March 25, Traditional Christian New Years

The early Christian church bucked Roman New Years of January 1 and instead chose March 25. This messed up date calculations yet made a statement about the central event in Christianity.

Background

Of the many traditions handed down through the ages regarding the times of Jesus public ministry one hits squarely on the date that is in the center of the date story, and the center of the entire story of Jesus’ work on earth.

The early Christian Church adopted March 25 as first day on the Christian annual calendar. The tradition does not say why this was important and it was not universally the date chosen for new years celebrations in the Christian world but it was an early and strong tradition for the start of the Christian year.

Consider that the pagan Roman world was using January 1 as New Years day at the time of Jesus. Consider also what it meant to put new years day in the middle of a month. On a calendar where March is split into two different years it is not possible to say things like "March in the year 1500" since 1500 has part of a March that started in 1499 and 1500 begins a March that ends in 1501. March 25 as a New Years day is confusing and not worth the trouble unless it is pointing at something important. But what?

What would the early Christian Church have considered important enough to start a whole new year?

The answer to this question has to do with Resurrection Sunday. Jesus rose from the dead on Sunday morning. This date was so important that it became the day of worship in the Christian world. It was also so important that the new year for the Christian world was also set to this date.

How do we know? We don’t, exactly, know this to be the case. It turns out, though, that nothing else was considered as important as Resurrection Sunday, and this date lands on a date that matters to the other stories in this section.

The Year 31 AD

The simple tradition of putting New Years day on March 25 does something profound when it comes to finding the year of Jesus’ resurrection. It also reveals the exact year.

If resurrection Sunday fixed the first day of the week and it also fixed the first day of the Year, then the year in which this Sunday fell had to have had March 25 on a Sunday.

To find the right year all we need do is look up each March 25 in the range of possible years and when we find March 25 landing on Sunday, we will have the year, or a candidate year. Only those years where March 25 is a Sunday are possible resurrection years given this tradition.

The following date report shows the period in question listing off each March 25 on the then current Roman calendar for the years 25 through 36 AD. The very left hand column indicates the day of the week for the indicated date. By inspection only the years 25, 31 and 36 AD could have been the years that contained the Passover when Jesus was resurrected from the dead, since only these years land March 25 on a Sunday.

March 25 for each year between 25 and 36
Sun11013-10-10 AA23 Mar 25 NS25 Mar 778 AUC4017430 AAN
1513-10-10 FE25 Mar 25 OS25 Mar 25 AD1730273 JDN
Mon11014-10-15 AA23 Mar 26 NS25 Mar 779 AUC4017795 AAN
1514-10-15 FE25 Mar 26 OS25 Mar 26 AD1730638 JDN
Tue11015-09-20 AA23 Mar 27 NS25 Mar 780 AUC4018160 AAN
1515-09-20 FE25 Mar 27 OS25 Mar 27 AD1731003 JDN
Thu11016-09-26 AA23 Mar 28 NS25 Mar 781 AUC4018526 AAN
1516-09-26 FE25 Mar 28 OS25 Mar 28 AD1731369 JDN
Fri11017-10-01 AA23 Mar 29 NS25 Mar 782 AUC4018891 AAN
1517-10-01 FE25 Mar 29 OS25 Mar 29 AD1731734 JDN
Sat11018-10-06 AA23 Mar 30 NS25 Mar 783 AUC4019256 AAN
1518-10-06 FE25 Mar 30 OS25 Mar 30 AD1732099 JDN
Sun11019-10-11 AA23 Mar 31 NS25 Mar 784 AUC4019621 AAN
1519-10-11 FE25 Mar 31 OS25 Mar 31 AD1732464 JDN
Tue11020-10-17 AA23 Mar 32 NS25 Mar 785 AUC4019987 AAN
1520-10-17 FE25 Mar 32 OS25 Mar 32 AD1732830 JDN
Wed11021-10-22 AA23 Mar 33 NS25 Mar 786 AUC4020352 AAN
1521-10-22 FE25 Mar 33 OS25 Mar 33 AD1733195 JDN
Thu11022-09-27 AA23 Mar 34 NS25 Mar 787 AUC4020717 AAN
1522-09-27 FE25 Mar 34 OS25 Mar 34 AD1733560 JDN
Fri11023-10-02 AA23 Mar 35 NS25 Mar 788 AUC4021082 AAN
1523-10-02 FE25 Mar 35 OS25 Mar 35 AD1733925 JDN
Sun11024-10-08 AA23 Mar 36 NS25 Mar 789 AUC4021448 AAN
1524-10-08 FE25 Mar 36 OS25 Mar 36 AD1734291 JDN

Only 25, 31, and 36 AD, known as 778, 784 and 789 AUC as lived in the first century, are candidates for the year of the Resurrection.

Modern scholarly opinion is severely divided over which year in this period was the year of the Resurrection. Most believe it was between the year 27 and the year 35. The only year when March 25 falls on a Sunday within this window is the year 31 AD.

Jesus rose from the dead on Sunday, March 25, 31 AD.

Of course this is not the only support for this date. It is the simpliest way to derive the date of the Resurrection, requiring only an almanac for its derivation. Many other Bible stories point directly at this date as the correct date for the Resurrection of Jesus. Most involve the overall length of Jesus’ life.

Notes

This table also shows us the Bible Calendar date for this same event. Sunday, 1519/10/11 FE. This date is curious in that it has one other reference in scripture. The date? 10409-10-10Jeremiah 39:1 Jeremiah 52:4 is the day that the siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonian army began. The day and month are the same as the full day that Jesus spent in the tomb, 1519-10-10 FE. The siege of God against those in opposition to himself had begun.

Phil Stone, 2016-11-06