One of the most amazing aspects of Jesus’ life is that he didn’t minister in a public manner for very long before his death. His public ministry didn’t begin until he was about 30 years old (Luke 3:23) and it didn’t even last a decade or half of one. Many Bible readers are interested to know how long Jesus’ public ministry lasted?
Jesus’ public ministry lasted between 3 and 3.5 years. His ministry likely started in the Winter or Spring of 27 A.D. when John baptized him. Jesus died by means of crucifixion in the Spring of 30 A.D. Because of the uncertainty of the exact month that his ministry began, it’s necessary to estimate its duration.
What is the basic timeline of Jesus’ life? Why do Bible scholars and historians speak of windows of time in relation to some of the events of Jesus’ life? What year did Jesus’ ministry start and how old was he? What year was a crucified and resurrected? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and others.
A timeline of Jesus’ public ministry according to the Gospels
In the Gospels, the dates of certain events in the life of Christ are clear, while others are ambiguous. An undated event isn’t less reliable historically, but it does make creating a precise timeline more challenging.
Sometimes when a Gospel writer doesn’t mention the date, he provides enough information about the setting or other details, that historians and readers can make an informed estimate, sometimes within a matter of months. Other times there just aren’t enough reliable data points to make an educated guess.
Constructing a timeline of Jesus’ life
Because of some of the ambiguity that exists regarding exact months and days, scholars often prefer to describe windows of time in relation to dating certain events in Jesus’ life.
For example, most scholars date Jesus’ birth as occurring between 4-6 B.C. Others believe there is enough information to pinpoint his birth to 4 or 5 B.C. A few suggest either exactly 4 or exactly 5 B.C. based on their interpretation of the data. Another minority view is that he was born in 7 B.C.
Although windows of time aren’t exact, they are still helpful in establishing a reliable chronological sequence of Jesus’ life and ministry.
See timelines below
Jesus’ Early Life – Birth to Adolescence: 5 B.C. to 8 A.D.
By understanding the timeline of Jesus’ entire life, as it’s recorded in the Gospels, readers can have more context about the beginning and end of his public ministry.
One of the first questions people ask is, “How could Jesus have been born B.C.; that is, Before Christ”?
People didn’t divide history into “before the life of Christ” and “after the life of Christ” for several hundred years after Christ died. Though some theologians and Christian historians began the practice around the 6th century, it wasn’t in widespread use until the 10th century.
The dates used to calculate the birth of Christ failed to take into account several historical details, making their estimation 4 to 6 years off. By the time this was clear, the method for identifying years was already established.
|Jesus is born||5-6 B.C.||Matt. 1:24-25|
|Jesus, Mary, and Joseph flee to Egypt||3-4 B.C.||Matt. 2:1-12|
|Adolescent Jesus teaches in the temple||7-8 A.D.||Luke 2:46-47|
“When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.” (Matt. 1:24-25)
The Start of Jesus’ Public Ministry: 26-27 A.D.
The Gospels don’t state the exact year that Jesus started his public ministry, but historical information gleaned from a few verses (e.g. Luke 3:1) suggests it was probably around the year 27 A.D. give or take one year or a certain number of months.
|John the Baptist baptizes Jesus||26-27 A.D.||Matt. 3:13-17|
|Jesus’ first miracle at Cana||26-27 A.D.||John 2:1-11|
|Jesus is tempted in the wilderness||26-27 A.D.||Matt. 4:1-11|
|Jesus cleanses the temple||27 A.D. (Winter)||John 2:13-15|
|Jesus meets Nicodemus||27 A.D. (Winter)||John 3:1-21|
|Jesus meets the Samaritan woman||27 A.D. (Winter)||John 4:5-42|
|Jesus begins to preach in Galilee||27 A.D. (Fall)||Luke 4:42-44|
“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; and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son,d with whom I am well pleased.'” (Matt. 3:16-17)
The Time of Popularity: 28 A.D.
How do we know Jesus was 30 when his ministry started? The Gospel of Luke records Jesus’ approximate age when his public ministry started: “Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli” (Luke 3:23, ESV). Every major English translation renders Jesus’ age the same way — about 30 years old.
|Jesus chooses 12 disciples||28 A.D. (Winter)||Mark 3:13-19|
|Jesus preaches the Sermon on the Mount||28 A.D. (Spring)||Matt. 5:1-7:29|
|Jesus ministers in Galilee again||28 A.D. (Summer)||Luke 8:1-3|
|Jesus sends out the 12||28 A.D. (Fall)||Matt. 9:35-11:1|
|Jesus calms the storm||28 A.D. (Fall)||Luke 8:22-25|
“And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons.” (Mark 3:14-15)
The Time of Opposition: 29-30 A.D.
|Jesus feeds 5,000||29 A.D. (Spring)||Matt. 14:13-21|
|Jesus transfiguration||29 A.D. (Summer)||Matt. 17:1-13|
|Jesus attends the Festival of Tabernacles||29 A.D. (Fall)||John 7:11-52|
|Jesus begins his last trip to Jerusalem||30 A.D. (Winter)||Luke 17:11|
|Jesus resurrects Lazarus||30 A.D. (Winter)||John 11:1-44|
|Jesus is crucified and resurrected||30 A.D. (Spring)||John 19:17-42|
“And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.” (Matt. 17:1-2)
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