Dating new testament events


John refers to at least three Passovers (, 6:4, 13:1) possibly four (5:1).Since the Passover is a yearly feast, the ministry of Jesus would then extend at least two and possibly three years. In Matthew, Mark and Luke the Friday of Jesus’ death occurred on the 15th of the Jewish month Nisan (which overlaps with our own March and April). So the question is: In which years from 26–36 (when Pilate was procurator in Judea) did 14th or 15th Nisan fall on a Friday? Of these 27 is too early and 33 is probably too late.



Since Jesus was crucified during the Passover season, therefore the Pentecost of Acts 2:1, during which the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4), took place some fifty days after the crucifixion and about ten days after the ascension in A. Therefore the usual method for dating the events of the apostolic age is this: First we find at least one event that can be dated with relative certainty from sources outside the New Testament; then we try to date the events before and after this one event by figuring out how much time elapsed between them.Therefore assigning absolute dates is less important than knowing the sequence of events which may have influenced each other. When a monk named Dionysius Exiguus (6th century) invented our present method of dating with the birth of Christ dividing history, he made a mistake in his computations. Census documents discovered in Egypt together with earlier references suggest that such enrollments were held every 14 years. Josephus tells us that Quirinius became governor of Syria in A. But Sir William Ramsey argued strongly from ancient inscriptions that Quirinius had also served in Syria as a special legate of the emperor Augustus prior to 6 B. This would then be the time Luke was referring to in Luke 2:2. According to Matthew , Mark and Luke , the Last Supper was the Passover meal, a yearly celebration of Israel’s escape from Egypt (cf. But according to John and , the Passover meal had not yet been eaten on Friday so that the Last Supper in John is not the Passover meal (13:1).This should keep us from being discouraged when we realize that, because we lack enough information, very few New Testament happenings can be given exact dates. The odd result is that we must now say Christ was born no later than four years “before Christ”! If we ask why Luke chose to cite Quirinius instead of the regular governor of Syria at that time, the answer may be that in so doing he provided a more exact date for the birth of Jesus since Quirinius did not have authority as long as the regular governor of Syria. There is no completely satisfying solution to this discrepancy but Leon Morris ( 785) suggests plausibly that it is due to the use of different calendars. The dates of the deaths of the apostles are through church tradition, as the only death mentioned in the Bible is that of James the brother of the Apostle John in Acts 12:2.

The dates regarding the writings of the Gospels, especially, may be off by as much as 15 years.

Luke says, “Jesus was about 30 years old when he began his public ministry.” This is only approximate; he may have been two or three years older or younger (cf. If we add 30 to the suggested date of birth we get A. But Luke 3:1-3 dates John’s public appearance precisely in “the 15th year of the reign of Emperor Tiberias Caesar” while Pilate was governor over Judea. John appears to make use of this to bring out the truth that Christ was slain as our Passover (cf.