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Did Jesus die on Good Friday?

By Tom Brown

            It’s not necessary to know the exact day Jesus died in order to be saved; you just need to believe that He died for your sins. Knowing the day of His death is interesting, but not essential. There have been a few people who have doubted the veracity of the Bible because they misunderstand the prophecy of Christ, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matt 12:40). They say you cannot get 3 days and 3 night from a Friday crucifixion. However, the term, three days and three nights is a colloquial phrase meaning three days. It does not literally mean three full days and three full nights.

            Otherwise we have a problem with another prophecy that says that Christ would rise "ON" the third day. Consider the many passages that affirm Him rising on the third day:

"They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again." (Luke 18:32-33).

'The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again'" (Luke 24:7).

"They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen." (Acts 10:39-40).

            And to confirm that Jesus rose, not "after" the third day, but "on" the third day, Jesus appeared to two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and while they did not recognize Him as first, they told Him, "And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn't find his body" (Luke 24:21-23). Notice, that on Sunday, while the two disciples were talking to Jesus, they mentioned that today was "the third day" since all of this had taken place.

            You don't need a calculator to calculate three days. The only way to get three days to Sunday is to begin on Friday. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Three days!

            Some assume that in order to count a day, you must have a full 24 hour day. That is ridiculous, nor does this even make sense in our modern vernacular. For example, if I told you that I spent the day with a friend, do you assume that I spent 24 hours or at least 12 hours of the full day, beginning when the sun came up to the time when the sun went down? No! You understand by my language that I only meant that I spent some part of my day with him.

            The same is true of the term three days and three nights. It does not mean you must calculate 24 hours times 3 days, thus 72 hours. That would not even make sense, since Jesus died at three in the afternoon and rose in the morning on Sunday. You cannot get an exact 72 hours from those times.

Floating Day 

            The “date” of the Passover was always fixed; it was the fourteenth day of their first month (see Leviticus 23:5-6 and Exodus 12:6). "The LORD’s Passover begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month. On the fifteenth day of that month the LORD's Feast of Unleavened Bread begins; for seven days you must eat bread made without yeast. On the first day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. (Lev 23:5-7). The Jewish calendar originally consisted of twelve months at 28 days for each month. So this meant that the Passover would always land on the same day, however, the Jews adopted the Julian calendar which consisted of 29 to 30 days in a month. This was the calendar used during Jesus era; therefore the Passover was a “floating day”, which meant it could land on any “day” of the week.

            For example, Christmas is a floating day, it is always on the 25th day of December, and so it can float and land on any day of the week. This was the case of the Passover. Remember that Jews begin the Sabbath on Friday evening when the sun sets. For Jews, it becomes Saturday evening, even though for others it is still Friday.

            If the Jews went by their calendar, it's simple. Jesus died on Friday, since the Passover would always be on Saturday. The Bible is clear that Jesus died the day before the Passover. However, a floating day makes it more difficult to pinpoint the day of Jesus death, since the Passover could have occurred on any floating day. Although in this case, the Bible actually says the Passover landed on the Sabbath.. "It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath)" (Mark 15:42). So it was not simply Preparation Day for the Passover, but Passover landed on the Sabbath that year. Here is another proof.  Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath” (John 19:31). Since the Passover landed on the Sabbath that year, it was considered a special or high Sabbath. It was very special to the Jews to have their Passover land on the Sabbath day, so they considered it a special Sabbath.

            Some might argue that Passover was also a Sabbath because people had to rest on the Passover. That is true, they were to "do no regular work." So let us then turn to the Julian Calendar that will shed more light on the day of Jesus death.

Julian Calendar

            We know from the facts of the Bible that Jesus died during the rule of Pontius Pilate who was the fifth prefect of the Roman province of Judaea from AD 26–36. Here are the only evenings that Passover could have taken place during those years: (Click here to see Julian Calendar)

  Monday, April 18, A.D. 29

  Friday, April 7, A.D. 30

  Tuesday, March 27, A.D. 31

  Monday, April 14, A.D. 32

  Friday, April 3, A.D. 33

  Wednesday, March 24, A.D. 34

  Tuesday, April 12, A.D. 35

  Saturday, March 31, A.D. 36

            All days, but the two Fridays must be ruled out.

What about Wednesday?

            Nearly every article that disputes Friday as the day of Christ death, will then argue that Jesus died on Wednesday AD 34. The reason they do so is, in their view, the three days and nights must be at least 72 hours. However, there is no prophecy of scripture that says after 72 hours Jesus would rise again. As we mentioned before it was common practice in those days, as well as today, to consider any “part” of the day to be “a day”.

            This would mean that if Jesus died on Wednesday, He would have been in the tomb for four days and four nights. This would contradict scripture, plus it would pose some real problems for those who believe that Jesus died on Wednesday.

            The scriptures tell us that the women prepared spices to anoint Jesus’ body on Sunday. "On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb" (Luke 24:1). They could not do it earlier because they had to rest on the Sabbath. This is the big problem with the Wednesday theory: If Jesus had died on Wednesday, the Passover would have been on Thursday, however, the next day would be Friday, and thus the Sabbath would have ended. The women would have been able to anointed Jesus body on Friday. So if that was the case, why did they wait until Sunday to do it, when Friday would have been a much better day? Do you see the problem with this view?

            Some in order to justify this sloppy conclusion argue that it took the women a full day to buy and prepare the spices, and by the time they were done, it was Saturday again and thus the regular Sabbath began. This argument is really stretching one’s rationality. There is no way it would take more than 24 hours to buy and prepare the spices, because the Jews always buried their dead within one day, so they were accustomed to preparing spices for the deceased within a day. Besides that if they had waited 72 hours before coming to the tomb then decomposition would have begun and according to scriptures this could not happen. "Because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay" (see Acts 2:27). God promised the resurrection before decomposition. You might remember that "Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days" (John 11:17). Decomposition had begun because Martha, his sister, said, “By this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” (John 11:39)

            Another problem with the Wednesday theory is that John actually tells us that it was six days from Saturday evening to the Passover: "When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, many went up from the country to Jerusalem for their ceremonial cleansing before the Passover... Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany" (John 11:55 and 12:1). Jesus, along with the Jews, made their way to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. After Saturday Sabbath was over, a meal was prepared for Jesus in His honor. The next day was Palm Sunday, "The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, 'Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the King of Israel!" (John 12:12-13).

            John clearly says that it was "Six days before the Passover." There is no way to get six days from Saturday evening to Wednesday evening. Not possible. The Wednesday theory crumbles.

            The Wednesday theorist may argue that Palm Sunday should be Palm Friday. The problem though is that Matthew tells us that that the next day was a working day, "And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night. Early in the morning, as he was on his way back to the city" (Matt 21:17-18). Traveling was prohibited on the Sabbath, yet Jesus walked 2 miles back to Jerusalem after the Palm incident. So the next day must have been a working day. If Palm Sunday was really Palm Friday, then the next day would have been a Saturday Sabbath. Jesus would not be allowed to travel from Bethany to Jerusalem.

            In the end, I see four major problems to the theory of Wednesday being the day of Jesus death:

            1. If Jesus died on Wednesday, then Jesus would have been in the tomb for four days and four nights. He would have theoretically risen "on" the fifth day:

            2. If Jesus died on Wednesday, then the women would have gone to the tomb on Friday.

            3. If Jesus died on Wednesday, then more than 72 hours would have elapsed which would have caused Jesus body to “see decay”.

            4. If Jesus died on Wednesday, then Palm Sunday would become Palm Friday and that cannot be considering that the next day was a working day.

Friday only Day Left

            That leaves us only with two possible dates where Friday evening begins the Passover: AD 30 or AD 33. Something very interesting took place on AD 33. There was a red, blood moon on Passover that year.1 A blood moon is when the moon looks red as a result of a lunar eclipse. Not only was there a blood moon on that Passover, but in the previous year of AD 32 there were two total lunar eclipse landing on Passover and Tabernacles. In addition to these blood moons, there was a total eclipse two weeks before Jesus was crucified.2

            This might be the reason that Peter, in his first sermon on the Day of Pentecost, mentions the sun being darkened and the moon turning into blood: "The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved'"  (Acts 2:20-21). It seems quite probable that Peter would mentioned these two signs to the Jewish leaders since they could easily remember them happening recently.

            Therefore, Friday, April 3, AD 33 fits perfectly the day of Jesus' death.

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