A Timeline for the Ministry of Jesus

I don’t know why I got all obsessy about this stuff, but I did, so here it is. 🙂  FYI: HY means Hebrew Year. CE means Christian Era.

3759 HY = Sivan 15 (June 17, 2 BC): Jesus’ birthday.

3787-3790 HY = Beginning of John the Baptist’s ministry.

The NABRE footnote for Luke 3:1-3 puts the year John the Baptist began his ministry between 27 and 29 CE. We don’t know how long he had been at it when Jesus came to him, but he had gotten famous enough to draw crowds from all over and get the Powers That Be ticked off enough to have him arrested shortly after he baptized Jesus.

The Synoptic Gospels don’t give much in the way of dates, but the Gospel of John records specific holidays and uses words like “after this” to suggest this is likely a reliable chronology for the ministry of Jesus. In particular, John records three Passovers during Jesus’ ministry, one right after the wedding at Cana (John 2), one in the middle (John 6:4), and one at the end (John 12). In between, John mentions Pentecost, Sukkot and Hannukah. Here’s the timeline with chapter references:

  • Nisan: Jesus attended Passover in Jerusalem shortly after the wedding at Cana (John 2).
  • Sivan: Jesus went to Jerusalem for Pentecost (John 5).
  • Nisan: “Passover was near” but it appears He did not go to Jerusalem for the feast (John 6).
  • Tishri: Jesus went to Jerusalem for Sukkot (John 7).
  • Kislev: Jesus went to Jerusalem for Hannukah (John 10).
  • Nisan 3793: Jesus went to Jerusalem for Passover (John 12 – Crucifixion/Resurrection – April 33 CE).

We know the crucifixion was in Nisan 3793 (April 33 CE), so counting backwards gets us to Nisan 3791 (April 31 CE) as a best guess for the Passover after the wedding at Cana.

John 2 specifically says that the wedding at Cana was “on the third day” without giving any month. Then, right after the wedding, John says, “After this, he and his mother, [his] brothers, and his disciples went down to Capernaum and stayed there only a few days. Since the Passover of the Jews was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem.”

Passover is in Nisan, which is the #1 month on the Jewish calendar (even though it falls in the middle of the number year). It looks to me like “on the third day” means “of the first month”, which puts the wedding on Nisan 3. This presents a small problem, since the calendar shows Nisan 3, 3791 being a Saturday. It is my understanding that Jews do not have weddings on the Sabbath, but no other year works very well.

Jesus’ ministry is usually said to have been about three years long, so 3790 could work, but it also has Nisan 3 on Saturday. 3789 (Tuesday) and 3792 (Thursday) work for the wedding, but 3789 is a year earlier than tradition says while 3792 doesn’t even allow time for the three Passovers John talks about.

Sabbath ends at sundown, so maybe the whole dinner and running out of wine thing happened Saturday night. It doesn’t really matter terribly much, so I’m going to go with 3791 HY.

The start of Jesus’ public ministry was when John baptized Him. To get to a possible date for that, we have to count back from the wedding. Putting clues from Matthew 3-4, Mark 1, Luke 3-4, and John 1 together, I get Jesus going to where John was baptizing people in the Jordan River, a little north of where it empties into the Dead Sea. After His Baptism, Jesus went into the desert for forty days and nights.

The Judean desert is between the Dead Sea and Jerusalem. Apparently there’s a watershed along the north-south ridge there; Jerusalem is on the west side, which gets the rain. The Mount of Olives is part of this ridge and to the east, between the ridge and the Dead Sea, is the Judean desert.

After the desert, Jesus went back to where John was baptizing then returned to Galilee, a trip that would take more than four days. All together, I’m thinking it’s a minimum of about seven weeks worth of recorded activities before the wedding at Cana, maybe more since they didn’t travel on Sabbath.

Since 3791 HY was a Jewish Leap Year, it had two months of Adar prior to the Nisan wedding. Counting back seven weeks gets us to early in Adar 1, 3791 HY (mid-February 31 CE). Jesus turned 32 in Sivan 3791 (June 31 CE). If my dates are accurate, He was 31 years old. Luke 3:23 says, “When Jesus began his ministry he was about thirty years of age.” Thirty-one is “about thirty” in my book, so voila! (Hey, don’t laugh. This took me THREE DAYS to work out!)

As for His total ministry, if we count from His Baptism (Ayar I 3791; February 31 CE) and go through to His Ascension (sometime before Pentecost on Sivan 6, 3793 HY; May 24, 33 CE), the length of time works out to about 27 months on the common calendar.

I’m thinking it’s a lot like the three days of Jesus Passion, Death and Resurrection.

He told the Jews, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” Their Holy Thursday Seder would’ve started after sundown and lasted some hours. Then they went to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus endured His agony and the disciples were too beat to keep their eyes open. I’m thinking that puts his arrest in the wee hours of Friday morning, after which he was interrogated and apparently condemned by the Sanhedrin around dawn when Peter’s famous cock crowed.

Then He was dragged before Pilate, who shipped Him off to Herod, who shipped Him back to Pilate, who had Him scourged. John says Pilate condemned Jesus to death at about noon on Friday (John 14:19), after which He was taken to Calvary. He was dead and entombed before sundown on Friday and had risen before dawn on Sunday (John 20:1). The Spring Equinox was on March 20, 33 CE, so we’re looking at pretty close to 6 am and 6 pm dawns and dusks. Arrest at … let’s call it 3 am on Friday to Resurrection shortly before 6 am on Sunday = 51 hours … ish.

If you insist that Jesus’ “three days” has to be close to 72 hours, then it doesn’t work. However, if allow anything between 48 and 72 hours, then 51 hours does just fine.

Similarly, if you insist that His “three year ministry” had to be close to 36 months, then it doesn’t work. However, if you allow anything between 24 and 36 months, then 27 months does just fine.


Hebrew/Roman calendar is @ http://www.cgsf.org/dbeattie/calendar/.

Equinox date @ http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id=352787.

“Straight line distance from Nazareth to Jerusalem appears to be about 63 miles. Walking distance would be more on the order of 68 miles. Average adult walking pace is about 4 mph, so the journey would need 17 hours or more. 4 mph is really hard to sustain for more than a few hours. On the Oregon Trail 15 miles per day was considered to be fantastic. That pace would require more than 4 days for the journey.”

“We know that Jesus and his disciples would sit down to partake of the Passover meal after sundown because that is when the old day ends and the new day begins. I don’t know what time the sun sets in Israel at the end of March / beginning April but the Passover meal would not start till sundown. However long it took them to eat the meal, it would be very late in the evening – perhaps even close to midnight – when Jesus and his disciples went to the Mount of Olives/Gethsemane. Luke’s gospel informs us that after Jesus finished praying to his Father, he found his disciples asleep. After waking them, Jesus was arrested by the officers of the temple guard and the elders. After interrogating him at the house of the high priest, Peter denied Jesus three times as the cockerell crowed – dawn.” https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20121127025706AAnLIbe

N.b., I’ve been pondering the fact that AD stands for Anno Domini and properly belongs before the year number, while BC stands for Before Christ and goes after. That bugs me. I want them both after and they should be the same language, you know? I’ve decided I’m going to start using BC for Before Christ and CE for Christian Era. Non-Christians can use BCE and CE for Before/Common Era if they want. I’m a Christian and this is the convention I’ve decided to use.

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