Matthew 12:40 quotes the Messiah saying that He would be in the "heart of the earth" for 3 days and 3 nights. I think the majority of folks believe that the crucifixion took place on the 6th day of the week, with the resurrection taking place on the 1st day of the next week. This period of time, however, would only allow for 2 nights. To account for this discrepancy, it is frequently "argued" that the verse is using common Jewish idiomatic language of the time.

I wonder if anyone (who thinks that the crucifixion took place on the 6th day of the week and who thinks that the "heart of the earth" is referring to the tomb) knows of any writing which shows a phrase from the first century or before which states a specific number of days and/or a specific number of nights when the actual period of time 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?


10 Answers 10


Consider understanding:

a) Judges 19: 4-5, and the difference between the Hebrew text and the Greek text (LXX).

His father-in-law, the girl’s father, persuaded him to stay with him for three days, and they ate and drank together, and spent the night there. On the fourth day they woke up early and the Levite got ready to leave. But the girl’s father said to his son-in-law, “Have a bite to eat for some energy, then you can go.” Judges 19: 4-5 Net

b) In Jewish time, the day begins with the onset of night followed by the morning:

It is a Sabbath of complete rest for you, and you must humble yourselves on the ninth day of the month in the evening, from evening until evening you must observe your Sabbath.” Leviticus 23:32 (Gen. 1:5,8,13,19,23, 31)

The fourth day written in Judges 19: 5 is still dark, one night.

“Go, assemble all the Jews who are found in Susa and fast in my behalf. Don’t eat and don’t drink for three days, night or day. My female attendants and I will also fast in the same way. Afterward I will go to the king, even though it violates the law. If I perish, I perish!” (Et 4:16 [NET])

It so happened that on the third day Esther put on her royal attire and stood in the inner court of the palace, opposite the king’s quarters. The king was sitting on his royal throne in the palace, opposite the entrance. (Et 5:1 [NET])

The three-day period had not come to an end when she stood before the king, if different, would be: on the fourth day.

So Jonah went immediately to Nineveh, as the LORD had said. (Now Nineveh was an enormous city – it required three days to walk through it!) When Jonah began to enter the city one day’s walk, he announced, “At the end of forty days, Nineveh will be overthrown!” (Jn 3:3-4 [NET]).

The days and nights of walking, corresponds to the distance that the fish sank into the abyss

But he said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Look, I am casting out demons and performing healings today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will complete my work. (Lc 13:32 [NET])

A clear example of Common Idiomatic Language.

Jesus was not consummated in the third literal day after his speech, but he walked the relative distance of three days and three nights to Jerusalem, coming to town, where he was consummated.


Esther 4:16 (NKJV) (emphasis in all texts mine):

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!”

Esther 5:1, 4 (NKJV):

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.


4 So Esther answered, “If it pleases the king, let the king and Haman come today to the banquet that I have prepared for him.”

As you can see, Esther could not have fasted for a third night since she would have eaten and drank at the banquet with the king and Haman on the third day.

Genesis 42:16-20 (NKJV) somewhat does this as well:

16 Send one of you, and let him bring your brother; and you shall be kept in prison, that your words may be tested to see whether there is any truth in you; or else, by the life of Pharaoh, surely you are spies!” 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. 20 And bring your youngest brother to me; so your words will be verified, and you shall not die.”

And they did so.

Though not specifically mentioning "three days and three nights," Joseph released his brothers from prison on the third day. The third day did not fully complete, yet they were still considered imprisoned for three days.

Matthew 16:21 (NKJV):

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.

Jesus repeats the concept of being raised on the third day in Matthew 17:22-23 and Matthew 20:17-19 as well, thus giving implicit acknowledgement several times that "three days and three nights" is an idiom. The Pharisees understood this and asked Pilate to post guards at Jesus' tomb until the third day in Matthew 27:62-65 (NKJV):

62 On the next day, which followed the Day of Preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate, 63 saying, “Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise.’ 64 Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead.’ So the last deception will be worse than the first.”

65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go your way, make it as secure as you know how.”

They did not ask Pilate to post guards until the forth day, which would have covered the third night, but only until the third day.

  • 1
    Bʀɪᴀɴ, re: "...Esther could not have fasted for a third night..." She could have because the night comes before the day. re: "The third day did not fully complete..." I'm looking for examples where no part of a day and/or no part of a night could have been involved. re: "...thus giving implicit acknowledgement several times that "three days and three nights' is an idiom." But I'm looking for examples to show that it was a "common" idiom.
    – rstrats
    Feb 10, 2016 at 17:48
  • 1
    @rstrats, Good point. Supposing Esther starts fasting during the evening would in fact give her 3 nights: night 1 (day 1 begins) --> day 1 (daylight) --> night 2 (day 2 begins) --> day 2 (daylight) --> night 3 (day 3 begins) --> day 3 (daylight, Esther goes to the king).
    – user6503
    Feb 10, 2016 at 21:47
  • 1
    @Bʀɪᴀɴ - A.) "And the Evening, and morning..." You left out the most important part of the verse: "God [did stuff], then there was evening, and morning -> the first day." B.) "It does not say 'it was night and it was day', but 'it was evening', [meaning] the first day passed and the light set, 'and it was morning', the ending of the night, for the dawn broke." Rashbam; C.) Halakha supersedes Torah; Although the plain reading of Genesis indicates, "Daytime, Night, Daybreak = one Day" - Halakhic rulings prevail. Mar 6, 2017 at 16:04
  • 2
    @elikakohen - A) You're wrong. It specifically says: ויהי ערב ויהי בקר יום אחד "And came about evening and came about morning, day one/first." or "And the evening and the morning were the first day." All that God did during the first day was encompassed during the evening and then the morning. It does not say or even imply "then there was evening and morning [after God did stuff]." B) & C) You will never convince me that the Talmud rules over the Torah, especially when the Torah has such a plain and simple meaning here.
    – user6503
    Mar 6, 2017 at 17:47
  • 1
    @Bʀɪᴀɴ - A.) Rashbam, a Hebrew Scholar, adequately proved the "Plain-Meaning" - enough for Judaism; B.) Halakhic authority can supersede the Torah - even Jesus said this, (Matt.23:2; Rom.13:1; Deut.16:8); C.) Your reply is incomplete until it addresses two facts that Rashbam pointed out: C.1.) "Evening" is the process of the sun setting, which cannot exist without a previous day; and C.2.) "Afterwards the second day began, and God said 'Let there be sky', "AND there was evening, AND there was morning" - God's actions are clearly distinct from evening, and morning. Mar 6, 2017 at 18:15

The trouble with contradictions is that they are caused by not reading scripture as a whole.

Jer 17:9 The heart [is] deceitful above all [things], and desperately wicked: who can know it?

The heart of the earth is the deceitfulness and wickedness of the earth.

Count back three days and nights and you come to the day that Judas agreed to betray Jesus. Jesus was entered into the deceitfulness and wickedness of the earth from there.

Pr 17:15 ¶ He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both [are] abomination to the LORD.

  • Someone new visiting this topic may know of examples.
    – rstrats
    Jul 28, 2019 at 12:39
  • @rstrats What kinds of examples are you looking for? Of other contradictions resolved by a wider context?
    – Bob Jones
    Aug 15, 2019 at 17:51
  • This answer is based on generalizing the condition of the human heart (shown to be the human heart by Jeremiah 17:10) to say that any heart of anyone or anything is defined as its deceitfulness. This is incorrect, therefore, the answer is incorrect. Also, the betrayal by Judas was not the only time that Jesus was subjected to deceitfulness, Furthermore, the fact that Judas had Satan enter his heart and became involved in deceitfulness did not mean that Jesus was in that deceitfulness. Dec 20, 2020 at 16:25
  • No. The answer is based upon the rules for discerning sensus plenior as discussed elsewhere. It is in the genre of prophetic riddle. If you mix your genres you get false conclusions.
    – Bob Jones
    Dec 20, 2020 at 21:03

- In the Gospels, Can "Day of:" the Passover - be Interpreted Idiomatically?
- Did Chrysostom's Text Say a "Double Sabbath" was One Day? or Two?
- In Luke 22:16: Does the Syntax Indicate if Jesus Was not Going to Eat THAT Passover?
- The meaning of παρασκευή ('day of preparation')

1. Questions :

  • Is there evidence that "Heart of the Earth" can convey an altered sense of time? NO.
  • How do authors convey a literal sense of "24 hour periods" ? By indicating the hours of each day.
  • When the numbers of days and nights are reckoned separately, does it include partial days? YES.
  • Are there OTHER Idioms in the Passion Narrative that are used in the Reckoning of Days? YES.
  • Could Jewish Practices have altered the reckoning of Days and Nights? YES.
  • Are there textual examples where a day or night is indicated and NO part of the day or night is included : NO.

2. Is there evidence that "Heart of the Earth" can convey an altered sense of Time?

The origin of the expression "Heart of the Earth" is actually an allusion to "Heart of the Sea", (i.e., Jonah, other Biblical Instances).

Regardless - There seem to be NO instances where "altered senses of time" apply to these metaphors in Scripture, or Greco-Roman literature, (also see the Perseus library).

3. How are Literal "24 Hour Periods" Conveyed in Scripture?

In Scripture - when authors intend to convey a literal "24 hour period", the "hours of each day" are explicitly indicated. However - when the "hours of each day" are not specified - it is implicitly understood that "partial days and nights" are included :

NASB, Leviticus 23:32 - It is to be a sabbath of complete rest to you, and you shall humble your souls; on the ninth of the month at evening, from evening until evening you shall keep your sabbath.”

NASB, Acts 10:3 - About the ninth hour of the day he clearly saw in a vision an angel of God who had just come in and said to him, “Cornelius!” ... Acts 10:30 - Cornelius said, “Four days ago to this hour, I was praying in my house during the ninth hour;

4. When the numbers of days and nights are reckoned separately, does it include partial days?

Reckoning of "Days and Nights" is Inclusive of the Beginning, and End :

NASB, 1 Samuel 20:5 - 5 So David said to Jonathan, “Behold, tomorrow [מָחָ֔ר] is the new moon "חֹ֫דֶשׁ", (literally, the next calendar month/day) ... let me go, that I may hide myself in the field until the third evening.

Note: Three Nights of Hiding - including this same night. This Evening - was a separate calendar day from the first two days of the month.

No Part of a Previous "Day" is Used to Add to the Final Third "Day" :

NASB, 1 Samuel 20:12 - Then Jonathan said to David, “The Lord, the God of Israel, be witness! When I have sounded out my father, [a time as now, the third coming] "כָּעֵ֤ת ׀ מָחָר֙ הַשְּׁלִשִׁ֔ית", Hebrew Text w/Translations ...

Note: "third time as now" - "now" indicates that evening; "as now" indicates "another evening"; "the third" indicates the third evening, including this one.

The Text Explicitly Synchronizes "Tomorrow" and "Next Calendar Day" :

1 Samuel 20:18 - Then Jonathan said to him, “Tomorrow is the new moon ... 19 and on the third [morrow/next day], you shall go down quickly and come to the place ...

Note: This is the "Appointed Time" set by David and Jonathan. Whether the "third next day "begins at Night, or Day" - will be settled by observing the time when David "Quickly" arrives. The context, and its severity, shows that this is not ambiguous to either David or Jonathan.

Note: If it is held that a "next day" begins at night, then that next morning would not count towards the "three", and there would only be "two days" - a contradiction.

A Day "בַּיּ֣וֹם" Can Ambiguously Refer to Night or Daytime :

1 Samuel 20:24, First Night Hid -> Next Day/New Month - So David hid in the field; and when the new moon [literally, next Month] came, the king sat down to eat food. 25 ... but David’s place was empty. 26 Nevertheless Saul did not speak anything that day [בַּיּ֣וֹם].

Note: This indicates that David's seat had been empty - that day, showing how long the feast had been.

NASB, 1 Samuel 20:27, 2nd Night Hid -> Second Day - It came about the next day, the second [-] of the [month] ... ; so Saul said ..., “Why has the [David] not come ... either yesterday or today? 34 Then Jonathan ... did not eat food on the second day [בְּיוֹם] of the new moon ...

Note: Here, the text explicitly uses "Yom" for day - that Jonathan had not eaten at all the second day of the month. Since Saul is noting that David had not been present - for TWO days - it makes more sense that Saul was expecting David to arrive during the day-time.

Any Amount of Time - After Daybreak - Constitutes another "Day" :

1 Samuel 20:35, Third Night Hid, Third Day - 35 Now it came about in the "morning/בַבֹּ֔קֶר [ distinct from daybreak/הַשַּׁ֣חַר עָלָ֔ה] that Jonathan went out into the field for the appointment [the third next day, (1 Sam 20:19)] with David.

Note: Here, the text shows when David "Quickly" met with Jonathan - in the morning, after sun-rise.

A "Day" can be Reckoned - even after Excluding Part of the Day:

NASB, John 4:6 and Jacob’s well was there. So Jesus, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. John 4:40 So when the Samaritans came to Jesus, they were asking Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days ...

Note: There is no example where "x number of days" was not inclusive.

A Period of "Days" Can be an Estimate :

NASB, 1 Samuel 30:11 - Now they found an Egyptian ... and gave him bread ... and they provided him water ... and he ate; then his spirit revived. For he had not eaten bread or drunk water for three days and three nights ... 13 ... and my master left me behind when I fell sick three days ago.

Note: It is well beyond this passage to assert that David's men found this man - exactly to the hour - three days and nights later. Especially since the man wasn't "observing a set fast" but was sick and left to die.

5. Are there OTHER Idioms in the Passion Narrative that are used in the Reckoning of Days?

Idiom : "The Feast of Unleavened Bread" -

NASB, Luke 22:1 - Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was approaching.

Idiom : That Sabbath, was a "Great Day" -

With absolute certainty - "Great Sabbath" is an idiomatic phrase. In this context - this is a reference to the Passover Sabbath, when it falls on a weekday, (see Special Sabbaths, Wikipedia Link, and High Holy Days).

NASB, John 19:31 - ... so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day(μεγάλη ἡ ἡμέρα).

Holding that there were two Sabbaths that week, and that the Sabbath meal was eaten after Jesus' crucifixion, "cleanly" accounts for three days/nights - without contradictions : Wednesday Night [Last Supper]; Thurs-Day [Crucifixion] -> Night [Passover Meal]; Fri-Day [Sabbath] -> Night; Saturday/Night [Weekly Sabbath].

Any position that the Passover had already occurred, (been eaten), before Jesus was crucified leads to many, many, contradictions in the New Testament - not to mention the doctrine of "Jesus as the Passover Lamb", (Contradiction Example: John 18:28).

Disputed Idiom : "The Day of" -

NASB, Matthew 26:17 - "... the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus and asked ..."

This passage is the primary verse relied on to claim that the Last Supper was actually a Passover Seder.

But, there is substantial literary precedent to hold that "the day came" is idiomatic for, "it was very close to the time".

6. Could Jewish Practices have altered the reckoning of Days and Nights?

The idea of a "Day" beginning at Sun-Set, is purely Pharasaic - and does not appear in Jewish literature until the Babylonian exile, reflecting the Babylonian view of a "Day" beginning at sunset.

Sudducean Jews, Karaites, Christians - even Jesus, rejected the authority of supposed "Oral Law from Moses".

NASB, Luke 23:54 - It was the preparation day, and the Sabbath was about to dawn [interpreted as "begin"].

This passage - if interpreted literally - reflects a Non-Pharasaic view that Priests signified the beginning of the Sabbath - during the day. (Josephus provides an example of priests blowing trumpets immediately before work - to announce the beginning of a day, (below).

Historically, the "Jewish Calendar" was not pre-calculated - but announced following observations by people, (the Jewish Calendar was not "fixed" until ~358/9 CE by Hillel II).

The Priests would make those "calls", at their discretion, with trumpets - depending on the circumstances:

Only Two Trumpet Blasts Regarding "The Day" - Once Before Work Began, and Once as it Ended :

Josephus, Wars of the Jews J. BJ 4.577-582, English, Greek :

the third at another corner over against the lower city, [J. BJ. 4.582, Greek] and the last was erected above the top of the Pastophoria, where one of the priests stood of course [ἔθους, by custom], and gave a signal beforehand, with a trumpet, [ σάλπιγγι] at the beginning of every seventh day [ἑβδομάδα], in the day/twilight/? [δείλης] - ambiguous, but certainly before sunset, as also at the evening [ἑσπέρα] when that day was finished, as giving notice to the people when they were to leave off work [ἀνέργειαν] - certainly night time, and when they were to go to work again.

Josephus' account raises a LOT of questions - for me - and I am still researching the uses of "day", "evening", "night", etc - in Greek literature.

Exceptions that Plausibly Could Have Affected Announcements - that Week -

  1. Two Sabbath days could have occurred that week, (Passover is always a Sabbath day);
  2. The Passover Sabbath may have been relaxed by the Priests - if it fell on a weekday, perhaps starting later.
  3. On the Day Jesus was Crucified, there was a period of Darkness - which could account for another "Night" or "Day", (Luke 23:44-45; Joel 2, Amos 4);
  • Perhaps someone new looking in knows of examples.
    – rstrats
    Mar 1, 2017 at 21:16
  • elika kohen, re: " Are you looking for a more thorough 'proof' that references to the Greco-Roman Hades do not seem applicable to this context?" No, not for the purpose of this topic. re: "I added a couple more idiom examples from the passages." I'm afraid I don't see where they show where a daytime or a night time was forecast to be involved with an event when no part of the daytime or no part of the night time could have occurred. But maybe someone new looking in will know of examples.
    – rstrats
    Mar 4, 2017 at 12:27
  • elika kohen, re: " I might have went in the wrong direction with this answer - could you point out which parts are close to what you are looking for?" I'm afraid I can't. I don't see where you have provided any actual examples to show that it was common to say that a daytime or a night time would be involved with an event when no part of the daytime or no part of the night time could occur.
    – rstrats
    Mar 7, 2017 at 13:25
  • @rstrats - Ah, I think I see the misunderstanding: A.) You commented : "I don't see ... examples to ... that a daytime or a night time would be involved with an event when no part of the daytime or no part of the night time could occur." B.) But your question asks : "which states a specific number of days ... 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?"; C.) Perhaps you can update your question? Mar 7, 2017 at 17:09
  • re: "Am I still misinterpreting the question?"
    – rstrats
    Mar 18, 2017 at 12:39

Matthew 26:31 I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.

The striking of the shepherd took place in Gethsemane -- not on the cross.

v. 56, Then all the disciples left him and fled.

It clearly happened at night -- the first night of the "three days and three nights"?

Gethsemane does mean "oil-press" Hebrew "gat-shemanim"

The olive has to be pressed to obtain the oil. To press = Greek θλίβω from which θλῖψις = persecution, affliction, distress, tribulation

The olive said to be the fruit belonging to the sixth day, after Deuteronomy 8:8, in which the seven species of the promised land are enumerated.

Judas's betrayal indeed happened on the sixth day, which began Matthew 26:20, When evening had come he reclined with the twelve

Hebrew for eight "shemonah" is female form of "shemen", oil.

The eighth day being the third day from the sixth -- sunday as new day one = day of light of which the essence is the olive-oil.

  • re: "The eighth day being the third day from the sixth..." What would the first day from the sixth be?
    – rstrats
    Mar 29, 2018 at 12:18
  • 1
    first day from the sixth = the sixth Mar 29, 2018 at 13:17

Bob Jones, re: "@rstrats What kinds of examples are you looking for?"

OK, let me repeat:

  1. The Messiah said that He would be three days and three nights in the "heart of the earth".

  2. There are some who think that the crucifixion took place on the 6th day of the week with the resurrection taking place on the 1st day of the week.

  3. And of those, there are some who think that the "heart of the earth" is referring to the tomb or at the earliest to the moment when His spirit left His body).

  4. However, a 6th day of the week crucifixion/1st day of the week resurrection allows for only 2 nights to be involved.

  5. To account for the lack of a 3rd night, there may be some of those mentioned above who try to explain the lack of a 3rd night by saying that the Messiah was using common figure of speech/colloquial language.

  6. I'm simply curious if anyone who may fall in the above group of believers might provide examples to support the belief of commonality; i.e., instances where a daytime or a night time was forecast or said to be involved with an event when no part of a daytime or no part of a night time could have occurred.

  • I have commented on this in my answer above. I hope it helps. Apr 28 at 18:27

Expressions like ”x days and x nights” are fairly common in the Bible. Some examples are: Gen 7:4, 7:12, Exo 24:18, 34:28, 1 Kings 19:8; 1 Sam 30:12, Jonah 2:1, Job 2:12. (This is not a full list.)

Now, with inclusive counting of days and the counting of part of a day as a whole day, ”x days and x nights” is mathematically speaking impossible.

In a Western culture where we use exclusive counting and count a portion of a day as a portion, it is possible to have 3 days and 3 nights. It we start at 3 p.m. on Friday, then 3 days and 3 nights will extend until 3 p.m. on Monday. If we assume that the ”night” goes from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., then the mathematics is as follows: Friday day 3 hours, Friday night 12 hours, Saturday day 12 hours, Saturday night 12 hours, Sunday day 12 hours, Sunday night 12 hours, Monday day 9 hours. Altogether 6 times 12 hours equals 3 days and 3 nights.

Now, if we do the same experiment with inclusive counting, the result is different. Again we start at 3. p.m. and assume the night goes from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m: Friday 3-6 p.m. 3 hours= one day. Friday night 12 hours=one night, Saturday day 12 hours=one day, Saturday night 12 hours=one night, Sunday to 3 p.m. 9 hours=one day. This results in 3 days: Friday, Saturday and Sunday plus 2 nights in between: Friday and Saturday.

Since it is mathematically impossible to have 3 days and 3 nights with inclusive counting, why does the Bible talk like that? The reason is fairly simple once you start thinking in Hebrew like the Jews did: In the Hebrew world view, it is of paramount importance to use repetition. If something is repeated it is strengthened. It has poetic force to say 40 days and 40 nights, but it loses that force if we say 40 days and 39 nights.

Another aspect is that the symbolic meaning of numbers is very important. The number 40 stands for a time of testing or trial. (40 years in the wilderness, 40 days in the desert for Jesus, etc.) The number 7 stands for what is complete. The number 3 stands for divine power and intervention. Several times in the OT divine intervention happens on the third day as God said in Exo 19:11: ”Be ready, because on the third day I will intervene with a miracle.” (See also 2 Kings 20:5, Est 5:1, Hos 6:2, Matt 16:21, Luke 24:46). That is why Jonah was in the sea animal 3 days and 2 nights, and that is why Jesus was in the tomb 3 days and 2 nights.

To assume that ”3 days and 3 nights” in Hebrew is the same as ”3 days and 3 nights” in English is to make an ethnocentric mistake.

We can say that 3 days and 3 nights is an idiom that means 3 days inluding the nights in between the days. It would be more clear to translate it as 3 days, day and night.

  • "Sunday to 3 p.m. 9 hours=one day." — But Jesus had already risen before 6am, while it was still dark. So this 9 hours is actually 0 hours. Dec 19, 2020 at 19:34
  • This was an example. The Jewish day, Sunday, Nisan 17, had started at sunset the previous day. My point was that "3 days and 3 nights" is a Jewish idiom for 3 days, inclusively counted which includes the nights in between. So, from Friday, 3 p.m. to Sunday, 5 a.m. we still have 3 days (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) including Friday night and most of Saturday night. The Jews would count part of a day as a day and part of a night as a night. Dec 20, 2020 at 10:54
  • Acts 10:30 shows that a period of 72 hours was four days because the Jews and the Greeks (and Romans) counted days inclusively. Read Acts 10:1-30. Apr 28 at 0:15

Comparing Genesis 17:12 "He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised," to Leviticus 12:3 "And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised," we see that in the Bible the ordinal numbered day occurs when the event is that many days old. That is, the day when the event starts is NOT the first day. The first day is the day in which the event is one day old. When Esther fasted for three days, the day in which she completed the three-day fast was, by Biblical definition, the third day.

Thus, Jesus rose from the death on the third day, which was the day that he completed three days in the grave. According to Luke 24:1, and 21, this third day was the first day of the week. So, the seventh day of the week (the day before) was the second day, and the sixth day was the first day, when Jesus had been in the grave for one day. Therefore, Jesus was killed and put in the grave on the fifth day of the week (Thursday).

  • This could be improved if you looked at all the data available in the Bible. The claim made is incorrect because it does not respect the data. If you want to know more you might look up academia.edu/4178546/Biblical_Mathematics_x_x_1_and_70_72 Dec 25, 2020 at 7:14
  • No, Iver. As you point out in your paper, in Leviticus 23:15-16, the counting is to start from the day of the offering, making that day one. You are assuming that the offering of the firstfruits is the event corresponding to the birth of the baby or the crucifixion of Jesus, and that we are supposed to count from those events. The verses I referenced make it clear that the counting for the third day from the crucifixion, and the eighth day from the birth, are to start from the day after the event. Dec 27, 2020 at 16:34
  • No, Thomas Gray, this is not what I am assuming. I explain it more fully in another paper: academia.edu/1040897/The_third_day_or_two_days_later or in this paper: academia.edu/1040871/Counting_of_days_and_nights_in_the_Bible Dec 28, 2020 at 8:04

The first thing I would remind you is that Hebrews counted days differently:

Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah, tenth in the generations of Ezra said: "A day and a night are an Onah ['a portion of time'] and the portion of an Onah is like the whole" [J.Talmud, Shabbat 9.3 and b.Talmud, Pesahim 4a]

Secondly, I suggest you give a reading to this old article about Jonah that tackles the three days and three nights motif in Semitic and Greco-Roman context:

...the expression "three days and three nights" is seen to reflect the conception that death is permanent only after a body has shown no sigus of animation for a period of three days, the idea being that until that time had elapsed, the soul was conceived as still lingering near the individual, encouraging the hope of revival. There are references to this idea in rabbinical litera ture, though it is actually much older, antedating the hellenistic era. E. Freistedt finds evidence for it not only in the Persian Vendidad (19, 90 ff.), which he dates to the 4th centary Bc., but also possibily (though not as explicitly) presupposed in Homer's lind, which could well mean it goes back to the beginning of the first millennium B.C if not carlier. In the NT sach a conception seems to underlie Martha's comment ta Jesus that Latarus had already been in the tomb frar daye (John 11 30; cf. vs. 17), the implication being that Lazarus' revival was deemed totally out of the question..."The Descent of Inanna to the Nether World," as most recently translated by S. N. Kramer, Inanna instructs her divine minister, Ninshubur, to set up an elaborate lament for her after she has departed for the underworld. The purpose of the lament is par ticularly to enlist the divine aid of Enlil, Nana, and Enki to effect her return, in the event she fails to reappear within a certain period of time. Interestingly, the time Ninakubur is to delay before beginning the lament is not specified in Inanna's instructions to him, which state simply: "When I shall have come to the nether world, set up a lament for me by the rainm..." (Part 11, lines 30-34). There follows then the text of the lament, the account of Inanna's departure and reception into the lowe realm,culminating in her death at the hands of the goddess Ereshkigal. It is at this paint the text then reads: "After three days (and) three nights had passed, her minister Nimbubur, her minister of favorable words, her knight of true words, sets up a lament for her by the ruins..." (lPart 11, lines 109-73). Close study of the entire contest would seem to indicate that the words "three days (and) three nights were not meant to cover the time Inanna spent in the underworld, and the phrase's complete separation from the account of Inanna's revival and ascent back to the upper wurid does not give one to understand that the implication is the goddess was "raised from the dead" after three days and three nights. This has been the most common interpretation before Kramer published the new and fuller test of the myth in 1950-51," and though now P. Notacher and S. N. Kramer offer slightly different interpretations, they do not seem to me to be any more plausible or convincing than the one now to be proposed here. And that. is, when one compares the test of Inanna's instractions to Nishubur with the account of his execution of her commands, it seema clear that Nimhubur's delay is to allow sufficient time for luanna to urries within the nether world. The "three days (and) three nights" are intended to cover the time of travel to the chthonic depths. If this interpretation is correct, and also within the OT we have definite witness to the use of the "three-day" motif in connection with a journey, including the book of Jonah (31), it would appear this is the most promising clue for understanding the full import of the words "three days and three nights" in Jonah 21. They are wed to indicate the period of time it took the fish to bring Jonsh bark from the Deep, understood more explicitly in the following pralm as the nether world (cf. 27). Thus, just as Inanna required three days and three nights to complete her descent into the underworld, so also the fish is assigned the same time spas to return Jonah from Sheul to the dry land. The temporal motif would stress the distance and separation of the upper from the nether realms. Landes, G. M. (1967). The “Three Days and Three Nights” Motif in Jonah 2:1. Journal of Biblical Literature, 86(4), 446–450.

  • Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah, tenth in the generations of Ezra said: "A day and a night are an Onah ['a portion of time'] and the portion of an Onah is like the whole" [J.Talmud, Shabbat 9.3 and b.Talmud, Pesahim 4a] – Apr 28 at 0:19
  • Most rabbis disagreed with Rabbi Eleazar ben Aariah and maintained that an Onah was either a day or a night, not both. Rabbis in the Talmud believed three days consisted of from four to six Onahs. Onah was usually in reference to a woman's menstrual period and the days of her impurity. An Onah could even refer to a 28- or 30-day period between her periods. Obviously, part of a day Onah could be counted as a whole day Onah and part of a night Onah could be referred to as a night Onah. But any part of a 30-day Onah could not obviously be referred to as a whole 30-day Onah Apr 28 at 0:20
  • For example, six days of a 30-day Onah could not be reckoned as a whole 30-day Onah. Part of a day could be reckoned as a day and part of a night could be reckoned as a night but part of a day could not be reckoned as a full day AND night. Most rabbis didn't agree with Rabbi Eleazar's computation then and they don't agree with that today. Apr 28 at 0:20
  • Jesus did not say he would be in the heart of the earth three Onahs. He did not use a rabbinical term to describe how long he would be in the heart of the earth, but the language of the common people "three days and three nights." In the language of the common people that would mean three days and three nights but not necessarily three full days and three full nights. Personally, I think the three nights in Matthew 12:40 was a scribal emendation although I can't prove it. Apr 28 at 0:21
  • In which sea was Jonah in when swallowed by the sea monster? In the three days Jonah was in the "whale" what route did the whale take to get Jonah closer to Ninevah? Apr 28 at 2:14

Do Idioms Used in the Crucifixion Narrative Resolve the "3 Day/3 Night" Objections?

Bible Days were often counted inclusively so Friday crucifixion to Sunday resurrection would be three days.

Here are some proofs of inclusive counting from the web page below:

  1. The clearest Biblical demonstration of inclusive counting is in the New Testament (see Acts 10:30 where a period of 72 hours is reckoned as “four days ago,” not “three”), but an Old Testament example is in 2 Kings 18:9-10.

  2. The battle of Samaria lasted from the fourth to the sixth year of Hezekiah, which is equated with the The siege seventh to the ninth year of Hoshea, and yet the city is said to have been taken “at the end of three years.” In modern usage we would say two years, by straight subtraction. Obviously the Bible writer reckoned inclusively (years four, five, and six totaling three years).

  3. A Hebrew boy was circumcised when “eight days old” (Genesis 17:12), that is, “in the eighth day” (Levites 12:3). Similarly Luke speaks of circumcision “on the eighth day” or “when eight days were accomplished” (Luke 1:59; 2:21). Evidently “when eight days were accomplished” (or “at the end of eight days,” RSV) does not mean eight full days from the date of birth, but eight inclusive.

  4. Jeroboam II of Israel succeeded his father Jehoash in the 15th year of Amaziah of Judah (2 Kings 14:23), and Amaziah “lived after the death of Jehoash … of Israel fifteen years” (2 Kings 14:17). A modern reader would mentally add 15 to 15, reaching Amaziah’s 30th year, yet Amaziah reigned only 29 years (verse 2). Inclusive reckoning is again the most logical explanation, since 15 years, inclusive, from the 15th year is the 29th, in which he evidently died.

  5. There are other examples. When, at the death of Solomon, Rehoboam was petitioned to lighten the tax burden, he told the people to depart “for three days” (1 Kings 12:5) and then return for his decision “after three days” (2 Chronicles 10:5). They came “the third day, as the king had appointed, saying, Come to me again the third day” (1 Kings 12:12; cf. 2 Chronicles 10:12).

  6. Jesus said in Luke 13:32 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.

  7. Exodus 19:10-11 And the LORD said unto Moses, Go unto the people, and sanctify them to day and to morrow, and let them wash their clothes, 11 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.

  8. Esther asked the Jews of Shushan to fast, and by implication, to pray, for her before she went in to the king unbidden, and then she approached the king “on the third day” (Esther 4:16; 5:1). Obviously a period of “three days” ended on the third day, not after the completion of the three days, as we would reckon it.

  9. The Pharisees did not call a high day “the Sabbath”. They called it “a Sabbath”. All days called “the Sabbath” in the New Testament (39 times in the Greek text) referred to the weekly Sabbath.

  10. An Egyptian inscription recording the death of a priestess on the 4th day of the 12th month relates that her successor arrived on the 15th, “when 12 days had elapsed.” Today, we would say that when 12 days had elapsed after the 4th, the date would be the 16th.

  11. The Greeks followed the same inclusive method. They called the Olympiad, or the four-year period between the Olympic Games, a pentaeteris (five-year period), and used other similar numerical terms

  12. The Romans also, in common usage, reckoned inclusively; they had nundinae (from nonus, ninth), or market days, every ninth day, inclusive, actually every eight days, as indicated on ancient calendars by the letters, A through H.

  13. Modern vestiges in the West are the phrase “eight days,” meaning a week in some European languages; I hope these help.

  14. Also, read John 4. In that chapter Jesus meets the Samaritan woman whom gives a drink of water. In verse 40 says Jesus abode in her village for two days (John 4:40) and yet in John 4:43 it claims that Jesus departed after two days. I can prove elsewhere that "after three days" which appears in Mark three times in reference to Jesus's resurrection was equivalent to "the third day" in Matthew and Luke.

  15. John 20:26 says, "after eight days" the disciples were again gathered in the room when Jesus appeared amongst them. Scholars claim "after eight days" was an expression meaning a week later (i.e. Sunday to Sunday). Again, inclusive counting.

  16. It is important to note that Mark 8:31, 9:31, and 10:34 claim Jesus would rise "after three days". Yet, when you compare the same accounts in Matthew and Luke in a good Harmony of the Gospels you will see "after three days" is interchangeable with "the third day".

  17. Here is a definition of day from the Jewish Encyclopedia. https://tinyurl.com/3xy5p3ve

Many of the above are culled from the website for inclusive counting. https://www.wednesdaycrucifixion.com/inclusive-reckoning.html

Rstrats wrote the following:

Matthew 12:40 quotes the Messiah saying that He would be in the "heart of the earth" for 3 days and 3 nights. I think the majority of folks believe that the crucifixion took place on the 6th day of the week, with the resurrection taking place on the 1st day of the next week. This period of time, however, would only allow for 2 nights. To account for this discrepancy, it is frequently "argued" that the verse is using common Jewish idiomatic language of the time.

I wonder if anyone (who thinks that the crucifixion took place on the 6th day of the week and who thinks that the "heart of the earth" is referring to the tomb) knows of any writing which shows a phrase from the first century or before which states a specific number of days and/or a specific number of nights when the actual period of time 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?

Saber responds:

I believe Jesus died on the sixth day (Friday) but I don't believe the "heart of the earth" refers to the tomb. I believe it refers to the subterranean region known to the Jews as Sheol and to the Greeks as Hades. Many ancient people believed all who died had a soul/spirit that would go to a subterranean region and in the case of Sheol, everyone who died would go there in a state of unconsciousness. It doesn't matter if the person received a proper burial or not, the soul/spirit would go there. The dead knew not that they were dead. They simply didn't exist. This is known as the doctrine of soul sleep.

Those that believed in Hades were the Greeks and Hades was a place of torment. Josephus wrote a whole book on Hades, and he describes it in detail.

When Jesus died his soul/spirit departed his body it went to Sheol. There he was dead for 3 days. I don't believe the tomb, which was at ground level, was the "heart of the earth." And I believe the third day referred to three calendar days, not necessarily three daytimes. Hence, when Jesus died on Nisan 14, he rose from the dead Nisan 16.

There is no idiom for what you are asking for. If there had been one, we would have heard about it by now. The so-called "idiom" of the three days and three nights doesn't exist because you can easily refute the claims of idioms. But one must remember, that the other extreme that claims three days and three nights must be exactly 72 hours are false as well.

  • The Sabbath was never considered or counted in this way. It was always a full period from sunset to sunrise. Ironic how the Jews would count days to know the Sabbath idiomatically in order to observe Sabbath without idiom. Ironic how the Biblical definition of "day" means one thing when counting the six days but something different and unchanging when observing the Sabbath. Arriving at the Sabbath can be idiomatic but no idiom is acceptable for observing the Sabbath. BTW are the "non Sabbath" days of no work observed from sunset to sunset or as partial periods? Dec 21, 2023 at 15:37
  • A sabbath is 24 hours. A Tuesday is 24 hours. A Thursday is 24 hours. But if an event occurs at 3pm on Saturday, then that event (the birth of a child) then that day is the first day of the event. Heck, Friday is 24 hours but when Jesus died at 3pm that day that day was counted as the first day of his death. You make claims you cannot sustain. Dec 21, 2023 at 16:53
  • Notice Jesus rose from the dead on the third day, even though the day was still in progress. So, even though it was a fraction of a day, it is still considered as if a day is passed and is called the third day. If someone dies at 11 am Sabbath morning, that is the first day of the event being counted. Dec 21, 2023 at 17:00
  • Read Jewish definition for day. tinyurl.com/bdzmzff9 Dec 21, 2023 at 17:02
  • Notice it makes no exceptions for Sabbath when counting days from the terminus a quo to the terminus ad quem. Dec 21, 2023 at 17:03

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