The Bible does not give the exact date of Jesus’s crucifixion and death. This is because the exact date on which Jesus died is not crucial for the atonement. However, that doesn’t mean it is impossible to know the date. By examining the events surrounding his death and extrapolating based on the Jewish calendar, we can safely come up with a good estimation of the date on which Jesus died.
Most Bible scholars have reason to believe that Jesus died either in the spring of AD 32 or AD 33. Some use additional evidence of astronomy to add other possibilities of AD 27, 30, or 34. However, most evidence suggests that Jesus died on April 3, AD 33.
The following is a table that summarizes the important dates from which we derive the possible date of Jesus’ death.
|The start of Tiberius’ reign
|15th year of Tiberius’ reign (Jesus starts his ministry)
|Jesus’ ministry lasts for at least 3 years
|April 3, AD 33 most likely the year of His crucifixion
The dates from the table above were extrapolated from Scripture as well as historical events during the ministry of Jesus. Let us take a closer look at how we arrived at the date below.
Evidence from the Gospels
The gospel of Luke gives the best evidence that we can use to guestimate the date of Jesus’ death. According to Luke, John the Baptist stated his ministry shortly before Jesus did but the most significant thing is the historical event used:
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar…(Luke 3:1).
History records that Tiberius was succeeded by emperor Augustus who was confirmed by the Roman senate on August 19, AD 14. Augustus was in power until AD 37. Even though the date given by Luke sounds straightforward (the fifteenth year of Tiberius reign), there are some ambiguities e.g. there is no indication of when the counting began. It is however highly probable that Tiberius began his reign from Ad 14 or on January 1st of AD 15. It is safe to assume that the earliest possibility of Tiberius’ fifteenth year started on August 19, AD 28 while the latest possibility of the end of his fifteenth year is on December 31, AD 29. We can therefore infer that John the Baptist’s ministry started around AD 28 to AD 29.
The start of Jesus’ ministry
We know from the gospels that Jesus commenced his ministry shortly after John the Baptist. As such, based on the calculations above, we can infer that the earliest possible date of Jesus’ baptism was in the last AD 28. However, it is more likely that the Baptism took place in mid-AD 29 because a couple of months must have elapsed from the time John began his ministry to the time Jesus launched his. As such, Jesus began his ministry between AD 28 and AD 30. This is further corroborated by Luke’s gospel which mentions that Jesus was 30 years old when he started his ministry (Luke 3:23).
The length of Jesus’ ministry
The next thing we need to establish is how long Jesus’ ministry lasted. This is important because if it lasts for 2-3 years, then the spring of AD 30 will no longer be a viable date for the death of Jesus Christ.
From John’s gospels, we know that Jesus participated in 3 Passovers during his public ministry. (The Passovers take place in the Spring of each year). Here are the mentions of the Passovers from the Gospel of John:
- The first Passover was when Jesus was starting his public ministry (John 2:13, 23).
- Another Passover in Galilee midway through Jesus’ public ministry (John 6:4).
- The last Passover at the tail end of his public ministry coincided with the time of his crucifixion (John 11:55; 12:1).
Since the Passover was an annual event, the fact that John recorded the three Passover above during the public ministry of Jesus clearly shows that the ministry of Jesus lasted for at least 3 years. This means
As we have already established, the earliest possible date of Jesus’ start of his public ministry is in AD 28, and since he attended a Passover at the start of his ministry (John 2:13), the ministry of Jesus possibly began on Nisan 15 in AD 29 (Nisan is the Jewish month of the beginning of a year and it falls around March/April). If not, then the second and third possibilities would be AD 30 and 31 respectively.
The crucifixion of Jesus
According to the Gospel of John, Jesus was crucified on “the day of preparation” (John 19:31). This is the Friday before the sabbath on the Passover weekend (Mark 15:42). A night before the day of preparation, Jesus ate a meal with his disciples which we refer to as the “last supper” (Mark 14:12). According to the Pharisaic-rabbinic calendar that was used in New Testament Time, the Passover always fell on the 15th day of Nisan (Exodus 12:6). This day would start on Thursday evening and end on Friday Evening.
In AD 33, which is the most probable year of Christ’s death, Nisan 15th was on April 3. This means that the day of Jesus’ death was on April 3, AD 33.
The table below gives a summary of the noteworthy events and dates around the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
|First day of the week
Our analysis leads us to the conclusion that it is highly probable that Jesus was crucified on the date of April 3, AD 33. Though alternate dates may be proposed, those who hold their faith in Jesus can derive significant comfort from the knowledge that pivotal moments in His life, including His crucifixion, are firmly embedded within the annals of human history. This Easter, as we continue our daily spiritual journey with Jesus throughout the year, we can maintain a strong sense of conviction. Our faith is not solely founded on personal beliefs but is firmly supported by verifiable historical evidence, rendering it a thoroughly rational and justifiable faith.