In another thread, somebody has rather strenuous objection to Irenaeus’ claim that Jesus was closer to 50 than 30 when he died (using this as a reason to dismiss everything else in his writings.)
I have always “assumed” Jesus was 33 when He died. (I am not very sure why I believed that to be the case. I think it is by summing the “about 30” in Luke and the about 3 years of ministry from scripture?)
The “bible alone”, certainly does not give us enough information to determine His precise age at death (not that it matters from a theological basis).
From the Bible and historical records, I think we “know” the following:
Christ was born during the reign of Herod 37-4 B.C.E.
John starts his ministry in 29 C.E ("fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar.”)
We know Pilot was procurator from 26-36 C.E.
Caiphas was High Priest from 18-36 C.E.
We know that his Public Ministry was at least 3 years (at least 4 separate Passovers are listed after His baptism).
We also “know” from Luke that Christ was “about 30” when he “began” His public ministry. But I’m not sure if this actually tells us anything. What does “when Jesus began his ministry He was about 30 years of age” actually mean? When did He “begin His ministry?” Before, After or When He was baptized? What is “about 30: 25-35; 30-40; 30+? I do not really know if Luke tells us anything for sure about His age here.
I “think” we may be able to claim that He must have been “at least” 30 and less than 50 when He started His ministry based on Numbers 4:3 and perhaps this is all that Luke was really getting at with this verse.
I have seen an analysis somewhere that says that we can know “for sure” that He died on April 2nd, 33. based on the years that we end up celebrating the Passover on a Thursday, but I’m not sure if I buy into that just yet.
So on to the math work:
The real problem (as I see it) is, we have no real basis on which to limit the “unknown” times. That is he could have been born up to 23 year earlier than 4 B.C.E. and His public ministry could have lasted up to 7 years after His baptism.
It seems to me that his absolute minimum age at death was 31 (4B.C.E. to 26 C.E.) and His absolute maximum age was 74 (37 B.C.E. to 36 C.E.) based simply on the death of Herod and the term of Pilot.
If we know that absolute latest birth year was 4 B.C.E. and John didn’t even start his ministry until 29 C.E. then he had to be at least 34 when He was baptized and therefore with at least 3 ½ years of public ministry was at least 37 when He died.
He was more likely to have been born no later than 8-5 B.C.E. (rather than 4 B.C.E) Given that Christ was likely born a minimum of a year before Herod died probably 2-3 years. (i.e. even if Herod gave the order on his death bed, why would he have gone after 2 year olds if Christ had just been born?) So He would need to have been more like at least 38-41 years old when he died.
I don’t see any evidence that precludes Christ from having been older than this at death (other than He must have been less than 74.)
All of a sudden Irenaeus’ "50"doesn’t look so wacky to me.
What am I missing? (It seems like the date of the Census should come in here somehwere, but that the date was in major dispute?)