luk 23:48



Three Hours of Darkness 






         Joseph Francis Alward  
            © Copyright 2004 



In this article I briefly address skeptics' claim that the three hours of darkness that fell over the earth upon Jesus' death could not have occurred.



Return to "A Skeptical View of Christianity and the Bible"      




When the Lukan writer described Jesus' last moments on the cross, he told of a darkness which fell upon the "earth."   


42  And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. 43   And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.  44   And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth (Greek, gen) until the ninth hour.  (Luke 23:42-44)


Some Bible skeptics insist that the "earth" in this verse must be the earth's globe, and that the author was telling his readers that the entire earth was in darkness.  Since it is impossible for the entire earth to be in darkness, even during an eclipse, the Bible must be in error, they argue.  However, a closer look at the Greek version shows that  the "earth" in the verse above does not have to be the earth's globe; it could just as easily have been translated by the English translators as "land."


The Blue Letter Bible1 shows that "earth" is translated from the Greek word "gen" (ghn), based on the root word "ge" (gh)2, which is translated by the King James translators in a variety of ways.  The list below is a summary of this usage:


Earth:     188 times

Land :       42 times

Ground:    18 times

Country:      2 times

World:            once



Here are just two examples of the translation of "gen" as "land":



And the fame hereof went abroad into all that land (gen)—Matthew 9:26.


But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land (gen)" --Luke 4:25


While one may argue that the King James Version translators used a word ("earth") that could be interpreted by hyper-skeptics as "globe," the translators could equally well have translated the word "gen" as "land."   Indeed, "land" was the translation offered by the editors of the following Bibles:


NIV (New International Version)

NASB (New American Standard Version)

ESV (English Standard Version)

ASV (American Standard Version)

YLT (Young's Literal Translation)

Darby Translation


Thus, the Lukan author might only have been describing a darkness which fell over the "land" of Jerusalem and its environs, which is something that easily could have occurred if dark clouds had occluded the sunlight.




1.  Blue Letter Bible:


2.  Strong's Number 1093.