The importance of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion for Christians can’t be overstated. His death and resurrection are the climactic events in the four New Testament Gospels. The life of Christ, for Christians and for many non-Christians, is one of endless fascination. One question many people ask is how old Jesus was when he died.
Jesus was 34 to 36 years old when he died. Most Bible scholars believe he was born between 4-6 B.C. and died in 30 A.D. However, some date his death to 33 A.D., which would have made him 37 to 39. Those who believe they know the exact year of Jesus’ birth can be more confident in 34, 35, or 36.
Why do some people narrow down Jesus’ birth to a three-year period, but others believe they know the exact year? What events in Jesus’ life can be dated accurately? What year did Jesus die? Why do some believe it was 30 A.D., while others think it was 33 A.D.? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and others.
What year was Jesus Christ born?
Most scholars date Jesus’ birth to between 4-6 B.C. They argue that, based on available data, this is the most accurate window of time possible, even if it’s not as narrow as some people would like it to be.
Nevertheless, some scholars believe there is enough historical information to pinpoint Jesus’ birth to 4 or 5 B.C. A small number suggests either exactly 4 or exactly 5 B.C. Another minority view is that he was born in 7 B.C.
How could Jesus have been born “Before Christ”? People didn’t divide history into “before the life of Christ” and “after the life of Christ” for hundreds of years after Jesus died. Though some theologians and Christian historians began the practice around the 6th century, it wasn’t in widespread use until the 10th century — almost 1,000 years after Jesus was crucified.
The dates that people used in the Middle Ages to calculate the birth of Christ failed to take into account several historical details, making their estimation 4 to 6 years off. They were calculating backward, trying to account for centuries of time, and made errors in their math.
By the time the miscalculations were obvious, the method for identifying years was already established. No reputable Bible scholar today teaches that Jesus was born in 1 A.D. (as there is no year “zero”).
|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 did Jesus become a public figure?
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|
|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|
What year was Jesus Christ crucified?
The table below lists significant periods in the last year of Jesus’ life, leading up to his crucifixion. The year and season are based on information compiled from all four Gospels, which mention events like annual festivals and celebrations, and various rulers and governors, which can help date different scenes.
|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|
Who was ruling when Jesus died? The Gospels reveal that Jesus was crucified during the reigns of the Roman governor, Pilate (26-36 A.D.), the Jewish high priest, Caiaphas (18-36 A.D.), and the Roman Tetrarch, Herod Antipas (4 B.C.-A.D. 37). Knowing these facts helps scholars date Jesus’ crucifixion.
Do some scholars believe that Jesus died in 33 AD? Yes. Some Gospel scholars believe that Jesus died in 33 A.D. However, the majority view of those who construct reliable timelines of the Gospels’ details is that his crucifixion occurred in 30 A.D. It’s further argued that what is known about events after the crucifixion with regard to events in Acts and in Paul’s life fit better with the 30 A.D. date.
Do any theological issues depend on the year of Jesus’ death? No. The person and work of Jesus Christ have the same theological significance no matter what year he died. Nothing about the atonement or salvation hinges upon the exact year, month, or day that Jesus died.
What day was Jesus Christ crucified?
The overwhelming majority of New Testament scholars agree that the Gospels teach that Jesus was crucified on a Friday. Minority views argue that he died on a Wednesday or Thursday.
That Jesus died on a Friday makes the most sense of the timing of the events prior to his death, like the Last Supper that occurred on a Thursday (e.g. Matt. 26:20-30), and after his death, like the resurrection that occurred on a Sunday (e.g. Matt. 28:1).
Passover was celebrated on the 15th day of the month of Nisan and calculated from the appearance of the new moon. Because this calculation is known, scholars and historians are able to identify when Passover occurred in 30 A.D. and in 33 A.D., which are the two most common views of the year Jesus died.
Based on astrological evidence, Passover fell on a Friday in 30 A.D. and on a Friday or Saturday in 33 A.D. Both of these approximations fit the framework that is presented in the Gospels, which depict a Friday crucifixion.
|Time of Day||Event|
|Friday morning||The Sanhedrin meets|
|Jesus appears before Pilate|
|Jesus appears before Herod|
|Jesus appears before Pilate again|
|Friday midday||Jesus is crucified|
|Friday midafternoon||Jesus dies|
|Friday near sundown||Jesus is buried|
Why do some believe Jesus died on April 7, 30 A.D.?
Some scholars believe that astronomical data is reliable enough to calculate when the 15th of the month of Nisan occurred in 30 A.D.
Using the months and days of the Gregorian Calendar, whose origin is the 16th century, they estimate that Jesus died on April 7, 30 A.D.
For some who believe that Jesus died in 33 A.D., and believe the exact day can be calculated, some posit a date of April 3, 33 A.D.
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