As we discussed it, the friend would not accept the explanation that in the reckoning of the original audience, "three days and three nights" was a reference to three distinct days or any part of those days. This person refused to view it in any context other than the way it sounded in English and would be understood in our culture, namely, Jesus spent three full twenty-four hour periods in the grave. I should add that observations of scholars who write commentaries have little bearing on this person. Among my own references were the Word Biblical Commentary, the Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, Matthew Henry, Commentary On the Whole Bible (Unabridged), and John Wesley, Wesley's Notes On the Bible.
If it comes up again, and it very well may, I will probably just refer to six passages from the gospels themselves, including Matthew, which are even clearer in plain old English. They are as follows:
- From Matthew 27:62 – The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate
- From Mark 15:42 – And when evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath,
- From Luke 23:54 – It was the day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was beginning.
- John 19:14 – Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!”
- John 19:31 – Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away.
- John 19:42 – So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.
Those would seem to be rather overwhelming. But, in this case, I suspect my friend will gladly use an uninformed, albeit steadfast, interpretation of one verse to essentially ignore six with clearer meanings.
A Pastor's life has these moments.
*For the sake of consistency, all scriptures are from the English Standard Version (ESV).