Science in Christian Perspective
Thursday or Friday?
J. W. Haas, Jr.
Wenham MA 01984
From: PSCF 50 (June 1998): 79.
Biblical scholars occasionally contact the ASA office for help. A recent request involved an attempt to clear up the chronology of Holy Week. Did Christ die on Thursday or Friday? An analysis of relevant texts in the Gospel of John and the Synoptic Gospel coupled with Amos 8: 7ñ10 led to the conclusion that Christ was crucified on a Thursday. This interpretation noted that there was no conflict with the traditional observance of Good Friday, because the timeline was altered as the Amos passage was fulfilled. Our Friday today corresponds to Thursday in Jesus' day. Key for this was the supernatural cessation of the normal motion of the Sun while the earth continued its normal path. This allowed the right combination of events to provide a total eclipse at noon and ultimately have it both ways.
My concern is not with biblical exegesis but with the request that the ASA comment on the scientific aspects of the sun "standing still." The assumption seems to be that you find a verse that seems to fit the situation, link it with an abnormal physical event, then look for supporting scientific justification. This kind of request occurred more often in the early days of the ASA in an evangelical community which emphasized a more highly literal reading of Scripture.
My response was to remind the writer of the Anglican tradition, held by Robert Boyle and John Wesley, that some things in theology and nature are not meant to be known. In this case solar physics is unlikely to find a marker for this singular event. Our scholar reminded me that the purpose of the ASA is to investigate any area that relates Christian faith with science. Perhaps a restatement is in order.