In the article Historical Errors in the Qur’an? I briefly touched upon the events mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew surrounding the crucifixion of the Prophet Isa(P). With regards to the crucifixion of ‘Isa(P), it is recorded in the Gospel of Matthew:
“From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land.”
With most ancient events, it is often difficult to verify whether an event actually happened or not. Thanks to modern astronomy, however, this has become relatively easy.
According to NASA, two solar eclipses occurred during the period of Isa’s ministry – on the 19th of March 33AD, and the 24th of November 29AD.
19th March 33AD
As we can see here, the only way Jerusalem could be plunged into darkness is if it were situated in the Indian Ocean!
24th November 29AD
On closer study, and by comparing this with a map of Jordan, the path of total eclipse passes through Lebanon, southern Syria and northern Jordan, but not Jerusalem. Judging by the above diagram, I would estimate that Jerusalem experienced about 98% of the total eclipse – this probably would have caused a very slight dimming of the sun and a distinct chill in the air, but no darkness.
Furthermore, in quoting Matthew 27:45, some versions of the Bible (namely The Message, The Amplified Bible, New Living Translation, Contemporary English Version, Worldwide English) specify the time of the eclipse as being from noon to 3:00 pm, with the New American Standard Bible and English Standard Version quoting these times as a footnote.
Given that the coordinates for Jerusalem are latitude 31° 48′ 00″ N, longitude 35° 12′ 00″ E, it is possible to work out from NASA’s information table for this eclipse exactly what time of day the total eclipse would have been visible, and for how long?
Times above given in what NASA refers to as ‘Universal Time’ — this is equal to GMT, as explained in NASA’s Definition of Universal Time. Jerusalem is two hours ahead of GMT. Therefore, the time at which Total Eclipse occurred in the nearest area north of Jerusalem was around five minutes to eleven in the morning, for approximately 1 minute 40 seconds.
So there is no doubt that the solar eclipse could not have happened as written in Matthew 27:45, therefore modern astronomy has proven that at least this part of the Gospel of Matthew is incorrect. And if it undisputedly incorrect, how can we Muslims accept it as the Word of God?
And only God knows best!