Wednesday, September 10, 2014

What Day Did Christ Die?

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UPDATE: In Catholic scholar Brant Pitre's book Jesus and the Last Supper, he wrote a ~122 page chapter (4th) on the topic of the apparent discrepancy and contradiction between the Synoptics and the GJohn regarding whether the Last Supper was or wasn't a Passover, and whether Jesus died at approximately the same time the Passover lambs were or afterwards. Pitre acknowledges there are many views on the topic, but lists four of the most popular views among scholars. Two of them attempt to reconcile the apparent discrepancy and two argue for real contradiction. He describes and then goes through each options' strengths and weaknesses, and then argues for the fourth position.

1. The Essene Hypothesis attempts to reconcile the discrepancy by appealing to two liturgical calendars among Jews at the time. So, it's both true that Jesus did and didn't observe the Passover.

2. The Johannine Hypothesis argues that John is right and the Synoptics are wrong. This is the most popular view among scholars. He argues that the main basis for its popularity is that it's grounded in astronomical considerations. However, he argues that when examined more carefully, the astronomical considerations are weak because they ultimately depend on atmospheric observations from the ground (not merely where the moon was in relation to the earth) during the relevant 1st century years. If I recall correctly, a cloudy day could delay the Passover up to 48 hours. Also, (if I recall) the calendar was dependent on when the season started, and that depended on the state of the crops.

3. The Synoptic Hypothesis argues that the Synoptics are right and GJohn is wrong.

4. The Passover Hypothesis argues that the Last Supper was a Passover (as the Synoptics clearly state) and that when properly read, GJohn actually agrees with the Synoptics. Pitre argues that when one takes into account the various ways the Jews at the time used the word Passover and other phrases to refer to the Passover season, John perfectly conforms to it such that the apparent contradiction disappears. Pitre says this is the least popular of the four among scholars (because neglected and dismissed), but argues that it's actually the best of the four options.

I highly recommend the chapter (and book) to everyone. It's really fascinating. I obviously cannot summarize everything in the (over) 120 pages in that chapter.

A common claimed contradiction and/or discrepancy in the Bible that skeptics bring up is the question of when Jesus was actually crucified.

1. Did Jesus Christ's crucifixion occur the day before the Passover meal was eaten, as John explicitly says, or did it occur after it was eaten as Mark explicitly says? (paraphrase of skeptic Bart Ehrman's often asked question)

2. Was the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on a Wednesday, Thursday or Friday?

For a long while in my Christian youth I rejected a Friday crucifixion. But after doing a bit more study, I've concluded that the traditional position of a Friday crucifixion fits all of the available Biblical data better. What really helped me come to the traditional view was James White's discussion on the topic which can be purchased at his website (the current direct link is here). When it comes to other finer details, I haven't come to any firm conclusions. However, the following quotes and articles can help people come to their own conclusions.

April 3, AD 33 by Andreas J. Köstenberger and Justin Taylor

Friday crucifixion Sunday resurrection 
↑↑↑↑↑↑↑↑↑↑ Read the warning below about this link↑↑↑↑↑↑↑↑↑↑
While there are many doctrinal issues that I disagree with from the website that the above article comes from, this particular article argues persuasively for a Friday crucifixion (even if not all its facts are accurate). The creators of the website are sub-Evangelical. I recommend one reads this article after one reads the following quotes.

MARK 14:12ff- Did Jesus institute the Lord's Supper on the day of the Passover or the day before?

PROBLEM: If the first three Gospels (synoptics) are correct, then Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper "on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they killed the Passover lamb" (cf. Matt. 26:17; Luke 22:1). But John places it "before the feast of the Passover" (13:1), the day before the crucifixion on which "they might eat the Passover" (18:28).
SOLUTION: There are two basic positions embraced by evangelical scholars on this point. Those who hold that Jesus ate the Passover lamb (and instituted the Lord's Supper at the end of it) on the same day it was observed by the Jews, support their view as follows: (1) It was the day required by the OT Law, and Jesus said He did not come to destroy the Law, but to fulfill it (Matt. 5:17-18). (2) It seems to be the meaning of Mark 14:12 which says it was "on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they killed the Passover lamb." (3) When John 19:14 speaks of it being "the Preparation Day of the Passover" they take this to mean simply the preparation for the Sabbath which occurred in that paschal week.
    Other scholars contend that Jesus ate the Passover lamb on the day before the Jews did because: (1) He had to eat it a day early (Thursday) in order that He might offer Himself the next day (Good Friday) as the Passover Lamb (cf. John 1:29) to the Jews, in fulfillment of OT type on the very day they were eating the Passover lamb (1 Cor. 5:7). (2) The plain reading of John 19:14 is that it was "the Preparation Day of the Passover" [not the Sabbath], or in other words, the day before the Passover was eaten by the Jews. (3) Likewise, John 18:28 affirms that the Jews did not want to be defiled on the day Jesus was crucified "that they might eat the Passover."
    Either view is possible without contradiction. However, the latter view seems to explain the texts forthrightly.

- From The Big Book of Bible Difficulties by Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe page 375 (previously titled When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties)

Lord's supper instituted at Passover.
Matt. xxvi. 17-30; Mark xiv. 12-26;
Luke xxii. 1, 13-20.
Upon the preceding day.
John xiii. 1,2; xviii. 28.

Of the two leading theories the first is, that the Lord's supper was instituted on the evening following the fourteenth day of Nisan, at the legal time of the passover. Robinson4 maintains that the term "passover" sometimes comprises the whole paschal festival, or the feast of unleavened bread which began with the passover proper; that the expression "to eat the passover" may mean "to keep the paschal festival"; and that the "preparation of the passover," John xix. 14, denotes simply the customary "preparation" for the Sabbath, which occurred in that paschal week. In this view, which relieves the difficulty, a host of critics5 substantially concur.

4 English Harmony, pp. 200-205.
5 So Andrews, Bochart, Davidson, Fairbairn, Gardiner, Hengstenberg, Lange, Lewin, Lightfoot, Milligan, Norton, Olshausen, Robinson, Schoettgen, Stier, Tholuck, and Wieseler.

-From Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible by John W. Haley p. 423

Was Christ crucified on Thursday or Friday?

    The uniform impression conveyed by the synoptic Gospels is that the Crucifixion took place on Friday of Holy Week. If it were not for John 19:14, the point would never have come up for debate. But John 19:14 says (according to NASB): "Now it was the day of preparation [paraskeuē] for the Passover; it was about the sixth hour. And he [Pilate] said to the Jews, 'Behold, your King!' " The NIV suggests a somewhat less difficult handling of the apparent discrepancy: "It was the day of Preparation of Passover Week, about the sixth hour." This latter translation takes note of two very important matters of usage. First, the word paraskeuē had already by the first century A.D. become a technical term for "Friday," since every Friday was the day of preparation for Saturday, that is, the Sabbath. In Modern Greek the word for "Friday" is paraskeuē.
    Second, the Greek term tou pascha (lit., "of the Passover") is taken to be equivalent to the Passover Week. This refers to the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread (Heb. maṣṣôṯ) that immediately followed the initial slaughtering and eating of the Passover lamb on the evening of the fourteenth day of the month Abib, which by Hebrew reckoning would mean the commencement of the fifteenth day, right after sunset. The week of maṣṣô-t, coming right on the heels of Passover itself (during which maṣṣô-t were actually eaten, along with the lamb, bitter herbs, etc.) very naturally came to be known as Passover Week (cf. Encyclopaedia Britannica, 14th ed., 12:1041), extending from the fifteenth to the twenty-first of Abib, inclusively. (Arndt and Gingrich [Greek-English Lexicon, pp. 638-39] state: "This [i.e., Passover] was followed immediately by the Feast of Unleavened Bread...on the 15th to the 21st. Popular usage merged the two festivals and treated them as a unity, as they were for practical purposes.") It was unnecessary to insert a specific term for "week" (such as šā-bȗaʻ) for it to be understood as such. Therefore, that which might be translated literally as "the preparation of the Passover" must in this context be rendered "Friday of Passover Week."
    It turns out, therefore, that John affirms just as clearly as the Synoptics that Christ was crucified on Friday and that His sacrificial death represented an antitypical fulfillment of the Passover ordinance itself, which was instituted by God in the days of the Exodus as a means of making Calvary available by faith to the ancient people of God even before the coming of Christ.
    Note that in 1 Corinthians 5:7 Jesus is referred to as the Passover Lamb for believers: "Purge out the old leaven, so that you may be a new lump, just as you were unleavened. For Christ our Lamb was sacrificed for us." The statement of E. C. Hoskyns on John 19:14 is very appropriate here: "The hour of double sacrifice is drawing near. It is midday. The Passover lambs are being prepared for sacrifice, and the Lamb of God is likewise sentenced to death" (The Fourth Gospel [London: Farber and Farber, 1940], ad loc.). It simply needs to be pointed out that the lambs referred to here are not those that were slaughtered and eaten in private homes--a rite Jesus had already observed with His disciples the night before ("Maundy Thursday")--but the lambs to be offered on the altar of the Lord on behalf of the whole nation of Israel. (For the household observance on the evening of the fourteenth of Abib, cf. Exod. 12:6; for the public sacrifice on the altar, cf. Exod. 12:16-17; Lev. 23:4-8; 2 Chron. 30:15-19; 35:11-16. These were all known as Passover sacrifices, since they were presented during Passover week.)
    Thus it turns out that there has been a simple misunderstanding of the phrase paraskeuē tou pascha that has occasioned such perplexity that even Guthrie (New Bible Commentary, p. 964) deduced an original error, for which he had no solution to offer. The various ingenious explantions offered by others, that Christ held His personal Passover a night early, knowing that He would be crucified before the evening of the fourteenth; that Christ and His movement held to a different calendar, reckoning the fourteenth to be a day earlier than the calendar of the official Jerusalem priesthood; or that He was following a revised calendar observed by the Essenes at Qumran--all these theories are quite improbable and altogether unnecessary. There is no contradiction whatever between John and the Synoptics as to the day on which Christ died--it was Friday.

- From Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties by Gleason L. Archer pp. 375-376.

14. The Length of Our Lord's Stay in the Tomb

Quite an effort is made in some quarters to show that Jesus remained in the tomb seventy-two hours, three full days and nights. The effort seems due to a desire to give full value to the expression "three days" and to vindicate scripture. But a minutely literal interpretation of this phrase makes "on the third day" flatly erroneous. A good deal of labor has been expended in the impossible attempt to make three and four equal to each other. There are three sets of expressions used about the matter, besides the express statements of the Gospels about the days of the crucifixion, and resurrection. Let us examine these lines of evidence. 1. Luke settles the matter pointedly by mentioning all the time between the crucifixion and the resurrection (Luke 23:50-24:3). The burial took place Friday afternoon just before the Sabbath drew on (Luke 23:54). The women rested on the Sabbath (Saturday) (Luke 23:56), and went to the sepulchre early Sunday morning, the first day of the week (Luke 24:1). There is no escaping this piece of chronology. This is all the time there was between the two events. Jesus then lay in the tomb from late in the afternoon of Friday till early Sunday morning. The other Gospels agree with this reckoning of the time, as we have already seen. 2. But how about the prediction of Jesus, repeatedly made, and once illustrated by the case of Jonah, that he would rise after three days? Are two nights and a day and two pieces of days three days? Let us see. (a) The well-known custom of the Jews was to count a part of a day as a whole day of twenty-four hours. Hence a part of a day or night would be counted as a whole day, the term day obviously having two senses, as night and day, or day contrasted with night. So then the part of Friday would count as one day, Saturday another, and the part of Sunday the third day. This method of reckoning gives no trouble to a Jew or to modern men, for that matter. In free vernacular we speak the same way today. (b) Besides, the phrase "on the third day" is obliged to mean that the resurrection took place on that day, for, if it occurred after the third day, it would be on the fourth day and not on the third. Now it so happens that this term "third day" is applied seven times to the resurrection of Christ (Matt. 16:21; Matt. 17:23; Matt. 20:19; Luke 27:7, 21, 46; 1 Cor. 15:4). These numerous passages of Scripture, both prophecy and statement of history, agree with the record of the fact that Jesus did rise on the third day. (Luke 24:7.) (c) Moreover, the phrase "after three days" is used by the same writers (Matthew and Luke) in connection with the former one, "the third day," as meaning the same thing. Hence the definite and clear expressions must explain the one that is less so. The chief priests and Pharisees remember (Matt. 27:63) that Jesus said, after three days I rise again. Hence they urge Pilate to keep a guard over the tomb until the third day (Matt. 27:64). This is their own interpretation of the Saviour's words. Besides, in parallel passages in the different Gospels, one will have one expression and another the other, naturally suggesting that they regarded them as equivalent. (Cf . Mark 8:31 with Matt. 16:21, Luke 9:22 with Mark 10:34.) On the third day cannot mean on the fourth day, while after three days can be used as meaning on the third day. (d) Matthew 12:40 is urged as conclusive the other way. But the "three days and three nights" may be nothing more than a longer way of saying three days, using day in its long sense. And we have already seen that the Jews counted any part of this full day (day and night) as a whole day (day and night). Hence this passage may mean nothing more than the common "after three days" above mentioned, and, like that expression, must be interpreted in accordance with the definite term "on the third day" and with the clear chronological data given by Luke and the rest. They seemed to be conscious of no discrepancy in these various expressions. Most likely they understood them as well as we do at any rate.

- excerpt from A Harmony of the Gospels For Students of the Life of Christ by A.T. Robertson

...The Jews take a particular notice of the third day as remarkable for many things they observe {e}, as

"of the third day Abraham lift up his eyes, Ge 22:4 of the third day of the tribes, Ge 42:18 of the third day of the spies, Jos 2:16 of the third day of the giving of the law, Ex 19:16 of the third day of Jonah, Jon 1:17 of the third day of them that came out of the captivity, Ezr 8:15 of the third day of the resurrection of the dead, as it is written, Ho 6:2 "after two days will he revive us, in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight".''

From which passage, it is clear, that they under stood the prophecy in Hosea of the resurrection of the dead; and it is observable, that among the remarkable third days they take notice of, are the two instances of Isaac's and Jonah's deliverances, which were Scripture types of Christ's resurrection. From which observations they establish this as a maxim {f}, that

"God does not leave the righteous in distress more than three days.''...

- John Gill's comments on 1 Cor. 15:4

...That Christ means himself by the "son of man", there is no reason to doubt; and his being laid in a tomb, dug out of a rock, is sufficient to answer this phrase, "the heart of the earth", in distinction from the surface of it; but some difficulty arises about the time of his continuing there, and the prediction here made agreeable to the type: for it was on the sixth day of the week, we commonly call "Friday", towards the close, on the day of the preparation for the sabbath, and when the sabbath drew on, that the body of Christ was laid in the sepulchre; where it lay all the next day, which was the sabbath of the Jews, and what we commonly call "Saturday"; and early on the first of the week, usually called "Sunday", or the Lord's day, he rose from the dead; so that he was but one whole day, and part of two, in the grave. To solve this difficulty, and set the matter in a clear light, let it be observed, that the three days and three nights, mean three natural days, consisting of day and night, or twenty four hours, and are what the Greeks call nucyhmera, "night days"; but the Jews have no other way of expressing them, but as here; and with them it is a well known rule, and used on all occasions, as in the computation of their feasts and times of mourning, in the observance of the passover, circumcision, and divers purifications, that wlwkk Mwyh tuqm, "a part of a day is as the whole" {n}: and so, whatever was done before sun setting, or after, if but an hour, or ever so small a time, before or after it, it was reckoned as the whole preceding, or following day; and whether this was in the night part, or day part of the night day, or natural day, it mattered not, it was accounted as the whole night day: by this rule, the case here is easily adjusted; Christ was laid in the grave towards the close of the sixth day, a little before sun setting, and this being a part of the night day preceding, is reckoned as the whole; he continued there the whole night day following, being the seventh day; and rose again early on the first day, which being after sun setting, though it might be even before sun rising, yet being a part of the night day following, is to be esteemed as the whole; and thus the son of man was to be, and was three days and three nights in the grave; and which was very easy to be understood by the Jews; and it is a question whether Jonas was longer in the belly of the fish.

{l} R. David Kimchi & Jarchi, in Jonah i. 17. & ii. 1. Zohar in Exod. fol. 20. 3. & 78. 3. {m} Antiq. 1. 9. c. 18. {n} T. Hieros. Pesach. fol. 31. 2. T. Bab. Moed. Katon, fol. 16. 2. 17. 2. 19. 2. & 20. 2. Bechorot, fol. 20. 2. & 21. 1, Nidda, fol. 33. 1. Maimon. Hilch. Ebel, c. 7. sect. 1, 2, 3. Aben Ezra in Lev. xii. 3....

- John Gill's comments on Matt. 12:40

Verse 40. Three days and three nights] Our Lord rose from the grave on the day but one after his crucifixion: so that, in the computation in this verse, the part of the day on which he was crucified, and the part of that on which he rose again, are severally estimated as an entire day; and this, no doubt, exactly corresponded to the time in which Jonah was in the belly of the fish. Our Lord says, As Jonah was, so shall the Son of man be, &c.

Evening and morning, or night and day, is the Hebrew phrase for a natural day, which the Greeks termed nuxqhmeron, nuchthemeron. The very same quantity of time which is here termed three days and three nights, and which, in reality, was only one whole day, a part of two others, and two whole nights, is termed three days and three nights, in the book of Esther: Go; neither eat nor drink THREE DAYS, NIGHT or DAY, and so I will go in unto the king: Esth. iv. 16. Afterwards it follows, Esther v. 1. On the THIRD DAY, Esther stood in the inner court of the king's house. Many examples might be produced, from both the sacred and profane writers, in vindication of the propriety of the expression in the text. For farther satisfaction, the reader, if he please, may consult Whitby and Wakefield, and take the following from Lightfoot.

"I. The Jewish writers extend that memorable station of the unmoving sun, at Joshua's prayer, to six and thirty hours; for so Kimchi upon that place: 'According to more exact interpretation, the sun and moon stood still for six and thirty hours: for when the fight was on the eve of the Sabbath, Joshua feared lest the Israelites might break the Sabbath; therefore he spread abroad his hands, that the sun might stand still on the sixth day, according to the measure of the day of the Sabbath, and the moon according to the measure of the night of the Sabbath, and of the going out of the Sabbath, which amounts to six and thirty hours.' "II. If you number the hours that pass from our saviour's giving up the ghost upon the cross to his resurrection, you shall find almost the same number of hours; and yet that space is called by him three days and three nights, whereas two nights only came between, and one complete day.

Nevertheless, while he speaks these words, he is not without the consent both of the Jewish schools and their computation. Weigh well that which is disputed in the tract Scabbath, concerning the separation of a woman for three days; where many things are discussed by the Gemarists, concerning the computation of this space of three days. Among other things these words occur: R. Ismael saith, Sometimes it contains four hwnwa onoth, sometimes five, sometimes six. But how much is the space of an hnwa onah? R. Jochanan saith, Either a day or a night. And so also the Jerusalem Talmud: 'R. Akiba fixed a DAY for an onah, and a NIGHT for an onah.' But the tradition is, that R. Eliazar ben Azariah said, A day and a night make an onah: and a PART of an onah is as the WHOLE. And a little after, R.

Ismael computed a part of the onah for the whole." Thus, then, three days and three nights, according to this Jewish method of reckoning, included any part of the first day; the whole of the following night; the next day and its night; and any part of the succeeding or third day...

- Adam Clarke's comments on Matt. 12:40

Other Resources:

John's Passion week chronology by Steve Hays

(Jn. 13:1) Does John contradict the Synoptics regarding the Passover meal?
This article argues that the following:

OPTION #4: There were two calendars for the Pharisees and the Sadducees.
We hold to this final view. It states that the Jews celebrated the Passover on two consecutive days. Hoehner writes, “The Pharisees celebrated the Passover immediately (Nisan 13/14) while the Sadducees waited until the usual time (i.e., Nisan 14/15).”[2] Jesus celebrated the Passover on Thursday night according to the Pharisaic calendar, which is in line with the Synoptics. But John was going off of the Sadducean calendar, when he wrote his gospel, because he was focusing on Jesus’ enemies.
Since there were so many people to feed, it would be virtually impossible for the priests to sacrifice enough lambs in a 24 hour period. Josephus estimates that about a quarter million lambs were slaughtered during the Passover.[3] Modern historians believe that Josephus was clearly exaggerating these numbers. It would be difficult for an army with guns and grenades to kill that many sheep, let alone a group of priests! However, modern historians estimate that anywhere from 150,000 to 500,000 people were in Jerusalem during Passover.[4] This would be a massive amount of people to feed with the sacrificed sheep.
By spreading this out over two days, this would help the priests perform the sacrifices. Thus Hoehner explains, “There arose the custom where the Galileans slew their lambs on Nisan 13, and the Feast of Unleavened Bread lasted eight days whereas the Judeans celebrated on Nisan 14.”[5] Hoehner also argues that the Galileans/Pharisees could have used a different way of reckoning the day from the Judeans/Sadducees. He writes, “It is thought that the Galileans used a different method of reckoning the Passover than the Judeans. The Galileans and Pharisees used the sunrise-to-sunrise reckoning whereas the Judeans and Sadducees used the sunset-to-sunset reckoning.”[6] We can express these two groups succinctly:
The Galilean Jews reckoned the day from sunrise-to-sunrise: This made the Last Supper a Passover meal. They had the Paschal lamb slaughtered in the afternoon on Thursday, Nisan 14. Carson writes, “The slaughter normally took place between 3.00 p.m. and 5.00 p.m. on 14 Nisan, falling on a Thursday in the year in question; Passover itself began about 6.00 p.m. on the same Thursday, the beginning of 15 Nisan.”[7]
The Judean Jews reckoned the day from sunset-to-sunset: They would not have considered the Last Supper a Passover meal. They had their Paschal lamb slaughtered on Friday afternoon, Nisan 15. Under this calendar system, Jesus was eating the Passover meal, when his enemies were conspiring to arrest him. In fact, they arrested him the night before.
The corporate sacrifice of a burnt offering for the nation was done at 3 pm on Passover, according to the Judean calendar. This means that when the priest was slaying the Paschal lamb, Jesus was at that very moment yelling “tetelestai” from the Cross! John must have been calling attention to this fact by focusing on the Sadducean calendar.

[1] Hoehner, Harold W. Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Pub. House, 1977. 81.
[2] Hoehner, Harold W. Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Pub. House, 1977. 82.
[3] Josephus writes, “So these high priests, upon the coming of that feast which is called the Passover, when they slay their sacrifices, from the ninth hour till the eleventh, but so that a company not less than ten belong to every sacrifice, (for it is not lawful for them to feast singly by themselves,) and many of us are twenty in a company, found the number of sacrifices was two hundred and fifty-six thousand five hundred; which, upon the allowance of no more than ten that feast together, amounts to two millions seven hundred thousand and two hundred persons that were pure and holy.” Flavius Josephus, The Jewish War 6.9.3.
[4] E.P. Sanders writes, “No one believes the largest of these figures.” Sanders, E.P. Judaism: Practice and Belief 63 BCE – 66 CE. p. 126. He gives the estimate listed above. Joachim Jeremias places the number around 155,000 people: 30,000 residents and 125,000 pilgrims. Jeremias, Joachim. The Eucharistic Words of Jesus. New York: Scribner, 1966. 42.
[5] Hoehner, Harold W. Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Pub. House, 1977. 82.
[6] Hoehner, Harold W. Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Pub. House, 1977. 86.
[7] Carson, D.A. The Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press, 1991.

See also my blogpost:

Was Jesus in the Grave 72 Hours in Fulfillment of His Prediction of "Three Days and Three Nights"? 




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