What Day Did Christ Die?

For many, the Friday before Resurrection Sunday has become like a holy day. It is almost anathema to consider that Christ may have died on any other day. Of course, it is known as “Good Friday” in remembrance this was supposedly the day that Christ died. The view that Christ must have died on Friday is compounded by the fact that this is held to by many within the Roman Catholic faith as well as within the Christian faith.

In studying for a series on the book of Jonah, I revisited the three days and three nights as it correlates as a sign of Christ being in the grave for the same period of time. While there are many pages of information on the internet discussing the various theories, it is my desire to reduce this to its simplest form by the use of a simple chart showing our reckoning of time as compared to the Jewish reckoning.

First, while our day runs from 12:00 midnight through 12:00 midnight, the Jewish day started at 6:00pm and concluded at 6:00pm the following day.

Our time of Reckoning versus the Jewish Time of Reckoning can be seen in the chart below.

What Day Did Christ Die Chart

John 19:31 tells us that this was a High Sabbath and not the regular Sabbath. The word used for Sabbath is actually a plural word in the Greek and does present a further indication of the validity of there being more than one Sabbath depending on the year.

The Sabbath actually began on Friday evening at 6pm or sunset which would be the Jewish start of Saturday.

However, in the year 29 A.D., the High Sabbath or Holy Convocation began on Thursday evening at 6pm or sunset which would be the start of the Jewish Friday. We must remember that the Passover always was to take place on the 14th of the month Nisan or Aviv. The date Nisan 14, 29 A.D. began on Thursday evening at sunset.

The Jews accorded even a part of a day as a full day, but no matter how you do the math, you cannot get 3 days and 3 nights between Friday and Sunday morning.

Luke 23:50-56 gives the timeline of the women. They mark where His body lay and go home to prepare the spices.

Christ had already been dead at this point and was “in the heart of the earth.” This would have been the first day.

Thursday evening our time (Friday Jewish time) started the High Sabbath which was the Passover that year and went through Friday evening our time (Saturday Jewish time). This was the first night and the second day. They could not have returned on this Sabbath.

Friday evening our time (Saturday Jewish time) was another Holy Day and the regular Sabbath. This Holy Day was also the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This would have been the second night and the third day. They could not have returned on this Sabbath either.

Saturday evening our time (Sunday Jewish time) was the Feast of First Fruits that year and was exactly 1 week after Christ made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. In accordance with the law given to Moses, Christ was selected as the Lamb on Sunday, 7 days prior which would have been the 10th of Nisan as seen in Exodus. As He would not have violated the law, He could not have ridden into Jerusalem on the Saturday as that was the Sabbath Day.

The women would not have gone to the tomb at night which meant waiting until the early hours of Sunday morning to go and anoint the body of Christ, but He had already risen.

Finally, as a beautiful picture, Christ became 7 days later the First Fruits of those who slept. The Feast of First Fruits was to take place the first day of the week following the Sabbaths of the Passover Week.

So, to conclude, Christ could not have died on a Friday because of the timing of the calendar and a problem with arithmetic. We must conclude that Christ must have died on a Thursday in order for Him to be able to fulfill all of the law of Moses even down to the timing of when the Passover Lamb was to be selected and killed.

I hope this information is profitable and at the very least provides you further information to consider. Even the details are important in the Word of God. I welcome any thoughts any of our readers may have.

30 thoughts on “What Day Did Christ Die?

  1. That’s really interesting Mark. I’ve always felt a bit uncomfortable with the apologetic reasoning around the “three days AND three nights in the heart of the earth” answers. Even R.C. Sproul put forward that “in the heart of the earth” could be a euphemism for the beginning of Jesus suffering at the hands of the Roman soldiers and therefore the timing fits.

    Your explanation seems to be historically believable and fits the text much better. Isn’t it interesting how we continue to learn about things in such a way as to conform our understanding to the text of Scripture, rather than simply say “oh well the Scripture must be wrong because it doesn’t fit our understanding”.

    Thanks for the article.



  2. always wondered how the timing worked out on that especially because my understanding from American culture couldn’t have added up to even close to 72 hours! I think things like this just take away doubts even more (since this was always confusing to me before especially in the way we celebrate good friday-easter).
    In no real relation to this question but same idea (and I didnt have any intention of starting a conversation in the comments) I am just wondering since I read it again today, did Judas buy the field that he hung himself on (or died and spilled his intestines on) or was it bought buy others? From what I read in Acts and then I flipped to matthew to see the parallel it is just unclear. I know the authors of these books certainly had different intentions but they even quoted different scripture from the prophets to show what was meant to happen with judas and the 30 pieces of silver. Why were different scriptures used?Was determined to look this up when I came home, any input is appreciated!


  3. Here is a presentation that holds to a literal 72 hours….
    A Bible Prophecy Problem Concerning the Resurrection! By Dr. David R. Reagan

    The most significant prophecy in the Bible concerning the resurrection of Jesus is known as “the prophecy of Jonah.” It is a symbolic prophecy represented by the three days and three nights that Jonah spent in the stomach of a great fish (Jonah 1:17). Jesus explained the prophetic symbolism of this unique event on an occasion when He rebuked the Pharisees for seeking a “sign” from Him. By a “sign,” they meant a miracle that would validate Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah.

    The Prophecy’s Meaning: Jesus took their word and played with it by telling them that the only “sign” they would be given would be “the sign of Jonah.” Jesus then proceeded to explain what He was talking about: “for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:38-40).

    Jesus clearly and distinctly prophesies here, using the example of Jonah, that He will spend three days and three nights in the tomb before His resurrection will occur.

    This prophecy, like all Messianic prophecies, had to be fulfilled in the life of Jesus if He truly was the Messiah of God. Jesus emphasized this point Himself after His resurrection when He told His disciples, “All things which are written about Me in the law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44).

    The Prophecy vs. Tradition: But was the prophecy of Jonah really fulfilled in the burial experience of Jesus? According to the traditionally accepted chronology of events, it was not! The traditional chronology places the crucifixion on Friday morning and the burial on late Friday afternoon. It fixes the resurrection on Sunday morning. Thus, according to the traditional view, the body of Jesus was in the tomb only one full day (Saturday) and two full nights (Friday and Saturday). Jesus said His body would be in the tomb three days and three nights.

    There have been many attempts to reconcile the problem that is raised here by the divergence between the prophecy and the traditional view of its fulfillment, but all the attempts I have read have always fallen short of producing a true fulfillment of the prophecy. Jesus said all Messianic prophecy had to be fulfilled in Him, and I believe He meant every detail of every Messianic prophecy. Otherwise, it could be argued that He was not the Messiah.

    The Source of the Problem: Let’s consider the events in the last week of Jesus’ life to see if we can find some clues that will solve the problem. Perhaps the best place to begin is with the problem itself. It is rooted in Mark 15:42 where it says that the crucifixion took place on “the day of preparation before the Sabbath.” This verse has led most people to assume that the crucifixion took place on a Friday since the Jewish Sabbath is Saturday. And that assumption has in turn led to the conclusion that the crucifixion had to take place in either 30 or 33 AD because those are the only two years in the general time period of Jesus’ death when the day of preparation (14 Nisan on the Jewish calendar) fell on a Friday.

    Peculiarities of the Jewish Calendar: A careful study of Jewish calendar practices will show that the assumption that the day of preparation in the year of Jesus’ death had to fall on a Friday is invalid! Such an assumption is based upon Gentile ignorance about Jewish feast days. What the Gentile church has failed to recognize over the centuries is that the first day after Passover (15 Nisan) is a feast day, or “high day” because it is the beginning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. It is therefore considered to be a Sabbath, regardless of which day of the week on which it falls. Read Numbers 28:16-18. Verse 18 clearly indicates that the first day after Passover, Nisan 15, is to be observed as a Sabbath – and so it has been throughout Jewish history to this day.

    Now, the Gospel of John makes it clear that the Sabbath after the crucifixion was not a regular Sabbath. Rather, it was a feast day Sabbath, marking the beginning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Consider the words of John 19:31 – “The Jews, therefore, because it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.”

    Solving the Problem: Again, the point of all this is that Jesus did not have to be killed on a Friday in order for His crucifixion to precede the Sabbath because there could have been two Sabbaths during the week of His crucifixion, depending on what day of the week the high feast day fell on. If it fell on Saturday, then there was only one Sabbath. But if it fell on another day of the week, as it usually does, there would be two Sabbaths.

    Take the year 31 AD for example. In that year the 14th of Nisan, the Passover day on which Jesus would have been crucified, fell on Wednesday, April 25th. The next day, Thursday, would have been the high feast day, and therefore it would have been a Sabbath.

    Thus, if Jesus was crucified in the year 31, He would have been crucified on Wednesday and buried that evening before the high feast day Sabbath began. His body would have remained in the tomb for three days (Thursday, Friday and Saturday) and three nights (Wednesday, Thursday and Friday), just as He predicted.

    That means His resurrection would have taken place on Saturday evening, April 28th. To the Jew, that would place the Lord’s resurrection on Sunday, the first day of the week, because the Jewish day begins at sundown.

    The Crucial Clue: There is a clue in the Scriptures that the crucifixion week had two Sabbaths. In Mark 15:47 we are told that Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James remained at the tomb after Jesus had been buried.

    In Mark 16:1 it says that the two of them bought spices to anoint the body of Jesus after the Sabbath was over. But in Luke 23:56 it says they bought the spices before the Sabbath and then rested on the Sabbath before proceeding to the tomb on Sunday morning.

    There seems to be only one explanation of the apparent contradiction in these verses. After resting on the high day Sabbath on Thursday, the ladies bought the spices on Friday and then rested again on the regular weekly Sabbath on Saturday before proceeding to the tomb on Sunday morning.This explains how they could have bought the spices both before and after the Sabbath. They bought them after the high Sabbath on Thursday but before the regular Sabbath on Saturday.

    An Amazing Corroboration: A fascinating fact that also indicates that the resurrection may well have occurred in 31 AD is to be found in calculations done by William Whiston, the renowned translator of the writings of Josephus. In a very detailed appendix that he added to his translation, he uses both biblical and extra-biblical sources to determine the date of the last Jubilee year in Israel, before the Roman conquest in 70 AD. His conclusion was that it would have begun in the fall of 27 AD. [1] The date of 27 AD most likely marks the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, for His ministry was a symbolic fulfillment of the Jubilee promises.

    This is indicated by the scripture that Jesus read in the synagogue in Nazareth when He launched His public ministry (Luke 4:16-24 & Isaiah 61:1-2):

    “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He anointed Me to preach the Gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovery of sight to the blind, To set free those who are downtrodden,To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”

    It is commonly agreed that the ministry of Jesus lasted 3½ years. A launching date in the fall of 27 AD to coincide with the beginning of the Jubilee would place His death in the spring of 31 AD – the year in which the Passover week had two Sabbaths.

    A Final Problem: Another point of controversy about the resurrection week concerns the nature of the Lord’s last supper with His disciples. The church has traditionally taught that this was the Passover meal. But the scriptures clearly indicate that the meal was eaten the evening before Passover.

    Jesus was crucified on the day of preparation for the Passover. In fact, He died at three o’clock in the afternoon at the precise moment that the Passover lambs were being slaughtered for the Passover meal that evening (Matthew 27:45-46).

    Jesus and His disciples had eaten their last meal together the evening before Passover. Yet, Jesus referred to His last meal with His disciples as “keeping the Passover” (Matt. 26:18). So, it must have been a Passover meal that was celebrated one evening early.

    Professor Harold Hoehner of Dallas Theological Seminary has proposed a solution to this problem. [2] He says there is evidence that the Galilean Jews reckoned time differently from the Judean Jews. Whereas the Judean Jews counted a day from sunset to sunset, the Galilean Jews, according to Hoehner, counted a day from sunrise to sunrise. If this is true, then Jesus and His disciples, being Galileans, would have celebrated Passover one evening earlier than their Jewish brethren in the Jerusalem area.

    On the other hand, since Jesus knew He was to be sacrificed as the Lamb of God for the sins of the world, He may simply have decided to celebrate Passover one day early so that His death on the cross could coincide precisely with the sacrifice of the Passover lambs the next day.

    A Summary of the Order of Events:

    1. Jesus and His disciples ate the Passover meal on a Tuesday evening (April 24th), one day early, in the Upper Room on Mount Zion.

    2. After the Passover meal, Jesus and His disciples departed the Upper Room and walked to the Garden of Gethsemane in the Kidron Valley between the Old City and the Mount of Olives.

    3. Jesus was betrayed and arrested early Tuesday evening. His various trials lasted throughout Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning.

    4. Jesus was crucified at about 9:00 am on Wednesday morning (April 25th). At noon, darkness filled the land. At about 3:00 pm Jesus died.

    5. Jesus was buried on Wednesday about sunset.

    6. The two Marys waited until after the high Sabbath on Thursday (April 26th) to purchase the spices for the anointing of Jesus’ body.

    7. They bought the spices on Friday (April 27th) and then rested again during the regular Sabbath on Saturday (April 28th) before returning to the tomb on Sunday morning (April 29th).

    8. The resurrection of Jesus occurred on Saturday evening (Sunday by Judean reckoning of time).

    9. The resurrection was discovered on Sunday morning when the women returned to the tomb.

    What Difference Does It Make? Lest you be tempted to write all this off as much ado about nothing, let me explain why I think it is important. Prophecy and its fulfillment validate Jesus as who He said He was – namely, God in the flesh. Prophecy and its fulfillment also validate the Bible as the inspired Word of God. Prophecy must be fulfilled precisely, not approximately.

    The precise fulfillment of prophecy regarding the First Coming of Jesus is our assurance that all the prophecies regarding His Second Coming will also be fulfilled completely to the last detail. God will not forget or overlook anything. He is true to His Word. God keeps His promises. Hallelujah!



    [1] William Whiston, The Complete Works of Josephus, with commentary by Paul L. Maier (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications 1999). Whiston’s calculations of the last Jubilee year in Israel before 70 AD can be found in Appendix Dissertation #5: “Upon the Chronology of Josephus” (page 1067). Whiston graduated from Cambridge in 1690 and succeeded Sir Isaac Newton as Lucasian Professor of Mathematics in 1703. He was a brilliant mathematician, physicist, theologian, and linguist. He lived from 1667 to 1752. [2] Harold W. Hoehner, Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishers, 1978).


  4. Hello Bro. James, I agree that Wednesday could be a possibility. However, the use of the terms and references to the Old Testament do not refute a partial day as equating to a day such as seen in the account of Esther fasting for three days and nights. It was on the third day that she actually went.

    Another example would be the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. They stated that it had been three days since the crucifixion. This would preclude a Wednesday as that would make it four days to Sunday at the earliest that they would have been traveling outside the city.

    Regarding the “literal 72 hour approach”, there is also a problem here. Christ died at 3pm and literally 72 hours later would put Him at 3pm on Saturday our time. As we do not know when He arose between 6pm and 6am, we have to start adding hours anywhere from 3 – 11 extra which removes the literal theory as no longer literal.

    One final thought to think about is that for the dating to fit, it would have to follow the eight days from the 10th to the 17th of Nisan. If Christ had died on Wednesday, this would make it the 14th. Thursday would be the 15th, Friday the 16th, Saturday the 17th. This would then place the next Sunday as being nine days after the 10th, and would thus require the triumphal entry to take place on the Sabbath which would be the 10th. I do not believe that Christ would have violated the law of Moses and deliberately make His entry into the city on the Sabbath. That would have been a stated reason on the part of the religious leaders to seek to put Jesus to death.

    Thanks for stopping by and I did appreciate the info you posted.


  5. This was very interesting, as I am reading a rather awful book by Donald Jackson called Religious Lies, Religious Truth. This was one of the examples he used to show that the Bible was not the inerrant word of God. I was just looking up references for this. It’s amazing how God works to answer our questions. Maybe do more posts on the supposed contradictions in the Bible.


  6. All four Gospels call the day “the preparation.” This was the name the Jews gave to Friday, because it was the day before the Sabbath. The “Preparation of the Passover” was the Friday before the Passover, whatever day of the week Passover fell on. There’s extensive evidence of this Jewish usage of the word “Preparation.”

    Jesus said He would rise on the third day. We see this repeatedly. Every time a Gentile is addressed, as in the epistles and Acts, we see that He rose the third day. There are about 15 references which say He rose on the third day.

    We have two other statements. The first is Mark 8:31 which says “after three days.” The other is the passage to which Mark referred in this article, Matthew 12:40, which says Jesus will be buried for three days and three nights.

    If Matthew 12:40 is talking about a literal 72 hours, then the statements of “on the third day” are impossible. “On the third day” can’t refer to after 72 hours.

    Therefore, there must be a figure of speech here — and there is. The Jews used “days and nights” to indicate continuous, unchanging time. Thus, it rained 40 days and forty nights — rain unceasing. Moses was in the mountain 40 days & 40 nights — he didn’t come down at night. Jesus fasted 40 days and 40 nights — this was no Muslim fast where you fast at day and eat at night.

    So, “three days and three nights” just means continuous time for three days. As Mark noted, any part of a day counted as a full day to the Jews. So this means continuously for a period of time which included three different days.

    Also, in speaking of time, the Jews used “after” inclusively. John 20:26 probably refers to the Sunday after the resurrection. “After eight days” is comparable to our “on the eighth day inclusive.” So “after three days” probably means “on the third day,” just like we see everywhere else.

    If Jesus was crucified and buried on the Preparation (Friday), that would be the first day. Saturday would be the second. And Sunday, the day He rose, would be the third, and we’re told He rose the third day. I’m fairly well persuaded that He was crucified on Friday, and that this is one tradition passed down through the centuries which was correct.

    We see something comparable in Esther 4:16-5:1, where there is a period of “three days and three nights” but she went before the king on the third day. Three nights cannot have passed before the third day. We have to read these statements through the cultural lens of the people who wrote them.

    Tiberius reigned as co-regent with Augustus from 12 A.D., then solely after Augustus’ death in 14 A.D. Luke 3:1 tells us John’s ministry began in his fifteenth year. We don’t know exactly how Luke was counting regnal years, but this means 26-27 A.D. dated from co-regency, or perhaps 27-28 A.D. dated from sole regency. The earliest possible date to be the 15th year would probably be the end of October of 26 A.D., and that is if Luke was dating from co-regency. (Pilate’s rule in Judea did not begin until 26 A.D., either).

    If John’s ministry began at the earliest date, it still had to become known throughout the nation, which would have been at least six months, which takes us after Passover 27 A.D. You end up with less than a two year ministry for Christ, if His crucifixion is in 29 A.D. Even 30 A.D. seems too early, allowing for less than a three year ministry for Christ.

    Luke 13:1-9 probably indicates either a four year ministry for Christ, or four years combined for John and Jesus. If that is right, then we are at least four years past the date described in Luke 3:1, which is long after the Passover in 26 A.D. It seems very unlikely that Christ was crucified before 30 A.D., and that is probably too early.

    Sorry this is so long….


  7. Another good resource for understanding the Thursday crucifixion in from Zola Leavitt. At his website, Hebrew4Christians, he has a page devoted to the week of Christ’s death/burial/resurrection as well as its connection to the Feast of Firstfruits. Here is the link:

    The Feast of Firstfruits was always the first Sunday after the first Shabbat after Passover. If Preparation Day–the day He was crucified–was Friday, then Passover was Saturday, meaning He would have had to be in the tomb for a whole week before He came out in order to fulfill the Feast of Firstfruits. But…

    Crucified and in the tomb Thursday (day 1/night 1)
    Passover Friday (day 2/night 2)
    Shabbat Saturday (day 3/night 3)
    Out of the tomb before sunrise (see John 20:1), Feast of Firstfruits Sunday.

    And if you recall, Matthew 27:52-53 says, “The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many.” These were the firstfruits of the resurrection, fulfilling the Feast of Firstfruits, after which the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot, Pentecost) was fulfilled 50 days later.


  8. What good does it do to spend time on this question? What important doctrine hangs on knowing what day the Lord was crucified? Are we not told to NOT to waste time wrangling about such things? If it was important – such as the day He rose from the dead – it would be clear in His Word. Let us press the clear teachings that exalt Christ and correct serious error. This topic does not appear to fall into either of those categories.


  9. Manfred, it was something that was on my mind while preparing to continue the next message in Jonah. There has been no argument but simply sharing from a few people.

    I am convinced that even the details are important or they would not have been included in Scripture. And had the days not been important, there are many passages that would be quite generic. However, that is not the case as the Holy Spirit deemed it worthy to note them through the writings of many authors.

    My purpose in sharing was simply to point out that God is glorified in all things. There is no contradiction in the Word and only God could have foreordained such an event to the exact day.


  10. Manfred, it’s a conversation among friends about an interesting detail in Scripture. So far none of us have anathematised each other. 🙂 Scripture gives time/date info, and those pieces of information, and genealogies, etc, are also profitable for doctrine and instruction in righteousness. In this case, the relation to the feasts is obviously of significance.

    Fourpointer, either I’m daft, or you forgot to give the link. Theoretically, I suppose both possibilities are true. 🙂

    It seems if you count Thursday as day one, then Friday is the second day, and Saturday is the third — and Christ rose on the third day. I don’t see how to reconcile “on the third day” with “three days and three nights” unless there is an idiom, and the passage in Esther shows there is. Note also II Chronicles 10:5 with 10:12, and Genesis 42:17-18. So it is a Jewish idiom, and “three days and three nights” only appears in the Gospel to the Jews (Matthew). I think we do better to look at the multiple passages written to Gentiles for clarity, since we know there is a Jewish idiom at play.

    One difficulty is whether Jesus ate Passover on the normal day, as the synoptics appear to indicate. If he did, John 19:14 can’t refer to Passover meal preparation, “preparation for Passover,.” because the meal was the night before. So what does “preparation” mean? Must be the well-attested “Friday of Passover.”


  11. I do not think Mark E is trying to be contentious, or deriving “pleasure” from the question of days or timing. He is dealing with an issue that has generated questions, questions which are asked in Sunday School. Hence, if a reasonable answer can be found, then it should be given. Answers from Scripture is what sets Bible Christians apart. Did you know that the Orthodox church just celebrated the Resurrection in May?

    Let us take the contributions of brethren as learning opportunities, without questioning motives. From a regular reader in Singapore…


  12. Thanks, Evan. I note your concern that we do not elevate the observance of days from your citation of Galatians 4:10-11. But as Mark E concluded, “Even the details are important in the Word of God.” These details include dates, and it is not an exercise in vanity, or to stoke arguments. Dates help us to see the flow of events in Biblical history as well as in prophecy. Let me explain.

    When I was studying through Leviticus, the meaning of Jewish days as they relate to God’s prophetic calendar made a deep impression in me. The Jewish calendar is based on the feasts that God commanded them to observe.

    In Leviticus 23:1-3 the first holy day to be observed is the Sabbath. The Sabbath signified the completion of God’s work in creation. The Sabbath also points to a future spiritual rest, which God makes available to all who are in Christ.

    In Leviticus 23:4-8 the Feasts of the Passover and the Unleavened Bread are commanded. The Jewish observance of Passover celebrated God’s deliverance of Israel from Egyptian bondage. This feast was to be observed on Nisan 14, which is the first month in the calendar. The month Nisan corresponds to March-April, which means that the Jews use a lunar calendar. This is why the dates for Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday are always celebrated during this period. Surely, this shows us why dates, when given in Scripture, are important.

    On Nisan 15, the Feast of Unleavened Bread was celebrated for one week. For Christians, Christ is our Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7). The Unleavened Bread represents “sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:8), whereas for Jews it was the removal of leaven from their homes.

    Following the week of Unleavened Bread, the third feast is the First Fruits. This feast in the prophetic calendar pointed to the resurrection of the Messiah. Refer to 1 Corinthians 15:20-23. In Leviticus 23:11, the priest was to “wave the sheaf…on the morrow after the Sabbath.” Again, the importance of dates: It was the day after Sabbath, on the first day of the week that our Lord was raised from the dead.

    The next feast is Pentecost or the Feast of Weeks. “Weeks” because it was observed seven weeks or 49 days after First Fruits. Pentecost is observed on the 50th day, which is the day after the 7th Sabbath, a Sunday.

    Now, this is where the matter of days and timing become significant to me. I was raised in a Landmark Baptist church, which denied the existence of the universal church, and also the Pentecostal birthday of the church (the word “Pentecost” being often associated with the Charismatics, this is a fear more imagined than real but nevertheless in this case word association has its bad effect). It was dates that helped me to see that the church indeed was started on the Day of Pentecost. Also, in John 7:39 “the Holy Ghost was not yet given: because that Jesus was not yet glorified.” And according to Romans 8:9, “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” So the dates and relevant texts help to disprove a pre-Pentecost birthday of the church. This may not seem important to many, but the fact that a sizeable number of people think the church was started sometime between Matthew 16 (when Christ announced the founding of the church) and Matthew 18 (where Christ taught discipline for the church) highlights the importance of knowing dates and the sequence of events.

    Now, God has commanded Israel to keep seven feasts. Next after Pentecost is the Feast of Trumpets in Leviticus 23:23-25, a pointer to the Rapture. Just to round it off, the last two observances are the Day of Atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles.

    So you see, dates have a much larger significance than just our deriving pleasure from them. As with words, dates have meaning. Just as with other details in Scripture, they are worthy of our study.

    I appreciate Mark E’s contribution.


  13. Let me add another thought about the importance of dates and days in Scripture with regard to the birthday of the church. It does not make sense that we know July 4th as the Day of American Independence and August 9th as Singapore’s National Day, but we cannot pinpoint the day when the church of Jesus Christ was started! Surely God’s institution is more important than any earthly institution. But God has given us dates to determine when the church was started, and we are not left to conjecture and dispute.

    This knowledge certainly does not affect one’s faith, but it does affect our knowledge of ecclesiology. Thanks, Evan.


  14. Thanks Evan for your kind and thoughtful response. I believe your major concern is that we do not give respect to one day over another. To that, we can shake hands and enjoy our coffee together. A rereading of Mark E’s article will show you that he is also not suggesting that at all. Rather, it is his effort to unfold the time between the crucifixion and the resurrection, which is important because the Lord specifically stated a time span of “three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40). We can of course take the Lord’s word by faith, since He had stated the precise length of time He would be in the grave. But the period between the Jewish feast of Passover and First Fruits – as well as the occasion of the High Sabbath that year – disproves the popular observation of Good Friday because the time simply does not add up. So the question of “when” is a legitimate one, and we thank God there is a concrete answer! The answer can only bolster our confidence in the accuracy of Scripture.

    As for the day when Christ was born, I have not come across any prophecy in the Old Testament where we are given an indication of the time. We are told the place, as revealed in Micah 5:2. It is probably at the year end because of the cold weather conditions that the shepherds encountered. At any rate, I think there was no indication of the date of His First Coming just as no dates are given for His Second Coming. Evan, the doomsday cults are the ones that derive pleasure from dates and times.

    But as I have explained previously, this is where the Jewish Feasts come into play to help us see the scheme of prophecy yet to be fulfilled in God’s prophetic calendar. By the way, the word “feast” has nothing to do with eating. It means “appointed time.” The dates of the feasts indicate to me that God does not set dates at random. The Passover, First Fruits, and Pentecost as they relate to the crucifixion, resurrection, and birth of the church are proofs of God’s accurate timing.

    Like you, I am content to leave dates and time well alone if Scripture yields no further result. But if someone asks me how we come up with three days and three nights (perhaps in an attempt to question the reliability of the Bible) when Friday to Sunday do not quite add up, a response that “I do not care about days and timing” is a non-answer amounting to evasion.

    Remember, we are called to be students of the Scriptures, and we are to “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15).

    By the way, a question for Mark E: can you explain why the year was 29 A.D.? I have always thought it was 30 A.D.


  15. Jeremy, have been following your comments and appreciate your encouragement. I believe from my research that AD 29 is the only year that fits within the structure of the 10th falling on the Sunday and the 17th on the following Sunday. I may have missed something, and I am doing some more checking on my dates. I think in my notes the 30th was possible as was AD 27, placing Christ born around 6 B.C. This would still place Him around 33 when He died. Some of this has to do with historical facts like Herod dying in 4 B.C., so, I do not see how a date later than 29 or 30 A.D. would be permissible. Will keep you updated.


  16. Hi Evan. Yes, Christmas Day cannot be accurately pinpointed, which is why there are churches that do not mark the occasion at all. But I have no issue with December 25, a day which is as good as any. I celebrate it in church and with my family on the same day as most people. After all, why should we let the world hijack our celebration of the Lord’s birth – true?

    However the same cannot be said for Good Friday because of the Passover, and also because of the time repeatedly stated in all four Gospels as early morning on the first day of the week (Sunday) (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1-2; Luke 24:1; John 20:1).

    Since the first day of the week is clear, all the Baptists I know observe Resurrection Sunday, and all of them that I know do not mark Good Friday. I know there are exceptions. However, the Lord has given to the church the ordinance of His Supper as a perpetual observance till He comes. So Christ’s sacrifice for His people is always remembered at the Lord’s Supper (so no problem with or without Good Friday).

    I have enjoyed our conversations. Have a blessed day.


  17. Evan, the shepherds are in the field with the sheep during the lambing season.

    “In Iraq, the principal lamb­ing season of Awassi ewes is in No­vember, and in Lebanon, the Syrian Arab Republic and Israel in Decem­ber-January.” http://www.fao.org/docrep/010/p8550e/P8550E01.htm

    Furthermore, it simply isn’t that cold in the winter in Israel — no colder in December than in March.

    There is no reason to exclude December for the birth of Christ, and Edersheim gave reasons to think it is likely. We really can’t know. I wrote about it already, so won’t recreate it all here: http://mindrenewers.com/2012/12/15/silly-reasons-to-abandon-christmas-4-its-the-wrong-date/

    There is no Biblical reason that we must celebrate Christmas, and no Biblical reason that we cannot. There are significant Biblical problems with some aspects of the way many people today celebrate Christmas.

    Mark, I overlooked something in your article. You said Jesus was selected as the Passover Lamb on the tenth (correct) which is Sunday. Why Sunday? The lambs were presented in the temple on 10th Nisan. Mark 11 indicates that the cleansing of the temple took place on the Monday. Matthew and Luke collapse the events of these two days, but Mark very clearly indicates the cleansing was on Monday, the day after the triumphal entry. So how do we know 10th Nisan was not Monday, the day He cleansed the temple?

    I’m still having a hard time reconciling 29 A.D. with Luke 3:1-2. Admittedly, the Scriptures don’t tell us how long Jesus’ ministry was, but John mentions 3 Passovers, so it was at least two years.


  18. Evan, I’m convinced there are many unbiblical things said about Christmas.

    1. It is unbiblical to say we must commemorate the birth of Christ.
    2. It is unbiblical to condemn commemorations of the birth of Christ.
    3. It is unbiblical to say the date of His birth matters. If people choose to commemorate, they can whenever they wish. The traditional date has as much evidence as any other date, but it is only a matter of interest, not one of importance.
    4. It is unbiblical to condemn commemorations because of a name given to the celebration in one language. Christianity is not an English-only religion.
    5. It is unbiblical to condemn anyone who dislikes the name “Christmas.” It is NOT a sound reason to reject the commemoration, but if someone can’t use the name in good conscience, they shouldn’t.
    6. and on, and on. 🙂 I answered many in articles linked from the one you mentioned, so I won’t reinvent it all here.

    Syncretism: Discussed somewhat: http://mindrenewers.com/2012/12/18/solid-reasons-to-scrutinise-christmas/. If “Santa” etc.is taught as a fun make-believe (like Winnie-the-Pooh), so the kids know it is a dumb, fun story, it is not sinful, but we chose not to. None should do it, even as a make-believe, in a way that makes him a god-figure (sees you when you’re sleeping, knows when you’re awake).

    No one worships decorated trees anymore. Celebrations encouraging gluttony, excess, materialism, ingratitude, etc, are more dangerous to us and our children than decorated trees. They may have had an origin in idolatry, but the idols were always dead and now everyone knows they are. Trees are similar to fireworks — a fun tradition at a particular time of year. For years we opted out, in part because a Christian brother was grieved by them. My kids learned valuable lessons about “forbearing one another,” and decorated the whole house rather than one tree. Trees are fun (God delights in small pleasures), but people are important.

    Growing up, we coloured eggs for Easter morning. My parents taught it as a fun tradition. About age 10 I learned in Sunday School that hatching eggs symbolised the resurrection. I thought it was dumb (for one, they didn’t hatch, we ate them), but they were still fun and good to eat. I never knew or cared whether there was a pagan idea associated with it.

    We never coloured eggs with our kids. If a family does as my parents did, it is not sin. The earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof, including eggs, even coloured ones. It might or might not be sinful for churches, depending on what is said to the kids, etc. But some kids will misunderstand, get mixed messages, so it seems at best very unwise, no matter what is said. Our church will not do this. Some call me “paranoid” about such things, I prefer to say “vigilant.” You can choose which you think applies. 🙂

    Back to actually addressing Mark’s topic (Mark, please forgive us for the diversion :)), I believe the years matter. God told us some of it in great detail (Luke 3:1-2). I’m thinking He wanted us to know. One reason: I believe the 70 sevens of Daniel 9 point to a crucifixion in 32-33 A.D. I believe Luke 19:42 indicates they should have known this was the appointed time. I believe the symbolism of the fig tree points to a four year ministry. Thus, I think both the Old and New Testaments give time notices that point to the same year.

    There are many things that fit together between the Old Testament and the New Testament, far better than we might realise, when we carefully study / understand all the time / date references. We don’t have to know these things to be saved or to live a holy life that pleases our Lord. But I think He gave us these notices to enhance our understanding of the unity of Scripture as a single Book with a single Author revealing a single Work of reconciliation.

    For instance, there is a “third day deliverance” theme in the Old Testament foreshadowing of the Resurrection. Esther 5:1, Hosea 6:2, II Kings 20:5, Genesis 22 (the Lord provided a lamb delivering Isaac on the third day after Abraham set out). There are more. We have multiple “third day” notices about the resurrection. I think God wants us to care about the time between His death and resurrection. Thus, the day of the week matters — it reflects the unity of Scripture.

    The NT is full of the Old, the Old shines out of every page. Christ’s teachings are teeming with OT Scriptures. We understand it all better when we understand how it all fits. The time/date references are part of that “fit”.

    Some day, perhaps, I will learn to write short posts.


  19. Jon, I appreciate your posts. Lengthy as you may think they are, I was blessed. Thank you. I have also read your blog about Christmas, and with your kind permission I wish to adapt it for use in my church bulletins leading up to Christmas this year.

    Our discussion reminds me of Proverbs 27:17, Iron sharpeneth iron: so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend. It certainly helps us to stretch our thinking and understanding of Scripture, and how a discussion about the day of Christ’s death has turned out to be a discussion about the day He was born! Without a doubt, both are important days. Without the birth of Christ, there would not have been the death of Christ. Good Friday itself we can disprove due to the days and times given in Scripture, and because of the Jewish observances during the Passion Week, which we can calculate. As for Christmas, we can but speculate and make educated guesses.

    Evan, we will not fully agree about the celebration of Christmas, but let us keep in mind that the world have always been interested about the Lord’s birth – in fact, down to the very day and the very time. The Jews were looking for the coming of the Messiah. Herod was interested, and so were the magi that came from the Near East. The angels were interested, and so was Satan. The birth of Christ was good news for the Jews, the wise men, and all believers in Him. How ironical it would be then, if Christians avoid it because “we do not observe days” using Galatians 4:10-11, or disapprove of it due to some supposed pagan origins or worldly practices. The case for paganism can also be made for Easter. In the Philippines, they re-enact the crucifixion every year with actual flagellation of flesh and nailing to crosses for religious (but unbiblical) reasons. But what is new? Satan always perverts the true worship of God.

    Much of the world know that Christmas is about the birth of Christ. It is true that Christmas in the Westernized version has many elements that are unbiblical and do not give glory to God. But to be fair, not all who are Christians engage in unbiblical practices in their celebration. This is also not a time to be mute. When the world celebrate Christmas (for whatever reason), it is a splendid opportunity for us to have a Christian service to preach the birth of Christ, and to invite unbelievers to church to hear the Gospel and “the reason for the season.”

    We can always observe a day in the year for the Lord’s birth in a way that honours Christ and gives glory to God. Will our practices change the world? To borrow the title from another post, Can We Reason with a World that Hates Christ? We cannot. But light always shines brightest in darkness, so let us use Christmas like the shepherds in Judea to tell out the Good News. This is what I mean by not letting the world hijack Christmas. Just make sure we do not add elements that detract or distort the meaning and reason for it.

    Here’s a Bible principle for observing Resurrection Sunday and Christmas for the glory of God: Romans 14:5-6, One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it.


  20. Jeremy, all truth is God’s truth, so if I got anything right, it doesn’t belong to me. Adapt away. 🙂 If you quote extensively, please say “Used by permission” so no one can ever accuse you of plagiarising.

    Good comment. I believe Romans 14 directly applies to the discussion, as to Crucifixion Day and Resurrection Sunday and “God With Us” Day..


  21. @JonGleason:

    Well, I did put the link in my comment, the formatting must have kicked it out. After rereading the article (It had been a while), the author does not link Christ’s resurrection to Reshit Khatzir (The feast of firstfruits), and on this I disagree with him. However, the article is very helpful at clarifying the timeline of the crucifixion/resurrection of our Lord. Here it is:


    Is there an idiom involved? Yes, there is. The idiom, however, is the phrase “the third day”. And He did rise on the third day after He was crucified. Also remember, He said He would rise “after three days” (Mark 8:31), a phrase which was confirmed by the chief priests and Pharisees (Matthew 27:63). We also have confirmation from the travelers on the road to Emmaus, in Luke 24:20-21—“…the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him…today is the third day since these things happened.” Remember, John tells us the women got to the tomb on the first of the week (the word ‘day’ was added to ‘first’ by the translators), and they arrived “while it was still dark” and He was already gone (John 20:1). So He was out of the tomb before the dawn on the first of the week, making, as Jesus said, “three days and three nights”.

    Why is this important? Because Jesus was very specific when He talked about how long He would be in the tomb. He referred to the experience of Jonah the prophet, who spent three days and three nights in the belly of the whale. Matthew 12:39-40—“An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” So if He only spent part of Friday day and two nights in the tomb, He would not be worthy of being believed, since He did not fully fulfill that sign. It would be like if I promised you a “4 day/3 night” cruise to the Bahamas, but pulled back into the home port after 2 days and one night and said, “Ah, that whole ‘4 day/3 night’ things was just an idiom I used.” I think we can and should take Jesus at His word and believe that when He said “three days and three nights” He knew what He was talking about.

    As touching John 19:14—I don’t see how this verse can be so misunderstood, the words are clear. The preparation day was when the lambs were slaughtered. “It was the preparation of the Passover.” Remember, crucified Thursday (preparation day), Passover Friday, weekly Shabbat Saturday, and He was out of the tomb before the Feast of Firstfruits Sunday.


  22. Thanks, fourpointer. Three quick points, might say more next week.

    1. Leviticus 23:15-16 shows the Jews counted inclusively. 7 weeks is 50 days. Counted inclusively, if Jesus was crucified/buried on Thursday and rose Sunday, He rose the fourth day.

    2. “Preparation of the Passover” means “Friday of the Passover” because “preparation” means “Friday.” Many sources, here are a few.
    A. Edersheim, Life and Times, p. 900 and elsewhere.
    B. Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John, p. 687. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=II-33dS9esAC&pg=PA687&dq=preparation+passover+friday+josephus+John+19&hl=en&sa=X&ei=mrKOUchzxZvTBeWPgZAL&ved=0CDEQ6AEwADgK#v=onepage&q=preparation%20passover%20friday%20josephus%20John%2019&f=false
    C. (no link) A.J.B. Higgins, Journal for New Testament Studies, I, 3, The Origins of the Eucharist (also referred to by Morris).
    D. A link for this one, Harold Hoehner, Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ, p. 70-71: http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=kWhjBPQOX9MC&pg=PA70&lpg=PA70&dq=preparation+passover+friday+higgins&source=bl&ots=3a_gjeMtvS&sig=e_e8fZm6ebtE51Pv99MmUg5YJ4o&hl=en&sa=X&ei=TKaOUZz9BIuN0wWgyIGAAw&ved=0CEgQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&q=preparation%20passover%20friday%20higgins&f=false

    Not only is Jewish usage clear on the point (preparation=Friday), but Morris’ point (citing Barnard) about the absence of the definite article is a strong one.

    3. If there is an idiom, it is a Jewish idiom. So it will be used with a Jewish audience. “The third day” is used for both Jewish and Gentile audiences. “Three days and three nights” is only used with a Jewish audience, so it is undoubtedly the idiom. If you promised a 3 days/nights cruise to an ancient Jew, he would have expected that meant you were cruising the whole time (instead of hanging out in a port), for a period covering at least parts of three days.

    You might find the whole discussion by Hoehner interesting. We have to get out of our Western mindset and see these expressions the way the Jews meant and understood them.

    I’ll look at that link next week, Lord willing.


  23. Hello all,

    I have had a hectic few days, but my thoughts on the day and year Christ died are still a work in progress. While I do not believe that everybody will believe something other than tradition, my hope was that some might take the time to consider that Friday is definitely not an option as I view the Scriptures.

    Hopefully, I will be able to do some further clarification at a later date. Thanks for reading and I appreciate all of the comments given so far.


  24. @JonGleason,

    At this point, it not being an essential point to the faith,I think it best to simply let us agree to disagree; we can both point to scholars who see it our way. I have, however, enjoyed the exchange


  25. Thanks, fourpointer, I’m certainly happy to leave it there. I have enjoyed it, too. I found the link you provided (in fact, the entire site) very interesting. I found it fascinating that there was a “liberal” and a “conservative” date for Firstfruits. I’d never known that before. I held to the “conservative” view based on Joshua 5:10-12 (which is, of course, not entirely conclusive).


  26. Evan, the words “our way” weren’t mine. 🙂 But I cited scholars not to say, “They agree with me, therefore I’m right,” but because I am persuaded by the Biblical case they make (especially Higgins).

    I’m not at all offended by differences. Since I tell people in our church not to take my word, but to study the Scriptures for themselves, I would certainly want you to do the same. Why follow me? I’m just a guy on the ‘Net. If what I say is true to Scripture, follow Scripture. If what I say isn’t true to Scripture, follow Scripture. If you can’t tell for sure if what I say is true to Scripture, follow the things that you know Scripture says, and leave the rest until the Lord makes it clear to you.

    I do believe the five things I listed are contrary to Scripture. For the first two, for instance, it is contrary to Scripture to command a commemoration of Christ’s birth, and it is also contrary to Scripture to condemn it (Romans 14). If someone chooses to set aside 29 February as a commemoration, once every four years, of Christ’s birth, there is no reason they can’t. If they decide to do so once a decade on 31 July, who has the right to forbid it? And if they do so every 6 January or 25 December, it really is up to them. There may be issues around how they do it, but it is something every believer is free to decide, whether he regards a day or not, and which day, and how often. I believe Romans 14:5-6 forbids us to command or condemn.

    As to “make-believe,” we see fictional stories used in the Scripture as teaching tools. The Saviour taught with parables. They are only appropriate if used in such a way that the hearers do not think they are true accounts. Thus, if someone wants to read Winnie the Pooh to their children, and tell them it isn’t true, it’s just a story, no Scripture condemns that. I recognise some parents oppose any fiction. But the Scripture does not condemn fictional stories, as long as there is no deception. Though I consider the Santa fiction unwise and didn’t use it, we have always used fiction with our children as a fun and effective teaching tool. I won’t condemn someone who uses the Santa story that way, though I might warn them that particular story has some dangers that other stories don’t have.


  27. Jon,
    You wrote…
    “Since I tell people in our church not to take my word, but to study the Scriptures for themselves, I would certainly want you to do the same. Why follow me? I’m just a guy on the ‘Net. If what I say is true to Scripture, follow Scripture. If what I say isn’t true to Scripture, follow Scripture. If you can’t tell for sure if what I say is true to Scripture, follow the things that you know Scripture says, and leave the rest until the Lord makes it clear to you.”

    Excellent comment. Worth reposting for the benefit of Keith, the RCC guy. At the end of the day, as Benjamin Franklin said, “He who is convinced against his will is unconvinced still.”


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