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As suggested by this question and this answer, it seems possible that Jesus actually died on a Wednesday, not on a Friday.

In light of these competing theories, what is the origin of the Good Friday tradition?

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This is an interesting question, but I think it needs some help. It seems to be from before we'd figured out how question/answer pairing had to work to be constructive. Now we've got a pretty bad miss-match between question an answer here. Is there a way to edit this question so that it matches the answers? None of the current answers actually answer THIS question. Most of them defend WE being a bogus date, and the one that doesn't take that angle doesn't explain where Good Friday came from. I think that gives us licence to change the question to match the answers. Thoughts? –  Caleb Jan 13 '13 at 8:09
    
@Caleb: I have made an edit to the question, which I think makes it a better question; I'm not certain it makes it a better fit for all of the answers. At least it no longer assumes the validity of the Good Wednesday theory, which most/all of the answers refute. –  Flimzy Jan 17 '13 at 17:37
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5 Answers

Good Question. This is a common myth, as Christians incorrectly miscalculated when Jesus actually died. Christians believe that Jesus died on Friday, as it was told that next day after His crucifixion was Sabbath. Remember, the Pharisees did not want to let the body hang there in the day of Sabbath. So that was the reason why they have ordered to snap their legs in order to kill them. But the thing was, this Sabbath in Question was not weekly, it was annual. the problem is that Friday evening to Sunday morning is not 72 hours, it is only 1 and half days.

John 20:1: To the first of Sabbaths Mary Magdalene came to the memorial tomb early, while there was still darkness, and she beheld the stone already taken away from the memorial tomb.

So it would be a mistake to count any daylight hours of Sunday, and we cannot count any daylight hours of Friday either, because Jesus's burial was already finished at before dawn.

We need to have exactly 3 days and 3 nights between Christ's burial and His resurrection, because Jesus said that He would be buried in the heart of the Earth for 3 days nights.

Matthew 12:40: the Son of man will be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.

This is where the sign of Jonah Jesus have talked about comes in.

Matthew 12:39: A wicked and adulterous generation keeps on seeking for a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah the prophet.

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This addresses the question of when Jesus died, but doesn't do a lot to answer my question: How did the tradition of Good Friday come about? I mean, it's clear why at first glance it seems he died on a Friday, but if it's this trivial to demonstrate that he actually died on Wednesday... how did the Good Friday tradition actually start? –  Flimzy Sep 26 '11 at 4:54
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John 20:1 is mistranslated here. In Koine Greek, sabbaton is the word for "week". If you have access to a Greek New Testament, you can verify that this same word is used in Luke 12:18 "I fast twice a week," and Acts 20:7 "On the first day of the week we gathered to break bread." –  Bruce Alderman Sep 26 '11 at 6:31
    
@BruceAlderman: Which word/phrase is mis-translated? –  Flimzy Sep 26 '11 at 7:04
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@Flimzy: "first of Sabbaths" should be "first of the week"; Every single English translation of the Bible translates it "week". If "sabbath" were a legitimate translation of this phrase, you'd think someone would have translated it that way. –  Bruce Alderman Sep 26 '11 at 7:27
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@BruceAlderman: If 'Every single English translation' translates it 'week', then what did SonicTheHedgehog quote? It looks like English to me... Also, I don't think anyone disputes that she found the empty tomb on Sunday, do they? –  Flimzy Sep 26 '11 at 7:33
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The idea that Jesus died on a Wednesday is a fabrication. It is nothing more than an attempt to force a modernistic interpretation onto Matthew 12:40. In the early church the common understanding of "three days and three nights" did not require "three full days and also three full nights".

Fourth century scholar/priest St. Jerome explains in his Commentary on Jonah:

But we ask ourselves this: how was he three days and three nights in the belly of the earth. Some scholars take the view according to paraskeuen, because of the solar eclipse from the sixth to the ninth hour when night followed day, this would be two days and nights, and adding the Sabbath, believe that we should count this as three days and three nights. But I prefer to understand this by reason of synecdoche, seeing the whole as a part: where he is dead in paraskeuen, let us count one day and one night; two with the Sabbath; the third night which arises from the day of the Lord, let us take that as the beginning of the next day, for, in Genesis the night is not of the preceding day, but of the following day, that is to say the beginning of the next day, not the end of the previous. To understand this better I will say it more simply: if a man leaves his house at nine and the next day he arrives at his other house at three. And if I say that he has been two days in travelling, I will not be reprimanded as a liar, because he has not used all the hours of two days, but only a part for his journey. Nonetheless this seems to me to be the interpretation.

Sixteenth century reformer Martin Luther agrees in a sermon on the resurrection:

The question now arises: How can we say that he rose on the third day, since he lay in the grave only one day and two nights? According to the Jewish calculation it was only a day and a half; how shall we then persist in believing there were three days? To this we reply that be was in the state of death for at least a part of all three days. For he died at about two o'clock on Friday and consequently was dead for about two hours on the first day. After that night he lay in the grave all day, which is the true Sabbath. On the third day, which we commemorate now, he rose from the dead and so remained in the state of death a part of this day, just as if we say that something occurred on Easter-day, although it happens in the evening, only a portion of the day. In this sense Paul and the Evangelists say that he rose on the third day.

Furthermore, this view ignores the testimony of the rest of the New Testament. The Gospel of Mark, in fact, describes Jesus' activities every day of the week leading up to his arrest and crucifixion.

  • Day 1 (Mark 10:32) "They were on the road, going up to Jerusalem..."
  • Day 2 (Mark 11:12) "On the following day..."
  • Day 3 (Mark 11:20) "The next morning as they passed by the fig tree..."
  • Day 4 (Mark 14:1) "Two days before the Passover..."
  • Day 5 (Mark 14:12) "On the first day of Unleavened Bread..."
  • Day 6 (Mark 15:1) "As soon as it was morning..." >>This is the day of the crucifixion
  • Day 7 (not mentioned) >>This is the sabbath
  • Day 8 (Mark 16:1) "When the sabbath was over..."

Jesus was active on each day up to and including the day of the crucifixion. Jesus fulfilled the law; he did not violate the sabbath rest except to follow a higher law such as healing the blind, so none of these six days could have been a weekly sabbath. There is simply no way to squeeze six consecutive non-sabbath days into the calendar without the final one being a Friday, so that puts Palm Sunday on a Sunday, the crucifixion on a Friday, and the resurrection on the next Sunday.

Christian Tradition, going back to New Testament times, consistently testifies that Jesus would be raised, not "after three days", but "on the third day". Here are some examples from the New Testament:

Matthew 16:21 ...and on the third day be raised.

Matthew 17:32 ...and on the third day he will be raised.

Luke 9:22 ...and on the third day be raised.

Luke 18:33 ...and on the third day he will rise again.

Acts 10:40 ...but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear

1 Corinthians 15:4 ...and that he was raised on the third day

If the gospel consisted of nothing but Matthew 12:40, we might be able to interpret the "three days and three nights" differently, but against the weight of the rest of the New Testament and the history of Christianity, it's hard to argue for a Wednesday crucifixion.

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Yeah, it looks like the first map I found was probably referring to some other town as 'Bethany' –  Flimzy Sep 26 '11 at 6:55
    
I'm curious why you think a Wednesday crucifixion is a fabrication; why would this be a "bad thing?" Especially in light of Matthew 12:40, and other verses where Jesus says "after three days". Does a Wednesday crucifixion conflict with any other part of scripture (apart from your timeline, which I suspect isn't waterproof)? –  Flimzy Sep 26 '11 at 7:00
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@Flimzy: In the early church there was a huge debate about whether Christians should celebrate Passover on the 14th day of the first month, to correspond with the night Jesus was crucified, or whether to celebrate it on the following Sunday. Both sides dug in, and almost split the church. But no one suggested that Jesus was crucified on any other day than Friday. As far as I can tell, the idea of a Wednesday crucifixion originated with the Seventh Day Adventists in the late 19th or the 20th century. –  Bruce Alderman Sep 26 '11 at 7:38
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You can't separate Scripture from the community that produced it, if you want to understand it. –  Bruce Alderman Sep 26 '11 at 7:39
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I've made a similar argument: while Christ was free to rewrite the Sabbatical law, the first century citizen of Jerusalem would have followed it strictly. There is no way that they would have violated it. A crucifixion on any day other than Friday, however, would require that these Jerusalemites unambiguously violate the law. A dubious assertion given a plausible alternate explanation. –  Ignatius Theophorus Jan 13 '13 at 1:52
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up vote 10 down vote accepted

The answer is that the theory that Christ died on a Wednesday is only about 300 years old, whereas the Good Friday tradition is nearly 2000 years old. So at the time Good Friday was established as tradition, the Wednesday crucification theory hadn't been considered yet.

The Wednesday crucifixion theory seems to have originated in the early 1700s, and was motivated by an attempt to demonstrate that Christ's resurrection occurred on Saturday, rather than on Sunday. The reasoning was to demonstrate that worshiping on Saturday was still appropriate for Christians, as opposed to worshiping on Sunday, as most Christians do. (Source)

Of course the motivation behind the Wednesday theory, and indeed its truth (or lack thereof), has little to do with the answer to this specific question, if the theory had not yet been conceived at the time that the Good Friday tradition began.

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The myth of a Friday crucifixion came about because of Mary's inability to go and tend the body of Christ on the Sabbath. The confusion came about because it was not the weekly Sabbath the scripture was referring to. It was High Sabbath it was referring to. See ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_Sabbaths for a thorough explanation. ) People often reject this because they think it was invented by Seventh Day Adventist. Not so. And by the way I'm not Seventh Day Adventist. In reference to this being something that has only been around 200, or 300 years....Please consider it has only been roughly the same amount of time people have believed in a rapture occurring. Because the Catholic church grew into a state of apostasy during the middle ages, this important information was lost. It has taken hundreds of years for us to rediscover these truths.

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I didn't vote this down, but I can see why it was voted down. Not because of the conclusion, but more that this is posted without any supporting documentation to back up the answer. Might I suggest reading the FAQ as well as Welcome to the site! I don't necessarily disagree, but I don't see how this answers the question... Also, might I recommend reading the FAQ as well as meta.christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/692/… –  David Stratton Jan 14 '13 at 3:46
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Did not the Jewish people use the Lunar calendar and consider their days and nights as extending as days from sunrise to sunset and nights as sunset to sunrise? This being true, then Jesus died on Thursday after noon, was buried before sunset, (day one), was in the tumb Thursday night (beginning of the high and holy day-also called a Saboth- or the first day of the feast of unleavened bread) (night one), was in the tomb friday (day two), in the tomb Friday night (night two), in the tomb Saturday (the weekly saboth or day three) and in the tomb Saturday night (night three) and was out of the tomb before the day began on Sunday. Thus 3 days and 3 nights!!!

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The idea that Jesus died on Thursday has been pretty thoroughly debunked here. –  Flimzy Nov 17 '13 at 23:14
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