Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Passion Week: Day 3

By Tuesday morning, Nisan 13, the Chief Priests needed to find a quick way to put Him to death, because Passover was rapidly approaching. Their opportunity came through Judas:

The Chief Priests sought how they might take Him by trickery and put Him to death. But they said, ‘Not during the Feast, lest there be an uproar among the people. Then Judas Iscariot..went to them to betray Him. They..promised to give him money.   Mark 14.10-11, Matthew 26.3-5

Unwittingly, Judas was about to fulfill two parts of the prophecy of Zechariah 11 that refers to God, the Shepherd of Israel:
1. They weighed out for my wages thirty pieces of silver.
2. The LORD said to me, ‘Throw it to the potter’, that princely price they set on me.  So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the House of the LORD for the potter.
Zechariah 11.12-13

Judas goes to the Chief Priests and receives thirty pieces of silver:
1. Judas Iscariot went to the Chief Priests and said, ‘What  are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?’ They counted out to him thirty pieces of silver.   Matthew 26.14-15

Subsequently, when Judas realised what he had done:
2. Judas, seeing that Jesus had been condemned, brought back the thirty pieces of silver ... saying, ‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.’   They said, ‘What is that to us? You see to it!’   Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the Temple and departed, and went and hanged himself. The Chief Priests...consulted and bought the potter’s field...  Matthew 27.3-7

Finally, the value that was put on the Lord as the Shepherd of Israel by the Chief Priests was the value of a slave:
If the ox gores a male or female servant, he shall give to their master thirty shekels of silver.   Exodus 21.32

Having seen how the actions of Judas precisely fulfilled prophecy, we can now return to the events of Tuesday morning, Nisan 13:

On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they killed the Passover lamb, His disciples said, Where do You want us to prepare...the   Passover?   He said, ‘Go into the city, a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water, follow him, and where he goes in, say, ‘The Teacher says, ‘Where is the guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?’  He will show you a large upper room, furnished and prepared’.   Mark 14.12-15

On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they killed the Passover lamb..    Matthew 26.17 & Mark 14.12

This detail and the following passages in Exodus and Leviticus have caused much unnecessary argument for centuries:
You shall keep (the lamb) until 14 Nisan .. kill it at twilight (between 3pm and 6pm 13 Nisan) and eat it on that night (14 Nisan) with unleavened bread...    Exodus 12:6,8   

On the 14 Nisan at twilight (between 3pm and 6pm) is Passover, and on 15 Nisan is the Feast of Unleavened Bread;   Leviticus 23:5-6 

Firstly, we need to define ‘twilight’ and ‘evening’:
·        ‘Twilight’ is the period between the time of the evening offering at 3pm, and the start of the next day which begins at about 6pm.
·        ‘Evening’  is the start of the new day, as Genesis 1.5, the evening and the morning were the first day.  The Jewish day, therefore, begins at 6pm and not at midnight, as our day. The Talmud additionally states that the period of ‘evening’, as opposed to ‘morning’, ‘is defined as the whole afternoon until nightfall’.     Pesachim 58a.

Secondly, we need to understand that the apparent differences between the passages quoted in Exodus, Leviticus, and the Gospels, actually refer to different audiences and times:
·      The Exodus passage refers to God’s instructions to the Children of Israel at the actual time of the Exodus in about 1450BCE. 
·      The Leviticus passage is addressed to the Priests for the Tabernacle and subsequent Temple sacrifices from about 1400 to 600BCE.
·      The Gospel passages refer to the customs that were followed in the first century from about 100BCE to 70CE.

Finally, the explanation. Jesus celebrated His Passover Seder on Nisan 14 in line with Leviticus 23.5, and not on Nisan 15 which had become the custom in the first century.   It was the custom in Israel, in the time of Jesus, to combine the two Feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread, and to celebrate the Passover Seder on Nisan 15, not on Nisan 14 as they were instructed in Leviticus 23. (The Jewish People in First Century, Vol.2, S.Safrai & M Stern).

Each family in the Exodus and Leviticus time periods, took their own Passover lamb to be killed during the Preparation day of Nisan 13, and they ate it at their family Seder some time after 6pm, which was the beginning of Nisan 14.  The Passover Lamb for the whole nation of the Children of Israel was sacrificed between 2.30pm and 3.30pm on Nisan 14, as the Talmud states:
The sacrifice is slaughtered at eight and a half hours (2.30pm) and offered at nine and a half hours (3.30pm) because the flesh of the Passover sacrifice may not be roasted until evening. Pesachim 58a

Josephus records in Jewish Wars vi.9,3, ii.14,3, that in 62CE 256,500 lambs were slaughtered. With ten people at each Seder, there must have been over 2.5 million people in Jerusalem for the Feast.  This was why the Rabbis decreed that family lambs could take two days to be slaughtered over two Preparation Days, Nisan 13 and Nisan that the family Seders could then be held some time after 6pm at the start of Nisan 15.

The Gospels state that Nisan 13 was the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they killed the Passover lamb, because both Nisan 13 and 14 were  Preparation Days, and as such considered to be part of the ‘holiday’.  The ‘national’ Passover Lamb was then sacrificed on Nisan 15. 

As we shall see, this change from the Exodus and Leviticus date of Nisan 14 enabled Jesus to eat His Passover Seder on the evening, the start of Nisan 14, and also to be the ‘national’ Passover Lamb at His Crucifixion on the day of Nisan 14.

The question is; Which is the ‘correct’ evening to hold a Passover Seder…Nisan 14 or Nisan 15?  The answer is either!!
If God Himself combined the two evenings, why should we get into fruitless, frustrating, and futile disputes?

After dinner with Simon the Jar maker and the anointing for His burial, Jesus spent a quiet day on Nisan 13, preparing Himself for the cataclysmic day of His Crucifixion.  As He was quietly resting in Bethany, Judas was doing his worst, and other disciples were getting their lamb slaughtered in the Temple, and preparing ‘the upper room’  for their Seder.  Nisan 14 is about to begin:

On the fourteenth day of the first month at twilight is the Lord’s Passover. Leviticus 23.5

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