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Friday versus Thursday Crucifixion.

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Question:   I just read your piece about Christ being crucified on Friday and it leads me to question your ministry. As I have been taught, Christ was in the grave for three whole days and nights, and that is impossible unless he was crucified on Thursday. When the Bible says “three days and three nights”, that is exactly what it means, not more and not less.

Response:  While I have no wish to show any disrespect for your teachers, you should know that the view that our Lord's crucifixion occurred on Friday is by far the majority evangelical view. This may not be evidence (what the Bible says is true regardless of the numbers who believe or disbelieve any particular teaching), but it should be pointed out that good Christians sometimes do disagree on their interpretation of specific Bible passages. If we all confess Jesus Christ having come in the flesh (that is, His deity and His humanity and the purpose of His coming to redeem the world through His death), then in my view we should be willing to have some degree of tolerance for those who hold contrary positions, even when we are sure they are wrong (Eph.4:3; Col.3:14).

Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. 1st John 4:2b-3a

There are many good Christians of excellent reputation and superior credentials who hold the Friday view. The best detailed treatment of this issue (and one which addresses the Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday positions in some detail with many quotations from scripture and Rabbinic sources, and includes significant bibliography on the subject) is Dr. H.W. Hoehner's Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ (Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 1977).

The passage which forms the basis for your objection is Matthew 12:40. But there is much scriptural evidence to suggest that the explanation given on the web page I have posted, Three Days in the Grave, is correct even for this admittedly difficult passage (Hoehner lists, e.g., Gen.42:17-8; 1Ki.20:29 with 2Chron.10:5; Est.4:16 with 5:1; 1Sam.3:12-13). That is to say, "on the third day" refers to the inclusive system of counting that was standard practice in the ancient Mediterranean world (Friday = 1, Saturday = 2, Sunday = 3, i.e., "on the third day").

Furthermore, there are any number of serious problems with the Thursday theory. I leave you with two to consider:

1) Implicit in your objection to this explanation is that with the Friday view we are left with an imprecise "three days and three nights". But if our Lord were crucified on Thursday, you still have a similar problem. For He "gave up His spirit" "about the ninth hour" (Matt.27:45-46), that is, at about 3 or 4 P.M. But we know that He had already risen from the dead when Mary Magdalene went to visit the tomb "early on the first day of the week while it was still dark" (Jn.20:1). Even if the tomb were some distance away, she would have gotten there by around 8 A.M. or so. This would still leave us 6 to 8 hours short of a full 72 hours "in the grave".

2) We know that the night before Jesus was crucified was the Passover (Matt.26:17-19; Mk.14:12-16; Lk.22:15; Jn.18:28). The Passover, of course, began at evening and extended into the daylight hours of the following day. It was without question during these hours of daylight, the day part of Passover, that our Lord was crucified. We also know that this day was, in addition to being Passover, also "the Day of Preparation" (Greek, paraskeue): John 19:31; 19:42. Now "the Day of Preparation" is by definition the day before the Sabbath, namely Saturday. For it is the day when all preparations had to made for the Sabbath, namely Friday (hence Paraskeue is the Modern Greek word for Friday). Thus a serious problem with the Thursday crucifixion theory is that it generates three Sabbaths in a row, not two, since we know that the day before the crucifixion was Passover and the following day was a Day of Preparation for the immediately following Sabbath: i.e., Passover-Sabbath (Wed.), the Day of Preparation/crucifixion (Thurs.), ?Extra Sabbath?/Day of Preparation (Fri.), Normal Sabbath (Sat.). How can we explain that extra Sabbath? It is true that the Feast of Unleavened Bread began the day after Passover, and that this too is a Sabbath, so, theoretically, one could and sometimes does find in the Jewish calendar three Sabbaths in a row, but even this is different from the implied hypothesis above, namely, "Sabbath - non-Sabbath - Sabbath - Sabbath", and I cannot see how that can made to match the evidence. On the other hand, if we accept that the reason why "the day of that Sabbath was a great [one]" (Jn.19:31) as being the fact that it was a "double Sabbath" (i.e., being Saturday and also the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread which began immediately after Passover), then we find all difficulties removed. All the best evidence points to the Friday crucifixion in my view (while the supposed problems with it are entirely explainable as detailed in the posting you reference: How could Christ have been three days and nights in the grave?).

I am happy to answer any questions you may have about this - as far as I am able.  Please see also the following links:

The Three Days in the Grave (in Bible Basics 4A: Christology)

Wednesday, Thursday or Friday?

Wednesday Crucifixion?

Offered in Christian love,

Bob Luginbill

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