To Day Is the Third Day

Examining the calendar
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici /

If “3 days and 3 nights” means 72 hours, then what does “today is the 3rd day” mean?

In previous articles, we’ve seen how Christians should not keep Palm Sunday because it is based upon 2 lies. The 1st lie is that there are 3 days and 3 nights from Christ’s crucifixion on “Good Friday” to an “Easter Sunday” resurrection. The 2nd lie is Easter itself, as it is a pagan holiday not only not condoned by Scripture but condemned by it. Then, we dug into the question of the 3 days and 3 nights. We saw how the other phrases of “third day”, “within 3 days”, “after 3 days” and “in 3 days” when put together all narrow it down specifically so it can be none other than 3 complete 24 hour cycles of time.

But what about “to day is the third day”? On the road to Emmaus, 2 of Jesus’ disciples are walking and discussing the events of the past few days. The risen Jesus approaches them, but they don’t recognize Him. He asks them what they were talking about. They tell Him, and then they say that today is the 3rd day since these things happened. Does that contradict what we just went over?

Now, let’s use good Bible study principles and take the clear verses and apply them to the less clear. If you haven’t seen the other article, please read “3 Days and 3 Nights“.

Now, the passage in question:

19 And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people:

20 And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him.

21 But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done.

~ Lk 24:19-21

How can this be the 3rd day after everything else we have just read and studied?

First, let’s make sure we have the correct context.

22 Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre;

~ v22

So, we have established that this has to be after the women discovered the empty tomb. Therefore, this must be what we would call Sunday they are walking to Emmaus. So, what did the women see? Well, they saw “two men” who said to them:

6 He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee,

7 Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.

~ vv 6-7

So, we see a “third day” verse here, indicating that it could be any time up to and including 72 hours. However, we know that other Scriptures point us to exactly 72 hours. Therefore, the only problem, then, is the “to day is the third day” of v21.

Notice that it is the 3rd day “since these things were done.” What are “these things”. Specifically, they mention that the rulers condemned Him to death. However, it obviously would had to have been more than 3 days ago. Then, they mentioned how He was crucified. Was this the event they were timing it from? Could it have been His burial? What other event happened that was significant?

Chapter breaks are not part of the inspired text, as chapters and verses came much later. However, it is interesting what happens just before the chapter break in Matthew 27, as though the scribes knew the events belonged together:

62 Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate,

63 Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again.

64 Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first.

65 Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can.

66 So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.

~ Mt 27:62-66

It would be logical that this would be the time from which they were referring as “all this” and “these things”. It fits perfectly with the other Scriptures, and we know that they cannot contradict each other and still be inspired. Furthermore, the word “all” definitely points to a conclusion of affairs that were not necessarily explicitly stated.

The point is that “these things” is not specific. In order to be true to the text, we must interpret the unclear with the clear and not the other way around.


  1. The argument for a Friday crucifixion using Luke 24:21 is “today” (Sunday) is the third day since these things happened, Saturday is then the second day since, which makes Friday the first day these things happened.

    It often gets used in conjunction with Luke 13:32, “… I do cures to day and to morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.” in order to prove their point of a Friday crucifixion. Also if a person examines Peter’s trip to Cornelius’ house, it can be seen that people back then talked about keeping time in this manner. There is no before the first day, there is no zero day since these things happenned.

    Not all Bible translators agree on Luke 24:21. The Syriac New Testament phrases that verse this way, “…and lo, three days have passed since these things have occurred.” Also New Berkeley Version puts it this way, “Moreover, three days have already passed, since all these events occurred”

    The idea being conveyed above is “to day” the three days and three nights Jesus spoke of have already passed.

    There is the question of whether “these things” is referring to events after the crucifixion or are these two men just referring to the context of their own given statement, “And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him.”?

    In my view the history of the recorded events about the crucifixion makes for an excellent ‘in depth’ study for people to come to terms with. It’s not as simple as it’s sometimes is made out to be.

    • @Norbert: I guess we’ll have disagree then on how simple it is. Most translations, after all, do not say “today” or some variant ( Furthermore, the word “since” should be a dead giveaway that they were not saying that it was day three of some event but rather a measure if time. This even translates well in our language and culture. If I say, “This is the third day of the cruise,” then no Native American English speaker would say that 72 hours had passed already. However, if I said, “It’s been three days since I boarded,”it would be clear that 72 hours had already passed.

      Furthermore, since it had been “the third day since all this took place,” they were not merely referring to the crucifixion but to all of the events including his burial and the soldiers being set on watch.

      Really, there is only so much wiggle room here.

  2. I do believe there is an issue about how natives of the Roman empire counted and understood days within the passage of time. Look at the following results about what Cornelius said to Peter:

    It leaves a reader wondering whether it was three or four days ago. Like when it comes to translating, a person would think how hard can it be to know the difference between two different numbers?

    • @Norbert: I see only two of the translations that seem to be unable to count. One of them is the NIV, which is famous for various changes that reflect a severe bias, to include excluding entire sections of Scripture and relegating them to footnotes.

      It is important to note that the NIV is not and has not claimed to be a word-for-word translation. Rather, “The translation is a balance between word-for-word and thought-for-thought” (Wikipedia). So, the important question is, “Why would they go to the extreme of saying ‘Three days ago’ rather than what the others chose to stick to ‘Four days ago’?” Strong’s G5067, tetartos, quite clearly means “the fourth” and not “the third”!

      I think the answer is that they entirely misunderstood what was being referred to. In fact, some commentaries seem to be pretty messed up when you look at their reasoning. Cornelius had the vision about 3:00 pm, he sent two men out to find Peter, and they arrived in Joppa about noon. They spent the night and set out the following day. He told Peter that he was praying at or about “this hour”, so supposedly he was speaking to Peter at 3:00 pm. That is only 3 days, however, not 4.

      Some people use this to proof-text the “partial day” theory which is one way they squeeze a day and a half into “three days and three nights”. Even if this interpretation were correct, however, “three days and three nights” is never used for partial days or partial nights.

      Actually, the answer is pretty simple. This is a situation in which Young’s Literal Translation can shed some light by looking literally at the text instead of pouring preconceived notions into the text:

      “And Cornelius said, ‘Four days ago till this hour, I was fasting…'”

      IOW, the four days does not refer to the time that the angel appeared until Cornelius spoke to Peter, but rather it is the time period in which he fasted.

      Once again, the clear intent and meaning of the words prevails all the other stuff. The NIV and Weymouth translations have obviously taken liberties with the text that are not warranted.

  3. When you mention: “so supposedly he was speaking to Peter at 3:00 pm. That is only 3 days, however, not 4.”

    Here’s how I figure how many days for the trip to and back to Cornelius’ house. I’ll use the NKJV Bible, if you see a problem let me know.

    day one:

    “About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God” v3

    “So when he had explained all these things to them, he sent them to Joppa” v8

    Day two:

    “The next day, as they went on their journey and drew near the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray” v9

    “Then he invited them in and lodged them….” v23

    Day three:

    “…On the next day Peter went away with them” v23

    Day four:

    “And the following day they entered Caesarea…” v24

    “As Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him .. “v25


    Seems to me there are 4 days involved from Cornelius’ vision to Peter’s arrival, no?

  4. Norbert wrote: “Seems to me there are 4 days involved from Cornelius’ vision to Peter’s arrival, no?”

    Only if you use inclusive counting. For journeys, though, that would be unusual, would it not? Let’s say I take a two hour plane ride. So, I board the plane on day one and land on day one. By your reasoning, it was a one day journey.

    However, I’d argue that most cultures would not count it that way, but it would be similar to the western reasoning:

    Cornelius saw the vision and sent men to Joppa: Start of journey = Day 0

    The men arrive at the city the next day when Peter is on the rooftop: Approx 24 hours later = Day 1

    The men spend the night, and they travel the following morning: 24 hours later = Day 2

    The following day, they arrive at Caeseria, and Cornelius addresses them perhaps about the same hour he saw the angel 3 days earlier: Approx 24 hours later = Day 3

    So, the journey itself was about 72 hours, which is three days by most people’s reckoning.

  5. With that reasoning, it does explain why both the NIV and Weymouth translations use three. They’re translations into modern English, not like literal translations which use ‘four’. Those writers obviously did see ‘tetartos’ which is the fourth, but they used exclusive counting instead.

    The way I see it, what gets misunderstood is whether or not people during the time of writing the scriptures used an inclusive view of the passage of days. I would also consider how much of reading stuff into the scriptures is necessary in order to explain one theory versus the other.

  6. John from Australia

    This comment was for the blog entitled “To Day is the Third Day”, posted on April 20, 2014; but I was unable to post as it appears to be closed.

    To Norbert,

    I hope that you are still reading this blog for I want to thank-you for your comments.

    You motivated me to take “another look” at the Gospel accounts on the crucifixion and resurrection. I now no longer hold to an understanding that I have held for some thirty years.

    I would appreciate it, if you have the time and inclination, to review something that I put together, from having “another look,” entitled “The Crucifixion and Resurrection – Nisan 14 and 16, AD 30,” which maybe viewed at I appreciate it is rather amateurish and the method used maybe off-putting.

    (It also includes an appendix entitled “The Agricultural Year and the Jubilee”).

    Sorry John for this post but this is the only way, hopefully, to get in contact with Norbert.

    • @John from Australia: Well, I’ll move the comment, then, as it is off-topic for this post. Posts typically close after 14 days, as it gets unwieldy in most cases otherwise, mostly because of spambots posting junk on really old posts. This narrows the target quite a bit for them. Hopefully, it will kick out an email so that Norbert will see it when it gets moved.

      Of course, you do realize I reserve the right to critique any posted links. Or not. It has been a few months, after all, and there certainly is a lot that could be written on the subject of 3 days and 3 nights, and the different ways of stating it might it quite clear to me that it was exactly 3 days and 3 nights and there is no other logical alternative.