The Crucifixion Was Not on Friday
By Herman L Hoeh
The Good News, March 1984
How shocking! The vast majority of Christians — theologians, scholars and lay members alike — today reject the only sign Jesus gave to prove He was the Messiah — the Savior of the world!
Jesus plainly stated: “As Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matt. 12:40).
Last month we learned that Jesus was indeed dead and buried for three days and three nights just as He said He would be, not a day and a half as most of Christianity today believes.
We discovered that Jesus was actually crucified on Wednesday and died late Wednesday afternoon, and that He was resurrected on Saturday just before sundown.
Only two matters are needed to prove when the crucifixion and the resurrection occurred. One is to determine the dates of the Passover during Christ’s ministry. The other is to determine the year of the crucifixion.
Now to continue with this second installment:
The Hebrew calendar tells when
Here is a chart verified by works on the “Jewish calendar” — actually God’s sacred calendar — absolutely correct according to the computation preserved since the days of Moses!
Dates — Passover
A.D. 29 — Saturday, April 16
A.D. 30 — Wednesday, April 5
A.D. 31 — Wednesday, April 25
A.D. 32 — Monday, April 14
A.D. 33 — Friday, April 3
To place the Passover on a Friday in A.D. 30 is to violate one of the rules of the fixed calendar — that no common year of the sacred calendar may have 356 days. Common years of 12 months may be only 353, 354 or 355 days long, a fact you can verify in the Jewish Encyclopedia.
Theologians place the Passover of A.D. 30 on Friday, April 7, 356 days after the Passover of A.D. 29. Count it for yourself! This date is two days late. The Passover in A.D. 30 was only 354 days after that of A.D. 29.
The 14th of the month Nisan could have occurred on Wednesday in A.D. 30, as well as in A.D. 31. Thus, if you want to believe that the crucifixion was in A.D. 30 — which it was not — you would still have to admit that Friday could not be the day of the crucifixion!
For the year A.D. 31 a few references, unacquainted with the rules of the Hebrew calendar, mistakenly give the Passover, Nisan 14, as Monday, March 26. But this is one month too early. The year A.D. 30-31 was intercalary — that is, it had 13 months — thus placing the Passover 30 days later in A.D. 31, and on a Wednesday.
The decree of Artaxerxes
There are several basic dates from which the exact year of Christ’s death may be determined. These dates are so precise that there can be no doubt that the Passover upon which Jesus was crucified occurred on Wednesday, April 25, in A.D. 31.
The first date is the year in which Artaxerxes issued his decree to restore and build Jerusalem (Ezra 7). Daniel 9:25-26 records that there would be 69 prophetic weeks till the Messiah would come, after which he would be “cut off ” — crucified — “not for Himself” but for the sins of the whole world.
Sixty-nine prophetic weeks equals 483 years (69 X 7). This decree was first issued by Cyrus, king of Persia, in 538 B.C. It was set aside and reissued by Darius I, king of Persia, and again set aside and reissued by Artaxerxes I.
When we determine the year in which this decree was issued, we can locate the exact year, 483 years later, when Christ, the Messiah, began His ministry.
Records have been found that were written in the very month that Artaxerxes, under whose reign the decree was issued, came to power. The death of Xerxes occurred in late December, 465 B.C., and his son, Artaxerxes, came to the throne in that month.
According to the Persian spring-to-spring reckoning of regnal years, as recently translated business documents clearly show, Artaxerxes’ first year extended from April, 464, to April, 463 B.C. These same documents show that the Jewish autumn-to-autumn mode of reckoning placed the first year of Artaxerxes from September, 464, to September, 463 B.C.
The period of time from the day the new king ascended the throne to the first year of his reign was called his accession year and was regarded as completing the last regnal year of the previous king.
Astronomical tablets containing more than a dozen precise records of eclipses prove that the first year of Artaxerxes, according to the Jewish reckoning, was from 464 to 463 B.C.
The seventh year of Artaxerxes, the year in which he issued his decree (Ezra 7:8), would extend from about September, 458 B.C., to September, 457 B.C.
From the first month to the fifth month of God’s calendar — from the latter part of March to the latter part of July, 457 B.C. — Ezra journeyed to Judea in the seventh year of Artaxerxes, at which time the decree went forth to build Jerusalem as the capital of the revised Jewish nation.
And just 483 years later would bring us to the autumn of A.D. 27 — the year when the Messiah would appear.
Age of Jesus at His baptism
Jesus, according to Daniel’s prophecy, was anointed the Messiah in A.D. 27, which was 483 years after the decree of Artaxerxes to restore Jerusalem. The next fact that we need to understand is the age of Jesus when He was baptized and entered upon His ministry.
The only historical account of this was written by Luke to Theophilus (Luke 1:1-4). In this account it is plainly stated that when Jesus began His ministry He was “about thirty years of age” (Luke 3:23).
Luke did not say, “about 29,” or “about 31.” He records that Jesus was “about thirty” — and he meant it, for he was an inspired historian. Either this record is true or you might as well discard the Bible.
As Jesus was about 30 years old in the autumn of A.D. 27, then He must have been born in the autumn of 4 B.C.
The death of Herod
The time of Jesus’ birth is important. Jesus was born before the death of Herod the king (Matt. 2:15). When did Herod die? Again the critics are in confusion because they refuse to weigh all the facts.
According to Josephus, the Jewish historian, Herod died, “having reigned, since he had procured Antigonus to be slain, thirty-four years; but since he had been declared king by the Romans, thirty-seven” (Antiquities, XVII, viii, 1).
The two dates for the beginning of Herod’s reign are not disputed, but given as 37 B.C. and 40 B.C. respectively. Reckoning as Josephus does, the last year of Herod’s reign extended from about April, 4 B.C., to April, 3 B.C.
Josephus, in Antiquities of the Jews, XVII, vi, 4, mentions an eclipse of the moon before the death of Herod. That eclipse, as calculated, occurred about March 13, 4 B.C. Yet it was some time after this that Herod went beyond the river Jordan to be cured of his diseases. Finding that the physicians couldn’t cure him, he still revived sufficiently to return to Jericho. There, he gathered together and contrived the death of the principal men of the entire Jewish nation. And as if this were not enough, Herod had his son Antipater killed five days before his own death.
Since these and other events occurred after the eclipse mentioned by Josephus, and since Herod died prior to a Passover, according to Josephus, that Passover must have been 13 months after the eclipse and not one month later. The traditional date on the Hebrew calendar for the death of Herod places it late in the year 4-3 B.C., the only date that agrees with all the known facts of history.
As Jesus was about 30 years old in the early autumn of A.D. 27, then He must have been born in the early autumn of 4 B.C., shortly before the death of Herod.
Clearly, Jesus could not have been born before this time, or He would have been more than 30 years old at the beginning of His ministry. Neither could He have been born later in 2 B.C., as some assume, for He would have been only 28 years old at the beginning of His ministry. But Luke plainly said that He was about 30 years of age.
When did the wise men arrive?
But what are we going to do with the statement recorded in Matthew 2:16 that just before his death Herod had all the children in Bethlehem killed “from two years old and under”? This would appear to indicate that Jesus may have been born one year earlier than He really was born.
Most people carelessly read this account by assuming that Herod knew the date of Jesus’ birth. They assume he had the children killed because Jesus must have been between 1 and 2 years old.
Think for a moment how illogical this would be. Would a murderer like Herod wait for at least one whole year after the wise men left before attempting to kill the child Jesus? Of course not.
The truth is that Herod did not know the time of Jesus’ birth. Notice what the Scripture states: As soon as Herod saw that the wise men didn’t return to him he became very angry, ordering all those little children butchered “from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men” (Matt. 2:16).
Now what was the exact time that he learned from the wise men? Was it the date of Jesus’ birth? No! Notice verse 7 of this same chapter: “Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared.”
The wise men or magi had come a great distance from the east. The star had appeared around the time of the conception by Mary of Jesus, in order for them to prepare to make their journey to Bethlehem while he was still very young.
Since the star appeared about one year previously, Herod took no chances, but had every infant killed up to 2 years of age.
Jesus was a few weeks old at the time of Herod’s death. The latest possible date for the birth of Jesus was the autumn of 4 B.C., before winter arrived (Luke 2:8). This places the commencement of the ministry of Christ 30 years later in the autumn of the year 27.
The reign of Emperor Tiberius
One of the most vital keys to the chronology of Christ’s ministry — and yet one of the most universally misunderstood dates — is the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar. Luke tells us that John the Baptist began to preach in his 15th year (Luke 3:1).
When was this 15th year?
The trouble arises because it has been assumed there were several possible dates from which the reign of Tiberius Caesar was counted. Tiberius indeed was made coruler with Augustus Caesar at the very end of A.D. 11 or the beginning of A.D. 12. The exact month is not known, but it is not essential anyway, as the emperor did not count his official years from his joint rule with Augustus.
Tiberius reckoned his reign from his sole rule in August, A.D. 14. Tiberius’ 15th year commenced Oct. 1, A.D. 27.
In the Near East, where Luke lived, the first year of Tiberius extended from August to the end of that calendar year — Sept. 30, A.D. 14. The second year of Tiberius began on Oct. 1 and extended through Sept. 30, A.D. 15. The official Syrian calendar then in use began with the autumn month of October.
At the beginning of this 15th year John the Baptist began to preach repentance around the Jordan River before Jesus was baptized by him. John’s ministry occupied several weeks before the baptism of Jesus.
Notice how this dovetails with the next proof.
When was Pilate governor?
Luke names Pontius Pilate as governor of Judea when John received his call: “Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea the word of God came to John” (Luke 3:1-2). Pilate ruled for 10 years.
Pilate was deposed a few months before the Passover near the close of his 10th year. He hurriedly sailed for Rome to appeal to Emperor Tiberius. On his way news came that Tiberius died. You will read this in Josephus’ Antiquities, XVIII, iv, 2.
Since Pilate was in a great hurry to reach Rome, he must have left shortly before the death of the emperor, which occurred in March, A.D. 37.
Ten years before this is about the beginning of A.D. 27, at which time Pilate began his pro-curatorship.
Here is what the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says in its article “Pilate”: The assumed date for Pilate is usually “from 26 to 36 A.D…. Tiberius died on March 16, 37 A.D. Such a delay [in Pilate’s journey to Rome] is inconceivable in view of the circumstances; hence … the period of his procuratorship [is] 27-37 A.D.”
The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia states, under the article “Pilate”: “He probably succeeded Gratus 27 A.D. and ended his procuratorship early in 37; it is not likely that Pilate required more than a year for his return journey to Rome … and he arrived there after Tiberius’ death, which took place March 16, 37.”
The appointment of Pilate may have occurred as early as November, A.D. 26, and he entered his office in Judea early in A.D. 27. As Pilate did not begin his governorship in Judea till about the commencement of A.D. 27 and as Tiberius’ 15th year did not begin till October that year, John the Baptist must have begun his ministry in the first few days of October in A.D. 27.
Jesus, therefore, must have begun to preach in the autumn of A.D. 27. There is no other date that would be consistent with all the provable facts.
To find the date of the crucifixion, we now need only find how long the ministry of Jesus lasted.
How long was Jesus’ ministry?
The prophet Daniel foretold that the length of Christ’s ministry at His first coming, to confirm the New Covenant, would be one half of a prophetic week of seven years.
In the midst of that prophetic week He caused the need of sacrifices for sin to cease by offering Himself for the sins of the world. He was “cut off” in the midst of the week, making the ministry at His first coming three and one-half years (Dan. 9:25-27).
“Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks” — 69 prophetic weeks or 483 years in all.
It was 62 prophetic weeks or 434 years (62 X 7) from the decree of Artaxerxes I in 457 B.C. to the decision to prepare the stones for rebuilding the Temple. That occurred in the 15th year of Herod, 23 B.C. And it was seven prophetic weeks or 49 years (7 X 7) to A.D. 27.
“And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself … then he shall confirm a covenant with many for a week” — this prophecy is not yet completely fulfilled.
Why? Because “in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering” — He died for the sins of the world in the middle of the week.
In a sense this is a dual prophecy. Christ died in the midst of the prophetic week of seven years, after three and one-half years of ministry, but He also died in the midst of the week — Wednesday!
Now let’s turn to the gospels to find the proof that Jesus Christ’s ministry was exactly three and one-half years. There would have to be three Passovers during the three years of His ministry, and a fourth on the last day of His earthly life — the crucifixion.
The first Passover occurred in A.D. 28 and is recorded in John 2:23. During the following weeks Jesus spent time baptizing in Judea (John 3:22).
The next note of time is found in John 4:35, a reference to four months till the next harvest season at Passover in A.D. 29. So this time reference is to the ninth month or Keslev in December, A.D. 28, only days before Jesus began to publicly announce the Gospel in the synagogues of Galilee after John the Baptist was imprisoned (Acts 10:37, John 4:43-45).
In Luke 6:1 is the next time reference — “the second Sabbath after the first.” This is a reference to the seven Sabbaths that were counted from Passover to Pentecost. So here we see a second Passover, A.D. 29, in Jesus’ ministry.
In .John 6:4 is another Passover, which brings us to a Wednesday in the year A.D. 30: “Now the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was near.” This was the third Passover in Jesus’ ministry.
The fourth and final Passover is recorded by all the gospel writers. Notice John 11:55: “And the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went from the country up to Jerusalem before the Passover, to purify themselves.”
This last Passover completed a ministry of three and one-half years, from autumn of A.D. 27 to the spring of A.D. 31, when the Passover upon which Christ was crucified fell on Wednesday.
Since Jesus began His three and one-half year ministry not later than A.D. 27, He could not have been crucified so late as A.D. 33. There was, therefore, no Passover that occurred on a Friday during His entire ministry!
In this two-part article we have given you the undeniable, absolute record of history and of the calendar that the crucifixion could not have been on Friday — that the resurrection was not on Sunday morning!