Was Jesus Dead for Three Days and Three Nights?


Matt.12:40 states: “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.” Some assert that this proves that Jesus could not have died on a Friday if he rose on the first day of the week, since a literal ‘three days and three nights’ requires a 72 hour period.

It seems that ‘three days and three nights’ is a Hebrew idiom which encapsulates any amount of time just over two days. Consider the following parallels:

– He said to them, “Return to me again in three days.” So the people departed…So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam on the third day as the king had directed, saying, “Return to me on the third day.” (2 Chron. 10:5, 12)

– Go, assemble all the Jews who are found in Susa, and fast for me; do not eat or drink for three days, night or day…Now it came about on the third day that Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king’s palace” (Esther 4:16; 5:1).


Likewise, ‘the third day’ can be spoken of in reference to the day after tomorrow:

-The LORD also said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments; and let them be ready for the third day, for on the third day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. (Exod. 19:10-11)

-Then Jonathan said to David, “The LORD, the God of Israel, be witness! When I have sounded out my father about this time tomorrow, or the third day (1 Sam. 20:12).

-And He said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I reach My goal.’ (Luke 13:32)

-But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all   this, it is the third day since these things happened. (Luke 24:2)


The chronology of Matthew suggests that Jesus died on a Friday and was raised on a Sunday.

            -Friday: “When it was evening…Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth” (27:57, 59)

            -Saturday: “Now on the next day, the day after the preparation” (27:62).

            -Sunday: “Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary came to the tomb.” (28:1)


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