Jesus Died on a Wednesday, not a Friday
Three Days and Three Nights
"ON WHAT DAY WAS CHRIST CRUCIFIED?"
This article is based on one by Grady Daniel, but has
been edited with additional added material by Cooper Abrams)
Few dispute that Jesus arose on Sunday morning (*my note), but there is much debate as to what day He was crucified. Most of us were taught Friday was the day Jesus was crucified and this has been widely accepted as the traditional day of crucifixion. But if Christ was crucified on Friday, how was He in the grave for three days and three nights as Jesus said in Matthew 12:40 that He would be?
Jesus rebuked the people by saying no sign would be given but the sign of the Jonah who was three days and three nights in the "heart of the earth." The phrase "heart of the earth" referred to dying and being buried. This passage is the key to understanding when Jesus was actually crucified.
Matthew 12:38-40: “Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth."
The traditional explanation mistakenly says that Jesus was crucified on Friday. Trying to justify that Friday was the day of the crucifixion those that whole this view say that the Jews counted any part of a day as a full day. That is, part of Friday is day one; Saturday, day two; and if arose sometime Sunday morning - day three. This explanation has some serious problems.
The Jews did not reckon time the way we do. This is one of the first considerations.
- The Jewish day ended at sundown (6:00 PM) and the new day began at sunrise (6:00 AM).
- Their Sabbath Day began at sundown Friday (about 6 p.m.) and ended at sundown Saturday.
- The word "day" used by itself only refers to a period of time. The word has to be modified to specify what period of time it means. Example: Acts 10:40 "Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly." The word day is modified by the word "third" and we know it refers specifically to only the third day after His crucifixion.
The modifier makes is specific as to the period of time. A "day" modified with the number three refers to three full days. So grammatically three days and three nights means three twenty four hour periods of time. Go all the way back to the days of Genesis One. Each of the days of creation were twenty four hours.
If Jesus was crucified on the traditional Friday and rose again anytime after 6 p.m. Saturday (the Jewish Sunday) He could not have been in the tomb ("heart of the earth") three full days and three full nights as He said He would be. Jesus specifically stated that Jonah was in the fish three days (three 12 hour periods) and three nights (three 12 hour periods). A day and a night is twenty four hours.
Some might try to dismiss the importance of Jesus' statement, but He said it would be a sign to the Jews that He was the Messiah. If He was not actually in the grave three full days and three full nights there would be no way to authenticate the sign, so He had to be in the tomb the full time as He stated.
In the Jewish way of reckoning time, from Friday at 6 p.m. to Saturday as 6 p.m. would have only been twenty four hours if Jesus was buried before 6 p.m. From Saturday at 6 p.m. until Sunday morning at day break would have been a maximum of twelve hours. That gives a total of only thirty six (36) hours, not the seventy two hours the Bible records that He was in the grave. Jesus said He would be in the grave for seventy two hours and therefore He could not have been crucified on Friday.
Friday afternoon to Saturday 6 PM = 24 hours.
Saturday 6 PM to Sunday 6 AM = 12 hours.
Total 36 hours. (Not enough time)
WERE THESE THREE LITERAL DAYS/NIGHTS?
Some mistakenly refer to the passage where in John 11:9 Jesus asked, " . . . Are there not twelve hours in the day" to explain away the problem with the time.
In creation God divided the day and night. The evening and the morning = 1 day. If there were twelve (12) hours in a day then there must have been twelve (hours) in a night and the total would be twenty four hours. The word "day" can also be used in the Bible to mean an unspecified period of days such as Day of the Lord. But anytime in the Bible when the word "day" is preceded by a number, it means whatever number of days is denoted by that number.
Dr. Charles Halff, Director of the Christian Jew Foundation, in writing "The Fallacies of Easter" stated:
"Sometimes people ask, 'Didn't the Jews count part of a day as a whole day or part of a night as a whole night?' Let me say this, beloved. Whenever you have the expression 'day and night' mentioned together in the Hebrew Scriptures, it always means a full day and a full night. . . For instance, if you will turn to Esther 4:16; 5:1; 1 Samuel; 30:12-13, and of course Jonah 1:17, you will find the expression 'three days and three nights.' And in every instance it means full days and full nights - not part of a day and part of a night."
Let us labor the point so there can be no misunderstanding. From Friday to Sunday is not three 24-hour days. Jesus said he would be resurrected after three (3) days. (Mark 8:31: "And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again." Counting backwards from Sunday three days, you will not arrive at Friday. Remember to count the way the Jews did.
- From Saturday 6 p.m. to Friday 6 p.m. = 1 day;
- From Friday 6 p.m. to Thursday 6 p.m. = 1 day;
- From Thursday 6 p.m. to Wednesday 6 p.m. = 1 day.
- Total 3 days.
If Jesus was crucified the day before the Sabbath, (Nisan 14 or "Erev Pasach") how could He have been crucified on Wednesday? The answer lies in the fact that the Jews celebrated more Sabbaths than just the weekly Sabbath. They had a number of feast days that were "High Sabbaths," or high days.
Jesus arose on the first day of the week after the Sabbaths* (plural). Sometime after 6 p.m. Saturday, end of the Jewish day, in Matthew 28:1 we read; "In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre."
The Scofield Reference Bible (1917 ed.) has a center column note which reveals that "Sabbath" in this verse is plural; from the Greek word "sabbata." (Also in Young's Analytical Concordance) The day after the crucifixion was not the regular (Saturday) Sabbath but a Special ("High" - Greek, "megas", large) Sabbath.
John 19:31 states, "The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath day, (for that Sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away."
Note the John states this was not the regular Sabbath, but it as a "high day." The Jews observed several "high" Sabbaths ("holy convocation" Exodus 12:15) in their seasons. These holy convocations did not always fall on Saturday.
Concerning the feast days Leviticus 23:4-8 states. "These are the feasts of the LORD, even holy convocations, which ye shall proclaim in their seasons. In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the LORD'S passover. And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the LORD: seven days ye must eat unleavened bread. In the first day ye shall have an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein. But ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD seven days: in the seventh day is an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein."
The Feast of the Passover (a high Sabbath) and the Feast of the Unleavened Bread (another high Sabbath) were celebrated on April 14th and 15th respectively. Sunset initiated the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Nisan 15 was a "high day", a non Saturday Sabbath.
The first month of the Jewish year is the month of Nisan or "Aviv." The name "Aviv" comes from the Hebrew term "Chodesh Ha-Aviv" which means the "the month of Spring." Aviv was the name used for first month of the year before the Babylonian captivity. After the Babylonian captivity it was called "Nisan" or "Nisan".
The day Jesus died was the Preparation Day (Wednesday) of the Passover celebration on Thursday (John 19:14, 31): "And it was the preparation of the Passover, and about the sixth hour: and he (meaning Pilate) saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!"
This was the morning of the crucifixion day. Verse 31 states, "The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath day, (for that Sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away."
Therefore, Passover (Nisan "Aviv" 14 ) was on Thursday, that year, the Feast of Unleavened Bread began on Friday (seven day feast last to Nisan "Aviv" 21), and the regular weekday Sabbath was on Saturday. Jesus was crucified in the morning on Wednesday and placed in the tomb before 6 P.M. He arose from the grave sometime after 6 P.M. on Saturday, which would be early Sunday morning, the first day of the week, according to Jewish time-keeping. This explanation fits Jesus' prophecy in Matthew 12:40 that He would be "three days and three nights in the heart of the earth."
FURTHER EVIDENCE FROM THE BIBLE:
The women purchased spices "after the Sabbath" or the Passover (Nisan "Aviv" 14 - Thursday) which would have been Friday as Mark 15:42 and Luke 23:52-54 state. They would not have broken the Law and purchased anything on the Day of the Passover, or the regular Sabbath on Saturday. Luke 23:56 says they returned and prepared the spices and "rested on the Sabbath" which was the regular Sabbath on Saturday. Then on the first day of the week, Sunday morning they went to the tomb to prepare the body.
A POINT OF CONJECTURE
If Jesus was born in 5 BC (The Bible Almanac, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1980) and if He died about at 33 years of age, that would fix his death around 29 AD. The first Roman calendar was off four (4) years. Today's calendar is a product of the Julian &Gregorian calendars. There was a 1 BC and a 1 AD but there was no "0" between BC and AD. Counting 33 years forward from His birth in 5 BC would fix his death in 29 AD.
Herod the Great, who ordered the murder of all the babies less that two years old in Bethlehem, died in 4 BC. Therefore Jesus had to be born prior to Herod's death and therefore Jesus probably was born in 5 BC or earlier. (Matt. 2:13-16)
Those special Sabbaths, Feast of the Passover and Feast of the Unleavened Bread, occurred on the 14th and 15th of the first month of the Jewish calendar (about our April). Leviticus 23:5, 6 states, "In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the Lord's Passover. And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the LORD: seven days ye must eat unleavened bread."
According to Encyclopedia Britannica the 14th day of Nisan "Aviv" ( also called Abar "green ears of corn") (Easter 3:7), corresponding to parts of March and April in the year of Christ's crucifixion was the same as our April 7 on our calendar. ( Julian and Gregorian calendars)
The Perpetual Calendar [also from Encyclopedia Britannica] shows that the 14th day of Nisan "Aviv", 29 AD (Passover), fell on Thursday. Hence, it would be followed by the Feast of the Unleavened Bread on the 15th (Friday), and the regular weekday Sabbath (Saturday). Jesus would have therefore been crucified on Wednesday the 13th.
(Information sources were many, including commentaries of the late Evangelist Dr. Oliver B. Greene; Dakes's Annotated Reference Bible, and the article "Sabbaths All In A Row" by Maret H. Dinsmore, Litt. D., Th.D., in The Biblical Evangelist, Vol. 18, No. 8, April 13, 1984, along with research by this writer.)
Passover was on 14th day of the first month of the Jewish calendar, or Nisan "Aviv" (Abib) 14th no matter what day in the week it fell on as the follow passages attest:
- Exodus 23:15 "Thou shalt keep the feast of unleavened bread: (thou shalt eat unleavened bread seven days, as I commanded thee, in the time appointed of the month Abib; for in it thou camest out from Egypt: and none shall appear before me empty:)"
- Exodus 34:18 "The feast of unleavened bread shalt thou keep. Seven days thou shalt eat unleavened bread, as I commanded thee, in the time of the month Abib: for in the month Abib thou camest out from Egypt."
- Deuteronomy 16:1 "Observe the month of Abib, and keep the Passover unto the LORD thy God: for in the month of Abib the LORD thy God brought thee forth out of Egypt by night."
- Leviticus 23:5 "In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the LORD'S Passover."
- Numbers 9:5 "And they kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month at even in the wilderness of Sinai: according to all that the LORD commanded Moses, so did the children of Israel."
- Numbers 28:16 "And in the fourteenth day of the first month is the Passover of the LORD."
- Joshua 5:10 "And the children of Israel encamped in Gilgal, and kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the month at even in the plains of Jericho."
- 2 Chronicles 35:1 "Moreover Josiah kept a Passover unto the LORD in Jerusalem: and they killed the Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month."
This is the only view that fits the biblical account is that Jesus was crucified on Wednesday and buried before 6:00 PM that day. The Jewish day began at 6:00 PM which was the Passover (Nisan "Aviv" 14). Therefore the Passover began on Wednesday after 6:00 PM which would actually be Thursday in the Julian calendar. The women brought the spices on Friday, rested on Saturday and went on Sunday morning after 6:00 AM and found the Lord was resurrected. This is the series of events and is accord with Jesus' states of Matthew 12:38-40. Jesus was in the grave three full days and three nights. Any other view violates the biblical account and the historical facts.
(My Note) In fact, there are some who dispute the Sunday morning resurrection, myself for one. I believe Jesus rose after 6pm on the Sabbath, Saturday, but did not show Himself to anyone until Sunday Morning.
© 2013 Tricia Tillin-Booth. All rights reserved. Birthpangs Website: http://www.birthpangs.org/ This document is the property of its author and is not to be displayed on other websites, redistributed, sold, reprinted, or reproduced in printed in any other format without permission. Websites may link to this article, if they provide proper title and author information. One copy may be downloaded, stored and/or printed for personal research. All spelling and phraseology is UK English.