The Date of Passover and the Pitfall of Inerrancy: IntroductionThe Date of Passover and the Pitfall of Inerrancy: Part 1
Having presented a simplistic analysis of the evidence which points to a contradiction between the Synoptics and the Gospel of John concerning the Passover events, it is now time to present Kostenberger's solution.
There are two places where one can find Kostenberger's attempt to harmonize the Synoptics and the Gospel of John on this matter. The first one I want to look at is found in his contributatory essay in Biblical Theology: Retrospect and Prospect
entitled "Diversity and Unity in the New Testament." As I stated previously, Kostenberger's goal in this essay is to criticize New Testament Theologies which seek to emphasize the diversity of the theological perspectives in the New Testament. Therefore, Kostenberger has to tackle particular issues which many critical scholars have targeted as representing diverisity or contradiction in the NT. This includes the relationship between Jesus and Paul, development in Paul's thought, the Paul of Acts versus the Paul of the epistles and, germane to our discussion, the relationship between the Synoptics and the Gospel of John. It is in the context of discussing this relationship that Kostenberger tackles the "apparent" contradiction between the Synoptics and John concerning Passover. Here is the argument in full:"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). However, the solution to this apparent dilemma lies close at hand. In John 19:31, it is made clear that Jesus' crucifixion took place on 'the day of Preparation,' with the very next day being a 'special Sabbath' (i.e., the sabbath of Passover week). Thus, even in John the crucifixion takes place on Friday, with 'the day of Preparation' in John, as in Mark and Luke, referring not to the day of preparation for the Passover but for the sabbath (Mk 15:42; Lk 23:54; cf Josephus Antiquities 16.163-64). Moreover, since Passover lasted a week (in conjunction with the associated Feast of Unleavened Bread; Lk 22:1), it was apropriate to speak of the day of preparation for the sabbath as 'the day of Preparation of Passover Week' (though not of the Passover in a more narrow sense; Jn 19:14)." Kostenberger, Biblical Theology, p. 148
To briefly summarize, Kostenberger's argument here hinges on the phrase "the day of Preparation of Passover Week (NIV)" which he interprets not as the day of preparation of Passover understood as the time before the meal when the lambs are slaughtered but as a way of referring to the day of Preparation for the coming sabbath. He cites Mk 15:42, Lk 23:54, and Josephus' Antiquities
16.163-64 in support of this intepretation. Therefore, Jesus is crucified after the Passover meal and on Friday just before the sabbath in agreement with the Synoptic account.
Kostenberger argues likewise in his commentary on John. There he states:"Some argue that paraskueue (Day of Preparation) refers to the day preceding Passover, that is, the day on which preparations for Passover are made (in the present case, Thursday morning). If so, then John indicates that Jesus is sent to be executed at the time at which Passover lambs are slaughtered in the temple. The Synoptists, however, clearly portray Jesus and his disciples as celebrating the Passover on the night prior to the crucifixion. Moreover, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Josephus all use paraskeue to refer to the day preceding the Sabbath. The term therefore should be taken to refer to the day of preparation for the Sabbath (i.e., Friday.)"
He continues:"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 (so, rightly, Carson 1991: 603-4; see also commentary at 19:31). Thus all four Gospels concur that Jesus' last supper was a Passover meal eaten on Thursday evening (by Jewish reckoning, the onset of Friday)."
Kostenberger, John (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament)
, pp 537-538.
Once again we find that Kostenberger seizes on the phrase "day of Preparation of Passover" and interprets it as referring, not to the preparation of Passover day
but as a sort of circumlocution representing the preparation day of the coming Sabbath. But Kostenberger still has to deal with the two other references which seem to indicate that Jesus did not partake of a Passover meal (and so by inference, was crucified before the meal). Recall John 18: 28 which states that the Jews would not enter the praetorium for fear of being defiled because this would have kept them from being able to "eat the passover." Kostenberger has a solution:"The present reference may not be to Passover itself but to the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which lasted seven days (note Luke 22:1: 'the Feast of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover'; see further commentary at 19:14, 31) and in particular to the feast-offering which was brought on the morning of the first day of the festival (cf. Num. 28: 18-19). 'Eat the passover' probably simply means 'celebrate the feast' (cf. 2 Chron. 30:21)." John
And what about John 13:1 which seems to indicate that the last meal depicted in this passage was not a passover meal because it says "now before the feast of passover."? Once again, Kostenberger:"Some believe that John places the supper on 14 Nisan, Wednesday evening, with Jesus' crucifixion occuring on Thursday afternoon, when the lambs are slaughtered at the temple in preparation for Passover. A closer look at the relevant passages, however, shows that none of these actually conflicts with the Synoptic accounts. The opening words thus place the footwashing immediately prior to the Passover meal that is about to begin."
Here is Kostenberger's solution in proposition form:
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.
2.) The reference in Jn 18:28 to the desire of the Jews to "eat passover" most probably is a round about way of saying that they wish to "celebrate the feast" and so does not necessarily refer to Passover meal proper.
3.) The time reference in Jn 13:1 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 occurs in the chapter.
4.) Therefore, there is no contradiction between the Synoptics and the Gospel of John concerning the date of Passover. They all agree that Jesus had a Passover meal with his disciples and was crucified subsequent to this meal on Passover day proper.
I will criticize Kostenberger's "solution" in the next post.