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The Hebraic Sixth Hour

Matthew 27:44-45
Even the robbers who were crucified with Him reviled Him with the same thing.
Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land.
John 19:14-15
Now it was the Preparation Day of the Passover, and about the sixth hour.
And he said to the Jews, “Behold your King!”
But they cried out, “Away with Him, away with Him! Crucify Him!”
Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?”
The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar!”

In John 19:14-15, Christ was standing before Pilate at about the sixth hour; and interestingly enough, in Matthew 27:44-45, Christ was already on the cross at the sixth hour.
How could Jesus be in both places at the same time? Or how could the gospels contradict each other?
Before we attempt to answer these questions, we need to know the times of the day according to the Jews and the Romans. The Jews and Romans used different methods of timekeeping during the Roman Empire era.
The Roman day began at midnight (12 am). Their Roman sixth hour would be literally the sixth hour from midnight - 6 am. Today, our Gregorian calendar counts civil hours from midnight similar to the way the Romans did.
Now let’s take a look at how the Jews calculated their hours of the day and night.

Genesis 1:5
God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night.
So the evening and the morning were the first day.

As in the Creation, the Hebraic hours begin at sunset. A Hebraic day consists of 12 night hours and 12 day hours. A Hebraic night hour is defined as 1/12 of the time between sunset and sunrise. A Hebraic day hour is 1/12 of the time between sunrise and sunset.

John 11:9
Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day?
If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world.”

A Hebraic day hour can be between 42 to 72 minutes depending on the seasons. It can even vary by the day as the time of sunset and sunrise differ from day to day and season to season. If the day hour is longer, then the night hour will be shorter, and vice versa.
For example, on a summer day when the sun rises at 5 am and sets at 7:30 pm, one Hebraic day hour will be 72.5 minutes long and one Hebraic night hour will be 47.5 minutes. Or in winter, if the sun rises at 7.30 am and sets at 4 pm, then the Hebraic day hour is 42.5 minutes and the Hebraic night hour will be 77.5 minutes.


The midpoint of the 12 Hebraic night hours is called midnight. The midpoint of the 12 Hebraic day hours is called midday or noon.
Interestingly, these specific hours (for example - the third or sixth or ninth hour etc.) were only mentioned in the New Testament but not in the New Testament.
In the Old Testament, the time between sunset and sunrise was divided into three night watches:

  1. evening watch (Psalm 90:4)
  2. middle watch (Judges 7:19)
  3. morning watch (Exodus 14:24, 1 Samuel 11:11).

By the time of Christ, the time between sunset and sunrise was changed and divided to four watches.

Luke 12:38
And if he should come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants.
Matthew 14:25
Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea.
Mark 6:48
Then He saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against them. Now about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea, and would have passed them by.

The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke all used the Jewish standard for timekeeping; but John used the Roman standard.
In John 19:14-15, Christ stood before Pilate about the sixth hour (i.e. the Roman time of 6 am in the morning). This was before His journey to the cross where He was crucified.
In Matthew 27:44-45, Christ is on the cross at the sixth hour. The sixth hour from the Jewish beginning of day at 6 am would be noon. 
The Gospel of Mark gives a good picture concerning the timeline of the crucifixion.

Mark 15:25
Now it was the third hour, and they crucified Him.
Jesus was crucified at the third hour (9 am).
Mark 15:33
Now when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.
There was darkness over the whole land from 12 noon to 3 pm.
Mark 15:34
And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
Jesus died at the ninth hour (3 pm).

Matthew, Mark and Luke seemed to write in the Jewish manner, but John was more towards the Roman manner. One good example is the inscription on the cross of Jesus.

Matthew 27:37
And they put up over His head the accusation written against Him:
Mark 15:26
And the inscription of His accusation was written above:
Luke 23:38
And an inscription also was written over Him in letters of Greek, Latin, and Hebrew:
John 19:19-20

Now Pilate wrote a title and put it on the cross. And the writing was:
Then many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin.

Matthew, Mark and Luke wrote "The King of the Jews," but John wrote "Jesus of Nazareth The King of the Jews" – the full name and title just like the Romans would write!
There is no contradiction at all. Matthew’s sixth hour was about noontime (Jewish time), and John’s sixth hour was 6 am (Roman time). Jesus stood before Pilate about 6 am, was crucified about 9 am, and was on the cross from 9 am to 3 pm. There was darkness over the whole land from noon (sixth hour) to 3 pm (ninth hour).
This shows the Gospels are in perfect harmony as all Scripture is given by the inspiration of God (2 Timothy 3:16).
Source: http://torahcalendar.com/HOUR.asp

Written on 18 April 2014