According to the Bible, how old was Jesus when he was crucified?

There are three main events that help in dating Jesus’ life, His birth, ministry and death. He was 33 years old when He died, and he died on a Wednesday not Friday. The date for Jesus’ birth is not stated in the gospels or in any secular text, but most scholars assume a date of birth between 6 BC and 4 BC.

The historical evidence is too incomplete to allow a definitive dating of any events beyond date ranges. Starting with His birth, the date is estimated through two different approaches—one by analyzing references to known historical events mentioned in the nativity accounts in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew, and the second by working backwards from the estimation of the start of the ministry of Jesus.

Both Luke and Matthew associate Jesus' birth with the time of Herod the Great.

Matthew 2:1

“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem”,

Herod implies that Jesus could have been as much as two years old at the time of the visit of the Magi, because Herod ordered the murder of all boys up to the age of two years, “in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi”. the reason this matters is that the actual date of Jesus’ birth is not known, a range is in play.

Matthew 2:16

“Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.”

Most scholars agree that Herod died between 4 and 1 BC, a mention of Jesus’ age places Him at about 30 years, during "the fifteenth year" of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, another relating to the date of the building of the Temple in Jerusalem, and another concerning the death of John the Baptist.

One method for the estimation of the date of the beginning of the ministry of Jesus using the Gospel of Luke's specific statement in Luke 3:1-2 about the ministry of John the Baptist which preceded that of Jesus

Luke 3:1

1 “Now 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,”

2 “Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness”.

The reign of Tiberius Caesar began on the death of his predecessor Augustus Caesar in September AD 14, meaning the ministry of John the Baptist began in late AD 28 or early AD 29.

Another method for estimating the start of the ministry of Jesus without reliance on the Synoptic gospels, is to relate the account in the Gospel of John about the visit of Jesus to Herod's Temple in Jerusalem with historical data about the construction of the Temple.

John 2:13 says that Jesus went to the Temple in Jerusalem around the start of his ministry and in John 2:20 Jesus is told: "This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?".

Therefore various scholars arrive at slightly different dates for the exact date of the start of the Temple construction, varying by a few years in their final estimation of the date of the Temple visit.

Given that it took 46 years of construction, the best scholarly estimate for when Jesus started His ministry is between AD 29–30.

The Crucifixion

Four main approaches have been used to estimate the date of the crucifixion of Jesus. One uses non-Christian sources such as Josephus and Tacitus.

Another works backwards from the trial of Apostle Paul in Achaea to estimate the date of Paul's conversion. Both approaches result in AD 33 as an upper bound to the crucifixion. The best estimate of Jesus’ age will actually be between 33–35 years old if you consider the two year window that estimated His birth through Herod. We know that the Magi discovered Jesus when He was a boy not an infant, Matthew 2:9–11, again the problem is the unknown of Jesus actual birth date. We do know it was not December 25th, the widely accepted age of Jesus at his death is 33 years of age and some months.

Jesus died on a Wednesday

The other important note to make about Jesus’ death, which has been the source of tradition, is the advent of Good Friday, which suggest Jesus died on the cross on a Friday. The reality is that Jesus’ time of death was 3PM - Wednesday AD 31.

When Jesus died He was quickly buried because of the oncoming Feast of Unleavened Bread, a high day which began at sunset on Wednesday to sunset on Thursday - Luke 23:46-54.

Luke 23:54 “And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on”

Many have assumed this was the weekly Sabbath and that Jesus was crucified on a Friday. There are two distinct high days or Sabbaths referred to in this week. The weekly Sabbath is sunset Friday to sunset Saturday verses the first day of Unleavened Bread, a high annual Sabbath - Sunset Wednesday to Sunset Thursday.

John 19:31 (for that sabbath day was an high day) - (Exodus 12:16-17; Leviticus 23:6-7)

The annual Holy Days usually fall on weekdays, other than the regular weekly Sabbath days, sunset Friday - sunset Saturday.

Luke 23:54-56 the women saw Jesus’ body being laid in the tomb just before sunset Wednesday

They “returned and prepared spices and ointments”

Preparing spices would not have been done on a Sabbath day, Friday - Saturday, since it would have been considered a violation of the Sabbath.

This is verified by Mark’s account, which states, “Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices (which they would not have purchased on the high-day Wednesday - Thursday (Mark 16:1).

The women had to wait until this annual “high day” was over before they could buy and prepare the spices to be used for anointing Jesus’ body. After purchasing and preparing the spices and oils on Friday, “they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment” (Luke 23:56).

The second Sabbath mentioned in the Gospel accounts is the regular weekly Sabbath, observed from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday.

Two Sabbaths

Mark tells us the women bought spices after the Sabbath, Luke states they prepared the spices before resting on the Sabbath—two different Sabbaths.

John 19:31 - The first Sabbath was a “high day”— the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread—which, in A.D. 31, fell on a Wednesday.

The second was the weekly seventh-day Sabbath - Sunset Friday - Sunset Saturday

Jesus died at the 9th hour of the day. Matthew 27:45-50 - 3PM

After the women rested on the regular weekly Sabbath Friday - Saturday, they went to Jesus’ tomb early on the first day of the week (Sunday), “while it was still dark” (John 20:1), and found that He had already been resurrected (Matthew 28:1-6; Mark 16:2-6; Luke 24:1-3).

Jesus was crucified and entombed on Wednesday afternoon, just before the Sabbath began at sunset. The high-day Sabbath, lasting from sunset Wednesday to sunset Thursday, rather than the regular weekly Sabbath, lasting from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday.

Jesus rose anytime from 3PM Saturday - He was already gone early Sunday when Mary arrived. Matt 28:1-6, Jesus rose precisely three days and three nights after He was placed in the tomb, you can’t get 3 day and 3 nights from Friday to Sunday morning.

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© Tony - W.A.M