by Chris Parker
The story of the longest day wherein the Lord caused the sun to stand still is recorded in Joshua 10:13 and reiterated in Habakkuk 3:11 and is discussed in my article “The Day the Sun Stood Still–Joshua’s Long Day”. Dr. Immanuel Velikovsky, in his 1950 book “WORLDS IN COLLISION, uncovered multiple worldwide sources that indicated that the event was historical; that it actually happened and was recorded in the history of peoples around the world. The fact that Velikovsky attributes the actual occurrence to a natural event rather than to a supernatural one is unimportant. The fact is that the record of the bible of this extraordinary event has been confirmed as true even by secular unbelievers.
What about the darkness that the bible tell us occurred at the crucifixion of Jesus Christ? All the accounts of the crucifixion in the gospels confirm that the unnatural darkness came upon the scene and spanned the hours between 12 noon and 3 o’clock P.M. Certain of the accounts describe the darkness as covering the “whole land”. However the Greek there could also have been interpreted as the “whole world”.
To get a bit technical, the Greek word is number G1093 and could be translated in the following ways:
1) arable land
2) the ground, the earth as a standing place
3) the main land as opposed to the sea or water
4) the earth as a whole
a) the earth as opposed to the heavens vb) the inhabited earth, the abode of men and animals
5) a country, land enclosed within fixed boundaries, a tract of land, territory, region
Whether there was darkness at noon in the middle of the day in just the “lands” around Jerusalem or over the entire world that unnatural darkness must have struck terror and wonder into the hearts of those who were engaged in the crucifixion of the Christ! Scholars both at the time and today like Velikovsky did with respect to Joshua’s longest day have tried to attribute the darkness to a natural event-namely to an eclipse. However, the Passover takes place at the wrong time of the month for a solar eclipse as we’ll discuss a bit later and at most an eclipse would last 8 or 9 minutes and not three hours. The fact that the three hours is a given as an actual event that needs to be explained by secular sources is an important confirmation of the historicity of the event.
If the darkness was indeed worldwide people experiencing it in other locations would have no clue as to why the darkness was occurring and peoples who were already in the darkness of their local time would not have noticed. The Jews and the Romans had reason to connect the dots however. These events (unnatural daytime darkness and earthquakes) even caused the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus to be frightened and to exclaim that “Surely he was the Son of God”.
The Jews on the other hand had even more reason to be afraid and to be concerned about the darkness. For almost 800 years the following prophecy of Amos had been read in the temple and in their synagogues”
“In that day,” declares the Sovereign Lord, “I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight.
I will turn your religious festivals into mourning and all your singing into weeping. I will make all of you wear sackcloth and shave your heads. I will make that time like mourning for an only son and the end of it like a bitter day. ….Amos Chapter 8 Around 750 BC
The naming of the exact time of the darkness and the reference to mourning for an only soon make it clear that the prophecy has to refer to the crucifixion of God’s son and the attendant darkness which the prophecy acknowledges will be over the whole world. The death of Christ was where the old law and its attendant religious festivals, ordinances and Holy days were “nailed to the cross”. In 70 A.D. the Jewish temple was destroyed which put an end to the sacrifices and the ability of the Jews to continue worshiping under the Mosaic Law.
We have the biblical account of the crucifixion which mentions darkness for three hours and earthquakes and other occurrences. We have the biblical prophecy of Amos which predicted those events 750-800 years before they occurred in great detail. What about historical, non biblical sources?
Around A.D. 50, Thallus wrote a history of the Eastern Mediterranean world spanning the time of the Trojan War (1200-1300 B.C.) to his own time. The history itself apparently no longer exists but certain quotations from the work appear in the writings of others. Julius Africanus a historian writing about A.D. 220 was one such scholar who apparently had access to Thallus’ history. Thallus had a reference not to the crucifixion in his historical account but to the daytime darkness that occurred at that time. Africanus is quoted quoting the prior work and refuting the notion that the cause of the darkness could have been an eclipse:
“On the whole world there pressed a most fearful darkness; and the rocks were rent by an earthquake, and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down. This darkness Thallus, in the third book of his History, calls, as appears to me without reason, an eclipse of the sun. For the Hebrews celebrate the Passover on the 14th day according to the moon, and the passion of our Savior falls on the day before the Passover; but an eclipse of the sun takes place only when the moon comes under the sun.
And it cannot happen at any other time but in the interval between the first day of the new moon and the last of the old, that is, at their junction: how then should an eclipse be supposed to happen when the moon is almost diametrically opposite the sun? Let opinion pass however; let it carry the majority with it; and let this portent of the world be deemed an eclipse of the sun, like others a portent only to the eye.
Phlegon records that, in the time of Tiberius Caesar, at full moon, there was a full eclipse of the sun from the sixth hour to the ninth–manifestly that one of which we speak. But what has an eclipse in common with an earthquake, the rending rocks, and the resurrection of the dead, and so great a perturbation throughout the universe? Surely no such event as this is recorded for a long period. (XVIII.1
“Tertullian, in his Apologeticus, tells the story of the darkness that had commenced at noon during the crucifixion; those who were unaware of the prediction, he says, “no doubt thought it an eclipse”. He suggests that the evidence is still available: “You yourselves have the account of the world-portent still in your archives.”
The early historian and theologian, Rufinus of Aquileia (between 340 and 345 – 410), in his expanded work of Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History, includes a part of the defense given to Maximinus by Lucian of Antioch, shortly before he suffered martyrdom in 312. Lucian, like Tertullian, was also convinced that an account of the darkness that accompanied the crucifixion could be found among Roman records. Ussher recorded Lucian’s corresponding statement given to Maximinus as, “Search your writings and you shall find that, in Pilate’s time, when Christ suffered, the sun was suddenly withdrawn and a darkness followed.”
The next prominent Christian historian after Eusebius, Paulus Orosius (375 – 418), wrote c. 417 that Jesus “voluntarily gave himself over to the Passion but through the impiety of the Jews, was apprehended and nailed to the cross, as a very great earthquake took place throughout the world, rocks upon mountains were split, and a great many parts of the largest cities fell by this extraordinary violence. On the same day also, at the sixth hour of the day, the Sun was entirely obscured and a loathsome night suddenly overshadowed the land, as it was said, ‘an impious age feared eternal night.’ Moreover, it was quite clear that neither the Moon nor the clouds stood in the way of the light of the Sun, so that it is reported that on that day the Moon, being fourteen days old, with the entire region of the heavens thrown in between, was farthest from the sight of the Sun, and the stars throughout the entire sky shone, then in the hours of the day or rather in that terrible night. To this, not only the authority of the Holy Gospels attest, but even some books of the Greeks.””….Wikipedia
Many ancient historians writing shortly after the time of Christ freely acknowledged his existence but professed varying ideas about who he really was. For instance one ancient historian acknowledged his existence and even that he performed many miracles. He attributed these miracles to magic powers that he supposedly acquired while visiting Egypt.
Born around 54 A.D. Cornelius Tacitus was another noted Roman historian who noted The Crucifixion of Jesus. He stated that Jesus had been crucified by Pontius Pilate, and that Rome was in darkness during the reign of Tiberius the Caesar in AD.33.”
That’s about right.