Appendix: JOHN and the CHRONOLOGY of JESUS’ LIFE
John is more thoroughly chronological in its structure than the other Gospels, with many time references being given. Matthew and Mark do not always events in their exact order, although Luke, as well as John, is in chronological order (Luke 1:3) and gives us vital chronological information (Luke 1:5; 2:1; 3:1,23; 13:6-9). It is John, however, who gives us the backbone of the chronology (timing) of the life and ministry of Jesus. He does this largely by centering his thought around the Feasts of Israel and relating the ministry of Jesus to them.
Jesus fulfilled the Law and therefore kept the Feasts, for every Jewish male
was required to attend the three main Feasts every year (Deut 16:16):
(1) Passover and Unleavened Bread was a week starting on 14th day of the
first month (April/ May).
(2) Pentecost was about 50 days later in June.
(3) Tabernacles was a week starting on the 15th of the 7th month (October) Therefore, these were the main fixed times on the Jewish Calendar, around which religious life revolved. John clearly believed that the utterances of
Jesus at these occasions were especially significant. The Feasts were full of prophetic significance, and so Jesus, as the Messiah, must personally fulfil
these Feasts, and John’s Gospel shows how He did this. Thus most of the
action in John takes place around the Feasts, and what happened between
these appointed times is supplied by the other Gospels.
First of we shall reconstruct the overall chronology of Jesus from John.
1. His Birth was on the Feast of Tabernacles (2 BC). “The Word became flesh and dwelt (TABERNACLED) among us and we beheld His glory”(John 1:14). The glory of God (Christ) coming and dwelling in a human Temple or Tabernacle is a clear fulfilment of the Feast. Solomon’s Temple was also dedicated and filled with God’s glory at Tabernacles.
2. His Ministry started when He was close to His 30th Birthday (Luke3:23) Therefore, this was about Tabernacles AD 29.
3. We also know Jesus died at Passover AD 33, as our Passover Lamb. Thus His Ministry was three and a half years, as confirmed by Luke 13:6-9 and by the Feasts in John (as we shall see).
4. Thus His total life on earth was exactly 33.5 years from Tabernacles (15/7/2 BC) to Passover (14/1/33 AD)!
The Feasts in John. There are 3 Passovers in John:
1. John 2:13 is clearly His first Passover in ministry (AD 30)
2. As we shall see the Passover of AD 31 is not mentioned.
3. John 6:4 mentions the Passover of AD 32 (Feeding the 5,000).
4. John 11:55 mentions the final Passover of AD 33 at which Christ died. This shows how John spans the three and a half years of ministry.
There is also an unnamed Feast in John 5:1, upon which opinion is divided between Passover (1st month) and Tabernacles (7th month). I choose the latter as Passovers are always mentioned by name in John. However, Tabernacles is often just called ‘the Feast’ (John 7:2,10,14,37). Whichever it is, we can fix the year to AD 31, from other clues.
We can date John 4:35 in Samaria to January/February AD 31 (see page 45), which means the Feast of 5:1 must be after this, either Passover or Tabernacles AD 31, but no later than this, because the Passover of AD 32 is John 6:4. This is confirmed by the incident of the disciples picking ripe corn in Luke 6:1 (Matt 12:1, Mark 2:23) which must be Springtime, and its position in the accounts make AD 30 too early and 32 too late.
Thus we have justified the existence of the unmentioned Passover of AD 31.
The Feast of Tabernacles AD 32 (October) is mentioned in John 7:2.
The Feast of Dedication (December 32/January 33) is in John 10:22
It remains to demonstrate the chronology of John’s Gospel, and how it gives the backbone for hanging the added information from the other Gospels.
1. John 1:1-18: Jesus, the Word in eternity past, born at Tabernacles (2 BC).
2. John 1:19-4:42: First Phase of Ministry (only in John’s Gospel)
a) 1:19-2:11 gives a two week sequence (see page 8 on), soon after Tabernacles 29
b) 2:12, “After this” covers the 6 month jump to the next Passover 30 (2:13)
c) 2:13-3-21 covers events at Passover 30 in Jerusalem.
d) 3:22 “After these things” is a move to a Judean and Samaritan ministry (3:22-4:42)
3. John 4:43 -5:47: Second Phase of Ministry until Feeding of the 5,000 at Passover 32. (Matthew 4:17-14:12, Mark 1:14-6:30, Luke 4:14-9:10).
a) 4:43: “After 2 days” (February 31) gives the transition to new ministry in Galilee.
b) 5:1: “After these things” covers the jump to Tabernacles 31.
c) 5:1-47: covers events at Tabernacles 31 in Jerusalem.
4. John 6:1-71: Third Phase of Ministry (from Passover 32 to Tabernacles 32) (Matthew 14:13-18:35, Mark 6:31-9:50, Luke 9:10-50)
a) 6:1: “After these things” covers the 6 month jump to just before Passover 32.
b) 6:1-71: covers events near Passover 32.
5. John 7:1-11:57: Fourth Phase of Ministry (from Tabernacles 32 - Passover 33). (Matthew 19:1-20:34, Mark 10:1-52 and Luke 9:51-19:28 - for more detail)
a) 7:1: “After these things” covers the 6 month jump to Tabernacles 32.
b) 7:1-10:21: covers events at Tabernacles 32.
c) 10:22-39: covers events at Dedication 32/33.
d) 10:40-11:57; covers events leading up to Passover 33.
6. John 12:1-21:25: Fifth Phase of Ministry (at Passover 33). Death and Resurrection. (Matthew 21:1 on, Mark 11:1 on, and Luke 19:29 on).