During Passover 2020, I had a lot of extra time to ponder and consider several seeming inconsistencies, or incongruous pieces of Scripture. I had long been troubled by several verses in the Gospels regarding Yeshua’s ‘Last Supper,’ and I wanted to sort them out. With an abundance of lockdown and quarantine time on my hands, I started reevaluating and reassembling pieces from Scripture.
One of the major points of thought, both in Judaism and in Christendom (Hebrew roots included) is the understanding, or tradition, that Passover occurs on the evening that begins the week of Unleavened Bread. But, if so, then Yeshua’s Passover was a day early… The result is pieces of Scripture that do not fit together. So, I had to reread all the relevant passages.
As I began to draw a conclusion that reframed my understanding of the Exodus, pieces fit together much better. Following are some charts, Scripture, and thoughts for your consideration.
Did Yeshua lie?
There has been much debate about whether Yeshua’s last meal was a Passover, or if it was something else. The debate is usually ended by pointing to the ‘artos’ verses that appear to refer to leavened bread. For the short term, let’s set ‘artos’ aside and look at what the Gospels say regarding Passover. I’ll cite the pertinent verses from each,
Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was approaching. 2 And the chief priests and the scribes were trying to find a way to put Him to death, since they were afraid of the people…
7 Now the day of Unleavened Bread came, on which the Passover [lamb] had to be sacrificed. 8 And [so Jesus] sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, so that we may eat it.” 9 They said to Him, “Where do You want us to prepare it?” 10 And He said to them, “When you have entered the city, a man carrying a pitcher of water will meet you; follow him into the house that he enters. 11 And you shall say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, “Where is the guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?”’ 12 And he will show you a large, furnished upstairs room; prepare it there.” 13 And they left and found everything just as He had told them; and they prepared the Passover.
14 When the hour came, He reclined at the table, and the apostles with Him. 15 And He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer;Luke 22, select verses
Yeshua clearly says, ‘go prepare the Passover,’ the disciples ‘prepare it’ then Yeshua says, ‘I have desired to eat this Passover.’
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?” 13 And He *sent two of His disciples and *said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a pitcher of water will meet you; follow him; 14 and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher says, “Where is My guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?”’ 15 And he himself will show you a large upstairs room furnished and ready; prepare for us there.” 16 The disciples left and came to the city, and found everything just as He had told them; and they prepared the Passover.Mark 14:12-15
Notice, the Passover lambs are being sacrificed on the afternoon that Yeshua sent the disciples to prepare a place. He sends them to ‘prepare…the Passover.’ And, ‘they prepared the Passover.’
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.Matthew 26:17-19
THREE of the Gospels unequivocally state that Yeshua was to celebrate the Passover that evening. Further, two of the three state clearly that this occurred ‘on the day the Passover [lamb] was being sacrificed.’
We must ask several questions:
- Did Yeshua get the day wrong?
- Did Yeshua just do Passover a day early?
- Did the authors of Scripture misspeak?
- Did the Passover lambs get offered on the wrong afternoon?
- Or, have we misunderstood some things?
Passover is a meal, not a day!
Scripture gives the date for the Passover meal, but Leviticus 23:5 does not give any instruction for the ‘day.’ All other moedim in Leviticus clearly articulate that certain days are complete rest or not laborious work days. No such command is ever given for Passover. Every place there are commands regarding Passover, the commands define a meal, not a ‘day.’
Following is one of two charts wherein I scanned and made notes on a calendar page a friend gave me from Michael Rood’s 6020/2020 calendar. The 2020 observance lines up exactly with Yeshua’s final days, death, burial, and resurrection.
But, but, but…. artos!
The big question that arises concerning whether Yeshua was keeping Passover is that the Greek, in the same above Gospels, uses the word ‘artos’ for bread that Yeshua took and broke. It is unlikely that all three writers just forgot to use ‘atzumos’, the Greek word for ‘matzah.’ This point usually causes the researcher to overlook all of the clear statements regarding ‘Passover’ that we just read and deem them incorrect, but is there possibly another solution?
The command for the Passover meal, in Exodus 12:8, clearly says that unleavened bread, matzah, is to be eaten with the meal. However, there is no command that leavened bread cannot be in the house or even at the table. The command is TO eat matzah, but there is no corollary saying ‘NOT to eat leavened bread.‘
There is a command to clean the house of leavened bread on the first day of Unleavened (see Exodus 12:18-20, 39; 13:6-7; Lev. 23:6-7). If we understand that all bread was sourdough at that time and required a good bit of rising time, then bread that rose on the 13th could be baked and eaten on the 14th, but due to lack of time on the 14th as they were assembling and preparing to depart Egypt, the bread of the Israelites could not sit and rise for the 15th. Sourdough starter takes about seven days to get going before a sufficient amount is ready to bake with, so what appears to have occurred in the Exodus is that on the 14th no bread was started for baking on the 15th and the starter was thrown out. Therefore, the leaven was out of the house on the 15th, while leavened bread was still available on the 14th during preparations.
In like manner, Yeshua obeyed the command to eat Passover with unleavened bread (matzah/atzumos), but leavened bread (lechem/artos) was still available in the house for giving to Judas. It did not need to be out of the house until the next afternoon or even ‘on’ the 15th based on Exodus 12:15.
Once I had puzzled through Yeshua’s crucifixion week and assembled the clear pieces from Scripture, I went back to look at the Scriptures regarding the Exodus Passover and the pieces all dropped into place.
Most people’s perception of the Israelite exodus from Egypt is a flannelgraph board with fifteen people, two goats and a cloud of dust. In truth, most people cannot even begin to wrap their mind around the size of this movement.
I spent several years in the US Army’s 82nd Airborne Division. Once per year, the whole division, 15,000 soldiers, would practice for a week then march in a parade and review. It took hours to get into position, do the parade, then return to our respective parade fields, and that was just 15,000 people. Imagine 2,400,000 untrained people!!
To help explain my point, here is an image of 100,000 people. Multiply this by 24 and add sheep, goats, donkeys, carts, etc…
Now, can you begin to understand why it took from dawn til dusk on the 14th to get everyone moving and in some semblance of order?
Here is the sequence of what I believe happened in Egypt at the first Passover.
Israel was clearly instructed to stay indoors the entire night of Passover, yet Deuteronomy 16:1 seems to indicate that they left at night, while Numbers 33:3 seems to resolve the assumed contradiction.
“Observe the month of Abib and celebrate the Passover to the Lord your God, for in the month of Abib the Lord your God brought you out of Egypt by night.Deuteronomy 16:1
(Some translations translate the last phrase as ‘God brought you out of Egypt at night.’)
3 Now they journeyed from Rameses in the first month, on the fifteenth day of the first month; on the day after the Passover the sons of Israel started out boldly in the sight of all the Egyptians,Numbers 33:3
Had they walked out immediately after the Passover, it would have been the same day since the day begins at sunset!
To return to Yeshua’s Passover, if most or all of Jerusalem were observing Passover the same night He was, as I believe they were, then it was an easy task to collect all of the Sanhedrin on short notice at such a late hour. They were all still awake!
While more research, particularly into extrabiblical and rabbinic writings of the time, may be warranted, it seems to me that the common observance on the 14/15 evening is not what Yeshua or ancient Israel did. Yeshua would have kept the appointed time on the correct day as both the Exodus and the Gospel accounts point to. That evening was 13/14 with Unleavened beginning the following evening on 14/15 as the above two calendar charts demonstrate.
I’ll be studying this more, but my strong leaning, at this point, is to observe on the evening between 13/14 as the Messiah and Jerusalem were doing in the Second Temple period.
I look forward to thoughts and comments.
See also: Should Christians celebrate Passover?