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Related:
- According to the Gospels, Was the Last Supper Actually a Passover Feast?
- In the Gospels, Can "Day of:" the Passover - be Interpreted Idiomatically?
- In Luke 22:16: Does the Syntax Indicate if Jesus Was not Going to Eat THAT Passover?
- Do Idioms Used in the Crucifixion Narrative Resolve the "3 Day/3 Night" Objections?
- Luke 22 : What was Jesus' Basis to Order His Disciples to Violate the Passover Sabbath?


1. Question - relating to the history of interpretation:

NASB, John 19:14 - 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!”

Which Non-New Testament, Earliest Church Authorities Support and / or Refute - John 19:14's statement that Jesus was crucified before the Passover Feast? (Historians, Church Fathers, Jewish Commentators, etc.).


2. Possible Examples :

References from these writers would be very meaningful meaningful: Justin Martyr, (100–165 CE), Ignatius, (50-98 CE), PolyCarp, (69-155), etc ...

For example ...

Jerome Appears to Affirm the Last Supper as a Passover Feast:

Augustine (358-430), Summa Theologica, Third Part, Question 46, Article 9: From which, as Jerome, [347-420 CE] says, "since the fourteenth day of the first month is called the day of the Azymes, when the lamb was slain, and when it was full moon," it is quite clear that Christ kept the supper on the fourteenth and died on the fifteenth.

And Tertullian, Seems to Reject the Last Supper as a Passover Feast:

Tertullian, (155-240 CE) - An Answer to the Jews, Chapter 8: ... on the first day of unleavened bread, on which they slew the lamb at even, just as had been enjoined by Moses. Accordingly, all the synagogue of Israel did slay Him ... Chapter 10: Which prediction was thus also fulfilled, that "on the first day of unleavened bread" you slew Christ; ... (that the prophecies might be fulfilled) the day hasted to make an "eventide,"— that is, to cause darkness, which was made at mid-day;

  • Have you found in the Talmud, Sanhedrin Tractate 43b, it says, twice, Yeshua died on the eve of the Passover. – Joshua May 16 '16 at 0:29
  • @Joshua - Sorry about the delay - that is a great comment. A.) Here is the reference for Sanhedrin 43a; B.) I am reluctant to agree because that passage is extremely ambiguous; and, "Yeshu" "Jesus", etc - are all transliterations of the name: "Joshua" - and it is hotly contested if the Talmud actually refers to THE Jesus of Nazareth or not. C.) And even so, the Talmud is dated much later, (500 C.E.), and could be rejected as revisionist history, or non-contemporaneous. – elika kohen May 18 '16 at 2:08
  • I understand, though I think there's been enough work on it to say that only the most prejudiced will refuse it is in fact referring to Jesus of Nazareth. But, yes, it is simply corroborating evidence. There's another section that refers to the miracles by sorcery done by the same Yeshu, so when viewed together it's highly unlikely the Jews would have it in there if it wasn't pointed as Jesus. – Joshua May 18 '16 at 4:55
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    Your link "Augustine (358-430), Summa Theologica, Third Part, Question 46, Article 9" goes to Thomas Aquinas', not Augustine's work. The substance is Jerome's quote, I realize, but I thought I'd let you know. – user33515 Mar 8 '17 at 18:34
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    @Dan - From Steve Taylor, (on Caleb's Meta) : This also fits with the approach of Caleb's meta on how to draw the line between BH and Christianity Stack Exchanges, "Hermeneutics.SE would be the place to discuss the various hermeneutical methods, deal with textual and historical criticism, and cover historical interpretations as they relate to the understanding of texts, etc." (From : hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/22071/…); B.) But, I agree that a verse from John should have stayed in; It's back, and fixed! – elika kohen Mar 8 '17 at 19:52
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In answering this question, what should be born in mind is that the scriptures do not provide certainty on this issue. The synoptic accounts make it clear that the Last Supper, taken on the evening before the crucifixion, whereas the account in John's Gospel does not mention the Last Supper as a sacred feast, instead having Jesus wash the feet of the disciples after what appears to have been the normal supper meal (John 13:5). Also, John 19:14: "And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!"


Origen talks of the crucifixion and the Passover in terms that can only mean he believed that Jesus was sacrificed on the Day of the Passover:

Contra Celsum 8:22: If it be objected to us on this subject that we ourselves are accustomed to observe certain days, as for example the Lord's day, the Preparation, the Passover, or Pentecost, I have to answer, that to the perfect Christian, who is ever in his thoughts, words, and deeds serving his natural Lord, God the Word, all his days are the Lord's, and he is always keeping the Lord's day. He also who is unceasingly preparing himself for the true life, and abstaining from the pleasures of this life which lead astray so many—who is not indulging the lust of the flesh, but keeping under his body, and bringing it into subjection,— such a one is always keeping Preparation-day. Again, he who considers that Christ our Passover was sacrificed for us, and that it is his duty to keep the feast by eating of the flesh of the Word, never ceases to keep the paschal feast; for the pascha means a passover, and he is ever striving in all his thoughts, words, and deeds, to pass over from the things of this life to God, and is hastening towards the city of God. And, finally, he who can truly say, We are risen with Christ, and He has exalted us, and made us to sit with Him in heavenly places in Christ, is always living in the season of Pentecost; and most of all, when going up to the upper chamber, like the apostles of Jesus, he gives himself to supplication and prayer, that he may become worthy of receiving the mighty wind rushing from heaven, which is powerful to destroy sin and its fruits among men, and worthy of having some share of the tongue of fire which God sends.

Augustine (358-430), in Harmony of the Gospels, goes to great lengths to attempt to establish that the synoptics and John do not contradict each other. In Book 2, chapter 78, he discusses whether there is a chronological discrepancy during the period leading up to the Passover, but does not reach a conclusion as to whether the Last Supper was the Passover feast. In chapter 80, where he again sets out to prove that there is no contradiction between the accounts, Augustine appears to accept that preparations were being made for the Passover feast that evening. Beyond this, he never seems quite willing to address the issue of whether John was correct in saying that Jesus was crucified before the Passover.

As stated in the question, more debate surrounded this vexed question. Jerome (347-420)appears to affirm the Last Supper as a Passover Feast:

Augustine, Summa Theologica, Third Part, Question 46, Article 9: From which, as Jerome, [347-420 CE] says, "since the fourteenth day of the first month is called the day of the Azymes, when the lamb was slain, and when it was full moon," it is quite clear that Christ kept the supper on the fourteenth and died on the fifteenth.

However Tertullian (155-240 CE) seems to reject the Last Supper as a Passover Feast:

An Answer to the Jews, Chapter 8: ... on the first day of unleavened bread, on which they slew the lamb at even, just as had been enjoined by Moses. Accordingly, all the synagogue of Israel did slay Him ... Chapter 10: Which prediction was thus also fulfilled, that "on the first day of unleavened bread" you slew Christ; ... (that the prophecies might be fulfilled) the day hasted to make an "eventide,"— that is, to cause darkness, which was made at mid-day;

  • @elikakohen These questions would be better answered in chat. Could we go to the library? – Dick Harfield Apr 1 '16 at 3:43
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    Can you clarify your statement on John not mentioning the last supper? John 13:1,2 clearly introduce John's last supper account and place it before the feast of Passover. I'm guessing you mean something slightly different? – Joshua Apr 1 '16 at 12:51
  • @JoshuaBigbee Sorry this was not clear. Of course, there was a last evening meal, as we see in John 13:2. I have amended my answer to say 'it does not mention the Last Supper as a sacred feast (cf Mark 14:18-26)' and 'what appears to have been the normal supper meal (John 13:2)' and updated the Conclusion. I hope that helps. – Dick Harfield Apr 1 '16 at 19:36
  • @DickHarfield - A.) +1 For Origen Addendum. B.) The references from John/Mark are not really "in scope" though - and can be removed. C.) In fact - If you would grab the references by Jerome, Tertullian, and Sanhedrin 43 - I would love to accept it as the answer. D.) Or with your permission, I could merge them all, and accept it. – elika kohen Mar 8 '17 at 4:56
  • @elikakohen In my answer, i said John makes "a number of changes from the synoptic account." Having said this, I feel I need to show in what way the synoptic accounts are different, which is why I explain what Mark says. I feel this is necessary, even if I reluctantly have to forego extra points. – Dick Harfield Mar 8 '17 at 6:42
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The earliest church recognized the Last Supper as a Passover:

And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. (Luke 22:14-15 ESV)

As the later traditions show, the Church did not accept (or understand) Luke, yet Luke states he wrote specifically to record in writing those things Theophilus had been taught:

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught. Luke 1:1-4 ESV)

Theophilus was taught the Last Supper was a Passover (in Luke 22); Luke wrote to Theophilus so he would know the certainty the Last Supper was a Passover. This is the earliest recorded tradition. The next issue is to reconcile Matthew, Mark, and John with Luke's account.

The Passover is a remembrance of what took place in Egypt:

and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight. “Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. (Exodus 12:6-7)

They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it. (Exodus 12:8 ESV)

When days are reckoned from sunset to sunset the Passover is killed during the end of the period of daylight on the 14th and eaten at night which is the beginning of the 15th day of the month. The Passover is to be observed on the 14th followed by seven days of Unleavened Bread:

In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight, is the LORD's Passover. And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the Lord; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work. But you shall present a food offering to the Lord for seven days. On the seventh day is a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work.” (Leviticus 23:5-8 ESV)

enter image description here

Even contemporary Judaism recognizes the potential ambiguity over the day on which day the Seder meal should be eaten. 1 If it is determined by the meal and eaten on the (calendar day) of Passover, it will be eaten on the 14th. If it is determined by the sacrifice, the meal will be eaten on the 15th.

The other accounts may be reconciled to Luke by recognizing Jesus instructed His disciples to prepare this particular Passover meal during the daylight of the 13th in order to eat it on the night of the 14th. This would account for Luke's account statement Jesus did not eat any of the lamb:

And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 22:15-16 ESV)

After the Last Supper Jesus was arrested and crucified during the daylight on the 14th (the day of preparation) when the Passover lambs are slain. Then Jesus was buried; the sun went down and those lambs killed were eaten (on the 15th).

In terms of the Passover Luke introduces the basis for this Christian tradition:

Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.” (Luke 22:7-8 ESV)

A (regular) Passover lamb is killed before the days of Unleavened Bread begin and there is no Old Testament event known as the "day" (singular) of Unleaveneds (ἡμέρα τῶν ἀζύμων).

According to the Gospel, The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world was sacrificed on The Day of Unleaveneds, inaugurating the New Covenant which His disciples and all who believe in His Name are to remember by eat His flesh and drink His blood as early as the first night (the 15th day of the month) in which He was crucified.

This is exactly what the Scripture states in Leviticus 23:5:

the twilight of the 14th day of the month is the LORD's Passover.

Luke states the New Testament Day of Unleaveneds begins with the Last Supper. Later on this day He was crucified and buried. Following the Day of Unleaveneds (which is the LORD's Passover) the Old Testament days of Unleavened Bread, which are called Passover (Luke 22:1) follow: enter image description here


1. The current practice is for the Seder meal to be eaten on two consecutive nights depending on location. Those living in Israel are to eat the meal the day before it is eaten by those living outside Israel. For example, in 2017 the Seder meal will be eaten on April 10 in Israel and on April 11 outside. [Passover 2017]

  • You seem to be claiming that Luke was an "Errata" of sorts to Mark and Matthew. Where does that place John, since it was written after all three? – user33515 Mar 8 '17 at 21:21
  • @user33515 I have modified the answer to address John's report. – Revelation Lad Mar 10 '17 at 16:55
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Based on the research your question spurred, I would have to answer no, the Last Supper was not considered a Passover Feast in the early Church.

From the wording of your question and the examples you cite, we will take the period of “Early Church History” to span from the times described in the Acts of the Apostles until 430 (the year of Augustine’s death).

First, we must consider what the inclusion of John 19:14 in the Gospel implies of the beliefs held by the Church Fathers. Some hold that the verse read, quoting from the Orthodox Patriarchal Text:

ἦν δὲ παρασκευὴ τοῦ πάσχα, ὥρα δὲ ὡσεὶ ἕκτη

meaning (Orthodox New Testament translation):

Now it was the preparation of the passover, and about [the] sixth hour

According to the apparatus of the 11th edition of the Nestle-Aland Greek-English New Testament, this reading is very close (excluding punctuation and accents, of course), to that found in the majority of manuscripts consulted in the 27th revised edition of the Greek text (some indicate δὲ ὡσ instead of δὲ ὡσεὶ). The Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament (the “Critical Text”), 27th edition, opts for a slightly different reading:

ἦν δὲ παρασκευὴ τοῦ πάσχα, ὥρα ἦν ὡς ἕκτη

using the preposition ἦν instead of δὲ.

Metzger’s Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (2nd ed.) indicates that a number of manuscripts, including the 4th century Codex Sinaiticus and the 5th century Bezae Codex, read “about the third hour” instead of “about the sixth hour” (ὥρα … ὡς τρίτη). He hypothesizes a transcription error between the Greek numerals for 3 (Γ) and 6 (ϝ) could account for the discrepancy.

There is no indication, however, that any manuscript in the Nestle-Aland corpus containing John 19:14 exists which states something other than Now it was the preparation of the passover (ἦν δὲ παρασκευὴ τοῦ πάσχα), nor is there any indication that any manuscript in the Nestle-Aland corpus excludes the verse altogether. Based on this evidence, we assert:

(Proposition I) Any Church Father reading the Gospel of John would have read in the Gospel that Jesus appeared before Pilate on the day of Preparation of the Passover.

If we make the further assumption that any Church Father considering the Gospel of John for inclusion in the New Testament canon would have actually read the Gospel in its entirety, then we should be able to infer that, unless the Father specifically wrote something rejecting John 19:14 as represented above, that he accepted the passage as being truthful in some sense.

I qualify my above statement with “in some sense” because, contrary to what many might believe, strict inerrancy in the sense that every single statement in the Bible is factually true, was not a principle held by the early Church Fathers (i.e. through the mid 5th century). As John Chrysostom wrote, the Evangelists are “in many places are convicted of discordance” (Homily I on the Gospel According to Matthew). Nonetheless, I think we need enumerate those Fathers who supported the inclusion of the Gospel of John into the New Testament as a piece of inductive (not deductive) evidence. They would have certainly considered the truth or falsity of John 19:14 in their decision. These Fathers include, at a minimum:

  • Athanasius the Great (296-373), 39th Festal Letter, written in 367.

  • Cyril of Jerusalem (313-386), Catechetical Lecture IV.35, written around 350. Cyril writes of “four Gospels” but does not mention them by name, but we assume that he was in accord with other Church Fathers in including John.

  • The Church Fathers present at the 3rd Council of Carthage (397)

This leads to a second proposition:

(Proposition II) Athanasius, Cyril of Jerusalem, and the Church Fathers assembled at the 3rd Council of Carthage accepted the Gospel according to John (including John 19:14) as belonging to the New Testament Canon

The verse in John (19:14) - including the reference to passover - is considered in the writings of Tatian (120-180), Peter of Alexandria (300-311) and Augustine. Hippolytus (170-235) mentions the verse in the second chapter of his fragmentary work on Daniel, but refers only to the “sixth hour”.

John 19:14 is quoted in its entirety in the Tatian’s Diatessaron, an early harmony of the Gospels originally written in Syriac. I know that Ephraim of Syria (306-373) wrote a commentary on the Gospels following Tatian’s Diatessaron, but unfortunately I lent my copy of an English-language translation of his commentary to someone. I do not recall Ephraim observing any kind of discrepancy in the timing of passover with respect to Christ’s Passion, but this is from memory.

Peter of Alexandria is somewhat ingenuous towards “some who, carried along by ignorance, confidently affirm that after He had eaten the Passover.” He emphatically denies that Christ ever ate the Passover supper: “He did not eat of the legal Passover.” The full text of his discussion is found in the first chapter of his fifth fragmentary writing:

But after His public ministry He did not eat of the lamb, but Himself suffered as the true Lamb in the Paschal feast, as John, the divine and evangelist, teaches us in the Gospel written by him, where he thus speaks: Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment: and it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment-hall, lest they should be defiled, but that they might eat the passover [John 18:28]. And after a few things more. When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment-seat, in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha. And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the third hour, as the correct books render it, and the copy itself that was written by the hand of the evangelist, which, by the divine grace, has been preserved in the most holy church of Ephesus, and is there adored by the faithful. And again the same evangelist says: The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath-day (for that Sabbath-day was an high day), besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away [John 19:31]. On that day, therefore, on which the Jews were about to eat the Passover in the evening, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ was crucified, being made the victim to those who were about to partake by faith of the mystery concerning Him, according to what is written by the blessed Paul: For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us [1 Corinthians 5:7] not as some who, carried along by ignorance, confidently affirm that after He had eaten the Passover, He was betrayed; which we neither learn from the holy evangelists, nor has any of the blessed apostles handed it down to us. At the time, therefore, in which our Lord and God Jesus Christ suffered for us, according to the flesh, He did not eat of the legal Passover; but, as I have said, He Himself, as the true Lamb, was sacrificed for us in the feast of the typical Passover, on the day of the preparation, the fourteenth of the first lunar month. The typical Passover, therefore, then ceased, the true Passover being present: For Christ our Passover was sacrificed for us, as has been before said, and as that chosen vessel, the apostle Paul, teaches.

Augustine comments on John 19:14 in On the Trinity, On the Harmony of the Gospels, and in his commentary on John, but the only discrepancy he seems to be concerned with is the discrepancy that appears between Christ's being crucified at the 3rd hour, as reported in Mark, and the 9th hour as reported by the other Evangelists. In his 117th Tractate on John, Augustine does not seem to contest that the Crucifixion took place before the passover and not after it. He writes:

And it was the parasceve of the passover, about the sixth hour. And parasceve is in Latin praeparatio (preparation); but the Jews are fonder of using the Greek words in observances of this sort, even those of them who speak Latin rather than Greek. It was therefore the preparation of the passover.

(Frankly I am not sure I follow what Augustine is getting at with his references to Latin or Greek, but he seems to indicate he believes that the events described took place prior to Passover).

These are the sum of discussions I can find regarding the reference to “preparation of the passover” in John 19:14 in the writings of any Ante-Nicene or Nicene and Post-Nicene Father in the time period we are considering (i.e. any Father whose writing is included in Schaff’s ANF and NPNF series).

Thus, I would propose a third proposition:

(Proposition III) The writings of the Ante-Nicene, Nicene or Post-Nicene Father seem to confirm rather than dispute the literal meaning of John 19:14 - that Christ was crucified prior to Passover.

In your question you refer to part of an Article found in Thomas of Acquinas' Summa Theologiae (Part III, Question 46, Article 9), "The time of the Passion". The Objection that Acquinas is addressing is:

It would seem that Christ did not suffer at a suitable time. For Christ's Passion was prefigured by the sacrifice of the Paschal lamb: hence the Apostle says (1 Corinthians 5:7): Christ our Pasch is sacrificed. But the paschal lamb was slain "on the fourteenth day at eventide," as is stated in Exodus 12:6. Therefore it seems that Christ ought to have suffered then; which is manifestly false: for He was then celebrating the Pasch with His disciples, according to Mark's account (14:12): On the first day of the unleavened bread, when they sacrificed the Pasch; whereas it was on the following day that He suffered.

You quote part of Aquinas reply to the objection, but only the portion that illustrates Jerome's statement as possible support for the objection. The whole of his "Reply to Objection 1" is in five paragraphs and addresses not only what Jerome wrote but also possible arguments in the writings of the Gospels and John Chrysostom.

Possibly additional support could be found in other patristic writings for arguing that the Last Supper was not, in fact, the Passover meal, but I think that what I have stated in the three propositions and tried to demonstrate should be adequate to infer what the early Church believed.

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I am in total agreement with what Revelation Lad wrote. I would add only three additional things.

When Jesus broke bread and passed it to His disciples, He broke artos which is normal leavened bread. Were He eating the Passover with His disciples, He would have been eating azumos, unleavened bread. No later than the beginning of Nisan 14 (the day of preparation) all leaven is to be removed from the home (Ex. 12:15-20) and beginning on Nisan 15, the beginning of the 7 days of unleavened bread when the Passover meal is eaten, no leaven is to be eaten.

Years ago I spoke with my Jewish boss about this issue and he said that amongst the Jews in Israel, where he grew up and lived as an adult for three decades, he said that as the beginning of night changed the day from Nisan 13 to Nisan 14, the first born son would have his last supper to honor the fact that his life was saved on that first Passover night. In early days this would be a time when the father would pass on to his son how to conduct the Passover feast and story. Today this is the time when the firstborn son eats and then begins his 24 hour fast. He will not eat again until the beginning of Nisan 15 when he eats the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The lamb that was killed around 3:00 pm on Nisan 14 and then roasted. Once fully cooked, early into the beginning of Nisan 15, they would eat the lamb along with the other commanded foods.

One final thought. At the Last Supper Jesus shared with His disciples, none of the commanded foods were mentioned to have been present. There was no lamb, no kappas, no chazeret, no chariest, and no maror. Only sop and leavened bread are mentioned.

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