Heidegger's Bible Handbook: Harmony of the Gospels: The Bounds of the Years of Christ's Ministry

9. How the time of the ministry of Christ might be able to be distributed into certain years, in such a way that, with the beginning and end of each year established, it might be able to be observed to what years, or to what particular Passovers, the histories are to be referred, is investigated.



But how the time of Christ’s ministry, gathered in the preceding computation, might be able to be distributed into certain years, so that, with the beginning and ending of each year established, if not exactly, at least plausibly, it might be able to be observed to what years the individual histories are to be referred, is variously investigated. Now, it is generally admitted that the whole ministry of Christ is to be begun from His Baptism. Having been baptized, He withdrew into the wilderness, a great wilderness, and sufficiently distant from Jordan, as it appears; and there He fasted forty days, so that, with the time reckoned up, in which He went into the wilderness and thence returned to Jordan, about sixty days were able to have passed to that time when He returned to Jordan. From the wilderness He returned to John the Baptist, at Bethabara;[1] there He dwelt for some time with John, who was exhibiting a testimony to Him, and then He departed for the wedding at Cana of Galilee. From the return to Bethabara to that wedding at Cana roughly ten days were able to be accomplished. That after the wedding to the first Passover Christ passed in Cana perhaps no more than fourteen days, and in Capernaum οὐ πολλὰς ἡμέρας, not many days (now, let us suppose ten, just as in Acts 1:5, not many days denotes ten days), John testifies, John 2:1, 12. Afterwards, when the Passover was near, He went up to Jerusalem, verse 13. Now, He was accustomed subsequently to go up six days before Passover, John 12:1. Therefore, with a few days added, which He consumed in proceeding from Cana to Capernaum, and from Capernaum to Jerusalem, from the wedding celebrated at Can to the closest feast of Passover were able to pass roughly forty days. Moreover, if those seventy be added to the preceding, and Passover be referred either in the usual manner to March 25, or, as Ephiphanius says that he discovered ἐκ πολλῆς ἀκριβείας, out of an abundance of care, to March 19: such a computation, admittedly not precise, but calculated ἐν πλάτει, in general (which nevertheless is not able to differ much from the truth), draws the time of the Baptism of Christ either to the end of November, or to the beginning of December. With this time searched out, the first year of Christ’s ministry is from His Baptism to the captivity of the Baptist, when, with him arrested, Christ proceeded through Samaria (for, from that time to the following Passover, four months passed, John 4:35, so that that journey had to have been undertaken in December). The second, from the captivity of the Baptist to the dispatch of the disciples (for John indicates, John 6:4, that the Passover was near, when the miracle of the five loaves was wrought; but the other Evangelists indicate that the Apostles returned from their first legation when they had traversed all the cities of Israel, Matthew 10:23, which was requiring the space of at least three or four months). The third, from the dispatch of the disciples unto the feast of Dedication, normally observed near the end of November, John 10:22. Finally, the fourth (that is, the half-year), from the feast of Dedication to the ascension into Heaven. Even if this series of Christ’s years, beginning and ending, is as plain as the learned might demand for that harmony without detriment; nevertheless, to us that reckoning, which the sections of Ammonius,[2] and after those Scaliger, Richardson, Ussher,[3] and others follow, that is, that the order of the history might be distributed according to the Passovers, appears easier and more convenient, and not much different. Which four Passovers, in Section 7 above, we demonstrated out of Saint John.

[1] John 1:28. [2] Ammonius of Alexandria (third century) was a Christian philosopher. Eusebius records that Ammonius placed the parallel passage of the last three Gospels alongside the text of Matthew. Although Ammonius’ work is now lost, Eusebius appropriated and developed it, and the Eusebian Sections appear in many Mediaeval manuscripts of the Gospels. [3] James Ussher (1580-1655) was an Irish churchman and scholar of the first rank, who eventually rose to the office of Archbishop of Ireland. He is most remembered for his Annals of the World.

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Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.

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