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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

How can it be true that Jesus spent 3 days in the tomb? If Jesus died on a Friday and rose early on Sunday, how can that be 3 days?

“Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul, 
and with all your MIND”--Matt 22:37
There is a movement in some Christian circles questioning the idea of Jesus being crucified on Good Friday. Essentially this is a movement to usurp the authority of the Catholic Church by saying that the Church simply made up Good Friday.  They proclaim that the Bible never states that Jesus died on a Friday, and to declare this is to contradict Jesus' prediction that he would be buried "in the heart of the earth three days and three nights."--Matt 12:40.

From this non-Catholic website: 

Did Christ mean what He said? Did He really expect his burial in the earth to last 72 hours? Jesus did not say, "After two nights and one day I will rise again." He said, "After three days I will rise again." He meant three FULL days -- a full seventy-two hours! Upon Jesus’ crucifixion, the Jews remembered this sign.
And here's a comment from an article called "The Hoax of Good Friday":
There ought not to be anything that you believe unless it's in the Bible. What does the Bible teach? Now, I know that all over the country on the Friday before Easter, people gave their Good Friday services, and they start at noon, and they run the Good Friday services through three o'clock in the afternoon, and people say our Lord was crucified so many years ago just at this time of the day, and so forth, and it makes a very pretty thing, except it's not true. It is not true. Our Lord was crucified on Wednesday. He gave up the Ghost at three o'clock on Wednesday afternoon. He was laid in the grave somewhere about six o'clock on Wednesday evening. He was in the grave Wednesday evening, all day Thursday, Thursday evening, all day Friday, Friday evening, and all day Saturday, and He rose from the grave on Sunday.

What is the Catholic response?

Firstly, we ought to counter anyone who states, "There ought not to be anything that you believe unless it's in the Bible" with the query:  "Where does the Bible state that?"  (Answer: no where.  That's a man-made tradition many have been duped into believing).  To say that we can't believe anything unless it's in the Bible is self-refuting, because it's a paradigm that can't be supported in the Bible. 

That segues nicely with addressing the point that "The Bible doesn't state anywhere that Jesus died on a Friday!".  The Catholic response can be, "That's ok. We don't have to have all of our beliefs explicitly found in the Bible, because the Bible doesn't command that all of our beliefs need to be found in the Bible." (But all of our beliefs can be supported implicitly in the Scriptures.  That is, however, fodder for another discussion. Suffice it to say that the Bible was never meant to be a full compendium of the faith. We do not extract our doctrines from the pages of a book, no matter how holy. Rather, the Bible reflects the teachings that were already given to the Church.)

Essentially, when the Scriptures proclaim Jesus would be in the tomb for 3 days and 3 nights, that was a Jewish idiom.  It is not meant to mean, literally, 72 hours. 

Also, Jewish culture did not count days/nights in the same way that we do in our western world.  From Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin: 

In Jesus’ day, the Jews reckoned the day as beginning at sunset.
When Scripture indicates that Jesus rose on the first day of the week, therefore, it means that he rose on the day that began at sunset on Saturday and lasted until sunset on Sunday. Since we are told his tomb was found empty “after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week” (Matt. 28:1), he must have risen between sunset Saturday and dawn Sunday. Whether this was before or after midnight Scripture does not say. He might have risen either Saturday night or Sunday morning before dawn, though, for purposes of determining when he was crucified, it doesn’t matter.

In the Bible, parts of time units were frequently counted as wholes. Thus a king might be said to have reigned for two years, even if he reigned for only 14 months. In the same way, a day and a night does not mean a period of 24 hours. It can refer to any portion of a day coupled with any portion of a night. The expression “three days and three nights” could be used as simply a slightly hyperbolic way of referring to “three days.”

Incidentally, if some Christians are going to be literal about Jesus' prediction that he would be "in the heart of the earth three days and three nights" then they ought to question the fact that Jesus was not actually buried in the heart of the earth.  In fact, he was not in the earth at all but rather placed in a rocky tomb presumably above the earth.

Clearly, as no one seems to dispute that Jesus was placed in a rocky tomb and not "in the heart of the earth", Christians should see that Jesus was not speaking literally with that prophecy; but, for some peculiar reason, believe that Jesus had to be speaking literally about the "three days and three nights" part of his statement.

For more in-depth study visit these websites:

Was Jesus Crucified on a Wednesday or a Friday? by Jimmy Akin
Catholics Come Home

"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" - 1 Peter 3:15


  1. Yik! I'm glad I have yet to come across anything like that; but thanks to you I now have a response!
    Thank you for your awesome post!