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April 17, 2014

Comments

Don't say Jesus died when he was 33 years old: "Jesus would have been 37 or 38 years old when he died in the spring of A.D. 33."

I don't think this is all that clear. They're probably assuming Jesus was born before Herod died in 4 BCE. However, Luke says Jesus was about 30 years old when he began his ministry (Luke 3:23), and if his ministry lasted 3 years, which John seems to indicate, then he would've been about 33 years old when he died.

I had a professor in college once say that he thinks Jesus died in 26 rather than 30 or 33. 26 was the year Pilate became procurator of Judea.

There are some scholars who think Herod died in 1 BCE instead of 4 BCE.

Amy,

>> 5. Don't focus on the suffering of Jesus to the extent that you neglect the glory of the Cross in and through the Resurrection:

I agree with the essentials of this point and catch what you're driving at. But I would warn of the flip-side to this. Don't ignore or underestimate the point of the suffering of Jesus. There is much to see on the Via Dolorosa. I once tried to understand why my Baptist friends and colleagues don't practice Lent. They note that there is a goodness to ponder the Passion of Christ, but view it as too somber to spend six weeks of worship. I disagree with such, as Lent reveals the magnificence of the love that impelled Jesus to suffer and die. It is a sad, somber story of love that makes grace grace. We gave Jesus no reason to love us. In His thirty-some years of life, He received more reasons not to carry through with His giving Himself as a ransom for many.

So then, He suffered. He died. He was buried. But then, yes, yes, yes, He rose and makes Easter/Resurrection Day a massive shift of paradigm. Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter all teach their lessons, but we must see them as the great whole in God's plan of salvation. So, a really early blessed Easter to you.

I have to agree with Sam, and let me add some additional comments (which Sam may not like). The nativity accounts of Jesus seem historically worthless to me. If you are a Christian, then you may be more inclined to accept them as having some truth (or perhaps even inerrant). But for non-Christians, the nativity accounts look like wild fictions with almost no kernel of truth. They do not have the same historical ring to them which the rest of the Synoptic narratives have. So, for the skeptic, we have very little reason to place Jesus' birth during Herod's lifetime. In contrast, we do have some (albeit limited) reason to accept Luke's assertion that Jesus was about 30 when he began his ministry. Assuming he spent 3 years in it, this would make him about 33 when he died.

Moreover, it's not clear to me why Jesus need have died in 33 CE. Couldn't he have died any time during Pilate's procuratorship? So, to echo Sam, it could have been as early as 26 CE---plenty early enough to have him die at 33 yet still have been born during Herod's reign.

Finally, let me say something about the historicity of the empty tomb and the testimony of the women. It has never been clear to me how the latter is supposed to help with the former. For example, the Christianity Today article boldly declares, "If these were 'cleverly devised myths' (2 Pet. 1:16, ESV), women would never have been presented as the first eyewitnesses of the risen Christ." But, what is the justification for this claim? Why is it unlikely that someone would invent a story about women finding the empty tomb first?

From what I understand, the gist of the argument is this: Since the testimony of women was not highly regarded, and since an inventor of this particular story probably wanted to be believed, he/she is likely to have used highly credible witnesses, which in this case means men.

Even that much of the argument seems highly suspect to me. Who knows what a storyteller would do? Maybe he/she thought women would be the most natural choice for visitors to a tomb. In other words, remember that if we want to invent a story about the tomb being discovered empty, we need to find a reason to have someone go visit the tomb. So, the storyteller may have simply thought first of the women having reason to go.

However, even if we grant the dubious assertion that an inventor would have desired to put male witnesses at the empty tomb, the argument still doesn't work, because the story does have male witnesses! Remember Peter and John? Then, Jesus appeared to many other male witnesses. In fact, out of the four Gospels, only Mark omits Jesus appearing to a male witness. But then, in Mark the women aren't witnesses either because they stay silent and do not report their discovery. (So, Mark implicitly suggests that there were witnesses other than the women.)

In order for the argument to work, then, the apologist needs to show moreover that a storyteller would have only used male witnesses, i.e. to the exclusion of any women at all. Or, alternatively, he could argue that the storyteller would have wanted the very first witnesses to be more credible than women. But these seem impossible tasks. What difference does it make to the credibility of the story whether men or women discovered the empty tomb first? As long the list of witnesses includes plenty of men, what does it matter what order they discovered the empty tomb and/or the risen Jesus?

The census ordered by Augustus occurred in 8 BC. Jesus had to be born shortly after that. Of course, Herod was in power at that time and probably did die in 4 BC. So that means Jesus was pushing or past 40 when he was crucified in AD 33.

As for the length of Jesus ministry, I guess a lot depends on what you think counts as the start of Jesus ministry. Perhaps Luke placed that start several years earlier than John.

Moreover, it's not clear to me why Jesus need have died in 33 CE. Couldn't he have died any time during Pilate's procuratorship?
I think the reason 33 is identified is based on when Nisson 15 fell on the Sabbath during Pilate's governorship.

Of course, I've heard it argued (I find the arguments pretty convincing) that the Sabbath referred to in Scripture was not a weekly Sabbath (Saturday), but a special holy day on which Sabbath rules applied. This holy day was part of the multi-day Passover. According to that argument we should actually celebrate Good Thursday.

The nativity accounts of Jesus seem historically worthless to me....But for non-Christians, the nativity accounts look like wild fictions with almost no kernel of truth. They do not have the same historical ring to them which the rest of the Synoptic narratives have. So, for the skeptic, we have very little reason to place Jesus' birth during Herod's lifetime.
Thanks for sharing your feelings.

Do you have a specific criticism, or do we simply cave in now?

Ben, in answer to your comment, could someone who made up a story have made the initial witnesses of Jesus' resurrection a woman? Yes, it's possible. But it's just not really likely. This sort of thing is embarrassing in middle eastern culture. Women and a box in the mind of these people were just not all that different. Peter and John saw the empty tomb, and saw Jesus, but the point is, why would someone who made all this up put in a story that is actually an embarrassment? Of course, we have to remember ancient people aren't stupid. But the women at the tomb would have really left a question mark on the reliability of the story. It's kind of like if I tried to lie about the fish I caught and how big it was in the pond the other day, and then to exaggerate for further effect, I tell people I caught it with my hand. If I was going to make up a good fish story, I would tell people I used a fancy reel and some nice bait. It makes what is already an incredulous story sound more ridiculous (in the mind of the first century Jew).

Of course this evidence alone is not enough, but it does add some food for thought to the whole process. Someone making up a story would very likely have never put the initial witnesses as women. Highly unlikely.

WL,

I think you misunderstood me about the nativity accounts. I wasn't just sharing my feelings, but pointing out that there seems to be a great divide between non-Christians and Christians on this issue. I do not expect to convince you that the nativity accounts have little or no historical truth to them, because you are a Christian, and so you think things like angels and prophetic dreams and astrological omens are real phenomena. If you were a non-Christian, I would point out that the major plot points of the nativity narratives are supernatural or otherwise fantastic. In other words, it is not a believable story wrapped in supernatural details, such as is the narrative of Jesus' adult ministry. Instead, it's a supernatural story wrapped in more supernatural details. The only thing we can hope to be true in such an account are some names and places. So, for instance, perhaps Jesus' mother and father really were named Mary and Joseph. Beyond that, I don't see much of historical value in the nativity narratives.

But, as I said, my aim is not to convince you. Instead, I'm only pointing out that non-Christians have no reason to insist that Jesus was born during the reign of Herod or the census of Quirinius.

By the way, according to wikipedia, historians think the census of Quirinius took place 6/7 CE, not 8 BCE. I understand that some apologists have tried to argue that this census should either be dated earlier, or else that there was a second census which came earlier. However, to my recollection this is a Christian apologetic effort to reconcile religious beliefs with history, and not a view held by non-Christian historians. That doesn't necessarily mean the Christians are wrong and the non-Christians are right. If one had time, one could investigate the issue himself and not have to rely on the opinions of others. But I don't have time, and so I have to choose who to trust, or whether to remain agnostic on the issue. And in my opinion, based on my past experience with apologists, I think it's a good policy to tentatively dismiss them as religious wackos, and to go ahead an trust the non-Christian historians.

Finally, regarding your comments about a 33 CE crucifixion, I do not understand your argument. Is Nisson 15 a date in the Jewish calendar? What has it to do with dating the crucifixion? I searched Google but found no information on this.

JBerr,

You wrote, "...could someone who made up a story have made the initial witnesses of Jesus' resurrection a woman? ... This sort of thing is embarrassing in middle eastern culture."

I don't see why it should be embarrassing. Suppose we grant that the testimony of women was not highly regarded, as is claimed by apologists. So what? Why would it embarrass an ancient Christian storyteller to invent women witnesses?

I could perhaps see why it might be somewhat embarrassing if the only witnesses were women, because then the veracity of the story hinges on testimony which is not highly regarded. However, as I explained, no storyteller made the only witnesses out to be women. In Mark, the women didn't testify at all! And, in the other Gospels, the witnesses included plenty of men. So, what exactly is there to be embarrassed about, here?

I would point out that the major plot points of the nativity narratives are supernatural or otherwise fantastic.
So it's the miracles. Because of the miracles, the account doesn't make you feel good.

But the synoptics are OK ... because ... they ... lack ... miracles ...

Oh...wait.

By the way, according to wikipedia, historians think the census of Quirinius took place 6/7 CE, not 8 BCE.
I did not say that the census of Quirinius took place in 8 BC. Neither of the features that Luke attributes to the census that made the Holy Family move are attributes of the census of Quirinius. The census of Quirinius was not a census on the whole Roman world. It was not ordered by Caesar Augustus. But the census of 8 BC was both of these. Luke was not describing the census of Quirinius.

I do not need to say that Quirinius was governor twice either. I think that Luke meant to contrast the census of 8 BC, the one he is talking about, with the later census which was very unpopular and infamous.

The passage in Luke that speaks of Quirinius should probably read like this: "This first census is already made when Quirinius is governor of [this] Syria."

The verb describing the making of the census is aorist middle, so it describes an event that's completed in the past. Imperfect describes an incomplete process, aorist describes a completed event.

The terms about Quirinius are all genitive. Word by word replacement gives you something like this "of governing of this Syria of Quirinius". There are these facts to take note of

  1. The governing is a present participle in the genitive
  2. It has no definite article (the definite article "this/the" goes with Syria, because of its feminine gender)
  3. The subject of the making is the census, the subject of the governing is Quirinius.
  4. In fact, there is no grammatical connection of the genitive terms at the end of the sentence and the rest of the sentence.
  5. There is, of course, some connection in thought between the two events.
These facts combine to suggest that this is a genitive absolute. With genitive absolutes, the whole clause should be viewed as a dependent clause related somehow to the main clause. Often a temporal relationship is intended.

The fact that "governing" is a present participle and "made" is aorist, I think guarantees that the dependent clause occurs at a time after the main clause is already over.

Bottom-line...the census was over and done with before Quirinius was governor of Syria. So Luke could not be referring to the census of Quirinius.

the census was over and done with before Quirinius was governor of Syria. So Luke could not be referring to the census of Quirinius.
BTW, just to be crystal clear, I think that is the gist of what Luke said in Luke 2:2.
In Mark, the women didn't testify at all!
So, by what magical powers did Mark come to know that they saw the angels and so on? Obviously the women did testify...otherwise Mark wouldn't have known to write down what they saw. Mark does not report the event of their testifying, but what does that have to do with the price of tea?

The point about the women is that they are given a counter-cultural place of honor to be the first to know of the Lord's rising. Whether men came to have other evidence of the resurrection later or not. Whether the women reported their evidence later or not.

And, all four gospels agree in giving the women this counter-cultural place of honor.

WL,

Regarding the nativity narratives, I can't help but think you're deliberately misrepresenting me, maybe to score debate points or something, I don't know. But that sort of thing gets tiresome real fast.

In case you honestly do not understand my position, let me try to explain once more. Take the passion narrative for example. We can identify a non-supernatural core to the story, which is that Jesus arrived in Jerusalem to preach during the passover, and made trouble in doing so. In particular he made a disturbance in the temple itself. Whatever the direct causes, the Jewish leaders became upset with Jesus and involved the Roman authorities to have him arrested. Roman law is swift and merciless, and Jesus was convicted of a capital crime, perhaps sedition, and executed by crucifixion.

Now, there are all kinds of supernatural details we can throw out, but the core of the story remains believable.

In contrast, look at the nativity narrative, say in Luke. Suppose we TRY to capture a non-supernatural core to the story. Only, once we cut out all the supernatural bits, there's not much left. Mary and Joseph travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the purpose of a census. There, Mary gives birth to Jesus. Then they go to Jerusalem to have him circumcised, and finally back to Nazareth.

Unfortunately, even this basic outline has a supernatural element, which is that Jesus is from Nazareth yet the Gospel writers believed the Messiah must come from Bethlehem. So, even the stripped-down outline above appears to be based on a supernatural prophecy.

So, in other words, it's not JUST that the nativity accounts have miracles and other supernatural elements. Rather, the very core of the story appears to be supernatural in nature. This is not the case for much of the Synoptic narrative of Jesus' later ministry.

Next, let me say one last thing about the census of Quirinius. I appreciate that you have your own view on it, which is evidently a whole lot more developed than mine. But, like I said, I'm going to (tentatively) go with the non-Christian historians on this one.

Ben,

You've piqued my curiosity on this one point:

I'm going to (tentatively) go with the non-Christian historians on this one.

Who are these sources, what do they say on the matter? Are any of these secular historians of the first century, and are they devoid of supernatural elements?

And, if they don't speak to the specific period, how much of an "argument from silence" are we developing?

I know this is a tall order, but I would appreciate the specifics behind the views to which you are (tentatively) ascribing.

But, like I said, I'm going to (tentatively) go with the non-Christian historians on this one.
Did you read what I said? I do not deny one word that 'non-Christian' (btw is the word you really want "secular"?) historians say about the census of Quirinius. It happened in AD 6, long after Herod was dead.

What I deny is that Luke is saying that that's the census that sent Joseph home to Bethlehem. Luke is saying that the census that sent Joseph home is the census of Augustus that was began in 8 BC.

As for the miracles, if you are counting the fulfillment of prophecies as miracles, you just better throw out the synoptics. Jesus crucifixion, for example, is widely viewed, and was widely viewed very early on, as the fulfillment of OT prophecy. So, I guess that means its ahistorical...the Gospel writers threw it in so they could spin another prophecy-fulfillment yarn.

Ben would have us to believe that it is more probable to believe mundane details of an account more than fantastical details. This surely doesn't follow, Ben rules out any fantastical details beforehand. Why?

If an account of an event includes common or mundane details, why should they be considered more likely than rare or even miraculous details? Well, if you rule out miraculous/fantastic details, of course the mundane are more likely true because the miraculous are never true. This is question begging once again as Ben evaluaates all things Christian through his atheistic worldview[notice how I didn't call you a materialist] instead of finding incoherency in the Christian system of thought with Christian presuppositions-namely that God Is, Ben would rather continue starting at contrary presuppositions and find contrary propositions all along the way as he measures the Christian system of thought with atheistic starting points.

Somehow I dont think Ben would be so quick to assinate the character of a pilot whose testimony may be of ufo's doing things known to be physically impossible for mankind and his machines.

Ben's problem is with the witness, not what the witness is saying. But has he really defamed the Bible with anything substantive? Not really since he has not dealt with it forthrightly-not that I have seen. If a witness who has a track record of reporting true things, even though once in a while, or maybe an occasionally unbelieveable thing ought not be discarded/denied a-priori.

WL,

I'm a little surprised at you. You're usually not this cheeky. From Brad B, I expect that sort of nonsense. Not you.

Let me respond to a couple of points which I think are important. You wrote: "Obviously the women did testify...otherwise Mark wouldn't have known to write down what they saw. Mark does not report the event of their testifying, but what does that have to do with the price of tea?" (ellipsis original)

But remember, this isn't just an argument from silence. It's not like Mark ends his story without telling us whether or not the women testified. In fact, he explicitly writes, "they said nothing to anyone" (16:8). This is the famous ending which has baffled readers of what is perhaps the earliest extant Gospel.

So, by what magical powers, you teasingly ask, did Mark come to know what the women saw? The obvious snickering response would be: God's! But seriously though, you must remember that I'm not convinced Mark is reporting accurate history in this instance. For all we know, he just made it up. Or maybe someone else made it up, and told Mark about it. And if Mark ever asked himself how that person knew, well, he didn't write about it, and so we can only guess.

But however you explain Mark's claim to knowledge, the fact remains, he pretty clearly tells us that the women never spoke of their experience at the empty tomb. So, they are not witnesses in that sense, in Mark's Gospel.

You also write: "The point about the women is that they are given a counter-cultural place of honor to be the first to know of the Lord's rising... And, all four gospels agree in giving the women this counter-cultural place of honor."

But that's not embarrassing to a Christian storyteller. So, how do you want the rest of the argument to go? Are you saying that a storyteller would have been unlikely to give women a counter-cultural place of honor? Why would you think that?

You also write: "Luke is saying that the census that sent Joseph home is the census of Augustus that was began in 8 BC."

Yes, I read what you wrote, and I understand what you are saying. I have dropped hints---and now let me simply say flat out---that this topic does not interest me greatly, and so I'm simply going to accept (tentatively) the non-Christian (or "secular" if you prefer) scholars/historians on what they have to say about the census, and which census we should identify with Luke's Gospel, etc. I appreciate that you have a well-developed view of this, but then you should know that most non-Christian experts do not share your view. So, I don't see why it surprises you that I should want to follow them over you.

One last item: "As for the miracles, if you are counting the fulfillment of prophecies as miracles, you just better throw out the synoptics. Jesus crucifixion, for example, is widely viewed, and was widely viewed very early on, as the fulfillment of OT prophecy. So, I guess that means its ahistorical...the Gospel writers threw it in so they could spin another prophecy-fulfillment yarn."

Well, as in all interpretation of ancient history, we just have to use our best judgment to determine the best explanation of the evidence. You are correct that the crucifixion was regarded as a fulfillment of prophecy, but this seems to me better explained as reading prophecy back into what actually happened, rather than inventing a story to force a prophetic fulfillment. In contrast, the Bethlehem tale seems like the opposite. What makes one seem different from the other? I'm not sure. Intuition, perhaps, drawn from experience with storytelling and with storytellers. Or perhaps something else. But it is clear that certain stories have a ring of truth to them, whereas others have a ring of falsity. And, I don't see how to do history at all without appealing to such intuitive judgments.

Anyway, like I keep saying, I don't expect to convince you that the nativity narratives are invented rather than historical. I'm only pointing out that non-Christians have no good reason to accept them as historical.

Ben-

I'm going to take what I consider to be your key points in a series of posts.

I start with this one

In fact, he explicitly writes, "they said nothing to anyone...he pretty clearly tells us that the women never spoke of their experience at the empty tomb."
That's an utterly ridiculous reading of the text. They obviously did. That's not an argument from silence. It's an inference to the best explanation. Mark came to know of the Holy Women's story somehow.

Mark would have no reason to make up such a story...you might have the women be the finders of the empty tomb in a made up story, maybe it was a custom for the women to dress the body in a case like this. But you would not, in a made up story, have the women be the recipients of an angelic vision.

And if Mark's claim were that he found out by some supernatural means what the women saw, that would be another miracle that he would have reported. The best explanation is that the women at some point told their story. Not that someone read their minds, or that all four gospel writers decided to make that bit up.

Notice that Mark does not say they "never told anyone." That's the Gospel of Ben that said that. Mark says that they told no one because they were afraid. The simplest and best way to read that is that, because of their fear, they did not blurt their story out the moment that they saw someone, and Mark reported that, but later on, when their fear passed, they told their story just as they had been expressly commanded to do by the Angel of God.

But that's not embarrassing to a Christian storyteller. So, how do you want the rest of the argument to go? Are you saying that a storyteller would have been unlikely to give women a counter-cultural place of honor? Why would you think that?
Um...counter-cultural.

On the census (a point you still have not show the slightest inkling of understanding about) you say this, finally:

this topic does not interest me greatly
That's fine.

I would recommend that, in future, if you would prefer to avoid 'cheekiness' from me or others, you refrain from sharing your feelings with us about the historical worthlessness of texts you do not want to take the trouble to understand. But which are sure to provoke comment.

I'd further suggest that you refrain from referring to those who have taken the trouble to understand those texts as religious wackos.

One more remark on the bit about Mark not reporting the women's account of the risen Lord.

Ben and I have been going along saying that Mark does not say that the women reported the resurrection.

This may be confusing to some who are following along, because Mark 16:9-11 says this:

Now after He had risen early on the first day of the week, He first appeared to Mary Magdalene, from whom He had cast out seven demons. She went and reported to those who had been with Him, while they were mourning and weeping. When they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they refused to believe it.
The reason Ben has been leaving that out is that it's from the 'longer' ending of Mark, which on his view is , of course, not part of the original text. I don't think the case for that is entirely cut-and-dried. There's a lot of debate about where this part of Mark came from. But their is no denying that it is not present in the earliest manuscripts.

My own view is that I don't think Mark intended to end his Gospel with verse 8. That means that either the longer ending is the ending, later copyists had better manuscripts than we now have. Or the document was 'fixed' by a later scholar, but the real ending is simply lost for now.

Either way, I agree with Ben that you cannot mount any significant apologetic arguments from the longer ending.

This does not, of course, stop unbelievers from finding 'Bible contradictions' in the longer ending. To his credit, Ben hasn't tried that.

WL,

I don't see how it's ridiculous to read "they said nothing to anyone" as "they said nothing to anyone." It seems much more of a stretch to read it as, "the women at some point told their story."

Anyway, it's clear you are only taking the conversation half seriously, if even that much. You are welcome to buck mainstream scholarship in favor of a Christian apologetic view. And I cannot force you to acknowledge what you are doing, even though you know it full well. So, I am done with you, for now.

It's too bad. You usually have some challenging points. This time, you came armed only with insults and misrepresentations.

Just to be clear...The text does not simply say "They said nothing to anyone". It says

[Angel]: But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you.’

They went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had gripped them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

And you did not read this text simply as "They said nothing to anyone."

You read it as "he pretty clearly tells us that the women never spoke of their experience at the empty tomb."

You then infer that for all time they remained silent in disobedience to a direct command from the angel of God, even after their fear passed. That that's what Mark is telling us.

And that's ridiculous.

You are welcome to buck mainstream scholarship in favor of a Christian apologetic view. And I cannot force you to acknowledge what you are doing, even though you know it full well. So, I am done with you, for now.
OK, so you are participating in a forum on a site dedicated to Christian apologetics, but you do not expect to be answered with apologetics. Instead you expect that we should just accept what 'mainstream scholars' (who, of course, have no axe to grind like those pesky Christian apologists); otherwise, you are done with us.

And BTW, if 'mainstream scholars' really do insist on your reading of Mark 16:8 they richly deserve to be bucked.

Hi Ben, it's somehow "cheeky" to dissect your tactics in argumentation? Ok, maybe the "cheeky" comes across because for as intelligent of a character as you come across as, your standard of proof and your ability to use logic as your bulldog contradicts that persona, and I confess, I cant help but to mock it for what it is.

I wonder, do you realize that your argumentation is so patently biased, it is often absurd and evidently so to anyone who follows along? Maybe it is just that you dont believe that the Christian worldview can possibly be logically consistent so you refuse to really look, but how do you expect to really reason against it until you do?

It will be evident to everyone when you reason against the Christian worldview forthrightly, it will be evident because you wont have to be corrected or challenged for question begging and mischaracterizing the biblically justified Christian position. Bottom line is you'll have to up your game quite a bit, something you are well capable of-if only you are willing.

Is there a 6th misconception about Holy Week? Scripture says Jesus spent 3 days and 3 nights in the tomb before his Resurrection. How does this square with the tradition of his death, burial, and resurrection occurring sometime between Friday afternoon and Sunday morning?


Dave-

I've heard it explained like this.

1. Jesus dies on Friday in the afternoons and is hastily buried. So Friday before sunset is the first day in the tomb.
2. The second day starts at sunset shortly after he is buried and continues until the next sunset. So Friday after sunset to sunset Saturday is the second day in the tomb.
3. The third day in the tomb started at sunset Saturday night. Jesus arose on the third day before dawn on Sunday.

Not sure that's right. I have my own questions about this chronology. But I'll defer them for now.

WL, thanks, I'll look into it.

D.

WL, dave, that is what I've been told, but never looked further because it is a reasonable accounting of OT chronological accounting. There is though the pesky Matt 12:40 verse where Jesus talks about Jonah being in the belly of the whale 3 days and 3 nights, and that then so will the Son of Man be also.

The details of 3 days and 3 nights doesn't really seem work out with that explanation. I guess I'm not nor have been troubled about it enough to inspect further.

Thanks Brad B. There's also Jesus's comment about there being twelve hours in a day Joh 11:9 Jesus answered, "Are there not twelve hours in the day?"
Using this could one say seventy two hours of days and nights for three days and three nights in the tomb?

Perhaps WL's mention of Thursday being a Holy Day figures in somehow. From above: "Of course, I've heard it argued (I find the arguments pretty convincing) that the Sabbath referred to in Scripture was not a weekly Sabbath (Saturday), but a special holy day on which Sabbath rules applied. This holy day was part of the multi-day Passover. According to that argument we should actually celebrate Good Thursday."

Thanks for your input.

Take a look here. For a discussion of Jewish Passover practices and why there is an ambiguity about whether Pesach is a seven or eight day festival.

Here's the gist. Until the 4th century AD, the Jewish calendar was constantly adjusted according to astronomical observations to keep the lunar calendar in rough synchronization with the Sun. Outlying areas, e.g. Babylon, Alexandria etc, had to be informed about when the year started. (In the 4th century, the Calendar was fixed mathematically.)

Because the methods of secure communication were slow, Jews started celebrating both the first, second, seventh and eighth days of an eight day festival as high days, That way, everyone was sure to celebrate the first and seventh days of the festival as high days (as commanded in Leviticus 23).

The setting of the calendar was centered in Jerusalem, so of course, in Jerusalem they would actually know perfectly well which should really be the first day and which the seventh, but they still celebrated all four days, the first, the second the seventh and the eighth days as Sabbaths.

Now, this leads to an interesting possibility. What if the Passover meal Jesus ate, the Last Supper, was actually on the first Sabbath of the eight days? What if, also, the Priests knew perfectly well that the 'real' Passover was the next day. This might explain why they wouldn't have much problem with crucifying Jesus on the first day of the eight day festival, but they would have a big problem with the body being left up after the sunset that marks the beginning of the second day.

Notice also, that this means that the Lamb of God was slaughtered in preparation for the Passover even though he celebrated a Passover Sedar at the beginning of that sunset-to-sunset day.

Now, if this second day of Pesach started at Sunset on Thursday, we get three days and nights.

In that case, here is the chronology:

  • The day before the first day of observed Pesach
    • Wednesday Afternoon
      The disciples prepare for the Passover
      They slaughter the last lamb of the old sacrificial system and cook it up by twilight
  • The First Day of observed Pesach...High Day Sabbath
    • Maundy Wednesday Sunset
      Passover Sedar/Last Supper
    • Late Wednesday Evening, Early Thursday Morning
      Jesus in the Garden
      Betrayal
      Arrest
      Jesus before His Judges
      Cock Crows
    • Thursday Sunrise
      Twice
      More of Jesus before His Judges
      Mocked and Scourged
    • Good Thursday Noon and Afternoon
      Crucifixion
      The Holy Lamb is slaughtered in preparation of the Passover of God
      Priests complain that a Sabbath is coming up
      This Passover is the one that 'fits' as the Sabbath for the start of Pesach
      Jesus' Burial
      The first day in the tomb
  • The Second Day of observed Pesach...High Day Sabbath
    • Thursday Sunset to Friday Sunrise
      First night in the tomb.
    • Friday Sunrise to Friday Sunset
      Second day in the tomb.
  • The Third Day of observed Pesach...Weekly Sabbath
    • Friday Sunset to Saturday Sunrise
      Second night in the tomb.
    • Saturday Sunrise to Saturday Sunset
      Third day in the tomb.
  • The Fourth Day of observed Pesach...The First Day of the Week
    • Saturday Sunset to sometime before Sunday Sunrise
      Third night in the tomb.
    • Before Easter Sunday Sunrise
      RESURRECTION!
      Sighting by Magdalene
      Peter and John see empty tomb
    • After Sunday Sunrise
      Sighting by all Holy Women
    • etc.
I find this chronology very plausible.

I'm not, of course, suggesting that we change our long established Church practices. We should still call Thursday of Holy Week "Maundy Thursday", and Friday "Good Friday" or "Black Friday", and remember the Lord's Passion on those (and all) days.

BTW, Ben was probably right about one point. There's really no reason to set the date of Jesus' death as AD 33, or any other year. I'm not sure whether he knew why or not. But the reason is that before the 4th century AD, there was no mathematically fixed way the the 1st of Nisan was set, it was largely an ad hoc matter.

So you can't reason back from the 14th of Nisan to any particular date on the Gregorian Calendar or to a day of the week. And without that, it will be difficult to determine the year.

I ran the chronology above past someone who knows more about the ancient culture than me, and it has convinced me that, however plausible the theory above may sound to my modern ears...it's probably wrong.

It turns on how to count the days.

Nowadays, when you say "He died and rose again on the third day" you tend to think you start the counting on the day after the death. If it were "He dies and rose again on the first day" you wouldn't tend to think that he rose again on the same day that he died. You'd think that he rose on the day after he died.

Maybe it's because we're used to playing board games. When you move your piece, you start counting on the next square, not the one you are on.

Well, that's just not the way the Jews did it. The most telling counter-example to the game-board way of thinking is circumcision. It is said to be done on the eighth day, but it also happens on the same day of the week. The only way that can happen is if you count the day of birth.

That means that if Jesus rose on the day going from Saturday-sunset to Sunday-sunset (the first day of the week), he had to die on the day going from Thursday-sunset to Friday-sunset...Good Friday.

Now that leaves Matthew 12:40 as a problem, because you don't get three days and three nights. You get two days and two nights.

But again, that's probably based on our game-board way of thinking about reckoning time. The Jews seemed to be more inclusive about counting time intervals. If an event starts on a given day, you count that whole day, and if it ends on another day you count that whole day and you count all the days in between. You count the whole day, you don't use decimals. So you have to count the whole day of Good Friday, including the night (even though He was alive throughout the night), you have to count the whole day of Easter, including the day (even though He was already resurrected during all the hours of daylight), and you count the whole day in between. Three days. Three nights.

Note that this does not change the fact that there are two High Days at the start of Passover.

It does not change the fact that John identified the day after the crucifixion as a High Day.

And that means that the day of crucifixion probably still was on the first day of the eight day festival, and the full-day in the tomb was probably on the second day.

Which of these was actually Nisan 15, isn't entirely clear from the Gospels. I'm still tempted to think that it was Friday-sunset-to-Saturday-sunset that worked out to Nisan 15 that year. That, whatever day of the week it was, Jesus was crucified on Nisan 14. But my more knowledgeable friend pointed me to a text (The Gospels by Johannes Ylvisaker) that, if I understood him correctly, suggests that I'm wrong about that too. Haven't read it yet.

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