Wednesday, March 31, 2010

"When Did Jesus Die?" or "The Myth of Good Friday"

"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." - Matthew 12:40

Now you might be better at mathematics than I (this is not saying much), but even you can not put three days and nights (even it you switch the order to the more Jewish "nights and days") between a Good Friday crucifixion and an Easter Sunday resurrection.

The Catholic tradition of Jesus dying on a Friday can be largely blamed on a misunderstanding of the word "sabbath". "Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings." - Leviticus 23:3

If you looked at this passage in Mark chapter fifteen, assuming that the "sabbath" meant "Saturday", a burial on Friday would be the only logical conclusion: "And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, Joseph of Arimathaea, an honourable counsellor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus." - Mark 15:42-43

But what if your idea of the sabbath always meaning the seventh day, was incorrect? What if there was more than one type of sabbath in the Bible? What if you thought of "sabbath" as meaning a "holy day when no work was allowed"? There are other sabbaths, relating to the Hebrew Feasts, described in Leviticus 23:4-44. While the Passover is not a sabbath day when no work is allowed to be done ("an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein"), there are days besides Saturday alone that are sabbath days.

So what are these other sabbaths? They deal with other Jewish holidays (holy days): "And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread ...In the first day ye shall have an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein. ... in the seventh day is an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein." - Lev. 23: 6-8 "Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the feast of tabernacles...the first day shall be an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein. Seven days ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD: on the eighth day shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD: it is a solemn assembly; and ye shall do no servile work therein." - Lev. 23: 34-36

If Jesus was buried, as He stated, for three days and nights, when did He die? A case can be made for a Wednesday or a Thursday crucifixion, but Friday is simply impossible, nor is it necessary once the sabbaths are fully understood.

A timeline could be made for Jesus' death on Thursday (knowing that Jesus didn't even die until 3:00pm), of Thursday night, Friday, Friday night, Saturday, Saturday night, Sunday being interrupted by the scriptures "very early in the morning". A Wednesday schedule would be Wednesday night in the tomb, Thursday, Thursday night, Friday, Friday night, Saturday (three full nights and days), and then Jesus arose sometime between 6pm Saturday and 6am Sunday.

If the crucifixion was on the Passover, it was automatically the day before a sabbath, no matter what day it was on, because the high sabbath day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread was the next day. It is worth noting that if Jesus finished His word of redemption on the Passover, it was a feast day, but not a sabbath day. Likewise, another feast day, the Feast of First Fruits, (not a sabbath day), would be the day on which Jesus rose from the grave.

A unique argument for a Thursday crucifixion comes from observing Mary Magdalene. Why did she wait until Sunday to go to the tomb to annoint Jesus' body? If Thursday was the day of the crucifixion, then Friday would have been the high sabbath, and Saturday would have been the weekly sabbath (making it impossible for her to go on Friday or Saturday), leaving Sunday as the first “working” day she could have made the trip.

"And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun. And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre? And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away..." - Mark 16:1-4a

Baptists do not celebrate his death every week. Instead we focus on His victory over death on Sunday, the Lord's Day, when He arose from the dead. Sunday is not the "Christian Sabbath", and the weekly sabbath was not mysteriously moved to Sunday from Saturday. Sunday is the Lord's Day, and we hold services in His name because He lives!