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My coworker asked "Why is Good Friday called good?" when I mentioned that we have Good Friday off, and I unfortunately don't know the answer to the question.

Is there a very obvious way to explain to someone why Good Friday is so good when it would seem as though it should be called "very bad horrible no good awful Friday"?

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Because it's the day God brings His divinity into the act of dying? –  svidgen Feb 18 '13 at 22:36
@Alypius yeah, the audience is an atheist (but not a militant atheist) born in Soviet Russia who knows virtually nothing about Christianity. –  Peter Turner Feb 19 '13 at 14:19
I only knew it as the Great Friday before, there are more terms for the Good Friday on Wikipedia : Holy Friday, Great Friday, Black Friday and Easter Friday. –  Pierre Feb 19 '13 at 20:17
@Pierre: It's a bit surprising to see "Black Friday" there, as, in the USA at least, that refers to a day associated with a different holiday. –  Mason Wheeler Apr 3 at 18:12

2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

We call that day good on which Christ died because by His death He showed His great love for man, and purchased for him every blessing.
On Our Lord's Passion, Death, Resurrection and Ascension - Baltimore Catechism

This reflects the most common and appropriate answer among Christians.

While Christians reflect deeply on what Christ endured and the great sorrow of that day, all generally agree that what is truly important about that particular Friday is not what men did to God, but instead what God did for men. God, perfectly innocent, sacrificed Himself and his own life in order to save us from the worst possible fate because of his love for us. There is nothing, not even our own individual conception, for which we should be more thankful. This is the source of every blessing.

So a template answer might be:

I call it Good Friday because, though it is a very sad day, it is also the day that Jesus, because of his love for us, saved us from the very worst possible sort of death, and through this sacrifice purchased everything that is good. There is no other day that I am more thankful for, no other act or day that is more Good.

The intensity of the language can be toned up or down as you see fit, though. Or more briefly:

It's the day that the most Good person ever did the most Good thing ever.

As for the history of how this phrasing came to be, we're not so sure. The Catholic Encyclopedia says:

The origin of the term Good is not clear. Some say it is from "God's Friday" (Gottes Freitag); others maintain that it is from the German Gute Freitag, and not specially English. Sometimes, too, the day was called Long Friday by the Anglo-Saxons; so today in Denmark.

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Normally, I prefer to author my own answer, but in this instance, Johnny Hart (of B.C. comic strip) nailed it so well, that I'm just going to repost his answer to this question.

B.C. Comic "Who can call Good Friday good?" by Johnny Hart

For those who cannot see the image, it reads:

Now, who can call "Good Friday" good?,
A term too oft misunderstood,
You who were bought by the blood of His cross
You can call "Good Friday" good.

Update, based on the nature of the individual.

  1. There was nothing "Good" about Good Friday for Jesus. He was humiliated, hurt, abandoned, and killed in horrible fashion.

  2. But he willingly chose this for one simple reason - He loved humanity with his entire heart. As such, he choose to suffer these "indignities" in order to give mankind what it sought.

  3. In some fashion that theologians are still debating (Atonement? Satisfaction? Expiation? Christus Victor?), Jesus' death and subsequent resurrection gave us the ability to become heirs with God.

Whether this was some legal impediment or moral ability, we don't know, but we do know this: Prior to the Crucifixion, man was unable to stand before God. Afterwards, we had Jesus to stand in our place, that we could be reconciled to him. To me, that's about as good as it gets!

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Another good answer to this question, from B.C.: –  Ben Miller Nov 1 '13 at 14:53
@BenMiller I believe I would feel conflicted and relieved, but not good. –  fredsbend Apr 3 at 19:32

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