Almost everyone who thinks about the matter thinks that Jesus was 33 years old when he died. But the New Testament never says so and I bet most people don’t know how that age is calculated. Moreover, I bet even more people don’t know that there was an early Christian tradition (attested in the second century) that he was much older than that!
Yesterday I was reading one of the most important proto-orthodox authors of the second century, Irenaeus, whose five-volume work “Against the Heresies” is a sustained attack against various Gnostics (and other Christians that he considers to be “heretics”). In doing so I ran across a passage I had highlighted many years ago, when I first read the text. It involves Jesus’ age. And it has a surprising view of the matter.
So let me start at the beginning. Why do people always say that Jesus was 33 when he died, if the New Testament never says so? It is by …
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