Jesus’ Death and Resurrection
Note: The following Post is taken from an upcoming book by Joseph Lenard entitled Mysteries of Jesus’ Life Revealed—His Birth, Death, Resurrection, and Ascensions. For an overview and complete chapter listing of this fascinating study, click here.
AD 30 – A Year for the ages
Although various arguments have been made by Bible scholars and theologians over the centuries, the year in which Jesus was crucified has long been a mystery. I believe the case I have been building in my various Posts for the year AD 30 is both compelling and accurate. We will look more closely at that date in this Post.
The actual birth date of Jesus which I have advocated in previous Posts is September 11, 3 BC. Taking into account His life and ministry – as presented in the Gospels – and the fact that His ministry began at age 30 and encompassed three Passovers, we are left with AD 30 as the most probable year for the crucifixion. Then, too, the writings of various Jewish authors regarding strange happenings in the temple beginning in AD 30 make it even more likely that something highly significant happened that year.
Of course, years other than AD 30 have been proposed as the crucifixion year by distinguished theologians through the years. How do we make sense of the conflicting dates? How do we settle on the correct one?
Proponents of crucifixion years prior to AD 30 (principally AD 28 and AD 29) hold to a birthdate of Jesus prior to 3 BC (i.e. between 4 BC and 7 BC). Conversely, proponents of crucifixion dates after AD 30 (AD 31 and beyond) hold to a birthdate of Jesus during the traditional year of AD 1. Counting forward 33 years (which assumes a ministry that begins at age 30 and extends for a period of three years), they arrive at a crucifixion date after AD 30.
By getting the birthdate of Jesus wrong – as most do – they also get the year of the crucifixion wrong.
Some readers may be familiar with the learned priest Dionysius Exiguus, who was tapped by the Roman Pope in the sixth century to determine the date of Jesus’ death so that the church could more appropriately celebrate the time of Easter. He picked AD 33 as the year; apparently it was the only year he could find that would support a Friday crucifixion date. Since Jesus was nearly 30 years old when He was baptized, and He had a public ministry of about 2 ½ years, theological opinion at that time was that He was crucified when He was in His 33rd year. Accordingly, Dionysius Exiguus determined Jesus’ birth year to be AD 1.
Unfortunately for our learned priest, I proved in an earlier Post that this is impossible, because Herod died in 1 BC; and Jesus had to have been born before Herod died in order to be consistent with events in the Gospel account of Matthew. It would appear that Exiguus may have been coerced into his finding because of the longstanding Roman Church tradition that Jesus was crucified on Friday.
Evidence for AD 30
In my earlier Posts on the topic of When was Jesus Born? I presented evidence for the birth date of Jesus being on September 11, 3 BC. This required the “assembling” of multiple pieces of the puzzle. The case for the death of Jesus being in AD 30 requires that we put together another set of puzzle pieces.
To arrive at the correct AD 30 crucifixion year, we must first get Jesus’ birth year correct. Once we have established 3 BC as the birth year, we can build the chronology of His life from the accounts of the Gospels and other testimony and writings. In this regard, I fully support the chronology for the life of Jesus set forth by Dr. Ernest Martin in his excellent work, The Star of Bethlehem – The Star that Astonished the World (1996).
Proposed Chronology of Jesus’ Life
The following is a chronology for the life of Jesus, as detailed by Dr. Martin:
September 11, 3 BC: Jesus born.
September 18, 3 BC: Jesus circumcised (on the 8th day; the circumcision rite is reckoned inclusively).
October 20/21, 3 BC: Jesus dedicated in the Temple.
Latter part of October, 3 BC: The family returned to Nazareth.
Spring or summer of 2 BC: The family moved to Bethlehem; lived in a house.
December 25, 2 BC (during Hanukkah): The Magi went to Bethlehem and gave the child (toddler) three gifts. Jupiter came to its stationary point in mid-Virgo, the Virgin.
Late December, 2 BC: The family set off for Egypt to escape the wrath of Herod, following the visit of the Magi and the warning of the angel who spoke to Joseph in a dream.
Late December, 2 BC: Immediately after this, Herod killed all of the male children two years old and younger in Bethlehem. This slaying of the innocents was about 15 months after Jesus’ birth – if the conception period were also considered, it would be 24 months exactly. This is why the Magi saw Jesus “standing by the side of his mother Mary,” which was recorded in the Papyrus codex Bodmer V of the Proto-Evangelium of James (21:3) written in Egypt in the fourth century .
Early January, 1 BC: Two prominent rabbis were tried and sentenced to death by the Sanhedrin.
January 9, 1 BC: The two prominent rabbis were executed by Herod in conjunction with the lunar eclipse predicted for that night.
January 10, 1 BC: The eclipse of the Moon predicted by Josephus to occur prior to the death of Herod; this is the eclipse related to the death of Herod – not an earlier eclipse, which many historians claim is the one referred to by Josephus.
About January 28, 1 BC: Herod died.
Spring of 1 BC: The Passover, during which 3,000 Jewish worshipers were killed during riots in the Temple precincts.
Summer and autumn of 1 BC: The War of Varus in Israel, prompted by the slaughter of the 3,000 worshipers in the Temple – as ordered by Archelaus, the successor to Herod.
October or November of AD 27: About 28 years later, Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, at the beginning of a Sabbatical Year (every seventh year). Among other evidence for this year, the words “acceptable year” spoken by Jesus in the Synagogue in Nazareth near the start of His ministry clearly refer to a Sabbatical Year.
Spring of AD 28: Jesus began His ministry, during the Passover and Pentecost season.
Spring of AD 30: On the third Passover of His ministry, Jesus was crucified as the sacrificial Passover Lamb of God.
With this chronology, many of the details I have presented in earlier Posts fit together in support of a crucifixion date in the year AD 30. Among those pieces are certain obscure writings by Josephus, New Testament passages related to the birth and ministry of Jesus, the astronomical history of specific cosmic events, and the Roman history for the middle period of Augustus.
Supernatural Signs in the Temple
Beginning in AD 30, Jewish writers recorded various supernatural signs in the Temple precincts. These signs have led many – including myself – to conclude that something very special happened during that year. That something was the crucifixion of Jesus. The evidence is compelling.
Beginning in AD 30 – precisely 40 years before the destruction of the Temple – God began providing unmistakable, recurring signs in the Temple precincts. These signs were a “heads up” related to the statements made by Jesus in the Olivet Discourse Prophecy in AD 30 regarding the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem. Specifically, Jesus said that certain things would occur in that generation. Remarkably, the destruction of the temple in AD 70 occurred exactly 40 years later – a generation being reckoned as 40 years.
Precisely what were the signs that the apostles and other Jews witnessed beginning in AD 30? They were recorded in both the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds, clearly indicating that the Jewish authorities in the period were aware of them. As reported by Dr. Ernest Martin in his work Secrets of Golgotha – The Lost History of Jesus’ Crucifixion (1996), there were four signs. Each of the signs was exactly recorded in both Talmuds (Jerusalem Talmud, Sotah 6:3; and Babylonian Talmud, Yoma 39b).
Because these signs are not widely known and even less understood, it is important that I spend some time on their discussion, as they offer a significant boost in the credibility of the argument for a crucifixion in the year of AD 30.
Four Miraculous Signs
What were these four miraculous signs in the Temple precincts which began to happen in AD 30? As reported by Dr. Martin, they are as stated in the Jerusalem Talmud:
“Forty years before the destruction of the Temple [starting in A.D. 30] (1) the western light went out, (2) the crimson thread remained crimson, (3) the lot for the Lord always came up in the left hand, and (4) They would close the gates of the Temple by night and get up in the morning and find them wide open. Said Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai to the Temple, ‘O Temple, why do you frighten us? We know that you will end up destroyed. For it has been said, ‘Open your doors, O Lebanon [a symbol for the Temple at Jerusalem which was made from Lebanese timbers], that the fire may devour your cedars’ (Zechariah 11:1)” (Sotah 6:3).
It is important to note that the four miraculous signs occurred consistently over a period of 40 years. This was not a random occurrence; it happened 14,400 times in a row (360 x 40 = 14,400) for daily events, and 40 times in a row for annual events (like Day of Atonement events). It is impossible that this happened by chance; the mathematical odds are astronomical. As stated in the Babylonian Talmud (Soncino Version) and referenced by Dr. Martin in his work:
“Our rabbis taught: During the last forty years before the destruction of the Temple (1) the lot [‘For the Lord’] did not come up in the right hand; (2) nor did the crimson-colored strap become white; (3) nor did the western most light shine [Menorah]; and (4) the doors of the Hekel (the Holy Place) would open by themselves, until Yohanan ben Zakkai rebuked them, saying: Hekel, Hekel, why wilt thou be the alarmer thyself? I know about thee that thou wilt be destroyed, for Zechariah ben Iddo has already prophesied concerning thee: Open thy doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour thy cedars.”
Here is a bit of additional information provided by Dr. Martin on the four signs, in the order in which they appear in the Jerusalem Talmud:
The western light went out. This refers to the western light of the seven-branched Menorah in the Holy Place; the Menorah faced to the north, and the western light was the one closest to the Holy of Holies (the most important light). It was required to remain lit at all times – like the eternal flame we see today at some national memorials. Despite all the efforts of the priests, this light would miraculously, ominously, and repeatedly go out.
The crimson thread remained crimson. This relates to the annual Temple ceremony on the Day of Atonement. Although this ceremony is not mentioned in Scripture, it was associated with the Day of Atonement at least from the time of Simon the Righteous (an honorable and upright High Priest who lived in the third century BC). During the ceremony, a crimson-colored thread was carried into the Holy of Holies by the High Priest. Up until AD 30, the crimson-colored thread turned white, showing that God approved of the Day of Atonement rituals every year and that Israel could be assured of being forgiven their sins as Scripture stated. However, starting in AD 30 and continuing until the Temple’s destruction in AD 70, the crimson thread never again turned white.
The lot for the Lord always came up in the left hand. This relates to the Day of Atonement temple ceremony in which two goats were brought before the High Priest and lots were cast over them (Leviticus 16:5, 7–10, 15–22). The lots were in the form of two stones – one white, and one black. The white stone was “for the Lord,” and the black stone was “for the Scapegoat.” The priest would use his right hand to blindly select a stone from a receptacle and place it over the right-hand goat. The Babylonian Talmud states that during the previous 200 years the stone was sometimes white and sometimes black, as would be expected by random sampling. However, beginning in AD 30, the right hand of the High Priest selected the black stone every time for 40 straight years (AD 30 to AD 70).
The doors of the Temple opened by themselves each night. The front doors behind the curtain at the entrance to the Holy Place (the Hekel – the curtain which ripped from top to bottom at the death of Jesus) mysteriously opened every night of their own accord for 40 years (AD 30 to AD 70).
Another Important Historical Event
In addition to the four miraculous signs, there was at least one other important historical event which occurred in the Jewish nation in AD 30. It is reported by Dr. Martin in his work as follows:
“Forty years before the destruction of Jerusalem, the Sanhedrin was banished [from the Chamber of Hewn Stones in the Temple] and sat in the Trading Station [also in the Temple, but east of its former location].”
This move from the Chamber of Hewn Stones, which was near the Altar of Burnt Offering in the temple precincts, could be accounted for by the falling of stonework over the entrance to the Holy Place. This stonework supported the curtain that was torn in two at the time of the crucifixion of Jesus. Something happened to that vaulted structure in the Chamber of Hewn Stones, making it unsafe for entry from AD 30 onward. Without question, the earthquake which occurred following the crucifixion could have caused such destruction.
It is also noteworthy that the last trial ever held by the Sanhedrin in that building on the Temple Mount was that of Jesus. This could certainly be interpreted as God’s displeasure over the Sanhedrin’s trial, which resulted ultimately in the crucifixion of Jesus. The Sanhedrin was forced to move to other quarters outside of the Temple precincts, beginning in AD 30.
In his work, Dr. Martin offers this final assessment of the various signs as they relate to the crucifixion of Jesus:
“These signs all started with the exact year in which Jesus was crucified and anyone with any common sense should be able to tell that they were signs from God that had their significance beginning with that very year of the crucifixion of Jesus. This fact is not only important for Christians to know, but it is equally significant for all the Jewish people today.”
It is not lost on Dr. Martin that the relationship between these signs and the crucifixion of Jesus was largely ignored by the Jewish leadership at the time. Dr. Martin makes note of one important rabbi’s assessment:
“The four signs involving the Temple were interpreted by Yohanan ben Zakkai (the most important rabbi at the time) as being warnings that the Temple was to be destroyed. This witness of Yohanan is significant because he lived both before and after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. He was the most important person in the Jewish hierarchy during the period after the destruction in AD 70. He became head of the new seat of Jewish government which was established after AD 70 at Jabneh (Jamnia) about thirty miles west of Jerusalem. His witness and interpretation is paramount to justify the reliability of the occurrence of these four signs.”
That these four, miraculous signs occurred cannot be disputed; the evidence is clearly stated in both the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds. These signs pointed to events of eternal significance, to the sacrificial death and subsequent resurrection of Jesus! Dr. Martin summarizes it well:
“That very year [AD 30] was the year for the crucifixion of Jesus, and for the next 40 years there was a constant reminder by God of the coming destruction of the Temple, the city of Jerusalem and the Jewish way of life, just as Jesus had foretold on the very Mount of Olives on which he was crucified. It is time that all the world begin to realize the importance of these significant events.”
Other Support for the Year AD 30
I believe strongly in the case for AD 30 as the year in which Jesus was crucified. I am joined by a number of highly credible Bible scholars, including Dr. Ernest Martin, Avi Ben Mordechai (Signs in the Heavens – A Jewish Messianic Perspective of the Last Days and Coming Millennium ), and Nancy L. Kuehl (A Book of Evidence – The Trials and Execution of Jesus ). But despite what appears to be overwhelming evidence for our position, we remain in the minority.
Fortunately, truth is not determined by what the majority believes.
Note: In my next Post, I will offer my conclusions concerning the topic of Jesus’ Death, Resurrection and Ascensions.