The Beginning of the Ministry


  17.  Birth of Jesus and the Dates of His Ministry  

  18.  The Wait for the Messiah

  19.  The Retreat and Temptation of Jesus

  20.  Jesus at Nazareth

  21.  The Sea of Galilee (Genesaret)

  22.  The Arrest of John the Baptist

  23.  The First Disciples



17.  Important dates in the life of JESUS


I.  Concerning the date of the birth of Jesus Christ:


What year was Jesus born in Bethlehem? Let's see what the evangelical texts and the historians have to say:


A. Roman governors at the time of the census:

It must not be forgotten that Antioch was the capital of the entire eastern Roman Empire. Of course, it was also the capitol of the government of Syria, having succeeded the former capitol, Damascus.

It is equally important to clearly identify the hierarchy of the powers of Rome, since the title of Governor General of the Orient was more elevated that that of Governor of Syria. According to certain inscriptions found in Venice and in Antioch, it is confirmed that Sulpicius Quirinius was, according to Tacite, already Legate of Rome and Governor of Syria in the year 12 B.C. In 6 B.C. General Varus had just been named Governor General of the area, but had not yet arrived there (during this period, it could take from three to five months to travel by boat from Rome to Antioch). It was therefore Quirinius, under the orders of Varus, who signed the census order that summer and took provisional command of the Roman armies to lead an urgent campaign in Sicily against the Homonades.

Was it because of this gap in power that Tertullian affirms (in his treatise Against Marcion) that Saturninus had succeeded Quirinius in 6 B.C. as Administrative Legate of Syria, while awaiting the return of Quirinius and the arrival of Varus?

For reasons which remain unknown, QUIRINIUS succeeded SATURNINUS two or three years later in the supreme role of Governor of the Orient, and stayed in that post for eleven years! The exchanges of permanent posts between these three men have greatly confused the historians - not to mention the fact that the name Quirinius was also a synonym for the Roman god Romulus and could therefore replace the word Rome in a sentence!

(For more information, see the explanation given in the previous site: History of the Orient a Century Before the Common Era (french link)


B. Concerning Calendar Reform:

It was around the year 530 that a Scythian monk called Dennis the Small reformed the Roman calendar in order to try to make it line up with the date of the birth of Jesus. Dennis made our "Year 0" correspond with the 754th year since the founding of Rome. However, the monk was completely unaware of the discovery that had already been made of the writings of the Jewish historian Mattathias Ben Joseph, also known as Flavius Joseph.

Flavius was a pure Pharisee with tendencies towards zealotry (i.e. a member of the resistance). His 27 books had been written around the year 80 A.D., and did not reappear in the libraries of the monasteries until the Middle Ages!

But Flavius Joseph states precisely that King Herod the Great died eight days before Passover in the Roman year 750 - April of the year 4 B.C. of our era! It follows that the birth of Jesus took place in the month of December of the year 6 B.C., even if the first Christians may have moved the event a few days in order to make it coincide with the ancient Phoenician festival on the 25th December, a solar festival that celebrates the rebirth of light and the sun.

Is it pure chance that the Feast of St. John is also the summer solstice? Or that Christmas, on the other hand, is near the winter solstice? As John said, comparing Christ to the light of nations:

"He must become greater and I must diminish…"


II. Dates of the Ministry of Jesus:

Tiberius succeeded Augustus in 14 A.D. Luke wrote (Luke 3): "In the fifteenth year of the reign of Caesar Tiberius… the word of God was addressed to John, son of Zechariah, in the desert."

In the same chapter, Luke also says that Jesus was about thirty years old when he began his ministry (his public life); from Christmas of 6 B.C. to 27 A.D. is 31 years, not counting the year 0.

As far as the date of the crucifixion goes, only the years 30 and 33 A.D. have a Passover which falls on a Sabbath day. In any case, the most logical date for Jesus' crucifixion is certainly Friday the 7th April of the year 30 A.D., which coincided with the Passover of 15 Nisan.

Only the gospel of John provides the opportunity to establish a chronology of the movements of Christ during his public life, taking the Jewish liturgical festivals as reference points:

  1. Miracle at Cana, then the journey from Galilee to Jerusalem in Judea. It was during this festival, the first Passover in Jerusalem of the public life of Christ, that Jesus chased the vendors from the temple. In the year when Jesus started his ministry, the Jews say that the construction of the Temple had been underway for 46 years. Since we know (according to Flavius) that the temple construction had begun in 19 or 20 B.C., the first Passover of Christ's public life did indeed take place in the year 27 A.D. Afterwards, Jesus returned to Galilee by way of the Mounts of Samaria, stopping at the well of Jacob, where he met the Samaritan woman.

  2. Jewish festival in Judea (John 5:1), with the healing of the paralyzed man, return with the miracle of the loaves, and second Passover in Galilee. In this same year, Jesus returned to the Temple during the feast of the Tabernacle (early October) (John 7) - the Jews tried to capture him, but Jesus evaded them.

    (John 10:22) Jesus presented himself at the Temple in December, during the feast of the Dedication (or the Festival of Lights), which takes place in early December of our calendar. There was a second failed attempt to capture Jesus, who took refuge for several months on the other bank of the Jordan River.

  3. Journey to Bethany (near Jerusalem) and the resurrection of Lazarus. Triumphal entry to Jerusalem. Last Supper and crucifixion during Passover of the year 30 A.D., when Jesus would have been 34 years old.

All of these events took place within the space of THREE Passovers (25 to 35 months), and could have coincided with a fallow year for farmland, or even a Jubilee (or 50th anniversary) year, when slaves were liberated, certain lands were redistributed, and mortgaged land reverted to the owners. This could explain the impressive number of people (4000 and 5000 men, not counting women and children) who followed him for weeks at a time, and whom he fed miraculously twice.




The fact that "God favors" a person, a family, a people or a certain nation does not mean that that person or group has a monopoly on divine love and protection. Jesus had a hard time making it clear to the Jewish people that they were not the only ones who would be allowed into the Kingdom of Heaven, and that even deserving foreigners could enter…

In 931 B.C. the great King Solomon died, and a great schism erupted in the kingdom of Israel, which would be divided between two of his children:

JEROBOAM created the kingdom of Israel, which included the ten tribes of the North, and installed his capital in the city of Samaria, which became a rival of Jerusalem. Twenty kings followed him on this throne before the Assyrian Salmanassar V deposed Hoshea, the last king, in 721 B.C. The subjects of Samaria were taken to Assyria for an exile without prospect of return…

ROBOAM became King of Judah, which included the two tribes that remained south of Palestine, and maintained Jerusalem as the capital of his kingdom. Jerusalem was taken by assault for the first time in 597 B.C. by Nebuchanezzar II, and for the second time in 585 B.C., when the majority of able-bodied men were taken by force to exile in Babylon, until in 539 B.C. the Persian Cyrus, considered by the Jews as a liberating Messiah, came to deliver the Jews from their slavery and authorized 40,000 of them to return home and reconstruct their temple.

In 332 B.C. Alexander the Great took Jerusalem and Samaria. After his death, Palestine once again became a land torn between two dynasties: the Seleucids of Syria and the Egyptian Lagides (Ptolemy).

In 63 B.C. General Pompeii organized a siege of Jerusalem. The holy city fell after three months of resistance. Palestine passed to Roman rule.

In 37 B.C. Marc Antony put Herod the Great in power. His tyrannical attitude caused suffering among the Jews, who considered him to be a usurper of the royal throne and a collaborator with the Roman occupation. The people of Israel did not clearly understand why God had abandoned them to punish them for the unfaithfulness of their leaders!

More than ever they awaited the successor of David, the liberating Messiah who would restore the glory of Israel, chase out her oppressors, and make Palestine into a great nation once again…




Gospel references: Luke 4:1-13, Matthew 4:1-11 and Mark 1:12

Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit and returned to Jordan, where the Spirit led him into the desert. He stayed there for "forty days and forty nights." This was not the first time that a Hebrew had stayed forty days and forty nights in the solitude of the desert without eating or drinking.

1. MOSES - Exodus 24:18

Moses stayed for forty days and forty nights on Mount Sinai - more specifically, according to the Bible (Exodus 33:6), on Mount Horeb, in Sinai. But, having broken the tablets of the Law, he returned to the mount and stayed for another forty days and nights…


During this time, Ahab reigned in Samaria as King of Israel. He had married the "pagan Jezebel", daughter of a pagan king of Sidonia. After a long drought, a terrible famine settled upon the country for three years in a row.

After a contest between the prophet Elijah and the priests of Baal, Elijah proved before all the people the superiority of the power of the Eternal One. Since he had caused the priests of Baal to be put to death, he was forced to flee into the desert in order to escape the vengeance of Queen Jezebel, who wanted to have him killed.

1 Kings 19:8: "Elijah rose and ate of the food which an angel gave him. And with the strength which this food gave him he walked forty days and forty nights until he reached the Mountain of God at Horeb in Mount Sinai."

Is this a coincidence, or a mystery of the Scriptures? And is it another coincidence that it is precisely these two figures that reappear on either side of Christ on the Holy Mountain during the Transfiguration, a short time before the crucifixion?

When "the retreat of Jesus" had been completed Satan, the Spirit of evil, the Prince of this world, as John calls him, came to see Jesus in order to put him to the test and try his resistance after his fast.


1st Temptation : Material Needs

Jesus, who was very hungry after his fast, saw the cunning one drawing near to him in order to try to persuade him to use his exceptional powers (his gift of miraculous works) to satisfy his personal needs, rather than utilizing them to give homage to the glory of the Father.

The tempter therefore invited him to change the rocks to bread.

Jesus answered him: Man does not live by bread alone, for the spirit, which guides the body, is fed with the word of God.


2nd Temptation : Riches and Glory

Satan said to Jesus, showing him in an instant all the kingdoms of our planet:

One question: who had given Satan this POWER and this GLORY, and why could he dispose of them according to his own good pleasure? A terrible sentence formulated by Satan and recorded by Luke…

But Jesus refused the glory and the power of the world, responding to him by quoting a commandment of Moses:

Man must under no condition "sell his soul" for temporal riches or for any ephemeral power that may exist during his extremely short life on Earth.


3rd Temptation  : Testing Divine Protection

The devil transported Jesus to the summit of the temple of Jerusalem and said to him: "If you are truly the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written (Psalm 91:11)… 'He has ordered his angels to guard you in all your paths. They will carry you in their hands."

This was a double trap of Satan, who on the one hand was trying to sow the seed of doubt into Jesus's mission, by saying "if you are the Son of God…" On the other hand, Satan knows the scriptures and the prophecies, since he quotes them in a provocative way, hoping that Jesus will defy his Father and change His plans by obligating Him to intervene in order to save him!

Nevertheless, Satan admits here equally (happily for us) the important role played by invisible protecting angels in our earthly lives.

In response to him: You will not be able in any way to tempt the Lord your God, for Jesus asks us to have faith in providence. Help yourself and heaven will help you, act with goodness, faith and temperance. The angels of heaven will help us and protect us in our daily lives, for Jesus says: even the hairs of our heads are numbered!

Matthew 6:24: "No one can serve two masters at the same time"… Jesus clarifies: you cannot serve both God and Mammon (an idol representing money).




The account given by Luke (Luke 4:16):

Jesus went home to Nazareth, where he had been raised, and according to his custom he went into the synagogue on the day of the Sabbath. (Luke points out this ordinary act in the life of Jesus, which will be the starting point for his public life and his departure from Nazareth…)

He arose to read (as he had done regularly since childhood in this small synagogue) and was given the book of the prophet Isaiah. Having unrolled the scroll, he found the place where it was written:

"The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
he has anointed me to announce the good news to the poor.
He has sent me to heal the broken-hearted,
to proclaim deliverance to the captives (slaves),
to give sight to the blind, and freedom to the oppressed…"

And he added, while all eyes were fixed on him:



There was astonishment and consternation among the inhabitants of Nazareth, some of whom believed that Jesus, their childhood friend, had lost his reason:

Then Jesus understood their sudden aggression, and in order to give them a reminder of the choices of heaven, he said to them:

In other words, God, Father of all men, can let his chosen sons go and can grant the favor of his grace to the foreigners of his choosing.

Upon hearing these words, the people were filled with anger and chased Jesus out of the town. They took him above the town to the summit of a mountain, in order to throw him down. But Jesus passed through the middle of them all, and went his way. This presupposes that, due to his profession, the carpenter probably had a large and imposing figure.

And Matthew confirms (Matthew 4:13) that Jesus left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum - the city on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.

It's unbelievable - Jesus, the child who grew up in Nazareth, the young man who had rendered its inhabitants so many services, who for years had frequented the same synagogue, the same school, is on the point of being mutilated and thrown from a precipice by his neighbors, friends, and childhood companions, who are suddenly filled with murderous insanity. They wish to take justice into their own hands for what they consider a "blasphemy".

Eventually, this same motive will cause the Jews of Jerusalem to try (in vain) to capture him! And the Sanhedrin will condemn him to death for the same reason, for daring to claim that he was "the Son of God".

Luke 4:24 concludes: No prophet is honored (nor shown consideration) in the land of his birth, or as the proverb says, "No one is a prophet in his own country".





The lake of Genesaret is still commonly called the Sea of Galilee (or, to the Romans, the Tiber Sea, in homage to Emperor Tiberius.)

The sea itself is an immense basin flanked by two chains of hills and situated more than 200 meters below the level of the Mediterranean Sea. This enormous fresh-water reservoir, 21 km long by 12 km wide, can in places reach a depth of 45 meters.

This lake, which is the region's principal economic resource, collects all the small streams from the surrounding mountains and is traversed on its North/South axis by the River Jordan. All around the sea, the villages and towns became solid centers of activity:

The inhabitants of these cities were for the most part simple lake fishers, who cast their nets at night and returned before daybreak. With unbending patience, they performed the same gestures a hundred times, hoping to finally find in their nets the capricious fish which made up their principal source of nutrition, and which they would eat fresh, salted, smoked, or dried by the sun and the small fresh breeze which circled the Sea of Galilee morning and night.

During the day, it was usually very hot, and children would dive and frolic in the waters of the lake to refresh themselves, while the women, covered in somber drapery from head to foot, energetically scrubbed their linens at the edge of the lake.

Along the quays, the boats of the sailors are docked side by side, sails furled, and on the quays the young and old are gathered together to repair the long nets damaged in their last fishing expedition. They examine each knot one by one, so that the even the smallest gift of the lake will not escape them.

At night, the sun sets between Magdala and Capernaum. In this moment it is transformed into an enormous ball of fiery embers, to the point where it seems that a volcano has been suddenly revealed in this corner of the lake, giving the water a million reddening, incandescent reflections.

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of birds arise from the reeds, birds of all colors, who for millennia have come from many countries to rest between flights in this magnificent oasis, lost between the sandy desert and the immense salty ocean, before taking off once more to complete their long migration.

Eagles, storks, herons, ibis, geese, and silver ducks… Unknown and extremely rare species who do nothing but pass by, and who glide untiringly above the fresh water in search of a silvery food which from time to time leaps to the surface of the water in order to fill its belly with the millions of insects who dance with the sun on the waves.




John the Baptist usually baptized his visitors in one of two different places: the first at Enon, and the second at the ford of Bethabara, near Jericho. But if the bay of Bethabara was more frequented, as a result of its location on the road leading to Jerusalem, John had a slight preference for Enon, for several reasons:

Therefore, he said to them: do not steal, but be content with what you have. To the publicans (tax collectors of the public treasury): Do not require any more than is ordained for you. To the crowd of pilgrims: Let he who has two cloaks share with he who has none, and let he who has enough to eat do the same.

Similarly, John didn't mince words when he saw the horses and carriage of Herodiade, whom he reproached for her ill conduct and debauched lifestyle. He even openly accused the Tetrarch Antipas of having taken "this creature of sin" from his half-brother Herod Philip (one of the sons of Herod the Great and of the daughter of the Great Priest Boethius).

Antipas had repudiated his first wife and sent her back to Petra to her father King Aretas, which had provoked a bloody war between the two countries. Then he had discreetly married his niece Herodiade, his sister-in-law, whom he had met during a trip to Rome.

Herod Antipas was not as bloody-minded and cruel as his father; he knew the bible, and even believed John to be something of a prophet. He also found it perfectly understandable that a prophet like the Baptist would reproach him for this union, which was against Jewish law and morality, but it must be noted that - just like his father - this reproach didn't bother him at all.

On the other hand, he was soon fed up with the complaints of his wife, who no longer dared to show herself in public because of "this savage", dressed like a beast, who treated HER - a woman of the world, a princess of royal blood - like a perverted pagan.

Therefore, one day, the soldiers of Antipas arrived, chased away the disciples, put John in chains, and carried him away to the fortress of Macheronte, to throw him in a dungeon.

That was the end of the public mission of the Baptist, who described himself as being nothing but the precursor of Christ, come into this world in order the prepare the way for him!

The news of the arrest caused great consternation among those who loved this man of God, the hermit of the desert, and this is why Jesus honored him by saying:

One day in prison John guided his disciples towards Jesus. Timidly they asked him:

Shortly before his death Jesus answered his disciples (Mark 9:11) who asked him




After the Baptist had been arrested, Philip and Andrew had returned to Bethsaida, the village near Capernaum where Peter (son of Jonas) and John also lived.

Andrew had recounted everything to his brother Simon, in particular the strange encounter with Jesus of Nazareth, he whom John had pointed out, his arm outstretched on the banks of Jordan:

"The lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world."

But Simon was no dreamer! He was the head of a small business of fishermen who worked in association with James and John (the two sons of Zebedee). And he had to find fish in order to keep everyone fed, pay for the boats, and live decently, especially since for some time he had also had his mother-in-law to look after, who was feverish and bed-ridden…

It was in the early hours of a lovely sunny morning that a boat came into port. The sailors inside were obviously exhausted! A few moments later on the pier the two sons of Zebedee could be seen repairing their nets with their father, when suddenly Andrew cried out to Simon:

Simon, who was half asleep after a fruitless night of fishing, and was in a bad mood, barely turned his head to see who this "famous Jesus" was. Suddenly, he couldn't believe his eyes - he saw this man head straight for the Zebedee family's boat and climb aboard without asking permission. He began to teach the people who were listening to him, and when he finished he turned to order Simon, the captain of the fishing boat: (Luke 5)

Simon was perplexed and visibly tired, and responded:

But after a moment of reflection and silence, he added:

Having cast it, they took in such a great quantity of fish that their net was in danger of breaking, and they signaled to their companions in the other boat to come help them.

Such a thing had never been seen in the memory of any of the lake fishers, and certainly never in plain daylight! The two boats were weighed down almost below the waterline. Panic reigned on board to such a point that its true cause was forgotten: was it the fear of sinking, or the effect produced by this miracle? For Simon this was a real shock. Suddenly, he threw himself at the feet of Jesus and said to him:

The Master raised him us, taking him by the arm and saying to him:

How many times have we worked in vain for days on end, sometimes an entire lifetime, without achieving the least result? But Jesus has said: First seek the Kingdom of God, and "all the rest will be given unto you" for your faith.

The news spread to the horizon like a line of gunpowder, and the crowd hurried in great numbers to see the miracle with their own eyes. The largest portion of the catch was distributed to the poor, who rejoiced at the windfall, and went everywhere telling people what they had seen.

When Jesus had emerged from the boat, he asked Simon, Andrew, John and James:

They all accepted with a single voice, while old Zebedee looked on with tears in his eyes. Simon packed a few large fish into a bag on his shoulder, and invited all of his friends to come eat at his home.

Simon's house looked like all the others, except that to him it had seemed too large since his wife had left him for the other world… And now it was his mother-in-law who was sick and could no longer get out of bed!

For a long time now Simon had had enough of this hard profession, which forced him to spend entire nights casting his nets into this lake of capricious fish… Then there were the taxes of the Roman Treasury, the loans to pay back on the boats, the tax for going into the city, the tithe expected by the priests at the temple, the diminishing salary, paid in currency which grew ever more devalued…

Happily, his brother Andrew had come back home without a fuss. He, Simon, had for ages now been predicting exactly what had happened to the Baptist, that enlightened one who dunked people in the water while reciting the four truths to Herodiade and the Pharisees.

But his younger brother clearly hadn't gotten over the experience, and look now how he, SIMON, the leader, the big tough guy who had always kept a steady head on his shoulders, has let himself be caught up by a man from Nazareth! No doubt it's a stupid move that he'll regret tomorrow, but who knows what tomorrow will be made of? So, he says to himself, always try, and with the grace of God you never know what might happen!

They are scarcely past the door of Simon's house when look - Jesus asked to see Simon's mother-in-law, and with his huge astonished eyes Simon saw Jesus stretch his hand out on her, and immediately the woman rose up healed, praising the Lord… (Mark 1:30, Matthew 8:14). Wishing to be useful, she went into the kitchen and began to prepare and cook the fish from the miraculous catch.

Simon brought out his best wine and everyone shared this first supper with a certain air of gaiety. Then suddenly Jesus looked into Simon's eyes, which glowed with admiration and respect, and said to him:

The next day Jesus met PHILIP, Andrew's friend, who like him was a former disciple of the Baptist, and asked him:

Then Philip met Nathaniel (also called Bartholomew) (John 1:43) and said to him:

Nathaniel shrugged his shoulders and said, after a moment of reflection,

But Philip insisted,

Surprised, Nathaniel replied:

And Jesus, with his supernatural power, answered:

Deeply troubled, the future Bartholomew avowed:

Indeed, Jesus had this supernatural gift: the power to enter into the secret lives of those who approached him, to read their thoughts, to see their most private actions, good or bad.

The Samaritan woman (the woman who had had five husbands), and the Jews who cast the adulterous woman at his feet, would later learn this as well.

For the moment, Jesus had just found six of his most faithful disciples. Their number would grow as high as seventy, but nevertheless the greater part of them would leave him when he said:

· John 6:56 - He who eats of my flesh will live through me, and he who drinks of my blood will remain with me…

They would think that this prophet was requiring  "impure acts" in the proper sense of the words, which Jewish law formally condemns, since in the Jewish religion it is forbidden even to eat the meat of animals with their blood (like lambs and calves, which must be drained of their blood before being consumed.)

In the LAW of Moses blood was equal to the soul (Deuteronomy 12:23).

Only the twelve apostles would understand that Jesus was speaking of spiritual food, and remain faithful to their Master. Then Jesus sent them out two by two, instructing them:

What faith these disciples showed in their Master and in divine providence! For their mission was often difficult, above all when certain Jewish brothers refused to grant them their hospitality. This is why the Master asked them to wipe the dust from their sandals on such people's doors, so that "this sign" would be left as a witness against these selfish people, at the day of their judgment… On the other hand, all those who received the disciples in his name would profit from their extraordinary powers, transmitted by Jesus:

(Matthew 10 and Mark 6:7-13) They went out and preached repentance, they cast out hosts of demons, and they anointed many sick people with oil and healed them…

One day, Mark recounts (Mark 9:38), the disciples came to find their Master with an air of triumph. John, the future evangelist, spoke first:

We must all be careful not to condemn people who do what God demands, but who do not worship in the same church we do.

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