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What day of the week was Jesus’ crucifixion?

I have heard it said many times that Jesus could not have been crucified on a Friday particularly if He was resurrected on the following Sunday. The following scripture is often quoted in support of this claim.

Matthew 12:40 (KJV) 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 logic is that if we count three full 24 hour day/night cycles, and given that He rose on a Sunday morning, He would have to have had died on the Thursday morning prior. Remember the Jewish counting of a 24-hour day starts at sundown and ends at the following sundown. That means that a Friday (the Preparation Day for the weekly Sabbath) starts at sundown Thursday and ends at sundown Friday when the Sabbath begins.

However we do know from the meaning of words that ‘three days and three nights’ does not necessarily mean a full 72 hour period. In English we also use language that is not always so unambiguous. To say I’ll see you in 3 days could just as easily mean on the 3rd day which is not 72 hours later.

Another argument in some ways related to this is around those who argue for a certain day of the week that Christians should worship God. That is, the proponents claim that Sunday worship was introduced by the Roman Catholic Church and that it is Saturday (the weekly Sabbath) when men ought to worship God. I don’t agree with that because we are not under the law. The early Church apparently did worship on either day, the Saturday Sabbath or the Sunday. However, here I am not discussing that issue. So let’s not get sidetracked.

I would like to discuss the Jewish Sabbaths and when they fall because the scriptures give us some information on that. We read that after Jesus had died Joseph of Arimathea asked for the body of Jesus to bury it before the Sabbath started (at sundown).

Luke 23:53–24:3 (KJ3)

23:53 And taking it down, he wrapped it in linen, and placed it in a tomb hewn in stone, where no one was ever yet laid.

54 And it was Preparation Day, and a sabbath was coming on.

55 And having followed, also the women who were accompanying Him out of Galilee, watched the tomb, and how His body was placed.

56 And returning, they prepared spices and ointments. And indeed they rested on the sabbath, according to the commandment.

24:1 And the first of the sabbaths, at early dawn, they came on the tomb, carrying spices which they prepared; and some were with them.

2 And they found the stone having been rolled away from the tomb.

3 And going in, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.

Notice in the passage, the Preparation Day which precedes the weekly Sabbath. It was needed because no work can be done on the Sabbath. On the Preparation Day the women prepared spices for Jesus’ embalming according to Jewish customs. His body was placed in the tomb on that day. Verse 56 there tells us the women then rested on the Sabbath day.

Now we read in many translations of Luke 24:1 ‘on the first day of the week’ the women (two Marys) came to the tomb and found it open because He had risen.  We find verses similar to Luke 24:1 in Matthew 28:1 and Mark 16:2. But looking at a more literal translation of the Greek text we get ‘the first of the sabbaths’ as in the KJ3 text reproduced above. What does that mean?

You have to look back into the Old Testament in relation to the Passover. This Sabbath was the Passover Sabbath, which happens once each year. Jesus was crucified as the Lamb of God, whose blood washed us clean, just like the shed blood of the lamb protected the Israelites from the death angel in Egypt as it passed over their houses.

Exodus 12:13-17 (KJ3)

13 And the blood shall be a sign to you, on the houses where you are. And I will see the blood, and I will pass over you. And the plague shall not be on you to destroy, when I strike in the land of Egypt.

14 And the day shall be a memorial for you. And you shall celebrate it as a feast to Jehovah, for your generations. You shall celebrate it as a law forever.

15 You shall eat unleavened bread seven days. Indeed, on the first day you shall cause leaven to cease from your houses. For anyone eating any leaven, that soul shall be cut off from Israel, from the first day until the seventh day.

16 And on the first day shall bea holy gathering, and in the seventh day a holy gathering shall be to you. Not any work may be done on them. Only what must be eaten by your soul, that alone may be done by you.

17 And you shall observe the unleavened bread, for on this very day I brought out your armies from the land of Egypt. And you shall observe this day for your generations, a statute forever. [emphases added]

Here we read that God commanded the Israelites to observe a week of the feast of the unleavened bread as a remembrance of what God has done. This week follows the annual Passover celebration. It starts on the day after Passover and last for 7 days, the feast of the unleavened bread. On the first day and the seventh day no work may be done. That implies a holy week of Sabbaths, 7 Sabbaths in a row.

Jesus was taken dead from the Cross and placed in the tomb. He is the Lamb of God whose blood was shed. He was in the grave awaiting resurrection on the Passover day. This parallels the period when the death angel was doing his work in Egypt. The blood on the door posts protected those inside the houses from death.  Prior to this day each Israelite family kept a lamb or a goat in their home making sure it was not hurt in anyway. It would be sacrificed for the blood put on the door posts and lintel, and its meat eaten. Note in the following the animal used must be male and perfect without blemish, just as Jesus was sinless and fully man, and of course male.

Exodus 12:5-8 (KJ3)

5 A flock animal, a male without blemish, a son of a year, shall be to you. You shall take from the sheep or from the goats.

6 And it shall be for you to keep until the fourteenth day of this month. And all the assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it between the evenings.

7 And they shall take from the blood, and put it on the two side doorposts and on the lintel, on the houses in which they eat it.

8 And they shall eat the flesh in this night, roasted with fire, and they shall eat it

They are commanded to eat the lamb/goat meat in the night.  This day is the Passover, which began at sundown.

Exodus 12:11,12 (KJ3)

11…. It is the Passover to Jehovah.

12 And I will pass through in the land of Egypt in this night. And I will strike every first-born in the land of Egypt, from man even to livestock. And I will execute judgments on all the gods of Egypt. I am Jehovah!

God sent the death angel to execute His judgments on the unbelievers. The Passover started at sundown after the day now called the Preparation Day. That Passover day (starting the previous evening) is the weekly Sabbath (Saturday) that Jesus waited for God to finish His work of defeating Satan. In Egypt God used the death angel to bring death to those not protected by the blood. In the same way those not protected by Christ’s shed blood also die, and ultimately are cast into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20).

Understanding this then makes sense of these New Testament verses which use the plural form in the word ‘Sabbaths’ during the week long feast of the unleavened bread.

So then the two Marys came early on the morning following the Sabbath (Saturday), because they could not come on the weekly Sabbath. Jews are limited in traveling and doing any work on that day. Luke 23:56 states ‘according to the commandment’. That is, the fourth commandment given Moses.

Exodus 20:8-10 (KJ3)

8 Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy;

9 six days you shall labor and do all your work;

10 and the seventh day is a sabbath to Jehovah your God; you shall not do any work

So the ladies had to wait until that Sabbath was over, and besides it was Passover, when they must remain in their houses. They came early the next morning.

Mark 16:2 (KJ3) And very early on the first of the sabbaths, the sun having risen, they came upon the tomb.

This day is described as the first of the Sabbaths. This is the day after the Sabbath on which the Passover fell that year. From this is would seem that the case is indeed strong that Jesus resurrected on the Sunday morning. No other day fits the clear pattern here.

Jesus was crucified on a Friday, the Preparation Day, was taken down from the cross before sundown, which started the weekly Sabbath and Passover day, rested in the tomb on the Saturday and rose early Sunday morning to the week-long celebration of the feast of the unleavened bread, 7 days of Sabbaths, holy days. This is also the reason that many translations substitute ‘the first day of the week’ when describing the day He rose. The week is the week of the 7 Sabbaths but it is also the beginning day of the week in the calendar. Sunday is the day of the week God started His work of creation and it is also the day Jesus rose victorious from the grave working in the hearts of those He saved.

It is also worth noting that Jesus ate bread and drank wine at the last Supper He instituted with the Church. The bread and wine were to symbolise His body broken and His blood shed for the remission of our sin (Matthew 26:26-28). This celebration He said signified the New Covenant which started with His death on the Cross. Jesus said “It is finished” (John 19:30). Jesus was signifying to the Jews that the annual sacrifices of lambs and temple worship offerings for sins was finished because He finished forever all sacrifices for sin with His own death on the Cross. See Daniel 9:27.

He held His last Supper on the night before He was crucified which we have established must have been on the Thursday evening. After sundown that would have placed it on the Preparation Day.  He was preparing that day for His sacrifice and atonement for our sin. Since He was dead on the Passover Day (from sundown Friday) He was not celebrating the Passover meal. He in fact was the lamb whose blood was shed for the salvation of all those who believe.

By John Gideon Hartnett

Dr John G. Hartnett is an Australian physicist and cosmologist, and a Christian with a biblical creationist worldview. He received a B.Sc. (Hons) and Ph.D. (with distinction) in Physics from The University of Western Australia, W.A., Australia. He was an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Outstanding Researcher Award (DORA) fellow at the University of Adelaide, with rank of Associate Professor. Now he is retired. He has published more than 200 papers in scientific journals, book chapters and conference proceedings.

5 replies on “What day of the week was Jesus’ crucifixion?”

It’s amazing how preachers skip over the anomaly of Friday crucifixion and Sunday resurrection when Scripture clearly reveals otherwise and prophecy demands fulfillment.

How is it possible that after a Friday crucifixion and burial before sundown on that day (which marks the beginning of the Jew’s weekly Sabbath) then enables the women to buy the spices when shops are closed and then prepare the spices and rest for the weekly Sabbath etc?

14th day of Nisan was the Passover. From evening after 6.00 PM till 6.00 PM next day is the order of Day from the beginning in Genesis.

Thus on the day following the Passover was the 15th day of Nisan which was a “High” Sabbath .
John 19:31 > 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” being the Feast of the Unleavened Bread) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away (because they had to bury Him before 6.00 PM as on High Sabbath day no servile work permissible as commanded in Leviticus.)

Leviticus 23:5-7 > 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.

On the following day after the 15th day of Nisan from
evening 6.00 PM to 6.00 PM is normal day when shops are open and people can buy things – which is when the women bought the spices and prepared them.
Then again on 16th day of Nisan, from 6.00 PM till next day 6.00 PM
was the Weekly Sabbath and no work could be undertaken and thereafter it’s too dark for the women to go to the tomb.
Thus early on the first day of the week they reach the tomb and are told by the angel that He has risen.
Thus Jesus was in the grave for 3 days and 3 nights.

Exactly as He had said would be the sign in Mathew 12:39-40 > 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.

Passover Day to Resurrection Day is 3 days and 3 nights.

Preachers who advocate the Friday to Sunday (one and half day timeline) should preach a different Messiah who will come to fulfill Jesus’s prophecy in Mathew 12:39-40.

It’s disconcerting that preachers will focus on Micah 5 and Bethlehem, and Isaiah 53 etc from Old Testament at length to establish that Jesus indeed is the Messiah but conveniently ignore Mathew 12:39-40 and still continue without missing a heartbeat.

Else they should tell the Truth according to the Scriptures.

Shalom

Contemporary English Version
Mathew 17:22-23 > While Jesus and his disciples were going from place to place in Galilee, he told them, “The Son of Man will be handed over to people who will kill him. But three days later he will rise to life.” All of this made the disciples very sad.

Good News Translation
Mathew 17:22,23 > When the disciples all came together in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be handed over to those who will kill him; but three days later he will be raised to life.” The disciples became very sad.

Matthew 27:63 > Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again.

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Also, wasn’t it also believed at that time…that the spirit could enter into the body anytime during those 3 days…so only after the 3 days they buried the body?

During my studies…I remember that Eusebius gave a pretty extensive explanation of how there was a split between the Church of Rome and the church of Asia….to the extent that the Roman church leaders resented having to depend upon the ‘Jews’ to advise them when the 14th of Nisan was so they could commemorate Passover…or the crucifixion. “Whatever part of the week it fell, Christians were accustomed to fast until 3:00 and then celebrate the Eucharist”…..The Asia church continued to celebrate the Passover on the 14th while the Roman church eventually dropped Passover all together and began to only celebrate the resurrection on a Sunday. Eventually…the Roman church won out in 325 and no more Passover. 😢
It caused a big rift between the two…and was yet another way in which the church lost its’ roots.

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Your scheme hinges on assuming which day of the week the 14th day of Nisan, being the Passover, fell on. That was determined by the lunar cycle. It is not a 28 day cycle. The Jews corrected the slippage with a variable 13th month called Veadar. It would seem you are saying it fell on Thursday, which began at 6 pm Wednesday. Is that right?

Exodus 12:6 clearly states the animal is killed on the 14th day of the month Nisan “between the evenings” which means before the 15th day begins at sundown. The Passover then occurred on the 15th day beginning at sundown on the 14th, i.e over that night. Exodus 12:18 says the Jews eat unleavened bread on the 14th day evening, which is the beginning of the 15th day and it is for 7 days that takes it to 21st evening. Thus the 15th and the 21st are holy days where in no work may be done (Exodus 12:16).

John 19:31 (KJ3)

“Therefore, since it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies not remain on the cross on the sabbath, for great was the day of that sabbath…”

The expression in italics implies a special sabbath which is was, the Passover. But it was a weekly sabbath because we have the Preparation Day in this verse. And according to Luke 23:56 they rested on the sabbath according to the commandment, the 4th Commandment, making it a weekly sabbath. So we can pin the 15th Day of Nisan to this sabbath and the Preparation Day to the day before, that is, the 14th, when the sacrifice is killed as Jesus also was.

Jesus’ prophecy of Matthew 12:39-40 relates to Jonah’s 40 day prophecy on Ninevah for them to repent. This was fulfilled in the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, exactly 40 years after Jesus crucifixion. It is a 1 day = 1 year fulfillment. I should add exactly here means only to precision of a the year. Not exact number of 40 years to the day. Who knows when the Temple was destroyed? I am sure it took some time.

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This bothered me growing up, until I read an explanation in some apologetics book that “three days and three nights” was (at least) a first-century Jewish idiom, and wasn’t intended to be taken as a literal 72-hour period.

(Of course that implies absolutely nothing about how we should interpret any other time period mentioned in the Bible, which should always be interpreted in context to determine if they are meant to figurative or literal!)

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The problem with this is I have never seen it shown that it is a idiom, it has merely been asserted to make it fit. What has been shown is they could count partial days and nights, but you don’t have partial three nights if Friday.

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