Apostles’ Creed: The Third Day

Why does the text talk about the third day? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Christians have long held that Jesus died and rose again and when He rose again, He rose on the third day. What exactly does this mean? Why does the text phrase it this way? Note how 1 Cor. 15:4 phrases it.

“that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,”

According to the Scriptures.

Now this has often been followed by our modern prooftexting idea where we will go and find the one text that Paul has in mind and see what we can get. Many people think they’ve found it in Hosea 6:1-2.

“Come, let us return to the Lord.
He has torn us to pieces
but he will heal us;
he has injured us
but he will bind up our wounds.
2 After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will restore us,
that we may live in his presence.”

Except that this refers to Israel in a different context. Now of course, this could apply in a dual-fulfillment later on to Jesus as the true Israel, but I am doubtful that Hosea had Jesus in mind when he wrote this passage. So what is it that is really being referred to by Paul?

The best explanation I know of is to go and do a search like I did through a tool like Bible Gateway. My results can be found here. I looked for the exact phrase, third day. Now some times it could mean purely chronology, like the third day of the creation week, but it’s interesting how often the third day is referred to in the Bible.

Now another objection can be raised that Jesus said He would be in the belly of the earth for three days and three nights. Evan Fales, an atheist, in fact in “Debating Christian Theism” writes an essay on the passage and goes into a long long piece explaining his opinion on the matter missing one simple piece that never occurs to him throughout his whole work.

This is a common idiom in the Middle East.

It does not require that Jesus be buried on Wednesday night. All it requires is one understand the social context. In fact, look at the references to the third day in the Scripture and see how many of them have three days and three nights and then talk about what happened on the third day. The Pharisees say the same thing about guarding the tomb of Jesus in the end of the Gospel of Matthew itself.

So what do we conclude? This is not classical prooftexting going on that we do today such as finding a chapter and verse. This is looking at a general theme that takes place in the Scriptures and saying that Jesus fits into the paradigm. What the ancients saw was an entire tapestry of Scripture of themes that could be readily reproduced and reenacted as it were. Perhaps we should learn something about much of our modern hermeneutics today because of this?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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