Yes, there is more in the sky which declares “Messiah has come.” But to see these things, we must know when to look up. Peter used the sky as a proof that Messiah had come, but which sky did he use? A body of scholarly work addresses the date of the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth. This body of work, together with Roman and Jewish histories, archaeoastronomy and the words of the Bible allow us to identify the day and almost the moment of his death. That is an extraordinary claim. You must judge it for yourself. Consider the evidence.
What can we learn from the Jewish calendar?
Quite a lot, if we assemble the puzzle pieces. By law and custom, the Jewish people of Jesus’ day took the Sabbath as a day of complete rest (1). Because no work could be done on the Sabbath, which we call Saturday, Friday came to be known as Preparation Day (2). It was a day when food and other things needed for Saturday were prepared in advance. This is our first clue to the date of the crucifixion, because all four Gospels state that Jesus was crucified on Preparation Day, a Friday (3). This is also the common consensus of the Church Fathers and scholars throughout church history (4).
The Gospels also record that the crucifixion occurred the day before the Passover festival (5). This is a second important clue, because it gives us a solid connection with the ancient Jewish calendar system. Passover always begins on the 14th day of the Jewish lunar month of Nisan. (Nisan 14 is in the Spring, which is why Easter is celebrated then). By Judean tradition, Passover begins at twilight, the dividing line between Nisan 14 and 15 (6).
On the Jewish calendar (and on ours) a numbered day of the month may fall on any day of the week. For example, in one year your birthday might fall on Tuesday, in the next year it might fall on Thursday. This “float” among days of the week is why this second clue is so powerful. Putting these two Biblical puzzle pieces together, we see that the crucifixion must have occurred in a year when Nisan 14 happened to fall on a Friday, Preparation Day. That narrows things down considerably.
Ancient non-Biblical historians record that Jesus was condemned to death by Pontius Pilate (7). Pilate was Roman procurator of Judea during the years 26 AD through 36 AD (8). This limits our search for a date to those years. In Setting the Stage we found that Jesus was born in 3/2 BC. And there are also important Biblical clues: the Book of Luke records that Jesus began his public ministry when he “was about 30 years old” (9), and the Book of John records three annual Passovers during Jesus’ ministry (10). Taken together, these puzzle pieces add to a crucifixion date in the early 30’s, AD. During those years, Nisan 14 fell on a Friday, Preparation Day, twice: on April 7 of 30 AD and April 3 of 33 AD (11). To help us choose between those two dates, there is ample and fascinating evidence.