The Bible and history prove Jesus Christ followed the sacred calendar committed to the Jews.
In a Good News Letter of 1940 Herbert W. Armstrong wrote the following: “[U]nless God has preserved His sacred calendar through the Jews, then we do not know how to figure Passover or any of the holy days this year. For there is no authority for any other way. There is no Bible authority whatsoever for figuring the first day of the first month from the new moon nearest the spring equinox!”
Questions about the sacred calendar and God’s holy days are not new. In fact, they go back to the days of Christ and before. In the entire Bible, there is only one sign given to prove that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and it involves an understanding of the sacred calendar. “Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:38-40; see also Mark 8:31).
Jesus said the only sign He was the Son of God would be the fact that He would be in the grave for three days and three nights prior to resurrection. If Satan can destroy the details surrounding this great and wonderful sign, he can destroy the evidence of Christ’s messiahship and destroy the faith of men. Is it any wonder that there would be doubts in the minds of men about this sign? Multiple millions of so-called Christians have been totally deceived into believing Christ was killed Friday afternoon, buried Friday evening and rose from the dead Sunday morning. Count for yourself. Friday night, Saturday night—that would be only two nights, not three as Christ said. If the Friday night to Sunday morning story were true, Christ would be proven a liar. But it is not true. Satan is the liar and those who teach his lie are his ministers.
Christ clearly stated He would be in the grave three days and three nights. Can His words be proven true? Doing so will prove He is the Messiah and will establish the authority of God’s sacred calendar as preserved by the Jews. But there are some details surrounding His death that must first be looked at. Step one is to prove the exact year of His death. Once the year is discerned, the days of both His death and His resurrection can be proven. This information will also prove the method Christ used to determine the days of the sacred calendar.
God has provided, through the Bible, the evidence needed to prove the words of Christ to be perfectly true. Is it any surprise that Satan attacks people within the Church of God in an effort to deceive them into arriving at false conclusions?
There is ample proof Jesus Christ died in the year a.d. 31. This fact dispels the myth that Christ died on Friday and was resurrected on Sunday morning, and it proves Christ was indeed in the grave for three days and three nights. The Bible also proves which method of establishing holy days Christ used and, thereby, puts to rest all questions about God’s holy calendar.
What Year Did Christ Die?
To establish the actual year of Christ’s death, it is necessary to select a year to test, overlay the known facts and look for conflicts. Just as with any other point in God’s Word, there must be complete harmony and agreement among the known facts. As will be seen, there are several dates that can be used to establish, beyond any doubt, the year of Christ’s death as a.d. 31.
The prophecy in Daniel 9:25-26 states there would be 69 (prophetic) weeks from the decree to rebuild the temple until the Messiah would come. That amounts to 483 days. In prophecy we often apply the “day for a year” principle, which computes to 483 years for this prophecy.
Both Jewish and Persian records indicate the first year of the reign of Artaxerxes was 464-463 b.c. This places the seventh year of his reign and the year he issued his decree to rebuild the temple at 458-457 b.c. (Ezra 7:8).
Further evidence of the year of the decree of Artaxerxes can be found in several other sources, including the Canon of Ptolemy, the Encyclopedia Britannica (online) and documents and records concerning astronomy.
Again, the Messiah was prophesied to appear 483 years from this decree being established. Four-hundred eighty-three years later would be exactly a.d. 27 (remember, there is no year zero). “Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two [7+62] weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times” (Daniel 9:25). Again, 69 prophetic weeks are equal to 483 years.
Another evidence of the years of Christ is found in John 2:20: “Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days?” Jamieson, Fausset and Brown’s commentary states the following about this verse: “From the 18th year of Herod, from which we are to date this building work of his, until this time, was just a period of 46 years.” Since Herod began to rule in 37 b.c., his 18th year was 20 b.c. Forty-six years from 20 b.c. is a.d. 27. Christ started His ministry, following His baptism, in the year a.d. 27.
Luke tells us that Christ was 30 years old when He was baptized (Luke 3:23). As Mr. Armstrong wrote in the booklet The Crucifixion Was Not on Friday, Luke did not say Christ was about 29 or about 31. He said Christ was “about 30 years of age.” This would mean that Jesus would have been born in the year 4 b.c. Proof of the year of Christ’s birth further substantiates the year of His death.
With this, and the Daniel prophecy, we can see that Jesus Christ was 30 years old and started His ministry in the year a.d. 27. This means that His birth occurred in 4 b.c., His ministry started in a.d. 27, and He died 3 1⁄2 years later at Passover in a.d. 31.
We know that Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem to be taxed (Luke 2: 1-5). By establishing the year of the census we can determine the year of Christ’s birth. Unger’s Bible Dictionary, in a long and detailed article titled “Chronology,” determines the year of this tax to be 4 b.c.
The Chronicle of John Malalas states this: “In the 39th year and the 10th month of his [Augustus’s] reign, he commanded the taking of a census of all his lands, including all that the Romans held during the consulship of Agrippa II, and of Donatus. And all the Earth under the Romans was registered by Eumenes and Attalus, the Roman senators.”
Mr. Armstrong, in The Crucifixion Was Not on Friday, comments on this: “Using the October-to-October calendar Malalas used, that dates the 39th year as October 6 b.c. to October 5 b.c., and the issuance of the decree for the census to July 5 b.c.” Mr. Armstrong went on to refer the reader to the word chronology in Unger’s Bible Dictionary.
Unger’s states: “The latest word touching these enrollments is that given by the eminent Augustus W. Zumpt, the classical scholar and archaeologist of Berlin, whose recent researches have secured us ‘full historical probability, and whose conclusions of the date of the birth of Christ at the time of the census taken 4 b.c. by Cyrenius is indorsed by the scholarly Mommsen, and accords with the view of Ideler, Bergmann, Browne, Ussher, and Sanclemente’ (Schaff).”
Luke 2:1-6 states, “And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.”
It is clear from these verses that Christ was born when Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem for purposes of the taxing, which is to say the time of the census—4 b.c. It follows that Christ was born in 4 b.c. Even without the other evidence this establishes the year of Christ’s death as a.d. 31.
So we see again that Jesus Christ was born in 4 b.c., began His ministry in the fall of a.d. 27 and died in the spring of a.d. 31 on Wednesday, the day after the Passover service. Then—count for yourself—He was raised from the dead at the end of Saturday, God’s Sabbath, three days and three nights after He died!
Which Day Was Christ Buried?
The evidence of the death of Jesus Christ occurring on Wednesday comes directly from the Bible. The Bible clearly states that Christ was buried near the beginning of a Sabbath (Luke 23:50-54). Since the biblical days begin at sunset, He was buried just before or exactly at sunset. It was not done later, after the Sabbath had commenced, as this was prohibited. Matthew and Mark likewise state that the burial occurred at evening (Matthew 27:57-60; Mark 15:42-46).
A brief review of the preceding hours proves the next day was called the first day of Unleavened Bread, and not the weekly seventh-day Sabbath as so many falsely assume.
Jesus Christ kept the Passover with His disciples the night before He was killed (Mark 14:12-17; Luke 22:8). The day after Passover is a high day. The first day of Unleavened Bread begins the festival season. The Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary states: “And though ‘the Days of Unleavened Bread’ properly began with the 15th, the preparations for the festival being made on the 14th ….” This correctly refers to the day before the high day as a preparation day. Since Passover is on the 14th of Abib/Nisan the day of the week changes from year to year. That means the preparation day changes from year to year and is not necessarily on Friday as is the weekly preparation day. In fact, Nisan 14 was a Wednesday in a.d. 31. Any simple Hebrew calendar program or book will demonstrate this fact. On average, Passover will only fall on Friday three out of 19 years. The other 16 years it will be some other day, yet it is still called a preparation day because the next day is a high day, or annual Sabbath day.
In a.d. 31, the year of Christ’s death, Passover fell on a Wednesday. That means He ate the Passover supper at the beginning of the 14th of Abib, or just after sunset on what today’s Roman calendar calls Tuesday.
Next, Christ and His remaining 11 disciples (Judas had departed) went to the garden of Gethsemane. During the night Jesus was arrested and tried. Then at midday Wednesday, He was crucified. He died that afternoon (Luke 23:44). His body was claimed for burial by Joseph of Arimathaea at the end of the preparation day and before the first day of Unleavened Bread began.
Several commentaries suggest that it was very near sunset when Joseph of Arimathaea asked Pilot for Christ’s body. Joseph had been a follower of Christ, but not publicly, for fear of persecution by the Jews (John 19:38). Therefore, it is reasonable to believe it would have taken the urgency of a soon-arriving holy day to force Joseph to step forward and claim the body, thereby exposing himself as a follower of Jesus.
We have further proof directly from the Bible. “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). The ninth hour is 3 p.m., according to Jamieson, Fausset and Brown.
Since this was a preparation day, it was unlawful for the Jews to buy and sell after the ninth hour. The only work to be done between the ninth hour and sunset was to prepare for the following holy day. This means the women would be unable to buy or prepare spices for anointing the body of Jesus. But, since Christ was killed on Passover, a Wednesday in 31 a.d., with the high day being Thursday, the women were able to buy and prepare spices on Friday and then wait until after the weekly, seventh-day Sabbath. After the Sabbath, the women arrived at the tomb on the first day of the week, Sunday.
This is the only explanation that fits all the New Testament scriptures perfectly.
But why spend so much time proving this schedule of events in a.d. 31? Because in a.d. 31, if the dates for holy days are established without using the rules of postponements, Passover would have been on Monday, not Wednesday. But since Passover was on a Wednesday, we have biblical proof that Christ adhered to the postponement rules on the Hebrew calendar.
Had the method of calculating the holy days been incorrect at the time, Jesus Christ was given a perfect opportunity to correct it. But the fact is, He did not. He kept the Passover according to the same calculations we use today, calculations that include certain rules of postponement. The Bible proves that Christ, Himself, respected the rules of postponement when keeping the Passover.
The rules for calculating the calendar were committed to the Jews as part of the “oracles of God.” “What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God. For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged” (Romans 3:1-4). Clearly, God expected that some people would disbelieve these wonderful facts, but that does not change the truth.
Briefly, here is how the calendar calculations work. The new moon for the Hebrew month of Tishri is the starting point. Tishri 1 is a holy day called Trumpets (Rosh Hashana in Hebrew, which means the head of the year). After calculating the exact moment the new moon will appear, the rules of postponement are applied. These rules, coupled with the time and day of the new moon, will determine the holy days for that year. As an example, a.d. 31 will be used.
The new moon appeared in Jerusalem at 11:52.5 p.m. on Thursday, October 5, a.d. 31, but the Feast of Trumpets was actually celebrated on October 7. If the appearance of the new moon was the only determining factor for the holy days, Passover would have been on Monday, April 24, but it was on Wednesday the 26th, as this article has already proven. The reason for the two-day shift for the holy days can be found in the rules of postponement.
Rule One: When the molad (new moon) of Tishri occurs at noon or later, the Feast of Trumpets is postponed until the next day.
Rule Two: When the molad of Tishri or a postponement occurs on Sunday, Wednesday or Friday, the Feast of Trumpets is postponed one day to a Monday, Thursday or Sabbath respectively.
As stated, the molad of Tishri in a.d. 31 was on Thursday about 30 minutes before midnight. As that is clearly after noon, rule one is applied, postponing the day from Thursday to Friday. Rule two is then applied. Rule two states if the molad of Tishri or a postponement occurs on Friday, the Feast of Trumpets is postponed until the Sabbath day (Saturday). That is exactly what happened in a.d. 31.
Passover is always exactly 164 days before Trumpets because the number of days from the 14th of Abib/Nisan until the 1st of Tishri is always the same. Since the Feast of Trumpets (Tishri 1) was postponed two days from Thursday until Saturday, Passover occurred on a Wednesday instead of a Monday. That is when Jesus Christ celebrated His last Passover as a man. He did not change anything. He simply observed the calculations of the Hebrew calendar just as we do today.
His example proves the sacred calendar as preserved by the Jews, with its calculations, is exactly the way it should be. We are to follow His example and walk in His steps in all things (1 Peter 2:21)—and that includes keeping the holy days and the sacred calendar, preserved by the Jews as the Scriptures state (Romans 3:2).
This article has listed proof that Jesus Christ was born in the year 4 b.c., began His ministry in a.d. 27., and was killed after keeping Passover on Wednesday, April 26, a.d. 31. It has proven that Jesus Christ observed the sacred inspired calendar as calculated by the Jews of His day and ours. What better proof could an honest Christian ask for than that of the perfect example of Christ?
In 2013, God’s sacred year begins on Tuesday, March 12, and Passover is observed after sunset on Sunday, March 24. That is when God and Jesus Christ and the Church will be keeping the Passover. When will you be keeping it?