Preparation Day – Is There a Gospel Contradiction?


Preparation Day mentioned several times in the Gospels is the traditional day when the Hebrew people “prepared” for the Sabbath the following day when they were otherwise not allowed to do such work activities.[1] Some critics point to two Preparation Day references in John to claim a Gospel contradiction exists thereby casting doubt on the integrity of Gospel accounts about Jesus of Nazareth.[2]

Pilate was judging Jesus in first reference in John’s account of the crucifixion:

JN 19:14 “Now it was the Preparation Day of the Passover, and about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, “Behold your King!”” (NKJV)

In a scenario where “Preparation Day” preceded the Passover, Jesus was judged by Pilate before Passover. If true, this view would be conflicting with John’s own second reference to the “Preparation Day” preceding the Sabbath a few verses later:

JN 19:31 “Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.” (NKJV)

Occam’s Razor theory suggests that the simplest explanation is usually the right one. John reveals his context of the “Preparation Day” in verse 19:31 when he said the crucifixion occurred the day leading into “the Sabbath” making it a Friday. Keep in mind the Jewish day begins at sunset and the following sunrise begins the daylight portion of that same day – Passover began at sunset the previous evening starting with the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

For some, this may not completely address the seeming conflict obliging a longer explanation. A clue to unraveling this conundrum appears in verse 19:14 with the wording “…of the Passover.” It does not say for the Passover.

Two more clues appear in verse 19:31. First, John says “the Sabbath,” a reference that is typically understood to be the weekly Sabbath, a Saturday. Specifically defined in the Law, the Sabbath is based on the creation concept that God rested on the seventh day.[3]

A second clue is found in John’s parenthetical comment in 19:31 “for that Sabbath was a high day.” The original word from John’s Greek text for “high” is megas which means “great” yet out of 44 translations, only 15 versions translate the word as “great,” none of which are the mainstream versions.[4]

Defined in the Law of Moses, God’s commandment said the weekly Sabbath is a holy day prohibiting “all manner of work.[5] The Talmud expounded on the meaning by detailing what was or was not considered “work” – rules notoriously enforced by the Pharisees.

Work prohibitions ran the gambit from cooking, drawing water, walking, carrying, making fires, feeding livestock, harvesting, etc. To avoid such violations, preparatory work for these tasks had to be completed before sunset Friday evening – the day of preparation for the Sabbath.

In addition to the weekly Sabbath, according to the Law of Moses the three Festival holy days were also to be regarded as a Sabbath, an “appointed time.”All came to be known by the names the “Passover,” initiated with the Feast of Unleavened Bread; “Shavuot,” the Feast of Harvest or Pentecost; and “Sukkot,” the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles.[6]

Every year Nissan 15th fell on a different day of the week and when it fell on a Friday, it created a back-to-back Sabbath scenario presenting a legal conundrum. According to the Talmud’s interpretation of the Law, people were meant to “enjoy” the Passover Festival. Customarily on the first day of Passover, Nissan 15th, people were busy with other religiously required and traditional activities.

Confounded by the strict weekly Sabbath restrictions, the enjoyment factor for a Friday Passover seemed to be greatly diminished. In a back-to-back Sabbath scenario, it would actually be a hardship to require the people to go two days of strict Sabbath work restrictions, not to mention farming activities involving livestock.

Festival Sabbath language in the Law of Leviticus and Numbers used the Hebrew word abodah meaning “labor” interpreted by Rabbi Sages to be a more lenient work restriction than the weekly Sabbath “all manner of work.” English translations reflect this difference saying “servile work,” “laborious work,” “regular work,” “occupations” and “customary work.”[7]

To that end, the Talmud addressed when the first day of Passover fell on Preparation Day for the weekly Sabbath.[7] In the spirit of the Passover intended by God to be a celebratory festival, Rabbis determined that when Nissan 15th fell on a Friday Sabbath Preparation Day, it was a special day when the Sabbath work restrictions were somewhat relaxed.[8]

“The general purpose underlying these laws is to enhance the joy of the festival, and therefore the Rabbis permitted all work necessary to that end, while guarding against turning it into a working-day.” – Jewish Encyclopedia [9]

Wading through all the Jewish legalities, it boils down to John making crucifixion day references in both verses 19:14 and 19:31 to the same Friday “preparation day,” but under two different scenarios:

Verse 14 is in the context of an event marking the specific day when Pilate presented Jesus to the crowd that Friday morning, “the Preparation Day of the Passover.”

Verse 31 is in the narrower context of the very same day, a Friday. The imminent sunset would begin the weekly Sabbath and its much stricter rules – “because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath.” It is the reason Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus were in a hurry to bury the body of Jesus before sunset.

Do the two references in John to the “preparation day” create a Bible contradiction?


Updated July 16, 2023.

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Gospel references: Matthew 28, Mark 16; Luke 24, John 20.

[1] Exodus 16:22-23, 29. Edersheim, Alfred.  The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. 1883. Book V, Chapter 15, pp 1382-1392 & pp 1393-1421. <>  Edersheim, Alfred. The Temple – Its Ministry and Services. Chapter 10. 1826 -1889. The NTSLibrary. 2016. <>  “Happy Preparation Day.” Gail-Friends. photo. 2017. <>
[2] Wells, Steve. The Skeptic’s Annotated Bible. 2017. “423. When was Jesus crucified?” rel=”nofollow”&lt;/a>  “101 Bible Contradictions.” Islamic Awareness. n.d. Contradiction #69. < rel=”nofollow”</a>
[3] Exodus 20:8-10; Leviticus 23:3. Babylonian Talmud. Rodkinson. Book 1, Tract Sabbath, Chapters 1-10.”Sabbath.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. “Sabbath and Sunday.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. < Babylonian Talmud. Rodkinson trans. Sabbath, Book 1, Chapter I; Book 2; Erubin, Pesachim, Book 3,  Chapter IV, VI,  VIII.  1918. < Soncino Babylonian Talmud. “Shabbath.” <; “Shabbat” and “Festivals. Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011.
[4] John 19:31. n.d. Greek text. <>  “G3173.” Lexicon-Concordance. n.d. < Parallel. <
[5] Exodus 20:10, 31:15. n.d. Hebrew text. “G4399.” Lexicon-Concordance. n.d. <>  CR Exodus 31:15, 35:2.
[6] Exodus 23:14-17; Leviticus 23:1, Numbers 28:1. “Festivals,”“Holy Days,” “Passover,” ”Shabbat.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <> “The Three Annual Feasts of God.” n.d. <
[7] Leviticus 23:7-8; Numbers 28:18. Hebrew text, footnote #20.  CR Exodus 23:14. n.d. Hebrew text. “G5656.” Lexicon-Concordance. n.d. < Babylonian Talmud. Rodkinson trans. Book 3, Tracts Pesachim, Chapter IV and Book 4, Tract Betzah (Yom Tob); Book 4, Tract Moed, Chapter II.. <>  KJV, NET, NIV, NASB, NLT, NRSV, NKJV.
[8] Special Shabbots.” Jewish Virtual Library 2008. <> “Special Sabbaths.” TorahResource. n.d. <>  Posner, Menachem. “13 Special Shabbats on the Jewish Calendar.” 2019. <
[9] “Holy Days.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <>

Cicero’s Prosecution of Murder By Crucifixion


Crucifixion is as closely associated with the image of Jesus of Nazareth as any other save perhaps the Nativity manger scene. In-spite-of this, some still dispute Rome’s execution of Jesus by nailing him to a cross – if doubts about the Gospel accounts can be meaningfully established, it discredits the integrity of the Gospels’ claim that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.[1]

All four Gospels record that Jesus of Nazareth was scourged, nailed to a cross and killed by crucifixion. The location was Golgatha just outside and overlooking the city of Jerusalem where passersby could see and mock him. Aside from this, the Gospels describe in limited detail the gory specifics of a crucifixion for one very simple reason – it was not necessary.

“Tacitus (“Annales,” 54, 59) reports therefore without comment the fact that Jesus was crucified. For Romans no amplification was necessary.” – Jewish Encyclopedia

Just about everyone living in the Roman Empire knew about crucifixion, the primary audience of the Gospel authors – and most likely from firsthand experience.[2] The Jewish crowd at Pilate’s judgement of Jesus certainly knew about it shouting out “crucify him!” Not even Roman historians Josephus, Tacitus or Suetonius found it necessary to explain crucifixion.[3] But, there are a few exceptions…

Cicero, commonly regarded as the greatest orator in Roman history, was a Senator and Consul who lived about 100 years before Pontius Pilate was Procurator of Judea.[4] A lesser known fact is that Cicero was a prosecutor, a Roman lawyer.

In Secondary Orations Against Verres, Cicero wrote about his prosecution of Verres.[5] The charge was the premeditated murder by crucifixion of a noble Roman citizen, Publius Gavius. The motive – punishment for his public crusade for freedom and citizenship.

In his own prosecutorial words directed at Verres, Cicero describes in detail to the trial court the crucifixion process Verres used to kill Gavius:[6]

“…according to their regular custom and usage, they had erected the cross behind the city in the Pompeian road…you chose that place in order that the man who said that he was a Roman citizen, might be able from his cross to behold Italy and to look towards his own home?… for the express purpose that the wretched man who was dying in agony and torture might see that the rights of liberty and of slavery were only separated by a very narrow strait, and that Italy might behold her son murdered by the most miserable and most painful punishment appropriate to slaves alone.

It is a crime to bind a Roman citizen; to scourge him is a wickedness; to put him to death is almost parricide. What shall I say of crucifying him? So guilty an action cannot by any possibility be adequately expressed by any name bad enough for it…that you exposed to that torture and nailed on that cross…He chose that monument of his wickedness and audacity to be in the sight of Italy, in the very vestibule of Sicily, within sight of all passersby as they sailed to and fro.” “

…it was the common cause of freedom and citizenship that you exposed to that torture and nailed on that cross.[7]

Scourging whips and a cross were the murder weapons – death by crucifixion. Cicero’s prosecution case described how humiliation, psychological and mental anguish were part of the excruciating, long lasting torment and death of the scourged victim being nailed to the cross. It was a manner of execution reserved only for slaves at that time in Roman history. (Incidentally, Verres was allowed to self-exile to Massalia in southern France, then sentenced in abstentia to an undisclosed fine.)

Seneca the Younger was born in Spain about a century later, virtually the same year as Jesus of Nazareth, and educated in Rome. He became a stoic philosopher, statesman and dramatist gaining acclaim as a writer of tragedies and essays.[8]

With a penchant for including horror scenes in his tragedies, Seneca was familiar with the gruesome realities of crucifixion. In one “Dialogue,” he wrote to his embittered friend, Marcia, who had been grieving three years over her son’s death. Using a metaphor of crucifixion to describe the mental anguish of people of virtue striving to overcome their own self-imposed tribulations, he wrote:

“Though they strive to release themselves from their crosses those crosses to which each one of you nails himself with his own hand – yet they, when brought to punishment, hang each upon a single gibbets [sic]; but these others who bring upon themselves their own punishment are stretched upon as many crosses as they had desires….”[9]

Seneca’s letter suggests that he expected Marcia to be familiar with the horrific analogy of crucifixion. The term “gibbet” has varying definitions and uses. Generally, a “gibbet” is believed to be a gallows-like structure or an upright pole typically used to hang executed victims’ bodies by chains or ropes for public display as a method of scorn. Crucifixion, by comparison, involved living victims who were “stretched” out and nailed to crosses.[10]
By the lifetime of Jewish historian Josephus, crucifixion was commonly used by Rome to punish such crimes as robbery and insurrection eventually devolving to the point when it became Roman sport.[11] Josephus made nine references to Roman crucifixions. In one, he wrote of crucifixions by Procurator Florus and in another from his own Roman eyewitness perspective during the siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD:[12]

“…they also caught many of the quiet people, and brought them before Florus, whom he first chastised with stripes, and then crucified…for Florus ventured then to do what no one had done before, that is, to have men of the equestrian order whipped and nailed to the cross before his tribunal…”[13]

“So the soldiers, out of the wrath and hatred they bore the Jews, nailed those they caught, one after one way, and another after another, to the crosses, by way of jest, when their multitude was so great, that room was wanting for the crosses, and crosses wanting for the bodies.”[14]

It was common knowledge in the Roman Empire that victims were nailed to the cross as an extreme, tortuously slow physical and psychological means to kill them. Cicero’s description is a mirror image of the crucifixion accounts in the Gospels and consistent with medical science findings.

Are the Gospels credible in saying that Roman crucifixion by being nailed to a cross was the means used to kill Jesus?


Updated August 20, 2023.

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[1] “Jesus did not die on cross, says scholar.” The Telegraph. n.d. < rel=”nofollow” rel=”nofollow”> Warren, Meredith J.C.  “Was Jesus Really Nailed to the Cross?”  The Conversation. 2016. < rel=”nofollow”>   Perales, Ginger. “Was Jesus Nailed or Tied to the Cross?”  2016.  < rel=”nofollow”>
[2] Josephus, Flavius. Wars of the Jews. Book IV, Chapter V. <>
[3] Tacitus, Gaius Cornelius. The Annals. Ed. Church, Alfred John and Brodribb, William Jackson. <> Perseus Digital Library. Ed. Crane, Gregory R. Tufts University. n.d. Word search “crucified” <>  Suetonious. The Lives of the Twelve Caesars.  “The Life of Augustus.” #57, Footnote “e.” <*.html#ref:no_crucifixions_when_Augustus_entered_a_city>
[4] Linder, Douglas O. Imperium Romanun. “The Trial of Gaius (or Caius) Verres.” 2008. <>  Bunson, Matthew. Encyclopedia of the Roman Empire. “Cicero; Cicero, Marcus Tillius.” <
[5] Cicero, Marcus Tullius. “The Fifth Book of the Second Pleading in the Prosecution against Verres.” Ed. Crane, Gregory R. <>
[6] Greenough, James. B.; Kittredge, George; eds.   Select Orations and Letters of Cicero.  1902.  Introduction I.  Life of Cicero. VII. “From the Murder of Caesar to the Death of Cicero.” <>   Quintilian, Marcus Fabius.  Quintilian’s Institutes of Oratory. 1856. Book 8, Chapter 4. Rhetoric and Composition. 2011. <>  “Crucifixion.” < > “Trial of Gaius Verres – governor of Sicily.” Imperium Romanun. 2021. <> Linder. “The Trial of Gaius (or Caius) Verres.”
[7] Cicero. “The Fifth Book of the Second Pleading in the Prosecution against Verres.”
[8] “Seneca.”  Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Ed. Zalta, Edward N.  2015. <>  Mastin, Luke. “Ancient Rome – Seneca the Younger.” 2009. Classical Literature. <>
[9] Seneca, Lucius Annaeus. “De Consolatione Ad Marciam+.” “To Marcia on Consolation.” Moral Essays. Trans. John W. Basore.  1928-1935.   “Seneca’s Essays Volume II.”  Book VI.  Pages xx 1-3.  The Stoic Legacy to the Renaissance.  2004.  <>   Seneca, Lucius Annaeus. “De Vita Beata+.” “To Gallio On The Happy Life.” Moral Essays. Trans. John W. Basore. 1928-1935. “Seneca’s Essays Volume II.”  Book VII. The Stoic Legacy to the Renaissance. 2004. <>
[10] “gibbet.” The Free Dictionary by Farlex. 2022. <>“gibbet.” 2022. <>
[11] “Crucifixion.”  Ciantar, Joe Zammit. Times Malta. “Recollections on Crucifixion – Part one.” image. 2022. <
[12] “FLORUS, GESSIUS (or, incorrectly, Cestius).” <>
[13] Josephus, Flavius. Wars of the Jews. Book II, Chapter XIV. <>
[14] Josephus. Wars. Book V, Chapter XI.

It’s All About a Meal


Tradition says Jesus was crucified on Good Friday of Easter weekend. Not everyone agrees – some say that Jesus of Nazareth was crucified earlier in the week or even before the Feast of Unleavened Bread.[1] A meal plays a big role in determining when Jesus was crucified…and it may not be the one you may think.

JN 18:28 Then they took Jesus from Caiaphas to Pilate’s headquarters. It was early in the morning. They themselves did not enter the headquarters, so as to avoid ritual defilement and to be able to eat the Passover.(NRSV)

John says the priests were worried about becoming defiled which would then disqualify them from “eating the Passover” meal.[2] It is easy to draw the conclusion that “to eat the Passover” refers to the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

Playing this out farther, if the verse is referring to the Feast of Unleavened Bread, it would mean Jesus was crucified on Nisan 14th before the Feast. In this scenario John 18:28 would then indeed be a contradiction with the other Gospel accounts saying Jesus was crucified and died on the first day of Passover. A conflict could serve to invalidate the Gospels’ credibility and by extension its position that Jesus is the Son of God.[3]

Many people may not be aware there were two other meal possibilities at the beginning of Passover called a chagigah addressed in the Talmud.[4] It is helpful to know the Jewish day begins at sunset and the following sunrise begins the daylight portion of that same day ending at dusk.

First of the two Passover meals was optional and was a supplement to the Feast of Unleavened Bread launching the Passover after sunset. If it was necessary to feed a larger party, the optional first chagigah sacrifice was offered earlier the afternoon on Nisan 14th in addition to the Pascal lamb sacrifice. It was to be treated the same as the Feast of Unleavened Bread where all meat was to be consumed by midnight or else any leftovers were to be burned.

A second, separate chagigah was to be offered and consumed the first day of Passover, after the Feast of Leavened Bread the previous evening. It was to be a peace offering to be offered on the first day of Passover, Nisan 15th.[5] The meat from the second chagigah meal was to be consumed over the course of two days and one night[6]

Jewish Law stipulated that a portion of the Passover Nisan 15th second chagigah sacrificial meat was to be given to the priest as a gratuity for his own chagigah Passover meal. The remaining meat was to be taken home by the offeror for his own personal chagigah meal.[7]

Priests were held to a higher Rabbinical standard with special rules that did not apply to the general populace. Entering Pilate‘s headquarters, the Praetorium in John 18:28, was one of those things that would place the priests in a state of ritual defilement.[8] Rabbinic ritual defilement could be absolved after sunset by means of a ritualistic purification bath.

Since the Feast of Unleavened Bread occurred after sunset, a ritually defiled priest that day could still partake of the meal that evening if he had performed a ritual purification bath. The second chagigah sacrifice occurred occurred during first day of Passover meaning a ritual purification bath later that evening would be too late.

Disqualification from performing their chagigah sacrificial duty on the first day of Passover meant the priests would not have received their lawful gratuity portion of the sacrificial meat – no meat for their chagigah meal on the first day of Passover.[9] As such, defilement worries in John 18:28 “to be able to eat the Passover” centered on the consequences involving the second chagigah meal by the Priests.

Logically, perhaps even much bigger, is why the defilement concern of John 18:28 does not refer to the crucifixion of Jesus on Nisan 14th. Earlier in the afternoon shortly after midday of Nisan 14th, upwards of a quarter million paschal sacrifices had to be performed at the Temple!

Offerings of the Pascal sacrifices preceding the Feast of Unleavened Bread was an all-hands-on-deck scenario where all the Priests served a vitally important role at the Temple requiring massive preparations with a packed and rigid schedule. Activities for the most popular annual Festival in all the land drew crowds of about 3 million.[10]

With this in mind, how conceivable is a scenario where high level priests pursued their vendetta against Jesus beginning after the evening dinner of Nisan 13th with an arrest, an inquisition and an aberrant trial overnight; Roman hearings the next morning; and ending with the crucifixion of Jesus at 9am on Nisan 14th … at the very same time tens of thousands of pascal lamb sacrifices were being prepared to be sacrificed at the Temple hours later? It would be like NFL Super Bowl event managers taking the day off on Super Bowl Sunday to attend to personal business.

Consider, too, the Roman factor – Passover was the one Jewish festival where the potentially troublesome crowd of millions of pilgrims worried the Romans more than any other.[11] How likely is it that Roman authorities would risk triggering a riot by crucifying Jews on the same day as their sacred paschal sacrifices at the Temple? Alternatively, the next day, the first day of Passover, Nisan 15, the crowds were dispersed by Jewish Law to their local housing accommodations to celebrate the Passover Festival with very minimal activity.

Did John’s reference to the priest’s defilement concern of missing the Passover meal actually pose a credibility issue with the other Gospels that said Jesus was crucified on the first day of Passover?


Updated July 25, 2023.

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NRSV = New Revised Standard Version translation

[1] Doig, Kenneth F. New Testament Chronology.  Chapter 18.  <>  Edersheim, Alfred.  The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. 1883. Book V.  <> “Sharing a Meal.” image. n.d. <>
[2] Wells, Steve.  The Skeptic’s Annotated Bible. 2017. “423. When was Jesus crucified?”> “101 Bible Contradictions.”  Islamic Awareness. n.d. Contradiction #69.>
[3] Edersheim, Alfred. The Temple – Its Ministry and Services. Chapter 10. 1826 -1889. The NTSLibrary. 2016. < Encyclopedia.  2011. <>
[4] Leviticus 23:7-8; Numbers 28:18. Hebrew text, footnote #20.  CR Exodus 23:14. n.d. Hebrew text. “G5656.” Lexicon-Concordance. n.d. < Babylonian Talmud. Rodkinson trans. Book 3, Tracts Pesachim, Chapter IV and Book 4, Tract Betzah (Yom Tob); Book 4, Tract Moed, Chapter II.. <>
[5] Leviticus 3.
[6] The Babylonian Talmud. Trans. Michael L. Rodkinson.  1918.  Book 3, Tract Pesachim.  <>   Streane, A. W, ed. A Translation of the Treatise Chagigah from the Babylonian Talmud.  1891. Chagigah 7b.  <>
[7] Leviticus 7:29-32.  Edersheim. The Temple – Its Ministry and Services. Chapters 5 & 11.  Streane.  A Translation of the Treatise Chagigah from the Babylonian Talmud.  Glossary: “Chagigah.”
[8] Leviticus 22.
[9] Leviticus 22; Numbers 9. Josephus, Flavius.  Antiquities of the Jews. Book III, Chapter X. Google Books.  n.d <>
[10] Josephus, Flavius.  Wars of the Jews. Book VI.. <>
[11] Antiquities. Book XI, Chapter IV; Book XX, Chapter V. Josephus. Wars. Book V, Chapter V.