Per this question, there was a comment suggesting that the 6th hour may actually be the 3rd hour - or even the noon hour.

Being unfamiliar with this, how is the 6th hour possibly the same as the 3rd hour?

Mark 15:25, 18 KJV

And it was the third hour, and they crucified him.


And began to salute him, Hail, King of the Jews!

John 19:14-16 KJV

And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King! But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar. Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led him away.

  • Perhaps the question heading could be corrected for 'Judaism' to help people find this question. Apr 12 '14 at 2:53

About Time

Does not need to be "the same" time, and is not the same time

Notice that the Mk 15:25 (3rd hour) is stated as "when they crucified him." In the Jn 19:14 passage (6th hour) the reference is to when Pilate sat in his place of judgement for the final condemnation of Christ to the cross.

There are time differences

The easy way to state it is that there are at least two main time reckoning systems that are being referenced. Commentators vary in that some will call one set the "Jewish" reckoning, and the other the "Roman," and others will refer to them in the opposite fashion. For purposes here, all that matters is the fact that the two differing systems existed. I will also refer to one set as "Jewish" and the other "Roman" based off what the majority of commentators I have looked at tend to equate the periods with, and that this Jewish reference supports.

So in parallel with our modern clock times, we have the following (note that this is an approximation for the Jewish reckoning especially, as they actually divided the daylight hours into 12 [cf. Jn 11:9], which may be more/less than a true hour depending upon time of year, etc.):

12 mid  - Roman start of day | Jewish 6th hour night
3:00am  - Roman 3rd hour     | Jewish 9th hour of night
6:00am  - Roman 6th hour     | Jewish start of day (sunrise)
9:00am  - Roman 9th hour     | Jewish 3rd hour day
12 noon - Roman 12th hour    | Jewish 6th hour day
3:00pm  - Roman 3rd hour     | Jewish 9th hour day 
6:00pm  - Roman 6th hour     | Jewish 12th hour (sunset)
9:00pm  - Roman 9th hour     | Jewish 3rd hour of night

It is well attested that Roman's reckoned the day from midnight. What is debated is whether they reckoned the hours of the day from that point or not.1 There seems to be evidence that both forms of reckoning were used, which is really enough to open the possibility that the two schedules resolve the issues between the gospels.

About the Situation Eliciting this Question

A Possible Time Frame Given the Evidence (times are approximate)

5:00-5:30am Early in the morning (i.e. the dawn's morning twilight; Mt 27:1; Mk 15:1; Lk 22:66),2 the Sanhedrin had already gathered for the "quick" trial of Christ at this time, and then sent him to Pilate while it was still "early" (Jn 18:28).

5:30am-6:30am Examination of Pilate, then Herod, and Pilate's delivering to scourge Jesus, and his final judgment to crucify him (Herod must have been nearby, his palace was not far from where the action was, but he may not have even been there, but rather nearby in the judgment area itself).

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Map from http://www.ccel.org/bible/phillips/CP051GOSPELMAPS.htm

Note that John only says "about the sixth hour" which leaves a fair bit of play for actual time (perhaps even up to 7:00am). This would be Roman reckoning if the time frames are going to fit,3 which also fits the audience John would have been writing to, being after the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

9:00am About this time, the 3rd hour by Jewish reckoning, that Jesus is actually nailed to the cross (Mk 15:25), the final mocking of the soldiers and march to Golgotha being the span of time between.

12:00 noon - 3:00pm From the 6th to 9th hour (Jewish reckoning), darkness comes "over all the land" (Mt 27:45; Mk 15:33; Lk 23:44). At the end of this time is when Christ actually dies (MT 27:50; Mk 15:37; Lk 23:46; Jn 19:30).

No Day Discrepancy

Some have noted that there is not only a supposed time discrepancy, but also a whole day discrepancy. Jn 19:14 states "it was the Preparation Day of the Passover" that Christ is before Pilate and dies later that day. This is deemed to be in conflict with the synoptic gospels that note the first day of the feast of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover is to be killed (i.e. the day that Jews are preparing to observe the Passover), was the day before the evening meal with the disciples in the upper room, and so they had prepared the passover during that day (Mt 26:17, Mk 14:12, Lk 22:7). Thus the supposed day discrepancy.

However, the Synoptic Gospels themselves speak of another preparation day, which does align with the day Christ is crucified. Matthew 27:62-64 (NKJV for all quotes):

On the next day, which followed the Day of Preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate, saying, “Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise.’ 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.

Recall that Joseph had rapidly buried Jesus right at the end of the day of crucifixion, during the evening twilight hours (Mt 27:57) before the setting of the sun. At sunset would have been the start of the Passover itself, and it is that "next day" when the chief priests make the request above. That is, they requested this of Pilate after sunset, right after Christ was buried in the tomb by Joseph.

Mark 15:42 states:

Now when evening had come, because it was the Preparation Day, that is, the day before the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent council member, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, coming and taking courage, went in to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.

This puts Jesus being crucified on a day of preparation. As also Luke 23:50-54, which states:

Now behold, there was a man named Joseph, a council member, a good and just man. He had not consented to their decision and deed. He was from Arimathea, a city of the Jews, who himself was also waiting for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a tomb that was hewn out of the rock, where no one had ever lain before. That day was the Preparation, and the Sabbath drew near.

So John's statement "it was the Preparation Day of the Passover" (Jn 19:14) is not referring to the preparation day for the Passover, but a special instance of a preparation day for the Sabbath that was following the day of the Passover, and thus the preparation on the Passover day for the next day's Sabbath. That the priests had not yet eaten the passover the morning Christ was crucified (Jn 18:28) was because they had been busy about handling the matter of capturing and condemning Christ that night, before the first day (daylight hours) of the feast. They still wanted to partake, and thus did not enter the Gentile domain of Pilate in order to not be defiled before they could eat (which was all very hypocritical of them).

So all four gospel accounts have it on a day of preparation for the Sabbath day that was following the Passover day that Christ was crucified.


1 D. R. W. Wood and I. Howard Marshall in New Bible Dictionary (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996) argue Roman and Jewish accounting of hours in a day matched. For one who considers the time schedule reversed between Jewish/Roman reckoning, see Norman L. Geisler, "'Avoid… Contradictions' (1 Timothy 6:20): A Reply To John Dahms," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 22 (1979), 64 n.17, where he refers to the works of the 1st century Jew Flavius Josephus' biographical work "The Life of Falvius Josephus." However, in my looking up Geisler's reference, it appeared to me that the 6th hour by Josephus' reckoning was in accord with the Jewish timekeeping I've given above.

2 Using information from the twilight page, a "rough" calculation for the Jerusalem area would put the twilight time before sunrise at 28-39 minutes.

3 I do not hold to a hermeneutic that allows for John to change the time/day for "theological purposes." I hold that the Bible is God's word, absolute truth, and inerrant in what was originally recorded and within what has been preserved for us from that original in the copies (note that this does not mean each copy is inerrant, only those that are truly copies that match the original reading, which we have within the extant manuscript copies we possess today).

  • 1
    Lots of work here! OP's question was about time rather than date, but since you address the latter, it would be worth comparing notes with H.K. Bond, "Dating the Death of Jesus: Memory and the Religious Imagination", New Testament Studies 59.4 (2013): 461-75.
    – Dɑvïd
    Apr 12 '14 at 8:55
  • @Davïd: Thanks, I'll take a look. Yes, I addressed the date because both another answer here as well as the original question on C.SE that elicited this question had answers following a "theological" change by John argument, which I felt could not go unanswered (since I do not believe that is true).
    – ScottS
    Apr 12 '14 at 11:10
  • @ScottS - A.) Actually - The Wiki article you cite states : *"The Roman civil and religious day began at midnight from a very early time.[8] Modern opinions of this, by ones such as Unger (1892) and Ramsay (1896) maintain that the hours of the day and the night were always counted from dusk, or dawn, hence that the "sixth hour" represented midnight or midday respectively." B.) Since the references you cite affirm this - I am not sure what the "debate" is - and the burden of proof remains, to show otherwise. Mar 9 '17 at 2:30
  • @elikakohen: The debate is noted in the very next sentence from what you quoted: "Yet following classic Roman thinking, Jack Finegan (1964) argues that the 'sixth hour' can be counted from midnight." So there is a debate.
    – ScottS
    Mar 9 '17 at 19:36
  • @ScottS - A.) "Jack Finegan ... argues that the "sixth hour" can be counted from midnight. He maintained this position despite not having any evidence at all. ... he referenced ... Jesus was at Pilate (sixth hour)"; B.) It seems more valid to note that this opinion is based on presupposing the authority of Christian texts, to disprove overwhelming historical evidence. C.) In Hermeneutics, this is "begging the question" - and unreliable. D.) I understand this doctrine; but it is exactly that basis of Finegan's opinion that is being examined in this question. Mar 9 '17 at 20:11

Although the Jews began their days at dusk and Romans began their days at midnight, that is not how either civilisation measured the passage of time. Simply speaking, the mechanical clock had not yet been invented. E. G. Richards describes in Mapping Time how shadow clocks were used to divide the hours of daylight up into exactly 12 hours of variable length according to the season. Measuring time accurately at night was also possible, based on the stars, but difficult and of no interest to most people. It was not until the invention of mechanical clocks that we changed over to a variable number of hours of daylight, each of fixed length throughout the year.

Using the universal shadow clock, the third hour was the third of daylight and the sixth hour was precisely noon. Thus, they were never the same hour. The explanation is that we find not one but two differences between Mark (and the other synoptic gospels) and John, not only in the time at which Jesus was crucified, either the third hour (9 o'clock) or the sixth hour 12 o'clock), but even the day. Mark says that the Last Supper, on the evening before the crucifixion, was also the Passover feast. John 19:14 tells us that the crucifixion took place on the day of preparation for the Passover. Ian Wilson says in Jesus: The Evidence it is possible that John, in his desire to represent Jesus as the new “paschal lamb”, distorted history to have the crucifixion occur when lambs would have been slaughtered in the Temple in preparation for the Passover

For theological reasons, the author of John has changed both the date and time of the crucifixion, to coincide with the time that Jews killed the sacrificial lamb for the Passover. In John's Gospel, Jesus is, by analogy, the lamb of God.

  • John didn't just change the date of the crucifixion; he also changed other details to be consistent with a 14 Nisan date. For example, in John, when the other apostles see Judas' bag of silver, they assume he's using it to buy food for the Passover feast. But in the synoptics, they just ate the Passover feast. (Pointed out by Rabbi Tovia Singer.) Oct 19 '15 at 2:36

They are the same hours that have been preserved within the Orthodox Christian Daily Cycle of Prayers

  • First Hour corresponds to daybreak (6:00 a.m.).
  • Third Hour corresponds to mid-morning (9:00 a.m.)
  • Sixth Hour corresponds to mid-day (12:00 noon)
  • Ninth Hour corresponds to mid-afternoon (3:00 p.m.)

Regarding the discrepancy between John's and Mark's account of the hour at which Jesus was crucified, there are three explanations that I am aware of:

First, some manuscripts (including the Codex Sinaiticus, which is the most ancient on hand following the Vaticanus) actually do indicate "the third hour" instead of "the sixth hour", though Metzger discounts this as "an obvious attempt to harmonize the chronology" (A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 2nd ed.).

Second, certain Church Fathers (e.g. Eusebius and Jerome) ascribe the discrepancy due to a transcription error, wherein a copiest confused the Greek symbol used for 3 - the letter Γ' (gamma) - with a special character called the episemon - denoted by ϝ - used to represent the number 6. Theophylact of Ohrid, writing in the 11th century, explains how this might have occurred:

The letter gamma represents the ordinal number 3 and is used to indicate the third hour. A special character called the episemon or "symbol" represents the number 6 and is used to indicate the sixth hour. It is possible that a scribe inadvertantly altered the gamma, rounding and lengthening the upright line, so that it resembled the episemon. Thus John in all likelihood wrote the third hour, and not, the sixth hour, as we now read in the text. The other three evangelists - Matthew, Mark, and Luke - agree that form the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour [Mt 27:45; Mk 15:25,33; Lk 23:44]. This indicates that the Lord was crucified before it became dark at the sixth hour; that is, at the third hour, as Mark states [15:23] and the other two imply.

Explanation of the Gospel According to Saint John (tr. Chrysostom Press: 2007), p.282

A third explanation, also posited by Theophylact, is that the third hour was the hour at which the crucifixion order was issued by Pilate, but that the actual crucifixion might not have actually occurred until three hours later. Theophylact points out that a number of events took place between the hour of judgment and the time of crucifixion:

Consider how many events took place from the time when Pilate decided to crucify the Lord to the time when He was nailed to the cross. Pilate released Barabbas (this constituted the Lord's condemnation), had Jesus scourged, and handed Him over to be crucified. The soldiers spent a long time taunting Christ with their elaborate burlesque. Pilate brought jesus out and spoke with the Jews, after which he took Him back inside to judge Him. Then he went out again and tried to reason with the Jews. So it was at the sixth hour, mentioned by John, that Pilate at last gave up on winning over the Jews, stopped questioning Jesus, and rendered his final decision by handing Him over to them.

  • Nice addition, thanks. How do you think this rationalizes the differences between Mark and John? Dec 15 '16 at 0:58
  • It doesn't really, but I added some additional information I found that might address that question.
    – user15733
    Dec 15 '16 at 2:09

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