BT Daily: Three Days and Three Nights- (Was Christ crucified on Thursday?)

Was Christ crucified on Thursday?

Was Christ crucified on a Thursday? Now isn't that a question and a half! It seems all of Christian tradition tells us that He was crucified on Friday and rose from the dead the next Sunday. So this question flies in the face of almost 2000 years of tradition, and the answer must be a good one for any consideration to be given to it.

For us to even consider the question we must recognize a number of propositions/facts:

1) It was prophesied that Christ must lie in the tomb for three days and three nights.

In Matthew 12:39-40 Jesus states: "But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall be no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. 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." Jesus tends to be exact - not speaking in grand generalities.

I admit there are prophesies that Christ will be in the tomb 3 days, but to me they seem to be subsets of Matthew 12:39-40 which states three days and three nights as the time.

2) That the three days of darkness prophesied by Samuel the Lamanite consisted of the time from Christ's death until his resurrection.

In the Book of Mormon, Helaman 14:20, Samuel the Lamanite is prophesying about the signs to be given at Christ's death: "But behold, as I said unto you concerning another sign, a sign of his death, behold, in that day that he shall suffer death the sun shall be darkened and refuse to give his light unto you; and also the moon and the stars; and there shall be no light upon the face of this land, even from the time that he shall suffer death, for the space of three days to the time that he shall rise again from the dead."

3) In the time tradition used by the Jews of Christ's day (and still in use in many Jewish congregations today), every day began at sunset and lasted until the next sunset. That means, that if you did something during the day on a Friday, at sunset it became Saturday. A Jewish night always preceded the day. That is, all of the night preceded all of the day.

Traditional Interpretation

Let us first consider the traditional interpretation of the time frame of Christ's death/resurrection. Christ was, according to tradition, crucified on a Friday afternoon. He died before the sun set (probably about 6 pm) and they needed to get Him down off the cross before sunset because it was unlawful for Him to be on the cross on the Sabbath (Saturday). He probably died about 4 or 5 pm leaving them at most 1-2 hours to get Him off the cross and into the tomb.

Now some suppose that the days changes were like they are now and the new day began at midnight and so Christ would be in the tomb Friday night, but IF that were the case, they would have had 7-8 hours to get Him into the tomb. They did not, they had a short time because at sunset the Sabbath began (Saturdays begin with the night, and Friday's night was long past - what we would call Thursday evening).

The supposition is that Christ lay in the tomb a little bit of Friday day (1-2 hours), Friday night, all day Saturday (day and night), Sunday night and possibly 1-2 hours on Sunday day (1-2 hours after sunrise). That would have Christ in the tomb for three days and three nights, but we have to ask ourselves whether this holds up,

Problems with the Traditional Interpretation

1) Christ could not have been the tomb on Friday night because Friday night ended at sunrise on Friday morning. So by the time Christ died, there was no Friday night for him to be in the tomb.

2) In the Book of Mormon Samuel the Lamanite prophesies that the three days of darkness was from His death until His resurrection. Three days generally can be considered to be 72 hours, but to be generous it could be anywhere between 60 hours to 84 hours (2-1/2 days - 3-1/2 days). What does the traditional interpretation allow us? Maybe 2 hours of Friday, 24 hours on Saturday, 12 hours Sunday night, and maybe 2 hours Sunday day for a total of 40 hours. Is 40 hours even close to the minimum of 60 hours we need for three days? No it is not, not even close. (Personally, I believe Christ was resurrected at sunrise on Sunday which subtracts 2 hours from the 40 hours)

How do we reconcile this? (Please read carefully here - stay with me!

There is something we need to consider in this problem, and that is Passover. Now Passover today is usually celebrated for only one day, but in Christ's time it was a weeklong festival/feast (LDS Bible Dictionary) and the first day of Passover was considered a Sabbath as was the last day (7th day) considered a Sabbath - and this was regardless of the actual day of the week it fell upon. But it did not override the usual Sabbath. So during the two weeks around Passover you could have four Sabbaths within a 15 day period.

In the Gospel of John, chapter 19:31 it states: "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,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and they might be taken away."

The interesting word in this verse is 'high.' Just what might that mean? You could say that every Sabbath was holy and so a Sabbath is a 'high' day, but if that is the case, the use of the word 'high' is redundant and is unneeded. A footnote in that verse states: "Jesus arose on the first day of the week. The previous day was the weekly Sabbath. The day before the Sabbath, being also the day after the Passover meal, could be the 'high' day." I do not want to set myself up to be an expert who can automatically override the footnote, but the operative word is "could." That tells me that the author of the footnote is stretching to find some explanation for the word 'high' day. That footnote author is not automatically correct either.

If Passover week began on a Saturday that year, then that day was already a Sabbath (the day before Palm Sunday) and the last day of Passover would have been a Sabbath also, the 7th day would be a Friday. So that weekend there would have been two Sabbaths next to each other.

Therefore, if Christ was crucified on a Thursday, the day before the special Sabbath of Passover, they would have had to get Him off the cross before sunset when the special Passover Sabbath (high day), Friday, began. Then He would have been in the tomb a small part of Thursday (1-2 hours), all day Friday (24 hours), all day Saturday (24 hours), 12 hours of Sunday night (what we would think of as early Sunday morning) and then arise at sunrise Sunday - 3 days and 3 night and 62 hours which is well within the acceptable time frame for three days.

I know this may see a radical idea, and its acceptance is not really all that important in the grand scheme of things, but it does seem to harmonize what seems like inconsistencies in the scriptures.

I expect a lot of feedback - I want to learn from that feedback. Please do NOT say "I agree" or "I disagree," but please tell me why.

If you put forward alternates/rebuttals, please address 1) 3 days/3nights; 2) days beginning at sunset; 3) how long the Nephites 3 days of darkness were- meaning - how many hours. I feel these three issues need to be adequately addressed/explained for an alternative theory to compete with what I just put forth.

What is interesting is the Bible Chronology in the LDS scriptures does not list the names of the days of the week, just a countdown of days to the crucifixion.

The supposed Wednesday before there is no account of anything happening... maybe because the events we think of as Thursday actually happened that day and passover actually began on Thursday?

Here is another site that has the crucifixion starting on Wednesday and the Resurrection on Saturday after Sunset...

With graphic


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