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Monday, April 10, 2006

Good Someday - Friday, Wednesday, or What? 

This post regards the "Good Wednesday" issue, and even touches on Esther at one point.

Dr. Hank Lindstrom of Bible Line Ministries recently aired a show in which he was absolutely, positively convinced that Good Friday took place on Wednesday. Here are some of the verses he cited.

Matthew 12:39-40

Matthew 12:39-40 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

39He answered, "A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

The "three nights" part is the major argument against Good Friday. No matter how you figure it, you can't get three nights between Friday afternoon and Sunday morning. (As Bill Sizemore puts it, "that just doesn’t fly.") Lindstrom insisted that the three days and three nights corresponded to three full 12 hour days and three full 12 hour nights, and continuously talked about "72 hours" for the rest of the broadcast.

John 19:31

John 19:31 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

31Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down.

Note the use of the term "special Sabbath" in NIV, which notes that this day may or may not have corresponded to the usual Friday night/Saturday Sabbath. Lindstrom definitely says that this special Sabbath occurred Wednesday night, but gives no evidence other than the 72 hour theory. (wordofhisgrace.org, an anti-Herbert W. Armstrong site that I will revisit later, notes, "Scholars often debate over the dates for the Passover during those years [AD 27 - AD 33] showing that the only thing certain about them is that they are uncertain.")

John 11:9

John 11:9 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

9Jesus answered, "Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world's light.

Although Lindstrom didn't cite the correct reference for his "12 hour" theory (which expands to his 72 hour theory), this is presumably the verse he was citing.

Lindstrom didn't cite anything else, but I looked up a few verses of my own.

Leviticus 23:5-8

Leviticus 23:5-8 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

5 The LORD's Passover begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month. 6 On the fifteenth day of that month the LORD's Feast of Unleavened Bread begins; for seven days you must eat bread made without yeast. 7 On the first day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. 8 For seven days present an offering made to the LORD by fire. And on the seventh day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work.' "

Regarding the special Sabbath. Also see Numbers 28:16-25 and Deutoronomy 16:1-8.

And, there's Luke 23:54 - 24:2:

Luke 23:54-24:2 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

54It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.

55The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. 56Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.

Luke 24
The Resurrection
1On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2They found the stone rolled away from the tomb,

In my view, Lindstrom was irresponsible in not looking at this verse. Let's assume that Lindstrom's Good Wednesday view is correct. In that case, the women would not have gone to the tomb on Thursday because it was a special Sabbath. Similarly, the women would not have gone to the tomb on Saturday because it was a regular Sabbath. But one question remains - why didn't the women go to the tomb on Friday?

It turns out that ad2004.com has an answer to that question, citing Mark 16:1-2:

Mark 16:1-2 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Mark 16
The Resurrection
1When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus' body. 2Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb

In other words, the women didn't go on Friday because they were still preparing spices on Friday.

(Hopefully they brought a lot of spices.)

I did find this argument for the "Good Friday" view:

The only answer that I have is that the phrase, "three days and three nights" is idiomatic Jewish usage. Compare Esther 4:16 with Esther 5:1: Esther goes to the king ON THE THIRD day without waiting for the fast to be over on the third night....The Jewish day begins with the night(evening). This night is added to the total and is overcounted.

Here's the applicable part of Esther:

Esther 4:15-5:1 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

15 Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: 16 "Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish."

17 So Mordecai went away and carried out all of Esther's instructions.

Esther 5
Esther's Request to the King
1 On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the palace, in front of the king's hall. The king was sitting on his royal throne in the hall, facing the entrance.

A page (again, wordofhisgrace.org) opposing the theology of Herbert W. Armstrong (who also opposed the "Good Friday" theory) not only cites Esther, but makes a number of other comments:

[Armstrong] makes a major error in taking "three days and three nights" to mean 72 hours.

"Three days and three nights" is a Hebrew idiom that the Greek of Matthew 12:40 follows. Concerning this idiom, a near contemporary of Jesus, Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah (circa A.D. 100), said, "A day and a night make an 'onah [a twenty-four hour period], and the portion of an 'onah is reckoned as a complete 'onah."7 In Hebrew, then, a portion of a day could be counted as a complete day. As R. T. France writes, "Three days and three nights was a Jewish idiom appropriate to a period covering only two nights."8 Numerous commentators support this position. Although written in Greek, Matthew 12:40 expresses the Hebrew idiom—"three days and three nights"—that was understood by the Jews listening to Jesus to mean one full day and portions of two others with the intervening nights.

Flying in the face of this evidence, Armstrong appeals to some anonymous "higher critics" who supposedly "admit that in the Hebrew language, in which the book of Jonah was written, the expression 'three days and three nights' means a period of 72 hours—three 12-hour days and three 12-hour nights."
Besides agreeing that "three days and three nights" was a Hebrew idiom, H. L. Ellison adds this practical note:

"Once Jonah was on dry land again, he could make some kind of estimate of how long he had been in the fish. Yet, to make any exact measure of the number of hours would have been impossible for him. Roused suddenly from a deep slumber, stupefied by the violence of the storm, and in all probability seasick, Jonah would have been in no position to know at what hour he was thrown overboard. Furthermore, on reaching the shore he would have needed time to collect his wits. Clearly, then, the term 'three days and three nights' is intended as an approximation, not a precise period of seventy-two hours."
Notice that Luke completely leaves out any reference to "three days and three nights." Why? It is probable that, unlike Matthew who was targeting Jewish readers, Luke, writing primarily to Gentiles, left out the Hebrew idiom he knew they would not understand. Instead, Luke in Luke 9:22; 18:33; 24:7, 21, 46; and Acts 10:40 uses the much clearer and more direct "the third day."

At one point the anti-Armstrongites even cite Matthew for an anti-3 nights/3 days argument (emphasis mine):

Matthew 27:63-64 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

63"Sir," they said, "we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, 'After three days I will rise again.' 64So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first."

Lindstrom didn't get around to that verse either, which makes me wonder how he can be so certain that Good Wednesday is absolutely true. (If one verse seems to say something, it's best to look at three. If three verses seem to say something, it's best to look at seven. And so forth.)

wordofhisgrace.org also spends some time talking about signs. Let's start with Luke 11:29-30:

Luke 11:29-30 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

The Sign of Jonah
29As the crowds increased, Jesus said, "This is a wicked generation. It asks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah. 30For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation.

This verse refers to the same topic that Matthew 12:39-40 references. But what is a sign? Deuteronomy 19:15 states:

Deuteronomy 19:15 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

15 One witness is not enough to convict a man accused of any crime or offense he may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.

I'll grant that crimes and signs are not necessarily the same, but wordofgrace.org continues along this thought and states the following:

A sign requires witnesses. Although no one witnessed the moment of Jesus' resurrection, there were witnesses to something else. After His resurrection, Jesus explained what these people were witnesses to: "Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, and said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things" (Luke 24:45-48). Numerous scriptures confirm that the apostles were witnesses that Jesus died and was resurrected. This is what is important, not some precise moment of time.

In other words, the time of resurrection was not important, but the proof of resurrection was. (One would have to argue that the empty tomb was not sufficient proof, and that Christ's appearance was necessary.) But then there's discussion of one other thing:

What was the sign of the prophet Jonah? Being delivered from the grave after about three days was part of it. But there was more. The "sign of the prophet Jonah" included the preaching of salvation to the Gentiles. That is why Jesus said the men of Nineveh would judge His generation. The Gentiles of Nineveh repented, but on the whole the Jews of Jesus' generation did not....

While no one witnessed the precise time of Jesus' resurrection, many witnessed the fact of Jesus' resurrection. And—as the Book of Acts testifies—the preaching of salvation to the Gentiles was known to the Jewish leaders and was therefore a witness to them.

It is this point concerning the nature of the sign of the prophet Jonah that makes this subject so important.

And what does the Worldwide Church of God (Armstrong's old church, which has since become significantly more orthodox) say today?

Christians who interpret Matthew 12:40 in a strictly literal manner – as 72 hours or three full days – insist that there is not enough time in the Christian Good Friday-Easter Sunday tradition for Jesus to have spent the prescribed time in the tomb....

Most Christians throughout the history of the church have relied on the other 20-plus New Testament references mentioning the length of Jesus’ burial, which allow for his time in the tomb to be much shorter, and hence, to fit into the Good Friday-Easter Sunday tradition.

In the end, as Steve Coombes (a Good Wednesday proponent) put it:

Whichever you believe, and whether "Good Friday", or "Good Wednesday", or whatever day is observed by you - Praise the Lord for his kindness and mercy towards us and use every opportunity for his service!

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

A whole thread on this topic can be found here.
And an entire post on "after three days...on the third day" can be found here.
Very interesting. I had always considered the “three days and nights” theme to be an important one because, as you pointed out, it occurs many other places in scripture – Jonah in the whale, for instance. I have never heard it referred to as an idiom, or that the Jews sometimes considered part of a day as a whole day.

Once again, this raises questions in my mind about the Holy Spirit inspired-ness of the scripture. God knew how many days and nights Jonah was in the whale, even if he didn’t. And he certainly knew how long Jesus was in the tomb before being resurrected! So why isn’t this made clear in the scripture?
More of Jennifer's thoughts on inerrancy and related issues can be found here.
I'm just saying...
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