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The First Things blog is running a new piece I co-authored with Andreas Köstenberger arguing that Jesus was crucified on Nisan 14 (that is, Friday, April 3) of A.D. 33. We argue that it is almost impossible that this took place in A.D. 30.

Here is an excerpt:

In our new book, The Final Days of Jesus: The Most Important Week of the Most Important Person Who Ever Lived, we assume but do not argue for a precise date of Jesus’s crucifixion. Virtually all scholars believe, for various reasons, that Jesus was crucified in the spring of either A.D. 30 or A.D. 33, with the majority opting for the former. (The evidence from astronomy narrows the possibilities to A.D. 27, 30, 33, or 34). However, we want to set forth our case for the date of Friday, April 3, A.D. 33 as the exact day that Christ died for our sins.

To be clear, the Bible does not explicitly specify the precise date of Jesus’s crucifixion and it is not an essential salvation truth. But that does not make it unknowable or unimportant. Because Christianity is a historical religion and the events of Christ’s life did take place in human history alongside other known events, it is helpful to locate Jesus’s death—as precisely as the available evidence allows—within the larger context of human history.

Among the Gospel writers, no one makes this point more strongly than Luke, the Gentile physician turned historian and inspired chronicler of early Christianity.

Luke implies that John the Baptist began his public ministry shortly before Jesus did, and he gives us a historical reference point for when the Baptist’s ministry began: “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar . . .” (Luke 3:1).

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6 thoughts on “1,981 Years Ago Today: Why We Believe We Can Know the Exact Date Jesus Died”

  1. MarieP says:

    If this is true, then the 2000th anniversary will be on a Sunday!

    1. JR says:

      How…? AD 33, so that wouldn’t be until April 3, 2033.

      1. JR says:

        “on A Sunday.” My bad. I see what you did there.

        1. Mariep says:

          :-)

  2. Ed says:

    Justin,

    Thank you for this book and for the hard work that has gone into it. I’m excited to read it and have been looking forward to its release ever since I first heard about it, perhaps a year ago.

    One thing with this issue of dating that maybe you could help me with. I’ve always followed the AD 30 dating, having been convinced by the arguments in Carson and Moo’s introduction to the NT.

    One sticking point for me with the AD 33 date is the Passover. Both Carson/Moo and for what it’s worth, the article on astronomical data that you link to, seem to think the easiest way to understand the synoptics is that the Passover had already been eaten and Jesus was crucified on Nisan 15th.

    Your article seems to suggest that some kind of mistake has been made, and that the Passover would in fact have been eaten on 14th.

    Perhaps I’ve misunderstood either you or Carson/Moo (I confess the way the days start at sunset does make my head spin a bit) but I’d appreciate any clarity you can lend to the issue, especially since Carson/Moo say that AD 33 is ‘virtually ruled out’ if Jesus was crucified on Nisan 15th, as they seem to think.

    Many thanks

    Ed

    1. Ed: Thank you for your thoughtful post. We do believe Jesus was crucified on Friday, April 3, AD 33 (Nissan 15). Carson and Moo allow for this possibility (though they say that day was more likely Nissan 14). In the end, they call a AD 30 date only “slightly preferable” to AD 33, the only two serious alternatives(p. 127). I would say perhaps Friday, April 3, AD 33 was indeed Nissan 15.
      There are many factors that make an April 3, AD 33 date more likely, such as the lack of any early historical evidence for a co-regency between Tiberius and Augustus, which puts considerable pressure on those who want to argue that Tiberius began his rule in AD 14 and Jesus died in AD 30. If this case, the “15th year” of Tiberius’s reign would have been AD 29, which makes a crucifixion date in AD 30 very difficult to sustain, in my opinion. Carson and Moo don’t really address the co-regency issue, other than seeming to argue on p. 125, n. 129 that Jesus’ ministry may have lasted only 2 years. But that requires squeezing in a lot of material into 2 short years (AD 29-30. So, on the whole, in my judgment the AD 33 date has far fewer problems than AD 30.

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Justin Taylor, PhD


Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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