Do the Gospels Conflict?
How Long was Jesus on the Cross?

(See also How Long Was Jesus in the Tomb?)

The question intrigued me sufficiently enough that I spent the best part of a day working on it. On the surface there seems to be a contradiction in the Gospels, mentioning different times for the crucifixion.

Maybe the Apostles forgot to check their watches!

Mark says Jesus was crucified at the 3rd hour and John tells us the crucifixion took place after the 6th hour. So, what are we to make of this seeming contradiction? And how long was he actually hanging on the cross?

TRAV Crucifix
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For the whole story, click here.

By the way, isn’t this a COOL picture? I took it several years ago at the Cross in the Woods Shrine in Indian River Michigan. It is the largest crucifix in the world and right across the street from my wife’s mom’s summer home.


This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Georgina

    We love your analysis, Steve – thank you! When we are able to watch your program The Footprints of God (I hope I got the name right) you transport the viewers right to these very Holy places. Your excitement, your pointing out relevant significances in history and how they connect – your knowledge in general is remarkable, Steve. Keep up the good work! We wish your programs were at least 2 hours long at a time and more frequent. Before we know it, it is over. sniff-sniff!
    God bless you!
    Georgina – Texas

  2. Georgina

    …and, yes…the Cross in the Woods Shrine is beautiful! You say it is the largest in the world? Wow! How big is it?
    God bless you,
    Georgina – Texas

  3. Isaac

    In addition the significance of the 9AM crucifixion and 3PM death is to line up with morning and evening sacrifices as commanded by God (Exodus 29:39)

  4. De Maria

    The Synoptics are consistent:
    Mark 15
    25And it was the third hour, and they crucified him.
     …. 33And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.
     34And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

    Matt 27:
    45Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour.
     46And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
     47Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, This man calleth for Elias.
     50Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.

    Luke 23:
    44And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour.
     45And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst.
     46And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.

    And St. John doesn’t offer many clues. However, he does say:
    Chapter 18:
    28Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment: and it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the passover.
     29Pilate then went out unto them, and said, What accusation bring ye against this man?

    He uses similar words elsewhere:
    John 20
     1The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.

    So, if early means “when it was yet dark” to St. John, we can assume that Jesus was brought before Pilate when it was yet dark. Maybe, 4am to 5?

    Back to the crucifixion, this time Chapter 19:
    14And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!

    Now, we can safely assume that St. John and the Synoptics are using different time schemes because by the third hour, Jesus crucifixion had begun in the Synoptics.

    But by the sixth hour, in St. John’s Gospel, Jesus had yet to be crucified.

    The Tradition says that Jesus died in in the 3:00 o’clock hour as we reckon time. That coincides to the 9th hour in the Synoptics.

    So, 12pm or noon would coincide with the 6th hour of the Synoptics.

    And 9am coincides with the 3rd hour of the Synoptics. By this time, Jesus had already walked from the Hall of Justice to Golgotha carrying the cross and was being crucified.

    6am would be the 0 hr. according to the Synoptics.
    Now, at the 6th hour, as St. John reckoned it, Pilate said:
    Chapter 19
    14And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!
     15But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar.
     16Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led him away.

    Assuming it took between two and three hours from the time Pilate uttered those words to the time Jesus arrived in Golgotha and was crucified, it sounds to me like you are correct.

    De Maria

  5. sixtwentyone

    STEVE RAY HERE: The comment below is incorrect and confusing. There are records of men kept alive for over a week on crosses.
    This is all fair and well, but none of it is correct. the good book might suggest a time frame open for interpretation, but the simple fact is that when the human body is suspended upright for long enough death is certain within under an hour. In modern industries requiring fall protection (a full body harness that supports the body through straps that reach under a persons inner thighs, much like a diaper fits a child), death has occurred due to approximately 20min of unattended / un-rescued suspension. Granted, Jesus Christ wasn’t wearing fall protection, the nails in both wrists and feet would have served a similar scenario. The human heart is a positive pressure pump, meaning that it can push blood, but it cannot suck. When suspended for a period of time gravity pools blood down into the legs, shortly after the brain is deprived of oxygen and unconsciousness occurs. After this point, it is an even shorter amount of time that brain cells start to die, and eventually so does the body. The wounds in the feet might have made a bit of a difference, but it wouldn’t have been substantial enough to drag it on for 3 – 6 hours; even for the son of God.

  6. LuAnn

    A harness applies pressure to the femoral arteries and hinders blood circulation, resulting in death much sooner. Jesus wasn’t crucified with a harness.You’re both right!

  7. Greg Paul

    Bro Steve .. I felt this must be shared .. my daughter out of the blue. asked me .. dad why are protestants always unhappy & complaining. . He he .. i just laughed and told her they are still discovering. . Let’s pray the come back .. Amen

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