at Saturday the preceding week. Christ and many other Jews would have violated the traditional Sabbath observance by making such a long journey on that day – a distance of about eighteen miles from Jericho [Matthew 20:17, 29] .
Rather, on the 8th of Abib, a Thursday, Christ and the disciples arrived in Bethany. The next day [John 12:12] they travelled the short two miles into Jerusalem , on Friday the 9th of Abib.
English Standard Version
Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off…
It was on this day – the Preparation for the Sabbath – that the Messiah visited the Temple and became angry when he saw business being conducted within the Temple.
English Standard Version
12 And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 13 He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”14 And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant…
Christ left Jerusalem and returned to Bethany and in the morning travelled back to Jerusalem on Saturday the Sabbath, the 10th of Abib [Matthew 21:17-18]. Christ re-visits the Temple, where He is challenged by the chief priest and elders, debating with them. Christ quotes Psalm 118:22, ESV: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” He being the chief corner stone of his Fathers Holy Temple, standing in front of them all in their Temple to His very own Father.
The 10th of Abib is significant and an interesting coincidence in that it was the Sabbath day that year; for in ancient Israel the Passover lamb which was slain and eaten on the 14th, was to be selected on the 10th of Abib [Exodus 12:1-10]. Christ presented Himself within the Temple, which He had cleansed the day before. He was the very fulfilment of the Passover lamb’s ritual and symbolism every year [Ezra 6:19-20, Ezekiel 45:21].
Matthew chapters twenty-one to twenty-five, record the parables spoken to the public at the Temple and then the private teaching He gave the disciples on the Mount of Olives the following day. Though it doesn’t state again, their travelling back to Bethany, it is apparent that they do [Matthew 26:6]. Thus, the day spent with the disciples was Sunday the 11th of Abib. It is then in Matthew 26:1, that Christ says, “You know after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified” [Mark 14;1]. This would have been Monday the 12th of Abib. Christ and the disciples were resting in Bethany and at the home of Simon the leper. It was here that a woman poured very expensive ointment or oil over the Messiah’s head; symbolic of his anointing and sealing for the potent role He was about to fulfil in two days time.
An important two verses in Matthew 26:17-18, tell us two key pieces of information. First, the disciples ask Christ where to prepare for Christ to eat the Passover in Jerusalem. Second, it is on the day after the 12th of Abib – Tuesday the 13th of Abib – yet it is called the first day of Unleavened Bread, or the first of the Unleaveneds. The first day of Unleavened Bread is the 15th of the first month, not the 13th. Passover is the 14th and precedes the first day of Unleavened Bread on the 15th. Unleavened Bread is not the Passover and Passover is not Unleavened Bread. They are two different festivals on two different days, one following the other, with the 15th day being a Holy day as is the 21st of Abib. Saying that, the seven days of Unleavened Bread, from the 15th to the 21st of the first month and the preceding day of Passover on the 14th, also became known collectively as the Passover, including all eight days.
As the Passover had not yet arrived, we know it is the 13th day that the disciples are enquiring, not the 15th. The Passover lambs slaughter and preparation on the 14th was a huge undertaking at that time – some one hundred thousand lambs, plus – so the preparation of de-leavening ones house and personal property, by throwing out all products that have leavening agents in them, and yeast was performed on the 13th, so as to ease the burden on the busy Passover day. Hence, as the term Passover could be applied to just the 14th day, or all eight days, so too, did the preparatory day before the feast of Unleavened Bread and Passover, become included in the Unleavened Bread festival season, as one of the ‘Unleaveneds.’
In Matthew 12:38-40 ESV, the sign of the authenticity of the Messiah was his resurrection from the dead and the fact he would be dead and buried three days, including mornings or sunrises and nights, including evenings or sunsets:
‘Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.’
Jewish reckoning counted a part of a day as a whole day and counted inclusively [as opposed to exclusively as we do in the West]. That is, 1, 2 and 3 would be three days, whereas we would count three from day number one, arriving at 1, 2, 3 and 4. Many people put credence in an inclusive count so that they can support a Friday as the day of the crucifixion. By doing this, they are then saying that Christ did not really mean three days and three nights, as in a literal period of three times twenty-four hours, equalling seventy-two hours.
Those that advocate a Friday and some a Thursday, are advocating that the Messiah was merely using a figure of speech. Yet a Friday to Sunday scenario is barely twenty-seven hours – from the time of Christ’s death at 3pm and His resurrection between 3am and 6am – and Thursday to Sunday is fifty-one hours. Both fall well short and would cast serious doubt on the Messiah’s credentials. Friday is a stretch too far, though Thursday could be argued to satisfy inclusive counting. This still leaves the plain words by Christ, of actually ‘three days and three nights.’
The apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:4, ESV: “… that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” See also Matthew 17:23 and Luke 9:22. Mark words it slightly differently in Mark 9:31, ESV: ‘for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” We will find that Christ was resurrected both after and on the third day – there isn’t a contradiction.
During the years 22-36 CE there are no years where the 14th of Abib falls on a Thursday, so this theory is untenable. The years that the 14th of Abib, or Passover fall on a Wednesday, are 23, 24, 27 and 30 CE. The first three are too early and only leaves 30 CE as a credible option. This would mean Christ entered Bethany on a Thursday, or six days before the Passover that year.
There is a further point regarding the Hebrew or Jewish calendar that many not conversant with Judaism or the Jewish calendar would be totally unaware and hence their calculations on Christ’s final Passover week would be in error. The Hebrew calendar is based on the New Moon and this is the 1st day of a month. The 14/15th day would be the mid-point and when the Moon is full – as a lunar month is not quite 30 days, but 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes and 2.8 seconds long.
Passover is easy to calculate as it is the first full Moon on or after the vernal or spring equinox – approximately March 21st each year today – when the hours of daylight equal those of the dark, with twelve hours of light and twelve hours of dark. Originally, the reliable and confirmed sighting of the new Moon was the basis of calculating a new month, but gradually over hundreds of years – after the Temples destruction in 70 CE – it became a fixed system, based on predetermined rules and calculations still used today.
It was the responsibility of the Great Sanhedrin, a rabbinic council specifically appointing three members that would meet on the 29th of every month and receive witnesses to confirm the new Moon and new month. The Babylonian rabbi Samuel of Nehardea, a great astronomer, developed the necessary calculations. Between 330 and 365 CE, the finalising of the fixed Hebrew calendar was completed by Samuel’s son and successor as Nasi of the Sanhedrin, Hillel II. The rules adopted were only made known much later in writing during the ninth century.
The Hebrew calendar is complicated to a degree, as it requires aligning the solar year of 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 46 seconds, with the lunar year of 12 months of 29.53059 days; for the twelve lunar months are about 12 days shorter than the solar year. The Jews, in order to maintain synchronicity have added an extra month every seven years in a nineteen year time cycle. Which has Biblical basis in keeping the seasons correct for those people who keep the seven annual Festivals and the Holy Days attached to them, of which Passover and Unleavened Bread are two of them.
What is not Biblical are four postponement rules created that can delay the beginning of the secular year on Tishri the 1st, the seventh month. Whereas the 1st of Abib or Nisan, the first month, is the first day of the religious calendar and when the year began as decreed by the Creator. The 1st of Tishri, coinciding with the Feast of Trumpets, can be delayed by one or two days and this has a knock on affect for the 1st of Abib and importantly the 14th and 15th day of Abib, the Passover and first Day of Unleavened Bread.
The rules are: 1. If Rosh Hashanah [Trumpets] falls on Sunday, Wednesday or Friday, it is postponed by a day. 2. If the new moon appears after noon, Rosh Hashanah is postponed by a day. If the new day is one of those in Rule 1, Rosh Hashanah gets postponed by two days. 3. In a regular 12 month year, that is one that isn’t embolismic [containing 13 months], if the new moon of Tishri appears more than 20 seconds past 3:11 AM on a Tuesday, Rosh Hashanah is postponed by two days. 4. In years that follow an embolismic year, if the new moon appears on a Monday more than 43 seconds past 9:32 AM – then Rosh Hashanah is postponed by a day.
As said previously, the calculation for the 1st of Abib is simple and there is no justification for these added, non-biblical rules. What does this mean for the Passovers leading up to Christ’s ministry, during and beyond? It means that all researchers are basing their dates on a calendar using postponements. During the Apostolic era and of Christ, these postponement rules did not exist, thus the Molad would have been correct. The molad is the timing of the moon’s ‘birth.’ There is a point during the moon’s orbit, when it is positioned directly between the earth and the sun; making it invisible to anyone looking from the earth’s surface. The molad occurs when the moon has moved far enough away from this position, so that a thin crescent of its illuminated surface is visible. This marks the start of a new lunar month.
With this in mind, we can now focus on the dates without postponements; for those calculated with them are completely redundant, as they were not in existence. I appreciate that there will be readers who keep the seven annual festivals, whether they are Jewish, particular Christians of a certain Church group or independent believers. It is important for them to appreciate that the postponement rules are not needed to calculate the Holy Days and when to observe them. Let’s look at the two key years, 30 and 33 CE and also add in 31 CE. The year 31 CE was put forth by a leader in a particular group that some of our readers will be familiar. It may be interesting for them to see the lunar* evidence in regard to this year.
In the Roman Year 30 and Jewish Year 3790: the Molad for the 1st of Nisan was March 22, at 21.55. Nisan 1 was a Thursday [March 23d, the Day of the Equinox] and Nisan 14 was a Wednesday on April 5th. No postponements applicable even if applied.
In the Roman Year 31 and Jewish Year 3791: the Molad for the 1st Nisan was March 12, at 06.43. Nisan 1 was a Monday [March 12th] and Nisan 14 was a Sunday on March 25th, 2 days after the equinox. Postponements if applied retrospectively mean one day later, so that Nisan 14 would fall on Monday March 26th. Neither* tally with the day of Wednesday proposed for a 31 CE crucifixion.
In the Roman Year 33 and Jewish year 3793: the Molad for the 1st of Nisan was March 19, at 13.05. Nisan 1 was a Thursday [March 19th] and Nisan 14 was a Wednesday on April 1st, 9 days after the equinox. Postponements if applied retrospectively mean a two day delay, so that Nisan 14 would fall conveniently on Friday April 3rd. Those labouring under this inaccuracy have put forward an argument for a Friday to Sunday death and resurrection scenario that never happened, nor is it sustainable from Biblical or secular evidence. Now, critical scriptures supporting a Wednesday Passover and a Saturday resurrection.
English Standard Version
57 When it was evening [G3798 – opsios: late afternoon, early evening before sunset: ‘3-6pm or from 6pm to the beginning of night’], there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. 58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him [late on Wednesday, the Passover and Preparation for the Holy Day].
English Standard version
When the Sabbath was past [Thursday, the Holy day of Unleavened Bread], Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, [on Friday, between the Annual Holy Day Sabbath and the weekly Saturday, Sabbath] so that they might go and anoint him. 2 And very early [G4404 – proi: ‘early, at dawn, day-break, in the morning’ during the fourth watch – between 3-6am] on the first day of the week [Sunday], when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.
English Standard Version
But on the first day [Sunday] of the week, at early dawn [G3722 – orthros: very early in the morning at ‘early dawn’ or ‘daybreak’], they [Mary Magdalene and her female friends] went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared.
The Hebrew Calendar, the sign of the Messiah and His entry six days before Passover, all support a Wednesday crucifixion and severely undermine a Thursday or Friday crucifixion, in either 30, 31 or 33 CE. Between 27 and 34 CE the only years that the 14th of Abib fell on a Wednesday… were the years 30 and 33 CE. The beginning of Christ’s ministry, the Temple in year forty-six of its construction at the time of the Messiah’s first Passover of His ministry and the miraculous, supernatural events with regard to the Temple and Priesthood beginning in 30CE for exactly forty years all show the year of Christ’s death as 30 CE and not 33 CE.
Christ died in 30 CE on Wednesday April 5th at 3pm and was resurrected in the pre-dawn period between night and morning as the Sabbath was ending on the 8th April or 17th Abib, just prior to when Sunday morning began on the 9th April, or 18th Abib. The Mary’s had just missed the risen Christ as they approached His tomb very early Sunday morning around 5 or 6 am – during the 4th watch of the night between 3 and 6 am. Christ had been dead and buried for three days and three nights as He had predicted and by 6pm Saturday at the earliest, was resurrected at that time or after – possibly around midnight and the 3rd watch of the night from 12 to 3 am.
This complies with the scripture that He would be risen after the third day, if it was later Saturday evening, possibly it was midnight, but well before the Marys arrived. It also fulfils that He was risen on the third day, as the fourth day did not begin until sunrise between 3 and 6am and so it was still the Sabbath or the third day of his burial in the ‘heart of the earth’ between 6pm and midnight.
The question of whether the Messiah was killed on the 14th and Passover or on the 15th and the First Holy Day in Abib and whether his final meal with the disciples was the Passover or a last supper are clouded it would seem, in that the Gospel of John appears to contradict the other gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke in certain points surrounding Christ’s last week. These supposed discrepancies dissolve somewhat when we understand, the lost truth about a new day beginning at sunrise, as opposed to the Jewish reckoning of sunset and completely, when we recognise that Christ died on the Passover not the following Holy Day.
Christ is the Passover Lamb [1 Corinthians 5:7] and so He was sacrificed at the same time that thousands of lambs and kids or young goats were being slaughtered, ready for the evening commemoration and observance. The killing of so many lambs required an early start at around Noon and so by three o’clock when Christ died, this would have been well into the ritual slaughter that needed to be completed by sunset at the latest. Passover was kept from sunset and the Jews stayed up till midnight in remembrance of the death angel passing over the Israelite homes sparing their firstborn and killing the Egyptians. Christ’s shed blood that very day, now was the covering protection that had been typified by the blood on the doorposts and lintels of the sons of Jacob before the Exodus.
John described their last meal together with Christ as ‘before the Feast of Passover [John 13:1] and that the Passover would follow the death of the Messiah [John 19:14]. During the meal [Matthew 26:26-29], the Passover as an event or the Passover lamb to be eaten were not brought up in any of the four gospel accounts. It was just a regular meal. What was mentioned, was the institution of bread and wine in place of the traditional Passover that was now – from the very next day – not required and had been replaced by Christ’s imminent sacrifice.
English Standard Version
Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas [the High Priest] to the governor’s headquarters [Pontius Pilate]. It was early morning [morning of the 14th, Passover]. They themselves did not enter the governor’s headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover.
Often forgotten by those that advocate a 15th of Abib date for Christ’s death is the fact that the Jews conspiring to kill Christ were in a hurry. Here was Christ’s popularity at its highest and they were looking to act swiftly as they did not wish to have Him condemned by trial and executed during the seven day Feast of Unleavened Bread. Thus it stands to reason that they would not have tried him on the 14th and dare to kill Him on the 15th, a Holy Day. In fact, Joseph of Arimathea was rushing to obtain Christ’s body for burial before dark and the Holy Day beginning the next morning. A quick trial on the night of the 13th – Tuesday April 4th – was the very latest Christ’s opponents could accuse and convict Him and so they did.
English Standard Version
It was now two days before [12th of Abib – Monday 3rd April] the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest him by stealth and kill him, 2 for they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar from the people.”
Christ was killed on the Passover. The Passover day is not a holy day – but is a preparation day for the Holy Day of Unleavened Bread. The following day was the 15th of Abib – Thursday 6th April – and it was the First Day of Unleavened Bread, a high Sabbath. It was followed by the weekly Sabbath, two days later on April 8th, that year [Matthew 27.62, Mark 15.42, Luke 23.54].
English Standard Version
Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away.
Joseph of Arimathea wasted no time in asking for Christ’s body for it was the day of Passover, the preparation for the next day, the First Holy Day of Unleavened Bread. It was late afternoon, between 4 to 6pm heading towards sunset and Joseph wanted to bury his great nephew before dark, as he could not bury Him the next day during daylight on the Holy Day, according to Biblical law [Deuteronomy 21:23].
The evidence shows that Christ began his ministry sometime in 26 CE and died in 30 CE on Wednesday 5th April, or Passover of the 14th of Abib. More crucially, Christ was resurrected three days later on the Sabbath of the 17th Abib, or Saturday the 8th of April, somewhere between 6pm and midnight. We will work backwards to ascertain when He was born and thus how long Christ’s ministry lasted.
English Standard version
Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under… But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.”
Returning to Matthew chapter two. These verses tell us two important details. First, Christ had been born a couple of years earlier and was a toddler, not a new born baby; second, King Herod was still very much alive two years after Christ’s birth [Matthew 2:1, Luke 1:5]. We arrive at a substantial debate, surrounding when Herod died – whether in 4 or 1 BCE – similar to the sizeable argument regarding when Christ died in 30 or 33 CE. We have investigated and learned the year of Christ’s death; we can do the same regarding His birth.
The 4 BCE theory and therefore the 6 to 4 BCE parameter, for the year of Christ’s birth, has been dominant as Josephus records Herod reigning for thirty-seven years from the time of his appointment by Rome in 40 BCE and thirty-four years from his conquest of Jerusalem in 37 BCE in the Antiquities of the Jews. Latterly, scholarship has cast doubt on this date, with growing support for 1 BCE and the birth of Christ falling in 3 to 2 BCE time frame.
Herod traveled to Samosata in 38 BCE to aid Mark Antony in his campaign against Antiochus. Antiochus surrendered and Herod returned to Judaea the same year, arriving in the winter of 38 and 37 BCE. He began his five month siege of Jerusalem shortly thereafter, in the month of Shevat, the eleventh month, once the worst of winter had passed. Jerusalem was taken in Sivan, the third month in late spring of 37 BCE. Herod’s first year of reign from his conquest of Jerusalem is counted as the spring of 37 BCE.
The reign over Samaria and Judea of Herod’s son and successor Archelaus began in 4 BCE based on the fact that he was deposed by Caesar, in the tenth year of his reign, 6 CE. In addition, Herod the Great’s son and successor Herod Antipas, who ruled over Galilee until 39 BCE and who ordered the execution of John the Baptist [Mark 6:14–29] also had a supporting role in Christ’s trial [Luke 23:7–12]. There are coins that make reference to the 43rd year of his rule, placing its beginning in 4 BCE at the latest. Herod initially named Archelaus his heir in 4 BCE and at this point Archelaus may have assumed royal authority under his father. Then Herod revoked his will, naming Antipas his heir. When he was ill and dying, Herod once again named Archelaus his heir. Thus, Archelaus would not have legally been king until after Herod’s death in early 1 BCE, but may have chosen to reckon his reign from a little over two years earlier in late 4 BCE when he first replaced Antipater as Herod’s heir.
Josephus provides clear statements regarding the authority and honour Herod had granted his sons during the last years of his life, short of the crown itself. It follows that all three of his successor sons chose to antedate their reigns to the time when they were granted a measure of royal authority; yet while their father was still alive. Co-ruling and co-regency are not an uncommon status. It was quite a common practice when an ageing or ill ruler desired a smooth transition for his heir. Although they were not officially recognised by Rome as ethnarchs or tetrarchs until after Herod’s death, the three sons nevertheless reckoned their reigns from 4 BCE and hence the confusion over Herod’s death and the assumption he too died in the year 4 BCE.
Josephus informs us that King Herod died shortly before a Passover [March/April] and brackets Herod’s death by a nebulous ‘fast’ and the Passover. He says there was a lunar eclipse on the night of the fast – the only eclipse mentioned in the entire corpus of his work. Most assume the fast mentioned is that associated with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement on the 10th day of the 7th month of Tishri [September/October]. However, there is too long a gap between this fast and Passover, some five to six months later. There is an alternative fast in Judaism a month prior to the Passover and that is related to the Feast of Purim and the fast of Esther on the 14th and 15th of Adar, the 12th month during February or March [Esther 9:31]. Some favour this fast to Atonement, believing it logical that Purim, a full moon feast, is the last full moon Herod saw; particularly as Haman and Herod, both of related Edomite stock, may have both died at the same full moon. The problem with this choice is the lack of a lunar eclipse at this time, between 4 and 1 BCE.
Four Lunar eclipses occurred in the likely time frame towards the end of Herod’s life. They were on September 15, 5 BCE, March 12-13, 4 BCE, January 10, 1 BCE and December 29, 1 BCE. The first eclipse fits Yom Kippur nearly. It was a total eclipse that became noticeable several hours after sunset, but it is widely regarded as too early and is stretching a viable chronology.
Those scholars that date Herod’s death in 4 BCE, cite as proof the traditional and favoured 4 BCE eclipse of March 11 [March 12-13, Julian Calendar] in that year; placing Christ’s birth in 6 or 5 BCE. This eclipse is either too close to Passover, or was the Feast of Purim that year. Even so, this was a minor partial eclipse of thirty-six percent magnitude, that commenced after midnight and was only visible very late that night in Judea, attracting the attention of very few people that early in the morning. It hardly seems a candidate even for being remembered or noted by Josephus and is the least likely of the four. The 1 BCE dates also do not fit with a fast on Atonement and must relate to a different fast.
Regarding the December 29 eclipse the moon though partial, did rise at 53 percent magnitude, with its most visible aspect over by 6pm. There is doubt as to how visible it may have been. It is significant in that it occurred two days before the change of eras. If correct, it would date Herod’s death into the first year of the current era, four years after the date traditionally taught by Biblical scholars and academics.
Daniel Bisson in a forum on Herod’s Death, Jesus’ Birth and a Lunar Eclipse in 2017 stated:
‘The lunar eclipse was on Thursday Dec 29 1 BC, ‘a fast day that very day’ – Thursday and Monday being public fast days as was the practice of observant Jews of that era, and also those days were when there were public readings from the Torah, of which on that eclipse day Matthius the high priest was unable to officiate. Fasting was during daylight and was over at the first sighting of stars at dusk – at the time when the December 29 1 BC partial eclipse was occurring, it was patently witnessed by many citizens [Antiquities. Book 17 Chapter 6.4]. Herod the Great died aged 70 after this eclipse and further events that took place concerning his health and governing, shortly before Passover in A.D. 1 [War. Book 1 Chapter 33.1; Antiquities. Book 17 Chapter 8.1].’
This eclipse with the earlier one in 1 BCE fits the criteria of an eclipse not long before the Passover. The partial lunar eclipse of December 27 [December 29, Julian calendar] that year could have been observable in Jerusalem but not necessarily as a conspicuous event. One commentator in the same forum states: ‘According to calculations based on Oppolzer’s Canon of Eclipses (page 343), the moon was passing out of the earth’s shadow as twilight fell in Jerusalem, and by the time it was dark the moon was again shining full. On the other hand, it is not included in the comprehensive listing by Manfred Kudlek and Erich Mickler (Solar and Lunar Eclipses of the Ancient Near East From 3000 BC to 0 With Maps, Volume I, 1971). Thus the extent to which that eclipse was visible in Jerusalem or whether it was visible at all is uncertain at this point in history.’
The one that stands out, is the late night third lunar eclipse that occurred in the early hours of January 8, 1 BCE [January 10, Julian calendar]. This was a total eclipse in which the moon was blacked out for one hour and forty-one minutes. It would have been noticed by anyone who was awake, even with an overcast sky. Even though more than one eclipse occurred shortly before a Passover, based on information available today, it seems that the one most likely to have been noted was that one on January 10, 1 BCE.
Interestingly, a report by the United Press International stated: “Herod actually died in 1 B.C. rather than in 4 B.C. as commonly believed. The issue is pivotal because New Testament records make it clear that Herod was alive when Jesus was born.” Instead of earlier dates, the news service said the “research indicates that Jesus was born in the summer or early autumn of 3 B.C. or 2 B.C.”
The 4 BCE eclipse really cannot be historically sustained, regardless of what Josephus has or hasn’t recorded regarding Herod’s reign ending in 4 BCE. Too much stock is placed on his accounts generally, as he is the principal source for this era, which is a detail that advises caution in itself.
We rely on Josephus, when he states that Herod was seventy years old at his death and also that Herod was twenty-five years old when given the government of Galilee by his father Antipas, who in turn, had received the government of Judea in the spring of 46 BCE from Julius Caesar following his Alexandrian War in 48 BCE. If so, this would place Herod’s birth in 71 BCE making 1 BCE his seventieth year and therefore, the precise year of his death. Andrew Steinmann in, When did Herod the Great Reign, addresses sixteen synchronisations which correlate with a 1 BCE death for King Herod. The weight of considerable evidence for 1 BCE, against just Josephus saying Herod died in 4 BCE cannot be ignored; just as we could not ignore the body of evidence for a 30 CE crucifixion as opposed to the weakness of the argument for a 33 CE death of the Messiah.
We have addressed Herod’s death which is approximately two years after the birth of Christ. A one CE death would correlate to 2 BCE and a 1 BCE death of Herod to Christ being born in 3 BCE. Please note that in astronomy there is a year zero or 0 and it is actually referring to 1 BCE. Then, -1 represents 2 BCE; -2 is 3 BCE and -3 is 4 BCE and so forth. So, the year 3 BCE is actually -2 in astronomical terms.
The answer is somewhat clinched for all who uphold a plenary inspiration of the Bible and the disciple Luke’s attestation that Jesus was on the cusp of his thirtieth birthday at his baptism in 26 CE, the fifteenth year of Emperor Tiberius. As Christ was still twenty-nine and not quite thirty, it is the age of twenty-nine we deduct from 26 CE, giving a year of birth of 3 BCE. This categorically places Herod’s death sometime thereafter – that is two years later – precluding 4 BCE as a viable possibility and highlighting the year 1 BCE as his year of death at the age confirmed of seventy.
Gerard Gertoux comments on the same forum in 2016 – emphasis & bold mine:
‘The first coin minted by Herod the Great after his victory over Jerusalem in July 37 BCE is dated Year 3… Given that Jewish reigns began on 1st Nisan (April), Year 3 was from April 36 BCE to March 35 BCE. Consequently his Year 37 was from April 2 BCE to March 1 BCE. According to Josephus, Herod the Great reigned 37 years and died (on 2 Shebat according to Megillat Taanit 23a) after a day the Jews observed as a fast (on 10 Tebeth according to 2Ki 25:1, Zc 8:19) [Tevet the 10th month of the Hebrew calendar, December/January] and just before an eclipse of the moon (Jewish Antiquities XVII:166-167,213). Between 5 BCE and 1 CE there was only one full lunar eclipse, which is dated 9/10 January 1 BCE. In 1 BCE, 10 Tebeth was 5 January and 2 Shebat was 26 January.’*
Gertoux has provided confirmation of which lunar eclipse and fast preceded Herod’s death, as well as the day of Herod’s death.
‘The first coin minted by Herod Philip after his father’s death on 26 January 1 BCE is dated year 3… Consequently his Year 3 was from April 1 BCE to March 1 CE. In the decree breviarium totius imperii published in Rome on Monday 12 May 2 BCE, Caesar Augustus announced his registration called the “inventory of the world”: This census – the first – took place when Quirinius was governor of Syria (3-2 BCE) and everyone (in Judea) went to his own town to be registered (Luke 2:1-2), birth of Jesus in Bethlehem on Monday 29 September 2 BCE. Judas the Galilean rebelled during the (second) registration of Herod Archelaus’ kingdom (Acts 5:37) of Quirinius in 7 CE (Jewish War II:117-118,433). See: Herod the Great and Jesus Chronological, Historical and Archaeological Evidence.’
Christ’s father Joseph and his mother Mary, were only travelling while Mary was heavily pregnant to satisfy the census decree. The birth date given by Gertoux is slightly inaccurate, though much closer to the truth than what is offered by most on this subject.
Another commentator on said forum adds the following that complements Gertoux’s post:
‘I will have to readjust the timeframe for Herod’s death to match “after a day that a fast was observed before an eclipse, before Passover”. Antiquities shows Herod still alive after “And that very night there was an eclipse of the moon”, which was January 10. Herod gathered the heads of the families into the hippodrome (about 4 days total); sought a cure in the baths (about 6 days total), which involved slow travel (about another 6 days); had Antipater killed (add a day); died five days later; was buried (same day)*; was mourned by Archelaus for seven days; Archelaus partied (likely 2 days); took the throne (1 day) and addressed the people; the people petitioned him (from 1 to 3 days later); Passover arrived (April 7, 1 B.C.E.)… Herod’s precedent for giving his sons authority just short of the crown itself, before his death. I have come to the same conclusion myself, without having seen confirmation of it anywhere else prior.’
We have deduced the year of the Messiah’s birth and amazingly, further evidence will provide the month and day. We will then know what time of year Christ was about to turn thirty and thus how long exactly his ministry lasted.
The Magi or wise men as previously mentioned, were in fact from the Israelite Empire of Parthia, who were well aware of the prophecies for the coming Messiah. The sighting of ‘His star’ in Matthew chapter two, came to rest over the place where the child was – notice not a baby. It would seem to be a supernatural sign, an angel perhaps, for no star moves about in the sky like that. Though there were noticeable astronomical events as the Magi had reported to Herod, that they had seen the new king’s ‘star in the east’ – or from their origin in Parthia.
Today we have computerised data by which we can very accurately determine astronomical events of that time frame, providing vital pieces of the puzzle with regard to the exact dating of the birth of Christ. Particularly, the celestial activity of Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, Regulus – the King star: four stars in two pairs in the constellation of Leo, being one of the brightest groupings in the night sky – and Venus, the Queen star, and their various combinations of conjunctions in Leo the Lion, symbolic of the the Messiah as the Lion of Judah.
Beginning with a conjunction between Jupiter and Venus on August 12, 3 BCE in the eastern sky before sunrise. A month later September 11, 3 BCE there was a conjunction of Jupiter and the Regulus stars in the eastern sky. Nine months after the Jupiter-Regulus conjunction, there was a very close conjunction of Jupiter and Venus on June 17, 2 BCE in the southwestern sky, which would have been in the direction of Bethlehem from Jerusalem. The first event, heralding the birth of the Messiah, a month later He was born and the third event appears to be a star pointing to Christ’s location when he was ten months old.
September 11th was already an auspicious date, before it was chosen for its diabolical undertakings in 2001, this millennia. In 3 BCE, this date was actually the Feast of Trumpets, a Holy Day on the 1st of Tishri the seventh month in the Hebrew calendar. The Feast of Trumpets heralds the second coming of the Son of Man – this would not be a coincidence.
English Standard Version
… but that in the days of the trumpet call to be sounded by the seventh angel, the mystery of God [the Kingdom of God: repentance, forgiveness, atonement, salvation, eternal life] would be fulfilled, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.
The day the Messiah was born was the day that the Sun was in Virgo as per the prophecy in Revelation chapter twelve, verse one and two, ESV:
And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth.
A quote from Ernest Martin summarises the astronomy and symbolism – emphasis & bold mine:
‘The giveaway is the word “sign” in vs 1. According to Genesis, the celestial bodies were to be regarded as giving signs (1:14). Some early Jewish opinion included among these “signs” the astronomical associations between the sun, moon, planets, and other constellations (Philo, Op.Mund.,55; Rashi, Commentary, volume I, page 5).
There can hardly be a doubt that astronomical “signs” are mentioned in the Book of Revelation (Lange, Commentary, volume X, page 34).
The essential factor is the identification of the Woman. She is “in heaven” – in the astronomical sense – as the sun and the moon are associated with her. This strongly suggests that the Woman herself is some kind of constellation which the two primary luminaries can traverse.Indeed, the word “sign” used here is the same one used by the ancients to denote the zodiacal constellations (Liddell and Scott, Lexicon, p.1448). And since the sun and the moon are amidst or in line with the Woman, this indicates it must be a constellation located within the normal paths of the sun and the moon.
The only sign of a Woman which exists along the ecliptic is that of Virgo the Virgin. She occupies, in body form, a space of about 50 degrees along the ecliptic. (The head actually bridges some 10 degrees into the previous sign of Leo and her feet overlap about 10 degrees into the following sign of Libra.) In the period 3 BC the sun entered the head position of the Woman about August 12, and exited from her feet about October 1st. But the sun more precisely “clothes” the Woman, i.e. covers her mid-body, somewhere between the neck and the middle part of her legs. In that year the sun would have “clothed” the Woman for a 20-day period, from about August 27 to about September 15.
The moon is said to be located “under her feet”. Since the feet of Virgo represent the last 7 degrees of the constellation (in Jesus’ time this was between 185 and 192 degrees along the ecliptic) the moon has to be positioned somewhere within those degrees. But it has to be in that exact location when the sun is mid-bodied to Virgo. In 3 BC these two factors came to precise agreement for a 14 hour period on September 11/12. This relationship began about 6.30 am Palestine time and lasted until around 8.30 pm. This was the only time in the entire year that such a thing could take place. But there is more. If the moon is located under Virgo’s feet at the same time the sun is in the uterine position, the moon has to be in crescent form, i.e. a new moon occasion. It has therefore to be the first day of some lunar month in late summer – the first of Tishri in 3BC – no other month is possible.”’
All this striking celestial activity told the wise men of the birth of the promised Redeemer, and so they set out to find Him.
English Standard version
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:
6 “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
7 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” 9 After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star [G792 – aster: literal or figurative] that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house[G3614 – oikia: home, household], they saw the child [G3813 – paidion: little child, infant, male child recently born] with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.
The passage tells us that they came to ‘the house,’ not a manger, and saw ‘the child’ months old [Greek word paidion], not a ‘newborn baby’ days old [Greek word brephos]. We learn that the Magi did not visit Jesus at the manger on the night of his birth as did the shepherds. They first came to Jerusalem, apparently thinking that in the capital city of Judea they would be able to find out where the new king had been born. After King Herod told them he had been born in Bethlehem, they went there and found him as a child in his house. This explains why Herod, who had consulted with the Magi as to the time when they saw the star in verse seven, determined to kill all the boys under two years old in the Bethlehem area.
He knew that Christ was no longer a baby. The conjunction on June 17, 2 BCE when Christ was ten months old must have been His minimum age. The wise men would have seen it and then travelled at some point from Parthia to Jerusalem. The distance was considerable. If we take modern Tehran, which is a realistic point of location within the large* territory ruled by the Israelite Parthians at the time; the journey today, from Tehran to Jerusalem by car and road is 1,300 miles. It is plausible that Christ was at least a year old or quite a bit older when the Magi met Him.
The Parthian Empire was formidable and the only real power that Rome respected. Augustus Caesar had sent his sons Gaius and Lucius in the year 1 BCE to the region of Parthia to formalize terms with Phraates V ruler of Parthia, on an island on the river Euphrates. The Euphrates was then to remain the boundary* in which the Parthian army were not to pass.
For those who subscribe to the birth of Christ in the heart of winter, consider that Luke 2:8 speaks of the shepherds near Bethlehem being in the fields watching their flocks at night. Shepherds in Judea did not keep their sheep out at night during the Winter; it was cold and sometimes even snowy, but they were known to keep their flocks in the fields during the Autumn after the end of Summer harvests.
For at that time, the sheep would eat the stalks of grain left over after the harvest; fertilising the ground prior to the late Autumn planting.
Luke 2:1, explains that when Mary was due to give birth to Christ, she and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem to fulfil their obligation to be counted in the Roman census. They would not travel in the Winter because it would have been a difficult journey. People tended to travel in the Autumn, between the heat of Summer and the cold of Winter. At that time of year, the grain and also some fruit were ripe and travellers were allowed to eat some of the ‘gleanings’ as they passed by [Leviticus 23:22].
In Luke chapter one, there is the record of the Archangel Gabriel’s announcement to the priest Zechariah that he and his wife Elizabeth, also a Levite, descended from Aaron, would have a son, whom they were to call John. Verse 5 reveals important information, key to determining that Jesus was born in the Autumn or September rather than in the winter or December. The chapter says that Zechariah belonged to the priestly ‘division [KJV: course] of Abijah.’ From the time of David, Levitical priests were organised into twenty-four courses, named after the heads of the priestly families. The courses of service in the Temple began on the 1st of Abib [Nisan 1], spanning the calendar year. The course of Abijah was the eighth course and like each course, occurred twice during the year. In 4 BCE, the year prior to Christ’s birth, the first of those two courses took place during the last week of our month of May.
Zechariah and Elizabeth, who was barren were quite elderly, and had no children and the angel Gabriel gave them the astonishing news that they would have a son, to be named John.
Luke 1:14-17; 3:3-4; 1:23-27, 36-44
English Standard Version
14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”
3 And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight…
We read that when Zechariah finished his service in the Temple and he returned home in early June, Elizabeth became pregnant. In her sixth month of pregnancy, during December, Gabriel spoke to Mary to tell her that she was about to become pregnant with the Son of God. Nine months later would be the month of September.
23 And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home. 24 After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden… 26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary… 36 And behold, your relative [G4773 – suggenes: kinsman, cousin, kin, related by blood] Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren… 39 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, 40 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb… 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.
Thus, John the Baptist was born in the Spring of 3 BCE during the month of March and Abib – an Aries. His second cousin Christ, was born six months later during the month of September and Tishri – a Virgo. This is significant, as John the Baptist had lived a reclusive life as typical of all of the Eternal’s prophets, until his ministry began at the age of thirty. There appear to be contradictory statements in the Old Testament regarding when a Levite – descended from Jacob’s third son Levi, also the third son of Leah – could begin Levitical duties. The answer is that not all Levites were used in the service of the Eternal and of those that were, some served with the Tabernacle and the transportation of it during the wilderness years and then later when it was located in Jerusalem; while other Levites – descended from Aaron – served directly in the Priesthood and the ceremonies pertaining to the sacrificial system. It was these Levites that lived from the tithes of the congregation of Israel.
Numbers 4:1-5, 46-49
English Standard Version
The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, 2 “Take a census of the sons of Kohath from among the sons of Levi, by their clans and their fathers’ houses, 3 from thirty years old up to fifty years old, all who can come on duty, to do the work in the tent of meeting. 4 This is the service of the sons of Kohath in the tent of meeting: the most holy things. 5 When the camp is to set out, Aaron and his sons shall go in and take down the veil of the screen and cover the ark of the testimony with it… 46 All those who were listed of the Levites… everyone who could come to do the service of ministry and the service of bearing burdens in the tent of meeting, 48 those listed were 8,580… each one with his task of serving or carrying…
Notice these verses are describing the Levites not the priests, who are separate. In fact later, the age of thirty was lowered to twenty-five and then again to twenty by King David. In the time of Ezra it was still age twenty. The Levites retired at fifty, as the nature of their role involved lifting, carrying and physical work.
English Standard Version
22 And after that the Levites went in to do their service in the tent of meeting before Aaron and his sons [the priests]… “This applies to the Levites: from twenty-five years old and upward they shall come to do duty in the service of the tent of meeting. 25 And from the age of fifty years they shall withdraw from the duty of the service and serve no more. 26 They minister to their brothers [the sons of Aaron] in the tent of meeting by keeping guard, but they shall do no service…
1 Chronicles 23:25-28
English Standard Version
25 For David said, “The Lord, the God of Israel, has given rest to his people, and he dwells in Jerusalem forever. 26 And so the Levites no longer need to carry the tabernacle or any of the things for its service.” 27 For by the last words of David the sons of Levi were numbered from twenty years old and upward. 28 For their duty was to assist the sons of Aaron for the service of the house of the Lord, having the care of the courts and the chambers, the cleansing of all that is holy, and any work for the service of the house of God.
English Standard Version
Now in the second year after their coming to the house of God at Jerusalem, in the second month, Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak made a beginning [to rebuild the Temple], together with the rest of their kinsmen, the priests and the Levites and all who had come to Jerusalem from the captivity. They appointed the Levites, from twenty years old and upward, to supervise the work of the house of the Lord.
We are not told when the priests were selected, though we have a clue regarding a Prophe’ts calling.
English Standard Version
In the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I was among the exiles by the Chebar canal, the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God. 2 On the fifth day of the month (it was the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin), 3 the word of the Lord came to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi [Genesis 22:21], in the land of the Chaldeans by the Chebar canal, and the hand of the Lord was upon him there.
Ezekiel was in his thirtieth year and nearly thirty when he began his ministry. Even if we subscribed that it was age thirty that Priests were selected, Christ unlike John the Baptist was not from the tribe of Levi but Judah. Christ was not of the Aaronic Priesthood but rather the Order of Melchizedek [Hebrews 6:20, 7:11]. King David, also a Prophet [Acts 2:29-30] became king at age thirty [2 Samuel 5:4]. It was seen as a mark of respect and maturity to select a prophet at age thirty, for the prophet in question and the audience he would address. A man of thirty has a measure of experience, character and humility not found in most younger men and thus has the chance to gain people’s attention and trust more effectively when speaking and teaching.
Luke 1:80, ESV: ‘And the child [John] grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.’ We have come full circle back to Luke 3:1-3, ESV: ‘In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar… the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.’
John Began his ministry when he turned thirty, in March 26 CE and approximately four to five months later in July or August, Christ was baptised as He was close to or about to turn thirty [Luke 3:23].
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
In Luke Four we read of Christ’s forty day trial and testing by Samael and this would take Christ to mid or late September 26 CE, once he had fully turned thirty to then begin His ministry. Josephus relates that Pontius Pilate, when he first arrived in Judea, had sent troops to Jerusalem for ‘winter quarters.’ This would place Pilate’s arrival by or in the Autumn of 26 CE, when Christ was beginning His ministry. Meaning the first of His four ministry Passovers was in 27 CE.
Therefore, the Autumn or Fall of 26 CE to the Spring of 30 CE is a period of three and one half years – 42 months or approximately 1260 days – of which the significance we will now address. In Daniel chapter nine we learn of the Seventy Weeks prophecy given to Daniel during the time of the Medo-Persian Empire.
English Standard Version
23 At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you, for you [Daniel] are greatly loved. Therefore consider the word and understand the vision.
24 “Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place. 25 Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem [a spiritual Temple composed of Saints] to the coming of an anointed one [the Messiah], a prince, there shall be seven weeks [490 years].
Then for sixty-two weeks [434 years] it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. 26 And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one [not the Messiah] shall be cut off and shall have nothing.
And the people of the prince [the false Prophet] who is to come shall destroy the city [not Jerusalem of Judah or the Jerusalem of future prophecy, but the capital city in its place in the State of Israel that has the name but a different identity as the capital of Edom] and the sanctuary [the restored physical Temple building]. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war [the Great Tribulation]. Desolations are decreed.
27 And he [Revelation 13:16] shall make a strong covenant [the mark of the Beast] with many [the world] for one week [7 years], and for half of the week [3 1/2 years] he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering [the abomination of desolation]. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate [the destroyer, Apollyon (Abaddon), Azazel], until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.” [refer Chapter XXI Nimrod]
Daniel 9:24-27 supports a three and a half year ministry. It can be demonstrated from the seventy week prophecy of Daniel chapter nine that the baptism of Jesus occurred in 26 CE which would place His birth in 3 BCE. Daniel’s prophecy set out a period of 69 weeks or sevens of years – totalling 483 years – from the decree to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem until the coming of the Messiah. That decree is widely accepted to have been that of the Persian King Artaxerxes I Longimanus [Longhand] which occurred in the seventh year of his reign [Ezra 7:7-8]. Artaxerxes ruled from September 465 to October 424 BCE; thus his seventh year would have been 458-457 BCE.
As the Hebrew calendar religious year was Abib in the Spring, to Adar and the civil year was Tishri in the Autumn] to Elu; when Ezra and his entourage left Babylon in the first month, arriving in Jerusalem during the fifth month, it is safe to assume it had been a spring and summer caravan trek, rather than an autumn and winter journey. The first month must therefore have been that of the religious year – Abib or Nisan. The Persian calendar also ran from spring to spring.
We do not know whether Artaxerxes’ decree was in 458 or 457 BCE. Depending on which year one uses as the starting point and how you calculate the subtraction, affects the final figure – as is the case with all arithmetic… ask any economist or politician.
If we subtract 483 years from 458 BCE we derive 25 CE, add one year as there is no 0 BCE or 0 CE and the final figure is 26 CE – the year the Messiah was baptised and began his three and a half year ministry. If we subtract 483 years from 457 BCE we obtain 26 CE, which is the number we require, result. If we add a year, then it is off by one. It would appear that the decree was towards the beginning of Artaxerxes’ reign and that the Judah and Benjamin captives, of which Artaxerxes later wife, Esther was included then made themselves ready to depart Babylon and were ready at the beginning of the new year, Abib.
There is scholarship that seeks to put Artaxerxes’ reign beginning in 475 BCE, so that Nehemiah [2:1] stating twenty years, arrives at 455 BCE and a final date [455 BCE – 483 = 28 + 1 = 29 CE] of 33 CE for the death of Christ [Nehemiah 2:1, 13:6]. This is achieved by adding ten years to the beginning of Artxerxes I reign of forty-one years. The ten years being deducted from his father, Xerxes I reign of twenty years from 485 to 465 BCE. This is based on a chronology according to Thucydides and the Alexandrian Chronicle that Xerxes I was murdered in 475 BCE, when his son Artaxerxes was a ‘boy’ of sixteen instead of when he was twenty-six in 465 BCE. In response, from an article by Carl Olof Jonsson, The 20th Year of Artaxerxes and the “Seventy Weeks’ of Daniel, 1989 & 2003 – emphasis theirs, bold mine:
‘The decisive evidence for the length of Artaxerxes’ rule is the astronomical information found on a number of tablets dated to his reign. One such text is the astronomical “diary” “VAT 5047”, clearly dated to the 11th year of Artaxerxes. Although the text is damaged, it preserves information about two lunar positions relative to planets and the positions of Mercury, Jupiter, Venus and Saturn. This information suffices to identify the date of the text as 454 B.C. As this was the 11th year of Artaxerxes, the preceding year, 455 BC, cannot have been his 20th year as [some claim], but his 10th year. His 20th year, then, must have been 445/44 BC. (See Sachs/Hunger, Astronomical Diaries and Related Texts from Babylonia, Volume 1, Wien 1988, pages 56-59.)
There are also some tablets dated to the 21st and last year of Xerxes. One of them, BM 32234, which is dated to day 14 or 18 of the 5th month of Xerxes’ 21st year, belongs to the group of astronomical texts called “18-year texts” or “Saros texts”. The astronomical information preserved on this tablet fixes it to the year 465 BC. The text includes the following interesting information: “Month V 14 (+x) Xerxes was murdered by his son.” This text alone not only shows that Xerxes ruled for 21 year[s], but also that his last year was 465 BC, not 475 as the Society holds!
There are several “Saros texts” of this type covering the reigns of Xerxes and Artaxerxes. The many detailed and dated descriptions of lunar eclipses from different years of their reigns establish the chronology of this period as an absolute chronology. Two other astronomical tablets from the reigns of Xerxes and Artaxerxes, BM 45674 and BM 32299, contain dated observations of the planet Venus. Again, these observations establish the chronology of this period as an absolute chronology. Thus we have numerous astronomical observations dated to different parts of the reigns of Xerxes and Axtaxerxes preserved on cuneiform tablets. In many cases, only one or two of these observations would suffice to establish the beginning and end of their reigns. The total number of astronomical observations dated to their reigns, however, are about 40 or more. It is impossible, therefore, to change their reigns even one year!’
Daniel’s prophecy does not explicitly state that the Messiah would be cut off after 3½ years of His ministry, though there is an inference to that effect. The event has a parallel with ‘the prince who is to come’ – probably the false Prophet, possibly the Beast, ‘Antichrist’ – breaking the seven year covenant in the middle of the week. There are a number of Bible passages of interest in line with the content of the seventy weeks prophecy, as well as some of the verses studied regarding the Messiah.
English Standard Version
15 “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand),
English Standard Version
13 Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to the one who spoke, “For how long is the vision concerning the regular burnt offering, the transgression that makes desolate, and the giving over of the sanctuary and host to be trampled underfoot?” 14 And he said to me, “For 2,300 evenings and mornings. Then the sanctuary shall be restored to its rightful state.”
16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, 18 and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. 19 And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! 20 Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath. 21 For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. 22 And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.23 Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.
Revelation 7:3-4, 14-17
English Standard Version
… saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.” 4 And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel…“These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
15 “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. 16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore… 17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
English Standard Version
Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told, “Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there, 2 but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months. 3 And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.”
Rev 12:4-6, 13-17
English Standard Version
And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. 5 She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, 6 and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days… 13 And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. 14 But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. 15 The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood. 16 But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth. 17 Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.
English Standard Version
5 And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. 6 It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. 7 Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, 8 and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain. 9 If anyone has an ear, let him hear…
English Standard Version
Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.
English Standard Version
14 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea* write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation. 15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich,and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”
English Standard Version
45 Now from the sixth hour [Noon] there was darkness over all the land [Mark 15:33] until the ninth hour [3pm]. 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
47 And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.” 48 And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. 49 But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.”
Common English Bible
44 It was now about noon, and darkness covered the whole earth until about three o’clock, 45 while the sun [G2246 Helios: the rays of the sun, the light of day] stopped shining [G4654 skotizo: darken, to cover with darkness, deprive of light]. Then the curtain in the sanctuary tore down the middle.
We have learned that the Messiah died on the Passover of 30 CE. The 14th day of Abib or Wednesday April 5th. The sun darkening could not be a lunar eclipse, as these result when the Earth gets in the way of the Sun’s light hitting the Moon. This can only occur during the night and a when the Moon is full. Thus a full moon fades away as Earth’s shadow covers it. The Moon can look reddish because the Earth’s atmosphere absorbs other colours while it bends some sunlight toward the Moon. The same applies to the orange and red colours of sunsets.
This leaves a solar eclipse, which occurs when the moon gets between Earth and the Sun, blocking the sun’s light, and the moon casts a shadow over the Earth. Importantly, a solar eclipse can only take place at the phase of a new moon and during daylight hours. Thus it can be dark in the middle of the day. Was it even predicted in the Old Testament, some eight hundred years before hand.
New English Translation
In that day,” says the Sovereign Lord, “I will make the sun set at noon and make the earth dark in the middle of the day [during the light of day; in a day of light].
The complication is that there isn’t a candidate for a solar eclipse taking place at this time in 30 CE… or in 33 CE. Also, the eclipse lasted a staggering three hours. Either there was an eclipse on this day but a record is missing or it was a different event and not a solar eclipse that caused the sky to darken for three hours.
Acts 17:34 mentions Dionysius who claims to have witnessed a solar eclipse on the day of Christ’s death. ‘In letters written under the name Dionysius the Areopagite, the author claims to have observed a solar eclipse from Heliopolis at the time of the crucifixion. Parker, John (1897). “Letter VII. Section II. To Polycarp–Hierarch. & Letter XI. Dionysius to Apollophanes, Philosopher.” The Works of Dionysius the Areopagite. London: James Parker and Co. pages 148–149, 182–183.
According to the Orthodox Church in America, Dionysius… was from Athens and received a classical Greek education (i.e. Atticism). He studied astronomy at the city of Heliopolis, and it was in Heliopolis, along with his friend Apollophonos where he witnessed the solar eclipse that occurred at the moment of the death of the Lord Jesus Christ by Crucifixion. (The connection between the events was surely realized by him at a later date.) But even so, at the time of the eclipse he said, “Either the Creator of all the world now suffers, or this visible world is coming to an end.”’
If this event was a solar eclipse then from this testimony, we would have to admit that if the dark lunar phase occurred at noon creating a solar eclipse on the 14th day of Abib, it means none other than fifteen days earlier, the full moon was the true New Moon. It would in fact be the Moon being full, that was announcing the new month had begun. This would have far reaching implications on the Hebrew calendar and how it is observed today, if the current new moon is actually the Moon of the 14/15 day of the month and the full moon is the real ‘new’ Moon of the 1st of a month.
English Standard Version
Blow the trumpet at the new moon [H2320 – bahodes: the new, in the new moon, at the new moon], at the full moon [H3677 – bakkeseh: the full, at the full moon, in the time appointed] on our feast day.
Interlinear: ‘Blow at the time of the New Moon the trumpet, at the full moon on day [of] our solemn feast.’
Psalm 81:3 either highlights the New Moon and Full Moon as two separate days, with the new moon [conjunction or Molad] first like the blowing of the Trumpet on Tishri the 1st, the Feast of Trumpets. Then the full moon on the 15th day of the month as on the feast days of Unleavened Bread [15-21 of the first month] and the Feast of Tabernacles [Sukkoth, 15-22 of the seventh month]. Or just as convincingly, it is showing that the new moon is actually a full moon. [We will return to the question regarding the New Moon as a full moon and also related topics including, the exact nature of the Hebrew or Jewish calendar, the Roman calendar, the Lunar cycle compared to the Solar, as well as Sunday verses the Sabbath and finally the controversy surrounding the weekly cycle of days and when the true day of rest would actually fall, in an appendix].
Conversely, if the Sun had darkened during a full moon it would have been a sensational occurrence with a supernatural element to have moved 180 degrees out of its position to darken the Sun when it was not in conjunction. If the Moon came into closer proximity to the Earth – affecting its magnetic field – through Divine intervention, this would account for the earthquakes that accompanied the event, as science corroborates.
The church historian Eusebius of Caesarea, who lived between 264 and 340 CE, quoted Phlegon from the second century CE, as saying that during the fourth year of the 202nd Olympiad: “A great eclipse of the sun occurred at the sixth hour that excelled every other before it, turning the day into such darkness of night that the stars could be seen in heaven, and the earth moved in Bithynia, toppling many buildings in the city of Nicaea.”
NASA has not revealed any record for a solar eclipse occurring at noon in the Middle East region for any date within twenty years of 30 CE. According to one commentator’s opinion: the occulted sun and moon were together at the feet of the ‘the lamb’ the constellation Aries, at precisely midday so that the Lamb constellation came into full view directly overhead. It is not beyond the Creator’s power to intervene in the laws of physics astronomically, as recorded in 2 Kings 20:11 and Joshua 10:13. Thus, the Moon could have been brought closer to the earth as seems likely and or its orbit was harmonised with the Sun for three hours.
One could consider a cover up regarding an event of this magnitude and it being expunged from astronomical data; particularly when five different people record the event in the Bible. The third century Christian historian Sixtus Julius Africanus, in a section of his work in quotation by George Syncellus in 391 CE, stated that Thallus in 53 CE, had called the darkness during the crucifixion a solar eclipse. Though Third century critics declared Thallus’s statements as false, because the lunar phase was fourteen days from a crescent moon, naturally making it ‘full.’ In contradiction to the law that solar eclipses cannot occur on a full moon.
Have records been skewed surrounding an unusual solar eclipse in 30 CE? It seems possible. Especially when images from Stellarium – a simulation of what the night sky may have looked like in their respective years, based on NASA’s UTC time coordinates of GMT – reveal nothing for 30 or 32 CE, yet each image, viewed from Jerusalem facing due south depicting the sixth hour [Noon] with the sun straight up and the moon at or nearest conjunction favours both 31 and 33 CE as possible solar eclipses. These two years do not fit all the data and criteria once put together that we have studied. The year 32 CE is not even in the running and only 30 CE satisfies all the facts. Yet astronomical confirmation is missing?
50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. 51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom [precisely at 3pm]. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split [caused by an earthquake]. 52 The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. 54 When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”
The effects of the unusual and powerful earthquake were extremely violent and produced scenes that would have been similar to the Walking Dead and very disturbing for those witnessing these strange and frightening miracles. The curtain in the Temple tore in two, reminiscent of the miraculous events between 30 – 70 CE associated with the Temple worship. The Book of Revelation reveals a future, spiritual parallel.
English Standard Version
Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail.
Early church father Jerome, in a Letter to Hedibia recounts that the huge lintel of the Temple was broken, splintered and fell; caused by the rending of the Veil. Edersheim adds: ‘it would seem an obvious inference to connect again this breaking of the lintel with an earthquake.’ The lintel was a stone of some magnitude, being at least thirty feet long and weighing about thirty tons. The Temple Veils were sixty feet long by thirty feet wide and the thickness of the palm of a man’s hand, wrought in seventy-two squares. They were reputed to be so heavy that three hundred priests were required to manipulate each one. Therefore, the Veil being rent from top to bottom was a very terrible portent, as it indicated that the Creator’s own Hand had torn it in two with His presence deserting the Holy Place.
The Jewish Talmud in Yoma 39b says of the events which must have occurred in 30 CE, for the Temple was destroyed in 70 CE: ‘Forty years before the Temple was destroyed… the gates of the Hekel or the Holy Place, opened by themselves until Rabbi Yohanan Zakkai rebuked the gates, saying “Hekel, Hekel, why alarmist thou us? We know that thou art destined to be destroyed…” For the huge doors of the Temple behind the Veil to open by themselves or as a consequence of a great earthquake, meant they pulled powerfully against the Veil and with the lintel collapsing at the same time, would have torn in two from top to bottom as the Bible records.
62 The next day [15th Abib – Thursday April 6th, The first Day of Unleavened Bread], that is, after the day of Preparation [the Preparation for the Holy Day, Passover], the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63 and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ 64 Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day [17th Abib – Saturday 8th April], lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.
Paid in Full, Buried & Sealed: Jesus in the Tomb, Rick Renner – emphasis & bold mine:
‘John’s Gospel tells us that near the crucifixion site was a garden. The Greek word for “garden” is kepos, and it refers to any garden with trees and spices. It can also be translated as an orchard. The same word is used in John 18:1 to describe the Garden of Gethsemane, which was an olive tree orchard. All four Gospels suggest that this tomb was near the place where Jesus was crucified, but John 19:42 says, “…The sepulchre was nigh at hand.” The word “nigh” is the Greek word aggus, meaning nearby. Most crucifixions were performed along a roadside. Evidently this garden was located in an orchard-like place, just down the road from where Jesus was crucified. John 19:41 tells us that in the garden was “…a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid.” The word “new” is the Greek word kainos, meaning fresh or unused. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the tomb had recently been made but that it was a tomb that had never been used – thus, the reason John writes, “… Wherein was never man yet laid.”
Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record that this tomb belonged to Joseph of Arimathea, suggesting that it was the tomb he had prepared for his own burial. The fact that it was a tomb “hewn out in the rock” (Matthew 27:60, Mark 15:46, Luke 23:53) confirms the personal wealth of Joseph of Arimathea. Only royalty or wealthy individuals could afford to have their tombs carved out of a wall of stone or in the side of a mountain. Poorer men were buried in simple graves. The word “hewn” in Matthew, Mark, and Luke comes from the Greek word laxeuo, meaning not only to cut out, but to polish. It implies that it was a special tomb, a highly developed tomb, a refined tomb, or a tomb that was splendid and expensive. Isaiah 53:9 had prophesied that the Messiah would be buried in a rich man’s tomb, and the word laxeuo strongly suggests that this was indeed the expensive tomb of a very rich man. John 19:42 says, “There laid they Jesus….” The word “laid” comes from the word tithimi, which means to set, to lay, to place, to deposit, or to set in place. As used here, it portrays the careful and thoughtful placing of Jesus’ body in its resting place inside the tomb. Luke 23:55 tells us that after Jesus’ body was placed in the tomb, the women who came with Him from Galilee “… beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid.” The word “beheld” in Greek is theaomai, from which we get the word theater.
The word theaomai means to gaze upon, to fully see, or to look at intently. This is very important, for it proves the women inspected the tomb, gazing upon the dead body of Jesus to see that it had been honorably laid in place. Mark 15:47 identifies these women as Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses and says that these women “… beheld where he was laid” at the tomb. The imperfect tense is used in Mark’s account, alerting us to the fact that these women took their time in making sure Jesus was properly laid there. It could be translated, “they carefully contemplated where he was laid.” If Jesus had still been alive, those who buried Him would have known it, for they spent substantial time preparing His body for burial. Then after His dead body was deposited into the tomb, they lingered there, checking once again to see that the body was treated with the greatest love and attention.
Once they were certain everything was done correctly, Joseph of Arimathea “… rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed” (Matthew 27:60, Mark 15:46). It was rare to find a stone entrance to a Jewish tomb in biblical times; most Jewish tombs had doors with certain types of hinges. A large stone rolled before the tomb would be much more difficult to move, making the burial site more permanent.
However, the chief priests and Pharisees weren’t so sure that the site was secure. Fearing that Jesus’ disciples would come to steal the body and claim that Jesus had been resurrected, the Jewish leaders came to Pilate… When the chief priests and Pharisees asked that “…the sepulchre be made sure…,” the Greek word sphragidzo is used. This word described a legal seal that was placed on documents, letters, possessions, or, in this case, a tomb. Its purpose was to authenticate that the sealed item had been properly inspected before sealing and that all the contents were in order. As long as the seal remained unbroken, it guaranteed that the contents inside were safe and sound. In this case, the word sphragidzo is used to signify the sealing of the tomb. In all probability, it was a string that was stretched across the stone at the entrance of the tomb, which was then sealed on both sides by Pilate’s legal authorities. Before sealing the tomb, however, these authorities were first required to inspect the inside of the tomb to see that the body of Jesus was in its place. After guaranteeing that the corpse was where it was supposed to be, they rolled the stone back in place and then sealed it with the official seal of the governor of Rome.
After hearing the suspicions of the chief priests and Pharisees, “Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can”… The word “watch” is the Greek word coustodia, from which we get the word custodian. This was a group of four Roman soldiers whose shift changed every three hours. The changing shifts assured that the tomb would be guarded 24 hours a day by soldiers who were awake, attentive, and fully alert. When Pilate said, “Ye have a watch…,” a better rendering would be, “Here – I’m giving you a set of soldiers; take them and guard the tomb.” Matthew 27:66 says, “So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.” Wasting no time, the chief priests and elders hastened to the tomb with their government-issued soldiers and the special officers assigned to inspect the tomb before placing Pilate’s seal upon it. After a full inspection had been made, the stone was put back in place, and the soldiers stood guard to protect the tomb from anyone who would attempt to touch it or remove its contents. Every three hours, new guards arrived to replace the old ones. These armed soldiers guarded the entrance to Jesus’ tomb so firmly that no one would have been able to come near it.
The purpose of the seal was to authenticate that Jesus was dead; therefore, we can know that His body was thoroughly inspected again for proof of death. There is no doubt that Jesus was dead, for He was examined again and again, even as He lay in the tomb. Some critics have claimed that only Jesus’ own disciples inspected His body and that they could have lied about His being dead.
However, an officer from Pilate’s court also examined the body of Jesus. We can also be fairly certain that the chief priests and elders who accompanied the soldiers to the burial site demanded the right to view His dead body as well so they could verify that He was truly dead.
When Jesus came out of that grave several days later, it was no hoax or fabricated story. In addition to all the people who saw Him die on the Cross, the following individuals and groups verified that His dead body was in the tomb before the stone was permanently sealed by an officer from the Roman court of law:
- Joseph of Arimathea carefully laid Him inside the tomb.
- Nicodemus provided the embalming solutions, assisted in embalming Him, and helped Joseph of Arimathea lay Him in His place in the tomb.
- Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of Joses, lovingly examined His body and carefully contemplated every aspect of the burial site to ensure everything was done properly and respectfully.
- Rome’s official officer ordered the stone rolled back. Then he went into the tomb and examined the body of Jesus to verify that it was Jesus and that He was really dead.
- The chief priests and elders entered the tomb with Rome’s official officer so they could look upon Jesus’ dead body and put an end to their worries that He had somehow survived.
- Roman guards checked the contents of the tomb because they wanted to know for sure a body was there. They didn’t want to be guarding an empty tomb that would later be used as a claim of resurrection, while they got blamed for the disappearance of Jesus’ body.
- After all of these inspections were complete, Rome’s official officer ordered the stone rolled back in its place. While the chief priests, elders, and Roman guards watched, he secured the site and sealed it shut with the seal of the governor of Rome.
Regardless of all these efforts to secure the site and to keep Jesus inside the grave, it was impossible for death to hold Him. When preaching on the day of Pentecost, Peter proclaimed to the people of Jerusalem, “…Ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain [Jesus]: whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it” [Acts 2:23-24].’
Further evidence that 30 CE is the correct year for the Messiah’s death is that in the same year, the Sanhedrin curiously abandoned their Chamber of Hewn Stones near the Holy Place in the Temple, which was its official seat of location. It was about forty yards southeast of the entrance to the Holy Place. In 30 CE the Sanhedrin moved to a residence called The Trading Place, farther to the east, a less significant spot. To be forced to move from a beautiful and prestigious location in the Temple to a place much less esteemed and reverential, would have been a great slight.
The Talmud says: ‘Forty years before the destruction of the Temple, the Sanhedrin was banished (from the Chamber of Hewn Stone) and sat in the trading station (on the Temple Mount)’ (Shabbat 15a). The obvious reason why the Sanhedrin were forced to relocate is due to the great earthquake, the day Christ was killed. Direct punishment for their complicity in handing Jesus over to the Romans and the Creator’s displeasure with their actions.
The Historical Reliability of the Gospels, Craig Blomberg, 1987 – emphasis & bold mine:
‘… the claim that the Romans retained the sole right of capital punishment (John 18:31) has often been termed a Johanine error, especially in view of the counter-example in the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7:58). But this right is strikingly confirmed by a passage in the Talmud, which says that capital punishment had been taken from the Jews forty years before the destruction of the temple in A.D.70… Stephen’s stoning reads more like mob action which defied technical legalities.’
In summary, the Messiah as can be ascertained from all pertinent material, was born in 3 BCE on September 11, corresponding to the first day of Tishri, the New Moon and the Feast of Trumpets. He lived thirty years, then was baptised and began His ministry in the autumn of 26 CE. Three and one half years later, Christ died on the 14th of Abib, corresponding to the Passover on April 5, 30 CE.
Excerpt from Chapter XXIX Esau
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