The Myth of the Friday Crucifixion of the Lord Christ

Establishing the Timeline

In chapter 2 I presented the OT Scriptures regarding the Passover, with an emphasis on its sequence and timing. There are a few key Scriptures that we now use to begin the work on establishing the timeline that occurred during the days leading up to the crucifixion and resurrection of the Lord Christ.

The goal is to show that all Scriptures dealing with the crucifixion and resurrection are in perfect harmony and that the following is literally true:

Mat 12.38-40
Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

The Lord Christ was to be “in the heart of the earth”  “three days and three nights”—no more, no less. The development of the timeline below shows how this duration is exactly the case, refuting the careless and irresponsible “interpretation” that the Lord Christ was crucified and died by twilight (beginning of) Friday, was entombed all day  Saturday (the Sabbath) then arose early Sunday morning. This interval is clearly not “three days and three nights”!

Remember the definitions of “night” and “day” in the OT, as well as during the ministry of the Lord Christ, were different from ours. For us, a new “day” begins at midnight (even though it’s still dark); for the Jew it began at sunset (which is reasonable, since the current “day” is ending and the beginning of a new 24-hour day is beginning).

This definition has its origin here (in the “book of origins”):

Gen 1.5
God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.

The key element to notice is the ordering of the terms in that last phrase: relative to the duration of one 24-hour “day”, the “day” began with the “evening” followed by the “morning”. The clear inference is that the 24-hour periods called “day” (as in “second day”, “third day”, and so on throughout the creation account) began with the commencement of the “evening” and ended after the completion of the “morning”.

[Important Note:
In the gospel accounts, the "0-hour" reference of numbered hours differs:

  • Matthew, Mark and Luke all use Jewish hour numbering: 6:00 was the "0 hour" (both day and night) and numbered 1 to 12 (6:00 – 6:00).
  • John uses Roman hour numbering: 12:00 was the "0 hour" (both day and night) and numbered 1 to 12 (12:00 – 12:00).

There is, therefore, a 6-hour difference between them when they represent the same time of day. So, when John says:

Joh 19.14a
Now it was the day of preparation for the Passover; it was about the sixth hour.

it is approximately 6:00 am (12:00 am + 6 hours) at the beginning of the daylight half of the Passover day (the 14th).

And when Mark tells us:

Mar 15.25
It was the third hour when they crucified Him.

he tells us it was 9:00 am (6:00 am + 3 hours) of that same day.

The context determines whether the hour is to be understand as A.M. or P.M.

Note that these time systems are normalized to our modern time designation in the charts below.]

Since we are not accustomed to thinking of the definition of a 24-hour day in this manner, it was necessary to develop a visual presentation to help illustrate it:

The start of a new day is 6:00 pm; therefore “night” ran from 6:00 pm until 6:00 am. The “day” began at 6:00 am and ran until 6:00 pm. For a visual aid, the half-day known as “night” (N in the charts) has a light gray background while the half-day known as “day” (D in the charts) has a white background.

The key to keeping this clear is that, for the Jews, the day we typically call “tomorrow” began at 6:00 pm (twilight) of what we consider the current day (rather than beginning at midnight).

 


Early in the Exodus from Egypt, the Passover is introduced to the Jews. (Exo 12.1-22) We are particularly interested in this:

Exo 12.5-6
Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight.

[Since the Passover is very near the Spring Equinox, the duration of daytime and nighttime would be nearly the same. So, for simplicity and clarity I use 6:00 pm and 6:00 am as the boundaries.]

The 14th of the month began at 6:00 pm, as shown in the Timeline1 insert below (i.e., “twilight”, v6). We can now place the events surrounding the crucifixion, death and burial of the Lord Christ during day of the Passover. Note that since we know the date of the Passover, we establish the reference point for the timeline from which we’ll work forward and backward:

As you can see from the PDF above, we establish the focal point of the timeline: the Passover on the 14th of the first month. To its right, we place the first four days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. To its left we work backward using the details in chapter 4, enabling us to establish the preceding 7 days (for a total of 12 days).

[The only event whose date is ambiguous is the Judas’ betrayal of the Lord Christ. It might have occurred on the 11th or 12th. For this series, I assumed that it occurred on the 12th; it seems unlikely that the murderous "religious elite", whose hatred for the Lord Christ was without limit, would have waited an extra day to carry out their malevolent intent.]

As you can see, the combined gospel accounts enable us to place very key elements on the timeline (trial, crucifixion, darkness, death and burial).

[It is important to note that by NT times the daylight interval leading up to the Passover was also known in the gospel accounts as the “day of preparation”.]

That last element, detailed in Mar 15.42, Luk 23.54 and Joh 19.31, is very important because it establishes a very critical element of the sequence:

Mar 15.42
When evening had already come, because it was the preparation day, that is, the day before the Sabbath …

Luk 23.54
It was the preparation day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.

Joh 19.31a
Then the Jews, because it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), …

Note especially the language in John:

“… for that Sabbath was a high day …”
ἦν γὰρ μεγάλη ἡ ἡμέρα ἐκείνου τοῦ σαββάτου

We can now establish a very important day on the timeline: the “High Day” Sabbath:

The specific Sabbath (“that Sabbath”) was the day following the crucifixion, the “high day”, not the weekly 7th-day Sabbath. And by OT law, the Lord’s body was not to remain on the cross overnight:

Deu 21.22-23
If a man has committed a sin worthy of death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his corpse shall not hang all night on the tree, but you shall surely bury him on the same day (for he who is hanged is accursed of God), so that you do not defile your land which the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance.

However, because the Jews were not the political power of the region it was necessary that they make this request of the local Roman government, which they did and which Pilate approved:

Joh 19.31-33
Then the Jews, because it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies would 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. So the soldiers came, and broke the legs of the first man and of the other who was crucified with Him; but coming to Jesus, when they saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs.

The Lord Christ was therefore removed from the cross before that next day (that is, the Sabbath “high day”) began in accordance with the OT Scripture regarding the Sabbath following the Passover:

Exo 12.15-16
Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, but on the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses; for whoever eats anything leavened from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. On the first day you shall have a holy assembly, and another holy assembly on the seventh day; no work at all shall be done on them, except what must be eaten by every person, that alone may be prepared by you.

[It is common, and correct, that modern Christians note that a Sabbath immediately followed the death of the Lord Christ. But, those who are (willingly?) ignorant of Exo 12.15-16 maintain the foolish interpretation that the Lord Christ was crucified on a Friday because the following day was a Sabbath, which, they carelessly think, must be a Saturday. Without a knowledge the OT Scripture regarding the Passover, they miss the fact that there were two Sabbaths between the death of the Lord and His resurrection: the one on the next day (the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread), then the “normal” weekly Sabbath, a Saturday.

The result of their foolish ignorance is that they must denigrate and deny the literal meaning of the Lord Christ's words in Mat 12.38-40.]

This important detail is repeated here:

Lev 23.5-8
In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight is the Lord’s Passover. Then on the fifteenth day of the same month there is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the Lord; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not do any laborious work. But for seven days you shall present an offering by fire to the Lord. On the seventh day is a holy convocation; you shall not do any laborious work.’”

The Scripture here is very clear: the Passover was to be observed on 14th of the month and the 15th was the first day of the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread. That first day and the seventh day of the feast both were prescribed as days of rest (effectively making them "Sabbaths").

There is another detail which needs to be examined carefully or certain details in the gospels will likely be misunderstood; this concerns leaven. Note this from Exodus:

Exo 12.8,15
They shall eat the flesh that same night, roasted with fire, and they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. … Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, but on the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses;

The leaven did not need to be eliminated from the house until after the lamb was killed and the dinner eaten; however, the bread eaten with the slaughtered lamb must not contain leaven. However, it wasn’t until the following day (at twilight) they were to remove leaven from their dwellings. This is the context of the verses below.

Now let’s begin working backward from the Passover. There are three parallel passages which are critical:

Mat 26.17-19
Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Where do You want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover?" … The disciples did as Jesus had directed them; and they prepared the Passover.

Mar 14.12-16
On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb was being sacrificed, His disciples said to Him, "Where do You want us to go and prepare for You to eat the Passover?" … and they prepared the Passover.

Luk 22.7-13
Then came the first day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. … And they left and found everything just as He had told them; and they prepared the Passover.

[We encounter a difference in terminology here between the OT and NT Scriptures, which if we don’t carefully read the entire text of the verses we’ll end up with a seeming contradiction. The OT Scriptures (cited above) make it clear that the Feast of Unleavened Bread began on the 15th.

However, by NT times, the daylight half of the 13th, which led up to the twilight which began the 14th (the Passover) appears to seamlessly transition into the Passover and came to be known as the first day of Unleavened Bread.

Their expression is mostly literal and practical, simply because by twilight they would not consume anything with leaven. However, it is distinct from the Feast of Unleavened Bread which would formally not begin until the day following the Passover.]

So, in summary, the preparations above were made on the daylight half of the 13th of the month (also known as the first day of Unleavened Bread). The Passover and killing of the lamb would take place at twilight, which began the 14th. Finally, as the text from Exo 12 shows, the following day, the 15th, was the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

[There is only one reference to the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Luk 22.1.]

With these details, we continue the construction of the timeline. The next detail is that we must carefully consider what these texts say regarding the sequence related to the spices:

Luk 23.55-56
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.

Mar 16.1
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.

For those who foolishly maintain that the Lord Christ was crucified on Friday, followed by the weekly Sabbath (a Saturday), then to arise on Sunday, then they are forced to conclude that either Mark or Luke mis-reported the event. In short, their carelessness forces the Scriptures into an apparent contradiction.

The solution (handled in detail in this chapter) is that the day following the Passover was the “extra” Sabbath (the “high day”), followed by the day in which the women bought and prepared the spices and perfumes, followed by the weekly Sabbath (Saturday), followed by the resurrection! (cf. chapter 1)

Because we know that the second Sabbath must be the weekly Sabbath (that is, a Saturday) we now have the necessary details to establish the days on which these events happened , both leading up to and following the Passover. This will also make clear the details regarding the women and the purchase and preparations of the spices.

Therefore, it is absolutely certain that the Lord Christ was crucified on Wednesday and was entombed before twilight. He was in the tomb Thursday, Friday and Saturday—"three days and three nights”, just as He said!

How clear and elegant—and infinitely better than the bizarre math and religious doublespeak used by those who carelessly attempt to defend their Friday crucifixion narrative!

Most importantly, note how the chart above illustrates what the Lord Christ taught early in His ministry:

Mat 12.38-40
Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

We can now fill in the remainder of the timeline with all the temporal markers available in the gospels (and which can be downloaded):

A tabular presentation of the harmony of the gospels for the crucifixion week is presented in chapter 4.

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