This article is a companion to the article Sunday the First of Sabbaths
Jesus said in Matthew 12:40,
For as Jonas was three days and three
nights in the whale's belly, so shall the Son of man be three days and
three nights in the heart of the earth. How could Jesus be in the
whale's belly for three days and three nights if He were crucified on
Luke 24 shows that on the Sunday of the resurrection
evening and when
the day is far spent Jesus walked with the two
disciples on the Road to Emmaus and they said,
Beside all this, today is
the third day since these things were done. How could it be the third
day if Jesus were crucified on Wednesday?
It is apparent that Jesus could not have been in the grave for three
days and three nights, a period of seventy-two hours, if the crucifixion
took place on Friday, and the resurrection took place on Sunday
early in the morning. Similarly it is apparent that if the Lord had
been crucified on Wednesday afternoon, and had remained in the grave three
days and three nights, a period of 72 hours, His walk to Emmaus
evening on the day of the resurrection could not have been on
third day. Now what is the truth of the matter?
Within the last century, a school of Bible interpretation has developed which takes the position, based on Matthew 12:40 alone, that Jesus could not have been crucified on Friday and that the crucifixion had to take place on Wednesday. This writer formerly held this position, but was forced to abandon it because of the preponderance of historical and scriptural evidence that the crucifixion could not have taken place on any other day than Friday.
After reading this statement, the first thought that flashes into the
mind of the reader is:
What are you going to do with the
and three nights? That is a period of 72 hours. You cannot get 72 hours
starting with sunset Friday and ending
very early in the morning on
Sunday. This is a period of not more than 36 hours, consisting of one full
day which was Saturday, and a portion of Friday, and a portion of
Of course, this writer immediately replies:
If the crucifixion took
place on Wednesday, and Jesus was in the tomb Wednesday night, Thursday,
Thursday night, Friday, Friday night, Saturday, and rose sometime between
Saturday evening and Sunday morning, being in the tomb 72 hours, then how
could Sunday (See Luke
toward evening when
the day is far spent be the
third day since all these things were done?
The purpose of this treatise is to reconcile these seemingly
contradictory Scriptures; show that the expressions (a)
three days and
three nights, (b)
in three days, (c)
within three days,
after the third day, (e)
the third day, (f)
third day, all of which are used by the Apostles in writing about the
crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord, mean one and the same thing. I
further purpose to demonstrate that Jesus was crucified on Friday; and that
a Wednesday crucifixion is unscriptural, unhistorical and impossible. This
writer takes the position that the writers of the New Testament were fully
aware of the true meaning of all these terms in their day, and they saw no
contradiction at all in using these expressions which seem to be so
contradictory to us today.
The true meaning of the expressions used to indicate the time Jesus
spent in the tomb is of great importance because His Messiahship stands or
falls on what Jesus meant when He said He would be
three days and three
nights in the heart of the earth. The scribes and Pharisees had just
challenged Him to give them a sign as proof of His claims and in His answer
He made the
three days and three nights statement.
Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying,
Master, we would see a sign from thee. But He answered and said unto
them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there
shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as
Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the
Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth
Jesus did not refuse to give them a sign, He had already given them many signs by healing the sick, casting out devils, and in a few more days would feed five thousand with five loaves and two fishes, and four thousand with seven loaves, but He did not offer these as signs to the Pharisees and scribes. He told them that another sign would be given upon which He would stake His Messiahship. That was the sign of Jonas the prophet.
In Matthew 16:1-4 we have another incident similar to the one in chapter
12 where a sign was again demanded of Jesus and He gave the same reply:
The Pharisees also with the Saducees came, and tempting desired him that
He would show them a sign from heaven. He answered and said unto them: When
it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather, for the sky is read, And in
the morning, It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and lowring.
O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern
the signs of the times? A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a
sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet
Jonas. And he left them, and departed
Here Jesus again stakes His Messiahship on the sign of Jonas, although
in this instance He does not use the expression
three days and three
nights. So the divinity of Jesus must stand or fall on the true meaning
three days and three nights. So the divinity of Jesus must stand
or fall on the true meaning of
three days and three nights. If this
expression means a literal period of 72 hours, then the sign of Jonas has
failed, and Jesus is not the Messiah of Israel, and the Bible is not the
divinely inspired and infallible Word of God, because Jesus could not have
spent that many hours in the tomb, as we shall see.
I state emphatically, and without fear of successful contradiction that the theory of a Wednesday crucifixion is unsound, impossible of proof, contrary to the clear statements of the Apostles, of Jesus Himself, and of the early Church writers who state that the crucifixion took place on Friday.
Those who hold for a Wednesday Crucifixion base their entire argument on
just one verse of Scripture.
For as Jonas was three days and three
nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and
three nights in the heart of the eart (Matthew 12:40). Their position
is that for Jesus to have been in the grave for three days and three
nights, a period of 72 hours, He would have to be buried before sunset on
Wednesday and be in the tomb Wednesday night, Thursday, Thursday night,
Friday, Friday night, Saturday, and sometime after sunset Saturday and
before sunrise on Sunday He was resurrected, being in the grave 72 full
hours. Some go so far as to hold for a resurrection on Saturday before
This position would be quite logical if there were no other scriptures
dealing with the subject which teach differently, or if there were no other
interpretations to be put on the
three days and three nights
expression, but this is not the case. There are 20 different references in
the New Testament we must consider, and a study of these references show
that the 72 hour theory is unscriptural, unhistorical and impossible.
The 72 hour advocates ignore these references as though they did not
exist. For instance, this writer, who formerly taught a Wednesday
crucifixion, has not found one Wednesday advocate who endeavors to
three days and three nights expression in Matthew
12:40 with the expression
today is the third day since these things were
done in Luke 24:21. Furthermore, eleven of these references show that
Jesus was to rise on
the third day; another says
days and one says
until the third day, and if He remained in the
grave 72 hours or
three days and three nights, His resurrection
would have to take place on the fourth day. Here is another face the
Wednesday advocates must face.
Bible scholars have always held the position that proper Biblical interpretation does not build a doctrine on one isolated passage which seems to teach one thing when all other passages in the Scriptures dealing with the subject teach otherwise. This is a dangerous and unsound method of Bible exposition. We must never try to make the general teaching of the Scriptures conform to an isolated passage, but rather seek to harmonize that one isolated passage with the general teaching of all the rest of the Scriptures. This is what Wednesday crucifixionists do not do. They take one isolated passage and build their entire structure of BIble interpretation on it, ignoring the general teaching of all the other texts, and then assume that anyone who differs with them is lacking in scholarship. The facts are that a man does not hold to the 72 hour theory because he has given a great deal of study to the subject, but because he has not studied the subject enough.
It is a historical fact that for the first eighteen centuries of the Christian Era, from the times of the Apostles until the nineteenth century, Christians have universally regarded Friday as the day of the crucifixion. This fact alone must be explained by the 72 hour advocates. Within the last one hundred years, writers have begun to advance the new theory of a Wednesday crucifixion. Why is it that for more than eighteen centuries a Friday crucifixion has been accepted without question?
Wednesday advocates cannot name one writer among the Apostolic Church Fathers who held their 72 hour theory. The writings of Justin Martyr alone show conclusively that the Church of the first century regarded Friday as the crucifixion day. Certainly those who lived in his day ought to be in a place to know the truth of the matter.
Justin's testimony is of great importance because of the time in which he lived. He was born at the beginning of the second century, the date being given as 100, 110, or 114 A.D. He suffered martyrdom in the year 165. His writings are among the most important that have come down to us from the second century. He was born in the Holy Land, in Flavia, Neapolis, a city of Samaria. He came in contact with many Christians who had known the Apostles personally, for many of them were still living in Justin's time, and they had hear the story of the crucifixion and resurrection from the mouths of the Apostles themselves, and such things were still fresh in their memories. Justin travelled extensively and was in contact with almost the whole of the main body of the Christian Church. So his testimony concerning the days of the crucifixion, the resurrection, and the true day of the Christian Sabbath is of tremendous value.
In his First Apology, Chapter LXVII, Justin Martyr makes
the following statement on
Weekly Worship of Christians:
afterwards continually remind each other of these things. And the wealthy
among us help the needy; and we always keep together; and for all things
wherewith we are supplied, we bless the Maker of all through His Son Jesus
Christ, and through the Holy Ghost. And on the day called Sunday, all who
live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the
memoirs of the apostles or the writings of hte prophets are read, as long
as time permits; then when the reader has ceased, the president verbally
instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all
rise together and pray, and as we before said, when our prayer is ended,
bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner
offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people
assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each and a
participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who
are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do
and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited
with the president, who succours the orphans and widows, and those who,
through sickness or any cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds, and
the strangers among us, and in word takes care of all who are in neeed. But
Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is
the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and
matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Saviour on the same day rose
from the dead. For he was crucified on the day before that of Saturn
(Saturday); and on the day after that of Saturn, which is the day of the
Sun, having appeared to His apostles and disciples, He taught them these
things, which we have submitted to you also for your consideration.
Here is a leader in the Church, who lived in the first half of the second century and knew many who had personal contact with the Apostles, stating that Jesus was crucified on the day before Saturn and He appeared to His disciples on the day of the Sun. The day of the Sun was Sunday. The day of Saturn was Saturday. And of course the day before Saturday was Friday. Had Jesus been crucified on Wednesday, it would have been three days before Saturn. But here is one who certainly was in a position to know and he definitely states that the crucifixion took place on Friday. Now if this were not the case, Justin's statement would have been challenged immediately by all the Christian Church. If Wednesday were the day of the crucifixion, it would have been inconceivable for Christians living in Justin's time to be unaware of it, and it would have been impossible for Justin in a time so close to the times of the Apostles to establish a Friday observance. They would have exposed his fraud immediately. Furthermore, what would have been his motive in trying to establish a Friday observance if the crucifixion had been on Wednesday? I have not found one Wednesday advocate who can explain away the testimony of Justin Martyr.
The universal acceptance of the Church of a Friday crucifixion from the
times of the Apostles is a factor that must be explained by the 72 hour
theorists. We cannot consider the Christians of the first two centuries, or
for all the centuries following for that matter, to be so lacking in
intelligence that they never realized that three full days and three full
nights added up to 72 hours. Let us remember that the CHristians of the
first three centuries experienced a closer walk with God and knew more
about the guidance and speaking sof the Holy Spirit than the Church has
known for the last sixteen hundred years. They accepted Friday as the day
of the crucifixion because Jesus was crucified on that day, and they knew
what the expression
three days and three nights really meant for
they were well acquainted with Hebrew and Greek idioms and orientalisms
which will be taken up later in this study.
Jesus admonished His critics to
search the Scriptures for if they
did, they would find that they testify of Him. Wednesday crucifixionists
need to take heed to this same admonition. They have based their entire
argument upon just one statement found in Matthew 12:40 and have ignored
all other passages which teach differently to what they think their verse
teaches, as we shall now demonstrate.
Four different passages use the expression
in three days instead
three days and three nights
Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple,
and in three days I will raise it up. Then said the Jews, Forty and six
years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days?
But he spake of the temple of his body. Mark 15:29,30.
And they that
passed by railed on him, wagging their heads, and saying, Ah, thou that
destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, Save thyself, and
come down from the cross. Matthew 26:61
And said, This fellow said,
I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days.
And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest
it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from
Had Jesus been in the tomb
three days and three nights, His
resurrection could not have taken place
in three days. It would have
three days and three nights and part of a fourth day. This is
so obvious it cannot be disputed.
In Mark 14:58 we find another expression that overthrows the 72 hour
We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with
hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.
Within three days means a period of time short of 72 hours. What are
the 72 hour advocates going to do with this verse? It is true that this is
a statement of the Lord's enemies, and they perjured their testimonywhen
they said they heard him say,
I will destroy this temple that is made
with hands. He never said that. And he never said He would build
another temple of stone without hands. But they were correct in quoting His
words regarding the time:
Within three days was the only statement
of His they quoted correctly.
Another expression Jesus used was
after three days. Mark 8:31
And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things,
and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and
be killed, and after three days rise again. Matthew 27:63,64
Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After
three days I will rise again. Command therefore that the sepulchre be made
sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him
away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error
shall be worse than the first. can. Keeping in mind that all of these
terms were used by Jesus Himself, who certainly knew how long He would be
in the grave, we shall not comment on this term until we have considered
In eleven different passages
the third day is used to indicate
the time Jesus would be in the grave.
From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his
disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of
the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised
again the third day. Matthew 17:23
And they shall kill him, and the
third day he shall be raised again. And they were exceeding sorry.
And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to
scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again.
For he taught his disciples, and said unto them, The Son of
man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and after
that he is killed, he shall rise the third day. Mark 10:34
shall mock him, and shall scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall
kill him: and the third day he shall rise again. Luke 9:22
The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and
chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day.
And they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the
third day he shall rise again. Luke 24:7
Saying, The Son of man must
be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third
day rise again. Luke 24:46
And said unto them, Thus it is written,
and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third
day: Acts 10:40
Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him
openly; 1 Corinthians 15:4
And that he was buried, and that he rose
again the third day according to the scriptures:
Here are nine statements by Jesus Himself stating He would rise
third day, and two statements by Peter and Paul that Jesus was raised
the third day. If Jesus had spent three full days and three full
nights in the tomb, a period of 72 hours, how could His resurrection take
the third day?
We find this expression in one more passage. Luke 24:21,
trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside
all this, to day is the third day since these things were done. This
statement was made by the two disciples on the walk to Emmaus, when they
were joined by Jesus, on the Sunday of the resurrection, when it was
toward evening, and the day is far spent, (v. 29) after Jesus had
been resurrected for quite a number of hours.
Verse one shows that the resurrection took place on
the first day of
the week. Verses 13 to 15 show the walk was on the
And behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus,
which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs. And they talked of all
these things which had happened. And it came to pass, that while htey
communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with
them. It cannot be disputed that this walk took place on the same day
in which Jesus rose from the dead. But it was
the third day after
the chief priests and our ruler delivered him to be condemned to death,
and have crucified him. But we trusted that it had been he which should
have redeemed Israel: and besdie all this, today is the third day since
these things were done. (v.20,21).
By no possible stretch of the imagination could this be the third day if
the crucifixion took place on Wednesday. If
the third day in Luke
the third day starting with Friday, then
day in the other eleven passages also meant
the third day
starting with Friday, and not
the third day starting with Wednesday.
The third day of Luke 24:21 could not possibly be any other day than
the third day starting with Friday.
The last expression to be considered in this study is found in Matthew
Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was
yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command therefore that the
sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by
night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the
dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first.
Notice this passage carefully. The Pharisees told Pilate that Jesus had
After three days I will rise again, but they only asked for a
guard to be stationed at the sepulchre
until the third day.
According to modern English,
after three days would reach over
into the fourth day, but
until the third day could not possibly
reach over into the fourth day. Webster's Collegiate
1. Up to the time of; as,
to remain until evening. 2. At any time before; — after a negative
expression; as, not available until tomorrow. — conj. 1. Up to the
time that or when. 2. After negatives, hardly, etc., before the time that.
3. To the point or degree that; as he struggled until he loosed the
It ought to be clear to the reader by this time that these six different
expressions stating the time Jesus was to remain in the tomb need to be
reconciled somehow. If Jesus were in the tomb 72 hours, then the walk to
Emmaus could not have been on
the third day. If Jesus rose on
third day, how could His resurrection take place
after the third
day? If He was to rise
after the third day, why did the
Pharisees request a guard over the tomb only
until the third day? If
Jesus rose from the grave
within three days, how could he spend
three days and three nights in the heart of the earth?
At first glance this all seems like hopeless confusion. But all the difficulty is resolved when we learn that the expressions all mean one and the same thing. We are dealing with idioms and expressions here which meant something quite different 2,000 years ago in the Hebrew and Greek languages than the same expressions mean today in the English language. This is the simple explanation to the problem. When this is clearly understood, it will be seen that there is no contradiction in these passages of Scripture and all the statements regarding the resurrection completely harmonize with one another. Ignore this fact and it is impossible to reconcile these terms. And reconciled they must be, if the Bible is to remain the infallible Word of God.
When seeking to understand certain expressions in the Bible, we must keep in mind that we are dealing with writings which are from two thousand to three thousand five hundred years old. They ar expressions of an oriental people who spoke a different language than we speak, and used terms peculiar to their customs which they clearly understood, but which we may not use or understand in our day.
The languages used by these people were the Hebrew and Greek. In these
languages they had idiomatic expressions which at times meant something
entirely different in their day from what those expressions mean when used
by us in the English language two thousand years later. This is
particularly so in regard to the meaning of
three days and three
nights and the other terms used in connection with the
We are dealing here with Hebrew and Greek idioms. Webster's
Collegiate Dicitonary defines an idiom as:
1. The language
peculiar to a people, (a tongue) or to a district, community, or class ( a
dialect). 2. The structural form peculiar to any language. 3. An expression
in the usage of a language, that is peculiar to itself either in
grammatical construction, or in having a meaning which cannot be derived as
a whole from the conjoined meanings of its elements. 4. A form of
expression characteristic to an author.
We have idioms in this country which are peculiar to certain areas.
While in the army during World War II, stationed at Fort McClellan,
Alabama, I sent a Baptist minister a copy of one of my books. The lady who
delivered it to him told me,
He was sho' proud to get it. Up north
we never use the word
proud in such a way. We would say,
glad to get it. This was a Southern idiom. We are dealing with idioms
when we read the account of the resurrection.
These idioms were used by an Asiatic people, who speak Hebrew and Greek,
two thousand years ago. Today if we say something happened on
day we mean that it happened during the third day. If we say it
after the third day, we mean that three days had passed,
and it took place during the fourth day. But our problem here is to
determine what these idioms meant to the Jews two thousand years ago in a
place several thousand miles removed from where we are living today. This
is the crux of the whole matter.
There is an abundance of evidence that in Biblical times a portion of a day was reckoned as a whole day when an interval of time was being counted.
The Jewish Encyclopedia, Volume 4, Page 475 says:
Jewish communal life a part of a day is at times reckoned as one day; e.g.,
the day of the funeral, even when the latter takes place late in the
afternoon, is counted as the first of the seven days of mourning; a short
time of the seventh day is counted as the seventh day; circumcision takes
place on the eight day, even though of the firs day only a few minutes
remained after the birth of the child, these being counted as one
If the funeral took place in the late afternoon and the remaining part of that day was counted as a whole day, and only a small portion of the seventh day was counted as a whole day for seven days of mourning, we have a case similar to the time spent in the tomb by the Lord. Seven full days of mourning could not be counted, yet in Jewish practice these five full days and portions of two days were reckoned as seven. The same method of reckoning was used in counting days for the circumcision of a male child.
This is what is known as a synecdoche which is defined as:
of speech by which a part if put for the whole (Websters
Lange's Commentary on Matthew 12:40 gives quotations from Jerome, Meyer, and Alford which show that in ancient Jewish reckonings a portion of a day was considered a whole day, and while Jesus was in the tomb only for a part of Friday, a part of Sunday, and the whole of Saturday, still it was reckoned for three days.
Jerome was born in 420 A.D. and lived in a time when he had access to
many writings that have since been lost to the Church. He produced the
Latin Vulgate Translation, and his word on this subject is
important testimony. The following quotation from Jerome is given in
This is to be explained by a figure of
speech called synecdoche, by which a part if put for a whole; not that our
Lord was three whole days and three nights in the grave, but part of
Friday, part of Sunday, and the whole of Saturday were reckoned as three
Lange also gives the following from Alford who gives us a statement from
the Jewish Talmud:
If it be necessary to make good the three days and
nights, it must be done by having recourse to the Jewish method of
computing time. In the Jerusalem Talmud (cited by Lightfoot) it is said
This testimony from
the Jewish Talmud deserves recognition.
that a day and night together make up a nychthemeron, and that any part
of such a period is counted as the Whole. See Genesis 11:13,20; 1
Samuel 30:12,13; 2 Chronicles 10:5,12; Hosea 6:2.
Here is testimony from the Jewish Encyplopedia and from the Talmud itself that the Jews reckoned a portion of a day as a whole. Without taking this into consideration it is impossible to reconcile the different idioms concerning the time Jesus spent in the tomb.
The Bible is its own interpreter. The meaning of a passage of Scripture can always be found in the Scriptures in one of three ways: 1. The meaning is found in the passage itself. 2. The meaning is found in the preceding or following passages. 3. The meaning is found somewhere else in the Scriptures.
We are dealing with no exception to this rule. If we can find another
instance in the Bible where the expression
three days and three
nights is used, and show that it did not mean a period of 72 hours, we
shall have proved our point in regard to Matthew 12:40. In Esther 4 & 5
we read about Mordecai prevailng upon Esther to go in before the king and
intercede in behalf of the Jews in Babylon. Here is where the famous words
And who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for
such a time as this? And the equally famous reply of Esther,
perish, I perish.
Now let us read Esther 4:15-17; and 5:1,2:
Then Esther bade them
return Mordecai this answer, Go, gather together all the Jews that are
present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three
days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I
go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I
perish. So Mordecai went his way, and did according to all that Esther had
commanded him. Now it came to pass on the third day, that Esther put on her
royal apparel, and stood in the inner court of the king's house, over
against the king's house: and the king sat upon his royal throne in the
royal house, over against the gate of the house. And it was so, when the
king saw Esther the queen standing in the court, that she obtained favour
in his sight: and the king held out to Esther the golden sceptre that was
in his hand. So Esther drew near, and touched the top of the
Esther requested the Jews to fast for her and
neither eat not drink
three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise: and so
will I go in unto the king. Moffat's Translation says,
for three days and three nights, and the Douay Version
three days and three nights. Here is the same idiom that
is used in Matthew 12:40.
However, Esther went to see the king
on teh third day. She did
not wait until three full days and three full nights had passed. She went
on the third day. Esther and the Jews fully understood the
meaning of the idiom
three days and three nights and knew that a
portion of a day was recknoed as a whole, and she acted accordingly. If the
idiom meant an interval of time less than three full days of 24 hours each
to the Jews in the time of Esther, and the account shows that it did, then
who can say that the same idiom had to mean anything else to the Jews in
the time of Christ?
In 2 Chronicles 10 we read about Jeroboam's leading the rebellion of
Israel against Rehoboam. They presented their complaints to the king, and
in verse 5 the king gave them an answer:
And he said unto them, Come
again unto me after three days. And the people departed. But they did
not wait for three full days and three full nights. Verse 12 says:
Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam on the third day, as the king
bade, saying, Come again to me on the third day.
Here is absolute proof from the Bible itself that in ancient Israel the
after three days and
ont eh third day meant the same
thing. In verse 5 the king says,
Come again unto me after three
days. Verse 12 says,
So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam
on the third day, as the king bade, saying, Come again unto me on the third
day. The only conclusion that can be drawn here is that the Israelites
understood these Hebrew idioms to mean the same thing. It does not matter
what these expressions would mean to Americans living in the year 1980 A.D.
What matters is what they meant to the people in Bible times and in Bible
After three days to us would mean that a period of three full
days had passed. But this idiom meant something else to these Israelites as
the account clearly shows. Any other position robs the Bible of its divine
inspiration and its infallibility.
In chronological usage in Bible terms,
the third day meant the
day after tomorrow.
And the Lord said unto Moses, Go unto the people,
and sanctify them today and tomorrow; and let them wash their clothes, and
be ready against the third day; for the third day the Lord will come down
in the sight of all the people upon Mount Sinai.
Today meant the
very day in which the Lord spoke to Moses, regardless of how many hours had
been spent or how many hours remained of that day.
the very next day.
The third day meant the day after tomorrow, and
sometime during that day, whether early in the morning, at noonday, or in
the evening, the Lord would come down upon Mount Sinai.
We have another instance in 1 Samuel 20:5,12,19:
And David said unto
Jonathan, Behold, to morrow is the new moon, and I should not fail to sit
with the king at meat: but let me go, that I may hide myself in the field
unto the third day at even. And Jonathan said unto David, O YHWH God of
Israel, when I have sounded my father about to morrow any time, or the
third day, and, behold, if there be good toward David, and I then send not
unto thee, and shew it thee; And when thou hast stayed three days, then
thou shalt go down quickly, and come to the place where thou didst hide
Tomorrow here meant the very next day following the day of their
conversation. Regardless of whether they were talking in the morning, noon,
or late in the evening; the portion of time that was left of the day when
they were talking to each other was the first day.
Tomorrow was the
second day, And
the third day was the day after tomorrow. The first
day of reckoning could only be a portion of a day; yet it was reckoned as
the first day and the day after
tomorrow was the
In Luke 13:31-33 we have another instance which proves that
day is the day after tomorrow.
The same day there came certain of
the Pharisees, saying unto him, Get thee out, and depart hence: for Herod
will kill thee. And he said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I
cast out devils, and I do cures to day and to morrow, and the third day I
shall be perfected. Nevertheless I must walk to day, and to morrow, and the
day following: for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of
We need to insert here that when Jesus said,
And the third day I
shall be perfected, He was not referring to His resurrection. I have
looked this verse up in a number of translations which show that Jesus
meant that He would finish or complete His work of casting out devils and
healing the sick. The following translations give renderings to that
effect: Goodspeed, Centenary Translations,
Emphatic Diaglott, Twentieth Century Translation,
New World Translation, American Standard Version,
Lamsa, New England Bible, Companion
Bible, Revised Standard Version, J. B.
Phillips, Moffat, Amplified, Ferrar
Fenton, Charles B. Williams, Confraternity
Now, back to the matter of discussion. The words of Jesus Himself here
the third day meant the day after tomorrow.
I cast out
devils, and I do cures today, and tomorrow, and the third day… I
must walk today and tomorrow, and the day following When Jesus said
the third day according to His own words he meant
The first day had to be the very day in which Jesus made the statement
regardless of the number of hours that remained. Similarly, when Jesus said
He would be killed and rise
the third day, He meant that the day of
His crucifixion would be reckoned
the first day regardless of the
number of hours that remained after his burial. I have already shown that
this was the common method of computing time.
The first day was the
very day when Jesus was buried whether Wednesday or Friday. The next day
was the morrow or the second day. And the day following the morrow was
the third day. We are not to undertsand that Jeus spent 24 hours of
each of the three days healing the sick adn casting out devils. The facts
are He spent only a portion of the time in curing the sick. Part of the
time He spent in sleep. But the portion of time left after He made the
the first day.
Tomorrow was the
day immediately following the day He made the statement. Then teh day
the third day, and at some hour and
moment of that day He healed for the last time. And regardless of the
amount of time remaining after His last cure, that day was reckoned as
the third day. It did not require the passing of a 72 hour period.
Neither do the eleven passages that use
the third day in relation to
the resurrection require the passing of 72 hours.
The true meaning of
the third day as used by Jesus was that if He
were crucified on Wednesday, He would be raised on Friday. If He were
crucified on Thursday, He would be raised on Saturday. If He were crucified
on Friday, He would be raised on Sunday.
The Lord used four expressions to indicate the amount of time that would
intervene between His crucifixion and resurrection. He said,
shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the
earth (Matthew 12:40).
Destroy this temple, and in three days I will
raise it up … But he spake of the temple of his body (John
… And after three days rise again (Mark 8:31).
… and be raised again the third day (Matthew 16:21).
Can anyone deny in all four of these expressions Jesus referred to the same amount of time? Either He did, or He was hopelessly confused on teh subject. But if He referred to the same period of time in all four expressions, then all four expressions mean the same thing.
Why then did He use the idiom
three days and three nights if He
meant anything less than a 72 hour period?
First of all, Jesus used idioms that the people understood clearly.
The second reason is very well put by Doctor Adam Rutherford, of
The introduction of the word (Bible
night, as in
night in place of just the term
day, was done when it was
desired to express continuity, as a process, activity or condition
continuing without interruption for the said period. For example, in Esther
4:16,17 it is recorded that Esther and Mordecai both fasted for three days,
night and day, before she went in to see the king; yet the next verse
(Esther 5:1) records that she went in to see the king
on the third
day, i.e., the day after the
morrow. As the term
nights was introduced in cases where it was desired to emphasis time
of unbroken continuity, it was therefore employed in regard to fasting and
in one instance to the period that Jesus was in the grave.
If the expression
three days and three nights must be taken in an
exact literal sense, then the expression
after three days must be
taken in an exact literal sense; the expression
the third day must
be taken in an exact literal sense; and the expression
days must be taken in an exact literal sense; and the expression
until the third day must be taken in an exact literal sense. And so
nothing but confusion results. But accept all these expressions as idioms
of Bible days, which we have already demonstrated them to be, and there is
complete harmony in all the accounts of the crucifixion.
Mark 15:42, Luke 23:46 and John 19:14 all show that Jesus was crucified
on the day before the Passover, which was called
the preparation of the
passover. The Passover took place on Nisan 15th, and the day of the
preparation was the day before or Nisan 14th. So Jesus was crucified on
Archbishop Ussher, whose dates are given at the top of hte pages of many of our Bibles, shows that Jesus was crucified in the year A.D. 33. This date has been challenged by some who put the crucifixion in the year 30 A.D. Doctor Rutherford's Chronology takes this up very thoroughly, and sustains Ussher's date of 33 A.D. and also shows that Nisan 14th of that year came on Friday.
All Bible chronologists agree that the resurrection could not have taken place sooner than 27 A.D. or later than 33 A.D. Now here is a fact that makes a Wednesday crucifixion impossible. Doctor Rutherford has shown that in all of these seven years from 27 to 33 A.D., when all the advocates of all theories about the crucifixion admit the death of Christ had to take place, not once does Nisan 14th come on Wednesday. One writer, whose radio broadcasts are well known over the nation, was so determined to establish Wednesday as the crucifixion day, that he developed a method of reckoning all of his own and determined the year of the crucifixion as 31 A.D. He then came up with a calendar placing Nisan 14th on Wednesday. However, it was discovered that he was using a Babylonian calendar and not the calendar used by the Jews in the tiem of Christ. But even if Nisan 14th had come on Wednesday in the year 31 A.D., which it did not in the Jewish calendar, the crucifixion did not take place in that year as Archbishop Ussher and Doctor Rutherford and a host of others have shown.
The Shaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge says that the early Christians practiced fasting on both Wednesday and Friday. They fasted on Friday because that was the day of the crucifixion, and they fasted on Wednesday because that was the day when the Sanhedrin decided to kill the Lord, and it also was the day when Judas agreed to betray Him. Many members of the Methodist Church in its early days also fasted on Wednesday and Friday, choosing these two days for the same reason.
Wednesday advocates do not permit the Bible to be its own interpreter by having Scripture interpret Scripture.
If the Wednesday theorists are right, then we have Jesus contradicting
Himself for He used four terms:
In three days, after three days, the
third day, and three days and three nights. Then others used the
Within three days, and until the third day. If these
terms must be taken literally and have no idiomatic sense, then the Lord
contradicts Himself, and that is unthinkable. If the Wednesday advocates
are right, then the walk to Emmaus had to take place before Jesus rose from
the tomb, for the walk was on the third day since His crucifixion, and the
Wednesday advocates say He had to be in the tomb three full days and three
A Wednesday crucifixion creates more difficulties than it relieves. In fact, it creates many and relieves none.
This treatise is not written for the purpose of questioning the Christian experience of the Wednesday advocates. We known many who are fine Christians. This writer formerly advocated Wednesday. We writer for the purpose of defending and sustaining the divine inspiration of Scriptures and the Messiahship of Jesus Christ, for it was the sign of Jonas that He offered as a sign of His Messiahship. Therefore it is an important matter and must be properly understood.