Was Jesus crucified on a Friday? If so, how did He spend three days in the tomb if He was resurrected on Sunday?
The Bible makes clear that Jesus was resurrected on the first day of the week, on Sunday. Because He was in the grave "three days" and this length of time has been interpreted in a variety of ways, more than one suggestion has been made regarding which day of the week the actual crucifixion took place. Suggestions have been made for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, with Friday taking prominence as the most likely day.
Those who suggest Wednesday as the day of the crucifixion do so by asserting two Sabbaths existed during that week. This theory claims the first Sabbath took place the evening of the crucifixion (Mark 15:42; Luke 23:52-54) since the women purchased spices after the Sabbath (Mark 16:1). This would make this first alleged Sabbath the Passover (Leviticus 16:29-31), marking a holy day as the Sabbath though it was not actually the first day of the week. In this chronology, the crucifixion took place Wednesday, the Passover (first Sabbath) on Thursday, the women prepared spices on Friday, rested on Saturday (the usual or second Sabbath) and Jesus rose on Sunday morning. This is also emphasized as fitting Jesus being in the tomb like Jonah for three days and three nights (Matthew 12:40).
Those who argue for a Thursday crucifixion emphasize a different usage of Matthew 12:40 regarding three days and three nights. Counting Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights would more literally match the "three nights" of the Jonah parallel.
Yet the evidence for the traditional Friday crucifixion, also known as Good Friday, holds prominence for important reasons. The Jewish reckoning of days included two components different from modern times. This included the day beginning in the evening (as in Genesis 1, evening and morning). Also, part of a day was counted as a full day. In this perspective, a Friday crucifixion was the first day. Jesus was buried on Friday afternoon before sunset (day 1). He remained in the tomb Friday night through Saturday afternoon (evening/day 2). Jesus continued in the tomb Saturday evening and rose on Sunday morning (evening/day 3), which was the third day. Mark 15:42 confirms this traditional view, claiming Jesus was crucified the day before the Sabbath. Jesus also taught He would rise on the third day (Matthew 16:21; Luke 9:22).
The one remaining difficulty with the traditional view is the understanding of the parallel Jesus gave with Jonah being in the belly of the fish for three days and nights in Matthew 12:40. Perhaps the best understanding of the parallel is that it referred to three days in general, since days consist of day and night, rather than a strict three days consisting of literal, twenty-four hour days. Regardless, both the facts from the New Testament and the earliest church history confirm Good Friday as the day Jesus died, an accurate tradition that has persisted despite other suggested alternatives.
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