“On The Third Day”: The Time Frame Of Jesus’ Death And Resurrection -- By: Martin Pickup

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 56:3 (Sep 2013)
Article: “On The Third Day”: The Time Frame Of Jesus’ Death And Resurrection
Author: Martin Pickup


“On The Third Day”:
The Time Frame Of Jesus’ Death And Resurrection

Martin Pickup*

* Editor’s note: Martin Pickup unexpectedly passed away shortly after submitting this piece for publication. This article reflects his interest and expertise in the Jewish background to the NT and in the early church’s proclamation of the bodily resurrection of Jesus. His family, friends, and many former students rejoice in the hope Marty defended with such skill in this article. “So also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor 15:22).

I. Introduction

The three-day time frame of Jesus’ death and resurrection was a part of the earliest Christian preaching. It had a place in the kerygmatic formula that Paul quotes in 1 Cor 15:3–5, a four-line formula that is generally acknowledged to have originated in the very earliest years of the Church.1

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received,

that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,

and that He was buried,

and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,

and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.2

The importance of the phrase “on the third day” (τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῇ τρίτῃ) is suggested by the fact that it is the only explicit time designation of the entire formula, and the four affirmations of the formula appear to be structured around this temporal framework.3 The NT Gospels give similar prominence to the third-day aspect of Jesus’ resurrection, with all four Gospels claiming that, on several occasions, Jesus predicted he would be slain and rise again in connection with the third day.4 Each evangelist says that Jesus was crucified and buried on a Friday (“preparation day”) and that his tomb was found empty on the following Sunday (“the first day of the week”)—i.e. three days later by inclusive reckoning.5 Far from being a minor chronological detail that happened to get included in the kerygma,6 the three-day time frame of Jesus’ death and resurrection was a key theme that was ensconced in the church’s earliest tradition.

Much of the scholarly disc...

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