The darkness which suddenly occurred during the time of Jesus Crucifixion in the Gospel of Matthew, is confirmed by secular sources. It is interesting that those who claim that the narrative of Jesus death and resurrection in the New Testament is a fabrication and myth–ignore the Historical records of these events. How is it that a myth could be confirmed by non-interested and hostile parties? Roman historians record a supernatural event of unknown origin–precisely occurring at noon on the day Jesus was crucified and lasting until 3 pm the same day–precisely as the New Testament Gospels describe.
“Search your writings and you shall find that in Pilates time, when Christ suffered, the sun was suddenly withdrawn and darkness followed”. –Rufinus, Greek Historian
“Now from the sixth hour (Noon) until the ninth hour (3 Pm) there was darkness over all the land. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” –Matthew 27:45-46
The subject of darkness is an enduring principle of the Bible which is always used to illustrate sin, evil, foolishness, blindness, and the power of satan.
Darkness used as prior judgement of the Earth: Genesis 1:2 The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
Darkness used as judgment of the Egyptians: Exodus 10:22 So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days.
Darkness as evil: Job 30:26 But when I looked for good, evil came to me; And when I waited for light, then came darkness.
Darkness used as foolishness: Ecclesiastes 2:14 The wise man’s eyes are in his head, But the fool walks in darkness.
Darkness as spiritual blindness: Isaiah 9:2 The people who walked in darkness Have seen a great light.
Darkness as sin: John 3:19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
Darkness as the power of satan: Acts 26:18 to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God.
In this context, Light is understood as: righteousness, goodness, the ability to see spiritual truth, wisdom, and the presence and work of God.
Isaiah’s prophecy is that through the Messiah, God will be bringing “Light” to the world. When we arrive at the Book of John in the New Testament, this Apostle of Jesus describes light in terms of the spiritual truth that Jesus has announced to the world: Jesus, as the Messiah, is God’s remedy for sin, and the only way to the Father.
John 1:1-5 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
John 1:9 That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.
John 3:19-21 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.
John 8:12 Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”
Jesus as the Light of the world:
There are two things that happens to a person who comes in contact with Jesus as “light”: They either flee from Him or they are attracted to Him. In both cases, sin is exposed by the light of Jesus’ truth. He came into the world not to condemn the sinner—but to save. Either a person admits that he is a sinner, as the light exposes his darkness; or he denies this truth, remains in his darkness, and is lost.
Thus, we have the contrast of light and darkness highlighted in Isaiah by this 278th prophecy.
While Jesus was in the world, those who heard Him and observed the things that He did were either drawn to Him, or repelled by Him. Through all the ages, Jesus has had a polarizing effect upon every person. People either love Him, or they hate Him. They are attracted to the light of what He said—or the light causes them anger, shame, or fear—and they flee.
As people hear the words of Jesus, they either turn to Him in repentance, or they turn from Him in rejection.
Luke 13:5 (Jesus speaking) “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”
John 6:66 From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.
Those who seek to remain neutral, show by their indecision that their true heart is one of rejection. This is observed by the words that Jesus spoke. He said that to make no decision, either for Him or against Him, is the same as rejecting Him.
Matthew 12:30 He who is not with Me is against Me…
This is the effect that Jesus has on all people: He causes us to make a decision about our sin. We are either compelled to repent or deny, come to Jesus for salvation or flee from Him, so that we can live as we choose. The excuses that people make today for why they can or cannot come to Jesus—all rest on this one basic truth: People love the light, or they hate it.
Those who hate the light turn quickly and return to the life that they love—a life governed by their own will, directed by the desires of their heart, dictated by what is right in their own eyes. None of the excuses that people give for rejecting Jesus are genuine. The reality is that people simply do not want to give up their sins and come to Jesus for the salvation that He offers.
As a vivid illustration of this point, Isaiah’s prophecy describes the light of the Messiah and the darkness of sin. At the coming of Jesus, when He was led to the hills of Calvary and crucified, the testimony of the gospels is that—at the sixth hour, darkness fell over the entire area, until the ninth hour.
Matthew 27:45-46 Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land.
Similar prophecies speak of the same event:
Prophecy 220: Upon the Crucifixion of the Messiah, all of the earth will grow dark at midday.
Isaiah 50:3 “I clothe the heavens with blackness, And I make sackcloth their covering.”
Prophecy 317: The darkness that will cover the earth during the crucifixion of the Messiah will stand as testimony that the last days have begun.
Joel 2:28-32 “And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: Blood and fire and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD.”
Prophecy 327: When the Messiah is crucified, the sun will darken at noon.
Amos 8:9 “And it shall come to pass in that day,” says the Lord GOD, “That I will make the sun go down at noon, And I will darken the earth in broad daylight…”
In verse 10 of Amos Chapter 8, a further hint of the application of Amos 8:9 to the day that Jesus was crucified:
Amos 8:10 I will make it (darkness on that day) like mourning for an only son, And its end like a bitter day.
We have the sun going down at noon (verse 9), and Mourning for an only son (verse 10), from the prophecy of Amos.
As the Light of the world is put to death—when all of the sins of the world are placed on Him—darkness covers the land, signifying the attempt sin, and death, to smother and eradicate the light. For three days, the world remained in spiritual darkness and utter hopelessness, until the third day—when Jesus burst forth from the darkness, defeating sin and death. At that moment and forevermore, “Light” has reigned victoriously, having defeated all the forces of darkness once and for all.
The darkness over the land had a second purpose:
As the Son of God was made sin, His eternal fellowship with the Father was broken. All of the sins of the world were placed upon Jesus while He hung on the cross. In that hour, God could no longer have communion with His Son, as He was made sin for us. In a vivid illustration of this moment, God covers the land with darkness. Perhaps, He was speaking of the sadness, the mourning, and anger, that was experienced by God during that time.
This moment while Jesus was on the cross was certainly not pleasant for the the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, who had enjoyed unbroken fellowship forever. Although it certainly pleased the Father for His Son to redeem the world, this was also a time when the full wrath of God was poured out on His Son, who bore those sins.
The eye witness testimony of those who were present at the crucifixion of Jesus, is that from the sixth hour (12 noon), until the ninth hour (3 p.m.), darkness covered all of the land. The significance of this darkness appears to be for the purpose of demonstrating how the sins of the world being placed upon Jesus was reflected in the world who had largely rejected Him.
What was the darkness that covered the earth?
There are many extra-biblical sources outside of the Bible that describe a period of darkness over the earth during the time that the gospels detail Jesus’ crucifixion. One early church historian from the third century was Sextus Julias Africanus. In his writing, he describes a chronicle of Thallus who stated that during the time of Jesus’ crucifixion, many people who were present believed that a “solar eclipse” had occurred.
During the reign of Tiberius Caesar, a second century record from Phlegon of Tralles describes a complete solar eclipse that happened during the time of the full moon, exactly as the gospels record: “from the sixth to the ninth hour.”
In a commentary by Tertullian in his “Apologeticus,” he writes that there were many who were in attendance at the crucifixion of Jesus who did not know of the prophecies of Amos and Isaiah of darkness that would occur. They believed that the darkness was an eclipse. Tertullian wrote that the evidence for this was still available in the archives of Roman history.
This claim by Tertullian is an extraordinary secular confirmation, that the record of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, existed in the records of Rome as early as the first century.
One of the first historians of this period, Rufinus of Aquileia, as a part of the work he completed on Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History, contains a section that describes a defense given to Maximus by Lucian of Antioch before his death by martyrdom in 312 A.D. This Roman writer was quite certain that the darkness described by the gospels that is said to have happened at the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth was a part of the historical record of the Roman archives.
“Search your writings and you shall find that in Pilates time, when Christ suffered, the sun was suddenly withdrawn and darkness followed”.
This statement, by a Roman historian, not only confirms the New Testament account that darkness occurred at Jesus’ crucifixion but also serves as proof that documents, other than the Bible, exist in the records of antiquity, which describe the crucifixion of a man called “The Christ.”
Christian historian Paulus Orosius (375 – 418) wrote:
“Jesus voluntarily gave himself over to the Passion but through the impiety of the Jews, was apprehended and nailed to the cross, as a very great earthquake took place throughout the world, rocks upon mountains were split, and a great many parts of the largest cities fell by this extraordinary violence. On the same day also, at the sixth hour of the day, the Sun was entirely obscured and a loathsome night suddenly overshadowed the land, as it was said, ‘an impious age feared eternal night.’ Moreover, it was quite clear that neither the Moon nor the clouds stood in the way of the light of the Sun, so that it is reported that on that day the Moon, being fourteen days old, with the entire region of the heavens thrown in between, was farthest from the sight of the Sun, and the stars throughout the entire sky shone, then in the hours of the day or rather in that terrible night. To this, not only the authority of the Holy Gospels attest, but even some books of the Greeks.”
A substantial record from the Greek historian, Phlegon, who described the three hours of darkness over Jerusalem during the time of Tiberius Caesar, when Jesus was crucified:
“This eclipse was visible from Jerusalem at moonrise…. first visible from Jerusalem at about 6:20pm (the start of the Jewish Sabbath and also the start of Passover day in A.D. 33) with about 20% of its disc in the umbra of the earth’s shadow …. The eclipse finished some thirty minutes later at 6:50pm.”
Julius Africanus records that according to Roman historian Thallus, the darkness could not have been caused by a solar eclipse. The feast of Passover is always observed on the 14th day of Nissan, during a full moon. An eclipse can only occur when the moon is new and under the Sun. It is scientifically impossible for a total eclipse of the sun to occur concurrent with a full moon.
Tertullian, an early Christian church defender of the faith, described the darkness surrounding the crucifixion as occurring exactly at the time of day that Jesus was upon the cross.
“In the same hour (as the crucifixion), too, the light of day was withdrawn, when the sun at the very time was in his meridian blaze. Those who were no aware that this had been predicted about Christ, no doubt thought it an eclipse. You yourselves have an account of the world portent still in your archives (Phlegon’s account).”
When the prophet Joel penned his famous prophetic verse in chapter 2, we were all surprised to read in the New Testament that Peter had declared this prophecy was being fulfilled as he spoke.
Joel’s Prophecy Joel 2:28-29 “And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions. 29 And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.
Peter’s Declaration of Fulfillment Acts 2:14-21 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words. 15 For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:17 ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days,’ says God, ‘That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh;Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams. 18 And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy. 19 I will show wonders in heaven above And signs in the earth beneath: Blood and fire and vapor of smoke. 20 The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD. 21 And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved.’ ”
Peter not only attributed Joel Chapter 2, verses 28 and 29 to the birth of the church, he also ascribed the rest of Joel’s prophecy to the events that were taking place, in Acts Chapter 2.
Joel 2:30-31 “And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: Blood and fire and pillars of smoke. 31 The sun shall be turned into darkness And the moon into blood…”
Unlike many of Peter’s declarations that were directed by his flesh, the words that he spoke here, in Acts Chapter 2, were clearly directed by the Holy Spirit, as he made these observations after the Holy Spirit was given on Pentecost. Peter was certain that the darkness which covered Jerusalem, at the precise moment that Jesus was being crucified, and the subsequent “blood moon” that occurred that evening, were “signs” that Joel’s prophecy of the last days was fulfilled.
Colin J. Humphreys and W. G. Waddington were able to reconstruct the events that took place during the darkness which occurred while Jesus was being crucified. By their calculations, a “Blood Moon” occurred from about 6:20 p.m. to 6:50 p.m., at the start of the Jewish Passover. This would confirm both parts of Joel’s prophecy, that Peter declared, as being fulfilled the day Jesus was crucified.
“The sun shall be turned into darkness And the moon into blood…” As the darkness passes and the sins of all people for all time are fully paid for by Jesus’ death, the promise of His resurrection will arrive in three days.
On that morning of the third day, when the disciples and Mary arrive at the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, they find that the burial cloth that was wrapped around Jesus is empty, and the Lord’s body is no longer there.
As the day dawns and the resurrection is confirmed, the incredible news of man’s first day of freedom and forgiveness of sins—becomes reality. Light saturates the earth with God’s glory, as Jesus has triumphed over all darkness. For in the death and resurrection of the Messiah, as God had promised, all people who have been born on the earth have the opportunity to have all their sins removed and obtain eternal life.
NOTES:￼  George Syncellus, Chronography 391  Chronicle, Olympiad 202, trans. Carrier (1999)  Tertullian, Apologeticus, Chapter 21, 19 cited in Bouw, G. D. (1998, Spring). The darkness during the crucifixion. The Biblical Astronomer, 8(84). Retrieved November 30, 2006 from . Tertullian, Apologeticus, Chapter 21, 19  Rufinus, Ecclesiastical History, Book 9, Chapter 6 Ussher, J., & Pierce, L. (Trans.)(2007). Annals of the World [p. 822]. Green Forest, AR: New Leaf Publishing Group. ISBN 0-89051-510-7  Orosius, P. (A.D. 417). The Seven Books of History Against the Pagans. In, R. J. Deferrari (Trans.) & H. Dressler, et al. (Vol. Eds.) (1964). The Fathers of the Church – Vol. 50 (1st short-run printing 2001, pp. 291-292). Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press. ISBN 978-0-8132-1310-1.  Origen. “Contra Celsum (Against Celsus), Book 2, XXXIII”  Ibid, Origen.  Donaldson, Coxe (1888). The ante-Nicene fathers. 6. New York: The Christian Literature Publishing Co.. p. 136.  Tertullian. “Apologeticum”  1.Colin J. Humphreys and W. G. Waddington, The Date of the Crucifixion Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation 37 (March 1985) 2.Colin Humphreys, The Mystery of the Last Supper Cambridge University Press 2011 ISBN 978-0-521-73200-0, p. 193 (However note that Humphreys places the Last Supper on a Wednesday)
Colin J. HumphreysDarkness at NoonDarkness at Noon