The Story Behind the Front Cover of The Third Day Bible Code
by Kermit Zarley

Music Controls

When it was time to design the front cover of The Third Day Bible Code, I suggested an idea to my publisher’s cover designer. He presented me with three versions of it. But when I saw them, I decided it was a lame idea and that either I or the designer had to think of something better than that.

Publishing people stress how important the look of a front cover is in selling trade books. I was feeling pressure about that because my book contract granted me some responsibility for deciding on the image for the front cover. Generally, that is not important for theological books. But I was trying to reach a wider audience with this book, thus putting more importance on its front cover.

Then I thought of the last scene in Mel Gibson’s movie, “The Passion of the Christ” (=The Passion). It begins in complete darkness. Then there is a grinding noise caused by a supposedly heavy stone disk being rolled away from the entrance to Jesus’ tomb. As this entrance simultaneously comes into view, the early morning sun casts its dazzling light through it into the tomb. The viewer then realizes that the movie camera is positioned inside the tomb, at the far back of it and just above the bench-ledge where Jesus’ body would have been lying. The camera then switches angles to view the single grave cloth lying on the bench-ledge. The viewer next sees the resurrected Jesus sitting on this bench-ledge. He stands up, walks out of the tomb through its entrance, and the movie ends. So, this entire scene, which lasts only a few seconds, is shot from inside the back of the tomb.

After I saw this movie, I could not recall ever having seen a picture or any image that attempts to portray a view of Jesus’ tomb from inside of it, let alone from just above the bench-ledge where Jesus’ body would have been laid and the grave cloths lying there. I concluded that that facsimile in The Passion was ingeniously artistic, and it left a strong impression on my mind. I thought, “since my book, The Third Day Bible Code, focuses to a large extent on Jesus’ resurrection having occurred on the third day, why don’t I try to find a painting, better yet a real photo, of how Jesus’ tomb might have appeared, but from inside of it, as in The Passion?"

How the Photo on the Front Cover Was Created
I wondered how difficult that would be. I realized that even if such a photo could be found, an assimilated bench-ledge with grave cloths lying on it would somehow have to be created on such a photo or merged into it. I spent about a week researching this tomb idea in libraries, bookstores, and on the Internet. I didn’t even come close to finding what I wanted, not a painting or a photo. So I decided I would have to obtain a photo of an actual cave that has an entrance and then have it manipulated to look like a tomb with an entrance. I said to myself, “I guess I’ll just have to do it myself.” Oh oh, I thought, here we go! I tend to take on tough projects.

I next asked my publisher’s cover designer to search the Internet for a photo taken from inside a real cave, with a cave entrance centered in the photo. But that's not all. I also stipulated that the sun had to be shining inside the cave entrance, with it positioned a little above sunrise and not quite visible through the entrance. These stipulations narrowed the search so much that I wondered if it was possible to find such a photo. I had decided on these requirements because of my interpretations of the Bible.

(For a layperson, I have done a considerable amount of research on Jesus' resurrection. I believe the resurrection of Jesus is the foundation of Christianity, and without it, there never would have been any Christianity. Why so much research? A lot of it happened because of, guess what, The Passion movie again. When I was walking out of the theater after first seeing that movie, I was thinking of its last, brief scene about Jesus' resurrection. I thought that with this scene, Mel Gibson was purposely signaling that, if that movie became successful, he was going to make a sequel to it--it being about Jesus' resurrection and his post-resurrection appearances as recorded in the New Testament. I then thought about how much more difficult it would be to write such a script, trying to make a composite of the gospel data, than it was to do the same for The Passion. Believe me, I know, due to my composite harmony of the gospels in my book, The Gospels Interwoven. I said to myself out loud, "Heh, I've already done that. I'm going to write a movie script on Jesus' resurrection." My intention, of course, was to then get it to Mel Gibson's Icon Productions.

At that time, I had just about finished my book manuscript, The Third Day Bible Code. But I still didn't have a publisher for it. So I laid it aside; bought a dozen books about how to write and sell screenplays and read them; bought Final Draft screenwriting software and learned how to operate it; took a three-month class on writing screenplays; and launched into a full one-year project--six months further research on Jesus' resurrection and six months writing the script. Whew! After that, the hard part began--trying to break into Hollywood with my script. My experience proved that that's about as difficult as breaking into Fort Knox! One and a half years later, after getting pretty much nowhere, the Hollywood Reporter revealed that Sony Pictures had just started making a movie on Jesus' resurrection, to be released for Easter in 2007. I knew it was going to happen; the question was only, "who is going to do it?" That announcement ended my hope for my screenplay. It was based on portions of my book plus a fifty-page "apparatus" I wrote as additional research.)

I believe that the entrance to Jesus’ tomb faced due east, toward the Mount of Olives, and that the morning sun had just risen above that mount's horizon when Jesus arose from the dead. Jesus' tomb facing east is supported by written accounts of pilgrims who visited it during the early centuries of the Common Era. And I believe the gospels indicate that Jesus’ female disciples first viewed his empty tomb that Sunday morning only minutes after the sun had risen above the Mount of Olives to shine on Jerusalem. (The Holy Sepulcher tomb facing due east would also have faced the altar in the temple, which I think is significant. But today, we don’t know for sure if the entrance of the Holy Sepulcher did indeed face eastward because an 11th-century Muslim ruler carved much of the tomb away in an effort to destroy Christianity.)

My cover designer found a photo of a real cave posted on the Internet that I thought might work. It was taken in what seems to be the early morning. The sun was shining brightly, with the sun’s rays flashing brilliantly through the cave entrance. And the sun's position was what I wanted —it was just above the top of the cave entrance and positioned in the sky right about where I thought it would have been when Jesus arose from the dead. However, there were some problems with the photo. The cave entrance was very wide, a little stream of water was running through the cave, and this stream bed was full of small, visible rocks inside the cave.

I first had the designer manipulate the cave entrance by narrowing it considerably. Then I had him raise the bottom of this cave entrance and make it straight across, as if man-made. My reason for this is that I think the bottom of the entrance of Jesus’ tomb would have been raised above ground-level at least six inches to a foot. This would have enabled the stone disk to have been rolled into place, so that all of its outer edge would fit snugly against the outside wall of the tomb. This would have been necessary for at least two reasons: (1) as was customary, to prevent rodents, dogs, and perhaps other creatures from getting inside the tomb and thus to the deceased body, and (2) to allow the guards to properly seal the tomb (Matthew 27.66).

Then I asked the designer to try to make a bench-ledge with grave cloths lying on it in this cave photo. The designer did so, but it proved too difficult to do. It looked too unrealistic. By now, my designer and other publishing people were understandably getting impatient with me for making such difficult requests. Plus, time was wasting. So I decided I had to try to create such an image myself, separately from this cave photo, and have the designer merge the two together. I thought the designer’s manipulation of the bottom of the cave entrance, and the merging of my anticipated image, would effectively eliminate the problems of the stream bed full of rocks and some water inside the cave.

To make a photo of a bench-ledge, I decided I would have to create an actual replica of what it might have looked like in Jesus’ tomb and to photograph that. So I bought a piece of particle board and spray-painted it with a color that seemed to match the few shining, interior, stone surfaces in the cave photo. I then got a white bed sheet to represent Jesus’ body wrappings and cut a corresponding white pillow case to assimilate Jesus’ head kerchief. Next, I laid these articles on the makeshift bench-ledge, separating them about four feet apart.

After some consideration, I decided against trying to photograph my creation myself. I needed a high resolution photo that would provide excellent picture quality. Besides, by that time I didn’t even own a photography camera, let alone a good one. Yet I used to own several. I used to take thousands of pictures of my golf swing for swing analysis. So I took my creation to a local photography studio and had them shoot several photos of it from various angles and distances.

I then sent these additional photos to my book cover designer and had him choose the one he thought would merge best with the cave photo. When he did, and I saw the result, I was pleasantly surprised. I was relieved to see that the merging of these two photos worked well and that the project had finally been successfully completed.

The Source of the Idea for the Front Cover Photo
I got the idea of the arrangement of the grave cloths on the bench-ledge in the front cover of The Third Day Bible Code from the Gospel of John. It relates that when Mary Magdalene discovered the empty tomb, she ran and found the apostle Peter and “the beloved disciple” to inform them of the missing body. Tradition identifies this other disciple as the apostle John, to which I concur. We read after that, “Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed” (John 20.3-8).

Christian tradition has emphasized Mary Magdalene’s role in discovering the empty tomb. She was the first to inform the leading apostles of the missing body, and she was the first to see the risen Jesus (John 20.11-18). All of this is quite biblical. I also think that Mary Magdalene and several women went together that early Sunday morning to visit Jesus’ tomb, and they discovered that his body was missing from it.

But a carefully-constructed composite of the gospels (see my The Gospels Interwoven, p. 250) reveals that Mary Magdalene was not the first disciple to believe that Jesus had been raised from the dead. Instead, the apostle John was the first to believe this. It happened when he examined the empty tomb and pondered the meaning of the physical evidence of the grave cloths. This incident occurred prior to the risen Jesus appearing to Mary Magdalene.

I believe that this episode—the apostle John being the first to believe that Jesus had been raised from the dead and believing it because he saw and assumedly pondered the meaning of the grave cloths—has not received sufficient attention in Christian tradition. The implication of this Johannine account is that John believed because he pondered the significance and meaning of the grave cloths and their condition.

After seeing these grave cloths, John must have first questioned whether Jesus’ body was stolen or taken from the tomb by the gardener. Jesus’ tomb was located in a garden that had previously been a rock quarry. Jesus' disciples probably knew that there was a gardener who was responsible for caring these premises. In addition, Mary Magdalene ran to Peter and John and presumptively declared, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him” (John 20.2). We are later informed that when Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene, when she had later returned to the tomb, she did not at first recognize him. We read that she said to him, “‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him’… Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away’” (vv. 13, 15).

John, therefore, in pondering the evidence of the grave cloths, must have ruled out that either the gardener had removed the body or that it had been stolen. First, if either the gardener had removed the body to another location or thieves had stolen it, they certainly would not have removed the grave cloths. Why? There would have been no justifiable reason for doing so. Much effort and expense had been spent in preparing the body for its entombment, and no gardener would have interrupted this process and thereby have greatly offended Jewish sensibilities concerning respect for the dead. As for thieves having stolen the body, not only could they have had no justifiable motive for removing the grave cloths, but that would have taken extra precious time that would have further risked their possible capture. Moreover, the Johannine account specifies that “the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head” was “not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself” (John 20.7). There could have been no motive for thieves doing this either, which also would have required a little more time risking their capture. John must have concluded that no one would do such a thing and that such evidence requires another explanation as to what happened to Jesus’ body.

At this point, the apostle John may have recalled the several times Jesus had predicted that he would go to Jerusalem, be killed, and be raised from the dead on the third day. During Jesus’ public ministry he repeatedly made this prediction, very subtly and ambiguously to the multitudes but quite unambiguously and privately to his disciples. When John pondered the significance of the physical evidence of the grave cloths, that must have caused him to believe that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead, just as he had predicted he would. For, right after the Johannine account describes in some detail the evidence of the grave cloths, it says that this beloved disciple “saw and believed” (John 20.8).

The Shroud of Turin Hypothesis
Perhaps I should conclude this article by mentioning the dissimilarity between the grave cloths in the front cover image of The Third Day Bible Code and the single grave cloth in “The Passion” film. That movie shows a single shroud that covered Jesus’ entire head and body, whereas the front cover of my book has two parts of the grave cloths: the body wrappings on the right side of the bench-ledge and a folded head kerchief on the left side of it, and the two items are separated by about four feet. The movie shows this single shroud for an instant, as it would have appeared covering Jesus' body. The shroud then slowly falls until all of it lies flat on the bench-ledge. This action suggests that Jesus had risen from the dead at that very moment, moving through the shroud without disturbing it. This scene is reminiscent of the subsequent scenes recorded in the gospels in which the resurrected Jesus appears to his disciples by passing through either a locked door, wall, or ceiling of a room full of his gathered disciples.

This empty tomb scene of Jesus’ compressed shroud in The Passion movie reminds people of “the Shroud of Turin” hypothesis. The Shroud of Turin has been housed at Turin, Italy, for several centuries. Many people think it is the actual shroud of Jesus. But I don’t think such a hypothesis coincides with John 20.5-7, which seems to describe two articles of grave cloths that are separated from each other. (For a further, brief discussion of the Shroud of Turin, see endnote #1 on p. 224 of The Third Day Bible Code. I have written an extended discussion of this subject in the unpublished apparatus for my screenplay about the resurrection of Jesus.)

With my book cover finally finished, I now felt that I had something that could grab readers’ attention. The book title was unique and cryptic, incorporating a current buzz word—“code.” And the real life image of a dark, simulated tomb with grave cloths lying on a bench-ledge, and the sun’s bright rays splashing through the tomb entrance, was unusual. I hoped that these two very important items in the making of trade books—the title and front cover image—would pique the interest of many readers, causing them to investigate what this book is about. If so, then all of that effort, not to mention the loss of time in the publishing timeline, would prove worthwhile. The task of creating this image had indeed proved rather daunting. It took almost four months to complete.

The Story Behind the Book Title, The Third Day Bible Code
by Kermit Zarley

Victor Zarley and I are first cousins. Vic is always interested in what I’m writing. In 2003, he asked me about it in a phone call. I explained that I was writing a book about the third day motif that appears frequently in narratives of historical events of the Israelites that are recorded in the Bible and that I think some of these are types that forecast Jesus’ resurrection on the third day. As soon as I said this Vic chuckled and remarked, “Oh, The Bible Code, huh?” He was referring to the book by that title, written by the Wall Street Journal reporter Michael Drosnin. I knew about that book; but I had never correlated it with my book manuscript.

As soon as Vic and I finished that phone conversation, his remark got me thinking. Up to that moment, I wasn't sure about my working title for this book. I actually had two working titles for it, and I was undecided about both of them. One was “On the Third Day,” and the other was “Ready for the Third Day.” Vic caused me to think of merging “Third Day” and “The Bible Code” together to form The Third Day Bible Code. I was instantly ecstatic with that title and no longer had any doubt about it. That would be the title of my book. The word “code” had become such a buzz word in recent years. And my manuscript was indeed about a very cryptic subject in the Bible. Plus, this subject had gone quite unnoticed by Christians and most Christian scholars. I therefore thought that The Third Day Bible Code was the perfect title for my book. It was intriguing, and I thought it would get the attention of readers. So I said, “Thanks Vic, and praise God!”

The Story Behind the Song, “On the Third Day”
by Kermit Zarley

My cousin, Vic Zarley, is a fledgling songwriter, singer, and an unpublished author. For a considerable part of his life, Vic embraced the Unity faith and then New Age while living in southern California. Several years ago he gradually adopted a more traditional view of Christianity as he came into a very personal, vibrant, and saving knowledge of Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. When that happened, Vic changed from composing songs about New Age to making songs that gloryify God through his new faith in Jesus.

Some of Vic’s new songs really bless my soul. He likes to think about bringing back folk music. He plays the acoustic guitar, and his lyrics are very clear. Vic’s wife, Eva, has her own creative talents as an artist, lyricist and writer. Eva now assists Vic in composing his songs, and she often sings along with him. I think Vic and Eva are making a great team that is seeking to honor God through music and other ways.

Vic is always interested in what I’m writing. When I got The Third Day Bible Code manuscript about finished, he asked me if I would email it to him so that he could read it. I did. Vic then read it out loud to Eva while she did chores. Vic finished reading it, so they both knew the content of the manuscript fairly well.

Then I got an idea. I thought, “Why not ask Vic if he would write a song based on this book, The Third Day Bible Code. My original purpose for making this suggestion related to the Christian rock band, “Third Day,” though I didn’t tell Vic that at first. Third Day had been the #1 Christian rock band in the U.S. for the past few years. I had listened to their music on the radio and attended two of their live concerts here in the Phoenix area, where I live. I like music a lot, and I was impressed. I initially got interested in this band only because of their name being similar to my book. Obviously, their name refers to Jesus’ resurrection on the third day.

I noticed that at Third Day concerts they sell lots of CDs and T-shirts, but no literature. I had wondered for some time if they could be interested in offering my book for sale at their concerts. So, I later thought of Vic writing a song based on my book and trying to get both Vic’s song and my book to Third Day to see if they would be interested in using the song and selling my book. Third Day has been having about a hundred concerts per year, playing to a total live audience of over a million people.

So, Vic and Eva wrote the song, and I loved it. I think its lyrics perfectly reflect my book. I then suggested that we use my prior working title for the book, “On the Third Day,” as the title for this song. (See “The Story Behind the Title.”) That’s what we did and viola! A song and a book joined together; you don’t see that very often.

Vic’s and Eva’s website is called

On the Third Day
Words and music by Vic and Eva Zarley

Am F
It was three days that Abraham
Traveled forth to slay his son
Am F
On the third day, a ram appeared
Isaac would not be the one (Chorus)

God is gonna raise us
Our God is gonna save us
The road's already paved for us
(No guitar)
By the blood of the Lamb

For three days Israel prepared
To meet God at Sinai
Warned to cleanse and purify
So that they wouldn't die (Chorus)

The Lord proclaimed that in three days
Israel could take the Promised Land
Prepare your things, keep listening
I, the Lord, am in command (Chorus)

It was three days that Esther prayed
So the Jews wouldn't die
On the third day, fasting and prayers
Stopped a brutal genocide (Chorus)

It was three days that Jonah stayed
In a great fish with his dread
"On the third day," Jesus said
He'd be raised from the dead (Instrumental solo, Bridge then Chorus)

Am F
If only one day is as a thousand years
G Am
We all must watch and pray
Messiah will not be returning here
G Am
Until...we're in the Third Day

Hosea says, "The remnant cries
To the Lord we shall return
On the third day, the Lord revives
And binds what He had torn."

(Chorus with last line three times)


Still Here is a Registered Trademark of Kermit Zarley.
Copyright Still Here Books 2006. All Rights Reserved. Created by Exodus Design Studios

The earth graphic is taken from CD-ROM “3D Globe,” © United Soft Media Verlag GmbH,
Munchen, Germany. Used by permission.