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A Harmony of the Gospels for Students of the Life

Ramsay The Expositor for March


For

a long time it was doubted whether the Romans ever used this method of computing time for civil days. Farrar vehemently opposes this idea. But Plutarch, Pliny, Aulus Gellius, and Macrobius expressly say that the Roman civil day was reckoned from midnight to midnight. So the question of fact may be considered as settled. The only remaining question is whether John used this mode of reckoning. Of course, the Romans had also the natural day and the natural night just as we do now. In favor of the idea that John uses the Roman way of counting the hours in the civil day, several things may be said.

_(a)_ He wrote the Gospel late in the century, probably in Asia Minor, long after the destruction of Jerusalem, when the Jewish method would not likely be preserved. Roman ideas were prevalent in Asia Minor. John evidently is not writing for the Jews primarily, since he constantly speaks of "the Jews" as outsiders. John is writing to be understood by the people, and this is the way it would be understood in Asia Minor.

_(b)_ All the passages in John, where the hour is mentioned, allow this computation. John 1:39 would be 10 A.M.; 4:6 f. would be 6 P.M., counting from noon also (as we do). This hour suits best the circumstances. In the evening the women would come to get water, Jesus would have time for his journey thither, and would be tired and hungry. In John 4:52 the hour would be 7 P.M. This hour likewise suits the

circumstances better. John 11:9, Are there not twelve hours in the day? is not against this idea, since here obviously the natural day, as opposed to night, is meant. The Romans used both methods and so do we.

_(c)_ Moreover, one passage in John (20:19), when compared with Luke 24:29, 36, makes it necessary to understand that John used the Roman method in this instance. It was toward evening, and the day had declined, according to Luke, when Jesus and the disciples drew near to Emmaus. Here he ate supper and, "rising up that very hour," the disciples returned seven miles to Jerusalem and told these things to the eleven who were together. But while they were narrating these things Jesus appeared to them. Now John, in mentioning this very appearance of Jesus (20:19), says that it "was evening on _that day_, the first day of the week," _i.e._, evening of the day when Mary Magdalene had seen the Lord. But with the Jews the evening began the day. Hence John, here at least, is _bound_ to mean the Roman day. It was the evening of the same day in the morning of which Mary had seen Jesus. This appears conclusive. John did use the Roman method here, may have done so always, almost certainly did so in 19:14. Besides, as McClellan shows, the natural meaning of John's phrase is that it was the sixth hour of the Friday (Preparation) of the Passover. But we have just seen that John in 20:19 counts according to the Roman day. Hence the sixth hour of Friday would be six o'clock in the morning.

This is the only solution that really harmonizes John and Mark. The rest make the hours agree, but the hours bring together different events. This method harmonizes the whole narrative, and seems entirely probable, if we can assume that the Romans or Greeks employed hours in this sense, a point denied by Ramsay.

Sir W. M. Ramsay (_The Expositor_ for March, 1893, and Extra Volume, Hastings D. B.) contends that Mark and John are at variance, but that it is of small moment, since the ancients had little notion about hours. He seeks to show that the martyrdom of Polycarp and Pronius, usually relied on to prove that in Asia Minor the hours were counted from midnight, took place in the afternoon, instead of the morning, the usual time. Hence the eighth and tenth hours respectively would be 2 P.M. and 4 P.M. Ramsay argues that, when hours were counted, they were always counted from sunrise. He holds that John is more accurate about hours than Mark and that hence Mark is in error. He agrees that John "stood on the Roman plane" in the use of time, but denies that the sixth hour can be our 6 A.M. But the evidence is too uncertain for such a dogmatic position.


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