Was the Last Supper a Passover seder?: an essay
Was the Last Supper a Passover Seder?: an essay
Very often, the Last Supper, the meal that the disciples of Jesus had with Him, prior to his capture and crucifixion, contrary to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, which without doubtr assert that it was a Passover meal, is considered not to be a Passover Seder. It is often pointed out, rightly, that the Gospel of John does not contain the revealing words that the other Gospels reveal, This is my Body, This is my Blood, Take and eat, Drink, and other indications that it was a Passover seder that they were celebrating. In the process of this type of interpretation, there is almost always presented a contradiction between the three "synoptic" Gospels and the Gospel of John. The analysis in this essay is to assert that there is no contradiction, and that none of the Gospels is "wrong". There is a resolution.
There is a resolution, I propose, of the Gospel of John and the Synoptic Gospels that authenticates all.
Jesus was crucified on the Day of Preparation, the day of slaughtering the lambs, the day prior to the Passover seder celebration itself, as John has it. and yet, as the other Gospel writers have it, He did eat the Passover meal with His disciples. How could that be possible? Here is a quote common and typical that comes as an interpretation to this apparent contradiction (for our puposes, it is not important to consider from whom comes the quote):
Against the “single” testimony of the synoptics that the Last Supper was a Passover meal stands the lone Gospel of John, which dates the crucifixion to the “day of Preparation for the Passover” (John 19:14). According to John, Jesus died just when the Passover sacrifice was being offered and before the festival began at sundown... Any last meal—which John does not record—would have taken place the night before, or even earlier than that. But it certainly could not have been a Passover meal, for Jesus died before the holiday had formally begun."
The resolution is this - Jesus knowing that He would be on the cross as the Passover Lamb on the day of Passover and so could not eat the Passover with His disciples at the regular time, did so before the regular time knowing that something else would be changed. Now it would also not be a normal Passover, but rather the institution of the New Passover for the New Community he was forming. That is, His intent was not just to celebrate the Passover, but to use that to "institute" the new "seder" (rite) which His followers would perpetuate after His days on earth - "Do this in remembranceof Me", which they did - and do, on until this day. This is the New Thanksgiving ("Eucharist").
A support for this view can be found in that there was a certain flexibility in Israel as to dates. This is shown in the discussions of the Rabbis, and even in the Dead Sea Community which followed the Biblical calander but with a Solar month rather than the Lunar. If there was this flexibility, not in changing the Biblical times, but in fixing it by "external" considerations, I see no problem in Jesus doing just that with His disciples. He was truly celebrating the Passover (and thus, as the 3 "synoptic" Gospels assert) with His disciples but that meal intended by Him to be more than a Passover, intended to be key "rite" of the new comnmunity, the Church, which He was forming, He celebrated early (in accordance with the Gospel of John), to make it all possible, to fulfill all requirements of the old, as well as His strong desires, and to herald in the New. I think that we must see by this, that the Lord's intent in this, was really to do as He said, to set up, or establish, the New Community (Ekklesia - Kehilah) of Israel, forming the continuation of the People of God. There were still "the 12" but now it was to be the 12 Apostles sitting on the judgment seats of the 12 tribes, and not the twelve tribes themselves. This is not "replacement" theology, because there is most certainly the promises to Israel as a people and as a nation. This is the time of the partial blindness of Israel, which shall be taken away!
Just a note: I think that this author downgrades both the Gospel of John and the three Gospels. He says "any last meal - which John does not record" making it sound as if John doesn't "know" about any last supper. I think that this is wrong. John purposely does not write about the last supper, precisely because he has already dealt with it in its importance for the Church, in the 6th Chapter of his Gospel ("he who eats my flesh...drinks my blood..."). The Gospel of John is very rich as literature! John is also very free, like the Lord, in chronology. The support of this is that John places here in this setting reference to Judas' betrayal of Jesus , which will occur at the time of the last supper. This author misunderstands how the Gospel of John is actually written. One cannot understand, and interprete rightly the things of Christ, standing outside of Him.
"Behold, All things have become new!"