Does EASTER Commemorate the Resurrection? - Part V
Good News Magazine
March 1953
Volume: Vol III, No. 3
QR Code
Does EASTER Commemorate the Resurrection? - Part V

Here are SEVEN IRREFUTABLE PROOFS from history that the resurrection of Jesus was not on Sunday morning, that the crucifixion was not on Friday.

   NO PROBLEM has caused more confusion and controversy than the time of the crucifixion.
   Almost everybody has taken for granted the "Good Friday-Easter Sunday" tradition, even though in the year that Jesus Christ died the Passover was NOT ON A FRIDAY!
   Theologians have tried every way to solve this contradiction of fact. They have attempted to CHANGE the year of Jesus' birth, they have attempted to CHANGE the year that He began his ministry, they have attempted to CHANGE the day of his death, and they have attempted to CHANGE the day of his resurrection.

Resurrection Sunday a Tradition

   The common conception that the resurrection occurred early on Sunday morning is only a tradition. There were no human eyewitnesses to the resurrection. The only source of information to which later church writers had access was the historic account revealed by the angelic messengers and preserved by the gospel writers.
   It was the "apostolic fathers" who began to teach that the crucifixion occurred on Friday. Yet they admitted that the ancient custom of fasting on Wednesday probably was derived from "the day on which Jesus was betrayed" and "on which the Sanhedrin decided to kill him"! (Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge. art. "Fasting.")
   What an admission!
   These Same teachers of the second and third century greatly disputed about the year of the crucifixion. They even varied from one and one-half years to twenty years in their dates of the length of Christ's ministry! What contradictions!
   It's time we studied to see what really happened.

The Evidence of Scripture

   Before we examine the seven absolutely irrefutable proofs from history, let's note for a moment the evidence from the Bible. Jesus was teaching his disciples, according to Mark's account, that he would "be killed, and after three days rise again" (Mark 8:31).
   Although the critics are in consternation about what Jesus meant by the expression "after three days," we need only turn to Jesus' own interpretation. These three days, at the completion of which Jesus would rise, are explained in Matthew 12:38-40 to include three days and three nights. Since Jesus in other scriptures also said that he would "rise the third day," it is obvious that the resurrection must have occurred precisely at the completion of the third day following his burial.
   Jesus was buried before sunset on the day of the crucifixion (Luke 25:54). Then the resurrection must have occurred before sunset in the late Saturday afternoon because when the women came to the tomb, early the following Sunday morning, Jesus had already risen. The angel said, "He is risen: he is not here" (Mark 16-6).
   Late Saturday afternoon being the time of the resurrection, three days before that would place the crucifixion on Wednesday, the preparation day. Thursday of that year must have been an annual sabbath, the fifteenth of Nisan, the first annual sabbath in the days of unleavened bread. So we would know that that sabbath was not necessarily the weekly sabbath, John was inspired to call it a "high day" which means an annual sabbath which may occur during the week.
   Mary picks up John's account by adding that AFTER THAT SABBATH, which was a high day, the women bought sweet spices to use in anointing the body of Jesus (Mark 16:1). This purchasing of the spices could not have been on Thursday, the annual sabbath: it must have been Friday!
   Having made their purchases, the women prepared these ointments "and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment" (Luke 23:56). This was the seventh day sabbath upon which, near its close, Jesus was raised from the dead. Thus the Bible proves that the resurrection was not on Sunday, the crucifixion not on Friday. THERE WERE TWO SEPARATE SABBATHS THAT WEEK!

Matthew 28:1 Proves It!

   A vital text proving that there were two sabbaths in that week has been obscured by almost every translation into English. Only Ferrar Fenton's version has this point correct.
   Turn to Matthew 28:1. In the common versions it says, "In the end of the sabbath," or more correctly, "after the sabbath." Notice that both of these renderings use the singular-sabbath. Bat in the original Greek the word is in the PLURAL. Fenton renders it correctly by saying, "After the Sabbaths," although the remaining part of the verse he has not translated quite correctly. In a footnote to this text, he says, "The Creek original is in the plural, 'Sabbaths.'"

Another Mistranslation

   Another verse causing the Bible apparently to contradict itself is found in Mark 16:9. When rightly translated this verse does not prove that the resurrection was on Sunday. In the common versions, the comma is placed following the word "week" making it appear that Jesus had arisen on Sunday morning. But the use of commas in the Bible did not develop until about fourteen centuries after this was written.
   Here is the explanation. In the original Greek the phrase "early the first day of the week" can be grammatically connected either with the words "having risen" or with the words "he appeared first to Mary Magdalene." The Expositor's Greek Testament says the phrase "early the first day of the week" may be either "connected with (having risen), indicating the time of the resurrection, or with (appeared), indicating the time of the first appearance."
   Other Scriptures, prove that it could not refer to the time of the resurrection. As it could refer to the first appearance of Jesus to Mary (John 20:14), this text in Mark 16:9 should have been translated, "Now having risen, early the first day of the week he appeared first to Mary Magdalene."

Proof One: The Calendar Tells WHEN

   Now let's examine the passover dates as Jesus died on the passover. We have seen in previous articles that Jesus observed the true passover at the proper time on the eve of the 14th of God's first month, called Nisan or Abib. It was the Jews in Judaea who were taking their own the Jewish-passover a day later than God commanded (John 18:28).
   On which day of the week did Jesus final passover fall? This simple question has perplexed theologians and historians for centuries, but the answer is so plain a child can understand it.
   The passover is calculated by astronomy as most everyone knows. The following is a chart giving the dates of various passovers (Nisan 14) which occurred about the time of the death of Jesus Christ. You can verify any of these dates by comparing Hasting's Dictionary. with the Encyclopaedia Biblica, and the Encyclopedia Britannica, article "Bible." None of these references are wholly accurate, however, but by putting all the facts together, these dates are the only possible conclusions.
   A D. 29, Saturday, April 16
   A.D. 30, Friday, April 7
   A.D. 31, Wednesday, April 25
   A.D. 32, Monday, April 14
   A.D. 33, Friday, April 3
   Several references give the passover, Nisan 14, as Monday, March 26 in the year 31, but this is far too early. The year 30 was intercalary it had thirteen months thus placing the passover thirty days later in 31 A. D. The passover never comes less than four days after the vernal equinox (March 21, today) and usually always not less than five days. But remember, in Jesus' day the equinox did not occur on March 21, but on March 23 because the Roman world was using the Julian calendar. Since at that time March 26 was only three days after the equinox, it could not have been the passover. Hence in the year 31 A. D. the passover was on Wednesday and this is THE ONLY POSSIBLE YEAR in which Christ could have been crucified as we shall now PROVE.

Proof Two: The Decree of Artaxerxes

   There are seven basic dates from which the exact year of Christ's death may be calculated. These dates are so precise that there can be no doubt that the passover upon which Jesus was crucified occurred on Wednesday, April 23, A.D. 31.
   The first proof is the year in which Artaxerxes issued his decree to restore and build Jerusalem (Ezra 7). It is recorded in Daniel 9:25-26 that there would be sixty-nine prophetic weeks (7 + 62) till the Messiah would come, after which he would be "cut off" crucified "not for himself" but for the sins of the whole world. Sixty nine prophetic weeks equals 483 years (69 x 7).
   When we determine the year in which this decree was issued, we can locate the exact year when Christ the Messiah began his ministry.
   By figuring from the date of an undisputed eclipse in the night following the 16th of July 523, as well as from two other eclipses, it is possible to date correctly the reign of Artaxerxes. His father reigned twenty-one years, according to the Canon of Ptolemy, and died in 464 B. C. In the late summer of 464 B. C. Artaxerxes began to reign. His first year would hence extend from 464 B. C. to 463 B. C.
   His seventh year the year in which he issued his decree (Ezra 7:8) would extend from about the late summer of 458 B. C. to the late summer of 457 B. C. From the first month to the fifth month of God's calendar from the latter part of March to the latter part of July, 457 B. C. Ezra journeyed to Judaea in the seventh year of Artaxerxes.
   And just 483 years later would bring us to A. D. 27 the year when the Messiah or Christ would appear.
   Although the date of the issuance of this decree is amply proved from astronomy and the Canon of Ptolemy, historians often mis-interpret the facts to suit their pet theories. Then theologians quote from whatever historical sources suit them in order to change the true date for the beginning of Christ's ministry.
   But the true date 457 B.C. is absolutely fixed by astronomical observation and by the Canon of Ptolemy, the most accurate record of history for that time.

Age of Jesus at His Baptism

   Jesus was anointed the Messiah in 27 A. D., which was 483 years after decree of Artaxerxes to restore Jerusalem. The next fact that we need to understand is the age of Jesus when he was baptized 2nd entered upon his ministry.
   The only historical account of this was written by Luke to Theophilus (Luke 1:1-4). In this account it is plainly stated that when Jesus began his ministry "he was about thirty years old." (Luke 3:23).
   If Jesus was about 30 years old in 27 A.D. then he must have been born in 4 B.C. as we shall now prove.

Proof Three: The Death of Herod

   The time of Jesus's birth is important. Jesus was born before the death of Herod the king (Mat. 2:15). When did Herod die? Again the critics are in utmost confusion because they have refused to weigh all the facts.
   According to Josephus, the Jewish historian, Herod died, "having reigned, since he had procured Antigonus to be slain, thirty-four years; but since he had been declared king by the Romans, thirty-seven" (Antiquities, XVII, viii, 1).
   The two dates for the beginning of Herod's reign are not disputed, but given as 37 B.C. respectively (Ency. Bib.. p. 2026). Simple subtraction which the theologians and critics seem unable to do. Herod died just prior to the beginning of spring in B.C. 3. Although his death is commonly dated one whole year sooner (B. C. 4) it could not possibly have occurred then. Neither would it have occurred later.
   Josephus mentions an eclipse of the moon before the death of Herod. That eclipse, as calculated, occurred March 13, 4 B.C. Yet it was after this that Herod went beyond the river Jordan to be cured of his diseases. Finding that the physicians couldn't cure him, he still revived sufficiently to return to Jericho. There, he gathered together and contrived the death of the principal men of the entire Jewish nation. And as if this were not enough, Herod had his son Antipater killed five days before his own death. Since these and other events occurred after the eclipse mentioned by Josephus, that passover must have been thirteen months later and not one month later. Thus Herod died in B.C. 3, the only date that agrees with all the known facts.
   As Jesus was about thirty years old in the early autumn of 27 A.D., then he must have been born in the early autumn of B.C. 4, about a half year before the death of Herod. Jesus could not haw been born before this tame, or he would have been more than thirty years old at the beginning of his ministry. Neither could he have been born later in B.C. 2 as some assume, for he would have been only twenty-eight years old. But Luke plainly said that he was about thirty years of age.

When Did the Wise Men Arrive?

   But what are we going to do with the statement recorded in Matthew 2:16 that just before his death Herod had all the children in Bethlehem killed "from two years old and under"? This would appear to indicate that Jesus was horn one year earlier than he really was born.
   Most people carelessly read this account by assuming that Herod knew the date of Jesus' birth. They think he had all the children killed because Jesus must have been between one and two years old.
   Think for a moment how illogical this would be. Would a murderer like Herod wait for at least one whole year after the Magi left before attempting to kill the child Jesus? Of course not.
   The truth is that Herod did not know the time of Jesus' birth. Notice what the Scripture said. As soon as Herod saw that the Magi didn't return to him he became very angry, ordering all those little children butchered "from two years old and under, ACCORDING TO THE TIME WHICH HE HAD exactly LEARNED of the magi" (Mat. 2:16).
   Now what was the exact time that he learned from the magi? Was it the date of Jesus' birth?
   Notice verse seven of [his same chapter: "Then Herod privily called the magi, and learned of them exactly the time of..." what? The birth of Jesus? No. But "of the appearing star."
   Of course.
   The wise men or magi had come a great distance from the East and the star had appeared some time before the birth of Jesus in order for them to prepare to make their journey to Bethlehem while Jesus was still very young. Since the star appeared more than one year previously, Herod took no chances but had every infant killed up to two years of age.
   Jesus was slightly less than six months old at the time of Herod's death. The latest possible date for the birth of Jesus was the autumn of B. C. 4, before winter arrived (Luke 2:8). This places the commencement of the ministry of Christ, thirty years later in the autumn of the year 27.

Proof Four: Temple Under Construction 46 Years

   Here is another clinching fact. Jesus was about thirty years old when he began his ministry in the autumn of 27 A.D. The first passover in his ministry must have occurred the next spring, A.D. 28. It was at that time that the Jews told Jesus that the temple of Herod was already forty-six full years under construction (John 2:20).
   Herod began constructing the temple, after thorough preparation, in the last part of his 18th year according to Josephus. Since he reckons this year from the spring of B.C. 37, the 18th year would be 20-19 B.C. The temple was begun in the months preceding the passover, B.C. 19 (Em). Bib.. art. "Temple").
   Forty-six full years later would bring us to the beginning of A.D. 28, before the first passover in Jesus' ministry.
   If the ministry of Christ began in any other year than the autumn of A.D. 27, then the temple would not have been exactly 46 years in building by the time of the passover in the spring of the year following

Proof Five: The Reign of Emperor Tiberius

   One of the most vital keys to the chronology of Christ's ministry and yet one of the most universally misunderstood dates is the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar. Luke tells us that John the Baptist began to preach in his 15th year (Luke 3:1).
   When was this fifteenth year?
   The trouble arises from the fact that there are at least two dates from which the reign of Tiberius Caesar may be counted the first begins with his being made co-ruler with Augustus Caesar, August, A.D. 11, and the second begins with his sole rule three years later in August, A.D. 14. Luke could have used either date and been historically correct. But which one did he use?
   To be consistent with all the other facts, Luke must have used A.D. 11 as the beginning of the reign of Tiberius. In fact, for the word "reign" Luke uses a Greek word meaning "government" in general, indicating that he did not mean his sole emperorship, but merely his being elevated to authority.
   The 15th year of Tiberius would therefore extend from the beginning of September A.D. 26 to the same month in A.D. 27. In this 15th year John the Baptist began to preach repentance all about the Jordan River before Jesus was baptized by him. John's ministry occupied many months in which he prepared the way for Jesus. This proves that Jesus did not start his ministry until about the autumn of A.D. 27, the exact time that Jesus was thirty years old. (Luke 3:23.)

Proof Six: When Was Pilate Governor?

   Notice how all these dates prove exactly the season of the year that Jesus began preaching.
   The next record is just as plain. It proves that John the Baptist did not come out of the wilderness to preach until the beginning of A.D. 27, about spring time and Jesus did not enter his ministry until the autumn of that year.
   Luke names Pontius Pilate as governor of Judaea when John received his call (Luke 3:1). Pilate ruled for ten years (Antiquities, XVIII, iv, 2). Many historians give his dates as 26 to 36 A.D., but this is a mistake. Pilate was deposed a few months before the passover at the close of his tenth year. He hurriedly sailed for Rome to appeal to Emperor Tiberius. On his way news came that Tiberius died. Therefore, since Pilate was in a great hurry to reach Rome, he must have left shortly before the death of the Emperor which occurred in March, 37 A.D. Ten years before this is A.D. 27 at the beginning of which Pilate began his procuratorship.
   Here is what the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says in its article "Pilate": The assumed date for Pilate is usually "from 26 to 36 A.D. ... By this reckoning Tiberius died on March 16, 37 A.D. Such a delay is inconceivable in view of the circumstances; hence... the period of his procuratorship (is) 27-37 A.D."
   Now notice. As Pilate was already the governor of Judaea before John's ministry. the Baptist did not begin preaching until the early months of 27 A.D. and Jesus in the autumn of that year.

Proof Seven: Herod's Marriage

   The gospel according to Mark explains that Christ began his ministry after John was imprisoned. "Noc after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee. preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God" (Mark 1:14).
   Now notice WHY John was imprisoned. Matthew 14:1-4 says it was because Herod married Herodias, his brother Philip's wife. Therefore Herod didn't molest John until he had married her. When did this marriage occur?
   The New, Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia in its article on "Herod and His Family," says: "In 27 A.D. he went to Rome, saw there the beautiful and ambitious Herodias, his own niece and already the wife of his half-brother. Herod Philip, and although he had a wife living he proposed marriage to her."
   From this date alone. THE MINISTRY OF JESUS COULD NOT HAVE BEEN BEFORE the autumn of A.D. 27.
   We also saw that THE MINISTRY OF OF JESUS COULD NOT HAVE BEGUN AFTER THE PASSOVER in the spring of A.D. 28 because the temple was already 46 years in building. Therefore Jesus must have begun to preach in the autumn of A.D. 27. THERE IS NO OTHER DATE THAT WOULD BE CONSISTENT WITH ALL THE PROVABLE FACTS.
   To find the date of the crucifixion, we need to find how long the ministry of Jesus lasted.

How Long Was the Ministry?

   The prophet Daniel foretold that the length of Christ's ministry at his first coming to confirm the new covenant would be one-half of a prophetic week of seven years. In the midst of that prophetic week he caused the sacrifices for sin to cease by offering himself for the sins of the world. He was "cut off" in the midst of the week making the ministry at his first coining three and one-half years (Daniel 9:26, 27).
   Now let's turn to the gospels to find the proof that Jesus Christ's ministry was exactly three and one-half years. There would have to be three passovers during the three years of his ministry, and a fourth on the last day of his earthly life the Crucifixion.
   The first passover occurred in A.D. 28 and is recorded in John 2:23. The next note of time is found in John 4:35 which indicates a lapse of time of more than eight months bringing us to the first of December A.D. 28. It was only four months until the next harvest season which always began about the week following the passover each spring about the first of April.
   In John 5:1 Jesus again appears at Jerusalem to celebrate a festival. Although the festival is not named, it probably was the passover or a later festival in A.D. 29. Under no circumstances could this feast have been any of the autumn festivals of A.D. 28 because they fall in the months of September and October months which were already passed according to John 4:35.
   Again in John 6:4 is another passover which brings us to the year 30 A.D. This was the third passover in Jesus' ministry. The fourth and final passover is recorded by all the gospel writers (John 11:55).
   This last passover completed a ministry of three and one-half years from autumn of A.D. 27 to the Spring of A.D. 31 THE VERY YEAR WHEN THE PASSOVER UPON WHICH CHRIST WAS CRUCIFIED FELL ON WEDNESDAY.
   Yes, history proves a myth, the tradition that Jesus was crucified on Friday and rose on Easter Sunday!

To be continued

Back To Top

Good News MagazineMarch 1953Vol III, No. 3