One Friday two thousand years ago, Jesus was chained, whipped, beaten, decorated with a crown of thorns, nailed to a cross, stabbed in the side, and left to die in front of an audience of his mother and closest friends.
The final injustice? English speakers will forever remember this event as Good Friday.
Which leaves us at wordinc scratching our heads. After all … what’s so good about it? How on earth did the word “good” come to describe one of the most famously bad Fridays in history?
Like most questions regarding the life of Jesus, the answer is complicated.
The “God is good” theory. Some speculate that the term Good Friday is a spinoff from “God’s Friday.” This theory is supported by the fact that “God” has in fact become “good” in other instances, namely in the case of “goodbye,” a contraction of “God be with you.” But anyone who believes this is solves the Good Friday mystery in the minority; this interpretation has long been considered incorrect.
The “Holy mackerel!” theory. Another possible etymology goes back to an outdated definition of the word “good,” which used to mean “holy.” This is a much more likely explanation. Not only is “holy” a fitting description for one of the most consequential days in the Christian calendar, but other days on the calendar have borrowed it as well, such as the more obscure Good Wednesday (yep, you guessed it: the Wednesday before Easter). The Bible is also referred to as “the good book,” and the message of Jesus as “the good word.” Good Friday is starting to make a little more sense. The only problem is that most people go straight for…
The wrong theory. “It’s good because Jesus had to die so he could be resurrected!” Sorry, but it just doesn’t add up. One clear takeaway from our research is that Good Friday has nothing to do with the contemporary, common definition of “good.” Of course, you can forgive yourself for thinking this. We thought it, too. But it only takes a few seconds of googling to learn that no accurate explanation relies on “good” being a synonym for “pleasant.”
The one thing we can all agree on is that the Germans have the perfect word for the Friday before Easter: Karfreitag. Good? Not in the least. A rough translation is “sorrowful Friday.”
Hard to argue with that.
In the meantime, though, we wish you a good and happy Easter!