Jesus of Galilee
THE CHRONOLOGY OF JESUS' LIFE
For the sake of those who are interested, we will mention briefly the outstanding dates of Jesus' life as nearly as they can be known, feeling sure you will be glad to let go of them again. As has been mentioned before, there is no absolute certainty about the placement of certain events, concerning the order of time in which they occurred; and on the only occasion the Christian church seriously investigated these dates, a Scythian monk called Dionysius the Little made an error of several years in recording the date of Jesus' birth, according to the Roman calendar.
It seems that efforts to determine such literal facts are mocked, and that man is meant to look only to his teachings along with the grand pattern of his life, using the heavenly reckoning and not man's flimsy and arbitrary calendars. Such a being as the Lord Jesus Christ is beyond time.
The birth of Jesus has been calculated by scholars in their widest reckoning at anywhere between 12 B.C., ("before Christ") to 1 A.D., ("Anno Domini," or "year of our Lord"). The favored dates are between 5 and 7 B.C., due to the occurrence of the death of Herod, which is historically recorded as having taken place in the spring of 4 B.C.
John the Baptist began to preach and baptize somewhere between 26 and 29 A.D. (in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius, which seems clean enough, but still has some possible margin of latitude). He supposedly began to reign in the Roman year 767.
We are dealing here with at least three different calendars -- the Roman, the now-Christian which has been revised, and the Jewish, which was probably at that time not written down at all.
Each new moon then began a new month. There were thirteen of these in the year, and never at the same time, so the priests had to announce the beginning of each month by lighting signal fires atop the Mount of Olives near Jerusalem, at the time of the New Moon, and the message would be relayed to more distant places.
The beginning of the year had to be readjusted frequently also, for it must be fixed at the first day of the movable month Nisan. On the 14th day of that month came the beginning of the Pasch celebration, and by the 15th day of Nisan the barley had to be ripe enough to make an offering.
Jesus was baptized, it appears, somewhere between October of 27 A.D. and August of 29 A.D. The actual length of time he taught is another disputed subject. If one were to take Matthew and Mark as having reported all his movements, one could sandwich these accounts in the space of a little over one year. Luke is somewhat more difficult to follow, due to his lack of knowledge of the actual geography of the country, and his not having been physically present.
But John mentions three Passover feasts in the course of his ministry, as well as certain other festivals, and all this would necessitate at least a two-year span between the first and third Pasch, plus some months before this, after he was baptized. Thus it is logical to assume at least two and one-half years for his ministry, during which time he may or may not have made several trips to Jerusalem. Such trips would have been a matter of course for any Jew, and not necessarily recorded. The second Passover mentioned by John occurred near the time of the first multiplication of the loaves and fishes, when the crowd sat on the green grass of the springtime season. (It would not be green in summer, but more of a California "golden brown").
Many things in the Gospels are recorded chronologically, but we must recognize that not all the sermons, the healings, or the conversations were told in the exact order in which they occurred, for in writing them down years later, though the words rang clear through their memories, it is probable they did not always recall the exact place or time, and they may have grouped certain sayings together for convenience.
As John himself said at the end of his gospel: "But there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written."
He began the public ministry when he was "about thirty," and assuming that this was not later than 29 A.D., the crucifixion must have occurred somewhere between 29 A.D. and 34 A.D. allowing for the earliest and latest logical figures. All four Gospels imply that the crucifixion took place on a Friday. Yet one authority reasonably points out that if he were buried Friday afternoon and rose before Sunday morning, he was not three days and three nights in the tomb as he himself prophesied, but only one full day, (Saturday), and one and one-half nights. He has an explanation for this, which will be discussed later.
You see what the literalist is up against; one could spend a lifetime delving for information, as many have, and come no closer to the actual facts. So let us leave for now the reckoning of dates, to note that in our account of his ministry in Galilee, we have not tried to ferret these out too closely, but have followed as easily as possible his movements and teachings. The foregoing chapters contain pretty much all of what he did and taught while in Galilee, so far as these things are stated in the Gospels. A couple of small incidents are reserved for use later beside others of like nature, but nothing is left out of all that he did and said.
We know that he walked from town to town, and into the hills, and that he sailed across the sea. He visited the many towns all around the Sea of Galilee, and these were mentioned by name. This was not only in the province of Galilee itself, but also the tetrarchy of Philip to the east, the Decapolis to the southeast, and even the land of the Phoenicians to the west on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, where he visited the towns of Tyre and Sidon. None of these places is very far as we now reckon distance; but his was a moving, active ministry, hardly stopping for rest, and almost always beset by crowds.
Some critics mention gaps in the time sequences of his teachings, wondering how to account for a few weeks or months here or there, but all the things he did would have been difficult enough to crowd into a space of two and one-half years, if such it was, considering that many of the events are lightly skimmed over by saying that he performed many healings and mighty works in "this town." And he must have sought at times some quiet place to pray other than those on record, and to have given unrecorded time to teaching his apostles.
Nearing the time to leave Galilee it was most needful to prepare his disciples for what must come, for they must soon leave for the great culmination of his work in Jerusalem.
Let us conclude with a Gnostic commentary on Christianity, which states that the "Christos" represents the Solar power that was reverenced by every nation of antiquity. In revealing the nature and purpose of this power under the name and personality of the "Christos," Jesus gave to it the attributes of a god-man. In this he followed a precedent set by various world-teachers.
Such a god-man, endowed with all the qualities of Deity, signifies the latent divinity in every man. Mortal man may achieve deification only through at-one-ment with his Divine Self. (It seems that man has forgotten the meaning of "atonement" by making it into just one word.)
Union with this immortal Self constitutes immortality, and he who finds his true Self is therefore "saved." The Christos, or the divine Man within man, is the real hope of each person for salvation - the living Mediator between abstract Deity and mortal humankind.
The Christos was symbolized in the Mystery teachings in the god-man imprisoned in every person, and it was the first duty of the initiate to liberate and to resurrect this Eternal One within himself.
There is no mystery, which will not be unfolded to him who perseveres faithfully in open-minded search, completely emptied of all vanity, pride and guile. The Indwelling Spirit will make all things clear, if there be no barrier of personal "self" to veil the Light of Truth.