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#4.34 WHAT IS THE SIXTH HOUR John 19:14?

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Introduction 4.34

What is so important about the sixth hour in this scripture John 19:14? What does it refer to? The sixth hour of what? A number of false doctrines have been built on this scripture, because the most obvious way to understand it causes contradictions with a number of other scriptures. Is it the sixth hour of the day? or the sixth hour of the night? or was John using Roman time instead of the customary Jewish time? Or is there some other answer? An important thing to note is that it was at the end of Jesus' trial, when Pilate was about to turn him over to be crucified, so it would only be a short time before he was on the cross. This bible study answers the question, 'What is the sixth hour?' John 19:14; the 'sixth hour' of what? First look at the scripture:

(John 19:14) "And it was the preparation of the Passover, and about the sixth hour; and he says to the Jews, Behold your king!"

#4.341 Was it the Sixth Hour of the Day?

Some have tried to interpret the sixth hour as the sixth hour of the day, which would make it about 12 noon or slightly after by Jewish time. A number of bibles have interpreted it this way.

English Standard Version - Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, "Behold your King!"
International standard version - Now it was the Preparation Day for the Passover, about noon. He said to the Jews, "Here is your king!"
New American Standard Bible - Now it was the day of preparation for the Passover; it was about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, "Behold, your King!"
New Living Translation - It was now about noon on the day of preparation for the Passover. And Pilate said to the people, "Look, here is your king!"

These bible translators have inserted the word "day" assuming that's what it means, two have put "noon" instead of the sixth hour, and so forced their interpretation on the scripture. However, this would contradict other scriptures.

(Matthew 27:45) "Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land to the ninth hour."
(Mark 15:25) "And it was the third hour, and they crucified him."
(Mark 15:33) "And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour."
(Luke 23:44) "And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour."

Now according to these scriptures Jesus was crucified, that is put on the cross, at the third hour (Mark 15:25), which would be around 9 a.m. in the morning according to our Roman Calendar time. At the sixth hour (Matthew 27:45, Mark 15:33, Luke 23:44), which would be about 12 noon it went dark, and remained dark until the 9th hour, which would be about 3 p.m. in the afternoon, when Jesus died. How then could he stand before Pilate at the end of his trial at the sixth hour of the Day? Not possible! Some have even gone so far trying to make this scripture fit as to say that Jesus didn't keep the Passover on 14th Nisan, but on the 13th, then he could be before Pilate at midday on the 13th and crucified at 9am on the 14th, but such an explanation is absurd. If Jesus did not keep the Passover on the 14th Nisan, which is when it should have been kept (Leviticus 23:5; Numbers 9:5) then he did not keep the Passover, and the bible states that he kept the Passover.

(Matthew 26:18) "My time is near; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples."
(Mark 14:12) "Where do you desire that we go and prepare that you may eat the Passover?"
(Luke 22:15) "And he said to them, With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer".

To try to make John 19:14 mean the sixth hour of the day contradicts too many scriptures to be acceptable.

#4.342 Was it the Sixth Hour of the Night using Jewish time?

At that time of year using biblical time the night would begin around 6 p.m. Roman time or shortly after. That would make it about midnight by Jewish time. This would mean that Jesus was turned over to be crucified at Midnight, but did not get crucified until about 9 a.m. the next morning. However, two verses later Jesus was led away to be crucified.

(John 19:16) "Then therefore, he delivered him to them that he might be crucified. And they took Jesus and led him away."

This would also mean that there was about nine hours between Jesus being led away to be crucified and him being put on the cross at the third hour (Mark 15:25), which would be about 9 a.m. This by itself makes this interpretation unacceptable. It would also mean that a number of events would have to be crammed into a short space of time between sunset and midnight.

(1) The Passover would have been prepared and eaten with his disciples.
(2) They would have gone and prayed in the garden of Gethsemane.
(3) Jesus would have been arrested.
(4) The trial first before Annas (John 18:13, 14 - 23).
(5) Trial before Caiaphas and Sanhedrim (Matt. 26:57-66; Mark 14 :53-64 ; John 18:24).
(6) As soon as day came (Luke 22:66) the trial before Sanhedrin (Luke 22 :66-71 ; Mark 15:1).
(7) At early morning (Matthew 27:1, Mark 15:1) the trial before Pilate (Matt. 27:11-14; Mark 15:2-5).
(8) Trial before Herod Antipas (Luke 23:6-12).
(9) Trial again before Pilate (Matthew 27:15-31; Mark 15:6-20; Luke 23:11-25; John 18 :39-40 ; 19 :1-5).

Now just looking at these, the error becomes obvious. Jesus was led away to the Sanhedrin "when it became day" (Luke 22:66), and then to Pilate "morning having come" (Matthew 27:1), "immediately in the morning" (Mark 15:1). These are literal translations. Therefore the trial before Pilate, and then Herod, and then back to Pilate must have been after 6 a.m. Therefore there is no way that "the sixth hour" could refer to the sixth hour of the night, Jewish time.

#4.343 Was it the Sixth Hour of the Night using Roman Time?

Some have tried to interpret the "sixth hour" (John 19:14) as the sixth hour of the night, using Roman time. That is taking the day to start at midnight and end at midnight, so the sixth hour would be around 6 a.m. in the morning. A few bible translations have assumed this.

God's Word Translation (1995) The time was about six o'clock in the morning on the Friday of the Passover festival. Pilate said to the Jews, "Look, here's your king!"
Weymouth New Testament - It was the day of Preparation for the Passover, about six o'clock in the morning. Then he said to the Jews, "There is your king!"

Holman Christian Standard Bible (2009) It was the preparation day for the Passover, and it was about six in the morning. Then he told the Jews, "Here is your king!"

Here we have the same situation as the previous section. Jesus was led away to the Sanhedrin "when it became day" (Luke 22:66), and then to Pilate "morning having come" (Matthew 27:1), "immediately in the morning" (Mark 15:1). These are literal translations. Therefore the trial before Pilate, and then Herod, and then back to Pilate must have been after 6 a.m. Therefore there is no way the sixth hour could be referring to 6 a.m. because they would then have taken place before 6 a.m. in the morning. There are two other problems with this interpretation:

(1) It would be the only place in the bible where an inspired bible writer ever used Roman timing that I know of, and for this reason it is an unacceptable explanation. For any truth to be obtained from scripture it should be "out of the mouth of two or three witnesses" (Numbers 35:30, Deuteronomy 17:6, 19:15, Matthew 18:16, John 8:17, 2 Corinthians 13:1). This is one of our principles of correct interpretation, and as it doesn't happen here it is rejected.

(2) The sixth hour from midnight would bring us to about 6 a.m. in the morning; about sunrise. This would leave about 3 hours for them to take Jesus to Golgotha to crucify him. Golgotha is an Aramaic word meaning "the skull." Calvary is the Latin form of the word. Scripture does not reveal the exact location of Golgotha. It simply states that Jesus’ crucifixion took place outside the city of Jerusalem, though near it (John 19:20; Hebrews 13:12). However, if it was near to Jerusalem it seems unreasonable to say it took three hours to get there. They got back from Emmaus in less time than that.

The conclusion here is that John was not using Roman time.

#4.344 Did the Manuscript Really Say the Third Hour?

Abbreviations were often used for numbers in the period when the New Testament manuscripts were written. Greeks in the koine period used a system based on the Greek alphabet, which was the Ionic system. However, it used characters from the more ancient alphabet, as well as the 24 characters used in the koine Greek alphabet. Thus Γ was used for three and Ϛ for 6. When these were not written correctly there was a possibility of misinterpretation. Here are two men's opinions.

Clarke's Commentary on the Bible - The sixth hour - Mark says, Mark 15:25, that it was the third hour. Τριτη, the third, is the reading of DL, four others, the Chron. Alex., Seuerus Antiochen., Ammonius, with others mentioned by Theophylact. Nonnus, who wrote in the fifth century, reads τριτη, the third. As in ancient times all the numbers were written in the manuscripts not at large but in numeral letters, it was easy for Γ three, to be mistaken for Ϛ six. The Codex Bezae has generally numeral letters instead of words. Bengel observes that he has found the letter Γ gamma, Three, exceedingly like the Ϛ episemon, Six, in some MSS. The major part of the best critics think that τριτη, the third, is the genuine reading.

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary -- 14. It was the preparation-that is, the day before the Jewish sabbath.
and about the sixth hour--The true reading here is probably, "the third hour"-- or nine A.M.-- which agrees best with the whole series of events, as well as with the other Evangelists.

This is far too speculative to be acceptable, and the vast majority of manuscript evidence is against it, therefore this interpretation is rejected.

#4.345 The Preparation of the Passover Lamb, the Sixth Hour

Scriptures must harmonize. They are like a jig-saw puzzle and each one must fit with those around it, so whatever conclusion we come to it must fit with other scriptures on the same subject. There is only one solution that harmonizes with all the other scriptures to do with the timing of the trial of Jesus.

(John 19:14) And it was the preparation of the Passover lamb, and about the sixth hour; and he says to the Jews, Behold your king!

The Greek word translated Passover is πάσχα (Gtr. pascha) is used in the New testament in various ways. It may possibly refer to the day of the Passover (Matthew 26:2, Mark 14:1), or it can refer to the feast of the Passover (Luke 2:41, 22:1, John 6:4), or the meal that was eaten including the Passover Lamb (Matthew 26:17, Mark 14:14, Luke 22:15). However there are some occasions where it is used specifically of the Passover lamb.

(Mark 14:12) "And the first day of unleavened bread, when they killed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, Where do you desire that we go and prepare that you may eat the Passover?"
(Luke 22:7) "Then came the day of unleavened bread, when the Passover lamb must be killed."
(1 Corinthians 5:7) "Purge out therefore the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, as you are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover lamb is sacrificed for us:"

The mention of killing makes it obvious that it refers specifically to the Passover lamb, as the other things eaten at the Passover meal, such as herbs and unleavened bred, did not have to be killed. In the last scripture it refers specifically to Jesus, our Passover lamb, being sacrificed (1 Corinthians 5:7), so why not Jesus our Passover Lamb in John 19:14? It makes the scriptures fit perfectly. The sixth hour refers to the sixth hour of the preparation of the Passover lamb, Jesus Christ, for slaughter. Almost every sacrifice made to God had to be perfect to be acceptable (Leviticus 22:20, Deuteronomy 15:21, 17:1, Malachi 1:8, 1:14), and the Passover lamb was no exception.

(Exodus 12:2) "Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year:"

These sacrifices had to be examined by the priests to make sure that they were perfect, otherwise the sacrifice would be an abomination to God (Deuteronomy 17:1). Therefore Jesus, as the anti-type of the Passover lamb, had to be examined by the priests also before he could be killed. Jesus was not only examined by the priests, and the high priest, but also by Herod and Pilate, and at the end of it all the conclusion was, "I find in him no fault at all." (John 18:38). Thus he was turned over to be killed. Our conclusion is that the sixth hour (John 19:14) refers to the sixth hour of the trial and examination of Jesus, the Passover lamb, before he was killed.

Let us now draw up a timetable for the events before Jesus crucifixion. I admit this is a bit speculative because we have no exact times designated in scripture, so please accept that these times are approximate, just helping to see the whole picture.

(1) After sunset, at the beginning of the 14 Nisan, the day of the Passover, Jesus sent his disciples to prepare the Passover for them (Matthew 26:17-19, Luke 22:7-8).
(2) About 9 p.m. they sat down to feet washing and the Passover supper, followed by the "Lord's supper" and singing (Matthew 26:30, Mark 14:26).
(3) About midnight the went out to the mount of Olives (Mark 14:26; Luke 22:39).
(4) There Jesus prayed until his arrest, about 2.a.m.
(5) After 6 a.m. He was sent to Pilate (Mark 15:1).
(6) At about 8 a.m., after six hours of trial, he was turned over to be crucified (Mark 15:15, John 19:14, 19:16).
(7) He was crucified at about 9.a.m., which is the third hour of the day in Jewish time (Mark 15:25).

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