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Was Jesus in the tomb 3 days and nights?

by Stephen Davey

Janet asked: How can the Bible say that Jesus was in the tomb three days and three nights? Friday to Sunday does not allow enough time.

Janet, I'll unpack this for you a little bit. I believe that Jesus was crucified on Thursday and not Friday.

Mark 15:42-43 tell us that Jesus body was taken down from the cross in the evening because the Sabbath was approaching. Because the normal Sabbath is on Saturday, most people believe that Jesus must have been crucified on Friday.

However, the weekly Sabbath on Saturday is not the only Sabbath. According to Leviticus 23, there was a “high Sabbath” observed during the week of the Passover. The Jews were to rest on that day, just as they would rest on a normal Saturday Sabbath.

Jesus died during Passover week, so there were two Sabbaths that week. As it happened, they were back-to-back. The "high Sabbath" of Passover was Friday, and the weekly Sabbath was Saturday. So, the request to remove Jesus from the cross was because of the approaching high Sabbath on Friday. Jesus was crucified on Thursday and his body was taken from the cross that evening because of the approaching high Sabbath.

There are actually some clues in the text to verify this.

The first clue comes from the original Greek text—a language that pastors, theologians, and seminary graduates should be familiar with. In Matthew 28:1, the first people come to visit the tomb. The Greek text says that they came after the Sabbaths—plural. It's plural indicating that more than one Sabbath passed before they cane to visit the tomb. Because of the confusion over this, and not wanting people to think a whole week had passed, English Bible translators make it singular—Sabbath. But in the Greek, it's plural.

The second, and most clear clue is in John 19:31. Jesus was being taken from the cross and John records this:

"Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away.”

John was clear that the Jesus was taken from the cross because of the high Sabbath, not the regular weekly Sabbath.

I don't think we need to change our tradition of celebrating Good Friday as the church has done for centuries. But we can have confidence in God's Word, knowing that Jesus really was in the tomb three days and three nights as the Bible says he was.

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Mike says:
I believe that the way the Jewish people counted time, Because Jesus died and was taken down from the cross on Friday before sundown that counted as day 1. Saturday was day 2 and He arose on the third day, Sunday. WISDOM: Thanks Mike. Many people agree with you, but we believe Stephen’s explanation is correct.
Mark says:
I always wondered about the timeline of three days and really appreciate the explanation. I'm going to start calling today "Good Thursday!" Thank you.
Dwight Osborne says:
In Hebrew practice as established by Jehovah in Genesis 1, the new day begins at approximately 6 pm; hence, the "day" begins in the evening and is followed by mornuing. By Mosaic law, the Passover lamb is chosen on Nisan 10 and slaughtered 4 days later on Nisan 14 after having been on display for 3 days. The gospels and documented history show that Jesus made His entyry into Jerusalem on Sunday, Nisan 10, 32 AD (April 6). Being slaughtered 4 days later on Nisan 14 (April 10) means He was crucified on Thursday. In Hebrew thought and practice, 3 days and 3 nights doesn't require 72 hours. If He had been placed in the tomb even at 5:59 pm, He would still be reckoned in the ground the daypart of Thursday. Hence, the days He was in the ground were/are Thursday, Friday and Saturday, wityh the nights being Friday, Saturday and Sunday. According then to God's calendar, Sunday was the 3rd night followed by His resurrection on Sunday morning. And in Hebrew thought in accordance with "dawn", the earliest He could have arisen is 6:01 pm and the latest 5:59 am. Whenever we study Scripture, we have to do so according to Jewish standards and not western.