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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.

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  • 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. Apr 20 '19 at 20:47
  • @AlexStrasser Thanks for asking, but no success with the "regular" publishers. I'll have to self-publish, which I hope to accomplish 2020.
    – SLM
    Apr 20 '19 at 23:03
  • 2020 come and gone.
    – SLM
    Jan 2 at 21:57
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We in the western world have been raised in a culture dominated by a post-Constantinian Christian worldview of time, rather than one that is biblically Hebrew.

  1. Our days begin and end at midnight, rather than the biblical breaking point of sunset.

  2. Our days are named after celestial bodies and Norse gods revered in pagan worship and our work week begins on Monday and ends with a day of rest on Sunday (the first day of the week), rather than continuing the biblical pattern that Jesus and His disciples adhered to of keeping Sabbath on the seventh day.

  3. Our Gregorian calendar years are numbered from the birth of Christ, rather than from the traditional Hebrew reckoning of the beginning of creation.

  4. We have replaced the biblically instituted feasts of Pesach (Passover), Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot celebrated by the people of Israel with a variety of newly-minted Christian seasons like Advent and Lent and holy days like Christmas and Easter, as well as secular and neo-pagan holidays (holy days?) like New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Halloween, and Thanksgiving.

Rediscovering the worldview and timeframe of Christianity's Hebrew heritage allows us to more fully appreciate the activities of Jesus of Nazareth at the time of His earthly ministry, crucifixion, death, and resurrection.

The first month of the Hebrew calendar is the month of Nisan, which starts at the dawn of spring. On Nisan 10 every year, our spiritual forefathers were mandated in Scripture to select a Passover lamb without blemish, observe the lamb for three days for signs of unworthiness, and sacrifice it on the fourth day as a ceremonial beginning to the celebration of the Lord’s Passover and the Exodus of God’s people from slavery in Egypt. Passover has been celebrated for millennia by the house of Israel in a traditional order or Seder on the evening of Nisan 15. In the year He was crucified, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey on Nisan 10, taught publicly in the Temple for three days before being sacrificed on the cross on Nisan 14, and was placed in the tomb just as the Passover feast was about to begin.

How long did Jesus stay in the “heart of the earth” before He was raised from the dead? Jesus answered our question Himself in Matthew 12.38-40.

How does His prophetic answer match up with the rest of Scripture and our gentile Good Friday, Easter Sunday tradition?
How did Jesus’ calendar match up with ours?
One attempt to solve this Passover puzzle can be found in the chart linked here “Jesus Fulfills the Promise of Passover,” which places the Last Supper Seder on the Tuesday evening of Preparation Day followed by His crucifixion and burial on Wednesday afternoon just prior to the start of the annual Passover Sabbath celebration that evening.

He then spent three days and nights in the tomb as He promised and rose from the grave after sundown on Saturday evening in time for the tomb to be found empty Sunday morning. What is your solution? Read the Gospel accounts of Jesus final days (Matthew chapters 21-28; Mark 11-16; Luke 19-24; John 12-20) and map out your own timeline.

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  • Thank you for your input, which I appreciate. Also for your latest question which deserves a considered response.
    – Lesley
    May 16 '19 at 7:21
  • Excellent and very thorough explanation, Bill M. All other alleged scenarios are all built on a flawed understanding of Jewish history and culture and "Sabbaths", and the result is that it requires people to throw out the clear words of scripture and Christ himself . Only a Wed Crucifixion can harmonize the women buying spices after the Sabbath, the Roman seal for 3 days, and Christ's only sign that He is in fact the Messiah - Sign of Jonah 3 days and 3 nights.
    – Tennman7
    Jan 2 at 20:02
  • The problem with a Wednesday death and burial scenario is it ignores the fact that would be day 1, as counted before sunset. You can't ignore days, even as some "add" days (Fri-Sun). Some believe Jesus died and was buried Wed-1, Thur-2, Fri-3, Sat-4, and rose on Sun-5. It is impossible and certainly doesn't fulfill the sign of Jonah.
    – SLM
    Jan 3 at 22:01
  • SLM, your research looks very very fascinating. I would love to find out more about it, or how to get a copy. The Wed crucifix is the only scenario that resolves all the scripture and also eliminates the glitches. You don't count Sun as part of a day. You also don't count Wed. It's Wed sunset, to Saturday sunset= 3 days and 3 nights. The women bought spices after the sabbath - high sabbath Wednes night & Thurs day [Friday] and before the weekly Sabbath. Impossible to buy spices after dark on Saturday night. Also Roman guard was 3 days. Frid Cruc means it was only there 1/2 day -Saturday.
    – Tennman7
    Jan 5 at 22:20
  • @Tennman7 I understand trying to "move" the facts to sunset, but, he said Christ died and buried before sunset on Wednesday. As you point out, some try to "add" days/nights, but others try to "subtract" days/nights. IMO, the answer is clearly about what was meant by "heart of the earth". Some believed it meant the tomb and then tried to justify the shortfall by saying (rightly in some cases) that a part of a day counts as a full day/night in Jewish understanding. Some don't count all the days. Others, including myself, believe it refers to the period from sufferings (Passover) to glory.
    – SLM
    Jan 6 at 23:58
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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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"High Sabbath" means it was a Sabbath for more than one reason: it was Sabbath in its own right, being a Saturday, and it was a Sabbath because it was the first day of unleavened bread (Leviticus 23:6).

[Remember that the day changes at sunset because each 24 hour day begins with the evening (Genesis 1:5).]

The Passover meal was eaten on the night of the 14th Nisan (Lev 23:5). The lambs were to be killed on the 14th also (Exodus 12:6), but because there were so many to kill, above a hundred thousand, they began to be killed on the afternoon of Thursday 13th Nisan, continuing after Thursday sunset into 14th Nisan.

When our Lord ate the Last Supper he and his disciples were eating the Passover meal.

Our Lord was crucified on Paraskevi 14th Nisan (Mark 15:42, John 19:42). (Still today, in modern Greek "Paraskevi" means both "Friday" and "preparation": Friday is Preparation Day for the Sabbath.)

After sunset, about 6pm, a blood red moon was visible from Jerusalem, rising from the horizon. This was because there was a 60% lunar eclipse, and perhaps because of the dust from the earthquake activity of the day. This is what Peter was referring to in Acts 2:20, and Joel was prophesying all those centuries before (Joel 2:31). It happened at Passover, on the evening of Friday 3rd April 33 AD, just a couple of hours or so after our Lord was taken down from the cross. [It is the only lunar eclipse happening at Passover (and visible from Jerusalem) between 26 and 36 AD.]

Furthermore, the 3 hours of darkness from the 6th to the 9th hour are also recorded in secular history by Phlegon of Tralles, who lived in modern day Turkey. His writings are no longer extant and we must rely on secondhand sources. One source says Phlegon records an eclipse of the sun (a darkening of the sun) at the time of the full moon in the second year of the 202 Olympiad (31 AD), the other source says the darkening happened in the fourth year of the same Olympiad (33 AD). An Olympiad is a four year period.

This is a remarkable support of the Gospels, because it is saying the sun went dark at the time of the Full Moon, and yet solar eclipses can only possibly happen at the time of the New Moon. Passover was likewise at the time of the Full Moon. And Phlegon says the darkening happened for three hours, and started at the sixth hour just as the Gospels recount. For instance, see https://www.whatistruthbook.com/phlegon-of-tralles-and-the-darkness

As for the expression "three days and three nights", this again means portions of three 24 hour periods. So a part of 14th Nisan (i.e. Friday before sunset, the whole of 15th Nisan (Saturday until sunset), and part of 16th Nisan (Saturday sunset to Sunday sunrise). 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. See also Genesis 42:17-18; Exodus 19:10-11; Leviticis 7:16-18; Leviticus 19:6; compare 2 Chronicles 10:5 with 2 Chron 10:12; Matthew 16:21; Matt 17:23; Matt 20:19; Matt 27:64 (compare these in Matthew with those in Exodus and Leviticus). In all these cases "the third day" is the day after tomorrow. The comparison in 2nd Chronicles is especially relevant because here "after three days" is understood to mean precisely "on the third day", whereas we would say "after two days"!

So if we accept that Jesus Christ rose from the dead on the first day of the week (John 20:1), on Sunday, then it follows he must have been crucified and died on the Friday before sunset.

Just to finish these thoughts: some have supposed that he was crucified on Friday 15th Nisan. In fact there is no Friday 15th Nisan between 26 and 36 AD. The following are the Julian dates for 14th Nisan from 26 to 36 AD (starting the day before at sunset):-

26 Sunday April 21

27 Thursday April 10

28 Tuesday March 30

29 Monday April 18

30 Friday April 7

31 Tuesday March 27

32 Sunday April 13

33 Friday April 3

34 Wednesday March 24

35 Tuesday April 12

36 Saturday March 31.

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  • FYI, the view that Christ was crucified on the 14th and the 14th was a Friday was propounded in Alexandria. Alexandria eventually conformed to the Roman view (Christ was crucified on a Friday and that was the 15th) circa 500.
    – SLM
    Jan 3 at 20:02
  • @SLM - We know the day of Nisan 14th and 15th for 26 to 36 AD. 14th Nisan was Friday in 30 AD, Tuesday 31, Sunday 32, Friday 33, Wednesday in 34 AD. Friday 15th Nisan doesn't exist in the time frame. Jan 3 at 20:35
  • @SLM - The only Friday 15th Nisan during time of Pontius Pilate was in 27 AD... too early for anyone to accept. Jan 3 at 20:40
  • @SLM - We've all got the whole internet at our fingertips. No one needs to get out of their comfy chair to confirm it. Jan 3 at 20:57
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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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Lesley, Your question is excellent and you are correct.

"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?"

Yes, on both counts. Passover is the 14th of Nisan, the 15th of Nisan starts the Feast of Unleavened bread, but since they are back to back and the feast of Unleavened bread lasts 7 days, they all get lumped together as Passover.

This is very significant, because this is exactly what the reason for so much confusion and misinformation about the crucifixion - most Christians today don't understand Jewish culture, or Jewish calendars, or Feast days.

Another very important thing that most Christians don't realize is that in the Hebrew language, Shabbat is the word for Sabbath, but all the 7 feasts and the weekly sabbath are Shabbat. Passover is a feast day, but it's not a High Sabbath day - in which all work is forbidden. Slaughtering a lamb, cleaning it and roasting it is a lot of work, and Passover is the preparation day for Feast of Unleavened Bread - in which no work could be done. Church leaders incorrectly assumed that this was Friday - preparation for the weekly sabbath.

Regarding your second question, Lesley, yes, there is evidence, it is clearly in the gospel account itself, and also in the Old Testament Torah, specifically Leviticus, where the feasts are given along with the specific commands about how they are to be kept.
https://www.gotquestions.org/high-Sabbath.html "So Jesus was crucified on the day before a high Sabbath. Because the Jews did not want Jerusalem desecrated on such a holy day as a high Sabbath, they petitioned the governor that the bodies of Jesus and those crucified with Him be taken down before evening (see Deuteronomy 21:22–23).

Scripture explicitly says that there were two Sabbaths in Christ's final week. The High Sabbath being Nisan 15 [Wed sundown -Thursday day] ** Remember Jewish days go sundown to sundown - Evening and Day. Jews used a Lunar calendar, and the cool thing is that the new moon is the start of every month, and because Passover is always the 14th of Nisan, it means Passover is always on a full moon. The Pharisees asked Christ for a sign that he really was the Messiah, and he only gave one sign and this was the sign of Jonah, which Christ quoted in Matthew.

"Just as Jonah was 3 days and 3 nights in the belly of the great fish, so the son of man will be 3 days and 3 nights in the heart of the earth."

Scripture says that the women bought rested on the sabbath and bought spices after the sabbath.

This is impossible to buy spices after dark on Saturday night - after the weekly Sabbath. They rested on High Sabbath - Thursday, bought spices on Friday, after the High Sabbath, and before the weekly Sabbath. In the 1st century, the only light besides the sun and moon were candles and torches. Buying and selling was forbidden on Sabbaths. So the idea of buying spices after sunset on Saturday night is patently absurd. No one would go set up their goods to sell in the dark, after the Sabbath had ended.
So they rested on the High Sabbath-feast of Unleavened bread- Thursday. Bought spices on Friday, and then rested on the weekly sabbath.

This is also why they had to get the bodies down from the cross before the high Sabbath - Feast of unleavened Bread. Wednesday at sunset to Saturday at Sunset is 3 days and 3 nights - just like Jesus himself said.
The other interesting thing is that we have 3 separate accounts of people being dead for at least 3 full days and nights, and raising again. Lazarus, Jesus, and the 2 witnesses in Revelation. This is because according to Jewish world view, and burial customs - the spirit lingers near the body for 3 days - so they would not be fully dead, but in a coma. After 3 days, the soul or spirit leaves so there they would be truly dead, and no one would say they were in a coma, and thus- no chance of resurrecting. This is what makes the resurrection so amazing.

Either we can trust the words Christ said, and the only sign he gave that he was the Messiah, or we can't. It's impossible to get 3 days and 3 nights from 1 day and parts of 2 days. It also requires that we totally disregard the clear words of scripture and even the words of Christ himself and a Friday crucifixion cannot answer the problem of the spices and 3 days and 3 nights.

An excellent summary and solid explanation with charts is here on blue letter Bible. https://www.blueletterbible.org/faq/crux.cfm

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  • FYI, there is no history that supports the idea that the 14th was a Tuesday. IOW, it is a recent idea.
    – SLM
    Jan 3 at 20:04
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Jesus said 3 days in the tomb. Friday to Sunday is not 3 days. The Hebrew day starts at sundown. Wednesday at 6 starts first night (Thursday), etc.

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  • We prefer longer, well thought out responses, backed up with sources.
    – Ken Graham
    Sep 23 '19 at 23:12
  • Welcome to the site! I hope you will explore our tour and help center to learn more about us and how we do things around here. We like to be detailed in thorough in our responses. Therefore, please provide detail and external sources. This answer provides no new information. Sep 24 '19 at 1:59

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