Does the "Lord's Supper" Replace Passover / Pesach Seder ?
Let's take a look at an explanation which fairly illustrates the typical Christian viewpoint that the "New Testament" replaces the "Old Testament" Passover practise. This particular statment of beliefs says:
"That Jesus instituted the new Passover symbols of the bread and the wine, and said of the wine "This is My blood of the new covenant" (Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:24), clearly shows that the Passover ceremony we are to observe is a New Covenant (New Testament) observance..."
"...Jesus, as the Lamb of God, is "our Passover" (1 Corinthians 5:7). The bread and wine represent His total sacrifice—His suffering and His death".
"As Christ is our Passover, the bread and wine are reminders of His suffering and death. As Jews, Jesus Christ and the disciples had observed the Passover throughout their lives. But now there are new symbols. Christ showed His disciples the deep meaning of the Passover through the new symbols and through His ultimate suffering and death on the 14th day of the first month".
"After telling His disciples to drink the wine, Jesus said, "For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (Matthew 26:28). Christ's instituting the Passover symbols is consistent with His role as "the Mediator of the new covenant" (Hebrews 12:24)".
"In His sacrifice, He took on Himself the penalty for all mankind's sins (1 Peter 3:18). When we partake of the bread and wine, we recognize that His body and blood were given to cover our sins. Through faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ we are reconciled to the Father. Reconciliation grants us access to the Father, making it possible for us to come boldly before His throne of grace to find help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16)...
"When we eat the bread, we symbolize Christ living in us (John 6:53-54). We also show our unity with Christ and with each member of the body of Christ—the Church (1 Corinthians 10:16), as well as our willingness to live by the word of God".
"Jesus commands us to observe the Passover service in remembrance of Him (Luke 22:19-20). Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 11:20-26 that the Church is to "come together" to "eat this bread and drink this cup." The purpose of this ceremony is to "proclaim the Lord's death till He comes"—representing the only way mankind can be reconciled to God the Father. Paul also tells us that we are only reconciled to God the Father by Jesus' death—that we are saved by His life (Romans 5:10)".
A fairly standard christian explanation isn't it, without any mention of a Passover lamb?
Judianity's Perspective on Passover
We’ll refer to The Expositors Bible Commentary as an example of the more recent position of theologians on this subject. Written and published during the 1970s and 1980s, it is written by different specialists in each book.
It is noticeable that each of the three Expositor’s Bible commentators independently writing their commentaries for the synoptic gospels seem to agree that Christ and the disciples kept at least certain elements of the longstanding traditional "Jewish" Pesach Seder/Passover order of service, (which mentions the drinking of four cups of wine and the singing of a song), and which was codified in the Mishnah.
Liefeld, the Expositor’s Bible commentator for Luke acknowledges that the physician mentions a cup of wine before (in vs 17) as well as after the bread (in vs 20). And in noting the riddle of the two cups of wine Liefeld also acknowledges that in a typical Pesach Seder there are (in fact) four cups of wine referred to in the Mishnah Tractate: Pesahim (Pesachim).
Expositor’s Bible Commentary on Luke 22: by Walter L. Leifeld
"Unlike the other accounts of the Last Supper, Luke mentions a cup before (v. 17), as well as after (v. 20), the bread. That vv. 19-20 are missing from some Western texts complicates this difference. If the words were not in Luke's original account there would be a difficult problem—the mention of a cup before but not after the bread (v. 17). In spite of some arguments to the contrary, it seems reasonable to hold the authenticity of vv. 19b-20. Luke has apparently combined his data from various sources to describe both the Passover setting of the supper (vv. 7-18) and the institution of the Lord's Supper (vv. 19-20) instead of following Mark (cf. Notes). If so, the seeming disjunction and the problem of the two cups are understandable. The cup of v. 17 may be the first of the traditional four cups taken during the Passover meal. In this case, Jesus' comments come at the beginning of that meal. This cup was followed by part of the Passover meal and the singing of Pss 13 and 114. Alternately, the cup of v. 17 may be the third cup, mentioned both here in connection with the Passover setting and again in connection with its place in the Eucharist, on which Luke focuses (v. 20)".
Carson, Expositors’ specialist commentator on Matthew concurs with Liefeld that four cups of wine were traditionally drunk when the Passover lamb was eaten:
Expositor’s Bible Commentary on Matt 26:17-19 by D A Carson
a. Preparations for the Passover (Matt 26:17-19)
…"After sunset (i.e., now 15 Nisan), the "household" would gather in a home to eat the Passover lamb, which by this time would have been roasted with bitter herbs. The head of the household began the meal with the thanksgiving for that feast day (the Passover Kiddush) and for the wine, praying over the first of four cups. A preliminary course of greens and bitter herbs was, apparently, followed by the Passover haggadah—in which a boy would ask the meaning of all this, and the head of the household would explain the symbols in terms of the Exodus (cf. M Pesahim 10:4-5)—and the singing of the first part of the Hallel (Psalm 113 or Psalms 113-14). Though the precise order is disputed, apparently a second cup of wine introduced the main course, which was followed by a third cup, known as the "cup of blessing," accompanied by another prayer of thanksgiving. The participants then sang the rest of the Hallel (Psalms 114-18 or 115-18) and probably drank a fourth cup of wine. Thus the preparations about which the disciples were asking were extensive".
Wessel the commentator on Mark explains that the wine was part of the broader Passover meal, which would have included unleavened bread, bitter herbs, the Passover lamb etc.
Expositor’s Bible Commentary on Mark 14:13-16 by Walter W. Wessel
"13-16 Jesus gave explicit instructions to two of his disciples (v. 13). We know from Luke that the two were Peter and John (Luke 22:8). The "man carrying a jar of water" would easily be identified because customarily women, not men, carried water jars. He was to lead them to the house where the owner had a guest room (Mk 14:14). Jewish custom required that if a person had a room available, he must give it to any pilgrim who asked to stay in it, in order that he might have a place to celebrate the Passover (cf. SBK, 1:989). Mark seems to indicate that Jesus had made previous arrangements with the owner of the house. The upstairs room is described as "furnished and ready" (v. 15), i.e., with what was necessary for the celebration: table, couches, cushions, etc. The disciples would have to get the food and prepare it. This would include the unleavened bread, wine, bitter herbs, sauce haroset, and the lamb. The two disciples went into the city as instructed by Jesus, found everything as he had said, and made the necessary preparations (v. 16)".
…a view with which both Carson (commentator on Matthew) and Leifeld (commentator on Luke) appear to agree.
"…The "large upper room" (v. 12) was on the second story under a flat roof, accessible by an outside stairway. It was "furnished" with the couches for reclining at a Passover meal and with necessary utensils…"
Nevertheless, earlier in his commentary when he discusses the apparent contradictions in the timing of the Passover, Carson acknowledges that what is often referred to as a “Last Supper” was actually traditional Passover meal.
There are many indications that the synoptists understand the Last Supper to be a Passover meal (see esp. Jeremias, Eucharistic Words, pp. 41-62; Marshall, Last Supper, pp. 59-62). Therefore attempts to turn the meal into something else a Kiddush (prayer meal), though this was unknown till several centuries later, or an Habburah (fellowship meal) eaten just before Passover—are not convincing.…
…At least all these theories based on diverse calendars join in affirming that Jesus and his disciples ate a Passover meal, whatever the date.
This explains why Carson writes above that:
“…the preparations about which the disciples were asking were extensive”.
Nevertheless, all three of these relatively modern commentators appear to agree that Christ and the disciples ate the Passover lamb meal and adopted some if not all the traditional Passover Order of Service/Pesach Seder and that probably included the four cups of wine. However, for no apparent reason, Leifeld appears to shy away from the arguably obvious conclusion that the two cups mentioned in Luke were two of the Mishnah's four cups of wine during the Pesach Seder.
Tim Hegg the respected Messianic Jewish theologian (see Suggested Links) agrees that Christ and His disciples kept a traditional Pesach Seder:
“… we listen to the first words of Yeshua at the Seder (Passover Meal): “I have earnestly desired to eat this Pesach with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God” (v 15-16). The fact that Yeshua speaks of eating “this Pesach” means that He was referring to the Pesach lamb that had been sacrificed”.
Furthermore he explains about more about the background in his article about the four cups of wine during the Passover Order of Service / Pesach Seder.
Alfred Edersheim's "Did the Lord Institute his Supper on the Paschal Night" is taken from the appendix of his "Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah". It says:
“The account of the meal as given, not only by the Synoptists but also by St. John, so far as he describes it, seems to me utterly inconsistent with the idea of an ordinary supper. It is not merely one trait or another which here influences us, but the general impression produced by the whole. The preparations for the meal; the allusions to it; in short, so to speak, the whole mise en scene, is not that of a common supper. Only the necessities of a preconceived theory would lead one to such a conclusion. On the other hand, all is just what might have been expected, if the Evangelists had meant to describe the Paschal meal”.
Post Crucifixion Passover in Corinth
However, noticeably there is no reference to (for example) preparing or eating the Passover Lamb in 1 Corinthians 11. This is a key reason why most christians believe that the so called "Old Testament" Passover service was "done away" and replaced with the "bread and the wine". Accordingly, the Expositor’s Bible Commentator for 1 Corinthians, (W. Harold Mare) argues that a communal “Agape Meal” preceded the unleavened bread and wine (which he describes as a kind of “pot-luck”).
"17-19 Regarding the meal that evidently preceded the communion service, the apostle condemns the conduct of the believers as harmful (v. 17) and degrading to the communion (see v.20). Their actions at the common agape meal were betraying the divisions, including class distinctions between the rich and the poor".
From vs. 20-21 it’s difficult to conclude much about the meal, apart from the fact that selfish behavior was a problem.
There’s certainly no reference to eating a Passover meal as the three commentators of the synoptic gospels above observed about Christ and the disciples' Passover prior to the crucifixion.
Does this indicate that by the time that Paul was writing to Corinth, that the eating of the lamb was no longer a feature of the post crucifixion Passover?
For the answer to this question we need to understand the written Torah in Deuteronomy 16.
Deuteronomy 16 clarifies how God required the Passover to be observed, and specifically following the inauguration of the Tabernacle (and later the Temple). The commands throughout Deuteronomy 16: (as vs. 6) for the Israelites to only offer their sacrifices at “the place which the LORD shall choose to place his name there” refer to the various locations throughout the centuries of the Tabernacle (and later the Temple). These commands gave rise to what became known as the three Pilgrim Festival seasons, where males from all over Israel were expected to attend three times per year (Deut 16:16) to make offerings of animal sacrifices and participate in the eating of the sacrifices (hence Feasts). Essentially, Deuteronomy 16:5 forbade the slaughtering of the lambs “within any of thy gates” which had been commanded from the Exodus until that time.
The verses below show how the first of the pilgrim Feasts (Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread) were to be treated from then on.
1 ¶ Observe the month of Abib, and keep the Passover unto the LORD thy God: for in the month of Abib the LORD thy God brought thee forth out of Egypt by night.
2 Thou shalt therefore sacrifice the Passover unto the LORD thy God, of the flock and the herd, in the place which the LORD shall choose to place his name there.
3 Thou shalt eat no leavened bread with it; seven days shalt thou eat unleavened bread therewith, even the bread of affliction; for thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt in haste: that thou mayest remember the day when thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt all the days of thy life.
4 And there shall be no leavened bread seen with thee in all thy coast seven days; neither shall there any thing of the flesh, which thou sacrificedst the first day at even, remain all night until the morning.
5 Thou mayest not sacrifice the Passover within any of thy gates, which the LORD thy God giveth thee:
6 But at the place which the LORD thy God shall choose to place his name in, there thou shalt sacrifice the Passover at even, at the going down of the sun, at the season that thou camest forth out of Egypt.
7 And thou shalt roast and eat it in the place which the LORD thy God shall choose: and thou shalt turn in the morning, and go unto thy tents.
That should ring a bell. Do you remember this story in Luke 2?
41 ¶ Now 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 after the custom of the feast.
43 And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it.
44 But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance.
45 And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him.
46 And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.
47 And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.
48 And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.
49 And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?
50 And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them.
51 And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart.
52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.
There's a similar pattern in 1 Samuel 1 - the story of Samuel's parents going up to the Tabernacle at Shiloh.
Subsequent verses in Deuteronomy 16: show how the same principle about sacrificing only at the Tabernacle or Temple was equally applied to the other two pilgrim festival seasons of Pentecost and Tabernacles (including the Eighth Day).
The convergence of the many gentile proselytes at Jerusalem for Pentecost, as recorded in Acts 2:1-13 is one of several scriptural examples (Acts 18:21, Acts 20:16) which characterises how the commands of Deuteronomy 16: were observed from time to time by some believers who lived beyond the borders of Israel. However, as 1 Corinthians 11: shows, there wasn’t a universal expectation that all males who lived or were travelling beyond the borders of Israel, journey to Jerusalem three times a year.
Therefore, those observing the Feasts in Corinth who were not making the pilgrimage to Jerusalem would have been unable to eat a bona fide Passover lamb, which (in accordance with Deuteronomy 16) could only have been legitimately sacrificed in Jerusalem.
However, would it be appropriate to then presume that those believers who did live in Israel for some reason didn’t continue to keep Passover, with a sacrificed lamb, as indeed commentators argue that Christ and the disciples had kept it?
Arguably not, because in 1 Cor 11, Paul did use the relevant parts of Christ and the disciple’s crucifixion Pesach Seder as a precedent when teaching the believers in Corinth.
23 ¶ For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:
24 And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.
25 After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.
26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.
Why No Mention of Bitter Herbs etc.?
The symbolism of the bitter herbs as a representation of Egyptian bondage was well known to Jews (See Mishnah Pesahim 10.5). Arguably the symbolism of Christ as the Lamb of God was also known to the disciples and didn’t need labouring. Perhaps it may have been discussed at earlier Passovers? It was certainly known to John the Baptist.
John 1: 29,36-37
29 ¶ The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.
36 And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!
37 ¶ And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.
If the hypothesis that Christ and the disciples kept the traditional Pesach Seder is correct, it’s arguably interesting to note the implication that He was comfortable adopting the traditional Order of Service/Seder (which was later codified by the Pharisees into the Mishnah) and leveraging it for teaching purposes, despite not having explicitly commanded it in the Torah, as the “God of the Old Testament” (John 1:1-14, Hebrews 1:2, Collosians 1:16-17)
The Emphasis on the Bread and Wine in John 6
Arguably this suggests that in John 6 as He addresses his audience, Christ (without making it explicit) perhaps He leverages the tradition of drinking the wine together with the breaking of the unleavened bread during the Pesach Seder before His crucifixion to further emphasise the upcoming breaking of his body and shedding of His blood in addition to, rather than as a replacement of the symbolism already provided by the Passover lamb as commanded in Deuteronomy 16.
Then, deliberately during their Pesach Seder before His crucifixion, Christ took special care to clarify to his disciples exactly what he had been alluding to the broader audience during the events of John 6:.
Whilst the broader audience couldn’t understand or accept the symbolism at the time of John 6; following the momentous events of the crucifixion, (darkness, earthquakes, resurrections etc.) and their own Pesach Seders at the time, perhaps some of “John 6:” audience would have had some further pause for thought?
The foot washing ceremony was not a part of the traditional Passover Order of Service/Pesach Seder. Arguably this suggests it was a poignant, lesson that Christ had for the apostles, who several times disputed their own importance amongst themselves, but it wasn’t part of the Passover service.
Interestingly, no mention is made in 1st Corinthians 11: of the foot-washing ceremony.
So, back to the question: “Did Christ Introduce the Symbolism of the Wine and the Broken Bread As Part of A New “Christian” Passover Replacing the “Old Testament” Passover ?” There’s no evidence for this. In fact, commentators agree that prior to his crucifixion, Christ kept a traditional ("Jewish") Passover Seder, (lamb, bitter herbs, unleavened bread etc.) in accordance with the written Torah.
Furthermore, Christ and the disciples probably drank four cups of wine before singing a song all of which was in accordance with prevailing Jewish customs, which later were written down by the Pharisees in the Mishnah tractate Pesahim. Equally the church at Corinth too conformed to the written Torah, by NOT eating a Passover lamb. In both examples; Christ and the disciples, AND the Church in Corinth kept Passover in accordance with written Torah (or the so called "Old Testament").
Go back to the start of Judianity - A "Third Way" Between Judaism or Christianity ?
An adjustment to the law to circumcise gentile proselytes caused massive unrest in Acts for the predominantly Jewish first century church. If the rest of the written Torah has been abolished; why wassn't a similar level of strife generated ? Paul offered post crucifixion sacrifices &kept Nazirite vows at the temple many christian theologians believe. So does Galatians really mean the Torah law is "abolished"?
Let's see how some people of the Old Covenant had God's Spirit but didn't reject God's law.
© www.judianity.info May 2009.