Refutation of Bart Ehrman

Refutation of Bart Ehrman’s charge that the Gospel of John contradicts the Synoptics on the matter of the day of the crucifixion of Christ.

Key Historical background truths that help us understand the issue:

  1.  The Jews started counting when a day begins in the evening – Sundown pm to next Sundown pm.
  2. The Gospels are also using 2 different methods of time – the Synoptics use Jewish time and the Gospel according to John is using Roman time.
  3. The phrase “three days and three nights” in Jonah 1:17 and quoted in Matthew 12:39-40 is an idiom for three 24 hours days in which part of one day is counted as a day.  Therefore there is no contradiction between that and the statement “on the third day” Jesus rose from the dead all through the NT. (especially 1 Corinthians 15:3-5)

Key texts:

John 13:1-3

John 18:28

2 Chronicles 30:22 – shows the feast of the Passover and Unleavened Bread lasted a whole week, not just one day.

John 19:14

Dr. White points out that the Greek word for “day of preparation” is παρασκευη / paraskeuae, which is “Friday”!  Jesus was crucified on Friday and rose again from the dead on Sunday morning.

Muslims (and others) like to bring up Jonah 1:17 and Matthew 12:39-40.  I remember years ago, around 1986, hearing Ahmad Deedat bring this up in his debate with Josh McDowell.   Jonah 1:17 and Matthew 12:39-40 saying “three days and three nights” is a Jewish idiom and part of a 24 hour day counts for the whole day, so some of Friday, all of Saturday and some of Sunday counts the same, in Jewish reckoning, as “three days and three nights”.


James White had also spent time on this issue in an earlier DL show:


For more in depth study, see here. 

On the sign of Jonah, “three days and three nights”:

About Ken Temple

I am a follower of Jesus Christ. I am a sinner who has been saved by the grace of God alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), through faith alone (Galatians 2:16; Romans 3:28; 4:1-16), in Christ alone (John 14:6). But a true faith does not stay alone, it should result in change, fruit, good works, and deeper levels of repentance and hatred of my own sins of selfishness and pride. I am not better than you! I still make mistakes and sin, but the Lord is working on me, conforming me to His character. (Romans 8:28-29; 2 Corinthians 3:16-18) When I do sin, I hate the sin as it is an affront to God, and seek His forgiveness in repentance. (Mark 1:15; 2 Corinthians 7:7-10; Colossians 3:5-16 ) Praise God for His love for sinners (Romans 5:8), shown by the voluntary coming of Christ and His freely laying down His life for us (John 10:18), becoming flesh/human (John 1:1-5; 1:14; Philippians 2:5-8), dying for sins of people from all nations, tribes, and cultures (Revelation 5:9), on the cross, in history, rising from the dead (Romans 10:9-10; Matthew 28, Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24; John 20-21; 1 Corinthians chapter 15). His resurrection from the dead proved that Jesus is the Messiah, the eternal Son of God, the word of God from eternity past; and that He was all the gospels say He was and that He is truth and the life and the way to salvation. (John 14:6)
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