Why is it called Good Friday?

Calling the day of the Crucifixion ‘Good’ Friday is a designation that is peculiar to the English language. In German, for example, it is called Karfreitag. The Kar part is an obsolete word, the ancestor of the English word care in the sense of cares and woes, and it meant mourning. So in German, it is Mourning Friday. And that is what the disciples did on that day—they mourned. They thought all was lost.

I’ve read that the word good used to have a secondary meaning of holy, but I can’t trace that back in my etymological dictionary. There are a number of cases in set phrases where the words God and good got switched around because of their similarity. One case was the phrase God be with you, which today is just good-bye. So perhaps Good Friday was originally God’s Friday. But I think we call it Good Friday because, in pious retrospect, all that tragedy brought about the greatest good there could be.

I can see virtue in either terminology. If we call it Mourning Friday, as in German, we are facing reality head on, taking up the cross if you will, fully conscious that the Christian walk is seldom a walk in the park. But if we call it Good Friday, as in English, we are confessing the Christian hope that no tragedy—not even death—can overwhelm God’s providence, love, and grace. Either way seems fine to me!

Rev. Kenneth W. Collins

3 Responses

  1. Hi Vic Grace, First we’d like to apologise for not responding to your comments (IE) on time. We’ve been so so busy & kept postponing. We enjoyed visiting your blog, & we’d love to say, “keep up the good work of faith!” We believe that whether a blog or site seems to carry a message for only Christians or non-Christians alike, it doesn’t matter, as long as its done by faith in Christ…the Spirit of the Lord will do the rest. Keep on blogging & God bless you plenty!

    …We’d love to exchange links with you, if you don’t mind….Thanks

  2. Vic – This was an excellent post! Wonderful explanations of word meanings and how things came to be called what we know them as today. Having always been taught “Good Friday” I never questioned the wording there, just accepted it. But I agree with the interpretation that “Good” Friday does bring about the realization that God’s love, grace and providence do override tragedy and death. That is His Promise to us, is it not?

  3. Hi, Vic — I found you at Jeni’s place. Occasionally I read someone’s comment and something kinda goes “click” — so I came on over and I am pleased to be able to say we share almost every single interest there is!

    How cool is that?

    I’ll browse around and read some more to get to know you.

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