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Crucifixion Chronology

2006-12-01

Scriptures Concerning the Time Between the Last Supper and the Crucifixion

Please note the date of this article, as my opinions on the chronology of the week of Jesus’ crucifixion have changed.

Exodus 12:1-8

The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household... The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight... That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast.

Exodus 12:15-19a

“For seven days you are to eat bread made without yeast. On the first day remove the yeast from your houses, for whoever eats anything with yeast in it from the first day through the seventh must be cut off from Israel. On the first day hold a sacred assembly, and another one on the seventh day. Do no work at all on these days, except to prepare food for everyone to eat; that is all you may do.

“Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread, because it was on this very day that I brought your divisions out of Egypt. Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. In the first month you are to eat bread made without yeast, from the evening of the fourteenth day until the evening of the twenty-first day. For seven days no yeast is to be found in your houses.”

Mt. 26:17-19

On the first day of the feast of Unleavened Bread the disciples asked Jesus, “Where would you like us to prepare the Passover meal for you?” He replied, “Go into the city to so-and-so and tell him, ‘The teacher says, “My time is near, I am to keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.”’” So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and they prepared the Passover meal.

Luke 22:7-13

Then the Feast of Unleavened Bread arrived— it was the one on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus sent Peter and John with the instructions, “Go and get everything ready for us to eat the Passover Feast.”... They left and found everything exactly as Jesus had said, and made the preparations.

John 18:28 (the Last Supper was finished by this time)

Then they took Jesus from Caiaphas to the Roman Governor’s headquarters. By now it was early in the morning, so the Jews didn’t go in there, to avoid ceremonial uncleanness. This was so they could eat the Passover meal.

Mt. 27:45-53 (Jesus had been put on the cross at about 9 a.m.)

From midday until 3 p.m. darkness covered all the land. About 3 p.m. Jesus called out loudly, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” which means, “My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?” ... Jesus cried again with a loud voice and gave up the Spirit. And the veil of the temple that separated the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place was torn in two from top to bottom, and the earth quaked and the rocks split. The graves were opened and many of the bodies of the people devoted to God who had died were raised up. They came out of the graves after Jesus’ resurrection, and went into the sacred city and appeared to many.

John 19:31 (Jesus was dead by this time)

Now it was the Day of Preparation, and the next day was an important Sabbath. The Jews didn’t want the bodies left on the crosses on the Sabbath day, so they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down.

Mt. 27:57-58

When early evening came, a rich person from Arimathea named Joseph arrived. He too had become a disciple of Jesus. Joseph went to Pilate to request Jesus’ body. As a result, Pilate ordered the body to be handed over to him.

My Comments

The first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread was the Preparation Day. This was to be the 14th day of Nisan. The lambs for the sacrifice were to have been selected on the 10th and observed to make sure they were without defect. Clearly this points to the Lamb of God and his perfection. This feast predicted his coming and the details are very significant. Jesus was “selected” on the 10th (the triumphal entry) and “observed” (watched!) until he was taken into custody. His mock trial lasted through the night, which was still the Jewish Preparation Day.

He was put on the cross around 9 a.m., and from noon to 3 p.m. darkness covered the land. Then Jesus died shortly afterwards. The three bodies hung there until near 6 p.m., which would start the Special Sabbath, Passover. Evening was approaching when Joseph got permission to bury Jesus, so there wasn’t much time. He and Nicodemas got burial spices and cloths, wrapped Jesus “according to Jewish custom”, and laid him in a nearby available tomb because there was no time to go searching. In other words, the hurrying did not make them “cut corners” on wrapping the body, but only narrowed the choice of tombs.

So after Jesus was buried, all Israel ate the lambs they had been slaughtering and the meal they had been preparing the (Jewish) day before. Jesus was thus “in the belly of the earth” when the lambs were being eaten.

The term Passover can mean either the main meal, that whole day, or the whole Feast. So there is no conflict between the Last Supper being called “the Passover” and the fact that the Passover itself was not until the next Jewish day. Jesus also used the term “this” Passover, so it’s possible he was in fact referring to either this particular Passover celebration or that this was to be a new kind of Passover, one that would look back instead of to the future. All who would ever put their trust in Jesus would have “the blood of the Lamb” to cause God’s wrath to “pass over” them.

Scriptures Concerning Jesus’ Burial, and the Purchasing and Preparation of Spices

Mark 15:42-16:2

It was the Preparation Day (which is the day before the Sabbath). That evening, Joseph of Arimathea, an influential Council member, who himself was waiting for God’s Realm, got up the courage and went to Pilate to ask for Jesus’ body... Joseph brought a piece of fine new linen. He took him down and wrapped him in the piece of fine new linen. Then he put him in a tomb that had been quarried out of rock. He rolled a stone closely up against the entrance of the tomb.

Mary Magdalene and Mary (Joseph’s mother) took careful note of the location he was put. When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary (James’ mother), and Salome brought spices so that they could go and anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they went off to the tomb.

Luke 23:50-24:1

There was a man named Joseph, a member of the High Council, an honest civic benefactor who had not agreed with their decisions and actions. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea, and he was waiting eagerly for God’s Realm. He went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Then he took it down from the cross, wrapped it in linen and placed it in a tomb cut into the rock. No one had ever been put into this tomb. It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.

The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and looked at the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went back and prepared spices and perfumed oils. They rested on the Sabbath in accordance with the Law of Moses. But on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they’d prepared and went into the tomb.

John 19:38-20:1

After this Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for Jesus’ body. Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but he kept it secret because he was afraid of certain Jews. Pilate gave him permission. Nikodemos went with him: he was the one who had earlier visited Jesus at night. Nikodemos brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about 12 ounces in weight. They wrapped Jesus’ body in strips of linen with the scented herbs and oils, in accordance with the Jewish burial customs. In the place where Jesus was crucified was a garden. In the garden was a new tomb, and no one had been buried in it yet. Because it was the Jewish Day of Preparation, they put Jesus there.

On the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the entrance.

My Comments

Joseph and Nicodemas got spices and linens, wrapped Jesus’ body, placed it in a tomb, and then rolled a stone against the entrance to the tomb. The women were watching this, and sometime after it all they “went back and prepared spices”. They saw and therefore knew that Jesus had already been buried “according to custom”. So these spices the women prepared could not have been the ones the men had already used. Instead, there was a need for additional spices, to “anoint Jesus’ body”. (Note: they never got the chance to do this anointing. But remember that Jesus had already been anointed (John 12:7).) All the accounts agree on those facts.

But exactly when were these spices purchased and prepared? There were two Sabbaths that week: the annual “special Sabbath” for the Passover, and then the regular weekly Sabbath. Seeing that the three dead bodies had to be taken down before sunset (before Passover), there was practically no time left between the women observing the stone being rolled in front of the tomb and the end of the day. They could do no work on the Passover, so the spices, even if purchased in that short time, could not have been prepared before Passover. Any preparation would have to wait till afterwards. So there was no time for the women to prepare spices on Preparation Day, and no more Sabbaths to wait for after the regular (second) one.

Although Mark’s account doesn’t say the women did anything on Preparation Day but observe the burial, and only has them getting the spices after a Sabbath, Luke’s account mentions them preparing spices and then resting on a Sabbath afterwards. John’s account says nothing about the spices the women had. And Mark’s account seems to indicate two events: preparing spices after a Sabbath, and then going to the tomb on another day. Putting it all together, the only scenario that fits is that the women bought and prepared spices between the two Sabbaths. Luke’s account is not contradicted by this, since it does not specify exactly how long after Preparation Day the spices were prepared.

Does it matter whether there was a day between the Sabbaths? Yes.

If there was, then we have Jesus in the tomb starting sundown Wednesday and rising either Saturday night or before dawn on Sunday, both of which are properly “the first day of the week”. It gives us “after three days and nights” without a problem. But the downside is that we know Jesus had not yet “gone to the Father” by early Sunday morning, so why had he not gone, seeing that there were likely many hours between his resurrection and early Sunday morning? Yet we have no idea how long it was, or why he appeared to Mary before ascending to the Father at all. We could presume it’s because he had just risen, but we cannot be dogmatic about it. He obviously had his new immortal body before ascending or Mary certainly would have recognized him, especially since his mortal body had been so disfigured by his torture and death.

If there was not, then we must assume that the women did all their buying and preparing on Preparation Day and simply carried the finished product to the tomb Sunday morning. Then we have to account for “after three days and three nights”, a phrase Jesus’ enemies were paranoid about, and so were very intent on preventing his disciples from faking his resurrection. But the only way to get “after three days and nights” is to count the last 3 hours of daylight on Preparation Day as “day one”, and to make Jesus’ resurrection exactly at dawn on Sunday (to avoid a fourth full day. After all, if the partial day of Jesus’ death must be counted as a full day, then so must the day he arose).

The bottom line is that nobody can prove any contradictions in the Bible, and a Friday crucifixion is pretty well ruled out. But both a Wednesday and Thursday crucifixion can be supported.

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