John the Baptist Died after death of Jesus as per Josephus

ohn the Baptist (Hebrew: יוחנן המטביל, Yoḥanan ha-mmatbilArabic: يحيى‎ Yahyá or يوحنا المعمدان Yūhannā al-maʿmadānAramaic: ܝܘܚܢܢ Yoḥanan)[1] (c. 6 BC– c. 36 AD) was an itinerant preacher[2] and a major religious figure[3] who led a movement of baptism at the Jordan River.[4] Some scholars maintain that he was influenced by the Essenes, who were semi-ascetic, expected an apocalypse, and practiced rituals conferring strongly with baptism,[5] although there is no direct evidence to substantiate this.[6] John is regarded as a prophet in ChristianityIslam,[7] the Bahá’í Faith,[8] and Mandaeism.

Most biblical historians agree that John baptized Jesus at “Bethany beyond the Jordan,” by wading into the water with Jesus from the eastern bank. [9] [10]In addition to the Canonical gospels, John the Baptist is also mentioned by Jewish historian Josephus, in Aramaic Matthew, in Pseudo-Clementine, and in the Qur’an.[11] Accounts of John in the New Testament appear “not incompatible” with the account in Josephus.[12]


An account of John the Baptist is found in all extant manuscripts of the Jewish Antiquities (book 18, chapter 5, 2) by Flavius Josephus (37–100):[44]

“Now some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod’s army came from God, and that very justly, as a punishment of what he did against John, that was called the Baptist: for Herod slew him, who was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness towards one another, and piety towards God, and so to come to baptism; for that the washing [with water] would be acceptable to him, if they made use of it, not in order to the putting away [or the remission] of some sins [only], but for the purification of the body; supposing still that the soul was thoroughly purified beforehand by righteousness. Now when [many] others came in crowds about him, for they were very greatly moved [or pleased] by hearing his words, Herod, who feared lest the great influence John had over the people might put it into his power and inclination to raise a rebellion, (for they seemed ready to do any thing he should advise,) thought it best, by putting him to death, to prevent any mischief he might cause, and not bring himself into difficulties, by sparing a man who might make him repent of it when it would be too late. Accordingly he was sent a prisoner, out of Herod’s suspicious temper, to Macherus, the castle I before mentioned, and was there put to death. Now the Jews had an opinion that the destruction of this army was sent as a punishment upon Herod, and a mark of God’s displeasure to him.[45]

As with other passages in Josephus relating to Christian themes concern remains over whether the passage was part of Josephus’s original text or instead a later addition. Frank Zindler argues that the passage is an addition by a Sabian.[46] The passage dates back to at least the early 3rd century as it is quoted by Origen in Contra Celsum. It was also quoted by Eusebius of Caesarea in the 4th century.

According to this passage, the execution of John was blamed for a defeat Herod suffered ca. AD 36. Divergences between the passage’s presentation and the Biblical accounts of John include baptism for those whose souls have already been “purified beforehand by righteousness” is for purification of the body, not general repentance of sin (Mark 1:4[32]). Biblical scholar John Dominic Crossandifferentiates between Josephus’s account of John and Jesus like this: “John had a monopoly, but Jesus had a franchise.” To get baptized, Crossan writes, you went only to John; to stop the movement one only needed to stop John (therefore his movement ended with his death). Jesus invited all to come and see how he and his companions had already accepted the Government of God, entered it and were living it. Such a communal praxis was not just for himself, but could survive without him, unlike John’s movement.[47]

Jesus Died in 30 A.D.
“The latest date for the crucifixion of Jesus is therefore the Passover of AD 36, and we cannot rule out that there may be some connection between this event and the fact that within a year both the officials concerned in the death of Jesus had been removed from office.” (Schonfield, 1965, p. 262) 

“The evidence for A.D. 36 is overwhelming on historical grounds, and this date alone concurs with what the Evangelists agree upon…” (Schonfield, 1975, p. 46)


The best way to date the death of Jesus is to look for the key players in his death drama, about whom there is considerable information, and to establish the context surrounding Jesus’ death. We begin by acknowledging that, according to the gospels, Jesus’ death followed the death of John the Baptist, and occurred while Caiaphas was High Priest and while Pilate was Prefect.

We know that:

  • John the Baptist met his gruesome death in 34 or 35 A.D. [1] following the marriage of Herod Antipas to Herodias, who was recently widowed following the death of Philip, which is dated around 34 AD.
  • Caiaphas was deposed by Lucius Vitellius, the legate of Syria, in 36 A.D.
  • Pilate was recalled to Rome at the end of 36 A.D [2]

In order to fit these known dates, Jesus must have been alive in 34 or 35 and then died prior to the end of 36. Assuming that some time elapsed between the death of John the Baptist and the death of Jesus, the best date is 36.

Most scholars use 30 or 33 because it was during these years that the Nisan dates for Passover complied with the gospel descriptions. 36 also complied, but many scholars dismissed this date as being too late, without thinking about the implications of the death of John. Disregarding John’s death, 30 and 33 are possible, since both Caiaphas and Pilate were in office in those years.

Where does the mistaken idea come from that Jesus died in 30 AD.? The chances are that people accepted the idea that Jesus was born in the year 1 AD (which we now know is not true, but which was considered fact for thousands of years) and that he started teaching when he was 30 years old (from the Gospel of Luke) and he died during the first year of teaching. That twisted logic gave us a death in 30 AD. as the major choice of scholars.


[1] Schonfield, 1974, p.51

[2] Josephus, Antiquities, XVIII, 90, vol ix. P.65


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