The Sabbath Day Resurrection

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Much debate exists over when Yeshua resurrected because the English translations of this event generally do not reflect what the Greek texts actually say. In this post I will go over what each verse actually says in the Greek and compare it to how those words are translated elsewhere in the New Testament. I give the Thayer Greek Lexicon numbers so you can look up each word for yourself if you would like.

Account #1


Matthew 28:1 – ᾿Οψὲ δὲ σαββάτων, τῇ ἐπιφωσκούσῃ εἰς μίαν σαββάτων, ἦλθε Μαρὶα ἡ Μαγδαληνὴ καὶ ἡ ἄλλη Μαρία θεωρῆσαι τὸν τάφον.

The key phrase which gives you the timing is “Οψὲ δὲ σαββάτων, τῇ ἐπιφωσκούσῃ εἰς μίαν σαββάτων” which translated literally means “Now well along on the sabbath, as it began to dawn on the first of the sabbaths”

Let’s go word by word…
Οψὲ (G3796) means “after a long time, long after, late” according to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon. It appears three times in the NT and is translated in the NAS and Interlinear respectively as “after/after”, “evening/evening” and “in the evening/at evening”. I’ll let you guess which time it is translated as “after”. Comment at the end of the post…
δὲ (G1161) is a conjunction which appears 2786 times and is most often translated as “now” in the NAS and can take different meanings such as “moreover, and, next, but, etc…”
σαββάτων (4521) means the seventh day of the week. It appears 68 times in the New Testament and is translated as Sabbath except in the following 9 verses: Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:2, Mark 16:9, Luke 18:12, Luke 24:1, John 20:1, John 20:19, Acts 20:7 & 1 Corinthians 16:2
τῇ (3588) is a definite article usually translated as this, that, those, whose, etc.
ἐπιφωσκούσῃ (G2020) means to go light or to dawn
εις (G1519) is a preposition meaning into, to, towards, etc.
μίαν (G1520) is an adjective which is usually translated at “one” – it also is only translated as “first” in the following verses: Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:2, Mark 16:9, Luke 24:1, John 20:1, John 20:19, Acts 20:7 & 1 Corinthians 16:2.

Coincidence? I don’t think so.

σαββάτων (4521) – again means the 7th day Sabbath. The first occurrence of this word in this verse was translated “sabbath”, but this second occurrence it is translated as “week”

So for Matthew 28:1, we see why “Now well along on the sabbath, as it began to dawn on the first of the sabbaths” is a fair literal translation. The word for “day” in the Greek is not in the verse and the literal translation does not insert it as most English translations do.

I’ll move quickly through the other accounts, just giving the Greek verse, and definitions of the words in the phrase which pinpoints the time of the events.

Account #2a


Mark 16:2 – καὶ λίαν πρωῒ τῆς μιᾶς σαββάτων ἔρχονται ἐπὶ τὸ μνημεῖον, ἀνατείλαντος τοῦ ἡλίου.

The key phrase here is “καὶ λίαν πρωῒ τῆς μιᾶς σαββάτων” which literally translated says “and early in the morning of the first of the sabbaths”

καὶ (G2532) Thayer Definition: and, also, even, indeed, but
λίαν (G3029) Thayer Definition: greatly, exceedingly, exceedingly beyond measure
πρωῒ (G4404) Thayer Definition: in the morning, early, the fourth watch of the night, from 3 o’clock in the morning until 6 o’clock approximately
τῆς (G3588) Thayer Definition: the definite article, “the” in its masculine, feminine or neuter gender, the demonstrative pronoun i.e. “this” “that” “these”
μιᾶς (G1520) Thayer Definition: one
σαββάτων (G4521) Thayer Definition: the seventh day of each week

Account #2b


Mark 16:9 – Αναστὰς δὲ πρωῒ πρώτῃ σαββάτου ἐφάνη πρῶτον Μαρίᾳ τῇ Μαγδαληνῇ, ἀφ᾿ ἧς ἐκβεβλήκει ἑπτὰ δαιμόνια.

The key phrase is “Αναστὰς δὲ πρωῒ πρώτῃ σαββάτου” which translated literally means “And he, having risen in the morning of the first of the sabbaths”

Αναστὰς (G450) Thayer Definition: to cause to rise up, raise up, to rise, stand up, appear
δὲ (G1161) is a conjunction such as “now, moreover, and, next, but, etc…”
πρωῒ (G4404) “in the morning, early, the fourth watch of the night”
πρώτῃ (G4413) Thayer Definition: first in time or place, first in rank, first, at the first
σαββάτου (G4521) the seventh day of the week

Account #3


Luke 24:1 – Τῇ δὲ μιᾷ τῶν σαββάτων ὄρθρου βαθέως ἦλθον ἐπὶ τὸ μνῆμα φέρουσαι ἃ ἡτοίμασαν ἀρώματα, καὶ τινες σὺν αὐταῖς.

The key phrase is “Τῇ δὲ μιᾷ τῶν σαββάτων ὄρθρου βαθέως” whose literal translation is “And on the first of the sabbaths, at early dawn”

Τῇ (G3588) the definite article “the”, the demonstrative pronoun i.e. “this” “that” “these”
δὲ (G1161) is a conjunction such as “now, moreover, and, next, but, etc…”
μιᾷ (G1520) Thayer Definition: one
τῶν (G3588) the definite article “the”, the demonstrative pronoun i.e. “this” “that” “these”
σαββάτων (G4521) the seventh day of the week
ὄρθρου (G3722) Thayer Definition: daybreak, dawn, at early dawn, at daybreak, early in the morning
βαθέως (G901) adjective meaning “deep”

Account #4a


John 20:1 – Τῇ δὲ μιᾷ τῶν σαββάτων Μαρία ἡ Μαγδαληνὴ ἔρχεται πρωι σκοτίας ἔτι οὔσης εἰς τὸ μνημεῖον, καὶ βλέπει τὸν λίθον ἡρμένον ἐκ τοῦ μνημείου.

The key phrase is “Τῇ δὲ μιᾷ τῶν σαββάτων Μαρία ἡ Μαγδαληνὴ ἔρχεται πρωι σκοτίας ἔτι οὔσης” which translated literally means “And on the first of the sabbaths, Mary the Magdalene doth come early (there being yet darkness)”

Τῇ (G3588) the definite article “the”, the demonstrative pronoun i.e. “this” “that” “these”
δὲ (G1161) is a conjunction such as “now, moreover, and, next, but, etc…”
μιᾷ (G1520) Thayer Definition: one
τῶν (G3588) the definite article “the”, the demonstrative pronoun i.e. “this” “that” “these”
σαββάτων (G4521) the seventh day of the week
Μαρία ἡ Μαγδαληνὴ (G3137) “Maria” (G3588) “the” (G3094) “Magdalēnē”
ἔρχεται (G2064) Thayer Definition: to come
πρωι (G4404) “in the morning, early, the fourth watch of the night”
σκοτίας (G4653) Thayer Definition: darkness, the darkness due to want of light
ἔτι (G2089) Thayer Definition: yet, still
οὔσης (G1510) Thayer Definition: to be, to exist, to happen, to be present

Account #4b


John 20:19 – Οὔσης οὖν ὀψίας τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ἐκείνῃ τῇ μιᾷ τῶν σαββάτων, καὶ τῶν θυρῶν κεκλεισμένων ὅπου ἦσαν οἱ μαθηταὶ συνηγμένοι διὰ τὸν φόβον τῶν ᾿Ιουδαίων, ἦλθεν ὁ ᾿Ιησοῦς καὶ ἔστη εἰς τὸ μέσον, καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς· εἰρήνη ὑμῖν.

The key phrase is “ὔσης οὖν ὀψίας τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ἐκείνῃ τῇ μιᾷ τῶν σαββάτων” which literally translated is “It being, therefore, evening, on that day, the first of the sabbaths”

ὔσης (G1510) Thayer Definition: to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
οὖν (G3767) Thayer Definition: then, therefore, accordingly, consequently, these things being so
ὀψίας (G3798) Thayer Definition: late, evening (either from 3 to 6p.m. or from 6 p.m. to the beginning of night)
τῇ (G3588) the demonstrative pronoun i.e. “this” “that” “these”
ἡμέρᾳ (G2250) Thayer Definition: the day, used of the natural day, or the interval between sunrise and sunset

The word for day does exist! So why is this the first time we see it? Why not use the word “day” in any of the verses above?

ἐκείνῃ (G1565) Thayer Definition: he, she it, etc.
τῇ (G3588) the definite article “the”
μιᾷ (G1520) Thayer Definition: one
τῶν (G3588) the definite article “the”, the demonstrative pronoun i.e. “this” “that” “these”
σαββάτων (G4521) the seventh day of the week

So that covers the actual text at issue. Now for the questions.

  1. Is “First of Sabbaths” a fair translation?
    1. Yes, Luke 6:1 demonstrates that the translators have no trouble understanding the counting of Sabbaths at a certain time each year. Luke 6:1 says in various translations “second Sabbath after the first” or “on the second-first sabbath”.
    2. It is possible to give the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew “Yom Rishon”- the words for first and day (and week) do exist in the Greek. All four writers of the Gospels, however, chose to use a very specific phrase (“First of Sabbaths” or “First of THE Sabbaths” as in John 20:19) which points to one unique day of the entire year – the first Sabbath after Passover.
  2. But isn’t that inconsistent with how to count the omer? The first Sabbath isn’t necessarily after Passover.
    1. At the time of Yeshua we know from the records of Josephus that they did start the count for the omer on the 16th of the month, the day the wave sheaf offering of barley was brought, such that Shavuot would fall out on the 5th, 6th or 7th day of the 3rd month.
    2. Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book 3, 250 “But on the second day of unleavened bread, which is the sixteenth day of the month, they first partake of the fruits of the earth, for before that day they do not touch them. And while they suppose it proper to honor God, from whom they obtain this plentiful provision, in the first place, they offer the first-fruits of their barley…”
    3. Whether you agree with this way to count the omer or not, this is what was done in the Temple at the time of Yeshua, and for the writers of the gospels, the first Sabbath after Passover would have been the “first of Sabbaths”.
  3. How does this fit three days and three nights?
    1. All accounts agree that dawn had not yet arrived when they found the tomb empty. Therefore that night, the first part of the Sabbath, would be considered NIGHT 3. We can count backward from there:
      1. 6th day daytime is DAY 3
      2. 6th day nighttime is NIGHT 2
      3. 5th day daytime is DAY 2
      4. 5th day nighttime is NIGHT 1
      5. 4th day daytime is DAY 1 – as was prophesied – he would be cut off in the middle of the week.resurrection timeline 3 days 3 nights
    2. Even though calendar days start with the evening, Yeshua gave the prophecy as “3 days and 3 nights” in that order. Jonah went into the belly of the great fish during the day, and Yeshua went into the grave during the day. According to the gospel accounts, Yeshua died around 3 in the afternoon. Everyone was eager to get this process finished and get home to prepare for the High Day. They would have buried him as soon as they could. Sunset during that time of year is around 7pm. Yeshua was likely in the grave for several hours before sunset on the 4th day. In Hebrew inclusive reckoning of time, any part of a day is a whole day. Many wish to ignore this time that he spent in the grave, but that is not fair to the Hebraic view of this event. He was in the grave on the 4th day as prophesied. 12 hours are NOT required. Any time at all in the grave on the 4th day counts as DAY 1.

That’s it for now… If there are good questions in the comments I’ll update the post with answers.

Thanks for reading!

How most English translations treat the Greek word σάββατον in the New Testament.

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