5

The Jewish calendar calculates a day from sunset to sunset, thus the Last Supper (on the Thursday evening) and Jesus' crucifixion (on Friday afternoon) happened in the same day. In John Gospel this day was the 14th of Nisan (April 3, 33 CE) of the Jewish calendar; In the three Synoptic Gospels the Last Supper is a Passover meal so Jesus' crucifixion must have taken place during the afternoon of the festival itself, the 15th of Nisan (April 4, 33 CE).

Both dates obviously can not be true. Which date is correct?

  • We strongly discourage asking more than one question at once here. I've edited your question to only contain one. Please feel free to ask the other in a separate question. – DJClayworth Apr 1 '15 at 14:14
  • 2
    Why do you assume the year 33? – Bruce Alderman Apr 1 '15 at 17:25
  • 2
    For many reasons.For example, according to (news.discovery.com/history/religion/…): "when data about the Jewish calendar and astronomical calculations are factored in, a handful of possible dates result, with Friday April 3, 33 A.D. being the best match, according to the researchers." – iesouslufend Apr 2 '15 at 5:33
4

Writing in The Mystery Of The Last Supper, Professor Sir Colin Humphreys, a scientist at the University of Cambridge, proposes a new solution, based on a combination of Biblical, historical and astronomical research. He urgues that Jesus used a different calendar and crucifixion took place in the 14th of Nisan (April 3, 33 CE) of the official post-exilic Jewish calendar. He explains:

" I have worked with an expert astronomer to investigate, for the first time, the possibility that a third Jewish calendar was in use in the first century A.D. The official Jewish calendar at the time of Jesus' death was that still used by Jews today: a lunar system in which days run from sunset to sunset. This was developed during the Jewish exile in Babylon in the sixth century B.C. Before that, however, the Jews had a different system. This is referred to in the Book of Exodus, in the Old Testament, when God instructs Moses and Aaron to start their year at the time of the Exodus from Egypt.

There is extensive evidence that this original Jewish calendar survived to Jesus' time. It was used by groups such as the Samaritans, Zealots, some Galileans and some Essenes. Under this pre-exilic calendar, Passover always fell a few days earlier than in the official Jewish calendar, and the days were marked from sunrise to sunrise, not sunset to sunset.

Using our reconstruction of this calendar we can see that in A.D. 33, the year of the Crucifixion, the Passover meal was on the Wednesday of Holy Week. From the clues they give, it's clear that Matthew, Mark and Luke all used the pre-exilic calendar in their description of the Last Supper as a Passover meal, whereas John uses the official calendar in which the Last Supper was before the Passover.

Holy Thursday is the well-known day on which Christians annually commemorate the Last Supper of Jesus. But my research shows that we should really be celebrating this on the Wednesday of Holy Week. A Wednesday Last Supper with the Crucifixion on Friday also allows just the right amount of time for all the events the Gospels record between the Last Supper and the Crucifixion".

  • The problem with this is our understanding of when the day starts. I believe the last supper was on Thursday night and he was crucified Thursday afternoon. Yes you read that right. Night comes before light in the Jewish day. So I agree when you say Wednesday night last supper (because that is actually the night of the beginning of Thursday). Then he is crucified roughly 15-18 hours later and dies 21 hours later, 3 hours before the start of the Passover Sabbath. Passover could have been on Friday that year because Hillel II's rules about back to back holy days wasn't in place. – Joshua Mar 23 '16 at 14:02
5

Mark's Gospel was the first New Testament gospel to be written, and John Dominic Crossan says, in The Birth of Christianity, page 110-111, there is a massive consensus among scholars that this gospel was the major source used by the authors of Matthew and Luke. If it was also the indirect source for John's Gospel as well, as some scholars believe, then Mark should provide the correct account. This is evidence in favour of the crucifixion taking place on the 15th Nisan.

John's Gospel tells us that Jesus was crucified of the day before the Passover, in other words, the 14th of Nisan:

John 19:14: And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!

We see the reason for the change, because the author of John wanted to portray Jesus as the paschal lamb, an interpretation that was already present in the synoptic gospels, but incompletely so. In order to accomplish this portrayal, the crucifixion had to be moved to the day before the Passover, and John's Gospel merely has Jesus and the disciples eat what appears to be an ordinary supper, with Jesus washing the disciples' feet (John 13:5ff) rather than celebrating the eucharist.

As to whether the crucifixion taking place on 33 CE, we simply do not know: estimates vary between 30 and 33 CE, and sometimes even outside this range. If indeed the crucifixion took place in 33 CE, changes in Jewish intercalation mean we can not really be sure exactly which day in our modern calendar corresponds to 15th Nisan. Mark's Gospel precisely marks out exactly eight periods of three hours from the beginning of the Last Supper to the hour on which Jesus was buried, and each gospel says that the crucifixion took place on a Friday:

Mark 15:42: And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath

John 19:31: The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day . . .

  • But the 15th IS Passover. It is to be treated as a Sabbath. Which included the rules for work and cleanliness(so burying a body is out). How then can he be crucified on a 15th that is also not a Sabbath? – Joshua Mar 23 '16 at 14:06
  • @JoshuaBigbee Thanks for pointing that out. I can only assume that the synoptic authors (especially the author of Mark) were not fully aware that the day of the Passover was to be regarded as a Sabbath. The author of John is known to have been more aware of Jewish customs. – Dick Harfield Mar 23 '16 at 20:06
  • I've considered your comment, but I'm unable to accept that assumption. I believe it far more likely the synoptic gospels have a level of familiarity with their world that exceeds our own. They do not misunderstand their world, we misunderstand theirs. The Essenes disappeared soon after Christ, it is generally accepted they embraced Christianity. Knowledge of them had been common, but by John's time, writing to a more general audience, he had to simplify the narrative, removing things that would be confusing. Such as calling the Essene Passover meal the Passover meal. – Joshua Mar 25 '16 at 13:54
  • The Gospels don't say he was crucified on a Friday, but that is inferred from the fact that is was the day before the Sabbath. But special feasts, or "high days" as in John 19:31, were also called Sabbaths. The math seems to favor that Jesus was crucified on Thursday (which would correspond to the Nissan 14 when the lambs were slain). – wcochran Oct 29 '17 at 4:16
3

A plausible argument that resolves the Nissan 14/15 dispute would be one that claims: The date of the Passover in the synoptics is earlier than what is indicated in John's gospel -- which is because Jesus and His disciples were using a slightly different calendar from the Jewish authorities at the time, and it is to that slightly earlier date that Jesus refers to eating the Passover with his disciples, as in Mark 14:12-15. (See the reference quoted in the answer by nasraya for more details.)

This is plausible because even to this day there are disputes within Judaism over calendric issues. See this site about Karaite Jews for instance http://www.karaite-korner.org/karaite_faq.shtml

As an aside, I think the jury is still out on the question of the year of Jesus' death. The key issue there seems to be when did Herod the Great die? If in 4 BCE (as many modern scholars believe) Jesus would have been older than 35 when He died; if Herod died in 1 BCE as traditionally thought, year 33 of our era could work for the death of Jesus.

1

(In the spirit of not stating "The Truth" but what Christians believe and why...) It is my belief, and that of my church that Jesus had to have been crucified on the 14th of Nisan or He could not have been the true Passover because He wouldn't have fulfilled the sacrifice. Exodus 12:6 says

And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the 
same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation 
of Israel shall kill it in the evening.

For Christ to have fulfilled the sacrifice He had to die on the 14th.

The problem comes in determining the meaning of "in the evening". Some then as now believed it meant after sunset at the end of the 13th and the beginning of the 14th. Others believed it meant just before sunset as the 14th was ending and the 15th was beginning. cf. http://biblehub.com/commentaries/exodus/12-6.htm

Under either interpretation though, the Passover had to be killed after sunset ended the 13th and before sunset began the 15th.

1

The bottom line of my answer is that John is factually accurate and that he intentionally deviated from the Synoptics for the purpose of noting important theological meaning, not for the sake of dating accuracy itself.

There are two possible chronologies, which I will call C14 and C15.

C14: Crucifixion on 14 Nisan. It implies, with Nisan dates reckoned as per the Jewish official calendar:

  • 13 Nisan: from Wed. sunset to Thursday sunset.
  • 14 Nisan: from Thursday sunset to Friday sunset.
  • 15 Nisan: from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset (regular weekly Sabbath).
  • The Last Supper was held one day before the time of the Passover meal according to the Jewish official calendar.
  • Jesus died when the Paschal lambs where being sacrificed in the Temple.
  • The information about dates provided by John is factually accurate, while that provided by the Synoptics is not.

C15: Crucifixion on 15 Nisan. It implies, with Nisan dates reckoned as per the Jewish official calendar:

  • 14 Nisan: from Wed. sunset to Thursday sunset.
  • 15 Nisan: from Thursday sunset to Friday sunset.
  • 16 Nisan: from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset (regular weekly Sabbath).
  • The Last Supper was held at the time of the Passover meal according to the Jewish official calendar.
  • The information about dates provided by the Synoptics is factually accurate, while that provided by John either is not accurate or requires heavy hermeneutic work to make it compatible with the Synoptics.

Whereas two detailed answers to a similar question in hermeneutics.stackexchange.com, by Jas 3.1 and Joseph, argue for C15, I will argue for C14. Specifically, I will argue that there is some key information in John, not taken into account in previous answers, which cannot be made compatible with C15.

First of all, for the purpose of this discussion I will assume an agnostic position about the year of the Crucifixion, as the issue of the Crucifixion being either on Friday April 7, 30 AD or on Friday April 3, 33 AD is wholly irrelevant to the subject of this discussion.

I will assume as an agreed starting point that when Jews refer to a specific date as "the Passover" they mean 15 Nisan, so that when they date an event as occurring "six days before the Passover" they mean that the event occurred on 9 Nisan. This is key for my argument because John dates a specific event that way: the supper that Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha made for Jesus in Bethany, during the course of which Mary anointed Jesus:

Jesus, therefore, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they made Him a supper there, and Martha was serving; but Lazarus was one of those reclining at the table with Him. Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples, who was intending to betray Him, said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and given to poor people?” Now he said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it. Therefore Jesus said, “Let her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of My burial. For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me.”

The large crowd of the Jews then learned that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He raised from the dead. (John 12:1-9. NASB.)

Now, lets reckon the day of week of that supper in both possible chronologies working backwards:

C14:

  • 15 Nisan: from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset (regular weekly Sabbath).
  • 14 Nisan: from Thursday sunset to Friday sunset.
  • 13 Nisan: from Wed. sunset to Thursday sunset.
  • 12 Nisan: from Tuesday sunset to Wed. sunset.
  • 11 Nisan: from Monday sunset to Tuesday sunset.
  • 10 Nisan: from Sunday sunset to Monday sunset.
  • 09 Nisan: from Saturday sunset to Sunday sunset.

In this chronology, the event is perfectly compatible with Sabbath observance for both the hosts of the supper and "the large crowd of the Jews" that went from Jerusalem to Bethany to see Jesus and Lazarus.

C15:

  • 16 Nisan: from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset (regular weekly Sabbath).
  • 15 Nisan: from Thursday sunset to Friday sunset.
  • 14 Nisan: from Wed. sunset to Thursday sunset.
  • 13 Nisan: from Tuesday sunset to Wed. sunset.
  • 12 Nisan: from Monday sunset to Tuesday sunset.
  • 11 Nisan: from Sunday sunset to Monday sunset.
  • 10 Nisan: from Saturday sunset to Sunday sunset.
  • 09 Nisan: from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset (regular weekly Sabbath).

In this chronology, the event is wholly incompatible with Sabbath observance for both the hosts of the supper and "the large crowd of the Jews" that went from Jerusalem to Bethany to see Jesus and Lazarus, as the distance from Jerusalem to Bethany exceeds what Jews are allowed to travel on a Sabbath.

Since I stated the teleological side of my argument, i.e. the reason why John intentionally deviated from the Synoptics, as the purpose of noting important theological meaning, and as the straightforward theological meaning in C14 and not in C15 is that in the former Jesus died when the paschal lambs where being sacrificed in the Temple, my argument would be strengthened if I could show that John provides another chronological coincidence between the paschal lambs and Jesus. And indeed he does.

Let's quote John's narrative of Jesus' entrance to Jerusalem, which follows right after the supper in Bethany:

On the next day the large crowd who had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him, and began to shout, “Hosanna! BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD, even the King of Israel.” Jesus, finding a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written, “FEAR NOT, DAUGHTER OF ZION; BEHOLD, YOUR KING IS COMING, SEATED ON A DONKEY’S COLT.” (John 12:12-15. NASB.)

Thus, Jesus entered Jerusalem on 10 Nisan. Let's read now the instructions in Exodus for the preparation of the paschal lamb:

Now the LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, “This month shall be the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year to you. Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, ‘On the tenth of this month they are each one to take a lamb for themselves, according to their fathers’ households, a lamb for each household. Now if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his neighbor nearest to his house are to take one according to the number of persons in them; according to what each man should eat, you are to divide the lamb. Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight. (Exodus 12:1-6)

Thus, on 10 Nisan the large number of lambs that were being kept grazing in the fields around Jerusalem for the feast were brought into the city so that each household could buy one for themselves. Therefore, Jesus entered Jerusalem at the same time as the paschal lambs were entering the city.

0

The AD 33 date is problematic for this very reason, and the short answer is, both days are wrong! Jesus was indeed crucified after the paschal meal on the 15th day of Nisan. However, it could not have been in the year AD 33, because on that occasion it fell on a Sabbath.

This question raises a matter that has been a frequent source of misunderstanding. Was Passover held on the 14th or was it the 15th of Nisan? Simply stated, it commenced just before one day finished and the next began. The Hebrew day began at sunset, and the lambs were slain late on the 14th, with the actual Passover meal being eaten later that evening, that is to say, early on the 15th day. The Jewish historian Josephus said the sacrifices were carried out between 3 pm and 5 pm, and the original description in Exodus bears this out.

“And you shall keep (the lamb) until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight. Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it. ... In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the LORD’s Passover.” (Exodus12:6-11)

An example of this is found in King Josiah’s famous Passover, which describes in detail the sacrifices continuing until nightfall. (2 Chron. 35 1-14) Leviticus is also clear. “The LORD’s Passover begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month. On the fifteenth day of that month the LORD’s Festival of Unleavened Bread begins.” (Leviticus 23:4-6) However, other Bible references simply say, “the fourteenth” without specifying the last portion of the day. That is why casual readers, not familiar with Hebrew practice, assume Passover to be the entire fourteenth day. Not so! It started in the final hours of the fourteenth then spanned the fifteenth day, synonymous with (the same as) the first day of unleavened bread.

Accordingly, Jesus ate his last supper with the disciples in the evening early on Passover day and was crucified later on the same day. By western reckoning, it was a Thursday/Friday crossover but by Jewish reckoning, it was the 15th of Nisan. It looked approximately like this:

  • 6 pm Day began.
  • 9 pm Passover meal.
  • 12pm Jesus arrested.
  • 6 am Judgement passed.
  • 9 am Jesus crucified.
  • 12am Great darkness.
  • 3 pm Jesus dies.
  • 6 pm Day ended.

At this juncture, we must address the confusion stemming from an apparent contradiction between St. John’s account and that of the synoptic gospels. He said:

“Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor’s headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover.” (John 18:28)

Non-Jewish readers may be excused for interjecting, “But hadn’t they eaten it the night before”? That is when Matthew, Mark and Luke said it took place. Some commentators just choose to ignore John, but others make much of it, claiming the Paschal lambs were slain when Jesus died. Still others suggest there may have been several Jewish factions observing different timetables. Such explanations are unnecessary.

John was simply referring loosely to the overall ‘Passover week’ which included the feast days following the actual Passover day. On the morning of the first day following the Paschal evening, was another meal called ‘Chagigah’. This is the meal John was referring to, and as one rabbinic expert noted, “the Chagigah might not be offered by any person who had contracted Levitical defilement.” (The Temple, Alfred Edersheim, ch. X111) So, the ‘contradiction’ is really no contradiction at all; it was a special morning meal eaten as part of the celebration.

Again, the answer to the original question is that both days are wrong. For those who wish use Passover and astronomical data to pinpoint the crucifixion, may I suggest that you look beyond the commonly quoted year of AD 33?

  • Jesus could not have been crucified after the official paschal meal. Even if the Passover was on Thursday/Friday (which I agree it was consecutive days not on the Sabbath but SabbathS plural) they wouldn't have been out arresting Jesus on Passover. A Wednesday night Essene Passover meal, without lamb because they didn't recognize the priest's sacrifices, explains how Jesus ate the meal with them ON the day of preparation (our Wednesday night is beginning of Thursday 14). Then he is arrested, on trial and crucified on Thursday and dies when the official lamb would have for Passover. – Joshua Mar 4 '16 at 15:45
  • John is not referring to the Chagigah, nor can John's last supper be the official Passover meal. John 13:29: "Some thought that, because Judas had the moneybag, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor." If it was the Passover meal, no store would be open for him to buy what they need for the feast on that night, it was essentially a Sabbath. Also all three synoptic gospels say the priests agree to arrest Jesus not during the feast meaning "hurry we need to do it before the Passover week or else it will mess up our feast." – Joshua Mar 4 '16 at 16:01
  • Edersheim is the authority on Hebrew festivals and I am satisfied with his explanation that I have referenced above. – Christian Gedge Mar 4 '16 at 19:31
  • Edersheim explicitly links the Chagigah to St. Johns reference. (page252) – Christian Gedge Mar 4 '16 at 19:38
  • He can very well be an expert on it and what he says is still true. However....i really offered no objection to that. Far too many people start with the assumption of the Friday crucifixion because of a misunderstanding of the "day before the Sabbath" mentions. But the women went to the grave after the Sabbaths. Plural. Look up the Greek. Many translations of Matthew 28:1 ignore that and make it Sabbath singular. And since Hillel II's Jewish calender there can't be back to back holy days, furthering the confusion. Friday was Passover Sabbath Saturday was regular Sabbath. – Joshua Mar 4 '16 at 19:47
-2

Jesus was crusified according to scriptures from old testament and new testment 14 Nissan second part of the day, Levi 23: 5. Its a symbolic feast but in Him Jesus bore the sins of the world. There is prophecy in Daniel 9 : 27He will confirm a covenant with many for one 'seven.' In the middle of the 'seven' he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. To fulfill gods word jusus crucified on cross 14 the of Nissan. In john 22: 1, 8, 15. Conforms it as well as some more scriptures in mark . Matthew. Luke. and corintians gospel...

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.