3 days and 3 nights


Matt 12:40: “Just as Johna was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.” (NAB)

A friend of mine pointed this verse out to me and reasoned that this would have to put the crucifixion back to Wednesday with the Resurrection actually taking place at sunset on Holy Saturday. This would have Him in the tomb Wed. Night (1 night), Thursday(1 day), Thur. Night(2 nights), Friday(2 days), Fri. Night (3 nights), and Saturday(3 days). Based on the Jewish calendar, a new day starts at sunset, so if He rose at sunset on Saturday, according the the Jewish Calendar this would be Sunday.

The problem is that they had to get Him down from the cross before sunset because the Sabbath was approaching. When I mentioned this, he said that certain festivals like Passover have Sabbath’s that may not conicide with Saturday. I am not versed enough in Jewish tradition to say one way or the other on this.

Not that this will affect my observance of the Easter Triduum any more than doubts as to the actual date of the Nativity. I just was wondering if anyone could help me nail down Friday as the day of the crucifixion.


You have a valid question that I cannot answer, but that was perhaps an unintentionally punny sentence.



No, I did not intend the pun. I would not intentionally make light of our Lord’s suffering. And now I feel guilty about laughing at the pun since it was pointed out to me.


The phrase “three days and three nights” is just a Jewish idiom, not meant to be taken literally. Here’s a post that goes into more detail and gives an example of another place where this idiom is used.

Remember, though, that there are numerous places in Scripture that state Christ would rise “on the third day”. And how does Scripture use the phrase the third day?

Take Luke 13:32 as an example to see what the phrase “on the third day” means… It states in that verse:

"He replied, “Go and tell that fox, 'Behold, I cast out demons and I perform healings today and tomorrow, and on the third day I accomplish my purpuse.”

If the third day in that verse would be Sunday (just to give an example), then the first day (today) would be Friday, and the second day would be Saturday, (tomorrow).

That gives an example of how the phrase “the third day” would be taken in other contexts, such as in the examples of Christ being raised “on the third day”.

There are other examples in the Old Testament where “today” would be the first day, “tomorrow” the second day, and the “third day” the day after tomorrow (meaning if the first day was Friday, then the third day would be Sunday). Unfortunately I don’t have my concordance with me, but look in a good concordance and you can find the examples from the Old Testament I’m talking about.

That’s how Scripture uses the term “third day” (with multiple examples) compared to the solitary reference to Jesus resurrection taking place after “three days and three nights”, which, as shown in the post above, was just a Jewish idiom.

I hope that helps clear that up (and that I didn’t confuse you even more. lol).



Thank You Athanasius, that was very helpful. This is what I love about CAF, the wonderful input from other Catholics who in many cases know much more than I do.:slight_smile:


John speaks of a high sabbath, which seems to have corresponded with the same day as the weekly sabbath.I actually have always thought that “high sabbath” designated this specific property; that is, the yearly sabbath falling on the same day as the weekly sabbath.Anyways, taking the Gospel of Luke, on the road to Emmaus, the disciples, while walking with Jesus during the Sunday afternoon after the resurrection, mentioned that "the chief priests handed Jesus over to be crucified…and that they were still within the “third day”.Sunday afternoon, going back no more than three days,testifies to a time “after” thursday afternoon, which is the time that Jesus was handed over to the Romans to be delivered after the last supper.
So why did Jesus mentioned “three days and three nights”? My opinion is this; the four gospels centers on the “passion of Christ” which includes not only the crucifixion, but the last supper as well.Jesus did not say that he would be in the “tomb” for three days and three nights, but in the belly of the earth, which means Hadies, that is, a spiritual state of being separation from God due to sin. Since, as a Catholic, I do not separate the sacrifice of the Holy Mass from the sacrifice of the cross, it would seem that Jesus took the sins of the world upon Himself at the last supper, giving Him a state where he also was separated from the Father, since death is the fruit of sin. The scriptures mentioned that “His soul was distressed to the point of death”.The whole Passion lasted three days and three nights.




I…I sincerely apologize to you and all CAF posters. You are absolutely right. I meant to point out that it was an apt Freudian slip, perhaps – but not making light of Our Lord’s Passion. I did not mean to lead you into my (possible) venial sin. Please forgive me.

  • Mis


Miserissima, I thought it was quite funny myself…we ought to lighten up a bit:rolleyes:



John 2: 19Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” 20The Jews replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” 21But the temple he had spoken of was his body. 22After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.
The “day” for the Jews STARTED at nightfall (dusk), thus Jesus died on Friday before dusk (day 1), was in the tomb Saturday until dusk (day 2), and sometime after dusk on Saturday it became Sunday and Jesus arose during dusk Saturday afternoon and dawn Sunday morning.

These days were not measured from midnight to midnight (as we measure days) nor were they required to be full 24 hour periods, only fractions of a day would count.


I know if I say I’m going on a short 3 day vacation, I often mean Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. But I leave on Saturday morning and get home Monday Afternoon.

Never a full 72 hours, but parts of 3 days.


Actually Jesus died in 31 A.D. and that year the 1st Day of Unleavened Bread was on Thursday. Therefore, he actually died on Wednesday afternnon about 3 PM and then he was placed in the grave just before sunset because the High Sabbath was coming, the Holy Day. So Thursday was a special Sabbath. Then Friday was the preparation day for the weekly Sabbath. That was the day Mary and the others prepared the spices for Jesus’ body. Then after the weekly Sabbath they went to the tomb on the first day of the week, which started at sunset. Scripture says it was still dark.

So here is how I believe you get 3 days and 3 nights:

Wednesday Night 1st night
Thursday Day 1st day
Thursday Night 2nd night
Friday Day 2nd day
Friday Night 3rd night
Saturday Day 3rd day

Jesus actually rose on Saturday at sunset, which was the beginning of the first day of the week.

The days did not start at midnight but at sundown. Jesus said he would be in the grave 3 days and 3 nights. When we look into history and see when he actually died, we see he was actually in the tomb 3 days and 3 nights. It is the sign that he is the Messiah.

Thank you Jesus!


A Wednesday date of crucifixion is untenable, for at least three reasons. First, if Jesus died on Wednesday, then the women would not have gone to the tomb Wednesday. There would have been the time on Friday to do that, and they certainly would not have waited. In fact, when Lazarus died, one of the women actually told Jesus He couldn’t go to the tomb because by this time - four days after his death - Lazarus would have a terrible stench. It would have been four days since his death on Sunday morning, and so even if they had for some inexplicable reason not gone on Friday, the women would not have gone on Sunday.

Second, the timing would be all off for a Wednesday crucifixion, in terms of the calendar. You’ve suggested Jesus died in 31, but in the year 31, Nisan 14 - the day you’re suggesting He died - was not on a Wednesday. Now let me note that it is possible it was on a Wednesday, if the Jews had added a thirteenth month that year. Wednesday crucifixions would have been possible in 28 and 35, both dates on the extreme ends of the window we have to work with, and in 34.

Third, the Roman guards were posted to prevent Jesus from rising
"on the third day," according to Matthew’s Gospel, because up until that time His followers could steal His body and claim He had risen. If Jesus rose “on Saturday at sunset, which was the beginning of the first day of the week,” He would be rising on the fourth day, not the third. The guards may not have been there any longer. Most importantly, we know that the women approached on Sunday morning. The Wednesday theory holds that they didn’t know He had risen Saturday night, but this isn’t the problem. The problem is that by this time, it was the fourth day.

Those women could cry until the cows came home that Jesus had risen, and the Jewish establishment wouldn’t listen. He said He’d rise on the third day, or after three days and three nights. At this time, it was past the third day, and so by that prophecy of Jesus they could say He had failed to fulfill His words. Even if they took the prophecy that He would rise after three days and three nights, they could easily claim that the body had been stolen. After three days and three nights is, taken literally, is so general a time frame that the body could have been stolen at any time after the third day passed. The establishment would not have accepted this.

Jesus offered His prophecy as a sign - He would rise on the third day, when it was predicted. He gave a very specific prediction so that the fulfillment would be unmistakable.

Consequently, for anyone interested I’m actually working on an analysis of the timing of Jesus crucifixion right now, and I’ll post the link here when I am done.

Peace and God bless


That prophecy should be interpreted according to the facts or events.
One fact is that Jesus was crucified on the day before the Sabbath or Friday. And another fact is that Jesus resurrected on the first day of the week, or Sunday. Therefore, the prophecy was fulfilled that way.


I am not sure if that was a 13th month year but I know they have 12, 12 and 7 13 month years in a 19 year time cycle. In 31 AD Passover was on Wednesday evening, however Jesus kept the Passover with the disciples the evening before because he was going to be the literal Passover Lamb on the next day for mankind.

As for the body of Jesus being prepared for burial. The initial anointment was quite heavy, it would take about 100 pounds to anoint Jesus’ body. That is why Nicodemus helps Joseph of Airmathaea wrap the body in linen and Aromatics. The ointment was put on first then the linen. The wrapping was about 3 or 4-inch strips that were used to wrap the body. The ladies were coming with spices on Saturday evening, the indication was not that they were going to unwrap the body but that there was some other procedure to apply the spices.

The fact that Thursday was a High Holy Sabbath meant that the only time they had to prepare the spices was on Friday. This was also the preparation day for the weekly Sabbath. The fact that they came on the first day of the week indicates that they did not have time on Friday to go to the tomb.

From what I have studied the spices were primarily used to prevent the oder of decaying bodies. The process was such that the bodies would be in a tomb for a few months and the spices prevented odors. After the bodies had decayed the bones were place in a ossuary, which was were the bones were “buried” or stored. There is something significant that seems to begin happening after the 3rd day of a burial, that is why Jesus raised at the end of the 3rd day and possibly why Jesus had waited purposely four days before he came to see Lazarus. There was no doubt at that time that he was beginning to decay.

As for the guards, they only were to guard it for 3 days. Jesus rose at sunset on Saturday at sunset and didn’t bother then. It was the angel that rolled the stone away when Mary came to the tomb so she could see Jesus had risen. They arrived in the morning on Sunday while it was still dark.

Here are some Web sites that give the support and scriptures to prove this:


tgm.org/3DaysN3Nites.html - (This site gives all the scripture references)

May God Bless


St. Jerome,St. Augustine, Theophylact give their explanations. I like how simple Theophylact puts it!

Theophylact The three days and three nights you must understand as spoken of in part and not in their entirety. For He died on Friday, which is one day. He was dead on Saturday — behold, the second day. And the night of Sunday held Him still dead. The three days and nights, then, are counted by parts, in just the same way as we often count them ourselves.

JEROME; Not that He remained three whole days and three nights in hell, but that this be understood to imply a part of the preparation day, and of the Lord’s day, and the whole sabbath day.

AUG. For that the three days were not three full and entire days, Scripture witnesses; the first day is reckoned because the latter end of it comes in; and the third day is likewise reckoned, because the first part of it is included; while the day between, that is the second day, appears in all its twenty-four hours, twelve of the night and twelve of the day. For the succeeding night up to the dawn when the Lord’s resurrection was made known, belongs to the third day. For as the first days of creation were, because of man’s coming fall, computed from morning to night; so these days are because of man’s restoration computed from night to morning.


So you were not even sure if that was a 13th month year! And Jesus kept the Passover with the disciples the evening before? Where is that in the bible?

That is not what the bible says. It is written, “But on the first day of the week at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared….”

There is no biblical proof that that Thursday was a High Holy Sabbath.

It is true that they came on the first day of the week. But what you say it indicates is purely a conjecture. On the contrary it highly indicates that Jesus was not buried on Wednesday sunset or evening.


If you would like to study this issue, I would recommend you go to this page: doig.net/NTCIV.htm. Read all the way to chapter 24; each page is a chapter, and you may advance by clicking “next” at the top of the page. This will provide more information than you could possibly want in regards to this issue. It makes the page you linked look like something put together by a child. I don’t say that to *at all *demean either the page’s author or yourself, but simply to point out the vast difference between the two works. :thumbsup:

Chapter 24 is a brief summary, if you want to just get the general idea, but I highly recommend reading the whole thing.

Peace and God bless!


From my reading this explanation is a modern day attempt to reconcile the “three days” issue but it fails because it must come up with a special Sabbath and fails to take into account the Traditional understanding that the days need not be a full 24 hours.

This is very good, so in other words those forcing a full 24 hour day interpretation actually end up getting more than 72 hours.


The link I provided in my other post shows that this is the case in an even more powerful way, IIRC.


How would you reconcile your theory with Luke?

**On the Road to Emmaus
13Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles[a] from Jerusalem. 14They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16but they were kept from recognizing him.
17He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

They stood still, their faces downcast. 18One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

19"What things?" he asked.

“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. "He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.

And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place**

Three days from the time the chief priests handed Jesus over to be sentenced to death brings us to Thursday, not Tuesday.


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