Just How Long Did Jesus Stay In The Tomb?
Daniel Burke contributed to this article. Religion News Service is a news service dedicated to covering religious issues (RNS) As Christians throughout the world prepare to celebrate Easter, they will follow a well-known sequence of events: During Good Friday’s Passion Week, Jesus was crucified and arose from the dead on “the third day,” according to the ancient Nicene Creed. If Jesus died at 3 p.m. on Friday and was exhumed from his tomb by daybreak Sunday morning – around 40 hours later – how does it add up to three days in a calendar year?
Even Pope Benedict XVI, in his latest book, Jesus: Holy Week, about Christ’s last days, wrestles with the latter topic in the final chapter.
In the words of Marcus Borg, an advanced biblical scholar and co-author of the book The Last Week, which is about Holy Week, “the chronological problem is a bit of a mystery.” However, according to Borg and other researchers, the issue may be solved if you understand how first-century Jews measured time and if you give the four evangelists a little poetic license in their writing.
As a result, for them, Saturday night was Sunday.
- Using these techniques of counting, a backward computation from Sunday morning to Friday afternoon results in three days.
- “The Bible uses ambiguous expressions such as ‘three days’ and ’40 days,'” Borg explained.
- Evangelical New Testament scholar Ben Witherington, who teaches at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky, concurred with the statement.
- His research has revealed that Gospel authors did not stroll about with sundials on their wrists in the same manner that current researchers walk around with wristwatches, according to the expert.
- What causes the most concern for these believers is Jesus’ own promise, recounted in the Gospel of Matthew, that he would rise from the grave after “three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” This is the most worrying prophecy for these believers.
- John Behr, dean of St.
- The Didascalia Apostolorum, a third-century Christian treatise, took a more radical approach.
That viewpoint is still promoted by several Christian denominations on the periphery.
To put it another way, “Jesus made a false prophesy,” said Robert Miller, a professor of religion at Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania.
According to Witherington, the purpose of Jesus’ prophesy is to draw a contrast to Jonah, who was ready to die in order to save his shipmates (and who spent three days in the belly of a great fish), rather than to establish a timeline for the Resurrection.
John’s University in Collegeville, Minn., Martin Connell, refers to the chronology dilemma as a “never-ending problem.” “Because the evidence is so uncertain and the evidence is so elastic, the argument will almost certainly continue indefinitely,” Connell said.
Some biblical scholars, such as Wahlen, believe Paul is alluding to a passage in the Book of Hosea, which states that God would “heal” and “restore” Israel after three days of affliction and suffering.
According to first-century custom, it was only after three days that you could be sure someone was dead; after four days, it was assumed that the spirit had left the body.
Why did Jesus Rise on the Third Day?
Derek Hiebert contributed to this article. 1 year ago today
Why did Jesus Rise on the Third Day?
As a matter of tradition, Christians have commemorated the resurrection of Jesus Christ on a Sunday, three days following the commemoration of his crucifixion on Good Friday. This three-day chronology is based on a number of allusions in the New Testament to the Old Testament. Many times, Jesus foretold it, and the apostles included it in their delivery of the gospel message as well (see footnote references). However, why did Jesus’ resurrection take place three days after his death is a mystery.
Is the third day only a coincidental, insignificant element put on to the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection?
The Third Day Matters
Timing is extremely important for Jesus and his apostles because it has significant theological ramifications. When it comes to biblical story, the three-day timeframe is important because it represents the one-of-a-kind day on which God creates new life and activates his covenant with mankind. How did the writers of the New Testament get at this conclusion? After all, the Hebrew Scriptures have a constant “third day” design pattern, which Jesus and the New Testament authors are using as a model.
The Third Day Pattern in the Hebrew Bible
The passages Jonah 1:17 and Hosea 6:1-2 in the Hebrew Scriptures are among the clearest illustrations of third-day resurrection in the whole Bible. Jesus used Jonah’s three days in the belly of the huge fish as a metaphor for his own three days in the belly of the great fish. The prophet Hosea predicted that God’s reviving operation for Israel would take place on the third day. While these are important passages to study, the pattern of resurrection on the third day is established far earlier in the tale of Jesus.
The creation narrative in Genesis 1 and Abraham’s test in Genesis 22 both begin to develop a pattern of new life emerging on the third day.
The First “Resurrection”
What is the location of the initial glimpse into the three-day significance? The first page of the Bible. The creation story in Genesis 1 is written in the style of a poetry, with repeated declarations and parallelism between events. Within the rhythm of these repeats, two events in the creation tale stand out as particularly noteworthy, each occurring at a three-day interval and occurring at different points in the narrative. During the first “third day,” God creates dry ground and enables flora to emerge from the soil, including plants that produce seeds as well as trees that give fruit for human use (1:11-13).
The second “third day” event occurs on the sixth day of creation, when God produces animals and human beings for the first time (1:24).
Humans were produced from the dust of the earth, according to what we learn later in the book (2:7).
Take note of the parallels between humans and trees: both are newly generated from the ground (2:7, 9), both carry seeds and produce fruit (1:11, 28; 3:15), and both are made in this manner on the third day of creation.
One thing that distinguishes people from other animals, however, is that they are created in God’s image, and that God enters into a covenant with human beings, blessing and instructing them in their behavior.
A Pattern Emerges
There are three major characteristics of the “third day” events in Genesis 1 that serve as a template for subsequent events:
- God brings new life where there was once only death (1:11-13
- God establishes his covenant with the creatures he has newly created, in this case humans (1:28-29)
- God creates new life where there was once only death (1:11-13
- 26 In Eden, which we understand to be a lofty site from which a river runs out (2:10-14), the event takes place.
It is impossible to emphasize the significance of this picture and pattern, since it serves as a precedent for future resurrections to come.
Abraham’s Test on the Third Day
Is there any other place where this pattern can be found? Abraham is put to the test by God in yet another “third day” occurrence, which is one of the most interesting events in all of Scripture (Genesis 22:1-19). When God commands Abraham to present his only son Isaac as a burned offering on a mountain, the Bible states that Abraham spotted the location from a distance on the third day and proceeded to complete the test (22:4). God wants Abraham to learn to put his confidence in him when it comes to the covenant and the blessing of offspring in this scenario.
The connection to the “third day” concept is established in this passage by a strikingly dramatic act of atonement on the part of God, in which he substitutes a ram for Isaac (22:13-14).
On the third day, we notice the same trend as we did on the first:
- God working to bring fresh life, in this case to Isaac by his life being spared and to Abraham with the return of his son (22:11-14). (Genesis 22:17-18) God confirms his bond with Abraham, using language and ideas identical with Genesis 1:28
- (22:2, 14) This event takes place on the summit of a mountain.
Israel’s Third Day at Sinai
At a critical moment in the Bible’s narrative, we discover still another occurrence taking place on the third day. With his people just delivered from decades of tyranny in Egypt, Yahweh is on the verge of entering into another covenant with Israel, this time on a mountaintop (Exodus 19:2-3). God makes it clear that he will descend to Mount Sinai in the presence of all of the people on the “third day” mentioned above. This time is a test for Israel, just as it was for Abraham. Their preparations for entering into covenant with God are to be completed by the “third day,” when they will be ready (Exodus 19:9-16).
As a result of what we’ve seen so far with “third day,” we should have come to assume a specific pattern, which we’ve now witnessed yet another time:
- It is God who brings about new life for his people — in this case, new identity for Israel — just as he did at the creation and with Abraham and Isaac (19:4-6)
- God enters into covenant with his people, specifically Israel (19:4-6)
- God accomplishes all of this on a mountain (19:2)
- And God accomplishes all of this on a mountain (19:2).
And that is exactly what we see in the tale! The rest of Israel’s experience in the Hebrew Scriptures, on the other hand, is defined by rebellion and disbelief, as well as a failure to fulfill their half of the agreement. This leads us back to the prophetic texts that refer to the third day, such as Hosea and Jonah, which we discussed before.
Hosea’s Hope, Jonah’s ‘Resurrection’
By returning to these prophets, we get a more complete picture of the “third day” and the tremendous imagery of resurrection that it evokes, as well as its relationship to God’s covenant with Abraham. A typical prophetic phrase for repentance toward covenant integrity is “return to Yahweh,” which Hosea uses to exhort Israel to do, and he also provides them hope in the form of resurrection language (Hosea 6:1-2). This restoration to the covenant will be marked by a renewal of life, as well as our resurrection as a people into the life of Yahweh, which will take place on the “third day,” in accordance with our pattern.
In many respects, the story of Jonah and his failure is a metaphor for the story of Israel. God, on the other hand, does not give up on him or his people. In the third day, he vomits Jonah out of the fish, bringing him back to life in one of the most bizarre “resurrections” recorded in the Bible.
Jesus Predicts a Third Day Resurrection
In the Gospels, we find Jesus speaking of a third-day resurrection while he is discussing his death with his followers, which leads us to believe that he would rise from the dead on the third day. In fact, he refers to “three days” a total of 21 times! By now, you’ve undoubtedly figured out that this was not a coincidental choice of words. It is on the third day that Jesus was adamant, since it signifies God’s initiative in the creation of new life and the establishment of a covenant with mankind.
- Specifically, God raises fresh life from the earth (tomb), in this case, Jesus. God acts to bring about the new covenant via Jesus’ atoning death and resurrection, which in this case is for the benefit of everyone who believe in him. The act of atonement performed by Jesus takes place on a hill.
With the imagery of new life coming up from the earth in Genesis 1-2 on the third day, combined with the connection to the divine covenant found throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, the imagery of Jesus’ resurrection paints a striking picture of the theological importance of his resurrection. The significance of Jesus’ resurrection is underscored even further on the third day. It is the culmination of God’s mission of new life and covenant, which has been brilliantly represented since the beginning of time, and which will culminate in the future resurrection of Jesus’ disciples and the restoration of the entire universe at the conclusion of time.
So what does this mean for us?
This year, as we commemorate the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday, we are not just carrying on a centuries-old tradition. We are engaged in a profoundly important theology centered on the third day, with all of the implications of God’s redeeming work that it entails, at this time. The design pattern for the third day serves as a reminder that God has begun the process of reviving individuals to new life and bringing them into his covenant partnership with them. What role are we going to play in it today?
Jesus Wasn’t Crucified on Friday or Resurrected on Sunday: How long was Jesus in the tomb?
About one billion Protestants and another billion Catholics believe that Jesus Christ was killed and entombed on a Friday afternoon—”Good Friday”—and was resurrected to life again at the crack of dawn on Easter Sunday morning, a day and a half later, according to the Christian belief system. This is in direct conflict with what Jesus Himself declared regarding how long He would be entombed, which is a major source of confusion. According to Jesus, how long He would remain in the grave was not specified.
Identifying God’s timetable for counting the days from the beginning of the year when these events took place as well as His biblical festivals during the spring season of the year when these events took place is essential to understanding when Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection took place, as well as the timing of His biblical festivals during that same spring season.
The scribes and Pharisees were pressing Him for a supernatural sign to establish that He was, in fact, the long-awaited Messiah.
Traditional timing doesn’t add up
The Gospels are unequivocal in their assertion that Jesus died and that His corpse was swiftly put in the tomb late in the afternoon, just before nightfall, when the Jewish Sabbath started (John 19:30-42). According to the conventional “Good Friday–Easter Sunday” timetable, the period from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown is one night and one day, or one night and one day. The period from Saturday night to Sunday morning is another night, giving us a total of two nights and one day. As a result, how can we obtain another night and two days to make the total of three days and three nights that Jesus promised would be spent in the tomb?
- In order to get around this, most theologians and religious experts argue that any part of a day or night qualifies as a day or night.
- The problem is that it does not function.
- Aside from that, the book of John 20:1 informs us that “on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early and saw that the stone had been lifted away from the tomb.” Did you notice something wrong here?
- Jesus had already been raised from the dead long before the sun came up.
- That leaves us with, at the most, a fraction of a day on Friday, the entirety of Friday night, the entirety of Saturday daytime, and the most of Saturday night.
- Something doesn’t seem to add up here.
- Obviously, neither of these statements can be true.
Understanding God’s time is the key
Identifying God’s timetable for counting the days from the beginning of the year when these events took place as well as His biblical festivals during the spring season of the year when these events took place is essential to understanding when Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection took place, as well as the timing of His biblical festivals during that same spring season. It is surprising to learn that the Bible mentions two types of Sabbath days: the typical weekly Sabbath day, which occurs on the seventh day of the week, and seven yearly Sabbath days, which occur on the seventh day of the week.
Genesis 1:5states unequivocally that God considers a day to begin with the evening (the night part) and terminate with the evening of the following day—”So the evening and the morningwere considered to be the first day.” This formula is repeated by God during the whole six-day period of creation.
This is why Jesus’ friends, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, swiftly laid His corpse in Joseph’s adjacent tomb shortly before dusk on the last day of the week (John 19:39-42). The Sabbath began at dusk (John 19:31), which meant that all labor was to be stopped for the day.
Two kinds of “Sabbaths” lead to confusion
Because it was the Preparation Day, and because the corpses could not be left on the cross on the Sabbath (because it was a high day on that Sabbath), the Jews petitioned Pilate to have their legs severed and their bodies removed off the cross, as John 19:31 explains. Cooking and housecleaning were done on the day before a Sabbath in order to avoid working on God’s appointed day of rest, according to Jewish tradition at the time. So the day before the Sabbath was referred to as “the preparation day” by the Jewish community.
WhichSabbath do you want to celebrate?
Because of John’s unequivocal assertion, the majority of people believe Jesus died and was buried on a Friday—hence the conventional belief that Jesus was crucified and died on “Good Friday”—and this is correct.
Because traditional Christianity long ago abandoned these biblical annual Sabbath days (as well as the weekly Sabbath), for many centuries people have failed to recognize what the Gospels plainly tell us about when Jesus Christ was crucified and resurrected—and why “Good Friday–Easter Sunday” never occurred in this manner as a result of their neglect.
- You’ll see in John 19:31that he gives an explanation as to why “that Sabbath was ahigh day”—”high day” being a phrase that is used to distinguish the seven yearly Sabbaths from the normal weekly Sabbath days.
- It is recorded in the Gospels that on the evening before Jesus was convicted and killed, He celebrated the Passover with His apostles and disciples (Matthew 26:19-20;Mark 14:16-17;Luke 22:13-15).
- According to Leviticus 23, which lists God’s feasts, the Feast of Unleavened Bread begins on the day following the Passover, which is the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:5-6).
- God’s yearly Sabbath begins on this day, which is the beginning of the year.
- There are a number of Bible commentaries, encyclopedias, and dictionaries that point out that John is referring to an annual Sabbath day rather than the ordinary weekly Sabbath day here.
- Jesus observed the Passover with His disciples before being arrested later that night.
The arrangement and time of these days are revealed in Leviticus 23, and the events of the Gospels match the sequence in which they occurred.
Jesus crucified on Wednesday, not Friday
There are a number of computer software tools available that allow us to determine when the Passover and God’s other festivals will take place in any particular year. That year, A.D. 31, the year of these occurrences, the Passover supper was eaten on Tuesday night, and Wednesday dusk marked the beginning of the “high day,” or the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which began at sundown on Thursday afternoon. As a result, Jesus was killed and buried on a Wednesday afternoon, rather than on Friday.
The habit of celebrating Good Friday and Easter Sunday is just neither accurate or scriptural.
We can, in fact, do it!
Because Jesus’ body was put in the tomb shortly before the beginning of the high-day Sabbath, the women did not have time to go out and purchase the spices before the Sabbath began.
As a result, according to Mark, they purchased the spices “after the Sabbath had passed.” But take note of another eye-opening detail in Luke 23:55-56: ” “And the ladies who had traveled with Him from Galilee trailed behind, taking note of the tomb and the manner in which His corpse was buried.
- Then, in accordance with the law, they took the Sabbath day off.” Do you think there’s an issue here?
- Consequently, they purchased the spices after the Sabbath and then prepared the spices before to the Sabbath’s resting period.
- Indeed, once we realize that two separate Sabbaths are being referenced, the dilemma is no longer an issue.
- After then, Luke informs us that the women prepared the spices, which would have taken place on Friday, and that after that, “they rested on the Sabbath according to the law,” which would have taken place on Saturday.
- As a “high day,” the first Sabbath occurred on Thursday, the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which was the first day of the week.
- The ancient Greek language in which the Gospels were written also makes it clear that two Sabbath days were engaged in the events described in these narratives.
When was Jesus resurrected?
As we have seen, Jesus Christ was executed and buried on a Wednesday, right before the yearly Sabbath started, rather than on the weekly Sabbath as previously believed. So, when did He rise from the dead? As previously stated, John 20:1 informs us that “on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.” When Mary discovered the tomb empty, the sun had not yet risen—”it was still dark,” John tells us—and the day had not yet begun.
- So, when exactly did this happen?
- In the same way that Jonah spent three days and three nights in the belly of the huge fish, so will the Son of Man spend three days and three nights in the depths of the earth, as Jesus said in Matthew 24:36.
- As we have demonstrated, Jesus was entombed — that is, he was deposited “in the heart of the ground” — right before dusk on a Wednesday, just before sunset.
- We’ll be at the end of the day on Thursday at sunset after one day and one night.
- After a third day and night, we arrive on Saturday evening at dusk.
- Does this make sense in light of the Scriptures?
The resurrection of Jesus Christ, according to His own words and the details recorded in the Gospels, had to have occurred three days and three nights after His burial, near sunset at the end of the weekly Sabbath, even though no one was present to witness it (which took place inside a sealed tomb guarded by armed guards).
The habit of celebrating Good Friday and Easter Sunday is just neither accurate or scriptural.
The words of the angel of God, who astonished the ladies when they discovered the empty tomb, have been proven correct: “Do not be frightened, for I am aware that you are seeking for Jesus, who has been crucified, and I will assist you.
Religious customs and notions that are not backed by Scripture should not be held upon.
Make certain that your personal religious ideas and practices are solidly established in the Bible before proceeding. Willing to make a commitment to worship God in accordance with biblical truth rather than human custom, are you?
How Long Was Jesus in the Tomb?
Sunday morning, according to the Gospels, was the day on which the women learned that Jesus’ tomb had been emptyed of all of his belongings. “On the first day of the week, very early in the morning” (Mark 16:2), “on the first day of the week, very early in the morning” (Luke 24:1), or “early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark” are all descriptions given by the Gospels of how the women arrived at Jesus’ tomb on Sunday morning (John 20:1). The women arrived at the tomb at the crack of dawn on the “first day of the week” (or Sunday), only to discover it was empty.
- On what day of the week was Jesus executed and buried in the tomb?
- Those who think that Jesus was killed on Wednesday use Matthew 12:40 as their source.
- Those who believe in a Wednesday crucifixion argue that because of this remark, Jesus spent exactlythree days and three nights – or 72 hours – in the tomb.
- However, if we look at the other 20 instances in the New Testament where Jesus and the apostles make references to the amount of time he would remain in the tomb, we are obliged to infer that they were referring to a literal three-day stay in the tomb.
- 16:21, 17:23, 20:19, 26:61, 27:40, and 64; Mark 9:31, 10:34, 14:58, and 15:29; Luke 9; 13:32, 18:33, 24:7, 21, and 46; John 2:19, 20; Acts 10:40; 1 Corinthians 15:4.
- Those who believe in a Wednesday crucifixion ignore the inaccuracy of the time references in these verses and read them in a literal sense, as if they were written in exactly 72 hours, according to Matthew 12:40.
- “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of mankind,” Jesus says in Matthew, who adopted the phrase “three days and three nights” to refer to the period of Jesus’ burial.
Assuming that the term “three days and three nights” in 12:40 refers to exactly 72 hours, this presents an internal conflict with Matthew 17:23, which is a separate passage.
The amount of time that transpired between being murdered and then rising “on the third day,” as reported in 17:23, is more than the amount of time that elapsed between being buried and rising, as detailed in 12:40.
Something occurring “on” the third day means that it occurs in less time than it would have taken if the event occurred at the moment at which three literal days had elapsed.
If the period between his death and resurrection was “on the third day” (or less than three literal days), how could it be possible that it was “after three days” (or 72 hours) between his burial and resurrection?
Nonetheless, proponents of a Wednesday crucifixion maintain that Matthew 12:40 should be taken literally.
But, do we have to or should we take Matthew 12:40 at its value?
Rather than forcing our current ideas of time exactness on an old figure of speech that did not include them, we could as well be imposing our modern sense of precise time-telling on an ancient Jewish figure of speech that did not have them.
Does the Bible contain any instances in which the phrase “after three days and three nights” does not always refer to exactly 72 hours?
The events described in this chapter take place in the hamlet of Ziklag, and David and the Amalekites are at the center of the story.
When David arrived at Ziklag, he came face to face with an Egyptian who happened to be the slave of an Amalekite.
According to the narrative, the Egyptian had not eaten or drunk for “three days and three nights” prior to his death (verse 12).
This is more likely to happen in less than 72 hours.
On the other hand, this period is equivalent to “three days and three nights.” It is very plausible, and perhaps even probable, that we are not dealing with a complete 72-hour period in this case.
There are several other passages in which variations of the word “three days” are used, including the following ones: “for three days” = “on the third day” in Genesis 42:17–18; “three days later” = “in the next three days” in 2 Chronicles 10:5, 12; and “for three days” = “on the third day” in Esther 4:16–5:1 (“for three days” = “on the third day”).
- However, even if the New Testament passages given above are not accurate in terms of modern time-telling standards, they still demonstrate the fact that Jesus remained in the tomb for a long enough amount of time that there could be no doubt that he had died.
- Proponents of a 72-hour burial, on the other hand, argue that the length of time Jesus spent in the tomb was an indication that he was the promised Messiah.
- While the apostles made broad statements about the amount of time Jesus had been dead and buried, they never utilized a chronological measurement to back up their claims.
- Therefore, the event of Jesus’ death and resurrection is what establishes him as our Savior, and this is a reasonable conclusion.
- Keeping in mind that the term “three days and three nights” is a cultural statement rather than a scientific expression, we should have no difficulty comprehending Matthew 12:40.
Since our salvation does not rely on knowing exactly when Jesus was laid to rest in the tomb, we have no need to be anxious about that. That Jesus died and was raised to become our Savior is what is most crucial to remember (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
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The May/June 2016 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review is available online. Biblical Perspectives is a weekly column. Staff of the Biblical Archaeology Society On November 16, 20217, there were 106626 views. What day did Jesus resurrect from the dead? Is it better to wait three days or to wait until the third day? During his Biblical Views column, “It’s About Time—Easter Time,” which appeared in the May/June 2016 edition of Biblical Archaeology Review, Ben Witherington III explores this subject in further depth.
“It’s About Time—Easter Time”
Anachronism is a hazard that arises when reading ancient books like the Bible in the twenty-first century. By this I mean that we risk introducing damaging current notions and expectations into our readings. This challenge becomes much more serious when dealing with old manuscripts, which have significant historical significance and are thus difficult to interpret. What day did Jesus resurrect from the dead? Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome visited Jesus’ tomb on Easter morning to anoint his corpse (Mark 16:1–2), as shown in Henry Osawa Tanner’s painting “The Three Marys” (1910).
- To provide an example, we are a people who are fascinated with time — and with accuracy when it comes to time — to the millisecond level.
- When it came to the passage of time, they did not stress over accuracy.
- Jesus promised that he would rise from the dead “after three days,” according to certain sources.
- In fact, the time reference should be avoided entirely.
In Mark 8:31, on the other hand, Jesus declares, “The Son of Man will rise from the dead after three days.” In John 2:19, he refers to the same event as taking place “in three days,” and the Gospel authors tell us that Jesus used the term “on the third day” on a number of occasions (see, e.g., Matthew 16:21; 17:23; 20:19; Luke 24:46).
- While it is feasible that both forecasts will be incorrect, is it really possible that both will be correct?
- Furthermore, the term “after three days” in the New Testament might simply indicate “after a time” or “after a few days” without any obvious specificity other than to hint that multiple days, in this case portions of three days, would be engaged in the event.
- “Come to me again after three days,” says the Bible’s Second Chronicles 10:5, 12.
- According to my interpretation, the term “after three days” is a more generic or imprecise way of expressing, but “on the third day” is a little more particular (albeit it still doesn’t tell us when it is on the third day).
When it comes to time, these books were not written in a way that would suit our present high expectations.
Become a Member ofBiblical Archaeology SocietyNow and Get More Than Half Off the Regular Price of the All-AccessPass!
With an All-Access pass, you may access more than 9,000 articles from the Biblical Archaeology Society’s extensive collection, as well as much more. We must recognize that most of the time references in the New Testament are not precise, and we must give the ancient author the freedom to be general when he wants to be general and more specific when he wants to be more specific. This is one of the keys to understanding how the New Testament interprets time references. When you find both types of references to the time span between Jesus’ death and resurrection in the same book by the same author, and in some cases even within close proximity to each other, it is reasonable to conclude that these texts were not written in accordance with our modern exacting expectations when it comes to time references.
- I believe it is past time for us to accord these ancient authors the respect they deserve and to read them with a knowledge of the standards they followed when writing ancient history or ancient biography, rather than imposing our later genre norms on them, as we have done in the past.
- This article has been updated.
- Ben Witherington III is the Amos Professor of New Testament for Doctoral Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky and a member of the doctoral faculty of St.
- He received his bachelor’s degree from Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky.
Read Ben Witherington III, Reading and Learning the Bible, for assistance in understanding how to read the Bible in light of its original settings (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2014).
Related reading in Bible History Daily:
When Was the First Holy Communion Celebrated? Even yet, Jesus’ Last Supper was not a Passover meal. The Herod’s Jerusalem Palace Remains are on Display During a Seder Meal Tour— The site of Jesus’ trial is a possibility. And Why It Really Does Make a Difference The “Strange” Ending of the Gospel of Mark and Why It Really Does Make a Difference What Method Was Used to Seal Jesus’ Tomb?
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Why Did Jesus Wait Three Days to Rise from the Dead?
You are here: Home/Redeeming Theology/Why Did Jesus Wait Three Days to Rise from the Dead? Why Did Jesus Wait Three Days to Rise from the Dead? This may seem like an inconsequential topic, but why did Jesus have to wait three days before rising from the dead? By this I mean that when He died, He had totally atoned for all the sins of the entire human race. He could have risen right then and then, jumped down from the cross, brushed himself off and called it a day. But why didn’t He simply do it?
Why not cover yourself in burial clothing and rise at some point during the first night?
To prove He was dead
Some would claim that He had to remain in the tomb for three days in order to demonstrate that He was no longer alive. There is, after all, the “swoon theory,” according to which Jesus did not actually die, but rather became unconscious while on the cross. I guess that if Jesus “resurrected” from the dead two minutes after he died on the cross, this explanation would be much more compelling. However, once Jesus is buried in the tomb for three days, this idea is rendered completely ineffective.
Why didn’t Jesus simply wait seven days to demonstrate that He was no longer alive?
Although these lengthier times may be ignored, I believe they should be because God did not want Jesus to see degradation (Ps 16:10; Acts 2:27).
To fulfill prophecy
It has been suggested that Jesus needed to spend three days in the grave in order to fulfill prophesy. Which prophesy are we talking about? a sign from Jonah, who spent three days in the belly of a massive fish (cf. Matt 12:39-40). However, we must proceed with caution since the narrative of Jonah is not actually a prophecy in the traditional sense. No doubt, Jesus foretold that He would be dead for three days, just as Jonah was imprisoned in the fish for three days, but if Jesus had never stated anything like this, there would have been no such thing as a prophesy about spending three days in the grave.
Why couldn’t Jesus have made a connection between His death and the creation of the world, and spoken a prophecy along the lines of “Just as the world was created in six days, and on the sixth day, Adam was raised from the dust of the earth, so also, after six days, the Son of Man will rise from the dust” (Genesis 1:26-27)?
In the Bible, Jesus could have picked any number of events and accounts and transformed them into a prophesy about how long He would stay in the tomb. What was it about the narrative of Jonah that drew His attention? What is it about three days that is so special?
To increase faith
Another probable explanation is that Jesus wished to boost the trust of His disciples by this event. They were forced to examine why they had followed Him and if He was indeed the Messiah as a result of His failure to revive immediately. Their sadness at having lost Him, as well as the issues of what would have occurred if they had not followed Him, or if they had defended Him more vigorously, or whether they had just been tricked, were all difficult to deal with. Through his decision to wait three days, Jesus gave them the opportunity to work through some of their difficulties and questions.
It is reasonable to assume that three days will accomplish this; yet, why not seven, twelve, or forty days, all of which are major biblical numbers?
Could not rise during the Sabbath
As resurrection is seen to constitute labour, it may be claimed that Jesus could not rise on the Sabbath, but instead had to wait until the Sabbath was finished. This is an argument that does have some validity. However, Jesus was constantly engaging in activities on the Sabbath that were frowned upon by other Jewish people, like healing on the Sabbath. As a result, it appears He may have been reared on the Sabbath as well.
Acting as our High Priest
Perhaps Jesus was occupied with “doing something” in paradise, hell, and heaven at the same time. Typical High Priestly duties include things such as sprinkling blood on the altar in heaven, victorious victories over sin, death, and the devil, and preaching to spirits in prison, among other things (Hebrews 9; 1 Pet 3:19). This is something that I believe is possible. It just does not explain why these tasks took three days to do.
It doesn’t matter
Maybe it doesn’t make a difference. Perhaps everything happened at random. Perhaps Jesus chose a number out of thin air and chose Jonah as a method of making a prophesy about it in order to demonstrate that He could anticipate the future, which would then demonstrate that He was a prophet of God when the prophecy came true. The number of days spent in the grave, on the other hand, is meaningless. It just so happens to be the one that Jesus choose. All I can say is that I’m having trouble with this since the biblical authors seem to lay so much emphasis on Jesus’ three days in the grave.
But that’s all right since.
The important thing is that Jesus rose
We can all agree on this point. Perhaps the topic of why Jesus remained in the tomb for three days is a useless one that only theologians should consider. The key thing to remember is that Jesus resurrected from the grave, and for this we may give God praise and thanks for all of eternity. It is difficult to comprehend why Jesus remained in the tomb for three days. But the most crucial thing to remember is that He rose from the dead!
Theologians like asking these kinds of questions about Scripture, theology, and Jesus, but at the end of the day, what it all boils down to is trusting God for what He has done for us in Jesus Christ, even if we do not grasp all of the specifics of what God has done.
The cross of Jesus is CENTRAL to everything!
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Why Did Jesus Return to Earth After Resurrecting?
One of the reasons Jesus remained on earth for 40 days after His resurrection rather than immediately going into heaven was to show to His disciples that He was, in fact, still alive. After all, they were well aware that Jesus had been executed by the Roman authorities and that His body had been removed from the cross and placed in a burial tomb. And when that happened, they were overwhelmed with sorrow and anxiety, and many of them even went into hiding to avoid being discovered. They had been under the impression that Jesus was the anticipated Messiah—and now their expectations had been dashed.
However, when Jesus came among them following the resurrection, their lives were forever altered.
The Lord appeared to several groups of disciples over those 40 days, demonstrating to them beyond any reasonable question that he had been risen from the grave by the power of God.
Another reason, however, for Jesus’s continued presence on earth was to instruct and equip His followers for the mission of teaching the rest of the world about Him and His message.