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We understand three days and three nights to be three complete days and three complete nights. But for the Jews, the same thing meant differently. For a Jew, one day and one night meant either the full part of the 24-hour period or a small part of the 24-hour period (it is called “inclusive” reckoning). You will notice this to be true when you see the words of Jesus in different places about His resurrection.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus said:

“For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Matthew 12:40)

Here it says, “Three days and three nights.”

Let us look at what Mark recorded:

“And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.” (Mark 8:31)

In Mark, Jesus says, “After three days.”

Now let us go to Luke’s Gospel:

“And they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again.” (Luke 18:33)

In Luke, Jesus says, “The third day.”

Let us see what John penned down:

“Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:19)

In John, Jesus says, “In three days.”

We have the same Jesus telling the Jewish people about His resurrection in four different ways. Obviously, it was not about four different resurrections, but about that one and the same resurrection.

In fact, they had no problem understanding His statements because that was the way of speaking about days and time in the Jewish language and style.

{Remember, if not, the Jews would have accused Him of contradiction, but they understood what He said. There were always spies to see if He spoke anything contradictory for they wanted “To catch him in his word” (Mark 12:13). But they found none. He boldly challenged them – “Which of you convinceth me of sin?” (John 8:46). And Peter, who was all the time close to Jesus, said “Neither was guile found in his mouth” (1 Peter 2:22)}.

We have four different ways of saying the same thing – “Three days and three nights,” “After three days,” “The third day,” “In three days.” Please notice that the number is common in all the places – three/third. It does not matter, in the Jewish language, which preposition precedes the number – whether it was “in,” “after,” “on”; what mattered was the number.

Jesus died on Friday noon at 3 o’clock (See Mark 15:33-37); and rose on Sunday morning before sunrise (see Mark 16:2-6).

Today, we have names for each of the seven days of the week. But during Jesus’ time, it was just called the first day, the second day, the third day, etc. Today, according to the Roman system, a new day starts at 12 midnight. But in the Bible, a day starts at sunset (See Genesis 1:5, 8; Leviticus 23:32).

When Jesus died, it was still Friday – the 6th day of the week – 3 p.m. There were another 3 hours of Friday left (if the sunset was at 6 p.m.). At sunset Friday, another day started (the 7th day – Saturday). And from Saturday evening sunset, the third day commenced (the 1st day – Sunday). Jesus was still in the grave till Sunday morning.

Thus we see that Jesus was in the grave on Friday (3 hours), Saturday (24 hours), and Sunday (10 hours or so). As mentioned earlier, whether a small part of the day or the complete part of the day – it was spoken in the same style and language.

In the Jewish calculation, it is perfectly right, whether Jesus said – “on the third day,” or “after three days,” or “after three days and three nights.” It all meant the same. We who are not aware of their method of calculation find it hard. But for the Jews and for the ones who know their method, it is just simple.

As a day starts at sunset in the Bible, a Bible-based person could wish you a new day at sunset, while you would wish someone after midnight (the Roman method). Since the Bible is primarily a Jewish book, we have to use the Jewish method.

Let us look at an example to verify this time reckoning. Behold the scene in Pilate’s palace after Jesus died. The chief priests and Pharisees requested Pilate to safeguard the tomb:

“Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again.” (Matthew 27:63)

They quoted what Jesus said – “After three days.” After three days for us would mean the fourth day; but to them, it meant the third day itself! Look at what they told Pilate about what to do, and till when.

“Command, therefore, that the sepulcher be made sure until the third day.” (Matthew 27:64)

They told Pilate to protect the tomb, “Until the third day.” That means – till the completion of the third day. So they understood very well what Jesus said. “After three days” meant also, “Until the third day” for them.

Also, we get to know from the two disciples on the road to Emmaus about the duration of time from the crucifixion to the resurrection day. In the evening of the resurrection day, they said:

“Today is the third day since these things were done.” (Luke 24:21)

Therefore, “three days and three nights” is the same as “the third day” in the Jewish manner of communication!