Passover (Christian holiday)
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Some Christians observe a form of the Jewish holiday of Passover. The practice is found among Assemblies of Yahweh, Messianic Jews, and some congregations of the Church of God (Seventh Day). It is often linked to the Christian holiday and festival of Easter. Often, only an abbreviated seder is celebrated to explain the meaning in a time-limited ceremony. The redemption from the bondage of sin through the sacrifice of Christ is celebrated, a parallel of the Jewish Passover's celebration of redemption from bondage in the land of Egypt.
Christian Passover ceremonies are held on the evening corresponding to 14 Nisan (e.g. April 5, 2012) or 15 Nisan, depending whether the particular church uses a quartodeciman or quintodeciman application. In other cases, the holiday is observed according to the Jewish calendar on 15 Nisan, which is also used by Samaritans.
According to Blaine Robison, the Passover is full of meaning. He claims that greater knowledge of Passover and the Seder, with assistance from Messianic Jewish congregations, can only strengthen the Body of the Messiah and appreciation for all that the meal symbolizes and prepare Gentile Christians for the religious calendar of the millennial kingdom.
The Epistle to the Hebrews states that the sacrificial killing of animals could not finally take away sin, but awaited the atonement of Christ. (Hebrews 10). It proceeds to explain that Jesus Christ offered the one sacrifice that was acceptable to God, and that he lives forever as the believers' intercessory high priest, replacing the Jewish sacrificial system and its sacerdotal priesthood. Most Christians consider the external ritual of sacrifice instituted in the Old Testament by God to be a precursor of the self-sacrifice offered by Jesus. For this reason, Jesus is called the "Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).
The main Christian view is that the Passover, as observed by ancient Israel as well as Jews today, was a type of the true Passover Sacrifice of God that was to be made by Jesus. The Israelites' Passover observance was the commemoration of their physical deliverance from bondage in Egypt, whereas Passover represents for most Christians a spiritual deliverance from the slavery of sin (John 8:34) and, since Jesus' death, a memorial of the sacrifice that Jesus has made for mankind.
- Jesus is the innocent lamb of God, slaughtered for the blood that takes away the spiritual death
- The matzoh is pierced and striped, as Jesus' body was striped from the whip, and pierced by the thorns and the spear
- The middle matzoh (the afikoman), held aloft, broken, wrapped, hidden and later redeemed represents Jesus, who likely used that bread when he said "This is my body broken for you."(1 Corinthians 11:24)
- It was probably the third cup, which declares "I will redeem you with a demonstration of my power", that Jesus used when he declared "This is my blood poured out for you." (1 Corinthians 11:25)
- It was probably the fourth cup "I will make you my people" of which Jesus declared '"This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you" (Luke 22:20)
In addition, as the Israelites partook of the Passover sacrifice by eating it, most Christians commemorate the Lord's unselfish death by taking part in the Lord's Supper, which ordinance Jesus instituted (1Corinthians 11:15-34,Luke 22:19-20), in which the elements of bread and wine are reverently consumed. Most Protestants see the elements as symbolic of Jesus' body or as symbols of the Presence and or as a memorial to quicken and confirm a faith already held, while Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christians hold that the elements are changed into Jesus' Body and Blood, true and real Presence, which they then eat and drink. The Orthodox prefer to use the term, meteousis, change, rather than Transubstantiation which is a Western philosophical term applied to a doctrinal concept. Lutherans describe the Presence as Sacramental Union which means that the Body and Blood are "in, with, and under" the bread and wine. Anglicans believe that the bread and wine are outward and visible symbols and that "The inward and spiritual grace in the Holy Communion is the Body and Blood of Christ given to his people, and received by faith," that is as an objective presence and subjective reception.(BCP 1976. p 859). This definition most closely approximates the words of St. John of Damascus, "the bread and wine are the visible symbols of a spiritual reality."
The spiritual theme of Passover is one of salvation by the atoning blood of a perfect, spotless sacrificed lamb. At the very beginning of the Abrahamic Covenant, the promise had been given by the God of Abraham that "God would provide Himself a lamb." (Genesis 22:8) For many Christians, this is the spiritual pattern seen in Passover which gives it its eternal meaning and significance. The theme is carried on and brought to its ultimate New Covenant fulfillment in the sacrificial death of Christ as the promised Sacrificed Lamb
Most Christians simply no longer celebrate the Passover, since it is seen to belong rather to a Jewish or Old Testament tradition which they believe to be no longer necessary. Among those Christians who do observe the Passover, there are some differences in how this is done. Some follow the instructions that Jesus gave to his disciples at the time of his last meal before he was crucified, and share instead of roasted lamb, bread (usually unleavened) and wine. In the Christian Passover service the unleavened bread is used to represent Jesus' body, and wine represents his blood of the New Covenant (Luke 22:19-20). These are a symbolic substitute for Jesus as the true sacrificial Passover "Lamb of God" (John 1:29). It should also be noted that Passover day is followed in the Scriptures by seven days of unleavened bread (Exodus 12:1-15Leviticus 23:6). These days have a great dual significance to the observant Christian. Just as leavening causes bread to be puffed up, so sin causes Christians to be "puffed up" with the sin of "malice and wickedness," and therefore must "purge out" that "old leaven" and replace it with "the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (King James Version - 1Corinthians 5:1-15). Therefore, in the Christian Passover service Christ's body is represented[original research?] by unleavened bread symbolizing his sinless life, for he alone had no sin (1Peter 2:21-22). Since these Scriptures indicate that during the seven days of unleavened bread, leavening represents sin and unleavened bread represents righteousness, when Christians remove leavening during these days they are reminded to put sin out of their lives.[original research?]
Other Christians celebrate the Passover as the Jews celebrate it. They roast and eat lamb, bitter herbs, and the unleavened Matza.
Many Adventist, Sabbatarian Churches of God, Messianic Jews, Jehovah's Witnesses (who call it the 'Memorial of Christ's Death') and other groups observe a Christian Passover — though all do not agree on the date(s) or the related practices.
St Thomas Syrian Christians ( Nazranis) in the malabar coast of India (Kerala) have a customary celebration of Pesaha at their homes. On the evening before Good Friday the Pesaha bread is made at home. It is made with unleavened flour and they use a sweet drink made up of coconut milk and jaggery along with this bread ( can be compared to Charoset). On the Pesaha night the bread is baked or steamed in a new vessel, immediately after rice flour is mixed with water and they pierce it many times with handle of the spoon to let out the steam so that the bread will not rise ( this custom is called " juthante kannu kuthal" in the Malayalam language meaning piercing the bread according to the custom of Jews). This bread is cut by the head of the family and shared among the family members after prayers. In some families, a creamy dip made up of jaggery and coconut milk is used along with the Peasha bread. If the family is in mourning following a death, Pesaha bread is not made at their home, but some of the Syrian Christian neighbours share their bread with them. This custom may have its origin in their probable Jewish ancestry since many other Jewish customs like separating the sexes at church, praying with veil in their heads(women), naming conventions in line with the Jewish customs, kiss of peace( kaikasthoori) in their Holy Quorbono (mass), presentation of their babies on the 40th day after birth in the church and ceremonial bath of the dead bodies. Unlike other Christians, in their weddings the bride stands on the right side of the groom resembling the Jewish custom and during the wedding a veil is given to the bride
Some differences between when groups observe passover are:
- Disputes over reckoning of the 24-hour day, for example, the modern western 24-hour day begins at midnight(12:00 A.M.), whereas the biblical 24-hour day is generally reckoned to begin at sunset.
- Disputes over which day Jesus was crucified on: according to John 19:14 and the Gospel of Peter, it was the "day of preparation for the Passover", Nisan 14, also called the Quartodeciman. (John nowhere identifies the Last Supper as a Passover meal, and John 18:28 has the priests preparing to eat the Passover meal in the morning after the Last Supper.) According to many other interpretations of the Synoptic Gospels, it was the day of Passover, Nisan 15.
- Some Christians observe the celebration on the day before Passover, at the same time that Jesus held his Last Supper, while others observe it at the same time that the Passover was sacrificed, that is, the time of Jesus' death, which occurred "at the ninth hour" of the day (Matthew 27:46-50, Mark 15:34-37, Luke 23:44-46), or approximately 3:30 p.m, according to the Synoptic Gospels. (see evening and Time for technical reference on time).
- Still others celebrate it after sunset, at which time it would be the 15th of Nisan, the time in which the Israelites ate the Passover meal (for example see Exodus 12:8).
- Some Christians, out of deference for traditional Gentile Easter dates, choose to celebrate Passover, or hold Seders, on the Thursday before Easter, known as Maundy Thursday, or the Last Supper observance. These dates vary among Hebrew, Gregorian, and Julian calendars, and they vary between Western (e.g. Roman Catholic) and Eastern Orthodox (e.g. Greek Orthodox) traditions. (There is also a school of thought that the Last Supper may have been on the Tuesday night, with most passion week "sabbath" references in the Gospels referring to a Thursday holy day of rest (Leviticus 23:6-7) instead of to the traditional Saturday main sabbath. Contrast Mark 16:1 after the weekday day of rest with Luke 23:56-24:1 before the weekend sabbath.)
It was a question of defilement that gave rise to the words: “They themselves did not enter into the governor’s palace, that they might not get defiled but might eat the passover.” (Joh 18:28) These Jews considered it a defilement to enter into a Gentile dwelling. (Ac 10:28) This statement was made, however, “early in the day,” hence after the Passover meal had taken place. It is to be noted that at this time the entire period, including Passover day and the Festival of Unfermented Cakes that followed, was at times referred to as “Passover.” In the light of this fact, Alfred Edersheim offers the following explanation: A voluntary peace offering was made on Passover and another, a compulsory one, on the next day, Nisan 15, the first day of the Festival of Unfermented Cakes. It was this second offering that the Jews were afraid they might not be able to eat if they contracted defilement in the judgment hall of Pilate.—The Temple, 1874, pp. 186, 187
Christian history regarding the Passover
Christian tradition - the passover finished
Apollinaris and Melito of Sardis were both 2nd century writers that wrote about the end of Christian celebration of the Jewish Passover.
For indeed the law issued in the gospel–the old in the new, both coming forth together from Zion and Jerusalem; and the commandment issued in grace, and the type in the finished product, and the lamb in the Son, and the sheep in a man, and the man in God...For at one time the sacrifice to the sheep was valuable, but now it is without value because of the life of the Lord. The death of the sheep once was valuable, but now it is without value because of the salvation of the Lord. The blood of the sheep once was valuable, but now it is without value because of the Spirit of the Lord. The silent lamb once was valuable, but now it has no value because of the blameless Son. The temple here below once was valuable, but now it is without value because of the Christ from above… Now that you have heard the explanation of the type and of that which corresponds to it, hear also what goes into making up the mystery. What is the passover? Indeed its name is derived from that event–"to celebrate the passover" (to paschein) is derived from "to suffer" (tou pathein). Therefore, learn who the sufferer is and who he is who suffers along with the sufferer...This one is the passover of our salvation.
There are, then, some who through ignorance raise disputes about these things (though their conduct is pardonable: for ignorance is no subject for blame — it rather needs further instruction), and say that on the fourteenth day the Lord ate the lamb with the disciples, and that on the great day of the feast of unleavened bread He Himself suffered; and they quote Matthew as speaking in accordance with their view. Wherefore their opinion is contrary to the law, and the Gospels seem to be at variance with them. … The fourteenth day, the true Passover of the Lord; the great sacrifice, the Son of God instead of the lamb, who was bound, who bound the strong, and who was judged, though Judge of living and dead, and who was delivered into the hands of sinners to be crucified, who was lifted up on the horns of the unicorn, and who was pierced in His holy side, who poured forth from His side the two purifying elements, water and blood, word and spirit, and who was buried on the day of the passover, the stone being placed upon the tomb
Excommunication for celebrating passover
Christians who kept the biblical Passover were considered to be Quartodeciman as they keep Passover on the 14th of Nisan. Polycrates of Ephesus, was a late 2nd century leader who was excommunicated (along with all Quartodecimans) by Pope Saint Victor for observing the Christian Passover on the 14th of Nisan and not switching it to a Sunday resurrection celebration. He, Polycrates, claimed that he was simply following the practices according to scripture and the Gospels, as taught by the Apostles John and Philip, as well as by church leaders such as Polycarp and Melito of Sardis.
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, neither Jesus Christ nor the early church leaders changed the Passover celebration to Easter, "In fact, the Jewish feast was taken over into the Christian Easter celebration."
- Christian observances of Jewish holidays
- Christian views on the Old Covenant
- First day worship
- The United Church of God
- The Four Cups of Wine for Passover
- John 1:29
- How Should Christians Celebrate the Passover?
- Women for Faith & Family
- Sunish George J Alumkalnal, Pesaha celebration of Nasranis: a sociocultural analysis. Journal of Indo Judaic studies No 13, 2013 pages 57-71
- Jewish Encyclopedia: Day: "The day is reckoned from evening to evening—i.e., night and day—except in reference to sacrifices, where daytime and the night following constitute one day (Lev. vii. 15; see Calendar)."
- John P. Meier's A Marginal Jew, vol. 1
- On The Passover, by Melito of Sardis — vs. 7, 44, 46, 69a
- "Apollinaris." From the Book Concerning Passover. Translated by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. Excerpted from Volume I of The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, editors); American Edition copyright © 1885. Copyright © 2001 Peter Kirby.
- Catholic Encyclopedia: Easter
- Edward Chumney. The Seven Festivals of the Messiah. Treasure House, 1994. ISBN 1-56043-767-7
- Howard, Kevin. The Feasts Of The Lord God's Prophetic Calendar From Calvary To The Kingdom. Nelson Books, 1997. ISBN 0-7852-7518-5
- Rosen, Ceil and Rosen, Moishe. ""Christ in the Passover: Why is This Night Different"". Moody Publishers, 1978. ISBN 0-8024-1392-7
- Jewish Passover to Christian Passover Explains the transition from Passover (or the Jewish Passover from certain Christian points-of-view) to the Christian Passover, which predated the founding of the Easter holiday.
- Melito's Homily on Passover also known as Peri Pascha from Kerux: The Journal of Northwest Theological Seminary
- a Religious Dispatches essay on why Christian use of the Passover observances can be seen as culturally insensitive