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Everyone knows that Jesus was crucified on Good Friday, right? And throughout the centuries we have always remembered His crucifixion on the Friday before Easter Sunday, right?  But is Friday the correct day?  Does the Bible support a Friday crucifixion?  Or do the Feasts of the Lord point to another day?  And what about Jesus’ words?  Is it possible that the crucifixion was on Wednesday or Thursday?  What does the Bible reveal?

A Weak Friday

The biblical evidence for a Friday crucifixion is very weak.  The primary support for it comes from this verse:

Mark 15:42  And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath

Remember that the Jewish day began with the evening hours (at nightfall) and lasted until the end of the daylight hours (signified by nightfall of the next day). Therefore, the Jews weekly Sabbath began at nightfall on Saturday (which we would consider Friday night) and lasted until the end of the daytime hours on  Saturday (which the Jews would consider the beginning of Sunday).  It’s important to understand that their day was marked by “evening and morning” just as God declared it in creation (Genesis 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23 31).

Every weekly Sabbath had a day of preparation on the preceding day.  It was a day to prepare for the coming Sabbath so no work would be done on that day.  Mark 15:42 tells us that Jesus was crucified on the day of preparation, the day before the Sabbath. The church has assumed that to be Friday afternoon, which would have proceeded the weekly Saturday Sabbath.  But is that correct?

Additional Sabbath Days

There are a number of other Sabbaths in addition to the weekly Sabbath.  The word “sabbath” means rest and God declared rest for His people with weekly Sabbaths and additional Holy Days of Convocation.   Collectively, these Sabbaths are called “seasons” (Gen 1:14) or God’s appointed times (Leviticus 23:2), and they include:

52 weekly Sabbaths
7 days of Passover
1 Shavout, Feast of Weeks (Pentecost)
1 Yom Teruah (Feast of Trumpets)
1 Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement)
7 days of Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles)
1 Shimini Atzeret (8th Day of Assembly)
= 70 Sabbaths

The early church considered the reference to the Sabbath in Mark 15:42 to mean the weekly Sabbath. Since Jesus was crucified on the day of preparation, they assumed it to have taken place on Friday afternoon.  The error in this logic is that the Sabbath referred to in Mark 15 is the Feast of Unleavened Bread, one the seven Holy Days of Passover.

The Passover Sabbath

The Feast of Unleavened Bread is also known as the Feast of the Passover, which was celebrated in remembrance of the Israelites being delivered from Egyptian bondage.  This feast is set on Nisan 15 (Leviticus 23:6), which could fall on any day of the week.  This feast day is a High Sabbath (a day of rest), also called a High Day and it was preceded by a day of preparation.

John 19:31  Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.

John 19:31 tells that Jesus was crucified on the Preparation Day before the High Day Sabbath of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  This places the date of Jesus’ crucifixion on Nisan 14.  Since the Passover feast is set according to the calendar (unlike the weekly Sabbath that is set according to the day) the question becomes, on what day of the week was the feast day that year?

Three Reasons for  Thursday Crucifixion

I (Shari Abbott, Reasons for Hope* Jesus) hold to a Thursday crucifixion and I will share three reasons and biblical support for this.  I will also explain many of the reasons why a Wednesday or Friday crucifixion day does not fit with what the Bible reveals.

As you read this, please understand that there are three views on this subject.  Study the Bible and come to your own conclusion, but do not let discussions on this subject become divisive. Remember the actual day is not what is important.  The important lesson about the day of crucifixion is:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. (John 3:16-17) 

Why a Thursday crucifixion?  

Reason #1: The Words of Jesus

My first reason for a Thursday crucifixion comes directly from the words of our Lord.

Matthew 12:40  For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly [Jonah 1:17]; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

Jesus clearly stated He would be in the “heart of the earth” for “three days and three nights.”  I take those words to mean exactly what Jesus said.  Only a Thursday crucifixion provides three days and three nights.  To understand this, I call to your mind again that the Jewish 24-hour day began at nightfall and ended the following day after the daytime hours  (unlike our day that starts at 12 am and ends 24 hours later).

Genesis 1:5  And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

As seen in the Genesis account, God divided the 24 hour day into two parts, night and day.  So we should not think it to be unusual when Jesus divided the day and spoke of three days and three nights. He was speaking of the two parts that make up a full day.

We find another time, at the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry, that a 24 hour day was described this way.  In Matthew, the 40 days in the wilderness were specifically divided into day and night:

Matthew 4:2  And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungered.

This clearly declares that Jesus did not eat during the period of 40 daytime hours and 40 nighttime hours.  We know He was taken into the wildness following His baptism which occurred during the daytime hours, so that explains why He said 40 days before 40 nights. It began with a daytime period (isn’t it amazing how precise the Bible is!).

In Matthew 4:2  the 24 hour day is divided into two parts, just as in Genesis 1.  The same is true of Jesus’ statement about the time period after His death and before His resurrection.  He said the He would be “in the heart of the earth” for three days and three nights. Understand the Jesus was not speaking of His body being buried in an above-ground tomb.  He was speaking of His soul that departed His body at death (3 pm) and went into Abraham’s Bosom, the heart of the earth.

Follow along on this chart as I count through the three days and three nights.  (I have placed this same chart several times in the article for ease of reading and comparison as you scroll down.)

Thursday Crucifixion—Three Days and Three Nightsthurs 3 days chart

In summary, just as Jesus declared, He was in the “heart of the earth” for three days—Thursday, Friday, Saturday days—and three nights—Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights Remember night preceded the daytime hours, but Jesus stated it “…days and …nights” because He went into “the heart of the earth” at the time of His death during the daytime hours.  Let’s count this:

Thursday—3pm Death

DAY 1 = Thursday day, Nisan 14.

Friday—A High Holy Day Sabbath

NIGHT 1 = Friday night, Nisan 15.   Feast of Unleavened Bread

DAY 2  = Friday day, Nisan 15.  The Feast had taken place during the nighttime hours of Nisan 15, but the entire 24 hour day, sundown to sundown was a Sabbath—a time of rest.

Saturday— The Weekly Sabbath

NIGHT 2 = Saturday night, Nisan 16.

DAY 3 = Saturday day, Nisan 16.

Thursday Nisan 14 would have been the Day of Preparation for both the High Sabbath/Feast of Unleavened Bread (Friday, Nisan 15) and the weekly Sabbath (Saturday, Nisan 16).

Sunday— “when it was yet dark”

NIGHT 3 = Sunday night, Nisan 17 (remember this precedes the daytime hours).  According to Scripture, Jesus rose from the dead prior to the daytime hours of Sunday:

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.

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.

Matthew and John are very specific in recording that it was not yet the daytime hours of Sunday when the women went to the tomb and found it empty.  Jesus rose on Sunday night before dawn (nighttime hours preceded the daytime hours).

Thursday Crucifixion—Three Days and Three Nightsthurs 3 days chart

In summary, just as Jesus declared, He was in the “heart of the earth” for three days—Thursday, Friday, Saturday days—and three nights—Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights (remember Sunday night preceded the daytime hours).

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.

Thursday Crucifixion 

In Three Days and After Three Days

Two more references to the number of days are recorded in John and Mark.  The phrases “in three days” and “after three days” are used by Jesus.  The counting method is different for each.

In three days”John 2

John 2:19-21  Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days?  But he spake of the temple of his body.

This counting method uses half days– 6 evenings and 6 mornings to equal three full days. A Thursday crucifixion fits with Jesus being raised up in three days.”

  1. Thursday day = ½ day
  2. Friday night and
  3. Friday day = 1 day
  4. Saturday night and
  5. Saturday day = 1 day
  6. Sunday night = ½ day

Total: six ½ days = 3 days

After three days”Mark 8

 Mark 8:31  . . .he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.

This counting method counts each daytime period as one day, with the resurrection taking place “after three days.”  The day was not over when Jesus died in the afternoon, so this begins with the day of the crucifixion.  A Thursday crucifixion fits with Jesus being raised up “after three days.” 

After Thursday (day 1), after Friday (day 2) and after Saturday (day 3), Jesus rose after three days on Sunday.

 

Problems with a Wednesday Crucifixion 

“three days and three nights”Too Many Days and Nights

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.

Wednesday Crucifixion—Four Days and Four Nights

Wed chart_too many days nights

Regarding Jesus’ words of “three days and three nights” in Matthew 12:40, a Wednesday crucifixion accounts for four days and four nights.  It doesn’t fit with what Jesus said.

In Three Days and After Three Days—Too Many Days

In three days”John 2

John 2:19  Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. 

  1. Wednesday day = 1/2 day
  2. Thursday night and
  3. Thursday day = 1 day
  4. Friday night and
  5. Friday day = 1 day
  6. Saturday night and
  7. Saturday day = 1 day
  8. Sunday night = 1/2 day

Total: eight ½ days = 4 days—too many days with a Wednesday crucifixion.

After three days”Mark 8

 Mark 8:31 . . .he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.

After Wednesday (day 1), after Thursday (day 2), after Friday (day 3) and after Saturday (day 4), Jesus rose after four days on Sunday—too many days with a Wednesday crucifixion.

 

Problems with a Friday Crucifixion

“three days and three nights”—Too Few Days and Nights

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.

Fri chart_too few days nights_edited-1

A Friday crucifixion accounts for two days and two nights. It doesn’t fit with what Jesus said.

In Three Days and After Three Days—Too Few Days

In three days”John 2

John 2:19  Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. 

  1. Friday day = 1/2 day
  2. Saturday night and
  3. Saturday day = 1 day
  4. Sunday night = 1/2 day

Total: four ½ days = 2 days—too few days with a Friday crucifixion.

After three days”Mark 8

Mark 8:31  . . .he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.

After Friday (day 1) and after Saturday (day 2), Jesus rose after two days on Sunday—too few days with a Friday crucifixion.

In Conclusion

Next week we’ll consider two more reasons for a Thursday crucifixion.  In closing, let’s review the counting of “three days and three nights.”  In Matthew 12:39, Jesus said: “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. . .”  With those words, Jesus said that “three days and three nights” was to be a “sign” for them.

Thursday Crucifixion—Three Days and Three Night

thurs 3 days chart

Thursday night began the Day of Preparation. Events included Jesus’ Last Supper in the upper room, Jesus’ last discourse with His disciples, and the arrest of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Thursday daytime hours followed with the trials and crucifixion, and at three in the afternoon Jesus breathed His last and died.

Review of counting:

Thursday Day=DAY 1 (afternoon hours): Jesus died at 3 pm. His soul went into the heart of the earth.  His body was buried before sundown. Then the High Sabbath day began.

Friday Night=NIGHT 1 (the High Sabbath)
Friday Day=DAY 2 (the High Sabbath)

Saturday Night=NIGHT 2 (the weekly Sabbath)
Saturday Day=DAY 3 (the weekly Sabbath)

Sunday Night=NIGHT 3  Jesus rose before sunrise on Sunday.

The Bible tells us that the women came to the tomb before sunrise and the angel said to them,

…He is not here: for he is risen, (Matthew 28:6)

 Three days and three nights — Just like Jesus said!

This is the first and foremost reason why I believe the crucifixion took place on a Thursday.  Thursday is the only day that fits precisely with Jesus’ words.  Remember, Jesus said He would be “three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”  He was speaking of His soul that went into the “heart of the earth,” Abraham’s Bosom at the time of death, Thursday afternoon.  His body was laid in an above ground tomb (not in the earth) before sundown.

Be a Berean (Acts 17:11) and study for yourself.  Come to your own conclusion, but always remember it’s not about the day of the week on which the crucifixion took place.  It’s all about the One who was crucified in our place and rose from the dead and lives.  He offers forgiveness of sins and life eternal to all who repent and trust in Him.

1 Corinthians 15:1-4  Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you; unless you believed in vain.  For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, 

John 3:16-17  For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

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Read Also

Two more reasons for a Thursday Crucifixion.  

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