This morning two women approached my house and rang the doorbell. When I’d opened it one of them said, “I won’t keep you long as it’s cold, but we’d just like to remind you of the anniversary of Jesus’s death,” while handing me a leaflet. Taking the leaflet I mumbled something non-committal and thought, “That’s an odd way to talk about it.” Not only was it problematic that someone whom many people believe came back to life can actually be said to have suffered death at all (which I’ll let pass) but most people would have said “the meaning of Good Friday” or some such. Anyway, they were true to their word and quickly moved on next door.
I suppose I must have been intrigued since, before consigning it to the paper bin, I glanced at the leaflet. Therein it said that “This year, the anniversary of Jesus’ death falls on Wednesday March 23rd.” (I’ll not let that Jesus’ for Jesus’s pass, though.)
Now, I’m no theologian but; Wednesday March 23rd? Wednesday? I’m fairly sure the traditional anniversary of Jesus’s death falls on a Friday. It certainly has every year of my life so far.
Granted, most anniversaries fall on the same date every year, which necessitates a trundle through the weekdays in a cycle which due to the number of days in a year and the inclusion of leap years in the calendar only returns to the same day of the week every fifth, sixth and eleventh year (excluding century years whose first two digits divide by four.) In the case of Christ’s death though (no arguments about the placing of the apostrophe there) the tradition has certainly been to ignore this and commemorate it on a Friday. If memory serves, Easter is celebrated on the Sunday following the first Full Moon after the Spring Equinox; Good Friday always falls two days before that.
So. Do the Jehovah’s Witnesses (for it was one of their leaflets) know something the rest of us don’t? Did Jesus die on March 23rd, AD 33? (Or thereabouts. I believe it is generally accepted Jesus was 33 when he was crucified, though the year of his birth may not really have been 1 BC or 1 AD. The traditional calendar has no Year 0.) [AD, above, twice, would be CE for the more inclusive.] I do know, though, it wasn’t a Wednesday. (There are sources.)
Or was it? Dividing the 1983 years since CE 33 by the 11 of the anniversary waltz of the days gives us 180.27(recurring) cycles of eleven years. That 0.27(recurring) corresponds to 1.9 days. Let’s call it two. Now, do I add or subtract the five days corresponding to the intervening non-leap year century years? Adding would take us back to a Friday. Subtracting leads to a Tuesday.
The Sunday following the first Full Moon after the Spring Equinox suddenly seems less complicated.