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PASSOVER AND THE CRUCIFIXION

 

        The death and resurrection of Jesus is central to the Christian faith.  Christianity teaches that Jesus died to atone for our sins and because of this we have life beyond physical death.  All four Gospels provide Scriptural accounts of the crucifixion and associated events.  Yet, in reading the parallel accounts of events associated with the crucifixion, we find differences between what the synoptic authors (Matthew, Mark and Like) write and what John writes as to how these events unfold.  

       For example, we see John showing that Jesus appears before Pilate about the 6th hour while the synoptic writers show Jesus on the cross at the 6th hour.

       John 19:14: It was the day of Preparation of Passover Week, about the sixth hour.   "Here is your king," Pilate said to the Jews.

       Matthew 27:45: Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour.

       Luke 23:44: And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour.

       Mark 15:25. And it was the third hour, and they crucified him.

       John sees Jesus at about the 6th hour appearing before Pilate.  This would be twelve noon according to Jewish reckoning of time.  The synoptic Gospels show Jesus to already be hanging on the cross at the 6th hour as it is at the 6th hour that darkness covers the land and some standing near the cross are mocking Jesus as the context of Matthew 27 and Luke 23 shows.

       Mark writes that “It was the third hour when they crucified him.”  The 3rd hour would be 9 A.M. according to Jewish reckoning of time.  In looking at the accounts of Matthew, Mark and Luke, one could surmise that the crucifixion began at the 3rd hour (9 A.M.), was still going on at the 6th hour (12 noon), when darkness began to cover the land, and ended at the 9th hour (3 P.M.) when it is recorded Jesus died.  John, however, seemingly has the crucifixion first starting sometime after the 6th hour, after 12 noon.  Some see this as a major discrepancy between what the synoptic writes say and what John says. 

       In an effort to resolve this issue, some have proposed that an error in the translation of Mark 15:25 may be responsible for it being said Jesus was crucified at the 3rd hour.  Some believe the Greek letter digamma was inserted in place of the letter gamma. Digamma was used for 3rd whereas gamma was used for 6th.  However, there is no hard evidence for this.  Furthermore, Matthew and Luke clearly show there was darkness over the land from the 6th to the 9th hour indicating Jesus was on the cross at the 6th hour and already had been on the cross for some time.  Can this difference in the time Christ is reported to be on the cross be in some way harmonized?

       It is apparent Matthew, Mark and Luke were using Hebrew time in their writings.  Hebrew time split the day and night into watches with the first day time watch beginning at 6 A.M.  The 3rd hour would be three hours removed from 6 A.M.  The 6th hour (twelve noon) would be six hours removed from 6 A.M. and so forth.

       Some believe John was using Roman time rather than Hebrew time.  In Roman time a day begins at 12 midnight.  Therefore, the 6th hour would have been 6 A.M.  When you read the Gospel of John, it appears he is using the Roman method of reckoning time in other of his writings.  Therefore the 6th hour for John would be 6 A.M.  When reading through the events leading up to the crucifixion in all four Gospels, a 6 A.M. appearance before Pilate appears very likely. 

       Most Christian apologists see John’s 6th hour as being Roman time a very reasonable solution to the apparent discrepancy between Mark’s 3rd hour and John’s 6th hour.  This clearly allows for the crucifixion to have begun at the 3rd hour as seen in Mark and as indicated in Matthew and Luke.  Therefore, this seeming discrepancy is easily resolved.   Now let’s turn to an issue that is not so easily resolved but, as you will see, can be resolved both from the Scriptures and by using a little common sense.

Passover and the Crucifixion:  

       Matthew, Mark and Luke show Jesus and His disciples eating the Passover the night before the crucifixion. John clearly shows the Passover being eaten after the crucifixion.  Were their two Passovers eaten within a 24 hour period at the time of the crucifixion of Jesus?          

       It is generally believed within Christianity that the crucifixion of Jesus was foreshadowed by the Passover.  We are all familiar with the account of the Israelites killing a lamb and spreading the blood from the lamb on the door posts of their homes so that the death angel would pass over their homes and not kill their firstborn as was the case with the Egyptian firstborn. 

      Jesus is seen as the ultimate fulfillment of the Passover.  Jesus is seen as the lamb slain for the sins of the world.  Just as the blood on the doorposts protected the Israelites from having their firstborn killed, the blood of Jesus is seen as protecting us from eternal death. 

        All four Gospels show that Jesus was crucified on the day of the Passover.  However, if you carefully read the four Gospel accounts of the Passover during which Jesus was crucified, you will see what on the surface appears to be a conflict between what Matthew, Mark and Luke write and what John writes.  Matthew, Mark and Luke have Jesus eating what appears to be the Passover meal the night before He is crucified.  John indicates the time for the eating of the Passover meal was after Jesus was crucified.  What’s going on here? 

       Matthew 26:17-20: On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?" He replied, "Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, `The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.'" So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover. When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve.

       Mark 14:12-17: On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus' disciples asked him, "Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?"  So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, "Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. Say to the owner of the house he enters, `The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?' He will show you a large upper room, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there." The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover. When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve.

       Luke 22:1, 7-16:  Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching.  Verse 7: Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed.   Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, "Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover."  "Where do you want us to prepare for it?" they asked. He replied, "As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, and say to the owner of the house, `The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?' He will show you a large upper room, all furnished. Make preparations there." They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover. When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table.  And he said to them, "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God."

       In reading these Scriptures, it certainly looks like Jesus kept the Passover with His disciples the night before He was crucified.  Keeping of the Passover involved eating the meat of a slain lamb along with bitter herbs and unleavened bread.  Is this what Jesus and His disciples did? 

       The synoptic Gospel writers all appear to equate the Passover with the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  Luke actually calls the Feast of Unleavened Bread the Passover. The Hebrew Scriptures make it clear that the Passover is on the 14th day of the Hebrew first month and the Feast of Unleavened Bread begins on the 15th of the first month.

       Leviticus 23: 5-6: The LORD's Passover begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month.  On the fifteenth day of that month the LORD's Feast of Unleavened Bread begins; for seven days you must eat bread made without yeast.

       Now, it was customary in Israel to view the entire period of the Passover and the Day’s of Unleavened Bread as the feast of Passover.  After all, the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread were closely associated with the same event, the deliverance of Israel from Egyptian bondage.  During the Passover meal, unleavened bread had to be eaten and in preparing for the Passover meal all leaven had to be removed from the home.  Since unleavened bread had to be prepared for the Passover meal, in a sense, the Feast of Unleavened Bread had already begun.  This blending of the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread is already found to be the case during the time of Ezekiel.

       Ezekiel 45:21: In the first month on the fourteenth day you are to observe the Passover, a feast lasting seven days, during which you shall eat bread made without yeast.

        Even though there was this apparent blending of the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Passover lambs were slain on the 14th of the month whereas the days of Unleaven Bread began on the 15th of the month.

       Exodus 12:3, 6:  Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household.

       Verse 6:  Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight (in the evening KJV, RSV)

       We know that the Hebrew calendar has days beginning at sunset and ending at sunset.  The Passover lambs were to be kept until the 14th and killed at twilight.  When is twilight?  Twilight is defined by some as the period of time between when the sun goes down and complete darkness occurs.  This period of time is sometimes referred to as “between the two evenings.”  The view adopted by the Pharisees and the Talmudists is that the first evening is when the heat of the sun begins to decrease; roughly a period from 3-5 P.M. and the second evening begins at sunset. The Mishnah indicates the lambs were killed about 2:30 P.M. in the afternoon of the 14th.

       Here is where the apparent disconnect occurs between the synoptic Gospels and the Gospel of John.  The synoptic Gospels show Jesus and His disciples eating the Passover at the beginning of the 14th.  John shows the Jews eating the Passover at the end of the 14th.   

       John 18:28:  Then the Jews led Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness the Jews did not enter the palace; they wanted to be able to eat the Passover.

       Matthew, Mark and Luke have Jesus seemingly eating the Passover the evening before His trial and crucifixion.  John shows the Passover as not yet having been eaten at the time of Jesus’ trial.  The eating of the Passover meal is seen as occurring subsequent to the trial and by implication, subsequent to the crucifixion. 

       It is believed by most Christians that Jesus was crucified and died at the exact time the lambs were being killed for the keeping of Passover.  This conclusion is drawn from the fact John the Baptist refers to Jesus as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29), Paul refers to Christ as “our Passover lamb” (1 Corinthians 5:7) and Peter refers to Jesus as a “lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:19). 

       If indeed Jesus kept the actual Passover the evening before his crucifixion as Matthew, Mark and Luke appear to indicate, the killing of the lambs and the eating of the Passover would have occurred before Jesus was crucified.  The crucifixion would have occurred during the daylight part of the 14th after the lambs were killed and eaten the evening before.

        John, however, indicates the eating of the Passover was to occur after Jesus died which allows for Jesus to be slain at the same time the Passover lambs were slain which coordinates with Scripture that pictures Jesus as our Passover lamb.  So how do we resolve this apparent disconnect between the synoptic accounts and John’s account? 

       Some Biblical scholars believe the synoptic Gospels were written much earlier than John and present a more accurate historical account of what took place at the time of the crucifixion.  It is believed John wrote his Gospel much later than the synoptic writers and wrote from the perspective of a very high Christology.  Therefore, some scholars believe John wanted to show Christ as fulfilling the Passover by being killed at the exact time the lambs were being slain for the eating of the Passover.  It is believed John forced this perspective into his recording of the crucifixion to make this point.

       This explanation places the integrity of John in question as it virtually accuses John of fictionalizing some of what he wrote relative to the crucifixion of Jesus in order to coordinate the death of Jesus with the killing of the Passover lambs.

       As already noted, we see Paul picturing Jesus as the Passover lamb and thus appearing to write from the same perspective that John did.  Paul’s letters appear to have been written many years before John’s Gospel was written.  The association between Jesus and the Passover lamb is evident before the writings of John.  So it is unlikely John forced this perspective into his account of the crucifixion.   So why is there this apparent discrepancy between the synoptic Gospels and what John wrote regarding at what point the Passover was eaten?  

       All four Gospels show Jesus to have been crucified on the preparation day.  The preparation day was the daytime part of the 14th.  It was the daytime part of Passover day.  The 15th of the month would start the Feast of Unleavened Bread which was a special High Day Sabbath.  Jesus died shortly before the beginning of the High Day Sabbath, the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. 

       Matthew 27:62-64: The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. "Sir," they said, "we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, `After three days I will rise again.' So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day.

       Mark 15:42-43: It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus' body.

        Luke 23: 52-54:  Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus' body.  Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin. 

       John 19:14, 31, 42: It was the day of Preparation of Passover Week, about the sixth hour.   "Here is your king," Pilate said to the Jews.

       Verse 31:  Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath (NIV).

       Verse 42:  Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

       Mathew, Mark and Luke appear to teach that Jesus and his disciples kept the Passover at the beginning of the preparation day, the evening before the daytime part of the 14th.  Matthew and Mark record that when evening came, Jesus and his disciples sat down to eat.  Now we know the lambs for Passover had to be kept until the 14th and then slain.  When was this done?  The daylight part of the 14th is seen as the preparation day.  What is it a preparation for?  John sees it as a preparation for the Passover. 

       If indeed the daylight part of the 14th was the time of preparation for the Passover, how could Jesus and His disciples be seen as having made preparation for the Passover and as also eating the Passover the evening before the Passover was to be prepared?

       John shows the Jews looking forward to eating the Passover after the crucifixion and Scripture indicates Jesus was crucified at the time the lambs were slain in preparation for the eating of the Passover.  Therefore, it is evident the daylight part of the 14th was the preparation day for the eating of the Passover and it is during the preparation day that Jesus was crucified.  So why do Matthew, Mark and Luke show Jesus keeping the Passover the evening before the preparation for the Passover? 

       How do we resolve the apparent contradiction between what Matthew, Mark and Luke write as to Jesus observing the Passover on the evening before His crucifixion and what John writes which shows the eating of the Passover to follow the crucifixion?   It is apparent that the Preparation Day alluded to in all four Gospels is the preparation for the Passover. 

       In The Wars of the Jews, first century historian Josephus records that the Passover lambs were slaughtered on the 14th, "from the ninth hour till the eleventh" (Wars 6.9.3).  This would correspond to our 3:00-5:00 P.M.  This tells us the lambs were slaughtered during the afternoon of the 14th which means they were eaten near the end of the 14th or at the beginning of the 15th.  

       Yet Matthew, Mark and Luke indicate Jesus kept the Passover the evening before the Preparation Day.  If this is the case, from where did they get a lamb for their Passover observance if the lambs weren’t killed until the next day, the Preparation Day as John seems to indicate?  More importantly, how would such a lamb have significance relative to the death of Christ if it was killed a day earlier than when Christ was killed?

       So what are we to make of the synoptic writers showing Jesus to be observing the Passover at the beginning of the 14th, the evening before his crucifixion?  Luke appears to clearly record that the disciples prepared the Passover. “So they prepared the Passover” (Luke 22:13).  Mark records that Jesus told his disciples to ask “Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?”  Mark says, “So they prepared the Passover” (Mark 14:14, 15).  Matthew records, “I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house” (Matthew 26:18). 

       From these statements it appears Jesus not only desired to eat the Passover with His disciples but actually did so.  Yet how could this be if the Passover isn’t eaten until after the crucifixion the next day as we plainly see in the Gospel of John?

       Some have conjectured that Jesus kept the Passover at the beginning of the 14th according to how the Pharisees reckoned the time for eating the Passover while the Sadducees ate the Passover meal at the end of the 14th according to their tradition.  There is no real evidence for this position.  It is apparent from both the Scriptures and secular history that the lambs were killed during the daylight part of the 14th and all the Jews, regardless of doctrinal persuasion, kept the Passover at the same time.

       In another effort to resolve the apparent discrepancy between the synoptic Gospels and John’s Gospel, some have speculated that Jesus did not intend to eat the Passover with His disciples and plainly told them this was the case.  Therefore it was not the Passover that Christ ate at the start of the 14th but simply a final evening meal before He was to die.  The Fenton translation of Luke 22:15-16 is cited as support for this position.

        Luke 22:15-16: And he said to them:  'I have longingly desired (Greek: epithumia epethumesa) to eat this Passover with you before my suffering; however, I tell you that I shall not eat of it, until it can be administered in the Kingdom of God.'"

       The Greek words translated here as “longingly desired” appear over fifty times in the NT.  Their basic meaning is to desire, crave or long for something, often that which is forbidden. These words are often translated into the English word “lust.”   The thinking is that Jesus much desired to eat the Passover with His disciples but knew it was forbidden because he was going to die before the Passover was actually eaten and that is why He said he would not eat of it until the Kingdom is established. 

       Some scholars believe the wording of a number of Greek manuscripts such as Codex Vaticanus, Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Alexandrinus support this perspective.  However, this approach to resolving this issue remains controversial as it is clear that the synoptic writers all indicate it was the Passover Jesus and His disciples ate.  Is there another way to resolve this issue? 

       It is instructive that Matthew, Mark and Luke all show Jesus appearing to instruct his disciples to prepare for the Passover after the day of Passover has already arrived.  The wording indicates the 14th had already arrived when Jesus gave instruction to His disciples as to where to prepare the Passover.

       Matthew 26:17: On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?"

       Mark 14:12-17: On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus' disciples asked him, "Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?"  

       Luke 22:1, 7:  Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching.  Verse 7: Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed.  Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, "Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover."

        As already discussed, the Passover and the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread where blended together in Jewish thinking.  Luke calls the Feast of Unleavened Bread the Passover. The synoptic writers make it appear that the 14th had already arrived when Jesus directed His disciples to prepare the Passover. 

       Preparing the Passover was a rather involved task.  A lamb had to be killed and roasted to prepare it for the meal.  This process would have taken several hours. Besides preparing a lamb, bitter herbs and unleavened bread were required for the Passover meal.  When would this all have been done?  The synoptic writers show Jesus and His disciples eating the Passover at the start of the 14th. We know this was the start of the 14th because it was dark when they all left to go to the Garden of Gethsemane.

       Because of the obvious complications seen in concluding Jesus and His disciples where keeping the actual statutory Passover, it doesn’t appear to be the actual statutory Passover they kept.

       It is evident from John’s Gospel that the eating of the Passover didn’t take place until after the crucifixion which would place the eating of the Passover at the end of the 14th and not at the beginning of the 14th.  So what was it that Jesus and His disciples were doing in having what the synoptic Gospels appear to show is a eating of the Passover the night before the day of preparation?

       The disciple’s preparations could not have included preparing a Passover lamb because the Passover lambs had not yet been killed.  It is instructive that nothing is said in the four Gospel accounts about a lamb being eaten at the meal shared by Jesus and the disciples. 

       Matthew records Jesus saying, "As you know, the Passover is two days away--and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified" (Matthew 26:2).  The indication here is that Christ was prophesying His death would take place on Passover.  Therefore, he would not be keeping the Passover by eating it but by dying on it. 

        A number of scholars believe the meal He had with His disciples was not the Passover but a pre-Passover meal where He washed their feet, gave them much instruction and introduced the symbols of the bread and wine.  It was a virtual memorial service in anticipation of his death.  It’s instructive that unlike the synoptic writers, John gives no indication it was the Passover that Jesus ate the night before His death.

       John 13:1: It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.

       John writes that it was just before the Passover Feast that Jesus shows His disciples the full extent of His love.  John goes on to describe Jesus washing the disciple’s feet.  John 13:2 shows the washing of the feet was done either during or after the meal depending on what translation you read.  John indicates it was before the Passover Feast that Jesus performed the foot washing.  Yet John shows it was either during or after the meal when Jesus washed their feet.  Therefore, it is believed the meal they were having was not the Passover Feast but simply an evening meal eaten the evening before the Passover Feast would be eaten which would be at the end of the next day after Jesus had died.

       John clearly shows it was the Preparation Day when Jesus was crucified.  This Preparation Day was the daylight part of the 14th and the High Day Sabbath was to follow on the 15th.  As already discussed, in describing the events associated with Jesus’ trial, John says the following:

       John 19:14: It was the day of Preparation of Passover Week, about the sixth hour.   "Here is your king," Pilate said to the Jews (NIV).

       Some translations read, “it was the preparation of the Passover,” or “it was the day of preparation for the Passover,” (KJV, ASV, RSV, NET).  It appears John is seeing the day Jesus died as the preparation day for the eating of the Passover.  Therefore the eating of the Passover would first take place at the end of the 14th and not at the beginning.  All four Gospels show it was the Preparation Day on which Christ was crucified.

       That it was during the day of the 14th when Jesus died is clearly born out by the Jews insistence on making sure Jesus and the two criminals crucified with Him were not left on the cross during the Feast of Unleavened Bread which began at the start of the 15th which would have been around sunset of the 14th.  It would have violated Jewish law to have the bodies remain on the cross during the feast of Unleavened Bread (Deuteronomy 21:22-23, Joshua 8:29).  They had earlier determined that Jesus should not be killed on the Feast.  The Feast was considered a High Day Sabbath when no ordinary work could be done.     

       Matthew 26:4-5: and they plotted to arrest Jesus in some sly way and kill him.  "But not during the Feast," they said, "or there may be a riot among the people."

       Mark 14:2:  "But not during the Feast," they said, "or the people may riot."

       John 19:31: Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away (NKJV).

       It is apparent from a careful reading of all four Gospels that Jesus was tried during the night and early morning of Passover day and was placed on the cross around the 3rd hour which corresponds to our 9 A.M.  He died at the 9th hour which corresponds to our 3 P.M.  It was at 3 P.M. that the lambs began to be slain in preparation for the eating of the Passover which would have taken place at the end of the 14th and possibly at the beginning of the 15th which was the start of the High Day Sabbath, the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Remember, unleavened bread had to be eaten as part of the Passover. 

       In view of the foregoing, it can be safely concluded that what Jesus and His disciples ate at the beginning of the 14th was not the statutory Passover.  John 13:2-4 shows it was a supper that Jesus and the disciples ate at the beginning of the 14th.

        John 13:2-4: And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray Him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself (NKJV).

       The Greek here translated “supper” is dipnon which the Greek lexicons define as an evening meal.  Six days before the Passover Jesus had a dipnon with Lazarus, an evening meal.  Paul references the meal Jesus had the night before He was crucified as a dipnon.

        John 12:1-2:  Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead. There they made Him a supper (dipnon); and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him (NKJV).

       1 Corinthians 11:20-21: When you come together, it is not the Lord's Supper (dipnon) you eat, for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk.

       Verse 25:  In the same way, after supper (dipneo) he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me."

        The sixteen times the word dipnon appears in the NT, it is never associated with the Greek word for Passover (Pascha).  The Passover was a one of a kind stand alone event that was very sacred to the Jews.  It is never called the Passover supper or meal.  It is simply called the Passover or Passover Feast.  It appears to be quite distinct from a supper meal.  It is instructive that Paul refers to the meal Jesus had the night before the crucifixion as a supper” (dipnon) and not Passover.    

       If Jesus and the disciples did not eat the actual Passover at the start of the 14th, why do Matthew, Mark and Luke make it look as though they did? 

       When all the Scriptures that bear on this issue are examined and compared, it is apparent that the synoptic writers were simply using the word Passover, Passover Feast or Days of Unleavened Bread as descriptive of the season they were in.  We saw that the synoptic writers refer to the entire period of the Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread as the Passover even thought the Passover was only a single day of that period of time. 

       The writers of Scripture take liberties with language just like we do.  We may say, “I’m going to a Christmas party tonight even though the actual day of Christmas may be several days off.  Nevertheless, it is the Christmas season. Well for Jesus and the disciples, it was the Passover season.  While it wasn’t the statutory Passover that Jesus and His disciples ate, it was a Passover type meal insomuch that Jesus was in essence substituting His body for the lamb by introducing the bread and wine as symbols of the sacrifice He would be making at the very time the Passover lambs were being slain the following afternoon.

       It is important, when reading the Scriptures, that we don’t take too wooden of an approach to what is written.  It is important we look at the Scriptures holistically which means we look at all the dynamics associated with an issue before drawing a conclusion.  This is the approach we should always use in our study of the Scriptures or our study of anything. 

       The charge that there is some great inconsistency between the synoptic gospels and John regarding the time of the Passover relative to the crucifixion disappears when one looks at all the dynamics associated with these events. 

       Readers of this essay may also be interested in reading associated essays on this website entitled Passover and the Exodus and Three Days and Three nights

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