IIIM Magazine Online, Volume 2, Number 27, July 3 to July 9, 2000

The Events of Passion Week: a Suggested Chronology

by Dr. Knox Chamblin

Friday (8th of Nisan). See n. 1. Jesus come to Bethany "six days before Passover." (Jn 12:1)
Saturday (9th of Nisan). The anointing at Bethany (?). See n. 2. Jesus in Bethany for the remainder of the Sabbath. (Jn 12:2-8.)
Sunday (10th of Nisan). The Triumphal Entry. (Mt 21:1-11 & pars.)
Monday (11th of Nisan). Cursing of the fig tree. See n. 3. (Mk 11:12-14 & pars.)

Jesus cleanses the temple. (Mk 11:15-19 & pars.)

Tuesday (12th of Nisan). The discovery of the withered fig tree. (Mk 11:20-26 & pars.)

Jesus teaches and debates in the Temple. See n. 4. (Mt 21:23-23:39 & pars.)

Jesus teaches on the Mt of Olives. See n. 5. (Mt 24:1-26:1 & pars.)

Wednesday (13th of Nisan). Jesus predicts his Passion. See n. 6. (Mt 26:2, par. Mk 14:1.)

The anointing at Bethany (?). The plot to betray Jesus. (Mt 26:6-13 & par.)

Thursday (14th of Nisan). See n. 7. Slaying of the Passover victims. See n. 8. (Mt 26:14-16 & pars.)

Preparations for the Last Supper. (Mt 26:17-19 & pars.)

Friday (15th of Nisan). The Last Supper. See n. 9. (Mt 26:20-30 & pars.)

Gethsemane. (Mt 26:36-46 & pars.)

The Arrest and Trial of Jesus. (Mt 26:47-27:26 & pars.)

The Crucifixion. (Mt 27:27-56 & pars.)

The Burial of Jesus. (Mt 27:57-61 & pars.)

Saturday (16th of Nisan). Guarding the tomb. (Mt 27:62-66. See n. 10.)
Sunday (17th of Nisan). The Resurrection of Jesus. (Mt 28:1-15 & pars. See n. 11.)


  1. The following chronology agrees in the main with that of H. W. House, Chronological and Background Charts of the New Testament, 103. With House I place these events in the year 30 A.D. For another chronology, offered also from an Evangelical perspective, see H. W. Hoehner, Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ, 90-93 (Hoehner places the crucifixion in 33 A.D.). Nisan (from the Hebrew nasa, "to start") is the first month in the Jewish calendar; it corresponds to March/April. (For the entire Jewish calendar, see J. H. Walton, Chronological Charts of the Old Testament, 17.) The Passover accounted for the calendar's beginning at this time: cf. Ex 12:1, "This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year"; and 13:4, "Today, in the month of Abib [the pre-exilic name for Nisan], you are leaving." Jesus may have actually arrived in Bethany on the Sabbath, i.e. after sundown on Friday (cf. Leon Morris, John, 575).
  2. Jn 12:2-8 and Mt 26:6-13 record the same event (that of Lk 7:36-50 is different). But the time of the episode is uncertain. John places it before the Triumphal Entry, Matthew and Mark afterwards. See the larger commentaries.
  3. In their respective accounts of the cleansing of the temple and the cursing of the tree, Mark is more strictly chronological and Matthew more thematic. Mk places Jesus' cursing of the fig tree and his cleansing of the temple on the day after his Entry, i.e. on Monday (Mk 11:11-19), and the discovery of the withered fig tree on the following day, i.e. on Tuesday (11:20-26). On the most natural reading of Mt 21:1-22, the cleansing of the temple occurs on the very day of the Entry, and both the cursing of the fig tree and the discovery of the effects on the day thereafter. In seeking to recapture the actual course of events, it is preferable to follow the Markan order and to recognize Matthew's order as basically topical (which should not surprise us by this stage of his gospel). In accord with the pilgrimage reflected in Ps 118, Matthew places the cleansing of the temple immediately after the Entry. Moreover, Matthew's arrangement brings the cursing of the tree into the closest connection with the tree's withering; the cleansing of the temple is not allowed to interrupt the flow from the one to the other. It is not merely that the cursing of the tree has a closer kinship to the withering than to the cleansing of the temple (cf. Carson, 444, on the arguments of W. R. Telford); this arrangement highlights all the more vividly for the reader the force of Jesus' curse. Moreover, it may be argued that Matthew does not, strictly speaking, violate the Markan chronology. I.e., Jesus' act of cleansing the temple, Mt 21:12, need not have followed immediately upon the crowd's exclamation, 21:11. And 21:19 (with its "immediately") need not have been followed immediately by the reaction of v. 20. See the suggestions to this effect in Hoehner, 90-91. Gundry, in his earlier (and more conservative!) Survey of the New Testament, comments that Matthew "telescopes" his account and counts on Mk to provide readers with the correct historical order (p. 182).
  4. Mt offers temporal clues: "Jesus entered the temple courts" (21:23a). "That same day" (22:23a), there having been no indication since 21:23 that Jesus has left the temple. There is no such reference until 24:1 (see note 5.). Lest we imagine that Matthew's arrangement is strictly thematic (with no concern for chronology), we should observe that the Markan material (which parallels Mt 21:23-23:39) is likewise most naturally placed on a single day, namely Tuesday: see Mk 11:27-12:44 (13:1 parallels Mt 24:1).
  5. When "Jesus left the temple" (Mt 24:1), he came to the Mount of Olives (24:3), his ultimate destination presumably being Bethany (as on previous evenings). Here, sitting on the Mount of Olives, Jesus delivers his Eschatological Discourse, Mt 24:3-25:46. Note 26:1, "When Jesus had finished saying all these things...." See note 6.
  6. In Mt 26:2 Jesus says to his disciples, "As you know, the Passover is two days away - and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified." On the most natural reading of Mt, Jesus utters these words on Tuesday evening, after sunset - i.e. after the "dawn" of the next day, Wednesday the 13th of Nisan. The anointing at Bethany (Mt 26:6-13) can then be placed later in the same evening (but see note 2).
  7. All four Evangelists agree that Jesus was crucified on a Friday. But do they agree on dating? The Passover meal was to be eaten on the 15th of Nisan. According to the Synoptic evidence, the Last Supper was indeed a Passover meal, eaten after sunset on Thursday, i.e. after the "dawn" of the 15th (cf. note 9); thus have matters been represented in the above chronology. Yet when we turn to the Gospel of Jn, we find indications that when Jesus was on trial before Pilate, the Jews had yet to eat the Passover meal (see e.g. Jn 18:28). This evidence suggests that the 15th was to begin on Friday evening rather than Thursday. For a fine review of the problems and proposed solutions, from an Evangelical perspective, see I. H. Marshall, Last Supper and Lord's Supper, 57-75. Marshall concludes that "the synoptic Gospels and John reflect the use of different calendars" (p. 74); the Synoptists "are using a different paschal chronology from John" (p. 75). See also the treatment in Carson, 528-32.
  8. Mt 26:17 reads, "On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, 'Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?'" "The first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread" was, strictly speaking, the 15th of Nisan (and its conclusion the 21st). According to Lane, "There is some evidence in the rabbinical literature...that the day on which the paschal lambs were sacrificed (the 14th of Nisan) was sometimes loosely designated 'the first day of Unleavened Bread'" (Mark, 497). Thus the Markan parallel to Mt 26:17 reads, "On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus' disciples asked him..." (14:12).
  9. "After nightfall on Thursday evening, when it was 15 Nisan, Jesus joined his disciples and they ate the Passover" (Carson, 530). See note 7 and the commentary on Mt 26.
  10. Mt 27:62 states, "The next day, the one after Preparation Day [paraskeuen], the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate." The day here designated as paraskeue was the time of "preparation" for the Sabbath (see BAGD, s.v.). Accordingly, "the next day" is the Sabbath itself, or Saturday. Cf. 28:1, "After the Sabbath."
  11. The women come to the tomb "after the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week" (Mt 28:1), i.e. at sunrise on the 17th of Nisan (cf. Carson, 587). On the most natural reading of Mt 28:1-15, all the recorded events occur on the same day (cf. v. 11a, "While the women were on their way...").