THE CALENDAR AND THE PASSION

The existence of several concomitant calendars

         At the time of Jesus there were almost certainly at least two calendar systems in use at the same time, one followed by the Pharisees and perhaps even by the Sadducees, and a second one followed by the Essenes, whose headquarters seem to have been at Qumran, on the shores of the Dead Sea, where the famous papyri, or scrolls, dating back to before the year 70, were found. 

                The Essenes celebrated the Passover on a Wednesday, the Sadducees (the high priests of the temple) on Friday, and probably the Pharisees did too. Were there other groups? 

               Nothing proves that Jesus belonged, even remotely, to the Essenes, but it is hard to imagine that he might have been a Sadducee. (They refused to believe in the resurrection of the dead), and his opposition to the Pharisees is a general theme throughout the New Testament. Be that as it may, the three synoptic Gospels make it clear that that Jesus ate the Passover supper with his disciples just before retiring with them to the Mount of Olives where he was arrested. John's Gospel is less precise about this point.

     

  • Now the first day of the feast of unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the passover? And he said, Go into the city to such a man, and say unto him, The Master saith, My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at thy house with my disciples. And the disciples did as Jesus appointed them; and they made ready the passover. Now when the even was come, he sat down with the twelve... (Matthew 26, 17-20)
  • And the first day of unleavened bread, when they killed the passover, his disciples said unto him, Where wilt thou that we go and prepare that thou mayest eat the passover? And he sendeth forth two of his disciples, and saith unto them, Go ye into the city, and there shalt meet you a man bearing a pitcher of water: follow him. And wheresoever he shall go in, say ye to the goodman of the house, The Master saith, Where is the guest chamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples? And he will show you a large upper room furnished and prepared: there make ready for us. And his disciples went forth, and came into the city, and found as he had said unto them: and they made ready the passover. And in the evening he cometh with the twelve. And they sat and did eat... (Mark 14, 12-18)
  • Then came the day of unleavened bread, when the passover must be killed. And he sent Peter and John, saying, Go and prepare us the passover that we may eat. And they said unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare? And he said unto them, Behold, when ye are entered into the city, there shall a man meet you, bearing a pitcher of water; follow him into the house where he entereth in. And ye shall say unto the goodman of the house, The Master saith unto thee, Where is the guestchamber, where shall I eat the passover with my disciples? And he shall shew you a large upper room furnished: there make ready. And they went, and found as he had said unto them: and they made ready the passover. And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him... (Luke 22,7-14)
  • Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him; Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God. He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself...(John 13, 1-4)

               Reading the synoptic Gospels leaves no doubt that Jesus celebrated the passover normally with his disciples; besides, each evangelist makes it clear that the death of Jesus occurred in the afternoon preceding the preparation of Passover, which that particular year corresponded to Sabbath. 

  • When the even was come, there came a rich man of Ar-im-a-thae-a, named Joseph...... Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation... (Matthew 27, 57-62) 
  • And Jesus cried with a loud voice and gave up the ghost.......And now, when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is the day before the sabbath. Joseph of Ar-im-a-thae-a, an honourable counceller, who also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craving the body of Jesus. (Mark 15, 37-43).
  • And, behold, there was a man named Joseph, a counseller; and he was a good man, and a just: (The same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them;) he was of Ar-im-a-thae-a, a city of the Jews: who also himself waited for the kingdom of God. This man went unto Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. And he took it down, and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a sepulchre that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid. And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on. (Luke 23, 50-54)
  • The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away...(John 19, 31)

               The evangelists tell us that Jesus ate the passover meal relatively normally with his disciples, one certain evening (the first day of the unleaven bread), and that other Jews ate their passover meal the next day (with at least one night intervening between the two). The Gospels give no explanation for this. It is simply mentioned without comment, as if it were normal. This suggests that two calendars, (or more), co-existed, and that the three synoptic Gospels refer to one, while John's Gospel refers to another. (For those who might find this strange, let us remember that Roman Catholics do not celebrate Christmas on the same day as Orthodox Christians).

 
 

The Duration of the Passion

               Some - including Brother Bruno Bonnet-Eymard and Annie Jaubert - have talked of a Passion that according to them started on a Tuesday evening and ended on Friday noon. Let's re-read the narratives of the Passion in the four Gospels quoting only those passages that refer to the chronology of the events:

               Matthew - Now the first day of the feast of unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto him... (26,17) /.../. Now when the even was come, he sat down with the twelve ... (26, 20) /.../ And when they had sung an hymn they went out into the mount of Olives.(26,30) /.../ Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, that this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. (26,34) /.../ And they that had laid hold on Jesus led him away to Cai-a-phas the high priest... (26,57) /.../...And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly. (26,75) /.../ When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death. And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor. (27,1-2) /.../ Then released he Bar-ab-bas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified. (27,26) /.../ Now from the sixth hour, there was darkness over all the land until the 9th hour. And about the 9th hour Jesus cried with a loud voice /.../ Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. (27,45-50).

               Mark - And the first day of unleavened bread, when they killed the passover, his disciples said unto him... (14,12) /.../ And in the evening, he cometh with the twelve. And as they sat and did eat, Jesus said... (14-17-18) /.../   And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives (14,26) /.../ And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice (14,30) /.../ And immediately, while he yet spake, cometh Judas, one of the twelve /.../ And they led Jesus away to the high priest : and with him were assembled all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes (14,43-53) /.../ ...And Peter called to mind the word that Jesus said unto him, Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice. And when he thought thereon, he wept. And straightaway in the morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council, and bound Jesus, and carried him away, and delivered him to Pilate (14,72-15,1) /.../ And so Pilate, willing to content the people, released Bar-ab-bas unto them, and delivered Jesus, when he had scourged him, to be crucified.(15,15) /.../ And it was the third hour, and they crucified him (15,25) /.../ And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice /.../ And Jesus cried with a loud voice and gave up the ghost (15,33-37).

               Luke - Then came the day of unleavened bread, when the passover must be killed. And he sent Peter and John, saying /.../  And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him... ( 22,7-14) /.../ And he [Jesus] said I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me (22,34) /.../ And he came out, and went, as he was wont, to the mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him (22, 39) /.../ Then took they him, and led him, and brought him into the high priest's house... (22,54) /.../ And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew. And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice (22,60-61) /.../ And as soon as it was day, the elders of the people and the chief priests and the scribes came together, and led him into their council, saying. (22,66) /.../ And the whole multitude of them arose, and led him unto Pilate (23, 1) /.../ When Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked whether the man were a Galilaean. And as soon as he knew that he belonged unto Herod's jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who himself also was at Jerusalem at this time. (23,6-7) /.../ And Herod, with his men of war set him at nought, and mocked him, and arranged him in a gorgeous robe, and sent him again to Pilate (23,11) /.../ And Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, said unto them /.../ and the voices of them and the chief priests prevailed. And Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they required (23,13-24) /.../ And it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst. And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost. (23,44-46).

               John - Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the father /.../ He (Jesus) riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments.... (13,1-4) /.../ Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly. /.../ He [Judas] then, having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night. (13,27-30) /.../ Jesus answered him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice. (13,38) /.../ When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the brook Ce-dron, where was a garden, into which he entered, and his disciples. (18,1) /.../ Then the band and the captain and officers of the Jews took Jesus, and bound him, And led him away to Annas first (18,12-13) /.../ The high priest then asked Jesus of his disciples, and of his doctrine (18,19) /.../ Now Annas had sent him bound unto Cai-a-phas the high priest. (18,24) /.../ Peter then denied him again: and immediately the cock crew. Then they led Jesus from Cai-a-phas unto the hall of judgment: and it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat passover. (18,27-28) /.../ Then Pilate therefore took Jesus and scourged him (19,1) /.../ And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he (Pilate) saith unto the Jews, Behold your King! (19,14) /.../ Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led him away. (19, 16) /.../ When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost. (19,30).

               When we read these passages, it is clear that the meal with the disciples, the arrest in the Garden of Olives, then the appearance in front of Annas (mentioned only by John), then in front of Caiaphas, took place in the course of one night. Then, in the morning Jesus was transferred to Pilate's palace, then for a short time to Herod's (mentioned only by Luke), and then delivered back into the hands of the Jews (John says around the 6th hour, that is to say, between 11 and 12 am) to be crucified. The only disagreement between these two narratives comes from Mark who specifies it was the third hour when they crucified him. This difficulty, already noticed and studied by Saint Jerome has not yet been satisfactorily explained. It is possible but not certain, that it is a slip of the pen of the transcriber (from a Hebrew document to a Hebrew document, or from a Greek document to a Greek document), or from a mistake in the translation from Hebrew into Greek. Perhaps some future discovery of a new papyrus will settle this point.

               It seems that except for Mark's assertion, there is no need to insert 24 or 48 additional hours in order to fit in all the elements of the Passion. Is Mark's assertion sufficient reason to do it. The almost unanimous opinion is that it is not. So Jesus therefore celebrated passover with his disciples on Friday, the 13th Nisan, in the evening. He was judged and condemned by the Jews in the night between Thursday and Friday. On Friday morning, his condemnation was endorsed by Pilate, he was crucified around noon, died around 3 pm, and was buried around 6 pm. 

 

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