Jesus stressed the importance of the Passover. In Matthew 26:26, He stated the Passover bread represented His body, and the wine represented His blood. That night, Jesus had changed the Passover symbols from the lamb to the bread and wine. Earlier in His ministry He had said, “. . . Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you” (John 6:53). That this was a reference to the Passover is seen from the context of the entire chapter. Notice verse four, “And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh” (John 6:4). Jesus then explained that He is the bread of life and that men must eat of that bread. In John 6:47-51 He said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” (John 6:47-51). When He said, “. . . Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you” (John 6:53), Jesus meant keeping the Passover was necessary for salvation itself!
Even the Old Testament type was significant. Had the Israelites not kept the Passover and had they not sprinkled the blood of the lamb on their lintels and side posts of their houses, they would have been slain by the death angel. Bible commentators all recognize the significance of the bread and wine of “the Lord’s Supper.” Notice what J. Jeremias stated. “The whole sequence of thought in the discourse on the bread of life now becomes clearer: its conclusion (6:53-58) is a eucharistic homily, the theme of which is introduced by the word of interpretation to the bread . . . For here, we may assume, we have an example of the way in which the ‘proclamation of the death of the Lord’ was carried out at the celebration of the Lord’s Supper” (The Eucharisitic Words of Jesus, by J. Jeremias, p. 108). The bread and the wine were types of His flesh and blood which He would give for the sins of the world. In Matthew 26:26-28 we read, “And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matt. 26:26-28). Jesus did not mince words. In order to be saved He said Christians are required to partake of the Passover. Why is this so important? The Passover symbols represent the life Jesus Christ gave in order to expiate the sins of the world. This includes the sins of each individual who has accepted Christ as his personal Savior and has had his sins forgiven. Unless we are forgiven for our sins we cannot be saved. So, partaking of the Passover is paramount, but so is keeping it on the correct date.
The Passover-An Eight Day Festival?
God’s Holy Days are called feasts. Notice Leviticus 23:4. “These are the feasts of the Lord, even holy convocations, which ye shall proclaim in their seasons.” The Passover is the first feast mentioned. The Passover is not celebrated in the same manner as the rest of the holy days, but it is nevertheless included in the feasts. In the New Testament the Passover is also called a feast (Matt. 26:2), though by this time the Passover was joined with the Feast of Unleavened Bread as a single feast. Notice it. “Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end” (John 13:1). “Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did” (John 2:23). “But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar among the people” (Matt. 26:5). These texts and others point out that the Passover was called a feast. In fact, the entire eight-day period of the Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread was called the Passover (Luke 22:1).
There is much confusion as to the exact time the Passover should be celebrated. Some believe the Passover lamb was killed at the end of the fourteenth day just as the fifteenth day was beginning. Biblical days are from even to even, that is, from sunset to sunset. Therefore, the end of the fourteenth day would be at sundown as the fifteenth day was beginning. Those who believe the Passover was slain at the end of the fourteenth day quote Ezekiel 45:21. “In the first month, in the fourteenth day of the month, ye shall have the passover, a feast of seven days; unleavened bread shall be eaten.” The text seems to say that the entire period of the Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread is a period of seven days. But a close look indicates otherwise. Verses 22 and 23 state, “And upon that day shall the prince prepare for himself and for all the people of the land a bullock for a sin offering. And seven days of the feast he shall prepare a burnt offering to the Lord, seven bullocks and seven rams without blemish daily the seven days; and a kid of the goats daily for a sin offering” (Ezek. 45:22-23). But verse 21 mentions “the Passover, a feast of seven days.” The punctuation here is what causes the problem. Remember, there was none in the original Hebrew text. The text could just as well read, “In the first month, in the fourteenth day of the month ye shall have the passover; a feast of seven days; unleavened bread shall be eaten” (Ezek. 45:21). Now, what we see is an eight-day period. The Passover day, itself one day, followed by the Feast of Unleavened Bread for seven days-is a total period of eight days, just as Leviticus 23 states. Verse 22, referred to above directs the prince to offer a sin offering on the Passover day. Verse 23 instructs him to offer seven bullocks and seven rams on the following seven days. So, we have a period of eight days. The order is clear from Leviticus 23. There is the Passover on the fourteenth day followed by the Feast of Unleavened Bread for seven days.
There are those who insist the Passover should be slain at the end of the fourteenth day and eaten the night of the fifteenth. To be eaten on the fourteenth day as the Bible states, the lamb would have to be slain just after the thirteenth day ended and the fourteenth day begins. This would place the slaying of the lamb and eating it within the same biblical day. To do otherwise, whether at the end of the thirteenth day or the end of the fourteenth day before the sun went down, and to eat it after sundown would involve two days. The Bible does not indicate two different biblical days are involved. There is no need for confusion. The fourteenth day is the fourteenth day and no portion of any other day was included. Biblical days are defined from “even to even.” On this the Bible is clear.
An eight-day period is indicated in Mark 14:12. We read, “And the first day of unleavened bread, when they killed the passover, his disciples said unto him, Where wilt thou that we go and prepare that thou mayest eat the passover?” (Mark 14:12). Here we see the Passover mentioned along with the Days of Unleavened Bread, though we find New Testament usage often lumped the two occasions together. In Leviticus 23:5-6 we find, “In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the Lord’s passover. And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the Lord: seven days ye must eat unleavened bread” (Lev. 23:5-6). The Passover is on the fourteenth day, the Days of Unleavened Bread follow for seven days-a period of eight days altogether.
Israel Left Egypt by Night
“And the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand on foot that were men, beside children” (Ex. 12:37). “It is a night to be much observed unto the Lord for bringing them out from the land of Egypt: this is that night of the Lord to be observed of all the children of Israel in their generations” (Ex. 12:42). But what night is meant here? By including women and children approximately two to three million Israelites departed from the land of Egypt by night. Impossible say some! Yet, the Bible clearly states this as a fact. Some say this could not have happened, that what the Bible means to say is that this event refers to the Passover night when God “began to deliver Israel.” The argument continues by referring to Josephus who wrote that the Israelites were already gathered at Rameses and were staying in tents. Therefore, Moses kept the people in one location until the time came to depart. The Passover night is the night to be much observed because this was when God “began to deliver Israel.”
It would not have been too difficult a task for Israel to leave Egypt by night during the period of a full moon. Anyone who has spent time in the woods during a full moon can get around reasonably well. There is even sufficient light to read newsprint. According to Josephus, Moses had been a general in the Egyptian army. Logistically, he certainly knew how to accomplish this task. Notice what Josephus says about the Exodus.
Accordingly, he having got the Hebrews ready for their departure, and having sorted the people into tribes, he kept them together in one place: but when the fourteenth was come, and all were ready to depart, they offered the sacrifice [that is, the Passover], and purified their houses with the blood, using bunches of hyssop for that purpose, and when they had supped, they burnt the remainder of the flesh, as just ready to depart (Antiquities of the Jews, Book II, chap. 14, sec. 6).
The Bible states they departed from Rameses (Num. 33:3). But where was Rameses? It was in the land of Goshen. So, they were in their houses in the land of Goshen. They were organized into tribes there and remained until the time to depart.
Did Israel Leave Egypt the Passover Night?
The Israelites were forbidden to go out of their houses the Passover night. Here is the command. “And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the bason, and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood that is in the bason; and none of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning” (Ex. 12:22). The blood on the lintels and side posts protected the Israelites from the destroying angel. One writer disagrees with the above text. He says to believe they did not go of out their houses until the morning is a gross assumption. Furthermore, he states that God did not forbid them to go out; rather, this was a precautionary measure only. This command came from Moses, not from God. Since Moses and Aaron went out shortly after midnight, it was permissible for the Israelites to travel. So, Israel left Egypt early in the morning after the Passover night. This is why they ate the Passover fully clothed, their staff in hand.
According to this writer the Israelites placed little stock in what Moses said. But this does not agree with what the Apostle Paul said many years later. “And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel. See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth [Moses], much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven” (Heb. 12:24-25). Paul said the Israelites were afraid to disobey Moses. Had they disobeyed and departed from their homes before the morning they would have been slain. Referring to the Passover, J. Jeremias wrote, “At this festival the people of God remember the merciful immunity granted to the houses with the blood of the paschal lamb and the deliverance from the Egyptian servitude” (Jeremias, 206). Did God issue any commands regarding the Passover? Take a look at Exodus 12:8, 10. “And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it. . . .” “And ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; and that which remaineth of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire” (Ex. 12:10). This direct command from God (v. 1) was for the Israelites to remain at home so that the leftovers could be destroyed in the morning. It is unlikely they could have obeyed had they been on the road traveling.
A major assumption is that Moses and Aaron left their homes the Passover night to see Pharaoh. Pharaoh did summon Moses and Aaron, but they did not go to meet him. Earlier Pharaoh stated, “. . . Get thee from me, take heed to thyself, see my face no more; for in that day thou seest my face thou shalt die. And Moses said, Thou hast spoken well, I will see thy face again no more” (Ex. 10:27-29). Moses later told Pharaoh that after God manifested His power to Egypt, “. . . all these thy servants shall come down unto me, and bow down themselves unto me, saying, Get thee out, and all the people that follow thee: and after that I will go out. . .” (Ex. 11:8). Pharaoh’s servants came to Moses; he did not go to them. Remember, it was the firstborn of Egypt that was slain that night, not every Egyptian who ventured out the Passover night.
Is there any substantiation to the argument that the Israelites left the Passover night because they were fully clothed, staff in hand? Not according to the Encyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, by McClintock and Strong. In the article “Passover” they wrote, “some think, that, like the dress and the posture in which the first Passover was to be eaten, it was intended to remind the people that they were now no longer to regard themselves as settled down in a home, but as a host upon the march, roasting being the proper military mode of dressing meat.” Their attire was to bolster their expectation of a soon to happen departure.
When Was the Night to Be Much Observed?
We are told in Exodus 12:40-42,
Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years. And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt. It is a night to be much observed unto the Lord for bringing them out from the land of Egypt: this is that night of the Lord to be observed of all the children of Israel in their generations (Ex. 12:40-42).
The Israelites were commanded not to go out of their houses until the morning after the Passover. To have done so would have been a death sentence. They did not leave Egypt the Passover night. Did they depart, then, during the daylight portion of the fourteenth? Not according to what we just read in the above text. Those who place the departure from Egypt on the Passover night have to assume the Israelites disobeyed both God and Moses and left in the darkness of the night following the Passover. That would place the departure in the early morning darkness sometime after midnight. The interpretation is that the night of deliverance (Ex. 12:42) refers to the night of the Passover, that is, the night the Israelites “were given permission to leave.” Remember, the Israelites were commanded to remain in their houses until the morning following the Passover. Notice what we read in Numbers 33:3. “And they departed from Rameses in the first month, on the fifteenth day of the first month; on the morrow after the passover the children of Israel went out with an high hand in the sight of all the Egyptians” (Num. 33:3). According to this text they did not depart during any portion of the fourteenth day. So, the question that needs to answered is this: Did the Passover occur at the beginning of the fourteenth or at the end, the lamb eaten on the fifteenth rather than the fourteenth? The fifteenth is specifically stated as being the day the Israelites departed. Remember, a biblical day is from even to even, that is, a period of approximately twelve hours of dark followed by approximately twelve hours of light. The morrow after the Passover has to refer to a time period after the daylight portion of the fourteenth. Since the Bible specifically states the Israelites left at night and on the fifteenth day of the month, there is only one time period to which this can apply. It is the beginning or dark portion of the fifteenth day just as Numbers 33:3 states. This time period is called “a night to be much observed.”
The order of events is clear. The Passover was observed at the beginning of the fourteenth day, just as the sun was setting. Since the Israelites were commanded to remain in their houses until morning, it was not until the daylight portion of the fourteenth that they mustered, readying themselves for their departure. The departure, then, took place during the dark portion of the fifteenth, the morrow after the Passover just as Numbers 33:3 states. One cannot interpret the Scriptures to make them say other than what is clearly stated. They did not leave their homes the night of the Passover. Notice what the Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible states on page 667.
The institution [Passover] is not a commemoration of the escape but an anticipation of it and a means by which it becomes possible. It is the sealing of the covenant between the Lord and Israel by which the people pass into His protection and possession; it is a sign of the divine redemptive action that is about to take place. . . . While the Passover commemorates the slaying of the first-born, Unleavened Bread emphasizes the Exodus itself.
What does the Bible state? “In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the Lord’s passover. And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the Lord: seven days ye must eat unleavened bread” (Lev. 23:5-6).
What Is “Between the Two Evenings”?
“Between the two evenings” is the phrase used in Exodus 12:6. It is the Hebrew words ben haerevim. The text should read as follows: “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 [margin, between the two evenings]” (Ex. 12:6). A point of controversy for thousands of years, this phrase has led to an untold number of arguments. The Karaites of the eighth century AD and the Samaritans took the meaning of “between the two evenings” to be the time period between sunset and deep twilight or dusk. The Pharisees and the Rabbinists interpreted it to mean anytime after the sun began to descend, that is, from noontime on. They called this period the first evening. The second evening was the actual sunset. This phrase, “between the two evenings” is frequently mentioned as proof the Passover was killed in the afternoon, rather than at dusk. Numbers 28:3-4 is given as proof. This text reads, “And thou shalt say unto them, This is the offering made by fire which ye shall offer unto the Lord; two lambs of the first year without spot day by day, for a continual burnt offering. The one lamb shalt thou offer in the morning, and the other lamb shalt thou offer [between the two evenings].” The argument is that if the sacrifice were offered at dusk it would not be on the same day as the morning sacrifice. Joshua 10:26-27 and Deuteronomy 16:6 are also given as proof. In both verses the phrase “the going down of the sun” is interpreted to mean “between the two evenings.” But ben haerevim is not used in either of these two verses. The Hebrew is bo hashemesh and the meaning is “when the sun goes down.” Who could possibly take this to mean from noontime on? The only reason one could believe this is to support the argument that “between the two evenings” means from twelve o’clock noon and onwards.
Josephus is cited to support the idea that the Passover sacrifice took place in the afternoon. In Antiquities of the Jews, Book 11, chapter 4, section 7, he is said to have written that the priests slew the Passover lamb from the ninth to the eleventh hours (3 to 5 pm) on the fourteenth day of the month. Did he really say this? Here is his statement:
And as the feast of unleavened bread was at hand, in the first month, which according to the Macedonians is called ‘Xanthicus,’ but according to us ‘Nisan,’ all the people ran together out of the villages to the city, and celebrated the festival, having purified themselves, with their wives and children, according to the law of their country: and they offered the sacrifice which is called the ‘Passover,’ on the fourteenth day of the same month, and feasted seven days. . . .
That is all that quote says. But putting with it another statement Josephus made, it is concluded that he said the priests slew the Passover lamb from the ninth to the eleventh hours on the fourteenth day of the month. What is this other statement? Here it is. “So these high priests, upon the coming of their feast which is called the Passover, when they slay their sacrifices, from the ninth hour till the eleventh, so that a company not less than ten belong to every sacrifice. . . .” (Ant., Book 6, chap. 9, sec. 3). Notice these two statements carefully. Josephus did not say the sacrifice was killed from the ninth to the eleventh hours on the fourteenth day. The day is not mentioned in Book 6, chapter 9, section 3. The day is mentioned in Book 11, chapter 4, section 7 only. By putting these two statements together they are made to say something Josephus did not say. An erroneous conclusion is reached in order to justify the idea that the lambs were slain at the end of the fourteenth day rather than the beginning. This places the Passover day at the beginning of the fifteenth day. By this means the Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread were merged into one festival.
The Gospels point out clearly that the lamb was slain very late in the day. Notice the account. “Now when the even was come, he sat down with the twelve” (Matt. 26:20). “And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him” (Luke 22:14). In John 13:30 we read that Judas departed from the table and went out. “He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night.” Here is clear proof the lamb was not slain in the early afternoon. There was a specific hour of the evening in which the disciples partook of the meal. Judas left toward the end of the meal. It was night. Can we believe the meal was held from noon until dark? Hardly. The Passover service, commonly called The Last Supper, took place in the evening just about dark and lasted into full darkness. If Jesus obeyed the command in Leviticus 23 that the Passover was to be sacrificed on the fourteenth day, there is only one time period in which this could occur. It would be at the beginning of the fourteenth, otherwise He would have eaten the lamb on the fifteenth.
According to Harris, Archer, and Waltke in the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, “ereb” (erev, evening) means: “Sometimes, as in Exodus 12:6, the Hebrew reads literally, ‘between the two evenings,’ likely ‘twilight,’ the time interval between sunset and darkness in which there is a state of illumination. Only in Job 7:4 does ‘ereb’ denote night proper.” In the Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, article “Passover,” page 666, we find: The counsel to kill the lambs ‘in the evening’ is more literally followed in the Samaritan rite; the Hebrew is properly interpreted as dusk and cannot be fully reconciled with the later practice of making the sacrifice in the late afternoon.”
The original command to slay the Passover lamb was “between the two evenings.” Circumstances may have led the Jews to do otherwise. A great reformation took place during the reign of Josiah. At that time the sacrifice of the Passover was attached to the Temple (2 Chron. 35). Joachim Jeremias tells us:
Further, as early as the first century BC it proved impossible to maintain the cultic practice going back to the Josianic Reform, whereby all the participants of the feast ate the passover sacrifice in the Temple forecourts. For lack of space the place of slaughter had to be separated from the place of eating; from the first century BC only the slaughter took place in the Temple area: the passover meal was transferred to the houses of Jerusalem . . . Because of the great number of passover pilgrims the overcrowding of the passover night was such that a great many of the participants were forced to eat the passover meal in the courtyards, indeed, even on the roofs of the holy city, despite the coldness of the season (Jeremias 42-43).
We can conclude that the number of people was so great, it was impossible to complete the sacrifice of the Passover within the allotted time limit had this taken place at dusk. This is the likely reason “between the two evenings” was interpreted to mean from noon onwards, a practice which J. Jeremias points out was of late origin. The Bible instruction, however, is clear. “But at the place which the Lord thy God shall choose to place his name in, there thou shalt sacrifice the passover at even, at the going down of the sun, at the season that thou camest forth out of Egypt” (Deut. 16:6). The meaning of “at the going down of the sun” is made plain in Joshua 10:26-27. “And afterward Joshua smote them, and slew them, and hanged them on five trees: and they were hanging upon the trees until the evening. And it came to pass at the time of the going down of the sun, that Joshua commanded, and they took them down off the trees, and cast them into the cave wherein they had been hid, and laid great stones in the cave’s mouth, which remain until this very day” (Josh. 10:26-27).
Some argue that Jesus did not oppose the Pharisaical practice of observing the Passover at the end of the fourteenth day. Aside from that, which we shall take a look at later, the Pharisees were not unopposed in their practice. According to McClintock and Strong the precise meaning of “between the two evenings” is greatly disputed. This argument, as we have seen, is not new. The Samaritans and Karaites interpreted it to mean the time period between the setting of the sun and the moment when the stars became visible, or when darkness occurred-around six or seven pm. The traditional view held by the Pharisees is that it meant from afternoon until the disappearance of the sun. The Jews may have picked up the idea from the Greeks since they ruled Judea for many years. The Greeks promulgated the ideas of two evenings-the former evening which commenced immediately after noon and the latter evening which was at the close of the day (McClintock and Strong, s.v. “Passover,” 735).
It is admitted by some that the meaning of “between the two evenings” should be interpreted according to the Bible context. Leviticus 23:32, in referring to the Day of Atonement, states that a Bible day is from even to even; in this case the ninth day at even is the close of the ninth day and the beginning of the tenth. Therefore, it is reasoned that when the Bible mentions the fourteenth day at even, it must also refer to the end of the fourteenth day and the beginning of the fifteenth. This is, of course, an attempt to repudiate the teaching which was held by the Worldwide Church of God and to adopt the view presently held by the Jews. Those who hold to a fifteenth Passover apply the meaning of Leviticus 23:32 to verse five of the same chapter. This is simply an attempt to force the meaning. Also, the late Jewish practice of assigning the period “between the two evenings” as beginning at noon is not biblical and did not begin until some time after the reformation of Josiah.
A word or two about the Samaritans may be helpful at this point. McClintock and Strong say that while they were a small and isolated group, from the biblical point of view, their history and literature was so closely associated with the Hebrews that it gave them great importance. Hayyim Schauss in his work The Jewish Festivals states:
Modern historical research has proved that the Samaritans are not descendants of the heathen colonists settled in the northern kingdom of Israel by the conquerors of Samaria, as was once assumed. Nor are they to be identified with Nehemiah’s opponents of the Persian period. Actually, the Samaritans of today are a small and poor remnant of an old and great Jewish sect that appeared in Palestine about the beginning of the Greek period. They form the oldest Jewish sect in existence. They were always strongly religious Jews who believed in one God and strictly observed the Law of Moses. . . . A study of their ceremonies and observances during the festival [Passover] is of special interest to us, because they practically duplicate the rites of the Jews of the very old days. What certain knowledge we have of Pesach and its rites dates only from the last century of the Second Temple [515 BC-AD 69]; of what happened before there are no exact records. We can learn much about the holiday, however, from the observances of today; for they are a living record and monument of the old life lived by the children of Israel on the Mount of Ephraim. . . . The main ceremonial in the Pesach observance of the Samaritans is the sacrifice of the sheep and eating it at night, in great haste, together with matsos and bitter herbs. They begin the preparation for the feast late in the afternoon. . . . Exactly at sunset the High Priest faces westward and reads the portion of the Pentateuch which orders the slaughtering of the Pesach sacrifice. . . . They form a circle about the pit of fire, holding the lambs between their legs, and as the High Priest utters the words, ‘And the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at dusk,’ they utter a benediction and throw the lambs, throats to the pit, where they are slaughtered. . . (Schauss, 60-63).
In a footnote Schauss adds, “Pesach and Chaag ha-matsos [Unleavened Bread] were never amalgamated among the Samaritans and remained two distinct holidays.”
Who, then, were the Karaites who took issue with the Pharisaical view regarding the Passover? According to McClintock and Strong, they were an old and notable sect associated with the synagogue who were known for their rigorous observance of the written law and who totally disregarded the oral law. They had been in existence for some time before the eighth century AD and claimed to be descendants of the ten tribes taken away by Shalmaneser. The evidence is that they existed shortly after the Jews returned from Babylon, but did not become a distinct sect until the oral law was established. The Rabbins wrongfully accused them of being the same as the Sadducees. Not long after the Talmud was completed there was much agitation in the Jewish community, especially in the west. This was because large numbers of Jews held to the written law only. A coordinated center of opposition to the oral law was established at Jerusalem and letters of instruction, admonition, and encouragement were sent even to far away countries. Preachers declared near and far the supreme authority of the written law and the uselessness of the Talmud and any other writings that were against the Law of Moses. What had taken place is that when the prophets ceased the Jews became divided on the matter of works and going beyond the call of duty. Some held that these works were necessary because of tradition, while those who repudiated the Talmud and other writings rejected this notion altogether. The Jews, then, were divided into two sects-the Traditionalists and the Karaites (McClintock and Strong, s.v. “Karaites”).
What Do These Verses Say?
Those who hold to a Sivan 6 Pentecost say there are serious problems with some texts used by those who believe the Passover should be kept at the beginning of the fourteenth day. Numbers 33:3 and Deuteronomy 16:2-3 are examples of these problematic Scriptures. In the Authorized Version, Numbers 33:3 is translated as follows: “And they departed from Rameses in the first month, on the fifteenth day of the first month; on the morrow after the passover the children of Israel went out with an high hand in the sight of all the Egyptians” (Num. 33:3). In The Interlinear Hebrew-Greek English Bible, Green translates it as, “And they journeyed from Rameses in the first month on the fifteenth day of the first month; on the next day after the Passover the sons of Israel went out with a high hand, before the eyes of all the Egyptians.” Remember, the fourteenth day of the first month (the Passover day) includes a full twenty-four hours. The Passover itself took place at the beginning of the fourteenth day. The Authorized Version uses the word “morrow” and Green uses “the next day”-a reference in both cases to the fifteenth day, not the daylight portion of the fourteenth day. The fifteenth day began with the setting of the sun following the fourteenth day. Since the Israelites did not leave until night (Ex.12:42) on the fifteenth day (Num. 33:3), their departure took place at the beginning of the fifteenth day. The New Berkeley Translation is quoted to disprove the above statement. It says, “The people of Israel broke camp at Rameses the morning after the Passover, on the fifteenth day of the first month.” This interpretation is not what the literal Hebrew states. The Hebrew does not say “the morning after the Passover.” It says “the morrow after the Passover.” The “morrow after the Passover” means the next day-the fifteenth. Since the Israelites did not leave until night, they did not depart during the daylight portion of either the fourteenth or the fifteenth. The argument goes that had the Israelites waited until the fifteenth day, their bread would have had plenty of time to be leavened (Ex. 12:39). At such a time it is unlikely the Israelites would have been concentrating on bread-making. Since the command regarding the Passover, as well as the following Days of Unleavened Bread was to eat unleavened bread, it would have been perfectly logical why their bread was not leavened.
The text in Deuteronomy states:
Thou shalt therefore sacrifice the passover unto the Lord thy God, of the flock and the herd, in the place which the Lord shall choose to place his name there. Thou shalt eat no leavened bread with it; seven days shalt thou eat unleavened bread therewith, even the bread of affliction; for thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt in haste: that thou mayest remember the day when thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt all the days of thy life (Deut. 16:2-3).
Those who interpret various texts to make the Passover occur at the end of the fourteenth day, refer to Deuteronomy 16:2-3 in the New Berkeley Translation which states: “Do not eat it [the Passover] with bread made with yeast, But for seven days eat unleavened bread.” This verse is an interpretation in the New Berkeley Translation. It is not from the original Hebrew. The Authorized Version is much more accurate. It shows a break between the first two clauses of verse three. Then verse four states: “And there shall be no leavened bread seen with thee in all thy coast seven days. . . .” So, what we see is the Passover mentioned in verses one and two, followed by a seven-day period of unleavened bread, as seen in verses three and four. This agrees with Leviticus 23:5-6 which states, “In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the Lord’s passover. And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the Lord: seven days ye must eat unleavened bread” (Lev. 23:5-6). These Scriptures do not in any way indicate that the Passover should be kept at the end of the fourteenth day as some say.
Joshua 5:10-11 is another text to consider. The interpretation given it by Sivan 6 advocates is that since the Israelites ate of the old corn on the morrow after the Passover, the wave-sheaf day had to be the next day-Sunday, the first high Sabbath during the Days of Unleavened Bread. Those who hold to a Passover at the beginning of the fourteenth day also take it to mean that the Passover fell on the weekly Sabbath, and the next day-Sunday-was the wave-sheaf day. This text is much disputed. The time sequence in the book of Joshua shows that the Israelites camped at Gilgal on the tenth day of the first month. Joshua was instructed to circumcise this second generation of Israelites since this had not been done in the wilderness (vv. 2-8). Then we read, “And it came to pass, when they had done circumcising all the people, that they abode in their places in the camp, till they were whole” (Josh. 5:8). Keep in mind this event took place immediately after the tenth day of the month, the day the Israelites were to gather the lambs for the Passover to be held a few days later. Could they have kept the Passover under these circumstances? Not likely. Why? Circumcision is a very debilitating operation. We see this in Genesis 34:24-25. “And unto Hamor and unto Shechem his son hearkened all that went out of the gate of his city; and every male was circumcised, all that went out of the gate of his city. And it came to pass on the third day, when they were sore, that two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brethren, took each man his sword, and came upon the city boldly, and slew all the males” (Gen. 34:24-25). The Shechemites were so incapacitated they could not defend themselves. It is highly unlikely the Israelites kept the Passover a few days after being circumcised. There was, however, a provision to take the Passover in the second month. See Numbers 9:9. The most logical conclusion is that the Passover mentioned in Joshua 5:10-11 was the Passover of the second month. Therefore, the text does not support a Sivan 6 Pentecost, or even a Sunday or Monday Pentecost.
For those who insist that Joshua 5:10-11 refers to a Saturday Passover and hence a wave-sheaf Sunday on the following day, there is another consideration. The Israelites did not eat of their own harvest. They ate the “old corn,” that is, grain from the previous year. They had just entered the promised land and were busying themselves for conquest. They had no time to plant and harvest. Could a wave-sheaf offering from Canaanite grain have been acceptable to God? Not at all! It would have been a violation of God’s commands to have done so. Notice Leviticus 22:24-25. “Ye shall not offer unto the Lord that which is bruised, or crushed, or broken, or cut; neither shall ye make any offering thereof in your land. Neither from a stranger’s hand shall ye offer the bread of your God of any of these; because their corruption is in them, and blemishes be in them: they shall not be accepted for you.” Joshua 5:10-11 does not support a wave-sheaf offering on the day immediately following the Passover. This text cannot be used as a marker for the Pentecost count.
Was the Date of the Passover Changed?
Some say the present Jewish practice of keeping the Passover on the fifteenth stems from Egyptian influence. Actually, this would be Greek influence since the Ptolemies ruled Egypt during this time period. Others disagree, saying there is no proof the Passover date was ever changed. The Jewish Encyclopedia states in the article “Passover:” Lev. xxiii., however, seems to distinguish between Passover, which is set for the fourteenth day of the month, and hag hamatzoth (the Festival of Unleavened Bread) . . . appointed for the fifteenth day. . . . Comparison of the successive strata of the Pentateuchal laws bearing on the festival makes it plain that the institution, as developed, is really of a composite nature. Two festivals, originally distinct, have become merged” [emphasis ours]. This authoritative source plainly says the Passover was changed from the fourteenth to the fifteenth by being merged into the Days of Unleavened Bread. So, while some may argue over Greek influence during the Ptolemaic period, the fact is there was indeed a change.
Hayyim Schauss concurs. He writes, “We cannot be certain how long a time passed before the Jews accepted these reforms in practice [Josiah’s reforms] and ceased to offer the Pesach sacrifice in their own homes. Nor can we be certain how long it took for Pesach and the Feast of Unleavened Bread to become one festival” [emphasis ours] (p. 46). Schauss adds in a footnote on page 293, “That Pesach and the Festival of Unleavened Bread were originally two distinct festivals, distinct in name as well as in character, is evident from the Pentateuchal sources . . . Pesach and Chag ha-matsos were never amalgamated among the Samaritans and remained two distinct holidays.”
Notice what the Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible states in an article entitled “Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread.”
In contemporary Judaism the word Pesah or Passover is used to refer to the whole range of observances related to this season. This usage has been customary since ca. the second century of the Christian era . . . As the employment of the one title, Passover, indicates, the Mishna, like Josephus, treated all the observances as parts of a single integrated feast. This had not always been so. Earlier in the OT, and into the NT as well, ‘Passover’ and ‘feast of Unleavened Bread’ (Mark 14:1) were both used with reference to the rites. Now one and now the other covered the entire sequence. But basically the Passover referred to the even of the first day, that is, the fourteenth day of the month (Lev. 23:5, etc.), on which the sacrifice of the Passover lamb took place, while the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Lev. 23:6, etc.), applied to the seven days following. This indicates a recollection that there were two separable units or feasts in the single complex of observances. But this distinction was not carefully kept (cf. Luke 22:7). . . . Amid all the uncertainty about the history of the Passover and Unleavened Bread in Israel there is general agreement on two points: the feast contains two originally separate components; and both have a pre-Israelite history [emphasis ours].
The Passover Jesus Kept
It is commonly thought that Jesus kept the Passover twenty-four hours before the Jews kept theirs. The argument goes that, as such, Jesus was not setting any example or indicating that it was being changed from that time forward, since it should be kept at the end of the fourteenth day as the Jews observe it. So, during His lifetime, Jesus always kept it at the same time the Jews did. He neither intended His “new supper” ceremony to be perpetual, nor did He intend to introduce two ceremonies. Furthermore, those who keep the Passover at the beginning of the fourteenth do not eat a meal like Jesus did. And why should we memorialize the night Judas betrayed Jesus? This meal Jesus held, while was called the Passover, was done for this occasion due to the circumstances only. As such, this ceremony was not the Passover itself but some new observance, the argument goes.
A careful look at the New Testament clearly shows that Jesus did not keep the Passover twenty-four hours before the Jews. See Matthew 26:17, Mark 14:12, and Luke 2:41-43. John’s account seems to imply that the Jews were intending to keep the Passover the evening after Jesus’ was betrayed-twenty-four hours later. Here is what John wrote: “Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment: and it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the passover” (John 18:28). “And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!” (John 19:14). The sixth hour was about noon when Jesus was led away to be crucified, the daylight portion of the Passover day. It is called “the preparation of the Passover” in John 19:14. Yet, we see that Jesus had kept the Passover the night before. So, what is the answer? Is there a contradiction?
Matthew 26:17, Mark 14:12, and Luke 22:7 all indicate that the Passover Jesus observed was held at the same time as the Jews’. Is it possible the word “Passover” had a broader meaning than the Passover service itself? There are several possibilities outlined by McClintock and Strong. They are: 1) Jesus took the Passover on the thirteenth and was crucified on the fourteenth. 2) The Sadducees took their Passover one day ahead of the rest of the Jews, and this was the custom Jesus followed. 3) The Galileans took the Passover a day early in order to alleviate the work load the priests would be faced with by the huge crowds. 4) The Jews were in error regarding the proper date to keep the Passover, taking it one day too late. 5) Jesus introduced the Lord’s Supper one day early, so that He might go through His suffering at the same time the Passover lamb was slain. 6) The Passover supper, eaten one day earlier, was within the “between the two evenings” that is, between the thirteenth and fourteenth days of the month. As for number two above, there is not a shred of evidence that this was done until the argument broke out between the Rabbinists and the Karaites in the eighth century AD. Number three above might have some merit because the Mishna points out that the Galileans considered the day of preparation to be a Sabbath, though there is no information regarding a meal being held on the day of preparation. Number six seems unlikely because the priests would have refused to carry out the ritual of sprinkling the blood and offering the fat on a day that was not legal. This same likelihood applies to number three above.
An important key is found in Luke 22:1 which makes the meaning clear. “Now the feast of unleavened bread drew nigh, which is called the Passover.” The two terms “Passover” and “Feast of Unleavened Bread” are interchangeable. This certainly was the usage during the time of Christ. What this means is that John 18:28 and John 19:14 do not refer to the Passover service, but to the Feast of Unleavened Bread. What does the historical record show? Exodus 12:27 describes the sacrifice of the Passover. But, were there more sacrifices during this general time period? Notice this text. “Thou shalt keep the feast of unleavened bread: (thou shalt eat unleavened bread seven days, as I commanded thee, in the time appointed of the month Abib; for in it thou camest out from Egypt: and none shall appear before me empty)” (Ex. 23:15). “Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the Lord thy God in the place which he shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles: and they shall not appear before the Lord empty” (Deut. 16:16).
Among these voluntary offerings, according to McClintock and Strong, was the hagigah, which was usually offered on the first day of the festival. To make this offering one had to be ceremonially pure. There could be no legal impurity. The word hagigah meant “festivity.” These offerings are listed in Numbers 10:10, Deuteronomy 14:26, and 2 Chronicles 30:22 and are included along with the Passover in Deuteronomy 16:5, which indicates sacrifices other than the Passover lamb itself. Notice the instruction in Deuteronomy 16:2. Flocks and herds are included. In 2 Chronicles 30:24 we find that King Hezekiah and his princes gave large numbers of cattle and sheep as festive offerings during the Days of Unleavened Bread. King Josiah did the same thing.
And Josiah gave to the people, of the flock, lambs and kids, all for the passover offerings, for all that were present, to the number of thirty thousand, and three thousand bullocks: these were of the king’s substance. And his princes gave willingly unto the people, to the priests, and to the Levites: Hilkiah and Zechariah and Jehiel, rulers of the house of God, gave unto the priests for the passover offerings two thousand and six hundred small cattle, and three hundred oxen. Conaniah also, and Shemaiah and Nethaneel, his brethren, and Hashabiah and Jeiel and Jozabad, chief of the Levites, gave unto the Levites for passover offerings five thousand small cattle, and five hundred oxen (2 Chron. 35:7-9).
The Passover service required a lamb or kid, not oxen. The hagigah was an occasion of social fellowship associated with the festivals and the primary day for offering these sacrifices was on the first day of Unleavened Bread-the fifteenth day of the first month. An exception was made for legal impurity regarding the Passover during the days of Hezekiah (2 Chron. 30:17-18), but this was not the case with the hagigah. Had the Jews intended to eat the Passover in John 18:28, any defilement could have been removed by ritualistic washing but since the Passover festival had already begun they were ceremonially cleansed so they could eat the hagigah. They could not risk ceremonial uncleanness which could not be easily removed (McClintock and Strong, s.v. “Passover”).
Hayyim Schauss gives us the following information. “A group [taking the Passover] cannot consist of less than ten people, for it takes at least that many to eat an entire sheep at one sitting. But some Jews form huge groups, numbering so many that each member can get no more than a mere taste of the sacrificial animal, a piece no larger than an olive, entirely too small to satisfy one’s hunger. It is customary, then, for such groups to slay another animal, an additional festive offering, called the chagigoh [hagigah]. This animal is always useful. Unlike the official sacrifice, which had to be eaten before dawn, the chagigoh may be held for the second day” (Schauss, 51-52). Notice what the Mishnah states: “The [freewill] festal-offering may be taken from the sheep or from the oxen, from the lambs or from the goats, from the males or from the females, and consumed during two days and one night” (Pesahim 6:4). We find in a footnote: “The offering here spoken of was intended to supplement if need be the meal on the night of the Passover” (The Mishnah, trans. by Herbert Danby, 144).
Edersheim tells us that the Jews were prevented by religious scruples from entering the Judgment Hall, as recorded in John 18:28. To have entered a heathen house would have rendered them Levitically impure for a day, until the evening. The reason is clear. This impurity would have had no bearing on the Passover itself since it would have been taken in the evening after a new day had begun. John 18:28, therefore, could not be referring to the Passover meal but to the hagigah. In both the Old and New Testaments the term Peshah was applied to all of the Passover sacrifices including the hagigah-the great festive sacrifice required at all three feasts. The hagigah was generally offered immediately after the morning service on the first festive day and eaten during that day. It was not the day before the “Passover” that the Jews refused to enter the Judgment Hall, but on the day before the first high Sabbath day, the day following the Passover-the daylight portion of the fourteenth. This defilement would have involved them in ceremonial impurity, greatly hindering their ability to participate in the hagigah on the first festival day. Since the hagigah could be eaten over a period of two days and one night, no ceremonial defilement could be permitted during this time (The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, by Alfred Edersheim, Vol. 2, 566-568). The Expositor’s Bible Commentary states, “. . . to eat the Passover in John 18:28 may refer, not to the Passover meal itself, but to the continuing feast, and in particular to the chagigah, the feast-offering offered on the morning of the full paschal day (cf. Num. 28:18-19). This could explain the Jews’ concern: ritual purification could be regained by nightfall, but not by the morning of the chagigah.” While the hagigah could have been eaten later in the week, it is unlikely these leaders would have delayed taking part in it. Please refer to the Expositor’s Bible Commentary, page 531.
Had the Jews entered into the Judgment Hall, they likely would have contracted corpse uncleanness. As such, they would have had “to undergo a seven-day process of purification” (Neusner, Vol. 34, 230). Also, see the Mishnah (Danby, 801-802) where these rules of purification are confirmed. Christ took the Passover at the correct biblical time, the beginning of the fourteenth day, the same time the Jews took it. He was taken into custody in the night portion of the fourteenth and executed in the daylight portion of the fourteenth. The Jews, who had already partaken of the Passover meal the same time Jesus did, had no desire to defile themselves by entering the Judgment Hall during the daylight portion of the fourteenth. They had already purified themselves ceremonially and had no wish to be unclean for the hagigah.
Some believe the Passover should be a time of great rejoicing, a time of joy, and not a time to reflect soberly. The Passover itself, distinct from the Days of Unleavened Bread, is a memorial to the death of Christ (1 Cor. 11:26). It is a time for sober reflection. Here is what the Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, article “Passover” has to say. “The directions in vss. 21-23 [Ex. 12], especially, carry an awesome aspect: the preparation is for a dreadful night; no one ‘shall go out of the door of his house until the morning’. . . . This is not just a simple domestic celebration; it is a most solemn observance.” The Passover is a solemn occasion, but the Feast of Unleavened Bread that follows immediately is a time for rejoicing. Some insist the Passover must be kept in the privacy of one’s home and not in a church building. Or that Paul told the Corinthians not to come together to keep it. The instruction given in 1 Corinthians 11:20-22 is that at the Christian Passover, the brethren were not to gather to eat a meal according to the Jewish custom. Rather, they should eat their meals at home before coming together. Paul then goes on to describe the meaning of the Passover and the manner of taking the bread and wine based on the instruction he received from Christ. Paul gave the Corinthians the exact teaching he had been given. It was the same night Jesus was betrayed. That event took place at the beginning of the fourteenth day before the daylight portion of that day. When Christ was crucified in the daylight portion of the fourteenth day, it was the preparation day for the first high Sabbath day during the Days of Unleavened Bread (John 19:13-15). The Passover service had been held the previous evening, the same time the Jews observed it. It was not until some later time after the destruction of the Temple that the Jews became confused, probably owing to the interchangeable usage of the terms Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread.
It has been suggested that the Quartodecimans of the fourth century AD, who kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month, actually continued the custom of the Pharisees and observed it at the end of the fourteenth and into the fifteenth. This conclusion is derived from a statement made in the book From Sabbath to Sunday, by Samuele Bacchiocchi, who based his conclusion on J. Jeremias. Jeremias merely accepted the Jewish practice of keeping the Passover on the fifteenth. Yet, even Bacchiocchi admitted in a footnote on page 897 that the Passover can include the fourteenth. It is clear from the Bible and history that the original Passover was held at the beginning of the fourteenth day. Not until after the time of Christ and the destruction of the Temple did the Jews substitute the Seder service for the Passover and mingled the Passover with the Days of Unleavened Bread, thus keeping the Passover at the end of the fourteenth day. No one knows for sure when the two were mingled.
Julius Morgenstern sums it up in a book entitled Some Significant Antecedents to Christianity, page 13:
. . . the eating of the paschal lamb and also at the same time the eating of the Massot [unleavened bread], and with this the commencement of the Massot section of the festival along with the Passover, all fell together upon the evening of 1/14. In this manner and at this time the two festivals, originally independent of each other, but celebrated, as we have just learned, in immediate succession of the one festival, the Massot, to the other, the Passover, were formally and officially combined into a single, seven-day festival. Later still, in post O.T. practice, but still in complete conformity with the by that time firmly established Jewish system of reckoning the day from sunset to sunset, the time for both the eating of the paschal lamb and for the commencement of the eating of the Massot was shifted from the evening of 1/14 to that of 1/15.