Three Days and Three Nights

Article by TurretinFan: Three Days and Three Nights – Hebrew Idiom for Three Consecutive Calendar Days (original source here)

Jonah’s use of “three days and three nights” repeated by Jesus in prophesying his own death, burial, and resurrection has led to some confusion. As you may recall, in Jonah, it is written:

Jonah 1:15-17
So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging. Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the Lord, and made vows. Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

Similarly, Jesus states:

Matthew 12:38-41
Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: for as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.

Some people have taken this expression as expressing emphasis on both daylight and and dark periods, instead of understanding the expression as simply meaning three consecutive calendar days.

Interestingly enough, the same expression is found in one other place, where it is fairly clear that three calendar days is meant:

1 Samuel 30:1 & 11-14
And it came to pass, when David and his men were come to Ziklag on the third day, that the Amalekites had invaded the south, and Ziklag, and smitten Ziklag, and burned it with fire; … And they found an Egyptian in the field, and brought him to David, and gave him bread, and he did eat; and they made him drink water; and they gave him a piece of a cake of figs, and two clusters of raisins: and when he had eaten, his spirit came again to him: for he had eaten no bread, nor drunk any water, three days and three nights. And David said unto him, To whom belongest thou? and whence art thou? And he said, I am a young man of Egypt, servant to an Amalekite; and my master left me, because three days agone I fell sick. We made an invasion upon the south of the Cherethites, and upon the coast which belongeth to Judah, and upon the south of Caleb; and we burned Ziklag with fire.

The point of “three days and three nights” is just that the Egyptian had been continuously without food and water for three calendar days. The point is not the day and light portions, but the continuity. We see that from the fact that David returned “on the third day” (vs. 1) and from the fact that the Egyptian had only fallen sick “three days agone.”

The way that “on the third day” worked for the Hebrew way of counting days can be seen from Jesus’ own use:

Luke 13:32 And he said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and to morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.

Similarly, in Leviticus:

Leviticus 19:6 It shall be eaten the same day ye offer it, and on the morrow: and if ought remain until the third day, it shall be burnt in the fire.

Even in 1 Samuel, we see the same way of counting:

1 Samuel 20:5 And David said unto Jonathan, Behold, to morrow is the new moon, and I should not fail to sit with the king at meat: but let me go, that I may hide myself in the field unto the third day at even. Continue reading

4 Reasons to Believe in the Empty Tomb

Article by Paul Rezkalla (original source here)

Was the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth found empty after his crucifixion? If not, then Christianity is the greatest lie in history. The apostle Paul says, “If Christ has not been raised from the dead then your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:17). While the historicity of the empty tomb does not by itself prove the resurrection, it plays an important role.

Where does the evidence point?

1. The belief in the empty tomb predates the Gospels and even the writings of Paul.

In 1 Corinthians 15:3-7, Paul lays down the earliest-known creed of the Christian church:

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles

The language of “received” and “passed” indicates Paul was relaying an oral tradition. He wrote this letter in the mid-50s. Therefore, this creed had to date earlier. If Jesus died around 30, this creed can be dated to, at most, 25 years after Jesus’s death.

Furthermore, there are good evidences to show that Paul received this creed from the church leaders in Jerusalem in the 30s, and this exchange is recorded in Galatians 1:18-20. Many prominent New Testament historians such as Bart Ehrman, James Dunn, and Gerd Ludemann date this creed to between two and five years of Jesus’s death. Gerd Ludemann says, “[T]he elements in the tradition are to be dated to the first two years after the crucifixion of Jesus . . . not later than three years . . . the formation of the appearance traditions mentioned in 1 Cor. 15:3-8 falls into the time between 30 and 33 CE.”

Within three years of Jesus’s death, the early church was circulating a creed that affirmed Jesus’s bodily resurrection from the dead. And you can’t have a bodily resurrection without an empty tomb.

2. Jesus’s body was buried in Jerusalem.

So what? How does that point help us? Think about where Christianity started: Jerusalem.

The disciples went out and preached the message of the risen Jesus in the same city where Jesus was publicly crucified and buried. It would have been easy to crush this movement of unruly fishermen by simply going to Jesus’s tomb, pulling out the body, and exposing the followers of Jesus as liars. Both the Romans and the Jews were fed up with this new group of Jesus followers, and they could have easily produced the remains of Jesus’s body to quench the Christian movement had the tomb not been empty.

But this never happened. The body of Jesus was never produced from the tomb in an attempt to undermine the movement of Jesus followers, nor were there any counter-narratives arguing that the tomb was still occupied.

3. Jesus’s tomb was first discovered empty by women.

In order to fully appreciate this fact, let’s look at how women were viewed in first-century Palestine.

But let not the testimony of women be admitted, on account of the levity and boldness of their sex, nor let servants be admitted to give testimony on account of the ignobility of their soul; since it is probable that they may not speak truth, either out of hope of gain, or fear of punishment. — Josephus

Any evidence which a woman [gives] is not valid (to offer), also they are not valid to offer. This is equivalent to saying that one who is Rabbinically accounted a robber is qualified to give the same evidence as a woman. — Talmud (Rosh Hashannah)

Sooner let the words of the Law be burnt than delivered to women. — Talmud (Sotah)

Harsh words. They were not celebrating International Women’s Day in first-century Palestine.

Women were not considered credible witnesses. They were seen as being intellectually and morally deficient. Why, then, did the Gospel writers designate women as the first witnesses to the empty tomb and the risen Jesus? If the Gospel writers wanted to substantiate their message, they could have listed Peter and John or some other prominent disciples as the first witness. Surely any of the disciples would have been a better pick than these women! Why did they choose to include women as being the first witnesses? Because they were intent on recounting the story as truthfully as possible.

Embarrassment is one standard that historians use to gauge the historicity of a recorded event. If an author chooses to include an embarrassing fact that may hurt his/her case, then it is unlikely that he is making up his story. The fact that the Gospel writers included the “embarrassing” details of the women being the witnesses to the empty tomb shows the unlikelihood of the empty tomb narratives being fabricated.

4. The Jews were claiming that the disciples had stolen the body.

Matthew 28:11-15 says:

[S]ome of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests everything that had happened. After the priests had assembled with the elders, they devised a plan to give a large sum of money to the soldiers, telling them, “You must say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.” If this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story is still told among the Jews to this day.

Why would the Jews circulate the story of Jesus’s body being stolen by the disciples if the tomb was not empty? Why would the author of the Gospel of Matthew say that this lie was circulating if he knew that Jesus’s tomb was not empty?

In the second century, Justin Martyr recorded that this story was still being circulated in his day: “His disciples stole him by night from the tomb, where he was laid when unfastened from the cross, and now deceive men by asserting that he has risen from the dead and ascended to heaven” (Diaolgue with Trypho). Tertullian, in 200, also corroborated this idea: “This is he whom his disciples secretly stole away, that it might be said he had risen again, or the gardener abstracted, that his lettuces might come to no harm from the crowds of visitants!” (De Spectaculis).

Thus, there would be no need to propagate the idea that the disciples stole Jesus’s body from the tomb if the tomb were not empty!

It is clear from the evidence that we can establish, with relative certainty, that Jesus’s tomb was found empty three days after his crucifixion, by a group of his women followers. Again, this is not an argument for the truth of the resurrection, but it is in important link in the chain of evidences that can best be explained by the resurrection. And it should give us pause. If the Gospel writers are faithful in the details surrounding the empty tomb, maybe we should take them seriously about other matters, as well.

Jesus Rose from the Dead – Eight Reasons

john-piperArticle: Eight Reasons Why I Believe That Jesus Rose from the Dead by Dr. John Piper (Website: www.desiringGod.org)

1. Jesus himself testified to his coming resurrection from the dead.
Jesus spoke openly about what would happen to him: crucifixion and then resurrection from the dead. “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:31; see also Matthew 17:22; Luke 9:22). Those who consider the resurrection of Christ unbelievable will probably say that Jesus was deluded or (more likely) that the early church put these statements in his mouth to make him teach the falsehood that they themselves conceived. But those who read the Gospels and come to the considered conviction that the one who speaks so compellingly through these witnesses is not the figment of foolish imagination will be unsatisfied with this effort to explain away Jesus’ own testimony to his resurrection from the dead.

This is especially true in view of the fact that the words which predict the resurrection are not only the simple straightforward words quoted above, but also the very oblique and indirect words which are far less likely to be the simple invention of deluded disciples. For example, two separate witnesses testify in two very different ways to Jesus’ statement during his lifetime that if his enemies destroyed the temple (of his body), he would build it again in three days (John 2:19; Mark 14:58; cf. Matthew 26:61). He also spoke illusively of the “sign of Jonah” — three days in the heart of the earth (Matthew 12:39; Matthew 16:4). And he hinted at it again in Matthew 21:42 — “The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner.” On top of his own witness to the coming resurrection, his accusers said that this was part of Jesus’ claim: “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise'” (Matthew 27:63).

Our first evidence of the resurrection, therefore, is that Jesus himself spoke of it. The breadth and nature of the sayings make it unlikely that a deluded church made these up. And the character of Jesus himself, revealed in these witnesses, has not been judged by most people to be a lunatic or a deceiver.

2. The tomb was empty on Easter.
The earliest documents claim this: “When they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus” (Luke 24:3). And the enemies of Jesus confirmed it by claiming that the disciples had stolen the body (Matthew 28:13). The dead body of Jesus could not be found. There are four possible ways to account for this. Continue reading

Why Should I Believe that Jesus Rose from the Dead?

Horton_Michael_0Article: Why Should I Believe that Jesus Rose from the Dead? by Dr. Michael Horton (original source here)

In answering this question, it’s helpful for us to return to the “facts of the case.” Here, speculation is useless. It does not matter what we thought reality was like: whether we believed in thirty gods or none. It doesn’t matter what we find helpful, meaningful, or fulfilling. This is not about spirituality or moral uplift. Something has happened in history and we cannot wish it away. It either happened or it did not happen, but the claim itself is hardly meaningless or beyond investigation. Let’s look at the facts of the case.

The earliest Christians testified to the following elements of the resurrection claim, even to the point of martyrdom:

Jesus Christ lived, died, and was buried.
Even Marcus Borg, co-founder of the skeptical “Jesus Seminar,” concedes that Christ’s death by Roman crucifixion is “the most certain fact about the historical Jesus.” There are numerous attestations to these facts from ancient Jewish and Roman sources. According to the Babylonian Talmud, “Yeshua” was a false prophet hanged on Passover eve for sorcery and blasphemy. No less a towering Jewish scholar than Joseph Klausner identifies the following references to Jesus in the Talmud: Jesus was a rabbi whose mother, Mary (Miriam), was married to a carpenter who was nevertheless not the natural father of Jesus. Jesus went with his family to Egypt, returned to Judea and made disciples, performed miraculous signs by sorcery, led Israel astray, and was deserted at his trial without any defenders. On Passover eve he was crucified.

The Roman historian Suetonius (75-130 AD) wrote of the expulsion of Jews from Rome in 48 AD. One incident arose because a sect was worshipping a man, a “certain Chrestus” (Claudius 25.4). Late in the first century, Tacitus—the greatest Roman historian—referred to the crucifixion of Jesus under Pontius Pilate (Annals 15.44). In a letter to the Emperor Trajan around the year 110, Pliny the Younger, imperial governor of what is now Turkey, reported that Christians gathered on Sunday to pray to Jesus “as to a god,” to hear the letters of his appointed officers read and expounded. The early church received a meal at which they believed Christ himself presided (Epistle 10.96).

We know also from ancient sources how successful the Romans were at crucifixions. The description in the Gospels of the spear thrust into Christ’s side and the ensuing flow of blood and water fit with both routine accounts of crucifixion from Roman military historians as well as with modern medical examinations of the report. The so-called “swoon theory” speculates that Jesus did not really die, but was nursed back to health to live out his days and die a natural death. Yet, as Doug Powell observes, in addition to surviving the spear piercing his heart and one of his lungs, Jesus “would have had to control how much blood flowed out of the wound by sheer willpower.”

In Surah 4:157, Islam’s Qur’an teaches that the Romans “never killed him,” but “were made to think that they did.” No supporting argument for this conjecture is offered and the obvious question arises: Are we really to believe that the Roman government and military officers as well as the Jewish leaders and the people of Jerusalem “were made to think that” they had crucified Jesus when in fact they did not do so?

Furthermore, why should a document written six centuries after the events in question have any credence when we have first-century Christian, Jewish, and Roman documents that attest to Christ’s death and burial? Roman officers in charge of crucifixions knew when their victims were dead. Even the liberal New Testament scholar John A. T. Robinson concluded that the burial of Jesus in the tomb is “one of the earliest and best-attested facts about Jesus.”

The burial of Jesus in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea is mentioned in all four Gospels (Mt 27:57; Mk 15:43; Lk 23:50; Jn 19:38-39). This is a specific detail that lends credibility to the account. Furthermore, it’s an embarrassing detail that the disciples would not likely have forged. After all, according to the Gospels, the disciples fled and Peter had even denied knowing Jesus. Yet here is a wealthy and powerful member of the ruling Jewish Council (Sanhedrin), coming to Pilate to ask for permission to bury Jesus in his own tomb. Continue reading

The Resurrection of Christ

Michael Reeves: He Is Not Here: The Resurrection of Christ

Without the resurrection of Christ, we have reason for faith and motivation for ministry. The resurrection testifies to the victory of Christ on the cross and the power of the gospel over sin and death. In this session, Dr. Michael Reeves describes how the resurrection of Christ provides the basis for our faith and gives hope for new life.

Raised for our Justification

sproul-77In an article entitled “Resurrection and Justification” Dr. R. C. Sproul writes:

How is the resurrection of Christ linked to the idea of justification in the New Testament? To answer this question, we must first explore the use and meaning of the term justification in the New Testament. Confusion about this has provoked some of the fiercest controversies in the history of the church. The Protestant Reformation itself was fought over the issue of justification. In all its complications, the unreconciled and unreconcilable difference in the debate came down to the question of whether our justification before God is grounded in the infusion of Christ’s righteousness into us, by which we become inherently righteous, or in the imputation, or reckoning, of Christ’s righteousness to us while we are still sinners. The difference between these views makes all the difference in our understanding of the Gospel and of how we are saved.

One of the problems that led to confusion was the meaning of the word justification. Our English word justification is derived from the Latin justificare. The literal meaning of the Latin is “to make righteous.” The Latin fathers of church history worked with the Latin text instead of the Greek text and were clearly influenced by it. By contrast, the Greek word for justification, dikaiosune, carries the meaning of “to count, reckon, or declare righteous.”

But this variance between the Latin and the Greek is not enough to explain the debates over justification. Within the Greek text itself, there seem to be some problems. For example, Paul declares in Romans 3:28, “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.” Then James, in his epistle, writes, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar” (2:21) and “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only” (2:24).

On the surface, it appears that we have a clear contradiction between Paul and James. The problem is exacerbated when we realize that both use the same Greek word for justification and both use Abraham to prove their arguments.

This problem can be resolved when we see that the verb “to justify” and its noun form, “justification,” have shades of meaning in Greek. One of the meanings of the verb is “to vindicate” or “to demonstrate.”

Jesus once said, ” ‘Wisdom is justified by all her children’ ” (Luke 7:35). He did not mean that wisdom has its sins remitted or is counted righteous by God by having children, but that a wise decision may be vindicated by its consequences.

James and Paul were addressing different questions. James was answering the question: “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?” (2:14). He understood that anyone can profess to have faith, but true faith is demonstrated as authentic by its consequent works. The claim of faith is vindicated (justified) by works. Paul has Abraham justified in the theological sense in Genesis 15 before he does any works. James points to the vindication or demonstration of Abraham’s faith in obedience in Genesis 22.

The Resurrection involves justification in both senses of the Greek term. First, the Resurrection justifies Christ Himself. Of course, He is not justified in the sense of having His sins remitted, because He had no sins, or in the sense of being declared righteous while still a sinner, or in the Latin sense of being “made righteous.” Rather, the Resurrection serves as the vindication or demonstration of the truth of His claims about Himself.

In his encounter with the philosophers at Athens, Paul declared: ” ‘Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead’ ” (Acts 17:30-31).

Here Paul points to the Resurrection as an act by which the Father universally vindicates the authenticity of His Son. In this sense, Christ is justified before the whole world by His resurrection.

However, the New Testament also links Christ’s resurrection to our justification. Paul writes, “It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification” (Rom. 4:24-25).

It is clear that in His atoning death Christ suffered on our behalf, or for us. Likewise, His resurrection is seen not only as a vindication of or surety of Himself, but as a surety of our justification. Here justification does not refer to our vindication, but to the evidence that the atonement He made was accepted by the Father. By vindicating Christ in His resurrection, the Father declared His acceptance of Jesus’ work on our behalf. Our justification in this theological sense rests on the imputed righteousness of Christ, so the reality of that transaction is linked to Christ’s resurrection. Had Christ not been raised, we would have a mediator whose redeeming work in our behalf was not acceptable to God.

However, Christ is risen indeed!

This post was originally published in Tabletalk magazine.