Was Jesus Crucified on a Friday?

by Randy Erverist

jesus love1There is somewhat of a controversy as to which day the Lord Jesus of Nazareth was crucified. The traditional (and most popular) account states Jesus died on Friday at 3 p.m. However, more recently some conservative and fundamental groups insist Jesus could not have died on Friday; he must have died on a Wednesday (or less commonly, on a Thursday). I believe the case for a Friday crucifixion is both reasonable and biblical, and insisting upon a Wednesday crucifixion is ill-advised.

First, a Wednesday crucifixion cannot yield any other result than a Saturday Resurrection.

There are two primary ways of reckoning days and nights: by either allowing for an evening and morning first (as in the pattern of Genesis 1) or by counting days first and then nights (as is common today). In counting as we do today, we would count 72 hours from Wednesday at 3 p.m.; this gets us a Saturday afternoon Resurrection. In the case of Jewish reckoning, this gets us a Saturday dawn Resurrection (Wednesday day, Thursday night, Thursday day, Friday night, Friday day, Saturday night [or dawn]). What’s the problem? Either solution is unbiblical.

It is clear from each Gospel account the Resurrection took place the first day of the week. Matthew 28:1a states, “In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week.” Mark 16:1-2 say in part, “And when the Sabbath was past . . . very early in the morning the first day of the week.” Luke 24:1 says simply, “Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning.” John 20:1 states, “The first day of the week . . . early, when it was yet dark.”

Second, there are problems with a Thursday crucifixion as well.

While the literal 72 hours would yield a Sunday afternoon Resurrection, the Jewish reckoning of nights and days are said to work by these proponents. In this case, however, they must claim there were back-to-back Sabbaths; the “special” Sabbath on Friday and the “regular” Sabbath on Saturday.[1] The problem is that there is just no hint in Scripture of there being two consecutive Sabbaths! In fact, in each narrative, it seems only one is in view. Further, the Jewish reckoning of days counts any part of one day as a full day; hence the Resurrection here occurs on the fourth day, not the third.[2] Therefore, a Thursday crucifixion contains just as many problems as a Wednesday, and lacks evidence.

Third, the Sabbath referred to in the narrative is a Saturday.

According to Luke 23:56, “they . . . rested the Sabbath day according to the commandment.” The term “the commandment” used by Luke indicates a familiarity from which only the 10 commandments can come. Within the Decalogue, one of the most important commandments observed in the day was the Sabbath (the 4th commandment). Hence, Luke almost takes it as a given. The commandment for the Sabbath was to rest on Saturday! John 19:42 states the day of Jesus’ burial was the “preparation day.” This day of burial was the same day as Luke 23:56. Therefore, the preparation day on which Jesus was buried was Friday. Since Jesus was buried the same day he was crucified, he was therefore crucified on Friday.

Fourth, Jewish reckoning counts any part of a day as a full day.

This point alone dispels the one piece of biblical evidence people point to in their case against a Friday crucifixion. Matthew 12:40 is the verse of which they are speaking. “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.” Since any part of a day counts towards the whole, however, we can see that a crucifixion on Friday counts as three whole days (which include nights as reckoned).

Is there biblical precedent for this? Of course! First, almost every other reference by Jesus to his own death and Resurrection simply uses the “the third day” phrase. Second, Matthew 27:63-64 reveal Jesus’ enemies asking for a guard “until the third day.”[3] Third, 1 Kings 12 relays a story wherein Rehoboam asks Jeroboam and company to leave for three days; yet they return to him “on the third day.” Rehoboam seemed to think their time obligation had been fulfilled, despite three complete, literal, 24-hour days not having passed. Finally, the point is even more powerfully demonstrated in Esther 4:16-5:1. Esther asks Mordecai to fast for three days and nights, and then she will go to the king. When she does go to the king, it is on the third day, despite not having completed a full three days and three nights. Was she wrong? Hardly.

In the same way, Jesus can use the terminology “three days and three nights,” be crucified on Friday, be in the tomb until Sunday morning at dawn, and it still be correct. His burial took place just before sundown on Friday. Hence, Jesus was buried Friday during the day. He stayed in the tomb Saturday night and Saturday during the day. Sunday night commenced at sundown on the Sabbath, and Jesus remained in the tomb until roughly before dawn, or the beginning of the day. Since any parts of days are counted as full days, it simply is irrelevant that Jesus was not in the tomb for 72 hours.

Friday is the best candidate, both biblically and culturally, for the day of Jesus’ crucifixion.

[1] < http://biblelight.net/pasover.htm >, accessed April 21, 2011.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Additionally, since the leaders asked for a guard and Pilate seemed to respond in an affirmative manner (after all, he told them to “make it sure,” which he would not have likely done had he been refusing their request), it seems the guard was likely Roman after all.

This post is reprinted courtesy of Randy Everist (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0) who blogs regularly at his apologetics blog, Possible Worlds.

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