Reads Isaiah Scroll -- The Start of Ministry

Jesus quoted Isaiah and revealed the length of his public ministry. That quote locks into the dates of John’s call to baptize in the Jordan.

Background

There are several Bible clues that put the length of Jesus’ public ministry at 1 year. This is shorter than popularly thought but it has an abundance of evidence.

In another article we’ve already established the resurrection of Jesus on Sunday, March 25, 31 AD. Here we look at the events in the year before. Our first clue is Jesus’ own quote on the matter.

Jesus’ Year Long Public Ministry

Luke records that after he was baptized and tempted by Satan, he returned to his home town...

14And Joshua returned in the power of the spirit to Galilee, and his fame went out through all the surrounding country. 15And he taught in their synagogues and was praised by every man.

16And he came to Nazareth where he had been brought up, and he entered the synagogue on the sabbath day just as he was accustomed and stood up to read. 17And the book of the prophet Isaiah was given to him, and Joshua opened the book and found the place where it is written, 18The spirit of master is on me, because of this I am anointed to proclaim thoughts to the poor, and sent to heal broken hearts, and to proclaim release to the captives and sight to the blind, to strengthen with forgiveness those who are bruised, 19and to preach the acceptable year of master. (Isaiah 61:1) 20And he rolled up the scroll and gave it to the attendant and went and sat down, and the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21And he began to say to them, Today this scripture is fulfilled in your ears. Luke 4:14-21

Here we see Jesus announce to the world that he is starting a year of the Lord’s favor the year he is about to spend in public power ministry.

This reference is a quote of Isaiah 61:1 that he has just stopped mid sentence. The rest of the sentence concludes with the day of vengeance of our God. Jesus is separating the two massive public ministry times in his personal dealing with mankind into two distinct times in the history of mankind. One of those times has just started and will roll on for another year.

This quote is actually a double reference. By quoting the Old Testament Jesus is giving both an old and new reference to the year that he is in public power ministry.

The length of Jesus’ public power ministry was 1 year.

Length of the Year

There are 2 possible lengths for that public year of ministry. This is because there are 2 possible year lengths:

  • 360 days, a common year

  • 390 days, a jubilee year

Choosing the right length depends on finding other evidence. The simplest evidence is based on a principle, that Jesus is our Jubilee, and therefore his ministry should be the length of a Jubilee year, or 390 days.

The following table puts dates to that hunch, backing off 3 days in the tomb from Resurrection Sunday, and then backing off another 390 days. Note the starting date for those 390 days is a Sabbath.

Jesus’ Public Ministry
Resurrection Sunday
Sun11019-10-11 AA23 Mar 31 NS25 Mar 784 AUC4019621 AAN
1519-10-11 FE25 Mar 31 OS25 Mar 31 AD1732464 JDN
Crucifixion Thursday -- 3 days before
Thu11019-10-08 AA20 Mar 31 NS22 Mar 784 AUC4019618 AAN
1519-10-08 FE22 Mar 30 OS22 Mar 31 AD1732461 JDN
1 Jubilee Year Begins -- 390 days before
Reads Isaiah Scroll
Sat11018-09-08 AA23 Feb 30 NS25 Feb 783 AUC4019228 AAN
1518-09-08 FE25 Feb 29 OS25 Feb 30 AD1732071 JDN

Note how this last date lands on a Saturday.

The date must land on a Saturday, the Sabbath, since it was on a Sabbath that Jesus got up to read the quote from Isaiah about the start of a year of favor.

16And he came to Nazareth where he had been brought up, and he entered the synagogue on the sabbath day just as he was accustomed and stood up to read. Luke 4:16

Which it does in this report, providing more evidence that the entire system is correct.

Counter Example, showing 360 days does not work

As a test we can show what happens on a 360 day common year. The following table takes resurrection Sunday, and then backs off by 3 days in the tomb and then 360 days, as though that were the right year length. Note that this year does not start on a Sabbath.

Alternative Public Ministry -- Incorrect
Resurrection Sunday -- Correct
Sun11019-10-11 AA23 Mar 31 NS25 Mar 784 AUC4019621 AAN
1519-10-11 FE25 Mar 31 OS25 Mar 31 AD1732464 JDN
Crucifixion Thursday -- Correct
Thu11019-10-08 AA20 Mar 31 NS22 Mar 784 AUC4019618 AAN
1519-10-08 FE22 Mar 30 OS22 Mar 31 AD1732461 JDN
Start of Common year, 1 year Earlier -- Incorrect
Day of week wrong, Not Saturday
Mon11018-10-08 AA25 Mar 30 NS27 Mar 783 AUC4019258 AAN
1518-10-08 FE27 Mar 30 OS27 Mar 30 AD1732101 JDN

The first day of the 360 day year does not land on a Sabbath, nor would it if we did not count the 3 days in the tomb. This disproves the idea that it might be a 360 day year, and shows that it was a 390 day, Jubilee year.

Jesus’ ministry was a year, a Jubilee year, of 390 days.

Backing Out to the Start of Jesus’ Ministry

The following date report takes the known date, March 25, 31 AD and backs it off by 1 Biblical Jubilee year. Preceding that year is the 40 days of fasting that began his ministry:

Jesus’ Public Ministry
In Reverse Order
Resurrection Sunday
Sun11019-10-11 AA23 Mar 31 NS25 Mar 784 AUC4019621 AAN
1519-10-11 FE25 Mar 31 OS25 Mar 31 AD1732464 JDN
Crucifixion Thursday
Thu11019-10-08 AA20 Mar 31 NS22 Mar 784 AUC4019618 AAN
1519-10-08 FE22 Mar 30 OS22 Mar 31 AD1732461 JDN
Jubilee Begins, Isaiah Scroll Reading
Sat11018-09-08 AA23 Feb 30 NS25 Feb 783 AUC4019228 AAN
1518-09-08 FE25 Feb 29 OS25 Feb 30 AD1732071 JDN
Wilderness Begins
Mon11018-07-28 AA14 Jan 30 NS16 Jan 783 AUC4019188 AAN
1518-07-28 FE16 Jan 29 OS16 Jan 30 AD1732031 JDN
Baptism
Sun11018-07-27 AA13 Jan 30 NS15 Jan 783 AUC4019187 AAN
1518-07-27 FE15 Jan 29 OS15 Jan 30 AD1732030 JDN

It is important to note that Jesus’ baptism was on Sunday, the first day of the week.

Jesus’ entire ministry was described by Daniel, and measured in weeks. That His ministry would begin on the first day of the week is not absolute proof, but a strong indication that this entire schedule is correct since it will end 62 weeks later on Resurrection Sunday.

Another interesting note is the 40 days of fasting were not part of his 1 year of power ministry. Even today we see ministries start after a long period of fasting and prayer. Ministries don’t usually start at the beginning of such times. This suggests that his 40 days of fasting were before this year. This also suggests that the 40 days he spent fasting were his own personal lent, a season the Church would quickly start as one of its own unique holidays, a holiday not found in the Old Testament.

Jesus would probably not have planned a 40 day fast that would run over Passover. This sort of fast would interfere with the Passover meal and all that represented to the Jewish community of the time.

Given a year long power ministry and a 40 day fast that happened before, we can conclude that Jesus was baptized in the middle of January of the year before his resurrection.

Jesus was baptized in January of 30 AD.

John the Baptist

There is another reference that helps to establish the overall time for Jesus’ ministry. The reference is again in Luke and mentions the year of the call of John the Baptist.

1In the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, during the governorship of Pontius Pilate in Judah, when Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip, tetrarch of Iturea and of the region of Traconitis, and Lysanius, tetrarch of Abilene, 2during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of god came to John, son of Zechariah, in the wilderness. Luke 3:1-2

The word of God came to John the Baptist, ie: John recieved his call to ministry, in the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar.

This is the only hard secular date given directly in scripture about anything in regards to Jesus’ life. Tiberias’ reign is well understood in Roman history, that history provides the basis for understanding the year John was called.

A Brief History of Tiberias

Tiberius Caesar took over as Emperor after the death of Augustus. Augustus was a title placed on Octavian, the step father of Tiberius. Octavian had been born September 23, 63 BC, and lived until his death August 19, 14 A.D. Tiberius was confirmed by the Senate upon the death of Augustus and Tiberius thus took over as the new Caesar.

Tiberius’ first full year of reign began January 1, 15 AD on a year that would have been known at the time as 768 AUC.

Note how the years of reign of kings, both in Roman times and earlier Biblical times, are measured from the first day of the next year. The deceased king is credited with the remaining months of the current calendar year. In general, this allows for planning a public coronation event on or near the start of the year. (In the Biblical era the coronations would thus have made sense when the nation assembled in Jerusalem for the Passover.)

Tiberias was thus acting Caesar from August 19, 14 AD, through the first of the next year. For Romans this would happen January 1 of the next year.

Recall that the switch to Christian year numbers happened formally over 500 years later, historical records are transfered to the Christian year system as they are reported to us. As far as they were recorded, the AUC system would have been used.

The quote from the Book of Luke tells the year of John’s call is the 15th year of this same reign. Year 1 would have been the year 768 AUC. To determine the 15th year we can build a table where each row represents 1 year of Tiberias’ reign. The following is such a table:

Tiberias’ Known Years of Reign
Roman Year Modern Year Year of Reign
768 AUC 15 AD Year 1 of Tiberias
769 AUC 16 AD Year 2 of Tiberias
770 AUC 17 AD Year 3 of Tiberias
771 AUC 18 AD Year 4 of Tiberias
772 AUC 19 AD Year 5 of Tiberias
773 AUC 20 AD Year 6 of Tiberias
774 AUC 21 AD Year 7 of Tiberias
775 AUC 22 AD Year 8 of Tiberias
776 AUC 23 AD Year 9 of Tiberias
777 AUC 24 AD Year 10 of Tiberias
778 AUC 25 AD Year 11 of Tiberias
779 AUC 26 AD Year 12 of Tiberias
780 AUC 27 AD Year 13 of Tiberias
781 AUC 28 AD Year 14 of Tiberias
782 AUC 29 AD Year 15 of Tiberias

By inspection, the 15th year of the reign of Tiberias’ reign would be the year 782 AUC or 29 AD as we identify the years now.

29 AD Roman is the year that John the Baptist was called.

Jesus was baptized in January of 30 AD. John’s call in 29 AD fits well. It suggests that John had not been baptizing all that long when he met Jesus. It is possible to limit the time within the year 29 AD when John was called.

When was John Called?

Since Caiaphas was high priest at Passover in late March of 31 AD, and since his office was held for a year, the earliest Annas could have been high priest was from after Passover in 29 through after Passover in 30. John the Baptist could not have been called before late March in 29 AD.

This limits the number of months that John could have been baptizing before meeting Jesus to 9.

Caiaphas’ Ministry as High Priest

There is an interesting second reference to the length of Jesus’ public ministry. That reference comes from the length of the office of the High Priest Caiaphas. At the time of Jesus’ trial we are told that Caiaphas was high priest that year. John 11:49 The way this is worded suggests an annual assignment to this office and that Caiaphas was probably in that office for the preceding year since he had prophesied about Jesus and his death in that preceding year.

This is an interesting fact that becomes much more important when we see that Caiaphas was high priest along with Annas when John the Baptist was called.Luke 3:2 This latter passage probably means that Annas was the priest in the year before Caiaphas and that Caiaphas took over for his year while John was still baptizing. Since the year long office of high priest would have applied to Annas as well the total amount of time from John’s call through to the end of Jesus’ public ministry could not have been more than two years, total. Probably shorter.

We’ve already shown the year 31 AD as supported by traditional Christian New Years, we are now going to add this two year interval up from the year of John’s call in 29 AD.

Notes On Overall Length

The overall length of Jesus’ public ministry is the sum of the days listed in the previous table. That is, 1 + 40 + 390 + 3 = 434 days. This is the same number of days as in 62 weeks. 7 * 62 = 434 days. The book of Daniel deals with an interval of 62 weeks which overlays this time. (It also overlays other times, like Jesus’ birth...)

This overall length maps to the overall chronology of the Bible using a standard ratio of 30 years to the day. This ratio provides the basis for understanding why the Bible does not give many dates for when Jesus did various things. A schedule is unneeded since it is assumed by the writer to be understood.

Phil Stone, Updated 2016-11-04