Good 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.

The Bible records that, at the time of the crucifixion and death of the Lord, there were 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.

The blotted Sun would be in the heart of the constellation of the Ram (cf. “the 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.)

Definitive?  Not quite.  But it is not to be discounted that God, from all Eternity knowing exactly what would happen, set the heaven’s in motion in so precise a way that its signs would help us to understand the mysteries taking place, which were in other ways foreshadowed.   In the sacraments (a term interchangable with “mystery” in many contexts), visible signs help us to understand that insensible graces and transformations are taking place.  If in the signs of the sacraments, why not too signs in the heavens?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. That is a compelling video. I first saw it a few years ago. Just a lawyer using consumer-grade astronomical software. But ultimately, you have to pick your dates, and there is no definitive answer. Still, I was inspired and mostly convinced.

  2. William Tighe says:

    Perhaps this article of mine may interest some readers:

  3. More incidental proof the Almighty does not roll dice with the universe, and things happen for reasons.

  4. Kathleen10 says:

    I’m a complete believer. In fact I often wonder if there is much during our own lives that happen that we should have attributed to God but skepticism got in our way. But on these planetary movements and cosmic signs, I cannot fathom being skeptical.

  5. Kerry says:

    “Either you’ve got faith or you’ve got unbelief, and there’s no middle ground”. Hibbing’s Zimmerman

  6. bookworm says:

    Fun fact: although it would have been an astronomical impossibility during the actual Crucifixion (since a total solar eclipse visible from Earth can’t occur during a full moon) the director of the 1962 film “Barabbas” shot the Crucifixion scene during a real-life total solar eclipse that was visible from the location shooting site in Italy.

  7. JimG says:

    It is a nice thought but the Gospels state that darkness came of the land from noon until 3 PM ((Matthew 27:45; Mark 15:33; Luke 23:44). No eclipse lasts that long and the moon was not showing at that time. The ancient writers all considered it a miracle that the Sun went dim. I thought the following article did well in showing how “The Star of Bethlehem” video just proposes a nice thought but the Biblical record does not stand behind it.

    Ken Doig makes a much more compelling argument historical data including coinage and Jewish 1st century practices that asserts Jesus was born in 5 BC an crucified in 30 AD. See his “New Testament Chronology,” (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 1990) which has also available online with additional notes at

  8. E.A. Bucchianeri says:

    I find this topic fascinating: if I remember correctly from a star of Bethlehem study, (if we are thinking about the same researcher, I am not sure), he noticed the moon rose as a partial eclipse and was visible on Calvary that evening of Passover circe 33-34 AD, a ‘blood moon’, and noticed St. Peter mentioned the ‘blood moon’ during his sermon to the people of Jerusalem at Pentecost as one of the promised ‘signs’ marking the appearance of the Messiah:

    “But Peter standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and spoke to them: Ye men of Judea, and all you that dwell in Jerusalem, be this known to you, and with your ears receive my words. For these are not drunk, as you suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day: But this is that which was spoken of by the prophet Joel: (…) And I will shew wonders in the heaven above, and signs on the earth beneath: blood and fire, and vapour of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and manifest day of the Lord come.” (Acts 2: 14-16, 19-20)

    Another remarkable thing about this April 3, 33 AD theory ~ if the Crucifixion really did happen on April 3 according to the solar calendar, every time March 25 (the Annunciation) falls on a Good Friday like this year, the Crucifixion falls on Mercy Sunday, another rare occurence, especially as Mercy Sunday has been approved only recently in Church history. This rare conjunction of feastdays won’t happen again until 2157 AD!

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