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Friday, October 20, 2006 

The Passover Discrepancy Part 6

Part 5
Part 4
Part 3
Part 2
Part 1

It is now time to address the main proposition in support of Kostenberger's position which states:

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 paraskeue was a technical term equivalent to "Eve of the Sabbath" thus referring to the preparation for the Sabbath and not of Passover day itself. (cf. Josephus' Antiquities 16.163-64).

Before refuting this proposition I want to first express my frustration with a particular subtle move that Kostenberger makes in his arguments against a discrepancy between the Synoptics and John. When Kostenberger attempts to make the case that paraskeue tou pascha means "preparation of Passover week" he fails to inform his readers that "week" is not in the actual Greek. It is literally "preparation of the Passover". Even if it can be plausibly argued that paraskeue was a technical term referring to the preparation for the Sabbath, Kostenberger is still responsible, because he is a scholar, to let his readers know that "week" is not in the Greek and that he is supplying it in view of his interpretation of paraskueue (and pesach). However, he does not do this. In both the passage from Biblical Theology and his commentary on John he simply quotes from the NIV which, interestingly enough, supplies "week" to the Greek. Here are the relevant passages again:

"The reason many have seen John as placing the Last Supper on Wednesday night with the crucifixion taking place on Thursday afternoon (when the Passover lambs would have been slaughtered in preparation for Passover later that evening) is the reference to 'the Day of Preparation of Passover Week' in John 19:14 (NIV [throughout this essay]; cf Jn 18:28)." (BT, 148)

Notice in this passage Kostenberger's subtle indication that he is using the NIV which is the only translation to my knowledge that interpolates "week" into the translation (which is itself not surprising since the translation committee of the NIV was made up predominately of conservatives). And then the passage from the commentary on John:

"If this is accurate, then tou pascha means not 'of the Passover,' but 'of Passover week.' Indeed, 'Passover' may refer to the (day of ) the actual Passover meal or, as in the present case, the entire Passover week, including Passover day as well as the associated Feast of Unleavened Bread. "Day of Preparation of Passover week' is therfore best to be taken to refer to the day of preparation for the Sabbath (i.e., Friday) of Passover week." (John, p 538)

In both of these passages Kostenberger never indicates to his readers that the Greek does not contain "week". He does hint at this in the latter passage but does not state this as the case explicitly. Moreover, even the footnote to this passage is obscure and simply says Contra Brown and a list of other scholars who disagree with him. It is only when you follow the references, especially that of Raymond Brown, that you realize Kostenberger is arguing for the injection of "week" into Jn 19:14. Again, though he implies as much in this latter passage, those readers who are not already familar with the issue would never have realized this. Therefore, even if the case can be made that "week" should be added to the Greek on the basis of a certain technical interpretation of paraskeue, Kostenberger is responsible to inform his readers of such details. To do otherwise is simply, dare I say, irresponsible scholarship.

With that aside the issue here does center around the question whether or not paraskeue was a technical term which could be translated as "preparation for the Sabbath). The argument is essentially as follows:

1.) Paraskeue was used as a technical term by Greek-speaking Jews to indicate the "day of preparation for the coming Sabbath", thus

2.) when Jn 19:14 says "the day of paraskeue of Passover (which itself can indicate the entire feast week following Passover day proper)" he is indicating that it is the day of preparation of the coming Sabbath in Passover week.

3.) Therefore, Jn 19:14 can (and does) refer to the day after Passover proper and not to the day before when the lambs are slaughtered in preparation for the pesach meal.

Unfortunately, Kostenberger's only (extrabiblical) support for this interpretation is a reference to Josephus' Antiquities 16. 163-64 which states:

"and that their sacred money be not touched, but be sent to Jerusalem, and that it be committed to the care of the receivers at Jerusalem; and that they be not obliged to go before any judge on the Sabbath day, nor on the day of the paraskeue (preparation) to it, after the ninth hour"

That Josephus' "day of preparation" refers to the day before Sabbath proper is not in dispute. Yet this passage is far from conclusive in showing that paraskeue was in any sense a technical term for Greek-speaking Jews. If we wish for a fuller argument we will need to revert back to the first scholar to propose this solution to the Passover discrepancy, Charles Torrey. I should mention that Torrey's analysis is much too complex to lay out in a blog. Those of you who wish to view his entire argument go here. Nevertheless, here is the summary of the argumentation in Torrey's own words:

"There are at all events three undoubted facts to be borne in mind: (1) The paraskeue in John 19.14 is not the colorless Greek word, 'preparation,' but the Jewish technical term. This is shown conclusively by vv. 31 and 42. (2) The Greek can give no testimony as to the exact form of the Aramaic which lies behind it for the proper noun 'Friday', or 'Preparation,' would ordinarily appear in the Greek without the definite article; cf. also Mark 15.42, Luke 23:54. (3) If John had wished merely to adopt in his own gospel what his predecessors had established, and to give in a single phrase their date of the crucifixion, he would most naturally have done so in precisely the phrase employed in 19.14." ( Torrey, "The Date of Passover According to the Fourth Gospel" in JBL Vol 50, No. 4 [1931] , 237)

Torrey comes to these conclusions based on a supposed Aramaic form underlying the Greek paraskeue whose form would have been erev shabbat (lit., eve of Sabbath). Notice what this would accomplish for the overall argument:

If paraskeue was a technical term for Greek-Speaking Jews which had underlying it the Aramaic erev shabbat then Jn 19.14 could be translated as "the eve of the Sabbath of Passover". And if a connection is exhibited between the phrase "eve of Sabbath" and a feast day such as "Passover" then one is further justified in translating as Torrey does, "the Friday of Passover Week" (236).

The key here then is to show not only that paraskeue can be translated as "eve of Sabbath" but also give evidence that when the phrase is employed it is often done so in connection with a feast day such as Passover. However, Torrey's evidence for this festal connection is lacking and concerns only one (late!) rabbinic passage that is itself inconclusive ( see 237). Moreover, Torrey himself admits that all the early examples of the Aramaic phrase "are in connection with the sabbath only (and none of the feast days)" (236) but then suggests "the possibility may be admitted that it was given an equally early application to the principal festal days"(i.e., Passover, 236). This possibility is then thought to have a firm basis in one rabbinic example.

But what about paraskeue itself? Is Torrey (and Kostenberger for that matter) correct that it was understood as a technical term by Hellenistic Jews as being equivalent to erev shabbath, "Eve of Sabbath"? Solomon Zeitlin argues to the contrary:

"The word paraskeue is not Jewish technical term at all. When the Hellenized Jews translated the words erev shabbat, Eve of Sabbath, they did not translate them by the word paraskeue, but by the words pro sabbaton (before Sabbath). The author of the book of Judith, when he states that Judith fasted all the days of the year except the Eves of Sabbath and Sabbaths, also uses the word pro sabbaton kai sabbaton and not paraskeue. Philo quite frequently uses the word paraskeue, but only in the sense of preparation. This shows quite clearly that the word paraskeue is not a Jewish technical term equivalent to erev shabbat, Eve of Sabbath." (Zeitlin, "The Date of the Crucfixion According to the Fourth Gospel" in JBL Vol 51, No. 3 [1932], 268-69)

Zeitlin argues convincingly against the assertion of a technical connotation of paraskeue for Hellinistic Jews that could have been translated as "Eve of Passover". No doubt I will be accused of depending on Zietlin at this point and I admit to this fact. I would, therefore, encourage those who doubt Zeitlin's examples to read the full article (here) and then to reference each and everyone of his footnotes, especially those quoted on the pages above.

But some may still demur and will ask: what about the evidence of the gospels themselves? Do not they indicate some sort of technical usage of paraskeue? The passages in question are Mk 15.42 and, as Torrey points out, Jn 19.31, 42 (Luke's usage poses no problem since he would have most likely been copying Mark at this point). The case is somewhat stronger here since all three passages do use paraskeue in reference to the coming Sabbath. Interestingly, when Mark uses paraskeue he promptly clarifies this with "ho estin prosabbaton", lit. that is, before the Sabbath. Nevertheless, this can hardly be as conclusive as Torrey thinks. For one, the problem still exists for the lack of evidence of an extrabiblical technical usage. The one extrabiblical source adduced as evidence by both Kostenberger and Torrey does not use paraskeue in a technical fashion. Look at it again:

"that they be not obliged to go before any judge on the Sabbath day, nor on the day of the preparation to it, after the ninth hour." (Josephus, Antiquities 16.164)

Clearly, paraskeue is being used in practical sense in this passage and not in a technical fashion. Secondly, even if the gospels are using paraskeue on the basis of prior technical usage it must be kept in mind that the gospel writers did not have a monopoly on the Greek word paraskeue. As Zietlin mentioned concerning Philo, paraskeue was a common word that meant, yes, "preparation". Therefore, context is obviously the key. I would admit that the contexts of Mk 15.42 and Jn 19.31, 42 clearly are in reference to the preparation of the Sabbath. I am not disputing this. Moreover, if 19.14 used only paraskeue then there would be no issue. But Jn 19. 14 says:

hen de paraskeue tou pascha (the day of preparaton of Passover)

The question I would submit is: suppose John did want to inform his readers that it was the day of preparation for the Passover meal and so before Passover day proper, how would he have said it without utilizing paraskeue? Moreover, the disputers of a Passover discrepancy know themselves that proving paraskeue was a technical term referring to the eve of the Sabbath is not enough. This is why they must go to great lengths to argue that tou pascha does not refer to the day before Passover but to the entire week of the festival which is what Torrey tries to do in the rest of his article (see pages 238-239). However, I argued against this interpretation of tou pascha in part 5.

In conclusion, I find the assertion that paraskeue was used regularly as a technical term to be built on a shaky foundation. Even if some of the gospel passages use it as such, there is virtually no extrabiblical evidence that it was used likewise. In fact, Zietlin's evidence exhibits that when Greek-speaking Jews wanted to speak of the "Eve of Sabbath" they regularly translated this not as paraskeue but as prosabbaton. Finally, for the entire argument to be valid at all it must show that the addition of tou pascha in Jn 19.14 refers not to the day before Passover proper but to the entire festal week of Passover itself. Yet this was shown in part 5 to be an illegitimate rendering of tou pascha. Therefore, this translation of Jn 19. 14 as "day of Preparation of Passover Week" should be rejected.

Hello, Mr. Peterson. Glad to see another thought-provoking post.

I would like to quickly note several points significant to your comments:

First, though I can appreciate the fact that evidence for παρασκευη as a technical term for the day of preparation of the weekly Sabbath—i.e. Friday—is generally lacking in Jewish literature, it is nevertheless mistaken to suggest "there is virtually no extrabiblical evidence" for that usage. Briefly, one might for instance cf. Didache 8:1:

But do not let your fasts coincide with those of the hypocrites. They fast on Monday (δευτερα σαββατων) and Thursday (πεμπη), so you must fast on Wednesday (τετραδα) and Friday (παρασκευη).

It might also be worth mentioning, for what it's worth, that παρασκευη is used for "Friday" in modern Greek.

In any event, I'm admittedly unsure of how relevant the above excerpt truly is to John 19:14. Since it too derives from a Christian milieu, though, perhaps it does in fact shed light on the gospel of John's usage of the term. (Incidentally, I unfortunately do not have a subscription to JSTOR, so have been unable to take into account the arguments and evidence marshaled by Zeitlin [or Torrey, for that matter]. If this is all redundant at this point, then I apologize for the waste of time.)

Second and finally, with all due respect, I do not see that the question of whether του πασχα might connote the entire week of Passover has been adequately disproved at this point. Indeed, there are a number of examples from (e.g.) the rabbinic literature that seem to support this view, in which the equivalent term פסח (pesach) is used for the full Passover week. One example can be found in Talmud Bavli Chagigah 9a, where we twice find within the same pericope the phrase:

...שביעי של פסח...

...seventh of Passover... (i.e. "the seventh day of Passover week")

Also of interest is a passage from Mishnah Pesachim 9:5:

:ופסח דורות נוהג כל שבעה...

...but the Passover of (all) generations (subsequent to the enslaved generations of Egypt) has to be observed throughout seven (days).

Other examples might be adduced, but hopefully the point has been made. In any case, that's all for now. Take care.

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Hello Nathan,

First, I want to say that I appreciate your comments since the beginning of these posts. You are one of few who are even interacting with these posts. Second, I appreciate the observation on the Didache's use of paraskeue. This certainly refutes my overstated "there is virtually no extrabiblical evidence". Futhermore, I wonder if you're not onto something when you suggest that paraskeue may be a distinctively Christian usage. Therefore, this could make possible its technical use in Jn 19.14. However, as I will argue in the next post, the cumulative case is, I believe, still strongest in favor of different dates for the crucifixion.

As for your comments concerning pesach though some of these Rabbinic traditions may date back into the Second Temple period, one can never be sure of this. Rabbinic traditions are notoriously difficult if not impossible to date.
Nevertheless, you have raised some good points, Nathan, and I thank you again for the comments.

5:26 PM

I just saw your topic and hope to get back to read your treatise, which seems interesting. I just thought of an interesting article you might want to look up on this topic, written by Israel Yuval.
--Yuval, Israel Jacob La croisée des chemins : la "Hagadah" de la Pâque juive et les Pâques chrétiennes L’historiographie israélienne aujourd’hui (1998) 47-78 1999
--Yuval, Israel Jacob Passover in the Middle Ages Passover and Easter; Origin and History to Modern Times (1999) 127-160 1999

Till sofar,

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