1. Question - a Reference Request

In view of the question : Luke 23:54 - How should "Sabbath Dawning" be Interpreted?

Whether or not Luke is stating that the Sabbath began at dawn, or not - it seems there should be evidence to support either view, so :

Up to, and including, the Second Period Temple, What are the earliest texts and evidences substantiating - that the Jewish Calendar day began at Sunset?

2. Evidences up to and including the the Second Temple Period :

So, not Chrysostom - who may have relied on Rabbinic/Pharasaic authority after the Sadducees had been removed:

Homilies on Matthew (Chrysostom 349-407 CE), Homily 81 - ... he means the day before that feast; for they are accustomed always to reckon the day from the evening ...;

Or, Scriptural Evidence:

If an answer appeals to a supposed "Plain Meaning of Scripture" and has to explain that "plain meaning" - then, it is not a plain meaning. If it is truly "Plain" - then just provide the text, without commentary, flow charts, calendar diagrams, slideshow presentations, etc.

- Luke 23:54 - Historical Evidence that the Jewish Calendar Day began at Sunrise?
- Luke 23:54 - How should "Sabbath Dawning" be Interpreted?
- Do Idioms Used in the Crucifixion Narrative Resolve the "3 Day/3 Night" Objections?
- In the Gospels, How Should the Hours of the Day be Understood?
- Historical Evidence of the Sabbath Rest Beginning the Preceding Night?

  • One reason that that is possibly being avoided, is the pragmatic reason specific to Christians that in order to get three days in the grave with a Friday crucifixion, it requires the days to be accounted from evening to evening. It is in this context that I first heard of the evening to evening calendar day. After all, Christ rose before dawn and therefore before the third day if we are going Sunrise to Sunrise. Answers may want to account for this as well.
    – Joshua
    Commented Apr 4, 2016 at 21:35
  • Daniel 7:25 states there will be a future attempt to attempt to change times and law. So even if historical documentation proved a particular position, it may be that which is spoken of in Daniel and be a wrong understanding/application based on Scripture. As time is measured from the first day of creation, before man was created, the correct understanding of a day and measuring time must be based on and consistent with God's perspective put forth in the Genesis account of creation (as most answers include). Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 4:49
  • Israeli implies the modern nation (whereas "Israelite" is typically used of ancient Israel). Revised wording to clarify.
    – Dan
    Commented Mar 24, 2017 at 19:36
  • @elikakohen I definitely think it's on topic, but Israeli = modern Israel whereas Israelite = ancient Israel. It's semantic but wanted to clarify. If Jewish has too much of a "religious" emphasis, changing to "Israelite" would be fine, too. However, I think "Jewish" in this context best captures it since there is no ancient word for "religion" (culture, religion, politics were all intertwined and inseparable in many ways).
    – Dan
    Commented Mar 24, 2017 at 22:04

8 Answers 8


Clarification on Terms

My definitions for clarification.

  • Evening: The period of the Sun descending toward the horizon to set.
  • Sunset: The exact time the Sun is no longer visible above the horizon.
  • Evening Twilight: The period of decreasing light between Sunset and Dusk.
  • Dusk: The exact time all sunlight is no longer visible in the western sky.
  • Night: The period without the Sun's light in the sky.
  • Dawn: Exact time sunlight becomes indirectly visible in the eastern sky.
  • Morning Twilight: The period of increasing light between Dawn and Sunrise.
  • Sunrise: The exact time the Sun is visible above the horizon.
  • Daylight (a.k.a day): The period of the Sun's direct light in the sky.
  • Calendar Day (a.k.a. day): The period measuring a calendar day, which is what is under discussion.

Presuppositions Matter

I will stick with pre-Babylonian texts. However, note that I hold:

  • the Pentateuch as essentially completed at the time of Israel entering Canaan under Joshua (some updating of terms may apply)
  • The book of Job to be early

NOTE: All English translations from NKJV.

Hebrew "Evening"

The purpose here is to identify usage of Hebrew terms in relation to my terminology above.

Evening (עֶ֫רֶב) is used five ways

  1. Evening (עֶ֫רֶב) as pre-sunset

    Dt 23:11 shows evening used for the period prior to sunset (see also Lev 22:6-7):

    But it shall be, when evening comes [לִפְנֽוֹת־עֶ֖רֶב], that he shall wash with water; and when the sun sets [הַשֶּׁ֔מֶשׁ יָבֹ֖א], he may come into the camp.

    Jer 6:4-5 shows a progression of time, from a noon call, to a lament that the daylight shadows are lengthening at evening (Sun is still up), to a new call to go by night (Sun is set).

    "Prepare war against her; Arise, and let us go up at noon [צָהֳרַיִם]. Woe to us, for the day [יוֹם] goes away, For the shadows of the evening [עֶ֫רֶב] are lengthening. Arise, and let us go by night [לַ֫יְלָה], And let us destroy her palaces.”

  2. Evening (עֶ֫רֶב) as the start of twilight, i.e. sundown

    Josh 8:29 uses evening as a reference to a time that begins as the Sun goes down. Now, this idea of the Sun going down could be descending in the sky (still day, prior to twilight, just as #1), or descending below the horizon (sunset at twilight). I believe the reference here refers to the latter.

    And the king of Ai he hanged on a tree until evening [עַד־עֵ֣ת הָעָ֑רֶב; "until the time of the evening"]. And as soon as the sun was down [וּכְב֣וֹא הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ֩], Joshua commanded that they should take his corpse down from the tree, cast it at the entrance of the gate of the city, and raise over it a great heap of stones that remains to this day.

    NOTE: Further support is (A) the perfect tense of בוא is used of the Sun having finished the process of going down and it then being dark. For example, Gen 15:12, Abraham falls asleep during the time the Sun is moving toward going down (הַשֶּׁ֙מֶשׁ֙ לָב֔וֹא), and then more occurs after the sun had gone down v.17 (הַשֶּׁ֙מֶשׁ֙ בָּ֔אָה); c.f. Gen 28:11, Lev 22:7 [as given above]). (B) The infinitive construct of בוא, as found in Josh 8:29, is used to refer to the sundown point.

  3. Evening (עֶ֫רֶב) as dusk

    Pro 7:8-10 shows the movement of a naive youth Solomon is observing in the twilight time and an evening point that belong to a day, to the actual meeting in the dark of night following:

    8 Passing along the street near her corner; And he took the path to her house 9 In the twilight, in the evening [בְּנֶֽשֶׁף־בְּעֶ֥רֶב י֑וֹם], In the black and dark night [בְּאִישׁ֥וֹן לַ֝֗יְלָה וַאֲפֵלָֽה].
    10 And there a woman met him...

    It is possible that בְּנֶֽשֶׁף־בְּעֶ֥רֶב means simply "in the evening twilight," but נֶֽשֶׁף is in the absolute, not construct, and Hebrew modifiers typically are a construct form, so "in the twilight [construct] of the evening [absolute]" would be "in the evening twilight," where as here with the two absolutes, it likely names two points in time, closely related and specifically associated to the day (י֑וֹם), right before entering night. The order then is instructive, as the evening here is after twilight and before the night, so dusk. See also #5.

  4. Evening (עֶ֫רֶב) as the whole night

    Job 7:4 uses the term to refer to the whole of night

    When I lie down, I say, ‘When shall I arise, And the night [evening; עֶ֫רֶב] be ended?’ For I have had my fill of tossing till dawn [(morning) twilight; נֶ֫שֶׁף].

  5. Evening in the dual with preposition between (בֵּ֥ין הָעַרְבָּֽיִם) probably refers to twilight

    The lexicons (BDB, HALOT) note the probability that the dual form with this preposition refers to between the two evenings, which means in my terminology, between the #2 עֶ֫רֶב (sundown) and the #3 עֶ֫רֶב (dusk), i.e., evening twilight.

Twilight (נֶ֫שֶׁף) was used in either evening or morning relation

The Pro 7:8-10 and Job 7:4 passages above show examples of evening and morning twilight (נֶ֫שֶׁף) respectively. The term had flexibility, just as the English word twilight.

Hebrew's Definition of Calendar Day found in the Passover Passages

Passover Exodus 12:1-51 (Key verses only; some non-timing verses elided)

... 2 “This month shall be your beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you. 3 Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying: ‘On the tenth of this month every man shall take for himself a lamb, according to the house of his father, a lamb for a household.... 6 Now you shall keep it until [עַד] the fourteenth day of the same month. Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight [בֵּ֥ין הָעַרְבָּֽיִם, "between the evenings"].

COMMENT: The עַד can mean until as in up to the point of (i.e., right as the 14th day starts, it is killed) or it can mean until as in as long as (i.e., through the 14th day, but not to exceed it). The point here is that on the 14th the lamb must be killed, whichever the case for עַד.

7 And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it. 8 Then they shall eat the flesh on that night [בַּלַּ֣יְלָה הַזֶּ֑ה]; roasted in fire, with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs they shall eat it. ... 10 You shall let none of it remain until morning [עַד־בֹּ֑קֶר], and what remains of it until morning [עַד־בֹּ֖קֶר] you shall burn with fire. 11 And thus you shall eat it: with a belt on your waist, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. So you shall eat it in haste. It is the LORD’s Passover.

COMMENT: The eating of the lamb was at night, i.e. after evening as it was being sacrificed at evening, so it needed to be roasted first (roughly from 2.5 to 5 hours needed for that). But note (a) that they were to eat it while dressed for travel, and (b) the time of the eating of it is the Passover (i.e. at night), because (cont.)

12 ‘For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night [לַּ֣יְלָה], and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD. ...

(cont.) the Passover meal observance is commemorating the night that God passed over Egypt and killed the firstborn that were not covered by the blood. So the Passover is at night.

14 ‘So this day [הַיּ֨וֹם] shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD throughout your generations. ...

COMMENT: This passage is declaring a "day"to be a memorial. The day the lamb was sacrificed? The day it was eaten? Or both (if it is the same day)? That relates to the overall question here.

15 Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day [בַּיּ֣וֹם הָרִאשׁ֔וֹן] you shall remove leaven from your houses. For whoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. 16 On the first day [בַּיּ֣וֹם הָרִאשׁ֔וֹן] there shall be a holy convocation, and on the seventh day there shall be a holy convocation for you. No manner of work shall be done on them; but that which everyone must eat—that only may be prepared by you. 17 So you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this same day [הַיּ֣וֹם] I will have brought your armies out of the land of Egypt. Therefore you shall observe this day [הַיּ֥וֹם] throughout your generations as an everlasting ordinance. 18 In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at evening [בָּעֶ֔רֶב], you shall eat unleavened bread, until the twenty-first day of the month at evening [בָּעָֽרֶב].

COMMENT: Notice: (1) both the 1st and 7th day of the memorial are a "holy convocation" without work. This is the "high Sabbath" concept, a special Sabbath (v.15-16). (2) that this seven day span is The Feast of Unleavened Bread, beginning on the day God brought them out of Egypt (v.17). (3) a critical point in v.18, that one of the two "at evenings" mentioned cannot actually be considered part of one of the two numerical days mentioned (14th/21st) because then the command for not eating leaven would span for eight calendar days' time, not seven, as it would not be allowed on (portions of) the 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th, and 21st (= 8 days). This means either "at evening" on the 14th/21st is a term for the transition point to the 15th/22nd (the 7 days being 15th-21st) or "at evening" on the 14th/21st refers to the transition from the 13th/20th to the 14th/21st (7 days is 14th-20th). Significantly, whichever is intended, they both testify to a transition of numbering the days occurring at the evening period. (4) that the eating of the lamb would be in the night and unleavened bread was to be eaten with it, so the beginning of not eating leaven was in the night hours, and the night was part of the "days" in which no eating of leaven could occur, so we are talking about calendar days (not just daylight).

19 For seven days no leaven shall be found in your houses, since whoever eats what is leavened, that same person shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is a stranger or a native of the land. ... 21 Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Pick out and take lambs for yourselves according to your families, and kill the Passover lamb. 22 And you shall take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. And none of you shall go out of the door of his house until morning [עַד־בֹּֽקֶר].

COMMENT: A reiteration of seven, not eight, days. The command was given to not go out "until morning."

23 For the LORD will pass through to strike the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and not allow the destroyer to come into your houses to strike you. ... 27 that you shall say, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice of the LORD, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt when He struck the Egyptians and delivered our households.’ ” So the people bowed their heads and worshiped. ... 29 And it came to pass at midnight [בַּחֲצִ֣י הַלַּ֗יְלָה] that the LORD struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of livestock. 30 So Pharaoh rose in the night [לַ֗יְלָה], he, all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where there was not one dead. 31 Then he called for Moses and Aaron by night [לַ֗יְלָה], and said, “Rise, go out from among my people, both you and the children of Israel. And go, serve the LORD as you have said. 32 Also take your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and be gone; and bless me also.” 33 And the Egyptians urged the people, that they might send them out of the land in haste. For they said, “We shall all be dead.” 34 So the people took their dough before it was leavened, having their kneading bowls bound up in their clothes on their shoulders.

COMMENT: Notice that Pharaoh calls for Israel to leave in the night, and there was an urging and hastening of the Egyptians to get the Israelites out.

... 37 Then the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides children. ... 39 And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough which they had brought out of Egypt; for it was not leavened, because they were driven out of Egypt and could not wait, nor had they prepared provisions for themselves.

COMMENT: Note the reasoning for why the bread was not leavened; it was the haste they left in. The instructions for the future memorial of Passover required no leaven for seven days, but that was reflecting the experience of Israel because they left in haste.

... 42 It is a night [לַ֫יִל] of solemn observance to the LORD for bringing them out of the land of Egypt. This is that night [הֽוּא־הַלַּ֤יְלָה הַזֶּה֙] of the LORD, a solemn observance for all the children of Israel throughout their generations.

COMMENT: The Passover is an observance performed in the night.

... 46 In one house it shall be eaten; ... 51 And it came to pass, on that very same day, that the LORD brought the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt according to their armies.

COMMENT: The calendar day in which the Passover was eaten (i.e., in the night), is the same day Israel came out of Egypt.


What has been learned and what needs clarification thus far:

  • Calendar days must transition in the evening, as that is the only explanation for the calendar date records given of the 14th-21st being able to account for 7 days of unleavened observance (v.15, 18-19); this fact alone answers the OP's question directly.
    1. But which is correct for the 7 days: 14th-20th or 15th-21st? Another passage below helps answer that.
    2. What is the evening point that is the actual transition to a new calendar day? prior to sundown? sundown? or dusk? or in the night itself (midnight, etc.)? The following point helps narrow the field.
  • The Passover sacrifice for the night feast occurs between the evenings, which at the least refers to something prior to dusk and the night proper. That it had to be killed on the 14th is important to remember (v.6).
  • The Passover feast is an observance occurring in the night (v.8).
  • Israel was released in the night (i.e., early morning while still night, after the midnight slaying of the firstborn; v.31).
  • Israel left the same calendar day as the Passover, first journeying from Rameses (v.37).

Numbers 33:3-4 Clarifies the Calendar Days

3 They departed from Rameses in the first month, on the fifteenth day of the first month; on the day after the Passover the children of Israel went out with boldness in the sight of all the Egyptians. 4 For the Egyptians were burying all their firstborn, whom the LORD had killed among them. Also on their gods the LORD had executed judgments

These reveal what Exodus 12 did not. In order to not be a contradiction, the "at evening" of Ex 12:18 had to refer to the very end of the evening of the 14th that transitions to the 15th, with the Feast of Unleavened Bread being the 15th up to the end of the evening of the 21st (right before it transitions to the 22nd). It must be this, because here in Numbers it clearly states they left Rameses on the 15th, which was the first departure point, and they departed the same calendar day as when they ate the feast (Ex 12:37). So here in Numbers 33:3, "the day after the Passover" is referring not to the calendar day after, but that they were departing during the daytime after the night of the feast and LORD's Passover of Egypt, during which daylight hours of the same day the Egyptians were burying the dead from the night before.

The above answers one of the remaining questions from the Exodus 12 passage, and helps to answer the second:

The Feast of Unleavened Bread is which Days?

  • From Ex 12:18 a calendar date must transition in the evening
  • The Passover sacrifice had to be on the 14th, for it was "until" then that they kept the lamb
  • The Passover sacrifice had to be killed "between the evenings" (twilight), making twlight still the 14th.
  • The first eating of unleavened bread occurred with the eating of that lamb in the night, which was the new calendar day
  • Which new day was the 15th, as that was the date of the daylight time following after the Passover feast of the night
  • So then the "at evening" of the 14th that started the 7 days of unleavened bread was the end of 14th/start of 15th transition point, making the feast from the 15th-21st up to the "at evening" of the 21st that would transition to the 22nd. This dating is confirmed elsewhere in the text (Lev 23:6-8; Num 28:17).

Actual Time of Transition to New Date?

From the Numbers 33 passage, a transition occurs from the 14th to the 15th sometime in relation to the night, because Israel ate the Passover in the night, which was also on the same day as they left Egypt, the 15th. The earliest the 15th could arrive is dusk (the start of night) because: - The lamb had to be killed on the 14th. - The lamb was killed "between the evenings" (at twilight), showing twilight was still 14th.

But when in the evening (per Exo 12:18) did the calendar date change? The evidence indicates dusk, not midnight or otherwise.

  1. The term evening (עֶ֫רֶב) very rarely is used to refer to the whole of night, for besides Job 7:4, there is no clear reference of it referring to the night proper; so that use may even be unique. The normal singular uses refer to periods of time pre-sunset, sundown, or dusk. All except dusk is ruled out based on the above two bullet points.
  2. Evening must point to a specific time for calendar date transition, so a general use for the whole night (like Job 7:4) cannot refer to a transition point. And there is no evidence at all that evening refers to some point within the midst of the night.
  3. In Exodus 12, the terms evening (עֶ֫רֶב; v.18) and night (לַ֗יְלָה; v.8, 12) are both used. If the transition occurred sometime in the midst of the night, then v.18 dating associations could have read: "In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at midnight, you shall eat unleavened bread, until the twenty-first day of the month at midnight." That is, the choice of "evening" appears intentional and distinct from the mentions of night or midnight (also distinguished in v.29).
  4. Other confirming evidences:
    • Sundown was the time in which the 7th day ended during Samson's riddle (see Judges 14:12-18 discussion below).
    • A day's wages were to be paid by sundown (Dt 24:15), indicating the reckoning of the day did not extend past dusk.
    • David considered sundown the end of his day of mourning for Abner (2 Sam 3:35).
    • Jeremiah refers to sundown during the day to make a premature reference to the ending of that day (Jer 15:9).

Therefore, the reader is left with no reason to doubt the transition of dates occurs "at evening," meaning dusk, the transition out of the twilight of the 14th to the night of the 15th, which is the day Israel left Rameses.

Note that the above information matches Wikipedia's Passover entry, a term for the Feast of Unleavened Bread (bold emphasis added):

Passover commences on the 15th of the Hebrew month of Nisan and lasts for either seven days (in Israel) and for Reform Jews and other progressive Jews around the world who adhere to the Biblical commandment or eight days for Orthodox, Hasidic, and most Conservative Jews (in the diaspora). In Judaism, a day commences at dusk and lasts until the following dusk, thus the first day of Passover only begins after dusk of the 14th of Nisan and ends at dusk of the 15th day of the month of Nisan. The rituals unique to the Passover celebrations commence with the Passover Seder when the 15th of Nisan has begun.

Reading Deut 16:1-8

1 “Observe the month of Abib, and keep the Passover to the LORD your God, for in the month of Abib the LORD your God brought you out of Egypt by night [לַ֫יְלָה].

COMMENT: Note that Israel was "brought out" by night, because they originally began leaving sometime in the early morning hours of night after the command of Pharaoh was given.

2 Therefore you shall sacrifice the Passover to the LORD your God, from the flock and the herd, in the place where the LORD chooses to put His name. 3 You shall eat no leavened bread with it; seven days you shall eat unleavened bread with it, that is, the bread of affliction (for you came out of the land of Egypt in haste), that you may remember the day in which you came out of the land of Egypt all the days of your life.

COMMENT: Again we see the tie to why unleavened bread is eaten, because of the haste of leaving early that first day.
Now v.4 is my more literal translation of the Hebrew, because I believe the NKJV does not best reflect the terms in the Hebrew and showing how the verse meshes with the facts from the above verses. the Hebrew is: וְלֹֽא־יֵרָאֶ֨ה לְךָ֥ שְׂאֹ֛ר בְּכָל־גְּבֻלְךָ֖ שִׁבְעַ֣ת יָמִ֑ים וְלֹא־יָלִ֣ין מִן־הַבָּשָׂ֗ר אֲשֶׁ֨ר תִּזְבַּ֥ח בָּעֶ֛רֶב בַּיּ֥וֹם הָרִאשׁ֖וֹן לַבֹּֽקֶר

4 And leaven shall not be seen among you in all your territory seven days, and there shall not remain overnight from the flesh that you sacrifice in the evening, in the first day to the morning.

COMMENT: The distinction of this translation is reflecting the Hebrew order in that the מִן־הַבָּשָׂ֗ר אֲשֶׁ֨ר תִּזְבַּ֥ח בָּעֶ֛רֶב is the subject of what is to not remain overnight, "from the flesh that you sacrifice in the evening" of the 14th, while the following בַּיּ֥וֹם הָרִאשׁ֖וֹן לַבֹּֽקֶר is an adverbial modifier to the overnight verb (וְלֹא־יָלִ֣ין) to not have it remain "in the first day to the morning" of the 15th, the first day of unleavened bread.

5 “You may not sacrifice the Passover within any of your gates which the LORD your God gives you; 6 but at the place where the LORD your God chooses to make His name abide, there you shall sacrifice the Passover at twilight [עֶ֫רֶב, not נֶ֫שֶׁף], at the going down of the sun, at the time [or assembly for?] you came out of Egypt.

COMMENT: First, translating עֶ֫רֶב as "twilight" is informed by Exodus 12, as to when in the evening the Passover sacrifice was made, and here clarifies Exodus 12's "between evenings" was "at the going down of the sun." Second, the final Hebrew phrase מוֹעֵ֖ד צֵֽאתְךָ֥ מִמִּצְרָֽיִם, which the NKJV translates as "at the time you came out of Egypt," does not match the time of the sacrifice and the going down of the sun. The Hebrew term מוֹעֵד can also mean "assembly meeting" (HALOT sees assembly as the primary meaning, whereas BDB ranks appointed time as primary; both recognize both possibilities). I think a better translation would be "at the assembly for you coming out of Egypt," meaning the place God chooses is where they assemble to do the sacrifice for commemorating their coming out of Egypt.

7 And you shall roast and eat it in the place which the LORD your God chooses, and in the morning you shall turn and go to your tents. 8 Six days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a sacred assembly to the LORD your God. You shall do no work on it.

Passover on the 14th

A few more passages note the Passover is on the 14th: Lev 23:5; Num 9:1–5, 28:16. These all are in reference to the sacrifice timing itself, as the first two note it is "between the evenings," which was the time for the sacrifice. In other words, it was still important to observe the sacrifice at the right time late on the 14th, so that the Passover meal itself could be on the night of the 15th.

A Few Select Confirmations

I'll just give two passages that also show that evening was the transition between calendar days.

Leviticus 23:26-32

This passage affirms what was learned in detail from the Passover study. The phrasing "at evening" on a numerical date, when it is referring to a transition to another numerical date (such as the Passover's 14th "at evening" transitioning to 15th), refers to the absolute end point of the date noted, and the beginning of the next date. So this passage is only saying that the Day of Atonement and the afflictions of it occur on the 10th day, not the 9th day at all, as the 9th is only in reference to "at evening" to indicate the whole day of the 10th is the Day of Atonement, from nightfall to the next nightfall.

26 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 27 “Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to the LORD. 28 And you shall do no work on that same day, for it is the Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the LORD your God. 29 For any person who is not afflicted in soul on that same day shall be cut off from his people. 30 And any person who does any work on that same day, that person I will destroy from among his people. 31 You shall do no manner of work; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. 32 It shall be to you a sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict your souls; on the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening, you shall celebrate your sabbath.”

The passage is clear that the 10th is the Day of Atonement, that it is the day of no work and affliction of the soul. The 9th "at evening" is the same type of reference to indicate the start of the 10th as the 14th was of the 15th for the Passover.

Judges 14:12-18

Here we see that the men had a deadline in which to answer the riddle of Samson. Seven days, the time of the feast, and they answered it at the last moment, in the evening, before a new day would have begun.

12 Then Samson said to them, “Let me pose a riddle to you. If you can correctly solve and explain it to me within the seven days of the feast, then I will give you thirty linen garments and thirty changes of clothing. 13 But if you cannot explain it to me, then you shall give me thirty linen garments and thirty changes of clothing.” And they said to him, “Pose your riddle, that we may hear it.” 14 So he said to them:

“Out of the eater came something to eat, And out of the strong came something sweet.”

Now for three days they could not explain the riddle. 15 But it came to pass on the seventh day that they said to Samson’s wife, “Entice your husband, that he may explain the riddle to us, or else we will burn you and your father’s house with fire. Have you invited us in order to take what is ours? Is that not so?” ... 17 Now she had wept on him the seven days while their feast lasted. And it happened on the seventh day that he told her, because she pressed him so much. Then she explained the riddle to the sons of her people. 18 So the men of the city said to him on the seventh day before the sun went down:

“What is sweeter than honey? And what is stronger than a lion?”

And he said to them:

“If you had not plowed with my heifer, You would not have solved my riddle!”

Sundown was the end of the day.


The pre-exilic text of Scripture gives the answer. To the question:

Are there any historical texts - which the the earliest Church may have relied on to make this decision?

The earliest historical texts indicating the Biblical Calendar Day started in the evening are some of the earliest texts of the Hebrew Scriptures, the Pentateuch. There are no equivalent earlier texts advocating another view, because there was no question about that throughout Israelite history in Scripture. How much Babylonian influence was on these texts entirely depends upon one's presuppositions in coming to the text as to whether the Pentateuch was Mosaic authored (my view) or not, but even as the latter link shows, the primary sources used above to make my argument are considered pre-exile.

  • This is impressive, and I admit to not having digested all of it just yet, but unless I'm missing something -- wasn't the question about 1st C. (or at least 2nd temple) practices? Your own presupposition puts these texts long before that. I guess you're assuming things like calendar reckoning did not change? (I have no knowledge in this area, but Dick's answer seems to indicate that this did change, and I see no reason to dismiss that out of hand.)
    – Susan
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 22:20
  • @Susan: Apparently the question changed some while I was composing, as I quoted what the question was when I started in my conclusion. It does appear the question has morphed some, but I think the Hebrew Scriptures themselves are still the "earliest" basis for the view, which is still a question asked. I'll edit that revised question in.
    – ScottS
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 22:33
  • @Susan: Also notice that while I do have my own presuppositions about the dating of the text, observe that the two primary passages I use to argue for dating, Exodus 12 and Numbers 33 even Dick's answer notes are pre-Exilic. So my argument supports a pre-Exile dating of sunset to sunset, showing it was not an adoption of Babylonian dating, but an earlier dating system the Hebrews shared with them.
    – ScottS
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 22:42
  • (really not trying to argue, I just don't understand what you're saying in relation to my concern) If we all agree the Pentateuch is pre-exilic, how can it provide evidence for what was going on in the 1st C.? (The Q as it stands has a heading "evidences must be in the second temple period, although I realize the point there is to exclude later texts.)
    – Susan
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 22:48
  • @Susan: Not all date the entire Pentateuch as pre-exilic; note in Dick's answer where he notes some view at least parts of Genesis 1 as post-exile, and I know some view Deuteronomy as post also. Hence why I emphasized agreement on the texts I noted. But you are correct, I read the question as excluding "later" texts (as stated, "to avoid circularity"), but clearly the question is seeking "earliest texts and evidences," and I dare say one is not going to find earlier texts on the matter than Exodus and Numbers, and those clearly existed in 2nd temple period.
    – ScottS
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 22:54

Jewish culture during the Second Temple period was heavily influenced by the Babylonians. E. G. Richards says in Mapping Time, pages 221-222, that the seven-day Jewish week, although of great antiquity, was possibly of Babylonian origin. During the Babylonian Captivity the Jews adopted the Babylonian calendar and began to use month names that were based on Babylonian names, replacing the earlier Canaanite names for the months.

There is evidence that before the Captivity, the Jews began the 24-hour day at sunrise. However, the Babylonian practice was to mark the day from sunset to sunset, a tradition that we find in later Jewish reckoning. This has resulted in some confusion between pre-Exilic writing, such as in Exodus 12:17-29; Numbers 33:3, and post-Exilic writing such as Genesis 1:1-2:4a:

Genesis 1:5b: And the evening and the morning were the first day.

Certainly, modern Christians believe that the biblical day began at sunset, although few Christians would be aware of any difference between First Temple and Second Temple calendar reckoning. However the issue should be what the earliest Christians believed. For this, we can go to the Gospel of Mark, because this was written around 70 CE, at the end of the Second Temple period and before any influence by later Rabbinic thinking. It does not specifically say that the Jews of the early part of the first century believed the day to start at sundown, but it is strongly implied by the urgency of having Jesus taken from the cross before nightfall:

Mark 15:42-43: And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, Joseph of Arimathaea, an honourable counsellor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus.

Yosef Green says in 'When Does The Day Begin' (an online contribution for Jewishbible.org):

It is beyond doubt that mainstream Judaism understood "day" to commence at sundown and to end at the ensuing nightfall. Accordingly, the Sabbath is taken to extend from Friday evening [erev Shabbat] to Saturday evening [b'motza'ei Shabbat].

Green goes on to explain how later Rabbinic scholars began to question the validity of this tradition. He says that to this day, the question remains undecided. However, Christians are not so much influenced by Rabbinic arguments about when the day ought to begin, but by the tradition extant at the time of Jesus.

  • @elikakohen A. My Greek is still too rudimentary to handle the aorist, so I defer to you. I wonder if the aorist is sufficiently indefinite, compared to the perfect tense? I would also point out that Mark does sometimes make mistakes at the level of minor detail at least. B. It was not I who said "It is beyond doubt mainstream Judaism understood 'day' to commence at sundown. " I merely cited Yosef Green, rabbi emeritus of Beit Knesset Moreshet Israel in Jerusalem . They were his words. Commented Apr 3, 2016 at 1:10
  • @elikakohen In view of your comment, was looking for a reference to when the Sadducees believed the day to start. I haven't found one, but I came across the notion of two evenings - the first when the sun touched the horizon and the second when it was completely dark. I then considered that "when evening had come" (Mark) could refer to the first of these 'evenings', while it was still Day of Preparation. Commented Apr 3, 2016 at 1:25
  • I don't understand why you write that Exodus 12:17-29 implies that the day begins at sunrise. I thought that it implied the opposite. In fact, I don't know of anything in the Pentateuch that implies that the day begins at sunrise except for maybe Genesis 8:22 (and even that is weak). Commented Dec 12, 2017 at 20:49

The text that I will provide below may not be one of "the earliest" texts substantiating that the Jewish calendar day began at sunset, but it may be one of the weightiest, at least for Christians.

Now on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene comes to the tomb early, it being still dark, and she sees the stone having been removed from the tomb. (Jn 20:1, Berean Literal Bible)

John is stating most clearly that "the first day of the week", i.e. Sunday, had already begun while "it being still dark", i.e. before sunrise. Therefore, for John calendar days began at sunset (*).

(*) Unless an argument were made that John used Roman time reckoning, whereby for him Calendar days began at midnight, which IMV would be preposterous.

  • Johannes - I feel that this answer might be improperly equating "evening" and "darkness". John 6:16-17 shows that these words were not used interchangeably - "16 Now when evening came, ... 17 ... It had already become dark". Isaiah 16:3, (Septuagint) shows that "darkness" is not limited to "night". And, it is true that there is darkness at dawn. I +1'ed this because it cites a context that actually provides a "gloss", (explanation of a term) - but doesn't get into commentary or tradition. Thank you very much. Commented Dec 10, 2017 at 21:10

I wrestled with the evening or morning question for ages. Both views have convincing scriptural support and both views each have a cadre of passionate supporters. To further complicate things for me, I am an ardent supporter of Luni-Solar calendation which defines when I observe YHWH's appointed times (including Sabbath). One day a penny dropped for me that has helped me immeasurably. I had until that time been totally dismissive of the possibility that the scriptural day might start at midnight believing that midnight was something that was strictly a Roman initiative. In my search for good info about midnight I found that midnight start to a day is not a modern invention and that it has been around for just as long as sunrise and sunset (also midday). I found that if I applied a midnight bent to every piece of scripture quoted by the sunset and the sunrise supporters, there was no violence done to any of the scripture and all the controversy vanished. Poof! Gone! Amazing! Midnight beautifully fits the Passover narrative and it also beautifully fits the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Ya'shua narrative. In both cases Nissan 14 ended at midnight and Nissan 15 began at midnight. In the Passover narrative there was plenty of time to kill, butcher, roast and consume the Passover lamb on Nissan 14 before midnight then begin the Exodus march on Nissan 15 soon after the midnight visitation of the Angel of Death. In the crucifixion, burial and resurrection narrative there was plenty of time to give Ya'shua a decent burial on Nissan 14 before the onset of midnight which begins Sabbath on Nissan 15.

I am gobsmacked by the lengths that folk go to to forensically define 'evening' and 'morning'. They are so smart they outsmart themselves in my view. My definition that beautifully fits with 'midnight' beginning a new day, is this. Evening and morning both comprise 12 hours and are book-ended by midday and midnight. 'Between the evenings' is the mid point between the 'evening' bookends, ie, at 6pm. Morning can be broken down into smaller chunks, like for example, very early morning, early morning, morning, late morning. Evening can be broken down into smaller chunks, like for example, early afternoon, late afternoon, evening, late evening. You can take your pick really. Describe them as you like and others will quite readily understand what you mean. Did Mary Magdalene and co not show up at Ya'shuas grave very early in the morning while it was still dark on the first day of the week after the Sabbath had ended (at midnight)? See what I mean when I claim that midnight 'does no violence' to scripture!

For me, midnight makes Sabbath observance a no-brainer. I no longer care what time the sun sets or rises. Sabbath for me begins when I get out of bed in the morning and ends when I climb back in at night. The day changes from one to the next while I sleep, when I am past caring really. Beautiful. So wonderfully simple.

All you folk hung up on 'evening' and 'morning' scenarios can please yourselves but 'me and mine' we are sold on midnight so that's what we do. We love it! I hope that I at least get a few people thinking with this post. Midnight has changed my life. It has lifted a huge weight off my shoulders and removed a very troublesome stumbling block that was dogging my ability to solve some apparent scriptural contradictions. Phew!!!



does passover begin at or about sunset on April 4th thru sunset april 5th , or does in begin on or about April 5th thu sunset april 6th ...2023?


What evidences are there that the biblical calendar day started in the evening?

The plain reading of scripture would have been relied on by the earliest church, with the clearest understanding of how a day is defined being found in Leviticus:

Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD. ... Ye shall do no manner of work: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. It shall be unto you a sabbath of rest, and ye shall afflict your souls: in the ninth day of the month at even, from even unto even, shall ye celebrate your sabbath.
-- Leviticus 23:27-32 (KJV)

Sabbaths are to be celebrated from even unto even, and to make sure nobody misunderstood regarding the Sabbath on "tenth day of the seventh month", it begins when the "ninth day of the seventh month" ends.

If the "tenth day of the seventh month" is defined in this way then so must the ninth and the eleventh, and by induction, so must all the days of the Jewish calendar.

Instructions concerning the Passover meal:

The instructions concerning the Passover lamb:

Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats: And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening.
-- Exodus 12:5-6

The word "evening" here, is a rendering of the Hebrew word hā-‘ar-bā-yim, where the LXX gives προς εσπεραν. This Greek expression is found only once in the NT:

And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further. But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them.
-- Luke 24:27-29

From this, it is pretty clear that προς εσπεραν, and hence the Hebrew hā-‘ar-bā-yim, refers to a time at the end of the day when daylight is fading, which is traditionally the time when meal preparation begins.

No contradictions, and no anomalies

Putting it all together, the events that finally brought about the Exodus of Israel from Egypt, occurred as follows:

enter image description here

The label "Passover meal" in the graphic above, refers to the beginning of the process that starts with the killing of the lamb and ends with its consumption. Since the lamb must be roasted with fire, it is not possible to indicate when it would be eaten. Exodus 12:8 simply says, "they shall eat the flesh in that night", which means any time during the hours of darkness. Anything not eaten before morning must be burned in the fire (Exodus 12:10).

To be saved from the plague that finally moved Pharaoh to let them go from Egypt, and to be prepared for their exodus, the Hebrews had to:

  1. remove leaven from their houses during Nisan 14 -- "even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses" (Exodus 12:15). This was necessary so that the bread they baked for the meal that night would be suitable.

  2. kill a lamb, now called "the passover" (Exodus 12:21), towards the end of Nisan 14, and paint the lintel and posts of their houses with its blood.

  3. roast the lamb with fire and eat it that night with bitter herbs and the unleavened bread they'd baked. Clearly, Nisan 14 had become Nisan 15 by the time they ate this meal.

  • Elika, there is no mistake in the timeline. Exodus 12:29 says the firstborn were struck at midnight AFTER the Passover meal. Pharaoh then rose up and urged Moses to take his people and go, which they did on the morning of Nisan 15, just as it is shown in my graphic and exactly as Numbers 33:3 records it. The fact that you see the text as contradictory, should be a CLEAR indication that something is not right with your thinking.
    – enegue
    Commented Apr 4, 2016 at 7:48
  • Elika, you say "If the Calendar Day Began in the Evening - Then This Makes No Sense:", referring to Exodus 12:17-29 and Numbers 33:3. Those passages make perfect sense, as I've illustrated. They don't make sense to you because you are being stubborn in regard to the obvious configuration of Jewish days - from EVEN to EVEN.
    – enegue
    Commented Apr 4, 2016 at 10:10
  • Elika, you say "You shall keep [the lamb] until the fourteenth day of the same month ... to kill it at twilight (הָעַרְבָּֽיִם), (not on the chart)". It is on the chart, and there is an arrow pointing to it. Do you see the arrow at the bottom of the green box labeled "Nisan 14"? It is pointing from the text "Passover meal" to the part of the bar that transitions from yellow to black.
    – enegue
    Commented Apr 4, 2016 at 10:14
  • I have edited my answer in regard to point F. The Day of Atonement is relevant because it gives the clearest expression of the Jewish notion of a day - from EVEN to EVEN, which is the evidence you were asking for.
    – enegue
    Commented Apr 4, 2016 at 10:35
  • Elika, it is so very simple. I can't possibly make it any more so. Sorry!
    – enegue
    Commented Apr 4, 2016 at 11:26

The following is based from an understanding that:

a) Moses was the chief reporter of the information provided in the Pentateuch, which provides bases for what “should be”, b) the systems of day, week, month and year given Moses were rather unique compared to other systems, c) Genesis chapter 1 provides basic details for a definition for a “day”, d) there will be no extra-biblical references made herein, e) use of the Concordant Literal Version (CLV) is used throughout via the free program, Interlinear Scripture Analyzer 2 (ISA basic 2.0 rc6), f) the following is not supported by any other present or historical resources, except the Bible. I simply have been unable to locate any such resources/support. It is not my intent to fly in the face of other more credible traditional or historical evidence – just reading the Bible.

CLV Gn 1:1 IN A BEGINNING Created by the Elohim were the heavens and the earth. :2 Yet the earth became a chaos and vacant, and darkness was on the surface of the submerged chaos. Yet the spirit of the Elohim is vibrating over the surface of the water. :3 And saying is the Elohim, "Become light!" And it is becoming light. :4 And seeing is the Elohim the light, that it is good. And separating is the Elohim between the light and the darkness. :5 And calling is the Elohim the light "day," and the darkness He calls "night." And coming is it to be evening and coming to be morning, day one.

Genesis 1:4 finds the light being separated for the darkness.

enter image description here

Genesis 1:5a provides working details for further refinement of the terms “light” and “darkness” without eliminating either. “Day” is now correlated to “Light” and “Night” with “Darkness”.

enter image description here

Genesis 1:5b defines “day one” with two terms not previously defined, that is to say, “evening” and “morning”. This seems to be the genesis point for many and sundry perspectives regarding the term “evening”. Verse 5 would seem to define “day one” as consisting of evening and morning. In the order of “day one” it is noted that “evening” arrives prior to “morning”.

IF evening is a period of time that commences “day one” and “morning” is a period of time that completes “day one”, then “night” must occur between the evening and morning designations. As an aside, I do like the notion that Light existed prior to Night and will exist long after Night is completed.

enter image description here

The above diagram would depict the perspective thus given. Add another day to the sequence and a pattern develops. Each new day begins with evening, which is often referred to as “high noon” in my vernacular.

enter image description here

Now, at least one glaring point needs to be addresses (probably others as well). Where is it determined that “evening” actually consists of daylight hours?

Searching in ISA there will be found fourteen occurrences of the Hebrew word (הָעַרְבָּיִם – e ◦orbim) translated “the-evening hours” in the Concordant Literal Version (CLV), except in 1 Kings 17:4, 2 Chronicles 26:7 and Isaiah 15:7. The translation given in these three verses totally escapes me. The eleven verses translated “the-evening hours” are Exodus 12:6, 16:12, 29:39, 41, 30:8; Leviticus 23:5; Numbers 9:5, 11; 28:4, 8. “The evening hours” offers good meaning though the word is simply, and more literal in meaning as, “the-evenings”. In each of these eleven verses הָעַרְבָּיִם is immediately preceded by the word “between” (בֵּין - bin).

CLV does a bit of a disservice by adding the word “hours” after “the-evenings” which is not supported by the underlining text, but upon reading the verses it is apparent that the addition is not unwarranted. These eleven references restrict certain activities to a few hours and are designated as “between the-evenings”. Thus, “between the-evenings” do not span beyond a day. There is simply not much wiggle room here.

While looking at the movement of the sun, one of “the evenings” designating the beginning of “the Evening” could can be determined as the sun crosses the daylight of morning to 12:00 o’clock (high noon), beginning its decent toward the horizon. The next “evening” designates the closing of “the Evening” as the sun disappears from visibility below the horizon. This “between the evenings”, or “between the-evening hours” has a common expression in my current vernacular as “afternoon”. There is no set number of hours assigned to “the Evening”, as the total number of “evening” hours varies from one day to another.

enter image description here

Granted the pinching of Night between Evening and Morning is a different view, but does hold the elements found in Genesis and other Pentateuch writings. The first Passover narrative found in the Pentateuch would look something like this:

enter image description here

The last Passover narrative at the time of Messiah (Christ) would be along the same timing as above.

enter image description here

It is duly noted that there are references to the “third hour”, “sixth hour” and “ninth hour” in the Gospel writings. These time frames begin with the rising of the sun above the horizon and mark the number of hours since daylight hours commenced. Do also observe that these references are not used in conjunction with the word “day”, so they do not define a day. Daylight hours can be reckoned from sunrise, but each “a day” changes at “high noon”.


Community Wiki - Help Would be Greatly Appreciated:

I am hoping that people can help with this - to add references, directly into the answer.

Only explicit, historical examples, please.

1. Question Restatement:

Up to, and including, the Second Temple Period - What explicit historical references are there that the Israeli Calendar began at Sunset?

2. After the Babylonian Exile:

Jubilees 49:1 - Remember the commandment ... concerning the passover, that thou shouldst celebrate it ... on the fourteenth of the first month, that thou shouldst kill it before it is evening, and ... eat it by night on the evening of the fifteenth from the time of the setting of the sun.

Targum Jonathan, Exodus 12:8 - And you will eat its flesh on that night, (בלילייא הדין ) on the fifteenth of Nisan, the fifteenth of Nisan, to the division of the night, (פלגותיה דלילייא), fire roasted, and that which is unleavened upon endive and murrubium you will eat it.

3. References Regarding Holidays - Not Necessarily Calendar Days :

Objection: These references pertain to Sabbath Days or Festivals - and may not necessarily apply to regular Calendar days, and perhaps irrelevant.

NASB, Nehemiah 13:19, (Interlinear) - It came about that just as it grew dark, (צָֽלֲלוּ֩) at the gates of Jerusalem before the Sabbath, I commanded that the doors should be shut and that they should not open them until after the sabbath.

NASB, Leviticus 23:32 - [The Day of Atonement] is to be a sabbath of complete rest to you, and you shall humble your souls; on the ninth of the month at evening, from evening until evening you shall keep your sabbath.

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