Different versions of the English Bible refer to the time reference in varying ways. In the NIV, more specific time references are given than in other versions, which refer to the third, sixth, or ninth hours. Jewish people didn’t have watches as we do, so they divided 12-hour days into 4 “hours” or quadrants and 12-hour nights into 4 “watches.” The first quadrant of the day was at “sunrise,” referring to any time between 6 and 9 a.m. The third “hour” was between 9 and noon. The sixth hour was between noon and 3 p.m., while the ninth hour was between 3 and 6 p.m. 12-hour nights are also divided into watches: 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. is referred to as sunset; 9 p.m. to midnight is referred to as midnight; midnight to 3 p.m. is referred to as the rooster crows; while 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. is morning.
One can use this to reconcile the four Gospel accounts of the timing of Jesus’ appearance to Pontius Pilate, His crucifixion, and His death. Jesus was arrested on Thursday night of the Passion Week after the Last Supper was served at the Mount of Olives. Early on Friday morning, while Judas hanged himself; the Jewish leaders took Jesus to Pilate who questioned Him. Pilate’s wife had had a dream about Jesus, which may have contributed to his reluctance in having Jesus crucified.
“Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.”
When Pilate found out that Jesus was a Galilean and therefore under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent Jesus to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at the time. Herod questioned Jesus, before mocking Him and sending Him back to Pilate.
John stated that it was the day of preparation and “about noon” when Pilate “finally” handed Him over to be crucified. According to his Judean reckoning, the day of preparation began at sunset on Thursday night and ended at sunset on Friday (Hoehner, 1977). It was about noon on Friday. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all reported that Jesus was on the cross between noon and 3 p.m., when He died. Joseph of Arimathea then removed Him from the cross.
Those skeptical of the Bible are often unaware of the way ancient people configured time, so they claim we have Bible contradictions. Their ignorance is bliss to them. A simple study of ancient reckoning soundly refutes such claims of contradictions.
Thank you for your time.
This passage is from the newest book by S.J. Thomason entitled “The Power of One.” It will be available soon.
Hoehner, H. (1977). Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.