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