Passover, the Crucifixion, & the Lord’s Day; or Did Constantine Change the Day of Worship?


There is some confusion regarding the day that Jesus was crucified during the Passover week, and the actual day He was resurrected.  The confusion is a matter of a language barrier between English perception and the Greek of the New Testament which was customarily understood in the first century A.D.   We need to study very carefully how words were used 2,000 years ago, instead of assuming that a casual reading of the scriptures in English translates perfectly.

The Passover feast was celebrated beginning on 14 Nisan of the Jewish calendar (our April), which was the evening before the feast of unleavened bread.   That year, when Jesus was crucified, 14 Nisan was on a Thursday.   The lambs for private celebration at the homes of each family were killed and prepared on 14 Nisan, Thursday.  Then, the lambs for the public altar were killed the following day, 15th Nisan, which fell on Friday that year, on Preparation day.   In the Greek, “paraskeue”.

Friday was always called Preparation Day, “paraskeue”, as it was the day before the Sabbath.   In fact that term, “paraskeue”, is still being used today in the Mediterranean areas to mean Friday.   So Preparation day of Passover as is stated in John 19:14 is the Friday of the week of Passover celebration.

 and it was the preparation of the passover, and as it were the sixth hour, and he saith to the Jews, `Lo, your king!’ “ John 19:14, Young’s.   or,

“And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!” John 19:14, KJV

In English, where adjectives and descriptive words are used in front of the nouns, we might think this means the preparation before the passover.   But look at in the NIV.  It translated better here.  (All bold emp. is mine.)

 It was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about noon. “Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews.” and also from the RSV,  ” Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!”

The meaning here is easier to see. Preparation day – Friday – of the Passover week. And is confirmed by verse 31, ” Since it was the day of Preparation, in order to prevent the bodies from remaining on the cross on the sabbath (for that sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away” (RSV)

As the Jews counted the sunrise to sunset, approximately 6 am to 6 pm, as the day time hours, and sunset to sunset as the full day, then 15th of Nisan, or that Friday began at sunset on the Thursday evening that had been 14 Nisan.   You have to think with a Jewish clock when relating hours of the day that are recorded in the scriptures. So 6th hour of the “day” was the same as our “noon”.

Jesus was crucified on Friday, and that is confirmed by Mark 15:42, Matt. 27:62; and Luke 23:54.

Mark 15:42, “And now evening having come, seeing it was the preparation, that is, the fore-sabbath,” (Young’s).   The fore-sabbath was Friday. and again ,  It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached,” ( NIV), and once more,  “And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath,” (KJV).

The feast of unleavened bread would last for 7 days, which were frequently referred together as the Passover.   The first Passover meal occurred on the evening of 14 Nisan, which was a Thursday that year.   But, the meals taken throughout the next 7 days were also called Passover meals.

So, Jesus was arrested after having taken the Passover meal with the disciples on Thursday evening, which turned into 15 Nisan after sunset, the Jewish Preparation day, or our Friday.   He was crucified at about the sixth hour (noon, our time) and died about 3 hours later (3 pm our time) on 15 Nisan, the same day that the lambs were slain for the public sacrifice of the Passover for all of the people.   He was the Passover Lamb, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world for all people. (Rev. 13:8)

Jesus was resurrected on Sunday, on day 3 after the crucifixion.  It was not a full 72 hours.   It was the morning of day 3.   Sunset of 15 Nisan to sunset of 16 Nisan, past the sunrise on 17 Nisan, which was our Sunday, the Lord’s Day.   Shown clearly in Mark 16:1,2 –

1And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.” (KJV)

1 And when the sabbath was past, Mary Mag′dalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salo′me, bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.   And very early on the first day of the week they went to the tomb when the sun had risen” (RSV).

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. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb” (NIV)

See a more complete discussion here: http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=6&article=5059

We have called Sunday the Lord’s Day after the tradition of the Apostles.   The Apostles were given the authority to bind and loose, that is set and establish patterns and practices for the church of the Lord.   Paul instructs the Christians at Corinth to do the same as he instructed those at Galatia, to lay by in store on the first day of the week. (1Cor 16:1-2).   The implication is that they would take up the collection when they met for worship on the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week.

It is recorded in Acts 20:7 that the disciples met on the first day of the week to break bread in remembrance of Christ’s death.  It is a memorial, a remembrance. And, unlike the Catholics who have turned the remembrance into a ceremonial rite they call the Eucharist, it is not demanded that it be done every first day of the week.   It is just customary as that is what the disciples did.

Paul routinely went to the non-Christian Jews where they gathered at their synagogues on their Sabbath days in order to teach so that he could reach out to those lost souls, and spread the gospel.   He was still working under God’s command to preach the gospel throughout the lands.   Christians followed the disciples’ practice of breaking the bread, and meeting on the first day of the week in celebration of their new life in Christ.

Ignatius noted in a letter believed to be written around 110 A.D. that Christians were no longer observing the Sabbath, but were meeting on the first day of the week, on the Lord’s Day.   Justin Martyr mentioned in his First Apology, written approx. 150 A.D. that Christians were gathering on the first day of the week to read the letters of the Apostles, and to eat the bread and drink the wine.   These were comments recording existing Christian observances and patterns.  They were not commands of the Roman Catholic Church.

However, the Roman Catholic Church under Constantine added to the confusion in their Nicaea Council held 325 A.D.  Canon 20 issued at the Council of Nicaea discussed the practice of kneeling while praying on the Lord’s Day.

“Forasmuch as there are certain persons who kneel on the Lord’s Day and in the days of Pentecost, therefore, to the intent that all things may be uniformly observed everywhere (in every parish), it seems good to the holy Synod that prayer be made to God standing.”

But, In spite of what some claim, I don’t find any command by the Catholic Church to change the day of worship from Saturday to Sunday.   What I do find is that the sun-god idolater, Constantine, renamed the days.

” However, Constantine was willing to allow his favored pagan deity to be called Jesus — giving a Christian veneer to his idol-worship, as we shall see below. To further cement this, as Constantine clearly wanted his Sun-God worshipped under the name of Jesus, Constantine at Nicea exalted Jesus’s nature from Son of Man with Divinity abiding into an independent-mind who is God the son of a Father who was also God just as Sol Invictus was portrayed. Constantine also transformed the sabbath rest of Christians from Sabbath to Sun-day — the day of worship of Sol Invictus – the day of the Invincible Sun. It was not to honor the Lord’s Day, but to honor Sol Invictus on his day of Sun-day because in Constantine’s pagan beliefs Jesus was the Sun-god Baal aka Sol Invictus.”  further…

“This was also the first use of a seven-day week in the Roman calendar. (Journal of Calendar Reform (September 1953) at 128 fn.) The first day of the week, and most important, was Sun-Day in honor of Sol Invictus/Baal. The six other days were all names of planets. The seventh day of the week – called Saturday (not Sabbath-day) — represented the planet Saturn which is furthest from the Sun and likewise on the calendar was day seven — the furthest day from Sun-Day — day one. (Arthur Weigall, Paganism in our Christianity (Kessinger, 2003)

The pagan names of the seven days aimed to erase Sabbath and the Lord’s Day by Constantine. They were resisted by most of the Western world. For example, in Western European romance languages, Sabbath is still the name for Saturn’s Day which Constantine tried to impose instead as its name. Also, in the same nations, Sun-Day is typically still called “The Lord’s Day.” A strenuous battle must have been going on by people refusing to use pagan names in place of Sabbath & the Lord’s Day……… Only England firmly paganized its language to describe Sabbath now as Satur-Day; it also accepted Sun-Day in place of the Lord’s Day.”

Source: http://www.jesuswordsonly.com/recommendedreading/239-council-of-nicea-of-325-ad.html

So, Constantine changed “Sabbath” to “Saturday”, and “The Lord’s Day” to “Sunday”.   The Lord’s Day was the day on which the Christians of the first century A.D. gathered, and was the day after the Jewish Sabbath, the day Jesus was resurrected.   The Christians were following the Apostles’ example to meet and worship on the Lord’s Day, to break the bread and drink the wine in a memorial remembrance of His resurrection.   Just because Constantine decided to call that day “Sun-day” after his idol beliefs does not change the day on which our Savior rose.   It just happens to be that the Lord’s Day is now called Sunday by most people.

We still know from the scriptures that the day of Preparation, what we now call a Friday, was the day before the Sabbath, and was the day Jesus was crucified; and, that he rose on the morning of the 3rd day, which is what we now call Sunday.   It is probably better to call it the Lord’s Day as the Christians did so long ago, and as is still used by many today.

Col 2:14-16, “14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; 15 And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it. 16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:” (KJV)

2Cor 3:3-13, Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart. And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away: How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious? For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. 10 For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth. 11 For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious. 12 Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: 13 And not as Moses, which put a veil over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished: 14 But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ.” (KJV)

Keeping the Sabbath was a part of the old law which passed away at the Cross.   We are no longer under the old law, but the new covenant of the spirit brought by the living stone, Christ.   We remember His death, burial, and resurrection as we worship Him each first day of the week, each Lord’s Day, just as the first century Christians did.

Additional source: http://www.biblicalperspectives.com/books/crucifixion/2.html

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5 thoughts on “Passover, the Crucifixion, & the Lord’s Day; or Did Constantine Change the Day of Worship?

  1. Carol

    Another interesting post!

    You explain that Constantine wanted to use the name of Jesus to refer to his sun god. You state that he exalted the nature of Jesus from the Son of Man with Divinity abiding into an independent mind God the Son of a father who is also God like his god Sol Invictus (a paraphrase of your quote). Are you saying that Scripture does not teach that Jesus is God? That the idea of the Trinity is not Biblical?

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    1. No, I am not saying that scripture is denying Jesus’s divinity. Constantine used the teachings of the gospel of Christ to cover his Baal worship of the pagan sun god Sol Invictus. He thought that by giving his pagan idol the name of Christ that he could hide behind a fake Christianity and continue the pagan practices and celebrations that he enjoyed. Just as they used Christianity as a cover over the Saturnalia feasts and called it Christmas. They were hiding behind a false front. It has fooled people for many centuries.

      As for the teaching of the Trinity as presented by the Catholic church, I do not believe that concept to be scriptural. Christ prayed that his disciples would be “one” just as He was of one with the Father (John 17:11ff). Not one entity, or one corporal being, but of the same mind, agreeing in the principles Christ had taught them which were from the Father. YHVH, the Father, the Almighty, the Ancient of Days, and then His son, Christ (Yeshua) who did the will of His Father. Two beings of the same mind.

      Stephen saw Christ standing at the right hand of the Father (Acts 7:56), two separate beings. Christ asked why the young man called Him good (Matt. 19:17), and answered that there was only one who was good, and that is our Father in heaven. Christ was doing the will of the Father. He was always doing the will of the Father (Luke 2:49; John 5:30) just as He was when He went to John to be immersed (baptized) to be obedient in all things. As He was faithful in all things, God rewarded Him with the rule of all the nations. He delivered that rule back up to the Father after the judgment of Jerusalem, and the destruction of the temple, at which time He continued to reign with the Father. I see a co-reign of the Kingdom by Father and Son, both divine with chain of command as the Most High Father is over all, with delegation to His Son, who is our High Priest and our King.

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      1. carol pelton

        Thank you for your reply, Gina.

        I’m left with a couple of thoughts/questions which may be common for those of us with “traditional” doctrinal views.

        Jesus calls Himself the Son of God in John 11:4 and throughout the gospels. So, I interpret that to mean that the terms Son of Man and Son of God are synonymous.

        But in John 10:30 Jesus says “I and the Father are one” which was interpreted by the Jewish Council as Jesus claiming to be God. This infuriated them to the point of wanting to put Jesus to death on the spot. Jesus does not try to correct them by clarifying, as some assert that this verse is saying, that He and the Father are one in purpose. Jesus says,”He who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

        In the well known verse, John 1:1 Jesus, (the Word) is declared to BE GOD. The Word (God) was made flesh, which is Jesus. If A=B and B=C then A=C?

        In Hebrews 1, the Apostle Paul is telling us that God the Father spoke to us through His son (vs2). He then tells us how God relates to and describes His son; “He is the first-born begotten of the Father”, and “let all the messengers of God bow before him”…then in verse 8 “and unto the Son: ‘ Thy throne, O God, [is] to the age of the age;…’ “. Unless I am misunderstanding this sounds like God calling Jesus God.

        Then I think back to Isaiah 45 where God cannot be clearer in asserting that He alone is God and there is no other. vs.22 among many others.

        Am I missing something? It seems to me that Scripture supports that God is three in one when you consider that it is the Holy Spirit that indwells us. Maybe our vocabulary is inadequate to truly capture the nature of God?

        How would you interpret this? I’m interested to know. Your posts are challenging my beliefs which is causing me to dig deeper into Gods’s Word. Thank you for that!

        I look forward to your reply. God bless you!

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      2. Carol, there are volumes written on this subject trying to define in human terms the spiritual relationships and beings of God The Father, and His Son, and the Holy Spirit. “In the beginning” both in Gen. 1 and John 1 – Hebrew poetry and very much Hebrew spirituality. The gospel of John concerns the characteristics of Christ and His spiritual nature being made flesh, whereas the the other gospels mostly relate events and people surrounding Christ in narrative form. I do not think that mankind can grasp this “oneness” as our limited knowledge and experience is only of this realm of fleshly beings. However, I like several commentaries on John 1:1-3 and will offer a some few excerpts here.

        Ellicot’s:
        ‘With God.—These words express the co-existence, but at the same time the distinction of person. They imply relation with, intercourse with. (Comp. the “in the bosom of the Father” of John 1:18, and “Let us make man” of Genesis 1:26.) “Throned face to face with God,” “the gaze ever directed towards God,” have been given as paraphrases, and the full sense cannot be expressed in fewer words. The “with” represents “motion towards.” The Being whose existence is asserted in the “was” is regarded as distinct, but not alone, as ever going forth in communion with God. …

        Was God.—This is the completion of the graduated statement. It maintains the distinction of person, but at the same time asserts the oneness of essence.”

        Gill’s Exposition:
        “…: but this phrase denotes the existence of the word with the Father, his relation and nearness to him, his equality with him, and particularly the distinction of his person from him, as well as his eternal being with him; for he was always with him, and is, and ever will be; he was with him in the council and covenant of grace, and in the creation of the universe, and is with him in the providential government of the world; he was with him as the word and Son of God in heaven, whilst he as man, was here on earth; and he is now with him, and ever will be: and as John here speaks of the word, as a distinct person from God the Father, so do the Targums, or Chaldee paraphrases; Psalm 110:1 “the Lord said to my Lord”, is rendered, “the Lord said to his word”; where he is manifestly distinguished from Jehovah, that speaks to him; and in Hosea 1:7 the Lord promises to “have mercy on the house of Judah”, and “save them by the Lord their God”. The Targum is, “I will redeem them by the word of the Lord their God”; where the word of the Lord, who is spoken of as a Redeemer and Saviour, is distinguished from the Lord, who promises to save by him. This distinction of Jehovah and his word, may be observed in multitudes of places, in the Chaldee paraphrases, and in the writings of Philo the Jew; and this phrase, of “the word” being “with God”, is in the Targums expressed by, , “the word from before the Lord”, or “which is before the Lord”: being always in his presence, and the angel of it; so Onkelos paraphrases Genesis 31:22 “and the word from before the Lord, came to Laban”, &c. and Exodus 20:19 thus, “and let not the word from before the Lord speak with us, lest we die”; for so it is read in the King of Spain’s Bible; and wisdom, which is the same with the word of God, is said to be by him, or with him, in Proverbs 8:1 agreeably to which John here speaks. John makes use of the word God, rather than Father, because the word is commonly called the word of God, and because of what follows, ”

        Cambridge Bible for Schools & Colleges:
        “with God] i.e. with the Father. ‘With’ = apud, or the French chez: it expresses the distinct Personality of the Logos. We might render ‘face to face with God,’ or ‘at home with God.’ So, ‘His sisters, are they not all with us?’ Matthew 13:56; comp. Mark 6:3; Mark 9:19; Mark 14:49; 1 Corinthians 16:7; Galatians 1:18; 1 Thessalonians 3:4; Philemon 1:13; 1 John 1:2.

        the Word was God] i.e. the Word partook of the Divine Nature, not was identical with the Divine Person. The verse may be thus paraphrased, ‘the Logos existed from all eternity, distinct from the Father, and equal to the Father.’ Comp. ‘neither confounding the Persons nor dividing the Substance.’ ”

        You can read more of these commentaries at https://biblehub.com/commentaries/john/1-1.htm.

        There are certainly more scholarly resources on this topic, but I am also put in mind of the oneness of the husband and wife relationship where God sees the two joined into one, answerable as one. In the flesh, two separate beings, but of one before the Father. In court of law a wife cannot testify against her husband because it would be seen as forcing a man to testify against himself, the wife being a part of the joined oneness nature.

        Being from the business world, an accountant by training, reading contracts daily, I tend to gravitate toward understanding job functions, delegating tasks and authoritative chain of command in a corporate structure. So, it strikes me as God the Father joined in oneness with His Son to accomplish the task of reconciling mankind to the Father. I am not claiming a perfect understanding of the spiritual nature of The Father and Son and the Holy Spirit. But it seems to me that both the Son and the Spirit are doing the will of the Father, and have specific job functions, all of them equally important and essential to the whole.

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    2. P.S. In the near future, I will be editing and re-working this post as I have come to believe that the crucifixion was actually on a Thursday – the 4th day of the week. The resurrection being on the 1st day of the week following the sabbaths of both the Passover and the weekly 7th day observance. But the 4th day of the week lines up perfectly with the 3 days & nights of the sign of Jonah, the three days Christ was “lost” in Jerusalem when Mary & Joseph searched for Him as young boy. The Catholic teaching of a Friday crucifixion does not survive close scrutiny.

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