It’s becoming more clear that April 3, 33 AD is our date. An ancient and startling Jewish prophecy of the Messiah adds more evidence.
Centuries before the birth of Christ, a young Jew was taken prisoner. He was abducted from his homeland and all that he had known. Perhaps he went along stumbling, bloody-footed with other prisoners. More likely, he rode a camel or cart because of his high birth. History does not say. He journeyed months from Judea, which he would never again see. But, when uprooted from everything familiar, this young man did not forget. According to the Bible, he did not lose faith in his god. His name was Daniel.
It was 605 BC. The tiny state of Judah was overrun by the great army of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. Judah had taken the wrong side in a regional conflict between Egypt and Babylon, and it paid the price (1). To ensure its submission as a vassal state, many from Judah’s royal and aristocratic families were carried away in what is sometimes called the first Babylonian captivity. Daniel was among these.
The Bible records that Daniel was groomed for service in Nebuchadnezzar’s court. He learned the Babylonian language, literature and customs. With time, he became a trusted advisor to the king, more accomplished than all the other royal advisors. The Bible says that his true strength was in his faith and his god, not his personal ability.
Though his success in the king’s court was remarkable, and though he never returned to his homeland, still his heart must have remained in the land of his birth. The Bible records his prayers—heartcries, really. Pleas of such passion that there must have been tears on his face (2). Daniel pleaded with God for his people, that their captivity might end, that the temple at Jerusalem might be rebuilt.
The Bible records that during such a time of passion, Daniel had a vision. The angel Gabriel appeared to him and spoke. The Book of Daniel, Chapter 9 records:
21 while I was still in prayer, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the earlier vision, came to me in swift flight about the time of the evening sacrifice. 22 He instructed me and said to me, “Daniel, I have now come to give you insight and understanding. 23 As soon as you began to pray, an answer was given, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed…
25 “Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens’, and sixty-two ‘sevens’… 26 After the sixty-two ‘sevens’, the Anointed One will be cut off…”— Daniel 9:21-26
The word “Christ” means “anointed one.” For this and other reasons, most commentators conclude that Daniel received a prediction of Messiah’s coming. More than that, Daniel was told the date of Messiah’s death, the date he would be “cut off.” That’s the date we seek for our astronomical investigation. So, can the numeric symbolism of Daniel’s “sevens” be deciphered? Perhaps it is not terribly complicated.
Taking a direct approach, let us assume that the “sevens” are seven years. Gabriel told Daniel that after the decree to rebuild, there would be “seven sevens” (which is 49), plus “sixty-two sevens” (which is 434). After these 483 years, the Anointed One would be cut off. If the prophecy is true, this would be the year of the crucifixion.
Remember that in ancient times, our modern calendar system was not in use. In other prophetic passages a year of 360 days is used (3). To convert to our modern system which uses the longer solar year, we must divide by the time it takes for Earth to orbit the Sun, which is 365.24 days. This yields 476 years on our calendar (4).
We now have a number of years, but when do we start the countdown? Gabriel said to count “from the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem.” When was that? The prophet Nehemiah records such a decree, and he dates it as the twentieth year of Artaxerxes (5). On our calendar, that date is 444 BC (6). Counting 476 years from 444 BC, and remembering that there is no year numbered “zero” AD, we discover what Gabriel told Daniel: the Messiah would be cut off in 33 AD.
This stunning prophecy, made over 500 years before Christ was born, is consistent with all of the other evidence we have seen. So, we have increasing confidence that Jesus was crucified on April 3, 33 AD. But the “clincher,” perhaps the most powerful evidence, is astronomical. Let’s consider Peter’s argument.
- The Book of Daniel, Chapter 1: “1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand…”
Malamat, Abraham, Caught Between the Great Powers, Biblical Archaeology Review, ISSN-0098-9444, Volume 25, Number 9, July/August 1999.
- The Book of Daniel , Chapter 9: “16 O Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath from Jerusalem, your city, your holy hill. Our sins and the iniquities of our fathers have made Jerusalem and your people an object of scorn to all those around us. 17 “Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, O Lord, look with favour on your desolate sanctuary. 18 Give ear, O God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. 19 O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hear and act! For your sake, O my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.”
- For example, in the Book of Revelation , Chapter 11, verses 3 and 4, a period of 42 months is equated with 1260 days. These are lunar months of 30 days, a 360 day lunar year, like that used by the ancient Egyptians.
- The math is straightforward:
7 x 7 = 49
7 x 62 = 434
49 + 434 = 483
483 years x the 360-day lunar year = 173,880 days
173,880 days / the 365.24 day solar year = 476 years in our calendar system
- The Book of Nehemiah , Chapter2: “1 In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before; 2 so the king asked me, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.” I was very much afraid, 3 but I said to the king, “May the king live for ever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my fathers are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” 4 The king said to me, “What is it you want?” Then I prayed to the God of heaven, 5 and I answered the king, “If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favour in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my fathers are buried so that I can rebuild it.” 6 Then the king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked me, “How long will your journey take, and when will you get back?” It pleased the king to send me; so I set a time. 7 I also said to him, “If it pleases the king, may I have letters to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, so that they will provide me safe-conduct until I arrive in Judah? 8 And may I have a letter to Asaph, keeper of the king’s forest, so he will give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel by the temple and for the city wall and for the residence I will occupy?” And because the gracious hand of my God was upon me, the king granted my requests.”
- Harold W. Hoehner, Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ, Chapter VI: “Daniel’s Seventy Weeks and New Testament Chronology” (Grand Rapids: Academie Books, 1977) ISBN 0-310-26211-9