The Church -- Established A.D. 30
In books of sermons, in sermon outlines, and in actual preaching, we read and hear different dates given as to what year the Lord's church began. Some say A. D. 29; some say AD. 30; others say A.D. 33. Most gospel preachers have been asked to explain why these different dates are given by different writers and preachers. Since I have had occasion to answer this several times, I thought the following quotation might be helpful to us all. It explains how we determine the year in which the church began. This quotation is found in the book "A History of the Christian Church" by Lars P. Qualben, pages 29-31. This book is published by Thomas Nelson and Sons, New York, and is the 1942 edition. Here is the quotation:
"Some confusion has prevailed as to the exact date of the birth of Jesus Christ. It is stated in Matthew 2:1 that the Savior was born in the days of Herod the Great. This king died a few days before the Jewish Passover in the year 750 A.U.C. (anno urbis conditate), i.e., after the founding of the city of Rome; and this year corresponds to the year 4 B.C. in our present calendar.
"The explanation is that our present method of numbering the years 'from the Incarnation of the Lord" was introduced by Dionysius the Little about 530 A.D. and came into general use during the reign of Charlemagne (768-814 AD.). Dionysius placed the Nativity or birth of the Savior on December 25, 754 A.U.C.; and the Annunciation to Mary — identified with the 'Incarnation' or conception — on March 25 of the same year. Yet, he did not begin his era with the date of the Incarnation, March 25, but with the first of January preceding. Hence, January 1, 754 A.U.C., is the epoch of the era of Dionysius, or our Christian era, corresponding in our calendar to January 1, 1.A.
"From this it is evident that Dionysius made a miscalculation of several years as to the birth of Christ. Edersheim has calculated that Christ was born in December 749 A.U.C., corresponding to the year 5 B.C. in our calendar. The Wise men came from the East to worship the Lord in Bethlehem in February 750 A.U.C. As they departed, Joseph was warned in a dream to take the child and the mother and flee to Egypt. Shortly after, Herod the Great killed the male infants of Bethlehem. 'But when Herod was dead,' late in March, 750 A.U.C., or 4 B.C. the Holy Family left Egypt and settled in Nazareth of Galilee. It is self-evident that his earlier date for the birth of Christ does not in the least affect the validity or reliability of the New Testament. The mistake is not with the Bible, but with Dionysius the Little, evidently handicapped by inadequate chronological data when he selected 754 A.U.C. as the year of the birth of the Lord.
"Because of this earlier date of the birth of Christ, the year 30 A.D. is usually selected as the date of the first Pentecost. The Lord began his public ministry when he was "about thirty years of age." This was the age when Jewish Levites began their public service. Hence John the Baptist, the Forerunner of Christ, also very likely began to teach and to baptize at the age of thirty. The Baptist and Christ were half a year apart in age.
Luke states that John the Baptist began to preach and to baptize "in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar." Tiberius became coregent — "collega imperii" — with his step-father, Caesar Augustus, in 764, or possibly early in 765 A.U.C. He became the sole ruler from August 19, 767 A.U.C., corresponding to the year 14 A.D. Luke evidently reckons, as provincials would do, from the co-regency with Augustus. The 'fifteenth year' would then be 779 A.U.C. Counting back thirty years, the Baptist was born around June, 749 A.U.C., and Christ in December of the same year. This checks with the figures above. The Baptist should then have begun his ministry around the middle of the year 779 A.U.C. or in A.D. 26; and Christ must have started his ministry early in A.D. 27. There is an old tradition among the Basilideans, a Gnostic sect, that the Lord was baptized on the sixth or on the tenth of January. He was probably in the public ministry for three years. Hence he was crucified just before the Passover, A.D. 30, and the birthday of the Christian Church occurred on the following Pentecost."