This is in relation to another post in which the question was asked why the Sabbath was called "the day after the Day of Preparation."

It strikes me odd that Pharisees would be about this sort of thing on the Sabbath. What were the Pharisaic laws concerning the Sabbath at the time? Would they allow for the Pharisees to be going to Pilate to have the tomb secured and then go out and set the stone and secure the tomb on the Sabbath!?

Matthew 27:

62 On the next day, which followed the Day of Preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate, 63 saying, "Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, 'After three days I will rise.' 64 Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, 'He has risen from the dead.' So the last deception will be worse than the first." 65 Pilate said to them, "You have a guard; go your way, make it as secure as you know how." 66 So they went and made the tomb secure, sealing the stone and setting the guard.

  • @monica, perhaps you would have some insight on this.
    – user2027
    Mar 20, 2013 at 18:03
  • @MonicaCellio Both would be helpful!
    – user2027
    Mar 20, 2013 at 19:23
  • @MonicaCellio: Unfortunately, Matthew is unclear about whether it's preparation for Pesach or for the sabbath. In Mark, Jesus dies on Pesach which is described as the day of preparation for the sabbath, while in John Jesus dies on the day of preparation for Pesach (that is, at the time when the lambs were slaughtered). Matthew doesn't make it clear either way, and just says "the Day of Preparation." If you look at the previous chapter though, it appears that Matthew is following Mark's chronology, so I think he means this scene is happening on the sabbath.
    – Noah
    Mar 21, 2013 at 1:28
  • Note: the term we translate "day of preparation" was almost certainly a technical term for "Friday." (Sorry, no sources here, but I've read a number of scholars make a good case for this.) In view therefore is not "the day before Passover," but Friday, the day before the weekly Sabbath. Jun 1, 2013 at 3:38

2 Answers 2


Pharisees took Sabbath very seriously. Yet they put often form over the content. They definitely counted their steps to avoid rules transgression. They surely avoided to go under Roman roof to make themselves unclean. However Jesus was seen by them as an enemy, heretic and political risk. So they had urge to fix the threat they perceived. In Jerusalem of that days it was quite close between temple and palace. So it is perfectly possible to do the negotiation with Pilate without breaking the Law.

Reaching the tomb might be bit difficult due to distance. Sandherin had 70 people. So they could divide tasks like negotiating and sealing the tomb among multiple people/groups. And by that formal Law might be followed.

Jesus and John the Baptist used very strong titles for these people. That show they cared little for inner meaning and purpose of the Law. So it is perfectly possible that Pharisees had no feeling of impropriety for such act during feast/Sabbath.

  • 1
    The "they" who went to the tomb can easily be just the soldiers. The only thing the priests and Pharisees necessarily did was go to Pilate. Or as you said, another group could have accompanied them to the tomb just to supervise.
    – Joshua
    May 25, 2015 at 0:51

Would the Pharisees go to Pilate and secure the tomb on the Sabbath?

Not likely. In John 18:28 the Jews would not even enter into the Judgement Hall unless they would be defiled. That was the day of the crucifixion. The Pharisees wanted to partake of the Passover clean so they refused to enter the Judgment Hall.

It seems unlikely they would defile themselves by going to Pilate on the weekly Sabbath. Also, the holy convocation (Nisan 15) that followed the day of the crucifixion was not a Sabbath so in this case the Pharisees would not be defiled. Matthew's chronology was different than the other three gospels and Jesus was not crucified the day before the weekly Sabbath.

The day of the crucifixion in Matthew was not the preparation of the weekly Sabbath like the other three gospels but the preparation of the first day of Unleavened, a holy convocation. On Nisan 14 the Jews prepared for the Passover by cleaning their homes of all leaven, crumbs included. It took some effort but probably didn't take more than two or three hours. It was still called the Preparation of the Passover.

The Day or Preparation of the Sabbath, however, was Friday.The word Preparation was translated a number of ways in those days and it meant Friday.

See the following where the capitalized words show where Preparation was found in the Greek.

The Didache 8:1 reads: “But as for your fasts, let them not be with the hypocrites, for they fast on the second and fifth days of the week, but do ye fast on the fourth and SIXTH days…” Kirsopp Lake’s translates the second and fifth days as Mondays and Thursdays and the fourth and sixth days as Wednesdays and Fridays.

Judith 8:6 reads: “and she fasted all the days of her widowhood, save the EVES OF THE SABBATHS, and the sabbaths, and the eves of the new moons, and the new moons, and the feasts and solemn days of the house of Israel.

Polycarp 7:1 reads: “So taking the lad with them, on the FRIDAY about the supper hour, the gendarmes and horsemen went forth with their accustomed arms, hastening as against a robber.”

II Maccabees 8:25-26 reads: “And they took their money that came to buy them, and pursued them far but lacking time they returned: For it was the DAY BEFORE THE SABBATH, and therefore they would no longer pursue them.

Antiquities of the Jews 16.6.2 reads: “and they be not obliged to go before any judge on the Sabbath day, nor on the day of the PREPARATION to it, after the ninth hour.”

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