Controversy continues as to the day of crucifixion and resurrection. That these events truly happened are generally believed by many.
But, does it matter when?
Respectfully, I think it does… to a certain extent but should not be for debate and a distraction to the main message that, in fact, they happened as prophesied that his death (Col. 1:2)is for our reconciliation and his resurrected life (Romans 5:10)is for our eventual salvation. Yes, we have to be reconciled to the Father first, before we will be saved “with his resurrected life”.
Fundamental issues to resolve are:
1. Three days and three nights, Jesus was dead as Jonah was, in the belly of the fish.
The popular teaching that Jesus died on Friday towards sunset and resurrected on Sunday, early sunrise may need to be re-evaluated because from the end of Friday (sunset) to the beginning(sunrise)of Sunday wil only account to 1 day, from “even-to-even” as day is biblically counted from Genesis, as in Genesis 1:8.
As written, ““For as Jonah 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).
“Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.”(Jonah 1:17).
“Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish’s belly, And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice. For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me. Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple. The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head. I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God. When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple. They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy. But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD. And the LORD spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.” (Jonah 2:1-10)
The preceding narrative suggests that Jonas cried (Jo.2:2) as Jesus “cried out”(Matt.27:50) before they died and both “brought up my (to) life from corruption(death)” ( Jo. 2:6; Lu.24:3) as both were resurrected, exactly and precisely, “three days and three nights”.
Yes, Jonas died and was swallowed by a “big fish” to be regurgitated back to life at the “banks of Nineveh”. Yet, some Christian preachers teach from the pulpit that Jonas did not die and was alive in the belly of the “big fish” because Jesus, being God, could not have died and therefore did not resurrect from death… a circuitous and erroneous logic.
Why is this of a seminal and crucial event? Because the Jonas event is the only proof to that “evil and adulterous generation” and to all generations, that Jesus is the Messiah (Matt.12:39-40;16:4). Without this proof that it happened the way he described it, will cast doubt about him being the prophesied Savior.
2. Which Sabbath was referred to, annual or weekly?
In Lu. 23:54-56 “And that day was the “preparation”, and the sabbath drew on. And the women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid. And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the “sabbath day” according to the commandment.”
Since Christ is the Lamb of God (Jn. 1:29) and our Passover (I Cor. 5:7), then he had to be sacrificed on Nisan 14. According to Ex. 12:3-11, Nisan 14 is the day the Passover Lamb was killed. Following that day, starting sunset to sunset for counting a day, is the 1st Day of Unleavened Bread, Nisan 15. This feast of unleavened bread has to be observed for 7 days, with the 1st and 7th day, as “annual Sabbath“, and not weekly sabbath or Saturday; hence the error of Friday Crucifixion or death of Jesus Christ.
Jesus was killed on “preparation day” (Passover day) and was buried towards the end of that day, Nisan 14, as the annual “Sabbath drew on“, Nisan 15.
The women had to “rest” that “annual” Sabbath of rest, Nisan 15, “according to the commandment” and therefore has to “prepare spices and ointments” sometime Nisan 16, a non-sabbath day. Then they rested on a “weekly” Sabbath (Saturday) Nisan 17.
There were 2 Sabbaths that week and year, an annual and weekly Sabbath of rest.
3. What day did Christ resurrect and when was the crucifixion ?
Notice that Mary, Joanna, Mary Magdalene and other women were bringing the spices and ointments “very early in the morning the 1st day of the week”(Sunday, Nisan 18), and the body was “not found”, the “stone that sealed the tomb rolled down” and “Peter running towards the sepulcher” confirmed this (Lu. 24:1-12).
With the preceding facts, one can see clearly that following the “only sign of Jonas” having been buried towards the end of the day(sunset), Jesus must have resurrected after complete “3 days and 3 nights” also towards the end of the day(sunset). Since the “body was not found “very early morning” of Sunday the 1st day of the week, Nisan 18, therefore the resurrection was Nisan 17, a weekly Sabbath, towards the end of that day, sunset. The crucifixion or death of Christ had to be Nisan 14 (Passover killed), Wednesday, before the “annual” Sabbath, Nisan 15. Additionally, prophecy in Daniel says:
Dan. 9:27: “And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease..,”
4. What is the “third day” referred to in the “Emmaus walk” narrative?
This day could not be Sunday the first day of the week as this was the 4th day from crucifixion and burial, not the 3rd day.
The narrative states that 2 disciples reached Emmaus on the 3rd day. The “third day” was the 3rd from Sunday when they started the trip from Jerusalem (Sunday, Monday, Tuesday). The “day was far spent” (Tuesday towards sunset and to begin the following start of Wedneday nightime) so they invited the resurrected Jesus to eat with them. And they started to rest that Wednesday night as it was the start of the 7th day of Unleavened bread, an annual sabbath, also a “rest day“. See also, Feast of Unleavened Bread in Lev 23:5-8 proving that Nisan 15 and Nisan 21 are annual or high Sabbaths.
Therefore, the “third day” has to be after Sunday, i.e., towards the end of Tuesday, the day prior to the beginning of Wednesday, the annual Sabbath Nisan 21(last day of UB). This then makes the “Emmaus walk” 3 days long, no matter how many miles the “distance from Jerusalem to the true Emmaus village”.
5. What year and date was the crucifixion/resurrection?
Knowing that Nisan 14 crucifixion was Wednesday and Nisan 17 was Saturday, can the calendar at that time confirm these days? The best calendar to show the years of Jesus’ ministry can be accessed in:
Notice that in Molad years 23, 26, 30 and 33 AD, Nisan 14 (Crucifixion) was on Wednesday. Therefore, Nisan 17 towards sunset was Saturday, weekly Sabbath , when he was resurrected. And, on Nisan 18 Sunday the first of the week, Jesus’ “body was not found”. As to which exact year, one may have to research further.
Moreover, according to Lu. 3:23, Jesus was about 30 years old when he began his ministry after baptism at river Jordan which lasted 3 1/2 years. As E. Martin and others (1, 2,3) suggested that Jesus was born on Rosh Hashanah, Sept 11, 3BC, then his ministry was from 27 AD-31AD. Taking all things into consideration, then the year most likely was on 30 AD , month of March or April and his birthday may have to be re-evaluated. See also: https://jamestabor.com/jesus-died-on-a-thursday-not-a-friday/.
As Jonah was dead in the belly of the “big fish” for “3 days and 3 nights“ is the only proof given by Jesus to the “adulterous generation” and to all generations, that He is the Messiah, Son of God, he had to be dead in the tomb also for “3 days and 3 nights”. Teaching on this subject have been upended by a predominant Christian institutions that maintain Friday Crucifixion because of the error in concluding that the day after his death and burial was a weekly sabbath rather than annual Sabbath.
Notwithstanding the day, week and year are controversial, altogether and whatever the truth behind the facts of crucifixion and resurrection, the key message is:
Jesus is the Messiah/Passover who was crucified and resurrected for us.
As in Romans 5, Jesus’ death took on for all humanity the consequence of sin (accounted to one man Adam) which is eternal death, so that also one “man Christ Jesus” would reconcile us to the Father. Having been reconciled by Jesus’ death as a Passover, his resurrection to life (being alive) will be the occasion for the Father to gift him the Holy Spirit of power to create his church on an ongoing creation.
Original post: April 21, 2015
Modified and reposted April 1, 2021
Also, April 9, 2023 Easter
1. Martin, Ernest: Star that Astonished the World, 2nd Ed; ISBN 0-945657-87-0, 1995
2. Retrieved from:http://cortright.org/revsign.htm
3. Retrieved from:http://cortright.org/birth.htm