Gordon Henry Lovik












              Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements

                           for the degree of Doctor of Theology in

                                    Grace Theological Seminary

                                                 May 1973




    Please report any errors to Ted Hildebrand at:












Accepted by the Faculty of the Grace Theological Seminary

in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree

                            Doctor of Theology


                                   Grade A




                           Examining Committee


                              Homer A. Kent, Jr.

                                James L. Boyer

                              Charles R. Smith


                               TABLE OF CONTENTS




      I. INTRODUCTION                                                                                            1



                                    PART I. WORD STUDY










       III. WORDS INDICATING TIME UNSPECIFIED                              34





       IV. WORDS INDICATING TIME IN A YEAR                                    69







        V. WORDS FOR DAY AND ITS PARTS                                            99


                        Division of the Day


                        Divisions of the Night

                        Other Indications of Time


                       PART II. GRAMATICAL STUDY


   VI. INFINITIVAL EXPRESSIONS OFTIME                                           157

                        Background of Temporal Infinitives

                        Tenses of Temporal Infinitives

                        Identification of Temporal Infinitives

                        Occurrences of Temporal Infinitives


  VII.  PARTICIPIAL EXPRESSIONS OF TIME                                        171

                        Possibility of Temporal Participles

                        Background of Temporal Participles

                        Tenses of Temporal Participles




                        Adverbs and Improper Prepositions


   IX. SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS                                                  235


BIBLIOGRAPHY                                                                                          239


SCRIPTURE INDEX                                                                                    257




                        CHAPTER I




            With the advent of Gerhard Kittel's multivolume

work, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament,1 there

has been great interest in the meaning of the vocabulary of

the New Testament. Most of the resulting study has been

devoted to words having only a theological significance.

However, other important areas for word studies remain, such

as, words pertaining to the local church, Christian conduct

and discipleship. With this type of study in mind this

writer has chosen to investigate the area of "time," in

order to evaluate its meaning and significance in the



                          Statement of the Problem

            Little study has been made of temporal expressions

in the Gospels. This is true in grammars, books on syntax,

as well as commentaries and special studies in periodicals.

However, because the Gospels are history, an accurate

understanding of the methods for expressing time in the


            1 Gerhard Kittel, gen. ed., Theological Dictionary 

of the New Testament (8 vols.; trans. by G. Bromiley; Grand

Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1964-).

Gerhard Friedrich is the general editor of volumes VII and

VIII. "(Hereinafter referred to as TDNT.)"





Gospels is important. To correctly interpret the Gospels

it is necessary to make a thorough study of all the

temporal expressions in the Gospels.

            Though a few writers have expressed interest in a

philosophical approach to the problem of time,1 they draw

conclusions that are often far from being Biblically


            Consequently, there are several reasons why this

investigation is a contribution to New Testament studies.

(1) This study sets forth a collection and analysis of all

the time expressions found in the Gospels. (2) These

expressions of time have an important bearing on the exege-

sis of many passages. (3) An objective analysis can thus

be made of those writers of the past and present who have

built their exegesis and theology on misunderstandings of

time words and grammar.2   (4) The life of Christ can be

understood more clearly by knowing the meaning of these


            1 Cf. Thorlief Bowman, Hebrew Thought Compared with 

Greek, trans. by J. Noreau (Philadelphia: Westminster Press,

1960); Oscar Cullman, Christ and Time, trans. by F. B.

Filson (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1950), "(Here-

inafter referred to as Time.)"; J. A. T. Robinson, In the 

End, God (New York: Harper and Row, 1968), "(Hereinafter

referred to as In The End.)."

            2 For example, a recent article citing many men who

have erred in their interpretation of the aorist tense and

consequently their interpretation of Scripture was written

by Frank Stagg, "The Abused Aorist, Journal of Biblical

Literature, LCI (June, 1972), 222-31. "(Hereinafter

referred to as Aorist.)"


expressions of time. (5) Any writer, who asserts that

"errors" exist in matters of time in the Gospels, can be

answered with confidence.


                     Background for This Study

            Any serious word study in the Greek of the New

Testament requires a consideration of both Hebrew and

Aramaic. At least three of the Gospel writers were Jewish

and their expression of thought though written in Greek

would be Hebrew in concept. Since the language of the

Jewish part of Palestine in the New Testament era was pri-

marily Aramaicl at least three different languages must be

considered. (1) The thought concepts had their basis in

the Hebrew mind and language. (2) These thoughts were

spoken for the most part in the Aramaic language. (3) God

chose to record this revelation in the universal language

of the Roman Empire, Koine Greek.

            It must further be seen that any examination of

Greek words in the New Testament must include some study of

the Old Testament Hebrew and the Septuagint. These same

Greek words also have a history which often can be traced

from the Classical Greek down through non-biblical Koine

Greek. Any study in the New Testament must include a


            1 However, this is not to argue against the findings

of M. Mansoor, The Dead Sea Scrolls (Grand Rapids: Wm. B.

Eerdmans, 1964), pp. 177-81, that Greek and Hebrew were

also used in this time. Yet, the prominence of Aramaic has

long been an accepted fact.


consideration of these areas.

            Unless otherwise identified, the translations

appearing in this dissertation are those of the author. The

Greek Testament used throughout was The Greek New Testament 

published by the United Bible Societies. In addition the

nineteenth edition of D. Erwin Nestle's Novum Testamentum 

Graece was also used to check for textual variants.


                        Limitations of This Study

            By the title, "Expressing Time in the Gospels," the

dissertation is limited to those temporal references in the

four Gospels. Yet there must be further limitations to

treat the subject properly. Three major limitations are

needed. First, this is not a study of the chronological

indications found in the Gospels. This has already been the

subject of much writing.1 Second, in Greek a temporal con-

cept can be expressed through verb tenses, but since an

investigation of this would be too extensive to treat here,

the time indication of verbs will not be included. Third,

the significance of the case of these time words will not

be studied separately. Such an investigation would entail

a study of great length which is not possible in this


            1 This subject is adequately treated by Leslie P.

Madison, "Problems of Chronology in the Life of Christ"

(unpublished Th.D. dissertation, Dallas Theological

Seminary, 1963).



            A few minor limitations are also necessary. Though

it would be desirable to compare and contrast all the

parallel passages containing temporal expressions, this

will not be attempted since this could be a separate study.

Where it is important to the purpose of the dissertation,

the unacceptable views of the liberals will be cited and

discussed. There will not be an extensive rebuttal given

to the liberal method of interpretation. Because of the

subject matter there will not be exegetical elaborations

but rather the conclusions from the exegesis process.


                           Goals of This Study

            There are two primary goals of this work. The first

is to collect and to classify every word, phrase and gram-

matical expression pertaining to time in the Gospels. The

second is the establishing of the precise meanings of these

references to time. Berkley Nickelsen says that the basic

objective of every interpreter of the Scriptures should be,


            1 It is accepted that the comments found in Greek

grammars concerning case significance of time words are

correct. The following distinctions should be maintained

unless there are strong contextual reasons not to do so:

(1) the genitive case implies the time within which some-

thing takes place but states nothing as to duration;

(2) the dative case answers the question 'when?' and des-

ignates a point of time; (3) the locative case (particu-

larly when e]n occurs) regards the period from the point

of view of a point even if it is of some length; and (4)

the accusative case when used of time expresses duration

over the whole period.


"to find out the meaning of a statement (command, question)

for the author and for the first hearers or readers, and

thereupon to transmit that meaning to modern readers."1

This well states the second goal of this study. The end

result hopefully will be a wordbook of temporal expressions

in the Gospels that will provide a basic tool in the inter-

preting and understanding of historical and temporal

passages in the Gospels.


                         Method of This Study

            The major approach of this study will be a word

study. This necessitates, (1) a knowledge of the possible

word meanings in the period in which they occur, (2) an

examination of the context of each writer to understand the

initial reception of the message, and (3) a careful

avoidance of fine distinctions of synonyms and etymological

determinations unless there is strong contextual support.

It must be noted that "linguistically, it is the syntactical

complexes, in which the lexical items are used, and not the

lexical items themselves, which constitute communication."2

Great care must be taken to avoid a lexical structure for


            1 A. Berkley Mickelsen, Interpreting the Bible (Grand

Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1963), p. 5.

            2 James Barr, Biblical Words for Time (London: SCM

Press Ltd., 1961), p. 155. "(Hereinafter referred to as




the Gospels that sets forth the outlines of Biblical

thought about this subject since there can be variations

between languages and thought patterns of the writers


            More specifically the expressions for time will

each be explored in three areas. The use of a word in non-

biblical Greek includes several considerations. The

etymology of a word is important if it can be ascertained.

Then the use of each word has to be examined in Classical,

other Koine literature and the papyri. A second area to

explore is the use of each word in the Old Testament. This

often can be studied from the Greek word through its Hebrew

counterpart, as well as the uses of the word in the

Septuagint. After this the final area of study can begin.

Each use of the word in the four gospels is syntactically

and contextually considered. For greater ease of compre-

hension, the Gospels are discussed separately, Matthew

through John, with appropriate conclusions placed in the

final paragraph of each discussion.

            The last major area of the dissertation consists of

a grammatical investigation of the temporal infinitives,

participles, adverbs and conjunctions. This second area of

study completes the examination of all the expressions for

time in the Gospels with the exception of time as is indi-

cated by the verb tenses. This, however, is not a

consideration of the dissertation.


                       Preview of This Study

            Following this introductory chapter the first major

part of the dissertation, "Word Study," begins. The initial

major chapter contains a discussion of the temporal words

that were common and popularly used by all Jews. This

chapter is not an extensive lexical study but rather the

citing of the various meanings for the most frequently used

words, such as, "year," "day" and "hour." These common

words provide a basis for later discussion. Their variety

of meanings establishes early that linguistic dogmatism

solely on the basis of a word unscientific.

            The next three chapters contain words expressing

time. They are divided into "Words Indicating Time

Unspecified," "Words Time in a Year," and "Words for Day

and its Parts." In each chapter the words will be examined

alphabetically as to their use in (1) non-biblical Greek,

(2) the Old Testament, and (3) the Gospels.

            The second major part of the dissertation, "A

Grammatical Study," begins with chapter six. It is a study

of "Infinitival Expressions of Time." These are clearly

identified in the Gospels and are examined both grammati-

cally and contextually. Chapter seven is an investigation

of "Participial Expressions of Time." Primarily this is a

study of the grammar because it is too difficult to deter-

mine this function of the participle. Only illustrations



of this are cited. The last chapter of this second part is

a discussion of the "Conjunctive and Adverbial Words for

Time." These are cited alphabetically and in accordance

with their recognized major function, adverbial or


            A summary and conclusion completes the dissertation

setting forth the findings of the investigation.














                        PART I.  WORD STUDY

                               CHAPTER II

                COMMON WORDS FOR TIME

                        IN THE JEWISH YEAR

            Expressions of time in the Gospels are subject to

misunderstandings for at least three reasons: (1) the

large number of Gospel passages indicating time which often

differ in parallel passages, (2) the lack of specific

knowledge about certain first century dating practices, and

(3) the errant equating of contemporary concepts of time

with those of the Gospel era. Much of the confusion can be

alleviated by a general understanding of the time expres-

sions commonly used within the Jewish year. The indications

of time considered in this chapter are: year, month, week,

day, hour and feasts.



            The year, hnAwA in Hebrew, has been reckoned by

many methods at different points in Biblical history. This

practice provides a variety of calendars for the New Testa-

ment era. Both the length of year and the nature of the

calendar year create problems for determining the correct

method of Biblical calendation.

            The primary system the Hebrews used for indicating

chronology was by the year. But even among the Jewish

people the principles of chronology varied sufficiently to



give Old Testament scholars great difficulty. Within the

past few decades significant efforts have been made toward

understanding the chronological reckoning of the Jews both

during the period of the Kings1 and the restoration of

Judah back to the land of Palestine.2 Although all the

conclusions have not been met with universal acceptance

they provide the basis for Old Testament time reckoning.

            In the Old Testament both a solar, a luni-solar

year3 and a lunar year4 have been suggested as being

followed. Morgenstern writes in support of the luni-solar

year, that is, a calendar year based on lunar months with

a system of intercalation to harmonize with the sun:

                  Now it is of utmost significance that, working on

            altogether independent, astronomical grounds, Charlier

            reached exactly the same conclusion, that the temple

            must have been so built that on the two annual equi-

            noctial days the first rays of the rising sun shone

            directly in through the eastern gate. He has shown

            further that these two equinoctial days were the 1st

            of the first month and the 10th of the seventh month,


            1 Edwin R. Thiele, The Mysterious Numbers of the.

Hebrew Kings  (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing

Company, 1965).

            2 Richard A. Parker and Waldo H. Dubberstein,

Babylonian Chronology, 626 B.C.-A.D. 75 (Providence, R.I.:

Brown University Press, 1956).

            3 Julian Morgenstern, "Supplementary Studies in the

Calendars of Ancient Israel," Hebrew Union College Annual,

X (1935), 3-5.

            4 Henri Daniel-Rops, Daily Life in the Time of Jesus,

trans. by P. O'Brian (New York: Mentor-Omega Books, 1962),

p. 179. "(Hereinafter referred to as Daily Life.)"



            the latter the late Biblical Yom Kippur. . . .1

            Those who accept a lunar or embolistic year actually

assert the same basic reckoning of time since an embolistic

month, a second Adar, was added about every third year to

bring the lunar year into agreement with the solar year.

            The beginning of the Jewish year could begin either

in Nisan (March-April) or Tishri (September-October)

depending on the system followed at a particular time. The

first month of the year varied during Jewish history after

the division of the kingdom. Later in 1 Maccabees the

method of designating the months by name and number indi-

cates that the first month of the Jewish year about 165 B.C.

was Nisan. This probably was the case in Palestine during

the first century A.D., since it was just before Nisan that

any type of correction for the length of the year had to be

made in order to make the ripening of the barley correspond

to the celebration of the Passover in Nisan. Further, no

political events had occurred to force the Jews to change

from the practice of the Maccabbean times.

            Shortly after the time of the Maccabean revolt the

Qumran community provided a calendar quite distinct from

all others. Found in the Book of Jubilee 6:23-32, this

system of dating reckons a year as 364 days. Thus each


            1 Julian Morgenstern, "The Gates of Righteousness,"

Hebrew Union College Annual, VI, (1929), 18-19.



year was errant one and one-half days with the cycle of the

sun unless some method of intercalation was practiced. The

year itself is divided into four quarters of ninety-one days

with two months being thirty days and one being thirty-one

days in each quarter. The advantage of this system is that

every feast day was on the same day of the week each year.

Feast days came regularly on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.1

Since the Passover, Nisan 15, according to this system falls

on a Wednesday, some scholars have taken liberty to recon-

struct the entire passion accounts.2    Though this view has

created much interest and speculation that Jesus and his

disciples may have used this calendar, most scholars do not

consider this likely. Perhaps the greatest weakness of

this Jaubertian calendar system is the lack of knowledge

about the yearly intercalations which must have been made

in both the solar and traditional calendars at the time of

Christ. An acceptance of this system adds many more

problems to the passion week chronology than it solves.3


            1 Jack Finegan, Handbook of Biblical Chronology

(Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1964),

pp. 54-55. "(Hereinafter referred to as HBC.)"

            2 This is especially true of Annie Jaubert, The

Date of the Last Supper, trans. by Isaac Rafferty (Staten

Island, N.Y.: Alba House, 1965).

            3 For an excellent analysis and refutation of Annie

Jaubert's chronology see Clifford Wood Hardin, "An Exami-

nation of Jaubert's Chronology of the Passion Week,"

(unpublished Th. M. thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary,




There is no evidence that this calendar was used outside of

the Qumran community nor is it certain how long it was

followed there.

            By the time of Christ several calendars were in use

in Palestine making it more difficult to be dogmatic when

asserting dates.

                        Matters were much complicated, however, by the fact

            that by no means all the inhabitants of Palestine used

            the official calendar of the Jewish community. . . .

            And in a Greek city of the Decapolis there might

            perfectly well be three concurrent calendars, the

            Jewish, the Syrian and the Egyptian, quite apart from

            the Roman.

                        And lastly it now seems quite certain, since the

            discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls, that some religious

            groups who were faithful to the tradition of the Book

            of Jubilees still used the ancient calendar of 364

            days, which had four terms of ninety-one days each, and

            which were each made up of thirteen weeks. This had

            the advantage of making the great feasts, such as the

            Passover, fall on a given date.1

            The reckoning of time by the aforementioned calen-

dars could produce different times for both the length of

the year and the beginning of the year. For example, the

Egyptian calendar after 22 B.C. consisted of twelve months

of thirty days or three hundred sixty days with five

epagomenal days added after the twelfth month. Every year

preceding the leap year of the Julian calendar was an

intercalary year and six epagomenal days were added so that

the Egyptian yearly calendar averaged 365 1/2 days. The


            1 Daniel-Rops, Daily Life, p. 183.


beginning of the year fell on August twenty-ninth or


            The Syrian calendar followed the Macedonian which

began in October and followed a lunar calendar-system with

the probable insertion of intercalary months. Though this

dating system seems to be followed in 1 Maccabees2 it

appears to be of no consequence in the New Testament.

Whether the Jewish year began in the fall adopting the

Syrian system or in the spring following the Babylonian

calendar is not known. However, "at the time of Christ it

is quite certain that the lunar year of 364 days was in

use."3 That is to say, the lunar year with an intercalated

lunar month which permitted the lunar year to coincide with

the solar year.

            Of course there were other problems of Jewish time


                        There are some interesting facts to learn, as that

            the Hebrews, in counting an interval of days (or weeks,

            or months, or years) between two events would probably

            (though not necessarily) include in the interval both

            the day (or week, or month, or year) of the first event

            as well as the second.4


            1 Finegan, HBC, pp. 28-29.

            2 Ibid., p. 121.

            3 Daniel-Rops, Daily Life, p. 180.

            4 John Marsh, The Fulness of. Time (New York: Harper

& Brothers Publishers, 1962), p. 20. "(Hereinafter

referred to as Time.)"


            This is known as inclusive reckoning and must be

considered in matters of chronology (particularly in

connection with the use of h[me<ra). Fortunately, most

other words for time are not affected by this principle of

chronology. In a subsequent chapter, the two Greek words

for year, e]niauto<j and e@toj which translate hnAwA will

be examined in detail.



            Twelve months, written mh<n in both the Septuagint

and the New Testament, made up the Jewish year. Each month

had twenty-nine days and began "when the thin sliver of the

new moon appeared in the sky:  if it did not appear, then

necessarily the month had thirty days."1 It must be under-

stood that the Jewish month was based totally on visible

lunar calculation, as is attested by the two Hebrew words

for month, wdH , meaning "glittering new moon" and Hry

meaning "moon" or "month."

            The decision for determining the new month was the

work of the Sanhedrin.

                        If the members of the court found that the new

            moon might be visible, they were obliged to be in

            attendance at the courthouse for the whole thirtieth

            day and be on the watch for the arrival of witnesses.

            If witnesses did arrive, they were duly examined and

            tested, and if their testimony appeared trustworthy,

            this day was sanctified as New Moon Day. If the new


            1 Daniel-Rops, Daily Life, p. 181.


            crescent did not appear and no witnesses arrived, this

            day was counted as the thirtieth day of the old month,

            which thus became an embolistic month.1

            This shifting of the month from twenty-nine to

thirty days based on the visual sighting of the new moon

and the decision of the Sanhedrin to begin a new month

makes the certain determination of a new month or a parti-

cular day in the month during the first century an

impossible task.

            There was even a greater difficulty in reckoning

time by months. Since a solar year is eleven days longer

than a lunar year, every third year an extra month had to

be added to the calendar in order to celebrate the feasts

at the correct time each year.

                        This was done by adding a second Adar (the Baby-

            lonian name for the twelfth month), February-March, so

            contrived that the Passover, celebrated on the 14th

            Nisan (the first month), should always fall after the

            spring equinox.2

            In this way the spring season of the year coincided

with the month Nisan and the first sheaf of barley would be

fully ripened, ready to be offered on the sixteenth of

Nisan. To correlate the beginning of the Jewish year with

the Julian calendar would demand knowledge of every inter-

calation and the decision of the Sanhedrin for all these


            1 Jack Finegan, Light From the Ancient Past (New

York: Princeton University Press, 1946), p. 578.

            2 G. Gordon Stott, "Month," HDCG, II (New York:

Charles Scribner's Sons, 1912), 731.




            Perhaps the aforementioned difficulties explain why

the words for month and year occur only a few times in the

Gospels. The names for the months are not used at all.

There is actually no evidence that the object now called a

calendar and which shows the months, weeks and days at a

single glance was known to the average Jew.



            The modern method of determining time by weeks was

not followed by the Gospel writers. The Hebrew fbw from

the numeral seven was translated by the Greek sa<bbaton,

This seventh day of the Jewish week began Friday at sunset

and extended through the daylight of Saturday. This was

the Jewish sabbath and was known by that name. On several

occasions in the Old Testament various feast days are also

called sabbaths.1 Consequently, the word "sabbath" could

refer to a feast no matter which day of the week it was

observed or to the seventh day of the Jewish week.

            The day prior to the weekly sabbath was the day of

preparation for the sabbath and seems to be designated as

the paraskeuh<, the preparation day.2  Once in Mark 15:42


            1 An excellent discussion of the meaning of Sabbath

in the context of feast days can be found in an unpublished

monograph by Homer A. Kent Jr., "The Day of that Sabbath

was a High Day," pp. 25-31.

            2 Josephus Antiquities 16. 6.2. (Perhaps this is

also intended in Mt. 27:62; Lk. 23:54; Jn. 19:31, 42).


it is called prosa<bbaton and was also known as "the eve

of the sabbath."1 Six times in the Passion week account

paraskeuh< occurs and may have the function of indicating

"Friday," the day before the Sabbath. That paraskeuh< can

refer to Friday of any week is indicated by the Didache,

“. . .  but do ye fast on the fourth day and the Preparation

(Friday)."2  Josephus writes, ". . . and that they need not

give bond (to appear in court) on the Sabbath or on the day

of preparation for it (Sabbath Eve) after the ninth hour."3

The meaning of paraskeuh<,  Friday, became so fixed in

Greece that to this day Friday is known by this title.

            However, paraskeuh< can also refer to "the day

before any feast which required special preparation that

could not be made on the feast day itself."4 That this can

be applied for example to Nisan 14, the day before the

eating of the Passover, is illustrated by many passages in

Rabbinic literature.5 The Septuagint never uses paraskeuh<  

in connection with any type of a feast or Sabbath day.


            1 Daniel-Rops, Daily Life, p. 184.

            2 Didache 8.

            3 Josephus Antiquities 16. 6.2.

            4 Solon Hoyt, "Did Christ Eat the Passover?"

(unpublished monograph, Grace Theological Seminary, 1945),

P. 34.

            5 Babylonian Talmud Pesachim 4:1, 5, 6; 5:1; 10:1.



            Thus, two uses of paraskeuh< in the New Testament

times are possible. It may mean Friday, including the

evening of Thursday, which is the day before a weekly

Sabbath. Or, it could mean any day before a feast day such

as the Passover, Nisan 15. This distinction must be con-

sidered in matters of chronology. The other days in the

week were named simply by their numerical order, so that

"the first of the week (mi%> sababa<twn) in Matthew 28:1 is

Saturday evening and Sunday until sunset. The word for

week, sa<bbaton, occurs often since every Jew was oriented

to the sabbath observance on the seventh day of the week.



            The most frequently used word expressing time in

the Gospels is h[me<ra, day. The Hebrew     MOy and its

translation h[me>ra were popularly used to indicate both a

twenty-four hour solar day and the daylight period. The

Greek language also had nuxqhme<ron to indicate the

complete cycle of light and darkness but this is used only

once in the New Testament, 2 Corinthians 11:25. "Usually,

however, the 'day' which includes the nightime and the day-

time is simply designated with the word h[me<ra, and the

context makes plain what is meant. . ."1

            The sequence of time in a day was measured by one


            1 Finegan, HBC, p. 8.


of four methods: (1) a sunclock, po<loj, (2) a sundial,

gnw<mwn, (3) a water-clock, kleyu<da (for the night

especially),1 and (4) estimation. It is quite certain that

the common people would use the last method.

            In the ancient world the day began at dawn in

Egypt; at evening in Ancient Mesopotamia, Greece and in the

Old Testament; whereas the Roman day began at midnight.2

            Bickerman writes concerning the Jewish reckoning:

                        On the other hand, the complete day, for the purpose

            of the calendar, is generally reckoned in conformity

            with the respective calendar systems. The peoples who

            use lunations as the basic time-measurement (Athenians,

            Gauls, Germans and Hebrews) counted the twenty-four

            hour day from evening to evening.3

            Though it is not universally accepted, most New

Testament scholars accept that the beginning of the day

among Jews in Palestine was at sunset. If this is correct,

the appearance of the stars was the sign that the day had

ended4 and a new day begun.

            The darkness part of the day is called night, nu<c,

and can be broken down into several divisions of time. The

early evening was designated e]spe<ra.  The entire night,


            1 Finegan, HBO, p. 12.

            2 Ibid., pp. 8-9.

            3 Elias J. Bickerman, Chronology of the Ancient 

World (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University :Press, 1968),

p. 13. "(Hereinafter referred to as Chronology.)"

            4 Babylonian Talmud Berakoth 1:2.


nu<c contained four watches according to both the New

Testament and Josephusl with each watch representing one-

fourth part of the night. This differed from the Old Testa-

ment practice of having only three watches. The watches

came in the following order: (1) o[ye<, (2) mesonu<ktion,

 (3) a]lektorofwni<a and (4) prwi~.2  In fact, in Talmudic

literature the word "evening" at times also included the

entire afternoon. The afternoon was divided into two

periods, 12 to 2:30 and 3:30 to 6:00, called evenings.3

The time for the slaying of the Passover lamb according to

Josephus4 was between the two evenings.

            As light began to dawn in Palestine a new day

began. "This was true in Greece and Rome, in Babylonia

and Egypt, as it is true for our own usage."5 This was an

accurate way of speaking even though the twenty-four hour

day began at sunset in some countries and mid-night in Rome.

According to the Jerusalem Talmud the earliest period, dawn,

was divided into four parts: (1) the gazelle of the

morning (a[me<raj ble<faron), (2) when one can distinguish


            1 Josephus Antiquities 18. 9.6.

            2 F. R. Montgomery Hitchcock, "Dates," DCG, I

(Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1906), p. 417.

            3 Finegan, HBC, p. 14.

            4 Josephus Wars 6. 9.3.

            5 Bickerman, Chronology, p. 13.


blue from white (prwi~, skoti<aj e@ti ou@shj),  (3) when east

began to grow light (o@rqroj baqu<j), and (4) twilight

(li<an prwi~, a]natei<lantoj tou? h[liou<).1   Consequently,

prwi~ and o@rqroj and their cognates are used of this time

period in the Gospels. Rather than reckon time hour by

hour the daylight part of the day was often divided into

three-periods, the middle of the morning, noon and the

middle of the afternoon. These correspond to 9 a.m., noon

and 3 p.m.

                        It seems to me more likely that in spite of the

            opportunity offered by an hourly nomenclature the

            ancients found that for many purposes the simpler

            three-hour interval was sufficiently definite. For

            the culture represented by the evangelists and in a

            society without clocks or watches one could often be

            satisfied with phrases no more specific than our mid-

            morning, midday (or noon), mid-afternoon together

            with dawn or sunset.2

            Thus it is seen that within a solar day there can

be many expressions of time and most are inadequate in

indicating a precise moment of time. The more easily fixed

points of time during the day would be daybreak, nightfall

and midday.


            1 John M'Clintock and James Strong, eds., "Day,"

CBTEL, II (New York: Harper and Brothers Publishers, 1882),

pp. 702-703.

            2 Henry J. Cadbury, "Some Lukan Expressions of

Time," JBL, LXXXII (September, 1963), 278. "(Hereinafter

referred to as "Time.")"



            Another popular way to speak of time is by the hour,

w!ra. The earliest known use of hours by the Jews came

during the Intertestament Period and is recorded in the

apocryphal book 3 Maccabees 5:14. This hour had little

similarity to modern reckoning. Any hour identification

could only be relative since its length depended on the

time of the year and the geographical latitude.

                        The twelve hour system then in use throughout the

            Roman empire, had of course no relation to ours. Our

            hours are each the twenty-fourth part of a legal day

            calculated mathematically; the Roman system was

            based upon the durations of the sun's presence in the

            sky: on December 25th, therefore, the winter sol-

            stice, when there were but eight hours and fifty-four

            minutes of possible sunlight in the day, the day-time

            hour shrank to less than forty-five of our minutes,

            while each of the night-hours draw out to an hour and

            a quarter of our time.1

            It is important to notice that every day had twelve

hours of relatively equal length and these hours were

numbered from daybreak to nightfall (Mt. 20:3-12). Of the

method by which time was actually determined in the

Biblical period, we know little. The division of time into

sixty minute hours was a late refinement, which must have

become generally used only when some sort of a sundial or

hourglass became readily available.2

            1 Daniel-Rops, Daily Life, p. 186.

            2 Roger T. Beckwith, "The Day, Its Divisions and Its

Limits, In Biblical Thought," The Evangelical Quarterly,

XLIII, (October, 1971), 220. "(Hereinafter referred to as

The Day.)"


            The night likewise was divided into twelve equal

parts from sundown to sunrise. Ramsay states:

                        Though the Roman legal Day began at midnight, yet

            the hours of the day were counted only as beginning from

            sunrise; and the hours of the night (in rare cases in

            which the hours of the night were spoken of) only from

            sunset. In popular usage probably no night hours were

            spoken of except the third, sixth and perhaps the ninth,

            as the beginnings of the second, third and fourth

            watches; and those expressions were used, not because

            there was any device in ordinary use for dividing the

            night into twelve hours, but simply by analogy from

            the three main customary divisions of the day.1

            From the earliest times the daylight period had to

be divided by visual observation rather than any other

means, at least by the common people. In the Talmud there

is a discussion of the extent of reasonable error about a

man's estimate of a given hour appealing to the fact that

"in the sixth hour the sun stands in the meridian."2   It

can be expected that many references to a particular hour

in the Gospels would also be based on estimation rather

than on mechanical means. The most frequently used hours

were the third hour (9 a.m.), the sixth hour (noon) and the

ninth hour (3 p.m.).

            The Hebrew word for hour hbw, translated by w!ra,  

can also mean an inexactly defined period of time so that

in Daniel 3:6 it is best translated "immediately." The


            1 William Ramsay, "Numbers, Hours, Years and Dates,"

HDB, V. (New York: C. Scribner's Sons, 1904), 477.

            2 Babylonian Talmud Pesahim, 11b-12b.


Greek word could be used to refer to time in general, "the

time is coming."1  These various meanings of w!ra necessi-

tate careful study of this often used word in a later




            During the Jewish year several feasts are observed

and these are identified in the Gospels by name or by the

word "feast," e[orth<.  By itself e[orth< cannot give a

clear meaning and in a given context scholars can disagree

as to the identity of the feast.2 Although the time of the

year for the feasts varies slightly because of the inter-

calation practice of the Jews, some chronological identifi-

cations can be made particularly in John by understanding

the time of the feasts. Of the six major feasts--Passover,

Unleavened Bread, Weeks, Tabernacles, Trumpets and Day of

Atonement--mentioned in the Old Testament only three are

found in the Gospels by name. The Passover, Unleavened

Bread and Tabernacles together with the later Maccabean

festival, Dedication, provide feast time indications.


            1 James Barr, Time (London: SON Press Ltd., 1961),

p. 121.

            2 The feast of John 5:1 for example has been identi-

fied with the Passover by Lightfoot and Greswell, with

Pentecost by Bengel and Browns, with Tabernacles by

Cocceius, Ewald and Zahn, with the Day of Atonement by

Caspari, with Trumpets by Westcott, and with Wood-gathering

by Edersheim.


            The Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread occur

during the same month, Nisan, and seem at times to be almost

interchangeable. Both feasts are found several times in the

accounts of the crucifixion. The month Nisan is the time

when the first barley was ripening. On the tenth of this

month the head of each home set aside a lamb for the paschal

offering and groups were formed for the proper celebration.

These lambs would be selected from the flocks outside

Jerusalem. For each lamb a minimum of ten persons was

necessary for the eating of the lamb. On the fourteenth

the women removed all leaven from the home and in the after-

noon the lamb was slain in the temple by the priests then

taken to a home and cooked. That evening, which began the

fifteenth, all the lamb would be eaten. If they needed

additional meat because of the large number of guests a

Chagigah could be offered.1  It is uncertain how many Old

Testament practices were retained at the time of Christ

and there are almost as many differing opinions about the

first century practice as there are writers on the subject.

            It is unfortunate that the word for the Passover

feast, pa<sxa, which is found a total of twenty-five times

within the four Gospels, can be used at least five


            1 Alfred Edersheim, The Temple Its Ministry and 

Services (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company,

1958), pp. 218-19. (Also see his discussion of the

Passover on pp. 208-48). "(Hereinafter referred to as



different ways because it greatly complicates chronologi-

cal reckoning. Theodor Zahn gives four different senses

of pa<sxa. (1) It can refer to the Passover lamb as the

object of qu<ein or fagei?n.  (2) The observance of Nisan

14 with the slaying of the lamb and the feast of the

Passover, as distinguished from the Feast of the Unleavened

Bread which began on the fifteenth, is called the Passover.

(3) The name a@zuma, Unleavened Bread, refers not only to

the seven days following the slaying of the Passover but

it is also applied many times in the Old Testament to the

fourteenth day which precedes it. (4) Likewise, pa<sxa

can be applied to cover all the days of a@zuma so that the

terms a@zuma and pa<sxa are used quite synonymously.1

Further, it would seem possible that the Passover could

refer to the Paschal meal alone on Nisan 15 or to Nisan 14

excluding the feast which began after sunset. Edersheim

further maintains that pa<sxa can mean the Chagigah sacri-

fice offered on the fifteenth.2

            Four references to pa<sxa occur before the Passion

Week account.3 Each of these references appear to be

general indications of the Passover season without reference


            1 Theodor Zahn, Introduction to the New Testament,

trans., M.W. Jacobus, III (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications,

1953), 296-98. "(Hereinafter referred to as Introduction.)"

            2 Edersheim, Temple, pp. 218-19.

            3 Luke 2:41; John 2:13, 23; 6:4.


to a more specific time intended. Attempts to be dogmatic

concerning the days and nights at the time of the Passover

meet with frustration because of the probable existence of

more than one way of expressing days.

                        Consequently, when a day and night or a definite

            number of days and nights are being set apart from

            manual labor for religious purposes, it is necessary

            to decide which nights are being set apart in this

            way as well as which days. This was especially true

            of the passover, when the main celebration took place

            by night, but even in this case the special circum-

            stances made it as natural for Josephus to think of

            the new day as beginning after the night was over as

            before it began, since he cannot have failed to see

            that the lamb connected the night as intimately with

            the day preceding as the unleavened bread did with

            the day following.1

            The festival of Unleavened Bread follows immediately

after the Passover and lasts seven days, Nisan fifteenth to

the twenty-first. It is called by Josephus e[orth> tw?n

a]zu<mwn and ai[ h[me<rai tw?n a]zu<mwn.2  Apparently in popular

speech the fourteenth of Nisan was also included in the

feast of Unleavened Bread in Mark 14:12. However, the

second day of Unleavened Bread was considered to be the

sixteenth of Nisan and the time when the first sheaf of

barley was offered in the Temple. From this point also

began the counting for the seven weeks to Shabuot or


            1 Beckwith, "The Day," p. 226.

            2 Josephus, Antiquities 3.10.5. and 18.2.2.


Tabernacles.1  The unleavened bread eaten during this time

was a remembrance of the deliverance from Egypt. The time

sequence of these two feasts and the events which accompany

them further complicate the reckoning of time during the

Passover season.

                        The Mishnah tractate Pesahim brings the entire

            ritual to a complexity widely removed from the his-

            toric night of the Exodus. The dating of the

            recurrent, commemorative festival is important for

            Gospel exegesis. The night of the Passover proper

            (14-15 Nisan) and the feast of Unleavened Bread (15-

            21 Nisan) are distinguished in Leviticus 23:5f and

            Numbers 28:16f., but telescoped in Luke 22:1. Doubt-

            less they had long become telescoped in popular

            thought and practice, as Josephus and the Mishnah bear

            out. The first day of Unleavened Bread was strictly

            15th Nisan, though the 14th was often loosely so

            called, as in Matthew 26:17; Mark 14:12. The prepara-

            tion of the Passover began at 6 p.m. on 13th Nisan,

            ending at the same hour on the 14th. This is an

            analogical extension of the normal weekly Friday or

            prosa<bbaton (Mark 15:42), when cooking and all

            laborious preparations for the sabbath had to be


This complexity is not found in the other feasts.

            Tabernacles was celebrated in Tishri (the early

fall) fifteenth to the twenty-first. Also known as Sukkot,

Succoth or skhnophgi<a, it commemorated the period of

wilderness wanderings after the Exodus which was during the

formative period of the Jewish nation. During these years


            1 Louis Finkelstein, The Pharisees, I (Philadelphia:

Jewish Publication Society of America, 1940), 174.

            2 Roy A. Stewart, "The Jewish Festivals," The Evan-

gelical Quarterly, XLIII (July, 1971), 153-54.


the Jews lived like nomads in temporary dwellings.1  At

this festival temporary dwellings of palm branches and wood

sticks, not tents, were made to dwell in. This feast was

held in high regard in Josephus' time as is seen by his

description of Tabernacles; e[orth> sfo<dra a[giwta<th kai>

megi<sth2 and ei]j ta> me<lista throume<nh.3 Though

mentioned often by Josephus and in the Septuagint, it is

found only in John 7:2 in the Gospels. Most scholars

place this event about six months prior to the crucifixion.

Following Jesus' teaching at this feast He remained in

Judea until the feast of Dedication according to John 10:22.

            The festival of Dedication (Hanukkah) or e]gkai<nia

is mentioned only in John 10:22 about three months before

the crucifixion. John identifies this as being winter

which corresponds with the festival date of Kislev or

December. The celebration is actually a memorial to the

Maccabean wars of freedom over the Syrians and Antiochus

Epiphanes who had desecrated the Temple area. After

Antiochus defiled the temple on Kislev twenty-fifth, B.C.

167, the Jews led by Judas Maccabaeus regained the temple

cleansed t and restored its worship. The whole festival


            1 Julius H. Greenstone, Jewish Feasts and Fasts

(New York Bloch Publishing Company, 1946), p. 60. "(Here-

inafter referred to as Feasts.)"

            2 Josephus Antiquities 8.4.1. VIII, iv, 1.

            3 Ibid., 15.3.3.


has particular reference to "the rededication of the Temple

and the altar after these had been in the hands of the

heathens for two years and were polluted by them with

heathen worship and sacrifice."1 The festival was similar

to Tabernacles:

                        And they kept eight days with gladness in the

            manner of the Feast of Tabernacles. . . they bare

            branches and fair boughs, and palms also, and sang

            psalms unto Him that had given them good success in

            cleaning His place. They ordained also by a common

            statute and decree, that every year those days should

            be kept of the whole nation of the Jews.2

            The Festival of Dedication was a national holiday

rather than a religious festival.

            While the New Testament also uses many words and

grammatical expressions for time, the purpose of this

chapter was to present the commonly known designations for

time and to show that those in the New Testament era could

use many expressions of time. These popular methods of

reckoning time--by year, month, week, day, hour, and

feasts--often had many interpretations which is true of

these words in current speech. This diversity of meanings

has produced problems in understanding these time designa-

tions. For this reason, many occurrences of these time

words must be studied at greater length in the following



            1 Greenstone, Feasts, p. 115.

            2 II Maccabees 10:6-8.



                              CHAPTER III




            In the Gospels three words expressing time need

special consideration in that the words by themselves

specify a concept of time more than an exact expression of

time. These words, ai]w<n, kairo<j and xro<noj, are the

subject of much discussion especially by current

theologians. Since these words occur often in the Gospels

this chapter will examine each word in the above mentioned

order considering (1) their use in non-biblical Greek,

(2) their use in the Old Testament and (3) their use in

the Gospels. This last area of examination will also

include the substance of the contemporary discussion of the

three words.



            As a general indication of time, ai]w<n is used in a

number of places and expressions which, when examined,

provide the necessary insight as to the correct meanings

of this word.

In non-biblical Greek

            Regarding etymology Richard C. Trench connects ai]w<n  

with a]w<, and a]h<mi meaning to breathe. He further comments,



                        Like ko<smoj it has a primary and physical and then

            superinduced on this, a secondary and ethical sense.

            In its primary, it signifies time short or long, in

            its unbroken duration, often times in classical Greek

            the duration of a human life.1

Curtius argues that ai]w<n is from the Sanskrit  e?naj

meaning "course or walk" and in the plural, "habit or

custom."2  Others connect ai]w<n,  with the Sanskrit ayu which

conveys the idea of life and especially long life. Moulton

and Milligan comment more cautiously concerning the

etymology and the meaning of ai]w<n:

                        The word, whose root is of course futile to dig

            for, is a primitive inheritance from Indo-Germanic

            days, when it may have meant 'long life' or 'old age'

            --perhaps the least abstract idea we can find for it

            in the prehistoric period. . . . In general the word

            depicts that of which the horizon is not in view,

            whether the horizon be an indefinite distance. . . or

            whether it lies no farther than the span of Caesar's


            Thus, the basic idea of ai]w<n relates to time

especially as it pertains to human life whether it be that

of an individual or that of the human race.


            1 Richard C. Trench, Synonyms of the New Testament

(Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1953),

p. 217. "(Hereinafter referred to as Synonyms.)"

            2 Georg Curtius, Principles of Greek Etymology,

trans. by A.S. Wilkins and E.B. England, I (London: John

Murray, 1866), 354.

            3 James Hope Moulton and George Milligan, The

Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament From the Papyri and 

Other Non-literary Sources (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdman's

Publishing Company, 1963), p. 16. "(Hereinafter referred

to as Vocabulary.)"



            The earliest meanings of ai]w<n include "lifetime,

life, long time, an age and eternity."1  Consequently, in

early times ai]w<n could signify the duration of human life

as being limited to a specific space of time or to denote

an age or generation as the space of human life. The

expansion from these meanings to the conception of time

unlimited was easy.2 Some of the Greek philosophers

frequently made use of ai]w<n to indicate the concept of

time unlimited. Plato has ai]w<n as "timeless, ideal

eternity" in which there are no specific designations of

time such as days, months or years. Plutarch and others

have ai]w<n in the sense of eternity or unending time.3  When

the preposition ei]j was linked to ai]w<n  the concept of pro-

longed time and even the sense of "forever" developed.

Prior to he time of the New Testament era ai]w<n acquired a

religious significance inasmuch as  Ai]w<n became the name of

the God of eternity.4 Interesting examples of these uses


            1 Ernest DeWitt Burton, New Testament Word Studies

(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1927), p. 76.

“(Hereinafter referred to as Word Studies.)"

            2 Hermann Cremer, Biblico-Theological Lexicon of 

the New Testament Greek, trans. by W. Urwick (Edinburgh:

T. & T. C ark, 1954), pp. 74, 75. "(Hereinafter referred

to as Lexicon.)"

            3 For a more detailed study of the philosopher's use

of ai]w<n examine TDNT, I, pp. 197-78.

            4 Hermann Sasse, ai]w<n, TDNT, trans. and ed. by

Geoffrey W. Bromiley, I (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans

Publishing Company, 1964), 198.


can be cited in the early centuries A.D. An athlete

claiming to have established a new Olympic record exclaimed

mo<noj tw?n a]p ] ai]w?noj neikh<saj  ]Olu<mpia. Another time

one who was led off to death is led "from life"  a]p ] ai]w?noj.

Also the cry to the emperor was heard "the emperors for-

ever," ei]j to<n ai]w?na.1

            From the instances cited above it is clear that

ai]w<n had a varied number of meanings in the Greek language

ranging from life to eternity. Because of the wide-range

of uses only the context itself can determine the best


In the Old Testament

            The meaning of ai]w<n in the Old Testament can be seen

by two basic means: (1) the meaning of the Hebrew words

translated by ai]w<n in the Septuagint and (2) the meaning of

ai]w<n in its contextual environment in the Septuagint. These

will be considered in the aforementioned order.

            There are nine Hebrew words translated by ai]w<n.

However, the word MlAOf almost always the word with its

several variations which is translated by ai]w<n, although

occurs about sixty times. The seven other words occur from

one to five times each and have no real significance on the


            1 Moulton and Milligan, Vocabulary, p. 16.


understanding of ai]w<n.1  Both dfa and  MlAOf have the same

basic meanings of "eternity, forever, and eternal." In

fact, the word ai]w<n may derive its meaning from the

Assyrian ullu(m) meaning "yonder, remote."2 William Rice

Hall indicates both words can signify "perpetuity with a

distinctive emphasis upon concealment."3 This perpetuity

will be indefinite or concealed as to limits in definition 

though not necessarily in the context. Some of the

references to MlAOf aid in illustrating Hall's comment.

In Deuteronomy 15:17 there is mention of a perpetual slave

and in Genesis 9:16 a perpetual covenant. Each of these

indicate a perpetuity only after a time of inauguration.

In fact even the permanence of their perpetuity may be

limited. Girdlestone writes:

                        Eternity is endless; and this idea is only qualified

            by the nature of the object to which it is applied, or

            by the word of God. When applied to things physical,

            it is used in accordance with the revealed truth that

            the heaven and earth shall pass away, and it is limited

            by this truth. When applied to God, it is used in

            harmony with the truth that He is essentially and

            absolutely existant and that as He is the causa causarum

            1 Edwin Hatch and Henry A. Redpath, A Concordance to

the Septuagint and the Other Greek Versions of the Old 

Testament, I (Gratz, Austria: Akademische Druk, 1954), 39-

41. "(hereinafter referred to as Concordance.)"

            2 Frank Herbert Brabant, Time and Eternity in 

Christian Thought (London: Longmans, Green and Company,

1937), p. 238. "(Hereinafter referred to as Time.)"

            3 William Rice Hall, "The Concept of Time and

Eternity in the Old Testament" (unpublished Th.M. thesis,

Dallas Theological Seminary, 1960), p. 33.


            and without beginning, so in the very nature of things

            it must be held that no cause can ever put an end to

            His existence.1

            The extent of the perpetuity therefore can be

limited depending upon the object and its relation to ai]w<n.

In those cases where God is so related, nothing less than

the totality of eternity would be meant.

            There may also be MlAOf, perpetuity, in two direc-

tions, namely, the past2 as well as the future. "These

observations are equally true whether the definite article

is used with the Hebrew or not."3 Obviously care must be

taken to let the context indicate the extent of time


            In the Septuagint ai]w<n translates MlAOf with two

meanings: (1) a duration of a definite space of time, and

(2) an unending duration of time which could be either past

or future depending on the context.4 Past time stretching

indefinitely backward is seen in Genesis 6:4 "the mighty

men that were of old." More frequently the time intended

is future and can be limited only by the context as in


            1 Robert Baker Girdlestone, Synonyms of the Old

Testament, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Win. B. Eerdmans Company,

1953), P. 317.

            2 Cf. Joshua 24:2 and Jeremiah 28:8 as good illus-

trations of perpetuity in the past.

            3 James Barr, Time (London: SCM Press Ltd., 1961),

p. 70.

            4 Cremer, Lexicon, p. 75.


II Samuel 12:10, "the sword shall not depart out of your

house forever (e!wj ai]w?noj). Initially ai]w<n had the idea

of hidden or distant time belonging to the remote past or

future from the standpoint of the present. Only later did

ai]w<n in translating MlAOf develop the meaning of endless

time or eternity. Cremer substantiates this by saying:

                        MlAOf the Hebrew word meant primarily a remote,

            veiled, undefined, and therefore unlimited time, past

            or future, and only secondarily, a definite (especially

            a future) period whose limits must be ascertained from

            the context, it was the natural choice to have ai]w<n

            translate this word.1

            While ai]w<n has several lexical meanings ranging from

life, lifetime, an age, a space of time and eternity it is

certain that ai]w<n may signify an indefinite period of time

either past or future (including the present) whose extent

is limited by the context more than by word meaning and

may designate only a brief period in one's life or extend

as far as eternity (or any point in between). In that ai]w<n

was used to translate the Hebrew MlAOf primarily it must be

understood that the New Testament use ai]w<n  has the Old

Testament world of thought behind it.2


            1 Cremer, Lexicon, p. 75.

            2Alan Richardson, A Theological Word Book on the 

Bible (New York: NacMillan, 1956), p. 266. "(Hereinafter

referred to as Word Book.)"


In the Gospels

            Some fourteen different expressions occur in the

Gospels where the word ai]w<n is included. In general two

basic ideas seem to be present among these uses: (1) an

indefinitely long period, that is a period without assign-

able limits, and (2) one of the two great periods of the

world's history.1

            Regarding the first idea it should be noted that

"only in the light of the context can it be said whether

ai]w<n means 'eternity' in the strict sense of simply

'remote' or 'extended' or 'uninterrupted time."2  Sasse

further suggests that the use of the plural "presupposes

knowledge of a plurality of ai]w?nej, of ages and periods

of time whose infinite series constitutes eternity."3

            The two great periods of the world's history are

the present time which began with creation and culminates

with judgment and the Messianic or Kingdom age. Brabant


                        In the NT Aion is used of this life in opposition

            to the Age of the Kingdom which is called o[ me<llwn or

            e]kei?noj o[ ai]w<n: from this it comes to mean this World

            Order under the rule of an evil angel.4


            1 Burton, Word Studies, p. 77.

            2 Sasse, ai]w<n, I, 198-99.

            3 Ibid., p. 199.

            4 Brabant, Time, p. 43.


            The many variations of expression using ai]w<n are

thought to be only an "intensification of the tendency

already displayed in the LXX to replace the simple formulae

by more complicated."1

            In recent years considerable discussion of ai]w<n,

kairo<j an xro<noj has taken place.2 These divergent views

have developed into two general ideas about these words.

The two basic positions concerning  ai]w<n are set forth by

Oscar Cullmann and James Barr.

            Cullmann argues that ai]w<n in the New Testament

designates a duration of time which may be a limited or

unlimited extent of time. Actually his scheme allows for

four elements: (1) the entirety of time, (2) the period

before creation, (3) the period between creation and the

final events, and (4) the period from the final events to

infinity.3 When ai]w<n is used to show a limited duration

of time it, should be translated "age." If unlimited

duration is indicated the translation "eternity" is pre-

ferred.   The plural ai]w?nej is preferred when the sense


            1 Sasse, ai]w<n, I, 200.

            2 Some of those who reflect this recent discussion

are: J. Marsh, The Fulness of Time; A. Richardson, A

Theological Word Book of the Bible; J.A.T. Robinson, In

the End, God; C. Cullmann, Christ and Time; and J. Barr,

Biblical Words for Time.

            3 James Barr, Time (London: SCM Press Otd., 1962),

p. 74.


"eternity" is intended. However, this "eternity" is not

something different than time but the whole of time.1   To

Cullmann "eternity" is, "the linking of an unlimited series

of limited world periods, whose succession only God is

able to survey."2

            In his reply to Cullmann's position James Barr

argues against Cullmann's methodology and conclusion that

eternity (ai]w<n) is synonymous with the entirety of earth's

limited times. He maintains for example, that ai]w<n in its

popular phrase ei]j to>n ai]w?na may be used "firstly for the

totality of time and secondly for a perpetuity in some

state for the whole of a limited period, and negatively for

the continual avoidance of a particular action"3 either for

the whole or a limited period. In other words ai]w<n may

have several meanings which are not necessarily parts of

the same whole. He further suggests that the use of the

plural of ai]w<n probably can be traced to or influenced by

the Hebrew olamim (or similarly the Aramaic),4 and not to

the combining of time periods. Richardson appears to

restrict this meaning of ai]w<n too severely when he



            1 Oscar Cullmann, Time, trans. by F. Filson (Phila-

delphia: he Westminster Press, 1950), pp. 45-46.

            2 Barr, Time, p. 64.

            3 Ibid., p. 77.                           4 Ibid., p. 65.


                        In this connexion it is important to observe that

            neither there, nor in any Jewish literature current at

            the time, was the word aion used to express the view

            that the history of the world is made up of a number

            of aions or 'ages', nor even the notion of two aions 

            or ages -- the present and the one to come.1

Such a conclusion can hardly be supported by the context

of many New Testament passages.

            In summary, Barr appeals to the syntactic contexts

to determine whether  ai]w<n should be translated "forever"

(which he believes is true in most contexts) with "never"

in negative contexts and for the past "from all time" or

eternity.2  The consideration of the context and the

historic uses of ai]w<n to determine the correct meaning of

ai]w<n is a much better approach than Cullmann's self-

designed system of limited time periods which when compiled

extend from the beginning to the end of eternity. With

this background in mind an examination of the use of ai]w<n

in the Gospels is now possible.

            The several uses of ai]w<n, are translated most

often by "age," "forever," and in the negative by "never."

The time indicated may extend from the time of creation to

the eternal state.

            Matthew uses ai]w<n with tou<t& in a general way to

speak of this present age or time of history in contrast


            1 Richardson, Word Book, p. 266.

            2 Barr, Time, p. 69.


with the coming age which is climaxed by the eternal state

(12:32). Similarly ai]w<n is found in "the worry of the age"

(13:22; Mk. 4:19).  Perhaps it is best to understand this

as the present evil time1 or world system which culminates

in judgment.

            The expression sunte<leia ai]w?noj, "end of the age"

is found in five places and always with ai]w<n in the geni-

tive singular.2  Although it is found nowhere else in the

Gospels, this expression is frequently found in Jewish

apocalyptic literature especially in the Book of Baruch.

Each reference indicates a future time period of limited

duration. It may be the time of spiritual harvest (Mt. 13),

the time just prior to the Messianic kingdom (24:3) and the

end of this dispensation at the Rapture (28:20). At least

two differing points in time are indicated therefore, the

expression does not seem to refer to a particular point

but a period of time. To the dispensationalist the promise

of Matthew 28:20 extends only to the Rapture since there

will be no need for the promise after the Rapture. The

other occurrences will be fulfilled in conjunction with

the Second Coming, with the events of the Tribulation and


            1 Ezra P. Gould, A Critical and Exegetical Commen-

tary on the Gospel According to St. Mark (Edinburgh: T.

& T. Clark, 1961), p. 76. "(Hereinafter referred to as


            2 Mt. 13:39, 40, 49; 24:3; 28:30.


the judgment of all living (Mt. 13). Thus the same expres-

sion refers to differing periods of limited duration.

            Following the end of this age time continues.

While Matthew does not use ai]w<n to describe the eternal

state he may suggest it in recording the cursing of the fig

tree "there shall no longer be fruit from these forever"

(21:19). The expression used is the familiar Old Testament

phrase ei]j to>n ai]w?na or "into perpetuity." Concerning this

phrase Lenski writes: "The belief that whatsoever is

allowed to see that age will continue to exist, in that age,

makes ei]j to>n ai]w?na equivalent to forever."1 And yet in a

sense even this use of ai]w<n may extend only so far as the

life of the fig tree. If this is true, the most Jewish of

the Gospels has ai]w<n primarily to indicate time within the

existing period which is prior to the eternal state.

            Of Mark's four references,2 two are parallel to

accounts in Matthew. However, Mark 10:30 introduces the

coming age (e]rxomen<& ai]w<n) which has as its character-

istic life eternal. It is clear that this coming age is

a distinct future period following "this age" which is

qualified as to its nature only by the phrase "eternal

life." Its extent of time is unspecified.


            1 Richard C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St.

Luke's Gospel (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House,

1964), p. 34. "(Hereinafter referred to as Luke.)"

            2 Mark 3:29; 4:19; 10:30; 11:14.


            In the phrase ei]j to>n ai]w?na which occurs in Mark

3:29, "hath not forgiveness forever," it must have the

meaning of eternal duration rather than "age." The "for-

ever" indicates the duration of the not being forgiven

which must last as long as the individual exists. It is

later referred to as an eternal (ai]w<nioj) sin. Here only

in Mark does ai]w<n indicate a long period of time including

both the present and future ages.

            The third Gospel, Luke, incorporates all of the

previous uses of ai]w<n though sometimes with differing ex-

pressions. He writes of the sons of the present period of

time in 16:8, tou? ai]w?noj tou<to. The terminus of the

present age will not be reached until the coming age (18:

30). "This age" (tou<tou) in Luke 20:34 is not to be con-

fused with "that (e]kei<nou) age" (20:35). Perhaps more

pointedly here than any other place Jesus shows there is a

distinction between the present age, a time for marrying,

and the future age, a time of resurrection. The periods

are distinct and do not overlap. The ei]j to>n ai]w?na is

found in both the singular (1:55) and the plural (1:33).

This is the only plural use of ai]w<n in the Gospels. The use

of ai]w<n in the singular "toward Abraham and his seed for-

ever" may be indicating that up to the time of Luke's

inscripturation only a single ai]w<n had transpired whereas

the plural "reign over the house of Jacob forever" would

cite that a multiplication of eons in an indefinite


succession portray the magnitude of eternity.1 However, it

is best to understand the singular or plural uses as

optional ways of saying the same thing, "forever," unless

there is contextual evidence which would indicate otherwise.

            Luke 1:70, "from of old" introduces a use of ai]w<n 

which looks backward into time. It is not from an eternal

past but a time period being reckoned from the time when

the holy prophets began to emerge. Here ai]w<n indicates a

past time within this age but removed from eternity or


            In John only two types of ai]w<n expressions are

found. The first expression in 9:32 is e]k tou? ai]w?noj

"since the world began" and suggests the time as being since

the beginning of this age commencing with creation. This

is the only such use in the New Testament though it is

used freely by non-biblical authors.2

            The most popular phrase ei]j to>n ai]w?na is found in

the singular all eleven times. In John 8:35 Jesus uses an

illustration concerning the tenure of a servant and a son

in a household. The servant is not remaining "forever" but

the son remains "forever." That is, his tenure is not lost


            1 Lenski, Luke, p. 68.

            2 J H. Bernard, A Critical and Exegetical Commen-

tary on the Gospel According to St. John, II (Edinburgh:

T. & T. Clark, 1962), 336. "(Hereinafter referred to as



as long as he lives. Obviously the time of this illustra-

tion extends only as far as the life of the servant and the

son. Though "forever" may be considered the best transla-

tion it can be misleading since the "forever" is limited

to a lifetime. The other uses of this phrase in John are

translated "forever"1 or its negative "never"2 which is an

unending avoidance. Among these are the popular Johannine

phrases "never die," "live forever," and "never taste death."

In some of these cases the "forever" had a beginning though

no end. Yet the same expression is used in referring to

the abiding of the Son (12:34) which has no beginning or

ending. Correct theology demands that ai]w<n in these places

be understood as an unending period of time. In all these

passages ai]w<n cannot specify the period of time. Only the

context can determine this. The comment of A. H. Strong

concerning the meaning of ai]w<n and ai]w<nioj is most fitting:

"They do, however, express the longest possible duration of

which the subject to that which they are attributed is


            By way of summary, ai]w<n is found in several phrases

and designates time that has varying lengths. It may refer

to time past, from creation, Abraham or the prophets. In


            1 Jn. 6:51, 58; 12:34; 14:16.

            2 Jn. 414; 8:51, 52; 10:28; 11:26; 13:8.

            3 Augustus H. Strong, Systematic Theology (Philadel-

phia: The Judson Press, 1907), p. 1044.


other places it indicates the existing world system, this

age, or the coming age. The expression, sunte<leia ai]w?na,

used only by Matthew, signifies the consummation of the age

either at the Rapture or the Second Coming. The most

popular expression is ei]j to>n ai]w?na which is translated

"forever."1 Yet even the "forever" often had a beginning

unless it was ascribed to Jesus. It can have an ending at

the end of one's life as well. To suggest a common trans-

lation for these multiple uses would be impossible. Each

context must determine the time and duration signified by



            A second important time word is kairo<j which is

often translated "time." However, there are several other

translations and uses of this word.


            1  Since ai]w<nioj is an adjective it was not considered

separately. The assertion by Strong, Systematic Theology,

p. 1044 that both ai]w<n and ai]w<nioj have the same basic

meaning makes an in depth study unnecessary. Only the

nature of its uses need be cited. In the Gospels the ad-

jective ai]w<nioj has the meaning "eternal." This is also the

nuance of ai]w<n.   Of the twenty-nine uses of ai]w<nioj all but

five occur with zwh< in the expression "eternal" life. The

other uses are: (1) "eternal" fire (Mt. 18:8; 25:41);

(2) "eternal" punishment (Mt. 25:46); (3) "eternal"

dwellings (Lk. 16:9); and (4) "eternal" sin (Mk. 3:29).


In non-biblical Greek

            While the etymology of kairo<j, "time," is uncertain

and gives place to several differing conclusions, the early

temporal uses of this word suggest two basic meanings: (1)

exact or critical time, season or opportunity and (2) time,

period or season of the year.1 Typical of the first meaning

is the sentence "the time (kairo<j) for the delivery of the

corn had passed."2  In other words kairo<j refers to a

specific point of time. James Barr similarly states,

"where kairo<j has a reference to time in a classical author

like Aeschylus the sense is roughly that of opportune

time."3 In its second sense it may mean a short space of

time, a stretch of time, time of the year or an age.4

            Generally, kairo<j is in some way limited or defined

by the use, of other words, such as prepositions or words

following in the genitive case to indicate the reason why

the time is set apart. Delling shows strong preference for

the first meaning when he writes "the linguistic development


            1 George Henry Liddell and Robert Scott, A Greek-

English Lexicon, I (London: At the Clarendon Press, 1940),

859. "(Hereinafter referred to as Lexicon.)"

            2 Moulton and Milligan, Ibid., p. 315.

            3 Barr, Ibid., p. 32.

            4 Gerhard Delling, kairo<j, TDNT, trans. and ed.,by

Geoffrey W. Bromiley, III (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans

Publishing Co., 1965), 457-58.


of the term clearly suggests that the basic sense is that

of the decisive or crucial place or point, whether

spatially, materially or temporally."1

In the Old Testament

            From the Hebrew several observations can be made.

Most often kairo<j translates tfe which "in reference to

determining the nature of the concept of time in the Old

Testament, it is basic that it refers primarily to the

juncture of circumstances, the specific occasion."2 Conse-

quently, it can be said that tfe refers directly to the

occasion itself. It must be stated further that tfe is

translated by many other Greek words including w!ra, h[me<ra,

and xro<noj. However, kairo<j also occurs for dfeOm,

"appointment" which is used to indicate natural periods

such as feasts and MlAOf which refers to remotest time or


            The use of kairo<j in the Septuagint continues the

earlier meanings of kairo<j, namely: (1) a decisive point

in time, as in Genesis 17:21 "at this set time in the next

year" and (2) a more general indication of time. As a

general rule, kairo<j in the Septuagint signifies a point of

time at which something happens though on some occasions it


            1 Delling, Ibid., p. 455.

            2 John H. Wilch, Time and Event (Leiden: E. J.

Brill, 1969), p. 167.


seems to suggest the meaning of xro<noj, a "period of time."1

This period of time can be shorter or longer, a regular

fixed time or a general statement of time.2

In the Gospels

            The use of kairo<j in the Gospels is limited to

thirty places, three of which occur in the plural. It is

generally accepted that kairo<j has two or more senses.

Often it means a fixed time or decisive point. For this

reason it can be thought of as "the right time." A second

meaning is more general and is limited or defined by the use

of other words or prepositional phrases. This seems to be

the general use.3 It is also possible that a third use,

that of the plural, occurs to denote periods4 of time.

Several translations conveying the idea of time, "right,

proper time, opportunity"5 may result depending on the use

involved. However, these several meanings are not accepted


            1 However, Barr, Time, pp. 35-37 lists many illus-

trations which seem to have just the opposite of their

normally accepted meanings.

            2 E. Jenni, "Time," Interpreter's Dictionary of the

Bible, IV (New York: Abingdon Press, 1962), 645.

            3 Cremer, Lexicon, p. 324.               4 Ibid.

            5 William P. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek

English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early 

Christian Literature (Chicago: The University of Chicago

Press, 1957), p. 395. "(Hereinafter referred to as



by all the scholars.

            Among the recent theologians commenting on the

significance of kairo<j several maintain that it stands for

"realistic time," that is, time of opportunity and fulfill-

ment1 which is in contrast with xro<noj meaning "a period

of time." More pointedly, Robinson comments " kairo<j is

time considered in relation to personal action, in

reference to ends to be achieved in it."2 Thus, it always

must be thought of as a "point of time defined by its

content."3 It becomes a critical or decisive moment. For

this reason it is argued that times are "known and dis-

tinguished not so much by their place in some temporal

sequence as by their content: i.e. they are known

realistically, rather than chronologically."4 Therefore,

it is the sum total of these kairoi< that provide a line of

realistic time. This is of theological importance to

Oscar Cullmann for it is his "working out of the series of

decisive moments or kairoi chosen by God, the joining

together of which furnishes Cullmann with his line, so

important for his understanding of time."5


            1 John Marsh, Time (New York: Harper & Brothers

Publishers, 1952), p. 20.

            2 John Arthur Thomas Robinson, In the End (New York:

Harper and Row, 1968), p. 258.

            3 Cullmann, Time, p. 39.

            4 Marsh, Time, p. 21. 5 Barr, Time, p. 63.


            That Barr does not accept this limited definition

of kairo<j is clear when he says, "If there is a difference

between xro<noj and kairo<j in the New Testament usage it is

clear that it cannot correspond to the distinction between

chronological and realistic time."1 Actually, in some of

the passages of theological significance "there may be good

reason to suppose that there is no real difference between

the words."2    In many places xro<noj and kairo<j appear to

exchange the meanings usually given to them.3 Barr

concludes his argument:

                        But the main point has been abundantly established

            namely that the correlation of two great conceptions

            of time with the two Greek words is thoroughly erro-

            neous and that all arguments about time in biblical

            thought are misleading in such proportion as they

            depend upon this correlation.4

            It must be noted that two differing views con-

cerning the meaning of kairo<j prevail: (1) it points only

[emphasis mine] to a specific point in time, or (2) it has

in addition to the first meaning the meaning of xro<noj

which is normally understood to be its opposite. With this

in mind the meaning of kairo<j in the Gospels can better be


            1 Barr, Time, p. 22.

            2 Ibid., p. 31; see also Caird, The Apostolic Age,

p. 694.

            3 Barr, Time, cites many illustrations of this from

both the Septuagint and the New Testament beginning on

p. 35.

            4 Ibid., p. 44.



            In Matthew on some occasions kairo<j must indicate

a specific point in time. For example, he writes of the

demons not wanting to be tormented pro< kairou? "before the

time" (8:29). The omission of the article is not to

generalize the statement but it occurs because it is a

time designation after a preposition.1 The time indicated

is the appointed time of judgment. Similarly in 24:45 a

faithful steward puts food before the household e]n kair&?

"at the right time." This use of e]n kair&? without further

qualification seems to be an idiom and can be found with

this meaning outside of Biblical Greek.2 The sense remains

that of a specific point of time though the exact time is

unspecified. Jesus indicates this idea also when He

remarks near His crucifixion "my time is near" (26:18).

            Also in Matthew kairo<j has the meaning of "season"

when connected with the grain (13:30) and fruit (21:34)

coming ripe for harvesting. While this is not a single

point of time it does convey a very limited expanse of time

at the harvest season. It is not so much an exact chrono-

logical reference as it is a time to do something. A more


            1 Nigel Turner, Syntax, Vol. III., A Grammar of New

Testament Greek, ed. by J.H. Moulton (3 vols; Edinburgh:

T. & T. Clark, 1919-63), p. 179. "(Hereinafter referred to

as Syntax.)"

            2 Xenophon Anabasis 3.1.39.


general expression, e]n e]kei<n& t&? kair&?, "at that time" is

found in 11:25, 12:1 and 14:1. The context of each usage

clearly indicates that this is not a specific time indica-

tion. George Ogg remarks concerning this expression, "It

may be a mere transition or introductory formula; it may

refer to some definite season about the limits of which,

however, nothing is known. In neither case can a scienti-

fic chronology obtain any help from it."1 Mark 12:23

which is parallel to Matthew 12:1 has "and it came to pass"

which is a general indication of sequence more than time.

On two occasions, 16:3 "signs of the times" and 21:41

"proceeds in their seasons," the plural of kairo<j is used.

In these places kairo<j seems more like the chronological

reckoning indicated by xro<noj. Time here is presented as

periods of eschatological and agricultural reckoning.

Therefore, Matthew uses kairo<j with three basic ideas:

(1) a specific point of time, (2) a limited expanse of

time, and (3) a period of time.

            Mark's account has kairo<j five times always in the

singular. Like Matthew it is used to indicate a specific

event in time, such as, the coming of the kingdom, "the

time is fulfilled" (1:15) and the time of the second coming

(13:33). Yet, in each instance the time of the event does


            1 George Ogg, Chronology of the public Ministry  of

Jesus (Cambridge: At the University Press, 1940), p. 17.

“(Hereinafter referred to as Chronology.)"


not appear important, rather the event. In Mark 11:13

kairo<j denotes that it was not the "season" of figs, but in

12:2 it was the "season" for receiving the produce of the

vineyard. The use in Mark 10:30 "he shall receive one

hundred fold now in this time" is a general reference to

one's lifetime as contrasted with the coming age which is

mentioned later in the verse. Here, as in Matthew, kairo<j

has in some of its uses an appeal to a non-specific period

of time which is also true of xro<noj and ai]w<n.

            Luke has kairo<j thirteen times. In addition to the

parallels in the other Gospels, Luke uses kairo<j to indicate

a specific time in 1:20 where Gabriel tells Zacharias that

his words concerning the birth of John "shall be fulfilled

in their time," the time of John's birth. If, however, the

whole prophecy is being indicated here then kairo<j would be

better translated "season" and would include the ministry

of John thus becoming a general time indication. Jesus

indicates that false prophets will declare themselves to be

the Christ and will say, "the time is at hand" (21:8). That

is, from time to time the false prophets will declare it is

the appropriate time to follow them. The Devil leaves

Jesus at the end of the temptation, a@xri kairou?, "until a

right or favorable time" (4:13). The word is believed

until the "time of temptation" (8:13). Luke seems to stress

not the "when" of the event but that it does take place at

some point in time.


            At times Luke's use of kairo<j indicates a period of

time. It may be the "time of your visitation" (19:44), that

is, the "time" of the ministry of Christ to Israel. In

addition kairo<j can indicate a period when, "for a time,"

there are those who believe the word (8:13). Also found is

e]n au]t&? kair&? (13:1) as a general indication of time

which places Luke twelve and thirteen in the same time

period though not necessarily indicating immediacy of time

sequence. These passages do not suggest an event taking

place at a single point in time as do the earlier references

in Luke. However, the event seems more important than the


            In Luke 21:24 the plural occurs, "until the times

of the Gentiles be fulfilled." Theologically it is

generally accepted that these times began in Daniel's day

and extend until the Second Coming. Here then is a clear

passage where kairo<j must mean what xro<noj seems usually to

signify, a chronological time indicator.

            John adds nothing to what is already stated. His

two uses, 7:16 and 7:8, indicate the exact or precise moment

for Jesus to manifest His glory in the crucifixion and


            By way of summary, in the Gospels kairo<j refers to

time that may be (1) a specific moment, (2) a more general

span of time, and (3) a period of time which can extend

even over two thousand years. For this reason a variety of


translations including "moment, season, time, opportunity

and right time" are possible. It is the context rather

than the word which conveys the various meanings of the

word. It must be remembered that kairo<j is not normally

used to indicate time in its chronological sequences but

rather events which occur at some time. In other words,

with kairo<j the event is emphasized as occurring without a

specific emphasis as to its time relationships to other

events. Therefore, it could be said that kairo<j indicates

time as conceptualized rather than time realized.



            The final word considered in this chapter is

xro<noj.  Like ai]w<n and kairo<j it occurs in a variety of

contexts but it has only the one translation, "time."

In non-biblical Greek

            The use of xro<noj in expressing time is most often

contemplated simply as the succession of moments. That is

xro<noj "embraces all possible kairoi<, and, being the larger

more inclusive term, may be often used where kairo<j would

have been equally suitable, though not the converse."1   In

earliest Greek it expressed time both specific, such as,

lifetime, season of the year or some definite time period


           1 Trench, Synonyms, p. 210.



as well as abstract time.1   These same meanings can also

be found in the New Testament era among the papyri litera-

ture. Sometimes xro<noj is found with kairo<j as in "to say

nothing of so long time (xro<non) having passed and such

times (kairw?n)."2  This illustrates well the often

suggested difference between these two words, that of a

period and an event.

            Expressions which include xro<noj, such as, polu>j

xro<noj,  a long time, i!kanoj xro<noj, considerable or long

time,3 and dialipw>n xro<non, after a while, or dialeipw>n

xro<non at intervals,4 suggest a rather long period of

time especially when they occur in the plural.5

In the Old Testament

            Thirteen differing Hebrew words and expressions

are translated by xro<noj,6 The most frequent Hebrew word

is MOy which normally is translated "day." In places

where xro<noj is used for MOY, whether in the singular or


            1 Liddell and Scott, Lexicon, II, 2008.

            2 Moulton and Milligan, Vocabulary, p. 694.

            3 Arndt and Gingrich, Lexicon, p. 896.

            4 Herbert Weir Smyth, Greek Grammar (Cambridge,

Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1966), 10. 458. "(Herein-

after referred to as Grammar.)"

            5 Jenni, xro<noj, TDNT, IV, 645.

            6 Hatch and Redpath, Concordance, II, 1476.


plural, it indicates a general or prolonged period of

time as in Genesis 26:1, "in the days (time) of Abraham"

and Joshua 4:14, "all the days (time) of his life." The

other two frequently translated Hebrew words, tfe and MlAOf,

are translated by both kairo<j or xro<noj. However, these

Hebrew words are not often translated by xro<noj. The five

times MlAOf is found it is in an ei]j to>n ai]w?na xro<non

expression. A perusal of the context of these Hebrew words

that are translated by xro<noj indicates usually an extended

period of time. The time may apply to the time of one's

life (Deut. 12:19) or eternity (Isa. 14:20) or any similar

period of time.

            On some occasions xro<noj appears definitely to

refer to a specific time as in Jeremiah 49:8, "the time that

I shall visit him," though sometimes the time is a more

extended period as in the "time  (xro<noj) of Jacob's

trouble" (Jer. 30:8). In Daniel 2:16, "appoint him a time,"

xro<noj also must be interpreted as a specific point in time

and seems to convey the idea normally associated with

kairo<j.  Yet, later in Daniel 2:21, xro<noj appears to refer

to a larger period of time. In both places xro<noj trans-

lates the same Aramaic word, rmAz;. These considerations

certainly suggest that xro<noj refers generally to a period

of time though it may at times point to a specific time.

In such places its meaning seems to overlap that of kairo<j.


In the Gospels

            The translation of xro<noj is "time" which is often

qualified by a supporting word, phrase or clause.1  In each

Gospel xro<noj occurs with several expressions. One of the

problems with xro<noj is that some see no difference between

xro<noj and kairo<j.   Frame comments, "in Jewish usage the

terms are interchangeable."2   However, some more contempo-

rary writers believe that xro<noj in the New Testament is

the word [emphasis mine] for chronological time,3 that is,

measured time or duration.4  Robinson elaborates that

xro<noj is

                        time abstracted from such a relation, time, as it

            were, that ticks on objectively and impersonally,

            whether anything is happening or not; it is time

            measured by the chronometer, not by purpose, momentary

            rather than momentous.5

            In other words Robinson believes that xro<noj

"time," is to be regarded as self-determining. Further,

it is held that time expressed xro<noj is not of



            1 Arndt and Gingrich, Lexicon, p. 896.

            2 James Everett Frame, A Critical and Exegetical 

Commentary on the Epistles of St. Paul to the Thessalonians  

(New York: Charles Scribner's sons, 1912), p. 180.

            3 Marsh, Time, p. 20.

            4 Alan Richardson, Word Book, p. 258.

            5 Robinson, In the End, God, p. 45.


                        We usually think of time as something which can be

            counted in hours. The New Testament designates this sort of time by the

            word chronos. Every event has its   place in the sequence of time. We then

            have the tendency to depict time on a straight line with different events as

            points along this line. We usually ask when this or that event occurred and

            how long it lasted. . . . Differing from us, however, the Biblical

            authors concentrated far more on the content of a certain event than on its

            place in the sequence of time. They did not ask first of all when an event

            took place, but what happened, what content the event had.1

            While credence can be generally given to this line

of thinking, a further observation is necessary. To Barr,

xro<noj time most often has reference to some kind of real

time "in which something was happening, or some time the

elapse of which was important for the understanding of the

description of some event."2   Yet in some locations xro<noj

and kairo<j have no significant differences.

                        In the LXX and NT kairo<j keeps the special meaning,

            in which it shows opposition to xro<noj, of 'right

            time,' only in certain contexts; and that over a large

            area of the usage, much larger than the number of the

            examples we have already cited, the two words mean the

            same thing;     . . . In particular in those theologi-

            cally important cases which speak of the 'time' or

            'times' which God has appointed or promised the two

            words are most probably of like meaning.3

            As in the case of ai]w<n and kairo<j the major views

concerning xro<noj are two. The first maintains that xro<noj

indicates measured or chronological time. The second view,


            1 Jindrick Nanek, "The Biblical Concept of Time and

Our Gospels," New Testament Studies, VI (October, 1959),

pp. 46-47.

            2 Barr, Time, D. 79.

            3 Ibid., p. 42.


upheld by Barr, allows for a wider scope of meaning so that

it can also have the same meaning as kairo<j.  Thus, only

the context can determine whether the word meaning is the

same as kairo<j or refers to an extended period of time.

            Of the three references to xro<noj in Matthew, two

occur in connection with the birth of Christ. Herod

inquired exactly of the wisemen "the time" of the appearing

star (2:7) that marked the birth of Christ. Later in 2:16

Herod slew the infants two years and under "according to

the time which he accurately ascertained from the magi."

In both uses a precise reckoning of calendar time was

calculated and this became the time basis for Herod's

actions. This specific period of time was not over two

years. The third reference to xro<noj is in Matthew 25:19,

"now after much time" in the parable of the talents. The

parable itself indicates a lengthy undesignated period of

time passed so that xro<noj must be used here to indicate a

period of time.

            Mark 2:19 has o!son xro<non, "so long a time (as)"

and 9:21 po<soj xro<noj, "how long a time." Again the time

is unspecified but real calendar time. An undesignated

period of time passes between the events described.

            Luke, however, has several interesting and varied

uses of xro<noj.  In 1:57 it may have a part of the meaning

of kairo<j when "the time of her (Elizabeth's) bearing" is

spoken of.  While this is an event in chronological time


it culminated at a "specific moment" rather than over a

period. It seems little different from Luke's expression

"the time (kairo<j) of temptation" (8:13). If, however, the

nine months of Elizabeth's pregnancy are in view as a

chronological indication, the concept of chronological time

rather than a specific moment is intended.

            Satan in Luke 4:5 shows to Christ all the kingdoms

of the world "in a moment of time" e]n stigm^? xro<nou.

That is, all the kingdoms were shown to Christ not in a

chronological series but simultaneously.1   Here, xro<noj is

qualified by a prepositional phrase to refer to a single

moment of time. Normally it is kairo<j that expresses this

concept. Luke 18:4 "for a time," and 20:9 "for a long

time" all indicate periods of time which may even extend

into years.

            Herod is also said to be desirous of seeing Christ

"of (for) a long time" e]c i[kanw?n xro<nwn (23:8). This use

of xro<noj with i!kano<j, because of the context must mean

"enough and to spare, much." This combination of words is

quite frequent in the writings of Luke.2 In Luke 8:27 the

man possessed with demons "for much (i[kan&?) time" had worn

no clothes. "For many times" (8:29) the demon had seized


            1 Alfred Plummer, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary

on the Gospel According to St. Luke (Edinburgh: T. & T.

Clark, 1964), p. 111. "(Hereinafter referred to as Luke.)"

            2 Ibid., p. 199.


him. Here the change to the plural form of xro<noj would

show either the demon had been troubling him for a long

period of time or it had often times seized him. The dif-

ference is between one long seizure and a series of many

seizures on different occasions.

            John's use of xro<noj adds nothing new. In 5:6

Jesus saw the sick man by the pool and knew he had been

there "a long time" polu>n xro<non.  Later Jesus uses

tosou<t& xro<n&  "so long a time" (14:9) to speak of His

being with Philip. On two occasions (7:33; 12:35) mi<kroj

and xro<noj are used to show that Jesus would be with them

a "little time." The first use is six months before the

crucifixion and the last a few hours. Both are periods of

time with undesignated lengths. Thus, in John xro<noj always

means extent and never point of time.

            In conclusion it can be stated that xro<noj usually

expresses time in its duration. Thus there are the expres-

sions "much time, so long a time" etc. Yet, there are a few

instances which may indicate an event taking place at a

point in time. In such instances xro<noj seems to parallel

the idea of kairo<j. One further observation is in order.

All the instances of xro<noj in the Gospels occur in con-

texts that are a matter of history. They are not time con-

ceptualized. These events may have taken place (1) in a

moment of time, (2) a period of time, or (3) on several

occasions. At least the first two uses are also true of


kairo<j.  For this reason the differences between xro<noj 

and kairo<j cannot be sought in the duration of time.

Rather xro<noj emphasizes more the time of the event whereas

kairo<j seems to stress the event which takes place in time.

However, there are some places the words seem to share the

same meaning.

                                    CHAPTER IV




            Assertions have already been made about the

meanings of the words for time which were most often used

by the common people of Palestine in the first century

A.D.1 During the passing of a year some of these words and

other words were used in a variety of ways to indicate time.

This chapter is not a duplication of the earlier chapter

but an examination of all the appearances of the words in

the Gospels. It is necessary to understand the use of each

word in the non-biblical Greek, the Old Testament and then

the New Testament in order to assert conclusions about

their temporal meaning. The words studied in this chapter

include expressions for time in a year except for the word

"day" and its parts. The order of the words considered in

this chapter are: year, month, week, tomorrow and yesterday.


                            Year (dieth<j, e]niauto<j, e@toj   )

            Years were cited by one of three Greek words—dieth<j,

e]niauto<j and e@toj. These words are found in differing con-

texts and must be examined separately to show the

distinctions and similarities of meaning.


            1 See Supra, chapter II for these comments.




            Actually, dieth<j is an infrequent combination of

two words di<j meaning two and e@toj which is the usual word

for year.

            In non-biblical Greek.--Only a few uses of this

word can be cited and all of these must be translated "two

years." This is true whether the word is used by

Herodotus1 or Josephus.2  Often dieth<j is accompanied by

xro<noj as in the rental agreement "I will guarantee your

tenancy for the period of two years."3

            In the Old Testament.--This word is not found in

the Old Testament probably because of the Hebrew custom of

expressing more than one year with two or more separate

words. However, dieth<j is found once in II Maccabees 10:3,

"They brought a sacrifice after two years time" (meta<

dieth? xro<nou). This verse follows the pattern of the non-

biblical Greek.


            1 George Henry Liddell and Robert Scott, Lexicon,

I (London: At the Clarendon Press, 1940), 351.

            2 Josephus Antiquities 2.5.4. This is the only

place it occurs in Josephus according to Henry St. John

Thackeray, A Lexicon to Josephus, III (Paris: Librarie

Orientaliste Paul Geuthner, 1945), 174. "(Hereinafter

referred to as Lexicon.)"

            3 Moulton and Milligan, Vocabulary (Grand Rapids:

Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1963), p. 160.


            In the Gospels.--The sole use of dieth<j in the

Gospels occurs with the preposition a]po<, "from two years

old and under" (Mt. 2:16). Luke also uses dieth<j in Acts

24:27 and 28:30 where full two year periods are acknowledged

by virtually all commentators. As far as being helpful in

establishing an approximate date for the birth of Christ,

this expression suggests that Jesus was born at least two

years before the death of Herod. This assumption seems

reasonable for the following reasons. Herod's decree to

slay the infants was based on the time he exactly learned

from the wisemen. Further, in Classical Greek the genitive

may denote the time "since" an action has happened.1 Here,

the a]po> dietou?j kai> katwte<rw indicates the starting point

in time for those infants who fell under the decree of Herod.

If Herod extended the time beyond the time learned from

the wisemen, the two year time indication is less meaningful.

However, by assuming that the two years indicates the approx-

imate age of Jesus at the time of Herod's decree and since

Herod died shortly after an eclipse of the moon and before

the Passover of 4 B.C. as history seems to indicate,2 and

since Christ was born before the death of Herod, it can be

asserted that the birth of Christ could hardly occur after


            1 Herbert Weir Smyth, Grammar (Cambridge, Mass.:

Harvard University Press, 1966), p. 337.

            2 Jack Finegan, HBC (Princeton: Princeton University

Press, 1964), pp. 231-33.


6 B.C. unless dieth<j indicates something less than two

years. It should be noted that these are possible variables

which could alter the conclusions often stated about the

birth date of Christ. The most important reason why it is

impossible to be specific as to which year Christ was born

from this Scripture reference is that the date of this

decree by Herod is not known. It may have been close to

his death in 4 B.C. but there is no reason why it could not

have been earlier in 5 B.C. etc. Consequently a conclusion

as to the date of Christ's birth cannot be dogmatically

asserted on the basis of this passage. However, the meaning

of dieth<j must indicate two years since it is not qualified.


            This seldom used word denoting a year occurs only

four times in the Gospels though more often in other


            In non-biblical Greek.--Throughout all the Greek

writings e]niauto<j is found with the translation and meaning

of a "whole year."1 For example, in the papyri e]niauto<j

is found, "for the first year prwtou? e]niautou? she

received her wages for nursing."2  However, on a few


            1 Liddell and Scott, Lexicon, I, 567.

            2 Moulton and Milligan, Vocabulary, p. 215.


occasions e]niauto<j is used more generally of a period of

time. Once Josephus indicates a period that is actually

six hundred years by the expression o[ me<gaj e]niauto<j.1

            In the Old Testament.--Occurring about one hundred

times, e]niauto<j is found mostly in the historical sections.

In nearly every instance it translates hnAwA which usually

means a literal year. Very seldom does e]niauto<j occur with

a number. For this reason there are only a few times where

e]niauto<j indicates the length of a king's reign (I Kg. 14:

21). In recording the time of the building of Solomon's

temple both e@toj and e]niauto<j are used apparently as

synonyms (I Kgs. 6:1), because the four hundred and

eightieth year (e@toj) since the Exodus from Egypt and the

fourth year (e]niato<j) of Solomon's reign are the same year.

            Several other passages have e]niauto<j and e@toj in

the same context. In II Kings 24:18 "Zedekiah was twenty

and one years" (e]niauto<j ) and "he reigned eleven years"

(e@toj). This example could be repeated many times and it

suggests that e]niauto<j and e@toj are often identical in


            In some places e]niauto<j is a "year" conceptualized

rather than historic. Genesis 1:14 says the lights in the


            1 Josephus Antiquities 1.3.9. For other instances

where e]niauto<j signifies a period see Arndt and Gingrich,

Lexicon (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1957),

p. 266.


heaven are "for days and for years." Once in the year

(e]niauto<j) the high priest made atonement (Lev. 16:34) for

sins. Also, the children of Israel were commanded to keep

a feast unto Jehovah "seven days in the year" (Lev. 23:41).

            In the Old Testament e]niauto<j occurs with these two

nuances. In a minority of places e]niauto<j when used with

numbers becomes a chronological indication. However,

e]niauto<j usually conveys the concept of a year such as the

"year of Jubilee" (Lev. 25:13) and "all the months of the

year" (I Chr. 27:1). In both senses, the meaning indicated

is a literal year.

            In the Gospels.--The four references to e]niauto<j

in the Gospels are without the use of numbers just as it

often occurs in the Septuagint. Three of the passages state

that Caiaphas was the highpriest "that year," tou? e]niatou?

e]kei<nou (Jn. 11:49, 51; 18:13). The expression "that year"

should probably be understood as "that fatal year" when

Christ was crucified rather than the thought that Caiaphas

held office for only one year.1 Since the dates for

Caiaphas being the high priest extend from A.D. 18 to 36, he

was the high priest both before and after this year but


            1 Heinrich August Wilhelm Meyer, Critical and Exe-

getical Hand-book to the Gospel of John, trans. by

Frederick Crombie (New York: funk & Wagnalls, Publishers,

1884), p. 357. "(Hereinafter referred to as John.)"


only "that year" is brought into consideration by John.

            The other use of e]niauto<j occurs in the quotation

"the acceptable year of the Lord" (Lk. 4:19) which is taken

from Isaiah 61:2. Some early commentators such as Clement

of Alexandria1 took this as a literal statement and

limited Christ's earthly ministry to twelve months. How-

ever, according to the three Passovers mentioned in John

2:13, 6:4 and 11:55 the view of Clement cannot be correct.

The only possible solution to this use of e]niauto<j is to

understand it as figurative of the new era that the Messiah

will usher in.2 Perhaps, the question should be asked, "Why

is e]niauto<j used when a literal year is not meant?" This

passage is an accurate quotation from the Septuagint and

would be inaccurate if altered. The other Gospel passages

demand that this be understood as figurative though it is 

 translated "year."


            The most frequent word expressing a year is e@toj  

in every period of Greek studied.

            In non-biblical Greek.--The use of e@toj, "year," is

attested throughout all stages of Greek. It is used to


            1 Clement Homilies 17.9.

            2 R.C.H. Lenski Luke (Minneapolis: The Augsburg

Publishing House, 1961), p. 252.


cite both the year of a king's reign, "to> [p]empton e@t[o]j

Domitianou?,"1 as well as the age of an individual, "h#n  e@twn,

w[j tria<konta."2 These would be natural and frequent

reasons for a common person to reckon anything by years.

They usually are written with an accompanying number.

            In the Old Testament.--The Greek of the Septuagint

uses e@toj over five hundred times and on almost every

occasion it translates hnAwA meaning "year." It is found

in geneologies (Gen. 5, 11) and in stating the years of a

king's reign (I Kg. 15:25; 16:23). The years of reign are

helpful in determining the time of prophecies (Hag. 1:1)

and important historical events such as the invasion of

foreign armies (Dan. 1:1). Some events are dated by the

age of people, such as, the time of the flood (Gen. 7:6)

and the defeat of Israel by the Philistines (I Sa. 4:15)

in the ninety-eighth year of Eli. Even the time of dura-

tion of certain events is given in years. Two years pass

while Joseph is in prison (Gen. 41:1) and Israel sojourns

in Egypt for four hundred and eighty years (Ex. 12:41). A

few times e@toj designates an unspecified number of years,

though this is usually reserved for e]niauto<j.  One such

use is found in Proverbs 3:2 "years of life."


            1 Moulton and Milligan, Vocabulary, D. 258.

            2 Xenophon Anabasis 2.6.20.


            The important aspect to keep in mind is that e@toj

normally is used to indicate a particular number of years.

            In the Gospels.--Most uses of e@toj do not indicate

important chronological events. At times e@toj is used to

indicate the number of years a person has been ill.1 Also,

the age of a person may be given for a particular event.

Jesus was twelve years when He went to the temple (Lk. 2:

42). A damsel that Jesus raised from the dead was twelve

years of age (Lk. 8:43). Once Luke uses e@toj to indicate

the duration of the drought in Elijah's day (4:25).

            On two occasions e@toj is used not as a reference to

a specific number of years but it indicates an undesignated

lengthy period longer than a year. The rich farmer laid up

goods "for many years" (Lk. 12:19), just as the elder son

served his father "these many years" (Lk. 15:29).

            In Luke 2:41 it is reported, "Jesus' parents went

to Jerusalem kat ]  e@toj, or yearly.2  This construction is

a distributive genitive which indicates that this was the

habitual annual practice of Joseph and Mary. This is the

only New Testament location of this expression though it

can be found in the Septuagint.


            1 Mt. 9:20 (Mk. 5:25; Lk. 8:43); Jn. 5:5; Lk. 13:

11, 16.

            2 Moulton and Milligan, Vocabulary, p. 258.


            There are four places where e@toj expresses time

that is important to the chronology of Christ. The first

relates that John the Baptist began his ministry in the

"fifteenth year of Tiberius" (Lk. 3:1). It is generally

agreed that Jesus began His ministry about six months after

John so that if the beginning of John's ministry can be

established, the time of Jesus' ministry can also be

ascertained. The determining of the fifteenth year of

Tiberius is a Problem because Tiberius began a co-reign

with his step-father on October 23, A.D. 12, from which

time he governed the Roman provinces jointly and held the

census with Augustus. About two years later, August 19,

A.D. 14, Augustus died and Tiberius assumed control of the

empire and later was confirmed by the vote of the Senate

on September 17, A.D. 14. Adding to the complexity of

establishing the beginning year of Tiberius' reign is the

uncertainty about whether the accession or nonaccession

year method was followed.1 The monarchs of the Seleucid

dynasty in Syria began their regnal year in September-

October and it is assumed that this is the pattern followed

by Luke.2 With these areas of possible interpretation "the


            1 For a full discussion of this problem see Finegan,

HBC, pp. 259ff.

            2 Norval Geldenhuys, Commentary on the Gospel of 

Luke (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company,

1954), p. 134.


fifteenth year of Tiberius" could be A.D. 26, 27, 28 or 29

depending on the year used in beginning his reign, 12 or

14 A.D., and the method of reckoning the regnal year,

accession or nonaccession. Because the "fifteenth year"

has several possible interpretations, it cannot be used by

itself to determine a certain calendar date for the

beginning of John's ministry.

            Luke 2:23 states that Jesus was "about thirty

years," w[si> e@twn tria<konta, when He was baptized and

began His ministry. Few, other than Irenaeus, interpret

this to mean that Jesus had begun but not completed His

thirtieth year.1 The use of w!sei would suggest several

years leeway is possible. Cadbury writes:

                        Having for many years read the volumes of Greek

            papyri as they were published, I formed the impression

            that the ages of adults which were given in them tended

            to occur for the multiples of five far out of propor-

            tion to the other numbers.2

            If this conclusion is correct and is applied to

Luke's statement, one thing is clear. Thirty was not

necessarily Jesus' nearest birthday. This assertion is

also suggested by Luke's use of w[sei<.  Since the exact

year of Jesus' birth is as unspecific as the statement of


            1 Irenaeus Irenaeus Against Heresies 2.22.5.

            2 Henry J. Cadbury, "Time," Journal of Biblical 

Literature, LXXXII (September, 1963), 275-76.


this verse, it can only be concluded that the birth of

Jesus was approximately thirty years prior to the fifteenth

year of Tiberius.

            A third expression, "forty and six years was this

temple built" (Jn. 2:20) is an equally difficult chronolog-

ical problem for several reasons. First, the word trans-

lated temple is nao<j and this usually but not always means

the inner sanctuary. However, the nao<j could refer to the

major temple rebuilding project which began two years later

than the construction of the inner area of the temple where

the sacrifices were offered. Second, the beginning point

for the reckoning of the years could be 19 A.D. when Herod

began the sanctuary rebuilding or 17 A.D. when the work on

the larger area commenced. Therefore, a two year variation

in determining the forty-sixth year results. A third

problem is the use of the aorist passive verb oi]kodomh<qh.

It may indicate that the length of time since the nao<j was

completed was forty-six years, that the nao<j was in the

process of being built for forty-six years and was still

incomplete, or that it had just been completed in its forty-

sixth year of building.1 Depending on the beginning date


            1 An excellent explanation of this expression of time

is found in Frank Stagg, "The Abused Aorist," Journal of 

Biblical Literature, XCI (June, 1972), 228. He states: "The

temple had been under construction for forty-six years,

there had been interruptions and resumptions of work, and

the temple was not yet completed. The aorist indicative


chosen and the interpretation of the nao<j the forty-sixth

year would be either A.D. 27 or 29. The date of A.D. 27 is

accepted by most contemporary scholars1 as the date of the

first Passover in Jesus' public ministry, in the "forty

and six years" of John 2:20.

            The last date is found in John 8:57 where Jesus is

said not yet to be "fifty years" old. Irenaeus in taking

this literally remarks:

                        Now, such language is fittingly applied to one who

            has already passed the age of forty, without having as

            yet reached His fiftieth year, yet is not far from this

            latter period. But to one who is only thirty years old

            it would unquestionably be said, 'Thou art not yet

            forty years old.'2

            For this reason Irenaeus demands a public ministry

of more than ten years and a date of birth much earlier

than commonly accepted. An incidental remark found in

Josephus may better explain why Jesus was categorized as

being under fifty. Josephus states that it was the men

aged twenty to fifty who had to contribute the half-shekel

temple tax.3 The sarcasm of the Jews may have been that

since Jesus was still young enough to pay this tax, being


does not here designate a single action of the past. . . .

This is a normal aoristic usage, a simple allusion to an

action without description, i.e., a-oristic or undefined."

            1 For a more complete discussion of this date see

Finegan, HBC, pp. 276-80.

            2 Irenaeus Irenaeus Against Heresies 2.22.6.

            3 Josephus Antiquities 3.8.1.


under fifty, He could hardly have seen Abraham. No one

seriously accepts the view of Irenaeus that Jesus minis-

tered until He was nearly fifty.

            In summary, e@toj translated "year" usually is

found with a numeral giving the years of events, age of a

person or the duration of an event. It also may record an

unspecified time of years or a yearly custom by using the

distributive genative kat ] e@toj. Four times e@toj is used

in connection with Christ's ministry but none of the

references are exact enough to give by themselves a certain

date on the Julian calendar. All the accompanying informa-

tion is sufficiently imprecise to make uncertain the exact

time intended. Consequently no little discussion could

accompany the possible interpretation of these temporal


                                         Month (mh<n)

            Another familiar indication of time is mh<n, "month."

Though not occurring too often in the Gospels it is none-

theless a major time indicator.

In non-biblical Greek

            It appears that mh<n was first used in the sense of

a measure and then later referred to the period of time


            1 In Finegan's discussion in HBC he has twenty-three

pages devoted to these four expressions regarding the time

of Jesus' public ministry.


marked off by the moon, therefore a month.1    This indication

of a period of time being determined by the moon is as

natural a consideration as reckoning time by the sun. The

cycle of the moon from month to month is calculated as a

period of twenty-nine or thirty days. So handy was this

for noting the passing of time that the Greeks established

contractural agreements by the month and interest rates of

two drachma were charged each month (to<n mh?na e!kaston).2

In the Old Testament

            About two hundred times mh<n is used as a translation

of wd,Ho and a few times for hray,.  Both of these words can

be translated moon although wd,Ho is used to indicate the

"new moon," the day on which the crescent reappears.3 For

the most part  mh<n is used temporally in three similar ways.

It is used to indicate the time of certain historic events

such as the beginning of the Noahic deluge (Gen. 7:11) and

the entrance into Canaan (Jo. 4:19). It also indicates the

length of time between two events. For example, the ark was

in Philistine hands seven months (I Sam. 6:1) and David

reigned in Hebron seven years and six months (II Sam. 2:11).


            1 Gerhard Delling, mh<n, TDNT, trans. and ed. by

Geoffrey W. Bromiley, IV (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans

Publishing Co., 1967), 638.

            2 Moulton and Milligan, Vocabulary, p. 410.

            3 Ludwig Koehler and Walter Baumgartner, eds.,

Lexicon in Veteris Testamenti Libros (Leiden: E. L. Brill,

1958), p. 279. "(Hereinafter referred to as Lexicon.)"


            Most frequently mh<n is used to establish the time

of an event during a king's reign (Hag. 1:1) or a prophet's

message (Hag. 2:1). This practice greatly aided the

reckoning of Old Testament chronology. In each case mh<n

signified that period of time commonly called a month and

most likely included any part of a month as a whole month

unless the number of days were also given.

In the Gospels

            Three separate incidents in the Gospels have a

reference to months. The first occasion has four uses of

mh<n and they occur in connection with the birth account of

John the Baptist. Elizabeth hid herself for five months

following conception (Lk. 1:24) and in her sixth month

(Lk. 1:26) Gabriel appeared to Mary to announce the concep-

tion of Jesus. This last reference indicates that John was

six months older than Jesus. This is confirmed by Gabriel's

comment that Elizabeth was in the sixth month of her preg-

nancy (Lk. 1:36) at the time of Mary's conception.

Following this, Mary abode with Elizabeth about three months

(w[j mh?naj trei?j). This would be approximately until the

time of John's birth.

            In a second incident Jesus indicates that the length

of the drought in the time of Elijah was three years and

six months (Lk. 4:25). Thus, every reference to mh<n in

Luke does no doubt refer to calendar lunar months.


            Jesus remarks in John 4:35, "say not ye, there are

yet four months and the harvest is coming." Here the

number four and  mh<n are combined in the single word

tetra<mhno<j.   There has been much discussion whether this

passage is a chronological time indication or only an agri-

cultural proverb.1  From this statement the time when Jesus

passed through Samaria, if it is to be taken as literal,

can be calculated as being in December or January since the

harvest time in Samaria would normally begin in April or

late March. If this is correct then Jesus' early Judean

ministry would extend from the previous April through

December. Some insist that this statement of time should

be taken as a proverb.2   Thus, the reference to four months

would not indicate a point in time four months prior to the

harvest of the fields of Sychar.3 If this is the correct

view then no chronology can be established or confirmed by

it. Regardless of which view is taken, the use of  mh<n

conveys a concept of four months which are literal cycles

established by the rising of the new moon. There is no


            1 For representatives of this view see R.C.H.

Lenski, The interpretation of St. John's Gospel (Minneapolis:

The Augsburg Publishing House, 19b1), p. 334, and H.A.W.

Meyer, John, trans. by Frederick Crombie (New York: Funk &

Wagnalls Publishers, 1884), p. 161. "(Hereinafter referred

to as John.)"

            2 This view is clearly presented by George Ogg,

Chronology (Cambridge: At the University Press), 1940.

            3 J. H. Bernard, John, I (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark,

1962), 155-56.


lexical or contextual reason to take them otherwise..

                           Week (sa<bbaton)

            A week is comprised of a sequence of seven days.

The New Testament indicates this by sa<bbaton.

In non-biblical Greek

            From the earliest periods of the Greek language

nothing has been preserved concerning the formation of days

into a "week."1 By the first century B.C. there is suffi-

cient evidence that there was a seven day week. The days

of the week were given the names of gods and perhaps earlier

the Egyptians named the seven days after the heavenly

planets.2 It is also asserted that in the post-exilian

period the reckoning by weeks became more frequent so that

the week days were often enumerated.3

In the Old Testament

            At the time of Creation God established for mankind

a six day work week and a seventh day for rest. Later when

God instructed Israel as they left Egypt, He identified the

seventh day, fbAwe, as a sa<bbaton.  The concept of rest is


            1 References to "week" in Greek lexicons are all

directed to references to the Hebrew sabbath in the Septua-

gint and the New Testament.

            2 Finegan, HBC, pp. 15-16.

            3 "Time," CBTEL, X, 412.


inherent in the word sa<bbaton. On this one day in seven

the Jews were told to abstain from work (Ex. 16:26) as a

reminder of their covenant with Jehovah (Ex. 31:16). An

examination of the uses of sa<bbaton in the Septuagint

reveals that it usually refers to the seventh day rather

than the whole period of seven days which is a week.

Occasionally certain feasts, such as the Day of Atonement,

were called a sa<bbaton (Lev. 17:31) even though they did

not necessarily fall on the seventh day. The seventh or

sabbatical year of rest is likewise called a sa<bbaton

(Lev. 25:2). The mention of offering a burnt-offering on

the sabbaths, new moons and set feasts (I Chron. 23:31) may

be an indication of the practical ways that the passing of

days was calculated in the Old Testament. The counting of

days in groups of sevens would be easy by the keeping of

the sa<bbaton.  The months were calculated by the new moon.

The division of the year by feasts would be larger

divisions than months. A better system could hardly be

designed for common people.

            There is only one use of sa<bbaton which can legiti-

mately be translated "week" (II Chr. 8:13). Here it is the

feast of weeks which was one of the special observances of

the year. The other English translation "week" in Genesis

29:27, "fulfil the week of this one," is the number seven,

e!bdoma and may just as easily be translated "fulfill the

seven (days) of this one."


The majority of Old Testament locations of sa<bbaton

refer to the seventh day of the week in the Jewish

calendar,1 whether the word is singular or plural. When

plural it can signify one or more sabbaths.2 Yet implicit

in the use of this word when referring to the Jewish sabbath

is the concept that time was reckoned by a period of seven

days which climaxed on the seventh day.

In the Gospels

            The only word for week in the Gospels is sa<bbaton.

As is true in the Old Testament, sa<bbaton does have other

meanings in addition to "week." Used most often in the

singular, sa<bbaton often refers simply to the sabbath, the

seventh day of the week.3 At other times sa<bbaton is

combined with h[me<ra, to indicate that the particular day was

a sabbath day.4  Many passages refer to Jesus teaching on

the sabbath day (Mk. 6:2) and the sabbath day controver-

sies5 of Jesus with the Jews. On two occasions Jesus iden-

tifies Himself as "Lord of the Sabbath" (Mt. 12:8; Mk. 2:28).


            1 William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, Lexicon

(Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1957), p. 74

            2 Moulton and Milligan, Vocabulary, p. 567.

            3 Mt. 24:20; Mk. 2:27 (2).

            4 Lk. 4:16; 13:14, 16; 14:5; Jn. 5:9; 9:14.

            5 Lk. 6:1, 5, 6, 7, 9; 13:14, 15; 14:1, 3; Jn. 5:10,

16, 18; 7:22, 239(2); 9:16.


            In each of these places sa<bbaton obviously refers to the

seventh day of the Jewish week and not to the whole week.

            There are several instances where sa<bbaton occurs

without a numeral in the plural but the context suggests

that it refers to a single sabbath day.1 At other times

the plural probably refers to several sabbath days2 as is

found in the question, "Is it lawful on the sabbath [days]

to do good or harm"? The occasional use of the plural

rather than the singular may have arisen from the Aramaic

sabbetha which at an early date also gave its name to the

entire week.3 Both the plural and singular forms can be

found in the same contexts often with no difference in

meaning or translation.

            There are ten places where sa<bbaton occurs in the

passion week description. Four4 of these instances have

only sa<bbaton and may refer either to the weekly sabbath

day or the Passover which, being a feast, is also a sabbath.

These two days could be either simultaneous, consecutive

or even separated by one day.5


            1 Mt. 12:1, 10, 11, 12; Mk. 1:21; 2:23, 24; 3:2.

            2 Mk. 3:4; 6:2; 13:10.

            3 G. Gordon Stott, "Time," HDLG, II, 731.

            4 Mk. 16:1; Lk. 23:54, 56; Jn. 19:31.

            5 For this reason various books and articles have

been written debating whether the crucifixion took place

on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday and the resurrection on

Saturday or Sunday.



            Several times mi%? tw?n sabba<twn, or its equivalent1

is used to speak of the morning of the resurrection day.

It was the usual custom to number the days of the week

rather than to name them. The first of the sabba<tw

would be the first day after the sabbath, "the first of

the week." It literally means the first day reckoned from

the weekly sabbath day.2 In Mark 16:9 prw<th is used with

the singular sabba<tou instead of mi%? but the meaning

remains the same even though the expression is altered.

Whether the translation of sabba<ton should actually be

"week" perhaps is questionable. Yet regardless of the

translation the meaning is obvious. It must be remembered

that each day of the week began at sunset and ended on the

following day at sunset.

            The sixth day of the Jewish week was the day of

preparation for the sabbath. Because of all the necessary

preparations for the next day, "preparation day" or

paraskeuh< became the name for Friday. On six occasions

paraskeuh< is used in the Gospels.3 Unfortunately this was

also the term applicable to the day of preparation


            1 Mt. 28:1; Mk. 16:2; 1k. 24:1; Jn. 20:1, 19.

            2 Friedrich Blass and Albert Debrunner, A Grammar of 

the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, ed.

and rev, by Robert     Funk (Chicago: university of Chicago

Press, 1967), p. 129. "(Hereinafter referred to as


            3 Mt. 27:62; Mk. 15:42; Lk. 23:54; Jn. 19:14, 31, 42.


preceding any of the sacred feasts, including the Passover.

This was true no matter what day of the week it was.1  One

other name, prosa<bbaton, was given to this day preceding a

sabbath (Mk. 15:42). Because of the, uncertainty as to

whether paraskeuh< and prosa<bbaton refer to the weekly

sabbath, the Passover sabbath or both, much question

remains concerning the chronology of the passion week.

            Only one use of sabba<ton remains for examination.

In Luke 18:12 the Pharisee claimed to fast "twice during

the week." Here sabba<ton must mean a week, the period of

seven days that is bounded on each side by the sabbaths.

Any other meaning of sabba<ton would be unintelligible.2

This is the only place in the Gospels where the meaning of

sabba<ton is a whole week.

            In conclusion, a few times when sabba<tou is found

with a numeral it identifies a day within the week.

Usually sabba<ton refers to the seventh day of the week

which more than anything else reminded the Jews of the

passing of time. There is also the possibility that

sabba<ton sometimes may refer to a feast day regardless of

the day of the week when the feast was observed. Only once

does sabba<ton mean a "week." These multiple meanings of


            1 David Smith, "Preparation," HDCG, II, 409.

            2 Alfred Plummer, Luke (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark,

1964), p. 417.


sabba<ton and words used with it make exactness in

reckoning time during the passion week difficult.

                               Tomorrow (au@rion )

            In contemporary language the day which follows an

existing day is most often designated "tomorrow." This

practice, was followed in the Greek language which expressed

this by the word au@rion.

In non-biblical Greek

            From earliest times au@rion meant "tomorrow," and is

equivalent to the phrase "on the morrow." It is used this

way several times in Josephus.1 It is to be distinguished

from today (sh<meron). On one occasion it is used con-

cerning a boy who each day goes to a seller of barley beer.

The seller says "today, tomorrow [aur[e]in] (you shall get

it), but he never gives it."2 At first glance the thought

might be to understand this as the next day. However,

au@rion also came to mean "soon, in a short time, now."3

Consequently two different senses developed, (1) the next

day and (2) shortly or soon. When found in the time of

Homer with the sense of the next day, au@rion is never used

after sunset to refer to the next day. From these it is


            1 Henry St. John Thackeray, Lexicon, II, 93.

            2 Moulton and Milligan, Vocabulary, p. 92.

            3 Arndt and Gingrich, Lexicon, p. 121.


concluded that the Greek day began at sunset. Consequently,

after sunset the Greek always says "in the morning" appar-

ently because au@rion would have meant a different thing.

In the Old Testament

            The Hebrew rHAmA and its variations are translated

by au@rion over fifty times in the Old Testament, usually in

the historical sections. Many times the expression is the

same as Exodus 9:5, "tomorrow, Jehovah shall do this

thing." It is clear in many places by the context that

au@rion must mean the next day following. In Exodus 32:5,

Aaron declares, "Tomorrow (au@rion) shall be a feast to

Jehovah." The next verse says, "And they rose up early on

the morrow." This meaning is also indicated in Exodus 16:

23 where the Jews are exhorted to prepare extra food for

"tomorrow is a solemn rest,"

            On several occasions au@rion must mean a future time

that is not necessarily the next day. The children of

Israel are exhorted to keep the commandments of God so that

when a son will ask "in time to come" (au@rion) why the

fathers keep the laws, they can give an answer to their

sons. Obviously au@rion does not refer to the next day but

rather refers to a future time.


            1 George Melville Bolling, "Beginning of the Greek

Day," The American Journal of Philology, XXIII (1902), 434.


In the Gospels

            Only once does au@rion occur in an historical

setting meaning the next day. In the parable of the good

Samaritan "on the morrow" (au@rion) the Samaritan gave the

innkeeper two denarii (Lk. 10:35). This came after one

night at the inn.

            In Matthew 6:30 and Luke 12:28 Jesus refers to a

grasslike foliage which exists on one day and au@rion

(tomorrow) is thrown into an oven. Most likely the next

day is not meant here since the foliage would not become

a burnable fuel in a single night. It must refer to any

morrow, an indefinite future day. The same sense is found

in "do not worry unto the morrow for the morrow shall worry

for itself" (Mt. 6:34). Both verses could translate au@rion

with the sense of "the future or soon."

            Two other times au@rion is found, Luke 13:32, 33,

. . . Behold I cast out demons and I perform healings

today and tomorrow, and on the third I am being finished.

Nevertheless it is necessary for me today and tomorrow and

the one coming to go." In these verses au@rion may mean

either (1) tomorrow, (2) a short time, or (3) a long time.

Exodus 19:10, 11 has this same expression where it must

refer to three literal days. It is probable that au@rion

also should be taken as "tomorrow" here.

            Thus, au@rion follows the pattern of earlier Greek

and may mean both (1) "tomorrow," the next day and (2) a


time in the future.

                                  Yesterday (e]xqe<j)

            A day prior to an existing day is understood as

"yesterday." In Greek this is expressed by e]xqej which had

both this and other meanings.

In non-biblical Greek

            The adverb e]xqe<j, "yesterday," is found in many of

the periods of Greek history and is especially frequent in

the papyri.1 It can also be found in the writings of

Josephus where e]xqe<j has an additional meaning of "the past

as a whole."2

In the Old Testament

            The Hebrew wm,x,, and lOmt;x, sometimes occurring with

a m; prefix and lOmT; an are translated by e]xqe<j.  Though the

most frequent English translation is "yesterday," lOmT;,

which is the most frequently used word, can be translated

by "heretofore, in times past."3 This has the sense of

before the present time without a specific past time in

view. All these varied meanings can be illustrated from

the Septuagint.


            1 Liddell and Robert Scott, Lexicon, I, 748.

            2 Josephus Against Apion 2.154.

            3 Koehler and Baumgartner, Lexicon, p. 1031.


            Three times in Genesis1 e]xqe<j refers to an event

taking place on the previous evening and is best translated

"yesternight." On most occasions e]xqe<j refers to a past

time event rather than simply the previous day. For

example, the Philistines feared the shout of the Hebrews

and replied "for there hath not been such a thing hereto-

fore" (I Sam. 4:7). During the early reign of David the

tribes of Israel reply, "In times past (e]xqe<j), when Saul

was king" (II Sam. 5:2). They did not mean the previous

day but past time. Consequently the sense of e]xqe<j can

vary depending on the context.

In the Gospels

            Only once, in John 4:52, does e]xqe<j occur. A

nobleman sought Jesus to heal his son. When the man

returned home he was told his son began to be healthy

"yesterday at the seventh hour." Obviously, the previous

day is intended since not only is there the use of e]xqe<j

but also the citation of the hour. This is in agreement

with the meaning of e]xqe<j.

            Each of the words when used in the Gospels express

a time which in the majority of cases reflects a single

obvious meaning. Though some words are capable of several

meanings, it is the contexts that specify the meaning. In


            1 Genesis 19:34; 31:29, 42.


a few instances words appear in accounts where some uncer-

tainty of meaning remains. This is due to the fact that

words by themselves do not always carry a single exact

meaning. They can only be understood by the words used

with them. It is the lack of a more complete context that

creates the problem of determining exact time. It appears

that the Gospel writers did not intend to give a time-

centered message but rather a message that took place in




                                 CHAPTER V




            The most frequent reminder of the passing of time

to the majority of people in the ancient world was the day.

Quite naturally a day was an easy method of relating events

to history. Within the period of the day many specific and

some general points of time could be indicated. The con-

tent of this chapter consists of the words for a day and

its parts. The material is considered in the following

order: (1) the day, (2) the division of the day, (3) the

night, (4) the division of the night, and (5) other indi-

cations of time.


            The alteration of light and darkness brought about

by the apparent rising and setting of the sun marked out

the day in every ancient civilization. The day, h[me<ra had

several meanings which varied greatly as to the length of

time it indicated. These meanings become very important in

interpreting the Gospels because h[me<ra occurs more often

than any other word which expresses time.

In non-biblical Greek

            In Greek the "day" was named h[me<ra. However, h[me<ra

as it then was used developed several meanings: (1) a civil



day of twenty-four hours, (2) a state or time of life, "life

of misery," (3) time, (4) in the plural, an "age,"1 which

consists of a number of literal days. To these can be

added (5) daytime (the period of daylight).2 The length of

time indicated by h[me<ra depends on the context rather than

the meaning of the word. For example, in the papyri litera-

ture a woman who has been ordered to vacate her house asks

for "time," h[me<ra. The time requested is longer than a

single day.3

            Many references can be cited to illustrate the use

of h[me<ra when it means a day, whether a civil day of twenty-

four hours or daylight. Both Xenophon, "you shall see as

soon as day has come,"4 and Josephus, "and when day came he

went,"5 have h[me<ra, meaning the daylight part of the day.

Josephus joins nu<c with h[me<ra stating that the "high

priests pass their nights and days performing certain rites


            1 George Henry Liddell and Robert Scott, Lexicon, I

(Oxford: At the Clarendon Press, 1940), 770.

            2 William F. Arndt and Wilbur F. Gingrich, Lexicon

(Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1957), p. 340.

            3 James Hope Moulton and George Milligan, Vocabulary

(Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1903),

p. 280.

            4 Xenophon Anabasis 7. 2.34.

            5 Josephus Antiquities 10. 10. 3.


of purification."1 At times ka<q ]  h[me<ra is used with the

translation "daily" or "every day" as in "and every day saw

this war being fanned into fiercer flame."2 Numerals are

used with h[me<ra by Josephus in the expression, kia> pro> mia?j

h[me<raj th?j e[orth?j which is translated, "And one day before

a festival the treasurers would go to the commander of the

Roman garrison and . . . , would take the robe."3 These

illustrations show both variety in meaning and expression

and indicate that caution must be observed in translating


            Because a civil day, which is indicated by h[me<ra,

began at different times in different countries,4 any

chronological reckoning could easily be in error even when

the translation is accurate. Only the context can deter-

mine which of several possible translations is the correct


            An important note concerning the beginning of the

Jewish day is provided by Josephus. It is commonly agreed

that the Jewish day in the first century began at sunset.

This is illustrated by the eating of the Passover which was


            1 Josephus Against Apion 1. 199.

            2 Josephus Wars 2. 13. 1.

            3 Josephus Antiquities 15. 11. 4.

            4 Finegan, HBC (Princeton: Princeton University

Press, 1964), p. 8.


slain on Nisan 14 in the late afternoon and was eaten that

night, on Nisan 15. All the lamb was to be consumed that

night and none could be left until the morning of the

fifteenth day. However, in one instance Josephus states

that the morning of the "next day" is the fifteenth day.1

From this comment Beckwith asserts, "This shows that

Josephus is equally happy with a second way of reckoning

the days of these festivals, according to which they begin

and end at daybreak."2   In other words at least two

systems of reckoning the beginning of the day by the Jews

may have existed. One would begin at sunset and the other

at sunrise.

In the Old Testament

            Over two thousand times h[me<ra is found in the

Septuagint. Of these less than ninety are found as a

translation of words other than MOy.3 This Hebrew word

has the same variety of meanings that Ilgepc/ does in Greek.4

In Genesis 1:5 h[me<ra refers both to the period of daylight,


            1 Josephus Antiquities 3. 10. 5.

            2 Roger T. Beckwith, "The Day, Its Divisions and its

Limits, In Biblical Thought," The Evangelical Quarterly,

XLIII (October, 1971), 225.

            3 Edwin Hatch and Henry A. Redpath, Concordance, I

(Gratz, Austria: Akademische Druck, 1954), 607.

            4 Koehler and Baumgartner, Lexicon (Leiden: E. J.

Brill, 1958), pp. 372-73.


"and God called the light day," and to the civil day of

twenty-four hours, the evening and morning were "one day."

The greatest number of uses of h[me<ra fall into one of these

two meanings and they occur in a variety of expressions.

Yet, other meanings are also found. According to the

geneology in Genesis 5:5, "all the days Adam lived were

nine hundred and twelve years." Though h[me<ra is translated

"days," here it can have the meanings, "time," "lifetime,"

or "age." The children of Israel passed over the Jordan

at "the time (h[me<ra) of harvest" (Jo. 3:15). Often days

and nights are joined by kai< in describing the length of

an event (Gen. 7:12) but it appears to have no more signi-

ficance than the mention of days without the nights (Gen.

7:17). The insertion of o!lhn, "all" with day and night

(Ex. 10:13) shows the extent of time the locusts plagued

Egypt but it cannot be concluded that the absence of o!lhn

would indicate a lesser period of time.

            One important study of h[me<ra, is its use with

numbers. This, more than any other use of h[me<ra, affects

precise chronological reckoning. Sometimes the reference

to days is done simply by mentioning the time in the nomi-

native or accusative case, such as, "I was there three

days" (Neh. 2:11), and water prevailed "a hundred and fifty

days" (Gen. 7:24). On other occasions the dative case is

used apparently to show an event that happened during the

days specified. For example, Abraham circumcized Isaac "on


the eighth day," t^? o]gdo<^ h[me<r%  (Gen. 21:4).

            Sometimes there is a clarification of the length

of time given in the same passage. David, following the

death of Saul (II Sam. 1:1, 2), abode "two days," h[me<raj  

duo<, in Ziklag. And it came to pass "on the third day,"

t^? h[me<r% t^? tri<t^, suggests that the "two days" of verse

one are civil days for it was during the third day that the

next recorded event took place. A similar circumstance is

recorded in Genesis 40:13, 20. Joseph tells Pharoah's

butler, "yet three days," e]ti< trei?j h[me<rai, and he would be

restored. This came to pass "on the third day," e]n t^?

h[me<r% t^? tri<t^. The three days before the restoration do

not mean three complete days but two days with the restora-

tion on the third day. Esther commands all the Jews in

Shushan to fast "for three days," e]pi> h[me<raj trei?j, night

and day and "then I will enter before the king" (Est. 4:16).

However, she went before the king (Est. 5:1) "on the third

day," e]n t^? h[me<r% t^? tri<t^.  From these passages it would

appear that a numerical reference to days could include any

part of a day as well as the complete twenty-four hour

period. Great care must be taken when determining the

length of days that are qualified by numbers.

            The Old Testament also reveals that the civil day

was begun at sunset. This is proven by several Scriptures.

The feast days were observed beginning at the evening (Lev.

23:32). The Sabbath began at sunset (Neh. 13:19). For


anyone who was unclean ceremonially, his uncleanness ended

at evening (Lev. 11:24). In I Samuel 11:9-11 both the

morning watch of the night and the morning of the day are

both "on the morrow." These passages prove that the day

began at sunset. Yet, there is at least one occasion where

a night is reckoned with the previous day. Michal told

David, "If you save not your life tonight, tomorrow, you

will be slain" (I Sam. 19:11). This seems to indicate that

in popular speech the days were sometimes reckoned from day-

light. This appears to be the same method as was used in

Josephus.1 If two systems of reckoning the beginning of a

day did exist, the reckoning of time by days is made much

more difficult.

In the Gospels

            There are at least four basic ideas for h[me<ra

found in the Gospels: (1) a day appointed for special

purposes, (2) a civil day, (3) daylight and (4) a longer

period of time.2 Unfortunately the translation for each is

most often "day."

            Of the days appointed for special purposes Matthew's

"day of judgment,"3    e]n h[me<ra kri<sewj is a phrase with


            1 Josephus Antiquities 3. 10. 5.

            2 Arndt and Gingrich, Lexicon, pp. 346-48.

            3 Mt. 10:15; 11:22, 24; 12:36.


particular temporal meaning. The context of each passage

indicates that it refers to the final judgment of the

unsaved. Because of the masses of people involved and the

nature of the judgment (Rev. 20:12-15), more than one

literal day is involved. For this reason a better under-

standing of e]n h[me<r% kri<sewj would be "in a time of judg-

ment." The length of time indicated by this expression is

unspecified but would seem to be longer than a literal day

since Scripture suggests there is an individual judgment of

all individuals born into this world (Rev. 20:13).

            Another use of day that has a special purpose is

John's "in the last day," t^? e]sxa<t^ h[me<r%.1  Five times

this day is identified with the resurrection of the

righteous and once with the future judgment. Since all the

righteous will not be resurrected on the same day and since

all believers will not be judged on the same day, t^? e]sxa<t^

h[me<ra could be translated "in the last time." Such a

translation best preserves the meaning of h[me<ra when used

figuratively of a day which is appointed for special


            When h[me<ra occurs without any qualifying words it

can be used figuratively of an unspecified day (Jn. 8:56;

9:4), of a lifetime (Lk. 1:75), of old age (Lk. 2:36) and


            1 Jn. 6:39, 40, 44, 54; 11:24; 12:48. Though 7:37

has this expression it is clear by the context that an

historical day is in view.


even of years. In this last instance, in Luke 1:7

Zacharias and Elizabeth are advanced in "days," actually

meaning "years," just as, Elizabeth is advanced in "years"

(Lk. 1:18).

            Quite often h[me<ra is translated "day" with the

sense of an unspecified length and point of time. In these

instances it could be translated "time" when singular1 and

"time" or "times" when plural.2  Among the times indicated

is the day (time) of Elijah, of Lot, and of the coming of

the Lord.

            Several times when h[me<ra occurs in the singular it

refers to the daylight part of the day.3 From this it is

learned that there are twelve hours in this daylight period

(Jn. 11:9). Men could be hired to work by the hour (Mt. 20).

This daylight period is the time for activity.

            Most references to h[me<ra, refer to a civil twenty—

four hour day. The day can be in the singular4 and the


            1 Mt. 24:42, 50; 25:13; Lk. 9:51; 17:24, 26(2).

            2 Mt. 2:1; 9:15 (Mk. 2:20; Lk. 5:35); 23:30; 24:37

(Lk. 17:26), 38 (Lk. 17:27); 28:20; Lk. 1:5; 4:25; 17:22,

28; 19:43; 21:6, 22; 23:29.

            3 Mt. 20:2, 6, 12; Lk. 4:42; 6:13; 9:12; 22:16;

Jn. 11:9(2).

            4 Mt.28:15; Mk. 6:21; Lk. 1:20; 80; 4:16; 13:14,

16; 14:15; 17:4, 27, 29, 30; 22:7; 23:54; Jn. 7:37; 9:14;

12:7; 19:31.


plural.1  The day may be a single unspecified day such as

the day when John was beheaded, "a convenient day" (Mk. 6:

21) or a single specific day such as a sabbath day (Lk. 4:

16). Several times feast days are indicated by h[me<ra

(Lk. 22:7; 23:54; Jn. 7:37; 19:31).2 The plural form

indicates a sequence of continuous days as in "they abode

not many days" (Jn. 2:12).

            The civil day is qualified on certain occasions by

the demonstrative pronoun ou$toj, "this" and in the plural

"these." In each instance where it is found whether singu-

lar or plural it refers to an historical calendar day3 or

days.4  Similar to this is the use of e]kei?noj with h[me<ra.

It occurs in the singular to point out a specific day on


            1 Mk. 13:20(2); Lk. 1:23, 25; 2:6, 22, 43; 9:51;

15:13; Jn. 2:12.

            2 Three of these references are important for con-

structing a chronology of the passion week. Luke 22:7

indicates "the day of unleavened bread came in which it is

necessary to slay the passover." This must be construed as

Nisan 14 unless the Jews also sacrificed the passover lamb

on the thirteenth. The body of Jesus was placed in a tomb

on the day of Preparation (Lk. 23:54). Though Friday was

the weekly day known as preparation, this could refer to

any day of the week preceding a feast such as, the Passover.

According to John 19:31, "the day of that sabbath was a

great (high) day," when Jesus was crucified. These days

were specific civil days but because the customs and termi-

nology of this period are uncertain, the identity of these

days is unclear. Thus, three views of the day for the

crucifixion--Wednesday, Thursday and Friday--have scholarly


            3 Lk. 19:42; 23:12; 24:13.

            4 Lk. 1:24, 39; 6:12; 23:7; 24:8.


which something took place.1 The plural is used to indicate

a period of days during which time an event happened.2  On

several occasions e]kei?noj and h[me<ra are used together in

both the singular3 and the plural4 to refer to the future

eschatological day. This day may refer to the time of

tribulation, the second coming, the judgments or the saved

being with Christ. Though "day" is the usual translation

of h[me<ra, the context sometimes reveals that "time" is a

better translation, especially when the time indicated is

clearly longer than a day.

            The idiom ka<q ]  h[me<ran is found seven times5 and is

translated "daily" or "every day." In this construction

kaq ] h[me<ran is used distributively6 indicating that the

activity occurs day by day.

            On seven occasions h[me<ra and nu<c are joined

together by kai<.7  Of these seven passages three have nu<c


            1 Mt. 13:1; 22:23, 46; Mk. 4:35; Jn. 1:39; 5:9; 11:

53; 20:19.

            2 Mt. 3:1; 24:38; Mk. 8:1; Lk. 2:1; 4:2; 9:36.

            3 Mt. 7:22; 24:36 (Mk. 13:32); 26:29 (Mk. 14:25);

Mk. 2:20; Lk. 6:23; 10:12; 17:13; 21:34; Jn. 14:20; 16:23,


            4 Mt. 24:19 (Mk. 13:17; Lk. 21:23), 22(2), 29 (Mk.

13:24); Mk. 1:9; 13:29; Lk. 5:35.

            5 Mt. 26:55 (Mk. 14:49; Lk. 22:53); Lk. 9:23; 11:3;

16:19; 19:47.

            6 Arndt and Gingrich, Lexicon, p. 407.

            7 Mt. 4:2; 12:40(2); Mk. 4:27; 5:5; Lk. 2:37; 18:7.


first and four have h[me<ra. It does not appear that this

expression, "night and day" is always the equivalent of a

twenty-four hour period. For example, Anna worshipped in

the temple "night and day." She did not reside in the

temple but rather was present in the temple whenever it

was open (Lk. 2:37).1  In a similar passage, the demoniac

was crying always "night and day" (Mk. 4:27) in the tombs.

This cannot mean that he cried twenty-four hours each day.

In these places nu<c and h[me<ra seem to express the idea of

"daily" or at night and at day unless numerals are used to

indicate a specific number of days. It was "forty days and

forty nights" that Jesus fasted (Mt. 4:2). Jonah was in

the fish "three days and three nights" and Jesus said that

he also would be the same length of time in the heart of

the earth (Mt. 12:40). While it may seem natural to equate

each of the days as twenty-four hours, it must be remem-

bered that the Jews used inclusive reckoning so that any

part of a day was counted as a whole day. It is clear

that the use of nu<c and h[me<ra together do not necessarily

indicate a twenty-four hour period. This meaning is

possible but it must be proven not by any expression but

by the contextual evidence in the passage.

            A number of passages have numerals with h[me<ra.


            1 Plummer, Luke (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1964),

p. 72


Yet when the number of days is given it is difficult to

determine how much time is indicated. For example, a great

multitude followed Jesus "three days" and had nothing to

eat (Mt. 15:32; Mk. 8:2). This may indicate a period from

seventy-two hours to one full day plus a part of the pre-

ceding and the following days. This latter method of

figuring time is called inclusive reckoning.

                        This method included in the reckoning of a time

            interval both the day (or year) in which any period of

            time began and also that on which it ended, no matter

            how small a fraction of the beginning and the ending

            day (or year) was involved.1

            In many passages2 it is difficult to ascertain

whether inclusive reckoning was followed because so little

information is given. Occasionally the length of time is

clear. Luke singles out a day in the expression "one of

the days."3 Six days were set aside for work each week

(Lk. 13;14). However, on the eighth day of a boy's life he

was circumcized (Lk. 1:59; 2:11). This could be six full

days plus the day of birth and the day of circumcision.

It appears that the passing of a full week was indicated

by "after eight days" (Jn. 20:26) and "about eight days"


            1 Francis D. Nichol (ed.), Seventh Day Adventist 

Commentary, V (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald

Publishing Association, 1956), 249..

            2 Mt. 15:32 (Mk. 8:2); 17:1 (Mk. 9:2); Mk. 1:13

(Lk. 4:2); Lk. 2:46; Jn. 2:1.

            3 Lk. 5:17; 8:22; 17:22; 20:1.


(Lk. 9:28). That is, seven days have passed and it is now

the eighth day, or a week later.

            Even when additional information is given, there

is difficulty in interpreting the number of days. John

says that Jesus abode in Samaria two days (Jn. 4:40) and

after two days He went into Galilee (Jn. 4:43). If Jesus

arrived about noon, His stay could have been a period of

less than twenty-four hours or up to forty-eight hours

depending on whether the day of His arrival is considered

as the first day.1

            A greater problem exists in the expressions of

time in the Passion Week chronology. Jesus arrived in

Bethany "six days before the Passover,"      pro> e]c h[merw?n

tou? pa<sxa (Jn. 12:1). The Passover would be either Nisan

14 or 15 depending on whether the slaying of the lamb or

the Passover meal is in view. Six days before the Passover

could include (1) both days at each extreme or (2) only one

of the days at the extreme. Hence the day specified could

be Nisan 8, 9 or possibly 10.2 The difficulty of deter-

mining these more precise expressions is the uncertainty


            1 A similar problem exists in connection with the

raising of Lazarus who was in the tomb four days (Jn. 11:6,

17). This time could be a full four days or parts of four

days reckoned as whole days.

            2 The same reasoning may be followed in the expres-

sion "after two days the Passover cometh" (Mt. 26:2;

Mk. 14:1). The two days mean either (1) the next day or

(2) the day after tomorrow.


about what these words meant then and the method or methods

of reckoning time.

            In the Gospels there are eighteen statements

recorded about the length of time between the death and

resurrection of Jesus. Eleven of these statements are

recorded as being from Jesus. Of these, Matthew has a

reference to Jonah with an application to Jesus (12:40).

His three other references to the three days are in the

dative case without accompanying prepositions.1 Mark, in

referring to the three days in accounts parallel to Matthew

has meta> trei?j h[me<raj (Mk. 8:31; 9:31; 10:34).  Luke

follows Matthew (Lk. 9:22; 18:33; 24:46). John 2:19 states

that the resurrection would be e]n trisi>n h[me<raij.  All of

these passages must refer to the same length of time. The

preference for the dative and e]n indicates that the resur-

rection took place not after the three days but that the

resurrection "is to take place within that space of time,

consequently before its expiration.2 The Jewish leaders

in referring to this time period prefix the three days with

several different prepositions which also must have the


            1 kai> t^? tri<t^ h[me<r%  Mt. 16:21; 17:23; 20:19.

            2 George B. Winer, A Grammar of the Idiom of the New

Testament (7th ed.; Andover: Warren F. Draper, 1877),

p. 386. "(Hereinafter referred to as Grammar.)"


same temporal meaning.1 They express belief that a guard

is necessary e!wj "until the third day" (Mt. 27:63). This

"third day" seems to be the terminus ad quem. After the

third day the guard is unnecessary. Later the disciples

spoke to Jesus late on the first day of the week and they

remark, "It is now the third day since all these things

came to pass" (Lk. 24:21). It would appear that the three

days from the death to the resurrection no matter how they

are expressed extend back to Friday if inclusive reckoning

is followed or Thursday if a full seventy-two hour period

is intended.

            In spite of the use of numerals with h[me<ra to

indicate the passing of chronological time, the uncertainty

about the manner of counting days makes exactness of inter-

pretation difficult. In addition to indicating chronology

h[me<ra can also be used: (1) figuratively, (2) of daylight,

(3) of an extended period of time having a translation

"time" or "days," and (4) of a civil day whether a whole

or a part.

            In the Gospels a "day" can also be expressed by


            1  dia< is used in Mt. 26:61; Mk. 14:58; e]n in Mt. 27:

40; Mk. 15:29; and meta< in Mt. 27:63. However, Norman

Walker, "After Three Days," Novum Testamentum, IV (December,

1960), 261-62, argues that the expression in Mt. 27:63

means the "fourth day." He also postulates that the three

day time reckoning should begin with the rejection of Jesus

on Thursday (basing this on a supposed two day trial) rather

than the crucifixion which he maintains came on Friday. He

lists no evidence for this view other than the supposed two

day trial.


sh<meron which appears to be a varient of h[me<ra.  In the

Old Testament MOy, "day," appears about eighteen hundred

times and is translated by sh<meron 286 times in the

Septuagint.1  Most often sh<meron translates MOy.ha or MOy.ha

hz.,ha "this day." In the Gospels it is found twenty times

conveying the meaning "this day" or "today." It is the

opposite of au@rion, "tomorrow" (Mt. 6:30). The daylight

and what belongs to it,2 the entire civil day,3  and the

night which belongs to the day4 are all a part of     sh<meron.

From these uses it appears that sh<meron is more restrictive

than h[me<ra and indicates the present literal day or its


                                 Division of the Day

            One of the frequently occurring words to record

the passing of time is w!ra, "hour." It is this word that

was chosen to divide the daylight or the solar day into

its parts.


            1 Ernest Fuchs, sh<meron,  TDNT, trans. and ed. by

Geoffrey W. Bromiley, VII (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans

Publishing Co., 1971), 270.

            2 Mt..6:11; 21:28; Lk. 5:26; 12:28.

            3 Mt. 6:30; 11:23; 16:3; 27:8, 19; 28:15; Lk. 2:11;

4:21; 13:32, 3; 19:5, 9; 23:43; 24:21.

            4 Mk. 14:30; Lk. 22:34.


In non-biblical Greek

            The early meanings of w!ra, include (1) a "fitting

time," (2) a "season," and (3) "any period fixed by

natural laws and revolutions whether of the year, month,

or day."1  This last concept can be understood as including

translations such as, "right time," "time,"2 as well as

"hour." Other meanings include "in one second," "in a

moment" and "instantly."3 The use of w!ra to denote any

short span of time seems to have been the earliest meaning

and only later, when time was determined by the "hour," did

the meaning "hour" develop.4

            At a time contemporary with the writing of the New

Testament, the Jewish historian Josephus uses w!ra to speak

of a specific hour in the day.5 On one occasion he writes

concerning the Roman war with the Jews:

                        The ten assenting to these proposals, early next

            morning he dispatched the rest of the men under his

            command in the various directions, to prevent any

            discovery of the plot, and about the third hour called

            to the Romans from the tower.6


            1 Liddell and Scott, Lexicon, II, 2035.

            2 Cremer, Lexicon (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1954),

p. 589.

            3 Moulton and Milligan, Vocabulary, ID. 702.

            4 Cadbury, "Time," Journal of Biblical Literature,

LXXXII (September, 1963), 276.

            5 Josephus Wars 6. 1. 7. and Antiquities 6. 14. 6.

            6 Josephus Wars 5. 13. 2.


            From this it can be concluded that to Josephus the

third hour was early in the day. This corresponds to

9 a.m. according to the Jewish reckoning of the third hour.

A second quotation from Josephus indicates that Josephus

reckoned hours from sunrise.

                        The majority, however were not convinced by these

            speeches, and a riot would inevitably have ensued, had

            not arrival of the sixth hour, at which it is our

            custom on the Sabbath to take our midday meal, broken

            off the meeting.1

            Josephus clearly indicates that the customary

Jewish midday meal on a Sabbath day came at the sixth hour.

Being the midday meal, the sixth hour was reckoned from

sunrise. Josephus was writing primarily to Romans from the

city of Rome and still he uses the Jewish custom of

reckoning hours from sunrise. The importance of this will

be realized later in the section dealing with w!ra in the

Gospels. It is clear that w!ra early had a variety of


In the Old Testament

            Although found less than forty times in the Septu-

agint, the use of w!ra occurs primarily as a translation for

tfe which is usually translated "time." In a few places

w!ra translates hfAwA.2   In no place does w!ra occur with a


            1 Josephus Life 54.

            2 Dan. 3:6; 4:16; 5:5.


numeral to indicate a specific hour in the day. The only

places where w!ra appears to give the sense of "hour" is in

the often repeated phrase "tomorrow about this time" and

its equivalents. Even here the sense is more of general

period of time than a literal hour. Sometimes w!ra is

translated "time" with the idea of eschatological time

(Dan. 11:40), of time for the evening oblation (Dan. 9:21)

and time to eat (Ru. 2:14). The sense of "season" is clear

in the account of Abraham's promise of a son (Gen. 18:14).

The Lord promises to return to Abraham and Sarah "when the

season (w!ra) cometh around." The "season" was the time

when Sarah could conceive. Also w!ra has the translation

"season" when referring to the time when rain comes (Deut.

11:14). In Daniel 3:6, "in the same hour cast in the

burning fiery furnace," and 5:5, "the same hour came forth

the fingers of a man's hand," w!ra is usually translated

"hour." However, the context does not demand a literal

"hour." The translation "at the same time," is equally

suitable if not superior. These examples show that the

variety of meanings found in the non-biblical Greek were

for the most part found in the Septuagint.

In the Gospels

            Nearly seventy-five times w!ra is found in the

Gospels. At times the translation "hour" is not the best


rendering. Luke uses w!ra with au]th< six times.1  Most

English versions translate this "the same hour" or "that

very hour." Matthew Black asserts that this is actually

a translation equivalent of two closely related Aramaic

temporal conjunctions which convey the meaning "at the same

time," "immediately," "forthwith," and sometimes "then," or

"thereupon."2 All these translations reflect the meaning

"time" and contextually are more meaningful translations

than "hour." Even if Black's assertion is incorrect, the

first three suggested meanings are the same as the earlier

historical uses of w!ra.

            Many times w!ra appears to express "time" in the

sense of an "instant of time." This is clear in the healing

miracles of Jesus.3 For example, "the servant was healed

in that hour" (Mt. 8:13). "The woman was made whole from

that hour" (Mt. 9:22). Both of these verses express the

same result, an instantaneous cure.

            Other places must also have the same sense of

"time," rather than "hour." Mark 11:11 has, "the hour

(time) already being evening" Jesus went out. At the

feeding of the five thousand the disciples announced that


            1 Lk. 2:38; 10:21; 12:12; 13:31; 20:19; 24:33.

            2 Matthew Black, An Aramaic Approach to the Gospels 

and Acts (Oxford: At the Clarendon Press, 1967), p. 79.

            3 Mt. 8:13; 9:22; 15:28; 17:18; Lk. 7:21; Jn. 4:53.


"the hour (time) is already past" (Mt. 14:15). Jesus tells

the Samaritan woman, "the hour is coming and now is" (Jn.

4:23). There was also the promise of a "coming hour (time)

of resurrection (Jn. 5:28). There is no reason to believe

that a specific hour was in view in these passages. Rather,

w!ra indicates specific "time" without a specified time des-

ignation. In Hebrew this is expressed by tfe but in the

Greek by w!ra.

            The same idea is present in the eschatological pas-

sages which teach of the Second Coming being at an unknown

"hour" (time).1  Likewise, on a few occasions w!ra refers to

a specific time which recurred every day and is similar to

the popular expression "dinner time." Luke also speaks of

the "hour of incense" (1:10) and the "hour of supper" (14:

17; 22:14).

            Throughout the Gospels Jesus speaks of "the hour,"

"my hour" and "this hour."2 The meaning of w!ra in these

places cannot be a literal "hour" but rather "time." A

survey of the passages indicates that the hour relates to

the events of His passion. Since more than an hour trans-

pired during this time, or less if only His death is in


            1 Mt. 10:19 (Mk. 13:11; Lk. 12:12); 14:15; 18:1;

26:55; Mk. 6:35(2); 11:11; Lk. 22:53; Jn. 4:21; 23; 5:25,

28; 16:2, 4, 21, 25, 32; 19:27.

            2 Mt. 26:45; Mk. 14:35, 41; Jn. 2:4; 7:30; 8:20;

12:23, 27; 13:1; 17:1.




view, w!ra could best be translated "time."

            In one instance, "Ye were willing to rejoice for

a season in his light" (Jn. 5:35), w!ra is translated

"season." The reference is to John the Baptist. The light

which he cast was not for a literal hour or for a brief

time but for an extended period. While this is the only

place this translation is found in the Gospels, it is

historically permissible and contextually necessary.

            The remaining twenty-one uses of w!ra occur with

numerals. From these passages it is known that there are

twelve hours in a day (Jn. 11:9). The w!ra would vary in

length in accordance with the season of the year since

every day was divided into twelve equal parts. The first

hour of the day began at sunrise and the twelfth hour con-

cluded at sunset. In the parable of the vineyard the

third, sixth, ninth and eleventh hours of the day are

mentioned (Mt. 20:3, 5, 9, 12). At each of these hours

workers were hired to work in the vineyard. The hours

mentioned correspond to mid-morning, noon, mid-afternoon

and two hours before dark. This was the usual method of

reckoning time during the day time and it was done by

estimation. In the Garden Jesus reproved the disciples

because they could not watch one hour while He prayed (Mt.

26:40; Mk. 14:37). There is also an indication of time in

connection with the denials of Christ by Peter. Matthew

and Mark indicate that "after a little while" (meta< mikro<n)


Peter denied the Lord a third time but Luke relates that

it was "after the space of about one hour" (Lk. 22:59).

            Concerning the crucifixion the Synoptists agree that

from (a]po<) or about (w!sei) the sixth hour there was dark-

ness.1 The darkness lasted until (e!wj) the ninth hour

(Mt. 27:45; Mk. 15:33). About (peri<) the ninth hour Jesus

cried out with a loud voice (Mt. 27:46; Mk. 15:34).

Shortly after this He died. The time when darkness covered

the earth would be from noon to 3 p.m. To this, Mark 15:25

adds, "now it was the third hour and they crucified Him."

This would be 9 a.m. reckoning from sunrise.

            Before examining John's use of "hour" it must be

noted that there is disagreement about the method which

John used in reckoning time. Much can be said in favor of

adopting the "Roman method" of reckoning time. Finegan

writes: "when various hourly notations are considered in

the Gospel according to John it is found that they do in

fact work out well in terms of Roman reckoning."2 David

Smith expand; this thought:

                        The Romans reckoned their sacerdotal and their

            civil day from midnight to noon and again from noon to

            midnight. So also the Egyptians counted their hours.

            Nor is evidence lacking that a like system obtained in

            Asia Minor. Polycarp was martyred in the Stadium at

            Smyrna w!ra o]godo<^, and this must mean 8 a.m. since


            1 Mt. 27:45; Mk. 15:33; Lk. 23:44.

            2 Finegan, HBC, p. 12.


            public spectacles began at an early hour. The Synop-

            tists follow the ordinary Jewish method, but it was

            natural that John, writing at Ephesus, should follow

            the method in vogue in Asia Minor, and so he appears

            actually to have done.1

            Perhaps the most convincing evidence that such a

method of reckoning hours did exist is from Pliny, who

wrote saying:

                        The actual period of a day has been differently kept

            by different people: the Babylonians count the period

            between the two sunrises, the Athenians that between

            two sunsets, the Umbrians from midday to midday, the

            common people everywhere from dawn to dark, the Roman

            priests and the authorities who fixed the official day,

            and also the Egyptians and Hipparchus the period from 

            midnight to midnight. [emphasis mine]2

            Therefore, according to this system, the sixth hour

would be either 6 a.m. or 6 p.m. rather than noon, which it

would be if the Jewish method were followed.

            However, many do not believe that such a system ever

existed. William Ramsay points out several important

reasons against reckoning a day beginning at midnight. He

relates that there is no certain historical instance when

Roman hours are reckoned from midnight. Further, even when

the Romans described the civil day they began counting the

hours from sunrise. They called midnight (the beginning of

their twenty four hour day) the sixth hour of the night.

            1 David Smith, The Days of His Flesh (London:

Hodder and Stoughton, 1910), pp. 529-30.

            2 Pliny, Natural History 2. 79. 188.


And finally, the Greek civil day began at sunset. With his

investigation finished, Ramsay firmly asserts that hours

were reckoned in only one way.1 An additional consideration

comes from Josephus, the Jewish historian, who wrote to

first century Romans. He remarks that on the sabbath the

midday meal was "the sixth hour."2 This has to be noon.

This testimony is from a first century Jew writing to

Gentiles in a Gentile country about Jewish customs. These

seem to be similar to the circumstances of John who wrote

the Fourth Gospel.

            The first mention of w!ra with a numeral occurs at

the conversion of John who remained that day with Jesus.

John writes, "It was about the tenth hour" (Jn. 1:39), which

is about 4 p.m. according to Jewish reckoning or 10 a.m.

according to Roman reckoning.

            A reference to the "sixth hour" (Jn. 4:6) takes