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LETTER FROM A PhD
In Defense of a Wednesday Crucifixion
Dr. L. K. Landis
You would think after all of this, I would know something about Baptists and the doctrines they adhere to, the little "quirks" that make us unique among the whole community of Christianity and the principles, policies and precepts that we hold precious. However, not until this year, 1998, did I learn something that for all of these years successfully evaded my seeking mind and prying eyes. In addition I must hasten to say, and I must honestly say, that upon my discovery of this tid-bit of information I was absolutely shocked and totally dismayed. Until this year I had no idea that any Baptist church anywhere practiced the Roman Catholic tradition of observing Lent. For the last two years we have had posted on our Home page an article dealing with the issue of "Why Baptists Don't Observe Lent" and, until recently, I had no confirmation of Baptists observing it. I received no correspondence from Baptists last year as to this phenomenon, but 1998 has been different. To date I have received well over 125 responses to the article that we have featured and several of these responses are from folks who claim that their respective Baptist churches are observing the Lenten season. Not only has this indignant army of pseudo-Baptists swarmed me with vitriolic and sometimes even threatening messages, but they have almost universally "delivered" me to the Devil for espousing such heresy that the observance of Lent was not found in the Scriptures, was unknown to the early New Testament church and the fact that Jesus was not crucified on "Good Friday" as the disciples of the Pope affirm.
However, I remain undaunted by their attacks. I do not, I will not, accept this Romanish tradition above the Scriptures. I found it interesting to note that not one of these detracters has bothered to resort to the Bible or identify the Word of God as the source and reasoning for observing Lent. With one voice they have said that they practice the traditions of the Lenten season in order to promote harmony "among the brethren" (give me a break) or some other reason equally ludicrous. In studying this subject, I have come to the conclusion that part of the problem stems from a misunderstanding of what Catholics and Protestants refer to as the "Passion Week."
So, at the request of several preacher brethren I intend to set forth why I am fervent in my conviction that Jesus was not crucified on Friday but rather on Wednesday. I trust that this "calendar" will help to clear up the matter for some and will cause others who have swallowed the Roman Catholic sentiment of a Friday crucifixion, to pause and at least consider why it could not possibly be so.
Bible expositor, John Phillips, said, "The chronology of the Lord's last week on earth is not simple...". And, dear reader, that is the truth! As it appears to me, the key to understanding the chronology of the week hinges upon the word "day". It is definite that to fully grasp the complexity of the issue one must acknowledge that there is a major difference between the "day" of the Jews in Jesus' time and the "day" as we understand it. For those ancient Jews, the 24 hour daily cycle was divided into 2 equal parts; night and day. It must also be understood that the night preceeded the day (cf. Genesis 1:5, 8, 13, 23, 31), and that as the sun controls the day, so the moon controls the night (see John 11:9-10).
To further complicate the matter, we cannot depend upon our notion that the day starts at 12:00 midnight and lasts through the following midnight. To the Jews, the day started at 6:00 p.m. and ended at 6:00 p.m. the following day or (since the Seiko self-winding watch or daylight savings time hadn't been invented yet) from sundown to sundown. Not only does the matter of when the day started need to be considered, but also what constitutes a day, or how much time must lapse in order for a day to be called a day.
This must be determined before hand. Please keep this in mind as we embark upon our study of the time of the most important event ever to take place on this planet, the crucifixion of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Some, whom I believe to be unduly influenced by Romanish theology, believe that when the Lord informed His disciples that He would be in the grave for the same amount of time as the Old Testament prophet Jonah was in the belly of the whale (Matthew 12:40), He did not mean three literal, 24 hour days, but rather a part of three days. That means that Jesus could have been in the grave anywhere from 24 hours, 2 minutes (one minute prior to a new day until one minute past a new day) to 72 hours.
Some even argue that it makes no difference how long Jesus was there, but this must be totally rejected. Everything Jesus said matters. I believe that the promise of the Lord was that He would be in the grave for precisely 72 hours, three full days and three full nights.
Consider the Greek word for day, "hay-mer'-ah". Although Strong acknowledges that the word could be used to refer to any part of several days, it is more likely and preferrably used to denote the whole 24 hour period known as a day. I am of a firm conviction that when Jesus said that He would be in the grave 3 days and 3 nights like Jonah, He meant exactly what He said and was literally in the grave for the 72 hours prophecied.
SATURDAY: The chronological controversy begins with the very first day of the period. Romanish theologians state that Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem on "Palm Sunday". Although I concede that this was possible, it is doubtful that it was on Sunday considering the very location Jesus headed for was the Temple as was His custom on every Sabbath (Mark 11:1-11). After looking "...about upon all things..." as evening fell, the Lord returned to Bethany, a distance of only two miles or so.
SUNDAY: Jesus returns to Jerusalem, cursing the fig tree as He passes (Mark 11:12-14). Upon arriving in the city, the group once again heads for the Temple where only the day before the Lord had stood to view the condition of the House of God. It was at this time he cast out the moneychangers and overthrew the tables of these thieves (Mark 11:15-17). After cleansing the Temple, I believe the Lord of Glory and His band of followers trek back to Bethany (Mark 11:19). Even though the Scripture doesn't record that He returned to Bethany, it is certain because of verse 20, passing the acccursed tree once more.
MONDAY: It was back to Jerusalem via the same route as previously taken (Mark 11:27-14:1). Jesus spends time teaching and answering questions.
TUESDAY: This was the day before Passover, the "preparation" day (Mark 14:12-16) and would include the killing of the passover lamb that was caught four days earlier (Exodus 12:3-6). The Passover would last seven days with the first and final days being "high Sabbaths" (Leviticus 23:4-8) or annual observances. This would prove to be a very busy day for the Lord. We must remember that this Tuesday, the day before Passover, was our Tuesday sunset to Wednesday sunset.
WEDNESDAY: The Jews' Wednesday (our Tuesday) began at 6:00 p.m. During this time Jesus ate the Passover with His disciples (that in itself is a study of immense importance) and instituted the Lord's Supper (Mark 14:22-25).
Immediately following His committal of this ordinance to His fledgling church, they departed for the Garden of Gethsemane where Christ prayed, was betrayed and arrested (Mark 14:26-52). It is here where some seek to place what followed in a different time span. However, nothing is said in the Bible to indicate that Christ's appearance and trial before the Sanhedrin was anytime other than immediately following His unlawful arrest at night (Mark 14:53-66). In fact, to my thinking, it is further confirmed that the trials of Jesus were held during the night before Peter heard the cock crow at morning's dawn (Mark 14:67-72). Although the scene now changes, it was now morning (Mark 15:1), however, the Jews had begun their Wednesday at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday evening.
Next the Lord is taken to Pilate to once again undergo the rigors of a mock trial by the world. The humiliation, degradation and misjustice which followed is truly something that mortal tongue cannot accurately describe nor the mind of man fully comprehend (Mark 15:2-24). It is now nearly 9:00 a.m. Wednesday morning (the third hour - Mark 15:25) and as the moments progress toward the appointed time, Jesus is crucified. For three hours the Lord hangs suspended on the cross when precisely at noon (the sixth hour), the sky darkens (Mark 15:33).
As the Son of God suffers the pains of the cross, the sun refuses to lend its glow and darkness remains until the ninth hour (3:00 p.m.) when Jesus "gave up the ghost" and dies (Mark 15:34-37).
Immediately following the crucifixion comes Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus to lovingly place the lifeless body of the Saviour in the tomb (John 19:38-42). The crucifixion, His death and burial were all completed before 6:00 p.m. Wednesday evening or before the start of the the Jewish Thursday. As stated previously, this certainly fits into the scheme of the events as it was necessary for Jesus to be taken off the cross before the last day of Passover which was a High Sabbath.
THURSDAY: Guards were placed at the tomb (Matthew 27:62-66). Again keep in mind that Thursday, for the Jews, began at 6:00 p.m. Wednesday evening.
FRIDAY: The Lord's corpse remains in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathaea guarded by the Roman soldiers to ensure that no one will steal it away.
SATURDAY: Things remain the same. However, as Saturday came to a close at 6:00 p.m. (for the Jews) and as the first day of the week begins, the stone rolls away and Jesus comes forth triumphantly from the grave. Thus Jesus did exactly as He said. He was three full nights (Wednesday, Thursday and Friday) and three full days (Thursday, Friday, and Saturday) in the grave.
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