Keith Hunt - Three Days and Three Nights - Mat.12:40 - Page One   Restitution of All Things
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Three Days and Three Nights - Mat.12:40

Dr. Sanuele Bacciocchi (a SDA minister) says Jesus was not in the tomb for 72 hours. His arguments are answered

                         Keith Hunt       
This study has been written to answer Dr. Samuele Bacchiocchi
and others who hold to a Friday Crucifixion and Sunday morning
Resurrection of Christ Jesus. My aim is to help those who hold
such a view to recognize the fallacies of their interpretations
and to accept the plain teaching of God's word in the matter. My
aim is to show that even a young child can understand exactly how
long Jesus was in the grave. Although this topic could be shown
to a child (who has no pre-conceived teaching about an Easter
tradition) with just a few scriptures and a basic knowledge of
arithmetic, and he could come to understand the simple truth, I
must take the time to be somewhat lengthy because the book that
Dr. Sam (as he likes to be called) has written (called "THE TIME
As a seventh day Sabbath keeper I do appreciate Dr. Sam's very
scholarly work presented to us in his book FROM SABBATH TO
SUNDAY. My wish is that he would use his scholastic mind to see
the errors of ELLEN G. WHITE upon whose teachings his
denomination is founded. As E.G.WHITE taught a Friday Crucifixion
and Sunday morning Resurrection, it would, I maintain be very
difficult for Dr. B. to disagree with her, as this would clearly
show he did not accept her as infallibly inspired. This would
consequently have grave repercussions within an organization in
which Dr. Sam is a paid teacher and minister. I will go through
Dr. Bacchiocchi's book chapter by chapter with my comments and

MAT  28:1.  I and many others who hold a WEDNESDAY Crucifixion do
not agree that this verse should read "In the end of the Sabbath"
or "Late on the Sabbath," but that it should indeed be translated
"AFTER the Sabbaths....."
Mr.Ralph Woodrow in his book on this subject shows that to
understand Mat.28:1 as the women coming late on the Sabbath to
the tomb, would gives us many contradictions with other verses.  


On page 20 Dr. Sam tries to prove that the sign Jesus gave about
Jonah is connected with the fact of Christ's Resurrection and not
the length of time in the grave. "The book of Jonah suggests
that Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites through the miraculous
way in which God raised Jonah -- out of the whale's belly .......
This experience gave compulsion to Jonah to preach and conviction
to the Ninevites to repent......." He also quotes Norval
Geldenhuy "Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, because he appeared
there as one sent by God after having been miraculously saved
from the great fish (as it were raised from the dead) as a proof
that he was really sent by God...." (emphasis mine).

Let's take a look at the book of Jonah and see if it squares with
Dr. B's and Geldenhuy's theory.

Jonah (Ch. 1:3) is going to flee to TARSHISH.  Some scholars
identify as TARTESSUS, an ancient city on the Atlantic coast of
Spain.  He goes down to JOPPA, a town on the coast of Palestine
-- see your Bible maps. Jonah was hundreds of miles from the city
of Ninevah going in the opposite direction.  No Ninevite would
have known what Jonah was doing or who he was!
Jonah was cast into the sea - the Mediterranean sea - a fish did
swallow him and he was cast up on to dry LAND (Ch. 1:15; 2:1-10).
This was a fish in the SEA, not a fish in a river flowing by
Ninevah. Jonah was not cast out by the city of Ninevah for all to
see.  No one in Ninevah, hundreds of miles away, would have seen
this event - they had no idea that Jonah had been resurrected, so
to speak, from the dead. Now did this event alone give compulsion
to Jonah to preach? According to Chapter 3:1,2  God still had to
speak to Jonah AGAIN after this event, to get him to obey. Jonah
did travel the hundreds of miles to Ninevah (verse 3) and did
what? Did he tell them about this fishy experience he had had,
and how he was resurrected from the dead? Did he tell them this
experience to give conviction to the Ninevites to repent and as
proof that he was sent by God? If he had, some would have thought
it a pretty fishy story. NO!  Jonah did WHAT? He PREACHED -
repent or perish! And the people of Ninevah BELIEVED God. They
didn't ask for any SIGN or proof he was from God, there's nothing
at all to indicate that Jonah had to tell them about his
experience inside the fish.

Now turn to LUKE 11:29-30. Jesus had been doing great miracles,
yet they would not believe Him to be the Son of God - they had
accused Him of working by the power of Satan (v. 14-15) and
others wanted some great heavenly sign.  He tells them they are
evil, and no such special sign will be given - only that which
Jonah did will be given, as Jonah was to Ninevah, his sign
to them will be the sign Jesus will give to those around Him.
Jonah's sign to Ninevah was to PREACH REPENTANCE, not some fish
resurrection story. Notice it in verse 32. The people of
Ninevah REPENTED at the PREACHING of Jonah (see again Jonah
3:4,5), but Jesus' generation would not repent at His preaching
and He was much greater than Jonah. If they would not repent
when God's word was being given them, they would certainly get no
special heavenly miracle.
Now THAT is what Jesus is saying in MAT. 16:4 and LK. 11:29-32.
A HARMONY of the Gospels shows MAT. 12:40 to be a separate
incident at an earlier time than Chap. 16:4 or still another
later time of LK. 11:29. While in MAT. 16 and LK. 11 Jesus
only gave the sign of PREACHING REPENTANCE and God's WORD, He did
in MAT. 12:40 give the LENGTH of time in the grave as a sign - as
Jonah was 3 days AND 3 nights in the fish so He would be in the
tomb.  It is true that in John 2:19 Jesus is referring to His
body - death and Resurrection in three days. But this is just a
statement by Jesus that even if they should kill him, He will be
resurrected, and has no legitimate connection as being the same
as MAT. 12:40. Jesus clearly states in MAT. 12:40 that it is the
length of time in the grave that is the sign He gives, while MT.
16:4 and LK. 11:29 it is the sign of preaching God's word and JN.
2:19 is the fact He will rise from the dead.


Dr. Bacchiocchi says the frescos of the catacombs give proof that
the early Christians represented the sign of Jonah as Jesus'
Resurrection by the pictorial art of Jonah being spewed out by
the whale.

I find this very flimsy evidence for the following reasons: 1)
The writings and pictorial art of men and women OUTSIDE of the
inspired word of God - the Bible - must be taken very carefully
as they are FALLIBLE. 2) Those same early Christians were the
ones who accepted Sunday in place of the 7th day Sabbath as Dr.
B. so clearly shows in his book FROM SABBATH TO SUNDAY and must
therefore be viewed with caution. 3) Those same early Christians
are the ones who accepted the pagan EASTER to replace the
PASSOVER. 4) Certainly the resurrection of Jonah from death can
typify Christ's resurrection, and would be easily portrayable in
ART as Jonah coming forth from the fish.  HOW would you
appealingly depict a length of TIME such as 3 days and 3 nights
in ART without becoming too diagramical and cumbersome. Because
the catacombs indicate that the early Christians (what kind of
Christians is another question) identified the sign of Jonah with
the event of the Resurrection, does not make it so.  I have shown
that it is not. Paul does not show ANYWHERE that he
thought the sign of Jonah as given in MT. 16:4; LK 11:29 was the
ACT of Jesus' resurrection. He never once brought it up in any of
his letters that we have in the NT. Paul did preach the
RESURRECTION of Christ - yes indeed. But this fact of preaching
cannot be directly connected with the above scriptures. For Dr.
Sam to try to do so by quoting ROM. 1:4 is grasping at straws
to prove a point of interpretation of these verses that does not
stand the test of context or the book of Jonah.

Take a look at MAT. 12:40 again.  In this place Jesus clearly
stated the sign of Jonah. A child can see it! Christ said AS
JONAH WAS 3 DAYS AND 3 NIGHTS IN THE FISH so He would be in the
grave or tomb. Now if Jesus wanted us to clearly understand this
sign to be His actual RESURRECTION, He could have said, "As Jonah
was resurrected from death out of the fish, so will I be
resurrected from the tomb." Or better still Jesus could have
quoted from the scroll of Jonah (Chap. 2:1,10), the part which
reads, "Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish's
belly" then added, something like, "so will the Son of man come
forth from the tomb." But He did not quote this part of the book
of Jonah. Jesus referred to Jonah's LENGTH of TIME in the fish as
the sign He would give, clearly quoting from Chap. 1:17, "..
..And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three

Dr. Sam says the "forty days and forty nights" of MAT. 4:2 and
"forty days" of MRK. 1:13 and LK. 4:2 do not necessarily mean a
CALENDAR 40 day period as we would normally take it to mean and
as a CHILD would understand it to mean.  If so, then HOW LONG
does such expressions mean - 20 calendar days? Maybe 18 - maybe
36 or 25 or maybe 45? If we can not reckon a day as a day in the
Bible, or a night as a night, or a day and night as a day and
night, but only a part of each - then which part of each? What if
some were whole days and others only parts - which would be the
whole and which the parts, if the writer did not state? And what
if he did mean 3 or 7 or 40 calendar days but simply wrote "seven
days", and we think this means only 5 or 6 days? Surely the Bible
is not written so we could never know for sure what LENGTH of
times the writer means.  Let's look at some examples, with the
understanding that a day is NOT a day, but only a part of 24
hours, only a few hours or so.

#1.  Gen. 1:5 "....And the evening (night) and the morning (day)
were the first day." But not a 24 hour day as the night could be
only PART of a night and the day only PART of a day - according
to Dr. Sam's thinking.
#2.  Gen. 2:2-3 "....God. .. .rested on the seventh day.... God
blessed the seventh day and sanctified it...."As a day may not be
a day of 24 hours which part of this seventh day did God rest on
and bless and sanctify? Maybe it was the first 5 or 6 hours of
the evening part, or the hours of the morning, or perhaps the
late afternoon hours are only holy. But then we see in LEV.
23:32 that the Sabbath is to be kept from one evening to the next
evening (24 hours) and EX.20:8-11 shows the 7th day is the
Sabbath and to be kept holy as it was made holy at creation. So
we see that the "seventh day" in Gen. 2:2-3 does mean a period of
24 hours.
#3   Gen. 7:4  God did not really mean "yet seven days" but
something less than seven days.  He did not really mean it would
rain for 40 days and 40 nights but some length of time less than
that.  Likewise verse 12. The waters did not prevail upon the
earth 150 days as verse 24 says but sometime less than that
#4   Gen. 8:6  ". . .at the END of forty days..." does not really
mean forty days, but AFTER or at the END of 38 days, or 39 days
and 4 hours, as the first day of the forty was only 2 hours and
the fortieth day was only 2 hours. Well, something similar to
this, could be thought.
#5   EX. 15:22 "...and they went three days in the wilderness.." 
Not really, for the first day they only travelled for 3 hours -
the second, all day, but the third only the last 4 hours. Maybe
the first day they travelled all day and the second and third was
only for 3 hours each.
Our common usage would convey that we are saying they travelled
the distance into the wilderness that 3 days would take. We all
understand such terminology. Were they so different in Moses'
#6.  EX. 24:18, 34:28; MAT. 4:2  Moses and Jesus did not really
fast for 40 days and 40 nights but a length of time shorter than
that, as the first day they started may have been in the last few
hours of the day, and the fast may have been broken in the first
hour of the 40th day. Then maybe they fasted only for 20 days and
20 nights in total, as we will just pick parts of days as we
wish.  After all what human could possibly fast without food and
water for a full 40 days of 24 hours a day?  Human reasoning
could go anywhere with such verses.
#7.  2 COR. 11:25  Paul was not really a night and a day (24
hours) in the sea, but maybe only 4 or 5 hours, or 6 to 7 hours
etc. Could be he was shipwrecked in the last hour of the night
and pulled out of the sea within the first 3 hours of daylight,
making only a 4 hour ordeal.  If so, why didn't Paul use the
Greek words for numbers and hours and tell us he was 4 hours or
10 hours or 16 hours in the sea? The Greek language did have
words to express such lengths of time - see JN. 11:9. The truth
is, Paul is telling us that he was a whole night and a whole day,
near enough as makes little difference to 24 hours in the sea
after being shipwrecked.

Now turn back to Gen. 7. By putting together verse 11 with verse
24 and chapter 8 verse 4, we can see that the months of the
calendar in Noah's day each had 30 days. From the 17th of the
second month to the 17th of the seventh month is 5 months or 150
days - exactly and literally to the day - each day being 24
hours.  Note that within this section of scripture and within
this time period of 150 days, we have the expression "forty days
and forty nights" (v. 12) just that - 40 days of 24 hours each.
This being the case, which it is, there is no reason to take
Jonah's 3 days and 3 nights in the fish to mean anything other
than a full 72 hour period.

As Jesus himself plainly tells us that there is 12 hours in a day
(JN 11:9), and so of course 12 hours in a night, there is no
reason to figure anything shorter than 72 hours for the 3 days
and 3 nights in Mat. 12:40.  No reason to figure any less IF you
are not trying to fit it into an Easter (Friday to Sunday morning
death and resurrection of Christ) tradition.

Unless the CONTEXT clearly and plainly shows that INCLUSIVE
counting is being used there is no reason to use such reckoning
for the seven scriptures we've looked at, or dozens upon dozens
of more like them throughout the Bible.

We are of course concerning ourselves here with the word "day" or
"night and day" as used in the Bible for length of time and not
metaphorically or prophetically as "day" is sometimes used in
both OT and NT

One verse that uses INCLUSIVE counting is found in LK 13:32. The
wording is plain and clearly shows an inclusive reckoning, "....I
do cures today, and to morrow, and the third day I shall be

But the Bible also uses EXCLUSIVE reckoning. Notice it - Nehemiah
(5:14) was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah,
from the twentieth year even unto the two and thirtieth year
of Artaxerxes the king, that is TWELVE YEARS...." From the 20th
year to the 32nd year is 12 years not thirteen years.

Dr. B. cites  SAM. 30:12, 13 as proving inclusive reckoning. Some
length of time SHORTER than 72 hours. But there is absolutely no
reason to give "three days and three nights" here any meaning
except their literal meaning. So we see in this passage "three
days" meaning "three days and three nights."  Suppose the young
man got sick just before sunset Friday - he is found just
before sunset Monday and given food and water - three days and
three nights later.  He looks up and says to David that he got
sick "three days ago."  Three days before sunset Monday would be
sunset Friday. He would not say four days ago, because four days
before sunset Monday would have been sunset Thursday. Working
backward three days and three nights from sunset Monday would
bring us to sunset Friday - truly that would be "three days."


Suppose Esther told the Jews to start fasting for her at the last
hour before sunset Friday. The fast was to be for 3 days - night
and day. Then after three nights and three days she went to the
king - this would be the last hour just before sunset on Monday,
not Sunday morning. Still on the third day but near enough 72
hours later as makes no difference, to when they started to fast
three days earlier.

Other passages such as Gen. 42:~7, 18; 1 Kings 20:29;  Chron.
10:5 are used to prove this inclusive reckoning theory.  However,
none of these passages prove "three days and three nights"
means two nights and one day, or two nights and two days, or
three days and two nights. There is no reason to take any of
these passages in any sense except their literal sense, unless
one has a theory to prove and cling to.

The Bible is not to be understood and interpreted by Jewish
Rabbis or practices. The Bible interprets itself and is written
so a young child can understand the plain statements that are not
symbolic or prophetic.  It is written so a child does not have to
wonder whether "three days and three nights" really means two
nights and one day - whether it means 72 hours or 36 hours or 32
or maybe 39 hours.

I reproduce for you here the scriptural diagram given in Dr.
Bacchiocchi's book.

MARK 8:31 (after three days) = MAT.16:31 (on the third day) =
LUKE 9:22 (on the third day)

MARK 9:31 (after three days) = MAT.17:23 (be raised third day)

MARK 10:34 (after three days) = MAT.20:19 (raised on third day) =
LUKE 18:33 (on the third day he will rise)

After this Dr. B. writes: "IDENTICAL MEANING. This comparison
clearly indicates that Matthew and Luke understand Mark's 'after
three days' as meaning 'on the third day'."

To be sure there was never any doubt in the minds of Matthew,
Luke, or Mark, as to how long Jesus was in the tomb before He was
raised - they knew!

I agree with Dr. Sam when he says the above verses have identical
meaning, because they all knew what they meant to say as to the
length of time Jesus was entombed, whether they said
"after three days" or "on the third day." An event that takes
place exactly 72 hours from a given starting point can be
correctly said to have taken place "on the third day" or "after
three days."

What all the above verses add up to (ON, IN or AFTER three days)
is precisely what Jesus Himself said in MAT. 12:40, namely that
He would be 3 days AND 3 nights -72 hours - in the tomb, just as
Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the fish.
No contradiction here - only harmony!

The expression "the third day" is very interesting.  It is used
as inclusive counting by Jesus in LK 13:32, "Behold, I cast out
devils, and I do cures today and to morrow, and the third day I
shall be perfected". So the third day from Friday would be
Sunday. Yet if exclusive counting (which the Bible does use as we
have seen) is used, then the third day from Friday is Monday.
Also this expression "the third day" can, BIBLICALLY include
three days and three nights as can be seen in Genesis 1:4 -13:
"God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the
light day, and the darkness he called night. And the evening
(darkness) and the morning (light) were the FIRST DAY.....and the
evening (darkness) and the morning (light) were the SECOND
DAY.....and the evening (now three periods of night) and the
morning (now three periods of light) were the THIRD DAY..." This
provides an example of how the term "the third day" can be
counted up and shown to include three days AND three nights.
With what Jesus said in John 11:9, 10 about there being twelve
hours in a day (and so twelve hours in a night) and that He would
be three days and three nights in the tomb (MAT. 12:40) together
with one writer using the expression "AFTER three days he will
rise" while two others used "ON the third day" we can now see why
the editors of the WYCLIFFE BIBLE COMMENTARY wrote:  "According
to this view, the entombment lasted a full seventy-two hours,
from sundown Wednesday to sundown Saturday. Such a view gives
more reasonable treatment to MT. 12:40. It also explains AFTER
THREE DAYS and ON THE THIRD DAY in a way that does least violence
to either " (page 984). 


It is pointed out by Dr. Sam that the two men, (late on Sunday)
talking about Christ and all that had taken place, said, "....and
besides all this, it is now the THIRD DAY since this happened"
(LK. 24:21). Of course Sunday from Wednesday would be more than
three days - it would be the 4th or 5th day depending on whether
inclusive or exclusive counting is used.

In answer to this I quote from the book BABYLON MYSTERY RELIGION
by Ralph Woodrow, pages 138, 139.  "....Because Jesus appeared to
the disciples on the first day of the week (verse 13), and this
was the third day since these things were done, would this not
indicate that Jesus died on Friday? This would DEPEND ON HOW WE
COUNT. If PARTS of a day are counted as a whole, Friday could be
meant. On the other hand, one day since Friday would have been
Saturday and the THIRD day since Friday would have been Monday!
This method of counting would not indicate Friday. On seeking to
offer an explanation, I submit the following: They had talked
about 'ALL these things which had happened' (verse 14) - more
than just one event.  If 'these things' included the arrest, the
crucifixion, the burial and the setting of the seal and watch
over the tomb all of these things were not done until
THURSDAY.....(MAT. 27:62-66).......      
'These things' were not fully completed - were not 'done' - until
the tomb was sealed and guarded. This happened, as we have
already seen, on Thursday of that week ....... Sunday, then,
would have been 'the third day since these things were done,' but
not the third day since the crucifixion" (emphasis mine).

Under this section Dr. Bacchiocchi tries to show that there
were NOT two Sabbaths (as we contend) during the Passion week. 
He cites  MAT. 28:1 as a text given to support a Passion
week containing two Sabbaths, "at the end of the Sabbaths." The
Greek for Sabbath is in the plural.  "This," he writes, "is
viewed as a 'vital text'."  Maybe to some it is - I do not view
it as such, but only as additional evidence to give additional
weight to the clear, easy to understand scriptures that do not
need a degree in NT Greek. By itself MAT 28:1 could not prove
that there were two Sabbaths in the Passion week, for as Harold
W. Hoehner (that Dr. B. quotes) has correctly said, "The term
Sabbath is frequently (one-third of all its NT occurrences) in
the plural form in the NT when only one day is in view.
For example, in MT. 12:1-12 both the singular and plural forms
are used (C.F. ESP. V.5)"
(Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ pp. 69-70).

The two sections of scripture that clearly and simply show there
was indeed TWO Sabbaths during Passion week are MARK 16:1 and
LUKE 23:56.  Mark recorded the women BUYING the spices AFTER the
Sabbath, while Luke recorded them PREPARING the spices (must buy
them first in order to prepare them) and then RESTING on the

With this light, MAT. 28:1 and other verses do take on special
significance that cannot or should not be swept to one side. 
Notice how FERRAR FENTON translates the following scriptures:
MAT. 28:1, "After the Sabbaths, towards the dawn of the day
following the Sabbaths." 
LK 24:1,  "But at daybreak upon the first day following the
JN 19:20, "Now on the first day following the Sabbaths...."

So I end my replies to Dr.Sam's first and second chapters

To be continued
Written in 1986

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