Just How Long Did Jesus Stay in the Tomb?
BY: Daniel Burke, Religion News Service
(RNS) As Christians worldwide prepare to celebrate Easter, they will follow a familiar chronology: Jesus was crucified on Good Friday and rose from the dead on "the third day," in the words of the ancient Nicene Creed. For Jews of Jesus' time, days began at sunset, a schedule that still guides Jewish holy days such as Shabbat. So, Saturday night was Sunday for them.
But if Jesus died at 3 p.m. Friday and vacated his tomb by dawn Sunday morning -- about 40 hours later -- how does that make three days? And do Hebrew Scriptures prophesy that timetable?
Even Pope Benedict XVI wrestles with the latter question in his new book, Jesus: Holy Week, about Christ's last days. "There is no direct scriptural testimony pointing to the 'third day,"' the pope concludes.
The chronology conundrum is "a bit of a puzzle," said Marcus Borg, a progressive biblical scholar and co-author of The Last Week, a book about Holy Week.
But Borg and other experts say the puzzle can be solved if you know how first-century Jews counted time, and grant the four evangelists a little poetic license.
For Jews of Jesus' time, days began at sunset, a schedule that still guides Jewish holy days such as Shabbat. So, Saturday night was Sunday for them.