Question: Recently I was presented some information defending the traditional Friday crucifixion.... “The day of preparation” (Lk 23:54) could only refer to Friday before the Sabbath since no work of any kind could be done on the Sabbath... [which was known as] “the High Sabbath.” To us three days and three nights generally means 72 hours, but...this could mean any part of the first day, all of the second day, and any part of the third day. In several passages (the majority) it is said Jesus would rise “on the third day.” If the resurrection occurred after a full 72 hours (three days) it would have been on the fourth day. The Jews put guards to make the grave “secure until the third day” (Mt 27:64) not until the fourth day. Please respond.
Response: There are several errors in the points you make in defense of a Friday crucifixion. First of all, you deal with the days and not the nights. The problem is with the three nights, not with the three days. A Friday crucifixion would give three days (one full day and part of two others), but not three nights as required. Next, you say that the only “preparation” was for the regular Friday/Saturday sabbath. Not so. In fact, we are told specifically that it was not in preparation for the regular sabbath, but “It was the preparation of the passover” (Jn:19:14). That means that the passover lambs were being slain. That was the “evening” of Nisan 14. They would be cleaned and roasted with fire and eaten that night after sunset, beginning Nisan 15.
Third, you call the regular Friday/Saturday sabbath “the High Sabbath.” In fact, the regular weekly sabbath was never called a “high day.” The language in John:19:31 (“For that sabbath day was an high day”) clearly distinguishes this special sabbath from the regular weekly sabbaths. Nisan 15 began the seven-day feast of unleavened bread. Its first day was a sabbath with a “holy convocation” and “no manner of work shall be done...” (Ex 12:16). The passover was the most important of all the feasts, so obviously this was the “high” sabbath to which John refers.
Only once every seven years would the “high” sabbath coincide with the regular Saturday sabbath. In A.D. 32 the first day of unleavened bread, the night when the passover lamb was eaten, occurred on Thursday. Nisan 14 ended at sunset Thursday, and this fits perfectly with Christ riding into Jerusalem on the donkey the previous Sunday, which would have been Nisan 10 when the lambs were taken out of the flock and kept under observation for four days. It is thus no coincidence that Christ, God’s perfect Passover Lamb, presented Himself to Israel on Nisan 10. The tenth being on a Sunday (“Palm Sunday”), the fourteenth, when the passover lambs were being slain all over Israel, fell on Thursday—and that is when “Christ our passover” (1 Cor:5:7) was nailed to the cross and slain by “the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel” as foretold (Ex 12:6).
This special sabbath went from Thursday sunset to Friday sunset; the regular sabbath from Friday sunset until Saturday sunset, so the women could not get to the grave until Sunday morning.
You seem to assume that a Thursday crucifixion would mean Christ would have been in the grave 72 hours. No, the 72 hours and a full three days would not have ended until nearly sunset Sunday. So just as you explain was needful, Christ rose “on the third day” if He rose Sunday morning. But He was three nights in the grave as well as three days, which was absolutely necessary (Jon 1:17, Mt 12:40).