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On what day of the week was Jesus crucified?

The Bible doesn't tell us the exact day of the week when Jesus was crucified, but the two most widely accepted views are that it was either Wednesday or Friday. Some people find a compromise by saying He was crucified on a Thursday. Speaking of Himself, Jesus said, "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 12:40). So we DO know there were three days between Jesus' crucifixion and His resurrection, but which specific days this time period spanned is up for debate.

What's three days?

There's also some disagreement as to what counts as "three days" in the key passages that speak of Christ's resurrection. The Jewish mindset of the time was that even partial days would still be counted as one day. Also, some translations use "on the third day" for those verses, but not all do. Not to mention that not everybody agrees that "on the third day" is even a proper translation for those verses. Mark 8:31 actually says Jesus would be resurrected "after" three days. Depending on which argument is being made, the definition of "three days" gets stretched different ways.

The Argument for Friday

Those who argue for the crucifixion happening on a Friday use that Jewish mindset of the time we mentioned, which makes the definition of "day" kind of variable. So if Jesus was in the grave for part of Friday, all of Saturday, then part of Sunday, this could be counted as three days.

One passage that supports a Friday crucifixion is Mark 15:42, which says that Jesus was crucified "the day before the Sabbath." If this referred to the weekly Sabbath (observed on Saturdays), then that would make the crucifixion Friday.

Other Scriptures which may point to a Friday crucifixion are Matthew 16:21 and Luke 9:22. Both passages say that Jesus would be resurrected "on the third day." That means He would have been raised on actual day 3 and not in the grave for a full three days and nights.

The Argument for Thursday

Those who argue for a Thursday crucifixion use an extended interpretation for "three days." For example: Let's say you see your friend after school on Monday, but then he's absent every day until you see him Thursday morning. You might say, "I haven't seen you in three days!" even though technically it's only been 60 hours (2.5 days). If Jesus was crucified on Thursday evening, then this would explain how they could call it three days.

Also, proponents of a Thursday crucifixion say there are just too many events that happen between Jesus' burial and His resurrection for it to have all happened between Friday and Sunday—basically one 24-hour period plus two partial days. Some have counted up to 20 events that occur within the timeframe— one of those days being the Sabbath (Saturday), during which Jews were commanded to rest. Having an extra day or two would solve the timing problem.

The Argument for Wednesday

The Wednesday argument says that Jews observed TWO Sabbaths that week because of Passover (Mark 15:42; Luke 23:52-54). The Old Testament gives evidence of Passover's high holy days being referred to as "Sabbath" days even though they were not the seventh day of the week. (See Leviticus 16:29-31, 23:24-32, 39.) The first Sabbath would have happened on the evening of the crucifixion. The second Sabbath would have been the regular weekly Sabbath.

Mark 16:1 tells us that the women purchased spices "when the Sabbath was passed," then Luke 23:56 continues the story by saying that, after they prepared the spices, they rested "on the Sabbath." How could they purchase spices after the Sabbath and then prepare them before the Sabbath? If there were two Sabbaths, then they could. They wouldn't have made purchases ON the Sabbath because that would be breaking God's command to rest.

With this view of two Sabbaths and a Wednesday crucifixion, we solve the issue of the biblical account of the women and the spices and hold to a literal understanding of Matthew 12:40. Thus, the timeline would look like this: Jesus was crucified Wednesday and buried around sundown. From sunset Wednesday to sunset Thursday was the Passover (the first Sabbath). After sunset on Thursday, the women purchased and prepared the spices. The Jews observe their weekly Sabbath from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday, so this was the second Sabbath, and the women would have rested.

Sometime between sunset on Saturday and sunrise on Sunday, Jesus came back to life and left the tomb. The Bible doesn’t mention the exact time He rose, but we do know it was before Sunday sunrise, because that's when the women returned. So Sunday, immediately after sunrise (Mark 16:2), before it was fully light (John 20:1), the women came to anoint Jesus' body but found the tomb had been opened and Jesus was gone.

One of the issues with the Wednesday crucifixion argument is in Luke 24. The disciples who walk with Jesus on the road to Emmaus are said to do so on "the same day" of His resurrection (Luke 24:13). They don't recognize Him as they tell Him of Jesus' crucifixion (Luke 24:21), saying "today is the third day since these things happened." If we're counting Wednesday to Sunday, then that's four days. They may have been counting the days since His burial, which would have been Thursday to Sunday—three days.

Still confused?

I know, it's all kind of confusing because we don't have an actual Scripture reference that gives us the exact day of the week. Scholars tried to piece together all the clues, but they came up with different conclusions. When we consider the bigger picture though, it really doesn't matter what exact day of the week Jesus was crucified. If it was important for us to know, then God would have provided that information very easily through His Word (1 Corinthians 14:33). The Bible does say when He was resurrected, so we can be assured that this was important to know.

Ultimately, what matters is whether we believe Jesus is who He says He is, that what occurred during this timeframe did indeed happen, and what those events mean to us as believers. If we believe that Jesus died in our place, taking on the punishment we should have suffered due to our sin, that He is our Savior, then we will be given eternal life (John 3:16, 36)! Whether He was crucified on a Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday is irrelevant. Whatever day it happened, we can be assured that it DID happen, and we are blessed with the greatest gift ever given: salvation through Jesus Christ.

TL;DR

The Bible doesn't tell us the exact day of the week when Jesus was crucified, but the most widely accepted views are that it was Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday. We know that there were three days between Jesus' crucifixion and His resurrection (Matthew 12:40), but on which specific day the crucifixion happened is up for debate. And it's honestly irrelevant. What matters in the end is whether we believe that Jesus is who He says He is, that what occurred during this timeframe did indeed happen, and what those events mean to us as believers: salvation through Jesus Christ.

By: Catiana Nak Kheiyn

Cat is the web producer and editor of 412teens.org. She loves audiobooks, feeding the people she cares about, and using Christmas lights to illuminate a room. When Catiana is not writing, cooking, or drawing, she enjoys spending time with her two kids, five socially-awkward cats, and her amazing friend-amily.

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