For many years now I have digested various materials, both Biblical and extra-Biblical, which deal with the relative question which is being asked by many: “When did Jesus die?” First of all, let me please make it clear that regardless of our personal opinions in relation to the timing, hours and days in which Jesus was scourged, crucified, buried and resurrected, the importance of the matter is to understand that the events recorded in scripture DID happen and Jesus DID overcome death, hell and the grave.
My opinion matters very little in the grand scope of things, and for the sake of it all, we can continue to hold our various opinions and ideas in relation to various scriptural matters, as long as they do not attack the validity of fundamental doctrine and truth of the Word of God.
To begin, we must start with the clear facts which scripture gives us, beginning with what hour are we told that Jesus died on the Cross?
Matthew 27:46-50 (KJV)
46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? 47 Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, This man calleth for Elias. 48 And straightway one of them ran, and took a spunge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink. 49 The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save him. 50 Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.
Mark 15:34-37 (KJV)
34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? 35 And some of them that stood by, when they heard it, said, Behold, he calleth Elias. 36 And one ran and filled a spunge full of vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink, saying, Let alone; let us see whether Elias will come to take him down. 37 And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost.
It is seen clearly that at about the 9th hour of the day (9 hours after the sun had risen) that Jesus gave up the ghost. The 9th hour would be around our 3pm and carrying it further we realize that Jesus was placed in the tomb shortly after and prior to the sun setting.
Bear in mind as we read this that the hurry to care for the body of Jesus was due to the fact that the Sabbath would begin at sundown.
Mark 15:42-43 (KJV)
42 And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, 43 Joseph of Arimathaea, an honourable counsellor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus.
John 19:30-31 (KJV)
30 When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost. 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 a high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.
The Hebrew day begins and ends at sunset.
Genesis 1:5 (KJV)
5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
Leviticus 23:32 (KJV)
32 It shall be unto you a sabbath of rest, and ye shall afflict your souls: in the ninth day of the month at even, from even unto even, shall ye celebrate your sabbath.
It seems clear that it was roughly 3pm our time that Jesus died, 9 hours after sunrise according to Jewish timing, and that it was on the day of preparation that Jesus died. Therefore, it was before sunset on the day of preparation before the Sabbath began.
Now my next question to you at this point is this: Which Sabbath was it? I know, you are probably asking me, “what do you mean by asking what Sabbath?” Well, this is crucial to our little journey.
Luke 23:52-56 (KJV)
52 This man went unto Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. 53 And he took it down, and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a sepulchre that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid. 54 And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on. 55 And the women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid. 56 And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment.
Luke 24:1 (KJV)
1 Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain otherswith them.
Mark 16:1-2 (KJV)
1 And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. 2 And very early in the morning the first dayof the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.
As seen here, the women viewed the body of Jesus on the day of preparation before the sunset and the Sabbath began. Once the Sabbath began, according to the 4th commandment and law, they observed the whole of the sabbath from sunset to sunset. If you look closely to the timing being mentioned in the these scriptures, you can clearly see days appear for us to substantiate a greater understanding.
Current tradition states that Friday would have been the day of preparation, Saturday the Sabbath, and Sunday (the first of the week.) To completely understand our day in light of Jewish day we could recognize that 6pm-6pm equaled 1 day. Therefore in light of current tradition:
Friday 6pm to Saturday 6pm
Saturday 6pm to Sunday 6pm
Sunday 6pm to Monday 6 pm
Therefore for all LITERALISTS of 72 year days, this does not work! How about Thursday being the day?
Thursday 6pm to Friday 6pm
Friday 6pm to Saturday 6pm
Saturday 6pm to Sunday 6pm
Well that works does it not? That would be a 72 hour period! Wait…it still puts the resurrection on Monday in our system!
If Friday is out and Thursday seems to be the fit, but 72 hour period doesn’t work….perhaps Jewish timing can help concrete the Thursday theory!
Was it a literal three-day period? Did it have to be 72 hours to the very second? How did the Jews view such a concept of timing? Did the centurions have a wristwatch that they consulted and said “well…two more hours left for this prophecy to be true?” We must understand that for a Jew to make reference to “a day and a night” could include ALL or PART of the day in mention.
Quite contrary to a Jew! Even a “part” of a day would be considered and spoken of as a day in the mind of a Jew. This idea can be found within scriptures, specifically in the book of Esther. Jews who were practicing their own ways while being under the reign of Achashverosh.
Esther 4:16 (KJV) 16 Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which isnot according to the law: and if I perish, I perish.
Esther 5:1 (KJV) 1 Now it came to pass on the third day, that Esther put on her royal apparel, and stood in the inner court of the king’s house, over against the king’s house: and the king sat upon his royal throne in the royal house, over against the gate of the house.
If one were being “technical” in relation to a three-day and three night fast than it would be AFTER the period of those three days and three nights which one would break the fast. Therefore, technically it would be in our mindset of timing, the beginning of the FOURTH day in which one would break the fast and Esther would have appeared before the king. Does this make sense? I hope that it does! Instead, Esther shows up ON THE THIRD DAY. (all of this supposes that the Jews still followed the sunset to sunset approach of a day, which scripture does not seem to imply otherwise.)
With this in mind, those of us who are literalists when it comes to the 72 hour concept of the resurrection, we in a sense cannot make the declaration that “on the 3rd day Jesus rose again,” because it would have been the beginning of the 4th day that Jesus arose! The completion of 72 hours in our modern mindset starts the FIRST HOUR of the next day.
Other scriptures to view:
Matthew 16:21 (KJV)
21 From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.
Matthew 17:23 (KJV)
23 And they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised again. And they were exceeding sorry.
Matthew 20:19 (KJV)
19 And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again.
Mark 10:34 (KJV)
34 And they shall mock him, and shall scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall kill him: and the third day he shall rise again.
Luke 9:22 (KJV)
22 Saying, The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day.
Luke 18:33 (KJV)
33 And they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again.
Acts 10:38-40 (KJV)
38 How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. 39 And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree: 40 Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly;
1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (KJV)
3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
What also of the two disciples walking along the road when Jesus appears to them AFTER the resurrection?
Luke 24:13-21 (KJV) 13 And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs. 14 And they talked together of all these things which had happened. 15 And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. 16 But their eyes were holden that they should not know him. 17 And he said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad? 18 And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days? 19 And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people: 20 And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him. 21 But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done.
The problem that arises in my mind appears in this concept because the day which the two disciples are speaking of is following the VERY EARLY (dawn) which the women come with spices. It is VERY EARLY when they come to do this but when we see Jesus (RESURRECTED) talking with the two men, who just declared it was the THIRD DAY since the crucifixion, we find that as they near the village the men constrained Jesus and asked that He come with them because of the late hour. The THIRD DAY was reaching a close. In other words, in their mind’s eye, Jesus was not the Messiah unless in the next few hours remaining was resurrected. The fourth day was approaching! These men had even seen the empty tomb but where was Christ?
Luke 24:28-31 (KJV) 28 And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further. 29 But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them. 30 And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight.
Now this is rather interesting to me when taking it all into account because for the Thursday to work we must abandon the 72 hour principle. But sadly when taking into account the crucifixion of Jesus, Thursday doesn’t work any longer! Why not you ask?
Luke 23:44-46 (KJV) 44 And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. 45 And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst. 46 And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.
According to this scripture, the ninth hour is around our 3pm and from what we have gather 6pm is when the sun went down. Therefore, understanding this we come to realize that Jesus died on the very CLOSE of another day! Judging by the urgency to remove the body of Jesus and get it taken care of, by the time Joseph would have procured the permission of Pilate to remove the body of Jesus it had to have been very near the arrival of the NEXT day.
Therefore if it IS NOT Friday (most of us agree) and it no longer can be THURSDAY that Jesus died, although we can work our 3 day/night into the picture, then Jesus had to have died on WEDNESDAY!
THE WEDNESDAY THEORY
Now that I have totally angered or befuddled you, I pray that you will read further and forgive this author of his ramblings!
When one studies the Old Testament you will quickly come across multiple references which imply that there are a plurality of Sabbaths. In our standard understand we regard Sabbath as ONE DAY which is defined according to the seventh day idea of rest.
Exodus 16:22-23 (KJV)
22 And it came to pass, that on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for one man: and all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moses. 23 And he said unto them, This is that which the LORD hath said, To morrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the LORD: bake that which ye will bake to day, and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning.
And yet we are confronted with scripture with other “days” in which Sabbath is applied to them and the same commandment of no work or preparation is given.
The DAY OF ATONEMENT (Shabbot of Shabbaton)
Leviticus 23:27-28 (KJV) 27 Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD. 28 And ye shall do no work in that same day: for it isa day of atonement, to make an atonement for you before the LORD your God.
Leviticus 23:30-32 (KJV) 30 And whatsoever soul it be that doeth any work in that same day, the same soul will I destroy from among his people. 31 Ye shall do no manner of work: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. 32 It shall be unto you a sabbath of rest, and ye shall afflict your souls: in the ninth dayof the month at even, from even unto even, shall ye celebrate your sabbath.
Leviticus 16:29-31 (KJV) 29 And this shall be a statute for ever unto you: that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, ye shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether it be one of your own country, or a stranger that sojourneth among you: 30 For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the LORD. 31 It shall bea sabbath of rest unto you, and ye shall afflict your souls, by a statute for ever.
There were (6) other annual appointment days which one could not do any occupational work. (See Lev. 23.) Three of these days are specifically called days of “rest.”
One example is The FEAST OF TRUMPETS ( in this case it is a “Shabbaton” or “rest.)
Leviticus 23:23-25 (KJV) 23 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 24 Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation. 25 Ye shall do no servile work therein: but ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD.
The annual Sabbaths are seven: the first and seventh Days of Unleavened Bread, Pentecost, Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah in Hebrew), Atonement (Yom Kippur), the first day of Tabernacles (Succoth), and the Last Great Day. The first three occur in the spring, and the last four in the fall.
Now a question which I have never heard asked in relation to the crucifixion period, was how many Sabbaths occurred? I know, at this point you are probably getting irate with me…but please ask yourself that question based upon the scripture I shall present.
John 19:31 (KJV)
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,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and thatthey might be taken away.
As I have shown already, scripture portrays two types of Sabbaths. (1) a weekly Sabbath and the other (2) a “special day” which includes one of the 7 annual Sabbaths mentioned in Leviticus 23. What if there were two “Sabbaths” which were observed from the story that we read based on the knowledge thus discussed?
Exodus 12:1-6 (KJV) 1 And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, 2 This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you. 3 Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house: 4 And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbour next unto his house take it according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb. 5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats: 6 And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening.
The 10th day of Nisan every man was to get a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for each household. The lamb was to be without spot or blemish, a male of the first year taken from among the sheep and goats. Then you keep this lamb until the 14th day of the same month and kill it before all the people, but it must be killed in the EVENING. Therefore we realize that this lamb was obtained as some point on the 10th day and kept those 3 days but killed on the 4th day at some point.
If we take into account the scripture in John which tells us the location of Jesus 6 days BEFORE the passover which we know would be the day that Jesus would die we can put together a small timeline. If the Passover was the 14th of Nisan then we can easily come up with the fact that Jesus was in Bethany on the 8th of Nisan.
- 8th of Nisan Jesus arrives in Bethany
- 9th of Nisan Jesus goes to Jerusalem( trip involves cleansing the temple)
- 9th of Nisan returns back to Bethany before day is over
- 10th of Nisan Jesus returns to Jerusalem for a second time (cleanses temple 2nd time, many are healed)
- 10th of Nisan returns to Bethany
- 11th of Nisan returns to Jerusalem (authority is challenged in the temple)
- 12th of Nisan (perhaps Mount of Olives)
- 13th of Nisan Supper with disciples
- 13th of Nisan Gethsemane
- 13th of Nisan Betrayal and Capture
- 13th of Nisan Illegal trial late in evening where the beat Jesus and spit in his face
- 14th of Nisan Day of the Passover Jesus is brought early to Pilate (Captors avoid judgment room so they can partake of Passover that day)
- 14th of Nisan events of trial and eventually the crucifixion
Contrary to popular opinion, it does not seem that Passover is the famous “Last Supper” which Jesus shared with his disciples the day before the Passover. Nevertheless by the time we trace the chronology of Jesus to the Passover day, it is already late in the day when Jesus dies on the cross. (Numbers 9:1) Very little remains of the 14th day of Nisan.
If we are to determine that Jesus was resurrected on the 17th of Nisan which we place as Sunday (the first of the week) then we can easily track this.
- Nisan 14 Passover begins 6pm and ends 6pm
- Jesus dies on the cross in the tail end of the last hours of Passover (3pm)
- When Passover ended at 6pm that moves us into the 16th day of Nisan
Now we need to trace this….
- Wednesday (Jesus Crucified) dies at 3pm. 6pm (day ends)
- Thursday 6pm to Friday 6pm
- Friday 6pm to Saturday 6pm
- Saturday 6pm to Sunday 6pm (THIRD DAY)
I think this takes care of the timeline!
Now while some of this may have been redundant, let us look at the scripture which holds a key in light all discussed:
John 19:31 (KJV) 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,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and thatthey might be taken away.
The day following Passover was a Sabbath. But this Sabbath is called a High Sabbath. As I have already discussed there were Sabbaths outside of the primary weekly Sabbath. If it is Wednesday (tail end) of the Passover that we are talking about (no restriction of work on Passover) and they have prepared for the following Sabbath in which NO WORK can be done it makes sense that they need to get the body of Jesus situation. Therefore Wednesday is Passover, Thursday is the Sabbath (no work can be done) and Friday would be a normal day.
John 19:38-42 (KJV)
38 And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus. 39 And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. 40 Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury. 41 Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid. 42 There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews’ preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand.
Luke 23:54-56 (KJV)
54 And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on. 55 And the women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid. 56 And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment.
What then was the preparation for?
Exodus 12:18 (KJV) 18 In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at even, ye shall eat unleavened bread, until the one and twentieth day of the month at even.
The same day of Passover along with the slaughtered lamb scripture stated that for seven days beginning that evening that only unleavened bread be allowed as grains. But what is very interesting is the declaration in scripture later on of a day which is considered a high Sabbath.
Leviticus 23:5-7 (KJV)
5 In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the LORD’S passover. 6 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. 7 In the first day ye shall have an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein.
It was a period of seven days, no work could be done (just as a Sabbath) on the first day and last day. Because no work could be done the next day, Joseph of Arimathea only had time to wrap Jesus in the linen. And because the following day was a day which work could not be done, neither could the women buy any spices!
Nehemiah 10:31 (KJV)
31 And if the people of the land bring ware or any victuals on the sabbath day to sell, that we would not buy it of them on the sabbath, or on the holy day: and thatwe would leave the seventh year, and the exaction of every debt.
Mark 16:1 (KJV)
1 And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the motherof James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.
What we don’t realize is that it was time consuming to prepare the proper burial spices and ointments. It was then the WEEKLY Sabbath on Saturday that hindered them from coming again!
Luke 23:55-56 (KJV)
55 And the women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid. 56 And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment.
Finally, Sunday they go!
Luke 24:1 (KJV)
1 Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain otherswith them.
I hope that this has been informative, challenging and broadened your study of the Word of God. While I understand that due to the complexity and nature of this study, I could very well be in error with certain aspects, I urge you to study for yourself. Tell me what you think also! God Bless and Enjoy the celebration of our Lord’s resurrection tomorrow!