Dating the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ

By: Tonya Parrott

INTRODUCTION

There are three main views for dating the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ to a particular day of the week:  God’s view, the world’s view and man’s view.  God’s view (the biblical view) teaches that the crucifixion took place on a Wednesday and the resurrection on a Saturday.  The world teaches that the crucifixion took place on a Friday and the resurrection on a Sunday.  Man opts for a compromise by combining the Wednesday and Friday arguments arriving at a Thursday date for the crucifixion and a Sunday date for the resurrection. 

The only way for Thursday to be argued is if the ‘after three days’ recorded in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark is discounted.  “Then he began to teach them that the Son of man was destined to suffer grievously, and to be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and to be put to death, and after three days to rise again.” (Matthew 27:63 and Mark 8:31, 9:31, 10:34) 1 Therefore, this paper will not address man’s compromise but will focus only on God’s view as opposed to the world’s view.  Before that can be done, however, three valid biblical points must be established.

WHAT TIME IS IT?

In Hebrew time, a day begins at sunset and ends just before the next sunset.  In Roman time, a day begins at midnight and ends just before the next midnight.  To differentiate between the days in contrast, the first biblical point that must be established is the measurement of time under which the four Gospels were written.  Irenaeus, a pupil of Polycarp who was a disciple of John states:

Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome, and laying the foundations of the church. After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter. Luke also, the companion of Paul, recorded in a book the Gospel preached by him. Afterwards, John, the disciple of the Lord, who had leaned upon his breast, did himself publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia. 2

Matt Slick reinforces, “Most probably, John was using the Roman measurement of time when dealing with the crucifixion.  Matthew, Mark, and Luke, for the most part, used the Hebrew system of measuring a day.” 3 This view removes what appear to be contradictions in the times specified in the four Gospels in relation to Jesus’ trial, crucifixion and resurrection.

PASSOVER AND CRUCIFIXION DAY

The second biblical point that must be established relates to the Sabbath and Passover days.  During the week of the crucifixion, there were two Sabbaths.  There was a High Day or Special Sabbath and also the regular Sabbath, which was a Saturday.  John 19:31, “The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath day, (for that Sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.” 

John 19:14, 19:31 and 19:42 explicitly identified the day of preparation as the day of Jesus’ execution and placed the Last Supper before Passover in John 13:1.  The Synoptic Gospels, however, dated the Last Supper on the day of Passover in Matthew 26:1-2, Mark 14:12 and Luke 22:7. 4 Again, this apparent contradiction is easily rectified when viewed in light of John’s writing being in Roman time with Matthew, Mark and Luke being in Hebrew time.  This would mean that the day of preparation was the day before Passover day and the crucifixion and the Passover both fell on the same day. 

THE SIGN OF JONAS

The third and final biblical point that must be established before calculating the day of the crucifixion and resurrection refers to the sign of Jonas.  Matthew 12:40, “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.”  Here, it is clear that Christ was to spend three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 

Jews commonly referred to any portion of a day as being counted as a whole.  However, this fact is of no relevance in relation to scripture.  God clearly defines a day as an evening and a morning throughout the first chapter in the book of Genesis.  The biblical view of the resurrection conforms to three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

THE WORLD’S VIEW

This view commonly refers to the crucifixion day as ‘Good Friday’ and the resurrection day as ‘Easter Sunday’.  When to celebrate the resurrection was one of the things decided by the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D.  At the Council, Constantine made the following statement:

At the council we also considered the issue of our holiest day, Easter, and it was determined by common consent that everyone, everywhere should celebrate it on one and the same day. For what can be more appropriate, or what more solemn, than that this feast from which we have received the hope of immortality, should be kept by all without variation, using the same order and a clear arrangement? And in the first place, it seemed very unworthy for us to keep this most sacred feast following the custom of the Jews, a people who have soiled their hands in a most terrible outrage, and have thus polluted their souls, and are now deservedly blind. Since we have cast aside their way of calculating the date of the festival, we can ensure that future generations can celebrate this observance at the more accurate time which we have kept from the first day of the passion until the present time. 5

The fact that the word ‘Easter’ was used calls for further investigation because this word is of pagan origin.  Richard Rives states: 

The English word ‘Easter’ is derived from the names ‘Eostre’ or ‘Eastre,’  ‘Astarte’ or ‘Ashtaroth’. Astarte was introduced into the British Isles by the Druids and is just another name for Beltis or Ishtar of the Chaldeans and Babylonians. The book of Judges records that ‘the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim, and Ashtaroth, and forsook the LORD, and served not Him.’ Easter is just another name for Ashteroth ‘The Queen of Heaven.’ Easter was not considered a ‘Christian’ festival until the fourth century. Early Christians celebrated Passover on the 14th day of the first month and a study of the dates on which Easter is celebrated will reveal that the celebration of Easter is not observed in accordance with the prescribed time for the observance of Passover. After much debate, the Nicaean council of 325 A.D. decreed that ‘Easter’ should be celebrated on the first Sunday after the vernal equinox. Why was so much debate necessary if ‘Easter’ was a tradition passed down from the Apostles? The answer is that it was not an apostolic institution, but, an invention of man! They had to make up some rules. History records that spring festivals in honor of the pagan fertility goddesses and the events associated with them were celebrated at the same time as ‘Easter’. In the year 399 A.D. the Theodosian Code attempted to remove the pagan connotation from those events and banned their observance. The pagan festival of Easter originated as the worship of the sun goddess, the Babylonian Queen of Heaven who was later worshipped under many names including Ishtar, Cybele, Idaea Mater (the Great Mother), or Astarte for whom the celebration of Easter is named. Easter is not another name for the Feast of Passover and is not celebrated at the Biblically prescribed time for Passover. This pagan festival was supposedly ‘Christianized’ several hundred years after Christ. 6

Furthermore, the ‘queen of heaven’ is an ancient Semitic goddess, variously identified with other ancient goddesses such as Isis and Ashtoreth.  She is also an epithet of Ishtar (pronounced Easter) and is referred to as the moon, which was worshipped by the Assyrians as the receptive power in nature.7 Therefore, Easter is not a celebration of the resurrection of the Messiah but rather a celebration in honor of this pagan fertility goddess from the ancient world also known as the ‘queen of heaven.’ 

So why would this ‘Christian’ Council of Nicea even be discussing the appropriate time to honor a pagan goddess?  There is no justification for this and the Bible blatantly opposes such worship and explains the results of doing so in Jeremiah 44:16-18:

16 As for the word that thou hast spoken unto us in the name of the LORD, we will not hearken unto thee. 17 But we will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth, to burn incense unto the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, as we have done, we, and our fathers, our kings, and our princes, in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem: for then had we plenty of victuals, and were well, and saw no evil. 18 But since we left off to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, we have wanted all things, and have been consumed by the sword and by the famine.

In addition, the world’s view of a Friday crucifixion with a Sunday resurrection only accounts for Christ being in the heart of the earth for two days and two nights.  This view contradicts Matthew 12:40 and it takes away the only sign given to us by the Messiah himself in Matthew 16:4, “A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas.” 

GOD’S VIEW

God’s view (the biblical view) teaches that Christ was crucified on a Wednesday and rose from the grave on a Saturday.  There have been many studies and teachings on this topic and it can become rather confusing when trying to calculate the actual days of the week.  However, when the three biblical points specified above are put into place with the Bible passages that describe the events, it is clear that this is the true teaching of the Word of God.  There are several passages of scripture that are the key to calculating the days.  Each one will be observed and discussed.

The first scripture is Daniel 9:27, “And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.”  Barnes commentary makes a very interesting point in describing the Messiah’s actions here:

That there was something which he would do in ‘confirming the covenant,’ or in establishing the principles of religion…That in the middle of that period of seven years [one week], another important event would occur, serving to divide that time into two portions, and especially to be known as causing the sacrifice and oblation to cease; in some way affecting the public offering of sacrifice, so that from that time there would be in fact a cessation. [Emphasis added] 8

The crucifixion of the Messiah fulfilled this prophecy.  All of these things were prophesied as occurring in the middle of the week.  This would be on a Wednesday. 

The next scripture is John 12:1, “Then Jesus six days before the Passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead.”  Being that the Passover and crucifixion were the same day and this day fell on a Wednesday as explained previously, six days prior to this would be Thursday.  So, Jesus arrived in Bethany on a Thursday, six days before being crucified as the Passover Lamb.

The third scripture to apply is John 12:12-13, “On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13 Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.”  This was the triumphal entry of our King and this event occurred on a Friday contrary to the popular Palm Sunday tradition. 

In order to understand the events in John, the Roman measurement of time must be applied.  John 18:28, “Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment: and it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the Passover.”  Jesus had eaten the Passover meal on the previous evening.  The Roman’s Passover meal was to be that evening (Wednesday).  Jesus had been to Gethsemane and arrested on Tuesday night in Roman time.  Jesus’ trial was at 6 A.M. Wednesday morning in Roman time.  John 19:14, “And it was the preparation of the Passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!”  (Please note that this verse refers to the preparation of the Passover and not the preparation of the Special Sabbath as in John 19:31.)  The Romans were preparing for the Passover just as Jesus had instructed his disciples to do on the prior night in Luke 22:8, “And he sent Peter and John, saying, Go and prepare us the Passover, that we may eat.”

Now in order to understand the following events, the Hebrew measurement of time in Matthew must be applied.  Matthew 27:1-2, “When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death:  2 And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor.”  In this time, this would have still been Wednesday.  The Passover meal was eaten at sunset on this day and the trial was the following morning, still Wednesday. 

The events in order of occurrence on that Wednesday (Hebrew time) were as follows:  At sunset, the Passover meal was eaten, then Jesus went to the garden of Gethsemane to pray until the time of his arrest by the Roman soldiers.  The sun came up (still Wednesday) and his trial before Pontius Pilate began.  Jesus was placed on the cross at the third hour, which was 9 A.M.  Matthew 27:45-50:

45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour.  46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?  47 Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, This man calleth for Elias.  48 And straightway one of them ran, and took a spunge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink.  49 The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save him.  50 Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.

Jesus was on the cross for six hours and died at the ninth hour, which was 3 P.M. and nearing the end of the day (Wednesday) for the Jews.  

The Jews were in a hurry to bury Jesus because Thursday was fast approaching and it was to be the Special Sabbath in which no work could be done.  John 19:31, “The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath day, (for that Sabbath day was a high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.

Thursday came and went with no work being able to be done.  On Friday, they prepared spices for Jesus’ body.  Mark 16:1 lists those who prepared the spices.  This included Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome.  The following day, Saturday, was the regular Sabbath and again, no work could be done.  Luke 23:56, “And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the Sabbath day according to the commandment.” 

Matthew 28:1, “In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.”  On this verse nearly all translators have allowed tradition to control their translation.  Properly translated from the Greek text, it is not ‘Sabbath’ but ‘Sabbaths’.  Therefore, the verse reads: “In the end of the Sabbaths.”  This allows for the Special Sabbath (annual) on Thursday and the regular Sabbath on Saturday. 9

So, this was the first chance they had to go to the sepulcher because they first had to prepare the spices for the body.  The women were unaware that Joseph of Arimathaea along with Nicodemus has previously anointed Jesus’ body with 75 pounds of spices before burial, for this had been done secretly for fear of the Jews according to John 19:38-40.   In addition, the two Sabbaths had prevented the women from going on the other two days.  Remember also this is Jewish time so Mary arrived at the setting of the sun on Saturday going into Sunday.   

John 20:1, “The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.”  Remember this is Roman time so this would have been early on Saturday evening before dark and at the close of Saturday for Mary in Hebrew time.  Jesus had already risen and the tomb was empty.  This means that Jesus resurrected on Saturday (the regular Sabbath).

CONCLUSION

It is clear from Matthew 28:1 that Jesus rose from the grave when the Sabbath (Saturday) ended at sunset and Sunday was beginning.  This means that the crucifixion took place on Wednesday at sunset just as the preparation day was ending and the Special Sabbath (annual) was to begin.  The Gospels state that Jesus died at the ninth hour (3 P.M.) and was buried about sunset on that same day.  (Luke 23:44-45, 50-54, Mark 15:33-38, 42-47).  Jesus being buried at sunset on Wednesday and rising from the grave at sunset on Saturday fulfills the Sign of Jonah.  He was in the heart of the earth for a full three days.  This is the literal fulfillment of the words of Christ in Matthew 12:40. 9

The Easter Sunday edict by the Council of Nicea makes Jesus out to be a liar and a fraud.  To suggest that Jesus rose from the grave on a Sunday after his supposed crucifixion on a Friday would mean that Jesus did not fulfill his prophecy of rising from the grave after three days and three nights.  To add insult to injury, the Council of Nicea put the heathen title of Easter on the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection.  Calling Easter a holiday of the resurrection of Christ is mixing a heathen festival with a Christian celebration.  Easter Sunday is nothing more than a spiritual seduction convincing people to follow a tradition of a Friday crucifixion and a Sunday resurrection, instead of the biblical account of a Wednesday crucifixion and a Saturday resurrection. 10

ENDNOTES

1Norman Landis, Do You Know Your Bible? (Bloomington, IN:  Author House Publishing, 2004), 114.

St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book III, Chapter 1, Translated by Alexander Roberts and William Rambaut. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.)

3 Matt Slick, At What Hour Was Jesus Crucified? Available from < http://carm.org/bible-difficulties/matthew-mark/what-hour-was-jesus-crucified>; February 2012.

4 Holman Bible Dictionary. “Entry for ‘PREPARATION DAY’”. Available from <http://www.studylight.org/dic/hbd/view.cgi?number=T5092&gt;. 1991., February 2012.   

5 Socrates, Church History 1.9, Eusebius, Life of Constantine 3.17-18, Theodoret, Church History 1.9, Gelasius, Church History 2.37.10, W. Bright, Socrates’ ecclesiastical history, 2nd edition (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1893)

6 Richard Rives, Too Long in the Sun, (Davidson, NC:  Partakers Publications, 2000)

7 Dictionary.com.  “Entry for ‘Queen of Heaven’”.  Available from <http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/queen+of+heaven>; February 2012

8 Barnes, Notes on the Bible Commentary for Daniel 9:27. Available from <http://bible.cc/daniel/9-27.htm>; February 2012.

9 John E. Thom, Truths from Your Bible That Your Church Does Not Want You to Know, (Bloomington, IN: Author House Publishing, 2011), 16:

10 Edward Hendrie, Solving the Mystery of Babylon the Great, (Garrison, VA:  Great Mountain Publishing, 2011), 25

Scripture References: King James Version

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