18 March 2012

A Timeline for Jesus

Using paleoastronomy, historical documentation, and the Gospel accounts here is my best guess at a reasonable chronology of the life of Jesus. People have been debating this for over a thousand years so I can't say this is complete with any finality, but it works for me so maybe it will work for you too. Jesus' own words are rendered here in red, as is tradition.

17 April 6 BC - Birth
Jesus was born during the reign of Herod the Great ("Great" for all the stuff he built; he was actually a lousy man), which was from roughly 37 to 4 BC, so Jesus could not have been born in 1 BC as was traditionally thought when the new Gregorian calender was constructed. Herod's reign falls within the Roman Warm Period. During this time global temperatures (not just European temperatures, we have climate records from China and Siberia too) show the Earth was 1-2 degrees warmer than it is today. Many people say that it would be too cold during Winter for shepherds to be grazing their flocks at night, as the Gospels say, but a much warmer climate might have allowed for that. What seems to seal the deal for me is the double occultation of Jupiter (the "star" of kings) by the Moon in the constellation Aires (sign of the Jews) in 6 BC. The Magi were astrologers and would be looking for stuff like this. Astronomer Michael Molnar explains this event in much more detail. Yes, he addresses the objection raised by the other wiki about the occultation happening near the sun.

The Bethlehem Jesus was born at was probably the one near Nazareth rather than the one near Jerusalem, which was much farther away.

Before December 6 BC - Flight to Egypt
Herod learns of the prophecy of the Magi and decides to kill any potential infant rival. He initiates the Massacre of the Innocents, killing all the male children in Bethlehem under age two (fewer than 100 in all). Receiving a warning from an angel Jesus' parents take him to Egypt. In Egypt they visited many holy sites marked by the Coptic Church, possibly including the then abandoned Jewish Temple at Elephantine Island near the border with Nubia (this temple is where the Ark was held after it was taken away from Jerusalem during the Babylonian invasion).

4 BC - Return to Nazareth
After Herod dies Jesus, now near age two (Herod is believed to have died between March and April), and his family return to Nazareth from Egypt. Not much is said about Jesus' childhood other than he lived in Nazareth and had many brothers and sisters (both from Joseph's previous marriage and his current marriage with Mary - I'm not convinced they never consummated their marriage and Mary was a virgin her whole life).

7 AD - Jesus at the Temple
The holy family visits Jerusalem for Passover and Jesus, age 12, wanders off. His parents find him after some time on the steps of the Temple discussing the Law with learned men, and impressing them with his own knowledge. This is the last event recorded in the Gospels before his Baptism as an adult.

8 AD - 25 AD - The Lost Years
Nobody knows what happened! Some people say he worked as a carpenter with his dad building ploughs and tables and other stuff. I can't see Jesus having a holy childhood and a holy ministry later in his life and yet spend 18 whole years as a normal person. He's always causing trouble for the establishment, no way he just layed low for close to two decades. I'm convinced that Jesus went to India.

26 AD - Jesus Returns!
Jesus, now age 31, returns to the Holy Land from whereever he was. He's spent his time finding himself and now he's grown the beard (figuratively and literally*) and he's back to stir things up with the Romans and the Jewish elite. When he comes back Jesus hears about John the Baptist, goes to meet him at the Jordan River, and is baptised there. The sky opens up and the Lord proclaims Jesus is His Son and he is very pleased. It was after late March, right after Pontius Pilate became Prefect of Judaea and when John began his ministry. Shortly thereafter Jesus meets two of John's disciples who will later become two of his own, Andrew and another man who is not identified.

Jesus then goes into the desert for 40 days and does battle with Satan. Just what the point of all this was we will never know. Satan knows how the story will end - with his own defeat - so he had to know he couldn't get Jesus to sin. What then was the point of the temptation in the desert? Maybe he was actually doing Jesus a favour by helping Jesus come to a better understanding of what his role would be in the coming years. It could have been a test, where if Jesus could sharpen his skills with the ultimate adversary before going head to head with the establishment. Satan demands Jesus prove he is the Son of God by turning stones into bread to relieve the hunger of his fast, to which Jesus replies that no one can live by bread alone, they need every word that God has spoken. Satan then takes Jesus to the highest spot on the Tempel in Jerusalem and tells him to jump because scripture says angels will catch him and take him safely to the ground, to which Jesus replies that scripture also admonishes one not to test the Lord. Lastly Satan takes Jesus to a very high place (often a mountain) and shows him all the kingdoms of the world. Satan says that he will give Jesus dominion over all the world if Jesus will but kneel before him and worship him (a similar scene from the 2007 film 300 where a 9-foot-tall Xerxes says almost the same thing to Leonidas). Jesus demanded Satan leave him be and quoted scripture saying that God alone is to be worshiped and served.

27 AD - The Ministry Begins
Sometime in late 26, early 27, Jesus begins his own ministry. The Synoptic Gospels mention only one Passover (the Last Supper) but John mentions three, so Jesus' ministry lasted at least three years. In my chronology it lasts a total of six years. Jesus collects the twelve Apostles, feeds a lot of people, and gives the Sermon on the Mount, which was probably a Reader's Digest compilation of sayings from many sermons Jesus gave throughout his ministry (imagining anyone, let alone a huge group of people would sit through a very quick paced delivery of a whole lot of really heady stuff with no further explanation is unbelievable to me. Each of the beatitudes could be the topic of a discourse in itself. No one would have been able to understand it all at once.).

33 AD - Bringing It All Together
The last year of Jesus' time on Earth, now age 39, contains most of the important events in his life, beginning with the Transfiguration. Jesus and three apostles go to a mountain where Jesus rises up into the air. He glows brilliantly and Moses and Elijah appear beside him. Jesus is once again proclaimed to be Son of God (like the baptism) and the apostles are told to listen to him.

2 April 33 AD - The Last Supper
Thursday. Jesus and the apostles are gathered together to celebrate the Passover meal. It is here that he announces that one of them will betray him and that Peter will disown him three times that night. He begins the practice of the Eucharist. Jesus blessed the bread, broke it, and gave it to his apostles telling them eat, this is my body. Then he blessed the wine and gave it to them saying drink, this is my blood of the new covenant. Here he is reversing the traditional Passover order where whine is blessed before bread and he is instituting a new covenant, to replace the one with Abraham and Moses (which is why Gentiles can now become followers of Christ and not just Jews).

3 April 33 AD - The Crucifixion
Friday. Jesus is betrayed by Judas. He asks the Lord in a moment of weakness if it is not possible that he does not have to go through witht he crucifixion but then accepts his fate, saying Thy will be done, not my will be done. The Sanhedrin sets up a mock trial and convicts him. Pontius Pilate sends him to King Herod, son of the dead king also named Herod, who mocks Jesus and sends him back. Pilate has a tough time finding reason to condemn Jesus to death, giving him a savage beating at first, but gives in to the Sanhedrin's demands**. During this time we get the wonderful Latin anagram of Pilate's question "Quid est veritas?" (what is truth?), which becomes "Est vir qui adest" (it is the man who is here). Jesus and Pilate probably spoke Greek at the trial, not Latin.

Jesus is brought up to Golgotha in the morning after being beaten, where he is crucified. Above his head is a placard depicted with the inscription INRI, an acronym for the Latin "Jesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum," meaning "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews" - his charge in the trial. He is being executed with two criminals. On the cross Jesus cries out Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do, expressing his forgiveness of the people who crucified him. One of the criminals mocks Jesus but the other one pleads with him "Remember me when you come into your kingdom," to which Jesus replies truly, I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise. By Noon Jesus is exhausted. He asks aloud My God, why have you forsaken me? Three hours later, Feeling a great pain in his chest he groans, it is done. Jesus cries out one last time before the crowd Father, into your hands I commit my spirit, and dies. A Roman soldier pierces his side with a spear. Blood and clear fluid, identified as water at the time, come out (the pericardium - the sac containing the heart - is filled with light-coloured fluid to cushion the heart. Great physical trauma can cause too much fluid to fill the pericardium and crush the heart. When this happens you know it, and you know you're moments away from death.) and drip into the soldier's eyes, curing his poor vision. The body is taken down, anointed and dressed quickly before the sabbath, and left in the unused tomb of Joseph of Arimathea.

5 April 33 AD - The Resurrection
Sunday. Jesus conquers death. The guards at the tomb entrance are gone, the stone is rolled back, and the tomb is empty. The two Marys (Mary Jesus' mother and Mary Magdalene) go to do a proper job preparing Jesus' body and they're shocked to find it's gone! They then meet a man whom they do not recognise at first (it's Jesus) who tells them about the resurrection. They go back and tell the grieving apostles. This is important! The testimony of a woman was worthless in first century Judaea. To have the first witnesses to the resurrection be women is evidence for the event's historicity. If the resurrection were made up the Gospel writers would have put a man as the first witness, not two women. In time Jesus would appear before his apostles several times over the next 40 days, including before very large groups of people.

15 May 33 AD - The Ascension
Jesus rises up into Heaven before his apostles after telling them to go out and spread the Gospel. Jesus promises to return one day.






*"...the male beard communicates an heroic image of the independent, sturdy, and resourceful pioneer, ready, willing and able to do manly things." You can buy a Jesus: Beard of Beards t-shirt for around $30 if you are an enthusiast of both Jesus and beards.

**Pilate had no compunction in killing Jews and was very successful in putting down revolts, so it doesn't matter how many Jews demanded Jesus be killed - if they started a riot Pilate would just slaughter them. Anyway, it was not the Jews who wanted Jesus killed, because Jesus was a Jew, his followers were Jews, and most of the people who benefited from his miracles were Jews. The Sanhedrin wanted Jesus killed probably for political reasons and used the religious crime of blasphemy as a cover, but saying the acts of the Sanhedrin condemns the Jews for Jesus' death is like saying the acts of Congress condemns all Americans for invading Iraq or Libya or insert negative event here. Why Pilate consented to the execution we will probably never know, but he may have had political reasons as well.

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