When Was Jesus Born, and When Did He Die?

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Christians celebrate Christmas and Easter every year, but few know when Jesus was actually born and when he died. Not that any great doctrine rests on the calculations below, but it sure is nice that we can have reasonable confidence that the dates of Jesus’ birth and death are secure and can be gleaned from a combination of biblical and extrabiblical historical data. I may not be willing to stake my life on the accuracy of the data below, but I am confident enough of these calculations that the license plate of my van reads as follows: 5BC–AD33. So here you go:

Jesus’ birth most likely took place in late November of 5 B.C. (the most authoritative treatment of which I am aware is Paul L. Maier, “The Date of the Nativity and the Chronology of Jesus’ Life,” in Chronos, karios, Christos: Nativity and Chronological Studies Presented to Jack Finegan [ed. J. Vardaman and E. M. Yamauchi; Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1989], 113–30). This, incidentally, would allow enough time for Jesus to be born and for Herod (who died in 4 B.C.) to mount his campaign to have all the boys two years old and under in Bethlehem and vicinity killed (see Matt 2:16, 19).

Jesus’ crucifixion probably occurred on Friday, April 3, A.D. 33. Luke 3:1–3 tells us that John the Baptist, Jesus’ forerunner, began his ministry “in the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar.” Both Roman historians Tacitus (Annales 4 §4) and Suetonius (Tiberius 73) date the beginning of Tiberius’s reign at A.D. 14 (the precise date is August 19, the day of Emperor Augustus’s death). Hence the 15th year of Tiberius’s reign, counting from August 19, A.D. 14, brings us to A.D. 29 (14 + 15 = 29).

According to Luke 3:23, Jesus was “about 30 years old” when he began his ministry. If Jesus was born in 5 B.C. (as argued above) and began his ministry, as is indicated by all four Gospels, shortly after that of John the Baptist (that is, in the latter part of the year A.D. 29), this would mean that Jesus was about 33 years old when he began his public ministry (see H. W. Hoehner, Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1977], 31–37 and B. Messner, “’In the Fifteenth Year’ Reconsidered: A Study of Luke 3:1,” Stone-Campbell Journal 1 [1998]: 201–11).

John’s Gospel records Jesus’ appearance at at least 3 Passovers: (1) in Jerusalem (2:13, 23); (2) in Galilee (6:4); and (3) again in Jerusalem (11:55; 12:1). In addition, it is likely that he attended a fourth Passover not recorded in John but recorded in the Synoptics (Matt 12:1 pars.?). This adds up to a length of about 3 ½ years for Jesus’ ministry. If he began his ministry in late A.D. 29, this brings us to A.D. 33 for the crucifixion. It so happens that because of astronomical calculations A.D. 30 and 33 are the only possible dates for Jesus’ crucifixion as far as the date of Passover in these two years is concerned (for the dating of the four Passovers in question see esp. C. J. Humphreys and W. G. Waddington, “The Jewish Calendar, a Lunar Eclipse, and the Date of Christ’s Crucifixion,” Tyndale Bulletin 43 [1992]: 331–51, esp. 335).

Finally, John 2:20 says that the temple was completed 46 years ago (see for this translation A. J. Köstenberger, John [BECNT; Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004], 109–10). According to Josephus, the renovation of the temple building proper started in 20/19 B.C. (Antiquities 15.11.1 §380), with completion 18 months later in 18/17 B.C. (Antiquities 15.11.6 §421). Again, counting from 18/17 B.C., adding 46 years brings us to A.D. 29 (there was no year zero)—a great way to check our math above!

For Further Study: see the chart in A. J. Köstenberger, John (BECNT; Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004), 11–13, and commentary at 1:19 and 2:20, and the previous post on Johannine chronology here. See also H. W. Hoehner, “Chronology,” in Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (ed. J. B. Green, S. McKnight, and I. H. Marshall; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1992), 118–22. Also, http://www.biblicalfoundations.org/culture/was-jesus-born-on-december-25-with-c-l-quarles.


  1. I’m lost because even the date to comemorate his death is always changing unlike the date of when He born….

    • The date is not nearly as important as that Jesus, the God-man, was born, lived a sinless life, died for our sins, and rose on the third day. That’s the gospel, and if you believe that, you’ll be saved and will spend eternity with him in heaven! With regard to the date, it changes in our calendar from year to year, but the fact remains the same that Jesus most likely died on Friday, April 3, AD 33.

  2. I heard you all, but my question still say we all know Jesus born in 25 December as year is not indicated, which is I don’t have any problem with that..actually when He died…how can reaserch tell us about the when the person born and not telling exactly when He died….I’m Really lost please help

    • Not sure I understand your question, Clifford, because we do have plausible evidence to suggest that Jesus died on Friday, April 3, AD 33. Also, please remember that the date is not nearly as important as the fact that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and three days later rose again from the dead. If you believe that, you can be saved and spend eternity with him in heaven.

  3. I’ve been doing a quick search about the first establishment of a church and religion. So far I’ve found that they’re saying the Catholic church, which is the church and religion founded by Jesus himself, seems to have originated in 1 A.D. However, if that’s the case then by your definition of Jesus’ birth year, then they founded this church/religion on a boy of only 6 years old… I can’t imagine founding anything based on the thoughts/wisdom/views of a 6 year old child. Am I missing something? I would love your insight on the matter.

    • Kati: Many believe the Roman Catholic Church did not come into being until much later, such as in the time of Gregory I in AD 600. The Church does try to establish a connection all the way back to the apostle Peter. I know of no evidence that the Church claims to have originated in AD 1. More importantly, as Jesus said, “Who do you say that I am?” In other words, what matters most is who do you think JESUS is and what you are going to do with him. Will you believe? If so, he offers forgiveness and eternal life (John 20:30-31; see also John 3:16). The church is merely his imperfect representative on earth between his first and second coming.

  4. I’m a little bit confused. We talk about 4 B.C. (The day king Herod died, and Jesus was born at around 5 and 6 B.C.). Were they calculating downwards or not? My question refers to instructions which were taken from Herod to kill every 2 year born child.

    • Yes, prior to AD, we’re counting backwards, so, 6 BC, then 5 BC, then 4 BC, and so on. So since King Herod died in BC 4, Jesus was most likely born in 6 or 5 BC.

  5. I didn’t want to read it all but I have one question: did Jesus die on Christmas or was that his birthday?

  6. :)

  7. I was doing research on Jesus Christ, and I didn’t know the exact date when he was born and died… Then this article helped a lot! Thanks!

    • I like it!

  8. Why is it said that Jesus was born in BC (Before Christ) and not AD (in the year of our Lord). ? When did Jesus become Christ? How is the calculation done.?

    • A.D. stands for “after death” if I’m not mistaken? But anyway, it’s different abbreviations. The actual numbers we use are for the dates C.E. (common era) and B.C.E (before common era).

    • Hi Betty. While the Bible doesn’t give us an exact date for the birth of our Lord, we have a fairly accurate picture by comparing several events listed in scripture.
      To answer your question about BC versus AD (which you correctly define as meaning Anno Domini (in the year of our Lord), and not “After Death”, we have to go back to a change in the dating system used by the world. It was changed by Dionysius Exiguus, a sixth century Christian monk and writer, who invented a new system of numbering years, based on his understanding of the date of the birth of Jesus Christ. He wanted to change it from the old system, which had the name of the Roman Emperor Diocletian on it. Diocletian had persecuted Christians during his reign. But Dionysius’s estimate was off slightly. I’m drastically over-simplfying this, but trying to give you a brief answer.
      We now understand that Christ was born between 6 and 5 BC, just before the death of Herod, which is understood to have been in 4 BC.

  9. If Herod the Great died in 4BC and he killed all children under or at the age of two and Jesus and his family escaped when he was two- Jesus would of been three when he returned with his Jewish family the following year to honor the festivals and the Angel of the Lord told Joseph that they could return that would mean Jesus would of been born in 7 BC You take 7 the year subtract his age 2 would take you to 5 BC then then subtract the time he was in Egypt take one more year which would bring you to 4BC when Herod died. I think the math adds up.

    • It’s most likely that Jesus was significantly under the age of two when Herod ordered the death of the male children of Bethlehem. Herod would have set the age limit at 2, probably to give a cushion to make sure the Christ child was included in the massacre. In reading scripture, we know that Herod devised his devilish scheme immediately after realizing the visiting wise men avoided returning to him with details of the Savior’s birth. So the order to kill the male children of Bethlehem most assuredly happened within weeks of the Lord’s birth.
      Josephus details that soon after the Bethlehem massacre, Herod became very ill, and died about 6 months later. So assuming Herod actually died in the spring of 4 BC, that would make Christ’s birth most likely in 5 BC. We don’t know how long Joseph, Mary and Jesus were in Egypt, only that they returned to Israel after the death of Herod.

  10. I’ve always been aware that the dates we’re given around Jesus’ life and death are not necessarily accurate so; thank you all for taking the time to do this research and report your findings. I knew that there were theories regarding the month and day but am intrigued to find the question spans as much as five years.

    My interest however, lies in the missing years between childhood and adulthood. Most intriguing are the stories that he went to Tibet and studied what we would today call ‘Buddhism’.

    Do you have any theories on this?

  11. I would like to add another less known idea that the 15th Year or Tiberius is actually the year 15 AD/CE… Tiberius was made Co-Ceasar with Augustus in the year 1 AD and quite happily Antedated his reign to this year… I also believe that the scripture spoken of by Daniel where “70” Weeks are determined on thy People, is the correct time for the Lord Yeshua’s ministry… Tiberius celebrated his 15th year in 15 AD on or around the 19th September and was 1 year since the death of his Step-Father Augustus in August 18/19, 14 AD/CE. This time period also coincided with the Feast of Tabernacles and was also the time of Yeshua’s 30th birthday, (the year a man can become a priest).

    Therefore Yeshua’s birth year would be 15 BCE at Tabernacles and he was crucified in the year 17 AD/CE at the Passover… 490 days (70 Weeks) from the day of resurrection on the day of first fruits in 17 AD/CE, brings you 40 days from Tabernacles in 15 AD/CE – If you take into account the 40 days in the wilderness this time fits perfectly… Therefore it makes more sense if Herod died in 3 BC/BCE as in Luke it tells of Yeshua being 12 and in the Temple after Herod was dead… Additionally, I believe that 16 AD was the 7th x 7th Sabbath year which would make 17 AD the Jubilee Year and the 80th to be exact, it was also the 4000th year (4th Day – Midst of the Week), from what people call the creation year… However I call the “Year 1” as the year that Sin entered the world and Death & Corruption ruled…

    There are many other things to consider but you might like to look at the astronomical events of 15 BC (Consider that most programs have a year “0” – Ignore this and call it year -1, therefore you would be looking at the year 14 BCE on software of data that has the year “0”)

    The 17 AD earthquake that virtually destroyed the cities of Asia Minor (Modern Turkey)- Have a look at what those cities were…!!! pretty much the same cities mentioned by John in Revelation…

    Ok so, this will be a totally new and out of the box theory, but if you test it you will see that it is correct and like most traditional beleifs of the Lord and his truths, traditions of man have and lies of the enemy have corrupted the truth and we are like sheep to the slaughter having no understanding of the times and sabbaths and feasts of the YHVH and his Messenger Yeshua…



    • Cool and also I 💗 Jesus and this helped me a lot so thanks.

  12. Dr. Kostenberger,
    Given your license plate and this posting, why do you use “most likely” for the crucifixion date in your textbook: The Cradle, the Cross and the Crown? I also feel the “high day” comment by John significant to the Friday crucifixion.
    Thanks for insight,

    • We say “most likely” out of respect for the many reputable scholars who take a different position. Personally, I am very confident that AD 33 is the date of the crucifixion based on the research I’ve done.

  13. Thanks all.

  14. Dear Prof. Andreas Kostenberger,
    I am a regular user of your Commentary on John. An excellent one. Right now, I am a PhD in New Testament Final year student @ Radboud University Nijmegen, Holland, under Prof. Jan van der Watt. I have a blog, started few months back. See the link here: http://www.ntscholarship.wordpress.com
    I am greatly inspired to add this article into my blog. For more info about me, please refer: http://ntscholarship.wordpress.com/about/

    Johnson Thomaskutty
    Union Biblical Seminary
    Pune, India

  15. I found the Star of Bethlehem documentary by Rick Larson pretty compelling for the time frame of the Messiah’s birth (http://www.bethlehemstar.net/). If you haven’t seen it, it is worth the time to watch it. You may not agree with the outcome, but it is pretty good. He uses astronomy software to help determine the time of Christ’s birth, death and when the Magi arrived. The whole thing is on YouTube, but you have to watch it in 10 minute segments and make sure you watch it in order.

    Have a wonderful Christmas!



  1. Did you know? – The Saviour's Bride Mission - […] died in AD 33. Find that here: http://www.gotquestions.org/what-year-did-Jesus-die.html and here: http://www.biblicalfoundations.org/when-was-jesus-born-and-when-did-he-die/ 3. All you need to know about…

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