Proposed Chronology of the Life of Jesus Christ :: By Randy Nettles

The life of Jesus was fatefully linked with two kings. King Herod 1 (Herod the Great) was the King of the Jews in the Roman province of Judaea during the time Jesus was born, and Tiberius Caesar Augustus was the emperor/king of the Roman Empire during Jesus’ ministry and death. The date of the death of Herod is the crucial chronological point of when Jesus was born. Matthew 2:1 says, “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, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.”

King Herod had to be alive at the time of Jesus’ birth to have fulfilled Matthew 2:16, in which he murdered babies in Bethlehem from two years old and under,” according to the time which he had inquired of the wise men.” That doesn’t mean Jesus was necessarily two years old at this time. He could have been an infant. I think Herod was just trying to “cover all the bases” to kill the baby king. Therefore, the date of the death of Herod is a crucial chronological point in the life of Jesus.

Just as the birth and death dates for Jesus are debatable, so is the death of Herod. The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (37 AD- 100 AD) is the main source of information regarding the death of Herod and, thus, the birth of Jesus. Josephus recorded many historical events of Herod, such as when he became king (approximately 40 BC) and when Herod and the Romans took Jerusalem in 37 BC. Josephus says further that Herod died after a reign of 34 years. However, there is some debate on when the actual accession year began and what calendar was used for the reckoning.

The main piece of evidence for the year of Herod’s death, however, is not historical but astronomical. Flavius Josephus mentioned that a lunar eclipse occurred shortly before King Herod died and that the Jewish Passover came not long after his death. Since a lunar eclipse only takes place when there is a full moon, and the Passover occurs during a full moon, evidently the lunar eclipse mentioned by Josephus didn’t occur on a Passover but sometime before. Taking the above information and dates for the reign of Herod, there are really only two possible time periods for when this lunar (full moon) eclipse occurred.

We know there was a partial lunar eclipse visible in Jerusalem on March 13, 4 BC, and Passover was on April 11th of that year. There were no lunar eclipses that were visible in Jerusalem in 3 or 2 BC, but there were two in 1 BC. The first eclipse occurred on January 10, 1 BC, and was a full-blown total eclipse of the moon, but it occurred late at night when most people wouldn’t have viewed it. The next eclipse was a partial one that occurred 12 months later on Dec. 29, 1 BC.

So, if the children of Bethlehem that Herod killed (Matthew 2:16) were two years or younger, then Herod obviously thought that his competition, this newborn “king of the Jews,” was at the most two years old (but possibly a newborn). That time was obviously somewhat prior to Herod’s death, and if his death was early in the year 4 BC (between March 13 and April 11), then the two years or less would point back to 6 – 4 BC for the year of Jesus’ birth.

However, if one of the two lunar eclipses of 1 BC was the one Josephus was referring to that occurred before Herod died, then his death would point back to 3 – 1 BC for the year of Jesus’ birth. There are nine early Church fathers who believed 3/2 BC was the year of Herod’s death. They are: Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Africanus, Hippolytus of Rome, Hippolytus of Thebes, Origen, Eusebius, and Epiphanius.

Some of the earliest include the placement of the birth of Jesus in the 41st year of the reign of Emperor Augustus, about 3–2 BC by Irenaeus in 180 AD. In 194 AD, Clement of Alexandria estimated that Jesus was born 194 years before the death of the emperor Commodus, who died on the last day of 192 AD; therefore, Jesus was born around 2 BC. Accordingly, in 198 AD, Tertullian’s date for the 41st year of Augustus and the birth of Jesus is 3/2 BC. In 231 AD, Origen agreed with Tertullian’s assessment and date.

Early in the fourth century, Eusebius wrote that Jesus was born in the 42nd year of the reign of Augustus and in the 28th year after the death of Cleopatra. Leaving aside the issue of inclusive or exclusive counting, that places the birth of Jesus at around 2 BC. In his 410 AD work Seven Books of History Against the Pagans, Paulus Orosius (born in Spain and associated with Augustine and Jerome) says that it was in the 752nd year after “the founding of the city of Rome” (A.U.C.) that “Christ” was born. The Roman calendar A.U.C. 752 date translates to 2 BC on the Julian calendar.

The Roman monk Dionysius Exiguus (525 AD) accepted A.U.C. 753 or 1 BC as the year of the incarnation and December 25 as the day of the nativity of Jesus. Dionysius is best known as the inventor of Anno Domini dating, which is used to number the years of both the Gregorian and the Julian calendar. The old Roman calendar year A.U.C. 754 would be replaced with 1 AD.

However, nowadays, most scholarship concerning the date of Herod’s death follows Emil Schürer’s calculations published in 1896, which revised a traditional death date of 1 BC to 4 BC., Schurer’s chronology (based on Josephus’ writings) has the dates of late 40 BC for Herod’s appointment as King of Judea, 37 BC for Herod’s and the Romans’ capture of Jerusalem, and 4 BC for the death of Herod. This would account for the supposed 34 years of Herod’s reign from the taking of Jerusalem.

Also, two of Herod’s sons, Herod Archelaus and Philip the Tetrarch, dated their rule from 4 BC, though Archelaus apparently held royal authority during Herod’s lifetime. Philip’s reign would last for 37 years, until his death in the traditionally accepted 20th year of Tiberius (AD 33/34), which implies his accession as 4 BC (4 years BC = 33 years AD = 37 years). The currently known text of Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews states that [Herod] Philip, son of Herod 1, died in the 20th year of Tiberius (33/34 AD) after ruling for thirty-seven years.

The date of 4 or 5 BC for the death of Herod is maintained by Banes and Bernegger and supported by Daniel Schwartz and by Vermes and Millar, Safrai, Stern, Flusser, and Van Unnik. If Herod died in 5/4 BC, then the best timeline for the birth of Jesus would be 6/5 BC.

In contrast to the belief in a 4 BC date for the death of Herod, in 1966, W.W. Filmer raised serious doubts about the 4 BC date and proposed a date in 1 BC instead. And in 1978 and 1996, Ernest L. Martin advanced detailed arguments for the same date of 1 BC. Also, the date of 1 BC is set forth by Edwards and Keresztes. These scholars have returned to the traditional view of the early Church fathers advocating for a 3/2 BC birth of Jesus.

These scholars believe the date for the beginning of Herod’s reign is 39 BC (instead of 40 BC), and the year for the taking of Jerusalem should be listed as 36 BC. Thus, Herod died in 1 BC, dating the birth of Jesus in late 3 BC or early 2 AD.

“In 1995, David W. Beyer reported to the Society for Biblical Literature his personal examination in the British Museum of forty-six editions of Josephus’s Antiquities published before 1700, among which twenty-seven texts, all but three published before 1544, read “the twenty-second year of Tiberius, while not a single edition published prior to 1544 records the “twentieth year.” It was also found that the oldest versions of the text give variant lengths of reign for Philip of 32 and 36 years. But if we still allow for a full thirty-seven-year reign, then “the twenty-second year of Tiberius: (35/36 AD) points to 1 BC as the year of death of Herod. Accordingly, if the birth of Jesus was two years or less before the death of Herod in 1 BC, the date of the birth was in 3 or 2 BC.” {1}

This evidence removes the main obstacle for a later date of 1 BC for the death of Herod. Other scholars also support the traditional date of 1 BC for Herod’s death and argue that Herod’s heirs backdated their reigns to 4 or 3 BC to assert an overlapping with Herod’s rule and bolster their own legitimacy, something that had already been done by a few rulers before them. See PSCF12-12p211-219Nollet.vp ( for more details on why 1 BC is a possible year for the death of Herod.

In my opinion, 5 BC and 2 BC are the two best choices for the birth of Jesus. I don’t believe Jesus was born in the winter, as on December 25th. I think he was born in the fall season, probably on the Day of Atonement, Tishri 10. The duration of human gestation is 280 days on average. 280 days prior to Tishri 10 (September 7), 2 BC is Kislev 25 (December 1), 3 BC, which is the start of the Feast of Dedication, aka Hanukkah.

Hanukkah, the festival of lights, is meant to signify a miracle in the Jewish faith. “Hanukkah” is Hebrew for “dedication.” Though the holiday is popularly known as the festival of lights, Hanukkah was established to honor the victory of the Judaean soldiers over the Syrian-Greek army.

In their victory, the Maccabees, led by Judah, reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and rededicated it to their God. They had only enough oil to ignite the temple light for one night, and yet the light burned for eight days. Of course, oil can symbolize the Holy Spirit, such as when a priest or king was anointed for the service of the LORD. I believe Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit on Hanukkah (truly one of the greatest miracles of all time) and was born on the Day of Atonement, the holiest day of the year for the Jewish people.

If Jesus was born on Tishri 10, 2 BC and died on Nisan 14, 33 AD, he would have been 33 years old (actually 33 years and 7 months old). Jesus would have been 30 years old in AD 29, at the start of his ministry (with a 3.5-year ministry). This agrees with the scripture in Luke. “Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in you I am well pleased. And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph” (Luke 3:21-23).

Of course, if Jesus was born in 5 BC (this was always my view in the past) and died in 33 AD, then you can add three more years to the ages listed above. Jesus would have been 33 (and seven months) at the time of the start of his ministry. Does this stretch the credibility of the word “about” (thirty years of age) in Luke 3:23? It might be. I would think one or two years should be the max concerning the word “about” in this verse.

There are many scholars and students alike who believe Jesus was crucified in 30 AD. This would not work for a 2 BC birth, as Jesus would have only been approximately 27.5 years old at the start of his ministry. Most people who believe in the 30 AD date for Jesus’ crucifixion believe he was born around 5 BC. This would have likewise put him at about 30 at the start of his ministry and about 33 when he was crucified.

According to Luke 3:1-3, it was in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar that the word of God came to John, the son of Zechariah, in the wilderness when he began his ministry. It is believed Jesus began his ministry not long after John’s, for John actually baptized Jesus in the Jordan River (John 3:21-22). Luke 3:23 says Jesus was about 30 years old when he was baptized. It is believed Jesus began his ministry shortly after his baptism. The 15th year of Tiberius would appear to be an exact date, and no doubt it was in the mind of the writer and his audience at the time, but the matter is not so simple to those who came afterward.

Tiberius became the sole emperor of Rome upon Augustus’ death on August 19, 14 AD, or upon the vote of the Senate on September 17, 14 AD. However, he became a Co-Princeps or joint ruler over the provinces with Augustus in 12 AD (at the earliest). In this capacity, Tacitus describes Tiberius as “collega imperii,” (colleague in the empire), and some consider him joint emperor with Augustus from this time on.

There are many different ways of counting the regnal years of Tiberius from either 12 AD or 14 AD, such as factual regnal years, regnal years counted as Julian calendar years according to the non-accession-year system, regnal years counted as Julian calendar years according to the accession-year system, and the same regnal years counted as Jewish calendar years, etc. However, it is believed Luke 3:1 is mostly addressing the Romans or Gentiles, and so Tiberius’ rule is to be reckoned in terms of the Julian calendar.

If Tiberius’ reign is to be reckoned in terms of the Julian calendar, then if we determine his reign began as Co-Princeps in 12 AD, the 15th year would be 27 AD (Jan. 1 – Dec 31). However, if Tiberius’ reign began as sole emperor in 14 AD, then the 15th year would be 29 AD (Jan. 1 – Dec. 31). The most likely time for baptizing in the Jordan River would be in early autumn, so John and Jesus’ ministry probably began around the Feast of Trumpets or Atonement or sometime afterward either in the year 27 AD or 29 AD.

The adherents to a fall 27 AD ministry start and a spring 30 AD crucifixion for Jesus generally believe in a 2.5-year ministry duration for Jesus. The adherents to a fall 29 AD ministry start and a spring 33 AD crucifixion generally believe in a 3.5-year ministry duration for Jesus.

In Jack Finegan’s Handbook of Biblical Chronology, he says, “For Luke and his intended readers, therefore, it is most likely that the reign of Tiberius meant Tiberius’ own sole rule (from the death of Augustus, August 19, 14 AD) and that this rule is to be reckoned in terms of the Julian calendar. Several roughly contemporary Greek and Roman historians provide specific examples of dating in this way (pg. 338).” I agree with Mr. Finegan and give my reasons in The Season of the Lord’s Return :: By Randy Nettles – Rapture Ready, including numismatic and inscriptional evidence.

I don’t believe the crucifixion of Jesus could have occurred earlier than 30 AD or later than 33 AD, but let’s look at some astronomical evidence for dates ranging from 27 to 34 AD. That should cover any possible timeline. We know Jesus died on Nisan 14 at 3:00 pm. This would have been 3 hours from the date changing to Nisan 15. The moon should be completely full as the sun sets on the 15th of every month on the Jewish calendar. With this in mind, let’s look at some full moons for this timespan. These are astronomical Nisan 15th dates, so just subtract one day to determine Nisan 14.

Nisan 15 – Full Moons

27 AD – April 9 – Wednesday

28 AD – March 29 – Monday

29 AD – April 17 – Sunday

30 AD – April 7 – Friday

31 AD – March 27 – Tuesday

32 AD – April 14 – Monday

33 AD – April 3 – Friday

34 AD – March 23 – Tuesday

I believe Jesus was crucified on a Thursday. See Solving the Three Day Three Night Mystery – Grace thru faith. Some believe it was on Wednesday or Friday. As you can see from the table above (subtract one day for Nisan 14), the only years that work for a Thursday, Nisan 14, are 30 AD and 33 AD.

Just as there is a three-year differential between the top two choices for Jesus’ birth, 5 BC and 2 BC, so there is a three-year differential between the top two choices for Jesus’ death, 33 AD and 30 AD.


The last factor to take into consideration for the date of Jesus’ crucifixion is Daniel’s 70 Weeks/Sevens Prophecy found in Daniel 9:24-27. We know from verse 25 that the Messiah the Prince was prophesied to come to the children of Israel 69 weeks (heptads or Shemitah week/years) from the word or commandment to re/build Jerusalem (after its destruction in approximately 586 BC). We also know from verse 26 that after the 69 weeks, the Messiah would be “cut off” or killed.

There are really only two choices for the date (or year) of the beginning of Daniel’s 69 weeks/sevens (approximately 483 years or 69 Sabbath years), and they are both decrees or commandments by the Persian king Artaxerxes. The first one was issued to Ezra and the Jewish people in approximately 458/457 BC in regards to resuming the Mosaic Law and training priests in the new Temple. The second one was issued to Nehemiah and the Jews in approximately 444/445 BC to rebuild Jerusalem.

If you are an adherent to the 457 BC decree, then the end date for the 69 weeks (483 years) is 27 AD (456 BC years + 27 AD years = 483 years), the supposed year Jesus began his ministry. Those who hold to the 30 AD crucifixion year believe 27 AD (in the fall) is the year Jesus began his ministry. This is how they interpret Daniel 9:25, “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 weeks.” So, their view is that the 69 weeks of Daniel 9:24 is from when Ezra went to Jerusalem until Jesus was baptized by John, thus beginning his 2.5-year ministry.

They believe the first part of verse 26, “And after threescore and two weeks (referring to the 69 weeks) shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself,” the crucifixion of Jesus, occurs 2.5 years outside (after) the 69 weeks. In other words, there is an interval of 2.5 years (the time of Jesus’ ministry) during which the death, burial, resurrection, ascension of Jesus, and the birth of the Church occur. I find it odd that these all-important events are outside of Daniel’s 69 weeks (by 2.5 years) and are just part of the Gentile time period between the 69th and 70th week.

If you are an adherent to the 445/444 BC decree of Artaxerxes (as I am), then the end date for the 69 weeks (going by the prophetic 360-day calendar or 69 Shemitah year theory) is 33 AD, the year of Jesus’ crucifixion. We believe Jesus’ ministry began in the fall of 29 AD and lasted for 3.5 years until his death in 33 AD. 3.5 years equals approximately 1278 days (365 x 3.5 = 1278). If you subtract 1278 days from Nisan 14, 33 AD, you come to Tishri 10, 29 AD for the start of Jesus’ ministry. Doesn’t this just sound like God’s timing, that the Holy Spirit would land upon Jesus after his baptism by John during the holiest day for the Jews, on the day of Atonement?

The end of the 69 weeks of Daniel 9:25 occurred when Jesus Christ (Messiah) rode into Jerusalem on Nisan 10 (Palm Sunday) as the Prince who should have been made King of Israel but wasn’t. The Prince, the son of David, Jesus Christ, was rejected by the Jews on this day.

Yes, Nisan 10, 33 AD was the end of the 69th week/seven of Daniel 9:25, and Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection all occurred after the 69th week, but only by a few days. There is no 2.5-year gap between them. They were all part of Holy Week, which started with Palm Sunday. As a matter of fact, if you believe the 69 sevens were actually Shemitah years and not weeks or cycles (See Sevens :: By Randy Nettles – Rapture Ready), then the year Tishri 445/Tishri 444 BC would have been Shemitah year 1 and Tishri 32/Tishri 33 AD would have been Shemitah year 69. That means all of the events of Holy Week, the ascension of Jesus, and the giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost would have occurred during the 69th seven of Daniel 9:24, 25.

I don’t believe the end of the 69 “sevens” prophecy of Daniel ended at the start of Jesus’ ministry but included all of his ministry and all of the events of Holy Week, the ascension, and the events of Pentecost. 444 BC to 33 AD is the only timeline that can accommodate this view. Just because Daniel 9:26 says “after” doesn’t mean the “cutting off” comes years and years after the 69 weeks. I mean, what’s the limit of “after”? Is it 2.5 years, 10 years, 100 years? I think the event of vs. 26 needs to proceed immediately after the event of vs. 25.

Essentially, the beginning of the Holy Spirit-filled Church began the “time of the Gentiles” and began the “gap period” between the 69th seven and the 70th seven. After Jesus was rejected as King of the Jews, the desolations of the Jews began anew. “And the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined” (Daniel 9:26b).

I believe Jesus died on Thursday, Nisan 14, at 3:00 p.m. Jerusalem time. The date on the Julian calendar was April 2, 33 AD. There was a darkness that covered the land over Jerusalem from the sixth hour (12:00 p.m.) until the ninth hour (3:00 p.m.). This was not a solar eclipse as they cannot last that long, and they only occur when there is a new moon. This was a supernatural event from God, the Father. The faithful followers of Jesus only had three hours to get Jesus off the cross and placed in his tomb before the new day of Nisan 15 (Friday) began, which was a special Sabbath day where no work was permitted.

On the following day, Friday, Nisan 15 (April 3, 33 AD), there was a partial lunar eclipse of the (full) moon at 5:52 pm Jerusalem time. Jesus had been in the grave for approximately 24 hours by this time. Even in a partial eclipse, the shadowed part of the moon is often red in color. This seems appropriate given the circumstances of Jesus’ bloody death. It would also be a foreboding to the Jewish people for their part in Jesus’ death.

I now believe Jesus could have been born in 2 BC. The date of Tishri 10 (September 7) is strictly theoretical as no one knows, without doubt, what the factual date is. I am not overly confident in this date, as there is just not enough evidence, and some of the historical comments from Josephus and others are contradictory and aren’t entirely reliable. However, it does make the chronology of Luke 3:23 look better. Regarding Jesus’ death, I feel confident in a Thursday, Nisan 14 (April 2), 33 AD date.

If this chronology is correct, Jesus was conceived on the first day of Hanukkah, was born on the Day of Atonement, began his ministry on the day of Atonement, died on Passover, was buried on the Feast of Unleavened Bread, was resurrected on the Feast of Firstfruits, and sent His Holy Spirit upon the Church on Pentecost. He will return on Trumpets, and during his 2nd Coming will fulfill the Feasts of Atonement and Tabernacles. Something special will occur on the 1335th day, which I believe to be on the first day of Hanukkah in the near future. See The End of the Age: From Firstfruits to Hanukkah :: By Randy Nettles – Rapture Ready

Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

Randy Nettles


{1} Revised Edition Handbook of Biblical Chronology by Jack Finegan pg. 301.