Q. I’ve noticed several commentators saying the crucifixion had to happen on Wednesday because the Lord had to be in the belly of the Earth three full days and three full nights for a total of 72 hours to fulfill the sign of the prophet Jonah. How do you reconcile that with a Thursday crucifixion?
A. I can’t find a single English translation that says “three full days and three full nights” or requires the passage of 72 hours to fulfill the intent of either Jonah 1:17, where the phrase originated, or Matt. 12:40 where Jesus repeated it. Quoting from Strong’s concordance, “Eastern usage of this term differs from our western usage. Any part of a day is counted as a whole day, hence the expression ‘three days and three nights’ does not mean literally three whole (24 hour) days”. According to this definition, a Thursday crucifixion easily meets the requirements.
Also the testimony of the two disciples Jesus encountered on the road to Emmaus confirms Sunday as the third day since the crucifixion (Luke 24:21), making Saturday the second day since, Friday the first day since, and Thursday the day of the crucifixion. Depending on whose opinion you like, Emmaus was between 4 and 7 miles from Jerusalem. Proponents of a Wednesday crucifixion would have the disciples going there on Saturday which far exceeds the distance permitted by Jewish law for a Sabbath day’s journey.