Was Good Friday on Friday? A Wednesday Crucifixion Makes More Sense.
Everyone knows that the Crucifixion occurred on a Friday, because the next day was a Sabbath. Right? But that is the only reason that supports a Friday Crucifixion, and Biblically, most Passover Sabbaths do not fall on Saturdays. A Wednesday Crucifixion makes more sense.
Many scholars today are convinced that a Wednesday Crucifixion fits best with both scripture and Jewish tradition. So as Easter approaches, we might consider abandoning the traditional timeline, and adopting a Biblical one – one that would allow Christ to be in the tomb three days and three nights, as the Bible teaches. But be prepared to alter some basic understandings. A historically accurate timeline begins with the realization that there were two twos during the Passion Week. In other words, there were two Passover meals, and also two Sabbaths.
In order for all of the scriptures in the Gospel to fall neatly into place, the Crucifixion would have occurred on Wednesday afternoon, the day after Christ celebrated the Passover supper. Then, according to the Gospels, on Wednesday evening, Jerusalem celebrated a Passover supper. The reason for the double celebration is simple. Because Christ came from Galilee, which is outside Jerusalem, he was expected to observe two Passovers in succession. In fact, there was a practical reason for the double celebration – it was to insure that if the calendar in the outlying area was off by a day, that at least one of the two celebrations would be in sync with the official celebration in Jerusalem.
The calendar in each locality was determined by visual observation of the moon. “In ancient times, the beginning of a new lunar month had to be determined by direct observation of the new moon. Among Jews, the only observation that was ‘official’ was the one certified by the authorities in Jerusalem…. For this reason, Jewish communities outside the land of Israel adopted the practice of observing an extra day of the pilgrimage holidays (Passover, Shavuot, Sukkot and Sh’mini Atzeret), just in case they had gotten the date of the new moon wrong.” (Rabbi J. W. Goldwasser, 2008).
You see, typically, the calendars in outlying areas were early by one day, because, in late afternoon as the barley harvest was ripening, the leaders of the synagogues in the outlying areas would try to err on the side of judging the appearance of the crescent moon early, in
order to make sure that at least one of the two Passover celebrations would coincide with Jerusalem’s. If they were late in their judgment, then neither of their celebrations would coincide.
Even today, if you live outside Israel, you are expected to observe two Passover meals, or Seders. And if you visit Israel, you are still expected to observe two Passovers Seders. This explains why Christ and his disciples celebrated a Passover supper a day before Jerusalem’s, because they were visitors from Galilee.
“In the Land of Israel, a Seder is only held on the first night of Passover; and outside of the land of Israel, there are two seders on both the first and second night.” (Preface to question addressed to Rabbi Azriel Schreiber, 2008).
“If the individual lives in Israel and is just visiting, he or she only does one seder regardless of citizenship. Conversely, if an individual lives in America and is just visiting Israel, he or she would be required to have two sedarim (plural for seder). ” (Rabbi Azriel Schreiber’s answer, 2008).
Most assume that the Crucifixion occurred on a Friday because a Sabbath followed it. But Christians in general are not aware that annual Sabbaths can occur on any day of the week, because they fall on specific dates. The Passover feast always marked the beginning of an annual special Sabbath that occurred on the 15th day of the month, without regard to whether it fell on a Saturday or not. (Lev. 16:31, and 23:5-7). In the case of the Crucifixion, this Sabbath would have begun Wednesday evening, and continued until Thursday evening.
Then, Thursday evening, and continuing until Friday evening, there was another day of Preparation – the second of the week – for the day before the feast Sabbath was also considered a day of Preparation. It was on this Friday day of Preparation, that the Galilean women went out and bought spices, and prepared them for embalming the body of Christ. Then, Saturday they again would have rested, before bringing them to the tomb early Sunday morning to discover it empty.
If you take my advice, and remember the Passion week in this fashion, the story of the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ will become more meaningful. Not only will the timing of the Passion week begin to make sense, but you will begin to understand why the Bible teaches that Christ was in the tomb for three days and three nights. In fact, these two simple twos enable all of the scripture that exists on the subject to be neatly reconciled. And as a bonus, the second Passover meal places the Crucifixion of Christ on the same day and hour that it was customary to sacrifice a Passover lamb. That day and hour is the 14th day of Nisan at about 3:00 in the afternoon, on the official Jerusalem calendar. And it places the resurrection on the 17th of Nisan, the same day that Noah landed on dry land, the same that that Israel crossed the Red Sea, and the same day that Queen Esther saved the Jews from extermination. It is the most memorable day in Israel’s history, and a day that signifies salvation. The spiritual significance takes your breath away. So this Easter, why not break with tradition and embrace a Biblical timeline?
Now, for the more serious student, here is a more methodical review of the preceding material with additional references:
1. First of all, in the Jewish Biblical and historical tradition, all days begin and end at sunset, not midnight. (Rich, 2007). Genesis 1:5.
2. Areas outside Jerusalem celebrated two Passover feasts, or seders, in order to be certain that at least one of them would fall on the same day as the official celebration in Jerusalem. “In the Land of Israel, a Seder is only held on the first night of Passover; and outside of the land of Israel, there are two seders on both the first and second night.” (Rabbi Schreiber).
3. The Last Supper was the Passover Meal according to the Galilean calendar, which was one day ahead of the Jerusalem calendar.
5. Jerusalem did not observe a Passover meal on the evening of the Last Supper, but would observe theirs the next day, because Jerusalem’s calendar was considered to be the official one, and there was no need to celebrate two Passover.
6. Visitors to Jerusalem from outlying areas were expected to observe two Passover meals in accordance with the calendar from their home town. “For this reason, Jewish communities outside the land of Israel adopted the practice of observing an extra day of the pilgrimage holidays (Passover, Shavuot, Sukkot and Sh’mini Atzeret), just in case they had gotten the date of the new moon wrong.” (Rabbi Goldwasser). A similar practice is still observed today. “If the individual lives in Israel and is just visiting, he or she only does one seder regardless of citizenship. Conversely, if an individual lives in America and is just visiting Israel, he or she would be required to have two sedarim (plural for seder). ” (Rabbi Schreiber).
7. Jesus Christ and the disciples observed the first of their two Passover feasts when they ate the Last Supper. (Matt. 26:18, Mark 14:14, Luke 22:13). On the Galilean calendar it would have been the 14th of the month, the day on which it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb (Ex. 12:6, Mark 14:12, Luke 22:7), but on Jerusalem’s calendar, it would have been the 13th.
8. The next day, Christ was brought before Pilate, and then crucified. That evening, Jerusalem would eat their Passover feast, a day after the Galilean celebration. (John 13:1, 18:28). It was Jerusalem’s 14th day of the month, the official day of Preparation, and the official day for sacrificing the Passover lamb. (Matt. 27:62, Mark 15:42, Luke 23:54, John 19:14).
9. The Passover feast on the evening that Christ was crucified marked the beginning of a 24 hour Sabbath (Shabbat) that always fell on the 15th day of Nisan, the first month. It usually did not fall on a Saturday, and all indications are that in this case it fell on a Thursday. In the Gospels, the implication is that the Sabbath after the Crucifixion was not an ordinary Saturday Sabbath. In the book of John, this day is referred to as a “special Sabbath” (John 19:31, NIV), or in the King James, as a Sabbath “high day.” Matthew 27:62 refers to it as the day “after Preparation day.” If it was an ordinary Saturday Sabbath, why not simply call it “the Sabbath?”
10. The next day, Friday, after having rested on the Sabbath, the Galilean women went out into the marketplace and purchased spices. They then prepared these spices for the purpose of further embalming the body of Jesus Christ. (Mark 16:1, Luke 23:56).
11. Saturday was the weekly Sabbath, and if you count three days and three nights from the Crucifixion, you arrive at late Saturday afternoon as the time of the resurrection. The verse that many interpret to mean that Christ rose on Sunday morning, can also be interpreted, “Now after He had risen early on the first day of the week, He first appeared to (K)Mary Magdalene….” (Mark 16:9, NASB).
12. So, early on Sunday morning, the Galilean women went to the tomb only to find it empty. (Mark 16:2).
Goldwasser, Rabbi J. W. 2008. Why do Jews in America have two Passover Seders? http://judaism.about.com/od/holidayssabbath/f/seders_two.htm>. Website: About.com: Judaism.
Killian, Greg. Passover Chronology. www.betemunah.org/chronology.doc>. Accessed 2/27/2009.
Schreiber, Rabbi Azriel. 4/7/2008. One or Two Passover Seders? http://www.thejewishlife.com/one-or-two-passover-seders>. Website: The Jewish Life.
Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Subtopic: Calendar. Accessed online at http://www.ebible.com/dict/NNIBD/nnibd-01180> on 2/27/2009.
Pollina, Rav. David. http://www.tushiyah.org/pasach5.html>. Accessed 2/27/2009.
Rich, Tracy. 1995-2007. Judaism 101: Jewish Holidays. http://www.jewfaq.org/holiday0.htm. Accessed 2/27/2009.