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
    Commented Mar 28, 2018 at 0:33
  • See inclusive counting.
    – Lucian
    Commented Mar 28, 2018 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
    Commented Mar 28, 2018 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
    Commented Mar 28, 2018 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
    Commented Mar 28, 2018 at 11:58

7 Answers 7


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
    Commented Apr 13, 2018 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
    Commented Apr 29, 2018 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
    Commented Dec 31, 2018 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
    Commented Dec 31, 2018 at 8:48
  • 1
    Also with regard to traveling on the sabbath, would Luke 13:15 suggest that travel on the sabbath would have been unheard of at the time?
    – user21676
    Commented Dec 31, 2018 at 22:09

One thing that is often missed in the Bible texts is that the day in question is often included in the numbering of days. Passover was on the evening of the 14th, which was a Thursday. The 14th is included in the 6 day numbering, being that the daytime of the 14th is a day. Thursday, 14th-6, Wednesday, 13th-5, Tuesday, 12th-4, Monday, 11th-3, Sunday, 10th-2, Saturday, 9th-1. Jesus arrived on Saturday. The question is at what time. We know that Jesus often did not regard the strict "laws" of the Sabbath, so to say that He wouldn't travel on the Sabbath is not according to His past actions. As for the rest of the people in the household, the Sabbath ends at sundown on Saturday which means by suppertime, they are free to do what ever needs to be done to prepare the supper.

The next day, which was Sunday, is when Jesus went out on the ass and the people put down the palm branches which is how we get Palm Sunday. Passover meal was Thursday. Jesus was tried and crucified on Friday. He arose on the third day which was Sunday, which is how we get Easter Sunday.

Three days again is counted including the day in question. Friday is day one, Saturday is day two, Sunday is day three. It would be similar to us today going on vacation. If you were going on a 3 day, 2 night vacation, if you checked in on Friday night, you would check in on Friday, 1st day; stay all day on Saturday, 2nd day; and check out on Sunday, 3rd day. Jesus had a 3 day, 2 night stay in the grave: Checked in on Friday, Checked out on Sunday. Read Luk 13:32 KJV for reference.

Now there is that whole thing about the Three Days and Three nights. No one really knows what the "heart of the earth" means because it is only mentioned one time in the bible. It does NOT mean the grave. If it means "in persecution," then Jesus's persecution started on Thursday night, So add Thursday night to the above count and you have three days and three nights.

So in conclusion, Jesus arrived on Saturday in Bethany, had dinner on Saturday night, rode the donkey into to Jerusalem on Sunday, had Passover feast on Thursday night, was tried and crucified on Friday morning, put in the grave on Friday afternoon, stayed in the grave all day Saturday, and rose on Sunday morning.

Praise God for victory over death.

  • Kenneth. Thank you. But, is church tradition enough to satisfy biblical hermeneutics? Through analytical comparison, and research, we are discovering many institutionalized traditions are not really according to scripture. Your answer may be technically correct, but I wish we could definitely tie it to scripture. And, so much info is available now about the changes to the calendars since the 1st cent. AD that we don't even know for sure if the 7th day of the week according to God's count is really what we now call Saturday - which was renamed after the Roman god for Saturn.
    – Gina
    Commented Mar 29, 2021 at 2:17
  • Thanks for this, Are you able to supply some references to support some these claims?
    – Dottard
    Commented Mar 29, 2021 at 21:50
  • These scriptures establish the pattern of Today, tomorrow, third day, which would apply to Friday, Saturday, Sunday. Exo 19:10-11 KJV Lev 7:16-17 KJV Lev 19:6 KJV Num 7:12,18,24 KJV Num 29:12,17,20 KJV 2Sa 1:1,2 KJV Luk 13:32 KJV Act 27:18,19 KJV These scriptures show Jesus prophesied He would rise on the third day.. Mat 16:21 KJV Mat 17:23 KJV Mat 20:19 KJV Mar 9:31 KJV Mar 10:34 KJV Luk 9:22 KJV Luk 18:33 KJV Luk 24:7 KJV These Scriptures attest to the Jesus's rising on the third day. Luk 24:21 KJV Luk 24:46 KJV Act 10:40 KJV 1Co 15:4 KJV This is Third Day. Commented Mar 30, 2021 at 14:19
  • As far as the naming of the days, there are a lot of technical issues that come into play that we will never really know until we sit at God's feet in heaven to ask all the questions but by then we really wouldn't care because we'll be to busy worshiping Him. What we can establish is that there are seven days in the week and the sabbath day is on the seventh day and the first day is on the first day. So if someone named the first day of the week Turkey, we would be celebrating Easter Turkey and eating Thanksgiving sunday. The names are not that important because Saturday in French is Samedi. Commented Mar 30, 2021 at 14:32

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.

  • 1
    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
    Commented Mar 29, 2018 at 22:38
  • To add a quote, start a new line with '>' as the first character, and leave a blank line after the text of the quote. To make a bullet point, leave a blank line, then use '* ' (star+space) to begin the point, and then a blank line to finish. Try to avoid a wall of text. Also, when you quote from a reference, indicate the source. For Bible quotes, just the letters of the version is enough.
    – enegue
    Commented Mar 30, 2018 at 3:40
  • 1
    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
    Commented Mar 30, 2018 at 3:54
  • 1
    @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
    Commented Apr 2, 2018 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.


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.


It is a bit tricky to know exactly how the Greek "before 6 days" is to be understood. There is the general distinction between inclusive and exclusive counting, but there is also the problem of counting backwards and forwards. Because of this uncertainly, it is better to approach the question from different directions. These other directions point to that day being Friday, six days before the following Thursday, which was Passover day. The crucifixion was on Friday. Since a week is seven days, the Thursday, a week before the Passover Thursday, would be 7 days, so one day later, Friday, would presumably be six days before that Passover Thursday.

I would suggest the week's events as the following:

8th-Friday a long day's travel to Bethany; meal prepared, Sabbath meal in evening of Friday after sunset, anointing of Jesus' feet by Mary. (He was also anointed at the head a few days later, probably Wednesday, in a different house by a different and unnamed lady).

9th-Sabbath Rest

10th-Sunday public presentation of the Lamb without blemish for scrutiny during next four days




14th Thursday slaughtering Passover lambs and the Passover meal after sunset

15th Friday death at 3 p.m. and burial before sunset and before Sabbath began

16th Sabbath rest

17th Sunday morning resurrection on the third day counting inclusively from Friday, the day of celebrating the firstfruits

  • "The crucifixion was on Friday" is stated as fact without any Biblical justification. It's also not obvious what "Passover day" means here: is it the the first day of Passover high holiday, or the Day of Preparation (when Jesus was crucified) that preceded it? Commented Dec 19, 2020 at 19:19
  • 1
    Ok, by Passover day I meant Nisan 14, the day where the lambs were slaughtered and everything was made ready for the evening Passover meal. This was a Thursday, while the day of crucifixion was a Friday, the day of preparation for the Sabbath. You can find Biblical justification for the Friday crucifixion many places. Commented Dec 20, 2020 at 11:00
  • "You can find Biblical justification for the Friday crucifixion many places.". Actually I can't. I can find Biblical justification for the Wednesday crucifixion, in particular Mark 16:1 (when the sabbath was past, they bought spices) and Luke 23:56 (they prepared the spices and rested on the sabbath), which requires two sabbaths (John 19:31's high sabbath on Thursday, and the weekly sabbath on Saturday) to avoid contradiction. See my Crucifixion/Resurrection Synoptic Time Table for a summary. Commented Dec 20, 2020 at 14:54

When Jesus said, "In the heart of the earth" He wasn't speaking about being in the grave. He was stating that His heavenly protection would be interrupted. His suffering began the moment He was arrested in the garden on a Thursday night. The 3 days and three nights still works. Remember Jews keep sunset to sunset based on the week of creation and on Exodus 20:8-11 that all Christians should be keeping. The day to rest has been and always will be Saturday! We will be keeping Sabbath in Heaven (Isaiah 66:23)

  • Mostly it's just your opinion. You haven't allowed for the double Sabbath and the two preparation days. No idea what 'heavenly protection would be interrupted' means either.
    – Steve
    Commented Nov 18, 2020 at 1:59
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    Commented Nov 20, 2020 at 16:34

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