The Myth of the Friday Crucifixion of the Lord Christ
The Scripture is truly a book of details, one of which is very pertinent to this discussion: namely, the spices which the women purchased to anoint the body of the Lord Christ. Those who foolishly ignore the Lord's words in Mat 12.38-40 must also ignore this wonderful detail.
The purpose of this chapter is to closely examine the timing of the spices purchased and prepared by the women to anoint the body of the Lord Christ. If you read—and believe!—the Scriptures cited below you'll see just how irresponsible and foolish not holding to the "three days and three nights" really is.
Let’s set the context:
Joseph of Arimathea obtained permission from Pilate to take the body of the Lord Christ and entomb him (Joh 19.38-42) because, by OT law, the corpses of those “hung on a tree” should not remain overnight but must be buried. (Deu 21.23)
[After the crucifixion of the Lord Christ, this would have been done with some urgency because sundown was quickly approaching. So, not only was sundown the time limit for obedience to the command, that particular sundown initiated a Sabbath! If the body was not to remain hung overnight in “ordinary circumstances”, imagine how offensive it would be to the practicing Jew to have it remain not only overnight, but throughout the next day until sundown, an interval during which they must rest (and therefore would be unable to properly bury the body unless they violated the Sabbath commandment).
There is another small point to consider: the religious elite (the Pharisees and Sadducees, for example) condemned the Lord Christ based on false charges of what they claimed were violations of the “law of Moses”. It is nothing less than stunning hypocrisy that those who acted as if they were the last bastion of Mosaic law on earth chose to do nothing to ensure that Deu 21.23 would not be violated! It was Joseph, a disciple of the Lord Christ (Mat 27.57), who was concerned that the Law be obeyed.
This is yet another example of the morally upside-down world of wicked men who call evil good and good evil (Isa 5.20-22).]
We now consider the sequence surrounding the details of the spices. Please review carefully these short excerpts from Mark and Luke:
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might come and anoint Him.
Luk 23.50 – 24.1
And a man named Joseph, who was a member of the Council, a good and righteous man (he had not consented to their plan and action), a man from Arimathea, a city of the Jews, who was waiting for the kingdom of God; this man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. And he took it down and wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid Him in a tomb cut into the rock, where no one had ever lain. It was the preparation day, and the Sabbath was about to begin. Now the women who had come with Him out of Galilee followed, and saw the tomb and how His body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and perfumes.
And on the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared.
As the synoptic gospels recorded, the women observed where the body of the Lord Christ was entombed (Mat 27.61; Mar 15.47; Luk 23.55), then made their way home because a Sabbath (the “High Day”) was about to begin.
Now, consider how these verses from Mark and Luke contradict each other if one holds to a Friday crucifixion of the Lord Christ.
If you read both accounts carefully, Mark recorded that the spices which the women planned to use for the burial anointing were purchased after the Sabbath, while Luke recorded that they prepared the spices before the Sabbath!
Unless one holds to the self-destructive notion that either Mark or Luke was mistaken in his “version of history”, this sequence is possible only if the Sabbath referred to by Mark was the “high day” (Thursday) and the Sabbath referred to by Luke is the “regular” Sabbath (Saturday). Both are completely correct and truthful in their statements regarding the timing of the spices with their respective Sabbaths.
[Even the venerable John Calvin got this very wrong. He noted the apparent discrepancy between Mark and Luke but, astonishingly, chose exactly the wrong way to resolve it.
The following excerpt is from Calvin's Commentaries Volume XVII, Baker Book House, reprinted 1984, ISBN 0-8010-2440-4, ppg. 340-341:
"But that no one my be led astray by the ambiguity, I have stated their meaning more clearly. As to the purchase of the spices, Luke's narrative differs, in some respects, from the words of Mark: for Luke says that they returned into the city, and procured spices, and then rested one day, according to the commandment of the law, before pursuing their journey. But Mark, in introducing into same part of the narrative two different events, attends less accurately than Luke to the distinction of dates; for he blends with their setting out on the journey what had been previously done. In the substance of the fact they perfectly agree, that the women, after having observed the holy rest, left home during the darkness of the night, that they might reach the sepulchre about the break of day." [highlights mine]
"... attends less accurately ..."?!?! Really?!?!
Calvin obviously did not spend the additional time needed to resolve the matter by reviewing the testimony of the OT Scriptures regarding the Passover. If he had, he would not have made such a monumental error by claiming that it was OK for Mark and Luke to contradict each other—because Mark was somehow "less accurate" than Luke!
Furthermore, he would not have had to add the completely hollow "In the substance of the fact they perfectly agree.". Calvin's sin was not to trust that the Lord meant exactly what He said through Mark and Luke. Once one crosses that line, no Scripture is safe from the vagaries of human interpretation and distortion.]
It’s difficult to envision anything which could be clearer to absolutely dispel the ridiculous and contemptible error that the Lord Christ was crucified on Friday, in stark unbelief of His clear declaration in Mat 12.40.
The PDF below shows the seven possible sequences of the days on which the Passover would occur relative to the weekly Sabbath. In all cases, except when the Passover occurred on a Friday, there would be three Sabbath rest days comprising the Passover with its corresponding seven days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (8 days total).
[In the exceptional case, the weekly Sabbath and the 1st day of the Feast would coincide, which would yield only two Sabbath rest days instead of three.]
As the table highlights, The Lord Christ must have been crucified on Wednesday; no other day is possible if we are to be obedient to the Scripture as written.
As subsequent chapters detail, all the gospel data “falls into place” with this assertion:
- Thursday and the following Wednesday would have been the 1st and 7th day holy convocations of rest, respectively.
- The women rested on two Sabbaths, namely Thursday (Luk 23.50 – 24.1) and Saturday (Mar 16.1).
- The spices, therefore, would have been purchased on Friday.
This sequence alone is consistent with the testimony of Mark and Luke as well as with the OT Scriptures regarding the Passover and, mostly importantly, with the Lord’s declaration that He would be “three days and three night in the heart of the earth”.
The table below illustrates this clearly and is available for download.
The following chapters demonstrate beyond any doubt that their combined, complete testimony and details prove—elegantly and beautifully—that the Lord Christ was in the “heart of the earth three days and three nights” just as He said.