I have personally wrestled with the question of both the year and specifically the day of the crucifixion for many years. When I initially published my new book, Witnessing the End, I held the view that it must have been a Thursday, rather than Friday when Jesus was crucified. People like the late Chuck Missler have even made strong cases for a Wednesday crucifixion. However, thanks to the thoughtful criticism of a pastor who recently reviewed my book I was forced to rethink that position. And while the day of the crucifixion was not a central point in my book (it is only dependent on the year), it still bore re-examination. I am now happy to say that with his help and some additional research of my own on the topic, I can finally say that I feel there is a completely satisfactory answer in every regard that preserves the Friday tradition, and I have now revised the book manuscript to reflect this change of view.
I didn’t have enough space in the book to exhaustively cover this topic, though, so I’m including a much deeper explanation of the day and year of the crucifixion here in this blog post. Of course, the explanation below will still not satisfy some, but I think it may indeed satisfy most everyone else.
Perhaps the best way to begin this discussion is with the facts as they are presented in the Gospels. To begin with, Christ was undoubtedly raised on the first day of the week, Sunday, just before dawn (John 20:1, Mark 16:2-4, Luke 24:1-2 & Matthew 28:1).
1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.John 20:1 (NIV)
2 Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3 and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” 4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away.Mark 16:2-4 (NIV)
1 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb…Luke 24:1-2 (NIV)
1 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.Matthew 28:1 (NIV)
In the above accounts we read that Mary Magdalene and the other women set out “very early in the morning,” even “while it was still dark,” and arrived “at dawn,” “just after sunrise.” Some might see contradictions here, but clearly all of these statements are easily harmonized into one overall picture of the events. Also, when they arrived the stone was clearly already rolled away and the soldiers were gone. This means that Christ’s resurrection happened before the dawn of Sunday morning.
Next, Luke 9:22 says that Jesus would be raised “on the third day,” which would agree with a Friday crucifixion before his Sunday resurrection. It also agrees with a messianic interpretation of Hosea 6:2.
22 And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”Luke 9:22 (NIV)
2 After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence.Hosea 6:2 (NIV)
However, Matthew 12:40 says that Christ would be buried for three days and three nights, but there were only two nights from Friday afternoon to Sunday morning. And some might also argue that because Christ rose before dawn, there were really only two days and two nights.
40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.Matthew 12:40 (NIV)
Many (including myself) have argued that the best answer to that dilemma is to consider that the crucifixion may not have taken place on a Friday. Furthermore, the events of the Passover and crucifixion have to be analyzed in a Jewish context and with a Jewish calendar. Therefore, these events had to take place on the 14th of Nisan, the day designated by God, through Moses, for the Passover sacrifice. Hence, if Nisan 14 fell on a Friday, then the beginning of that day was actually at sunset on the previous day, in this case Thursday. This is because during the week of creation, God announced that “there was evening and there was morning” for the completion of each day of Creation (Genesis 1). Consequently, the Jews recognized the start of each new day at evening, after sunset, instead of at midnight (like most of the rest of the world does now).
Therefore, if Jesus was crucified on the eve of the 14th, then Jesus would have actually been crucified on Thursday. A Thursday crucifixion easily provides three days and three nights. One can count a day and a night for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, and assume that Christ arose before the start of Sunday, or count only the night for Thursday (he was buried near sunset) and count Sunday day, even though the sun hadn’t quite risen yet. Either way, it is possible to account for three days and three nights in this way. This was the view I held when I initially published my book, Witnessing the End.
However, there are still some problems with that explanation. First, how can one account for both a resurrection “on the third day” and “after three days and three nights”? It would seem that after three days and three nights must be the fourth day. Or we must assume that Jesus rose on the third day (i.e., the end of Saturday night) and that it was only the visit of the women and the disciples that happened on Sunday. Hence, one might then conclude that we should be celebrating Easter Saturday–but that just doesn’t sound right. However you slice it, it seems like something doesn’t fit perfectly. Second, there is a mystery regarding how Jesus was able to legitimately observe the Passover with his disciples on the night BEFORE he was crucified. There have been some proposals to explain this, but they are all based on presumptions that cannot really be proven. For instance, it could be assumed that the Galileans had started the month of Nisan one day earlier based on a difference in the timing of the sighting of the new moon between Jerusalem and the Galilee. Or that the Sadducees and Pharisees followed different calendars, but again, there is very little to support those kinds of presumptions. Some have even suggested that Jesus didn’t really celebrate a Passover dinner with his disciples because the account doesn’t say anything about them eating lamb at the Last Supper!
Fortunately, there are answers for these questions, which marvelously resolve all of these enigmas. First, it is crucial to understand that according to Jewish reckoning, a part of a day is counted as a whole day (Mishnah Eduyot 7:5). This is also explained and reiterated numerous times in the Talmud. Thus, Friday to Sunday, in a Jewish way of thinking, could be counted as three full days. Additionally, even in a general sense Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are clearly three days in number.
Next, three “nights” can be counted literally if we include the solar eclipse that occurred during Christ’s crucifixion as a third “night”—when darkness fell on the land for three hours (Mark 15:33) at the end of which Jesus breathed his last (Mark 15:37). Now, this was probably not a normal eclipse of the sun but was instead something entirely supernatural; however, we do have extra-biblical confirmation that there was an eclipse in the testimony of the Greek historian Phlegon, who reported that there was an eclipse of the sun in AD 33 (the 202nd Olympiad), and he also said that the “stars even appeared in the heavens.” [Found in a fragment from Olympiades he Chronika 13, ed. Otto Keller, Rerum Naturali-um Scriptores Graeci Minores, 1 (Leipzig Teurber, 1877): 101.]
33 At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34 And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). 35 When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.” 36 Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said. 37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.Mark 15:33-37 (NIV)
Some might wonder how this could truly be counted as one night, but again the answer comes from understanding Jewish thought. They say that night begins after the twilight of sunset when the first three stars become visible (Mishnah Torah, Sabbath 5:4). Hence, the darkness during Christ’s crucifixion–when even the stars were seen and which ended with his death–could honestly be counted as the first of three nights.
There is also a prophetic allusion to night falling while Jesus was hanging on the cross found in Psalm 22:1-2. The first verse of this Psalm is one of the seven things Christ uttered while on the Cross, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). But in the very next verse, the psalmist says, “My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.”
1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? 2 My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.Psalm 22:1-2 (NIV – emphasis added)
[For more on the connection with Psalm 22 see: Pastor Derek Walker–Oxford Bible Church–he does a great job of connecting this Psalm with a third night in this video: https://youtu.be/g0UDn-6O_48] Taken together, there is strong support for counting the eclipse as the first night.
Next, in Exodus 12:6 it says that the Passover sacrifice was to be made “beyin ha’arbayim,” which means literally, “between the evenings” of Nisan 14. The NIV translates the phrase as “at twilight” but again the literal words are in-between the evenings (plural). The tradition of the Jews, as recorded in the Talmud, however, was to wait until the next afternoon to offer the lambs.
6 Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight (beyin ha’arbayim).Exodus 12:6 (NIV)
The Passover sacrifice must be slaughtered in the afternoon of the 14th of Nisan, whether Sabbath or weekday.Jerusalem Talmud Horayot 1:1:3 note 15
Don’t miss the significance of such a simple phrase (beyin ha’arbayim), though. God providentially provided for a 24-hour period to offer the passover sacrifice. It wasn’t according to normal tradition, but it was allowed according to the law. You see, the ambiguity that God left in his instructions to the Jewish people regarding the precise timing of offering of the Passover sacrifice can be easily seen, in this context, to have been intentional. This explains how Jesus could have legitimately begun to celebrate the Passover dinner with his disciples on Thursday night when evening came at the start of Nisan 14 (Mark 14:17).
16 The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover. 17 When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve.Mark 14:16-17 (NIV)
Then later, but still on Nisan 14, Jesus was arrested in the middle of the night, tried, crucified in the morning, and finally he died when the Passover lambs were traditionally being sacrificed in the afternoon of the 14th. He was then placed in a tomb before sunset and the start of the regular Sabbath, which was the 15th of Nisan. Thus, the intentional lack of clarity in God’s instructions to Moses created a wide window of time that nearly 1,500 years later was needed in order to give Jesus the time to both celebrate Passover and to become the Passover lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7b).
For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.1 Corinthians 5:7b (NIV)
When we consider all of the above, we are left with solid support for the enduring tradition of the church that Christ was crucified on a Friday–Good Friday. This should be reassuring to Christians that these traditions, just like the true Gospel, have been faithfully handed down to us. Now clearly, not every modern tradition in the church has been faithfully handed down from the Apostles, but I think we have some excellent support for this one.
Now that we have confirmed that Christ was truly crucified on a Friday Passover, there are really only two viable years for the event that had Passovers that began on Thursday’s continuing into Friday’s, and they fell in AD 30 and AD 33. [See: Colin J. Humphreys and W.G. Waddington. THE JEWISH CALENDAR, A LUNAR ECLIPSE AND THE DATE OF CHRIST’S CRUCIFIXION, Tyndale Bulletin 43.2 (1992): 331-351.]
However, only AD 33 has the testimony of the early church fathers, like Hippolytus, who reported that Christ was crucified in AD 33 [Coxe. Ante-Nicene Fathers, “Hippolytus: Fragments from Commentaries,” v.5, 179.]. There are also good historical arguments from the reign of Pilate to support this date. [Harold Hoehner. Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ (1977): 105-14; Darrell Bock. Studying the Historical Jesus (2002): 76-77.] Moreover, there are multiple ancient sources that confirm that Christ was crucified in AD 33, including reports that there was a great earthquake and an eclipse of the sun at that time. The earliest account is by Phlegon (c. AD 137), who reported that all those things occurred in the fourth year of the 202nd Olympiad (AD 33). Plus, the only reports of an earthquake in Israel during Christ’s ministry are in AD 33 (this can be confirmed on the NOAA website: https://www.ngdc.noaa.gov/hazel/view/hazards/earthquake/event-more-info/8178).
[For more information on the sources to support that there was an earthquake and three hours of darkness during the crucifixion see: www.christianevidence.net/ 2017/12/historical-evidence-darkness-earthquake.html]
There is yet another reason to recognize AD 33 as the year of the crucifixion and it comes from Daniel’s prophecy of seventy sevens (Daniel 9:24-27). While many people count the final week of Daniel as of yet unfulfilled, there is good reason to recognize that the period of time from Artaxerses’ decree to restore Jerusalem in 458 BC to AD 33 was exactly 490 years. Now this doesn’t mean that Daniel’s prophecy is complete. As I explain in my new book, Witnessing the End: Daniel’s Seventy Sevens and the Final Decree Everyone Missed, there are two periods of seventy sevens.
Consequently, we can confidently affirm that crucifixion took place on Friday, April 3, AD 33, which really does give us the best explanation of everything that the Scriptures testify about this blessed event.
One interesting side note that emerges from recognizing the above is that this tells us that Jesus’ ministry was nearly seven years in length. [It was a little less than seven years, but in Jewish reckoning a part of a year is counted as a whole year (Siftei Chakhamim, Genesis 17:26:1).] Admittedly, a seven-year ministry is not a traditional viewpoint, but the Scriptures do not specify exactly how long Jesus’ ministry lasted, nor his age at his crucifixion. We also know that Jesus did many more things than what were recorded in the Gospels, both before and during his ministry (John 21:25). So, there is no conflict with Scripture if Jesus had a seven-year ministry.
The length of Jesus’ ministry was a subject widely debated by the early church fathers. Suggestions ranged from just one year all the way up to over ten years. The theory that his ministry lasted at least ten years is based on the comment of the Jews to Jesus that he was “not yet fifty years old” in John 8:57. Hence, Irenaeus, circa AD 180, argued that Jesus must have been over forty! This makes it clear that no one in the early church knew for sure how long Jesus’ ministry lasted. Later, Eusebius (fourth century) claimed that his ministry lasted for less than four years because of Josephus’ account of the length of the terms of the high priests that served during that time. There are problems with Eusebius’ assumptions about the high priests, though, so it’s not an airtight argument by any means; but from that point on, it
became the traditional view in the church. It is almost universally accepted that since there are only three, or maybe four, unique Passovers recorded in Scripture, then Jesus’ ministry couldn’t have been longer than three years, but there is no scriptural basis for presuming that every Passover of Jesus’ ministry was recorded by the Apostles (John 21:25). Considered altogether, there is no concrete reason to deny that Jesus’ ministry could have been much longer than the traditionally supposed three and half years. Looking at all the corroborative sources for both an early start (AD 27) and a later crucifixion (AD 33), it seems wiser to accept a longer length of ministry than to preserve the presumption of a three-year ministry.
I hope you found this lengthy explanation to be of help. It has sure been a blessing to me personally to have wrestled with this issue for such a long time and to finally feel like the puzzle is now complete, with no missing pieces…
There are many Christians who question the purpose of the 1000-year reign of Christ on the Earth that is mentioned in Revelation chapter 20. Therefore, it is sometimes understood to be a metaphorical and hyperbolic reference to an indefinite reign of Christ through his body the Church, prior to his return to bring final judgment and “a new heaven and a new Earth” (Revelation 21:1). Also, some Christians question the true scientific age of the Earth and attempt to reconcile the records of the genealogies listed in scripture with the findings of scientists who believe that the Earth is several billion years old. However, the early church father, Hippolytus (circa AD 170-236), had some insights to share on both of those questions that are worth considering…Read More
In these increasingly tumultuous times, we need to remember a lesson that Jesus taught in Luke 12:22-40 about not worrying. I think his words apply to every time and situation, but especially to the Last Days. If you’ve found yourself spending a lot of time and effort trying to prepare for any of the troubles that look like they are hanging out there on the horizon, then I hope you will find some wisdom and comfort here for these days to help steady you.Read More
There is a modern fulfillment of Bible prophecy that I think is often overlooked, as described in Zechariah 14:2. I believe it was seen in Jordan’s invasion of Israel in 1948, along with the other surrounding Arab nations. Many Bible prophecy teachers probably still view this as a yet-future event, but the events described in verse 2 actually occurred in 1948–49. Furthermore, verse 3 describes very well the military victories that Israel has experienced since that time. Let’s take a look…Read More
One of the key arguments in my book, The Temple Revealed, is that the famed Golden Gate of the Temple Mount (or East Gate of the outer sanctuary) shown above, was in a direct line with the temple. This is really a core argument for why the Golden Gate stands as an irrefutable landmark of the East-West line of the temple, proving that this is truly the area where the temple was formerly located. This arrangement can be inferred in scripture from the design of the temple in Ezekiel chapters 40-42, but it is also described repeatedly in rabbinic literature. Take a look…Read More
One of the biggest debates among prophecy-minded, pre-millennial, Christians regarding the return of Jesus Christ in the Last Days, is the timing and even definition of “the Rapture.” The reason that there is so much controversy has to do with the fact that there are a number of possible literal interpretations of the text. A typical response to this dilemma is to pick the view that is believed to be the most correct, and then to just move forward under firm conviction.
I think we should consider, though, that God intentionally left some open degrees of freedom here so that we would need to reserve final judgment and remain in a state of watchfulness. However, He did leave some very important clues…
[This is a long post, and there are a lot of details, but if you can hang on and work through it, I think you’ll find this to be a trustworthy analysis of a pretty tough but critical topic.]Read More
In a world that pretends to offer an almost limitless number of claims of “The Truth.” It is no wonder that many people are confused, or just refuse to believe that absolute, objective truth even exists.
Let’s start with the question of whether or not absolute truth, i.e. ultimate reality, even exists, though. The answer should be obvious and axiomatically clear. Yes, there is truth in a general sense.
Next, can we know it? Well, if we can’t, then we are in the same boat as if it doesn’t exist. So then, we should assume that it can be known, and begin to look for it. Many people of course deny that statement and feel that ultimate truth can never be known. In some sense, it is true that no man can comprehend or know everything; however, to assume that we cannot know objective truth in some limited but very meaningful way, is to doom one’s search for truth before it even begins.
Another axiom one should consider is, “Life has meaning and purpose.” Why should we just grant that as an axiom? Well, because it’s obvious. If you look around you right now, absolutely everything you see has meaning and purpose, and so do you. That doesn’t need to be proven. It is a self-evident truth, an axiom. And affirming the opposite is self-defeating. If life doesn’t have meaning and purpose then what is the point of even talking about it?
Consequently, we have some platform to stand on. There is objective reality, we can know it, and life has meaning and purpose. So now let’s build some structure.Read More
“My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people. Then the nations will know that I the Lord make Israel holy, when my sanctuary is among them forever.”Ezekiel 37:27-28, NIV
There are many reasons to expect a rebuilt temple in the last days based on specific prophetic passages. The most commonly cited verses are found in Daniel 9:24-27 and 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4; however, I would like to point out that these verses in Ezekiel 37 also indicate that there will be a rebuilt temple in the Last Days.Read More
The account of Balaam is given in Numbers 22-24 and 31. Balaam was a Gentile who worshiped God, but he was enticed by Israel’s neighbors to curse them and to put stumbling blocks in their way. The story is easy to overlook as just an odd event that happened in the days of Moses. Balaam is mentioned several more times, in Deuteronomy 23:4-5, Joshua 13:22 and 24:9-10, Nehemiah 13:2 and Micah 6:5, but these other Old Testament references are in the context of remembering the things that the Lord had done for Israel. It is not until the New Testament that we see a grave warning about following after Balaam. In fact, Peter, Jude and John all mention Balaam in connection with the end times and Christian believers that have fallen away. Let’s look at closely at those references:Read More
In my book, The Temple Revealed, I argue that the former location of the Jewish temple can now be known with certainty, and that the Church should support the rebuilding of the temple. But for some, the idea of Christians supporting the Jews rebuilding a temple is very controversial. Many Christians believe that God no longer has an interest in, or purpose for, a physical temple. Near the end of the book, after going through the prophetic, historical, and archaeological case for identifying its proper location, I make the scriptural case for Christians supporting the rebuilding of the temple.
I have also come across objections to supporting the rebuilding of a Jewish temple based on the metaphor used in the New Testament describing Christians as “living stones” in a new spiritual temple. The idea is that somehow this must mean that all scriptural references to a real temple, after A.D. 70, must be understood solely as metaphors that do not refer to any real structure. Since others may also have a similar question or just be unsure of what the Bible really has to say about temples in the Last Days, I thought it would be good to look at the scriptural references for temples in the Bible and then study the example of communion.
First, let’s list the seven temples found in scripture:Read More
Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.
They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”
So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.Genesis 11:1-9
There is so much that can be unpacked from this one story, but to really get the most out of it, one has to first believe that it is truly history and not a mythical story passed on to Moses, or even later by unknown authors. Without taking the account at full face value, it is of no use to us in interpreting the few remains that we find of the ancient past. However, when Genesis 11 is understood as history, a lot of human history begins to make sense.Read More
Here’s an imagined look at what a rebuilt temple on the Temple Mount could really look like…
I wanted to release this book on October 9th because it is also the 21st day of the seventh month (Tishri) on the Jewish calendar this year, and it marks the end of the biblical feast of Sukkot. That is special because about 2,500 years ago, the prophet Haggai wrote this on the same day:Read More
I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”Psalm 122 (NIV-emphasis added)
Our feet are standing in your gates, Jerusalem. Jerusalem is built like a city that is closely compacted together. That is where the tribes go up—the tribes of the Lord—to praise the name of the Lord according to the statute given to Israel. There stand the thrones for judgment, the thrones of the house of David.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May those who love you be secure. May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.”
For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, “Peace be within you.”
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your prosperity.
We are encouraged by David in Psalm 122 to continually pray for the peace of Jerusalem, but notice the connection of that peace with the house of God, i.e. the temple. There is also another peace that we should be watching for, spoken of by the prophet Daniel (Daniel 9:24-27), which presumably involves the restoration of the temple. Thus, in light of the current progress towards peace in the Middle East, are we seeing something simply in line with what David said we should seek continually, or are we approaching the time of peace that Daniel spoke about? And either way, how will this affect Jewish aspirations to rebuild the temple?Read More
Beginning early in the year in 2020, the world began experiencing a global phenomenon, ostensibly triggered by a global pandemic, but one which made the whole world sit back and take notice. In light of the global nature of the experience, I think its worth considering if those events have any possible connection to the events that are foretold with the first seal of the book of Revelation and the rider on a white horse…
Then I saw when the Lamb broke one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying as with a voice of thunder, “Come.” I looked, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.Revelation 6:1-2, NASB — The First Seal—A Rider on White Horse
The mark of the beast has been the subject of endless speculations (to which I will now add my own thoughts), because of the gravity of the punishment for receiving the mark for those whose are alive in the days of the Great Tribulation. Clearly, this is something important to get right, or there wouldn’t be coming a special announcement delivered by an angel of heaven. But what could it be?Read More
As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”LUKE 19: 41-44 (NIV – emphasis added)
Jesus said these words after his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, just days before his crucifixion. His statement begs a couple of questions. First, “How did they miss that he was the Messiah?” And second, “If there was an appointed time for his first coming that they failed to recognize, how about when he returns as he promised?”Read More
I’ve been a Christian most of my life and thinking about the prophesied return of Jesus for more than 30 years. Instead of going into the ministry, though, I went into the world working as an engineer. I’ve had a lot of victories and a lot of losses over the years, but I never lost my belief in the God of the Bible, or the reliability of His Word.Read More