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Was Christ really in the tomb for three days?

Full Question

If Christ died on a Friday and was raised on a Sunday, how come the Bible speaks of his being in the tomb for three days and three nights before his Resurrection (Mt 12:40; Mk 8:31)?


Christ died around three in the afternoon on Friday and was entombed shortly thereafter. The Resurrection occurred by dawn on Sunday. Thus he was in the tomb less than nine hours Friday (by the modern reckoning), twenty-four hours Saturday, and less than six hours Sunday–at any rate, far less than the seventy-two hours that comprise three full days and nights.

Is there a contradiction here? No, because the ancient Jews counted as a whole day any part of a day, so “three days and three nights” (which means the same as “three days” in modern usage) could be as little as twenty-four hours plus a few seconds on either side–if there had been, back then, clocks that could register seconds.

In our way of reckoning things, from lunch time today to lunch time tomorrow is one day. Ancient Jews would have counted it as two days because it includes parts of two distinct days.

Catholic Answers Staff



  1. Patrick Gannon Reply

    That’s a pretty lame and unconvincing explanation. You still can’t get 3 nights. Friday night, Saturday night – that’s it. In Mark 15:25 crucifixion takes place at the third hour (9 a.m.) and Jesus’ death at the ninth hour (3 p.m.). However, in John 19:14 Jesus is still before Pilate at the sixth hour, providing even less daytime to work with. Did they “cheat” the hours in Jonah’s tale of 3 days and 3 nights in the belly of the fish?
    A more reasonable explanation is that there were two passover feasts that week and Jesus was crucified on a Wednesday. I’m not sure why the RCC didn’t embrace that far more likely explanation – but the RCC is all about making people believe things that are unbelievable, so no surprise there.

    1. Gerry Kenny Reply

      Many pretenders but only One Holy Catholic Apostolic Church. They still are creating new protestant cults even today….ours 2,000 years old. God Bless.

  2. buddy rawls Reply

    No!!!!! the Jewish day begins at sundown, not at midnight. He is in the earth 3 days and 3 nights, no mistake there, and Jesus said thats what was going to happen, Like Jonah. We are also told that Jesus is our Passover Lamb, as well as the first Fruit. this means he has to be crucified on Passover, and the also new beginning (first fruits) will be 3 days later. Jesus said that, and Jonah was the model. I contend that Joseph was was in the pit 3 days 3 nights too!!

    This means that the passover will be nisan 14 (by definition) feast of first fruits is 3 days later, and for NT history to be correct, will occur on the first day of the week that year.

    the last supper was the passover feast. It occurs in the evening, the start of their day. the sacrifice happens late in the same day (late afternoon). this means the passover feast/last supper happens on OUR wednesday evening (This is Jewish thursday, Nisan 14, 5th day of week). The passover sacrifice/ crucifixion occurs after noon, still on Nisan 14, 5th day of week.

    Heres the schedule
    5th day, nisan 14
    evening -last supper passover freast (wednesday evening for us)
    midnight night – in the garden praying
    morning- arrest (rooster!!!)
    noon- trials
    after noon- crucifixion and passover sacrifice (thursday afternoon for us)
    later after noon- taken down from Cross

    6th day, nisan 15
    evening- burial in tomb, 3 days and 3 nights begins (thursday night for us)
    morning (end of night 1, begin day 1)

    7th day, nisan 16
    evening- (end of day 1, begin night 2)
    morning- (end of night 2, begin day 1)

    1st day, nisan 17 (prophecy and many OT occurences check Noah’s Ark timeline too )
    evening- (end of day 2, begin night 3)
    morning- risen Jesus (end night 3 and is morning of the 3rd day) (sunday morning for us)

    thats 3 days and 3 nights
    fully scriptural
    no stretches or theories. you simply have to look at the Jewish side of the calendar and hours of the day.

  3. Mary Wilton Reply

    ha ha ha!!! you guys that think Jesus died on Friday are confused by traditions of the catholic church which are not base on the Bible. Read the bible for yourself. There is also no mention of easter or christmas which are pagan holidays that are observed by the catholic church and have been welcomed into most christian churches now. Jesus Died on the eve of a Sabbath (passover eve with the Passover lambs which was a Wednesday that year ) in the grave Thursday, Friday and Saturday also a Sabbath. rose Sunday morning Just before The women got there.

    1. Gerry Kenny Reply

      Which Bible the original Catholic bible or the one started in the 1600’s..the kjv which removed books they deemed not to believe…..1600 years after his Resurrection. ‘This is my body this is my blood’ The Holy Eucharist and whose sin you shall forgive they are forgiven…The Reconciliation..Confession!!!!! And the most important…The Holy mass!!

    2. Gerry Kenny Reply

      One Holy Catholic Apostolic…the only church founded by Christ and over 2,000 years old…the rest all protestant cults started by mere men to further their own agenda. They follow a bible from the 1600’s…ours from the Apostles. Thousands of protestant cults..One Catholic church!!

  4. W.K. Bill Weston Reply

    Scripture says that Elohim called the light DAY, and the darkness he called NIGHT According to Jewish custom any part of a day, however small, is included as part of a full day. Christ was crucified on Friday morning, darkness from noon till 3, night 1; 3 til sunset, day 1; sunset til1 Saturday morning, night 2; Saturday sunup to sunset, day 2, Saturday sunset to Sunday sunrise, night 3 and he arose on Sunday the third day.

  5. Edwin Subijano Reply

    It was three days from the time of his arrest and not from the time of his death.

  6. otis Reply

    During the time of that Cricifiction, how many hours did there day consist of? I think that answer might shine some light on this correct response to this question

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