Jesus Died on a Wednesday!!
by Roy A. Reinhold
I was quite blown away recently to hear Hal Lindsey
state on his national radio program that he has come to believe that the
scriptures show a Wednesday crucifixion. Perhaps you ought to examine the
evidence and decide for yourself; be like the Bereans who were complimented
in scriptures for examining the teaching of Paul in light of the scriptures
to see if it was so. There is clear, concrete evidence in the scriptures
for a Wednesday crucifixion; you be the judge.
One of the most common questions asked by new Christians is, "How could Jesus have been in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights if He died on a Friday afternoon and rose before sunrise on a Sunday?" Most Christians duck the question, since at most they can only come up with one day and two nights (Friday nighttime, Saturday daytime, and Saturday nighttime in our measure of days). If they add in the Friday daytime they get two periods of daytime, even though Jesus would have died in the late afternoon on a Friday. This late afternoon death is consistent with the Passover lamb being killed between the two evenings of Jewish teaching. The lamb was killed between 3 and 6 PM on the afternoon of the 14th of Abib/Nisan and prepared, because the 15th was the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which was an annual Sabbath observance (the first and last days of Unleavened Bread were annual Sabbaths in addition to the normal weekly Sabbaths). This search of the scriptures is important, not because it affects salvation, but because it answers the questions posed on whether Jesus kept His Word, and whether the Bible is true in this matter. A legitimate concern and question for all Christians!!
The above text confirms that the first and last days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread are annual Sabbaths, to be observed as a day of rest in addition to the weekly Sabbaths. These days would occur on the 15th and 21st of Abib/Nisan. The Passover meal was an important religious observance in which to remember that the blood of the lamb on the doorposts of their houses kept them alive when the angel of death passed by, and that God had delivered them from slavery in Egypt. The Passover is a perpetual observance to celebrate pasing from death to life. These ancient events foretold the blood of Jesus being spilled for our sins, and our passage from death to eternal life, by the everlasting covenant of the blood of Jesus. They also foretold that Jesus would die as the national Passover Lamb, exactly on the 14th of Abib/Nisan and that the day following was an annual Sabbath.
What follows is a close examination of the biblical record, in which Jesus was killed on the 14th of Nisan in the afternoon, and the next day was the annual Sabbath, the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. We shall also see from the biblical record that this annual Sabbath did not fall on the weekly Sabbath, in the year that Jesus died.
The above verses show that Jesus had openly taught that the major sign that He was the Messiah was that He would die and three days later rise again. Even more clearly, He said that He would be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. This promise meant that 72 hours would pass from His death to His resurrection and that this would be the sign for the Jews that He was who He said He was (the Messiah). The Friday crucifixion with a resurrection before sunrise on Sunday morning totals approximately 36 hours. If we understood Jesus to mean that within three days and three nights He would rise again, then any period short of that would suffice. But He taught that after three days and three nights in the heart of the earth, then He would rise again. This logically would necessitate the crucifixion on a Wednesday, then the daylight and nighttime periods of Thursday, Friday, and Saturday would be three days and three nights. We count from either His actual death shortly after 3 PM or from the time His body was laid in the tomb, shortly before the annual Sabbath began, although I believe we should count the 72 hours from the time the body was laid in the tomb.
You'll notice that the above text from Matthew 27 recorded that the chief priests met with Pilate the next morning after the crucifixion to get permission to post a guard and seal the tomb. The Bible records that this was the day after the day of preparation. This day of preparation is the 14th of Abib/Nisan, when the homes were scoured for any leavened bread within the house and a preparation of food was readied for the Passover meal, and the Feast of Unleavened Bread [Mark 15:42, Luke 23:54, John 19:14, 31, 42]. Therefore, the grave of Jesus was not sealed until the morning of the 15th of Abib/Nisan, on the annual Sabbath. In the text from John 19:31, we learn that the body of Jesus needed to be removed from the cross because the Sabbath was about to begin and that Sabbath was a high day or annual Sabbath. This is consistent with the other verses which teach that the day of preparation was the day that Jesus died. Now we only need to determine whether the annual Sabbath and weekly Sabbath fell on the same day, which would lead us to the conclusion that Jesus died on a Friday afternoon, shortly after 3 PM as commonly taught. If not, then He died on another day of the week.
In totality, the above verses together give us the complete picture of what happened after Jesus' death, how His body was prepared for burial, and who observed this process. It is extremely important to notice that none of the above texts alone gives the complete story, and that you have to read all together to get the whole story. Joseph took Jesus' body after receiving permission from Pilate, bought a linen sheet, and bound the body with Nicodemus' assistance. Nicodemus had brought a hundred pounds of myrrh and aloes, which they bound with the body. The tomb was near where Jesus was crucified, and belonged to Joseph who had carved this tomb out of rock. It was a new tomb that had never before been used. Also, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses accompanied the body from the cross and watched the entire process of burial. When Jesus' body was laid in the tomb, then Joseph, assisted by Nicodemus, rolled a large stone in front of the tomb opening and left. Finally, the two Mary's left and prepared spices and perfumes, before resting on the Sabbath. Up to this point, we have no evidence that the annual Sabbath and weekly Sabbath did not fall on the same day as traditionally taught.
The next collection of verses will explore the role of the women in preparing spices and perfumes with which they intended to anoint the body of Jesus.
You may have to reread the above verses to notice that the women who had watched Jesus' body being laid in the tomb, prepared perfumes/ointments and spices. The Mark 16 text says that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary bought spices AFTER the Sabbath and prepared them. While the Luke 23 text states that the women prepared spices and then rested on the Sabbath. This is consistent with an annual Sabbath on Thursday, the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and the weekly Sabbath on Saturday. We know that these are the same women because the Bible verses all relate that Mary Magdalene was involved in all these events. However, two other Mary's are mentioned, one the mother of James and Salome, and the other the mother of Joses. In all cases, Mary Magdalene was involved. Therefore, the women saw Jesus' body being laid in the tomb on a Wednesday afternoon, they rested on the annual Sabbath on Thursday, and bought spices on Friday. They prepared the spices on Friday and then rested according to the commandment on the weekly Sabbath on Saturday. After the weekly Sabbath, they intended to anoint Jesus' body with the perfumes and spices. Therefore both intuitively and by evidence, we have proven that Passover was on a Wednesday, and that Jesus did as He had said, which was to rise again after three days and three nights. What remains to determine, is whether Jesus rose as the weekly Sabbath was ending or at sunrise on Sunday?
You'll notice through a comparison of the four gospels that Mary Magdalene and the disciples went to the tomb a number of times. In some it was still dark, and in some it was already light. It wasn't until it was light on Sunday that they actually discovered that He had risen, in the first visits the tomb was empty. The above text in John 20, tells us of the first visit by Mary Magdalene when it was dark, the tomb was empty, and she had not been told that Jesus was risen, and only saw the stone rolled away. I will leave it to the reader to compare the applicable verses in the four gospels to reconstruct the various visits to the tomb. However, there is one verse which seems to tell us that Jesus rose on the first day of the week.
The above text would seem to conclusively prove that Jesus rose early in the evening on the first day of the week, what we would call Saturday night. Some commentators have speculated that verses 9-20 of this chapter were later added since they weren't in any of the early manuscripts. Whether or not that is true, the reader ought to know that the meaning of a verse may be altered by the addition of a comma or a deletion. The original text did not have these punctuation marks in the Greek text, so they were added later. If a comma is added after risen, the verse takes on an entirely different meaning. Now after He had risen, early on the first day of the week He first appeared to Mary Magdalene, from whom He had cast out seven demons. This change is not altering scripture since it was not written with punctuation marks. This makes the verse consistent with all the four gospels, where Mary Magdalene visited the grave, shortly after the Sabbath ended, and saw the empty grave with the stone rolled away, but did not see an angel or see Jesus. It was later, when the sun had risen on Sunday morning that she came with Mary the mother of James and Salome back to the tomb, saw an angel who told her that he had risen, and then saw Jesus. One can imagine that Mary asked Mary Magdalene, "Who would roll away the stone?" as they approached the tomb, since Mary Magdalene had not mentioned that she had been there earlier and saw the empty grave. Then she went and told the disciples that she saw the angel and saw Jesus. What any reader should realize is that the Holy Spirit gave us the four gospels with fragments of the story in each, and it takes a study of all together, to arrive at the complete picture. The following verse clearly shows us that Mary Magdalene came to the grave as the weekly Sabbath was ending.
Bishop Papias was an early church bishop in Syria and he wrote that the book of Matthew was originally written in Aramaic, and then translated into Greek by the apostles. Irenaeus and Clement also mentioned seeing the original Aramaic of the book of Matthew. We have some precedence and evidence that at least some of the new testament books were first written in Aramaic, and translated by the apostles into Greek, and Matthew is one of them. I say all of this because the Peshitta Aramaic of Matthew 28:1 in Aramaic is much clearer than the Greek.
It is obvious that "at/in the Sabbath" where the beginning of the first of the week was near, that it is making the point that it was at twilight that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to the tomb. The twilight period belongs half to the day ending and half to the next day beginning. The verse drives home the point that this was Saturday evening, but that the twilight period still belonged to the Sabbath (i.e. within 1/2 hour after sundown). There were no streetlights then, and no flashlights, so if the full moon had not yet risen, then when it got dark, it got really dark, really fast. The 2 Mary's had just enough time to look around and leave. No one can read the Peshitta Aramaic of Matthew 28:1 and mistake it for any other understanding than that the Mary's arrived at the tomb at twilight on Saturday evening and the stone had already been rolled away.
Note: some people try and make a trivial argument that the word "nagah" literally means beginning of daylight and cannot mean metaphorically the twilight. They are mistaken. Why? because Matthew 28:1 says it was still in the Sabbath and the Sabbath ended 1/2 hour after sundown. The context is clear that "nagah" is being used metaphorically for the beginning of the first day of the week.
Why didn't the 2 Mary's try to anoint the body of Jesus on Friday, since they had prepared the spices and perfumes on Friday before the weekly Sabbath began? It is because in Matthew 27:62-66, Pilate had given the Roman order to have the grave sealed on Thursday morning, and they had put the Roman seal on it and posted guards until the 3 days were complete. Therefore, if the 2 Marys had tried to annoint the body on Friday, they would have broken the law and been arrested. They waited until after the 3 days, so as to avoid arrest. The apostles were all in hiding at the time, fearing possibly their own arrest, so it fell to the 2 Mary's to annoint the body.
The fact is that the Last Supper celebrated with the bread and wine by Jesus and the disciples took place on the evening of the fourth day of the week (we would say Tuesday evening) and was not the Passover seder meal. Jesus was crucified on a Wednesday and was in the grave 3 days and 3 nights. He rose from the dead late on the Sabbath. Finally, He revealed Himself to Mary Magdalene and the disciples on the first day of the week, shortly after sunrise. Of course this means that we have a Palm Saturday and not a Palm Sunday. It also means that Jesus performed the sign He said He would, and that Sunday being the Lord's day is a fabrication of the bishop of Rome. Bishop Sixtus instituted this teaching at Rome shortly after the death of the Apostle John, and later Bishops of Rome perpetuated the error he brought into the church. In due time, even the keeping of the Passover remembrance on the evening 24hours after the Last Supper was outlawed with excommunication.
Wednesday Crucifixion graphic #1 by Michael J. Harris
One will also note that the lamb for Passover was selected on the 10th of Abib/Nisan, and this did not occur as traditionally taught, but on the weekly Sabbath prior to the Passover. As the Lamb of God, Jesus was selected as the acceptable lamb for slaughter following the triumphal entry, when the chief priests met to determine His death on the Sabbath. He was laid in the tomb as the annual Sabbath was beginning, when the Passover seder meal was eaten. On the following weekly Sabbath, as it was ending, Jesus rose from the dead. This is consistent with His teaching where He said He was Lord of the Sabbath.
There have been many noted believers in a Wednesday crucifixion, from the time of the early church until now. These include Epiphanus, Victorinus of Petau in 307 AD, Lactantius, Wescott, Cassiodorus, and Gregory of Tours. Later, Finis Dake and R.A. Torrey also believed in a Wednesday crucifixion. We now know that the Bible teaches a Wednesday crucifixion, so the reader now must face the facts of the Bible as compared to the traditions of men. At the same time, I say that this does not determine salvation, for I know that there will be millions who have believed the Friday crucifixion hoax and I will see them in heaven one day. Also, a superficial reading of the gospels does tend to lead one to the conclusion of a Friday crucifixion, when read separately, so one cannot blame the majority of believers for this false belief.
The learned reader might say that the Passover as kept today cannot fall on a Wednesday, in the Jewish calendar. That is the case today, but then neither does Firstfruits (wave offering) or the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) occur on the first day of the week in the Jewish calendar. The reason is a matter of history. There was a controversy between the Phariseean and Sadduceean way of keeping these important feast days. At the time of Jesus, the Sadducees were the high priests and kept the days according to our present Christian understanding from the Torah. For example, the Sadducees believed that Firstfruits always fell on the first day of the week, which meant that Pentecost also fell on the first day of the week. While the Pharisees believed that Firstfruits fell on the 16th of Abib/Nisan, the day after the annual Sabbath, leading to Pentecost on various days of the week. At the time of Jesus, the Sadduceean keeping of the feasts was in effect, but after the dispersion, the more numerous and stricter Pharisees perpetuated their understanding of Judaism. They were the ancestors of modern day Orthodox Jews and are the keepers of the calendar today. Their rules have supplanted the days as kept in the time of Jesus, even though these are minor rule changes. Please feel free to comment on this article by e-mail.