IX.21. A So-Called Contradiction is Found in Luke 24:21 on the Road to Emmaus

Question:  If , as you say, the Lord arose from the grave between 3 and 6 P.M. on Saturday, how can He be found on the Road to Emmaus talking with two disciples on the “first day of the week” (Luke 24:1) which they call the “third day since these things were done?” (Luke 24:21). Is this a contradiction?

Answer: I will quote the verse you have questioned in its entirety.

“But we trusted that it had been he (Christ) which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done.” (Luke 24:21).

Here are several important points to consider.

  1. Luke uses the Jewish reckoning of time. The Jewish day was divided at 6:00 P.M., the old day ended and the new day began. As Luke 24:1 says, “Now upon the first {day} of the week…” (“Day”, as shown by being italicized in the text is not in the original.) “…very early in the morning…” What is actually in the text are the words “very early.” Some translate “early” as “dawn,” but, taken in context and comparing Scripture with Scriptures such as Matthew 28:1 and John 20:1, it should be understood as “the beginning of Sunday sometime after 6:00 P.M. on Saturday.” Therefore, we have established that Luke 24:21 occurred on Sunday, “the first of the week.”
  2. The Sabbath day is always on Saturday, not Sunday. Sunday is the first day of the week. Paul gave instructions to the early Christians to “…lay by him in store, as God had prospered him, on the first day of the week.” Sunday! (1 Corinthians 16:2). The disciples always came together to break bread and fellowship on the first day of the week, Sunday. (Acts 20:7). This is why the majority of Christians come together in worship on Sundays.
  3. The Jewish day ran from even (evening) until even (evening). “…from even to even, shall ye celebrate your sabbath.” (Leviticus 23:32). The time being set at approximately 6:00 P.M.
  4. The Lord Jesus had to spend 72 hours in the grave to fulfill Scripture. “For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly, so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." (Matthew 12:40). (See also Jonah 1:17). The Lord, Himself determines how many hours in a day, “…are there not twelve hours in a day…? (John 11:9). If there are twelve hours in a day, there are twelve hours in a night. Thus, three days and three nights equal 72 hours.
  5. The tomb was already empty when the first arrivals came before 6:00 P.M. on Saturday.
  6. “In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to DAWN toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.” (Matthew 28:1)
  7. The “end of the Sabbath” is the last few minutes before the Sabbath ends and the first day of the week, Sunday begins. “Dawn” is the Greek word “epihposko” and means “to draw on.” It was “drawing on” (as Luke 23:54); or approaching the first day of the week, Sunday; which actually began on Saturday at 6:00 P.M. John 20:1 also fixes the time as “The first {“day” is italicized and is not in the original}of the week, very early, yet dark.” This does not mean before daybreak as we think of day and night in our way of reckoning time. It is referring to “the last of the Sabbath,” 6:00 P.M. on Saturday; or 6:01 P.M. when Sunday began, being the “first of the week.”
  8. There were two Sabbaths the week of the Crucifixion: the Passover Sabbath and the weekly Sabbath. Our Lord was buried between 3:00 and 6:00 P.M. on the Passover Sabbath, a Wednesday, and arose between 3:00 and 6:00 P.M. on the weekly Sabbath, a Saturday. Count backwards: Saturday 3-6 P.M. to Friday 3-6 P.M. = 24 hours. Friday 3-6 P.M. to Thursday 3-6 P.M. = 48 hours. Thursday 3-6 to Wednesday 3-6 P.M. = 72 hours.
  9. They traveled to Emmaus sometime after 6:00 P.M. on Saturday (the beginning of Sunday, the first day of the week), or during the daylight hours of the next day, Sunday. Cleopas, identified in John 19:25 as the husband of one of the Marys, and another unnamed disciple were walking to Emmaus, about 6-7 miles from Jerusalem. They would not be walking on the Sabbath (Luke 23:56). They were intercepted by the Lord and walked together until they drew near to the village. (Luke 24:28). The time of day at this point was “toward evening, and the day is far spent.” (Luke 24:29).

We quote the verse again.

“But we trusted that it had been he (Christ) which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done.” - Luke 24:21

Focusing on the words “…to day is the third day...,” we find that “to day” is not the English word “today” as often assumed, but a compound of Greek words. The words “to day” are translated from the Greek word “semeron” (a combination of the article “he” and the noun “hemera”). The Greek word “semeron” means “on the (i.e. this) day (or night) current or just passed”, generally, “now (i.e. at present, hitherto: this (to-) day.” The Greek noun “hemera” means “day, i.e. (literally) the time space between dawn and dark, or the whole 24 hours. Figuratively, “A period of time, always defined more or less clearly by the context.”  (These definitions are substantiated by Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Greek and Hebrew Words.) Therefore, letting Scripture interpret Scripture, and taking the context into consideration, “…to day is the third day…” should be translated “this day just passed is the third day…”

If all Scripture agrees, you have the right answer. (2 Peter 1:20). THERE IS NO CONTRADICTION!

Are we like the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus? We want so badly to believe in our traditions of Good Friday and Easter Sunday, that we do not recognize the truth about our resurrected Savior.

“But their eyes were holden that they should not know him.” (Luke 24:16).

Should He say about us,

"O fools and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory.”

Do we want to be deceived into thinking there is some saving grace in observing traditions like the “Lent,” Ash Wednesday, Good Friday? Christ “suffered these things,” His crucifixion on the Cross, His death, burial and Resurrection, so that he could pay for our sins.

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved…” - Acts 16:31

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