(All Scriptures are NIV unless otherwise noted). )Most of the writers on this topic propose this day is Wednesday, a few believe it is Thursday, and some Friday. However, it appears a lot of them do not understand Jewish terminology where it concerns the time of day compared to how the western world determines time. There are also a lot of problems where it regards understanding the meaning of certain words surrounding Passover and the various traditions that were not spelled out in the New Testament scriptures regarding this feast. It is the intent of this article to clear up this confusion. I don't claim to have all the answers, but as a result of this study it appears there is only one day of the week that could work for the crucifixion.
|Jewish Reckoning of Time||Hour of the Day||Roman Reckoning of Time|
|Jewish "Hours" starts at Sunrise||Roman Day starts at Midnight|
|Sunrise = 1st hour = 6AM||Midnight = 1st hour = 12 AM|
|Luke 22:61 Jesus had already been arrested in the middle of the night and taken to the High Priest. Peter is in the High Priest's courtyard and denies Jesus three times and the rooster crows. At daybreak the elders took Jesus to Pilate. The Cockcrow watch began about 2:30 am||2-6 AM||John 19:14, "It was the day of Preparation of Passover Week, about the sixth hour. . .Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified."|
|Mark 15:16-24 and Luke 22:60-23:32, Soldiers Mocked Jesus, struck him, spat on him and took him to Golgotha.||6-9 AM||John 19:17 Jesus carried his own cross, to Golgotha.|
|Mark 15:25, "It was the third hour when they crucified him." 3 + 6 = 9||9 AM|
|Mark 15:33, "At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour." 6 + 6 = 12/Noon||12 Noon - 3 pm|
|Mark 15:34, "and at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice. . . With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last." |
(9 + 6 = 15 hours - 12 = 3 pm
|Mark 15:42-43, "It was Preparation Day (that is the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, . . . asked Pilate for Jesus body." (no work was allowed on the Sabbath).||3-6 PM||John 19:21, "Now it was the day of Prepartion, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath . . . " (no work was allowed on the Sabbath).|
|Sabbath starts at 12th hour or Sunset.||6 PM||Sabbath starts at Sunset 6 PM|
THE JEWISH DAY
|<--6 PM||6 AM||6 PM-->|
|9:30 PM||12:00 AM||2:30 AM||5:00 AM||1st hr||3rd hr||6th hr||9th hr|
|<--6 PM Evening||6 AM Dawn||Noon||<--Little Evening Eve.-->|
|<--6 PM Evening||Morning||Afternoon||3 PM* Eve.-->|
(Italics = daytime/normal font = night)
NISAN 8 -- JESUS TRAVELING FROM JERICHO TO BETHANY
|"Now as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside and said to them, 'We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death' . . ." (Matt. 20:17, 18).
"As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, . . . Two blind men . . . [One was probably Bartimeaus. Jesus healed them] Matt. 20:29-34). Matthew does not mention when Jesus arrived at Bethany.
|"They were on their way up to Jerusalem, . . . Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. 'We are going up to Jerusalem.' he said' and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law.'" (Mark 10:32, 46, ).
"Then they came to Jericho. As [they] . . . were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus, . . . [Jesus heals him]" (Mark 10:46-52). Mark does not mention when Jesus arrived at Bethany.
|"As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem, . . . Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, 'We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled" (Luke 9:51; 18:31).
"As Jesus approached Jericho a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. . . [probably Bartimeaus--Jesus healed him] (Luke 18:35-43). Luke does not mention when Jesus arrived at Bethany.
|"When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, many went up from the country to Jerusalem for their ceremonial cleansing before the Passover" (John 11:55). John does not mention the healing of Bartimaeus. "Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. " (John 12:1).|
Even though it appears that Jesus was arriving in Jericho and leaving at the same time, when he healed Bartimaeus, please notice the words exchanged are the same in all 3 gospels. This can be easily explained by the fact that in Jesus' time there were actually two Jerichos, the ancient one from Old Testament times being about a mile north of the more modern city (8).
John said Jesus arrived in Bethany, where Lazarus lived, six days before Passover. If you count backwards from the Feast day of Passover, Nisan 15, you get the 9th. If you count backwards from the Day of Preparation, the 14th of Nisan, you get the 8th. John doesn't indicate which of the two days he is referring to, so we have to rely on another source. Josephus corroborates this date on another Passover before the Romans destroyed the Temple in 70 A.D., ". . .when the people were come in great crowds to the feast of unleavened bread, on the eighth day of the month Xanthicus [Nisan], . . ." (Josephus: Wars of the Jews, VI, 5, 3). This doesn't prove they arrived on the same date the year Jesus died but it is a very good possibility, especially when you consider what John said in 11:55 when we are told that the Jews came to Jerusalem for ceremonial cleansing before the Passover. This is why they were arriving so early. We know Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey on the 10th. Therefore, the day he arrived in Bethany had to have been at least one day earlier, or two if one of them was a Sabbath.
Matthew, Mark, and Luke all make it sound like Jesus went straight from Jericho to Jerusalem for the Triumphal Entry on the 10th of Nisan. However, Bethany is about 20 miles from Jericho on a winding road and Jerusalem is about 1 3/4 mile farther. It would have been about a 22 mile trip for them to travel from Jericho straight into Jerusalem. Keep in mind this was also an uphill climb out of the Jordan Valley on foot. Therefore, it is entirely logical that Jesus and his disciples would have stopped in Bethany at his friend Lazarus' house to rest for the night after arriving from Jericho before proceeding into Jerusalem a day or two later. Also, remember that the Triumphal Entry was one of the most important days of Jesus' life--proclaiming Himself as King. Knowing Jesus, he probably wanted to spend some time in prayer before such a momentous occasion. This would make Nisan 8 a day that couldn't be a Sabbath.
NISAN 9 -- A SABBATH?This is not clearly stated in scripture and can only be discerned after we analyze all the other data and then eliminate which days cannot be the Sabbath, i.e., the day everyone arrived from Jericho, the day of the Triumphal Entry, and every day that Jesus returned to Bethany for the night, as I will show below. The fact that there is no mention of this day in Scripture is even more indication that it might have been a Sabbath because this was to be a day of rest and therefore there wouldn't be much to say about it.
NISAN 10 -- TRIUMPHAL ENTRY
|[They spent the night in Bethany.]
"As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives," Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, 'Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. . . . They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. . . . [they entered Jerusalem]" (Matt. 21:1-17).
|[They spent the night in Bethany.]
"As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 'Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt> tied there, . . .[They bring the colt to Jesus.] Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. . . .Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the temple [no cleansing]." (Mark 11:1-11).
|[They spent the night in Bethany.]
"As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 'Go to the village ahead of you, [they bring him the colt of a donkey]. . . . people spread their cloaks on the road. . . . As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city he wept over it [and prophesied it's destruction for not recognizing him as king. He enters the Temple and clears it of money changers.]" (Luke 19:28-46).
|[They spent the night in Bethany]|
"The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him. . . . Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it . . .Many people . . . went out to meet him" (John 12:12-18).
Bethany was located about 1 3/4 miles east of Jerusalem near the modern city of El-Azariyeh(9). Bethphage was NW of Bethany closer to Jerusalem and was probably the village where Jesus' disciples obtained the colt of the donkey. This may have also been where Jesus cursed the fig tree(10). It is believed to be the current site of Kefr et Tur on the summit of the Mount of Olives.(11)
Matthew, Mark, and Luke do not mention when they got to Bethany from Jericho, only that on the day of Triumphal Entry they were coming to Bethany and Bethphage on their way to Jerusalem for the Triumphal Entry. If they had been staying at Lazarus' house then he must have lived on the Jericho side of Bethany for them to be coming "to" it on the day of the Triumphal Entry. As was brought out earlier, it is not very likely that Jesus would have walked all the way from Jericho and then into Jerusalem (about 22 miles) for the Triumphal Entry and then back to Bethany to spend the night (another 1 3/4 mile).
All four Gospels mention, the disciples walking to Jerusalem from Bethany, branches [wood] being cut and Jesus riding on a donkey. These were all activities that were forbidden on a Sabbath. Therefore, Nisan 10 could not have occurred on a Sabbath as well as the day they all arrived in Jericho on the 8th of Nisan.
NISAN 11 -- INSPECTION OF PASSOVER LAMB
|"He left them and went out of the city to Bethany where he spent the night"(Matt. 21:17).
"Early in the morning as he was on his way back into the city, [Jerusalem, Jesus curses the fig tree] Immediately the tree withered. When the disciples saw this they were amazed. . . . [faith speech]"(Matt. 21:18-22).
|"He looked around at everything but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve" (Mark 11:11).
"The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. [He curses barren fig tree]. . . Jesus entered the temple area [chief priests and others plot how to kill him]" (Mark 11:12-18 ).
|"Every day he was teaching at the temple, but the chief priests, and the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill him" (Luke 19:47).||John does not mention the cursing of the fig tree.|
Matthew and Mark indicate Jesus and his disciples went into Jerusalem after the Triumphal Entry and then back to Bethany for the night. Both Matthew and Mark indicate Jesus cursed the fig tree the next morning which was near Bethany. Luke confirms that he taught in the temple each day. This means that neither Nisan 10 nor Nisan 11 could have been a Sabbath, as well as the 8th of Nisan.
NISAN 12 -- CONTINUED INSPECTION OF PASSOVER LAMB
| [They spent the night in Bethany, see Mark 11:12, 11:19]
"[in the morning, see Luke 19:47, 21:37] Jesus entered the temple courts and while he was teaching, the chief priests ask, 'by whose authority are you doing these things? [They looked for a way to arrest him, more parables, Pharisees, Sadducees, and others questioned Jesus] That same day . . . [Son of David speech, seven woes, cursing Jerusalem, sitting on Mt. of Olives, Olivet Discourse]"(Matt. 21:23--25:46).
|"When evening came, they went out of the city"
"In the morning, as they went along, [near Bethany, see Mark 11:12], they saw the fig tree withered from the roots, [Jesus' faith speech]. They arrived again in Jerusalem, and while Jesus was walking in the Temple courts, . . . (chief priests and others asked 'by what authority are you doing these things', Jesus spoke to them in parables, they looked for a way to arrest him, they sent Pharisees and Sadducees, Son of David speech, widows mite] As he was leaving the temple, . . .sitting on the Mount of Olives [Olivet discourse]" (Mark 11:19-13:37).
"One day as he was teaching the people in the temple courts . . . [chief priests and others asked him 'by what authority ' was he doing these things. [more parables. Chief priests and others looked for a way to arrest him. They sent spies to question Jesus [Son of David speech, Olivet Discourse.] Each day Jesus was teaching at the temple and each evening he went out to spend the night on the hill called the Mount of Olives and all the people came early in the morning to hear him at the temple" (Luke 20:1 -- 21:37, 38)
|John doesn't mention these events|
Luke tells us, "each evening [after sunset] he [Jesus] went out" (of Jerusalem) to spend the night on the Mount of Olives. This may sound like he might have spent the night in the Garden of Gethsemane, however, we have to remember that Bethany is also on the Mount of Olives. Mark's Gospel is the most complete chronologically, therefore, we can discern where he spent the night by comparing Mark's account of his comings and goings with details from the other Gospels. Luke also told us that Jesus taught in the Temple each morning. Therefore, if he was spending the night in Bethany every night and teaching in the Temple each morning none of these days Luke are referring to could have been the Sabbath as we will see later.
I left out any reference to the cleansing of the temple in the above scriptures because only 2 of the 4 gospels agree on what day it occurred. Matthew and Luke say it occurred right after the Triumphal Entry (21:12), Mark says it occurred the next day (11:15,) and John places it way back before John the Baptist was killed (John 2:14). However, after studying John's gospel carefully it is apparent that he reminisces a lot, i.e., he mentions that Mary was the one who anointed Jesus before he relates it actually happened (John 11:2). It appears this is what he is doing here also, i.e., he is reminiscing about Jesus clearing out the temple courts as he's thinking about an earlier Passover. It's not very likely that Jesus would have actually cleaned the temple at that time because he was constantly telling those he healed to not tell anyone because he didn't want to attract the attention of the authorities that early in his ministry. However, the cleaning of the temple is not important were it regards determining what day is a Sabbath, when there is a plethora of other evidence, so I have left it out of this research.
Mark indicates they left the city (Jerusalem) after dark, "when evening came." Although Mark doesn't say they came from Bethany the next morning we can determine this because he mentions the fig tree being withered on this morning. We know the fig tree is located near Bethany from Mark 11:12, so he had to have gone to Bethany the previous night. Also, an interesting side note--the word "Bethany" means "house of unripe dates or figs" (9).
As I will show in the next section Jesus must have left the Mount of Olives about Sunset to go to dinner at Simon's. It doesn't matter which side of sunset he leaves Jerusalem because we know this current day cannot be a Sabbath and neither can the next day as I will show shortly. This is now the 2nd day that Jesus has been cross examined which is fulfilling the prophecy regarding the Passover Lamb being examined for 4 days (Exodus 12:1-6). Now we have the 8th, 10th, 11th, and the 12th which could not be a Sabbath.
NISAN 13 (evening)-- JESUS ANOINTED AT SIMON'S BY MARY
|"[Sitting on Mount of Olives after sunset, Jesus] said to his disciples, 'As you know, the Passover is two days away and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.' [Chief Priests and elders met to plot Jesus' arrest, but not during the feast.
While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper,. . . [a woman anoints his head, disciples complain of the waste] . . .Jesus said to them . . . she did it to prepare me for burial. [then Judas goes to the chief priests to make arrangements to betray Jesus] " (Matt 26:1-16).
|"Now the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, [Mark remarks that the Chief priests and teachers of Law were looking for a way to arrest Jesus, but not during the Feast.] While he was in Bethany [the evening after the Olivet Discourse which is now the next day] reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head. [those present complained of the waste] . . . said Jesus . . . she poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. [Judas left to make arrangements to betray Jesus]" (Mark 14:3-11).||"Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people.
[After dinner--see Matt. 26:14] Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. They were delighted and agreed to give him money. He consented and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present" (Luke 22:1-6).
"Here [in Bethany] a dinner was given in Jesus honor. . . .Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus' feet and wiped his feet with her hair. . . . Judas . . . objected. . . . Jesus replied. 'It was meant that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial.'" (John 12:1-7)
When you compare Matthew and Mark's account of the anointing, with John's, at first glance it appears there might be two separate anointings because the date, place, and the part of Jesus' body that was anointed is different. However, John tells us that Mary was the one who "poured perfume on the Lord" when he was reminiscing about this event back in John 11:2. We are also told by Matthew and Mark that what this person had done would be remembered wherever the gospel is preached, so it can only be one person.
In John 12:2 it appears that John is saying that this dinner occurred 6 days before Passover but if you examine the grammar of this verse it is actually saying that this is when Jesus arrived in Bethany and this is the "village" where the dinner was given, not necessarily the date of the dinner. Also the word "here" is referring back to the word Bethany, not Lazarus, so he's not saying that it was given in Lazarus' home either, but that it was given in Bethany. This leaves the door open for it to have occurred in Simon's home who also lived in Bethany.
Also one account indicates that Jesus' head was anointed and another that it was his feet. However it was the custom to anoint the head on festive occasions and to wash the feet of guests before dinner so both activities were probably performed, but the different gospel accounts only record one or the other.
It appears that we also have a confusion as to which day to count from. However, notice that Matthew clarified what he meant when he said "Passover" by it being the day Jesus was to be crucified, so he is referring to late on the 14th of Nisan. However, Mark said the "Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread. The Feast of Unleavened Bread occurs on the 15th. But how can this still be the same day?
If you consider that they probably went to Simon's around sunset on the 12th (which is now the beginning of the 13th) then it is very likely that Matthew was talking about just before sunset, and Mark was talking about shortly after sunset--which is still 2 days before either Preparation Day or Passover depending on which side of sunset you are referring to. Although Luke also mentions the Passover and Feast of Unleavened bread he only mentions the events after the dinner at Simon's when Judas left to make arrangements to betray Jesus (not to be confused with when Judas actually acted on those plans during the Last Supper).
The only other problem is that John appears to be saying the dinner where Mary anointed Jesus occurred the same day they arrived from Jericho and the Triumphal Entry occurred the next day. However, this would make the Triumphal Entry occur on the 9th on Nisan (John 12:12) which can't be right because Matthew and Mark indicate the dinner where Jesus was anointed was two days before Passover.
However, if we look at John's version, knowing he tends to reminisce a lot, then we can surmise that this is probably what is occurring in 12:1 also, i.e., John reminisces about Mary anointing Jesus when he's talking about Jesus arriving in Bethany where Lazarus lived. Therefore his comment about the Triumphal Entry occurring "the next day" must be referring to what he said in the previous paragraph, i.e., the Triumphal Entry was the day after the chief priests first began to make plans to kill Jesus and Lazarus. If John was talking about Preparation day when he said Jesus arrived in Jericho then these events all line up correctly: arriving from Jericho on Nisan 8, Triumphal Entry on Nisan 10, and Preparation Day on Nisan 14. Subtract 8 from 14 and you get 6 days.
Also, once again we have a day (evening) where there is too much walking going on for this to be a Sabbath, Jesus and his disciples walk to Bethany for dinner and to spend the night, Judas walks back in town to betray Jesus. And this is just the first half of the day.
NISAN 13 (daytime) --JESUS PREPARES FOR HIS PASSOVER
|"On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, 'Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover [Seder]?' [he gave them instructions to go into the city to a house where arrangements had been made] So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover" (Matt. 26:17-19).||"On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover Lamb, Jesus' disciples asked him, 'Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover [Seder]?' [he gave them instructions to go into the city to a house where arrangement had been made] The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover" (Mark 14:12-16)||"Then came the Day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover Lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, 'Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover [Seder]. [he told them about a man who had a room all ready furnished] They prepared the Passover." (Luke 22:7-13).||[John does not mention preparation of the Passover meal]|
Nisan 13 began with the dinner at Simon's, in Bethany. Then they went to bed for the night. Now they are back in Jerusalem preparing their own Passover (all on the same "day"). As explained earlier, the word "Passover" means "a Passing over" and can refer to the whole festival of Passover, or just the Feast of Passover. However, in this instance it is obviously referring to preparation of the dinner where the Paschal Lamb is eaten, i.e., the Paschal supper. It may be easier to think of these two separate dinners as the "traditional Jewish Feast" and "Jesus' Passover Supper." The phrase "the Feast of Unleavened Bread" can also be called "the Matzah," speaking of the traditional bread made without yeast on Passover(12).
Also the phrase "First Day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread" can begin as early as the 13th when leaven is removed from the homes. It is also known as the first day of the "season" of Passover. We know that what Matthew, Mark and Luke are referring to cannot be the first day of the Passover Feast (Nisan 15) because as Luke said above it was the day "on which the Passover Lamb had to be sacrificed."Jesus didn't celebrate his Passover Feast on the 15th but right after sundown on the 14th. Therefore His "Preparation Day" needed to be the 13th. It seems logical that they started making preparations at least by afternoon on the 13th for their Passover meal which would occur shortly after sundown, i.e., the beginning of the 14th of Nisan.
This means the 13th is also not a Sabbath because Jesus traveled from Jerusalem to Simon's house in Bethany around sunset and his disciples returned to Jerusalem the next day in the afternoon (still the 13th) to prepare their Passover. Now we have the 8th plus the 10th through the 13th that we know cannot be a Sabbath. That is 5 days out of 6 that cannot be the Sabbath.
NISAN 14 -- LAST SUPPER/JESUS ARRESTED
|"When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, . . . [he says one will betray him, He breaks the bread (Matza), gives a blessing (b'rakhah), gives them wine] When they had sung a hymn,
they went out to the Mount of Olives [Garden of Gethsemane this time-see vs. 36, Jesus prayed while the disciples slept. Judas arrives and they arrest Jesus]" (Matt. 26:20-50). [Jesus is tried, falsely convicted, and hung on the cross. He dies about 3 PM that same day.] "(Matt. 26:57-27:56).
|"When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. While they were reclining at the table eating [the Passover meal], he said, 'I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me . . .[he exposes the betrayer Judas, he took bread (Matza), gives a blessing (b'rakhah), and gives them wine] when they had sung a hymn
they went out to the Mount of Olives, to Gethsemane, Jesus prayed, while the disciples slept, Judas returned and Jesus was arrested]" (Mark 14:17-46). [Jesus is tried, falsely convicted, and hung on the cross. He dies about 3 PM that same day.]" (Mark 14:53-15:41).
|"When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, 'I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. . . .[he took a drink of wine and gave thanks (b'rakhah), he breaks the bread (Matza) and gave thanks (b'rakhah, he took the wine again after the supper, he says he will be betrayed by one of them]
Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives [Gethsemane, he prays, Judas comes to have him arrested] (Luke 22:14-54). [Jesus is tried, falsely convicted, and hung on the cross. He dies about 3 PM that same day.[ (Luke 22:54-23:49).
|"It was just before the Passover Feast. . . .The evening meal was being served and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. . . . [Jesus washed the disciples feet] . . . Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, 'I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me. . . . As soon as Judas had taken the bread (Matza), he went out. And it was night. |
[Jesus crosses the Kidron Valley into the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. Judas led a detachment of soldiers and Jesus was arrested] " (John 13:1-18:12). [Jesus is tried, falsely convicted, and hung on the cross. He dies about 3 PM that same day.] (John 18:12-19:37).
Mark tells us that Jesus arrived back in Jerusalem for the Last Supper with the Twelve "when evening came," which means he arrived after sunset (probably to escape detection from the authorities).
According to The New Thayer's Greek English Lexicon, Matza is the Hebrew word for the Greek "azumos," or the unleavened bread. He also indicates the Greek word for blessing, "eulogeo," comes from the Hebrew "b'rakhah." The mentioning of the Matza, several cups of wine, the blessing plus their eating "dinner" indicates Jesus is following the traditional Seder of Passover(6). Jesus then instructs us to, "do this in remembrance of me," speaking of the blood (wine) he shed and his body (bread/Matza) that was broken for our sakes.
Later that same day Jesus was tried, falsely convicted, crucified and died on the cross about 3 PM. For a minute by minute timeline of events on this day see Wayne Leeper's book mentioned earlier(7). This is the only night, out of the last several nights, that Jesus didn't go back to Bethany to sleep. He knew he was to be arrested that night so he stayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. However, this day isn't a Sabbath day either because of the trip from Bethany. This makes 6 out of 7 days that were not a Sabbath the week before Jesus was crucified.
The evidence that has been gathered above should be enough to prove that the Sabbath occurred on Nisan 9. However, because some theorists believe the trial spanned two days instead of one, another chart has been provided to span the Timeline of Arrest, Crucifixion and Death of Christ.
Jesus and all his disciples arrive from Jericho on the 8th of Nisan. They probably stayed at Lazarus' house in Bethany for the night after such a long journey. (Matt 20:29-34; Mark 10:46-52; Luke 18:35-19:28; John 12:1-2).
This is the only day in the week that could have been the weekly Sabbath due to all the work being performed on the other days and all the nights Jesus returned to Bethany.
Jesus spent the night in Bethany. Jesus goes from Bethany to Jerusalem for Triumphal entry (Matt 21:1; Mark 11:1; & Luke 19:28,29).
Jesus went out of the city to Bethany for the night (Matt 21:17; Mark 11:11) Jesus goes back into the city [Jerusalem] early in the morning and curses the fig tree that is near Bethany (Matt 21:18,19; Mark 11:12).
Jesus spend the night in Bethany (Mark 11:19) . Mark indicates that the next morning on the way from Bethany to Jerusalem they saw the fig tree withered on the way back to the Temple (the tree was near Bethany). Mark and Matt differ on when they saw it withered but it is possible one of them didn't see it the night before in the dark. Jesus went into the Temple courts (Matt 21:23; Mark 11:20, 21). This is the day all the Pharisees, Sadducees and others tried to trap Jesus into saying things that they could arrest him with. All three gospel accounts are almost word for word on the events of this day. Jesus then gave the Olivet Discourse before leaving the city that afternoon while sitting on the Mount of Olives (Matt 21:23-26:1, Mark 11:20-13:37; Luke 20:1-Luke 21:5).
Around sunset they leave Jerusalem and head for Bethany where they will be eating dinner at Simon's (Matt 26:6; Matt 14:3, John 12:1-8). They obviously spend the night in Bethany. Next day (but same day according to Jewish time) the disciples ask where to prepare the Passover. Jesus tells them where it will be and they go to make preparations in Jerusalem.
Jesus and his disciples are now in Jerusalem eating their Passover shortly after sunset as God had instructed in the Exodus and Leviticus passages on Passover. Jesus retires to the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. He prays while his disciples sleep till dark (John 18:3). He is arrested (Matt. 26:20-50; Mark 14:17-46; Luke 22:14-54; John 13:1-18:12). He is tried all through the night and hung on the cross and dies about 3 PM in the afternoon. He is buried before sunset (still the same day) because of the High Holy Day coming on for Passover (Nisan 15).
By counting backwards from the day of the crucifixion it is easy to see that several days in a row could not have been the Sabbath. That leaves only one day that could be a Sabbath: Nisan 9. It is also very logical that Jesus would have rested on this day after such a long trip and especially with all the activities of the coming week and especially the 10th which was one of the most important days of his life. If you add seven days onto the Sabbath of the 9th then you get Nisan 16th as the next Sabbath, which would mean there was a High Holy Day Sabbath on the 15th and then the weekly Sabbath on the 16th, i.e., back-to-back Sabbaths right after the crucifixion. Also if the 16th was a Sabbath then that made Nisan 14, the day of the Crucifixion, a Thursday.
FURTHER PROOF THAT THURSDAY WAS CRUCIFIXION DAY
THREE DAY CHART
|S - - - - - - - D - - - - - 3 - -||S - - - - - - - D - - - - - 3 - -||S - - - - - - - D - - - - - 3 - -||S - - - - - - - D - - - - - 3 - -||S - - - - - - - D - - - - - 3 - -|
|- - NIGHT - - - DAY - -||- - NIGHT - - - DAY - -||- - NIGHT - - - DAY - -||- - NIGHT - - - DAY - -||- - NIGHT - - - DAY - -|
|Day 4||Day 3||Day 2||Day 1||Day 0|
If you count backwards from Sunday, before dawn, to Wednesday 3 PM, you get four nights and four days. If you count backwards to Friday you only get two nights and two days. Thursday is the only combination that produces three days and three nights.
WHY DOESN'T THE YEAR MATCH?
The most common refute of a Thursday theory is that Thursday does not occur on any of the current calendars we have available. The Jews utilize something called the dihiyyot rules which manipulate the amount of days in a Jewish year so that certain holidays do not occur on the day before or after the Sabbath. This rule does not allow Preparation Day of Passover to ever fall on a Thursday according to the "current" rules. However, I consulted both authors of popular Jewish calendars on the Internet asking them what year the Jews started arranging the first of Nisan so it didn't fall on certain dates. Following are their comments:
Alan De. Corre's Calendars: "The calculated calendar as opposed to one fixed by observation [by the priests] came in around the seventh century, I believe. . . .I don't really know if they took steps to avoid these occurrences prior to the establishment of a fixed calendar. I would think it likely that they did, but could not give you a date." (Alan D. Corre, Emeritus Professor of Hebrew Studies, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. http://www.uwn.edu/~corre/ )
Scott Lee's Calendars: "It is not clear when the current rule based calendar replaced the observation based calendar. According to the book 'Jewish Calendar Mystery Dispelled' by George Zinberg, the Patriarch Hillel II published the rules in 358 A.D. But, according to the Encyclopedia Judaica, Hillel II may have only published the 19 year rule for determining the occurrence of leap years." When asked if these calendar programs previous to 358 A.D are probably just good guesses, Lee responded, "Yes. And it is likely just an estimate for several years after 358 too." I then asked Lee if there is no proof, when this method was started, then why is the calendar being manipulated during those early years? Lee responded, "I am just extrapolating the current formula back in time. This provides an estimate of what the dates were, but is likely off a bit from time to time. Even as much as a month off if they placed a leap month in a different place." (Emphasis mine). (Scott Lee, Professional software developer and amateur genealogist. http://genealogy.org/~scottlee/cal-overview.htm )
Their comments indicate there is no proof the dehiyyot rule was in effect in Jesus' time and thus the Thursday theory cannot be discounted on that basis.
MY METHOD OF STUDY:
In order to thoroughly research this topic I typed up all the important details from each Gospel from Nisan 8 to the 14th in a narrow column. Then I arranged these four columns side-by-side and manipulated them until they all lined up according to the different events when reading across the Gospels.
I then made a large horizontal chart to help me see the changes in a Jewish day. This chart is about 10 feet long, and has an undulating line across the page (down for night/up for day) with the start and end of each day marked as sunset. I dated the different days from Nisan 8 to the 17th. Then I marked different breaks in the days for sunrise, midnight, etc. The day part of the days were hi-lighted with yellow and the night part of the days were colored in dark ink.
Then I wrote in all the events that occurred on certain days, i.e., Jesus arriving from Jericho on the 8th of Nisan, the Triumphal Entry on the 10th, Preparation Day on the 14th, Passover on the 15th and the walk to Emmaus on the 17th. The important events that could not have been a Sabbath, such as the Triumphal Entry, the trip from Jericho, the walk to Emmaus, I marked in green to symbolize people were free to "go" for a walk. On the bottom of this chart, under Nisan 14, I wrote in the days of the week for each theory (Wednesday, Thursday, Friday) and then calculated the other days of the week accordingly for each theory.
Bethany is more than twice the distance of a Sabbath day's walk so I then proceeded to eliminate the other days of the week previous to Christ's death according to when Jesus returned to Bethany for the night, or returned to Jerusalem in the morning from Bethany. I didn't concern myself with events after Christ died because all I needed to do was pinpoint the first Sabbath and then the other Sabbath could also be located around the time of the crucifixion.
This method very effectively solves disputes concerning this Passover having two Sabbaths, or a double Sabbath or a day between the two Sabbaths. It is also very easy to see the flaws in the two other theories because Jesus would have broken the Sabbath with both of the other scenarios. I keep this chart hanging over my computer so anytime I receive a critique of my analysis I can see at a glance what is happening on the different dates of the week. I would encourage anyone who wants to pursue this study to make similar charts.
Exodus 12:14, 24, and Leviticus 23:2, 21 tell us that these feast days are the "Lords" festivals, not just for the Jews, and that God's people are to commemorate them "for all generations" wherever they live. Galations 3:29 tells us that "if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed and heirs according to the promise." Christ told his disciples that they were to commemorate this day (Preparation day of Passover--Nisan 14) from this point onward in remembrance of him (Luke 22:14-19). I therefore would ask any Christians reading this to prayerfully consider whether they should do this or not--I am talking of observing it in a spiritual sense, of course, as Christ was our Passover lamb and there need be no other.
- - - -
1. HOURS OF DAY__Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary, Zondervan Publishing House, 1967, p. 854, 855.
2. NO WEEK DAY NAMES__ Baker Encyclopedia of the bible, Vol. 1, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1988, p. 587.
3. OT DATES __These dates occur in the margins of the Thompson Chain Reverence Bible, 1983, NIV edition, published by Zondervan Bible Publishers.
4. SEASON OF PASSOVER__A Family Guide to the Biblical Holidays, Family Christian Press, 1997, p. 107.
5. SABBATH DAYS'S WALK__ Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol. 1, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1988, p. 787.
6. A Family Guide to the Biblical Holidays, Family Christian Press, 1997, p. 121-126.
7. "Prelude to Glory" by Wayne D. Leeper, 1987. Distributor: Does God Exist, 718 Donmoyer Ave. South Bend, Indiana, 46614-1999.
8. OLD JERICHO__Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol. 2, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1988, p. 1119.
9. BETHANY__Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary, Zondervan Publishing House, 1967, p. 107, 108.
10. BETHPHAGE__ Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary, Zondervan Publishing House, 1967, p. 112.
11. BETHPHAGE/KEFR et TUR__Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol. 1, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1988, p. 291.
12. MATZAH__Jewish New Testament by David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Publications, Clarksville, Maryland. 1989, p. 65.
Questions, and comments are welcome.
© Copyright April 16, 1997 Updated March 05, 2009
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