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My question is based on John 19:31 which says that on the day Jesus died it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Was this special Sabbath (on which no work could be done) the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread?

If so then Nisan 14 would have been Preparation Day for the Feast of Unleavened Bread and Jesus’ body would have had to be laid in the tomb before sundown on that day – but that would not have been the weekly Sabbath that commenced at sundown on Friday. It would have been the special Sabbath for the start of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

Here is what I found, but I can’t source the information or get verification for the claims:

“Some years before the birth of Jesus the Passover celebration had been changed and in the Lord’s time called for a brief ritual meal of lamb, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs to begin the 14th Nisan followed by a great and leisurely festival meal on the 15th, when the Feast of Unleavened Bread begins. This tradition is still followed today. The 14th became known as Preparation Day (Mark 15:42, Luke 23:54, John 19:31), because on it they made ready for the great feast day beginning at sundown, after which no work was permitted. Matthew identifies the day after the Crucifixion as the day after Preparation Day (27:62) so all four Gospels agree. Jesus died on Preparation day, the 14th of their month Nisan, which is Passover. He ate the ritual meal with His disciples in the Upper Room, and then was arrested, tried, convicted, and put to death; all on Passover.”

Was the special Sabbath mentioned in John 19:31 and Matthew 27:62 the start of the Feast of Unleavened Bread? And is there any evidence to support that view?

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The answer is yes; the high Sabbath was the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread on the 15th Nisan. I've written a 92,000 word manuscript looking for a publisher on the days/dates of Christ's death, burial, resurrection issues, but will summarize just your specific question. This is not to say that the web site reference from which the OP is drawn is correct. It's not. For example, there's no evidence of a "brief ritual meal of lamb ... " as the 14th began at sunset.

John 19:31 The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.

The word translated "high" is the Greek megas. It is translated usually as great, loud. Thus earlier in John we read about another high/great/megas day.

John 7:37 In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.

That megas reference is about John 7:1 at the feast of tabernacles. It too was a type of Sabbath as defined way back in time.

Lev. 23:3 Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings.

The Sabbath was a holy convocation; no work. So, we take that to find what John references about the megas last day of Feast of Tabernacles and first day of Unleavened Bread.

Lev. 23:36 Seven days ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD: on the eighth day [the last day] shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD: it is a solemn assembly; and ye shall do no servile work therein.

That Feast Sabbath is a high Sabbath. There are seven. And so, we apply the same terminology to the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

Lev. 23:7 In the first day [of Unleavened Bread] ye shall have an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein.

With that in mind, we return to John 19:31. Christ was crucified on Passover the 14th of Nisan the preparation day and the next day was the high Sabbath first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread on the 15th.

But what of Mt. 27:62? This answer requires much more background to explain adequately.

Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate,

On the surface, I would suggest it doesn't matter whether it refers to Friday or Saturday when they visit Pilate. It doesn't contradict anything either way. If it was Friday afternoon the day after Passover preparation, then they were still looking to seal the tomb three days from burial to Sunday. If it was Saturday the day after the weekly Friday preparation, then they were still looking to seal the tomb three days from burial to Sunday. Again to clarify, this is not to say that the chief priests understood prophecies properly, they just understood burial as a starting day and wanted the tomb sealed.

  • Many thanks for your input and insights, which I appreciate. We know the tomb was empty early on the first day of the week (which corresponds to our Sunday) and that's the important part. – Lesley Apr 13 '18 at 15:55
  • You're welcome. It's an interesting study the days/dates. Yes, the tomb was empty that Sunday the 17th of Nisan. – SLM Apr 13 '18 at 19:10
  • @SLM is this manuscript publically available or on its way soon? I saw you were looking for a publisher, but just wondering what if you had it somewhere already or what. – Alex Strasser 2 days ago
  • @AlexStrasser Thanks for asking, but no success with the "regular" publishers. I'll have to self-publish, which I hope to accomplish 2020. – SLM 2 days ago
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Was the special Sabbath mentioned in John 19:31 and Matthew 27:62 the start of the Feast of Unleavened Bread?

Yes, John 19:31 reads:

The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.

Here are a few facts you can find in any encyclopedia:

  • Biblical days are measured from sunset to sunset.
  • Passover begins on the eve of Nissan 15 (after sunset on the 14th), with a seder and roast lamb meal.
  • The day of Passover is a high holiday, a full sabbath.
  • The first day of Passover (the 15th) is never on a Monday, Wednesday, or Friday.
  • On Passover day and during the next week (Days of Unleavened Bread), all yeast products are forbidden and must be removed from everyone's houses before sunset.
  • No work is allowed on a sabbath day, whether a high holiday or a weekly sabbath.

So, since nothing could be done after sunset at the end of the 14th, a lot of activity has to happen before then:

  • Clean the house to remove all traces of yeast.
  • Make the evening meal, plus meals to eat during the next day.
  • All housework to get things ready for the celebration.
  • The afternoon slaughter of the lambs for the Passover meal.

For obvious reasons, the 14th became known as the "Day of Preparation". It has no specific religious significance, but is tied to the high holiday that follows it.

The John 19:31 verse describes an instance of this need for urgent activity. Burying a dead body is considered work. If Jesus and the two thieves hadn't died soon enough, they would have had to remain there for another 36 hours until the morning after the high sabbath when their bodies could be removed. They weren't given permission until the 11th hour, an hour before sunset, so the burial had to be done very quickly so that people could return to their homes by sunset.

We know from Mark 16:1 ("when the sabbath was past [they] bought sweet spices") and Luke 23:56 ("[they] prepared spices and ointments and rested the sabbath day"), that there were two sabbaths shortly after Jesus's crucifixion. The women waited until after the high sabbath to buy and prepare spices the next day, and then waited until after the normal weekly sabbath to take them to the tomb.

The weekly sabbath is always from the sunset at the end of Friday until the sunset at the end of Saturday. Thus, early Sunday morning (John 20:1 "The first day of the week ...") was the first chance they had to go to the tomb.

That means that:

  • The weekly sabbath was on Saturday.
  • The spices were bought and prepared the day before, on Friday.
  • The high holiday sabbath was the day before,on Thursday.
  • The Day of Preparation was the day before, on Wednesday.
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If you could consider the early Passion accounts from the Syriac Didascalia Apostolorum or the Roman's Constitution of the Apostolic Fathers you would find that both accounts say Christ was cutoff in the middle of the feast of the Jewish Passover.

Perhaps He was crucified on a Wednesday Nisan 20th being a preparation day before the high sabbath day on Thursday 21st (the 7th day of the feast) and resurrected 3 days & 3 nites later on Saturday Nisan 23rd.

All of the resurrection verses in the original (transliterated) Koine Greek say Jesus had resurrected on "mia ton sabbaton" being on "one of the (weekly) sabbaths".

Leviticus 23:11 tells us Jews counted 7 weeky sabbaths between Passover to Pentecost. Jesus may have risen on the first weekly sabbath in that sequence.

  • 1
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  • Agreed with Lesley. Welcome to the cite! It would be better to include quotations of the verses, and include the Greek if your point comes from the Greek, and cite external sources to give credence to your answer. I hope you continue contributing to the site! Thanks for your answer. Take the tour of the site and look at some questions in the help center to learn more. – Alex Strasser Apr 16 at 3:58
  • @Mr.Bill Get that clarification out of comments and into the answer, please. Comments are ephemeral, content belongs in answers. (That is the kind of supporting info we look for in Answers. Please edit that in) – KorvinStarmast Apr 17 at 21:15
  • It is highly unlikely Christ was crucified on Nisan 20. In fact I've seen no one who suggests that. Can you reference anyone, besides your self? Remember Christ our Passover was sacrificed and there is the Lamb of God and of course the shadow of the original (keep the lamb to the 14th). These things all point to Nisan 14, which in your time line would be a Thursday. Hmmm. – SLM Apr 19 at 19:41
  • If u correctly understood the Jewish chronology behind the 8 day Passover event you would realize that the Passover Seder (last supper) has always been observed on the nightly beginning of Nisan 15th regardless of the day of the week) inconjunction with the Sanhedrin's observation of the Lunar cycles & the readiness of the Spring first fruit's harvest.. – Mr.Bill Apr 19 at 20:42
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In order to have the Gospel’s chronology put into a reasonable perspective, a more feasible time line regarding the crucifixion and resurrection events are essential. Let us consider a median near the ‘middle-end’ of our Lord’s final Passover period.

To acquire such a median let us reconsider a linguistic approach from the ORIGINAL Koine Greek Texts for the resurrection passages at; Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:2; Luke 24:1; and St. John 20:1,19 of the New Testament.

In these verses we commonly find the Koine Greek phrase; ‘μιαν σαββατων’ or ‘μια των σαββατων’ which is transliterated as ‘mia ton sabbaton’ and is directly translated to literally mean on; ‘one of the sabbaths’. As well, similar words can be found within other New Testament verses such as; Acts 20:7 : 1 Corinthians 16:2 and partially in Colossians 2:16.

This phrase has been traditionally perceived, interpreted, and understood to read as ‘the first day of the week’, or less commonly as ‘the first of sabbaths’. However, let us consider specifically the Koine Greek word ‘σαββατων’ which is transliterated as ‘sabbaton’ where the literal English rendering is translated as ‘sabbaths’ and is plural of meaning in line with Greek Syntax rules.

In the key resurrection verse of Matthew 28:1 (below) the original Koine Greek word ‘σαββατων’ appears twice in the same sentence and is plural in meaning at both instances;

“οψε δε σαββατων τη επιϕωσκουση εις μιαν σαββατων ηλθεν μαρια η μαγδαληνη και η αλλη μαρια θεωρησαι τον ταϕον”

GREEK TEXT – STEPHENS (Editor) 1550  – TEXTUS RECEPTUS

The full sentence of Matthew 28:1 would render closely like;

“Late (οψε) but (δε) sabbaths (σαββατων) to the (τη) lighting-up (επιϕωσκουση) into (εις) one of (μιαν) sabbaths (σαββατων) Mary (μαρια) Magdalene (μαγδαληνη) and (και ) the (η) other (αλλη) Mary (μαρια) observed (θεωρησαι) the (τον) sepulchre (ταϕον).”

What could this possibly mean according to Greek Syntax with the contrasting ‘sabbaths’ in the very same sentence having a duality in definition with a co-existence between one and another?

Hence, Matthew 28:1 may be describing details in meaning like; ‘Late (adverb) (post-after-end) (genitive of separation) but (with exception of the annual Passover) sabbaths (plural) as it was lighting up (twi-lighting e.g. Psm 148:3) on one (a cardinal number) of the (a partitive- genitive case function) sabbaths (plural)…… (etc).

Thus a description that may pertain to a time interval when the Passover festal period was finished and had already completed (e.g. ‘End’, opse-adverbial) the 2 High (annual) sabbaths (Nisan 15 " 21 i.e. Ex 12:16) of the Passover period onto a weekly sabbath ( 1 of 7 ) or one sabbath (Nisan 23) from a group of seven weekly sabbaths within the 50 day counted duration of time between Passover (i.e. from the sheaf offering – Lev 23:11,15,16) leading up to Pentecost.

Then, Yehoshua (Jesus) would have arrived at Bethany on Friday Nisan 8th being six days (Jhn 12:1) before the Passover on Thursday Nisan 14th, and ate the Passover meal at the designated time (Mth 26:17 : Mrk 14:12 : Luk 22:7) on the nightly beginning of Friday Nisan 15th. He was cut off in AD 34 being the prophetic 69th Sabbatical year (Dan 9:25,26) since the temple of Jerusalem had been reconstructed.

There He was crucified on Wednesday Nisan 20th on the Passover preparation day (Jhn 19:31) to Thursday Nisan 21 (Holy Convocation Day) and would resurrect ‘3 days and 3 nights’ later (Sign of Jonah/Mth 12:39, 40) on the weekly Sabbath late afternoon of Saturday Nisan 23rd. This particular Divine inspired day being one integral Sabbath in a week of (7) sabbaths (Lev 23, 11-15) within the 50 day period leading up to Pentecost.

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  • I appreciate all the effort you are going to in order to answer my question but I am becoming confused given you have now posted four answers to this question. Which answer do you stand by? – Lesley Apr 19 at 16:05
  • Julia E. Smith Translation 1876 (First Women Translator of The New Testament) Mth 28:1 “AND after the Sabbaths, in the shining forth to one of the Sabbaths, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to behold the tomb.” – Mr.Bill Apr 19 at 16:32
  • Thank you, Mr Bill. I found an article about Julia E. Smith and wondered if she and her family adhered to the views of William Millar and 1844. bible-researcher.com/julia-smith.html – Lesley Apr 19 at 17:01
  • Consider where William Tyndale’s N.T. ‘first’ edition (1526) shows the Apostle’s breaking of bread in Acts 20:7; (Quote Begins) “On a saboth day the disciples came to gether for to break bread, and Paul preached unto them (ready to depart on the morrow) and continued the preaching unto midnight.” Or 1 Corinthians 16:2; (Quote Begins) “In some saboth day let every one of you put aside at home (before hand), and lay up whatsoever he thinketh meet, that there be no gatherings when I come.” (Quote Ends) The British Library 2000 (Hardbound) or Hendrickson 2009 (All Quotes End) – Mr.Bill Apr 19 at 17:23
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Jesus said

Matt 12:40: For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. (NLT)

We must be true in all our explanations to what He said. So however we explain the days/dates, the idea of the 'High Sabbath' comes closest to Jesus' words about Himself. I have believed it for years.

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Likely the high great (annual) sabbath mentioned here was the last day on the Passover Feast with a similar status to the last day on the Feast of Tabernacles.

"In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink." St. John 7:37 (KJV)

According to Mth 27:15 & Mrk 15:6 (KJV) it is stated that Jesus' death & burial ocurred on a Passover Feast day when secular activities were allowed on the intermediate days (between all Sabbaths) although Mrk 14:2 states that was not their full intention.

Also, John 18:28 should not have displayed a concern for Jews worried about defilement or disqualification of the Passover by means of impurification, if that event happened on Nisan 14th, the previous day prior to the actual 7 day Passover feast.

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  • The context of John 7:37 is found throughout John 7 Now the Jews' feast of tabernacles was at hand-7:2 Now about the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and taught-7:14 In the last day, that great day of the feast [8], Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.-7:37 Here is the OT: Seven days ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD: on the eighth day shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD: it is a solemn assembly; and ye shall do no servile work therein. Lev 23:36 – SLM Apr 19 at 19:32
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Although the phrase ‘mia ton sabbatwn’ may be synonymous in meaning with the ‘first day of the week’ scripturally it is not duly supported. The phrase ‘first (ordinal) day of the week’ could have appeared as; ‘πρώτο ημέρα του εβδομάδας’ i.e. ‘first (πρώτο) day (ημέρα) of the (του) week (εβδομάδας)’ and transliterated as ‘prote hemera tis hebdomata’ in the original Koine Greek verses of; Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:2, Luke 24:1, St. John 20:1,19; Acts 20:7, and 1 Corinthians 16:2 in the New Testament but does NOT appear anywhere in any way, shape or form.

The word ‘εβδομάδας’ in the Koine Greek for ‘week’ does appear respectively in certain aspects of the Septuagint LXX Old Testament (~ 270 B.C.) i.e. Ex 34:22; Lev 23:15, 16, 25; Num 28:26; Deut 16:9, 10, 16; II Cron 8:13, and Dan 9:24,25, 26, 27; 10:2, 3.

Secondly, the phrase ‘the first (ordinal) of the sabbaths’ could have appeared as ‘της πρωτον των σαββάτων’ i.e. ‘the (της) first (πρωτον) of (των) sabbaths (σαββάτων)’ in the original Koine Greek for the resurrection verses but does not for the most part. However, ‘πρωτη ημερα των αζυμων’ i.e. ‘first (πρωτη) day (ημερα) of the (των) unleaveneds (αζυμων)’ = ‘first (ordinal) day of unleavened (bread)’ is translated accurately for Mark 14:12 along with the most part of Matthew 26:17 and Luke 22:7.

The verse of Mark 16:9 in the original Greek is shown as ‘πρώτη σάββατου’ transliterated as ‘protos sabbatou’ which is translated literally to mean ‘first (ordinal) sabbath (singular)’. Here the long ending of Mark 16:9–20 is critically regarded as an extension interpolated at a later time and does not exist in the earlier and older manuscripts. The Codex Alexandrinus, Codex Sinaiticus, Sinaitic Syriac, Armenian and oldest Georgian manuscripts show no support for the long ending of St. Mark 16:9-20.

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  • 1
    I appreciate the efforts you are going to to answer my question but if you want to add to an existing question, you simply edit it, not make a new answer. – Lesley Apr 19 at 16:06
  • "There can be no biblical theology unless it is based on sound biblical exegesis, and there can be no sound biblical exegesis unless a firm textual and grammatical foundation has been laid for it.” (Quote Ends) F.F. Bruce, Head of the Department of Biblical History of Literature in the University of Sheffield September 1952 Pg. x in the fore text of ‘W.E. Vine’s Expository of New Testament Words’ Thomas Nelson Publishers, New York, 1985 – Mr.Bill Apr 19 at 17:04
  • Perhaps this quote should be applied to Julia E. Smith? My head is spinning the way you are jumping around from one answer to another. Please select one answer and delete the others. – Lesley Apr 19 at 17:13
  • Stick to the widestream status quo and your head will stop spinning. – Mr.Bill Apr 19 at 17:51

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