What time was Jesus Crucified? In the 3rd or in the 6th hour?
In order to place things chronologically, one must understand that not all the Gospel accounts are strictly chronological. One must piece them together based on time clues provided in the verses. John was the last Gospel written and he is the most chronologically accurate, followed by Mark. Matthew and Luke are more topical than chronologically accurate. John tends to cover mostly details that were not adequately addressed or were left out of the other Gospels. Some examples of this are the instances of Jesus going into the Temple, the cursing of the fig tree, and the anointing of Jesus by Mary.
On 31 March AD 33 (11 Nisan), Tuesday sometime in the morning, Jesus was going to the city of Jerusalem from Bethany. Mark tells us specifically of the time of the event (Mark 11:12-14) in the morning of Jesus’ triumphant entrance into the city, which happened on 10 Nisan. We assume that from the morning, Jesus spent considerable time in the temple this day teaching and healing. On the way from Bethany, Jesus curses the fig tree (Mark 11:12-14). It reminds him of the plight of Israel and he then weeps over the city (Luke 19:45-48). He then goes on to cleanse the temple. “When even was come, he went out of the city” (Mark 11:19). Mark tells us, the next morning while on the way into the city from Bethany, Peter notices the cursed fig tree has withered (Mark 11:20-21). Mark provided chronological markers, whereas Matthew was merely recalling important events or concepts.
So why is all this discussion about days and times? Time markers in scripture are very important or you may just gloss over them and miss deep and profound truths. Also, to piece all the scriptural evidence together, you must have a basis. To understand all this, we have attached a timeline showing Jesus’ last day. The Hebrew day ran from 6 p.m. in the evening until 6 p.m. the next day. The beginning of the day was actually the night-time, with four watches of 3 hours each which took them from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. The daylight hours were broken out into two mornings (6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.). At noon, the sun would reach its apex and then begin to even or set in the second half of the daylight hours. That part of the day was called the evening and it was divided into two evenings (noon to 3 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.). Then at 6 p.m., at evening, when the sun evened with the horizon, the Hebrew day would change again, starting a new day.
So let us practice using this basis. On Friday, 8 Nisan, was the Sabbath and Jesus could not travel. At 6 p.m. on Saturday, the Sabbath ended and it became 9 Nisan. He could now travel without violating the Law, but it was dark now. Jesus spent the night-time hours of 9 Nisan (first half of the day) at the home of Zacchaeus near Jericho on the way to Bethany (Luke 19:1-9). The next morning, during the daylight hours of 9 Nisan, Jesus traveled to Bethany where he went to Lazarus’ house (possibly also known as Simon the Leper’s home). This would line up with John’s statement “six days before Passover”. Passover was to start just after evening
(6 p.m.) on 15 Nisan, (Lev. 23:6, Exodus 12:17). 14 Nisan is the day of preparation and it is also the day Jesus died. After you have a solid understanding of the Hebrew day, it becomes easier to specifically answer your question.
Look at the attached Hebrew Day Jesus Last Day. Note that based upon the Jewish Law, there were two daily sacrifices of a lamb, one at the third hour, and one at the ninth hour. “Now this is that which thou shalt offer upon the altar; two lambs of the first year day by day continually. The one lamb thou shalt offer in the morning [9 a.m.] ….” (Exodus 29:38-9) Scripture tells us exactly when he was put on the cross, “And it was the third hour [9 a.m.], and they crucified him.” (Mark 15:25). So Jesus was hung on the cross at the same time as the sacrifice of the first Lamb of the daily sacrifice. The third hour of the daylight hours.
“Now from the sixth hour (12 p.m.) there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour
(3 p.m.). “Now this is that which thou shalt offer upon the altar; two lambs of the first year day by day continually… the other lamb thou shalt offer at even (3 p.m.):” (Exodus 29:38-9)
At what time does Jesus say these words: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Before 9th hour or after 9th hour?
To answer your question, “And 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?” (Matt. 27:45-46, Mark 15:33-41, Luke 23:44-49). “When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, ‘It is finished’: and he bowed his head, and gave up his spirit” (John 19:30, Matt. 27:50). Scripture is specific here, Jesus hung on the cross for 6 hours. At the same time the Lamb of the second daily sacrifice was being killed at 3 p.m., Jesus also died, just at about 3 p.m. on 14 Nissan. Those are the facts we have. He as a perfect man, bore our sins in our place, he became the Lamb of God who died for the sins of the world, fulfilling the requirement of the sacrifice of the two lambs each day. But there is more.
Note that also between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. on this day of preparation, 14 Nisan, the Jews would have also been killing a separate lamb, the Passover Lamb, to begin roasting it for Passover which would begin just after 6 p.m., the beginning of 15 Nisan. “In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the LORD’S Passover” (Lev. 23:5), “And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; with bitter herbs they shall eat it” (Exodus 12:8). “That night”, would be 15 Nisan, which was also the beginning of the Day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and also happened to be the start of a regular Jewish Sabbath day.
The Lamb of God, representing all three sacrifices of the lambs, were on one day.