Questions From Readers
Many ingenious explanations have been offered by Bible commentators and translators. Several say it is a scribal error in John’s Gospel, the correct reading being “third hour”. There is no evidence of such an error, however. Some contend that John figured time as we do today, and that by “sixth hour” John meant 6 a.m., and not 12 noon, as would ordinarily be indicated by “sixth hour” in Palestine at that time. But if John meant 6 a.m. by “sixth hour”, why would Jesus have been resting at Jacob’s fountain, tired out from a journey, at that early hour? (John 4:6) Noon would be a reasonable time for that, and was doubtless the time meant by John when he used the expression “sixth hour”. One source even went so far as to say that by “sixth hour” John meant the sixth hour of the night, or midnight. But this does not allow time for the many events to take place, some of which did not even start till daylight. Consider all that did happen and the time it would take, and you will see that even the view that it was 6 a.m. fails to allow the necessary time.
During Jesus’ last night on earth as a human creature he celebrated the Passover and then instituted the Memorial. This was followed by an extended discussion, then his betrayal and arrest and trials before Annas, Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin. At these trials fruitless searches were made for false witnesses, Jesus was questioned, slapped and maltreated, all of which must have consumed considerable time. When taken to the Sanhedrin for final examination and decision, the time is spoken of as “when it had become morning” (Matt. 27:1, NW), “immediately at dawn” (Mark 15:1, NW), “when it became day” (Luke 22:66, NW), and “early in the day” (John 18:28, NW).
But even after day’s dawning much was to happen before impalement. From the Sanhedrin he went before Pilate, who questioned Jesus and heard the accusations of the chief priests and older men of influence. Thence Jesus went to Herod, who questioned him “with a good many words”, which would take time in view of Herod’s curiosity and wordiness, as well as the time consumed by the chief priests and scribes present to voice their emotional accusations. More time, for Herod and his soldiers to discredit Jesus, poke fun at him, and clothe him in a bright garment. Then back to Pilate, who after much argument with the Jewish priests and the mob coached to demand Barabbas’ release instead of that of Jesus, and hearing the messenger from his wife about her dream, surrendered Jesus to their will. Then Pilate’s whipping or scourging of Jesus, the soldiers’ crowning him with thorns and otherwise mocking him, and the trip to Calvary by Jesus weakened by cruel scourging, with a mob swirling around him, all would take time. Six a.m. for “sixth hour” does not allow time for all this.
Some scholars claim that the Jews divided the day into four parts, and that the expression “third hour” covered the second part, from 9 a.m. to 12 n., when the “sixth hour” would mark the beginning of the third part. This would solve the difficulties, since Mark’s “third hour” could coincide with John’s “about the sixth hour”. However, there are no solid grounds for thinking four such three-hour periods were used to indicate time of day when Jesus was on earth. Jesus, after mentioning the ninth hour, refers to the eleventh, showing he did not view the ninth hour as covering from the ninth to twelfth, or our 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. (Matt. 20:5, 6) Certainly John figured on an hourly time division, mentioning the tenth hour (Joh 1:39) and the seventh hour (Joh 4:52), and not just using ninth and sixth hours respectively, as he would have done if he used any such claimed four larger divisions of the day.
The explanation that seems logical and unstrained is this. The days were divided into twelve hours, running from sunrise to sunset, or about 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. (John 11:9) Not dividing the hours into minutes, the Jews would say it was the third hour until the fourth started, just as today one may say he is thirty years old, though actually he may be thirty years nine months. Hence Mark’s third hour could be close to the fourth’s start, or 10 a.m. John does not claim to be accurate, saying that “it was about the sixth hour”. It could have been 11:30 a.m., or even earlier. The day was one of great emotional strain on Jesus’ followers, and they would hardly be calmly noting the relatively unimportant exact time of events. Also remember that they did not have watches handily strapped to their wrists in those days. Time was doubtless generally calculated by observing the sun, which could have been obscured by haze or clouds, and at best would be only an approximation. It should also be remembered that John wrote his account some 65 years after these events happened. So all of these factors allow much leeway to absorb the time discrepancy in the two accounts.
Another point that may bear on the matter: the scourging or whipping was considered a part of the process of impalement. It was so terribly cruel that sometimes the victim died under it, and it may have been severe enough in Jesus’ case to necessitate getting another man to help bear the stake, after Jesus started with it alone. (Luke 23:26; John 19:17) If this scourging was the start of the impalement procedure, some time would elapse between its beginning and the actual nailing to the stake. Different persons might give different times for the impalement, depending on the particular stage of the procedure when they might note time. So many factors can account for the difference in the records, and the very fact that there is a reconcilable difference proves that there was no studied effort on John’s part to make his account exactly harmonize with the earlier one by Mark, as he most surely would have done if John were faking the record.
● Must we be baptized before we are recognized by God as an ordained minister? The booklet Defending and Legally Establishing the Good News states that when in court we should say we are unordained ministers if we have not been baptized.—E. B., Indiana.
The authorities of the land generally call for some ceremony in connection with ordination for the ministry, and that is why the time of one’s baptism is generally submitted as the date of one’s ordination. Certainly that was so for Jesus, for it was then that the spirit descended upon him, in fulfillment of Isaiah 61:1, 2. However, a person may devote himself to God through Christ and begin carrying it out in faithful worship and active service long before water baptism, because the opportunity for baptism is not right at hand. In such a case God ordains such one his minister from the time of his dedication and looks for him to symbolize it at the first opportunity. The legal booklet is particularly viewing the matter from the standpoint of the law of the land, and is recognizing the two classifications made concerning ministers, namely, ordained ministers and regular unordained ministers. So viewed through the eyes of the law of the land, the legal booklet suggests that we determine which group we belong to on the basis of whether we have been baptized or not. The same legal rights extend to all ministers, whether they are counted ordained or regular.
However, the legal booklet also takes recognition of the fact that one may be ordained by God or anointed with his spirit before being baptized with water, for it shows that Cornelius and his fellow Gentile believers were ordained with the spirit of God before they were immersed in water. (Acts 10:44-48) Though that was extraordinary, yet it shows that God can ordain a dedicated person before water baptism. So while an unbaptized one may be ordained by God, he may still point out to the court that he has not as yet undergone the ordination ceremony of water immersion, and for that reason may be classed by the law of the land as a regular minister rather than an ordained minister. That the Watchtower Society itself places weight and significance to the act of water immersion is shown by the fact that only those who have so symbolized their dedication to God are entitled to a personal copy of the booklet Counsel on Theocratic Organization for Jehovah’s Witnesses.