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A Harmony of the Gospels for Students of the Life

The Passover feast began on the 15th Nisan

_11. Did Christ Eat the Passover?_

To put this question in another form, it would be, On what day of the month was Jesus crucified? For the crucifixion occurred on the same Jewish day as the eating of the meal recorded by all four Evangelists. Nearly all agree that the crucifixion occurred on Friday and the meal was eaten the evening before, our Thursday, but the beginning of the Jewish day, counting from sunset to sunset. But what day of the month was it? The Passover feast began on the 15th Nisan, the lamb being slain in the afternoon of the 14th. But the day of the week would vary with the new moon. If Jesus ate the regular Passover supper, he was crucified on the 15th Nisan. If he ate an anticipatory meal a day in advance and was himself slain at the hour of killing the paschal lamb, he was crucified on the 14th Nisan. In that case he did not really eat the Passover supper at all. So then we must seek to determine the truth about this matter, because express statements are made about it in the Gospels.

1. Some sentimental views of the question need to be disposed of first. A great controversy once raged in the early churches about the Passover.

_(a)_ In the latter part of the second century some of the churches of Asia Minor, largely composed of Jewish Christians, kept up the Passover on the ground that Jesus had eaten it the night before his crucifixion. Polycarp, the

disciple of John, expresses the persuasion that Jesus ate the Passover.

_(b)_ But some of the churches were afraid of this example and its application to the discussion about the relation of the Mosaic laws to Christianity. So they took the position that Jesus did not eat the Passover himself, but as the Paschal Lamb, was crucified at the time the lamb was slain. He was our Passover. The Greek churches now hold this position, while the Latin churches hold that Jesus ate the Passover. But those arguments are purely subjective and do not affect the question of fact. Hence we waive this old-time controversy and come to the testimony of the Gospels themselves.

2. The testimony of the Synoptists, Mark, Matthew, and Luke. The evidence they give is abundant and explicit to the effect that Jesus ate the regular Paschal Supper on the evening after the 14th Nisan.

_(a)_ Jesus predicted that his death would occur during the Feast of the Passover. See Matthew 26:2, "Ye know that after two days the Passover cometh, and the Son of Man is delivered up to be crucified." See also Mark 14:1 and Luke 22:1, where the fact is alluded to. Passover is used in the general sense of the feast of unleavened bread, as Luke explains. The feast of unleavened bread followed the Passover meal, beginning the next morning and lasting a week. But the one term was used to include the other. The Passover was expanded to mean the entire feast that followed, and _vice versa_.

_(b)_ It is true that the Jewish authorities decided not to put Jesus to death during the feast (Matthew 26:5; Mark 14:2). But this decision was reached not because of any compunctions of conscience in the matter, but because they were afraid of a tumult among the people, owing to the great crowds, many of whom were friendly to Christ. But so soon as Judas offered his services, their fears vanished and they proceeded with their murderous designs (Matthew 26:14; Mark 14:11). The rulers did expedite matters at the crucifixion that the bodies might not be exposed on the Sabbath. But they had often tried to slay Jesus on the Sabbath heretofore. Public executions did take place during the feasts (Deut. 17:12 f.).

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