The Last Passover Timeline
Before I wrote Between Justice & Mercy, my study of the Last Passover week had been done. I created the bookmark for myself so that I could easily keep things straight.
Dusk always ends one day and begins another according to the description of creation in Genesis.1 We can all easily get confused if we read Scripture without remembering this.
Roman and Jewish “hours of the day” are also another stumbling block. Because Jewish days begin at dusk, the night, or nighttime, and day, i.e., daytime, are two halves of the ‘day.’ The first hour of the day, or daytime, then is from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. The Romans referred to 12 a.m. to 1 a.m. as the first hour of the day, even though it was nighttime. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Acts use the Jewish meaning of ‘hour of the day,’ while John uses the Roman understanding.
“Morning” referred to the daytime until about 10 a.m., while “heat of the day” meant from 10 a.m. to about 2 p.m. The “days decline” occurred from 2 p.m. to dusk around 6 p.m. The evening or “cool of the day” started just after dusk.
The “watch” in ancient times meant something different than the “watch” in the New Testament. Ancient use of the term put the first watch as sometime in the evening (probably after everyone went to bed) until around midnight.2 The second watch started around midnight and went to around 3 a.m. 3
In Jesus’s time, the first watch began as dusk fell around 6 p.m. and stopped at 9 p.m. The second watch began at 9 p.m. and ended at 12 a.m. The third watch was from 12 a.m. to 3 a.m, and the fourth from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m.
The Jewish calendar took the moon and sun into consideration; it is lunisolar. The Gregorian calendar is solar. Both have to have days added to maintain uniformity from year to year by adding leap days. This is called intercalation. Thus, in the middle of the month which Jesus was crucified, the moon was full.
You will notice on the the bookmark that the phase of the moon is full. It would have been a bright evening in Gethsemane when they seized Jesus, even if there were some clouds. At that time of the year, the skies are often mostly clear.