The Christian Passover and the Early Church

By COGwriter

Although nearly everyone is aware that Jesus observed the Passover, most are unaware that the New Testament teaches that it is still to be observed today.

This article will cite the Bible, early church writings, and even Roman Catholic sources to demonstrate that Passover was observed by the early church. And, even though the name has changed, to some degree, a type of Passover is observed by nearly all who profess Christianity.

Note: This is an article about Passover and why Christians should keep it. To learn more about how to keep it, check out the article Keeping Passover. To learn more about how to prepare for it, please check out the YouTube video sermon Preparing for Passover. For a step-by-step video for Christians to keep Passover, check out CCOG Passover Service.

As most everyone knows, Jesus kept the Passover, from the time of His youth. Luke records:

41 His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. 42 And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast (Luke 2:41-42).

Jesus continued to keep the Passover throughout His entire life. He kept it once per year. Passover was an annual event for Him and others (Exodus 13:10) and was observed on the fourteenth day of the month of the first month (called Abib in Deuteronomy 16:1 or Nisan in Esther 3:7):

5 On the fourteenth day of the first month at twilight is the LORD's Passover (Leviticus 23:5).

And Jesus had his disciples also keep it:

7 Then came the Day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover must be killed. 8 And He sent Peter and John, saying, "Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat." 9 So they said to Him, "Where do You want us to prepare?" 10 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. 11 Then you shall say to the master of the house, 'The Teacher says to you, "Where is the guest room where I may eat the Passover with My disciples?"' 12 Then he will show you a large, furnished upper room; there make ready." 13 So they went and found it just as He had said to them, and they prepared the Passover. (Luke 22:7-13).

On Jesus' last Passover as a human being, He changed many of the practices associated with it. But He in no way suggested that it was not an annual Passover, nor did He change the time of day until the morning.

Jesus commanded His disciples to observe the New Testament Passover, not by slaying a lamb in Jerusalem, but by washing one another's feet (John 13:14) and partaking of unleavened bread and wine. 

As Christians, we do not have a supper as Passover either. The Apostle Paul wrote:

20 Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord's Supper. ... 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? (1 Corinthians 11:20)

Early Christians tended to call the bread and wine ceremony, instead, Passover, or since they used Greek, Pascha.

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)

Perhaps amazingly, even the Emperor Constantine understood that Passover was to be a one-time, annual event when, according to the fifth century historian Theodoret, he declared:

"For we could never tolerate celebrating the Passover twice in one year. But even if all these facts did not exist, your own sagacity would prompt you to watch with diligence and with prayer, lest your pure minds should appear to share in the customs of a people so utterly depraved. It must also be borne in mind, that upon so important a point as the celebration of a feast of such sanctity, discord is wrong. One day has our Saviour set apart for a commemoration of our deliverance, namely, of His most holy Passion" (Theodoret of Cyrus. Ecclesiastical History (Book I), Chapter IX. Excerpted from Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Volume 3. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. American Edition, 1892. Online Edition Copyright © 2005 by K. Knight).

Yet, several years ago then Pope Benedict XVI, citing previous decisions, for some reason teaches that Passover is a weekly event:

The Second Vatican Council teaches that "the Church celebrates the Paschal Mystery every seventh day, which day is appropriately called the "Lord's Day' or "Sunday'" ("Sacrosanctum Concilium," n. 106).

Sunday remains the fertile foundation and at the same time the fundamental nucleus of the liturgical year which originated in Christ's Resurrection, thanks to which the features of eternity were impressed on time (Benedict XVI. Papal Letter to Cardinal Arinze. January 9, 2007.

Not only do those statements contradict Jesus' practice, the above statement even contradicts Roman Catholic practice as Roman Catholic priests celebrate "mass" with the Roman version of Passover, not weekly as Pope Benedict XVI suggested, but daily. Plus they do not really celebrate it as Christ's resurrection, but more as a recurrence of His sacrifice (which is what Passover always was--Easter on the other hand changes that).

As far as to WHEN the biblical Passover is, check out the following link: Holy Day Calendar Through 2033. 

Footwashing Was Observed

Jesus also initiated a practice that many now overlook:

And supper being ended, the devil having 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 and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, 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 (John 13:2-5).

So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you ... 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. (John 13:12-15,17).

23... If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. 24 He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father's who sent Me. (John 14:23-24)

Almost no Protestant group follows what Jesus taught–even though their leaders should know better. Footwashing is not an annual ceremony performed by most who claim to be Protestant (though some have done it).

History shows that even the Greco-Romans observed at least a version of footwashing.

However, notice the following statements about it:

Christ’s command to wash one another’s feet must have been understood from the beginning in a literal sense (Thurston, H. (1912). Washing of Feet and Hands. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved July 14, 2015 from New Advent:

The history of feetwashing is tantalizingly elusive…There are passing references to this rite in the first centuries. Continued for many years in the Eastern Church, feet washing eventually fell out of favour in the West. But it was carried out long enough to be introduced among the earliest Celtic Christians…in the Stowe Missal. The Celt’s adherence to the literal interpretation of the Scriptures seems to have led him to follow the procedures of the upper room exactly. For in that service Christ washed the feet of his disciples before he distributed the bread and the wine to his followers (Hardinge, Leslie. The Celtic Church in Britain. Teach Services, Brushton (NY) 2000, pp. 111,116).

As to the feet-washing, since the Lord recommended this because of its being an example of that humility which He came to teach, as He Himself afterwards explained, the question has arisen at what time it is best, by literal performance of this work, to give public instruction in the important duty which it illustrates, and this time [of Lent] was suggested in order that the lesson taught by it might make a deeper and more serious impression…Some, however, in order to connect its observance with the more sacred associations of this solemn season (Augustine. Letter (Epistola) 55, From Augustine to Januarius, Verse 33. A.D. 400).

Cyprian of Carthage in the mid-3rd century wrote:

Let them imitate the Lord, who at the very time of His passion was not more proud, but more humble. For then He washed His disciples’ feet, saying, “If I, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, ye ought also to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.” (Cyprian.  The Epistles of Cyprian, Epistle 5, Chapter 2. In Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume V).

In the early centuries there was no Roman Catholic pontifex maximus.  Regular lay members washed each other’s feet.  While females were involved, they apparently washed other female’s feet.  And that is the practice that is observed in groups in the 21st century like the Continuing Church of God.

The Roman Catholic saint and bishop Ambrose of Milan (4th century) seemed to have elevated its status:

Accordingly, learn how it is a sacrament and a means of sanctification: Unless I wash thy feet, thou wilt have no part with me. This I say, not to find fault with others, but to recommend my own usage (Ambrose of Milan. “On the mysteries”: and the treatise, On the sacraments.  Translated by Tom Thompson.  Edied by James Herbert Strawley.  Society for promoting Christian Knowledge, 1919. Original from the University of Michigan, Digitized, Jul 2, 2009, p. 99)

Around the early 6th century, Caesarius of Arles in a sermon (103.4) taught:

As often as the Paschal feast comes…Let them…wash the feet of their guests (Cited in Thomas JC. Footwashing in John 13 and the Johannine Community. Published by Continuum International Publishing Group, 2004, p. 145).

So, it was still observed by at least some lay people in the 6th century.  Lay people were doing the washing, not just clergy.

Furthermore, notice the following from The Catholic Encyclopedia:

This theory, which was first put forward by Sir W. Palmer in his “Origines Liturgicae”, which was once very popular among Anglicans. According to it the Gallican Rite was referred to an original brought to Lyons from Ephesus by St. Pothinus and St. Irenæus, who had received it through St. Polycarp from St. John the Divine. The idea originated partly in a statement in the eighth century tract in Cott. manuscript Nero A. II in the British Museum, which refers the Gallican Divine Office (Cursus Gallorum) to such an origin, and partly in a statement of Coleman at the Synod of Whitby (664) respecting the Johannine origin of the Celtic Easter…

The Feet Washing. The form here is similar to that in the Gallicanum, the Bobbio, and the Stowe: “Ego te lavo pedes. Sicut D.N.J.C. fecit discipulis suis, tu facias hospitibus et peregrenis ut habeas vitam aeternam”. This ceremony is only found in Gaul, Spain, and Ireland. At the Council of Elvira in 305 an order was made that it should be performed by clerks and not by priests. This limitation, of which the wording is quite clear, has been unaccountably interpreted to mean that it was then forbidden altogether (Jenner H. Transcribed by Geoffrey K. Mondello, Ph.D. The Gallican Rite. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VI. Published 1909. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, September 1, 1909. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York).

So, Bishop Polycarp of Smyrna learned the practice from the Apostle John and passed it on. So, history teaches this carried on for some time in the British Isles. It needs to be understood that the “Celtic Easter” refers to the fact that many Celts kept Passover on the biblical date. However, by the time the “Gallican Rites” are recorded, foot-washing is mainly done at the time of baptism.

Some Waldenses in the late Middle Ages also observed feetwashing:

The Waldenses who are acknowledged to have come the closest to the purity of the faith and practice of the doctrines of Christ, held feet washing as an ordinance of the church. (St John HA. Our Banquet to Nourish Pure Thought Life. Published by Kessinger Publishing, 2003, p. 97)

Some called Waldenesians were part of the Church of God (see also the article on The Thyatira Church Era).

And although the Roman Catholic pontiff (and sometimes Roman bishops) performs this ceremony once, I am unaware of any others within Roman Catholicism that perform this ceremony–and when it is done, it is done as a memorial and is done on the annual night that the Romans feel was the night of Jesus’ last Passover.

This brings up two questions:

1) Since Jesus commanded His disciples to do this, why do Protestant leaders generally not teach or do this?

2) If the Roman Church recognizes that this is an annual event done on Passover (which they call Maundy Thursday), why do they and others observe the other steps of their version of the Passover (which they now generally refer to as communion) every week or even every day?

An answer proposed to the first question, given by the late Church of God leaders Herbert W. Armstrong, was:

Many today do not want to humiliate themselves by washing the feet of their church brethren. Some argue that Jesus commanded only the disciples to wash one another’s feet. But they will admit it was a command to them. Very well; turn to Matthew 28:19, 20:

“Go ye therefore,” Jesus said to these same disciples, “and teach all nations, baptizing them . . . teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” So they were to teach US to observe all things whatsoever He commanded them. Surely God is no respecter of persons (Armstrong HW. How Often Should We Partake of the Lord’s Supper? 1974).

I have no clear answer to the second question about why Rome does one part of the Jesus’ last Passover annually, but other portions weekly (or more often). I suspect that the heretic Justin Martyr probably had something to do with Rome’s acceptance of a weekly Sunday “Passover” (as he is the first one to clearly refer to a Sunday worship service which included a “eucharist” ceremony), but I also suspect that he did not care for the idea of foot-washing.

It has been reported that around 1654, footwashing was observed by one or more Sabbath-keepers in England, such as Dr. Peter Chamberlen, and decades later in the early 1700s by John Maulden and those of like mind (Ball B. Seventh Day Men: Sabbatarians and Sabbatarianism in England and Wales, 1600-1800, 2nd edition. James Clark & Co., 2009, pp. 79,81,89).

It may also be of interest to note that some Sabbatarians engaged in footwashing and in 1750 wrote:

And now dear brethren, we shall use the freedom to acquaint us with one thing and to heartily desire to recommend it to you for serious and Christian consideration. That is about the duty of washing one another's feet.

This is a duty and work which some of us have been long thoughtful and in part persuaded or and have concluded to put it in practice some time since in the following manner, viz., At the Lord's supper the elder in imitation of the Lord takes a towel and girds himself then he pours water in a basin and begins to wash the disciples' (viz.) the brethren's feet, and from him they take it, from the brethren to the brethren and the sisters to the sisters, they wash one another's feet through the present assembly …1750 (Cited in Randolph C.F. A History of the Seventh Day Baptists in West Virginia, 1905. Reprint 2005. Heritage Books, Westminster (MD), pp. 15-16).

Furthermore, this practice was also followed in Virginia and other churches in West Virginia (ibid, p. 15). Here is one comment about it:

Clark says: “Some of these [western Virginia] churches, believe in the washing of one another’s feet, at appointed times” (ibid, p. 15).

It should be noted that the “foot washing” ceremony that Jesus instituted is observed annually by baptized members of the real Church of God. This is something we in the Continuing Church of God do each year.

(Footwashing is also the major subject of an available online sermon video John 13-15: Footwashing and the Words of Jesus.)

Jesus Changed Symbols Associated with Passover and Showed it was about Love

Jesus changed some of the symbols associated with Passover. That is one of the reasons that many of us refer to what is observed as the Christian Passover (as opposed to simply the Passover):

14 When the hour had come, He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him. 15 Then He said to them, "With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; 16 for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God." 17 Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, "Take this and divide it among yourselves; 18 for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes." 19 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 22:14-19).

It should be of interest to note that Jesus told His followers to observe Passover as He Himself just had. Also, notice that Jesus said it would be observed well into the future by His disciples--meaning during the millennium and their participation in the first resurrection.

Notice something that the Apostle Paul taught about that Passover sacrifice:

8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

Notice what Jesus taught:

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. (John 10:15)

12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends.  14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. ( John 15:12-14)

Passover and love were among the commands that Jesus gave to His followers. Passover shows that Jesus gave a great love by laying His life down for us and that the Father demonstrated His love for us by allowing the Son to do that.

Jesus' Last Passover was on a Tuesday Night

Jesus' last Passover service, which many now call the Last Supper, was on a Tuesday night (the night portion of what most today would consider the day of Nisan 13 on the Jewish calendar).

The Catholic Encyclopedia notes:

Moreover it seems quite certain that if St. John intended to give a different date from that given by the Synoptics and sanctioned by the custom of his own Church at Ephesus, he would have said so expressly. Others accept the apparent statement of St. John that the Last Supper was on the 13th of Nisan and try to reconcile the account of the Synoptics. To this class belong Paul of Burgos, Maldonatus, Petau, Hardouin, Tillemont, and others. Peter of Alexandria (P.G., XCII, 78) says: "In previous years Jesus had kept the Passover and eaten the paschal lamb, but on the day before He suffered as the true Paschal Lamb He taught His disciples the mystery of the type." (Mershman F. Transcribed by Scott Anthony Hibbs. The Last Supper. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XIV. Copyright © 1912 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, July 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Clement of Alexandria (c. 180 A.D.) wrote:

Accordingly, in the years gone by, Jesus went to eat the passover sacrificed by the Jews, keeping the feast. But when he had preached He who was the Passover, the Lamb of God, led as a sheep to the slaughter, presently taught His disciples the mystery of the type on the thirteenth day, on which also they inquired, "Where wilt Thou that we prepare for Thee to eat the passover?" Matthew 26:17 It was on this day, then, that both the consecration of the unleavened bread and the preparation for the feast took place. Whence John naturally describes the disciples as already previously prepared to have their feet washed by the Lord. And on the following day our Saviour suffered, He who was the Passover, propitiously sacrificed by the Jews...

Suitably, therefore, to the fourteenth day, on which He also suffered, in the morning, the chief priests and the scribes, who brought Him to Pilate, did not enter the Prætorium, that they might not be defiled, but might freely eat the passover in the evening. With this precise determination of the days both the whole Scriptures agree, and the Gospels harmonize (Clement of Alexandria. XI.—Fragments Found in Greek Only in the Oxford Edition. From the Last Work on the Passover. Quoted in the Paschal Chronicle).

It is true that on the 13th of Nisan, Jesus told His disciples to find the room prepared for Passover:

Then came the Day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover must be killed. 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 (Luke 22:7-13).

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 (Luke 22:14-15).

The Jewish day of that Tuesday was Nisan 13. When the hour had come, after sunset, it was then Nisan 14 (thus the 13th was not the actual date on the Hebrew calendar).

It may be of interest to note that, even in the 21st century, the Roman Catholics suggest that this Passover (which they call the Last Supper) was kept by Jesus on a Tuesday night and that He was betrayed on a Wednesday (Zanchettin L, ed. Meditations, Tuesday, April 11, Wednesday April 12. the WORD among us--The #1 Monthly Devotional for Catholics. 2006; Volume 25, Number 4, pp. 63-64).

All who follow the practices of the gospel as understood by at least the Apostles John and Philip (see Polycrates), observe the Passover on the 14th, which is the evening of the portion of the day we commonly would call the 13th.

Why after sunset? The following passages teach that:

6. you shall sacrifice the Passover at twilight, at the going down of the sun (Deuteronomy 16:6)

Evening, biblically, happens after the sun sets (Mark 1:32).

Jesus Died For Our Sins

Why did Jesus die? Early in the New Testament it is recorded that John the Baptist stated that Jesus came to take away our sins:

Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29).

Why? The Bible teaches this was necessary:

... for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed (Romans 3:23-25).

For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings (Hebrews 2:10).

Why would this be done?

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved (John 3:16-17).

And that is what happened because of Christ's Passover. Because of the love of God, Jesus suffered died for our sins so that we who fall short of the glory of God could be partakers of that glory.

Also notice, however, that the Apostle Paul taught that Jesus would not have been crucified if the truth was known in this age:

But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory (1 Corinthians 2:7-8).

Notice that Paul states that God has hidden wisdom that He ordained before the ages. And if God had made it clear, Jesus would not have been crucified. If God had not hidden any information, Jesus would not have died for our sins.

Does your church understand that? Do you understand that God has a plan of salvation that will ultimately result in salvation being offered to all? Do you know that this was part of the real purpose of Passover and that by not observing it, but instead observing the holiday named after the pagan god Ishtar (Easter) that the true plan of God is blurred out of view?

The Passover has to do with the Lamb of God being killed for our sins. Easter has to do with a fertility festival involving rabbits and looking to the east in early morning as pagans did--by emphasizing candy and naming it after a pagan-goddess is it not more about lust than love? Those who actually keep Passover can have a much better understanding of the plan of God than those who follow supposedly "Christianized" pagan holidays.

The Apostle Paul and Passover

The Apostle Paul realized that that Jesus was a substitute for the Passover lamb that the Jewish people used. He also taught that Christians should still continue to observe Passover:

7 Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. 8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth (1 Corinthians 5:7-8).

But how were Christians to do this?

The Apostle Paul explains:

23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, "Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me." 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me." 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes. (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)

So Christians were to keep the Passover in the manner that Jesus observed His final Passover. And that was at night as memorial--a memorial is an annual, not a weekly event. Notice that Paul stated, "For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes." It is Jesus' death that this commemorates, and the Christian Passover is the annual commemoration of it. Also notice that Paul DID NOT say to do this AS OFTEN AS YOU DESIRE, only that when you do it, you are proclaiming His death.

The Greek combined term for often, hosakis ean, in 11:25 and 11:26 does not mean as often as you desire UNLESS the Greek term for "you desire," thelo or ethelo, is also present, which it is in Revelation 11:6 (the only other place in the Bible this particular combined term is used). However, since is NOT present in 1 Corinthians 11:25 or 11:26, Paul is NOT telling us Jesus said to observe the Lord's Passover as often as we desire, but that when we are observing it on Passover, it is not just a ceremony, it is showing Christ's death.

Passover is biblically an annual event (Exodus 12:6,11,14; cf. Luke 22:7-8). The Bible calls Passover a memorial (Exodus 12:14) and gives it an annual date (Exodus 12:6,11). And Jesus calls it a remembrance (1 Corinthians 11:24-25)—this is an annual remembrance.

Furthermore, Paul wrote this:

27 Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.

Paul is clearly teaching that to take this bread and wine, one must examine oneself. This also supports the concept of an annual examination. The deleavening that is supposed to accompany Passover helps us focus on our faults and sins, and thus helps fulfill this command from Paul to examine ourselves. More information can be found in the article Should Christians Keep the Days of Unleavened Bread?

Thus, the New Testament records that both Jesus and Paul said to observe the Passover in the Christian manner.

Although I believe that portions of the text were corrupted (and the extant editions contain what seem to be non-original additions), there is some interesting information in the so called The Life of Polycarp.   This document seems to be based upon writings in the second century, but the extant version contains information/changes that seem to be added in the fourth century.  But interestingly, it suggests that suggest this Passover “tradition” in Asia Minor may not have first came to Smyrna from the Apostle John, but even earlier from the Apostle Paul:

In the days of unleavened bread Paul, coming down from Galatia, arrived in Asia, considering the repose among the faithful in Smyrna to be a great refreshment in Christ Jesus after his severe toil, and intending afterwards to depart to Jerusalem. So in Smyrna he went to visit Strataeas, who had been his hearer in Pamphylia, being a son of Eunice the daughter of Lois. These are they of whom he makes mention when writing to Timothy, saying; Of the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois and in thy mother Eunice; whence we find that Strataeas was a brother of Timothy. Paul then, entering his house and gathering together the faithful there, speaks to them concerning the Passover and the Pentecost, reminding them of the New Covenant of the offering of bread and the cup; how that they ought most assuredly to celebrate it during the days of unleavened bread, but to hold fast the new mystery of the Passion and Resurrection. For here the Apostle plainly teaches that we ought neither to keep it outside the season of unleavened bread, as the heretics do, especially the Phrygians... (Pionius, Life of Polycarp, Chapter 2.  Translated by J. B. Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers, vol. 3.2, 1889,  pp.488-506)

Hence the above seems to suggest that New Covenant practice of taking the bread and wine was to be taken during the season of unleavened bread, which would specifically be Passover.  And it is also supportive of the idea that the bread AND wine were taken, and were taken ANNUALLY.

The Apostle John and Passover

The Apostle John lived the longest of the original apostles. John, of course, kept Passover with Jesus:

8 And He sent Peter and John, saying, "Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat." (Luke 22:8)

And later, did John continue keep Passover on the 14th or did he switch to Easter Sunday?

While many other sources will be shown later in this article, notice what the medieval historian and 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:

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, pp. 155-156).

Thus, the last of the original apostles kept Passover on the 14th of Nisan (more on Bede and the Passover can be found in the article on the Apostle John).

Interestingly, the Catholic saint Irenaeus warned that saying the apostles were still too Jewish was something that Simon Magus did:

12. For all those who are of a perverse mind, having been set against the Mosaic legislation, judging it to be dissimilar and contrary to the doctrine of the Gospel, have not applied themselves to investigate the causes of the difference of each covenant. Since, therefore, they have been deserted by the paternal love, and puffed up by Satan, being brought over to the doctrine of Simon Magus, they have apostatized in their opinions from Him who is God, and imagined that they have themselves discovered more than the apostles, by finding out another god; and [maintained] that the apostles preached the Gospel still somewhat under the influence of Jewish opinions, but that they themselves are purer [in doctrine], and more intelligent, than the apostles. Wherefore also Marcion and his followers have betaken themselves to mutilating the Scriptures, not acknowledging some books at all; and, curtailing the Gospel according to Luke and the Epistles of Paul, they assert that these are alone authentic, which they have themselves thus shortened. (Irenaeus. Adversus Haeres. Book III, Chapter 12, Verse 12)

So, be wary of any who claim that the CCOG is "too Jewish."

The heretic Marcion came to Rome about 140 A.D.  Marcion was possibly the first organized heretic to attempt to do away with the most of the Old Testament, most of the Gospels, the Sabbath, the Book of Revelation and the millennial reign of Christ on Earth. (Tertullian. Against Marcion.  Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 3. Edited by Philip Schaff, D.D., LL.D. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2005 by K. Knight; Brown, p. 65)

Notice what the Protestant historian Kenneth Latourette stated:

Marcion insisted that the Church had obscured the Gospel by seeking to combine it with Judaism. (Latourette, p. 126)

Furthermore, notice that the Apostle John specifically warned about those who changed and did not continue in his practices:

Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us (1 John 2:18-19).

So what may have been the first specific departure from the practices of John that we have a historical record of (involving John’s name)?

The changing of the date of Passover! Would then, the changing of Passover be one of the doctrines of Antichrist

The Bible makes it clear that God’s people are to “keep the Passover at its appointed time. On the fourteenth day of this month, at twilight, you shall keep it at its appointed time (Numbers 9:2b-3).

Early Christians, including the Apostles like John, observed that time. They did NOT believe that God changed the appointed time for Passover or that they had the authority to do so themselves. Passover was not observed on a Sunday morning.

Passover in the Second Century

Although most who profess Christianity now celebrate it, Easter-Sunday was not observed by the second century Christians in Asia Minor. They observed Passover.

However, beginning with possibly Telesphorus or possibly Hyginus or maybe even Sixtus (there are no contemporaneous records, only an unclear report 5-6 decades later written by Irenaeus), what is now called Easter began to be observed in Rome. First, it was apparently a change in date of Passover from the 14th of Nisan to a Sunday. This is believed to have happened because there was a rebellion by Jews and that any distancing between Jews and Christians seemed physically advantageous (at least to some in Rome and the Greeks in Jerusalem).

Samuele Bacchiocchi noted that the change to Easter-Sunday and to a weekly Sunday was due to persecution (the new Gentile hierarchy he is referring to are Greek bishops in Jerusalem, which took over after the rebellion was crushed):

The actual introduction of Easter-Sunday appears to have occurred earlier in Palestine after Emperor Hadrian ruthlessly crushed the Barkokeba revolt (A.D. 132-135)...

The fact that the Passover controversy arose when Emperor Hadrian adopted new repressive measures against Jewish religious practices suggests that such measures influenced the new Gentile hierarchy to change the date of Passover from Nisan 14 to the following Sunday (Easter-Sunday) in order to show separation and differentiation from the Jews and the Jewish Christians...

A whole body of Against the Jews literature was produced by leading Fathers who defamed the Jews as a people and emptied their religious beliefs and practices of any historical value. Two major causalities of the anti-Jewish campaign were Sabbath and Passover. The Sabbath was changed to Sunday and Passover was transferred to Easter-Sunday.

Scholars usually recognize the anti-Judaic motivation for the repudiation of the Jewish reckoning of Passover and adoption of Easter-Sunday instead. Joachim Jeremias attributes such a development to "the inclination to break away from Judaism." In a similar vein, J.B. Lightfoot explains that Rome and Alexandria adopted Easter-Sunday to avoid "even the semblance of Judaism" (Bacchiocchi S. God's Festival in Scripture and History. Biblical Perspectives. Befriend Springs (MI), 1995, pp. 101,102,103).

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).

It is possible that the Roman “bishop” Telesphorus made a change to Sunday Passover around 135 A.D. to attempt to distance himself from the Jews in Rome. If he was the first Roman leader who did it, and if he thought that this would spare his life, he was wrong as he was apparently later killed by the Roman authorities (circa 136 A.D.). On the other hand, it is perhaps more likely that Hyginus, who was apparently Greek decided to introduce the Passover Sunday tradition in Rome, perhaps to direct the wrath of the anti-Jewish Roman authorities away from those who professed Christ but avoided some of the outward signs of Judaism. Christian leaders that refused to switch from Passover on the 14th to a Sunday observance have been labeled Quartodecimans (Latin for fourteenth) by most historians—with the bulk of them apparently being in Asia Minor near the end of the second century. 

Since Roman Bishop Anicetus' account (see below) claimed that this practice was began by presbyters who preceded him, it would need to have been no later than the Greeks Telesphorus or Hyginus, as they were followed by Pius who was then followed by Anicetus (it may have originated with Sixtus as he preceded Telesphorus, though he was not Greek, but he died during the time of Hadrian).

[It should be added here that because Dr. Bacchiocchi had an error on p. 81 of his book From Sabbath to Sunday regarding a statement from Epiphanius (he has that statement correct on page 161 of the same book), that some have erroneously felt that Passover should be on the 15th of the month. Suffice it to say that I have a copy of the relevant section of Epiphanius' writings and he did not write anything about the 15th of the month being celebrated by the Jewish bishops (Epiphanius. The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, Books II and III (Sects 47-80), De Fide). Section VI, Verses 9,7-10,1. Translated by Frank Williams. EJ Brill, New York, 1994, pp. 411-412). I have contacted Dr. Bacchiocchi about this point. Also, I should add that the observance of Passover on the 14th of Nisan is one of the historical signs of who may be part of the true Church of God. An article that discusses this in more depth would be TPM: Passover on the 14th or 15th?]

Of course the question is, “Was the church supposed to change its beliefs and practices throughout history or be faithful to what the apostles originally received?”

 The Bible suggests that the church was not to change its doctrines as Jude wrote:

Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).

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, Chapter 3. 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 apparently was in Rome and Greco-Roman 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:

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).

It should be noted that although there were some Quintodecimans, they represented a view that the faithful Christian leaders, including Apollinaris denounced.

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).

Now comes the mystery of the passover, even as it stands written in the law...The people, therefore, became the model for the church, and the law a parabolic sketch. But the gospel became the explanation of the law and its fulfillment, while the church became the storehouse of truth...What is the passover? Indeed its name is derived from that event–"to celebrate the passover" (to paschein) is derived from "to suffer" (tou pathein). Therefore, learn who the sufferer is and who he is who suffers along with the sufferer. Why indeed was the Lord present upon the earth? In order that having clothed himself with the one who suffers, he might lift him up to the heights of heaven...So indeed also the suffering of the Lord, predicted long in advance by means of types, but seen today, has brought about faith, just because it has taken place as predicted. And yet men have taken it as something completely new. Well, the truth of the matter is the mystery of the Lord is both old and new–old insofar as it involved the type, but new insofar as it concerns grace. And what is more, if you pay close attention to this type you will see the real thing through its fulfillment. Accordingly, if you desire to see the mystery of the Lord, pay close attention to Abel who likewise was put to death, to Isaac who likewise was bound hand and foot, to Joseph who likewise was sold, to Moses who likewise was exposed, to David who likewise was hunted down, to the prophets who likewise suffered because they were the Lord's anointed. Pay close attention also to the one who was sacrificed as a sheep in the land of Egypt, to the one who smote Egypt and who saved Israel by his blood. For it was through the voice of prophecy that the mystery of the Lord was proclaimed. And David said: Why were the nations haughty and the people concerned about nothing? The kings of the earth presented themselves and the princes assembled themselves together against the Lord and against his anointed. And Jeremiah: I am as an innocent lamb being led away to be sacrificed. They plotted evil against me and said: Come! let us throw him a tree for his food, and let us exterminate him from the land of the living, so that his name will never be recalled. And Isaiah: He was led as a sheep to slaughter, and, as a lamb is silent in the presence of the one who shears it, he did not open his mouth. Therefore who will tell his offspring? And indeed there were many other things proclaimed by numerous prophets concerning the mystery of the passover, which is Christ, to whom be the glory forever. Amen. When this one came from heaven to earth for the sake of the one who suffers, and had clothed himself with that very one through the womb of a virgin, and having come forth as man, he accepted the sufferings of the sufferer through his body which was capable of suffering. And he destroyed those human sufferings by his spirit which was incapable of dying. He killed death which had put man to death. For this one, who was led away as a lamb, and who was sacrificed as a sheep, by himself delivered us from servitude to the world as from the land of Egypt, and released us from bondage to the devil as from the hand of Pharaoh, and sealed our souls by his own spirit and the members of our bodies by his own blood. This is the one who covered death with shame and who plunged the devil into mourning as Moses did Pharaoh. This is the one who smote lawlessness and deprived injustice of its offspring, as Moses deprived Egypt. This is the one who delivered us from slavery into freedom, from darkness into light, from death into life, from tyranny into an eternal kingdom, and who made us a new priesthood, and a special people forever. This one is the passover of our salvation. This is the one who patiently endured many things in many people: This is the one who was murdered in Abel, and bound as a sacrifice in Isaac, and exiled in Jacob, and sold in Joseph, and exposed in Moses, and sacrificed in the lamb, and hunted down in David, and dishonored in the prophets. This is the one who became human in a virgin, who was hanged on the tree, who was buried in the earth, who was resurrected from among the dead, and who raised mankind up out of the grave below to the heights of heaven. This is the lamb that was slain. This is the lamb that was silent. This is the one who was born of Mary, that beautiful ewe-lamb. This is the one who was taken from the flock, and was dragged to sacrifice, and was killed in the evening, and was buried at night; the one who was not broken while on the tree, who did not see dissolution while in the earth, who rose up from the dead, and who raised up mankind from the grave below. This one was murdered (Melito. Homily On the Passover. Verses 11, 40,46-47, 58-72. Translation from Kerux: The Journal of Online Theology , 09/14/05).

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. For a 21st century sermon video related to that 2nd century sermon, watch Melito's Homily on the Passover.

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 Orthodox Church reports this brief explanation of events in one of its timelines:

193 A.D. - Council of Rome, presided over by Bishop Victor, condemns the celebration of Pascha on Nisan 14, and addresses a letter to Polycrates of Ephesus and the Churches in Asia.

193 A.D. - Council of Ephesus, presided over by Bishop Polycrates, and attended by several bishops throughout Asia, reject the authority of Victor of Rome, and keep the Asian paschal tradition (Markou, Stavros L. K. An Orthodox Christian Historical Timeline. Copyright © 2003

The Catholic writer Lopes noted this about the Roman bishop Victor:

14. VICTOR I, ST. (189-199) An African...Victor tended not to advise other churches but to impose Rome's ideas on them, thus arousing resentment at times in bishops not inclined to accept such impositions. This was the case of Polycratus, the Bishop of Ephesus, who felt offended at this interference. The question was again that of Easter. Victor reaffirmed the decisions of Soter and Eleutherius both with regard to the date, which had to be a Sunday, and with regard to several customs of Jewish origin which were still practiced in some Christian communities...Polycratus justified himself before the pope with a letter containing the phrase " is more important to obey God rather than men" (Lopes A. The Popes: The lives of the pontiffs through 2000 years of history. Futura Edizoni, Roma, 1997, p. 5).

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 those 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’…I could mention the bishops who were present, whom I summoned at your desire; whose names, should I write them, would constitute a great multitude. And they, beholding my littleness, gave their consent to the letter, knowing that I did not bear my gray hairs in vain, but had always governed my life by the Lord Jesus (Eusebius. The History of the Church, Book 5, Chapter XXIV., 2005, pp. 114-115).

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. 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 by the Romans), unlike most of the Romans, and they refused to accept the authority of any Roman bishop over scripture.

Perhaps the following report about Bishop/Pope Victor (189-199) from the Catholic saint and doctor Jerome should be considered:

Victor believed that the many bishops of Asia and the East, who with the Jews celebrated the passover, on the fourteenth day of the new moon, were to be condemned. But even those who differed from them did not support Victor in his opinion. (Jerome. De Viris Illustribus (On Illustrious Men), Chapter 35)

This report confirms that the Bishop of Rome simply was not seen as having primacy over Christendom at this time (see also Apostolic Succession).

Victor of Rome and the Passover Question

Questions have been raised about the Passover account involving Polycrates.

Eamon Duffy, a Catholic scholar and a member of the Pontifical Historical Commission claims that although Eusebius implies that Victor called for some significant synods, everyone responded to Victor, and then he attempted to excommunicate those in Asia Minor (though was stopped from doing so by Irenaeus per Eusebius.  Church History.  Book V, Chapter 24, verses 11,18, p. 115), this is probably not what happened (Duffy, Eamon. Saints & Sinners: A History of the Popes. Yale University Press, New Haven (CT), 2002, pp. 15-16).

Essentially E. Duffy seems to believe that there were some in or near Rome who still observed Passover on the 14th. As this differed from Victor’s practices, Victor asked what the practices in other areas he had contact with were. Then he asked what others did, mainly in Alexandria and Greco-Jerusalem, then decided to put out of his Roman area churches those who kept the 14th (at that time some Roman churches met on Saturday and Sunday, and one would suspect that those who met on Saturday were more inclined to keep Passover on the 14th). E. Duffy seems to feel that the local churches who kept the 14th Passover may have asked those in Asia Minor for their assistance to deal with Victor, perhaps because they sometimes interacted with his followers (private meeting places for an illegal religion were scarce in Rome, and those loyal to Rome and Asia Minor apparently may have sometimes met together).

There are many reasons that E. Duffy could be correct (including Polycrates' writing)--though Victor was upset with Asia Minor too.

A 19th century scholar named Adolph Birkhaeuser indicated that Bishop Victor’s concerns were originally related to one called Blastus in Rome, indicating that there was a local matter concerning this:

When the priest Blastus sought to establish at Rome the Jewish customs in celebrating Easter, Pope Victor resolved to procure uniformity…(Birkhaeuser, Jodocus Adolph. History of the Church, from Its First Establishment to Our Own Times: Designed for the Use of Ecclesiastical Seminaries and Colleges.  Published by F. Pustet, 1898. Original from the New York Public Library, Digitized Jun 21, 2006, p.96)

(I presume, as I have not seen the original Greek, the term priest above comes from the word presbyter as the Roman Catholic priesthood as now known was not likely to have been established for another century or so. Also, the term Passover and not Easter was used at that time, nor was the Bishop of Rome then called Pope.)

Furthermore, The Catholic Encyclopedia admits that there was a problem in Rome from an Oriental (a term it uses for someone from Asia Minor) at that time. This is likely one who had ties to Polycrates.

In Rome itself, where Pope Victor naturally enforced the observance of Easter on Sunday by all Christians in the capital, an Oriental named Blastus, with a few followers, opposed the pope and brought about a schism, which, however, did not grow in importance…(Kirsch J.P. Transcribed by Michael T. Barrett. Pope St. Victor I. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XV. Copyright © 1912 by Robert Appleton Company., NY. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York, pp. 408-409)

What was Blastus’ specific problem according to Tertullian? It was that Blastus kept Passover on the 14th and observed other biblical laws as Tertullian (or possibly Pseudo-Tertullian?) reported:

In addition to all these, there is likewise Blastus, who would latently introduce Judaism. For he says the passover is not to be kept otherwise than according to the law of Moses, on the fourteenth of the month (Tertullian. Against All Heresies, Chapter 8. Translated by S. Thelwall).

Interestingly, while Eusebius knew of, and seems to have had, a writing by Irenaeus which he called “to Blastus On Schism” (Eusebius. The History of the Church, Book V, Chapter XX, Verse 1, p. 112), Eusebius did not report what it said. Doing so likely would have highlighted more of the differences between those trying to be faithful and the practices of the emerging Greco-Roman confederation. This could have raised concerns for Emperor Constantine that Eusebius probably did not want raised.

Interestingly, E. Duffy seems to believe that this incident may have been reported by Eusebius essentially to assist him in coming up with a final solution for the "perpetual problem" of when to observe Passover.

What these writings in this section seem to show is that the aged Polycarp went to Rome to primarily deal with Gnostic heretics that claimed to be Christian. It was Polycarp, and no "bishop of Rome," who was successful in turning Christians away from these heretics. It was Polycarp, and no Roman bishop, who was the faithful "heretic fighter" in the second century.

Of course, they could have simply relied on the Bible and choose the 14th, like those of us in the Church of God have. The truly “perpetual problem” we have with Passover is that most who profess Christ refuse to follow the example of Jesus, John and the early faithful church on when and how to observe it, and they sometimes persecute us for doing so.

It should also be noted that according to E. Duffy, a statement in Eusebius’ account that the presbyters “sent the eucharist” to the Quartodeciman churches (Eusebius.  Church History.  Book V, Chapter 24, verse 15, p. 115) proves that this was originally a local matter.

E. Duffy explains:

…because any fragments of the eucharistic bread sent on the long sea journey to the churches of Asia Minor would have gone mouldy or hard long before they reached their destination…Victor was not brawling randomly around the Mediterranean spoiling for a fight, but trying to impose uniformity of practice on all the churches in his own city, as part of a more general quest for internal unity and order. The churches of proconsular Asia may well have protested the condemnation of a custom…but Victor’s excommunication was aimed at Asian congregations in Rome, not broadside at churches over whom he which had no direct jurisdiction. (Duffy, pp. 15-16)

E. Duffy’s explanation does make sense--though it seems that Victor also wanted to so also something to Asia Minor. While Victor apparently hoped that Asia Minor would go along with him, obviously as Polycrates wrote, Asia Minor would not. And Eamon Duffy is correct that his Roman church did NOT have any jurisdiction over the Churches of God in Asia Minor.

Instead of indicating any real superiority of the Church of Rome, Polycrates’ letter clearly supports the view that the Church of God in Asia Minor towards the end of the 2nd century considered the Bible, and not Rome, as authoritative.

Getting back to Polycrates, recall that he specifically claimed that he followed what John did. Now notice that John calls those who do not follow what he taught as antichrists:

Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us (1 John 2:18-19).

Thus, this subject of Passover is important (see also the article Doctrines of Antichrist).

In addition, 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.

Passover and the Late Second/Early Third Century

Although he was not part of the Church of God and held some unbiblical views, Tertullian noted:

"Purge out the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened." The unleavened bread was therefore, in the Creator's ordinance, a figure of us (Christians). "For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us." But why is Christ our passover, if the passover be not a type of Christ, in the similitude of the blood which saves, and of the Lamb, which is Christ? Why does (the apostle) clothe us and Christ with symbols of the Creator's solemn rites, unless they had relation to ourselves? (Tertullian. Against Marcion, Book V, Chapter 7. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 3. Edited by Philip Schaff, D.D., LL.D. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2005 by K. Knight).

Tertullian raised some appropriate questions above. Since the days of unleavened bread were a figure for Christians, and Passover is a type of Christ, why does the New Testament endorse these rites unless they were to be observed by Christians?

Even though true Christians claimed that they were simply following Jesus' example and the Bible, they were condemned by Roman leaders because of it. According to The Catholic Encyclopedia, in the third century:

Hippolytus was the most important theologian and the most prolific religious writer of the Roman Church in the pre-Constantinian era (St. Hippolytus of Rome, The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1910).

Yet Hippolytus condemned Christians who felt that they needed to keep the Passover on the correct date and he considered them to be a cause of trouble. Notice:

(from the Paschal Chronicle, PG 92.80-81)...I see now what the cause of the disquiet is. For somebody might say "Christ kept the Pascha and then, during the day he died. It is necessary for me to do what the Lord did, just as he did it." They are in error...he himself was the Pascha which was announced in advance, and which was fulfilled on the appointed day.

(from the Refutatation of All Heresies, 8.18) There are others, fractious by nature...who maintain that it is necessary to keep the Pascha on the fourteenth of the first month in accordance with the provision of the law, on whatever day it might fall...In other things they conform to everything which has been handed down to the church by the apostles (as cited in Stewart-Sykes A. Melito of Sardis On Pascha. St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, Crestwood (NY), 2001, p. 81).

Thus, there were repeated attempts by Roman-supporting leaders to condemn those who kept the Passover on the 14th. Those who consider themselves Christians, but do not observe the Passover on the 14th are following the lead of those Roman-supporting leaders (the first Roman-supporting leader to clearly distance himself on this subject was the heretic Justin in circa 135).

But notice what the Apostles Paul and John taught:

1 Be ye followers of me, as I also am of Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1, Douay-Rheims)

11 Dearly beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doth good, is of God: he that doth evil, hath not seen God. (3 John 11, Douay-Rheims)

Thus, the early Christians absolutely should have followed Jesus' practice and kept Passover when He did. Yet some associated with Rome have long taught otherwise.

Passover and the Fourth Century

In spite of the condemnations, Passover was always kept on the 14th of Nisan by those who claimed to be faithful to the practices of the Apostle John and the Bible.

However, even after condemnations from Bishops Victor and Hippolytus, even many of those with a Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox background, continued to keep Passover on the 14th of Nisan until at least sometime into the fourth century.

But Emperor Constantine did not like that at all and convened the famous Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. to decide on a universal date:

...the emperor...convened a council of 318 the city of Nicea...They passed certain ecclesiastical canons at the council besides, and at the same time decreed in regard to the Passover that there must be one unanimous concord on the celebration of God's holy and supremely excellent day. For it was variously observed by people... (Epiphanius. The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, Books II and III (Sects 47-80), De Fide). Section VI, Verses 1,1 and 1,3. Translated by Frank Williams. EJ Brill, New York, 1994, pp.471-472). A Sunday date was selected, instead of Nisan 14 (which can fall on any day of the week).

Notice what Constantine declared about this:

The commemoration of the most sacred paschal feast being then debated, it was unanimously decided, that it would be well that it should be everywhere celebrated upon the same day. What can be more fair, or more seemly, than that that festival by which we have received the hope of immortality should be carefully celebrated by all, on plain grounds, with the same order and exactitude? It was, in the first place, declared improper to follow the custom of the Jews in the celebration of this holy festival, because, their hands having been stained with crime, the minds of these wretched men are necessarily blinded. By rejecting their custom, we establish and hand down to succeeding ages one which is more reasonable, and which has been observed ever since the day of our Lord's sufferings. Let us, then, have nothing in common with the Jews, who are our adversaries. For we have received from our Saviour another way... (Theodoret of Cyrus. Ecclesiastical History (Book I), Chapter IX. Excerpted from Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Volume 3. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. American Edition, 1892. Online Edition Copyright © 2005 by K. Knight).

Actually, the Saviour observed Passover on the 14th of Nisan. It is those who reject that ways of our Saviour who accept the decision of the Roman Emperor over the Bible who do not observe it then. Notice that the first consideration was to not follow the Jews--and they were the ones who followed the Bible. Second, he claimed that people always accepted his Sunday date, but there is absolutely no evidence of this--Sunday Passover was something that second century Romans implemented--there is no proof whatsoever that any observed it on Sunday prior to that, thus Constantine's second reason is also in error.

According to Eusebius' Life of Constantine, Book III chapter 18, a more accurate translation of that last line above from the Roman Emperor Constantine should be:

Let us then have nothing in common with the detestable Jewish crowd; for we have received from our Saviour a different way.

I do not recall Jesus indicating that Jews were detestable (He was a Jew) nor that He ever changed the date of Passover. But apparently Constantine felt otherwise. And the Sunday observance is now known as Easter (a related article of interest may be Did Early Christians Celebrate Easter?).

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:

1170 At the Council of Nicea in 325, all the Churches agreed that Easter, the Christian Passover, should be celebrated on the Sunday following the first full moon (14 Nisan) after the vernal equinox (Catechism of the Catholic Church. Imprimatur Potest +Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Doubleday, NY 1995, p. 332).

But not that idea that "all the Churches agreed" is not true as the bishops from the faithful churches did not attend that Council.

Notice what the Roman Catholic priest and historian Bellarmino Bagatti wrote:

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

The importance of the matters to be discussed and the great division that existed had led Constantine to bring together a big number of bishops, including confessors of the faith, in order to give the impression that the whole of Christendom was represented.

In fact…the churches of Jewish stock had had no representation…From this we can conclude that no Judaeo-Christian bishop participated in the Council.  Either they were not invited or they declined to attend.  And so the capitulars had a free hand to establish norms for certain practices without meeting opposition or hearing other view points.  Once the road was open future Councils would continue on these lines, thus deepening the breach between the Christians of two-stocks.  The point of view of the Judaeo-Christians, devoid of Greek philosophical formation, was that of keeping steadfast to the Testimonia, and therefore not to admit any word foreign to the Bible, including Homoousion (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).

So not every church was represented. Nor did everyone accept the degree of the sun-worshipping emperor as the Roman Catholic supporting Epiphanius noted a few decades after that Council:

The Quartodecimans contentiously keep Passover on one day, once per year...They keep the Passover on whichever day the fourteenth of the month falls...Christ had to be slain on the fourteenth of the month in accordance with the law (Epiphanius. The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, Books II and III (Sects 47-80), De Fide). Section IV, Verses 1,3;1,6;2,6. Translated by Frank Williams. EJ Brill, New York, 1994, pp. 23-25).

The Quartodecimans only kept Passover once per year--not daily like most Roman Catholic priests do--not weekly or monthly like some Catholics/Protestants do. It is of interest to note that Epiphanius recognized that Jesus HAD to be slain on the 14th of the month. It is sad that he and others did not believe they needed to observe it when and how Jesus taught. Strangely he wrote this about the practices of the Greco-Roman church (which we now call Roman and Orthodox Catholics, but he calls "God's holy church"):

But God's holy church does not miss the truth in any way in her fixing the date of this mystery. She uses not only the fourteenth day. but also the seven days which recur order of the seven days of the week...And she uses not only the fourteenth day of the lunar month, but the course of the sun as well, to keep us from observing two Passovers in one year and not even one in another. We observe the fourteenth day, then, but we wait until after the equinox and bring the end of our full observance to the sacred Lord's day (Epiphanius. The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, Books II and III (Sects 47-80), De Fide). Section IV, Verses 3,1; 3,2; 3,3-4. Translated by Frank Williams. EJ Brill, New York, 1994, pp. 25).

Well, the Catholics most certainly do not observe Passover on the evening of the 14th unless that happens to fall when some observe an evening mass--the equinox argument is not scriptural. And since the "Lord's Supper" is observed frequently, most practicing Catholics and Protestants do observe it more than once per year.

Epiphanius even admits that the church used to observe the 14th when he wrote:

Audians ... they choose to celebrate the Passover with the Jews--that is they contentiously celebrate the Passover at the same time as the Jews are holding their Festival of Unleavened Bread. And indeed that this used to be the church's custom (Epiphanius. The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, Books II and III (Sects 47-80), De Fide). Section VI, Verses 8,11; 9,2. Translated by Frank Williams. EJ Brill, New York, 1994, pp. 420-421).

Audians ... they tell churchmen ... and say, "You abandoned the fathers' Paschal rite in Constantine's time from deference to the emperor, and changed the day to suit the emperor." (Epiphanius. The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, Books II and III (Sects 47-80), De Fide). Section VI, Verses 8,11; 9,2,3. Translated by Frank Williams. EJ Brill, New York, 1994, pp. 420-421).

Epiphanius claimed that Constantine made his decision "for the unity of the church" (Ibid, 9,5). He claimed that there was quarelling over the date of Passover since "after the time of the circumsized bishops" (Ibid, 9,9)--that is the first fifteen bishops of Jerusalem. Here is the quote as published in Brill:

(4) And there were altogether fifteen bishops from the circumcision. And at that time, when the circumsized bishops were consecrated in Jerusalem, it was essential that the whole world followed them, so that there would be one accord and agreement, the celebration of one festival. (5) Hence their concern [was] to bring people's minds into accord for the unity of the church.

<But> since <the festival> could not be celebrated <in this way> for such a long time, by God;s good pleasure <a correction> was made in the time of Constantine. (Epiphanius. The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, Books II and III (Sects 47-80), De Fide). Section VI, Verses 10,4,5. Translated by Frank Williams. EJ Brill, New York, 1994, p. 422)

So, Epiphanius basically is admitting that the early Christians kept Passover on the 14th, but he has the audacity to claim that God decided a change/correction needed to be made and supposedly had the pagan sun-god worshiping Emperor Constantine do it.

That was absurd and the faithful realized that.

Anyway, since Constantine's declarations did not stop everyone from properly observing Passover, a later Roman Emperor after he became a baptized "Christian" decreed the death penalty:

Edicts of Theodosius against the heretics, A.D. 380-394...Theodosius...decreed the death of the offender; and the same capital punishment was inflicted on the Audians, or Quartodecimans, who should dare to perpetrate the atrocious crime of celebrating on an improper day the festival (Gibbon E. Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume III, Chapter XXVII. ca. 1776-1788).

The various enactments against heretics are contained in the Code of Theodosius (16. tit. 5. s. 6—23 ; and the commentary of Gothofredus): the Eunomians, whose guilt consisted in denying any resemblance between the two sub- tances, and who were accordingly Anomoeans, were also deprived of the power of testamentary disposition, and of taking by testamentary gift: they seem, in fact, to have been deprived of all the rights of citizens. The Manichaean heresy was punishable with death; and the same penalty threatened the Audians or the Quartodecimans, who celebrated the festival of Easter on the wrong day. To the reign of Theodosius belonged the glory or the infamy of establishing Inquisitors of Faith, who seem to have been specially enjoined to look after the crime of the Quartodecimans (Smith W. A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology : Oarses-Zygia. J. Murray, 1890 Item notes: v. 3 Original from Harvard University Digitized Jul 8, 2008, p. 1064).

Is killing those that followed the example of Jesus and John to observe the Passover on the 14th instead of Sunday a sign of a true Christian leader or a sign of a supporter of antichrist? Notice that the office of the "Inquisitors" was actually first formed to deal with people who kept Passover on the original biblical date--did you know that the date of Passover was considered to be that important?

The Catholic and Orthodox saint John Chrysostom preached the following in 387 A.D.:

In speaking about this feast of the Passover, the Law says to them something such as this: "You will not be able to keep the Passover in any of the cities which the Lord your God gives to you." The Law bids them keep the feast on the fourteenth day of the first month and in the city of Jerusalem. The Law also narrowed down the time and place for the observance of Pentecost, when it commanded them to celebrate the feast after seven weeks, and again, when it stated: "In the place which the Lord your God chooses." So also the Law fixed the feast of Tabernacles. (4) Now let us see which of the two, time or place, is more necessary, even though neither the one nor the other has the power to save. Must we scorn the place but observe the time? Or should we scorn the time and keep the place? What I mean is something such as this. The Law commanded that the Passover be held in the first month and in Jerusalem, at a prescribed time and in a prescribed place...But the Passover comes to an end on the twenty-first of that month. If they began the feast on the fourteenth day of the first month and then continued it for seven days, they then come to the twenty-first ...the Law said they must not observe those rituals outside Jerusalem (John Chrysostom. Homily IV Against the Jews IV:3-4,V:4,5. Catholic Christians of Antioch. Turning to Sabbath and The New Moon Day and Other Holy Days. 387 A.D.).

Although he is correct that the Bible specifies the dates of the Holy Days, John Chrysostom is incorrect that Jerusalem is the only place (for more on John Chrysostum himself, please check out the article John Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople and Antisemite).

That is never taught in the law.

To the contrary, the Jews were not even in Jerusalem when God listed the holy days in the books of Exodus and Leviticus (Jerusalem was not taken by the children of Israel until after the death of Joshua, see Judges 1:1-8).

It is also clear from the testimonies of Polycarp, Melito, Apollinaris, and Polycrates, that the New Testament second century Christians observed Passover outside of Jerusalem, as they ALL lived in Asia Minor and none lived in Jerusalem.

Passover in the Fifth Century

The fifth century historian Socrates Scholasticus noted:

In Asia Minor most people kept the fourteenth day of the moon...Moreover the Quartodecimans affirm that the observance of the fourteenth day was delivered to them by the apostle John (Socrates Scholasticus. Ecclesiastical History, Book V, Chapter XXII. Excerpted from Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Volume 2. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. American Edition, 1890. Online Edition Copyright © 2005 by K. Knight).

This did not please many associated with the Greco-Roman churches. The Catholic Encyclopedia notes:

Nestorius ...was born at Germanicia, in Syria Euphoratensis (date unknown); died in the Thebaid, Egypt, c. 451...He...took measures against the Quartodecimans who remained in Asia Minor (Chapman, John. "Nestorius and Nestorianism." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 10. Nihil Obstat. October 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 4 Aug. 2009 <>).

Throughout history, those who have tried to be faithful to Jesus' and the apostles' practices related to Passover have been subject to ridicule and persecution.

Passover in the Seventh Century and Beyond

As Rome extended its reach, it learned that those in the Celtic areas still observed the Biblical passover. Notice the following report:

Pope Vitalin...supported efforts of the king of Northumbria, following the Synod of Whitby (664), to establish in England the Roman, as opposed to the Celtic, date for Easter (that is the Sunday after the Jewish Passover, rather than the Passover itself) and other Roman practices as well (McBrien, Richard P. Lives of the Popes: The Pontiffs from St. Peter to Benedict XVI. Harper, San Francisco, 2005 updated ed., p. 109).

Notice that the above account (written by a Catholic priest and scholar) acknowledges that Rome changed Passover in Britain from the biblical date (which apparently the Celts still observed) to the Roman date. And many changed the name to that of a pagan goddess according to sources like The Catholic Encyclopedia:

Easter...The English term, according to the Ven. Bede (De temporum ratione, I, v), relates to Estre, a Teutonic goddess of the rising light of day and spring (Holweck F. G. Transcribed by John Wagner and Michael T. Barrett. Easter. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume V. Copyright © 1909 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, May 1, 1909. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Easter was the name of a pagan goddess, and this is not something that the faithful would want to honor.

Sabbatarians kept the Passover on the 14th of Nisan, not only in the early centuries, but throughout history as well.

In the introduction to his English translation of The Key of Truth, F.C. Conybeare provides this information on the practices of the early Paulicians:

John of Otzun’s language perhaps implies that the old believers in Armenia during the seventh century were Quartodecumans, as we should expect them to be (Conybeare F.C. The Key of Truth: A Manual of the Paulician Church of Armenia. Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1898, p. clii).

We know from a notice preserved by Ananias of Shirak {Shirak is a province of Armenia} that the Pauliani, who were the same people at an earlier date, called Quartodecumans, and kept Easter {Passover} in the primitive manner on the Jewish date...

But the Paulini also keep the feast of the Pascha on the same day (as the Jews), whatever be the day of the full moon, they call it Kuriaki, as the Jews call it Sabbath, even though it be not a Sabbath (Conybeare F.C. The Key of Truth: A Manual of the Paulician Church of Armenia. Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1898, p. clii).

In 1600, William Cotton reported that a Passover had been celebrated in Exeter (Roberts, 1904, vol. 10, 450). Within two decades, it was reported that John Traske and others were observing it in the London area.

Some of who observed the Passover and lived in the area of Transylvania and were persecuted for their beliefs:

And finally, the tragic “Accord of Deés” or Complanatio Deesiana in July 1638 definitely disjoined Sabbatarians from Unitarians. Unitarians were ordered to worship Jesus, baptize in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, and to allow their publications censured--a coerced “complanatio.” The “Judaizers” and those who rejected and cursed Jesus, however, were excluded even from the new amnesty. Sabbatarians were easy target of the new discriminatory law: they observed the Sabbath, therefore they farmed on Sundays, abstained from eating pork and blood, celebrated the Passover with unleavened bread, and refused baptism of their children--the very sign of their expected conversion...The Court of Deés sentenced more than 1,000 Sabbatarians to prison and confiscation of their properties" (Gellérd, Judit. Spiritual Jews of Szekler Jerusalem A Four-Centuries History of Transylvanian Szekler (Székely) Sabbatarianism. In Literature of Memory VI: Hope and Despair STH TS 870, Fall 2000 Professor Elie Wiesel.

Note that the "Judaizers" are separate from "those who rejected and cursed Jesus". In this region, there were both true Christians (the "Judaizers" who celebrated the Passover, etc.) and those who rejected Christ as Messiah. At least the above accounts distinguish between the two (often, we are lumped together by historians, which makes tracing the true Church of God difficult at times).

Here is a report about a church in Rhode Island in the 17th and 18th centuries:

The church in Rhode Island was founded the year 1671, and Ephreta, Pennsylvania, May, 1725, with numerous other congregations throughout the eastern states as previously mentioned in this work. During these early colonial days congregations were at first isolated because of distance and a lack of means of travel with no roads between them. Thus being isolated from fellowship with one another, we find companies in one place called the Church of Christ, and the Church of God, while in other communities they were simply called "Sabbatarian Congregations," but the belief was practically the same. They stood for the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, observing the true Sabbath, keeping the Lord's Supper yearly on the 14th of the first month, with other tenets of faith in harmony with the true faith today. Owing to the isolation of these scattered companies they were known by different names which evidently gives rise to the Scriptural statement relative to the Sardis period, "I know thy works, that thou hast a NAME," Revelation 3:1 (Dugger AN, Dodd CO. A History of True Religion, 3rd ed. Jerusalem, 1972 (Church of God, 7th Day). 1990 reprint, pp. 252-253).

J.W. Niles established the Wilbur Church of God in western Virginia in 1859 (which area became West Virginiain 1863). J.W. Niles was a Sabbatarian and kept Passover on the 14th of Nisan. Because J.W. Niles pointed out passages of scriptures Protestant ministers had not, some Protestants falsely asserted that he used a different Bible than they did—finally an officer of the court declared that Niles was using the same Bible they were. Many who claim to follow the Bible do not, and Niles showed people who claimed sola Scriptura that they did not fully understand the scriptures. J.W. Niles ended up affiliating with the General Conference that came later-- which Abraham Long’s son, A.C. Long, became apart of (called General Conference of the the Church of God in 1884-which was renamed Church of God, Seventh Day in 1923.

A distantly related independent group kept Passover with bread and wine in the early 1900s (Stanford JS. When to Partake of the Bread and Wine (Which is Passver). Remnant of Israel, March, 1931, p.1).

The Church of God, Seventh Day kept the Passover on the fourteenth of Nisan in the 20th and 21st centuries.

The pre-1986 Worldwide Church of God did so in the 20th century.

The various Church of God groups also kept the Passover on the 14th of Nisan in the 20th century, and the Continuing Church of God still does so in the 21st century.

But What About the Jews?

If one looks at the calendar or hears certain news reports, one could conclude that the real Church of God observes Passover one day before the Jews do.

How can this be?

There are two reasons that the Jews, and not the real Church of God, are confused.

The first is that there are two observances mentioned in chapter 12 of the Book of Exodus:

2 This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you...

6 And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening. 7 And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it. 8 And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it. 9 Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire; his head with his legs, and with the purtenance thereof. 10 And ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; and that which remaineth of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire. 11 And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the LORD's passover. 12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD.

22 And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the bason, and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood that is in the bason; and none of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning. 23 For the LORD will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the LORD will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you. 24 And ye shall observe this thing for an ordinance to thee and to thy sons for ever. 25 And it shall come to pass, when ye be come to the land which the LORD will give you, according as he hath promised, that ye shall keep this service.

26 And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you, What mean ye by this service?

27 That ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the LORD's passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses. And the people bowed the head and worshipped...

29 And it came to pass, that at midnight the LORD smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt...

41 And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt. 42 It is a night to be much observed unto the LORD for bringing them out from the land of Egypt: this is that night of the LORD to be observed of all the children of Israel in their generations (Ex 12:2, 6-12, 23-27, 41-42, KJV)

Basically, the sequence is that the Passover was observed on the 14th after sunset, at midnight death struck, the Israelites stayed in their homes until morning, then they left, and the next night after they left they were to observe a night to remember. Thus, none were to go out at until morning, and this "night to be much observed" happened AFTER the Passover, it is what the Jews used to realize that they observed on evening of the 15th. And partially because of that, they consider that the Passover is mainly about their exodus from Egypt as opposed to death "passing over" them. (More on the 15th can be found in the articles The Night to Be Observed and TPM: Passover on the 14th or 15th?).

Passover service is to begin shortly after sunset on the 14th of the month of Abib or Nisan, and is in the Spring of the year. It based upon a lunar, not Roman, calendar.

Up until Ezra's time, the Jews kept Passover on the 14th:

19 And the descendants of the captivity kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month. (Ezra 6:19)

Notice one explanation as to why Jews got confused:

Why Nisan 15?

You would think that the Jews need to learn to read their own Scriptures, for they seem to be illiterate in regard to the Passover. God tells us, in the clearest of language, that the Passover is to be held on the evening of Nisan 14. Nowhere in the Bible does it state otherwise. But they keep Nisan 15. Where did such a practice come from?

The answer to this is found in the history of the Jews in the third century before Christ.

From 301 B.C. to 198 B.C., the Palestinian Jews came under the control of Egyptians. These Gentiles imposed their philosophies and religious beliefs upon the Jews in profusion.

Dr. Lanterbach, one of Judaism’s greatest historians, admits that this period was one of religious anarchy among the Jews of Palestine (Rabbinic Essays, p. 200). They accepted, on a very large scale, many outright Egyptian customs. For example, Herodotus who visited Egypt in the fifth century before Christ, reported that the Egyptians would only drink out of pots and pans which had been scoured every day. They would religiously bathe themselves twice each day-they shunned all foreigners, especially Greeks, and would destroy any vessel or utensil which had been touched by a Greek. Such silly laws were inaugurated by the thousands by the Egyptians, said Herodotus (Book 11, pp. 37-41).

Prior to the Egyptian domination of Palestine, the Jews possessed none of these absurd customs, but after that period of religious anarchy, the Jews began practicing, with utmost vigor, those same EGYPTIAN laws. See Matthew 15:2 and Mark 7:3-8. There can be no question of this.

But what about the Passover? It can be shown that prior to this Egyptian domination, the Jews always kept the Passover on Nisan 14. Notice especially Ezra 6:19-22. Here it shows Nisan 14 as Passover and Nisan 15 as the first day of Unleavened Bread (which it is), not as the Passover day. But, after the Egyptian period, the Jews began to ob- serve Nisan 15 for Passover.


Corruption From Egypt!

The answer again is found in Egyptian customs. The Egyptian day customarily commenced with sunrise (Wilkinson, Vol. 11, p. 368). God’s day, however, begins at sunset (Lev. 23:32). This is where the trouble lay with the Passover reckoning after this period of Egyptian influence on the Jews. While the Egyptians allowed the Jews to retain their ancient calendar, there was a change made in the beginning of the day-it became common to begin the day at sunrise. This custom was adopted, and persisted among the Jews even down to New Testament times (see The Jewish Qziarterly Review, April, 1946). ...

With the 14th of Nisan supposedly beginning at sunrise, that puts what God calls the evening of Nisan 15 as still being on Nisan 14. This is where the problem arises. Even later on, when the Jews finally got back to an evening-to-evening reckoning for the day, they refused to abandon what had become the tradi- tional way of observing Passover. The principle, “What was good for my fathers, is good enough for me,” was too strong for the Jews to leave it. So, today, they are still one day out of phase with God (Martin E. The Jews DON'T Observe Passover. Good News magazine. April 1963, pp. 11-12)

Jesus kept the correct date that is in the Book of Exodus (12:6) and showed by His example that many Jews of His day observed it on the wrong day as some observed it on the 15th and not the 14th (and some did both, as some few still do today). Christians should accept Jesus' date of the 14th as accurate. Christians should not get confused by the practices of the Jews or others who attempt to argue that the 15th is preferable (reasons why most Jews observe the 15th is included in the article TPM: Passover on the 14th or 15th?). More information on the calendar can be found in the Hebrew Calendar article.

Here is what seems to be a secondary reason as to why the Jewish date is different for some:

In a short work on the Passover, Rabbi George Wolf examines some of the changes that he considers the early Rabbis introduced to the Passover in response to the observance by the early church. Scholars have long studied the New Testament without a serious consideration of other literature that impinges on its understanding. Fortunately that has begun to change in the last half century. 

The action of Jesus Christ with his disciples the night of his betrayal has most often been seen as a point of disjuncture with the established practices of Judaism of that day. This reaches its apex with the apostle Paul who speaks of the “Lord’s Supper,” which most exegetes wish to see as the proto-eucharist and the start of a Christian festival cycle independent of the Jewish Holy Days. 

Wolf, like some Jewish scholars sees it differently. He sees both Jesus and Paul keeping the Passover in such a manner that it prompted the Rabbis of the second and third centuries to bring changes to the Jewish practice to distance the Jews from the emerging church…

Paul’s references to Jesus Christ as “our Passover” (1 Corinthians 5:7) and the cup of blessing representing the blood of the covenant (1 Corinthians 10:16, 11:25) are instructive to Wolf in his considerations (Nathan P. Passover Considerations Rabbinic changes to the Passover to distance it from the early Church. April 9, 2008. 

So while I knew that the Catholics wanted to distance themselves from practices that they considered to be Jewish, it seems that perhaps part of the reason that the Jews may have stopped observing Passover on the 14th was to distance themselves from the faithful Christians (who were in Jerusalem until about 135 A.D.).

But irrespective of why they do it, the fact is that those in the genuine Church of God observe Passover on the 14th, just like Jesus did. And just like all faithful Christians should still do.

It perhaps should also be mentioned that Article 3, under the Seven Sacraments of the Church in the Catechism of the Catholic Church discusses the eucharist. Section II asks and answers the question, What is this Sacrament Called? Several names are listed, including "The Breaking of Bread" (#1329). The Catechism of the Catholic Church also states the following:

1339 Jesus choose the time of the Passover...And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them...(Catechism of the Catholic Church. Imprimatur Potest +Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Doubleday, NY 1995, p. 373)

This is important to realize as that while bread is broken during a Passover ceremony (per the Bible, cf. Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19), it is no longer broken as part of the Catholic eucharist.

The Apostle Paul indicated that those who did not handle the Passover bread and wine properly were eating for demons:

14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak as to wise men; judge for yourselves what I say. 16 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? 17 For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.

18 Observe Israel after the flesh: Are not those who eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar? 19 What am I saying then? That an idol is anything, or what is offered to idols is anything? 20 Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord's table and of the table of demons. (1 Corinthians 10:14-21)

The round host, that is not broken as the Passover that the Bible teaches of, was not approved by the Bible.

For details about where the round host and other eucharistic practices seem to have originated, please see Marcus, the Marcosians, & Mithraism: Developers of the Eucharist?

A Second Passover?

Passover observance is so important to God that He actually has a second date for its observance.

This is based upon the following passages of scripture:

1 Now the Lord spoke to Moses in the Wilderness of Sinai, in the first month of the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt, saying: 2 “Let the children of Israel keep the Passover at its appointed time. 3 On the fourteenth day of this month, at twilight, you shall keep it at its appointed time. According to all its rites and ceremonies you shall keep it.” 4 So Moses told the children of Israel that they should keep the Passover. 5 And they kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month, at twilight, in the Wilderness of Sinai; according to all that the Lord commanded Moses, so the children of Israel did.

6 Now there were certain men who were defiled by a human corpse, so that they could not keep the Passover on that day; and they came before Moses and Aaron that day. 7 And those men said to him, “We became defiled by a human corpse. Why are we kept from presenting the offering of the Lord at its appointed time among the children of Israel?”

8 And Moses said to them, “Stand still, that I may hear what the Lord will command concerning you.”

9 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 10 “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘If anyone of you or your posterity is unclean because of a corpse, or is far away on a journey, he may still keep the Lord’s Passover. 11 On the fourteenth day of the second month, at twilight, they may keep it. They shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 12 They shall leave none of it until morning, nor break one of its bones. According to all the ordinances of the Passover they shall keep it. 13 But the man who is clean and is not on a journey, and ceases to keep the Passover, that same person shall be cut off from among his people, because he did not bring the offering of the Lord at its appointed time; that man shall bear his sin.  (Numbers 9:1-13)

Centuries later, basically the entire tribe of Judah all did this one year (and had some from other tribes join them):

1 And Hezekiah sent to all Israel and Judah, and also wrote letters to Ephraim and Manasseh, that they should come to the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, to keep the Passover to the Lord God of Israel. 2 For the king and his leaders and all the assembly in Jerusalem had agreed to keep the Passover in the second month. 3 For they could not keep it at the regular time, because a sufficient number of priests had not consecrated themselves, nor had the people gathered together at Jerusalem.  (2 Chronicles 30:1-3)

Groups, such as the Continuing Church of God, observe the Christian Passover.

Passover is so important that it has a second date for those who missed it. It is the only such observance with a second date in scripture.

The Passover Plot?

Some have tried to claim that Jesus did not die after His last Passover observance on earth. Some claimed Judas died, while others claim it only appeared that Jesus died.

Notice something related to a 1965 best-selling book titled The Passover Plot by Hugh Schonfield:

According to Schonfield's analysis, the events of the Passover, which are presented in all the Gospels, but inconsistently, are most accurately presented in the Gospel of John. His reading of that Gospel convinced him that John's account, though probably filtered through an assistant and transcription in John's old age, suggests that Jesus had planned everything. Among other things, so that he would not be on the cross for more than a few hours before the Sabbath arrived when it was required by law that Jews be taken down, so that one of his supporters, who was on hand, would give him water (to quench his thirst) that was actually laced with a drug to make him unconscious, and so that Joseph of Arimathea, a well-connected supporter, would collect him off the cross while still alive (but appearing dead) so that he could be secretly nursed back to health. Schonfield suggests that the plan went awry because of a soldier's actions with a spear. Schonfield gives evidence of a high-ranking member of the Sanhedrin who was one of Jesus' followers, likely the Beloved Disciple who is otherwise obscure, and notes several instances in which knowledge of or access to the Temple was available to one or more of Jesus' followers. He identifies this follower as John, the source of the Gospel many decades later whilst living in Asia Minor. He suggests that this Apostle, and Joseph of Arimathea, were responsible for events following the Crucifixion, and that it might have been this Apostle (an 'undercover Disciple', as it were) who was seen (by those who did not know him) at the Tomb on the morning of the Resurrection. (The Passover Plot. Wikipedia, viewed 03/15/14).

Allegedly, Jesus was seen for a few times after the pretended killing of Him and this is the proof of the resurrection that various ones believed according to the lies above about Passover. Only one who does not believe the Bible could accept the falsehoods in The Passover Plot.

Notice something else about it:

The church of Christ was founded upon the conviction that Christ was raised from the dead (Acts 4:10-12). Were these duped disciples, or were they diabolical deceivers? The New Testament presents the earliest disciples as believing in the fact of the resurrected Christ, which historical event was the center of their preaching. Accordingly, R.A. Torrey says, “The resurrection of Jesus Christ is mentioned directly 104 or more times in the New Testament” (What the Bible Teaches. 1898. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1998, p. 159)...

Here is Mr. Schonfield’s telling presupposition. He opined:

“Our minds are confused by the matter of fact manner of narration….The presentation of what takes place does not distinguish at all between the factual and the legendary, and no criteria are provided to enable us to separate the one from the other. We feel this to be grossly unfair, an imposition on our credulity….

“But we have been persuaded, quite wrongly and in complete disregard of the nature of spiritual folklore, that what is set down in the Bible is to be received as true in the literal and absolute sense of being the very word of God” (p. 41).

Talk about an imposition. Mr. Schonfield argues that since the New Testament contains “the legendary” it is spiritual folklore. How do we know it is folklore? Because it contains the legendary.

The Passover Plot illustrates every argument that tries to naturally explain the empty tomb. Whether the theory is: the disciples stole the body, the enemies stole the body, Joseph of Arimathaea took the body, the women went to the wrong tomb, Jesus revived having merely “swooned” on the cross, every conjecture about the empty tomb has a common denominator. They all deny what the text really says. They all make claims that cannot square with the text. They all presuppose the New Testament documents to be unreliable, but loftily claim to discern a reliable reconstruction from unreliable sources. (Jackson J. Pass Over “The Passover Plot.” Copyright © 2014 Christian Courier. All rights reserved. | ISSN: 1559-2235 . viewed 03/15/14)

I would add that the disciples and others would not be inclined to die for something they knew was false. Yet, history reports that most of the apostle were killed for their faith.

As far as some type of 'Passover plot' goes, I would suggest that switching to Easter Sunday and not observing it as Jesus told His followers to do so is the REAL Passover plot (the adoption of 'Lent' instead the Days of Unleavened Bread is also a related part of the plot). More on how Easter Sunday became accepted is in the article Did Early Christians Celebrate Easter?

But for details on Passover plots, see the article The Passover Plot and/or watch the video sermon The Passover Plots, Including Easter.

Conclusion: The Christian Passover is an Annual Event

Passover began as an annual event, and one that occurred at night. Most today who profess Christ do not consider it to be an annual event. Yes, the Bible has a second date for it, but that is only for those who missed it the first time.

The Passover service also involves footwashing. Yet, almost none who call themselves Christian, observe the foot-washing ceremony that Jesus implemented on the night of His last Passover. And even though some Roman Catholic leaders do this, they will only do that once per year, while they think they are to follow the rest of Christ's Passover examples on a weekly, and sometimes daily, basis.

Secular history records that the Apostles Philip and John, as well as faithful leaders such Polycarp, Thraseas, Sagaris, Melito, Apollinaris, and Polycrates kept Passover on the fourteenth in the first three centuries. Even though the Roman Emperor Constantine attempted to forbid it, it was still observed in the fourth century, as well as later centuries.

Passover on the 14th of Nisan/Abib was clearly kept by the early Church!

Notice something that the Bible teaches:

8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. 9 Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines (Hebrews 13:8-9).

Is not changing the date of Passover to a Sunday, holiday named Easter after a pagan goddess the type of strange doctrine that the Bible warned against?

Easter was a result of compromise with scripture combined with antisemitism. Passover is about love, whereas parts of Easter clearly seem to be associated with lust. Passover observance is backed by both the Old and New Testaments, as well as by the early Christians who claimed to be following the teachings of the apostles and the Bible.

Here is something from the Statement of Beliefs of the Continuing Church of God:

Passover helps picture the sacrifice of Jesus Christ who scripture shows who came to be the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Jesus observed Passover annually (Matthew 26:18; Mark 14:14; Luke 2:41-42; 22:15), died on Passover (Luke 22:15), and was sacrificed for us as “indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians 5:7). Jesus made changes to the Passover including adding the symbols of unleavened bread and wine (Matthew 26:17, 26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26) as well as the cleansing practice of footwashing (John 13:1-17).  It is kept annually (cf. Exodus 13:10).  Keeping Passover proclaims Christ's death (1 Corinthians 11:27) which reconciles us to God (Romans 5:10).  Jesus gave His life for our salvation (John 3:16-17; Hebrews 5:5-11) and His death teaches us that Christians are not to have sin reign over our mortal bodies (Romans 6:3-12). 

Passover is kept by those in the Continuing Church of God.

Passover was clearly observed by the early church.

Should you rely on the Bible or unbiblical tradition?

Should Passover be observed by you?

Since the date of Passover is based upon a lunar-solar calendar, it varies each year. Here is a link to a Holy Day Calendar. To learn more about how to keep Passover, check out the article Keeping Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread. To learn more about how to prepare for it, please check out the YouTube video sermon Preparing for Passover. For a step-by-step video for Christians to keep Passover, check out CCOG Passover Service.

For more on Holy Days vs. holidays, check out Should You Observe God’s Holy Days or Demonic Holidays?

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Thiel B. Ph.D. Passover and the Early Church. (c) 2006 2007 2008/2009/2010/2011/2012/2013/2014/2015/2016/2017/2018/2019/2020 /2022 0414