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?


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. – Alex Strasser 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

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

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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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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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. – Alex Strasser Sep 24 '19 at 1:59

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