Sabbatical Years and the Date of the Crucifixion
Nikos Kokkinos and Hugh Schonfield have attempted to demonstrate, using evidence based on the sabbatical year cycle, that the date of the crucifixion was in 36 CE.[i] Kokkinos asserts that “this is the only chronological framework that may canonically verify that Jesus was active when a sabbatical year overlapped with a Roman census year; all other theories fail to do this.[ii] Although this is superficially attractive, there is no evidence that the census was an issue during the ministry of Jesus. Both Kokkinos and Schonfield cite these pericopes as support: the census is alleged to be the reason for the hostility toward the tax collector Zacchaeus[iii], the question put to Jesus in Jerusalem, “Shall we pay tribute to Caesar?”[iv] and the unfairness of the system as reflected in Jesus’ words.[v] However, there is nothing in these passages suggesting that the census, rather than the oppressive tax system, is in view. On the contrary, Luke presents Mary and Joseph as obedient subjects who hurry to Bethlehem to register in accordance with Roman law.
[i] Robin Lane Fox, Unauthorized Version: Truth and Fiction in the Bible, (New York, 1991), also dates the crucifixion to 36 CE but I do know if he based his argument on the sabbatical year cycle.
[ii] Kokkinos in “Crucifixion in A.D. 36,” Chronos, Kairos, Christos edited by Jerry Vardaman and Edwin M. Yamauchi, (1989), 138, citing H.J. Schonfield, The Pentecostal Revolution, (London, 1974), 54.
[iii] Lk. 19:1-10.
[iv] Lk. 20:21-25.
[v] Lk. 8:18; 19:26.