Many times on our journey with Christ through His word (the Bible) we come across what appear to be contradictions. However, the more we seek guidance by the Holy Spirit and through study, the more clear Scripture becomes. What appears to be contradictions in Scripture are essentially realizations of our finite minds.
One practical question that bugged me for years was, “Jesus said He would be crucified and on the third day rise again. How do we get 3 days from Friday to Sunday?” It is called in some circles, “The Wednesday Theory.” Basically, it teaches that based on Matthew 12:40 the only plausible way to get 3 days is to start on Wednesday. Ergo, it wrongly teaches day 1 – Wednesday night to Thursday night, day 2 – Thursday night to Friday night, and then day 3 – Friday night to Saturday night.
So what does Scripture say? How would you explain this to someone if the question came up at your Bible study or small group? Let’s look at the passage in question.
In Matthew 12:40 we’re told that “for just as Jonah was in the stomach of the sea monster for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.” How could that be if there are not 3-24 hr periods from Friday to Sunday? While there are entire websites dedicated to thoroughly explaining this discussion, here’s the short answer with an easy to read the table:
Basically, the explanation was simpler than I first imagined. The solution is simple when we learn that according to Jewish custom any part of a day, however small, is included as part of a full day.2 “Since the Jews reckoned part of a day as a full day, the ‘three days and three nights’ could permit a Friday crucifixion.”3
That is what causes many of us to get hung up. We try to force our modern-day culture and understandings into a very different text and in the end, it doesn’t fit. Kinda like trying to get a systematic theology book into Joel Osteen’s church!
Soli Deo Gloria!
1 – Wednesday Crucifixion Theory (site)
2 – Jamieson, R., A. R. Fausset, and D. Brown, A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments, Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 1997.
3 – Walvoord, John F., and Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Wheaton, IL: Scripture Press Publications, 1985.