Was Jesus crucified on a Wednesday?

Anybody considering the Savior’s crucifixion must get their arms around Matthew 12:38-40.  In this scripture, the Savior says he will be in the grave three days and three nights, just as Jonah was in the whale’s belly three days and three nights.  Mark 8:31 also says the Savior would be resurrected after three days.

So, if Jesus was crucified on a Friday, how can that be three days and three nights?

This article makes the argument that there were two sabbaths, one an annual sabbath on Thursday and another the weekly sabbath on Saturday.  So, Jesus was probably crucified on Wednesday (the day before the Sabbath) and in the earth three days and three nights and then resurrected after the second Sabbath on Saturday night.  Mary discovered the empty tomb Sunday morning, but note he had already been resurrected by then.

I started thinking about this yesterday (Good Friday) after hearing a fascinating radio interview with Joe Kovacs, author of  “Shocked by the Bible.” Kovacs, who says he is a believing Christian, actually sounded like a Mormon scholar.  He pointed out again and again that today’s traditional Christianity has nothing to do with the church Jesus helped establish in the 1st century AD.   If he has said the word “apostacy” I would have thought he was a Mormon missionary.

The fascinating thing for me is how many angry people called the radio show to denounce Kovacs for destroying their faith (on Good Friday, by the way!).  It is fascinating to me how many people worship traditions and symbols rather than Truth.  Once again I am thankful to belong to a Church that concentrates on what is important, and that is the Atonement and the Resurrection.  If they happened on a Wednesday and a Saturday night, respectively, well, that’s okay with me.

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

19 thoughts on “Was Jesus crucified on a Wednesday?

  1. Good post. Given we get the Good Friday – Easter Sunday bogus day count from the same bunch that confused Onan’s act with masturbation, basically “scholars” who can’t read nor count, silly screw-ups like this are understandable. It’s surprising Luther didn’t fix the mis-counting of days, or maybe the reformers were well aware of the bogus count but figure it wasn’t worth fixing?

  2. I’d like to hear a Jewish history scholar’s take on it, as to what “sabbaths” were in effect back then.

  3. This is a classic attempt to fit contradicting bible chronology into modern day theology. Consider that the author of Mark (who certainly wasn’t Mark) did not have the other books of the New Testament (specifically John), and the author of John (who even more probably wasn’t John the apostle) probably didn’t have the gospel of Mark. So the two are not corroborating their gospels as we are wont to do today. Mark has Jesus’ crucifixion on the day of the passover at 9AM (15:25), whereas John says Jesus is crucified the day before the passover (the day of preparation) about noon (19:14). When you consider that each author is telling their story for a specific reason, and that John, who is the only gospel to call Jesus the “Lamb of God”, has Jesus sacrificed the same day as lambs were traditionally sacrificed (the day of preparation), you can see why each author has presented their version uniquely, and hence the problems with combining and comparing.

  4. counting is tricky then it seems because of conventions that get taken for granted; inclusive or exclusive, starting at one or zero. For example:

    However, the 4-year rule was not followed in the first years after the
    introduction of the Julian calendar in 45 BC. Due to a counting error,
    every 3rd year was a leap year in the first years of this calendar’s
    existence. The leap years were:

    45 BC(?), 42 BC, 39 BC, 36 BC, 33 BC, 30 BC,
    27 BC, 24 BC, 21 BC, 18 BC, 15 BC, 12 BC, 9 BC,
    AD 8, AD 12, and every 4th year from then on.

    Authorities disagree about whether 45 BC was a leap year or not.

    There were no leap years between 9 BC and AD 8 (or, according to some authorities, between 12 BC and AD 4). This period without leap years was decreed by emperor Augustus in order to make up for the surplus of leap years introduced previously, and it earned him a place in the calendar as the 8th month was named after him.

    It is a curious fact that although the method of reckoning years after the (official) birthyear of Christ was not introduced until the 6th century, by some stroke of luck the Julian leap years coincide with years of our Lord that are divisible by 4.

    The astromers told to the government to observe a leap day once every four years, and so it did, but they counted inclusively: leap year (one), non-leap year (two), non-leap year (three), leap year (four). Then the next cycle started counting with the leap year that was the fourth year of the previous cycle as the first year of the next cycle.

  5. I think part or most of the confusion lies in the cultural contexts which the authors assumed everyone knew at the time, things which didn’t require explaining because “everyone knew them.” In many modern languages, verbal shortcuts are often taken so as not to belabour the obvious. I would imagine that such was true anciently as well.

    Similar confusion in American English is exemplified by saying “this Wednesday” versus “next Wednesday”. If today is Sunday the 12th, some people take “next Wednesday” to mean Wednesday the 15th. Other people would say, “No, Wednesday the 15th is this Wednesday. Next Wednesday is the 22nd.

    So I wonder if the various Gospel authors are using different cultural contexts that result in two different ways of saying the same thing, or if by the time those Gospels were written the details were already lost to diverging oral traditions, or did people just plain mis-remember, or were there scribal copying errors between the original manuscript and the multi-generational copy that finally went into our KJV.

  6. Is it bad of me to say that I don’t care if he was crucified on Tuesday. Or if he was resurrected on Monday?

    I don’t find the liturgical calendar remotely significant. I don’t care when it happened, but I care deeply that it happened. I am interested in the Hebrew Calendar a bit, and calendar ideas generally (I’ve even worked on learning the Doomsday Algorithm to figure out days of the week from dates). But Thursday versus Monday versus Wednesday for when Jesus was born or died or the Earth was created? I just checked, and it still makes no difference to me.

  7. Blain, if you re-read my post, it doesn’t make that much difference to me either, except for the whole “Good Friday” thing, which, having lived in Latin America for so many years, I find interesting. I also found it interesting how many Christians worship days and events and symbols rather than Jesus Christ himself. Luckily, we don’t do that very much in the Church.

    I’d like to say that Easter Sunday is an especially spiritual day in my ward. About 20 percent more people show up at church for whatever reason, and there is a good spirit there.

  8. We had a wonderful service too. The choir was in rare form under the tutelage of a new choir director. I think that Christmas, Easter and Mothers/Fathers Day should be especially good as those are the Sundays less actives come back, grown children who may or may not be active etc… attend. I think if our services are especially good and the spirit is present, we may coax some back into fellowship.

  9. You guys are far too kind. I still say it was bogus pre-reformation “scholars” who couldn’t read nor count that caused this confusion. (edited) Too bad it took centuries of black plague for the masses to turn on that abominable church so ideas like Luther’s could gain a foothold.

    Amen on the Easter Sunday comments. It’s a great opportunity to people to start fresh and renew their faith.

  10. We had at least two local events yesterday and today that deserve celebration.

    Yesterday, a member of the elders quorum baptized and confirmed his wife, and today she was officially “welcomed” into the ward. She had been active for several years, attending with her husband, and doing things like playing piano in Primary.

    Today in EQ meeting, a 20-something young adult received the Melchizedek priesthood from his father.

    In addition to the family of the brother who baptized his wife, we also had a large turnout.

    The concept was explained to me long ago by a faithful churchgoer of another faith. All churches seem to have “CEW Christians”. Christmas – Easter – Weddings. Twice a year, or once a month, or whenever, is better than never.

  11. I agree, Geoff – with both points.

    It’s interesting how livid people can get when something this trivial is questioned, and I personally don’t care.

    Last week (on April 6th), I linked to one of Kevin Barney’s old posts on BCC that discussed whether Jesus was born or conceived on April 6th – simply because I thought it was an interesting question. My mother-in-law, who is very conservative, responded, essentially, “I don’t care.” It’s fascinating, however, how many of my friends in other religions would have called the post heretical.

  12. Bookslinger #5 – I would refer you to Alfred Edersheim (1825 – 1889) and his seminal work, “The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah”.

  13. I’m not saying this isn’t important — it’s clearly important to some folks. I was just checking whether it was a problem that it’s not important to me. Geoff has done fine work, which is nothing new nor novel. I just wanted a little calibration about where I stand on this.

  14. As far as Easter is concerned, I teach my children that it’s not the day itself that’s important or the Easter Eggs and Bunnies (which is another discussion for when they are older) but that it’s about the Atonement, Death and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Whether there was one sabbath or two sabbaths, doesn’t really matter, what really matters was that He resurrected and has brought about that same resurrection for all of us.

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