“For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth”
(Matt. 12:38-40)

Skeptics claim to have discovered an error in the New Testament —claiming Jesus was not in the tomb for three full 24-hour periods like he prophesied.

He was buried Friday afternoon and rose early Sunday morning.That seems to be only one full day and two nights.

Has the skeptic found an error in the Bible? How does one respond?

“For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth”
(Matt. 12:38?40)

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Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign; but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”

It is clear that Jesus rejects the call to perform various signs before the Jewish leaders in order to justify his claims and actions. Jesus would not give them signs, however, for he did not come primarily to be a wonder-worker but a Savior. His miracles were performed to display his power and identity and out of mercy to help the poor and sick.

Jesus performed many miracles in private and with a warning not to tell others about them. Yet, one great miracle would be given as a definitive sign. This would be the “sign of Jonah,” his resurrection from the “heart of the earth.”

The main problem encountered in Matthew 12:38-40 involves the temporal designation “three days and three nights.” Interpreting this designation literally, some try to solve the “problem” by arguing that Jesus was really crucified on Thursday rather than Friday. A Friday crucifixion and a Sunday resurrection do not provide sufficient time for three days and three nights.

Authentic Ancient Tomb in Israel

There are numerous ways of figuring out the day-night scheme for this period of time, but it is clear that three separate days and nights cannot be obtained by a Friday crucifixion and Sunday resurrection scheme. Yet, it is clear from the Gospels that Jesus was crucified on Friday, the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath” (Mark 15:42) and raised on Sunday, the “first day of the week” (Mark 16:2). If the temporal designation of Matthew 12:40 is taken literally, a conflict does exist between the time indicated in this verse and the time indicated in the accounts of the passion story.

But should the expression “three days and three nights” be interpreted literally? Three arguments indicate that it should not.

First, it appears that this expression is another way of stating “on the third day” or “in three days.” This can be illustrated from 1 Samuel 30:12-13. The same Greek expression is found in 1 Samuel 30:12 in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint) as in Matthew 12:40.

Verse 13 refers to this three-day and three-night period as “three days ago” or, as the LXX literally states, “the third day today.” If “three days and three nights” can mean “on the third day,” there is no major problem in our passage.

By Jewish reckoning Jesus could have been crucified on Friday and raised on Sunday, the third day. Friday afternoon = day one; Friday 6 PM to Saturday 6 PM = day two; Saturday 6 PM to Sunday 6 PM = day three.’

A second argument against a literal temporal interpretation is the fact that Matthew did not see any conflict between this expression and either a third-day resurrection (Matt. 16:21; 17:23; 20:19) or a Friday crucifixion and Sunday resurrection scheme (Matt. 27:62; 28:1). For him, as well as for the other Evangelists, expressions such as “three days and three nights,” “after three days,” and “on the third day” could be used interchangeably.

Holy Sepulchre, actual location of crucifixion and burial of Jesus

Finally, it should be pointed out that the main point of Jesus’ analogy in Matthew 12:40 does not involve the temporal designation but the sign of the resurrection. Only one miracle or sign will be given to this evil and adulterous generation. That sign will be Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. The temporal designation is much less significant. Perhaps Jesus refers to three days and three nights because this expression is found in the Old Testament passage which he wants to quote (Jonah 1:17).

Understood in the context of biblical Judaism—and knowing the idioms and figures of speech in the designation “three days and three nights”—there is no problem with the Friday crucifixion and Sunday resurrection scheme described in the passion narratives. Any Jew or Roman would have immediately understood; only those divorced from the historical context fail to understand.

It is only if a twentieth-century reckoning of time is imposed or if the idiomatic nature of this temporal designation is not understood in its context that a problem appears.

See also Dave Armstrong’s article “3 Days & Nights” in the Tomb: Contradiction?

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Originally published a few months ago, but very current and good news!

10281068-3x2-700x467Some amazing news came out of Australia today with a famous atheist politician receiving baptism. Bill Hayden had been the leader of a major Australian political party, then was the Governor General of Australia for 7 years. (The Governor General is the one who signs bills into law in the Queen’s name in 15 Commonwealth countries.) Recently, at 85, he renounced his atheism and joined the Catholic Church.

Getting Close to Death

The Australian reports his motivation to take this step.

Bill Hayden, at age 85, has ­renounced his atheism and been baptised into the Catholic Church.

The former Labor leader and governor-general said it was witnessing so many selfless acts of compassion by Christians over his lifetime, and deep contemplation while recovering from a stroke, that prompted his decision.

Toying with Catholicism for Years

The Australian article continues with a bit of background from Bill Hayden.

“I always regarded myself as a fellow traveller with Catholicism and declared I was a Catholic on official forms, but it wasn’t official,” Mr Hayden said. [His family had been Catholic.] “I would go to mass every Sunday and then go to benediction when I was a teenager. I didn’t know that I wasn’t officially a Catholic, and found that out only later when my sister did the family history.

“When you grow up with it, I don’t think it ever really leaves you. The Catholics have ceremony very much in place. But it was more than that. I could just feel in my heart that I didn’t feel fulfilled.

“There is more to life than just me. I had to make a dedication of myself for the good of others, ­before God. I felt that strongly.”

Sincere Motivations to Convert

It is also worth noting the reasons Bill Hayden wrote to friends about his conversion.

In a letter to family and friends, he explained that the Christian principles of “humanity, social commitment and service to ­others” aligned with his personal and political values, and guided his return to the Catholic faith.

“Christianity represents for me the qualities I have attempted to apply in my life but from now on will strive to uphold, with faith,” he wrote.

So often we can write people off and think there is no hope. However, stories like this of conversion late in life should teach us not to lose hope on anyone.

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Steve Ray – 1 Hour Audio Tour of the Passion

by Steve Ray on April 19, 2019

Screen Shot 2019-04-19 at 5.02.50 PMI was just on the Terry Barber & Jesse Romero Show and I gave them and their listeners a one-hour Virtual Tour of Jesus’ Passion from the Upper Room to the Burial Tomb. You can listen here.

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“The Pain of the Crucifixion” – Free Talk by Steve Ray

April 19, 2019

Get my free talk on MP3 below. Also visit this site to see the magnificent artwork of James Tissot detailing the Passion of our Lord from Gethsemane to the Tomb. The PROMO CODE to download the free MP3 file is CRUCIFIXION.    

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Entering the Empty Tomb; A Contrast – Now and Back Then

April 19, 2019

It looks different today, but the place is the same. It is darker now, covered with a dome that blocks the sun. There is no grass, no hillside, no trees waving their leaves nearby. Instead there are the hushed voices of hundreds of people, the Muslim call to prayer echoing in the distance and the […]

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Questions I Answered on Catholic Answers Live Wednesday – Jerusalem During the Passion?

April 18, 2019

Steve Ray describes the events in Jerusalem surrounding Christ’s Passion. People asked 1) How long was Jesus on the Cross? 2)  How long was Jesus in the Tomb? and 3) Was Jesus clothed or naked during the crucifixion? I have written about all three of those topics HERE. Questions Covered: What was Jerusalem like during […]

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Do They Know the Cause of the Fire at Notre Dame? Only Speculation…

April 18, 2019

Update: Another article along the same vein in the Catholic World Report: https://www.catholicworldreport.com/2019/04/18/notre-dame-isnt-the-only-french-church-imperiled-this-year/ ******************************************* Veteran broadcaster Lou Dobbs noted Tuesday that the decision to dismiss any notion that the Notre Dame fire could have been a deliberate act was based on politics, rather than any investigation of the facts. “One thing authorities are ruling out, however, […]

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I Love the Universality of the Catholic Church – Love Being Catholic!

April 18, 2019

We went to Mass a while ago and wanted to share it again. We could not understand a word during Mass since it was all in French. We are celebrating Mass with a church FULL of French-speaking Africans with a white French bishop with an Italian parish priest in a church built by Italians in the […]

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Welcoming New People at Mass this Easter – They May Be an Answer to Someone’s Prayers

April 16, 2019

We get busy on during the Easter Season. We don’t have a lot of respect for people who go to church only on Christmas and Easter. We may be irritated that seats are taken and the church is noisy. But, you are praying for your family and friends to come back to church and MAYBE these […]

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My Past Articles for Holy Week; Current Radio Shows this Week

April 15, 2019

Above is one of my all time favorite paintings — Peter and John running to the empty tomb by Eugene Burnand. Over the last few years I’ve answered some questions and commented on the events of Holy Week. Here are links to those articles: How long was Jesus on the Cross? How long was Jesus […]

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Grandson Josh Plays One of his New Piano Compositions

April 13, 2019

We are visiting my son Jesse Ray this weekend. We asked our grandson Joshua what he’s been playing on the piano lately. He asked, “ Do you want to hear one of my new compositions?” We said, “Of course!“ So, here is what he played for us. He also has his driving permit so he […]

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Announcing our Popular Family Christmas Holy Land Pilgrimage

April 12, 2019

Our Family Christmas Holy Land Pilgrimage has become very popular!  It is amazing to watch the kids interact over these eight days and the impact on their spirituality is tremendous. Check out our trip this year! Convenient to have the dates over Christmas break! The dates are December 29 – January 7, 2020. Our priest […]

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Passover Lamb: A True Story

April 12, 2019

Contributed by my son Jesse Ray a while ago but worthy of reposting… I arrived on the scene with my gun and stoically loaded in some self-defense rounds (although I was clearly not in danger). I did not lavish the idea of slaughtering a lamb, but my friend and new-farmer, Pat, called and sheepishly asked for […]

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Great Evening with Guadalupe Radio in San Antonio Texas

April 10, 2019

It was a marvelous fundraising dinner last night with Guadalupe Radio at San Antonio Texas. What a great group of energized, authentic Catholics who are working hard to make an impact on our culture. I am grateful to Richard Reyna, the general manager, and Toya Hall for the invitation. I gave my talk “Swimming Upstream“ […]

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How To Read & Interpret the Bible Figuratively: So Impressed with this Article I’m posting the whole thing

April 6, 2019

If you do not subscribe to The Catholic Thing, I suggest you do. Every day a short article about theology, the world, the family, politics, the Church. Such a wide swath of conservative, biblical and Catholic thought. It helps clear the head each day. Thanks to James Matthew Wilson for this delightful article “Go Figure!” […]

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Is Paganism Making a Comeback? Steve on The Catholic Current with Fr. McTeigue SJ

April 5, 2019

Based on my talk “Swimming Upstream: Living a Catholic Life in a Pagan World,” Steve and Fr. Robert McTeigue, SJ discussed how paganism is coming back in a big way in the Western World. Christianity is being abandoned and alternative “spiritualities” are filling the void. It was a lively discussion about what paganism is, why the West […]

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