Christianity teaches that Jesus died on a Friday and was raised on a Sunday, hence the celebration of “Good Friday” and “Easter Sunday”. Many Messianics, however, believe that he was in the grave for three days and three nights, thereby making it impossible for him to have met that Friday to Sunday scenario.
Sadly, I see many Messianics criticizing, even mocking at times, the Christians for their supposed error calling it “fuzzy math”. Admittedly I questioned the math myself when I considered the three days and three nights understanding for a time. But over the course of my Biblical calendar journey I have come to learn that while I don’t agree with the “Friday” to “Sunday” reckoning, I do believe the math adds up.
Three Days and Three Nights
Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 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. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. (Mat 12:38-42 ESV)
This is the familiar passage so often used by Messianics to debunk the Christians’ “fuzzy math”, however, if you notice this says the Son of Man will be three days and three nights “in the heart of the earth”, not “in the grave/tomb”.
Many argue that this phrase is referring to the grave/tomb. When considering the fact that Jonah was in the belly of the great fish and the content of his prayer, we can see allusions to a picture of death and resurrection when he came out.
But if we take a closer look at the context of the reference to the “sign of Jonah” in Matthew, we see there is no discussion of death or a resurrection anywhere. Without going into much greater detail concerning this sign, let’s look at the passages that clearly discuss the death and resurrection of the Son of Man.
On the Third Day
Within the same gospel account of Matthew, it is recorded:
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. (Mat 16:21 ESV)
As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” And they were greatly distressed. (Mat 17:22-23 ESV)
And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.” (Mat 20:17-19 ESV)
We see three very clear references made by Yeshua to the Son of Man being killed and raised “on the third day”, with no mention of being in the grave for “three days and three nights”.
The gospel of Mark confirms these accounts…
And having gone forth thence, they were passing through Galilee, and he did not wish that any may know, for he was teaching his disciples, and he said to them, `The Son of Man is being delivered to the hands of men, and they shall kill him, and having been killed the third day he shall rise,’ but they were not understanding the saying, and they were afraid to question him. (Mar 9:30-32 YLT)
And they were in the way going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was going before them, and they were amazed, and following they were afraid. And having again taken the twelve, he began to tell them the things about to happen to him, –`Lo, we go up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man shall be delivered to the chief priests, and to the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the nations, and they shall mock him, and scourge him, and spit on him, and kill him, and the third day he shall rise again.’ (Mar 10:32-34 YLT)
This is also seen in the gospel of Luke…
And he strictly charged and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” (Luk 9:21-22 ESV)
And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” (Luk 18:31-33 ESV)
Again, the specific references to the Son of Man’s *death and/or resurrection* in these two gospel accounts make no mention of “three days and three nights”, but clearly addresses the “third day”.
Within Luke’s account we even see Yeshua give an example of his counting to the third day…
And he said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course. Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’ O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!'” (Luk 13:32-35 ESV)
Looking back in the Torah, there are other examples of counting to the third day…
And the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I am coming to you in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and may also believe you forever.” When Moses told the words of the people to the LORD, the LORD said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments and be ready for the third day. For on the third day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. (Exo 19:9-11 ESV)
But if the sacrifice of his offering is a vow offering or a freewill offering, it shall be eaten on the day that he offers his sacrifice, and on the next day what remains of it shall be eaten. But what remains of the flesh of the sacrifice on the third day shall be burned up with fire. If any of the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offering is eaten on the third day, he who offers it shall not be accepted, neither shall it be credited to him. It is tainted, and he who eats of it shall bear his iniquity. (Lev 7:16-18 ESV)
“When you offer a sacrifice of peace offerings to the LORD, you shall offer it so that you may be accepted. It shall be eaten the same day you offer it or on the day after, and anything left over until the third day shall be burned up with fire. If it is eaten at all on the third day, it is tainted; it will not be accepted, and everyone who eats it shall bear his iniquity, because he has profaned what is holy to the LORD, and that person shall be cut off from his people. (Lev 19:5-8 ESV)
So, if the method of counting begins with “today” (or the day of the event) as being the 1st day, and “tomorrow” as the 2nd day, then the “third day” would be the day after tomorrow. So, does this mean that the Christians are right?
First Day of the Week
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” (Luk 24:1-7 ESV)
This is one of the familiar passages used by Christians to justify a resurrection on the first day of the week, most commonly understood to be Resurrection Sunday. But is that what this text is really saying? Let’s look at the Greek.
Verse 1 in the KJV with the Strongs’ numbers for the corresponding Greek words says:
Luk 24:1 NowG1161 upon theG3588 firstG3391 day of theG3588 week,G4521 very early in the morning,G901 G3722 they cameG2064 untoG1909 theG3588 sepulchre,G3418 bringingG5342 the spicesG759 whichG3739 they had prepared,G2090 andG2532 certainG5100 others withG4862 them.G846
It’s Not In There
Notice the word “day” in the above verse is italicized. That is because it was added in. The Greek word for “day” is not found in the English translation “the first day of the week”.
In fact, it’s not found in any of the gospel accounts referring to this particular resurrection day…
Mat 28:1 In the end(G3796) of the sabbath,G4521 as it began to dawnG2020 towardG1519 the firstG3391 day of the week,G4521 cameG2064 MaryG3137 MagdaleneG3094 andG2532 theG3588 otherG243 MaryG3137 to seeG2334 theG3588 sepulchre.G5028
Mar 16:2 AndG2532 veryG3029 early in the morningG4404 theG3588 firstG3391 day of theG3588 week,G4521 they cameG2064 untoG1909 theG3588 sepulchreG3419 at the risingG393 of theG3588 sun.G2246
Mar 16:9 NowG1161 when Jesus was risenG450 earlyG4404 the firstG4413 day of the week,G4521 he appearedG5316 firstG4412 to MaryG3137 Magdalene,G3094 out ofG575 whomG3739 he had castG1544 sevenG2033 devils.G1140
Joh 20:1 (G1161) TheG3588 firstG3391 day of theG3588 weekG4521 comethG2064 MaryG3137 MagdaleneG3094 early,G4404 when it wasG5607 yetG2089 dark,G4653 untoG1519 theG3588 sepulchre,G3419 andG2532 seethG991 theG3588 stoneG3037 taken awayG142 fromG1537 theG3588 sepulchre.G3419
Joh 20:19 ThenG3767 theG3588 sameG1565 dayG2250 at evening,G3798 beingG5607 theG3588 firstG3391 day of theG3588 week,G4521 whenG2532 theG3588 doorsG2374 were shutG2808 whereG3699 theG3588 disciplesG3101 wereG2258 assembledG4863 forG1223 fearG5401 of theG3588 Jews,G2453 cameG2064 JesusG2424 andG2532 stoodG2476 inG1519 theG3588 midst,G3319 andG2532 saithG3004 unto them,G846 PeaceG1515 be unto you.G5213
Week vs Sabbath
Secondly, notice the Strongs #s next to the word translated as “week” in all of the above passages. They are all the same: G4521. Here is that Greek word.
Part of Speech: noun neuter
A Related Word by Thayer’s/Strong’s Number: of Hebrew origin H7676
Notice this says “of Hebrew origin H7676”. Here is the Hebrew word that it is referring to.
Part of Speech: noun feminine or masculine
A Related Word by BDB/Strong’s Number: intensive from H7673
The Greek word translated as “week” in these passages is actually a translation of the Hebrew word “Shabbath”, referring to the Sabbath. Oddly enough, everywhere else that this Greek word (G4521) is found in the New Testament (with the exception of the following two verses), it is rightfully translated as “Sabbath”.
This Greek word (or variation thereof) is used 68 times in the New Testament…most of the time it is translated as “Sabbath” in the KJV and only 8 times as “week”. Six of those eight times are listed above. The other two are listed below.
Act 20:7 AndG1161 uponG1722 theG3588 firstG3391 day of theG3588 week,G4521 when theG3588 disciplesG3101 came togetherG4863 to breakG2806 bread,G740 PaulG3972 preachedG1256 unto them,G846 readyG3195 to departG1826 on theG3588 morrow;G1887 andG5037 continuedG3905 his speechG3056 untilG3360 midnight.G3317
1Co 16:2 Upon the firstG2596 G3391 day of the weekG4521 let every oneG1538 of youG5216 layG5087 byG3844 himG1438 in store,G2343 asG3748 G302 God hath prosperedG2137 him, thatG2443 there beG1096 noG3361 gatheringsG3048 when(G3752) I come.G2064
Having been raised in Christianity, I am quite familiar with these passages as they are often used to justify Sunday church services (and a weekly offering).
Why do our Bibles say “the first day of the week”, when “day” is not even in there and the word translated as “week” really means “Sabbath”?
The First (or One) of the Sabbaths
If the Son of Man was not truly raised on “the first day of the week”, could it be that he was raised on “the first (or one) of the Sabbaths”?
Here is Young’s Literal Translation (1898) of Luke 24:1-3…
And on the first of the sabbaths, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, bearing the spices they made ready, and certain others with them, and they found the stone having been rolled away from the tomb, and having gone in, they found not the body of the Lord Jesus. (Luk 24:1-3 YLT)
And another translation prior to the King James Version (keeping in mind the Greek word for day is not in the original text)…
But vpon the first day of the Sabbathes, [very] early in the mornyng, they came vnto the sepulchre, & brought ye sweete odours which they had prepared, and other women with them. And they founde the stone rolled away from the sepulchre, And they went in: but founde not the body of the Lorde Iesu. (Luk 24:1-3 Bishops 1568)
I am no Greek Scholar, nor am I even a student of the Greek language, but I am an avid student of the Bible. Given my studies of both “the third day” and the “Sabbath” in the Tanakh, it seems very probable to me that Yeshua was raised on the Sabbath day. But please, do not take my word for it. Study the matter out for yourselves.
And please don’t just Google various teachings on the subject, set aside time in your personal prayer and Bible study to seek this matter out in Scripture. We are told on several occasions that it is written that the Son of Man would suffer and be raised on the third day (see Luke 24:46, 1 Corinthian 15:3-6). I have yet to find an exact quote stating such, which leads me to believe we are missing text, but I see so many allusions to this when studying the Tanakh as a whole.
There is a strong link between the third day and the Sabbath day that cannot be denied when one really digs in. I encourage all to humbly seek our Father for wisdom, knowledge and understanding concerning these matters. Don’t be fooled…we can know…if the Father chooses to reveal it to us.
Shalom to you as you continue on your journey for Truth. 😉