Numerical Errors in the Old Testament? How Can I Trust the Bible?

Why are there numerical discrepancies in the Old Testament? If these numbers aren’t in sync with each other how can we trust the Bible on anything else? In today’s Take Five, RZIM Canada’s Daniel Gilman makes space for such a problematic question and provides compelling answers.

One sees that there is a long history of integrity and honesty when it comes to what we have in the Bible.

There’s something beautiful about this, and that is that we see that God has chosen to involve human beings in the telling of the His redemption story of the universe; And not just in His telling of the redemption story, but actually in His actual mission of bringing rescue and wholeness and light into this dark and broken world.

Make it Personal

  • What other numerical discrepancies have you wrestled with, and what answers have you discovered?

  • How can we make a practice of answering a challenge to our faith (i.e. numerical discrepancies in the Bible) with not only a good answer, but also a positive apologetic for our beliefs (i.e. isn’t is great that God involves sinful humans into His redemption story)?


I’m starting to like this Take Five category.

So here’s my question:
If Jesus was to be three days and three nights in the tomb (72 hours), how come He was buried on a Friday afternoon? In plain reading, Jesus was only buried for 39 hours, 3pm Friday to 6am Sunday.

I just sufficed myself to believe that the expression “3 days and 3 nights” were just expression not meant to be taken literally. But perhaps there is a better, much acceptable explanation to this seeming discrepancy.

I don’t think this is such a discrepancy. If I was going on a trip and left friday after work and returned sunday morning and said I’m going to be gone for 3 days, I don’t think anyone would have an issue with me saying I was going to be leaving for 3 days.
People use words differently within different cultures and regions but I don’t think I have ever heard anyone say 3 days or 5 days and mean exactly 72 or 120 hours.
Also, where does it say Jesus was in the grave for 3 nights? If they found him sunday morning, that would be Friday and Saturday nights.


Excellent thoughts, @Sgpage and @DCGotiza.

Actually, in Matthew 12:40, Jesus Himself said that He would be buried in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.

What the Bible does not explicitly say is that He was crucified on a Friday. He was crucified on a Passover before the Sabbath, which has been taken to mean on a Friday.

But John 19:31 specifies that the Sabbath which followed was a “high day”. In Leviticus 23, we see that there were seven high Sabbaths scattered throughout the Jewish calendar when no servile work was to be done. These high days of rest could occur on any day of the week. And the first one in the spring of the year was the first day of unleavened bread which was always the day after the Passover.

So the Passover was always followed by a high Sabbath regardless of whether it was a Monday, a Friday, or any other day of the week.

So there is nothing unbiblical about the view that Christ was crucified on a Thursday Passover, followed by a high Sabbath on Friday, followed by the regular weekly Sabbath on Saturday, after which He rose sometime before dawn on Sunday having spent some part of three days and three nights in the tomb. And that would account for the women not being able to tend to His body until then.

I hope you will find this to be interesting food for thought.


Hi, @jlyons :wave:

So Christ’s Crucifixion was on a Thursday? That the Sabbath referred to was a “high” Sabbath and not a regular Sabbath? And the"high" Sabbath does not necessarily fall on a literal seventh day Sabbath, but any other regular day declared to be that, sort of like a special holiday in our calendar?


Couldn’t have put it better myself!

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Noticed that phrase “high Sabbath” before but didn’t thought it was a special thing. Will check references in Leviticus later.

Thanks for the info, Bro. @jlyons :+1:


Great elaboration. Very helpful.

Thanks for the clarity on this!

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Here the subject is not a mathematical calculation of 24 hours a day or 72 hours of three days. It is a common day to day language of speaking, like sunrise and sunset even though it is the Earth that moves and not the Sun. I personally don’t have any confusion.

  1. Jesus was crucified and buried in a tomb owned by Joseph of Arimethea on Friday. There is no argument against this because it was "the day of preparation” (Luke 23:54). Joseph of Arimethea took the permission to take down the body because it would be unsightly to keep it hanging on the cross the next day which was a Sabbath. Sabbath is the day of rest and everything necessary must be prepared on Friday. Food is always served cold on Sabbath because it was prepared on Friday.

  2. Saturday arrived, but being the Sabbath the women could not go to the tomb to complete the burial rites. They have no option but to wait for the Sabbath to end.

  3. Sunday dawned. Mary Magdalene hurried to the tomb and found that it was empty. The Lord has risen!

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