How long is an hour in the Bible?

Answered by Tom Adger

In the Bible, the concept of time is often represented by the word “hour.” However, it is important to note that the length of an hour in biblical times was not standardized like it is today. The measurement of time varied greatly depending on the culture and the context.

In some instances, the word “hour” in the New Testament can refer to an instant or a very short period of time. For example, in John 4:52, a man tells Jesus that his son was healed “at the seventh hour” and in the same verse, it is mentioned that the fever left the boy. This suggests that the healing was instantaneous, happening at a specific moment.

On the other hand, there are instances where the term “hour” refers to a longer period of time. In Matthew 20:3, Jesus tells a parable about workers in a vineyard who were hired at different hours of the day. The term “hour” here likely refers to a period of time, possibly a few hours, as the parable focuses on different shifts of work throughout the day.

There are also instances where the term “hour” is used more symbolically or metaphorically, indicating a specific season or time of significance. In John 4:23, Jesus speaks about true worshipers who will worship the Father “in spirit and truth” because “the hour is coming, and is now here when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.” Here, the “hour” represents a time of spiritual awakening or revelation.

In other cases, the term “hour” can refer to a specific duration of time, such as three hours. In Mark 15:25, it is mentioned that Jesus was crucified at the third hour, and in Acts 10:3, Cornelius has a vision from God at the ninth hour. These examples indicate a more specific measurement of time, possibly corresponding to a period of three hours.

It is worth noting that the concept of time in biblical times was often less precise and rigid compared to our modern understanding. The focus was more on events and their significance rather than precise measurements of time. Additionally, the length of an hour may have varied depending on factors such as daylight hours or cultural practices.

The length of an hour in the Bible varies greatly depending on the context and the specific passage. It can refer to an instant, a short period of time, a few hours, or even symbolize a significant season or event. Understanding the intended meaning requires careful consideration of the surrounding verses and the cultural context in which the text was written.