QUESTION 2: Was Jesus really in the tomb for 3 days?
There are big questions and there are little questions, and this is one that people argue over the size of. Many ask, "If Jesus died Friday night and rose Sunday morning, how does that work out to three days?" After all, he was only in the tomb for a full day on Sunday, right?
Nope. First century Jews thought about the calendar differently than moderns do:
- Days start at sundown on the Jewish calendar.
- People of the time didn't think in 24 hours days, where 3 days meant "exactly 72 hours". Rather, they thought in terms of day periods. For something to happen "on the third day" was always considered to mean "sometime during the third day". (72 hours later would be "on the fourth day".)
- When Jews of the time spoke about "three days and three nights", partial days were considered sufficient. In Esther 4 and 5, she fasts "for 3 days and 3 nights" but goes to the king "on the third day".
Thus, Jesus being in the tomb for three days was fulfilled by:
- Some time on Friday (Jesus died in the afternoon, before sunset)
- All day on Saturday
- Some time on Sunday (Jesus was seen by the women in the morning)
3 days, even though it was not 72 hours later.