On August 21, 2017, millions of Americans donned polarized glasses, and/or brought telescopes out of their attics, to watch a somewhat rare and magnificent celestial event. Specifically, according to Forbes, approximately 215 million Americans were in the right place at the right time to be able to see at least a partial solar eclipse, while another 20 million were in the path of totality of the Great American Eclipse, as it was called.
Fortunately, we know enough about eclipses and what causes them to know that this was simply the result of the dance of the Earth, the moon, and the sun around the cosmos, and not, as ancients believed, a dragon trying to devour the sun, or a portent of great evil.
As it turns out, there may be a description of an eclipse in the New Testament, and it occurs in the narrative about Jesus’ death. Further, there were eclipses in that area at that time, and scientists believe the Bible may have described an eclipse that took place when Jesus died.
The Bible says the sky turned dark
The gospels of Luke and Mark both mention darkness coming over the land when Jesus died of crucifixion. Luke 23 mentions that the darkness lasted for three hours, from noon until three in the afternoon, while Mark 15 says exactly the same thing.
According to CBS News, there were two solar eclipses visible in that part of the world, and both took place right around the time Jesus might have died. One took place in A.D. 29, the other in A.D. 33. And though the matter of the sky turning dark upon the death of the Son of God makes for some additional punch in the narrative, the sky might actually have turned dark, albeit completely naturally, right around the time Jesus died.
One problem you may have noticed about this theory is that the Bible says that the darkness lasted for hours. Eclipses last minutes, not hours, so the writer or writers of Luke and Mark were either being hyperbolic, according to Facts.com, or perhaps there was a translation error. Or, if you’re taking the Biblical narrative as fact, darkness really did cover the land for several hours, eclipse or no.
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