Problem: Jesus was crucified at the 3rd hour or after the 6th hour
Verses: Mark 15:25, John 19:14; Status: Minor

According to Mark, Jesus was crucified at the third hour. This is Mark 15:25:

And it was the third hour when they crucified him. (ESV)

However, according to John, Pilate handed over Jesus to be crucified at the sixth hour, meaning the crucifixion would have to be any time after that. This is John 19:14-16:

Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, "Behold your King!" They cried out, "Away with him, away with him, crucify him!" Pilate said to them, "Shall I crucify your King?" The chief priests answered, "We have no king but Caesar." So he delivered him over to them to be crucified. (ESV)

The most common solution is to say that Mark and John are simply using different ways of measuring time: the Jewish way, and the Roman way. This works fairly well as a solution. Pilate would hand Jesus over at about 6 a.m. (the sixth hour of Roman time) and Jesus would be crucified at about 9 a.m. (the third hour of Jewish time).

According to this solution, then, Mark is using Jewish time and John is using Roman time. However, this solution is not perfect. A strong literary metaphor in John's gospel is that Jesus was like a Passover lamb, being slaughtered as our sacrifice. According to the NET Bible's notes:

For John, the time was especially important. When the note concerning the hour, about noon, is connected with the day, the day of preparation for the Passover, it becomes apparent that Jesus was going to die on the cross at the very time that the Passover lambs were being slain in the temple courts.

Thus, according to the NET Bible, John's whole point in telling us it was the sixth hour was to emphasise that Jesus was a Passover lamb: a metaphor that only works in Jewish time, where the sixth hour (noon) was the time that the slaughter of the lambs started. So John must therefore be using Jewish time, just like Mark is.

But of course, one doesn't have to assign so much significance to the fact that John mentions the time.

Updated: 2008-08-03

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