return to homepage

Joseph of Arimathaea
and the Start of the Sabbath

Joseph of Arimathaea and the account of his actions in the events around the burial of Jesus help us to determine the correct start of the Sabbath day. Some translation issues with also be addressed.

This page addresses point #5 of "My Burden is Light." You may go back to point #4 here. If you haven't done so, please read the introduction to this series examining a question about the time of the start of the Sabbath. Point #5 of the study "My Burden is Light" is reproduced (with only some minor formatting changes) in the shaded portion below. The examination and commentary of it follows.

#5. Let us discuss another New Testament scripture, which continues to prove this point being made to us by God through His inspired Word. Notice: Luke 23:44-54
44 And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour.
45 And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst.
46 And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.
47 Now when the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous man.
48 And all the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts, and returned.
49 And all his acquaintance, and the women that followed him from Galilee, stood afar off, beholding these things.
50 And, behold, there was a man named Joseph, a councilor; and he was a good man, and a just:
51(The same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them;) he was of Arimathaea, a city of the Jews: who also himself waited for the kingdom of God.
52 This man went unto Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus.
53 And he took it down, and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a sepulchre that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid.
54 And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on [G2020]. KJV
Notice that verse 54 concludes by stating that the Sabbath "drew on [G2020]", or "began to grow light [G2020]"!

What the above passage is telling us is that:
1. Joseph of Arimathaea went to Pilate and begged for the body of Christ.
2. This would have no doubt taken time.
3. Once clearance was granted from Pilate for Joseph to take Christ's body, Joseph had to then arrange for the body to be removed from the stake.
4. He would have also had to clean the body ...
5. Wrap it in linen ...
6. Then transport it to the sepulcher.
7. To do all this would have taken more than just a few hours.
8. We know that Christ died at the ninth hour (Luke 23:44) which is 3 pm.
9. Sunset was around 6 pm.
10. If we think about this logically, it should be obvious that it must have taken Joseph much more than a few hours till sunset to fulfill the obligations before burial.
11. No doubt, Joseph worked through the night!
12. At any rate, we are told that this was all finished before the Sabbath "began to grow light [G2020] (Luke 23:54)!
13. The Sabbath did not begin at sunset when it began to grow dark, but it began before sunrise, when it began to grow light!

Notice the following Bible translations for Luke 23:54 which continue to give us further clarity:

"It was the day of Preparation [for the Sabbath], and the Sabbath was dawning ..." (Luke 23:54, Amplified Bible)

"And [the] day was [the] preparation and [the] Sabbath lighted up ..." (Luke 23:54, Greek Interlinear)

Joseph of Arimathaea worked until the Sabbath lit up! This is what scripture tells us. Clearly, a day according to God begins at sunrise and not at sunset.

This point regarding the start of the Sabbath is based on the following two premises:

  1. There was not time enough between Jesus' death at about 3pm and sunset at about 6pm for all of the events that would have had to take place to complete the burial.
  2. "Drew on" [G2020, epiphosko] is a reference to the light of sunrise.

A number of assumptions have been made in the 13-point list above regarding the time for different events to occur leading to the conclusion "No doubt, Joseph worked through the night!" Let's think about this. I have already dealt with the order of events from Jesus' death to His burial and the role of Joseph of Arimathaea in it in my book "In the Heart of the Earth: The Secret Code That Reveals What Is In the Heart of God." Following is an excerpt from it:

How Long Did All These Events Take?

Look at all the events that happened here between Jesus' death and burial. In sequence, we have:

  1. The Jews went to Pilate*
  2. The order to break the legs was returned to Golgotha*
  3. The thieves' legs were broken
  4. Joseph went to Pilate*
  5. Pilate sent for the centurion*
  6. The centurion reported to Pilate*
  7. Joseph returned to the cross for Jesus' body*
  8. Jesus' body was:
    1. removed from the cross
    2. wrapped in the linen cloth
    3. carried to the tomb
    4. prepared with the linen and spices
  9. The tomb was closed and sealed

This would have all taken some time. Each of the items in the list above that is followed by an * involves a trip between Calvary and Pilate's hall. There were several consecutive one-way trips. That distance, as shown on readily-available maps of ancient Jerusalem, was perhaps only ΒΌ of a mile, but it had to be close, and they had to find Pilate each time and spend a few minutes there. The point is that a number of events had to happen between Jesus' death at 3 pm and His burial before the start of the Sabbath - a period of about three hours. How much time elapsed between the completion of His burial and the start of the Sabbath? It couldn't have been long; perhaps it was only minutes.

So the suggestion in the excerpt above is that all the events could have happened before sunset, whereas the suggestion in My Burden is Light is that "No doubt, Joseph worked through the night!" Really, that is an assumption and quite possibly an incorrect one.

Here are some additional considerations. Since the Sabbath was drawing on, whether it was to start at sunset or later at sunrise, there was an urgency. We might think Joseph worked through the night by himself but think about it. Joseph of Arimathaea was a very wealthy man. He could simply call a number of servants. He could tell them to go to his storehouse and get all the needed materials and get lots of spices as they were going to be burying an important man. He already had a grave ready and nearby. In that culture, burials happened very soon after death. There were no funeral homes. People had to take care of everything themselves. Joseph had the grave ready, he was obviously making preparations ahead of time for his own burial; he likely had a supply of everything else needed.

Granted, there are some assumptions in this but with the short distances involved, some extra help and the urgency of the coming Sabbath it is not unreasonable that it could have been done within three hours. There are assumptions in the "through the night" scenario as well. We should admit that the timing of the start of the Sabbath cannot be established on the factor of the time needed for the burial.

"The Sabbath Drew On"

Now let's look at the other question raised in this point which concerns the meaning of "drew on."

"And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on." (Luke 23:54)

"Drew on" is from the Greek which the On-line Bible describes as:

2020 greek word epiphosko epiphosko ep-ee-foce'-ko a form of 2017; TDNT-9:310,1293; v AV-begin to dawn 1, draw on 1; 2 1) to grow light, to dawn

Here is what one writer said about "drew on" (epiphosko):

"The word greek word epiphoskouse (epiphoskouse) has the ending ko which indicates either a middle or passive voice form so that the reader understands that the event is either just beginning or just ending. This can be literally translated "upon the coming of the light" (a light that is getting brighter) or "upon the going of the light" (a light that is getting dimmer). Many words in Greek can be understood in two opposite ways depending on the context. Whether the writer intends for us to understand that the light is getting brighter or dimmer must be determined by the context of the sentence ...
The entry for epiphosko in the majority of the Greek-English Lexicons would lead the reader to believe that the primary meaning is an event associated with dawn or sunrise. However, sunrise is not implied in the words of the text. That understanding is supplied by the translators or the reader who relies on tradition rather than scripture to interpret the text. Moreover, it should be pointed out that the word dawn does not require a sunrise context. The dawn of civilization or the dawn of a new era or it dawned on me are expressions in English that have nothing to do with a sunrise event even though the word dawn is a key part of each phrase." (From "Finding the Empty Tomb" by Gerald Brown)

We need to recognize that word definitions given in sources such as Strong's Concordance are not inspired. Strong's is very useful to find other uses of the same original word. But then we should get the meaning as much as possible from the context and how the Bible uses the same word in other verses.

It really helps with understanding the timing to recognize that the phrase "first day of the week" is a mistranslation. This is dealt with in detail in my book In the Heart of the Earth: The Secret Code That Reveals What Is In the Heart of God. The phrase is derived from the Greek "mia ton Sabbaton." "Sabbaton" is the Greek word for Sabbath; the Greek word for week is "hebdomas." Translations of "sabbaton" into "week" occur in references to the resurrection or in verses used in support of Sunday sacredness for which, of course, the claim of a Sunday resurrection is made.

The timing issue all becomes more clear when we look at it in a diagram. Here is how it would look as laid out in "My Burden is Light"

Sabbath starting at sunrise

By correcting the mistranslations of "mia ton Sabbaton" (in Matt 28:1 - should be "one of the Sabbaths" and not "first day of the week") and "opse" (in Matt 28:1 - should be "evening" and not "end") we can derive a more-correct diagram of the events:

Sabbath starting at sunset

If the Sabbath began to grow light (on what we would call Saturday morning shortly before sunrise) why would Mary leave the site of the grave and go home and how could she then leave home "while it was yet dark" on the Sabbath to return to the tomb?

Even if "mia ton sabbaton" meant first day of the week, consider the following. John reports two events, one happening before sunrise and one happening after sunrise on the same day:

"The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre." (John 20:1)
"Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you." (John 20:19)

Whichever day the "first day of the week" is referring to, Mary came to the tomb before sunrise ("when it was yet dark") and later "the same day at evening " (after sunrise and at least after noon) "the disciples were assembled." That would look like this:

Mary came to the tomb while it was yet dark

Both of these events can't happen on the same day if the next day starts between them.

It is impossible to have the day start at sunrise.

Additional notes:

Here is another point. "That day" in Luke 23:54 is referring to when all these events happened. The study "My Burden is Light" takes the position that "day" refers only the light portion of a 24-hour period. By that and the position that Joseph worked through the night (most of the events would have happened and ended during the night) it should not say "that day" but "that night."

Note: it can only be "yet dark" on the Sabbath if the Sabbath includes the dark part of the day before sunrise:

Yet dark

Of course, the same applies to any day of the week. If it is dark at any time of a day then the period of time defined by the word "day" includes a dark portion and is not limited to the time between sunrise and sunset.

There are many versions of Luke 23:54 that reflect the fact that "epiphosko" ("drew on" in the KJV) has the meaning that the Sabbath is about to start not that it is sunrise on Sabbath:

  1. "And [that] day was a preparation [day]-[the] Sabbath was drawing near." (ALT)
  2. "And it was the day of the Preparation, and the sabbath drew on." (ASV)
  3. "Now it was the day of making ready and the Sabbath was coming on." (BBE)
  4. "It was Friday, and the Sabbath was about to begin." (CEV)
  5. "And it was preparation day, and the sabbath twilight was coming on." (Darby)
  6. "That day was the Preparation; the Sabbath was drawing near." (EMTV)
  7. "It was the day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was beginning." (ESV)
  8. "It was Friday, and the Sabbath was about to begin." (GNB)
  9. "It was Friday, and the day of worship was just beginning." (GW)
  10. "It was the Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was just beginning." ISV)
  11. "And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on." (KJV)
  12. "And it was Preparation Day, and a sabbath was coming on."(LITV)
  13. "And that day was the Preparation, and the sabbath drew on." (MKJV)
  14. "And it was the day of preparation, and the sabbath began to dawn." (Murdock)
  15. "And it was the day of the Preparation, and the sabbath drew on." (RV)
  16. "And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on." (Webster)
  17. "It was the Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was near at hand." (WNT)
  18. "And the day was a preparation, and sabbath was approaching," (YLT)


Prophecy Newsletter
Receive free newsletters reporting and analysing world events related to prophecy.
The Greek has multiple words for forgiveness? God forgives (charizomai) whether we ask or not. Receiving forgiveness (apheimi) is by our choice.
God always forgives!


New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Please leave a comment below.