36 hours does not equal 3 days


John Shelby Spong receives a question about the idea that Jesus was resuscitated from the dead in three days. Here is the gist of his answer, which illustrates at least in part why the resurrection stories cannot be taken literally:

The three day designation comes, as you suggest, from the gospels themselves even though if one counts the time in the gospel narratives there is actually only a period of thirty-six hours that elapses between Friday at sundown to Sunday at sunrise. In my way of counting that gives us not three days, but a day and a half.

I think the three-day symbol is just that, a symbol. On three occasions, Mark has Jesus predict his resurrection "after three days." Matthew and Luke, both of whom have Mark in front of them as they write, change Mark's word "after" to "on." "After three days" and "on the third day" do not give us the same day. So there is a dancing, not firm, quality to the use of the phrase "three days" even in the gospels themselves.

Mark tells us no story of the raised Christ appearing to anyone, but he does suggest that they will see him in some manner in Galilee. Galilee is, however, a 7-to-10-day journey from Jerusalem, so that projected appearance in Galilee could not have occurred within the three-day boundary.

Luke stretches out the appearances of the raised Christ for forty days and John, if one treats Chapter 21 as an authentic part of John's gospel, hints that appearances continued for perhaps months.


Chris said...

wow. I never even realized that about the thirty-six hours.

ken said...

Furthermore, Matthew 12:40 says: "so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" which is clearly not accurate.

I've heard an argument that, for the Jews, a day began at sunset so if Jesus was buried before sunset on Friday then from when he was buried to sunset would count as a day. Then sunset Friday to sunset Saturday is another day. Then from sunset Saturday until his resurrection is the third day.

However, even that argument is not the same as 3 days and 3 nights.

JP said...

...Yes, if it comes out of Spong's mouth, it must be true! Even in our own language, when we say 3 days, it does not necessarily add up to 72 hours. I do not see a contradiction when you look at it as "Friday-Saturday-Sunday", 3 days.

Mystical Seeker said...

I do not see a contradiction when you look at it as "Friday-Saturday-Sunday", 3 days.

Nice try, but "three days and three nights" doesn't jibe with 36 hours no matter you you slice it. Nor does "after three days" jibe with 36 hours.

Anonymous said...

We are forgetting that only Mark-Matthew-Luke claim that Jesus was crucified on a Friday. In John's Gospel you can argue that he was crucified on the day of preparation, a Thursday, which would make Thursday Night-Friday-Friday Night-Saturday-Saturday Night-Sunday.

You might feel compelled to give or take an hour, but personally I am feeling generous today.

SocietyVs said...

I have also heard this debated thusly:

Evening of Nisan 14 (Tuesday evening): Tuesday night, after their meal, Jesus was betrayed by Judas, and arrested in the Garden of Gethsamane. During the night, Jesus was brought before the high priest

Early Morning of Nisan 15 to evening of Nisan 16 (Wednesday morning to Thursday evening): Jesus was crucified and died around 3 p.m

Evening of Nisan 16 to evening of Nisan 17 (Thursday evening to Friday evening): It is described as the day after the “Day of Preparation”

Evening of Nisan 17 to evening of Nisan 18 (Friday evening to Saturday evening): Friday night was the third night and Saturday was the third day that Jesus slept in the tomb. He arose at the end of the Sabbath, on Saturday, at sunset.

Evening of Nisan 18 (Saturday evening): Jesus rose at the end of the Sabbath,
exactly three days and three nights after His burial..

This is according to Timothy from Gracehead concerning the Jewish calendar and the use of that as the guide. Now I have not researched the credence of his claims on this…but it would be a good explanation.

This is the document: http://trumpetcallofgod.com/pdfs/letter_study1.pdf

This is also an explanation for the 3 day and 3 night discrepencies.

John Shuck said...

I think the point is that the Gospel writers are more interested in the symbol of the third day than in the chronology.

It is kind of like using the phrase "a month of Sundays" then having someone calculate how much time elapses after a month of Sundays. To do that misses the point.

The third day had meaning. Over time the meaning gets lost and literalism sets in.

Steve Conger said...

If anything John is trying to get the story right since his Gospel is written well after the other three. Does that mean John knows something the others don't or is he just trying to "fix" the story with the scriptures?