Rick Larson’s, “The Star of Bethlehem”, DVD has caused many to accept 33 AD as the date of Jesus’ crucifixion. This date is not only Biblically incorrect, but also results in the endorsement of the “seven-year reign of antichrist”, which is another false teaching. This article will Biblically, chronologically and historically refute both of these errant doctrines, beginning with Larson’s 33 AD crucifixion date.
The first problem is that advocates of the 33 AD date use 444 BC as the starting point for Daniel’s time prophecy regarding the coming of the Messiah (Daniel 9:24-27). Later in this article, I will conclusively prove that the context of the biblical record favors 457 BC as the starting point; furthermore, I will prove that the correct date of Jesus’ crucifixion was 30 AD. And, the Passover in 30 AD was on a Friday, just as it was in 33 AD.
The second problem with the 33 AD theory, is that it uses time reckoning from the “Egyptian calendar” to arrive at its 33 AD date. Only the Egyptians used the 360 day-per-year calendar that the 33 AD advocates use. Neither the Jews, Babylonians or Persians used a 360 day-per-year calendar. Daniel served within Babylonian and Persian systems and governments, but never Egyptian ones. So, why would Daniel’s prophecy utilize an Egyptian calendar?
Furthermore, Daniel’s prophecy was written for the benefit of the Jewish people, giving them a prophetic “time-clock” to count the years till the coming of their Messiah, so that they could be ready to receive Him. And, it also gave the Jews a specific probationary time period to put an end to their sins and to establish righteousness. Doesn’t it seem reasonable and logical that Daniel would utilize Jewish time reckoning and a “Jewish calendar” in his prophetic message for the “Jewish people”?
The Jewish year and calendar is based on the lunar cycle. The twelve Jewish months are Nisan, Iyyar, Sivan, Tamuz, Ab, Elul, Tishri, Chesvan, Kislev, Tevet, Shevat and Adar, with six months having 30 days and six months having 29 days. Therefore, the Jewish year has 354 days, not 360 days. But, that’s only part of the problem for proponents of the 33 AD theory. The Jewish “time system” also has “leap years”. In fact, there are seven leap years in every nineteen year cycle; the 3rd, 6th, 8th, 11th, 14th, 17th and 19th years of every nineteen year cycle are leap years. What happens in a Jewish leap year? They add a thirteenth month, Adar 2, which has 30 days, thus increasing the number of days in a Jewish leap year to 384.
Although the Jewish leap year system is not commanded in the Bible, we know that the Jews have obviously used this system throughout their history. If they hadn’t, their “holy feasts”, which were commanded by God to be held in specific months at specific seasons of the year, which also corresponded with “first fruits” and “harvest” offerings; these feasts would have moved dramatically within just a few years, because of the eleven day difference between a lunar year and a solar year. For example, if they would have omitted their leap years, every eight years Passover would have fallen in January, and the Feast of Tabernacles would have fallen in July. And, every sixteen years Passover would have fallen in October, and the Feast of Tabernacles would have fallen in April; thus Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles would have completely switched places every sixteen years. In fact, without the Jewish leap year system, these “holy feasts” would have been held at the wrong time of the year ninety percent of the time! Therefore, the appropriate first fruit and harvest offerings commanded by Scripture could not have been offered ninety percent of the time. Obviously this was not the case, and, therefore, it is equally obvious that the Jewish people have always used this leap year system.
This creates a huge and “uncorrectable problem” for proponents of the 33 AD theory. They use 483 (the first 69 weeks of Daniel’s prophecy times 7 days per week), multiplied by 360 days, an Egyptian year, to arrive at their 33 AD date (Most theologians agree that Daniel utilized a “day for a year” time reckoning in his prophecy.). However, Daniel was not an Egyptian; he was not writing to Egyptians; and he was not serving under an Egyptian government. Therefore, the chances of him using Egyptian time reckoning are nil. In fact, it’s a virtual certainty that he would not have used the Egyptian calendar, but rather the Jewish calendar. And, when using the “start date” used by advocates of 33 AD (444 BC), if he included the Jewish leap years, of 384 days, in his time reckoning, it would add about “seven years” onto the total of his time prophecy, thus bringing us to 40 AD, not 33 AD. In this scenario Jesus would have been at least 42 years old when he died, and He would have had a ministry of about 12 years! On the other hand, if Daniel omitted the leap years, and just used a Jewish “standard” or non-leap-year of 354 days for his time prophecy, then it would deduct about eight years from the total of his prophecy, thus bringing us to 25 AD, not 33 AD. In this scenario Jesus would have died before He was 30, and the Bible says that He first started His ministry when He was about 30 years old. In other words, both scenarios are Biblically impossible.
What’s the “bottom line”? If Jewish Daniel, writing to a Jewish audience, did use Jewish time reckoning, the 33 AD date is impossible. Once again, the 33 AD date only works with an Egyptian calendar. And, if you think that Jewish Daniel, serving under Babylonian and Persian governments, writing to a Jewish audience, using a time prophecy that was meant to help Jews be ready to accept their Messiah when He came; if you think that he was using Egyptian time reckoning, then I’ve got some swampland in Florida that I want to sell you for a few million dollars.
Also, if 33 AD marked the end of the first 69 weeks of Daniel’s prophecy, what happened at the end of the 70th week in 40 AD, which marked the close of the Jewish nation’s probationary period that God had given them to put an end to their sins and to establish righteousness (Daniel 9:24-27)?
With the 457 BC prophecy “start date” that I espouse, there is the stoning of Stephen at the end of the 70th week in 34 AD, which resulted in the disciples going to the Samaritans and gentiles with the gospel. And, the remainder of the book of Acts, as well as the rest of the New Testament, is focused on the gospel going to the gentiles, rather than the Jews. Therefore, with the 457 BC “start date”, there is a striking fulfillment of the close of the Jews probationary period at the end of the 70th week of Daniel’s prophecy (I will prove this 34 AD “fulfillment date” later in this article.). However, there is no such fulfillment in 40 AD, which would be the end of the 70th week for those espousing the 33 AD theory with its 444 BC “start date”.
Furthermore, if 33 AD marked the end of the first 69 weeks of Daniel’s prophecy, what happened in the middle of the 70th week, which would be either 36 or 37 AD, that brought an end to the sacrifices and offerings mentioned in Daniel’s prophecy? Once again, there is nothing that would serve as a fulfillment for this part of Daniel’s prophecy. However, with the “start date” and prophetic timeline that I espouse, there is the crucifixion of Jesus right in the middle of the 70th week in 30 AD, which indeed brought an end to any purpose or meaning of all future animal sacrifices and offerings. As previously mentioned, I will prove this 30 AD date a little later in this article.
The bottom line is, the theory which I espouse “works”. It results in historical, chronological and biblical fulfillment of every part of Daniel’s time prophecy. On the other hand, the 33 AD theory does not have any fulfillment for the middle of the 70th week; it does not have any fulfillment for the end of the 70th week; and even the end of the 69th week (33 AD) can only be fulfilled by using an Egyptian calendar! In fact, one of the dangers of this 33 AD theory is that it forces its adherents to adopt the unbiblical seven-year reign of antichrist, and the unbiblical moving of Daniel’s 70th week to 2000 years in the future, in order to try to get some kind of fulfillment for the events at the middle and end of the 70th week. Unsurprisingly, one error produces other errors.
Another problem with the 33 AD date is that Jesus ends up having at least a five or six year ministry, because Luke 3:23 states that Jesus was about 30 years old when He was baptized and began His ministry, and a five or six year ministry does not agree with the narrative of the Gospels. In an attempt to deal with this problem, advocates of 33 AD try to give Jesus a birth date as late as 2 BC. However, this date is impossible according to the biblical record.
We know that Herod died in 1 BC from early historical records; furthermore, we also know that he was still alive for at least two to three years after Jesus was born because of all of the following reasons. By the time that the wise men from the east got to Jerusalem, after seeing the “star” that marked Jesus’ birth, and then were redirected to Bethlehem, a considerable time of at least one year had passed since the Baby Jesus was born in the stable in Bethlehem. On what basis do I make this assertion? Joseph and Mary have had time to take Jesus to Jerusalem and dedicate Him after the days of her purification, which was 40 days for male children (Luke 2:22-24). They also have had time to return to Bethlehem and move into their own home, because the “star” guides them to the “house” where Joseph, Mary and Jesus were living. And, by the time Jesus is visited by the wise men, He is now referred to as a “young Child”, and not as a baby. Furthermore, after Herod had inquired of the wise men about when they had seen the special star, he calculated that he needed to kill all the male children two years old and younger in Bethlehem, in order to make sure that He would kill this special Child. All of this evidence indicates that Jesus is probably at least one year old at this time. And, Herod evidently took that “probable one-year age” of Jesus, and created an extra “time cushion” by doubling it to arrive at the two-year age that he used when he massacred all the boys two years old and under.
After the visit of the wise men, Joseph and Mary moved to Egypt with the “young Child”, and stayed there for an unknown period of time until an angel brought them word that Herod had died. And, we have no idea how long this period of time spent in Egypt was. For all that we know, Jesus could have spent two or three years in Egypt. However, even if we’re “exceedingly generous” to the 33 AD proponents, and say that this whole Egypt scenario only occupied one year, in which Jesus’ family had to move to and from Egypt, and also lived in Egypt for a period of time; even then, the absolute latest that Jesus could have been born is 3 BC. And, as previously stated, this results in at least a five or six year ministry for Jesus, which is Biblically impossible. In fact, even if you use the impossible 2 BC date for Jesus’ birth, He still ends up with at least a four or five year ministry, which still does not agree with the Gospel accounts.
Why has the 33 AD date become so popular, in spite of all of the problems that I have documented? First of all, most people don’t take the time to thoroughly research the facts that expose these errors. The second reason is because of the phenomenal success of “The Star of Bethlehem” DVD, which I mentioned earlier. At this point, I want to say that I do not question the honesty or integrity of those involved in the making of this DVD. Rick Larson, the man who studied the astronomical signs behind this theory, and the one who presents it all over the world, seems to be a very sincere and devout Christian. I am sure that he genuinely believes what he is teaching, and that he is making an honest effort to share what he considers to be the truth. However, having said that, I must also say that I wholeheartedly disagree with him for all of the biblical, chronological and historical reasons that I have presented. As the saying goes, it is possible to be sincere, but also to be sincerely wrong.
I believe that Rick Larson’s basic error in his “Star of Bethlehem” DVD, results from his sincere effort of trying to “explain” God’s miracles, and trying to find, what man considers to be, rational and scientific explanations for them. I believe that he became fixated on trying to find the specific “physical star” that the wise men followed, when the biblical account makes it clear that it was not a “normal star”, but a miraculous one created and used by God. Once he found, what he considered to be, the right star, he was then “locked into” specific dates that everything else had to revolve around. Whenever we try to explain God’s supernatural miracles, we’re getting in over our heads. It is better to just realize and accept that God is infinite and we are finite; moreover, that God can and does do miraculous things that finite man cannot explain astronomically or scientifically.
We serve a God who made the sun miraculously move backwards in the sky in the days of Hezekiah. We serve a God who made the sun miraculously stand still in the sky without moving for a full day in the days of Joshua. We serve a God who miraculously blackened the sun from noon to 3 PM on the day Jesus was crucified. We serve a God who is going to miraculously make the sky recede as a scroll when Jesus returns (Revelation 6:14). We serve a God who miraculously split the waters of the Red Sea and the Jordan River. We serve a God who brought forth a torrent of water from a rock to quench the thirst of His people. We serve a God who creates things out of nothing. He does things that man considers to be physically, astronomically, biologically and scientifically impossible. And, the “special star” that led the wise men to Jesus was one of those kinds of miraculous and impossible events. It was a star that moved and stopped at God’s command. It was a star that could shine over one specific house! That’s not a normal star; it’s a miraculous star. We do not and should not attempt to find that star and explain it; we just need to accept by faith that God created a “miraculous star” for that “miraculous event” when Almighty God was born into this world as a Man.
In conclusion, the 33 AD date has far too many problems to be considered as an acceptable date for Jesus’ crucifixion. There is, in fact, only one date that “works”. That date is 30 AD.
Regarding the Biblically incorrect teaching of a seven-year reign of antichrist, the Bible clearly states that the reign of antichrist will only be three and a half years (Revelation 13:5; Revelation 11:1-7). In fact, the idea of a seven-year reign of antichrist was arrived at by manipulating Daniel’s seventy-week prophecy concerning Israel and the Messiah in Daniel 9:24-27. Daniel’s prophecy states that seventy weeks were determined for his people (the Jews) and for Jerusalem to make an end of their sins, to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to anoint the “Most Holy” (the Messiah). The start-date of the prophecy is declared to be when the command was given to restore and build Jerusalem, which, I will prove, was given by the Persian King Artaxerxes in 457 BC. After proving that this 457 BC decree was the “start date” for Daniel’s seventy-week prophecy, I’ll resume discussion of this seventy-week period, and of how it relates to the Biblically incorrect seven-year reign of antichrist.
This 457 BC decree by King Artaxerxes, not only gave help in rebuilding the temple, but also gave Israel the right to self-government, such as setting up their own magistrates and judges to carry out their laws. Now they were recognized as a nation, which was vitally important to the reestablishment of Jerusalem. And, although the majority of the decree deals with the temple, the king additionally authorized Ezra to use his silver and gold for “whatever seemed good to Ezra according to the will of Ezra’s God” (Ezra 7:18). Thus, Ezra was not limited to repairs on the temple, but could spend the king’s money on any other repairs he chose to do in Jerusalem as well. And, it does appear that Israel must have viewed this decree by Artaxerxes as a decree to rebuild Jerusalem, because Israel’s adversaries wrote Artaxerxes following this decree, saying that Israel should not be allowed to rebuild its walls and foundations, which obviously means that Israel had already begun to do so.
This letter from Israel’s adversaries warned the king about Israel’s rebellious history, and encouraged him to research the “book of records”, which would document their previous rebellions and sedition. This letter is found in Ezra 4:7-16. Ezra 4:12 records their accusation that the Jews were building the city, finishing its walls and repairing its foundations. And, this verse says that this was being done by “the Jews who came up from you”, which would mean from Artaxerxes, because this letter was written to him. So, these were Jews who had been sent from some decree by Artaxerxes, himself. This would have to be the decree in 457 BC that I previously mentioned, and which is recorded in Ezra 7:11-26. Ezra 4:17-22 records Artaxerxes’ response to the letter sent by Israel’s enemies, where he commanded that the Jews were to cease their work in Jerusalem because of their past rebellious nature. And, in Ezra 4:21, he specifically commanded them to cease from “building the city”, so they obviously had begun rebuilding Jerusalem after his decree in 457 BC. Apparently, Ezra had indeed exercised the authority that had been given him in that decree to spend the king’s silver and gold on whatever Ezra thought it was God’s will for him to do (Ezra 7:18), which obviously included the rebuilding of Jerusalem in Ezra’s mind. However, the letter from Israel’s adversaries, informing Artaxerxes of Israel’s rebellious history, had sufficiently scared him to the extent that he temporarily stopped the work in Jerusalem, which he had previously authorized in his 457 BC decree.
Why do I say that Artaxerxes “temporarily” stopped the work? Because, in his letter ordering the Jews to stop the work, he hinted that he might issue a future decree to allow the work in Jerusalem to resume. He said “this city may not be built until the command is given by me”. And, in 444 BC, he did issue a second command authorizing and funding the work in Jerusalem, following Nehemiah’s appeal in Nehemiah 2:1-8.
In the book of Nehemiah, we have additional evidence that Ezra and his associates had begun the “optimistically, expectant plan” of rebuilding Jerusalem following Artaxerxes’ 457 BC decree, and that they had been thwarted. Nehemiah 1:1-3 records that some of the Jews who had survived the Babylonian captivity came from Jerusalem to Nehemiah in the Persian city of Shushan in the 20th year of Artaxerxes, which would be 444 BC. In Nehemiah 1:3, they told Nehemiah that the wall of Jerusalem was broken down and its gates were burned with fire, which caused him to weep and mourn for many days (Nehemiah 1:4). If these Jews, who came to Nehemiah in 444 BC, had survived and been released from the Babylonian captivity, when had they been released? The first and second chapters of Ezra record the release of captives by Cyrus in 538 BC, but Nehemiah’s visitors could not have been among those captives, because that was nearly a hundred years earlier. However, the seventh and eighth chapters of Ezra record the release of captives, including Ezra himself, following Artaxerxes’ decree in 457 BC, which would be just thirteen years prior to the events in the first chapter of Nehemiah. Therefore, it is virtually certain that Nehemiah’s visiting captives would have been among those who had returned to Jerusalem with Ezra in 457 BC. Why is this important? It’s important because that was the group who had begun the “optimistically, expectant plan” of rebuilding Jerusalem, including its walls and foundations, according to Ezra 4:12. But then, Artaxerxes had been frightened by the letter from Israel’s enemies (Ezra 4:7-16), which prompted him to command them to cease their work of “building the city” (Ezra 4:21). And, Ezra 4:23 records that Israel’s adversaries then went up to Jerusalem and made them to cease their work “by force of arms”.
We can only imagine how emotionally devastated these returned captives were. They had gone from optimistically rebuilding their beloved Jerusalem, with the weight of the king’s 457 BC decree behind them, to being forced to cease their work with weapons in their faces, based on a new letter from the king. It is no wonder, that when they bring this sad news to Nehemiah, it causes him to weep and mourn. Their optimistic expectations had been crushed.
Nehemiah 1:3-4 states that Nehemiah is caused to weep and mourn by the news that Jerusalem’s wall is broken down and its gates are burned. This has to be a “recent destruction” that causes him to be so sad. The original destruction of Jerusalem’s wall and gates by Nebuchadnezzar had occurred 150 years earlier, and all Jews were well aware that Jerusalem had been laying in ruins ever since Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion. Nehemiah would not be so emotionally devastated by hearing that Jerusalem was in the same condition that it had been for the past 150 years. This had to be a “new destruction” that was done to Jerusalem’s wall and gates that Nehemiah was not expecting; a new destruction that crushed his hopes that had been generated by the rebuilding efforts begun by Ezra and his associates following Artaxerxes’ 457 BC decree. Nehemiah had thought that the work was progressing in Jerusalem and its future was optimistic. However, now his visitors crushed him with the news that work had ceased; furthermore, that the progress that had been made on the wall and gates by Ezra and his associates had been reversed, and their work on Jerusalem’s wall and gates had been destroyed. Apparently, when the king ruled in favor of Israel’s enemies, and commanded the Jews’ work on Jerusalem’s walls and foundations to cease (Ezra 4:12; Ezra 4:21-23), Israel’s enemies must have destroyed the work that had been done up to that point by Ezra and his associates. These new and discouraging developments reported by Nehemiah’s visitors, dashed the optimistic expectations he had embraced following Artaxerxes’ decree in 457 BC. All of the Jews’ progress and hopes had been eliminated, and Nehemiah was understandably caused to weep and mourn.
The historical and situational context in chapters four and seven of Ezra, and the first chapter of Nehemiah, certainly endorse the premise that Artaxerxes’ 457 BC decree did allow for, and did in fact result in, the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls and gates; that is, until the letter from Israel’s adversaries caused the king to write another letter commanding them to stop.
Therefore, in view of all of the evidence, 457 BC is indeed the start-date for Daniel’s 70-week prophecy, which we will now resume discussing. Nearly all theologians agree that the 70 weeks equaling 490 days in Daniel’s prophecy, represent 490 years. Therefore, 490 years were given to the Jews to make an end of their sins, to establish righteousness, and to anoint the “Most Holy” (the Messiah). Daniel’s prophecy states that there would be 7 weeks plus 62 weeks until the coming of “Messiah the Prince”; in other words, 69 weeks equaling 483 days or “years”. Adding 483 years onto the start-date of Artaxerxes’ decree brings us to 27 AD. What happened in 27 AD.? Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist and anointed with the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove descending upon Him (Luke 3:21-22). Luke 3:1 states that this happened in the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar, which was 27 AD, because he began his co-reign in 12 AD! History and prophetic timing matched perfectly! The conclusion of the 69th week of Daniel’s prophecy brought us exactly to that 27 AD date. However, Daniel said that a total of 70 weeks were determined for Israel to stop their sinning and to establish righteousness. And, Daniel 9:27 states that, following the first 69 weeks, “He”, which in proper context is the Messiah, would still confirm His covenant for one more week, which would have to be the 70th week. And, it states that, in the middle of that 70th week, “He” (the Messiah) would bring an end to sacrifice and offering.
This is where most of today’s prophecy teachers manipulate Scripture, by taking this 70th week and arbitrarily separating it from the previous 69 weeks, and placing it 2000 years in the future, into the 21st century. Furthermore, they change the context, which Daniel had clearly stated to apply to the Messiah (Jesus Christ), but they now apply this 70th week to antichrist, in order to fit into their prophetic paradigm.
If we are allowed to split prophetic time prophecies at our own choosing, breaking certain portions of the prophecy off and inserting them hundreds or thousands of years later at our discretion; then, we can pretty much concoct any fulfillment of Scripture that pleases us. Likewise, if we are allowed to arbitrarily switch the subject of texts from Christ to antichrist, once again, it allows mere men to manufacture their own personal favorite fulfillment of prophecy. If Daniel had wanted the final week of his 70-week prophecy separated by 2000 years, he would have said so. Furthermore, the prophecy finds a remarkably precise fulfillment when leaving the 70 weeks “intact” as Daniel wrote it.
The 70th week, as one would normally expect, immediately follows the 69th week, which ended in 27 AD. Therefore, this 70th week of seven days or “years” added onto 27 AD would bring us to 34 AD.
What happened in 34 AD? As stated in the online Wikipedia Encyclopedia and other sources, that is the year when the Jewish leaders stoned Stephen, as recorded in Acts 7:59-60. Immediately following Stephen’s martyrdom, Acts 8:1-5 records that the Jews, through Saul of Tarsus, greatly persecuted the Christian Church and made havoc of it, which resulted in the Church scattering “everywhere” preaching the word (Acts 8:4). Philip even went to the hated Samaritans preaching the gospel, and from then on throughout the book of Acts the message is taken to the gentiles. The Jews’ 70 week “probationary period” thus ended in 34 AD.
While the historical record of Stephen’s stoning in 34 AD is a remarkable fulfillment of Daniel’s 70-week prophecy, there is one more astounding prophetic fulfillment of Daniel 9:27. Daniel states that, in the middle of that 70th week, “He”, which in proper context is the Messiah, would bring an end to sacrifice and offering. The middle of the 70th week would be about half-way between 27 AD and 34 AD. That would have to be either 30 or 31 AD. What happened at that time?
Most early church historians date Jesus’ death anywhere from 30 to 33 AD. We know from Scripture that Jesus was crucified on a Friday, and that He was crucified on the Passover, which means that there was a “full moon”. It certainly seems to be more than a coincidence that in the year 30 AD, which is in the middle of the 70th week of Daniel’s prophecy, astronomical data reveals that there was indeed a full moon on Passover Friday. This must be when Jesus, the true Lamb of God, was offered on the “altar” of the “cross”, which made any future offering of lambs and other animal sacrifices meaningless. They had been mere types and symbols of the true reality,fulfillment and antitype that was to come, Jesus Christ. Therefore, Jesus’ death on the cross, as the true Lamb of God, ended the sacrificial system from God’s standpoint.