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Internet historian and author Daniel Gregg has claimed that Jesus was crucified on Wednesday afternoon, died, and was resurrected from the dead in the wee hours before sunrise Sabbath morning. (Source: "A Sabbath Resurrection and Wednesday Crucifixion of Yeshua the Messiah")

Unlike most who believe in the Wednesday crucifixion and Saturday afternoon resurrection theory, Gregg opts for placing the resurrection in the pre-dawn hours of Saturday. Gregg even has his own translation of the New Testament called the Good News of Messiah.

Gregg claims that traditional Christianity is under a Satanic deception that has covered up the truth of the Sabbath resurrection and replaced it with the teaching that Jesus rose from the dead on Sunday so it could abandon Sabbath worship and worship instead on Sunday.

His main argument seems to be that in the original Greek in Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:1-2, Luke 24:1-2, and John 20:1-2 the verses literally state that it was not on the first day of the week as most translations have it, but on the "first of the Sabbaths". This leads Gregg to assert that Jesus actually rose from the dead Saturday morning before sunrise.

He goes to great lengths to prove this, bringing forth many claims that support his belief in the Sabbath resurrection. He claims that those who believe otherwise are deceived by Satan. Much of his chronology depends on the truth of the annual Sabbath Nisan 15. Without it, his whole case collapses like a house of cards. Gregg claims there were not one, but two Sabbaths in Passover week the first being the annual Sabbath that fell on Thursday and the "first of the Sabbaths" in the resurrection accounts that refer to the first weekly Sabbath of the seven weekly Sabbath countdown toward Shavuot. In Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:1, Luke 24:1, and John 20:1 the English words "first of the week" literally are "the first of the Sabbaths" or "one of the Sabbaths" since in the original Greek they are in the plural.

There are three main theories of what the plural "Sabbaths" refer to in the resurrection accounts.

  1. They refer to the fact that there was more than one Sabbath the week Jesus died, the annual Sabbath, and the weekly Sabbath.

  2. They refer to the first of the seven Sabbath countdown toward Shavuot (Pentecost).

  3. They refer to the "first (day) of the week".

These are the three possible solutions to the reason for the plural Sabbaths in the Greek text. If you can think of one more, add it to this question at the bottom of the article. I will add it to this question when able.

Regarding # 1, there were no other Sabbaths besides the weekly Sabbath the week Jesus died. So, this can be ruled out.

Regarding # 2, it is true that according to Leviticus 23:11, there was to be a seven Sabbath countdown to Shavuot (Pentecost) from the day after the first weekly Sabbath after the Passover. It meant however that the very next weekly Sabbath after this would be the first Sabbath in the seven Sabbath countdown. Therefore, the "first of the Sabbaths" in Passion Weekend could not be referring to the seven Sabbath countdown. The next Sabbath would begin that countdown.

Regarding # 3, the only remaining theory is that the "first of the Sabbaths" was a Greek idiom meaning the "first of the week" as many scholars have claimed over the centuries. Gregg absolutely detests this one, claiming those that take this position are not only wrong but deliberately mislead people by spreading the big lie.

It is interesting to note that Acts 20:7 refers to a "first of the Sabbaths" that is translated as "the first day of the week" in most English versions. However, this "first of the Sabbaths" occurs about 11 days AFTER the Days of Unleavened Bread so it could not possibly be referring to the second Sabbath that falls after Nisan 14.

Others on this site have offered their opinions about the plural "Sabbaths" used in the resurrection accounts.

Sabbath, Sabbaths or week? Matthew 28:1

There is plenty on BHSE about the so-called annual Sabbath Passover week. I have answered this issue twice at the following link:

can Nisan 15 be referred to as "the sabbath"?

In any case, Gregg makes some errors in his reasoning but does that diminish his claim? It seems to me it does. But I am interested in the opinion of others.

The phrase "first of the Sabbaths" can be an idiom and mean the "first day of the week."

The Jewish Translators of the Septuagint translated the Hebrew word Shabbat into WEEK and WEEKS in Leviticus 23:15,16.

The Feast of Weeks

15 And ye shall number to yourselves from the day after the sabbath, from the day on which ye shall offer the sheaf of the heave-offering, seven full WEEKS 16 until the morrow after the last WEEK ye shall number fifty days, and shall bring a new meat-offering to the Lord.

That was the case two or three centuries BEFORE Christ walked the earth. About two or three centuries (I don't know for sure) after Jesus walked the earth the Jewish authorties called Shabbat a WEEK in Menachot 65a in the Talmud.

https://www.sefaria.org/Menachot?tab=contents

Even in 1917 the JPS translators of the Tanach translated Sabbath as week or weeks twice in Leviticus 23:

15 And you shall count for yourselves, from the morrow of the rest day from the day you bring the omer as a wave offering seven WEEKS; they shall be complete.

16 You shall count until the day after the seventh WEEK, [namely,] the fiftieth day, [on which] you shall bring a new meal offering to the Lord.

It is apparent that the word Shabbat can be translated as WEEK, depending on the context.

There have been Christians that have worshipped on Saturday dating back to the first century CE and there have been Christians who also celebrated Sunday as the Lord's Day. But that's another subject.

My question is this: "Could Jesus have risen from the dead before sunrise Saturday morning?" Have you ever heard of this before? What think ye?

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  • 1
    Interestingly, Greek is not the only language to have the word for "Sabbath" used also to mean a week. Thai and Lao both have the word "Sa-pa-da" (สัปดาห์/ສັບປະດາ) which is quite similar to "Sabbath" that is used to mean "week." A replacement to this word has entered the language which is used for Sunday with the addition of a prefix, อาทิตย์/ອາທິດ, and this word is also used for "week." So within the language, both "Sabbath," and later "Sunday" are used to mean "week." It is to distinguish between the day and week usages that a prefix meaning "day" gets added for the weekday.
    – Biblasia
    Jun 14, 2023 at 0:22
  • @Biblasia Hi, thanks for this information. I will look into this. Could you refer me to a primary source that I can read? Thanks! Dec 6, 2023 at 1:18
  • According to whom? "John"? Or the Synoptics? Unless you define your context, you will never get a meaningful answer.
    – Ruminator
    Dec 6, 2023 at 3:30
  • Nisan 15 can be any day of the week, but in 33 AD (the year of Jesus' death in my honest opinion), it just happened to be on the week day sabbath, making the passover a high/great and therefore special sabbath to boot. However all talk of a plurality of sabbaths should be put aside, as this only serves to cloud the issue. The synopsis I gave in September of 2021 looks at the question of the "3 days and 3 nights" from a different angle:- hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/67143/… Jesus arose early, on Sunday. Dec 7, 2023 at 6:48
  • Olde English, Friday, April 23, 34 AD is also a possibility, if you use the leap year Adar II to push back Nisan from beginning on March 10 or 11 to April 9 or 10. It is a possibility because if the new moon crescent had been spotted 24 hours late it would have fallen on the sunset of Friday, April 9, 34 AD. If Nisan had begun in March of that year then forget all of the above but IF 34 AD was a leap year in the Jewish Calendar, then Nisan would have fallen in April 34 AD and not in March. Dec 9, 2023 at 18:12

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This theory (in slight variations) has been around for some time and predates Daniel Gregg by at least 100 years and has been asked on this site numerous times. There are various motivations (which are from expositor to expositor and not all independent) for this theory such as:

  • a need to justify the Sabbath
  • the need to justify Sunday as the new Sabbath
  • a need to satisfy "three days and three nights", etc

All these have several errors in common:

  • the fact that the NT Koine Greek uses σάββατον meaning both "Sabbath" the seventh day of the week, AND, the word for week. This is seen clearly in Matt 28:1 where we read, "After the Sabbath before dawn on the first of the week {Lit: Sabbath] ...". Thus, Sabbath here cannot mean Sabbath both times, but means "Sabbath" and "week"
  • The fact that NT Koine Greek regularly (about 50% of instances) uses the plural "sabbaths" for the singular - see BDAG for details. (There is another question about this on this site as well.)
  • The fact that in NT Koine Greek (and in all other Koine documents known from the 1st century) παρασκευή = preparation day before the weekly Sabbath. It NEVER means the preparation day before an annual festival
  • The fact that "Sabbath" (with a single exception in the OT) is never used to refer to an annual feast/festival and never in the NT
  • the common practice of inclusive time reckoning when saying "three days". (There are a few questions about this on this site as well.)

Thus, "first of Sabbaths" is actually just, "the first of the week" namely sunday as clearly shown above in Matt 28:1.

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  • I agree that Preparation in the Greek Scriptures usually refers to Friday and I am on record as believing that elsewhere on this site. See here: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/62640/… Jun 14, 2023 at 1:40
  • However, in the book of John there is an exception. It says Friday was also the "preparation of the Passover". When I celebrated the Passover in the 70s and 80s my church called the day before Nisan 15 the "Preparation Day" because that was the day that church members removed all leaven out of the house. We had to move furniture and vacuum and dust, carefully sweeping all dust out of our homes so we could worship on the days of Unleavened Bread leaven free. I am not trying to show you up, I am just letting you know there is an exception. Jun 14, 2023 at 1:44
  • It believe this is why some people believe in the Thursday Sabbath and others the Friday Sabbath. Yet, the high day fell on the weekly Sabbath. If July 4 falls on a Saturday, then that Sabbath would be a holiday. A year later the holiday (high day) would be Sunday. The Nisan 15 high day fell on a Saturday the week Jesus died. May 24 at 0:15
  • Others have claimed that the Greek word for Preparation always referred to Friday. Hence, the "Preparation" of the Passover should be rendered as "the Friday of the Passover". I am not so sure about this interpretation. I have Samuele Bacchiocchi to thank for this interpretation. He discusses it in his book on the Resurrection Day. May 24 at 0:17
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it was not on the first day of the week as most translations have it, but on the "first of the Sabbaths"

The word commonly translated as "week", is in fact Sabbaths (plural), so he is on the right track.

But, it would be more reasonable to translate it as "first of the weeks", a reference to the 7 weeks that were to be counted to determine when Pentecost would be celebrated. The fifty days (inclusive) were to be counted starting on the Sunday following the first weekly sabbath within the Days of Unleavened Bread. The Sunday on the fiftieth day being Pentecost.

That is, each of the 7 weeks begins on Sunday, and the Sunday following the resurrection was when the first of the weeks began.

Accepting Gregg's point that the Crucifixion was just before sunset on Wednesday, it makes most sense if the Resurrection was just before sunset on Saturday, as that satisfies the 72 hours, "three days and three nights", prophecy exactly and simply, without rationalizing small periods of light and dark in order to fit it into less than 36 hours (as most denominations do today), or 60 hours (as Gregg is suggesting).

And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete
— Leviticus 23:15

Notice that the counting doesn't begin until Sunday morning, and the 49th day is the seventh of the Sabbaths, which means that the "first of the Sabbaths" wouldn't occur for another 6 days.

So even if his translation "first of the Sabbaths" is correct (and I believe it is), his application of what it means is clearly wrong.

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  • It is my understanding the "first of the Sabbaths" if referring to the first Sabbath of the seven Sabbath countdown to Shavuot (Pentecost) would not occur until the first Sabbath AFTER the days of Unleavened Bread, after all, the first Sunday after Nisan 15 would be the first day of the 50-day count. Am I mistaken? So how could "the first of the Sabbaths" refer to the first weekly Sabbath AFTER the high day? Scholars insist that "the first of the Sabbaths" was a Jewish idiom for "the first (day) of the week." Dec 10, 2023 at 3:40
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There are some Christians who believe Jesus of Nazareth was crucified on a Wednesday afternoon and was raised from the dead sometime in the late afternoon of the weekly Sabbath. This means that Jesus was “in the heart of the earth three days and three nights” as per Matthew 12:40.

Matthew 12:38-40 (KJV): 38 Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. 39 But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: 40 For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

There are several churches of God and individuals that believe this; indeed, I learned this when I was a co-worker in the Worldwide Church of God in the 70s and 80s while Herbert W. Armstrong was in charge. I studied this in detail and was convinced of the truth of this belief. To me, it appeared to be an air-tight case and I could not see any weaknesses in it. From Wednesday afternoon to Saturday afternoon was a 72-hour period. That, it was claimed, was the “three days and three nights” that Jesus prophesied he would be in the heart of the earth.

They did not count Wednesday afternoon in the three days, three nights but counted daytime Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. They also counted nighttime Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. It appeared solid to me except for the portion of Wednesday afternoon they did not count. They used a Western way of counting days where one could count from 3 pm Wednesday to 3 pm Thursday as one day. In Jewish inclusive reckoning that would be two days, not one.

However, there are others who believe not only was Jesus crucified on a Wednesday afternoon but he was resurrected early Sabbath morning, before sunrise. These are in the minority, but they make what appears to be a strong case for their belief. They still get three days and three nights between Wednesday afternoon and the pre-dawn hours of the weekly Sabbath. Unlike others. they do count Wednesday afternoon as the first day and Saturday morning before sunrise would be three days and three nights. It is not a common belief, but it is one that seems to be gaining traction.

Internet scholar and author Daniel Gregg has studied this theory for years and has written about it in detail. He has written a two-volume work titled The Scroll of Biblical Chronology and Ancient Near Eastern History and has authored an extensive article on his website about the Sabbath morning resurrection.

https://www.torahtimes.org/SabbathResurrection/The%20Sabbath%20Resurrection.htm

It’s a long article but I am only going to mention a few points now. He makes several unwarranted assumptions and as a result, makes several mistakes in his chronology.

One of his unwarranted assumptions is the belief that Nisan 15 is an annual Sabbath in the Hebrew Scriptures. Nothing could be further than the truth. Nisan 15 was one of the seven annual holy convocations (assemblies) mentioned in Leviticus 23. There were many holy assemblies for the Jews. The weekly Sabbaths were all holy assemblies and they forbade all work. Of the remaining seven annual holy convocations only Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement) was called a Sabbath and it too, like the weekly Sabbath, forbade all work. The other holy assemblies forbade only servile work and were not called Sabbaths. There is absolutely no proof in the Hebrew Scriptures that Nisan 15 was a Sabbath.

Ancient Israelites never celebrated Nisan 15 as a Sabbath but sometime, possibly around the time of the Babylonian captivity, the Jews embraced the idea of the Nisan 15 a Sabbath. That was probably because the Babylonians celebrated an annual Sabbath on Nisan 15. Before the captivity, the Jews called the fifteenth day of the first month Abib 15. During the captivity the Jews adopted the Babylonian names for the days of the month and Abib 15 became Nisan 15. The Jews were in captivity for more than a generation and it is not inconceivable that they began calling the Nisan 15 holy convocation a Sabbath. The predecessors to the Pharisees began celebrating Nisan 15 as a Sabbath and when the Jews translated the Hebrew into the Greek language in the third century B.C.E. they translated it in such a fashion as to allow the interpretation that Nisan 15 was a Sabbath.

Read my two answers regarding this subject:

can Nisan 15 be referred to as "the sabbath"?

So, many of the Jews during the time when Jesus of Nazareth walked the earth believed that Nisan 15 was a Sabbath. These Jews were called the Pharisees. According to Josephus, the Pharisees controlled temple worship, at least at the time he lived. The Sadducees were a smaller sect than the Pharisees and they believed the Sabbath mentioned in Leviticus 23:11 was the weekly Sabbath.

According to their reckoning, the countdown to Shavuot (Pentecost) did not begin until the day after the first weekly Sabbath of the Days of Unleavened Bread. The Pharisees insisted it was the first day after the annual Sabbath of Passover week. However, the Pharisees had absolutely no scriptural proof for their beliefs on this matter. It turns out the Sadducees had the view that was closest to the Hebrew Scriptures.

Gregg opts for the Pharisee reckoning when it comes to the waving of the Omer and claims that the waving of the Omer occurs on the first day after Nisan 15. However, unlike the Pharisees, he doesn’t count down the seven weeks to Shavuot as they do. The Pharisees would wave the Omer on Nisan 16 and count from that day, even if it fell on a Tuesday or Thursday, or any other day of the week, and the fifty-day count would end up on the same day of the week it began.

The Pharisees did not count seven weekly Sabbaths as the Sadducees believed, but seven WEEKS as outlined in the Septuagint in Leviticus 23. The Sadducees did not wave the Omer until the morning after the first weekly Sabbath during the Days of Unleavened Bread. They then started counting from that Sunday so Day 50 would end on a Sunday. Under Sadducean reckoning, the second Sabbath AFTER Nisan 14 would be the first of seven Sabbaths before Shavuot.

Leviticus 23:11: And he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it.

What those who opt for the Sabbath morning resurrection do is claim that the word Sabbath in Leviticus 23:11 refers to the Nisan 15 “Sabbath”, even if it occurs on a weekday. However, unlike the Pharisees, they do not count the fifty days FROM Nisan 16. Instead, they count from the very first weekly Sabbath of the Feast of Unleavened Bread as the first Sabbath of the seven Sabbath count. This way they get to have their cake and eat it too.

They conveniently call Nisan 15 a Sabbath, and then claim that is the Sabbath Leviticus 23:11 is referring to. Now, having established that they can claim that the first weekly Sabbath of Passover week is the day Jesus rose from the dead.

In Greek, it is literally "the first of the Sabbaths" or "one of the Sabbaths" which many scholars claim is an idiom for 'the first day of the week". So, those that hold to the Sabbath pre-dawn resurrection start counting toward Shavuot on the FIRST weekly Sabbath of the Days of Unleavened Bread instead of the next weekly Sabbath as the Sadducees believed and the Bible teaches.

In any case, Gregg mistakenly believes Jesus rose from the dead on Sabbath morning during the pre-dawn hours. It has something to do with the Greek text in the resurrection accounts (Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:1-2, Luke 24:1, and John 20:1-2) and a literal reading thereof. I will deal with this in a future answer.

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A common error in hermeneutics is to change a standard during the analysis. The position begins using a standard, but resolves a conflict by invoking a different standard. However, the proper approach is to use the same standard throughout.

In the current question there are different factors which must all be true. The length of time spent in the tomb after death must be three days. The day of entombment must be before the Sabbath. The day of resurrection must be after the Sabbaths.

A Friday death is before the Sabbath and a Sunday resurrection after, but that period of time is not three days. To reconcile this problem a standard is invoked: the Jewish people counted any part of a day as a day. The argument is 72-hours are not necessarily the meaning of three days; a "day" could be any part of a day. So part of Friday and all of Saturday and part of Sunday equals three days.

However, if what people did is the standard to be used, it must be consistently applied. That is, what did people call a Sabbath? The evidence is overwhelming, a "Sabbath" was a day on which work was prohibited. Since the first and last days of Unleavened Bread were days of no work. they were "Sabbaths," and the 7-days of Unleavened Bread would always have three Sabbaths. In years which a weekly Sabbath fell the day before the first day of Unleavened Bread, there would be two Sabbaths at the start and two Sabbaths at the end. Regardless of the specific days, Unleavened Bread would always "begin" with two Sabbaths, even if they were not consecutive days. Therefore Sabbaths should be understood as plural. The issue is resolved.

Yet this solution is immediately rejected:

#1 They refer to the fact that there was more than one Sabbath the week Jesus died, the annual Sabbath, and the weekly Sabbath.

Regarding #1, there were no other Sabbaths besides the weekly Sabbath the week Jesus died. So, this can be ruled out.

Plural Sabbaths must be ruled out because the Bible does not specifically call a day of no work a "Sabbath." However, if Biblical terminology is the standard, then the time in the tomb cannot be Friday to Sunday, and it too must be ruled out.

Therein lies the hermeneutical dilemma. One standard, common practice, is necessary to show three days. But that standard must be rejected when trying to understand the plural of Sabbaths. Moreover, it is not simply consecutive Sabbaths which is in question, it is the length of a day. No one questions a Sabbath is a 24-hour period; a plural of Sabbaths cannot be less than 48-hours. But the Friday death Sunday resurrection does not cover 48-hours, much less the 72-hours one expects for three days.

This conundrum can be resolved by using what the Bible says:

Luke 22:1 (ESV):

Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover.

Obviously, Luke is reporting popular terminology. Nowhere in Scripture is Unleavened Bread called "Passover." Even though the two observances are distinct; even though attendance in Jerusalem is required for Unleavened Bread, not Passover; the popular terminology is to call the entire eight days, "Passover." If the seven days of Unleavened Bread can be called "Passover" on the basis of popular terminology, "Sabbath" should be treated consistently. Any day of no work is considered a Sabbath.

Nevertheless, this does not support Gregg's claim of resurrection before dawn on Saturday, which is unmistakably a Sabbath:

Luke 23:56:

Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments. On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.

Regardless of which Sabbath is in question, resting according to the commandment means to avoid work for 24-hours. Saturday is a Sabbath, the women did not go to the tomb on the Sabbath. They rested according to the commandment.

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  • Hi, I just saw this and I will reply tomorrow. I need a way to reply to you. I can't answer it right now. I am struggling spiritually right now and it's almost unbearable right now to try to write about scripture but I do need to answer you as you have obviously spent some time on your answer. I don't know how to contact you personally but if you know how to find my email don't hesitate to email me. Dec 8, 2023 at 23:25
  • I have written a comment to your answer and will send it to you if you contact me. In short, read Luke 22:1 again, Luke doesn't say the Feast of Unleavened Bread IS the Passover but simply it is CALLED the Passover. Luke is designating the Feast of Unleavened Bread is CALLED the Passover. The Feast of Unleavened Bread wasn't called the Passover in the Hebrew Scriptures. By the time the New Testament was written the Jews were observing the Feast of Unleavened Bread and called it the Passover. Luke is calling attention to this fact. Dec 10, 2023 at 3:13
  • In short, true believers who were following God's commands as preserved in the Hebrew Scriptures would understand that Luke was not claiming that the Feast of Unleavened Bread was Passover, as the Hebrew Scriptures show otherwise. Dec 10, 2023 at 3:15
  • @SaberTruthTiger What was Luke saying? Dec 10, 2023 at 3:56
  • Six of the seven annual convocations forbade only servile work. The ones that forbade ANY work were called Sabbaths. The ones who forbade servile were never called Sabbaths in the Hebrew Scriptures. You did not define properly what made a Sabbath in the Old Testament. The Sabbath allowed no work at all. The other days forbid some work, but not all. That is the standard that I apply. There is no evidence the Sadducees celebrated Nisan 15 as a Sabbath. Dec 10, 2023 at 18:17

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