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Three Days and Three Nights

>Subject: Jesus was resurrected on Sunday?

I wonder if you could explain the logic for this? I have never understood this position, as it requires less than three full days, and the Scriptures clearly state "three days AND three nights."

If it could be proven that Jesus wasn't raised on Sunday, would you think the day on which He was raised should be considered holy?


Jesus most definitely was raised on a Sunday. The text specifically says so:

Now having risen in the early morning on the first [day between the] Sabbaths [fig., on the first day of the week; i.e., early Sunday morning], He appeared first to Mary the Magdalene, from whom He had cast out seven demons (Mark 16:9).

The translation here is from the Third Edition of the Analytical-Literal Translation. It is changed some from ALT2. For ALT3, I decided to go with a very literal translation for the main text, but then to give the generally accepted meaning of this somewhat awkward reading in brackets. And the meaning is clear. The Sabbath was on Saturday, so the first day between two Sabbaths is a Sunday.

But getting back to the original question, the only issue is, was Jesus really crucified on a Friday? Many have thought that maybe it was a Thursday due to the "three days and three nights" statement of Matthew 12:40. But it is generally agreed that this was simply a poetic way of saying "three days." And the Jews counted it as a "day" if only a small part of a day was included. So being in the tomb Friday night, all day Saturday, and Sunday morning would qualify as three days.

As a very contemporary example, when Paris Hilton went into prison on a Sunday, just before midnight, the few minutes she was actually in prison on that Sunday counted as one full day off of her sentence. And when she left prison about 2:00 am that Thursday morning, she was also again given a full day off of her sentence. So she was credited with having served five days, even though she was really only in prison for three full days (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday), plus just a few minutes on Sunday and a couple of hours on Thursday. So if legally, we today count a small part of a day as full day, it is not strange that the Jews in Jesus time did as well.

Whew, I never thought I'd be referring to Paris Hilton in this newsletter!

Below is some documentation on these points:

Jonah spent "three days and three nights" in the fish (Jonah 1:7). But if the normal sequence of Passion Week is correct, Jesus was in the tomb only about thirty-six hours. Since they included parts of three days, by Jewish reckoning Jesus was buried "three days," or to put it another way, he rose "on the third day" (Matt 16:21). But this does not cover more than two nights. Some advocate a Wednesday crucifixion date; but though that allows for "three days and three nights," it runs into difficulty with "on the third day." In rabbinical thought a day and a night make an onah [Aramaic for "day"], and a part of an onah is as the whole. Thus according to Jewish tradition, "three days and three nights" need mean no more than "three days," or the combination of any part of three separate days (Expositor's Bible Commentary. Volume 8, "Matthew" by D.A. Carson, p.296. Given as a reference for the use of onah is Strack and Billerbeck: Kommentar zum Neuen Testament aus Talmud und Midrash, I: 649).

Note: The reference to onah is relevant as Jesus most likely was speaking in Aramaic, so how onah is used in Jewish writings is helpful in understanding Jesus' intended meaning.

The above email was first published in Darkness to Light newsletter
and posted on this Web site in June 21, 2007.
It was updated August 9, 2008.

Person and Work of Jesus Christ

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