How long is three days?
March 30, 2013
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To begin this discussion, let me ask: How long is it from now until the same day next week at this time? Sounds like a dumb question doesn’t it? If you are English-speaking, the answer is seven days. To say anything else would be ludicrous.
But. If you are French-speaking, the answer is equally obvious, yet different — it is eight days from now to the same day next week at this time.
You see, in English we treat this as a question of mathematics, subtracting one date from another and come up with seven. A Frenchman counts every day, starting with today and ending with the same day next week. He is not concerned with whether it is a full day or not, but in his way of thinking one cannot ignore today, because it is not finished yet, and one must also count this day next week, because it will have already begun.
To a Frenchman this is the only sensible way of considering the question, but an English-speaking person finds it almost impossible to wrap his mind around such a concept.
The point of this little mental exercise is that the people in Jesus’ day thought about a period of time in precisely the way that French-speaking people still do today. Really, it is we English-speaking people who are out of sync with the way people thought in Bible times.
Jesus’ prophecy that he would spend three days in the tomb is a stumbling block to the English mind, giving rise to various fanciful explanations of which day Jesus really died. People have gone to great effort to find evidence for their speculations; I have encountered seemingly logical arguments for both Wednesday and Thursday.
In this case, the simplest explanation is the best. Jesus did indeed die on Friday and rise again on Sunday. The people of His day would have had no problem understanding that being in the tomb from late Friday afternoon to very early Sunday morning perfectly fulfilled the prophecy of three days in the tomb.