If you’re like me and have anti-Christian friends on social media, you’re probably seeing posts and memes these days that are making a strange claim about Easter. In my book Torahism: Are Christians Required to Keep the Law of Moses, I discuss this common yet confusing claim which is often made by Torahists (those who believe Christians should be keeping the Torah). To be honest, the point of the claim is not clear. However, it’s an issue frequently mentioned and staunchly defended by those who make it, so it’s worth examining.
The claim stems from the belief that fraud was perpetrated in AD 325 at the Council of Nicaea regarding the date on which Easter is observed. Because Scripture reveals that the Resurrection took place on a Sunday, the Council determined that Easter should always fall on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal equinox.1 But this, claims Torahism, is a deceptive miscalculation. As proof, they point to Matthew 12, where the Pharisees and teachers of the Law asked Yeshua (Jesus) for a sign:
He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”—Matthew 12:39-40
When asked for proof that He was the Messiah, Yeshua gave just one sign: He would be in the grave for three days and three nights. However, as the argument goes, if He died and was buried on Friday and rose on Sunday, as “Roman-corrupted” theology teaches, it would mean He was only in the grave for two days and two nights. Thus, our Torahist friends cry foul and argue that something doesn’t add up.
One Torahist explained how we need to view this issue from a Hebrew perspective, remembering that the Bible is an Eastern book written in an Eastern culture. “The Jewish day starts at sundown,” he explained. “So Yeshua was actually crucified on a Wednesday afternoon. That way, when Mary went to the tomb before sunrise on the first day of the week, we now have the ‘three days and three nights’ Yeshua predicted.” Several Torahist groups have gone as far as creating posters explaining this theory. For example:
How do we reconcile the apparent discrepancy our Torahist friends are pointing out between the number of days Jesus predicted and the actual amount of days between Good Friday and Easter Sunday? Well, a little Scriptural research shows that it’s not a math issue; it’s a language issue. There are several Hebraic idioms—such as three days and three nights and after three days—that are used to refer to “the third day.” And there is ample Scriptural evidence that shows this to be true. For example:
The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”—Matthew 27:62-64 (emphasis mine)
Here we see the Jewish officials using the phrases after three days and until the third day synonymously, which tells us they understood them to mean the same thing. Matthew understood them to mean the same thing, as well. Elsewhere in his book, he recorded Yeshua’s predictions that He would rise from the dead “on the third day:”
- “From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” —Matt 16:21 (emphasis mine)
- “When they came together in Galilee, he said to them, ‘The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.’ And the disciples were filled with grief.” —Matt 17:22-23 (emphasis mine)
- “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!” —Matt 20:18-19 (emphasis mine)
In the examples above, we see that Yeshua Himself used different phrases synonymously to describe the same length of time. If He was crucified Friday, that makes Friday the first day, Saturday the second day, and Sunday the third day. And if we take a broad survey of the New Testament, we find an overwhelming number of references to Yeshua’s resurrection occurring on the third day or in three days.2 Therefore, we can reasonably conclude that the expressions three days and three nights, after three days, and on the third day are all Hebraic idioms that mean “the third day.”
This brings us to the larger point regarding Torahism’s objection on this issue. What this argument is trying to prove or disprove is not clear to me. (And I have asked for clarity numerous times.) The “three days” problem is raised by Torahists while arguing that we should be celebrating Passover instead of Easter. But even if, for the sake of argument, we were to agree that Yeshua was crucified on Wednesday instead of Friday, it would have no bearing on whether or not Christians should celebrate His resurrection on Easter Sunday.
1 Joanna Gillan, The Ancient Pagan Origins of Easter, www.ancient-origins.net/myths-legends/ancient-pagan-origins-easter-001571.
2 Matthew 26:61, 27:40; Mark 8:31, 9:31, 10:34, 14:58, 15:29; Luke 9:22, 13:32, 18:33, 24:7, 24:21, 24:46; John 2:19-20; Acts 10:40; 1 Corinthians 15:4.