Of the problems that trouble the student of Scripture, one of the more puzzling is the discrepancies sometimes seen in the way time is reckoned in the Scriptures. Dates do not seem to add up, time intervals do not seem to fit, and confusion is the result. Does the Bible contradict Itself when it comes to time? How can we explain these seeming “contradictions in Scripture”?
The first problem with time reckoning we will consider is that of the time that passed between certain statements of the Lord and the transfiguration. We see this time interval first in Matthew 16:28-17:1.
28. “Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”
17:1. Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves;
The same time gap is clear in Mark 9:1-2.
1. And He said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that there are some standing here who will not taste death till they see the kingdom of God present with power.”
2. Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up on a high mountain apart by themselves; and He was transfigured before them.
Both Matthew and Mark agree that the time interval between His statement about some not tasting death and His journey up the mount of transfiguration was six days. And yet, Luke 9:27-28 gives the same story a little differently.
27. But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the kingdom of God.”
28. Now it came to pass, about eight days after these sayings, that He took Peter, John, and James and went up on the mountain to pray.
Here Luke records things a little differently. He claims that the interval between Christ’s statement that they would “not taste death” and the transfiguration was “about eight days after,” whereas Matthew and Mark claimed that it was “after six days.” This seems to be a contradiction. Which was the correct interval then, six days or eight? Were Matthew and Mark in error, or was Luke?
The answer, I believe, lies in inclusive versus exclusive reckoning of time. For example, how long is the time period from Monday evening to the following Monday morning? Is it eight days, as in “Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday”? Is it seven days, as in a week later? Is it six-and-a-half days, as in 156 hours from 7:00 PM one Monday to 7:00 AM the next? Or is it six days, as in “Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday”? We can see that the answer can vary from eight days (the most inclusive reckoning) to six days (the most exclusive.) The same interval can be called either six days or eight days, depending on whether you are including parts of days as a full day, or excluding parts of days since they are not full days. To include the parts of days as if they were full days is called inclusive reckoning. To exclude the parts of days is called exclusive reckoning.
So when we consider the interval between Christ’s words that they would “not taste death” and the transfiguration, it is clear that it was six full 24-hour days, and then parts of two other days. Matthew and Mark call this “six days” using exclusive reckoning, whereas Luke calls this “about eight days,” using inclusive reckoning. He even clues us in on this by using the word “about” (which could also be translated “nearly”).
Therefore, we can clearly see that there is no contradiction here. The difference between the record of Matthew and Mark and the record in the book of Luke is the difference between exclusive and inclusive reckoning. There is no difference in fact, and the statements made in both records are true.