Good Friday is the Friday before Easter and is the most solemn day in the Christian calendar as it is the day Jesus was crucified. On this day Christians around the world pray for forgiveness and repentance as part of the observance of the day Jesus died for our sins. Here are five facts that you probably didn't know about Good Friday.
1. The origin of the name "Good Friday" is not known.
The name 'Good Friday' may sound strange to some people considering what happened on that day. Christians do not actually believe that the day Jesus was crucified was 'Good' but it is called Good Friday for a bunch of reasons, all of them debated. The Roman Missal discuses the Friday before Easter as, he hagia kai megale paraskeue (the Holy and Great Friday). In Germany it is known as Gottes Freitag which translates into “God’s Friday.” Anglo-Saxons called it Long Friday which is how it remains known in Denmark. There are some still who believe that Good replaced the word God whose name is considered too holy to be spoken out loud.
2. Scientists debate and study the date of Jesus’s crucifixion.
An Oxford professor published an article in 1985 putting the definitive date of Jesus’s crucifixion at Friday, April 3, 33 A.D. In the journal International Geology Review, researchers looked towards at the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 27 to determine that an earthquake coincided with the crucifixion. Using that passage they then went through 4,000 years of chronology of earthquake disturbances and 19 feet of laminated sediment from the Dead Sea to help them determine the actual date and year of crucifixion. Geologists study the Bible to give them clues on other natural occurrences that they can look for to help them narrow down the exact date and even possible time that Christ was crucified.
3. The services for Good Friday start much earlier than you think.
The actual celebration of Good Friday begins anywhere from 12:00-3:00 a.m. During that time priests begin their observance of the most holy day. It starts with a series of prayers and chants, followed by many additional hours of prayer. Noon marks the beginning of the adoration of the Cross where a representation of the True Cross is slowly unveiled. During that time the entire congregation kneels. Members of the clergy sometimes remove their shoes before approaching the True Cross in pairs. Other members of the clergy wear special vestments and present crosses to the congregation to be kissed. Then comes the Mass of the Persanctified where the Cross is placed above an altar between lighted candles followed by a procession, and then evening prayers. The entire day is one steeped in thousands of years of ritual. It is one of the most sacred and holy days in the Christian tradition.
4. Some Good Friday reenactments involve people willingly nailing themselves to crosses.
Good Friday reenactments commonplace for Christians but some of the worlds faithful go so far as to physically be nailed to crosses for a length of time to show their faith. In the Philippines the annual reenactment draws tens of thousands of tourists. The Church condemns this practice as a distortion of the true meaning of Easter.
5. Jesus was crucified by nails driven into his wrists, not hands.
A Mayo Clinic study found that a human would be unable to support the weight of their body in their hands, but is able to in their wrists. The report also says that individuals during that time believed the wrist as part of the hand, which would explain away any inconsistency. There have been many books published about the death of Jesus, these books approach his death from the vantage of a forensic investigator. The death of Jesus remains a topic of intense interest for both the faithful and non-faithful. Either way, death by crucifixion is one of the most painful deaths a human can experience.