Was Our Messiah
Resurrected on a Sunday?
The arguments advanced in this article rest on the assumption that the writers of the New Testament operated out of a Roman weekly calendar. For more up-to-date scholarship on this question, please see the Creation Calendar
Over time, as our traditions fossilise, we begin to make many assumptions as to what the Bible teaches. One such teaching involves the death and resurrection of Messiah Himself. Tradition states He died on a Friday evening and rose on a Sunday. This teaching has been preserved in the liturgy of the "Christian" calendar in the two "Christian" holy days "Good Friday" and "Easter." Because of this, to challenge it seems to many to question the orthodoxy of the faith. But if we are to be honest, such questioning becomes imperative for the seeker of truth.
There is one particular prophecy within the words of the New Testament which have baffled theologians for centuries and seems to contradict the Traditional Model found in the Christian liturgical calendar: a prophecy concerning Messiah's Resurrection. These words are written in the Gospels as following:
"A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" (Matthew 12:39-40 NIV).
The point of contention lies in the phrase "three days and three nights." As is apparent, Yah'shua (Jesus) is stating that His death and resurrection will be similar to when Jonah "was inside the [big] fish three days and three nights" (Jonah 1:17 NIV). This poses a problem to many Literalists who believe in order for this prophecy to be fulfilled it must be three literal days and three literal nights.
However, according to the Traditional Model, which is preserved in the Good Friday-Easter tradition, Messiah was speaking idiomatically, that is, He meant three literal days, although He used the cultural expression "days and nights" to refer to any part of a day, to the dismay of the Literalists. Both groups agree He would rise on the third day (Matthew 20:17-19; et al.), although they may differ in their interpretations of what the phrase "on the third day" really means. The Traditionalist Model is demonstrated in Table A below:
Traditional Model of Messiah's Resurrection
|Day One (Friday)
||Messiah laid in the tomb before the Sabbath on Friday evening (Matthew 27:57-60; Mark 15:42-46; Luke 23:50-54; John 19:38-42).
||Possibly one day; certainly one night|
|Day Two (Saturday)
||Body still in the tomb
||One day, one night|
|Day Three (Sunday)
||Resurrection (Matthew 28; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24 [especially v. 21]; John 20-21).
||One day or possibly no day at all (John 20:1-9)!|
However, the problem with this position is that it doesn't explain why Messiah would use the phrase "three nights" with the phrase "three days" when the phrase "three days" would have been sufficient in and of itself to convey the claim the Traditionalists say He was trying to make. Those taking this position must provide a logical explanation in order for this to hold theological water: the current claim that He was referring to any part of a day is presently devoid of all logic.
If we follow the Traditional Model, we find He was in the tomb at the most three days and two nights (if Joseph of Arimathea got Him in the tomb before Sabbath and He was resurrected Sunday after sun rise) or at the least one day and two nights (if He wasn't in the tomb before sunset and He resurrected Sunday before sun rise). This does not seem like a literal fulfilment of the prophecy at all!
However, what about the Literalists' position? They tend to usually fall into two camps: those who assume Yah'shua (Jesus) died on a Thursday afternoon and was resurrected on Sunday morning and those who assume He died on a Wednesday afternoon and was resurrected on a Saturday morning. Both allow for three literal days and three literal nights, but which is the right one, if either? In this paper, I wish to address the second position, in comparison to the Traditionalist view, since it is my position and I believe the best one of the three scenarios. Those wishing to look at the Thursday position can find literature elsewhere addressing this issue.
The Wednesday-Saturday Literalist Position makes the claim that Messiah died on Wednesday afternoon (14 Nisan), was buried on or before Wednesday sunset (15 Nisan [which, on the Hebrew calendar, would have been the beginning of Thursday see Scriptures in chart above]), and resurrected sometime on Saturday, preferably Saturday morning, after sunrise (17 Nisan). On our modern Gregorian calendar, that would mean He died on 3 April, was buried the same evening, and resurrected on 6 April in the year AD 30.
How do we know this? We know it by cross-referencing. Since the differing Gospel accounts proclaim themselves as being eyewitness testimonies to the facts at hand, we treat them as we would a testimony in a court of law. To do this, we must find similarities and differences and try to map out the story using the details provided by these different witnesses. In fact, when one approaches the Gospels in this light, one finds they can map out the events in incredible detail.
Using this method, we find a certain dilemma arises when we compare Mark 16:1-2 to Luke 23:56-24:1:
- "When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Yah'shua's (Jesus') body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb . . ." (Mark 16:1-2 NIV).
- "Then they [the women] went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment. On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb" (Luke 23:56-24:1 NIV).
If we were in a court of law, we would have to assume there was either a contradiction or that we were missing details because Mark teaches they bought the spices after the Sabbath and Luke teaches the spices were prepared before the Sabbath. But if we believe in the infallibility of the Scriptures, there must be some detail that harmonises the two accounts.
There is such a harmony! The Sabbath that year was a very special Sabbath, the first day of Unleavened Bread. Yah'shua was slaughtered "between the evenings" or at approximately 3 PM on 14 Nisan (3 April) when the lambs would have been prepared for slaughter for 15 Nisan (Mark 15:33,37; Exodus 12:6). It is on this evening when the Passover meal was eaten (John 18:28; 19:31; Exodus 12:6) and is the very evening when Unleavened Bread begins (Exodus 12:18).
Likewise, there is the weekly Sabbath which occurs on sunset Friday evening and ends on sunset Saturday evening according to our Gregorian calendar (Leviticus 23:3, cf. Genesis 1:5).
Even more revealing is the fact that in Matthew 28:1, "Sabbath" is in the plural in the Greek, not the singular. So it should read "after the Sabbaths" implying at least two Sabbaths that week as indeed did occur in AD 30! This would give us the following calendar of events (Table B) using the Hebrew reckoning of time (example: Wednesday evening on the Gregorian calendar counted as Thursday on the Hebrew, etc.):
Events Between Crucifixion and Resurrection in AD 30
|Wednesday (14 Nisan)
|Women watch Joseph of Arimathea as he takes the body of Yah'shua (Jesus) and puts it in his tomb before the High Sabbath they rest for the Sabbath (Matthew 27:55-61; Mark 15:40-47; Luke 23:49-55; John 19:38-42).
||Yah'shua in the tomb High Sabbath begins. After the Preparation Day (which was Wednesday, the evening before), during the day portion of 15 Nisan, chief priests and Pharisees ask Pilate for permission to send guards to the tomb for three days (Matthew 27:62-66).
||Sometime after the High Sabbath ends the evening before, women buy (Mark 16:1) and prepare (Luke 23:56) spices and perfumes just before the weekly Sabbath at evening they rest according to the commandment.
||Messiah is resurrected sometime after sunset on 17 Nisan total: 3 days and 3 nights!
|Messiah reveals Himself the day following the Sabbath to the women bringing the spices and perfumes (Mark 16:1-3), on the Day of Firstfruits presents Himself as a firstfruit offering (implied in John 20:17). |
||One night, one day
||One night, one day
||One night, one day
I supplied some extra events in Table B above so as to make it more concrete to those trying to follow what I am saying. The women could only buy and prepare before the Sabbath if there were two separate Sabbaths that week, as did occur in AD 30. The entire theology of the Traditionalists crumbles on this point because you can't prepare spices before the Sabbath if you bought them after the Sabbath while implying the Sabbath being referred to is the same day, as many Traditionalists do. The only other alternative would be to state that the Gospels contradict themselves which claim few Traditionalists are willing to make.
However, someone might suggest that maybe the women prepared spices before the Sabbath (Friday), rested and bought more after the Sabbath (Saturday night) and then prepared them before they went to the tomb in the morning. This is highly unlikely because of the haste they were in to bury Yah'shua (Jesus) before sunset on Friday, given the Traditionalist Model is correct (Matthew 27:57-60; Mark 15:42-46; Luke 23:50-54; John 19:38-42). I would highly doubt that the women would be commended for resting on the Sabbath (Luke 23:56) if they indeed did not. Only when we take Yah'shua's burial and resurrection as being three days and three nights does this one event make sense.
However, that does not mean Sunday wasn't a special day. If we follow the Sadduccean reckoning of the holy days, Firstfruits would begin after the first weekly Sabbath after Passover (Leviticus 23:11). Given this was in Yahweh's (God the Father's) original intent, Yah'shua (Jesus) was resurrected just before the Day of Firstfruits. Some Christians and Messianics insinuate He must have likewise been resurrected on this day, using Mark 16:9 as a proof text. The problem with Mark 16:9-20 is that it is missing from some of the earlier manuscripts of this writer's Gospel. And as we have demonstrated, if this were true, then the Gospels of Mark and Luke clearly contradict themselves and the inerrancy of the Gospels must be called into question. He could not have died on a Thursday evening because if He did, there would have been a double Sabbath and insufficient time to prepare the spices and perfumes. Wednesday is the only logical solution in this author's mind; otherwise the Gospels contradict themselves. Which way will we have it?
So why was this Firstfruits important, if it was not the day Messiah was resurrected? Because it was on this day that Messiah was to offer Himself to Yahweh as a Firstfruits offering! This is possibly why He told Mary not to touch Him because He had not yet ascended to the Father (John 20:17) she was ritually defiled from possibly touching His dead body or tomb (Numbers 19:16). A high priest was not to be defiled by the dead or those who touched them (Leviticus 21:11-12), especially when he went into the Most Holy Place to offer a sacrifice for sins (Leviticus 18). In this way, Messiah fulfilled both Firstfruits and the Day of Atonement (a fall feast given its positioning in the year, however, there's probably a second fulfilment forthcoming) He presented Himself as the Firstfruit offering and made atonement for our sins. This makes Him our high priest (Hebrews 7:26-8:6).
I was recently blessed to pick up a copy of the March-April 2006 copy of the Good News, a publication of the United Church of God, while preparing for my research on this topic. While I myself am not an Armstrongite (United Church of God is a break-off of the original World Wide Church of God), I find the magazine to typically be very doctrinally accurate, inspite of the false prophecies of the founder of the mother church. In the article, "Centuries-Old Documents Show Evidence for a Wednesday Crucifixion" by Mario Seiglie, on page 13 are some quotes from early sources that the more scholarly-minded may wish to pursue that lend some credence toward a Wednesday crucifixion and Saturday resurrection. I will quote them directly from the article as following (emphasis below Seiglie's except bold brackets and bold parentheses, which are mine):
- Didascalia Apostolorum (AD 200): "For when we had eaten the Passover on the third day of the week at even [Tuesday evening], we went forth to the Mount of Olives; and in the night they seize our lord Jesus (Yah'shua). And the next day, which was the fourth of the week [Wednesday], He remained in ward in the house of Caiaphas the high priest."
- Epiphanius, bishop of Salamis (AD 367-403): "Wednesday and Friday are days of fasting up to the ninth hour because, as Wednesday began the Lord was arrested and on Friday he was crucified."
- Socrates in "Differences of Usage in Regard to Easter" (5th century AD): "Others in the East kept that feast [Easter] on the Sabbath indeed."
- Bishop Gregory of Tours (AD 538-594): "In our belief the resurrection of the Lord was on the first day, and not on the seventh as many deem."
If we analyse these quotes, we find something rather interesting. The first two quotes may not lend credence to the Wednesday crucifixion belief, but they do lend credence to when Messiah was arrested. If Messiah was crucified and killed on Wednesday 3 April AD 30, 15 Aviv on the Hebrew calendar, then it would only make sense that He was arrested on a Tuesday evening on our Gregorian calendar. The second quote, which seems to reckon time as the Hebrews would (a day beginning the evening before) states the same idea: He was arrested Tuesday evening. The one thing the two quotes are inaccurate on is the tradition that states He must have died on a Friday the Gospels are clear that He died the day following His arrest. But the idea of a late Tuesday-early Wednesday arrest lends more credence to my position.
Also, concerning the last two quotes, there seems to have been a tradition primarily in the Eastern Churches but possibly elsewhere that the Messiah rose on Saturday. This only goes to show that the early post-Apostolic Church wasn't as united on this issue as many people would have us suppose.
Then why the insistence on the Friday-Sunday Resurrection Tradition as a litmus test of orthodoxy? Was there some ulterior motive?
I believe there was. If what I am suggesting is true (and those who suggest otherwise must explain so logically taking the witnesses of all the Gospels in account), then this proves many of the earliest Church Fathers as being either misinformed or liars. This is because they insisted that the biblical Sabbath was changed to Sunday because that was the supposed day the Lord arose. If we can call into question the Church Fathers, we must call into question our church traditions, both Catholic and Protestant, for the Protestant Fathers carried on much of the Catholic Traditions in their reformation of the faith. If a Sunday resurrection isn't biblical, is Easter biblical? And if it isn't, what are we actually worshipping when we partake in these traditions?
The 1981 Edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica (Macropædia, vol. 4), under the entry "Church Year" says the following about Easter:
"As at Christmas, so also at Easter, popular customs reflect many ancient pagan survivals in this instance, connected with spring fertility rites, such as the symbols of the Easter egg and the Easter hare or rabbit."
How did this happen? By the tampering with Yahweh's holy days and Torah, as prophesied in Daniel 7:25. Messiah said not one jot or tittle will pass from the Torah until all be fulfilled and heaven and earth pass away (Matthew 5:17-20)! Last I checked, this has yet happened, for heaven and earth still stand!
The early Christians used to keep this feast at its appointed time. The same entry in the Encyclopædia Britannica verifies this:
"The earliest Christians celebrated the Lord's Passover at the same time as the Jews, during the night of the first full moon of the first month of spring (Nisan 14-15). By the middle of the second century, most churches had transferred this celebration to the Sunday after the Jewish feast. But certain churches of Asia Minor clung to the older custom, for which they were announced as 'judaizing' (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, Book V, chapters 23-25). The first ecumenical Council of Nicaea in 325 decreed that all the churches should observe the feast together on a Sunday."
The early Christians indeed use to commemorate the death of Messiah on the biblical Passover. Why the change? This becomes more readily apparent when we learn what the word 'Easter' really means.
As we have already read, Easter carries with it many customs borrowed over from Paganism. But the holiday, at its core, has always been Pagan, cloaked in the language of Christianity.
The eleventh edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica reveals more, under the entry "Easter":
"There is no indication of the observance of the Easter festival in the New Testament, or in the writings of the apostolic Fathers . . . The first Christians continued to observe the Jewish festivals, though in a new spirit, as commemorations of events which those festivals foreshadowed . . .
"The Gentile Christians, on the other hand, unfettered by Jewish traditions, identified the first day of the week with the Resurrection, and kept the preceding Friday as the commemoration of the crucifixion, irrespective of the day of the month . . .
"A final settlement of the dispute [regarding the Easter and Passover controversy] was one among the other reasons which led Constantine to summon the council of Nicaea in 325 . . . The decision of the council was unanimous that Easter was to be kept on Sunday, and on the same Sunday throughout the world, and 'that none should hereafter follow the blindness of the Jews.'"
Interestingly, a Catholic dictionary in my father's library has this to say:
"EASTER, FEAST OF. The feast of our Lord's resurrection. The word Easter is derived from that of the Saxon goddess Eastre, the same deity whom the Germans proper called Ostara, and honoured (according to Grimm, in his "German mythology") as the divinity of the dawn. Bede ('De Temp. Rat.' xv.) tells us that the Anglo-Saxons called the spring month Eosturmonath, and similarly Eginhard ('Vit. Car. Mag.' 29) calls our April, Ostarmanoth. Naturally, therefore, the Teutonic nations called the great Church-feast which fell at the beginning of spring Easter, and the name continued among us, like such names as Thursday, long after the heathen goddess has been forgotten" (Addis & Arnold's Catholic Dictionary, Virtue & Co. Ltd.: London, 1955).
Why are we keeping a feast named after a Pagan goddess when Yahweh says in the Old Testament that He doesn't even want to HEAR the names of false gods on our lips (Exodus 23:13)? And yet we have the gall to invoke the name of Easter in commemorating a day supposedly devoted to Yahweh's (God's) Son?
Now I realise many of us do this in ignorance. I once was such a person but I have since repented. What will you do with this knowledge, dear reader? Do you love your traditions so much that you'll cling to them?
Some may argue that this cannot be pinpointed with accuracy. And that may be a valid argument. But let us consider a few facts. First, the early Christians, according to the Encyclopædia Britannica, kept the festivals outlined in Leviticus 23. Given this is true, then, why are we not keeping the Lord's Passover on the same day the Jews reckon it, since this is obviously the day He was crucified (John 18:28; 19:31)? The Rabbinical Jewish calendar (as well as the biblical calendar) is a lunar-solar calendar, which is generally accurate when combined with the Aviv barley search of the Karaite Jews. But even if one cannot know the status of the barley in Israel, the rabbinical calendar is still generally accurate and is accurately preserved in many Gregorian calendars found in stores today (all holy days begin the sunset before the recorded date and end the sunset of the recorded date). So why aren't people following this calendar instead of the so-called "Christian" liturgical calendar?
Another issue is the Council of Nicaea. One of the so-called "problems" had to do with the dating of the Christian Passover eventually replaced by Easter. It is interesting that Constantine was in charge of this council. The facts seem to attest that Constantine, though professing to be a Christian, died a Pagan sun god worshipper. If this is true, then he clearly had an agenda to consolidate his empire. King James did the same thing when he commissioned the King James Bible, the sacred cow of many Christians today. These facts are readily available to those willing to research them. Lew White has written a wonderful expose of the Pagan infiltration of Christianity in his book Fossilized Customs. He also maintains a website at http://www.fossilizedcustoms.com where one can find many articles on this subject.
The Scriptures are replete with the knowledge we will be keeping the biblical feasts as outlined in Leviticus 23. For example, Isaiah 66:23 states that we will be keeping the New Moons and the Sabbaths in the Millennium. Zechariah 14:16-19 states we will keep the Feast of Tabernacles. Also regarding the food laws of Leviticus 11, the Bible states that those who try to make themselves holy by eating what is abominable will be destroyed at Yahweh's (God's) coming (Isaiah 66:17). How many so-called Christians can you think of try to purify themselves by declaring all animals are clean? You might just as soon as eat a bush of thorns! This is due to a lack of understanding of the Hebraic mindset of the original writers of the New Testament and twisting their writings out of their context. Peter himself warned the earlier believers of this when reading the Apostle Paul's letters (2 Peter 3:15-16) not that Paul himself was a false apostle (as Ebionites falsely teach), but that his words are easily misunderstood by those who don't have a Hebraic understanding of the faith. This misunderstanding arising from the same apostle who commanded the Corinthians to keep the Passover (1 Corinthians 5:8), commanded the lawful use of Torah (1 Timothy 1:3-11) and whose actions vindicate he kept the Torah (Acts 21:17-26). As such, actions speak louder than words. We must return to the biblical observances, especially the Sabbath, for it is Yahweh's (God's) covenant throughout our generations (Exodus 31:13).
It is my hope that my actions will speak louder than my words. I belong to an end-time church called Mishpachah Lev-Tisyon of Messianic Israel. We are a prophetic church in the wider body of Messiah consisting of members who have left behind the errors of our many faith traditions and are seeking Yahweh's (God's) invitation to return home. If you would be interested in learning more about us, check out our website at http://www.nccg.org or visit one of our groups. If you feel Yahweh (God) is calling you to join us, contact us and we will be happy to assist you in your spiritual walk. Otherwise, join the church or organisation He is calling you to, bearing these essential truths in mind. Until then, Yahweh Bless!
This page was created on 4 October 2009
Last updated on 10 April 2011
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