Review: Dawn: A Complete Account of the Most Important Day in Human History, Nisan 18, AD 30

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.

Review: Jesus’s Final Week

Jesus’s Final Week, William F. Cook III. Nashville: B & H Academic, 2022.

Summary: A day-by-day discussion of the events in Jesus’s life from the triumphal entry until the empty tomb, using a “harmony of the gospels” approach.

The final week of the life of Jesus before the resurrection occupies a disproportionate part of each of our four gospels. In fact, some observers have described the gospels as “Passion narratives with long introductions.”

We often read these accounts in different gospels, which can be confusing as we try to imagine how events mentioned in one gospel mesh with those of another. Scholars use these differences to highlight the unique emphases of each gospel writer. Cook takes a different approach, which he describes as “horizontal,” using a “harmony of the gospels” resource to arrange all the events into a day-by-day chronological account that begins with the triumphal entry and ends with the empty tomb and the resurrection appearances.

For each day, he offers concise discussions that offer helpful background, explain any Old Testament scripture quoted or otherwise relevant, summarize key points in the day’s events and their significance, and then offers concluding reflections, often offering applications for our lives. For example, Cook concludes his chapter on The Triumphal Entry with this:

” We should ask ourselves how often we are overcome with emotion when we consider that many people we love and care about are on the precipice of God’s judgment. I fear we sometimes get used to loved ones and friends not knowing Jesus. We need to shed more tears and pray more passionate prayers for their salvation.”

Cook, p. 12.

We often overlook the temple controversies on Tuesday. I thought Cook’s discussion quite helpful of the four questions asked of Jesus and the final question Jesus asks of the religious leaders. The events of Thursday and Friday are given more space with a chapter each devoted to the last supper, including Jesus’s prayer in John, the Garden of Gethsemane, the Jewish Trial, The Roman Trial, and the crucifixion and death of Jesus. The final chapter discusses the empty tomb, the resurrection appearances, and evidence for the resurrection.

One of the nice features of each chapter was to include a hymn related to the material in the chapter. I often found myself at least mentally singing through the hymn. One of the things this ought suggest is that this is a wonderful devotional resource as one prepares to remember Passion Week. It also makes for a good Lenten study and includes a study guide for groups. There’s still time to get this for this year or to have on hand for the next.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.




James Tissot, The Merchants Chased from the Temple. Public Domain via Wikimedia

Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. (Matthew 21:12, NIV)


This verse was in the Palm Sunday reading at my church this past Sunday. I should mention that my reflections here may bear scant resemblance to my pastor’s sermon, so this only reflects the workings of my mind, not what my pastor had to say (which I also remember!).

I was thinking about some of the recent “What would Jesus…?” slogans. There was “What Would Jesus Do?” complete with bracelets. Later on, some environmentally oriented Christians started a campaign with the slogan “what would Jesus drive?”. This verse inspired me with a new one: “who would Jesus drive out?”

The context is that Jesus is standing in the temple courts. More precisely, he is standing in the court of the Gentiles–the closest that Gentiles  who are “God-fearers” and want to worship Yahweh are permitted to come. The sellers provided a service for Jews who wanted to offer sacrifices, providing a money exchange (probably at a tidy profit) into the approved temple currency. Then they sold birds and other approved sacrificial animals for those who didn’t want to transport them long distances. There was probably a calculation that this was a convenient location. The Gentiles, if there were any who were interested, were considered unclean. They should be glad they are even allowed here, amid the bargaining and calls and cries of the birds and animals–and all the smells of a barnyard. Not exactly welcoming for a Gentile wanting to worship Yahweh. I suspect a more than a few turned away.

Who did Jesus drive out (WWJDO)? It was those whose presence and actions turned spiritually hungry outsiders away from God. It was those who, by their actions, made God their exclusive preserve. We might be troubled by what seems an act of anger, but the focus here is an act that sets things to right, and communicates God’s displeasure with their exclusionary actions.

Strictly speaking, there is no longer a physical temple or a “court of the Gentiles.” The only temple now is the people of God (1 Peter 2:5). So who would Jesus drive out, today?

It would seem to me that it is any whose actions turn people away from Christ and the people of God. It might be intentional or unintentional. I suspect in suggesting this, you may already be composing a mental list of those Jesus would drive away. I have to admit that this is where my mind went when I heard these ways.

Of course, everyone on my list was someone else. I was notably absent from the list. And I started to wonder about that:

  • I wondered about who it is I’ve welcomed and who I’ve ignored.
  • I wondered about whether there are some groups I’ve written off as unworthy or uninterested in God.
  • I wondered if at times I’ve only planned for or reached out to those “like me.”
  • I wondered if I’ve been content with having people at my dinner table and leadership “table” who are like me.
  • I wonder if there are those who have turned away from considering Christ because of what they have seen of my life.

Would I be among those Jesus would drive out? It seems that Lent, and particularly Passion Week is a time for self-examination rather than finger-pointing. It is a time to ask, are there things that I am blind to that are driving people away from God, and could drive me away as well? From what must I repent? Where have I been justifying myself?

What is clear is that Jesus wanted to include far more than those he drove out (who by no means were permanently excluded). The verse Jesus quotes is Isaiah 56:7, which says, “For My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.” Jesus is the one who welcomes those who say, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13). He is the one who promises rest to the weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

Who would Jesus drive out?