Can we know the dates of Jesus’ Crucifixion and Resurrection? Nowhere in the Gospels is the date given for either Jesus’ crucifixion or resurrection. This shouldn’t surprise us. The Gospel writers were not writing news stories. They were trying to convey a theological message to certain groups of people. So many of the details we are naturally curious about are absent from the reports.
Two of the questions that are asked most often about Jesus are “When was He born?” and “When did He die?”. We’ve covered the dating of Jesus birth in another post. But what about the date of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection? Can we know what date those occurred?
Luckily, we have a few historical anchors to help us determine the date. The first of these is the reign of Pontus Pilate as Prefect of Judea. We know from two ancient historians, Josephus and Philo, the approximate time of his rule. It’s recorded that he was the Roman Prefect from 26 A.D. to 36 A.D.
One of the few facts on the life of Jesus of Nazareth’s life that is almost universally agreed upon by scholars is that he was crucified by the Roman authorities in Jerusalem. And all agree that Pontus Pilate was the ruling magistrate when this occurred. But what other clues do we have that can help us narrow down the timeframe?
All the Gospel accounts have the Disciples celebrating the Passover the night before Jesus is tried and ultimately crucified. And we know that according to the Gospels Jesus arose on the first day of the week (i.e. Sunday). And most scholars agree that he was crucified on a Friday.
So that leaves us with the challenge to find a time within Pilate’s rule of Judea when the Passover fell on a Thursday. Two years meet these criteria. 30 and 33 A.D.
One Of Two Dates
If the year of these events were 30 A.D., the crucifixion would have occurred on Friday the 7th of April, and the resurrection on Sunday the 9th of April.
If we use 33 A.D. as the year, then Jesus was crucified on Friday April 3rd, and rose on Sunday April 5th.
A case can be made for either of these two dates. And without further corroborating evidence, we can’t know for certainty which of these two dates is the correct one. From my reading, scholars are split on the two dates. Some of the sources I trust the most use the date in 33 A.D., but I must admit that the other date has just as strong an argument.
So ultimately, we probably can’t know with certainty the exact dates of the resurrection and crucifixion of Jesus. We do have two well attested possibilities. And I think it is safe to say that one of the two dates are correct.
What is ultimate of greater significance to us as Christians however is that Jesus did die in our place. He took the punishment that we deserve for our sins. And he offers us forgiveness. This is why the horror of the crucifixion is known as “Good Friday”. And its why we celebrate the resurrection on Easter Sunday.
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