Tuesday, March 18, 2008

On Refutation of “Good Friday”

In light of the approaching Easter holiday, I thought it would be appropriate to discuss an issue related to the resurrection. Although we commonly associate "Good Friday" as the day of Christ's death, my attempt here will be to present Biblical and historical evidence refuting this tradition. This may be difficult for some to review with an unbiased opinion based upon a general acceptance of 2000 years of Church tradition pointing to Friday as the day of Christ's death; however, I am hoping that we can put our biases aside long enough to thoughtfully consider the Scriptures. In presenting the evidence, I will first answer five questions whose answers are explicitly documented (with references) in Scripture, followed by a final question relating to the Jewish reckoning of time and tying all the Scripture references presented to answer the first five questions in support of a Thursday day of death for Christ together. Enjoy!

When did Jesus die?

Jesus died (on Thursday) at approximately the 9th hour, that is, 3pm.

Matthew 27:45-50; Mark 15:33-37; Luke 23:44-46

How long was Jesus in the burial tomb?

Jesus was in the tomb for three days and three nights.

Matthew 12:39-40; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4

When was Jesus raised?

Jesus was raised the third day.

Matthew 16:21; John 2:19-21; 1 Corinthians 15:4

What day was the “third day?”

The “third day” was the first day of the week, that is, Sunday.

Matthew 28:1-8; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-10; John 20:1-8.

When was Jesus buried?

Jesus was buried at night (Thursday evening to us, the end of the day; Friday evening to the Jew, the beginning of the day).

Matthew 27:57-61; Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50-56.

What considerations must we take regarding the Jewish reckoning of time in the New Testament?

a. Jews reckon time in accordance with Genesis 1, “there was evening and there was morning.” To the Jew, a day ends and begins at evening; approximately 6pm.

b. Jews reckon any portion of a day to be considered as a full day in counting sequence. Therefore, the 3 hours before 6pm are to be considered a full day.

c. Relating the rendering of time to the NT era, the 6th hour is noon while the 9th hour is 3pm. This is in regards to the day (i.e. daytime) starting at 6am with the new day (i.e. nighttime) starting at 6pm.

d. Looking again to Genesis 1, the time must first pass before it is counted. Considering this, 6am is not the start of the first hour, but rather, 7am is hour 1. This enables us to understand the 6th hour as 12pm and not 11am.

e. Reviewing all these things, a Wednesday death makes for 4 days and 4 nights of burial or 5 days and 4 nights of death, while a Friday death makes for 2 days and 2 nights of burial or 3 days and 2 nights of death.

f. This makes Thursday 4 days and 3 nights of death or 3 days and 3 nights of burial.

g. The only day of death that contains a period of 3 days and 3 nights is Thursday, if looking at the sequence in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 convinces us of time reckoned to burial which reconciles with Matthew 12:39-40, rather than time reckoned to death which no day can satisfy.

Taking all of this information into consideration, one must answer two questions. First, what is our source of authority? Granted, 2000 years of Church tradition supports the idea of Good Friday, however, the final authority in matters of faith and practice is sola scriptura (Scripture alone) not sola ecclesia (the Church alone). All theological determinations related to orthodoxy and orthopraxy must come from Scripture, not mere tradition, regardless of how long that tradition has existed or how strong the conviction to follow that tradition is. Secondly, understanding our final source of authority is Scripture alone, are we willing to set aside any previous beliefs which have been refuted by that authority? It is hard to change when we have come to a place of comfort in our faith and convictions. However, in the interest of searching out the truth of Scripture, one must be loyal to the inspired Word of God as opposed to the man-made traditions of the Church. Legalistic dogma was rebuked by Christ and the Word is a tool to correct any misunderstandings of our faith. As a last point, and most importantly, whether you still believe in “Good Friday” or have accepted the Biblical evidence supporting “Good Thursday,” we can all rejoice in the fact that our faith is fulfilled not in the death of Christ, but rather in His glorious resurrection! God bless.

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