Possible Harmonizations Using the Greater and Lesser Hours

But let us return now to the principal difficulty, which yet remains, namely, in what way might Mark’s Third Hour be able to be reconciled with John’s Sixth reckoned according to the manner of the Jews; so that we might see whether we are able to loose the same with any probable explanation.  Eminent men have tried to bring the Evangelists into agreement by the help of the distinction between the greater and lesser hours, so that John mentions the lesser sixth hour, but Mark speaks of the greater third hour, which will not stand in opposition to John’s sixth hour.  They, of course, divide the day into four quadrants, Nehemiah 9:3, just as the night was wont to be divided into four vigils, Mark 13:35.  But they divided the day into these greater hours in diverse ways, whence they elicit the agreement of the Evangelists in more than one way.  There are those that allot to the individual greater hours three hours equally, so that the second greater hour began from the fourth less hour, and the third greater hour from the seventh lesser hour:  see ZELTNER in his Dissertatione de Horologio Cajaphæ, § 18-24.  But, when according to this manner of reckoning the Lord was crucified at the beginning of the third hour, that is, the seventh lesser hour; darkness was already upon the face of the land for an hour before the crucifixion of the Lord, which nevertheless at length followed, when He was now affixed to the cross.  And, although that division of the day into quadrants is admitted, whence shall it be proven these individual quarter parts went by the name of the first, second, third, and four hour?  In addition, how shall it be rendered plausible that Mark, who soon makes mention of the sixth and ninth lesser hours, verses 33 and 34, in the case of the third hour understands the greater hour without any additional indication?  Others, with GROTIUS on Matthew 27:45, assign the four parts of the day in accordance with the diverse, more solemn hours of prayer, which were the third, the sixth, the ninth, of which, as when the pouring out of prayer is treated, mention is made, Acts 3:1; 10:3, 9.  According to this reckoning, the first quadrant will have only two hours, but the fourth four hours.  They think that these hours, the third, the sixth, and the ninth, were announced with the sound of the trumpet, especially at the time of the greater Feasts:  and by these hours they believe all the intervening time, which came between one and the other stated hour of prayer, was denominated, since these hours were of greater note than the rest, so that something might be said to happen at the third hour, which happened between this third hour and the following sixth hour.  And so John might relate that it was about the sixth hour, when Jesus was about to be delivered to undergo the punishment of the cross, since the sixth hour was now nearer than the third.  But Mark will testify that it was the third hour, when they crucified the Lord (which was accomplished with the greatest speed), since the middle of the time between the third and sixth hour had not yet completely elapsed, although the end of the third hour and the beginning of the sixth were already at hand.  But again, with what evidence will it be evinced that it was customary among the Jews that what things happened in the intervening time between two stated hours of prayer of this sort, they referred to one or the other of these hours?  In what manner in particular would one persuade someone that Mark, when he narrates the event that happened about the sixth lesser hour, said it was the third hour, and understood the same of a quadrant of the day, which had all but passed; when afterwards in verses 33 and 34 he again expressly makes mention of the sixth and ninth lesser hours?

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