Date: Wed, 03 Sep 2003 11:54:09 AM CDT From:
Subject: PASSOVER & CRUCIFIXIONDear brethren & friends, A Filipino asked about the day of the passover before Christ's crucifixion. I got info from Mike Willis & Dan King. It is so interesting that I thought you would like to see it. May God bless each one of you. In Christian love, Ron
The synoptic gospels (Matt - Luke) all portray the Lord's supper as being established during the observance of the Passover, during the Feast of Unleavened Bread (this is how we know that the bread used in the Lord's supper is unleavened; see Matt. 26:17). This is usually thought to be Thursday night. On the other hand, John indicates that the Jewish leaders would not enter Pilate's hall on the day of Jesus' death (Friday) lest they be defiled and unable to eat the Passover (John 18:28). John portrays the death of Christ as occurring at the time that the Paschal lamb was usually slain. How are these to be reconciled?
Perhaps the point is that they should not be reconciled. Literature from the period, including the Dead Sea Scrolls, indicates that there was a serious discussion among the Jews about the calendar for religious holy days. One group used the lunar calendar and the other the solar calendar. The Qumran community thought that the Temple worship/priests were apostate; one reason they gave is that they had forsaken the correct calendar for the annual feasts. My judgment is that the gospels reflect this disagreement with Matt - Luke stating that the Passover was celebrated on Thursday and John (who was more closely associated with the priests; remember he was able to get in Caiaphas' house during the trial) reflecting the position that the Passover occurred on Friday. That seems to be the best solution.
The simple answer to your question is that there was a dispute in that particular year that existed between the various segments of Jewry regarding the date of the Passover which led different elements in Judaism to take the meal on different days. There is clear evidence of this in the Dead Sea Scrolls among the Essenes also. Without getting into all the complicated views (which I have covered in my commentary on John, pp. 262-269), some Jews observed the old orthodox priestly calendar which was being widely celebrated outside Jerusalem, others followed the Sadducees' date, which was one day later. The interesting fact is that this dispute permitted Jesus to partake of a final Passover meal, and during that meal institute the Lord's Supper, and the following day be crucified (sacrificed) as our Passover lamb. This may be the clearest case of divine providence at work that you will ever observe!
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