In preparation for last Sunday’s morning sermon, I did some research into the dating of Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem on what we call Palm Sunday. Seeking to ascertain dates of events that transpired in Old Testament times is a difficult task. There are a number of differences as to how the calendar was managed back then from how it is managed today. First, the Hebrew day begins at sundown, whereas our day begins at midnight. Today is what we call Maundy Thursday. On this Thursday night, nearly 2000 years ago, Jesus and the apostles ate the Passover supper in the Upper Room. But the Passover was on Friday. The problem is solved when you understand that the meal was being eaten after sundown, so in Jewish time, it was Friday, although still Thursday on our calendars.
Another problem is determining the year in which an event took place. Most events were dated by a time relative to the inauguration of a king. For example, 2 Chronicles 36:22 begins, “In the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia…” Consequently, we assume that if the first year of a king was say 500 BC, then all the events listed as transpiring in his first year occurred in 500 BC. The problem is that often the inauguration of a king was late in the year. So, it is possible that if a king was inaugurated in December of 500 BC, that most the events that transpired in his first year actually occurred in 499 BC.
One more problem was that the Jewish calendar was based on a lunar cycle rather than a solar cycle. Therefore, there were 30 days to every month, which totaled 360 days in a year rather than our 365¼. This was important for me in determining the date of the Triumphal Entry for it was prophesied by Daniel to occur 483 years after a decree to rebuild Jerusalem after its destruction by the Babylonians in 586 BC. The decree is dated March 5, 444 BC. The date of Jesus’ entry was March 30, 33 AD. Some quick addition reveals a seeming discrepancy. From 444 BC to 33 AD is 476 years (remember there is no year 0). Did Jesus come to present Himself as Israel’s Messiah 7 years too early? If you multiply the 483 years by 360 days you get 173,880 days. If you multiply 476 years by 365¼ you get 173,855, and then if you add the 25 days from March 5 to March 30 you find that Jesus entered Jerusalem on the very day that Daniel predicted He would.
Is determining these dates of history important? Yes and No. No, in that we celebrate Good Friday on a Friday every year, regardless of what date in the month it occurs. The same is true of Easter because the resurrection took place on the first day of the week. Interestingly, if the dating of the decree and Jesus’ entry is correct (and I believe it to be), then Palm Sunday is actually Palm Monday. When something happened in the past is not nearly as important as what happened in the past and why it happened.
But yes, it is important in regards to the integrity of Scripture. Christians believe in the inspiration and consequent inerrancy of the Word of God. If the Bible predicts that an event will occur on a certain date, then of necessity, it must occur on that date. Jesus predicted that he would rise from the grave on the third day. He did! He also predicted that He would return to earth one day, but He never gave a day or a date. That means He could come today.