How many days was Jesus actually in the tomb prior to Easter Sunday?
According to New Testament tradition, Jesus of Nazareth — the proclaimed Messiah of the Christian religion — was said to have been crucified and then buried for three days, resurrecting in a glorious display on the third day, Easter Sunday. Christians worldwide celebrate Jesus’ resurrection on the holiday of Easter.
However, if you consider the timeline from Good Friday (the supposed date of Jesus’ crucifixion) to Easter Sunday, the three-day chronology doesn’t seem to add up. Wouldn’t Friday evening to Sunday morning represent a span of only one and a half days, at best? So, how many days was Jesus actually entombed?
In order to best understand the most likely answers to this age-old Easter Sunday question, a deep inspection of both religious and secular scholarship will help to give a broad overview of the apparent amount of time that Jesus of Nazareth was purportedly in the legendary tomb prior to Easter Sunday.
The Huffington Post dove into the supernatural story of Jesus’ Easter Sunday resurrection to try and identify the clearest solution to the Good Shepherd’s ostensible three-day Easter Sunday timetable, noting that even Pope Benedict XVI struggled with the resurrection query in the pontiff’s book, Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week.
“As Christians worldwide prepare to celebrate Easter, they will follow a familiar chronology: Jesus was crucified on Good Friday and rose from the dead on ‘the third day,’ in the words of the ancient Nicene Creed.”
Reportedly, the former Pope concluded that “there is no direct scriptural testimony pointing to the ‘third day.'” However, HuffPo asserts the notion that people in Jesus’ ephoch of first-century Judea counted time quite differently from the contemporary methods of Western society, including on Easter Sunday.
Crediting progressive biblical scholar Marcus Borg, it is said that “for the Jews of Jesus’ time, days began at sunset, a schedule that still guides Jewish holy days such as Shabba.” Furthermore, the report states the authors of the four Synoptic Gospels were “likely not counting time literally.” Regardless, the idea that ancient Jews used what scholars call “inclusive reckoning” means that any part of a day was counted as a whole day. Therefore, Friday night, Saturday, and Easter Sunday morning would indeed be three days.
“Using these counting methods, a backward calculation from Sunday morning to Friday afternoon makes three days.”
Some Evangelical scholars would tackle the Easter Sunday conundrum a different manner. In fact, many Biblical authorities claim that Jesus was crucified on a Wednesday, seemingly confirming the theory that Jesus was in the tomb for a full three-day interval. But isn’t Wednesday through Sunday four days?
Not according to the United Church of God’s Beyond Today publication, which states that Mary Magdalene found Jesus’ tomb empty early on Easter morning, before the sun had risen. Therefore, UCG contends, Sunday does not count as one of the “three days” of Jesus’ entombment. Their math is that the length from Wednesday night to Saturday night constitutes Jesus’ three-day burial period prior to Easter Sunday.
“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.” — John 20:1, NIV
Below, watch Beyond Today‘s interpretation of Jesus’ Easter Sunday resurrection timeline.
How many days do you think Jesus was entombed by the time of the biblically recorded resurrection on Easter Sunday? Do you agree that Jesus was crucified on a Good Friday evening and raised on the following Sunday morning of Easter? Or do you feel that Jesus could have possibly been crucified on a Wednesday night? Either way, let us know your Easter Sunday timeline take in the comments section below.
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