Chronology of the Cross
We say that the cross of Christ was the apex of human history. So it was. And we agree that the earth-shattering sacrifice on Calvary was the fulfilment of that which was written.
Why is it then that there isn't unanimous agreement about the date? Experts differ from approximately AD 27 to AD 36 as to when it happened and followers say it doesn't matter much anyway. It does matter. It is the centre point of prophecy! Entire prophetic systems stand or fall on correct timing as it concerns the chronology of the cross.
So when? Exactly when was it?
"When the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son."
The ultimate sacrifice.
Modern research has enabled us through astronomical and computer technology to pinpoint two possible dates for the cross. They are AD 30 or AD 33. This is based on Old Testament information that the Passover lamb was slain late on the 14th Nisan and eaten early on the fifteenth. Therefore, since the Hebrew day began at sunset, Jesus’ last meal with his disciples would have been about 9 pm, Thursday, the fifteenth Nisan.
Now, Hebrew months begin on the sighting of new moon and the position of the moon can be determined at any moment in history enabling us to convert lunar dates. When we examine AD 31 for example, Passover fell on a Tuesday; but Jesus’ last supper was not on a Tuesday. This particular Passover had to be Thursday/Friday and, according to data from astronomical observatories, Passover occurred late Thursday 15th Nisan during this period only on 6th April AD 30 and 2nd April AD 33. Therefore, since Christ was crucified later on Friday, the crucifixion date must either be 7th April AD 30 or 3rd April AD 33.
Ministry of John the Baptist
Astronomy aside, the obvious biblical reference is found in Luke's information regarding the ministry of John the Baptist. He says:
"In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar - when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene - during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins." (Luke 3:1-3)
So when was the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar? If we can ascertain that, all that remains to do is add 3½ years (the period of Jesus ministry from his baptism by John) and we arrive at the date of the cross.
Tiberius became sole emperor on the death of his adoptive father, Augustus. (Aug 19, AD 14) However, it is a well known fact that he had become co-regent with his ailing father two years beforehand in AD 12. He was made supreme military commander over Caesar's armies and provinces in that year. Ancient coins from Antioch dated AD 12 display the head of Tiberius and documents attest to his reign being fully in force from then. Thus, the inauguration in AD 14 as emperor was only a formalisation of a reign which had begun two years earlier.
Therefore, the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius would make it AD 26-27 correlating with the start of Christ's ministry and supporting the AD 30 date as the most likely date of his crucifixion.
Construction of Temple
Another direct reference is John 2:13-20. This was the occasion when Jesus claimed he would rebuild the temple within three days, to which the Jews replied,
"It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?"
This discussion took place early in Christ’s ministry, shortly after his first miracle, and it was Passover time. Therefore, since it was the first year of his ministry, it would have been exactly three years prior to the last Passover.
The information enables a precision dating of Christ's death because Herod began construction of the temple in BC 20. BC 20 plus forty-six equals AD 27. Add three more years and what have we got? Passover (april) AD 30!
In addition to the above timelines, a major difficulty for the AD 33 date theory is the age of Jesus when he got baptised. Luke 3:23 tells us he was "about thirty years old." (It was customary for Levites to begin their ministry at thirty.)
Now, it is a fact that Jesus was born before BC 4 because that was the year King Herod died not long after he had attempted to murder Mary’s child. So Jesus would have been born BC 5 making him about thirty at the time of his baptism just as Luke said.
Proponents of the late crucifixion date find themselves having to do a generous stretch on Luke’s word, 'about.' Does 'about thirty' mean thirty-four? Did he die 3½ years later at age thirty-eight? The answer is no! Jesus was about thirty when he got baptised.
Early Church History
The years following Christ also point to the cross being AD 30. Early Christian historian Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea, mentions the destruction of the temple in AD 70 happened forty years after Christ’s death.
Then there is the conversion of St. Paul on the Damascus road. This was late AD 32, which is of course, before the late date crucifixion theory and therefore a non-possibility. We are left with the conclusion that the crucifixion couldn’t be AD 33 but had to be AD 30 just like all the other evidence shows.
The time of Paul’s conversion is calculated from his account to the Galatians and by cross-referencing it to the record in Acts. Paul relates:
"When it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb and called me through His grace ... I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and remained with him fifteen days ... Afterward I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia and I was unknown by face to the churches of Judea which were in Christ ... Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and also took Titus with me." (Galatians 1:15 - 2:1)
Thus AD 32 plus three plus fourteen equals AD 49, which is another known anchor date. In this year, AD 49, St. Paul took part in the great Jerusalem Council as recorded in Acts 15. Therefore, his conversion is pinpointed and likewise the cross is nailed. There is a consistent pattern of evidence that our Lord was crucified late on Passover day, approx 3 pm, April 7th AD 30.
The above article is taken from my book,
'THE ATONEMENT CLOCK'
Could it be that a clock was
behind history counting down
toward a destiny which had
already been written?
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