Questions From Readers
● At Matthew 12:40 Jesus said he would be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights, which some understand to mean a full seventy-two hours. However, the Watch Tower publications speak of it as “parts of three days.” Why?—B. W., Canada.
Those who argue that Jesus was dead in the grave for a period of seventy-two hours, three full days and three full nights, base their argument on the words of Jesus at Matthew 12:40: “For just as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish three days and three nights, so the Son of man will be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.” However, their conclusion that this means a period of seventy-two hours is in conflict with the scriptures that say he was raised “on the third day,” not the fourth. Obviously, their conclusion is in error.—Acts 10:39, 40.
In the Bible “three days” does not necessarily mean a full seventy-two-hour period. An example is found at 1 Kings 12:5, 12. King Rehoboam said to the people: “Go away for three days and return to me.” Acting in harmony with his command, would they return on the third day or on the fourth? If they understood his command to mean to return after three full days, they would put in an appearance on the fourth day. However, they did not understand it that way and neither did the king mean it that way. So 1 Ki 12 verse 12 says: “And Jeroboam and all the people proceeded to come to Rehoboam on the third day, just as the king had spoken, saying, ‘Return to me on the third day.’” So they returned after parts of three days had elapsed: the first being the day the king sent them away, the second being the next day, and the third being the day on which they returned to the king.—See also Genesis 40:13, 20; 42:17, 18; Esther 4:15, 16; 5:1.
Jesus himself explained the meaning of his statement, both before his death and following his resurrection. After having made the statement found at Matthew 12:40, Jesus later explained: “The Son of man is destined to be betrayed into men’s hands, and they will kill him, and the third day he will be raised up.” Following his resurrection he confirmed it: “In this way it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from among the dead on the third day.”—Matt. 17:22, 23; Luke 24:46.
The Bible clearly shows that Jesus was in the tomb “parts of three days.” He expired on Friday afternoon, the day before the Jewish sabbath. (Matt. 27:45-50; John 19:31) He rose from the dead early on the first day of the Jewish week, or Sunday morning. (John 20:1) So he was in the grave part of Friday, all day Saturday, and was raised early on Sunday.—See The Watchtower as of March 15, 1944, pages 86-88, paragraphs 17-25.
A Bible-study book, on the contribution of 50 cents, will be offered to persons contacted by Jehovah’s witnesses in their ministry during December. Thereafter, to aid interested ones to gain further knowledge of Jehovah God’s purposes, return calls will be made and home Bible studies started. For information on how you can share in this joyful work go to the local Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s witnesses or write this office.
“YOUR WILL BE DONE ON EARTH”
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“WATCHTOWER” STUDIES FOR THE WEEKS
January 4: Divine Loving-Kindness and the Kingdom. Page 720.
January 11: Men of Loving-Kindness and the Kingdom. Page 727.