Do you think the three hours of darkness prior to Jesus' death on the cross could account for the third night in the prophecy of the three days and three nights?
To allow for a Friday crucifixion, I think the third night to fulfill the prophecy of "three days and three nights" was the darkness that occurred from the sixth to the ninth hour, and Jesus died before the darkness lifted. It wasn't pitch black dark because he could see Mary and John, and the two thieves and onlookers could see him. "In the belly of the earth" can be interpreted as meaning that His body was without life.
That Friday ended at noon. Every night (evening) must have its day (morning), based on Genesis. The three hours of darkness and the few hours of daylight that followed the darkness (night) could be considered as another day. So a new and unique day was made, during which Jesus offered himself up for our redemption. Another thing, it seems that Luke 24:21 rules out your Thursday theory.
Also, the lambs were slaughtered in a sacrificial offering at the temple on Thursday the 14th of Nisan, and they were eaten in the evening that followed, Friday the 15th of Nisan, at the Passover meal. Jesus and the disciples and all of Jerusalem ate this meal that night. In the afternoon that followed, still Friday the 15th of Nisan, our Lord died on the cross. What do you think about all of this?
It is true that prior to Jesus's death on the cross, there were three hours of darkness over all the land (Matthew 27:45; Mark 15:33). Some of those who maintain that the crucifixion was on Friday suggest that these three hours of darkness were the first "night" of the prophesied "three days and three nights" that Jesus would be in the belly of the earth (Matthew 12:40).
However, it is important to get the chronology of events, while Jesus was on the cross, in order. Jesus and the two thieves were crucified at the third hour of daylight (Mark 15:25), or about 9:00 a.m. The thieves spoke to Him and the onlookers hurled insults at Him (Matthew 27:39-44; Mark 15:29-32; Luke 23:35-40), and Jesus spoke to His mother and to John (John 19:26,27). All of this was before the three hours of darkness, which began at about the sixth hour (Mark 15:33) or noon.
At the ninth hour, which was at the end of the three hours of darkness, Jesus cried out (Mark 15:34). After this, the final events while Jesus was on the cross took place, and then Jesus breathed His last breath and died (15:35-37). Therefore, He was not dead during any part of the three hours of darkness.
Moreover, those three hours of darkness were not "night," which specifically is between evening and dawn. It is similar to how a new moon blocks out the sun during a solar eclipse. Although it is dark, it still is daytime, not nighttime, because the sun is not on the opposite side of the earth. (Incidentally, a solar eclipse is not what caused the three hours of darkness on crucifixion day, as some have suggested. There always is a full moon on Passover; but there must be a new moon, where the moon is between the sun and the earth, for a solar eclipse to take place.)
It is true that every 24-hour solar day, on a Hebrew calendar, begins with nighttime hours (when the opposite side of the earth faces the sun) and continues into daytime hours (when the sun is on this side of the earth). However, Jesus did not say that He would be in the belly of the earth for three 24-hour solar days; He specifically said that it would be for "three days and three nights," which do not necessarily encompass 72 hours (as those who believe in a Wednesday crucifixion claim).
Daytime is when one side of the earth faces the sun, and nighttime is when the other side of the earth faces the sun. During the three hours of darkness on crucifixion day, the sun simply stopped shining (probably due to a supernatural act of God); but the same side of the earth was facing the sun before, during, and after those hours of darkness. So it still was daytime, although not daylight.
With a Friday crucifixion, even if the three hours of darkness could be considered to be one "night" of the "three days and three nights" prophecy (which it cannot), then Jesus' body would have been in the tomb or grave (Psalm 16:10; Acts 2:27), and his soul in the depths of the earth (Ephesians 4:9), for only two days: Friday and Saturday, but not Sunday.
According to the Friday crucifixion theory, Friday afternoon (following the three hours of darkness) was the first day, and the daylight hours of Saturday were the second day. To fulfill Jesus' "three days and three nights" prophecy (Matthew 12:40), this theory needs a third period of daylight, so the claim is that Jesus rose as the sun was coming up on Sunday.
However, Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week (Sunday) when it was dark. We know this because Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to the tomb before dawn (Matthew 28:1), and they saw the stone rolled away while it was still dark (John 20:1). If the stone was rolled away while it was still dark, then Jesus had to have risen when it was dark, not while it was beginning to be light.
Therefore, Jesus rose on Sunday before there was even a glimmer of dawn's light. Thus, He was not dead during any portion of the daylight of Sunday, and Sunday cannot be the third day of his "three days and three nights" prophecy.
Furthermore, by assuming that Jesus died at "night" (that is, during the three hours of darkness on Friday), this essentially would be reversing Jesus' prophecy about Himself into "three nights and three days." In reality, Jesus specified the opposite of that by saying "three days and three nights," in that order.
Luke 24:21 does not rule out a Thursday crucifixion. If we look at Matthew 27:63,64, we see that the chief priests and Pharisees told Pilate how Jesus had said that, after three days, He would rise again. Then they told him that the tomb should be made secure until the third day, understanding that this would be after three days.
So in Luke 24:21, when the two men said that it was the third day since the crucifixion had taken place, they understood that three days had passed. Counting backwards from Sunday three days, we go back to Saturday, Friday, and Thursday. In fact, it was almost exactly three days since the crucifixion, mid-afternoon on Thursday, because the men noted that it was nearly evening and the day was almost over (24:29).
As far as Jesus and His disciples eating their meal on the same night that everyone else in Jerusalem ate their Passover meal, this was not possible and did not happen. After dawn, several hours after Jesus was arrested, we see that "to avoid ceremonial uncleanness the Jews did not enter the palace [of the Roman governor]; they wanted to be able to eat the Passover" (John 18:28). Thus, the general populace of Jerusalem would be eating their Passover meals, soon after sunset and on schedule, during the evening hours at the beginning of Friday the 15th of Nisan (that is, the night after Jesus and the disciples had eaten their meal together).
The lambs were sacrificed at mid-afternoon on Thursday the 14th of Nisan, and Jesus (being the Passover Lamb for Israel and for humanity) died then as well. Jesus and the disciples did not eat a traditional Passover meal the night before, since He knew that He had to die the next afternoon at the same time as the Passover lambs were slaughtered. More details about this can be found in my Last Supper section.
Really, there is a simple, basic way to see that the crucifixion was on a Thursday. Firstly, when God gave Moses the regulations for the first Passover, He said that the people were to take in their lambs on the 10th day of the month (Exodus 12:3). They had to make sure that the lambs were without any defects or flaws (12:5), and they were to be slaughtered on the 14th day of the month (12:6).
Secondly, we know that Jesus, our Passover Lamb, came into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (John 12:12,13), which would have been on the 10th of the month. For the next few days, the Pharisees and Saducees questioned Him about various things, attempting to uncover defects or flaws in the things He said. However, they found all of His answers to be perfect and faultless and were unable to trap Him in what He said (Luke 20:26), so they stopped asking Him questions (20:40). Thus, as the Passover Lamb, Jesus was found to be without defect or blemish (Exodus 12:5).
Thirdly, just as the bones of the Passover lamb were not to be broken (Exodus 12:46), the bones of Jesus, our Passover Lamb, were not broken (John 19:31-33). Moreover, we know that Jesus died and was placed into the tomb on Passover, also known as Preparation Day (Luke 23:52-54). Indeed, He was our Passover Lamb who was sacrificed for us (1 Corinthians 5:7).
Finally, the 14th day of the month was when the Passover lambs were slaughtered; and it was the day that the ultimate Passover Lamb, Jesus, was crucified and died. So with Palm Sunday being the 10th day of the month, we can count the days as follows:
All of the spring feasts and festivals that God ordained in the Torah were mere foreshadowings of the exact dates that Jesus would die (on Passover), lie in the grave (during the Feast of Unleavened Bread), rise from death (on the Feast of Firstfruits), and send the Holy Spirit seven weeks later (on the Feast of Weeks = Shavuot = Pentecost). To see why and how Jesus had to parallel the Passover lambs in every way, including date and time of death, see my Pesach or Passover and parallels between Jesus and the Passover lamb sections.
I understand that a Friday crucifixion is the traditional view of Catholics and Protestants. However, there are some traditional views of the Church that are incorrect, and I believe this is one of them. I feel quite certain that Jesus' crucifixion was on Thursday, and there is a great deal of evidence that convinces me of this.
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