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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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  • @SaberTruthTiger, also see: Easter: The Untold Story and Christ's Resurrection Was Not on Sunday. Commented Dec 16, 2022 at 20:06
  • @Ray Butterworth I have read literature from the staff of Tomorrow's World many times over the years. When I was in my teens and mid twenties I was a co-worker in the Worldwide Church of God. I accepted the Wednesday Crucifixion but as the years went by I began to question some of my beliefs and Ieventually stopped believing in the Wednesday Crucifixion. If you want to read why I don't, just click on this: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/62640/… Commented Dec 16, 2022 at 23:54
  • It is 15 printed pages long but just look at it like a small booklet from Amazon Kindle. It may challenge you. I have contacted the Philadelphia Church of God and they have yet been unable to refute it. Commented Dec 16, 2022 at 23:57
  • I wouldn't mind discussing this with you but not here in the comments section. Read the link I provided and if you still want to discuss it we will need to find a way to discuss it, like with emails or something. Commented Dec 17, 2022 at 0:03
  • @SaberTruthTiger, I just commented on that post. (My e-mail address isn't difficult to discover: google "Ray Butterworth" with quotation marks, and ignore the hockey player and the funeral director.) Commented Dec 17, 2022 at 15:11

6 Answers 6

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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
    Commented Jul 12, 2012 at 5:36
  • @brilliant - Added second para as 'proof' at least some proof. Cheers
    – Mike
    Commented Jul 12, 2012 at 7:17
  • 1
    I cannot see any evidence for such a view because all the other evangelists used the word "Sabbath" after Jesus' death. The disciples observed it (because they would not embalm the body) and it appears regularly in Acts such as 13:14, 27, 42, 44, 15:21, 16:13, etc.
    – user25930
    Commented Jul 27, 2019 at 21:52
  • 2
    ... even more obviously, Matthew 28:1, a mere five verses after the quote, sets the resurrection "after the Sabbath, on the first day of the week". Matthew seems to be showing the passage of days using this style of being the day after the day before
    – Henry
    Commented Sep 29, 2020 at 15:47
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The simplest explanation is Matthew did not call it the Sabbath because it was not the Sabbath.

Literally, the seventh day weekly Sabbath is described by two words. It is a "sabbath of rest:"

“Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest (שַׁבַּ֤ת שַׁבָּתוֹן֙), a holy convocation. You shall do no work. It is a Sabbath to the Lord in all your dwelling places. (Leviticus 23:3) [ESV]

In addition to the 52 weekly sabbaths of rest, the entire 24-hours of Atonement is described as a day of Sabbath rest:

It shall be to you a Sabbath of solemn rest (שַׁבַּ֤ת שַׁבָּתוֹן֙), and you shall afflict yourselves. On the ninth day of the month beginning at evening, from evening to evening shall you keep your Sabbath (שַׁבַּתְּכֶֽם).” (Leviticus 23:32)

There are other days on the calendar on which work is prohibited. However, those days of rest are not specifically called a "Sabbath of rest." In particular, the day after the day of preparation is the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread and it is a day on which work is prohibited:

And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the Lord; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work. (Leviticus 23:6-7)

Neither of the words used to described the Sabbath are used to describe the first day of Unleavened Bread. One of the distinctions between the two is what is commanded:

Sabbath command: rest
Unleavened Bread command: do no ordinary work

Avoiding "ordinary work" does not necessarily mean a person will observe a day of solemn rest; while observing a day of solemn rest means a person will avoid all types of work, including "ordinary work." Regardless of actual practices, the different language in Leviticus is such to allow some "work" on the fist day of Unleavened Bread which is prohibited on the weekly Sabbath and the Day of Atonement.

Matthew has preserved this distinction between the first day of Unleavened Bread and the weekly Sabbath:

The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate...Now after the Sabbath... (27:62, 28:1)

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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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  • I'm curious about the Wednesday view, is there a year within a valid window (let's say 30-34?) where two Sabbaths landed on the days you claim? I'm aware alternate calendars exist, but in any calendar, does it fit a valid year?
    – Joshua
    Commented Apr 21, 2015 at 23:12
  • Check this link: judaismvschristianity.com/passover_dates.htm Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 5:27
  • Thanks that's interesting. I've personally been in favor of the 30 AD date. Is this chart saying in 30 AD that Passover started on April 7, Friday night into Saturday? Or is it saying it started the evening before...Friday, So it was Thursday night? Because other research I've read says Friday night into Saturday, thus aligned with the Sabbath. And of course, there's the matter of if we can believe the calendar at all. Sure we can use astronomy to figure it out going backward, how long from now, but we can't know what the days and dates were for sure at the time.
    – Joshua
    Commented Apr 27, 2015 at 2:08
  • The Hebrew day begins at sundown, so yes, Passover on 30AD begins on a Friday at sundown, meaning Passover occurred during a weekly Sabbath, meaning there was no time to purchase spices before the Sabbath, rest on the Sabbath and then prepare them after the Sabbath. I think the Wednesday crucifixion holds much weight. And 31 AD makes the best candidate for the date. Commented Apr 27, 2015 at 17:43
  • I understand, the column heading was just confusing on that chart. The issue I have with Wednesday view is that 1) it is all based on the demands of a specific reading of Mark 16. It does not demand that they did not simply buy the spices that morning, on the first day of the week. It seems like a big conclusion based on such little evidence. 2) in that view, Jesus is dead 4 days. As you admitted, the day begins at sundown. In your view Jesus died on Wednesday, was dead Thursday Friday and Saturday. It would be 4 nights too if he didn't rise before sundown Saturday. This is a problem.
    – Joshua
    Commented Apr 27, 2015 at 23:08
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Something right out of the ballpark. History of Latter Han Dynasty, volume 1, Chronicles of Emperor Gaung Wu, 7th year.

In the day of Gui Hai, the last day of the month, there was a solar eclipse. (The Emperor) avoided the Throne Room, suspended all military activities, and did not handle official business for five days. And he proclaimed, “My poor character has caused this calamity, that the sun and the moon were veiled. I am fearful and trembling. What can I say?... Anyone who presents a memorial is not allowed to mention the word ‘holy’.” Summer, fourth month (of the year), on the day of Ren Wu, the imperial edict reads, “yin and Yang have mistakenly switched, and the sun and moon were eclipsed. The sins of all people are now on one man. (The Emperor) proclaims pardon to all under heaven.”

Luk 23:44-46 KJV

44 And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. 45 And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst. 46 And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.

This solar and lunar eclipse was recorded in the Record of Latter Han Dynasty. Gui Hai was the last day of the third month in the spring, during the 7th year of Han Emperor Guang Wu (reigned A.D 25-57). That corresponds to A.D. 31, which means that this major eclipse happened 34 years after the astral events involving the magi! China’s imperial capital at the time was in Luo Yang about 5 hours east of Jerusalem. If the eclipse appeared from noon to 3 p.m. in Jerusalem, then in Luo Yang it would have been from around 5 to 8 p.m. This explains why the Chinese experienced both a solar and a lunar eclipse.

Even more incredibly, a commentary in the Record of the Latter Han Dynasty said simply, "Eclipse on the day of Gui Hai, Man from heaven died."

Faith of our Fathers. Chan Kei Thong. ISBN: 7-80186-506-5 Pages. 317-8. Of course, both the Sun and the Moon were 'Switched off' by God. There is no possibility of an eclipse of both the Sun and the Moon.

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Some commentators suggest the idea that it was a deliberate change of word to imply abolishing of Sabbath, however we know that there was never such abolishment happened in the Jewish church councils. The Jews always maintained their law practices of tradition, as we see in the book of Acts.

Benson commentary:

That is, after the sun was set, for the Jewish day began then. The day of preparation was the day before the sabbath, whereon they were to prepare for the celebration of it. The next day, then, (namely, Saturday,) was the sabbath, according to the Jews. But the evangelist seems to express it by this circumlocution, to show that the Jewish sabbath was then abolished.

Matt 28:1 RV says "Now late on the sabbath day Ὀψὲ δὲ σαββάτων, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre". He does use the word Sabbath, no indication of deliberate redaction of the name of the day.

However, it could simply be a way to use in the morrow ἐπαύριον to mean just the passing or change of the day, i.e. the Friday night, after the end of the day. A way to state that Sabbath had not really begun, it was still evening or nighttime.

Meyer commentary mentions that, "Michaelis, Paulus, Kuinoel suppose that it is the part of Friday after sunset that is intended, by which time, therefore, the Sabbath had begun".

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Matthew 27:62: "the day that followed the day of the preparation" - Why not call Sabbath a Sabbath?

In Matthew's chronology Jesus was crucified the day before the first day of unleavened Bread The first day of Unleavened Bread was not the weekly Sabbath in Matthew's account unlike the other three gospels that place Jesus' death on the day before the weekly Sabbath. Matthew's chronology places the day of Jesus' burial on a Wednesday or Thursday and his resurrection on the first day of the week which followed the weekly Sabbath. Matthew did not call the day after Jesus' death a Sabbath because in his account Jesus' death was not the day before the Sabbath.

The spurious gospel of Peter indicates a time period of least a day and a night between the death of Jesus and the Sabbath. See verse 27. earlychristianwritings.com/text/gospelpeter-brown.html

• Matthew's account indicates Jesus would be "three days and three nights" in the heart of the earth. Matthew 12:40. The other three gospels did not refer to three days and three nights. They repeatedly use "the third day" and "after three days". Mark did not refer to the sign of Jonah at all. In fact, Jesus is quoted as saying there would be no sign given that generation. Luke mentions Jesus gave the Jews the sign of the prophet of Jonah but did not mention three days and three nights. Only Matthew mentions the three nights and so he would place the crucifixion on a Wednesday or a Thursday.

The day of the crucifixion was not only the preparation of the weekly Sabbath but was the preparation of the first day of Unleavened Bread as well. The Preparation of the Passover in John 19:14,31 indicated the writer associated the Preparation with the one before the first day of Unleavened Bread as well as the weekly Sabbath.

The first day of Unleavened Bread had to be prepared for because it required a thorough cleaning of one's home for leaven. This required some work and inspection. It probably took only a couple hours for most homes. But it was still considered preparation.

The most common use of "preparation" in the time period during the second temple was Friday. Here are some of the translations of the greek word for preparation in that time period.

The preparation for the weekly Sabbath, however, fell on Friday and it was translated in various ways in the literature of the time. For example, the capitalized words below:

The Didache 8:1 reads: “But as for your fasts, let them not be with the hypocrites, for they fast on the second and fifth days of the week, but do ye fast on the fourth and SIXTH days…” Kirsopp Lake’s translates the second and fifth days as Mondays and Thursdays and the fourth and sixth days as Wednesdays and Fridays.

Judith 8:6 reads: “and she fasted all the days of her widowhood, save the EVES OF THE SABBATHS, and the sabbaths, and the eves of the new moons, and the new moons, and the feasts and solemn days of the house of Israel.

Polycarp 7:1 reads: “So taking the lad with them, on the FRIDAY about the supper hour, the gendarmes and horsemen went forth with their accustomed arms, hastening as against a robber.”

II Maccabees 8:25-26 reads: “And they took their money that came to buy them, and pursued them far but lacking time they returned: For it was the DAY BEFORE THE SABBATH, and therefore they would no longer pursue them.

Antiquities of the Jews 16.6.2 reads: “and they be not obliged to go before any judge on the Sabbath day, nor on the day of the PREPARATION to it, after the ninth hour.”

These show that Preparation was mostly used for the day before the weekly Sabbath.

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  • Note also that Matthew 28:1 says "*after the sabbaths", though most translations ignore that the Greek word is plural. Commented Dec 17, 2022 at 15:19
  • Most translations don't automatically translate plural Sabbaths as Sabbaths because it does not always mean plural Sabbaths. Plural spelling for sabbaths can sometimes be used for Sabbath even when a single day is in view. It could also be used for week. And since Nisan 15 was NOT a Sabbath we can know that Matthew 28:1a was either referring to the weekly Sabbath or week and in 28:1b was referring to the first day of the week. Commented Dec 17, 2022 at 18:30

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