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I've always heard, over in over, in Church and elsewhere that Jesus's ministry on Earth was only three years. However, it doesn't seem that there is much supporting Biblical evidence for this, or at least direct evidence. Nowhere does it say an exact period of time the events in the gospel where taking place over.

Is there evidence in the New Testament that we can reconstruct how long Jesus ministered for? If not then where does the three year figure come from?

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I don't have the specifics, but I think the identify perhaps three distinct times Jesus celebrated the Passover. Unless His ministry began on Passover, then it would be closer to 2.5 years, maybe even three. –  Narnian Mar 7 '13 at 15:53
@Narnian I almost mentioned that in my question. John mentions 3 Passovers you are correct, but that would be minimum of 2 max of ? since there could have been one or more Passovers just not mentioned. –  aceinthehole Mar 7 '13 at 15:57

3 Answers 3

I understand that there is some disagreement over how old Jesus was, and how long His earthly ministry lasted, but as your question states, most scholars believe He started at about 30 years old, and it lasted 3-31/2 years based on tying events mentioned with other established historical dates.

From http://www.ucg.org/jesus-christ/bible-and-archaeology-jesus-christs-early-ministry/

Archaeologists generally date the start of Christ's ministry to the year A.D. 27. "The beginning of Jesus' public ministry," writes archaeology professor John McRay, "is dated by synchronisms [chronological arrangements of events and people] in the Gospel of Luke (3:1-2). A date of A.D. 27 seems likely . . . The dates mentioned by Luke are rather well established . . ." ( Archaeology and the New Testament, 1997, p. 160).

However, I wouldn't be dogmatic on the age or number of years. Scripture isn't explicit, and there is room for error here, leading to several other interpretations, so it might be best to answer "we don't know, but this is why we think..."

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Scholars who have attempted a synchronized harmony of the Gospels seem to indicate the Jesus went up to Jerusalem on three different occasions. From this, the tradition has grown up that his ministry was three years.

Beyond this interpolation, however, there is nothing to suggest how long his earthly ministry actually lasted. As such, it is probably best to say his ministry lasted at least three years.

Then again, after reading Mark keep saying "and he went immediately", you have gotten the impression it was just a few days :). But, overall, it does seem that the various times Jesus shows up in Jerusalem lend weight to at least 3 years.

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Yes, agreed about Mark, reading through Mark is actually what prompted the question in fact. –  aceinthehole Mar 7 '13 at 20:49

Yeshuas' ministry lasted about one year, see early church fathers writings such as Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Origen and Lactantius. It was Eusebius , in the 4th century who brought this 3 1/2yrs trying to force the Daniel prophesy of chapter 9. See catholic Encyclopedia : chronology of the life of Jesus Christ, relative chronology, the public life of Jesus: it's duration; new advent.org/Cauthen/08377a.htm

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This would be better if you could link to resources and add some quotes. –  David Stratton Nov 21 '13 at 3:05

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