Was The Last Supper THE Passover Meal?

The 4 gospels appear, at first glance, to contradict each other in regards to when Passover occurred. Was the Last Supper THE Passover meal? Was it a special, premature passover meal? What exactly took place on Passover and the 1st day of Unleavened Bread? I will show that all 4 gospels are in complete harmony with each other. There is no contradiction. Only by human error is there contradiction in the scriptures. Please note that when I capitalize "THE," I do so to indicate the biblical appointed time for the official meal of the Passover on the 14th, with the possibility of the Last Supper being a special, nonofficial passover meal due to the unique circumstances of the Messiah's death on Passover.

My conclusions are as follows:
  • The 4 gospels do not contradict. Only by confusing the terms and contexts do they contradict.
  • The Last Supper was neither THE Passover meal, nor was it just a regular meal. It was without a doubt a special meal. The Last Supper occurred on the night of the 13th. THE Passover meal always occurs on the night of the 14th.
  • I acknowledge two possibilities: 1) That the Last Supper was a special meal and not at all the passover; or 2) That the Last Supper was a special passover meal, but not THE passover meal. I believe that either interpretation works just fine. Personally, I lean toward the latter.

1) Let's build a solid foundation from which to start...

In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the LORD'S passover. And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the LORD: seven days ye must eat unleavened bread. Lev. 23:5-6 (Let's not forget this foundation as we study. Passover is on the 14th, feast of unleavened bread starts on the 15th. Very simple.)

Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats: 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. Ex. 12:5-6 (The passover lamb is NOT killed UNTIL the 14th, never before that. Don't forget that as we study.)

2) All 4 gospels agree that the day following the Last Supper was called the "preparation day." The preparation day is the day of THE Passover. And this is the day on which Christ died.

Matthew
Ye know that after two days is (the feast of) the passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified. Matt. 26:2 (This verse is rather ambiguous taken by itself. Harmonizing this verse is no problem. It could easily be read that Jesus would be crucified on passover.)

And consulted that they might take Jesus by subtilty, and kill him. But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar among the people. Matt. 26:4-5 (They didn't want to arrest him during passover. They arrested him soon after the Last Supper. So it's likely that they didn't believe that night of the Last Supper to be the passover feast.)

When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death: And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor. Matt. 27:1-2 (This is the day after the Last Supper.)

Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified. Matt. 27:26 (Same day as the verse above.)

Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Matt. 27:45-46 (Same day as the verse above.)

Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. Matt. 27:50 (Same day as the verse above.)

Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate. Matt. 27:62 (The day Christ died and was buried was called "the day of the preparation." Now let's see if the other gospels are in agreement.)

Mark
After two days was (the feast of) the passover, and of unleavened bread: and the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take him by craft, and put him to death. But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar of the people. Mark 14:1-2 (Again, because they decided to arrest him on the night of the Last Supper, it was obviously not perceived to be the feast day because they sought to avoid that day to arrest him.)

And straightway in the morning the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council, and bound Jesus, and carried him away, and delivered him to Pilate. Mark 15:1 (This is the day after the Last Supper, just the same as in Matthew.)

Now at that feast he released unto them one prisoner, whomsoever they desired. Mark 15:6 (Same day as the verse above.)

And it was the third hour, and they crucified him. Mark 15:25 (Same day as the verse above.)

And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Mark 15:33-34 (Same day as the verse above.)

And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost. Mark 15:37 (Same day as the verse above.)

And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, Mark 15:42 (Once again, the day on which Christ died was called "the preparation." And it is the day before the sabbath. Matthew and Mark are in agreement.)

Luke
And as soon as it was day, the elders of the people and the chief priests and the scribes came together, and led him into their council, Luke 22:66 (Again, this is the day after the Last Supper.)

And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst. And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost. Luke 23:44-46 
(Same day as the verse above.)

And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on. Luke 23:54 (Again, the day Christ died was called "the preparation." And the sabbath day followed. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all agree.)

John
Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment: and it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the passover. John 18:28 ("It was early" is indicating that this is the following day from the Last Supper. These men do not want to defile themselves because they want to eat the passover that was for that evening. This tells us that the Last Supper was not passover, but the day before.)

Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all. But ye have a custom, that I should release unto you one at the passover: will ye therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews? Then cried they all again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber. John 18:38-40 (Same day as the verse above. Again, Pilate is calling the day after the Last Supper the passover.)

And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King! But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. John 19:14-15 (
Same day as the verse above. The day after the Last Supper is called the passover. And it is also called the preparation. The preparation day is the same as the passover day of the 14th.)

When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghostThe Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. John 19:30-31 (Same day as the verse above. The day after the Last Supper is again called the preparation. The sabbath day follows, which is called a "high day," which indicates that is an annual and weekly sabbath falling on the same day.)

There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews' preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand. John 19:42 (Same day as the verse above. Again the day after the Last Supper is called the "preparation day," which we know to be the passover on the 14th.)

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John ALL agree that Christ died the day after the Last Supper, which is called the preparation day, which is on passover, and is the 14th day of the month. This is consistent with the passover lamb being killed on the 14th in Ex. 12:5-6. We also know that Christ died in the 9th hour, which is the exact time that the passover lambs were slaughtered. The following verses also link Christ's death to the passover.

For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: 1 Cor. 5:7

The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. John 1:29

And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Rev. 13:8

The foundation is laid. Anything that appears to say anything different than this must be closely examined. So let's do that now.

3) Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread are used interchangeably
Now the feast of unleavened bread drew nigh, which is called the Passover. Luke 22:1 (Luke calls the Passover, the feast of unleavened bread because they are used interchangeably. This does cause confusion, but this is how it was done. We should be careful in making assumptions on which one is meant. Careful consideration of the context is in order.)

Then came the day of unleavened bread, when the passover must be killed. Luke 22:7 (Obviously the passover is killed on the 14th, not the 15th. But once again, if we understand that these terms are used interchangeably, then this verse doesn't contradict the rest of scripture.)

4)Further proof
Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him; John 13:1-2 (The Last Supper had ended, and this time is described as being before the Passover. Therefore, the Last Supper was not the Passover meal.)

For some of them thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus had said unto him, Buy those things that we have need of against the feast; or, that he should give something to the poor. John 13:29 (After the Last Supper was over, the disciples mistakenly thought the Messiah was telling Judas to buy items for the Passover meal, thus eliminating the possibility of the Last Supper being the Passover meal. But in all fairness, one could argue that they were thinking in terms of the feast of Unleavened Bread on the 15th.)

Now let's consider the fact that there was no lamb for the Last Supper meal. THE passover meal consists of the sacrificial lamb that was to be slaughtered on the 14th. The Last Supper can not be THE passover meal because the sacrificial lamb was killed the following day.

Also, another reason the Last Supper can not be THE passover meal is because they were eating leavened bread. THE passover meal always consists of unleavened bread.

5) Harmonizing the difficult verses

Matthew 26:17-20, Mark 14:12-18, and Luke 22:7-15 all speak of the same thing. They all appear to indicate that the Last Supper was the Passover meal. We already know that it was not THE Passover meal because the foundation and weight of scripture says otherwise as already established. 

Interpretation Option A:
One possibility is that they considered this Last Supper as a special, premature passover meal due to the unique circumstances of Christ's death the following day on THE Passover day of the 14th. Christ says, "With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer:." I will give an alternative interpretation of this verse below, but it could be argued, that this was Christ's desire. That because he loved his disciples, and because they would not be able to share one last Passover meal together, Christ did it a day early so as to be able to share that time with his disciples one last time before he died. You could argue that he can't do that. Well, I don't see why not due to the unique circumstances. After all, in the Torah, an exception is granted to those that are ceremonially unclean on the Passover day. Those that were unclean were not permitted to participate in the Passover. However, they were granted an exception and commanded to observe this on the following month. So those people observed the Passover on the 14th day of the 2nd month due to the unique circumstance of them being unclean the prior month. If he wants to make an exception for this occasion as well due to its unique circumstances, then he can do so because of who he is. 

Interpretation Option B

Matthew 26:17-20
Now the first (day of the feast of) unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the passover? And he said, Go into the city to such a man, and say unto him, The Master saith, My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at thy house with my disciples. And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them; and they made ready the passover. Now when the even was come, he sat down with the twelve. Matt. 26:17-20

This verse appears to be saying that the Last Supper meal was the passover meal. But let's examine this closely because that would be a contradiction to the foundation that we've already established. The words in parenthesis are in italics in the KJV, therefore, those words are added descriptors by the translators. So we can take those out because they are actually poor descriptors. The word "first" comes from the root word "pro," which means "before." So "before unleavened bread the disciples came..." Or you could still go with "first" which just means the beginning of unleavened bread. So when is the beginning of the Passover, or unleavened bread, season? The 10th day of the month is when the lamb is selected. So no matter what the correct translation is. The 1st part of this verse can be harmonized. We often times will speak of the Christmas season, but that starts just after Thanksgiving, not on Dec. 25th. Just the same, Passover or unleavened bread can be referenced in terms of the overall season which starts on the 10th and goes all the way through to the 21st of the month. 

Now let's look at the phrase "I will keep," which comes from the word "poieo." Now look that word up in Strongs and look at the possibilities. This phrase could easily be translated a slightly different way and it changes the whole meaning to harmonize with the rest of scripture. What if Jesus was simply instructing the man in the city to "make ready" the passover with my disciples. Not "I will keep." Ok, so they made ready the passover, then they had a special meal that night for Christ's last evening. But it didn't necessarily have to be the passover meal that they ate on that night of the 13th. Have you ever taken more than a day to prepare for something? Let's review these modifications and see what it looks like...

Now the before unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the passover? And he said, Go into the city to such a man, and say unto him, The Master saith, My time is at hand; Make ready the passover at thy house with my disciples. And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them; and they made ready the passover. Now when the even was come, he sat down with the twelve. Matt. 26:17-20(modified)

I believe these small modifications are justified because the foundational verses have already been established. It may seem that I am tinkering with scripture, but the scribes and translators have tinkered with the scriptures, so on rare occasions, you must do this to make these wayward passages harmonize with the foundational passages. You don't want to toss out the foundation because translators are fallible. Harmonizing the scriptures is the goal because that is where the truth lays.

Mark 14:12-18
And the first day of unleavened bread, when they killed the passover, his disciples said unto him, Where wilt thou that we go and prepare that thou mayest eat the passoverAnd he sendeth forth two of his disciples, and saith unto them, Go ye into the city, and there shall meet you a man bearing a pitcher of water: follow him. And wheresoever he shall go in, say ye to the goodman of the house, The Master saith, Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples? And he will shew you a large upper room furnished and prepared: there make ready for us. And his disciples went forth, and came into the city, and found as he had said unto them: and they made ready the passover. And in the evening he cometh with the twelve. And as they sat and did eat, Jesus said, Verily I say unto you, One of you which eateth with me shall betray me. Mark 14:12-18

This is another verse that appears to be saying that the Last Supper was the passover meal. But again, "first" could be translated "before" just as I mentioned in the Matthew 26 verse above. Then let's look at the phrase "I shall eat," which comes from the word "phago," which simply means "to eat." It appears to me that the words "I shall" are not justified to be there and are descriptive words by fallible translators. Now let's review the verse with these small modifications...

And the before the day of unleavened bread, when they killed the passover, his disciples said unto him, Where wilt thou that we go and prepare that thou mayest eat the passoverAnd he sendeth forth two of his disciples, and saith unto them, Go ye into the city, and there shall meet you a man bearing a pitcher of water: follow him. And wheresoever he shall go in, say ye to the goodman of the house, The Master saith, Where is the guestchamber, where eat the passover with my disciples? And he will shew you a large upper room furnished and prepared: there make ready for us. And his disciples went forth, and came into the city, and found as he had said unto them: and they made ready the passover. And in the evening he cometh with the twelve. And as they sat and did eat, Jesus said, Verily I say unto you, One of you which eateth with me shall betray me. Mark 14:12-18

Now this verse can be harmonized with what has already been established as the foundation. 

Luke 22:7-15
Then came the day of unleavened bread, when the passover must be killed. And he sent Peter and John, saying, Go and prepare us the passover, that we may eat. And they said unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare? And he said unto them, Behold, when ye are entered into the city, there shall a man meet you, bearing a pitcher of water; follow him into the house where he entereth in. And ye shall say unto the goodman of the house, The Master saith unto thee, Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples? And he shall shew you a large upper room furnished: there make ready. And they went, and found as he had said unto them: and they made ready the passover. And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him. And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer: Luke 22:7-15

Again, Luke appears to say that Christ ate the Passover meal with his disciples on the night of the Last Supper. But once again, this would contradict the already established foundation that say otherwise that is supported by all 4 gospels and the Torah. The word "day" comes from the word "hemera," which can mean a general time. So it could be said, "Then came the days of unleavened bread," or "Then came the time of unleavened bread." So remember how passover or unleavend bread can be referenced as a season or general time period. 

Now let's look at the phrase, "Go and prepare us the passover, that we may eat." This could also be translated, "Go and prepare our passover, that it may be eaten." The phrase "I shall eat" once again comes from the word "phago," which simply means "to eat." It appears to me that the words "I shall" are not justified to be there and are descriptive words by fallible translators.

Now let's look at the phrase "With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer." It could be argued the word "this" is talking about THE passover the following day. Jesus desired this, but it could not be because he was the passover sacrifice. Now let's look at this verse with these modifications...

Then came the days of unleavened bread, when the passover must be killed. And he sent Peter and John, saying, Go and prepare our passover, that it may be eaten. And they said unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare? And he said unto them, Behold, when ye are entered into the city, there shall a man meet you, bearing a pitcher of water; follow him into the house where he entereth in. And ye shall say unto the goodman of the house, The Master saith unto thee, Where is the guestchamber, where eat the passover with my disciples? And he shall shew you a large upper room furnished: there make ready. And they went, and found as he had said unto them: and they made ready the passover. And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him. And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer: Luke 22:7-15

Conclusion:
Ultimately, tinkering with little words here and there in the scriptures may be justified in certain cases, but it just seems a little much for me in this case. Perhaps a few of those modifications are justified, while some are a stretch that are unnecessary. It is just a possibility to consider. Personally, I lean toward the interpretation that the Last Supper was a special passover meal, while not THE passover meal on the night of the 14th. Obviously it is a unique circumstance with Jesus being THE passover sacrifice combined with the fact that he desired to keep one last passover with his disciples before he was crucified. I hope that this study puts this subject into perspective for you and equips you and assists you in wrestling with these scriptures.
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