Why Jesus died on two different days, at two different times, according to the Scriptures

“Some have pointed out that Mark also indicates that Jesus died on a day that is called ‘the Day of Preparation’ (Mark 15:42). That is absolutely true — but what these readers fail to notice is that Mark tells us what he means by this phrase: it is the Day of Preparation ‘for the Sabbath’ (not the Day of Preparation for the Passover). In other words, in Mark, this is not the day before the Passover meal was eaten but the day before the Sabbath; it is called the day of ‘preparation’ because one had to prepare the meals for Saturday on Friday afternoon.

“…in Mark, Jesus eats the Passover meal (Thursday night) and is crucified the following morning. In John, Jesus does not eat the Passover meal but is crucified on the day before the Passover meal was to be eaten. Moreover, in Mark, Jesus is nailed to the cross at nine in the morning; in John, he is not condemned until noon, and then he is taken out and crucified….

“…I will point out a significant feature of John’s Gospel – the last of our Gospels to be written, probably some twenty-five years or so after Mark’s. John is the only Gospel that indicates that Jesus is ‘the lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world.’ This is declared by John the Baptist at the very beginning of the narrative (John 1:29) and again six verses later (John 1:35). Why, then, did John – our latest Gospel – change the day and time when Jesus died? It may be because in John’s Gospel, Jesus is the Passover Lamb, whose sacrifice brings salvation from sins. Exactly like the Passover Lamb, Jesus has to die on the day (the Day of Preparation) and the time (sometime after noon), when the Passover lambs were being slaughtered in the Temple.

“In other words, John has changed a historical datum in order to make a theological point: Jesus is the sacrificial lamb. And to convey this theological point, John has had to create a discrepancy between his account and the others.”

— Bart Ehrman, from his 2009 book, Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don’t Know About Them)

5 responses to “Why Jesus died on two different days, at two different times, according to the Scriptures

  1. sounds pretty interesting, I like the symbolic approach Dr. Ehrman takes with the sacrificial lamb thought.

    But a quick answer from Johns Gospel on the day he (Dr. Ehrman )doesn’t mention in this quote, this from Chp 19 of Gospel according to John:
    “31 Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders 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.”

    seems like Jesus was crucified the day before the Sabbath i.e. Friday.

    On the “Day of Preparation” statement Luke helps us out here in Chp 23:
    54 It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.
    55 The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. 56 Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.

    Matthews Gospel has Jesus suffering & dying on the cross between the sixth to ninth hour, Matt. 27:45-46. As does Luke 23:45

    I don’t pretend to try to be exhaustive here, I’m sure there are others who have done the work. One place is that tries to refute a lot of Dr. Ehrmans criticism of the Gospels is at this website:



    • Sami! I didn’t think you even read this blog anymore! And you read it at 5:47 a.m.? I’m not worthy of you. I think Ehrman’s point is that Mark is considered the oldest (and by inference, possibly the most reliable) Gospel, and John’s innovation was for theological, not historical, purposes. For Ehrman’s part, he insists that he is an historian, although when dealing with Scripture, the historical and the theological are so intertwined that I’m not sure how one can avoid slipping from one’s profession into the other, for better and worse. I’m planning to talk with Rob about this book and another one (“C.S. Lewis on Scripture”). What’s bothering me the most right now, my backdrop for even reading Ehrman, is that rational tools are used to understand individual passages of Scripture for (basic interpretation and application) when reading vertically, but those same rules have to be jettisoned to look across the canon when reading horizontally. (If God had the power and the will to guide the canon down through the ages, he could have guided it through without the historical discrepencies Ehrman provides in list after list after list.) Another thing that’s bothering me is how much special knowledge seems to be required to “rightly divide the Word.” During one of Iain’s recent sermons, I remember thinking, “There’s no way a laymen’s Bible study ever would have figured this out on their own.” Maybe the more hierarchical churches are on to something? Well, these are my questions, and even if no one else has them, I have to have my own faith, not someone else’s. The context is that I have experienced what I call the “culture of inerrancy;” I didn’t come into a “culture of grace” that professes inerrancy — there’s a big difference. A friend once said of the Bible in evangelical churches, “When your only tool is a hammer, everything is a nail.”


  2. Hey bud,
    Don’t know why it showed that late/early, I subscribe to you so I read what you put up.

    If Ehrmans point was only to show John as trying to accomplish something different I think I am good with it, the esv study even mentions the sacrificial lamb motif, but I gather from his other writings and statements that he is no friend of the Gospel.

    I get your context and it makes sense.

    As far as Bart’s list I haven’t seen his, but have read through others who point out apparent discrepancies. Looking for the answers to those I found plenty of satisfaction in easy to read stuff by Strobel and some more technical from Ravi & James White.

    I watched this q&a the other day and liked a lot of Keller s answers from here

    Bashir asks is the Bible is trustworthy and Keller s response has to do with if Jesus is who He says He is.
    Love to get together with you sometime.



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