The Gospel According to the Inner Circle: Chronology

The canonical Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke &...
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So far, this series has covered Yochanan’s introductory description of Yeshua, His Being, and His Mission. Now, let’s take a moment and look at how these two Gospel accounts (and by extension, the other two Synoptics) fit together. Much of the composition of this chronology is thanks to Holding‘s article on the subject.

It is altogether appropriate that any reconciliation of the Gospel accounts begin with Yochanan’s introduction, which describes Yeshua’s origin (if we can use that term of an Eternal Being) “in the beginning.” However, we soon arrive at Yochanan HaTivlei (John the Baptist) describing seeing the Spirit descending on Yeshua as a dove, which is certainly a flashback to His Mikveh (immersion, baptism) as described in Mark 1. This begins the carefully placed time markers which describe the intricate interplay between the two, as Yochanan the Apostle seeks to fill in the gaps in Kefa’s narrative (as delivered to us by Mark).

In the following timeline, I’m concentrating primarily on the actions, not the discourses, of Yeshua. This is in no small part because Yeshua, like any traveling preacher, reused His teachings and parables repeatedly, making the issue of when they were “really” delivered a moot point. I’ll also leave aside the matter of the birth narratives, which are easily reconciled to each other and which I’ll probably comment on closer to Sukkot.

It should also be noted that not all of the Gospel accounts are written in chronological order. While Luke claims to write an “orderly” (that is, in order, chronological) account (1:3), Matthew arranged his material largely by subject, and we are told by Papias regarding Mark’s Gospel account:

Mark having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately whatsoever he remembered. It was not, however, in exact order that he related the sayings or deeds of Christ. (quoted by Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, Book III, ch. 39)

Therefore, where Mark or Matthew’s apparent chronology seems to contradict that of the other Gospel accounts, I’ll tend to favor Luke and John. For example, Mark reports Yeshua’s first exorcism after the calling of Kefa, Andrew, Yochanan, and Ya’akov (James), while Luke states that the exorcism happened first, so we’ll follow Luke’s chronology, since he was more concerned with the “when.” For that reason, and because most of the material added by Matthew is in the form of discourses, we won’t be referencing the book of Matthew all that much.

A rough chronology may be developed as follows. My apologies in advance; this is going to be a rather long post.

  • Introduction of the Word and Light of God (John 1:1-14)
  • Yochanan begins preaching in the wilderness (Mark 1:2-8, John 1:15-18)
  • Yeshua’s Mikveh, or baptism (Mark 1:9-11)
  • Yeshua’s forty days of temptation in the wilderness (Mark 1:12-13)
  • First meetings
  • Some time later, the priests and Levites come to question Yochanan, who tells them he is neither the Messiah, nor Eliyahu (Elijah, John 1:19-28).
  • The day after the inquiry, Yeshua returns to the Jordan, where He is identified as the Messiah by Yochanan to two of his disciples, one of whom is Andrew, Kefa’s brother. They stay and converse with Him overnight, after which Andrew introduces Kefa to Yeshua (John 1:35-42).
  • The day after that, the four travel to Galilee, where Yeshua calls Philip, who makes introductions with Nathaniel (John 1:43-51).
  • The wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11)
  • A relatively brief stay in Capernaum (John 2:12)
  • The first Passover. Yeshua clears the Temple for the first time and is challenged by the Judean leadership. The midnight meeting with Nicodemus. (John 2:13-3:21)
  • Yeshua remains in Judea for a time, with His talmidim (disciples) immersing alongside Yochanan’s, causing some jealously among the latter which Yochanan has to rebuke. (John 3:22-36)
  • As a result, Yeshua leaves Judea and passes through Samaria to get back to Galilee, meeting the woman at the well. (John 4:1-43)
  • After delaying with them for two days, He passes through Nazareth and is nearly thrown from a cliff when He declares Himself to be the fulfillment of prophecy (Luke 4:16-30, John 1:44).
  • At about this time, Yochanan is arrested (Mark 1:14-15).
  • Yeshua returns to Cana, where a nobleman asks Him to heal his son, which He does. This, according to the account, is Yeshua’s second miracle. (John 1:46-54)
  • The calling of the fishers of men
  • Yeshua goes to Capernaum, where He begins His ministry of healing and casting out demons, including the man in the synagogue and Kefa’s mother-in-law (Luke 4:31-44, Mark 1:23-34).
  • As a result, Yeshua has to use Kefa’s fishing boat as a floating stage to address the crowds. The miracle of the fish and the calling of Kefa, Andrew, Yochanan, and Ya’akov. (Luke 5:1-12, Mark 1:16-22)
  • The Galilean ministry (Mark 1:39-6:6), which includes:
  • The Twelve are appointed. (Mark 3:13-20)
  • Yeshua is rejected by the P’rushim (Pharisees) and begins teaching only in parables (Mark 3:22-4:34)
  • Calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee (Mark 4:35-41)
  • Casting out Legion (Mark 5:1-20)
  • Healing the woman with the issue of blood and raising a little girl from the dead (Mark 5:21-43)
  • After this, Yeshua sends out the Twelve to operate on their own for a time (Mark 6:1-30).
  • While they are gone, He Himself goes up to Jerusalem for an unnamed Feastday and heals a paralytic on the Sabbath, defending His right to do so against the Pharisees (John 5).
  • The second Passover (John 6:4):
  • The Twelve regather and report their success, and Yeshua takes them across the Sea of Galilee to try to find a quiet place to rest. However, a crowd of 5,000 men followed them, prompting the first feeding miracle (Mark 6:31-44, John 6:1-15).
  • Yeshua walks on the sea (Mark 6:45-52, John 6:16-21).
  • Yeshua calls Himself the Bread of Life, possibly coinciding with the Feast of Matzah (Unleavened Bread, John 6:22-71).
  • A brief stay at Gennesaret (Mark 6:53-56)
  • The Second Galilean Ministry (John 7:1, Mark 6:56-9:50), which include:
  • The disputes with the Pharisees over halacha (how to apply Torah; Mark 7:1-23)
  • Yeshua and His talmidim withdraw to the border of Tyre and Sidon, where a Gentile woman asks for healing for her daughter (Mark 7:24-30).
  • Yeshua heals a deaf and dumb man (Mark 7:31-37).
  • The feeding of the 4,000 (Mark 8:1-9).
  • The Pharisees ask for a sign, a blind man healed outside Bethsaida (Mark 8:10-26)
  • Kefa’s profession of faith (Mark 8:27-33)
  • The Transfiguration (Mark 9:1-13)
  • The Feast of Sukkot (John 7:2-53)
  • Yeshua teaches in the Temple (John 7:14-36)
  • On the last day of the eight-day feast, Yeshua proclaims Himself to be the source of the true living water (John 7:37)
  • Yeshua forgives an adulteress (John 8)
  • Healing a man born blind and subsequent discourse (John 9:1-10:21)
  • Hanukkah (John 10:22-39)
  • Yeshua withdraws to the region of the Jordan (John 10:40)
  • Raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-53)
  • Yeshua again withdraws to the wilderness, to instruct His talmidim (John 11:54, Mark 9:30-32)
  • The last journey to Jerusalem:
  • Yeshua appoints the Seventy and sends them into Judea to announce His coming (Luke 10:1-24), while remaining in Capernaum (Mark 9:33)
  • Yeshua passes through Judea, teaching and healing, on His way to Jerusalem. (Luke 10:25-19:27, Mark 10)
  • Six days before Passover, Yeshua stays in Bethany. (John 12:1-11)
  • The Triumphal Entry, four days before Pesach, on Nisan 10 (Mark 11:1-11, John 12:12-50). This was probably on the Sabbath.
  • The clearing of the Temple on the following day, followed by two days of being tested by the leaders of Israel in the Temple. (Mark 11:12-44)
  • Yeshua leaves the Temple for the last time after denouncing Israel’s leaders (Mat. 23) and delivers the Olivet Discourse (Mark 13) two days before Passover (Mark 14:1), or just before evening on Nisan 12.
  • Yeshua is anointed in Bethany at dinner after sundown on the 13th, after which Judas contracts to betray Him. (Mark 14:3-11)
  • The Third Passover:
  • The Last Supper (Mark 14:12-31, John 13-17)
  • Prayer and Arrest in the Garden of Gethsemene (Mark 14:32-52, John 18:1-12)
  • Yeshua’s trials before the high priest and Pilate (Mark 14:53-15:15, John 18:12-19:15)
  • The Crucifixion and burial (Mark 15:16-47, John 19:16-42)
  • The Empty Tomb, three days later on a Sunday (Mark 16:1-11, John 20:1-18)
  • Yeshua meets two disciples on the Emmaeus road (Mark 16:12, Luke 24:13-35)
  • He appears to ten of the Eleven for dinner immediately after (John 20:19-23)
  • Eight days later, He appears to the Eleven, now including Toma (Thomas, John 20:24-29, Mark 16:14-18).
  • He appears to the Eleven on the Sea of Galilee (John 21)
  • The Ascension (Mark 16:19-20)

A few things of note: Right off the bat, we find ourselves confronted by the fact that there is no evidence that Yeshua’s ministry lasted the traditional 3 1/2 years. There are three Passovers mentioned, which have only two years sandwiched between them. Previous to that, we have a period of (I believe, for reasons I’ll get to in forthcoming articles) six months between Yeshua’s baptism and the first Passover–during which, we see, He was rather quiet. He gathered only a few disciples and performed only a single miracle, and that under duress, as it were. It isn’t until after Yochanan’s arrest that Yeshua begins a ministry of miracles.

Why then do so many believe that Yeshua’s ministry lasted a full year longer? The traditional view apparently came out of an erroneous interpretation of Daniel’s prophecy of the Seventy Weeks–though it’s surprising that so many Premillennialists have simply subscribed to that view instead of challenging it. It should be noted that the amillennialist view that Yeshua brought an end to sacrifice and offering in the Cross fails on other fronts, which I’ll explain in a dedicated article someday–but the fact that the Bible does not give us a long enough ministry is just the final nail in the coffin.

Is it possible that the unnamed feast in John 5 is another Passover, thus giving us 3 1/2 years? If so, then we have a full year of Yeshua’s ministry about which absolutely nothing is said. Moreover, the fact that this feast was not named suggests that it was one of the minor feasts, perhaps Hanukkah or Purim.

Is there a significance to the fact that Yeshua’s active ministry was about two years long? I believe so. Remember that Israel wandered in the wilderness for forty years–but the first two years were spent at Mt. Sinai, during which they were all being taught by God and being given His Torah. The remaining 38 years were a time of testing and punishment for Israel’s lack of faith at the end of which the last of the generation that failed to obey passed away. In the same way, for two years Israel was taught by God in the person of the Messiah Yeshua, after which were 38 years of testing and punishment, concluding with the destruction of the generation who rejected Him.

But just as God raised up a new generation of Israelites to follow Y’hoshua (Joshua) into the Land, He is also raising up a new generation of Israelites to follow Y’hoshua (the longer version of Yeshua).

Shalom

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