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"...and Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour." John 4:6 ASV

It was translated as "noon" in the NIV

"...Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon." John 4:6 NIV

But The Halley's Bible Handbook says that the "sixth hour" is in the afternoon (6 p.m.), because it's roman hour system

"The 'sixth hour', v. 6, is the roman time, ie, 6 p.m." Halley's Bible Handbook page 474

In "Rome in Late Antiquity: Everyday Life and Urban Change, AD 312-609", by Bertrand Lançon, page 132, We found other time definition.

What time system John used?

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NIV takes the sixth hour to be the sixth hour after sunrise; Halley takes it as the sixth after midday. Lancon says it's the sixth hour after sunset (around midnight, I suppose). Which seems the most likely? Bear in mind that there are other time references, for example Jesus died at the ninth hour, when it was still light: this is generally taken to be around 3pm. –  Andrew Leach Jan 27 at 23:19
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It seems less likely that John was using the Roman system of time. The system used by the Jews in Mt 20:1-16 is centered around the work day, i.e. sunrise. –  mojo Jan 28 at 5:20

2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

The hour of the day for Jews was calculated according to 12 hours of daylight, from sunrise to sunset.

A Jewish source explains it:

an hour in halacha is calculated by taking the total time of daylight of a particular day, from sunrise until sunset,1 and dividing it into twelve equal parts. A halachic hour is thus known as a sha'ah zemanit, or proportional hour, and varies by the season and even by the day.

For example, on a day when the sun rises at 5 a.m. and sets at 7:30 p.m., one sha'ah zemanit, or proportional hour, will be 72.5 minutes long. The third hour of the day will come to a close at 8:37:30 a.m.

A Messianic source explains it (see also in the visual that the night hours were similarly divided into watches):

A Hebrew Hour is defined as 1/12 of the time between sunset and sunrise, or 1/12 of the time between sunrise and sunset. The only Scriptural reference to there being 12 Hebrew Hours in a Hebrew Day is found in John 11:9 where יהושע the Messiah asked a famous question, "Are there not 12 hours in a day?"

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This answer is a good start. Please condense your findings in the linked site and put them here. After all, the linked site may be taken down some day and your answer may be all that's left. –  Steve Mar 15 at 14:24
    
Thank you. I edited this as per your suggestions. –  Sarah Mar 17 at 1:06
    
Thanks! I never knew this information before. –  Steve Mar 17 at 3:37
    
@Sarah I never knew that, however it explains why we (Freemasons) use high 12 and low 12. –  The Freemason Apr 10 at 17:53

Act 2:15

For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day.

Act 23:23

And he called unto him two centurions, saying, Make ready two hundred soldiers to go to Caesarea, and horsemen threescore and ten, and spearmen two hundred, at the third hour of the night;

It appears from these two passages that the third hour was reckoned differently by the two groups, the first by Peter, a Jew, and the second by a Roman. In both cases they anchored their time by the "day" or "night."

My research about the use of "hour" in the gospel of John is not really conclusive. It's possible that it was self-evident to his readers, so he did not see the need to add "day" or "night." So it "just makes sense" that the sixth hour was noon and Jesus may have been hot after walking in the desert heat, and stopped to rest.

Matthew 27:45

Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour.

Here, the darkness is given a beginning and an end. This passage only makes sense if the darkness started 6 hours after sunrise, noon, and lasted for the next 3 hours. Thus, the darkness is given a striking accompaniment to Jesus' crucifixion. It doesn't make sense to start the darkness at 6pm and note that it went to 9pm, does it? Darkness normally starts at the closing of the day. :) It seems to me that John was using the same time as Peter and Matthew: starting the count from sunrise.

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