Beginning with Creation
Many in Jewish and even Messianic circles claim that the day begins in the evening because of the historical Talmudic tradition and understanding of a phrase in Genesis chapter 1 which states “… And the evening and the morning were the first day.” What they fail to realize is that the creative works that Yah did were done prior to this statement. “And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night…”. (And then AFTER the work was completed) ” and the evening and the morning were the first day”. Thus, we see very clearly the daily pattern is established beginning with light, work is done during the day before evening, night falls and the count of the day ends with the morning twilight which is followed by the next day.
Using the Passover
Below I have charted three different methods of reckoning the Passover. First is a Morning to Morning method. The second and third are two different possibilities when looking at it from an Evening to Evening method.
Considering that it takes nearly 4-5 hours to and cook a whole lamb roasted over a fire, which is the command given in Exodus 12:9. If we keep to Method #2 that process would be nearly impossible for an individual to complete it in such a short amount of time between the evening of the 14th and the night time hours; not to mention the literal thousands of lambs that had to be slain and prepared for the feast at the temple in Jerusalem which would have been a major event. I do not think it would be a stretch to consider that process would take literally all day even with hundreds of priests overseeing the whole thing. So that pushes the preparation into the 13th day violating the command given in Torah. It also leaves the entire day of the 14th wide open which does not fit scripture at all.
Additionally, when examining Method #3 the people would be correctly killing and preparing the Passover on the 14th day, but due to the reckoning of the day it would cause them to eat the Passover on the 15th, again a clear violation of the commands given in scripture.
As shown above in the charts, the Jews could have been doing several things, but given the Gospel accounts and even the historical practices going back to the 1st and 2nd centuries, it is likely that they were keeping to Method #3 and were in fact eating the Passover on the night of the 15th. If we take Method #1 using a Morning to Morning reckoning and overlay it with Method #3 it reveals a 12-hour shift between the days. Given the undisputable fact that Yeshua kept the Torah perfectly, regardless of what the Jews were doing, we must assume that when he told his disciples to go and prepare the Passover it HAD to have been on the 14th day to be obedient to the command, after all why would Yeshua command his disciples to violate Torah? And when they sat down later that evening to eat it, it also HAD to be on the night of the 14th, again in obedience to the commands given in Torah. Thus, we can now align the two methods with the Torah and with what is recorded in the Gospels.
I just ask that when reviewing the information below that an open mind is made ready. As we all know every witness account varies in content and detail because perspectives are different. This is definitely something to consider when examining the Gospel accounts, especially in regards to the Crucifixion. Matthew (formerly Levi) and John were part of the inner 12. Mark was a young man at that time and quite possibly a disciple, but not part of the inner circle. As we see in the gospels, Matthew and Mark both fled when the guards came to arrest Yeshua, so their accounts of the events that took place beyond that point are second hand at best. Luke however, was not even a disciple, nor did he live in Judea. He was from Antioch in Greece and a disciple of Paul, so his account of the events are not even second hand, and can be viewed as the least credible of the four accounts, nevertheless they seem to align. John is the only one of the four to have been an actual eye witness to the entire thing.
Another point to consider is the terminology used. It is likely that there is some ambiguity when the gospel accounts say that it was the first day of unleavened bread vs Passover, since they could be referring to the same day, or they could be referring to two different days. It is also important to note that that in Exodus the first day of Unleavened Bread the 15th is referred to as the “Feast” whereas Passover the 14th was not. Just something to keep in mind and an example of the ambiguity on display in the Gospel accounts.
Regardless, we see in Matthew 26 and Luke 22 that Yeshua was actually keeping the Passover the night before He was killed. Nevertheless, we also see that that the following day was still referred to as a preparation day, why is that? It could be that just as I have it charted below there were two different methods of observation in play at that time in Jerusalem.
I will submit that Mark 15:42 and Luke 23:54 poses an issue albeit a minor one when considering that there could have been a dual reckoning. If we hold firm to the reckoning of evening to evening being the correct one, and we also believe that Yeshua did in fact eat the Passover the night before as indicated in the Gospels, then we have to consider that when He told his disciples to prepare the Passover it was actually on the 13th day thus breaking the clear commands given in Torah to slay the Passover on the 14th between the evenings, which simply cannot be.
In reality it comes down to perspective. IF the Jews were actually celebrating the Feast of Passover by an Evening to Evening method as described in Method #3, and IF the Morning to Morning reckoning of Method #1 is correct, then the ambiguity of the gospels and the Exodus pattern are completely resolved and everything falls into perfect alignment. And we then see that according to the popular Jewish reckoning they would have been killing the Passover on Wednesday the 14th, in accordance to their understanding, and Yeshua would have been keeping the Passover with His disciples in accordance to Torah on the night of Tuesday the 14th. The accounts recorded for us in the gospels contain nuances that allude to both being true, but are not clear enough to delineate a clear conclusion to either point. I will leave the data here for you to review and come to your own conclusions.
The Day of Atonement
Aside from being commanded to kill the Passover “between the evenings” of the 14th, the only time we are commanded to observe anything from evening to evening is in regards to The Day of Atonement. The 10th day was to be a High Sabbath. However, we are commanded to “afflict our souls” from evening of the 9th to the evening of the 10th. If the standard practice was to observe the day from evening to evening this would go without saying. However, keeping the day from evening to evening would also cause the fast to span the 9th day as well because the closest “evening” (mixing of light and dark) to the 10th day that was still considered to be on the 9th, would be the morning of the 9th which is a full 12 hours before the start of the 10th day. So rather than fasting or afflicting our souls for a 24-hour period we would have to keep it for 36 hours starting on the morning of the 9th to keep from violating the command. Either that or we would simply fast for 12 hours from the morning of the 9th around 7am to the evening of the 10th around 7pm. I suppose either case is probable, but the simplest interpretation would be from sunset on the 9th to sunset on the 10th completing a 24-hour period.
I believe this designation regarding the time in which we are to “afflict our souls” is actually a show of His compassion, as He does not desire for his people to hunger through the night. Thus, with this command we can eat before the evening of the 9th so we can rest, and then during the daylight hours of the 10th we fast. After which we can again eat before entering the night and rest. He is so compassionate and caring that He even sees to it that we do not go to bed hungry. What a marvelous Father we have!
The observance of the day beginning from evening to evening likely has its roots in Babylon with the observance of the moon as starting the month. The word Chodesh in the Hebrew has historically since the 3rd century been translated as New Moon due to the Rabbinical practice of observing the moon. In order to observe the moon, one must begin the day at evening when the moon is present or else their count of the days would be off. There is no scriptural evidence to support this method.
In fact, nowhere in scripture are we commanded to observe the moon, sun, or stars. On the contrary the people of Israel are condemned for doing so.
Deuteronomy 4:19 And lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the LORD thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven.
It is also clear in scripture and from the historical eye witness account of Josephus, that the daily pattern in the temple was kept from morning to evening. This pattern remained in effect until the destruction in 70 AD.
“In order to fix the beginning and ending of the Sabbath-day and festivals and to determine the precise hour for certain religious observances it becomes necessary to know the exact times of the rising and setting of the sun. According to the strict interpretation of the Mosaic law, every day begins with sunrise and ends with sunset… (Jewish Encyclopedia, p. 591-597)
“Among the Greeks the day was reckoned from sunset to sunset…” (Handbook of Chronology, op.cit., p.8)
“Among the ancient Israelites, as among the Greeks, the day was reckoned from sunset to sunset. This was the custom also of the Gauls and ancient Germans, and was probably connected originally with the cult of the moon. There is, however, evidence that this was not the custom at all times…” (Delitzsch in Dillmann’s commentary on Gen. i. 5)
Below is a link to a website with a tremendous amount of scriptural references to support a Morning start to the day.
It is not clear when the “Rabbis” or the ruling class changed the daily observance, but it seems to have occurred somewhere between the first and second centuries BC when the Greek Seleucids gained control of the region. It is very likely that they also brought with them their practice of “serving” the moon as a goddess and with it an evening start of the day.
After the Maccabean revolt, Johnathan Maccabee was made high priest although he was not in the line of Aaron or Zadok. This action displaced the legitimate priestly order who fled to the wilderness of Qumran. This also put Johnathan in a position of making sweeping changes that would appease the ruling powers and eventually lead to the Hellenization of the Judean providence. The practice of “changing the calendar” was later done yet again by Hillel II to appease the Romans emperor Julian the Apostate.
Through much study and prayer it is our opinion that scripture and historical evidence overwhelmingly support a morning to morning reckoning for the period of 24 hours that we refer to as a day. Therefore, as a matter of practice we calculate the day beginning at the rising of the sun and ending in the twilight hours of the following morning. We also adhere to this reckoning with our Sabbath observance, although as a matter of general practice, we often avoid any unnecessary work or shopping in the evening hours of Friday proceeding the Sabbath as a means to safeguard the commands given us in Scripture.