Duration of Yeshua’s Ministry
From the Book Reckoning of Time
The dominant understanding of the duration of Yeshua’s ministry is that it lasted three and half years or so. The proof reading for this is found in the Gospel of John, which describes three different Passover festivals over the course of Yeshua’s ministry. This implies that Yeshua preached for a period of three years, although some interpretations of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) suggest a span of only one year or so.
Other views are not uncommon. There is no lack of interpretations as to how long was the Messiah’s ministry as that of Isaac Newton who argues that there were no less than five Passovers in the Messiah’s ministry meaning that His ministry from the baptism to His death lasted five years. On the other hand, he says this in his Notes on Prophetic Works, source: Yahuda Ms. 10b, National Library of Israel, Jerusalem, Israel,
About the time of our saviour’s death many things are disputed. Some in the Apostolic age regarded not these kinds of niceties. Those in the next began to take up several opinions one of the most ancient opinions was that our saviour’s preaching lasted but about one year of which mind was Clemens, Alexandrinus, Origen, Tertullian, Africanus, and others. Afterward finding three successive passovers in St Johns gospel, and some fancying four divers took up opinions of two or three years and some months and the former opinion went down.
The narrative of “Yeshua and the money changers” occurs in the Synoptic Gospels and in the Gospel of John; it occurs close to the end of the Synoptic Gospels (Mar 11:15-19, Mat 21:12-17, Luk 19:45-48) and close to the start in Joh 2:13-25, where the first Passover in His ministry is recorded. The Gospel of John adds some details of Messiah’s ministry prior to the period covered in the Synoptic Gospels namely that “the Passover was near”.
Many have taken the three Passovers mentioned in Joh 2:13, Joh 6:4, and Joh 11:55 as evidence of a ministry lasting more than three years. But this would be an incorrect supposition derived from the assumption that the Gospel of John is chronological. However, none of the books of the Scripture is written in a chronological order except for the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts.
Where has this confusion come from?
The Passover in Joh 6:4-13 known as the Feeding with Five Loaves of Bread and Two Fish is the one that brings the controversy in the chronology and duration of Yeshua’s ministry. The controversy in this story comes from the misinterpretation of the narrative that suggests that Yeshua fed 5,000 people with leavened bread when the leavened bread was to be removed from the entire land of Israel.
And to make the things even more controversial, Yeshua kept the people from going to Yerushalayim for the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread: one of the three required pilgrimages in the Torah.
However, that the people ate nothing else but leavened bread is clearly seen in Mat 16:9-12, as we read thus,
Do you still not understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand and how many baskets you picked up? Or the seven loaves of the four thousand and how many large baskets you picked up? How is it that you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread, but to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees? Then they understood that He did not say to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.
Therefore, Yeshua either violated his Father’s Torah of the Passover, or that was not a Passover at all. Besides, who would have made leaven bread in Yerushalayim when the Passover was approaching?
If that were the Passover (according to the interpretation of Joh 6:4), the people were supposed to stay home, inspect the Passover lamb, and clean their houses from the leaven in order to get prepared for the coming Festival of the Unleavened Bread.
And if that was not bad enough, a few days later, Yeshua again fed 4,000 people with leavened bread this time during the very Festival of Unleavened Bread.
We should note here that that was the only event recorded in all four Gospels but neither of these accounts even mentions the word “Passover”; not even the chronological account of Luke (see Mat 14:16-21, Mar 6:38-44; Luk 9:13-17). It seems that the Scripture has been altered for whatever reason.
But what would have been the motive behind this alteration?
Consider this: if “And the Pesach was near, the festival of the Yehuḏim” was added to the text, then it would not only strengthen the idea of a three-and-half year ministry, but it would also support the Christian doctrine that Yeshua did away with the Torah and taught others to do so (contrary to what He declared in the Sermon on the Mount). His violation would have been that he fed the people with leavened bread and prevented the people from going to Yerushalayim for the festival.
The Torah commands that all males should go up to Yerushalayim three times a year for the festivals of Unleavened Bread, of Weeks, and of the Tabernacles (e.g., Deuteronomy 16). And if Yeshua had stayed in the Galilee during the Passover, then He would have given an example of an intentional violation of the Torah. But in Joh 12:11-19 we see that Yeshua, and the crowd indeed went to Yerushalayim for the last Passover. The first Passover is in Joh 2:13.
In fact, however, the phrase “And the Pesach was near, the festival of the Yehuḏim” is voided in the most ancient Greek manuscripts of John, which questions the validity and authenticity of the authorized cannon of the Church.
With that being said, the harmonization of the Gospel of John with the Synoptics leads to the following conclusions, namely that there were two Passovers during the ministry of Yeshua.
The first Passover
- The Passover events described in Joh 2:13-25 correspond to the first Passover of Yeshua’s ministry. The evidence of this is provided in Joh 3:22-23, which shows an overlap with Yochanan’s ministry during the spring/summer baptism season, the season of Passover indicating that that was the end of Yochanan’s ministry and the beginning of Yeshua’s (Joh 3:22-30).
- We are given another clue in Joh 4:35. In the story with the Samaritan woman at the well, in which Yeshua is telling us that the harvest (at Sukkot), was still four months ahead.
Four months before Sukkot puts us at the Festival of Shavuot, when the wave offering of wheat [leavened] loaves was made. At that time, the wheat fields were already “white and ready for the harvest”.
- After the narrative with the Samaritan, Yeshua went to Galil and in Joh 4:45 we see that Yeshua was received by the Galileans because of “all that He had done in Yerushalayim at the festival, for they also went to the festival.”
Which festival? It must have been Passover/Unleavened Bread when all males were required to go to Yerushalayim. So, the events in chapter 4 of John must have taken place between Passover and Shavuot that year but closer to the latter, as indicated in Joh 4:35.
- In the story of healing a blind man on Sabbath (Joh 5:1) another “festival of the Yehudim” is mentioned, which may bring the narrative to Sukkot in the autumn: the third and last festival of the year for the Yehudim to visit Yerushalayim.
- The “Passover” in question (mentioned in Joh 6:4 but voided in the most ancient Greek manuscripts) was subsequent to the feeding of the five thousand and Messiah walking on water. If it is somehow related to the events, it must have taken place well before them. The clue we are given is in Joh 6:71, when Yeshua is speaking of Yehudah from Qerioth who “was about to deliver Him up”. This indicates that the last Passover in Yeshua’s ministry was approaching.
- The next clue found in the Gospel of John is in Chapter 7. This time the narrator is very specific and explicitly reveals the next festival: that of Sukkot (Joh 7:2, Joh 7:14, Joh 7:37). That this would be the last Sukkot in Yeshua’s ministry is seen from the context of the chapter telling us that the crowd was already divided whether He was the Messiah or not. That antagonized the pharisees who had already plotted to lay hands on Him.
And in Joh 8:12 Yeshua spoke of Himself, “I am the light of the world”. The occasion was Sukkot (see Joh 7:2). Sukkot was also known as the “Festival of Light”, when the entire city was filled with light from giant seventy-five feet tall menorahs (refer to m.Sukkah 5:2–4; b.Sukkah 52b).
- Hanukkah mentioned in Joh 10:22 speaks of Messiah being in Yerushalayim in the winter preceding the last Passover. Since the Synoptics preclude Messiah’s presence in Yerushalayim during the winter preceding the crucifixion, then that Hanukkah must have been his last one. This is supported by the context of Joh 10:31-40 which indicates that from that moment on they sought to get Yeshua killed.
The last Passover
The Passover in Joh 11:55 corresponds to the crucifixion Passover seen in the context of Joh 11:46-57: the plot of the corrupted religious elite to get him killed sometime after the resurrection of Lazarus. The resurrection of Lazarus doomed his fate, as that was the last thing the Pharisees could have tolerated.
If we think about it, there would have been no better moment in the Redemption Plan of YHVH than the resurrection of Lazarus taking place six days before Yeshua’s last Passover (Joh 12:1): the day of His death.
Thus, we are coming to the conclusion that there were two Passovers in Yeshua’s ministry: the first Passover recorded in John 2, and the last one in John 11. This puts the duration of Yeshua’s ministry in the span of more than a year.
The records in the Gospel of John are one of the approaches to determine the duration of Yeshua’s ministry.
The Yom Kippur connection
Yeshua began his ministry with baptism (Luk 3:21-22) and shortly after that he returned to Nazareth where he did the customary haftorah reading (Luk 4:16-21). He stood and read from Isa 61:1-2 and then proclaimed: “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your ears”. [Isa 61:2-3 is the verse Yeshua did not read for a reason.]
The “year of YHVH’s good pleasure” in which the captives have liberty proclaimed to them is the Sabbath year of the Land. Yeshua proclaimed that these passages were being fulfilled.
Since Yeshua’s mission was also to proclaim release to the captives, his ministry might have begun around the time of Yom Kippur, when the release of the captives was declared.
Since Messiah’s ministry began with baptism, it was likely to have occurred during the spring when the melting snow of Mount Hermon was feeding the Yarden River (Joh 3:23), or during the autumnal rainy season (Son 2:11).
The public reading of the prophecy of Isa 61:1-2 in the synagogue (see Luk 4:16-21) could be considered the beginning of Yeshua’s ministry on Yom Kippur which falls in the late autumn. This would place Yeshua’s baptism in the spring or the autumn of 26 AD.
Putting together the above data we can propose a likely framework of Yeshua’s ministry no longer than two years, as follows:
- Yeshua was born on Sukkot of year 3962 (3 BC).
- Taken to Egypt in 3964 (1 BC).
- Returned to Nazareth after Herod’s death in 3965 (January 10, 1 BC).
- Baptized and began His ministry on Yom Kippur of 3991 (26 AD).
- Led to the wilderness to be tempted for forty days.
- He visited Yerushalayim during Hannukah of 3991 (AD 26) (Joh 10:22).
- He visited Yerushalayim for the first Passover of 3992 (27 AD) (Joh 2:23).
- His ministry overlapped John’s ministry during the spring/summer of 3992 (27 AD) (Joh 3:22-23).
- Yeshua called His disciples after Sukkot of 3992 (27 AD) and began closing His ministry.
- He was crucified on Passover of 3993 (Wed, 28 April 28 AD).
Thus, we can conclude that Yeshua lived twenty-nine years and six months:
From Yeshua’s birth: 15th day of the 7th month, Sukkot, of 3 BC
To Yeshua’s death: 14th day, the 1st month, Passover, of 28 AD
Yeshua’s life: 6 months, 29 years
As Yeshua’s ministry began on Yom Kippur of 3991 (26 AD) and His lifespan was twenty-nine years and six months, then the duration of His ministry should have corresponded to year and half (seventy-seven weeks).
Therefore, we may conclude that the year in which Yeshua revealed the mission of his ministry (Isa 61:1-2) was the year before the Sabbath of the Land (see Jubilees Table) and he also foretold the year of His death and resurrection, when He would have paid the penalty for our sins and released us from debt.
Having said all that regarding the year of crucifixion and the duration of the Messiah’s ministry, the following conclusion can be made: a year and a half ministry—from Yom Kippur of 26 AD to Passover of 28 AD. This will place year 31 AD as the end of Daniel’s 70-week prophecy (see Jubilees Table).