When Were the True Dates
of the Crucifixion and Resurrection?
Statements made in this article do not necessarily represent the point of view of SANJ and are presented so that all sides of the issues may be fairly examined.
Many Sabbath-Keeping groups place the crucifixion of Messiah on a Wednesday and have the resurrection take place on Saturday of 31 C.E.or 34 C.E. However, it is incorrect, for multiple reasons, to accept a Wednesday through Saturday scenario as will here be demonstrated. The argument for the Wednesday-Saturday construct is based on these major points:
1) That Mt. 28:1, Mk. 16:2, Lk. 24:1, and Jn. 20:1 support a Saturday resurrection showing that the Messiah's body was already risen and gone by the end of the Sabbath.
2) That "three days and three nights" must mean exactly 72 hrs. and therefore only fits the construct of a Wednesday through Saturday scenario.
3) That the prophecy in Dan. 9:25-27 brings us to the year 31 C.E. from the decree (some actually try to bring it to 34 C.E.) and Dan. 9:27 refers to the Messiah being cut off "in the midst of the week" and therefore can only refer to a Wednesday.
Building upon these points, many have thought that the Wednesday - Saturday construct was an important way of showing that Sunday and Easter were bogus. But, it must here be mentioned that a Saturday instead of Sunday resurrection does nothing to prove or disprove anything about the validity of the practice of the Sabbath over Sunday or about Easter versus Passover or any such non-related correlary. Sometimes in our zeal to demolish the opposition we invent constructs to further prove the validity of our practices when no such further proof is needed. The validity of the Sabbath and Passover are not at stake in this discussion but stand firm on their own merit. Having said that, we now can proceed with the main discussion. The above 3 points are all in error as will be demonstrated herein. As we will soon see, the crucifixion occurred on Thursday and the resurrection occurred on Sunday. We will treat each point thoroughly as follows:
1) In Mt. 28:1 it states in the Greek "But after the sabbaths as it was dawning into the first of the sabbaths"
The word here for "after" (opse - Strong’s #3694, 3796) usually means "late" but can connote "after" as context demands. Below it will be shown that "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. This understanding will become immediately clear.
"as it was dawning (epiphoskouse)"
This phrase obviously refers to the early morning of Sunday then and not the beginning of the "sabbath" at evening as is suggested by proponents of the Wednesday/Saturday theory. Thus, it is also made clear that "opse" refers to "after" here as context clearly demands.
"epiphoskouse - "to begin to grow light:" - begin to dawn" - Strong’s #2020; "to draw towards dawn" - Liddell-Scott p.306.
"into the first of the sabbaths (sabbaton)" is a reference to the first day to count to Pentecost which is comprised of seven sabbaths or weeks. This count always begins on a Sunday (as is proven in my article When is Pentecost). The word "sabbaton" is another example of Greek translating from Hebrew and in turn not holding a consistent meaning at all times. Though "sabbaton" can mean a weekly or a high sabbath, the most basic meaning of the Gr. word "sabbaton", as it appears in the Greek New Testament, means "a period of seven days, a week." - Liddell-Scott, p. 722.
Thus, the statement made here in Mt. 28:1 places the coming of the women to the tomb "after the sabbaths" (after Passover and the weekly sabbath) 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". Therefore, the proper understanding of Mt. 28:1 is that it refers to Sunday morning. Contrary to the argument that it still can refer to sabbath morning, this is the ONLY correct way to read the passage (see further). This precise understanding is supported by the Hebrew of Shem Tob. The Hebrew Manuscripts of Matthew are now becoming well known as authoritative over the Greek in many areas of the New Testament. Even like its 10th-14th century counterpart - the Old Testament or Tenach, as it is called in Hebrew, the 10th-14th century Hebrew manuscripts of Matthew are believed by many of the world's leading Bible and Semitic Language scholars to be authoritative (see The Semitic Origin of the New Testament - by James Trimm).
The manuscripts in Matthew 28:1 of Shem Tob perfectly and unmistakeably 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 Strongs #7926-7929) came Miriam Magdalene and the other Miriam to see the sepulchre." This is very clearly in support of a Sunday morning resurrection. It is also quite clearly a very fluent mixture of BH and MH (Biblical Hebrew and Mishnaic Hebrew).
Interestingly, the Aramaic Peshitta of Matthew 28:1 supports the false idea that Yahushua rose late on the sabbath. Apparently, this was due to the awkward Greek rendering of "opse" in the passage as it became translated into Aram. "ramsa" - the Aramaic equivalent to the Hebrew "erev". Another area of confusion with regard to the Gr. root "opse" in Matthew is found in Mt 27:57. Here it says that Joseph of Arimathea came to procure Yahushua's body at "evening" (opsios). However, in Shem Tob, it renders "toward evening time" (la-et erev) in the Hebrew. (This is pointed out in more depth later in the article). Suffice it to say here that the Gr. root "opse" was used by the earliest N.T. translaters, translating from the Hebrew, to connote "late, afternoon, and evening ". The essential problem with the usage for "erev" as "late" is that in the Hebrew Tenach "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 notion of being toward sunset in the afternoon or after sunset either way (even as it is in the West today). But, not so in ancient biblical Hebrew. For, it is unique among ancient Hebrew, as opposed to Greek or English understanding, to begin a day at evening or sundown. Therefore, "evening" in biblical Hebrew is always at the beginning of one day and "after" the preceding day. "Opse" in its usage at Mt 28:1 connotes "after" rather than "late" because Greek is a pagan language deriving its original base text from Hebrew. This is a classic example of where opposing cultural terminology can cause inaccurate translations. Furthermore, if that language becomes influential enough (and Greek eventually did) it can even change the way a people actually look at a term. In this case, it has directly affected most late second temple and modern Jews.
Therefore, the Aramaic rendering at Mt. 28:1 is likewise without any real support based on the fact that Shem Tob Hebrew Matthew renders the passage clearly and concisely as refering to Sunday morning, unencumbered by awkward translation. Another obvious reason for the confidence that we place in Shem Tob is made clear in the parallel passages in Mark, Luke, and John. It is universally held in all manuscript languages of these books that the resurrection indeed occured on Sunday morning! Read on, below are the Greek renderings:
Lk. 24:1 "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."
orthrou - "dawn (as sunrise; rising of light, by extens. morning - early in the morning" Strong’s #3722. "day-break, dawn, cock-crow." Liddell-Scott p. 568.
batheos - "profound (as going down, lit. or fig.) - deep, very early" Strong’s #901.
Mk. 16:2 "And very early, the first of the week (sabbaton), they came to the tomb as was coming the light (anateilantos) of the sun."
anateilantos - "to arise" Strong’s #393; "to make to rise or grow up...to give birth to, bring to light...(of the sun and moon)" Liddell-Scott’s p. 63.
Jn. 20:1 "But on the first of the week (sabbaton), Mariam the Magdalene came early, it still being dim (skotias), to the tomb."
skotias - "dimness, obscurity" Strong’s #4653; "darkness, gloom" Liddell -Scott p. 735. This word is a reference to the dimness just before dawn.
Thus, we can readily see that a cursory analysis of these passages reveals that the time of the visit to the tomb took place just before sunrise on the first day of the week and not at the end of the sabbath when the first day was just beginning at evening - as proponents of the Saturday resurrection argue. The majority and proper rendering of the scriptures themselves do not contend that the visit took place right after the sabbath at evening. A day beginning somewhere around evening is not the timing being spoken of here. These verses do, however, plainly state 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 the Messiah's body was already risen and gone by the very end of the sabbath is not demonstratable at all and is in error.
2) Some might continue to argue: The phrase "three days and three nights" (Mt. 12:40) proves the Wednesday through Saturday theory is the correct one. However, this statement is wholly based on assumption and 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 (Wed-N, Th.-D, Th-N, Fr.-D, Fr.-N, Sat.-D). However, the reader will automatically notice that the phrase is not "three nights and three days" but it is "three days and three nights". The Wed.-Sat. theory demands that we ignore the sequence of counting as it is given in scripture - beginning with day first. 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! We can only hope not, if indeed his theory is found to be unsupportable. To demand that it be exactly 72 hours the scripture 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 it does not. Are we to also suppose that Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for EXACTLY 72 hours! If so, nowhere is it stated or implied - nor does it even seem reasonable. Is it possible to fulfill the injunction at Mt.12:40 of "three days and three nights" by counting any part of "three days and three nights". If the first reaction of the reader is "no" then answer "why not?". Next, let’s take a look at Lk. 24:21:
"But we trusted that it had been He which should have redeemed Israel and beside all this, today is the third day since these things were done."
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, late in the morning thereabout. Now, if we then count backwards from Sunday morning three days, it brings us to Friday with inclusive reckoning and to Thursday with exclusive reckoning. Try both ways on your fingers, there is NO WAY to arrive at Wednesday! It is similar to if somebody said, on a Sunday, that someone died three days ago. Everyone would know for sure that that person died on either a Thursday or a Friday. In fact, most people’s first inclination is to comprehend that the reference would be to Thursday, but never to Wednesday. This is a critical blow to Wednesday crucifixion proponents. It is likewise a critical blow to Saturday, 31 or 34 C.E. resurrection proponents. The reason for this has to do with the sabbath limit for travel referred to in the O.T., N.T., and the Mishna. This sabbath travel limit is established at approx. .57 miles (see Sabbath Iruvin - by James Trimm). However, the distance between Jerusalem (which was the two men's starting point) and Emmaus (which was their destination) was approx. 6 miles and is verifiable on any Biblical map of Israel. This would be a violation of established Nazarene Halacha or practice. So, to argue that their journey on the road to Emmaus took place on the weekly sabbath is erroneous and therefore, a sabbath resurrection can be summarily dismissed.
Now, does a Thursday crucifixion fulfill "three days and three nights" to Sunday morning? It sure does - in a precise way: (Th.-D, Th.-N, Fri.-D, Fr.-N, Sat.-D, Sat.-N). Saturday night and Sunday from midnight to dawn in Hebrew day reckoning is the night portion of the first day of the week and it was at this time that Yahushua the Messiah rose from the dead! To be sure, let’s look at a mistranslated verse in the Greek which some may point to at Mt. 27:57. Most translations from the Greek render "And evening having come"...he came to Pilate and asked for the body of Messiah and then placed it in the tomb. However, we should know that the torah forbids that a body remain unburied after sunset (Deut. 21:23). The Shem Tob (Hebrew Matthew) correctly states that it was (la-et erev) "toward evening time" when Joseph inquired about the body. Therefore, we do know that the Messiah was captured, tortured, crucified, AND buried BEFORE evening time. Therefore, we know that counting the day portion of Thursday as the first day is valid. We also know, from our analysis above, that the Messiah rose during the night portion of Saturday night or Sunday twilight. Therefore, we know that this qualifies as the 3rd night mentioned in Mt.12:40. With the beginning and ending point thus established, the Thursday crucifixion and Sunday resurrection is a lock - providing an affirmative match for every scripture germain to the subject.
3) But, doesn’t Dan. 9 establish a Wednesday, 31 or 34 C.E. crucifixion? The answer is, as you might could guess by now, no. But, here is basically how this construct is more properly derived: Many of the readers should be familiar with the prophecy in Daniel 9 which gives 70 weeks of years (490 years) from Artaxerxes’ decree to the time of the end. Artaxerxes co-reigned with his father 20 years and had a sole reign of 7 years when, according to the Persian eponym and the Prophet Daniel, in 457-6 B.C.E he (Artaxerxes) took sole reign and made the decree recorded in Ezra concerning the rebuilding of the temple that is referred to in Dan. 9:25. According to the 31 C.E. proponents the last week referred to in Dan. 9:27 refers to Yahushua the Messiah and thus the week is cut in half thereby leaving 486 1/2 years to be reckoned from Artaxerxes decree to the crucifixion. The problem is that the reference to the last week of years (7 years) in Dan. 9:27 refers to the time of the end, which is still yet ahead. Furthermore, the reference to the "nagid" (wicked commander or prince in Dan. 9:26) that makes the covenant with many for one week (in Dan. 9:27) at the time of the end obviously CANNOT refer to Yahushua Messiah. Therefore, the reference to the oblation and offering ceasing in the midst of the week has nothing to do with the Messiah being crucified, but rather with the offerings being stopped in the midst of the final seven years in a future temple yet to be rebuilt. However, what the prophecy in Dan. 9:25 does say is that AFTER 62 weeks (7 weeks having already transpired, therefore - 483 years) the Messiah would be cut off. What is interesting to note about this prophecy is how things are lined out in sevens. Could this mean we should count using the established sabbath year reckoning from Lev. 25? 11QMelchisedec, from the Dead Sea Scrolls, suggests that we should in fact use the sabbath and jubilee cycles to count this prophecy. According to 11QMel., there are 10 jubilees from a Decree to a time when "Melchisedec" will atone for the people’s sins. The reference to Melchisedec is unmistakenly the Messiah, and the atonement is his crucifixion. Furthermore, the fragment is actually a midrash of Dan. 9:25-27 which it quotes extensively. Jubilees are counted by 49 year periods with the 50th year overlapping to also be the first year of the following cycle. Therefore, 10 jubilees is 490 years. Now, with the sabbath and jubilee style of reckoning in mind, let us consider how the proper count should be reckoned. We have already established that the last 7 years belongs to a time yet to come. If we start from the very first sabbath year after 457-6 B.C.E., which would be 455-454 B.C.E., and we end with the first year AFTER the 483 years expire (which is the sabbath year of 28-29 C.E.) then we arrive at the year 30 C.E. Therefore, we see that we have a more acceptable interpretation of Dan. 9:25-27 available to us which viably arrives at the year prior to 31 C.E. and fits the Th-Sun. scenario like a glove. This interpretation also does not violate the clear separartion of Daniel’s last week from the initial 69 weeks as does the 31 C.E. interpretation. It is very clear that the wicked commander (prince) from Dan. 9:26 cannot refer to the Messiah and that the entire last week is referring to a time yet to come. It is equally clear that the ceasing of sacrifice and oblation in the middle of that last seven years cannot accordingly refer to the Messiah’s crucifixion. Therefore, from this explanation and more accurate understanding, it is clear that Dan. 9:25-27 does not support a Wednesday, 31 or 34 C.E. crucifixion. Furthermore, since it is weeks of years that are being dealt with here, a reference to a "day" in the middle of the week is non-sequitor. Instead, we see that the prophecy actually nails the year 30 C.E.
Adding to the evidence for a 30 C.E. crucifixion is the following: Jewish tradition states that the Shekinah (presence) left the temple 40 years prior to the destruction of the Temple. It is well established by Josephus and others that the events surrounding the destruction of the Temple occurred in the year 70 C.E. (Jos., Wars 5:3:1). Also, Eusebius states in his work Hist. 3:7:8 that "For 40 full years it (providence) suspended their (the Jewish) destruction after their crime against the Messiah". Added to this, Eusebius refers to an Aramaic letter written by Abgar the Toparch. This letter dates the death of the Messiah and the subsequent visit of Thaddeus to Abgar "in the 340th year" of the Edessene era. This era began in 310-309 B.C.E. and thus establishes the year of the Messiah’s crucifixion in 30 C.E. (Eus. Hist. 1:13:10-22; 2:1:6).
From this article we have seen that the 3 cardinal points that support the Wednesday through Saturday, 31 or 34 C.E. theory for the Messiah’s death and resurrection do not stand up to thorough analysis and current research. Instead, it has now been established that Thursday to Sunday, 30 C.E. fits all of the scriptural and historical evidence as the proper construct for the death and resurrection of our Messiah. As if to permanently lock this in, modern astronomy based on computer calculation has furthermore confirmed and established that the crucifixion took place on Abib 14, Thursday, April 6th, 30 C.E. A straight-forward reconstruction of the calendar then in use showing that the year began with a visible crescent moon about the vernal equinox was analyzed on computer from the years 26-35 C.E. The resultant match is with 30 C.E. Instead of being an awkward attempt of supporting sabbath-keeping, the Sunday (instead of the Saturday) resurrection has its wonderful typology in Bikkurim, which is the time of the wave sheaf offering. Yahushua resurrected on the precise day that the priest offered the wave sheaf to count to Pentecost. This is the true typological significance of the timing of Yahushua's resurrection (for more see my article on Pentecost).
It is hoped that this brief article has provided the reader with an opportunity to consider and weigh the evidence regarding the topic of the crucifixion and resurrection. It is also hoped that, in the light of this research, truth-seekers may find the courage by the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) to embrace the whole truth - as it is. We may all well be on the road to establishing our place in history today by reconstructing correct Biblical chronology together.
© 1997 All Rights Reserved.
By Chris L. Lingle
The Society for the
Advancement of Nazarene Judaism
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