At the third hour
25 And it was the third hour, and they crucified him.
Mark 15:25  KJV

Sometime after the sixth hour
14 And it was the preparation of the Passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!
John 19:14-16  KJV

(Remark: we follow the KJV in these verses, as it gives the most plain representation of the Greek.)

SAB Contradiction 224

Bible Contradiction?

It is an old and obvious point that there is something strange with the time indications of the evangelists concerning Jesus’ crucifixion. Was it at 9 o’clock a.m. as the synoptic gospels intend or was it later, some time after noon as John seems to suggest?


Let’s start with a short overview of the timeline based on the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke).
9.00 a.m.             Crucifixion (Mark 15:25, third hour)
12.00 – 3.00 p.m. Darkness (Matthew 27:45, Mark 15:33, Luke 23:44, sixth – ninth hour)
3.00 p.m.             Jesus dies (Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34, ninth hour)
John gives a time indication concerning the condemnation through Pilate about the sixth hour.  

Roman or Jewish counting?

One has proposed that John gave the Roman counting of the hours instead of the Jewish reckoning (Westcott). The idea is that the Romans counted 12 hours from midnight up to noon and again twelve hours from noon to midnight. The Jewish reckoning would be twelve hours from sunrise to sunset (about 6 o’clock a.m. to 6 o’clock p.m.). However there are enough examples that the Romans also used the time indication from sunrise to sunset. This common use of counting seems to be reflected in Jesus’ saying: Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world.”  (John 11:9  NASBu)

Common time indication

Jews as well as Romans dealt with many activities at night and proper time indications at night were already a must in classical times. For that reason we have to reckon with two methods of time indication being in use side by side. One is the common system from sunrise to sunset and further six hours from sunset to midnight and again six hours from midnight to sunrise. This could be completed for the night the system of night watches; four watches of about three hours:Whether he comes in the second watch, or even in the third, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.” (Luke 12:38)
Example. In Acts 23:23  And he called to him two of the centurions and said, ‘Get two hundred soldiers ready by the third hour of the night to proceed to Caesarea, …’”  This was about nine o'clock at night, an army unit was sent out under cover of darkness. 

John 19:14

And it was the preparation of the Passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!”  (KJV)
This is the end of Jesus’ trial before Pilate. What time is meant? The sixth hour by day: twelve o’ clock (noon), or the sixth hour after midnight, sunrise? John gives a clear indication, as the passage about Jesus’ trial before Pilate begins in 18:28 with “… it was early;”  That excludes the first option (noon); Jesus’ trial didn’t take six hours from early in the morning to noon; even the interval of his visit to Herod could only take one hour. So John is certainly speaking about the sixth hour after midnight. He follows the common time indication of the hours at night.
Moreover ‘early’ (18:28) can mean early in the morning but also dawn, before sunrise: the fourth night watch from 3.00 – 6.00 a.m. (Lexicon W. Baur) and that is indeed the period that was enough for the priests to get Jesus judged by Pilate (including his visit to Herod). It all happened in darkness to prevent commotion among the people. For the soldiers it gave time enough to make preparations for the crucifixion (9.00 a.m.). In fact, there was even time for a second mockery (Matthew) before they left for the crucifixion.

Preparation time

"And it was the preparation of the Passover,"  There were two preparations of the Passover. (1) Before Seder of the 14th of Nissan, all leavened food had to be done away out of the house at least on the 13th of Nisan and the meal had to be prepared. But that is not mentioned in John 19:14. (2) The second time of preparation was at daytime of the 14th of Nisan. The evening after 14 Nissan, at sunset, the 15th of Nisan began and that was the first day of the Festival week of the Unleavened Bread. This week was called Passover in broader sense and began with an extra Sabbath (15 Nisan) and before a Sabbath a preparation day was usual as it was not permitted to work on a Sabbath. This second preparation time in the total Passover festivities is mentioned in John 19:14 (see also Exodus 12:15 and Leviticus 23:6-7 where the Week of the Unleavened Bread is described).



We see that John gives the sixth hour as the end of the latter part of the night and the beginning of daytime. He is therefore in complete harmony with the synoptics, who also indicate the trial before Pilate was held very early.
The other time indications in John's gospel are generally to be taken as from sunrise to sunset in this approach, as John doesn't refer to night or dawn in these occasions. 
‘The sixth hour’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘noon’, it can also refer to the sixth hour of the night, 5.00 – 6.00 a.m. The context will always be decisive concerning the question which of the two meanings is appropriate. It was early, as John remarks, so it was 5.00 – 6.00 a.m. 

Compare the article: When was Jesus crucified?


No Contradictions