On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make Passover meal for you?” (Matt 26:17)
This passage of scripture in the 3 gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke seem to contradict the whole Passover timeline. It has thrown a spanner in the works when we try to understand Jesus’ last week, especially the question: ‘when did Jesus actually eat his Passover meal?’ You can read all sorts of theories online that require acts of amazing contortion to put together a semi plausible theory. This is the theory I like the best because it fits…..
It is now Wednesday morning, 13th Nisan, yet all three gospel versions refer to this day as the first day of unleavened bread which is 15th Nisan. This is especially confusing when all three versions refer to the next day as being the ‘Day of Preparation’ which we know takes place on the 14th Nisan. The ‘Day of Preparation must take place the day before the first day of Unleavened Bread so why are the Gospel writers messing things up by saying the 14th comes the day after the 15th? It makes no sense! Has the Bible got it wrong? How can we explain this problem.
Therefore we have to conclude that the reference to Wednesday (13th Nisan) being the first day of Unleavened Bread was either a) a mistake by the Gospel writers, b) a reference to an unofficial beginning to the Festival holiday that we are no longer aware of today or c) it is a translation error where the translators have put the ‘full stop’ from the previous verse in the wrong place.
Three Possible Theories Around Timeline Discrepancy
- This would mean all three gospel writers got the dates and times to their own festival wrong. This option is nearly impossible to consider as plausible.
- The Essenes celebrated Passover on the Tuesday night/Wednesday but there is no record in Jewish writings to suggest that the 13th Nisan was officially or unofficially called the first day of Unleavened Bread. This theory is weak because of the lack of evidence but should not be discounted.
- The reference to this being the first day of Unleavened Bread could well be a continuation of the previous verse. As the Greek language did not have punctuation we can theorise that the translators have put the ‘full stop’ in the wrong place and have translated these passages incorrectly. All three versions together could very well be translated like this: ‘Judas kept looking for his opportunity to betray Jesus which came on the day before Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb was sacrificed. The following morning the disciples came to Jesus and asked him…..’. The Greek word for first can also be translated are ‘before’ or ‘prior’. This is a factually correct statement and keeps the purity of the Passover timeline intact. This is the most likely of the three theories.
NB/ Further evidence that this was not the first day of Unleavened Bread was that this day would have been a High Sabbath and Jesus would never have asked his disciples to prepare a meal on this day and you would certainly not see anyone carrying a pitcher of water through the city of Jerusalem on this day.