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In which Day Jesus Died

aymon de albatrus

"The Jews, therefore, that the bodies might not remain on the cross on the Sabbath, since it was the preparation, (for that Sabbath day was a great one,) asked of Pilate that their legs may be broken, and they taken away." (Joh 19:31)

"The first day of the week comes Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, to the sepulchre, and sees the stone taken away from the sepulchre." (Joh 20:1)

"Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons." (Mar 16:9)

The day of the week Jesus died has of course (as always) generated much debate all over 2000 years with all sorts of fanciful theories. The truth of the matter is that in dealing with dates of the distant past very few reliable sources are available and we have no choice than to judiciously interpret the records that are available. Remembering that the accurate dating of an event is not as important as the event itself and that our salvation is based on the veracity of that event rather than on its accurate timing. For example what is important is that Jesus actually died on the cross to save His people (Mat 1:21) not whether He died at 3:00 pm or at 3:15 pm.

The days in the Bible follow the Jewish pattern of time keeping, for example the Jewish hours were not of equal intervals during the day for the day was measured from sunrise to sunset and divided by 12, and of course the Summer Day was longer than the Winter Day, making the Summer daily hours longer than the Winter hours.

Jewish hours

Jewish hours are unequal hours and are obtained by dividing the period from sunrise to sunset (for the day) and from sunset to sunrise (for the night) into 12 equal parts each, also the Jewish full Day was from sunset to sunset, in other words the 24 hour Day began with the night, not with the day (midnight) as it does for us. An important point to note is that when the daytime is divided into 12 parts to produce unequal hours, the sun is on the meridian at the 6th hour whatever the season.

The Jewish-calendar day does not begin at midnight, but at either sunset or when three medium-sized stars should be visible, depending on the religious circumstance. Sunset marks the start of the 12 night-hours, whereas sunrise marks the start of the 12 day-hours. This means that night-hours may be longer or shorter than day-hours, depending on the season.

From the remotest time to the present the Israelites have computed the day (yôm) from sunset to sunset, or rather from sunset to the appearance of the first three stars which marked the beginning of a new day (Lev 23:32; Neh 4:21). Before the Babylonian Exile the time between sunrise and sunset was divided into "morning", "midday", and "evening", but during the stay in Babylon the Hebrews adopted the division into twelve hours (John 11:9), whose duration varied with the length of the day. On an average, the first hour corresponded to about 6 a.m.; the third hour to 9 a.m.; the end of the sixth to noon; while at the eleventh hour the day was near its close. Earlier than this division of the day by hours was that of the night into three watches: the first till midnight; the second or middle watch (cock-crow) till 3 a.m.; and the third or morning watch till about 6 a.m.

The Jewish and the Roman (our own) full Day were both of 24 hours, but the Roman day began at Midnight whilst the Jewish one in the Evening, on average around 6 pm Since the Bible uses the Jewish day we also need to use that calendar to determine Jesus’ day of death.

We do take the Bible quite literally, as every true Christian should; otherwise we are lost in our own fantasies. Moreover the Lord Jesus Christ was/is a serious man NOT given to fantasies, but called a spade a spade (Mat 5:37), thus His 3 days and 3 nights are truly literal real days and nights, each full Day being of 24 hours, then we get a total of 72 hours for 3 full Days.

We know from Scripture that Jesus was not in the tomb early on Sunday when it was still dark: "The first day of the week comes Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, to the sepulchre, and sees the stone taken away from the sepulchre." (Joh 20:1). "The first day of the week" means Sunday and in (Mar 16:9) it says "He rose early on the first day of the week" meaning soon after the beginning of Sunday, i.e. Saturday after sunset. Now, if we start counting from sometime during sunset of Saturday (precise hour of resurrection not known but form the text very close to 6); and go back 72 hours we come to Wednesday evening for His burial.

Jesus was crucified on the third hour of Wednesday which corresponds about to our 9 am: "And it was the third hour, and they crucified him." (Mar 15:25) The Jewish day begins on average at 6 am, so the third hour means adding 3 to 6 = 9 am, whilst the eleventh hour means adding 11 to 6 = 5 pm, near the closing of the day.

He died about the ninth hour corresponding about to our 3 pm (6 + 9) "And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Mar 15:34) "And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost." (Mar 15:37)

Joseph of Arimathaea claimed from Pilate the body of Jesus, who surprised of the quick death queried his centurion, and then gave the body to Joseph: "Joseph of Arimathaea, an honourable counsellor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly to Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus. And Pilate marvelled if he were already dead: and calling to him the centurion, he asked him whether he had been any while dead. And when he knew it of the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph." (Mar 15:43-45). Who wrapped the body of Jesus in fine linen and placed His bodily remains in a tomb: "And he bought fine linen, and took Him down, and wrapped Him in the linen, and laid Him in a sepulchre which was hewn out of a rock, and rolled a stone to the door of the sepulchre." (Mar 15:46)

All this trafficking took place from 3 pm to sunset, before the beginning of the High Sabbath, because the Mosaic Law forbade that bodies be hung on a three (cross) during Sabbath: "The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath day, (for that Sabbath day was an high day,) sought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away." (Joh 19:31) For this reason the legs of the two thieves crucified with Jesus where broken for they were still alive and the shock of broken leg would kill them, but Jesus was already dead: "But when they came to Jesus, and saw that He was dead already, they broke not his legs:" (Joh 19:33) Moreover we note: "for that Sabbath day was an high day" which means that that Sabbath was not an ordinary Sabbath but a HIGH Sabbath, further confirming the death of Christ on Wednesday.

Thus, recapitulating: Christ was crucified at about 9 am, He died on the cross at about 3 pm and was brought down from it by Joseph of Arimathaea after he got permission by Pilate, say before 6 pm. His body was placed in the tomb before sunset on Wednesday (the Preparation Day) preceding the High Day Sabbath (Feast of the Unleavened Bread or the Paschal). The killing of the Passover Lambs had begun soon afterwards eaten at twilight, sunset to sunset, with unleavened bread commemorating the liberation of the Jews from Egypt. For us Christians Jesus is the true Pascha, the Lamb of God, slain to save His people (Mat 1:21) from Hell with His Holy blood spilled on the cross to atone the sins of His people and thus setting them free (Joh 8:36). AMEN

Now let us count the time Jesus was in the tomb taking 6 am and 6 pm as average times, as the Jewish day runs from sunset to the next sunset: " from evening until evening you shall keep your Sabbath." (Lev 23:32):

  • Wednesday 6 pm to Thursday 6 am = one night (high Sabbath)

  • Thursday 6 am to Thursday 6 pm = one day (24 hours) (high Sabbath)

  • Thursday 6 pm to Friday 6 am another night = 2 nights so far (ordinary Day)

  • Friday 6 am to Friday 6 pm another day = 2 days so far (48 hours) (ordinary Day)

  • Friday 6 pm to Saturday 6 am another night = 3 nights so far (Saturday Sabbath)

  • Saturday 6 am to Saturday 6 pm another day = 3 days (72 hours) (Saturday Sabbath)

  • No other combination gives 3 nights and 3 days, i. e. 72 hours.

  • Jesus resurrected during Saturday 6 pm to Sunday 6 am, or the night preceding Sunday, precise time unknown, but most likely it was Saturday at sunset (Mar 16:9).

  • This makes 3 Full days and 3 Full nights as Jesus prophesied: "For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." (Mat 12:40)

    In brief:

  • Jesus died at about 3 pm on Wednesday, and was entombed by about 6 pm that day,

  • The day after was a High Sabbath (other than Saturday, indeed it was the Feast of the Unleavened Bread) and thus no work could be done,

  • The day after was Friday, an ordinary day and the women collected the spices to embalm His body, a regular task for women to do : "And when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint Him." (Mar 16:1) "And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the Sabbath day according to the commandment." (Luk 23:56) We can see here after the Sabbath was past (the High day) that the woman bought the Spices (on Friday) and when they had prepared them, they rested the following Sabbath (Saturday),

  • The day after Friday no work could be done because of the normal Sabbath (Saturday),

  • The women went to the Sepulchre the night of the "first day of the week" (Sunday) when "it was yet dark" but Jesus was not there. Jesus had resurrected during the night preceding Sunday, the women went to His tomb on Sunday (Jewish reckoning) when it was yet dark to embalm the body, but He had already resurrected sometime during the night.

    Of the numerous unbiblical "christian" holy days on the liturgical calendar, "Good Friday" is perhaps one of the most solemn memorials. "Good Friday" purportedly commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus and falls on the last Friday before Easter. The dates of this Paschal feast, which vary by calendar year, occur between March 20th and April 23rd. Easter dates, always on Sunday, are calculated by using a complicated mathematical Lunar calendar.

    As early as the first century, after 100 AD, the Church set aside every Friday as a special day of prayer and fasting and for many years it had no association with Jesus' death but was simply another day of fasting. Since the late fourth century (probably following the edict of Constantine), it has been associated with the crucifixion of Christ and thus the Christian Church began observing the Friday before Easter as the day linked with His crucifixion. First called Holy or Great Friday by the Greek Church, the name "Good Friday" was adopted by the Roman Church around the sixth or seventh century.

    There are two possible origins for the name "Good Friday". The first may have come from the Gallican Church in Gaul (modern-day France and Germany). The name "Gute Freitag" is Germanic in origin and literally means "good" or "holy" Friday. The second possibility is a variation on the name "God's Friday," where the word "good" was used to replace the word "God," which was often viewed as too holy for commoners to speak. Others say it was supposed to be a "good" day for mankind because now they had a chance to escape Hell.

    It would appear, however, as if we have to thank some Pagan custom for this Good Friday idea which was associated with the habit of eating hot cross buns, a custom which, like many others, was taken over by the Church and Christianised, which nowadays it is nothing but an ecclesiastical remainder which has become a social habit. The modern English term Easter is derived from the name of a pagan goddess of dawn called Eostre, Eos in Greek and Aurora in Roman and her feast was celebrated during the Spring equinox, just about the same time of Paschal, hence the need to stamp it out. Originally the buns had ox horns depicted on it, representing the ox sacrificed to Eostre, which were replaced with a Cross when christianised.

    So it would seem that the choice of Friday was selected by the Church to conveniently cover up a Pagan feast by celebrating the death of Christ on that day. Of course it is interesting to note that Christ (and His Apostles) did NOT give us any directives whatsoever in keeping special days concerning His birth and death, indeed the Apostle warn us sternly in worshipping any idolatry: "Little children, guard yourselves from idols. Amen." (1Jo 5:21)

    Jesus Christ, our Passover lamb, was sacrificed and died at the time of the Jewish Passover sacrifice of the lambs in the evening at the end of the 14th of Abib (Nisan), which occurred on a Wednesday in 31 AD, the year of his crucifixion. He was buried just before sunset that day, and he remained in the grave, "the belly of the earth," for exactly three days and three nights, as He had said, until he rose from the grave of His death just around sunset on that week's Sabbath, NOT on Sunday morning, as is generally believed, for the correct rendering says "Now when he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons." (Mar 16:9)

    It does not say "early in the morning" BUT "early on the first day of the week" now the first day of the week begins in Jewish time reckoning in the evening of Saturday after sunset.

    The bottom line conclusion of this matter is that indeed our beloved Lord DID die on the cross to fully atone for all our sins, the actual time He died is of secondary importance. AMEN