New Book: Daniel's 70 Weeks

Appendix 4: The Day the Sun stopped Shining

The dramatic darkness that covered the land of Israel for three hours was recorded by 3 of the Gospel writers. "Now from the 6th hour there occurred darkness over all the land until the 9th hour" (Matthew 27:45). "Now when the 6th hour had come, it became dark over all the land until the 9th hour" (Mark 15:33). "It was now about the 6th hour, and darkness came over all the land until the 9th hour, the sun failing" (Luke 23:44-45).

The 3 evangelists testify that the darkness lasted 3 hours, and it ‘covered all the land’. Luke says that ‘the sun failed’ (‘tou heliou ekleipontos’). ‘Helios’ = ‘the Sun’. ‘Ekleipo’ = ‘to fail, to come to an end.’ In Luke 22:32, Jesus used the same word: "I have prayed for you that your faith fail not." Thus the cause of the darkness was an unaccountable failure in the Sun’s light. This distinguishes the event from the mere darkness of dense thunderclouds that can cause near night-time conditions.

Such storms are unusual for Palestine, especially at Passover time and certainly would not have lasted 3 hours. Furthermore, there would have been mention of prodigious rainfall. Luke in fact used a word that gave rise to our present word ECLIPSE, an astronomical event, the cause of which lies beyond the confines of the Earth’s atmosphere. But we must not think that the strange darkness was caused by an extended eclipse of the Sun, for there was no way for that to occur on the day of the crucifixion.

This is because an eclipse of the Sun only occurs when the Moon is directly between the Sun and us, thus blocking out its light. And on this particular day (Passover - the 14th Nisan, Luke 22:13-15), the Moon was full and therefore on the FAR side of the Earth away from the Sun (Passover was always on a full moon). There can be no possibility of an eclipse of the Sun that day. Furthermore, no eclipse of the Sun can last more than 7 and a half minutes in any one place, and this strange darkness lasted for 3 HOURS. Hence, the cause of the darkness, though beyond the clouds, cannot be attributed to the Moon, or any source that we are aware of. Something must have intruded its way into a position between the Earth and the Sun, and cut off the light. Thus this was a SUPERNATURAL EVENT! A Supernatural Darkness fell during Christ's death - the Hand of God. Even the Universe had to respond to His sacrificial Death!

Thus for 3 hours a strange darkness covered the land. The sky was clear, and the stars appeared. People would be asking themselves whether ‘the end of the world’ had come. The Jews knew from their Bible that ‘the day of the Lord’ would be ‘a day of darkness’, and Amos 8:9 says: "On that day, says the Lord God, I will make the Sun to go down at noon, and darken the Earth in broad daylight. I will turn your feasting into mourning, and all your songs into lamentations." This darkness speaks of a time of God’s Judgement upon sin. At the Crucifixion God the Father placed all the sins of mankind (including yours and mine) upon His Son Jesus Christ, and God poured out His wrath upon Him. Jesus stood in our place and bore the punishment we deserved. He cried out in a loud voice, “My God, my God, Why have you forsaken Me?” Jesus was separated from His Father for 3 hours. God signified this by blotting out the sun, until Jesus had the paid the price for our sin in full!

Matthew 27:45,46: “Now from the 6th hour until the 9th hour there was darkness over all the land. And about the 9th hour, Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

Just before He dies, in the darkness, Jesus quotes Psalm 22:1 (“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”), signifying that He was now praying Psalm 22

(the whole Psalm). The whole of Psalm 22 is a detailed description of the Crucifixion of Christ from His personal viewpoint. It is nothing else, but His Prayer from the Cross. Moreover, Psalm 22 finishes with a prophecy (in verse 31) that:
“They will come and declare His righteousness to a people who will be born: That He has done it.” In other words: it will be proclaimed down the generations that: “He has accomplished it, that it is finished, that through His death for us He has paid the price in full!”

Matthew 27:50a: “And (then) Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.”

John 20:30 tells us what this cry was: “He said, “It is finished!” ('I have done it!' - in other words: the end of Psalm 22). And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.”

Just as He indicated by quoting the first verse He was praying Psalm 22, so now just before He died He indicated He had completed His prayer by referencing the last verse. Thus by quoting the last verse of Psalm 22, He signified that He had now finished praying the Psalm. Thus He wanted us to know that Psalm 22 was His prayer just before His death. The whole Psalm relates to His time on the Cross. He prayed it from start to finish and it contains His most exact and detailed description of the time of His Crucifixion.

Let us now see what He said about His time on the Cross:

Psalm 22:1,2: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me, and from the words of My groaning (screaming)? O My God, I cry in the DAYTIME (9am-noon), but You do not hear; and in the NIGHT SEASON (noon-3pm), and am not silent.” Clearly, He is describing the DARKNESS that He was in at that time as being a NIGHT! His time on the Cross therefore included both a day and a night time. Thus this darkness was also prophesied in Psalm 22:2. The Psalm goes on to explain the reason for the darkness, and why Jesus felt forsaken by God: “But You are holy, enthroned in the praises of Israel” (v3). Jesus was bearing our sin upon Himself, and so was enduring God’s holy Wrath and Judgement.

This supernatural Darkness (2 days before the Resurrection of Christ) was also prophesied in Joel 2:31 (see also Acts 2:20): “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the Coming of the Great and Awesome (Glorious) Day of the Lord (or ‘the Great Day of the Lord’s Manifestation’).” This Great and Glorious Day of the Lord will also apply to the 2nd Coming of Christ.

Is there any historical evidence to back up this event?

Yes! - there were other early writers that mentioned this strange darkness. Tertullian (at the beginning of the 3rd century) and Lucian (the martyr of Nicomedia, who died in A.D. 312) appealed to the testimony of national archives then in existence that a supernatural darkness prevailed at the time of the Cross.

Thallus, a historian writing in AD. 52, writing to deny any supernatural elements accompanying the crucifixion tried to explain away this darkness. Though his writings are lost to us, we have the quotations of other later writers.

Julius Africanus, a Christian historian, writing about A.D. 221, refers to Christ's Crucifixion and the darkness that covered the earth prior to His Death saying:

"Thallus, in his 3rd book of histories, explains away this darkness as an eclipse of the sun - unreasonably as it seems to me. For the Hebrews celebrate the Passover on the 14th day according to the moon, and the Passion of our Saviour falls on the day before the Passover; but an eclipse of the sun takes place only when the moon comes under the sun. And it cannot happen at any other time but in the interval between the first day of the new moon and the last of the old, that is, at their junction: how then should an eclipse occur when the moon is almost diametrically opposite the sun?”

The phrase 'this darkness' indicates that Thallus was referring to the events of the death of Jesus. Africanus stated his objection to Thallus’s statement, arguing that an eclipse of the sun cannot occur during a full moon, as was the case when Jesus died at Passover.

The writing of Thallus shows that the facts of Jesus' death were known and discussed in Rome as early as the middle of the first century, to the extent that unbelievers like Thallus thought it necessary to explain the matter of the darkness as something natural. He took the existence of Christ for granted. Neither Jesus, nor the darkness at his death were ever denied. At the time of his writing, anti-Christians had already been explaining the darkness at the time of the crucifixion as a purely natural phenomenon (eclipse). Origen, for example, had written that this idea of it being an eclipse was an invention of the pagans to discredit the Gospels.

* Phlegon Confirms Jesus' story and Darkness at Noon.
Julius Africanus then mentions another source, that of Phlegon of Tralles, a first century Greek historian born not long after the crucifixion. His greatest task was in the writing of history, was called ‘OLYMPIADES’, where he used the Olympiads as a useful means of establishing a time-line. We only have fragments left to us of this monumental work and quotations of it from other writers.

The words Africanus quoted were: "During the time of Tiberius Cæsar an eclipse of the sun occurred during the Full Moon."

The timing agrees with the Gospels, and as we have shown, this clearly must refer to a supernatural event. Thankfully, we have a more detailed fragment from Phlegon’s Olympiades: "In the 4th year of the 202nd Olympiad, there was a great eclipse of the Sun, greater than had ever been known before, for at the 6th hour the Day was changed into Night, and the stars were seen in the heavens. An earthquake occurred in Bythinia and overthrew a great part of the City of Nicæa."

This reference reveals several key things. The sun was darkened during Christ's death along with a great earthquake. The time of the darkness agrees with Matthew 27:45. This statement of Phlegon also gives us the year of the Crucifixion. In ancient Greece, the Olympic Games were held in the July of the first year of each Olympiad, (a 4-year period running from July to June of each succeeding year).

The 202nd Olympiad has been calculated to run from July AD 29 to June 33. The diagram below will clarify the matter.

 

* THE 202nd OLYMPIAD CALENDAR

A.D. |------29------|------30------|------31------|------32------|------33-----|
|------1st------|------2nd-----|------3rd-----|-----4th ---|
|---------------------202nd Olympiad----------------- --|

 

Each year of an Olympiad began on 1st July. We know that Jesus died in the Spring, and thus it had to be in AD 33 according to Phlegon. As several of the early Fathers quoted him, there seems no reason to doubt his word. Therefore, the year of the Crucifixion must be AD 33. Since the Crucifixion was at Passover, we can date the Crucifixion to Nisan 14th, AD 33, which on our (Gregorian) Calendar was April 1st, AD 33. The fact that this day was a Friday (the day before the Sabbath) in agreement with the Gospels, provides extra confirmation this is the correct date. (The date on the Julian Calendar, in use at the time, was April 3rd).

Another historian, Philipon (with Origen), confirms the historicity of Phlegon’s statement by writing, "And about this darkness - Phlegon recalls it in the Olympiads...Phlegon mentioned the eclipse which took place during the Crucifixion of the Lord Christ, and no other (eclipse), it is clear that he did not know from his sources about any (similar) eclipse in previous times ... and this is shown by the historical account of Tiberius Caesar."

So it was recorded in a historical account of Tiberius by Roman historians that Rome was in darkness during the reign of Tiberius - the Caesar in AD.33. Writers that refer to this statement of Phlegon include Julius Africanus, Joannes Philoponus, Malelas, Origen, Eusebius and Maximus. As many as 7 ancient writers directly quote Phlegon! This makes the fragment among the best-attested in ancient writing.

One of these wrote: “Phlegon records that in the time of Tiberius Caesar, at full moon, there was a full eclipse of the Sun from the 6th hour to the 9th, manifestly that one of which we speak."

Origen wrote to answer Celsus, a strong critic of the supernatural element in the Gospels, saying: "Now Phlegon, in his 13th or 14th book, I think, of his Chronicles, not only ascribed to Jesus a knowledge of future events...but also testified that the result corresponded to His predictions" (Origen against Celsus)

And in the same work, Origen refers to Phlegon again, as follows:
"with regard to the eclipse in the time of Tiberius Caesar, in whose reign Jesus appears to have been crucified, and the great earthquakes which then took place, Phlegon too I think has written in the 13th or 14th book of his Chronicles.”

Also: “He [that is, Celsus] imagines also that both the earthquake and the darkness were an invention, but regarding these, we have in the preceding pages made our defence, according to our ability, adducing the testimony of Phlegon, who relates that these events took place at the time when our Saviour suffered.”

The Bible says that all the earth was in darkness (Luke 23:24), as well as over all the Land of Israel (Mark 15:33). The secular accounts consistently agree that the darkness covered the whole known world. They also agree that the stars were seen, just as if it were night-time. This means that it was not dust or clouds blocking the sunlight, for the stars would not then be visible. Neither could it have been an eclipse (since it was a Full Moon). It was surely a Supernatural Sign!

* Finally we give the testimony of various early historical documents:

The GOSPEL of PETER (2nd Century): “And it was noon, and darkness came over all Judaea: and they [the Jewish leaders] were troubled and distressed, lest the sun had set, whilst he [Jesus] was yet alive: [for] it is written for them, that the sun set not on him that hath been put to death. And one of them said, Give him to drink gall with vinegar. And they mixed and gave him to drink, and fulfilled all things, and accomplished their sins against their own head. And many went about with lamps, supposing that it was night, and fell down. And the Lord cried out, saying, My Power, My Power, Thou hast forsaken Me. And when He had said it, he was taken up. And in that hour the veil of the Temple of Jerusalem was rent in two. And then they drew out the nails from the hands of the Lord, and laid him upon the earth, and the whole earth quaked, and great fear arose. Then the Sun shone, and it was found the 9th hour: and the Jews rejoiced, and gave his body to Joseph that he might bury it, since he had seen what good things he had done. And he took the Lord, and washed him, and rolled him in a linen cloth, and brought him into his own tomb, which was called the Garden of Joseph."

The ACTS of PILATE: A work of this name is referred to by Justin Martyr, 150 AD, in his defense before the Emperor, who would have been able to examine these Acts himself: "And at the time He was crucified there was Darkness over all the world, the Sun being darkened at mid-day, and the stars appearing, but in them there appeared no luster; and the MOON, as if turned into BLOOD, failed in her light. And the world was swallowed up by the lower regions, so that the very Sanctuary of the Temple, as they call it, could not be seen by the Jews in their fall; and they saw below them a chasm of the earth, with the roar of the thunders that fell upon it. And in that terror dead men were seen that had risen, as the Jews themselves testified; and they said that it was Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the 12 Patriarchs, and Moses and Job, that had died, as they say, 3,500 years before. And there were very many whom I also saw appearing in the body; and they were making a lamentation about the Jews, on account of the wickedness that had come to pass through them, and the destruction of the Jews and of their law. And the fear of the earthquake remained from the 6th hour of the Preparation until the 9th hour."

THALLUS and PHLEGON
Thallus was a historian who wrote his Histories in AD 52. Julius Africanus, in A.D 220, refers to these, when describing the darkness at the Crucifixion: “Thallus, in the 3rd Book of his Histories, explains away this darkness as an eclipse of the sun, unreasonably … of course, because a solar eclipse could not take place at the time of the full moon, and it was the season of the Paschal full moon that Christ died.”

Phlegon was a Greek astronomer. Philopon and Origen draw from Phlegon's Olympiads (written A.D.138) an account of the Darkness of the Crucifixion.

Origen's quote is the best documented and quite similar to Philopon's: “Phlegon, in treating of the 4th year of the 202nd Olympiad, the year in which our Lord was crucified (AD 33), tells us: “That the greatest eclipse of the sun which was ever known to happened then; for the day was so turned into night that the stars in the heavens were seen.” To this account, Philopon adds that: “this is shown by the historical account itself of Tiberius Caesar” suggesting that a Roman account exists.

The account of Phlegon is summarized as follows by Origen (215 AD):
"And with regard to the eclipse in the time of Tiberius Caesar, in whose reign Jesus appears to have been crucified, and the great earthquakes which then took

place, Phlegon too, I think, has written in the 13th or 14th book of his Chronicles." (Origen, Against Celsus 2.33).

"Regarding these we have in the preceding pages made our defense, according to our ability, adducing the testimony of Phlegon, who relates that these events took place at the time when our Saviour suffered" (Origen, Against Celsus 2.59).

The Chronography of Julius Africanus (220 AD): "On the circumstances connected with our Saviour’s Passion and His Life-Giving Resurrection. As to His works severally, and His cures effected upon body and soul, and the mysteries of His doctrine, and the resurrection from the dead, these have been most authoritatively set forth by His disciples and apostles before us.

On the whole world there pressed a most fearful darkness; and the rocks were rent by an earthquake, and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down. This darkness Thallus, in the 3rd book of his History, calls, as appears to me without reason, an eclipse of the sun. For the Hebrews celebrate the Passover on the 14th day according to the moon, and the Passion of our Saviour falls on the day before the Passover; but an eclipse of the sun takes place only when the moon comes under the sun. And it cannot happen at any other time but in the interval between the first day of the new moon and the last of the old, that is, at their junction: how then should an eclipse be supposed to happen when the moon is almost diametrically opposite the sun?

Let that opinion pass however; let it carry the majority with it; and let this portent of the world be deemed an eclipse of the sun, like others a portent only to the eye. Phlegon records that, in the time of Tiberius Caesar, at Full Moon, there was a full eclipse of the Sun from the 6th hour to the 9th manifestly that one of which we speak. But what has an eclipse in common with an earthquake, the rending rocks, and the resurrection of the dead, and so great a perturbation throughout the universe? Surely no such event as this is recorded for a long period. But it was a darkness induced by God, because the Lord happened then to suffer."

Eusebius. Writing at 315 AD, in his Chronicle, Volume II, the Church historian, Eusebius writes: "Jesus Christ .. underwent his Passion in the 18th year of Tiberius [AD 33]. Also at that time in another Greek compendium we find an event recorded in these words: "the sun was eclipsed, Bithynia was struck by an earthquake, and in the city of Nicaea many buildings fell." All these things happened to occur during the Lord's Passion. In fact, Phlegon, too, a distinguished reckoner of Olympiads, wrote more on these events in his 13th book, saying this:

"Now, in the 4th year of the 202nd Olympiad [July AD 32-July AD 33], a great eclipse of the sun occurred at the 6th hour [noon] that excelled every other before it, turning the day into such darkness of night that the stars could be seen in heaven, and the earth moved in Bithynia, toppling many buildings in the city of Nicaea."

Cassiodorus, the Christian chronicler, 6th century AD, confirms the unique nature of the eclipse: "Our Lord Jesus Christ suffered (Crucifixion) and an eclipse [literally: a failure or desertion] of the sun occurred, such as never was before or since."

*TESTIMONY of the PUBLIC ARCHIVES in PAGAN ROME
and of PILATE'S LETTER TO TIBERIUS:

Philopon, a Christian Neo-Platonist, 6th century AD wrote,
"Phlegon mentioned the eclipse which took place during the Crucifixion of the Lord Christ, and no other [eclipse], it is clear that he did not know from his sources about any [similar] eclipse in previous times ...
and this is shown by the historical account itself of Tiberius Caesar."

*Tertullian also claimed that these events were in the Public Records of Rome. Having lived in Rome and having practiced Law, he was familiar with the Roman archives, and was influenced by them in his own acceptance of Divine Truth. It is not possible that such a man would have made such bold appeal to the Records, in remonstrating with the Senate and in the very faces of the Emperor and his colleagues, had he not known that the evidence was indisputable

In his Apologeticus, written about A.D. 197, he wrote:
“at that same moment, about noontide, the day was withdrawn; and they, who knew not that this was foretold concerning Christ, thought it was an eclipse. But this you have in your archives; you can read it there.”

The foretelling to which he refers is found in Amos 8:9 where it says:
“And it shall come to pass in that day, says the Lord GOD, that I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in the clear day.”

Tertullian (early 3rd Century AD), Apol. XXI:
"But the Jews were so exasperated by His teaching, by which their rulers and chiefs were convicted of the truth, chiefly because so many turned aside to Him, that at last they brought Him before Pontius Pilate, at that time Roman governor of Syria; and, by the violence of their outcries against Him, extorted a sentence giving Him up to them to be crucified. He Himself had predicted this; which, however, would have signified little had not the prophets of old done it as well. And yet, nailed upon the Cross, He exhibited many notable signs, by which His death was distinguished from all others. At His own free-will, He with a word dismissed from Him His spirit, anticipating the executioners work.

In the same hour, too, the light of day was withdrawn, when the sun at the very time was in his meridian blaze. Those who were not aware that this had been predicted about Christ, no doubt thought it an eclipse. You yourselves have the account of the world-portent still in your archives.

Then, when His body was taken down from the Cross and placed in a Sepulcher, the Jews in their eager watchfulness surrounded it with a large military guard, lest, as He had predicted His resurrection from the dead on the 3rd day, His disciples might remove by stealth His body, and deceive even the incredulous. But, lo, on the 3rd day there a was a sudden shock of earthquake, and the stone which sealed the Sepulcher was rolled away, and the guard fled off in terror: without a single disciple near, the grave was found empty of all but the clothes of the buried One.

But nevertheless, the leaders of the Jews, whom it nearly concerned both to spread abroad a lie, and keep back a people tributary and submissive to them from the faith, gave it out that the body of Christ had been stolen by His followers. For the Lord, you see, did not go forth into the public gaze, lest the wicked should be delivered from their error; that faith also, destined to a great reward, might hold its ground in difficulty. But He spent 40 days with some of His disciples down in Galilee, a region of Judaea, instructing them in the doctrines they were to teach to others. Thereafter, having given them commission to preach the Gospel through the world, He was encompassed with a cloud and taken up to heaven, a fact more certain far than the assertions of your Proculi concerning Romulus.

All these things Pilate did to Christ; and now in fact a Christian in his own convictions, he sent word of Him to the reigning Caesar, who was at the time Tiberius. Yes, and the Caesars too would have believed on Christ, if either the Caesars had not been necessary for the world, or if Christians could have been Caesars."

* The Report of Pontius Pilate, Governor of Judea sent to Tiberius Caesar in Rome (alluded to by Tertullian above). This letter to Tiberius, was mentioned by Justin Martyr when he wrote his “Defense of Christianity” to Emperor Antonius Pius about AD150. A document from the 6th Century that claims to be a copy of this Report says:

“Now when He was crucified, DARKNESS came over all the world; the sun was altogether hidden, and the sky appeared dark while it was yet day, so that the STARS WERE SEEN, though still they had their luster obscured (by dust generated by the earthquakes), wherefore, I suppose your excellency is not unaware that in all the world they lighted their lamps from the 6th hour until evening. And the MOON, which was like (tinged with) BLOOD, lost its brightness, although it was at the Full, and the Stars and Orion made lamentation over the Jews.”

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