Lev 23:4-8, Ex 12:1-36, 13:1-16

The story behind the Passover
Easter and Passover
Christ, our Passover
Remembrance and proclamation
Deliverance, not forgiveness
The festival of the redemption of the first-born
Appendix 1 - The Biblical timetable for Passover and Unleavened Bread
Appendix 2 - The Passion timetable
Appendix 3 - The Jewish celebration of the Passover compared with the Last Supper
Appendix 4 - Pesahim chapter 10

The Passover has been extensively dealt with by many commentators in the past and will probably continue to be focused on in the coming years, seeing as Jesus died at this festival and that the implications of His death can be seen to be a fulfilment of the festival as outlined in the OT.

Though great volumes and articles have been written on the subject, it may shock the reader to learn that there’s more written in the NT about Christ fulfilling, for instance, Yom Kippur than there is about Passover. And, if you take a cursory look at the lengths of the articles in this series of studies (without appendices), you’ll note that there’s more dealt with in the articles on Yom Kippur and the Feast of Tabernacles than recorded here.

Unfortunately, the Church has majored on the Passover and forgotten that it’s not the ‘be-all-and-end-all’ of the Festivals - just the beginning. And, though Passover is an important festival to come to terms with, it’s about time that we moved on from our understanding of it into the fulness of the implications of the sevenfold commandment concerning the Festivals as a unit.

Even though Passover has been widely dealt with, many commentators have managed to blur the edges of the festival and get sidelined into either Jewish tradition that has little or no bearing on what God commanded His people, or they see fulfilments of other festivals that they consider have been fulfilled by Passover legislation (the most notable of which is Yom Kippur which seems to stumble just about everyone who comments on the Passover festival).

In this brief study, I’ve tried to limit myself to a discussion of some of the major topics of the festival that occur in Scripture and have largely ignored later traditions that were incorporated into the Jewish celebration except where relevant to the Biblical text, but there’s been a need to include four lengthy appendices that, in total, run to a length that exceeds the main article! Unfortunately this has been necessary in the first two because of the quite fantastic theories that have arisen both within and without the Church regarding the Passion timetable while the third and fourth have been included because I’ve never yet seen any commentator deal with the Mishnaic format for the Passover meal (and the oldest officially recorded one at that) and parallel it with the Last Supper.

I have probably missed a number of themes that some would have liked me to comment on but, for now, these notes are a broad overview of the festival to show its fulfilment in Jesus, the Christ.

The story behind the Passover

For those of you unfamiliar with the story of the Exodus (and I’m sure that there must be some of you reading this who’ve recently come to know Jesus and have not yet stumbled upon the historical incident in the Book of Exodus), this section has been included to outline briefly the context of the Passover. But it would be better that you turn to the book of Exodus for yourself and read the first fifteen chapters rather than rely on this summary. If you do already know the general story, you could save some time by skipping this overview - or read it anyway just to make sure my understanding of the incident is correct!

After migrating to Egypt from Canaan (Gen 46:1-7), the family of Israel grew enormously to the extent that they began to rival the numbers of native Egyptians that lived in the land (Exodus 1:7-9). Fearful that the Israelites might at some future date ally themselves with its enemies, Egypt forced them to become their slaves (1:10-11).

When the Lord appeared to Moses after a forty years’ exile from Egypt (3:1-6), He charged him (3:10) to

‘bring forth My people...out of Egypt’

because (3:7) the Lord had

‘...heard their cry because of their taskmasters; I know their sufferings’

But Pharaoh wouldn’t let the children of Israel go, which was hardly surprising - it would have meant that they would have had to have started doing the menial tasks of building cities instead of benefiting by another’s labour (1:11, 5:1-5 and 14:5 which, although occurring after the Passover, reflects the attitude of the Egyptians’ hearts before it took place). As a result of that first encounter, Pharaoh increased the burden on the Israelites (5:6-14), resulting in the people turning on Moses and Aaron (5:21).

God then sent on the land of Egypt plagues, though the Israelites weren’t troubled by them (8:22-23 - at least from the time of the flies onwards). Each time, Pharaoh was given opportunity to let them go, but each time he refused or recanted after having given them permission.

The plagues, in order, were:

1. The Nile was turned to blood (7:14-25)
2. Frogs (8:1-15)
3. Gnats (8:16-19)
4. Flies (8:20-32)
5. A plague upon the cattle (9:1-7)
6. Boils (9:8-12)
7. Hail (9:13-35)
8. Locusts (10:1-20)
9. A darkness that was oppressive (10:21-29)

The tenth ‘plague’ was the Passover and the Lord promised Moses (11:1) that

‘...afterwards [Pharaoh] will let you go’

The Lord inaugurated a new calendar by making that month the first (12:2), corresponding to our March/April. A lamb was to be taken into each household on the 10th of the month (12:3), slain on the 14th (12:6) and subsequently eaten on the 15th (see Appendix 1). The blood was to be applied to both doorposts and lintel (12:7) for the Lord was to pass through the land that night and slay all the first-born in the houses that hadn’t applied the blood (12:12-13). He ‘passed over’ those that had applied the blood and so gave meaning to the name of the festival.

During the night, after the destroyer had killed the first-born, Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and told them and all the Israelites to get out of the land (12:29-32).

Though that wasn’t the end of the story as regards the Egyptians, nevertheless, God had delivered His people out of the bondage of slavery to take possession (at the right time) of a land where they would be free to serve God (3:8, 13:3-5, Deut 6:23-24).

God had effected redemption by ransoming His people out of the hand of their masters, the Egyptians (6:6 - see also the subject ‘Redemption’).

Easter and Passover
Which term should be used? Which festival should be celebrated?

Christians will no doubt be aware that Jesus died at Passover, yet the Church today celebrates that time and labels it ‘Easter’. Where, then, did this term ‘Easter’ come from?

Hislop, with his usual dogmatism in his book ‘The Two Babylons’, states

‘Easter is nothing else than Astarte...’

but this is far from certain. According to Bede, the early historian of the Church, the word is derived from the Saxon ‘Eastre’ which was the name given to a fertility goddess to whom sacrifice was made during the month of April. Both of these link the word with a female deity whose characteristics include that of fertility, a characteristic of a lot of ancient pagan gods!

The word was quickly assimilated into the christian language to denote the time at which Jesus died and rose again. Eusebius (pages 229-234) notes that as early as the latter half of the second century, the Church debated hotly over whether the correct date for the annual remembrance of the cross should be in harmony with the Jewish Passover or fixed on a Friday that was set independently of the lunar calendar. In the end, the latter gained the precedent and from that time on, the celebration tied in with Passover waned, Roman Catholicism eventually laying the law down strictly wherever it was established as if, somehow, spiritual life depended on it.

This was one of the two issues (the other being the type of tonsure permitted for monks) that caused conflict between the Celtic church and Catholicism at the beginning of the seventh century and for which there’s more detailed evidence in other historical documents.

Whether the designation ‘Easter’ was common during the latter part of the second century we cannot be too sure of, but it should be noted that when Eusebius wrote (at the beginning of the fourth century), it was the normal term for the annual festival.

When the first authorised English version of the Bible appeared, Acts 12:4 bore the word ‘Easter’, even though the Greek text plainly states that it’s the Passover that’s meant. Such a translation lends weight to the assertion that the correct term is ‘Easter’ until one realises that it was only mistranslated this way to convey that very meaning!

It appears that the term ‘Easter’ was taken over from the pagan celebration and worship of a fertility goddess, some of the rites being incorporated into the service of God. The date was also changed so that it didn’t coincide with the Jewish lunar calendar.

It must be stated that the practise of christianising pagan festivals for the service of God is an abomination to Him (Deut 12:29-31). Some of the Church’s practises that continue each year are items that need to be removed (just as they are at Christmas - see ‘The Feast of Tabernacles’ section 3c for a more detailed discussion of this entire concept of christianising pagan festivals in the life of the Church).

Yet, on the other hand, believers aren’t obligated as Gentiles to celebrate the Passover though, if they do, there need be no legalism or condemnation. As Paul wrote (Col 2:16, see also Rom 14:5-6)

‘...let no one pass judgment on you...with regard to a festival...’

It’s the reality of the Passover in believers’ own lives that’s important, not it’s annual observance (Col 2:17). Concluding, then, let’s answer the two questions posed in the heading of this section:

1. Which term should be used?
Both ‘Easter’ and ‘Passover’ are words that designate time periods in the calendar and need not be removed from a person’s vocabulary. But we would certainly be unwise to label ‘Good Friday’ as ‘Passover’ as this term should be applied to the Jewish celebration which seldom falls at the same time.

2. Which festival should be celebrated?
Celebrating Passover will not endear a believer to God, neither will remembering the Lord’s death at the time we call Easter. A follower of Jesus is under no obligation to do either.
But they must be careful to remove any practices from the celebrations that they choose to observe that are known to be pagan in origin and once used to worship false gods.

Christ, our Passover

There can be little doubt that the NT believers thought of Jesus as the Passover lamb (John 1:29, I Peter 1:18-19, Rev 5:6,13 and throughout the book of Revelation) - the Lamb that was slain to redeem men and women out of bondage (I Peter 1:18 talks of being ‘ransomed’ before going on to speak of the Lamb in v.19. Rev 5:9 says of the Lamb that ‘by Thy blood [Thou] didst ransom men for God’ where the same redemption language is employed).

Christ, then, is the fulfilment of the Passover lamb.

Some translations in dealing with I Cor 5:7 render the final sentence as

‘For Christ, our paschal/Passover lamb has been sacrificed’

though the word for ‘lamb’ isn’t in the Greek text and the sentence would be more accurately translated

‘For Christ, our Passover, has been sacrificed’

By seeing in the word ‘sacrifice’ the implication that an animal is meant (Deut 16:2 speaks of the Passover sacrifice being ‘from the flock or the herd’) many commentators have been prompted to interpret I Cor 5:7 as referring to the Passover lamb. But this is too narrow a view for Christ is not only the fulfilment of the lamb, but also of the entire festival.

Jesus, then, is not just our Passover Lamb, but our Passover and, as we come to the Passover passages in the OT, we see Him foreshadowed repeatedly not just with reference to the lamb that was slain but in numerous other ceremonies that were laid upon God’s people:

Passover reference Subject Messianic reference
Ex 12:3 The Israelites were to take a lamb into their houses on the tenth day of the first month. It is generally agreed that the Triumphal entry took place on this day by most commentators when the events of the last week are fitted together into chronological order. Jerusalem, the habitation of Israel, took into its household the Lamb who would bring them spiritual redemption.  Mark 11:11
Ex 12:3 The lamb. As previously seen, the NT calls Jesus 'the Lamb' and at the same time uses redemption imagery of Him. I Peter 1:18-19 
Rev 5:6,9,13 
John 1:29 
Ex 12:5 The lamb was to be without blemish. Jesus was pure. He was without sin even though He had been tempted in every way possible. This is also the meaning behind the instruction to eat unleavened bread (Ex 12:8). Leaven, in the Bible, is often used to denote sin so unleavened bread would be 'unsinned' bread - Jesus used the symbol of the unleavened bread to denote His body offered on the cross (Mtw 26:26), the 'body' that is totally without sin. Heb 4:15 
I Peter 1:19 
John 8:46
Ex 12:5 The lamb was to be a male. Jesus was a man. Luke 1:35
Ex 12:6 The lamb was to be killed on the fourteenth day between the two evenings. Some have tried to make Scripture fit the narrative in Exodus 12, but the Gospel writers are  unanimous in their assertion that Jesus was crucified on the 15th between the two evenings when the lamb was burnt (see Appendix 2). Why was this? It was to show that participation in the death of the Lamb was what redeemed from bondage (that is, eating the flesh, which took place on the 15th - the Jewish day beginning at sundown) not just the sacrifice of the animal (see also on 12:8 below). See Appendix 2
Ex 12:7 The blood was to be shed and applied to the lintel and the doorposts of each habitation where the lamb was eaten. The shedding of Jesus' blood on the cross and the application of His death to men and women, ensures that each individual is set free from the bondage in which they live. Mtw 26:28
Ex 12:8 They were to eat the lamb's flesh. Participation in the death of the lamb was a condition of the Israelites' redemption from Egypt. So too, assimilating Christ's work into a person's experience is what saves, not just a mind belief in the cross (see also on 12:6 above). John 6:56
Ex 12:8 Unleavened bread (see on 12:5 above) Heb 9:26 
Heb 13:12
Ex 12:8 Bitter herbs were to be eaten with the flesh of the lamb. The Jews see in these a reminder of the suffering that they endured in Egypt. They represent the suffering of Jesus on the cross which was the way that man's redemption was bought. I Peter 2:21 
I Peter 4:1
Ex 12:23 The destroyer was overcome by the blood of the lamb. So, too, the devil is overcome by the blood of the true Lamb of God. Rev 12:11
Ex 12:23 The possibility of death was overcome by the death of the lamb (the application of the blood). Death has been overcome by the Lamb who both died and rose again. I Cor 15:54-56
Ex 12:46 No bone of the lamb was to be broken. When the Roman soldiers found that Jesus was already dead, they didn't break His legs (which was done to speed up the death of the victim - the crucified would not then be able to lift himself up to breathe with the support of his legs, and so death followed fairly swiftly by asphyxiation). John 19:33,36
Ex 13:1-2 All the first-born were to be consecrated (set apart) to God for His service (see also Num 3:12). Jesus, the firstborn of Mary, is also God's first-born in all things that He might have total pre-eminence (Col 1:17-18). He is the One chosen to represent His people before God (Heb 7:25, Heb 9:24). On the first Passover, the firstborn were both slain (Ex 12:29) and saved - Jesus is both the slain (on the cross) and saved (through the resurrection). Luke 1:34-35

Remembrance and proclamation

One of the main reasons why the Passover meal continues to be celebrated is that of remembrance (Ex 12:14, 13:3) - Israel are commanded to remember the bitterness of their bondage, Pharaoh’s hardness of heart and, more especially, God’s deliverance.

So much did the Israelites’ hearts live with the memory of what God had once done for them through the Exodus that on at least one occasion God had to tell them to forget His act of deliverance in order that they might not miss the work that He was intending to shortly perform (Is 43:14-21). Though remembrance is a healthy attitude of a believer in which he can recount the great works of the Lord in times of spiritual drought and barrenness, it should never be a substitute for seeing God work in the present and neither should it be clung on to with the expectancy that God must work in the same manner.

God chooses to do different works with His people, but to live in the past is to miss out on what God intends to do in the present. This is one of the contributory factors which, in the end, prevented the Israelite religious leaders from accepting the work of God through Jesus when He walked the earth. Nothing like the things that were being done had ever been done before and they had no benchmark to judge them by, seeing the Messiah who was to come only in terms of a physical deliverer.

Living in the past triumphs of God on their behalf actually restricted their acceptance of the present work of God in their midst (see also my notes on ‘The Feast of Tabernacles’ in Section 3a).

On the last night before His crucifixion, Jesus took Passover symbols, the bread and the wine (on which see Appendix 3), and turned them around to point to Himself saying (I Cor 11:24)

‘Do this in remembrance of Me’

The deliverance of a physical people out of physical bondage foreshadowed a spiritual deliverance of a spiritual people and it was this that Jesus intended His disciples not just to bring to the memory whenever they ate of bread and wine but to experience it in their lives for their personal deliverance.

The Passover, therefore, not only looks back to the redemption of Israel out of Egypt but, more importantly, it points forward to the Great Redemption in Christ that was secured on the cross and which His followers must now remember as they take both food and drink (that is, continually).

Another aspect of the Passover was one of proclamation.

Lev 23:4 states that all the seven annual festivals (and not just the Passover) were to be proclaimed at the relevant time. These were no incidentals in the life of the Jewish nation, but the proclamation was commanded so that the festivals’ imminent celebration would be highlighted and brought to everyone’s attention when their time came around.

More than providing social and cultural cohesion within the nation, they made everyone be aware of the commandments so that, when the Christ came, the fulfilment of the Festivals would be more easily seen by the masses than by a select few who’d studied the Scriptures.

Therefore, Paul says that, in a believer’s celebration, using the bread and wine means (I Cor 11:26) that

‘ proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes’

Just as the Passover proclaimed God’s great deliverance of His people from the bondage of Egypt, so the proclamation is all the more significant when we see in it the final and greater act of Deliverance for all mankind that came through the blood of God’s Passover Lamb.

These twin aspects of remembrance and proclamation within believers’ ‘communion’ should always be present whenever it’s being celebrated (though the word ‘celebrate’ is perhaps too joyful a word to be used for some of the dreadful ‘requiems’ that I seem to have been a part of in my life!) - not only should the believer look back to remember (and to live in) the reality of what the cross attained but also look forward to the time when the fulness of God’s plan will be brought to completion when Jesus returns to earth from Heaven.

Deliverance, not forgiveness

Morris AT (page 92) writes

‘It is likely...that there was some idea of forgiveness of sin associated with [the Passover]’

However, try as we may to locate such a belief in Scripture, we will not find it, even though the Passover is spoken of as a sacrifice in Ex 34:25.

While it’s true that cleansing from sin was a concept that found its way into the later Jewish celebration of the festival, it’s apparent from the Scriptural passages that deliverance was the underlying meaning, a deliverance of the Israelites from slavery and bondage and into freedom and liberty (Ex 20:2), not the forgiveness of sins.

In the sevenfold annual celebrations (Leviticus chapter 23), it’s Yom Kippur, the sixth festival, that deals with sin (Leviticus chapter 16 - see my notes on 'Yom Kippur'). But Passover deals with deliverance and redemption even though, to the christian mind, we commonly consider the festival, the cross and forgiveness to be interrelated topics.

I think that what’s happened over the years is that we’ve quite correctly understood that Jesus died as the fulfilment of the Passover festival seeing that, on the cross, He paid the price for sin, but then mistakenly rolled the two together into the same package and so misconstrued the real importance of the festival.

But it’s important that we get away from this understanding - not that we should deny the work of Christ in dealing with sin, but that we might see the fulness of the work rather than limit its application to just that one aspect of deliverance.

Passover, then, deals with deliverance and not just a deliverance from sin. When we look at the cross of Christ we see deliverance being secured in various differing situations that mankind can find himself bound in. In the cross, then, we see:

1. Deliverance from sin - Rom 6:6-7, 6:18, Col 1:14, I Peter 2:24
2. Deliverance from satan - Luke 4:18, Col 1:13, 2:15
3. Deliverance from the flesh - Rom 6:6, 7:24-25, Gal 2:20
4. Deliverance from death - Heb 2:14-15
5. Deliverance from the Law - Rom 8:2, Gal 5:1
6. Deliverance from the coming wrath of God - I Thess 1:10
7. Deliverance from all accusation of guilt - Acts 13:39 (where the RSV’s ‘freed’ is the translation of the normal Greek word for ‘justified’ - that is, considered ‘not guilty’)

But this list is by no means exhaustive for, with everything that holds individuals bound in slavery, there’s deliverance in the cross - whether depression, anxiety, worry, fear and so on.

For each and every taskmaster that’s set up over a disciple’s life and that refuses to let them be free to serve God, the solution is to be found in the work of Jesus on the cross through the fulfilment of the festival of Passover.

The festival of the redemption of the first-born

The Lord declared to the Israelites that He’d devoted all the firstborn to destruction (Ex 11:4-5), both humans and domesticated animals. The ordinance that was given to Israel at about the same time, set apart every firstborn offspring for the Lord (13:1-2,11-12) and, as in the former case, both humans and domesticated animals were included.

Nevertheless, the Lord provided a way for the Israelites to ‘redeem’ their firstborn. During the first Passover, the blood of the lamb was applied to the doorposts and lintel of each house so that all the firstborn within were saved from destruction (12:23) and, subsequently, although the firstborn of the cattle were unredeemable and had to be sacrificed (13:12,15) and the Israelites had the option whether to redeem the firstborn of the ass (13:13), all firstborn sons had to be redeemed (presumably by a monetary payment of five shekels - Num 3:46-47 - or, perhaps, by the sacrifice of a lamb in their place).

The blood of the lamb redeemed the life of all Israel’s firstborn sons on that first ‘celebration’ and subsequent generations knew that their firstborn sons had to be redeemed through the payment of a ransom, even though we can’t be certain as to what the redemption price was.

It should be noted here that Num 3:11-13,40-51 shows us that the setting apart of the firstborn was specifically for the priesthood. Each family was to have its representative who would appear in the presence of God on their behalf. But, because of the incident of the golden calf and the Levites’ allegiance to God (Ex 32:25-29), they were replaced by the tribal priesthood of Levi. Because of disobedience, the firstborn lost their right to act as intermediaries, but God’s intention had been that the priesthood should be composed entirely of the firstborn.

Jesus, the firstborn son of Mary and the firstborn Son of God (the only begotten Son), is not only the redemption price that’s adequate payment for the lives of His people, but He’s also the firstborn Son who’s received the eternal priesthood (Heb 7:25, 9:24 and Ps 110:4 which is quoted in Heb 7:21), never to be lost as Israel’s firstborn lost it because there’ll never be an act of disobedience on His part.

Appendix 1 - The Biblical timetable for Passover and Unleavened Bread
See Chart 1 below

One of the first things to get straight in our own minds is just when the Passover lamb was supposed to be both killed and eaten. Due to the strange way (to us, that is) that the Jewish day is calculated (beginning when three stars are visible in the night sky), we often misunderstand Biblical passages, thinking that it’s still ‘today’ when it has, in fact, turned into ‘tomorrow’!

There’s no doubt that the lamb was to be sacrificed on the 14th of Nisan ‘between the two evenings’ (that is, between the descent of the sun after midday and the evening of the actual day before it became night - or, less likely, of the night part of the next day - Ex 12:6). But the commandment in Ex 12:8 specifically says that the lamb was to be eaten ‘that night’ which is the beginning of the following day, the 15th, when three stars had already become visible.

Therefore, though the lamb is sacrificed on the 14th of Nisan, it’s eaten on the 15th.

The Rabbis debated to some lengths as to what time period was meant by the ordinances contained in the Law and set themselves to answer the question

‘Was the first day of Passover the 14th when the lamb was slain or the 15th when it was eaten?’

That is, was it

Passover (1) + Unleavened Bread (7) = 8 day festival


Passover and 1st day of Unleavened Bread (1) + 2nd-7th days Unleavened Bread (6) = 7 day festival

eventually deciding that Passover should be reckoned to be the 15th so that the Rabbinic practice was that Passover and the 1st day of Unleavened Bread were regarded as the same. When exactly they came to this conclusion is uncertain so we can’t be sure what the practise was in the time of Jesus (there may even have been a number of varying calendars in use) though, when we consider the Scriptural command, it’s very difficult to see how they came to their conclusion!

A study of the Biblical ordinances, then, seems to give the timetable laid out below as being required of Israel. Notice that the first horizontal line divides the day up into an evening and a day (in accordance with the Jewish understanding of time), the second gives the dates of the month Nisan and the third gives the names of the day as they appear in the Scriptural account. The numbers 1-7 indicate the days of Unleavened Bread that are contained within the seven day festival.

Note also that Ex 12:18 under the 14th ‘day’ column could have an alternative meaning. The ‘eve’ referred to could, perhaps, refer to the night of the 14th Nisan which would bring it back some 20 hours or so to the start of the day. In similar manner, Ex 12:18 cited under the 21st’s ‘day’ column is possible of this alternative interpretation and the ending of the period of eating unleavened bread could be interpreted as ending, again, some 20 hours earlier.

Appendix 2 - the Passion timetable
See Chart 2 below

Many have sought to harmonise the accounts of the few days around the cross using the four Gospel narratives, so the following chart is by no means a ‘new work’. But what previous attempts have not always achieved is to adequately explain the apparent discrepancies in the Gospel of John with the traditional Synoptic timetable.

It’s often been stated that John placed Jesus’ death on the day that the Passover lamb was slain in the Temple (14th Nisan) whereas the Synoptics show Him as being crucified the day after (15th) - a theory that I actually heard from a Bible College student who once attended a fundamentalist denomination’s courses. I’ve never been quite sure, however, whether it was their own pet theory or whether they’d actually been taught it!

The lamb simply dying and no more does not save (14 Nisan) unless the blood is applied and the death participated in (15 Nisan), a good reason why Jesus' death was on 15 and not 14 Nisan for we are not all 'saved' because of a death but because we have availed ourselves of the provision of that death.

The problem of harmonisation lies in a number of texts in John that, on face value, appear to teach this different chronology but, upon closer inspection, it can be seen that, far from contradicting the Synoptics, they confirm and uphold them. It perplexed me for a number of years also after I’d first discovered the ‘problem’ but it wasn’t until I got a copy of the Mishnah that I was able to see the solution:

1. John 13:1
The phrase
‘Now before the feast of the Passover’
implies that the day of Passover hadn’t yet arrived, even though the following event occurs, according to the Synoptics, during the evening of the 15th when the lamb was eaten.
If this phrase means that the festival hadn’t yet begun, then John most definitely has a different chronology to the Synoptics (Matthew, Mark and Luke) but the phrase can refer quite legitimately to the footwashing ‘ceremony’ which took place before the Passover meal.
Even though it was a short time before, nevertheless, it was still ‘before the feast of [that is, the eating of] the Passover’.

2. John 18:28 is, on the face of it, the most difficult. The Jewish leaders
‘...did not enter the praetorium, so that they might not be defiled, but might eat the Passover’
Again, it appears as if the Passover meal is a future event whereas the Synoptics definitely have the festival well and truly eaten and finished by this time.
However, Pesahim 9:5 states that
‘the Passover of the generations [that followed after the original generation that celebrated it in Egypt] continued throughout seven days’
Deut 16:3 also confirms this point when it records for us that
‘ days you shall eat [the Passover sacrifice] with unleavened bread’
As can be seen, ‘eating the Passover’ was considered to be a seven day event, even though the lamb that remained had to be burnt on the 16th (Pesahim 7:10).
The statement in John need mean no more, therefore, than that the Jewish leaders were concerned that they might continue in the Passover festivities for the remaining six days and so didn’t enter the praetorium in case they became defiled through contact with the Gentile people and their ways.

3. John 19:14 reads
‘now it was the day of preparation of the Passover...’
This could be taken to mean that the day on which they prepared for the Passover meal was the day of crucifixion.
I recently (within the last year) discussed with a Jew on a newsgroup this precise point on which he was quite unwilling to accept the following explanation. Though he remained adamant that it showed a discrepancy in the Gospel narrative, it is, perhaps, the easiest to see the explanation for!
By reading Mark 15:42, it can be plainly seen that ‘the day of preparation’ was the name given to the Friday on which they would prepare for the sabbath (Saturday).
John’s statement only means that it was the day of preparation of the sabbath of the Passover (taken here to be referring to the seven day festival). As John 19:31 says
‘Since it was the day of preparation...for that Sabbath was a high day...’*
that is, it was the one natural Sabbath that fell during the seven day period, the crucifixion taking place on the day immediately prior to it - that is, Friday 15th Nisan.
The English translation can be twisted to yield both contradictory meanings and, to try and put it more simply than I have above, it depends where you want to put the bracket as to what meaning you’ll get out of it. If you read it as
the day of (the preparation of the Passover)
then it sounds as if it was the day on which they prepared for the Passover. But, if you read it as
(the day of preparation) of the Passover
then it naturally refers to the day before the sabbath that fell in the seven day festival period. But, more than this, if John had intended by his phrase to refer to the day before the Passover was eaten, then he would have followed the normal phraseology of the Jewish language (after all, he was a Jew) and have spoken of the ‘eve’ of the Passover (see, for instance, Pesahim 10:1 in Appendix 4).
As far as I can determine, ‘eve’ is used exclusively for the day before a festival and never of the day before a sabbath, while ‘day of preparation’ is only used of the day before a sabbath and never of the day before a festival. Both original words are used in a wide variety of other meanings in different contexts, but the overlap between sabbath and festival day never occurs to my knowledge in the ancient literature available to us.

*The phrase here has been taken by many to be a reference to the natural sabbath falling on a day within the festival that was also declared to be a day of solemn rest. This would mean that the Saturday would have to be 15 Nisan (as Lev 23:7-8) as the second of these special days could not possibly be the seventh day of unleavened bread.
Therefore, Jesus is seen as having been crucified on 14 Nisan, the day on which the lambs were slain in the Temple.
The main problem with such a position is that the Gospels clearly show that Jesus celebrated a Passover meal (Mtw 26:17, Mark 14:12-16, Luke 22:8-14 - the Scriptures show that a Passover was being prepared and that they ate it 'when the hour came'. Nowhere do we read that they failed to be able to eat the Passover), the legitimacy of which was only relevant on the first part of 15 Nisan after the lamb had been slain in the Temple courts on 14 Nisan.
Some have proposed that an 'early Passover' was being celebrated by Jesus and His disciples that was ordained by the Rabbis for all those who knew themselves to be about to embark on a long journey and so would be unable to participate in the Festival on the correct day.
However, I have yet to see any First Century evidence to show that this was allowable - or to be shown why, when the disciples were told to prepare the Passover and then ate it 'when the hour came', this could be a reference to an 'early feast' when it would only be Jesus who should be celebrating it and not the disciples who were 'going nowhere'.

4. One final problem with regard to time (though not with regard to which day of the week it was) occurs in John 19:14 where the writer speaks of Jesus being brought out to the Jewish crowds at ‘the sixth hour’ - Mark 15:25 times the crucifixion, however, as beginning at the third hour.
The only explanation possible here (in my opinion) is that John, the disciple who was predominantly linked with the churches of Asia Minor, is using the time frame of that culture and people who counted the start of the day from midnight.
There seems no logical reason for John to have done this, but it certainly does appear to be the only explanation possible to bring it in line with the Synoptics.

The solution for the timetable of the last few days of Jesus’ earthwalk is laid out in the following chart. The first horizontal line is, like the first chart, divided up into the evening and day of Jewish daily time and the second into the dates of the month Nisan. The third line gives the differing names for the days according to the authorities prevalent at the time but also with reference to the Biblical narrative - I will deal further with the names for ‘First Fruits’ in the notes on that festival.

The fourth row gives the names of the days of the week (though I’ve deliberately chosen to call Saturday the ‘sabbath’ to try and remove any confusion that may exist in one’s mind as to taking Sunday as the ‘sabbath’).

Appendix 3 - The Jewish celebration of the Passover compared with the Last Supper

What I want to do in this section is to attempt to harmonise the Scriptural account of the Last Supper with the Jewish celebration of the Passover of that era. Being Gentiles, we fail to comprehend the necessity of understanding Scriptural events in their contemporary context and therefore often miss the full force and intent of the Scriptures.

There’s also much confusion as to what took place and at what time during that final evening before the crucifixion. For instance, questions such as

‘Did Judas take the bread and the wine?’


‘When did he leave?’

are questions that are often asked and which, I hope, will be satisfactorily answered by this section.

From the outset, it needs to be remembered that it’s very difficult to be absolutely sure as to the order of the celebrations that took place during Passover before the destruction of Herod’s Temple in 70AD but, using the Rabbinic record in the Mishnah (which is the earliest attempt [c.200 AD] at recording what took place before the destruction) this section has been compiled. The passage that deals with the order of the Passover meal is Pesahim chapter 10 and, if commentators had referred to no other passage this should have been the one - unfortunately, what the reader will find in many of the expositions of the paschal meal is that traditions and cultural additions have been used to colour the celebration which don’t seem to have taken place in the first century.

Pesahim chapter 10 is reproduced at the end of the notes on the Last Supper as it forms the basis of everything that will be written - as the reader journeys through this brief study, they’ll become aware just how similar the format of the meal there is with what’s come down to us in the NT writings.

Wherever and whenever it’s certain (to me, that is) that a particular aspect of the Passover celebrations have been added after 70AD, it has been omitted. There seems little point in trying to make Jewish tradition fit Scriptural fulfilment when it may have little or nothing to do with what God intended (for those of you familiar with some of the later additions to the order [the ‘seder’] of the meal, I have left out ‘Elijah’s cup’ - and the three pieces of mazzah [unleavened bread] that are normally associated with the work of Christ).

Today, Jews from different nations of the world celebrate the feast in differing ways though, essentially, the meanings behind the ceremonies are the same as they’ve been developed from the same common starting point - the nation’s experience as recorded in Exodus. There’s nothing inherently wrong with cultural development and application for, even within the church, the Gospel has been adapted to the nation in which it’s situated while still retaining the foundational truths - all that I’m trying to do in these notes, then, is to cause us to understand why certain things took place the way they did and the general order of the evening which has to be pieced together from the records that have come down to us.

1. Preliminaries

a. The evening of the 14th Nisan

[NB - Hullin 5:5 - The Jewish evening always precedes the day. The Jews taught that the night began when three stars were visible in the sky at sunset and, therefore, also the new 24-hour cycle as we know it. The principle goes back to the very beginning of the world for, when God created the heavens and the earth (Gen 1:5)

‘...there was evening and there was morning, one day’

not ‘morning and evening’ but ‘evening and morning’. The day, then, always began with the evening.

Note also that each day and night period was always 12 hours long (that is, 12 divisions of the time period). Therefore, a 6 hour daylight period would have 12 hours each of a modern day length of 30 minutes duration whereas an 18 hour daylight period would have 12 hours of 90 minutes. Seasonal variations in the length of both the daylight and darkness periods resulted in differing lengths of the hour. It’s only in recent times that an ‘hour’ has become fixed to a period of 60 minutes as we know it.]

Leaven or ‘Hametz’ had to be gathered from the household so that the commandment of no leaven to be found in the house could be fulfilled (Ex 12:15).

Pesahim 1:la reads that

‘on the night of the fourteenth [of Nisan] the hametz must be searched for by the light of a lamp...’

The practise (though this may have been a later addition) was to leave pieces of bread in places for the children to deliberately find (or, alternatively, it may have been the children who hid the pieces for the father to find). As they were found, a feather and a wooden spoon were used to sweep them up and they were put into a bag which was sealed after the last piece was gathered.

All utensils were intensely scrubbed that had had leaven in or on them during that year so that not even a spot of leaven would be within the house. Today, it’s the custom amongst richer Jews to get rid of their old pots and pans at Passover each year and buy a brand new set that have never been used for cooking. Alternatively, a separate set are kept aside for this one annual feast.

Leaven in the Bible is usually a type of sin (though not always) and the ceremony (though not Biblical when it comes to the candle, feather and spoon!) teaches the believer that the light and illumination of the Holy Spirit is necessary to reveal to individuals their sin so that it may be correctly disposed of.

b. The day of the 14th Nisan

[NB - The ‘day’ refers to the part of the 24-hour cycle when the sun is risen and is, therefore, the second half of the cycle as defined above.]

The collected leaven is burnt in the morning so that every house is cleansed throughout the land of Israel (Pesahim 1:4 tells us that it was to be burnt at the sixth hour). This requirement of no leaven is seen fulfilled in the second of the seven festivals ahich we’ll deal with on the next web page but, for now, it’s sufficient for us to see it pointing towards the One who was to come and who would cleanse corruption (leaven) by His death, removing it from every man (I Cor 5:7-8).

The lamb, being a sacrificial animal, had to be slaughtered in the confines of the Temple court later on in the day (Pesahim 5:5-10). There were so many pilgrims that came to Jerusalem to celebrate the festival that there had to be three divisions of the people, though in the final division there were very few people. The exact procedure is contained in the Mishnah (reference above) and, afterwards, the lamb was taken back to the household where it was to be eaten that coming evening (which would be the 15th of Nisan).

The preparation of Jesus’ Passover meal was performed by the disciples during the day of the 14th of Nisan (Mtw 26:17-19, Mark 14:12-16, Luke 22:7-13). At least one of them would have had to have gone to the Temple in order to get the lamb slaughtered by the officiating priests.

2. The evening of the 15th Nisan - The Seder

The meal is generally called the ‘seder’ which means, very simply, ‘order’ and represents the celebrations which took place on the evening of the 15th of Nisan after three stars were visible in the night sky. The Jews debated as to whether the Scriptural obligation was to eat the Passover on the 14th or 15th and finally concluded that the lamb was to be sacrificed on the 14th between the two evenings (between the waning of the sun during the day of the 14th and the dusk of the 14th and/or the beginning of the darkness of the evening of the 15th which began the next day - Ex 12:6), but that the meal was to take place on the evening of the 15th.

I have used modern day transliterations of the specific periods that are found in the seder without making the assertion that this is what they would have been labelled at the time of Christ. As I obtained them from a Jewish publication, I presume they’re right but I don’t mind correcting them if someone can provide me with ones that are more accurate!

It should be noted that the seder, although based upon Scriptural commands, has been developed beyond its bounds. Much of what is laid down is nothing more than interpretation and, as such, may not necessarily be a shadow of Christ that was to find fulfilment in His coming.

Jesus sat at table with the twelve (Mtw 26:20, Mark 14:17, Luke 22:14)

‘when it was evening...’

that is, the beginning of the 15th of Nisan and, from here, the paschal meal begins in the Gospel records.

a. Kaddesh

We begin with the statement in Pesahim 10:2 which instructs the reader that

‘...after they have mixed him the first cup...he says the benediction...’

The word ‘kaddesh’ used here as a title to the section means ‘consecration’ and refers to the blessing that’s said over the first cup of wine (that is, the cup of thanksgiving). There are four different cups which were obligatory (Pesahim 10:1) and which, today, have four different names. These names don’t appear in the Mishnah but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they weren’t regarded as having specific functions. This first cup is passed around among those present and all partake of it.

The parallel here is with Luke 22:14-18 where the author tells us that Jesus

‘...took a cup, and when He had given thanks...’

This will be the first cup of the seder. Jesus’ statement that He’d desired to eat the Passover with them before He was to suffer also indicates this as He’s speaking of the celebration that they’re about to participate in together. This first cup served as a good introduction to the events of that evening and signals the commencement of the festivities - though, as Jesus celebrates it, there is never far from the proceedings a note of solemnity with the shadow of the cross hanging very much over Jesus’ words and actions.

b. Rehaz

Although the Mishnah doesn’t talk of a ‘washing of the hands’, it would seem logical to presume that at some point in the evening’s proceedings, before the lamb was eaten, the participants’ hands would be ritually washed. This is the place of the obligation in the modern celebration of the festival and it’s probably correct to presume that the reason why the Mishnah doesn’t specifically refer to it is because it was a normal, everyday occurrence.

There’s no direct reference to this obligation in the Gospel narrative.

c. Karpas

The next point of similarity with the Mishnah is in Pesahim 10:3 where it’s written that

‘...when [food] is brought before him, he eats it seasoned with lettuce, until he is come to the breaking of bread...’

Today, karpas is the act of dipping a vegetable into some salt water and then eating it but, in the Mishnah, the ceremony doesn’t appear in this form. Indeed, although it bears a similarity to the present day karpas, it’s not the same ceremony at all and the heading is only used as a point of focus.

The Mishnah at this point is only saying that food was eaten before the lamb was and that, when it was, it should always be eaten with lettuce. There doesn’t appear to be too much else which should be inferred from the passage in question other than there was food provided as an ‘aperitif’ to the main course.

Mtw 26:20-25 tells us that Jesus said at this point

‘He who has dipped his hand in the dish with Me, will betray Me’

Jesus is not necessarily referring to any paschal food ceremony even though Mark 14:17-21 (my italics) reads

‘It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the dish with Me’

and makes it seem so. In the Greek text the word for ‘bread’ doesn’t appear and the reference is taken only to refer to the act of eating. This is an addition by the RSV and shouldn’t be retained in the translation for it obscures the simple meaning of the text. That they may have been eating bread is a possibility (the reader should note the next section, however, as the implication is that bread wasn’t to be used until later on) but, when such a description is added, it draws the reader’s attention off the preliminary eating and onto the associations with the breaking of the unleavened bread which takes place at a later time during the evening.

Indeed, the Greek word translated as ‘dish’ (Strongs Greek number 5165) in both Matthew and Mark was a deep bowl that could equally well be used for water with which to wash the hands (see ‘Rehaz’ above) but the context favours it being a large food bowl used before the lamb was brought before the participants.

Jesus’ words refer us back to Ps 41:9 where David wrote that

‘Even my closest friend in whom I trusted, who ate of my bread, has lifted his heel against me’

to show the fulfilment of the OT Scripture and, interpreting it, means simply

‘one who has shared fellowship with Me will betray Me’

There’s no positive identification of the betrayer at this point even though many would see this happening. Jesus is only saying that one of those present who’s eating food with Him would be the one who was to betray Him. Note that the disciples’ phrase (Mtw 26:22) was

‘Is it I, Lord?’

while Judas’ phrase (Mtw 26:25) was

‘Is it I, Rabbi?’

The title ‘Rabbi’ was used of any Jewish teacher and, as we saw on a previous web page means something like ‘my master’. In this context, however, the reason why Judas uses it is probably more as a token of respect rather than to indicate the ideas of ‘lordship’ or ‘supremacy’ over another to the point of submission and obedience. It’s difficult to escape the submission/obedience aspect of the disciples’ ‘Lord’, however, and it may even be a halfway between recognising Jesus as their leader and their God.

This may surprise some readers but the word ‘Lord’ was used as a substitute for the Tetragrammon ‘YHWH’ by first century Jews so that the Divine name might not be taken in vain. While it’s impossible to be certain what the intention of the speaker or author is on many occasions, there’s more to the word than simply a natural interpretation of it in present day language.

Jesus’ words to Judas

‘You have said so’

are the same as if He had said ‘yes’ as can be seen from His confession before Caiaphas a few hours later in Mtw 26:64. But it’s not certain that the disciples would have heard it or understood it had they done so. They may even have thought of such a statement as being something which lay far into the future or that it wasn’t as serious as it might be - after all, Judas was one of ‘them’.

d. The Mazzah

After the preliminary eating, Pesahim 10:3 carries on by noting that this was to continue

‘...until he is come to the breaking of bread...’

Today, three pieces of Mazzah (unleavened) bread are used at different points in the seder. It would appear that unleavened bread was used here but with no specified number of pieces. It was broken and passed round to all the participants. The Scripture says that it was ‘as they were eating’ (which refers us back to the discussion of the ceremony under ‘Karpas’ - Mtw 26:26, Mark 14:22, Luke 22:19) that Jesus took the bread (which would have been unleavened).

During the initial eating from the common food bowl, then, Jesus took the bread that was the next step in the correct paschal procedure. Jesus gave thanks for it, broke it and gave it to the disciples, drawing out the truth that from that time onwards they were to think of His body as being given to them.

Notice that, in the early Church, whenever you broke bread at meal times (as you would have done at least once every day) the believer would have been reminded of the Lord’s body offered for them on the cross. Jesus is here making the ceremony fit into His followers’ everyday lives and isn’t instituting a ceremony that He intended should be celebrated once a week with special bread and special wine (or, fruit juice/cordial). This point is extremely important and worthy of consideration for, by making a specific meeting ‘holy’, we draw the remembrance of Jesus away from each time in the day when food is taken. The constant memory of Jesus was to be part of the reason for such an instruction - not that the church would institute a special meeting at which they would use emblems of His death.

e. Maror/Korekh

Next in the procedure was that which is recorded in Pesahim 10:3 that instructs the reader that

‘...they bring before him unleavened bread and lettuce and the haroseth...’

‘Lettuce’ refers to the bitter herbs of Pesahim 2:6 from which one was selected to be used (the other possibilities being chicory, pepperwort, snakeroot and dandelion). Bitter herbs are taken into an unleavened bread sandwich (using the broken pieces of the unleavened bread under point 4 presumably) and dipped into haroseth (an apple, nuts, cinnamon, honey and wine mixture - today, the recipe differs depending upon which culture the Jew is from - it may have also differed in first century Israel) and eaten.

The bitter herbs bring tears to the eyes as a reminder that the Israelites’ bondage to the Egyptians was bitter. The haroseth is a reminder of the clay bricks which the Egyptians forced their slaves to make because of its appearance - though whether this last point was in their minds in the first century isn’t certain even though it remains more than likely.

I remember leading a group of kids through this format many years ago to try and illustrate to them what it meant to ‘celebrate the Passover’. At this point, one of the kids mistakenly identified the bitter and fiery horseradish sauce for the pleasant tasting haroseth and loaded his bread sandwich with piles of the stuff - the resulting effect (and we were still finding pieces of the sauce the following week that had been fired from his mouth in the ensuing panic) was a good demonstration of the point.

I also asked them what they thought the Israelites would have heard during the night as they were eating the Passover, having hidden a couple of the young helpers in the kitchen that was joined to the eating area. While the kids were thinking about what they might have heard, the most awful blood-curdling screams emanated from the kitchen area in the blackness that surrounded us and a couple almost ran out of the room!

Yep, celebrating the Passover with a group of kids can be real fun! Anyway, back to the plot...

Jesus used this ceremony (Maror/Korekh) for the identification of the betrayer, Judas (John 13:21-30). Immediately after receiving the morsel, Judas left the Passover feast and went to the high priest to pass on Jesus’ whereabouts, presumably.

What actually happened during that meeting is impossible to know but we may judge the reaction of that official through the likelihood of Judas’ return to the meal which will be dealt with below.

If it’s accepted that this happened, the high priest was probably caught celebrating his own paschal ceremony with his family and gave instructions to Judas to inform him when the meal was completed that an arrest might be made at that point. It would be the case, then, that Judas slipped away from the crowd bound for the other side of the garden of Gethsemane to meet with the prepared soldiers who were waiting his return to lead them to the place where Jesus was.

Notice also that Jesus was ‘troubled in spirit’ (John 13:21) - the bitterness of the herbs sparked off the sorrow of knowing that He would be betrayed.

John 13:23 refers to the seating arrangement when it comments that

‘ of His disciples...was lying close to the breast of Jesus...’

Each participant would be lying with their feet furthest from the ‘table’ (a label which means much less than our present day concept - it means more like a rug spread on the ground on which the food was placed) while they supported themselves with one of their arms. This meant that they would, in effect, all face the back of someone, so that the one immediately in front of Jesus would be the one who was lying ‘close to the breast’

The body of the lamb is then brought in (see the end of Pesahim 10:3) but not necessarily eaten.

f. Maggid

Pesahim 10:4 then instructs us that

‘They then mixed him the second cup’

known as the ‘cup of the plagues’ (or it may be known as the ‘cup of instruction’) and continues that

‘ the son asks his father...’

specific questions along the lines of

‘Why is this night different from other nights? For on other nights we eat seasoned food once, but this night twice [which would be karpas and maror/korekh]; on other nights we eat leavened or unleavened bread, but this night all is unleavened; on other nights we eat flesh roast, stewed or cooked, but this night all is roast’

To these four questions, a very lengthy discourse is provided by the father who goes through the story of the Exodus in intricate detail. Before the second cup of wine is drunk today, ten drops of wine are taken from it and allowed to fall to the ground while the names of the ten plagues are recounted, one for each drop.

All Jesus’ teaching recorded for us in the Gospel of John at the Last Supper probably occurred at this point in the proceedings though any similarity to the Exodus experience of the Israelites seems to be coincidental. But the teaching seems best to fit at the end of the normal exposition of the Exodus account (which, sadly, goes unrecorded in the Gospel). At the end of the discourse, the second cup of wine was drunk.

Then the first part of the Hallel is sung. Pesahim 10:6 poses the question

‘How far do they recite [the Hallel]?’

the ‘Hallel’ being Psalms 113-118 of the Old Testament. Today, Ps 113 and 114 are recited but the obvious question ‘how far?’ gave rise to much debate among the Israelite leaders.

g. Shulhan Orekh

Although it’s not clear when the lamb was eaten according to the Mishnah, it’s at this point that it seems the most fitting though it has been placed here partly because it’s in line with today’s celebration when the Seder plates are removed and a shankbone and an egg are brought in (or whatever else that’s acceptable to the culture).

These two objects now serve as reminders of the lamb that used to be eaten by the orthodox but which can be no longer be done until the Temple is again functioning - the lamb, being a sacrificial offering, must be slain within the confines of the Temple courts and the blood caught by the officiating priests within the courts of the Temple - it cannot be slaughtered anywhere and by anyone.

h. Barekh

Pesahim 10:7 then records

‘...the third cup...’

‘Barekh’ means ‘grace’. Before grace is declared, the third cup is poured called the ‘cup of redemption’. The grace is then said and all drink from this third cup.

This is the cup after supper and it’s title as ‘the cup of redemption’ is particularly fitting in the context in which it was used by Jesus. He took this cup (Mtw 26:27-29, Mark 14:23-25, Luke 22:20-23) and, after having said grace over it, changed its significance into the completed redemptive act that He was about to perform for all mankind on the cross. The wine represented the blood that was to be poured out for all men to redeem them from their slavery.

The question that Luke 22:21 poses is as to whether Judas returned to the meal at this point in the proceedings having gone to the chief priest to secure a band of soldiers. Jesus is recorded as saying (my italics) that

‘...the hand of him who betrays Me is with Me on the table’

Jesus’ words may well only be figurative seeing as they echo those found in Ps 41:9 and we may also ponder the question whether, perhaps, Luke is writing out of chronological order here (though this is not impossible, it is highly unlikely).

Most likely in my opinion is that Judas did return, partly because of the reaction he’d received at the house of the high priest (see above) but also because he was unsure that the disciples were going to go to Gethsemane and so, joining with the band as they left the room, he stole away in the darkness of night to meet up with the band of soldiers who were preparing themselves for the arrest. When he met with the chief priests (presumably still eating their food and going through the seder) they delayed the arrest until after most people in Jerusalem would have finished.

This is certainly not the traditional interpretation and may well not be correct but it seems difficult to me to take Jesus’ words in Luke as meaning anything else.

Between one and two hours have elapsed between the breaking of the bread and the communion cup (sufficient time for Judas to have left, met with the high priest and to have returned). Here, then, is an interesting Scriptural precedent for getting the speaker to deliver the message (the ‘Maggid’) in the middle of the communion service!

i. Hallel

Then, a fourth cup is poured. Pesahim 10:7 relates that

‘[Over] a fourth [cup] he completes the Hallel...’

The fourth cup is filled and the remaining psalms of the Hallel are sung (either Ps 115-118 or, if you celebrated Maggid in accordance with a different Rabbinic ‘school’, the remaining psalms). Then all drink the fourth cup which is called the ‘cup of praise’.

Mtw 26:30 and Mark 14:26’s report that they went out towards Gethsemane

‘...when they had sung a hymn’

refers to this part of the ceremony. The Greek really translates into

‘and when they had hymned’

which refers to a collection of spiritual songs, not just one individual psalm and is more applicable to the component parts of the Hallel.

Pesahim 10:8 goes on to advise the Jew that

‘After the Passover meal they should not disperse to join in the Afikoman’

where ‘Afikoman’ is a transliterated Greek word meaning ‘to the entertainment’ and is probably better translated as ‘the after meal’ or ‘dessert’. Although today there is Afikoman, it’s a later addition to the Seder and is certainly post-70AD.

j. After the meal

Finally, Pesahim 10:9 notes that

‘After midnight the Passover-offering renders the hands unclean’

That is to say, the Passover celebrations had to be completed before ‘midnight’.

We know, therefore, that the meal finished before this time and that, assuming Jesus and the disciples didn’t hang around too long after they’d completed their celebration, they would have been in Gethsemane certainly around midnight (Mtw 26:30, Mark 14:26, Luke 22:39, John 18:1) - but the likelihood being from my considerations on another web page would be that they probably arrived here before that time rather than after.

Appendix 4 - Pesahim chapter 10

This passage is taken from Herbert Danby’s translation of the Mishnah, published by the Oxford University Press. It represents the earliest complete (or, almost complete) order of the Passover meal available to us and will not differ too substantially from the order that most Jews would have used at the time of Christ seeing that this compilation of Rabbinical writings (that is, the Mishnah) was the first attempt at trying to commit to writing what had been taking place in and around the Temple before the Roman destruction c.70AD.

This section should be read in conjunction with my comments in Appendix 3 where I’ve tried to harmonise the Last Supper with the normal Rabbinic procedure of the paschal meal.

1. On the eve of Passover, from about the time of the Evening Offering, a man must eat naught until nightfall. Even the poorest in Israel must not eat unless he sits down to table, and they must not give them less than four cups of wine to drink, even if it is from the [Pauper’s] Dish.

2. After they have mixed him his first cup, the School of Shammai say: He says the Benediction first over the day and then the Benediction over the wine. And the School of Hillel say: He says the Benediction first over the wine and then the Benediction over the day.

3. When [food] is brought before him he eats it seasoned with lettuce, until he is come to the breaking of bread; they bring before him unleavened bread and lettuce and the haroseth, although haroseth is not a religious obligation. R. Eliezer b. R. Zadok says: It is a religious obligation. And in the Holy City they used to bring before him the body of the Passover-offering.

4. They then mix him the second cup. And here the son asks his father (and if the son has not enough understanding his father instructs him [how to ask]), ‘Why is this night different from other nights? For on other nights we eat seasoned food once, but this night twice; on other nights we eat leavened or unleavened bread, but this night all is unleavened; on other nights we eat flesh roast, stewed, or cooked, but this night all is roast’. And according to the understanding of the son his father instructs him. He begins with the disgrace and ends with the glory; and he expounds from A wandering Aramean was my father... until he finishes the whole section.

5. Rabban Gamaliel used to say: Whosoever has not said [the verses concerning] these three things at Passover has not fulfilled his obligation. And these are they: Passover, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs: ‘Passover’ - because God passed over the houses of our fathers in Egypt; ‘unleavened bread’ - because our fathers were redeemed from Egypt; ‘bitter herbs’ - because the Egyptians embittered the lives of our fathers in Egypt. In every generation a man must so regard himself as if he came forth himself out of Egypt, for it is written, And thou shalt tell thy son in that day saying, It is because of that which the Lord did for me when I came forth out of Egypt. Therefore are we bound to give thanks, to praise, to glorify, to honour, to exalt, to extol, and to bless him who wrought all these wonders for our fathers and for us. He brought us out from bondage to freedom, from sorrow to gladness, and from mourning to a Festival-day, and from darkness to great light, and from servitude to redemption; so let us say before him the Hallelujah.

6. How far do they recite [the Hallel]? The School of Shammai say: To A joyful mother of children. And the School of Hillel say: To A flint stone into a springing well. And this is concluded with the Ge’ullah. R. Tarfon says: ‘He that redeemed us and redeemed our fathers from Egypt and brought us to this night to eat therein unleavened bread and bitter herbs’. But there is no concluding Benediction. R. Akiba adds: ‘Therefore, O Lord our God and the God of our fathers, bring us in peace to the other set feasts and festivals which are coming to meet us, while we rejoice in the building-up of thy city and are joyful in thy worship; and may we eat there of the sacrifices and of the Passover-offerings whose blood has reached with acceptance the wall of thy Altar, and let us praise thee for our redemption and for the ransoming of our soul. Blessed art thou, O Lord, who hast redeemed Israel!’

7. After they have mixed for him the third cup he says the Benediction over his meal. [Over] a fourth [cup] he completes the Hallel and says after it the Benediction over song. If he is minded to drink [more] between these cups he may drink; only between the third and the fourth cups he may not drink.

8. After the Passover meal they should not disperse to join in revelry. If some fell asleep [during the meal] they may eat [again]; but if all fell asleep they may not eat [again]. R. Jose says If they but dozed they may eat [again]; but if they fell into deep sleep they may not eat [again].

9. After midnight the Passover-offering renders the hands unclean. The Refuse and Remnant make the hands unclean. If a man has said the Benediction over the Passover-offering it renders needless a Benediction over [any other] animal-offering [that he eats]; but if he said the Benediction over [any other] animal-offering it does not render needless the Benediction over the Passover-offering. So R. Ishmael. R. Akiba says: Neither of them renders the other needless.