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On the time of the celebration of the last Supper.
THE question which we have now to consider, concerning the time of the celebration of the last supper, is confessedly among the most difficult, if not the most difficult, to which an Harmony of the Gospels is liable.
The nature of the difficulty may be briefly stated as follows: that the night, when our Saviour celebrated his Passover, was not the night, when the rest of the Jews celebrated their's: and the origin of the difficulty in this instance, as well as in other cases of a like kind, is due to a seeming discrepancy between the existing Evangelical accounts.
The existence of a discrepancy, indeed, on such a subject, if dispassionately considered, ought to be presumptively an argument that the testimony of one of the Gospel historians, rightly ascertained, cannot be really but only seemingly at variance with the testimony of another. The four accounts may be virtually reduced to two-St. Matthew's and St. John's-St. Mark and St. Luke concurring substantially with the former, and all three, as far as there is any difference among them, differing in common from the latter. Now St. Matthew and St. John were each Apostles, and each a party on this occasion in the celebration of the supper. It is utterly absurd, therefore, to suppose that either could be ignorant of the time, when they and their Master concurred in the performance of this solemnity; and whether that time was the same or not with the time, when the rest of the nation were engaged on a similar festival. It is not less absurd to imagine that, though both
might have known this once, either of them subsequently forgot the truth of the fact; and from inadvertency or from forgetfulness gave an erroneous, or a contradictory account. The circumstances connected with the fact, even humanly speaking, were too memorable in every point of view, not to be indelibly impressed upon their recollection.
It is absolutely certain also, as far as any past fact is capable of being rendered certain, that St. John wrote long after the other Evangelists, and especially after St. Matthew; and was as well aware what account had been given by them on this, or on any other particular of the Gospel history, as we ourselves at present. Common sense and common candour, then, should lead to the inference that, on this point, no insuperable difficulty will be found really to exist; that in setting forth, as the last of the Evangelists, a different account, or what might appear prima facie a different account, of the same things, St. John must have known he was not endangering the authority of his predecessors: that the cause of Christian, as well as of historical truth, had nothing to fear from the collision; all the accounts were consistent and true: the later differing from the earlier only in being more explicit, or in determining some things with historical precision which had been merely generally stated before.
That the supper, which our Lord celebrated with the Apostles the night before he suffered, is called and is to be considered, in some sense, as a Passover, appears indisputably from Matt. xxvi. 17-20. Mark xiv. 12-17. and Luke xxii. 7-14: but especially from Luke xxii. 15. when the celebration was actually begun. That this was the same supper, as that which begins to be related John xiii. 1. and continues to be related until John xviii. 1. is equally certain both from many com
mon circumstances belonging to each, and because the event of the supper was the same in each; viz. that Jesus, the same night and after the celebration of this supper, was betrayed.
Yet this supper, at the very commencement of the 13th chapter of St. John, is declared to be πpò Ts OPTŷS TOU Tάoxa: during its celebration the feast is supposed to be still to comea: the morning after the supper is called the παρασκευὴ τοῦ πάσχαν: the Jews, who brought our Lord that morning to Pilate, would not enter the Prætorium, lest they should be defiled, but ïva páɣwoi TÒ Tάoxa: and in the course of the deliberations, respecting the disposal of Jesus, Pilate speaks of the Passover as either at hand or only just begun that morning, but not yet pastd: Ye have a custom that I should release for you some one at the Passover.
The import of all these testimonies is clearly to establish the conclusion that, at the time of the supper the night before, the feast of the Passover was not yet come; and to this effect the first of the number, perhaps, is the most important and the most decisive of any. It is possible to distinguish between the Paschal sacrifice as such, and the feast of unleavened bread. The proper name of the former is Tò Táoɣa; the proper name of the latter rà avuae: the proper time of the former was the fourteenth of the month Nisan; the proper time of the latter from the fifteenth to the twenty-first inclusive. The sacrifice, however, of the Passover was so intimately the prelude to the feast of unleavened bread, and the absence of leaven was so essential a condition to the ceremonial of the Passover itself, that neither the phrase rà avua, or i ἑορτὴ τῶν ἀζύμων, can be employed ἁπλῶς, without in
a Ch. xiii. 29. b Ch. xix. 14. c Ch. xviii. 28. e Cf. Origen, ii. 239. A. in Leviticum Homilia ix. 5.
d Ch. xviii. 39.
cluding the Paschal supper; nor the phrase τὸ πάσχα, or ἡ ἑορτὴ τοῦ πάσχα, without including the feast of unleavened bread. Much less is it possible that the phrase, ἡ ἑορτὴ τοῦ πάσχα, should be so employed for the feast of unleavened bread in the complex, and not include the feast of the Paschal sacrifice in particular. Such at least is not the usage of St. John, nor of any other of the writers of the New Testament; as the following examples will prove.
Καὶ ἐγγὺς ἦν τὸ πάσχα τῶν Ἰουδαίων. John ii. 13— Ἐν τῷ πάσχα, ἐν τῇ ἑορτῇ. ii. 23—Ἐν τῇ ἑορτῇ· καὶ αὐτοὶ γὰρ ἦλθον εἰς τὴν ἑορτήν. iv. 45-Ἦν δὲ ἐγγὺς τὸ πάσχα, ἡ ἑορτὴ τῶν Ἰουδαίων. vi. 4—Ἦν δὲ ἐγγὺς τὸ πάσχα . . . πρὸ τοῦ πάσχα. xi. 55—Πρὸ ἓξ ἡμερῶν τοῦ πάσχα. xii. 1.
Τὸ πάσχα γίνεται Τῇ δὲ πρώτῃ τῶν ἀζύμων. Matt. xxvi. 2. 17—Τὸ πάσχα καὶ τὰ ἄζυμα. Mark xiv. 1-Τῇ πρώτῃ ἡμέρᾳ τῶν ἀζύμων. xiv. 12—Τῇ ἑορτῇ τοῦ πάσχα. Luke ii. 41-Ἤγγιζε δὲ ἡ ἑορτὴ τῶν ἀζύμων, ἡ λεγομένη πάσχα. xxii. 1—Ἦλθε δὲ ἡ ἡμέρα τῶν ἀζύμων, ἐν ᾗ ἔδει θύεσθαι τὸ πάσχα. xxii. 7—Ἡμέραι τῶν ἀζύμων
μετὰ τὸ πάσχα, Acts xii. 3. 4— Μετὰ τὰς ἡμέρας τῶν ἀζύμων. xx. 6. Compare also 1 Cor. v. 7. and Hebrews xi. 28.
The usage of the writers of the New Testament is in this respect the same with that of the contemporary Jewish author, Josephus; and all together establish this rule, that where the phrase, τὸ πάσχα, is not distinctly opposed to the phrase, τὰ ἄζυμα, they are each inclusive of the other, and the complex, ἑορτὴ τοῦ πάσχα, is absolutely equivalent to the complex, ἑορτὴ τῶν ἀζύμων.
Τῆς τῶν ἀζύμων ἐνστάσης ἑορτῆς, Φάσκα παρὰ τοῖς Ἰουδαίοις καλεῖται. Bell. Jud. ii. i. 3-Ἐπὶ τὴν ἑορτὴν τῶν ἀζύμων. Ib. xii. 1—Τὴν τῶν ἀζύμων ἑορτήν. Ib. 6—Τῆς τῶν
ἀζύμων ἑορτῆς ἐνστάσης. Ib. xiv. 3—Κατὰ τὴν ἑορτὴν τῶν ἀζύμων. iv. vii. 2—Τῆς τῶν ἀζύμων ἐνστάσης ἡμέρας, τεσσαρεσκαιδεκάτῃ Ξανθικοῦ μηνός. v. iii. 1—Πρὸς τὴν τῶν ἀζύμων ἑορτήν. vi. v. 3—Ἐπὶ τὴν τῶν ἀζύμων ἑορτήν ... ἐνστάσης ἑορτῆς· πάσχα καλεῖται. Ib. ix. 3.
Ὅθεν νῦν ἔτι κατὰ τὸ ἔθος οὕτως θύομεν, τὴν ἑορτὴν πάσχα καλοῦντες· σημαίνει δὲ ὑπερβασία. Ant. Jud. ii. xiv. 6—Ὅθεν εἰς μνήμην τῆς τότε ἐνδείας ἑορτὴν ἄγομεν ἐφ ̓ ἡμέρας ὀκτὼ, τὴν τῶν ἀζύμων λεγομένην. Ib. xv. l—Τῷ δὲ μηνὶ τῷ Ξανθικῷ · τεσσαρεσκαιδεκάτῃ κατὰ σελήνην . . . τὴν θυσίαν . . πάσχα λεγομένην . . θύειν ἐνομίσε . . πέμπτῃ δὲ καὶ δεκάτῃ διαδέχεται τὴν τοῦ πάσχα ἡ τῶν ἀζύμων ἑορτή. Ib. iii. x. 5—θύει δὲ τότε πρῶτον ... τὴν πάσχα λεγομένην. Ib. xii. 6—Κατὰ τὴν ἑορτὴν τῶν ἀζύμων. Ib. xv. 3—Τὴν Φάσκα ἑώρταζον. v. i. 4—Τὴν τῶν ἀζύμων ἑορτὴν ἄξοντα—Ἐνστάσης δὲ τῆς τῶν ἀζύμων ἑορτῆς, θύσαντες τὴν λεγομένην πάσχα. ix. xiii. 2. 3—Τὴν ἀζύμων ἑορτὴν, καὶ τὴν πάσχα λεγομένην. x. iv. 5—Ἐνστάσης δὲ τῆς τῶν ἀζύμων ἑορτῆς καὶ τὴν πάσχα προσαγορευομένην θυσίαν. xi. iv. 8—Κατὰ τὸν καιρὸν τῆς τῶν ἀζύμων ἑορτῆς, ἣν Φάσκα λέγομεν-Τὴν ἑορτὴν τὴν καλουμένην Φάσκα. xiv. ii. 1. 2—Ἐνστάσης . . . ἑορτῆς, ἐν ᾗ Ἰουδαίοις ἄζυμα προτίθεσθαι πάτριον· πάσχα δὲ ἡ ἑορτὴ καλεῖται. xvii. ix. 3—Τῶν ἀζύμων τῆς ἑορτῆς ἀγομένης, ἣν πάσχα καλοῦμενἮν αὐτοῖς ἑορτή· πάσχα δὲ καλεῖται. xviii. ii. 2. iv. 3-Τῆς πάσχα προσαγορευομένης ἑορτῆς ἐνστάσης, καθ ̓ ἣν ἔθος ἐστὶν ἡμῖν ἄζυμα προσφέρεσθαι. xx. v. 3.
With respect to Philo Judeus, though he commonly expresses the Hebrew Pascha by its equivalent Greek term, ἡ διάβασις, or τὰ διαβατήρια, the same usage is observable in him also. Διὸ καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς διαβάσεως αὖτῶν, ὃ καλεῖται πάσχα: i. 117. 1. 31. SS. Legum Allegoriarum iii. Vide also Ibid. 174. 1. 25-35. De Sacrificiis Abelis et Caini. Οὗ χάριν διείρηται καὶ ἐπὶ πικρίδων τὰ ἄζυμα ἐσθίειν: Ibid. 542. 1. 45. De Congressu quæ