The Dates and Years of the Birth and Death of Christ

It is common to hear some people propose that Our Lord was crucified as early as 30 A.D. and born as early as 4 B.C. They also claim He was not born in December and have proposed all sorts of other dates for His birth. Is there any truth to these claims? In the below article, we will deduce, step by step, the dates and years of the birth and the death of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

First Point: Our Lord Jesus began His ministry after the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar (29 A.D.).

The Gospel tells us plainly (Lk. 3:1): “Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and Philip his brother tetrarch of Iturea, and the country of Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilina; [2] Under the high priests Annas and Caiaphas; the word of the Lord was made unto John, the son of Zachary, in the desert.”

This gives us a wealth of historical information. We independently know that (1) Pontius Pilate was governor of Judaea from 26 to 36 A.D. (2) Tiberius Caesar begin to reign in the year 14 A.D. The fifteenth year of his reign is therefore 29 A.D. (3) Caiaphas also remained high priest until 36 A.D.

We therefore have solid dates for the beginning of St. John the Baptist’s ministry of baptism. Our Lord Jesus Himself, being baptized around 30 years of age, soon began to preach the Gospel.

Luk 3:22: “And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape, as a dove upon him; and a voice came from heaven: Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased. [23] And Jesus himself was beginning about the age of thirty years; being (as it was supposed) the son of Joseph, who was of Heli, who was of Mathat.” Our Lord was 30 in 30 A.D. He couldn’t have been crucified in that year.

Point Two: The Ministry of Our Lord lasted three years. Therefore, Our Lord wasn’t crucified in 30 A.D.

The Gospel of St. John notes that three Passovers were completed during the ministry of Our Lord.

Jn. 2:13 “And the pasch [likely 31 A.D.] of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.”

Incidentally, Bp. Eusebius and other Church Fathers tell us that the Synoptics mostly record only the third year of Christ’s preaching. Thus, John the Baptist is captured early (Mt. 4:12; Mk. 6:17; Lk. 3:20). But St. John the Apostle, who wanted to write about Christ’s early miracles, begins at Cana.

Jn. 6:4: “Now the pasch, the festival day of the Jews [likely Passover 32 A.D.], was near at hand.”

We see the second Pasch that passes during Christ’s ministry. This alone is sufficient to rule out a 30 A.D. date for Our Lord’s Death. Our Lord was killed on the Passover of 33 A.D., as we shall see.

Jn. 11:55: “And the pasch of the Jews was at hand [the final Pasch of Christ’s Life, in 33 A.D.]; and many from the country went up to Jerusalem, before the pasch to purify themselves.”

Point Three: Our Lord was crucified (in our Christian calendar) on April 3, 33 A.D. at 3:00 P.M.

We further know from the Gospel writers that Our Lord was crucified at 3:00 P.M.: “Matthew, Mark, and Luke each record that Jesus died about ‘the ninth hour’ (Matthew 27:45-50Mark 15:34-37Luke 23:44-46).”

With some historical calculations, we can see that Nisan 14 (the Jewish Passover date) fell on April 3 in 33 A.D. Therefore, the time of Our Lord’s crucifixion and death was April 3, 33 A.D. at 3:00 P.M. (ninth hour).

First Things has a similar calculation. Live Science considers also the earthquake St. Matthew (27:54) reports.

Similarly, with Our Lord’s crucifixion date fixed, we can work backward to see when Our Lord Jesus was born.

How? Since if Christ Our Lord was 30 around 29 or 30 A.D. and died in 33 A.D. after 30 years of life and a further three and a half years of ministry, it is evident He could not have been born in 4 B.C. or any time earlier, but only in 1 B.C. or 2 B.C. If He was 33 on Nisan 14, 33 A.D., as we have seen, He was born in 1 B.C. if born before April, or in 2 B.C. if born after April. Since He was born in December, as we will see, He was born in 2 B.C.

(Recall also that there is no year 0 B.C. 1 B.C. goes to 1 A.D. Being 33 in April, 33 A.D. requires a 2 B.C. birth.)

First Point: John the Baptist was conceived around late September of 3 B.C. near the Day of Atonement.

A Hebrew calendar shows that the Day of Atonement (also called Yom Kippur) was on Sep. 19, 3 B.C. It is the contention of this article that the Baptist was conceived around this time, when St. Zachary was ministering in the Temple. In other words, the story of our salvation began on the ancient Day of Atonement commanded by God, which is fitting. It is here that the Gospel events recorded by St. Luke in chapter 1 really begin to take off.

1:5 “There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zachary, of the course of Abia; and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name Elizabeth.”

As Dr. Marshall explains, a course of Abia occurs in September, and there is evidence in this passage to suggest that the time is around the Day of Atonement, when the high priest goes into the holy place, as we read in Ex. 30:10, Lev. 16:3, Heb. 9:7, etc.

Second Point: Jesus Christ Our Lord was conceived around six months after St. John the Baptist.

Moreover, we know from the same chapter that Our Lady conceived Christ about six months after St. Elizabeth conceived the Baptist. For the Angel says (36), “And behold thy cousin Elizabeth, she also hath conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her that is called barren: [37] Because no word shall be impossible with God.”

Now, if the Baptist was conceived in late September, Christ the Lord would have been conceived in late March. Similarly, we can reasonably deduce that the Baptist would be born around late June, nine months after conception.

Third Point: Therefore, Christ Our Lord was conceived on March 25, 2 B.C. and born Dec. 25, 2 B.C.

It is an interesting point that “the twenty-fifth day of the ninth month, that is, the month of Kislev” (1 Mac. 4:22) was already held in honor as a Festival of Light. It is the Feast of Dedication in winter mentioned by St. John (10:22). The Hebrew calendar begins in March-April in Nisan, so its ninth month roughly comes to our twelfth month, December, in most years. It is highly fitting that the 25th day of the 12th month on the Christian calendar should have been set apart for Christ, “The Light of the World” (Jn. 8:12), to make His entrance into the world.

The Baptist being born in late June, as shown in the Second Point, Christ Our Lord certainly would have been born around late December. The witness of Tradition, of very early historical Tradition, is clear on this point.

Bp. Theophilus (115–181 A.D.) stated: “We ought to celebrate the birthday of Our Lord on what day soever the 25th of December shall happen.”

Saint Hippolytus (170–240 A.D.) wrote: “The First Advent of our Lord in the flesh occurred when He was born in Bethlehem, was December 25th, a Wednesday, while Augustus was in his forty-second year, which is five thousand and five hundred years from Adam.”

St. Augustine finally confirms: “But he was born, according to Tradition, upon December the 25th.”

In sum, Our Lord’s date of birth: Dec. 25, 2 B.C. Our Lord’s date of crucifixion: April 3, 33 A.D.

Therefore, the first Easter: April 5, 33 A.D. The 50th day, the first Pentecost: May 24, 33 A.D.

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