How is a day reckoned in the Bible?

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By BibleAsk Team


The concept of time has fascinated humanity since ancient times, and the reckoning of a day holds particular significance in the biblical narrative. In this exploration, we examine how the day is reckoned in the Bible, drawing insights from various passages and contexts.

The Reckoning of the Day in the Bible

In Genesis 1:3-5, we read, “Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.”

The creation narrative in Genesis provides the framework for understanding the biblical concept of a day. Each day of creation is characterized by a cycle of light and darkness, with God’s creative activity spanning six consecutive “days,” each concluding with the formula “So the evening and the morning were the [ordinal number] day.” This pattern establishes the basic unit of a day as comprising both evening and morning, in contrast to modern conventions that typically begin a new day at midnight.

All through the Old and New Testaments, we find the day begins at sunset and ends at sunset. In Leviticus 23: 32, we read: “It shall be unto you a sabbath of rest, …in the ninth day of the month at even, from even unto even, shall ye celebrate your sabbath.” “Even” means “evening.” The Israelites were to celebrate the tenth of the month, and that day began on the ninth at “even.”

Now, having shown that a day begins at evening and ends at evening, let’s show that evening is introduced by the going down of the sun. In the Old Testament, Joshua 10:26, 27 says: “They were hanging upon the trees until the evening. And it came to pass, at the time of the going down of the sun, that Joshua commanded, and they took them down off the trees.” This clearly shows that evening comes at the going down of the sun.

Also, in the New Testament, Mark 1:32 says: “And at even, when the sun did set, they brought unto him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils.” Here, we see again that when the sun did set, it was even.

Another verse, found in Luke 24: 28, 29, says,”And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further. But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.” This shows that the day would be spent when evening came on at sunset.

The Transition of Time

The transition from reckoning the day from sunset to sunset to the modern convention of midnight to midnight was a gradual process that occurred over centuries, influenced by various cultural, religious, and practical factors. While pinpointing an exact date for this transition is challenging, historical evidence provides insights into the evolution of timekeeping practices.

The transition to reckoning the day from midnight to midnight can be traced back to the influence of Roman timekeeping practices. The Romans divided the day into 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness, with each hour varying in length depending on the time of year. The division of the day into equal hours regardless of the length of daylight or darkness contributed to the gradual shift towards midnight as a reference point for the start of a new day.

The widespread adoption of the Gregorian calendar, which was was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582, also contributed to the establishment of midnight as the official start of the day in Western societies.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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