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said, has been much disputed and variously answered. The chief source of difficulty is that the Evangelists, particularly Saint John, afford grounds for supposing that the general body of the Jews kept the Pasch, that year, not on Thursday evening, but on Friday. We read, for example, that the Jews, on the day of the Crucifixion, abstained from going into the Prætorium of Pilate, “ that they might not be defiled but that they might eat the Pasch" 1 Therefore, it would seem, they had not eatenit the evening before. Again, speaking of the Last Supper, Saint John represents it as taking place “ before the feast of the Pasch". And Friday he calls the Parasceve, or day of preparation ;3 therefore it was not itself the festival day, but rather the day before the festival.
For these reasons, and some others of less weight, many of our most distinguished Commentators hold that, whereas our Lord kept the Pasch on Thursday evening, the Jews kept it on Friday evening. But they do not all explain this opinion in the same way. Some consider that the Jews kept the Pasch on the day prescribed, and that our Lord kept it on the day before, that is, on the thirteenth day of the month, at evening. 4 Others, on the contrary, maintain that our Lord observed the Paschal rite on the fourteenth day, as prescribed by law, and that the Jews transferred it to the day following. The writers of each class, again, are not unanimous among themselves, but may be subdivided into numerous sections, according to the diverse ways in which they attempt to explain how it happened that our Lord kept the feast a day too soon, or the Jews a day too late.
We will not weary our readers with the details of this complicated controversy : for it seems to us that neither of the leading views above set forth is quite consistent with the Sacred Text. In common with many of the highest authorities, both ancient and modern, we hold, First, that our Lord kept the Pasch on the day prescribed in the law, and Secondly, that the Jews did so too; that, consequently, Thursday was the fourteenth day of the month Nisan, and our Lord was put to death on the great festival day of the Jewish Passover. The grounds on which these conclusions rest we shall first briefly 1 John, xviii. 28. * John. xiii. 1. 3 John, xix. 14, 31.
Origen. tract. 35 in Matt. ; Chrysost. and Theophyl. in Joan. xviii. 28; Greswell, Ha mony of the Gospels, Diss. 41, vol. iii. p. 143.
5 Maldonatus, in Matt xxvi. 2 ; Jans. Gand. Concord. Evang. cap. 128, pp. 873, 874. See also, Langen, Die Letzten Lebens:age Jesu, p. 95; Bened. XIV. De Festis, cap. vi. n. 15.
• A Lapide in Matt. xxvi, 17 ; Jansenius Yprensis, in Matt. xxvi. 17 ; Patrizzi, De Evang. Diss. I; Bened. XIV, De Festis, lib. i. cap. vi. n. 15; Langen, Die Letzten Lebenstage Jesu, pp. 95, 128 ; also Schoetgen. Lightsoot, Olshausen, Hengstenberg, Robinson ; see Smith, Dict. of the Bible, passover, p. 720, note p. point out, and then we shall consider in detail the various objections which have been advanced against them.
I. We maintain, then, as in the highest degree probable, that our Lord and his Apostles kept the Pasch on the day prescribed by the Mosaic law. (1) The language of the Evangelists clearly implies that the Pasch of our Lord was not a special and extraordinary Pasch, but the usual Pasch, an ordinance of the law, well known to everybody. This is apparent from such phrases as the following : Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the Pasch?" "I will keep the Pasch at thy house with my disciples”. “And they made ready the Pasch". Now to keep the Pasch, in the ordinary and true sense of the word, meant not merely to eat certain kinds of food, but to do so at the time, and in the manner prescribed by law : and if our Lord did not eat the Paschal meal on the day enjoined, He could not be said truly to keep the Pasch.
(2) Again, we must suppose that the Pasch, kept by our Lord, was the same as that of which He had spoken Himself, a little before, when He said, “You know that after two days will be the Pasch”.4 But who will say that He meant to speak here of a special Pasch, kept only by Himself and his Apostles, and not rather of the common Pasch enjoined upon all by the Mosaic law? The Greek text shows this argument in a still stronger light : όιδατε ότι μετά δύο ημέρας το πάσχα γίνεται, “You know that after two days is the Pasch”; as if to say, that fixed and well known festival day.
(3) Once more: our Lord kept the Pasch on the evening of the day on which He sent his two Apostles to prepare it. But that day is expressly described by Saint Luke as the day “on which it was recessary-év'y čdel—that the Pasch should be killed”;5 that is to say, the fourteenth day of the month Nisan.
(4) Lastly, it must have been known to the Jews that Jesus Christ kept the Pasch on Thursday evening: and if this were not the day fixed by law, they would surely have alleged that fact, as a crime, when they brought him the same night, before the High priest.
It is worthy of note that, in support of these arguments, we are able to adduce the authority even of those eminent writers who reject the opinion we are defending. With one voice they all confess that the first three Gospels, according to the obvious sense of the narrative, would appear to represent i Matt. xxvi. 17. ? Matt. xxvi. 18. 3 Luke, xxii. 13.
4 Matt. xxvi. 2. 5 Luke, xxii. 7.
our Lord as observing the ordinary Jewish Passover; and that they never would have thought of putting any other meaning on the Sacred Text, if it were not that the difficulties against this opinion seemed to be insurmountable.
Now we hope, in the sequel, to show that these difficulties all admit of a perfectly satisfactory solution : and if we succeed in doing so, it will follow that there is no sufficient reason for giving up the plain and obvious sense of the Gospel narrative.
II. In the next place, it seems to us much the more probable opinion that the Jews, too, kept the Pasch on the day prescribed by Moses; and, therefore, on the same day as our Lord. (1) For notwithstanding the malice and corruption of their hearts, which so often drew down upon them the severe reprehension of Jesus Christ, the leaders of the people seem to have adhered strictly to the exact letter of the law ; at least, in all cases where the law was clear and explicit. Therefore we have a strong presumption that they observed the law in keeping the Pasch, a solemnity in which the whole nation was deeply concerned, and on which the law spoke in terms the most distinct and emphatic.
(2) If the Jews did not keep the Pasch on the day prescribed, there must have been two Paschs kept that year ; one by our Lord on Thursday evening, and one by the general body of the Jews on Friday. But it seems hard to reconcile this supposition with the words of our Lord already quoted, “After two days is the Pasch”— tò táoxa; which obviously imply that there was but one Pasch, and that the well defined and well known festival prescribed by the law.
(3) Furthermore, Saint Mark seems to say distinctly that the Jews killed their Pasch on the same day that our Lord sent his disciples forward to prepare the Pasch for Him: for he describes it as “the first day of unleavened bread, when they killed the Pasch" 1
There is one significant circumstance which lends no small support, at once, to both the opinions we are maintaining. It is the release of Barabbas, the malefactor. Pilate was accustomed to release unto the Jews one prisoner, whomsoever they desired, on the feast day—Katà éopriv; or, as Saint John has it, on the Pasch—év tvý táo xa. Now, on the day of the Crucifixion, according to Saint Mark, the Jews came to Pilate, in the forenoon, and asked him to do according to his cus
He urged them, at first, to ask for the release of Jesus Christ; but failing in this, he at length consented, in obedience to their deniand, to set Barabbas free, and he delivered up 1 Mark, xiv. 12.
* Matt., xxvii. 15; Mark, xv. 6; Luke, xxiii. 17. 3 John, xviii. 39. • Mark, xv. 8.
Jesus Christ to be crucified. The tenor of this narrative clearly conveys that Barabbas was set free on the festival day of the Pasch. But if this was the festival day with the Jews, they must have observed the Paschal rite the evening before. It follows, then, that the Jews kept the Pasch on the same evening as our Lord.
Some writers of great ability have attempted to solve the difficulties of this controversy by a somewhat singular theory, which is plausible enough to claim at least a passing notice. They maintain that our Lord kept his Pasch on Thursday, and the Jews kept theirs on Friday, yet that both, in a certain sense, observed the law : our Lord, according to the strict letter of the Inspired Books ; the Jews, according to a certain modification sanctioned by the tradition of their fathers. It is alleged by these writers that when the day fixed in the law for the Paschal solemnity, fell on a Friday, the Jews were accustomed to transfer the festival to the following Saturday; and thus avoid the inconvenience of having two days of rest in immediate succession. Now this, it is said, was just what occurred in the year of our Lord's Crucifixion. The festival of the Pasch, as fixed by the law, happened to fall on a Friday: our Lord kept the feast on that day, and accordingly ate his Paschal meal the evening before. The Jews, on the other hand, according to established custom, transferred the festival to Saturday, and ate the Paschal meal on Friday evening.'
If the learned advocates of this opinion could establish that the custom on which they rely did really exist, at the time of our Lord, then indeed they might claim to have solved the Gordian knot. But so far as we know, they have failed to do so : nay, they do not appear to have seriously made the attempt. Others however have investigated the matter; and have shown, from the highest Jewish authorities, that the custom in question was not introduced til after the final destruction of Jerusalem. It is obvious to infer, if the custom did not exist, that the explanation before us, which
supposes the custom, cannot be admitted.
It now remains to defend our views from the objections which have been urged against them, and which are taken, for the most part, from the Gospel of Saint John. They all tend to this one point, that the Jews did not keep the Pasch on the same day as our Lord, but on the following day;
1 Maldon. in Matt. xxvi. 2, p. 531; Jans. Gand. Conc. Evang. cap. cxxviii. p. 874 ; Calv. Harm. in Matt. xxvi. 17.
Lamy, Harm. Evang. lib. v. Dissert. S ix; A Lap. in Matt. xxvi. 17 Secundo ; see also Smith, Dict. of the Bible, passover, p. 720 (c).
and that, consequently, our Lord must have kept the Pasch a day too soon, or the Jews must have kept it a day too late. In support of this argument several distinct texts are brought forward, which we propose to consider in order, and to each of which we hope to offer a fair and reasonable solution.
First, then, Saint John, speaking of the Last Supper, distinctly says that it took place “before the festival day of the Pasch." 1 Therefore that festival had not yet commenced, when Jesus Christ celebrated the Paschal rite, on Thursday evening : and consequently, it was not kept, that year, by the Jews, from Thursday to Friday evening, but rather from Friday to Saturday evening. This difficulty, which, to some Commentators has seemed very formidable, may well be answered by supposing that Saint John wishes here to be understood, not according to the Jewish mode of reckoning festival days, from evening to evening, but according to the common mode of speaking among the Greeks and Romans. They counted their day as we do from midnight to midnight : and, therefore, if the festival extended over the whole of Friday down to sunset, they would naturally refer the events of the preceding evening to the day before the festival. This kind of phraseology prevails, in fact, among the Jews of the present day. Thus, for example, a Hebrew letter written after sunset on Saturday evening, is not dated the first day of the week, as we might have expected, but the eve of the first day. And it seems natural that Saint John should have allowed himself a similar latitude of expression, when we remember that he wrote his Gospel full sixty years after our Lord's death, at a time when Jewish law had long ceased to be in force, and Jewish usages had long been forgotten.
But it is not a mere conjecture that Saint John was accustomed to adopt this mode of speaking. We have clear and distinct traces of it in other parts of his Gospel. Thus, after describing the supper in Bethania, he says that our Lord went up, the next day, to Jerusalem ;3 though it would have been, in fact, the same day, if the day were reckoned from evening to evening. Again, speaking of the apparition of Christ to his Apostles, late on the evening of the Resurrection, he refers it to the first day of the week :4 whereas, if he counted his days from sunset to sunset, it is obvious that the evening of Sunday would have belonged to the second day of the week, and not to the first.
This explanation, which is set forth, with much learning, 1 John, xiii. 1. ? See Kitto, Cyclop. of Bib. Lit. day. 3 John, xii. 12.
John, xx. 19. See Patrizzi, De Evang. Diss. I. n. 23.