Roman versus Jewish Reckoning of Hours in the Gospel of John: An Exegetical Misconception That Refuses To Die


The article deals with an exegetical misunderstanding revolving around the purported existence of two different ways of reckoning the hours of the day in antiquity, and consequently in the Gospels: an alleged Roman mode (in John’s Gospel) and the Jewish one (in the Synoptics). Among Johannine scholars a disagreement exists over the issue of which system was embraced by the Evangelist. While the majority claim that John followed the known Jewish system of reckoning hours, a minority argue that another, distinctively Roman system was being employed in the FG. In its first part, the article reviews extrabiblical ancient literature to demonstrate that, while the Romans in fact had two systems of marking the beginning of the day (dies civilis, legitimus – starting at midnight, and dies naturalis, verus – starting at sunrise), the manner of reckoning the hours of the day (and the night) was precisely the same for the Romans as for the Jews. In the second part, both systems are applied to four specific Johannine references to the hours of the day (1:39; 4:6; 4:52; and 19:14) in order to assess which method of reckoning the hours better suits the literary context of each narrative. While this internal analysis of the Johannine text is inconclusive, our assessment of the external, extrabiblical evidence points to the conclusion that the ancients, including John the Evangelist, used only one, nearly universal manner of reckoning the hours, i.e. beginning from sunrise.

Słowa kluczowe

the Gospel of John; hour; day; time reckoning; John 1:39; John 4:6; John 4:52; John 19:14

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Opublikowane : 2021-03-30

Kubiś, A. (2021). Roman versus Jewish Reckoning of Hours in the Gospel of John: An Exegetical Misconception That Refuses To Die. The Biblical Annals.

Adam Kubiś
The John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin  Polska

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