Bill Mounce

For an Informed Love of God

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Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Bible Contradiction: Was Cornelius's Vision 3 or 4 Days Earlier? (Acts 10:30)

“Cornelius said, ‘Four days ago at this hour, I was praying at the ninth hour in my house, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing.’” The challenge here is that it was only three days earlier that Cornelius had his vision. So is this an error?

First of all, it seems highly unlikely that Luke, a trained physician, can’t count, or that he made a silly math error that would have been caught when proofreading. There must be an explanation. And there is.

Solution 1

The answer is the different way in which people count days. When I travel, my wife Robin will talk about how many days I will be gone. If I leave on a Saturday and return on the next Friday, how many days will I be gone? I say 7 days. Robin says 5 days; she doesn’t count the days she will see me, namely Saturday and Friday.

What’s happening in Acts 10:30 is that Cornelius is counting the day he saw the vision as one day. We tend not to do that.

  Cornelius Us
Vision Day 1
Friends come to Caesarea Day 2 Day 1
Travel to Caesarea Day 3 Day 2
Meet with Cornelius Day 4 Day 3

So this is not an error but an alternate way of counting days.

Solution 2

The Greek does not actually say "four days." It says ἀπὸ τετάρτης ἡμέρας, from the fourth day. This refers to three days ago.