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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