Darkness over the Earth

“From the sixth hour it became dark over all the earth until the ninth hour. And behold! the curtain in the Temple was split in two from the top down and the earth shook and the rocks split.”

(Matthew 27:45,51)

“And it was the sixth hour when it became dark over the whole earth until the ninth hour. And the curtain of the Temple was split in two from the top down.”

(Mark 15:33,38)

“And it was about the sixth hour and it became dark over the whole earth until the ninth hour — the sun’s light failed. Also, the curtain in the Temple was split in two.”

(Luke 23:44-45)

We have already discussed the harmonization of the hours between the synoptics and the Gospel of John (see Mark 15:25), so we won’t rehearse it again here. We will simply say that harmonization is not as difficult as some skeptics might like to make it sound. We also won’t belabor the question as to the nature of the darkness of which is spoken. Some have tried to speak of an eclipse of the sun, but that does not do justice to the text. It must be strongly asserted that the text portrays this as a divine and supernatural blocking of the sun’s light that takes place across the whole earth, not just a regional eclipse.

Natural explanations just cannot be made to fit. Even at the height of an eclipse, there is a halo that surrounds the moon as it blocks the suns rays and, it is a slow darkening. The suggestion that this darkening, where for three hours the people were left in utter darkness is just one more illustration of C.S. Lewis’ “Chronological Snobbery.” In other words, it is built on the assumption that the ancients did not understand what an eclipse was and that the New Testament writers, out of that same ignorance, attributed it to Jesus’ presence on the cross. But, that is rubbish. The ancients were familiar with eclipses and had documented many eclipses in the history of their empire quite thoroughly. From the days of Thales (624-546 BC) the Greeks and later the Romans not only had been studying solar eclipses, but they were predicting them with a fair degree of accuracy. No, this was an act of divine interposition given as a sign of the darkness of man’s heart and as a foretaste of the outer darkness reserved for those who are condemned under the wrath of God for their sins.

And, if one can accept that this was a divine act, to accept that it was a divine act that covered the globe is a simple, next step. Just like in the days of Noah, the globe was immersed. In Noah’s day it was with water. In this day it was with darkness. For the God who spoke the universe into being it is no more difficult to envelop the world in darkness than it is to do so with a region, so why not read the text at face value?

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