John 12:1-3,

"Jesus, therefore, six days before the passover, came to Bethany, where was Lazarus, who had died, whom he raised out of the dead;

2 they made, therefore, to him a supper there, and Martha was ministering, and Lazarus was one of those reclining together (at meat) with him;

3 Mary, therefore, having taken a pound of ointment of spikenard, of great price, anointed the feet of Jesus and did wipe with her hair his feet, and the house was filled from the fragrance of the ointment." (YLT)

According to the gospel of John, Jesus and the disciples were traveling on the sixth day before the Passover. If the Passover / crucifixion was on a Friday, then the sixth day before the Passover would have been the previous Saturday / Sabbath day. It is very unlikely that Christ would have traveled from Jericho to Bethany on the Sabbath.

But, Mark's account appears to have Jesus still in Bethany two days prior to the Passover.

Mark 14:1-3,

"And the passover and the unleavened food were after two days, and the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how, by guile, having taken hold of him, they might kill him;

2 and they said, `Not in the feast, lest there shall be a tumult of the people.'

3 And he, being in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, at his reclining (at meat), there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment, of spikenard, very precious, and having broken the alabaster box, did pour on his head;" (YLT)

Then, if we reason only from John's account, the latest 6th day that Christ could have traveled before the Passover would have been the previous Friday, and He then would have stayed over in Bethany with Lazarus and Mary during the Sabbath. That would make the Passover/crucifixion fall on a Thursday, not a Friday.

And, we are told in Mark 14:1, that the chief priests and scribes were conspiring against Christ two days before the feast of the Passover.

Is Mark's account in verse 3 a flash back to that weekend Sabbath rest in Bethany? And, is the Thursday the better possibility for the crucifixion day?

  • Technically, six days before the start of the Passover on a Friday(Thursday evening) would have been a Friday evening. Also Jesus traveled between Bethany and Jerusalem several times after he entered Jerusalem at that time(Mt. 21:17, Mk. 11:11;19). – user21676 Mar 28 '18 at 0:33
  • See inclusive counting. – Lucian Mar 28 '18 at 6:44
  • @Lucian - I do understand inclusive counting. The 3rd day would be two days from today, including today as day 1. But, is six days "before" the passover including the passover? Doesn't sound like it. – Gina Mar 28 '18 at 9:13
  • Not quite sure why it wouldn't. The expressions eight days before the kalends of April and eight days before the kalends of January, for instance, appear quite frequently in ancient patristic writings when referring to March 25 and December 25. – Lucian Mar 28 '18 at 9:22
  • The Vulgate uses a plural accusative form for the word 'day' in that verse, translating thus as 'before six days' not 'before for the sixth day', or, 'five days prior'. Thus it seems the suggested interpretation for the duration is not currently substantiated. – user21676 Mar 28 '18 at 11:58

There's two issues at John 12:1-3. First is whether Christ would travel so far on the Sabbath, but second is whether His hosts would prepare a meal on the Sabbath. The answer to both is no.

This means Christ arrived on a Friday. They prepared the meal. They ate it after sundown on the Sabbath.

John 12:12 on the next day, the first day (Sunday) is the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. This is the presentation selection of the Lamb on the 10th of Nisan. Hosanna to the King. The irony is their failure to recognize the Suffering Servant motif.

Passover begins at sundown on the 14th. 6 days prior is the 8th.

8th-Friday travels to Bethany; meal prepared

9th-Sabbath eats; annointed

10th-Sunday presentatioin




14th Thursday sunset Passover death

15th Friday burial

16th Sabbath sunset resurrection


For Passover the 14th on Friday, then there's the double problem of Christ traveling on the Sabbath and His hosts preparing a meal on the Sabbath. And you'd have a Monday Triumphal Entry.

For Passover the 14th on Wednesday, among other reasons Wednesday is wrong, you'd have the Triumphal Entry on Sabbath. Can't happen.

  • That is what I keep coming back to as well, SLM. I am keeping my mind open for any other solutions, tho. – Gina Apr 13 '18 at 22:55
  • After some time for consideration, I am accepting this answer as the best reasoned to date. I will consider all future answers, though. – Gina Apr 29 '18 at 12:48
  • I think there's a few problems with this answer. One, why can't he travel on the sabbath? Two, why can't they prepare him a meal on the sabbath? Could he not use the logic that he were Lord of the Sabbath in either case? Third, its clear he rose on the first day of the week, so attributing it to the sabbath in the phrase 'Sabbath sunset resurrection' seems unnecessary, likewise to the 16th. Fourth, how does him having a Friday crucifixion mandate a 'Monday Triumphal Entry', if the phrase in John 12:1 of six days before 'passover' referred to their eating of the meal and not its preparation? – user21676 Dec 31 '18 at 8:28
  • Admittedly, you may have already addressed the first question with regard to the full length of it in a day, but whether you think he could have traveled at all on the sabbath would be my question there. – user21676 Dec 31 '18 at 8:48
  • @user21676 1) In Mat 24:20 Christ prays that their flight (travel) may not be on a sabbath day. In turn this relates to Exo 16:29 "See, for that the LORD hath given you the sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day." 2) #1 also answers #2. 3) It is tradition that assumes finding the tomb empty equates to resurrecting. 4) The LORD's Passover was as the 14th began, not as it ended. – SLM Dec 31 '18 at 15:29

The answer to the question is "No". The important thing to remember is that what we understand by a day and even what day we consider Passover to be, may not be what a first-century Jew would think - and certain first-century Jews celebrated Passover according to a different calendar to the "official" calendar. John uses the official calendar but the Synoptic Gospels do not. This adds extra confusion for us, but they do signpost their usage but we easily miss it (until it's pointed out) because we're not first-century Jews. The best book to read to understand all this is Colin J. Humphreys' book The Mystery of the Last Supper which shows that the Last Supper was on Wednesday and was a Passover meal according to the pre-exilic Jewish calendar (which the Samaritans and some Essenes also used). But Friday was the day the Passover lambs were killed in the temple by the official calendar, so John is also right that Jesus was crucified as the Passover lambs were being killed.


I believe Jesus died on a Wednesday. He said:

For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
-- Matthew 12:40 (ESV)

See if this fits:

  • The Last Supper was Tuesday night (making Wednesday Passover day because the Jewish day starts the evening before),

  • He was crucified on Passover and laid in the tomb Wednesday just before sundown.

So He was in the tomb Wednesday night, Thursday day, Thursday night, Friday day, Friday night and Saturday day. He would have risen Saturday evening (technically the beginning of the first day of the week), leaving the tomb empty early Sunday morning when the women went to bring spices after the Sabbath.

This would resolve the issue of Jesus traveling six days before the Passover and wouldn't pose a problem for Him being in Bethany or the Jews conspiring against Him two days earlier.

  • I considered Wed. for a while, but had to give it up. Using the inclusive count, Wed afternoon would count as Day 1, then Wed eve/nite = nite 1, Thurs. da day 2; Thurs nite = nite 2; Fri day = day 3 and Fri eve/nite = nite 3. A lot of people argue that Christ rose on the Sabbath, but that doesn't agree with scripture for the "first fruits" on the 1st day of the week, nor with "rising on the 3rd day. So I had to give up on Wed. – Gina Mar 29 '18 at 22:38
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  • Gina, I don't believe the inclusive count is the only way to figure it. I understand that is ONE way to do so, but I'm inclined to take Jesus' words at face value. Blessings. – Gracelett Mar 30 '18 at 3:54
  • @Gracelett: The Talmud contains, among other things, explanations of various Jewish idioms, including the expression a day and a night. It states, with examples, that it is used in several ways, one of which is part of a full day-and-night. – Lucian Apr 2 '18 at 8:11

This is traditionally explained in terms of Jesus and the disciples arriving in Bethany six days prior, but John not giving the specific day of the anointing.

I can't do any better here than to simply quote Calvin:

"Having come to Bethany six days before the passover, he remained there four days; which may easily be inferred from Matthew and Mark. On what day the banquet was made for him, at which he was anointed by Mary, John does not state; but it seems probable that it took place not long after he had arrived. There are some who think that the anointing mentioned by Matthew (26:7) and Mark (14:3) is different from what is mentioned here; but they are mistaken. They have been led to adopt this view by a calculation of time, because the two Evangelists, (Matth. 26:2; Mark 14:1,) before relating that Christ was anointed, speak of two days as having elapsed.

"But the solution is easy, and may be given in two ways. For John does not say that Christ was anointed on the first day after his arrival; so that this might happen even when he was preparing to depart. Yet, as I have already said, there is another conjecture which is more probable, that he was anointed one day, at least, or two days, before his departure; for it is certain that Judas had made a bargain with the priests, before Christ sent two of his disciples to make ready the passover.

"Now, at the very least, one day must have intervened. The Evangelists add, that he sought a convenient opportunity for betraying Christ, (Matth. 26:16,) after having received the bribe. When, therefore, after mentioning two days, they add the history of the anointing, they place last in the narrative what happened first. And the reason is, that after having related the words of Christ, You know that after two days the Son of man shall be betrayed, (Matth. 26:2,) they now add—what had been formerly omitted—in what manner and on what occasion he was betrayed by his disciple. There is thus a perfect agreement in the account of his having been anointed at Bethany."

Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentary on the Gospel according to John.

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