THE MYSTERIOUS EVENTS OF THE YEAR 30 A.D.!
William F. Dankenbring
On April 5, 30 A.D., Jesus Christ was crucified on the 14th of Nisan, the day of the Passover sacrifice. But several other events happened that year, recorded in history, which were strange and foreboding of the future. A remarkable year indeed...
IN the gospel accounts dealing with the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, we find that strange events occurred, surrounding the event of the crucifixion, stamping it in the memory of man and God. Such a significant year in the history of all mankind would hardly seem to be allowed to pass without some "sign" or "wonders". Indeed, although unbelievers continue to deny the facts, 30 A.D. was a strange, anomalous year.
In the book of Matthew we read:
“Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour.... Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the spirit. And, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks were split; and the graves were opened, and many bodies of the saints that slept were raised, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and into the holy city, and appeared unto many. Now, when the centurion, and they that were with him watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God” - (Matthew 27:45-54).
Writes Alfred Edersheim in The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah:
“And now a shudder ran through Nature, as its Sun had set. We dare not do more than follow the rapid outlines of the Evangelistic narrative. As the first token, it records the rending of the Temple-Veil in two from the top downward to the bottom; as the second, the quaking of the earth, the rending of the rocks and the opening of the graves.., while the rending of the Veil is recorded first, as being the most significant token to Israel, it may have been connected with the earthquake, although this alone might scarcely account for the tearing of so heavy a Veil from the top to the bottom. Even the latter circumstance has its significance. That some great catastrophe, betokening the impending destruction of the Temple, had occurred in the Sanctuary about this very time, is confirmed by not less than four mutually independent testimonies: those of Tacitus, of Josephus, of the Talmud, and of earliest Christian tradition. The most important of these are, of course, the Talmud and Josephus. The latter speaks of the mysterious extinction of the middle and chief light in the Golden Candlestick, forty years before the destruction of the Temple; and both he and the Talmud refer to a supernatural opening by themselves of the great Temple-gates that had been previously closed, which was regarded as a portent of the coming destruction of the Temple” (p.610).
The Temple was destroyed by Titus in 70 A.D. Forty years before that date would be 30 A.D. - the year of the crucifixion!
Says Josephus, in his Wars of the Jews:
“Thus also, before the Jewish rebellion, and before those commotions which preceded the war, when the people were come in great crowds to the feast of unleavened bread, on the eighth day of the month Xanthicus [Nisan] and at the ninth hour of the night, so great a light shone round the altar and the holy house, that it appeared to be bright day-time; which light lasted for half an hour. This light seemed to be a good sign to the unskillful, but was so interpreted by the sacred scribes as to portend those events that followed immediately upon it. At the same festival also, a heifer, as she was being led by the high priest to be sacrificed, brought forth a lamb in the midst of the temple. Moreover, the eastern gate of the inner, [court of the temple,] which was of brass, and vastly heavy, and had been with difficulty shut by twenty men, and rested upon a basis armed with iron, and had bolts fastened very deep into the firm floor, which was there made of one entire stone, was seen to be opened of its own accord about the sixth hour of the night. Now, those that kept watch in the temple came thereupon running to the captain of the temple, and told him of it; who then came up thither, and not without great difficulty was able to shut the gate again. This also appeared to the vulgar to be a very happy prodigy, as if God did thereby open them the gate of happiness. But the men of learning understood it, that the security of their holy house was dissolved of its own accord, and that the gate was opened for the advantage of their enemies. So these publicly declared, that this signal foreshewed the DESOLATION that was coming upon them” - (IV,5,3).
In early writings of the church fathers, Jerome in a Letter to Hedibia relates that the huge lintel of the Temple was broken and splintered and fell. He connects this with the rending of the Veil. Says Edersheim, “it would seem an obvious inference to connect again this breaking of the lintel with an earthquake” (p. 610, op. cit.). The lintel was an enormous stone, being at least 30 feet long and weighing some 30 tons!
The Temple Veils were 60 feet long, 30 feet wide, and the thickness of the palm of a man’s hand, wrought in 72 squares. They were so heavy that we are told 300 priests were needed to manipulate each one. The Veil being rent from top to bottom was such a terrible portent because it indicated that God’s Own Hand had torn it in two, His Presence thus deserting and leaving that Holy Place.
Says the Jewish Talmud in Yoma 39b of the events which occurred in 30 A.D.:
“Forty years before the Temple was destroyed [i.e., 40 years before 70 A.D., or in 30 A.D.] . . .the gates of the Hekel [Holy Place] opened by themselves, until Rabbi Yohanan B. Zakkai rebuked them [the gates] saying, Hekel, Hekel, why alarmist thou us? We know that thou art destined to be destroyed...”
For the huge doors of the Temple behind the Veil to open, of their own accord, or in association with the great earthquake, would cause them to pull powerfully against the Veil, and with the lintel falling, at the same time, could have torn it in two from top to bottom.
This same year, 30A.D., the Sanhedrin had to abandon the Chamber of Hewn Stones, near the Holy Place in the Temple, which was its official seat or location. This was about 40 yards southeast of the entrance to the Holy Place. In 30 A.D. the Sanhedrin had to move to another location, called “The Trading Place,” farther to the east and a much less significant spot. To be forced to move from a beautiful, gorgeous, awesome location in the Temple to a spot much less beautiful, esteemed, and reverential, must have seemed a terrible “put down.” Says the Talmud:
“Forty years before the destruction of the Temple, the Sanhedrin was BANISHED (from the Chamber of Hewn Stone) and sat in the trading station (on the Temple Mount)” - (Shabbat 15a).
Forty years before the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. is 30 A.D. - the very year of the crucifixion of the Messiah! Why was the Sanhedrin moved in the very year Jesus was crucified? Could it also have been forced to do so because of damage due to the earthquake associated with the crucifixion of Jesus - and be direct punishment for their complicity in handing Jesus over to the Romans? Was this evidence of God’s official displeasure with their actions?
Prior to the War with Rome, Josephus tells us that the Sanhedrin had to move once again. This time they moved to an area outside the Temple complex, in an ordinary part of Jerusalem - actually a place west of the Temple near a building called the Xystus (see Josephus’ Wars of the Jews, V,4, 2). What a come-down! Says Ernest Martin in his book Secrets of Golgatha:
“If an earthquake of the magnitude capable of breaking the stone lintel at the top of the entrance to the Holy Place was occurring at the exact time of Christ’s death, then what would such an earthquake have done to the Chamber of Hewn Stones (a vaulted and columned structure) no more than 40 yards away from where the stone lintel fell and the curtain was torn in two?”
“There is every reason to believe, though the evidence is circumstantial, that the Chamber of Hewn Stones was so damaged in the same earthquake that it became structurally unsafe from that time forward. Something like this had to have happened because the Sanhedrin would not have left this majestic chamber (to take up residence in the insignificant ‘Trading Place’) unless something approaching this explanation took place” - (p.230-231).
Martin is right! They would not have made such a humiliating move - voluntarily! It had to be forced upon them by circumstance. There is no record of the Roman government compelling such a move - they stayed out of Jewish religious life. Nor would Herod the king have been responsible - to offend the entire Sanhedrin would have been a disastrous political mistake. Only a “natural cause” which men could not remedy would seem plausible for causing such a move. Martin goes on:
“If this is actually what happened (and I have no doubt that it did), we then have a most remarkable witness that God the Father engineered every action happening on the day of Christ’s trial and crucifixion. It means that the judgment made by the official Sanhedrin against Jesus within the Chamber of Hewn Stones, was THE LAST JUDGMENT ever given by the official Sanhedrin in their majestic chambers within the Temple! It would show that God the Father demonstrated by the earthquake at Christ’s death that the sentence of the Sanhedrin against Jesus would be the last judgment it would ever make in that authorized place!” - (p.231).
But this is not all. The events of the year 30 A.D. are amazing, when viewed from the perspective of almost 2,000 years later. Why did so many anomalous events occur during that one single year? Why did so many “curses” begin that very year? Why was the Sanhedrin so obviously rebuked by God that year, by being forced to “relocate” to a much lesser station than that which they previously held? Writes Rabbi Leibel Reznick in The Holy Temple Revisited:
“Although this was the largest structure on top of the entire Temple Mount, the purpose and function of the Basilica is not recorded anywhere. The TALMUD tells us that when the Sanhedrin (Supreme Court) CEASED TO JUDGE CAPITAL OFFENCES, they MOVED from the Supreme Court chambers to the ‘shopping mall’ (Rosh HaShana 31a). This shopping mall was located on the Temple Mount (Rashi) ... Perhaps this shopping mall was located within the Royal Basilica. Because this area was built on Herod’s extension, it did not have the sanctity of the Temple itself, and commerce would have been permitted” (Jason Aronson, Inc., Northvale, New Jersey, 1993, p.69).
Notice! The year the Sanhedrin was moved was 30 A.D., the year Christ was crucified. This was also the year they CEASED to judge capital offences! This “authority” was thenceforth removed from their purview, denied to them - another withering rebuke to the sages of the Court which so injudiciously and intemperately MISJUDGED the Messiah Himself! Writes Craig Blomberg of this event:
“...the claim that the Romans retained the sole right of capital punishment (John 18:31) has often been termed a Johanine error, especially in view of the counter-example in the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7:58). But this right is strikingly confirmed by a passage in the Talmud, which says that capital punishment had been taken from the Jews FORTY YEARS before the destruction of the temple in A.D.70 (pSanh. 1:1,7:2). Stephen’s stoning reads more like mob action which defied technical legalities” - (The Historical Reliability of the Gospels, by Craig Blomberg, Inter-Varsity Press, 1987, p. 179).
It was the very year of the crucifixion that the Jews were denied the right to perform capital punishment by the Romans. When the members of the Jewish Supreme Court brought Jesus to Pilate, he told then “Take him and judge him according to your law.” But they replied, “It is not lawful for us to put any man to death” - (John 18:31). Yet they connived and pressured Pilate and stirred up the crowd to demand the crucifixion of Christ the Messiah, the Anointed One of God (John 18:32-40; 19:1-16).
Great trouble and trial has come upon the Jewish nation ever since this moment frozen in time in 30 A.D. As He was led away to be crucified, Jesus warned the women of Jerusalem,
“Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep foryourselves, and for your children. For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck. Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us. For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?” - (Luke 23:28-31).
Truly, that was a memorable year of infamy!