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Wednesday, September 13, 2006 

The Date of Passover and the Pitfall of Inerrancy: Part 4


Part 3

Part 2

Part 1


We have finally arrived at the moment of critique of Kostenberger's interpretation of the various Passover passages in John. By way of a refresher, here are Kostenberger's three main propositions as presented in Part 2 with some modifications:

1.) The phrase "day of preparation of Passover" (Jn 19:14) refers to the preparation of the coming Sabbath and not to the preparation of Passover day proper when the lambs are slaughtered for the evening meal. This is evidenced by the fact that the Greek term paraskueue was a technical term referring to the preparation for the Sabbath and not of Passover day itself. (cf. Josephus' Antiquities 16.163-64).

2.) The reference in Jn 18:28 to the desire of the Jews to "eat passover" most probably is a general reference to "celebrating the feast" which probably would have been the chagigah meal on the Day after Passover, namely, the day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. (2 Chron 30:21)

3.) The time reference in Jn 13:1-2 does not indicate that the meal in chapter 13 is not a passover meal but rather is meant to show that the footwashing occurs before the Passover meal that does occur later in the chapter.

Since proposition one is Kostenberger's principal one and three the weakest of his arguments we will argue against these propositions in reverse order. In regards to proposition three let's take a look at this passage once more:

"Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. And during supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God rose from supper, laid aside his garments, and girded himself with a towel. Then he poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which he was girded." (13:1-5, emphasis added)

Just on a plain reading of the text these verses clearly seem to say that the following events that are narrated (the footwashing, the promise of the Holy Spirit, Jesus prayer for his disciples, etc.) occur before the feast of the Passover, i.e. the pesach meal. But Kostenberger claims that the Last Supper and the footwashing are distinct events narrated in the same chapter, so that when the text says "before the feast of the Passover" the temporal force is to be understood only in reference to the footwashing and not the later meal that occurs in verses 21ff.

However, this interpretation is clearly in error. For one, the footwashing episode is clearly occuring in the context of a meal as verses 2 and 4 clearly indicate. Therefore, in order for Kostenberger's interpretation to work he must posit that between verses 20 and 21 a whole day has lapsed and that the meal narrated after verse 21 is completely different from the meal narrated in the context of the previous footwashing episode. But does this make sense of the text? As Barth would say, "Nein!". Let's look at verses 20-21:

"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who receives any one whom I send receives me; and he who receives me receives him who sent me. When Jesus had thus spoken, he was troubled in the spirit, and testified, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.'" (20-21)

Verse 21 clearly connects back with verse 20 and this verse cannot be disjoined from verses 12-20. Moreover, verse 12 clearly continues the events narrated in 13:2-11 for it states: "When he had washed their feet and taken his garments, and resumed his place, he said to them..." If this is not convincing let's look at most of the temporal references in this chapter:

"Now before the feast of Passover, when Jesus knew...And during Supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas...to betray him... (Jesus) rose from supper, laid aside his garments, and girded himself with a towel...began to wash the disciples feet...when he had washed their feet, and taken his garments, resumed his place, and said to them...when Jesus had thus spoken, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, 'Truly, truly, I say to you one of you will betray me'...so when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas...then after the morsel, Satan entered into him...so after receiving the morsel (Jesus) he immediately went out and it was night...when he had gone out, Jesus said..." (1,2, 4, 5, 12, 21, 27, 30, 31)

In short there is no where in the text of John 13 in which one can posit such a temporal rift without destroying its unity.To engage in this task is simply poor exegesis. Everything that is narrated from verses 2-30 take place in the same context and in the same night. Moreover, the author(s) of John inform his readers that all of this takes place before the feast of the Passover. I would encourage those who remain unconvinced to simply read through chapter 13 and discern for yourselves if there is such a temporal rift anywhere which could refer to two distinct evenings.

In conclusion, I find Kostenberger's suggestion that John 13 includes two different evenings, one in which a footwashing occured and one in which the Last Supper was partaken of as simply unwarranted exegesis. Kostenberger would have done better to argue that John 13:1 was never in the original text (as some have done before him).

Note: I did not realize I would spend this much time critiquing each proposition. Therefore, I am dividing the critiques into individual posts. Tomorrow I will post my critique of proposition number two and then the third the following day.

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