At What Time of the Day Does the Sabbath Start?

Genesis 1:5 ASV
(5)  And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.

At what time must we start the Sabbath Day? 

If a biblical day starts from 'an evening to a morning', starting the Sabbath day at sunset is wrong because a day is not from 'sunset to a sunset'.

There are 12 hours in a day, says Jesus. We may not increase or decrease the division of the day to accommodate our geographic location.

At what time does the Sabbath day start? In Israel, it is from evening to evening beginning at around 4 PM according to the 6th hour of John 19:14 and the 3rd hour of the other Gospels.

Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If a man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world. John 11:9 ASV


In ancient Israel, Josephus left us testimony on the time when the Jews started preparing for the Sabbath. Here is a passage from Josephus, a quote that is dated around 8 BC, as referenced by the name of the Consul.

"Caesar Augustus, high priest and tribune of the people, ordains thus: Since the nation of the Jews hath been found grateful to the Roman people, not only at this time, but in time past also, and chiefly Hyrcanus the high priest, under my father Caesar the emperor, it seemed good to me and my counselors, according to the sentence and oath of the people of Rome, that the Jews have liberty to make use of their own customs, according to the law of their forefathers, as they made use of them under Hyrcanus the high priest of the Almighty God; and that their sacred money be not touched, but be sent to Jerusalem, and that it be committed to the care of the receivers at Jerusalem; and that they be not obliged to go before any judge on the sabbath day, nor on the day of the preparation to it, after the ninth hour. But if any one be caught stealing their holy books, or their sacred money, whether it be out of the synagogue or public school, he shall be deemed a sacrilegious person, and his goods shall be brought into the public treasury of the Romans. And I give order that the testimonial which they have given me, on account of my regard to that piety which I exercise toward all mankind, and out of regard to Caius Marcus Censorinus, together with the present decree, be proposed in that most eminent place which hath been consecrated to me by the community of Asia at Ancyra. And if any one transgress any part of what is above decreed, he shall be severely punished."
(Retrieved from http://www.ccel.org/ccel/josephus/complete.ii.xvii.vi.html)



Notice the time when the Jews started preparing for the Sabbath. It was after the 9th hour, Jewish time. The Jewish day is divided into 12-hour day (John 11:9). At the 9th hour, the day is ending in 3 hours (9th-10th, 10th-11th, 11th-12th). Therefore, per Josephus, the Jews took 3 hours to prepare for arrival of the Sabbath, at the first evening daylight hour when the new biblical day starts. I have calculated the Roman time, our time, when the day starts during the Passover time in Jerusalem, based on the Jewish time mentioned in the Gospels.

When we read in the New Testament about the 'preparation day', we know that it started after the ninth hour, Jerusalem time, from the testimony of the Historian Josephus. Jewish time and Roman time are two different times, as we can infer from Mark 15:25 and John 19:14, because the Jewish day starts in the evening with daylight, unlike Roman time.

(Mark 15:25 LITV) And it was the third hour, and they crucified Him.
(Mark 15:33 LITV) And it being the sixth hour, darkness came over all the land until the ninth hour.
(John 19:14 LITV) And it was the Preparation of the Passover, and about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, Behold, your King!
(Mark 15:34 LITV) And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? (Which being translated is, "My God, My God, why did You forsake Me?") Psa. 22:1



The third hour Crucifixion time in Mark 15 corresponds to the sixth hour Roman time in John 19:14 because at the sixth hour John still has Jesus being interrogated by Pilate. At the sixth hour of John, Jesus was already on the cross (tree) according to the narrative of Mark 15:33. Mark timed the events in the third, sixth, and ninth hour. Those hours that are mentioned in the New Testament cannot be 3 AM, neither 6 AM, nor 9 PM, our Roman time. The consensus to take Jesus to Pilate happened in the morning which is at least after the third hour mentioned in the narrative, a time which cannot correspond to 3 AM.

Mark 15:1 KJV
(1) And straightway in the morning the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council, and bound Jesus, and carried him away, and delivered him to Pilate.
Luke 22:66 KJV
(66) And as soon as it was day, the elders of the people and the chief priests and the scribes came together, and led him into their council, saying,
Matthew 27:1-2 KJV
(1) When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death:
(2) And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor."



We find John at the Crucifixion scene where Jesus gave him charge of His mother (John 19:25-27), right before He expired, at the ninth hour, Jewish time. He could not have mixed up the timing of that moment in the narrative.

"John 19:25-27 KJV
(25) Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.
(26) When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son!
(27) Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home."





We find John at the Crucifixion scene where Jesus gave him charge of His mother (John 19:25-27), right before He expired, at the ninth hour, Jewish time. He could not have mixed up the timing of that moment in the narrative.
The narrative implies that there is a three-hour difference in time reckoning between the Jews and the Romans. The Jews are three hours behind in telling their time, as mentioned earlier, because their day start in the evening while it is still daylight. Tabulating the time mentioned in Mark and John shows that the Jewish day starts at around 4 AM Roman time.

Therefore, the Sabbath day starts and ends at around 4 o'clock (or 5 o'clock for daylight savings time).
We find John at the Crucifixion scene where Jesus gave him charge of His mother (John 19:25-27), right before He expired, at the ninth hour, Jewish time. He could not have mixed up the timing of that moment in the narrative.

Note: TIME in bracket in the table is for showing that the Jewish day did not start with sunrise.

ROMAN VERSUS JERUSALEM TIME TABULATION around PASSOVER, CRUCIFIXION FROM THE CONCORDANCE OF JOHN 19:14.

ROMAN TIME JEWISH TIME MODERN TIME
4th hour 1st hour 4 AM Astronomical twilight April
5th hour 2nd hour 5 AM [if day is from SUNRISE 1st /10th]
6th hour of John 19:14 3rd hour in other gospels 6 AM [2nd / 11th] 
7th hour 4th hour 7 AM [3rd /12th]
8th hour 5th hour 8 AM [4th /1st] could not have started Jewish day
9th hour 6th hour [darkness reported] 9 AM [Roman / Jewish day is 12 hour]
10th hour 7th hour [darkness still] 10 AM [6th / 3rd]
11th hour 8th [darkness still] 11 AM [7th / 4th]
12th hour 9th [darkness and Death] 12 PM [8th / 5th] death [Mark 15:42, Mat 27:50, Luke 23:46, John 19:30]
13th hour 10th hour 1 PM [9th / 6th night]
14th hour 11th hour 2 PM [10th / 7th night]
15th hour 12th hour 3 PM [11th / 8th night]
16th hour 1st hour [New day begins] 4 PM [12th / 9th]
17th hour 2nd hour 5 PM [1st / 10th night]
18th hour 3rd hour 6 PM (Sunset in Jerusalem) [2nd / 11th]
19th hour 4th hour 7 PM [3rd / 12th or End of Jewish day? No]
20th hour 5th hour 8 PM [5th / 2nd]
21st hour 6th hour 9 PM [6th / 3rd]
22nd hour 7th hour 10 PM 3rd watch?  [7th / 4th
23rd hour 8th hour 11 PM [8th / 5th]
Midnight hour 9th hour 12 AM [9th / 6th]
1st hour 10th hour 1 AM  [10th / 7th]
2nd hour 11th hour 2 AM  [11th / 8th]
3dr hour 12th hour 3 AM [12th / 9th]

Evening is not sunset, nightfall, or night.

Evening is broad daylight (4 PM EST, 5 PM DST), according to the tabulation John 19:14, a time when there was plenty of sunshine to go Pontius Pilate to ask for the body of Jesus and to bury it in the mausoleum like tomb (Genesis 24:11).

Genesis 24:11 ASV

(11)  And he made the camels to kneel down without the city by the well of water at the time of evening, the time that women go out to draw water.

Deuteronomy 23:11 ASV
(11)  but it shall be, when evening cometh on, he shall bathe himself in water; and when the sun is down, he shall come within the camp.


Sunset marks the entering of the sun not the going of the sun. From our perspective, the sun rises, reaches a maximum point, goes (down), and then sets (disappears) in our horizon.

Nightfall marks to the complete disappearance of the sun at the end of the evening, which is the setting of the sun.

Night is the total darkness which follows nightfall.

The day starts at a specific time, as the Jews of antiquity started preparing it at the ninth hour, according to the witness of Josephus, from a Roman decree of around 8 BC. The ninth hour cannot logically be a moving time which depends on the time of the moving sunset time for each season.

There is the evening, there is the night, there is the morning, there is noon or midday (Genesis 43:16), and obviously there is the afternoon or the going of the sun (Exodus 17:12, Joshua 1:4, Psalms 50:1, 113:3; Deuteronomy 11:3).

The Bible does not support the evening to coincide with the 'entering (Strong's H3996) of the sun in the horizon', which is etymologically sunset, the setting of the sun (Deuteronomy 11:30, Joshua 1:4, 23:4, Psalms 50:1, 104:19, 113:3, Zechariah 8:7, Malachi 1:1).

Rather, the evening coincides with the going (H935) of the sun, which is 'descending' towards our horizon (Joshua 10:13), which is not the same as entering (H3996) our horizon.

Joshua 10:13 ASV 
And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, Until the nation had avenged themselves of their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jashar? And the sun stayed in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go (H935) down about a whole day.


In the translations, the word 'down' in the expression 'going down' to mean 'sunset' is an addition to the meaning of the Strong's Hebrew H935 (to go, Amos 8:9). That is, it does not exist in relation to the going of the sun.

Amos 8:9 ASV
(9)  And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord Jehovah, that I will cause the sun to go [down] at noon, and I will darken the earth in the clear day.


Is Amos 8:9 saying that Jesus will make the sun enter (H3996) the horizon at noon, rushing the clocks, or that it will hide the sun at noon and cause darkness at noon?


Matthew 27:45 ASV
Now from the sixth hour (9 AM) there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour (12 PM).

Mark 15:33 ASV 
And when the sixth hour (9 AM) was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour (12 PM).

Luke 23:44 ASV
And it was now about the sixth hour (9 AM), and a darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour (12 PM),

Biblically, evening is not sunset, nightfall, or night.

Evening Clock Time in the Parable of the Vineyard: the 12th Jewish hour which is 3 PM in our Roman Standard Time.

Matthew 20:8-12 ASV
(8)  And when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the laborers, and pay them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first.
(9)  And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a shilling.
(10)  And when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received every man a shilling.
(11)  And when they received it, they murmured against the householder,
(12)  saying, These last have spent but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.

Since Jesus says that there are 12 hours in a day, do we start the Sabbath at the 12th evening hour or the first evening hour after the 12th hour? John 11:9.

I have chosen the first hour to let the 12 hours division of the day be complete but is it not more correct to start the new day at the 12th hour instead at the 1st hour?

Would Jesus refer to the 12th hour of the previous day as the first hour to start the next day? We can see the division of the biblical time from 12-4, 4-8, 8-12. That would be 3 watches.

We read of the morning watch in Exodus 14:24. We read of the middle watch in Judges 7:19. It implies that, if there is a middle watch, there must be 4 watches for each 12 hours. Could the divisions of morning, noon, evening, night be also watches?

Psalms 90:4 speaks of a watch in the night.

Jesus came unto the disciples in the fourth watch of the night walking on the sea, according to Matthew 14:25 and Mark 6:48. 

Matthew 24:43 speaks of not knowing in what watch the thief would come. Do thieves come during the day? If thieves were expected to break in at night, Matthew 24:43 implies that the night was divided into watches as Matthew 14:25 suggests.

Luke 12:38 speaks of the second and of the third watch. So, there were at least 4 watches.

So, a division of 12 hours into 4 slots is more likely so that the Sabbath day as an equal day also is divided into 4 watches: 1-3, 4-6, 7-9, 10-12.

Hence, it makes sense that the biblical Jewish Sabbath day starts at the first hour of the first watch of the night.

The True Voice of Jesus of Nazareth
The grace of God is for former sinners. Ezekiel 33:13-20

We must do the will of God on earth as it is done in Heaven to be saved. Hence, we must live and die holy to be saved by grace. 1 Peter 1:16

Witnesses of Jesus of Nazareth
The witnesses of Jesus overcome the beast. Rev 20:4

When we accept Jesus, we become His disciples, His apostles, and His witnesses. Acts 1:3

If we're missing just 1 commandment in our belief system, we will not be saved because we are not without sin, that is, we are not holy. The grace of Jesus is for the holy ones, according to Ezekiel 33:13-20.

Ezekiel 33:13 ASV
(13)  When I say to the righteous, that he shall surely live; if he trust to his righteousness, and commit iniquity, none of his righteous deeds shall be remembered; but in his iniquity that he hath committed, therein shall he die.