The Gospels Reveal Two Sabbaths and the Three Full Days between Death and Resurrection of Christ.
by Peter Salemi
When one reads the Gospel accounts of the crucifixion week, one can obviously see that Jesus was in the tomb for a full 72 hours.
Mark and Luke's Gospels show that the women who came to the tomb bought and prepared spices for the body of Christ. With these scriptures one can see the three full days that took place while Jesus was in the tomb, and then at the "end of the Sabbath" when they came to the sepulcher Jesus was already gone, on the "Third day."
How the days were observed?
First we must establish how the Jews in the first century counted the days.
The Jews followed exactly how the Bible says to count their days "at even" or from "even to even" (Lev 23:5, 32). Sunset to Sunset were the days counted not like our day today which is from midnight to midnight. This is where many go wrong when they read the Gospels.
In the History of the Christian Church by Schaff he writes, " The communion on the evening of the 14th (or, according to the Jewish mode of reckoning, the day from sunset to sunset, on the beginning of the 15th) of Nisan was in memory of the last pascha supper of Christ" (vol.2, p.134). Most commentaries and Biblical authorities attest to that fact that the Jews counted the days in the time of Christ this way.
Josephus himself an historian writes, in the Wars of the Jews 4:582: “and the last was erected above the top of the Pastophoria, where one of the priests stood of course, and gave a signal beforehand with a trumpet, at the beginning of every seventh day, in the evening twilight, as also at the evening when that day was finished, as giving notice to the people when they were to stop work, and when they were to go to work again.” (emphasis added).
The Gospels Mark & Luke
To many there seems to be a discrepancy between the two passages of Mark and Luke. Mark writes, "And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him." (16:1).
However Luke says, "And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment. " (Luke 23:56). Is this not a direct contradiction? First it says that bought the spices after the Sabbath, but Luke says the prepared the spices before the Sabbath and then rested on the Sabbath. Is this a contradiction?
The fact is, no contradiction exists in these scriptures when one understands that there were two Sabbaths that week. The Bible plainly shows that there was the annual Sabbath and the weekly Sabbath that took place that week. Since many in the Christian do not familiarize themselves with the festivals of the Old Testament, many do not understand the passages in the Bible pertaining to the death of Jesus at the Passover, and the terminology that is used.
Notice a few verses before in Luke 23 it says, "This man went unto Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus.
"And he took it down, and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a sepulchre that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid.
"And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on ["near" NKJV, WNT, EMTV & LEB Bibles].
"And the women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid." (vv.52-55). They laid the body in the tomb before the Sabbath came. What Sabbath was that? Well it says it was the day of the "preparation." That Day was the day of the "preparation of the Passover" (John 19:14).
And that "Sabbath" according to John, "The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation [of the Passover], that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away." (19:31). That "high day" Sabbath was the special Sabbath the annual Sabbath of the first day of Unleavened bread. "It was the first day of the Feast, the 15th Nisan. See Lev 23:6, Lev 23:7." (Bullinger's Companion Bible notes). The annual Feast days, the first and the last days of the feasts were called "Sabbaths" and were "great" or "high" days, as Bullinger notes, "That the first day of each of the three feasts, Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles, was 'a holy convocation', a 'sabbath' on which no servile work was to be done. See Lev 23:7; Lev 23:24; Lev 23:35. Cp. Exo 12:16." (app 156)
Another example in the Gospels is in John 7:37, "In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink." The Greek word is "megas" (Strong's #3173), This last "great day" was a "sabbath" and the same word is used for "high" day in John 19:31.
This high day as well as the Passover, can take place on any days of the week as Schaff notes, " ...following the Jewish chronology, and appealing to the authority of the apostles John and Philip, celebrated the Christian Passover uniformly on the fourteenth of Nisan (which might fall on any of the seven days of the week)...'the pascha should be observed on the fourteenth day of the first month according to the law, no matter on what day of the week it might fall''' (History of the Christian Church, Volume II: Ante-Nicene Christianity. A.D. 100-325. by Philip Schaff, p.134, emphasis added). The Passover and the Day of Unleavened bread being an annual Sabbath not the fixed weekly Sabbath can fall on any day of the week.
In this case the Passover fell on a Wednesday, and the First Day of Unleavened bread that Wednesday night a sunset to Thursday sunset.
So they laid Christ before the High Day Sabbath came. (Wednesday afternoon)
Then the first day of Unleavened bread begins, and people are eating the Lamb "that night" (Ex 12:8). It is also a Sabbath no work is done (Lev 23:7). (Wednesday Sunset to Thursday Sunset)
After the annual Sabbath is past the Bible reveals another day dawns and the women buy the spices after the high day Sabbath, "And when the [High Day] Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him." (Mark 16:1). This occurred Thursday sunset to Friday sunset.
Most likely, according to Anthony Alfieri they bought the spices on the Friday morning, since most business was conducted during the day (Darkness at the Crucifixion, p.154). ( Thursday sunset to Friday sunset).
Then when one reads Luke 23:56, as it says, "And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the Sabbath day according to the commandment." This compliments Mark 16:1 perfectly! After the annual Sabbath they bought the spices probably that Friday morning. And on that Friday they prepared the spices as Luke says they did. Then after the preparation of the spices the weekly Sabbath came that Friday at sunset, and they " rested the Sabbath day according to the commandment." So here the Gospels show another day passing Friday sunset to Saturday Sunset.
Then as Matthew says "In the end of the [weekly]Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. " (28:1). Now they come to the tomb to anoint the body and Jesus was already gone!
Verse 6 the angel says, "He is not here: for he is risen," Jesus died in the "third hour" which corresponds to our 3 O'clock, buried around 4. So the resurrection took place that same time 3 day and nights later on that weekly Sabbath afternoon. The disciples and the women were not there to witness it, as they, "rested the Sabbath day according to the commandment." In the "end of the Sabbath" when they came, Jesus was gone already.
But the gospels themselves prove not only were there Two Sabbaths that week, but also that 3 days past as Jesus said they would and that he would be resurrected exactly 3 days and 3 nights later.
From the Gospels- "Are there not twelve hours in the day?" (John 11:9)
Wednesday Afternoon Jesus died and was buried in the tomb around 4 O'clock before the high day Sabbath (Luke 23:54) (countdown begins 2 hours sunset)
Wednesday sunset to Thursday sunset, was the First Day of Unleavened Bread and the Lamb eaten "that night" (Ex 12:8), no work was done. The woman had to wait till after the high day Sabbath to buy spices. (Mark 16:1) (1 night & Day-24hrs)
Thursday Sunset to Friday Sunset, They bought the spices on Friday Morning and prepared them then rested on the weekly Sabbath day (Mark 16:1; Luke 23:56). (1 night & Day-24hrs)
Friday Sunset to Saturday (Sabbath) sunset, they "rested" according to the commandment. 4 o'clock that afternoon Jesus resurrected on the "third day" since his death. No witnesses to see because of the Sabbath commandment to rest. (1 night & Day-22hrs)
Saturday (Sabbath) sunset they came to the tomb and Jesus was already gone (Matthew 28:1, 6).
Jesus meant what he said. 3 days and nights he would be dead and buried then resurrect, and the GOSPELS THEMSELVES testify to that fact. There are no contradictions, no discrepancies, but a perfect chronology of the most important event in the history of mankind, and the proof that Jesus was the Messiah (Matthew 12:39-40).