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Question #44

44. If Christ was crucified on a Friday and the Bible says he lay in the tomb, 3 days and 3 nights, how then could he rise on a Sunday?

Many other theories exist to prove that Jesus was in the tomb for a total of 72 hours. Among those theories is the idea that Jesus was crucified on Wednesday or Thursday of his last week. This does not, however, easily reconcile with the Gospel accounts of his last week. What is the solution?

The problem exists because of a literal interpretation of Jesus' words stating that no sign "....will be given...except the sign of Jonah..." (Matthew 16:4 NIV). Again, when questioned about signs, Jesus replied, "A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." (Matthew 12:39-40).

In my opinion, the issue here is not primarily the time spent in the tomb as the purpose of Christ's resurrection. Just as Jonah's deliverance from the great fish attested to his purpose and his deliverance from certain death intensified his message, so the resurrection of Christ declared with power that he was the Son of God (Romans 1:1-2). The point is seen in Matthew 12:41 because " one1 greater than Jonah is here." (Matthew 12:41b)

The reference to three days and three nights may be an expression unique to Jewish rabbinical thought. In rabbinical thought, a day and night make a day and a part of a day is considered the whole. Thus, according to Jewish tradition, "three days and three nights" need mean no more than "three days" or the combination of any part of three days.

1 NIV note on Matthew 12:41 - "Or something; also in verse 42"


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Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. NIV. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.