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Old Mar 23, '05, 4:44 pm
c_mcanall c_mcanall is offline
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Join Date: June 21, 2004
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Default When did the Last Supper take place?

I'm curious, does anyone know about the different theories on which day of the week the Last Supper took place? Recently, I heard the following theory from the Catholic Exchange "Catholic Scripture Study" for the Gospel of John:
One of the most common difficulties facing scholars is the problem of dating the Last Supper. The problem, simply stated, is that the Synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) describe the Last Supper as a Passover meal, while John does not. John tells us his Last Supper, trial and crucifixion took place on the day before Passover (cf. John 18:28; 19:14, 31, 42), while the synoptics tell us Jesus celebrated a Passover with his disciples (cf. Mk 14:12ff).

The problems here are not easily reconcilable, but there have been reasonable attempts to do so, notably by A. Jaubert in her book, The Date of the Last Supper. The argument she makes is that there was a disagreement among Jews as to the dating of Passover since some used a solar calendar and others used a lunar calendar. If we assume that Jesus observed the Passover according to this solar calendar rather than the lunar calendar used in Jerusalem, the Passover would have fallen on Wednesday and the Last Supper took place on Tuesday evening. It is interesting to note that the Syriac Fathers of the Church in their Didascalia Apostolorum said Passover was celebrated on Tuesday night by Essenes and that Christ and apostles did the same.

This, of course, runs counter to our experience of the liturgy, but the liturgy is not meant to necessarily mark off exact historical anniversaries. This is why, of course, Easter itself moves around on the calendar and why many feasts of the Church (such as Christmas, Epiphany and the Baptism of Christ are grouped on the calendar, not by anniversary, but by their theological relationship. So while we celebrate Holy Thursday, it is not required for us to believe as Catholics that the events of the Last Supper took place on Thursday night. They might well have happened on Tuesday. And indeed, the abundance of events leading up to passion (arrest, five trials before Annas, Caiaphas, Pilate, Herod, and Pilate again) suggests that the gospels are compressing events in order to relate the heart of the Passion without wasting a lot of ink on unnecessary details. If the trials of Jesus did take place in one night, it’s a great deal of activity during the hours between midnight and 7 AM. So it is at least plausible that Jesus was indeed arrested on Tuesday evening and that the five trials took place over the course of the next two days with Jesus sentenced to execution on Friday morning.

Why then doesn’t John depict his Last Supper as a Passover? Perhaps because of his priestly connections. That John had such connections is established by John himself (John 18:15) in a typically oblique self-reference. If this is the case, it may well be that John had a long habit of using the Jerusalem lunar calendar when thinking of the Passover. In any case, we know John clearly links the execution of Christ to the Jerusalem dating of the Passover, since he notes that Jesus was executed at about the same time as the Passover Lambs were slaughtered (John 19:14). So this also may help account for the differences between John and the Synoptic Tradition.
Does anyone know more about this theory or about any other theories?

For example, I'm reading the Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and Anne Catherine Emmerich describes how they actually did have the Last Supper on Thursday, a night before the Passover, but that this was a Galilean tradition, because so many people came to the city for the Passover and it was so crowded for one day. Does this idea she gives in her visions have any merit?
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Old Mar 23, '05, 5:03 pm
c_mcanall c_mcanall is offline
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Default Re: When did the Last Supper take place?

Here is the precise quote from Anne Catherine Emmerich's book. According to the visionary, Jesus is before Caiphas and the Council at this time, receiving various accusations:
Some said that he had eaten the Paschal Iamb on the previous day, which was contrary to the law, and that the year before he had made different alterations in the manner of celebrating this ceremony. But the witnesses contradicted one another to such a degree that Caiphas and his adherents found, to their very great annoyance and anger, that not one accusation could be really proved. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were called up, and being commanded to say how it happened that they had allowed him to eat the Pasch on the wrong day in a room which belonged to them, they proved from ancient documents that from time immemorial the Galileans had been allowed to eat the Pasch a day earlier than the rest of the Jews. They added that every other part of the ceremony had been performed according to the directions given in the law, and that persons belonging to the Temple were present at the supper. This quite puzzled the witnesses, and Nicodemus increased the rage of the enemies of Jesus by pointing out the passages in the archives which proved the right of the Galileans, and gave the reason for which this privilege was granted. The reason was this: the sacrifices would not have been finished by the Sabbath if the immense multitudes who congregated together for that purpose had all been obliged to perform the ceremony on the same day; and although the Galileans had not always profited by this right, yet its existence was incontestably proved by Nicodemus; and the anger of the Pharisees was heightened by his remarking that the members of the Council had cause to be greatly offended at the gross contradictions in the statements of the witnesses, and that the extraordinary and hurried manner in which the whole affair had been conducted showed that malice and envy were the sole motives which induced the accusers, and made them bring the case forward at a moment when all were busied in the preparations for the most solemn feast of the year. They looked at Nicodemus furiously, and could not reply, but continued to question the witnesses in a still more precipitate and imprudent manner. Two witnesses at last came forward, who said, ‘This man said, "I will destroy this Temple made with hands, and within three days I will build another not made with hands."’ However, even these witnesses did not agree in their statements, for one said that the accused wished to build a new Temple, and that he had eaten the Pasch in an unusual place, because he desired the destruction of the ancient Temple; but the other said, ‘Not so: the edifice where he ate the Pasch was built by human hands, therefore he could not have referred to that.’

The wrath of Caiphas was indescribable; for the cruel treatment which Jesus had suffered, his Divine patience, and the contradictions of the witnesses, were beginning to make a great impression on many persons present, a few hisses were heard, and the hearts of some were so touched that they could not silence the voice of their consciences.

Emmerich, The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Ch. VIII, p. 154-155


Last edited by c_mcanall; Mar 23, '05 at 5:19 pm. Reason: Clarification
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Old Mar 24, '05, 7:24 am
anawim anawim is offline
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Default Re: When did the Last Supper take place?

In his book, "With Jesus in Jerusalem", Fr. Bargil Pixner lays out a possible scenario that the Essenes celebrated the Passover according to the solar calendar, as opposed to the Temple which followed a lunar calendar. That would have placed the Passover Sedar on Tuesday night. That would have also been symbolic of the instruction in Leviticus on taking the lamb to be slaughtered, into your house for three days before offering it for sacrifice.
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