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The accepted answer on How long was Jesus in the tomb? would only have been possible if the Last Supper was not the Passover meal, which I had always thought it was. Was the Last Supper in fact not the Passover meal?

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Pope Benedict XVI posits that it wasn't in volume 2 of Jesus of Nazareth. I don't know the rationale though (not taught ex cathedra though) –  Peter Turner Sep 23 '11 at 17:18

3 Answers 3

My new understanding of the Last Supper is mostly based on the information at http://www.therefinersfire.org/celebrating_passover.htm.

The key verses which indicate that Christ was actually crucified on the day before the Passover feast are John 18:28 and John 19:14.

John 18:28 NIV
Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover.

John 19:14 NIV
It was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about noon.

“Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews.

The day of preparation would be when they slaughter the Passover lamb, which would then be eaten that night.

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Two things are clear from scripture:

  1. The "last supper" was in fact a passover meal. Multiple references in Mark 14, Matthew 26 and Luke 22 make it clear that the disciples prepared a passover meal. In Matthew Jesus says "I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house." In Luke it reads "So they prepared the Passover. When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table.". Other elements of the meal are drawn directly from Passover practice. Clearly this was a Passover meal.

  2. It is also clear that this was done on the day before Passover. John 18 and 19 indicate that it was "the day of preparation for the Passover".

There are a number of possible reconciliations of this. Some speculate that Jesus was a part of a minority Jewish sect that celebrated Passover on a different day. Others that he celebrated Passover a day early because he knew he wouldn't be able to do it on the right day (I don't know what Jewish Law would have said about that, but Jesus was never one to get hung up on legal technicalities).

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Jewish law would be to do it the following month, but that allowance was only for those unavoidably travelling on the day itself. I may remember that wrong. Probably worth asking on Judaism SE. –  TRiG Oct 7 '11 at 19:06
    
What's the law if you're going to be unavailable next month? Like because you're going to be dead? –  DJClayworth Oct 7 '11 at 19:38
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@DJClayworth: No, it is not clear that the Last Supper was a Pesach seder ("Passover meal"). If it was so "clear," we wouldn't be asking the question. –  H3br3wHamm3r81 May 5 '13 at 4:32
    
I think I supplied references from three Gospels to indicate that it was a Passover meal. Do you have anything from the Bible to indicate that it wasn't a Passover meal? Note that I'm already aware that it was done on a different day, and that Jesus did things that wouldn't normally be done at a Passover meal. That's the point. It's how we treat those two facts that make this a lesson. –  DJClayworth Jul 15 '13 at 15:41
    
@DJClayworth: See my post. –  H3br3wHamm3r81 Dec 21 '13 at 22:10

The simple answer is that they were not. This is certainly not obvious from the Gospel of John, or even the Gospel of Matthew or Mark, but it is evident when we closely read the Gospel of Luke.

In Luke 22:7, it is written,

Then came the day of Unleavened Bread during which the Passover lamb must be killed.

"Ἦλθεν δὲ ἡ ἡμέρα τῶν ἀζύμων ἐν ᾗ ἔδει θύεσθαι τὸ πάσχα

(Note: This "day of Unleavened Bread" refers to Nisan 14, as the Jews reckoned even this day, although properly "the Passover" (cp. Exo. 12:6), as the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. In fact, they often called the entire "Feast of Unleavened Bread" by the name "Passover."1)

On Nisan 14, Jesus commands Peter and John to "go prepare the Passover so we may eat" (Luke 22:8). Then, they went to Jerusalem and found the man Jesus instructed them about (cp. Luke 22:10-12), "and they prepared the Passover" (Luke 22:13).

In Luke 22:14, it is written,

And when the hour came, he reclined, and the twelve apostles with him.

Καὶ ὅτε ἐγένετο ἡ ὥρα ἀνέπεσεν καὶ οἱ δώδεκα ἀπόστολοι σὺν αὐτῷ

So, Jesus and the twelve apostles reclined and began to eat the Passover seder.2 He says to the twelve, "I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before my suffering" (Luke 22:15). Then he says to the twelve, "I will not eat of it anymore until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God." But, that Jesus ate then and there, it is certain (cp. Matt. 26:21; Mark 14:18).

Jesus then receives a cup, gives thanks to the Father, and says to the twelve, "Take this [cup] and divide it among yourselves" (Luke 22:17). Based on these words, it is arguable that Jesus himself drank from the cup; however, it seems likely that he did.3

Now, at this point, Jesus had been eating the Passover seder with the twelve, and he drank a cup of wine and distributed to his apostles. After this, note the following:

In Luke 22:19, it is written,

And when he took bread, giving thanks, He broke [it] and gave [it] to them, saying, "This is my body which is given for you. Do this in memory of me."

καὶ λαβὼν ἄρτον εὐχαριστήσας ἔκλασεν καὶ ἔδωκεν αὐτοῖς λέγων, Τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ σῶμά μου τὸ ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν διδόμενον τοῦτο ποιεῖτε εἰς τὴν ἐμὴν ἀνάμνησιν

Luke 22:19 demonstrates the commencement of the Last Supper.

In Luke 22:20, it is written,

Likewise, also the cup after eating the meal, saying, "This is the cup of the New Covenant, with my blood which is shed for you.

ὡσαύτως καὶ τὸ ποτήριον μετὰ τὸ δειπνῆσαι λέγων, Τοῦτο τὸ ποτήριον ἡ καινὴ διαθήκη ἐν τῷ αἵματί μου τὸ ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν ἐκχυνόμενον

Notice that Jesus had already distributed a cup to the twelve (Luke 22:17) during a previous meal, and after eating that meal (μετὰ τὸ δειπνῆσαι), he takes bread (Luke 22:19) and then another cup (Luke 22:20)! This is the evidence that two meals are involved. Two cups; two meals. The first meal was the Passover seder; the second meal is the Last Supper. They are not the same meal. The Passover seder was not the Last Supper.

John Gill on Luke 22:19,

Here begins the account of the Lord's supper after the passover was eaten.

Count the cups...it's only in Luke's Gospel, but it's there.


Footnotes

1 cp. Luke 22:1; Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, 2.15.1.

2 It was custom to recline while eating the Passover seder. See Jerusalem Talmud, Tractate Pesachim, Chapter 10, Folio 68b, Halakha 1: ולפי שדרך עבדים להיות אוכלין מעומד וכאן להיות אוכלין מסובין להודיע שיצאו מעבדות לחירות, that is, "Because it is the custom of slaves to eat standing, here [it is the custom] to eat reclining to proclaim that they have gone out from slavery to freedom."

3 See Meyer's commentary on Luke 22:17.

4 The phrase μετὰ τὸ δειπνῆσαι is the preposition μετὰ, meaning "after," followed by the substantive infinitive τὸ δειπνῆσαι, meaning "dining" or "eating (a meal)." It simply refers to eating a meal. Although the KJV translates it simply as "supper," as though it was a noun, it should not be assumed that this "supper" is the "Last Supper," as many may erroneously assume. BDAG defines the verb as, "to eat a meal (without ref. to time of day or type of food), eat, dine."

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You say "Two cups; two meals", but the Passover Seder has 4 cups imbibed at different times in the Seder. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passover_Seder#The_Four_Cups –  a_hardin Jan 2 at 15:49
    
@a_hardin: I am well aware...but most would agree that the cup Jesus drinks is the last of the four...Nevertheless, I might be wrong about him drinking two cups (for two different meals) after all. I will delete this if I come to that conclusion. –  H3br3wHamm3r81 Jan 2 at 17:39

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