The following is an attempt to correlate events before and after the week Christ was crucified. By studying which events could not have occurred on the Sabbath we will be able to pinpoint which day of the week He died.
(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 vs. ROMAN RECKONING OF TIME
Most of the confusion relating to the crucifixion can be traced to the way a Jewish person in the Bible would have interpreted time as compared to how someone from the West interprets time today. The Jewish "day" starts at sunset, the exact timing of which changes slightly depending upon the season. Therefore, their day is getting dark when it begins. A Roman "day," however, started at midnight (as does most of the western world today). So when their day began it would be dark and would soon be getting light--just the opposite of the Jewish day.
During the time of Christ the Israelites adopted the Roman practice of counting 4 "watches" during the night. These watches began at approximately 9:30 PM, 12:00 midnight, 2:30 AM (called the cockcrow watch), and 5 AM. From sunrise they divided the day in sections into what they termed "hours"(1)
. Thus when they said that something happened at the 6th hour it was about noon or 6 hours after sunrise, not 6 AM like we would reckon time in the West.
Most scholars agree that John wrote his Gospel late in the first century, around 80 AD, from Ephesus--the capital of the Roman province of Asia. Therefore he used Greek terms and would often interpret the meaning of Hebrew words, which would have been unnecessary if he had been writing for a Jewish audience. Therefore he was obviously writing to the Gentiles and would have used terminology related to the time of day that Gentiles would have understood, i.e., Roman reckoning of time.
An example of this confusion of the different terminologies can be found when Christ was crucified. According to Mark it was the third hour, the third hour since sunrise or 9 am (Mark 15:25) However John says it was "about the sixth hour" when he was still being sentenced by Pilate and before he was led to the cross (John 19:14). The difference lies in the fact that John is thinking Roman time, which starts at midnight, and thus it was about 6 am. It probably took a few more hours for Christ to make his way to the cross and thus it is not hard to imagine that it was accomplished by 9 AM.
Following is a chart that shows what events took place during the different Hours of the day
for both Jewish and Roman readers of the Gospels:
|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
| 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
Also, they didn't name the days of the week like we do now(2)
. They gave them numbers instead, i.e., first day, second day, and so on until the seventh day which was the Saturday/Sabbath. The first day of their week would be our Sunday.
PASSOVER, PREPARATION DAY & FEAST OF UNLEAVENED BREAD
God gave explicit instructions about the Passover:
"The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, 'This month is to be for you the first month [Abib/Nisan], the first month of your year. Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month [Abib/Nisan 10] each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. . . .The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the people of the community of Isreal must slaughter them at Twilight. . . . That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. . . . Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it. . . .On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn. . .' " (Exodus 12:1-12). [The name of the month in question used to be Abib but was later changed to Nisan, as it is on Jewish Calendars today. Therefore, I will be referring to it as Nisan from now on.]
The event in Exodus occurred about 1491 B.C.(3)
A year later we see the same instructions only this time they didn't have to leave the same night:
"The Lord's Passover begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month [Nisan]. On the fifteenth day of that month the Lord's Feast of Unleavened Bread begins; for seven days you must eat bread made without yeast. On the first day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. For seven days present an offering made to the Lord by fire. And on the seventh day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work" (Lev. 23:5-8).
About forty years later, 1452 B.C., we see the same instructions again in an abbreviated form, but without new
instructions. Therefore, nothing has changed:
"On the fourteenth day of the first month [Nisan] the Lord's Passover is to be held. On the fifteenth day of this month there is to be a festival; for seven days eat bread made without yeast. On the first day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. . . .On the seventh day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work" (Numbers 28:16-25).
Please notice in all three citations above the instructions were the same before and after the Israelites left Egypt, except they didn't have to leave the next morning on a long trip. This fact will be very important to our study.
The word "Passover" has a wide connotation. In the New Testament it sometimes refers to Preparation Day, when they prepared the sacrifice and the meal for Passover (Luke 22:7), or it could refer to the actual day they ate the Passover feast (Mark 14:1,2), or it could also be referring to the Feast of Unleavened Bread which started on the same day as the Passover Feast (Mark 14:1,2). The term "Passover" can also refer to the entire "season" of Passover which can include every event from Nisan 10 (when the Lambs were selected) through the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and clear up to Nisan 21 which was the last day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread(4)
. This is similar to the way Christians refer to the Christmas holiday when the word for Christmas can mean the whole two weeks from Christmas Eve to the New Years holiday.
Trying to determine what exactly is meant by these terms surrounding Passover is one reason there are so many differences of opinion regarding the timing of the crucifixion. The best way to differentiate between these days is to take notice of what is occurring on those days: are they preparing "for" the Passover or participating "in" the Feast of the Passover.
The Passover Feast and the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread are actually two holidays that "traditionally" start on the same day, the 15th of Nisan. The first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread is always a High Holy day --a Holy day of rest--not to be confused with the weekly Sabbath. In Jesus' day the Feast of Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were traditionally eaten right after sundown of the 14th (which according to Jewish time would now be the beginning of the 15th). However, as will be shown later, this was according to Jewish tradition and not what God had instructed in the Passover scriptures above.
Also, there is some confusion regarding the scriptures that say Jesus sent His disciples to prepare for the Passover "on the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread" (Matt. 26:17, Mark 14:12). This seems to imply that Jesus ate His Passover after He died, which is impossible. Other scriptures state that He died on the Day of Preparation (Mark 15:42, Matt. 27:62, Luke 23:54, John 19:14), so there has to be another explanation. The Feast of Unleavened bread involved removing all leaven from the houses before the holiday of Passover started which means they would have started this cleaning at least by Nisan 13. Therefore this is probably what was being referred to in the above passages, i.e., the "season" of the Feast of Unleavened Bread had begun and it was time to prepare for the Passover.
RULES FOR SELECTION OF PASSOVER LAMB
"The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, 'This month [Nisan] is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month [Nisan 10] each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. . . .The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at Twilight" (Exodus 12:1-6).
Notice the selection of the Passover lamb occurred on the 10th day of Nisan, four days before they were slaughtered on Preparation day of Passover, which was on the 14th.
JESUS IS OUR PASSOVER LAMB
Paul told us, "Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed" (1 Cor. 5:7b). Also, the day after being questioned about whether he was the Christ, John the Baptist said, when he saw Jesus approaching: "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29).
PRESENTATION OF THE PASSOVER LAMB
God said that the lambs were to be selected on Nisan 10 in preparation of Passover. After the Lamb was selected they were to take it into their home for four days and examine it each day for flaws. However, this was eventually changed to mean the Priest in the Temple had to inspect and approve of this lamb, not the individual.
Thus, the same day that the Jews were presenting their lambs to be inspected for the Passover [Nisan 10] we see our own Passover Lamb presenting Himself to the people of Jerusalem for inspection as their long awaited King on the day of the Triumphal Entry (Matt. 21:1-23; Mark 11:1-19; Luke 19:28-47; John 12:12-18). The people accepted Him, but their leaders did not. He was then examined for four days by the chief priests, teachers of the law, elders, Pharisees, Sadducees, and even the Herodians, but they could not find fault with Him and thus they had to rely on false witnesses in order to convict Him. The Triumphal Entry is one of the major keys to figuring out the day of the week for the crucifixion.
RULES FOR SABBATH REST
The rules for the Sabbath rest were first given before the Israelites reached Mount Sinai (where the Ten Commandments were given) when God provided them with manna. Moses relayed the instructions that God had given:
" 'Tomorrow is to be a day of rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord. So bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil.
Save whatever is left and keep it until morning.' So they saved it until morning, as Moses commanded, and it did not stink or get maggots in it. 'Eat it today,' Moses said, 'because today is a Sabbath to the Lord. You will not find any of it on the ground today. Six days you are to gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will not be any.'" The people disobeyed, then God told Moses: "How long will you refuse to keep my commands and my instructions? Bear in mind that the Lord has given you the Sabbath; that is why on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Everyone is to stay where he is on the seventh day; no one is to go out.
' So the people rested on the seventh day."
God gave further instructions about the Sabbath on Mount Sinai: "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy" (Ex 20:8-11).
In Deuteronomy Moses reminded the Israelites about the Sabbath before they entered the promised land. These instructions were almost the same as the Exodus 20 passage except he defined what was meant by "animals": "nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, . . . (Deut. 5:14). Please notice that not even donkeys were supposed to work on the Sabbath.
Further Refinement of the Sabbath Rules:
They couldn't light a fire:
"Do not light a fire in any of your dwellings on the Sabbath day" (Lev. 26:2).
They couldn't gather firewood:
"While the Israelites were in the desert, a man was found gathering wood on the Sabbath day. . . Then the Lord said to Moses, 'The man must die. The whole assembly must stone him outside the camp" (Num. 15:32, 33).
They would be punished for not obeying the Sabbath:
"But if you do not obey me to keep the Sabbath day holy by not carrying any load as you come through the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day, then I will kindle an unquenchable fire in the gates of Jerusalem that will consume her fortresses' " (Jer. 17:27). This warning was given about 601 B.C.
"You have despised my holy things and desecrated my Sabbaths. . . .And you have forgotten me, declares the Sovereign Lord. . . . I will disperse you among the nations and scatter you through the countries; and I will put an end to your uncleanness" (Eze. 22:8, 12, 15). This condemnation occurred about 593 B.C.
Notice how important the Sabbath was to God. It would have been just as important to the Son of God. Therefore Christ would not have allowed people to gather palm branches [wood] on the day of Triumphal Entry, nor would he have instructed his disciples to get a donkey to carry him. He also would have been guilty of having all those people walking from Bethany into Jerusalem on the Sabbath which was more than a Sabbath days walk.
SABBATH DAY'S WALK
The Israelites were not permitted to travel more than about 1,000-1,200 yards on the Sabbath (3,600 feet or about 3/4th mile). This number was derived from the distance between the ark and the people following it (Jos. 3:4). This was also determined to be the distance to pasture an animal (Num. 35:4,5). The distance between Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives was also considered a Sabbath day's walk (Acts 1:12) (5)
. However, we have to determine what part of the mountain was being referred to. If you take a map of Jerusalem from Jesus' day and measure from the east side of the temple, through the Golden Gate (it wasn't sealed up in Jesus' day), and then follow the road around the Kidron valley to the Garden of Gethsemane, which is located near the base of the Mount of Olives, you have already used up 800 yards (or 2,400 feet). If you go on up to the peak of the mountain you will find it measures about 1,200 yards (or 3,600 feet) or the distance of a Sabbath day's walk.
Therefore, the disciples couldn't have gone much farther on a Sabbath. Also, keep in mind if they arrived after sunset, at that distance they would have to stay put for the next 24 hours until the Sabbath was over or they would have traveled more than a Sabbath day's walk to go back into town.
According to a current map of Jerusalem, Bethany appears to be about 1 3/4 miles from the Temple on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives (on the opposite side of the mountain from Jerusalem). Therefore, when you hear of anyone walking from Bethany to Jerusalem, or back again, it could not have been the Sabbath because it was more than double a Sabbath day's walk. As will be shown below, Jesus walked to Bethany to spend the night and returned to Jerusalem the next morning for several days just before the crucifixion.
TIME OF THE PASSOVER SACRIFICE
God gave Moses explicit instructions about Passover just before the Exodus from Egypt which I will repeat here, "Tell the whole community of Israel that on the 10th day of this month [Nisan] each man is to take a lamb for his family, . . . The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. . . . That same night
they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. . . . That same night
I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn . . ."(Exodus 12:3-6).
According to Gesenius' Hebrew Lexicon of the Old Testament the word twilight used in Ex. 12:6, Strong's # 6153, translated as 'ereb, means:
"at evening. . . . only in the phrase "between the two evenings" Ex 16:12; 30:8; used as marking the space of time during which the Paschal lamb was slain, Ex 12:6; Lev. 23:5; Num. 9:3; and the evening sacrifice was offered, Ex 29:39, 41; Num. 28:4; i.e., according to the opinion of the Karaites and Samaritans (which is favored by the words of Deut. 16:6), the time between sunset and deep twilight. The Pharisees, however, . . . and the Rabbinists considered the time when the sun began to descend to be called the first evening [similar to an Arabian word which means 'little evening' for when it begins to draw towards evening] and the second evening to be the real sunset." Josephus further corroborates the time of day of the sacrifices during a Passover feast in his "Wars of the Jews", Ch. IX: "So these high priests, upon the coming of their feast which is called the Passover, when they slay their sacrifices, from the ninth hour to the eleventh [3-5 PM], . . ." This is the same time of day that Jesus died on the cross according to Matt. 27:45-50, on the 9th hour, or about 3 PM.
Please notice that the Pharisees and Rabbinists considered about 3 PM to be the proper time to sacrifice the Passover Lamb. Yet back in Exodus 12:3-6, God said this is to occur on Nisan 14 at twilight and all other events were to occur on that same day also. This would be impossible to accomplish if they waited until the end of Nisan 14 to slaughter their lamb just before sunset (between the evenings). Therefore it appears the Pharisees and Rabbinists have once again set a time contrary to what God had instituted. Keep this discrepancy in mind because it will come up again later.
BETWEEN THE EVENINGS
Also, in Jesus' day, the daylight part of the Jewish day was divided into two sections: the first part was from sunrise to noon and was considered "the morning." The second part of the day, from noon to sunset, was called the "evening." The night part of the day, which started at sunset was also called "evening," and lasted for the next 12 hours. So what we actually have is different parts of the Jewish day being called both "morning" and "evening" and the night also being called "evening." This is where the phrase "between the evenings" comes from.
Following is a diagram of the Jewish day and how they determine time. You may find it useful to refer back to this diagram while reading the rest of this article.
THE JEWISH DAY
Approximate time (depending on the season):
Watches during the night Hours during the day:
Evening part of the day Day part of the day: Evening part of the day
|<--6 PM Evening
||6 AM Dawn
||<--Little Evening Eve.-->
Between the Evenings*
WHEN DID JESUS CELEBRATE HIS PASSOVER/LAST SUPPER?
|<--6 PM Evening
|| 3 PM* Eve.-->
All three Gospels state that "while they were eating" Jesus gave his disciples instructions on observing this day in the future, and he indicated that this meal was his Passover celebration (Luke 22:15, 18, 19). Jesus followed the instructions of a Jewish seder during the last supper: The Fruit of the Vine is the "cup"; the Matza bread is the bread he broke; and he said the same blessing over the bread as is said in the traditional Seder(6)
. For those who say the bread used at the Passover was leavened bread and it therefore eliminates this as being a real Passover Sedar I have written up a short study called The Passover Bread
God had instructed Moses: "That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast" (Ex. 12:8). Everything was to happen on the same day (Nisan 14 starting shortly after sunset).
- Blood on the door post
- Eating the Passover before midnight
- The Lord striking all the firstborn of Egypt
- Their leaving Egypt the next morning
This event was to be commemorated from then on in the same manner. Look at Num. 9:1-5 and you will see that they celebrated Passover in the same manner the next year also except they didn't prepare to leave on a journey this time. The Israelites eventually changed the day of eating the Passover from right after twilight (when their day began) to shortly after sunset of the 14th of Nisan which was now the next day, or the 15th of Nisan, which was more than 24 hours later than what God had instructed them to do. A very good book that explains the history of how the Israelites changed the commands of God regarding Passover through their tradition is "Prelude to Glory" by Wayne D. Leeper (7)
If you carefully analyze the events surrounding the Last Supper you will see that Jesus followed God's instructions for the Passover, by eating it shortly after Nisan 14 began, right after sunset, and he was crucified the same "day," the next afternoon, before the next sunset. The timing of this event also causes a lot of confusion as to when the crucifixion occurred.
TWO SABBATHS DURING CRUCIFIXION WEEK
It is very possible that there were two Sabbaths during crucifixion week--one of them being a Passover, which is also called a High Holy Sabbath, and the other the regular weekly Sabbath.
Matt. 28:1 says "After the Sabbath at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb." However, J.P. Green's Interlinear New Testament indicates the word for Sabbath in this instance, Strong's #4521, is in the plural form, i.e., there were two Sabbaths that week. This interpretation is in dispute amongst scholars. However, there is another way to prove that there were two Sabbaths after Christ died, as I will show later.
THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS
"Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, 'Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you.' He answered, 'A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" (Matt. 12:38-40).
Please notice that Jesus said, "three days and three nights " was to be a sign. Why didn't He just say, "in three days"? Why break up the days into separate portions--six to be exact? On the first day of the week when the disciples boldly claimed that Jesus had risen from the dead on the third day, not after the third day (Acts 10:40), no one disputed it. As I explained above the Jews considered the first part of their "day" as the night, and the 2nd part of their "day" as the daytime. Therefore the phrase "three days and three nights" did not mean exactly 72 hours
as some theorists claim, but 6 portions of day and night that would add up to 3 days.
"When the Sabbath was over . . . very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb . . . But when they looked up they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away." And they were told, "He has risen" (Mark 16:1-6).
The first day of the Jewish week would be the same as our Sunday. If Jesus died on the 14th of Nisan counting forward 3 days we come to the 17th of Nisan. This is the same day the Israelites were delivered from the Egyptians after the Exodus. God instructed them to anoint their door posts with the blood of the lamb on the twilight of Nisan 14 (shortly after sunset, still the 14th) and he would "pass over" them that same night when he would strike down all the firstborn of Egypt. They were instructed to be ready to leave at daybreak the next morning which was still the 14th. (Ex. 12:1-13). They then traveled day and night for the next few days first to Etham and then to Pi Hahiroth where they encamped by the sea (Ex. 13:20-14:2). After the Egyptians appeared the Lord parted the Red Sea all that night (Ex. 14:21) from which the Israelites emerged on the other side just as the 3rd day was dawning and at which time the sea covered the Egyptians (Ex. 14:27). This event is a shadow of the fulfillment of the day of First Fruits, which I will explain below.
Therefore the people of Israel were "saved" by coming through the Red Sea on the same day of the year, and same time of day, that Jesus rose from the dead as the "Savior" of all who will turn to him before dawn on Nisan 17. The day the Ark rested on Mount. Ararat also falls on Nisan 17, as well as several other important events in Israel's history.
We also have the actions of the soldiers to consider. The chief priests and Pharisees told Pilate to "give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day" [from the time Christ died] (Matt. 27:62-64). They posted a guard and sealed the stone (Matt. 27:65, 66). Please notice that the soldiers didn't report to the chief priests that Jesus was missing until the same time the women came to the grave. This was the same time as the earthquake (Matt. 28:1-6) which would have been around sunrise on Nisan 17. Some theorists claim that Jesus arose right before sunset on the Sabbath (Nisan 16.) However, they have a problem explaining what the soldiers did for 12 hours after Jesus arose.
FIRST FRUITS / WAVE SHEAF OFFERING
Right after God gave Moses the instructions for Passover he also told them about the First Fruits/Wave Sheaf Offering:
"When you enter the land I am going to give you and you reap its harvest, bring to the priest a sheaf of the first grain you harvest. He is to wave the sheaf before the Lord so it will be accepted on your behalf; the priest is to wave it on the day after the Sabbath." (Lev. 23:10-11).
The Israelites were to reap the first of their harvest after
the Sabbath. They could not start counting on the day of the Sabbath but had to wait till the next day. If there happened to be back to back Sabbaths that week then they would have to wait till after the second Sabbath because they could not work (harvest) on either Sabbath. This day is very important because the Israelites were to start counting on this day:
"From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks. Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath and then present an offering of new grain to the Lord. . . . The priest is to wave the two lambs before the Lord as a wave offering, together with the bread of the firstfruits. They are a sacred offering to the Lord for the priest. On that same day you are to proclaim a sacred assembly and do no regular work. This is to be a lasting ordinance for all generations to come, wherever you live" (Lev 23:13-21).
This day is called Pentecost, a word which means "fifty" (Lev. 23:15-21). Compare what happened to the Israelites fifty days after they were "saved" from the Egyptians in Ex. 19:16-19 with Acts 2:1-8, fifty days after Christ had risen: "But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep" (1 Cor. 15:20). Therefore, Jesus arose on Nisan 17, on a Sunday. He fulfilled the offering of the first of the harvest as He was the "First Fruits," and He also fulfilled the day of Pentecost by giving the Holy Spirit to all believers.
It should now be obvious that the Israelites were not following God's commands about the Feast of Passover. This is part of the reason for the confusion which we are experiencing today when we try to analyze what happened and try to line up the events chronologically so we can determine what events happened on what day of the week.
However, it is also very interesting to note that Christ, our Passover Lamb, chose to die on the cross at the same time the "Israelites" had chosen as the time to sacrifice their Passover lambs because, as He said, He came for the "Lost" sheep of Israel (Matt. 15:24). However, Jesus celebrated Passover with his own disciples at the time His Father had stipulated shortly after sundown at the "beginning" of the 14th of Nisan, not the end of that day, almost twenty-four hours later, like the Israelites were observing according to their "tradition."
(Italics = daytime/normal font = night)
The following timetable lists the important events of each day of the week prior to Christ's death from Nisan 8 to 14. This will enable us to get a better picture of the chronology of that week and also help us determine which days could not have been a weekly Sabbath. From there we can pinpoint when the next Sabbath occurred and also which day of the week Christ died.
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
Luke 24 tells us that on the first day of the week (Sunday), after Jesus arose, two disciples were walking to Emmaus and were greeted by Jesus, but they didn't recognize him. They told him what had recently happened with their Savior and that it had been "the third day since all this took place." This probably occurred in the afternoon because shortly after this they are eating dinner in Emmaus (Luke 24:21-29).
The following chart is provided so you can count backwards from Sunday to see which day fits the 3 day requirement.
THREE DAY CHART
S = Sunset
(beginning of the Jewish "day")
D = Dawn
(approx. time of resurrection )
3 = 3 PM
(approx. time of crucifixion)
|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
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. However, for further study on the history of dating the Year Christ was born check out this article Anno Domini
. Here is another article with more info on attempting to figure out the year, Pinpointing Christ's Birth Date
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.
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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 12-22-13
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