As Christians worldwide prepare to celebrate Easter, they will follow a familiar chronology: Jesus was crucified on Good Friday and rose from the dead on “the third day,” in the words of the ancient Nicene Creed.
But if Jesus died at 3 p.m. Friday and vacated his tomb by dawn Sunday morning — about 40 hours later — how does that make three days? And do Hebrew Scriptures prophesy that timetable?
Even Pope Benedict XVI wrestles with the latter question in his new book, Jesus: Holy Week, about Christ’s last days. “There is no direct scriptural testimony pointing to the ‘third day,’” the pope concludes.
The chronology conundrum is “a bit of a puzzle,” said Marcus Borg, a progressive biblical scholar and co-author of “The Last Week,” a book about Holy Week.
But Borg and other experts say the puzzle can be solved if you know how first-century Jews counted time, and grant the four evangelists a little poetic license.