Why did Easter fall on Sunday about a month ago? The Jewish Passover is happening tonight (April 22, 2024) and yet the Catholic Church and Christendom celebrated Easter about a month ago. What full moon is scriptural? Is it the first full moon after the spring equinox which determines Easter? If so, what full moon must happen for the Jewish Passover to occur?

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Here is a quote from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passover

Passover is a spring festival, so the 15th day of Nisan typically begins on the night of a full moon after the northern vernal equinox.[41] However, due to leap months falling after the vernal equinox, Passover sometimes starts on the second full moon after vernal equinox, as in 2016.

To ensure that Passover did not start before spring, the tradition in ancient Israel held that the lunar new year, the first day of Nisan, would not start until the barley was ripe, being the test for the onset of spring. If the barley was not ripe, or various other phenomena indicated that spring was not yet imminent, an intercalary month (Adar II) would be added. However, since at least the 4th century, the intercalation has been fixed mathematically according to the Metonic cycle.

These rules are slightly different from those used to establish the date of Easter and hence they only occasionally correspond. Further, Passover does not often fall on a weekend as must Easter (one of the differences in rules.)

APPENDIX - Passover Date

Jesus’ death in 14th of Nissan, can be calculated using the usual dating systems by finding a year in the range 30 AD to 33AD in which the Jewish Passover fell on Friday. Since we do not have definitive and precise information about the Jewish calendar (specifically the occurrence of “leap years” with the second Adar), such methods depend more on what is unknown than known. Even astronomical methods cannot help because they depend upon local meteorological conditions such as cloud obscuring a new moon.

However, the overwhelming consensus from such methods, despite their limitations suggests that the crucifixion must have occurred during the Passover in Nisan (March/April), either in March, 30 AD, or, April, 31 AD. The former is too early as already shown (Jesus’ ministry lasted more than 2½ years), but the second accords with the known facts.

Despite the insuperable difficulties in knowing the local calendar of 2000 years ago, there are still a very limited range of possible dates from which to choose. If we accept that Jesus died on the afternoon of Friday, 14th of Nisan, then the first of Nisan must be at sunset on Friday, about 18:00 local time. In the years 30-33, there are only two years that are even possible, namely,

  • 30 AD when New Moon occurs at 20:07, Wed, Mar 22 local time. Thus, Nisan 1 would begin about 1 day and 22 hours later on Mar 24. This accords with the Babylonian calendar (not used in Jerusalem) but such an event is almost too soon in date and too soon after sunset to be reliably seen.
  • 31 AD when New Moon occurs at 13:53, Tues, Apr 10 local time. Thus, Nisan 1 would begin about 3 days and 4 hours later on Apr 17. This is more credible.

Easter, in the organized church, first began to be celebrated on the Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox around the second century. Eusebius talks about some of the difficulties that transpired surrounding this change. Many Christians, particularly the elders, rejected the change, preferring to continue to celebrate it according to the Jewish passover proper, as it was handed down generationally from the apostles.

This year, 2024, the spring equinox was right around March 20th. The first full moon following it was on March 24th. The first Sunday following this full moon after the equinox was March 31st.

Passover, as opposed to Easter, was celebrated on the 14th day of the Jewish month Nisan. The start of the month, because of the lunar calendar used by the Jews, fluctuated. The month would be determined by lunar crescent sighting. In some years, there would be an intercalary month that would push the month of Nisan forward significantly.

In our current year, the new crescent of March 11th was too early for the month of Nisan to begin relative to the spring equinox, so an intercalary month was added (although this is precalculated in our modern day and follows something similar to the Metonic Cycle). The next new crescent moon was visible on the evening of April 9th, at 10° altitude and 11° angular separation. That puts the day of the 1st of Nisan on April 10th, and the 14th of Nisan, the Passover, on the 23rd. Modern calculations may be a little different if it is being celebrated on the 22nd. It may be that they calculate the actual new moon rather than waiting for visibility as the Muslims do. But that's the gist.

The difference in the reckoning is the reason for the disparity between Easter and the Passover. They are calculated differently.

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