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Question No. 51:

Of late, numerous efforts have been made to fix the particular days of the week on which the trials crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Jesus took place; also the length of time He was standing trial hanging on the cross, and lying in the tomb. The points brought as proof on the subject are confusing to me. Can you clear it? And did Jesus eat the Passover on the very day the Jews did, or beforehand?


Regardless how wrapped in mystery the Gospel writers may seem to have left this subject, one sequence of facts is clearly given and stands out distinctly; namely, the hours at which the main events took place.

All the Gospels testify that Jesus was seized the same night He ate the Passover with His disciples (Matt. 26 34; Mark 14:30; Luke 22:34). John states that immediately thereafter He was “led…away to Annas” (John 18:13), and Mark discloses that later that night He was brought before “the chief priests and all the council.” Mark 14:54, 55. “And as soon as it was day,” as all the accounts agree, He was arraigned finally before the Sanhedrin. 

To make the trial legal, the court could not (by Jewish law) convene before sunrise, the twelfth hour, ancient time. To be exact, the time of the trial could not have been earlier than 11:50 A.M. ancient time (5:50 A.M. modern time), for the Passover week was observed from the fourteenth to the twenty-first day of the first month of the Hebrew year beginning with the vernal equinox (March 20-21), the time of the year when the day and the night are equal. 

Subsequently, as all the Gospel writers show, He was taken to the Roman judgment hall, where, according to John’s testimony, He was tried before Pilate at “about the sixth hour.” John 19:14. And Mark records that He was crucified at “the third hour” (Mark 15:25), while Matthew and Luke, along with Mark, testify that as He hung on the cross, darkness covered the earth from the sixth to the ninth hour (Matt. 27:45 Mark 15:33; Luke 23:44). Finally, all join in concluding witness that He was buried just before the twelfth hour, sunset–before the Sabbath drew on (Matt. 27:57-62; Mark 15:42-46; Luke 23:54-56). 

The accompanying chart represents a forty-eight-hour period. On it every hour is designated, and the reference for each event is given opposite the hour in which the event took place. The outer figures of the chart represent the ancient timepiece; the inner figures represent the modern timepiece. The shaded pans show the hours of the nights involved, also the darkness which occurred while Christ was hanging on the cross.


Were one to conclude that the events in connection with Christ’s passion,–His seizure, trials, crucifixion, and burial,–took place in one day, then, as can be clearly seen from the chart, there would be no “sixth hour” for the trial in Pilate’s judgment hall; indeed, there would then be no time at all allowed for the trials before the Roman Judiciary–Pilate and Herod!

And to assume that Luke 22:7-14 records only a Passover substitute–that Jesus and His disciples celebrated a passover before the day arrived–is to take a position at variance with the “law” as well as with the “testimony” of the prophets and the apostles (Isa. 8:20). And had such been the fact, the Jews who were desperately anxious to hang on Christ some act of lawlessness, would have made much of it, and as a result the apostles would have written about it.

To satisfy the immutable demand of the “law,” the lamb had to be slain in the afternoon of the fourteenth day of the first month (Num. 28:16), and the feast had to be celebrated on the fifteenth (Num. 28:17), the night following the fourteenth day (Ex. 12: 8). In conclusive corroboration of this fact the Spirit of Prophecy emphatically states: “On the fourteenth day of the first Jewish month, the very day and month on which, for fifteen long centuries, the Passover lamb had been slain, Christ, having eaten the Passover with His disciples, instituted that feast which was to commemorate His own death as ‘the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.'”–The Great Controversy, p. 399.

While the Passover week was regulated by the month, the day upon which the sheaf was to be offered (the type of the resurrection–1 Cor. 15:20; The Desire of Ages, p. 786) was regulated by the week. And according to Lev. 23:3, 11, the sheaf was to be offered on the day following the seventh-day Sabbath, for the Sabbath of verse 11, is the Sabbath of verse 3–the one in connection with which Moses introduces the subject of the feasts.

The Scriptures, moreover, never call a feast day “the Sabbath,” but always “a sabbath” or “sabbaths.” (See Lev. 23:24.)

(For extensive treatment of the subject of the days of the Passover week, and of the “three-days-and-three-nights” period–Matt. 12:39 40–see Tract No. 10, The Sign of Jonah.)