Recently, I stumbled across an email I sent in 2010! You ever read something you wrote in the past and thought, “Wow, I wrote that?” That’s exactly what I did when I read this email almost five years later.
It appears it was a written response to an email sent to me by very close friend. His email contained the blog article posted in Biblical Archaeology Society’s Bible History Daily titled “Was Jesus’ Last Supper A Seder?” The link in the email no longer works. However, I googled the article and found the new link HERE.
After I completed the email, I Cc’ed it to many of my close friends. Today, I am sharing it with you. Enjoy!
Thank you for the link to the interesting article. I enjoy reading different perspectives on a tradition that has been celebrated in the Church for almost 2000 years. With that, I am Bcc’ing it to my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ for their enjoyment. But before I do, I’d like to make a few points where I believe the author errored. [I left the misspelling of erred in to maintain the email’s authenticity.]
Like many Christians, the author makes the grand mistake in believing that the synoptic Gospels and the Gospel of John do not match. Therefore, his judgment that the Last Supper cannot be a Passover meal is sadly incorrect. Though not a Seder, which he correctly mentions was a tradition created after the fall of Jerusalem, all four Gospels do place the Last Supper on the same day, Holy Thursday, … let me explain.
In Jewish tradition, if Passover (Nisan 14) lands on the Sabbath, Friday night, which the Gospels dictates was Good Friday, the pascal lamb slaughter occurs on Nisan 13, since slaughtering lambs is “work,” and the Passover feast takes place immediately following the slaughter, that night, which would be Nisan 13; or it is moved to Saturday night, Nisan 15, which is why Mark writes, “The Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were to take place in two days’ time.” 14:1
With that, Luke 22:7 mentions that the Passover meal takes place on “day of sacrificing the lamb”, which was Nisan 13; Matthew 26:17 “on the first day” — again Nisan 13 — because, as Mark tells us, Passover (or the night of Passover meal) is now taking place over two days [Nisan 13 or Nisan 15]; and John 13:1 confirms this by stating that the meal took place on Nisan 13 “before the feast of Passover” (Nisan 14.) [NOTE: St. John’s use of this term will make more sense when the Quartodecimen Controversy is discussed below.]
Therefore, the Last Supper took place in all four Gospels on Thursday, Nisan 13.
What does this mean? It means that the only lamb slaughtered on Nisan 14, the only sacrifice that took place on Nisan 14, the true Passover, was the sacrifice of the true Pascal Lamb, the Messiah, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior, Whose Blood washed away our sins.
Truthfully, that’s all that really matters. Besides the fact that I promised to mention the Quartodecimen Controversy, the following does not really matter. But for you DieHards, I’ll continue. I’m on Spring Break and the Corned Beef is still simmering. 🙂
The placement of the Last Supper on conflicting days leads the author into more error. For example, he twists the Quartodecimen Controversy as a “Semitic plot” when he writes “… to encourage Christians to celebrate Easter on Passover would it not make sense to emphasize the fact that Jesus celebrated Passover with his disciples just before he died?”
The writings of the Church Fathers, however, tell us that it was the followers of the author of the Gospel of John, St. John the Apostle — especially St. Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrma — who celebrated Easter after Passover (Nisan 14), not the followers of the synoptic authors, Matthew, Mark, & Luke, which would put in question that author’s belief that ‘John gets the Post-Passover date of the Last Supper correct.’
[New edition: Quartodecimen stands for 14 — as Nisan 14. This practice caused “controversy” because the early Christians who followed this practice (e.g. the early followers of St. John the Apostle) celebrated the Resurrection of the Lord on the third DAY after Nisan 14 not the SUNDAY following Nisan 14.]
On a side note, Easter, like Passover, is still “lunar” based. Easter ALWAYS falls on the first Sunday following the first full moon that follows the first day of Spring.
Finally, and even less important, the author continues to error when he writes, “The Orthodox churches preserve the earlier custom of using leavened bread.”
The Maronites (Syrian and Palestinian Christians), the Churches of Jerusalem and Alexandria, and the Armenians, all use unleavened bread. Why? In this arena, I will defer to St. Thomas Aquinas.
According to St Thomas Aquinas, in the beginning, both in the East and West, unleavened bread was used. When the sect of the Ebionites arose, who wished that the Mosaic Law should be obligatory on all converts, so leavened bread was used [to combat the heresy]; and when this heresy ceased, the Latins again used unleavened bread, but the Greeks retained the use of leavened bread. In short, leaven bread was used to break the heresy!
With that, the Latin rite can use leaven bread if no unleavened bread is available and vice versa; which means that it is a strongly held tradition (small t) that Jesus used unleavened bread at the Last Supper. Latin-rite Catholics follow this tradition because of the belief that a “good Jew,” which Jesus undoubtedly was, would NOT have “leaven” in their house during the days of the Feast of the Unleavened Bread, which begins on Nisan 14 and continues until Nisan 21… [However, the Last Supper took place on Nisan 13.]
I’m not a theologian, but like I tell my wife “If I can figure this stuff out….”
Maybe much of the connection between Christ and the Passover lamb is lost on us English-speakers because we use term Easter to refer to the feast of the Resurrection of Our Lord. Most of Christian world uses a variant of the word Pascha (Greek: Πάσχα).
- Latin – Pascha or Festa Paschalia
- Greek – Paskha
- Bulgarian – Paskha
- Danish – Paaske
- Dutch – Pasen
- Finnish – Pääsiäinen
- French – Pâques
- Indonesian – Paskah
- Italian – Pasqua
- Lower Rhine German – Paisken
- Norwegian – Påske
- Portuguese – Páscoa
- Romanian – Pasti
- Russian – Paskha
- Spanish – Pascua
- Swedish – Påsk
- Welsh – Pasg
Pascha is a transliteration of the Greek word, which is itself a transliteration of the Hebrew Pesach, both meaning Passover.
Recently, I discovered an interesting tidbit about the pascal lambs and the shepherds who visited the Infant Jesus at the time of his birth. Some evidence points to the fact that the sheep that these shepherds tended to, in the fields outside of Bethlehem, where the Temple lambs raised to serve in Temple sacrifices, including Passover. These lambs were believed to be “wrapped in swaddling clothes” (Luke 2:12) to protect them and keep them “without blemish and without spot.” (1 Peter 1:19)
According to tradition, these “unblemished” lambs were sacrificed on Nisan 14 between noon and 3pm — the same time Christ hung on the cross.
The Passover “lamb in which was commanded to be wholly roasted,” wrote Justin Martyr,, a second century Christian, “was a symbol of the suffering of the cross which Christ would undergo. For the lamb, which is roasted, is roasted and dressed up in the form of the cross. For one spit is transfixed right through from the lower parts up to the head, and one across the back, to which are attached the legs of the lamb.”
In short, Jesus is “the Lamb of God who takes of way the sin of the world.”
James Henry is the author of Corporation YOU: A Business Plan for the Soul and the new book series Hail Mary. To contact James or book an interview, please contact Mark of Goldman/McCormick PR at (516) 639-0988 or Mark@goldmanmccormick.com