When Does a Biblical Day Begin?
By Tom Stapleton and Judy Stapleton
(If you prefer to print or read this article as a PDF file instead of reading it online, click here: When Does a Day Begin)
“Surely our fathers have inherited lies, Worthlessness and unprofitable things.” It seems as we study the Bible more closely we find that many things that we have been taught have been lies, as the text in Jeremiah 16:19 declares. But when some people come to the realization that much of what we have been taught is false, they seem to be ready to make a wholesale exchange on everything they have been taught. Because the waters have become so muddy, some are willing to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
This seems to be what is happening with the teaching of when a day begins. Why is this important? For a random weekday, it really doesn’t matter when the day starts. But it makes a huge difference when it comes to remembering and keeping God’s Sabbath days holy. God’s Sabbath is the cornerstone of His worship system (Exodus 31:13). We worship in vain when we keep our traditions ahead of God’s commands. Does it go any further? It is totally possible that the enemy of souls is doing what he’s always done – trying to receive some of God’s worship for himself. If he can deceive us as to the true start of the Sabbath day (called a moed in Leviticus 23), he will deceive us into worshipping only 50% of God’s appointed Sabbath hours, successfully usurping half of God’s throne. Isaiah 14:13: “For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation [H4150 moed/appointed times] On the farthest sides of the north.”
Could there be more to satan’s deception? With an evening-to-evening day start, God’s people are awake and alert to welcome in the Sabbath, and to close out the Sabbath, but with a morning day start, God’s people sleep through the start and end of the Sabbath. You’ve heard the phrase “guard the edges of Sabbath”, but what is there to guard if it opens and closes while you sleep? The whole concept should remind us of some virgins who were asleep and missed the bridegroom. Aside from death or illness, the state of being asleep is not a positive condition for God’s people. Do we really think that God designed His worship time to start and end while we sleep?
This article will address the many points of Scripture that prove that God’s words “from even unto even shall you celebrate your sabbath” apply to all of His sacred days, and that His days, sacred or working, all begin at sundown. It’s not complicated. It is not hidden from our sight. It is so simple that a little child can understand.
The points covered in this article are:
Points That Confirm Evening-to-Evening
- What Timing Does the Creation Story Teach?
- Day of Atonement
- Feast of Unleavened Bread
- What Did Yeshua Do?
- What Did Yeshua Say?
- Miscellaneous Supporting Texts
Counterpoints Often Made in Support of Morning-to-Morning
- Passover/death angel; “Between the Evenings”
- Day and Night/Night and Day
- Apparent supporting texts
- Only the Light Part of the Day is Holy
Point One: What Timing Does the Creation Story Teach?
Most dawn start studies begin with the question, “What was the first thing created?” They provide the answer: “Light”. This is a common understanding, but let’s see how well this holds up to the creation story.
Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
Genesis 1:2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
Genesis 1:3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
Genesis 1:4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
Genesis 1:5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
Relying solely on Scripture, let’s ask the question again, “What was the first thing created?” The answer is in verse one: the heaven and the earth. Does verse one say there was light when it was created? No. What came first, darkness or light? We have the answer in verse two, “…and darkness was on the face of the deep…” Then what came last? The answer is in verse three: light. We must not throw out the first two verses in Scripture. They show the progression of creation, which began in darkness and moved to light, not the other way around. There was creation, there was dark, there was light, and the evening (dark) and the morning (light) were the first day. We are told plainly that evening preceded morning in the order of the 24-hour period of time. The order is clearly given six times throughout the creation story: evening, then morning=day one; evening, then morning = day two; evening, then morning = day three, etc.
When one starts to build a house, you cannot start with the framing until your foundation is sure. When any theory is based on ignoring the first verse, omitting the second verse, and mischaracterizing the third verse, anything that follows is not on a firm foundation because we would be assembling data to substantiate a faulty premise. But those teaching the day beginning at dawn make statements such as, “On the ‘first day’ God creates ‘light’; that is followed by evening, then through to morning, which ‘completes the first day’.” (Quoted from www.discoveryupdate.com, accessed 1/27/2018.)
If the light was the first thing that was created, we would have to do away with verses one and two, because God’s word teaches that the light was not the first thing that was created. The dawn theory, paired with Genesis 1:2, asks us to assume that the first day had two dark periods: the verse two dark period (which they omit), then the light, then apparently another dark period that lasted through to morning.
Let’s do some math. The Scripture says that we had creation in darkness (night) + light (morning) = evening and morning = one day that began in darkness (which equates to evening). But the study quoted above says that light (morning) + evening (night) + through to the next morning = one day. However, this is not what the Scriptures teach. The first day starts in darkness, so they are technically teaching that the first day had two dark periods (nights): one at the start which they omit, and another after light was created. This math just simply does not add up.
Did God Create Only During the Light?
Another argument put forth by those promoting the idea that day begins at dawn is that the order of each day was that God created only while it was light, and that He ceased from His work of creating from evening until morning, making a 24-hour period that started and ended in the morning. This reverses the order of the creation given in the Biblical creation account. Again, the creation began with the heavens and the earth, being in total darkness, so clearly the work of creation began in darkness. To say that God only creates in the light is purely a construct. It cannot be substantiated through the word and in fact it is contrary to the word. Both acts of creation on day one (heavens and earth; light) were done in darkness. There are many verses in Scripture that speak of God dwelling in darkness:
Exodus 20:21 And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was.
2 Samuel 22:12 And he made darkness pavilions round about him, dark waters, and thick clouds of the skies.
To say that God does not create in darkness is limiting the Almighty. It is in human terms that we say that the creating has to be done in the daytime when it is light. When humans want to create something, we have to turn the lights on, but God began His creating in the dark. He created the heavens and earth, then He said, “Let there be light.”
In The Beginning
The beginning darkness is omitted from their calculation on what makes a day. They put forth the idea that “In the beginning” is an unknown period of time that precedes the first day and therefore they disregard its relevance to the creation story. We have to be careful when we put a timeframe between verse one and verse three that goes outside of a 24-hour period for two reasons: 1) there is simply no indication that there is a gap between the verses, 2) by adding a period of time where Scripture mentions none, we are adding to Scripture, which we are repeatedly warned not to do. When we speculate that there is a gap, why are we doing this? Is it so that our theology works? Scripture does not specify the timing between verse one and three, therefore, we need to be careful not to inject one into it.
Some people believe that God may have created the heavens and the earth millions, or even billions, of years ago which definitely is a possibility, but we really have no way of proving this. If this indeed happened, it does not change anything as to the order of the day or the order of the creation week. If the heavens and the earth were created eons ago, that would mean that this earth sat as a rock in space lifeless for those eons. This is really not a problem with what the Bible is teaching. All that we are told is that “in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth”. What we have in the creation story is a semi-detailed account of the decoration of this planet. What we know for sure is before God said, “Let there be light”, the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. Question: How long was God’s Spirit hovering over the waters? Two minutes? Five minutes? One hour? Four hours? Twelve hours? Evening to morning, maybe? You see, when we start to speculate as to timing we can arrive wherever we want. All we know for sure is that God was hovering over the waters in the dark when He started decorating this planet. So the question needs to be asked: when did He start working on this planet? We know for sure in the creation account that God began His creation in darkness. That is clear.
Point Two: Day of Atonement
In the clearest words possible, Yehovah defines the holiest day of His calendar:
Leviticus 23:27 Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD.
Leviticus 23:32 It shall be unto you a sabbath of rest, and ye shall afflict your souls: in the ninth day of the month at even, from even unto even, shall ye celebrate your sabbath.
Those who believe the day begins at dawn treat this explicit text as though it is an anomaly, something that deviates from what is standard, normal, or expected. It would only seem to be an anomaly if one believes the day starts in the morning. However, this text is not an anomaly, and there is no evidence whatsoever that it differs in timing from any other day. Nor is this timing a stand-alone text. God gives us a second witness with two other moedim (appointed times), and the five days between them, in Exodus 12:18 (the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which we will cover in detail in Point Three).
The passage in Leviticus 23:27-32 confirms specific starting and ending times for what is expressly identified as 1) a single day, 2) the tenth day, and 3) a 24-hour period – from even on the 9th until even on the 10th. Some go so far as to suggest that the “day” of Atonement actually spans two calendar days: the last 12 hours of the 9th and the first 12 hours of the 10th. Is God the author of confusion, so that He would have a “holy day” that is actually two halves of two days? The Bible does not say “for half of the ninth day and half of the tenth day shall be the time of atonement”.
God made it abundantly clear when the tenth day of the month started and ended, as this was by far the most important day on His calendar. In verse 27 it says, “On the tenth day of the seventh month shall be the day of atonement. It shall be a holy convocation unto you. You shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to the LORD.” So that we understand exactly when the tenth day is, God, in verse 32, defines it. The evening of the ninth is the beginning of the tenth day. Therefore God declares that the beginning of the tenth day is in the evening, and the close of the tenth day is in the evening. By these terms that are used, God plainly defines the beginning and end of the 24-hour period of the Day of Atonement, from even until even. This is exactly the same way the he defines the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
If there was a text that said, “from morning to morning you shall celebrate your Sabbath”, it would be repeatedly used as an irrefutable proof text that the day begins at dawn. But because the only texts that define the start and end of three moedim, and several days between two of them, declare even until even, they are brushed aside as an anomaly, an exception to the rule.
Exception to the Rule?
A common question put forth by dawn adherents is this: “If this is the way we are to observe all Sabbaths, why not say so in Leviticus 23:3, the weekly Sabbath instruction? And if it is because they already knew all Sabbaths were kept ‘evening to evening’, why was there a need to mention it at all for Day of Atonement and Feast of Unleavened Bread?”
What is really happening here is an assumption that the Day of Atonement and the seven days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread are exceptions to the rule for the timing of the other holy day periods. But if this is the case, where exactly is this rule found? Where are two or more days in Scripture (moedim or not) specifically, word-for-word, identified as dawn-to-dawn? To have an exception to a rule, you must first have a rule. If there is no rule, then how can these specifically defined word-for-word eight days be exceptions to that rule? Therefore, we can come to no other conclusion than that the so-called exception to the rule is actually the rule itself.
However, to answer the exception to the rule question, we can try to get into the mind of God to discern an answer, but any answer that we give is speculation. Here are numerous possibilities, all of which would be far more reasonable than ordering festivals on a different schedule than the calendar days they span:
- Perhaps He did this because Day of Atonement is THE most holy day of His calendar, and having the precise time exact on it was paramount in why He made sure it was crystal clear when it began.
- Perhaps by His use of 7676 Shabbat twice in this verse, He was intending to point to all Sabbaths, as it is the same Hebrew word for the weekly Sabbath.
- Perhaps He knew it would be utter confusion to have one weeklong feast made up of days that began morning-to-morning, but were celebrated on the half-day breaks of evening-to-evening. In other words, wouldn’t God see confusion in making the entire weeklong feast of Unleavened Bread counted from even-to-even, while being made up of days that are reckoned from morning-to-morning?
- Perhaps He wanted consistency. If God’s holy days had different ways to reckon beginning and end, it would get extremely confusing, and some might forget which was which. Is it reasonable to conclude that the spring festival of Unleavened Bread is even-to-even, and the summer festival of Shavuot is from morning-to-morning, then Trumpets is morning-to-morning, Day of Atonement is even-to-even, and Feast of Tabernacles is morning-to-morning? And, what about the weekly Sabbath during the Feast of Unleavened Bread? Would it be a morning-to-morning Sabbath in the midst of even-to-even days? And what would you do when the weekly Sabbath fell on the first or last day of Unleavened Bread? Now you’d have morning-to-morning moedim falling on the same day as an even-to-even moedim. God is not the author of confusion, and you have to admit that what we just laid out here is as confusing as you could possibly get.
- Perhaps it was because they had already been observing the weekly Sabbath with the manna for some time before Pentecost at Mt. Sinai when the Ten Commandments, including the Sabbath commandment, were given, so it didn’t need to be spelled out to them. Their experience became the rule. Just because the words never got recorded in other Scripture doesn’t mean that there was never a discussion or understanding about it between Yehovah and Moses. Moses did not record every single word that occurred during his multiple trips to the mountain. There are many things in Scripture that God’s people kept, even from the creation, that are clearly not recorded, such as God’s discussions with Adam. Don’t you think Adam kept Sabbath? The text never said he did. How could he if the understanding didn’t arrive until Exodus 20 or Leviticus 23? How did Abel know to give a blood sacrifice? How did Noah know about unclean animals? Just because these things were not previously recorded does not mean that God had not taught His children His ways.
- Perhaps it doesn’t matter, and this question is a distraction. The important thing to note is that He gave us this specific timing twice, covering three moedim and five regular days (Leviticus 23:32; Exodus 12:18). And by the mouth of two or three witnesses, a thing is established. How much more so when the witnesses are both God Himself?
Now let’s turn the exception question around: If indeed Day of Atonement and Feast of Unleavened Bread are celebrated on different half-day increments than every other day, why did God make the timing of two of His moedim exceptions to the rule for his other moedim? What possible reason would God have had for causing such confusion? Why would He make two feasts as exceptions to the rule? Wouldn’t this be “variableness”, which is not in Him?
One of the reasons that is cited for claiming that the Day of Atonement is an exception to the rule is that this day is so holy that God starts our work of repentance on the ninth day so that when we arrive on the tenth day in the morning we are ready for it. This may sound reasonable at first, but when we carry on this reasoning process, it falls short. If in fact it is the holiest day of the year, and your acceptance by God is dependent on your actions during this day, why does God cut the last 12 hours out of the tenth day? Surely He would give you the full 24-hour period of the Day of Atonement before closing the door of mercy.
Point Three: Feast of Unleavened Bread
Exodus 12:18-19: In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread, until the twenty-first day of the month at evening. For seven days no leaven shall be found in your houses, since whoever eats what is leavened, that same person shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is a stranger or a native of the land.
Leviticus 23:6 And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the LORD: seven days ye must eat unleavened bread.
These passages are now the second time that Yehovah specified the timing of His moedim as beginning and ending at evening. This passage is even more persuasive, in that it spans seven days, two of which are moedim, and five of which are normal working days. By necessity, one day within those seven will also be a weekly Sabbath.
This feast is clearly identified as seven days, not eight. But by the dawn count, it covers part or all of eight calendar days: twelve hours on the 14th, all of 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, and twelve hours on the 21st. That spans eight days, but the text clearly says seven. By the dawn reckoning, people would also have to start the week of Unleavened Bread twelve hours earlier than the command in Leviticus 23:6. With a dawn-to-dawn day, Exodus 12:18-19 (evening of the 14th) becomes in clear conflict with Leviticus 23:6 (the 15th), but with an evening to evening day, they are in full harmony.
Another sign that the day ended at sundown, related to the feast of Unleavened Bread, was that on the night before the morning wavesheaf offering for the day of Firstfruits, the priests went out just after sundown, and gathered their barley sheaves to begin the preparation to offer them the next morning. They would not have harvested on the Sabbath, so this is additional evidence that the Sabbath ended at sundown.
Point Four: What Did Yeshua Do?
At the time of Yeshua, without dispute, the Jews were keeping an evening-to-evening schedule. Those who believe that creation proves a dawn-to-dawn cycle explain this by saying that during the Babylonian captivity, the Jews switched to the Babylonian even-to-even cycle. However, with Yeshua declaring Himself to be Lord of even the Sabbath, surely He would have kept the correct Sabbath Himself. We can therefore look to His conversations with the Pharisees on when or how to keep the Sabbath, to see if they were in conflict.
He most certainly would have said something somewhere to correct the Jewish error or false doctrine, if He indeed was keeping Sabbath from dawn-to-dawn and they were keeping it from evening-to-evening. It would have been almost criminal for Him not to have said something. Otherwise, we would have to believe that the Torah-in-the-Flesh failed to correct the people He came to save, even as they were routinely trampling on 50% of His sacred Sabbath hours. Because there is an absence of a correction on when the Sabbath began and ended, it is safe to assume He found no need of a correction on this point.
Remember that Yeshua did address Sabbath issues with them – such as whether or not it was allowed to pull a sheep or ox out of a pit on Sabbath (Matthew 12:11-12, Luke 14:5), or lead their ox to water (Luke 13:15). It seems that when the Sabbath should be kept would be a point that would supersede how the Sabbath should be kept. Would He address an infrequent emergency such as an animal falling in a pit, but omit an error that dishonored 50% of the Sabbath day every week and every annual holy day?
Inversely, if Yeshua had been breaking 12 hours of the Sabbath according to the Pharisee traditions, they would have been all over Him or His disciples, as they did approach the disciples on other issues, such as washing of hands. But there is not even a hint of conflict over the timing of the Sabbath seen in any of the gospels, including the fabricated accusations against Him at His trial.
Yeshua was, in fact, repeatedly accused of Sabbath-breaking, but interestingly enough, not one of those accusations contained any reference to the hours that He was keeping. The Pharisees were all about the details of how to keep the Sabbath. Surely the time during which you were to keep the Sabbath would have been far more important to them than how to keep the Sabbath. If Yeshua was keeping morning-to-morning and the Pharisees evening-to-evening, the discussion would not have been only about whether it was lawful for Him to heal on the Sabbath, but also it would have been that He had been breaking 50% of the Sabbath every week.
Considering that Yeshua taught them on matters related to the Sabbath, and they challenged Him on matters related to the Sabbath, and neither one of them raised the timing of the Sabbath in their accusations, the only reasonable conclusion is that Yeshua was keeping the same Sabbath timing as the Pharisees, i.e. evening to evening. There is only one true Sabbath timing. If the Sabbath was being kept more times than one, some were technically not keeping the Sabbath, and the issue would have been front and center. Yeshua would have corrected them, and the Pharisees would have been fighting Him weekly over it, accusing Him of being a false prophet coming to change the customs that Moses came to deliver. But there was no such discussion or disagreement between them recorded on the timing of the Sabbath, which is evidence that there was no such disagreement.
The question about timing would not have had to come only from the Pharisees. Surely if the Messiah was doing one thing and the church leaders doing another, someone would have asked Yeshua about it, whether it be the rich young ruler or Nicodemus or even the woman at the well. When she questioned Yeshua about a different understanding of worship, it wasn’t about when, but about where: “this mountain” (Gerizim) or Jerusalem. Don’t you think “when” would have been an important question for someone to ask?
The fact is that the Scriptures do teach us the “who, what, when, where, how, and why” of Sabbath keeping.
- Who: Yeshua, the Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:8) and Creator of the Sabbath (John 1:3)
- What: To heal or not? To lead our livestock to water? To pull an ox from the pit? (Matthew 12:11, Luke 13:15-16, Luke 14:5, etc)
- When: Because there was no “when” question asked by anyone, this is powerful evidence that there was no dispute between them. Furthermore, because Yeshua said that “we”, “the Jews” do worship in truth, he confirmed there was no “when” dispute between them. (John 4:22-23)
- Where: Mt. Gerizim? Jerusalem? (John 4:19-24)
- How: “In spirit and in truth” (John 4:24)
- Why: As a sign between Yehovah and the children of Israel forever (Exodus 31:12-18)
The only other possibilities why there was no discussion on Sabbath timing would have been if Yeshua, the Lord of the Sabbath, did not think the timing of the Sabbath mattered, or that He did not correctly understand the timing and He was just simply keeping the same timing of the Pharisees. Those who believe that the creation and pre-Babylonian captivity proves a dawn-to-dawn Sabbath, would have to believe that Yeshua did not think it was important enough to correct the Pharisees on such a foundational topic, or evidently He did not understand the proper timing. If the possibility exists that Yeshua did not believe the timing of the Sabbath was important, then those promoting that we must change our timing from evening-to-evening to morning-to-morning are going beyond what Yeshua did Himself.
We simply cannot conclude that Yeshua, the Lord of the Sabbath, did not consider it important or did not correctly understand when it was. Just because there are no recorded words of Yeshua’s that define the Sabbath as evening-to-evening, the fact that He was living it and doing it with them made it unnecessary and redundant for Him to teach on it.
Point Five: What Did Yeshua Say?
Never at any time was Yeshua recorded as having spoken any words that specified the beginning of the Sabbath or any other day. The closest words we have from the mouth of Yeshua that demonstrate that He believed the day began in the darkness are found in the story of Peter’s denial of Yeshua. The story, found in all four gospels, has all of the keywords to help us determine when a day begins. The story is found in Matthew 26:58, 69-75; Mark 14:30, 66-72; Luke 22:34, 54-62; and John 18:15-18, 25-27.
Look at the words that Yeshua tells Peter in Mark 14:30:
(KJV) Mark 14:30 And Jesus saith unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice.
(NKJV) Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you that today, even this night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.”
(YLT) And Jesus said to him, ‘Verily I say to thee, that to-day, this night, before a cock shall crow twice, thrice thou shalt deny me.’
The prophecy was made at night, and Yeshua said it would still be “this day” (“today”) when the rooster crowed. He did not say it would be “tomorrow morning.” When does a rooster begin to crow? It would not have crowed twice before sunrise had occurred. This point is emphasized when you notice the time gap between crows, as shown in Matthew 26:73 (“after a while”), Mark 14:70 (“a little after”), Luke 22:58 (“after a little while”).
Both “this night” and the next morning after it was light enough to stir the roosters to crow twice with a “little while” between crows, were called “today” (one single day) by Yeshua. (We are aware that some believe that the rooster crowing was actually the temple crier sounding announcements to the priests to begin to prepare for sacrifices to begin. If this is the case, it is even more persuasive that the evening belonged to the next morning, because such announcements would not have begun before sunrise given that the morning sacrifice did not begin until 9:00 a.m.). Either way, Yeshua’s very words indicate that He understood that the night and the following morning belong to the same day, a 24-hour day that begins at night. We do not attempt to make the claim that Yeshua was giving us a calendar lesson. It is simply a sequence of events that just happen to reveal that Yeshua (the Creator – John 1:3) considered evening to be the start of the day.
Point Six: Crucifixion
The removal of Yeshua’s body from the cross provides powerful evidence that His followers were keeping an even-to-even Sabbath.
Torah contained a provision that anyone put to death by being hung on a tree was not to be left hanging at night.
Deuteronomy 21:22-23 And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be to be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree: His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God;) that thy land be not defiled, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.
We see this rule carried out by Joshua with the king of Ai in Joshua 8:29. This rule was still being followed at the time of Yeshua:
John 19:31 The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.
There would have been no rush to break the legs of the thieves and remove them from the cross “on the Sabbath day” if it was still nearly 15 hours until the Sabbath day began. Remember that the command in the Old Testament is only about remaining on the cross overnight, with no specific mention of remaining on the cross during Sabbath. But John 19:31 shows that the concern was the bodies not remaining “upon the cross on the Sabbath day”. The implication is clear – the Sabbath was beginning at sunset.
Luke 23:52 (KJV) This man went unto Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus.
Luke 23:54 (KJV) And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on.
Compare: Luke 23:54 (RSV) It was the day of Preparation, and the sabbath was beginning.
Remember, this account by Luke was 30 or more years after the fact. Why would Luke have stated that “the sabbath drew on” or “was beginning” with an event we know happened at even, if indeed Yeshua had kept and taught a Sabbath that was not beginning for another 12 or more hours? The very wording that the “day of Preparation” was ending when the Sabbath was beginning, as the body was being removed just prior to even while it was still light, all prove the day ended at even. The removal of the body from the cross makes it quite evident that not only were the Pharisees keeping Sabbath at evening, but Yeshua’s followers were as well.
Point Seven: Resurrection
Adherents of a dawn-to-dawn day often claim that Matthew, Mark, and Luke’s account of the morning after the resurrection prove conclusively that the day begins at dawn. They admit that on the surface John’s version appears to contradict the others, and they give two possible reasons, both of which we will cover in this section. Before we look at John individually, let’s look at all four texts in detail. We will show that not only is there no contradiction between any of the gospels, there is also no evidence in any of the four gospels that the followers of Yeshua believed or observed a day that began at dawn.
Here are these four verses from the interlinear (see the end of this article for a link to a free interactive interlinear Scripture analyzer that you can download for your Scripture studies):
(CLV) Mt 28:1 Now it is the evening of the sabbaths. At the lighting up into one of the sabbaths came Mary •Magdalene and the other Mary to behold the sepulcher.
(CLV) Mk 16:1 And, for the elapsing~ of the sabbath, •Mary •Magdalene and Mary the mother of •James, and Salome, buy spices, that, coming, they should be rubbing Him. (CLV) Mk 16:2 And, very early in the morning on •one of the sabbaths, they are coming~ onto the tomb at the -rising of the sun
(CLV) Lk 24:1 Now in the early depths of •one of the sabbaths, they, and certain others together with them, came onto the tomb, bringing the spices which they make ready.
CLV) Jn 20:1 Now, on •one of the sabbaths, Miriam •Magdalene is coming~ to the tomb in the morning, there being still darkness, and is observing the stone °taken~ away from the door o of the tomb.
First we need to address the Greek phrase “one of the Sabbaths” as rendered in a direct translation. Is this a reference to the weekly Sabbath, an annual Sabbath, or is there a valid explanation for why the KJV and other English translations render this phrase as “the first day of the week”? This point is disputed in some circles. There are Bible theologians that believe this phrase is referring to the Sabbath, as in “one of the Sabbaths” in the count of seven Sabbaths leading to Pentecost. This is a Greek idiom that needs to be treated as a whole, and not as a series of individual words. Evidence suggests that the correct translation is indeed “first day of the week” as most English translations state. For an in-depth Greek grammatical explanation of why the phase “one of the Sabbaths” is properly translated “first day of the week”, see this page: http://yahshua-ha-mashiach.weebly.com/what-does-the-word-sabbaton-in-greek-really-mean.html. A brief quote from the page is as follows:
They assume from the order of the English words that the Greek says, “on one of the sabbaths.” But as shown above, the Greek grammar and syntax clarifies the meaning. The proper translation is “on [day] one after the sabbath,” or as we would say today, “on the first day (or day portion) of the week.”
So, as fine a tool as the Interlinear is for matching a single Greek word to a single English equivalent, some knowledge of Greek grammar is still required, especially when it involves translating the particular idiom in Acts 20:7 and similar texts:—“day one after the sabbath.”
After looking at the interlinear, here is what we see:
- In Matthew, it is clear we are not given a moment-by-moment delineation of all events, much less a calendar tutorial. This, along with the prior verse, goes from Pilate sealing the tomb, which would have happened on Passover, to the evening of the seventh-day Sabbath, to the light part of the first day of the week, all within a matter of a few words. Conclusion for Matthew: This lack of specificity makes this inconclusive as to the timing of the turning of a calendar page.
- In Mark, we have to acknowledge that this was not given to us to serve as a calendar tutorial, so trying to make it into one is bound to causes challenges. We analyzed it from two perspectives: a Wednesday and a Friday crucifixion. Mark specifies the elapsing of Sabbath, the Sabbath being past.
For those who understand a Wednesday crucifixion: Pilate would have sealed the tomb Wednesday night. This would have been the evening of the Passover meal, which was the beginning of Unleavened Bread (Ex 12:18). During the daylight hours of Thursday, they would have rested until evening since it was the first day of Unleavened Bread. They could have bought the spices Thursday night, if stores re-opened, or on Friday morning. They would have had all day Friday for any preparation necessary, as well as go to the tomb to anoint the body. If that is the case, the Sabbath mentioned in Mark 16:1 is Thursday, with no additional timing given until Sunday morning, intended only to tell us that they came to the tomb in the morning. As such, we have no indicators in this verse of when the weekly Sabbath transition to the first day occurred. Conclusion for Mark (Wednesday): inconclusive
For those who understand a Friday crucifixion: Notice that after the Sabbath was over, there was a purchase made before morning (just after sundown, perhaps?). Then, early in the morning on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb at the rising of the sun (clearly before we would expect funeral spice vendors to be open for business). Since the Sabbath was over before the spices were purchased, this proves even-to-even. If the Sabbath ended in the morning, i.e., at the rising of the sun, that would mean that they would have had to purchase the spices while it was yet Sabbath, a likely impossibility in their culture for two reasons: 1) no stores would be selling, and 2) they would not have broken the Sabbath to make a purchase, as Luke 23:56 stated they rested the Sabbath according to the commandment. If the Sabbath ended at the rising of the sun, how could they have purchased spices and arrived at the tomb simultaneously with spices in hand? There simply would not have been time. Conclusion for Mark (Friday): evening to evening
- Luke speaks of the “early depths” of the first day of the week – what does deep mean? This word appears only three times in the New Testament: 1) here, 2) John 4 at the woman at the well story (deep well), and 3) Acts 20 with Eutychus’ deep sleep. One could logically guess that the “depths” of a day would refer to the dark part, as in “the darkness was upon the face of the deep” (Genesis 1:2). Conclusion: Although this text could well be pointing to an evening start for the day, it could also be seen as inconclusive.
- John speaks of “early, when it was yet dark”. This wording leaves no doubt, either in the English translations or the interlinear. It is indeed the first day of the week, while still dark. Conclusion: even to even.
For the simple reason that these texts are not lessons in the calendar, most are inconclusive. Of the four accounts, two (Matthew, Luke) are somewhat inconclusive on when the calendar page turned, although one (Luke) strongly leans toward even; one (Mark) is inconclusive, or conclusive for evening, depending on when you believe the crucifixion occurred; and John is conclusive for evening, both as translated and as written in the interlinear.
There are two theories put forth by dawn-to-dawn adherents as to why John appears to disagree when he states quite clearly that it was the first day of the week and yet dark (G4653): 1) Some claim that the translation of John’s account should have included the word “not”, as in “not yet dark”. 2) Some claim that “dark” should have been translated “dim”, and that John was saying that the sun was already dawning. We will now look at both of those theories in detail.
Could John 20:1 Actually Be “Not Yet Dark”?
The Discovery Update article referenced previously completely disagrees with our conclusions in all four gospels. It claims that Matthew, Mark, and Luke are conclusive for dawn, and that John was simply mistranslated. The following indented comments are a direct quote from their study:
The fact that 1 out of 4 appears to disagree, means the translation of “yet” dark may need to be examined, (because we know the Bible doesn’t contradict itself). The Greek word translated as ‘yet’ = “eti” G2089, can also mean “no longer”. Notice other use of the same word;
(Luk 16:2) …give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward. G3621 G3756 G2089
(Luk 20:36) Neither can they die any more: G2089 for they are equal unto the angels;
(Heb 10:17) And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. G3364 G2089
So using the meaning of G2089, as seen in the previous examples, the verse in John could well be saying “when it was ‘no more’ dark” or ‘no longer’ dark”. This would also eliminate the apparent contradiction between the 4 gospel accounts.
When you consider the specific timing addressed by each gospel writer, there is no contradiction, apparent or otherwise, between their stories. They just focus on slightly different timing. We do not need to reinterpret what John says, to make it say something that it does not in that it was “no more” or “no longer” dark, or that it was “dim”. We can take it just as it reads, and if we do, it is in perfect harmony with the other three gospels. Matthew, Mark, and Luke begin when the women arrived at the tomb at sunrise. John begins a few hours earlier, by speaking about the time when the women were coming (walking from Bethany) to the tomb, while it was yet dark, and he identifies that it was the first day of the week. This proves that John believed and spoke with the understanding that the first day had begun in darkness, not after morning light. The women left before daybreak, travelling during the night of the first day of the week to arrive by dawn on the first day of the week. The other three gospels are speaking about the time when they arrived, at the break of dawn. None of the four mention when the calendar page turned, but they all mention the first day of the week, and putting the four together, it is obvious that the dark part preceded the light on the first day of the week. In unison, they prove that Yeshua’s followers were observing even-to-even without any contradiction.
However, let’s investigate the claim that G2089 could have been rendered “no more” or “no longer” dark to see how well this point holds up to scrutiny.
The Discovery Update study makes an error with all three of its “proof” examples: They apparently overlook that in each instance G2089 means “yet” or “more”, exactly the same meaning it has elsewhere, and that it is a second Greek word in each sentence that serves to turn the meaning into a negative. No such negative exists in John’s account. The article is essentially claiming that the Greek word being paired with a negative in three unrelated verses somehow should have implied a negative where none exists in this verse.
- In Luke 16:2, their assertion that G2089 means “no longer” is incorrect. G2089 only means “longer”. There is a second Greek word G3756, which means “no”, which they list in their explanation. The word “no”, G3756, negates “longer”, so the two words together mean “no longer”, but G2089 by itself does not mean “no longer”.
- In Luke 20:36, the “neither” (G3777) at the start of the sentence is what negates the word G2089. The study author did not include the Strong’s word for “neither”, but it is clearly in the text.
- In Hebrews 10:17 there is also a second Greek word for “not” (G3364, which again they also list above but then fail to translate). Again, G2089 means “more”, instead of the “not more” this study mistakenly claims.
All three of their proof texts to suggest that “it was yet dark” in John 20:1 should actually have been translated “it was not yet dark” rely on errors and omissions. Their error is that they are adding to the text of John a negative word that clearly is not there. Here is an example by the same author, John, which demonstrates why we cannot apply this interpretation technique where G2089 is used:
Revelation 22:11 He that is unjust,G91 let him be unjustG91 still:G2089 andG2532 he which is filthy,G4510 let him be filthyG4510 still:G2089 andG2532 he that is righteous,G1342 let him be righteousG1344 still:G2089 andG2532 he that is holy,G40 let him be holyG37 still.G2089
It is easy to see that adding the word “not” completely changes the meaning. No one would reasonably assert that the final Day of Atonement prior to the end of this world makes the unjust “no longer” unjust, the filthy “no longer” filthy, the righteous “no longer” righteous, and the holy “no longer” holy.
Here is another example from John, this time when he knows to add a negative, such as “no” G3756 and “neither” G3777 when he wants to negate the meaning of G2089:
Revelation 21:4 AndG2532 GodG2316 shall wipe awayG1813 allG3956 tearsG1144 fromG575 theirG848 eyes;G3788 andG2532 there shall beG2071 noG3756 moreG2089 death,G2288 neitherG3777 sorrow,G3997 norG3777 crying,G2906 neitherG3777 shall there beG2071 (G3756) any moreG2089 pain:G4192 forG3754 theG3588 former thingsG4413 are passed away.G565
John 20:1 was translated correctly: It was the first day of the week, while it was yet dark, proving the day began at darkness, not light.
Does “Dark” Really Mean “Dim”?
Strong’s Concordance lists “dimness” as a potential meaning of the word G4653 translated as “dark” in John 20:1, although it is never translated as such in the King James Version. The words “dim” or “dimness” never appear anywhere in the entire New Testament in the King James Version of Scripture, whether from this word or from any other. Is it possible that John meant “while it was yet dim”, with the intent of conveying the idea that it was already beginning to dawn? To determine the answer, we need to consider three points:
- G4653 “darkness/dark” appears sixteen times in the New Testament, with John using it fourteen of those sixteen times. In none of those sixteen uses does it carry any implication of the onset of sunrise. In nine of John’s fourteen uses, the word light also appears, with the two being directly used as total opposites. Below are three examples of John contrasting darkness and light. He does this four other times, see also John 12:46; 1 John 1:5, 2:8, 2:9.
John 1:5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
John 8:12 Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.
John 12:35 Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth.
John obviously considers light and darkness (G4653) as complete opposites.
In texts where John speaks of darkness without contrasting it to light, such as the verse below, try reading “dimness, beginning to be light” in place of darkness in all three uses of the word. This simply cannot be done with the verse still making any sense.
1 John 2:11 But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.
- Even if “dark” did mean “dim”, (although G4653 is never translated into English as “dim” in any of its 16 uses), remember that John 20:1 would have taken place during the full moon, during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, so if it was a clear night it might be fair to call the nighttime dim, not pitch black dark, due to the bright moonlight. But even in this sense, dim would still be referring to the dark hours of night. This is a possibility, but not likely considering John never used the word to mean dim.
- If you could translate G4653 as dim, and if John had meant his words to indicate that the day had begun to dawn, he still would not have phrased this verse in this way. He would not have said “yet [still] dim”, because “yet” would indicate it had been dim (beginning to dawn) for an extended period of time. If the word meant “dim” for the onset of sunrise, it would be “dim” for only a short period of time before becoming bright. If what John truly meant to say was that it was beginning to dawn, he should have used the same language as the other gospel writers. He should have said “while it was beginning to get light” or “at the rising of the sun” if that is what he meant. But because his timing started a few hours earlier, with their journey from Bethany to the tomb, it was yet dark on the first day of the week, and he stated just that.
John said “the first day of the week…when it was yet dark”, and there is no evidence to suggest that he meant anything other than exactly what he says. Despite the word “dimness” appearing as a possible meaning in Strong’s, there is simply no reasonable basis for trying to reinterpret “dark” to mean “dim” in this text. This is just one of many possible examples to show that it can be misleading when we rely on concordance definitions for an individual word. Context, and how the word is used by both the same author as well as other authors of the Bible, must be considered. While tempting at times, we must not make the concordance into a tool to make the Bible say what we want it to say. Instead, it is imperative to look at all of the evidence when a translation is subject to doubt. John, the disciple that Yeshua loved, along with the rest of the gospel writers, believed that the first day of the week (as every other day) begins and ends at evening.
Point Eight: Even-to-Even Supporting Texts
Are there other passages of Scripture that help us define evening/sunset as when a day starts? While we need to remember that there are only two passages that expressly define a day straight from God Himself (Leviticus 23:32 and Exodus 12:18, both of which directly command an “even to even” day), there are other texts, while not specifically meant as calendar lessons, that nonetheless give us evidence of when the day begins and ends. Here are a few such texts:
Unclean Until Evening
There are 30 texts that declare being unclean until even. While this suggests that evening starts a new day, could it be that God was trying to teach us something bigger than this? Could this have been a lesson in salvation regarding the typology of the sanctuary service? A cleansing symbolizes a new start. So, the question should be asked, why unclean until even, if that did not start a new day? Even after washing, the person was still unclean until sundown. Therefore, it wasn’t the washing that made them clean, it was the onset of even that did. You don’t have a new start until the old has passed away. It is very logical that declaring within the text that the day ended at evening is not necessary if one understood that it did. The point of these texts was much larger than a calendar study, yet they certainly hint at one. It should be noted that this is pre-Babylonian timing, before the supposed change to an evening day start was introduced to God’s people.
Closing of the gates before Sabbath
Nehemiah 13:18-19 Did not your fathers thus, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city? yet ye bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the sabbath. And it came to pass, that when the gates of Jerusalem began to be dark before the sabbath, I commanded that the gates should be shut, and charged that they should not be opened till after the sabbath: and some of my servants set I at the gates, that there should no burden be brought in on the sabbath day. ”
If the Sabbath started at dawn, there would be no such thing as “beginning to be dark before the Sabbath”. Instead, it would be “beginning to be light before the Sabbath”.
The passage in Nehemiah says both “began to be dark” and “before the Sabbath”. Both are imminent phrases. Beginning to be dark means that darkness is already setting in, which is obviously long before sunrise. Before the Sabbath means just that, it was nearly Sabbath, obviously then also long before sunrise since the two events mentioned were occurring at the same time. They would not have said it was before the Sabbath if it was still at least 12 hours until the Sabbath.
If they closed the gates at night anyway, as Nehemiah 7:3 implies, why do they even mention that they closed the gates when Sabbath was drawing near? That would have been redundant. It is very likely that they closed them earlier than normal on Friday night in order to guard the edges of the Sabbath. Logically, during the week, they probably didn’t close the gates until it was almost dark, or maybe even shortly after dark, to allow for late arrivals.
Nehemiah, being a reformer and prophet of Israel, would have understood the correct timing of the Sabbath. Clearly in these texts we see that he understood that the Sabbath began in the evening.
Healing on the Sabbath
Mark 1:21-35 is among the most solid proofs that the Sabbath was being kept even-to-even in the time of Yeshua. As established in point four above, whatever timetable Yeshua was keeping, it was the same timetable the Pharisees were keeping, as neither one of them included timing in their many debates on how to observe the Sabbath.
Mark 1:32-33: “Now at evening, when the sun had set, they brought to Him all who were sick, and those who were demon possessed. And the whole city [surely that would that have included at least some of the Pharisees, maybe even some of their spies] gathered at the door.”
Evidently, according to Mark 1:21-35 and Mark 3:2,4, it seemed that the whole city believed that it was unlawful to heal on the Sabbath, although we know from Yeshua’s example that it was not. Nonetheless, the whole city waited to bring their sick to Yeshua in the evening, after the sun had set, so as not to be seen as Sabbath-breaking by the Pharisees, which would have brought dire consequences.
This text proves unequivocally that the entire Jewish nation, including followers of Yeshua, believed that Sabbath ended at sundown. If after the sun went down it was still considered the Sabbath by the legalistic Pharisees, this event surely would not have gone unnoticed. They would have been lined up to accuse everyone of breaking the Sabbath, but they didn’t, because it wasn’t the Sabbath. The Sabbath had ended at evening, at the going down of the sun, just as Mark 1:32 declares.
It is interesting to note that Mark’s book was written approximately 25 years after the events occurred. If the actual timing of the Sabbath kept by Yeshua and His disciples was from morning-to-morning, this would have been a perfect spot for Mark to bring this to light, but he does not, demonstrating that no change or correction was necessary.
Many of the ideas brought forth to support a day beginning at dawn have already been covered in our points above. Below are some additional points offered by dawn adherents that have not been addressed elsewhere.
Counterpoint One: Passover/Death Angel
The Passover story in Exodus 12 is repeatedly used as proof that the day begins at dawn. The argument is that the Passover lamb was crucified at even (3:00 p.m.) on the 14th day, the meal was eaten at even (sundown, approximately 6:00 p.m.) on the 14th day, and the death angel passed at midnight, which they claim was still the 14th day. Their reasoning for this is that they believe that the death angel event had to take place on the same day of the Passover sacrifice. Since we know that the Hebrews began the exodus in the morning on the 15th day, this leads them to conclude that the day began at dawn. But is their reasoning correct? Must the death angel occur on the same day of the sacrifice?