Christ was Crucified on Friday, the 15th of Nisan

“‘Ye know that after two days is the feast of the Passover…’  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, ‘…I will keep the Passover…’  And the disciples…  made ready the Passover.”

Mt. 26:2,17-19

“Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas 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 the Passover.”

Jn. 18:28

“And Jesus…  gave up the ghost….it was the preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath…”

Mk. 15:37,42

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Order of Contents

Introduction
Early Church
Treatises
In German
In Dutch

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Introduction

One of the most difficult questions in the New Testament is:  On what day did Jesus die?

On the one hand the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark & Luke) seem to clearly say that Jesus ate the Passover at the Last Supper (Mt. 26:2,17-19; Mk. 14:16; Lk. 22:1,7) and that He was crucified the day after the Passover (on the 15th of Nisan).  However, John uses language that might make one think that Jesus died on the Passover day itself, the 14th of Nisan (Jn. 18:28; 19:14,31).  This has appeared to some to be an irreconcilable contradiction in Scripture.

The issue is not easy, and the ground one must cover to seek to resolve the apparent discrepancy is sprawling.  If one finds a harmonization of the data in the Synoptics and John, one is still left with three possible answers:  that Christ died on either Wednesday, Thursday or Friday of the Last Week.

What day of the week one believes Christ died on will greatly affect how one understands the timing and flow of the events of Jesus’ Last Week leading up to his death.  This, of course, is of great significance for ministers preaching through the events of Jesus’ last week, which events comprise a large share of the Gospels’ history.

Despite the complexities to the issue, there has been a dominant answer to this question through Church history:¹ that Christ ate the Passover with his disciples on the evening of Thursday, the 14th of Nisan (according to Mosaic Law) and died the following day on Friday, the 15th of Nisan (the first, full, natural day of the Week of Unleavened Bread).  Christ rose again on Sunday morning, the first Lord’s Day.

¹ As reflected in the annual observance of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday by much of Church history, though we in no way approve of these traditions of men added to the worship of God prescribed in his Word.

This is the viewpoint that is expounded and defended on this webpage in vast detail.  A good and safe principle in theology that we should all heed, is to never take a minority view until one knows at least all of the reasons for the majority view.

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The Solution

As it is likely that John’s Gospel was written after the Synoptic Gospels (as was understood by the the early Church fathers), so there is a prima facie reason to accept the Synoptic chronology at face value and to believe that John’s gospel presumed this and provides supplementary material to their account.

This supplementary character of John’s Gospel explains why he omits numerous details in his account of the Last Supper (Jn. 13), and yet there can be little doubt (though some dispute this) that what he there described included the Passover (at the time it was normally held, the evening of the 14th of Nisan).  We will next go through the contested verses in John.

That night, after the Last Supper, Christ was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane.  The following morning (on the first full, natural day of the Week of Unleavened Bread, on Friday the 15th of Nisan) when Jesus was brought before Pilate, the Jewish leaders would not step foot into the Roman hall lest they be ceremonially defiled (according to their rabbinic laws) and so that later ‘they might eat the passover [πασχα].’ (Jn. 18:28, KJV)

The word ‘passover’ (πασχα) in Scripture may refer to the whole week of Unleavened Bread (Eze. 45:21; 2 Chron. 35:8,16-18 & the Greek of Acts 12:3-4).  Hence, the sacrifices which the Jewish leaders desired to eat that day (for ceremonial uncleanness could be removed in the evening) were the festival offerings connected with the first day of the Week of Unleavened Bread (Lev. 23:7-8, 37-38), which were also broadly called by the name ‘passover’ (Dt. 16:2-3; 2 Chron. 35:8,16-18).

When Jesus was crucified later that day, John says it was the ‘preparation of the passover.’ (Jn. 19:14)  There is no evidence in the Judaic writings that the day before the Passover was ever called the ‘preparation of the Passover’.  However, it is clear from the Gospel history (and Judaic writings) that the day before the Sabbath (Saturday) was called ‘the preparation’ (Mk. 15:42; compare Ex. 16:5; Mt. 27:62; Lk. 23:54 & Jn. 19:31).  As ‘passover’ may denote the whole week of Unleavened Bread (as shown above), the peculiar phrase in Jn. 19:14 denotes the preparation day (before the weekly Sabbath) in the passover week.

John 19:31 says that the day after Jesus’ death was a ‘sabbath’ and ‘that sabbath day was an high day.’  There is evidence in the Jewish writings that the Jews held the second day of the Week of Unleavened Bread to be just as high of a day as the first day of that week.  Though this was not a Biblical prescription, Scripture, as it not uncommonly does, makes reference to the language and customs commonly accepted by the society and culture it was written in.

However, we are not dependent upon extra-Biblical writings for this interpretation:  Every day of the Week of Unleavened Bread had extra sacrifices for the Temple altar in addition to those regularly prescribed (Lev. 23:8, 37-38) and the celebrants observed the additional regulations of eating only unleavened bread; hence the weekly Sabbath during the Week of Unleavened Bread, wherever it may have fallen during that week, could be considered a ‘high day’, just as much as any of the days under Josiah’s revival during the Week of Unleavened Bread (2 Chron. 35:8-18).

Thus John is in one accord with the Synoptic writers (with a remarkable accuracy of detail), and we believe the interpretation here given would have been understood by persons familiar with that early Jewish context, and by any one of a later age who knows their Bible well.  One need not go farther for the solution than what God has forever preserved in his Word (unlike many other views).

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Multiple Calendars?

The dominant view of Church history has fallen on hard times.  The Thursday view of Christ’s death has seen a great increase amongst evangelical scholars in the last number of decades.  Contemporary Thursday views often invoke the hypothetical premise, which arose in the early-1900’s, that different segments of the population in Israel in the first century (and the Gospel writers themselves) were using different calendars in observing the Passover.  Hence the apparent differences of chronology in the synoptic accounts versus John’s account.

Mt. 26:17; Mk. 14:12; Lk. 22:7 are sometimes brought forward as evidencing a variant calendar in the gospels:

“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?” Mk. 14:12

These verses may seem to be saying that the day in which Jesus ate the Last Meal was reckoned the first day of the Week of Unleavened Bread, or the 15th of Nisan (instead of them eating the Last Meal on the strict Passover date of the 14th).  However, the passover could hardly be killed on any other day than the 14th.  The Gospel writers in these verses were simply following the colloquial usage found in Scripture itself where the natural day of the 14th of Nisan is sometimes implied to be the first day of unleavened bread (Ex. 12:18-19; 13:6-7Dt. 16:2-4; Eze. 45:21; 2 Chron. 35:8,16,18), as the evening of the 14th started their not eating leavened bread.

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The Regulative Principle of Worship

Most or all of the multiple calendar theories hold that Christ celebrated the Passover with his disciples on some other evening than that of the 14th of Nisan, which Moses prescribed.  This we find to be impossible.  We hold fully and completely (unlike most scholars) to the Regulative Principle of Worship, that to worship God in any other way than which his Revealed Will prescribes is sinful.²

² See Westminster Confession of Faith, 21.1

If Jesus and his disciples celebrated the Passover at any other time than the 14th of Nisan, then they could not eat at their ‘passover’ a lamb slain in the Temple (as all parties agree that the Temple kept the Mosaic calendar).  Hence, Jesus and his disciples would be keeping the Passover in a way not prescribed by Scripture.  Further, Num. 9:13 says that anyone who does not keep the Passover at exactly God’s appointed time:

“even the same soul shall be cut off from among his people: because he brought not the offering of the Lord in his appointed season, that man shall bear his sin.”

We simply cannot admit of a theory (as many do) where Jesus breaks his own Word given in Scripture and prefers instead to follow the traditions of men, such as an alternate, conjectured calendar of the Pharisees (which we do not believe existed; the only proposed data for it is the data in the Gospels themselves).  Any theory where Christ does not “offer unto the Lord, as it is written in the book of Moses” (2 Chron. 35:12) in obedience to the Lord, fulfilling the Law for us, ought to be thrown out as unworthy of our Savior.

Without the Regulative Principle of Worship, upon the supposition that it is perfectly fine for Jesus to worship God in the celebration of the Passover in some other manner than what God’s Word says, according to whatever human contrivance, so many views are left possible that it is doubtful that one view could ever be certainly determined upon.  With the Regulative Principle of Worship,¹ so many contrived views that go against it may be safely discarded, that with the other circumstantial and chronological indicators mentioned in the texts, one may safely, naturally and surely come to a correct understanding of what transpired as Christ went to the cross.

¹ “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments” – Ps. 111:10

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Linking the Biblical Calendar to the Day of the Week

While it can be shown with the Regulative Principle of Worship that Christ must necessarily have eaten the Passover according to the Mosaic Law on the 14th of Nisan² and died on the day following, the 15th, how can it be shown definitively that the 15th of Nisan that year was on Friday?

² That the synoptic accounts and even John describe Jesus eating some other meal than the Passover (possibly on the 13th of Nisan) we find to go against the whole warp and woof of those texts.

This is a significant question.  We are able to know the dates and days of the year in Christ’s time through astronomy and reckoning backwards from Western calendars (even though this is not as water-tight as one might like).  However, we are not able to trace the Jewish calendar according to exact days back to Christ’s time, due to the gap and many changes between the Biblical Jewish calendar and the modified Jewish calendars that arose in the several centuries after Christ.  Any attempt to argue exact Jewish calendar dates during the time of Christ from later Jewish calendars is necessarily conjectural (and more than likely wrong).  The only certain information we have for the Jewish calendar during the time of Christ is found in Scripture itself.

Fortunately Scripture gives us the answer.  Mt. 27:62 says that the day Jesus died was the ‘day of the preparation’ and that the day following, “the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate” to persuade him to set a guard around the tomb.  As the phrase ‘day of preparation’ has only one confirmed meaning (the preparatory day before the weekly Sabbath: compare Mk. 15:42 with Mk. 16:1-2 & Lk. 23:56, despite other proposed meanings for the phrase), so the day following on which the Pharisees came to Pilate was the weekly Sabbath, Saturday.³

³ The resources below show how the Pharisees would have had no objection to doing this ‘necessary’ work on the Sabbath, just as they had no problem apprehending and condemning Jesus to death on the Passover and the first day of Unleavened Bread.

Hence, when Mk.16:1-2 says that ‘when the sabbath was past’ the women came to anoint Christ’s body at the tomb ‘very early in the morning the first day of the week’, the ‘sabbath’ must refer to the 7th day of the week, which was Saturday, the weekly sabbath.†  Early in the morning on the first day of the week, after ‘the Sabbath was past’,‡ Christ rose from the dead.

† As opposed to the ‘sabbath’ referring to one of the numerous prescribed festival days, such days being termed termed ‘sabbaths’ in Lev. 23:24,32,39-39.

We hermeneutically cannot allow that Mk. 15:42 & 16:1-2 refer to different sabbaths in such short compass, especially with the further confirmatory context of the other gospel accounts.

‡ That the timing of this was in fact in the early morning on the first natural day of the week, and not on Sat. evening, see pp. 75-77 of Fentiman, ‘The Biblical Sabbath is from Dawn to Dawn’.

There are no gaps in this chronology from Christ’s death on the day before the weekly Sabbath to his rising again the day after the weekly Sabbath.  Therefore, if Christ must have eaten the Passover at the time the Mosaic Law prescribed, and He died the following day (which was the day before the weekly Sabbath), then Jesus ate the Passover on Thursday, the 14th of Nisan, and was crucified on Friday the 15th of Nisan.

The Scriptural answer for the chronology of Jesus’ Last Week does not depend on, nor can it be affected by the latest (or future) calendrical considerations of scholars which are external to Scripture.  One does not need to be an expert in the complicated field of ancient calendrical studies, or even a sage in rabbinical lore, to know what day of the week Christ died; one only needs a good grasp of what saith the Lord.

“I have more understanding than all my teachers:
for thy testimonies are my meditation;
I understand more than the ancients,
because I keep thy precepts.”

Ps. 119:99-100

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An Answer to an Objection

Sometimes the objection is raised to the traditional view that it posits the women buying and preparing spices (Mk. 16:1-2Lk. 23:56; c.f. Jn. 19:39-40), and Joseph of Arimathaea buying fine linen (Mk. 15:46) for Jesus’s embalming, on Friday, the 15th of Nisan; yet the 15th of Nisan was the first, full, natural day of Unleavened Bread and was counted, with the other major festival days, to be a ‘sabbath’ (Lev. 23:7, 37-38) in which persons were not to do any ‘servile work’ (Lev. 23:7; Num. 28:17-18; c.f. Ex. 12:16).

If this consideration were insurmountable, it is a wonder that it did not convince the majority of Church history for more than 1900 years; and, chances are, the objection has already been fully answered.

While Scripture forbids any and all manner of ‘work’ (unqualified), all buying and selling, and all worldly thoughts and pleasures on the moral, weekly Sabbath (Ex. 20:9-10; Lev. 23:3; Neh. 13:15-22; Isa. 58:13-14; though works of necessity and charity are excepted), yet on the other major Old Testament festival days, only ‘servile work’ was prohibited (Lev. 23:7; Num. 28:17-18).  The mandated rest of the festival days was less restrictive than that for the moral, weekly, sabbath.  Keil & Delitzsch expound this Biblical distinction (Commentary on Lev. 23:5-14):

“[‘Servile work’] עבדה מלאכת , occupation of a work, signifies labor at some definite occupation, e.g., the building of the tabernacle, Ex. 35:2436:1,3; hence occupation in connection with trade or one’s social calling, such as agriculture, handicraft, and so forth;

whilst מלאכה [‘work’] is the performance of any kind of work, e.g., kindling fire for cooking food (Ex. 35:2-3).  On the Sabbath and the day of atonement every kind of civil work was prohibited, even to the kindling of fire for the purpose of cooking (Lev. 23:33031, cf. Ex. 20:1031:1435:2-3Dt. 5:14 and Lev. 16:29Num. 29:7); on the other feast-days with a holy convocation, only servile work (Lev. 23:7,8,21,25,35,36… and Num. 28:1825-2629:1,12,35).”

It is true that in the original statute in Ex. 12:16 for the first and last days of the Week of Unleavened Bread, “no manner of work shall be done in them, save that which every man must eat, that only may be done of you.”  However, this much-less qualified prohibition of work must be understood as later expounded in Lev. 23 and other places in Scripture by the phrase ‘servile work’.  ‘Servile work’ expressly did not include the preparation of food and likely some other ordinary duties, as well as necessary extraordinary duties.

The rabbis of old understood these Biblical distinctions.  Alfred Edersheim comments (The Temple, appendix, pp. 347-8):

“…it should be remembered, that the rigor of the festive [days] was not like that of the Sabbatic rest; that there were means of really buying such a cloth without doing it in express terms (an evasion known to Rabbinical law); and lastly, that there must have been some provision for the most needful offices to the dead in a country where burial cannot be delayed as in colder latitudes.”

Norval Geldenhuys provides more relevant detail in his commentary on Luke (New International Commentary on the New Testament, Eerdmans, 1983), in his excursus, ‘The Day and Date of the Crucifixion’ (p. 669):

“The following excerpt from a rabbinical pronouncement of about the time of Christ is quoted by Stack-Billerbeck [a standard, scholarly source]: ‘Everything necessary for a dead person may be carried out (on a Feast Day).’ (Kommentar zum Neuen Testament, vol. ii, p. 833)

On such a day, therefore, a corpse could be attended to, though it was not permitted to dig a grave.  And-the Gospels expressly state that Jesus was placed in a sepulchre that had already been hewn out! [Mt. 27:60; Mk. 15:46; Lk. 23:53]”

These undesigned harmonizations of the details of the circumstances surrounding the events leading to Christ’s death remarkably testify to the accuracy, truthfulness and independency(!) of the uncontrived Gospel accounts and greatly confirm the Scriptural and traditional position that Christ died on Friday, the 15th of Nisan.

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Where to Go Next?

We have only touched on some of the leading points involved in this thorny topic; there is much more to consider. In order to be faithful like the Bereans and to search the Scriptures to see if these things are so (Acts 17:10-11), we recommend starting with reading:

pp. 78-83 of ‘The Biblical Sabbath is from Dawn to Dawn’  by Travis Fentiman

The arguments there given, briefly defending the majority Church history view of Christ’s death on Friday, are largely aimed against the Wednesday view (which claims as its stake in the ground a ‘literal’ interpretation of the ‘three days and three nights’ of Mt. 12:40).º

º The perspective and arguments delineated in the stated pages of the article do not necessarily tie one to the larger thesis of the article, that the Biblical Sabbath has always started with dawn in the morning.

Next, we recommend consulting the relevant Scriptures in the best ‘life and times of Jesus’ volume ever produced, that of Alfred Edersheim.  Edersheim (1825-1889) was raised was raised an orthodox Jew, became a Christian under the influence of John ‘Rabbi’ Duncan, and entered the ministry in the Free Church of Scotland.  Later he became a scholar in the Anglican Church.  He held to the full plenary inspiration of the Scriptures.

The Life & Times of Jesus the Messiah (1883; Longmans, Green & Co., 1912), vol. 2

Ch. 14, ‘The Morning of Good Friday’, on Jn. 18:28, pp. 566-568

Ch. 15, ‘Crucified, Dead & Buried’

On Jn. 19:14, p. 616, footnote 3

On Jn. 19:31, p. 613

The most full and scholarly, modern defense in English of the dominant Church history view that we have come across so far is:

Geldenhuys, Norval – ‘Excursus: the Day & Date of the Crucifixion’  an appendix in Commentary on the Gospel of Luke  Buy  (Eerdmans, 1983), pp. 649-670  in The New International Commentary on the New Testament

Specifically, Geldenhuys, with clarity and a depth of detail, demonstrates the insoluble problems with the multiple-calendar theories of the last century.

While that will be plenty to convince one’s conscience of the rightness of the view here presented, if one desires more, the most standard, detailed and scholarly exposition and defense of the dominant position of Church history is found in German, in Karl Wieseler’s 1800’s work linked below.

While a few of the resources below may be appropriate for the astute beginner (such as the commentaries of J.C. Ryle, D.A. Carson & Herman Ridderbos), most of the resource on this webpage are at the moderate or advanced levels.  We don’t mess around.

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Conclusion & the Spiritual Meaning
of the Temporal Sequence of Events related to Christ’s Death

We hope the resources below will be a bulwark for the certainty of your faith regarding the Scriptural teaching that Christ held the Passover meal on the Thursday of the Last Week, the 14th of Nisan, as Scripture prescribed, and that He was crucified on Friday afternoon, the 15th of Nisan, the first, full, natural day of the Week of Unleavened Bread.

Christ’s death occurred at the same time as the evening festive offerings on the first day of Unleavened Bread, which were sacrificed to God in the physical Temple at 3 pm in the afternoon.  While this has some significance, we do not believe that this specific circumstantial occurrence with the physical rites of the Temple is what Christ’s death primarily speaks to.

While the viewpoint that holds that Christ died on the 14th of Nisan exactly when the Passover sacrifice was offered finds great meaning in their proposed synchronization of events, we do not find that this is tenable or the correct spiritual emphasis.  While it is true that Passover spiritually spoke of Christ’s death as the lamb of God slain for us (1 Cor. 5:7), yet Christ’s death on Friday was not so much a confirming of the animal Passover sacrifice, as his death did not occur at the same time as the slaying of the Passover lambs and as the Old Testament system of the Passover had been completed and put away the previous evening.

At the Last Passover on Thursday, Christ likely had offered a paschal lamb to be slain by the priest in the Temple, He being the head of his group of disciples.†  With the Old Testament animal sacrifices coming to a culmination with this animal sacrifice offered by the Son of God, the Old Testament sacrifices (in conjunction with Christ’s death) naturally came to their spiritual expiration and cessation.

† So Edersheim and other commentators.  This is the only indirect evidence we have in Scripture of Christ offering an animal sacrifice.  No doubt it was done with faith in the symbolic shadows of the outward ritual and in preparation for his own Sacrifice of which it spoke.

After Christ and his disciples ate the passover on Thursday evening (Lk. 22:20), completing and putting away what was old, Christ instituted something new: the Lord’s Supper.  Christ taught that the foundation of the Lord’s Supper was his death for his people, to bring them into union and spiritual fellowship with Himself (1 Cor. 10:16):

“This is my body which is given for you…
This cup is the new testament in my blood,
which is shed for you.”

Lk. 22:19-20

This foundation Christ would lay the immediately following day with the eternal sacrifice of Himself for those whom He has dearly loved and calls his own.  In accord with the Scriptural pattern and reformed theology, God, in his kind wisdom, gives his explanatory Word before the event.

Thus, the main significance of Christ’s death lays not in the outward physical ceremonies that it temporally coincided with, or with the Old Testament Passover, but rather it lays more foundationally with the new Word of promise Christ gave to his people on the Thursday, the night before, which meaning of his death is sealed to us in the Lord’s Supper till He comes again.

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Early Church

Riddle, J.E. – ‘§5. Of Annual Festivals’, p. 655, footnote 7  in A Manual of Christian Antiquities, Particularly during the Third, Fourth and Fifth Centuries  1843

Riddle was an Oxford scholar.

Gieseler, John – pp. 178-180  of A Compendium of Ecclesiastical History, vol. 1  (Edinburgh, 1854)

Gieseler (1792–1854) was a German historian.  He copiously references sources and authorities and quotes original documents in full in the footnotes.

“Profoundly learned, acute, calm, impartial, conscientious, but cold and dry.” – Philip Schaff

“It is generally considered the best of all the text-books on church history.” – J.A. Fisher

Milligan, William – The Easter Controversies of the Second Century in their Relation to the Gospel of St. John  in Contemporary Review  (Sept, 1867), pp. 101-118

Luthardt, Christoph Ernst – ‘Ch. 6, The Passover Controversy’  in St. John the Author of the Fourth Gospel  (Edinburgh, 1875), pp. 154-165

Luthardt (1823–1902) was an orthodox, Lutheran, German professor in Leipzig.

McClintock & Strong

 Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature (NY, 1880)

‘Quartodecimani’

‘Paschal Controversy’

In the first paragraph of the article immediately above the author offers a solution to the Biblical issue which we find to be unsatisfactory, as the Talmudic rabbinic calendar upon which the solution relies, cannot be shown to have been current at the time of Christ.  The rest of the article surveys the Early Church on the issue.

Stanton, Vincent Henry – ‘(5) Quartodecimanism’  in The Gospels as Historical Documents, Pt. 1, The Early Use of the Gospels  (Cambridge, 1903), pp. 173-197

Schaff, Philip – ‘§61. The Christian Passover. (Easter).’ & ‘§62. The Paschal Controversies.’  in History of the Christian Church, vol. 2, Ante-Nicene Christianity.  A.D. 100-325.  (NY, 1914)

Schaff includes references to the main primary and secondary literature on the subject.

Zahn, Theodore – pp. 273-278  of vol. 3, ch. 10, section 67, ‘The Relation of the Fourth Gospel to the Earlier Gospels’  in Introduction to the New Testament  trans. from the 3rd German edition, 3 vols. in One (New York, 1917)

Zahn’s work is one of the major, older, conservative, advanced New Testament Introductions.  Zahn (1838–1933) was a German, Lutheran scholar.

Zahn surveys how a dispute first arose regarding the chronological issues related to Christ’s death (which in some ways parallels the modern issues) in the second half of the 2nd Century.  The dominant perspective at that time and after was that Christ celebrated the Passover according to the Law on the 14th of Nisan, and was crucified on Friday.

As many of these Christians and churches celebrated the Lord’s Supper on the evening of the 14th of Nisan in place of the Passover, with a fast day before it (an observance which is absent from the rule of Scripture and is not recommended), they were known as Quartodecimanians (‘quartodecim’ means ’14’). 

Only as a rare exception did persons advocate, upon the grounds of Jn. 18:28, that the Last Supper in John 13 was not the Passover meal, but was held on the 13th of Nisan and that Christ was crucified on the 14th of Nisan at the time of the slaying of the Passover Sacrifices.  These persons were known as Anti-Quartodecimanians.  Not every conjecture of Zahn’s about the early Church is endorsed.

Richardson, Cyril C. – ‘The Quartodecimans and the Synoptic Chronology’  in The Harvard Theological Review, vol. 33, No. 3 (Jul., 1940), pp. 177-190

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Treatises

1600’s

Hutcheson, George – Exposition of John 13:2  Buy  1657

The Scottish covenanter Hutcheson affirms that Christ kept the Passover on Thursday evening, the 14th of Nisan according to a strict keeping of God’s Law, though he takes the unique view (not entirely recommended) that the Jewish leaders in Jn. 18:28 deferred their partaking of the Passover till the day following in accordance with a Babylonian, Jewish tradition respecting the conjunction of two festival days of rest following one after the other.  For more on that curious, man-made Jewish tradition (though it is not clear that it was taking place in Jerusalem), see Lightfoot below on Mk. 14:12.

Lightfoot, John

Commentary from the Talmud and Hebraica

On Matthew 12, verse 40

On Mark 14, verse 12

On John 18, verse 28

On John 19, verse 31

Lightfoot was a mid-1600’s reformed divine who was invited to the Westminster Assembly.  He mined the Jewish writings for anything and everything that may be of help in understanding the New Testament.  Here are his results.

‘Christ’s Arraignment Before Pilate’  in Harmony, Chronicle and Order of the New Testament, p. 265  in the Works of Lightfoot in 2 vols., vol. 1  1654

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1700’s

Gill, John

Commentary on the Whole Bible

On John 18, verse 28

On John 19, vv. 14 & 31

John Gill was a Calvinistic baptist, especially well read in the rabbinic writings which he commonly brings out.

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1800’s

Robinson, Edward – Part 8, pp. 213-224  of A Harmony of the Four Gospels in Greek (Boston, 1845)

On the English version of this work:  ***  “Robinson’s Harmony is a work which has met with great acceptance, and the Tract Society did well to bring out this work for those unacquainted with Greek.  The notes are mainly those of Robinson; but Wieseler, Greswell, and others have also been laid under contribution by the Editor, who has executed his work well.” – Charles Spurgeon

Tholuck, August – Commentary on John 13:1-3, pp. 302-319  (Philadelphia, 1859)

Tholuck (1799–1877) was a German, Protestant theologian.

***  “More spiritual than is usual with German theologians, and quite as scholarly as the best of them.” – Charles Spurgeon

Hengstenberg, E.W.

Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, vol. 2 (Edinburgh, 1865)

On Jn. 13:1, pp. 135-137

On Jn. 18:28, pp. 365-371

On Jn. 19:14, pp. 400-405

On Jn. 19:31, pp. 423-424

Hengstenberg (1802–1869) was a conservative German scholar.

“The author is fully conscious of his own weakness; but he has striven earnestly, with a firm faith in the Word of God, as granted him through Divine grace, to penetrate deeply into the meaning of this important part of it…” – Preface

**  “Like others of this author’s works: solid, but dry.” – Charles Spurgeon

Edersheim, Alfred

‘Did the Lord Institute his ‘Supper’ on Paschal Night?’ in The Temple: its Ministry and Services as they were at the Time of Christ (London, 1874), pp. 341-351  This appendix is not in every edition of this book, though it is in the commonly reprinted edition by Hendrickson.

Edersheim (1825-1889) was raised an orthodox Jew, became converted to Christ partially through the influence of John ‘Rabbi’ Duncan and entered into the ministry of the Free Church of Scotland.  Later he would join the Church of England, becoming one of the premier scholars of his time on 1st century studies.

Edersheim here argues against Dean F.W. Farrar, who put up one of the most coherent arguments for an alternative theory, though Farrar’s theory was premised upon the supposition that the Synoptic writers were mistaken in their chronology.  Edersheim, at the end, affirms his commitment to the plenary inspiration of Scripture.

Life & Times of Jesus the Messiah (1883; Longmans, Green & Co., 1912), vol. 2

Ch. 14, ‘The Morning of Good Friday’, on Jn. 18:28, pp. 566-568

Ch. 15, ‘Crucified, Dead & Buried’

on Jn. 19:14, p. 616, footnote 3

on Jn. 19:31, p. 613

Edershiem spent 7 years in seclusion writing this work; it is by far and away the best orthodox ‘Life and Times of Christ’ that there is.  Read it cover to cover!  

Smith, David – Appendices: ‘6. Chronology of the Passion Week’ & ‘8. The Day of the Crucifixion’  in The Days of his Flesh  (Hodder & Stoughton, 1914), pp. 533-540

Andrews, Samuel James – ‘Date of the Lord’s Death’  in Chronological Essays & ‘Thursday, 6th of April, 14th of Nisan, 783, A.D. 30’ & ‘Friday, 15th Nisan, 7th April, 783, A.D. 30’  in The Life of our Lord upon the Earth (New York, 1863), pp. 35-44 & 423-569

Andrews (1817-1906) was a congregationalist and Irvingite divine in New England.

The work “assumes that they [the Biblical texts] are genuine historical documents, and true statements of facts; and deals with them as such.” – Preface

***  “A good book for a student to read through before taking up larger works.  It is a standard work.” – Charles Spurgeon

Lange, John Peter

Commentary on the Whole Bible

On Mt. 26, Introduction

On Luke 22, verse 7

On John, ch. 18, verse 28

***  “I am not so enamored of the German writers as certain of my brethren appear to be, for they are generally cold and hard, and unspiritual… I do, however, greatly prize the series lately produced under the presidency of Dr. Lange.” – Charles Spurgeon

Notes 1-3  to Part 7, Section 1  of The Life of the Lord Jesus Christ, vol. 3  1864

Ryle, J.C. – Commentary on John 18:28  1878

Ryle (1816–1900) was an evangelical Anglican who wrote many first-rate practical and devotional works.

***  “We prize these volumes.  They are diffuse, but not more so than family reading requires.  Mr. Ryle has evidently studied all previous writers upon the Gospels, and has given forth an individual utterance of considerable value.” – Charles Spurgeon

Luthardt, Christoph

Commentary on John, vol. 3 (Edinburgh, 1878)

On Jn. 18:28, pp. 243-252

On Jn. 19:14, pp. 274-75

On Jn. 19:31, p. 299

Luthardt (1823–1902) was an orthodox, Lutheran, German professor in Leipzig.

McClintock & Strong – ‘V. Christ’s last Passover.’  in Passover  in Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature (NY, 1880)  The relevant section is about half way down on the webpage.

While the author in his survey gives a critique of the view argued for on this webpage, we do not find his criticisms to be incontrovertible or to overturn the view presented on this webpage.  The survey is so full of helpful information on the subject that it has been included here as eminently valuable.

Godet, John

Commentary on John (New York, 1893)

On John 18:28

On John 19:14, pp. 378-9

On John 19:31, pp. 390-391

Godet (1812-1900) has many good things to say, though be aware that he took the view that John was right in his chronology and the Synoptic Gospels erred (so says Luthardt, p. 245).

Broadus, John – Commentary on Mt. 26, verse 19

Broadus (1827–1895) was an American, Southern, Baptist.  This is one of the best commentaries on Matthew.

“A singularly helpful exposition based upon careful exegesis and containing practical applications of the text which will be of help to preachers.  Amillennial.” – Cyril J. Barber

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1900’s

Zahn, Theodore

Vol. 3, ch. 10, section 67, ‘The Relation of the Fourth Gospel to the Earlier Gospels’, pp. 273-283  in Introduction to the New Testament  trans. from the 3rd German edition, 3 vols. in One (New York, 1917)

Zahn’s work is one of the major, older, conservative, advanced New Testament Introductions.  Zahn (1838–1933) was a German, Lutheran scholar.

Geldenhuys, Norval – ‘Excursus: the Day & Date of the Crucifixion’  an appendix in Commentary on the Gospel of Luke  Buy  (Eerdmans, 1983), pp. 649-670  in The New International Commentary on the New Testament

About the best modern, scholarly treatment of the topic; thoroughly digested and detailed.  Thoroughly demonstrates the insoluble problems with the relatively recent theories of multiple calendars in the Gospels.

Carson, D.A. – ‘A. The Last Supper (13:1-30)’  in The Gospel According to John (Eerdmans/Apollos, 1991), pp. 455-458

Ridderbos, Herman – ’13:2-38, The Final Meal’, pp. 454-457  in A Theological Commentary on the Gospel of John  Buy  (Eerdmans, 1997)

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In German

Treatises

Wieseler, Karl – Fifth Section, pp. 333-415  in Chronological Synopsis of the Four Gospels  (Hamburg, 1843)

“The masterly disquisition of the whole discussion by Wieseler, to show that St. John, like the synoptists, places the date of the crucifixion on the 15th Nisan, and hence that of the Last Supper on the evening of the 14th.” – Edersheim, p. 349

“The eating of the passover [by the Jewish leaders in Jn. 18:28] denotes the eating of the Khagiga [the festival sacrifices]; the παρασκευή [preparation] in John denotes the day of preparation for the Sabbath, the regular Friday as Sabbath-eve,—not the preparation-day previous to the first day of the passover (Wieseler, Tholuck and others)…  The most learned defence is given by Wieseler in his Chronol. Synops, pp 333 ff. and in Herzog’s Encycl. [(Gotha, 1866)], art. Zeitrechnung, vol. xxi. p. 550 ff.” – Lange, on Jn. 18:28

Schurer, Emil – pp. 182-284 of The Journal of Historical Theology (1870)

“The literature of this question is extended, and the views of it are exceedingly various; but after the comprehensive and in many respects conclusive treatise by Schurer, we can be short about it.  Besides, the literature is given so fully in that treatise that we need simply refer to it.” – Luthardt, John the Author of the Fourth Gospel, p. 154

“For surveys of the earlier literature I may refer the reader to Schurer’s De Controversiis Paschalibus, 1869, which with some emendations, was published in German in Zeitschr. fur d. hist. Theol., 1870, pp. 182-284…  The distinctive value of Schurer’s work , which still seems to me one of the best treatments of the subject, lies in the fact that he urged the same thesis without the Tubingen bias.  He was followed by Luthardt… and by Stanton…  The main point that these authors stressed was that the Quartodeciman observance celebrated the divine redemption typified by the ancient Passover, which the Lord had eaten on the night before the Passion.” – Cyril Richardson, ‘The Quartodecimans’, p. 177

Keil, C.F. – Commentary on the Gospel of John  (Leipzig, 1881)

Keil (1807-1888) was a conservative German, Lutheran Bible scholar, known for his commentary with Franz Delitzsch on the Old Testament.

Zahn, Theodore

Commentary on the New Testament

vol. 1, on Matthew  1905
vol. 2, on Mark  1910
vol. 3, on Luke  1913
vol. 4, on John  n.d.

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Bibliography

Luthardt, Christoph – Commentary on Jn. 13:1, p. 66, footnote 1

Luthardt (1823–1902) was an orthodox, Lutheran, German professor in Leipzig.

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In Dutch

Ubbink, J. Th. – Het Evangelie van Johannes  Ref  (Nijkerk, 1948)

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“And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, ‘Behold your King!'”

Jn. 19:14

“The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon 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.”

Jn. 19:31

“Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate,”

Mt. 27:62

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Related Pages

Harmonies of the Gospels

Commentaries on the Four Gospels

New Testament Background, Survey, Authenticity & Introduction

Bible Chronology

The Synoptic Question

Dictionaries & Encyclopedias: Biblical, Theological, Church History & Religious

Life & Times of Jesus