Sunday, 17 July 2011

The crucifiction darkness

Remember the story of the crucifiction?  This is the version from Mark's gospel.

15:33And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.
015:34And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

Some have suggested that this was a solar eclipse.  But those who have made that suggestion have neglected to check whether it fits with scientifically demonstrable facts about the behaviour of the sun and the moon.

Was there a solar eclipse that fits with the time of the crucifiction?  The short answer to that is an emphatic 'no' and we can be certain of that for a number of reasons.  We don't need to interpret the astronomical calculations and wonder whether they are accurate enough (which of course they definitely are).  We don't even need to ask whether a solar eclipse ever lasts, or could last, for a full three hours.  It can't.  Totality only ever lasts for a few minutes.  The one pictured above was in 1999 and I was there.  It lasted about 2 minutes.  (A wonderful experience, by the way!)

It is simpler than that.  We learn it from the bible. (It is not often that you hear me say something like that, is it?)

Jesus' crucifiction took place around Passover.  This feast is defined to be at the middle of the lunar month - namely at full moon.

Solar eclipses take place only at the time of the new moon.  Really!  Always!  Without fail!  If you think about it you will understand why.  At a solar eclipse, the moon passes exactly between the earth and the sun.  That means that the far side of the moon is fully illuminated by the sun, so the near side is fully dark.  That is what is meant by a new moon, even on other months when the moon is only approximately in line with the sun.

Therefore we can be sure that there was no such solar eclipse at the crucifiction - if indeed it ever happened anyway.

Incidentally, this mysterious darkness would surely have been recorded by contemporary historians, and it wasnt.  So here is a clear and obvious example of a biblical story that can be tested, and it fails the test.

I wonder what that says about the other 'facts' that you can't check.  It doesn't fill me with confidence in their accuracy.

Related posts:
Wikipedia's article on the Crucifixion Darkness and eclipse 
Not even a new myth!
Historical Jesus"


Shane said...

Absolutely. This is a very good point. Of course, maybe there was just a very dense cloud or some such (as the device intended by the author of Mark). It's pretty clear that he is making a spooky point here, and trying (as many apologists have done) to "explain" the darkness is simply gubbins. The darkness is explained because the story needs it. Simple as. No need to invoke the idea that it "really happened"...

Thanks for popping by the Answers in Genes blog btw - do build a TLUD - they're easy and keep me amused for ages :-)

Plasma Engineer said...

Link to Answers in Genes here for anyone reading this!

Bob Seidensticker said...

And you'd think that that whole thing about the dead rising and walking around (Matthew) would also be recorded by contemporary historians. Or at least by the other gospel writers!