Darkness at crucifixion

Can the darkness at Christ’s crucifixion be explained scientifically or is a miracle the only explaination?

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It couldn’t have been just the usual solar eclipse caused by the moon because 3 hours on the author’s digital quartz watch is way too long, for these moon blocking the sun events last 7 and half minutes at most. Though without a watch, who knows what the author’s subjective impression of the time might have been.

Of course this doesn’t preclude other scientific explanations from some more unusual event lasting 3 hours – something else blocking out the sun. The most likely of these would be atmospheric, such as a dark cloud (possibly even volcanic or sandstorm in origin). Some of these are even likely to provide an explanation for the earthquake in the Matthew account.

Or there is the possibility of a more unusual coincidence of more than one cause for this darkness, like a solar eclipse AND a dark cloud.

God’s providential timing and placing of events and people cannot be explained scientifically, but he certainly can, has and does use preternatural use of them without breaking any natural laws (‘scientific laws’). Examples abound, even Jesus calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee.

It could also be apocalyptic language that is not a literal description of history.

See Mike Licona.


Except that Passover is close to a full moon, rather than a new moon. Dark clouds of some origin are a reasonable possibility.

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Christy, are you are claiming the crucifixion is not written as a literal event?


Checked this out and your argument is confirmed. It is difficult to see how this darkness could in any way be related to the eclipse of the sun by the moon.

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It also didn’t have to be total darkness, but a unexpected duration of severe cloud cover.

I must confess, my original question was a bit of a setup…it was intended to expose the obvious theological nativity of the usual scientific answer because a solar eclipse is an impossibility given the Passover is held when there is a full moon (solar eclipse can only happen during a new moon) and also the length of time for the darkness (3 hours)

I also am not convinced that fog could have been responsible either…that usually requires a temperature inversion…and this does at time appear as cloud during the day ( i have flown paragliders on a number of occasions in this type of “sea fog” rolling in from the ocean), however, whilst one cannot see far through it, its not dark.

clearly, the darkness cant be explained during the day by a natural event given that cloud was a known word, and even volcanic activity would have been illustrated (but neither are, however an earthquake is mentioned). I suggest one also considers the example in Egypt just prior to the exodus…darkness over Egyptian villages, but not the area of Goshen where the Israelites were.

Ultimately, the nature and cause of the darkness at the Crucifixion is always going to be a matter of speculation. There are various different explanations; some of them natural, others supernatural. The Bible does not tell us which one is correct.

I see no reason to doubt that it actually happened in some form or another though.


No. I’m saying not every detail in narrative describing a historical event should necessarily be taken as an empirical data point. People can use figurative language to describe real events and you have to interpret figurative language correctly to get at the intended meaning. First century Jews had literary conventions for the telling of history.

what natural ones might that be? We have already discounted eclipse, volcano, fog, and cloud…that only leaves smoke from forest fires which again is not something that individuals of the day could not have understood in order to illustrate.

how do you explain such literary techniques when they specifically name living individuals, ages, dates, times, otrher individuals who are alivce at the same time…these are not consistent with allegories. Sorry but the allegory idea is discredited by hundreds of scholars around the world…it simply does not pass the stink test. The language used is very specific when writers are intending to use that type of story telling…usually in prophecy btw. it is very easy to make the distinction in the written accounts especially when other biblical texts also support such interpretations that are clearly not intended to be allegories.

I’m not talking about any of those things. I’m talking about verses like “From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land.” and " At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. they came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people."

I don’t know why you are bringing up allegory. No one is talking about allegories. The verses I quoted might be decribing what happened in a straight-forward way. But they also might be an example of “apocalyptic language” that would have been understood not as stating historical facts but rather as emphasizing the spiritual importance of Jesus death by using imagery that evoked a certain feeling or certain associations, similar to the way we might use hyperpole or figures of speech to emphasize an aspect of something that actually happened.

You seem to think that people who analyze texts are trying to “explain stuff away” or “deal with what they don’t like.” That’s not what is happening. People are trying to understand intended meaning. You don’t just go around willy-nilly labeling things allegory or figurative language or apocalyptic imagery because you are stubborn and don’t want to believe the Bible. You identity those things when elements of the text are consistent with known examples of those things.


You’ve forgotten about dust storms and sandstorms, which are quite common in that part of the world at this time of year. There’s a wind called the khamsin in Arabic that blows up from the Sahara or from the Arabian desert and it often carries large amounts of dust and sand that can impair visibility.

It could have been that, or it could have been something supernatural. Or perhaps even a combination of the two.

these are a description of events that took place. there is no story in these things, they are literal biblical history and that is the point.

A dust or sand storm is another possibility. Colin Humphreys in his book The Mystery of the Last Supper proposes that as a natural explanation. Perhaps, perhaps not. It could have been a supernatural event given what was happening. Im happy to have an open mind about it.

I know Mike Licona has been criticised for such a view. But if such language was sometimes used in other ancient literature which did not refer to a literal happening, then we cant criticise the NT writers doing similar as they were of that time. What I find slightly odd is where Matthew adds, and they appeared to many people. It’s as if he’s confirming the reality of this, because others witnessed it, ie they met family members who recognised them.


I agree that is odd. I don’t have a strong opinion one way or the other because I’m not personally interested in what I consider to be defensive inerrancy oriented Bible fact checking. Maybe it’s a literary technique, maybe it really happened. I think it’s good to be open to scholarship and not write it off immediately (like people did with Licona) because it feels threatening to an existing construct. We can reevaluate our constructs, that’s healthy.

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It could be entirely metaphorical, which is totally fine for me. My faith in Christ is does not hinge on trying to bring a scientific explanation to the written narrative of an event 2000 years ago. That is just how faith works for me.

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