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In Leviticus 23, Passover completely precedes the Feast of Unleavened Bread, with the first day being a day of convocation:

[Lev 23:5-8 NLT] (5) "The LORD's Passover begins at sundown on the fourteenth day of the first month. (6) On the next day, the fifteenth day of the month, you must begin celebrating the Festival of Unleavened Bread. This festival to the LORD continues for seven days, and during that time the bread you eat must be made without yeast. (7) On the first day of the festival, all the people must stop their ordinary work and observe an official day for holy assembly. (8) For seven days you must present special gifts to the LORD. On the seventh day the people must again stop all their ordinary work to observe an official day for holy assembly."

But the disciples don't begin preparations for the Passover until the first day of the feast of unleavened bread rather than attending the convocation, apparently intending to eat the Passover on the second day of the feast.

[Mat 26:17-20 NLT] (17) On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Where do you want us to prepare the Passover meal for you?" (18) "As you go into the city," he told them, "you will see a certain man. Tell him, 'The Teacher says: My time has come, and I will eat the Passover meal with my disciples at your house.'" (19) So the disciples did as Jesus told them and prepared the Passover meal there. (20) When it was evening, Jesus sat down at the table with the twelve disciples.

Did the schedule change by the first century?

Notes:

These are some data I discovered in doing my own research:

  • there seems to be confusion throughout the scriptures concerning the schedule!:

[Mar 14:1 NKJV] (1) After two days it was the Passover and [the Feast] of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take Him by trickery and put [Him] to death.

[Luk 22:1 NKJV] (1) Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called Passover.

[Num 28:17 NKJV] (17) 'And on the fifteenth day of this month [is] the feast; unleavened bread shall be eaten for seven days.

[Eze 45:21 NKJV] (21) "In the first [month], on the fourteenth day of the month, you shall observe the Passover, a feast of seven days; unleavened bread shall be eaten.

This is a modern Jewish source, delineating Pesach from Passover - very important to understand.

Regarding the preparations for the feast of unleavened bread (the cleansing the homes of leaven), the Jewish Encyclopedia notes that the date of the cleansing might be moved:

This "investigation" was transferred to the eve of Sabbath when the 14th of Nisan coincided with the Sabbath.

The Passover must be killed in the temple, in the evening:

[Deu 16:6 NLT] (6) You must offer it only at the designated place of worship--the place the LORD your God chooses for his name to be honored. Sacrifice it there in the evening as the sun goes down on the anniversary of your exodus from Egypt.

They were also to eat it in the temple:

[Deu 16:7 NLT] (7) Roast the lamb and eat it in the place the LORD your God chooses. Then you may go back to your tents the next morning.

Also, it appears that the "seven days" end a day early:

[Exo 12:14-20 NLT] (14) "This is a day to remember. Each year, from generation to generation, you must celebrate it as a special festival to the LORD. This is a law for all time. (15) For seven days the bread you eat must be made without yeast. On the first day of the festival, remove every trace of yeast from your homes. Anyone who eats bread made with yeast during the seven days of the festival will be cut off from the community of Israel. (16) On the first day of the festival and again on the seventh day, all the people must observe an official day for holy assembly. No work of any kind may be done on these days except in the preparation of food. (17) "Celebrate this Festival of Unleavened Bread, for it will remind you that I brought your forces out of the land of Egypt on this very day. This festival will be a permanent law for you; celebrate this day from generation to generation. (18) The bread you eat must be made without yeast from the evening of the fourteenth day of the first month until the evening of the twenty-first day of that month. (19) During those seven days, there must be no trace of yeast in your homes. Anyone who eats anything made with yeast during this week will be cut off from the community of Israel. These regulations apply both to the foreigners living among you and to the native-born Israelites. (20) During those days you must not eat anything made with yeast. Wherever you live, eat only bread made without yeast."

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  • What verse do you base that on? @Ruminator – R. Emery Mar 10 at 20:00
  • Oops, @R.Emery I added the Matthew passage to my question. Thanks. – Ruminator Mar 10 at 20:04
  • I see no contradiction. The 14th is Passover. Sundown on the 14th is the start of the 15th which is the 1st day of the festival. The sun had already set when he sent them into the city – R. Emery Mar 10 at 20:12
  • The Passover meal was normally eaten after sundown on the 15th. – R. Emery Mar 10 at 20:54
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    This chronology problem of the synoptics and Passover is an old chestnut on which much ink has been spilled – Dottard Mar 10 at 21:12
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Based on [Mark 14:12, Matthew 26:17-19] the disciples performed late Pesach preparations which did not keep the traditional timeline of פֶּ֖סַח Pesach (Passover, 14th/15th of Aviv) + חַ֥ג הַמַּצּ֖וֹת Chag HaMatzot (Festival of Unleavened Bread, 15th-21st of Aviv) from Leviticus 23:5-6.

During which Month is חַ֣ג הַמַּצּוֹת֘ Chag HaMatzot? - Month חֹ֣דֶשׁ Chodesh of The-Spring הָֽאָבִ֔יב Ha-Aviv.

  • The Month of the Aviv (Spring) - stated in Exodus 23:15
    "You shall observe the festival of unleavened bread; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread as I have commanded you, at the appointed time of the month of springtime, for then you left Egypt, and they shall not appear before Me empty handed." ( אֶת־חַ֣ג הַמַּצּוֹת֘ תִּשְׁמֹר֒ שִׁבְעַ֣ת יָמִים֩ תֹּאכַ֨ל מַצּ֜וֹת כַּֽאֲשֶׁ֣ר צִוִּיתִ֗ךָ לְמוֹעֵד֙ חֹ֣דֶשׁ הָֽאָבִ֔יב כִּי־ב֖וֹ יָצָ֣אתָ מִמִּצְרָ֑יִם וְלֹא־יֵֽרָא֥וּ פָנַ֖י רֵיקָֽם )

#1. Pesach פֶּ֖סַח is at dusk (twilight) on 14th of Aviv.

Leviticus 23:5

In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, at twilight, there shall be a passover offering to YHVH, ( בַּחֹ֣דֶשׁ הָרִאשׁ֗וֹן בְּאַרְבָּעָ֥ה עָשָׂ֛ר לַחֹ֖דֶשׁ בֵּ֣ין הָעַרְבָּ֑יִם פֶּ֖סַח לַיהוָֽה )

#2. Chag HaMatzot חַ֥ג הַמַּצּ֖וֹת is the 15th-21st of Aviv.

Leviticus 23:6

and on the fifteenth day of that month the LORD’s Feast of Unleavened Bread. You shall eat unleavened bread for seven days. ( וּבַחֲמִשָּׁ֨ה עָשָׂ֥ר יוֹם֙ לַחֹ֣דֶשׁ הַזֶּ֔ה חַ֥ג הַמַּצּ֖וֹת לַיהוָ֑ה שִׁבְעַ֥ת יָמִ֖ים מַצּ֥וֹת תֹּאכֵֽלוּ׃ )

[Fast Forward to the Gospels]

#3. Preparations for Pesach in Mark 14:12 [NASB] :

12 On the first day of Unleavened Bread, [when the Passover lamb was being sacrificed], His disciples *said to Him, “Where do You want us to go and prepare for You to eat the Passover?”

  • WAIT. - Pesach should start at dusk before Chag HaMatsot, not at night on the first day (1/7) of Festival of Unleavened Bread. So when is Pesach traditionally celebrated?

Chizkuni commented on Leviticus 23:5 stating:

בין הערבים, פסח, “at dusk, a Passover;” on the eve of the first day of Passover. The night between the fourteenth and the fifteenth of that month is called “Passover.” The reason is that during that night the people were busy consuming the meat of that offering. The remaining days of that festival are called: חג המצות, “the festival of the unleavened bread.”
[ https://www.sefaria.org/Leviticus.23.5?with=Chizkuni&lang=bi&aliyot=0 ]

The traditional timeline of Pesach is : Dusk on 14th of Aviv (Preparation) - Beginning at Night is the 15th of Aviv (Supper).

#4. In Matthew 26:17-19, Pesach preparations were late :

17 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 keeping the Passover at your house with My disciples.”’” 19 The disciples did as Jesus had directed them; and they prepared the Passover

Both [Mark 14:12] & [Matthew 26:17-19] appear to state Jesus' disciples prepared a late Pesach at night during the night/start of 15th of Aviv, instead of the traditional Pesach requirement (dusk/end of the 14th of Aviv).

Preparations were late but the Pesach meal of Jesus' disciples maintained the tradition of eating [it] at night/start of Chag HaMatzot (15th of Aviv).

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A larger debate

This question could be seen as subset of the debate as to whether the crucifixion took place on 14 Nisan (per John) or 15 Nisan (the most common reading the synoptics) on the Jewish calendar. Much ink has been spilled trying to resolve this chronology. My own assessment of the data, found here , suggests only the 14 Nisan date is consistent with the lunar cycles during the tenure of Pilate, and so John’s chronology is to be preferred.

Very brief survey of a detailed question-why is the 14th a better fit with the lunar cycles? Assuming the Jews got their calendar right, the only year during which 15 Nisan fell on a Friday while Pilate was in office was in AD 27, too early to be the year of the crucifixion. 14 Nisan fell on a Friday in both AD 30 & AD 33. See link above for a more thorough analysis.

Historical context

“The Passover”

From Talmage:

It should be remembered that by common usage the term “Passover” was applied not only to the day or season of the observance, but to the meal itself, and particularly to the slain Lamb (Jesus the Christ, p. 618)

In this sense the "feast of unleavened bread" is used to refer to the whole week, and "the Passover" is the lamb and/or the meal in which it is eaten. I will use “the Passover” in reference to the specific meal below.

Furthermore, Talmage observes:

The day preceding the eating of the passover lamb had come to be known among the Jews as the first day of the feast of unleavened bread, since on that day all leaven had to be removed from their dwellings (ibid, pp. 592-593)

Let’s look at Matthew’s meaning if the meal took place on the evening of the 14th vs the 15th (bearing in mind that the evening is the beginning of their day)

14 Nisan

If Jesus and His disciples are eating “the Passover” on the 14th of Nisan, they do not appear to have done anything late--rather they made preparations on the 13th. After sundown it became the 14th of Nisan and they ate the meal 1 day early.

15 Nisan

In this case they ate “the Passover” on the normal day, and the synoptic chronology can be taken at face value (but John’s cannot). In this case "the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread" should be taken in the sense described by Talmage above, as they day in which leaven was removed from homes.

Where is the discrepancy?

If the aforementioned lunar cycle analysis is correct, there is no reason to suspect the meal was eaten on the 15th; it was eaten on the 14th. In this case the discrepancy is not in doing something late but rather in doing it early. We might reasonably ask why would Jesus and His disciples have eaten “the Passover” a day early?

Did the schedule change by the first century?

This is by no means the only possible solution, but it is a possibility that is clean and straightforward.

Again from Talmage:

[I]t is held by many authorities on Jewish antiquities that before, at, and after the time of Christ, two nights were devoted yearly to the paschal observance, during either of which the lamb might be eaten, and that this extension of time had been made in consideration of the increased population, which necessitated the ceremonial slaughtering of more lambs than could be slain on a single day; and in this connection it is interesting to note that Josephus (wars, vi, ch. 9:3) records the number of lambs slain at a single Passover as 256,500. In the same paragraph, Josephus states that the lambs had to be slain between the ninth and the eleventh hour (3 to 5 p.m.). According to this explanation, Jesus and the Twelve may have partaken of the Passover meal on the first of the two evenings. (ibid, p. 618)

Conclusion

Perhaps there is a discrepancy, or perhaps they complied with the letter of the law by making the requisite preparations, and complied with the spirit of the law by doing it all a day early. My assessment of the chronology suggests they ate the meal on the 14th, which apparently was not unheard of in 2nd temple Judaism.

I conclude that either the chronology in the synoptics is wrong, or our common interpretation of the synoptics is wrong. Naturally we are inclined to assume it is we who are right and people of the distant past who were wrong. A more humble approach to history acknowledges that it may well be our understanding, not Matthew's, that is in error.


Addendum re additional questions asked

Mark 14:1 - Mark narrates the whole week, so I take this reference to mean simply that the events described in verse 2 are two days before the Passover. A fairly literal rendering of the passage (here): is "it would be now the Passover and the feast of unleavened bread after two days". So Mark's giving us a timestamp that we're at Passover minus 2; his next timestamp in verse 12 seems to confirm this.

Deut 16:7 - I don't read this to mean they must eat the lamb in the temple. From Josephus we learn they were particular about the time/place where the lamb was slaughtered, but if Deut 16:7 was intended to tell them to eat the lamb in the temple, this doesn't seem to be the way Jews in Jesus' time (or later) understood it. Standard practice appears to have been to have the sacrifice made in the appropriate place and then to eat it at home.

Exodus 12:18 - This would be 8 days if the day began in the morning, but only 7 days with the day beginning in the evening. If the "evening of the 14th" is a reference to the sun going down on the 14th, which commences the 15th, then the "21st at even" would be the end of the day, right when the 22nd begins. If that is correct, the days on which you could not eat leaven were 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21 = 7 days.

That said, in digging into the topic a little further I find that there is precedent for an "8-day Passover", and that this is a subject of debate among various branches of Judaism. A nice look at the history and the geographical reasons for which an ostensibly 7-day observance developed into 8 (for some) is found here.

Note that this dovetails nicely with the last quotation from Talmage above indicating that it may well have been customary among some Jews in some times & places to observe multiple days and even eat the Passover meal on the first & second days!

Whether the variation was driven by population, geography, or both, there does indeed appear to have been some variation in practice by the first century.

All that said, there also appears to be some variation in usage of the terminology the "first day" -- in some places it appears to be used in reference to the day in which preparations are made, where elsewhere the term appears to be used in reference to the day of the first convocation. If the Passover meal itself was being held (in some places) on two adjacent days, that may account for the variation in terminology.

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  • The crucifixion occurred on the new wine festival 2 months after Passover – R. Emery Mar 10 at 21:09
  • @R. Emery what soure(s) can you recommend for learning more about this theory? All 4 Gospels indicate it was at Passover. – Hold To The Rod Mar 10 at 21:26
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    The Sanhedrin once stated the crucifixion of Yeshua was near Pesach [Sanhedrin 43a:20] : "On Passover Eve they hung the corpse of Jesus the Nazarene after they killed him by way of stoning. And a crier went out before him for forty days, publicly proclaiming: Jesus the Nazarene is going out to be stoned because he practiced sorcery, incited people to idol worship, and led the Jewish people astray." - sefaria.org/Sanhedrin.43a?lang=bi – חִידָה Mar 10 at 21:34
  • @HoldToTheRod Well there is the fact that the disciples were said to be "full of new wine" on "pentecost". And the day of "preparation" is a mistranslation of the day of concoction. The day of concocting new wine. It was either 2 or 3 months after Passover. I think 3 months. I would have to look it up – R. Emery Mar 10 at 21:45
  • @HoldToTheRod You count 7 short sabbaths and then after that you count 50 more days to the new wine festival. Thats 92 days or 3 months. archive.gci.org/articles/harvest-seasons-of-ancient-israel – R. Emery Mar 10 at 22:00
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Therefore, because it was the Preparation [Day], that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and [that] they might be taken away. — John 19:31 (NKJV)

This high holiday corresponds to Leviticus's "On the first day of the festival", which begins at sunset between the 14th and 15th.

Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they killed the Passover [lamb], His disciples said to Him, “Where do You want us to go and prepare, that You may eat the Passover?” — Mark 14:12

The lambs are sacrificed on "Preparation Day", the 14th, the day before the high holiday. Notice that Mark refers to the "first day of Unleavened Bread" as the day when the lambs are sacrificed. He is counting this Preparation Day as part of the events, but the Festival itself doesn't begin until sunset.

The seven days of the Festival don't begin until sunset between the 14th and the 15th. Leavened bread is allowed on the Preparation Day (but probably difficult to find as that is when everyone is cleaning their homes of anything to do with yeast), so Mark includes this day in the general name of the event.

  • After sunset, the 14th begins; the "Last Supper" is eaten; it is not the formal Passover Meal.
  • During the daylight portion of the 14th, Jesus is arrested, tortured, and killed.
  • The lambs are slaughtered at approximately the same time as Jesus dies, on the Preparation Day.
  • Jesus is buried quickly and everyone returns to their homes before sunset.
  • After sunset, the 15th begins, yeast is forbidden, and the Passover Meal is eaten.

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