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I investigated this matter at https://judaism.stackexchange.com and I was assured that there is no such Jewish holy day. So to what does the term actually refer?

[Matthew 27:62 NKJV] (62) On the next day, which followed the Day of Preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate,

I would appreciate both an explanation and a day of Nisan as an answer.

Also, does Matthew clarify "the next day" with "which followed the Day of Preparation" to indicate that he meant the "day" part of the "evening and morning" of the day that Jesus was buried, which was Nisan 14/Pesach, when one would eat the meal? If so, how does he have Jesus observing the Passover feast?

And how does one square that with this?: [Mark 14:12 NASB20] (12) On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover [lamb] was being sacrificed, His disciples said to Him, "Where do You want us to go and prepare for You to eat the Passover?"

Possibly remotely relevant:

Does Leviticus 23 Contradict the Rabbinical Sunset Reckoning of Calendar Days?

Also, the longer reviews for these books are very relevant:

https://www.amazon.com/Jesus-Last-Supper-Brant-Pitre/product-reviews/0802875335/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_paging_btm_next_2?ie=UTF8&reviewerType=all_reviews&pageNumber=2

https://www.amazon.com/The-Mystery-of-the-Last-Supper-Reconstructing-the-Final-Days-of-Jesus/dp/052173200X/ref=cm_cr_getr_d_rvw_txt?ie=UTF8

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  • Do you mean a date (14th or 15th, etc), as distinct from Friday?
    – Dottard
    Apr 7 at 0:36
  • Hmm.... well I guess if it depends on how the day is reckoned. If evening then morning, then the Nisan day, but if morning to night, the Gregorian day number. Dates are hard!
    – Ruminator
    Apr 7 at 0:38
  • The day of preparation for Shabbat is not a holiday. - Pesach (14th of Aviv) & Chag HaMatzot (Festival of Unleavened Bread, 15-21 of Aviv) are the holidays. * Yeshua was arrested on the Eve of Pesach (supposedly) as written in [Sanhedrin 43a:20] sefaria.org/Sanhedrin.43a.20?with=all&lang=bi Apr 7 at 14:20
  • 1
    Excellent resource, thanks. Do we know the date of the writing of that? Also, it says that he was hung on the eve of Passover. By that they mean Pesach?
    – Ruminator
    Apr 7 at 14:24
  • 1
    Okay, thanks @חִידָה.
    – Ruminator
    Apr 7 at 15:13
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I am not sure this answers the question, and if not I am happy to delete this answer.

The timing of the crucifixion is clearly demonstrated by the following Gospel references:

Matthew:

  • Death on Friday (παρασκευή preparation day): Matt 27:57, 62
  • Sabbath rest: Matt 27:62-65 (Guard)
  • Resurrection on Sunday (first of the week): Matt 28:1, 4 (Notice here that the guard was undisturbed until Sunday morning. Further, the KJV in Matt 28:1 has an awkward translation that incorrectly implies that the tomb was found empty late on the Sabbath. Every modern version has it more correctly.)

Mark:

  • Death on Friday (παρασκευή preparation day): Mark 15:42
  • Sabbath rest: -
  • Resurrection on Sunday (first of the week): Mark 16:1, 9 (This latter text states unequivocally that Jesus rose on the first day of the week. The Greek is even clearer!)

Luke:

  • Death on Friday (preparation day): Luke 23:54
  • Sabbath rest: Luke 23:56
  • Resurrection on Sunday (first of the week): Luke 24:1-7

John:

  • Death on Friday (preparation day): John 19:14, 31, 42
  • Sabbath rest: -
  • Resurrection on Sunday (first of the week): John 20:1, 17

Notice that in all these cases, the day of Jesus’ death is described as the preparation day (παρασκευή paraskeue) – an invariant designator of what we now call Friday, the sixth day of the week. There is not a single exception to this rule in any literature; in neither the New Testament nor any of the Apostolic Fathers. This practice is so wide spread that the same word for Friday was also adopted into Latin, Parascue.

This all occurred at the time of the Passover, Matt 26:19, Mark 14:16, Luke 22:15, John 18:39.

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  • Hi Dottard. Thanks for the response. I know I mentioned hoping to learn the day, but in reality, the more primary question is, since Jews know nothing about a "day of preparation," what might Matthew be referring to that the Jews and the scriptures DO know about?! My guess might be the search for leaven, but I really don't know. The slaughter of the lambs? Maybe?
    – Ruminator
    Apr 7 at 1:20
  • @Ruminator - The Jews know nothing about a "day of preparation," ?? See judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/10657/… Friday for Jews is just the preparation for Sabbath
    – Dottard
    Apr 7 at 1:27
  • @Ruminator - the many Jews I know use Friday as the preparation day for sabbath each week. It is not a holiday.
    – Dottard
    Apr 7 at 1:29
  • 2
    @Ruminator - there is a long-standing debate about the timing/chronology of the Gospel accounts and that question has many sides. suffice to say here that because the Passover would normally have begun on Friday, Jesus would not have been available so they began a night early - but this is contested.
    – Dottard
    Apr 7 at 20:52
  • 1
    There is also a misconception about the timing of the events that took place after the Sabbath. The verse in Matthew 28 does not say Jesus was raised early on the morning, rather it says that was when Mary went to the tomb! The chronology of the angel rolling away the stone most likely happened during the night...quite possibly after dusk on the Sabbath. My reasoning behind this is the Genesis description of "the evening and the morning" for each day of creation.
    – Adam
    Apr 7 at 21:31
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The "day of preparation" is neither a holiday nor a holy day. There is nothing official about it. Perhaps the biggest cause of confusion is that the translators chose to capitalize it, making it seem like a proper noun.

For the weekly sabbath, and those high holidays that are treated as sabbaths (High Sabbaths - Wikipedia), people must do extra work preparing for the next day when they won't be cooking meals etc. (just as the Israelites in the desert gathered double manna the day before each sabbath). This is why the day before each sabbath, whether weekly or annual high day, is referred to as a day of preparation.

Consider 2023:

  • On Wednesday April 24, during the daytime people prepare food etc. for the annual Passover high holiday and rid their homes of all traces of yeast in preparation for the Days of Unleavened Bread. (In ancient times, at around 3 pm, the Passover lambs were slaughtered.) In the Hebrew calendar, this is Nisan 14.

  • At sunset, the high holiday begins, and the Passover seder is eaten.

  • That night, and Thursday daytime are a high holiday, treated as a sabbath, with no work.

  • Friday daytime is another day of preparation, albeit a much lesser one, this time for the weekly sabbath, which begins at sunset.

  • The weekly sabbath ends when the sun sets on Saturday.

  • On Sunday (the first day of the week immediately after the first weekly sabbath during the Days of Unleavened Bread), priests make a wavesheaf offering. Starting from that Sunday, 7 weeks are counted until Sunday, 50 days later (Pentecost).

The same thing happened nearly 2000 years ago, in AD 31:

  • Tuesday evening, Jesus eats his "Last Supper", which is not the Passover seder, with his disciples.

  • Wednesday, the 14th of Nisan (25th of April), is the day of preparation for the high holiday ("Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away." — John 19:31). Jesus is tortured and executed, dying at about 3 pm, and hurriedly buried before sunset (about 6 pm) when the annual sabbath begins.

  • That evening the already prepared Passover seder is eaten. (A partial lunar eclipse, which can cause the moon to appear red, occurred on Wednesday 25 April in the year 31.) Everyone then rests during the high holy day until sunset on Thursday.

  • Friday is a normal Friday, the first chance the women have to buy spices ("And when the sabbath was past, [the women] had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him." — Mark 16:1). They prepare the spices during the day on that Friday. They then rest when the weekly sabbath begins at sunset. ("[the women] returned and prepared spices and fragrant oils. And they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment." — Luke 23:56). Notice that there are two distinct sabbaths, the high sabbath before Friday, and the weekly sabbath after.

  • Just before sunset on Saturday, when the sabbath ends, exactly three days and three nights after his burial, Jesus is resurrected ("For 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).

  • Very early Sunday morning, long before sunrise, the women bring the spices to the tomb and find it empty ("Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb." — John 20:1). Later that day, the resurrected Jesus becomes God's firstfruit, as had been symbolized by the wavesheaf offering.

I have a crude chart of the events in Crucifixion/Resurrection Synoptic Time Table.

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  • Thanks. How do you square that with this?: [Mark 14:12 NASB20] (12) On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover [lamb] was being sacrificed, His disciples said to Him, "Where do You want us to go and prepare for You to eat the Passover?"
    – Ruminator
    Apr 7 at 20:01
  • 1
    @Ruminator, Mark 14:12 as it's commonly translated doesn't make sense. The lambs aren't slaughtered on the official first Day of Unleavened bread; but the day before. ¶ Mark wrote to a Roman gentile audience, so "unleavened bread, when they killed the passover" reminds them of this event. One day each year when a large number of lambs are slaughtered is very memorable. "when" refers to the entire time, not to the specific day, just as the Greek word for "day" can refer to a much larger time period. ¶ Similarly "first" could mean the beginning of this period, not the literal first day. Apr 8 at 1:08
  • Exodus 12:18-19 seems to suggest that the feast seemed to include Nisan 14/the Passover meal. (They're trying to drive us all nuts!)
    – Ruminator
    Apr 8 at 1:20
  • @Ruminator, I think that "even" means the end of the day while "eve" means the beginning of the night (the transition between days being at sunset). It's like we now say in English, "Xmas Eve" for the night before the 25th, while "Xmas evening" would be the night following the daytime part of the 25th. So "on the fourteenth day of the month at even" would mean that on the 14th, when it starts to get dark, is when one switches to unleavened bread. During the day on the 14th, leavened bread is allowed (but I suspect difficult to find). Apr 8 at 2:32
  • This might be helpful: jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/3343-bitter-herbs#anchor5
    – Ruminator
    Apr 8 at 3:08
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As noted in a prior answer, παρασκευή ("preparation") is always a reference to Friday when discussing days of the week. I don't believe Matthew is referring to a specific holiday, he's just saying it was the day after Friday. Why the chief priests and Pharisees were doing this on the Sabbath is another question.

So the short answer would be, this is a reference to the normal weekly occurrence of Friday, rather than to an annual holiday.

Longer answer--Nisan dates

There is a debate as to whether the crucifixion took place on 14 Nisan (per John) or 15 Nisan (the most common reading the synoptics) on the Jewish calendar. Much ink has been spilled trying to resolve this chronology. My own assessment of the data, found here, suggests only the 14 Nisan date is consistent with the lunar cycles during the tenure of Pilate, and so John’s chronology is to be preferred.

For a very helpful table of the relevant lunar cycles, the use of the word παρασκευή, and what is or is not meant by "a High Day" (John's parallel passion account), see here.

Why is the 14th a better fit with the lunar cycles? Assuming the Jews got their new moons right, the only year during which 15 Nisan fell on a Friday while Pilate was in office was in AD 27. 14 Nisan fell on a Friday in both AD 30 & AD 33.

Almost all chronologists agree that AD 27 is too early a date for the crucifixion, no matter how many circles we run around what is meant by John the Baptist beginning his ministry in the 15th year of Tiberius. If the Jewish calendar was correctly calculated (a fair assumption considering how important their calendar was to them), that leaves only AD 30 & AD 33 as plausible dates. In both cases, the date of the crucifixion would be 14 Nisan.

That would mean, on the Julian calendar, Matthew is referring to either Friday April 7, AD 30 or Friday April 3, AD 33. My thoughts as to which date is more likely are shared here.


Addendum re additional question asked

Also, does Matthew clarify "the next day" with "which followed the Day of Preparation" to indicate that he meant the "day" part of the "evening and morning" of the day that Jesus was buried, which was Nisan 14/Pesach, when one would eat the meal?

The short answer would be that when Matthew says "the next day" he is probably referring to the Sabbath, presumably 15 Nisan.

To put it more specifically, though, it would be from sundown on what we call Friday til sundown on what we call Saturday. The events Matthew describes occurred between those two sundowns. It could have been on what we would call Friday night or what we would call Saturday early morning, morning, or afternoon. Either would be 15 Nisan.

Since the chief priests and Pharisees would have been eating the feast at the beginning (sundown) of 15 Nisan, it seems more likely that they went to see Pilate the following morning, during the daylight portion of 15 Nisan.

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  • PS you asked about Gregorian dates as well--for AD 30 or AD 33 it's just a 2 day discrepancy between Julian & Gregorian, so April 7, AD 30 Julian = April 5, AD 30 Gregorian. And April 3, AD 33 Julian = April 1, AD 33 Gregorian. Apr 7 at 1:57
  • Is "the day of preparation" described in Leviticus 23?
    – Ruminator
    Apr 7 at 2:01
  • @Ruminator to the best of my knowledge, it is not Apr 7 at 2:05
  • So where is it described?
    – Ruminator
    Apr 7 at 2:09
  • Is there anywhere in sacred scripture that the day of preparation is explained? I literally have no idea what this mysterious feast day is.
    – Ruminator
    Apr 7 at 2:15
1

Overview
As the literal translation shows, the text simply says after the preparation:

And on the morrow that is after the preparation, were gathered together the chief priests, and the Pharisees, unto Pilate, (Matthew 27:62 YLT)

τῇ δὲ ἐπαύριον ἥτις ἐστὶν μετὰ τὴν παρασκευήν συνήχθησαν οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς καὶ οἱ Φαρισαῖοι πρὸς Πιλᾶτον

Preparation day is an interpretation; the text simply says, the preparation, and as the other answers show, there is no Biblical "Day of Preparation." However, there are certain legal days for which preparation before the required day is either specifically required or logically implied. For example, Tabernacles requires living in booths for 7-days and begins with a day on which work is prohibited. So in order to observe Tabernacles, one's booth must be prepared in advance of the 7-days, and it would be logical to speak of "preparation" during the time leading up to Tabernacles.

With that in mind, here are the potential "preparations" during the time which Jesus was executed:

Weekly Sabbath - no work is permitted
Feast of Unleavened Bread - all leaven must be removed before
Feast of First Fruits - the barley must be harvested

Sabbath
The most likely candidate is preparation for the weekly Sabbath. Since work and shopping were prohibited on the Sabbath, one would need to prepare to observe it. For example during the Exodus the Israelites would gather twice as much manna as on the other days:

On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily. (Exodus 16:5 ESV)

Additionally, the Resurrection is immediately after the Sabbath and the sequence of preparation, Sabbath, and Resurrection is commonly accepted. This sequence is not without problems. First, it does not equal the three days and three nights which Jonah spent in the belly of the great fish (cf. Matthew 12:38-41). Second, it means the Pharisees went to Pilate on the Sabbath Day. This is possible, but given what the Gospel says about Pharisees and the Sabbath, it seems unlikely they would do this on the Sabbath.

Feast of Unleavened Bread
In addition to eating unleavened bread for 7-days, the Israelites were commanded to remove all leaven from their homes:

Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven out of your houses, for if anyone eats what is leavened, from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. (Exodus 12:15; also 13:7 and Deuteronomy 16:4))

The command states to remove the leaven on the first day, but like Tabernacles, the first day is a day of no work and logically the removal of leaven would be done before the first day. In fact, the instruction in Deuteronomy is specific: no leaven must be in their presence for 7-days. Modern observation begins with "deep" cleaning of the house weeks before the Passover and embellishes the Passover observance by adding Bedikat Hametz on the evening before Passover.1

If by preparation Matthew meant Bedikat Hametz, or a similar extra-Biblical observation, then the sequence would be preparation-Unleavened Bread-Sabbath. This also raises questions but does better align with Jesus' three days/three nights prediction. Additionally, if by "the preparation" Matthew was referring to preparation for Unleavened Bread, it is possible the meaning should not be limited to a single day but the entire process of removing leaven which was finished on a certain day, but may have lasted several days.

Feast of First Fruits
The Feast of First Fruits falls on the day after the Sabbath which follows the Passover:

9 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 10 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you and reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest, 11 and he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, so that you may be accepted. On the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it. 12 And on the day when you wave the sheaf, you shall offer a male lamb a year old without blemish as a burnt offering to the LORD. 13 And the grain offering with it shall be two tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, a food offering to the LORD with a pleasing aroma, and the drink offering with it shall be of wine, a fourth of a hin. 14 And you shall eat neither bread nor grain parched or fresh until this same day, until you have brought the offering of your God: it is a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. (Leviticus 23)

If one considers gathering the items needed to observe this day as work and if they are not gathered on the actual day of First Fruits, then, like the weekly Sabbath preparation before the day would be necessary. While this would seem to be speaking of the day immediately before the Sabbath, the first day of Unleavened Bread is a day of no work, and, depending on the actual custom of observance, it is possible preparation would occur 2-days before the weekly Sabbath: preparation, 1st day of Unleavened Bread, weekly Sabbath, Resurrection. This sequence best fits the Jonah prediction. Regardless of the exact sequence, the Resurrection occurred on the Day of First Fruits.

Conclusion
"Preparation" as used by Matthew is a colloquial term whose precise meaning is uncertain. The issue is compounded by the custom of referring to the 8-days of Passover and Unleavened Bread by a single name: Unleavened Bread (cf. Matthew 26:17; Mark 14:12; Luke 22:7) and/or Passover (cf. Luke 22:1). So even if there were a Biblical "Day of Preparation," there is no way to say it was used in a strict Biblical sense.


1. Kevin Howard and Marvin Rosenthal, The Feasts of the Lord, Thomas Nelson Inc., 1997, p. 67

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  • It does seem that in the chaos of all these variables it is impossible to speak of dates with much certainty. In fact, the same could be said of all the scriptures. In my view, everything in the scriptures is pure double-speak!
    – Ruminator
    Apr 8 at 18:31
  • @Ruminator Well it is reasonably certain the Resurrection occurred immediately following the Sabbath and if First Fruits was observed according to the literal instructions, that was also the day of the Resurrection. Therefore, we can say with certainty, the LORD commanded the Day of Resurrection to be the Day First Fruits was supposed to be observed. Apr 8 at 18:35
  • Okay, but that seems rather tangential to what you are pursuing, no?
    – Ruminator
    Apr 8 at 18:37
  • I just added that to the question you asked. When addressing issues for which there is no certain answer, I think it is important to include that which is not in dispute. If it is a distraction I can remove it. Apr 8 at 19:16
  • No, more is better when it comes to data.
    – Ruminator
    Apr 8 at 19:43

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