The Only Sign Given
But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and besides all this, today is the third day since these things were done.
It still amazes me how the meaning of a verse and our Biblical understanding can hinge on the translation of one verse. Even beyond just one verse, it can turn on how just one word is translated, or not translated. The above verse is one of those verses.
This verse is fairly accurately translated except for one word. This one word changes the meaning of the whole verse, and significantly impacts the whole third day chronology.
In the phrase, today is the third day, the verb agei (agei), is translated as 'is'. This verb is not a verb of being, but a verb of action which carries the basic meaning of 'to lead, to bring, or to pass'.1 This primary verb is used 72 times in the New Covenant writings and is never translated as 'is' except in this verse. When used in conjunction with the idea of time, it should be translated as 'pass' , as in time or a day is past or passing.
Here in this verse, the verb agei is in the Present Active, which means it is an action that is happening at the present time, according to the view of the speaker. Hence it would be properly translated as, 'is passing'.
The greek word for 'today', shmeron, is an adverb which answers the question "What is passing?". This word is not in the greek text of all manuscripts. However, even where it may not be present, the idea of it is certainly carried in the verb, agei. Here it acts as the subject, noting what is passing.
The phrase, this third day, is in the accusative case, which means it receives the action of the verb, is passing. Also there is a conjunctive used in this verse, af ou, which according to Thayer's Lexicon, carries the meaning, from the time that, or since.2 This special conjunction separates the "these things" into its own time or day.
Using the proper translation of agei, we can ask, what is passing? The verse tells us that "today is passing". What is today passing from? Today is passing from this third day. What third day? The third day since these things happened.
To translate this segment into more fluid English, we would read, "Today is passing from this third day, since these things happened."
So the meaning of this part of the verse, is that today is passing from the third day, since these things being discussed happened. This is much different from the unfortunate traditional translation of 'today is the third day'. Instead of pointing to the today as being the third day since these things happened, it is stating that the today is passing from the day that is the third day, since these things happened. There is a very different meaning between the two translations.
It is obvious from the statement of these disciples, that the third day was important to them. They obviously understood that Jesus said He would be raised from the dead on the third day. It is apparent that they were counting to the third day, since these things happened. The meaning of "these things" points to when the chief priests and rulers handed Jesus over to be crucified. So the these things would obviously point to the day that the crucifixion and burial took place.
We know from the text of Luke 24, that 'today' was the first day of the week. This first day was "far spent" (Luke 24:29), meaning that it was progressing toward its end. So this first day of the week, was passing from, or moving past, the day that was counted as the third day since these things happened. This can be a bit confusing because we are accustomed to counting from the day of burial to the day of resurrection. Here, they were counting from the day of resurrection to the day burial. They were just counting back in time, instead of counting forward.
If the first day of the week was passing from the day that was considered the third day since the crucifixion and burial, this would make the seventh day of the week, the Sabbath, the third day from the crucifixion and burial. We can then see from this that this seventh day, being the weekly Sabbath, was this third day.
If the weekly Sabbath was the third day from the crucifixion and burial, this gives us a very plain and simple way to determine what day the crucifixion and burial happened. We just have to count. In this counting, we will not have to resort to the magical hocus-pocus of the partial day counting trick.
Since the Sabbath, the seventh day of the week, was the third day since these things happened, then the sixth day of the week would be the second day since these things happened, and the fifth day of the week would be first day since these things happened. Then of course, you would have the day these things happened. What we are dealing with here is a period of five days. Five days? Wow, how did we get that? Well, let' s break it down.
- The Day of These Things - the day on which the crucifixion and burial happened.
- First day since these things - the first day after the day of these things.
- Second day since these things - the second day after the day of these things.
- Third day since these things - the third day after the day of these things.
- The Today - the day that is passing from the third day since these things.
To exhibit it more clearly, we can demonstrate it in this manner. For the sake of clarity, we will assign these days our current calendar days, with the Jewish dates.
- The Today - the first day of the week, Saturday sunset to Sunday sunset. Nisan 18
- Third day since these things - the seventh day of the week, Friday sunset to Saturday sunset. Nisan 17
- Second day since these things - the sixth day of the week, Thursday sunset to Friday sunset. Nisan 16
- First day since these things - the fifth day of the week, Wednesday sunset to Thursday sunset. Nisan 15
- The Day of These Things - the fourth day of the week, Tuesday sunset to Wednesday sunset. Nisan 14
If you find this still confusing, because we are counting backwards, let' s take the count forward.
- The Day of These Things - the fourth day of the week, Tuesday sunset to Wednesday sunset, Nisan 14. We know from our chronology, that the Passover was on the night of Nisan 14, with the crucifixion and burial occurring during the day portion of Nisan 14.
- First day since these things - the fifth day of the week, Wednesday sunset to Thursday sunset, Nisan 15. This would be the day of First day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, a sabbath and the high day mentioned in John.
- Second day since these things - the sixth day of the week, Thursday sunset to Friday sunset, Nisan 16. This would be the day that the women went to market to purchase the spices which they would prepare then use to anoint the body of Jesus.
- Third day since these things - the seventh day of the week, Friday sunset to Saturday sunset, Nisan 17. This would be the weekly Sabbath, on which the women ' rested according to the commandment' . At the end of this day would have completed the three day and nights of Jesus' entombment, and would be understood as the third day.
- The Today - the first day of the week, Saturday sunset to Sunday sunset, Nisan 18. On this day the tomb was discovered to be empty and the Emmaus Road encounter occurred.
I realize that this is a world apart from how this verse has been traditionally translated. However, if we allow this verse to stand as it is written, the conclusion is inescapable.
So why is this verb, agei, translated as 'is' in virtually every translation? It must be apparent that in order to maintain the theory of a Friday to Sunday event, Sunday would have to be viewed as the third day. So is this mistranslated on purpose? It can't be said for sure whether it was or not, on purpose that is. However, it should be clear, that if the verse was translated as it should have been, it would have created a hole in the Friday to Sunday theory large enough to drive a truck through. So to close up this massive hole, this verb is given a meaning that it carries nowhere else in Scripture, and was never intended to mean. This again appears to be an example where we have nullified the Word of God, so that we might maintain our traditions.
1 Strong's Greek Lexicon, #71.
2 Thayer's Greek Lexicon, #3739, II,9