bezrat hashem

May Your compassion come to me that I may live, For Your Torah is my delight.- Psalm 119:77

When Yeshua Was Crucified
Written by Brady StephensonauthorPsalm11918.org / 20 March 2008

When we are asked by leaders in our congregations to do something or to believe something in regards to Scripture, we should always be like the Bereans and test everything against Scripture itself (Acts 17:11)... the whole of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16-17). If a person feels "led by the spirit" to speak, behave, or believe a certain way, they should test that spirit (1 John 4:1) and see whether what that spirit is telling them to do is in agreement or disagreement with Scripture.

Let us take a journey together through Scripture and see what it says about when Yeshua was crucified... a "walk in the Word" so to speak. As we take this walk, may we say, believe, and do what is right, be merciful in our speech and actions, and walk humbly with the Lord (Micah 6:8).

Author's note: For the record, as I began this study I followed the traditional "Good Friday" crucifixion date.

Scriptural quotations are from the New American Standard Bible unless otherwise noted. Bolded text or other emphases in the Scriptural references are the author's.

 

The Question

During a recent class I was questioned about my teaching that Friday is the anniversary of Messiah's crucifixion. A friend pointed out that the Scriptural holy day of Pesach (Passover) falls on a different day of the week each year so the crucifixion would naturally follow that "floating" holiday. That actually made sense when I thought about it but then my friend posed an additional and much more challenging question:

"Was the Master crucified on a Friday and resurrected on a Sunday?"

My initial response was a somewhat surprised "Well, of course He was!"

The prompt reply: "Show me from Scripture."

With a promise to study the matter and later provide an answer, I began to examine what Scripture said on the matter. This article documents what I have found.

 

The Answer... in Short

There are two short answers to the question "what day was Messiah Crucified?"

The first short answer to the question is... the 14th of Nisan: the day of Pesach. Messiah is our Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7) and died in our place as the ultimate Passover Lamb.

The second short answer is... it really doesn't matter what day of the week the Master was crucified.
We are not given a commandment in Scripture to observe or honor that day as the day of His crucifixion in any way so answering the question is mostly a matter of intellectual curiosity. Some who oppose "Good Friday" do so simply on the basis of opposing anything having to do with the Catholic church. Our examination here is entirely an intellectual matter and has no specific agenda other than to find out what Scripture actually says about the matter.

Since "Good Friday" was the topic that began the original discussion I decided that I would start my search there.

 

What is Good Friday?

"Good Friday" is never described in Scripture using those specific terms so a quick online search was made to find a definition. The only places where clear definitions were provided were Catholic sources.

Good Friday, called Feria VI in Parasceve in the Roman Missal, he hagia kai megale paraskeue (the Holy and Great Friday) in the Greek Liturgy, Holy Friday in Romance Languages, Charfreitag (Sorrowful Friday) in German, is the English designation of Friday in Holy Week -- that is, the Friday on which the [Catholic] Church keeps the anniversary of the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ.1

"Friday" is never actually mentioned in Scripture in describing the day of Messiah's crucifixion or any other notable day. That actually makes sense since the names of the week that are now used in the western calendar (Sunday through Saturday) came from the pagan Roman calendar much later in history and were never used in Scripture. A search for the Greek equivalent of "sixth day" (hektos haymeron) in Scripture returned no results. This left an examination of the Gospels for other clues regarding the day.

 

Pesach

Pesach was used as a starting point. Leviticus 23 describes G-d's moedim [appointed times] including the schedule for Pesach:

Leviticus 23:5

In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight is the LORD'S Passover.

 

Exodus 12:6 describes the timing of the original Pesach:

Exodus 12:6

You shall keep it [the lamb] until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight.

 

The Hebrew that is translated in the NASB as "at twilight" is בין חארבים (bayn ha-arevayim) which is literally "before the evenings"... plural. This indicates the time was to be before sundown on the fourteenth which allowed for the "evening" before sundown (the end of one day) and the "evening" after sundown (the beginning of another day). Why would we count the days in this manner?

In Scripture a day begins at sundown rather than at midnight as is the current western custom. (For more details see the article entitled G-d's Appointed Times.) In order to be at a point before "the evenings" it would have to be prior to sundown: just before the end of one day and the beginning of another. Some might argue that the bayn in the phrase means "between", however, bayn is only used to mean "between" when it is used twice before two distinct nouns. Genesis 3:15 is an excellent example of this where we have bayneda oobayn in the phrase "and I will put enmity between you and the woman".

The "before" interpretation is backed up by additional sources. For example, the Greek equivalent of this word in the Septuagint translation of Exodus 12:6 is πρὸς ἑσπέραν (pros esperan) which means "towards evening" or "near evening". This provides an indication that it was at the time which was not yet evening but was near and moving towards that time.

It was here that research ran into a roadblock.

The Scriptural calendar is based upon the lunar month. The article on the Scriptural calendar can provide more details on this as well. The secular calendar followed by most of the western world today is based upon the solar year. These two systems never fully sync up because they are very different in nature. This year (currently 2008 in the secular calendar, 5768 in the Hebrew calendar) Pesach falls on April 20th. Last year Pesach fell on April 3rd and next year it will fall on April 9th. Since there is some debate about the exact year (in the current western calendar) that Yeshua was born we cannot be certain of what day of the week Pesach fell on for the year of His death.

 

Resurrection

Somewhat perplexed by all this I decided a different approach was warrented. Surely Scripture provides some very specific details about the timing of the crucifixion and resurrection. I decided to take these criteria and determine which hypothesis for a crucifixion date best matched that criteria. I decided to start my search with the Resurrection day and work backwards 3 days and 3 nights.

After all... that is what the Master tells us is the sign:

Three Days and Three Nights

Matthew 12:38-40

Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, "Teacher, we want to see a sign from You." But He answered and said to them, "An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE SEA MONSTER, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

 

Here Yeshua informs us that He will be in the grave 3 days and 3 nights. That will serve as our first criteria:

Timing Criteria:

1. Messiah in the grave 3 days and 3 nights.

Three days and three nights... there is something familiar about that from the story of Noach.

Noach

The day of Pesach always falls on the 14th day of of the month of Nisan (Exodus 12:18). Three days later would be the 17th of Nisan. There is an additional bit of insight that we can get from the story of Noach regarding the 17th of Nisan.

The story of Noach relates that G-d rendered judgment on all mankind with the Flood but saved Noach, his family, and the animals animals in the ark. Since the ark is the mechanism by which G-d saved Noach we can see that the ark is a picture of Messiah who is the ultimate Savior.

In Exodus 12:2 G-d established the Passover month [Nisan] as the first month. Before that time, years in Scripture had been reckoned from the date of creation. According to tradition creation began with the month which is known today as Tishrei. If we begin with Tishrei as the first month then the seventh month is the month of Passover: Nisan.

Genesis 8:4

In the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark rested upon the mountains of Ararat.

 

Here we can see a parallel between mankind's first instrument of salvation, the ark, and mankind's ultimate instrument of salvation, Messiah:

The 17th day of Nisan is when the ark rested from its work of saving Noach.

The 17th day of Nisan is when the Messiah rested from His work of saving mankind and was resurrected.

While an interesting insight this, unfortunately, does not help us in our quest to identify which day of the week Messiah was crucified. Let's consider the "days and nights" aspect of Messiah's words.

Day and Night

When Messiah makes a distinction between days (daylight hours) and nights (night hours) we know that Yeshua is not speaking of the generic 24-hour period which we might call a "day". Instead He is describing two separate periods of time: daytime and nighttime. This fits with another passage from Scripture that records His words regarding what He considers a "day":

John 11:9

Jesus answered, "Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world.

 

If Messiah had said "Are there not twenty four hours in the day?" then we would know that He was referring to the 24-hour period that we commonly use as "day". Instead, He notes that a "day" is a twelve hour period of daylight. Knowing that there is a 24-hour cycle of day and night we can determine that a "night" is an equivalent period of 12 hours of darkness.

Timing Criteria:

1. Messiah in the grave 3 days and 3 nights

  • Days are periods of light
  • Nights are periods of darkness

The Third Day

What else does Scripture say about the Resurrection?

Matthew 16:21

From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.

 

Several related passages in Scripture (Matthew 17:23, 20:19, Luke 9:22, Acts 10:40, 1 Corinthians 15:4) repeat this "on the third day" phrasing. Something more to add to our criteria...

Timing Criteria:

1. Messiah in the grave 3 days and 3 nights

  • Days are periods of light
  • Nights are periods of darkness

2. Resurrected on the third day

Sunday Morning?

This approach of starting with the Resurrection and working backwards 3 days and 3 nights should be simple since everybody knows the Resurrection occurred Sunday morning after dawn, right?

An examination of Scripture tells us it was not:

John 20:1

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone already taken away from the tomb.

 

This verse indicates that it was still dark (before dawn!?) and the stone had already been taken away from the tomb which meant that Yeshua was already resurrected by that point.

This verse presents two problems with the "Sunday morning" resurrection concept. Let's examine what appears to be the larger issue first:

First problem: First Day of the Week?

The Greek behind the "first day of the week" translation is μια των σαββάτων (mia ton sabbaton). This phrase does not literally translate as "first day of the week". It translates as "the one sabbath".

The word translated as "first" [mia as the feminine form of the adjective heis (Strong's #1520)] does not mean "first"; it means "one". Some examples from Scripture:

  • Yeshua says "I and the Father are one". (John 10:30)
  • Yeshua quotes Torah and says "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh." (Matthew 19:5)
  • Yeshua references Deuteronomy 6:4 and says "the Lord our G-d is One" (Mark 12:29)
  • Luke 5:12 records that Yeshua was in "one of the cities". The Greek word with the exact same part of speech [adjective], case [dative], number [singular], and gender [feminine] here is translated as "one".
  • Luke 5:17 records "one day" Yeshua was teaching. Here again the exact same part of speech [adjective], case [dative], number [singular], and gender [feminine] is translated as "one".


Luke 5:17 provides additional reason to question the "first day of the week" translation. In Luke 5:17 the noun phrase translated as "one day" is μια των ημερων (mia ton haymeron). The Greek word for "day" (haymeron) is used in this verse but it is not present in John 20:1, above.

Answer to First Problem:

The resolution to this dilemma with this came from a 17th century source: commentator, John Lightfoot:

The Jews reckon the days of the week thus; One day (or the first day) of the sabbath: two (or the second day) of the sabbath: "Two witnesses come and say, The first of the sabbath this man stole, &c., and, on the second day of the sabbath, judgment passed on him." 2

[italics in the original]

 

Eric Lyons of Apologetics Press.org explains that Lightfoot took this example from the Talmud tractate Maccoth. Lyons also quotes R.C.H. Lenski to provide this additional insight:

"[T]he Jews had no names for the weekdays," they "designated them with reference to their Sabbath" (1943, p. 1148). Thus, mia ton sabbaton means "the first (day) with reference to the Sabbath," i.e., the first (day) following the Sabbath (Lenski, p. 1148), or, as we would say in 21st century English, "the first day of the week." 3

 

These claims are born out by my own research into Hebraic literature. For example, The Complete Artscroll Siddur provides a similar interpretation of the opening of the liturgical prayer for the Song of the Day for "Sunday". The Hebrew (hayom yom rishon bashabbat) is translated as "Today is the first day of the Sabbath". 4

In every place in the Gospel accounts where we find "first day of the week" translated from mia ton sabbaton (Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:2, Luke 24:1, John 20:1, John 20:19, & Acts 20:7) it is likely making use of the Hebraic expression "[day] one of the Sabbath" to mean "the first day of the week".

Second Problem: Days of the Week

There is also another issue: the "first day of the week" only partially corresponds to the Western calendar day of Sunday. I say "partially" because the Scriptural calendar day begins at sundown while the western secular calendar day begins at midnight. (See the article on G-d's Appointed Times for more details.)

In a comparison of Scriptural days of the week with the Western calendar days of the week we find this:

Time S
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s
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  M
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  S
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r
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  M
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d
a
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  S
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s
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  M
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h
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  S
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r
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  M
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d
a
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  S
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s
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  M
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  S
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  M
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Scriptural Shishi (6th day) Shabbat (7th day) Rishon (1st day)
Western Thu Friday (6th day) Saturday (7th day) Sunday (1st day)


Answer to Second Problem:

To a Hebrew author such as Yochanan the "first day of the week" would have begun at sundown... what we would consider the beginning of Saturday night. If Mary came to the tomb "on the first day" "early... while it was still dark" that could have been any time from sundown until sunrise. To the Hebrew mind of the first century any time in that period could be considered "early... while it was still dark".

"Before Dawn" Examined

It always bears stating that we should never build our understanding of Scripture upon a single verse without considering the whole of Scripture on the topic. Although John indicates it was before dawn ("while it was still dark") let's see what the other Gospel accounts say about this. Matthew's account is silent regarding the specific timing of Mary's visit but Mark's and Luke's accounts provide some additional details:

Mark 16:1-2

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might come and anoint Him. Very early on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen.

Luke 24:1-3

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.

 

Mark 16:2 affirms John's account and tells us that they came to the tomb "very early on the first day of the week". Verse 2 of the chapter describes the events as happening "when the sun had risen". This appears to be in contradiction with John's account and invalidates the idea of a visit by Mary before midnight. Let's examine this more closely...

The Sun Had Risen?

Mark's account tells us "the sun had risen" while John's account indicates "while it was still dark". These statements appear to contradict each other. Was it dark or was it after sunrise?

A closer examination of the Greek phrase translated as "when the sun had risen" in verse 2 reveals that the word translated as "had risen" to be in the aorist active participle form.5 That is simply grammatical language that says instead of "they came to the tomb when the sun had risen" (indicating past tense in English) this phrase would better be translated as "they came to the tomb when the sun was rising" in an active tense.

This would fit with Luke's account of "early dawn" and clarify our understanding of John's account to be after midnight but just prior to dawn "while it was still dark". With this in view we find that the notion of a visit by Mary prior to midnight does not fit with Scripture.

Let's update the timing criteria.

Timing Criteria:

1. Messiah in the grave 3 days and 3 nights

  • Days are periods of light
  • Nights are periods of darkness

2. Resurrected on the third day
3. Resurrection prior to dawn on the first day of the week

We left off with Luke 24:1 and there was an interesting word found at the beginning of the verse: "but". That very clearly implies a relationship to something that came before it. What came before in Luke 23?

 

Spices and Perfumes

Luke 23:50-56

And a man named Joseph, who was a member of the Council, a good and righteous man (he had not consented to their plan and action), a man from Arimathea, a city of the Jews, who was waiting for the kingdom of G-d; this man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. And he took it down and wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid Him in a tomb cut into the rock, where no one had ever lain. It was the preparation day, and the Sabbath was about to begin. Now the women who had come with Him out of Galilee followed, and saw the tomb and how His body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and perfumes. And on the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.

 

Here are some additional clues in our search!

  • It was the preparation day and the Sabbath was about to begin.
  • The women prepared spices and perfumes for Yeshua's body before the Sabbath.
  • The women rested on the Sabbath.
  • On the first day of the week after the Sabbath they returned to the tomb (chapter 24).

Let's update our list.

Timing Criteria:

1. Messiah in the grave 3 days and 3 nights

  • Days are periods of light
  • Nights are periods of darkness

2. Resurrected on the third day
3. Resurrection prior to dawn on the first day of the week
4. Crucifixion occurred on the preparation day prior to the Sabbath
5. The women prepare spices and perfumes before the Sabbath
6. A Sabbath day occurred between the crucifixion and the resurrection
7. The women visit the tomb on the first day of the week after the Sabbath

Do we find other mention in the Gospel accounts of spices and perfumes that could give us further clues about the timing of the events of Yeshua's crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection?

Mark 16:1

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might come and anoint Him.

 

Here we see the women buying spices after the Sabbath. Let's add that to our criteria.

Timing Criteria:

1. Messiah in the grave 3 days and 3 nights

  • Days are periods of light
  • Nights are periods of darkness

2. Resurrected on the third day
3. Resurrection prior to dawn on the first day of the week
4. Crucifixion occurred on the preparation day prior to the Sabbath
5. The women prepare spices and perfumes before the Sabbath
6. A Sabbath day occurred between the crucifixion and the resurrection
7. The women visit the tomb on the first day of the week after the Sabbath
8. The women buy spices after the Sabbath

 

But wait!

If it was after the Sabbath was over (i.e. after sundown on Saturday) they couldn't just stop by the local 24-hour SpiceMart and pick up a several pounds of burial spices. They would have needed to wait until after dawn the following day when the market opened. That scenario, however, doesn't fit with their arrival at the tomb just prior to dawn.

This also appears to contradict the passage in Luke where it says the women prepared the spices and perfumes before the Sabbath. How can they prepare spices before the Sabbath that they haven't purchased until after the Sabbath?

There are a couple of possible explanations.

First, the passage in Luke refers to "the women who had come with Him out of Galilee". This group may have been separate from Mary Magdalene and Mary, mother of James. It seems unlikely as Mary Magdalene appears to have been a central female among the talmidim. If anything the other women would have gathered around her and Yeshua's mother during their time of mourning.

The second explanation involves two Sabbaths during the week of Pesach. This second explanation makes sense when we consider the commandment to rest and "not do any laborious work" on Chag HaMatzot [the Feast of Unleavened Bread] which also makes it a Sabbath [rest] day.

There is an additional confirmation of this in Mark 28:

Mark 28:1

Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave.

 

The Greek word here translated as "Sabbath" is sabbaton and it is in the genitive plural neuter form!6 This passage literally reads "Now after the Sabbaths"... plural. The Analytical Literal Translation (ALT) translates the verse this way:

Mark 28:1

Now after [the] Sabbaths, at the dawning into [the] first [day] of the week [i.e. early Sunday morning], Mary the Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the grave.

[bracketed terms above in the original]

 

If we consider that there were two Sabbaths during the week then the apparent paradox of "preparing spices before they were purchased" disappears because it was after the first Sabbath (Chag HaMatzot) that the spices were purchased and before the second (weekly) Sabbath that they were prepared.

Let's update the criteria again.

Timing Criteria:

1. Messiah in the grave 3 days and 3 nights

  • Days are periods of light
  • Nights are periods of darkness

2. Resurrected on the third day
3. Resurrection prior to dawn on the first day of the week
4. Crucifixion on the preparation day prior to the Sabbath
5. A Sabbath day Two Sabbath days occurred between the crucifixion and the resurrection
6. The women prepare spices and perfumes before the second Sabbath
7. The women visit the tomb on the first day of the week after the second Sabbath
8. The women buy spices after the first Sabbath

 

Resurrected or Discovered?

One tremendously interesting point revealed during this study is that nowhere in Scripture is the clear statement made that Yeshua was resurrected on the first day. Some might point to Mark 16:9 as evidence of the resurrection on Sunday:

Mark 16:9

Now after He had risen early on the first day of the week, He first appeared to Mary Magdalene, from whom He had cast out seven demons.

 

Rather that answering our current question this passage only presents two additional problems:

First Problem:

The earliest known manuscripts and some other ancient witnesses do not contain Mark 16:9-20.7 The validity of these verses as part of the original Markian witness is questionable.

Second Problem:

Even allowing for this verse to constitute authentic and original Scripture it does not necessarily indicate a "Sunday morning" resurrection. In the Greek manuscripts that do contain this verse there is no punctuation to indicate whether the "early on the first day of the week" phrase describes when "He had risen" or when "He first appeared". This verse does provide a clear answer, however, we see from other passages that include the time that the women discover the empty tomb "while it was still dark" (John 20:1) or "at early dawn" (Luke 24:1). To make this single verse fit the "Sunday sunrise" resurrection we would have to disregard two other clear and unambiguous verses.

The only clear indication we have from Scripture is that the Master was discovered to be resurrected early on the first day of the week. There are no clear and unequiviocal statements exactly when that resurrection occurred.

Let's add #9 to our criteria...
Timing Criteria:

1. Messiah in the grave 3 days and 3 nights

  • Days are periods of light
  • Nights are periods of darkness

2. Resurrected on the third day
3. Resurrection prior to dawn on the first day of the week
4. Crucifixion on the preparation day prior to the Sabbath
5. A Sabbath day Two Sabbath days occurred between the crucifixion and the resurrection
6. The women prepare spices and perfumes before the second Sabbath
7. The women visit the tomb on the first day of the week after the second Sabbath
8. The women buy spices after the first Sabbath
9. The resurrection occurred prior to the discovery of the empty tomb

Let's move on with the study...

 

Preparation Day

There are additional clues regarding the timing of the Crucifixion found in all four Gospel accounts: notes regarding the "preparation day":

  • Matthew 27:62 refers to "the day after the preparation" as the day after Messiah was killed.
  • Mark 15:42 refers to the day of Yeshua's death as "preparation day, that is, the day before the Sabbath".
  • Luke 23:43 refers to "the preparation day, and the Sabbath was about to begin."
  • John 19:14 refers to "the day of preparation for the Passover" as the day of Yeshua's death.
  • John 19:31 refers to "the day of preparation" prior to the Sabbath as the day of Yeshua's death and notes that particular Sabbath was a "high day". "High" in this verse is the Greek word megas which literally means "great" or "large". For example: "What is the greatest commandment?", "the great tribulation", etc.
  • John 19:42 notes that because of "the Jewish day of preparation" Yeshua's body was laid in the nearby tomb.

These preparation day clues indicate that the day of Yeshua's death was prior to the "high day" of Chag HaMatzot (the Festival of Unleavened Bread) rather than a regular weekly Sabbath. This actually makes sense since the day before Chag HaMatzot is Pesach!

Another item for our list of criteria:
Timing Criteria:

1. Messiah in the grave 3 days and 3 nights

  • Days are periods of light
  • Nights are periods of darkness

2. Resurrected on the third day
3. Resurrection prior to dawn on the first day of the week
4. Crucifixion on the preparation day prior to the Sabbath
5. A Sabbath day Two Sabbath days occurred between the crucifixion and the resurrection
6. The women prepare spices and perfumes before the second Sabbath
7. The women visit the tomb on the first day of the week after the second Sabbath
8. The women buy spices after the first Sabbath
9. The resurrection occurred prior to the discovery of the empty tomb
10. Messiah's death was on preparation day

 

What Was the Time of the Burial?

One question that will aid in determining the allocation of the three days and nights is "what was the time of the burial?" When was Yeshua's body laid in the tomb? If this occurred after dark then the first day would begin after the first night. If this occurred before dark then we have to answer the question "do we have any evidence from Scripture that a few minutes of daylight constitutes the counting of 'a day'?" All four of the Gospel accounts shed a bit of light (pardon the pun) on whether it was day or night when Yeshua was buried:

Matthew 27:57-60 informs us that evening had come when Yosef of Arimathea approaches Pilate for the body of Yeshua.

Mark 15:33-47 informs us that darkness was upon the land from the "sixth hour" (what we would consider noon) until the "ninth hour" (3 PM or 1500 for you military types). Mark's account also indicates that "evening had already come" when Yosef goes before Pilate to ask for the body. We are left to speculate on how long it would take for the following to occur:

  • Yosef requests and gains audience before Pilate
  • Pilate sends for information about whether or not Yeshua was actually dead (verse 44)
  • The centurion receives Pilate's summons and arrives to provide the answer
  • Pilate makes a decision (verse 45)
  • Yosef stops and buys linen (verse 46)
  • Yosef returns to Golgotha and takes down his body
  • Yosef prepares the body with linen and spices properly for burial
  • Yosef takes the body about 1/2 a mile from Golgotha to the traditional location of the garden tomb and places it for burial.

Luke 23:44-54 confirms Mark's account that darkness was upon the land from the "sixth hour" until the "ninth hour". It is at this point that Yeshua breathes his last and dies. Yosef of Arimathea goes to Pilate and asks for the body of Yeshua. Yosef took down the body, wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid the body in a tomb.

Luke 23:54-56 informs us that it was the Preparation day (for the Sabbath of Chag HaMatzot [the Feast of Unleavened Bread] and that the Feast was about to begin. The women saw the tomb and how Yeshua's body was laid. The phrasing here indicates this was before the Feast had begun which would have been at sundown.

John 19:31-42 confirms much of the same elements as the other Gospels and provides two additional details. First, verse 31 tells us because "that Sabbath was a high day" the Jewish authorities went to Pilate asking that those who were crucified be executed quickly so they could be taken away (and buried). Second, the reason for burying Yeshua's body in the tomb is because it was near. The purpose of having the condemned men killed was so they could be buried before the festival began.

Without any explicit statement from Scripture it appears that Yeshua's body was buried before sundown.

That provides one additional item for our criteria:

Timing Criteria:

1. Messiah in the grave 3 days and 3 nights

  • Days are periods of light
  • Nights are periods of darkness

2. Resurrected on the third day
3. Resurrection prior to dawn on the first day of the week
4. Crucifixion on the preparation day prior to the Sabbath
5. A Sabbath day Two Sabbath days occurred between the crucifixion and the resurrection
6. The women prepare spices and perfumes before the second Sabbath
7. The women visit the tomb on the first day of the week after the second Sabbath
8. The women buy spices after the first Sabbath
9. The resurrection occurred prior to the discovery of the empty tomb
10. Messiah's death was on preparation day
11. Burial was before sundown on the preparation day

 

Examining the Criteria and the Possibilities

At this point I ran out of things that seemed like timing criteria for the death, burial, and resurrection of Messiah. Let's examine the list of criteria once more and put it into a chronological order:
Timing Criteria:

1. Messiah's death was on preparation day
2. Crucifixion on the preparation day prior to the Sabbath
3. Burial was before sundown on the preparation day
4. Messiah in the grave 3 days and 3 nights

  • Days are periods of light
  • Nights are periods of darkness

5. Two Sabbath days occurred between the crucifixion and the resurrection
6. The women buy spices after the first Sabbath
7. The women prepare spices and perfumes before the second Sabbath
8. Resurrected on the third day
9. Resurrection prior to dawn on the first day of the week
10. The resurrection occurred prior to the discovery of the empty tomb
11. The women visit the tomb on the first day of the week after the second Sabbath

 

Good Friday?

With our criteria in hand let's examine the traditional "Good Friday" schedule in our calendar diagram:

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Scriptural Shishi (6th day) Shabbat (7th day) Rishon (1st day)
Secular Thu Friday (6th day) Saturday (7th day) Sunday (1st day)
 
Good Friday   Prep day- died and buried P
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Night 1 Day 1 Night 2

 

By laying out the dates in this manner we can see that the traditional "Good Friday" reckoning falls short by 2 days and 1 night and leaves us with the resurrection some time during the third night rather than on the third day.

Some have suggested that Jewish tradition counts any part of a day as a full day (both day and night). This theory appears to be unsupported by any historical Jewish literature. If we examine Scripture, however, we find that there is a grain of truth in such a claim.

Counting Days

Rather than indicating that any part of a day counts as a full day and night there are some examples from Scripture where a day that is begun in a certain condition is counted as being completed in that condition:

  • Genesis 42:17,18 shows us that Yosef's brothers are in prison for 3 days. They begin the 3rd day in prison and are counted as being in prison for the third day even though all of them (except Shimon) were set free on the third day.
  • 1 Samuel 30:12 An Egyptian is found in a field and brought to David. He had not eaten for 3 days and 3 nights. He began the third day without food and so it is counted as a day without food even though he was given a piece of fig cake and two clusters of raisins on the third day.
  • Esther 4:15-16 Esther instructs Mordecai that she and her maidens will fast for 3 days and 3 nights. On the third day she goes to the King. She began the third day without food or water and so it is counted as a day without food or water even though Esther prepared a banquet that day for the king.
  • 1 Kings 20:29 The Arameans camped against Isra'el for seven days and on the seventh day engaged in battle against Isra'el. They began the seventh day encamped against Isra'el and so it is counted as such even though they broke camp to engage in battle.
  • 2 Chronicles 10:5-12 Rechav'am [Rehoboam] and the people return to Yarov'am [Jeroboam] on the third day when Yarov'am said to return to him in three days. The third day counted as being away even though they returned on the third day. They did not have to wait for 72 hours to elapse before returning.

From these we can see that a day begun in a certain condition (fasting, camped, etc) is counted as a day in that condition. Unfortunately, it does not provide any gain for the "Good Friday" scenario and we are still missing 2 days and 1 night.

The Walk to Bethany

Another issue with which we must contend when considering "Good Friday" is revealed in John 12:1.

John 12:1

Jesus, therefore, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.

Why is this an issue?CNM04-Jesus-Year3

In the previous chapter (John 11:54) we are told that Yeshua went to a city called Ephraim. Ephraim is located roughly 15 miles north of Yerushalayim (see map at right8). Just prior to his arrival in Bethany we find Yeshua in Yericho healing the blind man, Bartimaeus, and his companion (Matthew 20:29-34, Mark 10:46-52, Luke 18:35-43). Yeshua then visits with Zacchaeus and leaves Yericho for Yerushalayim.

If the Passover falls on a Friday then "six days before the Passover" (as stated in John 12:1 above) is Saturday... Shabbat. As Acts 1:12 tells us:

Acts 1:12

Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey away.

 

The Life Application Study Bible indicates that a Sabbath day's journey is about 3/4 mile (about 1,100 meters)9

A several mile hike from Yericho to Bethany would have violated the limitation of a Sabbath day's journey and would have been out of the question for a devout, sinless Jew like Yeshua.

 

Good Thursday?

Let's put a "Good Thursday" scenario on the chart:

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Scriptural Hamishi (5) Shishi (6) Shabbat (7) Rishon (1)
Secular Thursday (5) Friday (6) Saturday (7) Sunday (1)
 
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Good Thursday Prep day- died and buried P
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Night 1 Day 1
Buy & prepare spices?
Night 2 Day 2 Night 3

 

The "Good Thursday" approach is better but is still short 1 day. We also encounter a different problem in that Day 1 in the chart above would be Chag HaMatzot which is a "holy convocation" and a day of rest. Buying and preparing the spices would be out of the question so this scenario falls short in regards to that criteria.

 

Good Wednesday?

What if there were another day between the first and second Sabbaths... a "Good Wednesday" scenario?

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Scriptural Reviyim Hamishi (5) Shishi (6) Shabbat (7) Rishon (1)
Secular Wednesday(4) Thursday (5) Friday (6) Saturday (7) Sunday(1)
 
Good Friday   Prep day- died and buried P
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Good Thursday   Prep day- died and buried P
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buy & prepare spices?
Night 2 Day 2 Night 3
Good Wednesday Prep day-
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Shabbat 1---------
Chag HaMatzot
Day 1
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Night 2 Day 2
Buy & prepare spices
Night 3
Shabbat 2---------
Day 3
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With this "Good Wednesday" scenario we meet all the criteria we found in Scripture:
Timing Criteria:

1. Messiah's death was on preparation day
2. Crucifixion on the preparation day prior to the Sabbath
3. Burial was before sundown on the preparation day
4. Messiah in the grave 3 days and 3 nights

  • Days are periods of light
  • Nights are periods of darkness

5. Two Sabbath days occurred between the crucifixion and the resurrection
6. The women buy spices after the first Sabbath
7. The women prepare spices and perfumes before the second Sabbath
8. Resurrected on the third day
9. Resurrection prior to dawn on the first day of the week
10. The resurrection occurred prior to the discovery of the empty tomb
11. The women visit the tomb on the first day of the week after the second Sabbath

Although some may subscribe to a literal 72-hour burial period it does not appear that Scripture requires it. Even if it does, this "Good Wednesday" scenario would meet that requirement. Since Yeshua was buried just before sunset He could have arisen just before sunset on Shabbat and fulfilled a literal 72-hour burial.

First Fruits

Some "Sunday dawn resurrection" proponents point to the obvious imagery of Messiah as the "first fruits" offered up on the first day of the week. That does not present a problem with a Saturday resurrection. What is done with the first fruits offering when it is received by the kohanim? The are "brought into the house of the LORD your G-d" (Exodus 23:19).

 

Summary

Primary Importance

It is of primary importance to note that the specific day of Messiah's death was the 14th of Nisan... Pesach. Messiah's death as our Passover was the substance of the imagery of the Passover Lamb that was given in the commandments. The day of the week that His death occurred on is of lesser importance.

Good Friday

The traditional "Good Friday" reckoning (at best) falls short by 2 days and 1 night and leaves us with Yeshua rising on the second night before dawn rather than on the third day.

Good Thursday

The "Good Thursday" scenario either gives us a resurrected Messiah on the third night and we end up short by one day. This scenario also does not meet the criteria given in Scripture.

Good Wednesday

It appears (surprisingly!) that a "Good Wednesday" scenario of Yeshua being buried just before sunset Wednesday is the only scenario that would fulfill the Scriptural criteria for the death, burial, and resurrection of Messiah. He was laid in the tomb in the minutes prior to the "High Sabbath" of Chag HaMatzot, was buried for 3 days and 3 nights, and was raised on the third day. It is the only scenario that allows time for the women to both purchase and prepare spices for his body, rest on the [weekly] Sabbath and arrive prior to dawn to visit the tomb to discover His body missing.

 


Footnotes

1. Catholic Encyclopedia: Good Friday -definition and etymology at http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06643a.htm [back]
2. A Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica by John Lightfoot (1602-1675) at http://philologos.org/__eb-jl/matt27.htm#twentyeight [back]
3. Scripturally Speaking: 'The First Day of the Week' at http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/3157 [back]
4. The Complete Artscroll Siddur © 1984,2001 Mesorah Publications [back]
5. Westcott-Hort Greek New Testament with complete parsing information for all Greek words. [back]
6. Westcott-Hort Greek New Testament [back]
7. Life Application Study Bible, Tyndale House Publishers and Zondervan Publishing House, 1991 [back]
8. Courtesy of Christian Classics Ethereal Library at http://www.ccel.org/bible/phillips/JBPhillips.htm [back]
9. Life Application Study Bible (NIV), Tyndale House, p1943 [back]
Last Updated on 17 April 2014