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?


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
    Brian Weigand, 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 '16 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). – Bʀɪᴀɴ Feb 10 '16 at 21:47
  • @rstrats, Although I think the above scenario is unlikely since she is sending a messenger back and forth to Mordecai while he is crying out loudly and mourning in the midst of the city, going even up to the king's gate (Esther 4:1-2). Obviously I wasn't there, but I would imagine Mordecai started doing this during daylight. – Bʀɪᴀɴ Feb 10 '16 at 21:55
  • @elikakohen - A) While no, it doesn't explicitly say that Esther actually ate or drank something at the banquet, it also doesn't say that the king or Haman actually ate or drank anything either. So using your reasoning, no one actually ate or drank anything at all during the banquet. B) You are mistaken. A day beginning in the evening goes all the way back to Creation: _"And the evening and the morning were the first day [second day / third day / etc]" (Genesis 1). – Bʀɪᴀɴ Mar 6 '17 at 2:37
  • 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. – Bʀɪᴀɴ Mar 6 '17 at 17:47

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.


- 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 '17 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 '17 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 '17 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? – elika kohen Mar 7 '17 at 17:09
  • re: "Am I still misinterpreting the question?" – rstrats Mar 18 '17 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 '18 at 12:18
  • first day from the sixth = the sixth – G. van den Bos Mar 29 '18 at 13:17

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