The Crucifixion Hour:
Did the Crucifixion Occur at the Third Hour or the Sixth?
15:25 And it was the third hour, and they crucified him.
19:14 And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your king!
19:15 But they cried out, Away with him…crucify him…
19:16 Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified…
Daylight hours were reckoned from 6:00 AM, so the 3rd hour ended at 9:00 AM, and the 6th at noon. The Crucifixion began at the 3rd hour, as in Mark. Other synoptics support this, noting Crucifixion events occurring before the 6th hour, soldiers offering Jesus vinegar (Lk.23:36), and crucified thieves railing on Him (Lk.23:39, Mt.27:44). Further, darkening of the sun occurred at the 6th hour (Mt.27:45, Lk.23:44), a good while after the Crucifixion began. Why then does Jn.19:14 say the Crucifixion began about the 6th hour? It’s said the 6th hour represents a different Roman time-keeping system, but John uses the same daylight hours that other gospel writers do (In Jn.1:39 two men join Jesus as the day nears an end at about the 10th hour, or ~4 PM).
Three Passover observances were associated with Christ at Crucifixion week, two old ones and an intervening new Passover (communion supper). A first old Passover day was one by which Christ related to the Passover itself, and a second old one was that by which He became the Passover sacrifice for all Israel, the people and priests. The old Passover was replaced by the intervening new one, but a second old one fulfilled Passover typology establishing Christ as the ultimate Passover sacrifice for Israel, and making the nation eligible for New Passover observance & New Testament promises.
The Passover Account in the Gospels
Jn.19:14 says, And it (Crucifixion day) was the preparation of the passover…This tells us Crucifixion day was a preparation day when the Passover sacrificial lamb is slain, which is the day before Passover day. And Mt.27:62, Mk.15:42 & Lk.23:54 all say that Crucifixion day was a preparation day, so the four gospels all show that Christ was crucified on a Passover preparation day when sacrificial lambs were slain. In this He superseded and replaced the Passover sacrifice and became the ultimate sacrifice to establish a New Testament order. Now to supersede old Passover, He first had to relate to it, doing so in a first old Passover feast with His disciples the day before the Crucifixion. This was followed by the first New Passover observance (Communion), tying Christ to the old and new, and a following second Old Passover finalized the Passover concept, fulfilling typology involved in the Old Testament sacrifices.
The gospels reveal two old Passover days observed in Jerusalem, and the two are not what scholars suggest, discordant accounts of one. As noted, all the gospels say Christ was crucified on the day before a Passover day, and Lk.22:7 20, Mt.26:17 29 and Mk. 14:12-25 note another Passover Christ and His disciples observed the day before the Crucifixion. This latter was on a first day of unleavened bread in Passover week. The day begins at evening after the lamb-slaying preparation. It continues until the next evening, so the Savior & His disciples observed a first Passover, and He was crucified the following morning ~9:00 AM on the same Passover day. Thus a latter part of the first Passover day was the Day of Crucifixion and the lamb-slaying preparation day for another Passover day soon to begin that evening (Jn.19:31), linking Christ to both old Passovers. He died after 3:00 PM (Lk.23:44-46), at the time when killing of Passover lambs began, and His body was taken from the cross before a second Passover day began.
Now why were there two old Passover days? Mt.27:62, Lk.23:54, Mk.15:42 & Jn. 1:31 all say the day after the Crucifixion was a Sabbath. Saturday after Crucifixion Friday was both a weekly and Passover Sabbath. Passover Sabbath began at evening at 6 PM Friday the solar day, as John 19:31 notes, calling the Sabbath day soon to begin that Friday evening, an high day. This contrasts with weekly Sabbath day that began the next morning at the 1st hour, 6:00 AM, as seen in Mt.28:1 that says, in the end of the Sabbath as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week (Sunday). Thus weekly Saturday Sabbath ended at morning when Sunday began (note: Berry’s interlinear wrongly renders dusk, for dawn is correct in this context, as even modern versions have it). Jews utilized Passover time-frame with a full day starting at 6 PM, and the daylight hours starting at 6 AM, as in the gospel Crucifixion/Resurrection accounts.
At the subject Passover, two overlapping Sabbath days created a prolonged one that extended from 6PM Friday to 6AM Sunday. A problem of Sabbath work prohibition results, work on preparation day (Crucifixion Friday) being required of the people. If Passover and weekly Sabbath days are separated, work-prohibition time is clear. If the two time frames overlap, the two days join in an extended observance. Thus the days lose, in part, individual identities (like Siamese twins that share a body part). Now weekly Sabbath work-prohibition includes a period of 6PM Friday to 6AM Saturday, and the Passover Sabbath work-prohibition includes a period of 6PM Saturday to 6AM Sunday. Each Sabbath is unique, the weekly honoring God’s rest from creation, and the Passover type honoring His deliverance of Israel from Egypt. The two Sabbaths become one joint unorthodox observance of two days individually important to the Jews. At some point, perhaps not long before the Crucifixion, the priests would view the preparation day as a problem when the two Sabbaths overlapped.
Extreme emphasis on Sabbath work-prohibition during Jesus’ ministry indicates that work-prohibition times would be of great concern. But with overlapping Sabbaths, is work-prohibition governed by the time limits of Passover Sabbath or the weekly? If the prohibition begins on Friday evening, as in evening-to-evening Passover Sabbath, the sense of morning-to-morning weekly Sabbath is lost. If it ends Sunday morning, as in morning-to-morning weekly Sabbath, the sense of evening-to-evening Passover Sabbath is lost. In such a combined Sabbath, does Passover-Sabbath work prohibition begin Friday morning, and does weekly-Sabbath work-prohibition extend to Sunday evening? The time limits of the events are mixed, and neither can take precedence, both being important to the Jews.
A logical solution would be to institute an early second Passover day in Jerusalem in a 48-hour two-part old Passover. The people could observe early Passover from 6PM Thursday to 6PM Friday, then weekly Sabbath from 6AM Saturday to 6AM Sunday, avoiding all suggestion of Sabbath work. Priests & Levites, who normally did Sabbath work, observe a regular 6PM Friday to 6PM Saturday Passover day, and then a 6PM Saturday to 6AM Sunday weekly Sabbath. The first observance for the people is the one Christ observed before the Crucifixion. Passover in Mt.26, Mk.14 and Lk.22 deals only with the people, mainly the disciples in our context, and that of Jn.18:28 appears to deal only with priests & their associates.
This approach to the matter is natural since in locales remote from Jerusalem a dual Passover was observed due to lunar-calendar variance, and no input by Jerusalem on the proper day, and it accords with the zeal for Sabbath work-prohibition prominent during Jesus’ ministry. Further, the Pharisees would favor the special Passover, for they were known for extremism regarding the law, their fence around the law being an elaborate system of their own rules designed to prevent violation of the law.
A priests’ Passover day fits with Christ’s exclusive high priest status. Once each year, in the temple Holy of Holies, the old high priest sought God’s intervention for the people, and other priests had supportive roles. Christ provided the sacrifice for priests to make them one with the people before God. He ended the levitical priesthood as the veil of the Holy-of-Holies rent in two at the time of His death as the sacrifice for all, and the way to God the Father was opened to all believers. Intervention of the high priest in representing God’s people to the Father transferred to Christ, and individual access to the Father by Christ ended human priestly mediation. Christians became priests in a spiritual sense (Heb.13:15 16, 1 Tim.2:5). God marked the end of the old levitical priesthood by the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D, after which rabbinical Judaism became prominent.
John notes the first 24-hour day, extending from 6PM Thursday to 6PM Friday, in terms of a 48-hour day of 6PM Thursday to 6PM Saturday. He doubles the Friday 3rd hour of the other gospels to represent the 48-hour day as a 24-hour one (48 hours superimpose on a 24-hour day to double hours). This relates to identification of Jesus with old Passover day in a first observance, and His sacrifice on preparation day of the second to create one New Passover day superseding the old in fulfilling typology. The two days revert to one symbolically as the first old Passover ties to the second so that the second presents Christ’s sacrifice as God’s ultimate Passover for Israel (the priests’ day honors the ultimate high priest). John’s 6th hour portrays the 48-hour event that consisted of one Passover for the people and one for priests, as reverting to one day for the people and the priests in Christ’s one Passover day for all. The New Testament era formally began as the New Passover, in conjunction with the second old one, fulfilled old Passover typology, and the Resurrection affirmed eternal life for Gentiles and Jews who trust in Christ.
Even in the most subtle textual items, the KJV rightly follows context and related history to preserve text inerrancy
How many days did Jesus lie in the tomb?
Jesus’ Crucifixion early Friday and His Resurrection early Sunday cover much of Friday, all of Saturday and a small part of Sunday. Some say this contradicts scripture that says He was in the grave three days. In Matthew 12:40 Jesus says, 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. Some would resolve the “problem” with the notion that Jesus was crucified on Wednesday 17 to justify the idea that He lay in the tomb for three entire days. But a Friday Crucifixion is essential since Jesus had to be crucified on preparation day of Passover Sabbath beginning the evening before the regular Saturday Sabbath. Friday was the necessary day if Jesus were to fulfill His role as the Lamb of God superseding the old Passover.
Any thinking about an earlier crucifixion presumes that Mat.12:40 notes three complete, or nearly complete, 24-hour periods, when that is not likely the case. Among Jews Christ spoke to in this Matthew passage, it was commonly understood that the term “a day and a night” referred to daylight & dark parts of one 24-hour day, and any part of a day was to be counted as a day with regard to a period of days. Thus a brief daylight portion and the complete dark part of Friday constituted one day and one night, or one day in a period of days during which Jesus lay in the tomb. Of course Saturday was one complete day and night. And the brief dark period on Sunday that Jesus lay in the grave after 6 AM (see Jn.20:1, Mk.16:1,2) constituted a brief early night part of that day and thus was a night within a day, or a day and a night, in a period of days. We can’t ignore even a very brief period in one day when referring to the total days Jesus lay in the tomb.18 Another sense in which 3 days & 3 nights were involved relates to the fact that Jonah’s 3 days in the whale’s belly and Christ’s 3 days in the heart of the earth were days spent in complete darkness, and thus were three days of night.
This accords with Lk.24:21 where the two disciples meet the newly resurrected Jesus without recognizing Him and say the chief priests and our rulers 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 beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done. Deliverance of Christ to Pilate was done, or accomplished, by early crucifixion morning (Jn.18:28), and He was crucified ~9 AM that morning (Mk.15:25), six hours before He died (Mt.27:46). Lk.24:21 refers to His deliverance to Pilate and His Crucifixion as accomplished or done by 9 AM on Crucifixion day, so the counting of days relating to the third day begins then. When we speak of a period of days, the initial day is the 1st day, as when calling Sun-day the 1st day of the 7-days of one week. Sunday as the 3rd day in a 3-day period makes Friday the 1st day. We can’t say, the 1st day since these things were done, for they were done on the 1st day, which would be made the 2nd day by saying the day since these things were done. To ensure clarity, we say, the same day, 2nd day since, 3rd day since, etc. A Crucifixion beginning on Wednesday would make Sunday the 5th day since these things were done.
John 18:28 & Mark 15:25 note a Crucifixion done by the 3rd hour, contrary to advocates of a Wednesday Crucifixion who presume it was done by the 12th hour, or 9 hours later. They neglect the 6 hours required for Jesus to die, and then neglect another 3 hours, just to get to the start of Thursday in the Passover time frame. Then, instead of starting the count of the 3 days at the 12th hour, they neglect another 24 hours before starting, which is for the purpose of improperly trying to make Friday the 1st day since these things were done in a passover time frame. This is contrary to English-language usage, so Wednesday advocates can’t skip all that time before starting to number the days in a period of days.
Furthermore, the 3-day period of Luke 24:21 can’t begin at evening. Numbering of days from Thursday evening would be contrary to how days normally begin in the synoptic gospels, which is plainly at morning in regard to the Crucifixion (Mt.27:45, 46 & Mk.15:33,34 & Lk.23:44). And Matthew 28:1 says Mary came to the tomb…in the end of the Sabbath as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week (Sunday), and this is supported by Mk.16:2, Lk.24:1 and Jn.20:1. In the gospels, Resurrection Sunday and the preceding Saturday, Friday, Thursday and Wednesday all began in the morning near sunrise, not in the evening. The numbering system used must conform to the gospels that are the basis for what we know of the Crucifixion and Resurrection.
17. Torrey, R.A. 1984. Christ’s crucifixion: Friday or Wednesday? “Great Preaching on the Resurrection.” Sword of the Lord Publishers. p241.
18. Matthew 14:25 speaks of the fourth watch of the night, spanning the time from 3:00 AM to 6:00AM, so hours of night were tracked in some fashion, perhaps by a water clock. Thus the indication of Jn.20:1 & Mk.16:1,2 that Jesus lay in the grave a brief dark period after 6AM early Sunday morning is justified technically.