Placing exact dates upon the history of antiquity can sometimes be a challenging task. This is because historical records in times of antiquity are not as robust as modern times, or as widely available. However, we can know with reasonable accuracy when several significant events occurred. The event we examine in this article is the baptism of Jesus. Specifically what we want to know is, when was Jesus baptized?
For an overview of the biblical accounts and events surrounding this, see our article overviewing Jesus’ baptism.
How old was Jesus when he was baptized?
Jesus was at least 29 years old when he was baptized. However, it’s possible he was up to 33 years of age at the time of his baptism. This is generally accepted based on Luke’s account in Luke 3:23, “Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age”.
The ministry of Jesus began about the same time as his baptism. However, because Luke did not specify an exact age, most historians agree the baptism of Jesus could have been anywhere from 29-33 years old.
When was Jesus baptized?
Jesus was baptized sometime between 23 and 28 AD. Historians arrive at a date in this particular range because Jesus’ birth was between 6 and 4 BC. Adding anywhere from 29 to 34 years to this day, brings the approximate date range from 24 to 29 AD.
However, because there is no 0 year between BC 1 and AD 1, we must subtract one from the range. This results in Jesus’ baptism occurring between 23 and 29 AD.
Why was Jesus not born in 1 AD?
The reason for this is because of an error made in the original placement of the designation of the BC to AD timeline. The person responsible for this error is a 6th century Scythian monk, Dionysius.
Unfortunately, we do not know exactly what mistakes Dionysius made when calculating the span of time between his life and Jesus’ birth. But with modern calendrical practices and most agree that it was the time in which Herod reigned where he made a mistake. To be fair, calculating timelines was a daunting task as mentioned earlier. Information in times of antiquity is not readily available and records are not kept as neatly as they are in modern times.
Why did Jesus get baptized at age 30?
Jesus got baptized at age 30 for 3 possible reasons I can think of. Beyond these three reasons, my answer to this question will simply be, “I do not know”. Here are the 3 reasons it seems to me why Jesus was baptized at the age of 30:
John the baptist was baptizing during that time
It so happens that John the baptist, who was very close to Jesus’ age, began his ministry around this time. John preached baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, and it was John by whom Jesus was baptized.
Since John was prophesied as the one to be a forerunner to the Christ, it makes sense that Jesus’ ministry would coincide with John’s. Of course this begs the question, why did John the baptist wait until he was 30 to start his ministry?
Jesus needed time to fulfill all righteousness
When John initially objected to Jesus’ baptism, Jesus responded by saying that it was necessary for him to fulfill all righteousness. In other words, part of why Jesus came was to accomplish and complete the law. Perhaps the first 30 years of Jesus life was necessary time to complete the law.
It was simply the timing of God
Jesus may have waiting until the age of 30 years old to begin his ministry with baptism simply because it was the right time. God knows the hearts and conditions of man, the timing of all things perfectly, and He chooses particular events accordingly.
Perhaps God chose this time because it would be the perfect moment to spring-board Christianity with a set of disciples become apostles and to build Christ’s church. We find evidence for this in John’s gospel:
On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”John 2:1-5
Jesus plainly states “my hour has not yet come” as reasoning for him to refrain from performing this miracle. The account of Jesus’ baptism was just prior to this event when Jesus traveled from Galilee and came to John the baptist on the Jordan river.
How long was Jesus’ public ministry?
Jesus’ public ministry was about 3 years long. However, if you thought there might be disagreement in this time span, you were right! Those who hold the shorter view believe that Jesus’ ministry was at least 2 years. Those who hold the longer view believe that the Bible allows for up to 5 years after his baptism. This is possible if the feast in John 5 is the Passover feast.
To my knowledge, the longer view is not widely held. But it is possible, with Pilate remaining in office until AD 36. Pilate played a major role in Jesus’ conviction and execution by hanging on a cross.
In all likeliness, the most probable length of the ministry after Jesus’ baptism by John the baptist is 3 years. This places Jesus 32-36 years old at the time of his crucifixion.
Does it matter when Jesus was baptized?
No, it does not matter when Jesus was baptized. You don’t need to know when Jesus’ baptism occurred to receive salvation. Outside of aligning Bible timelines to secular history, any study or knowledge on the topic of when Jesus was baptized is purely academical. As long as we know he was in fact baptized, it doesn’t really matter much what exact age Jesus was when it took place.
If God considered this information of particular importance, surely He would have provided us more evidence from John, Luke, or the other gospel authors in the Bible. As it is, God apparently saw fit to reveal the events of the baptism, rather than when it took place.