Saturday, February 14, 2009

On what day of the week was Jesus crucified?

Traditionally, the Church has set the day of the crucifixion on Friday. This may be because of the scriptures that say He was crucified on “the day before the Sabbath” (Mk 15:42 et al.) However, there is another Sabbath – the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread which is the day after Passover. (Ex 12:16; Lev 23:7; Num 28:18) So the referenced Sabbath may be the “High Sabbath” of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

A clue is given in Matthew 12:39-40: “But He answered and said to them, "An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE SEA MONSTER, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

The latest Jesus could have been resurrected is the following Sunday because the women came to the tomb and found it empty: “Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. … "He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying" – Matthew 28:1,6. If the “sign of Jonah” is meant to be taken literally, then the latest that Jesus could have been crucified is Thursday (Day/Night 1: Thursday-Friday, Day/Night 2: Friday/Saturday, Day/Night 3: Saturday/Sunday.)

It is also possible that He rose sometime earlier on Saturday (since there weren’t witnesses on that day) so it could be that He was crucified on Wednesday. However, if this is the case, He would have most likely have had to enter Jerusalem on Saturday, which would be a violation of the Sabbath because of His riding of the donkey.

Conclusion: If the “sign of Jonah” is meant literally, it is most likely that Jesus was crucified on Thursday.

When was Passover in the year 30 CE?

Although we don’t know for sure, many scholars date Jesus’ death and resurrection to the year 30 CE. If this is true, what is the most likely day and date for Passover (and the crucifixion) in that year?

Before the Second Temple was destroyed in 70 CE, the beginning of each month was determined by observation of the crescent moon. The beginning of the year, Aviv (אביב‎), was determined by the state of growth of the barley crop. It usually reaches the aviv stage in March or April each year. Because weather plays a big role in determining both the beginning of the month and the year, we can’t know for certain when these determinations were made in the year 30.

The new moon in March that year occurred on Wednesday, March 22nd at 7:50 PM ( by the Julian calendar. Since sunset is about 6:00 PM it could not be seen that night. The next night (Thursday) the Moon would be about 22 hours old. The record for seeing a new moon with the unaided eye is about 15 hours old ( so it is fairly likely that it would be spotted that night, weather permitting. If it was seen Thursday night after sunset, the first day of the month of Aviv (Nisan) would be Friday.

If all of these assumptions are true, then Passover, occurring on the 14th of Nisan, would have been on Thursday, April 6th 30 CE.