When does a day begin and end? Some have said that society decides when a day begins and ends, 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 does not matter.

When considering the day that God raised Christ, many have wondered on what day the Romans crucified Christ, what day did God raise Him, and at what time of the day was Jesus resurrected. The day of assembly is the day of Christ’s Resurrection. Some ask about assembling on Saturday night if the first day of the week begins and ends at sunset.

The following Scriptures show that the idea of a day starting and concluding at sunset is a belief that is foreign to the Scriptures. On what is commonly known as Saturday night, some churches assemble having the Lord’s Supper as “the first day of the week.” Knowing when a day begins and ends is important. Consider what the Scriptures present as when a day begins and ends. This study may surprise many.

The following Scriptures present clearly that a day begins at sunrise:

  • Matthew 28:1 reveals, “Now late on the sabbath day, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.” (ASV 1901, emp. added).
  • Mark 16:1–2 depicts, “And when the sabbath was past, 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?

Genesis 1 shows that the day consisting of day and night is one that starts at sunrise.

  • Genesis 1:5 reports, “And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day” (cf. Gen 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. Each day consisted of a day, an evening, and then morning. That is the biblical day from the genesis of days. 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 notes, “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?’” (cf. Mark 14:12).
    • This is the first day of unleavened bread when Jesus sent Peter and John to prepare for the Passover although Israel roasted the Passover lamb at twilight and ate it in the night. As in the Old Testament, the first day of the Passover Feast include the day and the preceding evening.
  • Mark 4:35 depicts, “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 tells, “When therefore it was evening [nightfall, Greek: opsios], on that day, the first day of the week, and when thedoorswere 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 first day of the week and now it is the same day called “evening.” According to this passage, the first day of the week was the day and then the night.

Did not Mary Magdalene come unto Jesus’ tomb on the first 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 rose, 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 dawn and there is still darkness in the vales where the elevations block the sun’s light in some places. This is especially true where people have carved a tomb from rock. Darkness after dawn is evidently possible, and reasonable to those of 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 based upon Leviticus 23:32 where the Day of Atonement was held on the tenth day of the seventh month, but the Sabbath began on the ninth because the Sabbath was 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 ninth day and the tenth day of the month. Leviticus 23:32 speaks of the sunset of the ninth day being the time to start the Sabbath for the tenth 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, Exod 12:18 18:13, Lev 6:20).