Kathy Petersen’s Blog

When was Jesus crucified?

Posted in Christianity by Kathy on March 21, 2008

Most of the Christian world celebrates today, “Good Friday,” as the day Jesus was crucified. Why?

I actually think He was crucified on a Thursday. Why? Well, the simple fact that He said He would be dead for three days before He was raised again. Now, I’ve read the commentaries, and the way they force from 3 p.m. on Friday to just after dawn on Sunday to be “three days and three nights”. Well, actually, I guess they just kinda overlook the “three nights” bit (Matt. 12:40). But they take all of the day on Saturday, and the bits of days from Friday and Sunday and say, “There you go.” It’s never made sense to me. I think what they do is say, “Well, He was crucified the day before the Sabbath, therefore it was Friday; and He was raised on the first day of the week, which is of course Sunday.” However, John 19:31 calls the Sabbath day after the crucifixion a “high day”; and according to this article by Tim Warner, “High Sabbaths” fell on any day of the week, and were also mandatory rest days, just like the weekly Sabbath. (By the way, I reached my conclusions before reading his article, although he comes to the same conclusion that I do. But then, my long-time former pastor was also of this opinion, so I don’t really claim credit for any brilliance.)

So, what you have here is that Jesus was crucified on the day before the “High Sabbath” began (which happened at sunset), and rose again on the first day of the week. Since Sunday was the first day that the women went to anoint Jesus’ body, they must have been resting from the time of His burial until Sunday morning. This means that either the “High Sabbath” fell on the weekly Sabbath, or the day before it. Currently, the powers that be in the Jewish community alter the official calendar so that there are not two back-to-back Sabbaths. But there is no provision in the Law of Moses for that; and I highly doubt it was done this way during the time Jesus lived, especially considering how over-scrupulous they were about keeping the Law of Moses. This practice was probably started sometime afterwards, perhaps even in modern times. Maybe somebody who is familiar with this can elucidate.

This makes a lot of sense, because if Jesus was crucified on Thursday, and buried right before sundown (which would be the beginning of the sixth day in the way the Jews kept time), then He would have been in the tomb a few hours on Thursday, then Thursday night, Friday morning, Friday night, Saturday morning, Saturday night, and possibly the first part of Sunday morning before anyone came to the tomb. This works out to at least three days (a little bit of daylight on Thursday and/or Sunday) as well as three full nights.


10 Responses

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  1. asimplesinner said, on March 21, 2008 at 5:21 am

    Kathy the difficulty is that you are applying modern concepts of time and periods of 24 hours increments. Being rather literalist on that score, really.

    Jewish concepts of time being what they are, any portion of a day, is a day.. Dying on a Friday counts as day one. Saturday is day two. And then…. Sundown hits Saturday evening… once that occurs, we are into day three.

  2. womantowomancbe said, on March 21, 2008 at 7:55 pm

    Ok, but my main problem with accepting the “crucifixion on Friday” theory is not so much the “three days” part (which I don’t like but can understand and even accept), but that it leaves no room whatsoever for “three nights.” If you can explain to me how being crucified on Friday afternoon and being raised on Sunday morning yields “three days *and nights* in the heart of the earth” then I would appreciate it.

  3. asimplesinner said, on March 21, 2008 at 9:06 pm

    You have given me much to ponder and I am going to have to look into this further.

    Food for thought (though I understand you are a Baptist) is taking a look at the ancient practices of the church in the Apostolic and post-Apostolic era of the first 3 centuries. Early on we see and understand Christians gathering on Sunday to celebrate each sunday as a “little Easter” and observing Fasting on Fridays because they understood that to be the day of the Lord’s Sacrifice.

    Now this can be backed up with the Didache which is an early Christian writing from around 180AD… Lest anyone think that these concepts of fasting were “Later Roman Catholic innovations” they simply were not. They were found throughout the Christian world until the 1500s – including among the Christians of Persia and India who were in communities that had been formed in the era of the apostles and had been OUT of communion with Rome since about 435 AD.

    That is something to consider – how could Christians so very close to the source of the event, whose leaders were trained by leaders who were the Apostles themselves so early on make this error? It is worth pondering.

    I am going to keep researching into this question that you pose, but I am inclined to believe that the wording of “three days and three nights” is in keeping with explaining Jonah as a prefigurement or “type” of Christ.

  4. asimplesinner said, on March 25, 2008 at 4:22 am

    I found this at http://osv.com

    You have gotten me workin’ on this one!

    Q. There has always been some controversy around the time sequence of the Last Supper and the Passover because of a seeming contradiction in the scriptural accounts. All four Gospels agree that Jesus ate the Last Supper the day before he was crucified. But while Matthew, Mark and Luke say the Last Supper was the Passover meal, John says that Jesus’ trial (after the supper) was on “the day of Preparation for the Passover” and that those who brought Jesus to Pilate had not yet eaten the Passover.

    Can you summarize for us the various explanations that have been offered to resolve this dilemma? Which do you find most convincing?

    — G.R., Savannah, Ga.

    A. Here’s a reply from our TCA columnist Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D.:

    The apparent discrepancy you point out boils down to this. The Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) tell us Jesus celebrated the Passover before He was arrested and condemned. The fourth gospel (John) informs us Jesus was crucified before the Passover began.

    As we might expect, there are several theories to explain this seeming discrepancy. Of these, the most convincing explanation to me (which was noted by the Holy Father in his Holy Thursday homily last year) is one that seems to hold to the fourth Gospel’s chronology for the events of Holy Week. This theory reconciles the synoptic and fourth Gospel accounts of Holy Week.

    It starts with the now-known divisions among the Jews of Jesus’ time. There were quite a large number of “denominations” among them, just as you find among Protestants. They were divided on many issues, especially with regard to the liturgical calendar.

    The Sadducees and the priests who were in charge of the temple followed a lunar calendar of 354 days. That calendar set the date of the Jewish festivals on the basis of lunar cycles. Thus Passover was celebrated on a different weekday (on the solar calendar) each year.

    When the Dead Sea scrolls were discovered at Qumran in the middle of the last century, they revealed that the Essenes, a Jewish sect of Jesus, time, had a different calendar. Theirs was a 364-day solar calendar. On this calendar, the festivals always occurred on the same day of the week.

    The Jews who followed the Essene calendar always observed the Passover on Tuesday night (which for them was the start of Wednesday). Did Jesus use the Essene calendar and celebrate the Passover with his disciples on Tuesday? Was the Last Supper, therefore, held on Tuesday night instead of Thursday night? Some scholars argue rather persuasively that this is indeed what happened.

    In support of their argument, they point out that an Essene community did live inside the walls of Jerusalem, in the same part of the city where, according to tradition, the upper room was located. Jesus would have been aware that if He followed the temple calendar, He would have died before He could celebrate the Passover. It is possible He decided to follow the Essene calendar and celebrate the Passover on Tuesday night.

    This interpretation resolves two apparent chronological discrepancies between the Synoptics and the Fourth Gospel. According to Mark 14:1, Christ’s anointing at Bethany occurred “two days” before the Passover. Yet John 12:1 reports that event took place “six days” before the Passover. There would be no discrepancy if the Synoptics have in mind the Essene Passover on Tuesday, and the fourth Gospel, the temple Passover on Friday evening.

    After His arrest, and before His crucifixion, Jesus was subjected to lengthy legal procedures. He was brought before Annas (John 18:13, 19-23); before Caiaphas (John 18:24); before the Sanhedrin (Luke 22:66-71); before Herod (Luke 23:6-11); before Pilate (John 18:28-40). All this could hardly have taken place in only a night and part of a day. The theory that Jesus celebrated the Passover on Tuesday night allows time for all these proceedings.

    Three ancient sources agree in saying that Jesus presided at the Last Supper on a Tuesday night: a second- or third-century document called the Didascalia Apostolorum; St. Victorinus (third century) and St. Epiphanius (fourth century). The first two sources also tell us this is why early Christians fasted and did penance on Wednesdays and Fridays. These two days bracketed the time of the beginning and end of Jesus’ passion.

    Of one thing we are assured. The Gospels do not contradict one another. “Holy Mother Church has firmly and with absolute constancy maintained and continues to maintain, that the four Gospels…, whose historicity she unhesitatingly affirms, faithfully hand on what Jesus, the Son of God, while He lived among men, really did and taught for their eternal salvation, until the day when he was taken up” (Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, 19).

    There is an explanation for the seeming discrepancy we have been discussing. We simply cannot at this point be certain what the explanation is.

  5. womantowomancbe said, on March 26, 2008 at 2:32 am

    This is really quite fascinating–I had not really honed in on the apparent discrepancies between John’s account and that of the others. Something about it always tickled that area of my brain that makes me go “hmm” but I didn’t really “get it” until you pointed this out. This is an area that I should search out some more. Thanks for giving me food for thought.

    One thing that made me think, is the types and shadows from the Old Testament that Christ fulfilled perfectly. In Ex. 12:3 & 6, it says that the congregation was to take a lamb on the 10th day of the month, and keep it up until the 14th day, and then kill it that evening. Not sure why that popped into my head in thinking about this, but it makes a strong inference that Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem was on the 10th day of the month, and He was killed on the evening of the 14th day. But this most certainly does not coincide with the idea of “Palm Sunday” unless that was the 10th day of the month, and He was killed on Thursday. [Sun.-10th, Mon.-11th, Tues-12th, Wed.-13th, Thu.-14th.

    As far as the various trials and things that were mentioned above–there is no room in the gospel accounts for more than a night and a few hours of day–Peter denied our Lord before dawn, which takes care of Annas and Caiaphas; the Sanhedrin trial began at dawn or daybreak–this doesn’t sound like it lasted too long–just long enough for the appearance of justice and fairness; and He was on the cross at least by noon, which would give about 6 hours for Herod and Pilate. It sounds like enough time for me, especially since there is no indication whatsoever of another night and/or day in the midst of this.

    I’m still thinking about all of this, and will read more of what you’ve read as well as delve further into the Bible.

    In Christ,

  6. asimplesinner said, on March 26, 2008 at 3:15 am

    “this most certainly does not coincide with the idea of “Palm Sunday” “

    Now you have got me thinking again (why must you do that? Why! I am a simple man and when I think too much you can hear squeaky wheels turning!!!)

    I am not certain, but I don’t believe Palm Sunday is named so and celebrated as such in accordance with a necesary understanding that the entry took place on a Sunday – it is (I think) only so named because it is now commemorated on Sundays… We have actually been discussing the history of the dating of Easter on my blog, so this is something we have been looking at quite a bit this week of all weeks!

    Just curious, have you ever read any of the early Christian commentaries by the early writers of Christianity that lived in the first century? Ignatius of Antioch and Clement of Rome were two writes whose writings we still have today that lived and died before 110 AD. I have not looked at them in years, I believe some of their stuff might be good for insight on how the Early Christians celebrated some of these holidays.

    1 Apostolic Fathers

    1.1 Clement of Rome
    1.2 Ignatius of Antioch
    1.3 Polycarp
    1.4 Didache
    1.5 Shepherd of Hermas


  7. servant said, on May 2, 2008 at 9:57 am

    yo need 2 check what your talking about 3 nights in matthew 12.40

  8. Kathy said, on May 2, 2008 at 11:22 am

    Here was an interesting website about “3 days and 3 nights” with the author giving two solutions: 1) the typical “any fragment of a day is counted as a day and a night in the Jewish system”; and 2) Jesus was crucified on Thursday, w/Friday (15th day of the month) being a sabbath and Saturday being the weekly sabbath. He points out that in Matt. 28, “Sabbath” is plural in the Greek.

  9. Kay Thompson said, on March 29, 2009 at 4:17 am

    I have a simpler explanation to put forth about when Jesus was crucified and the Passover. First, the Jewish day begins at twilight or sunset and ends the next day at sunset. So I speculate that just after dusk in the first hours of the Passover, Jesus observed the Passover meal. Then went to the garden, was arrested, and went before Caiaphas while it was still the same evening. According to John 18:28 the accusers hadn’t eaten Passover yet. I don’t see a conflict with this passage and other passages. The accusers were just having a late meal. Jesus was crucified on what we would consider the following day, but it was still Passover until nightfall. So Jesus could eat the Passover meal and still be crucified on Passover. Passover fell on the 14th day of Nisan. The next day is the 15th which is the Feast of Unleavened Bread. It is one of the annual Sabbath observances which is treated like a weekly Sabbath. No work, and a preparation day before it. See Lev 23:5-8. I believe that the Pharisees are meeting with Pilate on the 15th to have guards placed at the tomb. Matthew 27:62-66. I believe that Passover was on a Wednesday. Jesus was taken from the cross and buried before the annual Sabbath Feast of Unleaven Bread on Thursday the 16th. Then Friday was a day of preparation for the weekly Sabbath. Jesus is “Lord of the Sabbath” and I believe he rose from the dead on the Sabbath but was not discovered until Sunday. This would give 3 days and 3 nights in the tomb. Night of the 16th, day of the 16th Thursday. Night of the 17th, day of the 17th Friday. Night of the 18th, day of the 18th Saturday. I have read others that say Passover was on a Thursday and count Sunday night one of the nights. The reasons I think it was Wednesday is because it makes the scriptures about Mary Magdalene and other women preparing spices make more sense. Luke 23:56, 24:1-2 says they prepared spices before the Sabbath. Mark 16:1-4 says after the Sabbath they bought spices. With Friday a day between the annual Sabbath and the weekly Sabbath this fits. You might wonder why Mary didn’t try to anoint the body of Jesus on Friday. She couldn’t because of the guards. Hope this isn’t too confusing.

  10. John said, on May 14, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    Jewish period sources may also be employed to gain understanding into Jewish festal practices. Thus all available contemporaneous evidence may assist in the reconciliation of accounts:


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