Sir Isaac Newton’s Astronomical Dating of Christ's Crucifixion
Whether he existed as a physical person, or as some believe, was merely an archetype from Jewish mysticism, Jesus has taken the world by storm and according to the Complete Pilgrim, very rough analysis leads them to estimate that there are probably between eight and sixteen million Christian church buildings in the world. In Christian tradition there is no consensus on Jesus’ crucifixion date in Jerusalem, however, April 7 (today) in the year 30 AD is popular among scholars, but how do we know if this was the fateful date?
Perhaps celebrated more than his achievements in life is the Christian savior’s crucifixion and for many centuries, scholars have created chronologies of Christ aiming to determine a timeline for the key events in the life of Jesus. Pinning down a date for the birth of Christ relies on the accounts in the Gospels referencing King Herod's reign, during ‘ the fifteenth year’ of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, and some scholars subtract the age Jesus began preaching, “about 30 years”, leading most modern biblical academics to agree on a date of birth between 6 and 4 BC.
Depiction of Jesus Christ surrounded by his saints and disciples. (vukkostic / Adobe stock)
Sir Isaac Newton and Jesus’ Crucifixion Date
Jesus’ crucifixion date is arrived at using several deductive methods, which according to Paul William Meyer and John T. Carroll’s 2004 book The Word in this world, includes non-Christian sources such as Josephus and Tacitus.
Using the well-established historical trial of the Apostle Paul by the Roman proconsul Gallio in Corinth in AD 51/52, scholars work backwards to estimate the date of Paul’s conversion, and all these methods result in the year AD 36 as an upper limit to the crucifixion event.
In 2013, BBC Two aired the documentary titled The Last Magician, explaining that after the death of arguably the greatest scientific mind that has ever lived, thousands of unpublished papers totaling over one million words revealed this master of the universe was a heretical magician who under the noses of Europe’s political and religious elite was secretly Europe’s leading alchemist.
In commune with ancient spirits, exploring the macro and micro-mechanics of the universe, Newton studied the measurements and proportions of the legendary Solomon's Temple and determined a date for Armageddon, concluding the world would end in AD 2060.
Astronomical calculations in some of Sir Isaac Newton’s unpublished papers have revealed what he believed to be Jesus’ crucifixion date. (Barrington Bramley / Public domain)
Two Possible Dates
However, two decades before Newton derived his prophetic date, he studied the Bible to astronomically calculate when the crescent of the new moon occurred in correlation with Judean and Julian calendars. He noted that ancient “Passovers” always occurred on full moons preceded by a Friday. Using this method, he calculated dates, cross referencing this with other events in the Bible and came up with the dates of AD 33 April 3 and AD 34 April 23, as the most likely according to John Pratt.
He settled on the latter as it matched the ‘ripeness of the corn’ in Luke’s account (Luke 6: I). But this date has been rejected by many subsequent calculators using the same methods. There is agreement on the dates of lunar visibility, but not on which year should be chosen. Although favored by Newton, AD 34 is rejected as it doesn’t correlate with the date of Paul’s conversion. The two most accepted dates today are “7 April AD 30 and 3 April AD 33.” The discussion in Humphrys and Waddington’s ‘The Date of the Crucifixion’ concludes, ‘Without further evidence it does not seem possible to decide conclusively between these two dates, although 3 April A.D. 33 is considered to be much the more probable’.
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Calculating the Astronomical Conditions of the Crucifixion
The later date, 3 April AD 33, was considered because the apostle Peter said the “moon turned to blood at the crucifixion” in Acts of the Apostles 2:14–21, which Newton thought referred to the lunar eclipse of 3 April AD 33. Modern astronomical research uses the contrast between the synoptic date of Jesus’ last Passover with John’s date of the subsequent Jewish Passover to propose Jesus’ Last Supper to have been on Wednesday, 1 April AD 33 with the crucifixion on Friday 3 April AD 33, and the Resurrection two days later.
The Last Supper painting (restored). (Leonardo da Vinci / Public domain)
In John Pratt’s 1991 article, Newton’s Date For The Crucifixion, printed in the Quarterly Journal of Royal Astronomical Society, we are told Newton did not “base” his crucifixion date on any such tradition about the birth of Christ or the length of his life, about which the great scientist said “there is no tradition worth considering”.
Since Newton, scholars have debated the elements effecting the true date using Newton’s methodology and 7 April AD 30 has been widely considered calendrically and astronomically more appropriate. This is based on Christ supposedly being born in 6 BC, as Herod’s death was supposed to be 4 BC.
With more recent challenges to this date, the pendulum perhaps swings slightly in favor of the AD 33 date. With so many pieces of evidence to be placed into the puzzle, this story will run on. What is certain is that no one was coming close to finding the date before Newton put his mind to the problem.
Behind his socially accepted Christian venire Sir Isaac Newton was a deeply mystical occultist, obsessed with ancient holy books and perhaps the famous story of the apple falling on his head, inspiring his concept of universal gravity, reflects Eve in the Garden of Eden being tempted by the forbidden fruits of the Tree of Knowledge.
Top image: There is much debate between scholars to Jesus’ crucifixion date, but there is no real consensus. Is there anyway of us knowing the truth? Left: portrait of Sir Isaac Newton. (Public domain). Right: representation of Jesus’ crucifixion. (Kovalenko I / Adobe stock)
By Ashley Cowie