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?