Archive for the 'Chronology' Category

Een Eenvoudige Liturgische Reden Waarom het Laatste Avondmaal Waarschijnlijk geen Pesach Seider Was

 

door Geert ter Horst

Het Korban Pesach (Pesach Offer)

Het Korban Pesach (Pesach Offer)

Ieder jaar met het naderen van Pesach hebben messiaanse gelovigen discussies over de aard van Jesjoea’s laatste maaltijd, die wordt vermeld in de synoptische Evangelieën. De overheersende vraag is: was dit Avondmaal een Pesach Seider? Deze vraag maakt deel uit van de doorgaande discussie over de kalenderdatum van Jesjoea’s Kruisiging: werd Jesjoea gekruisigd op de 14de of op de 15de Niesan?

De overgeleverde aanname van zowel het Jodendom als het Christendom is dat de Kruisiging plaatsvond op de vóórbereidingsdag van Pesach en dus op de 14de Niesan. Dit is de datum gegeven door de chronologie van de gebeurtenissen zoals die worden verteld in het Evangelie van Johannes. Veel bijbelgeleerden zijn echter van mening dat Johannes’ chronologie in strijd is met de Synoptici, die, zo nemen zij aan, de feestdag van de 15de Niesan als kruisigingsdatum hebben.

Het debat over het verschil in datum, en de vraag hoe het te beslechten, maakt deel uit van het grotere vraagstuk hoe de Synoptici en Johannes met elkaar in overeenstemming zijn te brengen. In deze korte notitie zal ik niet ingaan op alle details van de nogal gecompliceerde en technische questie van de kalenderdata van het Laatste Avondmaal en de Kruisiging. Laat het voldoende zijn om hier vast te stellen dat de traditionele vertaling van Mt. 26:17 — en de synoptische parallellen Mk. 14:12 en Lk. 22:7 — welke de frase bevat: “op de eerste dag van het feest der ongezuurde broden”, op een aantal ernstige moeilijkheden stuit en niet voetstoots kan worden aangenomen.

Terwijl nu sommigen de verslagen van de Evangelieën zouden willen harmoniseren door te pogen het Johannes Evangelie aan te passen aan de veronderstelde chronologie van de Synoptici, zou ik daartegenover de voorkeur geven aan de optie om de Synoptici op een zodanige wijze te interpreteren dat zij harmoniëren met de Niesan 14 kruisiging zoals vermeld door Johannes. Ik hoop in een later artikel mijn redenen voor deze voorkeur te verduidelijken.

Voor nu zal ik mij echter beperken tot een eenvoudig en krachtig argument waarom, in mijn ogen, de interpretatie van het Laatste Avondmaal als zijnde een Pesach Seider waarschijnlijk onjuist is. Dit argument komt er in wezen op neer dat indien het Avondmaal werkelijk een Seider was, Jesjoea’s instelling van de Maaltijd des Heren (of Eucharistie) een overbodige en liturgisch verwarrende daad zou zijn geweest.

Indien het Laatste Avondmaal een Pesach Seider was, zou een geofferd Pesach lam daar een noodzakelijk bestanddeel van zijn. Jesjoea en zijn leerlingen zouden hun lam in de Tempel geslacht hebben op de namiddag van de 14de Niesan, en zouden het gegeten hebben gedurende de daaropvolgende Seideravond van de 15de.

Maar indien dit is wat er gebeurde, waarom zou Jesjoea dan een brood nemen gedurende de Seider en verklaren dat het zijn lichaam betekende? Mt. 26:26 zegt: “En toen zij aten, nam Jesjoea een brood, maakte de berachah, brak het, en gaf het aan zijn leerlingen en zei: Neemt, eet, dit is mijn lichaam”. Indien het Avondmaal een Seider was, zou er immers al een imposant symbool van Jesjoea’s lichaam voorhanden zijn: het Pesach lam (of Korban Pesach). Het was dus helemaal niet nodig een ander vertegenwoordigend symbool van het te offeren lichaam van de Messias te introduceren. Het geëigende symbool was op de tafel aanwezig en Jesjoea zou eenvoudig hebben kunnen verklaren, wijzend op het lam: “Dit is mijn lichaam, dat voor u gegeven wordt” (Lk. 22:19).

Dienovereenkomstig zou men verwachten dat Jesjoea’s woorden: “Dit is mijn bloed van het Nieuwe Verbond”, zouden zijn gezegd toen het lam in de Tempel geslacht werd. Indien er een Pesach lam aanwezig was bij het Laatste Avondmaal, zou het op het altaar vergoten bloed daarvan natuurlijk het gepaste teken en de symbolische vertegenwoordiging zijn van Jesjoea’s offerbloed.

Vanuit een liturgisch en ritueel gezichtspunt klinkt het nogal onlogisch om te veronderstellen dat de eerste generatie van Jesjoea’s leerlingen een Seider vierde waarin zowel de Matze als het Pesach lam de bijzondere symbolen waren van Jesjoea’s lichaam. Waarom de gebroken Matze, waar de Seider maaltijd mee opent, gebruiken om Jesjoea’s geofferde lichaam aan te duiden, indien even later gedurende diezelfde maaltijd de aandacht wordt gericht op het veel indrukwekkender offersymbool van het Pesach lam? Waarom de beker der dankzegging tot het geëigende teken van Jesjoea’s bloed verheffen indien er op de voorafgaande middag reeds naar het veel indrukwekkender teken van werkelijk offerbloed — dat intrinsiek deel uitmaakt van het Korban Pesach — werd verwezen gedurende het Tempel ritueel van het slachten van het lam?

De overbodige toevoeging van brood en wijn als offersymbolen schijnt een voor de hand liggende reden om te denken dat het Laatste Avondmaal geen Pesach Seider was. Het is daarom redelijk aan te nemen dat de avond van het Laatste Avondmaal voorafging aan de Seideravond, en dat Jesjoea’s instelling van de Eucharistie iets nieuws was, iets dat niet wezenlijk aan de Seider was gebonden. Dit impliceert echter dat de Kruisiging plaatsvond op de 14de Niesan, en dat Jesjoea stierf ten tijde dat de Pesach lammeren in de voorhof van de Tempel werden geslacht. 

A Simple Liturgical Reason Why the Last Supper Probably wasn’t a Passover Seder

 

by Geert ter Horst

The Korban Pesach (Passover Sacrifice)

The Korban Pesach (Passover Sacrifice)

Each year, when Passover is approaching, Messianics have discussions on the nature of Yeshua’s Last Supper, as it is recorded in the synoptic Gospels. The prevalent question is: Was this Supper a Passover Seder? The discussion about this question is part of the ongoing discussion on the calendrical date of Yeshua’s Crucifixion: Did it happen on the 14th or on the 15th of Nisan?

The traditional assumption of both Judaism and Christianity is that the Crucifixion happened on the Eve of Passover and thus on the 14th of Nisan. This is the date given by the chronology of events as reported in the Gospel of John. Many biblical scholars are of the opinion, however,  that John’s chronology is in conflict with the Synoptics, which, they assume, have the 15th of Nisan, the Yom Tov of Passover, as the Crucifixion date.

The debate about this calendrical difference, and the question how to solve it, is part of the larger problem of how to reconcile the Synoptics and John. In this short note we won’t go into all the details of the rather complicated and technical argument on the calendrical dates of Last Supper and the Crucifixion. Let it be sufficient to establish here that the traditional translation of Mt. 26:17 — and its synoptic parallels Mk. 14:12 and Lk. 22:7 — which has the phrase “on the first day of the feast of unleavened bread” faces some serious difficulties and cannot be taken for granted.

Thus, while some would like to harmonize the Gospel accounts by an effort to conform John’s account to the supposed chronology of the Synoptics, I would instead prefer the option of interpreting the Synoptics in a manner which is in harmony with the Nisan 14 Crucifixion reported by John. I hope to clarify my reasons for this preference in a follow-up article on this website.

For now, however, I’ll limit myself to a simple and forceful reason why, in my eyes, the interpretation of the Last Supper as being a Passover Seder is probably incorrect. This reason is essentially that if the Supper was indeed a Seder, then Yeshua’s institution of the Eucharist was a superfluous and liturgically confusing act.

If the Last Supper was a Passover Seder, a sacrificial Passover lamb would necessarily have been part of it. Yeshua and his talmidim would have slaughtered their lamb in the Temple in the afternoon of the 14th of Nisan  and would have eaten it during the night following, the Seder night of the 15th.

But if this is what happened, then why would Yeshua take bread during the Seder meal and declare that it represented his body? Mt 26:26 says: “And as they were eating, Yeshua took bread, made the b’rakhah, and brake it, and gave it to the talmidim, and said, Take, eat; this is my body”. If the Supper was a Seder, then there was already a powerful symbol of Yeshua’s body at hand: the Korban Pesach. There was no need at all to introduce another symbolic representation of the to-be-sacrificed body of the Messiah. The proper symbol was already present on the table, and Yeshua could simply have declared, pointing to the lamb, “this is my body which is given for you” (Lk. 22:19). If Yeshua’s death was to be the fulfilment of the Passover sacrifice, then why connect this death with the matzah instead of the lamb? The lamb was the proper symbol of Yeshua’s own sacrifice, not the matzah.

Accordingly, one would expect that Yeshua’s words: “this is my blood of the New Covenant”, would have been said when the lamb was slaughtered in the Temple. If there was a Passover lamb present at the Last Supper, then, naturally, its blood dashed upon the altar represented and symbolized Yeshua’s sacrificial blood.

From a liturgical and ritual perspective it sounds rather illogical to suppose that the first generation of talmidim celebrated a Seder which had both the Matzah and the Korban Pesach as the proper ritual symbols of Yeshua’s body. Why open the Seder meal with a broken matzah to signify Messiah’s sacrificed body if later on during the same meal a far more powerful sacrificial symbol will be pointed to? Why have the cup of thanksgiving as the proper symbol of Yeshua’s blood if the far more powerful symbol of real sacrificial blood — one which was an intrinsic part of the Korban Pesach — was already pointed to during the Temple ritual of slaughtering the lamb?

The superfluous addition of bread and wine as sacrificial symbols seems an obvious reason for suspecting that the Last Supper wasn’t a Passover Seder. It is reasonable, therefore, to assume that the night of the Last Supper preceded the Seder night, and that Yeshua’s institution of the Eucharist really was something new, which wasn’t intrinsically connected to the Seder. This implies that the crucifixion took place on the 14th of Nisan, and that Yeshua died about the time when the Passover lambs were slaughtered in the Temple court.

A Few Remarks on the Interpretation of the Chronology of the Deluge (Gen. chs. 7 & 8)

 

The story of the Deluge in Genesis chs. 7 & 8 contains a chronology of events that has caused headaches to many scholars. For it seems that the calendar system used in it is different from that used in the later Jewish calendar, and that the dates mentioned in it have no significant relation to the Jewish year with its festive seasons as it is expounded in the instructions of Leviticus ch. 23. To give an example: In Gen. 7:24 and 8:3 there occurs a period of 150 days which according to most interpreters should be situated between the beginning day of the flood, the 17th day of the second month, and the day of the grounding of the Ark on the mountains of Ararat, the 17th day of the seventh month. If this interpretation is correct, then its implication is that on Noach’s calendar there were 5 successive months of 30 days each, which is an impossibility in the later calendar of Judaism. This fact favours the idea that the months of Noah’s days — or the months as conceived by the writers of the story of the Flood — were not lunar months as we now have them. Moreover, even if this difficulty is overstepped as of minor importance and it be gracefully conceded that the Flood story may be situated along the lines of the later calendar, then the difficulty emerges how to determine which month marks the beginning of the year. Was Tishri the first month of the year, and was Rosh HaShanah the first day of the first month, or was Nissan the first month, as it is nowadays, when according to Ex. 12:2 the month of Nissan opens the festive cycle? The biblical text gives us no decisive information for either of these possibilities. It may well be that the writers counted the months beginning from Tishri, and that Ex. 12 marks the beginning of the new system of counting the months from Nissan in the text of the Pentateuch. It may equally well be that the determination of Nissan as the first month at the time of the Exodus was made the reference point for all the calendrical accounts in the Torah, and that the story of the Flood, which was written down much later than it happened, probably in the time of Moshe, was retold by making use of the calendrical terms of that time.

 

Whatever may be the case, the conspicuous fact that the text of Genesis chs. 7 & 8 is so ambiguous as to allow for these differences in interpretation should perhaps not be considered as detrimental but instead as advantageous for its exegesis. If the text of the Torah is perfect, as the Sages say, and if there is no before or after in the Torah text, then we can perhaps make good sense of the text of our chapters by simply applying the fabric of the later data of the Torah to it, and thus by “adopting” these chapters into the larger family of textual connections within the Torah. It is my proposal to do so in the following paragraphs. I’ll defend there an interpretation based on the presupposition that the later calendar of Judaism, of which the basic elements were given in the Torah, can be successfully applied to the data of the text of the story of the Deluge. This is not the only interpretation possible, not even from a Torah viewpoint. But it may turn out to be a sensible one. One should not exclude the possibility that the ambiguity of the text was explicitly intended to elicit a plurality of interpretations. Although it is of course true that the events of the history of Noach and the Ark were unique and can not have taken place on two or more distinct periods in time, yet it may be that the text of the Torah is more interested in the interpretative qualities of the story than in giving a “watertight” historical account, if there is anything “watertight” here except the Ark itself.

 

Following the above mentioned adages of there not being earlier or later in the Torah, and of it being possible to read the dates given in the Flood story as calendar dates of the Jewish year, we arrive at the following survey for the chronology of the Flood events.

 

The Flood rains began on the 17th day of the second month, i.e. on the 17th day of Iyar in the 600th year of Noach (Gen. 7:11). Seven days before, on the 10th of Iyar, Noach and his family, and the animals, entered the Ark (Gen. 7:7-10). The rains lasted for 40 days. The 40th day was the 26th of Sivan if Iyar was a full month, otherwise it was the 27th. On the 17th day of the seventh month the Ark hit Ararat (Gen. 8:4), which is the next important date, the 17th of Tishri. Then, as the text says, “the waters decreased continually until the tenth month: in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, were the tops of the mountains seen” (Gen. 8:5). The 1st day of the tenth month is Rosh Chodesh Tevet. After that a new period of forty days begins, at the end of which “Noach for the first time opened the window of the Ark” (Gen. 8:6), and sent forth a raven and a dove (Gen. 8:7-8). Depending on whether Tevet had 30 or 29 days the 40th  day was the 10th or the 11th of Shevat. A week later, 17/18 Shevat the dove was sent forth again and brought a plucked olive leaf (Gen. 8:10-11). A week later again, on 24/25 Shevat the dove was sent forth for the third time and did not return anymore (Gen. 8:12). On the first day of the first month of the 601st year, Rosh Chodesh Nissan, the surface of the earth appeared dry (Gen. 8:13). 40 days later, on the 27th of Iyar, the earth had dried and Noach and his family, and the animals, went out of the Ark.

 

We can now set the found data in the following chronological scheme:

 

 

10th of Iyar: Noach, his family and the animals enter the Ark

 

17th of Iyar: The rains begin

 

26/27th of Sivan: 40 days of rain completed

 

17th of Tishri: The Ark grounds on the Ararat mountains

 

1st of Tevet: The tops of the mountains were seen

 

10/11th of Shevat: The Ark opened; the raven and the dove

sent forth

17/18th of Shevat: The dove sent forth a second time; brings an olive leaf

 

24/25th of Shevat: The dove sent forth a third time; returns not

 

1st of Nissan: Surface of the earth dry

 

27th of Iyar: The earth has dried; Noach, his family and the animals leave the Ark.

 

 

Notably none of these data are major occasions or feasts on the Jewish calendar. Nevertheless, certain subtile relations can be established between these data and the festive year of the Torah.

 

The first thing we notice is that the entering of the Ark and the beginning of the Flood fall in the season of the year that was later named the time of the Omer count, that is the time between Pesach and Shavuot. From a messianic viewpoint this is the time between the Resurrection and the Ascension of Messiah. After the Flood starts, the Ark raises above the earth, as an image of the Messiah raised above the earth after his resurrection. When the forty days of raining are over (Sivan 27) it is already past Shavuot in the liturgical year. For those inside the Ark the rain was a blessing, a gift from above that elevated the Ark. For those outside it the rain was a curse and a judgment that condemned them. This is an image of the Messiah, who, raised on high, baptizes his followers with the gifts of the Ruach HaKodesh, and those who withstand him with the fire of judgment (Mt. 3:11-12; Jn. 16:7-11).

 

Messiah guards his followers through the deepest troubles of the destruction of the Flood of the Great Tribulation (cf. Dan. 9:25-27; 11:40) — signified by the 150 days of the prevalence of the waters of the Deluge — and brings them in safety on a Rock, a high place (cf. Ps. 91:7-9), signified by the mountains of Ararat. The Ark hit the Ararat mountains on the 17th of Tishri, that is during the days of Sukkot. After the Ark had grounded on the mountain it became a temporary dwelling attached to the earth, a Sukkah.

 

The first sign of hope for those inside the Ark occurs on Rosh Chodesh Tevet, when the mountain tops become visible. This happens during the days that in later Jewish history were designated for the celebration of Chanukah, the feast of the visibility of the light that shines in the darkness. As the mountain tops could only be seen from afar by those inside the Ark, so the Chanukah lights may only be seen and comtemplated, thus signifying that the light of Messiah shines from on high into a world covered by the waters of judgment.

 

After another 40 days the Ark is opened on the 10/11th of Shevat, and a raven and a dove are sent forth. A week later, the 17/18th of Shevat, the dove is sent forth again and brings home an olive leaf. This happens just a few days after Tu B’Shevat, the New Year of Trees. It is the first sign of new life on the earth. A week later the dove is sent forth for the third time and it doesn’t return. This means that clean birds can live now on the new earth. On Rosh Chodesh Nissan, introducing the month of the Exodus, the month of Redemption, the surface of the earth is dry. It is as if it is said: “This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you” (Ex. 12:2).

 

The day Noach and his family and the animals leave the Ark is on the 27th of Iyar. If it is true that Messiah was raised from the dead on the 17th of Nissan, then the 27th of Iyar, de day the Ark was left, is the 40th day after the Messiah’s Resurrection, Ascension Day. On the same day that Messiah ascends into the heavens, the earth thus ascends out of the covering of the waters of the Flood as a new creation, able to receive new animal and human life. This signifies the coming Kingdom Age, in which new life will inhabit the earth after it is by renewed by the fire of G-d’s judgment. On this renewed earth of the Kingdom Age good, symbolized by the clean animals, outnumbers evil, signified by the unclean animals, seven times, i.e. in a perfect measure. A proper image of the coming Kingdom, in which the seductive powers of sin and evil will be heavily reduced in comparison with our present situation.

I think that this interpretation, or it may perhaps better be called an application, of the Flood story makes sense. It is not without difficulties, however. One of the typical features of the text are the numerics of the time periods and of the calendrical dates. Why, one may ask, are all the dates that are explicitly mentioned in the text on the 1st, the 17th, or the 27th day of the month? And why are all the dates connected with a festive season only loosely connected with it? One would expect, for example, a specific connection with Sukkot to be expressed by something important happening on the 15th of Tishri, not on the 17th. There may be a numerical symbolism inherent in the text that yet remains unclarified.

On the other hand it may be argued that the loose connection of the chronology of the Flood story with the later calendar of the Torah, given to Israel, may be purposed. For the story of the Flood introduces us into the world of Noachidism, the world of the first explicit covenant between G-d and human beings. This covenant is made with all mankind, but it only constitutes the rough and basic outlines of G-d’s later and more specific dealings with his chosen. The world of Noachidism is the world of a universal covenant that contains no principles and blessings that supercede the sphere of the Olam Hazeh. It contains no vision of a future Redemption, but only the perspective of keeping this world in a state of basic order and justice, as appears from the Torah text in Gen. 8:20-9:17. The Noachide covenant thus only sets the stage, the cadre of conditions for the later covenants with the Patriarchs and with Israel, and for the unfolding drama of the history of Redemption.