Saturday, 3 March 2012

Good Friday or Good Thursday? Tradition requires great caution.







Above: Golgotha, the Place of the Skull, where Jesus was crucified.  A Muslim cemetery has bee built above and a bus terminal below.


There are many traditions in the church.  Indeed, traditions are often the differentiating factors between the many ‘Christian’ denominations.

There is nothing inherently wrong with traditions.  Your family may celebrate Thanksgiving Dinner together year after year – this is a great tradition that helps bond a family together.  However, when a tradition distorts Scripture and distracts us from its inherent truths we create significant problems and can do much unintentional damage.  Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.”  He did not say, “I am the way, the tradition and the life.”

I recently conducted a study concerning the tradition of Good Friday.   I have long been confused by this tradition as Jesus specifically prophesied concerning his death: “The Son of Man will be in the earth for three days and three nights.”  An unambiguous statement if ever there was one!  If Jesus was indeed crucified on Friday and raised to life before dawn on Sunday morning, according to my calendar, he could have only “been in the earth” two days and two nights. 

It is only in a few of the modern Bible translations that we read of Jesus being crucified on a Friday.  I would respectfully argue that they are wrong - they are repeating traditions.  For clarity one should research the Old Testament instructions on which days the Passover feast(s) were to be eaten and to understand that there are Special Sabbaths, and more than just one day of preparation.  Read a literal (word-for-word) translation of the Bible and it will become clearer.  Older Bible translations do not mention the crucifixion happening [specifically] on the Friday.  Jesus had to be crucified on the Thursday.  Scripture says so!

As an aside, some have used the argument of a solar ellipse occurring while Jesus was on the cross to slip in an additional day. "It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining." Luke 23:44-45. The totality of an eclipse can never last more than 7-minutes and 31-seconds, and is usually shorter than 5 minutes so this does not work. Scripture specifically says the sun was darkened and darkeness came over the whole land for three hours.

As we look into what is written in the Scriptures it is important to understand the difference as to how the Pharisees and Sadducees observed the beginning of the day.


Colour code: Pharisee  Sadducee

Wednesday
14th day of Nissan (Pharisee day starts at sunrise - 6:00am)
14th day of Nissan (Sadducees day starts at sunset - 6:00pm)
Passover [Pesach] begins at twilight.
Leviticus 23:5 The LORD's Passover begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month.
Luke 22:14-16 (New International Version) When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table.  And he said to them, "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.  For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God."

Thursday 15th day of Nissan (Pharisee day starts at sunrise - 6:00am)
Matthew 27:1 Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people came to the decision to put Jesus to death. They bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate, the governor.
Mark 15:1 Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, reached a decision. They bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate.
John 18:28 Jesus’ trial before Caiaphas ended in the early hours of the morning. Then he was taken to the headquarters of the Roman governor. His accusers didn’t go inside because it would defile them, and they wouldn’t be allowed to celebrate the Passover.
John 19:14 It was the day of Preparation of Passover Week, about the sixth hour. "Here is your king," Pilate said to the Jews.
Note: "Passover Week" not "the Passover".  This would be the first of two (and possibly second of three) Days of Preparation within the same week. 
Mark 15:25 It was the third hour when they crucified him.
Matthew 27:45 [The Death of Jesus ] From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land.
Mark 15:33 [The Death of Jesus] At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour.
Luke 23:44 [Jesus' Death] It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour,
Matthew 27:46 About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"—which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
Mark 15:34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"—which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
Matthew 27: 57-61 As evening approached; there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus' body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.
Transliteration:   27:57 And evening having come, there came a rich man, from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also himself was discipled to Jesus,

Thursday 15th day of Nissan (Sadducees day starts at sunset - 6:00pm)
Leviticus 23:5 The LORD's Passover begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month.
Transliteration: 23:5 in the first month, on the fourteenth of the month, between the evenings, [is] the Passover to Jehovah;
Mark 15:42  And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathaea, an honourable counsellor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus.
Note: KJV indicates evening has just started - that is the first hour of the day of Sabbath Preparation - not the Sabbath itself.  This timing is key. Transliteration: 15:42 And now evening having come, seeing it was the preparation, that is, the fore-Sabbath,
Luke 23:52 Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus' body. Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.
 KJV "And that day was the preparation, and the Sabbath drew on."
Note: This is a conflict in the NIV translation as this would be the 1st hour of the Day of Preparation.





Above: The tomb [at Gordon's Calvary], the layout of which perfectly matches the biblical account.

Transliteration: 23:54 And the day was a preparation, and Sabbath was approaching,
John 19:31 It was the day of preparation, and the Jewish leaders didn’t want the bodies hanging there the next day, which was the Sabbath (and a very special Sabbath, because it was the Passover).
Transliteration:  19:31The Jews, therefore, that the bodies might not remain on the cross on the Sabbath, since it was the preparation, (for that Sabbath day was a great one,) asked of Pilate that their legs may be broken, and they taken away.  Note: This was not the Sabbath (Saturday) but a ‘special Sabbath’.

Friday 16th day of Nissan (Pharisee day starts at sunrise - 6:00am)
Matthew 27:62 Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again.  Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure 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: go your way, make it as sure as ye can. So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.
Note: There were conceivably three consecutive ‘days of preparation’:
1.   Wednesday  (daytime) for the Sadducee’s Passover celebrated by Jesus on Wednesday evening;
2.  Thursday (daytime) Pharisee’s Passover and for the Feast of Unleavened Bread (to be celebrated on the Friday);
3.    And Friday (daytime) for the regular Sabbath day (Saturday)
Other translations (see NLT)  incorrectly say, "the Sabbath" (although the NLT does add a footnote).  If this were the case, Jesus could have not been buried for three days.


Friday,  16th day of Nissan (Saducees day starts at sunset - 6:00pm)
Saturday, 17th day of Nissan (Pharisee day starts at sunrise - 6:00am)
Exodus 16:23 (New Living Translation) He told them, “This is what the Lord commanded: Tomorrow will be a day of complete rest, a holy Sabbath day set apart for the Lord. So bake or boil as much as you want today, and set aside what is left for tomorrow.”

Original Sabbath (Shabbat, shabbos, shabbes, shobos, etc.) is a weekly day of rest, now observed from sundown on Friday until the appearance of three stars in the sky on Saturday night.

Saturday, 17th day of Nissan (Sadducee day starts at sunset - 6:00pm)
Sunday, 18th day of Nissan (Pharisee day starts at sunrise - 6:00am)
Matthew 28 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
Mark 16:2  Very early on Sunday morning, just at sunrise*, they went to the tomb.
Luke 24:1  ...very early on Sunday morning the women went to the tomb,
John 20:1 Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb.

*Note: Sunrise for 18th day of Nissan would be +/- 06:01am.

Sunday, 18th day of Nissan (Sadducee day starts at sunset - 6:00am)





Above: The outside of the tomb at Gordon's Calvary.

Conclusion:

“The Son of Man will be in the earth for three days and three nights.” Jesus was ‘...in the ground’ from the evening (sundown) on Thursday [day 1], all day Friday [day 2] and all day Saturday [day 3] and Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

In as much as Jesus was raised from the dead before sunrise on Sunday, Sunday cannot be counted as one of the days Jesus was, in His words, “...in the earth.”  Sunday, according to both the Pharisee’s and Sadducee’s reckoning begins AFTER the sun has risen.

The actual timing of Jesus’ death also needs to be considered.  Mark 15:25 says’ “It was the third hour when they crucified him.”  We then read, “At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour.” Jesus was on the cross from the third hour until the ninth hour.

According to both Jewish and Roman tradition, the day was divided into ‘watches’ [during the night] and ‘hours’ [during the day], each being three hours long.  When it says from the sixth to the ninth hour this could mean from the beginning of the ‘sixth hour’ to the end of the ‘ninth hour’, a total of six hours.  Conversely it could have been three hours. Also, the Jewish ‘hour’ began three hours before the Roman’s.

Roman watch/hour
1st hour
3rd hour
6th hour
9th hour
1st watch
2nd watch
3rd watch
4th watch
Jewish watch/hour
3rd hour
6th hour
9th hour
12th hour
1st watch
2nd watch
3rd watch
4th watch

Jesus would have been on the cross from between six and nine hours, likely the former as Pilate seemed surprised at how quickly Jesus died Mark 15:44).   According to the Jewish clock Jesus would have been on the cross anywhere from 6:00am to 3:00pm or, according to the Roman clock, from 9:00am to 6:00pm.

As we read in Luke 23:52 “Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus' body. Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.” It was still Thursday during the daytime, between 3:00pm and 6:00pm, (prior to sunset) so that Thursday, even though it was late in the day, would count as the first of the three days Jesus was ‘in the earth’.

Is my interpretation correct?  Acts 17:11 'Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.'

Whether you agree with my interpretation of Scripture or not in this instance, the wonder of it all is that Jesus rose from the dead!  This is what I am staking my eternity on.