Regarding the Roman construct (System E) of the Festival of Passover and Unleavened Bread, we will now address the protagonists of this Christian Hasidic practice who opposed the Quartodecimans (System A) and the Quasi-Quartodecimans (System D).
Irenaeus (c.140-202 C.E.), presbyter and bishop of the diocese of Lyons, Gaul (France),1 was a vital player in the formulation of this new Roman assembly view.
Though early in his life he lived in Asia among the Quartodecimans and personally knew Polycarp, in his adult life he helped direct the western assemblies toward their new path.2
Irenaeus was a strong and close ally of both Eleutherus (177-192 C.E.) and Victor, bishops of Rome.3
He is noted for his participation in the conferences that created Victor’s decrees to celebrate Passover according to the System E scenario.4
Irenaeus also wrote a book titled On Phasekh, which also discussed Pentecost.5
It is clear that the System E construct for Passover, if it was not actually invented jointly by Irenaeus and Victor, was brought to the forefront and advocated by them.
This detail is indicated by the following statement made by Wilfrid at the Synod of Whitby in 664 C.E.:
The Passover which we follow we have seen to be kept by all at Rome where the blessed apostles Peter and Paul lived, taught, suffered and were buried: this manner we have noted to be practiced of all in Italy, and in Gaul, countries which we have passed through in pursuit of knowledge or desire to pray: This manner we have found to be performed in Africa, Asia, Egypt, Greece and all the world, wherever the assembly HAS BEEN SPREAD, throughout different nations and tongues, after one order of time and that without variableness.6
Notice that the original regions of this new view were Italy and Gaul, where Victor and Irenaeus were head bishops.
The practice is then assumed to have spread throughout other countries, with the implication that it came from Italy and Gaul, where it was originally observed.
Further, Eusebius (an advocate of System E) notes that Irenaeus represents “the orthodoxy of the Assembly.”7
And Εἰρηναῖος (Eirenaios; Irenaeus), who deserved his name, εἰρηνοποιός (eirenopoios; peace maker), gave exhortations of this kind for the peace of the Assembly and served as its ambassador, for in letters he discussed the various views on the issue which had been raised (i.e. Passover), not only with Victor but also with many other rulers of the assemblies.8
That Irenaeus was a major contributor is further demonstrated by his influence over Victor in the events that followed the series of conferences we have mentioned above.
Victor the Bishop of Rome
The bishop of Rome had already demonstrated his authority in the West by his ability to bring together the other western assemblies into doctrinal agreement with Roman leadership.
This influence, in turn, gave him a great sense of power. As a result, Victor moved to eliminate his opposition.
Based upon the agreements he had reached with the other western assemblies, Victor issued a decree that all Christians must keep the Passover according to the Roman assembly system.
Yet, the Quartodecimans remained undaunted. In a formal letter to Victor from Polycrates, leader of the assemblies of Asia, they utterly refused.9
Upon their rebuff, Victor immediately tried to cut off the dioceses of all Asia and the adjacent regions from the common unity. He “indited letters announcing that all the Christians there were absolutely excommunicated.”10
At this point Irenaeus stepped in.
But by no means were all pleased by this, so they issued counter-requests to him to consider the cause of peace and unity and love toward his neighbors. Their words are extant, sharply rebuking Victor. Among them too Irenaeus, writing in the name of the Christians in Gaul, whose leader he (Irenaeus) was, though HE HAD RECOMMENDED that the mystery of the sovereign’s resurrection be observed only on the Sovereign’s day, yet nevertheless exhorted Victor suitably and at length not to excommunicate whole assemblies of the deity FOR FOLLOWING A TRADITION OF ANCIENT CUSTOM.11
Due to the request of Irenaeus and the others, Victor recanted.12 The special mention of Irenaeus, who “had recommended” the new view, demonstrates that he had important influence over Victor.
Victor saw his chastisement as instruction from one who had been important in the development of the System E construct.
Indeed, the works of Irenaeus prove him to be, as Johannes Quasten calls him, “the founder of Christian theology” as it is known today.13
The View of Irenaeus
Further evidence that Irenaeus was one of the original builders of the System E construct comes from the remnants of his works, composed between 180–189 C.E.14
It is in these letters that we first piece together the ideas forming the System E Passover.
At first Irenaeus, mimicking the Quartodecimans, states that the messiah “ate the Passover, and suffered on the next day,”15 that is, he died during the next daylight period. Yet, he also adds elsewhere:
Of the day of his suffering, too, he (Moses) was not ignorant; but foretold him, after a figurative manner, by the name given to the Passover; and at the very festival, which had been proclaimed such a long time previously by Moses, did our sovereign suffer, thus fulfilling the Passover. And he did not describe the day only, but the place also, and the time of day at which the sufferings ceased, and the sign of the setting of the sun, saying: You may not sacrifice the Passover within any other of your cities which the sovereign deity gives you; but in the place which the sovereign your deity shall choose that his name be called on there, you shall sacrifice the Passover at vespere (even), toward the setting of the sun.16
The writings of Irenaeus reflect the earliest Christian interpretation which held to the prescript that Moses had commanded the Passover lamb to be killed prior to the setting of the sun (i.e., at the end of the 14th day), being also the same time that the messiah died.
Therefore, he interprets the day of the messiah’s death along Hasidic lines, while fully acknowledging that the messiah ate the Passover the night before (at the beginning of the 14th day).
How the advocates of System E dealt with the dilemma of two Passover suppers (one eaten by the messiah on the 14th and one by the Jewish leaders on the 15th) shall be discussed as we proceed.
Clement of Alexandria
An important convert to System E was Clement of Alexandria (writing c.193–212 C.E.). When the bishops of Alexandria came over to the System E side, it tipped the scale strongly in favor of Rome.
Eusebius classes Clement with Irenaeus as one of the two great men who “represent the orthodoxy of the assembly.”17
In his own work on the Passover, Clement sets down Irenaeus’ account of the Passover debate, thereby showing that Irenaeus had important influence upon Clement.18 Bringing the Alexandrian Christians over to the Roman side would prove to be an important political victory.
Clement was the product of an Alexandrian school taught by a man named Pantaenus.
It was in the year that Commodus received the sovereignty (180 C.E.) that “a man very famous for his learning named Pantaenus had charge of the life of the faithful in Alexandria, for from ancient custom a school of sacred learning existed among them.”19
Eusebius tells us of this man:
Pantaenus, after many achievements, was at the head of the school in Alexandria until his death, and orally and in writing expounded the treasures of the divine doctrine.20
Eusebius also informs us that, “tradition says that at that time Pantaenus was especially eminent, and that he had been influenced by the philosophic system of those called Stoics.”21
This Greek Stoic philosophy was also strong among the large Pharisaic community of Jews living in Alexandria, for the Pharisees were “a sect having points of resemblance to that which the Greeks call the Stoic school.”22 In this regard, Pantaenus and the Jews held common ground.
Clement of Alexandria was a student of Pantaenus.23 Indeed, Clement “was famous in Alexandria for his study of the sacred Scriptures with Pantaenus.”24 He even succeeded Pantaenus as head of the school at Alexandria.25
Clement’s activity in Alexandria is dated by his work entitled Stromateis. This book uses the death of Emperor Commodus (December of 192 C.E.) as a terminus, showing that Clement was writing early in the reign of Severus (193-211 C.E.).26
At the outbreak of persecution under Severus in 202 C.E., Clement left Alexandria, never to return. He had served more than 20 years as a presbyter of the assembly in Alexandria.27
In the many works attributed to Clement of Alexandria, two are relevant for our discussion. One is titled To the Judaizers. It was dedicated to Alexander, bishop of Jerusalem (211 C.E.).28
Though this book is now lost, its very title reflects his anti-Jewish sentiment. Clement also wrote an important book discussing the Passover.
Eusebius informs us:
And in his (Clement’s) book On the Passover he professes that he was compelled by his companions to commit to writing traditions that he had heard from the elders of olden time, for the benefit of those that should come after; and he mentions in it Melito and Irenaeus and some others, whose accounts also of the matter he has set down.29
In another place he similarly states:
Clement of Alexandria quotes this treatise in his own On the Passover, which he says that he compiled in consequence of the writing of Melito.30
This evidence proves that Clement of Alexandria composed his own work with regard to the Passover based upon his studies of arguments given by Irenaeus and Melito. Clement favored the views of Irenaeus and opposed the Quartodeciman views of Melito.
He demonstrates his pro-System E bias when he writes:
Accordingly, in the years gone by, Yahushua went to eat the Passover sacrificed by the Jews, keeping the festival. . . . Suitably, therefore, to the 14th day, on which he 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 at ἑσπέρας (esperas; twilight). With this precise determination of the days both the whole Scriptures agree, and the good news (New Testament) harmonizes. The resurrection also attests to it. He certainly rose on the third day, which fell on the first day of the Weeks of Harvest, on which the Torah prescribed that the priest should offer up the sheaf.31
By claiming that the messiah always ate the Passover sacrificed by the Jews, and then tying it to the fact that on the morning of the 14th the Jewish leaders had not yet partaken of the Passover, Clement of Alexandria reflects the view that the messiah did not partake of the legal Passover supper for his “Last Supper.”
The coupling of the omer wave offering on the first day of the week with the resurrection of the messiah, of course, reflects his intent on celebrating the Passover of the resurrection.
What is interesting about Clement of Alexandria’s work on the Passover is that he also demonstrates the transition period from System D to System E.
This detail is reflected in his thoughts about John 13:1-12. In a fragment from this work, where he uses an Egyptian (midnight to midnight) reckoning for a day,32 we read:
But when he (the messiah) had preached he who was the Passover, the lamb of the deity, led as a sheep to the slaughter, presently taught his disciples the mystery of the type on the 13th day, on which also they inquired, Where will you that we prepare for you to eat the Passover (Matt., 26:17). It was on this day (the Egyptian 13th = the evening before midnight) then, that both the consecration of the unleavened bread and the preparation for the festival took place. Whence John naturally describes the disciples as already previously prepared to have their feet washed by the sovereign. And on the following day (the Egyptian 14th) our saviour suffered, he who was the Passover, propitiously sacrificed by the Jews.33
The interpretation of John, 13:1-12, which mentions a meal that took place on the day “before the Festival of the Passover” and during which the messiah washed the feet of his disciples,34 is for the first time found associated with the “Last Supper.”35
This shows Clement of Alexandria’s belief that the Passover supper of the messiah was held on the day before the legal Passover of the Jews.
As Cyril Richardson states, Clement of Alexandria makes the “Last Supper” “a pre-Passover enacted parable.”36
No doubt the Egyptian work attributed to the Gospel of the Hebrews, as indirectly quoted by Jerome (c.348-420 C.E.), comes from the time of Pantaenus and Clement.
It reads, “The eight days of the Passover, on which the messiah the son of the deity rose.”37 This statement reflects the transition from the earlier Quartodeciman view of a seven-day Festival of Unleavened Bread to the Pharisaic eight days.
The System E interpretation is also reflected in the works of Origen (c.185–254 C.E.), the pupil of Clement of Alexandria.38 Origen was young as a student, for he was a teacher himself by the age of 20.39
He was trained by Clement at the very time of Victor’s decree. Origen was originally from Alexandria but later left Egypt (234 C.E.) and was ordained in Caesarea in Palestine, where he began writing (between 234–251 C.E.).40
Origen accepted the Pharisaic interpretation for the week of Passover. In his work On Phasekh, he recounts the commands given in Exodus, 12:3-5, where the Israelites are told to take the lamb on the 10th day of the moon and keep it until the 14th for sacrificing.
Origen then explains this statement by saying, “but he does not sacrifice or eat him before five days have gone by.”41
The fifth day after the tenth is the 15th, thereby placing the Passover supper on the 15th. He even connects the time for killing the lamb, “προς εσπεραν (pros esperan, at twilight),” with the “last hour” of the day, on the 14th.42 Origen also interprets that it is on the 15th that the moon reaches its “fullest plenitude.”43
Origen once more connects the eating of the Passover with the 15th by concluding from this typology, “And for our part, unless the perfect, true light rises over us and we see how it perfectly illumines our guiding intellect, we will not be able to sacrifice and eat the true lamb.”44
Like Clement of Alexandria, Origen places the incidents of the supper and feet washing found in John, 13:1-12, with the events during the day of the “Last Supper,”45 thereby connecting the Passover meal eaten by the messiah with the day before the Passover.46
Summary of Roman Corruption I & II
The evidence demonstrates that an important movement toward the Christian Hasidic system got under way around 165 C.E. and blossomed in the days of Irenaeus, bishop of Gaul, and Victor, bishop of Rome, and their important proclamation of 196 C.E.
The result was System E, which follows the Hasidic System of observing the seven days of Unleavened Bread, i.e., from the beginning of the 15th until the end of the 21st day of the first month of the scriptural calendar.
Its advocates did not allow that the 14th day of that month was the legal Passover supper. Instead, they interpreted the data so that the messiah and his disciples kept the Passover sacrifice and supper on the night of the 14th as a pre-Passover enacted parable.
The “Last Supper,” therefore, was merely a foretype of the future Passover that was to be kept only on the first day of the week when it fell on any of the days extending from the 15th to 21st of Abib.
This wraps up the discussion of the Roman influence which ultimately proved to be the dominant force among many of the Christian assemblies.
In our next post, we will investigate the mechanics of the Christian Hasidic construct as represented by the Roman assembly System E along with another form, the Syrian hybrid System F.
Finally, within this discussion, we will address a popular construct that has evolved from these two systems that is being practiced by many present-day followers of Yahweh and their respective assemblies, System G.
So, be on the lookout for 27. Passover – Evolution to Today I coming your way soon!
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 Eusebius, H.E., 5:4:1, 5:23:4, 5:24:11; Jerome, Lives, 35.
2 For more details regarding the life of Irenaeus, and his education in Rome before he migrated to Gaul, see FSDY, App. G, pp. 453ff.
3 Eusebius, H.E., 5:4:1, 5:23:4, 5:24:9-18; Jerome, Lives, 35.
4 Eusebius, H.E., 5:23:1-4, 5:24:11.
5 Irenaeus, frag. 7; Ps.-Justin, 115.
10 Eusebius, H.E., 5:24:9; Socrates Schol., 5:22.
14 E.g., EEC, p. 145, #28, “Written between 180 and 185.” Sections were probably composed in the first years of Victor, when he was co-bishop with Eleutherus (189–193 C.E.).
15 Irenaeus, Ag. Her., 2:22:3.
16 Irenaeus, Ag. Her., 4:10:1.
22 Jos., Life, 1:2.
23 Eusebius, H.E., 5:11, 6:13.
27 Butterworth, Clement, p. xii.
28 Eusebius, H.E., 6:13:3, cf., 6:8:7, 6:11, the year Antoninus Caracalla succeeded Severus (i.e., 211 C.E.), at the time when Alexander became bishop of Jerusalem.
32 The Egyptians and Romans reckoned a midnight-to-midnight day (Pliny, 2:79).
35 That the supper and feet washing of John, 13:1-12, actually occurred on the night of the 13th of Abib can be ascertained when the chronology of the messiah’s last several days before his death is correctly layed out.
42 Origen, Pas., 25, cf., 16, 17, 20.
46 As stated in John, 13:1-2.