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#2.2 JESUS WAS LITERALLY THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE GRAVE

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Greek Word Study on 4521 σάββατον sabbaton Sabbath.
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Introduction 2.2

This is a very thorough bible study about Jesus being three days and three nights in the grave. We have included every scripture with Greek and Hebrew so that people can see the truth of what is taught here. The common belief that Jesus died on Friday and rose on Sunday cannot be true if Jesus was three whole nights and three whole days in the grave. At the most it comes to one day plus part of a day and one night plus part of a night. The Sunday sunrise had not happened when the women came to the tomb because they came "while it was still dark" (John 20:1). Therefore dear reader, please study carefully and prayerfully, and when you realize the truth every scripture will fit.

#2.21 He was raised on the third day

MATTHEW 16:21
21 From that time forth began Jesus to show to his disciples, how that he must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day (Greek: τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ).

MATTHEW 17:22-23
22 And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said to them, The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men.
23 And they shall kill him, and the third day (Greek: τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ) he shall be raised again. And they were exceeding sorry.

MATTHEW 20:18-19
18 Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death,
19 And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day (Greek: τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ) he shall rise again.

MARK 9:31
31For he taught his disciples, and said to them, The Son of man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and after that he is killed, he shall rise the third day (Greek: τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ).

MARK 10:32-34
32 And they were in the way going up to Jerusalem; and Jesus went before them: and they were amazed; and as they followed, they were afraid. And he took again the twelve, and began to tell them what things should happen to him,
33 Saying, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered to the chief priests, and to the scribes; and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles:
34 And they shall mock him, and scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall kill him: and the third day he shall rise again.

LUKE 9:21-22
21 And he strictly warned them, and commanded them to tell no man that thing;
22 Saying, The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day.

LUKE 18:31-33
31 And he took to him the twelve, and said to them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all thing that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished.
32 For he shall be delivered to the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spat on:
33 And they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day (Greek: τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ) he shall rise again.

LUKE 24:6-7
6 He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spoke to you while he was yet in Galilee,
7 Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.

LUKE 24:46
46 And said to them, Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day

ACTS 10:39-40
39 And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree:
40 Him God raised up the third day, and showed him openly;

1 CORINTHIANS 15:3-4
3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

Note 1: In every one of these scriptures except one (Luke 18:33) the expression "the third day" is translated from the Greek words τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ (Gtr. te trite hemera), which are the singular of the dative case, the adjective being in the "Attributive Intermediate Position" (Ward Powers p85). In Greek the dative describes a point in time when it is used in reference to time, and "te trite hemera" literally means "on the third day" (D.F. Hudson p105; Ward Powers p112; H.P.V. Nunn p47), that is, at some particular point in time on that day. That translated the third day (Luke 18:33) is the Greek expression τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῇ τρίτῃ (Gtr. te hemera te trite), which means exactly the same thing as "te trite hemera", but has the adjective in the "Attributive Post Position" (Ward Powers p85; H.P.V. Nunn p60).

Note 2: How then do we understand this? Jesus died on the day of the Passover, which was the 14th of the month (Leviticus 23:5; Numbers 9:5; Ezra 6:19), and the preparation for the feast of unleavened bread (John 19:30-31). He died around the ninth hour (Matthew 27:46-60; Luke 23:44-46), which would be around 3 p.m. in the afternoon (See #2.16 Note 2), and was buried the same day (Luke 23:50-56). There are different ways that we can interpret the phrase "the third day". One way is to count the days after his death on the 14th. The first day would be the 15th, the Sabbath of the feast (See #2.14), the second day would be the 16th, and the third day would be the 17th. Thus, counting these as whole days, according to every one of these scriptures, Jesus had to rise on the 17th day of the month. Another way would be to understand "the third day" as meaning "the third day of the feast of unleavened bread", in which case it would still mean that Jesus would rise on the 17th day of the month.

#2.22 He was raised in three days

JOHN 2:19-21
19 Jesus answered and said to them, Destroy this temple, and in three days (Greek: ἐν τρισὶν ἡμέραις) I will raise it up.
20 Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and will you rear it up in three days (Greek: ἐν τρισὶν ἡμέραις)
21 But he spoke of the temple of his body.

Note: In both of these verses the words translated in three days (Greek: ἐν τρισὶν ἡμέραις, Gtr. en trisin hemerais) are the plural of the dative case. As the dative specifies a point in time (See #2.21 Note 1), this phrase means "at some point in time during a three day period". In agreement with the previous section, we know that it was more specifically at a point in time on the third day of that period, which was the 17th day of the month.

#2.23 He was raised during three days?

MATTHEW 26:59-61
59 Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witnesses against Jesus, to put him to death;
60 But found none: yes, though many false witnesses came, yet they found none. At the end came two false witnesses,
61 And said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days (Greek: διὰ τριῶν ἡμερῶν).

MARK 14:55-58
55 And the chief priests and all the council sought for witness against Jesus to put him to death; and found none. 
56 For many bore false witness against him, but they agreed not together. 
57 And there arose certain, and bore false witness against him, saying,
58 We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days (Greek: διὰ τριῶν ἡμερῶν) I will build another made without hands.

Note: The words translated in three days (Matthew 26:61; Mark 14:58) are the Greek words διὰ τριῶν ἡμερῶν (Gtr. dia trion hemeron) which are in the genitive case. In this case the preposition "dia" literally means "through", and as the genitive case stands for "time during which" (D.F. Hudson p105; Ward Powers p108; H.P.V. Nunn p43), these statements speak as if he would be building during the three days. This was not what Jesus said, he used the dative case indicating a point in time during three days (See #2.22 Note), and in accordance with the best principles of interpreting the word of God (See RP 301 #4.16), as these are stated to be false witnesses who made these statements (Matthew 26:60; Mark 14:57), we can safely ignore their testimony altogether.

#2.24 He was raised after three days

MATTHEW 27:62-63
62 Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together to Pilate,
63 Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days (Greek: μετὰ τρεῖς ἡμέρας) I will rise again.

MARK 8:31
31 And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days (Greek: μετὰ τρεῖς ἡμέρας) rise again.

Note 1: The words translated after three days in both of these scriptures are the Greek words μετὰ τρεῖς ἡμέρας (Gtr. meta treis hemeras) which are in the accusative case. As far as time is concerned, the accusative case deals with "duration over a whole period" (D.F. Hudson p105; Ward Powers p106; H.P.V. Nunn p40), not "duration within a period", that would be genitive case (See #2.23 Note). As the preposition "meta" literally means "after", these statements make it clear that Jesus could not rise within this three day period specified, it had to be some time after it. If you count a day as a period of light, "God called the light day" (Genesis 1:4), that is "twelve hours" (John 11:9), then where are your thee periods of light if you believe Jesus died on Friday afternoon and rose on Sunday morning? If you count a day as a 24 hour day, then where are the three days, which equals 72 hours, between 3 p.m. Friday afternoon and 6 a.m. on Sunday morning?

Note 2: We cannot take this to be a period of three separate complete days, because that would mean that he rose after the 17th day, at least on the 18th, and it would contradict many other scriptures (See #2.21). So in accordance with the best principles of translating scripture (See RP 301 #4.08 "Make Sense of the Apparent Contradictions"), we can count this as a period of three whole days in length, that is 72 hours. This is exactly what we would do with righteous reckoning. If we take it to start from the time of his death, around 3 p.m. on the 14th day, then he must have risen at some time after 3 p.m. on the 17th day, but before 6 p.m. which would be the start of the 18th day for the Jews.

#2.25 He was raised after three days and three nights

JONAH 1:17
17 Then Yahweh had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights (Hebrew: שְׁלֹשָׁה יָמִים וּשְׁלֹשָׁה לֵילוֹת)

MATTHEW 12:40
40 For as Jonah was three day and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights (Greek: τρεῖς ἡμέρας καὶ τρεῖς νύκτας) in the heart of the earth.

Note 1: The sequence of events following Jonah's three days and three nights in the belly of the fish are as follows:

(Jonah 2:1) "Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God",
(Jonah 2:10) "And the Lord spoke to the fish,"
(Jonah 2:10) "and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land."

In each case here the underlined words "Then", "And", and "and", are the same conjunction (Hb. וַ , Htr. va) which can mean "and", or "but" or "or", depending upon the context (J. Weingreen, A PRACTICAL GRAMMAR FOR CLASSICAL HEBREW Page 40), and it can also mean "then". It doesn't mean "prior to this", or "before this", or "during which time". We can see that it is being used here to join a sequence of events which follow one another, from which we can conclude that Jonah spent three whole days and three whole nights in the belly of the fish (Jonah 1:17), that is, at least 72 hours of time. After this Yahweh spoke to the fish, and the fish vomited Jonah out on the dry land.

Note 2: In the New Testament, the expression three days and three nights (Greek: τρεῖς ἡμέρας καὶ τρεῖς νύκτας, Gtr. treis hemeras kai treis nuktas) (Matthew 12:40) is in the accusative case, and as we have already seen (#2.24 Note 1), the accusative case denotes a complete period of time. It does not normally mean "a time during which", that would be the genitive case, or "a point in that period of time", that would have to be the dative case. The Greek is scriptural proof that Jesus was literally three days and three nights in the grave. So we can take this period of time to be at least 72 hours, counting 12 hours in each day (John 11:9), and 12 hours in each night. This is literally three periods of darkness, and three periods of light as we can see what God said in the beginning, "And God called the light day, and the darkness he called night." (Genesis 1:5). This was not the time between his death and resurrection, but the time that he was "in the heart of the earth", that is, the time between his burial in the tomb, and his resurrection.

#2.26 Conclusion concerning the time of the resurrection of Jesus

We have already shown that Jesus rose at some point in time on the 17th of the month Nisan (See #2.21; #2.22), and that for other scriptures to agree it must have been between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. on that day (See #2.24). We can narrow the time down even more when we see that Jesus had to be buried for three whole days (See #2.25 Note 2). We do not know the exact time of his burial, but we can estimate it from the following facts:

(1) He died around 3 p.m. in the afternoon (Matthew 27:46-50).
(2) The Jews sought Pilate to break the legs of those on the cross, and the soldiers broke the legs of the two robbers, and pierced the side of Jesus with a spear (John 19:31-37).
(3) After this, Joseph of Arimathӕa went and asked for the body of Jesus at evening time (Matthew 27:57-58; Mark 15:42-43; Luke 23:50-52; John 19:38a).
(4) The centurion then had to go and check if Jesus was dead, and report back to Pilate (Mark 15:44-45).
(5) Joseph and Nicodemus then took the body, wrapped it up with spices (John 19:39-40), and took it and laid it in the tomb, and rolled a stone across the door (Matthew 27:59-60; Mark 15:46; John 19:41-42).
(6) It was still the day of the Passover when he was buried (Luke 23:54; John 19:42).
(7) While he was being buried the women watched how he had been laid (Luke 23:55).
(8) The next day, on the feast day, the 15th Nisan, the priests and Pharisees came to Pilate (Matthew 27:62) and requested the tomb to be sealed, and Pilate gave orders to do it (Matthew 27:64).
(9) The next day, after the feast day Sabbath, that is the 16th Nisan, the women disciples bought spices (Mark 16:1), and went and prepared them, and rested on the weekly Sabbath which followed, which was 17th Nisan (Luke 23:56), the day he rose from the dead.

We can assume from all of this that it was very late on the day of the Passover (14th of Nisan) when Jesus was buried, probably between 5 and 6 p.m. He had to be buried for at least three days and three nights, that is, 72 hours (See #2.25 Note 2). We have already shown that he must have risen of the 17th of Nisan (See #2.21; #2.22), so it was probably between 5 and 6 p.m. on that day, which was the weekly Sabbath day.

Three days and three nights

See another Diagrammatic representation of Jesus Death, Burial, Resurrection, and first appearances.

Death, burial, and resurrection bible quiz  Green tick

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