Creed The third day

The third day

One question that comes up is the timing of the final days of Jesus. Critical scholars mention the apparent contradiction in the Bible between the Gospel accounts (such as the timing of the ripping of the temple curtain (Luke 23:45 and Mark 15:38). One apparent contradiction is the prophecy of Jesus in Matthew 12:40, “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” However, how do we account for the church’s tradition that Jesus was buried on Friday and rose on Sunday morning?

Jesus died at the ninth hour, about 3:00 PM (Matt 27:45-46; Mark 15:33-34; Luke 23:44). He was buried at about 6:00 PM. (Luke 23:54). Firstly, we need to understand we are not reading a historical book written in the 20th century. I can tell you the exact time my children were born, not because I have it engrained in my mind, but because I have a birth certificate that records precise details. Also, the uniform timekeeping device based on Greenwich Mean Time adjusted to the earth’s location, and everyone has access to this device on their wrist, wall, or phone. We also have a uniform and universal calendar system. This does not mean people in the 1st century were stupid, but we are different cultures with technological advantages and cultural differences. We should be cautious about looking at the Bible in 21st-century eyes and holding them to our recording history standards. Even the days of the week (as we know them were named in 321 AD). Another significant difference is that we begin days at midnight and end at one second before midnight. In contrast, a day in Jewish was Sunset to Sunset, following the ‘evening and morning’ cycle found in Genesis 1.

We can begin with the day of the resurrection. All gospel accounts explain that Jesus rose on the first day of the week (What we call Sunday) around sunrise (Matt 28:1, Mark 16:2, Luke 24:1, John 20:1). One answer has been a Jewish idiom, that the reference to three days can be referred to as any period of time within a day, so three days and nights is referenced to Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (cf. Esther 4:16, 5:1). We know that Jesus celebrated Passover with his disciples before his death (Matt 26:17, Mark 14:12, Luke 22:7). This would have been the 15th day of Nisan, after the Passover, which is the twilight of the 14th day of Nisan (Lev 23:5-7). This does not help what date he was crucified because it depends on what year he was crucified. If Christ was born April, 5 BC, he started his ministry when he was about 30 (Luke 3:23). John records at least three occurrences of celebrating Passover in Jerusalem (John 2:13, 6:4, 11:55).

Mark records that the women purchased the spices after the Sabbath (Mark 16:1), while Luke says they prepared them before the Sabbath (Luke 23:55-56). One explanation is that there were two Sabbaths that week. Matthew 28:1 explains, “Now after the Sabbath [Plural],[1] toward the dawn of the first day of the week…” Passover was seen as a ‘holy convocation’ with no laborious work (Lev 23:5-7). On Thursday afternoon, Jesus could have been crucified, buried around sundown Thursday, making it in Jewish terms, the day of preparation, meaning our Friday. The women purchased the spices after Passover’s sabbath (Wednesday) and prepared them on the day of preparation, following his death. This would explain the purchasing and preparing difference in Mark and Luke, considering the plural reference of Sabbaths in Matthew and John’s high sabbath reference. This also would account for the three days and nights in Matthew 12:40. If Jesus were crucified in 31 AD (fitting with 5 BC birth, beginning ministry around 30 years and at least three Passovers in John), Passover would have been on Wednesday, April 25th in 31 AD. The following day Jesus would have stood trial and was crucified in the morning and would have passed away Thursday afternoon, buried Thursday evening. Thursday night to Sunday morning in the tomb. Explaining the three nights and days in the heart of the earth (Matt 12:40). Ultimately, the Bible does not describe all the details and especially using days of the week as we know them (Because they were not invented yet).

[1] It is common for Sabbath to be referred to as plural, for reasons unknown to the author.

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