Many believe that Jesus was crucified on what we in English call Friday. But that is not the case, Jesus was killed on the afternoon after Passover, which was on a Wednesday that year. (To see this in Spanish, please click on ¿Murió Jesús un día miércoles o un viernes? )
But how do we know that Jesus was not originally killed on a Friday?
We need to look at many scriptures to help sort that out.
When the scribes and Pharisees asked Him for a sign, Jesus answered with:
39 An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Matthew 12:39-40)
While most people assume that Jesus was crucified on a Friday and rose before sunrise on a Sunday morning, those who have “done the math” realize that this does not add up to three days and three nights.
Although “the last supper” is often observed on a Thursday, most people do not seem to realize that even certain Greco-Roman sources taught that Jesus observed that meal (Passover) on a Tuesday (which is the third day of the week). The following was written around the late second/early third century:
For when we had eaten the passover on the third day of the week at even, we went forth to the Mount of Olives; and in the night they seized our Lord Jesus. And the next day, which was the fourth of the week, He remained in ward in the house of Caiaphas the high priest. And on the same day the chiefs of the people were assembled and took counsel against Him. And on the next day again, which was the fifth of the week, they brought Him to Pilate the governor. And He remained again in ward with Pilate the night after the fifth day of the week (Didascalia Apostolorum, Chapter 21, verse 14. R. Hugh Connolly, version Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1929).
In the third century, the Catholic bishop and saint Victorinus wrote:
Now is manifested the reason of the truth why the fourth day is called the Tetras, why we fast even to the ninth hour, or even to the evening, or why there should be a passing over even to the next day…
The man Christ Jesus, the originator of these things whereof we have above spoken, was taken prisoner by wicked hands, by a quaternion of soldiers. Therefore on account of His captivity by a quaternion, on account of the majesty of His works,–that the seasons also, wholesome to humanity, joyful for the harvests, tranquil for the tempests, may roll on,–therefore we make the fourth day a station or a supernumerary fast (Victorinus. On the Creation of the World. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 7. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1886. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).
The day commonly now called Wednesday is the fourth day of the week. The above account shows that the fasting occurred the fourth day (tetras means fourth) at the ninth hour (3:00 pm). That is the precise time of the death of Christ according to the Bible. Victorinus is admitting that it was “passing over” (Passover) as does the Bible. He also clearly states that Jesus was arrested on Wednesday. And that is correct (what is not correct is that the Bible does not allow that Jesus did not die until Friday, with a Wednesday arrest, which is what these sources seem to believe).
Some modern Protestants are wondering about the majority view of the crucifixion within Protestantism. Notice the following:
Time is relative in determining chronology of Holy Week
by Michael Miller
There’s a possibility that Good Friday should actually be Good Thursday – or maybe even Good Wednesday.
And there’s a probability that Easter Sunday should be considered Easter Saturday Evening.
Whether the events of Holy Week, the days leading up to Jesus’s death and resurrection, occurred as they are now celebrated continues to be an occasional topic of discussion and study, scholars like Kevin Zuber of Moody Bible Institute say.
The traditional chronology has Jesus having his Last Supper with his disciples on Thursday night, being crucified on Friday afternoon and being resurrected sometime Saturday night or Sunday morning.
But the only clear time references of the events in the Gospels are that he was crucified on “preparation day” for a Sabbath and his tomb was found empty early “on the first day of the week.” Jesus’s own prophecy is that he would be in the “heart of the earth” for “three days and three nights” (Matthew 12:40).
Different calendars and understandings of time have to be taken into consideration, though.
Jewish days begin and end with sunset, meaning the “first day of the week” starts at sunset Saturday. Also, with the Feast of Unleavened Bread beginning that fateful week, there may have been Sabbaths on two separate days that week – first the annual Sabbath of the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread and then the regular, weekly Sabbath on the seventh day of the week – much like there was recently. That means there could have been two separate preparation days in the same week. http://www.bendweekly.com/Living/3733.html (Miller M. Bend Time is relative in determining chronology of Holy Week. Weekly News for Oregon. March 16, 2007).
While we in the Continuing Church of God would not agree that “time is relative” in this case, we believe that because Protestants and others do not keep the biblical Holy Days, that this is one of the reasons that they have not given much thought in the past to the idea that there were two days of preparation mentioned in the Gospels concerning Jesus death, burial, and resurrection.
But it is nice that Moody Institute (a Protestant-supporting organization) finally is realizing that the idea that Jesus died late Friday and was resurrected early Sunday appears to be problematic.
Furthermore, see what the late Jerry Falwell, a Sunday-keeper, and others have admitted:
The Bible is actually silent on the precise moment of resurrection. Jesus’ followers came to His tomb before dawn on the first day of the week (Sunday), but they did not witness Him coming back to life. They merely found an empty tomb.
Even the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, a Sunday-keeper and chancellor of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., agreed with that timetable, telling WND in 2001, “I personally believe He was crucified on Wednesday evening … and rose after 6 p.m. Saturday evening.”
Most Christians today think Jesus died on a Friday and rose on Sunday. They point to Scriptures indicating a Sabbath day followed Jesus’ execution. But Sabbath-keepers claim it was not the weekly Sabbath of Saturday approaching. Rather, they say it was an annual Sabbath, a “high” holy day in the Hebrew calendar known as the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which supposedly occurred on a Thursday the week Jesus was killed. The Gospel of John mentions that Sabbath was the annual type.
“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,) … .” (John 19:31)
In other words, Sabbatarians say there was more than one day of rest that week. Their timeline has Jesus slain on Wednesday – the day before the “high day” annual Sabbath on Thursday. They believe Jesus was in the grave for a full three days and three nights, finally arising Saturday evening, the second Sabbath of the week.
The mention of “three days and three nights” is important for many, as Jesus used that phrase to prove His divine identity:
“For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so I, the Son of Man, will be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.” (Matthew 12:40, New Living Translation) (Kovac, Joe. ‘Deception’: Christians war over worship day. Posted: March 16, 2008 5:24 pm Eastern. WorldNetDaily).
Hence, some do know the truth. And it is not just some Protestants.
It may be of interest to note that, even in the 21st century, many of the Roman Catholics still teach that this Passover (which they call the Last Supper) was kept by Jesus on a Tuesday night and that He was betrayed on a Wednesday (Zanchettin L, ed. Meditations, Tuesday, April 11, Wednesday April 12. the WORD among us–The #1 Monthly Devotional for Catholics. 2006; Volume 25, Number 4, pp. 63-64). Many, however, seem to think that He was held for two days before He was killed, which differs from the biblical account.
I will state here that Jesus was not just arrested on a Wednesday, He was crucified then too, just before the first day of unleavened bread. As that Sabbath was a high day according to the Bible (John 19:31), and since the day before the high days was considered to be a preparation day, it was that day, and not a Friday, that Jesus was crucified on. If more professing Christians would keep the Holy Days, more would realize that.
It was also known, even by Roman supporters in the second century, that Jesus was buried for three days. Irenaeus wrote:
For the Judge of the whole world is thus proclaimed, who, having been hidden in the heart of the earth in a tomb for three days (Irenaeus. Fragments of Irenaeus, Fragment XXXI. Translated by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. Excerpted from Volume I of The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, editors); American Edition copyright © 1885. Electronic version copyright © 1997 by New Advent, Inc.).
Since the Bible clearly shows that Jesus was resurrected well before sunrise Sunday morning (when the women came to His tomb Sunday morning, “it was still dark” per John 20:1), there is simply no way that there were three days from Friday afternoon to prior to sunrise Sunday–let alone three days AND three nights. He had to have been killed on a Wednesday.
While it has various interpretations, there is a prophecy from the Book of Daniel, if taken literally, indicates that Jesus would be crucified on a Wednesday. Notice what it states:
26 And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself (Daniel 9:26).
The literal day in the middle of the week is Wednesday. Hence a Wednesday crucifixion seems to have been specifically prophesied.
Jesus clearly taught that the sign He would give to prove who He was was that He would “be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth “. Three days prior to the sunrise of a Sunday would be prior to a sunrise on a Thursday. And since Jesus was killed and buried when it was still light out (John 19:31), that means that Jesus had to have been crucified on a Wednesday.
Jesus was crucified late afternoon on the 14th of Nisan which was a Wednesday back then.
Some articles of possibly related interest may include:
What Happened in the Crucifixion Week? How long are three days and three nights? Did Jesus die on “Good Friday”? Was the resurrection on Sunday? Do you really know? Who determined the date of Easter?
Is There “An Annual Worship Calendar” In the Bible? This paper provides a biblical and historical critique of several articles, including one by WCG which states that this should be a local decision. What do the Holy Days mean? Also you can click here for the calendar of Holy Days.
Hebrew Calendar This John Ogwyn writing explains why we in the Continuing Church of God use the calendar that we do and answers such questions as “Did Jesus Observe the Postponements?”
Passover and the Early Church Did the early Christians observe Passover? What did Jesus and Paul teach? Why did Jesus die for our sins? There is also a detailed YouTube video available titled History of the Christian Passover.
Melito’s Homily on the Passover This is one of the earliest Christian writings about the Passover. This also includes what Apollinaris wrote on the Passover as well.
Should Christians Keep the Days of Unleavened Bread? Do they have any use or meaning now? What is leaven? This article supplies some biblical answers.
Did Early Christians Celebrate Easter? If not, when did this happen? What do scholars and the Bible reveal?
Why Easter? Did early Christians observe Easter? What are the origins of Easter? What does Easter have to do with the goddess Ishtar. Where did the word Easter come from? Where do Easter eggs come from? What do rabbits have to do with Easter? Was Jesus resurrected on a Sunday? This is a video.