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The time of the Christ’s Resurrection and the start of the miracle of the Holy Fire

The time of the Christ’s Resurrection
and the start of the miracle of the Holy Fire
Christ’s resurrection is the event that changed the current of world history and by it, as the Apostle Paul tells us, “the old has passed away; all has become new.”360 Without Christ’s resurrection, as Paul says, the Christian faith has no meaning and no value.361 The God-Man’s resurrection is the corner stone and core of the Christian faith. The same event is also the core of the present book, for it is the beginning and the cause of the miracle of the Holy Fire.
The Uncreated Light that appeared at the hour of the resurrection of the God-Man was not just an accompanying light but was a light that was united with the divinity of the risen Christ. The resurrection of the God-Man and the concurrent appearance of the Uncreated Light are not two different events, but one and the same, for Christ cannot be separated from the light of his divinity. Consequently, the historical examination of the miracle of the Holy Fire—which has already been done—will be more complete if we try to address the onset of this miracle, if we try to examine the actual event of the resurrection of the God-Man and the precise time it took place.
We will attempt such an examination in this section. And in order to accomplish this we will first have to point out and clarify a very significant mistake in translations of the New Testament—in almost all the languages in the world— which has to do with the time of Christ’s resurrection.
When I first studied St Gregory of Nyssa’s work On the Three-day Period of our Lord Jesus Christ’s Resurrection, I read a statement made by the saint which made a very great impression on me: that Christ’s resurrection, as mentioned by the Evangelist Matthew in his twenty-eighth chapter, took place at a very specific time: on the evening of Saturday, when Saturday night began.
“How is that possible?” I wondered. The translations and renderings of the Gospel of Matthew do not say anything like that. On the contrary, they say that Christ’s resurrection took place at dawn on Sunday, soon before sunrise. This position has been supported by hundreds of theologians and university professors all over the world. Is it possible that all these people made such a big mistake?
Let us examine exactly what Matthew writes in his Gospel, according to the King James Version:
In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow. And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not: for I know that you seek Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. (Matthew 28:1–6)
This excerpt from Matthew tells us at what time the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene went to the tomb, the hour the great earthquake happened and the stone was rolled away. Christ’s resurrection had taken place slightly earlier, with the tomb sealed. According to the above translation, the events that the Evangelist Matthew describes happened as soon as “it began to dawn” on Sunday.
How is it possible for Gregory of Nyssa to claim the exact opposite? That Christ’s resurrection happened immediately after sundown as it started to grow dark on Saturday?
Let us examine the Ancient Greek text of the Gospel of Matthew, which begins like this: Ὀψὲ δὲ σαββάτων, τῇ ἐπιφωσκούσῃ εἰς μίαν σαββάτων. We see that there are two phrases which specify the exact time:
1. the phrase Opse de sabbaton (Ὀψὲ δὲ σαββάτων).
2. the phrase te epiphoskouse eis mian sabbaton (τῇ ἐπιφωσκούσῃ εἰς μίαν σαββάτων).
These two phrases, even though they are written in Greek, are clearly Hebrew in structure. For this reason, Saturday is written in the plural (sabbaton), while Sunday is written as eis mian sabbaton. These two phrases have exactly the same meaning and specify the hour that night falls on Saturday evening.
The first word of the phrase, opse (ὀψὲ),362 when it is used with a day of the week, means: “at dusk”, “at nightfall”, or “at evening.” The word opse can also mean “at the end” of an event. Therefore, the phrase Opse de sabbaton can be translated in two ways:
1. “When it grew dark on Saturday” or “in the evening on Saturday.”
2. “After the end of Saturday.”
And both translations are equally correct and specify the exact same time: when it began to grow dark. This means that Gregory of Nyssa was completely right about what he wrote.
It is worth mentioning that the word opse is also found two other times in the New Testament, in the Gospel of Mark specifically. In both cases it is translated “when evening was come” or “evening.”363
Dr. Moshe Schwabe364 has further noted that the phrase in Matthew Opse de sabbaton is the same as the phrase used by Thucydides opse tes imeras (ὀψὲ τῆς ἡμέρας), which means “as night approached.”365
Now, let’s take a look at the second phrase of the Ancient Greek text of Matthew: epiphoskouse eis mian sabbaton (ἐπιφωσκούσῃ εἰς μίαν σαββάτων), which is usually translated “as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week.” This is where the serious mistranslation occurs. This particular translation leads to an entirely incorrect understanding, since the reader thinks that it is referring to dawn. This is not the case, however. When the Jews used the expression “the break/light of a new day,” they did not mean at daylight in the morning, but “the night of the new day has come to light.”366
According to the Jewish law, the coming of the new day was in the evening, at nightfall. This tradition existed since, according to Genesis, God created first the night and then the day. Consequently, for the Jews, the “daybreak” of the new day corresponded in time to the evening. Many who have studied the Gospel of Matthew, scholars in the Jewish and Greek language, such as John Lightfoot,367 George F. Moore,368 Morton Smith,369 and Daniel Boyarin,370 have pointed out that the phrase in Matthew is a Semitic idiom, that is, a Jewish expression that was translated into Greek, which denotes the hour when night falls and the new day of Sunday begins, according to the Jewish calendar.371
Dr. Isaac Wilk Oliver in his doctoral dissertation says the following: “The Greek verb epiphosko (ἐπιφώσκω)372 would be the rendition of the Hebrew רוא ל  or the Aramaic יהגנ, which refer to ‘light,’ but point not to the dawning light of early sunrise, but to the beginning of the day at sunset (following Jewish reckoning of time). This would mean that for Matthew Mary Magdalene and Mary visit the tomb after the end of the Sabbath, that is, after sunset, in our modern parlance, on a Saturday night, and not early Sunday morning.”373
Therefore, the phrase epiphoskouse eis mian sabbaton translates as “when Sunday had begun” and indicates the time after the setting of the sun on Saturday evening. The same phrase is found in another place in the New Testament, in the Gospel of Luke. Luke specifies the time of Christ’s burial with the phrase: καὶ ἡμέρα ἦν παρασκευῆς, καὶ σάββατον ἐπέφωσκεν, i.e., “it was the day of Preparation, and Saturday was beginning” (Luke 23:54).374
In other words, Christ’s burial took place after the setting of the sun, after the Sabbath day had begun (according to the Jewish calendar). This is exactly what the Evangelist Matthew confirms.375
This phrase in Luke “Saturday was beginning” and the phrase in Matthew “when Sunday began” use the same verb (epiphosko) and specify the same time (the evening), with the difference of one day. This means that Christ’s burial and his resurrection took place at the same hour, the first hour after the setting of the sun (at around 7:00 pm),376 with the difference of one day, of course.
Summarizing everything mentioned above, we draw the conclusion that Christ’s resurrection took place on Saturday evening and that Matthew’s phrase Opse de sabbaton, te epiphoskouse eis mian sabbaton should be translated as: “On Saturday evening, when Sunday had begun.”377
It is interesting that the correct translation of the verse we have just put forward is backed up by all the ancient translations of the New Testament, such as the Latin translation by St Jerome378 (Vulgata), the Syriac Peshitta, the Ethiopian, the Arabic, the Armenian translation of the fifth century, etc., which attest to Mary Magdalene and the “other Mary” visiting the tomb on the evening of Saturday, as well as the resurrection of the God-Man, which occurred right before that.
At this point, since we have now completed our study concerning the time of Christ’s resurrection, we find ourselves before something strange: the original Greek text of the Gospel of Matthew and all the ancient translations of it, without exception (Latin, Armenian, Ethiopian, Arabic, Coptic and Syriac) clearly state that Christ’s resurrection took place as soon as it grew dark on Saturday, not long after sunset, while nearly all the modern translations of the Gospel of Matthew (which has been published in 1650 languages and dialects) state that Christ’s resurrection took place at dawn on Sunday.
This variance is quite large. The ancient text says “at dusk” and the modern translations say “at daybreak.” There is almost a complete reverse in meaning.
Here, a critical question emerges: why was this passage in Matthew translated so incorrectly?
The answer is rather simple. Daniel Boyarin states: “Those who want to translate ἐπιφωσκούσῃ as “dawning,” that is, as a reference to Sunday morning, usually do so in order to harmonize Matthew with the other gospel accounts.”379 Boyarin’s statement is right on target. At the beginning of the fourth century, Eusebius of Caesarea, undoubtedly having good intention, was the first who tried to harmonize the times mentioned by Matthew, Luke and John.
The Evangelist Luke says that the myrrh-bearing women (more than five) went to Jesus’ tomb a little before daybreak on Sunday, while it was still dark.
The Evangelist Mark says that the myrrh-bearing women (three in number) went on Sunday morning.
The Evangelist John mentions only one woman, Mary Magdalene, who went to the tomb at night.
The Evangelist Matthew, as we have already seen from our examination, makes mention of the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene, who went to the tomb on Saturday evening. The accounts of the Gospel writers agree neither on the time nor the number of persons.
Eusebius was the first to assert the opinion that the accounts of John, Luke and Matthew concern the same event and that the women’s trips to the tomb happened at the same time—soon before daybreak.380 It was from this notion that an ecclesiastical tradition began, one that is maintained to a large degree to the present time.
Eusebius’ position that the women’s visits to the tomb were the same single event led him to the conclusion that they all went to the tomb at the same time. Therefore, he had to “move” Matthew’s account to daybreak, so as to harmonize it with the accounts found in John and Luke.
However, was this harmonization necessary? Is it possible that the Gospel writers had such a significant discrepancy between them concerning the time of the women’s trip to the tomb? Or perhaps there isn’t really any discrepancy but just appears that way?
We get our answer to this critical question from three eminent figures of the Church: St Gregory of Nyssa, St Jerome and St Gregory Palamas.
The archbishop of Thessaloniki, Gregory Palamas, says the following: “There were many myrrh-bearing women, and they came to the tomb not once but two and three times, in groups, but not in the same ones… Each evangelist mentions one of the women’s trips but leaves out the others.”381
Gregory of Nyssa provides a similar interpretation as does St Jerome, who says: “These holy women… since they could not endure Christ’s absence, they ran to the Lord’s tomb not once, not twice, but again and again, throughout the night, especially after the earthquake.”382 In light of these statements it is evident that the women’s visits to Jesus’ tomb occurred at different times and thus there is no discrepancy between the Gospel writers.
If, however, we look deeper into this issue, we will see that not all the visits were separate ones. For this to be clear, we need to focus on a very important point: on the women’s motive and purpose for going to the tomb. The women who are mentioned by Mark and Luke were myrrh-bearers, since they went to the tomb in order to anoint the body of the God-Man with myrrh (according to the Jewish custom), without believing that Jesus could have risen.
The two Marys, however, which Matthew mentions, as well as the one Mary mentioned by John, are not described as myrrh-bearers. The Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene left for the tomb for an entirely different reason: simply to “see the tomb,” writes Matthew. The Virgin Mary could not have brought myrrh with her, for she knew of and awaited the resurrection of her Son and her God.
St Cyril of Alexandria has claimed that the two visits of the women mentioned by Evangelists Matthew and John are recognized as one event. And he is right. As for the time of the event, Cyril believes that Matthew is talking about the beginning of the night, while John is talking about the end of the night. Hence, Cyril accepts the middle of the night383 as a solution to the time issue, which is completely respectable.
However, if we carefully examine the account of John the Evangelist, we will see that it does not necessarily refer to the end of the night. On the contrary, it could very well refer to the beginning of the night. John says: “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance” (John 20:1).
The phrase “the first day of the week” itself contains the implication of evening or beginning of Sunday. The same phrase is found in the Acts of the Apostles 20:7 and means exactly this: the evening hour.384 As for the word πρωΐ (early), which is in the passage in John, this has two meanings in the Ancient Greek language. Other than “morning,” it means in time, “early” and “very early.”385 And since in the verse in John there is the phrase σκοτίας ἔτι οὔσης (“it was still dark”), the word πρωΐ (proe) can be translated only as “early.”386 Besides, this is how it is translated in almost all the English translations and in the approved translation by the Church of Greece.
Mary Magdalene went to the tomb “early” on Sunday. However, for the Jews Sunday began on Saturday evening. Hence, the word “early” means “early at night.” Mary Magdalene went to the tomb for the first time early at night, along with the Virgin Mary. This is why John specifies that it was “still”387 dark.
If we render the verse in John according to today’s standards, it undoubtedly means “before daybreak.” If, however, we render it according to the Jewish time standards of the first century, it means “at the beginning of the night.” Our opinion is that we must again follow the standards of that time, just as we did with Matthew 28:1.388
Mary Magdalene saw the stone rolled away and the empty tomb at the beginning of the night, but she did not see the risen God-Man—unlike the Virgin Mary, who saw Him and touched Him. Mary Magdalene returned to the tomb later that night, along with Peter and John, and when she remained alone, after the two apostles had left, she then saw the risen Christ.
The accounts of John and Matthew about the women going to the tomb are in agreement not only concerning the event they describe, but also concerning the time of the event. Furthermore, they both choose not to mention the Virgin Mary. John does not mention her at all, while Matthew mentions her in an occluded manner: as the “other Mary.” But why do the evangelists refrain from writing about the Mother of God’s presence at the tomb?
Gregory Palamas, as we have already mentioned, maintains that the apostles did not want to portray Christ’s resurrection as news that was spread by his mother, so as not to give fuel to those warring against the Christian faith. Furthermore, at that time period, as the historian Josephus says, the testimony of a woman—especially at a trial—was of almost no worth. “From women,” writes Josephus, “let no evidence be accepted, because of the levity and temerity of their sex” (Antiq. 4.219). This insulting opinion was predominant in Jewish society. However, the resurrected Christ came and overthrew this: he appeared only to the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene and in this way elevated the disregarded gender of the women. To those whom the Jewish establishment did not allow a testimony, the God-Man chose to bear witness to the most important evidence in the history of mankind.
Let us return to the matter of the time of the Resurrection. According to all the things mentioned above, we have already come to a clear conclusion: from the four Gospel writers, only Matthew and John directly inform us of the time of Christ’s resurrection. And from these two, Matthew’s account is certainly the most clear and accurate concerning the time. This is exactly what Gregory of Nyssa, brother of St Basil the Great and St Makrina, states, to whom we referred earlier in this section. Gregory, now emphatically, places the time of Christ’s resurrection on the evening of Saturday and calls Matthew “the Great,” as he considers him the only one who informs us of that time. Gregory of Nyssa writes:
Examine the time of the Resurrection and you will find the truth in what I tell you. So when did it take place? ‘When it grew dark on Saturday,’ Matthew shouts out. This is the time of the Resurrection as clearly shown in the Gospel; this is how long the Lord remained in the depths [of Hades]. That is, while it was deep in the evening (the evening was the beginning of the night, on which the day of Sunday began), it was then the earthquake occurred, it was then the angel with the shining garments rolled the stone from the tomb… Matthew the Great alone, of all the Gospel writers, declared the hour with preciseness, saying that the hour of the Resurrection was Saturday evening.389
Gregory of Nyssa, named “Father of Fathers” by the Seventh Ecumenical Council, was also esteemed for his learning, and especially his philological knowledge. For this reason, he was the most suitable Father to interpret the verse correctly. He clearly and emphatically states that Christ’s resurrection took place on Saturday evening, and more specifically when it was “deep evening”—that is, when it began to grow very dark. Gregory associates the word epiphoskouse with the evening and explains that shining on Sunday began when it started to grow dark, at “the beginning of that night.”
Jerome, who was a friend of Gregory’s, takes a similar position. The two of them had developed a friendship in Constantinople. In AD 407, Jerome writes in one of his letters to faithful woman from Gaul, named Hedibia, the following:
You first ask why Matthew says that our Lord rose ‘on the evening of the Sabbath’… and Saint Mark, on the contrary, said that he arose in the morning… [we] must affirm that Matthew and Mark have both told the truth, that our Lord rose on the evening of the Sabbath, and that he was seen by Mary Magdalene in the morning of the first day of the following week [Sunday].390
Jerome explains that there is no discrepancy between the Gospel writers, and he confirms that Christ’s resurrection took place vespere Sabbati, that is, “Saturday evening.” Jerome also uses the phrase vespere Sabbati in the Latin translation of the verse in Matthew.
Cyril of Alexandria—who, as we have said, merged the times mentioned by John and Matthew and interprets them as the middle of the night—accepts twice in his work Interpretation of the Gospel of John that the Evangelist Matthew specifies the time of Christ’s resurrection at the evening hour. Cyril writes: “Matthew with this statement of his to us, says that the resurrection [of Christ] took place at the hour of deep evening.”391
The hour of deep evening (βαθεία ἑσπέρα), which Gregory of Nyssa had also maintained, is very specific in the Greek language. As we have said before, it is the hour at which it grows very dark.392
We draw the present section to a close with the account of yet another Holy Father. As we had said in the third chapter (see p. 36), in one of the more significant passages of the present book, St John of Damascus had expressed the opinion that at the hour of Christ’s resurrection, the Uncreated Light of his divinity emerged from his tomb “as a handsome Bridegroom.” At the end of this passage, John of Damascus continues and makes mention of the time the risen Bridegroom emerged. Let us take a look at the entire remark:
And this bright and light-bearing day of Holy Sunday, on which the Uncreated Light visibly emerges from the tomb, as a handsome Bridegroom within the beauty of the Resurrection; for at the end of Saturday, which the Evangelist calls opse Sabbaton, is the beginning of Sunday.393
John of Damascus says that the resurrection of Christ the Bridegroom took place immediately after the end of Saturday, as soon as Sunday began, which means as soon as it grew dark.394
At this point, it is important to recall what was written in the Georgian Lectionary of Jerusalem (5th–8th c.)—which we encountered in the second chapter—which also identifies the time for celebrating Christ’s resurrection, on Saturday evening.
The time at which we celebrate Christ’s resurrection today, at twelve midnight—even though it is about five hours later than the actual hour was—is entirely correct, since this is the time at which Sunday begins according to our calendar system.
Summing up everything that has been mentioned above, we come to the conclusion that: the original Greek text of Matthew 28:1, all its ancient translations, along with Sts Gregory of Nyssa, Jerome and John of Damascus, place the time of the Resurrection at the beginning of the night on Saturday, when Sunday began according to the calendar. And since Sunday had begun, Christ fulfilled his promise that he would rise on the third day.395 Let us take a look at these three days, calculating the time by the hour and the day of the measurements of that day, considering that the day changed with the setting of the sun and not at twelve midnight as it does today.396
Day 1, Friday: Christ is crucified and killed on Golgotha at 3:00 pm on Friday afternoon.
Day 2, Saturday: The body of the God-Man remains in the tomb all day, from evening to evening, about 24–25 hours. In other words, the body was inside from Friday evening (about 7:00 pm) till Saturday evening.
Day 3, Sunday: Christ is resurrected at the first hour after the setting of the sun (about 7:00 pm), when night fell on Saturday and Sunday began to “break,” according to the calendar system of the age. This point in time is also the beginning of the miracle of the Holy Light of Christ’s resurrection, the history of which we have examined in the present book.


360.  2 Cor. 5:17      

361.  See 1 Cor. 15:13.  

362.  According to the Byzantine dictionary, Great Etymologicon (11th c.), the word opse means “upon eventide,” in the late evening. See also Thucydides, History, 3.108: καὶ ἡ μὲν μάχη ἐτελεύτα ἐς ὀψέ; i.e., “and the battle finished late in the evening.” According to the dictionaries by Liddell-Scott-Jones and Stamatakos, the word opse means “in the late evening, the opposite of morning.” Athenaeus (2nd-3rd c.), while referring to a strange person who was awake every night throughout his entire life, he defines opse as the exact opposite to “daybreak” or “dawn”: πρωὶ μὲν ἐκάθευδεν, ὀψὲ δ' ἀνίστατο; i.e., “At daybreak he would sleep, when it grew dark [opse] he would get up.” See Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae, vol. 2.1, Leiden 1937, p. 116.

363.  In the first verse, Christ mentions his Second Coming and urges people to always be ready and watchful: “Watch you therefore: for you know not when the master of the house comes, at evening [opse], or at midnight, or at the cock crowing, or in the morning” (Mark 13:35). In the second verse, he mentions the following: Καὶ ὅταν ὀψὲ ἐγένετο, ἐξεπορεύετο ἔξω τῆς πόλεως, i.e., “And when evening [opse] was come, he went out of the city” (Mark 11:19).  

364.  The German-Israeli philologist and epigraphist Dr. Moshe Schwabe, an expert in the Greek language, was dean of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. 

365.  Thucydides, History, 4.93. Concerning the reference made by Schwabe, see M. Smith, Tannaitic Parallels to the Gospels, Jerusalem 1951, p. 31.

366.  Epiphanius used this same expression in the fourth century, saying, epiphoskouses esperas (ἐπιφωσκούσης ἑσπέρας, i.e., “when the evening shone/dawned”) in order to denote the beginning of the first day of Easter: ἐπιφωσκούσης γὰρ τῆς κυριακῆς ἑσπέρας δύνανται θύειν τὸ Πάσχα (Epiphanius, Panarion, PG 3.244). It is the exact same phrase that the Evangelist Matthew uses. Behind the expression is hidden a Hebrew idiom that is used to indicate the beginning of the new day, as well as the beginning of the Passover, after the setting of the sun. This expression is found in a work from the 2nd century, Misnah, Pesachim, 2.1 (see publications of M. Maimonides and O. Bartenora). In it we read: “On the evening of the fourteenth a check for hametz is made by lamplight.” However, the word “evening” is written with the word רוא  which means “light.” This happened for reasons of linguistic embellishment. They did not want to write: “the festal day of Passover grew dark,” but they preferred the expression, “the festal day of Passover shone,” despite the fact that at that hour it was growing dark. It would be like saying “the night dawned.”  

367.  John Lightfoot (1602-1675) was the vice dean of the University of Cambridge. 

368.  Professor of History of Religions at the Harvard Divinity School and president of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

369.  Professor of Ancient History at the University of Columbia. See M. Smith, Tannaitic Parallels to the Gospels, Jerusalem 1951, p. 31.

370.  Professor of Talmudic Culture and Rhetoric at the University of Berkeley, California.

371.  See D. Boyarin, “After the Sabbath (Matt 28:1)—Once More into the Crux,” JTS 52, 2 (2001), 678–88; G.F. Moore, “Conjectanea Talmudica”, JAOS 26 (1905), 328; J. Lightfoot, Commentary of the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica, Cambridge 1674.

372.  The word ἐπιφωσκούσῃ (epiphoskouse), which Matthew uses, does not mean “it began to dawn” but “came to light” or “it was revealed”. The word ἐπιφωσκούσῃ comes from the verb ἐπιφώσκω or φώσκω. In the Byzantine Dictionary of Goudia, it says that the verb φώσκω means φαίνω (i.e., reveal, bring to light). Therefore, the phrase epiphoskouse eis mian sabbaton means “when Sunday came to light,” or “when Sunday began” after the setting of the sun.

373.  Isaac Wilk Oliver, Torah Praxis after 70 C.E.: Reading Matthew and Luke-Acts as Jewish Texts, doctoral dissertation (University of Michigan, 2012).  

374.  This particular translation—which is correct—is found in the New Revised Standard Version, English Standard Version and International Standard Version. The King James Version reads “And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on,” which does not convey the meaning accurately, since according to this translation, it means that the sun had not yet set. However, both Matthew and Mark explicitly state the opposite.

375.  See Matthew 27:57. Matthew says ὀψίας γενομένης (opsias genomenes), that means “When the even was come,” Joseph of Arimathea had asked Pilate for the dead body of Jesus. Hence, the burial, which took place fairly later, was done when it was rather dark. Mark attests to the same (15:42). The words opse and opsias have the exact same meaning.

376.  The night of April 4th, when Christ’s resurrection took place, the sun set on Jerusalem at 6:22pm, while it would have completely dark around 7:00pm (or 8:00pm summer hour for Israel). This is why we refer to the time of the Resurrection being 7:00pm, as an approximate.

377.  The Darby Bible Translation conveys the correct meaning of the verse: “Now late on sabbath, as it was the dusk of the next day after sabbath.” The Interlinear Literal Translation does the same: “Now late on Sabbath, as it was getting dusk toward (the) first (day) of (the) week.” 

378.  Jerome lived in Palestine for two decades, knew Greek and Hebrew exceptionally, and his translation of the verse in Matthew is excellent. Equally excellent is the Ancient Armenian translation of the verse. The Ancient Armenian translation of the New Testament is famed for its exceptional accuracy and reliability. This is why the great linguist and church historian Mathurin de La Croze called it the “Queen of the New Testament translations” (“la Reine de toutes les Versions du Nouveau Testament”). St Jerome’s Latin translation says: “Vespere autem sabbati quae lucescit in primam sabbati venit Maria Magdalene et altera Maria videre sepulchrum.” The Armenian translation states: ºõ Û»ñ»ÏáÛÇ ß³µ³ÃáõÝ ÛáñáõÙ Éáõë³Ý³Ûñ Ùdz߳µ³ÃÇÝ, »ÏÝ Ø³ñdz٠ Ø³·¹³Õ»Ý³óÇ »õ Ù»õë سñdzÙÝ ï»ë³Ý»É ½·»ñ»½Ù³ÝÝ.   
The common translation of the two passages is as follows: “When the evening of Saturday came, during which shone [began] the first day of the week.” The word opse is translated as “evening” and furthermore the phrase “during which” is used. Thus, the reader understands that “dawning” (“shining”) of Sunday took place as soon as it began to grow dark. 

379.  Boyarin, “After the Sabbath”, JTS 52, 2 (2001), 685.

380.  See Eusebius, Gospel Problems and Solutions, PG 22.941.

381.  Gregory Palamas, On the Sunday of the Myrrh-bearers, ΕΠΕ 9, p. 527.

382.  Jerome, Ad Hedibiam, question 4, PL 22.988: “...sanctas feminas, Christi absentiam non ferentes, per totam noctem, non semel, nec bis, sed crebro ad sepulcrum Domini cucurrisse, praesertim cum terraemotus...”

383.  See Cyril of Alexandria, Interpretation on the Gospel of John, vol. 3, Oxford 1872, p. 109: ὁ μὲν γὰρ ἀπὸ τοῦ τέλους τῆς νυκτὸς, ὁ δὲ ἀπὸ τῆς ἀρχῆς λαβὼν, πρὸς τὸ βάθος ἕρπει τῶν ὡρῶν, καὶ εἰς αὐτὸ κάτεισι, καθάπερ ἔφην ἀρτίως, τὸ μεσαίτατον. 

384.  Acts of the Apostles 20:7: “And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them.” The phrase describes the hour that the disciples gathered together to break bread and to commune of the bread of the Divine Eucharist, something that took place exclusively in the evening, as Christ had done at the Mystical Supper. 

385.  See dictionaries by Liddell-Scott-Jones and Stamatakos. The word πρωΐ is encountered for the first time in the eighth century BC in Homer’s Odyssey (24, 28), where it means “very early.” 

386.  Mark 16:9 must also be interpreted in the same way: “Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.” Again, the word πρωΐ (early) means “at the beginning of the night.” 

387.  The word eti (ἔτι) aside from “still,” also means “more” and “furthermore,” which better suits the meaning of the phrase. There are many places in the New Testament where eti means more; Hebrews 11:32 states: “What more [eti] shall I say?”.

388.  It is not enough for a translator to be proficient in Ancient Greek. They must also take into consideration the circumstances of the time and the religious traditions of the age.

389.  Gregory of Nyssa, On the Three-day Period of our Lord Jesus Christ’s Resurrection, Leiden 1967, Gregorii Nysseni opera, vol. 9, p. 289: ζήτησόν μοι λοιπὸν τὴν ἀναστάσιμον ὥραν καὶ εὑρήσεις τὴν ἐν τοῖς εἰρημένοις ἀλήθειαν. πότε οὖν τοῦτο ἐγένετο; Ὀψὲ σαββάτων, ὁ Ματθαῖος βοᾷ. αὕτη σοι ἡ ὥρα τῆς ἀναστάσεως κατὰ τὴν τοῦ εὐαγγελίου σαφήνειαν, οὗτος ὁ ὅρος τῆς ἐν καρδίᾳ διαγωγῆς τοῦ κυρίου· ἑσπέρας γὰρ ἤδη βαθείας γεγενημένης (ἀρχὴ δὲ ἦν τῆς νυκτὸς ἐκείνης ἡ ἑσπέρα, ἣν διαδέχεται ἡ μία τῶν σαββάτων ἡμέρα) τότε ὁ σεισμὸς γίνεται, τότε ὁ καταστράπτων τοῖς ἐνδύμασιν ἄγγελος ἀποκυλίει τὸν λίθον τοῦ μνημείου... ἀλλ' ὁ μέγας Ματθαῖος μόνος τῶν εὐαγγελιστῶν πάντων τὸν καιρὸν δι' ἀκριβείας παρεσημήνατο εἰπὼν τὴν ἑσπέραν εἶναι τοῦ σαββάτου ὥραν τῆς ἀναστάσεως. 

390.  Jerome, Ad Hedibiam, Letter 120, ch. 12, Question 3, PL 22.987: “aut hoc respondendum, quod uterque verum dixerit: Matheus, quando Dominus surrexerit vespere sabsabbati, Marcus autem, quando eum viderit Maria Magdalene, id est, mane prima sabbati.” 

391.  Cyril of Alexandria, Interpretation of the Gospel of John, vol. 3, Oxford 1872, p. 109: Ματθαῖος τὴν αὐτὴν ἡμῖν ποιούμενος δήλωσιν, ἑσπέρας ἔφη βαθείας οὔσης γενέσθαι τὴν ἀνάστασιν. 

392.  Philo of Alexandria (c. 15 BC – c. 45 AD) defines the phrase βαθεία ἑσπέρα as the time when the ships would return to the port of Alexandria, since it is becoming dark; see Flaccus, 27.

393.  John of Damascus, Λόγος εις το Άγιον Σάββατον [Homily on Holy Saturday], PG 96.628: καί αὐτή ἡ τῆς ἁγίας Κυριακῆς λαμπρά καί φαεσφόρος ἡμέρα, ἐν ᾗ τό ἄκτιστον φῶς σωματικῶς ἐκ τοῦ τάφου πρόεισιν, ὡς νυμφίος ὡραῖος τῷ κάλλει τῆς ἀναστάσεως· τὸ γὰρ τέλος τῶν Σαββάτων, ὅπερ ὀψὲ Σαββάτων φησὶν ὁ εὐαγγελιστὴς, ἀρχὴ τῆς μιᾶς τῶν Σαββάτων γίνεται.

394.  For Jews in the time of Christ, but also for the Christians of the ancient Church or Byzantine period. John of Damascus essentially translates the disputed verse in Matthew excellently: “At the end of Saturday, when Sunday began.”  

395.  Jesus had informed his disciples that he would “be killed, and be raised again the third day.” See Matthew 16:21. 

396.  We measure the time in accordance with the circumstances of the first century, for Christ himself said that he would rise again on the third day, using those same time forms, and not the ones we have today.

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