Key Scripture leading to confusion
I think there is a couple of texts in the Pentateuch which lead to some confusion:
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. (Exodus 12:6)
In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the Lord's passover. (Leviticus 23:5)
So it looks as if the passover lamb was meant to be killed the same day as it was eaten. The problem is that this is not exactly what happened, and the reason why it is not exactly what happened is that there were far too many lambs, well over one hundred thousand, to kill (all in the Temple) in the short time available from the start of the 14th day at about 6pm for them all to be killed by midnight. To get around this problem the lambs began to be killed during the afternoon.
The question therefore becomes "Did they start killing the lambs on the fourteenth (in obedience to Exodus 12:6) and eat the passover on the fifthteenth or did they start killing the lambs on the thirteenth and eat the passover on the fourteenth (in obedience to Leviticus 23:5)"?
[You might have thought, as I did, that what was critical is not when the lamb was killed but that they ate the Passover meal on the fourteenth in commemoration of that first passover meal in Egypt which was eaten on the fourteenth. But at the time of the New Testament they ate the Passover on the fifteenth, as I shall show.]
Lunar eclipse at Passover
I thought it would be of interest, first, to consider what the Apostle Peter preached to the people that "the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon shall be turned to blood before that great and notable day of the Lord" (Acts 2:20).
It seems he is saying that these sights had been recently observed by the people. We already have been told the sun was turned to darkness (Mt 27:45, Mark 15:33, Luke 23:44), so what about the moon? The moon becomes blood red when (at night) there is a total lunar eclipse, ie the earth comes between the sun and the moon, and the moon falls entirely within the shadow of the earth.
The following table shows all the Julian dates for 15th Nisan from AD 26 to AD 36 together with all the lunar eclipses, visible from Jerusalem, for that same period, together with the extent of the eclipse:-
15th Nisan........................Lunar Eclipse
Day & Date......................Day, Date, Time & magnitude
either AD 26 Friday March 22
or AD 26 Sunday April 21
AD 26................................Friday August 15, 23.10 hrs, 50%
AD 27 Thursday April 10
AD 27................................Wednesday December 31, 23.27, 70%
either AD 28 Tuesday March 30
or AD 28 Wednesday April 28
AD 29 Monday April 18
AD 29................................Tuesday June 14, 20.27, 100%
AD 29................................Friday December 9, 20.55, 45%
AD 30 Friday April 7
either AD 31 Tuesday March 27
or AD 31 Wednesday April 25
AD 31................................Wednesday April 25, 21.35, 35%
AD 31................................Friday October 19, 4.49, 25%
AD 32 Sunday April 13
either AD 33 Friday April 3
or AD 33 Monday May 4
AD 33................................Friday April 3, at horizon when rising (about 6pm), 60%
AD 33................................Sunday September 27, 4.53, 85%
AD 34 Wednesday March 24
AD 35................................Friday February 11, 4.55, 55%
AD 35 Tuesday April 12
either AD 36 Saturday March 31
or AD 36 Monday April 30
The only possible time there was a lunar eclipse at Passover was in AD 33 when it occurred on the Friday evening, 3rd April, as the moon was ascending from the horizon. Even though it was a partial eclipse and not a total eclipse, the dust created by the earthquake activity during the day together with the fact that light from the moon was coming through so much atmosphere (being on the horizon), together with a 60% magnitude eclipse, might have resulted in a red moon to the observers in Jerusalem that evening.
Very likely this is what Peter was referring to (Acts 2:20) and what Joel prophesied (Joel 2:31) all those many centuries before. Many believe the crucifixion happened on this very Friday, and so this red moon was seen just a few hours after the crucifixion.
What does "the third day" mean?
Then some comment on "the third day", "three days and three nights" and other similar expressions is needed. Since it is agreed our Lord rose from the dead on the Sunday (John 20:1) I hope to make it very plain why the view of most Christian denominations and that of most Christians down the ages has been that he was crucified on the Friday two days before.
Usually our Lord said he would rise from the dead "the third day". See in Matthew 16:21, 17:23, 20:19, 27:64; Mark 9:31, 10:34; Luke 9:22, 13:32, 18:33, 24:7, 24:21, 24:46; Acts 10:40; and 1 Corinthians 15:4. All of these NT Scriptures must be compared with Genesis 42:17-18; Exodus 19:10-11; Leviticus 7:16-17, 19:6. When such a phrase is used it is intended that remainder of the day on the day of his death is counted as one of the days.
As for the expression "three days and three nights", this again means portions of three 24 hour periods. So a part of 15th Nisan (i.e. Friday before sunset, the whole of 16th Nisan (Saturday until sunset), and part of 17th Nisan (Saturday sunset to Sunday sunrise).
In the 2 Chronicles 10:5 and 10:12 it is clear that when the king said "after three days" he intended for them to understand that he was including the remainder of the day on which he was speaking, and it is also clear that his hearers understood this because they came to him not on the fourth day but on "the third day".
The same idea can be found in Esther 4:16 where Esther requests the Jews "neither eat nor drink three days, night or day"; and yet she goes to the king not on the fourth day, which is what we would expect, but rather on the third day (Esther 5:1).
From these Old Testament verses it is possible to see how the Jews counted days. Always they included the remainder of the first day as a whole day. So "on the third day" and "three days later" meant the same thing to them. And where they would say "Return to me three days from now" or "on the third day" we would say "return to me two days from now" (because we would not include the remainder of the day on which we were speaking as a day to include in the count).
The Jews used precisely the same type of inclusive counting when giving the years of the length of the reign of a king. So if a king reigned from say the middle of 2009 to the middle of 2011 we might say as a whole number that they reigned 2 years, but the ancient Jews would have said that he reigned three years. They would count his reign during 2009 as a whole year, 2010 as a whole year, and the portion of 2011 as a whole year, making three years in total. So their day counting was no different from their year counting.
Summary of William Hendriksen's views
The reformed, evangelical, William Hendriksen in his commentary on the Gospel of John spends a long time showing how in all of the Gospels, Jesus was crucified on the Friday. All of this post will be taken from Hendriksen's Commentary.
The crucifixion happened on Friday, 15th Nisan, 3rd April 33 AD (Julian Date) which is Friday, 1st April (Gregorian Date).
The book "Babylonian Chronology - 626 BC to AD 75" by Richard A Parker and Waldo Dubberstein, the standard work on chronology for the period, puts 1st Nisan 33 AD as 20th March ( Julian date - starting midnight). 15th Nisan is thus 3rd April. But for the Jews each day began at sunset the evening before (notice Genesis 1:5, 1:8, 1:13, 1:19, etc, where the 24 hour day begins with evening): so 15th Nisan began at sunset on 2nd April.
[I agree with the OP, the crucifixion happened in 33 ad. Hendriksen believes it was 30 ad, when the Passover also fell on a Friday. I disagree with Hendriksen here, and he doesn't explain why he chooses 30 ad. Probably he began by accepting the more common view that Jesus was born about 4 or 5 bc. I'm siding with those who believe Herod died early 1 BC but to keep this answer shorter I shall only refer to a free online article.
Also the date of the beginning of the ministry of John the Baptist in AD 28 suggests AD 29/30 for the beginning of the ministry of Christ, else there seems to be too much of a squeeze for John's ministry to become popular/influential before the start of Christ's ministry.]
So here is the summary of Hendriksen's view, on which he focuses many pages:-
In all of the Gospels, on the Thursday evening he celebrated "The Last Supper" which was the Passover meal. There is no conflict between the Gospel accounts in the day of the crucifixion or the day of the Last Supper.
In all of these things all the Gospels are in agreement, though there appear to be one or two issues which add complication.
There was a week of celebration, a week of festival, which began with the Passover meal. When Judas left the Last Supper (John 13:29) "to buy those things needed for the feast" the feast being spoken of is the festival of unleavened bread that is going to last for the week; it does not mean the Passover meal because they had already eaten it (John 13:2).
And John 13:1, Hendriksen translates as:
Now Jesus, knowing (already) before the feast of the Passover that his hour to depart out of this world (and to go) to the Father had arrived, having loved his own in the world, loved them to the uttermost.
The emphasis on the time is the time of "His knowing".
In John 13:2 we read "And supper being ended". This is the Passover meal which can be easily seen by comparing John 13:21-26 with Mark 14:18-20, and noting that Mark 14 is about the Passover meal (Mark 14:12-18). For confirmation that the Last Supper was the Passover meal and that it was also the first day of unleavened bread see Matthew 26:17-19; Mark 14:1; Luke 22:7-15.
In John 19:14 we read "And it was the preparation of the passover". This does not mean it was the preparation day for the coming Passover meal; it means it was the preparation day of the passover week, i.e. the week of unleavened bread.
"Preparation Day" always means the day of preparation for the Sabbath day, the Sabbath being from the Friday after sundown to Saturday at sundown.
The Greek word for "preparation" is "paraskevi". In modern Greek today "paraskevi" still has two meanings: it means "preparation" and its second meaning is "Friday".
So in John 19:14 "preparation of the passover" does not mean "preparation for the passover", it means Preparation day (Friday) (for the Sabbath day) during passover week. See also John 19:31 for confirmation of the same idea.
The year of our Lord's death the sabbath the day after the crucifixion was "an high day" (John 19:31). This simply means it was the sabbath (Saturday) of the Passover feast, of the feast of unleavened bread.
In John 18:28 we read that the religious leaders did not want to defile themselves "so that they might eat the passover". This is a problem: Hendriksen concludes that they were scheming to get rid of Jesus so long on the Thursday night when they should have been eating the passover that they did not have time to eat the passover at the correct time, and were willing to postpone the eating for the more important task of getting rid of Jesus the Christ. Or it means they did not want to defile themselves for any of the time of the week's festival of unleavened bread.
So, in summary, Jesus ate the passover meal on Thursday evening, 15th Nissan, and was crucified on 15th Nissan, Friday 3rd April 33 ad, before sunset.
I cannot give all the pages from Hendriksen's Commentary. If I have missed anything let me know and I shall find his answer to your disagreement.
Daniel 9:24 confirms our Lord was crucified on 3rd April AD 33
Finally, (- moving away from Hendriksen's Commentary on John -) when we say Friday 3rd April 33 ad we are using the Julian Date. The Gregorian date is Friday 1st April 33 ad.
Over 60 years ago, in 1956, Richard A. Parker and Waldo Dubberstein published their work "Babylonian Chronology 626 BC to AD 75" in which they give the first of each lunar month using the Julian Calendar for every month in the 700 year period. The book was the product of the detective work of many scholars over many years.
The date in this book for the day Ezra left Babylon in obedience to the decree of Artaxerxes I to rebuild Jerusalem as described in Ezra 7:9 was 8th April 458 bc. The day on which Ezra and his Jewish contemporaries left Babylon.
In 2006 or early 2007 Pastor Derek Walker from Oxford, UK, converted this date into the Gregorian Date and found that the Gregorian Date for this day was 3rd April 458 bc. Converting the crucifixion and Resurrection dates from 33 ad into the Gregorian Date he found that the length of time between this date and the Resurrection on the 3rd April in 33 AD is exactly 490 years (because there is no year zero). It seemed accurate to the very day.
However, astronomical calculations have improved in the last hundred years and modern calculations say that 1st Nisanu in 458 BC was the 7th April. Furthermore, it was also realized that 8th April 458 bc was a Saturday, a day when the Jews would not have begun a long journey. So 1st Nisanu in the seventh year of Artaxerxes is Friday 2nd April 458 bc (Gregorian) (Ezra 7:9) and 490 years after this brings us to the Saturday when our Lord was in the grave.
For an article favouring AD 33 rather than AD 30 for the crucifixion see "When did King Herod die?" by Dr Andrew Steinmann at jstor or at biblearchaeology.org or buy his (rather expensive book) "From Abraham to Paul - A biblical chronology" (2011) which is praised by Dr Eugene Merrill (author of the excellent book on OT chronology "Kingdom of Priests"): "Steinmann lays out here a foundation that doubtless will provide the basis for all subsequent discussions of biblical chronology...".