Monday, April 10, 2017

Jesus Died and Rose from the Dead at 33 in A.D. 30

During Passion Week several articles about the death and resurrection of Jesus will be posted on social media. One such article by Christianity Today, written and first published in 2014 by a friend of mine, is entitled Five Errors to Drop from Your Easter Sermon.

The number one error made by preachers, according to the authors of the article, is saying that Jesus died when he was 33 years old. They confidently describe this "error" preachers should avoid on Easter by writing:
The common assertion seems reasonable that if Jesus "began his ministry" when he "was about thirty years of age" (Luke 3:23) and engaged in a three-year ministry (John mentions three Passovers, and there might have been a fourth one), then he was 33 years old at the time of his death. However, virtually no scholar believes Jesus was actually 33 when he died. Jesus was born before Herod the Great issued the decree to execute "all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under" (Matt. 2:16, ESV) and before Herod died in the spring of 4 B.C. If Jesus was born in the fall of 5 or 6 B.C., and if we remember that we don't count the "0" between B.C. and A.D., then Jesus would have been 37 or 38 years old when he died in the spring of A.D. 33 (as we believe is most likely). Even if Jesus died in the year A.D. 30 (the only serious alternative date), he would have been 34 or 35, not 33 years old. No major doctrine is affected by this common misconception. But don't damage your credibility by confidently proclaiming "facts" from the pulpit that are not true.

"Virtually no scholar believes Jesus was 33 when He died?"


Sorry CT, Jesus did die and rise from the dead at 33 in A.D. 30. I'm not claiming to be a scholar, but I am calling out the Christianity Today authors for their error.

Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (CARM) writes,
"When Jesus began His ministry, Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age (see Luke 3:23). Most scholars agree that Jesus' ministry lasted 3 1/2 years. So 30 plus 3 1/2 years equals the age of 33." 
It's puzzling how  Christianity Today cautions pastors about "damage (to) your credibility by confidently proclaiming 'facts' from the pulpit that are not true," when Christianity Today is allowing the authors of the article they published to do that very thing.

How can Christianity Today retain credibility by claiming "virtually no scholar believes Jesus was actually 33 when he died" yet CARM states "most scholars agree...Jesus was 33 (when He died)"?

The CT article states emphatically "Herod died in the spring of 4 B.C." But in reality, Biblical Archeology states "there are reasons to reconsider the date of Herod's death," moving it to the fall of 4 B.C. or even later.

We are told by Josephus (Antiquities 17.6.4) that there was a lunar eclipse "shortly before Herod died."  Lunar eclipses were a very big deal during the era that ancients kept time by the moon (e.g. the lunar calendar). A lunar eclipse portended ominous events for world leaders, and there is reason to believe Herod himself felt something ominous was coming his way.

A lunar eclipse occurred in March of 4 B.C. (this we know). There was also another lunar eclipse in 1 B.C., leading some to think Herod didn't die until that year (1 B.C.). Regardless to which lunar eclipse Josephus refers when he tells of Herod's death, we know that shortly after the eclipse Herod died. What we don't know is how long "shortly after" is to Josephus. The Jewish historian doesn't tell us, and no date for Herod's death from antiquity exists. It could have been as long as 6, 7 or even 8 months after the eclipse of 4 B.C., meaning October or November of 4 B.C., or it could have been a few months after the lunar eclipse of 1 B.C.

What we do know is that Joseph and Mary fled to Egypt to avoid King Herod's decree to kill newborn boys "two years and under" (Matthew 2:16),  and they only came "out of Egypt" back to their home in the hills of Galilee after Herod's death (see Matthew 2:13-15). So Jesus was either one year of age or four years of age when Herod died (4 B.C. or 1 B.C.) and his parents came back to Israel.

The important point remains. Jesus was born during "The Feast of Tabernacles" (September 10, 5 B.C.) while King Herod the Great reigned over the Jews. The great Matthew Henry writes:
"It is supposed by many that our blessed Saviour was born much about the time of this holiday; then He left his mansions of light above to tabernacle among us (John 1:14), and he dwelt in booths. And the worship of God under the New Testament is prophesied of under the notion of keeping the Feast of Tabernacles (Zec.14: 16).
It matters not when Herod died as far as the date of the birth of Jesus or the date and/or age of Jesus when He died and rose from the grave.

Jesus died and rose from the dead at 33 in A.D. 30.

Let me show you why.

Since Jesus was born in the fall of 5 B.C.  - the very time that even the Christianity Today article gives as the most likely date for the birth of Christ -  Jesus would have been age 33 at His death on Passover in A.D. 30.

The authors of the Christianity Today article wrongly state, " Even if Jesus died in the year A.D. 30, he would have been 34 or 35, not 33 years old when He died (had he been born in the fall of 5 B.C.).

Sorry, Christianity Today, that's simply not true.

Here's why.

Jesus was born during September (The Feast of Tabernacles) in 5 B.C.

Age 1  - 4 B.C.
Age 2  - 3 B.C.
Age 3  - 2 B.C.
Age 4  - 1 B.C.
Age 5  - A.D. 1 (There is no "0" Year)
Age 6  - A.D. 2
Age 7  - A.D. 3
Age 8  - A.D. 4
Age 9  - A.D. 5
Age 10 - A.D. 6
Age 11 - A.D. 7
Age 12 - A.D. 8
Age 13 - A.C. 9
Age 14 - A.D. 10
Age 15 - A.D. 11
Age 16 - A.D. 12
Age 17 - A.D. 13
Age 18 - A.D. 14
Age 19 - A.D. 15
Age 20 - A.D. 16
Age 21 - A.D. 17
Age 22 - A.D. 18
Age 23 - A.D. 19
Age 24 - A.D. 20
Age 25 - A.D. 21
Age 26 - A.D. 22
Age 27 - A.D. 23
Age 28 - A.D. 24
Age 29 - A.D. 25
Age 30 - A.D. 26
Age 31 - A.D. 27
Age 32 - A.D. 28
Age 33 - A.D. 29
Age 34 - A.D. 30

Remember, Jesus birthday would have been September. He would have turned 34 in September of A.D. 30. But Jesus died in the spring (Passover - April) of A.D. 30 - which means He had not yet turned 34. 

So Jesus died at the age of 33 in A.D. 30.

40 years later (a very important number of transition in Scripture), the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, ending the Old Covenant.

God is now in a New Agreement (Covenant) with the world.

Christianity Today, it would be wise to take your own caution to heart and refrain from confidently proclaiming "facts" in your magazine which are not true.


Tim Marsh said...

I am not certain why this matters. But, here goes. Jesus may have been as young as 30 when he began his ministry, and, to some, appeared to be almost 50. He could have been born as early as 7 BC, or as late as 4 BC. He could have died somewhere between AD 30 and AD 33.

Moreover, the gospels never claim to be historical narratives, telling it like it is, but theological narratives based on historical events. Nevertheless, the Synoptic Gospels have Jesus' ministry lasting about a year, whereas John's gospel includes three different trips to Jerusalem.

Why this is important, I'm not sure. But I don't think we can say for certain that Jesus was 33. He could have been as old as 39, appeared to look older than he actually was, or as young as 30 or 31, when he passed. Let's just say that Jesus was in his 30's.

Regardless, I'm grateful to Jesus and to God for the events of this week.

Grace and peace,


Wade Burleson said...

Tim -

I believe Jesus was 33 and died in A.D. thirty because of all the specific prophecies (from Daniel 9 and Matthew 24) which indicate the time of the Messiah and the "end of the covenant with the Jews," which was fulfilled in A.D. 70, 40 years after "the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets" (Jesus).

Tim Marsh said...

I'm not meaning to be snarky, but I just cannot agree that Jesus was 33 because "prophecy" necessitated that he should be 33, based on a very problematic reading of Daniel and Matthew 24. I also find the sources you cite problematic. More than that, historians and NT scholars are all over the place on dates of Jesus' death.

EP Sanders, whose work on NT backgrounds is well respected, indicates that we can accurately pinpoint his birth 6-4 BC, and his ministry and death to somewhere between 26-36 AD. Sanders argues that the probably dates of his birth would be 5-4 BC and death 29-31 AD,

Also, the authors of the CT article are inerrantists, and they cannot come to the conclusion that you've reached. I think it is best to let go of definiteness of "33," even though it has been the "popular" answer for years. He could have been 33, but historians are not certain.

I will say that Jesus could have been 33, and if so, great. If not, great. I think the article could have simply said, "Virtually no scholar can say for certain that Jesus was 33 when he died."

Nevertheless, blessings on your Holy Week!



Wade Burleson said...

I don't take it as snarky, Tim. Thanks.

The prophecies to which I refer are the ones that refer to "the coming of the Messiah" and the exact date of His birth (from Daniel) which is why "Wise Men from the East" (magi from ancient Babylon who revered Daniel and were familiar with his scrolls) came looking for "Him who was born King of the Jews." They knew He was due.

In addition, Jesus' prophecy of the "the end of the age" (Matthew 24:1-3) when He declared, "This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled," which I take as the end of the age (the Old Covenant age). This occurred in A.D. 70, exactly a generation (40 years) after the death, burial and resurrection of the Son of God, the very act that "fulfilled the Law and the Prophets" and ushered in God's New Agreement with the world.

I would agree that it makes "no difference" as to the age Jesus was when He died.

My point is that e can know precisely from Scripture how old Jesus was when He did die.

Tim Marsh said...

Thanks for your kind replies! I do sincerely appreciate the work that you have done in Baptist life and appreciate the work you do on your blog.

Tom said...


I was going to comment on a few points of contention that you believe are true and raised within your blog like: -

The bible is silent on how old Jesus was when he began the journey down to Egypt. He could have been around 2 or 3 days old.

We are not told where he was circumcised, but that it was on the 8th day. Jesus could have been circumcised on the journey down to Egypt.

The fact that Herod had every male child under the age of 2 killed in Bethlehem at the time Jesus went down to Egypt, does not indicate the age of Jesus when this event took place, it only tells us that every male child under the age of two was killed.

We also know from the Historical record that Herod died with six days of the male children under 2 dying in Bethlehem.

From memory, it is around a five-day journey on foot down to Egypt. The minimum length of time that Joseph, Mary and Jesus spent in Egypt would have been 6 days before they could have returned, another 5-day journey, but they decided to return to Nazareth, their home town from which they had set out from to register in the census, an additional 2 days journey.

The approximate time from when Jesus was born and the family returned to Nazareth was: - say 3 days in Bethlehem, plus 5 days for the journey, plus 6 days in Egypt, 5 days for the return journey plus 2 days for the journey to Nazareth which adds up to a total of 21 days as a best guess.

Now by the law, Mary could not enter the Temple in Jerusalem until 40 days had passed, from the birth of Jesus, to be purified.

A further point concerning the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD. It did not end their Covenantal relationship with God, it only removed the means, by which a sin sacrifice could be offered by the nation seeking forgiveness from God. God had already set in place the means by which salvation could be gained.

But, I also realised that everyone has several errors in their theological understanding with respect to our relationship with God and both of us suffer from this.

The question that is important for us to come together in communion with God is, whether we accept God’s forgiveness offered through Grace to us both and acknowledge that Jesus’ death on the Cross is the means, by which we can be atoned for our respective sins and be clothed in God’s righteousness.

When Jesus was born, and was crucified, becomes a meaningless discussion if we cannot agree on Christ’s work through His death on the cross and the salvation that it provides for us both.

We need to major on what is really import and encourage each other as we all individual walk with Christ towards God’s desired destiny for each and every person who will be called a Saint on the Day of the Lord.



Wade Burleson said...


All good points, which would all fit around a birth in September 5 B.C., circumsion in the Temple before the end of 5 B.C., a quick departure to Egypt, a lunar eclipse in the spring of 4 B.C. and a quick death of Herod after the eclipse.

Also, don't disagree on your point of majoring on the majors.

My point is to call out Christianity today for saying "no scholar believes Jesus died at the age of 33." That's simply not true. :)

Tom said...

Wade, I am sorry but you missed the point that I was making. If Jesus was only a couple of days old when his parents set off to go down to Egypt, then your statement of Jesus being born in the September of 5 BC does not fit the facts as I have found them to be recorded in the Gospels and that I was presenting in my post above.

Here is a chronological order of the first 15 Gospel events surrounding the Life of Jesus: -

Gabriel’s prophetic declaration of John the Baptist’s birth to Zechariah, John’s father.

Mary hears the news from the angel Gabriel that she is to conceive a child.

Mary visits Elisabeth.

Birth of John the Baptist

Joseph is told of the reason for Mary’s pregnancy in a dream.

Joseph takes Mary with him to Bethlehem.

Jesus is born

Angles tell shepherds out in the field of the birth of Jesus.

The shepherds go to Bethlehem to see Jesus.

The wise men visit Jesus

Joseph is warned in a dream to go to Egypt

Jesus is circumcised.

Herod has all infants under two years of age killed in Bethlehem

After Herod dies, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream to tell him that he could return. Because Archelaus reigned over Judea, Joseph withdrew to Galilee and dwelt in Nazareth

Jesus is taken to Jerusalem and presented to the Lord.

This chronological order of the Gospel events has been pierced together from the accounts in three of the Gospels after a careful study, while the Gospel of John begins the story of Jesus at his baptism.

It is our acceptance of the varying traditions that cause us to fall over in our understanding of the timeline of Jesus' life.

In Luke 3:23 we are told that Jesus was about 30 years of age, and from John we know that Jesus went up to Jerusalem very early after He began His ministry and foretold that he would rebuild the Temple within 3 days if the Priests caused it to be destroyed. From John, we also have a record of Jesus going up to Jerusalem to the Passover four times with Him being crucified on His last visit for the Passover.

These two facts suggest that Jesus was about 33 years of age when He died on the cross.

But if we major on the important aspects of Jesus' ministry, then the minor aspects fade from view and are not that important in our overall understanding of things.

We should let go of our “scared traditions” and their implied theology and only focus on what is important in our covenantal relationship with God which has fundamentally not changed since the beginning of God’s relationship with mankind.


Christiane said...

I vote for Our Lord beginning His formal ministry at age 30 for many reasons. I have always heard that in Judaism, thirty is considered a good age for a person to be mature enough to take on that which is not suitable for younger people ..... maybe that comes from the fact that King David was 30 when he became king; and Joseph was 30 years old when he began serving the Pharoah and went all over Egypt.

This helps explain the significance of 30 as a symbolic turning point in the maturity of a Jewish male:

As to the Gregorian Calendar, that's another story. :)

Wade Burleson said...


I am a tad confused by your point. It seems to me that you don't disagree Jesus was 33 when he died, but you disagree that he died in A.D. 30?

If he died in the spring of A.D. 30, then he HAD to be born in the fall of 5 B.C. if he was 33 when he died.

If you are advocating a different time for his birth, that's fine.

My point is he died at 33 - and I happen to believe he died in A.D. 30 - but as you say it's not a major point of doctrine.

I'm just showing that some believe he was 33 and died in A.D. 30.


Wade Burleson said...


Great point about Joseph - never considered the symbolism, but I definitely see the connection between Joseph in the Old Covenant and Jesus in the New Covenant.

Well done.

Tom said...

Wade, it seems to me that your confusion is of your own making.

In the Year 4 BC Christ was born, and as such when He was born, he was actually zero years old in that year and since you have a number scale associated with a yearly calendar scale Jesus did not have His "first" birthday until the year 3 BC. That is not reflected in you example as you have stated that Jesus was 1 years old in 4 BC. You also show that Jesus was 5 years old in 1 AD when in reality, He had his 4th Birthday in the year 1 AD.

In consulting the ENCYCLOP├ćDIA BRITANNICA, it suggests that Herod died around March/April in 4 BC. [] This would indicate that Jesus was probably born around the “time” of the Passover in the year 4 BC. {However, because the Jewish calendar was adjusted to reflect the state of the baily crop and the first glimpse of the new moon, this statement is a little difficult to prove.}

I know that I am not confused, but your example has Jesus being crucified when he was 34 years old in the year 33 AD, but you then correct this by bringing in the relative months from your understanding as to when he was born and crucified to bring your assertion into line with your claim.

With storytelling, there is a natural accounting error, which must be accepted when we attempt to show a person’s age on a time line and Luke is telling us that Jesus was about 30 years of age when He began His ministry by either rounding up or down the actual age of Jesus when he began his ministry. The other “accounting error” that we have is that the Bible is silent as to the month when Jesus began His Ministry.

It would seem to me that Jesus’ ministry probably began around the time of Jesus’ visit to Jerusalem for the Passover and that three years later he was crucified just before the Passover.

Wade, it would seem to me that you have accepted that Herod died in March/April 4 BC but that you have been caught up in the traditions of the story of the birth of Christ and not studied it closely enough, forensically, to be able to draw the pieces together chronologically upon a timeline.

I wonder if this is not the same problem that the author had in his article, Five Errors to Drop from Your Easter Sermon. that was published in 2014 in Christianity Today.


Wade Burleson said...


I'm choosing to major on the majors.

Happy Easter!