As Christians, sometimes it’s hard to reconcile Jesus the majestic God that He is, with the Savior who was also human like us. Naturally, we are curious about His life on earth. How did He look? What did He eat? Did He get acne as a teenager? We wonder about His emotions and when He cried for the first time. We wonder if because He was God, He breezed through life without any hitches. We search scripture looking for the tiniest bit of detail of His humanity that we can relate to.
Well, we do know that He was so human that He eventually did the most human thing there is to do, He died. Death is one major thing that distinguishes men from God. But how old was Jesus when He died?
It’s a popular belief that Jesus’ age at death was 33 but from the Bible, it’s hard to pinpoint the exact age. However, we can estimate by closely following milestones of His life as recorded in the gospels beginning from His birth.
The exact year Jesus was born isn’t known but scholars place Jesus’ birth around 6 to 4 BC. They did this by subtracting his mentioned age of “about 30 years” during the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar whose reign was between AD 14 to 37.
The date 25th December which marks the time Christians celebrate the birth of His birthday, isn’t necessarily his actual birthdate. The Bible makes no mention of when exactly Jesus Christ was born. However, Christians chose to have a day to remember Jesus’ birth into the world. That turned the end of every year into a widely recognized holiday called Christmas.
Following the timeline through His childhood, the Bible points to specific ages during events like:
From Matthew 2:16, we can deduce that Jesus was about two years old when the Magi visited. Matthew records that when the Magi visited, they stopped by the palace and informed Herod about the birth of a King they had observed from the stars.
And after the Magi left without going back to Herod, He calculated the time from the sighting of the star till that time and sent his soldiers into Bethlehem to kill any child under the age of two. So we can accurately say that Jesus was about two years old. That’s around 2BC to 1 AD.
This was a few days after the feast of Passover ended and young Jesus was found in the Temple asking questions to the elders. Luke 2:41-51 mentions that Jesus was about 12 years old here. He was a year younger than the Jewish age of Bar-Mitzvah which is 13. We place this around 11 to 13AD.
Not much is recorded about Jesus after age 12 but we know He grew in favor in the eyes of God and men.
He also practiced His father’s trade which was carpentry. It seems He excelled at it because people kept referring to Him as ‘the carpenter’. Such fame would probably be a product of competence.
Let’s skip a few paces to Luke 3:23 which says that he was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. That puts the year around AD 28 to 30. From Numbers 4:3 we can see that in the Jewish priesthood, a man begins his full ministry when he is thirty years old. This is also significant to note.
The beginning of Jesus’ ministry is marked majorly by His baptism in River Jordan by John in Matthew 3:13–17. Other highlighted events include:
All this took at least several months.
His ministry lasted for about three and a half years.
Looking at John’s Gospel, we can see that Jesus attended at least three Feasts of Passover throughout His ministry: one in John 2:13, another in John 6:4, and the Passover before His crucifixion in John 11:55–57. And of course, Passovers are an annual event.
So we can say that from that information, Jesus’ ministry lasted at least 2 to 3 years.
Not to leave out any variables, we will also take into account the amount of time Jesus spent on the road traveling and the 40 days between His resurrection and ascension in Acts 1:3. Adding all these events from His baptism to His ascension which hypothetically, scholars put between the late summer of the year He was 29 or 30 to the spring of age 33, we have approximately 3½ years.
With the initial information that Jesus began His ministry when He was around 30 and the fact that His ministry lasted for three and half years, we can try to make an estimate of His age at His crucifixion.
Scholars put this time between the years 30 to 33 AD. With all the evidence we’ve gone through, we can safely answer the question “how old was Jesus when He died?”. Jesus was around 33 to 36 years old
It’s important to know that B.C represents Before Christ. This is based on a traditional estimate of when Jesus was born. This is used to refer to the years before Jesus was born.
AD means Anno Domini which is Latin for ‘in the year of our Lord’. This was taken from the full original phrase “anno Domini nostri Jesu Christi”, which translates to ‘in the year of our Lord Jesus Christ’. It is used to denote the years after His birth.
Your confusion however, will probably come when we say Jesus was born in 4 BC. You’d ask how that is possible. Well, note that 1 AD was only a traditional estimate. Over the years with more research, scholars have measured it down to more accurate dates, but the system of numbering years wasn’t changed, so voila!
It’s quite amazing that our Lord Jesus is the determiner for measuring the years in our world today. It’s just another pointer to how sovereign our Savior is.
The Bible explains the prophecy of just how great Jesus would be following end times. These prophecies have all been fulfilled. There’s still more to come because He will be crowned fully for all to see when He comes back again. Read up The book of revelation to have an idea of what His coronation will look like.
Jesus’ life was as amazing as His death; God came down to live as a man. This gives us a real life example of how we’re supposed to live and conquer life’s challenges, exactly like He did.