*3 Days and 3 Nights - a paradox resolved (Matthew 12:39,40).
The weight of evidence from the Gospels supports a Friday Crucifixion (John 19:31,42) and a Sunday morning resurrection (the first day of the week). This agrees with the standard description that the Resurrection was on the 3rd day from His death, not the 4th day (Matthew 16:21, 17:23, 20:19, 26:61, 27:40, 27:63,64, Mark 8:31, 9:31, 10:34, 14:58, 15:29,Luke 9:22, 18:33, 24:7,21,46, John 2:19-22, Acts 10:40, 1Cor 15:4, Hosea 6:2), for it is well-known that the Jews reckoned days inclusively (any part of a day as a whole day) from sunset.
However there is a single prophecy of Jesus that seems to contradict this:
Matthew 12:39,40: “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was 3 days and 3 nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be 3 days and 3 nights in the heart of the earth.”
Solution 1. It is not to be taken too literally, but an idiom, according to accepted Jewish usage. In other words, it is equivalent to: 3 ‘days and nights’ and that any part of a day or night counts as a whole ‘day and night.’ Bible interpretation allows for the use of idioms, so that if it can be shown that it is according to accepted Jewish usage, it is a possible interpretation. Now in the Bible, a part of a day = a whole day (Genesis 42:17,18, 1Kings 20:29, 2Chronicles 10:5,12).
In Esther 4:16 she calls a fast for 3 days and 3 nights before she goes into the king.
Then in 5:1 she went into the king on the 3rd day.
In 1Samuel 30:12, an abandoned servant said he had not ate or drank for 3 days and 3 nights, and in verse 13 he says he was abandoned 3 days ago. In these examples: ‘after 3 days and 3 nights’ seems to be equivalent to ‘on the 3rd day.’ Several passages of Rabbinic literature combine Jonah 1:17 with the passages above. Also Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah (10th from Ezra, 100AD) said: “a day and a night are an Onah (a portion of time) and a portion of an Onah is as the whole of it” (in the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmud) That is, in Jewish thinking, any portion of ‘a day and a night’ is counted as ‘a day and a night.’ In this way ‘3 days and 3 nights’ can be thought of as consistent with Friday-Sunday.
Solution 2. While the above may be valid, I would prefer a more literal solution. I believe I have found the literal solution confirmed by the words of Jesus Himself! How can ‘3 days and 3 nights’ be literally the same as ‘on the 3rd day’? I believe we have here a prophetic paradox, so that the prophecy could only be fulfilled under very special circumstances arranged by God.
Christ died at Friday 3pm (at the closing of the supernatural darkness) and rose about sunrise Sunday morning. However, even by an inclusive reckoning this is only 3 days and 2 nights. We need another night!
Did special circumstances provide another night?
YES! The 3 HOURS of DARKNESS!
My proposal is that the 3 hours of darkness count as a Night, so that if He left His body just before the darkness lifted and rose just after sunrise, then we literally have Him 3 days and 3 nights in the heart of the earth!
Night 1 (Friday noon-3pm).
Day 1: Friday 3pm-sunset (6pm).
Night 2: Friday 6pm-Saturday sunrise (6am).
Day 2: Saturday 6am-6pm.
Night 3: Saturday 6pm-Sunday sunrise.
Day 3: Sunday sunrise to sunset.
Jesus rose at or just after the sunrise on Sunday morning (Mark 16:9).
The validity of this depends upon whether this Darkness is correctly described as ‘a Night’. Both the Gospel and other historical records describe it as Night, for the sun was absent and the stars were shining as at night. To God it was NIGHT: “the DARKNESS He called NIGHT” (Genesis 1:3-5). But it was only when I saw that Christ Himself described this Darkness as ‘Night’ that I was fully convinced. What greater confirmation can we ask for? If He calls the supernatural darkness a ‘Night’, who are we to differ with Him?
As He hung on the Cross in this darkness He called it Night!
Matthew 27:45: “Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. 46 And about the ninth 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 (His 5 th Saying) quotes from Psalm 22:1, signifying that He was now praying Psalm 22, a detailed description of the Crucifixion from His personal viewpoint. It is nothing else but His Prayer from the Cross. When Jesus died He declared: “It is finished!” (‘I have done it!’) which is from the end of Psalm 22). He was indicating He had completed praying Psalm 22. We know the whole Psalm relates to His time on the Cross.
Let us now see what He said about His time on the Cross:
Psalm 22:1 “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)?
v2 O My God, I cry in the DAYTIME (8am-noon), but You do not hear;
and in the NIGHT SEASON!!! (noon-3pm) and am not silent.”