In trying to get right the “three days” that Jesus said He would be in the tomb, many modern-day people count backward and end up deducing a Wednesday or Thursday crucifixion. Below, Zola Levitt Ministries’ Dr. Todd D. Baker puts together a detailed answer of how the people of biblical times numbered days.

A Wednesday crucifixion is too many days — it would leave Jesus in the tomb for four or five days instead of three days. In Jesus’ time, Jews counted a partial day as a full day according the the rabbinic concept of “Onah” So three days did not have to be a 72-hour period. With the concept of the Onah being in practice at the time, Jesus could have been crucified on Friday (which began on Thursday evening). Counting Thursday after sunset to Friday just before sunset was one day; Friday sunset to Saturday sunset was the second day; and Saturday sunset to Sunday morning (or anytime on Sunday before sunset) was the third day, the Onah reckoned as a full day. In trying to reckon a Wednesday or Thursday crucifixion, one encounters the term “High Sabbath” applied to Thursday or Friday. However, this is incorrect. The term is used in the Jewish calendar when a feast day falls on the weekly Sabbath which would be Saturday (beginning Friday at sunset)! Recall the disciples’ urgency to get Jesus off the cross and into the tomb by sunset beginning the Sabbath (Friday evening) Mark 15:42, Luke 23:53-24:1. I have addressed this on the Frequently Asked Questions page. Also, Zola wrote a pamphlet Three Days and Three Nights to further explain why Friday is the day Jesus was crucified. You may write to the ministry and request it for free.

Author Eric Lyons corroborates a Friday crucifixion in the article below:

Did Jesus Rise “On” or “After” the Third Day?
By Eric Lyons, M.Min.

The most frequent reference to Jesus’ resurrection reveals that He rose from the grave on the third day of His entombment. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record Jesus as prophesying that He would arise from the grave on this day (Matthew 17:23; Mark 9:31; Luke 9:22). The apostle Paul wrote in his first epistle to the Corinthians that Jesus arose from the grave “the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:4). What’s more, while preaching to Cornelius and his household, Peter taught that God raised Jesus up “on the third day” (Acts 10:40, emp. added). The fact is, however, Jesus also taught (and Mark recorded) “that the Son of Man” would “be killed, and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:31, emp. added).

Furthermore, Jesus elsewhere prophesied that He would be in the heart of the Earth for “three days and three nights” (Matthew 12:40). So which is it? Did Jesus rise from the dead on the third day or after three days?

While to the 21st-century reader these statements may initially appear to contradict one another, in reality, they harmonize perfectly if one understands the different, and sometimes more liberal, methods ancients often used when reckoning time. In the first century, any part of a day could be computed for the whole day and the night following it (cf. Lightfoot, 1979, pp. 210-211). The Jerusalem Talmud quotes rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah, who lived around A.D. 100, as saying: “A day and night are an Onah [‘a portion of time’] and the portion of an Onah is as the whole of it” (from Jerusalem Talmud: Shabbath ix. 3, as quoted in Hoehner, 1974, pp. 248-249, bracketed comment in orig.). Azariah indicated that a portion of a 24-hour period could be considered the same “as the whole of it.” Thus, as awkward as it may sound to an American living in the 21st century, a person in ancient times could legitimately speak of something occurring “on the third day,” “after three days,” or after “three days and three nights,” yet still be referring to the same exact day.

The Scriptures contain several examples which clearly show that in Bible times a part of a day was often equivalent to the whole day:

• According to Genesis 7:12, the rain of the Noahic Flood was upon the Earth “forty days and forty nights.” Verse 17 of that same chapter says it was on the Earth for just “forty days.” Who would argue that it had to rain precisely 960 hours (40 days x 24 hours) for both of these statements to be true?

• In Genesis 42:17 Joseph incarcerated his brothers for three days. Then, according to verse 18, he spoke to them on the third day and released them (all but one, that is).

• In 1 Samuel 30:12,13, the phrases “three days and three nights” and “three days” are used interchangeably.

• When Queen Esther was about to risk her life by going before the king uninvited, she instructed her fellow Jews to follow her example by not eating “for three days, night or day” (Esther 4:16). The text goes on to tell us that Esther went in unto the king “on the third day” (5:1, emp. added).

• Perhaps the most compelling Old Testament passage which clearly testifies that the ancients (at least occasionally) considered a portion of a twenty-four hour period “as the whole of it” is found in 2 Chronicles 10. When Israel asked King Rehoboam to lighten their burdens, he wanted time to contemplate their request, so he instructed Jeroboam and the people of Israel to return “after three days” (2 Chronicles 10:5, emp. added). Verse 12, however, indicates that Jeroboam and the people of Israel came to Rehoboam “on the third day, as the king had directed, saying, ‘ Come back to me the third day’ ” (emp. added). Fascinating, is it not, that even though Rehoboam instructed his people to return “after three days,” they understood this to mean “on the third day.”

• From Acts 10, we can glean further insight into the ancient practice of counting consecutive days (in part or in whole) as complete days. Luke recorded how an angel appeared to Cornelius at “about the ninth hour of the day” (approximately 3:00 p.m.; Acts 10:3). “The next day” (10:9) Peter received a vision from God and welcomed visitors sent by Cornelius. “On the next day” (10:23) Peter and the servants of Cornelius departed for Caesarea. “And the following day they entered Caesarea” where Peter taught Cornelius and his household the Gospel (10:24). At one point during Peter’s visit, Cornelius spoke about his encounter with the angel of God. Notice carefully how he began the rehearsal of the event. He stated: “Four days ago to this hour, I was praying in my house during the ninth hour…” (10:30, NASB, emp. added). Although the event actually had occurred only 72 hours (or three 24-hour days) earlier, Cornelius spoke of it as taking place “four days ago to this hour.” Why four days instead of three? Because according to the first-century method of reckoning time, a part of the first day and a part of the fourth day could be counted as whole days. Surely one can see how this information aligns itself perfectly with Jesus’ burial taking place on Friday and His resurrection occurring on Sunday. A part of Friday, all day Saturday, and a part of Sunday would be considered three days — not one or two — in ancient times.

Even though in modern times some may find this reasoning somewhat confusing, similar idiomatic expressions frequently are used today. For example, we consider a baseball game that ends after only completing 8½ innings a “9-inning game.” And even though the pitcher on the losing team pitched only 8 innings (and not 9 innings like the pitcher from the winning team), he is said to have pitched a complete game. Consider also the guest at a hotel who checks in at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, and checks out at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday—less than 24 hours later. Did the man stay one day or two days at the hotel? Technically, the guest was there for less than one full day (24-hour period), yet the hotel legally can charge him for two days since he did not leave before the mandatory 11:00 a.m. checkout time. Considering how flexible we are in measuring time, depending on the context, perhaps we should not be surprised at how liberal the ancients could be in calculating time.

Further evidence proving that Jesus’ statements regarding His burial were not contradictory centers around the fact that even His enemies did not accuse Him of contradicting Himself. No doubt this was due to their familiarity with and use of the flexible, customary method of stating time. In fact, the chief priests and Pharisees even said to Pilate the day after Jesus was crucified: “Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day” (Matthew 27:63-64, emp. added). The phrase “after three days” must have been equivalent to “the third day,” else surely the Pharisees would have asked for a guard of soldiers until the fourth day. Interesting, is it not, that modern skeptics charge Jesus with contradicting Himself, but not the hypercritical Pharisees of His own day.

The idiomatic expressions that Jesus and the Bible writers employed to denote how long Jesus would remain in the grave does not mean that He literally was buried for 72 hours. If we interpret the account of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, and resurrection in light of the cultural setting of the first century, and not according to the present-day (mis)understanding of skeptics, we find no errors in any of the expressions that Jesus and the gospel writers used.

10 thoughts on “What Day Was Jesus Crucified?

  • Hello
    If Jesus was crucified on Friday as you claim how did the women buy spices after the sabbath (Mark 16:1) and prepare the spices before the sabbath (Luke 23:56). This makes it necessary for there to be 2 sabbaths with a day in-between. You then get a crucifixion on Wednesday afternoon with a burial at sunset. This would begin the Passover sabbath lasting uhtil Thursday sunset. On Friday they would be able to buy and prepare the spices and rest on the weekly Saturday sabbath which began at sunset Friday. Early Sunday they went to the tomb before sunrise and found the tomb empty. Jesus rose at sunset Saturday thus allowing him to be in the grave for 3 days AND 3 nights as He said (Matthew 12:40).
    Yours truly, Kevin Watson

    • I appreciate your insight. I have never thought about a day between these Sabbaths. It makes sense, and it reconciles the feasts of the Lord when Jesus fulfilled the first fruits after the weekly Sabbath.

  • Keep it simple. Just use biblical text to determine the day of the week of the crucifiction. All of us know that scripture declares he rose on the first day of the week. Jesus said he would be in the grave three days and three nights. Forget days!.. Just draw a graph outlining the three nights preceeding the first day of the week when he rose early in the morning. Use either the Jewish beginning of the night at eventide, or our modern method of time keeping. The graph of three nights will put us back to a Thursday crucifiction. Remember Jesus said “three nights”. I much prefer to rely on His word than lectures by men, regardless of their academic qualifications.

  • Kevin says Wednesday crucifixion, David says Thursday crucifixion, Zola and tradition say Friday crucifixion (Good Friday is the traditional day of remembering Jesus’ crucifixion). Apparently, we all agree that He rose on Sunday; but you know what? Even that doesn’t matter. We can – and probably will – debate timelines until the Jesus comes again. The only fact that affects our salvation is our belief in a RISEN Lord. As long as we adhere to the fact that He died for our sins and rose from the dead, when He accomplished those events doesn’t matter. It is interesting to discuss them, but belief in one day or another doesn’t jeopardize our eternal life.

    We put this information out there to stimulate discussion and to give people a tool for drawing closer to Jesus’ experience during His final week. Understanding His agony and passion may help some appreciate His gift at a deeper level, but His gift remains a gift whether or not we write a thank-you note.

    Thank you both (and any future commenters) for joining in the discussion. Now, let’s get out there and bring others to their Messiah!

  • If you carefully read the 4 gospels it is never stated that Jesus rose on the first day of the week. The gospels state that when the women returned before sunrise that the stone was rolled away already. This leaves open the possibility of an earlier resurrection than Sunday morning. If Jesus rose at sunset Saturdsy evening this would fulfill exactly the 3 days and 3 nights and also allow for Jesus to have kept the sabbath even in death.

  • Mark 16:2 And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun. Mark 16:9 Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene,

  • JESUS did die that Wednesday and was buried before sunset,remember He came to Jerusalm on that Sunday.He was beyrayed that Monday,went to trial on Tuesday,on Wednesday morning at 9 am He was nailed to the Cross,6 hours later He was dead.Just before sunset He was laid in the tomb.WEDNESDAY NIGHT THURSDAY NIGHT FRIDAY NIGHT Three nights,Thursday morning,Friday morning,Saturday morning,Three days.The UNHOLY TRINITY,Nimrod,his Mother/Wife,their Son,SATAN,used this union to undermide GODS HOLY SABBATH.I would like for all of you to look up Constantine,Origin of Sun Worship, Sunday Sabbath and Babylon.Sun Worship started with Nimrod and the early Roman Church,now so named the Catholic Church,with days like Christ-mass and Easter.JESUS was not born on a cold winter night,there are no shepards or sheep in the fields in December and as for Easter,Nimrods Mother/Wife,The Queen of HEAVEN,the goddess ISHTAR[EASTER] of Springtime,read [JEREMIAH 7;16-18] and[EZEKIEL 8;12-18] These are the names for Nimrods Mother/Wife,Cybele[goddess of Asia]Fortuna[pagan Roman]Isis[The Queen of Heaven]Egypt,Isi[goddess mother]India,Venus[Rome]Ashterath[Phoenicia]Aphrodite[Greece]Irene[goddess of peace]Greece and Ishtar[Babylon]The Catholic Church was the leader of all this confusion as was Constantine and do not levae out Nimrod,god of the sun,Deoius[Asia]The boy Jupiter[pagan Rome]Osiris or Horus[Egypt]Iswara[India]Cupid[Rome]Tammuz[Phoenicia]Eros[Greece]The boy Plutus[Greece]and The Winged One[Babylon]in [MATTHEW 24] We all have been decieved and have fallen into Satans trap,THANK GOD for JESUS We now know the WAY.

  • No one was ask to keep the 613 Laws of Moses from GOD just THE TEN COMMANDMENTS stored in the ARK OF THE COVENANT.JESUS death did not do away with the LAW .The same Ten Commandments will apply when JESUS return.JESUS kept the Sabbath even in death by rising at the end of Sabbath and not Sunday morning as the Catholic Church would have you to believe.When the Ten Commandments hung in our school there was no killing of teachers and classmates plus we prayed and each child read a verse from the HOLY BIBLE,this was everyday,now with the lies of science and the beliefof man coming from the sea or saying man was an ape,we have our children wondering about life,we should be teaching that it was GOD ALMIGHTY and HIS SON who made man.JESUS gave us two new Commandments and we do not follow these two.Americans idolize just about everything even our spouse,our home, our car,singers,sports people and this is just a few things we put before GOD,think about this,if you hang up the TEN COMMANDMENTS and add PRAYER and the BIBLE back in our schools,we will see a big change.Oh I forgot, there are a handfull of people out there we Christians are afraid of,like Islam,homosexuals and gays,our Goverment and President Obama.I may not completely live by the TEN COMMANDMENTS but I do my best,I know how to REPENT.

  • I could not rest this morning,I had to type this massage,GOD want me to tell you all this and I hope to share it with you all.When JESUS rose from the dead there were two witnesses who saw the whole ordeal,[MATTHEW 28;13-18]These two or how many it was saw the Angel roll the stone away,these guards saw JESUS come out,they could not believe what was happening.This should shed some light on what day JESUS rose out of HIS grave.It was the end of Sabbath just before dark and not Sunday morning.the women came before day light,JESUS was gone,so counsel out the so called Sunrise Services and honor the HOLY DAYS OF GOD and not the holidays of man.The CATHOLIC CHURCH worshipped the Sun goddess Isis[Easter] and tied it into the Holy Days of the Jewish Festivals of Spring.Isis is the so called goddess of Spring when all new life begins.Easter eggs ,easter rabbits, who started this tradition.It sure do not have anything to do with JESUS rising from HIS tomb Saturday evening just before dark,how else could these witnesses seen this event as it occures,the women did not see JESUS,HE was gone when they got there.Let us all keep the PASSOVER that week instead of praising the goddess Isis[EASTER]Remember GOD saved the Israelites from EGYPT.It was the BLOOD OF THE LAMB, JESUS WAS THE LAMB,not the Easter bunny with his basket of eggs.

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