Is today the anniversary of the Crucifixion?

From rogueclassicism:

ante diem vii idus apriles

ludi Megalesia (day 4)
30 A.D. — crucifixion of Jesus (one reckoning according to the astronomical estimates)
303 A.D. — martyrdom of Calliopus at Pompeiopolis
310 A.D. — martyrdom of Peleusius at Alexandria

This is a fascinating question which the Holy Father also delved into in Jesus of Nazareth (Vol. 2).  The Holy Father’s book, by the way, would be a great tool for your preparation for a good observance of Holy Week.  Think about it.

I found an interesting article online about the dating of the Crucifixion which takes into account the probably reference to an eclipse.  Check it out.

The writer states:

The main textual evidence for the time of the crucifixion has been reviewed and we have concluded that only 2 dates, 7 April, A.D. 30 and 3 April, A.D. 33, fit the main pieces of evidence for when Christ died. Other textual evidence, more difficult to interpret correctly, strongly favours Friday, 3 April, A.D. 33 as the date of the crucifixion.

So… probably not today… but maybe it was today.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Dr. Eric says:

    Wasn’t one of the reasons that Christmas was chosen on 25 December was that one of the traditions was that prophets are either born or conceived and die on the same day? Hence the theory was that Our Lord was Incarnated on the 25th of March and also was crucified 34 years later to the day.

    This would, however fit with the Armenian reckoning of Our Lord’s life as they celebrate the 6th of January as the date of His birth and the 7th of April as the Annunciation as well as the traditional date of the crucifixion.

    Sadly, I don’t have the Holy Father’s book yet.

  2. Philangelus says:

    I don’t understand the reference to an eclipse because an eclipse doesn’t last three hours. :-(

    I’ve seen several translations that just say darkness covered the land with no eclipse mention in Luke 23:45 (they say “because the sun was obscured” or “because the sun stopped shining”) and that makes sense. But calling it an eclipse renders a supernatural event natural, and the only one I’ve seen translate it that way is the NAB (although granted, I’m not a Biblical scholar.)

  3. Fr. Basil says:

    \\Wasn’t one of the reasons that Christmas was chosen on 25 December was that one of the traditions was that prophets are either born or conceived and die on the same day?\\

    Today IS the Feast of the Annunciation among those who follow the Julian Calendar (which includes the bigger part of Orthodoxy as well as Ukrainian Catholics in Ukraine). In other words, today is March 25 on that calendar.

    And it’s not just Christmas for Armenians on 6 January (Gregorian calendar). It’s the solemnity of the Incarnation, which includes the Adoration of the Magi, Flight into Egypt, and Baptism of Christ.

    Old Calendar Armenians (such as in Jerusalem) observe this on the day the outside world calls 19 January.

  4. Blissmeister86 says:

    Fascinating insight!
    By the way, I’d love to get a copy of the Holy Father’s book but I have very limited financial means right now. I have it on hold at my local library but I’m worried that I won’t be able to keep it for very long because there are a lot of holds on it. Does anyone know an online or mail-order bookstore that has the least expensive price (including tax/shipping) on the book right now?

  5. Fr. Basil says:

    BTW–7 April Julian is 20 April Gregorian, which this year falls on Holy Thursday for both calendars.

  6. MichaelJ says:

    I must admit that I am a bit uncomfortable with speculation such as this. If today is the anniversary of Our Lord’s Crucifixion, it means that Easter is really next Sunday.

    The same type of speculation happens every time Christmas rolls around. Its the same issue and same arguments:. ‘The actual date that events happened is “unimportant”. What is really important is the “meaning”. The ancient Church only set these dates to appease the pagans’

    Sorry, this sounds far too much like modern man projecting his attitudes on those who have come before. Doesn’t anyone remember the objections when Lincoln’s Birthday was changed to the nearest Moday?

    Unless someone can come up with evidence that our forefathers played fast and loose with dates and routinely fudged them in order to accomplish some secondary goal, I’ll just stick with the real dates.

  7. Joe in Canada says:

    The dating of Jan 6 that Dr Eric referred to has nothing to do with the difference between the Gregorian Calendar and the Julian Calendar. But, as Fr Basil says, the Armenian celebration on Jan 5 is not exactly the same as our celebration on Dec 25 (or Jan 7).
    MichaelJ; the Church addressed the issue you raise, and resolved that we do not celebrate a chronological anniversary, but a liturgical one. Hence the Church might have know the actual date of the death of Jesus (March 25 if he died the same day as the Good Thief, St Dismas), but chose to celebrate on a date associated with the annual (Jewish) liturgical celebration of Passover.

  8. green fiddler says:

    *Star of Bethlehem* is a fascinating, intensely beautiful DVD documentary which gives Scriptural basis and scientific basis for the star the wise men followed. It includes a segment about Good Friday.  3 April AD 33 is given as the date of a Blood Moon lunar eclipse, and places the moon at the foot of the constellation Virgo. (the constellation of the Virgin is also prominent in the sky at the time of our Savior’s birth, according to computer calculations used in this presentation.)

    At the beginning of time, on the day our Father created the heavens, He knew the precise moment of every event in the life of Jesus, from His Incarnation to His Crucifixion. It could be true that Our Lord used the stars to write eternal messages of His love for us.

    I am so happy that my copy of our Holy Father’s book has arrived. He expresses the truth in a profound yet accessible way.

  9. pkinsale says:

    In Spirit of the Liturgy, the Holy Father wrote this:

    “Astonishingly, the starting point for dating the birth of Christ was March 25. As far as I know, the most ancient reference to it is in the writings of the African ecclesiastical author Tertullian, who evidently assumes as a well-known tradition that Christ suffered death on March 25. In Gaul, right up to the sixth century, this was kept as the immovable date of Easter. In a work on the calculation of the date of Easter, written in A.D. 243 and also emanating from Africa, we find March 25 interpreted as the day of the world’s creation.” (Page 107)

  10. Jon says:

    My degree being in history, which I never get to use, I’m actually fascinated by such speculation. In this case, I’m very interested in what it might say regarding our Lord’s age at the time of His Death and Resurrection.

    If we accept that Dionysius Exiguus was incorrect when calculating the year of Christ’s birth, which he fixed at 1 AD, and that Josephus was right in fixing the date of Herod’s death at what we know as 4 BC, and if our Lord died in the most likely year of 33 AD, then He was more likely 37 to 40 years old at the time of the Crucifixion than He was 33.

    I’ve always liked this possibility more than the traditional estimation. Being only two years behind Father Z in age, I remember 33 at the edge of exuberant youth, more less, and feeling much more, well, mature, a few years later. I like to see our Lord in that fashion; no longer a youth, but having attained the fullness of manhood.

  11. Melody Faith says:

    Blissmeister86, I would be glad to send you a copy. I need to buy myself one as well. Write me at

  12. asophist says:

    All this talk about explaining biblical accounts of the sun being darkened with eclipses and the star of the Magi being a stellar conjuction, seems to be missing something: we don’t need physical explanations for supernatural phenomena at all! Show me a physical explanation for the various phenomena at Fatima in 1917. There isn’t one. Show me a physical explanation for the appearance of the Blessed Mother (need I add, “Hah!”?) It’s the same thing. I don’t feel like I need to justify or demonstrate these things in “scientific” terms, because the very things they relate to (Christ’s divinity, Marian apparitions) defy scientific explanation anyway. Just a thought.

  13. Dr. Eric says:

    Fr. Basil,

    Father Bless!

    Some Armenians celebrate according to the Julian Calendar which bumps the Annunciation to the 20th of April and the Nativity to the 19th of January- reflecting their tradition. This is what I was hinting at.

  14. albizzi says:

    One cannot speak of a solar eclipse to explain the darkening that happened upon earth when Jesus died since Easter ALWAYS is placed during a full moon phase. Anyone who has some skills in astronomy easily understands that the moon cannot eclipse the sun during that phase. An eclipse can happen only during a new moon phase.
    That being said and understood one cannot explain the darkening but through another phenomenon.
    My opinion is that another celestial body like a huge asteroid may have eclipsed the sun for a much longer time than moon ever could (usual eclipses long only for a few minutes). This body’s passing by probably was very close to our planet enough to disturb Earth gravity and cause the strong earthquake that is mentionned in the Gospel and in other sources.
    I reckon however that this explanation is not fully satisfying.
    In the same order of demonstration, I could read a sparkling investigation about the exact date of Jesus’ birth by Mrs Henriette Marquebreucq-Horovitz in the light of somes clues found in the Dead Sea’s scrolls. Her conclusion was irrefutable: Jesus was born on a 25th december just 6 days before the beginning of the 1st day of the 1st year of our era.
    Unfortunatelu this study is in french but I keep it in my computer in a .pdf format at the disposal of everyone who wishes to get it.

  15. Mark of the Vine says:

    I was going to mention the impossibility of an eclipse during the Pasch.
    Albizzi, could you send me the pdf file? My address is m a r c o d a v i n h a @ h o t m a i l . c o m (without the spaces)

  16. An eclipse doesn’t fit, no.

    Quite probably it was a pure miracle. Other miracles have been unusual sky phenomena — Joshua’s steady Sun, the “dancing Sun” of Fatima, etc. And it seems unlikely that these were physical movement of the Sun – it’s certainly possible for God to move the Sun around physically while keeping the planets’ orbits from being messed up, since he is omnipotent, but it seems a bit … messy. I’m not sure what was really going on on the purely physical level in those events – and I doubt we can know, short of Heaven, and even then the question might turn out to be unanswerable because it’s the wrong question.

    It is interesting that there also was an earthquake, and that at least two other times in the Bible earthquakes are linked to sky-darkness. Amos 8:8-9 may well be a prophecy of the events relating to the Crucifixion, but Rev 6:12-14 was written afterwards so can’t be a prophecy. (It might still be related, though… not everything in Revelation is necessarily future, like Satan being cast out of Heaven.)

  17. Dr. Eric says:

    The author states that there was a lunar eclipse (he refutes the idea of a solar eclipse during a full moon) during the Passover on the evening of Friday, 3 April A.D. 33.

    This is why St. Peter quotes the Book of Joel at Pentecost: “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and manifest day of the Lord come.” -Acts 2:20

    All in all, the article was pretty convincing. Especially when put together with the dating of Christmas article by Professor Tighe.

  18. I have also seen the moving Star of Bethlehem. In one way it is simple to know the date because we know that Passover is on 14 Nissan, so it is a calculation. The dates above are the conclusion of the study in Star of Bethlehem but he concludes that the date was in fact, Friday, April 3, 33 rather than Friday, April 7, 30. He used a software program and searched the sky for the Star of Bethlehem assuming that he was standing in Babylon back in the day. It is quite fascinating. He concluded the date as 4-3-33 with all the hidden symbolism. The moon rose on April 3, 33 in full eclipse and a blood moon. The eclipse began at the “ninth hour” below the horizon. It was a full moon which compared to the new moon on the date he concludes for either Jesus’ birth or the Annunciation, “a life fully lived.” He also concludes from the software that if Jesus died on 4-3-33 at the ninth hour looking at the earth from the moon, the earth was in Aries, the Ram –sacrificed.

    “The sky at Christ’s birth can be viewed as a kind of visual poetry, with the new moon symbolically “birthed” at the foot of Virgo, the virgin. To complete that celestial poem, on the night of Jesus’ death the moon had returned to the foot of the virgin. But now it was a full moon. A life fully lived, blotted out in blood.”

  19. dcs says:

    I think I like April 11 as that is the day on which I entered the Church in 1998.

  20. William Tighe says:

    Dr. Eric referred above to an article of mine. Here are links to two which may be of interest:

    (on Christmas)

    (on Easter).

  21. bookworm says:

    One theory I have read (can’t remember where) was that the darkness during the Crucifixion may have been a dust storm caused by a haboob or sirocco wind. There were dust storms in the Great Plains during the Dust Bowl era that witnesses say turned day into night, sometimes for hours at a time; is it possible for the same thing to happen in Palestine/modern Israel?

  22. William Tighe says:


    If you had taken the trouble to read my article on The Origins of Easter (linked above) you would have seen that the late F. F. Bruce suggested that the darkness during the Crucifixion, as well as the ensuing “moon turned to blood,” were the result of a khamsin dust storm at the time of a lunar eclipse.

  23. Philangelus says:

    Albizzi, what I was asking about is the NAB translation which specifically says there was a solar eclipse, which as you pointed out is impossible for several reasons. Every other translation just says the sky went dark. Why does the NAB feel the need to interject that it was an eclipse when everyone pretty much knows it couldn’t have been?

    A friend of mine found the Greek for Luke 24 translatiterated as
    kai eskotisqh o hlios kai escisqh to katapetasma tou naou meson

    And there’s no ékleipsis in there, so the translators of the NAB manufactured that explanation and stuck it into the translation. That’s misleading and flat-out wrong. I never understood why they did that. Not to mention the impossibility of a lunar eclipse and a solar eclipse on the same day.

  24. Philangelus says:

    Sorry, I meant to include the actual verse from the NAB:
    Luke 23:44
    It was now about noon and darkness came over the whole land until three
    in the afternoon (45) because of an eclipse of the sun. Then the veil of the temple was torn down the middle.

    You can’t get more specific than that, but as I said, every other translation uses “because the sun went dark” or something more general which seems more in line with the origina text.

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