What Day Was Jesus Christ Crucified? (The Debate)


The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth are the climactic events in all four New Testament Gospels. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all devote significant time and space to the last week of Jesus’ life and provide readers with several details regarding the day, and even the hour, of key moments. A clarification that many readers seek concerns what day Jesus was crucified.

Jesus was crucified on a Friday according to the Gospels. A small number of Bible scholars and historians believe the actual day can be identified and that it was April 7, 30 A.D. One minority view argues that Jesus died on a Thursday; another contends that he died on a Wednesday.

Why do most people believe Jesus was crucified on a Friday? Why do some believe he died on a Thursday? Why do others believe he died on a Wednesday? How do some scholars arrive at the date of April 7, 30 A.D. for Jesus’ death? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and others.

Also see Why Was Jesus Christ Crucified? to learn more.

Christian crosses
What do the Gospels say about the day Jesus died? See below

Why do most people believe Jesus was crucified on a Friday?

The overwhelming majority of New Testament scholars agree that the Gospels teach that Jesus was crucified on a Friday and that the Wednesday and Thursday viewpoints have significant problems.

That Jesus died on a Friday makes the most sense of the timing of the events prior to his death, like the Last Supper that occurred on a Thursday (e.g. Matt. 26:20-30), and after his death, like the resurrection that occurred on a Sunday (e.g. Matt. 28:1). Matthew, Mark, and Luke describe similar details. (For a discussion of John’s description, see below.)

Passover was celebrated on the 15th day of the month of Nisan and calculated from the appearance of the new moon. Because this calculation is known, scholars and historians are able to identify when Passover occurred in 30 A.D. and in 33 A.D., which are the two most common views of the year Jesus died.

Based on astrological evidence, Passover fell on a Friday in 30 A.D. and on a Friday or Saturday in 33 A.D. Both of these approximations fit the framework that is presented in the Gospels, which depict a Friday crucifixion. To be clear, Wednesday or Thursday isn’t one of the possibilities.

Time of DayEvent
Friday morningThe Sanhedrin meets
Jesus appears before Pilate
Jesus appears before Herod
Jesus appears before Pilate again
Friday middayJesus is crucified
Friday midafternoonJesus dies
Friday near sundownJesus is buried

Also see Who Killed Jesus Christ? to learn more.

Christian cross
Why is John 19:14 the subject of debate? See below

Why do some believe Jesus was crucified on a Thursday?

The argument that Jesus was crucified on a Thursday is based on a minority interpretation of John 19:14. The debate is about whether the verse describes the day before Passover or the day of Passover.

TranslationJohn 19:14
ESV“Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, ‘Behold your King!'”
KJV“And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!”
NASB“Now it was the day of preparation for the Passover; it was about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, ‘Behold, your King!'”
NIV“It was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about noon. ‘Here is your king,’ Pilate said to the Jews.”
NLT“It was now about noon on the day of preparation for the Passover. And Pilate said to the people, ‘Look, here is your king!'”

The Greek word translated “the day of preparation” (paraskeuē) refers to Friday. One New Testament scholar writes, “The word paraskeue had already become a technical term for ‘Friday,’ since every Friday was the day of preparation for Saturday, that is, the Sabbath. In modern Greek the word for ‘Friday’ is paraskeue.” [1]

The phrase “of the Passover” describes Passover Week, as opposed to the day of Passover. Therefore, the phrase “the day of preparation of [or for] the Passover” means “Friday of Passover Week.”

C.K. Barrett is an example of a New Testament scholar that argues that Jesus died on a Thursday. He writes, “According to John, the crucifixion happened on Nisan 14, the day before the Passover” (emphasis added). Barrett indicates that this contradicts Matthew, Mark, and Luke, concluding that “it seems impossible to reconcile the dates.” [2]

New Testament scholar D.A. Carson responds: “Despite the fact that Barrett confidentially insists paraskeue tou pascha [“the day of preparation”] must refer to the Preparation day (i.e. before) the Passover, he does not offer any evidence of a single instance where paraskeue refers to the day before any feast day other than the Sabbath.” [3]

Carson concludes that Jesus died on Friday and that there is no disagreement between John and the other Gospels.

Also see Why Was Jesus Christ Arrested? to learn more.

Matthew Mark Luke John
Why do some believe Jesus died on April 7, 30 A.D.? See below

Why do some believe Jesus was crucified on a Wednesday?

Those who believe that Jesus died on a Wednesday interpret Matthew 12:40 differently than those who contend that it occurred on a Friday. “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (ESV)

People who hold the Wednesday view argue that Friday to Sunday doesn’t amount to “three days and three nights.” Friday to Sunday totals three days, but not 72 hours, and only two nights.

However, those who hold the Friday view point out that the phrase “three days and three nights” is a Hebrew idiom. It isn’t intended to literally convey 72 hours precisely, but instead refers to three calendar days in general. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday — even if it means Friday midday to Sunday morning — accurately fulfilled Jesus’ prophecy in Matthew 12:40.

In support of this view, when Jesus spoke of the timing of his resurrection on other occasions, he referred to it as happening on the third day, not after it:

  • Matthew 16:21, “From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”
  • Matthew 17:23, “They will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day
  • Matthew 19:20, “and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day

Is there an Old Testament example of this idiom? Yes. In the book of Esther, all the Jews fasted “for three days, night or day” in preparation for her appearance before the king (4:16). Esther 5:1 reports that she visited the king on the third day, not after it: “On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king’s palace…”

Why do some believe Jesus died on April 7, 30 A.D.?

Some scholars believe that astronomical data is reliable enough to calculate when the 15th of the month of Nisan occurred in 30 A.D.

Using the months and days of the Gregorian Calendar, whose origin is the 16th century, they estimate that Jesus died on April 7, 30 A.D.

For those who believe that Jesus died in 33 A.D., and believe the exact day can be calculated, some posit a date of April 3, 33 A.D.

Also see How Old Was Jesus Christ When He Died? to learn more.

References:
[1] Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties by Gleason Archer. p. 375.
[2] The Gospel According to St. John by C.K. Barret. p. 48-51.
[3] The Gospel According to John by D.A. Carson. p. 603-604.
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Daniel Isaiah Joseph

Daniel's seminary degree is in Exegetical Theology. He was a pastor for 10 years. As a professor, he has taught Bible and theology courses at two Christian universities. Please see the About page for details.

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