How Long was Jesus in the Grave ? Three Days and Three Nights?


Three Days and Three Nights

**Matthew 12:40
**“For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”

Of course the prophecy in Mat 12:40 is true prophecy and Christ spent “three days and three nights” in the grave. However, the problem is when we assume the writers of the Bible expressed themselves with the same phraseology as we do today.
We need to understand their language and the idioms they used. Remember, this was two thousand years ago in a very different culture. This was long before the discovery of electricity and the invention of Timex watches. Both Concepts as well as Language develop with time and experience.

Things are described in cycles.

**Genesis 8:22
“As long as the earth lasts, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, Summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” **

Time was usually measured by one of three units. The Jews measured by

  1. Days, or Day - Night cycles, or by
  2. Months or Moon cycles, or
  3. Yearly, or seasonal cycles.

The phrase “three days and three nights” is another way of saying three days.
When days were counted even a portion of a day was counted as one. So a reference to three days for example does not necessarily mean 72 hours. Jesus does refer to there being twelve hours of daylight in a full day in Jn. 11:9, but this only reveals that they knew how long a full day was. It does not reveal the common way of counting days. Even a partial day is counted as one day when adding them together. This type of counting is preserved in the following Scriptural passages.

Example 3

**Esther 4:16
 “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, **

Esther 5:1-6
“On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king’s palace, opposite the king’s hall. The king was sitting on his royal throne inside the palace opposite the entrance to the palace; 2 and when the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, … Then Esther approached and touched the top of the scepter. 3 And the king said to her, … And Esther said, “If it please the king, let the king and Haman come this day to a dinner that I have prepared for the king.” 5 Then said the king, “Bring Haman quickly, that we may do as Esther desires.” So the king and Haman came to the dinner that Esther had prepared. 6 And as they were drinking wine, the king said …”

Esther prepared for “three days, night and day,” by fasting BEFORE going to the king. Yet, on the third day, not the fourth, she goes to him. And she even has a banquet with him on that day.

Therefore, when Jesus died on Friday and was buried just before Saturday, which began at the sunset on Friday, and when He rested in the grave on Saturday, and then He rose on Sunday, He is said to have rose on the third day, counting each of those days as one of the three. Luke 24 tells us that Sunday is the third day, the day of His Resurrection.

**Luke 24: 1, 7, 13, 21
“But at daybreak on the first day of the week … **
**the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners and be crucified, and rise on the third day … Now that very day two of them were going … it is now the third day since this took place …” **NAB

Therefore, the first day of the week is the third day which is the day that He rose.



Right on! :thumbsup:

Incidentally, inclusive counting of part-days was also the way ancient people counted part-years. If anyone really wants to drive themselves crazy, they should try counting the reigns of the Hebrew kings. They don’t fit until it is realised that a kings reign includes the portion of his first year and last year.

For example one king (Joash I think) was killed about one week after New Years Day. He had only reigned 39 years but the few days into the next year was deemed to be his 40th year. The Bible says he reigned 40 years. We would say 39.


Correct what you say. But there is more. The ancient Jews
had no zero place value when counting. So when Jesus
spoke literally Friday is day 1,day2 Saturday and day 3 Sunday.

More importantly numbers are a big deal in the OT.
Anything that has three as a number denotes divine
perfection for 3 is 1 of the 4 numbers for perfection.
So Genesis has 3 repeatedly, Hosea has after three
and on the the third day, Corinthians, Matthew.
Jonah was in the whale three days, Mary visited Elizabeth
for three months, Abraham was to sacrifice his son
after a three day journey, three men announced to Abraham
his wife’s future pregnancy, Jesus ministry was three
years etc etc.
Three represents the completeness in divine perfection
as in Trinity.

However we need to see the literal and symbolic of
3 in the Resurrection. Jesus was in the tomb three days
but NOT three nights.


I thought it was “in the grave” *on *three consecutive days, but not *for *three consecutive days.

So, it’s part of Friday, all day Saturday, and part of Sunday. It’s probably two full days, even though it touches on three separate days.

Time enough to be stone dead, anyway.


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