Friday 3 April AD 33 – Lunar and Solar Eclipses as Christ died on the Cross

The fellow who made the video about the Star of Bethlehem (a compelling argument, I might add), also did some research about what happened in the heavens on Good Friday.

Let’s break it down.

Passover begins on the 14th day of the Jewish lunar month of Nisan. Moreover, Passover begins at twilight, dividing 14 Nisan and 15 Nissan. The Gospels say the Lord was crucified on Preparation Day, a Friday.  14 Nisan 14 fell on a Friday Preparation Day, twice: 7 April AD 30 and 3 April AD 33.  Daniel in 444 BC prophesied (Daniel 9:21–26) that the Anointed one would be cut off in 476 years after the decree to rebuild Jerusalem: AD 33.

At the time of the crucifixion and death of the Lord, there was signs, including a “blood moon” or lunar eclipse.

Only one Passover lunar eclipse was visible from Jerusalem while Pilate was in office. It occurred on 3 April 33.

On 3 April the Moon rose already in eclipse.  It rose the color of blood.  That means that the eclipse began before it rose, in the constellation of the Virgin (at the time of Christ’s birth there was a New Moon, in the constellation of the Virgin).

The eclipse started at 3 pm when Christ was breathing His last.

But remember that a lunar eclipse is a syzygy.  If there is an eclipse in one direction there is an eclipse in the other direction too.   If you were standing on the Moon during that syzygy of 3 April 33, you would see a total eclipse of the Sun.  And the blotted Sun would be in the heart of the constellation of the Ram (cf. Lamb who was slain).

You can try this out for yourselves.  Go to the online astronomy aid Starry Night.  HERE

Move your location to Jerusalem and then plug in the time of about 7 pm and date 3 April 33 and adjust your view to ESE.  You will see the Moon has just risen and there is a label for your Earth’s shadow.  The Moon had risen at about 6:30 pm in the totality of the eclipse. HERE



With the daylight turned off, and the horizon removed, and then looking at an angle down through the Earth below the horizon, at 3 pm, you see the Moon and Earth’s shadow converging in Virgo.


Then you can switch to the view from the Moon!

You must adjust your view a little and turn yourself right with a few clicks.  But you will find it.  In the screenshot, below, you can see where Earth and Sun are in Aries. Since the Earth would be larger in the Moon’s sky than in this screenshot, the Sun would be in total eclipse.  Adjust for UTC + 3 hours to the right time in Jerusalem from 1500 to 1800. HERE




In read around the question a little more, I find that, using different date calculators, there are some problems of the day of the week.  Also, there are arguments for dating the Crucifixion to 1 April 33.  If that is the case, then the phenomena described above occur on Easter Sunday.  Much hinges on which calendar the Lord and His disciples were using for their own Passover meal, if the last Supper was a Passover meal (Joseph Ratzinger argued that it was a related sacrificial meal but not a seder.)

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Imrahil says:

    Though the chief sign, which was reported in the Gospels, was a darkening of the Heavens. This was not lunar eclipse strictly, and it cannot have been solar eclipse because of the date. So, it was probably clouds (quite strong ones, no doubt), or of course possibly downright miracles.

    That said… what is this decree of 443 BC to rebuild Jerusalem? Might be fine to have something to point to, that’s why I ask…

    And where does the prophet Daniel say it will take 476 years until Christ dies? He says “after sixty-two weeks”. If, as is probable, he means “after the sixty-two weeks that comes after the seven weeks”, then that’s 69 weeks in all or 483 years. If (you’d have to know the ancient languages, particularly whether or not Hebrew makes use of the definite article) there should be any sense possibility to take the 62 weeks from the beginning rather than after the 7 weeks, that would be 454 years.

  2. MikeToo says:

    Interesting. I’ve always been intrigued with the 30 A.D. date. That would put exalt y 40 years between the resurrection and the destruction of the temple. Historical critical exegetics consistently tell us that 40 years is just symbolic.

  3. Kerry says:

    Coincidence? “I THINK NOT!”

  4. Brian Cannon says:

    Now that is every kind of awesome. I plugged in the values for myself and sure enough that’s what I got. Of course, our faith does not hinge on such things, but my inner science nerd is indeed throwing a party. Blessed Holy Thursday to all.

  5. JeffLiss says:

    The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the firmament proclaims the works of his hands.
    Psalm 19:2

  6. Kathleen10 says:

    I am looking forward to trying this later. Thank you Fr. Z. This is fascinating stuff. If I don’t get a chance to say it anywhere else, have a blessed Easter.

  7. William Tighe says:

    “So, it was probably clouds (quite strong ones, no doubt), or of course possibly downright miracles.”

    Or an intense khamsin dust storm.

  8. lsclerkin says:

    …from the moon.
    I mean, from the moon.

  9. Charlotte Allen says:

    The only problem: Isn’t it agreed that Dionysius Exiguus, who created the Christian-era calendar during the sixth century, made a slight miscalculation as to what year Jesus was born–so that he actually probably died in 30 A.D., not 33? [That’s not a problem, because one need not depend only on the modern calendar to fix the date of Christ’s Passion. There are other ways to calculate it, including events that are recounted by Olympiads, who was tetrarch, prefect, etc. Moreover, our calendar still accurately identifies dates in the past when we seek astronomical phenomena.]

  10. mpolo says:

    The Star of Bethlehem site (and video) argues that Herod died in 1 B.C., not 4 B.C. as was previously thought. That allows for Christ’s birth in 2 B.C. and makes a 33 A.D. date of death plausible.

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