When Did Jesus Rise?

Jesus died on Thursday and rose on Saturday

At the end of the Second Century, Bishop Serapion of Antioch read the Gospel of Peter and said, “I have gone through the book and conclude that most of it accords with the genuine teaching of the Saviour.”1 

The Gospel of Peter is quite useful to us because it clarifies that Jesus rose on Saturday evening, as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew. It also tells us that Jesus was crucified on Thursday, which also agrees with the New Testament. 

Jesus did not rise on Sunday, as the Church would later claim.

Verses 35 to 37 of the Gospel of Peter, read,

in the night in which the Lord’s day was “shining on” (επεφωσκεν), when the soldiers were safeguarding it two by two in every watch, there was a loud voice in heaven; and they saw that the heavens were opened and that two males who had much radiance had come down from there and come near the sepulcher. But that stone which had been thrust against the stone, having rolled by itself, went a distance to the side.

This is the same account of the stone being rolled away, in Matthew 28:1,

after the Sabbath, as it began to “shine on” (ἐπιφωσκούσῃ) toward the next day of the week, Mary Magdelene and the other Mary came to look at the grave, and behold there was a great earthquake, for the Angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone.

Jewish days end at sunset. This is when a new day “dawns.” The sunset is described by the Greek word, epiphóskó (ἐπιφώσκω) “shine above” and is only otherwise used in our Bibles in Luke 23:54, describes the evening when Jesus died, saying, “it was the preparation day, and the Sabbath was (ἐπέφωσκεν) ‘shining above’ about to begin.” The same word is used in verse 5 of the Gospel of Peter, which says, “we would have buried Him, since indeed the Sabbath is (επιφωσκαι) “shining above.” For in the Law it has been written: The sun is not to set on one put to death.”

Therefore, we can see that Jesus rose on Saturday, between 6 and 7 PM. 

Verses 37 to 49, of the Gospel of Peter go on to say that the guards went to tell Pilate what happened, during the night. Then at verse 50, we read, “at the dawn (Ορθρου) of the Lord’s Day,” Mary Magdelene came to the tomb. Here, the writer uses the Greek word orthrou (Ορθρου), which describes the morning dawn, that is at 6 AM, on Sunday morning.  The same word is also used in Luke 24:1, “at dawn (ὄρθρου), they (the women who had come with Him out of Galilee) came to the tomb.”

The Gospel of Mark tells us that the two Mary’s and Salome went to the tomb, while it was “very early (“πρωῒ)” (Mark 16:2). This describes the fourth watch of the night, that is from 4 to 6 AM on Sunday morning.  The same word used in John 20:1, “Mary and Martha went to the tomb, (“πρωί), early, while it was still dark, and they saw the stone already taken away from the tomb.”

In summary, the narrative of the Four Gospels is this: on Saturday night, between 6 and 7 PM, Mary Magdelene and the other Mary went to the tomb, and there was a great earthquake and the stone was rolled away. Then, on Sunday morning between 4 and 6 AM, the two Marys with Salome, and Martha went to the tomb.  And finally “at dawn,” at 6 AM on Sunday morning “the women who had come with Him out of Galilee” (Luke 23:55) went to the tomb.

The Comparison of the Gospel of Peter and Matthew is as follows:

  Thursday Friday Saturday Night
Gospel of Peter V. 20–27 V. 28–33 V. 35–50
Gospel of Matthew Matt 27:57–61 Matt 27:62–66 Matt 28:1–2
  1. Eusebius’ Church History, Book 6:12