Thursday, September 14, 2006 

The Date of Passover and the Pitfall of Inerrancy: Part 5

Part 4


Part 3

Part 2

Part 1


Now it is time to critique proposition two which states:

2.) The reference in Jn 18:28 to the desire of the Jews to "eat the 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)

Kostenberger's argument here is essentially that phagosin tou pascha (to eat the passover) does not refer to the pesach meal which is celebrated on Passover day but refers instead to the chagigah feast on the day after Passover, the day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. He claims that "to eat the passover" would be a general phrase meant to convey a desire to "celebrate the feast" (which is itself a reference to the following seven days following the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the chagigah being eaten on this first day). He cites 2 Chron 30:21 and Num 28: 18-19 to be cross referenced. Let's look at them briefly:

"And the people of Israel that were present at Jerusalem kept the feast of unleavened bread seven days with great gladness; and the Levites and the priests prased YHWH day by day singing with all their might to YHWH. And Hezekiah spoke encouragingly to all the Levites who showed good skill in the service of YHWH. So the people ate the food of the festival for seven days, sacrificing peace offerings and giving thanks to YHWH the God of their fathers." (2 Chron 30:21-22)

"On the first day there shall be a holy convocation: you shall do no laborious work, but offer an offering by fire, a burnt offering to YHWH: two young bulls, one ram, and seven male lambs a year old; see that they are without blemish." (Num 28:18-19)

It is not altogether clear why Kostenberger cites these two passages in support of his interpretation. Even reading them as they stand I do not see where Kostenberger gets the notion that these texts exhibit a tradition which uses the phrase "to eat the passover" as a circumlocution for "celebrating the feast" or more specifically, eating the chagigah. All that the first passage informs us is that the people ate food for the seven days of the feast and gave peace offerings. Likewise the second passage states simply what the people are to sacrifice on the first day of Unleavened Bread. Neither one of these texts indicate a tendancy to correlate "celebrating of the feast" with "eating the passover."

At this point, I need to make a clarication. In doing this series it may seem like I'm presenting Kostenberger's interpretations of these key passages as novel. But they are not. In fact, the first to propose the type of solutions that Kostenberger presents was Charles C. Torrey back in 1931 in Vol. 50, No. 4 (pp. 227-241) of the Journal of Biblical Literature. Thus it was Torrey who first suggested that in Jn 18:28 the phrase "to eat the passover" is a general reference to "celebrating the feast." Torrey is also responsible for seeing 2 Chron 30:21-2 as evidence for this. What he attempts to do there is to say that in vs 22 the Hebrew translates literally as "so they ate the feast" but then then says that the literal translation is too literal and that on the basis of the fact that the passage cannot mean they ate "through the feast" as some English translates the phrase. . Thus he retranslates it as "they celebrated the feast" and then states that this is equivalent in Greek to "ephagon to pascha" which is, except for a difference in tense , the same as Jn 18:28: "phagosin tou pascha." Why the translation move? Because Torrey argues that leaving it as "they ate the feast" "would imply too much eating, besides being untrue to the Hebrew" (240)

Is this convincing? Not at all. For even if we allow Torrey's shuffling around of the translations, it is still not clear at all that this passage is equating "to eat the passover" with "celebrating the feast" for no such equation is ever posited. Torrey is simply inferring this based on the fact that the previous context of 2 Chron 30 speaks of passover. The passage in its fuller context is as follows:

"And they killed the passover lamb on the fourteenth day of the second month. And the priests and the Levites were put to shame, so that they sanctified themselves, and brought burnt offerings into the house of YHWH. They took their accustomed posts according to the law of Moses and the man of God; the priests sprinkled the blood which they received from the hand of the Levites. For there were many in the assembly who had not sanctified themselves; therefore the Levites had to kill the passover lamb for every one who was not clean, to make it holy to YHWH. For a multitude of the people, many of them from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun, had not cleansed themselves, yet they ate the passover otherwise than as prescribed. For Hezekiah had prayed for them saying, 'YHWH pardon every one who sets his heart to seek God, YHWH the God of his fathers, even though not according to the sanctuary's cleaness.' And YHWH heard Hezekiah and healed the people. And the people of Israel that were present at Jersualem kept the feast of unleavened bread seven days with great gladness and the Levites and the priests praised YHWH day by day singinging with all their might to YHWH. And Hezekiah spoke encouragingly to all the Levites who showed good skill in the service of YHWH. So the people at the food of the festival for seven days..." (15-21)

Forgive me for quoting this passage at length but it was necessary to show one important thing, namely, that even if we grant Torrey's translation of the last sentence as "they celebrated the feast" the only time the passage uses the phrase "eat the passover" (v18) it is without a doubt in reference to the lamb which was slain for passover in v15. Moreover, the "eating of the passover" in verse 18 clearly takes place before the "celebration of the feast" in verse 21 because when the Passover was partaken of, it was done improperly which caused Hezekiah to pray for his people. It was only subsequently, after this prayer that the text tells us the people then celebrated the feast (or the seven days following the passover meal). Thus a distinction is made in the text between the passover meal and the subsequent feast of seven days. And, again, when we do find the phrase "eat the passover" it is without a doubt in reference to the lamb. There is absolutley no responsibly, exegetical way in which to argue from this passage that "to eat the passover" can generally mean "to celebrate the feast" so that Jn 18:28 can be interpreted as celebrating the feast of the chagigah.

At this point some of you may be recalling the fact that in a previous post (here) I argued that by the time of the first century some Jews, as evidenced by the gospels and Josephus, began to conflate the Day of Passover with the First Day of Unleavened Bread. If this is the case then it seems at least a possibility that the phrase "to eat the passover" could have come to refer to the chagigah feast since there was a tendancy to conflate these feast days. But let us grant that this is in fact the case and that in Jn 18:28 we should translate "to eat the passover" as "celebrate the feast" so that Jesus is crucified on the Feast of Unleavened Bread. However, recall Luke 22:7 which says:

"Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the passover lamb had to be sacrificed."

What's the problem? The problem is that as it stands in the biblical text there would still be a contradiction because Luke (and his synoptic counterparts) would be presenting Jesus as being crucified on the day after Passover/Feast of Unleavened Bread whereas John's Jesus would then be crucified on the day of Passover/Feast of Unleavened Bread. Either way you end up with a contradiction in dates. Therefore, though it initially appeared this might help Kostenberger's case in actuality there would still be a contradiction in dates between the Synoptics and the Gospel of John.

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 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' when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas...then after the morsel, Satan entered into 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.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006 

The Date of Passover and the Pitfall of Inerrancy: Excursus

Part 3

Part 2

Part 1


I realize it has been quite a while since I've posted in this series. I do apologize. With the fall semester beginning and my workload increasing I've been struggling to find time to post blogs of substance. Nevertheless, I am going to finish this series. But since there has been a considerable time lapse I want to take a bit of an excursus in order to refresh my readers on the Passover "discrepancy" and to make some additional points in order to bring some clarity to the issue for those unfamiliar with the discussion.

1.) Raymond Brown reminds us that the "Hebrew pesach and the Greek pascha are ambivalent terms, referring not only to a feast day but also to the slaughter of a lamb or goat and the subsequent meal." (Brown, Death of the Messiah: Vol II, p. 1354) In other words the underlying Hebrew and Greek words for what we translate as "Passover" could refer to either the actual slaughtering of the animal, the meal which is eaten at sundown on the 14th/15th of Nisan or to the entire feast day of the 14th of Nisan itself.

2.) Originally, according to Ex 12:8, Lev 23:5-6, and Num 28:16-17 the day of Passover proper is the 14th of Nisan not the 15th when the pesach meal was actually eaten. In other words in pre-70 Judaism there was a distinction between the day of Passover and the meal that was eaten at sundown, which would have been the following day, the 15th of Nisan. But, as Sanders notes, "many modern scholars think that 'Passover' technically applies to the meal on 15 Nisan, and thus that 14 of Nisan is the day before Passover. " (Sanders, The Historical Figure of Jesus, p. 312) Why the misunderstanding? Because after the destruction of the temple, Passover in Jewish usage became referred to as the pesach meal and so in modern Judaism the 15th of Nisan constitutes Passover day proper. This then is often retrojected into the pre-70 period by modern scholars. But in ancient Judaism, the 14th of Nisan was actually Passover day proper.

This point is more for my own possible correction. I stated that the synoptics present Jesus' crucifixion on Passover day proper and John the day before Passover. However, according to ancient Judaism this would be incorrect. Technically then, John would be presenting Jesus as having been crucified on Passover day proper while the synoptics would have been portraying his crucifixion as having occurred after the pesach meal, namely, on the first day of the Feast of Unleavened bread.

However, I think Sanders may be wrong to posit a neat transition in terminology based soley on the second temple's destruction. Surely the situation was more complex. There is still a lot we do not know about this era of Judaism and so I see no reason why during the period of second-temple Judaism the Jews might not have begun to lose the distinction between Passover day proper and the subsequent meal. Nevertheless, nothing of monumental importance hinges on whether or not a distinction is to be made at the time of Jesus' crucifixion between Passover day proper and the pesah meal. Therefore, I will continue to speak of Passover day proper as the time after the meal and the day before as the day of preparation of Passover when the lambs were slaughtered.

3.) Now according to the OT passages mentioned above, namely, Ex 12:8, Lev 23:5-6, and Num 28:16-17 (and also Philo, On the Special Laws 2.27-28) we know that, initially, Passover day, and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were considered separate feasts. However, we know that by the 1st century some Jews, including Josephus, began failing to make this distinction. For example in Antiquities 9.13.3, Josephus states: "When the feast of the Unleavened Bread came around, they sacrificed the pascha." The author(s) of Mark also fails to make this distinction: "On the first day of the Unleavened Bread when they sacrificed the paschal lamb," (14:12). Now at first sight this might appear to support Kostenberger's interpretation of Jn 18:28. But, as I will argue next time, looks are, in this case, actually deceiving.

4. Some readers were a bit confused as to some of my statements regarding how the Jewish calendar functioned during the Second-Temple period. I admit to being heavily dependent upon secondary sources in this matter. Calendarics (don't know if that constitutes an actual word) and astronomy certainly are not my specialty. But in order to grasp better some specifics concerning the Jewish calendar here is Sanders again, and at length:

"To demonstrate where the problem lies, I shall have to explain the Jewish calendar. It was (and still is) luni-solar. The year was divided into months, and months were reckoned strictly according to the phases of the moon. A lunar month begins with the new moon and lasts about 29 1/2 days; therefore months were either 29 or 30 days long. Twelve such months produce a lunar year of about 354 days, 11 1/4 days too short for a solar (seasonal) year, which is determined by the position of the earth relative to the sun. In a strictly lunar year the months back up. Every year, each month comes about 11 days earlier than the year before. The consequence is that springtime festivals soon start arriving in the winter. In order to keep months in the right season, Jews 'intercalated' a thirteenth month every two or three years. Thus while most years were 354 days, some were 383 or 384 days. Over a nineteen-year cycle, the total number of days comes out about right in terms of the solar calendar. This is why we say that the Jewish calendar is luni-solar: the months are lunar, but the number of months is adjusted in order to bring the calendar into agreement with the solar year." (Sanders, Historical Figure of Jesus, p. 283-284.)

(I quote Sanders at length here in order to exhibit how the attempts to keep the solar year in step with a lunar reckoning of months would from time to time result in the 14th of Nisan coinciding with a Sabbath day. This is, I believe, precisely what John presents. )

I realize that these observations are a bit excessive and so not necessarily conducive for the overall thrust of my argument (except for point three). But I felt it necessary to clarify some matters partly because one of my readers implicitly condemned me for not doing my "homework" and partly because I wanted to present some of the more complex issues pertaining to Passover to those not too familiar with the topic under discussion.

If this did nothing but confuse some of you, then clear this post from your mind (with the exception of point 3 because it will be important for my critique of Kostenberger) and go back and read part 1. Alright, next time I promise to finally post my critique of Kostenberger

Saturday, September 02, 2006 


Stephen Carlson at Hypotyposeis has posted the XI Biblical Studies Carnival. He has done a wonderful job of compiling some of the best blogs from the month of August. Many thanks to Stephen for his hard work getting this together.

In regards to another Stephen, Stephen Peltz, otherwise known as "Q" who runs the great blog Toward's Jerusalem, we will shortly be joining forces. We think this will be beneficial for both of us since neither one of us really have the time to keep fresh content coming. This will help ease our burden and also, hopefully, keep our readers entertained. However, I will not be giving up this blog. My plan is to keep this blog and to post at least once a week on something pertaining to resurrection. My posts with Stephen will be in regards to all of my other interests (Jewish-Christian relations, Historical Jesus, Origins of Christianity, Christology, etc.). What I will do is link to the posts at Stephen's site here for those interested in what I might have to say on things other than the resurrection. As of yet, Stephen and I are not sure if I am just going to go to his site or if we are going to start another "neutral" site. But I will let you guys know.

Finally, I have not forgotten about my "Passover" series. Before joining Stephen, I will finish it, probably within the next few days so just bear with me. I am very much looking forward to co-blogging with Stephen. For those of you who are not familiar with his site, do check it out.

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