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Solar Eclipse during Crucifixion

StGeorge

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The three hours of darkness during the crucifixion: did the darkness cover the entire world?  Or, was it only a darkness in Israel for those three hours?

An atheist I'm talking with says that if the 3 hours of darkness covered the whole world, more pagan Greek and Roman historians would have written about it. 
 

Asteriktos

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In my opinion? I've read that no source outside the New Testament records this darkness. That leads me to believe that the Gospels were speaking symbolically of darkness in the hearts of those who realised what was going on. True, the words ("darkness over all the land") don't exactly lend themselves to this interpretation, but I think that more likely than a literal understanding. Then again, I also don't believe that God stopped "the sun from setting," as the Old Testament records, so I definitely have a skeptical viewpoint when it comes to such things...
 

88Devin12

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It's entirely possible it was a literal solar eclipse, but as Asteriktos has said, it could also be purely symbolic.

I remember as a Protestant, I wanted to read everything as being literal, even Revelation. But as Orthodox, now I see that much of the Bible is truly symbolic, however symbolism doesn't mean it's any less real than the literal.
 

Riddikulus

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As I recall, the two most oft quoted as mentioning the darkness that accompanied the Crucifixion are Thallus and Phlegon.

The 3rd-century Christian historian Sextus Julius Africanus, in a section of his work surviving in quotation by George Syncellus, stated that the chronicler Thallus had called the darkness during the crucifixion a solar eclipse.[11] Africanus objected based on the fact that a solar eclipse could not occur during Passover; the earth was between the sun and the moon during that holiday. It is unclear whether Thallus himself made any reference to the crucifixion.[12]

The church historian Eusebius of Caesarea (264 – 340), in his Chronicle, cited a statement of the 2nd-century chronicler Phlegon of Tralles that during the fourth year of the 202nd Olympiad (AD 32/33) "a great eclipse of the sun occurred at the sixth hour that excelled every other before it, turning the day into such darkness of night that the stars could be seen in heaven, and the earth moved in Bithynia, toppling many buildings in the city of Nicaea".[13] In the same passage, Eusebius cited another unnamed Greek source also recording earthquakes in the same locations and an eclipse. Eusebius argued the two records had documented events that were simultaneous with the crucifixion of Jesus. Ambraseys verified the reality of the earthquake that had rocked Nicaea and other cities throughout Bythenia.[5]


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crucifixion_darkness_and_eclipse

 

Asteriktos

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Thanks for providing that Riddikulus. I've been looking around the net for info on these fellows. There are quite a few Protestant sites which mention them in an attempt to defend the Bible. And every once in a while I found a skeptical article (like this one).
 

Riddikulus

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Asteriktos said:
Thanks for providing that Riddikulus. I've been looking around the net for info on these fellows. There are quite a few Protestant sites which mention them in an attempt to defend the Bible. And every once in a while I found a skeptical article (like this one).
Ah yes. As far as I know we don't have any of the original writings by either gentleman, so we are left with secondary claims and I agree it's always hard to know how reliable those are.
 

ozgeorge

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On May 19th 1780, a strange phenomenon occurred in New England which has come to be known as "New England's Darkest Day". Reportedly, it was so dark at 1pm, you couldn't see a sheet of white paper in front of your face. This was a localized darkness not associated with an eclipse.
 

AlexanderOfBergamo

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I can answer this with some technical approach. Sincerely, I don't think the darkness SHOULD be read as metaphorical. I guess it is both material and symbolical at the same time.
A first approach is to admit that a solar eclypse was impossible. Solar eclypses occur when the moon covers the Sun, which supposes their both alligned on the same side of the Earth. Now, Jesus died by Passover, which assumes a full moon, thus the Sun and the Moon were exactly on the two opposite sides of the Earth (as marked by Africanus in the quotation offered by Riddikulus!), and since there's no trace of a second moon large enough to cover the Sun having ever orbited the Earth neither in Jesus' times nor in our days, this theory must be rejected. It must also be added that the effect of a solar eclypse is visible only limited to a certain area of the globe. For example, it could have been full over Jerusalem, implying full darkness, but only partial in Rome, and darkness in that case wouldn't have occured. Last, but not least, solar eclipses can last only a few minutes, and God should have "stopped" both Earth and Moon in their positions to allow such a miracle: 3 hours without Earth and moon rotations would have been catastrophic not only on Jerusalem but on the planet entire (it'd be possibly torn apart by tidal effects we can't even imagine despite all those apocalyptic movies!).
To tell the truth, an eclypse is never really implied in the text, which speaks of a generic "darkness". The same effect can be seen when stormy clouds completely cover the sky as if it were night. I'm sure that those of you who live in the US are used enough to these phenomena sometimes associated with tornados. I recently (2 years ago) assisted to such a phenomenon myself which is extremely unusual in Nothern Italy: it was 8 AM in the end of August, so the sun was already shining, but in just 2-3 minutes a deep darkness prevailed, with strong winds and tornados following.
Finally, the word for "earth" is very generic in Hebrew and Aramaic, and assuming that the three synoptics were written based on the Q Source (the Aramaic Matthew spoken of by the Church Fathers) it isn't impossible to understand it to mean "the land", especially when associated with a population. It isn't difficult to imagine Matthew noticing the parallel between the reaction of the sky and that of Israel in such a sad moment of its history!

In conclusion, I wouldn't be so akin to refute a limited and yet literal understanding of the miraculous events taking place on Holy Friday. Nevertheless, we must keep in contact with reality: abandoning ourselves to theories completely contrary to reason and evidence and putting too much in the words of the Scriptures is not only an offence to God, but our intellects too!  ;)

In Christ,   Alex
 

StGeorge

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Riddikulus said:
As I recall, the two most oft quoted as mentioning the darkness that accompanied the Crucifixion are Thallus and Phlegon.

The 3rd-century Christian historian Sextus Julius Africanus, in a section of his work surviving in quotation by George Syncellus, stated that the chronicler Thallus had called the darkness during the crucifixion a solar eclipse.[11] Africanus objected based on the fact that a solar eclipse could not occur during Passover; the earth was between the sun and the moon during that holiday. It is unclear whether Thallus himself made any reference to the crucifixion.[12]

The church historian Eusebius of Caesarea (264 – 340), in his Chronicle, cited a statement of the 2nd-century chronicler Phlegon of Tralles that during the fourth year of the 202nd Olympiad (AD 32/33) "a great eclipse of the sun occurred at the sixth hour that excelled every other before it, turning the day into such darkness of night that the stars could be seen in heaven, and the earth moved in Bithynia, toppling many buildings in the city of Nicaea".[13] In the same passage, Eusebius cited another unnamed Greek source also recording earthquakes in the same locations and an eclipse. Eusebius argued the two records had documented events that were simultaneous with the crucifixion of Jesus. Ambraseys verified the reality of the earthquake that had rocked Nicaea and other cities throughout Bythenia.[5]


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crucifixion_darkness_and_eclipse
Interesting, I knew Eusebius cites Phlegon, but I did not know about the unnamed Greek source that recorded earthquakes in Bythenia. 
 
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