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The Date of Jesus’ Crucifixion

Abdullah Smith


“It is impossible to give definite dates for all the events of the New Testament” [1] 


There is much controversy among scholars on the date of Jesus' crucifixion. We don't know exactly when he was crucified, and we don't know where he was buried. The Gnostics refused to accept the crucifixion; they said Jesus existed symbolically, not physical form. The early Christians of Asia Minor doubted the resurrection, and that explains why Paul wrote letters to them. The Gnostics denied the “resurrection” of Jesus and followed a different path to salvation which contradicted the Pauline view. Regardless of what the early Christians believed, the date of Jesus’ crucifixion is a mystery.


Here is the evidence that Jesus’ crucifixion cannot be ascertained:


The greatest difficulty from the point of view of the Jewish penal procedure is presented by the day and time of the execution. According to the Gospels, Jesus died on Friday, the eve of Sabbath. Yet on that day, in view of the approach of the Sabbath (or holiday), executions lasting until late in the afternoon were almost impossible (Sifre, ii. 221; Sanh. 35b; Mekilta to Wayahel). The Synoptics do not agree with John on the date of the month. According to the latter he died on the 14th of Nisan, as though he were the paschal lamb; but executions were certainly not regular on the eve of a Jewish holiday. According to the Synoptics, the date of his death was the 15th of Nisan (first day of Passover), when again no execution could be held (Mishnah Sanh. iv. 1; and the commentaries: Yer. Sanh. ii. 3; Yer. Be. v. 2; Ket. i. 1) (online Source)

How long was Jesus on the cross before he died? I do not think anyone knows. Remember, those who might have noticed and relayed that information had all forsaken him and fled. he appearance of Joseph of Arimathea, the darkness over the land, the split in the temple veil, the ecstatic cry of faith from the centurion-all were elements of the developing legend. The hasty burial before the Sabbath was but a part of the burial legend. Thus no one knows how long Jesus lived on the cross, how he died, when he was taken down, or where he was buried, "for they all forsook him and fled." That means there was no first-day-of-the-week visit to the tomb by the women to anoint him, since there was no tomb and no sense of when he died or of where he was buried. (John Shelby Spong, Resurrection: Myth or Reality, p. 241) 

The execution of Jesus of Nazareth, by nailing him to a cross, occurred on Nisan 14. The exact date of Jesus’ crucifixion has been of great interest because his death and teachings profoundly affected the foundations of western culture. Although historians can pinpoint the exact date of death of many distinguished historical figures the date of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ remains a matter of scholarly debate. [1]

The nativity was placed at the winter solstice, thus coinciding with the birthday of the Sun-god. And the date for the crucifixion was made to vary from year to year to conform to the astronomical principle which fixed the Jewish Passover. (J.M. Robertson, Pagan Christs, p. 68)  


The scholar Michael Baigent has produced evidence that Jesus was crucified in 36 A.D. This contradicts the official view that Jesus was crucified in 30 A.D. yet Michael used the Gospels to prove his argument.


The Gospel of Luke (3:1, 23) states that Jesus was about thirty years old at the time of his baptism by John, and this was after the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius (as calculated in Syria) – A.D. 27. But he was baptized not long before John the Baptist was executed, and after John’s death the Gospel of Matthew (14:13) describes Jesus as seeking refuge in the desert, perhaps fearing for his own life. What then was the date of the execution? It could not have been A.D. 27, for Matthew and Mark report that John the Baptist was arrested by Herod Antipas for criticizing his marriage to Herodias – the wife of his brother, whom she had divorced – a marriage outlawed by Jewish law and also by one of the texts of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Temple Scroll. Following this public criticism, John was executed. So far as can be ascertained, the marriage of Herod Antipas and Herodias took place in A.D. 35. Hence, John the Baptist was executed in A.D. 35. So Jesus must still have been alive at this time.


The last Passover attended by Pilate was A.D. 36. In other words, since Jesus is said in the Gospels to have been executed after John the Baptist’s death and by the decision of Pilate, it must have been the Passover of A.D. 36 during which Jesus was crucified. This is later than most experts have placed the event, but if Jesus was born at the time of the census in A.D. 6, as stated by Luke (2:2), and if he was aged about thirty, A.D. 36 is just about the right time of the crucifixion – the crucifixion of the “Star of Bethlehem”. (The Jesus Papers: Exposing the Greatest Cover-up in History, pp. 52-53)


The Pilate was the governor of Judea from 26 to 36 A.D., and Jesus was crucified in 36 A.D. John the Baptist was executed by Herod Antipas in 35 A.D. because he criticized his martial practices. Furthermore, T.W. Doane proves that Jesus was fifty years old when he was crucified!


Here is the passage Doane elaborates:

Jesus answered, If I honour myself, my honour is nothing: it is my Father that honoureth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God: Yet ye have not known him; but I know him: and if I should say, I know him not, I shall be a liar like unto you: but I know him, and keep his saying. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad. Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? (John 8:54-58)

The passage is clear that Jesus was almost fifty years old. The scholar Doane explains:

The Jews said unto him: "Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham'' If Jesus was then but about thirty years of age, the Jews would evidently have said : "thou art not yet forty years old," and would not have been likely to say: "thou art not yet fifty years old," ... ;' therefore, if Jesus was crucified at that time he must have been about fifty years of age; but, as we re-marked elsewhere, there exists, outside of the New Testament, no evidence whatever, in book, inscription, or monument, that Jesus of Nazareth was either scourged or crucified under Pontius Pilate. Josephus, Tacitus, Pliny, Philo, nor any of their contemporaries, ever refer to the fact of this crucifixion, or express any belief thereon. (T.W. Doane, Bible Myths and their Parallels in other Religions, p. 516)

The Church father Irenaeus said Jesus was crucified at age fifty!


But, besides this, those very Jews who then disputed with the Lord Jesus Christ have most clearly indicated the same thing. For when the Lord said to them, "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day; and he saw it, and was glad," they answered Him, "Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast Thou seen Abraham?" Now, such language is fittingly applied to one who has already passed the age of forty, without having as yet reached his fiftieth year, yet is not far from this latter period. But to one who is only thirty years old it would unquestionably be said, "Thou art not yet forty years old." For those who wished to convict Him of falsehood would certainly not extend the number of His years far beyond the age which they saw He had attained; but they mentioned a period near His real age, whether they had truly ascertained this out of the entry in the public register, or simply made a conjecture from what they observed that He was above forty years old, and that He certainly was not one of only thirty years of age. For it is altogether unreasonable to suppose that they were mistaken by twenty years, when they wished to prove Him younger than the times of Abraham. For what they saw, that they also expressed; and He whom they beheld was not a mere phantasm, but an actual being of flesh and blood. (Against Heresies, Book II, Chapter 22, online Source)

Logically, if Jesus was crucified at age fifty (36 A.D), this means he was born in 20 BCE!


[1] (The World Book Encyclopedia, by World Book editors, p. 235)








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