New Testament Chronology
New Testament Chronology, (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 1990)
The day of the crucifixion of Jesus was a Wednesday, Thursday or a Friday. That day on the Jewish calendar was Nisan 14 or Nisan 15, depending on whether the day was reckoned from sunrise or sunset. There are six possible combinations leading to four possible dates of the crucifixion. These dates are Thursday, April 6, 30 CE, Friday, April 7, 30 CE, Wednesday, March 28, 31 CE and Friday, April 3, 33 CE. On which day was Jesus nailed1 to the cross?
The above possible days and dates for the crucifixion are discussed in the chapter, "Astronomical Determination of the New Moon." The surrounding years are there eliminated as possible for His crucifixion.
The Friday crucifixion was immediately followed by a Sabbath. This is determined in "The Preparation for the Sabbath." This poses a problem for a Wednesday or Thursday crucifixion. To overcome this it is claimed that the Sabbath did not necessarily refer to the day of Saturday, but also might refer to the festival day of Passover. If that is accepted, could the "preparation" day also refer to the day before a festival Sabbath, as well as the day of Friday? If that interpretation is allowed, then a Thursday crucifixion is possible, but the Wednesday date encounters additional problems. The Wednesday crucifixion would precede a Thursday Passover Sabbath, a normal Friday and then a Saturday Sabbath. The women came to anoint the body of Jesus Sunday morning. This was an unacceptable four days after His death. The women would have anointed the body of Jesus on the intervening Friday, in contradiction to the Scriptures.
The "three days and three nights" between the death of Jesus and His resurrection is considered in "The Sign of Jonah." This phrase is a figure of speech that includes three inclusive days, the normal Jewish reckoning. A Thursday crucifixion does occur in three days and three nights, or three inclusive days. The usual Friday crucifixion is three inclusive days, but only three days and two nights. The Wednesday crucifixion is also not literal, as the time from Jesus' death to burial is not counted in the claimed seventy-two hours in the tomb. Also, the days and nights are reversed, and Jesus was then resurrected in four days.
The tradition of Jesus' riding into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday is confirmed in "The Triumphal Entry." Only the crucifixion on the following Good Friday being Nisan 15, the day after Passover, satisfies this tradition. The crucifixion on Nisan 14 requires Jesus' Triumphal Entry to be on Monday. Paul's claims that Jesus was "our Passover" and the "first fruits" of the resurrection is considered. It is concluded that His crucifixion on Nisan 14 or Nisan 15 may be appropriate. His resurrection as "first fruits" might then occur on either Nisan 16 or Sunday. Only a Wednesday crucifixion cannot meet the requirement of His resurrection as "first fruits," as this would have been Saturday, Nisan 18.
Matthew, Mark and Luke are clear that the Last Supper was a Passover supper, and Jesus was crucified the following day, Nisan 15. John, however, seems to say that a Passover followed Jesus' crucifixion on Nisan 14. In "The Two Passovers" the possibility is examined that there were two Passovers according to the tradition of the Pharisees and pilgrims from the Diaspora. The Sadducean priests conducted the first Passover that included the slaying of the lambs. The Pharisees and many pilgrims observed a second "Passover" seder without the lamb. This calendar arrangement would have been possible in 30 CE, but not in 31 or 33 CE. Next, the Passover would sometimes fall on different days because the Sadducees used sunrise reckoning and the Pharisees used sunset reckoning. This will allow two Passovers in 30 or 31 CE. In 33 CE the observation of the new moon beginning the month was such that only one Passover was possible. By sunrise or sunset reckoning two Passovers are not possible in 33 CE. There is further discussion to consider that John is using the term "Passover" interchangeably with the "Feast of Unleavened Bread." Then there was only the Passover Last Supper, and Jesus was crucified the following day.
The chapter "It is the Third Day," examines the crucifixion from the perspective of Jesus' resurrection. A Friday crucifixion followed by the resurrection shortly after sunrise on Sunday seems confirmed. The Wednesday and Thursday crucifixions are eliminated as possible.
The evidence to this point leads to a Friday crucifixion on Nisan 14/15 in 30 CE, with the observance of two Passovers. The Wednesday crucifixion in 31 CE is repeatedly eliminated. The Thursday crucifixion in 30 CE has the main problem of requiring the Last Supper to have not been a Passover supper, but the lambs had already been slain earlier that day. The Friday crucifixion on Nisan 14 in 33 CE has the same problem, and two Passovers in that year are not astronomically possible. However, the possibility that the crucifixion occurred in 33 CE is again considered in "Pilate, Sejanus and 33 CE." These last arguments still fall short of establishing the crucifixion of Jesus in 33 CE.
The crucifixion of Jesus on Friday, April 7,
30 CE is established in the summary chapter "The 30 CE Crucifixion." This
is then put in sequence with the dating leading up to 30 CE, and the dates
are charted. This provides a firm starting point to consider the growth
of the early Church.
1. E. Sekeles and J. Zias, "The Crucified Man from Giv'at ha-Mivtar: A Reappraisal," IEJ 35, 1 (1985), conclude the crucified man was tied by the arms and each foot nailed separately to the sides of the upright. Jesus' hands were also said to be nailed.