Thursday, March 13, 2008

Good Friday

An item appeared on the Anglican Communion News Service today, announcing that "Anglicans world-wide mark Holy Week and Easter". One might have expected it to be newsworthy if they didn't, but let that pass. This item included comments on the days and liturgies of Holy Week. Under Good Friday came the remark: “One wonders why it's called Good Friday when it commemorates a very dark day, indeed. The name comes from "God's Friday," and on God's Friday, we commemorate the Crucifixion. ~ ACNS4378
This explanation has been around for a while, and is mentioned in the old Catholic Encyclopaedia. Another item on the internet, Where Does the Term "Good Friday" Come From? by Daniel Benedict of the American United Methodist Church attributes it to Professor Laurence Hull Stookey in Calendar: Christ's Time for the Church (p. 96).*
The God’s Friday explanation sounds plausible, and we cannot just dismiss it. However, there is a simpler and (in my opinion) more plausible explanation with better authority. The Oxford English Dictionary cites the use of “Good Friday” as far back as 1290 but makes no mention of “God’s Friday”. It refers to “good” in the sense of “pious, devout, worthy of approbation from the religious point of view”, a usage that can be raced back to Old English. I can find no trace of anyone actually using the expression “God’s Friday”. More succinctly, Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (15th Edition) says, “’Good’ here means ‘holy’.
The problem with the "God's Friday" explanation is that it sounds like a way to avoid facing the fact that awful as it was, the crucifixion was a good thing, indeed, the lifting up of the Son of Man to draw all unto himself.


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