The death of Jesus and His subsequent resurrection are the most important events since the creation of the world. It was through the death of Christ that God took those who were “alienated” from Him due to sin and “reconciled [them] by Christ’s physical body through death to present [them] holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation” (Colossians 1:21–22). And through Christ’s resurrection God has mercifully “given us new birth into a living hope” (1 Peter 1:3). As with most of the events it records, the Bible does not give us the exact date that Jesus died. But we can figure it out with a fair degree of accuracy.
Even though the world’s timeline is historically divided between BC (before Christ) and AD (anno domini—“in the year of our Lord”), Jesus Christ was actually born between the years 6 and 4 BC. We arrive at this date based on the death of Herod the Great, who was procurator of Judaea from 47 BC until he died in 4 BC. It was “after Herod died” that Joseph and Mary with the infant Jesus were told to return to Israel from Egypt (Matthew 2:19).
A number of factors allow us to pinpoint the year of the death of Jesus. We calculate that John the Baptist commenced his ministry c. AD 26, based on the historical note in Luke 3:1 that John started preaching in the fifteenth year of Tiberius’s reign. Tiberius was named emperor in AD 14, but he actually started reigning two years prior to that, AD 12, as co-regent with Augustus Caesar. Using the earlier date, John’s ministry began c. AD 26–27. Jesus probably began His ministry soon after John began his and ministered for the next three and a half years, approximately. So, the end of Jesus’ ministry would have been c. AD 29–30.
Pontius Pilate is known to have ruled Judea from AD 26–36. The crucifixion took place during a Passover (Mark 14:12), and that fact, plus astronomical data (the Jewish calendar was lunar-based), narrows the field to two dates—April 7, AD 30, and April 3, AD 33. There are scholarly arguments supporting both dates; the later date (AD 33) would require Jesus to have had a longer ministry and to have begun it later. The earlier date (AD 30) would seem more in keeping with what we deduce about the start of Jesus’ ministry from Luke 3:1.
Much has happened on the world stage since the time of Christ, but nothing has ever eclipsed the magnitude and meaning of what happened in AD 30—the death and resurrection of the Savior of the world.