And very early in the morning the first [day] of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun. Mark 16:2
The phrase, ‘first day of the week’, is the most common English translation of a New Testament Greek phrase taken from the Textus Receptus in Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:2, 9; Luke 24:1; John 20: 1, 19; Acts 20:7; and 1 Corinthians 16:2.
These texts are all referring to the day of the Resurrection and claim that day is a Sunday. While it is accurate the Jesus is raised from the dead on Sunday after a Friday Crucifixion, it appears that is not what the Greek text is focused on trying to say.
In the Memorial Edition of the KJ3-Literal Translation by J.P. Green Sr., these Greek phrases are all translated ‘first of the sabbaths’. All Scripture texts in this article will be taken from this translation. (This is also the translation found in ‘The Interlinear Bible: Hebrew-Greek-English first published by J.P. Green Sr. in 1976. In my opinion, this is the most accurate literal English translation of the Bible.)
If you review commentaries on the internet and other sources, there is much agreement that the phrase ‘first of the sabbaths’ refers to the Jewish festival of the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost that always ends on Sivan 6 on the Hebrew calendar. However, there appears to be little agreement as to the exact meaning of this unique phrase found in Scripture.
I now propose a theory for consideration as to how this phrase might be understood
The term Pentecost refers to the passage of seven weeks plus one day for a total of 50 days ending on the Hebrew date of Sivan 6.
You shall number to yourself seven weeks. When the sickle begins to reap* in the standing grain, you shall begin to number seven weeks. And you shall keep the Feast of Weeks to Jehovah your God according to the measure of the free will offering of your and, which you shall give according as Jehovah your God blesses you (Deut 16:9-10).
When “the sickle begins to reap“ refers to the cutting of the wheat sheaf and separating it from the wheat grain that is still in the ground. It was the custom to mark the grain of wheat on or before Nisan 14 [Passover] and cut it off on Nisan 15, the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The cut sheaf of wheat was to be placed in the house until late in the day or early morning of Nisan 16 when it was given to the Priest to wave before the people as an acceptable grain offering and start the wheat harvest.
Nisan 15 is always a ‘High Sabbath’ and treated as a Sabbath in which no work is to be done according to Leviticus 23:4-8 regardless of the day of the week that this Feast Day falls on.
Simply put: Saturday Nisan 15 in 30 AD was also a ‘High Sabbath’ Feast day. Nisan 15 is the first of seven days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Leviticus 23:4-8 also instructs that Nisan 21, the last day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread is also a ‘High Sabbath’ day even though it falls on a different day of the week.
John 19:31 states, Therefore, since it was Preparation [Nisan 14], that the bodies not remain on the cross on the sabbath, for great was the day of that sabbath, the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and they be taken away. (KJ3)
It seems that Scripture is clear that the start of the 50-Day count of the Seven Sabbaths starts on Nisan 15-a High Sabbath Feast day. If we assume that Nisan 15 is day #0 of the fifty days of Pentecost then Nisan 16 is Day #1 of 50 days that ends on Sivan 6, Day #50, then we may have solved the riddle of the meaning of ‘first of the sabbaths’.
If this theory is correct then this phrase, ‘first of the sabbaths’, is giving us the date of the Resurrection as Nisan 16, the day the Priest waves the grain which signifies an acceptable grain offering. The day the Priest waves the sheaf of wheat is also the first day of the harvest. Pentecost is the last day of the harvest and on that Feast Day a baked loaf of bread is waved instead of a sheaf of grain. In the year 30 AD, Nisan 14-Passover falls on a Friday, Nisan 16 falls on a Sunday, and Sivan 6-Pentecost falls on a Sunday, exactly seven weeks (49 days) after Nisan 16 on the same day of week.
Some writers claim that the ‘first of the sabbaths’ is a reference to Nisan 15, a High Sabbath Day, which would make Day #50 fall on Sivan 5. It seems to be clarified in Mark 16:1-2, and 9 that the day after the Sabbath is the ‘first of the sabbaths’ dating the event of Mary Magdalene arriving at an empty tomb:
And the sabbath passing, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome, bought spices, so that coming they might anoint Him. And very early on the first of the sabbaths, the sun having risen, they came upon the tomb… And having risen early on the first of the sabbath, He first appeared to Mary Magdalene, from whom He had cast out seven demons. (KJ3)
The New Testament Greek phrase normally translated: “first day of the week” would possibly be better translated as: “first day of the sabbaths” or “first day of the weeks” and appears to refer to the Hebrew date of Nisan 16. Nisan 16 only falls on a Sunday when Nisan 14-Passover falls on a Friday. Nisan 16 is also called the Feast of First Fruits or Re’shiyth and details of this Feast are found in Deuteronomy 26:1-10.
In the year 30 AD, the events of Passover Week and Pentecost can be connected to our Gregorian Solar calendar in the following order:
- Nisan 14-Passover: Day of the Crucifixion, Friday-April 5
- Nisan 15 (High Sabbath=Day #”0″ of 50 Days), Saturday-April 6
- Nisan 16 (Day #1 of 50 Days), Sunday-April 7 = “first day of the sabbaths”
- Nisan 22 (1st Sabbath-Day #7 of 50), Saturday-April 13
- Nisan 29 (2nd Sabbath-Day #14), Saturday-April 20
- Iyar 6 (3rd sabbath-Day #21), Saturday-April 27
- Iyar 13 (4th sabbath-Day #28), Saturday-May 4
- Iyar 20 (5th sabbath-Day #35), Saturday-May 11
- Iyar 27 (6th sabbath-Day #42), Saturday-May 18
- Sivan 5 (7th sabbath-Day #49), Sat-May 25
- Sivan 6*-Pentecost (Day #50), Sunday-May 26
*This Sivan 6 date of Pentecost is the last exact date in Scripture.
You might legitimately ask: How can the Hebrew lunar-solar date of Passover, Nisan 14, be connected to April 5 on the Gregorian Calendar in the year 30 AD. Good question! We find that science comes to the aid of verifying a dated event in Scripture and allows us to connect to our currently used Gregorian solar calendar. Such accuracy was only possible recently with computers and accurate calendar converters such as is found on www.rosettacalendar.com.
According to the rules that govern the dated events on a Hebrew lunar-solar calendar, we know that Nisan 14-Passover is dated 14 days after a new moon. The Moon Phase calendars found at AstroPixels.com show that there was a new moon on Friday March 22 at 17:47 (5:47 PM) in the year 30 AD. If we go ahead 14 days, we arrive at Friday April 5 – Nisan 14 in 30 AD on the Gregorian-Hebrew calendar. In a normal year Nisan 14-Passover always falls on April 5. In a leap or special year, Nisan 14 falls on April 3¹.
This may be information, consistent with science, that the dated events in Scripture are part of the inerrancy of the text. If this is accurate, this may be new information about the Bible. I welcome your comments and questions.
1. From Chapters 30-32 of my book. Some of this information can also be found in the five short YouTube videos on my website’s homepage.