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chronology, historical context, landmark dates & events

Forty-six years of temple building brings us to A.D. 29

Unlike the synoptics, John records an early season of ministry in Jesus’ life in and around Jerusalem. It begins with his going up for the feast of Passover as it would seem he did every year of his life (at least from the age of twelve). There he finds the money-changers in the temple and drives them out in a fit of jealous rage. Some of the Jewish leaders standing by ask what sign he would show to prove his authority for doing such things, to which Jesus cryptically responds, “destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19).  

Mistaking him to be referring to the physical temple the Jews reply, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you will raise it up in three days?”

Forty-six years. Make a note of that. We are told that Herod the Great began rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem in 19 B.C., so if these men were saying that the temple was presently in its 46th year of construction, or more likely that forty-six years had passed and now they were in the forty-seventh year since work began, then simple math brings us to the conclusion that the time of their encounter with Jesus recorded in John 2 took place in A.D. 29. 

This jives nicely with Luke’s statement that John’s ministry began in the 15th year of Tiberius’, or A.D. 28, by the way. What we are able to reconstruct is that John began baptizing in the Jordan somewhere midway through 28. Jesus came to be baptized later in the year, after which he went into the wilderness for 40 days and then came back into town long enough to claim a few of the Baptizer’s disciples as his own (see John 2:29-42). Then he returned to Galilee where he found Philip and Nathaniel and convinced them of his glory at a wedding in Cana where he turned water into wine (John 2:43-3:11). After this he spent some time relaxing with family in friends in Capernaum until the time came for Passover in April of 29.

I realize some people might argue that my view of the forty-six years is a bit too simplistic, but for now I am content with it. If you have any arguments to the contrary, please say on.

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About Joshua

Writer, husband, father, friend.

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