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ב״ה
“… out of Tziyon will go forth Torah, the word of ADONAI from Yerushalayim.”
(Isaiah 2:3)

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Sections of the Apostolic Writings
The Gospels and Acts • The “Pauline” Letters • General Letters • End Times


Introduction to the Gospels (Good News of the Kingdom) and Acts
Mattityahu (Matthew)  •  Mordichai (Mark)  •  Lukas (Luke)  • Yochanan (John)
Crucifixion Week ChronologyPassover and the Last Supper
3-Year Harmony of the Gospels1-Year Harmony of the Gospels  
Hitgalut (Revelation)  •  P’yilut HaShliyakim (Acts of the Emissaries)  •  The Chosen (Video Series)


Passover
and the
“Last Supper”

For nearly 20 years I have been wrestling with the question, “How did Yeshua celebrate Passover twenty hours before the Passover lamb was slain in the Temple?” My assumption was that Yeshua’s last meal cuold not have been a Passover Seder since the Passover Lamb had not yet been sacrificed, though the Gospel text suggest very strongly that it was. Late in the evening of First Fruits 2022 I was finally provided an answer by my dear friend, Messianic Rabbi Harold (Hal) Workman. The answer, it would seem, is that there are three “Passovers” — the Passover Lamb (Torah frequently refers to the Passover Lame as simply “the Pesach”), the Wilderness Passover, and the Temple Passover.

ADONAI[GN] Establishes His Passover

Exod 12 יְהוָֹה[GN] spoke to Moshe and Aharon in the land of Egypt; he said, 2“You are to begin your calendar with this month; it will be the first month of the year for you. 3Speak to all the assembly of Isra’el and say, ‘On the tenth day of this month, each man is to take a lamb or kid for his family, one per household — 4except that if the household is too small for a whole lamb or kid, then he and his next-door neighbor should share one, dividing it in proportion to the number of people eating it. 5Your animal must be without defect, a male in its first year, and you may choose it from either the sheep or the goats.

6“‘You are to keep it until the fourteenth day of the month, and then the entire assembly of the community of Isra’el will slaughter it at dusk. 7They are to take some of the blood and smear it on the two sides and top of the door-frame at the entrance of the house in which they eat it. 8That night, they are to eat the meat, roasted in the fire; they are to eat it with matzah and maror. 9Don’t eat it raw or boiled, but roasted in the fire, with its head, the lower parts of its legs and its inner organs. 10Let nothing of it remain till morning; if any of it does remain, burn it up completely.

11 “‘Here is how you are to eat it: with your belt fastened, your shoes on your feet and your staff in your hand; and you are to eat it hurriedly. It is יְהוָֹה’s Pesach [Passover]. 12For that night, I will pass through the land of Egypt and kill all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both men and animals; and I will execute judgment against all the gods of Egypt; I am יְהוָֹה. 13The blood will serve you as a sign marking the houses where you are; when I see the blood, I will pass over you — when I strike the land of Egypt, the death blow will not strike you.

14“‘This will be a day for you to remember and celebrate as a festival to יְהוָֹה; from generation to generation you are to celebrate it by a perpetual regulation.

And Moshe added …

23 For יְהוָֹה will pass through to strike the Egyptians; but when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, יְהוָֹה will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to come in to your houses to strike you. 24And you shall keep this event as an ordinance for you and your children forever. 25When you enter the land which יְהוָֹה will give you, as He has promised, you shall keep this rite. 26And when your children say to you, ‘What does this rite mean to you?’ 27then you shall say, ‘It is a Passover sacrifice to יְהוָֹה because He passed over the houses of the sons of Israel in Egypt when He struck the Egyptians, but spared our homes.’”

Some unspecified time later …

43יְהוָֹה said to Moshe and Aharon, “This is the regulation for the Pesach lamb: no foreigner is to eat it. 44But if anyone has a slave he bought for money, when you have circumcised him, he may eat it. 45Neither a traveler nor a hired servant may eat it. 46It is to be eaten in one house. You are not to take any of the meat outside the house, and you are not to break any of its bones. 47The whole community of Isra’el is to keep it. 48If a foreigner staying with you wants to observe יְהוָֹה’s Pesach, all his males must be circumcised. Then he may take part and observe it; he will be like a citizen of the land. But no uncircumcised person is to eat it. 49The same teaching is to apply equally to the citizen and to the foreigner living among you.”

There is a lot to unpack in these six short paragraphs, but let’s give it a try,

The Wilderness Passover

According to Chabad-Lubavitch[3] “We began celebrating the holiday of Passover on the first anniversary of our freedom from Egypt. Actually, in practice we celebrated it even during the actual Exodus, as we were commanded by G‑d to eat the Passover lamb on the night prior to the Exodus. … Interestingly, we weren’t asked to bring the Paschal Offering throughout those desert years. G‑d commanded us to offer a lamb as a Passover offering on the first anniversary and did not ask of us to do this again until 39 years later. And since we weren’t commanded to do so, it would have been forbidden to offer an offering in the Tabernacle that was not requested by G‑d.”

Remember that ADONAI killed Nadav and Avihu, two sons of Aaron, because they had offered “unauthorized fire … something He had not ordered them to do.” (Lev 10:1-2) ADONAI requires that we come to Him on His terms, not on our own terms

So the Passover sacrifice was observed on the night before they left Egypt and again on the first anniversary. It was not observed again until they had actually entered the Land that ADONAI had promised them.

The Temple Passover

When the People came into the Land, the Passover sacrifice was offered every year at the appointed time, and the practice was continued in both the First and Second Temples, and will likely be continued in the Third Temple. The year that Yeshua was crucified, the Passover Lamb was being sacrificed in the Temple at the exact moment of His death. Thus He fulfilled the “type”[GN] of the Passover Lamb by becoming theantitype,” or real, Passover Lamb.

Passover Today

Since korban,[GN] or legitimate, sacrifices can only be offered in the Temple by those who are in a state of “ritual purity,” modern Judaism, including most of Messianic Judaism, refers to the Feast of Unleavened Bread as “Passover.”

15“‘For seven days you are to eat matzah — on the first day remove the leaven from your houses. For whoever eats hametz [leavened bread] from the first to the seventh day is to be cut off from Isra’el. 16On the first and seventh days, you are to have an assembly set aside for God. On these days no work is to be done, except what each must do to prepare his food; you may do only that. 17You are to observe the festival of matzah, for on this very day I brought your divisions out of the land of Egypt. Therefore, you are to observe this day from generation to generation by a perpetual regulation. 18From the evening of the fourteenth day of the first month until the evening of the twenty-first day, you are to eat matzah. 19During those seven days, no leaven is to be found in your houses. Whoever eats food with hametz in it is to be cut off from the community of Isra’el — it doesn’t matter whether he is a foreigner or a citizen of the land. 20Eat nothing with hametz in it. Wherever you live, eat matzah.’”

The Passover Sacrifice

Here is the traditional Jewish thinking on the matter.[4]

The Korban Pesach is a unique offering which poses unique possibilities. Like all sacrifices, it may only be brought on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. But does there need to be a Temple standing for the sacrifice to be brought?

Some point to the following Talmudic anecdote as possible evidence of this sacrifice being offered post Temple: (Sheilat Yaavitz 1:89)

The Mishnah relates that Rabban Gamliel instructed his servant Tevi to roast the Paschal lamb for him. (Talmud, Pesachim 74a) Now, there were two Mishnaic sages by the name of Rabban Gamliel, a grandfather and a grandson. Rabban Gamliel the Elder lived during the time of the Second Temple, whereas his grandson, Rabban Gamliel of Yavneh, lived shortly after its destruction. So which one was it?

According to Rabbi Yaakov Emdin, known as the Yaavitz (1697-1776), it was the latter Rabban Gamliel, and this incident took place after the destruction of the Temple (at a time when the location of the Altar was possibly still known).[5]

So the sacrifice may have been offered after Temple times. But why? …

Let us first answer that question with another question: Why not?

According to most codifiers, including Maimonides, one may in theory bring a sacrifice at the location where the Altar stood on the Temple Mount, even in the absence of the actual Temple structure.[6] However, this view is not universally accepted, and as I explain here, there are lots of other technicalities preventing the rebuilding of the Temple and the bringing of an offering at present.

But the Paschal Lamb is somewhat of an exception. …

One of the main issues with bringing a sacrifice nowadays is that we are all in a state of ritual impurity, and it is forbidden to bring a sacrifice (or enter the Temple area, for that matter) while impure.[7]

However, while this is true for most sacrifices, when it comes to sacrifices that must be offered on a specific day, the halachah is that they may be brought even while in a state of impurity.[8] Practically, this means that the daily Tamid offering and the special Shabbat and holiday offerings, including the Paschal lamb, may be brought in a state of impurity.

So while there are good arguments in favor of the possibility of offering a Korban Pesach, as a practical matter there two obstacles: (1) we cannot be sure of the exact location of the original altar, and (2) the present security situation at Temple Mount prohibit access.

The Origins of the Passover Seder

Technically, Passover is only the final hours of the 14th day of the month of Aviv and Unleavened Bread is “from the evening of the fourteenth day of the first month until the evening of the twenty-first day” (Exod 12:18). However, modern practice is to refer to the entire period of Unleavened Bread as Passover, with a sacred assembly “on the first and seventh day” (Exod 12:16).

But did the Seder even exist during the Second Temple Period? Scholars assert that it did not.

Emerging methods in the study of rabbinic literature now enable greater precision in dating the individual components of the Passover Seder and haggadah. These approaches, both textual and socio-historical, have led to a near consensus among scholars that the Passover Seder as described in rabbinic literature did not yet exist during the Second Temple period. Hence, cautious scholars no longer seek to find direct parallels between the last supper as described in the Gospels and the rabbinic seder. Rather, scholarly attention has focused on varying attempts of Jewish parties, notably rabbis and Christians, to provide religious meaning and sanctity to the Passover celebration after the death of Jesus and the destruction of the Temple. Three main forces stimulated the rabbis to develop innovative seder ritual and to generate new, relevant exegeses to the biblical Passover texts: (1) the twin calamities of the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple and the Bar-Kokhba revolt; (2) competition with emerging Christian groups; (3) assimilation of Greco-Roman customs and manners. These forces were, of course, significant contributors to the rise of a much larger array of rabbinic institutions, ideas and texts. Thus surveying scholarship on the seder reviews scholarship on the emergence of rabbinic Judaism.[9]

Rabbi Prof. David Golinkin makes these observations.

There is no question that the Seder, which is celebrated on the first night of Pesach or on the first two nights in the Diaspora – is the central ritual of the holiday of Passover. But what is the origin of the Seder and the Haggadah?

The Torah instructs us to slaughter the Korban Pesach, the paschal lamb, to eat it with matzot and marror, and to sprinkle some blood on the lintel and the two doorposts (Exodus 12:22 ff.) It also instructs the father to teach his son about the Exodus on Pesach (Exodus 12:26; 13:6, 14; Deut. 6:12 and cf. Exodus 10:2) (For a summary of the biblical passages about Pesach, see Siegfried Stein, The Journal of Jewish Studies 8 (1957), pp. 13-15 and Baruch Bokser, The Origins of the Seder, Berkeley etc. 1984, pp. 14-19). These mitzvot, however, are a far cry from the many rituals which we do at the Seder and from the literary forms which we recite in the Haggadah.

Furthermore, the Seder and the Haggadah are also missing from the Second Temple period descriptions of Pesach, including a papyrus from Elephantine (419 B.C.E.), the book of Jubilees (late second century B.C.E.), Philo (20 B.C.E.-50 C.E.), and Josephus (A. E. Cowley, Aramaic Papyri of the Fifth Century B.C., 1923, pp. 60-65 quoted by Chaim Rapael, A Feast of History, London etc., 1972, p. 128 and Franz Kobler, A Treasury of Jewish Letters, Vol. 1, Philadelphia, 1953, p. 22; Book of Jubilees, Chapter 49; Philo, The Special Laws, II, 145 ff.; Josephus, in numerous passages. Regarding these passages, see Stein, pp. 15, 20-23 and Bokser, pp. 19-25. There are a number of parallels between the New Testament and Mishnah and Tosefta Pesahim (Stein, p. 23 and Bokser, pp. 25-28) which seem to indicate that the kernel of the rabbinic texts pre-dates the Destruction in 70 C.E. – see the following note).

They are first mentioned in the Mishnah and Tosefta (Pesahim Chapter 10) which scholars date to either shortly before or shortly after the Destruction of the second temple in 70 C.E (David Zvi Hoffman, Y. N. Epstein and Yosef Tabori believe that the basic texts are pre-destruction; while Stein, Bokser, Shmuel and Zev Safrai, and Shamma Friedman believe they are post-destruction. It is possible to explain most of the texts in both fashions and my tendency is to agree with the earlier dating. In any case, the exact date of these texts does not influence the main thesis of this article). What is the source of the elaborate rituals and literary forms of the Seder and Haggadah?

In the first half of the twentieth century, Lewy, Baneth, Krauss, and Goldschmidt drew attention to the fact that the forms of the Seder are based on Graeco-Roman table manners and dietary habits. But the most detailed evidence of this borrowing was provided in 1957 when Siegfried Stein published “The Influence of Symposia Literature on the Literary Form of the Pesah Haggadah” in The Journal of Jewish Studies (Stein, pp. 13-44). Since then, Stein’s basic thesis has been adopted with variations by various scholars who have written about the origins of the Seder (See, for example, Bokser, Chapter 5; Raphael, pp. 86-92; Yosef Tabory, Pesah Dorot, Tel Aviv, 1996, pp. 367-377. Bokser thinks that the Sages adopted the symposium after the Destruction in order to find a replacement for the Paschal sacrifice, which could no longer be brought. Yisrael Yuval, Shnei Goyim B’vitnekh, Tel Aviv, 2000, pp. 77-107 maintains that the Seder was the Jewish answer to the early Christians who developed a Christian Seder/symposium at Pesach which retold the story of Jesus and his resurrection. I do not find Yuval’s theory convincing. I think that both Jews and Christians reworked the symposium, but not because they were competing with each other). Stein proved in a very convincing fashion that many of the Seder rituals and literary forms found in Mishnah and Tosefta Pesahim and in the Haggadah were borrowed from the Hellenistic banquet or symposium.[10]

My Question Satisfied

After 20 years or so of wrestling with the questions surrounding Yeshua, the “Last Supper,” and the sacrifice of the Passover Lamb, I finally have an answer that satisfies me.

Was the “Last Supper” that Yeshua ate with His disciples on the night He was betrayed a Passover Seder? Not in the sense we think of the Seder today?

But was it a celebration of the Passover? With almost absolute certainty, it was.

Did Yeshua violate Torah by celebrating Passover 20 hours before the Paschal Lamb was sacrificed? No, He most certainly did not. There are no provisions in Torah for a formal Passover Seder as we now know it.

In fact, it seems quite likely that the early Yeshua-Followers, by whatever name they were known, adopted the practice of retelling the story of Yeshua’s final meal by placing that retelling within the context of the Exodus Passover event.

Upon the destruction of Jerusalem, Yochanan ben Zakkai converted his school at Yavne into the Jewish religious center, insisting that certain privileges, given by Jewish law uniquely to Jerusalem, should be transferred to Yavne. His school functioned as a re-establishment of the Sanhedrin, so that Judaism could decide how to deal with the loss of the sacrificial altars of the temple in Jerusalem, and other pertinent questions. Referring to a passage in the Book of Hosea, “I desired mercy, and not sacrifice,” he helped persuade the council to replace animal sacrifice with prayer, a practice that continues in today’s worship services. Rabbinic Judaism eventually emerged from the council’s conclusions.[11]

The Tannaim[12] at the Academy in Jabneh (Yavne) were engaged with Rabbi Yehudah ha-Nasi (Judah the Prince, ca.135-217 CE) in the formalization of the Mishnah and committing it to writing. This was a very long and gradual process that lasted about 210 years. Yehudah was the chief redactor and editor of the Mishnah, which effort was completed about 189 CE.

It is assumed by many scholars, both Jewish and Christian, that these Tannaim developed the first formal Haggadah (the written order of service for the Passover Seder) during the Misnaic and Talmudic periods, although the exact date is unknown. It could not have been written earlier than the time of Judah bar Ilai (circa 170 CE), who is the latest tanna to be quoted therein.[13] It is thought by many that the first Haggadah was patterned after the ritual developed by the early Jesus-Followers to celebrate Yeshua’s final meal as He had requested them to do “in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19; 1Cor 11:24-25).

My Take-Away From This Exercise

So now I understand how the whole thing works. While there is Torah instruction for the Passover Sacrifice, there is no Torah provision for the Passover Seder. During the late Second Temple Period the family Passover meal was a personal observance and not directly dependent upon or related to the Sacrifice. Since Yeshua used it as a teaching tool to show His disciples how He fulfilled all the prophetic elements of the whole Exodus Passover event, the early Yeshua-Followers developed it into a more formalized observance. When the Tannaim at Yavne saw what a good teaching tool it was, they worked into what has now become the formal Passover Seder with its accompanying Haggadah. Thank you, Rabbi Hal!


  1. “The First Month, Aviv/Nissan The Month of our Redemption, New Beginnings” | United Israel (unitedisraelworldunion.com) dated Mar 29, 2022. Accessed 20 April 2022. [RETURN]

  2. God so freqently says something similar to “The same teaching is to apply equally to the citizen and to the foreigner living among you” that I am forced to include that the entire Torah applies to both Jews and Gentiles except where He specifically says otherwise. Feel free to disagree. [RETURN]

  3. “Chabad-Lubavitch is a major movement within mainstream Jewish tradition with its roots in the Chassidic movement of the 18th century. In Czarist and Communist Russia, the leaders of Chabad led the struggle for the survival of Torah Judaism, often facing imprisonment and relentless persecution for their activities. After the Holocaust, under the direction of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchaak Schneerson and his successor, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, Chabad became a worldwide movement, caring for the spiritual and material needs of all Jews, wherever they could be found. Today, over 3,500 Chabad institutions are located in more than 85 countries, with a new center opening on the average every ten days. In South Africa, South America, Russia, Australia, Asia, the UK, and many parts of the USA, Chabad has become the most dynamic and dominant force within the Jewish community. … Chabad is influenced by the teaching of the Baal Shem Tov, a great Jew of 18th-century Eastern Europe who loved his people with an immeasurable passion. …” https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/776104/jewish/FAQ.htm accessed 20 April 2022. [RETURN]

  4. https://www.chabad.org/holidays/passover/pesach_cdo/aid/3288556/jewish/Can-We-Sacrifice-a-Paschal-Lamb-Nowadays.htm accessed 20 April 2022. [RETURN]

  5. Sheilat Yaavitz 1:89, See, however, Seder Hadorot, Rabban Gamliel of Yavna, who, while agreeing it was the later Rabban Gamliel, writes that this took place before the destruction of the Temple. [RETURN]

  6. See Mishnah Ediyot 8:6; Talmud, Megillah 10, Shevuot 16a and Zevachim 62a; and Rambam, Hilchot Beit Habechira 6:15. See also Magen Avraham, Orach Chaim 561:2 and Mishnah Berurah 561:5. See, however, Rabad on the Rambam, Hilchot Beit Habechira 6:15, where he disagrees, as well as the commentary of Ri Migash on Talmud, Shevuot 16a, where he is of the opinion that the Talmud was referring to an instance of a temporary absence of the Temple walls, such as what occurred during the period of the reconstruction of the Second Temple. [RETURN]

  7 Leviticus 22:2; Talmud, Sanhedrin 83a and Zevachim 15b. See also Rambam, Hilchot Biyat Hamikdash 4:1; Magen Avraham, Orach Chaim 561:2; and Mishnah Berurah 561:5. [RETURN]

  8. Talmud, Yoma 50a; Rambam, Hilchot Biyat Hamikdash 4:9-10. [RETURN]

  9. Kulp J. “The Origins of the Seder and Haggadah.” Currents in Biblical Research. 2005;4(1):109-134. doi:10.1177/1476993X05055642 accessed 20 April 2022 (emphasis added) [RETURN]

10. https://schechter.edu/the-origins-of-the-seder/ accessed 20 April 2022. [RETURN]

11. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yohanan_ben_Zakkai, accessed 20 April 2022. [RETURN]

12. The Tannaim were the rabbinic sages whose views are recorded in the Mishnah, from approximately 10–220 CE. The period of the Tannaim, also referred to as the Mishnaic period, lasted about 210 years. [RETURN]

13. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haggadah, accessed 20 April 2022. [RETURN]

Page originally posted on Wednesday, 20 April 2022

Page last updated on Monday, 22 August 2022 04:13 PM
(Updates are generally minor formatting or editorial changes.
Major content changes are identified as "Revisions”)

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