Zeltner’s Inadequate Understanding of John’s Sixth Hour

ZELTNER, in his Dissertatione de Horologio Pilati, commends yet another opinion, according to which John the Evangelist is here to be thought to have reckoned the hours according to the manner of the Romans, whose natural day, indeed, was not differing from that of the Jews, but who were beginning their Civil Day from the middle of the night, which is also our custom:  John will here mention the Sixth Hour of that Civil Day, about which Hour the sun was rising with the night of the feast of Passover finished, and so will indicate that in the very earliest morning Pilate sat ἐπὶ τοῦ βήματος, upon the judgment seat, being about to pronounce judicial sentence.  While Mark will make mention of the common third hour of the Jews, with the beginning reckoned from the rising of the sun.  On behalf of this opinion WOLF, with those more ancient passed over, cites also EDZARDI[1] in his notes on chapter I of Berachoth.  And VRIEMOET, Thesibus selectarum controversiarum Antiquitatum Israeliticarum, CXXXVII, indicates that he also inclines unto the same, writing:  “The ἐναντιοφάνεια, apparent contradiction, between the passages in Mark 15:25 and John 19:14 is thus tidily removed, that the third hour when Christ was Crucified is according to the computation of the Jewish hours; but the sixth hour, when He was led forth from Pilate, is according to the Roman computation in the hall of the Procurator.”  This opinion is not without its reasons, with which its patrons attempt to support it.  The suppose that it is beyond question that Pilate, although living in the province, reckoned the time according to the Roman manner:  especially in an investigation of a criminal case, an account of which he was bound to render to Cæsar, which, with the moments of time to much more carefully noted, he was able to do.  Now, they believe that John in this passage followed this Roman method of computing the time, because he was present for these judicial acts, and perhaps noticed the hour of time now passing on the sundial, which was in the judgment or reception hall of Pilate.  So much the more, because the Evangelist was narrating the examination undertaken and the sentence brought by the Roman Prætor:  while John himself, while writing his Gospel, was also living among the Gentiles, and wrote his Gospel especially out of regard for them.  And they maintain that thus John also spoke according to the custom of the Romans, John 20:19, οὔσης οὖν ὀψίας, τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ἐκείνῃ τῇ μιᾷ τῶν σαββάτων, it being then evening, on that day, the first day of the Sabbaths:  since that evening after the setting of the sun according to the Jews pertains to the second day of the week, not the first.  Certainly we do not deny the truth of some of the reasons, which we just now brought forth:  yet we do deny that they by legitimate consequence prove that which is here to be demonstrated.  Again, other things are assumed upon too slight a foundation.  And when in other passages of the Gospel of John, where he mentioned the tenth, sixth, and seventh hour, and the twelve hours of the day, John 1:39; 4:6, 52, 53; 11:9, no one thinks of the Roman manner of reckoning; we do not see for what reason we might be bound to admit that Roman manner in this one passage.  Neither do we think that Interpreters would have yielded to this opinion, unless they had been persuaded that John is able to be brought into agreement with Mark in no other way.  But when we attend diligently to the circumstances of the history of the Lord’s Passion, it appears to us altogether impossible that only the sixth hour of the morning was then reckoned according to the reckoning of the Romans and our method of counting.  I ask that you weigh carefully how many hours and how much of the morning of this day had already passed with the Lord Jesus.  It was already undoubtedly beyond μεσονύκτιον/midnight, since in the first place the Jewish Senate, congregated in the hall of Caiaphas, was dismissed.  Then those Elders gave some space of time to rest.  The Sanhedrin is gathered a second time, when the daylight had arrived, Matthew 27:1, Πρωΐας—γενομένης, when morning was come; Mark 15:1, εὐθέως ἐπὶ τὸ πρωῒ, straightway in the morning; Luke 22:66, ὡς ἐγένετο ἡμέρα, as soon as it was day.  (Now, the Jews were at that time in that season of the year that answers roughly to the beginning of our April.)  In this second assembly, the members of the Sanhedrin again call the Lord Jesus to examination; they condemn Him a second time.  Then they solemnly conduct Him toward the judgment hall of Pilate, which according to the topographical layout of the city of Jerusalem was not situated in close proximity to the hall of Caiaphas.  When they had arrived there, Pilate first goes out to the Jews, to ask what heads of accusation they might produce against the Lord Jesus.  He returns into the Judgment Hall, to examine the captive Jesus.  With this business accomplished, he pronounces Jesus guiltless.  And, when the Jews press hard, crying out against this captive, he sends them with bound Jesus to Herod, whose house was again at a distance from the judgment hall of Pilate.  Here Herod questions Jesus ἐν λόγοις ἱκανοῖς, in many words; the ἀρχιερεῖς, chief priests, and Scribes accuse Him εὐτόνως/vehemently; Herod σὺν τοῖς στρατεύμασιν αὐτοῦ, with his men-of-war, mock the Lord of glory in most unbecoming ways.[2]  When Jesus was returned to Pilate, the Prætor couples Him with Barabbas, and leaves it to the decision of the people which of these two they might desire to be released to them.  Then Pilate makes arrangements for Him to be flogged; he allows the flogged to be treated as a laughingstock by the soldiers:  with which accomplished He is again set before the Jews by the Prætor, if perchance he might be able to move them to compassion with the Lord innocent and having already been the recipient of such frightful measures.  Pilate again calls Jesus within the judgment hall for an examination concerning the crime of blasphemy charged against Him; afterwards Pilate goes out alone, if by any means he might set Jesus free, in whom after all those things and repeated examinations he was discerning no crime worthy of death.  And with all these things accomplished Pilate now leads Jesus out to the people, and sits down in the judgment seat.[3]  But who is able with any appearance of truth to imagine that all these things were able to be accomplished within the juncture of time when the day had begun to dawn and within the sixth hour of the morning?  To us this appears to be altogether ἀδύνατον/ impossible.  Wherefore, no less here than elsewhere, we believe that the Jewish manner of reckoning has been observed by our Evangelist, who have twelve hours in their day, which they begin to count from the rising of the sun; which then were longer in the summer and shorter in the winter:  but in the time of the Feast of Passover, which happened around the Vernal Equinox, their hours were almost equivalent to ours; so that the sixth hour of the Jews was our eleventh or twelfth hour about midday.  That the day had already hastened to this point is not at all able to seem strange, if we attentively consider all that had been transacted on this morning.  Neither are we moved from this opinion by the example that we heard advanced above out of John 20:19, as if John had also followed there, not the Jewish, but the Roman manner of reckoning.  Indeed, LOMEIERUS in his Dierum Genialium Decade prima Dissertatione quinta, page 220, responds, “John, when he narrates that Jesus appeared to His disciples οὔσης—ὀψίας, τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ἐκείνῃ τῇ μιᾷ τῶν σαββάτων, καὶ τῶν θυρῶν κεκλεισμένων, at evening, on that first day of the week, when the doors were shut, indicates part of the natural day, and its last part; without respect to the civil day, which the Jews were counting from evening to evening, the Romans from midnight to midnight.”  In addition, Interpreters are indeed produced that expound the ὀψίαν/evening of John of the very late Evening and in the first part of the night; because Cleopas with his companion, when they were drawing near to Emmaus, say to Jesus, Μεῖνον μεθ᾽ ἡμῶν, ὅτι πρὸς ἑσπέραν ἐστί, καὶ κέκλικεν ἡ ἡμέρα, abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.  When, with Jesus agreeing, they then reclined at table in Emmaus, and from there they returned to Jerusalem, where they related to the Apostles congregated together those things that had happened to them, before the Lord appeared to that assembly:  now, Jerusalem and Emmaus were more than two hours distant from each other.  But it is not necessary for us to defer this appearance of the Lord unto such a late hour of the evening.  Jesus was even able to appear to the Apostles according to the Jewish manner of reckoning the civil Day, before the first Day had expired.  The Jews expressly made mention of two evenings, the evening of the day and the evening of the night; and the former evening they now begin to reckon from the half hour after noon, when the sun begins to go down:  they were especially beginning the evening from the time of the evening sacrifice, at the third hour of the afternoon according to our reckoning.  But it is even more likely that the disciples, directing their steps toward Emmaus, so that they might all the more easily persuade the Lord to turn aside with them, spoke in a certain measure, if not hyperbolically, at least κατ᾽ αὔξησιν, for amplification, by saying that night approaches and the day has declined; so that perhaps they reached Emmaus not much after the second hour:  and doubtlessly their fervid desire to share with the Apostles this unexpected happening and their joy hastened their journey in returning to Jerusalem.  In which manner it is easily conceived that both the disciples of Emmaus and the Lord Himself were able to present at the assembly of the Apostles at Jerusalem even before the setting of the sun on the first day of the week:  consult LAMPE on John 20:19, and what things I have noted on MARCKIUS’ Compendio Theologiæ, chapter XXIX, §24, in note i. l.

[1] Georg Elieser Edzardi (1661-1727) was a German Hebraist.  He taught Greek and Oriental languages at Hamburg.

[2] Luke 23:7-11.

[3] John 19:13.

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