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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Date of Jesus' Death Foretold

The Bible does not tell us directly what the year of Jesus’ death was, but it does give us the date indirectly in Daniel 9: 25, 26. 

25 “Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. 26 After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing.The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed

1.    Jesus was born while Herod the Great was alive. (Matthew 2) Herod died in in the spring of 4 B.C.  That date is established by Josephus, a Jewish historian, by reference to a lunar eclipse that followed his death.
2.    Jesus was born at the time of a census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria (Luke 2). Though there have been problems with dating Quirinius and this first census, most recently we have found that he was Legate twice. (1) In his first term, and Luke suggests this was the first of several (Luke 2:2), Quirinius would have been Legate at the 4 B.C. date. Luke is not ignorant of the census taken later. He mentions it in Acts 5:37.
3.    John the Baptist began his ministry during the 15th year of Tiberius Caesar. That year was AD 27-28.  Jesus began his ministry sometime after that, but probably not immediately.
4.    Jesus was about 30 years old when he began his ministry (Luke 3:23). 

If Jesus was about thirty in AD 28-29, that would fit with a birth at about 4 BC. But that information does not pinpoint Jesus’ death.  

5.   The chronology of Jesus ministry suggests that it was around 3 ½ years. That would   
       lead to a AD 32-33 date. 
6.   Jesus died at Passover on a year in which there were two Sabbaths one after the other. (2) 
      The first Sabbath was Passover and the second was the 7th day Sabbath. The only
      dates in this range of years on which that happened would have been AD 30 or AD 33.
      That leads us to the AD 33 date because AD 30 is too early to fit with Luke 3:1 and 3:23 dates.

Conclusion: Using the dates in the Gospels we arrive at A.D. 33 as the year of Jesus' death. 

Daniel’s Prophecy, chapter 9:20-27.

The 70 weeks begin with the decree to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.  Most scholars consider that to be 444  BC based on Nehemiah 2:1-8.

Here’s the math.  62 + 7 weeks = 69 weeks. (seven days in a week, each day = one year)
69 x 7 = days (or years) is 483
483 x 360 (the number of days in a Jewish year is explained below) = 173,880
To calculate the number of years in a Roman calendar (the one we use) divide 365 into the 173,880. 
173,880 / 365 = 476.38 years.
Subtract 33 (the date arrived using the Gospels) from that amount to get to BC.  476.38 – 33 = 443.38 B.C.
(Or subtract 444 from 476.38 to get to AD.   476.38 – 444 = 32.38 A.D. That puts the date in the year that would be the 33rd year.)

Since the year 443.38 B.C.  is more than 443 years, that puts the date for the beginning of the prophetic timeline in the year of 444 BC. Remember that in B.C. we are counting from the larger date to the lesser date and that the entire year between 444 and 443 would be called the year which we now designate 444 B.C.

Remember also that the number of the year is marked at the completion of the year. So any time after year 32 and before 33 would be in the 33rd year.

Those dates, the estimate of the date of Jesus’ death from Luke and Matthew, and the computation of the dates from Daniel, both point to AD 33. 

Passover was on Nisan 14.  That date on our calendars in the year AD 33 would have been April 6.  That is the best estimate of Jesus’ death.  (See for a good logical accounting of the years.)

The mathematics of calculating Daniel 9:24-26 and the issue of the 360-day "prophetic" calendar explained: 

   At this point, we're adding the 7 "sevens" and the 62 "sevens" for a total of 69 "sevens". And we are interpreting the 69 "sevens" to mean 69 periods of seven years, for a total of 483 years. So, we are saying that there would be a period of 483 years from the time that a decree is given to rebuild Jerusalem to the time that a Messiah, the anointed one,  is to appear.

   Some Christian scholars say that the period of 483 years should not be thought of in terms of our modern solar calendar which is based on a 365.25 days to a year. Instead, we are to use a "prophetic" calendar which has 360 days to a year. Many ancient calendars, including the Jewish calendar, were based on a lunar year of 12 months, with each month lasting 30 days. Many ancient peoples, including the ancient Jews, would tack on an extra five days at some point during the year to keep the lunar year in sync with the solar year.(3)

   Another reason some scholars say that we should apply a 360-day calendar to Daniel's prophecy is because of various Bible references that allude to a fixed 30-day month view of time. For example, in Genesis 7:24, it says that the flood lasted 150 days. And, in Genesis 7:11, it says the flood began in the 17th day of the second month. And in Genesis 8:4, it says that the flood subsided on the 17th day of the seventh month, when the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. So, these passages present us a 5-month period of time that is described as being 150 days in length. And that of course is five 30-day months.

   There are other Bible passages that indicate that time is being measured in fixed 30-day month periods. Revelation 12:6 mentions a 1,260 day period which, in my view, clearly relates to the three-and-a-half-year period mentioned in Revelation 12:13-14 and in Daniel 9:27. For three-and-a-half years to equal 1,260 days, one would have to measure years in 360-day increments.

   That of course doesn't mean that the earth's orbit of the sun is going to speed up or change, it just simply means that the prophetic year is a measure of time in which a "year" has 360 days, nothing more, nothing less, even though five days are added somewhere in that year.  It's no different than weighing a bag of groceries using the metric system of kilograms and then using the old English system of pounds and ounces. It is not that one system causes the groceries to weigh more or less, but rather the two systems describe the weight in different units. So too does the prophetic year in comparison to our solar calendar - it uses a different system to measure time.

   So, we take the 483 years that we had calculated earlier and we multiply the 483 by 360. In other words, we are viewing the 483 year period described in Daniel 9:25 as "prophetic years" of 360 days each. The additional 5 days in each solar year are not computed in the total. The Jews simply regarded them as extra days.

   Now, we want to apply these 173,880 days to our calendar, which has 365.25 days to a year.

   Why? So that we can use our calendar in trying to figure out the year at which this part of Daniel's prophecy was to begin its fulfillment and when this part of Daniel's prophecy was to be completed. So, we divide the 173,880 days by 365.25 days to get the number of solar years.  And, that equals 476 (solar) years. Now, we need to figure out when this 476 year period was supposed to end. When we do we can pinpoint when the Messiah was to make his appearance.

   If we agree on the points that have been made earlier, then we simply calculate 476 years into the future, using 444 BC as the starting point. To do that, if I am not mistaken, we count 443 BC as the first of the 476 years. Why?  Because the first year began in 444 BC and it ended in 443 BC. So we start counting at 443 BC. So, we have 443 years on the BC side of measuring time and that leaves us with 33 years on the AD side to account for the full 476 years. Using this formula, we arrive at 33 AD as the year  in which the Messiah was to appear.

   That would correspond to the time that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. The reason the donkey is important is that in Zechariah 9:9, the prophet Zechariah speaks of a King riding a donkey and presenting himself as the King to Jerusalem. That would be the point at which "the Anointed One comes," as Daniel puts it.

   After that Daniel says "the Anointed One will be put to death." According to all the Gospels, Jesus was crucified less than a week after presenting himself to the nation as Messiah King. The year was 33 A.D. just as Daniel indicated.

Additional information: Alfred Edersheim, a Christian Jew who lived during the 1800s, studied ancient Rabbinical writings, and said that Zechariah 9:9 was often interpreted as being about a Messiah. In the book, "The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah," Edersheim wrote: "The Messianic application of this verse in all its parts has already been repeatedly indicated. We may here add that there are many traditions about this donkey on which the Messiah is to ride; and so firm was the belief in it, that, according to the Talmud, `if anyone saw a donkey in his dreams, he will see salvation' (Ber 56 b)."

So then, what better way for a Messiah to announce himself in Jerusalem than to enter the great city on the back of a humble donkey?

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