The hour and minute hands on the Bible Clock use the same positions at the same time of day as the hour and minute hands on a regular clock. To set the time, simply turn the time setting knob located on the back of each clock until the hour and minute hands are in the same position as they would be to tell the current time as on a regular clock.
Mechanical clocks have been widely available for a little over 100 years. The needs of railroad industry employees for portable, accurate, time keeping led to the development of hand held pocket watches which eventually lead to the widespread use of clocks in society at large.
The design of modern clocks follows a convention where the calendar day begins and ends at midnight. North American convention is 2 sweeps of the hour hand around a 12 hour clock face making up a whole calendar day. European and military conventions divide the standard clock face into 24 hours, with one complete sweep of the hour hand on the face making up a single calendar day.
The North American, 12 hour, clock face is closer to the Biblical model and provides the mechanism adopted as the basis for the Bible Clock, though we do make 24 hour Bible clocks.
The key difference between a conventional modern clock and a Bible Clock is the time of day when the day begins.
Biblically, the calendar day begins at sunset. This is nominally 6 hours earlier than the start of modern days. Sunset is also when the Bible Clock begins counting hours. 12 hours (counted as 4 watches) make up the “night” while another 12 hours make up the “day.”
Most of the Biblical night time references are a given as “night watches.” The highest numbered night watch recorded in the Bible is the 4th Watch, suggesting strongly that each watch is made up of 3 hours. The outer ring on the faces of Bible Clocks indicate the 4 watches of the night.
The 12 hours of daylight begin, on average, at 6:00 AM, or sunrise. These 12 hours have many important references in the Bible.
It is possible to build Bible Clocks that change the locations of the hour and minute hands relative to normal clocks. When this is done, though, the person reading the clock can be easily confused. To avoid this confusion all of our Bible Clocks keep the conventional hour and minute hand locations and only change the indicated hours by using different labels underneath the hour and minute hands.
Most commercially available clocks can be converted to a Bible Clock. This usually involves taking apart the clock and replacing the face. This is conceptually quite simple, and for simple clocks the process is simple. On certain styles of clocks, though, where construction is quite complicated, the process of converting the clock can be quite intricate.
The result, when done, is a clock who's hour and minute hands are the same places, at the same time, as a conventional clock, but where the labels underneath tell the time using hours as the Bible uses time.
That the Bible uses a clock that starts at sunset, and counts 2 sets of 12 hours from a point 6 hours earlier than conventional clocks is well known, going back across several centuries. The 1611 King James Bible includes time conversions built on this understanding.
In a prayer meeting while I was living on Mt. Hood in Oregon I had the discovery that the arithmetic difference between Biblically indicated time and modern time is either 7 or 5 hours depending on the time of day, not 6 as is suggested by the 6 hour difference in day start. This is because modern clocks use a zero based modern convention for counting, not the ancient Biblical system of 1 based counting. This was fascinating, and I used this discovery throughout other work I was doing at the time, but I never thought to actually build a clock this way.
In the spring of 2006 I was looking at clocks at a store and realized that it would be possible to change conventional clocks so they indicated Bible Time instead of modern time. I did this with a few clocks and showed them to some friends, who of course all wanted copies. Eventually I started selling Bible Clocks at street fairs.
Jesus asked the rhetorical question, “Are there not 12 hours in a (daylight) day?” (See John 11:9.) Of course there are, with 12 hours of daylight in an average day. The same convention is used today, even on conventional clocks.
The question, though, is when does the first hour start? Using a secular clock, the first hour, indicated with a 12 as the hour marker, starts at Noon, and runs ½ way into the night, which is also the end of the calendar day.
Is this how Jesus implied hours to count? No.
Jesus further refined the structure of the hours of a day by telling a parable, called the Parable of the Workers(Matt. 20). In the parable, Jesus describes a man calling out workers at various times across a single work day. He begins those hours at sunrise, and counts out hours through the 11th hour, which for the parable to mean anything is still within the same daylight day.
One conclusion of this parable is that for Jesus the 12 hours of the day are counted across the 12 hours of daylight in an average day. Hour 1, indicated by the number 1, thus starts at sunrise and hour 12 stops at sunset.
Sunrise on a modern clock is, on average, 6:00 AM. So, the start of hour 1 on a Bible Clock conveniently corresponds to 6:00 AM exactly. Notice how 6 – 1 = 5, the arithmetic difference between the times is only 5 hours, not 6 as is often supposed.
Each additional hour through the day corresponds to modern hours, but with a label that matches the number of hours through the day. Hour 1 begins at 6:00 AM, Hour 2 begins at 7:00 AM, Hour 3 begins at 8:00 AM, and so on through the day. Hour 7 begins at Noon, Hour 8 at 1:00 PM and so on until Hour 12 begins at 5:00 PM.
Notice that for the latter part of the day the arithmetic difference between Biblically based times and modern times is 8 – 1 = 7 hours, also not the 6 hours commonly supposed.
By counting hours from Sunrise, the Bible Time indicated by the clock is thus counting hours through the day. A complete set, 12 hours, marks the 12 hours of daylight. Note also how on average, across a year, this works for the average day length everywhere on planet earth.
There are several references to “watches of the night” given in the Bible. The largest reference to watches is the “4th watch” suggesting strongly that there are 4 watches in a night, or 3 hours in each watch. (See Matt. 14:25.)
Bible Clocks can be used to determine the hour of the night. They also contain an outer ring that indicates the watches of the night, allowing those to be seen as well.
A curious effect of counting hours from sunrise is the time of hour 7.
This is the hour that begins at Noon on secular clocks, sometimes even called the “Noon Hour.” This hour is when most people eat lunch. If they are working a job during the day, they usually take an hour off for lunch. This is Lunch Break.
In the Bible, the 7th unit of time is always a Sabbath, a time of rest. The 7th day is the weekly time of rest, the Sabbath Day. 7th years were also a time of rest, called Sabbath years. 7 sets of Sabbaths are a special time of rest, called a Jubilee.
There is no specific Bible reference that indicates the 7th hour should also be a time of rest, but, it is interesting that the 7th hour in regular modern days is an hour taken by most people to rest.
What is going on with the Noon Hour? The modern world is simply keeping a biblically patterned mid-day, 7th hour Sabbath.
There are no direct references to time given in the Bible using units smaller than an hour, but the structure of Bible Time below the level of an hour can be indirectly deduced from references given in the Bible.
There are several different ways to do this, including a long form that uses only the Old Testament and Jesus' ministry as recorded in the Gospels. That technique, though, requires a book of explanation all by itself, so we won't go into the long form here.
The simplest, and perhaps easiest to understand “short form” strategy for understanding the structure of Bible Time below the hour is based on the time references given in the Book of Revelation.
By making a short assumption about the structure of Revelation, the total shape of the Bible Clock can be seen, yielding the same answer as derived by the more tedious long form derivation.
In the Book of Revelation is found one occurrence of the smallest reference to time in the Bible, a reference to ½ hour. “There was silence in Heaven for about ½ hour.” (See Rev. 8:1.)
Of course the Bible is built in part on the principle of textual redundancy, where every topic is discussed in more than one way in more than one place. So, this reference in Revelation must be found somewhere else.
The only question is where. Where else is that ½ hour referenced?
The answer to this question is surprising, and is the assumption from which the entire clock structure is deduced. The answer, and the assumption is this: The other well known, prophetic time references in the Book of Revelation are textual matches to this ½ hour reference.
So, this ½ hour reference found in the Book of Revelation is the same as the “Time, 2 Times, and ½ Time” references also found in the Book of Revelation. (See Rev. 12:14, and others.) Stated as an equation:
½ hour = 3.5 times
Of course solving for hour yields:
1 hour = 7 times
And, of course, solving for time yields:
1/7 hour = 1 time
What is that 1/7th of an hour? The “major division” of the hour.
To show this, there is an inner set of markings on the face of Bible Clocks which are broken down into 7 divisions, the 7 major divisions of the Bible's hour.
The Book of Revelation also provides a check on this understanding major divisions being 1/7 of the hour. Here's the cross-check.
The ½ hour sweep of the minute hand on a Bible Clock, is the same as a 6 hour sweep of the hour hand on a Bible Clock. You can see that by looking at the face of the clock.
How many major divisions are there on ½ of a daylight day ring on a Bible Clock?
6 hours * 7 minutes/hour = 42 minutes.
The ½ day sweep of the hour hand is 42 minutes while the ½ hour sweep of the minute hand is 3½ Times. This is the same as Revelation's 3½ times equal to 42 months. (See Rev. 11:2.)
The 3½ major divisions of the hour, marked along the inside ring of a Bible Clock are matched to the 42 of the same divisions on the Hour ring of a Bible Clock. They are equivalent in a prophetic sense, and match mechanically on the face of the Bible Clock.
Many places of employment in the modern world take a 10 minute break every hour. This is very similar to the way many places take a Lunch Hour at noon. The US Government even sponsored studies that showed that taking a 10 minute break every hour helps people refresh and be more productive in the other 50 minutes of the hour. This study is in part why so many High Schools use a 50 minute class period, with a 10 minute break between classes. 50 minutes is about all people can take without a break.
What is going on here? The Bible Clock contains the answer.
Since every hour is broken down into 7 major divisions of time, there is fundamentally a Sabbath Break at the end of each Bible Hour. That 1/7 of an hour is about 8.5 regular minutes long, and is the hourly Sabbath.
Curiously, the studies that measured a 10 minute break were actually excessive, 8.5 regular modern minutes taken as a break every hour is all that should be needed to keep refreshed through the day.
In order to keep the faces of Bible clocks from becoming cluttered, they don't normally mark divisions smaller than 1/7th of the hour, yeilding 84 minutes to the hour instead of 60 minutes as described above.
But, it is possible to show that each 1/7th of the Bible's hour should be broken down into 30 more parts.
Like Bible Minutes, the structure can be derived using the Old Testament combined with the Gospels. It too forms a “long form” derivation based on an intricate understanding of Jesus' actions in light of his relationship to the Old Testament. Though interesting, it forms part of an entire book itself and we will not go into the long form here. The short form derivation springs directly from the remaining time references found in the Book of Revelation.
The last basic equation that we have not used so far from the Book of Revelation is:
42 bible months = 1260 bible days. (See Rev. 11:2-3.)
Note that we have already found a prophetic equivalence between months and minutes.
42 major divisions of the hour ~= 42 bible months so:
1 major division of the hour ~= 1 bible month
So if major divisions and months are equivalent, then the subdivisions must be also. Solving the equation we can show that:
42 major divisions of the hour / 42 = 1260 bible days / 42
1 major division of the hour = 30 bible days.
1 major division of the hour ~= 30 bible days
1 major division of the hour = 30 Bible Subdivisions (perhaps called 30 Bible Seconds)
Conventional clocks have 60 minutes to the hour and 60 seconds to the minute. These minutes and seconds are respectively labeled 0 through 59. Notice that though this is conventional, it is confusing. The first minute in the hour, minute 1 is called minute 0. Confused?
Modern clocks were adopted into widespread use well after the digit zero was adopted into widespread everyday use. So, counting minutes and seconds using 0 was relatively easy and it provided easier math for computing the differences in time.
Nowhere does the Bible use zero in any form of counting.
If someone has no sheep, they have no sheep, not zero sheep.
The digit (0) zero does not exist in the Bible's original languages, nor was it used in western languages until after the 600s AD, well after the time when the Bible was written. It is no surprise, therefore, that zero is unknown to the Bible.
So, just as the Bible Clock uses different scales for minutes and seconds, so too does it label hours differently.
Hour 1 starts immediately at Sunrise. There are 12 hours in the day. Hours run 1 through 12. Hour 7 carries with it a mid-day Sabbath connotation.
Having a Bible Clock is as important to someone reading the Bible as a concordance. Time references are given against the Bible Clock. To understand when things happen in the Bible requires the use of a Bible Clock.
It is unfortunate that Bible Clocks are not widely available, since they should be as widely available as Bible Concordances.
It is also unfortunate that Bible Translators have not had Bible Clocks in hand. In nearly all translations, the time references in the Gospels have not been changed from Bible Time to modern time and can be understood directly using the Bible Clock and a Bible. After the Gospels, most translations attempt to convert time using a 6 hour time difference, as would be expected from the calendar day-start difference alone. Unfortunately, these later Bible to Modern time conversions are often done in error.
If you know anyone working on a Bible Translation, please have them get a Bible Clock so they can avoid making the same mistakes in the future.
This form of clock was used across Europe well into the 1400s. By this time the 4 watches of the night had fallen out in favor of 12 hours of night, but the 12 hours of daylight were still the common convention.
At that point in history scientists started buying crude clocks from clock manufacturers that were labeled with the “zero point” at noon. Noon is a highly accurate event that happens in the middle of the day no matter where the observer is located, and for early scientific uses this mid-day time setting event was important.
Early clocks were so poorly built they often lost 2 hours each day, and had to be manually reset each day, and this was done when the sun was directly overhead at noon. The numbering on these clocks thus told the hours from when the clock was sent, not hours across daylight. Other buyers of clocks, businesses mostly, adopted this form because they were generally more accurate, and eventually what we call here the “Bible Clock” fell into disuse.
I have given a brief introduction to Bible Clocks in this manual. I'd be happy to answer any other questions. To ask questions just contact us.