The Unamed Feast of John 5:1
Purım In AD 32 on the Sabbath
14 Adar Shɛnı, March 15th
While camping out during Sukkot in the 4th week of September I picked up a little light reading to keep myself from getting bored: one of my chronology reference books. On the first night we saw an Aurora Borealis. Read a good deal of the book by flashlight that night back in the tent and the next day between activities on Rock Island. Of course I regretted not having my Greek New Testament, my computer, etc. I couldn’t follow up on some things in the book. When we got back home, I started following up the loose ends. One of these was the unnamed feast in John 5. Some how I came across Kenneth Doig’s remark that John the Baptist must have been dead in the context of John chapter 5.
Doig’s interest in asserting that John 5 must have happened after the death of John the Baptist has to do with his teaching of a two year chronology for Messiah’s ministry, dating AD 28 to AD 30, and he has AD 29 where John 5:1 = John 6:4 (the middle Passover). The two year chronology necessarily requires events in John to compress into the last year. So Doig sought to consider the implied death of John as evidence for his two year chronology over and against a three year chronology or four year chronology which placed John 5 well before the Baptist’s death. The prevailing three year ministry and four year ministry do have John 5 well before the Baptist was murdered. But both these theories could allow John 5:17-47 to occur after John died. Doig only deals with what actual advocates of these theories proposed and not with whether they could actually accommodate a change, which he implies supports his theory and not the others. It is always a mistake to consider evidence your theory agrees with without asking the question if the other theories can also explain the evidence without rejecting the whole theory.
Struggle and Prayer
I am not one to give us easily on inconsistencies, and Doig certainly did point out one. It might be easy to just dismiss the interpretation of John’s implied death as far fetched, but as I began to look at John 6:1 and consider the geographical locations and movements of Yeshua and his disciples it soon became evident that the text favored his explanation that John 5:17-47 happened after John the Baptist died. After struggling a while with the issues, I submitted the matter to the Almĭghty in prayer. The answer came later in the searching. The findings in this paper show what I found out.
Now I had followed Thomas Lewin in identifying the feast with Shavuot in AD 31 for no other particular reason that I respected Lewin the most for Yeshua’s ministry. (Scholars in fact have identified the feast with Purım, Passover, Shaνuot, and Tabernacles.) I also had the death of John around Adar in AD 32, and I realized that I had John 5:1 about 9 months before the murder of John the Baptist. If Doig’s remark proved true, then the solution was to choose the feast of Purım in AD 32 for the unnamed feast.
So I decided to check up on it, and discovered in John 5:33 that the reference to John is past tense, “Ye had sent to John and he had witnessed to the truth.” The Greek verbs are in the perfect tense: ἀπεστάλκατε and μεμαρτύρηκεν. Yeshua mention’s the Făther’s witness to him in the present tense: ὁ μαρτυρῶν περὶ ἐμοῦ, “the one witnessing about me” (5:32). Yeshua then refers to John again, “That one was (ἦν) a burning lamp and a shining one, and ye desired to rejoice for a time in his light” (John 5:35). Then in verse 36 Yeshua again uses the verb “witness” in the present tense. So what is probably implied here is that John is already dead.
Yeshua heard that John was murdered while in Galilee (cf. Mark 6:30; Mat. 14:12-13). He was apparently some place on the western side of the lake, and when he heard the news he withdrew by boat to the eastern side. John 6:1 refers to the same crossing of the sea from the west side. Accordingly, since Yeshua found out about John’s murder in Galilee, it follows that John 5:17-47 was delivered on the west side of Galilee. John 6:1 implies as much, “After these things Yeshua went across the sea of Galilee, which is Tiberius.” The point of origin was the west side. The only way that Yeshua could have known John was dead in the John 5:17-47 narrative is if he had first heard the news, and then altered his references to John to the past tense. The texts represent that Yeshua learned of the murder by a report from John’s disciples.
Yeshua attended the unnamed feast incognito and alone. This agrees with him having sent his disciples out on preaching mission from Galilee. He does the healing, and then absents himself from the authorities attempt to investigate. He then appears privately to the healed man. That man then tells the authorities who it was. John interrupts the narrative in 5:16 with a summary of their persecuting efforts. It is highly likely that Yeshua did not stay around to face an inquisition in Jerusalem. Rather, he retreated to western Galilee. News of what he did on the Sabbath was not far behind him and catches up with him in a confrontation in Galilee when reunited with his disciples and with John’s disciples as well as the local Pharisees who raised the question based on their intelligence from the Jerusalem authorities. Meanwhile Yeshua has just learned of John’s murder. So when he makes his reply, he includes remarks about John. Yeshua’s reply is made for an audience that was sympathetic to John’s mission, but who were having doubts about John and even more doubts about who he endorsed to come after him. John’s disciples are in the process of turning back or turning toward Messiah. But the authorities in Jerusalem considered him a false prophet. They just would not say it because they feared the people. So that makes it even less likely that John 5:17-47 was delivered at a confrontation in Jerusalem. Right after this confrontation Yeshua and his disciples retreat across the lake to Bethsaida Julias where all four Evangelists report the feeding of the 5000 in the wilderness NE of the city.
AD 30 John 2:13 Passover AD 30 John the Baptist Arrested AD 31 John 4:35 (1) AD 31 John 5:1 Purim ? SUN ADAR 14 AD 31 Luke 6:1 Passover WED-TUE NISAN 15-21 (2) AD 31 John 5:1 Shavuot ? THUR SIVAN 6 (3) AD 31 John 5:1 Sukkot ? FRI-FRI TISHRI 15-22 (4) AD 31 John 5:1 Dedication ? FRI-FRI KISLEV 25-TEVET 3 (5) AD 32 John 5:1 Purım ? SABBATH ADAR 14 AD 32 John the Baptist murdered AD 32 Yeshua told of John’s murder in Galilee AD 32 John 5:17-47; John’s Death implied AD 32 John 6:4 near Passover AD 33 Luke 13:6-9. The 4th year. AD 34 John 11:55 Passover
First the Reader should see that all the choices for the unnamed feast of John 5:1 fit within a four year chronology laid out in Luke 13:6-9. This is the only chronology that fits Daniel 9, and the Resurrection Sabbath, with a Wednesday crucifixion in AD 34. John the Baptist and Yeshua’s birth narrative show that it was the spring of AD 29 (cf. Luke 3:1) that John the Baptist began his ministry. This means that the Passover of John 2:13 was AD 30. The four years are AD 30 to AD 34.
Now let us consider our floating choices for the unnamed feast in this framework. Against (1)-(4) is the implication that the Baptist was dead in John 5:17-47. Also against these choices are the implication of John 6:1 that Yeshua had come from west Galilee to cross the sea to Bethsaida. This implies John 5:17-47 was a responsa delivered in west Galilee and not Jerusalem.
John spent at least 17 months in prison, a small ending part of AD 30, all of AD 31, and up to Second Adar of AD 32. Four of those months are mentioned in John 4:35. The next year was a leap year having 13 months, and John must have been murdered sometime in Adar Shɛnı. So 13 + 4 = 17. Herod did not want to put him to death, and he had to be tricked into doing it. This was the reason John was in prison for 17 months. Yeshua leaves Judea when he hears John was arrested and in the journey to Galilee he goes through Samaria where John 4 takes place. Shortly before the feeding of the 5000, some 17 months later he learns of John’s murder while in Galilee in time to imply it in his references to John in his responsa to local critics concerning his recent Sabbath healing at the unnamed feast. Whichever way things go, there have to be close to 17 months between John’s arrest and death.
The unnamed feast is unnamed because it is a minor feast. It cannot be Hanukkah because John refers to that feast by its proper name (John 10:22). Further, the time span between Hanukkah and Passover is too great to explain the timing of the responsa in John 5:17-47 just after hearing the news of John’s death and subsequent withdrawl to NE Galilee near Passover. The Sabbath healing in John 5 would have been old news by then, and an argument picked over something more recent. Throughout his ministry Yeshua keeps increasing the stakes and making bolder assertions in public about who he is. Thus the latest controversy is the topic of discussion. This leaves the unnamed feast to be Purım in AD 32.
The unnamed feast may also be unnamed because Purım is the feast commemorating the deliverance of the Jews in the Persian Empire as told in the book of Esther, and in that book neither the proper name of the Almĭghty is mentioned nor even the title: Elohım. The divine name, in fact, is hidden in the text in acrostic form four times. The author was making a point by such obscurity. It is very likely that John was making the same point by billing it “a feast of the Jews.”
There is a final witness that Purım of AD 32 is the right solution. John 5:9 states, “Ἦν δὲ σάββατον ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ,” And it was a Sabbath on that day. The King James makes this clearer, “and on the same day was the sabbath.” The ESV says, “Now that day was the Sabbath.” It appears to be reasonably clear here that the feast day was on a weekly Sabbath. There is only one choice that a feast fell on the Sabbath, and that is Purım of AD 32. “On that day” as the text says must refer to the previously mentioned feast day. If John had not meant to identify the feast as on a Sabbath, then he would have said, Ἦν δὲ σάββατον “But it was a Sabbath.” This alone might weakly imply the feast day was a Sabbath, but the addition of the words, “on that day,” make the point more emphatic, and the prior usage of the phrase in the LXX, when an actual day is in question, shows that it normally refers to the day just described or narrated in the previous context. There would, indeed, be no point in mentioning the feast day the way John did, with nothing more than he went up to a feast, if the narrative had not been on the feast day.
Here are the dates of Purım for a range of years:
Weekday Hebrew Julian AD 28 Sunday 14 Adar Feb 29 AD 29 Sabbath 14 Adar II Mar 19 AD 30 Wednesday 14 Adar Mar 8 AD 31 Sunday 14 Adar Feb 25 AD 32 Sabbath 14 Adar II Mar 15 AD 33 Thursday 14 Adar Mar 5 AD 34 Monday 14 Adar Feb 22 AD 35 Sunday 14 Adar II Mar 13
The Sabbath in AD 29 has to be ruled out since there is no possible way to make this date agree with Luke 3:1, Daniel 9, or Resurrection Sabbath.
Now after locating the date in AD 32, I decided to see if anyone else was saying the same. I discovered that Lambert Dolphin, Eugene Faulstich, and Gordon Franz all accepted this interpretation. Except all these sources rely on Faulstich’s calculation: “Chronologically, the only feast that makes sense is Purim in AD 28. The feast of John 5 fell on a Sabbath (5:9). The only feast day to fall on a Sabbath between AD 25 and AD 35 was Purim of AD 28 (Faulstich 1986).”1
Faulstich’s calculation does not pass my review of it. In Adar of AD 28, the 14th of the month could not have been earlier than Sunday. Visibility calculations for the new moon show that it could not have been seen a day earlier than Sunday night Feb. 15. There is no question the year was intercalated rightly as the alternative date would require Passover to be more than a full week before the spring equinox. If Faulstich had meant AD 29, then his calculation would be right, but simply misunderstood to be in AD 28.2 In any case, the date is invalid. Both AD 28 and 29 are impossible to work with Luke 3:1. In no case is Faulstich’s dogmatism in ruling out AD 32 by claiming the AD 28 date is the only date valid. Here is the calendar for II Adar, AD 32:
Month: XIII ADAR_II, AD 32 4170 A.M. Sab. Cyc: 6. Jub. Cyc: 6 Cycle No: 85 Q1: 0.729 A Q2: -0.996 G LG: 77m W: 0.625' AL: 16.2 AV: 15.4 New Moon calculated for longitude: 35.17 and latitude 31.77 Location of calculations: Jerusalem Author: Daniel Gregg Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sabbath I II III IV V VI VII ~▒▒▒▒▒~~~~~▒▒▒▒▒~~~~~▒▒▒▒▒~~~~~▒▒▒▒▒~~~~~▒▒▒▒▒~~~~~▒▒▒▒▒~~~~~█████▀▀▀▀▀▒▒▒▒▒ ↑ │ 1 │ 2 │ 3 │ 4 │ 5 │ 6 │ 7 │ │New Moon │ │ │ │ │ │ │ │ Mar 2 │ │ │ │ │ │ │ ~▒▒▒▒▒~~~~~▒▒▒▒▒~~~~~▒▒▒▒▒~~~~~▒▒▒▒▒~~~~~▒▒▒▒▒~~~~~▒▒▒▒▒~~~~~█████▀▀▀▀▀▒▒▒▒▒ │ 8 │ 9 │ 10 │ 11 │ 12 │ 13 │ 14 │ │ │ │ │ │ │Fast Est.│Purim │ │ │ │ │ │ │ │ Mar 15 │ ~▒▒▒▒▒~~~~~▒▒▒▒▒~~~~~▒▒▒▒▒~~~~~▒▒▒▒▒~~~~~▒▒▒▒▒~~~~~▒▒▒▒▒~~~~~█████▀▀▀▀▀▒▒▒▒▒ │ 15 │ 16 │ 17 │ 18 │ 19 │ 20 │ 21 │ │P.Shushan│ │ │ │ 365 │ 1 │ │ ~▒▒▒▒▒~~~~~▒▒▒▒▒~~~~~▒▒▒▒▒~~~~~▒▒▒▒▒~~~~~▒▒▒▒▒~~~~~▒▒▒▒▒~~~~~█████▀▀▀▀▀▒▒▒▒▒ │ 22 │ 23 │ 24 │ 25 │ 26 │ 27 │ 28 │ │ │ │ │ │ │ │ │ ~▒▒▒▒▒~~~~~▒▒▒▒▒~~~~~▒▒▒▒▒ │ 29 │ 30 ↑ │ │ │ Mar 31 │
The results here show that the nitty gritty details implied in John 5 are in complete agreement with the AD 30 to AD 34 chronology. Astronomy does not just by chance happen to keep agreeing with the probable sense of the texts. It happens to agree because that is actually when the events took place and John made a careful record. Even what he implies in the texts is true.
By moving John 5 forward to Purım of AD 32, Doig’s observations about the death of John are satisfied in John 5:17-47. Furthermore, the implication that the feast was on the Sabbath (John 5:9) is also satisfied for the astronomy of Purım and AD 32. This is in the context of a four year ministry. Therefore, it must be said that Doig’s observation is not exclusively satisfied by his two year theory. The ability of the AD 30 to AD 34 explanation to accommodate Doig’s detail based objections is once again confirmation that the AD 34 date has all the norms and probabilities pointing its way.
1. http://www.ldolphin.org/jpurim.html. See also http://jewishstudies.eteacherbiblical.com/bethesda-pool-jerusalem-shrine-asclepius/. See also Associates for Biblical Research website: “Divine Healer: Jesus vs. Eshmun” by Gordon Franz: http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2007/11/Divine-Healer-Jesus-vs-Eshmun.aspx. In this article Franz states, “The only feast of the Jews which falls between Zimmuth Pesah and the Jewish Passover is the feast of Purim, connected with the events recorded in the Book of Esther (Bowman 1971; 1975). In the year AD 28, the feast of Purim fell on Shabbat (Faulstich 1986; cf. John 5:9, 15, 18).” All these articles are well worth reading. Franz’s assumption that John 4 took place during a Samaritan festival 60 days before Passover is forced to assume that John 4:35 refers to the wheat harvest beginning around Shavuot. But Yeshua surely means the barley harvest which comes first. So the connection he makes between John 4 and 5 is invalid. They are separated by 17 months.
2. Doig says that Faulstich’s crucifixion date is in AD 30: “E. W. Faulstich, "Dating the Crucifixion," IAT (May, 1986), 6-7, goes beyond the resurrection as the "sign." He extends the prophesied "forty days" against Nineveh (Jonah 3:4) with a day for a year. (Eze. 4:6) He then dates from an eclipse in 763 BCE forward forty years to the fall of Samaria and the end of the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 723 BCE (actually 722). This period is equated with the forty years from Jesus' crucifixion in 30 CE to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE.” (http://www.nowoezone.com/NTC19.htm). Faulstich’s symbolic interpretation has merit, but only after we get the chronology right. Doig is correct. Samaria did not fall in 723 BCE. Doig thinks 722. But, it fell in 720 BC. The 722 BC date is when the siege of Samaria began. It ended under Shalmaneser’s successor, Sargon. The forty years mentioned in the Talmud date from when the Jewish leadership rejected Messiah at the Passover of John 2:13 in the first year of his ministry, and not from the crucifixion. Doig holds to a Friday crucifixion. In AD 30 there is no other choice than a Friday crucifixion. The 15th of Tiberius began in the fall of AD 28. The first Passover after this is in AD 29, and the second in AD 30. So there isn’t any way to make AD 30 work with John’s three definite Passovers except to ignore the Roman Historians and coin archeology and listen to Church tradition that claims a coregency. The ultimate reason they keep steering the wrong way is that their traditions begin with the rejection of Torah, and any explanation of the chronology that agrees with Torah is not considered. The ultimate goal of lawlessness is to undermine the true history of Messiah’s death and resurrection and to give an alternative history that supports their lawlessness.