Was Christ Crucified on Good Friday?

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Most assume that Christ was crucified on a Friday because a sabbath followed it the next day.  But observance of Good Friday is based on an assumption that all sabbaths fall on Saturdays, which is Biblically incorrect. Christians generally are not aware that special sabbaths like the ones that follow Passover seders can fall on any day of the week, and that simple odds strongly favored the liklihood that there were two sabbaths during the Passion week when Christ was crucified. 

Special sabbaths are sabbaths that Moses declared would fall on specific dates, without regard to which day of the week they occurred on.  Here, in Moses’ own words, are two examples of special sabbaths:

…In the seventh month, in the first [day]of the month, shall ye have a sabbath… an holy convocation.  (Leviticus 23:24, KJV).

….In the ninth [day]of the month at even, from even unto even, shall ye celebrate your sabbath. (Leviticus 23:32).

The phrase, “from even unto even” refers to the Jewish tradition of marking off days from one sunset to the next.  The Passover supper (seder) always marked the beginning of a 24 hour special Sabbath, without regard to whether it fell on a Saturday or not. (Leviticus 23:6,7). While Moses did not specifically use the word sabbath to describe it, he did use the same terminology to describe it that he used to describe other sabbaths, and Jews today do label it a sabbath.  The evidence suggests that they also did so at the time of Christ. 

The Last Supper was a Passover seder, but it did not precede an official sabbath.  Christ celebrated it one day before the official observance in Jerusalem.  To understand why this is a part of Jewish tradition even today, please see my article titled, Did Christ celebrate the Last Supper on the wrong day?

A Good Friday crucifixion creates several paradoxes, while a Wednesday crucifixion causes all of the scriptures on the subject to fall neatly into place.  Most importantly, it allows time for Christ to be in the tomb three days and three nights as Scripture states (Matthew 12:40), and to still be resurrected by Sunday morning. This means that Thursday was the special Passver sabbath, and Friday was another day of preparation, the second of the week.

A day of preparation on Friday also solves another Biblical paradox.   The Gospels state that the Galilean women went out and bought spices, and prepared them for embalming the body of Christ, but it is specifically noted that they they did not do this on a Sabbath. The sun was already setting when the women left the tomb on Wednesday, meaning that the Sabbath was already beginning.  Furthermore, the process of purchasing and preparing the spices would have likely been a time-consuming task, best done during daylight hours, and it seems unlikely that the markets would have been open after sundown on Saturday. So the traditional Good Friday timeline leaves no time for the process of purchasing and preparing the spices. 

But if Christ was Crucified on Wednesday, then the women would have had plenty of time on Friday to comfortably complete the task, allowing them to arrive at the empty tomb early Sunday morning, spices in hand. 

So on Friday morning, after having rested on the special Sabbath, the Galilean women went out into the marketplace and purchased spices. They then prepared these spices for the purpose of further embalming the body of Jesus Christ. (Mark 16:1, Luke 23:56).

There is other evidence that supports the idea that the Passover sabbath that year did not fall on Saturday.
In a couple of verses the Gospel writers refrained from calling this day “the sabbath,” which suggests they were trying not to confuse it with Saturday. The Gospel of John referes to it as a “special Sabbath” (John 19:31) in the NIV, or in the King James translation as a Sabbath “high day.” Also of significance is the fact that Matthew 27:62 refers to it as the day “after Preparation day.” If it was a Saturday, why not simply call it “the Sabbath?” The reason the Gospel writers refrained from simply calling it “the Sabbath” may well have been to avoid confusing it with Saturday.  

On a different note, a few incorrectly argue that since the Greek word ‘Sabbaton’ in Matthew 28:1 is plural, it suggests there was more than one sabbath that week.  Unfortunately, this lends no additional credibility to the argument because ‘Sabbaton’ is actually the word commonly used for ‘week’, and is often used in the plural form to refer to a single sabbath. (Strongs, 4521).

If you accept a Wednesday Crucifixion, and count three days and three nights forward, you arrive at Saturday afternoon as the earliest possible time of the resurrection. The verse that many interpret to mean that Christ rose on Sunday morning, may also be interpreted, “Now after He had risen early on the first day of the week, He first appeared to Mary Magdalene….” (Mark 16:9, NASB), thus leaving the exact hour of the resurrection open to interpretation.

As an incredible bonus, the official Jewish Passover observance of the Passover on the eve of the crucifixion places the Crucifixion on the same day and hour that it was customary to sacrifice a Passover lamb, on the 14th day of Nisan at about 3:00 in the afternoon, according to the official Jerusalem calendar.  The symbolism cannot be ignored.  Just as the Passover lamb was sacrificed to achieve forgiveness for the sins of the Jews, so Christ paved a way for forgiveness of sins for the world.  But there is more. 

Three 24-hour days in the tomb places the Resurrection on the 17th of Nisan, the same day that Noah landed on dry land, the same day that Israel crossed the Red Sea, the same day that King Hezekiah offered a sacrifice to atone for the sins of the entire nation, and the same day that Queen Esther saved the Jews from extermination. It is the most memorable day in Israel’s history, and it is a day that symbolizes salvation. It was a most appropriate day for the Savior of the world to be raised from the dead. The spiritual significance takes your breath away.  So next Easter, why not part with tradition, and recognize a Biblical timeline for the events of the Passion week?

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