Question: "On what day was Jesus crucified?"

Answer: The Bible explicitly states, in all four Gospels, that Jesus was crucified on preparation day (Matthew 27:62; Mark 15:42; Luke 23:54; John 19:14, 31). He rose again on the first day of the week (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1; Luke 24:1; John 20:1). Determining the day of the week for the crucifixion would seem to be straightforward, but it’s not. Several factors must be considered: the Jewish mode of reckoning a day, the start of Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and three calendars: Jewish, Julian, and Gregorian.

Three possibilities emerge: Jesus was crucified on what we would call a Friday, on a Thursday, or on a Wednesday. Here is a brief look at each viewpoint:

Jesus was crucified on a Friday

Early Friday: Jesus eats the Passover.
Late Friday: Jesus is crucified and buried.
Early and late Saturday (the Sabbath): Jesus is in the tomb.
Early Sunday: Jesus rises from the dead, and the women find the empty tomb.

The traditional view is that Jesus was crucified on a Friday. According to this timeline, Jesus was killed in AD 30, and the day of preparation was Passover, Friday, Nisan 14. That was the time to eat the Passover meal and to ready dwellings for the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which began the next day, Saturday, Nisan 15. The fact that Jesus was killed on Passover accords well with 1 Corinthians 5:7, which calls Christ “our Passover lamb.”

Mark 15:42 says that Jesus was crucified on “the day before the Sabbath”; proponents of the Friday view consider the “Sabbath” here to be the weekly observance held on Saturday. Immediately after Jesus was taken down from the cross, the women present followed the body of Jesus to the tomb to see where it was laid. This happened “late on Friday afternoon, the day of preparation, as the Sabbath was about to begin” (Luke 23:54, NLT). On the day after the crucifixion (Saturday, Nisan 15), the chief priests and the Pharisees met with Pilate, who agrees to have the tomb sealed and guarded (Matthew 27:62).

The Friday view has Jesus in the tomb for three days by reckoning part of a day as a full day: Jesus was buried late in the day Friday (Day 1) and was entombed Saturday (Day 2) and the first part of Sunday (Day 3). Another argument for Friday points to verses such as Matthew 16:21 and Luke 9:22, which say that Jesus would rise “on the third day.” Sunday is the third day from Friday.

According to the Friday view, the “three days and three nights” prophecy of Matthew 12:40 was fulfilled in that both Jesus and Jonah were “confined” in difficult situations where they could not move about freely for three periods of darkness (night) and three periods of light (day). The three nights of confinement for Jesus were His arrest on Thursday night and His time in the tomb Friday night and Saturday night (or, as reckoned in the Jewish method—in which a day begins at sunset—early Friday, early Saturday, and early Sunday). The three days for Jesus were all day Friday, all day Saturday, and part of Sunday.

Jesus was crucified on a Thursday

Late Thursday: Jesus is crucified and buried.
Late Thursday through early Sunday: Jesus is in the tomb.
Early Sunday: Jesus rises from the dead, and the women find the empty tomb.

One point to be made in favor of the Thursday view is that Jesus’ prophecy of the sign of Jonah specifically includes three nights as well as three days (Matthew 12:40). If the crucifixion occurred on Thursday afternoon, the three days and three nights are all accounted for.

As for Luke’s statement that Jesus was taken down from the cross because “the sabbath was about to begin” (Luke 23:54), the Thursday view points out that there were actually two Sabbaths that week, the first Sabbath starting at sundown Thursday, followed by the regular Sabbath starting at sundown Friday. In fact, John’s account says that “the next day was to be a special Sabbath” (John 19:31). Passover was considered a special Sabbath (see Leviticus 16:29–31; 23:7, 24–32, 39).

Further, Matthew 28:1 says that the resurrection occurred “after the Sabbaths” (Berean Literal Bible)—the plural sabbaths being in the original, confirming there were multiple Sabbaths between the crucifixion and the resurrection. So, the “Passover” Sabbath was followed immediately by the “weekly” Sabbath, making the first opportunity to prepare the body for burial on Sunday at first light—and the women came to the tomb to do just that.

Thursday advocates also point to several passages that indicate the number of days between the crucifixion and the resurrection. For example, in John 2:19, Jesus says, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” Three days from Thursday is Sunday. In addition, when Jesus appears to the two men on the road to Emmaus on resurrection Sunday, they state that “it is the third day since all this took place” (Luke 24:21). A natural reading of this sentence would place the crucifixion on Thursday.

Advocates for a Thursday crucifixion consider the “Preparation Day” to be the day before the Passover, the High Sabbath (John 19:14). Preparation day was the day that the Passover lamb was killed prior to the Passover meal that evening—which, according to Jewish reckoning, was the beginning of the next day (Mark 14:12). It is clear from the Old Testament instructions on the Passover (Exodus 12:6; Leviticus 23:5) that the lamb was to be slaughtered late in the day on the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan—which was Thursday afternoon in AD 32. Thursday advocates point out that, at the same time Israel was slaughtering their Passover lambs on Nisan 14, Jesus, the “Lamb of God” (John 1:29) was dying on a cross. Thus was fulfilled the prophetic symbolism of the Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7).

Based on this timeline, Thursday proponents also argue that the Last Supper, eaten on Wednesday evening, was not the Passover meal. The main course at Passover was a lamb, and there is no lamb mentioned at the Last Supper. Only bread and wine are mentioned.

Jesus was crucified on a Wednesday

Late Wednesday: Jesus is crucified and buried.
Early Thursday (Passover) through Late Saturday (Sabbath): Jesus is in the tomb.
Friday (between the two Sabbaths): the women buy and prepare the spices.
Early Sunday: Jesus rises from the dead, and the women find the empty tomb.

Those who argue for a Wednesday crucifixion agree with the Thursday view that there were two Sabbaths that week, but they separate them by a day. The first Sabbath, in this view, was the Passover Sabbath starting Wednesday evening following the crucifixion (Mark 15:42; Luke 23:52–54). Then came a non-Sabbath day (Friday) and then the weekly Sabbath starting Friday evening. The women purchased spices after the Sabbath, according to Mark 16:1—meaning the Passover Sabbath. Luke 23:56 says that, after the women saw where Jesus was buried, “they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.” The Wednesday argument states that the women could not purchase the spices after the Sabbath and prepare those spices before the Sabbath unless there were two Sabbaths that week, separated by a day.

Supporters of the Wednesday viewpoint see theirs as the only explanation that does not violate the biblical account of the women and the spices and holds to a literal understanding of Matthew 12:40. The “three days and three nights” of Matthew 12:40 are reckoned as follows: early Thursday (Day 1), late Thursday (Night 1), early Friday (Day 2), late Friday (Night 2), early Saturday (Day 3), and late Saturday (Night 3).

A difficulty with the Wednesday view is that the disciples who walked with Jesus on the road to Emmaus did so on “the same day” of His resurrection (Luke 24:13). The disciples, who do not recognize Jesus, tell Him of Jesus’ crucifixion (verse 20) and say that “today is the third day since these things happened” (verse 21). Wednesday to Sunday is four days. A possible explanation is that they may have started their count on Wednesday evening at Christ’s burial, which begins the Jewish Thursday, and Thursday to Sunday could be counted as three days.


While the day of the crucifixion is debated, the day of the resurrection is absolutely clear: Scripture says that Jesus rose on the first day of the week. What’s more important than knowing the day of the week of Jesus’ death is believing that He did die and that He rose from the dead. Equally important is why He died—to take the punishment that all sinners deserve. Jesus is truly the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29). Putting your trust in Him results in eternal life (John 3:16, 36)! This is true whether He was crucified on a Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday.