Dawn: A Complete Account of the Most Important Day in Human History — Nisan 18, AD 30, Mark Miller. Good Turn Publishing, 2023.
Summary: An effort to render a unified account of the trial, death, resurrection and post-resurrection appearances of Jesus up to the ascension, detailing the movements of the disciples and especially the women who visited the grave on Easter morning.
Many of us in reading the gospels are struck with the differences in the accounts of the death and resurrection of Jesus in the four canonical gospels. While it helps to realize that several witnesses to an event will give accounts that vary in detail while agreeing in many cases on the key occurrences. But is it possible to take the different accounts and come up with a kind of unified account of what happened. Mark Miller, who has worked as a researcher, professor, and entrepreneur thinks so based on four decades of Bible study and research. His author biography states:
“His research for “DAWN” involved deep dives into the chronology, cartography, and culture of first-century Jerusalem. He examined the temple system and rituals, Jewish burial customs, archaeological finds, and ancient historical records outside of the New Testament.”
The author does several interesting things in presenting his findings. First, he introduces us to the key characters, proposing some interesting relational ties–that Salome, the wife of Zebedee was Mary’s sister, making James and John cousins of Jesus by human descent. Likewise, Clopas (or Cleopas) was the brother of Joseph, also married to a Mary, who were parents of James the Younger. He also proposes that Mary of Bethany and Mary Magdalene are the same person.
He then offers what may be called a dramatic rendering of the Passion events, putting his unified account in story form with some imagined dialogue and story telling. Following this he offers his unified account of the passages in the four gospels concerning the death, resurrection, appearances, and ascension of Jesus including here Paul’s account of appearances in 1 Corinthians 15. Perhaps the most striking assertion here is that Jesus died on the Wednesday, 14 Nisan, AD 30, on the day of preparation for Passover in that year. Much of this is based on the activities of the women, who prepare spices before going to the tomb between the High Sabbath of Passover (after sunset Wednesday to after sunset Thursday) and before the regular weekly sabbath, from after sunset Friday to sunset Saturday, which best fulfills the prophecy of Matthew 12:40 that speaks of three days and nights in the grave. He also makes proposals for the whereabouts of the disciples–nine in Bethany, John with his family who had a home in Jerusalem, and Peter with John Mark and his family, alone from the others because of his betrayal. He also traces the movements of the women, and Peter and John on Easter morning, maintaining that Peter visited the tomb twice, then encountered Jesus alone (as Paul asserts). And he offers a plausible account of the sequence of appearances in Jerusalem, then in Galilee, including how the 500 were gathered, and back to Jerusalem for the ascension on the Mount of Olives.
Part Three explains key features of the unified account including when Jesus was crucified, the relationships, his identification of Mary Magdalene with Mary of Bethany, and the important locations in the geography of Jerusalem. After the epilogue, additional appendices deal with other questions including calendars, whether the last supper was a Passover meal, the hour Jesus was
crucified, the year of these events, the importance of Emmaus, and other questions.
The author notes where he relies on secondary traditional sources as well as where his assertions find support in the biblical text. He also notes the speculative basis of some aspects of his account, especially some of the relationships. One thing he makes clear is that there is no question on the basic contours: that Jesus died, that he was buried in a sealed and guarded tomb, and that the tomb was empty and the risen Christ encountered by the various witnesses beginning with the women. Miller also observes something that should be obvious: how could the soldiers assert both that they had all been asleep and that the disciples stole the body? How would they know who stole the body? This said, the somewhat novel elements (which have been asserted by
others) of when Jesus died or the various relationships do not change the central realities, and likely will not change our observances, based on the appearance that only a sabbath, Holy Saturday, intervened between the crucifixion and the resurrection.
At the same time, I admit that I want to look a lot more closely at the biblical text before accepting that there were two additional days between the crucifixion and the resurrection. The accounts, apart from the small detail of the women’s preparations, don’t appear to allow for these extra days. Is that detail enough to revise our views?
What I so appreciate is Miller’s rigorous effort to look at the evidence of the four gospels and Paul afresh. He traces the movements through Jerusalem and environs, the hurried burial preparations, the distinctive role of the women in attesting to the resurrection in the face of the doubts of men, and the multiple appearances of Jesus. All this allows me to proclaim with even greater joy and assurance, “He is risen!” when the light of Easter morning dawns.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher through BookSirens.