THE REAL MESSIAH BLOG: 37 CE as the year of the Passion

37 CE as the year of the Passion

copyright 2008 Stephan Huller

There is now no doubt that Sunday, March 25th was remembered as the date for the Resurrection. As we have already seen Alexandria was the ultimate ‘epicenter’ of that tradition. One would think that this date alone should convince the world that the accompanying year was 37 CE. This is after all the only year in which a Sunday, March 25th could have been the date of the Resurrection. Nevertheless as is well known science alone doesn’t convince Christian religious minds. 37 CE was a problem for the Church – for reasons we already illustrated in the book. Indeed I would go so far as to argue that the Catholic New Testament canon was deliberately established to obscure the true date of the Passion.

In my mind it is not without purpose that Irenaeus puts forward the seemingly laughable claim that Jesus was in his forty ninth year when crucified. According to my way of thinking this is a deliberate obscuring of the original understanding that the Passion occurred ‘in a forty ninth year’ – i.e. the year before a Jubilee. If we look carefully the forty ninth year plays a central role in Alexandrian reflection on the dating of the death of Jesus. Yet in order to get there we have to pay careful attention to Irenaeus’ disinformation campaign against the tradition.

In a famous section from his Against Heresies, he accuses the heretics of falsely putting forward that Jesus preached only for one year. The Gospel of John he introduces proves that Jesus was ‘almost fifty.’ We can be sure that Jesus’ forty ninth year was a deliberate spin on the Alexandrian communities insistence that Jesus was crucified in a forty ninth year. For if we look closely Irenaeus attacks their Markan tradition on the Jubilee in the same breath as he invents a forty nine year old Jesus.

The heretical belief that Jesus only took part in the forty ninth year while the Jubilee was reserved for ‘Christ’ seemed to Irenaeus to subordinate the man from Nazareth. As a result the Roman Church Father went out of his way to re-engineer the gospel. Not only do we see the whole concept of ‘forty ninth years’ and ‘Jubilees’ wiped clean from the Catholic tradition, so too does a ‘one year’ ministry of Jesus (through the development of the Gospel of John).

Of course once Irenaeus started fiddling around with dates of the gospel it is not at all surprising that the subsequent Catholic tradition looses touch with the actual year of Jesus’ ministry. The problem of course becomes quite simple – you can’t have a Resurrection on Sunday, March 25th in any year around the time of Jesus’ thirtieth birthday except 37 CE. Nevertheless ‘the gospels’ now speak of a beginning of Jesus’ ministry around 30 CE. So it is that none of the dates usually bandied about to explain when the Passion of Christ occurred make any sense, and most scholars avoid the whole science of lunar months and instead give any number of years which can’t possibly work.

Indeed most academics typically dismiss the year 37 CE as a potential candidate because, they say, the Jewish historian Josephus ‘makes it clear’ that Pilate had already been dismissed from his post in 36 CE. Yet these readings of Josephus are utterly superficial. Daniel Schwartz, the author of the only other book ever published on the subject of Agrippa agrees with us here. He emphatically argues that a careful reading of Josephus makes clear that in fact Pilate was sent back to Rome to answer for his mistreatment of Samaritan messianists in 37 CE. As we demonstrate elsewhere any other reading is simply ridiculous.

So it is that once we acknowledge that Pilate was procurator of Judea right up until the Samaritan Passover of 37 CE and relieved of his post by Vitellius while the eight day Jewish festival was still going on, we can now examine the hitherto unexplored question as to whether the Passion might have occurred in that same year. Immediately an intriguing possibility suddenly becomes manifest. Could Pilate’s brutal assault against the Samaritan messianic gathering which Josephus tells us occurred in that same year have been one and the same with the gospel narrative’s description of the arrest of Jesus? As we demonstrate elsewhere at least one ancient Samaritan Christian seems to think so.

It is in fact an undeniable fact that at least some ancient Christian traditions believed that it was on account of his mistreatment of Christ and the disciples which led to Pilate’s recall to Rome. In other words, texts like the Acts of Pilate come from a tradition which connects the events described in Josephus with the Passion. We can only imagine what was in the original text of what was claimed to be Pilate’s original explanation of his actions which the anti-Christian Emperor Maximin used to disprove the gospels.

All of these points will likely never be settled to anyone’s satisfaction. Yet they necessarily lead us back to the year 37 CE as the only possible date available for the Passion. Of course, that it has never even been considered by theologians as the central date in world history is hardly as problematic as it seems at first. For them the world doesn’t have to make sense. Indeed the more it seems to contradict logic, science and reason, the happier they inevitably are.

The truth however is that placing Christ’s resurrection in 37 CE would only serve to prove the greatness of their God. This given the fact that an immediate recall of Pilate (and Herod too for that matter) would only have ‘proved’ to contemporaries that God did indeed punish those who harmed his beloved ‘Christ.’ Having the ‘wicked’ Emperor Tiberius also meet his end in the lead up to this event didn’t hurt either, as we have already seen.

So what did Irenaeus have against 37 CE? The question could easily be turned around and posed in a different way – why did the Alexandrians continue to venerate the date? The answer in either case is that it is clearly also the year that Marcus Agrippa claimed to be Resurrected in Jerusalem.

The point here is that the underlying knowledge shared by both Irenaeus and his enemies in Alexandria was the same. This is why the information is now only preserved in a fragmentary form scattered around the pages of the Church Fathers. ‘Sunday’ + ‘March 25th’ + “forty ninth year’ + ’37 CE’ = ‘another Christ’ + ‘coronated’ + ‘Jubilee’ + ‘Alexandria’ = ‘Marcus Agrippa.’ It really is that simple.

Indeed I will argue that the final proof for this assertion is to be found preserved in the writings of an eight century Byzantine scholar named George Syncellus who thankfully preserved the writings of two ancient Alexandrian monks. Many scholars who have heard a little about the text will likely shake their heads about now. ‘George Syncellus’ Chronology doesn’t put Jesus’ crucifixion in 37 CE!’ they will answer. ‘In fact it is strangely placed in 42 CE, the second year of the Emperor Claudius.’

All of this may be true but I promise the reader that as we remove the various layers of this text it will be immediately apparent what has happened. Nevertheless for the moment let us leave this as it may be for the moment and ask even with all of this incorrect information coming from Alexandria when does this same ancient Church understand that its ‘St. Mark’ first appeared in the city? The current Pope makes that clear in his Evangelist Mark when he writes that while ‘it is difficult to determine the exact dates for the journeys of the apostles [they are] usually calculated in relation to [other] events, and the time of the arrival of St. Mark was no exception … St. Mark came to Alexandria in 43 AD.” [page 42] In other words now as silly as might seem to have Jesus’ crucifixion end up being in 42 CE, it is uncanny the way the ‘follow up’ appearance of Mark nevertheless immediately comes right after it.

So how did the official tradition get the dates so wrong? Let us back to the beginning again. As Adler notes ‘since Clement, Christian chronographers in Alexandria had experimented with [dating the Crucifixion from] the era from Creation.’ Yet over two hundred years lay between Annanius of Alexandria, George Syncellus’ main source for his 42 CE and Clement. In that time the Catholic innovations of Irenaeus necessarily forced changes in the outer appearance of Alexandrian orthodoxy.

Nowhere is this clearer than in Clement’s repeated insistence that Jesus was thirty at the time of the crucifixion. This clearly explains where all these extra years develop by the time of Annanius who is repeatedly congratulated by the Byzantine George Syncellus for abandoning much of the heresy native to the city.

Annanius still dates Jesus’ birth to 7 CE. With the original Alexandrian claims for Jesus only reaching his thirtieth year the date for the Passion remains at 37 CE (7 + 30 = 37 CE). However it is apparent that Annanius finally came around to accepting the claims of the Gospel of John with regards to multiple years for Jesus’ ministry. As such almost all scholarly readings of ‘the gospels’ note that there are five Passovers demonstrated to have occurred during Jesus ministry. Annanius’ new date of 42 CE would seem to follow from the Catholic augmentation.

So it is now apparent to get out from under Annanius’ influence if we wish to get at the original Alexandrian understanding. Scholars like Adler assist us in this regard by constantly emphasizing that Annanius was only a later redactor of an original work by another Alexandrian monk named Panodorus whose conclusions Syncellus vehemently opposed. Panodorus likely lived slightly before Annanius. He certainly acknowledged March 25th as the date of the Crucifixion however he maintained the original Alexandrian interest in the first of Thouth among other things (the date I suggest Agrippa was enthroned during the Jubilee).

Annanius undoubtedly retained most of his predecessor’s original work but sought to ‘correct’ its indebtedness to pagan and ‘heretical’ teachings. The thing which bothered Syncellus the most about Panodorus original calculations was that it “contained not only interest in astronomy but tables of lunar and solar motion.” As we shall demonstrate shortly this deliberate emphasis on the nineteen year metonic cycle helps solidify the 37 CE date once and for all.

What Annanius should be credited with is perfectly reconciling the 254 day lunar calendar of the Hebrews with the traditional 360 solar calendar of Egypt. As George Syncellus (the Byzantine scholar who preserved most of the information about these figures) notes “it should be recognized that the exposition of Annanius is more concise and more accurate and in line with the apostolic and patristic tradition; in it he assigns the divine incarnation to the end of the 5,500 year and the beginning of the year 5501 and the holy luminescent day of the Resurrection in the 25th of the Roman month March, the 29th of the Egyptian month of Phamenoth which in the 532-year Paschal tables compiled by him, he also shows with the aid of learned investigations was the first formed day” (Sync. 35. 20 - 27)”

We should see above all else that this new system devised by Annanius was an innovation. All that Panodorus established originally was the standard nineteen year metonic cycle dating back from 284 CE – the so-called Era of Martyrs - which has become the standard Alexandrian chronological reference point. Panadorus seemed to have fixed that date in relation to a March 25th Resurrection and furthermore Creation on 1 Thouth. Annanius developed the system one step further and brought March 25th into harmony with all important Christian dates (Creation, Incarnation and Resurrection) in relation to his cycle of 532 years.

Yet let’s step back from Annanius’ innovation. The earliest Alexandrians certainly knew only the nineteen year cycle used by Panodorus. This system was certainly known also to Jews and Samaritans living in the city from before the time of Christ. Together they knew that every nineteen years the dating of Passover necessarily repeats almost down to the day. The most holy year in the Christian calendar was the year in which the Passion fell. The next most significant was the Era of Martyrs.

It cannot be seen as coincidence when we discover that the year 37 CE falls within the nineteen year cycle established by the Coptic ‘anchor’ of 284. 37 + (19 x 13) = 284 CE. It has to be seen as the germ from which Annanius’ grandiose claims about the Creation being established on March 25th grew out of. 37 CE is the only year anywhere near the tradition dates of Jesus’ ministry that falls within the metonic cycle calculated from 284 CE. As such we must assume that the tradition from which Panodorus drew his information necessarily acknowledged not only March 25th as the date of the Passion but certainly 37 CE as its proper year.

This is interestingly how Panodorus must have reconciled his system. Diocletian ascended to the throne around August 29th, 284 CE. This date must have been very close if not falling exactly upon 1 Thouth, the tradition ‘first day’ of the Egyptian calendar (and still the first day of Creation according to Panodorus). Just a few months earlier in the same year the Church just celebrated its thirteenth repetition of the original March 25th, 37 CE date of Easter. Thirteen has always been an unlucky number in Christianity. The persecutions which followed Diocletian’s ascension must only have seemed like heavenly confirmation of that belief.

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