Three Days and Three Nights in the Tomb
A concise explanation from Answering the Skeptics II
Nowhere is there as many contradictions between the
versions of the story as here. Was Jesus resurrected on
the third day or after 3 days, which is on the fourth?
Dr. Foster writes:
This can easily be explained by understanding the Jewish expression of time. The authors did not mean exactly three days or 72 hours or 4320 minutes or 259,200 seconds. The Babylon Talmud records that "The portion of a day is as the whole of it." Esther 3:16 and 5:1 confirm this, as does 1 Samuel 30:12 and 30:13. Also, the Jewish day begins around 6 PM in the evening, since Elohim created the heavens and earth on the very first day out of darkness. There are also fourteen references to Christ being raised "on the third day."
The "three days and three nights" in reference to Christ’s period in the tomb can be calculated as follows. (1) Christ was crucified on Friday. Anytime before 6 PM Friday would be considered "one day and one night" in Jewish time. (2) Friday 6 PM to Saturday 6 P.M. would be the second Jewish day. (3) Saturday 6 P.M. until Sunday 6 PM would be the third Jewish day. This is the day that Christ was raised from the dead, just as He predicted.
It is interesting to note that all of the other religious leaders are still dead in their graves, and you can still go and worship them there if you want. Christ proved his deity by raising Himself from the dead and fulfilling over 300 Old Testament prophecies. His tomb is still empty today, because He is God who became a man to die for our sins so that we can have eternal life. Jesus said, “I am He that lives, and was dead; I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of death and hell."
From Answering the Skeptics II.