A Chronology of Jesus

(Posted by Paige)

In a bid to enhance biblical literacy in our congregation, I’ve dabbed many a brushstroke onto the walls of one room in our building to provide our Bible teachers with enormous maps and timelines to illustrate their lessons. I’ve just embarked on the most complex of the timelines, an attempt to sort out the events of Jesus’ ministry years into more-or-less chronological order; but I’m finding that I need to do some homework here before I commit myself in acrylics. Maybe some of you redemptive-history buffs can help.

First off, where do we get the idea that Jesus’ ministry was three years long? Is this simply implied in his parable about the barren fig tree in Luke 13:7 – “Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none”?

Second, have any of you ever seen a decent attempt to harmonize the events in the Synoptics with Jesus’ several visits to Jerusalem as described in John? I’m thinking of grouping the events from the Synoptics above the timeline, and adding the punctuation of the holiday visits to Jerusalem from John’s account below it.

Not to mention the Lazarus event – am I correct to read this as the unnamed catalyst that turned Jesus southward from Galilee towards Jerusalem late in the Synoptic accounts? (Though John maybe implies that Jesus was in Perea just prior to that cataclysmic miracle – “He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing at first, and there he remained,” Jn. 10:40. So was he in Galilee or Perea when the message reached him [Jn. 11:6,“he stayed in the place where he was”]?)

I realize that the best we can do here is make educated guesses, so I’m hoping that some of your education in this area exceeds mine. Thanks in advance for your expertise!

If you’d like to see some of the murals from our Chart Room, check out the wall of my biblical literacy site. I have yet to figure out how to photograph the 20-foot timeline of redemptive history, but you can at least take a look at the maps. (The full-map JPEGs work great as Power Point slides, by the way – so I take my walls with me when I teach elsewhere! You’re welcome to borrow them too, if you’d like.)


  1. Craig H Robinson said,

    November 20, 2015 at 6:36 pm

    Great art work Paige. Good job.

    I have always wondered about the three year ministry period also. Seems more like one year to me. So I can’t help you there, but I would like to know the answer if you find a good one.

  2. Joel Norris said,

    November 20, 2015 at 7:10 pm

    The three years of ministry comes from the three Passover events recorded in the Gospel of John.

    First: John 2:13
    Second: John 6:4
    Third: John 11:55

  3. paigebritton said,

    November 21, 2015 at 6:37 am

    Right, I counted three Passovers, too — but that could represent less than 3 years: i.e., counting Passover –> Passover –> Passover amounts to TWO calendar years, plus a little for the baptism scene in John 1. Kinda like Friday to Sunday early morning is not quite “three days.” It’s a sketchy “3”!

    Or maybe the proper way to say it is that it didn’t LAST three years (or three days), but it occurred on PARTS OF three years (or days). Which would only matter if you are trying to make a precise timeline (& mine won’t even attempt that!).

  4. rfwhite said,

    November 21, 2015 at 7:49 am

    Another wrinkle to keep in mind: confirm how a year was reckoned; that is, what constituted or counted as a year?

  5. paigebritton said,

    November 21, 2015 at 7:59 am

    There’s probably a Jewish way of reckoning a year that differs from the calendar that we’re used to. (Are you going to tell us, or do we have to Google it? :)

  6. Reed Here said,

    November 21, 2015 at 10:59 am

    And then there are instances where Roman time measurements are in view.

    Keep in mind that that “3 years = 3 x exactly 365 days, @ 24 hours each; @ 60 minutes each; @ 60 seconds each” is precision time measurement ONLY relevant to today. No ancient culture counted time to the degree of precision we do.

    So “3 years” = “over a period of 3 years” = “covering a period of 3 passovers”.

    But I suspect you probably already have this down. Just in case. ;-)

  7. paigebritton said,

    November 23, 2015 at 7:40 am

    Yes, Reed, that’s a great way to think of it. Thanks!

    Have any of you ever seen, or made for yourselves, a chart like the one I’m hoping to make, where the events of the Synoptics (mainly concentrated in the Galilee) are coordinated with Jesus’ holiday visits to Jerusalem, as recorded in John?

  8. Pete Rambo said,

    November 23, 2015 at 7:40 pm


    Here is an interesting resource supporting not just a 70 week ministry, but very carefully detailing nearly day-by-day what happened where: http://thechronologicalgospels.com/jesus-ministry-just-70-weeks-3-12-years/

    There are other things I do not agree with this author on, but his research into the timing of the life of the Messiah is very interesting!


  9. Reed Here said,

    November 24, 2015 at 2:52 pm

    Pete, Paige, looks like the resource is from a Michael Rood. Does NOT sound like a source of biblically sound information:



  10. paigebritton said,

    November 30, 2015 at 8:05 am

    Well, thanks and thanks…but still interested in hearing about reliable resources if anyone knows of anything!

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