How Many Years Ago Did Jesus Die

Who is Jesus in history? We, as Christians, know He is the reason why everything is happening daily. To the world, He is just another historical figure, someone of influence in the past.

I will give you biblical and historical evidence that relates to who Jesus is in history as He spoke about Himself and of events that have happened and are still to happen.

1. How many years ago did Jesus die?

Answer: Let us use the date, December 31, 2023, to understand how long ago Jesus died for our sins. We know on the day Jesus died, there was an earthquake, and the veil of the inner temple was torn from top to bottom during the reign of Pontius Pilate, governor of Judea. Both natural events show Jesus’ power over nature. When we subtract 31 December 2023, 3 pm from 3 April 33, 3 pm AD, it equals 1990 years, 8 months, 4 weeks, and 15 hours ago that Jesus gave up His Spirit to become sin and died so that we can be saved.

Biblical Evidence:

• The first evidence is the earthquake: “And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split.” (Matthew 27:51, ESV). This happened when Jesus gave up His Spirit. The second earthquake occurred when Mary and Mary Magdalene went to balm Jesus’s body approximately 36 hours later: “And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.” (Matthew 28:2, ESV).
• The lunar eclipse (Blood Moon) as described by Peter In Acts of the Apostles 2:14–21.
• The third piece of evidence is the reign of Pontius Pilate during Jesus’s crucifixion in Matthew 27 and Luke 3:1.

Historical Evidence:

• An earthquake was reported circa 30 A.D. and 33 A.D. by followers of Jesus and Jewish and Roman historians during the rule of Pontius Pilate.
• Pontius Pilate’s rule is confirmed by the four gospels, and Roman Historian Tacitus (Annals, book 15, chapter 44) and the Jewish Historian Josephus in Antiquities of the Jews, Book 18, Chapter 3, Paragraph 3. Pontius’ reign, according to archaeological evidence and astronomy predictions, was between 26 and 37 AD. Different dates were argued, but based on the evidence of the earthquake reported, the dates given are April 7, 30 AD, and April 3, 33 AD. Scholars, in general, agree on the second date of April 3, 33 AD.
• The lunar eclipse was discovered and did happen on April 3, 33, AD, based on the evidence found by physicist Colin Humphreys and astronomer Graeme Waddington.

2. How do we know the date of Jesus’ crucifixion?

Answer: By using the 5 Methods discussed below, the conclusion for the date of Jesus’ crucifixion is 1 April 33 AD.

Arguments will still occur between scholars on the exact date; the only thing to remain is that Jesus was slain for our sins, and He paid the highest price so that we can have a direct relationship with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

One of the methods used is based on historians Tacitus and Josephus, both non-Christians. The second method includes working backward from the date of Paul’s conversion and his trial by Roman Proconsul Gallio. The third method is based on Isaac Newton’s astronomical method to calculate those ancient Passovers. The fourth is the lunar eclipse method, as described by Peter’s statement that the moon turned to blood at the crucifixion, and the last is the two Passovers.

Biblical Evidence:

Below is the sequence of historical biblical events before Jesus’ death:

• Plot to kill Jesus (two days before the Passover) Monday of the week of Passover – Matthew 26:1-2, Mark 14:1-2, Luke 22:1-2.
• The Last Supper (Maundy Wednesday) – Matthew 26:20-30; Mark 14:17-26; Luke 22:14-38; John 13:21-30.
• In the Garden of Gethsemane – Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-45.
• Jesus Is Betrayed and Arrested – Matthew 26:47-56; Mark 14:43-52; Luke 22:47-53; John 18:1-11.
• The Religious Leaders Condemn Jesus – Matthew 27:1-2; Mark 15:1; Luke 22:66-71.

Day of crucifixion events: 6 AM – 9 AM “Start of Jesus’ Trial”
• Jesus Stands Trial Before Pilate (Matthew 27:11-14; Mark 15:2-5; Luke 23:1-5; John 18:28-37).
• Jesus was sent to Herod (Luke 23:6-12).
• Jesus Returned to Pilate (Luke 23:11).
• Jesus Is Sentenced to Death (Matthew 27:26; Mark 15:15; Luke 23:23-24; John 19:16).

9 AM – 12 AM “The Third Hour”
• Jesus Is Crucified – Mark 15: 25.
• Father, Forgive Them (Luke 23:34).
• The Soldiers Cast Lots for Jesus’ Clothing (Mark 15:24).
• Jesus Is Insulted and Mocked (Matthew 27:39-40).
• Jesus and the Criminal – Luke 23:40-43.
• Jesus Speaks to Mary and John (John 19:26-27).

Noon – 3 PM “The Sixth Hour”
• Darkness Covers the Land (Mark 15:33).
• Jesus Cries Out to the Father – Matthew 27:46 – And about the ninth hour, Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (NKJV).
• Jesus Is Thirsty (John 19:28-29).
• It Is Finished – John 19:30.
• Into Your Hands, I Commit My Spirit – Luke 23:46.
• Jesus has Led Away to Calvary (Matthew 27:32-34; Mark 15:21-24; Luke 23:26-31; John 19:16-17).

3 PM – 6 PM “The Ninth Hour” Events After Jesus’ Death
• The Earthquake and the Temple Veil Is Torn in Two – Matthew 27:51-52.
• The Roman Soldier – “Surely He was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:54; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:47).
• The Soldiers Break the Thieves’ Legs (John 19:31-33).
• The Soldier Pierces Jesus’ Side (John 19:34).
• Jesus is Laid in the Tomb (Matthew 27:57-61; Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:38-42).

Historical Evidence:

It is argued among biblical scholars that the Last Supper took place on Maundy Wednesday (1 April 33) as proposed by Annie Jaubert’s and Humphreys’s view of two Passovers. The first Passover (according to Humphreys’s recent available evidence) is based on Essene, Samaritan, and Zealot lunar calendars, and the second is the Jewish lunar Passover calendar that occurred 2 days later.

Jesus’s betrayal happened two days before the Passover, which meant Monday, 30 March 33. To investigate the historical point of view, we must look at:

• Method #1: Pontius Pilate

Based on Roman Historian Tacitus and the Jewish Historian Josephus, Jesus was crucified by Pontius Pilate (governor of Judah) during the reign of Roman Emperor Tiberius (Emperor from 14-37 AD). Pilate was governor of Judea from 26-37 AD when he was replaced by Marcellus.

Pontius realized that Jesus was a Galilean and under the jurisdiction of Herod Antipas and sent him to Herod to be executed. Herod Antipas sent him back to Pontius, who was warned by his wife not to execute Jesus. He then washed his hands as a symbol that he would not have anything to do with Jesus’s crucifixion. As he was afraid of an uproar, he gave the Jews the choice of whom to be set free. They decided to set Barrabas free and crucify Jesus.

• Method #2: Working Backward Based on Paul’s Conversion

His conversion took place soon after Jesus ascended to heaven. Paul’s trial was around the early reign of Junius Gallio in Greece (Acts 18:12-17). Gillio became proconsul between the spring of 51 AD and the summer of 52 AD and ended shortly in 53 AD. Paul spent approximately 18 months in Corinth (14 years after his conversion). He returned to Jerusalem (17 years after his conversion) according to Galatians 2:1-10. Due to this proof, he places his conversion around 33-36 AD, shortly after Jesus ascended to Heaven.

• Method #3: Newton’s Method

All four gospels agreed that Jesus died before the start of the Jewish Sabbath. We must remember that the slaughtering of the lamb happens on the 14th day of Nisan between 3 – 5 pm, and the Passover meal starts at nightfall on the 15th day of Nisan. According to the gospel of John and Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, Jesus’s trial starts the day before Passover on the 14th day of Nisan between 3-5 pm. The three Synoptic gospels (Matthew, Luke, and Mark) said that Jesus was slain on the 15th day of Nisan.

To get clarification on the exact date of the crucifixion, we need to establish during which year of Pontius Pilate’s reign (26-36 AD) the 14th/15th fell on a Friday. Isaac Newton published a paper in 1732 on Friday, April 3, 33 AD, and April 23, 34 AD.

Then, in 1910, JK Fotheringham suggested April 3, 33 AD, based on a lunar eclipse. In the 1990s, three other people, Antonio Carbeira, Bradley E Shafer, and JP Pratt, came to the same conclusion. Humphries and Waddington used the Hebrew calendar and gave two dates: 14 Nisan Friday, 7 April 32 AD, and 3 April 33 AD.

• Method #4: The Eclipse Method

A lunar eclipse did happen on 3 April 33 AD (founded by physicist Colin Humphreys and astronomer Graeme Waddington) that relates to Isaac Newton’s astronomical methods suggesting 3 April 33 AD. They suggested that it happened at 6:20 pm as the Jews waited to start their Passover meal. According to the Gospel of Luke 23:45, the land was covered in 3 hours of darkness.

A lot of explanations were given, and the most acceptable is sandstorms that can occur in March and May in the Middle East.

• Method #5: Double Passover Method

Another possibility arose when two Passovers were celebrated. Mark 14:12 and Luke 22:15 state that Jesus celebrated Passover before He was crucified. John 11:55 clearly states that the Jewish Passover was celebrated after Jesus’s crucifixion. The Passover used by Jesus was based on the Egyptian lunar calendar introduced by Moses to the Israelites in 13 BC. The “Jewish” calendar is based on the Hebrew calendar introduced in the Babylonian exile in 3 BC.

The basic difference is that the Samaritans calculated their calendar on the visible new moon. The Jews use the first observation of the thin crescent of the waxing moon, which is, on average, 30 hours later.

Another difference is that the Samaritans calculate their calendar based on a sunrise-to-sunrise day, while the Hebrew calendar uses a sunset-to-sunset day. Therefore, the Samaritan Passover is one day earlier than the Jewish Passover and, in some years, up to two or three days earlier.

The question to be answered is whether the astronomically possible years (30 AD and 33 AD) have a time gap of two days between the Last Supper and the crucifixion on a Friday. Based on the evidence presented, the compatible date for the Last Supper is on Wednesday, 1 April AD 33, followed by a compatible crucifixion on Friday, 3 April AD 33.

3. When did Jesus’ ministry begin and end, and how do we know?

Answer:  Jesus’ ministry ended on the date of His death, on 3 April 33 AD. And if we work backward with the estimation of 3-4 years, Jesus would have started His ministry around 28 – 30 AD.

We need to consider the Jewish culture when we want to determine Jesus’s start date of His ministry on earth. According to Jewish Law, one could only take on the position of Rabbi at the age of 30 years old. We will look at Biblical as well as historical facts to confirm the age at which Jesus started and ended His public ministry on earth.

Biblical Evidence:

• According to Luke 3:1, John the Baptist began his ministry in the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar’s reign. Tiberius was appointed emperor in AD 14, and “in the fifteenth year“would be AD 28 or 29. Jesus began His ministry shortly thereafter, around AD 29. As for the end of His ministry, we know that it ended with His crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension.
• John’s Gospel indicated that Jesus attended at least three annual Feasts of Passover during His earthly ministry. The three Feasts of Passover are described in John 2:13, Johan 6:4, and the Passover of His crucifixion in 11:55–57.
• John 2 states a lot had been done before Jesus’s first Passover.
• He had been baptized by John, his cousin. (Matthew 3:13–17).
• John the Baptist was only 6 months older than Jesus. (Luke 1: 5 -45)
• Been tempted in the wilderness by the devil for 40 days. (Matthew 4:1–2).
• Began His preaching ministry (Matthew 4:17).
• Called His first disciples (John 1:35–51).
• Performed His first miracle by turning water into wine (John 2:1–11).
• Made a trip to Capernaum with His family (John 2:12).
• Then there are the 40 days between Jesus’ resurrection and His ascension (Acts 1:3).
• From His baptism to His ascension, the late summer of 29 to the spring of 33, we have approximately 3½ years.

Historical Evidence:

• Tiberius Caesar came to power in September/October 14 AD after the death of Augustus Caesar. Coin evidence shows that Tiberius started his reign in AD 14.
• This put John the Baptist’s ministry beginning in late 28 AD or early 29 AD.
• The other option to look at is the Temple built by Herod. When Jesus visited the temple in John 2:20, it was built 46 years ago. This statement put Jesus’ ministry in 26-27 AD.
• Josephus also took John the Baptist’s death into consideration. The order by Herod to kill John the Baptist and his marriage to Herodias plays an important role in putting the marriage around 27-31 AD.
• Then there is the Jewish Law that needs to be taken into consideration. Jesus Himself was a Jew at birth and grew up in the traditions and laws of the Jewish culture. The code of Jewish Law (OC 581:1) states that a person must be at least 30 years of age to lead a service on Holy Days. Joseph, Ezekiel, and many more were around age 30 when they started. Numbers 4:3 (NKJV) clearly states God’s instruction: “From 30 years old and above, and even to fifty years old, all who enter the service to do the work in the tabernacle of meeting.”

4. When was Jesus born, and how do we know?

Answer: Based on the above below, we can safely agree with scholars that Jesus’s birth occurred between 4 and 6 BC.

The interesting fact that we need to know is that on the night of Jesus’s birth is that He was only visited by the shepherds and not the wise men as well. The wise men came from the East and traveled by camel, which took a long time. Then there is Herod, who instructed that all baby boys under the age of 2 years should be killed, leaving an average elapsed time of two years since Jesus’s birth.

Biblical Evidence:

The account of Jesus’s birth differs from Matthew and Luke, but here are the corresponding facts between the two gospels:

• Jesus was born under the Judean king Herod the Great (Matthew 2:1; Luke 1:5 vs Luke 2:1) in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:5; Luke 2:4.15)
• before His parents move to Nazareth (Matthew 2:22f) or before their return to Nazareth (Luke 2:39).
• Jesus’ parents, Mary and Joseph, were betrothed (Matthew 1:18–20; Luke 1:27; 2:5).
• His birth was a virgin birth conceived by the Holy Spirit.
• Angels confirmed Jesus’ birth, His name, His role as the Messiah (being a descendant of King David and the son of God), and His mission to save his people from sin (Matthew 1:21; Luke 1:77; 2:11,30).
• The visit of the Magi (Matthew 2:1-12) – There are records from astronomers in the Far East – of a new star in the small, northern constellation of Aquila in 4BC. They were astronomers, and when a very unusual sighting appeared, it would’ve had a clear message for the Magi. It might not have been a star at all but a comet.

Another explanation, according to Prof David Hughes (an astronomer from the University of Sheffield in the 1970s), is that it was a triple conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn – with the two planets coming close together in the sky three times over a short period. This happens when you get an alignment between the Sun, the Earth, Jupiter, and Saturn.

Historical Evidence:

Approach #1: Working Backward from the Date of Jesus’s Start of His Ministry

• When we subtract Jesus’s age from the estimated time of the beginning of His ministry around 28-30 AD, it puts Jesus’s birth at 1-2 BC, which does not correspond with Herod the Great’s death in 4 BC.
• It’s stated that Jesus was about 30 years old, meaning 32/33, and with this more realistic approach, it puts His birth at 4-6 BC, corresponding with Herod’s death in 4 BC.

Approach #2: Reference to Herod the Great

• The Gospel of Matthew indicates that Jesus was under 2 years old when Herod ordered the massacre of all boys under the age of 2 in the Bethlehem area.
• Herod the Great was king of Judaea from 37 BC to 4 BC.
• Herod’s two sons, Archelaus and Philip the Tetrarch’s rule, are dated back to 4 BC.
• Philip the Tetrarch ruled for 37 years, traditionally accepted by the scholars, during the 20th year of Tiberius (34 AD). This implies Philips’ accession in 4BC when his father, Herod the Great, died.

5. What now?

You may ask: how does this relate to me as a Christian? From this, we learn that God is the Wonder beyond the galaxies. He used all His creations and is still using – nature, kings, scientists, and everyday folk – to experience the existence of His Son. Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

And the biggest of all, there is yet more to come. The invitation stands in Revelation 22:17: “And the Spirit and the Bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.”

Author Bio
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.