54. From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”- which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The Earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people. (Matthew, 27: 45 and 51 to 53).
55. It is strange that such mighty works, being accomplished at the moment even when the attention of the city was fixed upon the anguish of Jesus, which was the event of the day, should not have been remarked upon. As no historian mentions it, it seems impossible that an earthquake and darkness for three hours covered the face of the Earth, in a country where the heavens are in a constant state of limpidness, should have passed unnoticed.
The duration of this obscurity is about that of the eclipse of the sun; but this kind of an eclipse is produced only with the new moon, and the death of Jesus took place during the full moon, the 14th of the month of Nissan, the Passover of the Jews.
The obscuration of the sun may have been produced also by the spots which are observed upon its surfaces. In similar cases the brilliancy of the light is sensibly affected, but never to the point of producing obscurity and darkness. To suppose an obscuration of this kind took place at this epoch would be to assign to it a perfectly natural cause. *
As to the dead having been raised from their graves, perhaps some persons have seen visions or apparitions, which is not exceptional; but, as then they knew not the cause of these phenomena, they imagined the individuals who appeared came out of their sepulchers.
The disciples of Jesus, excited by the death of their master, have, without doubt, attached some particular facts to it, attention to which would not have been drawn at any other time. To men predisposed to the marvelous, a fragment of rock being detached at this time would have given them ample cause to say the rocks were mysteriously rent.
Jesus is great by his works, but not in the fantastical pictures with only an unenlightened enthusiasm must have surrounded him.
* There are constantly on the surface of the sun fixed spots, which follow its rotational movement, and have served to determine the duration of it. But these spots sometimes increase in number, extent, and intensity, at which times a diminution in light and heat is produced. This augmentation in the number of spots appears to coincide with certain astronomical phenomena and the relative position of some planets, which occasions its periodical return. The duration of this obscuration is very variable. Sometimes it is only for two or three hours, but in 535 A.D. there was one which lasted fourteen months.