Day or Night?


Jesus said He would be in the tomb for three days and three nights. I have always though he was referring to the darkness that fell over the earth at His death as the first Night, the light that came back from the sun as He was carried to the tomb as the First Day, then we have two more nights, a day, and the Last Day after the very beginning of which was the Resurrection. However, I realized today that Jesus said “three days and three nights” instead of “three nights and three days”. Is this of any importance to the argument? Was it simply customary to say “day” first and “night” after?


What “argument”?

Full Question
If Christ died on a Friday and was raised on a Sunday, how come the Bible speaks of his being in the tomb for three days and three nights before his Resurrection (Mt 12:40; Mk 8:31)?


Christ died around three in the afternoon on Friday and was entombed shortly thereafter. The Resurrection occurred by dawn on Sunday. Thus he was in the tomb less than nine hours Friday (by the modern reckoning), twenty-four hours Saturday, and less than six hours Sunday–at any rate, far less than the seventy-two hours that comprise three full days and nights.

Is there a contradiction here? No, because the ancient Jews counted as a whole day any part of a day, so “three days and three nights” (which means the same as “three days” in modern usage) could be as little as twenty-four hours plus a few seconds on either side–if there had been, back then, clocks that could register seconds.

In our way of reckoning things, from lunch time today to lunch time tomorrow is one day. Ancient Jews would have counted it as two days because it includes parts of two distinct days.


But we have to account for the differences in day and night with regard to light. My explanation in the first post of this thread accounts for that. However, Jesus said “three days and three nights” instead of “three nights and three days” so there seems to be something off here. I was wondering it had to do with a custom of putting the day before the night even if the night come first


At that time, the day was said to begin the preceding sundown, and not at midnight, as now.

The Catholic Church has kept that usage in part, with the custom of the Vigil Mass.



Then there is only two nights and two days. I think my take in post 1 is the only way


As SMOM pointed out, “three days and three nights” was the same back then as saying “three days” now. It isn’t an exact term. If someone said “three days and three nights” today, it would be very specific. Three days, as in three sunrises, and three nights, as in three sunsets. But that isn’t relevant. The term was not specific back then. It just meant three days as we say it today. You’re trying to take the wording given and apply it a meaning that exists in today’s context, which is inaccurate.


“Three days and three nights” is a phrase we find a few times in the OT, and I would suggest that the usage here is more symbolic than literal.

We first see it used in 1 Kings 30:12. A member of an Egyptian raiding party was found in a field. He had been left by the raiding party for dead because he’d gotten sick. He had been without food or water for “three days and three nights.” After King David’s men revived him, the man led them to the raiding party where King David slew them all (except for 400 who escaped), and recovered all they had taken, including two of his wives.

There are a couple of themes here that jump out at me. The first is that he was virtually a dead man for three days and three nights, and that upon his revivification, he led Israel to victory over its enemy. The second is that of “fasting” for three days and three nights, in connection with sickness and death.

The next time we see this phrase is in Tobias 3:10. Tobias and Sara, separately, are under afflictions. Sara goes into an upper room and fasts for “three days and three nights” in sorrow. And on the third day, praying at the same time (though separately), Tobias and Sara pray to God in their sorrow and affliction for help. And after the prayer is said, the angel, Raphael, is sent to them to heal them.

The third time we see this phrase is in Esther 4:16. It has come to the attention of Mordochai that Aman has set plans to pay into the king’s coffers to destroy the Jews. So he sends word to Esther, the queen, to seek the king’s aid in protecting them. Esther replies that it is a well known rule that whoever goes in to the king’s inner court who is not called for will be put to death immediately, unless the king holds out a golden rod to show mercy, and that Esther has not been called. Mordecai begs her to risk her life for his whole people.

So Esther asks him, and all the Jews he can find, to fast for “three days and three nights” and then she will go in to the king’s inner court to speak to him. And after they did this, and she went in, the king held out the golden scepter to her and showed her mercy, saving her life.

And after some events, Esther makes her intercession on the part of the Jews clear, and the king has Aman put to death by hanging him on a gibbet.

Again, we have fasting for three days and three nights under the shadow of death, after which life is “restored” (by the mercy of the king), and then the Jews are saved from their enemy by the king.

And finally we have the story of Jonas, in Jonas 2:1. Jonas is disobeys the Lord’s command to go into Nineve to preach against their wickedness, and tries to flee across the sea. While on the ship, he falls asleep and a great storm rises on the sea, and the crew come to him to seek his help (another Jesus image). He tells them that the storm is from God’s wrath, and if they desire to save themselves, they should cast him into the sea as a sin offering.

They do this, and the storm immediately calms. Then Jonas is swallowed by a whale, and is in its belly for “three days and three nights.” Note here that submersion into water, or the sea, is a death symbol and a presage to baptism. During his time in the belly of the whale, Jonas repents and begs God to restore him. After this, the whale spews him onto dry ground (symbolizing resurrection).

Jonas then goes forth into Nineve to preach, where he brings salvation to the city by their conversion from sin.

Jesus reference of the Jonas story, and the use of the phrase “three days and three nights” may, then, be understood as a typology referring to death, new life, and salvation. He doesn’t need to literally be dead for three full days.


Unless you count SMOM’s, which is historically accurate. Ancient cultures did not count time the same way we do, and did not have exact measurements to define a given period. For Jews of that time period, a day was “any part of this period of time, from sunup till the next sunup.” (It might have been sundown to sundown, I can’t remember offhand) As such, the small portion of Friday counted as Day 1, Saturday was Day 2, and the small portoin of Sunday was Day 3.

Three Days and Three Nights was a way of saying ‘three days’ and did not necessarily refer to three literal day-night cycles. It could be likened to how, in English, we say “a while,” which has a generally understood meaning, but does not indicate a specific period of time.


No, actually, we don’t have to.


I find it those who pursue the 3 days and 3 nights argument to specifically cover 72 hours exactly will fail. By the same argument if we go exactly by the 72 hours , any second past that time is the 4th day which will render the argument ridiculous. That is to time Jesus resurrection with a stop watch and catching him to the second to document that he rose exactly in 72 hours which is exactly 259,200 seconds. Any second earlier or later will render the 3 days/nights statement in error.

Yeah, there are those who enjoy catching silly things like this, just to squeeze a chance to prove the Bible wrong.


What is there in scripture that makes it absolutely, positively, no question about it necessary to reject the idea of at least a portion of three daytimes and at least a portion of three night times?


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