Crucifixion of Christ: Wednesday or Friday?

crucifixion

I was challenged by a reader a while back to examine a long-held assumption by many Christians that Jesus Christ’s crucifixion occurred on a Friday. The individual cited several passages in the Bible they believed proved that Wednesday was the true date of the crucifixion. I examined the issue fairly as I could and now present the results of my study in this article.

Crucifixion General Timeframe

Christ’s crucifixion took place sometime during the time Pontus Pilate served as governor of Judea province for the Roman Empire between 26 A.D. to 36 A.D. Jesus’s crucifixion took place on the Eve of Passover, which is on the 14th day of Nisan of the Jewish calendar (Passover is on Nisan 15). Most Christian scholars believe that the crucifixion took place on either a Wednesday or a Friday between 30 A.D. and 33 A.D.[1] This criterion leaves two possible dates as the true date of the crucifixion: Wednesday April 3, 30 A.D., Friday April 1, 33 A.D.

Buying and Preparing the Spices

A heavily debated item between those who support a Wednesday crucifixion and those who support a Friday crucifixion is the timing of when Mary and others bought and prepared spices before they went to anoint Christ’s body. Here are the two verses driving this debate:

“(54) And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on. (55) And the women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid. (56) And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment.” (Luke 23:54-56)

“(1) And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. (2) And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.” (Mark 16:1-2)

Proponents of a Wednesday Crucifixion and proponents of a Friday Crucifixion both can provide acceptable explanations for what happened. Here is what each side can argue:

  • Wednesday Proponents: The women prepared some spices and ointments before the high Sabbath (Passover). After Passover the women bought and prepared more spices before they rested on the weekly Sabbath.
  • Friday Proponents: Some spices and ointments were prepared just before the weekly Sabbath and the Passover high Sabbath (both fell on the same day) and more spices were bought and prepared Saturday evening following passage of the two Sabbaths.

Three Days and Three Nights

The key detail driving the Wednesday vs. Friday crucifixion date debate is Matthew 12:40. In this verse Christ told the Pharisees that he would spend “three days and three nights in the heart of the earth”:

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.” (Matthew 12:40)

Many supporting the Wednesday crucifixion state that the term “three days and three nights” translates to mean a literal 72-hour period. I can see why people would instinctively do that, but the term “three days and three nights” was not a phrase that signified seventy-two hours. The term was an idiom whose basic meaning in New Testament days was equivalent to the meaning of the term “day after tomorrow” nowadays. We can see that “three days and three nights” does not equate to a literal seventy-two hour period by looking at a comparable term: “the third day”. Christ told His followers that He would rise from the dead on “the third day”:

“(33) Saying, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes; and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles: (34) And they shall mock him, and shall scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall kill him: and the third day he shall rise again.” (Mark 10:33-34)

“The “third day” is comparable to “three days and three nights” because they both represent the amount of time that Christ would be dead. “The third day” does not represent a literal seventy-two hour period. In fact, Luke 13:32 strongly suggest that “the third day” covers a span of time equivalent to the day after tomorrow:

“And he said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day [today] and to morrow [the next day], and the third day [the day after tomorrow] I shall be perfected.” (Luke 13:32)

Given this and the interchangeability between “three days and three nights” and “the third day” to describe the amount of time Christ would be dead, we can conclude that the term “three days and three nights” is equivalent to the day after tomorrow. Therefore, the crucifixion likely occurred on a Friday instead of a Wednesday since Sunday, the date of Christ’s resurrection, fell on the day after tomorrow from Friday.

Regardless of whether you agree with my conclusion or not, it is important to recognize that Wednesday crucifixion proponents and Friday crucifixion proponents recognize that Christ was crucified since not every believes He was crucified.

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Note

  1. Some argue that the Crucifixion should have taken place in 31 or 32 A.D. The problem with these years is that Nisan 14 took place on a Monday: Monday March 24, 31 A.D. and Monday April 12, 32 A.D.

10 thoughts on “Crucifixion of Christ: Wednesday or Friday?”

  1. You wrote: “This criterion leaves two possible dates as the true date of the crucifixion: Wednesday April 3, 30 A.D., Friday April 1, 33 A.D.” According to both the Julian and the Hebrew calendar April 3, 30 A.D. falls on a Monday not a Wednesday.

    You further wrote: “the term “three days and three nights” was not a phrase that signified seventy-two hours. The term was an idiom whose basic meaning in New Testament days was equivalent to the meaning of the term “day after tomorrow” nowadays.” Yet you never proved that in this particular instance Jesus was using an idiom. Why would Jesus use an idiom to demonstrate a visual sign of the Son of Man?

    God is the author of the scriptures and He states “day after tomorrow” as “on the morrow” (He says it this way consistently)
    Proof: Gen 19:34 Ex 9:6, 18:13

    The phrase “day and night” is used in scripture and meaning is in the context.

    When days and nights are numbered it is very important to notice the number because it is the number that is being emphasized.
    Gen 7:4, 12 forty days and forty nights
    Deut 9:9 forty days and forty nights
    ” 9:18 ” ” ” ” ”
    ” 9:25 ” ” ” ” ”
    ” 10:10 ” ” ” ” ”

    Proof from scripture that God is counting full days when He uses numbers:
    Ex 12:15 seven days
    ” 12:18 fourteenth at EVEN until the one and twenty day (21) at EVEN
    Here is a calendar count of days starting at sundown from the beginning of the 15 to the 21.
    This passage also reveals that the counting of days after the Passover was killed began after sunset.

    Luke 23:53 Using that method of counting, Jesus also was placed in the tomb right as the Sabbath was beginning.

    So, let’s start the count according to the Friday crucifixion.
    Friday at sunset Jesus placed in the tomb. Friday is over, done finished, does not count. (they count Friday as a day because it ends at midnight but it’s not Roman time, it’s Jewish time)
    Saturday = day one
    Sunday = day two (according to their Sun resurrection day)
    WHERE IS DAY THREE?

    The scriptures said THREE days and THREE nights.
    On the THIRD day He would rise.

    This explanation is clearly wrong so much so that counting part of a day doesn’t fit.

    1. I am not the only one who found that 3 days and 3 nights works with Friday by recognizing the idiom.

      By tying the crucifixion to 30 A.D., you would completely ruin the accuracy of the 70 weeks prophecy (the fulfillment of the first 69 weeks). You cannot defend the accuracy of the 70 weeks prophecy by using 30 A.D. As a result of an inaccurate prophecy by tying the crucifixion to 30 A.D., you would lose the ability to defend the inerrancy of the Bible.

      I spent a long time studying Wednesday vs Friday. I tried to make 30 A.D. work. It doesn’t work with the 70 weeks prophecy. Only 33 A.D. works.

  2. Hi Wayne, Like most who comment, I’ve looked at many things on this topic, & have found the best source (for me) to be the Lords Festivals of the Old Testament (Lev 23), since the New Testament had not been written at the time of Christ’s crucifixion, & Jesus Himself said He was there to fulfill the Fathers will (probably refering to His written will in the OT). For the Passover to be properly fulfilled, we have to look at Nissan the 10th for the selection of the Lamb. I’m only a layman, but I believe that the Triumphal Entry is the only event that fulfills the Lamb selection & it likely did not happen on a Monday, but on a Sabbath (Saturday) when everyone would be near the Temple (this is where I wish the stones would cry out & tell us). From there, I believe the Tuesday evening (after 6PM which begins Nisan the 14th) would be when the disciples & Jesus fulfill the Passover meal (Last Supper); but in this case Jesus is actually giving the sign of Communion to his followers (often Jesus dual purpossed His representation as fulfillment & future). After this, all the events of the crucifixion happened over the Nissan the 14th Wednesday, ending with His burial before 6PM of that Wednesday. From 6PM Wednesday to 6PM Thursday (Nissan the 15th – High Sabbath), there would be ‘NO’ buying or selling in the land. From 6PM Thursday to 6PM Friday, buying and selling would be allowed, so this is when I believe the women bought their spices after the High Sabbath, preparred them through the day, & completed their preparation before the Sabbath (6PM Friday to 6PM Saturday). Now, at that time, 6PM Saturday (end of the Sabbath), Jesus had fulfilled 3 Days & 3 Nights by any standard of definition. We know that the empty tomb was discovered sometime in the early dawns light or just before. Also, the guards had witnessed something before the time of the womens arrival. What we don’t exactly know is what time after 6PM Saturday did He resurect?? We just know it was in between that time frame (6PM Saturday to Dawn Sunday). By that Sunday, Christ had fulfilled Passover, & The Feast of Unleavened Bread, & was fulfilling The Feast of First Fruits!!! Seven Sabbaths later, He fulfilled the Feast of Penticost by sending us the Holy Spirit!
    As you’ve stated the “Resurection” is the focus & important thing here, but this is the only model I’ve found that truly fulfils that, plus the Festivals, the Law, the Prophesies, & answers the timing of accounts in the Gospels and Acts 1 & 2. The other area that doesn’t seem to get violated by this model, is the 33 &1/2 ‘years of age’ of Jesus (if you believe His birth was around late 5BC and His death around the spring of 30AD – Nissan the 14th). There seems to be a lot of historical & scientific support to those date timeframes.
    Again, I am only a layman in the word, and I would not advocate changing Easter or Good Friday because they are society accepted traditions (Easter did not exist at the time of the New Testament writings); just like I would not advocate changing the Christmas tradition (He was likely born Novemberish); because the focus is getting folks to look at Jesus life, work, & accomplishments for the Father, which can shower blessings upon us if we accept Christ as our only Savior!! I just find the biblical research of this topic very ‘faith building’ and answers many questions I’ve had over the years. Again, all I’m doing is putting the different models on paper & then comparing/contrasting the answers they present tothe questions I come up with from scripture. At this time, this model seems the most likely to me. Thursday & Friday crucifixions, carry many either unanswered or poorly answered questions for me. Thanks again for your article.

  3. Have you looked into the crucifixion being on Thursday? Just curious. If the 14th was on Thursday (ending at sundown) then Friday the 15th would have been the Sabbath of Passover, Saturday the 16th the Sabbath of the week, (two Sabbaths in a row) and Sunday would have been the 17th. Thursday part of the day in the grave, plus Friday and Saturday days – 3 days, and Thursday, Friday and Saturday night, 3 nights. Christ had already arisen by the time Mary got there at dawn so He rose before the day came so Sunday can’t count as part of a day.

    Noah’s ark came to rest on Ararat on the 17th day of the 7th month (by the old calendar, so it would be the first month of Nissan by the new calendar or Nissan 17.). God does love to reuse dates and typologies for prophecy fulfillments. Even the temple was destroyed on Av 9 both times, and I have a feeling that Hanukkah will become a second rededication of the temple after the tribulation. Just as Noah came out of the ark on the 17th, could not Christ have come out of the grave on the 17th? If He did, then the 14th would have been Thursday, if you believe of course that Christ was killed at the same time as the Paschal lamb, then He would have been crucified on Thursday.

    I just realized also that if Thursday was the 14th, the 1oth, when the lamb was brought into the house to be watched for any blemish (and to get attached to it) would have been on Sunday. That was the day when Christ entered in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to be put on display for all to watch and see.

    1. It’s been a long time since I wrote this article. If I recall my initial research correctly, Thursday doesn’t work well when constructing the first 69 week timeline.

    2. 1) Connie, can you show me the verse in the Gospels where the Lord’s Triumphal Entry is stated to be on a Sunday??
      also
      2) If Nissan the 14th (Lambs sacrifice/crucifixion) is a Thursday, the Friday is then Nissan the 15th (1st day of Feast of Unleavened Bread) and the Saturday is Nissan the 16th (normal Sabbath), BOTH of these days would be days of Holy Convocation (Sabbaths) and as such, would not allow the buying or selling of anything throughout the land of Israel (see Leviticus 23:3-7). When would the women be able to buy spices “after the sabbath” (Mark 16:1) and prepare the spices “before the sabbath” (Luke 23:56), considering there was no electricity at that time and buying spices at night time would be very dangerous (ex. the men on the road to Emmaus asked their friend [Jesus] to stay the night because of the dangers at night)?? (This question also creates interesting answers for a Friday crucifixion belief)
      These are areas I’ve struggled with for both a Friday or a Thursday crucifixion.

  4. Prophecy Viewpoint

    Look at the story of Cornelius. He said to Peter “four days ago I was praying until this very hour”. If you track it back, 72 hours had passed.

    Lazarus was said to “stink” after 4 days (72 hours in Jewish time), yet Jesus did not “see corruption”.

    In the ancient Law, an animal sacrificed could be eaten of on the first day, and on the day following. But on the “third day” it was considered “unclean”. I doubt our LORD would have been left to be “unclean”.

    PS: A Thursday crucifixion would put Jesus walking 12 miles uphill from Jericho to Bethany – Doubtful considering all the spies and pilgrims traveling the same route.

    Blessings
    Rachel Cory
    Prophecy Viewpoint

  5. 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. Matt 12:39-40

    The scribes sure love to invent lies. They should have wrote 2nights and 2days instead. Why such nonsense can be found in New Testament? Well the answer is scribes put made up stories at their own will in Greek text as Aramaic Logia have been eradicate entirely. Thus no men could perform a check on changed words of God.

    ~~~

    Is Greek texts pure word of God. Where is Logia of Jesus in Aramaic. Where is Matthew’s Aramaic gospel?

    P46 (175CE) is Greek manuscript with the largest percentage of difference on record. This just proved that Church have been changing words since early 2nd century at will.

    Here is the words of the early church father, Origen (3rd century CE):

    “The differences among the manuscripts have become great, either through the negligence of some copyists or through the perverse audacity of others; they either neglect to check over what they have transcribed, or, in the process of checking, they make additions or deletions as they please.” Origen, early church father in “Commentary on Matthew.”

    Regarding the oldest surviving fragment, Colin Roberts compared P52 writings using ONLY 5 samples from the early 2nd century CE back in 1935 and concluded based on those 5 samples; P52 was from the early 2nd century.

    (Brent Nongbri’s 2005. The Use and Abuse of P52: Papyrological Pitfalls in the Dating of the Fourth Gospel)

    What I have done is to show that any serious consideration of the window of possible dates for P52 must include dates in the later second and early third centuries. – Brent

    Compare with 4th century codexes. You will be surprise how Holy Spirit inside the scribes fail to prevent them from changing words of God ever since the beginning.

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