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    THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS

    In reference to the first part of this answer we inquire, Where is the proof that the expression, “three days and three nights,” means just seventy-two hours, and never any less? The response is, “That is what any one would understand by it at the present time.” Yes, but what we understand by it now, has nothing to do with the matter. The question is, What did they understand by it, by whom the New Testament was written? In what sense did they use it? What was the usus loquendi of that age? If we can ascertain this, we can tell what meaning we must give the expression in the New Testament, however much the sense in which it is used may have changed between that time and ours.DCRC 2.2

    We easily find testimony to show that the expressions, “three days,” “after three days,” “three days, night or day,” were used by the writers of the Bible as expressions not always signifying a period beginning with the first minute of the first day, and reaching to the last minute of the third, but taking in only a portion of the first and third, including, of course, the whole of the second. Thus we read in Genesis 42:17, that Joseph put his brethren in ward three days. Here the word “day” is used in its broad sense, covering the dark part as well as the light. It is the same as if it read that he put them in ward three days and three nights; for if we subdivide the day into its light and dark parts, it would take three of each of these parts to make the three days, and the expression “three days” must include all these parts. Yet on the third day, presumably in the morning of that day, Joseph made a proposition to them, which they accepted, and their sacks were then filled with corn, and they departed on their journey, which would naturally take the greater portion of the light part of that day. Now it must be shown that Jonah and Matthew used the expression respecting the three days in a different sense from that in which the writer of the book of Genesis used it, or it must be admitted that that expression does not mean seventy-two full hours.DCRC 2.3

    Again in 1 Kings 12:5 we have a record of what Jeroboam said to the people, in these words: “Depart yet for three days, then come again to me.” This would indicate a definite period of just three days, if we should interpret it with the ultra rigidity of modern critics; but in 2 Chronicles 10:5, the same expression is given as follows: “And he said unto them, Come again unto me after three days.” But in both records (1 Kings 12:12, and 2 Chronicles 10:12) it is stated that, in accordance with this arrangement, the people returned on the third day: “So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam on the third day, as the king bade, saying, Come again to me on the third day.”DCRC 3.1

    This testimony shows that the terms, “three days,” “after three days,” and “on the third day,” are used as synonymous expressions. But a little tract has been issued by Elder N. Wardner, entitled “Prophecy of Christ Concerning his Burial and Resurrection,” in which he contends that it is a very loose method of interpretation, to claim that “three days and three nights,” mean a period that would terminate on the third day; and he attempts to dispose of such passages as we now have before us, by simply remarking, “No nights are named.” Indeed! What possible difference can this make? Is not the word “day” here used in its broad sense, including both the light and dark parts? and would not “three days” include “three” each of such parts? Most assuredly the word is so used; and the expression in each of the instances referred to, is therefore exactly equivalent to “three days and three nights.”DCRC 3.2

    In Esther 4:16, and 5:1, we find an expression still more puzzling to those who deny that it was the custom of Jewish times and the Jewish people, to use the expression “three days and three nights” to signify a period ending on the third day, and not embracing seventy-two full hours. The verses referred to state that Esther requested the Jews to fast with her three days. She said, “Fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day.” She added, “I also and my maidens will fast likewise;” that is, three days, night and day. Would this passage be any stronger, if it read “three days and three nights?” Any one can see that this is just the same as saying, “three days and three nights.” Mr. W. attempts to dodge this by saying, “But the number of nights are not named [!], and the statement does not require more than two; depending on the time of day they began to fast.” But we submit to the candid reader, if the numeral adjective “three,” does not cover both members of the distributive clause, as well as one; thus, “three days,” then dividing it up into its light and dark parts, “night or day;” how many of such parts would be required to make the three days? How many light parts - days? - Three. How many dark parts - nights? - Of course the same number, three. But Mr. W. would have us read it something after this fashion: “Three days, night or day, that is, three days and - well, let’s see, two nights, that’s enough for that.” It may seem to him consistent to wrest the word of God by arbitrarily changing the term “three” in the first part of the sentence, into “two” in one member of the last part; but it does not so appear to us. His conclusion in regard to the passage is, “It is not parallel to the statement, ‘three days and three nights.’ ” To make this statement true, the word “not” should be taken out, and the italics transferred to the word “is,” so as to make it read, “It is parallel to the statement ‘three days and three nights.’ ” So after Esther had used the equivalent of the expression, “three days and three nights,” during which they were to fast for her, the record says that on the third day Queen Esther went into the presence of the king, and obtained her request.DCRC 4.1

    It will be noticed that Mr. W.’s exposition of this passage destroys his claim on Matthew 12:40; for he admits that three light portions of the day are here distinctly specified, and yet on the third one of these divisions, Esther proceeded to the king. So the expression “three days,” does not include the whole of the time embraced in these days, but only the first and second, and a portion of the third. Now if the expression “three days,” applied explicitly to these light divisions, may mean only two and a portion of the third, by parity of reasoning, the expression “three nights,” applied to the dark divisions, may mean only two and a portion of the third; and the expression “three days and three nights” may be used without signifying absolutely seventy-two hours.DCRC 5.1

    There are nine passages which declare that Christ was to rise “the third day,” as Matthew 16:21; 17:23; 20:19, etc.; one that he did rise “the third day” (Acts 10:40), and two that he should rise “after three days.” Matthew 27:63; Mark 8:31. This frequent reference to the “third day,” suggests the question,-DCRC 5.2

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