During the Easter season, Christians celebrate Jesus' resurrection from the dead, just days after his crucifixion at the hands of the Romans. Whether you're religious, agnostic or atheist, it's hard to ignore the influence of Jesus Christ and the Bible in Western culture. But how much can we really know about the historical Jesus' timeline from Biblical accounts? Do we even know how old Jesus was when he died?
Helen Bond is a religion professor at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and the co-host (with this author) of a podcast called Biblical Time Machine. She says that the Bible is surprisingly skimpy when it comes to basic details about Jesus — what he looked like, whether he was married, etc. — and is frustratingly vague or contradictory when establishing facts like when Jesus was born and when exactly he died.
"We don't know the dates of anything with any specificity," says Bond, who nonetheless tried to decipher the exact date of the original Easter in an excellent article titled "Dating the Death of Jesus."
Many people who follow the Christian faith believe that Jesus was 30 when he was baptized, and that his earthly mission lasted exactly three years, citing certain biblical passages. This would mean Jesus died at the age of 33. But a closer look at the Bible reveals some fuzzier math.