There are a number of issues surrounding the study of which day Christ
died. The annual Holy days, the daily cycle, the women visiting the
tomb and the prophetic symbolism.
However, to understand which day Christ died the four expressions,
'the third day', 'after three days', 'three days and three nights',
and 'in three days' are critical.
As already shown two of these expressions are obviously literal and
quoted in unison;
'the third day' and 'after three days'.
'THE THIRD DAY' & 'AFTER THREE DAYS'
In modern terms we would normally say 'after two days on the third day'
or 'after three days on the fourth day', but not 'after three days on
the third day'.
Considering these terms using different methods of reckoning provides the
'THE THIRD DAY'
- counted inclusively = Death-Day Day Rise-Day
- counted exclusively = Death-Day Day Day Rise-Day
'AFTER THREE DAYS'
- 3 x 24 hour periods = Death-Day Day Day Day Rise-Day
- close of 3 days = Death-Day Day Day Rise-Day
Notice, the same timing is indicated by two of these perspectives;
'the third day' when counted exclusively, and
'after three days' when counting the close of days.
This logic seems to offer a solution until one realizes that unless the
text indicates otherwise Scripture counts inclusively, not exclusively!
(This is most evident after one has spent time studying the topic of
The true solution lies in the existence of a 7 day feast, the Feast of
Unleavened Bread, which started on the day following the death of Jesus
The third day was not as commonly thought to be calculated from the day
of His death, but from the start of this yearly festival!
The prophesied 'third day' of resurrection was the;
*** THIRD DAY of the FEAST OF UNLEAVENED BREAD ***
[ Note: The 3rd day of this feast was significant, on the morning
of this day the celebrated 3 day fast of Esther was 'broken'.]
In summary, the following was the correct chronology.
Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
After 3 Days 1st day 2nd day 3rd day raised
finishes finishes finishes
3rd Day of 1st day 2nd day 3rd day
the Feast death of feast of feast of feast
This line of reasoning eliminates the Wednesday and Friday death views!
'IN THREE DAYS'
When we consider the term 'in three days' it also fits.
The church of Christ progressively perishes during Thursday;
betrayal before sunrise, the trial, Peter's denial,
the scourging, the crucifixion, death and burial.
Then the church on the third subsequent day progressively rises;
discovery of the empty tomb, vision of angels, appearance to
Mary, seen by two disciples, seen by an assembly of disciples.
'THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS'
Nevertheless, a Thursday death fails to adequately explain the term
'three days and three nights'.
One could follow the argument that a part of a period of time can represent
the whole of that period of time. Therefore suggesting;
Part of Thursday daylight - 1st daylight
All of Thursday night - 1st night
All of Friday daylight - 2nd daylight
All of Friday night - 2nd night
All of Saturday daylight - 3rd daylight
Most of Saturday night - 3rd night
However, let us be honest, the term 'three days and three nights' does
suggest a full three 24 hour periods. In addition, Matt 27:57 and Mark
15:42 state 'evening' had already arrived before Joseph asked for the
body of Christ, so there is an issue over whether any part of Thursday
daylight can be included.
So how can a Thursday death yield a period of 72 hours in the grave?
This creates quite a dilemma until one realizes there is no real proof that
the expression '3 days and 3 nights' was meant to be understood at a literal
level. In Scripture we find no record of the apostles or the Jewish hierarchy
repeating this expression, only Christ spoke these words and linked them to
the sign of the prophet Jonah.
THE SYMBOLIC '3 DAYS AND 3 NIGHTS'
If not literal, what is the meaning of Christ's words?
Matt 12:39 But He answered and said to them, "An evil and
adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and
no sign will be given to it except the sign of
the prophet Jonah.
:40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights
in the belly of the great fish, so will the
Son of Man be three days and three nights in
the heart of the earth.
Luke 11:30 For as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites,
so also the Son of Man will be to this generation.
Picking up on the thought of Luke 11:30, it is evident to those aware
of the account of Jonah, that Jonah was not a witness to the city of
Nineveh as a result of spending 3 days and 3 nights in the big fish.
Rather, Jonah was a sign to the people of Nineveh, because he spent
3 days journeying from one side of Nineveh to the other.
Jon 3:3 ... Now Nineveh was an exceedingly
great city, a three day journey in
:4 And Jonah began to enter the city
on the first day's walk.
Combine this with the understanding that the word 'earth' is sometimes
used by Scripture to symbolize the 'spiritual earth' and that a 'day'
may symbolize a 'year', and the meaning becomes clear.
The great sign given to that generation, the sign of the prophet Jonah,
was that Christ would spend three summers and three winters preaching
amongst the Jewish people! The sign that Jesus was the Christ, was not
how long He spent in the grave, but the length of His ministry!
Christ's ministry began following the imprisonment of John the Baptist.
Matt 4:12 Now when Jesus heard that John had been put in
prison, He departed to Galilee.
:13 And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in
:17 From that time Jesus began to preach and to
say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is
The terms 'the third day' and 'after three days' are literal expressions
which together clearly identify the period of burial.
The 'third day' was not calculated from the day of His death, but rather
was the 'third day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread'.
The term 'in three days' related to a progressive raising of the church
on the third day following it's destruction.
The term 'three days and three nights' is a symbolic comment and although
it appears relevant to this topic, it is in reality an allusion to the
length of Christ's ministry.