WHAT YEAR DID CHRIST DIE?Back to Alphabetical Index | Back to Chapter Index
According to various studies into the historical and astronomical data relating to the year of Jesus' crucifixion, the dates most often cited as the year of his death range from 27 A.D. to 33 A.D.. But, which one of these years is the correct one?
This study shows that the year of Jesus' death can be found by using biblical, historical, and astronomical data. The following are several biblical, historical, and astronomical proofs that show Jesus death to have occurred in 30 A.D.:
PAUL AND HEROD AGRIPPA
Paul mentions that Barnabas and Titus went with him to Jerusalem 14 years after his conversion (Gal.2:1). This could only be the trip that he took to Jerusalem with food supplies and money that is mentioned in Acts 11:30.
While Paul, Barnabas, and Titus were at Jerusalem, King Herod Agrippa died. His death is well documented to have occurred in 44 A.D.. If we subtract 14 years from 44 A.D., it brings us to 30 A.D., which is the year of Paul's conversion and the year of Jesus death.
Agrippa who was a friend of Caligula, the Emperor of Rome, was made king of the Tetrarchy of his uncle Philip Techoritis and the Tetrarchy of Lysanias (Abla) a few days after Caligula's ascension to power in March of 37 A.D.. Agrippa went to his lands in 39 A.D., but almost immediately returned to Rome to bring accusations against his uncle Antipas to Caligula in 39 A.D.
Upon the assassination of Caligula on January, 24, 41 A.D., Agrippa encouraged Claudius to accept the rulership of the Empire. Very early in his reign, in February or March, Claudius confirmed to Agrippa all the gifts of land Caligula had made to him and added to them the rest of the kingdom of Herod the Great.
Josephus says that, after having reigned for 3 years (41-44 A.D.), Agrippa died (Antiquities XIX 8.2). Agrippa's death is also described in Acts 12:21-23:
"On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. They shouted, 'This is the voice of a god, not of a man.' Immediately because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten of worms and died" (NIV).
Notice that at this time Paul and Barnabas were in Jerusalem:
"When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission, they returned from Jerusalem, taking with them John, also called Mark" (Acts 12:25 NIV).
Paul's trip to Jerusalem, which is noted in Acts 12:21-25, is the same one mentioned in Galatians 1:22; 2:1:
"I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only heard the report: the man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy. And they praised God because of me. Fourteen years later I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus also along" (NIV).
This trip to Jerusalem took place 14 years after Paul's conversion, which was the same year of Jesus' death (Acts 9:1-22). Paul's first trip to Jerusalem was three years after his conversion (Gal.1:18; Acts 9:23-30). This information clearly points out that Paul's second trip to Jerusalem after his conversion occurred in 44 A.D. Therefore the year of Paul's conversion and Jesus' death was 30 A.D.
The Fifteenth Year of Tiberius
"Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the Tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of the Lord came to John the son of Zachrias in the wilderness. And he came into all he country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins" (Lk. 3:1-3 KJV).
Source: 1963 Encyclopedia Americana; Anchor Bible Commentary on Luke 3:1.
Tiberius began to reign officially as co-regent in 12 A.D. and as Emperor in 14 A.D.. If Luke's reference to the 15th year of Tiberius' reign is calculated from 12 and 14 A.D., the years would be 27 and 29 respectively. When the 3½ years of Jesus' ministry is added, the years are 30 A.D. and 32 A.D. respectively. Again, we find that 30 A.D. is a consistent date with other sources as the year of Jesus' death.
Detailed astronomical calculations have been made by many scholars, historians, and mathematicians to ascertain the exact year of Jesus' death. Although those who have made these calculations were probably intelligent and used the current data of their day, few of them agree on the date of Jesus' death.
Their methods of calculation involved the following information:
The majority of people who research the date of Jesus' death agree that the year could be no earlier than 28 A.D. and no later than 33 A.D.. Moreover, there are few years within this time period that would allow for a Passover to occur on a Friday or a Saturday.
In order to harmonize with the apostle John's account, only 30 and 33 A.D. are promising dates for the crucifixion. A number of Bible scholars calculate that the crucifixion was Friday, April 7th, 30 A.D.
THE MIDST OF THE WEEK PROPHECY
Many who believe Jesus was crucified on a Wednesday give "the midst of the week prophecy" recorded in Daniel 9:24-27 as proof for their belief. There is no doubt that the Messiah is mentioned in this prophecy. But, does the prophecy foretell that the Messiah will be killed in the middle of a week?
Because of the complexity of this prophecy it is important to carefully note what each verse says and what it does not say. It is also important to separate the events from each other in order to calculate the years appointed for each event and their individual fulfillment. If this separation is not made, this prophecy cannot be understood.
We will use the King James Version (KJV), the Living Bible Paraphrased (LBP), the Jerusalem Bible (JB), and literal translations for clarity.
"Seventy weeks are determined upon your people and upon the holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy" (KJV).
The Living Bible Paraphrased more clearly explains the meaning using the prophetic 'day for a year' calculation (Ezk.4:6; Num.14:33-34).
"The Lord commanded that 490 years of further punishment upon Jerusalem and your people. Then at last they will learn to stay away from sin and their guilt will be cleansed; then the kingdom of everlasting righteousness will begin, and the Most Holy Place (in the Temple) will be rededicated, as the prophets have declared" (LBP).
The English phrase 'most holy' in both the KJV and LBP are translated from the Hebrew phrase 'qodesh qoddashim', which means 'the holy of holies' (i.e., the innermost chamber of both the Tabernacle and the Temple of God).
Clearly, verse 24 is telling us that, sometime after the 490 years of national punishment of Israel and Judah, the following events would take place:
The Kingdom of God will be established after the 70 prophetic weeks are completed. However, it is also clear when we review verse 26 that there is a vast amount of time between the end of the years of punishment and the establishment of the New Covenant and the Kingdom of God.
"Know therefore and understand that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem to the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks and threescore and two weeks: the streets shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times" (v25 KJV).
"Now listen! It will be 49 years plus 434 years from the time the commandment is given to rebuild Jerusalem, until the Anointed One comes! Jerusalem's streets and walls will be rebuilt despite the perilous times" (v25 LBP).
This shows that there will be 7 + 62 weeks or 69 prophetic weeks or 69 x 7 = 483 years until the Messiah comes.
The beginning date of the seventy weeks is fixed in verse 25: "From the going forth of the commandment to restore and build Jerusalem and its walls." The only place in the scriptures where such a command is recorded is in Nehemiah 2:1-20.
"And it came to pass in the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king. . ." (Nehe.2:1 KJV).
Historical records show this date to be 445 B.C.. However, there is a reference to another attempt to rebuild Jerusalem and its walls found in the book of Ezra (please read the first four chapters of Ezra, especially chapter 4, verses 7-23).
Another very important clue is the mention of the month of Nisan. This indicates that the years are to be counted as sacred years, which begin with the month of Nisan.
When Nehemiah heard of the condition of Jerusalem and its gates, he was very disturbed (Nehe.1:1-11). There is little doubt that the thing that disturbed him was the halting of the work at Jerusalem to rebuild the city and the Temple. This attempt to rebuild took place during the reign of King Artaxerxes.
Although it is not stated by Ezra, it is a foregone conclusion that any rebuilding of Jerusalem would have had the authorization of the king (Nehe.2:8). In the letter that the king gave Ezra, there was an all-purpose clause (Ezr.7:11-26). Verse 18 says, "Do whatever you want with the rest of your money". Although the king had only provided the money for the rebuilding of the temple, this clause left the builders free to also rebuild the gates and the walls of the city, which they did until some individuals brought it to the attention of the king. Because the king had only intended the money to be spent on temple restoration, he stopped the rebuilding of the gates and walls (Ezr.4:20-24).
If we use the solid historical evidence dating the reigns of king Herod Agrippa I and Tiberius Caesar with the biblical events as a benchmark (30 A.D.) to calculate the going forth of a decree to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, the only possible date would be nine years before the authorization that Nehemiah received in 445 B.C.. According to our calculations and documented historical dates, 454 B.C. is the only date that fits the biblical and historical record.
THE MESSIAH TO BE KILLED
"And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for Himself: and the people of the Prince shall come and destroy the city and the sanctuary: and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and to the end of the war desolations are determined" (KJV).
"After this period of 434 years, the Anointed One will be killed, his kingdom still unrealized . . . and a king will arise whose armies will destroy the city and the temple. They will overwhelm as with a flood, and war and its miseries are decreed from that time to the very end" (LBP).
"And after the sixty two weeks, The Messiah will be cut off, and He'll have nothing/no one [lit. there is not to him ); And the city and the holy place the people of the coming ruler will cause to be ruin, And his end will be in a flood, And until the end of the war, desolations are decreed" (literal translation ).
Verse 26 records two different prophetic events: One is about the Messiah and the other is about an evil ruler at the end of the age.
The First Event
The first part of this verse says that the Messiah would be killed 434 years after the going forth of the commandment. But how can this be? How can he be killed before his coming? The simple answer is that he could not. The 434 years must be after the 49 years, which makes a total of 483 years. Also notice that the Messiah is killed, but his kingdom is not established.
This first event does indeed foretell the exact time of the Messiah's death. Nehemiah gives the first month of the sacred calendar as the starting point of the 70 prophetic weeks. This is important to note because Nisan is the month in which the Passover lamb is to be killed. Jesus was killed on the Passover in 30 A.D., which was exactly 483 sacred years after the going forth of the command to build the walls at Jerusalem (Nisan, 454 B. C.; Ezr.4:7-23).
THE MISSING PROPHETIC WEEK
So far, we have only accounted for 483 years (69 weeks) instead of the 490 years (70 weeks) as stated in verse 24. This leaves 7 years (one prophetic week) unaccounted for at the time of Jesus' death. If we are to reconcile all 70 weeks of this prophecy, we must find the missing prophetic week. A search of the scriptures shows that the 7 remaining years are to be found over twenty-four centuries from 454 B.C., at the end of this present age just before the return of the Messiah.
Notice that 69 prophetic weeks end in the year 30 A.D.. If the full 70 prophetic weeks (i.e.,490 years) were to be calculated from Nehemiah's authorization, the date would be 37 A.D.—a date that is impossible to reconcile with other historical facts that are known about the time surrounding Jesus' death. Therefore, this 1 prophetic week is to be fulfilled some time after the death and resurrection of the Messiah.
The Second Event
The second event shows that an evil ruler will arise and destroy Jerusalem and the Temple. We know that the Romans destroyed the city and the temple in 70 A.D.. Moreover, we know that the end of human rule on earth did not cease in 70 A.D.. Therefore, this event has yet to be fulfilled. See also Matt.24:6-15.
"And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate" (KJV).
THE SACRIFICIAL SYSTEM AND THE TREATY
Many people believe that the Ruler in verses 26 and 27 is the Messiah. However, this would be impossible for the following reasons:
1. Jesus did not destroy the city or the temple or cause the sacrificial system to cease at his death. In fact, the sacrificial system did not cease until 70 A.D.. Some might say the sacrificial system ended for the followers of Jesus because he was the perfect sacrifice. It is true that Jesus was the perfect sacrifice, but the Bible shows that the elect continued to observe many aspects of the Temple service after Jesus' death.
2. The treaty spoken of in verse 27 is before the return of Jesus.
3. After this evil ruler (antichrist ) makes peace between the Jews and their Islamic neighbors, the Jews will build a Temple and institute the sacrificial system of worship. But, verse 27 shows that the sacrifices will be stopped by the anti-christ:
"And in the midst of the week [middle of the 7 years i.e., the prophetic week] he [the antichrist] shall cause the sacrifices and oblation to cease." See our studies about prophecies for the end of the age for details concerning this event.
4. This evil ruler will set himself up as God in the temple of God which is stated in Daniel 8:23-25 and 2 Thessalonians 2:1-11.
"So great will he fancy himself to be that he will even take on the prince of princes [Christ] in battle [Armageddon] but in so doing he will seal his own doom. For he shall be broken by the hand of God, though no human means could overpower him" (Dan.8:23-25 Jerusalem Bible).
The final prophetic week contains the following events:
Although the 70 week prophecy does foretell the exact date of the death of the Messiah, it does not substantiate a Wednesday crucifixion. However, during this last 7 years the of 70 week prophecy, there will be a 3½ year period of great trouble that ends just before the return of the Messiah to establish his Father's kingdom and rule the inhabitants of the earth forever.
For those who want to study this subject further, there have been many books written. Listed below are a few that we recommend:
Chronology of The Life of Christ p.463- 464.
Astronomical Evidence for the Date of the Crucifixion, by Fotheringham in J.T.S., vol. xii, Oct. p. 120-127.
The Astronomy of Maimonides, by Hebrew Union College Annual for 1949, vol. XXII, dissertation by Dr. Neugebauer.
The Journal of Philology, Vol. XXIX, 1903, inside cover.
Encyclopedia Britannica 10th edition, vol. XXVII, article by Turner, Chronology, Biblical.
The Journal of Theological Studies, vol. XII. Oct. 1910.
Studies In Hebrew Astronomy And Mathematics, by Solomon Gandz.
The Code of Maimonides, Book 3, Treatise Eight, "Laws Concerning the Sanctification of the New Moon," translated by Solomon Gandz.