Did Jesus die on "Good Friday"? If so, how is it that 3 days & 3 nights are reckoned between Fri - Sun? “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).


3 Answers 3


Friday afternoon to early before dawn on Sunday does not comprise three days and three nights. The Catholic and predominantly Protestant teachings on the Good Friday crucifixion may very well be wrong.

It does seem to be true that any part of the day was counted as the full day, and any part of the night as the full night (inclusive count). But, still three days and three nights were needed (Matt. 12:40).

Gabriel told Daniel (Dan. 9:27) that Christ would be cut off in the midst of the week. While the "weeks" of that prophesy were "years", it may very well mean both the middle of the seventh year (3-1/2 years) as well as the literal middle of the week. God's word is fully complete in many ways.

Our Friday...if it can be reconciled to the Hebrew day 6, which may not be at all the same.... is not the middle of the week. That would be our Wednesday, or the Hebrew day 4. They did not name the days, but only counted them.

The argument for this viewpoint runs as follows:

If Christ was crucified on Wednesday afternoon, then we count Wed. as day 1, Wed. night as night 1; Thurs. day as day 2 and Thurs. night as night 2; Friday day as day 3 and Friday night as night 3.

Either our 6 PM or our 12 AM was the start of the next day in the Hebrew "day", as there are different definitions of the "day". So, our Friday night would have been their Saturday / Sabbath. And, early dawn of the next "sabbath" / Saturday would have been the resurrection day.

It is interesting that ALL of the gospels are literally translated in Young's as "on the first of the sabbaths".

Matt. 28:1,

"And on the eve of the sabbaths, at the dawn, toward the first of the sabbaths, came Mary the Magdalene, and the other Mary, to see the sepulchre," (YLT)

Mark 16:2,

" and early in the morning of the first of the sabbaths, they come unto the sepulchre, at the rising of the sun," (YLT)

Luke 24:1,

"And on the first of the sabbaths, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, bearing the spices they made ready, and certain [others] with them," (YLT)

John 20:1,

"And on the first of the sabbaths, Mary the Magdalene doth come early (there being yet darkness) to the tomb, and she seeth the stone having been taken away out of the tomb," (YLT)

It may very well be that "the first of the sabbaths" on the eve of the sabbaths were speaking of after the holy sabbath days of Passover and Unleavened Bread (eve of the Sabbaths) on the 14th and 15th of Nissan, they would have begun to count seven sabbaths to get to Pentecost (Lev. 23:15).

So, in this view, "the first of the sabbaths" would have been the first regular sabbath / Saturday to count seven regular sabbaths to Pentecost.

This does seem to fit nicely with a literal mid-week cut off of Dan. 9:27 and does count a literal three days and three nights which Christ prophesied in Matt. 12:40. This makes an attractive argument but for one circumstance.


The two disciples that Jesus met on the road to Emmaus counters the idea of a Sabbath resurrection day. Emmaus could have been one of several villages walking distance from Jerusalem, the shortest of which appears to have been 36 stadia or about 1 mile. It could have been as much as 7 miles from Jerusalem. Either distance was too far for the disciples to consider traveling on the Sabbath.

Therefore, it appears that "first of the Sabbaths" must be understood as Sabbath + 1, or the first day of the first sabbath week to Pentecost.

That still leaves the discussion of the crucifixion on the afternoon of Nissan 14, eating the Passover meal after sundown which began Nissan 15 and trying to determine if Nissan 14 was a Thursday or Friday.

  • The "first of the Sabbaths" refers to the first day of a week that ends on a Sabbath. They counted to Pentecost beginning on our Sunday (the first) through our Saturday (the Sabbath) or the week. The eve refers to the day before. And lastly, if Christ rose on the Sabbath, as you say, that would be the fourth day based on your count from Wed, Thur, Fri, Sabbath (Sat).
    – SLM
    Commented Aug 11, 2017 at 17:10
  • Mary went early, before dawn on the sabbath / Saturday. The grave was already opened when she arrived. Christ arose during the 3rd nite, not on the 4th day. The discovery was made on the 4th day. So, technically, maybe we should celebrate His resurrection between Friday 6 PM and Sat. 6AM. Most Christians today remember His death, burial, and resurrection on the first day of the week when the church was established. I think that the day we celebrate His victory should be determined by the traditions the apostles handed to us. And, as they were meeting on the sabbath, and on the first day?
    – Gina
    Commented Aug 12, 2017 at 11:51
  • FWIW, no one I'm aware of understands "first of the Sabbaths" as a Saturday Sabbath, but rather as Sunday the first of the seven full Sabbaths (a week) to Pentecost. More importantly your interpretation "romanizes" the Jewish understanding of a day. A Jewish day began at evening and then morning. In your paragraph 5, you've reversed that to say morning is day one (Wed), night is night one, but that's actually their night (Thur). It ignores Wed. The count applied properly (Jewish) is Wed (night 1, day 1), Thur (night 2, day 2), Fri (night 3, day 3), Sabbath rise (night 4, day 4).
    – SLM
    Commented Aug 12, 2017 at 14:31
  • After due consideration of the Wed. crucifixion idea, I believe it must be discarded simply because of the events that transpired on the day Christ's empty tomb was discovered.
    – Gina
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 1:25

A hebrew idiom - any part of a day or night constituted a full day per traditional Jewish teaching (and the Talmud).

So - Jesus died Friday before sundown (before the Sabbath) and was burried (1 day), Jesus remains buried Friday through Saturday sundown (2 day), Jesus is resurrected on Sunday morning ("on the third day" - which per the idiom is a day and night (a full day).

This actually is what harmonizes the verses which say Jesus arose "on the third day" with "three days and three nights".

Note: night is actually morning and morning is part of the day.

  • Friday day(12am - 6pm) and Friday evening(6pm - 12am) = 1st day

  • Saturday morning(12am - 6am) and Saturday day(6am - 12am) = 2nd day

  • Sunday morning(12am - 6am) and Sunday day is part of the morning(12am - 12am) = 3rd day

  • This explains about the days, but which night was the third night? Jesus arose on Sunday morning. I doubt either Thursday night or Sunday night makes sense as being "in the earth". Commented Aug 10, 2017 at 16:00
  • 1
    So Friday evening 6am-12am is one night, and Saturday morning is another night? Aren't they the same night? The sun was not in the sky between them. Commented Aug 11, 2017 at 17:11
  • 1
    So the evening before, Jesus was not in the earth! The prophecy said he would be in the earth for three days AND three nights. And this is THE ONLY sign. So you can't say he died on Friday because then the sign would not be fulfilled except if you distort the meaning of the words "in the earth". A serious SIGN like that would come true exactly as said. Otherwise it wouldn't be a sign. It would be like a Nostradamus prophecy where you can make anything sound like it. The dogma of good Friday is probably wrong. Commented Aug 11, 2017 at 21:31
  • 1
    For you I have a different question. If Friday evening 6pm to 12am was a night, and 12:01 to 6am was another night, then where was the sun between these nights? What is the definition of a night according to you? By your logic Sun 12:01 would have started a FOURTH night, and a day would have started Sun at 6:01. So either Jesus was in the earth for FOUR nights and three days, or three nights and TWO days. Either way notice that each answer has a problem and everyone is disagreeing so the main point is that a real sign would be CLEAR. It can't be like Nostradamus. Commented Aug 16, 2017 at 14:32
  • 1
    OK so why doesn't the same logic apply to the previous days? Why would you omit the night from Sunday and not from Saturday? Just to make the prediction fit the facts? Jesus said this was the ONLY sign given. I doubt that such a sign would need to be finagled to fir the facts. Doesn't make it a sign, makes it more like a nostradamus expression about twin towers. Commented Aug 20, 2017 at 16:50

The misunderstanding at work in the OP and in all of the answers proposed (aside from this one) is to identify “heart of the earth” to mean tomb. That is incorrect; that is not the definition. Scripture defines these things for us.


We find two belly’s at work.

  1. Belly of the fish, Jonah 1:17

  2. Belly of hell, Jonah 2:2

Belly of hell (Strong's H7585) refers to hell, death, the grave. It does not refer to, nor is it identical with, the belly of the fish.

The KJV translates Strong's H7585 in the following manner: grave (31x), hell (31x), pit (3x).

Jonah prays from inside the fish. He refers, however, to the belly of hell, which was his watery grave, the weeds wrapped, the descent to the bottom with the bars, while outside the fish. The fish then swallowed him. Jonah revives and recalls his prayer. Upon the end of 3 days and 3 nights in the belly of the fish, the fish vomits him out.

So, to which belly does Jesus refer; is it to the fish or hell?

The comparison of “heart of the earth” is to “belly of the fish”. It is emphatically not to “belly of hell”; it is not to the tomb.


Jesus refers to the sign of Jonah as 3 days and 3 nights in the heart of the earth, as Jonah was 3 days and 3 nights in the belly of the fish. Again, we now know Christ is not referencing His visit to hell. It is not solely about the tomb. So, what else is the Lord telling us?

For God is my King of old, working salvation in the midst [heart] of the earth. Psalm 74:12

The word for “midst” is qereb; it may also mean “heart”. Here is Strong’s.

קֶרֶב qereb, keh'-reb; from H7126; properly, the nearest part, i.e. the center, whether literal, figurative or adverbial (especially with preposition):—× among, × before, bowels, × unto charge, eat (up), × heart , × him, × in, inward (× -ly, part, -s, thought), midst, out of, purtenance, × therein, × through, × within self.

When did Christ work salvation? While in the tomb only? No; again, that is a misunderstanding. The truth is Jesus Christ our King of old worked salvation from Passover to resurrection; from sufferings to glory. That’s the New Testament. See for examples Luke 24:26, Acts 17:3, 1 Peter 1:11.


Now we know that 3 days and 3 nights refers to the period of Christ’s sufferings to His glory. Which days and nights were they? The OP doesn’t ask for this answer.

  • See my counterpoint to the first position of my answer of a possible Wed. crucifixion. But, I do believe that Christ meant 3 days and 3 nites, so I really do not think that is possible with a Friday afternoon crucifixion.
    – Gina
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 1:28
  • @Gina yes Christ meant 3 days and 3 nights, but the traditional idea of "in the tomb" = "sign of Jonah" is simply wrong. The Fri-Sun sunrise sources elsewhere than Scripture. Psalm 74:12 says, rightly translated, the same thing as Christ. Plus, in the NT, Christ also defines the same period, the same sign, in numerous places "from sufferings to glory". So, when was the 3 day and 3 night working salvation in the heart of the earth period that encompassed "from sufferings to glory"?
    – SLM
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 3:15
  • Luke 24:46 (NIV) "He (Jesus) told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day". Jesus' suffering started already on the night the soldiers grabbed him. When he died his suffering stopped, because he said to the thief that he would be with him in paradise that same day. Luke 23:43 (NIV) "Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Commented Nov 18, 2017 at 22:50
  • Luke 18:31-33 (NIV) "Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, "We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again". Commented Nov 18, 2017 at 22:53
  • Yes, Christ's 3 days and 3 nights started at betrayal at the Last Supper (as in Paul's "the night He was betrayed"), then arrested, deserted, tried, punished. IOW, the 3 day/night was from sufferings to glory resurrection. It was not merely from death or entombment.
    – SLM
    Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 0:39

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .