There are several alleged events surrounding the crucifixion of Jesus according to the bible, and I would like to briefly examine one of them.
And that is the claim that there was an eclipse of the sun during his time on the cross.
The ‘Crucifixion Darkness’ as it has come to be known is mentioned in three of the four Canonical Gospels of the New Testament, The Gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke.
The earliest is in Mark:
33 And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “E’lo-i, E’lo-i, la’ma sabach-tha’ni?” which means, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
According to this account, there a total eclipse of the sun that lasted for three hours. This in itself is impossible as the totality of an eclipse can last up to 7 minutes and 31 seconds, although most are usually much shorter than this.
Whilst we can ascribe artistic licence to the duration of the ‘eclipse’, after all the Gospel wasn’t written until approximately 40 years after the events it describes. Three hours is simply far too long for any eclipse to last.
In addition to this, the Crucifixion was supposed to have taken place during Passover, which has always been under a full moon, whereas a total eclipse of the sun requires a new moon. So it was considered miraculous rather than of natural origin.
Other theories have been put forth to explain the phenomenon, such as volcanic dust or heavy cloud cover. But there is no conclusive evidence for either of these explanations.
Some biblical scholars avoided explanation completely. The Reformation Study Bible, for instance, simply states “This was a supernatural darkness.”
However, all of this is moot. For the simple reason that an event of this magnitude would have been very big news all over the Middle East.
And the only descriptions of it appear in the bible. Nowhere else. None of the known historical writers of the time make any mention of it at all.
Ally this to the fact that the Gospels where it does appear were all written many years after ‘the fact’ lends no credence to the claims that it ever happened at all. Especially as scholars have also noted the ways in which this episode appears to draw on earlier biblical accounts of darkness from the Book of Amos and the Book of Exodus.
In addition, it must be noted that solar eclipses have a long history of association with historical figures and the many myths surrounding the entirely natural phenomenon are well known.