What had begun in c.196 C.E. as a challenge to the Quartodeciman practice of Passover/Unleavened Bread (System A) by Victor, bishop of Rome, was finally granted full authority throughout the Roman empire at the behest of Emperor Constantine.
Constantine convened the Council of Nicaea in 325 C.E.
Authority from Constantine
One of the results of this conference was the declaration by Constantine that the Hasidic view for the seven days of Unleavened Bread, as instituted by Pope Victor, was the correct system under the Torah.
Proof of this detail is demonstrated in a letter sent by Pope John IV (consecrated in December of 640 C.E.) to the Scots for the sake of persuading them 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 of the moon up to the 21st, AS WAS APPROVED IN THE COUNCIL OF NICAEA.”1
Wilfrid at the Synod of Whitby similarly states:
Neither does this tradition of the good news (New Testament) and of the apostles break the Torah but rather fulfill it, for in the Torah it is commanded that the Passover should be solemnized from ad vesperam (at twilight = be-arab, interpreted as late afternoon) of the 14th day of the change of the moon of the first month until the 21st day of the same moon ad vesperam: to the following of which observation all the successors of blessed John in Asia after his death and all the assembly throughout the world were converted. And it was by the Nicaean Council not newly decreed but confirmed, as the ecclesiastical history witnesses, that this is the true Passover. This only is to be celebrated by believing men.2
With the force of the Christian emperor of Rome behind the decision, the western assemblies moved to force all other Christian assemblies to unify under just one common system for celebrating Passover.
Hybrid Syrian System F
Another form of Passover among the ancient assemblies was System F, which was practiced for a time in Syria. The Syrian Passover celebration of the third and fourth century C.E. was the direct heir of the Asiatic tradition of the Quartodecimans.3
At the same time, during this period the eastern regions came evermore under the increasing pressure from the western assemblies, especially after the Council of Nicaea (325 C.E.), to convert to System E. This heavy western influence eventually resulted in the adoption of System E throughout the East, but not right away.
Jerome, in a letter to Pope Damasus written in about 377 C.E., mentions the troubles found among the Christian assemblies of the East (Syria) during this period.4
He speaks of the East (Syria) as being “shattered as it is by the long-standing feuds, subsisting between its peoples.” He continues by observing that this problem “is bit by bit tearing into shreds the seamless vest of the sovereign.”5
During this time of upheaval in Syria, and as a transitional phase, some of the Syrian Christians created a hybrid form of the Passover celebration that incorporated aspects of both System A and System E.
On the one hand, the Syrian Christians were strongly allied with the Quartodecimans on the issue of which day should represent Passover. The historian A. Hamman writes of this transition period:
Syria, close to the usage of the Jewish-Christian community, continued to celebrate the Pasch, like the Jews, on the fourteenth Nisan, the anniversary of the night when Jesus was delivered on whatever day of the week it might occur.6
The Didascalia Apostolorum, composed in the first decades of the third century C.E., reflects the Ante-Nicaean portion of this transitional phase for those of Syria following the Quartodeciman System A premise.
Wherever, then, the 14th of the Passover falls, so keep it; for neither the month nor the day squares with the same season every year, but is variable. When therefore that people (the Jews) keep the Passover (i.e. the 15th), do you fast; and be careful to perform your vigil within their (days of) unleavened bread. But on the first day of the week make good cheer at all times.7
Aphraates (writing c.344 C.E.) demonstrates the continued Quartodeciman proclivity of the Syrians after the Council of Nicaea when he writes:
For at the dawn of the 14th day he (Yahushua) ate the Passover with his disciples ACCORDING TO THE TORAH OF ISRAEL, and on this day of the Parasceve (Preparation), the 14th day, he was judged until the sixth hour and was killed on a (torture-) stake for three hours. . . . Hence the one who has difficulties about these days will understand that at the dawn of the 14th (day) our sovereign celebrated the Passover and ate and drank with his disciples, but from the time when the cock crowed (about 3 A.M.) he ate and drank no more, because they took him captive and began to judge him.8
Again he writes:
Our saviour ate the Passover with his disciples in the sacred night of the 14th, and he performed the sign of the Passover (i.e., the Eucharist mystery) in truth for his disciples. . . . And he was taken in the night of the 14th, and his trial lasted until the sixth hour (noon), and at the time of the sixth hour they sentenced him and lifted him up on the (torture-)stake.9
Ephraem the Syrian (mid-fourth century C.E.) claims the messiah ate the legal Passover. He tells his Jewish adversaries:
In your time our sovereign ate the little Passover and became himself the great Passover. Passover was mingled with Passover, festival joined to festival; a temporary Passover, and another that abides; type and fulfillment.10
In this same vein, the Syrian writer Cyrillonas (end of the fourth century C.E.) equates the night that the messiah prepared and ate the Passover in the upper room on the 14th of Abib with the night of the Israelite Passover in Egypt:
Moses went down and prepared a Passover for the earthly ones in the depths, that is, in Egypt, the grave of the Hebrews. Our sovereign, however, went up to the bright and airy height (of the upper room) and there prepared his Passover, in order to lift us up into his kingdom. The lamb was sacrificed in Egypt, and our sovereign in the upper room; the lamb in the depths and the first-born on the height. Our sovereign led his group and reclined in the dining room. He went up and was the first to recline, and his disciples (reclined) after him. There they lay with him at the table and watched him, how he ate and was changed. The Lamb ate the lamb, the Passover consumed the Passover.11
Meanwhile, some of the Syrian Christians were influenced by the Roman model for the celebration of the Sovereign’s day (= the day of the resurrection), which was more fully developed in the latter half of the second century C.E. under Pope Victor.
While still keeping the Passover on the 14th, they began to observe the following Friday and Saturday as a commemoration of the death and burial (time in the grave) of the messiah and the first day of the week as a commemoration of Yahushua’s resurrection.
That they observed the first day of the week, for example, is already attested to in the Didascalia Apostolorum.12 Their observance of Friday and Saturday is reflected in their days of fasting during the time of Passover. The Didascalia Apostolorum, for instance, states:
But on the Friday and on the Sabbath fast wholly, and taste nothing. . . . Especially incumbent on you therefore is the fast of the Friday and of the Sabbath.13
Raniero Cantalamessa comments of this period:
The observance of the week of Unleavened Bread, beginning with the Jewish Pascha on the 14th Nisan, on whatever weekday this happened to fall, together with the beginning of the paschal fast, is also prescribed in the Didascalia . . . . Thus, and with the title “Day of the Pascha of Passion” for the fourteenth, the Syrian Church honored the Quartodeciman tradition. But, by having the solemnity of the Lord’s death always on the following Friday and Saturday, it was able to keep the Pascha with the other Churches and still preserve its content as a feast which emphasized the death of Christ more than the resurrection. In this arrangement, the Syrian Church of the early fourth century agreed with the Audians.14
A major alteration came after the Council of Nicaea (325 C.E.). In order to accommodate Rome, yet in an effort to maintain their original Quartodeciman premise of observing the 14th as the day of Passover, many of the Syrian Christians adopted the Hasidic System B for the seven days of Unleavened Bread (though, like Rome, they disregarded the 15th and 21st days of Abib as always being high Sabbaths).
Nevertheless, they continued to observe the Passover on the 14th day, thereby increasing the celebration of the festival to eight days. In doing so, they developed a Quartodeciman hybrid we call System F.
The newer arrangement (System F) appears for the first time in the works of Aphraates (writing in c.344 C.E.). In his work, the 14th is still lauded as the day of the Passover and the sovereign’s suffering.15
Yet now, to this celebration is attached the Hasidic construct for the seven days of unleavened bread. Aphraates writes:
After the Passover, Israel eats unleavened bread for seven days, to the 21st of the month; we too observe the unleavened bread—as a festival of our saviour.16
Aphraates further argues that we should observe the whole week “in his (the messiah’s) suffering and in his Unleavened Bread, because after the Passover come the seven days of unleavened bread, to the 21st (day).”17
With the acceptance of System F, the Syrians eventually accepted the Roman Catholic construct (System E) in its entirety. Indeed, by the end of the eighth century C.E., the whole Christian world, including the East, was established in that camp.
Modern Hybrid System G
Finally, many present-day followers of Yahweh and their respective assemblies have formulated a Passover construct that is similar to the old Syrian hybrid System F. This practice we have labeled System G.18
It is not a system known to have been argued by any of the early Jewish or Christian assemblies but, because of its similarity to System F, the claim by its advocates that it was the correct and earliest practice, and due to its popularity, we shall address it.
As with the old Syrian system, the Passover supper is observed on the night of the 14th. The 14th is itself considered a memorial day.
Meanwhile, as with the neo-Aristocratic System C and the Christian System F, the advocates of this view imitate the Hasidic method for counting the seven days of Unleavened Bread, i.e., from the 15th until the end of the 21st of Abib.
In most variations of this system, the 14th is a day to eat Unleavened Bread.
Nevertheless, the 14th is neither kept as a high Sabbath nor is counted as one of the seven days of Unleavened Bread.
Rather, the honor of a high Sabbath is given only to the 15th and the 21st of Abib. The 15th is also kept as a supper and is called the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
Summary of “Passover – Evolution to Today I & II”
When System D failed to have a major impact on the conservative Quartodeciman groups, tactics in the West were changed and System E was adopted, being roughly the present practice of the Roman Catholics and Protestants.
This innovation followed the Hasidic construct for 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 moon. Emphasis is placed on the day of the messiah’s resurrection, being the first day of the week falling within the seven days of Unleavened Bread.
The advocates of System E do not allow that the 14th of the first moon is the day of the legal Passover supper mentioned in the Torah of Moses.
Instead, the evidence that the messiah and his disciples kept the Passover sacrifice and supper on the night of the 14th, therefore before Yahushua’s death, is interpreted as a pre-Passover enacted parable.
The “Last Supper,” accordingly, was merely a foretype of the Christian Passover that was to be kept on the first day of the week that fell from the 15th to 21st days of the first moon, being the celebration of the messiah’s resurrection.
Once the East had come to the understanding that the seven-day period for Unleavened Bread actually extended from the 15th until the end of the 21st, it opened the door to the full acceptance of the Hasidic premise for the System E construct. When this transition period was over, the East had adopted System E.
Meanwhile, as with the neo-Aristocratic System C and the Christian System F, the advocates of this view imitate the Hasidic method for counting the 7 days of Unleavened Bread, i.e., from the 15th until the end of the 21st of Abib.
Like its antecedent (System F), System G also observes the 14th as Passover. It differs in that it does not observe the first day of the week following the 14th as the Passover of the resurrection, though it does count that day as the first of the 50-day count to Pentecost.
Rather, the adherents of System G keep the 15th as the Feast of Unleavened Bread and observe both the 15th and the 21st as high Sabbaths.
It should be noted that System G considers the Passover meal at the beginning of Abib 14 to be only a memorial supper since it would not occur on a high Sabbath day.
At the same time, System G requires unleavened bread to be eaten with the memorial Passover supper at the beginning of Abib 14. Importantly, unleavened bread is to be continually eaten during the following 7 days of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, Abib 15-21.
Under System G, there would be required a total number of 8 days of eating unleavened bread, Abib 14-21.
It looks like it’s time to conclude this post and head on to the summation of what has been presented by the Passover Series so far.
So be on the lookout for our next installment 29. Passover – What Now?
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.
12 Didas. Apost., 21, 5:20:10, 5:20:10. “But on the first day of the week make good cheer at all times; he is guilty of sin, whosoever afflicts his self on the first (day) of the week. And hence it is not lawful, apart from the Passover, for any one to fast during those three hours of the night between the Sabbath and the first (day) of the week, because that night belongs to the first (day) of the week.”
18 Some notable Sacred Name groups that utilize the System G construct are the Assemblies of Yahweh, Yahweh’s Assembly in Messiah, Yahweh’s Restoration Ministries, Assembly of Yahweh 7th Day, and Yahweh’s Assembly in Yahshua.