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I have often wondered what day of the week Jesus died. I believe it was on a Friday, the day before the weekly Jewish Sabbath. However, others claim Jesus died on a Wednesday. They claim that the Sabbath that followed the day of the crucifixion was not referring to the weekly Sabbath, but a so-called annual Sabbath, namely the first day of Unleavened Bread that falls on the first month of the Jewish calendar. Those who believe Jesus died on Thursday claim the same thing, that the Sabbath that followed the crucifixion was not the weekly Sabbath but the annual Sabbath (Nisan 15).

For support, those that believe it was the annual Sabbath quote John 19:31 where the Sabbath is called a high day. This, they assure us, refers to the Jewish Nisan 15 Sabbath and not the weekly Sabbath.

31 Then the Jews, because it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath ([a]for that Sabbath was a high day), asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. - John 19:31

They also quote John 19:14 which states the day of the crucifixion was the preparation of the Passover. The Preparation of the Passover, they claim, is Nisan 14.

14 Now it was the day of preparation for the Passover; it was about the [a]sixth hour. And he *said to the Jews, “Behold, your King!” - John 19:14

The Preparation of the Passover was the day when the homes had to be cleansed of all leaven, which required cleaning and inspection, and preparations for the meal that followed when the sun set on Nisan 14.

There is also the claim that Jesus would be in "the heart of the earth" for three days and three nights. See Matthew 12:38-40:

38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, “Teacher, we want to see a [a]sign from You.” 39 But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; 40 for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

Now simple math would dictate that if the "heart of the earth" referred to the subterranean region of Sheol (Hades in the Greek scriptures) then Jesus could not have died on a Friday, the traditional view. That's because the scriptures claim Jesus was resurrected from the dead when the women came to the tomb on the predawn morning hours on the first day of the week.

28 Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. 2 And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. 3 And his appearance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. 4 The guards shook for fear of him and became like dead men. 5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. 6 He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. - Matthew 28:1-8

16 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might come and anoint Him. 2 Very early on the first day of the week, they *came to the tomb when the sun had risen. 3 They were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” 4 Looking up, they *saw that the stone had been rolled away, although it was extremely large. 5 Entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe; and they were amazed. 6 And he *said to them, “Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him. - Mark 16:1-6

1 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men suddenly stood near them in dazzling clothing; 5 and as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living One among the dead? 6 He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, - Luke 24:1-6

1 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene *came early to the tomb, while it *was still dark, and *saw the stone already taken away from the tomb. 2 So she *ran and *came to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and *said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” 3 So Peter and the other disciple went forth, and they were going to the tomb. 4 The two were running together; and the other disciple ran ahead faster than Peter and came to the tomb first; 5 and stooping and looking in, he *saw the linen wrappings lying there; but he did not go in. 6 And so Simon Peter also *came, following him, and entered the tomb; and he *saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7 and the face-cloth which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 So the other disciple who had first come to the tomb then also entered, and he saw and believed. 9 For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. - John 20:1-9

All four accounts relate this as happening on the first day of the week. So, how could Jesus have been crucified on a Wednesday? Elsewhere the Bible mentions many times that Jesus would rise on the third day. If Wednesday was the first day of Jesus's death, then Friday would be the third day, and if Jesus died on Thursday, then that would be the first day of Jesus's death and the third day would be on Saturday.

From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. - Matthew 16:21

22 And while they were gathering together in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men; 23 and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day.” And they were deeply grieved. - Matthew 17:22-23

18 “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be [a]delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death, 19 and will hand Him over to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up.” - Matthew 20:18-20

21 But He warned them and instructed them not to tell this to anyone, 22 saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised up on the third day.” - Luke 9:21-22

32 For He will be [a]handed over to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and mistreated and spit upon, 33 and after they have scourged Him, they will kill Him; and the third day He will rise again.” 34 But the disciples understood none of these things, and the meaning of this statement was hidden from them, and they did not comprehend the things that were said. - Luke 18:32-34

6 He is not here, but He has [a]risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, 7 saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.” - Luke 24:6-7

But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened. - Luke 24:21

and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, - Luke 24:26

Mark, on the other hand, writes that the resurrection would occur "after three days" or "three days later".

31 And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. - Mark 8:31

31 For He was teaching His disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is to be [a]delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and when He has been killed, He will rise three days later.” -Mark 9:31

34 They will mock Him and spit on Him, and scourge Him and kill Him, and three days later He will rise again.” - Mark 10:34

Furthermore, some scriptures say "in three days."

60 They did not find any, even though many false witnesses came forward. But later on two came forward, 61 and said, “This man stated, ‘I am able to destroy the [a]temple of God and to rebuild it [b]in three days.’” 62 The high priest stood up and said to Him, “Do You not answer? What is it that these men are testifying against You?” - Matthew 26:60-62

39 And those passing by were [a]hurling abuse at Him, wagging their heads 40 and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” 41 In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking Him and saying, - Matthew 27:39-41

“We heard Him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands, and in three days I will build another made without hands.’” - Mark 14:58

Those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, wagging their heads, and saying, “Ha! You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, - Mark 15:29

And, in John 2:18-21 we have:

18 The Jews then said to Him, “What sign do You show us as your authority for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” 21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body.

Is there any way to reconcile these accounts?

By the way, all my scripture quotes are from the NASB 1995 edition.

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    If this is the same Saber Truth Tiger as before, why the new account?
    – agarza
    Commented Aug 13, 2023 at 3:25
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    Perhaps move this question to SE-Biblical Hermeneutics where you answered it yourself (I assume, as the name is the same but the account is different).
    – Nigel J
    Commented Aug 13, 2023 at 7:39
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    @SaberTruthTiger All well and good but there was no need to create a whole new account; your existing account can be used across the SE network. You can have the two accounts merged, see the Help Center article "I accidentally created two accounts; how do I merge them?".
    – agarza
    Commented Aug 13, 2023 at 14:45
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    By the way, if you had reused your account here, you'd have received a bonus 100 points! Commented Aug 13, 2023 at 15:21
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    @SaberTruthTiger, For next time, I think the trick is to "already be signed on to one of the other SE sites" first. While signed on, go to the new site you want to join, select "Join this community" at the top left, and it will say something like "You are about to create a new account on ______ Stack Exchange using a login from Google ([email protected]). We will automatically link this account with your accounts on other Stack Exchange sites." Commented Aug 13, 2023 at 15:42

4 Answers 4

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It looks like you are very interested in biblical chronology. Please can I recommend 4 books:- "Babylonian Chronology - 626 bc to ad 75" by Richard A. Parker & Waldo Dubberstein, published 1956 (available for free online); "From Abraham to Paul - a biblical chronology" by Andrew Steinmann, 2011; "Daniel's Seventy Weeks" by Derek Walker, 2009 (Pastor of Oxford Baptist Church, available free online); and "The Mystery of the Last Supper" by Colin Humphreys, 2011. Andrew Steinmann's is a great book but he mistakenly puts the killing of the Passover lambs on 13th Nisan and so messes up the crucifixion week. This mistake is rectified by reading The Mystery of the Last Supper.

The evidence points to the crucifixion happening on Friday 3rd April AD 33, which was 14th Nisan (Thursday sunset to Friday sunset) according to the conventional Jewish (Babylonian based) calendar.

The meaning of the "third day" is "the day after tomorrow" as can be seen in Luke 13:32 "Go tell that fox.. I do cures today and tomorrow and the third day I shall be perfected." It is also seen in Leviticus 7:15-17.

"Three days and three nights" of Matthew 12:40 must agree with the more common phrases "after three days", "on the third day", "in three days" which must all mean precisely the same thing. Esther said she would neither eat nor drink "three days, night or day" and she stood before the king "on the third day" (Esther 4:16-5:1). But a literal "three days, night or day" would have led her to stand before the king on the fourth day.

Since our Lord rose from the dead on the first day of the week, Sunday morning, just after dawn, then he died on Friday.

Those who think there was only one calendar, the Temple (Babylonian based) calendar where days began and ended at sunset should carefully consider Matthew 28:1, Mark 14:12, and compare Mark 16:1 (they bought spices after the Sabbath) with Luke 23:56 (they prepared spices before the Sabbath).

To get the gist of the argument see the following two answers:-

Was the Last Supper not the Passover meal?

Why did Mary Magdalene and the other women disciples wait until the dawn of Sunday before arriving at the tomb?

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It looks like you are very interested in biblical chronology. Please can I recommend 4 books:- "Babylonian Chronology - 626 bc to ad 75" by Richard A. Parker & Waldo Dubberstein, published 1956 (available for free online); "From Abraham to Paul - a biblical chronology" by Andrew Steinmann, 2011; "Daniel's Seventy Weeks" by Derek Walker, 2009 (Pastor of Oxford Baptist Church, available free online); and "The Mystery of the Last Supper" by Colin Humphreys, 2011. Andrew Steinmann is a great book but mistakenly puts the killing of the Passover lambs on 13th Nisan and so messes up the crucifixion week. This mistake is rectified by reading The Mystery of the Last Supper.

The evidence points to the crucifixion happening on Friday 3rd April AD 33, which was 14th Nisan (Thursday sunset to Friday sunset) according to the conventional Jewish (Babylonian based) calendar.

The meaning of the "third day" is "the day after tomorrow" as can be seen in Luke 13:32 "Go tell that fox.. I do cures today and tomorrow and the third day I shall be perfected." It is also seen in Leviticus 7:15-17, and 2 Chronicles 10:5 and 12.

"Three days and three nights" of Matthew 12:40 must agree with the more common phrases "after three days", "on the third day", "in three days" which must all mean precisely the same thing. Esther said she would neither eat nor drink "three days, night or day" and she stood before the king "on the third day" (Esther 4:16-5:1). But a literal "three days, night or day" would have led her to stand before the king on the fourth day.

Since our Lord rose from the dead on Sunday morning just after dawn then he died on Friday.

To get the gist of the argument see the following two answers:-

Was the Last Supper not the Passover meal?

Why did Mary Magdalene and the other women disciples wait until the dawn of Sunday before arriving at the tomb?

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How do we know what day of the week Jesus died?

The Scriptures do not explicitly tell us what day of the week Jesus was crucified. Traditionally as well as popular belief is that it happened on a Friday. However a few hold that it may thane been on a Wednesday or even a Thursday.

We have to equally keep in mind what the word day means according to Jewish understanding at the time of the Apostles.

The day is reckoned from evening to evening—i.e., night and day—except in reference to sacrifices, where daytime and the night following constitute one day (Lev. vii. 15) - Day (Jewish Encyclopaedia)

The Catholic Encyclopedia states that Friday was the day the Early Church commemorated the death of Christ and this is known in English speaking countries as Good Friday.

Definition and etymology

Good Friday, called Feria VI in Parasceve in the Roman Missal, he hagia kai megale paraskeue (the Holy and Great Friday) in the Greek Liturgy, Holy Friday in Romance Languages, Charfreitag (Sorrowful Friday) in German, is the English designation of Friday in Holy Week — that is, the Friday on which the Church keeps the anniversary of the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

Parasceve, the Latin equivalent of paraskeue, preparation (i.e. the preparation that was made on the sixth day for the Sabbath; see Mark 15:42), came by metonymy to signify the day on which the preparation was made; but while the Greeks retained this use of the word as applied to every Friday, the Latins confined its application to one Friday. Irenaeus and Tertullian speak of Good Friday as the day of the Pasch; but later writers distinguish between the Pascha staurosimon (the passage to death), and the Pascha anastasimon (the passage to life, i.e. the Resurrection). At present the word Pasch is used exclusively in the latter sense. The two Paschs are the oldest feasts in the calendar.

From the earliest times the Christians kept every Friday as a feast day; and the obvious reasons for those usages explain why Easter is the Sunday par excellence, and why the Friday which marks the anniversary of Christ's death came to be called the Great or the Holy or the Good Friday. The origin of the term Good is not clear. Some say it is from "God's Friday" (Gottes Freitag); others maintain that it is from the German Gute Freitag, and not specially English. Sometimes, too, the day was called Long Friday by the Anglo-Saxons; so today in Denmark.

The following article may be of interest to some.

The Bible does not explicitly state on which day of the week Jesus was crucified. The two most widely held views are Friday and Wednesday. Some, however, using a synthesis of both the Friday and Wednesday arguments, argue for Thursday as the day.

Jesus said in Matthew 12:40, “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.” Those who argue for a Friday crucifixion say that there is still a valid way in which He could have been considered in the grave for three days. In the Jewish mind of the first century, a part of day was considered as a full day. Since Jesus was in the grave for part of Friday, all of Saturday, and part of Sunday—He could be considered to have been in the grave for three days. One of the principal arguments for Friday is found in Mark 15:42, which notes that Jesus was crucified “the day before the Sabbath.” If that was the weekly Sabbath, i.e. Saturday, then that fact leads to a Friday crucifixion. Another argument for Friday says that verses such as Matthew 16:21 and Luke 9:22 teach that Jesus would rise on the third day; therefore, He would not need to be in the grave a full three days and nights. But while some translations use “on the third day” for these verses, not all do, and not everyone agrees that “on the third day” is the best way to translate these verses. Furthermore, Mark 8:31 says that Jesus will be raised “after” three days.

The Thursday argument expands on the Friday view and argues mainly that there are too many events (some count as many as twenty) happening between Christ’s burial and Sunday morning to occur from Friday evening to Sunday morning. Proponents of the Thursday view point out that this is especially a problem when the only full day between Friday and Sunday was Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath. An extra day or two eliminates that problem. The Thursday advocates could reason thus: suppose you haven't seen a friend since Monday evening. The next time you see him it is Thursday morning and you say, “I haven’t seen you in three days” even though it had technically only been 60 hours (2.5 days). If Jesus was crucified on Thursday, this example shows how it could be considered three days.

The Wednesday opinion states that there were two Sabbaths that week. After the first one (the one that occurred on the evening of the crucifixion [Mark 15:42; Luke 23:52-54]), the women purchased spices—note that they made their purchase after the Sabbath (Mark 16:1). The Wednesday view holds that this “Sabbath” was the Passover (see Leviticus 16:29-31, 23:24-32, 39, where high holy days that are not necessarily the seventh day of the week are referred to as the Sabbath). The second Sabbath that week was the normal weekly Sabbath. Note that in Luke 23:56 the women who had purchased spices after the first Sabbath returned and prepared the spices, then “rested on the Sabbath.” The argument states that they could not purchase the spices after the Sabbath, yet prepare those spices before the Sabbath—unless there were two Sabbaths. With the two-Sabbath view, if Christ was crucified on Thursday, then the high holy Sabbath (the Passover) would have begun Thursday at sundown and ended at Friday sundown—at the beginning of the weekly Sabbath or Saturday. Purchasing the spices after the first Sabbath (Passover) would have meant they purchased them on Saturday and were breaking the Sabbath.

Therefore, according to the Wednesday viewpoint, the only explanation that does not violate the biblical account of the women and the spices and holds to a literal understanding of Matthew 12:40 is that Christ was crucified on Wednesday. The Sabbath that was a high holy day (Passover) occurred on Thursday, the women purchased spices (after that) on Friday and returned and prepared the spices on the same day, they rested on Saturday which was the weekly Sabbath, then brought the spices to the tomb early Sunday. Jesus was buried near sundown on Wednesday, which began Thursday in the Jewish calendar. Using a Jewish calendar, you have Thursday day (day one). Thursday night (night one), Friday day (day two), Friday night (night two), Saturday day (day three), Saturday night (night three). We do not know exactly what time He rose, but we do know that it was before sunrise on Sunday. He could have risen as early as just after sunset Saturday evening, which began the first day of the week to the Jews. The discovery of the empty tomb was made just at sunrise (Mark 16:2), before it was fully light (John 20:1).

A possible problem with the Wednesday view is that the disciples who walked with Jesus on the road to Emmaus did so on “the same day” of His resurrection (Luke 24:13). The disciples, who do not recognize Jesus, tell Him of Jesus’ crucifixion (24:21) and say that “today is the third day since these things happened” (24:22). Wednesday to Sunday is four days. A possible explanation is that they may have been counting since Wednesday evening at Christ’s burial, which begins the Jewish Thursday, and Thursday to Sunday could be counted as three days.

In the grand scheme of things, it is not all that important to know what day of the week Christ was crucified. If it were very important, then God’s Word would have clearly communicated the day and timeframe. What is important is that He did die and that He physically, bodily rose from the dead. What is equally important is the reason He died—to take the punishment that all sinners deserve. John 3:16 and 3:36 both proclaim that putting your trust in Him results in eternal life! This is equally true whether He was crucified on a Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday. - On what day was Jesus crucified?

The following may be of interest to some:

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Is there any way to reconcile these accounts?

It's not obvious what needs to be reconciled.

For instance, consider "the Bible mentions many times that Jesus would rise on the third day. If Wednesday was the first day of Jesus's death, then Friday would be the third day":

Jesus was buried just before sunset on Wednesday.
Given that a new day begins at sunset, I don't think any reasonable person would count the few minutes preceding sunset as a different day; they would consider him to have been buried just as a new day begins.
So the first day ran from Wednesday sunset to Thursday sunset.
The second day ran from Thursday sunset to Friday sunset.
The third day ran from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset.

If Jesus arose just before sunset on Saturday, that would be 72 hours, exactly 3 days and 3 nights after he was buried.
The only point one could argue here is whether the few minutes before sunset must be counted as a fourth day.

If you think this seems a little contrived or forced, compare it with the traditional explanation that somehow crams three days and three nights into less than 36 hours, and at the same time somehow manages to have the women preparing spices before the sabbath and then buying them after the sabbath.

I'm not claiming the proof of this timeline is irrefutable, but it certainly is far simpler and much more convincing than the alternatives, which are mostly based on tradition rather than on scripture.
Occam's Razor would suggest that a resurrection late on Saturday would be the explanation that is least in need of reconcilliation.

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  • The Jewish Encyclopedia relates the Jewish custom of counting the first day even when a few minutes are involved. jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/5007-day Moreover, Jesus died at 3pm so there were three hours in Sheol which would be sufficient time to count Wednesday as the "first day". You must be reckoning the tomb as "the heart of the earth" but I am not sure that would be the case. I have seen pictures of the alleged tomb of Christ and it is above the surface of the earth. Sheol is in the heart of the earth, a subterranean region according to the OT. Commented Aug 13, 2023 at 15:12
  • By the time Jesus walked the earth the Greek language had overtaken most of the highly educated people of the Ancient Near East and the Greek word HADES had supplanted the Hebrew word SHEOL, where Jesus went when he died. Hades was much different than Sheol although the idea that it was a subterranean region of the earth was the same. Hades had conscious people in it, while Sheol did not. In Hades, people could talk to each other, in Sheol they could not. Hades also had flames, and Sheol did not. Josephus wrote about it here: penelope.uchicago.edu/josephus/hades.html Commented Aug 13, 2023 at 15:26
  • @SaberTruthTiger says "You must be reckoning the tomb as "the heart of the earth"". I consider it a poetic form of "buried", and the tomb itself has a lot of earth above it. ¶ "Jesus died at 3pm so there were three hours", yes, but only a few minutes in the grave itself. Commented Aug 13, 2023 at 15:29
  • @SaberTruthTiger says "where Jesus went when he died". Just because the Greek word (and perhaps concept) became dominant, that doesn't change the original truth. Jesus's body went to the grave, and anything else associated with him went there too. Like everyone else that dies, he was unconscious, dead, and buried, with no justification for applying pagan Greek concepts to the experience. Commented Aug 13, 2023 at 15:36
  • When I quoted Josephus I was not claiming that Josephus was right, I am merely providing the reader with a first century CE understanding of Hades, which was very common in the ANE. I still believe Sheol would be appropriate in the case of Christian scriptures, and Jesus was NOT conscious when he was in Sheol awaiting the resurrection. I don't consider the alleged tomb of Jesus to be in the heart of the earth. It is on the surface of the earth and yes, there is a hill that rises atop it but the tomb itself is still on the surface of the earth. HWA once printed a photo of it. Commented Aug 13, 2023 at 15:46

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