Daniel in the Critic's Den

By Sir Robert Anderson

Appendices 6


     AS regards the date of the Ministry and of the Passion, Luke iii. 1 is an end of controversy with all who reject the nightmare system of interpreting Scripture. The 15th year of the Emperor Tiberius is as certain a date as the 15th year of Queen Victoria. He began to reign on the 19th August A.D. 14. "And no single case has ever been, or can be, produced in which the years of Tiberius were reckoned in any other manner."

     But Gibbon tells us that "The Roman Emperors invested their designed successor with so large a share of present power as should enable him, after their decease, to assume the remainder without suffering the empire to perceive the change of masters. Thus Augustus . . . obtained for his adopted son [Tiberius] the censorial and tribunitian power, and dictated a law by which the future prince was invested with an authority equal to his own over the provinces and the armies. Thus Vespasian . . . associated Titus to the full powers of the Imperial dignity" (Decline and Fall, I. ch. 3).

     And this is made an excuse for "cooking" the chronology by those who, in spite of the clear testimony of Scripture, insist on assigning the Crucifixion to A.D. 29 or 30. They treat the reign of Tiberius as beginning some years before the death of Augustus, and take his 15th year to mean his 12th year. Sanclementi, indeed, finding "that nowhere in his time, or on monuments or coins, is a vestige to be found of any such mode of reckoning the years of this emperor," disposes of the difficulty by taking the date in Luke iii. I to refer to the Passion! Browne adopts this in a modified form. He says "it is improbable to the last degree" that Luke, who wrote specially for a Roman officer, and generally for Gentiles, would have so expressed himself as to be certainly misunderstood by them. Therefore, though the statement of the Evangelist clashes with his date for the Passion, he owns his obligation to accept it.

     The Evangelist’s chronology refutes the traditional date embodied in the spurious Acta Pilati formerly quoted in this controversy, and in the writings of certain of the Fathers - "by some because they confounded the date of the baptism with the date of the Passion; by others, because they supposed both to have happened in one year; by others, because they transcribed from their predecessors without examination" (Fynes Clinton, Fasti Rom., A.D. 29).

     The advocates of this false chronology rely, first, on a wrong inference from the Evangelist’s statement that the Lord "when He began (to teach) was about thirty years of age" (Luke iii. 23). But, as Alford says, this "admits of considerable latitude, but only in one direction, viz, over thirty years." And, secondly, on the figment that the Passion must have occurred in a year when the Paschal moon was full upon a Friday. But this is a blunder. John xviii. 3 makes it clear that the Passover of the Crucifixion was not at the full moon. For in that case there would have been no "lanterns and torches," especially having regard to Luke xxii. 2. See Appendix IV. (p. 172f ante); and also Clinton’s Fasti Rom., vol. ii. p. 240, as to the impossibility of determining in what year the Passover fell on a Friday. The whole question is dealt with fully in The Coming Prince, cli. viii.