1. Question, for Historical Interpretation of Sabbath Law

What Sabbath considerations might have applied - that would lead to a request to take Jesus' body down from the cross?


  1. Does the Greek syntax entail that the Sabbath is actually being given as the justification?
  2. Or, can Deuteronomy 21:22-32 be reasonably injected as the justification?

2. The Texts :

NASB, John 19:31 - Then the Jews, because it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath ...

NASB, Deuteronomy 21:22-23 - “If a man has committed a sin worthy of death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, 23 his corpse shall not hang all night on the tree, but you shall surely bury him on the same day ...

  • I would think that since the Sabbath was a holy day (and the Passover Sabbath, even more so) it was very important to obey the verse in Deuteronomy. Apr 7, 2017 at 15:04
  • ChildOfGod - A.) I agree that this is the assumption that is normally made, but without a Scriptural / historical basis regarding the Sabbath - it seems to be an unsupported assumption. B.) If it really was a weekly Sabbath consideration, wouldn't it have been standard practice then? Wouldn't Pilate would have standing orders - every week? C.) It would be simpler if there is a valid basis to interpret the Greek text differently, rather than shoe-horning in this assumption. Apr 7, 2017 at 15:12
  • That is why I didn't make that an answer. Apr 7, 2017 at 15:15
  • @AChildofGod - Thank you, and you are right : That assumption is the key issue I am trying to verify / correct. Apr 7, 2017 at 15:16

2 Answers 2


Οἱ οὖν Ἰουδαῖοι, ἐπεὶ παρασκευὴ ἦν, ἵνα μὴ μείνῃ ἐπὶ τοῦ σταυροῦ τὰ σώματα ἐν τῷ σαββάτῳ, ἦν γὰρ μεγάλη ἡ ἡμέρα ἐκείνου τοῦ σαββάτου, ἠρώτησαν τὸν Πειλᾶτον / Πιλᾶτον ἵνα κατεαγῶσιν αὐτῶν τὰ σκέλη καὶ ἀρθῶσιν.

The greek text explicitly states that the motivation for breaking the legs was so that bodies could be removed for preparation for the sabbath. There is nothing in the text to indicate that his was directly linked to Deuteronomy 21:22-23.

There is however the indication that this was not a normal sabbath, but a 'sabbath of a high day' ἦν γὰρ μεγάλη ἡ ἡμέρα ἐκείνου τοῦ σαββάτου, which may provide the context for understanding why they may have had more exigent rules on this day as opposed to a normal sabbath.

Unless someone can provide further historical context, it doesn't seem unreasonable to assume that the stipulation in question may not have had an old testament parellel, but was still of importance for the Jewish leaders.

Hope this helps to clarify things, even if just a little bit!

  • +1 / Accepted. Thank you. It is your comment regarding "A great day" which I think might explain it outside of normal Sabbath law. I wonder if any of the OT texts have this requirement in the context of other great days. Apr 12, 2017 at 22:55
  • @TheodoreReinJedlicka The legs were broken so that the individual would not be able to hold them up on the cross and would suffocate. Aug 14, 2023 at 6:50

All manner of care and respect for a dead body was permitted on the Sabbath according to Jewish traditional law just as if a person had been sick on the Sabbath and needed care.

Regardless of the day, had the dead bodies not been removed, it would not have been until Aviv/Nisan 16 that they could have been removed and prepared for burial. The same day after the (High) Sabbath rest that the spices were bought (purchased) before the weekly Sabbath started that day at the setting of the sun, with the resurrection occurring that Sabbath at deep dawn.

  • Welcome to BHSE and thanks for your answer. Do take the tour to get information on how this site works. Your answer would be stronger if you could edit in references for any assertions you make.
    – C. Stroud
    Aug 12, 2023 at 10:18

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.