Was the "Lord's Supper" the New Testament
fulfillment of the Old Testament Passover? What
is the true relationship between these two events?
Did Jesus Christ and His disciples actually celebrate
the Passover the night of their "Last Supper"?
What is the Biblical truth?
William F. Dankenbring
For decades the Worldwide Church of God, under Herbert W. Armstrong, taught that the "Lord's Supper" celebrated by Jesus Christ and His disciples was actually the Old Testament Passover, albeit with new covenant ssymbols. It was firmly believed and taught that the symbols of the New Testament "Lord's Supper" -- unleavened bread and wine -- replaced the Old Testament symbols of Passover lamb, herbs, and associated rituals. The telling of the Passover story -- the "seder" -- was replaced by Scriptures referring to the death of Christ for our sins and transgressions.
But was this final "Lord's Supper," as we call it, really the "Passover"? Was it observed the night the Jews celebrated the Passover and ate the Passover lamb and meal?
Many have been confused about this question. Even today, different offshoots and spin-offs of the Worldwide Church of God see this matter differently, and even various ministers in the same Church group disagree. Some, who are trying to work for reconciliation, are beginning to say it doesn't matter which night is observed, or how, so long as we observe one or the other!
The issue reminds me of a day, years ago, about 1974, when I was sitting in the office of Herman L.Hoeh, then editor of the Plain Truth magazine and evangelist in the Worldwide Church of God. We were discussing the Pentecost problem -- the Church had been observing the feast on a Monday every year, but now it was beginning to change to a Sunday Pentecost. Mr. Hoeh told me as I sat in front of his desk, "I don't agree with the new teaching."
"What will you do?" I asked.
"I will observe both," he replied, with a grim sort of expression on his face. "I will keep Sunday with the Church, in public, and Monday at home, by myself." That seemed to be his solution to the problem. He would go along with the Church's decision in public, and make no waves, even though he knew the observance was in error. He would hew to his own belief in private.
This seems to be the common way to deal with problems. When they arise, just shove them under the rug. Do not make a public scene, lest you lose your high-paying job, or become disfellowshipped!
But what about Passover and the Lord's Supper? Are they really one and the same thing? And if they are two different things, should we observe both?
The Passover Statute
In the book of Exodus we read concerning the Passover, "And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the LORD throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance FOREVER" (Exodus ). This day was to be remembered and observed FOREVER -- to all generations.
God says, "Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house . . . 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" (Exo.12:3-6).
The original Hebrew in this passage is ben ha arbayim and means, literally, "between the two evenings." Gesenius' Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament tells us about this expression. It relates, "between the two evenings, Ex. ; 30:8; used as MARKING THE SPACE OF TIME DURING WHICH THE PASCHAL LAMB WAS SLAIN, Ex.12:6; Lev.23:5; Num.9:3; and the EVENING SACRIFICE WAS OFFERED, Ex.29:30, 41; Num.28:4."
The big question is, then, what does this expression really refer to? There has been controversy over this point for thousands of years. According to the opinion of the Karaites and Samaritans, the expression refers to the time between sunset and deep twilight, or dusk. "The Pharisees, however, and the Rabbinists considered the TIME WHEN THE SUN BEGAN TO DESCEND to be called the FIRST EVENING (Arabic 'little evening'; 'when it begins to draw towards evening'; and the SECOND EVENING to be the REAL SUNSET" (Gesenius).
As Gesenius pointed out, the Pharisees and Rabbis of the Jews taught that the phrase "between the two evenings" meant from the time the sun begins to descend till final sunset. Josephus, a leading Pharisee and Jewish general of the first century, and the greatest Jewish historian of ancient times, wrote concerning this subject. In his book Wars of the Jews, he declared: "So these high priests, upon the coming of their feast which is called the PASSOVER, WHEN THEY SLAY THEIR SACRIFICES FROM THE NINTH HOUR TO THE ELEVENTH . . ." (Wars, Bk.VI, ix, 3).
Notice carefully! In terms of Roman time, or today's Roman calendar, this means that the JEWS in ancient times sacrificed the Passover from in the afternoon until -- obviously BEFORE SUNSET! In the months of March-April, when Passover occurs, sunset is about or later!
Now consider carefully! Since the Passover was sacrificed between , BEFORE SUNSET, on Nisan 14, IT HAD TO BE SACRIFICED AT THE END OF NISAN 14, AS THE DAY WAS DRAWING TO A CLOSE! If it had been sacrificed between just before the BEGINNING of Nisan 14, it would have been sacrificed on NISAN 13! That, of course, is preposterous! God did not command the Passover to be killed on the 13th of Nisan -- He said very plainly, "ye shall KEEP IT UP UNTIL THE FOURTEENTH DAY" -- and then "KILL IT IN THE EVENING" (Exodus 12:6).
What could be plainer than that?
The Pharisees were the religious
teachers during the time of Christ. They
were the ones followed by the whole nation of
Should we today follow the example set by the Pharisees, as to the proper time for observing the Passover? That is, the original Passover was slain in the latter part of the 14th, but not eaten until the twilight or darkness of Nisan 15th. What did Jesus Himself say on this issue?
Jesus did not take issue with the teaching of the Pharisees concerning the Torah, or Law, or the proper times for the holy days and festivals of God to be observed. Rather, He Himself, with all the authority of Heaven, declared: "The scribes and the PHARISEES SIT IN MOSES' SEAT: ALL THEREFORE WHATSOEVER THEY BID YOU OBSERVE, THAT OBSERVE AND DO . . ." (Matt.23:2-3).
How crystal clear -- how plain! Since the Pharisees sat in MOSES' SEAT, their authority in teaching the laws and statutes and holy days of God was BINDING UPON ALL THE CHURCH! They taught that Passover should be observed at the closing or ending of the 14th of Nisan, not at the beginning of the day! The Passover was killed in the LATE AFTERNOON, AT THE VERY TIME JESUS CHRIST, OUR PASSOVER LAMB, WAS SLAIN AND SHED HIS BLOOD FOR OUR SINS! Therefore, Jesus was a PERFECT ANTI-TYPE of the original Passover lamb!
Imagine the scene, if you can. Just as Jesus Christ was pouring out His holy
blood for our sins, hanging on the tree, paying the penalty for our sins, as
our Passover Lamb of God, multiple thousands of Jews throughout Judea were also
slaying their Passover lambs! What a
perfect fulfillment"! What a
perfect anti-type! What a marvelous picture! Jesus fulfilled the anti-type of the Passover
PERFECTLY! Josephus tells us that
during that time about 256,000 Passover lambs were being slain, one for every
ten people who were undefiled. Thus the
Unger's Bible Dictionary points out concerning the Passover, "The daily evening sacrifice (Exod.29:38,39), usually killed at the eighth hour and a half (i.e., 2:30 P.M.), and offered up at the ninth and a half hour (i.e., 3:30 P.M.), was on this day killed at 1:30 and offered at 2:30 P.M., an hour earlier . . ." (article, "Festivals," p.354).
The New Westminster Dictionary of
the Bible declares concerning the Passover, "[Heb. pesah from pasah
(to pass over, in sense of sparing) . . . ] The 1st of the 3 annual
festivals at which all the men were required to appear at the sanctuary . . .
known also as the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Ex.23:15; Deut.16:16). It was instituted in
What "EVEN" Means
God says the Passover lambs were to be killed in the "evening" of Nisan 14 (Exodus 12:6). Just when would that be? At the beginning of the day, or at the ending of the day (late afternoon)?
Let's find out. God commands, "In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month AT EVEN, ye shall eat unleavened bread, until the one and twentieth day of the month AT EVEN" (Exodus ). This describes the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The actual days of the Feast are Nisan 15 through Nisan 21.
"In the fourteenth day of the first month AT EVEN [evening, end of the 14th]
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).
Now notice! God said we are to keep the Feast from the 14th at evening till the 21st at evening (Exo.12:18). If evening means the FIRST PART OF THE DAY, then the Feast would be have to be the seven days from Nisan 14 to the end of Nisan 20! But here
in Leviticus 23 God plainly says the Feast begins on the 15th and lasts through seven days.
Therefore, counting seven days beginning with Nisan 15, makes the Feast last through Nisan 21, "at evening." Obviously, the "evening" of Nisan 14 means the ENDING PORTION of the day, and the "evening" of Nisan 21, means the ENDING PART of that day!
Notice also Leviticus 23:27. Here we find the Day of Atonement was Tishri 10th. But ntoice verse 32.. Here God says we are to celebrate the Day of Atonement "on the ninth day of the month at even, from even to even, shall ye celebrate your sabbath." This proves that the "even" is the ENDING PORTION OF THE DAY!
The Going Down of the Sun
After studying into this subject, I must confess I find it incredibly difficult to believe anybody could claim, today, that the Passover was slain and offered AFTER SUNSET, that is, at the beginning of the 14th of Nisan or Abib. Certainly, everyone admits that Jesus Christ, the true Passover Lamb of God, of whom the Passover lamb was a forerunner or type, was slain at the END of the 14th of Nisan! There should be no argument there. Then why do whole Churches believe that the Passover itself was offered at the BEGINNING of the 14th of Nisan? The very idea boggles my mind.
Notice further evidence concerning the proper time for the slaying of the Passover!
God told Moses, "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.16:16). Notice! It was to be slain "at the going down of the sun" -- that is, at the DESCENDING of the sun, or, to put it another way, "as the sun goes down," or "as the sun DESCENDS." This tense is equivalent to the present progressive tense in English! It is not past tense, that is, "after the sun goes down," or "after sunset." It is, rather, AS THE SUN IS GOING DOWN, or descending in the western sky, toward the horizon -- not AFTER it has GONE down!
This same expression is used elsewhere in the Old Testament. "And when the sun was going down . . ." (Gen.15:12). The Hebrew Scriptures state: "AS THE SUN WAS ABOUT TO SET . . ." Clearly, this expression refers to the time BEFORE SUNSET, not afterward!
"And afterward Joshua smote them (the Canaanite kings), 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 unto this very day" (Josh.10:26-27).
This event shows that the expression "going down of the sun" refers to the time right up until sunset or sundown, but not after. The Israelites were commanded, in the law of God, not to allow the dead bodies of criminals to hang on a tree at night. God told Moses, "If a man is guilty of a capital offense and is put to death, and you impale him on a stake, you must not let his corpse remain on the stake overnight, but must BURY HIM THE SAME DAY" (Deut.21:22-23). Since each day begins and ends at SUNSET, to bury such a criminal "THE SAME DAY" means he had to be buried PRIOR TO SUNSET! Thus, we read again of Joshua who slew the king of Ai. "And the king of Ai was impaled for a stake UNTIL EVENING. AT SUNSET, Joshua had the corpse taken down from the stake . . ." (Joshua 8:29)
This same expression is used in the Bible of the death of king Ahab. As Ahab was fighting the Syrians, he was struck by an arrow from a bowman and was sorely wounded. "And the battle increased that day: and the king was stayed up in his chariot against the Syrians, and DIED AT EVEN: and the blood ran out of the wound into the midst of the chariot. And there went out a proclamation throughout the host ABOUT THE GOING DOWN OF THE SUN, saying, Every man to his city, and every man to his own country" (I Kings 22:35-36). The Hebrew Tanakh, or "Holy Scriptures," has this verse, "AS THE SUN WAS GOING DOWN." Again, the reference is to the time just prior to sunset or sundown, as the sun's light begins to fade in the west.
The Daily Sacrifice
In the book of Numbers God gives instructions concerning the daily sacrifices which were to be offered before Him. God commanded, "And thou shalt say unto them, This is the offering made by fire unto the LORD; two lambs of the first year without spot DAY BY DAY [Heb. 'IN A DAY'], for a continual burnt offering. The one lamb shalt thou offer IN THE MORNING, and the other lamb shalt thou offer AT EVEN [Heb. 'BETWEEN THE EVENINGS'] . . ." (Num.28:3-4).
Notice carefully! Both these offerings were to be offered DAILY, "day by day," "IN A DAY" -- that is, WITHIN THE SAME DAY! The first one is the morning sacrifice, and the second one is the EVENING sacrifice. In order for the evening sacrifice to be offered the SAME DAY as the morning sacrifice, it had to be offered BEFORE SUNSET! Otherwise it would have been the NEXT day! What could be clearer? Thus, the daily sacrifices is another additional proof that "evening" or "between the evenings" has to refer to the period of time BEFORE SUNSET, or LATE AFTERNOON BEFORE SUNDOWN!
It should be plain that the Passover was celebrated at the close of Nisan 14, and actually eaten on Nisan 15, according to the Scriptures. Jesus died at the very time the Passover lambs were being killed at the Temple in Jerusalem.
But what, then, was the "Lord's Supper"? And why do so many think it is actually the New Testament "Passover"? Where did this misunderstanding originate?
A Close Look at the "Lord's Supper"
A key to Bible study is to always begin with the clear, obvious verses, and then to proceed to the unclear, nebulous ones. This rule helps prevent many mistakes in interpretation. Another important rule is to always be sure to get the "context" of the verses in question. Understand the over-all picture. A third valuable rule could be put this way: NEVER ASSUME. Always probe beneath the surface, and never be satisfied with superficial, shallow "opinions."
With this in mind, let's examine the account of the gospel of Luke, where he introduces the topic of the "Lord's supper." Notice!
"Now the feast of unleavened bread drew nigh, which is called the Passover. . . .
"Then came the day [Greek word can mean "time"] of unleavened bread, when
the Passover must be killed. And he sent Peter and John, saying, Go and prepare
us the passover, that we may eat. And they said unto him, Where wilt thou that
"And he said unto them, Behold, when ye are entered into the city, there shall
a man meet you, bearing a pitcher of water; follow him into the house where he
entereth in. And ye shall say unto the goodman of the house, The master saith
unto thee, Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the passover with my
disciples? And he shall shew you a large upper room furnished: there make
ready" (Luke 22:1-12).
Just what is the scene pictured in the 22nd chapter of Luke? Let's look at this chapter, verse by verse, and match these verses up with other clear and easily understandable verses, so we can "prove" the truth, carefully, as we go along, taking nothing for granted.
The Different Uses of the Word "Passover"
Notice verse 1. Luke explains what he means by "the Passover" in this verse. He writes, "Now the Feast of Unleavened
Bread drew near, which is called the Passover." Thus in Luke's terminology, the term "Passover" sometimes refers to the entire feast of Unleavened Bread!
Now notice verse 7: "Then came the Day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover must be killed." In this verse the "Passover" which must be "killed" has to refer obviously to the "Passover lamb" which was killed. My margin in the NKJV Bible says, "sacrificed." You don't "kill" a day, or a meal, but you do kill an animal, in this case "the Passover lamb." The day the lamb was killed or sacrificed was Nisan 14, the day before the actual "FEAST" started, which was the 15th through the 21st (seven days). The 14th of Nisan was also called a "Day of Unleavened Bread," in this verse, because on that day all leaven was destroyed or removed -- it was the "Preparation Day" for the Festival.
Obviously, then, we have proved that the word "Passover" itself can have several different meanings. It clearly does not always refer to the dinner itself where the Passover lamb is eaten! That much we have proven already!
The word "Passover" itself is interesting and important to understand, then. Strong's Concordance points out, in its definition of the Greek word pascha, from which we get the English word "Passover" in the New Testament, that this word means or signifies: "the Passover (the meal, the day, the festival, or the special sacrifices connected with it)."
In the Old Testament, the word "Passover" is translated from the Hebrew word pesach, from pasah, a primitive root meaning "to hop, i.e. (fig.) skip over (or spare) . . ." Pesach itself means "a pretermission, i.e., exemption; used only tech. of the Jewish Passover (the festival or the victim)."
Thus, when the term 'Passover" is used, it can refer to several different aspects of the Passover Feast -- the seven-day Festival itself, the Passover seder meal observed at the beginning of the 15th of Nisan, the Passover lamb sacrificed during the afternoon of Nisan 14, and the other sacrifices killed during the Festival. In effect, anything connected with the Festival could be called "the Passover," as it would constitute PART of the Passover. The season of the year is even called the "Passover season," meaning the Spring, the time of the year when the Passover is observed!
The "Preparation" of the Passover
Now let's look at verse 8: Jesus sent Peter and John telling them, "Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat." In context, then, He is telling them to "Prepare for the coming Passover Feast" -- all the seven days of "Passover" (verse 1). They had to prepare -- that is, obtain "unleavened bread," and all the things necessary for observing the Passover for seven
days. Jesus was telling His disciples to "PREPARE" for the up-coming Passover -- that is, to "GET READY" and "make preparations."
Actually, from Nisan 10 to Nisan 14, from from the day the Passover lambs were selected (Nisan 10), to the day they were killed (Nisan 14), was the preparation time for the Passover Feast. Even after the "Lord's Supper," even after Jesus had been seized by the Pharisees and Sadducees, and even after He was delivered to Pilate for judgment, it was STILL "the preparation" period for the Passover! We read in the book of John:
"When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth,
and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called the
Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha.
"And it was THE PREPARATION OF THE PASSOVER, and about
the sixth hour [that is, HIGH NOON -- John uses JEWISH TIME
in his reckoning): and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!"
Killing the lamb was just one part of the preparation needed to properly observe the Passover Feast. In addition, all leaven had to be put out of the homes of the people, and gotten rid of, and preparations had to be made for the obtaining of unleavened bread, and further preparations for the Passover seder meal on the night of Nisan 15, as well as for the remainder of the entire seven-day Festival. The lambs, themselves, had to be taken to the Temple region, and inspected by the priests to be sure they were "kosher," and then had to be killed during the afternoon of Nisan 14, between roughly 3 and 5 o'clock, as Josephus the Jewish historian states.
The Passover Preparation Period
Alfred Edersheim describes the preparations of the Passover:
"The special preparations for the Passover commenced on the evening of the
13th of Nisan, with which, according to Jewish reckoning, the 14th began, the
day being computed from evening to evening. Then the head of the house was
to search with a lighted candle all places where leaven was usually kept, and to
put what of it he found in the house in a safe place, whence no portion could be
carried away by accident. Before doing this, he prayed: 'Blessed art thou, YHVH,
our God, King of the Universe, who hast sanctified us by Thy commandments,
and commanded us to remove the leaven.' And after it he said: 'All the leaven
that is in my possession, that which I have seen and that which I have not seen,
be it null, be it accounted as the dust of the earth.' The search itself was to be
accomplished in perfect silence and with a lighted candle. To this search the
apostle may have referred in the admonition to 'purge out the old leaven' (I Cor.
Edersheim continues his account, describing the events that occurred during the daylight portion of the "preparation day" of Nisan 14:
"Early on the forenoon of the 14th of Nisan the feast of the Passover may be said
to have begun. In Galilee, no work was done all that day; in Judaea it was continued
till mid-day; the rule, however, being that no new work was to be commenced, though
that which was in hand might be carried on. . . . The strictest opinion fixes ten o'clock
as the latest hour when leaven might be eaten, the more lax eleven. From that hour
till twelve o'clock it was required to abstain from leaven, while at twelve it was to be
solemnly destroyed, either by burning, immersing it in water, or scattering it to the
Edersheim points out that the regular "evening sacrifice," of the Passover day, was slain an hour earlier than on other days -- at 1:30 in afternoon. Customarily, on most days it was slain at 2:30 P.M. and offered at 3:30, but on the eve of Passover it was killed an hour earlier. (If Nisan 14 fell on a Friday, then it was killed two hours earlier, or at 12:30 in the afternoon, so as to prevent any breach of the Sabbath day, so that all Passover sacrifices would be accomplished before sunset and the beginning of the weekly Sabbath.)
The Passover lambs had to be slain also, as part of the "preparation" for the Passover. They had to be slain at the Temple or sanctified areas. Edersheim describes the scene thusly:
"It was done on this wise: -- The first of the three festive divisions, with their
Paschal lambs, was admitted within the Court of the Priests. Each division must
consist of not less than thirty persons (3 x 10, the symbolic number of the
Divine and of completeness). Immediately the massive gates were closed
behind them. The priest drew a threefold blast from their silver trumpets
when the Passover was slain. Altogether the scene was most impressive.
All along the Court up to the altar of burnt-offering priests stood in two rows,
the one holding golden, the other silver bowls. In these the blood of the Paschal
lambs, which each Israelite slew for himself (as representative of his company
at the Paschal Supper), was caught up by a priest, who handed it to his colleague,
receiving back an empty bowl, and so the bowls with the blood were passed up
to the priest at the altar, who jerked it in one jet at the base of the altar. While
this was going on, a most solemn hymn of praise was raised, the Levites lead-
ing in song, and the offerers either repeating after them or merely responding
. . ." (p.175).
"If the 'Hallel' had been finished before the service of one division was completed,
it was repeated a second and, if needful, even a third time. . . . Next, the sacrifices
were hung up on hooks along the Court, or laid on staves which rested on the
shoulders of two men (on Sabbaths they were not laid on staves), then flayed,
the entrails taken out and cleansed, and the inside fat separated, put in a dish, salted,
and placed on the fire of the altar of burnt-offering. This completed the sacrifice.
The first division of offerers being dismissed, the second entered, and finally the third,
the service being in each case conducted in precisely the same manner. Then the
whole service concluded by burning the incense and trimming the lamps for the
Thus the Passover preparation day of the 14th of Nisan, which fell on a Thursday that year, was filled with activity, as the people got ready for the Passover seder/dinner at the beginning of Nisan 15.
Now, let's go back to our story in Luke 22. Nisan 14 clearly had not yet arrived. It was most likely the morning of Nisan 12, Tuesday morning, when Jesus beckoned to His disciples. At this time Jesus told His disciples to go into the city of Jerusalem, find a man bearing a pitcher of water, follow him into his house, and inquire about the guest-chamber where Christ and His
disciples could "eat the passover" (verse 11). Thus they had virtually two whole days in which to do their preparations, a sensible plan.
But IF this event occurred on the very evening of Nisan 13, as some believe, and if they were going to eat the Passover that very evening, beginning Nisan 14, then this means that Jesus at this very late moment told them to "go and prepare." If that be the case, then wasn't He really asking them to do the well-nigh impossible? Wouldn't He have waited too long? Think about it!
What about the lamb? What about taking the lamb to the Temple, having it properly approved, then killed, and gutted? Besides, these things were required to be done on the afternoon of Nisan 14, as we have proved -- NOT ON NISAN 12 or 13!
Was Jesus here holding a surreptitious, secret, furtive, unlawful, illegal "Passover" nowhere sanctioned in the Word of God?
Of course not!
Now imagine for a moment. If Jesus was referring to "preparing the Passover," to eat it, including the lamb, that very night, then He was totally ignoring the original Passover command which said the lambs were to be slain "in the evening" of the "fourteenth day" (Exodus 12:6). The EVENING of the 14th means the END of the 14th!
Was Jesus Christ breaking this command, and telling His disciples -- at the very last minute, as it were -- to "prepare" to keep the Passover just a few hours later, after the beginning of Nisan 14, as some believe? Of course NOT! In the first place, would He CHANGE the time and manner of observing the Passover?
Jesus Himself said He did NOT come to change God's Law! On the contrary, He came to strengthen and magnify and uphold it! He declared: "For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in NO WISE pass from the law, till all be fulfilled" (Matt.5:18). Therefore, He did not "change" or "alter" the PASSOVER!
Jesus Christ, the very Son of God, who was the manifestation of Yahveh in the Old Testament, says: "For I am the LORD: I change NOT; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed" (Malachi 3:6).
"Eating the Passover"
Now notice Luke 22, verse 11: The disciples were to ask the man they encountered in the streets where the guest room was which Jesus would use to "eat the Passover with My disciples." What does Jesus mean here? Is He necessarily referring to the Passover dinner, which was held on the beginning of Nisan 15?
That would be impossible, since He knows He will BE the "Passover lamb" of God, sacrificed at the time of the Passover sacrifice (I Cor.5:7-8). He knew He would not be eating the traditional, normal Passover with them. So what could He be referring to, here? Let's remember the context, and the fact that "Passover" can have several different meanings!
Again, as verse 1 shows, the "Passover" can refer to any part or aspect of the Passover Feast, or else the ENTIRE SEVEN DAY FEAST. Jesus had obviously arranged with this man to "rent" or obtain this room for the entire Festival, during which they would be feasting, eating unleavened bread, and rejoicing before God.
Jesus did "eat the Passover" with His disciples after He arose from the dead, for the remainder of the Feast. However, it should be obvious that He did not eat the "Passover lamb" with them that year, because He was our Passover lamb, being sacrificed at the very time the Jews were sacrificing their lambs (I Cor.5:7).
But what about this special meal, or dinner, they were to have that very night? Could it also have been classified or considered as "part of the Passover"?
"They Prepared the Passover"
Verse 13: ". . . they prepared the Passover."
Of course! The disciples did as Jesus instructed, found the man, followed him to his house, and were led to the room, which they prepared for the coming Feast of Passover, stocking up with supplies, and their Festival needs. They also prepared a meal for that night, since none of them had yet had supper. This meal, this very evening, would constitute a sort of "kicking off meal" for the whole Passover celebration which would last the rest of that day and the following seven days!
But was this "kick-off" meal or banquet the traditional "Passover" seder or banquet itself, as some teach? Remember, one of the keys to understanding the Bible is to put ALL the relevant Scriptures together, before you draw any conclusions! In this case, let's now turn to the book of John, and see what he says about this final "meal" itself. Does the apostle John say it was the "Passover"? Notice!
The apostle John records of this event: "Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that HIS HOUR HAD COME that He should depart from this world, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. And supper being served ["ended" is a poor translation; my Bible margin says, "during supper"], the devil having already put it into the heart
of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray Him, Jesus . . . rose from SUPPER . . ." (John 13:1-4).
Notice! This was "before the Feast of the Passover"! Therefore it could not have been the traditional, normal Passover! Supper was still being served when Jesus arose to wash the disciples' feet. John nowhere calls this meal a "Passover." He simply calls it "supper." The Greek word used for "supper" here is deipnon. According to Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, this word, #1172, means "dinner, i.e., the chief meal, usually in the evening." According to Thayer's English-Greek Lexicon to the New Testament, this word means "supper, a formal meal, usually held at evening, food taken at evening."
At this "supper" they ate regular "bread," because the Feast had not yet begun (verse 1). The Greek word for "bread" used for this evening's bread is artos and refers to leavened bread unless qualified otherwise with a modifier. The Greek word for unleavened bread is AZUMOS. The bread Jesus and the disciples ate this evening was the kind that one would "dip" into a gravy, as a "sop." Jesus told John, when he asked Him who would betray Him, "It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it" (John 13:26). "And having dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. Now after the piece of bread, Satan entered him. Then Jesus said to him, What you do, do quickly" (verse 27).
The next verse explains that no one knew why Jesus said this to Judas. "For some thought, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus had said to him, 'Buy those things we need for the Feast,' or that he should give something to the poor" (verse 28). Now if this was the PASSOVER DINNER, doesn't it seem strange that the disciples thought Jesus was sending Judas away from the Passover, right in the middle of it, to BUY GROCERIES FOR THE FEAST?
That makes no sense at all! If this was the Passover, then the markets would have been closed, and certainly no shopping would be allowed to interrupt the very Passover dinner itself! The very fact that the disciples had such a thought in their minds indicates plainly that they knew this meal itself was not the Passover, but indeed was a very special meal eaten together as a "love banquet," prior to the upcoming Passover.
Now notice Luke 22:14: "And when the hour had come, He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him."
This compares with John 13:1: "Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father . . ." In neither passage does it say that the "hour" of the Passover had come! Rather, it was the "hour of His betrayal" that had come. Jesus knew that this night would be His last with His disciples, until after His forthcoming death and resurrection.
"With Fervent Desire . . . THIS Passover"
Now we come to the most enigmatic, perplexing verse of all. This is the verse which is the most misunderstood verse in all the New Testament, I believe. Notice! We have been studying this subject in context, bringing together all the related Scriptures. Now we come to Luke 22, verses 15-16. Here Jesus said to the disciples:
"With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer;
for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God."
Let's take a spiritual microscope to this verse, and analyze it very carefully. Let's notice what it does say as well as what it does not say.
What, then, did Jesus mean when He said, "With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer"? The word for "desire" in this verse is an unusual word, epithumia in the Greek, and means "a longing, especially for that which is forbidden" (see Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, #1939). The word for "desire" in this verse is very important to understanding the context of Jesus' words. Says Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon, "desire, craving, longing," "specifically for what is forbidden." This is the "strongest expression of intense desire," whether good or bad, says the Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Critical-Experimental Commentary.
In other words, Jesus here very likely was saying He desired to eat the normal, traditional Passover with His disciples, which would be held on the regular evening, but He knows that such a thing will be impossible -- that it is forbidden -- that for Him to fulfill God's PLAN He must be dead and in the grave that evening, and therefore it is forbidden and impossible for Him to eat that Passover seder meal with them, with all its special meanings and integral significance!
Suppose a man was talking to his wife, and told her a few days before their wedding anniversary, "With great desire I have desired to celebrate this anniversary with you, but I have to take a long trip and won't be here for our anniversary. I won't be able to keep our anniversary with you this year, or for many years to come."
In other words, it is nothing more than pure assumption on the part of some to conclude that this verse proves Jesus was celebrating the Passover that very evening! Jesusd was merely expressing His regret that He would not be able to celebrate the Passover itself with them a few nights hence, that very year. Why? Because He would be in the grave at that time (Matt.12:40).
This verse does not prove that evening meal was the "Passover" -- in fact, it proves the very opposite, when we understand He is talking about something "forbicden" due to circumstances beyond His control!
The Critical-Experimental Commentary points out:
"The last meal one is to partake of with his family or friends before his departure
even for a far distant land, in all probability never to see them again, is a solemn and
fond one to any thoughtful and loving person. The last meal of a martyr, of Jesus with
his friends in the truth, before being led forth to execution, is still more touching. But
faint are these illustrations of the emotions with which Jesus now sat down supper
with the Twelve. All the sweetness and all the sadness of His social intercourse with
them, from the day that He first chose them to be with Him, were now to be concentrated
and heightened to their utmost intensity during the brief hour or two of this their last
meal together. But this was no common meal, nor even common passover."
Thus far we have shown much evidence that this final meal was certainly not the normal or typical "Passover," as there is no mention of lamb, it was held before the customary "Passover" dinner of lamb, herbs, and unleavened bread. Jesus and His disciples ate regular "bread" which they dipped at this meal. John specifically calls it a "supper," not the Passover. It was, in actuality, "the Lord's supper."
Interestingly, in every other verse mentioning "Passover" in Luke 22, the expression used is "the Passover." But the context shows they were preparing for the coming Passover, not eating it that very night!
In fact, in Luke 22:20, Luke himself calls that evening meal, not the Passover, but "supper." We read: "Likewise the cup after SUPPER . . ."
Let's do a comparison of this final "Lord's supper" with the Passover:
Passover The Last Supper
1. Held on Nisan 15, at night 1. Held on Nisan 13, at night
2. Passover lamb eaten 2. No sacrificed lamb eaten
3. Unleavened bread eaten 3. Artos signifying
"leavened bread" eaten
4. Bitter herbs eaten 4. No mention of bitter herbs
5. Recital of history and meaning 5. No recital of history or meaning of
of Passover done Passover
6. Occasion of joy and rejoicing 6. Occasion of sadness, final instruction
These are very significant differences, distinguishing this final meal from the Passover celebration itself! First, it was clearly held before the Passover.
Secondly, in none of the gospel accounts -- Matthew, Mark, Luke or John -- is there any hint or mention of lamb being eaten, as part of a traditional Passover -- a requirement of the Passover, if this was really a full-fledged "Passover."
Thirdly, there is no mention of bitter herbs, also a requirement.
Fourthly, at a normal "Passover," the command was for the story of the Passover to be explained and told in detail (Exo.12:24-27; 13:14-15). But the story of the Passover is something not even alluded to at the "Last Supper"!
Also, I might mention, the Passover was a time of special joy and rejoicing, a celebration of deliverance and freedom. But at the Last Supper, there was a heavy feeling of sadness, remorse, as Jesus brought up the subject of His betrayal. Rather than being a celebration of great joy, there is a palpable sense of concern and sadness, since He tells them He will be delivered to His enemies, and won't partake of the Passover with them again until the Kingdom of God.
Let's see if we can get the complete picture.
This final meal Jesus ate with His disciples was eaten in anticipation of the events to soon occur. It was eaten before the regular Passover. Therefore, it could not have in any manner been the true "Passover"!
Regardless of the terminology we use, this final meal was not a traditional Passover -- too many elements of the traditional Passover were missing, and it was at the wrong time.
Edersheim on the Passover
Alfred Edersheim in his excellent book The Temple: Its Ministry and Service, in his chapter on "The Paschal Feast and the Lord's Supper," makes an excellent comment showing why this final meal Jesus held with His disciples could not possibly be the "Passover."
Alfred Edersheim was born in 1825 and died in 1889. He was born to Jewish parents in Vienna and was converted to Christianity as a young man. He studied theology in Edinburgh and Berlin and was one of the leading authorities of his time regarding the doctrines and practices of Judaism in the centuries preceding and during the time of Christ and the early Christian era.
Edersheim states in blunt and incontrovertible terms:
"there is this one conclusive answer, that, except on the evening [latter
part] of the 14th of Nisan, NO PASCHAL LAMB COULD HAVE BEEN
OFFERED IN THE TEMPLE, AND THEREFORE NO PASCHAL
SUPPER CELEBRATED IN JERUSALEM" (P.193).
Therefore, if the final meal Jesus held with His disciples was, as we believe and have proved, was HELD BEFORE the evening (ending) of Nisan 14, and the Passover lambs would be sacrificed during the late afternoon of Nisan 14, it would have been literally impossible for Jesus and the disciples to have eaten a Passover lamb at the last supper!
Therefore, it is IMPOSSIBLE that the "Lord's supper" was in any regard the true Passover!
We have already proved that Jesus was slain at the time of the Passover lambs, prior to the Holy Day of Nisan 15. Therefore, plain and simply, this final meal could not constitute the true historic Passover! Consequently, it had to therefore be simply a loving banquet, a "going-away" dinner, a final fellowship meal, shared by Christ with His disciples -- and not a true "Passover" meal at all!
If the "Lord's Supper" is Not the
Passover, Then What IS It?
We read of the ceremony Jesus introduced after His final supper with His disciples, "And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave 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 (or, drink all of ye 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).
What is the meaning of this special newly inaugurated ceremony, and when should it be observed?
The bread represents the body of Christ. As Jesus said in John 6, "I am the bread of life. . . . 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 give for the life of the world" (John 6:48-5l). The word for "bread" in these verses is the Greek word artos and means regular raised or leavened bread -- a simple loaf of bread!
The flesh of Jesus is symbolized by "bread." We are to "eat" His flesh, this spiritual "bread." We are to "partake" of Christ, and consume Him, His essence, His truth. Remember, Jesus was the "Word" of God (John l:l-3). "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us" (John l:l4). When we partake of Jesus' flesh, therefore, it means we partake of HIS WORD -- HIS TRUTH. He said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John l4:6).
The cup of wine, which was divided up among the disciples, represented Christ's shed blood (Mark l4:23-25; Luke 22:20). This cup of wine symbolized the death of Christ on the cross, whereby He gave up His life to pay the penalty for the sins of all mankind, so that none need perish, but all may have an opportunity for eternal life! As John records, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him mighty be saved" (John 3:l6-l7).
As the apostle Paul wrote, "For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. . . . But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life" (Rom.5:6, 8-l0).
Jesus Christ paid the penalty for all our sins. He covered them with His shed blood. Therefore, by this new symbolism of the bread and wine ceremony, we memorialize the death and penalty paid by our own true "Passover lamb" -- Christ Himself! As Paul wrote, "Christ our passover is sacrificed for us" (I Cor.5:7).
Paul explained, "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature (or, creation): old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us this ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation" (II Cor.5:l7-l9).
Was the sharing of bread and wine a NEW ceremony?
An Ancient Ceremony
Jesus gave the disciples bread, representing His body, and wine, representing His blood, that evening, as a special ceremony to do in remembrance of Him. Was this the Passover? No, it was not! This was done before the Passover. What was it, then? Modern Jews speak of it as the Kiddush or "Blessing of the bread and wine." It is an ancient tradition observed on Sabbaths and Holy Days, and often partaken of after synagogue services each Sabbath.
In truth, this practice dates back to the time of Abraham and Melchisedek! We read in Genesis 14, "And Melchisedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thine hand" (Gen.14:18-20).
What Jesus did, then, was invest NEW MEANING to these ancient symbols -- this ancient ceremony of the bread and wine! The Jewish people partake of the bread and wine often after synagogue services, not understanding its real meaning. They also often partake of it at the Sabbath dinner on Friday nights, as a family affair -- still not knowing or understanding what they are doing. They do it as "tradition," without recognizing the true symbolism of the bread and the red wine.
How often should we partake of this precious ceremony, which Christ commanded?
The apostle Paul tells us, ". . . this do ye, AS OFT AS ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For AS OFTEN AS YE eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come" (I Cor.11:25-26).
The "Kiddush" is a precious ceremony by which we remember Christ's sufferings and death, and the price He paid for our sins. The "Kiddush" is a ceremony where we use leavened bread, what the Jewish people call "Challah," a special Sabbath bread which is "broken" at the table, and eaten. The "leavened" bread pictures the fullness of Christ, the Spirit-filled Christ, the Son of God, and His life-giving properties as the "Word" of God, and the "bread of LIFE" (Matt.4:4; John 1:1-4; John 6:48).
This "Kiddush" ceremony is to observed "OFTEN" throughout the year. Jesus was not instituting a New "ordinance" to be performed annually, each year. If He was, then He would have made it perfectly clear. He would have left no doubt it was to be an annual observance. However, the apostle Paul, who ought to know, plainly said we are to observe it "as often as" we have the opportunity. The Greek expression translated "as often as" in I Corinthians 11 is also found in Revelation 11. There, John says the two witnesses of God during the tribulation will smite the earth with plagues "as often as they will" (Rev.11:6).
We should not read into the Word of God what simply is not there. Nor should we take it upon ourselves to institute a yearly observance called "The Lord's Supper" when Jesus Christ
never told us to do such a thing! That would be "adding to" the Word and ordinances of God, something which God Himself condemns outright (Deut.4:1-2). It is something that may "seem good" to a man, but the "end" thereof are the ways of DEATH (Prov.14:12; 16:25). Rather, we should observe the Kiddush "often" throughout the year!
Practise of the EARLY Church
The history of the early church, during the first few centuries following the time of Christ and the apostles, shows that true Christians and Jewish Christians continued to observe the "Jewish" Passover -- that is, Christians and Jews alike celebrated the Passover with a instructive "Passover service" on the night of Nisan 15.
Scholar Samuele Bacchiocchi asserts: "Moreover we know from the Quartodeciman's sources (i.e. those who kept Passover on Nisan 14 according to the Jewish reckoning), which APPARENTLY REPRESENT A DIRECT CONTINUATION OF THE CUSTOM OF THE PRIMITIVE CHURCH, that the PASCHAL FE4ST WAS INDEED OBSERVED BY CHRISTIANS. Its celebration, however, did not take place on Sunday . . . but rather, as well stated by J. Jeremias, 'at the SAME TIME AS THE JEWISH PASSOVER, that is, on the night of the 15th of Nisan, and by the date rather than the day'" (From Sabbath to Sunday, p.81).
Notice these incredible words! The Christians observed Passover at the very same night as the Jewish people -- that is, on the night of the 15th of Nisan! This is the record of scholarly research. This constitutes a powerful answer to those who attempt to observe Passover on the previous evening of the 14th of Nisan, that is, at the beginning of the 14th! Bacchiocchi adds to this statement, by J. Jeremias: "In a passage we shall later examine, Epiphanius (ca. A.D. 315-403) suggests that until A.D. 135 CHRISTIANS EVERYWHERE OBSERVED PASSOVER ON THE JEWISH DATE, NAMELY, ON NISAN 15, irrespective of the day of the week" (ibid).
Three pages later in his book, Samuele Bacchiocchi asserts, "The . . . Passover . . . initially celebrated Christ's passion and was observed by the FIXED DATE OF NISAN 15 rather than on Sunday . . ." (p.84).
Do we see the striking importance of these witnesses? In other words, the early Church observed Passover at the very same time as the JEWS -- at the ending of the 14th, "at even," and the beginning of the 15th (after sunset, which determined the beginning of the new day in Biblical reckoning).
During the time of the Roman emperor Hadrian, says Epiphanius, controversy over the correct date of the Passover, first arose. He wrote,
"The controversy arose [literally, "was stirred up"] after the exodus of the bishops
of the circumcision [A.D. 135] and it has continued until our time." According to
Epiphanius, the fifteen Judaeo-Christian bishops who had administered the Church in
Jerusalem up to 135 A.D. had, up to that time, practiced the Quartodeciman Passover
-- the Jewisb Passover. They based this observance on a document known as the
"Apostolic Constitutions." According to that document, the following commandment
is given: "You shall not change the calculation of time, but you shall CELEBRATE
IT AT THE SAME TIME AS YOUR BRETHREN who came out from the
circumcision. WITH THEM OBSERVE THE PASSOVER."
This is quoted in Bacchiocchi's From Sabbath to Sunday, p.161. I strongly suggest all readers who are concerned with this issue, read Bacchiocchi's book and especially this section dealing with the early church!
This document is cited by Epiphanius in his work Adversus haereses. It constitutes overwhelming evidence that the early Jewish Christians, directly descended from the very headquarter's Church in Jerusalem, observed the ancient PASSOVER at the historically correct time, and did not change the calculation of the time. They did not keep it a day early, a night early, or every year on a Sunday, or invent any other new calculation. They observed it WITH and at the SAME TIME as their brethren, the JEWS! Could anything be clearer?
But remember -- these words were written by a Catholic church leader and historian -- not as a friendly commentary, but as a diatribe, accusing them of following Jewish customs! Ephphanius was merely pointing out that the Nazarenes, descended from the primitive headquarter's church in Jerusalem, celebrated Passover at the same time as the Jews! This, to him, was an abominable heresy! He was merely commenting on the fact. As far as he was concerned, Christians should have nothing whatever to do with Passover. He wasn't arguing for observing it a day or night earlier. Not at all! He was merely stating an observed "fact."
Note that he condemned them for observing the Passover with the Jews! If they had been observing it differently from the Jews, or on another day, he may not have condemned them at all!
Since Epiphanius clearly says the controversy over Passover arose "after the time of the exodus of the bishops of the circumcision" from Jerusalem in 135 A.D., he clearly implies that "prior to that time the Quartodeciman reckoning was UNANIMOUSLY FOLLOWED," points out Samuel Bacchiocchi (p.162). Bacchiocchi continues:
"The fact that the controversy over the Passover date arose not prior to but at the
time when the new anti-Judaic policy of the Emperor caused a reconstitution of the
Jerusalem Church with Gentile members and leaders suggests, first, that up to that time
the Church, composed primarily of Judaeo-Christians, had been LOYAL TO BASIC
JEWISH RELIGIOUS INSTITUTIONS, SUCH AS PASSOVER AND THE
SABBATH; and secondly that certain changes, particularly in the liturgical calendar,
were occasioned by the new repressive measures taken by the Emperor against Jewish
The early Christians KEPT the faith! They observed Passover along with the Jews, eating the Passover meal on Nisan 15th, as Jesus and the apostles had done!
Thus up to 135 A.D. the Jerusalem headquarters Church of God held closely to the Jewish religious traditions. History shows that there were in existence two rival religious communities, one Jewish-Christian and the other Gentile-Christian, well into the fifth century A.D. Writes Bacchiocchi, "The survival in Jerusalem of such strong Judeao-Christian influence for centuries after the first destruction of the city, discredits any attempt to make A.D. 70 the historical breaking point between Sabbath and Sunday" (p.163).
Likewise, history shows that the Judaeo-Christian community continued observing Passover at the end of the 14th of Nisan centuries after the first destruction of Jerusalem. But controversy continually flared up over it, because the Church at Rome wanted to divorce itself from any and all Jewish influence!
The Easter-Passover Controversy
Eusebius relates that Polycarp, a disciple of John, who had known several of the original apostles, strongly resisted the introduction of Easter in the place of Passover. He visited Rome in 154 A.D. to discuss the growing heated controversy with Anicetus, the Roman bishop. Polycarp was bishop of the Church of God at Smyrna. He was baptized by John, the brother of James. He held to the Passover as an institution handed down by John, the last living original apostle of Christ.
At the meeting nothing was resolved. Eusebius records: "For neither could Anicetus persuade Polycarp not to observe it [the Passover] because he had always observed it with John the disciple of our Lord, and the rest of the apostles, with whom he associated; and neither did Polycarp persuade Anicetus to observe it who said that he was bound to follow the customs of the presbyters before him."
Eusebius relates that Polycarp was later taken and executed "on a great sabbath day." T'he marginal note explains that the 'GREAT SABBATH DAY" was the Feast of Unleavened Bread!
Controversy Explodes Again
The controversy flared up again toward the end of the second century. The two major protagonists of the controversy were Victor of Rome (A.D. 189-199) who championed the Easter-Sunday tradition, on one side, and Polycrates, the disciple of Polycarp, who was the bishop of Ephesus and representative of the Asian Churches, who strongly advocated the traditional Passover date of Nisan 14. Victor attempted to "cut off whole churches of God, who observed the tradition of an ancient custom," the true Passover, says Eusebius.
According to Eusebius (ca. 260-340 A.D.), Polycrates, claiming to possess the genuine apostolic tradition transmitted to him by the apostles Philip and John, refused to be frightened into submission by Victor's threats.
Irenaeus, bishop of Lyon from about 176 A.D., tried to intervene as peacemaker in the controversy. He warned Pope Victor not to break the unity with "the many bishops of Asia and the East, who WITH THE JEWS CELEBRATED THE PASSOVER on the fourteenth day of the new moon" (NPNF, 2nd, III, p.370). In addition, Apollinarius, bishop of Hierapolis (ca. A.D. 170), declared: "The 14th Nisan is the TRUE PASSOVER OF OUR LORD, the great Sacrifice; instead of the lamb, we have the Lamb of God" (Bacchiocchi, p.199, footnote).
Notice the words of Eusebius in his Church history:
"A question of no small importance arose at that time [the close of the second century].
For the parishes of Asia, as from an OLDER TRADITION, held that the FOURTEENTH
DAY OF THE MOON, on which day the Jews were commanded to sacrifice the lamb,
SHOULD BE OBSERVED AS THE FEAST OF THE SAVIOUR'S PASSOVER . . .
the bishops of Asia, led by Polycrates, decided to HOLD TO THE OLD CUSTOM
handed down to them. He himself in a letter which he addressed to Victor and the
Church of Rome, set forth in the following words the tradition which had come down
"'We observe the FXACT DAY, neither adding, nor taking away. For in Asia also
great lights have fallen asleep, which shall rise on the day of the Lord's coming, when
he shall come with glory from heaven, and shall seek out all the saints. Among these
are Philip, one of the twelve apostles . . . and, moreover, John, who was both a witness
and a teacher, who reclined on the bosom of the Lord . . . and Polycarp in Smyrna,
who was a bishop and martyr . . . Those observed the fourteenth day of the Passover
according to the gospel, DEVIATING IN NO RESPECT,' but following the rule
of faith" (Anti-Nicean Fathers, vol. 8, pp.773-774).
In the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, reference is made in "The Ecclesiastical History of Sozomen" of a group of Christians, the Novatians of Phrygia, who "began to celebrate the festival of the Passover on the same day as the Jews" (vo.2, p.360, ch.24). He says "they determined upon keeping the feast of unleavened bread, and upon celebrating the Passover on the same days as the Jews." Thus as late as about 374 A.D., the Passover was still being observed.
However, around 400 A.D. those Christians who maintained the Jewish Passover ritual were strongly attacked by Severian, bishop of Gabala. Epiphanius, bishop of Salamis (ca. A.D. 315-403) declares that the "heresy," as he called it, of the Quartodeciman Passover was still rising up in the world in his own time.
It is very interesting to note that Hippolytus, who was bishop of a place called Pontus, near Rome, in his book Against All Heresies, speaks of a heresy which had arisen in his day, which has also arisen in these last days -- that is, of those who teach that Christ's "last supper" was actually the "Passover"!
Hippolytus was a Greek living near Rome, from 170 to 236 A.D. He wrote of those men who "speak thus: Christ kept the supper, then, on that day, and then suffered; whence it is needful that I, too, should keep it in the same manner as the Lord did." But Hippolytus goes on pointing out, "But he is fallen into error by not perceiving that at the time when Christ suffered He did not eat the passover of the law. For He was the passover that had of old been proclaimed, and that was fulfilled on that determinate day" (fragment 1, ANF, vol.5, p.240).
Hippolytus understood the last supper was not the Passover. He wrote, "for he who said of old, 'I will not any more eat the passover,' probably partook of supper before the passover. But the passover He did not eat, but He suffered; for it was not the time for Him to eat" (II, ANF, vol.5, p.240). How strange that even today many confuse the "Lord's supper" with the Passover!
This same misunderstanding was addressed by Peter, bishop of Alexandria, who lived A.D. 260 to A.D. 311, approximately. This was prior to the Nicene Council of 325 A.D. Peter speaks of the fact that Christ Himself observed the Jewish Passover, along with "the people of Israel, rightly observing the fourteenth day of the first lunar month, celebrating on it the Passover of the law." He points out that "the holy prophets, and all . . . who
righteously and justly walked in the law of the Lord, together with the entire people, celebrated a typical and shadowy Passover." He goes on:
"Jesus Christ . . . Himself also, with the people, in the years before His public ministry
and during His public ministry, did celebrate the legal and shadowy Passover, eating the
typical lamb. For 'I came not to destroy the law, or the prophets, but to fulfill them,' the
Saviour Himself said in the Gospel.
"But after His public ministry, He did not eat of the lamb, but Himself suffered as the
one true Lamb in the Paschal feast, as John the divine and evangelist, teaches us in the
Gospel. . . . On that day, therefore, on which the Jews were about to eat the Passover
in the evening, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ was crucified, being made the victim
to those who were about to partake by faith of the mystery concerning Him, according
to what is written by the blessed Paul: 'For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for
us'; and not as some who, CARRIED ALONG BY IGNORANCE, confidently affirm
that after He had eaten the Passover He was betrayed; which we neither learn from
the holy evangelists, NOR HAS ANY OF THE BLESSED APOSTLES HANDED IT
DOWN TO US. At the time, therefore, in which our Lord and God Jesus Christ suffered
for us, according to the flesh, HE DID NOT EAT OF THE LEGAL PASSOVER; but,
as I have said, He Himself, as the true Lamb, was sacrificed for us in the feast of the
typical Passover, on the day of the PREPARATION, the fourteenth of the first lunar
month" (Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol.6, p.282, "Fragments from the Writings of Peter,"
sec.5, paragraph 7).
We have similar "ignorant" people, some of them passing themselves off as "erudite scholars," among us today! They twist and pervert the Scriptures, to create a false date for the Old Testament Passover, as well as the meaning of Jesus' words concerning His final supper with His disciples! Therefore they neither understand nor observe the true Passover of God, ordained in the Scriptues for ever!
Where Churches Go Wrong
When we carefully study the Word of God, we see that the true Passover was always held on Nisan 15, after the Passover lambs were slain on the afternoon of Nisan 14. This ordinance or statute of God was ordained "forever," and to "every generation." To fail to observe it properly, at the appointed times, constitutes SIN -- transgression of the laws of God (I John 3:4).
We also learn that during the spring when Christ died for our sins as our "Passover lamb," He and His disciples held a final dinner, where they ate regular leavened bread (artos). That final dinner was a regular "supper" (deipnon) and was in no way the true "Passover." Since Jesus was finally condemned by Pilate at "noon" (John 19:14), and since He was nailed to the stake at 9:00 a.m. on Nisan 14 (Mark 15:25), Wednesday, then the final condemnation had to be at "noon" on Nisan 13 (Tuesday). This means the "Lord's Supper," and final arrest and imprisonment of Christ, must have occurred at the beginning of Nisan 13, Monday night! If modern churches insist on observing the "Lord's Supper" annually, then they ought to be doing it a night earlier than they observe it!
But for those who really wish to do that which is right in GOD's sight, then let's "earnestly contend [fight, struggle] for the faith which was once delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). Let's cease to do what is "right" in our own eyes, and do what is right in God's eyes. And let's observe the true Passover on Nisan 15, as God ordained forever. And let's observe the "Kiddush" -- the bread and wine ceremony -- as Jesus Christ commanded -- often throughout the year.
If we do these things, God will indeed bless us, and draw close to us, and give us more of His understanding, His truth, His love, and His Holy Spirit. As Paul wrote, "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, of love, and of a sound mind" (II Timothy 1:7).
If we neglect, ignore and reject God's truth, on the Passover, then God will neglect, ignore, and reject us in return. God says though the prophet Hosea, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee . . . seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children" (Hosea 4:6).
But if we embrace God's truth, and obey ALL His commandments, then He will bless us, and protect us through the dark days ahead, even as a Father protects and loves and spares His own precious children who obey Him (Malachi 3:16-17).
May God help us all to see the light, to follow it, and to walk in it!