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In the following verse

Matthew 27:62 Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate

Why didn't Matthew simply say "on the Sabbath"? Was there any special reason not to call Sabbath a Sabbath, but rather refer to it in such an obscured manner?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Circumlocution is an ambiguous or roundabout figure of speech. For example, instead of saying ‘Throw that in the trash bin’, one might say, ‘Throw that it in the oblong somewhat cone shaped silver container with a beveled lip'.

It seems to indicate an intentional avoidance of using the simple word and indicating that the Jewish Sabbath is no longer a valid institution after Christ died.

The argument of Matthew's use of circumlocution does not have clear intra-textural support, however as all understand Matthew to be focusing his account with more attention to its relationship to Jewish faith then the other gospels, the ideas is plausible.  John 19:31 and Mark 15:42 use similar language in describing the passover day, but only Matthew seems to skip the obvious word. It seems hard to imagine that a Jewish audience, Matthew's audience, would not notice it missing.

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Very interesting, Mike, and quite along with what I guessed, but do we have any proof for that explanation? –  brilliant Jul 12 '12 at 5:36
@brilliant - Added second para as 'proof' at least some proof. Cheers –  Mike Jul 12 '12 at 7:17
I see. Very interesting. Thank you. –  brilliant Jul 12 '12 at 8:08

Respectfully, I do not think the circumlocution theory properly explains this problem. Let me borrow an already published explanation as an answer to this question "On what day was Jesus crucified?" from "GotQuestions.org" (an excellent resource, by the way):

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 night (night one), Thursday day (day one), Friday night (night two), Friday day (day two), Saturday night (night three), Saturday day (day 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).

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