Does the Bible tell us on what day of the week Jesus was crucified? How do we know that it was a Friday? While some contemporary scholars have sought to provide alternatives to the traditional day of Christ's crucifixion, the most conclusive evidence continues to point toward Friday as the most likely day of the week for the crucifixion of Jesus.
What day of the week was Jesus crucified?
First, the Gospels state that Jesus died on the day before the Sabbath. We read in Mark 15:42-43, "And when evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus." The Sabbath has always been the last day of the week, Saturday. We can conclude that Mark is clearly speaking of Christ's death on Friday.
Second, the Bible teaches that Jesus rose on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:4) and that this third day was Sunday, the first day of the week. In the Jewish reckoning, part of a day counted as a day. Three days would include His burial on Friday, Saturday (the Sabbath), and Sunday. We read in Matthew 16:21 and Luke 9:22 that Jesus predicted His resurrection on the third day.
Some, however, argue that a Friday death and Sunday resurrection do not fit Matthew 12:40. There, Jesus states, "For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." Since Jesus was not in the grave "three nights," some argue that either this prediction by Jesus was inaccurate or that the crucifixion was earlier than Friday. Such proponents typically suggest Thursday, though some also argue for Wednesday.
The primary weakness of this argument is an overly literal interpretation of this prediction. Jesus says, "For as Jonah," meaning "similar to Jonah." This allusion to Jonah's account was intended to show Jesus, like Jonah, would appear to be gone from this life. Yet, as with Jonah, He would return to complete God's will.
Those who argue for a Thursday or Wednesday date also suggest too many events took place between the crucifixion and the resurrection to fit the time period. However, this argument offers little credible evidence, as one would expect the Gospel writers to offer more detail regarding the final aspects of Christ's life than at other times. A close examination of the events shows they could have certainly occurred between Friday and Sunday.
A few have opted for a Wednesday date for the crucifixion by suggesting that there were two "Sabbaths" or holy days during Passover week. After the first one (the one that occurred on the evening of the crucifixion (Mark 15:42; Luke 23:52-54), the women purchased spices (after the Sabbath, Mark 16:1). This view suggests the Passover was the first Sabbath. The major weakness of this view is that the original readers of the Gospels would likely not have understood these words as a reference to more than one Sabbath. Certainly Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John would have used writing that clearly communicated on which day of the week Jesus died and rose again. And, in fact, they did, with direct references to Jesus' death the day before the Sabbath (death on Friday) and the resurrection on the first day of the week (Sunday).
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