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Counting Hours (in the Bible) and Mark 15:25 and John 19:14 Exegesis

(Part II of Time Markers)

Mark 15:25 KJV, "And it was the third hour, and they crucified him.” and John 19:14 KJV, "And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!” These two verses do not contradict one another, they compliment one another. And, both gospel writers were using the same time system. The full explanation follows.


1.a. Matthew 20:3 KJV, "And he went out about the third (Strong's 5154 tritos τριτος) hour (Strong's 5610 hora ωρα), and saw others standing idle in the marketplace,”. What does the third hour mean? It has two possible meanings. 


1.b. First, from sunrise, which is approximately 6 am in modern American time, the hours can be counted starting with the number one: 


the first hour would be from 6:00:00 until 6:59:59;


the second hour would be from 7:00:00 until 7:59:59;


and the third hour would be from 8:00:00 until 8:59:59.


If this is the counting that was used in Matthew 20:3 then the third hour could be anytime during 8:00:00 until 8:59:59. 


The chart inserted here shows the times I use to calculate biblical hours and align them with our modern time keeping methods.


Biblical Hours,                 Christendom's Incorrect       The Correct Way

Estimating a 6 AM            Counting                            To Count Biblical

Sunrise                                                                     Hours

_______________           ___________________       ________________

1st hour                          7 AM                                   Sunrise to 6:59 AM

2nd hour                         8 AM                                    7 AM to 7:59 AM


3rd hour                          9 AM                                    8 AM to 8:59 AM


4th hour                          10 AM                                  9 AM to 9:59 AM


5th hour                           11 AM                                 10 AM to 10:59 AM


6th hour                           12 PM (noon)                       11 AM to 11:59 AM


7th hour                            1 PM                                   12 PM to 12:59 PM


8th hour                            2 PM                                    1 PM to 1:59 PM


9th hour                            3 PM                                    2 PM to 2:59 PM


10th hour                           4 PM                                    3 PM to 3:59 PM


11th hour                           5 PM                                    4 PM to 4:59 PM


12th hour                           6 PM                                    5 PM to 5:59 PM



As you can see, the first hour is not 7 AM, the first hour begins at sunrise and continues for approximately an hour until the end of the hour. The second hour begins at 7 AM and continues until the end of the hour which is 7:59 AM. And so it goes until the end of the chart provided. Therefore, if a biblical story states that something occurred the second hour, that does not mean that it occurred at 8 AM. It means that it occurred sometime between 7 AM and 7:59 AM. Actually this means that the hour ended at the end of the last second of the last minute at 59 minutes past the hour.


1.c. But let us be realistic. Sunrise is not always at 6 am. (6:00:00), and there is not always 12 hours between sunrise and sunset. What if this was a day in which sunrise was 5 am and sunset was 7 pm? Does this mean that this day would be numbered with 14 hours instead of 12? I have long thought that the hours of a day were estimates. That which the people could observe about the hours of a day in these non-electronic times was sunrise, high noon, and sunset; everything in-between was an estimate. So, between sunrise and noon, no matter the time of sunrise, they estimated that 6 hours would fill the time; and between noon and sunset, they estimated that 6 hours would fill the time.


1.d. Second, the daylight hours of the day were divided into four parts: two parts before high noon and two parts after noon. For these people that would have been two parts during the morning (which is sunrise to noon) and two parts during the evening (which is noon to sunset). During Yahoshua's time on Earth and before, the people did not have our modern day concept of afternoon, instead, they called that time period evening or between the evenings. See our teaching called Between the Evenings. What did they call the 4 parts of a day? 


The first part of the day was referred to as the third hour, from sunrise to mid-morning. 


The second part of the day was referred to as the sixth hour, from mid-morning to noon. 


The third part of the day was referred to as the ninth hour, from noon to mid-evening.


The fourth part of the day was referred to as the twelfth hour, from mid-evening to sunset.


So, as you can see, the third hour does not necessarily mean between 8 am and 9 am. Also, as most scholars incorrectly count the hours, the third hour does not mean 9 am. Scholars count the hours as the hour ends. I count the hours as each hour begins*.


*NOTE: This will be further explained in the next numbered paragraph.


Instead, the third hour can mean anytime between sunrise and mid-morning or approximately 6 to 9 am.


The sixth hour can mean anytime between mid-morning and noon or approximately 9 am to 12 pm.


The ninth hour can mean anytime between noon and mid-evening or approximately 12 to 3 pm.


The twelfth hour can mean anytime between mid-evening and sunset or approximately 3 to 6 pm.


1.e. Now I will address the *NOTE in the previous paragraph. Counting the hours can be confusing if not done with precision.


The standard counting which I have read in various references (that which is done from our modern day perspective and mindset) say that the 3rd hour is 9 am and the 6th hour is 12 pm or noon. How can this be? Simple answer, it cannot be, it is dysfunctional counting. Let us look at this dysfunctional counting a little more. Assuming a 6 AM sunrise, we do not even count 6 to 7 AM. We jump to 7 AM and say “one”, then 8 AM we say “two”, then 9 AM we say “three”. But 9 AM is not the 3rd hour at all, 9 AM is the beginning of the 4th hour.


The first hour begins at 6 AM (really sunrise, but we are estimating to explain a point). Between 6 and 7 AM is one hour. Between 7 and 8 AM is two hours. Between 8 and 9 AM is three hours. Nine AM is the beginning of the 4th hour, therefore, 9:00:00 to 9:59:59 is the 4th hour. Eleven AM is the 6th hour. Noon or 12 pm is the beginning of the 7th hour, it is not hour 6. In other words, the standard dysfunctional counting begins at the end of each hour, when it should begin at the beginning of each hour counted and include the entire hour.


This is yet another example of Daniel 7:25 KJV, "And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time." The times have already been changed.


1.f. Please point your attention to the Thompson Chain-reference Bible, Special Centennial Edition by Frank Charles Thompson, DD, PhD; printed by B. B. Kirkbride Bible Co, Inc., Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Copyright © 2007, 13th printing September 2007; page 1539, #3542. Using this information from the Thompson Chain Bible I have made my own chart to give a visual aid to counting quarters days. I calculate these quarter days somewhat differently than Thompson has done, but the principle is still the same. I have referred you to the Thompson Chain Bible so that you can see that I am not the only one who has discovered this form of time keeping in biblical times. In fact, this form of time keeping works well today. Practice it, I have.


Thompson is not the only one who is aware of this type of estimating quarter days. If you have a copy, refer to The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, printed by Thomas Nelson Publishers, Copyright © 1984, in the Supplements section in the very back with no numbered pages, is a section labeled The Jewish Calendar. In this section four watches of the day correspond approximately to those four parts of a day which I am teaching in this treatise.



     Biblical Terms Used To                               Biblical Time Frame

     Identify Quarter Days

     __________________                               ____________________

     3rd hour                                                   sunrise to mid-morning

     6th hour                                                   mid-morning to high noon

     9th hour                                                    high noon to mid-evening

     12th hour                                                  mid-evening to sunset

Anyone can estimate a quarter of a day if the sky is not overcast and the sun is visible. Stand with one arm stretched parallel to the ground and the other arm extended straight above your head perpendicular to the ground. Your perpendicular arm is now pointing at the sun's high noon position. Move your perpendicular arm to what seems to you to be the half-way mark between high noon and your other arm. Where is the sun? Is it between the ground and your higher arm, or between your higher arm and high noon. Depending on the quarter section of the sky in which you estimate the sun to be, then you know which quarter of a day it is: sunrise to midmorning, midmorning to noon, noon to midevening, midevening to sunset.



2. Mark 15:25 KJV, "And it was the third hour, and they crucified him." What did Mark mean by the third hour of the day? Did he mean between 8 and 9 AM, or did he mean between sunrise and mid-morning? It would be reasonable to assume that he was estimating the time of day to be in the first quarter of a day. If his estimate was real close to the end of that quarter, someone else may have estimated and said the 6th hour, meaning between mid-morning and noon.


3. Acts 2:15 KJV, "For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day." What did Peter mean by the third hour of the day? Did he count the way the scholars of today erroneously count, did he mean 9 AM? Or, did he mean from 8:00:00 to 8:59:59? By the context, would it not make more sense for him to be estimating the time by the position of the sun? If it were overcast, then his estimate would have taken into account how long he felt it had been light outside, and his own internal clock. In other words, by the 3rd hour, he was most likely estimating that it was sometime between sunrise and mid-morning - a three hour span. Was any greater accuracy needed? It seems not. Was any greater accuracy available to him? I doubt that very seriously.


4. It is worthy of mention at this point, the terms first hour, second hour, fourth hour, and fifth hour do not exist in the King James Version of the Bible. Up to this point, only the third and sixth hours are mentioned.


5. Matthew 20:5 KJV, "Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise." This is a continuation of the story told above in Matthew 20:3 about the householder who hired laborers. Rather than going out to look for more laborers at the third, sixth, and ninth hours, he apparently went out once for each of the first three-quarters of the day. Yahoshua was not dogmatic about the time of day. He said "about" for each quarter of the day.


6. Matthew 27:45 KJV, "Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour." In context, what can we deduce that Matthew was saying about the time of day? Was he saying the sixth hour was from 11 to 11:59 am? Or, was he using the quarter day reference and saying that sometime from mid-morning until noon the darkness began. And the darkness stayed until the 9th hour, which would have been the quarter day from noon to mid-evening (our modern day mid-afternoon). I always wondered why everyone estimated that He was crucified at 9 AM and it was not until noon that the darkness started for only the next 3 hours, when He released His Spirit from His body. I always wondered why God did not make the darkness start when Yahoshua was first crucified and keep the darkness going until His body died. This would make more sense to me. How do you feel about it? Furthermore, it means the crucifixion was not dogmatically six hours long. It means the crucifixion started by mid-morning or a little later and He died by mid-evening or maybe a little earlier.


7. Mark 15:33 KJV, "And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.” Our choices here are the same as in all the previous verses. Either, the 6th hour identifies 11 am to 12 pm, or it identifies sometime during the quarter day of mid-morning to noon. And the ninth hour estimates from noon until mid-evening.


8. Luke 23:44 KJV, "And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour.” Luke shows that his estimate of the time of day was less definitive than Matthew or Mark. Luke uses the word "about".


9. John 4:6 KJV, "Now Jacob's well was there. [Yahoshua] therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour." Did He sit on the well at sometime between 11 AM and 11:59, or did He sit  there somewhere between 9 am and 12 pm. Is the time of day a significant detail at all, since John said "about"? I think it is significant only in the sense that it gives us more Biblical clues about the meaning of the 3rd, 6th, 9th, and 12th hours. Let us analyze this statement of John's. If it were near noon, he would not have needed to estimate by saying about the 6th hour, he could have said about noon. Only if it were between the 3rd and 6th hour would he be more uncertain. However, if John were speaking in terms of 12 hours of daylight, 11 am would still have to be a guesstimate on his part. I doubt seriously that he was wearing a sundial wristwatch. This is the advantage, the beauty, of estimating time by quarter days. John, did not need to be accurate. He said it was about midmorning to high noon, and that is the end of the time part of this story.


10.a. John 19:14 KJV, "And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!" This verse, perhaps more than any other, proves the idea that people in times prior to more sophisticated ways of telling the hours of a day, instead, estimated times in quarter days: the 3rd hour was from sunrise to mid-morning; the 6th hour was from mid-morning to high noon; the 9th hour was from high noon to mid-evening (our current mid-afternoon); and the 12th hour was from mid-evening to sundown.


10.b. Mark 15:25 (written above) is the only place in the Scriptures that designates that the crucifixion started the 3rd hour. John 19:14 is the only place in the Scriptures that designates that the crucifixion started the 6th hour. This is not a contradiction if both men were telling time in quarter days. Mark was estimating that it was the 3rd hour (sunrise to mid-morning). John was estimating by saying about the 6th hour (mid-morning to high noon). John could have easily been saying that it was almost the 6th hour, or that the 6th hour had only just begun. Add that to Mark's observation regarding the time of day of the crucifixion and we can assume that he was estimating that it was near the end of the third hour (i.e., the first quarter of the day). Where do the 3rd hour and the 6th hour meet when telling time by quarter days? They meet at midmorning. So, John and Mark are not contradicting one another, they are complementing one another. One said the glass is half empty, the other said the glass was half full. Therefore, it was close to midmorning and in our modern concept of time that was approximately 9 AM.


11. Acts 10:9 KJV, "On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour:”. As I review these time references it continues to grow upon me that it is not logical that the men in this time in history could be so accurate in their ability to keep time that they would know that Peter began to pray about 11 am to 11:59 am. But it is logical to assume that they would be able to estimate that it was about the 6th hour, which is mid-morning to noon.


12. John 4:52 KJV, "Then enquired he of them the hour when he began to amend. And they said unto him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him." (This is the first use of a time reference other than the 3rd, 6th, 9th, and 12th hours). Was this nobleman a Roman? Could he have been using a time reference other than the sun? We do not know for sure. But we do know, that in order to verify Yahoshua's miraculous healing of the nobleman's son, a more succinct time other than a quarter day would lend greater veracity to the miracle. If this time reference was using the 12 hours of daylight rather than quarter days, then the 7th hour would have begun at 12 pm or noon. That would have been an easy call when looking at the sun.


13.a. Matthew 27:45-46 KJV, "45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. 46 And about the ninth hour [Yahoshua] cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Parallel verses are Mark 15:33-34 and Luke 23:44. We have already discussed Matthew 27:45 earlier, but now verse 46 has been added since we are taking the quarter days in numerical order. Once again, we can only make a reasonable estimate of the time references used here. From the sixth hour, mid-morning to noon, unto the ninth hour, noon to mid-evening, could be estimated to be near 9 am to near 3 pm. But the time period could have started an hour or more later than 9 am and ended an hour or more before 3 pm. Had it been high noon, I am confident that that time would have been expressed more exactly.


13.b. Modern scholars will tell us that the darkness began at noon (their mistaken estimate of the 6th hour) and ended the ninth hour (their mistaken estimate of 3 PM). How can this be? Has it never bothered you that our Lord and Savior was hanging on the tree for about three hours (according to modern scholars’ estimates) before it grew dark. Why would our Heavenly Father not begin the darkness as soon as the crucifixion started? Why wait until it is about half over? There is a simple explanation to this conundrum. In Matthew 27:45 the sixth hour meant the quarter of the day from mid-morning to noon and the ninth hour meant the quarter of the day from noon to mid-evening (our modern day mid-afternoon). Since the crucifixion was approximately from the 6th hour (2nd quarter of the day) to the 9th hour (3rd quarter of the day), then so was the time of darkness.


13.c. Scholars, here is your wake-up call. The Bible was not written with precision time markers consistently. The Bible was not written as you (the scholar) would expect one of your students in a college level class to write: Everything in perfect order and perfectly timed. No, not at all. The Holy Ghost writes according to His rules and desires, not according to the desires of men. It is you (the scholar) who must come in alignment with the Word of God, the Bible, not the other way around.


14. Acts 3:1 KJV, "Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour." If the 9th hour is the quarter day between noon and mid-evening, then when is the hour of prayer? Is it closer to noon or is it closer to mid-evening, or possibly anytime between the two? I hope to find some reference to narrow this down.


15. Acts 10:3,30 KJV, "3 He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius. 30 And Cornelius said, Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and, behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing,”. Cornelius was a centurion, so I believe it is safe to assume he was a Roman. It would seem reasonable that he would tell time in the manner of the Romans. Since I have done no research to see how Romans counted the hours of the day, I cannot draw any conclusions from these verses. However, one could speculate that as Luke wrote these verses, that he converted them to Jewish time keeping. In either event, these verses do not seem to help us.


16.a. John 1:39 KJV, "He saith unto them, Come and see. They came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day: for it was about the tenth hour." The 10th hour is obviously not a possible reference to a quarter day as the 3rd hour, the 6th hour, the 9th hour, and the 12th hour are. Therefore, we are obliged to consider that the 10th hour is referring to our modern day time of approximately 3:00 pm to 3:59 pm. If this were the time of year that in Israel there were approximately twelve hours in a day, then after the tenth hour there would only be two hours of daylight left prior to sundown. Why this distinction has been made by John is unclear. Instead of saying about the 10th hour, he could have said the 12th hour which would have been the last quarter of a day. In fact, if our assumption is true about quarter days, then the 10th hour would have been the first of three hours in the last quarter of a day.


16.b. The only other reference, thus far, to one of the approximate twelve hours of a day is the seventh hour, also written by the apostle John. The 7th hour would be right after high noon or the beginning of the 3rd quarter of a day. Now the 10th hour would be at the beginning of the 4th quarter of a day. If John was very good at estimating the time of day by the sun, it could be his preferred method of telling time. Besides, it is easier to estimate the first hour of a quarter day that it would be the 2nd hour, especially if it was just beginning rather than ending. Try it yourself, go outside and try to estimate quarter days by using the sun. It does take some practice. And of course, do not stare at the sun, it hurts and it can hurt your eyes permanently.


17.a. Matthew 20:6,9 KJV, "6 And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle? 9 And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny." We have crossed this story before in the first three quarter days. The householder went out "early in the morning" (Matthew 20:1) to hire laborers. Was this early in the morning prior to sunrise and therefore it was not yet the first quarter of a day? After all, the women in Mark 16:2 came to the tomb "very early in the morning", yet it was prior to sunrise. He went out later, "about the third hour" (Matthew 20:3). Then he went out "about the sixth and ninth hour" (Matthew 20:5). Now, in verse 6, we find that he went out again "about the eleventh hour", approximately one hour prior to sundown.


17.b. It seems to me, that we have enough evidence here to make a solid case for time being told in quarter days in the Bible.


18. There is no mention of a twelfth hour in the King James Bible.


19. We welcome constructive input supported by Scriptures from the Bible. Please contact us by using the contact icon. Copyright © 2013 Richard Douglas Mauck and/or Sandra Faye Mauck. All rights reserved. This material is copyrighted to protect the integrity of this work. Permission is hereby granted to copy this treatise in its entirety as long as no editing is done, no charge is made to those with whom it is shared, and full credit is given to the authors.

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