In the March/April issue of Touchstone magazine, William J. Tighe writes about the origins of the commemoration of Christ's Passion and Resurrection. Among other things, he discusses attempts to put a date on those events. Based on various historical evidence and the lunar cycles that determine the dating of Passover every year, he writes that the crucifixion could have occurred on only one of the following dates: Friday, April 7, A.D. 30, or Friday, April 3, A.D. 33. He continues:
"And if the fulfillment of Joel's prophecy that 'the sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood' (Joel 2:31) . . . came about (as scholars such as F.F. Bruce have held) through a khamsin dust storm from the Arabian desert both darkening the sun and turning an eclipsed moon visible from Jerusalem blood-red, the date can be further narrowed to A.D. 33."
All the gospels except John report darkness occurring at about midday on the day of Christ's crucifixion. "And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour" (Luke 23:44).
According to Dictionary.com, khamsin is a "generally southerly hot wind from the Sahara that blows across Egypt from late March to early May." It often occurs for a few hours at a time and is usually dust-laden.
This was the first scientific explanation I'd ever heard for that particular event. And while it doesn't matter to me how God made the darkness happen---whether through a dust storm or by some inexplicable means---I always find it fascinating when science and faith intersect. If the darkness was a result of a khamsin dust storm, it in no way makes it less significant, or less God-driven, so to speak. Ultimately, of course, faith must be able to stand alone. But science and faith need not be mutually exclusive.