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My question does not involve understanding what the meaning of the Day of Preparation is. This is about which day of the week.

While there are contrary opinions on this, I believe all gospels point to Christ's crucifixion on the day of the Passover, Nisan 14. My question is, and I've searched far and wide on this, which day of the week was this? The Day of Preparation is the day before the first day in the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which is Nisan 15.

*"Now when evening had come, because it was the Preparation Day, that is, the day before the Sabbath..." (Mark 15:42)

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

"That day was the Preparation, and the Sabbath drew near." (Luke 23:54)

"So there they laid Jesus, because of the Jews’ Preparation Day, for the tomb was nearby." (Luke 19:42)*

Because the first day of the week (Sunday) was when Jesus was recorded as being resurrected, it seems the following increments in time appear to be true:

  1. Jesus was crucified and buried on Nisan 14
  2. The next day was the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, a day where no work could be done (Exodus 12). In essence, treated as a Sabbath. This day was called a High Day in John 19:31.
  3. The following day after #2 above could have been a regular Sabbath day.
  4. Jesus was resurrected on Sunday.

If these four things above are true, and it's difficult to find reliable data on #3, Jesus did indeed stay in the tomb for 3 days and 3 nights. But, because of the lack of clear and scientific proof of #3 above, I'm not certain upon which day Nisan 14 fell. It appears to be Wednesday or Thursday, per my posted increments above.

Because in my research I'm not seeing any consistent proof about this particular question, I'm curious what proof exists. Also interested in anything clear, even though contrary to my stated assumptions.

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    hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/67143/…
    – user35953
    Commented Nov 14, 2021 at 15:36
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    Jesus might have risen on Saturday just before sunset.
    – user35953
    Commented Nov 14, 2021 at 16:49
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    In any case, I do my reasoning probabilistically when there is no clear binary (yes or no) answer.
    – user35953
    Commented Nov 14, 2021 at 17:00
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    Seeing your researching - consider looking into what’s coming out from the translations of the Dead Sea Scrolls, especially regarding the difference in calendars used by the Essenes and the Pharisees. There is an argument that John was possibly using a different calendar (to that used in the other gospels) in his book. Overall, IIRC the scrolls support your increments.
    – Dave
    Commented Nov 14, 2021 at 17:43
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    @MartinHemsley, "why would the women not buy the spices and take them to the tomb to further prepare the body on Friday?". Mark says they bought the spices when the sabbath was past. Luke says they then prepared those spices and then rested on the sabbath. Either that's a contradiction, or they bought and prepared the spices on Friday, after the Thursday high sabbath and before the Saturday weekly sabbath. Commented Nov 14, 2021 at 21:04

5 Answers 5

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On which day of the week was Jesus crucified - Wednesday or Thursday?

  1. Jesus was crucified the day before the Sabbath (Mark 15:42). He also died on the Preparation Day which was not only the preparation day of the Passover but the preparation of the weekly Sabbath. This would be on a Friday, not Wednesday or Thursday. The reason the Passover holy convocation had a preparation day was that all leaven had to be cleansed from the homes. This required some work and inspection. On the other hand, all weekly sabbaths had a preparation day that preceded them (that was Friday). It is interesting to note that the Greek word today for Friday is still "preparation".

  2. The confusion comes from mislabeling Nisan 15 as an annual Sabbath. Nisan 15 was never called a Sabbath in the Hebrew Scriptures. It didn't qualify as a Sabbath because it did not forbid any work like the weekly Sabbaths and the Day of Atonement did. Nisan 15 made an exception to the no work rules in Exodus 12:16 and later, after Israel left Egypt, it was modified to forbid only servile work. Once you realize what made a Sabbath a Sabbath then confusing Nisan 15 as a Sabbath disappears.

  3. However, despite all that, the Pharisees (Rabbinic Authorities) of Jesus' day believed Nisan 15 was a Sabbath but not as strictly as an actual Sabbath. The Sadducees, who controlled Temple worship at the time Jesus walked the earth, celebrated the weekly Sabbath but did not recognize Nisan 15 as a Sabbath. Work at your occupations and strenuous labor was forbidden on Nisan 15 but not all work was forbidden, even under the Pharisee reckoning. If Nisan 15 had fallen on a Thursday and the crucifixion had fallen on a Wednesday, then there would have been no rush to bury the body as the Nisan 15 drew on. However, if Nisan 15 had fallen on the weekly Sabbath that would not only be a "great" Sabbath, but Joseph and Nicodemus would have had to rush the burial of Jesus.

  4. So, I believe Wednesday or Thursday could not be the day Jesus was crucified. It had to be on a Friday. This of course leaves us with Matthew 12:40 where Jesus said he would be in "the heart of the earth" three days and three nights. That verse is a thorn in the side of those who hold to the Friday crucifixion. It's hard to "explain it away" but there are holes in the arguments one puts forth to place the crucifixion on a Wednesday or Thursday.

  5. It's interesting to note that Matthew is internally consistent with itself. There is a conflict between Matthew and the other three gospels though. It's also interesting to note the spurious Gospel of Peter places the crucifixion on a Wednesday or a Thursday, depending on how you interpret "night and day" in verse 27. The writer of Peter probably had the gospel of Matthew and did not know of Mark, Luke, and John.

The Gospel of Peter

  1. See my answer here: Can Nisan 15 be referred to as "the sabbath"?
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  • +1. The three nights and days only fits on Jesus food consumption, because there is exactly three nights and three days between the last supper and his consumption of fish and honey comb on Sunday evening. Commented Dec 19, 2021 at 23:17
  • @Constantthin LOL. Thank You for that comment Commented Dec 19, 2021 at 23:22
  • The difficulty most have with the "three days and three nights" comes from focusing on the time rather than the event. The "heart of the earth" does not necessarily mean the tomb. If one considers that it might mean in custody of the kingdom of Rome, at that time the greatest kingdom in the known world, then this would have begun at his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, Thursday evening. Three nights (by Biblical reckoning): preparation day, Sabbath, first day ; three days: preparation day, Sabbath, first day. Modern reckoning would have the nights as Thursday, Friday, Saturday.
    – Biblasia
    Commented Dec 11, 2022 at 3:12
  • The ancients did not see earth as we see it. They did not know how deep the earth was; all they knew was Hades was the subterranean region where all departed souls would go. A tomb was not in the center of the earth or even under the earth. The tomb Jesus was in was ABOVE the surface of the earth. Commented Dec 12, 2022 at 18:52
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    Josephus wrote an article on Hades. Here it is: penelope.uchicago.edu/josephus/hades.html Commented Dec 12, 2022 at 19:32
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When we collect all the evidences from the four gospel accounts and place them side by side, we get the following sequence in the right order:

(In the modern reckoning):

Tuesday evening – Jesus ate the Passover meals, went to Gethsemane and was arrested (Nissan 14 Passover night);

Wednesday daytime and evening – Pilate’s judgment, Crucifixion (1 Cor 5:7) and Burial (Nissan 14 Passover day as the "Preparation" of the fast approaching Nissan 15, feast of Unleavened Bread);

Thursday daytime – chief priests and Pharisees request Pilate to secure the sepulcher (Matt 27:62-66). (Nissan 15 first UB day, an annual Rest/Sabbath, a great/high day);

Friday daytime – the ladies “bought” spices and prepared spices and ointment – Mark 16:1 (Nissan 16 UB day, a working day);

Saturday – the same ladies rested on Sabbath “according to the commandment” – Luke 23:56 (Nissan 17 UB day, unless Saturday, is a working day);

Sunday early morning – the ladies see the risen Jesus (Nissan 18 UB day, a working day; Wave sheaf offering day).

Counting

Wednesday night, Thursday night and Friday night = 3 nights

Thursday day, Friday day and Saturday day = 3 days

Were these the same ladies?

Yes, the Scripture says so:

“And the sabbath (annual Sabbath, a high day, first day of the UB on Thursday) passing, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome, bought spices, so that coming they might anoint Him” (Mark 16:1). This was on the Friday.

But according to Luke, the same ladies “rested on the Sabbath (Saturday), according to the commandment” (Luke 23:56). On Sunday, “still very early, they came on the tomb, carrying spices which THEY prepared” (Luke 24:1).

Who were they who prepared the spices?

“And they were Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary mother of James, and the rest” (verse 10).

Yes, they were the same ladies who bought spices on Friday after the annual Sabbath of Thursday and rested on Saturday Sabbath. They were not two groups of different ladies.

Resurrection on Sunday?

The gospels actually don’t say that Jesus rose on Sunday or the first day. It simply says the ladies saw the risen Jesus on Sunday, the first day.

The only Scripture people use to support a Sunday resurrection is Mark 16:9: “And having risen early on the first of the sabbath, He first appeared to Mary Magdalene”.

But we know very well that there was no punctuation in the original Greek. So, we see, “And having risen, early on the first of the Sabbath He first appeared to Mary Magdalene”.

That is, ‘And having risen, He first appeared to Mary Magdalene early on the first of the Sabbath’.

Answer

So, yes, Jesus was crucified on a Wednesday.

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  • I agree with your conclusion. However, Mark 16:9 in almost every translation on Earth says, "Now after He had risen early on the first day of the week..." Early could have been when it was still dark or just at dawn. But, anyway, it doesn't say "the first of the sabbath" but rather "the first of the week". Commented Mar 28 at 12:20
  • Please read my answer to this question. I believe I have answered the issue there. Thanks. hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/27997/… Commented Mar 28 at 15:57
  • Nephesh, does the word 'sabbath' change its meaning whether plural or singular? I ask because in Mark 16:9 it's singular. In Acts 20:7 (from your link), it's plural. Commented Mar 28 at 18:58
  • Sabbaton is a loan word from Hebrew/Aramaic and is used both as singular and plural. See hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/50939/… Commented Mar 29 at 3:10
  • hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/4144/… seems to provide the best answers I've seen so far. Commented Mar 29 at 21:11
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First of all, dawn (beginning) of the first day of the week is not early in the morning according to the bible, it is towards the end of a day to begin another which falls around the present 6 pm (12th hour of the day). That means John testified that he rose on the Shabbath (John 12:12-13). This is because he was buried towards the end of the day (Passover) he died (John 19:31). Christ could not have gone to Bethany on the Shabbath (John 12:1) because it is a rest day. So three days and three nights from "towards the end of the Shabbath" on which he rose was a Wednesday which was prophesied by Daniel (Dan 9:27). This means that he enter Bethany on the 6th day of the week (Friday) which was the 9th of Abib, made the triumphal entry on the 10th which is the Shabbath as a king, never left Jerusalem till the Passover which is the 14th (midst of that week) which was Wednesday and he was killed and buried towards the end of that day. The women rested on the High/Annual Shabbath (Thursday) which falls on the 15th of Abib every year (the first day of the feast of unleavened bread- Luke 23:56, Leviticus 23:7). The women bought spices on Friday, which was the 16th Abib (Mark 16:1). Then they rested on the weekly Shabbath which was the 17th of Abib. By the time they came on the first day of the week (Sunday) he was already risen at the same time he was buried. And that Sunday was the the waving of sheaf which began the feast of Shavuot (Pentecost) which lasts for seven Shabbaths and ends on the fiftieth day which is the first day of the week (Sunday) and he had to present himself to the Father (God) as the sheaf and lamb without blemish (Leviticus 23: 10 - 12, John 20:17, John 20:26-29). Once you remove the scriptures from the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, you must make mistakes. Christ is come but to fulfil the law of Moses and the prophets. Therefore it is important to understand God's commandment about the Passover and the feast of Unleavened Bread. But the question is - are we still going to celebrate this feast or should we go with Christians that replaced it with Easter. 1 Corinthians 5:7 and 8: Purge out therefore the old leaven so that you will be a new lump- like the unleavened bread the Israelites ate. This is because Christ our Passover has already been sacrificed for us. Then if we believe that Christ our Passover has been Sacrificed for us, we should keep the feast which is the feast of unleavened bread not with physical unleavened bread but by throwing away the leaven of malice and wickedness and embracing the unleavened bread which is being sincere and truthful. Will this just happen for seven days. No - seven days means completeness. it is something you celebrate throughout your life, throwing away all vile including wickedness, malice, envy, backbiting, bitterness, etc. and embracing sincerity, truthfulness, love, peace, etc. for the rest of our lives.

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Because God is perfect, Jesus Christ fulfilled the Old Testament perfectly. Therefore, the crucifixion of Jesus at Passover must match the Passover described in the Old Testament as follows:

The 10th day of the first month (Nisan) the Passover lamb is selected (Exodus 12:1-3)--------Jesus enters Jerusalem to many hosannas (John 12:1-13).

The Passover lamb is inspected for four days 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th (Exodus 12:1-6)---------Jesus is questioned by Jewish leaders and they could find no fault in Him (Luke Ch.19-20, Matthew Ch. 21-25 and Mark Ch. 11-13).

The Passover lamb is slain on the 14th day of Nisan (Exodus 12:6)-------Jesus crucified on the day of the Preparation Day of the Passover Seder on the 15th making it the 14th (John 19:14).

The Passover Seder and the First Day of Unleavened Bread on the 15th of Nisan (Leviticus 23:6-7)-------Bodies could not remain on the cross on a Sabbath (John 19:31).

I believe the 16th day of Nisan was the weekly Sabbath the year of the crucifixion.

Firstfruit Wave Offering (Leviticus 23:3-11)--------Jesus is the first fruit of the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:20), 17th day of Nisan.

Six days before Passover, Jesus entered Bethany (John 12:1). I think John is saying six days before the Passover Seder on the 15th of Nison, making the date the 9th of Nisan. Then, the next day Jesus went to Jerusalem, the 10th of Nisan (John 12:12-13). Jesus was born under the law (Galatians 4:4) therefore, to violate the law would be a sin and Jesus was without sin (Hebrews 4:15). It is generally accepted that Jesus entered Jerusalem before the crucifixion on the first day of the week or our Sunday, but the scripture does not state the day. In Acts 1:12 Luke states that from Jerusalem to the Mount of Olives is a Sabbath’s day journey. So, how does this fit into the journey of Jesus to Jerusalem preceding His crucifixion and can we believe He entered Jerusalem on the first day of the week. In Luke 19:1-11 we learn that Jesus passed through Jericho and told Zaccheus that today I must stay at your house. Then in verse 11 of the same chapter we learn that the house of Zaccheus was near Jerusalem. In John 12:1-13, we learn that Jesus entered Jerusalem on the next day after entering the home of Lazarus in Bethany. Bethany to Jerusalem is farther than a Sabbath day’s journey and Jericho to near Jerusalem at Zaccheus’ house is certainly farther than a Sabbath day’s Journey. Therefore, it seems logical that the Sabbath day’s journey was from the house of Zaccheus to the house of Lazarus in Bethany making the Triumphal Entry on the first day of the week, Palm Sunday. Then if the 10th of Nisan was on a Sunday, then the 14th of Nisan, when the Passover lamb thus Jesus was crucified was on a Thursday. Note, parts of 3 days & 3 nights in tomb, if He arose before dawn on Sunday (John 12:12-13). And He arose on the 3rd day after entombment as per scripture. 10th -16th is 7 days, the number for complete. 17th is the 8th day, the number for new beginnings.

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This looks like an old thread. I'm not sure why it popped up near the top of the list. But it interests me, so I'll throw in my two cents.

Point 1: I know you aren't asking about what the meaning of the day of preparation is, but since it has some relevance, I feel the need to elaborate. The day of the Passover sacrifice and meal is colloquially referred to as the Eve of the Passover, not the Preparation of the Passover. There are hundreds of instances in Jewish literature of the 14th being referred to as the Eve of the Passover, but not a single instance of it being referred to as the Preparation of the Passover. The "Preparation" nomenclature is also mirrored in the other three Gospels concerning the day of the crucifixion, and defined for the gentile reading audience as being the day before the Sabbath. The Preparation of the Passover is merely the day of Preparation during Passover week.

Point 2: Relative to the definable days of Passion week throughout the Gospels, it should be noted that if Jesus died on a Wednesday or a Thursday, the Sabbath would have been profaned by someone in an unacceptable manner. If he died on Wednesday, it would result in the timeline putting merchants doing business in the temple complex on the Sabbath, which had been strictly prohibited since the time of Nehemiah. If he died on Thursday, it would have Jesus riding a donkey on the Sabbath, in direct violation of the Ten Commandments themselves. I'll leave out the timeline for now. If anyone objects, I'll edit this post to include a delineation of the days per scripture.

Point 3: Three days and three nights in the heart of the earth is synecdoche. Jews counted any part of a day as a whole. People are hanging on semantics. The day of the crucifixion was one day and the first day. The Sabbath following was two days and the second day. The first day of the week was three days and the third day.

Point 4: According to Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus ate the Passover at the Last Supper. According to Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the afternoon leading up to the Last Supper was the first day of unleavened bread, which is the 14th day of the month, when all leaven had to be destroyed before the Passover sacrifice could commence. Mark and Luke add further that the afternoon leading up to the Last Supper was also the day when the Passover was killed, which is likewise the 14th day of the month.

If it was the first day of unleavened bread, and the day when the Passover was killed, and Jesus sent two disciples to procure a room in Jerusalem and to go and prepare the Passover, then the last supper was on the 14th. If Jesus was arrested that night and crucified the next day, then he died on the 15th, not the 14th.

Point 5: Theology doesn't dictate documented history. All Christians know and agree that Jesus was our Passover. But he was our Passover by virtue of his blood protecting us from death, not because of the specifics of the Passover ritual. If one chooses to say that Jesus had to die on the 14th to be the Passover, and that the symbolism is invalidated if he died on the 15th, then I would remind everyone that the Passover wasn't supposed to be crucified either. It was supposed to have it's throat cut, and the blood drained into a bowl to be burned over the altar fire. It wasn't supposed to be a spotless lamb of the thirty-third year, but of the first year. It was supposed to be slain inside Jerusalem, not outside the city. It was supposed to be consumed the evening after roasting it, while Jesus was neither roasted nor consumed following his sacrifice. The remains were supposed to be burned, not buried in a tomb. The methodology has to be consistent. If one point of inconsistency with the Passover protocols renders his sacrifice non-Passover, then so do all of the others.

Point 6: For the crucifixion to have occurred on any other day of the week than Friday, it had to fall on the 14th of the month. The 15th was considered a holiday Sabbath, including by the specific nomenclature "Sabbath" itself, at least as far back as the early first century BCE. The count to Pentecost was decided to begin on the 16th, being the morrow after the Sabbath, relative to the 15th being the Sabbath.

In which case, the Sabbath requirement of the Gospels for the day following the crucifixion, if it occurred on the 14th, can be satisfied by the 15th day of the month if the crucifixion occurred on a day other than Friday.

However, if the crucifixion occurred on the 15th day of the month, which three Gospels unambiguously testify to, then the only day that can satisfy the Sabbath requirement is the Saturday Sabbath, which, by a normal reading hermeneutic, is the story the Gospels all readily tell. The 16th is only a Sabbath if it occurs on a Saturday. Consequently, with the 16th falling on the Sabbath in this case, it makes that Sabbath a high day, because the 16th was First Fruits, the Waving of the Sheaf, and the first day in the count to Pentecost.

The John Objection: The only real objection that can be offered to the information above is the statement in John that the priests didn't want to defile themselves, so that they might eat the Passover.

It is my opinion that the authors of the Gospels were all telling the same story. While there are certain minor details that might be unique to this one or that, the core story is the same. It is also my opinion that people don't forget key days or dates when they are paralleled with landmark events. A person might, in time, forget the specific date his or her mother passed away. But if their mother died on Christmas, they would never forget that she died on Christmas. If she died on Christmas Eve, they would never forget that it was Christmas Eve. Landmark dates tied to landmark events become unforgettable. I could tell you, for example, that my late father-in-law passed away on April 14th. I couldn't tell you the day. I couldn't tell you the year. But I know that he died on my wife's birthday. I can also tell you six years after losing my wife that she died on November the 14th, because that was six months after her birthday, April 14th, which I always remembered because that was the day Lincoln was shot. Consequently, if a person's mother instead died on Thanksgiving, everyone would know in perpetuity that she died on a Thursday.

John and the Synoptics are telling the same story. The crucifixion was tied directly to a landmark event, both in date and in day. They ate the Passover with him. He died the next day. That day was the preparation of the Sabbath. He rose on the first day of the week.

So, with three Gospels testifying to the first day of unleavened bread, the slaying of the Passover lamb, and a Passover Last Supper prior to Jesus' arrest, and then testifying that he died the next day, I do not believe John is telling us something different.

Ergo, the answer is that the priests intended to eat the Hagigah, also referred to as the Passover of the 15th. It was equally obligatory in Jewish law, and equally referred to as the paska, or Passover.

Conclusion: Since Jesus died on the 15th, he died on a Friday. Neither Wednesday nor Thursday is correct. In the end, it boils down to the three passages in the Synoptics. If you want proof, that's it.

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