Good Thursday

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overview

The days of the week have different names on the Hebraic calendar and on the Roman calendar.  The following chart shows both sets of names; however, for ease of understanding, the Roman days of the week will be used throughout this commentary:

Days of the Week
Hebrew Names and Roman Names

Day Number Hebrew Name Roman Name
First Day Yom Rishon Sunday
Second Day Yom Sheni Monday
Third Day Yom Shlishi Tuesday
Fourth Day Yom Revii Wednesday
Fifth Day Yom Chamishi Thursday
Sixth Day Yom Shishi Friday
Seventh Day Yom Shabbat Saturday

In ancient Israel, including during the first century A.D., preparations for the Pesach or Passover feast took place on “Preparation Day.”  In the middle of the afternoon (that is, at beyn ha’arbayim, often referred to as “twilight”) on that day, the Passover lamb was sacrificed at the temple in Jerusalem.  After sunset, when Preparation Day had ended and the Feast of Unleavened Bread had begun, the lamb and other specific foods for the Pesach feast were eaten.

Jesus was crucified and died on Preparation Day.  Traditionally, this has been thought to have been on a Friday.  I would like to demonstrate that Jesus’ crucifixion and death occurred not  on a Friday (the sixth day of the week), as has been traditionally accepted, but rather on the previous day, Thursday (the fifth day of the week).

At that time, the days of the week were referred to as the “first day,” the “second day,” the “third day,” and so on, rather than as Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, etc., which were named after various gods.  For ease of understanding by the “Western” mind, though, I will refer to the days of the week as we do today.

My Holy Week chart, near the bottom of this page, displays my depiction of the week during which the following occurred in the month of Aviv (also called Nisan) of that year:

  1. Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey (on Palm Sunday, Aviv 10), as prophesied in Zechariah 9:9;
  2. He was crucified four days later (on Thursday, Aviv 14); and
  3. He was resurrected from the dead on the third day after that (on Sunday, Aviv 17).
The first two points are fulfillments of (Exodus 12:2,3,6), where the first Passover lambs were to be taken in on the tenth  day of the first month (Aviv or Nisan) and slaughtered four days later, on the fourteenth  day of that month.  The third point is a fulfillment of Jesus’ own prophecy:  “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth(Matthew 12:40).

Some believe that Jesus was crucified on a Wednesday.  The crucifixion not on Wednesday section demonstrates why I am convinced that this was not the case.  The “three days and three nights” in the Matthew 12:40 prophecy did not  automatically imply a period of 72 hours.


Pesach or Passover

While the Israelites were being held captive in Egypt, God described to Moses and Aaron how the first Passover should take place (Exodus 12:1-28).  During its observance, all the firstborn children of the Egyptian families were struck down by the Lord, after which the Israelites were able to make their Exodus out of Egypt (12:29-51).

On Aviv (or Nisan) 10, each household was to take in a lamb without defect.  Each lamb was to be cared for, for four days, by a family (or two neighboring families) until Aviv 14, on which day the lamb would be slaughtered (sacrificed) at “twilight” (Exodus 12:6) or “between the evenings” (Exodus 12:6 in Young’s Literal Translation).  This was at mid-afternoon, not at sunset or dusk (see Twilight).  A hyssop branch was to be dipped into the blood of each lamb, with the blood then being brushed onto the lintel (top of the doorframe) and onto each doorjamb (two sideposts of the doorframe) of every Hebrew house (Exodus 12:3-7).

Doorway of an Israelite Home in Ancient Egypt with Blood of the Passover Lamb on the Top, Sides, and Bottom of the Doorframe Doorway of an Israelite Home in Ancient Egypt with Blood of the Passover Lamb on the Top, Sides, and Bottom of the Doorframe
I believe it can be assumed that, due to gravity, at least a few drops of the blood would have dripped from the top to the bottom of the doorway.  Thus, the blood on the four sides of each doorframe would have demarcated a cross .  Later, every family was to roast its lamb over a fire and eat it; it had to be fully cooked, even the inner parts (Exodus 12:8,9).  Traditionally, to cook it evenly inside, as well as outside, a wooden stake was driven vertically through the lamb, while another stake was inserted horizontally.  Note, again, that the configuration of the stakes formed a cross .

At midnight (on Aviv 15, since the Hebrew day begins at sunset), the Lord allowed the “destroyer” (death angel) to strike dead the firstborn of every household in the land which did not have blood applied to the doorway.  But the threshold of the homes where blood was present were passed over (thus the name, “Passover” or Pesach) and were not disturbed (Exodus 12:23).

In every Egyptian dwelling (including Pharaoh’s palace), each firstborn son, as well as the firstborn of every kind of animal, was killed (Exodus 11:5, 12:12,29,30).  However, no one in any Hebrew family, nor any of their livestock, was harmed (11:7, 12:13,23,27).  When Pharaoh discovered that even his own firstborn son was dead, as was prophesied to happen (4:23), he finally told Moses to take the Israelites and their livestock and go (12:31,32).

Sacrificing the Pesach or Passover lamb on Aviv 14 was a ceremony to be observed as a lasting ordinance for all subsequent generations (Exodus 12:24,25; Leviticus 23:5; Numbers 28:16; Deuteronomy 16:1,2,5,6).  It was to be a reminder to them of God’s special care and concern for, as well as deliverance of, His chosen people—chosen to be the agents through whom He later would reveal His great and wonderful Plan of salvation to those in the world who willingly would accept and embrace it.


parallels between Jesus and the Passover lamb

In the time of Jesus, it was on Aviv 10 (“Palm Sunday”) that the procession of the national Passover lamb for Israel was taking place.  The lamb was led into the city from the east.  It was being taken to the temple in Jerusalem to be the public sacrifice for all of Israel, four days later, on Aviv 14.  The lamb was met by crowds of people waving palm branches and joyously singing Psalm 118 as they remembered God’s miraculous delivery of their ancestors from the clutches of the Egyptian Pharaoh.  One passage being sung was, “Oh Lord, please save us, Oh Lord, please save us.  Oh Lord, send us prosperity, Oh Lord, send us prosperity.  Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord,” an expansion of the psalmic verses, “Oh Lord, save us; O Lord, grant us success.  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” (Psalm 118:25,26).

Following the procession of the Passover lamb, Jesus made His final entrance from the Mount of Olives into Jerusalem on a donkey (Matthew 21:1-11)—as had been prophecied centuries before (Zechariah 9:9)—indicating that He was coming humbly and in peace.  He followed exactly the same path to the temple that the Passover lamb had just taken.  The crowds of people, most of whom had witnessed or known of Jesus’ great miracles, placed more palm branches on the pathway in front of Him (thus, the name “Palm Sunday”) and shouted to Him as He passed, “‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’  ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’  ‘Hosanna in the highest!’” (Matthew 21:7-9).  (“Hosanna” or Hoshana means “Deliver us!”)

It was, and still is, a tradition to rid one’s home of leaven or yeast—representative of “sin”—prior to the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  In essence, this is what Jesus did when He entered the temple and drove out all who were buying and selling there and overturned all of the tables of the money changers (Matthew 21:12,13).

For four days, the Pesach lamb was kept in public view at the temple for everyone to examine to make sure that it was perfect and without defect.  During the same four days, the chief priests, elders, Pharisees, and Sadducees interrogated Jesus; but He always left them speechless, because they could find no fault with His impeccable logic and character (Matthew 21:23-27, 22:23-46, 26:59,60).  Moreover, after Jesus was arrested, Pilate (governor of Jerusalem) and Herod (governor of Galilee) could find no evidence against Him nor fault with Him (Matthew 27:22,23; Luke 23:4; John 19:4,6).  This is because Jesus was perfect  and without defect, just as the Passover lamb was expected to be.

The Passover lamb was to be sacrificed in the temple on Aviv 14 at “twilight(Exodus 12:6), or at the “twain of the evening.”  In Hebrew, the literal translation is beyn ha’arbayim, or “between the evenings” (Exodus 12:6 in Young’s Literal Translation).  The last half of the daylight hours (from about noon to 6:00 p.m.) was further divided into two parts: the minor evening oblation (noon to 3:00 p.m.) and the major evening oblation (3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.).  Thus, “between the evenings” means between these two periods, or about 3:00 p.m.  This was the time midway between the beginning of the sun’s descent into the west (about noon) and its setting (about 6:00 p.m.).  So the Passover lamb was killed at about 3:00 p.m. on Aviv 14, which was Preparation Day for the Passover feast.

The Passover lamb in the temple was bound to the altar at about 9:00 a.m.  Similarly, “It was the third hour when they crucified [Jesus]” (Mark 15:25); that is, it was the third hour of daylight, or about 9:00 a.m.  Darkness came over the land (not explainable by a solar eclipse, because there was a full moon rather than a new moon) from about the sixth to the ninth hour (noon to 3:00 p.m.); and it was about 3:00 p.m. that Jesus died (Luke 23:44-46)—the same time that the sacrificial Passover lamb in the temple was slaughtered.  As the high priest killed the lamb, he would have announced, “It is finished!”  It is no accident that, on the cross a few miles away, Jesus’ last words also were, “It is finished(John 19:30), which literally meant, “Paid in full.”

Now, recall the two “cross configurations” mentioned in the previous section.  Jesus was sacrificed on a wooden cross, as was the Passover lamb impaled on a wooden cross to be roasted.  Also, the blood stains of Jesus’ head, hands, and feet on the cross matched the locations of the blood of the lamb on the doorframe (top, sides, and presumably bottom) of each Hebrew family’s house in Egypt.

Finally, it was forbidden for any of the Passover lamb’s bones to be broken (Exodus 12:46).  After the crucifixion, the legs of the two criminals crucified along with Jesus were broken to ensure that they would die (by suffocation) quickly, as the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Aviv 15, was soon to begin at sunset.  But Jesus already was dead, so they did not break His legs (John 19:31-33).  Indeed, “Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Corinthians 5:7b).  John the Baptist referred to Jesus as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29,36).

It might be added that it often took two or three days for a person to die on a cross.  But it took Jesus—a strong, healthy man—only six hours to die.  Besides the fact that he had been severely flogged and beaten beyond recognition (Isaiah 52:14), He had more appointments to keep.  Jesus had said, “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.  I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again” (John 10:18).  Moments before Jesus died, mid-afternoon on Aviv 14, He called out, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46); then He voluntarily gave up his Spirit (Matthew 27:50).  He knew He had to keep the appointment of dying at the same time as the Passover lamb in the temple.  He also had to leave time to be buried before the Feast of Unleavened Bread, a high Sabbath, began at sunset.


crucifixion not on Friday

Traditionally, it has been accepted that Jesus was crucified on “Good Friday.”  The assumption for this is based upon the fact that, after Jesus’ death, the Jews asked that all crucified bodies be taken down from the crosses in respect for a “special Sabbath,” which began at sunset and continued through the next day (John 19:31a).  Also, other passages state that it was the Preparation Day, the day before the Sabbath which was about to begin (Mark 15:42; Luke 23:54).

Because the usual weekly Sabbath began at sunset after Friday was over, traditionally it has been assumed that Jesus died on Friday.  Had Jesus died on Friday, though, He would have been in the grave for portions of only 2 days (the rest of Friday and all day Saturday) and 2 nights (the beginning of Saturday and the beginning of Sunday—see the Holy Week chart).  Thus, His own prophecy (“...the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth”—Matthew 12:40) would not  have been fulfilled.

Actually, though, the Sabbath referred to in this case was one of the “special” or “high” Sabbaths occurring each year.  This was a day on which a sacred assembly was to be held, and no regular work was to be done (Leviticus 23:6,7)—which, by definition, is a “Sabbath of rest” (23:3).  According to John, the crucifixion day “...was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath...” (John 19:31).

The first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Aviv 15), the “special” or “high” Sabbath under consideration, began at sunset after the day of Passover or Preparation (Aviv 14) had ended.  This is the Sabbath on which the women rested after preparing spices and perfumes (Luke 23:55,56).

The day on which Passover began (Aviv 14) was referred to as the “day of Preparation” (John 19:14,42) because it was the day the unleavened bread was made and the Passover lamb was slain, in preparation for the evening meal, eaten after sunset (when Aviv 15 began).  Thus, in that particular year, there were two Sabbaths in a row: Aviv 15 (a special Sabbath) and Aviv 16 (the regular weekly Sabbath).

This further is inferred in Matthew’s account by the statement, “After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week...” (Matthew 28:1a).  Here, “Sabbath” is a mistranslation into English; the Greek reads “Shabbaton” (), not “Shabbat” ().  The direct translation refers to the day following the two Sabbaths (a high Sabbath plus the weekly Sabbath) that had passed since Jesus’ crucifixion.  Here is the Greek for each verse with the direct translation into English:

three hours of darkness

Prior to Jesus’s death on the cross, there were three hours of darkness over all the land (Matthew 27:45).  Some of those who maintain that the crucifixion was on Friday suggest that these three hours of darkness were the first “night” of the prophesied “three days and three nights” that Jesus would be in the belly of the earth (Matthew 12:40).

However, it was about the ninth hour, at the end  of the three hours of darkness, that Jesus gave up His spirit and died (Matthew 27:46,50); so He was not dead during any of that dark period.  If it had been dark, the person who ran to get the sponge with vinegar would not have easily seen what he was doing and would not have been running, and he would not easily have been able to see Jesus’ mouth to offer it to Him (27:48).

Sun, Earth, MoonMoreover, those three hours of darkness were not  "night," which explicitly is between evening and dawn.  It is similar to how a new moon blocks out the sun during a solar eclipse.  Although it is dark, it still is daytime, not nighttime, because the sun is not on the opposite side of the earth.  (Incidentally, a solar eclipse is not  what caused the three hours of darkness on crucifixion day, as some have suggested.  There always is a full moon on Passover; but there must be a new moon, where the moon is between the sun and the earth, for a solar eclipse to take place.)

With a Friday crucifixion, even if the three hours of darkness could be considered to be one “night” of the “three days and three nights” prophecy, then Jesus’ body would have been in the tomb or grave (Psalm 16:10; Acts 2:27), and his soul in the depths of the earth (Ephesians 4:9), for only two days: Friday and Saturday, but not  Sunday.

Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week (Sunday) when it was dark.  We know this because Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to the tomb before dawn (Matthew 28:1); they saw the stone rolled away while it was still dark (John 20:1).  If the stone was rolled away while it was still dark, then Jesus had to have risen while it was dark, not when it was beginning to be light.

Furthermore, assuming that Jesus died at “night,” or during the hours of darkness, essentially would be reversing Jesus’ prophecy about Himself into “three nights and three days.”  In reality, Jesus specified the opposite of that by saying “three days and three nights,” in that order.

triumphal entry

Some will point out how, according to (John 12:1), Jesus arrived at Bethany six days before the Passover.  Then, the next day, Jesus went on to Jerusalem, where the crowds went out to meet Him with palm branches (12:12,13).  Assuming that this triumphal entry into the city was on “Palm Sunday,” then the day prior to that was Saturday.  The argument, then, is that Saturday (the day Jesus arrived at Bethany) was six days before Passover Friday; therefore, Jesus’ crucifixion must have been on “Good Friday.”

However, in Hebraic thinking, any part of a day was considered to be a “day.”  Passover officially began at mid-afternoon on Aviv 14 (see the Passover and Related Periods chart).  Therefore, a mid-afternoon crucifixion on Thursday—which had begun at sunset, about 21 hours before that point—fits just fine if the six days of John 12:1 are counted as follows:

day 1: the hours of Thursday (Yom Chamishi) prior to the beginning of Passover (at mid-afternoon),
day 2: Wednesday (Yom Revii),
day 3: Tuesday (Yom Shlishi),
day 4: Monday (Yom Sheni),
day 5: Sunday (Yom Rishon), and
day 6: Saturday (Yom Shabbat).
So Friday does not  fit, as this would result in seven days, not six days, being counted backwards to Saturday, the day Jesus arrived in Bethany.  That would violate what is stated in John 12:1.


Passover and crucifixion on Thursday

first day of unleavened bread

Three Gospel accounts, as translated directly from the Greek, indicate that it was the “first day” or the “day” of unleavened bread—the same day the Passover lamb was to be sacrificed—when Jesus told Peter and John to go to a certain man in the city to arrange for them to eat the Passover meal at his house.  Here are correct translations from the Greek of the first portion of each verse:

Now on the first [day] of unleavened bread... (Matthew 26:17).
And on the first day of unleavened bread... (Mark 14:12).
Here is the Greek for those two verses, with the direct translations into English:


In many Bible versions, though, there is a mistranslation to English in the Matthew and Mark accounts:
“On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread...” (Matthew 26:17; Mark 14:12).
In the original Greek, which is correct, the word “feast” is not  present, nor is it implied, because this was not  the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  In fact, it would have made no sense for Jesus’ disciples, on Aviv 15, to prepare for the Passover, which begins at mid-afternoon on Aviv 14.

On this Preparation Day (Aviv 14), all the preparations for the Passover and the week of the Feast were made, including removing any leaven from the people’s homes.  It also included mixing the unleavened dough (without yeast) and baking the bread, as well as slaughtering and roasting the Passover lambs.  They would be eaten at the Passover meal that evening, after sunset.  Not only was it permissible to eat unleavened bread during Preparation Day, it was (and still is) customary, as there is no commandment against doing so.

Therefore, following the “day of unleavened bread” or Preparation Day, on which the unleavened bread was prepared, the actual Feast of Unleavened Bread technically did not begin until after sunset.  This was just a few hours after the start of Passover at mid-afternoon (at “twilight”), when the lambs were slain.  In other words, people could “snack” on unleavened bread as they were preparing the Passover meal during Preparation Day (Aviv 14); then the meal was eaten after sunset (Aviv 15), when the Feast of Unleavened Bread began.

In Mark’s account, the sentence continues, “...when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb....” (Mark 14:12).  This obviously could not  have been the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Aviv 15), since it has been shown that the Passover lamb was sacrificed the day before this—that is, on Preparation Day (Aviv 14), just a few hours before sunset.

Moreover, as noted in a previous section, on Aviv 15 a sacred assembly was to be held, and no regular work was to be done (Leviticus 23:6,7)—which, by definition, is a “Sabbath of rest” (23:3).  Activities such as walking around the house removing leaven, making and baking unleavened bread, slaughtering a lamb, and preparing a big Passover feast would have been considered to be work.  As such, it would not have been permitted to perform these tasks on the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, a “special” or “high” Sabbath, which followed the day of Preparation (John 19:31).

Only in the third Gospel account is the translation from Greek to English correct:  “Then came the day of unleavened bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed” (Luke 22:7).  Now, the day the Passover lamb was sacrificed (Preparation Day) always was Aviv 14 (Exodus 12:6).  Here, it is clear that this was the “first [day] of unleavened bread,” since this is when the unleavened bread was prepared.

It would have been acceptable to eat a little of the bread on this day (as there was no regulation prohibiting it), much as people might taste something they are making before it goes into the oven or have a small sample of it, after it is cooked or baked, before it is served at the evening meal.  Then it was required  to eat the unleavened bread, prepared on this day, for the next seven days during the week of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

The fourth Gospel account correctly notes that the time was “...before the Passover Feast” (John 13:1).  The feast began during the evening hours of the 15th, at some point following sunset after the 14th.  The 15th was the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread and was a special  Sabbath (because there was to be a sacred assembly and no work done on that day—Exodus 12:16; Leviticus 23:3; Numbers 28:17,18).  Unleavened bread was eaten on this day as well as on the previous day, the day of Preparation, when the bread was prepared.

Last Supper

Jesus seemed to display a sense of urgency in saying that His appointed time to leave the world (that is, to be killed) was near (Matthew 26:18; John 13:1).  He was eager to eat the Passover with His disciples before He suffered (Luke 22:15).  Jesus had in mind that He must die that very date (Aviv 14)—being the Passover Lamb for humanity (1 Corinthians 5:7b)—at the same time that Israel’s annual Passover lamb was slain in the temple.

Jesus would have known that He would be unable to eat the traditional Passover meal the following night (Aviv 15), as He knew He would not be alive.  Since Jesus, being Jewish in the flesh, celebrated every Hebraic festival and holy day, He would have insisted on observing a Passover meal, albeit early.  (Twice in the past, the Passover had been celebrated one month late—Numbers 9:6-11; 2 Chronicles 30:2,3,15.  So it was entirely permissible for Jesus, the King of kings and Lord of lords, to observe it one night early.)

It would have been soon after sunset, at the beginning of Preparation Day on Thursday, Aviv 14 (immediately after sunset following Wednesday, Aviv 13), when Jesus instructed His disciples to go make preparations to eat the Passover meal, albeit one night sooner than usual.  (Remember, a “day” began with darkness for about 12 hours and continued into daylight for about 12 hours.)  The large upper room, where Jesus and the disciples ate their Passover Seder—the “Last Supper”—already was furnished and ready (Mark 14:15,16; Luke 22:12,13).

Thus, the preparations would not have taken long; and the meal could have been eaten that very night, after Aviv 14 had begun, when the hour to eat had arrived (Luke 22:14).  This would have permitted Jesus to be nailed to the cross several hours later, in the morning, at about 9:00 a.m. (still on Aviv 14), which was the beginning of the third hour (Mark 15:25) of daylight.

As to whether or not a lamb was eaten as part of the final meal (the Last Supper) that Jesus had with His disciples, the details are inconclusive.  Certainly, there is no mention of a lamb having been prepared for this meal, nor having been eaten at the meal.  We know that (unleavened) bread and wine were consumed.  Perhaps bitter herbs would have been eaten as well.  In addition, with all of the activities that transpired later that evening (including Jesus’ praying on the Mount of Olives and His subsequent arrest and interrogation), it would seem plausible that they would not have spent the time required to eat a full and complete Passover meal.

It may be assumed, by some, that the disciples’ preparations for the meal (Mark 14:15,16; Luke 22:12,13) would have included the slaughtering of a Passover lamb.  However, this sacrifice was not  to be carried out until the middle of the following afternoon of Aviv 14 (Exodus 12:6) for a meal to be eaten the following night, when the rest of the Jews would be eating the Passover (John 18:28).  Also, the slaughtering, skinning, and roasting of a lamb, a time-consuming process in itself, would seem to be an activity that, realistically, would have been very difficult to fit into the evening at the beginning of Aviv 14.

Moreover, on some level, it might seem incongruous for Jesus to have eaten a slain lamb when He Himself was going to be slain, the following afternoon, as the Passover Lamb for Israel and for humanity as a whole.  In fact, it would seem to have been superfluous and unnecessary, if not a manifest distraction, for an actual slain lamb even to have been present in the same room.  This is because Jesus was the ultimate Passover Lamb, and His disciples figuratively ate His body (unleavened bread) and drank His blood (red wine) at their final meal together (the Last Supper).

In essence, the true Passover Lamb, Jesus, was present; there did not need to be another lamb on the premises.  In fact, in that context, it would seem to have been absolutely essential  that the disciples’ Passover meal was eaten on Aviv (Nisan) 14, rather than 24 hours later on Aviv 15, when a roasted lamb certainly would  have been an integral part of the standard Passover meal.

Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread

Aviv 14 was Preparation Day, on which the lambs were slaughtered at mid-afternoon—that is, at “twilight” (which was not  the same as sunset).  It was at “twilight” that Passover began (Leviticus 23:5).  Then about three hours later, at sunset, Aviv 15 commenced; this was a special  or high  Sabbath, immediately following Preparation Day, Aviv 14.  This special Sabbath was the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which lasted for seven days (Exodus 12:16; Leviticus 23:6,7).

On Aviv 15, a sacred assembly was to be held and no work was to be done (Leviticus 23:7).  This, by definition, is a Sabbath (23:3), since the family members were to assemble together for their Passover meal, and no work was to be done on the first day (nor on the last day) of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  In this particular case, it was a “special” Sabbath, before which  Jesus’s body had to be removed from the cross (John 19:31) and be laid in the tomb, still on Preparation Day (19:42).

Passover was a covenant that God made with the Israelites.  Their part was to slaughter their flawless, unblemished lambs on Preparation Day, Aviv 14, and to apply the blood of the lambs to the tops and sides of the doorframes of their homes (Exodus 12:22).  God’s part was to pass over the thresholds of the homes with the blood at midnight on Aviv 15, forbidding the destroyer angel from striking down anyone inside (12:23).

So “Passover” officially began when the lambs were slain at mid-afternoon (or “twilight”) on Preparation Day and ended at midnight on the first night of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  Thus, Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread overlapped by about six hours.  Commonly, though, Aviv 15 is referred to as the “first day of Passover (or Pesach),” and the entire week of the Feast of Unleavened Bread often is referred to as “the week of Passover (or Pesach),” although these are traditional rather than scriptural designations.

Passover and Related Periods
Beginnings and Conclusions

Time Period Begins Concludes
Preparation Day Sunset at the
end of Aviv 13
Sunset at the
end of Aviv 14
Passover Mid-afternoon
on Aviv 14
Midnight
on Aviv 15
Feast of
Unleavened Bread
Sunset at the
end of Aviv 14
Sunset at the
end of Aviv 21

prophecy fulfillment

Jesus died at mid-afternoon (beyn ha’arbayim or “twilight”—about 3:00 p.m.) on Good Thursday (Aviv 14) at the very time the Pesach lamb was sacrificed in the temple.  In Jesus’ prophecy (Matthew 12:40), He implied that the Son of Man would be “in the heart of the earth” after His death.  This would be for three days and three nights.  In Acts 2:26,27, Peter quoted a Psalm by David (Psalm 16:9,10), which indicated that, during the period of time that Jesus’ body was dead in the grave or tomb, His soul would reside in hades:

Thus, as soon as Jesus uttered the words “It is finished(John 19:30), and His body died, He descended to the lower, earthly regions (Ephesians 4:9); that is, His soul went into hades.  There, He accepted the punishment for human souls, thereby providing atonement for the sins of those who would place their faith in Him (Romans 3:25,26; 1 John 4:10).  Shortly after Jesus died, His body was placed in the grave or tomb.  The Hebrew sheol  can designate “grave” or “hades.”  So whether we refer to Jesus’ body going into the grave or His soul descending to hades, both of these events occurred prior to sunset on Preparation Day (Aviv 14).

Traditionally, a “day” could be any portion of a day, and a “night” could be any portion of a night.  Since the body of Jesus—who became a curse for us (Galatians 3:13)—had to be buried that same day, prior to sunset (Deuteronomy 21:22,23), it would have been in the tomb for portions of 3 days and 3 nights.  This span of time encompassed the rest of Thursday, all night/day Friday, all night/day Saturday, and into the night-time hours at the beginning of Sunday.

This would have allowed Jesus to be resurrected sometime between sunset on Saturday (Aviv 16) and sunrise on the first day of the week (Mark 16:9), which was Sunday (Aviv 17).  As such, Jesus’ prophecy would have been fulfilled properly:

For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth (Matthew 12:40).
Sunday, Aviv 17, was the Feast of Firstfruits, as well as the day following the weekly Sabbath (Leviticus 23:9-11), because Jesus kept His mo’ed  (appointment) to be the “firstfruits” of all who will be raised from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:20-23).  See the Holy Week chart for more details.


crucifixion not on Wednesday

Some believe that Jesus was crucified on a Wednesday.  I disagree.  Here are four questions that have been proposed to me, along with my responses:

1) Your premise that Jesus died on a Thursday is based upon the assumption that He rose on a Sunday.  How do we know that Jesus rose on a Sunday?  What if, instead, he rose during Saturday afternoon or Saturday night, in which case the crucifixion would have taken place on a Wednesday, rather than on a Thursday or a Friday?

There are several reasons why I am convinced that Jesus rose from the dead sometime after sunset on Saturday, Aviv 16, at which time Sunday, Aviv 17 (the first day of the week), had begun.

  • Mark wrote, “When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week...” (Mark 16:9).  The first day of the week is Sunday, not Saturday.  That means the earliest He could have risen was a moment after the previous sunset, which ended the seventh day (Saturday).  He could not have risen prior to sunset on Saturday.  Furthermore, we know that Jesus rose before the women reached the tomb.  Matthew 28:1 and John 20:1 point to a resurrection prior to sunrise, while it was still dark.  Thus, Jesus had to have risen at some point during the nighttime hours of Sunday, before dawn.  The hours of darkness on Sunday (which began a moment after sunset on Saturday and ended at daylight on Sunday), during which Jesus arose, were the third night of the Matthew 12:40 prophecy.  Had Jesus been crucified on Wednesday and been entombed during the dark hours of Thursday (following sunset on Wednesday), then He would have been “in the heart of the earth” during four, nights rather than three nights, thus contradicting His prophecy.

  • Luke wrote, “Now on that same day [the first day of the week—Luke 24:1], two of them were going to a village called Emmaus...” (24:13).  Jesus came and walked along with them, asking them questions and getting them to talk about the events that recently had happened to Jesus, including the crucifixion (24:19b-21a).  They said, “And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place” (24:21b).  If they said this to Jesus on the first day of the week, and we count back three days, we move back to Thursday (not Wednesday or Friday) as His crucifixion day.  Moreover, these men said that the women had gone to the tomb early that morning (24:22), which was the first day of the week (24:1).

  • The women would have broken Levitical law if they had run to the tomb on a Sabbath day.  Had Jesus been crucified and buried on Wednesday, then Thursday would have been a special Sabbath (John 19:31); and, of course, the women would not have been permitted to run to the tomb on that day.  However, presumably, they would  have rushed to the tomb at dawn on Friday.  If they did not have the spices they needed, they could have purchased and prepared them on Friday morning and gone to the tomb in the afternoon.  Yet, they did not, because two Sabbath days in a row—Friday (a high Sabbath) and Saturday (the regular weekly Sabbath)—kept them away until Sunday morning.

  • Leviticus 23:3 indicates that the seventh day of the week is the regular weekly Sabbath.  Leviticus 23:9-14 describes the celebration of firstfruits, and the specific day for this to occur is seen to be the day after the regular Sabbath (23:11), making it be the first day of the week.  Jesus fulfilled the four Spring feasts/festivals (Passover, Feast of Unleavened Bread, Feast of Firstfruits, and Shavuot) at His first coming or soon after His resurrection.  As the firstfruits from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:20,23), Jesus fulfilled the Feast of Firstfruits by rising from the dead on that day—the first day of the week, Aviv 17.

  • Leviticus 23:15 reiterates that, during the week of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the day after the (regular weekly) Sabbath/Saturday—that is, the day of the Feast of Firstfruits—would begin a 50-day count, ending on the day after the seventh (regular weekly) Sabbath/Saturday (23:16).  This fiftieth day, on which the Feast of Weeks or Shavuot fell, being the day after the seventh Sabbath, also was on the first day of the week: Sunday.  This was the day of Pentecost (which is an indication of “fifty” or “fiftieth”), on which the Holy Spirit—led and directed by the risen Lord Jesus—came upon all the Jews gathered in one place (Acts 2:1-4).  So both day #1 (the Feast of Firstfruits = Resurrection Day) and day #50 (the Feast of Weeks = Shavuot or Pentecost) took place, and still take place, on the first day of the week: Sunday.
As long as Jesus rose at some point after the previous sunset, which was the beginning of Sunday (and which began the final night of the “three days and three nights” sequence), then He rose on the first day of the week.  It doesn’t matter whether He rose before or after midnight; either way, it still was on the first day of the week, as long as it was after sunset on Saturday.

Paul said,

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.  For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.  But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him (1 Corinthians 15:20-23).
Jesus was the firstfruits from the dead of all those who would rise and never would die again (see The Rapture).  It is a fact that He fulfilled the Feast of Firstfruits by rising from death on that day.  According to Leviticus 23:11, this is the day (Sunday) after the weekly Sabbath (Saturday).  If there is any question whether this is referring to the regular weekly Sabbath, or to a special Sabbath, we just need to look a little further in Leviticus to find out.

The Feast of Weeks, also known as Shavuot or Pentecost, was to take place seven weeks following the Feast of Firstfruits:

From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks.  Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then present an offering of new grain to the LORD.  From wherever you live, bring two loaves made of two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour, baked with yeast, as a wave offering of firstfruits to the LORD (Leviticus 23:15-17).
That is, counting the day after the regular weekly Sabbath as day #1, then day #50 (seven weeks later) would be the day that they were to present another firstfruits offering.  The latter was to be “the day after the seventh Sabbath”; that seventh Sabbath was a regular weekly Sabbath.  Shavuot/Pentecost, when counted correctly, always is on a Sunday.  Likewise, the Feast of Firstfruits (Resurrection Day) was, and is, on the first day of the week: Sunday.


2) How do you know that Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem wasn’t on a Saturday, rather than on the traditionally accepted “Palm Sunday,” which would have caused the crucifixion to be on Wednesday rather than on Thursday?

We know that the 10th of Aviv was when the Passover lambs were selected by the Israelites (Exodus 12:3).  It was the date that Yeshua, the ultimate Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7), made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on a donkey (Zechariah 9:9; Matthew 21:1-7).

We also know that the 14th of Aviv was when the Passover lambs were slaughtered (Exodus 12:6).  This was the date that Yeshua was slain.  So with Palm Sunday being the 10th day of Aviv, we can count the days as follows:

  • Sunday (Yom Rishon), the 10th of Aviv
  • Monday (Yom Sheni), the 11th of Aviv
  • Tuesday (Yom Shlishi), the 12th of Aviv
  • Wednesday (Yom Revii), the 13th of Aviv
  • Thursday (Yom Chamishi), the 14th of Aviv
It is true that the only way the 14th of Aviv could have fallen on a Wednesday was if Yeshua had ridden into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-7) on a Saturday, the Sabbath.  However, Exodus 23:12 and Deuteronomy 5:14 forbade work by donkeys, among other animals, on the Sabbath.  This would have included carrying around loads, including people, on their backs.

Thus, Yeshua would not have been able to ride a donkey on the Sabbath.  Had He done so, He would have broken the Torah/Law—which He never did, even once, as He was the living, breathing Torah (see Torah and Prophets).


3) Do we have any Scripture to confirm whether Christ arose before or after midnight on Sunday?

No, but a Hebrew day runs from sunset to sunset (not midnight to midnight).  As long as He rose at some point after the previous sunset, which was the beginning of Sunday (and which began the final night of the “three days and three nights” sequence), then He rose on the first day of the week.  It doesn’t matter whether He rose before or after midnight; either way, it still was dark on the first day of the week, satisfying the third “night” of the Matthew 12:40 prophecy.


4) Doesn’t Jesus’ prophecy, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40), imply full a 3-day (or at least a 72-hour) time interval in the tomb?

Traditionally, any portion  of a day or night was considered to be a “day” or a “night.”  There is no stipulation anywhere indicating that Jesus had to have been “in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40) for a minimum of 72 hours (which is three full periods of 24 hours each).  Furthermore, there was no indication that Jonah was even inside the fish three full days and three full nights (Jonah 1:17); that is mere conjecture.

We know that it was the ninth hour of daylight (about 3:00 p.m.) that Jesus died (Matthew 27:45-50; Mark 15:33-37; Luke 23:44-46).  If this were at 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, and assuming the 72-hour time limit, then the latest  Jesus could have risen would have been at mid-afternoon on Saturday.  Surely the guards (and others nearby) would have been awake during daylight hours and, presumably, would have seen the stone rolled away.

Even without the 72-hour time constraint, if Jesus had died at about 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday and had risen sometime after sunset on Saturday, this would have comprised parts of four days and four nights (the remainder of Wednesday, all night and all day Thursday, all night and all day Friday, all night and all day Saturday, and the beginning of the night on Sunday), nullifying Jesus’ prophecy.  Thinking that there must  be three full  days and three full  nights, in my opinion, is an attempt to force Jesus’ prophecy to comply with one’s personal preferences and wishes.

If I say, “I visited my friend in the hospital yesterday and last night,” it does not necessarily mean that I had to have been there from dawn yesterday morning to dawn this morning—one entire day and one entire night, or 24 hours.  In fact, anyone listening to me most likely would have assumed that I was not  there that entire time.  I could have gone there at 9:00 a.m. and left at 11:00 a.m., then gone again at 6:00 p.m. and left at 8:00 p.m., which meant that I was there only part  of a day and part  of a night.

Jesus died on Thursday at about 3:00 p.m. (at “twilight,” halfway between the minor evening oblation from noon to 3:00 p.m. and the major evening oblation from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.).  Since He would have had to have been buried prior to sunset (which began the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, a special Sabbath—John 19:31,42), then He would have been in the earth the remainder of Thursday, the night and day of Friday, the night and day of Saturday, and some part of the night after sunset, beginning Sunday.  This qualifies as “three days and three nights.”  (See the Holy Week chart below.)

Isaac was a “type” of Jesus.  In the eyes of God, Isaac was Abraham’s only legitimate son (Genesis 22:16); and Abraham was willing to offer him as a sacrifice to God.  God told Abraham to go to Moriah and sacrifice his son, Isaac, as a burnt offering (22:2).  At that point, Isaac’s fate was sealed; for all intents and purposes, he was as good as dead.

The next morning (the first day after the commandment for Isaac to die), Abraham saddled his donkey and left with Isaac and two servants (Genesis 22:3).  They continued traveling on the second day.  On the third day (22:4), after they had reached their destination, Abraham told his servants to stay where they were while he and Isaac went to worship (when Isaac’s sacrifice was scheduled to take place), after which they would return (22:5).

How could Abraham believe that they both  would return if Isaac would be dead?  Abraham believed that if he were to follow through with sacrificing Isaac, God could resurrect him—which, figuritively speaking, He did (Hebrews 11:19)—and the two of them would return together.

We do not know on which day of the week God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac; but, for a moment, let us assume that it was a Thursday.  Essentially, that  was the day of Isaac’s sacrifice and death, because God had commanded it, and only God can rescind His own command.

It was the next day—the first day after the command to sacrifice Isaac—that Abraham and Isaac set out for Moriah.  On our proposed time line, this would have been Friday.  The second day, Saturday, was a travel day.  Then it was on the third day that Isaac’s reprieve from God came; and Isaac, in effect, was raised from death (Hebrews 11:19) on that day.  If Friday had been the first day after Isaac’s “sacrifice,” Saturday would have been the second day, and Sunday (Isaac’s “resurrection day”) would have been the third day.


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