Significance of the Word "Passover"—No. 2

Part two of our continued look at the significance of the Passover.

By GRACE EDITH AMADON, Research Worker, Takoma Park, Maryland

After the destruction of the second temple in 70 A. D., when the lamb was no longer sacrificed among the scattered Jews, the expressions "Passover" and "unleav­ened bread" came to be used interchangeably. In Josephus we find instances of such usage.' But in the Old Testament sense, Greswell, for example, sees an important difference between these two feast terms:

"it is possible to distinguish between the Paschal sacrifice as such, and the feast of unleavened bread. The proper name of the former is to Pascha—the proper name of the latter, to azuma; the proper time of the former was the fourteenth of the month Nisan —the proper time of the latter, from the fifteenth to the twenty-first inclusive."'

And favoring these time limits is the fact that Daniel fasted just twenty-one days in the first month of Cyrus' third year. (Dan. 10:1-13.) Obviously, he must have counted the Passover as the fourteenth, and that the additional seven days' feast reached exactly to the twenty-first day inclusive. This problem was a perplexing one to early Christianity, and one frequently discussed.

Let us follow up the primitive history of this fourteenth day. "In the beginning of the Christian church the apostles and those who fol­lowed them for one hundred years after, kept the Passover of the Jews on the fourteenth day of the first month." This statement is by Scaliger, and he based his deduction upon ancient ec­clesiastical histories by Eusebius, Nicephorus Callistus, and others.° Luke's record shows conclusively that Paul kept the Passover, as did also his churches. (Acts 20 :6. )4 Doubtless the other apostles did likewise. And two cen­turies later, in a letter to Bishop Victor at Rome, the Christian priest Polycrates, first mentions Philip and his three daughters, John the Beloved, his disciple Polycarp, Thrasus, Saggaris,5 Pa-pirius, and Melito, and then adds : "These all observed the fourteenth day of the Passover according to the gospel, desisting in no respect, but following the rule of faith."'

And thereafter these communicants in west­ern Asia were called Quartodecimans, or "four­teenth-day" people, and they strenuously con­tended for the paschal institution which the apostle John had established. Bishop Victor condemned and excommunicated these Asian churches. In response, Irenaeus, Gallic bishop of Lugdun (Lyons), wrote to Victor, charging him with impiety for his wicked deed.'

This fourteenth-day controversy continued even as late as the eighth century, especially among the Celtic churches of the north.' They claimed origin from the East, and insisted that their forefathers had been taught by the be­loved John with regard to a fourteenth-day paschal celebration. In regulating their feasts they adopted the lunar cycle of Anatolius of Alexandria, which was based upon a fourteenth-day Passover on any day of the week? Rome protested, and eventually the Celts yielded to her missionaries, who taught the Passover "of the resurrection" on Sunday, along with a "fifteenth day" crucifixion. In fact many pres­byters in the West accepted the assumption as factual that Jesus died on the fifteenth day of the first Jewish month."

Thus the cycle of Anatolius—one of the earliest—did not meet with favor at Rome. At this time nearly every church had its pas­chal cycle, and every bishop was necessarily a calculator !" The Council of Nicaea did little more than to stipulate that the Passover should occur on the Lord's day next after the first full moon in Aries." Later on in Gaul, the cycle of Victorius flourished,' while Gallican churches under Gregory of Tours followed Anatolius." In the year 577, for example, Spain kept Pass­over in March, and France in April." But, amid all this confusion, the western church es­tablished her canons and missals upon the cycle of Dionysius Exiguus. The Dionysian cycle was built up on Cyril's Alexandrian tables, which followed those of Theophilus. These were in Greek discourse, and had to be turned into Latin. The problem was further compli­cated because Cyril's cycle was based upon the Egyptian year, and hence all the new moons and lunar numbers had to be changed over into the Roman form of year. Nevertheless, no cycle was ever more renowned than that of Dionysius, who established a beginning for the Christian era, and a calendar for the church of Rome."

This brief outline of the early history of the ecclesiastical paschal cycle indicates how com­plicated a problem in ancient Jewish time may become, and accounts for the many assumptions by which it is today confronted, some of which are very old. While the Oriental churches, following John the apostle, kept the Passover on the fourteenth, and the western Latin church taught that Jesus died on the fifteenth, in the meantime, the Jewish rabbinical calendar, based upon the Talmud, and as later endorsed by Maimonides, also introduced a Passover on the fifteenth, and changed many of its months to a month-earlier season.' The exact date of each change is not known. The evidence, however, is unmistakable.

The question of the true paschal month was one of serious consequence to the church of early centuries ; and a change in Jewish prac­tice that resulted repeatedly in (Jewish) twelfth-month Passovers in Adar—and sometimes even before the equinox, it seems—has left a long record of debate whether Passover should oc­cur before or after the vernal equinox. The Jews appear to have been chiefly responsible for this agitation. But we should not forget that the Jews at this time were under severe pressure from persecution. However, the an­cient Biblical laws with respect to the Passover season are simple and specific, and the Christian church commonly accepted the Biblical view. This is aptly expressed in the following words of Theophilus

For the month of new fruits,' as I before said, is not in the twelfth month [Adar], when winter still hangs on and when the new fruits are not yet ripe, and when indeed the sickle cannot be put to the harvests. For the divine law has in particular con­stituted this [the sickle] as the sign of the first month.'

Nevertheless, many other Passover argu­ments, besides also the problem of the true paschal month, are the heritage of twentieth-century students of ancient Jewish time. These discussions for the most part arise (I) from the question as to what event marked the Passover date—whether the lamb sacrifice or the paschal supper ; and (2) from the problem of linking the true Passover date with the right day of the week in the crucifixion period. And in addition, there is the question as to what day the short period ben ha-arbayine belonged—whether to the ensuing day, or to the day before. With the Karaites and Samaritans, this Hebrew phrase repre­sented the time between sunset and twilight; with the Rabbinists, it came before sunset, from about three o'clock and on.' This was the traditional hour of prayer. (Acts 3:1; 10 :3, 30; Dan. 9:21.)

In any event, in this short period, the daily evening offering of the lamb, the annual slay­ing of the Passover lamb, the lighting of the temple lamps, the offering of the evening incense, and the setting sun—all took place. For in connection with each one of the series, the phrase "between the two evenings" is written in Hebrew in the pentateuch." Philo, Josephus, and the Talmud are in full agreement as to the order of occur­rence of the incidents as here listed.'

The Spirit of prophecy unmistakably dates both the slaying and eating of the paschal lamb at the evening ineunte of the fourteenth day of Nisan." This argument is apparently fully con­firmed by the character of the events which occurred in the period "between the two eve­nings"—each one of which pointed toward a day just beginning more than at the day ending. The burnt offering represented consecration of the nation necessarily for the ensuing night ;23 the burning lamps offered light for the ap­proaching darkness ; the odor of the burning incense at sunset symbolized the merits of Jesus applied to the prayers then ascending, not to those of the previous day:" the sinking sun manifestly dated the new day, not the old. It was therefore an event of deep calendar sig­nificance when the paschal lamb was yearly sacrificed in the specific time designated by Moses as ben ha-arbavim. The offering un­questionably must have belonged to a new day, either just begun, or about to begin ! And the paschal supper, of course, was served soon after, during the same evening.

It makes little difference to the involved crucifixion date whether the lamb was slain before or after sunset—whether the argument is rabbinical, or Karaitic." In either case, the lamb was obviously slain as if on the dawning of a new day. The accompanying diagram illustrates.

With reference to the fulfillment of the type, the death of the paschal lamb alone seems to have priority over the supper in prefiguring the death of the Lamb of God. (1 Cor. 5:7.) And therefore, the slaying of the typical lamb on the Old Testament fourteenth—which all admit—could only be met by a crucifixion on the same date. Consequently, the symbolic meaning of the type necessarily nullifies the argument that assumed a crucifixion on the fifteenth. Astron­omy also lifts a warning finger against a "fif­teenth" crucifixion Friday!' And Scaliger, commonly called the father of chronology, one who was readily familiar with all the cycles of early Christianity, reaches the following con­clusion:

"For without any controversy, Christ ate the pass-over when the thirteenth of Nisan was ending, and the fourteenth beginning : that is, in the evening which the fourteenth of Nisan followed. Concerning this no one even a little erudite doubts. For, after sunset of the fifth day of the week, the Jewish sixth day was entering, even to sunset of the day of Venus [Friday], after which the Sabbath came on, even the fifteenth of Nisan, the solemn feast. Hence the whole fourteenth of Nisan intervened between the Lord's supper and the beginning of the solemn pas­chale [feast of unleavened bread]."

The Old Testament offers other convincing proof that both the lamb sacrifice and the pas­chal supper belonged to one and the same Jew­ish day. There are altogether seven different dated Passovers in the Old Testament, and these are described as being either "killed," "eaten," or "kept"—in each case on the four­teenth day of the first month!' Now it should be clear that such a detailed description involves the whole Passover service—not merely the of­fering of the lamb. To "keep" the Passover, as outlined in Exodus 12, meant to slay the lamb, roast it, eat it, and burn the remnants of the feast, and these acts are all included in the seven texts—all on one date ! Moreover, five of these Passovers are mentioned as "kept" on the fourteenth.

In Numbers 9 :11 the Hebrew text is very explicit : "In the fourteenth day of the second month between the two evenings, they shall keep it, with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat." The language here is typical Hebrew style. In other places the command simply reads : "In the fourteenth day . . . is the Lord's Passover." (Lev. 23 :5 ; Num. 28 :16.) But in no ancient text, in either the Bible, Philo, or Josephus, is it stated that the Pass­over was "kept" or observed on any other date than the fourteenth.' In this respect the an­cient cycle of Anatolius differed from those of the Latin jurisdiction.

Those who favor the slaying of the national paschal sacrifice "between the two evenings," late on crucifixion Friday, thus thinking to have the typical lamb slain simultaneously with the death of Christ, not only thereby fail to fulfill the type, but the argument also fails of co­inciding with the actual crucifixion date. For a paschal sacrifice during the hours of ben ha-arbayini, on Friday afternoon, even two hours before sunset, would obviously have occurred after the death of Christ; and in addition, in harmony with the calendaric significance of this pentateuchal period, would indisputably have been dated on the next day, as Sabbath the fifteenth. In other words, the typical lamb would have been slain too late to prefigure the death of the Lamb of God on the fourteenth of Nisan. The detailed description of the temple service enacted at the very moment of the deatt of Jesus, as given in "The Desire of Ages," is indeed significant:

"It was the hour of the evening sacrifice. The lamb representing Christ had been brought to be , . . With intense interest the people were look­ing on. But the earth trembles and quakes; for the Lord Himself draws near. . . .

"All is terror and confusion. The priest is about to slay the victim; but the knife drops from his nerveless hand, and the lamb escapes.""

It is not the Passover lamb that escapes when the true Lamb dies—but the sacrificial lamb of the evening burnt offering. The hour of the evening sacrifice has just begun, and the lamb was to have been slain by the temple priest. If it had been the paschal lamb, the hour would have been later, and the sacrifices would have been slain by the people. (To be discussed in Part 3.)

A paschal sacrifice in the afternoon of cruci­fixion Friday is meaningless, for it offers chro­nology a point of time other than the Old Testa­ment predicts, and other than Jesus Himself pointed out according to His own paschal sup­per. The only way that the problem can be harmonized is the Spirit of prophecy way, namely, a passover sacrifice and supper at the evening-beginning of "death Friday" as the fourteenth of Nisan. By this plan, the ancient Passover law and the astronomical laws govern­ing both new and full moon are brought into agreement with the short Hebrew period trans­lated "between the two evenings."


Moses mentions ben ha-arbajim in nine dif­ferent texts. He marks its position by burning lamp, smoking incense, and setting sun. Within this diurnal landmark of time the paschal lamb is slain, and the sacrifice obviously must be dated with the setting sun. On whatever Jewish date the sun sets, that day is past, and hence the ensuing day is therefore the Passover date. The question has been asked from very early times, "Did Jesus anticipate the Passover ?" The an­swer is that not only Jesus and the disciples, but the whole Jewish nation kept that last Pass­over at the only possible ben ha-arbayint that could coincide with the date of His death."


1 Ant.IX.XIII.3; XVIII :11.2, etc.

2 Greswell, Edward, "Dissertations Upon the Har­mony of the Gospels," Vol. I, p. 71. Oxford, 1830.

3 Scaliger, Joseph, "De Emendatione Temporum." 13. 105. Francofurt, 1593.

4 White, E. G., "Acts of the Apostles," pp. 390, 391.

5 So spelled in the original Greek.

6 Eusebius Pamphilus, "Ecclesiastical History," p. 223. Tr. by Cruse. London, 1847.

7 Nicephori Callisti, "Ecclesiasticae Historiae," lib. XII. 11. 292. Paris, 1630.

8 Migne, J. P., "Patrologiae," SL Cursus Com­pletus, torn. LXVII, col. 470. 1848.

9 Dionysii Petavii, "Animadversiones Epiphanii Opus," p. 195. Coloniae, 1682.

10 For example, Theophilus and Ambrose. (Aegidii Bucherii, "De Doctrina Temporum," pp. 473, 477. Antverpiae, 1634.)

11 Migne, tom. LXVII, col. 475 (a).

12 Id., col. 459. "First full moon in Aries" is the equinoctial full moon.

13, 14  col 952

15 Id., col. 467.

16 Id., col. 466.

17 Michaelis, John David, "Dissertation on the He­brew Months," London, 1773. (The arguments of Michaelis were of exceptional importance to the lead­ers of the Millerite "seventh month" movement. He was one of the first to doubt that the modern Jewish months are correct as to their Biblical seasons.)

18 The paschal month Abib signified "green ears," which in the Latin version is always translated "new fruits."

19 "Aegidii Bucherii, "De Doctrina Temporum," p. 472. Antverpiae, 1634.

20 A dual Hebrew phrase meaning "between the two evenings."

21 In spite of Talmudist assumptions that on a Friday the Passah lambs were slain at i :30 P. M. in or­der that the roasting could be finished before the Sabbath (Pesachim 58a), Chwolson insists that in ancient time the Passovers were slain during the eve­ning twilight, and cites the Samaritans and Karaites as illustration. He also asserts that on Friday afternoon the twilight was already counted the Sabbath in Jewry. (D. Chwolson, 'Das letzte Passamahl Christi," p. 163. Leipzig, /908.) This is in harmony with Josephus, who mentions the privilege granted the Jews by Caesar Augustus that "they be not obliged to go before any judge on the Sabbath day, nor on the day of preparation IparaskeueJ to it, after the ninth hour." (Ant.XVI.VI.2.)

22 Cf. margin of Num. 28 :4, Ex. 12 :6, Deut. 16 :6, and Ex. 30 :7, 8. In Deut. 16 :6, "evening" only is given in the Hebrew, but Ex. 12:6 supplies the dual form.

23 Philo Judaeus, "Works," Vol. III, p. 213. Tr. by Yonge. London, 1855. Cf. Josephus, Ant.III.VIII.

24 Talmudic reference found in Edersheim, Alfred, "The Temple," p. 223, note. Hodder and Stoughton, New York.

25 Cf. September, 1943, THE MINISTRY, pp. 5, 6. 'Patriarchs and Prophets," p. 352.

26 Id., p. 353.

27 Universal practice amonc, Samaritans and Fala­shas still sacrifices the paschal lamb after sunset.

28 "Ancient Jewish Calendation," Journal of Bib­lical Literature, p. 25/. Vol. LXI, Part IV. Decem­ber, 1942.

29 Scaliger, Joseph, "De Emendatione Temporum," Preface, p. 8, Francofurt, 1593.

30 "Killed," Ex. 12 :6; 2 Chron. 30 :15, and 2 Chron. 35:1; "kept" and "eaten," Num. 9:1i; "kept," Num. 9:3, Joshua 5:50, and Ezra 6:19.

311n Bella Jud.VI.IX.3, Josephus speaks of the "ninth hour to the eleventh" as the time when "they sacrifice" (thuousin) at the feast called Passover. This period was, of course, ben ha-arbayim; but in this text it has not been given a Jewish date. Those who try to find evidence for the afternoon of the Jewish "fourteenth," are opposed by the dated Pass­over descriptions which Josephus wrote twenty years later in "Antiquities," as for example, Ant.II.XIV.6; III.X.5 ; XI.IV.8. The Greek construction in these texts makes it very plain that the passover lamb was slain, eaten, and the remnants burned—all on one day, the fourteenth of Nisan.

32 White, E. G., "The Desire of Ages," p. 756.

33 According to Joseph Klausner, "an earlier ruling, which held good among the priestly party almost to the close of the period of the second temple, the Pass­over was regarded as a private sacrifice."—"Jesus of Arazareth, His Life, Times, and Teaching,' p. 326. 'Cf. Anglican Theological Review, Vol. XXV, No. 1 October, 1943.

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By GRACE EDITH AMADON, Research Worker, Takoma Park, Maryland

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