For most of the recorded history of humanity, the keeping of time has been less critical than it is today. Clocks, as we might recognize them, didn’t come into being until around the 16th century. Before Jost Burgi invented the minute hand in 1577, we didn’t have one. The synchronizing of clocks to a single standard in a geographical area didn’t manifest until 1878. 

We’ve gone from approximating the time by looking at the sun to counting seconds. Yet, it’s not something we might think of when we read the Bible for all of the changes in measuring time. Because of this perspective, we might perceive contradictions in the Bible. For example, when we read John’s account of Jesus’ crucifixion, we’re given this time description.

It was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about noon. “Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews (emphasis added).

John 19:14 (NIV)

Mark, however, tells us something different.

It was nine in the morning when they crucified him (emphasis added).

Mark 15:25 (NIV)

In Matthew and Luke, we aren’t given the time; instead, we’re given this description of when darkness came over the land. 

From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land (emphasis added).

Matthew 27:45 (NIV)

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon (emphasis added).

Luke 23:44 (NIV)

Depending on the translation of the Bible you’re reading, you might have the time described by the hour. This time measurement starts from sunrise, approximated at 6:00 AM. Therefore, the third hour is 9:00 AM and so on. This is different than how we think of time today. If someone said it was the third hour of the day, we’d think it was 3:00 AM. In the Bible, a day was considered 12 hours, while we think of the 24 hours in a day. 

Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light.

John 11:9 (NIV)

Another issue to consider, as we’re examining the issue regarding the time Jesus was crucified, has to do with perspective. Mark endeavors to be precise by stating it was “nine in the morning.” At the same time, John tells us, “it was about noon. While there is an apparent three-hour time difference between Mark and John’s accounts, the difference becomes less if we consider that anytime between nine and noon could be “almost noon.” 

Distance is another issue up for consideration. The distance between Jerusalem and Calvary is 2.1 km. When we consider Jesus walking to Calvary after suffering from a lack of sleep and being whipped and beaten, carrying a cross, the estimated walking time of 26 minutes from Jerusalem to Calvary is probably much longer. Perhaps it took him an hour or so to traverse that distance? Are the times mentioned before or after Jesus walked to Calvary? Given the precise nature of Mark’s account, we might consider his time before Jesus started walking and John’s after.

I believe the difference we see between accounts has more to do with how people see things differently than a contradiction of the facts. Through these same differences, we can see the veracity of the claims. Something that benefits the Gospel instead of inhibiting it.