When does a day begin and end? Some have said that a day begins and ends as is accepted in that society, so for the U.S. that would be midnight. Then, there are others like the Jews who hold the Talmud’s position that a day begins and ends at sunset. Some have said that it really doesn’t matter when. Well, when considering the day that Christ was raised especially to silence non-believers, many have wondered on what day was Christ crucified, what day He was raised, and at what time of the day was Jesus resurrected. Then regarding the day of Assembly closely related to the Resurrection, some ask a similar question, “Since the Assembly of Acts 20 was at night on the 1st day of the week, should we partake of the Lord’s Supper on what is commonly known as Sunday that may be the 2nd day of the week or should we partake of the Supper on what is commonly known as Saturday that might be the 1st day of the week?” This question is asked with the understanding of the Jewish days end and start at sunset, which is a belief completely foreign to the Scriptures. On what is commonly known as Saturday night, some churches assemble having the Lord’s Supper and the Assembly as “the first day of the week”. So, when does a day begin? Is what is called Saturday night actually the beginning of the first day of the week? Let’s take a look at what the Scriptures present as when a day begins and ends. This study will surprise many.
*The following Scriptures present clearly that a day begins at sunrise:
Matthew 28:1 – “Now late [end, Greek: opse] on [unto, Greek: eis] the Sabbath day, as it began to dawn toward [unto, Greek: eis] the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulcher.”
Mark 16:1-2 – “And of the elapsing of the sabbath, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, that they might come and anoint him.
And very early on the first day of the week, they come to the tomb when the sun was risen.” How could it be “very early” if the day started at sunset or midnight? If it were sunset, then the day would have been more than half over and it would not have been early.
*Genesis 1 shows that the day consisting of day and night is one that starts at sunrise.
Genesis 1:5, “And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning [sunrise, Heb. boqer], one day” (cf. Genesis 1:8, 13, 19, 23, 31). The Hebrew word for morning is boqer, which means “sunrise”, “end of night”, “coming of daylight”, and “beginning of day”. Therefore, note the order of the day, “And there was evening [sunset] and there was morning [sunrise], one day”, which means the day ended and then came night then sunrise started a new day. Clearly, the complete day does not end at sunset or midnight, but the day started at dawn in the beginning.
*Also notice these passages confirming the day starts before sunset when a day goes on through sunset into evening:
Matthew 26:17 & Mark 14:12 – “Now on the first day of unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, ‘Where will you that we make ready for you to eat the Passover?’” It is the first day of unleavened bread when Jesus sent Peter and John to prepare for the Passover even though the Passover Lamb was roasted at twilight and eaten in the night. Evidently, the daytime before the night of the Passover was considered the first day of the Passover Feast presenting the day before the night in a complete day.
Mark 4:35 – “And on that day, when evening was come, he said unto them, ‘Let us go over unto the other side.’” Again, the evening followed daylight within the day.
John 20:19 – “When therefore it was evening [nightfall, Greek: opsios], on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said unto them, ‘Peace be unto you.’” See, “on that day” is referring to the day when Christ rose on the morning of the 1st day of the week and now it is the same day called “evening”. According to this passage, the first day of the week was day and then by night.
Did not Mary Magdalene come unto Jesus’ tomb on the 1st day of the week when it was dark according to John 20:1?
John 20:1 states, “Now on the first day of the week comes Mary Magdalene early, while it was yet dark, unto the tomb, and sees the stone taken away from the tomb.” If it was dark without the sun raised, then John 20:1 would disprove or present another understanding that a day starts on another time other than sunrise in contradiction to the Scriptures above. Note John 20:19 again which states, “When therefore it was evening, on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said unto them, “Peace be unto you.’” How could it be evening on the first day of the week, the very day that Jesus was raised, if a day started at sunset and the day would have changed? Also consider that Luke 24:1 makes it clear that the women came at early dawn, so though it was dark though it was not night. In mountainous areas, the sun can be up and it still be much darker in the vales where the land blocks the sun’s light in some places especially where a tomb is carved into a rock. Darkness after dawn is evidently possible, and reasonable to those of us who go out early.
Did not all Jews at this time believe that day was from sunset to sunset?
No. The idea that a day was sunset to sunset came from man’s tradition and thinking regarding Leviticus 23:32 where the Day of Atonement was to be held on the 10th day of the 7th month, but the Sabbath began on the 9th because the Sabbath was to be kept on this occasion from evening unto evening. Even in this passage from Leviticus, one can easily notice the reference to two different days, the 9th day and the 10th day of the month, and it speaks of the sunset of the 9th day being the time to start the Sabbath for the 10th day. Evidently, a day did not start at sunset and this was a special occasion of simply keeping the high sabbath for the Day of Atonement. The regular Mosaic day began with the rise of day through the setting of the evening (Gen. 1, Ex. 12:18 18:13, Lev. 6:20).