How Long was the Ministry of Jesus? (Resources & Notes)

[Note:  The priestly service was divided into 24 divisions, and the course of Abijah fell in the 8th lot in the month of May in the first priestly cycle, which was the course served by the prophet John’s father, Zacharias (I Chron. 24:3-19).  In the second priestly cycle the course of Abia (Abijah) fell in the month of November.  Therefore, if Zacharias ended his course in May of 4 BCE then it could have been several months before Elisabeth became pregnant with John.  If Zacharias served in the second cycle, then his course would have finished in November of 4 BCE, which meant that Elisabeth would have been more likely to become pregnant with John in the winter of 4/3 BCE.  Making it possible for John to be born in the fall of 3 BCE.  These dates are based on a reckoning from the 15th year of Tiberius Caesar, dated as AD 28/29.]

[Note:  Some assume without evidence that John was conceived “immediately” after the course of Abijah that finished in the spring of the year.  This is a false conjecture and there is not biblical evidence that the conception took place that soon.]

[Note:  The reason some do not use the fall course of Abijah is that in doing so they will be faced with the issue that some interpretations of the seventy-weeks prophecy will not work in favor of their contrived conclusions.]

[Note:  The date of John the Baptist’s birth is commonly determined by associating his conception in an arbitrary manner with the priestly course of Abia (Abijah).]

[Note:  Prophetic interpretations such as the seventy-weeks prophecy skew the evidence presented by Josephus, which makes the seventy-weeks prophecy unreliable in determining the season of Jesus’ birth.  Josephus does not provide sufficient historical evidence to support the conclusion that Jesus was born in 4 BCE when that evidence is compared to Luke’s account regarding the beginning of John the Baptist’s ministry in the 15th year of Tiberius Caesar.]

[Note:  The beginning of the seventy-weeks prophecy cannot be associated with the regnal year 457/456 BCE, which is assumed to be the 7th year of Artaxerxes I.]

[Note:  It is understood from Luke’s account that Zacharias served at the temple in the summer (May/June), and it is conjectured that shortly after his time of service at the temple Elisabeth became pregnant with her son John.]

[Note:  “There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia [Abijah]:  and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth.  And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.  And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years.  And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course, According to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord….  And the people waited for Zacharias, and marvelled that he tarried so long in the temple.  And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless.  And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house. And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying, Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men” (Lk. 1:5-25).]

[Note:  The weight of evidence tells us that prophet John was likely born in the late summer/early fall of 3 BCE, which means that his conception would have been in the winter of 4/3 BCE, likely in the month of December as reckoned from Tiberius’ regnal year of AD 28/29.  It is possible for John to have been born in the spring of 3 BCE, but given the evidence at hand it is most unlikely.]

[Note:  If John baptized Jesus in the spring of AD 28, then one year would pass from the time of Jesus’ baptism to the time he began his ministry, and if Jesus was baptized in the fall of AD 28 there would be six months before the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in the spring of AD 29.  Therefore, it is not conceivable that John baptized Jesus in the spring of AD 28 or the spring of AD 29.]

[Note:  “And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.  And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee:  blessed art thou among women.  And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.  And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary:  for thou hast found favour with God.  And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus” (Lk. 1:26-31).]

[Note:  According to the testimony of the angel Gabriel we see that in Elizabeth’s 6th month (5 months + days) the angel Gabriel visited Mary to inform her that she would become pregnant by the holy spirit of God.  Making Jesus’ birth to be about 6 months after John was born to Elisabeth (Lk. 1:30-33).]

[Note:  “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise:  When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.  Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily.  But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.  And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.  Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.  Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife:  And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name Jesus” (Mt. 1:18-25).]

[Note:  After spending about three months with Elizabeth, Mary returns to her home in Nazareth.  “And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda; And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth” (Lk. 1:39-57).  If Jesus was conceived earlier—in the winter—then it is within reason that Mary went to visit Elisabeth in the winter instead of the summer when Elisabeth was in her sixth month of pregnancy with John.]

[Note:  Jesus was most likely born in Bethlehem in the spring of 2 BCE just

View of Bethlehem, Israel

View of Bethlehem, Israel

before the Passover.  After some time passed Jesus is visited by wise men from the East, and after the wise men depart Joseph and Mary are warned of Herod’s attempt to kill Jesus.  Joseph and Mary take Jesus into Egypt and remain there until the spring of 1 BCE, following the death of Herod the Great.  They return to Nazareth after the death of Herod I, who, as reckoned by the account of Josephus, likely died at some time in the spring of the year, in a period of time marked by a lunar eclipse and the festival of the Passover.]

[Note:  “When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.  And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.  And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea:  for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel” (Mt. 2:3-6).]

[Note:  The Bible does not tell us that Jesus was born in a stable, only that he was laid in a manger, and there was no guest room, and it was under these circumstances that he was found by the shepherds who were led to Bethlehem to bear witness of Jesus.  Which means that the time of year when Jesus was born would not likely have been in the winter season, but would have occurred at a time of year when the sheep could be found being pastured in the fields around Bethlehem (Lk. 2:16).]

[Note:  “And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed [registered].  (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)  And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.  And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child” (Lk. 2:1-5).]

[Note:  In 2 BCE Caesar Augustus (Octavian) celebrated the 25th anniversary of his reign, which was hailed as the “Jubilee Year of Augustus.”  This year marked the 750th

Augustus of Prima Porta. Displayed in the Braccio Nuovo of the Vatican Museums.

Augustus of Prima Porta. Displayed in the Braccio Nuovo of the Vatican Museums (Courtesy of Wiki Commons).

anniversary of the founding of Rome by the legendary Romulus, and in this Jubilee Year the Senate conferred the title of “Father of His Country” and “Prince of Peace” upon Augustus.  Such an act by the Senate was confirming of their authority in relationship to Augustus, which has implications in regard to the accession of Tiberius Caesar.]

[Note:  It is supposed by some that the decree for an enrollment was given in 3 BCE as Augustus was given the title of Pater Patriae in February of 2 BCE.]

[Note:  While at the temple, Joseph and Mary performed those rights associated with the sanctification of the firstborn, which is a ceremony (ordinance) that had its roots in the events of the Passover that took place in Egypt when the Israelites began their journeys to the land of Canaan (Ex. 13:2; Gal. 4:4).]

[Note:  According to some historians this registration began earlier in the Roman Empire when Cyrenius (Publius Sulpicius Quirinius) was sent to Syria to oversee the continuation of the registration in 4 BCE.]

[Note:  The “fast” that occurred at the time of the lunar eclipse, as recorded by Josephus, cannot be confirmed to be the Day of Atonement.  This fast was associated with the eclipse and the season of the year surrounding the events associated with those killed for their suspected sedition against Herod I.]

[Note:  A lunar eclipse occurred in March 12-13, 4 BCE.  This eclipse has been commonly associated with the birth of Jesus and the death of Herod I, even though the weight of the historical evidence does not support this date for the death of Herod I.]

[Note:  A lunar eclipse occurred on January 9-10, 1 BCE.  This was a full lunar eclipse that can be correlated to the death of Herod the Great in 1 BCE respective to the Passover.]

[Lunar Eclipses:  March 23, 5 BCE (total), September 15, 5 BCE (total), March 13, 4 BCE (partial), January 10, 1 BCE (total).  Another eclipse occurred in December 28-29, 1 BCE.  (Reckoned by the Julian Calendar.)]

[Note:  Joseph and Mary likely returned from Egypt in the spring of the year to live in the city of Nazareth (Mat 2:23).  This occurred after Herod’s death in 1 BCE, which may allow us to consider that Joseph’s and Mary’s departure from Egypt may have occurred before or during the Passover festival and Days of Unleavened Bread.]

[Note:  The Apostle John tells us that Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist.  Then John’s account continues with these events:

1) the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and the call of Andrew, John and Peter, and

2) the call of Nathaniel and Philip, and

3) the wedding in Cana on the “third day” when Jesus performed his first miracle in Galilee, and

4) the “not many days” spent in Capernaum before Jesus and his family and his disciples observed the Passover at Jerusalem.  This was the first Passover that Jesus observed with his disciples at Jerusalem.]

[Note:  The Apostle John’s account of the call of Jesus’ disciples and the beginning of his ministry reflects a different time and context than what we find recorded by Matthew, Mark and Luke who spoke of Jesus’ mission in Galilee that occurred after John’s imprisonment by Herod Antipas.]

[Note:  The Apostle John’s account shows that John the Baptist was not in prison when Jesus began to call his disciples, which marked the beginning of his ministry, and this was only a few days before Jesus kept the first Passover with his disciples and his family at Jerusalem.]

[Note:  It may be reasonably supposed upon traditional grounds that the prophet John began his ministry at the age of 30, and so we could reasonably conclude that Jesus was baptized at the beginning of John’s ministry when he was baptizing in the Jordan River.  This would place the beginning of John’s ministry in the fall of the year at the beginning of the 15th year of Tiberius Caesar in AD 28, about six months before Jesus turned 30 years of age in the spring of AD 29.  Also, Jesus’ baptism could have occurred just before his date of birth in the fall of AD 28.]

[Note:  Both John the Baptist and Jesus witnessed the holy spirit descend like a dove upon Jesus, and the voice of God was heard saying:  “Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased (Lk. 3:21-22).  (See also, Mk. 1:9-12.)]

[Note:  John fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah by being the:  “voice of one crying in the wilderness” (Lk. 3:3-4).  (See also, Mt. 3:1-4; Mk. 1:1-3.)]

[Note: John the Baptist begins his baptismal ministry in the area of Betharbara [Bethany] near the Jordan River: “in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness” (Lk 3:1-2).]

[Note:  Scholars tell us that the majority of texts show that John was baptizing near “Bethany beyond the Jordan,” and that the term “Betharbara” was an influence of Origen on the view of translators, and so we find “Betharbara” in the Authorized Version.  We see this in John 1:28:  “These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing.”  This “Bethany” is not the Bethany near Jerusalem, and its location has been identified with several ancient towns near the Jordan River, yet its exact whereabouts cannot be confidently determined, but it may have been in the area of Perea.]

[Note:  The prophet John lived in the desert, but baptized in the Jordan River (Mt. 3:1-6; Mk. 1:4-9).]

[Note:  Luke tells us that John was baptizing in the 15th year of Tiberius Caesar.  If then Jesus was baptized in that same regnal year just before the beginning of his ministry in the spring, then Jesus’ baptism would have been in the spring of AD 29.  However, By generally estimating the number of days from the time of Jesus’ baptism to the time he arrived in Jerusalem for the Passover, we would have to reckon that Jesus’ baptism would have occurred nearly two months before the Passover, which would be in the winter season of AD 28/29 (40 days + days of recovery from fasting + days of travel + 3 to 6 days for the call of the disciples before arriving in Cana + a day or so in Cana + a few days in Capernaum + a few days journey to arrive at Jerusalem.]

[Note:  It is unlikely that John was baptizing in the winter season, and so it is reasonable to assess that even though the ministry of Jesus began some few days before the Passover of AD 29 it is likely given the evidence of Herod’s time of death and the calculation of Tiberius’ reign that he was baptized in the same 15th regnal year of Tiberius in the fall of AD 28.]

[Note:  The dynastic/regnal reckoning was the usual method employed by the Roman historians in regard to the emperors, and examples of this can be found with Tacitus and Suetonius, as well as with Josephus, Eusebius and Philo.  There are historians who cite these same sources and draw the opposite conclusions regarding the dating of the reigns of the emperors.]

[Note:  Given the evidence presented by Luke we can reasonably conclude that Luke was associating the 15th regnal year of Tiberius Caesar with the beginning of Jesus’ ministry at Jerusalem, which was by John’s reckoning in the spring of the year, placing the beginning of Jesus ministry in AD 29.]

[Note:  To assume that Luke was reckoning the 15th year of Tiberius with his first year of coregency with Augustus presents some difficulties:

1) It doesn’t establish a point of reckoning in the accession year with the incumbent emperor as there was no precedent for the coregency, and

2) there was no date of accession that could be assigned to Tiberius until after Augustus had died, and

3) it is questionable that Tiberius and August were co-equal or co-extensive because Tiberius never received the title of “Pontifex Maximus” or “Augustus” during his coregency, and

4) the title of “Augustus” was not offered to Tiberius until the Senate confirmed him as emperor in September of 14 AD, and

5) Tiberius was the first to “inherit” the throne of Rome, which established the precedent for succeeding emperors and the “accession year” formula for reckoning the rules of the emperors from the end of Augustus reign, marked by the formal accession of Tiberius, and

6) Tiberius was not able to be considered sole ruler until the death of Agrippa Postumus (Augustus’ adopted son and contender for the throne) who was murdered in AD 14, and

7) Tiberius was awarded constitutional powers during his coregency, but he did not assume the position of emperor and was hesitant to do so later according to Tacitus,

8) Luke would not be careless in establishing an historical marker for the time of John the Baptist’s call by associating it with Tiberius’ coregency in AD 12 and AD 13, whose coregency represented an insurance policy against contenders to the throne, and

9) the only certain reference to Tiberius’ accession to the throne would be his formal and official confirmation by the Senate in September of AD 14, and therefore Luke would not use “actual” years in his reckoning, and

10) if the Senate was the defining political body that allowed Tiberius to assume constitutional powers, then they were also the defining political body that formalized Tiberius as emperor, and it was the Senate that had the authority to confer the title of “Augustus” upon Tiberius for the sake of public recognition in the realm of the Roman Empire.  Thus, the date of Tiberius’ accession was defined by the death of Augustus and the confirmation of the Senate, which established a date and season for reckoning the regnal years of Tiberius.]

[Note:  Luke tells us that Jesus was “about thirty years of age” at the time of his baptism by John the Baptist (Lk. 3:23).  Jesus departs from the Jordan River and is “led by the Spirit into the wilderness” where he stayed for at least 40 days and while there he was “tempted of the devil” (Lk. 4:1-2.)  (See also, Mt. 3:13; 4:1.)]

[Luke’s statement regarding the fact that Jesus was “about thirty years of age” implies some significance to what would occur when Jesus did reach the age of thirty, and traditionally this is the age he would have been expected to begin his ministry.]

[Note:  It is sometime after Jesus returns from the wilderness that he begins to call his disciples and this call began a short time before Jesus and his family kept the Passover at Jerusalem.  And:  “after this He [Jesus] went down to Capernaum, He and His mother and His brothers and His disciples. And He remained there not many days. And the Passover of the Jews was near. And Jesus went up to Jerusalem” (Jn. 2:12-13).]

[Note:  After some time in the region of Galilee a final mission is begun by Jesus who summons four of his disciples—Peter, Andrew, James and John—and this is reckoned to be shortly after the imprisonment of John the Baptist (Lk. 5:4-11; 33).  We note that from the time of this call the disciples are no longer occupied in their former professions, and we understand this from Luke’s account who shows us that before this particular call Jesus was conducting a ministry in Galilee while some of the disciples—those who would become part of the “twelve”—were still conducting their business as fisherman in Galilee.]

[Note:  Upon hearing that John was in prison, Jesus left Nazareth and went to Capernaum where he began to assemble his disciples for their mission, which eventually brought them all to Jerusalem to observe their last Passover with Jesus (Mt. 4:12).]

This was affirmed by Mark’s account who wrote that:  “after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.  Now as he walked by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.  And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.  And straightway they forsook their nets, and followed him.  And when he had gone a little further thence, he saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the ship mending their nets.  And straightway he called them: and they left their father Zebedee in the ship with the hired servants, and went after him.  And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught” (Mk. 1:14-21).

Also, this summons is confirmed in Matthew’s account:  “Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee; And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim:  That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles” (Mt. 4:12-17.)]

[Note:  Jesus ministry expands in the area of Galilee.  “And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan” (Mt. 4:25).]

[Note:  Levi is selected and summoned by Jesus (Lk. 5:27-28).  “And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the receipt of custom, and said unto him, Follow me.  And he arose and followed him” (Mk. 2:14).  “And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom:  and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him” (Mt. 9:9).]

[Note:  Luke’s reference to the “second sabbath after the first” cannot be confirmed as the weekly Sabbath that falls within the season of the Passover festival and Days of Unleavened Bread.  “And it came to pass on the second sabbath after the first, that he went through the corn fields; and his disciples plucked the ears of corn, and did eat, rubbing them in their hands” (Lk. 6:1).  Compare to:   “And it came to pass, that he went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn” (Mk. 2:23).]

[Note:  The context established by John chapter 4 tells us that John the Baptist was not yet in prison when Jesus went to teach in Samaria.  After this John tells us that:  “there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem” (John 5:1).  This feast cannot be identified with the feast of the Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread.  This feast was reported to be after Jesus had performed his second miracle in Galilee after he came out of Judea.  Also, it should be noted that some expositors assume that a distinction made in the use of grammatical articles allow them to determine that this feast is the Passover, citing the Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Ephraemi as examples, which is in contrast to the Codex Alexandrinus and Codex Vaticanus.

Also, some consider this day to have fallen on the Sabbath according to what we read in John 5:9:  “And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the Sabbath,” which raises the issue of whether or not a Sabbath day fell on the same day as this feast of the Jews.]

[Note:  Jesus ordains the twelve disciples:  “that he might send them forth to preach, And to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils:  And Simon he surnamed Peter; And James the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James; and he surnamed them Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder:  And Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Canaanite, And Judas Iscariot, which also betrayed him:  and they went into an house” (Mk. 3:14-19).]

[Note:  After giving instruction to the twelve disciples Jesus departed to teach and preach in their cities, and when:  “John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples” (Lk. 7:18-24).]

[Note:  John records a second Passover that occurred in the time of Jesus’ ministry.  “And the Passover was near, the feast of the Jews” (Jn. 6:4).]

Denarius of the Emperor Tiberius, Tribute Penny. Courtesy of DrusMax (Wikepedia Commons)

Denarius of the Emperor Tiberius, Tribute Penny. Courtesy of DrusMax (Wikepedia Commons)

[Note:  Jesus observes his third and last Passover with his disciples in Jerusalem, which meant that Jesus earthly ministry lasted for a little more than two years, accounting for the additional 40 days that elapsed before Jesus was taken into the heavens to sit at the right hand of God (Jn. 11:55; 13:1).  Allowing us to conclude that his ministry began with the call of his disciples in the 15th year of Tiberius Caesar, which was in the spring of AD 29, and by John’s record we can account for three Passovers observed by Jesus before his crucifixion and death at the hand of the Roman government in AD 31.]

[Note:  Josephus records:  “But the people, on account of Herod’s barbarous temper, and for fear he should be so cruel and to inflict punishment on them, said what was done was done without their approbation, and that it seemed to them that the actors might well be punished for what they had done.  But as for Herod, he dealt more mildly with others [of the assembly] but he deprived Matthias of the high priesthood, as in part an occasion of this action, and made Joazar, who was Matthias’s wife’s brother, high priest in his stead. Now it happened, that during the time of the high priesthood of this Matthias, there was another person made high priest for a single day, that very day which the Jews observed as a fast.  The occasion was this: This Matthias the high priest, on the night before that day when the fast was to be celebrated, seemed, in a dream, to have conversation with his wife; and because he could not officiate himself on that account, Joseph, the son of Ellemus, his kinsman, assisted him in that sacred office.  But Herod deprived this Matthias of the high priesthood, and burnt the other Matthias, who had raised the sedition, with his companions, alive. And that very night there was an eclipse of the moon” (Antiquities of the Jews, 17.6.4-8).]  [Author’s emphasis throughout.]

[Note:  Josephus records:   “And now Herod altered his testament upon the alteration of his mind; for he appointed Antipas, to whom he had before left the kingdom, to be tetrarch of Galilee and Perea, and granted the kingdom to Archclaus.  He also gave Gaulonitis, and Trachonitis, and Paneas to Philip, who was his son, but own brother to Archclaus by the name of a tetrarchy; and bequeathed Jarnnia, and Ashdod, and Phasaelis to Salome his sister, with five hundred thousand [drachmae] of silver that was coined.  He also made provision for all the rest of his kindred, by giving them sums of money and annual revenues, and so left them all in a wealthy condition.  He bequeathed also to Caesar ten millions [of drachmae] of coined money, besides both vessels of gold and silver, and garments exceeding costly, to Julia, Caesar’s wife; and to certain others, five millions. When he had done these things, he died, the fifth day after he had caused Antipater to be slain; having reigned, since he had procured Antigonus to be slain, thirty-four years; but since he had been declared king by the Romans, thirty-seven.  A man he was of great barbarity towards all men equally, and a slave to his passion; but above the consideration of what was right; yet was he favored by fortune as much as any man ever was, for from a private man he became a king; and though he were encompassed with ten thousand dangers, he got clear of them all, and continued his life till a very old age.  But then, as to the affairs of his family and children, in which indeed, according to his own opinion, he was also very fortunate, because he was able to conquer his enemies, yet, in my opinion, he was herein very unfortunate” (Antiquities of the Jews, 17.8.1).]

[Note:  Josephus records:  “Now, upon the approach of that feast of unleavened bread, which the law of their fathers had appointed for the Jews at this time, which feast is called the Passover and is a memorial of their deliverance out of Egypt, when they offer sacrifices with great alacrity; and when they are required to slay more sacrifices in number than at any other festival; and when an innumerable multitude came thither out of the country, nay, from beyond its limits also, in order to worship God, the seditious lamented Judas and Matthias, those teachers of the laws, and kept together in the temple, and had plenty of food, because these seditious persons were not ashamed to beg it.  And as Archelaus was afraid lest some terrible thing should spring up by means of these men’s madness, he sent a regiment of armed men, and with them a captain of a thousand, to suppress the violent efforts of the seditious before the whole multitude should be infected with the like madness; and gave them this charge, that if they found any much more openly seditious than others, and more busy in tumultuous practices, they should bring them to him.  But those that were seditious on account of those teachers of the law, irritated the people by the noise and clamors they used to encourage the people in their designs; so they made an assault upon the soldiers, and came up to them, and stoned the greatest part of them, although some of them ran away wounded, and their captain among them; and when they had thus done, they returned to the sacrifices which were already in their hands.  Now Archelaus thought there was no way to preserve the entire government but by cutting off those who made this attempt upon it; so he sent out the whole army upon them, and sent the horsemen to prevent those that had their tents without the temple from assisting those that were within the temple, and to kill such as ran away from the footmen when they thought themselves out of danger; which horsemen slew three thousand men, while the rest went to the neighboring mountains.  Then did Archelaus order proclamation to be made to them all, that they should retire to their own homes; so they went away, and left the festival, out of fear of somewhat worse which would follow, although they had been so bold by reason of their want of instruction.  So Archelaus went down to the sea with his mother, and took with him Nicolaus and Ptolemy, and many others of his friends, and left Philip his brother as governor of all things belonging both to his own family and to the public.  There went out also with him Salome, Herod’s sister who took with her, her children, and many of her kindred were with her; which kindred of hers went, as they pretended, to assist Archelaus in gaining the kingdom, but in reality to oppose him, and chiefly to make loud complaints of what he had done in the temple.  But Sabinus, Caesar’s steward for Syrian affairs, as he was making haste into Judea to preserve Herod’s effects, met with Archclaus at Caesarea; but Varus (president of Syria) came at that time, and restrained him from meddling with them, for he was there as sent for by Archceaus, by the means of Ptolemy.  And Sabinus, out of regard to Varus, did neither seize upon any of the castles that were among the Jews, nor did he seal up the treasures in them, but permitted Archelaus to have them, until Caesar should declare his resolution about them; so that, upon this his promise, he tarried still at Cesarea.  But after Archelaus was sailed for Rome, and Varus was removed to Antioch, Sabinus went to Jerusalem, and seized on the king’s palace.  He also sent for the keepers of the garrisons, and for all those that had the charge of Herod’s effects, and declared publicly that he should require them to give an account of what they had; and he disposed of the castles in the manner he pleased; but those who kept them did not neglect what Archelaus had given them in command, but continued to keep all things in the manner that had been enjoined them; and their pretense was, that they kept them all for Caesar” (Antiquities of the Jews, 17.9.3).]

[Note:  Josephus records:  “So Herod, having survived the slaughter of his son five days, died, having reigned thirty-four years since he had caused Antigonus to be slain, and obtained his kingdom; but thirty-seven years since he had been made king by the Romans.  Now as for his fortune, it was prosperous in all other respects, if ever any other man could be so, since, from a private man, he obtained the kingdom, and kept it so long, and left it to his own sons; but still in his domestic affairs he was a most unfortunate man.  Now, before the soldiers knew of his death, Salome and her husband came out and dismissed those that were in bonds, whom the king had commanded to be slain, and told them that he had altered his mind, and would have every one of them sent to their own homes.  When these men were gone, Salome, told the soldiers [the king was dead], and got them and the rest of the multitude together to an assembly, in the amphitheater at Jericho, where Ptolemy, who was intrusted by the king with his signet ring, came before them, and spake of the happiness the king had attained, and comforted the multitude, and read the epistle which had been left for the soldiers, wherein he earnestly exhorted them to bear good-will to his successor; and after he had read the epistle, he opened and read his testament, wherein Philip was to inherit Trachonitis, and the neighboring countries, and Antipas was to be tetrarch, as we said before, and Archelaus was made king. He had also been commanded to carry Herod’s ring to Caesar, and the settlements he had made, sealed up, because Caesar was to be lord of all the settlements he had made, and was to confirm his testament; and he ordered that the dispositions he had made were to be kept as they were in his former testament” (War of the Jews, 1.33.8).]

[Note:  Josephus records:  “At these clamors Archelaus was provoked, but restrained himself from taking vengeance on the authors, on account of the haste he was in of going to Rome, as fearing lest, upon his making war on the multitude, such an action might detain him at home.  Accordingly, he made trial to quiet the innovators by persuasion, rather than by force, and sent his general in a private way to them, and by him exhorted them to be quiet.  But the seditious threw stones at him, and drove him away, as he came into the temple, and before he could say any thing to them.  The like treatment they showed to others, who came to them after him, many of which were sent by Archelaus, in order to reduce them to sobriety, and these answered still on all occasions after a passionate manner; and it openly appeared that they would not be quiet, if their numbers were but considerable. And indeed, at the feast of unleavened bread, which was now at hand, and is by the Jews called the Passover, and used to he celebrated with a great number of sacrifices, an innumerable multitude of the people came out of the country to worship; some of these stood in the temple bewailing the Rabbins [that had been put to death], and procured their sustenance by begging, in order to support their sedition.  At this Archclaus was aftrighted [affrighted], and privately sent a tribune, with his cohort of soldiers, upon them, before the disease should spread over the whole multitude, and gave orders that they should constrain those that began the tumult, by force, to be quiet.  At these the whole multitude were irritated, and threw stones at many of the soldiers, and killed them; but the tribune fled away wounded, and had much ado to escape so.  After which they betook themselves to their sacrifices, as if they had done no mischief; nor did it appear to Archelaus that the multitude could be restrained without bloodshed; so he sent his whole army upon them, the footmen in great multitudes, by the way of the city, and the horsemen by the way of the plain, who, falling upon them on the sudden, as they were offering their sacrifices, destroyed about three thousand of them; but the rest of the multitude were dispersed upon the adjoining mountains: these were followed by Archelaus’s heralds, who commanded every one to retire to their own homes, whither they all went, and left the festival” (War of the Jews, 2.1.3).]

[Note: The dispute that some have raised over the length of Jesus’ ministry surrounds a view of what is said in John 6:4, which states: “And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh” (Jn. 6:4). In regard to this statement there has been the claim that this verse, particularly the phrase “the passover,” is not in older and substantiated Greek manuscripts. Some have incorrectly claimed that the so-called “church fathers” held singularly to the view that Jesus’ ministry lasted about one year.

Other assumptions regarding the length of Jesus’ ministry have sometimes been based on the work of those called the “church fathers,” sometimes called the “Greek fathers,” who did not agree on this issue. It is supposed that some of these assumptions by the Greek fathers were based on what we read in Lk. 4:19 (quoting Isa. 6:12, “to preach the acceptable year of the Lord”), which has been used to claim that Jesus ministry lasted about one year.

However, a simple observation makes it abundantly clear that Luke was not referring to the length of Jesus’ ministry that began at Jerusalem in the season of the Passover.

It would seem that the heart of this matter and dispute is the result of some misunderstandings and misuse of the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament. It is also referred to as the Novum Testamentum Graece (The New Testament in Greek or in the short form “NA28”) and it is considered to be foundational to many modern Bible translations as it uses the original Koine Greek.

The problem has arisen in the selective interpretation and use of this work, which is a problem suffered by other works of translation, and in the case of John 6:4 some have erroneously claimed that NA28 substantiates that John 6:4 should be removed from the text.

However, NA28 does not make this claim.

Earlier editions note that John 6:4 is not found in two minor Greek minuscule (472 and 1634), but these two works have been attributed to the late 13th and 14th centuries respectively. Apparently the NA28 does not see the necessity in addressing these variants. Therefore, it is worth stating that no early Greek manuscripts omit John 6:4, which has been erroneously called a “false Passover” by some, which is a misleading statement and misdirects people to think that Scripture is unreliable and unsubstantiated by the earliest Greek manuscripts.]

[Note: Comparisons of John 6:4 in various translations of Greek manuscripts:

ΚΑΤΑ ΙΩΑΝΝΗΝ 6:4 Greek NT: Nestle 1904

ἦν δὲ ἐγγὺς τὸ πάσχα, ἡ ἑορτὴ τῶν Ἰουδαίων.

ΚΑΤΑ ΙΩΑΝΝΗΝ 6:4 Greek NT: Westcott and Hort 1881

ἦν δὲ ἐγγὺς τὸ πάσχα, ἡ ἑορτὴ τῶν Ἰουδαίων.

ΚΑΤΑ ΙΩΑΝΝΗΝ 6:4 Greek NT: Westcott and Hort / [NA27 and UBS4 variants]

ἦν δὲ ἐγγὺς τὸ πάσχα, ἡ ἑορτὴ τῶν Ἰουδαίων.

ΚΑΤΑ ΙΩΑΝΝΗΝ 6:4 Greek NT: RP Byzantine Majority Text 2005

Ἦν δὲ ἐγγὺς τὸ Πάσχα, ἡ ἑορτὴ τῶν Ἰουδαίων.

ΚΑΤΑ ΙΩΑΝΝΗΝ 6:4 Greek NT: Greek Orthodox Church

ἦν δὲ ἐγγὺς τὸ πάσχα, ἡ ἑορτὴ τῶν Ἰουδαίων.

ΚΑΤΑ ΙΩΑΝΝΗΝ 6:4 Greek NT: Tischendorf 8th Edition

ἦν δὲ ἐγγὺς τὸ πάσχα, ἡ ἑορτὴ τῶν Ἰουδαίων.

ΚΑΤΑ ΙΩΑΝΝΗΝ 6:4 Greek NT: Scrivener’s Textus Receptus 1894

ἦν δὲ ἐγγὺς τὸ πάσχα, ἡ ἑορτὴ τῶν Ἰουδαίων.

ΚΑΤΑ ΙΩΑΝΝΗΝ 6:4 Greek NT: Stephanus Textus Receptus 1550

ἦν δὲ ἐγγὺς τὸ πάσχα ἡ ἑορτὴ τῶν Ἰουδαίων

John 6:4 Greek Study Bible (Apostolic / Interlinear)

ἦν δὲ ἐγγὺς τὸ πάσχα, ἡ ἑορτὴ τῶν Ἰουδαίων.]

[Note: Commentary from Adam Clarke regarding John 2:13: And the Jews’ passover was at hand – This was the reason why he stayed but a few days at Capernaum, Joh 2:12, as he wished to be present at the celebration of this feast at Jerusalem. This was the first passover after Christ’s baptism. The second is mentioned, Luk 6:1. The third, Joh 6:4. And the fourth, which was that at which he was crucified, Joh 11:55. From which it appears, 1. That our blessed Lord continued his public ministry about three years and a half, according to the prophecy of Daniel, Dan 9:27. And, 2. That, having been baptized about the beginning of his thirtieth year, he was crucified precisely in the middle of his thirty-third. See Martin.]

[Note:  Josephus reckons Herod’s reign with an accession year.  His accession year was 37/36 BCE and his first year was 36/35 BCE.  His 18th year of reign was 19/18 BCE in the year he “undertook” to rebuild the temple at Jerusalem.  According to Josephus we see that Herod waited until after he had gathered enough materials before he began to build the temple, and the amount of time that passed is not exactly known.  If he began the construction in the following year in his 19th regnal year of 18/17 BCE, then we should consider that 46 years backdated from AD 29 brings us to the beginning of his 19th regnal year in 18 BCE.  Reasonably harmonizing what we read in John 2:20:  “Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days?”]

[Note:  Issues to consider in calculating the season of Jesus’ ministry that began at Jerusalem:

  1. John the Baptist was 6 months older than Jesus.
  2. John the Baptist began his ministry and his baptizing before Jesus was 30 years of age.
  3. On traditional grounds it is expected that John the Baptist began his ministry when he turned 30 years of age.  (This particular traditional view is derived from the fact that a Rabbi could publicly teach at age 30, but we can’t be certain if this was in application in Jesus’ day, even though Jesus was called a Rabbi.)
  4. Jesus began his ministry with the call of his disciples, which was decidedly only a short time before Jesus observed the Passover.
  5. John the Baptist was not in prison when Jesus began his ministry at Jerusalem.
  6. John confirmed that Jesus had already returned from his time in the wilderness at the time of John’s confrontation with the Pharisees and Levites.  John told the Pharisees and Levites that there was one among them that they didn’t “know” and this occurred after Jesus was baptized and spent 40 days in the wilderness where he was tested by Satan.
  7. The Pharisees and Levites who confronted John the Baptist do not mention Jesus and appear to have no knowledge of him, because they were wondering if John was the Elijah or the Christ.  If Jesus had begun his ministry before the time of John’s testimony’ then the Pharisees would have certainly known about Jesus.  Matthew tells us that after Jesus began his ministry, and after he began his final work in Galilee, his:  “fame went throughout all Syria” (Mt. 4:24).  This did not occur before the time of John’s testimony to the Pharisees and Levites.
  8. The miracles Jesus performed while at Jerusalem drew the attention of the people and the attention of the Pharisees who acknowledged through Nicodemus that Jesus was a “teacher come from God” (Jn. 1:1-2; 2:23).  Therefore, the beginning period of Jesus’ ministry was evident among the people and the Pharisees at the Passover.  Jesus stayed in Judea with his disciples after the Passover season and taught them to baptize, while John the Baptist continued his ministry with his disciples who also baptized.  “After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized. And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there:  and they came, and were baptized. For John was not yet cast into prison” (Jn. 3:22-24).]
  9. If we reckon that John baptized Jesus just before the beginning of his ministry in the spring of the year, knowing that Jesus was 30 years of age before the Passover festival, then we would have to conclude that Jesus was baptized in the late winter of AD 29—spending some of his days in the wilderness during the winter—which is not likely given that John would not have been baptizing all the other people in the winter season of AD 28/29.
  10. It is likely that Jesus took some time to go into the wilderness—spending at least 40 days—and returned again to Galilee after some days, and it is reasonable to conclude that Jesus was ministered to by the angels for some time before he was able to return to Galilee.
  11. Some conclude that the “third day” in Cana is marked from the time Jesus left for Galilee from the place where he was with the disciples of John the Baptist, that is from the time he met Philip and Nathaniel.
  12. John the Baptist began his ministry in the 15th year of Tiberius Caesar.  At the earliest this would have been in the fall of AD 28, and if John had just turned 30 years of age, then this would likely place the date of Jesus’ birth in the spring of the year AD 29, when Jesus likely turned 30 years of age.  However, Jesus could have turned 30 in the fall of AD 28 (Compare Lk. 2:42 and Lk. 3:23.)
  13. The 15th regnal year of Tiberius Caesar was AD 28/29 (August to August reckoning).  Some would claim the reckoning is from the month of September.
  14. By backdating from AD 28/29 we arrive at the year years of 3/2 BCE, and by a fall to spring reckoning we can determine that the birth of Jesus could have occurred in the fall of 3 BCE or the spring of 2 BCE, which places the birth of John in the fall of 3 BCE.
  15. If Jesus was born in the fall, and he had not yet turned 30 when he was baptized by John, and this occurred in the 15th year of Tiberius, then we would have to conclude that Jesus could not have begun his ministry in AD 27, because his date of birth would have fallen in the fall of AD 28 or likely outside the 15th year of Tiberius in the year AD 29.
  16. Only three Passovers can be confirmed in the time of Jesus ministry, all of which are recorded in the works of the Apostle John.
  17. There is no record of Jesus teaching and performing miracles before the time he called his disciples shortly before the Passover in AD 29.
  18. John reckons the ministry of Jesus with the call of the disciples and the Passover, giving us some confidence in considering that Jesus turned 30 years of age between the time of his baptism and the time he went to keep the Passover at Jerusalem.

Therefore, regardless of the time that elapsed from the time of Jesus’ baptism to the beginning of his ministry, we know from the Apostle John’s account that Jesus’ ministry began in the spring of the year shortly before Passover, and according to Luke’s reckoning of Tiberius’ reign this would have to be in the spring of AD 29, because it is the only Passover that falls in the 15th regnal year of Tiberius Caesar.  Consequently, we can reckon the length of Jesus’ ministry according the number of Passovers that are accounted for in John’s account, which brings us to conclude that Jesus’ ministry began in the spring of AD 29 and ended in the spring of AD 31.  Backdating 30 years from this Passover and this season when Jesus’ began his ministry brings us to the spring of 2 BCE.]

[Note:  Issues to consider in calculating the season of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem:

  1. The birth of Jesus is typically calculated by backdating from the historical marker given to us by Luke who tells us that John the Baptist baptized Jesus in the 15th year of Tiberius Caesar, not long before Jesus turned age 30.
  2. It is apparent from Luke’s account that Jesus was not yet 30 years of age when he was baptized, but Luke indicates from the life of Jesus that Jesus’ birthday would have occurred before the Passover (Compare, Lk. 2:42; 3:23).
  3. John tells us that Jesus ministry began in the spring of the year shortly before the Passover, and the beginning of Jesus’ ministry was characterized by the call of his disciples, which would have expectedly occurred after Jesus had turned 30 years of age.
  4. The three main reasons for accepting a 4 BCE date was put forward by Emil Schürer in his work, A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ.  A second edition of this work was published in 1890.
  5. If we assume that Jesus was born in the fall of the year in the 15th year of Tiberius, then we must backdate from the fall of AD 28, which places the birth of Jesus in the fall of 3 BCE.  Jesus would then have been one year of age in the fall of 2 BCE.  This would mean that the wise men would have come to see Jesus several months after his birth, which is possible given the stipulations of Herod’s decree regarding the children, and noting also that there were no lunar eclipses in the years of 7 BCE, 6 BCE, 3 BCE or 2 BCE.
  6. If we backdate from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in AD 29 we see that it is also possible for Jesus to have been born in the spring of 2 BCE, and consequently he would have been about age one in the spring of the year when Herod died in 1 BCE.  In that year there was a total lunar eclipse in the month of January.  Thus, we are able to acceptably correlate the events of Jesus’ birth from fall of 3 BCE or the spring of 2 BCE with the decree issued by Caesar Augustus, and with Herod’s decree to kill the children, and with Herod’s death one year later in 1 BCE.
  7. Archelaus was ruling when Joseph and Mary returned to Nazareth.
  8. Archelaus had to deal with public disturbances at the time of the Passover after the death of Herod I.
  9. It is unlikely that Jesus was baptized in the winter and so it is reasonable to conclude that he was baptized in the fall of AD 28, when John likely turned 30 years of age.  This would allow us to account for the time it took Jesus to journey from place to place, his time spent in the wilderness, his time being cared for by the angels, and his time to recover from his fast and to prepare for the beginning of his ministry.  Which means that there was a period of time when Jesus did not conduct a ministry, which was from the time of his baptism to the time he called his disciples, and this is reasonably concluded from observing the actions of the Pharisees and Levites who confronted John the Baptist.
  10. Also, we can reasonably conclude that Jesus was born in the spring of the year some few days before the Passover in the year 2 BCE.  His baptism would have occurred in the fall of AD 28 when John turned 30 years of age, and when Jesus turned age 30 in the spring of AD 29 he began to call his disciples, beginning his official public ministry during the Passover festival and Days of Unleavened Bread at Jerusalem in AD 29.

[Note:  Issues to consider in calculating the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in regard to a 4 BCE date of birth for Jesus in the fall of the year:

  1. If the fall of 4 BCE is used as the season for the birth of Jesus, then he would have been 30 years of age in the fall of AD 27, which would mean that according to the Apostle John’s account Jesus would have begun his ministry in the spring of AD 28.  Then we must recognize that his ministry would have concluded in AD 30, as reckoned by the count of three Passovers.
  2. If a 4 BCE date is used for the date of Jesus’ birth, fall to fall reckoning, then his 30th birthday would be in the fall of AD 27, and if his ministry began that fall then a 3 and ½ year ministry would end in AD 31, which would contradict the record of John who tells us that Jesus began his ministry in the spring of the year at Jerusalem.
  3. We cannot account for four distinct Passovers during the ministry of Jesus.
  4. If Jesus was born in the fall of 4 BCE, then he would have likely turned 30 years of age outside the 15th year of Tiberius, as reckoned from his coregency, because his regnal years were reckoned August to August and his 15th regnal year would have begun in August of AD 26.

[Note:  Issues that must be considered in calculating the seasons of Jesus’ birth, ministry and crucifixion:

  1. Jesus’ ministry began in the spring of the year according to the Apostle John.
  2. There are only three Passovers that can be defined without dispute in the Apostle John’s account of Jesus’ ministry.
  3. Jesus’ ministry began with the call of his disciples shortly before the Passover.
  4. The dates and seasons of the Passovers and lunar eclipses can be accurately determined.
  5. The 15th regnal year of Tiberius Caesar is confidently reckoned to the regnal year of AD 28/29.  (This date has been challenged, but the evidence used to suggest that Luke would have reckoned Tiberius’ rule from his coregency lacks some legitimacy in the light of what historians give us regarding the coregency of Tiberius.)
  6. John the Baptist was baptizing in the 15th year of Tiberius and Jesus did not begin his ministry until after he was baptized by the prophet John.
  7. There is no record of Jesus performing miracles or conducting a public ministry until the Passover he observed with his disciples and his family, including his mother, Mary.
  8. So, if John was 30 years of age in the fall of AD 28, then Jesus would be 30 in the spring of AD 29.  If John was 30 years of age in the spring of AD 28, then he would not be baptizing until the beginning of Tiberius’ 15th year in the fall of AD 28 when Jesus would turn 30 years of age.  Therefore, it seems more plausible that John was age 30 in the fall of AD 28 when he baptized Jesus who was not yet 30 years of age, which means that Jesus could have turned 30 years of age in the fall or the following spring when he called his disciples just before the Passover.  If Jesus turned 30 years of age in AD 29 before the Passover, it would with little doubt push Jesus’ baptism into the winter of AD 28/29.

[Note:  Four issues in determining the season of Jesus’ birth, ministry and crucifixion are:

  1. Determining the corresponding regnal dating to the 15th year of Tiberius Caesar.
  2. Determining the beginning of John the Baptist’s ministry as it relates to the 15th year of Tiberius according to the record of Luke.
  3. Determining the beginning of Jesus’ ministry according to the record of the Apostle John.]
  4. Determining the number of Passovers that occurred during the ministry of Jesus according to the record of the Apostle John.
  5. Determining the time of Jesus’ birth in relation to John the Baptist’s birth who was conceived at an unknown time following the course of Abia (Abijah), which by the greater weight of evidence may be determined to be the fall course and not the spring.    (andrewburdettewrites.com)

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