Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ Part III: The Duration of Christ’s Ministry -- By: Harold W. Hoehner

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 131:522 (Apr 1974)
Article: Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ Part III: The Duration of Christ’s Ministry
Author: Harold W. Hoehner


Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ
Part III:
The Duration of Christ’s Ministry

Harold W. Hoehner

[Harold W. Hoehner, Associate Professor of New Testament Literature and Exegesis, Dallas Theological Seminary.]

Since the gospel writers never specifically state the duration of Christ’s public ministry, there have been differences of interpretation regarding the sequences and duration of His ministry. Having concluded in the previous issue of Bibliotheca Sacra that Jesus’public ministry began in the summer or autumn of A.D. 29, the next logical step is to attempt to determine the duration of His ministry.

Extreme Views Unacceptable

Scholars have calculated its duration from three or four months1 to sometime between ten and twenty years.2 To have a ministry for only three to six months, one needs to compress the ministry unmercifully. If one accepts the chronological notes in the gospels with any seriousness the ministry of Christ is surely longer than a few months. On the other hand in Irenaeus’ attempt to refute Valentinus’ view of a one-year ministry of Jesus, he states, though not clearly, that since Jesus began His ministry when He was “about thirty years of age” (Luke 3:23), His ministry continued into His forties since the Jews in John 8:57 state that Christ was not yet fifty years old. This makes the ministry of Jesus somewhere between ten and twenty years long. But the statement in John 8:57 is not a precise chronological note. Rather it indicates that the Jews were emphasizing Jesus’ youth in

contrast to His claim that He existed before Abraham. A ten to twenty-year ministry would not fit into the framework of the gospels, namely, if Jesus’ ministry started in A.D. 29, He was crucified before Pilate’s departure from Judea in the winter of A.D. 36/37. Thus, neither of these two extreme views are acceptable.

Alternative Solutions Considered

Various theories from one to four years have been proposed for the length of our Lord’s ministry. The order of their discussion will be as follows: one year, two year, four year, and finally the three year ministry.

One-Year Theory

Statement of the view. Early in Gnostic commentators such as Valentinus (who was born ca. A.D. 100, educated at Alexandria and later taught at Rome) thought that the duration of Jesus’ ministry was about a year because of

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