1. The synoptic gospels evidence:
According to the gospels of "Mark",
"Matthew" and "Luke"
(the synoptic gospels), many biblical critical
scholars would agree Jesus' public life seems
no longer than one year. And looking at Mark's gospel
(the least elaborated and the earliest),
some postulate all the major events in Jesus'
ministry happened within a few months:
"While I used to toy with the idea that GJohn might justify the idea that HJ [Historical Jesus] had an extended public career, I have long since abandoned that notion. I now think that Crossan is correct. HJ was a flash in the pan, with his public career ... lasting less than a year, perhaps only a couple of months." Malhon H.Smith, on Crosstalk
Many prominent 2nd, 3rd & 4th century Christians (such as St Clement of Alexandria, 150-211/216) also called for an one-year "ministry".
a) "Luke" thought Jesus had an one-year "ministry", because in GLuke (and only here), Jesus, at the beginning of his public life, is quoting a passage of 'Isaiah', which includes a reference to an one-year period:
Lk4:17-21 "... And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: "The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; ... to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD." ... And He began to say to them, "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.""
b) MSN Encarta, for "Jesus Christ": "All three Synoptic Gospels ... record Jesus' public ministry as beginning after the imprisonment of John the Baptist, and as lasting for about one year ..."
c) Eusebius of Cesarea, 'History of the Church' (published c.316), III, 24, 8: "For it is evident that the three [synoptic] evangelists recorded only the deeds done by the Saviour for one year after the imprisonment of John the Baptist"
d) From "Chronology of the Life of Jesus Christ", Catholic Encyclopedia: "the year of my redemption" (Isaiah 34:8; 63:4), appear to have induced Clement of Alexandria ['Stromata', I, 21, 145], Julius Africanus [160-240], St Philastrius [4th cent., died before 397], St Hilarion [291-371], and two or three other patristic writers to allow only one year for the public life."
Other early Christians believing an one-year ministry include the followers of (gnostic) Basilides (active 120-140) (according to Clement's 'Stromata', I, 21, 146) and the ones of (gnostic) Valentinus (active 120-160) (according to Irenaeus 'Against Heresies', I, 3, 3), Origen (185-254) (De Principiis, IV, 1, 5 "[Christ] taught about a year and a few months"), Tertullian (160-220?), Lactantius (late 3rd to early 4th cent.), St Gaudentius (died c. 410), Evagrius (4th cent.), Orosius (375?-418?) and St Ephraem (306?-373).
e) In 'Against Heresies', II, 22, 4-6, the very influential St Irenaeus (130?-200?) "demonstrated" that the public life of Jesus lasted twenty years!
"... He did not therefore preach only for one year, nor did He suffer in the twelfth month of the year. For the period included between the thirtieth and the fiftieth year can never be regarded as one year, ..."Remarks: Irenaeus' comment, based of John's gospel (8:57), shows that there was no significant acceptance then (around 180) about a three (or two) years ministry: that will come later.
The first one to mention a three-year ministry might have been Origen (changing his mind!) in 'Commentary on Matthew' (Book XXIV), written late in his life, but Eusebius (early 4th cent.) was the first to argue for it.
In his 'Demonstratio Evangelica' (published before 311) VIII, 106, 8, Eusebius stated, "the whole period of our Savior's teaching and marvel-working is recorded to have been three years and a half, which is half of a week [reference to the book of Daniel, seen here as containing prophecies about Jesus! Look here in order to understand it is not the case!]. This, I take it, John the Evangelist accurately establishes by his presentation in the gospel."
He then erroneously stated (in order to demonstrate the ministry was less than four years!), "Since, then, he (Jesus) began in the high priesthood of Annas [!!! Annas was high priest during 7-13/14C.E.] and continued to the reign of Caiaphas the intervening time does not extend to a full four years [WRONG: this time can be as long as 29 years (7-35C.E.) and cannot be shorter than 12 years (14-26C.E.)]." ('History of the Church' (published 311-325) I, 10, 2)
Later in the same book (III, 24, 11) Eusebius explained John's gospel covers a longer period than the others, but did not mention three years.
Finally, in his 'Chronicles' (published 325) he ascribed the crucifixion to the eighteenth year of Tiberius, basing himself on an eclipse and the false claim that, "It is written [in John's gospel] that after the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar the Lord preached three years."
Note: Eusebius repeatedly claimed that John's gospel represents a three-year ministry, but he offered no specific arguments. It seems the three-years came from the O.T, that is the book of Daniel.
Normally, a pious Jesus, with no obligation (and having high regard for the temple -- his most direct followers, the "Nazarenes" certainly did) would be expected to go to Jerusalem for each Passover; but during his public life, only one trip for Passover is reported in GMark.
And, if ever the "ministry" would have lasted for two or three years, why wasn't it written in the synoptic gospels? Evidently, it would have been beneficial to say it.
But then, if three gospels imply one year, and the fourth gospel suggests more, why choose the one (GJohn, the last one) in the minority (one against three)? Like I said, it is more beneficial to invoke a long "ministry" rather than a short one.
2. John's gospel evidence:
We have to pay close attention to GJohn, because it is here (and only here) that a longer "ministry" is implied, because of the three Passovers reported in Jesus' public life: one at the start (Jn2:13), one in the middle (Jn6:4), and one at the very end (Jn12:1).
The author of GJohn does not say that Jesus "ministry" lasted two or three years. But the extension from one year (synoptic gospels) to (a minimum of) two years & about one month (GJohn) is implied indirectly by the mention of the two additional Passovers.
There are many differences between GJohn and the synoptic gospels. John's gospel is considered by most biblical critical scholars to be the least credible (by far!). They are many signs of editing, cut and paste operations, latter additions and so forth. Major stories like the (very public) resurrection of Lazarus (here the main cause for Jesus' crucifixion, not any "disturbance") and Jesus' several extended visits (with preaching) in Jerusalem are not even mentioned in the synoptic gospels!
In conclusion, this gospel, at least in its final form, cannot be relied upon concerning the duration of Jesus' ministry.
Note: anyone who read this Section before April 3rd/2001 will notice I considerably reduced its content. This is the result of my on-going research on the making of GJohn. I am now confident about the validity of my reconstruction, verse by verse, of the original gospel and its later alterations. I hope to write a page about it (with arguments for justification on each item) within the next months. A preview: the original version came with only two Passovers, the middle one (Jn6:4), and the last one (Jn12:1). But the first one (Jn2:13) was added later (when relocating 2:14-3:21 from 12:19^20).
Done! as of September 2001:
John's gospel, from original to canonical
Better than expected: the original gospel points to an one-year public life, more so than the synoptic gospels.
3. Historical evidence:
Note: all dates are C.E. (Christian/Common Era).
If Jesus started his ministry in the spring of 27C.E. (according to previous Appendix) and it lasted only one year, his crucifixion would be in 28C.E. And there is another way to authenticate that later year; see what follows:
The first generation Christians were expecting the Kingdom to come soon:
Heb10:25b "... let us encourage one another-- and all the more as you see the Day approaching."
Heb10:37 "For in just a very little while, "He who is coming will come and will not delay ...""
Paul was certainly not setting any date in order to avoid disillusion, even if that would happen before:
1Co15:51 "We will not all sleep [be dead]"
Rather, he stressed that would come unexpectedly:
1Th5:1-2 "Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night."
But, because "seven" is the most sacred (God's) number and prophesying was encouraged:
1Th5:20 "do not treat prophecies with contempt."
1Co14:1 "... eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy."
and prophets existed in the earliest Christian churches:
Ac13:1 "In the church at Antioch [around 42], there were prophets and teachers ..."
it is likely other believers prophesied that the Kingdom would come seven years after Jesus' crucifixion (35). And when nothing occurred then, some would hope for fourteen (2 X 7), then twenty one (3 X 7), then twenty eight years later (56) ...
At the first occurrence of an "anniversary" in a new Christian area (as for the two events we'll consider later), many people who thought about joining (to be on the safe side!) would do so in crowds. The sudden upsurge in number of those "sectarians" would alarm the authorities or some "special interest" groups. As a result, persecution against believers was likely to be unleashed.
So, if Jesus was crucified in the spring of 28, then we can expect this "phenomenon" to have occurred in Jerusalem for 35, at the time the main and possibly the only (proto) Jewish Christian center. Well, as I will show next, it happened there that year (and most likely in the spring!).
Later, a true Christianity developed around the Aegean sea, first Macedonia and Greece (from 50), then Asia Minor (from 52-53). There, this phenomenon would have been due in 56. Well, again, as explained later, it happened then too (and most likely in the spring!).
The two events are surprisingly well documented. The problem is the dating. So hang on with me, if you please!
3.2 The two events:
3.2.1 The first persecution in Jerusalem:
Note: it led to Paul's conversion.
"Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly
in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient
to the faith. And Stephen [a Greek speaking Jew], full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Then there arose some from what is called
the Synagogue of the Freedmen
(Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and those from Cilicia and Asia), disputing with Stephen."
Ac7:58-59a,8:1-3 "and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul [Paul]. And they stoned Stephen ... Now Saul was consenting to his death. At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison."
Ac9:1-2 "Then Saul [Paul], still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem."
Ac26:10b-11a "On the authorities of the chief priests I [Paul] put many of the saints in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, ..."
Paul in Gal1:13 "For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it."
3.2.2 The "riot" in Ephesus:
"And about that time there arose a great commotion about the Way. For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver
shrines of Diana, brought no small profit to the craftsmen. He called them together with the workers of similar occupation, and said: "men, you know that we have our prosperity by this trade. Moreover you see and hear that not only at Ephesus, but throughout almost all Asia, this
has persuaded and turned away many people, saying that they are not gods which are made with hands. So not only is this trade of ours in danger of falling into
disrepute, but also the temple of the great goddess Diana may be despised and her magnificence destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worship." Now when they heard this,
they were full of wrath
and cried out, saying, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians!"
So the whole city was filled with confusion, and rushed into the theater with one accord , having seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians, Paul's travel companions. And when Paul wanted to go in to the people, the disciples would not allow him. Then some of the officials of Asia, who were his friends, sent to him pleading that he would not venture into the theater.
Some therefore cried one thing and some another, for the assembly was confused, and most of them did not know why they had come together. And they drew Alexander out of the multitude, the Jews putting him forward. And Alexander motioned with his hand, and wanted to make his defense to the people. But when they found out that he was a Jew, all with one voice cried out for about two hours, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians!""
3.3 Dating of the persecution in Jerusalem:
3.3.1 Spring of 52:
Gallio was proconsul of Achaia (Ac18:12)
from the summer of 51 and for a period of
less than one year. The incident reported
in Ac18:12-17 (involving Gallio and Paul)
is described to have occurred in
the latter part
of Paul's a year and a half stay in Corinth
(Ac18:11). Consequently, it would be in the
spring of 52 (the NIV Study Bible and the
New Jerusalem Bible are in agreement with
this date) that Paul went from Corinth to
Jerusalem (Gal2:1-10, Ac18:18-22).
Spring was the season to start traveling from a home base (as in Ac20:6, also from Corinth to Jerusalem) and winter the time to stay put:
1Co16:6 "Perhaps I [Paul] will stay with you awhile, or even spend the winter [in Corinth, which he did later, in 57-58 (Ac20:3)] ..."
Furthermore, after his visit to Jerusalem in 52:
Ac18:22b-23 NAB "... then went down to Antioch [as corroborated in Gal2:11]. After staying there some time, he [Paul] left and traveled in orderly sequence through the Galatian country and Phrygia, bringing strength to all the disciples."
This kind of travel was most likely to be done during the dry summer/early fall months.
Also the duration of the sojourn in Corinth:
"So Paul stayed [in Corinth] for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God." (Ac18:11)
has Paul arriving here in the fall of 50, which is very plausible: that would have given him enough time (from spring to fall) for his "second journey" from Antioch, including another visit to cities in Lycaonia & Pisidia (so-called "southern" Galatia), and setting up new Christian communities in Macedonia and Athens (Ac15:41-17:34).
When was the "council" of Jerusalem?
Ac15:1-35 specifies this meeting occurred between the first and second journey. And most scholars agree this "council" in Jerusalem, about Gentiles' admission in the faith, is the same as narrated by Paul himself in Gal2:1-10 (with the version in 'Acts' very much embellished!). But is the timing correct in 'Acts'?
Likely not, because in Gal2:1-14 it is suggested the meeting happened later, that is between the second and third journey (in 52). Let's note "Luke" did tell of one Paul's visit at that particular time, without any details:
Ac18:22 NAB "Upon landing at Caesarea, he [Paul] went up and greeted the church and then went down to Antioch."
Here are the clues:
a) Titus is mentioned in Gal2:1-3 as a companion of Paul on his trip to Jerusalem for the "council". However, Titus is not in 'Acts', even if other companions/helpers are named with Paul during his first journey (Barnabas) and the second one (Silas & Timothy). But Titus appears (prominently) in '2Corinthians' (written during Paul's third journey) as the main "helper" towards the Corinthians:
2Co8:23 "As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker among you;"
That would date the "council" of Jerusalem described in Gal2:1-10 after Paul went to Europe (second journey), assuming this (uncircumcised) Titus was one of Paul's converts there, which is very likely.
b) The public dispute in Antioch with Peter (Gal2:11-14), right after the meeting in Jerusalem (Gal2:1-10), was about the critical issues of forcing Jewish customs on Gentile converts (Gal2:14) and Jews (even if Christians) not mingling with them & sharing their food:
"... I withstood him to his face [Peter's], because he was to be blamed ... "... why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?""
That was imposed by James (Jesus' brother), through his own men (Gal2:12). Not only Peter followed James on this, but also all Jews in the church of Antioch (except, of course, Paul), including Barnabas:
Gal2:13 "And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him [Peter], so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy."
In this situation, it would be very unlikely for Silas, a Jew close to the "Nazarenes" (Ac15:22), to accompany Paul (who defied James' directives!) as stated in the beginning of the second journey (Ac15:40). Furthermore, Ac18:23,19:1 indicates that, at the start of the third, Paul is traveling alone from Antioch to Ephesus, which is very understandable, taking in account his isolation following the aforementioned dispute. Another point: after taking such a strong public stand against Judaization of Gentile converts, why would Paul flip-flop soon after, by circumcising Timothy (Ac16:3, onset of second journey)?
Simply, the second journey (with Silas and Timothy ) does not fit as the one started after the "council" in Jerusalem (followed by the break-up in Antioch), but the third one (with Paul alone) does.
c) According to Gal2:2-5, Paul was worried his very own "ministry" being in jeopardy because:
Gal2:4 "... of false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage),"
Also, Gal2:2 implies the "Nazarenes" were not aware of the specifics of Paul's gospel:
" ... [I, Paul] communicated to them [the pillars of the church of Jerusalem] that gospel which I [& NOT 'we'] preach among the Gentiles"
Again this situation simply does not fit if the "council" happened between the first & second journey:
The former trip had been sponsored by the church of Antioch (Ac13:2-3), which also was fully informed after its completion (Ac14:27-28). Furthermore, Paul was then always in the company of Barnabas, well known & trusted by the "Nazarenes" (Ac5:36,11:22-26).
But the aforementioned situation makes a lot more sense if related to the second journey:
Then Paul was the only main preacher (that is without Barnabas), converting Gentiles (& some Jews) in far away Macedonia & Achaia. And it was done in such a way the Jews of Corinth united against Paul in order to bring him to a court presided by the proconsul (Ac18:12-17), because "This fellow persuades men to worship God contrary to the law." (definitively a subject of concern for the "Nazarenes", all of them devoted Jews!).Notes:
A) Some scholars, like Colin Hemer, proposed that the meeting narrated in Gal2:1-10 is not the same as in Ac15:1-29, but instead corresponds to the one in Ac11:28-30,12:25. There are many problems with that:
a) Gal2:1-10 does not say the purpose of Paul's trip to Jerusalem is to provide funds to the "Nazarenes", as it is explained in Ac11:28-30.
b) Gal2:1-10 specifies the Gentiles' conversions by Paul (& Barnabas) was the main issue, discussed and then accepted by the "pillars". That is what also shows in Ac15:1-29, even if here the account is vastly embellished.
c) The funds in question are to allow the church of Jerusalem to buy food, made very expensive due to a famine affecting the whole Roman empire (Ac11:28). This famine happened in 46, but the dating given by Hemer for the meeting described in Gal2:1:10 is two years later, in 48!
Furthermore, to make things even more absurd, according to Ac11:28-30,12:25, the same meeting would have occurred around the time of Agrippa I's death (Ac12:1-23) in the spring of 44!
B) If 52 is accepted as the year of the "council of Jerusalem", then according to the "fourteen year" in Gal2:1, no other trip to Jerusalem by Paul took place, that is after he visited Peter for fifteen days (Gal1:18-29 corresponding to (again grossly embellished) Ac9:26-30). Consequently the two Jerusalem visits by Paul in 44 (or 48) and in between the first & second journey (50), appear to be fictional, as a ploy by "Luke" to show that Paul was in close, good & frequent relation with the "Nazarenes". Also, I explained Luke's motives about placing the "council" before the second journey (rather than after it) on this page.
3.3.2 Spring of 38:
after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem
with Barnabas, and also took Titus with me."
There, it appears Paul was taking as a reference his previous visit to Jerusalem prior to 52. Therefore, this trip was in 38:
Gal1:18 "Then after three years, I went to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him fifteen days."
3.3.3 Spring of 35:
"But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb and called me through His grace, to reveal His Son in me,
[referring to Paul's conversion in Damascus (Ac9:18)]
` that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.
Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and remained with him fifteen days [in 38, as already established]."
These "three years" refers to the period between Paul's conversion (right after leaving Jerusalem) and his next visit to the same city (also related (and embellished) in Ac9:26-30).
Therefore, Paul's conversion occurred in 35 (the NIV Study Bible is also in agreement with this date), probably spring (because 3 + 14 years later was in the spring of 52). The persecution in Jerusalem, then Judea and beyond, which could not have been too long, happened in the months prior to that.
3.3.4 Recapitulation of Paul's early years:
a) Winter/spring 35:
Paul takes part into the persecutions against the proto-Christians starting in Jerusalem (Gal1:13,23a, Ac7:57-8:1-4a,9:1-2)
b) Late spring 35: Paul's conversion in Damascus (Gal1:15-16a, Ac9:18b)
c) Spring 38: three years later (Gal1:18a), Paul escapes from Damascus (2Co11:32-33, Ac9:25) and returns to Jerusalem for a fifteen days visit at Peter's home (Gal1:18b-19, Ac9:26).
d) Spring 38 to spring 42: Paul's exit from Jerusalem (Ac9:30) and stay in his home city, Tarsus in Cilicia (today southern Turkey)
Note: 42 is likely (according to the clue in 2Co12:2) but cannot be firmly established.
e) Spring 42: Paul is invited by Barnabas to join him in Antioch (Ac11:25-26a).
f) Spring 42 to winter 48/49: Paul is based in Antioch as the protege and companion of Barnabas, participating in missionary journeys in Syria and Cilicia (Gal1:21).
g) Spring & summer of 49: most likely time for Paul and Barnabas (westward) missionary trip ("Paul's first journey") to Cyprus, Pamphylia and "southern" Galatia. Back to Antioch for the winter (note: this trip could have happened one or a few years earlier and lasted longer)
h) Spring 50 to spring 52: Paul's second journey leading to the creation of Christian communities in Macedonia (Philippi, Thessalonica and Berea), Athens and Corinth (where he stays one year and a half - Ac18:11)
3.4 Dating of the "riot" in Ephesus:
A) Paul's third journey
Please consult the aforementioned page for the detailed & documented study. A recapitulation follows:
B) Recapitulation (from the above page):
a) Spring 52: Paul's trip to Jerusalem from Corinth (fourteen
years (Gal2:1) after the one in 38). The
"council" of Jerusalem takes place
then (See Appendix B for explanations).
b) Summer and early fall 52 (or earlier): Paul spends time in Antioch (dispute with Peter: Gal2:11-14) and departs (alone).
c) Fall 52 to winter 53: Paul becomes sick on his way NW and recuperates in "northern" Galatia where he makes converts (Gal4:13-15; Ac18:23,19:1a).
d) Winter 53: Paul's arrival in Ephesus. He learns Apollos & Peter had visited Corinth and each one got followers at his detriment (1Co1-4).
e) Winter 53 to spring 55: Paul preaches in Ephesus for two years and three months (Ac19:8,10). He feels partially abandoned by the Corinthians (1Co9). But, later, the situation improves greatly.
f) Spring 55: Paul's trip to Macedonia and then Corinth (2nd one here: 1Co16:5-8; 2Co13:1-2), where Paul is rejected. Likely no collection (as planned in 1Co16:1-4) is done.
g) Summer 55 to spring 56: Paul stays in Ephesus (about nine months).
h) Spring 56: Paul's short trip to Troas and Macedonia (where Paul hears the good news from Titus) then back to Ephesus (2Co1:15-24,7:5-7). Meanwhile a collection has been on-going in Corinth since late 55 (2Co8:10b-11).
i) Late spring 56: The "riot" in Ephesus.
j) Late spring 56 to fall 56: Paul is imprisoned in Ephesus. The collection in Corinth is aborted (2Co8:10b-11).
k) Fall 56: Paul is freed and goes to Macedonia (probably Philippi first).
l) Fall 56 to early spring 57: Paul visits the Macedonian Christians and then stays in Corinth (for three months (Ac20:3a); the third trip to that city). The collection is restarted and completed in Corinth (Ro15:26).
m) Late spring 57: Paul's arrival in Jerusalem and arrest (Ro15:25-26,31; Ac20,21)
A) The NIV Study Bible (introduction to 'Romans') stipulates that 'Romans' was written in the early spring of 57. That was before Paul's trip to Jerusalem and after a collection in Macedonia and Achaia (I agree with this context), during a three months winter stay in Corinth (Ac20:3). Consequently, a dating of 56 for the "riot" in Ephesus would be implied.
B) The NIV Study Bible is also in agreement for the start of the third missionary journey of Paul (in Ephesus) in early 53. Then, the three years of Paul's preaching in Ephesus mentioned in Ac20:31 would bring us to 56 and the "riot".
3.5 The conclusion:
The first persecution in Jerusalem happened in
(likely in the spring),
after Jesus' crucifixion. Is it a coincidence?
The "riot" in Ephesus occurred in 56 (likely in the spring), twenty eight years (seven multiplied by four) after Jesus' crucifixion. Is it a coincidence?
The persecution happened after the believers suddenly multiplied:
Ac6:1 "Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying,"
Ac6:7 "Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith."
The "riot" was initiated by silversmiths, making statues of pagan deities (mostly Diana/Artemis) and noticing a drop in their business, due to people converting massively to Christianity:
Ac19:24-26a "For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Diana, brought no small profit to the craftsmen. He called them together with the workers of similar occupation, and said: "men, you know that we have our prosperity by this trade. Moreover you see and hear that not only at Ephesus, but throughout almost all Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away many people, ..."
Right before that (spring of 56), when Paul arrived in Troas (150 miles north of Ephesus), and to his surprise, he found a Christian community there (2Co2:12). Probably also by that time, many Christian communities throughout Asia Minor, like Colosse and Laodicea, had sprung in a very short time.
The odds that both separate events happened, each one of the two, at one particular year out of seven are:
1/7 X 1/7 = 1/49, that is about 2 chances out of 100.
And if we take in account that both events likely happened in the spring, after a sudden upsurge in the number of converts in the preceding months:
1/4 X 1/4 = 1/16 then 1/16 X 1/49 = Less than 1.5 chance out of 1000
So it is very unlikely these two happenings occurred at random, without a common event (Jesus' crucifixion) indirectly acting as "synchronization".
And then, there is more.
In Ac12:1-19, a persecution is mentioned against the "Nazarenes" in Jerusalem:
"It was about this time that King Herod
[Agrippa I, a protege of emperors Caius and Claudius. Agrippa ruled over most of Palestine from the spring of 41 to his death about three years later]
` arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. When he saw that this pleased the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover." (Ac12:1-4)
The most likely date is 42: in the early spring of 41, Agrippa was probably still in Rome, advising and helping Claudius, the new emperor (Ant., Bk XIX, Ch IV & V). Also, it was too early to travel safely by ship. And as for 43, Josephus tells us that Agrippa spent the latter part of his reign away from Jerusalem (Ant., XIX, VII, 4 & 5, and Chapter VIII).
Of course, 42 is 28 + (2 X 7) and it was around Passover. A coincidence?
"Now about that time ..." (Ac12:1), the church of Antioch was going through rapid growth:
Ac11:20-24 "But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the [Gentile] Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus. ... and a great number believed ... Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch. When he came ..., he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord. ... And a great many people were added to the Lord."
That was just before:
Ac11:25-26b "Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul [Paul]. And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. ..."
In 2Co12:1-10, in order to explain that, despite his weaknesses, he was chosen to be Christ's apostle, Paul describes a former vision of fourteen years ago. As I explained in "Paul's third journey", this passage was written in late 55; that sets the alleged vision around late 41. And, logically, it makes sense the revelation would happen right before Paul started his apostolic career (according to Ac11:25-26)!
I acknowledge I might be walking on thin ice here, but there is still a good probability Paul moved to Antioch in early 42, right after "a great many people [here] were added to the Lord." (Ac11:24)
And regarding Antioch (where Christianity started after 35), that would take care of my aforementioned presupposition:
"At the first occurrence of an "anniversary" in a new Christian area ... many people who thought about joining (to be on the safe side!) would do so in crowds."
There is still more: according to Suetonius,
as in 'The Lives of the Twelve Caesars',
we have this enigmatic passage in the section
25.4 "As the Jews were making constant disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he [Claudius] expelled them from Rome."
The author of 'Acts' makes mention of this same expulsion, which occurred in 49 according to the fourth/fifth century church father Orosius.
Ac18:2 "[at the end of 50] There he [Paul] met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome."
Aquila and Priscilla seem to have been converted prior to meeting Paul.
"Chrestus" is a suitable Greek name, so there may have been an agitator/messianic pretender among the Jews of Rome by the name of Chrestus. But then "Chrestus" could be a misspelling of "Christus" and "at the instigation of Chrestus" might signify the presence (in growing number) of early Jewish Christians there, which created disputes with the other Jews.
And then again, 49 is 28 + (7 X 3), another coincidence!
Note: Suetonius also makes mention of Nero's persecution in 16.2: "Punishment by Nero was inflicted on the Christians, a class of men given to a new and mischievous superstition."
Here is a visual recapitulation of the years in question (in red and mauve). The years in bold indicate "ministry" years, first the ones of Jesus (part of 27-28), then the ones of Paul (2nd & 3rd journeys: 50-57)
Note: for the Jews then, (fall to fall) 27-28, 34-35, 41-42, 48-49 & 55-56 were likely Sabbatical years. During their one-year period, it was probably one more reason for expecting a great (divine) event.
4. Overall conclusion:
According to the discussions in Appendices A & B, with Paul's third journey, I think we have enough evidence (and a lot more than for any crucifixion in 30 or 33 or 36, when Vitellius, the president of Syria, visited Jerusalem during the Passover) to ascertain that Jesus was crucified in the spring of 28.
Note: could Antipas-Herodias' wedding, John the baptist's arrest & execution and Jesus' crucifixion have happened in 35-36 AD? According to the available evidence, that would be most unlikely. Click here to know why.