The Rejection of Pascal's Wager
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The Darkness Over the Land

According to the synoptics (but not John) there was an astronomical phenomenon coinciding with Jesus' crucifixion just before his death.

Mark 15:33 (Matthew 27:45)
And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.

Thus Mark said that there was darkness from noon until three in the afternoon. Luke tried to clarify the source of this darkness by saying that it was an eclipse of the sun:

Luke 23:44-45
And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. And the sun was darkened...

Luke's account, which clearly described a solar eclipse, is an obvious impossibility. For according to the synoptic gospels Jesus was crucified on the first day of Passover, the 15th of Nisan. The 15th of Nisan is a full moon night, that is, the moon is on the other side of the earth at the time Luke said a solar eclipse was occurring. For a solar eclipse to happen, the moon must be between the earth and the sun. Luke is here describing an astronomical impossibility-in both senses of the word! Even assuming that the chronology of the gospels was wrong, i.e. that Jesus did not die during the Passover, there are still no report of a solar eclipse in Jerusalem around the few years that Jesus could have died in. [1]

It is obvious therefore that the account of the darkening of the earth, especially the verse in Luke which directly ties it to a solar eclipse, cannot be historical. And, as usual, there were ample passages in the Old Testament that could have been the source of this account (e.g. Exodus 10:22) but perhaps the most apt is found in the book of Amos:

Amos 8:9
And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord GOD, that I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in the clear day.

The synoptics, if you remember. made the darkness start at the sixth hour (i.e. noon), just as the passage in Amos. In short, all historical and scientific considerations show this episode to be unhistorical. Everything points to its origin in Old Testament passages, not in history.

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1.Caird, Saint Luke: p253
Craveri, The Life of Jesus: p399

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