Christ and the Passover

Was the Last Supper, a Passover?

Part Two

Reliable Witnesses

It would be prudent to mention here, that we have only one reliable witness when trying to understand this Passover issue. That reliable witness is the Bible. The other sources that men rely upon may speak to this issue, but they do not speak either fully or honestly about it. The other sources I am referring to, are the writings of the rabbis, found in the Talmud, Josephus and Philo. Josephus may be the most honest of the three, but his information is woefully incomplete for our purposes. The only complete and accurate source we have, is the God-breathed Scriptures. The information found in the Talmud, which many rely upon as being authoritative, is horribly slanted and therefore fails to give an accurate picture of first century practice. How is it slanted?

Cooking The Books

Since the destruction of the temple in AD 70, we have relied upon the information given by the pharisaic rabbis. Apart from what we have in the Scriptures, we have only the rabbis' word on how the feasts and their sacrifices were accomplished before the destruction. However, there are real problems with this. It is an age-old adage that, “The victor writes the history of the defeated.” This is exactly what the Pharisees did. They rewrote Jewish history from their own perspective. How do we know this? Listen to the Judaica Encyclopedia(1905),

With the destruction of the Temple (70 AD) the Sadducees disappeared altogether, leaving the regulation of all Jewish affairs in the hands of the Pharisees. Henceforth, Jewish life was regulated by the Pharisees; the whole history of Judaism was reconstructed from the Pharisaic point of view, and a new aspect was given to the Sanhedrin of the past. A new chain of tradition supplanted the older priestly tradition (Abot 1:1). Pharisaism shaped the character of Judaism and the life and thought of the Jew for all the future. (bold emphasis added)

Noticed the bolded phrase, the whole history of Judaism was reconstructed from the Pharisaic point of view. When they say, "reconstructed," they mean rewritten. What this tells us is that the Pharisees saw the temple’s destruction as an opportunity to rewrite Jewish history from their own point of view. Just like today, they believed you should never let a crisis go to waste. They wrote the Sadducees out of history, except as it served their purpose.

This sanitized version of Jewish history is found in the Talmud. In other words, they cooked the books in their favor, leaving only their own tradition as the real authority. So anyone who uses the writings of the rabbis, i.e., the Talmud, they are using a history that has been filtered through the traditions and practices of the Pharisees.

See the above phrase, “A new chain of tradition supplanted the older priestly tradition (Abot 1:1).” This tell us that the Pharisees removed the priestly traditions, replacing it with their own. Again this is a witness of the Talmud being a sanitized version of Jewish culture and practice.

This tells us we have no idea how the feasts and sacrifices were conducted, because the priestly traditions were removed. They were replaced with the traditions of the Pharisees. We know from the Pharisees own testimony that their traditions regarding the sacrifices and feasts were often at odds with the priests' tradition.

The reference above, Aboth 1:1, states the following.

MISHNA A. Moses received the Law on Sinai and delivered it to Joshua; Joshua in turn handed it down to the Elders (not to the seventy Elders of Moses' time but to the later Elders who have ruled Israel, and each of them delivered it to his successor); from the Elders it descended to the prophets (beginning with Eli and Samuel), and each of them delivered it to his successors until it reached the men of the Great Assembly. The last, named originated three maxims: "Be not hasty in judgment; Bring up many disciples; and, Erect safe guards for the Law."

The 'Law' received on Sinai referred to above, is the oral law or tradition, of which the Pharisees claimed they were the guardians. It is this oral law that the gospels refer to as the "tradition of the elders". Jesus' opinion of the oral tradition was that it nullified the Word of God.

However, it is admitted by Rabbi J.H. Hertz, in the foreword of the first English translation of the Talmud, that the Talmud actually had its beginnings during the Babylonian captivity.

The beginnings of Talmudic literature date back to the time of the Babylonian Exile in the Sixth pre-Christian Century ... When a thousand years later, the Babylonian Talmud assumed final codified form in the year 500 after the Christian era, the Roman Western Empire had ceased to be. [The Babylonian Talmud edited by Rabbi Dr. I Epstein, 1935, page xiii]

The Jewish Encyclopedia(1943) agains informs us,

The Jewish religion as it is today traces its descent, without a break, through all the centuries, from the Pharisees. Their leading ideas and methods found expression in a literature of enormous extent, of which a very great deal is still in existence. The Talmud is the largest and most important single piece of that literature ... and the study of it is essential for any real understanding of Pharisaism.

Here it is admitted that the Talmud only gives us the Pharisaic view. It contains a history of Pharisaism, not a history of the first century Jewish culture and practice. This is why using the Talmud as a source of information, for discovering the pre-destruction history of the Jewish people, should be held as suspect, because you are only getting one side of the history. You are getting the side of history that the Pharisees want you to have. This would be particularly true as it relates to any information that would validate Jesus as the Messiah.

Robert Stein, in his book, Jesus the Messiah, says this concerning the Talmud and its report of Jesus,

The key question that arises involves the origin of these rabbinic references. The value of these passages would be greatly enhanced if they originated from contemporaries of Jesus who were eyewitnesses of the events they were reporting. This would be true even though they presented the side of Jesus' opponents. On several occasions, however, aspects of these accounts seem to be due less to eyewitness reports than to later Jewish interaction with the teachings and claims of the early church. This is especially true with respect for such matters as the claim that a forty-day search for witnesses on Jesus' behalf preceded his trial and, if the accounts refer to Jesus, to his birth being due not to virginal conception but to adultery on the part of his mother. As a result, the rabbinic materials are primarily valuable for providing information concerning second-, third- and fourth-century Judaism, and even here they must be read critically. Like the pagan sources, however, they provide little information for the historian seeking to construct a life of Jesus.

The Talmud reports that at this present moment, Jesus is in hell, boiling in hot excrement. It reports that He was the bastard son of Mary, who was a hairdresser, and his father was a Roman solider. The Talmud refers to Him as “Yeshu," which they say means, "let him be accursed.” So if you believe that the Talmud is a reliable source from which to draw, then be my guest. However, when it holds this kind of opinion of the Lord of Glory, I find it reprehensible to take its witness over the words of Inspired Scripture.

All of this has been said to make it clear that relying upon Talmudic sources to reconstruct first century practice, is to rely on information that is slanted to one point of view and is not reliable as far as first century Jewish practice and culture is concerned. For this, we must rely upon the Scriptural witness itself.

The Witness of Scripture

The Lord's First Passover

It is obvious from the witness of Moses, that the Passover Meal was taken on the night of the Fourteenth, therefore it would require that the Passover sacrifice be killed in the evening, beginning the Fourteenth. How do we know this? The record of Numbers 33:3 is all too clear.

Num. 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.

They departed on the Fifteenth of the first month, and at night, according to Deut. 16:1,
Observe the month of Abib, and keep the passover unto the LORD thy God: for in the month of Abib the LORD thy God brought thee forth out of Egypt by night. They were brought out of Egypt on the night of the Fifteenth, the day after the Passover, in the sight of all Egypt.

The Scriptures recorded how pharaoh awoke in the night of the Fourteenth, to find all the firstborn dead, even his own son. He then tells Moses to take the people and go worship the Lord in the wilderness, along with all their possessions.

The massive crowd that Moses had to get ready to leave is calculated to be around 2,400,000. The figure of 600,000 men is given in the Scripture (Ex.12:37), but this is likely men aged 20 and up. It took from the early morning hours of the Fourteenth to the evening of the Fifteenth to prepare such a mass for the exodus. Hence the Scriptures report that they departed “on the fifteenth day of the first month; on the morrow after the passover.”

They departed Rameses, in Egypt, on the Fifteenth, the "morrow" or day after the Passover, the Fourteenth. It is too clear that the Passover, the day that God caused the destroyer to "pass over" when he saw the blood on their houses, was the Fourteenth, not the Fifteenth.

Josephus witnesses to the fact that the Passover was killed on the Fourteenth, in the homes of the Hebrews, and states that the Passover was kept in his day, in the same manner.

But when the fourteenth day was come, and all were ready to depart they offered the sacrifice, 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. Whence it is that we do still offer this sacrifice in like manner to this day, and call this festival Pascha which signifies the feast of the passover; because on that day God passed us over, and sent the plague upon the Egyptians; [Ant. II.14.6]

Notice that Josephus says, “when the fourteenth day was come,” not when the fourteenth day was almost gone, or late on the fourteenth, as it is promoted. When the fourteenth day had arrived, they offered the sacrifice. He then admits this, “We do still offer this sacrifice in like manner to this day, and call this festival Pascha. . .” Notice he says that they still offer the sacrifice in like manner, meaning they still offered the paschal lamb in the domestic setting, even in his own day, the first century AD.

So for all those who argue Passover is on the night of the Fifteenth, their argument is with God and His Word. It is not from Wisdom that they do this, but from a sanitized, pharisaic tradition.

You who confess the Name of Jesus, when you argue that Passover was and is observed on the night of the Fifteenth, with the sacrifice being in the afternoon of the Fourteenth, you are arguing in favor of the Words of those who hated Him and conspired to put Him to death. Why do you accept the testimony of His enemies, above His own? This is only one of the reasons that His Body does not walk in His Power. We are walking in lies, which is the power of the enemy. This is our shame and needs to be repent of.

Before anyone starts throwing the term anti-semitism around, this has nothing to do with having anything against any of the sons of Shem. This has everything to do with being against the lies of the enemy, and those who promote them, regardless of their lineage.