HERE’S THE HEADLINE of a surprising article in my local Kansas City Star: “Was Jesus crucified during a solar eclipse? NASA shows one occurred in 33 A.D.”
I live near the zone of totality for the eclipse that’s coming on Monday. Clouds permitting, I’ll be watching it and trying to take some pictures. And when the darkness passes over, in the midst of the wonder I will feel for creation, I will probably pause for a moment and think of Jesus on the cross.
“It was about noon when everything went dark. Darkness covered the whole area for about three hours, until about 3 o’clock. Sunlight was eclipsed” (Luke 23:44-45 Casual English Bible).
The darkness of an eclipse doesn’t cover the area for three hours. In the middle of the zone of totality on Monday, the darkness won’t last three minutes. But the eclipse itself, from start to finish, will last almost exactly three hours.
Here in Kansas City, the eclipse will start just a few minutes before noon.
Solar eclipse at the Crucifixion?
Kansas City Star staff writer, Eric Adler, wrote
“Based on both the Bible and some scientific data, it might seem reasonable to think that a solar eclipse like the one millions of people will view on Aug. 21 occurred during the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.”
NASA not only charts solar eclipses yet to come, they’ve charted about 5,000 years worth of eclipses in days gone by.
It’s impossible to know if the darkness described in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke were caused by an eclipse. That’s because Bible experts haven’t figured out when Jesus died. Most scholars say it was sometime between AD 30-33, with more scholars today seeming to lean toward the AD 33 date.
As Eric Adler reported, some German researchers in 2012 suggested that Jesus could have died at Passover on April 3, in AD 33. They base that on earthquake evidence, since the Bible says there was an earthquake at the time of the crucifixion (Matthew 27:54).
NASA says there was a total solar eclipse a couple weeks earlier, on March 19. But the zone of totality apparently stayed near Antarctica.
The only total eclipse on record that would have streaked across Jerusalem during the years near the crucifixion would have been in late November of AD 29. That’s a few months before Jesus would have been crucified in AD 30—if that early date of crucifixion is right.
Theories about the darkness at the Crucifixion
Students of the Bible come up with a lot of theories about where the darkness came from during the crucifixion.
- Thick clouds of a rainstorm.
- Hovering darkness from sandstorms.
- Traveling ash from a volcanic eruption.
Passover is the problem with the theory that a solar eclipse caused the darkness. Jews celebrate Passover on a full moon, when the moon is on the far side of the earth, away from the sun. A solar eclipse occurs with a new moon, when the moon is between the earth and the sun.
It would have taken a miracle to produce a solar eclipse on Passover.
To which many Christians would say, “So what’s the problem?”
Shining son, glorious God
Is it just me, or should looking up at the eclipsing sun in all its glory remind us of the glory of God?
Moses to God:
“Please show me your glory.”
God to Moses:
“You cannot see my face, because no one can see me and live. There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes that place, I will put you in a large crack in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by…you will see my back. But my face must not be seen” (Exodus 33:20-23).
Whether or not a solar eclipse caused the darkness on the day Jesus died, I’m pretty sure that when darkness covers the land where I live on Monday afternoon, I’ll feel the awe of creation and the love of the Creator.
Yep, I’m pretty sure.