The first two verses of Luke 3 offer us a wealth of historical information: “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar,” Luke writes, “Pontius Pilate being governer of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son Zechariah in the wilderness.”
With this info we are able to date the beginning of John’s ministry with a fair degree of accuracy. History records that Pilate reigned over Judea from A.D. 26-36, Herod (Antipas) ruled Galilee and Perea from 4 B.C. to A.D. 39, and Philip’s tetrarchy lasted from 4 B.C. to A.D. 34. We also know that Annas was high priest from A.D. 6-15, with Caiaphas following in his stead from A.D. 18-36.
All together this still leaves us with a pretty wide range of time, so what it all comes down to is that fifteenth year of Tiberius. While there is some speculation that Tiberius shared a 2-year co-regency with Augustus beginning in A.D. 12, the first official year of his rule began in A.D. 14 with Augustus’ death. Which beginning did Luke have in mind when he wrote his narrative? We can’t know exactly for sure, but for now I assume he was referring to the latter date of A.D. 14. You can join me in that assumption if you’d like. 🙂
If indeed that is the case, simply count forward fifteen years and you’ll arrive at the year John began his ministry in the Judean wilderness, A.D. 29. Easy as 1-2-3.