Thursday, 31 January 2013

Is Passover the REAL Easter?

Today's topic pertains to whether Passover is the "real" Easter or not. This issue was addressed to me by a Tweeter that I presume to be a Zionist Christian of some variety or another who goes by the name - Youxia88. Her claim is that "Passover" is the "real" Easter! 

Here is her Twitter quote:

Not condescending! Passover is true Easter. Easter was based in paganism.
The only part of her statement that I can partially agree upon is the fact that Easter (like Christmas) has been infected with aspects of paganism. In a world diametrically opposed to Jesus Christ and all that He stands for, the aspect of paganism should be no surprise. However, when anyone (like Youxia88) says that "Passover is the real Easter," I cannot help but disagree with such an absurd statement. I suspect that she is not the only one believing such nonsense. 

First of all, what is "Passover?" I suspect that many Christians associate this Jewish feast with Jesus' "Last Supper" right? The premise is that Jesus had His final "Passover" supper with His disciples and then was betrayed, sentenced in a Roman court, and then crucified on the cross only to be resurrected on the third day. Hence, I assume many Christians associate Passover with an appropriate Christian observance, which most Christians will acknowledge as "Easter." The purpose of this blog entry is to debunk the myth that Passover is the "real" Easter. Such a concept could not be further from the truth!

Since Youxia88 referenced Wikipedia in her tweets to me (see above), I thought it might be appropriate for me to then use it for the basic definition of the terms - "Passover" & "Easter." 

Wikipedia defines "Passover" as follows:
Passover (Hebrew, Yiddish: פֶּסַח Pesach, Tiberian: [pɛsaħ] ( listen), Modern Hebrew: /ˈpesaχ/ Pesah, Pesakh, Yiddish: Peysekh, Paysakh, Paysokh) is a Jewish festival. It commemorates the story of the Exodus, in which the ancient Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt. (Source link: Wikipedia;
And, Wikipedia defines "Easter" as follows:
Easter (Old English: Ēostre) or the Pasch[1][2] or (among Eastern Orthodox) Pascha (Latin: Pascha; Greek: Πάσχα, Paskha; Aramaic: פַּסחאPasḥa; from Hebrew: פֶּסַח Pesaḥ)[3] is a Christian festival and holiday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ on the third day after his crucifixion at Calvary as described in the New Testament.[4][5] (Source link: Wikipedia; )
Therefore, the definitions of each of these terms is pretty concrete and straight forward. Yet, I strongly suspect that many Christians understand the definition of "Easter" a bit better than they understand the term - "Passover!" Passover celebration existed long before Jesus came into this world to offer His gift of redemption. It was merely a Jews' traditional celebration of God's gracious act to free the Jews from their captivity in Egypt many years earlier. Many Christians will say: "Jesus celebrated Passover while living among the Jews! What was good for Him, must be good for me!" Jesus lived as a Jew and was subject to Old Covenant Jewish Mosaic law, much of which He fulfilled with His sacrifice. More about that will be reiterated below.

Today, Jews continue to observe Passover, because in their warped view, there is no New Covenant and no new dispensation. To them, their Messiah has not yet arrived, and so for more than 3,500 years, it has been "business as usual" or so they think. 

Now that I have made a solid distinction between the terms "Passover" and "Easter" and have proven a clear and separate distinction between each, I will now contend with the issue where Jesus comes into the equation. As Jesus said, He came not to make peace, but to create division (Ref: Matt 10:34-36). And, among Christians, the debate of the significance of Passover, and the timing of its role in Christ's crucifixion are still heavily debated to this very day. 

If there is a clear distinction between "Passover" and "Easter", why then do so many Christians associate a marriage between the two? 

Consider a few points from an essay called "Was Jesus' Last Supper a Seder?" by Jonathan Klawans. I will not bother to do an analysis of this essay as it is long, complex, but worth a full read by you, the reader. In short, the claim is that while 3 of the 4 gospels indicate that the Last Supper occurred during Passover, there are a fair number of discrepancies where some believe Scripture is not clear enough to even conclusively state that the Last Supper was even a "Passover Seder." A "seder" is a rabbinic refinement for a festival observance inaugurated in Exodus according to Rev. Wil Gafney, Ph.D. 

Dr. Gafney responded to Klawans' essay (linked above) with her response to some of his points, and is entitled - "Was the Last Supper a Passover Seder?" Her belief is that the Passover was possibly a "seder" and this is her concluding statement:

"So then, was Jesus' last supper a Passover seder? I don't know. Maybe. I actually think so. But either the evangelists didn't know or didn't care or the fact of the matter was subordinate to the ultimate truth they saw themselves communicating. The Gospels vote 3-to-1 in favor of the pre-rabbinic seder." (Source: Was the Last Supper a Passover Seder?; Rev. Wil Gafney, Ph.D.; )
From most of the rational sources that I have been able to find, most theologians are not willing to make a 100% conclusive statement that the Last Supper was merely a Passover seder, let alone the "real" Easter! 

Now let's consider the timing of Jewish Passover to the Last Supper and determine if any discrepancies exist. Leave it to a reformed Christian like Wayne Jackson to make this point regarding John 18:28:

“Did Jesus eat the Passover supper on the night before he was crucified? If so, was he eating it at the right time? If he was, how do you explain the fact that, on the following day, the Jewish leaders were fearful of defiling themselves, which circumstance would have cancelled their right “to eat the Passover” (John 18:28)? This seems to suggest that the Passover occurred the day after Jesus ate with the disciples....
There were several “feasts” during this period (see 2 Chron. 30:22); the one mentioned in John 18:28 may have been on the day following the main Passover supper. It was called the Chagigah (sacrificial meal). This view is defended by many respectable scholars, e.g., Lenski and Edersheim. Edward Robinson has a clear and detailed explanation of this position that is worthy of serious consideration, and, in this writer’s judgment, this argument carries the greatest weight of evidence8.
In conclusion we must say that we may not be able to determine the precise situation alluded to in John 18:28. Nonetheless, there are sufficient possibilities to establish the fact that no insuperable difficulty exists to challenge our confidence in the sacred text.
" (Source: Wayne Jackson; Did Jesus Eat the Passover Supper?; )
Anyone reading Wayne Jackson's source link above, will see that there are serious discrepancies as to whether the Last Supper was even an official Passover meal in the first place. The evidence that he suggests, is that it probably was not given the biblical evidence.

What about the lamb? Did Jesus and His disciples eat a sacrificed lamb as is customary in the Jewish Passover tradition during the Last Supper? Consider a few points by Ted Montgomery:

"As to whether or not Jesus and His disciples ate lamb that night, I lean toward thinking that they did not. One of the main reasons I feel this way is that most, if not all, of the Passover lambs would be sacrificed several hours later, at mid-afternoon on 14 Nisan, which is the time specified as beyn ha’arbayim or "twilight" (Exodus 12:6). It would seem to me that the disciples, in making preparations for the Passover meal, would have been breaking a more significant regulation by slaughtering a lamb almost a day early than by eating the Passover meal a night earlier than most Jews did....At any rate, I do not see the necessity for there to have been a lamb at the Last Supper, even though it was a Passover meal. In fact, figuratively speaking, the disciples consumed the "body" and "blood" of the ultimate Passover Lamb, Jesus, when they ate the unleavened bread and drank the red wine. If anything, a roasted lamb on the table would have been an unnecessary distraction from this process, since their supreme Lamb was reclining at the table with them." (Source link: Ted Montgomery; )
Montgomery's point that lamb was likely not on the menu, because that would have defeated Jesus' purpose, as He was the sacrificial lamb to fulfill the need for any future animal sacrifices! Also, a diet of bread and wine alone would have deviated from the norm of any previous Jewish Passover tradition.

Regardless of whether the Last Supper was or was not a Passover seder, it only seems appropriate to say that Jesus' sacrifice fulfilled Passover relegating it into the shadows where it belongs. Consider this statement:
"Jesus Christ died at the Jewish feast of Passover. Jesus was a Jew. Jesus observed the Passover meal with His disciples before He was crucified. Jesus death was a fulfillment of the types and shadows in the Passover meal. God had been pointing to the sacrifice for sin that would be made by the Messiah. Jesus was that Messiah and the Passover proved that.... The Bible says that the Law was ‘only a shadow of the good things that were to come’ (Hebrews 10:1). The Old Testament has many types and shadows that pointed to the Messiah. The Feast of Passover was one of the ceremonial requirements of the Law." (Source link: Passover - The Feast Fulfilled; )
In summary, I maintain that given the critical points that I have addressed, there is no evidence to support Youxia88's assessment that Passover is the "real" Easter! Many conservative theologians are not willing to put their reputation on the line to even definitively state that the Last Supper occurred right on Passover. Most say it likely occurred a little before or a little after that. This year, Passover will be observed (by Jews) on the Monday after Easter!

Yet, even from the more liberal interpretations which assume a marriage between the Last Supper and the Passover, would it not be an insult to Jesus Christ if we were to assume that He did not "fulfill" the Passover feast with His own blood sacrifice? Jesus did just that - He fulfilled Passover and a number of other feasts (and celebrations) tied to the shadowy Old Covenant past! Today, we have Easter to celebrate for all of His sacrifice, which will allow all believers who accept Christ to be saved (Jew and/or Gentile alike)! How "antisemetic" can I be for making such a statement?

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