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Historical Basis for Believing Jesus was Crucified in AD 30

Rock-cut tomb with round stone rolled back
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[Editor’s note: I asked Jim for clarification on his belief about this since I’ve encountered people equally sure of the years 29, 30, and 33 AD for the death and resurrection of Christ. This article is his response.
Although such a topic may seem far afield from our usual creation vs. evolution discussions, it is still at the intersection of the Bible and science. It may not change anything about how you interact with others, but it can strengthen your confidence that we have not believed cleverly devised fables, but historically verifiable reality!]

Is 30 AD the Year of the Crucifixion?

To answer this question, I will combine information from Scripture as well as extra-biblical material on which there is much, but not total, agreement.  Let’s begin with the year of Jesus birth:

  1. Year of Birth: We know from Scripture that Jesus is born at the time of the first Roman census (Luke 2:1-2) when Quirinius was Governor of Syria. A review of Roman documents describe this time frame as late October or November of 5 BC. We know that the second census, 10 years later, was in 6 AD at the same time of year when Caesar Augustus ruled.
  2. Year of Baptism: This birth date above would mean that Jesus was 12 years old at Passover in 9 AD as described in Luke 2:41-52. From these two dated events we can determine that Jesus is about 33.5 years old twenty-one years later at Passover in 30 AD. This is consistent with the Baptism of Jesus in August or September of 26 AD, in the fifteenth year of Tiberius (Luke 3:1-23) whose reign began in July of 11 AD. This is followed by a public ministry lasting a little over three-and-a-half years ending on Passover in 30 AD.
  3. Date of Crucifixion: The year of the Crucifixion is confirmed by several historians due to the darkness that occurred from noon until 3:00 PM on Nisan 14-Passover in 30 AD. It is important to note that the term ‘Passover’ can refer to Nisan 14, the Preparation for the Feast of Unleavened Bread, or Nisan 15-the first day of seven for the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The historians Phlegon, Thallus, Africanus and Tertullian all mention this three hour period of darkness that does not have a scientific explanation. It was neither a lunar or solar eclipse for many reasons. Eclipses do not last three hours and cannot happen during the full moon of Passover.

    Solar eclipse stills showing partial and full coverage of the sun
    A solar eclipse can only happen at the New Moon (as here), not the Full Moon

Julius Africanus, writing about the historian Thallus states:

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Upon the whole world there came a most fearful darkness.  Many rocks were split in two by an earthquake, and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down.

It seems very unreasonable to me that Thallus, in the third book of his histories, would try to explain away this darkness as an eclipse of the sun. For the Jews celebrate their Passover on the 14th day according to the moon, and the death of our Saviour falls on the day before the Passover. But an eclipse of the sun can only take place when the moon comes under the sun, how then could an eclipse have occurred when the moon is directly opposite the sun? (Scientifically it is impossible to have a full moon on the same day that there is an eclipse of the sun.)

The Roman historian Phlegon is mentioned by Origen who describes a darkening of the sun in the eighteenth year of Tiberius on Nisan 14-Passover which would be 30 AD. A few people have used this Roman history report stating the year of the Crucifixion is 33 AD. They mistakenly start Tiberius’ reign in 14 AD after the death of Augustus instead of the start of his joint reign in 11 AD.

On the Gregorian-Hebrew solar calendar found in ESC, the date of the Crucifixion is Friday April 5-Nisan 14, 30 AD. On this Hebrew solar calendar Nisan 14-Passover always falls on April 5 in a non-leap year and April 3 in a leap or special year on the Gregorian calendar we use today. This is clearly new information about the accuracy and inerrancy of the specific dates in Scripture.

This type of assessment of the Bible’s accuracy was only possible in recent years with computers, Excel spreadsheets, Bible software, and calendar converters like www.rosettacalendar.com.

Resources:

  1. ESC = Earth’s Sacred Calendar: The Dated Events of the Old Testament by Jim Liles; Pub 2014.
  2. CARM: Is there non-biblical evidence of a day of darkness at Christ’s death?
  3. Bible History.net The Crucifixion Darkness

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Written by Jim Liles

Jim Liles-The Timeline Guy is the Author of Earth's Sacred Calendar: The Dated Events of the Old Testament. This book shows the inerrancy of the dated events in Scripture from Creation in 4115 BC to the Crucifixion of Jesus in 30 AD. This unique Bible Chronology and other download files can be found at The Sacred Calendar.com
. Jim is also President of 'The Sacred Calendar' - a 501c3 Non-Profit organization in California.

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  1. Jesus could not be crucified on a Friday because of
    1) the next day after the crucifiction was not a weekly Sabbath . It was the High Sabbath day of the feast of unleavened bread , John 19: 31.
    2) The Scripture cannot be broken , no matter how hard you try you cannot get both three days and three nights where Jesus was in the grave with a Thursday crucifiction the way the Jews observed a day. Jesus said three days and three nights in the heart of the earth, Matt 12:40.

    • [I’m posting this on behalf of the author]
      Dale,
      Thank you for asking a question about which there is much confusion. Over the years I have been asked about this one by many Pastors and Sunday School teachers preparing a lesson. As with any ‘tricky’ text that seems confusing at first glance, we need to back up and first carefully examine the text without making assumptions that may lead us down a ‘rabbit trail’ that leads to a dead end. This is not meant as a criticism. When we are confused by a text I think we need to back up to see what the text is actually saying before jumping to understand what it means by what it says.
      I will break this question into two parts which will hopefully make this clearer. I will start with the question: What day of the week is the Crucifixion according to the text of Scripture? We know from many texts in Scripture that Jesus is crucified on the Preparation or Preparation Day of Passover. The term, Preparation Day, is found at least six times in the New Testament: Matt 27:62, Mark 15:42, Luke 23:54, John 19: 14, 31, and 42. All of these references clearly refer to the day Jesus was crucified and the date is Nisan 14-Passover. It is important to note that this usage of ‘the Preparation’ or ‘Preparation Day’ refers to the day before the ‘High Sabbath’ day that starts the Feast of Unleavened Bread as you accurately state in part One of your question: “It was the High Sabbath day of the feast of unleavened bread , John 19: 31.”
      The term Passover is also used to refer to Nisan 15-The first of seven days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Nisan 15 is always a ‘High Sabbath’ and treated as a Sabbath in which no work is to be done according to Leviticus 23:4-8 regardless of the day of the week that this Feast day falls on. Simply put: Saturday Nisan 15 in 30 AD was also a High Sabbath Feast day and it was the day after the Crucifixion. Nisan 15 is the first of seven days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Leviticus 23:4-8 also instructs that Nisan 21, the last day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread is also a ‘High Sabbath’ day even though it falls on a different day of the week. John 19:31 states, “31 Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should 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. (NKJV)” In the year 30 AD Nisan 15 was both a normal Saturday and a High Sabbath.
      In my opinion, if you say that Jesus is Crucified on Thursday or Wednesday, you have to change the text of Scripture that clearly states Jesus was Crucified on Nisan 14 and it was a Friday. You also run into major problems with Pentecost-Sivan 6 falling on a different day than Sunday in 30 AD. Let us now turn to the second part of your question:
      What does this have to do with the ‘Sign of Jonah’ in Matt. 12:39-40?
      In my opinion, many people make one main incorrect assumption: Jesus has to be in the tomb for 72 hours – dead for three complete days to match the ‘sign of Jonah’. If we look at the story of Jonah we begin to see this assumption has some serious flaws. Was Jonah dead for three days? Obviously not. Jonah is swallowed by a whale, large fish (possibly a whale shark), or similar creature at night and spit onshore during daylight hours on the third day. Many sources will say ancient Hebrew usage of “three days and three nights” was an idiomatic expression that meant simply “three days” with three periods of darkness and three periods of light allowing the first and last day to be partial days.
      If we use the pattern of the Jewish Day, ‘evening and morning’, as in the Seven Days of Creation in Genesis Chapter One and apply it to Jesus, we begin to see the connection with Jonah. Jesus is arrested at the start of the Jewish day on Friday night and crucified on the day portion of the same day Friday Nisan 14-Passower (one evening and one day. Jesus is buried just before the start of the evening on Saturday Nisan 15-a High Sabbath and remains in the tomb the rest of that day (second evening and second day). Jesus is still in the tomb Sunday evening and part of Sunday into the morning, possible resurrection sometime shortly after dawn-completing three nights and three days.
      What Jesus and Jonah have in common is that they were both “CONFINED” by God for “three days and three nights.” Both were delivered by God for His purposes after their “Confinement”. I hope you find this explanation of Matthew 12:39-40 helpful?
      Jim Liles-The Timeline Guy

      • I have checked several different Hebrew calendars for 30 AD or Hebrew year 3790. The preparation day falls on a Wednesday Nisan 14 & the High-Sabbath day falls on a Thursday Nisan 15. 30 AD is the right year. Christ was buried in the heart of the earth for 3 days & 3 nights & rose at sundown Saturday evening, which is considered the beginning of the first day. Matthew 28

  2. I found the 3rd night. It was the 3 hours of darkness that occurred when he was on the cross, and he died before it lifted.

    • While I don’t think there’s any way to disprove your idea, you are using information available to us from the beginning of Christianity. If this actually worked out well we would have had many others recognize the same thing over the centuries.
      Interestingly, the only place the third night is mentioned is by Jesus in Matthew 12:40 where Jesus predicted “so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” If he meant the darkness during the crucifixion, he would have had to be entombed before the light returned at the 9th hour.

  3. Cheri,
    I would ask that you consider the standard for the beginning of the Jewish (Pharisee) new year and apply that standard to the AD 30 solar/lunar signs. The Jews are supposed to begin the year on the first sighting of the new crescent moon after the spring equinox. Also, the Spring equinox is almost always March 20th on the Gregorian calendar. Using a star charting application like Stellarium, it is clear that the new moon (in Jerusalem fell exactly on Monday, March 20th 7:15 pm 30 AD. The cresent is almost always visible two days later just after sunset. That would mean Nisan 1 should fall on Wed. March 22, 30 AD as the crescent is viewed, claimed and announced. However, the popular Jewish calendar online puts Nisan 1 on March 24th. This is four days after the new moon is just not a reasonable start based on typical sightings. Herein lies the beginning of the confusion. Your appear to accept Torahcalendar as correct, yet it seems to be clearly wrong by a reasonable standard.
    But let’s walk out the March 22nd start of Nisan 1. Nisan 14 (Passover) would then be Tuesday April 4th (evening). Christ would die Mid-day on Wed. April 5th (still passover) and be burried before sunset on Wed April 5th. We also know according to Leviticus 23 that the day after passover ( Evening of Wed April 5th) is a “special sabbath” as is the first day after passover and this is the special sabath that John refers to in his gospel. It is also why Christ was taken down off the cross as the Jews did on any Sabbath. This then gives the appropriate three days and three nights with absolutely no need for word/day/interpretation gymnastics as most of us have heard our entire lives. His empty grave was ‘discovered’ on Sunday, as it should be, but he clearly rose at any time before that, including the earliest evening hours of Saturday April 8th, 30 AD.
    What is also VERY interesting about a Wed March 22, 30 AD start for the Pharisee Nisan 1 is that the Essene (Dead Sea Scroll) calendar system HAS THE EXACT SAME START DATE! Essenes always start Nisan 1 on the Wednesday closest to the spring equinox. This is actually a pretty rare convergence of two very different calendar systems. Many of us believe the Essene system that has it’s roots in the Book of Enoch and Book of Jubilees IS then proper calendar system. What makes this meaningfull is that Christ was clearly fulfilling the proper passover. However, one was right, but for the wrong reasons. The other was right for the right reason. Regardless, Christ’s fulfillment didn’t have to take on the controversy of a side-battle on when the proper Passover date was. The fact is, he fulfilled it.
    I hope this helps you understand why many of us believe Christ died on Wed April 5th. The thought of a Friday with only two evenings and one day in the grave is not only not possible, it just isn’t even necessary to entertain it just so long as you shift the beginning of the year to the appropriate and reasonable start date.

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