Did Christ die on Wednesday or Friday? Some people believe that the crucifixion took place on Wednesday—after all, Jesus was in the tomb three days and three nights, wasn’t He? Here are the answers!

PART 11

For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here. Matthew 12:40, 41.

This expression is found only once in the Scriptures.
Lone texts are a fruitful field for speculation.

We must guard against wrong conclusions and exaggerated claims such as “the heart of the earth” is a grave.

A century or more ago the argument was advanced that Christ was crucified on Wednesday afternoon and rose again on the Sabbath. It was originated by the Seventh-day Baptists to wipe out the only argument for Sunday keeping, namely that Christ rose on the first day of the week.

CHRIST WAS NOT CRUCIFIED ON WEDNESDAY

  1. Luke 24:21. “Today is the third day.” This is the “first day of the week.” Luke 24:1, 13.
  2. “Today is the third day.” If Christ was crucified on Wednesday, Sunday could not possibly be the “third day.”
  3. Thirteen times the New Testament states Christ would rise on the third day. It is folly to base a teaching on a strained interpretation of a single text.
  4. If Christ had to be in the grave for three complete days and nights or 72 complete hours, He would have to rise on the fourth day—for one minute after the full 72 hours, runs into the fourth day.
    “The third day” is the day of Christ’s resurrection, not the fourth.
  5. Many witnesses testify:—
    • The disciples said it was “the third day.” Luke 24:21.
    • The Angels said that Christ would on “the third day” rise again. Luke 24:7.
    • The Apostle Peter testified that “Him God raised up the third day.” Acts 10:40.
    • The inspired Paul states “that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day.” 1 Corinthians 15:4.
    • The enemies of Christ requested that the tomb of Christ be sealed “until the third day.” Matthew 27:64.
  6. Acts 2:27. Peter proves conclusively that the resurrection of Christ was foretold in the words “neither wilt Thou suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption.” This prophecy could not refer to David for he had been dead for centuries and hence had seen corruption. This was the burden of Peter’s argument. See Acts 2:29. Therefore the prophecy must refer to the resurrection of Christ before corruption could set in. If Christ was three complete days and nights in the grave, His resurrection would be on the fourth day, and by the fourth day corruption would be well advanced, as in the case of Lazarus. John 11:39.
  7. If Christ was crucified on Wednesday, and Thursday was the Passover Sabbath, as some have claimed, why was it the holy women did not anoint the body of Jesus on the Friday? To leave the anointing until the fourth or fifth day is unthinkable.

CHRIST WAS CRUCIFIED ON FRIDAY

John 19:14. “It was the preparation of the passover.”

The Greek word translated “preparation” is paraskeue, and is never meant for any day but Friday. Paraskeue is still the name for Friday among modern Greeks.

“Paraskeue was the name among the Greek speaking Jews for the day which preceded the Jewish Sabbath. It was the sixth day of the week, and was the day of the ‘Preparation’ for the seventh day, (our Saturday). Therefore it was Friday, and could be nothing else than Friday.” Professor J. Laurence Rentoul, Professor of Greek and Hebrew in Ormond College, Melbourne.

The New English Bible, the translation of which was planned and directed by the Baptist, Church of England, Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregational Churches, in association with the British and Foreign Bible Society, uses the word “Friday,” instead of “preparation day,” in translating Luke 23:54. Thus the Scriptures state:—

“This man now approached Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Taking it down from the cross, he wrapped it in a linen sheet, and laid it in a tomb cut out of the rock, in which no one had been laid before; it was Friday, and the Sabbath was about to begin.”

Thus it is clear from the combined testimony of the “Scriptures of Truth” that Jesus was not crucified on Wednesday, but that act of tragedy took place on Friday, the sixth day of the week.

THE HEART OF THE EARTH

“Three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”

What does this unique expression mean?

  1. There is no text anywhere in the Bible that states that the “heart of the earth” is the grave.
  2. The Scriptures reveal its meaning.
    Proverbs 23:24 “midst” (margin) = “heart”
    Deuteronomy 4:11 “midst” (margin) = “heart”
    2 Samuel 18:14 “midst” (margin) = “heart”
    Jonah 2:3 “midst” (margin) = “heart”
    Thus it is clear that “midst” or “heart” are used interchangeably in Scripture.
  3. Ezekiel 5:5. “Thus saith the Lord; this is Jerusalem: I have set it in the midst of the nations and countries that are round about her.”
    Dr. Strong gives “the centre,” “middle,” “midst.” Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. Thus Jerusalem was “the midst” or “heart.”
  4. Jerusalem is the heart, centre or midst of the earth. This fact is recognized. In Ezekiel we read of the “centre of the earth,” (Moffatt) or “the uplands of Israel.” Ezekiel 38:8.
  5. “Geographically, Palestine is the centre of the earth, and in the centre of the land the salvation of God became a reality: the Skull Hill and the empty tomb are there still as reminders.” Leonard T. Pearson, in Through the Holy Land, p. 3.
  6. This statement is but an echo of the wonderful prophecy found in Psalm 74:12, “God is ... working salvation in the midst of the earth.”
    “The midst,” “centre,” “heart.” (See Dr. Strong). It was there our Lord was crucified, rose again from the dead and ascended. There again His feet will touch the earth. There Abraham was called to offer his son. There Melchisedec ministered as priest—king of the Most High. There the glory of God lingered over the sacred Ark of the Covenant. There the blood of bulls and goats flowed as a shadow of the Supreme Sacrifice. There was the centre of salvation. There was the centre or heart of the earth.
  7. Nelson Glueck, the famous authority on Archaeology writes:—
    “Palestine became spiritually what the facts of geography had made it physically, the focal point of the world, with Jerusalem its central city.”
    “Palestine’s blessing and curse lie in its geographical position, which makes it a bridge between the Nations. It is a crossroads on the deathless trade routes between East and West.” The River Jordan, p. 217.
  8. The Scriptures recognize Jerusalem as the centre or heart of the nations. For instance “the king of the north” was the power to the north of Jerusalem, and “the king of the south,” was the power to the south of Jerusalem, namely Egypt, and east was east of Jerusalem.
  9. Jerusalem was the centre or heart of worship. It was situated on a central and elevated position in Canaan.
  10. It was the central place of sacrifice; at no other place could they offer animal sacrifices.
  11. The Jews when in distant lands, prayed with faces turned toward Jerusalem. Psalm 28:2; Daniel 6:10. Thus we have like a giant prayer circle, facing towards Jerusalem the centre.
  12. When Jesus used the expression “the heart of the earth,” He was using an expression that was well known to the Jews of His day. Josephus, the Hebrew historian and priest, wrote of Jerusalem, “The city lies at its very centre, for which reason the town has sometimes, not inaptly, been called the ‘navel’ of the country.” Wars of the Jews, Book 3, Chap. 3, Sec. 5.
    The Book of Jubilees refers to “Mount Zion—the centre of the navel of the earth.” By ‘navel’ is meant the Sanhedrin. And why were they named navel? Because they used to sit in the middle of the world, (according to the Talmud, Jerusalem was the middle of the world and the Temple was the centre of Jerusalem), and also protected the whole world.” The Babylonian Talmud, Frost, Sanhedrin, ch. 4.
Thus it is clear Jerusalem was regarded as the “centre,” “heart,” “navel,” or “middle” of the earth. “Navel” is used interchangeably with “middle” or “heart.” For instance in Judges 9:37, “middle” has “navel” in the margin and in Ezekiel 38:12, “midst” of the land is “navel” in the margin.

“The term ‘earth’ is often used when referring to the people on the earth. Jeremiah 6:19, Isaiah 1:2, “Christ was in the hands of the people: ‘or heart of the earth’ ” S.N.Haskell, Bible Handbook, p. 184.

Thus when Jesus used the expression “the heart of the earth,” He had in mind Jerusalem and His listeners would recognize the familiar term..

Now notice how often Jerusalem is mentioned. Only the record of one Gospel writer will be more than sufficient:—

Matt 16:21 “He must go to Jerusalem and suffer.”

Matt 20:17 “Jesus going up to Jerusalem.” Our Lord was going to the Passover to offer Himself as the great Passover.

Matt 20:18 “Behold we go up to Jerusalem; ... to be betrayed, condemned, delivered to the Gentiles to mock, to scourge and to crucify Him.”

Matt 23:37 “O Jerusalem ... thou that killest the prophets.” Jesus placed Himself into the hands of the leaders of Jerusalem—a prisoner.

“As Jonah”—Jonah was a prisoner.

At Jerusalem—the place of sacrifice. The place where prophets were killed.

“Three days and three nights in the heart of the Earth.”

Matt 26:17-20 “My time is at hand.”

As S.N.Haskell writes:—“In Mark 8:31, Christ said He would be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes and be killed and after three days rise again! Some time before the angry mob came to arrest Him, He had been ‘rejected’ otherwise they would never have gathered to take Him. ‘After three days’ had passed from the time of His rejection, He rose again.” Bible Handbook, p. 185.

PART 2

Do we have to count three days and nights for Jesus to be in the grave until the resurrection?

The whole point is, you don't have to. The Bible nowhere says that Jesus was in the grave for three days and three nights. It does say that:

“For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Matthew 12:40. If you want to read that as three days and three nights in the grave, then that is an individual interpretation and not necessarily what the Bible means at all.

PROOF 1:
Let's take it as three days and nights in the grave and see how we go.

Matthew 16:21; 17:23; 20:19; Mark 10:34; Luke 9:22; 18:33; 24:7, 18-21, 46 all say something different.

MATT 16:21 From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.

MATT 17:23 And they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised again. And they were exceeding sorry.

MATT 20:19 And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again.

MARK 10:34 And they shall mock him, and shall scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall kill him: and the third day he shall rise again.

LUKE 9:22 Saying, The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day.

LUKE 18:33 And they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again.

LUKE 24:7 Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.

LUKE 24:18-21 And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days?
And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people:
And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him.

But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done.

LUKE 24:46 And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:

So there it is. What the Bible actually says is that Jesus would go to Jerusalem (there's a clue as to what the heart of the earth might mean), be rejected of the elders and chief priests, be delivered to the gentiles and suffer (be scourged etc) and be crucified and die and then he would rise on the third day.

It's a little bit different, isn't it?

PROOF 2:
Again, let's take it as three days and nights in the grave and see how we go.

Now remember that Bible days run from sunset to sunset and that the seventh-day sabbath actually begins at Friday sunset and ends on Saturday sunset.

LEV 23:32 It shall be unto you a sabbath of rest, and ye shall afflict your souls: in the ninth day of the month at even, from even unto even, shall ye celebrate your sabbath.

MAR 1:32 And at even, when the sun did set, they brought unto him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils.

Now let's count back from very early on Sunday morning (the first day of the week) when it began to dawn (See Matthew 28:1-4)— this was the time of the resurrection. This time cannot be denied. It happened at dawn on Sunday according to the Word of the Living God. IT IS AFTER THE NIGHT PART OF THE FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK. COUNTING BACK THREE NIGHTS TAKES US TO THURSDAY, NOT WEDNESDAY. Remember, Matthew 27:46-50 tells us that Jesus died at the ninth hour of the day. This is during the light part of the day.

IF THE CRUCIFIXION WAS ON WEDNESDAY (DEATH AT NINTH HOUR) THEN JESUS WOULD HAVE BEEN IN THE GRAVE 4 (FOUR) NIGHTS TO GET TO RISE AT DAWN ON SUNDAY MORNING. HERE THEY ARE:

  |   WED   |   THU   |    FRI    |    SAT    |   SUN   |    end line 1
NIGHT|DAY|NIGHT|DAY|NIGHT| DAY |NIGHT| DAY |NIGHT|DAY|NIGHT| end line 2
4TH DAY| 5TH DAY |PREPARATION|7DAYSABBATH| 1ST DAY | end line 3
| & PASSOVER| end line 4
* 1N 2N P 3N 4N * end line 5

(if this diagram looks squashed, reformat it to Courier font and make sure it fits on 5 lines with the line endings at the end of each line)

The first star represents the “death” of Jesus on Wednesday afternoon.

The second star represents the resurrection of Jesus at dawn on the first day of the week. This corresponds to our Sunday.
The P on line 5 is the time of Jesus’s death on the cross at the ninth hour which corresponds to the Passover sacrifice.

As we can easily see, we have 4 NIGHTS from Wednesday, not Three.
So a Wednesday crucifixion doesn’t fit the facts at all.

However, if we take the Bible as our guide, then what was said in LUKE 24:18-21 makes a lot of sense:

And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days?
And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people:
And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him.
But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done.
If Friday was the day that Jesus was delivered to be condemned to death etc then the third day fits Sunday perfectly, as Cleopas stated.

A Friday crucifixion does fit the facts.

An Objection has been raised: that the resurrection was well before dawn on Sunday morning, in fact it could have been at sunset on Saturday.

Therefore the fourth night didn't exist and Jesus was only in the grave three nights from Wednesday.

Answer:

We will show that it is VERY clear from Matthew 28:1-4 that the resurrection took place at dawn on Sunday morning (the first day of the week).

Note Matthew 27:63,64:

“Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again.

Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first.”

This verse says that the sepulchre was to be made sure until the third day. Cleopas (Luke 24:20-12) stated that (on the first day of the week):

“But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done.”

That is, that the first day of the week (not the seventh) was the third day.

Further look at Matthew 28:1-4 closely:

MATTHEW 28:1-4 In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.
And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.
His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow:

And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.

The objection is that the Bible actually doesn't say that Jesus was raised right then but only that the angel came down and rolled away the stone.

Now think this through:

The sepulchre was to be made sure until the third day. The soldiers were there until the resurrection. The stone was in place until the resurrection. The angel of the Lord came down to roll away the stone for Jesus to come forth out of the tomb.

Are we to believe that the angel (or Jesus) rolled BACK (closing the tomb) the stone AND that the soldiers still hung around guarding an empty tomb?

Why not believe the Bible for what it says? Clearly Jesus must have been raised then for the soldiers were still there when the angel came down and the stone was in place. There is no real reason to believe otherwise.


1. Part 1 from a booklet, “THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE HEART OF THE EARTH”, When did Christ die and rise again?, George Burnside, pp.1-9.
Note: for a lively discussion on how this page came about see our Communications page and view topic: Wednesday Crucifixion?


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Stephen Buckley
E-mail: stephen@chodesh.info
Last revised: 2 Mar 2013.

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