Thursday, August 21, 2014
Was Jesus Even Crucified? Part 6d
WHEN Was Jesus Crucified?
Part 6d – Tertullian.
Tertullian (c. 160 – c. 225 CE) was one of the early Church Fathers who was a prolific writed in the late Second and early Third Centuries CE. Now he had his own reckoning of the date of Jesus’ alleged passion and crucifixion. In his An Answer to the Jews (original Latin Adversus Iudaeos here), Tertullian makes a case for Jesus fulfilling the role of the awaited Messiah that was prophesied, or at least hinted at, to come at a particular time in the so-called Daniel’s Seventy “Weeks” or hebdomads (sevens) of subsequent Jewish history.
Tertullian sets out his task, here:
Accordingly the times must be inquired into of the predicted and future nativity of the Christ, and of His passion, and of the extermination of the city of Jerusalem, that is, its devastation. For Daniel says, that "both the holy city and the holy place are exterminated together with the coming Leader, and that the pinnacle is destroyed unto ruin." And so the times of the coming Christ, the Leader, must be inquired into, which we shall trace in Daniel; and, after computing them, shall prove Him to be come, even on the ground of the times prescribed, and of competent signs and operations of His.
First, he quotes Daniel’s prophecy, or rather, what Daniel wrote what the Archangel Gabriel spoke to him (emphasis and notation in brackets [..] mine):
Daniel I am now come out to imbue thee with understanding; in the beginning of thy supplication went out a word. And I am come to announce to thee, because thou art a man of desires; and ponder thou on the word, and understand in the vision. Seventy hebdomads have been abridged upon thy commonalty, and upon the holy city, until delinquency be made inveterate, and sins sealed, and righteousness obtained by entreaty, and righteousness eternal introduced; and in order that vision and prophet may be sealed, and an holy one of holy ones anointed. And thou shalt know, and thoroughly see, and understand, from the going forth of a word for restoring and rebuilding Jerusalem unto the Christ, the Leader, hebdomads (seven and an half, and) lxii  and an half: and it shall convert, and shall be built into height and entrenchment, and the times shall be renewed: and after these lxii  hebdomads shall the anointing be exterminated, and shall not be; and the city and the holy place shall he exterminate together with the Leader, who is making His advent; and they shall be cut short as in a deluge, until (the) end of a war, which shall be cut short unto ruin. And he shall confirm a testament in many. In one hebdomad and the half of the hebdomad shall be taken away my sacrifice and libation, and in the holy place the execration of devastation, (and) until the end of (the) time consummation shall be given with regard to this devastation.”
Next, he lays out the timeline from Darius I of Persia to the birth of Jesus according to the gospels of Matthew and Luke in the times of Augustus Caesar. Apparently he doesn’t follow Daniel’s prophecy exactly or even closely, but calls out the following:
· First, a total of 70 hebdomads is reserved for the city of Jerusalem shall be built into its ultimate height and entrenchment, “if they [the Jews of Jerusalem] receive him.”
· Second, if they don’t receive him, then at the end of the 62-1/2 hebdomads he is to be born, and “an holy one of holy ones is to be anointed.”
· Third, after an additional 7-1/2 hebdomads, he is to suffer.
· Fourth and last, after 1-1/2 hebdomads, the city of Jerusalem, including its holy place, is to be destroyed, utterly.
So Tertullian reckons the counting as beginning with the first year of Darius I (r. Sept 522 – October 486 BCE), not, as present day Evangelical apologists usually do, from the decree of Artaxerxes I to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem in 445 BCE. He lists several Persian monarchs (he seems to drop quite a few), then Alexander the Great of the Macedonian Empire, then the rulers of the Ptolemaic Empire (dropping several again) with the last ruler being Cleopatra (d. August 12, 30 BCE), after whom Caesar Augustus took power in the region and ruled for 43 years until August 19, 14 CE.
Tertullian states that Jesus was born in the 41st year of Augustus’ reign, 1 28 years after the death of Cleopatra, which would be in the late summer or autumn of 2 BCE. He also states that Augustus lives for 15 more years until 14 CE.
Moreover, the elapsed time since the first year of Darius I to the birth of Jesus, Tertulian computed to be 437 years, 6 months. The actual elapsed time (approximately 520 years) was considerably longer! So already he has gone off the rails. But he charges on.
Next he dives into the business of the “seven and a half hebdomads.” Now this we will go into as much detail as Tertullian did:
· From the birth of Jesus until Caesar Augustus’ death, 15 years.
· From Augustus’ death Tiberius Caesar held the vast Roman Empire for 20 years, 7 months and 28 days (actually September 18, 14 CE to March 16, 37 CE, equaling 22 years, 5 months and 28 days).
· In the fiftieth 2 (actually, fifteenth) year. Jesus was crucified at about thirty years of age.
· Caius “Caligula” Caesar: 3 years, 8 months and 13 days.
· Claudius is missing!
· Nero Caesar: 11 years, 9 months, 13 days.
· Galba: 7 months, 6 days.
· Otho: 3 days.
· Vitellus: 8 months, 27 days.
· Vespasian: 12 years, 6 months. Subdues the Jewish nation in the first year of his empire.
· From the birth of Jesus to the fall of Jerusalem (on Tisha B’Av = 29 or 30 July, 70 CE) is 72 years, 6 months. This would put the birth of Jesus at about February 28, 2 BCE.
· When Jerusalem was stormed by the Romans, the 70 hebdomads were fulfilled.
Well 72-1/2 years are hardly seven and one-half hebdomads, meaning “weeks,” “seven years,” or “septenary,” 3 which last add up to 52-1/2 years. And 592-1/2 years are hardly 70 hebdomads, or 490 years, either. But we have the year in which Tertullian believes Jesus was crucified: the fifteenth year of Tiberius, or 28-29 CE. Assuming de facto years, this would be between September 18, 28 CE and September 18, 29 CE. This being on a Passover, would be in the Spring of 29 CE. As Tertullian explains it:
And the suffering of this extermination was perfected within the times of the lxx hebdomads, under Tiberius Cæsar, in the consulate of Rubellius Geminus and Fufius Geminus, in the month of March, at the times of the passover, on the eighth day before the calends of April, on the first day of unleavened bread, on which they [all the Synagogue of Israel] slew the lamb at even, just as had been enjoined by Moses.
This would place the crucifixion of Jesus on about the 25th of March, Erev Pesach (which the NT calls the First Day of Unleavened Bread), 29 CE. If we assume Accessional years by the Julian calendar, the year would be the same. If non-Accessional, the year would change to 28 CE.
Conclusion: although Tertullian has a certain year in mind, he is in disagreement with Eusebius, who thinks the Crucifixion occurred in 33 CE. Discrepancies such as this is to be expected, when the gospels present us with nothing but confusion!
1. I’m not sure how he figured this: the Roman Empire was established January 16, 27 BCE, the starting point for Augustus’ Empire. Does he mean to count Augustus’ Empire from the time the Second Triumvirate was established or when he was elected one of two Consuls? The former was in October 43 BCE; the latter was on August 19, 43 BCE. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augustus
2. Mistranslation. Latin text reads quintodecimo, ablative of quintus decimus, meaning, fifteenth. Link: https://www.google.com/search?q=google+translate&sourceid=ie7&rls=com.microsoft:en-US:IE-Address&ie=&oe=&safe=active&gws_rd=ssl .
3. Perseus Greek Word Study Tool, ἑβδομάς (click on “LSJ” and “Middle Liddell”); Numen Latin Word Study Tool, hebdomades.