On what day of the week was Jesus crucified?

The Problem

Jn. 19:14 says that it was "the Preparation of the Passover" on the day that Jesus stood before Pilate.He was crucified that day. Does that mean the Passover was the following day? Why then did Jesus eat the Passover the previous evening?

But if the previous evening was the time for eating the Passover, why were the Jews yet to eat the Passover as they brought Jesus to the Praetorium the morning of the Preparation Day? It's in John 18:28 that we read, "They lead Jesus therefore from Caiaphas into the praetorium; and it was early; and they themselves entered not into the Praetorium, that they migh tnot be defiled, but might eat the passover."

The Key

The Key is the meaning of the phrase "Preparation of the Passover," and this will be dependent on the meaning of "Preparation" and the meaning of "Passover."


People read "Preparation of the Passover" and assume it means the day on which they prepared for the passover which would follow. Indeed, the New American Standard Version actually translated the phrase, "the day of Preparation for the Passover." But I don't believe that's the meaning of the phrase. Rather I take the phrase to mean "the Preparation Day which fell in the Passover/Unleavened bread week," or even, "Friday of Passover week." Here's why:

First, note that at least some of the time, "Passover" and "feast of unleavened bread" were used interchangeably. Luke tells us "the feast of unleavened bread...was called the Passover." (Luke 22:1)

Second, everywhere else in the NT where the "Preparation" day is mentioned, it refers to the day before the Sabbath. (Mt. 27:62, Mk. 15:42, Lk. 23:54, and even Jn. 19:31, 19:42) It was a day in which preparation was made for the Sabbath when no work could be done. I think back to the first observance of the Sabbath and the gathering of twice as much manna on the 6th day in preparation for the 7th day (Ex. 16).  The word translated "preparation" is also used in Josephus for the day before the Sabbath (Ant. 16:163). In Modern Greek, the word has come to mean simply "Friday". Hence the reason for suggesting the phrase in Jn. 19:14 is equivalent to "Friday of Passover week." And in fact, that's the rendering of the verse found in the Greek-Enlish Lexicon of the New Testament, both the 2nd edition known as Bauer, Arndt Gingrich Danker (BAGD p. 622) and also in the new 3rd edition, BDAG (p. 771) in the discussion of the Greek word PARASKEUH (translated "preparation"). In Jn. 19:14, the Preparation was not the day on which they prepared for the actual Passover feast, that being already past, but the day of preparation for the Sabbath which happened to fall within the passover week, or feast of unleavened bread week.

Now about Jn. 18:28 - I don't know exactly what to make of that. On the basis of Luke 22:7, I'm inclined to believe that Jesus ate the Passover at the time that he did in strict accordance with the Law. Was there some latitude that allowed the eating of the Passover to be carried over into the early morning, and is that what the Jews of Jn. 18:28 had in mind? Or is Jn. 18:28 just another example of what was so typical of some of the Jews? Were they being very scrupulous about avoiding defilement from the Gentiles while ignoring God's instructions about when to eat the Passover because they had another priority on their minds - getting Jesus put to death.


  1. In what different ways was the term "passover" used? Cite a passage of scripture to illustrate each meaning you give.
  2. What does Mark explain as the meaning of the phrase "Preparation"? (Mk. 15:42)
  3. What is the meaning of the phrase "Preparation of the Passover" in Jn. 19:14?
  4. If Jesus was crucified on the day of preparation for the Sabbath, what day of the week would that have been?

  5. Extra: For a discussion of the expression "3 days and 3 nights" used in Mt. 12:40 and how this can be reconciled with a Friday afternoon crucifixion and a Sunday morning resurrection see Lesson 20 in Part 3 of "Jesus in the OT."