The Rejection of Pascal's Wager
Get the Book!

The Time of the Crucifixion

There are serious discrepancies between the chronologies of the synoptics and John. The first we have already pointed out previously: to the synoptics Jesus was crucified on Passover itself while to John Jesus was crucified on Passover eve (John 19:14). The second discrepancy involves the timing of events on the day of crucifixion itself. The synoptics had Jesus crucified on the third hour (i.e. 9am: Mark 15:25):

Mark 15:25
It was the third hour when they crucified him.

There was a darkening of the land from the sixth to the ninth hour. At about 3pm Jesus uttered his last words and died:

Mark 15:33-37 (Matthew 27:45-50; Luke 23:44-46).
At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at about the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice...With a loud cry Jesus breathed his last.

John, however, had Jesus sentenced by Pilate at the sixth hour, i.e. noon, by the time which, according to the synoptics, Jesus was already hanging on the cross for three hours! [1]

John 19:13-14,16
When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge's seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). It was the day of preparation of Passover Week, about the sixth hour ... Finally Pilate handed him over to be crucified.

This clear cut contradiction cannot be reconciled and further enforce our finding that the details in the account of Jesus' crucifixion has no historical basis.

We reject the Synoptic time table because it is simply too mechanical: Jesus was nailed to the cross on the third hour, on the sixth hour “darkness came over the whole land” and in the ninth hour Jesus died. [2]

We reject John's account because his reason for putting Jesus crucifixion time later was purely theological. He wanted to make the time of Jesus' death coincide with the slaughter of the Passover lamb. As Guignebert noted:

He has placed the death of Jesus at the hour fixed by Jewish custom for the sacrifice of the paschal lamb, between the two evenings (Exodus 12:6), that is to say between sunset and twilight, or between the declining (three o'clock) and setting of the sun's orb. [3]

In conclusion, both accounts of the timing of Jesus' death are unhistorical.

Back to the top


1.Cadoux, The Life of Jesus: p202
2.Craveri, The Life of Jesus: p399
3.Guignebert, Jesus: p487

Back to the top

[Home] [The Central Thesis] [Christianity] [The Bible] [Jesus] [Paul] [God] [History] [Pascal's Wager] [Bibliography] [Links]
© Paul N. Tobin 2000

For comments and queries, e-mail Paul Tobin
Hosted by