Passover, Last Supper, and the Calendar, Pt. 1

Last night a friend reminded me of a topic I had teased on here earlier. I promised to explain the timing of the Last Supper of Yeshua and the disciples. It is really a simple matter and there should not be so much confusion about it. The problems and discrepancies over the timing of the Last Supper really turn out to be on the surface. Yet I have found that many of my colleagues in the UMJC and many Christian commentaries as well cannot see the simple resolution to what is only an apparent problem.

Let me say from the beginning that:
1. There is no discrepancy between the synoptics (Matt, Mk, Lk) and John on the timing of the Last Supper.
2. The solution is not to hypothesize two calendars or more.
3. The Last Supper was a Passover Seder held just after the conclusion of Nisan 14.
4. The crucifixion was on the first day of Passover, the Yom Tov, on Nisan 15.
5. The afternoon of Nisan 15 was the time for the Khagigah offering, an offering of “two bulls and one ram and seven male lambs one year old . . . and one male goat for a sin offering” (Num. 28:19, 22).

I should give credit to the writer who helped me see this interpretation years ago. He is a writer who would not be popular with Messianic Jewish rabbis although he was a Talmudically trained Jewish scholar who became a Christian. I am talking about Alfred Edersheim. Edersheim was a Talmud scholar turned Christian apologist at the turn of the twentieth century. Like most Jesus-believing-Jews of his day, when he came to faith in Christ, there was nowhere else for him to turn but the church. Though an expert in the rabbis, he became anti-rabbinic and anti-Jewish in theological ways. Edersheim’s writings are worth consulting, but filled with disdain for the Judaism from which he emerged.

Years ago I found the solution to the problem, which I have not yet described, in the appendix of one of Edersheim’s books, The Temple. The appendix is called, “Did the Lord Institute His ‘Supper’ on the Paschal Night?” Edersheim says he did and brilliantly resolves all difficulties.

Right now you might be saying, “What difficulties?”

Part 1 of this thread will be devoted to setting forth the problem. Then in future posts we will resolve them.

Succinctly stated, the problem is this: the synoptic gospels portray the Last Supper of Yeshua and the disciples as a Passover meal but the Gospel of John depicts the crucifixion as happening at the time of the slaughtering of Passover lambs, i.e. before the Passover meal.

There are a number of other issues that spring out of this, such as: When was Yeshua crucified? When was he buried? When did he rise? How can both statements of the gospels be true, that (a) he rose on the third day and that he rose after three days and three nights?

Let me give you a strong case for the problem using scripture. You can see why many scholars, not beholden to the unity of the scriptures, would simply say the gospels are in contradiction:

Matthew 26:17-20 Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do You want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover?” 18 And He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, “My time is near; I am to keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.”‘” 19 The disciples did as Jesus had directed them; and they prepared the Passover. 20 Now when evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the twelve disciples.

John 18:28 28 Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas into the Praetorium, and it was early; and they themselves did not enter into the Praetorium so that they would not be defiled, but might eat the Passover. (Note: It sounds as if they were reluctant to go into Pilate’s hall lest they be ineligible to eat the Passover meal.)

John 19:14 14 Now it was the day of preparation for the Passover; it was about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, “Behold, your King!” (Note: It sounds as if this occurred on the day when everyone was preparing for the Passover meal.)

John 19:36 36 For these things came to pass to fulfill the Scripture, “NOT A BONE OF HIM SHALL BE BROKEN.” (Note: This is a direct comparison between Yeshua and the Passover lambs, which would appear to suggest he was crucified while the Passover lambs were being slaughtered.)

Tomorrow, we begin the see some hope of resolving this dilemma.


About Derek Leman

IT guy working in the associations industry. Formerly a congregational rabbi. Dad of 8. Nerd.
This entry was posted in Bible, Messianic Jewish, Passover, Theology, Yeshua. Bookmark the permalink.

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