How could Jesus and His disciples have eaten a Passover meal on Wednesday night? Do you think that lamb was eaten during their meal?


Email Received:

I continue to lean toward a Thursday crucifixion, as you do. However, you did not address on your page what I think is the most important problem with our position and that is, how could Jesus celebrate a Passover meal on 13 Nisan (which is actually the Jewish 14 Nisan, between 6 pm and midnight) on Wednesday?

Also, even if you hold to two Passovers (Judean and Galilean), the temple would have been "open for sacrifice" only on the 14th and 15th, no way on the 13th. The apostles would not have been able to sacrifice their Passover lamb for the last Passover/Lord's Supper. Granted, I don't read of a lamb in the synoptics Gospels, but on the surface I still have a problem with this as Jesus was the anti-type of the type, and I can't imagine that the type would not have been present at such an import point for the imagery to be completed.


Tedís Response:

First off, it is important for us to be consistent when referring to specific time periods. Otherwise, confusion will result. The time periods I reference in my Good Thursday commentary are from a Hebraic/Jewish standpoint, so each new 24-hour day begins and ends at sunset, not at midnight.

Therefore, during the week in question, 13 Nisan would have begun at sunset following Tuesday and continued to sunset Wednesday. 14 Nisan, Thursday, would have encompassed the period of time from sunset ending Wednesday to the following sunset. That is, evening/night was the first portion of each day, lasting for about 12 hours, followed by morning/daylight, also lasting about 12 hours.

What it seems that you are asking is how Jesus could have eaten a Passover meal near the beginning of Thursday, 14 Nisan, soon after sunset ending Wednesday, 13 Nisan. You also seem to lean toward thinking that a lamb was eaten during Jesus' last Passover / Lord's Supper.

There does appear to be some historical confirmation that some Jews ate the Passover meal on 14 Nisan, while others ate it on 15 Nisan. However, the last portion of John 18:28 indicates that the Jews who brought Jesus to Pilate did not enter the Roman governor's (Pilate's) palace, so as to avoid ceremonial uncleanness, since they wanted to eat the Passover the following evening (at the beginning of 15 Nisan). Eating the meal after sunset, when 15 Nisan began, would be consistent with Exodus 12:6-8.

Jesus ate the Passover meal with His disciples on 14 Nisan (one night earlier than the majority of other Jews would eat it) simply because He would not be alive to eat it the following night. He really did not have a choice to do it at the regular time. Otherwise, He could not have been crucified at the same time as the other Passover lambs were slaughtered, at mid-afternoon on 14 Nisan.

As to whether or not Jesus and His disciples ate lamb that night, I lean toward thinking that they did not. One of the main reasons I feel this way is that most, if not all, of the Passover lambs would be sacrificed several hours later, at mid-afternoon on 14 Nisan, which is the time specified as beyn haíarbayim or "twilight" (Exodus 12:6). It would seem to me that the disciples, in making preparations for the Passover meal, would have been breaking a more significant regulation by slaughtering a lamb almost a day early than by eating the Passover meal a night earlier than most Jews did.

Also, people did not bring their Passover lambs to the temple to be slaughtered; they killed them at their own homes so that they could roast and eat them there, after sunset. The only Passover lamb that was slain in the temple was the one by the high priest, probably in case any Israelites failed, for whatever reason, to slay their own lambs and thus break the commandment to do so.

At any rate, I do not see the necessity for there to have been a lamb at the Last Supper, even though it was a Passover meal. In fact, figuratively speaking, the disciples consumed the "body" and "blood" of the ultimate Passover Lamb, Jesus, when they ate the unleavened bread and drank the red wine. If anything, a roasted lamb on the table would have been an unnecessary distraction from this process, since their supreme Lamb was reclining at the table with them.

After thinking about the questions you raised, I added three paragraphs to my Good Thursday commentary. I have included some of the additional information in this email. If you are interested in further details, go to the Passover and crucifixion on Thursday section in my commentary, and the three paragraphs I have added are just prior to the last paragraph in that section.


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