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When did a Jewish day begin?

The timeline chart of the events of the Passover Week during Passover in 30 CE (see below) helps to answer the question about when the day began for Jews during the time of Jesus, at sunrise or sunset. In order to get all of the chronological details given in the New Testament to align properly, the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) must reflect days that began at sunset, whereas the Gospel of John must reflect days that began at sunrise. The Synoptic authors were Galileans, and that means their days began at sunset since that was the custom followed by the Pharisees, whose influence held sway in the Galilee.

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The confirmation that a Pharisean day began at sunset is found in a verse in the Gospel of Mark, which says:

Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel. Now as he walked by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men. And straightway they forsook their nets, and followed him. And when he had gone a little further thence, he saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the ship mending their nets. And straightway he called them: and they left their father Zebedee in the ship with the hired servants, and went after him. And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes. And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God. And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him. And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, What thing is this? what new doctrine is this? for with authority commandeth he even the unclean spirits, and they do obey him. And immediately his fame spread abroad throughout all the region round about Galilee. And forthwith, when they were come out of the synagogue, they entered into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. But Simon’s wife’s mother lay sick of a fever, and anon they tell him of her. And he came and took her by the hand, and lifted her up; and immediately the fever left her, and she ministered unto them. And at even, when the sun did set, they brought unto him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils. And all the city was gathered together at the door. And he healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and cast out many devils; and suffered not the devils to speak, because they knew him.” (Mark 1:14-34)

As shown in the text, Jesus was in Capernaum, where he taught in the synogogue on the Sabbath. Later that sabbath day, he entered Peter’s house and healed Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever, whereafter she ministered to them. Then, in verse 32, it says, “And at even, when the sun did set, they [the people in Galilee] brought unto him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils.

From a chronological standpoint, why is that verse important? It shows that the Galilean people, who were dominated by Pharisean rules of conduct—including the rule that forbade healing on the Sabbath—felt the need to wait until the sabbath day ended and the next day started, both of which happened at sunset, to bring their kinsmen for healing. That is essentially proof from the Bible that the Pharisean day ran from sunset to sunset, and that bit of knowledge is vital for making sense of the apparent contradictions between the Passion Week timelines in the Synoptic Gospels and the timeline in the Book of John, which reflects the Sadducean day beginning at sunrise.

When it is understood that the Synoptics follow the Pharisean sunset-to-sunset chronology, whereas the Book of John follows the priestly/Sadducean sunrise-to-sunrise chronology, the events in the Passion Week line up with one another and all four accounts of the Passion Week agree chronologically.

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