An important fact to realize is that there were eight basic premises concerning Passover, the seven days of Unleavened Bread, and Pentecost which were almost universal and formed the foundation upon which the overwhelming majority of the early Christian assemblies, whatever system they followed, stood:
1. The Passover celebration was required for all Christians.1
2. The Christian Passover was an innovation in that it did not require any ritualistic animal sacrifice.2
3. The Passover lamb of the Torah and its sacrifice was a typology of the death of the messiah, the true Passover lamb of Yahweh.3
4. The bread and wine (or grape juice) of the “Last Supper” Passover possessed a higher typology than formerly stated under the Torah.4
5. The day of the messiah’s resurrection was observed, being one and the same with the day of the omer wave offering. This omer wave offering always took place on the first day of the week, on the day following the weekly Sabbath which fell within the seven days of Unleavened Bread. The resurrection day was also the first day in the 50-day count to Pentecost.
6. The messiah ate his famous “Last Supper” on the night of the 14th of Abib and suffered his death in the daylight portion of that same day (Hebrew sunset-to-sunset reckoning).
7. The celebration of Passover was based upon the occurrence of the seven days of Unleavened Bread.
8. The festival of Pentecost was a required Christian celebration. Its date was determined by the Aristocratic method, which counted the 50 days from the first day of the week that fell after Abib 14. Pentecost, as a result, always fell on the first day of the week (Sunday).
These eight premises relating to the celebration of Passover and Pentecost are everywhere expressed in ancient Christian literature, regardless of their particular Passover preference.
Nevertheless, today there is not a general knowledge of items six and seven.
Since they are so vital to our research and are basic to understanding the ancient Christian practices, we are obligated at this point to give examples for these two concepts using representatives from each of the four ancient Passover systems.
The Last Supper: Abib 14
That the messiah ate his “Last Supper” Passover at night and suffered death during the following daylight period is clearly established in the Synoptic Texts.5
This day of preparation is an obvious reference to the Jewish state religious practice, wherein the Passover preparation is on the 14th and their Passover supper is on the 15th of Abib.8
What is not so well-known is that the ancient Christian assemblies held a universal understanding that the messiah observed his “Last Supper” Passover on the night of Abib 14 and died during the daylight portion of that same day (Hebrew reckoning).
For example, Apollinarius of Hierapolis (161-169 C.E.), an advocate of the Quartodeciman System A, argued:
The 14th is the true Passover of the sovereign, the great sacrifice . . . who was buried on the day of the Passover with the stone placed over the tomb.9
Anatolius of Alexandria (c.270 C.E.), a supporter of System D, while speaking of the events dealing with the Passover of the “Last Supper,” writes:
And there is no doubt as to its being the 14th day on which the disciples asked the sovereign, in accordance with the custom established for them of old, “Where will you that we should prepare for you to eat the Passover?”10
The advocates of System E also held to the doctrine that the messiah both ate his “Last Supper” Passover and then died on the 14th of Abib.
Eusebius (fl. 303–339 C.E.), for instance, after reporting that the Jews sacrificed the Passover sheep “on the 14th of the first moon,” defines this day as “the (day of) preparation, on which the saviour suffered.”11 He adds:
Nor did the saviour observe the Passover with the Jews at the time of his suffering. . . . But before he suffered he did eat the Passover and celebrate the festival—with his disciples, not with the Jews.12
Clement of Alexandria (fl. 182–220 C.E.), as another example, states that the messiah died on the 14th, prior to the day that the Jews (Pharisees) celebrated their Passover (i.e., the 15th):
Suitably, therefore, to the 14th day, on which (day) he (the messiah) also suffered, in the morning, the chief priests and the scribes who brought him to Pilate, did not enter the Praetorium, that they might not be defiled, but might freely eat the Passover in the evening (of the 15th).13
Those following the Syrian hybrid (System F) likewise believed that the messiah ate the Passover on the 14th and then suffered. To demonstrate, the fourth century C.E. Syrian Christian named Aphraates writes:
Our saviour ate the Passover with his disciples in the sacred night of the 14th . . . And he was taken in the night of the 14th, and his trial lasted until the sixth hour, and at the time of the sixth hour they sentenced him and lifted him up on the (torture-)stake.14
Seven Days of Unleavened Bread
The requirement among the various early Christian assemblies to observe the Passover at the time of the Festival of Unleavened Bread is also well-established.
It was never a matter of whether or not one should use the seven days of Unleavened Bread to set the date, but rather an issue of which method one was to use: the Aristocratic or Hasidic.
Calculate, then, from the end of the 13th day of the moon, which marks the beginning of the 14th, on to the end of the 20th, at which the 21st day also begins, and you will have only seven days of unleavened bread, in which, by the guidance of the sovereign, it has been determined before that the most true festival of Passover ought to be celebrated.15
For they which think that the sovereign’s Passover day must be kept from the 14th of the first moon to the 20th anticipate the time commanded in the Torah.16
Referencing the events around the year 601 C.E., Bede writes:
For they (the quasi-Quartodecimans of Britain) kept not the Passover on the Sovereign’s day in its due time, but from the 14th to the 20th of the moon.17
Proof of this detail is demonstrated in a letter sent by Pope John IV (mid-seventh century C.E.) to the Scots. This letter was composed for the sake of persuading the Scots to amend their System D position.
As part of this letter the Pope is found “plainly asserting therein that the sovereign’s Passover ought to be sought for from the 15th moon up to the 21st, as was approved in the Council of Nicaea.”18
The Hasidic arrangement also appears in the works of Aphraates (writing in c.344 C.E.), a supporter of the System F Passover. In his work, the 14th is still claimed as the day of the Passover and of the sovereign’s suffering.19
Nevertheless, to this celebration is attached the Hasidic construct for the seven days of Unleavened Bread,20 for he states, “after the Passover come the seven days of Unleavened Bread to the 21st (day).”21
It is interesting to note that the seven days of Unleavened Bread, as calculated by the Hasidic system, are also a requirement under the more recent Passover construct currently being practiced by the various present-day Sacred Name groups which we have called System G.
Summary of Passover – Christian Factions I & II
In our next posts we shall examine in greater detail the evidence for each one of the four major forms of the Passover celebration practiced by the early Christian assemblies during the first seven centuries C.E.
What this data reveals is that, even though there was a common agreement on the eight premises stated above, the various early Christian assemblies still arrived at radically different conclusions.
This diversification in the Christian Passover came as the result of different regions emphasizing different aspects of the messiah’s “Last Supper,” suffering (passion), and resurrection. By applying different interpretations to each of the problems, variant views arose.
Meanwhile, one consistent calculation among the various early Christian assemblies was the celebration of Pentecost. It was always counted by the Aristocratic method, i.e., the 50-day period began on the day after the weekly Sabbath which fell within the seven days of Unleavened Bread.
Yet, as we shall demonstrate, the first day of the Pentecost count, which was also the anniversary of the messiah’s resurrection, came to serve as a guide for the western Christian reconstruction of Passover.
For those in the West, those days falling prior to the first day of the Pentecost count were deemed far too sad an occasion for celebrating the Passover supper. It was the time of the messiah’s suffering, death, and burial—therefore, a time for mourning.
The first day of the Pentecost count, on the other hand, because it was also the day of Yahushua’s resurrection, took on a more joyous tone.
As we are rediscovering the lost history of the Festival of Passover and Unleavened Bread, the true practice of this festival is now becoming more apparent as we proceed with this investigation.
If you have been following the Passover series up to this point, then you won’t want to miss our next posts as we will also be addressing the evidence regarding Passover as observed by Yahushua the messiah and the early assemblies.
So stay tuned and be on the lookout for 21. Passover – The Quartodecimans I.
For further reading see the publication by Qadesh La Yahweh press titled The Festivals and Sacred Days of Yahweh.
Click this link for Bibliography and Abbreviations.
1 Cf., 1 Cor. 5:7-8.
6 John 19:14.
7 John 19:42.