Why the Saturday Resurrection Theory Is False, and Why It Matters.

Those who teach the Saturday resurrection usually believe in a Wednesday crucifixion (which they believe was the 14th day that year). They are not always clear on whether they believe the last supper was the Passover or not (my book makes it clear that it was not). The Saturday resurrection option is popular among those who understand that Jewish law would never have Jesus crucified on the holy 15th-day high Sabbath, but this Saturday option falls short of the scriptures because of the reasons listed below:

  1. No early historian even mentions a Saturday resurrection, because all of the sides in the early disputes agreed on the Sunday resurrection. Several early doctrinal disputes did arise between Roman Christians and Messianic Jewish believers, and the “Setting the Table 1” chapter of The Messianic Feast documents some of these disputes. The Messianic Fourteenthers (i.e., those early Jewish believers who were called this because they understood that Jesus was crucified on the 14th day) wrote of a Sunday resurrection, as did those called Church Fathers in Rome. Although early Jewish believers disputed the Roman concept of a 15th-day crucifixion and other Roman beliefs, both sides in these early doctrinal disputes wrote of and agreed on the Sunday resurrection.
  2. Paul called Jesus the “first fruits” because his resurrection on Sunday (the morrow of the Sabbath) fulfilled this offering (Leviticus 23:10–14; 1 Corinthians 15:20, 23). Early church writer Clement of Alexandria (a Fourteenther who understood that Jesus was crucified on the 14th day) wrote that the resurrection was on the morrow of the Sabbath (i.e., Sunday), when the priest was to offer up this sheaf of the first fruits. In the following quote, early “Fourteenther” Clement shows how Christ fulfilled this offering: “He certainly rose on the third day, which fell on the first day of the weeks of harvest, on which the law prescribed that the priest should offer up the sheaf” (click here for full quote in book, on p.381). Clement shows another way the Messiah’s words about being resurrected “on the third day” could apply, with a Thursday crucifixion and Friday being the 15th day high Sabbath and first day of the seven day Feast, then Sunday would have been “on the third day” of this seven day Festival. By forcing a Saturday Sabbath resurrection it would render Christ as our “day-early first-fruits” offering, by it not taking place on the “morrow of the Sabbath.”
  3. Those who teach this Saturday resurrection usually believe in a Wednesday crucifixion, but this would make Sunday the fourth day since Jesus was delivered up, condemned, and crucified instead of the third day since “these things” happened (Luke 24:1, 19–21; John 20:1). Jesus said he would be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights (Matthew 12:40). He did not mean to the exact second, but that he would be in the tomb for a portion of three different days and nights. The occurrence of the Last Supper on late Wednesday and the crucifixion on Thursday fit this perfectly. He was in the tomb for a portion of Thurs-day, Fri-day, and Satur-day, and for a portion of Friday nighttime, Saturday nighttime, and Sunday nighttime (Sunday nighttime started at sundown on Saturday). The Wednesday crucifixion with a Saturday resurrection would have Jesus in the tomb for a portion of four days—Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. This Saturday option does not fit the scriptures, and the Messiah said the scriptures cannot be broken (John 10:35). There is no Greek variant in these verses that would change this timing.
  4. Some say that the Saturday resurrection is the only way to fulfill the three days and three nights exactly by having the Messiah resurrected late Saturday afternoon, exactly 72 hours after he entered the “heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40). But the Jews did not have stopwatches or atomic clocks to mark exact times, so when Jesus said “three days and three nights,” he did not mean exactly 72 hours to the minute. In the Old Testament interpretation, even a portion of a day or night counted as the whole day (such as for ritual cleansings). Jesus said he would be in the “heart of the earth” for three days and three nights just as Jonah was in the whale, and no proof exists that Jonah fulfilled this timing to the exact minute.
  5. Jesus also said he would be killed and arise from the dead on the third day (Matthew 16:21 and Luke 24:7), meaning the third day after he was killed. The scriptures are clear that the Thursday scourging and crucifixion fulfills this, where Friday is the first day since, and Saturday is the second day since, and as the disciples are walking on Sunday it is the “third day since these things happened” (which is exactly what the scriptures prove in Luke 24:1, 19–21).
  6. The Saturday resurrection option rejects Mark 16:9, which states (in Greek) that Jesus arose early on the first day of the week—our Sunday. Also, if Jesus had arisen on Saturday, why would he have waited more than twelve hours (until the following day) to reveal himself? Some say that the scripture in Matthew 28:1, translated as “in the end of the Sabbath” by the King James Version, shows a Saturday resurrection. But the Greek actually says “after the Sabbaths,” with the plural “Sabbaths” probably referring to the 15-day Sabbath (Friday that year) and the Saturday Sabbath that followed it.
  7. Luke 24:1 and John 20:1 show Mary Magdalene and the others leaving very early in the morning (while it was still dark) with spices to anoint the body. If Jesus had been crucified on Wednesday, why would these women have risen and left home in the darkness of Sunday morning when they had all day Friday to complete this task? After all, if the 14th-day crucifixion was Wednesday and the 15th-day Sabbath was Thursday, then Friday would not have been a Sabbath—and that would have been the obvious time to anoint the body, rather than waiting until the fourth day when decay would have set in. By waiting until Sunday (Luke 24:1) to come and anoint the body they would have known that corruption would have set in, as was said of Lazarus on the fourth day, “by this time he stinketh, for he hath been dead four days.” (John 11:39). And the scripture says of the Messiah that he would not see corruption (Acts 2:25-27).
  8. Mark 16:1 specifies that the women “bought” the spices and were now coming to anoint the body. Therefore, they probably purchased the spices right after the crucifixion (as Thursday the 14th day was ending) and before the 15th-day high Sabbath set in, as Luke makes clear (23:55, 56). It would also have been legal to make this purchase anytime after sundown of the Saturday Sabbath.
  9. The proof for the Sunday resurrection is quite strong; it is the only possible way to fit the template challenge for this Jewish feast (see link here), whereby all of the scriptural time keys harmonize and make sense. While it is true that when Mary Magdalene and the others arrived early Sunday morning, Jesus had already arisen, it must be remembered that anytime after sundown on Saturday would then be Sunday.
  10. Any option that does not have Jesus eating the Passover at the last supper would still have to explain Matthew 26:17, Mark 14:12, and Luke 22:7, which on the surface appear to show it was the Passover. The “Three Major Greek Keys That Unlock the Gospels” chapter lists what I believe is the proper way to interpret these scriptures, using the accepted rules of Greek grammar.

Conclusion: To believe the Saturday resurrection, we therefore have to believe that the apostles and the early Messianic Jews did a horrible job of teaching and handing down the supposed truth of a Saturday resurrection, because both sides (the Messianic Jewish believers and the Roman Christians) fully agreed on the Sunday resurrection.

Why it even matters: There are many reasons why it matters whether Jesus (Yeshua) was raised from the dead on Saturday or Sunday. For one thing, the Messiah said to buy the truth and sell it not. Truth is always important; oftentimes it builds out bigger truths that can only happen correctly if the smaller foundational truths you build upon are in fact true. The Sunday resurrection fits with a Thursday crucifixion (where Sunday is the 3rd day since all “these things happened”—i.e., arrest, trial, and crucifixion—Luke 24:1, 18, 19, 21). This then opens the door to understanding that Jesus was crucified on the 14th day in which the lambs were offered up, which then proves that his final supper the night before could not possibly have been a Passover. This then opens one’s eyes to the fact that they were eating regular leavened bread at this meal (all of the Greek scriptures show this as Course 1 proves linked here). And finally, this proves that the unleavened-bread Communion ritual handed down by Rome was not what Jesus or the early Messianic Jews taught or believed, which then helps us to see what the Messiah really meant in his vitally important parables at the last supper. This is all explained in my book, The Messianic Feast: Moving Beyond the Ritual.

The One Leavened Bread and the True Communion

So what did the Lord mean in the Last Supper parable with the one leavened bread? In Course 1 of my book The Messianic Feast: Moving Beyond the Ritual, it was thoroughly proven that the Lord held, and then broke into pieces, one leavened bread at this meal. Since the Passover lamb would be sacrificed the following day, then leavened bread was perfectly legal as per God’s law this previous night. In fact, all of the scriptures use the Greek word for daily leavened bread to refer to what was shared at this supper. But what does this mean?

First and foremost, it means that the unleavened bread ritual passed down since Roman times was not what the Lord wanted or what the Jewish disciples taught. Instead, they knew the Messiah was teaching spiritual truth in parables as he so often did. To ascertain what the pieces of the one leavened bread that Jesus broke represent, one only needs to see what the original followers all taught—that WE are the members of the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:27, etc.). The bread and its pieces did not represent Christ’s human body as the Romans believed, but us, the members of his spiritual body.

This is what Paul understood and what he received from the Lord concerning what the Last Supper parables really meant:

NAS 1 Corinthians 11:23  For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread…

The Greek word for bread that Paul uses above (arton) is the one for daily leavened bread. It is also singular and therefore should read “a bread.” Below, Paul also refers to this one bread Jesus broke (and gave to the disciples at the Last Supper and told them to partake, and that it was his body). Now, we know that Roman theologians mistakenly believed this was the Passover (where unleavened bread was required by God) and that they also took the words of Jesus literally (and not as a parable), thus creating their unleavened bread Communion ritual. But this is not what the Jewish Paul understood concerning what he said he received from the Lord:

NAS 1 Corinthians 10:17  Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread.

This is the understanding of what Jesus really meant. This is the true spiritual communion that we are to share—partaking and sharing God’s love (and His word) with His spirit in the midst of the members of the spiritual body. This will be part of how Christ is formed in us according to the scriptures. This will fulfill the new commandment for the new covenant as given by Jesus at this Last Supper:

NAS John 13:34  A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.

This is a spiritual communion, not a ritual. The ritual was simply a man-made tradition that has voided the word of God by missing what Jesus meant, something Jesus actually warned against:

NAS Mark 7:9  He was also saying to them, “You nicely set aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition.

NAS Mark 7:13 thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that.”

The unleavened bread ritual as kept by almost all churches has confused what Jesus really meant in his parable, turning his spiritual teaching on sharing God’s word (the bread of life) and His love (the new wine of the spirit) into a ritualistic man-made tradition with unleavened bread (called “the bread of affliction,” Deuteronomy 16:3). These are a few of the many truths that are made clear in this book and that shed light on what the fulfillment will be of the long-time Jewish history of a coming Messianic banquet or feast.

Leavened bread at the Last Supper?

Course 1 in the book proves that Jesus ate regular leavened bread at the Last Supper, it being the evening before the Passover sacrifice.

A reader wrote in asking: “Having Jewish friends, they go to great lengths to get anything with leaven out of their houses many days before Passover. Would this make sense for Jesus to eat leavened bread on the evening before Passover?”

First of all, thank you for this excellent question. Although it is true that many orthodox Jews today work to clean out leaven many days before the Passover, when interpreting these scriptures we have to ascertain what the customs and idioms at the time of Jesus were. In most aspects the first-century Jews were much more stringent to keep God’s laws than Jewish people today. Peter would refuse to associate with those of another nation, and the Jews were going to kill Paul when they thought he had brought an uncircumcised Gentile into the Temple precincts.

However, it is very clear from the history in the Jewish Talmud (written a few hundred years after Jesus) that eating regular leavened bread, even on the morning of the day of the sacrifice (the 14th day) was perfectly legal. According to God’s law through the scriptures, all leaven in the land had to be destroyed before noon. The Talmud states:

GEMARA: We see thus, that at the commencement of the sixth hour, all agree, Chometz* must be burned.

[*that which is leavened]

They then go on to say that this is understood from the fact that leaven was not to be present in Israel when the blood of the Passover was shed (Exodus 34:25). And since the legal allowable time for the Passover sacrifice was between noon and sunset on the 14th day, then the leaven had to be destroyed before noon (noon was called the sixth hour, and the “commencement of the sixth hour” was 11:00 AM).

So the Messiah and the disciples eating regular leavened bread at the Last Supper (the evening before the Passover lamb sacrifice) would have been perfectly appropriate, for as the Talmud states concerning the 14th day “so that in the morning leavened bread may be eaten while in the afternoon it must not.”

(See p. 455 in the book for these Talmud quotes.)

The Messianic Feast

This book is the result of studies that began after I graduated from bible college back in 1983. I was then accepted into the theology masters program, where fellow students and I began the year debating various biblical controversies. The most important of these was the question of whether or not the Last Supper was really the Jewish Passover, as has been handed down since the time of Roman Emperor Constantine, or whether the Messiah was actually crucified on the 14th day as the true Passover. Many commentators have claimed that the scriptures contradict one another, with the Gospel of John showing the Messiah crucified on the 14th day (the day commanded by God to sacrifice the Passover), and with Matthew, Mark, and Luke seeming to clearly show Jesus eating the Passover at the Last Supper.

The vast majority of bible commentators have believed that the Last Supper was the Passover, and we essentially ended that debate sharing this same belief, but major problems remained unanswered. Troubled by this controversy and believing that the original Greek scriptures were indeed anointed by God, I felt there had to be an answer for the seeming contradictions. So I continued studying this off and on over the next 17 years until I found the answers in the original Greek text (the chapter “The Three Major Greek Keys that Unlock the Gospels” in my book covers this in depth). Much to my amazement, it turned out that the answers had been there all along hidden in the rules of the Greek grammar, and a better understanding of these eventually caused all the various scriptures to harmonize on this subject.

However, these discoveries turned out to be only the beginning, for they then opened the door to consider what the Messiah really meant in his Last Supper parables. When viewed from within the first-century Jewish idioms in which the Messiah spoke, it becomes clear that he was not teaching a Communion ritual with unleavened bread as most Churches have inherited. Instead, his parables connect back to early Israelite history, including the three annual festivals as given to Moses and the communal meals in the Temple.

This in turn shows forth what God has planned for all of His people today. By reconnecting the Messiah’s Last Supper parables to the long Jewish history of a coming Messianic banquet or feast, amazing new truths have become clear. What we see is that God is calling us to partake of a feast, a spiritual feast wherein we truly share in His love.