In numerous articles, sermons and meditations you will come across the comment that Jesus was 33 years old when He died. Cassocks (gowns) of Roman Catholic clergy often have 33 buttons as a reference to the number of years Jesus lived. And if you ask the question at what age Jesus died in a group of Christians, you often hear the answer: 33 years. These same people often know that it is generally assumed that Jesus lived in the year 33 AD. is deceased. And if you then ask the question in which year Jesus was born? The answers will probably vary, but most Christians assume it was sometime around 8 – 6 B.C. must have been, and in fact everyone knows that Jesus was not born in the year 0 but earlier. If you ask these three questions - age, year of death, year of birth - one after the other to a group of Christians, you will suddenly notice that the penny will drop. The conclusion must therefore be that Jesus was not 33 years old, but older. What about that?
There is general agreement about the date of Jesus' crucifixion. We can date it because of Luke's great accuracy in historiography. He dates John's actions as follows: 'In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius the emperor, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and the land of Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch The word of God came to Abilene, under the chief priests Annas and Caiaphas, to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness” (Luke 3:1-2). If we compare these data with Roman historiography, we arrive at 28 or 29 AD. This is in accordance with the statement from John (John 2:20) that at the beginning of Jesus' ministry, the temple had already been built for 46 years. We know that Herod started this in 19 BC. If we take into account that there is no year 0, then you end up in the year 28 AD.
Next, we know from the Gospel of John that at least two Passover festivals occur in the Galilean period of Jesus' ministry. So Jesus' ministry must have lasted at least three full years.
We owe the third fact to the fact that two different calendars were used. The Jews used a calendar based on lunar months. A month begins and ends with a new moon. A year had 12 months, but to keep in line with the solar cycle, an extra month was added 7 times every 19 years. The Romans used the months as we know them, based on the solar cycle and with months of different lengths. From the history of the Passion we can conclude that the Passover (the 15th of Nisan according to the Jewish calendar) fell on Friday in the year that Jesus was crucified. That only happens once every few years.
If we compare all the data, the year will be: 33 AD. Jesus then died on April 3. As far as I can tell, this date is widely accepted. Sometimes the alternative date is April 7, 30 AD. ismentioned.
It becomes more difficult to determine the date on which Jesus was born. That wasn't year 0. The Romans used an era based on the founding of Rome. When the influence of the Roman Empire declined and Christianity became increasingly important, people wanted an era based on the birth of Jesus. This was built in 525 AD. made by the monk Dionysius Exiguus. We know he made a number of mistakes.
From Luke's history we know that Jesus was born during the reign of Herod the Great. He died in the spring of the year 4 BC, so Jesus was born before the year 4 BC. born. Attempts to make a more accurate calculation are based on mentioning special stars in the sky. Nowadays it is relatively easy to calculate the starry sky on any given date at any given location on Earth. Although it is not possible to unequivocally determine the date of Jesus' birth and numerous different dates have been proposed by researchers, there are two calculations worth considering.
The first calculation assumes that the star the wise men saw must have been an extra bright star. That particularly bright star seen twice by the wise men must have been a conjunction. During a conjunction, two planets align with Earth, making them extra bright. We know that there have been three conjunctions of Saturn and Jupiter in the constellation Pisces on May 27 - 29, October 3 - 6, and December 1 - 4 in the year 7 BC. There is also a conjunction of Saturn, Jupiter and Mars in the constellation Pisces in February 6 BC. been. A triple conjunction is rare (in the period from 600 BC to 2000 AD this only occurred 15 times). Furthermore, it is known from Mesopotamian astrology that a conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter has an astrological meaning and that the constellation Pisces represents Palestine. The birth of Jesus may have been during the second conjunction. Then the conjunction rose in the east at the setting of the sun. This must have been a sign of birth for the wise men. They then leave for Jerusalem. When the wise men have visited Herod, the third conjunction appears in the south, in the direction of Bethlehem. The wise men would then have needed two months for their journey. That sounds plausible.
There is an entirely different consideration. There are scholars who argue that Jesus must have been born around the Feast of Tabernacles. The reasoning goes as follows. Zechariah belonged to the priestly family of Abijah. According to 1 Chron. 24 this was the 8th of 24 tribes. They took turns serving, each tribe for half a month, so it was the tribe of Abijah's turn in the fourth month. Elisabeth became pregnant that month.
Six months later, Maria became pregnant. So Jesus was born in the 7th month of the following year, which is about the Feast of Tabernacles. In 7 B.C. the Feast of Tabernacles fell from October 8 to October 14. That corresponds quite well with the date based on the second conjunction.
To be honest, there is some criticism of this reasoning. It is believed that Elizabeth became pregnant almost immediately after the angel appeared to Zechariah. That is not necessarily the case. And one wonders whether if Jesus were indeed born around the Feast of Tabernacles, we might not expect a comment about this in the Gospels. This may (partly) explain why the inns in the Jerusalem area were full. During the three feasts of the Ascension – Passover, Feast of Weeks, Feast of Tabernacles – many Israelites traveled to Jerusalem and the overnight accommodations would have been full. Because most people continued to live on the land of their ancestors, it is difficult to understand why so many people had to travel for the census.
However, there is also an obvious flaw in this reasoning. It is true that the 24 tribes took turns serving, but their service lasted a week and not half a month. This invalidates an important principle. I have not been able to find out where the assumption that the service lasted two weeks comes from. But the assumption that the constellation Pisces represents Israel also appears to be incorrect.
Until recently, the above calculation was nevertheless accepted as the most convincing. Until a new study appeared. The astronomer Michael Molnar conducted research into astrology from the period around the year zero (Michael R. Molnar, The star of Bethlehem, The legacy of the Magi). The reason for this was the fact that this scholar collects old coins as a hobby, and thus discovered that the symbol for Palestine was the constellation Aries, and not Pisces. He started researching the sources and discovered that the idea that Pisces represents Palestine comes from Rabbi Isaac Abarbanel (1437-1508). There is no indication that this was also the case in ancient times. Furthermore, there is no indication that a triple conjunction predicted the birth of a king. A dual conjunction indeed had a meaning among the Babylonians, but no longer in the time of Herod. This scholar subsequently conducted research into the way in which horoscopes were handled. Based on horoscopes, the position of the stars on April 17, 6 BC. on the birth of a king in Palestine. Then when the sun rises, the planet Jupiter is in the constellation Aries. This is what the comment in Matt. 2:2 “For we have seen His star in the east.” And the star that showed the wise men the way to the west? That has been a retrograde movement of this planet. Usually the stars in the sky move towards the east. But due to a certain optical effect, the planets sometimes temporarily move in the wrong direction. That's called a retrograde motion, and the planet Jupiter made such a retrograde motion from August 30 to December 19, 6 B.C. The moment the retrograde motion changes to normal motion, the star stands still for a moment. This is what Matt refers to. 2:9 They heard the king and departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the east went before them, until it came and stood over the place where the child was." This means that the wise men lived around December 19, 6 BC. arrived at Jesus. During a 2015 conference in Groningen of scholars from various disciplines, this interpretation by Molnar was considered the most convincing calculation of the date of Jesus' birth. So the likely date for Jesus' birth is April 17, 6 BC.
This explanation explains why Herod did not notice the special star. The star itself was not special and it was not an extra bright star because of a conjunction, but it was a special position of the stars, a special horoscope that could only be interpreted by astrologers.
It is striking that this date is close to the date for Passover. That year, the 15th of Nisan fell on April 19.
To calculate the age of Jesus at His death and resurrection, we must go back to the monk Dionysius Exiguus. He made the year +1 follow the year -1. So there was no year 0. We have to take this into account when we do our calculations. If Jesus was indeed born on April 17, 6 B.C. and crucified on April 3, 33, so He was 37, almost 38.
There is another remarkable conclusion. Many Christians are convinced that Jesus' ministry lasted 3 years. However, that is not correct. Assuming a beginning in 28 AD, we arrive at approximately 5 years.