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The Chronology of Jesus depicts the attempt to establish a historical chronology for the events of the life of Jesus depicted in the four canonical gospels (which allude to various contradictory dates for several events). Certain events in the chronology of Jesus as described in the Gospels can be cross-referenced to Jewish festivals, and to the tenure of historical rulers and high priests. However other events such as the specific years of Jesus's birth and death cannot be accurately determined. When correlated with external secular sources, the accounts of the four canonical gospels describe something like the following outline:

See Historicity of Jesus and Historical Jesus for an exploration of the factuality of the gospels and the results of attempts to apply historical methodology to understanding the life of Jesus.

Chronology of Jesus

Biblical Timeline

c. 6 BC'
Suggested birth : Bethlehemmarker

c. 5 BC'
Visit by shepherds : Bethlehemmarker
Presentation at the Temple : Jerusalemmarker
Visit by the Wise Men : Bethlehemmarker
Flight to Egypt : Nile Deltamarker
Return to Nazarethmarker : Lower Galilee

c. 4 BC'
Herod the Great dies
John the Baptist is born

c. 3/2 BC'
Traditional birth

c. 1 AD'
Suggested birth : Bethlehemmarker

c. 6'
Suggested birth (Latest). Quirinius census

c. 7'
Visit to temple as a boy : Jerusalemmarker

c. 26 - 36'
Baptized : Jordan Rivermarker
Temptation of Christ by Satan : the Desert and Jerusalem
Cleansing of the temple : Jerusalemmarker
Jesus and Nicodemus : Jerusalemmarker
Pilate appointed Roman governor of Judeamarker
Talks to Samaritan woman : Samariamarker
Turning water into wine at the wedding feast ("first miracle") : Cana
Heals nobleman's son: Cana
Four fishermen become followers : Sea of Galileemarker
Heals Peter's mother-in-law : Capernaummarker
Town attempts to kill Jesus : Nazarethmarker
First preaching trip : Galilee
Matthew joins Jesus : Capernaummarker
Suggested death (Earliest) : Golgotha
Chooses 12 disciples : Capernaummarker
Ministry begins : Galilee
Preaches "Sermon on the Mount" : Capernaummarker
Sinful woman anoints Jesus : Capernaummarker
Travels through Galilee : Galilee
Teaches parables about kingdom : Galilee
Calms the storm : Sea of Galileemarker
Heals the Gerasene Demoniacs : Gederamarker Gerasamarker or Gergesamarker
Jairus's daughter back to life : Capernaummarker
Sends disciples to preach and heal : Capernaummarker
John the Baptist killed by Herod : Machaerusmarker
Feeds 5,000 people : Bethsaidamarker
Walks on water : Bethsaidamarker
Travels to Tyremarker/Sidonmarker
Feeds 4,000 people : Tyremarker/Sidonmarker
Peter states Jesus is "Son of God" : Tyremarker/Sidon
States soon he will die : Caesarea Philippimarker
Transfigured : Caesarea Philippimarker
Pays temple taxes : Capernaummarker
Attends the Feast of Tabernacles: Jerusalemmarker
Heals a man who was born blind : Jerusalemmarker
Second preaching trip : Galilee
Begins last trip : Jerusalemmarker
Blesses little children : Jordanmarker
Talks to rich and young man : Jordanmarker
Tells about death and resurrection : Jordanmarker
Heals blind Bartimaeus : Jerichomarker
Talks to Zacchaeus : Jerichomarker
Visits Martha and Mary : Bethanymarker
Raises Lazarus from the dead : Bethanymarker
The Triumphal Entry : Jerusalemmarker
Curses the fig tree : Jerusalemmarker
Cleanses the temple : Jerusalemmarker
Authority of Jesus questioned : Jerusalemmarker
Teaches in the temple : Jerusalemmarker
Anointed : Bethanymarker
The plot against Jesus : Bethanymarker
The Last Supper : Bethanymarker
Comforts the disciples : Bethanymarker
Gethsemanemarker : Bethanymarker
Arrest and trial : Bethanymarker
Crucifixion and death : Golgotha
The burial of Jesus : Joseph's Tomb
Mary Magdalene : Jerusalemmarker
Appears to the two travelers : Emmaus
Appears to 11 disciples : Jerusalemmarker
Talks with some disciples : Sea of Galileemarker
Ascension : Mount of Olivesmarker

c. 33'
Suggested death (Friday, April 3, 3:00 pm). [81920]
Resurrection : Mount of Olivesmarker

c. 36 '
Suggested death (Latest);
Resurrection : Mount of Olivesmarker

c. 36 / 37'
Pilate removed from office.


Year of birth

Our only sources of information on Jesus' birth are the gospels of Matthew and Luke of the Bible, which provide two different accounts of the nativity.

Matthew describes King Herod as the ruler during the time of the Nativity, and Herod died in 4BC. Furthermore, in order to kill Jesus and eliminate him as a rival king, Herod orders the "Massacre of the Innocents" — the killing of all male children in Bethlehem aged two years and under. This implies that Jesus may have been up to two years old already by that time, and this sets the Nativity at around 6BC.

Luke on the other hand places the Nativity during the Census of Quirinius which took place in 6 AD, although Luke also implies that the conception took place during the reign of King Herod - about 10 years earlier.

Because both Gospel accounts seem to assume that the birth took place some time before the death of Herod, most historians assume that Jesus was born around 4 BC or slightly before.

Some commentators have attempted to establish the date of birth by identifying the Star of Bethlehem with some known astronomical or astrological phenomenon. There are many possible phenomena and none seems to match the Gospel account. Raymond E. Brown, having studied the various astronomical explanations, concluded: "no astronomical record exists of what is described in Matthew". Many scholars regard the star as a literary invention of the author of the Gospel of Matthew, to claim fulfillment of an Old Testament prophecy (Numbers 24:17)..

In the 6th century, Dionysius Exiguus made the incarnation of Jesus the basis for his chart of Easter dates, although he did not specify whether incarnation meant conception or birth. Dionysius' labeled the years since Jesus' incarnation Anno Domini (meaning "in the year of the Lord" in Latin), which is now abbreviated "AD". Later the abbreviation "BC", which stands for Before Christ was added. Dionysius' estimate is generally thought to be inaccurate; "although scholars generally believe that Christ was born some years before AD 1, the historical evidence is too sketchy to allow a definitive dating".

Day of birth

The New Testament provides no information regarding the date of the birth of Jesus. The traditional date is 25 December, which is mid-winter in Judea. Because the Luke account says that shepherds were outdoors with their flocks it has sometimes been suggested that this implies a summer or autumn date. However, the climate of Palestine is quite mild and in fact sheep are allowed to forage even in December.

It is believed that Christmas' date was chosen to take advantage of the imperial holiday of the birth of the Sun God Mithras, more specifically Sol Invictus, which coincided with the "return of the sun" after the shortest day of the year. According to this theory, the reason was to replace the popular pagan holiday with a Christian celebration of holy communion. For example, the Catholic Encyclopedia states: "Natalis Invicti, celebrated on 25 December, has a strong claim on the responsibility for our December date."

Early Christians sought to calculate the date of Christ's birth based on the idea that Old Testament prophets died either on an anniversary of their birth or of their conception. They reasoned that Jesus died on an anniversary of his conception, so the date of his birth was nine months after the date of Good Friday, either December 25 or January 6.

At least as early as 354 AD, Jesus' birth was celebrated on December 25 in Romemarker, according to Chronography of 354. Other cities had other traditional dates. The history of Christmas is closely associated with that of the Epiphany. If the currently prevailing opinion about the compilation of the gospels is accepted, the earliest body of gospel tradition, represented by Mark no less than by the primitive non-Marcan document (Q document) embodied in the first and third gospels, begins, not with the birth and childhood of Jesus, but with his baptism; and this order of accretion of gospel matter is faithfully reflected in the time order of the invention-of feasts. The church in general adopted Christmas much later than Epiphany, and before the 5th century there was no consensus as to when it should come in the calendar, whether on January 6 or December 25.

The earliest identification of 25 December with the birthday of Jesus is in a passage, otherwise unknown and probably spurious, of Theophilus of Antioch (171-183), preserved in Latin by the Magdeburg centuriators, to the effect that the Gauls contended that as they celebrated the birth of the Lord on the December 25, whatever day of the week it might be, so they ought to celebrate Easter on 25 March when the resurrection occurred.

The next surviving mention of December 25 is in Hippolytus' (c. 202) commentary on Daniel. Jesus, he says, was born at Bethlehemmarker on December 25, a Wednesday, in the forty-second year of Augustus. This passage also is almost certainly interpolated. In any case he mentions no feast, nor was such a feast congruous with the orthodox ideas of that age. As late as 245, Origen, in his eighth homily on Leviticus, repudiates as sinful the very idea of keeping the birthday of Jesus "as if he were a king Pharaoh." Thus it was important to the early Christians not to have indecorous parties on that day, but to keep it a time of devotion, reflection, and communion.

The first early mention of December 25 is in a Latin chronographer of 354 AD, first published in complete form by Mommsen. It runs thus in English: "Year I after Christ, in the consulate of Augustus Caesar and Paulus, the Lord Jesus Christ was born on 25 December, a Friday and 15th day of the new moon." Here again no festal celebration of the day is attested.

Other Dates

There were many speculations in the 2nd century about the date of Jesus' birth. Clement of Alexandria, towards its close, mentions several such, and condemns them as superstitions. Some chronologists, he says, alleged the birth to have occurred in the twenty-eighth year of Augustus, on the 25th of Pachon, the Egyptian month (May 20). These were probably the Basilideans. Others set it on the 24th or 25th of Pharmuthi (19th or 20 April). Clement himself sets it on November 17, 3 BC

The same symbolic reasoning led Polycarp (before 160) to set his birth on Sunday, when the world's creation began, but his baptism on Wednesday, for it was the analogue of the sun's creation. On such grounds certain Latins as early as 354 may have transferred the human birthday from January 6 to December 25 and is by the chronographer above referred to, but in another part of his compilation, termed Natalis invicti solis, or birthday of the unconquered Sun. (Under the Julian Calendar, the winter solstice occurs on December 24, so starting with December 25, the days begin to get longer again.) Cyprian invokes Christus Sol verus, Ambrose Sol novus noster, and such rhetoric was widespread. The Syriansmarker and Armeniansmarker, who clung to January 6, accused the Roman of sun-worship and idolatry, contending with great probability that the feast of 25 December had been invented by disciples of Cerinthus and its readings by Artemon to commemorate the natural birth of Jesus. Ambrose, On Virgins, writing to his sister, implies that as late as the papacy of Liberius 352 - 356, the Birth from the Virgin was feasted together with the Marriage of Cana and the Feeding of the 4000, which were never celebrated on any other day but January 6.

Chrysostom, in a sermon preached at Antiochmarker on December 20, 386 or 388, says that some held the feast of December 25 to have been held in the West, from Thrace as far as Cádizmarker, from the beginning. It certainly originated in the West, but spread quickly eastwards. In 353 - 361 it was observed at the court of Constantius II. Basil of Caesarea (died 379) adopted it. Honorius, emperor (395 - 423) in the West, informed his mother and brother Arcadius (395 - 408) in Byzantium of how the new feast was kept in Rome, separate from January 6, with its own troparia and sticharia. They adopted it, and recommended it to Chrysostom, who had long been in favour of it. Epiphanius of Cretemarker was won over to it, as were also the other three patriarchs, Theophilus of Alexandria, John II of Jerusalem, Flavian I of Antioch. This was under Pope Anastasius I, 398 - 400.

John or Wahan of Nicemarker, in a letter printed by François Combefis in his Historia monoizeii tarurn, affords the above details. The new feast was communicated by Proclus, patriarch of Constantinoplemarker (434 - 446), to Sahak, Catholicos of Armenia, about 440. The letter was betrayed to the Persian king, who accused Sahak of Greekmarker intrigues, and deposed him. However, the Armenians, at least those within the Byzantine pale, adopted it for about thirty years, but finally abandoned it together with the decrees of Chalcedonmarker early in the 8th century. Many writers of the period 375 - 450, e.g. Epiphanius, Cassian, Asterius, Basil, Chrysostom and Jerome, contrast the new feast with that of the Baptism as that of the birth after the flesh, from which we infer that the latter was generally regarded as a birth according to the Spirit. Instructive as showing that the new feast travelled from West eastwards is the fact (noticed by Usener) that in 387 the new feast was reckoned according to the Julian calendar by writers of the province of Asia, who in referring to other feasts use the reckoning of their local calendars. As early as 400 in Rome an imperial rescript includes Christmas among the three feasts (the others are Easter and Epiphany) on which theatres must be closed.

Start of Ministry

According to the gospel of Luke (Luke 3:1-2), John the Baptist started his ministry in the "15th year of Tiberius". This is one of the few events in the New Testament for which any clear indication of the year of occurrence is given. Tiberius was emperor of Rome from 14 to 37 AD. All gospel accounts have Jesus beginning his own ministry after John had begun his. Accordingly, the earliest year either John or Jesus could have begun his own ministry would be, if Luke is accurate, the year 29 AD. However, one source, Tertullian (died 230), in Adversus Marcionem xv, expresses a Roman tradition that placed the crucifixion in the twelfth year of Tiberius Caesar, lending support for an earlier date of 26 AD. Josephus implies that Herod Antipas had John the Baptist put to death around 32 AD.


See also: Date of Crucifixion

Day of death

Tradition (and the Synoptic Gospels) hold that the Last Supper took place on the first night of Passover, which is defined in the Torah as occurring after the daylight of the 14th of Nisan ( ), however the Gospel of John likely places the crucifixion itself on the 14th of Nisan ("the day of preparation", e.g., , , ). In the Biblical calendar, a new day begins after sunset, rather than at midnight as in the modern western calendar. However, in order to determine the Gregorian date of Jesus' death, one needs to know the year, because the 15th of Nisan – corresponding to one of the first two full moons after Vernal Equinox – can occur on any date in late March or April in the western calendar.

The season was that of the Passover. The day leading up to the Passover would have been Nisan 14. All Gospels agree that Jesus died and was taken off the cross on the day before a Jewish sabbath before sunset (the Jewish calendar counts the day as beginning with the evening). John elaborates that that Sabbath was "an high day" (John 19:31), which suggests that he died on the preparation for the annual Sabbath, the 15th of Nisan. Later traditions assume he died on a Friday (Good Friday), the preparation for the weekly Sabbath. However, before the year 500, the calendar months were adjusted in accordance with astronomical observations. Therefore, it is not possible to state exactly on which day of the week the 14 of Nisan occurred for any year before 500 without historical documents that attest to a particular day of the week, though it is possible to guess based on astronomy.

More precise calculation of Jesus' date of death is complicated by apparent inconsistencies in the reports in the Synoptic Gospels as compared to the Gospel of John. In the Synoptic Gospels, the Last Supper is generally interpreted to be the Passover meal (see e.g. ). In this case Passover would have started on the night before Jesus' crucifixion. This is highly problematic from a historical standpoint — the first day of Passover is a holy day for Jews, during which no work can be performed and many rituals of Shabbat are observed, so events described by the Gospels (particularly the trial) could not have taken place.

According to John, however, the Last Supper was eaten on the evening at the start of the 14th of Nisan and the crucifixion was on the 14th during the following daylight, with Jesus dying approximately at the same time that the lambs for the Passover were being slaughtered in Herod's Temple of Jerusalem — around 3 PM ("at the ninth hour"), so that the Jews could celebrate the Passover that evening (following Jesus' death).

According to Orthodox theology, the Last Supper celebrated on the evening before Jesus' crucifixion was not the Jewish Passover meal[reference required].

Year of death

Historical and Biblical analysis

One of the facts considered by historians to be practically beyond dispute is that Jesus was executed on the orders of the Roman prefect Pontius Pilate. Pilate held this position from 26–36 AD, during which the only years in which Nisan 14 could have fallen on a Friday were 27 (although it could have been on a Thursday), 30, and 33 AD, although this depends on when the new moon (first visible crescent) would have been visible in Jerusalemmarker (which depends on the weather).. The 15th of Nisan could have fallen on a Friday in 27 or 34 AD. Different scholars have defended various of these dates. Maximus Monachus, Eusebius, and Cassiodorus recorded the death of Jesus in 31 AD, but the 14th of Nisan would probably have been on a Tuesday that year. The 3rd/4th century Roman historian Lactantius states that Jesus was crucified on a particular day in 29 AD, but which did not correspond to a full moon.

John P. Meier's A Marginal Jew cites 7 April 30 AD, 3 April 33 AD, and 30 March 36 AD as astronomically possible Friday Nisan 14 dates during Pilate's tenure in office. The 14th, not the 15th, of Nisan, implies that Jesus died at the time that the lambs were slaughtered. In the Gospel of Luke, it is stated that Jesus was "about 30 years old" when he was baptised by John the Baptist but this doesn't help much because of the vagueness of the expression and the uncertainty about his date of birth.

Another fact to be considered is Luke's statement that John the Baptist's ministry began in the fifteenth year of the reign of emperor Tiberius (Luke 3:1-2). Tiberius' reign began after Augustus' death on 19 August 14 AD, placing John's appearance in 28 or 29 AD (counting August 14 AD to August 15 AD as the first year). On the other hand, Tertullian writes in his Adversus Marcionem of a Roman tradition that placed the crucifixion in the twelfth year of Tiberius' rule, i.e. 25 or 26 AD. Unlike the Synoptic Gospels, the Gospel of John points to three separate Passovers during Jesus' ministry, which would favour 33 AD.

Astronomical analysis

The use of astronomical evidence to estimate the year of the Crucifixion of Jesus has led to AD 33 by two different groups, and originally as AD 34 by Isaac Newton via the differences between the Biblical and Julian calendars and the crescent of the moon. John Pratt argued that Newton's reasoning was effectively sound, but included a minor error at the end. Pratt suggested the year 33 AD as the accurate answer. Using similar computations, in 1990 astronomer Bradley Schaefer arrived at the same date, Friday, April 3 33 AD.
A third method, using a completely different astronomical approach based on a lunar Crucifixion darkness and eclipse model (consistent with Apostle Peter's reference to a "moon of blood" in Acts 2:20) arrives at the same date, namely Friday April 3, AD 33.

See also


  1. John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, v.1, ch. 11.
  2. David Noel Freedman, Allen C. Myers, Astrid B. Beck, Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, (Eerdmans, 2000), page 249.
  3. Graham Stanton, The Gospels and Jesus (Oxford University Press, 2002), page 185.
  4. Carol A. Newsom, Sharon H. Ringe, The Women's Bible Commentary, (Westminster John Knox Press, 1998) page 381. Google Book Search preview
  5. E. P. Sanders, The Historical Figure of Jesus, Penguin Books, 1993, pp. 10–11.
  6. For example, astronomer Michael Molnar identified April 17, 6 BC as the likely date of the Nativity, since that date corresponded to the heliacal rising and lunar occultation of Jupiter, while it was momentarily stationary in the sign of Aries; according to Molnar, to knowledgeable astrologers of this time, this highly unusual combination of events would have indicated that a regal personage would be (or had been) born in Judea. Michael R. Molnar, "The Star of Bethlehem: The Legacy of the Magi," Rutgers University Press, 1999.
  7. Raymond E. Brown, 101 Questions and Answers on the Bible, Paulist Press (2003), page 79.
  8. Joseph J. Walsh, Were They Wise Men or Kings?, Westminster John Knox Press, (2001), p. 40
  9. Doggett. (1992). "Calendars" (Ch. 12), in P. Kenneth Seidelmann (Ed.) Explanatory supplement to the astronomical almanac. Sausalito, CA: University Science Books. ISBN 0-935702-68-7.
  10. Watson E. Mills, Roger Aubrey Bullard, eds., Mercer dictionary of the Bible, (Mercer University Press, 1990) page 142.
  11. Paul L. Maier, In the Fullness of Time: A Historian Looks at Christmas, Easter, and the Early Church, Kregel Publications (1998), p28
  12. Paul L. Maier, In the Fullness of Time: A Historian Looks at Christmas, Easter, and the Early Church, Kregel Publications (1998), p28
  13. Edwin D. Freed, The stories of Jesus' birth: a critical introduction, (Chalice Press, 2001) page 136.
  14. Catholic Encyclopedia: Christmas
  15. The Complete Gospels, Robert J. Miller, ed., 1992, page 241, commentary on verse 19:31: "the day of preparation (here and in v. 14) can mean either the day before Passover or simply Friday; in this case it is both."
  16. The Complete Gospels, Robert J. Miller, ed., 1992, page 195, Introduction to the Gospel of John: "From early times Christians have recognized that "the Gospel according to John" is dramatically different from the synoptic gospels (Mark, Matthew, Luke)."
  17. The Complete Gospels, Robert J. Miller, ed., 1992, translation note to John 19:31: "...the day of preparation (here and in v. 14) can mean either the day before Passover or simply Friday; in this case it is both."
  18. E. P. Sanders, The Historical Figure of Jesus (Penguin Books, London 1993), page 11.
  19. Humphreys, Colin J., and W. G. Waddington, "Dating the Crucifixion," Nature 306 (December 22/29, 1983), pp. 743-46. [1]
  20. Lactantius, Of the Manner In Which the Persecutors Died 2: "In the latter days of the Emperor Tiberius, in the consulship of Ruberius (sic) Geminus and Fufius Geminus, and on the tenth of the kalends of April, as I find it written".
  21. Isaac Newton, 1733, Of the Times of the Birth and Passion of Christ, in "Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St. John" (London: J. Darby and T. Browne).
  22. Bradley Schaefer, 1990, Lunar Visibility and the Crucifixion Quarterly. Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society 31.
  23. Astronomers on the Date of the Crucifixion
  24. Astronomers on Date of Christ's Death
  25. John Pratt Newton's Date For The Crucifixion "Quarterly Journal of Royal Astronomical Society", September 1991.
  26. Newton's Date For The Crucifixion
  27. Herald Sun [2]
  28. Colin J. Humphreys and W. G. Waddington, The Date of the Crucifixion Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation 37 (March 1985)[3]

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