Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):
Was Yeshua the Messiah Really in the Grave for Three Days and Three Nights?
Most of Christianity believes the Messiah was crucified on a Friday and resurrected on a Sunday -- while a select few believe that the Messiah was put to death on a Wednesday and rose from the dead on a Saturday. Who is right? Or, are both groups wrong? A correct understanding of the original Greek and the lunar-based calendar as employed by the Jews and Christians of the 1st century, reveals that the days of the week, as we know them today, were not in use at that time and evidence indicates that the Messiah died on a Wednesday and was resurrected on a Friday in the pagan Gregorian calendar of today.
by John D. Keyser
According to the New Testament gospels Yeshua the Messiah performed many miracles during his brief three-year ministry in the land of Israel. Many of his fellow Jews came to believe in him when they saw such signs and wonders being performed. The Pharisees and Sadducees, however, refused to believe in him and, although his miracles were widely known in the land, they often pressed him to perform signs to prove his Messiahship. An instance of this occurred in Matthew 16:1 where "the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and testing him asked that he would show them a sign from heaven." On one occasion Yeshua answered them by saying that he would give them only one sign --
An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign shall be given to it except the SIGN OF THE PROPHET JONAH. For as Jonah was THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS in the belly of the whale, so shall the Son of man be THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS in the heart of the earth" -- Matthew 12:39-40.
According to William F. Dankenbring --
This seems like plain language, in English. Three days and three nights would constitute 72 hours, since there are 24 hours in a whole day. Jesus Himself said elsewhere, "Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world" (John 11:9). Since the Messiah Himself defines a day as equating twelve hours, then the night would also equal twelve hours, and the two added together would be 24 hours. That is simple arithmetic. Three days and three nights, then, would be 3X12=36 hours of day, and 3X12=36 hours of night, and 36 + 36 = 72 hours. As Sherlock Holms would say, "Elementary, my dear Watson!" (How Long Was Jesus Christ in the Grave?).
Well, my dear Mr. Dankenbring -- it's not as elementary as you would like to think! A little further research beyond the superficial would reveal the fact that phrases or figures of speech in the ancient Greek and Hebrew cannot always be understood and applied in today's English with the same apparent meaning.
Jonah was one of the prophets of Israel, and he had been called by YEHOVAH God to warn the Assyrian city of Nineveh of its impending doom unless it repented and turned to YEHOVAH. However, Jonah didn't want the job and fled on a ship to Tarshish. During the voyage a great storm began to threaten the ship, and he was thrown overboard by the crew in an attempt to calm the waves. Jonah was swallowed by a great fish and, after three days, was brought up alive to travel on to Nineveh.
Yeshua spoke of this three day internment in the stomach of the fish as "the SIGN of Jonah" and said that it was the ONLY sign he was prepared to give to the unbelieving Jews.
So EXACTLY what is this "sign of Jonah" that the Messiah gave to his unbelieving generation as a proof of his Messiahship? Most churches today suppose the Messiah was crucified on a Friday and was resurrected around sunrise on the following Sunday morning -- hence the Good Friday, Easter Sunday tradition. Most Wednesday crucifixionists firmly believe that the sign consisted not only of the resurrection itself which Yeshua, like Jonah, would experience after a temporary burial, but primarily of an EXACT PERIOD of 72 hours in the grave after his death.
Three Days and Three Nights
This conviction can also be found in the pages of a booklet published by Ambassador College in the early 1950s. Entitled The Resurrection Was Not on Sunday, this booklet proceeds to say that "Jesus offered but one evidence [of His Messiahship]. That evidence was not the fact of the resurrection itself. It was the length of time He would repose in His grave, before being resurrected" (p.4).
The implication of this statement is clearly underscored in the very next paragraph which reads: "Jesus staked His claim to being your Savior and mine upon remaining exactly three days and three nights in the tomb. If He remained just three days and three nights inside the earth, He would prove Himself the Savior -- if He failed in this sign, He must be rejected as an imposter."
Statements such as these clearly reveal the fundamental importance many people attach to a 72-hour entombment of the Messiah. "This conviction," states Samuele Bacchiocchi, "rests on the assumption that when 'days and nights' are explicitly mentioned in the Bible, they represent LITERAL 24 HOUR DAYS. Appeal is made to the creation week where each day consists of 'evening and morning' that is, of a day and a night" (The Time of the Crucifixion and Resurrection).
Those who believe in the 72 hour entombment argue that in the "Good Friday-Easter Sunday" scenario there was only one day in which Yeshua was in the grave -- namely Saturday -- and that this period covered only two nights, namely Friday night and Saturday night. They thus endeavor to show that the "Good Friday-Easter Sunday" tradition violates the Sign of Jonah in respect of the time factor that Yeshua mentioned.
Unfortunately, in so doing they completely overlook the fact that there was a big difference between Hebrew speech in the first century and English speech in the 20th century. They fail to make allowance for the fact that in those times, nearly two thousand years ago, the Jewish people COUNTED ANY PART OF A DAY AS A WHOLE DAY when computing any consecutive periods of time. Since Yeshua was laid in the tomb towards the end of the Preparation Day (day before the weekly Sabbath), was there throughout the Sabbath, and only rose sometime before dawn of the first day of the week (the first day of the week having officially started at sunset on the Sabbath according to the Jewish reckoning), there can be NO DOUBT that he was in the tomb for a period of three days.
Writes Samuele Bacchiocchi --
The literal interpretation of the phrase "three days and three nights" as representing an exact period of 72 hours ignores the abundant Biblical and Rabbinical evidence on the IDIOMATIC USE of the phrase "a day and a night," to refer not to an exact number of hours or of minutes, but simply to a calendrical day, whether complete or incomplete. Matthew, for example, writes that Jesus "fasted forty days and forty nights" in the wilderness (Matt. 4:2). The same period is given in Mark 1:13 and Luke 4:2 as "forty days," which does not necessarily require forty complete 24 hour days" (The Time of the Crucifixion and Resurrection, chapter 2).
Bacchiocchi goes on to say that "it is important to note that in Biblical times a fraction of a day or of a night was reckoned INCLUSIVELY as representing the whole day or night. This method of reckoning is known as 'INCLUSIVE RECKONING'" (ibid.).
The ignorance of the Jewish method of computing periods of days and nights and their contemporary colloquialisms lead those who believe in the 72-hour entombment to make a serious mistake about Yeshua's statement, and they proceed to make much the same mistake about his prophecy that he would be three nights in the tomb as well. Notes John Gilchrist: "The expression three days and three nights is the sort of expression that we never, speaking English in the twentieth century, use today. We must obviously therefore seek its meaning according to its use as a Hebrew colloquialism in the first century and are very likely to err if we judge or interpret it according to the language structure or figures of speech in a very different language in a much later age" (What Indeed Was the Sign of Jonah?).
We, speaking English in the 20th century, never speak in terms of days and nights. If someone decides to go on vacation for, let's say, about two weeks, he will say he is going for two weeks, or for fourteen days, or (in the British countries) for a fortnight. I don't recall ever meeting anyone who speaks the English language say that he will be gone fourteen days and fourteen nights! THIS WAS SIMPLY A FIGURE OF SPEECH IN THE HEBREW OF OLD. Therefore, right from the very start, we must exercise caution because, if we do not use such figures of speech, we cannot presume that they had, in Yeshua's day, the meanings that we would naturally assign to them today. We must elicit the meaning of Yeshua's prophecy in the CONTEXT OF THE TIMES in which it was given.
Not only that, but we must also realize that the figure of speech, as used in the Hebrew language, always had the SAME NUMBER of days and nights. Moses fasted forty days and forty nights (Exodus 24:18). Jonah was in the fish three days and three nights (Jonah 1:17). Job's so-called friends sat with him seven days and seven nights (Job 2:13). It is evident that no Jew of Yeshua's day would have spoken of "seven days and SIX nights," or "three days and TWO nights" -- even if this was the period of time he was describing. The COLLOQUIALISM always spoke of an EQUAL NUMBER OF DAYS AND NIGHTS and, if a Jew wished to speak of a period of three days which covered only two nights, he would have to speak of three days and three nights. A good example of this found in the book of Esther, where the queen said that no one was to eat or drink for three days, night or day (Esther 4:16), but on the third day, when only two nights had passed, she ended the fast by going into the king's chamber.
Here are a few more examples from the Bible and from Rabbinic sources to demonstrate the inclusive reckoning usage: In I Samuel 30:12 we find the story of an abandoned Egyptian servant who "had not eaten bread or drunk water for three days and three nights." The idiomatic usage of this expression is clearly shown by the following verse where the Egyptian servant complains that his master left him behind "three days ago" (verse 13). Obviously, if the "three days and three nights" were meant to be taken literally, then the hapless servant should have said that he had been left behind FOUR DAYS before!
Explicit examples for inclusive day reckoning can be found in Rabbinic literature. In the Jewish Talmud (Shabbath 9, 3; cf.) and the Babylonian Talmud (Pesahim 4a) we read about Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah, who lived around 100 A.D., making the following statement: "A day and a night are an Onan ['a portion of time'] and THE PORTION OF AN ONAN IS AS THE WHOLE OF IT."
Records Bacchiocchi --
There are...instances in Rabbinic literature where the "three days and three nights" of Jonah 1:17 are combined with Old Testament passages which mention events that took place "in the third day."
"It is in this light," writes Gerhard Dilling in the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, "that we are to understand Matthew 12:40" (vol. II, p.950, article "hemera").
The Jewish Encyclopedia underscores the fact that the practice of inclusive day reckoning is still in vogue among Jewish people today: "In Jewish communal life part of a day is at times reckoned as one day; e.g., the day of the funeral, even when the latter takes place late in the afternoon, is counted as the first of the seven days of mourning; a short time in the morning of the seventh day is counted as the seventh day; circumcision takes place on the eighth day, even though on the first day only a few minutes remained after the birth of the child, these being counted as one day" (vol. IV, p.475).
With this knowledge we can plainly see that "three days and three nights" -- in Jewish terminology -- did not necessarily imply a full period of three actual days and three actual nights, but was simply a COLLOQUIALISM used to cover any part of the first and third days. States John Gilchrist --
The important thing to note is that an equal number of days and nights were always spoken of, even if the actual nights were one less than the days referred to. As we do not use such figures of speech today we cannot pass HASTY JUDGMENTS on their meaning, nor can we force them to yield the natural interpretations that we would place on them" (What Indeed Was the Sign of Jonah?).
The Bible itself offers conclusive proof that when Yeshua told the Jews he would be three days and three nights in the ground, they took this to indicate that the fulfillment of the prophecy could be expected after only TWO NIGHTS. On the day after his crucifixion (Nisan 15), that is, after only ONE NIGHT, the Jewish authorities went to Pilate and said:
Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, "After three days I will rise." Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the THIRD DAY, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away...(Matthew 27:63-64).
Today we would understand the expression "after three days" to mean any time on the fourth day but, according to the idiomatic use, the Jews knew this referred to the THIRD DAY and were not concerned to keep the tomb secured through three full nights but only until the third day after just two nights. It should be clear, therefore, that the expressions "three days and three nights" and "after three days" did not in any way mean a full period of 72 hours as we would understand them -- but any period of time covering a period of up to three days!
If someone told you on a Wednesday afternoon that he would return to you after three days, you would probably not expect him back before the following Sunday at the earliest. The Jewish authorities, however, anxious to prevent any fulfillment of Yeshua's prophecy (whether actual or contrived), were only concerned to have the tomb secured until the third day (i.e., Friday in our time -- assuming he was crucified on a Wednesday) because they knew that the expressions "after three days" and "three days and three nights" were not to be taken literally but used according to the figures of speech that they used in their day.
Explains John Gilchrist --
The important question is, not how we read such colloquialisms which have no place in our figures of speech today, but how the Jews read them according to the terminology of their times. It is very significant to note that when the disciples boldly claimed that Jesus had risen from the dead on the third day...after only two nights had passed (e.g. Acts 10:40), NO ONE ever attempted to counter this testimony...by claiming that three nights would have to pass before the prophecy could be deemed to be fulfilled. The Jews of those times knew their language well...(What Indeed Was the Sign of Jonah?).
Some might continue to argue that the phrase "three days and three nights" (Matthew 12:40) proves that the Wednesday through Saturday theory is the correct one. This statement, however, is wholly based on assumption -- not fact! First of all, the way that the Wednesday-Saturday theory is counted demands that the phrase be inverted from the way it actually is. The count to this theory STARTS WITH NIGHT (Wednesday night, Thursday, Thursday night, Friday, Friday night, Saturday). We should be able to recognize instantly that the phrase is NOT "three nights and three days" but it is "three days and three nights." The Wednesday to Saturday theory demands that we ignore the sequence of counting as given in YEHOVAH God's Word, the Scriptures -- beginning with the day first! If we use the Biblical sequence of counting, we would get four days and three nights!
Second of all, the long-standing authority for the interpretation that this phrase refers to a full 72 hours is E.W. Bullinger ALONE. But, are the speculations of Bullinger, a 19th-century linguist, to be taken as final authority? I hope not, for his theory is found to be unsupportable -- as are many other of his hypotheses. To demand that it be exactly 72 hours the scriptures would have to say something like "exactly, a full three days and three nights" or "from such and such an hour to such and such an hour" -- which they definitely do not!
What, Then, Was the Sign of Jonah?
The interpretation that views the sign of Jonah as being an exact period of 72 hours in the grave has been discredited by the evidence we have just covered. We would now like to show that the sign of Jonah consisted NOT in a 72-hour entombment but IN THE MIRACLE OF THE RESURRECTION ITSELF!
The first proof is the absence of any time frame in the other two passages mentioning the sign of Jonah -- Matthew 16:4 and Luke 11:29-32. In Matthew 16:4 we read: "A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah." Then, in Luke, we read: "And while the crowds were thickly gathered together, He began to say, 'This is an evil generation. It seeks a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. For as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation...The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here.'"
We should take note of the fact that in the passage from Luke there is no reference whatsoever to the length of time Jonah survived in the great fish's stomach. If the sign of Jonah consisted of the time factor, the meticulous Luke would hardly have ignored it. "The comparison in Luke between Jonah and Christ is not in terms of identical duration of entombment, but of SIMILAR MIRACULOUS RESURRECTIONS: 'as Jonah...so will the Son of man be'" (The Time of the Crucifixion and Resurrection, chapter 3).
Why, then, did the whole city of Nineveh repent and do so in the hope that YEHOVAH would not destroy them? Jewish historians have long been fascinated by this story and have concluded that the ONLY POSSIBLE EXPLANATION was that the Ninevites knew that Jonah had been swallowed up by a great fish as YEHOVAH God's judgment on his disobedience, and that while he would normally die in such circumstances, YEHOVAH kept him alive and, in His mercy, delivered him from the stomach of the fish. This alone explains the seriousness with which they listened to Jonah and their hope of mercy if they repented. It was NOT the length of time that Jonah was within the great fish.
The book of Jonah suggests that Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites because of the miraculous way in which YEHOVAH raised him out of the fish's belly and cast him up alive on the beach. "This experience gave Jonah the compulsion to preach, and the Ninevites the compulsion to repent. In the same way as God's rescue of Jonah revealed Jonah's prophetic mandate which led many Ninevites to repent, SO CHRIST'S RESURRECTION would reveal His Messiahship which would lead many to believe" (ibid.).
The vast majority of the commentaries that I have consulted in preparation for this article AGREE in interpreting the sign of Jonah as being PRIMARILY the sign of Yeshua's resurrection. We read in The New International Commentary, for example, the following: "Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, because he appeared there as one sent by God after having been miraculously saved from the great fish (as it were, raised from the dead) as a proof that he was really sent by God. So also Jesus will by His resurrection prove conclusively that He has been sent by God as the Christ, the promised Redeemer" (Norval Geldenhuys, The Gospel of Luke).
In the Insight On the Scriptures we read --
Rather, he [Christ] told them that the only sign that would be given them was "the sign of Jonah the prophet." (Mt. 12:39-41; 16:4) After about three days in the belly of a huge fish, Jonah had gone and preached to Nineveh. Jonah thereby became a "SIGN" to the capital of Assyria. Jesus' generation had "the sign of Jonah" when Christ spent PARTS OF THREE DAYS in the grave and was resurrected after which his disciples proclaimed THE EVIDENCE OF THAT EVENT. In this, Christ was a sign to that generation (vol. 2, p. 941).
In a similar vein we find, in All the Miracles of the Bible, the following:
Personally, we believe that the miraculous in this transaction was not in Jonah's preservation alive and conscious for three days...in a living prison, BUT IN HIS RESURRECTION AFTER HAVING DIED. We do not doubt for one moment that by the working of Almighty God, he was not able to keep Jonah alive and well in the sea-monster's belly for the period mentioned. A comparison of Matthew 12:40; 16:4 with I Corinthians 15:4 shows that the period of Jonah's stay in the fish was divinely ordered to be a TYPE of Christ's being three days in the heart of the earth. IN BOTH CASES WE AFFIRM THERE WAS DEATH AND RESURRECTION.
This volume goes on to say --
Would not his [Jonah's] emergence ALIVE from the fish greatly influence those Ninevites as Jonah entreated them to repent? It is said that the Florentines looked upon Dante as he passed through their streets with awe, and whispered to each other, "This is the man who has looked into hell." Jonah must have created a similar impression. Here was a prophet BROUGHT BACK FROM HIS PECULIAR GRAVE to preach the message of divine grace, and as the apostles were so dynamic in their witness as they preached "JESUS AND THE RESURRECTION," so Jonah had added power in his preaching AS ONE WHO HAD DIED AND RISEN AGAIN. Not only forgiven but RESTORED TO LIFE and to his office, Jonah is anew commissioned and is now ready to obey. -- By Herbert Lockyer. Zondervan Books, Grand Rapids, MI. Pp. 144-145.
The reasoning of the Jewish historians was correct. Yeshua clearly confirmed the fact that Nineveh's repentance came about as a result of their knowledge of Jonah's ordeal of the preceding days, i.e., his "entombment" in the great fish and his "resurrection" on the sands of the beach! He made this quite plain when He said --
Jonah became a SIGN to the men of Nineveh" (Luke 11:30).
With this pronouncement Yeshua put the seal of authenticity on the story of Jonah's "burial" and "resurrection" and Nineveh's repentance and confirmed that it was historically true. At the same time he also gave credence to the theory that the inhabitants of Nineveh had heard of Jonah's ordeal and remarkable "resurrection" and, as a result, took his message in all seriousness. They thereby hoped for a similar deliverance by turning from their wickedness and repenting before YEHOVAH God. By stating that Jonah had become a SIGN to the people of Nineveh, the Messiah made it perfectly clear that the city knew of YEHOVAH's recent dealings with the rebellious Jewish prophet. This explains the earnestness and rapidity with which the Ninevites repented before YEHOVAH God.
A second significant reason for believing the sign of Jonah consisted primarily of the miracle of Jonah's "resurrection" is found in the passage of John 2:19 where, in response to the same request by the Jews for a sign, Yeshua replied --
Destroy this temple, and in three days I WILL RAISE IT UP.
Once again, Yeshua gave them the sign of Jonah. Once again, we see the period of "three days" -- but now there is an added dimension: He challenges the Jews to destroy the temple and, whereas he earlier spoke of being himself in the heart of the earth for three days, he now apparently speaks of the temple of YEHOVAH God being destroyed for three days and thereafter being restored. So, with some amazement, the Jews said to Yeshua:
It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days? (John 2:20).
That, of course, was a ridiculous question. However, they had asked for a supernatural sign to validate the Messiah's actions and were incredulous when he shot back this answer. If he had said "Destroy this temple and in forty-six years I will build another" he would not have gotten their attention -- after all, what sort of sign would that be? But he said he would do it in ONLY three days. That really grabbed their attention and was assuredly a sign for them to see and behold -- proving that he was indeed all that he claimed to be.
This was probably the most momentous statement that Yeshua ever made, and it made an INDELIBLE impression on the minds of the Jews. Notes John Gilchrist --
When Jesus was brought to trial years later, the two witnesses brought to testify against him both mentioned this remarkable claim. One said, "This fellow said, "I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days" (Matthew 26:61). Another said, "We heard Him say, "I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and WITHIN THREE DAYS I will build another made without hands' (Mark 14:58). Both of these men twisted his statement primarily through a total misunderstanding and inability to perceive the meaning of it. But that it was a claim of great import they realized!
Indeed even when Jesus was nailed to the cross some of the Jewish priests mocked him, saying, "You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself!" (Matthew 27:40). Even some time after Jesus had ascended to heaven the Jews were still talking about his challenge and imagined that it was Christian belief that Jesus would yet come to destroy their holy place (Acts 6:14). -- What Indeed Was the Sign of Jonah?
The tremendous attention paid by the Jews to this statement, "Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up" clearly shows how significant it was. Even as these Jews mocked him, they were totally unaware that they themselves were fulfilling his prophecy by putting him on the tree to die and be raised again on the third day. When Yeshua said "Destroy this temple," he was not, of course, referring to the temple in Jerusalem but to his own body. In his gospel, the apostle John verifies this when he says, "But he spoke of the temple of His body" (John 2:21).
Yeshua stated that it was he, the Son of man, who was to be in the heart of the ground for three days -- and when he addressed the Jews he obviously spoke NOT OF THE TEMPLE in Jerusalem which he had just purified by tossing out the money-changers, but of himself. But why did he refer to himself as the temple? It requires only a little understanding on our part about his ministry and identity to realize the answer. "The Jews wanted him to prove that he was the Messiah and to do this they expected him to show by SIGNS that he was greater than all the other prophets. In his answer Yeshua set out to show them that he was no ordinary prophet.
The Temple in Jerusalem contained the manifestation or Shekinah glory of YEHOVAH, as every Jew of the time knew. What Yeshua was emphatically saying, then, was this: Destroy me, put me to death, and YEHOVAH God my Father will raise me from the dead three days later; I will give you all the proof you will ever need that I am the High Priest of this Temple, the house of God.
By virtue of the parallels between John 2:19 and Matthew 12:40 (in both passages a sign is asked for and given), it is legitimate to conclude that the sign of Jonah is the same in both places -- namely, the sign of the resurrection. This is implicit in the first text, and explicit in the second.
A third reason can be found in the catacombs of Rome where early Christian pictorial representations of the sign of Jonah are common. In numerous frescos The Messiah's resurrection is symbolically represented as Jonah being spewed out of the fish. "In fact," notes Samuele Bacchiocchi, "the scene of Jonah (known as 'Jonah's cycle' because it consists of different scenes) is perhaps the most common symbolic representation of Christ's Resurrection" (The Time of the Crucifixion and Resurrection, chapter 2).
What the Roman catacombs indicate, then, is the fact that the early Christians identified the sign of Jonah with the EVENT of the resurrection -- NOT with its time element. The apostle Paul himself indirectly confirms this view when he writes in Romans 1:4 that Yeshua was "designated Son of God in power...BY HIS RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD."
As a result of all the above considerations we have to conclude that the sign of Jonah given by Yeshua as a proof of his Messiahship consisted PRIMARILY in the event of his future resurrection -- NOT an exact 72-hour entombment. "Christ's Resurrection was the unmistakable vindication of His Messiahship, of which the emergence of Jonah from what was a temporary living burial was in some sense a foreshadowing" (ibid.).
The Road to Emmaus
William F. Dankenbring, in his article How Long Was Jesus Christ in the Grave, goes to great lengths in an attempt to show that the verses in Luke 24, pertaining to the two disciples walking to Emmaus, are in error and should not be taken at face value.
Writes Dankenbring --
One verse in Luke's gospel seems to be a stumbling block for many people. It is verse 21 of chapter 24, where two disciples are journeying to Emmaus on the first day of the week -- Sunday -- a distance of about ten miles from Jerusalem. During their journey, Jesus joins them, but they do not recognize Him. He inquires of them what they are talking about between themselves, and they answer Him:
"Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God, and all the people: And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him. But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: AND BESIDES ALL THIS, TODAY IS THE THIRD DAY SINCE THESE THINGS WERE DONE" (Luke 24:19-21)."
Some point out that this was Sunday -- probably the afternoon. They ask, would this not have been "the third" since Friday? That is, would this Scripture not place the crucifixion on Friday, after all? Sunday is indeed "three days" from Friday, counting inclusively -- that is, Friday as day "one," Saturday as day "two," and Sunday as day "three."
Now first of all -- let's get this concept of weekly days, as we know them today, out of our minds. The Bible DOES NOT say the two disciples were walking the road to Emmaus on a Sunday -- it plainly says "that same day" (Luke 24:13). What "same day"? The day that the disciples found the empty tomb. Luke 24:1 clearly says it was the "first day of the week." We must remember that the Jews of Yeshua's day NEVER used the pagan Greco/Roman names for the days of the week that we do. The Jews NUMBERED THEIR DAYS -- "first day of the week," "second day of the week," etc. Commentators have ASSUMED that "the first day of the week" was the same as Sunday in our time, but this simply is not true.
Records Hutton Webster in his erudite work Rest Days: A Study in Early Law and Morality, "An old and still common theory derives the Sabbath institution from the worship of Saturn, after which planet the first day of the astrological week received its designation. The theory in untenable for more than one reason. In the first place the Hebrews did not name their weekdays after the planets, but indicated them by ordinal numbers. In the second place Saturn's Day [Saturday] BEGAN the planetary week, while the Jewish Sabbath was regarded as the LAST day of the seven, a suitable position for a rest day. And in the third place neither the Hebrews nor any other Oriental people ever worshipped the planet Saturn as god and observed his day as a festival" (p. 243).
Later in his book, on page 307, Hutton concludes: "Human nature, it has been said, is always ready for the SHIFT from fast to feast, FROM SABBATH TO SATURNALIA."
Read our article Have We Been Keeping the Sabbath At the Wrong Time All These Years? for further proof.
Does this verse -- by itself -- contradict the plain and clear verses we have already discussed? Does it contradict Matthew 12:40 and the "three days and three nights" Jesus spent in the grave? Not at all! First of all, let us notice clearly what Jesus and the two disciples are talking about. They were discussing ALL the events of that troubling, awesome week, surrounding the trials, death, crucifixion, and burial of Jesus Christ. This was all considered "News." And this "stranger" they were talking to seemed not to be aware of all that had been happening! So they attempted to "clue Him in," as the saying goes.
They finally said to Him, "Beside ALL THIS, today is the third day since THESE THINGS were done."
Now here, at this juncture, is where Dankenbring, with a sleight of hand that stretches our credulity to a near breaking point, goes on to say --
Let us not assume, as human nature is wont to do. Notice! Matthew records in true sequence the FINAL THINGS that were done, concerning the crucifixion, and burial, of Jesus Christ. He gives us the details. He leaves nothing out! He tells us of the death of Jesus on the cross (Matt.27:50), the veil of the Temple being split in two and a great earthquake, at his death (verse 51), and the coming of Joseph of Arimathea at evening to claim the body of Jesus from Pilate (verse 57-58), how Joseph then buried Jesus' body in his own newly hewn tomb (verses 59-60), with Mary and the other Mary watching (v.61). Now notice what else occurs, BEFORE this story reaches a conclusion!
"NOW THE NEXT DAY, that FOLLOWED the day of preparation..."
Now this would have been the day AFTER the crucifixion and death of Christ, which occurred on Nisan 14, just before sunset. What happened on THIS day?
...the chief priests and Pharisses came together unto Pilate, saying, Sir, we remember that the deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command therefore that the sepulchre be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first.
Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch [that is soldiers under their command, such as the Temple guard]: go your way, make it as sure as you can.
So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch (Matthew 27:62-66).
Dankenbring now takes his great leap in logic by saying --
Now when did these things occur? When was the tomb "sealed," and a strong guard posted to prevent the disciples from stealing the body of Christ? The request was made on the high holy day -- Nisan 15 [this was ALSO the weekly Sabbath, as we will show later] -- the day AFTER the preparation day, when Christ died and was buried (Matt. 27:62).
The actual posting of the guard, and sealing of the tomb, was done on that same day, or immediately following it -- on Nisan 16 -- since that day, Nisan 15, was a holy day [and a weekly Sabbath], and no "servile work" could be done on that day. Therefore, the actual implementation of the order may have been done that evening, after sunset, at the beginning of the next day, which was a normal "work" day...
Now, what did the two men on the journey to Emmaus actually SAY to Jesus? Beside all this, TODAY is the THIRD DAY since these things were DONE (Luke 24:21).
Since WHAT things? EVERYTHING! All the things which had been DONE! And as Matthew clearly shows, those things were the posting of the guard to prevent the disciples from stealing the body of Christ and claiming He had been resurrected!
That occurred probably...immediately after the high holy day...Thus there is NO CONTRADICTION between this passage in Luke and all the other New Testament accounts concerning the burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ! -- How Long Was Jesus Christ in the Grave?
NO CONTRADICTION? Dankenbring must be kidding! He just took this passage from out of Luke 24, VIOLATED it, and then ADDED to it what was never there or intended! Let's look at these verses -- IN THEIR CONTEXT -- and see what they REALLY say!
Now behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem...So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them...And He said to them, "What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?" Then the one whose name was Cleopas answered and said to Him, "Are You the only stranger in Jerusalem, and have You not known THE THINGS which happened there in these days?" And He said to them, "WHAT THINGS?" And they said to Him, "THE THINGS CONCERNING JESUS OF NAZARETH, who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, AND HOW THE CHIEF PRIESTS AND OUR RULERS DELIVERED HIM TO BE CONDEMNED TO DEATH, AND CRUCIFIED HIM. But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, TODAY is the THIRD DAY since THESE THINGS happened. -- Luke 24:13, 15, 17-21.
What were "THE THINGS" that the disciples were talking about, and what were "THESE THINGS" that it was the third day from? "DELIVERED HIM TO BE CONDEMNED TO DEATH, AND CRUCIFIED HIM" of course! Nothing more, and nothing less! Any grammarian with a knowledge of both English and Greek will tell you that "the things" in these verses refer to the condemnation and crucifixion. To take OTHER verses from the Bible and paste them in here to broaden the meaning of "the things" VIOLATES scripture and places the perpetrator in a very serious position with our Heavenly Father.
Notice what Chris Lingle says --
This verse took place after, yet on the same day as the visit of the disciples to the tomb and was spoken by one of the two men who were on the road to Emmaus to the Messiah himself who had asked them why they were saddened. Notice, that TODAY (the one they were on) was the THIRD DAY SINCE these things were done. What things were done? The PRECEDING VERSES tell us -- SINCE the capture, trial, torture and crucifixion of Yahushua the Messiah! And, what day were they then on -- clearly from our analysis of Lk.24:1 it was Sunday [actually, the first day of the week -- the Jews only numbered their days], late in the morning thereabout. Now if we then count backwards from Sunday morning [1st day of the week] three days, it brings us to Friday [actually, the 6th day of the week -- the Preparation Day] with inclusive reckoning and to Thursday [5th day of the week] with exclusive reckoning. Try both ways on your fingers, there is NO WAY to arrive on a Wednesday! -- When Were the True Dates of the Crucifixion and Resurrection? 1997.
The author is here assuming that "the first day of the week" equates to Sunday in our time, but that is a wrong assumption -- more on this later.
Notes Samuele Bacchiocchi:
The literal interpretation of the "three days and three nights" is also discredited by Luke's account of Christ's appearance on Sunday evening to the two disciples who were going to the village of Emmaus. Christ, whom they had not recognized caught up to them and asked them, "What is this conversation which you are holding with each other as you walk?" (Luke 24:17).
The two men, surprised at Jesus' unawareness of what had happened in Jerusalem, recounted to Him "how our chief priests and rulers delivered him [Christ] to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is not the third day since this happened" (Luke 24:21).
Continues Bacchiocchi --
To appreciate the significance of the last statement, notice must be taken of two facts. First, the statement was made on the "evening" of the first day when the day was "far spent" (Luke 24:29). Second, "the third day" refers specifically to the events mentioned in the immediate context, namely, Christ's condemnation and Crucifixion. It is obvious, then, that if Christ had been crucified on a Wednesday afternoon, those two disciples could not have referred to that event on a Sunday night, saying: "It is now the third day since this happened." According to the Jewish inclusive day-reckoning, it would have been the FIFTH day and not the third. (The Time of the Crucifixion and Resurrection, Chapter 2)
While Bacchiocchi is mistaken in his belief that the crucifixion took place on a Friday and the resurrection on a Sunday, his reasoning concerning the "third day" is absolutely correct.
Chronology of the Messiah's Last Days
Let's now take a close look at Yeshua's last few days and see how the chronology provides further evidence of the idiomatic usage of the phrase "three days and three nights." No matter how you look at the gospel accounts of these last few days in the life of Yeshua, the crucifixion, entombment and resurrection are given in CLEAR SEQUENCE and with utmost clarity as Preparation day, Sabbath day and First Day of the Week.
Mark, who writes for a Gentile readership less familiar with Jewish terminology, explains with utmost clarity that Christ was crucified on "the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the [weekly] Sabbath" (Mark 15:42) -- ibid.
Mark, then, is very exact in explaining that the crucifixion took place on the day the Jews called "the day of Preparation" for the Sabbath. The very next day is labeled by Mark as the "sabbath" (Mark 16:1) which in turn is clearly followed by the "first day of the week" (Mark 16:2). It should be crystal clear that Mark's chronological sequence leaves ABSOLUTELY NO ROOM for a two-day interval between the crucifixion and resurrection.
For those with open minds and no hidden agendas to keep, Luke similarly makes it crystal clear that the day of the Messiah's crucifixion was followed by a weekly Sabbath. He writes: "That day was the Preparation, and the Sabbath drew near" (Luke 23:54). "By linking the beginning of the Sabbath to the end of the day of Preparation," explains Bacchiocchi, "and the beginning of the "first day of the week" (Luke 24:1) to the termination of the Sabbath (Luke 23:56), Luke LEAVES ABSOLUTELY NO ROOM for two full days to intervene between the Crucifixion and Resurrection."
Now take a look at Matthew 27:57, 62 and 28:1: "Now when evening [of the Preparation Day] had come, there came a rich man from Arimathea...Pilate commanded the body to be given to him...On the next day, which followed the Day of Preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate...Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb."
Looking at the time sequence we find (1) when evening had come [of the Preparation Day] (Nisan 14); (2) on the next day, which followed the Day of Preparation (the Sabbath -- Nisan 15); and (3) now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn (Nisan 16). Here we see the SAME time sequence of three days.
If we examine John's gospel we will, once again, see EXACTLY the same time sequence. Notice! "Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day)...On the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early...and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb" (verses 19:31; 20:1).
There is no surprise here -- we find the EXACT same sequence of events: (1) it was the Preparation Day (Nisan 14); (2) On the Sabbath (Nisan 15) and (3) on the first day of the week (Nisan 16).
The days of the crucifixion, entombment and resurrection are given in CLEAR sequence and with considerable CLARITY in all four gospels as Preparation Day, Sabbath and the first day of the week. There is, as we have already stated, ABSOLUTELY NO ROOM for two full days to intervene between the crucifixion and the resurrection without violating the scriptures by adding or reading into these verses something that is simply not there.
Some among the Churches of God wish to make room for intervening days by claiming there were TWO SABBATHS between the Wednesday crucifixion and Saturday afternoon resurrection. According to their theory the first Sabbath of this period was the first high or holy day of Passover -- which fell on the Thursday; and the second was a weekly Sabbath which supposedly fell on the regular Saturday of the week. To support this theory the adherents point to the fact that the Sabbath in Matthew 28:1 is in the PLURAL form and literally reads "at the end of the Sabbaths." This text is viewed by many as "a vital text" that supposedly "proves that there were TWO Sabbaths that week with a day in between." The first Sabbath (Thursday) allegedly was "the annual high-day Sabbath of the Days of Unleavened Bread" while the second was "the weekly Sabbath, Saturday."
Herbert Armstrong addresses this question in his booklet The Resurrection Was Not on Sunday --
Turn to Matthew 28:1. In the common versions it says, "In the end of the Sabbath," or more correctly, "after the Sabbath." Notice that both of these renderings use the singular -- Sabbath. But in the original Greek the word is in the plural. Fenton renders it correctly by saying, "After the SABBATHS," although the remaining part of the verse he has not translated quite correctly. In a footnote to this text, he says, "The Greek original is in the plural, 'Sabbaths'" (p. 13).
Armstrong now dwells on the question of the spices --
According to Mark 16:1, Mary Magdalene and her companions did not buy their spices to anoint the body of Jesus until after the Sabbath was past. They could not prepare them until after this -- yet after preparing the spices they rested the Sabbath day according to the commandment! (Luke 23:56).
Study these two texts carefully.
There is only one possible explanation: After the annual high-day Sabbath, the feast day of the days of Unleavened Bread -- which was Thursday -- these women purchased and prepared their spices on Friday, and then they rested on the weekly Sabbath, Saturday, according to the commandment (Ex. 20:8-11).
A comparison of these two texts proves there were TWO SABBATHS that week, with a day in between. Otherwise, these texts contradict themselves (ibid., p.13).
William Dankenbring, in his article, also follows this line of reasoning:
This was the end of Nisan 14. The high holy Sabbath drew nigh, when they then celebrated. Luke continues:
And they returned, AND PREPARED SPICES AND OINTMENTS..." (v. 56).
This must have taken some time -- probably hours. They would have had to go to the market probably, purchase the spices, and then prepare them for use. They would have done this after the high holy annual Sabbath, Nisan 15, on which "no servile work could be done." Therefore, since the holy day was from Wednesday sunset to Thursday sunset, and since all markets would be closed during the night, this means that they would have done these things during the daylight hours of Friday. We continue with Luke's account:
...and [they] rested on the sabbath day according to the commandment (v. 56).
This would have been the weekly Sabbath -- the second Sabbath of that awesome week.
Luke then continues the story, as follows:
Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared..." (How Long Was Jesus Christ in the Grave?)
These conclusions reached by Armstrong, Dankenbring and others are TOTALLY UNTENABLE because NOWHERE do the gospels suggest that two Sabbaths intervened (one after another, with a day in between) between the day of the crucifixion and that of the resurrection. The whole scenario about the spices has once again been taken right out of context and twisted, pulled, pushed and stomped on to fit the Wednesday-Saturday myth that these people are trying to promulgate! Although we may never know for sure, the explanation for the apparent contradiction in Mark 16 and Luke 23 can be quite simple. Let's view these verses --
That day was the Preparation, and the Sabbath drew near. And the women who had come with Him from Galilee followed after, and they observed the tomb and how His body was laid. Then they returned and PREPARED SPICES and fragrant oils. And they RESTED ON THE SABBATH according to the commandment (Luke 23:54-56).
Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of Jesus, and Salome BOUGHT SPICES, that they might come and anoint Him (Mark 16:1).
Obviously, in Luke 23, the women already had some spices on hand so they were able to start preparing them BEFORE the weekly Sabbath began at sunset. However, they realized they didn't have enough spices on hand to complete the preparation, so "when the Sabbath was past" they went out and purchased some more to complete the job. Nice and straight-forward -- no need to twist and distort the passages to mean something they clearly do not!
Now let's tackle the question of the "two Sabbaths" which, in principle, Armstrong has right! While it is true that the Sabbath in Matthew 28:1 is in the PLURAL, the proponents of the "3-day and 3-night" theory totally overlook the fact that the apostle John reveals that there were TWO SABBATHS ON ONE DAY -- the weekly Sabbath AND the first high day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread!
That the day after Yeshua's death was a weekly Sabbath can be clearly demonstrated by Luke 23:56, which reads: "On SHABBAT the women rested, IN OBEDIENCE TO THE COMMANDMENT." What "commandment" is this? The FOURTH COMMANDMENT of course! In reference to this verse the Jewish New Testament Commentary makes this clarifying statement: "It is sometimes claimed that the New Testament says nothing about keeping the fourth commandment. This verse contradicts that claim, so it is important for a Jewish understanding of the New Testament. ON SHABBAT THE WOMEN RESTED, IN OBEDIENCE TO THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT (Exodus 20:8-11, Deuteronomy 5:12-15; also Exodus 16). Of course they did! They observed Shabbat EVERY WEEK" (David H. Stern, p. 150). Obviously the WEEKLY SABBATH is the focus of verses 54 and 56.
Now, having established the weekly Sabbath is the focus of these verses, let's go to John 19:31 in the Jewish New Testament and read what the apostle John has to say: "It was the Preparation Day, and the Judeans did not want the bodies to remain on the stake on SHABBAT, since it was an especially important Shabbat." The New King James Version makes it clearer: "Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the [weekly] Sabbath (FOR THAT [WEEKLY] SABBATH WAS A HIGH DAY)." What "high day" was this? My Bible references it to Exodus 12:16 -- the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread! Now consider this -- if that day had been a regular week day, John would have said "FOR THAT DAY WAS A HIGH DAY." But he says "for that SABBATH was a high day"!
The fact that the weekly Sabbath day here mentioned was also the first high holy day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, is understood by numerous researchers. Writes Samuele Bacchiocchi, "Rabbinical sources...indicate that the weekly Sabbath was called a "high day" when it COINCIDED WITH PASSOVER, because, as well stated by Charles C. Torrey, 'its inherent solemnity was greatly heightened by the celebration of the foremost feast of the year.'" (The Time of the Crucifixion and Resurrection, chapter 3). "This information," continues Bacchiocchi, "is important because it disproves the claim that the weekly Sabbath was never called or referred to as a 'high day.'"
H.L. Strack and P. Billerbec, in their book Kommentar zum Neuen Testament aus Talmud und Midrash (Munich, 1922-1928) state that in later Rabbinic literature the seventh-day Sabbath is regarded as a "high day" if it falls on Nisan 15, and they show numerous examples in support of this.
Bo Reicke, author of The New Testament Era: The World of the Bible From 500 B.C. to A.D. 100 understood this when he wrote --
Since a holy day was approaching (Mark 15:42), the Jews asked the procurator to have the bodies taken away (John 19:31-37). Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy member of the Council, saw to Jesus' burial in a tomb that belonged to him...Immediately after the subsequent Sabbath came the morning of the Day of First Fruits, which had to be observed by the presentation of a sheaf (Hebrew, omer) in the Temple (Lev. 23:11) and which was also the day [Nisan 16] from which the Feast of Weeks, celebrated fifty days later, was calculated. On this morning some women sought to show their respect to the Lord by bringing spices and perfumes, but found that he was no longer in the tomb (Matt. 28:6; John 20:2). -- Fortress Press, Philadelphia. 1981, pp. 187-188.
The plural form of the word "Sabbath" is also found in Matthew 28:1: "After the sabbath, when it was growing light on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to view the grave" (The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures). If correctly translated this verse should read -- "After the sabbaths [plural], when it was growing light on the first day of the week..." Also, the phrase "when it was growing light on the first day of the week" is translated from the original Greek, which literally says "to the [day] lighting up into one [first] of sabbaths" -- notice the plural form once again.
The phrase "into one [first] of sabbaths" is a reference to the first day from which the omer count starts in the count to Pentecost -- which count is made up of seven Sabbaths or weeks. This count always begins on Nisan 16.
The exact same thing is found in Mark 16:2 where the Greek literally says: "And exceedingly early to the one [first] [day] of the sabbaths they are coming upon the memorial tomb..." which in English usage reads "And very early on the first day of the week they came to the memorial tomb..." (The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures).
The word "sabbath" is also in the PLURAL in Luke 24:1 and John 20:1, showing that this particular weekly Sabbath was also a high day.
Just in case you believe this is a coincidence, there are many other places in the four gospels that refer to a DOUBLE SABBATH day. At the beginning of his ministry, right after the forty days in the wilderness, the Messiah went to his home town of Nazareth where he entered the local synagogue on the Sabbath day and began to read. Notice! "So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read" (Luke 4:16, New King James Version). If you check the Greek for this verse you will find the word "Sabbath" is in the PLURAL once again -- indicating a DOUBLE SABBATH, i.e. a weekly Sabbath AND a festival high day. Here's the literal translation from the Greek: "And he came into Nazareth, where he was having been reared, and he went in according to the custom to him IN THE DAY OF SABBATHS into the synagogue, and he stood up to read" (The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures).
Some people have tried to say that this was Pentecost (Feast of "Weeks") but the time frame is all wrong. Not only that, but in other parts of the New Testament the word "Pentecost" is used for this day -- see Acts 2:1, 20:16 and I Corinthians 16:8. Since this incident is right after the 40 days in the desert (wilderness) -- this is where the idea of the 40 days of Lent comes from -- this particular weekly Sabbath is the first high day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, that is, Nisan 15. The very passage the Messiah read from Isaiah 49 indicates it was the Passover season.
Within a matter of days the Messiah went down to Capernaum where, once again as his custom was, he entered the local synagogue and began to teach: "And they went their way into Capernaum. No sooner was it the Sabbath than he entered into the synagogue and began to teach" (ibid.). Again, the original Greek shows the word "Sabbath" to be in the PLURAL, indicating another double Sabbath. Note the literal translation from the Greek: "And they are entering into Capernaum. And at once to the SABBATHS having entered into the synagogue he was teaching" (ibid.).
The next mention of a Sabbath in the book of Luke comes at Luke 6:1. Here the word "Sabbath" is in the SINGULAR, indicating a regular weekly Sabbath.
When Did the Resurrection Take Place?
Many of those who espouse the Wednesday crucifixion-Saturday resurrection scenario point to Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:2, Luke 24:1 and John 20:1 to support their contention that Yeshua rose from the dead late Saturday afternoon. Building upon these verses, they have thought that the Wednesday-Saturday construct was an important way of showing that Sunday and Easter were bogus. Sometimes in our zeal to demolish the opposition, however, we invent constructs to further prove the validity of our theories when no such further proof is needed. Such is the case here.
Let's now take a look at these supposed proof texts and see what they REALLY say. In Matthew 28:1 we read: "Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb" (NKJV).
This verse, in the Greek, reads as follows: "But after the sabbaths [plural] as it was dawning into the first of the sabbaths [plural]."
The word here for "after" (opse -- Strong's #3694 and 3796) generally means "late," but can can connote "after" as the context demands. However, as we will see, "after" is the proper understanding within this particular context. If we use "after" for "opse," then "after the sabbaths" clearly refers to after Passover and the weekly Sabbath, both of which fell on the same day (Nisan 15).
Now let's look at the phrase "as it was dawning (epiphoskouse)." This particular phrase obviously refers to the early morning of the first day of the week and NOT the beginning of the Sabbath at evening as suggested by some of the proponents of the Wednesday/Saturday scenario. Therefore, it is also made clear that "opse" refers to "after" here as the context plainly demands. Continuing, let's examine the word "epiphoskouse." According to Strong's #2020, this word means "to begin to grow light -- begin to dawn." Liddell-Scott renders this word "to draw towards dawn" (p. 306).
The phrase "into the first of the sabbaths (sabbaton)" is a reference to the first day to count to Pentecost from -- which is made up of seven sabbaths or weeks. This count always begins on Nisan 16. The word "sabbaton" is an example of a Greek translation from the Hebrew which does not hold a consistent meaning at all times. Although "sabbaton" can mean a weekly or a high (annual) Sabbath, the basic meaning of the Greek word "sabbaton" -- as it appears in the Greek New Testament -- means "a period of seven days, a week" according to Liddell-Scott, page 722.
Therefore, the statement made here in Matthew 28:1 places the coming of the women to the tomb "after the sabbaths" (after the first day of Passover AND the weekly Sabbath -- Nisan 15) and "as it was dawning (drawing towards dawn)" into the first of the Sabbaths (or week(s)). Since it was dawn it could not be "late on the sabbath." As a result, the correct understanding of Matthew 28:1 is that it refers to the morning of the first day of the week. In opposition to the argument that it can still refer to Sabbath morning, this is the ONLY correct way to read the passage. This precise understanding is supported by the Hebrew of Shem Tob.
The Shem Tob is a Hebrew manuscript of Matthew which was found preserved in the Jewish polemical treatise called Even Bohan. This treatise was the work of one Shem Tob ben Isaac ben Shaprut, a Spanish writer who composed his work in 1380. This work was first published by George Howard of the University of Georgia in 1987 under the title, The Gospel of Matthew According to a Primitive Hebrew Text, Mercer University Press. Eight years later a second and fully revised edition was published and re-titled, Hebrew Gospel of Matthew, Mercer University Press, 1995. Both editions contain the Hebrew text and a detailed analysis. In both editions of Howard's work, he notes that the text predates the 14th century, and that Shem Tob received his text from earlier Jewish scribes.
The manuscripts in Matthew 28:1 of Shem Tob perfectly and unmistakably render: "And on the first day (be-yowm ha-roshown, Strong's #3117 and 7223) from the week (ma-ha-shabua, Strong's #7620) in the early morning (be-ha-shakamah, Strong's #7926-7929) came Miriam Magdalene and the other Miriam to see the sepulchre." This very clearly supports a resurrection in the morning of the first day of the week.
Strangely, the Aramaic Peshitta of Matthew 28:1 supports the false idea that Yeshua rose late on the Sabbath. This, apparently, was due to the awkward Greek rendering of "opse" in the passage as it became translated into the Aramaic "ramsa" -- the Aramaic equivalent to the Hebrew "erev." Another area of confusion with regard to the Greek root "opse" in Matthew is found in Matthew 27:57, which says that Joseph of Arimathea came to request Christ's body at "evening" (opsios). However, in the Shem Tob, it is rendered "toward evening time" (la-et erev) in the Hebrew. Suffice it to say here that the Greek root "opse" was used by the earliest New Testament translators -- translating from the Hebrew -- to imply "late, afternoon, and evening." The real problem with the usage of "erev" as "late" is that in the Hebrew Tanakh "evening" (erev) always occurs at the beginning or early part of the day and never at the end or late part of the day. And even today it remains incorrectly understood as "late" in Hebrew because of the pagan and borrowed Greco-Roman element.
The word "evening" still carries an ancient pagan idea of being toward sunset in the afternoon or after sunset, either way (even as it is in the West today). But this was not so in the ancient Biblical Hebrew. Because it is unique among ancient Hebrew, as opposed to Greek or English understanding, to begin a day at evening or sunset -- therefore "evening" in Biblical Hebrew is always at the beginning of one day and "after" the preceding day. "Opse" in its usage in Matthew 28:1 implys "after" rather than "late" because Greek is a pagan language deriving its original base text from Hebrew. This is a classical example of where opposing cultural terminology can cause inaccurate translations. Not only that, but if that language becomes influential enough -- and Greek certainly did -- it can even change the way a people actually look at a term. In this particular case, it has directly affected most late second temple and modern Jews.
The bottom line is that the Aramaic rendering of Matthew 28:1 is without any real support based on the fact that the Shem Tob Hebrew version of Matthew renders the passage clearly and concisely as referring to the morning of the first day of the week. As well as this, the Shem Tob also makes clear the parallel verses in Mark, Luke and John, leaving no doubt that the resurrection indeed occurred on the morning of the first day of the week!
Turning to Luke 24:1, we read: "Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared."
This verse is rendered, in the Greek: "But the first of the week (sabbaton) at (orthrou batheos) just before day-break they came to the tomb bringing aromatics which they had prepared, and some others with them."
According to Strong's #3722, the word "orthrou" means "dawn (as sunrise; rising of light, by extens. morning -- early in the morning." Liddell-Scott (p. 568) renders it "day-break, dawn, cockcrow.
The word "batheos" is rendered "profound (as going down, lit. or fig.) -- deep, very early" by Strong's #901.
Moving now to Mark 16:2, we read: "Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen."
According to the Greek, this verse reads: "And very early, the first day of the week (sabbaton), they came to the tomb as was coming the light (anateilantos) of the sun."
Now anateilantos, in Strong's (#393) means "to arise, while in Liddell-Scott it is rendered "to make to rise or grow up...to give birth to, bring to light...(of the sun and moon)" (p.63).
The parallel verse in the book of John (20:1) is as follows: "On the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb."
Going to the original Greek, we find: "But on the first of the week (sabbaton), Miriam the Magdalene came early, it still being dim (skotias), to the tomb."
The word skotias, explains Strong's (#4653), means "dimness, obscurity," whereas Liddell-Scott (p.735) translates it as "darkness, gloom." This word is a reference to the dimness just before the dawn.
As a result of all this, we can readily see that even a brief analysis of these passages reveals that the time of the women's visit to the tomb of the Messiah took place JUST BEFORE SUNRISE on the first day of the week -- and NOT at the end of the Sabbath when the first day of the week was just beginning at evening, as proponents of the Saturday resurrection maintain. The majority and correct rendition of the verses themselves DO NOT contend that the visit took place right after the Sabbath at evening. A day being somewhere around the evening is not the timing being spoken of here. These verses do, however, clearly show that the visit of the women took place in the EARLY MORNING of the first day of the week. Thus, the argument that these passages prove that Yeshua's body was already risen and gone by the very end of the Sabbath is simply not demonstrable at all and is TOTALLY IN ERROR.
The Preparation Day
According to the Wednesday crucifixion-Saturday resurrection people, the first reason for interpreting "the day of Preparation" as meaning Wednesday rather than the sixth day of the week (Friday in our pagan calendar) is that "the day before the weekly Sabbath was never called a 'preparation' in the Bible." This reasoning is strange to say the least, because it completely flies in the face of the undeniable Biblical and historical usage of the term "Preparation (paraskeue)" as a technical term for the sixth day. Aside from its occurrence in John 19:14, the term "Preparation (paraskeue)" is used five times in the gospel accounts as a technical term for the sixth day (Matt. 27:62; Mark 15:42; Luke 23:54 and John 19:31, 42).
Mark 15:42 provides us with what is perhaps the most lucid definition of the expression "day of Preparation" by the following statement: "It was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath." Carefully note that in the Greek language the two phrases "the day of Preparation" and "the day before the Sabbath" are each given with a single technical designation: "paraskeue (Preparation)," and "pro-sabbaton (Sabbath-eve)." When literally translated the passage reads: "It was Preparation, that is, Sabbath-eve." For the sake of clarity, the disciple Mark uses two technical terms here -- both of which unmistakably indicate what we call "Friday" in our pagan Gregorian calendar.
Writes Bacchiocchi --
The term "prosabbaton-Sabbath-eve" was used by Hellenistic Jews to designate explicitly and exclusively "the day before the Sabbath, i.e. Friday" (Judith 8:6; 2 Macc. 8:26). Thus Mark, by defining "paraskeue-Preparation" as being the "prosabbaton-Sabbath-eve," gives the clearest possible definition to his Gentile readers of what he meant by "paraskeue," namely, THE DAY BEFORE THE WEEKLY SABBATH. Clarification of time references by a qualifying clause are common in Mark, evidently because the author knew that his Gentile readers were generally unfamiliar with Jewish terms and customs (The Time of the Crucifixion and Resurrection, chapter 3.)
An English reader could quite easily fail to see the connection between the term "Preparation" and the the day before the Sabbath because in the English language such a term is a generic noun which simply does not mean the day before the Sabbath. However, in the Semitic Greek of the New Testament documents the situation was much different. In this context the term "paraskeue" was the Greek equivalent of the Aramaic word "ARUBTA (eve)," both of which were commonly used to indicate the day before the weekly Sabbath.
While I earlier used the term "sixth day" to designate the Preparation day, this is not technically correct. In Aramaic, as Charles C. Torrey explains, "the middle days of the week were designated by numbers, 'third, fourth, fifth,' but Friday [the sixth day of the week] was always ARUBTA; there was no 'sixth day' of the week;...Its Greek equivalent, paraskeue-Friday, was likewise adopted from the first by the Greek Church" ("The Date of the Crucifixion According to the Fourth Gospel," Journal of Biblical Literature (1931), pp. 324-335).
The early use of the term "paraskeue" by the Christians -- as a technical designation for the sixth day of the week -- is well attested outside of the New Testament. The Didache (or "The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles"), dated between 70 and 120 A.D., tells Christians to fast on "the fourth day and Preparation [6th day]" (8:1). It should be noted that the sixth day of the week is termed simply the "Preparation (paraskeuen)," -- without the article or the noun "day," thus pointing to the technical usage of the term.
It is true, however, that the term "paraskeue" was not exclusively applied to the seventh-day Sabbath. It was also sometimes applied to the festivals, but by the time of Tertullian (c. 160-225 A.D.), notes Bacchiocchi, paraskeue had already become such a fixed name for the day before the weekly Sabbath that he even argues that this had been the name for the sixth day since creation. These, and similar examples (The Martyrdom of Polycarp, 7, 1), clearly show that Christians adopted the Jewish practice of numbering the first five days of the week and naming the sixth and the seventh as paraskeue and sabbaton -- Preparation and weekly Sabbath.
Explains Samuele Bacchiocchi --
Christians coming from a Gentile background had to learn this Judeo-Christian nomenclature of the week-days, because in the PAGAN WORLD the week-days were not numbered but named after the seven planetary deities (dies solis, dies lunae,...). This may explain why Mark, in writing to a Gentile-Christian readership who had only recently LEARNED THE JUDEO-CHRISTIAN NOMENCLATURE OF THE WEEK-DAYS, deemed it necessary to clarify what he meant by "paraskeue-preparation," by adding the qualifying phrase, "that is, the day before the Sabbath" (Mark 15:42). This clarification may also have been necessitated by the fact that the seven-day planetary week itself had been recently introduced in the Roman world where the EIGHT-DAY WEEK (nundinum) was still used side-by-side with the planetary week (The Time of the Crucifixion and Resurrection, chapter 3).
After giving us an accurate definition of the word "paraskeue," Bacchiocchi stumbles over a verse in the book of John and goes right off track in explaining it. The offending verse is John 19:14, which reads: "Now it was the Preparation Day of the Passover, and about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, 'Behold your King!' In an attempt to explain this apparent contradiction, Bacchiocchi claims that "the failure to recognize the technical usage of the term 'Preparation' as the name for 'Friday,' has caused some to misinterpret [?] John's phrase 'it was the day of Preparation of the Passover' (John 19:14) as meaning 'the day of Preparation for the Passover.' The latter is in fact the translation of the American Revised Standard Version. On the basis of this misunderstanding, Wednesday Crucifixionists argue that in John 'the day of Preparation' means not Friday but the Wednesday preceding the Passover day, which supposedly fell on a Thursday."
If Bacchiocchi had only understood the fact that, under the Lunar calendar the Jews kept at the time of the Messiah, the first high day of Passover (Nisan 15) fell on the weekly Sabbath, he would not have had to go to all the trouble of trying to explain what he thought was a failure to understand the usage of the term "Preparation."
The so-called Wednesday crucifixionists are right in stating the crucifixion of the Messiah took place on a Wednesday in 31 A.D., and that the Passover day (Nisan 15) occurred on a Thursday. However, they are DEAD WRONG in maintaining the resurrection occurred on a Saturday -- if by "Saturday" they mean the weekly Sabbath! Yeshua the Messiah was put to death on the Preparation Day (Nisan 14), the first high day of Unleavened Bread AND the weekly Sabbath fell on the next day (Nisan 15), and he arose from the dead on the following day (Nisan 16). Dankenbring and his followers are very wrong in clinging to the Wednesday crucifixion-Saturday resurrection sequence. Bacchiocchi is RIGHT in his "three-day" sequence but is wrong in stating that the Messiah's crucifixion day fell on a Friday in our calendar due to the reasons stated above.
It is interesting that the tradition of a Wednesday crucifixion has an ancient origin. Philip Schaff, in his monumental History of the Christian Church, reports that a number of the early Christian congregations observed "the weekly commemoration of the sufferings and death of the Lord" on Wednesdays -- even while others observed Fridays. Gradually, however, the Wednesday tradition disappeared.
The Didascalia, an early Christian work, also supports the Wednesday commemoration of the Messiah's death. In this work the apostles are quoted as saying that it was on Tuesday that they ate the final supper with the Messiah, and that on Wednesday he was taken captive and held in custody in the house of Caiaphas. This account is somewhat suspect due to the fact that the apostles were not aware of the Roman names for the days of the week -- these came along after their deaths.
Also, Epiphanius, a post-Nicene writer, protests that Yeshua could not have been arrested on the night of Thursday-Friday; the false tradition for him is that which puts the Last Supper on Thursday evening. The correct one, according to Epiphanius, is that which places it on Tuesday. Moreover, an early chronology worked out by Victorinus of Pettau came to the conclusion that Yeshua must have been put to death on a Wednesday.
Finally, there is a certain amount of evidence found in the writings of the early church fathers for the Last Supper having taken place on Tuesday. And, according to the way the Jews reckoned time, Nisan 14 began at sundown that day -- falling on a Wednesday that year.
The Ultimate Significance of the Sign of Jonah
It should be clear by now why Yeshua gave the Jews this one sign -- the sign of the prophet Jonah. It was his death, burial and resurrection from the dead (not the length of time in the grave) that would surely prove to them that he was the Messiah.
We have already seen that the Pharisees and Sadducees sought a sign from heaven, a sign that was a greater feat than any performed by or to any of the prophets in their history, to prove Yeshua's claims; and, as one looks at the miracles of the former prophets, one sees all the more vividly the significance of the sign of Jonah. Prior to the arrest and trial of Yeshua, his greatest sign was to raise Lazarus from the dead after he had been in the tomb for four days. But this did not persuade the religious leaders (John 12:9-11). Such things had been performed during the days of the prophet Elisha.
The Jews knew full well that Yeshua was, in his own way, claiming to be the long awaited Messiah. If so, they reasoned, he must perform signs to prove his claim. Although he had already done many great signs, they still were not satisfied. They had seen him feed up to five thousand men with only five barley loaves and two fishes (Luke 9:10-17), but they reasoned in their unconverted minds that Moses had done similar miracles (John 6:31). In what way, then, could he prove that he really was the chosen Messiah, they reasoned? What sign could he do to show them that he was indeed greater than Moses?
In those days people were not easily persuaded by great signs. When Moses turned his rod into a serpent, Pharaoh's magicians did likewise. They also copied his feat of turning water into blood and bringing swarms of frogs from the Nile. It was only after Moses brought out thousands of gnats from the dust that the magicians conceded: "This is the finger of God" (Exodus 8:19), because they were finally unable to duplicate Moses' actions. So, too, the Jews were only prepared to consider Yeshua's claims when he could outdo the signs of the prophets of old. They saw him feed five thousand men and heal lepers and men born blind; they saw him raise up paralytics, cast out demons and -- ultimately -- raise a man from the dead even though the man had been dead for four days. They conceded these miracles.
All this did not satisfy them, however, for other prophets had performed similar miracles. What sign did Yeshua have for them which outweighed all of these miracles? Let me ask you this, what greater feat can occur to a man than to be raised from the dead to life again? There is only one possible answer: If that man, after dying, is RAISED FROM THE DEAD to live and NEVER DIE AGAIN! This will surely qualify as the greater sign. This has not occurred to anyone before or after Yeshua the Messiah. Lazarus, whom Yeshua raised from the dead, lived out what was left of his life and eventually died -- tradition says in Southern Gaul or France. Those whom Elisha raised from the dead also lived out the remainder of their lives and died -- to await the resurrection like everyone else.
Living prophets had temporarily raised the dead, but the sign that Yeshua was promising them was that he -- the Messiah -- would be RAISED from the dead by YEHOVAH God his Father to eternal life, never to see death again! This, primarily, is the sign of Jonah. The Jews who stood at the foot of the crucifixion tree mocking Yeshua did not know that after expiring a few hours later he would be RAISED FROM THE DEAD on the third day -- at which time "the graves were opened, and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life; and after Yeshua rose, they came out of the graves and went into the holy city, where many people saw them" (Matthew 27:52-53). This really emphasied the fact of the resurrection -- not the length of time in the tomb.
This provided overwhelming proof that he was indeed the Messiah and the ultimate High Priest of the Temple of YEHOVAH, the one in which the living God of all creation will dwell in when He returns to this earth to rule from Jerusalem. As Jonah had come back from the stomach of a great fish in the very depths of the sea to warn the Ninevites, so Yeshua the Messiah was to die, be buried, only to be raised to life on the third day amidst awesome signs and wonders from the Shekinah Glory of YEHOVAH God who was residing in the Temple. In John 10:17-18 Yeshua made this quite plain to the Jewish religious leaders, saying --
This is why the Father loves me, because I surrender my soul [body], in order that I may receive it again [from the Father]. No man has taken it away from me, but I surrender it of my own initiative. I have authority to surrender it, and I have authority to receive it again [from the Father].
Yeshua showed that he was greater than Moses, for John mentions that Moses had written of him (John 5:46). He was greater than David, the "man after God's own heart," for David, he said, "inspired by the spirit, calls the Messiah Lord" (Matthew 22:43). He openly stated that he was greater than the prophets Solomon and Jonah (Luke 11:31-32) and that he was even greater than the very Temple of God in Jerusalem (Matthew 12:6).
Although there had been many prophets in the history of Israel, there was to be only one Messiah. And whereas the prophets had performed many signs, the Messiah reserved to Himself the greatest sign of all. As Jonah's ordeal in the stomach of the fish in many ways foreshadowed this sign, namely the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, Jesus therefore set forth this sign alone as a proof that He was indeed the Messiah (What Indeed Was the Sign of Jonah?)
It now becomes clear why Yeshua gave the Jews this one sign, the Sign of the prophet Jonah. His death, burial and resurrection from the dead -- along with all the spectacular signs from YEHOVAH -- surely proved to many of them that he was indeed the Messiah. It was NOT the period of time in the tomb that impressed them, but the fact of his resurrection to eternal life -- never to die again. Yeshua was NEVER in the tomb for 72 hours and the whole idea of the Saturday resurrection is nothing but pure fiction.
Hope of Israel Ministries -- Preparing the Way for the Return of YEHOVAH God and His Messiah!
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