We say that the cross of Christ was the apex of human history. So it was. And we agree that the earth-shattering sacrifice on Calvary was the fulfilment of that which was written.
Why is it then that there isn’t unanimous agreement about the date? Experts differ from approximately AD 27 to AD 36 as to when it happened and followers say it doesn’t matter much anyway. It does matter. It is the centre point of prophecy! Entire prophetic systems stand or fall on correct timing as it concerns the chronology of the cross.
So when? Exactly when was it?
The obvious biblical reference is found in Luke’s information regarding the ministry of John the Baptist. He says:
“In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar – when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene – during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” (Luke 3:1-3)
So when was the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar? If we can ascertain that, all that remains to do is add 3 ½ years (the period of Jesus ministry from his baptism by John) and we arrive at the date of the cross.
Tiberius became sole emperor on the death of his adoptive father, Augustus. (Aug 19, AD 14) However, it is a well known fact that he had become co-regent with his ailing father two years beforehand in AD 12. He was made supreme military commander over Caesar’s armies and provinces in that year.
Ancient coins from Antioch dated AD 12 display the head of Tiberius and documents attest to his reign being fully in force from then.
Thus, the inauguration in AD 14 as emperor was only a formalisation of a reign which had begun two years earlier.
Therefore, the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius would make it AD 26-27 correlating with the start of Christ’s ministry and supporting the AD 30 date as the most likely date of his crucifixion.
Another direct reference is John 2:13-20. This was the occasion when Jesus claimed he would rebuild the temple within three days, to which the Jews replied,
“It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?”
This discussion took place early in Christ’s ministry, shortly after his first miracle, and it was Passover time. Therefore, since it was the first year of his ministry, it would have been exactly three years prior to the last Passover.
The information enables a precision dating of Christ’s death because Herod began construction of the temple in BC 20. BC 20 plus forty-six equals AD 27. Add three more years and what have we got? Passover (April) AD 30!