TPM and what is the real date for the Christian Passover?

A Shmura Matzo (Unleavened Bread is Used for Passover)


When is the Christian Passover for 2013? Sunday, March 24th, after sunset which is when the 14th of Nisan begins. Or Monday, March 25th, after sunset which is when the 15th of Nisan begins. Or Sunday, March 31st?

The date of the Christian Passover has been controversial since the second century. We in the Continuing Church of God believe that we follow Jesus’ example, as well as those of the early faithful Christians, and hence observe it towards the beginning of the 14th of Nisan (Sunday, March 24th after sunset in 2013).

Yet,  TPM’s William Dankenbring (who was once a WCG writer) wrote an article titled: “SEVENTEEN PROOFS Why Passover Should Be Observed on Nisan 15!

But, of course, that is not when Jesus observed the Passover, nor when the original Passover was observed.

The Bible is clear that the 14th of the month is God’s Passover and the 15th day begins a different time:

5 On the fourteenth day of the first month at twilight is the LORD’s Passover. 6 And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the LORD (Leviticus 23:5-6, NKJV).

5 “The fourteenth day of the first month, at twilight, is the Passover of Yahweh (Leviticus 23:5, NJB)

5 In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the Lord’s passover. (Leviticus 23:5, KJV)

There is only one “twilight” for the 14th and that is right after sunset that BEGINS the day. Thus, the 14th is clearly the day of God’s Passover.

Now, the following is the first place in the Bible that the calendar date of the Passover is specifically mentioned:

Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying: ‘On the tenth day of this month every man shall take for himself a lamb, according to the house of his father, a lamb for a household. And if the household is too small for the lamb, let him and his neighbor next to his house take it according to the number of the persons; according to each man’s need you shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats. Now you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month. Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight. And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it. Then they shall eat the flesh on that night; roasted in fire, with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs they shall eat it. Do not eat it raw, nor boiled at all with water, but roasted in fire–its head with its legs and its entrails. You shall let none of it remain until morning, and what remains of it until morning you shall burn with fire. And thus you shall eat it: with a belt on your waist, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. So you shall eat it in haste. It is the LORD’s Passover (Exodus 12:3-11, NKJV).

6 And you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month: and the whole multitude of the children of Israel shall sacrifice it in the evening. (Exodus 12:6, Douay-Rheims)

Notice that the fourteenth day of the month is the Lord’s Passover and that is when the lambs were sacrificed.  It should be noted that the Douay-Rheims is a Catholic approved translation of scripture, yet they will observe March 31st as Passover, while calling it Easter in the English languages and switching its emphasis away from the biblical teachings on Passover.

But getting back to TPM, interestingly it agrees with the Old Testament as it admits that the New Testament teaches that the Passover lambs are to be sacrificed on the 14th of Nisan:

According to the gospel of John, Nisan 14 is the very day the Passover lambs would have been slain – the day before the high holy day of the first day of Unleavened Bread (John 19:14-16)…Christ Himself died, as OUR “Passover lamb…Paul himself declares, “For indeed, Christ our PASSOVER, was sacrificed for us” (I Cor.5:7). This implies that He was sacrificed at the appointed time when ALL the Passover lambs were being killed, which was on the afternoon of Nisan 14” (I Cor.5:7) (Dankenbring W.F. What Year and Date Was Christ Crucified? 6/20/06).

Hence, although I would have selected a different proof text, there is agreement that the Passover lambs were sacrificed sometime on the 14th of Nisan. Some would have been sacrificed at twilight and others apparently later. Jesus kept the Passover at twilight and was killed later on the 14th.

Who does the Bible say was the Lamb of God? Well, Jesus the Christ of course:

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29).

And was Jesus the Passover lamb sacrificed for us?

For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us (1 Corinthians 5:7).

Thus, according to the Bible (and even TPM), the Passover lambs were sacrificed on the 14th of Nisan. Jesus was the Lamb of God who was the Passover sacrificed for us. Thus, if one agrees with TPM that the New Testament teaches that the Passover lambs were sacrificed on the 14th of Nisan, then one should agree that the New Testament Passover should also be observed on the 14th of Nisan. TPM however, seems to feel that the Passover is to be observed the night after the lambs are killed.

What Happened Before Passover?

TPM argues that last meal that Jesus ate before His crucifixion was before the Passover, thus was not a Passover meal:

What, Then, Was the “Last Supper”?

In fact, the apostle John himself writes, “Now BEFORE the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come . . . and supper being ended, the devil having already put it in the heart of Judas Iscariot . . . 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 [the “Last Supper”], and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself” (John 13:1-4). He then began to wash the disciples’ feet (vs.5-12).

John plainly calls this mean a “SUPPER” – not the “Passover” meal! He plainly says it occurred “BEFORE” the upcoming Feast of the Passover (verse 1). There is NO WAY that meal could have been the “Passover,” as so many seem to assume! (Dankenbring W.F. What Year and Date Was Christ Crucified? 6/20/06).

Now plainly John says this final “supper” was “before” the Passover! Therefore it could not have been the “Passover”!…

Therefore, when we understand it, there is absolutely NO PROOF that the “last supper” was actually the “Passover” itself, as so many people assume. (Dankenbring WF. John 19:14 — What Do You Mean, “About the Sixth Hour”?,_sixth_hour.htm 6/23/06).

Jesus sent Peter and John telling them, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat.” In context, then, He is telling them to “Prepare for the coming Passover Feast” – all the seven days of “Passover” (verse 1). They had to prepare – that is, obtain “unleavened bread,” and all the things necessary for observing the Passover for seven days. That is why this day was called a day of preparation.’ Jesus was telling His disciples to ‘PREPARE’ for the up-coming Passover – that is, to GET READY and make preparations. He did not say the meal that very night would be the Passover! Luke plainly calls it “supper” – not “Passover” – as we shall see! (Dankenbring WF. Was the Lord’s Supper Really the Passover? Prophecy Flash, March-April 2010.)

Contrary to what TPM wrote above, Jesus DOES call this meal the Passover in Matthew, Mark, and Luke:

18 And He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, “My time is at hand; I will keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.”‘”

19 So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them; and they prepared the Passover.

20 When evening had come, He sat down with the twelve. 21 Now as they were eating (Matthew 26:18-21).

14 Wherever he goes in, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, “Where is the guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?”‘ 15 Then he will show you a large upper room, furnished and prepared; there make ready for us.”

16 So His disciples went out, and came into the city, and found it just as He had said to them; and they prepared the Passover.

17 In the evening He came with the twelve. 18 Now as they sat and ate, Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you, one of you who eats with Me will betray Me.” (Mark 14:14-18)

15 With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer..(Luke 22:15).

Also, contrary to what TPM wrote above, TPM’s contention of what John plainly says is in error. Additionally, TPM’s quoting of those passages gives the appearance that certain events were absolutely together when the reading of the entire context shows that this is NOT the case.

A review of the Greek in John 13:1 shows that before the Passover that Jesus knew His hour had come and that He loved His disciples. It does not say that He had SUPPER before the Passover.

Below are two literal translations, the first of which also shows the relevant Strong’s number of each of the Greek words:

4253 1161 3588 1859 3588 3957 1492 3588
before Now the feast of the passover, when knew the

2424 3754 2064 846 3588 5610 2443
Jesus that was come his the hour that

3327 1537 3588 2889 5127 4314 3588
he should depart out of the world this unto the

3962 25 3588 9999 2398 3588 1722 3588
Father, having loved which were his own the in the

2889 1519 9999 5056. 25 846
world, unto the end. he loved them. (Interlinear Transliterated Bible. Copyright (c) 1994 by Biblesoft).

And before the feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He should move from this world to the Father, loving (His) own in the world, He loved them to (the) end (Green J.P. Interlinear Greek-English New Testament, 3rd ed. Baker Books, Grand Rapids, Mi, 1996).

(Note: I added the term “the” in the four places where J. Green left it blank.)

Thus to teach that John 13 plainly states that supper was before the Passover is not supported by the main verse (13:1). Secondarily, the word supper is used is in the next verse. The Greek word used is transliterated as deipnon, a term normally referring to the evening meal:

deipnon (dipe’-non)…dinner, i.e. the chief meal (usually in the evening) (Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.)

Hence, a dinner meal was normally in the evening (and the evening begins at/after twilight). Jesus’ acts immediately after the meal was completed did occur on the Tuesday evening portion of the 14th of Nisan and NOT the 13th as some have suggested (this is also confirmed by 1 Corinthians 11:23 which will be quoted later).

Thus, John 13 is clearly supportive of a 14th Passover.

Furthermore, the real question is how did God view this particular meal, or at least the symbolism after the meal? Notice what Jesus told His disciples about this meal:

And He sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat.” So they said to Him, “Where do You want us to prepare?” And He said to them, “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him into the house which he enters. Then you shall say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, “Where is the guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?” ‘ Then he will show you a large, furnished upper room; there make ready.” So they went and found it just as He had said to them, and they prepared the Passover. When the hour had come, He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him. Then He said to them, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”(Luke 22:8-19).

Thus, it is clear that on that evening of the 14th, Jesus and His disciples observed the Passover. TPM may wish to assert that the meal was eaten before sunset, but since the passover lambs were not killed until the twilight on the 14th (Exodus 12:6) and the verse specifically says that Jesus did not sit down until the hour had come, the fact is that this is the Passover according to Jesus. This is when He implemented the footwashing, the wine, and the bread–it should be noted that Paul clearly teaches that this was done at night (1 Corinthians 11:23). And we are to do this in remembrance of Jesus, and since Passover is an annual 14th of Nisan event (Numbers 9:2-5), this means on the 14th shortly after sunset.

And that is what we in the Continuing Church of God (as well as most in CG7 and other COG groups) do.

Some Historical Controversies

There was controversy associated with the date of Passover that began in the second century. Some wanted the original date of the 14th, some wanted Sunday instead, while some others seemingly wanted the 15th.

Around 155 A.D. Polycarp of Smyrna went to Rome to deal with various heretics and he tried to persuade the Anicetus not to change Passover to an Easter Sunday holiday. Irenaeus records this about Passover:

And when the blessed Polycarp was sojourning in Rome in the time of Anicetus, although a slight controversy had arisen among them as to certain other points…For neither could Anicetus persuade Polycarp to forego the observance [in his own way], inasmuch as these things had been always observed by John the disciple of our Lord, and by other apostles with whom he had been conversant; nor, on the other hand, could Polycarp succeed in persuading Anicetus to keep [the observance in his way], for he maintained that he was bound to adhere to the usage of the presbyters who preceded him. And in this state of affairs they held fellowship with each other; and Anicetus conceded to Polycarp in the Church the celebration of the Eucharist, by way of showing him respect (Irenaeus. FRAGMENTS FROM THE LOST WRITINGS OF IRENAEUS. Translated by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. Excerpted from Volume I of The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, editors); American Edition copyright © 1885. Electronic version copyright © 1997 by New Advent, Inc).

For it was in Rome and Greek Jerusalem that the habit of changing the date of Passover began.

It may be of interest to note “And in Rome …Anicetus assumed the leadership of the Christians there… But Justin was especially prominent in those days” (Eusebius Church History. Book IV, Chapter 11). This may indicate that the heretic Justin Martyr influenced Anicetus so much that he would not agree to only observe the Nisan 14 Passover (Justin opposed various biblical practices).

However, those in Asia Minor, did not change the date in the second century.

Apollinaris was a church leader of Hierapolis in Phrygia of Asia Minor. Around 180 A.D. he wrote (possibly because some wanted Sunday or others the 15th):

The fourteenth day, the true Passover of the Lord; the great sacrifice, the Son of God instead of the lamb, who was bound, who bound the strong, and who was judged, though Judge of living and dead, and who was delivered into the hands of sinners to be crucified, who was lifted up on the horns of the unicorn, and who was pierced in His holy side, who poured forth from His side the two purifying elements, water and blood, word and spirit, and who was buried on the day of the passover, the stone being placed upon the tomb (Apollinaris. From the Book Concerning Passover. Translated by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. Excerpted from Volume I of The Ante-Nicene Fathers. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, editors; American Edition copyright © 1885. Copyright © 2001 Peter Kirby).

One Anglican scholar noted:

…there is no doubt that Apollinarius was a Quartodeciman…Those who kept Passover in the evening understood it to be a repetition of the Lord’s Supper (Stewart-Sykes A. Melito of Sardis On Pascha. St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, Crestwood (NY), 2001, p. 81).

Melito of Sardis of Asia Minor, probably by 180 A.D., wrote the following on Passover:

When Servilius Paulus was proconsul of Asia, at the time that Sagaris suffered martyrdom, there arose a great controversy at Laodicea concerning the time of the celebration of the Passover, which on that occasion had happened to fall at the proper season (Melito. Translation by Roberts and Donaldson. On the passover. Online version copyright © 2001 Peter Kirby. 11/18/06).

Click here for a complete version of The Homily On the Passover by Melito. If your church does not teach you about the Passover and why you should observe it, your church simply is not following the teachings and practices of Early Christianity.

A decade or so after Melito’s death, Roman Bishop Victor tried to enforce the preferred Roman Sunday date for Passover and stop Christians from following the biblical date of Nisan 14.

The Catholic writer Eusebius recorded that Polycrates of Ephesus, around 195 A.D. wrote the following to the Roman Bishop Victor who, as the previous writing showed, wanted all who professed Christ to change Passover from the 14th of Nisan to Sunday:

We observe the exact day; neither adding, nor taking away. For in Asia also great lights have fallen asleep, which shall rise again on the day of the Lord’s coming, when he shall come with glory from heaven, and shall seek out all the saints. Among these are Philip, one of the twelve apostles, who fell asleep in Hierapolis; and his two aged virgin daughters, and another daughter, who lived in the Holy Spirit and now rests at Ephesus; and, moreover, John, who was both a witness and a teacher, who reclined upon the bosom of the Lord, and, being a priest, wore the sacerdotal plate. He fell asleep at Ephesus. And Polycarp in Smyrna, who was a bishop and martyr; and Thraseas, bishop and martyr from Eumenia, who fell asleep in Smyrna. Why need I mention the bishop and martyr Sagaris who fell asleep in Laodicea, or the blessed Papirius, or Melito, the Eunuch who lived altogether in the Holy Spirit, and who lies in Sardis, awaiting the episcopate from heaven, when he shall rise from the dead? All these observed the fourteenth day of the passover according to the Gospel, deviating in no respect, but following the rule of faith. And I also, Polycrates, the least of you all, do according to the tradition of my relatives, some of whom I have closely followed. For seven of my relatives were bishops; and I am the eighth. And my relatives always observed the day when the people put away the leaven. I, therefore, brethren, who have lived sixty-five years in the Lord, and have met with the brethren throughout the world, and have gone through every Holy Scripture, am not affrighted by terrifying words. For those greater than I have said ‘ We ought to obey God rather than man’ (Eusebius. Church History, Book V, Chapter 24. Translated by Arthur Cushman McGiffert. Excerpted from Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series Two, Volume 1. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. American Edition, 1890. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

Notice that Polycrates said that he and the other early church leaders (like the Apostles Philip and John, and their successors like Polycarp, Thraseas, Sagaris, Papirius, Melito) would not deviate from the Bible, and that they knew the Bible taught them to keep the Passover on the correct date, and not on a Sunday (unless that was the correct date, as it was last year). Also notice that they always observed the day when the people put away the leaven. Polycrates also reminded the Roman bishop that true followers of Christ “obey God rather than men”.

Hence it is clear that throughout the second century, the churches in Asia Minor continued to observe the Passover on the 14th of Nisan (and for doing so, they were labeled as Quartodecimans, fourteenthers, by the Romans), unlike the Romans, and they refused to accept the authority of any Roman bishop over scripture.

While many English-speakers are unaware, the date called Easter in English (March 31, 2013) is supposed to be a change of the date for Passover. For one of several proofs, notice that the Catholic Priest Bede (also known as “the Venerable Bede”) recorded from a Catholic Abbot named Wilfrid who was trying to justify near the beginning of the eighth century why it was acceptable to not follow the Apostle John’s practices regarding Passover and change the 14th to an Easter Sunday:

Far be it from me to charge John with foolishness: he literally observed the decrees of the Mosaic law when the Church was still Jewish in many respects, at a time when the apostles were unable to bring a sudden end to that law which God ordained…So John, in accordance with the custom of the law, began the celebration of Easter Day in the evening of the fourteenth day of the first month, regardless of whether it fell on the sabbath or any other day (Bede (Monk). Edited by Judith McClure and Roger Collins. The Ecclesiastical History of the English People. Oxford University Press, NY, 1999).

Many languages use a term meaning Passover, like pascha, and hence somewhat realize that they are supposed to be observing Easter.

Notice what the Roman Catholic priest and historian Bellarmino Bagatti wrote related to the fourth century:

…the inhabitants of Syria, of Cilcia and of Mesopotamia were still celebrating Easter {Passover} with the Jews…

(Bagatti, Bellarmino. Translated by Eugene Hoade. The Church from the Gentiles in Palestine. Nihil obstat: Ignatius Mancini, 1 Februari 1970. Imprimi potest: Herminius Roncari, 26 Februari 1970. Imprimatur: +Albertus Gori, die 28 Februarii 1970. Franciscan Printing Press, Jerusalem, 1971, pp. 47-48).

The scholars of the Greco-Roman faiths all realize that what is celebrated now and called “Easter” was supposed to be an observation of Passover.

Why the change of date?

The respected Protestant scholar J.B. Lightfoot specifically wrote:

the Churches of Asia Minor which regulated their Easter festival by the Jewish passover without regard to the day of the week, but with those of Rome and Alexandria and Gaul which observed another rule; thus avoiding even the semblance of Judaism (Lightfoot, Joseph Barber. Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians. Macmillan and co., limited, 1910. Original from the University of California. Digitized Oct 16, 2007, p. 331).

Yet, no early Christian (or even Catholic) called Passover “Easter.” Nearly all realized that Christians were supposed to observe Passover. And the truly faithful kept it on the 14th of Nisan, not the 15th and not on a Sunday that was not the 14th.

In the second century, it was reported that Passover was an annual event and that it was held at night (Epistula Apostolorum, Chapter 15 as shown in Elliot JK. The apocryphal New Testament: a collection of apocryphal Christian literature in an English translation, reprint edition. Oxford University Press, 2005, p. 565). The Eastern Orthodox realize that this is so, as one of their priests has written:

Pascha is the feast of universal redemption. Our earliest sources for the an­nual celebration of the Christian Pascha come to us from the second century…The feast, however, must have originated in the apostolic period…According to the earliest documents, Pascha is described as a nocturnal celebration…(Calivas, Alkiviadis C. The Origins of Pascha and Great Week – Part I. Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1992. Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, viewed 11/04/2011)

Yet, modern “Easter” practices are in the early morning, not in the evening, and do not have the practices that early Christians had. Nor did they observe Lent.

Notice what a respected Protestant scholar reported about the second century:

The most important in this festival was the passover day, the 14th of Nisan…In it they ate unleavened bread, probably like the Jews, eight days through…there is no trace of a yearly festival of the resurrection among them…the Christians of Asia Minor appealed in favor of their passover solemnity on the 14th Nisan to John (Gieseler, Johann Karl Ludwig. A Text-book of Church History. Translated by Samuel Davidson, John Winstanley Hull, Mary A. Robinson. Harper & brothers, 1857, Original from the University of Michigan, Digitized Feb 17, 2006, p. 166).

So, like the Apostle John (the last of the original apostles to die), the early faithful Christians observed Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread. And they did this on the 14th after sunset.

The Christian Passover for 2013 is Sunday, March 24th, after sunset which is when the 14th of Nisan begins.

Several articles of related interest may include:

TPM: Passover on the 14th or 15th? While the CCOG observes Passover on the 14th, some observe it on the 15th. Why is the 14th correct?
Keeping Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread How should Christians keep Passover, especially if they are by themselves. Why does the Church of God not require lambs for Passover? How does one keep the Days of Unleavened Bread?
Preparing for Passover The Apostle Paul taught that Christians should examine themselves prior to taking Passover. This YouTube video sermon gives suggestions on how to prepare.
Passover and the Early Church Did the early Christians observe Passover? What did Jesus and Paul teach? Why did Jesus die for our sins? There is also a detailed YouTube video available titled History of the Christian Passover.
Hebrew Calendar and “Postponements” This John Ogwyn writing explains why the use the of the Hebrew calendar and answers such questions as “Did Jesus Observe the Postponements?”
The Night to Be Observed What is the night to be much observed? When is it? Why do Jews keep Passover twice and emphasize the wrong date? Here is a link to a YouTube video titled The Night to Be Observed.
Melito’s Homily on the Passover This is one of the earliest Christian writings about the Passover. This also includes what Apollinaris wrote on the Passover as well.
Should Christians Keep the Days of Unleavened Bread?
Do they have any use or meaning now? This article supplies some biblical answers.
Is There “An Annual Worship Calendar” In the Bible?
This paper provides a biblical and historical critique of several articles, including one by WCG which states that this should be a local decision. What do the Holy Days mean? Also you can click here for the calendar of Holy Days.
What Happened in the Crucifixion Week?
How long are three days and three nights? Did Jesus die on “Good Friday”? Was the resurrection on Sunday? Do you really know? Who determined the date of Easter?
Did Early Christians Celebrate Easter? If not, when did this happen? What do scholars and the Bible reveal?
Is Lent a Christian Holiday? When did it originate? What about Ash Wednesday? If you observe them, do you know why?
The History of Early Christianity Are you aware that what most people believe is not what truly happened to the true Christian church? Do you know where the early church was based? Do you know what were the doctrines of the early church? Is your faith really based upon the truth or compromise?
Holy Day Calendar This is a listing of the biblical holy days through 2017, with their Roman calendar dates. They are really hard to observe if you do not know when they occur 🙂

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