John 19:14 - “About the sixth hour”  Is there a contradiction?


John 19:14 “And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!


Matthew 27:45 - “Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour.


Mark 15:25  - “And it was the third hour, and they crucified him.” 


Mark 15:33  - “And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.”


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



Bible skeptics, atheists, Muslims and those who mock at our infallible Bible (the King James Holy Bible) often bring up what they believe in an undeniable error recorded in Scripture in John 19:14.  And now with the proliferation of numerous modern version paraphrases that often contradict each other, the skeptics have additional ammunition to show what they believe is an obvious error.


The Bible critics point out that Jesus was crucifed at the 3rd hour as recorded in Mark 15:25 ( “And it was the third hour, and they crucified him.” )and he hung on the cross for a total of 6 hours (Mark 15:33), and that darkness was over the whole land from the 6th hour till the 9th hour.  So they ask, How could Christ have been crucified at the 3rd hour in Mark 15:25 and yet be standing before Pontius Pilate at the 6th hour as recorded in John 19:14?


I believe there is a rather simple explanation if we put all the Scriptures together, and that this explanation has been missed even by the various commentators, who often disagree among themselves.


I believe the sixth hour referred to in the gospel of John is not referring to the time of day in Roman time as opposed to the Jewish time. All commentators that I consulted give the timing of the 6th hour mentioned in Matthew, Mark and Luke as being 12:00 o'clock noon.  John Gill, for instance, says: "Now from the sixth hour...Which was twelve o'clock at noon, there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour, till three o'clock in the afternoon, the time the Jews call "between the two evenings"; and which they say is from "the sixth hour, and onwards." In reference to Mark 15:25 where it says it was the 3rd hour and they crucified him, Robertson's Word Picture states: "This is Jewish time and would be nine A.M."


 With the explanation that the sixth hour in John 19:14 refers to noon would still have the problem of Mark 15: 25 where the time of His crucifixion was at 9:00 a.m. (the 3rd hour).  It appears that all 4 evangelists were using the same time references.  In John 1:39 it says: “He saith unto them, Come and see. They came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day: for it was about the tenth hour.” This would be about 4:00 p.m.  The reason they abode with Him that day was because it was late.  And the other Scripture in John 4:6 with the woman at the well where it is written: “Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour.” This was about noon in the heat of the day, as can be inferred from reading John 4:1-6.  So Jesus could not very well be standing before Pilate at noon in John 19:14 and yet have been crucified at 9:00 a.m. in Mark 15:25.  Thus the apparent problem.


I believe that when we put all the Scriptures together that tell us the events that happened from the time the Lord Jesus was first arrested in the early morning hours till the time that Pilate finally presents Him before the Jewish multitude in the open square and says: “Behold your King!” was SIX hours.


In John 19:14 the phrase “and about the sixth hour” does not refer to the time of day at all, but rather to the amount of time that had passed from the initial arrest of Jesus till the time the nation as a whole pronounced their fatal verdict of “Crucify him”.


John 19:14-16 - “And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!  But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar.  Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led him away.”


When we compare all the events from the arrest to the crucifixion in Matthew 26:30 thru 27:50; Mark 14:17 thru 15:38; Luke 22:1 thru 23:46 and John 18:1 thru 19:30 what we see is that Jesus and the apostles celebrated their Passover meal in the evening. Then they went directly to the garden of Gethsemane in the mount of Olives where Jesus prayed but the disciples fell asleep because they were so tired.  While is was yet very early in the morning (around 2:00 to 3:00 a.m.?) the multitude sent from the chief priests and elders came “with lanterns and torches” John 18:3 (still very dark).  Then He was taken to the Caiaphas to be examined, and this took a good while itself - "And about the space of one hour after another confidently affirmed, saying (regarding Peter) Of a truth this fellow also was with him: for he is a Galilaean. And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the +!#% crew." Luke 22:59 - 60 - roosters crow at the beginning of the day.   Then the Lord Jesus was  sent to Pilate who interviewed Him who then sent Him to Herod who talked to him for awhile and then Herod sent Him back to Pilate once again.  Just read the Scriptures together and we can see that all these events could easily have taken up to six hours before Pilate  presents the Lord before the multitudes who finally give out that fateful sentence of “Crucify him!”



Bible commentators are all over the board trying to explain this apparent contradiction, with some even arguing that there is a mistake in the actual text.



Adam Clarke argues for the textual corruption - The sixth hour  - Mark says, Mark 15:25, that it was the third hour.the third, is the reading of DL, fourothers, the Chron. Alex., Seuerus Antiochen., Ammonius, with others mentioned by TheophylactNonnus, who wrote in the fifth century, reads the third. As in ancient times all the numbers were written in the manuscripts not at large but in numeral letters, it was easy for  three, to be mistaken for  six. .. The major part of the best critics think that  the third, is the genuine reading.”   


What a bunch of hogwash!  Here a bible corrector tells us the texts have been corrupted and that “the major part of the best critics (THOSE THAT AGREE WITH HIM) think that “the third” is the genuine reading.”  


I think John Calvin also misses the mark with his explanation which ends up contradicting both himself and the rest of the Scriptures.  Calvin says: “About the sixth hour. The Evangelists appear to differ, and even to contradict each other, in the computation of time. The other three Evangelists say that the darkness came on about the sixth hour, while Christ was hanging on the cross, (Matthew 27:45; Mark 15:33; Luke 23:44.) Mark, too says expressly that it was the third hour when the sentence was pronounced on him, (Mark 15:25.) [My note: It does NOT say the sentence was pronounced upon Him the third hour, but rather "it was the third hour AND THEY CRUCIFIED HIM"] But this may be easily explained. It is plain enough from other passages that the day was at that time divided into four parts, as the night also contained four watches; in consequence of which, the Evangelists sometimes allot not more than four hours to each day, and extend each hour to three, and, at the same time, reckon the space of an hour, which was drawing to a close, as belonging to the next part. According to this calculation, John relates that Christ was condemned about the sixth hour, because the time of the day was drawing towards the sixth hour, or towards the second part of the day. Hence we infer that Christ was crucified at or about the sixth hour; for, as the Evangelist afterwards mentions, (John 19:20,) the place was near to the city. The darkness began between the sixth and ninth hour, and lasted till the ninth hour, at which time Christ died.”


I believe Calvin’s explanation is in error because Mark 15:25 clearly tells us “And it was the third hour, and they crucified him.” and Mark 15:33 further adds: “And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.”  Both Matthew 27:45 and Luke 23:44 confirm this same truth saying: “And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour.”


Christ hung on the cross for a total of six hours, not just the three hours as Calvin explains.


From the parable of the householder who went out to hire labourers into his vineyard as recorded in Matthew 20:1-12 it seems very clear that the first hour would be 6:00 a.m.; the third hour is 9:00 a.m., etc. all the way up to the 11th hour which was 5:00.  The work day ended at the 12th hour, or 6:00p.m.  I think it should be obvious that all 4 evangelists used the same Jewish time references.


Matthew 20:2-12 (King James Bible)


 2And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard.

 3And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace,

 4And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way.

 5Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise.

 6And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle?

 7They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.

 8So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first.

 9And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny.

 10But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny.

 11And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house,

 12Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day."



The Bible Versions

Among the Bible translations that correctly leave the Greek texts intact with no interpretation, but merely read “and about  the sixth hour” are Wycliffe, Tyndale, Coverdale, the Bishops’ bible, the Geneva Bible, the RV, ASV, NKJV, NASB, NIV, RSV, Darby, Youngs, Green, Hebrew Names Version, and the Third Millenium Bible.


However several recent modern paraphrases have come out which INTERPRET what they think it means and they end up contradicting not only the rest of Scripture but each other.  Here are some of them.


NET version completely blows it - 9:14 (Now it was the day of preparation for the Passover, about noon. Pilate said to the Jewish leaders, “Look, here is your king!”


The Greek text does not says “about NOON”, and if it did, then it would contradict Mark 15:25 where it says it was the THIRD hour (9:00 a.m.) and they crucified Him!


Amplified - Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover, and it was about the sixth hour (about twelve o'clock noon). He said to the Jews, See, [here is] your King! 


New Living Translation - It was now about noon of the day of preparation for the Passover. And Pilate said to the people,  "Here is your king!"


Easy to Read Version - It was now almost noon on Preparation day of Passover week. Pilate said to the Jews, "Here is your king!" 


The Message - “It was the preparation day for Passover. The hour was noon. Pilate said to the Jews, "Here is your king." 


NRSV - Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He said to the Jews, "Here is your King!"   The previous RSV and the subsequent ESV go back to the Greek reading of “the sixth hour”, though the ESV erroneously footnotes “That is, about noon.”


International Standard Version also gets it wrong - “Now it was the Preparation Day for the Passover, about twelve noon.  He said to the Jews, "Here is your king!"



Then we get a completely different reading from the Holman Standard.  It contradicts the other mistranslations like the NET, Message and the NRSV and says: “It was the preparation day for the Passover, and it was about six in the morning. Then he told the Jews, "Here is your king!"


Weymouth also had it wrong way back in 1913 when he came out with his Westcott-Hort text paraphrase saying: “It was the day of Preparation for the Passover, about six o'clock in the morning. Then he said to the Jews, "There is your king!"


Lamsa’s 1936 translation of the Syriac is also wrong with: “It was Friday of the passover, and it was about six o'clock; and he said to the Jews, Behold your king! 


So among these various bogus bible versions we get “about noon” from some, “about six o’clock” from another, and “about six in the morning” from others.  No wonder the Bible skeptics have a field day with this “contradiction”.


The King James Bible is right. Just read the text as it stands and ask God to open up your eyes and give you understanding.  There are no contradictions in the King James Bible simply because it IS God’s pure and preserved words of absolute truth.


Will Kinney