The Jewish Calendar, A Lunar Eclipse And The Date Of Christ’s Crucifixion -- By: Colin J. Humphreys

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 43:2 (NA 1992)
Article: The Jewish Calendar, A Lunar Eclipse And The Date Of Christ’s Crucifixion
Author: Colin J. Humphreys


The Jewish Calendar, A Lunar Eclipse And The Date Of Christ’s Crucifixion

Colin J. Humphreys

W. G. Waddington

Summary

Astronomical calculations have been used to reconstruct the Jewish calendar in the first century AD and to date a lunar eclipse that biblical and other references suggest followed the Crucifixion. The evidence points to Friday 3 April AD 33 as the date of the Crucifixion. This was Nisan 14 in the official Jewish calendar, thus Christ died at precisely the time when the Passover lambs were slain. The date 3 April AD 33 is consistent with the evidence for the start of Jesus’ ministry, with the gospel reference to 46 years to build the temple and with the symbolism of Christ as our Passover lamb. The mention of a solar eclipse at the Crucifixion in some texts of Luke is discussed and explained. A new chronology of the life of Christ is suggested.

I. Introduction

The date of the Crucifixion has been debated for many years, but there has been no agreement on the year nor the day. However, astronomy can be used to reconstruct the Jewish calendar in the first century AD, and hence to rule out many possibilities. For example, an AD 36 Crucifixion, recently revived by Lane Fox,1 appears to be calendrically impossible as will be shown later in this paper. Furthermore, astronomy can be used to identify the most probable date of the Crucifixion. In this paper, which is based on earlier work of the authors,2 we use two approaches to dating the Crucifixion: first, a process of elimination, showing that every year but one is incompatible with the available evidence; second, lunar eclipse evidence which positively identifies a particular date. Both approaches yield the same date, 3 April AD 33.

The date of the Crucifixion is the key date in the chronology of the life of Jesus, since it is directly relevant to the date and nature of the Last Supper, and to the length of his ministry; it is also indirectly relevant to his date of birth. The only certainty is that Jesus’ death occurred during the 10 years that Pontius Pilate was procurator of Judea (AD 26-36). There are advocates for nearly every year in this period.3 In addition to the unknown year, the day of the execution of Jesus is also uncertain since there appears to be a difference of one day between the date given by the Gospel of John and that indicated by the Synoptics.

II. Biblical Evidence

There are three main pieces of biblical evidence for dating the Crucifixion:

(i)...

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