Tuesday, March 19, 2013


(MAT. 12: 39-40) 39 But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For 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.

It is an established tenet in the Armstrongist Churches of God that Jesus had to be in the grave for exactly 72-hours. It is a trivial matter; raised to such a level that it should not be. It has been taught from the pulpit that if Jesus was not in the tomb for 72-hours then He wasn't Christ. (Regardless of His resurrection, or any of His other signs and wonders.) To put that much weight on this one point is not wise.

I have noticed a trend recently, and not just within Armstrongism. In some instances there are people who insist upon a literal 72-hour reading of Matthew 12: 39-40 either because they start from the assumption that Easter is pagan, or they start from the assumption that mainstream Christianity is evil. For these, to even seriously consider that a Friday death and Sunday resurrection is a possibility is tantamount to heresy. This is an emotional commitment. The ideology is already inflexible and the debate already over before it begins. Additional evidence will do no good. To these ones no amount of evidence will be enough.

But to you, our fair-minded reader, I speak today. And evidence I will give on the matter of why many believe a literal 72-hour interpretation is improper. Could it be that 72-hours is improperly read in?
Please at least give us a fair trial and hear us out on this.


I would ask you to consider that Matthew 12: 39-40 is not by any means the only verse that describes the length of Jesus’ interment. Yet it is the only one that uses the phrase "three days and three nights". I ask you to consider that proper Bible study will never make a stand on proof-texting, but will carefully weigh all that the evidence says, in context.

I want to review the other instances in the New Testament where the three days are mentioned. I am going to use the New King James Version. Certainly other translations will be slightly different, but I prefer this one.

Some of these verses are actually one event recorded by more than one author. I am going to tell you who is speaking, and give the verse or verses where it appears. Then I'll offer some commentary.

>>>Jesus' accusers - MAT. 26: 61 also MAR. 14:58:

(MAT. 26: 61) “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.’”
(MAR. 14: 58) “We heard Him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.’”

Jesus' accusers say "in three days" (precisely what John records Jesus as saying in John 2:18-20) and "within three days". Though they were falsely accusing Him, Matthew does have them quote Jesus accurately. It seems possible to quote Jesus yet twist His intent. Let's work together to avoid that!

>>>Jesus' mockers - MAT. 27: 40; also MAR. 15: 29-30:

(MAT. 27: 40) “You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.”
(MAR. 15: 29-30) 29 And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30 save Yourself, and come down from the cross!”

Jesus' mockers all say "in three days". Once again, not 72 hours.

>>>The chief priests and Pharisees requesting guard from Pilate:

(MAT. 27: 63) “Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise.’

The priests and Pharisees say "after three days". 
After three days? You mean four days? No, not 4 days. They are saying the same thing everyone else was, only in a slightly different manner of speaking. They mean nothing different by this than anyone else meant. You’ll see Mark use this same language in my next example. 
Also, bear in mind that these are Pharisees, to whom Jesus mentioned the three days and three nights in Matthew 12. If anyone was to understand this as literally 72-hours it would be them, but they don’t understand it this way. Again, these are exactly the same people to whom Jesus spoke in John 2: 18-20. Jesus said "in three days" and they say "after three days". Why? Because these two phrases are interchangeable.

>>>Jesus, after Peter witnesses about Christ - MAT. 16: 21 also MAR. 8: 31 and LUK. 9:21-22:

(MAT. 6: 21) From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.
(MAR. 8: 31) 31 And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.
(LUK. 9: 21-22) 21 And He strictly warned and commanded them to tell this to no one, 22 saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.”

Now here’s a very interesting example. Matthew and Luke record Jesus as saying "the third day", but Mark has "after three days". They each write about the same event, but there are two different ways to describe it. Do you suppose that one in three Apostles just didn’t get the memo? I doubt it. “After three days”, “Third day”, “three days and three nights” – all mean the same thing.

>>>Jesus, after the transfiguration - MAT. 17: 22-23 also MAR. 9: 31:

(MAT. 17: 22-23) 22 Now while they were staying in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men, 23 and they will kill Him, and the third day He will be raised up.” And they were exceedingly sorrowful.
(MAR. 9: 31) For He taught His disciples and said to them, “The Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him. And after He is killed, He will rise the third day.”

Matthew and Mark record Jesus as saying "the third day".

>>>Jesus, before James and John ask to rule with Him - MAT. 20: 18-19 also MAR. 10: 33-34 and Luke 18: 33:

(MAT. 20: 18-19) 18 “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death, 19 and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify. And the third day He will rise again.”
(MAR. 10: 33-34) 33 “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and deliver Him to the Gentiles; 34 and they will mock Him, and scourge Him, and spit on Him, and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again.”
(Luke 18: 33) 33 They will scourge Him and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again.”

Matthew, Mark, and Luke record Jesus as saying "third day".

>>>The holy angels:

(LUK. 24: 6-7) 6 He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, 7 saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’”

The angels say "third day". Do you suppose the angels can’t tell time?

>>>Cleopas, explaining to Jesus the events of the last 3 days:

(LUK 24: 18-21) 18 Then the one whose name was Cleopas answered and said to Him, “Are You the only stranger in Jerusalem, and have You not known the things which happened there in these days?”19 And He said to them, “What things?” So they said to Him, “The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him. 21 But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened.

Here is one we need to stop at briefly. 
Herbert W Armstrong would always give us the explanation that when Cleopas says “today is the third day since these things happened” what he really meant was the "today is the third day since these things were finished, including sealing of the tomb and the setting of the guard." There’s a major problem with that: it’s not what Cleopas said.
When Jesus asks Cleopas what things he was referring to, Cleopas comes right out and says what things he was referring to – ie the trial and crucifixion. Can "third day" be a reference to anything other than the words of Jesus' when He predicted His death and resurrection? It only makes sense that Cleopas was referencing Jesus' own words. So, according to Cleopas, it was “the third day” since the trial and crucifixion.

As we will demonstrate later on, the Jews counted time inclusively. This was typical of people at that time.
According to their thinking in that place and time, "three days ago" would be today, yesterday, and the day before that. So "today is the third day" means today [Sunday], yesterday [Saturday], and the day before that [Friday]. 
In a Wednesday crucifixion, the stone was rolled and the guards set on Thursday, not Friday. In a Wednesday crucifixion, Cleopas would have said "today is the fourth day" since the rolling of the stone, or he would have said "today is the fifth day" since the crucifixion. Cleopas saying on Sunday, "today is the third day" only works with a Friday crucifixion scenario.

And what does Jesus respond with?

>>>Jesus, in response to Cleopas:

(LUK. 24: 46) Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day"

Jesus understands "third day" as a reference to His death and resurrection, not the setting of the guard. He suffered and rose again the third day. He obviously didn't rise the third day from the guard-posting. Herbert Armstrong's explanation cannot be correct.

No literal 72-hours here.

>>>Jesus, driving the Jews out of the temple:

(JON. 2: 18-20) 18 So the Jews answered and said to Him, “What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?” 19 Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?”

Jesus says "in three days".
Again, recall how the Pharisees would later rephrase these very words as "after three days". It appears clear enough that the terms are interchangeable. None of them seemed to understand a literal 72-hours.

>>>Peter summarizing the events:

(ACT. 10: 40) Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly

Peter says "on the third day".

>>>Paul summarizing the events:

(I COR. 15: 4) and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures

Paul says "third day".

Only Matthew 12 verse 40 uses the phrase “three days and three nights”.
In all of these nineteen other instances, none of them repeat Matthew 12: 40. Here is how they play out in the NKJV:
"The third day" 11 times.
"In three days" 5 times.
"After three days" 2 times.
"On the third day" 1 time.
"Within three days" 1 time.

The Apostles record Jesus as having said "the third day" 8 times, "in three days" 1 time, and "after three days" 1 time.

Sometimes the same event is described in different ways. No indication is given that the Pharisees understood Jesus (or by extension Jonah) to mean a literal 72-hours.

Are we seriously to accept that one verse is the gold standard, and that all of the other 19 verses are to be understood in its light? This is dangerously close to proof-texting.

We are left with three choices here:
1) Matthew 12 is literal and the nineteen other selections are idiomatic expressions.
2) One of the other 19 selections is literal (perhaps "the third day") and the rest are idiomatic expressions.
3) All of them are idiomatic expressions and none are to be taken literally to-the-hour.

Keep in mind that every one of these, regardless of the way they are phrased, are in fact speaking about one and the same event - Jesus' death and resurrection - which only played out in one way. The inescapable fact here is a good number of these have to be idiomatic. There's no escaping the presence idiom in this, folks. It's just a matter of determining which. Truth be told, I see no compelling reason to accept option #1.

Let's turn now and look at why not option #1.


I know this can get dry and boring, but please bear with me.

I want to enter more evidence in the case that there is good reason to believe that Jesus was indeed being idiomatic in Matthew 12; apart from the aforementioned evidence that the Pharisees to whom He spoke didn't seem to take it literally.

In Jewish thinking, at least Pharisaical thinking, there is such a thing called an “onah”.
An onah is a synecdoche – a figure of speech where a part represents a whole. Much like saying “wheels” but you mean the entire automobile. This is the exact same kind of thing where the plural of “sabbaton” refers to the entire week by only mentioning the Sabbaths (see MAT. 28: 1, MAR. 16: 2, LUK. 18: 12, JON. 20: 1, 19, ACT. 20: 7, and I COR. 16: 2). It’s an idiom!

There was, in first century Palestine, the notion that a part of a day could represent the entire day.

Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah (circa 90-155 AD), was President of the Sanhedrin after Gamaliel II (grandson of the Gamaliel that taught Paul), and is considered one of the great Rabbis whose views are recorded in the Mishnah.
“It has been taught: R. Eleazar b. Azariah says, ‘A day and a night constitute a span [onah], and part of a span [onah] is equivalent to the whole of it.’"
Rabbi Hiyya bar Abba (circa 180-230), who was also considered a great sage of his day, is recorded in the Mishnah as well.
In the Talmud, Pesachim 4a v6, Rabbi Hiyya says this:
"...and part of the day is as the whole of it".
So it is possible to demonstrate that Jesus’ audience very well could have had an idiomatic understanding of what Jesus said in Matthew 12: 39-40.

Some people refuse to accept this testimony because these two Rabbis were ideologically descended from the Pharisees and were recorded in the Talmud. There are many who hate the Talmud and see it as all that is wrong with Judaism.
We have obvious theological differences with the Jews but we don't hate them at all. We understand all Israel will be saved because of God's promises to Abraham (ROM. 11: 26-32). It's a shame some people don't understand this.

Why do so many people have to be "evil" in order for certain ones to be "right"? A question to ponder.

We should keep in mind that our personal prejudices should be set aside as much as possible when we are digging for the truth. A truth, I remind you, that directly involves a statement made to Pharisees.

Why should we ignore what the Pharisees say, when we are discussing a phrase said to them and that very well could have been said in a way they would understand? They were the audience after all. Does not proper exegesis tell us to always ask what the audience would have understood a statement to mean?

Since it is true that some people refuse to accept the concept of the Onah on the basis that the Talmud is involved, I wish to remove that from the equation and present some similar circumstances from the Old Testament.


If we must take what Jesus said literally, then we must believe that for 72-hours Jesus was in the literally beating heart, the cardio-vascular system, of the planet. He did say "heart of the earth" after all. No one has a problem with that part of His sentence being idiomatic.
We will see that “three days” and even “three days and three nights” is not taken literally in several instances in the Old Testament. This has the effect of making the onah idea a Biblically-based one, as if to say this is a genuine Hebrew understanding and not some corruption of the “evil” Pharisees. These examples are certified “Pharisee Free”.

I will give you a verse and then some commentary about that selection.

(GEN. 40: 12-13) 12 And Joseph said to him, “This is the interpretation of it: The three branches are three days. 13 Now within three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your place, and you will put Pharaoh’s cup in his hand according to the former manner, when you were his butler.

Even though there were three branches representing three days in the butler’s dream, his release would come within three days’ time. One would expect two-and-a-half branches (or less, since we have no idea if he spent the entire first day in prison). But the full three branches are there.
This same thing is repeated in verses 18 and 19.

(GEN. 42: 17-19) 17 So he put them all together in prison three days.
18 Then Joseph said to them the third day, “Do this and live, for I fear God: 19 If you are honest men, let one of your brothers be confined to your prison house; but you, go and carry grain for the famine of your houses.

So, Joseph's brothers weren’t in the prison for a full three days. They were only in the prison for part of one day, then a full day, and then only part of another day. Sounds pretty much exactly like Jesus’ death. Yet there the Bible says "the third day." A part of a day counts as the whole.

(I SAM. 30: 11-13) 11 Then they found an Egyptian in the field, and brought him to David; and they gave him bread and he ate, and they let him drink water. 12 And they gave him a piece of a cake of figs and two clusters of raisins. So when he had eaten, his strength came back to him; for he had eaten no bread nor drunk water for three days and three nights. 13 Then David said to him, “To whom do you belong, and where are you from?” And he said, “I am a young man from Egypt, servant of an Amalekite; and my master left me behind, because three days ago I fell sick.

The Egyptian had not eaten for “three days and three nights”, yet he had only fallen sick “three days ago”. Either he had not eaten for several hours before he fell ill, or he misspoke and fell ill four days ago, or “three days and three nights” is not meant to be understood as 72-hours and all of these phrases about “three days” are interchangeable and mean the exact same thing.

There are three places in the entire Bible where “three days and three nights” appears. One is in Jonah. Another is in Matthew. The last is this one in Samuel.

I cannot emphasize how important this selection is. Many claim that Matthew 12 is definitely 72-hours because Jonah's "three days and three nights" is definitely 72-hours. Matthew relies on Jonah. Should you go to verify that claim, you will come away from Jonah unable to prove anything about the timing. If Jonah does not give any way to prove 72-hours, then Matthew cannot rely on Jonah as proof of 72-hours. Good thing there is still this third example in Samuel. Samuel does give us timing clues. Without a doubt the phrase "three days and three nights" is not exactingly specific. It is not 72 hours. Therefore there is no legitimacy to the claim that Jonah is 72 hours, and with it goes Matthew.

Some will say, "But Jesus referred to the example of Jonah, not David". So then this reference of the exact same phrase from Samuel doesn't count? Are we to understand that this one phrase means two completely different things depending on where it is? Should we not expect it to always mean the same thing, if indeed it is so critical a phrase? If it doesn't mean the same thing in each place then the phrase is nigh useless. Who can we say what it means? The problem with Jonah is that Jonah does not give us any time reference to verify against. The literalist claim is that since it says "three days" and "three nights" then it is literally 72-hours. Well, Samuel says "three days" and "three nights" every bit as much as Jonah, yet it is not 72 hours. I see no reason to dismiss this reference from Samuel.

(EST. 4: 15-16) 15 Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai: 16 “Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!”
(EST. 5: 1) Now it happened on the third day that Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king’s palace, across from the king’s house, while the king sat on his royal throne in the royal house, facing the entrance of the house.

Here is another three days and three nights, only it’s worded “three days, night or day”. Esther told Mordecai to fast for three days and nights before she went in to see King Xerxes, but on the third day she went in. Once again, not to be understood as 72-hours.

There are more examples I could have given, but these should suffice. 

Do we not see that the Jews counted time inclusively? That means that partial time was counted as a whole.
Almost all the Roman Empire counted time inclusively. In the Philocalian Calendar, for example, Jesus' birth is eight days before January 1, not seven days before January 1, because Rome counted inclusively. Another example of inclusive reckoning is from Acts 10. On day 1, after 3 PM Cornelius sends men 36 miles south to Joppa. On day 2, Peter has a vision around noon as Cornelius' men near Joppa. They stay the night and leave the next day. On day 3, they travel all day. On day 4, before 3 PM they arrive at Cornelius' house. In verse 30, Cornelius relates that "four days ago" he sent men. Cornelius includes his current day in the count. That's inclusive reckoning.

The Jews had always counted time this way:

(EXO. 19: 10-11) 10 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes. 11 And let them be ready for the third day. For on the third day the Lord will come down upon Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people."

We could not have a more plain example when God says today, tomorrow, and the third day. "Third day" here means "day-after-tomorrow". Exactly the same as when Cleopas said "today is the third day" and he means "day-before-yesterday". The phrase "third day" always carried this meaning. "Third day" from Wednesday cannot be Sunday or Saturday.

I have seen a video on YouTube of Herbert Armstrong in a World Tomorrow television program. The topic was "The Resurrection Was Not On Sunday". In this program, Herbert Armstrong goes to Mark 9: 31 and he even uses a chart to show that the third day from Friday would be Monday. But that, friends, is not how inclusive reckoning works. That is not how the Hebrews counted. Mr. Armstrong's chart is wrong! He told you how we count now, not how they counted then.
To the Jews of that day, the "third day" is what we would call "the day-after-tomorrow". Well, on Friday the day-after-tomorrow is not Monday at all but Sunday. On Wednesday, the day-after-tomorrow is not Saturday or Sunday but Friday.

For yet another fine example of inclusive reckoning, please see our post Wednesday Crucifixion? Not Likely.

Add these Biblical facts to the onah, which is really nothing more than the Jewish way of describing inclusive reckoning, and we have no reason to demand exclusivity of 72-hour timing.

I will place some quotes from several Bible commentaries regarding Jewish reckoning of time in comments for this post. Jamiesson Fausset and Brown, Wesley's Notes, People's New Testament, Gill's Expository, Clarke's Commentary, Barnes' Notes and others agree with what I've told you here, and they have more to add. I think it will be helpful to you. So don't forget to check the comments when you're done.

We have seen multiple examples from the Bible, not just the Mishnah, no Pharisees involved, where “three days” and even “three days and three nights” is not exactly 72 hours.
Even if the Hebrew is written as “three days” and “three nights”, it would seem that this wording is not meant to be understood literally; hence, the idiom.


Seeing what we have seen, we need to ask the question - what signs did Jesus give? Was it a sign of exact timing, or something else?

What sign did Jesus give?

(MAT. 16: 4) A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” And He left them and departed.

Jesus gave the sign of Jonah as evidence.
Notice that this is Matthew 16, not Matthew 12. Jesus apparently reiterated that Jonah would be His only sign. But notice what's missing here. No mention of time at all.

That got me thinking. Matthew is one of the three Synoptic Gospels. Matthew 12, where Jesus originally offers the sign of Jonah, should have parallels in Mark and Luke. What do they have to say about the sign?
Turns out Mark says nothing at all. Neither does John, by the way. But Luke does give the parallel to Matthew 12.

(LUK. 11: 29-30) 29 And while the crowds were thickly gathered together, He began to say, “This is an evil generation. It seeks a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. 30 For as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation."

Now that's odd. No mention of the timing at all.
Was it a sign of exact timing, then, or something else?

With the way Jesus phrases it in Matthew 12 one would think the timing was His point. In other words, I agree that it is completely reasonable to read Matthew 12 and come away thinking the sign was the timing. 
But the way Jesus phrases it in Luke 11 (and Matthew 16) one would think that the totality of what happened to Jonah was His point, not the specifics. In other words, I believe it is completely reasonable to read Luke and come away thinking the sign was that Jonah was "resurrected" from the whale.

Given the witness of both accounts, it becomes more understandable why the Pharisees didn't seem to think precise timing was Jesus' point. It becomes more understandable why timing is not exact in I Samuel 30 nor Esther 4. It becomes more understandable why an exact timing is never the point in any of the other 19 selections, most notably John 2. Let's look at that, briefly.

We know that Jesus said the only sign he would give to the ones who tested Him was the sign of Jonah (MAT 12: 39-40; MAT 16: 4; LUK. 11: 29-30). Mark 8 mentions no sign, but that is a parallel of Matthew 16 so clearly Mark just neglects to mention it. Then we come to John 2:

(JON. 2: 18-19) 
18 So the Jews answered and said to Him, “What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?” 19 Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

We know that Jesus gave many signs, and they believed none of them (JON. 12: 37; 20: 30). He said the only sign He would give to those who tested Him was the sign of Jonah, yet here he is in John 2 giving another sign to those who tested Him, the sign of the temple. Now, that would be odd if these two very different metaphors were two different things. But they are not two different things. They are the same thing! They both are the sign of His death and resurrection.

With that in mind, now notice that when Jesus rose there were no witnesses present except the Roman guards who passed out in fear. No Pharisees. No Apostles. There were no witnesses to the exact 72-hour timing. What major sign has no witnesses to testify to it? Ergo a 72-hour death is unlikely to be the sign.
However, if the sign were His death and resurrection, there were many witnesses! He died, and no prophet brought Him to life again, and everyone knew it. The only condition was that it had to happen on the third day, and that was testified to over and over again.

To conclude this out, do you suppose it was the exacting nature of 72-hours that invigorated Jonah to preach to the Ninevites, or the fact that he was spared from death? Should Jonah have been in the fish only 70 hours, would he have discounted the event? Or if 74 hours would he have continued to Tarshish? Do you think a single Ninevite would have said to Jonah, "Your resurrection is an incredible miracle! But it wasn't exactly 72-hours, so..."?
In Jonah chapter 2, Jonah never once mentions timing in his prayer of thanksgiving. Clearly the focus was on the "resurrection" itself.
As it was with Jesus.

He gave one sign. The fact of the resurrection itself is the sign. Not the timing. 


I would like to reinforce my claims with some evidence from the second century church fathers. If Jesus was indeed in the tomb for a literal 72-hours, that would have put Him in the grave from either Wednesday, as Herbert Armstrong taught, or Thursday, for those who take Mark 16: 9 at face value. We can debate what the Bible says, so let’s enter into evidence what history says.
"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."-Justin Martyr, First Apology, chapter LXVII [67] (130-165 A.D.)
"On the day of the preparation, then, at the third hour, He received the sentence from Pilate, the Father permitting that to happen; at the sixth hour He was crucified; at the ninth hour He gave up the ghost; and before sunset He was buried. During the Sabbath He continued under the earth in the tomb in which Joseph of Arimathæa had laid Him. At the dawning of the Lord’s day He arose from the dead, according to what was spoken by Himself, “As Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly, so shall the Son of man also be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” The day of the preparation, then, comprises the passion; the Sabbath embraces the burial; the Lord’s Day contains the resurrection."-Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Trallians (98-117 A.D.)
No early church document places the crucifixion on any other day than Friday.

I don’t want to get into this too deeply. It really is outside of the scope of this post. But it is something to consider.


We have seen that aside from Matthew 12: 39-40 there are nineteen other New Testament selections to consider. A 19:1 ratio against a literal 72-hours.
We have seen that the Pharisees, to whom Jesus was speaking in Matthew 12: 39-40, would not have any reason to understand “three days and three nights” as 72-hours. 
We've seen how the Jews counted time inclusively, and Cleopas' statement only works in a Friday crucifixion scenario. 
We have seen that in the Old Testament that a literal 72-hours was contraindicated. 
We've seen in one instance that the very phrase "three days and three nights" was not literally 72-hours, and another instance where the phrase "three days; night and day" is also not 72-hours.
We've seen the parallel account in Luke that focuses on the fact of the resurrection rather than the timing, and we've seen how Jonah did the same. We have seen some history that demonstrates the early church fathers did not understand a literal 72-hours. 
And we have seen that the use of idiom is inescapable; they can't all be literal.

Therefore I conclude the sign Jesus gave to the Pharisees was not a literal 72-hours at all but rather the fact of the death and miraculous resurrection itself, ergo a Friday crucifixion scenario is not ruled out by any means!

We have seen reasonable, valid evidence today that I hope you do not just ignore but prayerfully consider. 
I do very much hope that even if you go away yet in disagreement with me at least grant that I have demonstrated that I have reasons to believe as I do. I didn't just demand a thing be so.

Beloved of God, please hear me out in this. If you absolutely cannot accept a Friday crucifixion, please consider that I have given you but a fraction of the available evidence. I can only put so much in one post! Please read our other articles on the subject:
Easter History part I
Easter History part II
Babylon Connection
Two Sabbaths of Matthew 28
Must Christians Observe the Old Covenant Passover

Wednesday Crucifixion? Not Likely.
(There are other valuable resources off-site from AsBereansDid in those posts for you, too.)

But please, please, please work with us to stop all the judging and condemning that goes on over this.

I have watched as people become vicious in attacking others over the timing of Jesus’ death and resurrection. On both sides this happens! Condemnation and judgment and wickedness comes from some people who say they love our Lord. Is this why Jesus died, so we can fight about timing? Christians fighting one another over their understanding and interpretation of how one should love his neighbor as himself. You thought what I said earlier was absurd? This is absurd, my friends.

Dear reader let us come together. Let’s reason together about this. If could only ask you for one thing, I would ask you for this: let's agree that He was literally dead and literally raised to glory. 
Let’s not argue over the timing, because the timing is trivial. So much weight should never have been hung on this issue. The sign of Jonah was given to the Pharisees and they yet rejected Him nonetheless. I want to be bluntly honest with you - at best this entire debate is a distraction. Rejoice in the fact that our Lord and Savior died and was raised, and now lives forever more... for us! He didn't have to, you know. With Him we have died, and with Him we shall live! After all, isn’t that what’s really important here?

It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; )
Acts 17:11


xHWA said...

Barnes' Notes on the Bible

Three days and three nights - It will be seen in the account of the resurrection of Christ that he was in the grave but two nights and a part of three days. See Matthew 18:6. This computation is, however, strictly in accordance with the Jewish mode of reckoning. If it had "not" been, the Jews would have understood it, and would have charged our Saviour as being a false prophet, for it was well known to them that he had spoken this prophecy, Matthew 27:63. Such a charge, however, was never made; and it is plain, therefore, that what was "meant" by the prediction was accomplished. It was a maxim, also, among the Jews, in computing time, that a part of a day was to be received as the whole. Many instances of this kind occur in both sacred and profane history. See 2 Chronicles 10:5, 2 Chronicles 10:12; Genesis 42:17-18. Compare Esther 4:16 with Esther 5:1.
In the heart of the earth - The Jews used the word "heart" to denote the "interior" of a thing, or to speak of being in a thing. It means, here, to be in the grave or sepulchre.

xHWA said...

Clarke's Commentary on the Bible

Three days and three nights - Our Lord rose from the grave on the day but one after his crucifixion: so that, in the computation in this verse, the part of the day on which he was crucified, and the part of that on which he rose again, are severally estimated as an entire day; and this, no doubt, exactly corresponded to the time in which Jonah was in the belly of the fish. Our Lord says, As Jonah was, so shall the Son of man be, etc. Evening and morning, or night and day, is the Hebrew phrase for a natural day, which the Greeks termed νυχθημερον, nuchthemeron. The very same quantity of time which is here termed three days and three nights, and which, in reality, was only one whole day, a part of two others, and two whole nights, is termed three days and three nights, in the book of Esther: Go; neither eat nor drink Three Days, Night or Day, and so I will go in unto the king: Esther 4:16. Afterwards it follows, Esther 5:1. On the Third Day, Esther stood in the inner court of the king's house. Many examples might be produced, from both the sacred and profane writers, in vindication of the propriety of the expression in the text. For farther satisfaction, the reader, if he please, may consult Whitby and Wakefield, and take the following from Lightfoot.
"I. The Jewish writers extend that memorable station of the unmoving sun, at Joshua's prayer, to six and thirty hours; for so Kimchi upon that place: 'According to more exact interpretation, the sun and moon stood still for six and thirty hours: for when the fight was on the eve of the Sabbath, Joshua feared lest the Israelites might break the Sabbath; therefore he spread abroad his hands, that the sun might stand still on the sixth day, according to the measure of the day of the Sabbath, and the moon according to the measure of the night of the Sabbath, and of the going out of the Sabbath, which amounts to six and thirty hours.'
"II. If you number the hours that pass from our Savior's giving up the ghost upon the cross to his resurrection, you shall find almost the same number of hours; and yet that space is called by him three days and three nights, whereas two nights only came between, and one complete day. Nevertheless, while he speaks these words, he is not without the consent both of the Jewish schools and their computation. Weigh well that which is disputed in the tract Sabbath, concerning the separation of a woman for three days; where many things are discussed by the Gemarists, concerning the computation of this space of three days. Among other things these words occur: R. Ismael saith, Sometimes it contains four אונות onoth, sometimes five, sometimes six. But how much is the space of an אונה onah? R. Jochanan saith, Either a day or a night. And so also the Jerusalem Talmud: 'R. Akiba fixed a Day for an onah, and a Night for an onah.' But the tradition is, that R. Eliazar ben Azariah said, A day and a night make an onah: and a Part of an onah is as the Whole. And a little after, R. Ismael computed a part of the onah for the whole." Thus, then, three days and three nights, according to this Jewish method of reckoning, included any part of the first day; the whole of the following night; the next day and its night; and any part of the succeeding or third day.

xHWA said...

Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

So shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. That Christ means himself by the "son of man", there is no reason to doubt; and his being laid in a tomb, dug out of a rock, is sufficient to answer this phrase, "the heart of the earth", in distinction from the surface of it; but some difficulty arises about the time of his continuing there, and the prediction here made agreeable to the type: for it was on the sixth day of the week, we commonly call "Friday", towards the close, on the day of the preparation for the sabbath, and when the sabbath drew on, that the body of Christ was laid in the sepulchre; where it lay all the next day, which was the sabbath of the Jews, and what we commonly call "Saturday"; and early on the first of the week, usually called "Sunday", or the Lord's day, he rose from the dead; so that he was but one whole day, and part of two, in the grave. To solve this difficulty, and set the matter in a clear light, let it be observed, that the three days and three nights, mean three natural days, consisting of day and night, or twenty four hours, and are what the Greeks call "night days"; but the Jews have no other way of expressing them, but as here; and with them it is a well known rule, and used on all occasions, as in the computation of their feasts and times of mourning, in the observance of the passover, circumcision, and divers purifications, that , "a part of a day is as the whole" (n): and so, whatever was done before sun setting, or after, if but an hour, or ever so small a time, before or after it, it was reckoned as the whole preceding, or following day; and whether this was in the night part, or day part of the night day, or natural day, it mattered not, it was accounted as the whole night day: by this rule, the case here is easily adjusted; Christ was laid in the grave towards the close of the sixth day, a little before sun setting, and this being a part of the night day preceding, is reckoned as the whole; he continued there the whole night day following, being the seventh day; and rose again early on the first day, which being after sun setting, though it might be even before sun rising, yet being a part of the night day following, is to be esteemed as the whole; and thus the son of man was to be, and was three days and three nights in the grave; and which was very easy to be understood by the Jews; and it is a question whether Jonas was longer in the belly of the fish.

xHWA said...

People's New Testament

So shall the Son of man be three days and three nights. Jesus says that he will be raised again the third day (Mt 16:21). Hence, in Jewish usage the third day must mean the same as three days and three nights. It was and is customary with the Orientals to make any part of the day stand for the whole twenty-four hours. Compare Mt 16:21 Mr 8:31 2Ch 10:5 10:12 Es 4:16 Ge 7:4,12 Ex 24:18 34:28:00 A traveler in the East writes:
At length the tenth morning arrived--the tenth morning because, though we performed nominally ten days quarantine, yet it was, really, only eight days. We landed at nine o'clock in the evening of the first day, and were liberated at six o'clock in the morning of the tenth day, but it was held to be ten days according to the custom of the East.''
Christ was buried Friday evening, lay in the grave Saturday, and rose Sunday, parts of three days, rose on the third day, and was in the grave the space of time meant in eastern usage by three days and three nights.

xHWA said...

Wesley's Notes

12:40 Three days and three nights - It was customary with the eastern nations to reckon any part of a natural day of twenty - four hours, for the whole day. Accordingly they used to say a thing was done after three or seven days, if it was done on the third or seventh day, from that which was last mentioned. Instances of this may be seen, 1Kings 20:29; and in many other places. And as the Hebrews had no word to express a natural day, they used night and day, or day and night for it. So that to say a thing happened after three days and three nights, was with them the very same, as to say, it happened after three days, or on the third day. See Esther 4:16; 5:1; Gen 7:4,12; Exod 24:18; 34:28. Jonah 2:1.

xHWA said...

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

The period during which He was to lie in the grave is here expressed in round numbers, according to the Jewish way of speaking, which was to regard any part of a day, however small, included within a period of days, as a full day. (See 1Sa 30:12, 13; Es 4:16; 5:1; Mt 27:63, 64, &c.).

xHWA said...

Robertson's Word Pictures

“Three days and three nights” may simply mean three days in popular speech. Jesus rose “on the third day” (Mat_16:21), not “on the fourth day.” It is just a fuller form for “after three days” (Mar_8:31; Mar_10:34).

xHWA said...

Believer's Bible Commentary

Just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so our Lord predicted that He would be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. This raises a problem. If, as generally believed, Jesus was buried on Friday afternoon and rose again on Sunday morning, how can it be said that He was three days and nights in the tomb? The answer is that, in Jewish reckoning, any part of a day and night counts as a complete period. “A day and a night make an onah, and a part of an onah is as the whole” (Jewish saying).

willseeyah said...

I believe you have successfully proven 3 days & 3 nights were not meant to be 72 hours and that the Messiah did not die on Wednesday. I do NOT agree with your efforts at making AFTER 3 days EQUAL to IN 3 days or the 3rd day. I believe AFTER 3 days means exactly that... AFTER 3 calendar days [Mat 27:63 & Mark 8:31]. I believe also the 3rd day is exactly that; 48-72 hours AFTER the event spoken of in the verse; SUFFER [Luke 24:46], CRUCIFIED [Luke 24:7], KILLED [Luke 9:22]. The chief priests & Pharisees of Mat 27:62 speak to Pilate ON Aviv 15, close to sunset of Aviv 14, in order to begin guarding the tomb as night falls. They request the tomb to be guarded until the 3rd day [Mat 27:64]. Aviv 15, being the day of speaking to Pilate, makes the 3rd day of Mat 27:64, Aviv 17. The Pharisees correctly understood that the tomb had to be guarded the day AFTER Aviv 16, but that there was NO need to guard the tomb on Aviv 18. An Aviv 14, Thursday death of the Messiah and a resurrection shortly before sunrise the 1st day of the week [Sunday], after being in the tomb close to 60 hours, satisfies all the prophesies. The 3 DAYS [Aviv 14, 15, 16] & 3 NIGHTS [Aviv 15, 16, 17] require no fudging and satisfy the onah you wrote about. All the 3rd day prophesies begin at the time of the event so that the 48-72 hour segment falls AFTER Aviv 16; the 3rd calendar day since the crucifixion on Aviv 14. Using calendar days for AFTER 3 days and 24 hour day equivalents for all the 3rd day prophesies is the ONLY way the 3rd day prophesies can be AFTER 3 days. You do not have to make AFTER 3 days=IN 3 days or the 3rd day.

xHWA said...

Thank you for your comment, willseeyah.

The point of this article was not to prove any timing scenario. I did mention a Friday scenario, but that was not to prove it out, rather to demonstrate inclusive reckoning.

On the contrary, I tried to emphasize my position that timing is not nearly as important as the fact of the death and resurrection itself.

WillseeYah said...

I agree, believing in the death and resurrection of the Messiah is MOST important, but I wish to mention that there are benefits to understanding the correct scenario. If I am able to defend my belief with believable scriptures, then my confidence grows in the hope and expectation set before me in those same scriptures. My strengthened belief increases my determination to endure to the end. What’s more, if I can repel scoffers with believable scriptures, just maybe YHWH will open their ears and bring them to repentance. Repent & Believe [Acts 2:38, Mark 16:16, John 11:26] is The Way. Anything that increases belief is salvational. We got to be lovers of the truth, [2Thes 2:8-12] Understanding the correct scenario has spin-offs. One can become confident that Lev 23:11 refers to the 7th day Sabbath. One can understand Exodus chapter 12 more fully knowing that the death of the Egyptian first-born occurred on Aviv 15 and that the slaughter of the lamb [Exo 12:6] occurred at the same time as the death of YHWH’s Lamb of Elohim, at the 9th hour of Aviv 14. Knowledge of these things can strengthen belief. Understanding Passover is salvational. By-the-way, further investigation has revealed to me that the, ‘AFTER 6 days’ of Mat 17:01 & Mark 9:02 is GREATER than 6 [Luke 9:28]. YHWH be with you.

Learner said...

Hmm Ive been researching this topic for a while now & am in agreement with you xHWA!
The Scriptures do seem to indicate that Christ meant 3 days & meant it to be counted inclusively.
Imo therefore Christ died on Passover day Abib 14 (day of preparation)--day 1; Annual & Weekly Sabbath of Abib 15--day 2; Wavesheaf Sunday of Abib 16 rose from the dead--day 3.
Re WillseeYah's comment about the Pharisees request of Pilate for a guard in Matthew 27:63-4 it should be noted that they say to Pilate: "...that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, AFTER three days I will rise again" & then petition for a guard "UNTIL the third day." What can only make sense imo is for the guard (or watch) to have been present up until & on the 3rd day on which our Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead since (as xHWA & others Ive read about argue) the Scriptures indicate 3 days & 3 nights is best understood as an idiom. The Pharisees in this statement could not mean BOTH "after" & "until" the 3rd day UNLESS they meant all or part of the 3rd day itself. That's how I understand it anyway.
& re the comment about Christ's transfiguration ie "after 6 days" or "about an 8 days" note Matthew & Mark say "after 6 days" while Luke says "about 8 days". It obviously depends on how they counted (eg inclusive or exclusive) & what exactly they were including in their count (eg whole or partial days). Imo this statement doesnt diminish Christ's numerous statements that He'd rise on the 3rd day. What we have to discern is WHO is talking or writing (in this case). Thus, Christ's statements all compliment each other & do not contradict the view that He meant to rise on the 3rd day (Lk 13:32). The gospel writers, therefore, re their timing of the transfiguration doesn't factor into the debate imo.

Anonymous said...


re: "What can only make sense imo is for the guard (or watch) to have been present up until & on the 3rd day on which our Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead since (as xHWA & others Ive read about argue) the Scriptures indicate 3 days & 3 nights is best understood as an idiom."

Yes, a goodly number of folks try to get around Matthew 12:40 by saying that it is using common Jewish idiomatic language of the period. However, when they are asked to provide some actual writing from the first century or before which shows an actual use of a phrase from the first century or before where a period of time is stated to consist of a specific number of days and/or a specific number of nights where the period absolutely couldn't have included at least parts of each one of the specific number of days and at least parts of each one of the specific number of nights, they fail to do so.

xHWA said...

I've been able to give evidence in my post from both Biblical and extra-Biblical sources supporting my claim that there was use of idiomatic expression here and of the 20 mentions of time none should be taken as literal to the hour.

I have yet to see anyone show from either, but especially from extra-Biblical sources, that any of these were to be taken literally to the hour.