Sabbath at Sunset? Absurd and Impossible!

Increased light in recent years has revealed that the Biblical day—and thus, the Sabbath—begins at dawn. The chronology of events covering Yahushua’s death and burial conclusively prove that the Jews of Yahushua’s day still observed the Sabbath beginning at dawn.

coup de grĂ¢ceHave you heard of a coup de grâce? Journalists occasionally report on a coup d'état in one political hotspot or another. But a coup de grâce is different. A coup de grâce is a swift kill strike.

It started back when battlefield medicine left much to be desired. Basically, a coup de grâce was a mercy killing in which an obviously dying comrade would be killed as quickly and painlessly as possible. The phrase has evolved until, in modern use, it means “an action or event that finally ends or destroys something that has been getting weaker or worse.”1

The argument that the Sabbath is a 24-hour period, from sunset until sunset, has been growing weaker and weaker with the discovery, among other proofs, that the primary text on which the practice is based, Leviticus 23:32, has been taken out of context and does not apply to the seventh-day Sabbath at all.

The coup de grâce that annihilates forever the belief in a sunset-to-sunset Sabbath is found in the account of the Saviour’s death and burial. This important chronology of events establishes with absolute certainty that the hours of the Sabbath begin in the morning, not at sunset.


Death of Yahushua:

“And about the ninth hour Yahushua cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? … Yahushua, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.” (Matthew 27:46 & 50, KJV)

Before the invention of mechanical clocks, the daylight hours were evenly divided into 12 segments. When Yahushua asked, “Are there not twelve hours in a day?” (John 11:9, KJV) no one argued with Him. Everyone could read a sundial and knew the day began with the coming of light. Consequently, winter “hours” were shorter than hours in the summertime.

Yahushua died “about the ninth hour” on Passover, Abib 14. This equates to roughly three o’clock in the afternoon. For that time of year, shortly after the spring equinox, it was actually a little bit past three p.m. Those who insist that the Sabbath begins at sunset believe Yahushua was taken from the cross and buried by the time the sun dropped below the horizon. In Jerusalem at that time of year, the sun sets between 6:59 p.m. and 7:19 p.m. Careful study reveals that it would have been impossible for everything recorded in Scripture to have transpired in the roughly four hours that elapsed between the Saviour’s death and sunset.


Yahushua died shortly after 3 p.m.

Yahushua’s body requested

“When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Yahushua’s disciple: He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Yahushua. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered.” (Matthew 27:57-58, KJV)

There are two passages of Scripture that explicitly reveal the day begins at dawn, one of them is the crucifixion account. However, due to tradition and mistranslation, these passages are glossed over by those who insist the Sabbath begins at sunset.

Tradition: People have traditionally assumed Genesis 1 teaches the day begins at sunset because of the oft repeated phrase: “And the evening and the morning were the [first, second, third, etc.] day.” However, this phrase is taken out of context. In the first chapter of Genesis, Yahuwah had already clarified what constituted a day: light! “And Elohim said, Let there be light: and there was light. And Elohim saw the light, that it was good: and Elohim divided the light from the darkness. And Elohim called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night.” (Genesis 1:3-5, KJV)

Out of the impenetrable blackness of pre-Creation, the first day of Creation began when Yahuwah declared, “Let there be light.” His next act was to divide light from dark. He then named the two things He had divided. Yahuwah “called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night.” To insist, therefore, that the “day” begins with the darkness is to join together what Yahuwah has separated.

The phrase, “and there was evening, and there was morning, one day” must be understood in the context of light being “day” and associated with light, and “night” the period of darkness.

The word translated “evening” and incorrectly assumed to be the night hours comes from the Hebrew word, ereb.

This word represents the time of the day immediately preceding and following the setting of the sun. … The phrase “in the evening” [literally, “between the evenings”] means the period between sunset and darkness, “twilight.”2

The word here translated into English cannot refer to the period of darkness the Creator called Night, because it starts prior to sunset! The light rules the day; the darkness rules the night. Therefore, if there is any bit of light still in the sky, it still counts as Day.

Mistranslation: The second time Scripture clarifies that sunset does not begin a day is, as stated, in the account of the burial of Yahushua. Specifically, when Joseph of Arimathea went and asked Pilate for the body. Because English does not have a direct translation for the Greek word, translators chose to use the word “even.” Since it sounds like the word “evening” used in Genesis 1, the result has been confusion and a continued belief that the day starts at sunset.

However, this is not supported by Scripture. In fact, this brief passage in Matthew provides the clearest confirmation that the Sabbath does not start at sunset. Consider the passage again: “When the even was come, there came a rich man … named Joseph, who … went to Pilate, and begged the body of Yahushua.” (Matthew 27:57-58)

The word “even” here comes from the Greek word opsios and, while similar, its common usage does not have an identical meaning to the Hebrew word used in Genesis 1. This word means: “Nightfall … The word really signifies the ‘late evening,’ the latter of the two ‘evenings’ as reckoned by the Jews, the first from 3 p.m to sunset, the latter after sunset; this is the usual meaning. It is used, however, of both.”3

Even without any of the additional chronological evidence, this alone should be sufficient to establish forever that the Sabbath does not begin at sunset because the common usage of the word reveals Joseph did not even approach Pilate for permission to take the body until after sunset!

The purpose of this study, however, is not to prove that Joseph of Arimathea went to Pilate after sunset. It is to demonstrate the impossibility of finishing the burial of Yahushua prior to sunset. The common usage of opsios refers to after sunset. But because it was occasionally used of the period of time from mid-afternoon to sunset, the earlier time will be used here. Again, this is not the common use of the word, but because it was used occasionally to refer to the late afternoon hours prior to sunset, that will be the starting point for our study.

For the sake of argument, throughout this study the shortest, most conservative time estimates were always chosen.

The gospels were careful to specify which of the Saviour’s followers were present at His time of death. Neither Joseph of Arimathea nor Nicodemus were listed as being there in any gospel account. The presence of such high-ranking followers would most certainly have been mentioned had they been there.

Due to the length of hours at that time of year, Yahushua most likely died around 3:10 p.m. It would have taken time for Joseph of Arimathea to learn of His death. Some of the Jews that had come to gloat over the Saviour’s death returned to Jerusalem afterward, frightened by the darkness and the earthquake. “And all the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts, and returned.” (Luke 23:48, KJV) It still would have taken time for word to reach Joseph.

It is not unreasonable to assume it took at least 45 minutes to an hour or more for Joseph to learn Yahushua had died. It would certainly have taken him a little time to recover from the sheer shock and grief, decide on a course of action and proceed. He may even, at this point, have consulted with Nicodemus. We are talking about real human hearts with real human emotions and responses. Even if Joseph learned of the Saviour’s death in fairly short order, it is not realistic to assume that the minute he received word, he went to ask for the body. He would have spent at least a little time grieving. It then would have taken a few minutes to walk from his home to where Pilate was staying. He would have arrived there no earlier than 4:30 in the afternoon.

Joseph may well have been a high-ranking Jew, but Pilate still outranked him. It would have taken a few minutes for the guards to send Joseph’s request to Pilate and return with an answer, granting him an audience.

Conservatively estimating that Joseph went to Pilate at around 4:30 p.m., the very soonest he would have made it into Pilate—and this is rushing it a bit—would be 4:45 p.m.



The earliest Joseph would have had an audience with Pilate would have been 4:45 p.m., probably later.

Pilate is shocked and disbelieving

Death by crucifixion was a slow and agonizing death. It is from the word “crucify” that we get the word “excruciating,” signifying extremely intense agony. It usually took several days for the muscles to finally collapse and the victim to die of asphyxiation. However, Yahushua did not die of asphyxiation. He died from a burst heart.

Pilate did not know this. So, when Joseph asked for permission to take the body, “Pilate marveled that He was already dead.” (Mark 15:44, NKJV) To put it bluntly, Pilate did not believe anyone could die from crucifixion so quickly. He “called unto him the Centurion, and asked of him whether he had been any while dead. And when he knew the truth of the Centurion, he gave the body to Joseph.” (Mark 15:44-45, 1599 Geneva Bible)

This took some time. Pilate did not live in Jerusalem. He lived in Caesarea. Records indicate he only came to Jerusalem at the times of national festivals when the Jews were known to be more likely to riot. Recent archeological discoveries reject the previously suggested scenario of Pilate staying at the Antonia Fortress and indicate that it was far more likely Pilate was a guest of Herod Antipas in the palace built by Herod the Great.

Model of Harod's Palace

Model of Herod's Palace, where Pilate is believed to have stayed as a guest of Herod Antipas.

Gaining admission to the palace to speak to Pilate likely took longer than the 15 minutes allotted in this study. Certainly by the time Joseph was ushered into see Pilate, had exchanged greetings in accordance with Oriental custom, stated his request, listened to Pilate’s astonished questions, then listened again as Pilate gave command for a messenger to send for the centurion in charge at Golgotha, more time would have elapsed. At the very earliest, it would have been 5:00 p.m., and more likely 5:15 p.m., or even later, depending upon when Joseph arrived and began seeking permission to gain an audience with Pilate.

For the sake of argument, however, we will put the time at a conservative 5:00 p.m.

The place of crucifixion was about 1 kilometer (or less than a mile) away from Herod’s Palace.4 A healthy soldier could traverse this in a matter of minutes, particularly if he were on a horse. But it must be remembered that the centurion would have been slowed by the multitudes of pilgrims that had thronged to Jerusalem for Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. By the time (1) a messenger was called for, given a message and sent, (2) made his way through the masses of people, (3) relayed the order, (4) the centurion gave orders appointing another soldier to remain in charge while he was gone, (5) and then the centurion made his own way back through the crowds, the time would likely have been at least 5:15 p.m.



By the time the centurion arrived to answer Pilate's question, it would have been at least 5:15 p.m.

Pilate grants permission for Joseph to take the body

“And when he knew the truth of the Centurion, he gave the body to Joseph.” (Mark 15:44, 1599 Geneva Bible)

It is impossible to know whether Pilate simply gave a verbal command to the centurion to release Yahushua’s body to Joseph of Arimathea, or whether he wrote out a command on parchment. Regardless, by the time the centurion was granted entrance, answered Pilate’s questions, assured him of the Saviour’s death, Pilate granted permission, and Joseph took his leave, the quickest elapsed time would be at least another 15 minutes, bringing the time to 5:30 p.m. If Pilate sent for a scribe to write out the command, and sealed it with his signet ring, it would have pushed back Joseph’s departure from the palace by another 15 minutes at a minimum.




Joseph would not have left Pilate before 5:30 p.m.


Direct route from Herod's Palace to Golgotha

Golgotha was about 1 kilometer away from Herod's Palace. Anyone traversing the distance would be slowed by the throngs of visitors gathered for the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread.

Joseph prepares for the burial

“And when he knew it of the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph. And he bought fine linen …” (Mark 15:45-46, KJV)

Joseph did not immediately rush to Golgotha. He had not known if he would even get permission to take the body of a convicted criminal. After obtaining permission, he did the following:

1) He returned home to give instructions to his servants to begin gathering together the tools and supplies needed to remove the body from the cross, carry it to the burial site, and there cleanse and prepare it for burial.
2) He likely sent word to Nicodemus, since Nicodemus knew to come bringing spices for burial.
3) He went (or sent a servant to go) and purchased burial linens. (Mark 15:46)

While some might question how Joseph could purchase burial bindings late in the afternoon on Passover, there are three important points to remember. These apply equally to the scenario if the common use of the word opsios is accepted, indicating that Joseph went to Pilate after sunset.

1) Passover was a work day
2) Either the shops were still open; or,
3) He was able to track down shop owners who would not hesitate to sell him some, even at night, due to the rigorous burial requirements of the Jews that necessitated immediate burial.

It is conceivable that Joseph could purchase burial cloths after sunset. The Jews, always known for their unrelenting drive to make money, would still have had shops open after sunset. In Amos 8, the Jews were not denounced for selling at night. Rather, they were denounced for wanting to hasten past the sacred hours of the Sabbath.

O ye that swallow up the needy, even to make the poor of the land to fail, Saying, When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn? and the sabbath, that we may set forth wheat, making the ephah small, and the shekel great, and falsifying the balances by deceit? (Amos 8:4, 5, KJV)

Note that if all the shops routinely closed by sunset, there would have been no expressed desire to rush the sacred hours because all would know they could not open up shop until the next day anyway.

Skull Hill Golgotha

Golgotha, the skull-shaped hill, was about 1 kilometer from Herod's Palace.

If the shops were closed, however, Joseph would have tracked down those who sold burial wrappings in their homes. In many countries, even to this day, owners live above or behind their shops. It would not have been a difficult thing for him to purchase burial cloths even late in the afternoon or evening. But this would have taken still more time as the shopkeeper would be celebrating (or getting ready to celebrate) Passover with extended family and friends. Assuming Joseph knew right where to go and did not make any unnecessary detours, just getting there would have taken some time, too. Jerusalem was not a modern city, laid out with broad, straight boulevards. Its streets were narrow, twisting, and crowded with stalls and pilgrims.

Golgotha was only a few hundred meters outside the city gate. However, it was fully one kilometer from Herod’s palace. If one adds to that one kilometer distance the additional distances walked by Joseph as he returned to his home, went to find and purchase burial cloths, returned home to gather the rest of what was needed, traveled to the city gate, it all adds to the accumulation of time passing.

From when Joseph took his leave of Pilate, to when he left for Golgotha, at least two hours would have passed, very likely even more. It is reasonable to assume that Joseph and Nicodemus likely met at the city gates and proceeded to Calvary together. Adding up the other activities that occurred since Joseph first went to Pilate, this would have brought him, at the earliest, to about 7:30 p.m. as he started out toward Golgotha with servants and probably a donkey or two to carry necessary supplies.

When the realistic time constraints involved in this process are carefully considered, it quickly becomes apparent that burial by sunset (6:59 – 7:19 p.m.) is impossible. Therefore, if the earliest and shortest times possible are assumed, the sun had already set by the time Joseph left the city.




Joseph, with servants and supplies, would have left for Golgotha after sunset.

Removing the body

“… And took him down …” (Mark 15:46, KJV)

It would not have taken long for Joseph, Nicodemus and the servants to reach Golgotha. It was, after all, purposely situated along the main road into Jerusalem. Arriving there with Pilate’s permission to remove the body, they would have found a busy scene.

Some time after Yahushua died, the Jews observing the proceedings decided none of the bodies could remain upon the crosses as the next day was the Sabbath and the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him. But when they came to Yahushua, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs. (John 19:31-33, KJV)

This passage provides still additional proof that the Sabbath could not have begun at sunset. Consider the following facts:

  1. Pilate was shocked anyone could die so quickly from crucifixion, so he sent for the centurion in charge of the execution to question him.
  2. The centurion confirmed Yahushua’s death.
  3. Had the Jews gone to Pilate for permission to break the legs of the condemned before Joseph went to him, the governor would not have needed to send for the centurion to confirm Yahushua’s death. He would have already known He was dead from the asphyxiation brought on by having His legs broken.

“Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid.

“There laid they Yahushua therefore because of the Jews' preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand.” (John 19:41-42, KJV)

The Jews thus went to Pilate for permission to hasten the death of the other two prisoners after5 Joseph had received permission to take the body. They presented their request to Pilate most likely while Joseph was coordinating with Nicodemus for the burial of Yahushua.

Removing the Saviour’s body from the cross would have been a time-consuming, laborious task. Scripture records that none of Yahushua’s bones were broken, in accordance with prophecy. Joseph, Nicodemus and their servants, would have been extremely careful while removing the body, but even so, it was no easy task to remove such large spikes, driven deep into wood. In fact, archeologists have uncovered bones in an ossuary (bone box) still containing spikes. Clearly, whoever buried the body had been unable to remove the spike or, at the least, deemed it not worth the effort.

Joseph and Nicodemus would have spent whatever time necessary to very carefully, reverently remove the body from the cross. They were not rushing to go eat the Passover meal. They were engaged in the most important event of their lives. They then would have had servants carry it to the Garden Tomb, which was close by. This could easily have taken an hour to complete, bringing the accrued time lapse to 8:30 p.m.




Removing the body without further damage was a difficult task.
It would have been at least 8:30 p.m. by the time they were finished.

Cleansing the body for burial

“And he took it down, and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a sepulchre that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid.” (Luke 23:53, KJV)

Preparing a body for burial is always time-consuming. With the severe abuse suffered by the Saviour prior to death, combined with the rituals of the Jewish burial process, it would have been even more so. Joseph, as a very wealthy man, had a freshly hewn tomb prepared for his wife and himself in a restful garden. There was, in that location, an extremely large reservoir for the collection of rainwater. They had plenty of water available, but it would still have been an extremely lengthy, difficult task to cleanse a body so torn and marred. Every bucketful of water would have to be lowered and raised; the hair and what remained of the beard, washed. Ritual cleansing goes far beyond a quick rinse. The degree of cleansing needed would likely have necessitated at least two hours. By this point, it would be around 10:30 at night.



Cleansing the body would have been difficult, bringing the elapsed time to 10:30 p.m.

Wrapping the body for burial

“And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Yahushua by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. Then took they the body of Yahushua, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.” (John 19:39-40, KJV)

Garden Tomb

The Garden Tomb.

Once the body was thoroughly cleansed, the pain-staking work of wrapping it with the binding cloths and spices yet remained. Unlike bodies placed in coffins in the western world, no one part of the body was supposed to touch another part. The arms and legs all had to have cloth separating them. The hands and feet were typically bound separately as was the face. That this was the typical practice can be concluded from the description given in Scripture of Lazarus after his resurrection: “And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with grave clothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Yahushua saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.” (John 11:44, KJV)

To the Jewish mind, the burial process was tremendously important. If a body were not properly buried, the individual was considered cursed of Yahuwah. Therefore, the process of burying a body, particularly that of one well loved, would have been a thorough and meticulously careful process.

Not everyone was buried wrapped in spices. Only kings and the very wealthy could afford embalming spices. King Hezekiah stored spices in his treasure house. They were considered part of his wealth. “The spices mentioned as being used by Nicodemus for the preparation of our Lord's body, Joh[n] 19:39,40 are ‘myrrh and aloes,’ by which latter word must be understood not the aloes of medicine, but the highly-scented wood of the Aquilaria agallochum.”6 Some researchers have suggested that the value of the spices brought by Nicodemus was upwards of $200,000 dollars in today’s market.7

A “hundred pound weight of spices” is an immense quantity of extremely expensive spices! Myrrh was a liquid. Aloes were powdered. The ritual of wrapping a body with spices was far more than just a quickie mummy-job, with handfuls of incense tossed in. Each part of the body must be wrapped individually in several layers. The mixture of liquid and powdered spices was applied to each layer, carefully and reverently. It was an extremely time-consuming process.

The meticulous wrapping of the body with the spices, could easily have taken up to two hours (if not more) to complete. The time thus accumulated would have brought them to shortly after midnight.





Wrapping a body with spices was an extremely time-consuming process.
It would have been at least 12:30 a.m. by the time they were finished.


“And he took it down, and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a sepulchre that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid.” (Luke 23:53, KJV)

By the time the body was wrapped, it would have taken only a few minutes to finally lay the body to rest in the tomb. Rolling the stone into place, bundling up bloodied rags, and collecting the tools used to remove the Saviour from the cross, would not have taken very long. By 12:50 a.m., the sad party would have turned its exhausted steps toward home.





The men and the women would have returned to Jerusalem around 12:50 a.m.


Women return from Garden Tomb 

It would have taken the women about 15 to 20 minutes to return from the Garden Tomb.

The women

“And the women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid. And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment.” (Luke 23:55-56, KJV)

In Middle Eastern cultures, family members are the ones to prepare bodies for burial. The women of the family prepare the body if the deceased is a woman, while male family members prepare the body if the deceased is a man. Various sources suggest that Joseph of Arimathea was of the family of Yahushua, so it is logical that he would have been involved in the Saviour’s burial.

As recorded in Scripture, the women stayed back and were not involved in the burial process. They longed to do something for the burial as well, but the preparation of the body for burial was the work of the men. Instead, they watched from a respectful distance, determining to gather spices and ointments to anoint the body after it was wrapped.

Once the stone was rolled into place, there was nothing more to do at the tomb. The women returned home, probably in the company of the men for protection. This was not a hurried journey. They had been up all night. They were mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted. There is, of course, no way to determine precisely where the women lived, but if they lived in the general vicinity of the upper room, they were over a kilometer away from the sepulcher. If they lived in the lower city, it took even longer to return home. Going with the shorter distance, however, it would have taken them around 15-20 minutes to tiredly traverse the distance from the sepulcher to their homes.

Area of the Upper Room is in the bottom right corner of this image of a model of Ancient Jerusalem.  Also note Herod's Palace in the upper left.

The women may well have used the time to discuss their next course of action. They wanted to anoint their beloved Master’s body. They wanted some small part in honoring Him, too. Upon returning to their homes, they made diligent search of the anointing spices they had available. Luke says the women “prepared spices and ointments.” However, it is clear from the Biblical account that, when comparing and assembling what they had on hand, they realized they did not have a sufficient amount. Nothing could be done at that point because the Sabbath was beginning to dawn. Therefore, they “rested the Sabbath day according to the commandment.” (Luke 23:56)

Once the Sabbath was past and the market stalls reopened for business, the women “bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.” (Mark 16:1, KJV) As much as they longed to return to the tomb to anoint Yahushua’s body, they waited. They couldn’t buy the additional spices they needed until the Sabbath was past anyway. They knew the best way to honor Him was to obey Him. He had said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” (John 14:15, NKJV) They kept the Sabbath day holy to honor the “Lord of the Sabbath.”

As previously stated, it is reasonable to assume that the women returned to Jerusalem with the men. Allowing 15 minutes for the return trip, this would have had them back home around 1:05 in the morning. The women returned to their individual homes, looked through the supplies they had, then gathered together once more to consult on what supplies they lacked that must be purchased once the Sabbath was past. As this was the middle of the night, obviously no shops would be open. Reasonably speaking, this would have taken a minimum of an hour, bringing the time to just after 2 a.m.



By conservative time estimates, it would have been around 2 a.m. by the time the women laid aside their preparations.

The Sabbath dawns

And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on.” (Luke 23:54, KJV)

The gospel account of the death and burial of Yahushua is greatly abbreviated. The Bible only hints at the amount of time involved in the burial process. However, when the list of events is taken, step by step, when important words are looked up in the Greek, the facts become clear: the burial of Yahushua could not have occurred prior to sunset. If the more common use of opsios is accepted, it took almost the entire night! Everything that occurred during the night hours was considered part of the sixth day of the week, the preparation day. According to the gospel of Luke, they did not finish until the next day when the Sabbath began to dawn.8 Although this is not apparent in the English translation, the original Greek establishes this without question.

The phrase translated “drew on” in this text, is the Greek word, … (epiphosko). The definition is startling: “to begin to grow light:–begin to dawn.”9 It is a form of #2017, … (epiphauo), which means “to illuminate … give light.”10 Because they waited until evening to even begin the process of seeking permission to take the body, taking it down, cleaning and wrapping it, etc., it took them the night hours to do their work. They did not finish until the Sabbath began as it started to grow light.11

The New Strong’s Expanded Dictionary of Bible Words expounds on this definition, stating epiphosko is said of the approach of the Sabbath.”12 If the word is used in reference to the approach of the Sabbath, and if the word itself means to “begin to dawn,” the conclusion is obvious: the Sabbath began with the dawning of light, not the setting of the sun and the subsequent gathering of darkness.

In Jerusalem, sunrise at that time of year occurs between 5:54 and 6:27 a.m. However, dawn—the beginning of light—arrives even earlier. Astronomical twilight in Jerusalem for April comes between 5:05 a.m. (early in the month) and 4:25 a.m. (at the end of the month as the days lengthen toward the summer solstice).

As stated previously, the shortest time estimates were deliberately chosen for this study. There is no need to artificially inflate the time blocks involved. Either the entire process could be completed before sunset or it could not. Assuming Joseph sought permission to take the body before sunset, brings us now to the women preparing spices for anointing. They would have realized they did not have enough and no way to purchase more in the middle of the night. They laid aside their efforts until they could buy more at once the Sabbath was past.  By our calculations, this was about seven hours after sunset. Amazingly though, our conservative estimates are off by about four hours. In other words, Scripture makes clear the process actually took more time than allowed for in this study!

The Bible clearly states that the Sabbath was beginning to dawn as they laid aside their preparations. Therefore, by the time the burial work of the men was complete, they had returned to Jerusalem, the women had gathered the anointing spices they had and realized they needed more, was actually closer to 5 o’clock in the morning! The Sabbath, Abib 15, arrived with dawn and the women rested according to the commandment.



The Bible states the entire process ended as the Sabbath began to dawn or, about 5 a.m.!
The listed activities literally took all night.

The Resurrection

“And 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.” (Mark 16:1-2, KJV)

It is here that there is yet one last confirmation that the day begins with dawn, not sunset: “In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.” (Matthew 28:1, KJV) The phrase “began to dawn” comes from the exact same word as used in Luke 23:54 to indicate that the Sabbath “drew on” as the women laid aside their preparations because the Sabbath was beginning. It means, “to begin to grow light:-- begin to dawn.”13

“Toward” is a word that indicates movement in the direction of something. It is a good translation of the Greek word, eis, which also expresses motion and indicates a point reached.14 This word would not have been used if First Day had started at sunset the evening before. It was only as the light “began to dawn toward the first day of the week” that the day began.

If the Jews began their day at sunset, they would have begun every day at sunset, including the first day of the week. However, Matthew 28:1 clearly states that after the Sabbath was over (it ended with the leaving of light the night before) as it began to grow light toward the first day of the week, (the first day of the week had not started at sunset the night before), the women returned to the tomb to anoint Yahushua’s body. This was on Feast of First Fruits, Abib 16.

He is not here! He has risen! 

He is not here! He has risen!

“Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.” (Psalm 119:18, KJV)

The omniscient wisdom of Yahuwah had deliberately designed the death of His only begotten Son in every particular. His foreknowledge knew that the truth of the Sabbath would be hidden for nearly 2,000 years. The very last act of a selfless life was to leave on record a chronology of events which, when studied out carefully, could demonstrate to believers of the last generation the truth about when the Sabbath begins.

Saturday Sabbatarians who observe the Sabbath from sunset Friday evening to sunset Saturday evening, want to fit the entire chronology of events in between Yahushua’s death shortly after 3 p.m. and sunset around 7 p.m. – less than four hours! However, this is an impossible task. As demonstrated, the most conservative time estimates reveal the process would have taken nine hours at the very least! And, as proven by the times for astronomical twilight (dawn), the entire process actually took longer than estimated.

There is simply no way to fit in everything that took place within a four-hour time span. Furthermore, to do so contradicts the following facts as spelled out by Scripture:

  1. If the common usage of the word opsios is accepted, Joseph of Arimathea did not approach Pilate for permission to take the body until after sunset. (Matthew 27:57-58) Even if Joseph went to Pilate prior to sundown, it still would have been impossible to fit the entire chronology of events into a narrow, four-hour window of time.
  2. After receiving permission to bury the body, Joseph went to purchase burial cloths. (Mark 15:46)
  3. The burial process was so lengthy, Scripture states the new day was already beginning to dawn as the women laid aside their preparations and rested over the Sabbath. (Luke 23:54)
  4. After the Sabbath was past, the women went and purchased more spices with which to anoint the body. (Luke 23:56 and Mark 16:1.)
  5. The women returned to the sepulcher as the day “began to dawn toward the first day of the week.” (Matthew 28:1)

The chronology of events of Yahushua’s death and burial solidly establishes the fact that the Biblical day, and the seventh-day Sabbath, begins at dawn, not sunset. It is past time to lay aside the errors of tradition and assumption and welcome the holy Sabbath hours as intended: from the coming of light at dawn, until the light leaves at night. Anything else is merely tradition based on faulty assumptions.

WLC challenges all who continue to cling to a sunset-to-sunset Sabbath to offer an alternative chronology to prove their position. It would necessarily have to fit in between Yahushua’s time of death shortly after 3 p.m. and sunset, roughly 7 p.m. Demonstrate time, distance and chronology. If it is truth, it can be proven. If not, it is time to reexamine the traditional understanding.

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1 Merriam-Webster Dictionary

2 The New Strong’s Expanded Dictionary Of Bible Words, 2001 ed., #6153, emphasis supplied.

3 Ibid., #3798, emphasis supplied.

4 The “traditional” place of crucifixion promoted by Roman Catholics as Golgotha can be ruled out for a variety of reasons, one of which is that it lies to the immediate west of the city. Jewish ritual purity laws as well as wind-related factors decreed that no one could be buried on the western side of Jerusalem. Since the Bible clearly states that the tomb in which Yahushua was buried was close to the place of execution, this excludes the traditional site as the genuine place of execution.

5 John 19 describes the soldiers breaking the legs of the other men, but not that of Yahushua since He was already dead. Verse 38 is translated as stating that “after this Joseph of Arimathaea, … besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus.” Here again arise issues of translation. The word rendered “after” actually denotes “accompaniment; ‘amid’ … (gen. association, or acc. Succession) with which it is joined; occupying an intermediate position.” (Strong’s Expanded Dictionary, #3326, emphasis supplied.)

In other words, it is describing a passage of time in which a lot of different things are happening all at once, overlapping with no clearly delineated chronological sequence. It is still possible to pinpoint precisely when the Jews approached Pilate by taking into consideration Mark’s account of the same events, which prove that Pilate was unaware of any of the prisoners’ deaths at the time Joseph went to him.

7 The Bible does not say that Nicodemus went and purchased the burial spices. This, too, is consistent with how the rich of that time preserved their wealth. With no banks in which to deposit money, it was common to purchase “real” assets that could, when needed, be sold.

8 Luke actually places the comment that the Sabbath began to dawn immediately following the text describing the men rolling the stone into place. However, all gospel accounts must be taken into consideration. This was obviously a generalized conclusion, reinforcing the fact that the events of the burial encompassed all of the night hours, rather than pinpointing a specific moment in time.

9 The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, #2020, 1990 ed.

10 Ibid.

11 eLaine Vornholt and Laura Lee Vornholt-Jones, The Great Calendar Controversy, p. 40.

12 Op. cit., #2020, emphasis supplied.

13 Ibid.

14 Strong’s Expanded Dictionary, #1519.