The question is: How should "Sabbath Dawning" be Interpreted?
The Sabbath drew on ἐπιφωσκούση (Lk 23:54), and, Late on the Sabbath, as it began to dawn ἐπιφωσκούση (Mt 28:1), a verb in both cases: They are the same hour of the day, exactly one day apart: Why wouldn't they be? Lk 23:54 is the ending of the Preparation day into the Sabbath. Mt 28:1 is the ending of the Sabbath (23:62-66), into the first day of the week, which cannot contradict the Galilean woman arriving at the tomb in the dark of that night (Jn 20:1-2).
The women looking for Jesus (Lk 23:47-24:1), crossed the Mount of Olives four times together, on the first day of the week: From Bethany to the tomb and back in the dark (Jn 20:1-2), and again, from Bethany to the tomb and back in the daylight (v10-18). On their third pass over the Mount of Olives, they found Jesus together, at the rising of the sun (Mk 16:2-9).
It is difficult for us to transpose the dividing times of those Hebrew days into our nights and days.
- Because, the dividing line between Hebrew days, is when our day’s end turns to night, yet night keeps the same name.
- Our unfamiliarity with the uses of the Hebrew day form natural struggles with the time and placement of the key events of the Hebrew days that tell of the what, when, and where of the last days of Jesus.
- It becomes necessary to learn and feel comfortable talking about how a Hebrew day began at twilight. For example: Outside, when the twilight of stars appear as Friday evening, our Friday night begins. But, a Hebrew Saturday Sabbath began at the moment the twilight of stars began to appear on our Friday night. God said, Let there be "lights" in the expanse of the heaven to divide the day from the night. (Gen 1:14-18 & 1:31-2:3).
- Josephus tells us, “He divided the light from the darkness, calling the latter night and the former day and naming the morning and the evening the dawn of light and its cessation“ (Ant. 1.1.27-28).
- Josephus said what evening was: “They blew the horn at the beginning of the seventh day Sabbath, in the evening twilight, and also at the end of the Sabbath” (Wars 4.9.12): As if to say, “They blew the horn when the preparation day ended, in the dark of evening” (Ant. 1.1.27-28 & Lk 24:54-56).
This would be where Sabbath drew on ἐπιφωσκούση of Lk 23:54 fits in. Schrevelius' Greek Lexicon, 1826, pg. 338, left col., 5th entry, refers to ἐπιφωσκούση: "the corresponding word in Syriac is also applied to the evening preceding any day." and, means "to draw near, Mt 28:1;" When Schrevelius refers to the Jews reckoning their days from sunset, he isn't saying the Bible reckons it so. (Reread Josephus above on the evening twilight. Josephus is a Jew. He appears to know the difference between the tradition of sunset and what the Bible says (Gen 1:14)).
The Sabbath drew near ἐπιφωσκούση, so the women of the cross rested on the Sabbath to keep the commandment (Lk 23:54-56). Perhaps it's clear Schrevelius agrees with Josephus, about the twilight of the evening being the cessation of light, the time between the Preparation day and the Sabbath day, the evening drawn into the night: the change of days was at hand. After Friday evening, the third day of Jesus' death began—the Sabbath day.
Late on the Sabbath, as it began to dawn ἐπιφωσκούση into the first day of the week, Mt 28:1 (the onset of the change of days). The context of it shows: After Saturday evening, after 3-1/2 days of his death (Mk 8:31), on the first day of the week, in one of four watches of the night, Jesus rose from death to life—before the women, who followed him from Galilee (Lk 23:47-24:1) arrived in the dark of night, before Sunday morning, to their disappointing anguish, to not find Jesus wrapped and still laying in his tomb (Jn 20:1). It must still be Saturday night, when the women of Galilee returned to summon Peter and John, saying, "They have taken away the Lord away from the tomb, and 'we' do not know where they have laid him!" (Lk 24:1-12 & Jn 20:1-2), because when they returned (Jn 20:10-18), they found Jesus and embraced him, at the rising of the sun (Mk 16:1-2 & v9, Mt 28:8-9 & Lk 23:47-24:1 (not just Mary Magdalena)).
The context of Lk 23:54-56 is to show the time between (drawn near) the Preparation day and the Sabbath day: The passing of the Preparation day was evening turned into the night of the Sabbath. One day later, the context of Mt 27:62-28:1 is to show the time between (drawn near) the Sabbath day and the first day of the week. The passing of the Sabbath day (Mk 16:1) was evening turned into the night of the first day of the week, when the women of Galilee came to the empty tomb. There is a nighttime between Mk 16:1 & Mk 16:2, and between Jn 20:1-2 & Jn 20:10-18.
Thus the "Sabbath Dawning" of our question shows: The Greek word ἐπιφωσκούση for dawn in Mt 28:1, doesn’t mean, at the light of day. It is used one other NT time, as night was about to begin (Lk 23:54). Mk 16:1 agrees with Lk 23:54: At the passing of the Sabbath, Mary Magdalene, and Mary, the mother of James, and Salome, having bought sweet spices, came to anoint Jesus. The passing of the Sabbath is the evening turned into the night.
Many agree πρωï Strong's 4404 means morning in an absolute way. Overlooked by many is that it also means the fourth of four watches of darkness: the night, based on its surrounding supportive context, regardless of what translators have devised for print.
Here are Scriptures where context overrules and defies πρωï to mean dawn, but defines the fourth watch of night: Mk 1:35, πρωï, Before daybreak; 13:35, πρωï, Describing the four watches of the night; and Jn 20:1, πρωï, John describing "it was still dark at the empty tomb," justifying πρωï also means the fourth of four watches of the night. Thayer's Lexicon and Blue Letter agree with this.
Both Mk 16:1 & Jn 20:1 agree: Jesus rose early, πρωï, on the first day of the week. . . and, The first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early, πρωï—when it was still dark, to the sepulcher, and saw the stone taken away from the sepulcher (Mary Magdalene and the women crossed Mt. Olive four times on first day of the week: From Bethany to the tomb and back (Jn 20:1-2), and again, from Bethany to the tomb and back (v10-18), four times on the first day of the week, beginning at night). Both Mk 16:1 & Jn 20:1 agree with Mt 28:1, as a dawning into the first day of the week, at the passing of the Sabbath (the beginning of nightfall, like Lk 23:54-56, the same hour—a day before). Of course, these statements can be found harmonious to answer our question, How should "Sabbath Dawning" be Interpreted?
Lk 24:1-3 says, Upon the first day of the week, very early, they (Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James (and others of Galilee; 23:47-24:1)) returned to the sepulcher, and (24:22-24), they were early, πρωï at the sepulcher, but did not find the body. They told Peter, “Someone removed Jesus.” Something else that tells which visit it was, is whether sorrow or joy ended which tomb visit of the women, to go tell the disciples their news. Sorrow ends the first visit of not finding Jesus, but joy ends the second, after Mary Magdalena and the other women see and embrace him.
Luke has the first visit. John has both visits. Neither Matthew nor Mark note two visits but tell of the women in the tomb with an angel inside the tomb, rediscussing Jesus has risen. They note the second visit by the risen sun, Jesus being seen by the women, their joyful second visit embraces by Mary Magdelena, and the other women, and joyful news to tell Jesus’ disciples. Matthew and Mark tell of the second visit, after Jesus was seen in the daylight.
The disciples on the road to Emmaus spoke of it in this way to Jesus, not knowing it was him, "But also some women from among us astonished us, who were at the tomb early, πρωï, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive! And some of those with us went out to the tomb and found it like this, just as the women had also said, but they did not see him.” (Lk 24:22-24 & Jn 20:1-2).
So, if you don't believe John 20:1-2 sets the nighttime as the discovery time of the empty tomb, maybe you can believe the Greek word ἐπιφωσκούση for dawning in Mt 28:1, to mean, not at the light of day, but to be at the onset of night, like the one other NT time of its use of ἐπιφωσκούση, in Lk 23:54 to say, we know the night of Sabbath was near.
Is it arguable that ἐπιφωσκούση in Lk 23:54 means the beginning of a Sabbath sunset was approaching? That would be something many can read and write books about, but few can see. That question's answer would come from a learning about between the evenings, in the Bible margin of Lev 23:5, and the margin of Ex 12:6. The latter of these two evenings is Ex 12:18, the change of days: God's evening of Genesis. A view confirming, Lk 23:54 doesn't mean the beginning of a Sabbath sunset was approaching.
The sunset, as the divider of nights and days, is unnatural to and is insensible to suggest that each day unnaturally contains two daytimes and one nighttime: There is almost an hour of daylight after sunset; add the nighttime, and after the nighttime, add another daytime divided by the daytime sunset. This is very unlike Gen 1:14, where the Nautical Twilight, or lights of heaven, divide night and day. Sunset evenings are found in both the Old and New Testaments (Mt 20:8), but not as a divider of days.
Careful consideration arguably substantiates the answer of Luke 23:54 - How should "Sabbath Dawning" be Interpreted? may be answered in sheer simplicity, by merely observing and harmonizing the Biblical context of Luke and Matthew's statements: Who they were talking about, and what they were doing, before introducing they finished their work before day's end, waiting for the day's end to draw on (ἐπιφωσκούση, to become dusk)?
In Lk 23, Luke notes three things that happened that day before the Sabbath drew on, and one event for when the Sabbath arrived:
- Joseph from Arimathea approached Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. And he took it down and wrapped it to place him in a tomb.
- And the women who had been accompanying him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how his body was placed.
- And they returned and prepared fragrant spices and perfumes. And it was the day of preparation, and the Sabbath was drawing near: The evening was turning to night (Gen 1:14).
- The women who followed Jesus from Galilee rested on the Sabbath.
In Matthew's account, he talks about the event that preceded the first day of the week, and the near events as it started:
- The Chief Priests and Pilate's soldiers set a guard over the tomb, to wait for day's end, to "guard the tomb against the third day (that night)." Breaking the Sabbath.
- And, Late on the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week (ἐπιφωσκούση, getting dusk. The Sabbath doesn't end at dawn), Mary Magdalene and the other women came to the tomb (Mt 28:1 doesn't say when). But Jn 20:1-2 does. It was in the fourth watch of the night.
- Mk 16:1 agrees with Mt 28:1: When the Sabbath was past the women of the tomb thought that they might come and anoint him, and began to do so. Do we see the nighttime between Mk 16:1 & Mk 16:2, when Mary Magdalene and the other women came to the tomb? The dawning toward the first day of the week was evening turned to night.