The day of Y'shua's death is a most difficult study. Some try to reconcile the crucifixion timing with prophecy, while others try to use only the Gospels, and others try to reconcile actual astronomical events while still others insist resurrection had to be on a Sunday and try to make that fit. Everyone should agree that it is commanded the Paschal Lamb is slain at the late afternoon of 14 Nisan, at dusk (Exodus 12:6). (My goodness, that is what scripture calls for! Exodus 12:6! The Pesach meal is eaten hurriedly that same night as the Hebrew date changes from the 14th to the 15th of the month. The 15th of the month is a High Holy Day, the 1st day of the Feast of Unleavended Bread (Leviticus 23:6). If Y'shua were to represent the Passover Lamb as our substitutionary life, He would have been executed before sunset on 14 Nisan, about the time the lambs of substitution were slain.
(Note: Some have argued, in an attempt to justify that the Messiah was crucified on the 15th of Nisan, that there were so many lambs to be slain at the Temple that the slaughter continued well into the night and into the next day, the 15th. While this may be true for those Jerusalem families desiring their lamb to be slaughtered at the Temple, there must have been an "initial", ceremonial lamb, representing the entire community of Israel and it was most assuredly slain according to scripture, at "dusk" the 14th (Exodus 12:6). No other lamb could represent the Passover sacrifice for all of Israel. To argue that the Messiah was "just another sacrifice" and could have been slain by sunset the 15th is almost blasphemy!)
We must deal with many questions. Even the year of the crucifixion is hard to assess! For example, The modern civil calendar, (the "Gregorian" calendar), was established to restore Easter to the Spring and in the process "established" the 1st year of the calendar to the January immediately after the Messiah's birth! But they got it wrong! The Messiah was not born in "year 0"! (And He was born at Sukkot in the Fall, not in December!) A little research reveals the Messiah had to be born before 4 BCE, and in fact, intense research narrows the year to exactly 5 BCE. Nevertheless, even knowing the year of the birth does not significantly help determine the year of the crucifixion because scripture only tells us that the Messiah began his ministry at "about the age of 30", (Luke 3:23). Without a clearly identified year for the crucifixion in scripture, we are forced to look at a lot of evidence.
Assuming we have found the right year of the crucifixion, if Y'shua died before sunset on 14 Nisan, then when did He have his Pesach meal with his talmidim? And if Y'shua had his Passover meal on the evening of the 14th, then he must have died the next night, just before sunset on 15 Nisan. But the 15th is a High Holy Day! It is the 1st day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread - a High Sabbath. Are we to assume that the entire Sanhedrin (Matthew 26:59) was out ignoring a High Holy Day, seeking to have Yeshua killed? Really? And if the crucifixion was on the 15th, and the 15th was a Thursday, how can he be resurrected before Sunday morning when the tomb was found empty, which does not account for 3 days and 3 nights unless one "toys" with the meaning of "3 days and 3 nights"? There are many, many questions!
The year and day of crucifixion are intimately related. The exact time of the resurrection is unknown. The scriptures are unclear on this. The only thing we know from scripture is that when the women arrived at the tomb on the 1st day of the week (Sunday before or about sunrise), the tomb was found already empty. That can only mean the resurrection happened before they arrived! All four Gospels agree on this, though the time the women arrived is somewhat vague in the Scriptures. So we must carefully assess the evidence and find a year in which everything recorded in scripture works for the tomb to be found empty by the early morning of the 1st day of the week.
Let's start with some facts.
First, the year of the Crucifixion
The events of the death and resurrection of Y’shua must fall in a year in which all the conditions can be met. That is, Nisan 14, Passover, and the discovery of the empty tomb on the morning of the 1st day of the week must all fit the calendar year during which there was a full (or nearly full) moon rising the evening of the 14th of Nisan. This is an a priori argument for the middle of the Hebrew month is always met with a rising full or nearly full moon.
Scripture tells us only that the Messiah was "about 30" when he started his ministry before the Crucifixion (Luke 3:23). The ministry was 2-3.5 years long so we are looking at the years 26-34 CE as the widest range encompassing all reasonable dates of the Messiah's birth (including the erred Gregorian Calendar).
So, how was the 1st day of the new month determined?
Was the new month established by the sighted crescent or some other mechanism? Can we use the modern calculated Hebrew calendar projected back in time (proleptic)? The answer to that last question is "no". The modern calculated Hebrew calendar is a mess, established and codified over many centuries, but was decidedly not in use at the time of the Messiah. At the time of the Messiah, the month and years were most likely determined by careful observation of the sun, moon, and stars. This includes whether or not any given year required a leap month to keep Passover "in its season" (Numbers 9:23). In the Messiah's time, a leap month was added when the moon dictated a leap month was needed and was not added by a rigid schedule as done today.
While it is a common assumption that the new month began with the "sighting of the crescent", we believe this is a long-held myth. Essentially, here's why: The new crescent is only a sign that the new month has already begun. If you wait to establish the 1st day of the new month by sighting the crescent, the moon is already at least one day old, and sometimes already 3 days old! That means when the middle of the calendar month arrives, the moon rises already past full! That's a big red flag that you are determining the wrong day to start the month!
Modern man has largely forgotten how to observe the moon throughout the month and how to determine when the 1st day of the month would be without "sighting the crescent", it is our belief that the ancient Levites assigned the responsibility knew full-well how to establish the 1st day of the new month in advance and that the "sighting of the crescent" was only a ceremony to celebrate the new month - not to "establish it"! Over time, the "coming forward of two witnesses" became confused by the public and it became ingrained in the culture that sighting the crescent was "how the new month is determined" and the myth of sighted crescent began. In reality, the moon offers many signs of its age during the month, and relying on only one of those signs to establish the month truly is folly.
The test of time reveals only two ways the 1st day of the Hebrew month can be determined. The first, already mentioned, is the "sighted crescent". The second is the almost completely unknown "Sunset after conjunction". Only the "sunset after conjunction" methods matches all the signs of the moon, and establishes a calendar which matches the moon's phases, especially the moon's "middle of the month" at which time the calendar should show the date changing from the 14th to the 15th.
This article does not explain the "sunset after conjunction" method, so suffice it to say here that it is not that hard to know the day of lunar conjunction by observation alone and consequently which sunset following conjunction would be the 1st day of the new month. Though some say that "conjunction can't be seen so it can't be a sign" - that simply is not true. Since the moon is visible every day of the month except at conjunction, the moon's absence in the sky is the sign! But this article is not intended to give a lesson on the moon. Therefore, let's look at the two possible methods for determining the Hebrew month, in each of the possible years for the crucifixion.
We'll look at each year from 26 to 34 CE which will cover a wide range of the possible years of the crucifixion. In Table 1 which follows, the years 26-34 CE are assessed based on two different methods for determining the 1st day of the new month. The first method is by the "sighted moon" and the second method is by the 1st sunset after conjunction. (You can click on the image of the chart for a larger version.)
Explanation of each row of Table 1:
Row 1: This is the date (Gregorian propeptic - NOT Julian proleptic) and Jerusalem time of the Vernal Equinox. The critical rule for keeping Passover at the right season is that the Vernal equinox comes first, then Passover (Deuteronomy 16:1). Passover is tied to the Vernal Equinox, not the new moon. (Some people think that the new moon must always follow the Vernal Equninox, but this is decidedly not the case).
Row 2: Since the ancient Hebrews did not have any way to compute the exact day and moment of the Vernal Equinox, the date in this row acknowledges the day they would have observed the Vernal Equinox. They always knew the VE would be 365 or 366 days from the previous vernal equinox, so they always knew well in advance when the next equinox would be. All they had to do was watch for the position of the sun on the horizon at sunrise to confirm or use an equatorial ring.
Row 3: This is the date and time of the astronomical New Moon by today's astronomical definition. It takes into account delta time as the calendar is generated back in time, so we can be pretty sure it is fairly accurate. This date and time of the new moon is not what the ancients would have observed, but it provides an "anchor", if you will, to help determine when the ancient peoples would have observed the time of the new moon. As already mentioned, there are only two, valid, schools of thought on what constituted the "New Moon": There is the common, widely held myth that the "New Moon" was always by the "sighted crescent", such that, the evening the the crescent was spotted, the 1st of the month began; and there is the more probable, "New Moon" which is when the moon is at conjunction such that the 1st day of the new month is defined as the 1st sunset after the day of conjunction. (We at The Refiner's Fire have long recognized that the period of "conjunction" marks "new moon" because its very absence from visibility, since the moon is otherwise ALWAYS visible sometime during the day except at conjunction, IS the sign that it is in the process of renewal! The moment the moon is in conjunction, that is, the day and time the moon is passing between the sun and the earth, is almost never itself observable (a solar eclipse is the exception), but was easily estimated by the ancients, by observation of the sun and moon alone. Today, this is something of which most have completely no knowledge.)
Row 4: The Messiah's age at Passover that year. How was this determined? The Messiah was born in Sep, 5 BCE so at Passover, year 26, He was 29 years old, and so on.
Row 5: "Likely first sighting of the crescent". This row provides the estimated day that the crescent would have been sighted. Thus, the 1st day of the new month would begin at that sunset. Assessing which night the crescent would first be visible is not easy. In this case, there was only one year where the computer simulations were "too close to call". That is the year 29 CE, and both possible dates are given.
Row 6: This is the 1st full day of the new month based on the sighting of the crescent the sunset before. It is important, because this date establishes the date of Passover.
Row 7: This is the date of Passover if the month is determined by the sighted crescent. The date is given as a Gregorian date, but the Hebrew date always begins at the sunset the evening before this date.
Row 8: Some people think it is important that the year of the crucifixion must have been in a new Hebrew year which followed a leap year. This row is provided to simply show that that requirement is nonsense. The modern Jewish calendar establishes the leap year by a fixed schedule and not by the real sun and moon and that fixed schedule does not work as we go back in time, and cannot be applied. When using the actual moon, the data in this row shows whether or not the previous Adar was doubled. This serves two purposes: 1st, it shows that the real moon determined which year was a leap year, and 2nd, that it has no bearing on the crucifixion year.
Row 9: Rows 9-12 are for the day of the new moon determined by the 1st sunset after conjunction. This row provides the day and the estimated time of conjunction which the ancients would have determined. This is NOT the modern definition of conjunction, rather, it is the estimate of conjunction from observation of the old moon in the days prior to conjunction. This estimate provides a completely valid determination, in advance, as to whether or not the current month required a 30th day. Thus, the estimated day of conjunction provided a completely valid date for the beginning of the new month, up to 3 days in advance! We believe this was the method used in the Messiah's time to determine the day of new month. While the date of the new month would be known in advance by this method, scripture shows that by tradition a two-day celebration was held, where the community awaited the 1st visible crescent. Sometimes, the crescent would be sighted that same night confirming the month had begun, but sometimes it was not sighted till the 2nd night, hence the need for a two-day celebration.
Row 10: This row provides the first full day of the new month by the assessed day of the conjunction from Row 9. As with the 1st day by the sighted crescent method, the 1st day of the new month begins at the sunset the night before.
Row 11: Based on the date in Row 10, this is the day of Passover which, of course, began the sunset before.
Row 12: See the description of Row 8.
For the tomb to be found already empty before or at sunrise on the 1st day of the week (Sunday), the range (time) of which all four Gospels agree, on what day would the Crucifixion have been? Now that we have before us, in Table 1 above, the day of the week on which Passover would fall based on the two possible definitions of the establishment of the 1st day of the month, we need to know the answer this question. But to answer the question requires a LOT of scripture interpretation!
First, there are the scriptures which say that when the Messiah had died, it was "Preparation day", Matthew 27:62; Mark 15:42; Luke 23:54; John 19:14 & 31. In Judaism, there is no defined "preparation day". The term "preparation day" is not found in the Tanakh. Arguments to try to "define" preparation day seem always biased by the author to support their opinion of the crucifixion day. The term used in the New Testament Gospels seems to be related to the Roman occupation of Judea. The 1939 International Standard Bible Encyclopedia Online says: "This custom of converting at least a portion of the day before the Sabbath into a holy day was recognized by the Romans to such an extent that, according to a rescript [official edict] of Augustus, Jews need not appear in court after 3 p.m. on such days. Criminal cases were not brought before court on this day, and journeys exceeding 12 Roman miles were prohibited. The signal for the preparations was given by the priests by means of trumpets blown six times at intervals."
So we see that the Romans accommodated the Jewish population by permitting them their "preparation time" on Friday afternoons before the weekly Sabbath and the very special "preparation time" the day before any High Holy Day - especially the Passover! Passover requires much preparation, because not only does the meal for the evening need to be prepared, but matzah is required that same afternoon (Exodus 12:18), and one's home needed to be cleared of leaven (Exodus 12:15)! We can see that the term "preparation day" in the gospels in no way requires it to be a Friday! A "preparation day" is always on Friday, before every weekly Sabbath, but so is the day preceding any High Holy Day a "preparation day"! So those verses are really no help except that John 19:14 actually says "14 And it was the eve of the Paskha, and it was about the sixth hour, and he [Pilate] said to the Yehudeans, 'Behold your King!'" (AENT). John is clearly saying that it was the "eve of Paskha" so preparation day decidedly referred to Passover which would begin that late afternoon.
A few verse later, John says: "31 And the Yehudeans, because it was the eve, said, 'These bodies should not remain on their stakes because the Shabbat is dawning'." The phrase "Shabbat is dawning" is a Hebrew idiom that Shabbat was about to begin, which is at sunset. It means the "day is dawning", not "daylight is dawning". John makes one more statement that provides absolute clarity. 19:42 "And they placed Y’shua there because the Shabbat was beginning and because the tomb was near." Nevertheless, we still have no solution as to what day of the week it was for the scripture works equally well for "preparation day" if Passover was a Wednesday, Thursday, or a Friday - the next day would be a Sabbath. So it looks like scripture cannot help us with the day-of-week of the crucifixion. All we really know so far is that the Messiah was crucified at Passover and buried at or just before sunset.
With no help from scripture for the day-of-week, let's turn to the prophecy of "3 days and 3 nights" (Matthew 12:40). We have a built-in "anchor" in all four Gospels, that the two women arrived at the tomb at morning on the 1st day of the week (Sunday), before sunrise. That means that the resurrection was sometime before their arrival. While those who say "Friday-Saturday-Sunday" accounts for 3 days and 3 nights, by ad nauseam expositions on how "'3 days and 3 nights' is just an idiom and any part of the the whole day is part of a 'day and night'" we categorically deny that as it simply does not work. (See Table 2 and the discussion to follow).
It makes no sense for the prophecy to specify "3 days and 3 nights" even by the ancient Hebrew concept if it did not mean to consider 3 "daylight" periods and 3 "night periods" in the count. Of course it does not imply exactly 72 hours but a burial at sunset would in no way be seen as "part" of the day just ending. The ancients had no clocks, but the sun itself clearly and decidedly indicated the old day was ending and the new day beginning! No matter how you define days and nights, there simply is no way to account for the prophecy by a burial at Friday sunset, and a sunrise Sunday resurrection! At best a Friday burial can be said to have been "3 days": Friday (before sunset), Saturday, Sunday (after sunset Saturday), but was only two nights. If we are to assume that any part of a day counts as part of a day and night, then we must assume that Yeshua would have said "...likewise will the Son of man be in the heart of the earth three days." But He said "...three days and three nights." Very clear.
One of the most oft used examples trying to justify that the phrase "3 days and 3 nights" is just an idom is Ester 4:16-5:6. But Ester did not tell Mordecai "do not eat or drink for 3 days and 3 nights", she said "do not eat or drink for three days, night or day". That only meant "from this moment on, starting now, today, fast for 3 days, night or day". That was an instruction - describing a complete fast - no food or drink from that moment, the 1st day, till the 3rd day. And a specific end to the fast was not declared! So it's folly to argue the events of Ester as proof that "3 days and 3 nights" is only an idiom!
There is no ambiguity in the the original Aramaic, "telatah yomim v'telata layla'an" translated into English decidedly as "3 days and 3 nights". We propose that the prophecy of "3 days and 3 nights" be logically interpreted this way: In the Hebrew understanding, a "day" ended and began at sunset. This is the understood "full day" from scripture beginning in Genesis 1. Thus the term "3 days and 3 nights" is essentially equivalent to "3 sunrises and 3 sunsets and the periods between them". Yes, had Yeshua died at noon and was entombed by, say, 3PM, that part of the day would most certainly have counted as the "1st daytime period". But that's not what happened. The Shabbat was beginning (John 19:42), Yeshua was entombed, and the daytime was over!
Now let's look at Table 2 and assess the possibilities for the correct day of the crucifixion and burial.
We start with an understanding that when the women arrived at the tomb and found it empty, it was sometime Sunday morning, well into the 1st day of the week. The resurrection could not have been after sunrise, but it most certainly was before. The unknown is exactly how long before. The vertical red bar at sunrise on Sunday in Table 2 is thus an "anchor" - the resurrection cannot be after sunrise Sunday morning. The red bar is purposely a bit "wide" because the four gospels are not clear as to the exact time of arrival of the women at the tomb. (More on that later.) From that point, the table assigns four "cases": If the 14th of Nisan fell on a Wednesday, a Thursday, or a Friday. Since some people think the Messiah was crucified on the 15th of Nisan (even altering scripture to make their case), Case 1 is divided into Case 1 and Case 1a with Case 1a assessing a burial on the 15th instead of the 14th. (There is no point in considering a "Case 2a" or "Case 3a" because a burial on the 15th of Nisan if the 14th were a Thursday or a Friday, simply does not work.)
Starting with Case 3, we see that if the 14th of Nisan were a Friday as many insist, the burial was just before sunset that day, and the resurrection just 2 nights and 1 day later. Even counting "Fri-Sat-Sun" as "3 days" there are still only "2 nights". From this we see that the 14th of Nisan the year of the crucifixion could not have been a Friday.
Continuing with Case 2, we see that if the 14th of Nisan were a Thursday, the burial was at or just before sunset that day, and the resurrection just 2 days and 3 nights later - not meeting the prophecy. To make this case work, one is force to "play games" with the meaning of "3 days and 3 nights" to force either the afternoon of the 14th to be the "1st day" or the sunrise of the 17th to be the "3rd day". Curiously enough, if one considers that burial at or just before sunset as the "1st day", then they must also consider the morning of the 1st day of the week (Sunday) as the 4th day! Yet I've seen absolutely no one advocating that a Thursday burial and Sunday morning resurrection constitutes 4 days and 3 nights!
Case 1a, is actually identical to Case 2 if were not for the fact that the 14th of Nisan in Case 1a is a Wednesday, but the Messiah's crucifixion in Case 1a is not until the 15th. The rational for doing this is to permit the Messiah to have had His Passover Seder on the 14th with His talmidim. Unfortunately, there are many problems with this theory, too many to discus in this already too-long article. The central problem with a 15th of Nisan crucifixion is that the 15th is a High Holy Day, the 1st day of the Feast of Unleavened bread, and even the Messiah would not have been "out" with his tamlidim, seeking His own arrest the evening of 14-15 Nisan for this would have broken Torah.
Which brings us to Case 1. Here the 14th of Nisan is on a Wednesday, the burial is that afternoon, again at or just before sunset, and the resurrection is 3 days and 3 nights later. This case meets all scripture, with the resurrection around sunset at the end of the weekly sabbath, and the women arriving about 11 hours later to find the tomb open and the Messiah vanished. A curious scripture in Matthew 28 (verse 1) implies that the women arrived at the tomb "after the Shabbat as the next day was dawning". Since the Hebrew day ends and next day begins at sunset, this verse actually supports that the women arrived at the tomb not long after sunset of the Sabbath, when it was the new Hebrew day, Sunday, but that it was after sunset, not at or after sunrise! Curiously, John 20:1 supports this interpretation by simply saying "Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, [the women] went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb." This could also be readily interpreted as just after sunset of the weekly Shabbat!
Even Luke 21 supports the women arriving after sunset of the Shabbat! In verse 1 Luke says: "Now on the first day of the week, at dawn while still dark, they came to the tomb and brought the spices, those, which they had prepared." The "1st day of the week" began as sunset, the time at which the new Hebrew day "dawns", so Luke's account does not preclude an after-sunset visit to the tomb! Only Mark 16:1-4 suggests that the visit to the tomb by the women was "after sunrise"! Therefore, the "Case 1" representation of the events is quite possible. The women could have arrived after sunset of the Shabbat, and found the Messiah had already risen. This likely scenario is impossible with the other cases!
The only conclusion from these cases is that in the year of the crucifixion, the 14th of Nisan was a Wednesday, and the Messiah was buried just before or at sunset that day. Now, all we have to do is look for which year the 14th of Passover fell on a Wednesday (sunset Tuesday to sunset Wednesday). An for that, we already have Table 1, above!
What is immediately observable in Table 1?
The 1st thing we see from the table is that by the "sighted crescent" none of the possible dates the crucifixion work! No year puts Passover on a Wednesday, except the year 34 (year 34, row 7) which is ruled out because the Messiah was decidedly not born in the year "0" and beginning His ministry at "about age 30" would mean that He would be no older than 34 when He died, but decidedly not 37!
But some argue that the Messiah was crucified on a Friday (for many reasons) and, as such, as seen in the table, the year 33 CE works by the "sighted crescent" determination of the new month (year 33, row 7). But realistically, unless you dismiss Matthew 12:40 as heresy, that is, the Messiah Himself did not say that He would be "3 days and 3 nights" in the depths of the earth, this is not possible, unless, as discussed above, one plays games with defining "3 days and 3 nights".
The year of the Crucifixion from Table 1.
The year of the crucifixion, as seen in the table which compares the two most likely methods of determining the 1st day of the new month was the year 30 CE. In the year 30 CE, by the new moon as determined by the 1st sunset after conjunction, the 14th of the month was on a Wednesday. Wednesday was the "preparation day" for the 15th of Nisan, a High Holy Day, the 1st day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Only the advanced determination of the day of the conjunction results in a 1st day of Nissan which places Passover on a Wednesday. The "sighted moon" that year results in Passover on Thursday. But we have seen that a Thursday burial as in a Friday burial, simply does not meet scripture unless games are played with the meaning of "3 days and 3 nights."
Now, was the Messiah's last supper on the 13th or the 14th of Nisan?
In the case of the year 30 CE, the rising, nearly full moon marked the date transition from 14 Nisan to 15 Nisan, as it should, and the Hebrews would have rejoiced in Pesach that evening. But by sunset that very evening, the Messiah was in His tomb. So let's look at when the Messiah had His "last supper".
Luke 22:7 says: "Then came the day of matzah, on which the Passover lamb had to be killed. Y'shua sent Kefa and Yochanan, instructing them, 'Go and prepare our Seder, so we can eat.'" So it seems (incorrectly) by this Scripture, if "the day of matzah" means "sunset the 14th", then Y'shua was not yet arrested by the 14th, so he was not executed by sunset that day - 14 Nisan! (Luke actually goes on in verse 39 to reveal that when the meal that night ended, Y'shua went to the Mount of Olives: "On leaving, Y'shua went as usual to the Mount of Olives; and the talmidim followed him.")
This this would force the conclusion, if Y'shua had his Pesach Seder after sunset 14 Nisan, he must have died the next afternoon, on the 15th! Indeed, Luke goes on, verses 53-66, to describe Y'shua's arrest, concluding that it was "daybreak" in verse 66, and Chapter 23 begins with Y'shua being brought before Pilate. One would conclude then, that Y'shua was brought before Pilate the morning of 15 Nisan and that would mean that Y'shua was executed and dies on 15 Nisan before sunset.
However, this does not make any sense! The 15th of Nisan is a High Holy Day! (See Exodus 12:16). The Judeans would not have been rallying to have Y'shua crucified when it was their High Holy Day! Even a corrupt Sanhedrin (those out to have Y'shua killed) would not have denied the sanctity of the 15th of Nisan to be out lobbying for the arrest of Y'shua! (And it is known that the Sanhedrin did not meet on the Weekly Sabbath or on High Holy Days.) All the events of Y'shua's betrayal and arrest (Matthew 26:48-27:26), would not have happened on the night of 14-15 Nisan, as it was a High Holy Day! Thus the events of Y'shua's betrayal, arrest and crucifixion must have happened BEFORE the sunset of 14 Nisan - before the High Holy Day began!
Matthew 26 (and Mark 14) begins with Y'shua saying "As you know, Pesach is two days away, and the Son of Man will be handed over to be nailed to the execution-stake."
Then Matthew 26:5 (and Mark 14:2) says they will arrest Y'shua but "Not during the festival, or the people will riot." (Remember, Pesach falls the night of 14-15 Nisan, and the "festival", the Feast of Unleavened Bread is 15 Nisan beginning that same evening.)
Also, Matthew 26:17-20 (and Mark 14:12) says "On the first day for matzah, the talmidim came to Y'shua and asked, 'Where do you want us to prepare your Seder?' 'Go into the city, to so-and-so,' he replied, 'and tell him that the Rabbi says, `My time is near, my talmidim and I are celebrating Pesach at your house.'' The talmidim did as Y'shua directed and prepared the Seder. When evening came, Y'shua reclined with the twelve talmidim."
Here we scratch our heads. What, then, is the meaning of "on the first day of Matzah"? Well, it is the 14th of Nisan! See Exodus 12:18: "From the evening of the fourteenth day of the first month until the evening of the twenty-first day, you are to eat matzah." That makes the "14th" the "1st day of matzah", because matzah is needed for the meal that very afternoon. And realize that the 1st Day of Matzah begins at sunset on the 13th when the calendar date changes to the 14th - as the cleaning out of Leaven must be done by sunset the night of the 14th, or at the latest, the daytime of the 15th. Matzah would be prepared before the afternoon meal of the 14th! Scripture commands that only matzah be eaten with the lamb at the Passover meal!
Thus, we must conclude that by the time Yeshua said that "Pesach is two days away", and at the time He reclined with the talmidim in Matthew 26:20 (Mark 14:17) "When evening came, Y'shua reclined with the twelve talmidim", it was now just after sunset on 13 Nisan, and it was officially the 14th of Nisan - the 1st day of Matzah! So without breaking Torah, Y'shua had His last meal (not the Passover meal) with his talmidim on 14 Nisan, but it was only soon after the date changed from the 13th to the 14th with that sunset.
Therefore the events of Matthew 26:48-27:26 (Mark 14:42-65), Y'shua's betrayal and arrest, happen that same evening - after the "Last Supper" (again, not "Passover"!) through the Tuesday night, now the 14th of Nisan, before sunrise Wednesday, the daytime of the 14th. The "Last Super" was on a Tuesday night! It was Y'shua's last meal - not the Passover meal!
Clearly, when Y'shua says: "I have greatly desired that I eat this Paskha with you before I suffer" (Luke 22:15), he means that He wanted to eat the Passover meal with them on Passover (which would be the next evening), but He knew He could not be there!
Then Y'shua is crucified on Wednesday afternoon, and dies.
Looking at John 19, verse 42, we find that the Judeans wanted Y'shua off the stake before sunset, "because it was Preparation Day for the Judeans, and because the tomb was close by, that is where they buried Y'shua."
This is echoed in Luke 23 verse 54: "It was Preparation Day, and a Shabbat was about to begin" and in Mark 15, verse 42: "Since it was Preparation Day (that is, the day before a High Holy Shabbat), as evening approached", AND Matthew 27, verse 62 "Next day, after the preparation [now the High Holy Day], the head cohanim and the P'rushim went together to Pilate."
"Preparation Day" is Nisan 14 the absolute last day for leaven to be removed, and the lamb is prepared - and these verses from all 4 Gospels, indicate that Y'shua was removed from the stake and buried before sunset on 14 Nisan - Preparation Day - and that was a Wednesday evening.
Next the discovery of the empty tomb:
Matthew 2: 1-2 says "After Shabbat, as the next day was dawning, Miryam of Magdala and the other Miryam went to see the grave. Suddenly there was a violent earthquake, for an angel of ADONAI came down from heaven, rolled away the stone and sat on it." (Note: "After the Shabbat, as the next day was dawning" could refer to after Shabbat at sunset, meaning Saturday just after sunset, or it could mean around sunrise Sunday Morning.)
Mark 16:1-2 says "When Shabbat was over, Miryam of Magdala, Miryam the mother of Ya`akov, and Shlomit bought spices in order to go and anoint Y'shua. Very early the next day, just after sunrise, they went to the tomb." (Note this is much less ambiguous that The Shabbat had ended, that is, sunset the 7th day had happened and the two Marys were able to buy spices. Then it was Sunday morning that they found the tomb empty, and not after sunset on Saturday.)
Luke 24:1-2 says "but the next day, while it was still very early, they took the spices they had prepared, went to the tomb, and found the stone rolled away from the tomb!" (Note this is also much less ambiguous than Matthew that it was Sunday morning that they found the tomb empty, but indicates it was still dark which could have been Sunday morning but in the period not long before sunrise.)
John 20:1-2 says "Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Miryam from Magdala went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb."
Only Matthew records an earthquake, but all 4 Gospels are at least consistent that it was early Sunday (at or before sunrise) when the women visited the tomb. This is consistent with the human sleep cycle, and getting up early before sunrise for any day's activity.
So the fact we can conclude from the Gospels is that Y'shua rose before the women arrived - so He rose sometime on Saturday night, perhaps as early as sunset Saturday, but before sunrise on Sunday.
Reconciling the prophecy of "3 days and 3 nights":
Now let's turn again to Y'shua's own words: "And he answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks a sign, and a sign will not be given to it except the sign of Yonan the prophet. For as Yonan was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights, likewise will the Son of man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights." (Matthew 12:39-40, AENT). Let's look at when Y'shua needed to be buried so he could have risen Saturday night or Sunday morning before sunrise to be in-line with Scripture. Realize that 3 conditions must be met: resurrection before sunrise on Sunday, and "3 days and 3 nights" in the tomb, and burial just before a sunset! Working backward:
- Saturday night, sunset, to Sunday Morning (before sunrise) constitutes 1 night
- Daytime Saturday constitutes 1 day,
- Sunset Friday to sunrise Saturday accounts for 2 nights,
- Daytime Friday daytime accounts for the 2nd daytime period.
- Sunset Thursday night to sunrise Friday accounts for 3 nights,
- Daytime Thursday accounts for the 3rd "daytime" period.
Note that this accounting of the 3 "days" (of "3 days, 3 nights") means Y'shua would have been buried just before sunrise on Thursday! This violates one of the conditions as we know he was buried just before sunset. Clearly, we have a problem.
But there is also second problem. If we have accounted for the arrival of the women correctly, and the requirement for "3 days and 3 nights" in the tomb, and concluded that Y'shua's burial was by sunset on a Thursday (rather than sunrise), we readily see the problem. Remember, Thursday, 15 Nisan, was a High Holy Day! So our conclusion violates Scripture. The 15th of Nisan is the first Holy day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Exodus 12:16 and Leviticus 23:6-7) and while the Romans could execute any day of the week, no Jew or Jewish leadership would advocated an execution and burial on the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, a High Holy Day, only to have to remove the bodies from the stake before sunset of what was already a High Holy Day!
(Note: Some try to argue that the death of the Messiah on the stake, to sunset that same day constitutes the "1st day". Further they argue that "3 days and 3 nights" means the daytime period must come first. Clearly, while Y'shua was hanging on the stake does not constitute the first day of "3 days and 3 nights", the phrase "3 days and 3 nights" does not mandate an "order" to the day and night count - either in Hebrew, Aramaic, or English.)
So let's look at this again for "3 days and 3 nights":
This time we'll count forward. Y'shua dies on 14 Nisan, and is buried just before sunset. Now:
- At sunset the 14th it becomes the 15th of Nisan and is the 1st night
- The 15th daytime is the 1st day,
- The 16th is the 2nd night,
- The 16th daytime is the 2nd day,
- The 17th is the 3rd night, and
- The entire day of the 17th is the 3rd day and is a regular weekly Shabbat observance
- This means that sunset the 17th, becomes the 18th (which would begin the 4th night)
Y'shua resurrects at or before sunset 17 Nisan, just as the weekly Shabbat is ending and the day changes to the 18th, the 1st day of the week. The two women, observing the Shabbat, were at home, went to bed, getting up early the next morning, Sunday, only to arrive at the tomb to find that Y'shua had already risen.
Just to be clear, if one assumes Y'shua's Passover meal was with the talimidim on the evening of the 14th-15th, let's look at the case of Y'shua dying and being buried just before sunset on 15 Nisan and count forward:
If Y'shua dies just before sunset on the 15th, then:
- The evening (which is now the 16th) is the first night,
- Daytime 16 Nisan is Day 1,
- Nighttime 17 Nisan is Night 2,
- Daytime 17 Nisan is Day 2,
- Nighttime 18 Nisan is Night 3,
- Daytime 18 Nisan is Day 3. (But daytime 18 Nisan is Sunday daytime!)
Y'shua would resurrect at or about sunset 18 Nisan, which is sunset on Sunday, but we know the women arrived before sunrise on Sunday and found the resurrection had already occurred. Therefore, a 15th of Nisan crucifixion and burial before sunset violates the prophecy of 3 days and 3 nights and is not likely.
We find that we cannot reconcile Scripture unless we make a realization. That realization is that the time of Y'shua's final meal with his talmidim had to be the evening before the time of the traditional seder which is at/after sunset on the 14th. Since Y'shua knew He had to die as our Pesach lamb, it does not violate Torah if He holds his final meal, when the 14th of Nisan has just begun, that is, just after sunset on the 13th and states during that meal: "I so much wanted to have this (year's) seder with you" with the implication that the Passover seder would be the next evening before sunset the 14th. This accounts for his arrest later that night, the evening of 13-14 Nisan, His death during the daytime of Preparation Day, 14 Nisan, when the lambs are slain, and burial before/at sunset on 14 Nisan - as the Passover is to take place that evening.
Only by this accounting can Thursday, 15 Nisan, the High Holy Day, be observed in accordance with scripture, and the resurrection follows by sunset on Saturday, just as the Shabbat is ending. The two women, observing the Shabbat, do not travel to the tomb that evening, but wait till the next morning, before sunrise only to find the tomb already empty. The earthquake recorded in Matthew 2 is the explanation for the great door of the tomb being opened for them.
This is the only scenario which does not violate the timeline or Torah.
Y'shua died on the stake before sunset on Wednesday, 14 Nisan, 30 CE, was entombed and rose right at the end of the Shabbat, on 17 Nisan. Y'shua's Last Supper was with His talmidim after sunset 13 Nisan, which was by calendar date, the 14th of Nisan, Preparation day, and the 1st day of Matzah - all confirming scripture. He was arrested that very night (now the 14th of Nisan), and executed before sunset on 14 Nisan and entombed just before the High Holy Day of the 1st day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (15 Nisan) began.
Therefore when he rose at or before sunset on the Shabbat, at the end of 3 days and 3 nights in the earth, He fulfilled Matthew 12:40 "For just as Yonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea-monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the depths of the earth."
Y'shua dies on a Wednesday night, and resurrects at the end of the Shabbat - Saturday. This is not only completely in-line with scripture, but also with the Hebrew calendar and the actual astronomical conditions of the year 30 CE.
Here it is summed up graphically. (Image can be viewed full-size, right-click and then "View image" or "Save as...":