"Crucifixion in the darkness of the Eclipse"
from the Trés Riches Heures du Duc de Berry.
Before 1416. Musée Condé, Chantilly, France.
The three synoptic Gospels record a three hour period of darkness from 12 pm till 3 pm at which time Christ our Lord died on the cross.
Now from the sixth hour (12 pm) there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour (3 pm). And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent...Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God. (Mt 27:45-54).This miraculous darkness appears to fulfill a prophecy of Amos: "On that day, says the Lord God, I will make the sun go down at noon, and darken the earth in broad daylight" (Amos 8:9). Also, the prophet Joel foretells the miracle: "And I will work wonders in the heavens and on the earth...the sun will be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, at the coming of the day of the Lord, the great and terrible day" (Joel 3:3-4).
And when the sixth hour was come (12 pm), there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour (3 pm) (Mark 15:33).
And it was about the sixth hour (12 pm), and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour (3 pm). And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst. (Luke 23:44-45).
Eusebius of Caesarea and other early Christians attributed the phenomenon to a total solar eclipse. There is one problem with this theory. The Jewish Passover always occurs with a full moon (Lev. 23:5), and it is astronomically impossible to have a solar eclipse at such a time. Even if it were a solar eclipse, solar eclipses don't last for more than half an hour, and the crucifixion darkness lasted for three hours. Consequently, the three hours of darkness must have been something other than a natural solar eclipse.
The full moon associated with the Passover is ideal for a lunar eclipse, but this would not have blocked out the sun or brought about complete darkness. It would however fulfill Joel's prediction of "the moon turning to blood" since lunar eclipses are often red.
So what caused the three hours of darkness? I've read several articles and there aren't any good answers. It should probably be reckoned as a miracle local to Jerusalem.
As an aside, I thought the artistic representation above was a pretty nifty depiction of the three hours darkness. I don't often think of Christ hanging on the cross in complete darkness.