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When Does a Day Begin and End in the Bible?

When does a day begin and end? Some have said that society decides when a day begins and ends, so for Australia 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. However. some infer about Saturday night is the beginning of the the first day of the week reasoning that a day begins and ends at sunset. This infers that those assembling and partaking of the Lord’s Supper on Sunday evening are actually meeting on the second day of the week. 

Luke reported, “And upon the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul discoursed with them, intending to depart on the morrow; and prolonged his speech until midnight” (Acts 20:7 ASV). 

Which evening is the first day of the week? This study will examine these inferences make upon Scripture.

The following Scriptures present 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, the order of the day consists of sunset and sunrise as the scripture says, “And there was evening (sunset) and there was morning (sunrise), one day.” Sunrise started a new day. Each day consisted of an evening and then a morning. The complete day does not end at sunset or midnight, but the day started at dawn in the beginning. That is the biblical day from Genesis.

Also these passages confirm 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 included the day and the preceding evening as the disciples came to the guest room on the first day of Passover before twilight — that is before sunset.

  • 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 of that day.

  • John 20:19 tells, “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.'”

  • “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’s 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. However, John 20:19 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? Furthermore, Luke 24:1 depicted 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 (Genesis 1: Exodus 12:18; 18:13: Leviticus 6:20).