Question about the Passover meal and the Eucharist


Ok, guys this is going to be a really long and complicated question so please bear with me, because I need your wisdom :wink:

To my knowledge, at Passover meals for the Jewish people four cups were taken…

  1. Cup of blessing of the festival day
  2. Cup at the beginning of the Passover liturgy
  3. Cup of the actual Passover meal with the unleavened bread
  4. Cup of celebration and finishing of the Passover… sort of the climax of the whole Passover (this cup would be taken after the singing of the psalms)

At the last supper, Jesus and his apostles take the first two cups. Then for the third cup (the actual meal), Jesus institutes the Eucharist when he consecrates the bread and wine into His Body and Blood. But after the celebration of the Eucharist, Jesus says according to Matthew’s Gospel, "I tell you, from now on I shall not drink this fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it with you new in the kingdom of my Father.” This would have been very unusual to do at Passover and probably left the apostles wondering why Jesus ended the meal before taking the fourth cup. It would be like ending mass without celebrating the Eucharist. So then Jesus went into the garden to pray and prayed, “Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will” (Mark 14:36). Then skip ahead a while later to where Jesus is on the cross… After this, aware that everything was now finished, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I thirst.” There was a vessel filled with common wine. So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop and put it up to his mouth. When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, “It is finished.” And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit (John 19:28-30). So what I am thinking is that when Jesus said, "I tell you, from now on I shall not drink this fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it with you new in the kingdom of my Father.” is that He meant that He would not celebrate the Eucharist again until He was resurrected from the dead and in His Father’s kingdom (with his apostles and disciples… the church… the new kingdom), which he did on the road to Emmaus and on the shore with His apostles. And I am also thinking that the fourth cup was Chirst’s suffering from after the celebration of the Eucharist to His death. And that the wine Jesus took on the cross was not what he was talking about in Matthew 26:29 (consecrated wine), but rather was the fulfillment of the scriptures, the fourth cup for the Passover meal, and was also to show that the Passover sacrifice was finished and the new kingdom of God had come to the world by His redeeming work.

So I guess my question is if you guys agree with this at all? I would love to hear someone else’s opinion on this matter. Any insight, comments, questions, and/or corrections would be very appreciated! Thanks for taking the time to read through this long thing! :smiley:

P.S. - The last supper passages from the synoptic Gospels are below for reference and study for anyone answering the question or just looking. :slight_smile:

Matthew 26:26-30

The Lord’s Supper.
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, “Take and eat; this is my body.”
Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you,
l for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.
I tell you, from now on I shall not drink this fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it with you new in the kingdom of my Father.”
Then, after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

**Luke 22:14-20
The Last Supper.
When the hour came, he took his place at table with the apostles.
He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer,
for, I tell you, I shall not eat it [again] until there is fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”
Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and said, “Take this and share it among yourselves;
for I tell you [that] from this time on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”
Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.”
And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you."

**Mark 14:22-26
The Lord’s Supper.
While they were eating,f he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is my body.”
Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it.
He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.
Amen, I say to you, I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”
Then, after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.


Ok, I did the homework and gathered some info besides learning a few things.

Here is my share.


In the Gospel, Jesus proclaims that the bread that he will give bestows eternal life. The ancestors of Israel ate the manna in the desert, but still died. Jesus can give the gift of eternal life because he has received life from the Father. During the Last Supper, Jesus fulfills the Jewish Passover, anticipates the new Passover, his death and Resurrection, which is celebrated in the Eucharist, and also “anticipates the final Passover of the Church in the glory of the kingdom” (CCC, 1340). Through the Eucharist, we participate in Christ’s sacrifice. It is a sacrificial death that gives life.

The fourth cup was drunk after singing the Hallel Psalms and was called the cup of praise. This final cup was drunk by Christ on the Cross. “By waiting to drink the fourth cup of the Passover until the very moment of his death, Jesus united the Last Supper to his death on the cross. By refusing to drink of the fruit of the vine until he gave up his final breath, he joined the offering of himself under the form of bread and wine to the offering of himself on Calvary” (B. Pitre, Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist, Doubleday, 169).

From the CatholicQuarter blog:

Delving into the New Testament, we find that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ upheld this long given tradition. If we look closely, we see that the time of Passover fell on the day of the Last Supper. Coincidence? Not exactly. We see Christ, mind you that He was a devout Jew, fulfilling all the laws given to the Jews by our Father. At the Last Supper, we see a breaking of unleavened bread, but a key component is missing in the meal. The Passover Lamb. We understand Christ to be the Lamb, for not only did St. John through divine revelation see Jesus, saying that He was the Lamb that would pay for the sin of the world [Jn 1:29], but also we understand Jesus to do His Father’s will. For Jesus had not been sent on His own accord, but on that of the Father’s; to accomplish all that the Father had given, including the feast of Passover. Back to the Last Supper. Christ is the Lamb of God Whose blood would expiate all the sin of the world. But for this sacrifice of Passover [which is one in the same with the sacrifice of Calvary], the Lamb had to be eaten. As we read on, Christ promulgates in John 6the literal consumption of His Flesh and Blood. As a result, we see that many of His disciples had told Jesus it was too hard to accept and abandoned Him [Jn 6:60, 66]. Interesting enough, nowhere in scripture did Christ use a parable or metaphor and not explain its true meaning. John 6 begged reasoning, and Christ could only commit to truth, that His Flesh set on the Cross of Calvary and the bread and Blood of life are one in the same. Even more interesting is that nowhere in scripture save John 6 do we find Christ abandoned due to doctrinal issues.

From a non-theologian:

The Last Supper is often seen as a Passover meal, though there are arguments against this (i.e., Pope Benedict XVI gave good arguments that the Last Supper was the evening meal that occurred immediately before the first day of Passover, which lasts eight days; for example, in John 19:31 we hear “[s]ince it was the day of Preparation, in order to prevent the bodies from remaining on the cross on the sabbath (for that sabbath was a high day),” the legs of those being executed should be broken so that they might die). It is interesting that Judas drank the second cup (judgment) but left the table before the third cup (redemption), whereas Jesus drank the third cup (and here I am assuming specific times in the celebration), but left before the last cup, which is often called the Cup of Elijah, after a part of the seder when a young child opens the door to allow the Prophet to enter.

Elijah plays several prominent parts in the New Testament. He is there at the Transfiguration, representing the Prophets along with Moses, who represents the Law. He is mentioned while Christ recites the 22nd Psalm while on the Cross, when the people misunderstand the first words, “Eli Eli lama sabachthani” to be calling for Elijah. Elijah is the only man mentioned in the Old Testament who is spared death, but ascends into heaven on a chariot. He is to come again to announce the coming of the Messiah at the end of days.

So, if Jesus leaves the meal for Gethsemane after the third cup and before the opening of the door for Elijah, before the fourth cup, the Cup of Elijah, it is for a very good reason: the Messiah is not to come; the Messiah has come.

When Jesus arrives at Gethsemane, he prays to the Father that the cup may pass from him. Could this cup be the fourth cup? If so, Jesus’ actions mean more than asking for a stay of execution; it means a reprieve from Messiahship.

But the Father greatly honored him, perhaps best said in Luke 24:5, when, after the Sabbath, the women came to the tomb to attend to Jesus and found the tomb empty. There they were confronted by two men in dazzling apparel, who asked them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”


Being a Roman Catholic of Sephardic Jew ancestry, I observe a Seder each Passover. Seder meals have changed over the centuries and even current Haggadahs differ. The introduction of the four cups of wine (according to some Jewish scholars) could even have been a late invention and even the number of cups has and is currently changing, even though as Jews we attribute it’s connections to Torah (Exodus 6:6-8).

The meanings attributed to the four cups may thus have changed over history, and these meanings are how the cups of wine are employed can differ between the way an Ashkenazi Jew holds a Passover Seder and a Sephardi Jew might.

So while what you have gleaned can be one way of looking at things, it can by no means be said to be all-encompassing. I do have to say that your explanation is quite impressive nevertheless.

I only have one more thing to add, and this is the instruction from the USCCB about how we should view the current meaning of the Passover Seder. While explaining that Catholics who are not Jewish may hold such a meal, the following about the integrity of its meaning was added:

When Christians celebrate this sacred feast among themselves, the rites of the haggadah for the Seder should be respected in all their integrity. The Seder . . . should be celebrated in a dignified manner and with sensitivity to those to whom the Seder truly belongs. The primary reason why Christians may celebrate the festival of Passover should be to acknowledge common roots in the history of salvation. Any sense of “restaging” the Last Supper of the Lord Jesus should be avoided… The rites of the Triduum are the [Church’s] annual memorial of the events of Jesus’ dying and rising.–God’s Mercy Endures Forever: Guidelines on the Presentation of Jews and Judaism in Catholic Preaching, no. 28, italics added.



Oh haha, you can thank Dr. Scott Hahn for most of that:


The only real source for Jewish ritual in the 1st century A.D. is Josephus. Interpolating down from the Talmud- written hundreds of years later and after two hugely dislocative Jewish revolts- is a dicey proposition.


I think Dr. Hahn may have gotten the fourth cup idea from Cardinal de Lubac. Hahn has popularized the theory through his books and talks, but it’s not without its critics. See, e.g., some remarks by Fr. Nathan O’Halloran, S.J.


There is zero evidence supporting the notion that Jewish custom called for four cups of to be consumed at Passover celebrations at the time of Jesus. The oldest Haggadah we have “only” dates back to the 10th century, but that’s still 800-900 years after Jesus. The consumption of wine plays no part in the Israelite law surrounding Passover observance.

Sadly, people like Scott Hahn and Brant Pitre have made a cottage industry out of taking centuries-later Jewish writings and attempting to retroject them back to the time of Jesus. NO responsible scholar would do this without very clearly telling you that that’s what they are doing and that the whole construction is extremely speculative.


does anybody have a rebuttal to this?


Just read this link. It is interesting. The thing that must ring true for Hahn’s theory to be correct is that they were actually having a passover meal that was suppose to have four cups of wine. Do any of the gospels mention passing around the wine three times of is this inferred?

Now onto my thoughts on the link:

First, as Kavin Rowe explains, “[The Gospel of] John is made [by Pitre] to complete a synoptic narrative from which it (deliberately) departs.” Even back as a teenager this was a problem for me. John, I knew, wrote much later than the other gospel writers. He had different goals, and he didn’t even include the Last Supper in his gospel. ** How could Jesus’ words “It is finished,” found only in John, complete a Passover meal not even mentioned in John? **That seemed weird to me. While a canonical approach to Scripture remains the most coherent approach in general, that does not mean we can ignore the differences in time and style between the gospels. Furthermore, we know that in John’s gospel, with its different chronology, Jesus dies on the cross at the hour when the passover lamb was slaughtered. So how did Jesus die at the hour of the slaughter of the lamb before Passover and also complete the Passover meal by drinking the fourth cup at the end of the Passover?

Just b/c John doesn’t cover the last supper doesn’t mean that the last supper didn’t happen. I don’t think that this first point dissproves anything. In fact, John was the only writer of the gospels that has an eye witness account.

And I don’t think that the celebration of the passover has any bearing on this new passover that Jesus completes with his death.

In other words, Jesus did not celebrate the old Passover ritual. Rather, he made a new covenant with a new liturgy, the liturgy of his own Passover.

I find it hard to believe that Jews were not having a passover meal during the last supper simply b/c it was what they were suppose to do. And b/c Jesus had instructed them to prepare the room for the passover.

In John’s account, Jesus’ last words are: “It is finished!” (19:30). In the Greek text, this word (tetelestai) points back to the very beginning of the Passion narrative, to the episode of the washing of the feet, which the evangelist introduces by observing that Jesus loved his own “to the end (telos)” (13:1). This “end”, this ne plus ultra of loving, is now attained in the moment of death. He has truly gone right to the end, to the very limit and even beyond that limit. He has accomplished the utter fullness of love — he has given himself (p. 223).

In other words, as is often the case in John’s gospel, the subtle use of chiasm highlights John’s meaning. Jesus is finishing the offering of himself “to the end,” performing the act of “no greater love” that he had commanded of his disciples. The meaning of the “It is finished” can be found within John’s gospel without having to fit it into an untenable hypothesis. Thus, with Kavin Rowe, and following my reading of Benedict XVI, I can only conclude that Hahn and Pitre’s hypothosis, although interesting and neat, does not ring true to John’s text.

I find this third response the least persuasive out of the three. The death of Jesus was not the end imo that he was referencing during the washing of the feet. I just don’t see it.


It comes down to-we really don’t know. Judaism has a long history of oral tradition.Could some of those traditions been passed to the Talmud? Don’t know. This is a question for academics.


Aside from the gospels, the drinking of wine during Passover is also referred to in passing in the 1st-century BC Book of Jubilees (49:6; “and all Israel was eating the flesh of the paschal lamb, and drinking the wine, and was lauding, and blessing, and giving thanks to the Lord God of their fathers…”), so it’s likely that there’s already a custom of drinking wine during the Seder along those lines back then - but then again, people in that time and culture drank wine more frequently. And a minor nitpick; the oldest manuscripts of the Haggadah date from around the 10th-11th century. The actual text is far older than that, but is still something that received its final form after the time of Jesus (perhaps somewhere around the 2nd-3rd century?)

Otherwise I agree with you. As I said in another thread, “One should keep in mind that Jewish ceremonies as they are celebrated now does not necessarily reflect exactly how they were celebrated 2,000 years ago. 2,000 years is a lot of time to evolve and develop.” I like to quote the JPS commentary on the Haggadah (pp. 6-7) in this regard.

Scholars are divided on the value of this description for understanding how the meal was conducted during the Second Temple period. Many agree that some of it does represent practice during the Second Temple, but there is disagreement about the details.

Any attempt to present the Mishnah as a source for Second Temple practice must take into consideration the fact that there are details in the Mishnah’s portrayal of the seder that were introduced after the destruction of the Temple.

In any case, it’s even likely that there wasn’t a set formula for performing Passover meals back then, since it was a ‘home liturgy’ that cannot be tightly controlled or regulated. Every community or even every family would have had their own specific set of customs and traditions, their own specific way of performing Seders.

Sadly, people like Scott Hahn and Brant Pitre have made a cottage industry out of taking centuries-later Jewish writings and attempting to retroject them back to the time of Jesus. NO responsible scholar would do this without very clearly telling you that that’s what they are doing and that the whole construction is extremely speculative.

Exactly. As much as I respect Drs. Hahn and Pitre, I think they’re retrojecting customs and ideas back into the time of Jesus (where to be honest, actual solid information is rather sketchy and incomplete). I can’t blame them though, I could point out a few other popular Christian (non-Catholic) authors who commit the same “as long as it sounds/looks Jewish” blunder.


The fact is this. Matthew, Mark, and Paul (1 Corinthians 11:23-26) only mention Jesus passing a cup of wine once, after He had passed the bread to the disciples. Luke (22:17-21) has Jesus doing it twice: one before passing the bread and one “after the supper” (which corresponds with the cup of wine in Paul’s version).

Matthew: Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, "Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I shall not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom."

Mark: And as they were eating, he took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly, I say to you, I shall not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God."

Luke: And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after supper, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood."

1 Corinthians: For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me."

The way I see it, in order to arrive at four cups you’ll have to either assume: (1) that there was an unmentioned ‘third cup’, since Luke already accounts for two of them (assuming that Matthew, Mark, Paul and Luke all describe the same cup being passed around); or (2) in a much weaker idea than (1), that each source was describing a separate cup: so you’ll add Matthew’s-Mark’s-Paul’s one cup with Luke’s two to arrive at three cups. (Fortunately, most sources I’ve seen seem to go with (1).) Either way, you’ll need to jump to John’s description of Jesus saying “Finished/consummated” at the offer of wine vinegar for the fourth cup.

It’s a common procedure among us Christians to conflate and harmonize different details from different gospels (as Nativity scenes during Christmas will show), but I think - in this case, and a few other ones, at least - that this cutting-and-pasting kind of stretches the gospels. Thankfully this is not as ‘way out there’ as that idea that there were four criminals who were crucified with Jesus (thus accounting for Matthew’s and Mark’s accounts of both criminals reviling Jesus and Luke’s bad thief/good thief), or the one where Peter denies Jesus six times. :shrug:



You’ll often also see some significance being attached to the supposed names of the four cups: “Cup of Sanctification” - “Cup of Righteousness” - “Cup of Blessing” (Didn’t St. Paul refer to the “cup of blessing” in 1 Corinthians 10?) - “Cup of Consummation.” (Hey, Jesus said “It is consummated” on the cross!) But then again, I found out that there isn’t even a set name for these cups. Different sources label them differently - that is, if they even give them names at all. If you ask me, this part of the idea is the flimsiest.

I’m quoting myself from three years ago:


The Gospel of John doesn’t even link the last supper to the Passover, as I recall.


The difficulty here, to put it simply, is: in the synoptics, the Last Supper (Thursday evening) is presented as a Passover meal; it was after “when they sacrificed the Passover lamb.” But when you go to John, he states both that the day Jesus was crucified (Friday) was still the ‘Preparation of the Passover’ (incidentally, when the Passover lambs were being slaughtered) and that the Jewish leaders had yet to eat the Passover meal. There’s a whole industry trying to harmonize the two accounts (you don’t have to look far for this) or at least, determining which chronology is ‘more correct’ historically (something complicated by the fact that both chronologies are kind of theologically motivated: the last supper-as-new-Passover of the synoptics vs. John’s Jesus-as-lamb of God).


I guess I don’t understand how the “but everyone else does it” argument is a defense, even though I would agree that this practice is pretty widespread in all kinds of Christian teaching, preaching and commentary.

I’m also curious as to why the whole “four cups” house of cards doesn’t seem somewhat deceptive to you–surely Scott Hahn or Brant Pitre (or both) should know better?



I don’t know about the cups, but Exodus is a revelation of “the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world”. (Rev 13:8)

Exodus 12

. . . each man is to take a lamb for his family . . . they must share one with their nearest neighbor, . . . they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the door frames of the houses where they eat the lambs. . .

This follows Genesis 22

Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac . . . Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.”

And, of course it goes back to Genesis 3

. . . To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ . . . By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” . . .

In these verses I see a transformation in man and his relationship with God.
The Word whereby this world and we ourselves are created, reveals Himself in history.
He calls us into that loving filial relationship with God that we abandoned in Eden.
Isaacs “Calvary” shows us God’s will that we not die, through the sacrifice of the Lamb He will provide. Trusting and demonstrating our love through obedience, we are to be saved by His sacrifice, taking on and dying to our sin.
This is elaborated in Exodus where we are again told of our salvation through the slaying of the lamb, its blood protecting us as sin which enslaves us, is vanquished.
We are to eat the lamb, its sacrifice is to become a part of us. It will nourish us in our journey home.

We then see in 1Peter1

. . . For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. . .

Scripture reveals how in history, sin spreads into the world and how God reaches out to mankind that we might be saved.
In creating man, I believe knowing and yet surprised by our choice, God sacrificed His Son that we might join in the Beatific Vision that is creation communing with its Maker.


I guess I don’t see an issue with this “new passover” happening the night before the preparation for passover. It’s not that big of deal imo. Even the four cups isn’t that big of a deal. The point is that Jesus is the lamb to be sacrificed for passover…for the forgiveness of sins. His blood is the new covenent. I think all of this is pretty clear.


Sorry for my poor choice of words there. No, it’s not so much a defense as an observation: Drs. Hahn and Pitre could have been influenced by/could have picked up such interpretations floating around in segments of popular Christianity. Probably. I mean, I don’t know them personally.

I’m also curious as to why the whole “four cups” house of cards doesn’t seem somewhat deceptive to you–surely Scott Hahn or Brant Pitre (or both) should know better?

Well, it depends on whether I’m donning my pundit-nitpicker glasses or not. :wink: On the one hand, yes, this is a case of historical anachronism - a type of Christian urban legend, if you will. But on the other hand, you gotta live with the fact that no matter what you do, popular beliefs (or varying degrees of historical accuracy) and urban legends - particularly the ones which sound appealing or ‘true’ to people’s ears (like this one) - will most likely continue to exist as long as we humans walk this planet. The day this idea ceases to be peddled around by people is the day people stop telling the story of JFK accidentally telling the people of Berlin that he was a jelly doughnut or the belief that a tooth left in a glass of coke will dissolve overnight. :cool:


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit