Difficult Texts

"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."


Some modem religionists contend, on the basis of this text, that the resurrection took place late Sabbath afternoon. They interpret the "end of the Sabbath" as drawing near its close, and "dawning toward the first day of the week" as approaching sunset on Saturday night.

This interpretation falls completely apart when we consider the account of Mark in the next gospel. He also describes the same women as they come to the tomb on Sunday morning. No one can deny that it was "very early in the morning the first day of the week ... at the rising of the sun." Mark 16:2.

Some have argued that these same women had been there late Sabbath afternoon and had found the tomb empty and Jesus' body gone. But this could not be. Why? Because Mark records their conversation as they approached the tomb on Sunday morning: "And they said among themselves, who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?" Mark 16:3.

If they had been there Sabbath afternoon and found the tomb empty, why would they ask for help to roll away the stone 12 hours later? The fact is that Matthew 28:1 is referring to the Sunday morning visit also. The word"dawn," as used in the Bible, invariably refers to the early morning as day breaks. It doesn't "dawn" toward sunset or darkness.

In the light of these facts, we can easily see that the words "in the end of the Sabbath" actually belong to the preceding verse.. The translators had to separate the words, sentences, chapters, and verses as well as supply all the punctuation marks. The original inspired manuscript was just one solid line of letters, with no separation between words.

We have seen that the women came on Sunday morning to learn, for the first time, about the empty tomb. But something was done late Sabbath afternoon, in the end of the Sabbath. It is described in the preceding verse, Matthew 27:66: "So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch." How do we know when this sealing took place? Verses 62-64 tell us clearly: "Now the next day, that followed the day of preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, Saying ... Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away."

This proves that the sealing took place on the Sabbath, following Friday, the preparation day. It also took place just before dark because the expressed fear was that the disciples might "come by night" and steal the body. So they hastened to set up their watch to guard the tomb as night approached.

Now we can perfectly understand the two verses with the proper division of the sentences: "So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch 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."--Answers to Difficult Bible Texts.