I have come across this statement many times, recently, for example, Discovery World gave a program about the Shroud of Turin, where it was again said that Jesus was among the dead for three days, that is he was dead and was in the rock tomb for three days.
This is simply not true, which is why I would like to clear up this misunderstanding, which is based on the unfortunate confusion of “three days” and “third day”.
Let’s look at the facts: Jesus was crucified on a Friday and taken down at the end of the day on Friday and taken to the rock tomb. It is very important to know that this happened before the evening had set in, because the Jews considered the evening to be the beginning of the next day, and since the next day was Saturday, then they could not do any work, including burials, or any activity related to the dead. Jesus Christ therefore went to the rock tomb at the end of Friday, according to our convention, in the hours before the evening of Friday. The Sabbath day passed, which according to our calculation lasted until Saturday evening, when Sunday began. But since it was already dark at that time, the faithful could not visit the grave, only at dawn, which for us is still the beginning of Sunday, but for the Jews, this was already well within Sunday.
Let’s calculate the time in the way we are used to: Jesus could therefore have been in the tomb from Friday evening to Sunday morning, but this was not three whole days, but only one whole day, a period from evening to midnight, and a period from midnight to dawn, which in total does not reach even two days.
So Jesus was not in the tomb for three days.
Where does the misunderstanding come from? From the fact that Jesus repeatedly told his followers that he would die but rise again on the third day. However, he never mentioned a three-day period, he always speaks of the third day.
What is this third day exactly?
In everyday language, this means the third day, the day after tomorrow. And then why is Sunday the third day? Because the first day is that day, Friday, the second day is Saturday, and the third day, that is Sunday.
It is quite clear that Sunday dawn is therefore not three days from the death on the cross, but a third day, that is a little more than one day.
The definition “third day” occurs very often in the Bible, if you have a Bible in txt or html or even pdf format, you can easily find the word, it can be found in many verses of the Old Testament, but it is just as common in the New Testament. An interesting occurrence can be found in the only report about Jesus’ childhood, when his parents take the 12-year-old Jesus to Jerusalem, only to realize that he is not with them on the way home. They go back to Jerusalem, where they find Jesus among the scribes whom he teaches, even though he is still a child. And he answers his parents when they question him, that he is acting in the Father’s affairs and that his parents need not fear him. The child Jesus was found by his parents on the third day.
A shockingly interesting parallel that I just noticed. The Father loses his son on Friday, who dies, perhaps we can say that with his death he acts in the affairs of the people, since he dies for the people. On the third day he rises, using the analogy, the Father finds him again.
Thus, the “third day” connects the 12-year-old Jesus with the 33-year-old Jesus, moreover, both stories take place in Jerusalem, so the location and duration are the same, in both cases loss and finding, death and resurrection, parent and child. It is surprising how interesting parallels and connections can be found even among distant parts of the Bible, if one reads carefully.
But I would like to touch on one more thing about the resurrection of Jesus, because no one has ever dealt with it in any meaningful way, and I would like to draw attention to this fact as well, because that is the only way we can see it really clearly. In the prophecies of Jesus about his own death and resurrection, the time designation “third day” is included, but this must be understood from our point of view, and this does not necessarily mean that Jesus was in the tomb from Friday night to Sunday morning, more precisely, it does not mean that Jesus rose at dawn on Sunday.
Why am I saying this? Simply because no one but Jesus was in the rock tomb, let alone, because it was a large stone and Roman soldiers guarded the entrance. So we cannot know anything about when he actually rose. For sure, on Sunday morning, the witnesses no longer found him in the grave, so the resurrection took place sometime between Friday night and Sunday morning, but in principle it could have happened at any time during this period. Since we cannot know anything about the exact time in the absence of eyewitnesses, we therefore accept that the resurrection took place at dawn on Sunday. But I say again, if we act with strict logical correctness, then we cannot declare this. In a court, for example, we could only say with certainty that this event happened sometime between Friday night and Sunday morning.
Obviously, Jesus knew that no one would come to the tomb until Sunday morning, since the Jews were not allowed to do such a thing on Saturday, so he could not formulate it with mathematical precision and say exactly when the resurrection would take place. It only made sense if his prediction marked the time when his followers would learn about it, and this time marking was precisely the “third day”.
And speaking of the events of Sunday morning, it is very interesting to note that the disciples were not the first at the tomb. Despite the fact that Jesus repeatedly and emphatically told them that he would rise on the third day after his death, not one of his disciples thought of being at the tomb in the morning. Peter’s behavior is understandable, he was still struggling with the shame of the three-time refusal, and he probably would have even hid underground from his own conscience and the accusing eyes of the others. But there is John, who saw the crucifixion and was a dear disciple of Jesus, and Jesus even entrusted his mother to him before the death on the cross, if anyone should have been there, John was it. Yet he was not the first, but Mary Magdalene, a woman, and not a disciple, at least not among the apostles. And she probably didn’t go there because of the prophecy either, but because she wanted to clean Jesus’ body as soon as possible and prepare it for burial. After all, it is very important for us to know that Jesus was hurriedly placed in the tomb on Friday night, since the Sabbath was already very close, they just wrapped him in the shroud and placed him in the tomb, but they could not even wash the blood from the body. This is probably why Mary hurried to the tomb, to take care of Jesus’ body in a dignified way and to make up for everything that was missed due to Friday’s haste.
Thus, in the end, she was the one who brought the news of the resurrection to the disciples, and in the end it was John who, seeing the shroud without the body, “saw and believed.”
Think about it, if the body of Jesus was not taken down on Friday night and there was time to wash it, then the Shroud of Turin would not preserve traces of blood with anatomical accuracy to this day. Timing is therefore incredibly important for the Shroud. If it were any other way, the Shroud would not preserve such a quantity and such an important, and especially such a precise trace of the crucifixion.
The “third day” was the most important event in human history. That is why we need to know exactly what this means, and we must not formulate it superficially or imprecisely, because a very important teaching can be lost as a result of one bad translation or one bad interpretation.
May 18, 2013
English translation: August 25, 2023