Thursday, March 28, 2013

Righteous Judgment


What was never covered or considered in Worldwide or the splinters

At this time of year, I am reminded of the story about the man who was on a game show, and had to explain the meaning of Easter. He began by describing how Jesus was placed in a tomb, and rose again on Easter day, whereupon He saw His shadow, resulting in 6 more weeks of winter.

It would seem the contestant was a bit confused when it came to the facts or evidence of Scripture.

Unfortunately, during my sojourn within Worldwide, we were not taught to truly delve into Scripture deeply, with a critical view regarding what is written there. I think it was, to an extent, a type of laziness on the one hand, where we were willing to accept the explanations of Scripture as handed to us by the ministry, as well as an unconscious desire not to rock the theological boat, resulting in disapproval by the ministry and lay members alike.

I’d like to examine an example of this sort of thing, but go into it in greater depth with a more critical examination and share the results. After all, now that I am free from the social psychology of being in the group, I have much greater freedom to truly examine the Scriptures without the pressure to conform to the “rule” of the majority, or the dictates of a minority (read, ministry) that is imposed on the rest.

I have long since lost track of how many sermons I sat through where the topic was about judging. I have long since lost interest in what Worldwide had to teach on the subject. It was, after all, one big joke that has long since lost its humor.

The favorite flavor of verse quoted, ad nauseum:

Judge not, that ye be not judged. – Matthew 7:1

Once in a great while, the rest of the statement was quoted in order to instill a greater level of fear:

For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. – Matthew 7:2

In the art and science of communication, we can break this down a bit.

When the minister quoted “judge not” while citing these or any other passages of Scripture, what he really meant was that you, as the lay member, had no right to judge the minister and the ministry under any circumstances.

Had you critically evaluated the ministers and ministry you might have discovered they were nothing more than wolves in sheep’s clothing, looking to feed their own bellies at your expense through tithes they had no biblical authority to levy on you.

Then, there is what the lay members understood or believed what the minister was saying to them: Judge not was interpreted to mean, do not judge unless you were right, and you were always right.

This judging was seen in relation to those who judged wrongly, not being in possession of God’s Spirit. It was your job as a member to make a judgment regarding other member’s behaviours and attitudes, for example, if you should happen to hear them judge (criticize) the minister, ministry or anything they said from on high. Any opportunity to advance yourself in the eyes of the minister was worth it, even if it meant ratting on one’s fellow member. It wasn’t really judging; it was all part of protecting God’s Church from any and all enemies, within or without the church; real or imaginary.

Actually, Jesus did say to His critics that they were to judge “righteous judgment” and not to judge according to appearance. When it came to much of the old covenant, especially the sabbath, judgment was nearly strictly according to appearance. If you were caught working on the sabbath, you were guilty, regardless of any excuse you might have had. Your next appointment was with a rock, followed by several more rocks of varying size and weight, sailing in your direction.

So to say we are not to judge misses the point of it all. We are not to judge in a manner that is critical or condemnative of others. When it comes to condemnation, that is God’s purview. When it comes to judging others, there is a call to judge righteous judgment.

What then is righteous judgment? What is judging according to appearance?

We should first examine the example in Scripture where Jesus speaks of judging righteous judgment in contrast to judging according to appearance.

Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me? The people answered and said, Thou hast a devil: who goeth about to kill thee? Jesus answered and said unto them, I have done one work, and ye all marvel. Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision; (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;) and ye on the sabbath day circumcise a man. If a man on the sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the sabbath day? Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment. ― John 7:19-24

This was all in relation to Jesus healing on the sabbath, which He defined as doing a “work”. Today’s sabbatarian misses the whole point here, having concluded that Jesus didn’t really “work” on the sabbath by redefining work in relation to the sabbath, claiming He violated the additional laws the Jews placed around the law, and that there were works that were acceptable on the sabbath. But when it came to the law and the prohibition against working, the law makes no such distinctions. The prohibition was against anyone doing “any” work without respect to what kind of work or works were exempt from this “any”. Theirs is an effort to avoid judging righteous judgment all together.

What they see in relation to working on the sabbath where animals were fed and let out to drink as being acceptable works “according to the law”. What they fail to perceive here is that this was still work. One was not condemned by God because God does judge righteous judgment, and not according to appearance. They were, technically, breaking the sabbath, yet were blameless. As Jesus even pointed out, the priests labored on sabbaths at the temple “profaning” the sabbath, yet were blameless. Jesus’ observation and comments in this regard are conveniently sidestepped. They could judge themselves as not condemned, due to the circumstances, but were quick to determine others as condemned by reason of another standard; appearance.

The law said to not work on the sabbath, and God said to those priests to work. God trumps the law. Work sanctioned by God does not result in condemnation. Work associated with God does not result in condemnation. One’s focus is on God and serving God. This is an important aspect to understand, and the sabbatarian does not want to wander here.

Judging according to appearance is just as it states; one judges according to what they see. If you saw one working on the sabbath, and you judged according to appearance, you concluded they were worthy of condemnation for breaking the sabbath, and that it was time to break out the rock supply.

Judging according to appearance becomes an easy way to bring condemnation upon someone where one was looking for an excuse to condemn. The Jewish religious leaders were intent on finding anything they could use to condemn Jesus. They used the law as a means to accomplish this, hiding their evil in a cloak of religion and the law.

Years ago, I remember my father, who was an officer in the Marine Corps, talking about a Sergeant that some other officers didn’t like, and how they were looking for any excuse to bring charges up against this Sergeant in order to drum him out. Their actions would also have instilled fear into other Marines who might have thoughts of crossing the thin line they were supposed to walk. Their opportunity came one day, after a company pick-nick with their families, where some leftover hamburger that was checked out for lunch was kept by this Sergeant who took it home. Regulations required that any leftover foodstuffs be returned. However, regulations also required any such food returned was to be thrown out.

When this “evidence” was presented to my father in order to proceed with a court-marshal, my father would have none of it. His response to these junior grade officers was that, if they wanted to sink this Sergeant, then do it with something he truly did wrong, and not based on this sort of garbage. The Sergeant might as well have taken the hamburger home to feed his family than turn it over to be thrown out.

I am proud to say that many years after my father’s retirement, he was still a well known figure in the Marine Corps, with a reputation for fairness.

That’s more than I can say for these highly religious men of Jesus’ time, who condemned Jesus, basing their accusations and judgment solely on “appearance”. It is as Jesus spoke of them regarding their sin being one of hatred. The law was used, or misused as a tool to wield power, and corrupted power at that.

How then do we define and understand judging according to “righteous judgment”?

It is about judging the heart and intent of heart. An animal needed to eat and drink. To deny them was cruelty. An animal that fell in a ditch needed to be pulled out, else it was cruelty. It was an act of compassion. It may well be construed that to neglect to do these things would be a sin of omission.

As I pointed out in an earlier article regarding God’s judgment of Israel, which again I remind the reader is based in righteous judgment by God, He declared that the works of the Israelites were evil, even from their youth. Why? Because God was not involved in any real way with their lives. What they did in regards to a national religion was done as a matter of compulsion. If they didn’t do those things required of them, they could be killed. Their hearts were far from God, where only “lip” service was rendered to God.

For the children of Israel and the children of Judah have only done evil before me from their youth: ― Jeremiah 32:30a

The reason God gives for the destruction of the world through a flood is similar:

And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. ― Genesis 6:5

Actions follow intent. The heart is a reflection of who you truly are. In the sabbatarian’s world, sin is working on the sabbath unless you meet one of their specific exemptions of the sabbath law they themselves have contrived. The very law they claim to be living by is side-stepped, as well as the requirement (command) to judge righteous judgment.

It does not occur to the sabbatarian that the Israelites were commanded to refrain from work on the sabbath in part due to their evil hearts and nature to begin with. The sabbath was to them a holy convocation. They were in the presence of God, even though figuratively speaking. The Christian, in possession of the Holy Spirit is described as being in God’s presence seeing as God now resides in the believer. We are not seen by God, according to His Righteous Judgment, as being evil, living according to evil intent, and a life and lifestyle devoid of God and His influence in our lives. As I cited before, our “works” are now seen as wrought in God. God CAN NOT condemn a Christian for working on the sabbath when we understand judging righteous judgment.

Jesus said, in relation to the sabbath, that He works. He informs us that even the Father in heaven works. If our lives are hidden in Christ, which they are, and if we have been made dead to the law, not under the law and freed from the law, there is no way we can be judged and condemned for working on the sabbath, no matter what the form of work is. When we were freed from sin, and became dead to sin, it was, and is, all about “sin” and not the specific sin or specific transgression itself, such as breaking the sabbath.

Like so many other things, the sabbatarian trivializes what is truly important, and maximizes things that are trivial. A Christian is now put in a new category of existence by God. We live for God. Our works are wrought in God. He lives in us. We are treated as though we were no longer living in the flesh, even though we still have the pulls of the flesh and the pulls of that human nature that is by nature, sinful. This is our state of grace. We have died to sin. Our old man has died. What we are now is a new creation. We simply wait now for a change of form, taking off the corruptible, and taking on the incorruptible as Paul relates in I Corinthians chapter 15.

The sabbatarian desperately wants to resurrect you back to an old way of life which, among other things, makes a mockery of righteous judgment. If you really stop and think carefully about this, their position is one of even judging God when it comes to judging according to appearance.

************ It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; ) Acts 17:11 ************

Monday, March 25, 2013

Were gentiles in Corinth observing the Feast of Unleavened bread?

I remember one of the last conversations that I had with a minister in the Armstrong Church of God I was attending, prior to my decision to leave.  We were discussing some of the doctrinal difficulties that we both struggled with.  At one point in the conversation he became frustrated with all the inconsistencies and just threw up his hands and said, “well, all I know is that I’m going to keep observing the Holy Days just like the church in the New Testament!”    So I asked him where in the New Testament the church was shown to be observing the Holy Days.  He replied, “well right there in I Corinthians chapter 5 where Paul instructed them to keep the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread!  Why would Paul even mention those days to a gentile church if they were not observing them?

My minister friend actually asked two questions:  

Did Paul instruct the Corinthian church to observe the holy days?

Why would Paul use Jewish Holy Days like the Passover and Feast of Unleavened bread to illustrate a point in his letter to the gentile Corinthian church unless the church knew about these days?  

Here in the passage that follows is the “proof” that the church in Corinth was keeping the Holy Days.

(1Co 5:7-8) Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

See, it is right there as clear as day, “Let us keep the feast”!   Paul is telling the church in Corinth to “keep the feast” found in the Law of Moses just like the Jews of his day did, right?    

But such an interpretation creates the kind of inconsistencies that gave my minister friend so much frustration.  If it were true that Paul were commanding that parts of the Law of Moses were required to be observed by gentiles, then that would seem to conflict with the decision made in the Acts 15 council and with so many of Paul’s other writings.    

So let’s take a closer look.

Paul first preached the gospel in Corinth during his second missionary journey (Acts 18), which we will get to in a moment.  Later, during Paul’s Ephesian ministry, he received reports from “some of Chloe’s household” (1:11) that there were factions in the Corinthian church who identified themselves with particular leaders.  You’re probably aware that first Corinthians is not really the first letter written to the Corinthian church by Paul.   There was an earlier letter, sometimes referred to as “the previous letter” that Paul had written to deal with issues of immorality, but much of that letter has been lost to time.  

It is not clear for sure if Paul in 1 Cor 5 was dealing with additional issues brought to him by Chloe’s household, or if he had been told of these issues by the three church delegates, Stephanas,  Fortunatus, and Achaicus (16:17).    Regardless, it is clear that in chapter 5 of 1 Corinthians Paul was further addressing the issue raised in the “previous letter”.   This is important because it makes clear the context of the chapter.  

A reference to this previous letter occurs immediately following the passages that we are looking at.

(1 Cor 5:9-11)  I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people.  Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person.

Paul was not addressing holy days

It is not very difficult to see that the context of this chapter concerns a problem with sexual immorality in the church.   A Corinthian member was carrying on an incestuous affair with his stepmother, a relationship prohibited in both the Old Testament (Lev 18:18, Deut 22:22) and in Roman law (Cicero Cluentes 6. 15 and Gaius Institutis 1. 63).   Apparently proud of this member’s social status, the church did not exclude him from their fellowship.   Paul’s message was that this man should be taken away from among the church.

(1 Cor 5:1-2) It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife!  And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you.

In the next few verses, 3 – 5, Paul passes the strongest judgment that he can on this man, calling on the church to gather in Jesus name to cast the man out from the church. 

Timing of the Epistle

Paul wrote this letter just weeks after the Jews had celebrated the Passover and Feast of Unleavened bread.   This feast is called a “pilgrim feast”, meaning that all the Jews and Hellenistic Jews would have recently returned from their travels to Jerusalem.  (Dt 16:16).   

The reason given by Paul for casting the man out from the church was based in part on this Old Testament Feast of Unleavened bread.   Just as the unleavened Passover bread could be corrupted by just a little yeast, just one sinful man could corrupt the entire church.   Here it is the permeating properties of yeast that underscore the symbolism.

(1 Cor 5:6-8) Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?  Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Paul’s instruction reveals a deeper meaning to the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

Paul’s instruction to “purge out the old leaven”, a Jewish proverb at the time, referred to removing the sinful incestuous man, not physical leaven.  And the place from which the “old leaven” is being purged from is not their houses, but rather it is purged from the church.    The church is “truly unleavened”, that is they are considered to be without sin.   How is the church considered “unleavened”?   The church is unleavened because indeed Christ our Passover was sacrificed for us, thereby cleansing our sins by his blood. 

Now we come to the passage in question.  

Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

The words are right there in front of us.  Paul’s instruction is to keep the feast not with the old leaven, or with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth!   Paul has elevated the Feast of Unleavened Bread from a physical ritual of putting leaven out of a house to a moral imperative to put a sinful believer out of the church.   The church was to be sincere and truthful, not just appearing like followers of Christ, but demonstrating by their actions that they truly are following Christ.

The Passover sacrifice that had occurred year after year had been replaced by a once for all sacrifice, Jesus our Passover.   And the Feast of Unleavened bread has become a continued observance for the Christian believer, not to put old leaven out of our houses but to rejoice in the light of Christ’s sacrificial death as our Passover and therefore live with a repentant heart daily.

This sinful incestuous man did not have a repentant heart.  So what was Paul's concluding directive? 

(1 Cor 5:13) “Therefore, put away from yourself this evil person”

Does any of this sound like an instruction from the Apostle Paul to the Corinthian church to observe the Feast of Unleavened bread the way the Jews did?  Was Paul focused on putting leaven out of houses? 

No, of course not.  That is not even the topic being discussed here. 

So then why would Paul refer to these holy days if the gentile church did not observe them?  How would they have known what the feast even meant?

The church had many Jewish members including the ruler of the synagogue

Now this starts to get easy.  Because the premise made that these are all gentiles in Corinth with no understanding of Jewish customs is simply a false premise. 

The account of Paul’s first visit to Corinth is found in Acts 18.  

(Acts 18:1-2) After these things Paul departed from Athens and went to Corinth.
And he found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla (because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome); and he came to them.

Note this, around 49 A.D. emperor Claudius issued a decree that expelled all the Jews from Rome.   Suetonius, a biographer of Roman Emperors, in his work, Life of Claudius, indicated that this decree was issued as a result of constant riots at the instigation of Chrestus.   It is believed that the name Chrestus is a reference to Christ.    This banishment of Jews from Rome added to the Jewish population in Corinth including that of the church.

Corinth:  A large and populous mercantile city, and the center of commerce alike for East and West; having a considerable Jewish population, larger, probably, at this time than usual, owing to the banishment of the Jews from Rome by Claudius Caesar (Acts 18:2).  [Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Ac 18:1). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.}

According to his custom, Paul began his evangelism in the synagogue preaching to Jews, Hellenistic Jews and gentile “God fearers”.   All people who would know the Old Testament scriptures and the holy day practices.

(Acts 18:4) And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks.

Notice that Paul reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and Greeks.  Many of the gentile believers were “God fearing” gentiles.  That is, they believed in God and went to the synagogues but had not yet become Jews through circumcision.  Cornelius was such an uncircumcised “God fearer”, for example (Acts 10:1). 

Paul testified to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ but when they did not respond he decided to go to the gentiles and went to stay with Justus, a Greek whose house was right next door to the synagogue (verse 5-7).     Even the ruler of the Synagogue and his family became believers at the preaching of Paul.

(Acts 18:8)  Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized.

So what we see here are facts that the Armstrongist churches have left out of their presentation of 1 Cor 5.    The church in Corinth was most certainly gentile, but had a large Jewish population even including the ruler of the synagogue in Corinth.  This in part was the result of a decree made by Claudius Caesar that expelled the Jews from Rome sending many Jewish believers to Corinth.

Would they have known about the Jewish holy days?  Of course, especially since the feast had occurred only weeks earlier. 

But what about the members of the church who were gentiles and had not previously had any exposure to the scriptures?  Would they have understood chapter 5 of Paul’s letter?

The apostles used the Old Testament scriptures to preach to gentiles that Jesus was the Christ

How do you suppose that the apostles persuaded gentiles to believe that Jesus is the Christ?

Well, when Philip encountered the Ethiopian Eunuch he taught him from the book of Isaiah.   And in Thessalonica Paul reasoned from the scriptures (Acts 17:1-4).   And what happened there?

(Acts 17:4)  And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women.

Gentiles came to be believers in Jesus Christ through Paul’s reasoning from the scriptures.   Do you think that Paul ever mentioned that Jesus fulfilled the meaning of the Passover lamb?   Seems very likely doesn’t it?

And in Ephesus Paul also reasoned from the scriptures (Acts 18:24). 

And in Berea, the namesake of this blog, the Bereans searched the scriptures daily to see if what was being preached were so (Acts 17:11).     Again, the result was that Greeks, gentiles, became believers.

(Acts 17:12)  Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men.

So we see that gentile believers would indeed be familiar with the scriptures and with various Jewish holy days.   There were Jews that lived among them and they were also taught from the scriptures in order to be persuaded to believe that Jesus is the Christ.


Let’s go back to our original questions and summarize what we have just examined.

Did Paul instruct the Corinthian church to observe the holy days?


Nowhere does Paul give instruction to keep the holy days according to the Old Covenant.  Instead he uses a practice known to the masses in order to show the Corinthian church how to deal with a sin issue.  And in so doing Paul reveals a deeper meaning to Feast of Unleavened bread.

Why would Paul use Jewish holy days like the Passover and Feast of Unleavened bread to illustrate a point in his letter to the Corinthian church unless the church knew about these days?  

The church did know about the holy days.  It is not true that the church in Corinth was wholly gentile, there was a large population of Jews in Corinth as we have pointed out.  And the gentile believers had significant instruction in the scriptures.

Paul used these days in his letter because many in the Corinthian church were Jews or God fearing gentiles and were very familiar with the practices accompanying the holy days.   In addition, the letter was written shortly after the Passover and Feast of Unleavened bread.  This was a pilgrim feast and the Jews would have recently returned from their travel to Jerusalem with the events fresh in their memories.

It was both timely and appropriate for Paul to use the meticulous removal of leaven from the homes of the Jews to demonstrate the meticulous way a sinful man should be removed from the church.

We do not have to throw our hands up in frustration because of contradictions between our doctrines and what the Bible clearly teaches.   The New Testament makes clear that the Law of Moses was not mandated upon gentiles.  They did not observe the Old Covenant holy days.  Rather the gentile believers marveled at the fulfillment of these days in the person of Jesus Christ.

Christians truly are unleavened!   

Let us therefore rejoice in the light of Christ’s sacrificial death as our Passover and live with a repentant heart daily.   

It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. Acts 17:11

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Wednesday Crucifixion? Not Likely.

For many years I believed the Armstrongist Church of God teaching that the crucifixion was on Wednesday.   I no longer believe that for many reasons, one of which is that the math just doesn’t add up.   Now, I find that ironic considering that those of us who believe in a Friday crucifixion are often questioned regarding our ability to count to three.   So let’s take a look at why the Wednesday crucifixion folks have a bit of a math challenge of their own.

We’ll start by looking at some anchors in time.  That’s what I call the things that we all agree on as fact.  For example, we all agree that Jesus arrived in Bethany six days before Passover because John definitively provides that reference.

(Jn. 12:1)  Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead.

The village of Bethany was just two miles from Jerusalem, on the road from Jericho at the eastern base of the Mount of Olives.   Jesus would apparently lodge there with his friends, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus for the next six nights

The first night of his arrival Jesus had dinner with his friends and Mary famously anointed Jesus’ feet with oil and wiped them with her hair (Jn 12:2-8).   Many people crowded Bethany to see Jesus and also to see Lazarus who was raised from the dead. (Jn 12:9).

Another anchor in time that we know for sure is that it was the very next day after arriving in Bethany that Jesus triumphantly entered Jerusalem on the colt of a donkey. 

(Jn 12:12-15) The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out:

      ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’
      The King of Israel!”

Matthew, Luke and John do not give a time reference immediately after this event, however Mark does.   Mark writes that after Jesus entered Jerusalem to the cheers of the crowd, he went to the temple and observed the goings on.  As it became late that same day, Jesus went back to Bethany with the twelve disciples.

(Mk 11:11)   And Jesus went into Jerusalem and into the temple. So when He had looked around at all things, as the hour was already late, He went out to Bethany with the twelve.

The very next morning Jesus and the disciples left Bethany to return to Jerusalem.  Jesus encountered the fig tree that had no fruit.  

(Mk 11:12-14)  Now the next day, when they had come out from Bethany, He was hungry.  And seeing from afar a fig tree having leaves, He went to see if perhaps He would find something on it. When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. In response Jesus said to it, “Let no one eat fruit from you ever again.”  And His disciples heard it.

This account has great meaning for us, however it is not the point of this article so we will move to the next event.  

The same day as the fig tree incident, Jesus returned to the temple where he overturned the tables of the moneychangers and cleansed the temple.  We see this continuing the story in Mark’s gospel.

(Mk 11:15)   So they came to Jerusalem. Then Jesus went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of those who sold doves.

When evening came Jesus left the city.  By all accounts it is believed that he returned to Bethany with the twelve.

(Mk 11:18-19)  And the scribes and chief priests heard it and sought how they might destroy Him; for they feared Him, because all the people were astonished at His teaching.  When evening had come, He went out of the city.

So let’s review our time anchors so far.   These are all facts that are not in dispute and are consistent in any reputable commentary.

Day 1 – Six days before Passover (Jn 12:1)

Jesus arrives in Bethany, has dinner with friends, Mary anoints his feet.

Day 2

Morning:  Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem riding donkey’s colt.
Evening:  Jesus and the twelve disciples return to Bethany.

Day 3

Morning: Jesus returns to Jerusalem with the twelve, encounters fruitless fig tree.
Day:  Temple cleansed.
Evening:  Jesus leaves the city.

Mark’s gospel continues to give us a day-to-day chronology specifying that the very next morning after the temple cleansing Jesus would return to Jerusalem again traveling right past the very same fig tree that he had cursed the previous morning.

(Mk 11:20)  Now in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots.

This is when Jesus encountered the Jewish leaders in the temple who questioned him and tried to trap him in his words.    This entire dialogue spanning from Mark 11:27 through Mark 12:44 takes place on the same day while Jesus is in Jerusalem.  The text in Mark is clear that this is one day.   It is possible that this spanned more than one day, but there is nothing in the text to indicate such. 

Now we come to Mark chapter 13.  Jesus and the disciples left the temple to return to Bethany at the foot of the Mount of Olives.  Here Jesus gave what has come to be known as the Olivet Discourse.   Those of us who have a history with the Armstrongist Churches of God are very familiar with these verses.

(Mk 13:1-4)   Then as He went out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, “Teacher, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here!”  And Jesus answered and said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone shall be left upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”  Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked Him privately,
“Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign when all these things will be fulfilled?”

Mark’s next reference to time requires careful reading. 

(Mk 14:1-2)  After two days it was the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take Him by trickery and put Him to death.  But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar of the people.”

The time reference here of “after two days” is specifically concerning the leader’s desire to arrest Jesus prior to the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread in order to avoid uproar.   The very next text in Mark concerns the Bethany anointing that we have already seen occurred six days before Passover according to John 12:1.    The reason Mark chooses to digress to this earlier event is because if forms the backdrop to why Judas Iscariot decided to betray Jesus which Mark describes in verses 10-11 that follow.  Matthew 26:14-17 presents the same story as Mark and gives clarity to the timing of the betrayal.   Judas Iscariot’s betrayal then took place the day after the Olivet Discourse.   After this we come to the next day, the day in which the Passover lamb is sacrificed and Jesus has his disciples prepare the meal

Now we encounter some differences in the wording for the Passover and Feast of Unleavened bread.  But these differences are not relevant to our point.

Let’s recap the remainder of our time anchors:

Day 4

Morning: Jesus and disciples return from Bethany, encounter the withered fig tree.
Afternoon:  Jesus questioned by Jewish leaders.
Evening:  The Olivet Discourse.

Day 5

Day:  Judas deals with the leaders, betrays Jesus.

Day 6  - Passover

Morning:  Peter and John prepare the Passover meal.
Evening:  Passover and the upper room discourse.

At first glance you might think the six days from Passover would not include Passover, but true to form the Jews do count inclusively.  So here we are with all six days accounted for using the appropriate inclusive counting of time used by the Jews and also the gospel passages that definitively specify time references during the week of the crucifixion.  

But we still haven’t given any reason to cast doubt that the crucifixion could have been on Wednesday.   But what else do we know for certain, without a doubt?

We know that the Jews kept the weekly Sabbath!

And we also know that moneychangers would not have been set up in the temple on the Sabbath day.  That certainly would not be permitted.  We also know that Jesus overturned the moneychangers on the day after he rode into Jerusalem on a colt.

If the crucifixion were on Wednesday, then based on our six days above Jesus would have had to overturn the moneychangers on the Sabbath.  But that is impossible, because there would not have been moneychangers present on the Sabbath.

Wednesday – Crucifixion
Tuesday – Prepare Last Supper
Monday – Judas’ betrayal
Sunday – Withered fig tree, questioning, Olivet discourse
Sabbath – Cursed fig tree, temple cleansed

So now…we have a math challenge on our hands, don’t we?

In addition, if the crucifixion were on a Thursday, then based on our six days above Jesus would have had to make the Triumphal Entry on the Sabbath:

Thursday – Crucifixion
Wednesday – Prepare Last Supper
Tuesday – Judas’ betrayal
Monday – Withered fig tree, questioning, Olivet discourse
Sunday – Cursed fig tree, temple cleansed
Sabbath – Triumphal Entry

(Dt 5:12-14)  ‘Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your ox, nor your donkey, nor any of your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you.

Now, I'm told there may be evidence that a donkey or colt could have in fact carried a man on the Sabbath without breaking the law.  Fine.  But consider the Mishnah prohibitions on gathering, untying, travel, and carrying objects, even small objects, in the open domain.   Consider that one of the Dead Sea scrolls, dating back to the first century, prohibited even saving another man's life on the Sabbath.  This would certainly explain why the Jewish leaders at the time condemned Jesus as a Sabbath breaker for healing a man and causing him to carry his mat on the Sabbath.   Without a doubt their Sabbath observance at the time was very strict.

With these things in mind, does it make good sense to you and seem likely that Jesus could have traveled two miles from Bethany, rode a colt to Jerusalem to the shouts of the people as they took up and threw branches and palms on the road?   All without any mention of the Sabbath by the same Jewish leaders who told Jesus to quiet his followers and stopped him along the way, who were looking for a reason to condemn him, and who had earlier attacked Jesus for healing a man on the Sabbath and for causing the man to carry his mat?

Now please go to your Bibles and look up the events that took place on what we have called Day 4.  The questioning of Jesus.  Tax collectors at work.  The treasury was open, people were putting money in the money box, even wealthy people depositing large sums of money.   Is it likely that these things occurred on the weekly Sabbath?   No.  All of these days have travel and activities that call into question the likelihood that they could have taken place on the Sabbath without mention.

So my Wednesday crucifixion friends, you have a math challenge to account for those six days before Passover clearly noted in the gospel texts without requiring events to fall on the Sabbath day that were either impossible or unlikely to have occurred on the Sabbath.  

There may be a few variations on how to reconcile the days, but all the various formulas end in question marks.

When looking at the dates and timing given in the gospel accounts, it is more likely that our Day 1 took place as sunset began the weekly Sabbath six days before Passover.

Friday – Crucifixion
Thursday – Prepare Last Supper
Wednesday – Judas’ betrayal
Tuesday – Withered fig tree, questioning, Olivet discourse
Monday – Cursed fig tree, temple cleansed
Sunday – Triumphal Entry
Sabbath - Jesus rested at his friend's home

But let’s face it.  The Bible does not clearly specify the exact day of the week for these events.  The texts that we quoted are very convincing and our dating is consistent with many very reputable commentaries.  And certainly, at the very least, these texts should demonstrate that there is good reasoning behind the traditional Christian belief of a Friday crucifixion.  

Now if you are still convinced of a Wednesday crucifixion, well that’s okay.  I have a very good friend in the church I attend that is also convinced of a Wednesday crucifixion.   When we discussed it he smiled at me and said, “as long as we believe that Jesus was crucified, died and was buried, and was raised from the dead on the third day, and we put our faith in him, that is what really matters”. 

Well, I wholeheartedly agree!  

But a Wednesday crucifixion…I still say not likely.

************ It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; ) Acts 17:11 ************