And Jesus himself, when he began [to teach], was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the [son] of Heli, (ASV)
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How Old Was Jesus When He Died/Stopped Living?
Summary of the Argument that per "John" Jesus was Close to Fifty
The following are the key points for the argument that "John's" Jesus was close to fifty when he died:
1) [url=http://www.errancywiki.com/index.php?title=John_8:57]John 8:57[/url]
Quote: [quote]The Jews therefore said unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? (ASV) [/quote]
The implication from this verse is that Jesus was close to fifty at the time.
2) Irenaeus claimed, primarily based on "John", that Jesus was an old man when he died.
3) There is some textual variation for "forty" instead of "fifty" indicating the Church realized that "fifty" was a contradiction with "Luke".
4) John omits evidence from the Synoptics that would support Jesus being fiftyish in Pilate's time:
[list]"Luke's" statement that Jesus was about thirty at the start of the Ministry.
The infancy narratives which have Jesus born thirty something years before Pilate.
In 7:5 "John" omits the mention of Jesus' sisters being included in Jesus' family going to look for Jesus. The implication is that they were grown and had their own families.
[/list] 5) "John's" Jesus has three Passovers compared to one for the Synoptics.
6) John 2 might be a subtle reference to Jesus being forty-six.
[list][quote]2:19 Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.
20 The Jews therefore said, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou raise it up in three days?
21 But he spake of the temple of his body.
22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he spake this; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said. [/quote][/list]
7) In Chapter 6 "John" refers to Jesus' father. In Chapter 7 "John" has Jesus' brothers go to Jerusalem but not Jesus' father. The implication is that Jesus' father is too old to travel.
8) John 21:25 claims that Jesus did a huge amount of deeds which would support a long career,
The argument for John's Jesus being about fifty falls into two main categories:
[list]1) All of the related implications in "John" support an older Jesus.
2) All of the supposed support for a younger Jesus in the Synoptics is exorcised.[/list]
We've seen from Richard Carrier's Legends article Luke vs. Matthew on the Year of Christ's Birth by Richard Carrier (2006) that "Matthew" and "Luke" appear to differ on the year of Jesus' supposed birth by at least ten years. Irenaeus of Lyons (yes, "Lyons"), perhaps the most important early Church Father to "Church Tradition", also gives us reason to be unsure when Jesus supposedly died.
Irenaeus writes in The Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching 2:74:
"74. And again David (says) thus concerning the sufferings of Christ: Why did the Gentiles rage, and the people imagine vain things? Kings rose up on the earth, and princes were gathered together, against the Lord and his Anointed. (Cf. Acts iv 25 ff.) For Herod the king of the Jews and Pontius Pilate, the governor of Claudius Caesar, 248, came together and condemned Him to be crucified. For Herod feared, as though He were to be an earthly king, lest he should be expelled by Him from the kingdom. But Pilate was constrained by Herod and the Jews that were with him against his will to deliver Him to death: (for they threatened him) if he should not rather do this. 249, than act contrary to Cæsar, by letting go a man who was called a king."
248 Pilate was procurator of Judæa for ten years (27–37). Claudius did not become emperor until A.D. 42. The statement here made is therefore inconsistent with the chronology of history: but it agrees with the view, expressed in II, xxxiii. 2 ff., that our Lord reached ætatem seniorem , that is, an age between 40 and 50: a view which is largely based on John viii. 57: “Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?” For these words seemed to Irenæus to show that He could not have been much less than fifty at the time when they were spoken. See C. H. Turner’s art. “Chronology” in Hastings’ Dict. of the Bible .
249 The Armenian is here uncertain.
John Behr's popular translation has the related useful footnote:
"Claudius became Emperor in 41 AD, several years after Pilate was recalled. However, according to Irenaeus (cf. AH 2:33:4-6), who claims support from the unanimous tradition from all the elders who knew John in Asia, Christ, after His baptism in His thirtieth year, preached for many more years before His crucifixion, when "He did not want much of being fifty years old" (AH 2:33:6. arguing from Jn 8:57). Thus, for Irenaeus, Pilate would indeed have been the procurator of Claudius. He attributes the idea that Christ preached for only one year, suffering in the twelfth month, to the Gnostics (AH 2:33:5)."
"4. Being thirty years old when He came to be baptized, and then possessing the full age of a Master,145 He came to Jerusalem, so that He might be properly acknowledged146 by all as a Master. For He did not seem one thing while He was another, as those affirm who describe Him as being man only in appearance; but what He was, that He also appeared to be. Being a Master, therefore, He also possessed the age of a Master, not despising or evading any condition of humanity, nor setting aside in Himself that law which He had147 appointed for the human race, but sanctifying every age, by that period corresponding to it which belonged to Himself. For He came to save all through means of Himself-all, I say, who through Him are born again to God148 -infants,149 and children, and boys, and youths, and old men. He therefore passed through every age, becoming an infant for infants, thus sanctifying infants; a child for children, thus sanctifying those who are of this age, being at the same time made to them an example of piety, righteousness, and submission; a youth for youths, becoming an example to youths, and thus sanctifying them for the Lord. So likewise He was an old man for old men, that He might be a perfect Master for all, not merely as respects the setting forth of the truth, but also as regards age, sanctifying at the same time the aged also, and becoming an example to them likewise. Then, at last, He came on to death itself, that He might be "the first-born from the dead, that in all things He might have the pre-eminence,"150 the Prince of life,151 existing before all, and going before all.152
5. They, however, that they may establish their false opinion regarding that which is written, "to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord," maintain that He preached for one year only, and then suffered in the twelfth month. [In speaking thus], they are forgetful to their own disadvantage, destroying His whole work, and robbing Him of that age which is both more necessary and more honourable than any other; that more advanced age, I mean, during which also as a teacher He excelled all others. For how could He have had disciples, if He did not teach? And how could He have taught, unless He had reached the age of a Master? For when He came to be baptized, He had not yet completed His thirtieth year, but was beginning to be about thirty years of age (for thus Luke, who has mentioned His years, has expressed it: "Now Jesus was, as it were, beginning to be thirty years old,"153 when He came to receive baptism); and, [according to these men, ] He preached only one year reckoning from His baptism. On completing His thirtieth year He suffered, being in fact still a young man, and who had by no means attained to advanced age. Now, that the first stage of early life embraces thirty years,154 and that this extends onwards to the fortieth year, every one will admit; but from the fortieth andfiftieth year a man begins to decline towards old age, which our Lord possessed while He still fulfilled the office of a Teacher, even as the Gospel and all the elders testify; those who were conversant in Asia with John, the disciple of the Lord, [affirming] that John conveyed to them that information.155 And he remained among them up to the times of Trajan.156 Some of them, moreover, saw not only John, but the other apostles also, and heard the very same account from them, and bear testimony as to the [validity of] the statement. Whom then should we rather believe? Whether such men as these, or Ptolemaeus, who never saw the apostles, and who never even in his dreams attained to the slightest trace of an apostle?
6. But, besides this, those very Jews who then disputed with the Lord Jesus Christ have most clearly indicated the same thing. For when the Lord said to them, "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day; and he saw it, and was glad," they answered Him, "Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast Thou seen Abraham? "157 Now, such language is fittingly applied to one who has already passed the age of forty, without having as yet reached his fiftieth year, yet is not far from this latter period. But to one who is only thirty years old it would unquestionably be said, "Thou art not yet forty years old." For those who wished to convict Him of falsehood would certainly not extend the number of His years far beyond the age which they saw He had attained; but they mentioned a period near His real age, whether they had truly ascertained this out of the entry in the public register, or simply made a conjecture from what they observed that He was above forty years old, and that He certainly was not one of only thirty years of age.For it is altogether unreasonable to suppose that they were mistaken by twenty years, when they wished to prove Him younger than the times of Abraham. For what they saw, that they also expressed; and He whom they beheld was not a mere phantasm, but an actual being158 of flesh and blood. He did not then wont much of being fifty years old;159 and, in accordance with that fact, they said to Him, "Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast Thou seen Abraham? "He did not therefore preach only for one year, nor did He suffer in the twelfth month of the year. For the period included between the thirtieth and the fiftieth year can never be regarded as one year, unless indeed, among their Aeons, there be so long years assigned to those who sit in their ranks with Bythus in the Pleroma; of which beings Homer the poet, too, has spoken, doubtless being inspired by the Mother of their [system of] error:-"
Comically, Irenaeus, one of the few known Christians to claim a specific chain of witnesses back to Jesus says that Jesus was an old man when he was crucified. Notice the Apologist language of Behr, "Thus, for Irenaeus, Pilate would indeed have been the procurator of Claudius". Behr neglects to discuss Irenaeus' Irreneous description of Herod, "the King of the Jews". Guess this would be a minor blunder compared to Irenaeus' claim that Pilate was the procurator under Claudius even though the official Roman record shows that Pilate was recalled before Cladius became emperor. Of course who should we believe regarding the official Roman record, the official Roman record or Irenaeus? I think I know what "the Church's" answer would be.
Christianity commonly claims that Jesus was about 33 when he died. Yet Irenaeus, who appears to have potentially better evidence than any other known Christian on the subject, claims that Jesus was about 50 when he died or a difference of at least 15 years. What makes Irenaeus' claim here especially funny is that assuming he is right, and the subsequent Church decided to retain his assertian here, presumably because they thought he might be, Paul would have been teaching about the significance of Jesus' death while Jesus was still alive!
--JoeWallack 09:47, 6 Feb 2007 (CST)
Probably the best such information in "John" is:
"The Jews therefore said unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?" (ASV)
Note that "John" has no Infancy Narrative, like "Matthew" and "Luke" have. While I think that the Virgin Birth stories are second century and may have been added after "John" was written I do think the Infancy Narratives without a Virgin birth were written before "John". Therefore I think that "John" has deliberately omitted any Infancy Narrative and one of the reasons may have been that the Infancy Narratives connect Jesus' birth to 4 BCE - 6 CE and thus a Jesus crucified by Pilate would be thirtyIsh.
Thus the combination of some Textual evidence for "Sisters" and the usefulness in balancing the Chiastic structure make it likely that Sisters is original to 3:32.
Assuming than that "sisters" is original to 3:32 this serves to Limit the age of "Mark's" Jesus at this point in the Narrative as the related implication is that Jesus' sisters have also come along because they still live with their mother.
"John" appears to inherit a Theme of "Mark" that Jesus' own family did not believe him to some extent but in the only traveling Jesus' family story in "John", 7:5, there is no mention of sisters.
So once again "John" appears to have exorcised something from "Mark" that would potentially limit the age of "John's" Jesus.
Continuing the consideration of about how old Jesus was when he died according to "John" let's consider the Passovers. "Mark" gives a compact narrative with one Passover so presumably his Jesus, the greatest Teacher of all time, had a teaching career of less than one year. How, ahem, Ironic. "Matthew" and "Luke" follow "Mark's" career path of less than a year. "John" however has 3, yes, that's right, 3 Passovers for his Jesus:
"Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, during the feast, many believed on his name, beholding his signs which he did."
Now the passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand.
"Jesus therefore six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus raised from the dead."
JW: So it would appear that "John's" Jesus was at least two years older than "Mark's" when he died. "John" does look like a Reaction here to "Mark" with the thought being that a less than one year Ministry would simply not be enough to write about all the swell deeds of Jesus that someone else said someone else witnessed.
Subsequent Christianity ultimately gave Jesus' Tonyear.
Edit this section if you doubt error.
General Problems With "Luke's" Genealogy
The inserted negation "(as was supposed)"—or as otherwise translated "so it was thought"—suggests that there was an earlier tradition in which Joseph was believed to be the blood father of Jesus. Such a belief would have spurred interest in mapping Joseph's genealogy so that Jesus would be known as a son of David, a title thought by some to be required of the messiah. This would explain the material's presence in the biographical Gospels. Unfortunately, Jesus himself rejected the theory of Davidic descent with scripture (Matt. 22:41-45), a fact which ultimately renders useless—not to mention counter-productive—the genealogical work done in Matthew and Luke, whether for Joseph or Mary. It is thusly not an unwarranted suspicion that the genealogies of Matthew and Luke are vestiges of a prior state of the (or a) text, a state in which no negations were inserted, and in which Jesus was as plainly a son of David as Paul asserted on occasion.
1) Anachronistic Names
Father Brown Confesses to us, Page 92, The Birth Of The Messiah, that some of the Names "Luke" uses in the pre-Exilic Genealogy, such as Levi, Simeon, Joseph and Judah seem to be anachronisms because the custom of naming children after the Patriarchs did not develop until after the Exile. Also, Levi, Joseph, Judah and Simeon seem suspiciously close to the names of Jesus' Brothers in the Gospels. Interestingly, regarding the only name here that wouldn't match up, "Levi", in the original Gospel "Mark", the tax collector is "Levi" son of Alphaeus, while one of the disciples is James, son of Alphaeus and James of course was Jesus' other brother. Further there is manuscript variation regarding "Luke's" use of "Levi" in the Genealogy (surprise).
--JoeWallack 10:00, 10 Mar 2006 (CST)
2) Possible Repetition of Names
Father Brown likewise Confesses to us on Page 92 a suspicious repetition of Names in Luke's Genealogy:
Also note that some variation of Matthias, the important Maccabee is used 6 times.
Further, Names 32-35 are:
Levi, Simeon, Judah and Joseph. These are the brothers of "Mark's" Jesus except for Levi (instead of James). Interesting though, is that "Mark's" Levi was son of Alphaeus as was one of "Mark's" Jesus' disciples, James.
--JoeWallack 19:16, 12 Mar 2006 (CST)