Third, the Gospel of St. Luke (3:1) assigns the beginning of St. John the Baptist’s mission to the “fifteenth year of the Tiberius Caesar”. Augustus, the predecessor of Tiberius, died 19 August, 767 A.U.C., so that the fifteenth year of Tiberius’s independent reign is 782 A.U.C.; but then Tiberius began to be associate of Augustus in A.U.C. 764, so that the fifteenth year reckoned from this date falls in A.U.C. 778. Jesus Christ’s public life began a few months later, i.e. about A.U.C. 779.
The year of the death of Christ
According to the Evangelists, Jesus suffered under the high priest Caiphas (A.U.C. 772-90, or A.D. 18-36), during the governorship of Pontius Pilate A.U.C. 780-90). But this leaves the time rather indefinite. Tradition, the patristic testimonies for which have been collected by Patrizi (De Evangeliis), places the death of Jesus in the fifteenth (or sixteenth) year of Tiberius, in the consulship of the Gemini, forty-two years before the destruction of Jerusalem, and twelve years before the preaching of the Gospel to the Gentiles. We have already seen that the fifteenth year of Tiberius is either 778 or 782, according to its computation from the beginning of Tiberius’s associate or sole reign; the consulship of the Gemini (Fufius and Rubellius) fell in A.U.C. 782; the forty second year before the destruction of Jerusalem is A.D. 29, or A.U.C. 782, twelve years before the preaching of the Gospel to the Gentiles brings us to the same year, A.D. 29 or A.U.C. 782, since the conversion of Cornelius, which marks the opening of the Gentile missions, fell probably in A.D. 40 or 41.
The day of the death of Christ
Jesus died on Friday, the fifteenth day of Nisan. That He died on Friday is clearly stated by Mark 15:42, Luke 23:54, and John 19:31. The few writers who assign another day for Christ’s death are practically lost in the multitude of authorities who place it on Friday. What is more, they do not even agree among themselves: Epiphanius, e.g., places the Crucifixion on Tuesday; Lactantius, on Saturday; Westcott, on Thursday; Cassiodorus and Gregory of Tours, not on Friday.
The first three Evangelists are equally clear about the date of the Crucifixion. They place the Last Supper on the fourteenth day of Nisan, as may be seen from Matthew 26:17-20, Mark 14:12-17 and Luke 22:7-14. Nor can there be any doubt about St. John’s agreement with the Synoptic Evangelists on the question of the Last Supper and the Crucifixion. The supper was held “before the festival day of the Pasch” (John 13:1), i.e. on 14 Nisan, as may be seen from Matthew 22:7-14. Nor can there be any doubt about St. John’s agreement with the Synoptic Evangelists on the question of the Last Supper and the Crucifixion. The Supper was held “before the festival day of the pasch” (John 13:1), i.e. on 14 Nisan, since the sacrificial day was computed according to the Roman method (Jovino, 123 sqq., 139 sqq.).
Again, some disciples thought that Judas left the supper table because Jesus had said to him: “Buy those things which we have need of for the festival day: or that he should give something to the poor” (John 13:29). If the Supper had been held on 13 Nisan this belief of the disciples can hardly be understood, since Judas might have made his purchases and distributed his alms on 14 Nisan; there would have been no need for his rushing into the city in the middle of the night. On the day of Christ’s Crucifixion the Jews “went not into the hall, that they might not be defiled, but that they might eat the pasch” (John 18:28). The pasch which the Jews wished to eat could not have been the paschal lamb, which was eaten on 14 Nisan, for the pollution contracted by entering the hall would have ceased at sundown, so that it would not have prevented them from sharing in the paschal supper. The pasch which the Jews had in view must have been the sacrificial offerings (Chagighah), which were called also pasch and were eaten on 15 Nisan. Hence this passage places the death of Jesus Christ on the fifteenth day of Nisan.