The Crucifixion - Good Friday or Wednesday
By Clovis E. Miller
There are differences of opinion as to which actual day of the week Jesus was crucified and buried on. Most Christians hold to the "Good Friday" tradition. Others hold that Jesus was crucified on a Thursday, and still others believe he was crucified on a Wednesday.
We may not all agree on the timing, but we are all in agreement that those things did happened!
Here is a quote from a Jewish website I found on the Internet.
"According to the rabbinic calculations, in Egypt the lamb was to be selected on Shabbat Nisan 10th 1311 BCE, slaughtered on Wednesday Nisan 14th and eaten in haste during Wednesday evening. The festivals ended the following day, Thursday Nisan 15th 1311 BCE, the day of the Exodus."
So, according to this, the Jewish Rabbi's have calculated that the first Passover lamb in Egypt was selected on the 10th of Nissan in 1311 BC; and that it was killed on the 14th of Nissan, which was a Wednesday.
If this calculation is correct, then it becomes more clear how that a Wednesday crucifixion may be a more appropriate time for adequately explaining the following points:
# 1. Jesus was in the heart of the earth for 3 days and nights, according to His words as recorded in Matt. 12:40.
# 2. How it could be said that he would rise "on the third day"; and also that he rose "after three days".
# 3. How that after Jesus was laid in the tomb; the woman prepared spices and rested the Sabbath day (as found in the Book of Luke): and also how they bought and prepared the spices after the Sabbath was finished (as found in the Book of Mark).
Are there contradictions here?
Not at all, if you understand the structure of the Feast of Passover.
Let's take a look at each of these three points:
In Matt. 12:40 Jesus said, " For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth."
Here He was quoting from the Book of Jonah (Chapter 1:17) which states:
" Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights."
There is really only two questions to be asked here: Are we to take the words of Jesus literally, or not?
Did He intend for us to understand that He really and truly would be in the heart of the earth for three literal days and three nights or, are we to deduce that he meant something else by this statement?
Some would argue that the Jewish people count part of the day as a full day, therefore you can get three days between Friday afternoon and Sunday morning. Counting Friday afternoon after Jesus died; then the day part of Saturday and finally in the light of early Sunday morning just before the actual sunrise. The problem here is, you cannot count that way and arrive at three nights. Since the Jewish people count a day from evening to evening, Friday night would be the beginning of the weekly Sabbath, and Saturday night is the beginning, or evening part of the first day of the week.
Any way you count it, the best you can come up with is 3 days and 2 nights. It doesn't seem likely that God would have let the one prophecy given to the people (Matt. 12:39) be open to disputation: that is, no one will be able to say that it was not fulfilled precisely as stated.
Those who hold to a Thursday crucifixion have a similar problem. If they count full days and nights, the resurrection of Jesus would have taken place on a Sunday night or Monday morning. You would have the Night parts of Thursday night, Friday Night and Saturday night, but the day parts of Friday, Saturday and Sunday; unless they count the portion of Thursday after the death of Jesus as a full day. Then you would have part of Thursday, and all of Friday and Saturday.
A Wednesday Crucifixion would provide the following order:
The Jewish Day being "the evening and the morning" as established in Gen 1:5
1) The crucifixion of Jesus would have been early on Wednesday (9 AM) with his death at 3 PM.
2) He was layed in the tomb at the approach of evening (which would have been the beginning of the next day: Thursday)
3) Wednesday Evening and Thursday day would constitute the first full day
4) Thursday evening and Friday day would be the second full day
5) Friday evening and Saturday day would be the third full day
Three full days and nights.
Jesus stated that he would rise "the third day" which by the prophecy of Jonah and the calculation shown above, would have been at the end of the weekly sabbath day.
In point #1, it was stated that Scriptures tell us that Jesus rose "the third day", and also that He would arise "after three days". You can find these references in (Luke 24:7 ; Matt. 27:63)
Jesus also said, "Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up" (John 2:19-21). This statement appears to point to the whole process involved (going to the heart of the earth, etc.) during the three day period, and which culminated with His resurrection.
How is it possible for both of the phrases in point #2 to be true? He rose "the third day"; and he rose "after three days".
If we take the words of Jesus as literal, then the "three days and three nights" of which he spoke, contained exactly 72 hours.
If Jesus was put in the tomb (which some regard as "the hearth of the earth") just prior to 6 PM on Wednesday, then He would have risen just prior to 6 PM on Saturday, which would have been very near the start of the next day, according to the Law. We will look at how this may relate to the ceremonial practice of offering the firstfruits of the barley harvest a little later.
This would have fulfilled His word that He would rise "the third day" because at 3PM - 6PM on Saturday afternoon would be on the third day, with the next day (firstfruits) beginning at evening.
Jesus kept the Law of God and the feast days perfectly.
Though his resurrection prior to 6 PM on Saturday afternoon would have occurred on a part of the weekly sabbath (a day of rest); there is another reason why Jesus would have stayed in the tomb, at that point.
He had to fulfill the Feast of FirstFruits which was to take place "on the morrow after the sabbath" (Sunday). That being the next day. Therefore, he would have remained in the tomb at least until Firstfruits began at evening time.
The point being made here is that the Resurrection, and the coming out the tomb, may not have been simultaneous events.
It's like the grain of wheat that is planted. The seed comes to life and germinates under the soil (out of sight), but you do not see the results of that germination, until the seedling first breaks thru to the surface. Then and only then are you sure the seed that was planted was good seed.
In these things we can see that Jesus was in his glorified body on "the third day" (he rose from the dead); and that he came out of the tomb, at some point, after the next evening had begun ("after the third day"). Scripture nowhere tells us that anyone actually saw Jesus come out of the tomb. By the time the stone was rolled away from the door, Jesus had already left the tomb.
Now let's look at the next point:.
In Mark 16:1-2 we read,
1) "Now when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome bought spices, that they might come and annoint him.
2) Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun was risen."
Then in Luke 23: 55 - 24:1 we read:
55) "And the women who had come with him from Galilee followed after, and they observed the tomb and how his body was laid.
56) Then they returned and prepared spices and fragrant oils. And they rested on the sabbath according to the commandment.
24: 1) Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared."
At first glance there seems to be a contradiction here. How could the women prepare the spices and then rest the sabbath, according to Luke; and purchase and prepare the spices after the sabbath was finished, according to Mark?
It's relatively easy to explain if we following the idea that Jesus was crucified on a Wednesday, rather than Friday.
That Wednesday would have been the 14th of Nissan (or the Day of Preparation as it was called). That's the day the Jewish people removed all leavening from their homes and also the killed the Passover Lamb. The former task was performed in the dark, using only the light of a candle to find the leaven; the sacrifice of the lamb was carried out in the Temple on the next afternoon.
Jesus had to be put in the grave or tomb before night fall of that day because the Feast of Passover (also called Unleavened Bread) was approaching. Because Passover always begins with a sabbath day, it would not have been lawful to tend to such things after end of the day of preparation. Everyone had to be in their dwelling places before the Passover feast began.
At Passover, both the first day and the seventh day of the feast are set as sabbath days (or days of rest). These two days were referred to as "High Days" not only because they were sabbaths, but because they were also feast days. Because they were days of rest and Scripture demanded those "hanged on a tree" (or crucified) could not remain on the tree until the next day, the bodies were taken down and buried before the official start of evening. The only labor permitted on the two sabbaths of Passover was the cooking of food (Ex. 12:16}.
On the weekly sabbath it is absolutely forbidden for anyone to perform any work, including kindling a fire to cook food. On the two days of rest during the Feast of Passover all "occupational work" is forbidden. However, the cooking food for use on those two Feast days was to be allowed. Because of this, there are conflicting opinions even among Jewish scholars as to whether or not the two days of rest during Unleavened Bread should be referred to as sabbath Days or not. While these were called "High Days", and were observed as days of rest; they are not sabbaths in the strictest sense of the word.
All of this is said to make the point: if Jesus was crucified on Wednesday and the sabbath drew on, according to Luke 23:54, then we can understand that the day mentioned there is not the weekly sabbath, but rather the first sabbath (or day of rest) of the Feast of Passover. That sabbath would have been Wednesday Night - Thursday day. Before nightfall of Wednesday evening, the women beheld how the body of Jesus was laid and then went to their dwelling places.
Everyone who touched the body of a dead person was considered ritually unclean and could not eat the Passover meal. Those who took the body down from the cross and to the tomb, may have been at the Passover service which Jesus celebrated the night before.
Sometime after that first day of rest had passed (Thursday night - Friday morning) they went and purchased the spices, prepared them, and then rested the sabbath according to the commandment. That would have been the weekly sabbath.
In light of the traditional view that Jesus was crucified on a Friday and rose on the Sunday following; how do we deal with the statement of Jesus that he would be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights? (Matt. 12: 40)
Here is where it appears that we get confused about the time which Jesus spent in the tomb. Let's go through and take a look at that time:
We start off with the "day of Preparation" (that's the 14th Day of Nissan). As stated before, that's the day when the Jewish people made sure that all leavening (which is a type of sin) was removed from their houses before Passover began. They do that even to this day. It was also the day on which the Passover Lamb was to be killed, and made ready for the Passover meal. This latter custom ceased with the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD.
That day like all Jewish days, began just after sundown and continued until the same time the next day. As that particular day approached, the disciples inquired of Jesus where he would observe the Passover. He gave Peter and John specific instructions as to where they should go for this. You can read about this in (Luke 22: 7-16).
So they went and made the preparations as required.
Some people deny that the meal Jesus had with his disciples was the Passover because it occurred the night before the Passover lambs were normally killed. Scripture is abundantly clear that it was indeed the Passover meal. Jesus Himself called it by that name.
There is no indication in Scripture that the disciples questioned Jesus about why he would observe the Passover on the evening before the Passover Lambs were to be killed. That, was to be on the next afternoon, and the time was referred to as "twilight", or "between the evenings". We do know this: Jesus kept the Law perfectly,
He himself said, that "not one jot or tittle" of the Law would pass away until all things be fulfilled.
In John 2:19-21 Jesus said, "Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.
20: Then the Jews said, ' It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?'
21: But He was speaking of the temple of his body."
The resurrection of Jesus was a fulfillment of the Feast of Firstfruits, which occurred on the Sunday following the first Sabbath of Passover (Lev. 23:10-11). We may find some insights into to this by looking at the very time the ceremonial enactment of this was carried out.
During this period, according to the Mishnah, the sheaf to be waved in the ceremony was reaped from the field as the Sabbath ended and Sunday began. "R. Hananiah, Prefect of the Priests, says, ‘On the Sabbath it [the barley] was reaped.' . . . On the Sabbath, he [the priest] says to them, ‘[Shall I reap on] this Sabbath?' They shall say, ‘Yes'" (Jacob Neusner, The Mishnah: A New Translation, "Menahoth," p. 753-754). So, at dusk at the end of the Sabbath, the priest "put the sickle to the grain".
"Seven weeks shalt thou number unto thee: begin to number the seven weeks from such a time as thou beginnest to put the sickle to the corn." (Deuteronomy 16:9)
When was the sheaf of firstfruits waved? Histories of the time show that it was waved about the same time as the daily morning sacrifice, that is, about 9 am on Sunday. Three days before, at the same hour, the sacrifice of the Passover Lamb of God (the dying Jesus) was offered up: now three days later the firstfruits of the barley harvest (the resurrected Jesus) was also being offered up to God. The reaping and waving of the sheaf symbolized Israel giving the first and best of the harvest to God and its subsequent acceptance by Him. It is exactly this symbolism that Jesus fulfilled! As the weekly sabbath was ending, exactly 72 hours from the planting of the seed (His burial), God resurrected Him from the dead! God "reaped" the first and best of His spiritual harvest (I Corinthians 15:23)
If the resurrection and exit from the tomb were simultaneous how do we account for the fact that when Peter entered the tomb the cloth which had been wrapped around the Head of Jesus was neatly folder and placed in a location separate from the other grave clothes? (John 20:3-7)
In the world, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and others are considered to be separate Religions -- and they are that.
Christianity, however was never intended to be the separate religion that it has become, but it was intended to be the fulfillment of Judaism.
From Scripture, we know that the earliest Church, which was comprised completely of Jewish believers, celebrated the Passover.
The "Good Friday" and "Easter Sunday" traditions, as we know them, were set up under the Roman Emperor Constantine, at the Council of Nicea in the year 325 A.D., almost 3 centuries after the resurrection of Jesus.
At that point, the time of the "Resurrection Day" (which has been identified with the feast of firstfruits - found in Leviticus 23: 10-11) was changed from the biblical date. Afterwards Resurrection day, or Easter as we call it, was to be celebrated not on the Sunday following the beginning Passover; but rather on "the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the vernal equinox". That's the way it was worded by the Council of Nicea. Simply put, that meant that Easter was to be celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon of Spring. So now, Easter (or firstfruits) does not always agree with the Biblical mandate.
As stated before, Jesus kept the law of God perfectly, having a complete understanding of Levitical Law. He knew not only what was required but also what was allowed. He also had a perfect understanding of the Oral Traditions of the Jews which is called the Mishnah.
The Mishnah was compiled during Temple times thru about 170 AD. He knew what was necessary for him to keep the feast of Passover as he did. No one could come to him and say, " you sinned because you did not keep the Passover at the appointed time". There is nothing in the Scriptures which indicates that Jesus was challenged on this point, neither did his disciples question him about it when he told them to go and prepared the Passover during the evening of the 14th of Nissan.
In the Word of God the feast days are called "Holy Convocations". The word "Convocation" is from the Hebrew word pronounced "mik-raw'" this is translated as a "public meeting"; it also has a secondary meaning which is: "a rehersal". So we can understand that when God gave the Feast Days to Israel they were meant to be public rehearsals of events on God's prophetic calender.
Unlike our day, which officially runs from mid-night to mid-night, the Biblical or Jewish day runs from evening to evening. The sequence of the day was established in Genesis 1:5 where it states that, "the evening and the morning were the first day."
This is very important in our understanding of the feast days.
We tend to think that the evening begins at sunset, but in Jewish reckoning it actually begins a little bit later.
In one source I found it stated, that in Jewish reckoning, the evening officially begins when you can see "three stars of the 2nd magnitude". As the sun sets and onset of evening progresses, a few stars become visible. These are the brightest stars, or stars of the first magnitude. The next three stars which become visible to the eye are the one which usher in the new day -- Those are the one which are called "stars of the second magnitude". This is when the new day actually begins.
The 14th of Nissan, called the "day of preparation", which was also the day on which Jesus was crucified, actually began on the previous evening.
I have read also that the Passover Lamb of the family of the High Priest was sacrificed at the ninth hour. So at the same time Jesus died on the Cross, The lamb of the High Priest's family was killed.
Josephus, a well known Jewish historian of the first century stated that all the lambs of the people were killed between 3 P.M. and 5 P.M. on the preparation day which was the 14th of Nissan.
Jewish "twilight" was defined as the afternoon, prior to the beginning of the next day (which would be the 15th day of Nissan). Jesus died on the cross at 3 P.M. (during the "twilight hours" of the preparation day). So you can see the symbolism there: the lambs of the people were killed during that time as was the "Lamb of God."
Tractate: Sanhedrin, Chapter 6
MISHNA VI.: How was one hanged? The beam was put in the earth, and it was fastened at the top, and he tied the hands of the culprit one upon the other, and hung him up. R. Jose said: The beam was not put in the earth, but the top of it was supported by the wall, and he hung him up as the butchers do, and he took him off immediately. And should he leave him over night, he transgressed a negative commandment, as it reads [Deut. xxi. 23]: "Thou shalt not leave his corpse on the tree over night, but thou shalt surely bury him on that day (for he that is hanged) is a dishonor of God," etc. How so? "Why is this man hanged?" "He is a blasphemer." Hence the name of Heaven is violated. [Said R. Mair: When a man is in trouble, in what language does the Shekinah lament over him? Qalleni meiraushi, qalleni miz'raay. 1 Now, if the Omnipotent grieves over the blood of the wicked which was shed, so much the more about the blood of the upright!] And not only of him who was executed it was said that he should not remain over night? But even every one who leaves unburied his corpse over night transgresses the negative commandment. However, if he left it over night for the sake of its honor, as for instance to prepare for it a coffin or shroud, he does not transgress.
GEMARA: The rabbis taught: If the verse read, "If a man committed a sin, he shall be hanged," we would say that he should be hanged until death occurs, as the government does; but it reads, "He shall be put to death and hanged," which means he shall be put to death and thereafter hanged. How was it done? They kept him till near sunset, condemned him, killed him, and then hanged him; one hangs him up, and the other immediately loosens the knot, as his hanging was only to fulfil the commandment.
bain haarbayim -- between the evenings (ben ha-'arbayim)
"between the evenings”, means, in the middle, between the beginning of the going-down-of-the-sun (noon); and the final going-down-of-the-sun (sunset). That time would be approximately 3 PM when Jesus died.
In prescribed order the trumpets were blown, while the priests stood ready with gold and silver utensils to sprinkle the blood. The vessel was passed from one to the other that many might have a part in the meritorious act, until it reached the priest nearest the altar. The empty pan was returned. Then the carcasses were suspended on iron hooks along the walls and columns, or even on poles, shouldered between two men; the excrement was removed and the proper parts salted and incensed on the altar. The doors were then reopened, and, the first group departing, the second was admitted, and next the third,..."
The killing of the Passover lamb was done with great caution, to avoid contact with same. After the carcass had been properly prepared, and the blood properly disposed of, it was taken home by its owner and roasted and eaten at eventide.
Have you ever wondered why there was darkness for three hours on the day when Jesus was crucified; beginning at 12 o'clock and ending at 3 P.M (Matt. 27:45 ; Mark 15:33 ; Luke 23.44 ).
Why was there darkness then?
Here is a verse from Exodus Chapter 12:
" And it came to pass at midnight that the Lord struck all the first born in the land of Egypt, from the first born of Pharoah who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of livestock."
At 12 o'clock, on that night, the angel of death (called the destroyer in Scripture), began to go throughout the land of Egypt and smote every household where the blood had not been applied to the doorway.
On the day Jesus was crucified I think God was reminding the people that at 12 o'clock that night death came to the firstborn of Egypt,
and by the darkness at mid-day he was making the declaration that his own firstborn and only-begotten son was going to die as well.
The Bible states that Pharoah rose up in the night and called for Moses and Aaron and told them to take the people and get out of the land of Egypt. Pharoah was basically saying, It's done! I'm finished with you and your people, Get out!! (Exodus 12:31)
About 3 P.M. on the day of the crucifixion, Jesus said , "it's finished". At that point, he was basically saying to the people, come unto me that you may receive eternal life.
What a contrast we have here. When Pharoah's firstborn son died, he told the Israelites, Take whatever you want and Get Out!!
When God's son died on the cross, He was gently saying, come unto me!
It really goes back to the time of Jacob (the grandson of Abraham) who had 12 sons. Of the twelve, his favorite son was young Joseph. Jealousy among his brothers eventually resulted in Joseph being sold by them into slavery in Egypt, and the brothers lying to their father by saying that Joseph had been killed by a wild animal.
While in Egypt, Joseph rose to the highest position in the kingdom under Pharoah because he was able to revealed to Pharoah the meaning of a dream which he had.
God gave Joseph the interpretation of Pharaoh's dream that there would be first 7 years of plenty; and then 7 years of famine. Pharoah heeded the interpretation and the kingdom survived.
The same famine swept through the land of Israel prompting Jacob to send his sons to Egypt for food and provisions. Their needs were met by their brother Joseph, whom they did not recognize at first.
To make a longer story short, Jacob and the families of his sons settled in Egypt, Joseph later died and a new more ruthless Pharoah came to power and enslaved the Israelites.
God didn't forget what the sons had done to Joseph, so, what they had done to him was returned to be them and their descendants. Their enslavement in Egypt continued for 430 years. Towards the end of this period Moses their deliverer was born.
He grew up in the house of Pharaoh but eventually turned his back of the riches and power of Egypt and was called by God to led the people out of Egypt back to the Promised land.
Through a series of 10 plagues that were unleashed against the land, Pharaoh eventually relented and let the people depart from Egypt.
Does it really matter which day Jesus was crucified on?
The Apostle Paul said, "One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind" (Romans 14:5). If we know the truth, we should walk in it, even if it runs contrary to the traditions of man.
“All that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them” - Matthew 23:3.
For a more indepth study of the Feast Days of Israel Click Here