A FIRST-CENTURY JEWISH PASSOVER
A. Sources and Methodology
The synoptic gospels portray the Last Supper as a Passover meal (Mark 14:12; Matt 26:17; Luke 22:7). If the Last Supper was, in fact, a Passover meal, a thorough investigation into the celebration of Passover in the first century would be indispensable for the task of determining the outside and the inside of the Last Supper, for it would provide an interpretive context for the entire historical reconstruction. I conclude that the paschal context of the Last Supper is historically correct.
To reconstruct a typical, first-century Passover requires the careful use of sources. These sources fall into two categories: those whose composition or whose authors pre-date the destruction of the second Temple; those whose composition and authors post-date this event. In the former category is to be found the New Testament, the LXX, Josephus, Jubilees, Temple Scroll (11QTemple), Philo, and the Targumin.1 The post-destruction sources include the Mishna, the Tosepta, Mekilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Sipre Numbers, Sipre Deuteronomy, Sipra Leviticus, Exodus Rabbah, and Genesis Rabbah. The use of the latter category of sources for a reconstruction of a typical first-century BCE Passover meal is, however, problematic, since the possibility of historical inaccuracy looms. First, the lack of direct access to living memory opens up the possibility that facts related about the Passover in these sources are inaccurate; as such they only represent hearsay evidence. This is in contrast, for example, to the case of Josephus who has first hand knowledge of the Temple and priestly activities. Secondly, many scholars consider these sources--especially the Mishna, which is viewed as the foundational document of rabbinic Judaism--to be intentionally anachronistic.2 What appears as historical memory about what was done (either in the form of narrative description or halakot) and what that meant is really fabrication. The early rabbis created an ideal cultic world with little continuity with the real world of the second-temple period. Neusner wrote, "It [the Mishnah] purports to describe how things are. But it tells us more about a fantasy than about the real palpable world, the world concretely known to the people who wrote about it."3 With respect to the Passover, B. M. Bokser proposes that the early rabbis had the further aim of legitimizing its celebration in the absence of the Temple; they did so by minimizing the discontinuity between the festival as celebrated before the Temple's destruction and after in order to convince Jews that even though the Temple lay in ruins holding Passover was still possible, since not much had changed. The apologetic aim of m. Pesah. of convincing Jews that the celebration of Passover was still possible, however, required that historical fact inimical to the realization of this aim be suppressed. This is not to say that there is no continuity at all, but only that there is far more discontinuity than was formerly assumed by earlier scholars.4 As a result, those who take the Mishna as a source for the reconstruction of a typical first-century Passover misunderstand the nature of this work: "Some scholars have assumed that the narrative-descriptive style is used in Peshaim, Qodashim, and elsewhere for 'archaeological' descriptions--as if what is purported actually occurred in that way. The error or guillibilty of these scholars indicates the power of the Mishnah's argument."5
The methodological question that must be addressed is whether this second category of sources--and especially m. Pesah.--can be used in a reconstruction of a typical first-century Passover meal. If one were restricted to only the pre-destruction sources, one's reconstruction would be somewhat sketchy. It would be, therefore, beneficial to the task if the post-destruction material was useable. In spite of the current trend in early rabbinic studies, I propose that when these sources deal with the pre-destruction celebration of Passover, though not on par with the pre-destruction sources with respect to their reliabilty, they are a close second. The view that the early rabbinic sources are intentionally anachronistic seems wrong. This is not, however, to assume an overly credulous point of departure. First, it must be remembered that the historical distance between the authors and the time period being described in these sources renders them less reliable than those sources whose authors pre-date the destruction of the Temple. Second, it must also be taken into consideration that, since the tannaitic sources are products of the early rabbinic movement of the post-70 CE period, it is possible that some of the halakic or haggadic material pertaining to the Passover found there was not universally accepted among Jews of the first century. Rather some of this traditional material may not have been accepted by Jews outside of Pharisaic circles, the predecessors of the early rabbinic schools. Actually, the Mishna testifies to the fact there were halakic disputes that carried over into the early rabbinic period even between one Pharisaic group and another. (It is possible, given Jesus' apparent antipathy towards the Pharisaic conception of Judaism, that the gospels' descriptions of the Last Supper may differ from the tannaitic description of a typical Passover celebration, and yet not imply that Jesus' meal was not a Passover meal.) Finally, it is possibile that some of the halakah on Passover in the tannaitic sources originated in the post-destruction period; likely the early rabbis raised and resolved on a theoretical level procedural questions relating to the Passover. But making this last concession is different from saying that the early rabbis created an ideal and timeless cultic world and retrojected it into the past, a view which would thereby render all the tannaitic material on Passover a priori suspect.
A weakness of the hypothesis that the tannaitic sources are anachronistic is its circularity. Its advocates claim that, contrary to appearance, the early rabbis were innovators of the highest order. The problem with this methodological point of departure is that by definition it lacks direct evidence. If the early rabbis were so successfully revisionistic that even careful scholars have been and still are deceived, then evidence that such a revision took place must be meager or non-existent. The early rabbis, in other words, covered their tracks well. The only way that one could produce sufficient proof for this hypothesis would be to demonstrate that the pre-destruction sources are consistently at variance with what is depicted in the tannaitic sources.
This leads to a second weakness of this hypothesis. The evidence from the pre-destruction period relevant to a reconstruction of a typical, first-century Passover coheres so well with m. Pesah. and other early rabbinic material on Passover that one must conclude that the latter is not historical fabrication. (This will be demonstrated shortly.) Such coherence allows one to proceed methodologically on the assumption that the post-destruction sources are not intentionally anachronistic but provide historical data on the pre-destruction celebration of Passover.
Further weakening Bokser's hypothesis is the fact that the alleged revision of the Passover festival undertaken by the early rabbis would have been unnecessary. The celebration of Passover in the first century was already either wholly or almost wholly functionally independent of the Temple, both outside and inside Jerusalem. Philo speaks about how on Passover "the whole nation performs the sacred rites and acts as priest with pure hands and complete immunity" (Spec. Laws 2. 145-46); he goes on to state that on Passover every house takes on the appearance and dignity of the Temple, that the victim is then slaughtered and that a feast ensues in the house (Spec. Laws 2. 148). Philo's description implies that Jews outside of Jerusalem could and did sacrifice Passover offerings on Nisan 14. Similarly, Josephus notes that Jews in Sardis were granted the right to meet together and offer their ancestral prayers and sacrifices to God. Passover would be the most likely sacrifice to be offered by Jews (Ant. 14.260).6 Diasporan Jews likely celebrated Passover--including the slaughter of a lamb--outside of Jerusalem even while the Temple was standing. Inside Jerusalem the Temple would have been peripheral in the experience of most Passover celebrants. As will be shown, only one person as a representative of a larger group would go to the Temple to sacrifice the lamb; he would then take it back to the place where he and his group were to celebrate the festival, at which time the lamb would be roasted and consumed along with other foods. After the Temple's destruction so long as a lamb or even a part of a lamb was included as a part of the festival the experience of Passover would be virtually unchanged for most Jews. That lambs were eaten at Passover after the Temple was destroyed is evidenced in various sources (m. Pesah. 4:4; 7:2; m. Besa 2:7; t. Yom Tob 2:15; t. Ohol. 3:9; 18:18; Josephus, Ant. 2:312). These were not Passover offerings per se, since these would only become such by virtue of being slaughtered in the Temple.7 But to the average celebrant lamb would taste the same regardless of how it came to be slaughtered. (Ironically, Bokser cites this evidence but does not see its full significance.) The trauma of losing the Temple at least with respect to the celebration of the Passover, therefore, would have been so minor for most Jews that there is little justification for the alleged revisionism of the early rabbis.8 The domestic paradigm of the first Passover (Exod 12) and the domestic setting of the second-temple celebration of Passover would have allowed Jews to move easily to a decentralized and completely domestic celebration after the Temple was destroyed.9
Finally, two more related considerations must be raised. First, it is difficult to understand why the early rabbis would have created this ideal cultic system as a means of preserving a stable world in the midst of chaos and crisis. Without a Temple the Mishna is only a potential system for maintaining order. Neusner's view that the Mishna represents an intellectual replacement for the real Temple is not believable, since the Mishna presupposes a real Temple for the implementation of its system. The imaginary is no substitute for the real.
Second, upon close examination Bokser's position turns out to be internally inconsistent, which is a sure sign that his hypothesis is untenable. He holds that the rabbis were attempting to minimize the effects of there being no longer any Temple on the celebration of Passover in their own day; but this contradicts his apparent acceptance of Neusner's position that the framers of the Mishna were creating an idealized cultic system, which in itself was intended to be a survival measure. A tension between the ideal and the real results. The same document, m. Pesah., is intended both as part of an ideal cultic system and as a attempt to legitimize the real celebration of Passover in the absence of the Temple. Obviously, it would be difficult to fulfill both aims at the same time, which could explain why the readactional aims of the framers of m. Pesah. 10 and t. Pesah.. 10 as reconstructed by Bokser are so subtle as to be unbelievable. The framers could not dispense with references to the Temple since to do so would be to undermine the aim of creating an ideal cultic system. But since the centrality of the Temple is assumed in the discussion of the Passover in m. Pesah. 1-9--as it is in the Mishna in general--, they also had to guard against creating the wrong impression that the Temple was an essential part of a real celebration of the festival. (Even in m. Pesah. 10 and t. Pesah... 10--the focus of Bokser's study--the Passover sacrifice is referred to several times, which to the casual reader would have the opposite result than legitimizing the celebration of Passover celebration without sacrifice.) Now if he does not accept Neusner's view of the nature and purpose of the Mishna, Bokser is hard pressed to explain why the early rabbis consistently depicted the Temple as an indispensable part of the celebration of Passover. He may respond by saying that the Temple was only indispensable when a sacrifice formed a part of Passover, but what the early rabbis were proposing was that the festival be held without the sacrifice. If this is the case, however, then the argument is extremely clumsy because there is, in Bokser's view, only one oblique reference to the legitimacy of celebrating Passover without a sacrifice (10:3), which probably should not be interpreted as he interprets it anyway. In addition, one would expect that so many references to the Passover offering would produce the opposite effect of creating grief on the part of the readers over the loss of the Temple.
In my opinion, it makes better sense to hold that when they realized in the second century that the Temple would not soon be rebuilt, the early rabbis set out systematically to preserve information on second-temple procedure as understood by the Pharisees, their spiritual predecessors, in order that this be implemented when the third Temple was eventually built. This gave rise to the Mishna and later to the Tosepta. The tannaitic midrashim also preserve elements of Pharisaic halakah and haggadah on Passover, as do Genesis Rabbah and Exodus Rabbah. The view that the rabbis were conservers of their Pharisaic heritage and not radical innovators makes better sense of the data.
I conclude that the post-destruction sources are to be viewed as containing material relevant to a reconstruction of a typical, first-century Passover. This material will take one of three forms: historical description, halakah and haggadah. While I concede that some halakic and haggadic material may be unique to pre-destruction Pharisaic practice and theory while some may be late and that some of the historical description may be inaccurate, there is sufficient justification to proceed methodologically on the assumption that much of the material in these sources is reliable.
The possibility of historical inaccuracy
in not only the post-destruction but also the pre-destruction sources requires
that I use the criterion of multiple attestation: only a datum that is
multiply attested, ideally in both pre- and post-destruction sources, will
be given the status of virtually certain. Varying degrees of probability
will be accorded to features that do not meet this requirement. The problem
with the use of the criterion of multiple attestation in relation to the
post-destruction sources, however, is not being able to determine the literary
and/or tradition-historical relationships among these sources. For example,
it is clear that the Mishna was a source for the Tosepta, but how much
does the Mishna lurk in the background of Sipre Deut.eronomy? As
a result, I shall methodologically handle the post-destruction sources
as one source. In addition, two other criteria will be used in this reconstruction.
First, I shall appeal when appropriate to the criterion of plausibility,
which is really an adaptation of the Troeltschean principle of analogy:
present experience will serve as a guideline by which to judge the plausibility
of a datum reported about the celebration of the Passover in the first
century. Second, I shall assume that if the Torah clearly requires something
most Jews would have conformed to this requirement.
B. The Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread in the Hebrew Bible
The Torah's regulations concerning the Passover celebration were the ultimate authority for all first-century Jews regardless of their secondary allegiances. A literary-critical analysis of the biblical sources on the Passover is not necessary, since the first-century Jew read the Torah synchronically. The modern notion that the emergence of Israel's full self-definition as summarized by the Torah was tied to a long social and religious development was completely foreign to the understanding of the first-century Jew. Any development in the ritual or meaning of Passover is irrelevant to an understanding of Jewish views at the time of Jesus.
According to the Torah, as read by the first-century Jew, the Passover was instituted as a commemoration of the Lord's deliverance of Israel from Egypt. The most relevant passages from the Hebrew Bible are Exod 12:1-13, 21-27, 43-49 and Deut 16:1-18. The directives given in Exodus 12 apply to both the original Passover celebrants and subsequent generations of celebrants, leaving commentators to decide what was a perpetual ordinance and what was limited to the original event (see t. Pesah.. 8:15).
Exod 12 contains a mixture of legal and historical material. On the tenth day of the month in which Moses was to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, the people were to take a lamb or a kid, one for each household; if a household was too small it could join itself to another. The animal was to be a one-year-old male without defect; it was to be kept until the fourteenth day of the same month, at which time it was to be slaughtered "between the evenings." The Israelites were to take some blood of the victim and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of their houses. The same night they were to roast the lamb or kid whole over fire and eat it along with bitter herbs. Nothing was to remain of the victim in the morning. The meal was to be eaten in haste.
The Passover meal was meant for subsequent generations to be the first day of a seven-day feast, the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Exod 12:15). On the first day of the feast all leaven was to be removed from the houses of the celebrants, and no leaven was to be eaten for the seven days duration. In Exod 12:18, however, it is stipulated that leaven is to be removed from the houses on the evening of the fourteenth, before the first day of the feast. How this regulation was interpreted by rabbinic exegesis will be examined later. On the first and last days of the feast a sacred assembly was to be held, and these days were to be considered as Sabbaths. Further regulations for the Passover included the following: no foreigner was to eat of it; it must be eaten within one house; no meat was to be taken outside the house; the victim's bones were not to be broken.
Deut 16:1-18 reiterates many of the regulations stated in Exod 12, with the exception of the ritual of the smearing of the blood, and makes a significant addition to the Passover halakah: the Passover was to be eaten only at the place the Lord would choose as a dwelling for his Name. Deuteronomy 16 adds a haggadah on the unleavened bread, interpreting it symbolically as the bread of affliction.10 This text also implies that the Passover victim could be taken from the flock (sheep and goats) and the herd (cattle) (Deut 16:2). How the interpreters dealt with this will examined later.
References to the Passover appear in
several texts outside of the Torah. After years of neglect by Israel, a
second Passover celebration was held by Hezekiah in Jerusalem (2 Chron
30:1-27). Josiah, likewise, as part of his cultic reforms, reinstituted
the Passover festival (2 Kings 23:21-23; cf. 2 Chron 35:1). Finally, Ezra
is said to have held the first Passover in the Second Temple, a joyous
occasion for the exiles (Ezra 6:19-20).
C. The First-Century Celebration of Passover
The first-century Passover practice was based on the Hebrew Bible; but within the post-biblical period new elements were introduced into the Passover festival while some of the original regulations were interpreted as being applicable to the first celebrants only. To reconstruct how a typical first-century Passover celebration would have proceeded one must turn to the post-biblical sources. First, I shall ask how a Jew prepared to celebrate the Passover feast? Secondly, how did the meal itself actually proceed? Finally, what was the purpose and meaning of the Passover feast for the celebrants?
1. Preparation for Celebration of the Passover Feast
In the first century CE, although some diasporan Jews might have chosen to celebrate the festival where they were, generally it was assumed that those who could would travel to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. Deut 16:16 stipulates that it is the duty of every Jew to appear in Jerusalem three times a year for the three pilgrim festivals. (By comparison Exod 23:17; 34:23 merely require that the Israelites appear before the Lord three times a year.) The same concern to celebrate Passover in Jerusalem as a pilgrim festival is also present in post-biblical sources. Jubilees states that the Israelites must not celebrate Passover in their cities, nor anywhere else except--echoing Deuteronomy--the place where God chooses that his Name should dwell (Jub. 49:21). In addition, Passover is called an eternal ordinance, the neglect of which results in being cut off (Jub. 49:8-9). Citing Psalm 132:13-14, Mek. 12:1 (Pisha 4:42-51) makes the point that Jerusalem alone is the dwelling place of the Shekinah and therefore the only suitable place for altars. This had not always been the case, but in his dealings with Israel, God progressively restricted the place of His dwelling and thereby the place of divine revelation first to the land of Israel, then to the city of Jerusalem and finally to the Temple itself. In line with the statement of the Mekilta, the Mishna states that, with a few classes of exceptions, all are duty bound to appear in Jerusalem tri-annually for the three pilgrim festivals, Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles (m. Hag. 1:1). The same is found in Mek. 23:17 (Pisha 4:32-37) and in Sipre Deut.. 16:2 (129). Finally, according to t. Pesah.. 8:16, one of the differences between the first Passover and subsequent ones was that for the former the lambs were slaughtered in each individual home in Egypt, whereas for the latter they are slaughtered in one place, in the Temple.
That the requirement to appear in Jerusalem for the Passover festival was actually in force among Jews is confirmed by the New Testament, Josephus’s works, and the Tosepta. Not all Jews appeared in Jerusalem for every feast, but enough appeared in fulfilment of their religious duty to swell the population of the city. Luke 2:41 states that Jesus' parents went to Jerusalem from Galilee once a year; John 7 mentions that Jesus and his brothers were planning to go to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles; John 11:55 says that many went up to Jerusalem for their ceremonial cleansing before Passover and were looking for Jesus, whom they expected to find there. These New Testament texts support the conclusion that pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the festivals was a feature of Jewish life in first-century Palestine.
Josephus makes the general statement that at Passover more than the other festivals Jews come from the country and from abroad to celebrate the festival (Ant. 17. 214). He also tells us that the siege of Jerusalem by Titus coincided with Passover so that, with the overcrowding of the city, pestilence and then famine overtook the population. A large number of the casualities of the siege were not Jerusalemites but Jews from other parts who were unfortunate enough to be in Jerusalem for Passover (J.W. 6. 420-22). Josephus, on the basis of a census taken by Cestus for the emperor Nero, reckoned the population of Jerusalem during a particular Passover to be two million seven hundred thousand (J.W. 6. 425). Although this is taken to be an exaggeration, the point remains that Jerusalem was a crowded place during Passover because of the influx of pilgrims, who were admitted into the city by Eleazar and his men during a temporary lull in the conflict. It was during this time that John, the rival Zealot leader, gained entrance by stealth, the result of which was an internecine war between the two factions. (J.W. 5. 98-104).
When King Agrippa wanted to know the number of the population during Passover, he had the priests put aside the kidneys of the sacrificial victims (t. Pesah.. 4:15). Six hundred thousand pairs were counted; assuming that there were not fewer than ten members in each Passover haburah (a voluntary association of adults), one arrives at a total of six million. It is said that this was called the "crowded Passover," so crowded that the Temple mount could not contain the numbers. Again, even if these numbers are greatly inflated the general point that Jerusalem overflowed with Passover pilgrims is still established.
Like other sacrifices, the Passover had to be eaten in ritual purity (cf. 2 Chron 30:18-20). This meant that, upon their arrival in Jerusalem for the Passover celebration, pilgrims had to ensure that they were ritually clean or take steps to become so (Jub. 49:9; m. Pesah. 5:3; 7:4, 6, 7; 9:1; t. Pesah.. 4:2; 6:1, 2, 5: 7:9, 11, 12, 13, 15; J.W. 6. 426-27). The Torah's stipulations for uncleanness were likely maintained. The Mishna and Tosepta at least bears this out; people who fell into the following categories were regarded as ritually impure: a menstruating woman or a man who had sexual relations with one (Lev 15:19-24; t. Pesah.. 8:1; cf. J.W. 6. 426-27); one who experienced two issues (see Lev 15:1-5; m. Pesah. 8:5; t. Pesah.. 7:11; 8:1; cf. J.W. 6. 426-27); a woman made unclean by recent childbirth (Lev 12; m. Pesah. 9:4; t. Pesah.. 7:11); one contaminated by corpse uncleanness (Num 19; t. Pesah.. 7:11; 8:1). We should add that Philo speaks of the necessity of the participants in Passover being cleansed by purifactory lustrations, which probably was a means to obtaining ritual purity without the ashes of the red heifer (Spec. Laws 2. 148).
Many of the pilgrims arrived in Jerusalem at least a week before the Passover feast in order to cleanse themselves from the corpse uncleanness that they would have acquired on their journey. John 11:55, for example, states that many Jews went up to Jerusalem before the feast to purify themselves. Josephus reports that, during the Passover season before the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE when several miraculous events were witnessed--which were mistakenly interpreted as portents of divine favour--the people had already begun to assemble on the eighth of Nisan, seven days before the feast (J.W. 6. 290). It was assumed that pilgrims would have become unclean en route possibly by having contact with Gentile dwelling places, as the Mishna and Tosepta suppose (m. Ohol. 18:7; t. Ohol. 18:11). Gentiles were believed to bury their miscarried children in their houses, thus transmitting corpse uncleanness to the occupants (cf. 11QTemple 48). Such impurity lasted for a week, and could be removed by ritual cleansing with the ashes of the red heifer (Num 9, 19). Philo describes this process in Spec. Laws 1. 261.
According to the Passover regulations in Exod 12, the original celebrants were to acquire their Passover lambs on Nisan 10. This regulation, however, was interpreted in the first century as pertaining only to the Egyptian Passover. The absence of any reference to the requirement of the purchase of the Passover victim on Nisan 10 in the New Testament, Josephus's works, the Tosepta and Jubilees is an argument from silence that this restriction was not in place for subsequent Passovers. This conclusion is confirmed by the Mekilta, the Mishna and Targum Yerushalmi I. According to the Mekilta, the stipulation of the purchase of the Passover on the tenth was valid only for the first celebrants (Mek. 12:3 [Pisha 3:45]). In a midrash on the word "this" contained in the phrase "the tenth day of this month," R. Ishmael argued that "this," as a demonstrative adjective, meant to restrict the practice of obtaining the paschal sacrifice to the tenth day of the actual month in which the Israelites came out of Egypt, not its anniversary. Considering the precarious hermeneutical grounds of this bit of exegesis, one ought to look to current practice as the principal inspiration for such an interpretation, rather than the exegetical demands of the text. In m. Pesah. 9:5 it is stipulated that, although the first Passover celebrants had to obtain their Passover offerings on the tenth of the first month, this requirement is not in force for subsequent generations. Finally, in Tg. Yer. I on Exod 12:3 the commandment to take a lamb on Nisan 10 is interpreted as no longer binding. The pilgrim who arrived in Jerusalem for Passover, therefore, could buy his Passover offering at any time before the evening of Nisan 15.
Although the original Passover was celebrated by families, subsequent Passovers were understood as having a different requirement. A haburah replaced the family as the sociological unit of the Passover festival. Josephus wrote that a fatri,a of not fewer than ten persons, but as many as twenty, gathered around each sacrifice (J.W. 6. 423-25; cf. Ant. 3.248). Similarly, in Mek. 12:4 (Pisha 3:60-64) R. Ishmael argued that one could enroll unrelated persons in one's haburah, because scripture allowed for the possibility of two families coming together to share a Passover offering. In Mek. 12:46 (Pisha 15:99-104) also, it is argued, based on the phrase "all the congregation of Israel," that a paschal offering could be offered by a mixed group. In t. Pesah.. 4:15 and Targum Yerushalmi I on Exod 12:4, it is said that not fewer than ten people can belong to a Passover haburah, and in m. Pesah. 8:3 it is stated that any number of people may be included in a Passover haburah, even up to a hundred (8:7), as long as there is at least on olive bulk's amount of meat per participant (8:3, 7; cf. t. Pesah.. 7:6). There is nothing said in these texts restricting the enrollment of the haburot to family members. According to m. Pesah. 8:7 and Sipre Deut.. 16:5 (132) a Passover offering, however, cannot be slaughtered for one person, which probably was rarely if ever an issue in actual practice, since Passover was in effect a banquet. Thus, the pilgrim had to ensure that he belonged to a haburah before the time of the slaughtering of the Passover on Nisan 14.
According to the early rabbinic sources, formal enrollment in a haburah was a requirement for the proper celebration of Passover (e.g., t. Pesah.. 7:3-17; m. Pesah. 8). In Mek. 12:4 (Pisha 3:68-71), for example, the phrase "according to the number of souls" is interpreted to mean that the lamb must be slaughtered only for those enrolled as partners in it. Although the membership of a haburah could be altered up until the slaughtering of the Passover victim, according to m. Pesah. 8:3-- confirmed by Mek. 12:4 (Pisha 3:68-71) and Mek. 12:21 (Pisha 11:13-19)--a celebrant had formally to enroll in a haburah (R. Judah is quoted in Mek. 12:4 (Pisha 3:68-71) as stipulating that the final haburah, after the changes had been made, must contain at least one of the original members [see also t. Pesah.. 7:7]). After the point of the slaughtering of the Passover, if one had not been properly enrolled in a haburah, one was disqualified from celebrating the Passover, and had to wait until the Second Passover to fulfil one's religious duty. What formal enrollment in a sacrifice actually entailed in practice and whether all Jews were so stringent is impossible to know. At some point, however, the joining of a haburah must have been no longer impossible.
Only qualified adults could enroll as full members of a Passover haburah. In Jub. 49:17 Jews twenty years and older are required to appear in the sanctuary to eat Passover; those under 20 were not under this obligation; similarly, Mek. 12:4 (Pisha 3:69-71) eliminates as members of a haburah the sick and the little ones, those who are not able to eat the required olive bulk's amount of meat Nonetheless, minors could participate in the meal. They were enrolled by their fathers, according to t. Pesah.. 7:4, and their consent to or knowledge of their enrolment was not required. A haburah, however, according to the Mishna, could not be composed predominantly of minors and women (m. Pesah. 8:7). Generally, it seems reasonable to assume that Passover would have been eaten by families, since families would have travelled together to Jerusalem to celebrate the festival (see Luke 2:41-52); the domestic setting of the Passover in the tannaitic sources likely reflects pre-destruction practice (cf. m. Pesah. 10:5; t. Pesah.. 10:4; Mek. 12:3 [Pisha 3:50-54]).
Enrolment in a Passover haburah cost its member a designated amount of money, depending on how much food and drink and of what quality the haburah wished to consume. Beyond the obligatory minimum, which I shall discuss below, a haburah was free to add to its feast at will, so long as no other restrictions on the consumption of food were violated. According to t. Pesah.. 2:18, people are permitted to use second-tithe money to fulfil their festival obligations; Mek. 12:20 (Pisha 10:75), however, states that one cannot use second-tithe money to buy the ingredients for unleavened bread, because, as Deuteronomy 16:3 says, it is bread of poverty, and food bought with the second tithe must be eaten when one is joyful. How observant Jews were in distinguishing second-tithe money from the rest of their funds is impossible to know; some no doubt were quite conscientious in this regard. If a person, however, withdrew from a haburah before the point of slaughtering, t. Pesah.. 7:8 allows that person to be reimbursed his contribution towards the cost of the meal, which only makes sense.
The Passover sacrifice could be eaten with a meal composed of a festival offering (see m. Hag.). That the buying, slaughtering and eating of festival offerings was common practice in Jerusalem for all the pilgrim festivals is evidenced by Josephus (Ant. 8. 271; 3. 224, 228). According to the Tosepta, in sacrificing and eating a festival offering one fulfilled one's obligations to rejoice during the festival (t. Pesah.. [5:3]. Mek. 12:5 [Pisha 4:11-56]) offers several illuminating midrashim on Deuteronomy 16:2, "Sacrifice...an animal from your flock or herd," giving further evidence of the practice of eating festival offerings at Passover. All of the authorities cited in the Mekilta agree that the flock was to be interpreted as the animal sacrificed for Passover, while the herd refers to the festival offering. This not so obvious conclusion from Exod 12:5 interpreted in relation to Deuteronomy 16:2 could have been suggested to the exegetes by actual practice. The same exegesis is found in Sipre Deut.. 16:2 (129). According to the early rabbinic sources, however, the festival offering, obtainable with second-tithe money from the market connected to the Temple (see m. Sheqal. 7:2), was always eaten first, followed by the Passover, in order that the latter would be eaten in a state of satiation (t. Pesah.. 5:3; m. Pesah. 6:3f.; Mek. 12:8 [Pisha 6:62-64]). From the evidence it is safe to conclude that some haburot would have offered a festival offering to supplement the Passover. Whether they would have been so careful as to consume the festival offering before the Passover is disputable; some may have while others may not have.
The Passover celebrants needed not only to enroll in a Passover haburah but also to ensure that their haburah had a place in which to celebrate the festival. The first-century Jew could hold his Passover celebration anywhere in the city of Jerusalem, but this may not always have been the case.11 Jub. 49:16-17 and 1QTemple 17 make it a requirement that Passover be celebrated in the forecourt of the Temple. Either these texts reflect an earlier practice or they are setting forth a halakic ideal. Whatever the case may be, in the first century such a requirement was a physical impossibility, even assuming that Josephus and the Tosepta are greatly exaggerating about the number of Passover pilgrims in Jerusalem. The Temple could hold only a fraction of those present for the festival.12 This meant that the pilgrim had to find some sort of accommodation within the city, not always an easy task as our sources indicate. Although m. Abot. 5:5 considers it one of the ten miracles wrought by the forefathers in the Temple that no one ever said that Jerusalem was too crowded to stay overnight there, this did not mean that accommodation during Passover was always ideal.
Not only would the Passover crowds in the first century have been too large for the Temple courts, they would probably have been even too large for each haburah to have a single house or room in a house in which to celebrate Passover. The early rabbinic sources give evidence that this was the situation. It is stated in t. Pesah.. 6:11 that, although Exodus 12:46 stipulates that in one house the Passover is to be eaten, nevertheless people ate the Passover in courtyards and on roofs. The regulation of eating in one house was interpreted to mean in one haburah. Mek. 12:46 (Pisha 15:76-82) likewise makes the same concession in its interpretation of "You shall not carry it forth outside the house": house here is understood as the sociologically defined place of its consumption, i.e., within the haburah. Practically this meant that more than one Passover celebration could be held in a single house, so long as the haburot faced in opposite directions (m. Pesah. 7:13; t. Pesah.. 6:11), or that the meal could be eaten somewhere other than in a house. The interpretation of the requirement to eat the Passover in one house to mean in one haburah, therefore, was probably a response to the physical limitations of the city. So, upon arriving in Jerusalem, unless a haburah had made prior arrangements, one of the group had to find the best accommodation possible, unless previous arrangements had been made.
The place where Jews celebrated Passover, however, was probably not always where they spent the night of Nisan 15. Sipre Num. 9:10 (69) states that the Passover lamb had to be eaten within the gates of Jerusalem; m. Mak. 3:3 rules that the one who eats the lesser holy sacrifices outside the walls of Jerusalem was subject to the penalty of the forty stripes; m. Pesah. 7:9 declares that any paschal offering taken out of Jerusalem must be burned immediately. In addition, it is unanimously agreed upon among the rabbis that one must spend the entire Passover night in Jerusalem (Sipre Deut. 16:7 (134); Sipre Num. 151; t. Pesah. 8:8); this was understood to derive from the regulation in Deuteronomy 16:7, which stipulates that only in the morning after the Passover meal could one return to one's tent. But according to the early rabbinic sources, spending the night in Jerusalem did not mean sleeping where one had eaten Passover. When the paschal meal was completed at or before midnight the celebrants were free to leave the places where they had eaten it; unlike the first Passover, the restriction of Exod 12 not to leave one's house before morning was no longer in effect. This was one of the many differences between the Egyptian Passover and the Passovers of subsequent generations (see t. Pesah.. 8:17). A Jew could sleep anywhere within the ritual boundaries of Jerusalem, which did not always coincide with the actual city limits.13 Josephus, in fact, informs us that pilgrims slept in tents on the plain during the Passover festival (Ant. 17. 217; J.W. 2. 12). That Jesus is portrayed in the gospels of leaving the Upper Room and going to the Mount of Olives after he and his disciples had completed the meal confirms this (Mark 14:26; Matt 16:30; Luke 22:39; cf. John 18:1). Given the tremendous overcrowding of the city, it would be unreasonable to require that people sleep in the place where they held Passover, sometimes a roof or a courtyard.
Once a haburah was established and the place for the celebration seen to, the necessary Passover supplies needed to be purchased. There were certain essentials for a Passover meal--an obligatory minimum--which understandably gave rise to a vast catering trade in Jerusalem.14 Some of these essentials were required by the Torah. A year-old, unblemished male lamb needed to be purchased from the livestock market connected with the Temple (m. Pesah.; t. Pesah.. 8:19; Ant. 3. 248; Jub. 49:12-14; cf. m. Sheqal. 7:2). The livestock dealers provided a valuable service for the pilgrims; it was both difficult and risky to bring one's own sacrifices to Jerusalem, since the animals might become blemished en route. According to Mek. 12:3 (Pisha 3:45-47), it was not required that all members of the haburah be present for the purchase, for "a man's agent is like himself," a saying attributed to the Sages. It simply makes sense that only one person need actually make the purchase of the Passover offering. If a haburah had decided in favour of eating a festival offering, this would have to be purchased along with the Passover lamb. The Torah also requires the consumption of bitter herbs and unleavened bread (Exod 12:8; Deut 16:3). That Jews actually ate bitter herbs and unleavened bread as part of the meal is attested only in m. Pesah 10:3 and t. Pesah. 10:9 and Mek. 12:8 (Pisha 6:50-67), although pre-destruction sources do indicate that unleavened bread was consumed during the Festival of Unleavened Bread (Jub. 49:22; Spec. Laws 2. 150; Ant. 3. 248). Since the consumption of these foods was required by the Torah, however, the early rabbinic sources likely reflect common practice.
In addition to the three Passover staples required by the Torah, other foods had become fixtures of the Passover meal. According to m. Pesah. 10:3; t. Pesah.. 10:9 a spiced fruit puree, was required; since there was some dispute even among the rabbis whether this was a commandment, the puree may not have been part of every haburah's celebration. Also the Mishna and Tosepta refer to something into which the bitter herbs (i.e., lettuce) is dippped, which must be some sort of salad dressing (m. Pesah. 10:3-4; t. Pesah. 10:9). In the Last Supper narratives, Jesus dips together with the disciples into a bowl (Mark 14:20 = Matt 26:22), which given the context should be interpreted as their dipping bitter herbs into a bowl of salad dressing. (We shall return to this.) More importantly, however, wine became an important part of Passover.15 The first known references to the drinking of wine at Passover is found in Jub. 49:6. According to this work the first Passover celebrants drank wine, which is probably an anachronism. Also at least two cups of wine are a part of Jesus' last Passover meal (Luke 22:17-20). The Mishna and Tosepta, in fact, stipulate that a minimum of four cups of wine per celebrant was required for a first-century Passover meal (m. Pesah. 10:1; t. Pesah. 10:1); the Jewish festival meal, of which the Passover was an instance, was structured around the blessing and drinking of four cups of wine (t. Ber. 4:8). That this was the practice of the pre-destruction period is believable, since these four cups would provice the needed framework for the meal. According to t. Pesah.. 10:1, each cup must be a quarter log, or an eighth of a litre.16 So enough wine was drunk over the course of the meal to produce a feeling of well-being on the part of the participants. In fact, t. Pesah.. 10:4 considers it the religious duty of a man to bring joy to his children and dependents by providing enough wine for each to become mildly intoxicated. The wine was diluted with various amounts of water, depending on its strength, which typical of the ancient world in general (m. Pesah. 10:2; t. Pesah.. 10:2).
The final requirement before the festival could begin was the removal of all leaven from the houses where the Passover meal was to be eaten, and this must have obtained at the time of Jesus, since it was clearly required by the Torah (Exod 12:14-15, 18). When exactly the leaven was to be removed from the houses could have been a matter of controversy. The Mekilta offers us a glimpse of the rabbinic debate concerning how best to interpret the requirement set out in Exod 12:15 that leaven be removed on the first day of the festival (Nisan 15). R. Ishmael, R. Jonathan and R. Jose all concluded--by the use of different interpretive techniques--that "on the first day" in Exod 12:15 referred to the day preceding the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, i.e., before the sacrifice of the Passover on Nisan 14. The stipulation of the removal of leaven in Exod 12:15 presented a problem for several reasons, one of which was, as R. Ishmael explained, that Exod 34:25 required that the Passover offering be sacrificed without leavened bread, meaning, in his view, that it could not be offered while yeast was still in the houses. Thus all leaven must be removed from the houses before the offering of the Passover on the afternoon of Nisan 14 (Mek. 12:15 (Pisha 8:38-41). This interpretation brings the regulations about the removal of leaven into line with Exod 12:18 where it is stipulated that on Nisan 14 only unleavened bread was to be eaten. The phrase "on the first day" in Exod 12:15 was probably interpreted, therefore, by first-century Jews as meaning well before the first day, at least before the sacrifice of the Passover.
According to m. Pesah. 1:1, leaven is to be removed on the night of the fourteenth. At the sixth hour of Nisan 14--midday--, m. Pesah. 1:4 says that all consumption of leaven is to cease and everything leavened is to be burned. If this is a reflection of the actual practice leaven was removed from the houses on Nisan 14. Nisan 14 probably became de facto the first day of the festival, which gave rise to the occasional reference in rabbinical literature to Nisan 14 as the first day of the feast.17
The early rabbis also debated the proper
method by which to dispose of leaven (Mek. 12:15 [Pisha 8:47-86]).
Based on the hermeneutical principle that what applied to one thing applied
to another thing like it, R. Jose argued that, inasmuch as the leftovers
of a sacrifice had essentially the same status as leaven, legally and ritually
speaking, the latter must be disposed of in the same way as the former,
by burning. The Mishna takes it for granted that the preferred method of
the disposal of leaven is burning, although this is not seen as legally
binding; one need only destroy the leaven in such way that it can no longer
be seen or found. R. Judah ruled that the removal of leaven meant burning,
but the Sages allowed one to crumble it and scatter it to the wind or throw
it into the sea (m. Pesah. 2:1). The Tosepta agrees with the Mishna
in the matter of the necessity of removing leaven at Passover, including
additional halakic material. How Jews actually destroyed the leaven in
their possession, however, is probably unrecoverable.
2. The Passover Meal
Exod 12:16, Lev 23:7, and Num 28:18 designate Nisan 15--the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread--as a day in which no work is to be done. Exod 12:16, however, allows the preparation of food on Nisan 15, unlike the Sabbath day proper. The same distinction is found in the Mishna. Both m. Besa 5:2 and m. Meg.1:5 state that a holy day differs from a Sabbath in that on the former one may prepare food. Mek. 12:16 (Pisha 9:53-67) likewise forbids work on the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and extends this requirement to the last day of the festival, including all the intervening days. But the preparation of food for oneself and for one's cattle is exempted from this regulation, though not the preparation of food for a stranger. Practically it would impossible to have a festival meal without being allowed to prepare food. It is safe to say that Jews treated Nisan 15 as a festival day. Certain classes of work were also prohibited after midday on Nisan 14. The Mishna, however, reflects the conditions after the destruction of the Temple, because it stipulates that the prohibition against working on Nisan 14 is subject to local convention: in those places where it is the custom to work after midday, it is allowed and vice versa (m. Pesah. 4:1; t. Pesah.. 3:14-18). What the practice was in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus is uncertain. In another ruling one is allowed to finish work begun prior to Nisan 14 but not allowed to begin work on Nisan 14, even if one is able to complete it on the same day (m. Pesah. 4:6). According to the Sages, those involved in the occupations of tailoring, barbering and laundering were allowed to practise their trades, for these were essential services for Passover pilgrims (m. Pesah. 4:6; t. Pesah.. 3:18). While the exact details of the regulations concerning work on Nisan 14 in Jerusalem prior to the destruction of the Temple are unknown, it is likely that work, with some necessary exceptions, was not done after midday on Nisan 14, in order to allow for the preparation of Passover.
Exod 12:6 requires that the Passover offering be sacrificed "between the evenings," whereas Deut 16:6 gives the time of sacrifice as "in the evening as the sun sets." Since the meaning of Exod 12:6 is somewhat ambiguous, it was interpreted by post-biblical Jews in the light of its parallel in Deuteronomy. Jubilees, for example, interprets "between the evenings" to mean during the period bordering on the evening of Nisan 15; it is forbidden to sacrifice while it is still light. Yet, somewhat liberally, "between the evenings" begins at the third part of the day, i.e., 2:00 p.m. (Jub. 29:10-12, 19). Rabbi, R. Simeon ben Yohai and R. Nathan also read Exodus 12:6 in the light of Deut 16:6 but arrived at a different conclusion: the time denoted by "between the evenings" began after the sixth hour of the day. For Rabbi the phrase in Deut 16:6 "at the time when you came out of Egypt" occurring immediately after the phrase "in the evening when the sun goes down" became decisive for the determination of the time of the paschal sacrifices. "Time" in Deut 16:6 was taken to mean the time of the day rather than of the year, i.e., its anniversary. Since the Israelites were believed to have left Egypt at the sixth hour of the day, the slaughtering was allowed to take place, according to this interpretation, from the sixth hour of the day until evening. R. Simon ben Yohai argued similarly. R. Nathan held that there was no direct proof that "between the evenings" meant after the sixth hour of the day, but he did find a suggestion that this was the case in Jer 6:4 "...The daylight is fading and the shadows of evening grow long." After midday, when the shadows begin to grow long, evening could be said to begin (Mek. 12:6 [Pisha 5:113-29]).
We discover from Josephus that the practice around the time of the siege of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. was to sacrifice from the ninth hour to the eleventh (J.W. 6. 421). The Mishna, on the other hand, sets the time of the Passover sacrifices after the daily burnt offering (see t. Pesah.. 4:10), sacrificed normally at the eighth-hour-and-a-half and offered up an hour later. When Nisan 15 fell on a Sabbath, however, everything was put ahead two hours (m. Pesah. 5:1). There was also debate concerning how early a properly designated Passover victim could be sacrificed and still be valid (t. Pesah.. 4:8, 9). The Mishna sets the earliest possible time for the valid sacrificing of a Passover offering at the sixth hour (m. Pesah. 5:3).
It is clear that our sources do not agree on the exact time of the Passover offerings. We must conclude that there were differing interpretations of this requirement and that possibly, at different times, different standards were followed. Which source is the most reliable for fixing the time of the sacrificing of the Passover lambs for the time of Jesus is impossible to say; certainly the requirement in Deuteronomy was not taken literally for good reason: there were so many Passover victims that several hours were needed to process them.
At the appropriate time a member of the haburah would take the Passover lamb and, in some cases, the festival offering to the Temple. Again the entire haburah would not have been present for this, owing to the spatial limitations of the Temple. Information on many points of how the actual sacrificing of the Passover lambs proceeded is available only from the Mishna and Tosepta with parallels to other early rabbinic sources. The historical description contained in these sources, however, is credible; so long as there is no evidence to the contrary, I judge that these details should be accepted as accurate. It is possible, however, that some of the detailed halakic material concerning the cooking and eating of the Passover lamb contained in the Mishna and Tosepta may reflect earlier Pharisaic practice, to which non-Pharisaic Jews celebrating the Passover before the destruction of the Temple may not have adhered or may derive from halakic discussion of the post-destruction period.
Passover lambs are described as having been sacrificed in three groups; presumably this was to prevent overcrowding at the Temple (m. Pesah. 5:5; t. Pesah.. 4:10). This practice is justified in m. Pesah. 5:5 by a midrash on "all the assembly of the congregation of Israel," found in Exod 12:6: there are three groups mentioned in this verse--the assembly, the congregation, and Israel--so the Passover sacrifices ought to be offered in three groups. When the first group entered the forecourts of the Temple the priests closed the gates, and a sustained note was sounded; the priests stood there row upon row, each row holding either gold or silver dishes to catch the blood (m. Pesah. 5:5). R. Judah is quoted as saying that the third group was the smallest and was known as the "slothful group" (t. Pesah.. 4:10), probably because it was the last to come. The haburot of the third group, because their turn came during the final third of the allotted time for slaughtering, would not be ready to eat until late, since the lamb would take several hours to roast. When Nisan 14, however, fell on a Sabbath all three groups had to wait until nightfall to carry the offerings back to roast them--the first group with its offerings at the Temple Mount, the second in the fortification, the third where it was, in the forecourt of the Temple (m. Pesah. 5:10; t. Pesah.. 4:12).18
The lamb was brought before a priest, and the representative of the haburah was required to designate properly the lamb as a paschal sacrifice by telling the officiating priest the purpose for which the lamb had been brought for slaughter (Mek. 12:21 [Pisha 11:20-25]; m. Pesah. 5:2; t. Pesah.. 4:4; Sipre Deut. 16:1 ; 16:2 ). An improperly designated sacrifice was invalid. (But how someone could improperly designate his Passover offering is difficult to imagine.) The offerer then killed the victim; a priest collected its blood in a dish, and passed it down a line of priests to the end of the line whereon the priest at the end poured the blood on the side of the base of the altar (m. Pesah. 5:2, 5, 6; t. Pesah.. 4:10, 11, 12; t. Pesah.. 8:14; cf. Jub. 49:20). During this entire procedure, the hallel was sung by the Levites (t. Pesah.. 4:11; cf. 2 Chron 29:25); if they completed the hallel before the sacrifices had been completed, they started again, but never, according to t. Pesah.. 4:11 and m. Pesah. 5:7, did they have to sing it a third time. The lamb was given back to the offerer, at which time it was hung upon a hook fixed to the forecourt of the Temple, and was flayed (m. Pesah. 5:9). Then a portion of the fat was removed, placed upon a tray, and burnt on the altar before the Lord by a priest (m. Pesah. 5:10; t. Pesah.. 4:10; 8:14; cf. also Jub. 49:20). The lamb was now ready for roasting, and was carried away for that purpose. As said earlier, Jubilees and 1QTemple require that the Passover not only be sacrificed in the Temple but eaten there also, reflecting either a sectarian interpretation of the requirements or a time when the Passover meal was still eaten in the Temple. The weight of contrary evidence from our other sources and the sheer physical impossibility of fitting all of the celebrants into the Temple for Passover at one time rule against accepting the practice outlined in Jubilees and 1QTemple as the norm for the first century.
According m. Pesah. 7:5, 9, 12; t. Pesah.. 6:4 not only did the celebrants themselves have to be culticly pure but the sacrificial lamb had to be prevented from coming into contact with uncleanness, which would disqualify it or a part thereof. If a lamb became unclean for whatever reason, it had to be burned in front of the Temple (m. Pesah. 7:8). Moreover, according to the Mishna, if a Passover lamb was taken outside of Jerusalem it became unclean and likewise had to be burned (m. Pesah. 7:9) and even if a small piece of an offering protruded outside of the house in which it was to be eaten, this portion must be cut away and burned (m. Pesah. 7:17). (It is difficult to understand how this last regulation would have been applicable to those who were forced to hold Passover on roof tops and in court-yards.) In general, it is likely that Jews would have been careful to prevent their Passover lambs from becoming ritually disqualified, since this requirement is found in the Torah (Lev 7:19).
The Mishna and Tosepta state, as does the Torah, that the breaking of the bones of the paschal offering was forbidden (m. Pesah. 7:11; t. Pesah.. 6:8). No doubt Jews were careful to conform to this proscription. The early rabbinic sources also assume that the lamb was roasted on a spit within an oven. That this reflects actual first-century practice is reasonable, since there would be no other way of roasting a lamb whole over fire. With a view to obeying the Torah's regulations that the lamb be cooked by being roasted over fire, early rabbinic halakah required that the offering be roasted on a wooden spit and not a metal one, since the latter might possibly become hot enough to cause the offering to boil (t. Pesah.. 5:8; m. Pesah. 7:2; Mek. 12:9 (Pisha 6:66-70). The same rationale that the lamb was not to be cooked by indirect heat lay behind the proscription against the use of a grill--by grilling the lamb would be cooked partially by the heat of the metal--(m. Pesah. 7:2; Mek. 12:9 [Pisha 6:91]) and the prescription that the lamb's intestines, which later would serve as an appetizer before the Passover meal proper, and legs be affixed to the spit (m. Pesah. 7:1; Mek. 12:9 [Pisha 6:88-91]; cf. Jub. 49:13). In addition, according to the Mishna, the offering could not touch the sides of the oven, since cooking would no longer be the direct result of being roasted by fire but of the heat of the oven walls. The part of the lamb that came into contact with the oven wall would have to be pared away, according to. m. Pesah. 7:2. Whether all Jews would have conformed to these regulations is difficult to say. We should add that according to m. Pesah. 7:3; t. Pesah.. 5:9 the lamb was basted with wine or oil, which would make for a better tasting product.
Although the roasting of the lamb would normally be begun before sunset, i.e., immediately after it was slaughtered, the lamb could not be eaten until evening. The Torah injunction that the Passover be eaten at night (e.g., Exod 12:8) was understood to mean any time after the sun went down (Jub. 49:12; m. Pesah. 10:1; t. Pesah.. 10:1). The terminus ad quem, however, was set well before dawn. Jub. 49:12 has it as the third part of the night (10:00 p.m.), but other sources set it at midnight (m. Ber. 1:1; m. Pesah. 10:9; Mek. 12:8 [Pisha 6:29-44]). The justification, as given in the Meklita and m. Ber., was that the men of the Great Synagogue set the limit at midnight in order to keep a man from transgression. That is, they put a fence around the Torah, so that, although the Torah allowed the celebration to last until dawn, this limit was brought forward. In addition, the time for the completion of the Passover was understood to correspond to the time when Israel went out from Egypt, i.e., at midnight (m. Pesah. 10:9; m. Zebah. 5:8; Sipre Deut.. 16:6 ). At any rate, it was hard enough for some people to stay awake during the evening (see t. Pesah.. 10:9); to be required to make the meal last until dawn would certainly have been physically taxing on the celebrants.
After several hours of roasting the lamb would be ready for consumption, and the Passover meal proper would begin. Again, regrettably, the source material for a reconstruction of the details of the meal proper is not as reliable as one would like. Not only does it derive only from m. Pesah. 10 and its counterpart in the Tosepta with some parallels to the Last Supper narratives, but the account of the meal in these sources is disappointingly sketchy. The historian, therefore, must rely upon a description of festival meals in general (t. Ber., with only a few isolated parallels in m. Ber.) to fill in the details of the proceedings of a Passover meal lacking in m. Pesah. and t. Pesah.. This means that our reconstruction will, at crucial points, rest principally on indirect evidence drawn from one text, increasing the margin for error greatly. Accordingly, I shall allow for the possibility that a typical first-century Passover celebration could have differed from this reconstruction. Insofar as there are some parallels to the New Testament's portrayal of the Last Supper, however, I believe that what is described in the Mishna at least partially reaches back to first-century practice.
What do m. Pesah. 10 and t. Pesah.. 10 agree upon as the order of the Passover meal? The meal is eaten in reclining position (see Matt 26:20; Mark 14:17; Luke 22:14), with a minimum of four cups of wine. (At least two cups of wine are mentioned in Luke 22:14-20.) The drinking of the four cups of wine formed the skeleton of the Passover meal. When the first cup has been filled, "he" is recite the benediction over the day and the wine. Who is "he" in this statement? "He" could refer to the individual Passover celebrant (see other uses of it in m. Pesah. 10), so that what is being described is the saying of the blessing individually by each member of the haburah over his or her own cup of wine.19 "He," however, may also refer to the paterfamilias, which would mean that the blessing would be a common one. In other contexts in the Mishna and Tosepta, "he" can only refer to the representative of the haburah. I shall postpone a decision on this question until later. In any case, according to Shammai, the blessing is to be said over the day and then the wine; according to Hillel, over the wine and then over the day. The halakah followed Hillel's view (t. Pesah.. 10:3), but whether this ruling was in place at the time of Jesus and whether the non-Pharisaic Jew used either form are not certain.
What happens after the pouring of the first cup and the saying of the benediction, however, is difficult to infer from m. Pesah. and t. Pesah. alone. Of the two, m. Pesah. is the clearest as to the order of the meal from the pouring of the first cup onwards. According to m. Pesah. 10:3, lettuce and the salad dressing are set before "him," i.e., each participant, and each dips lettuce until he or she reaches the course of bread (tph trprp), which likely means the main course.20 T. Pesah.. 10:5 says that after the pouring of the first cup the servant, i.e., the waiter, presses the innards in salt and offers them to the guests (t. Pesah. 10:5). (It is here in the Tosepta that any attempt at giving an orderly and complete account of the Passover meal ends.)
According to the Mishna, after the eating of the lettuce, they bring before "him," each celebrant, unleavened bread, lettuce, fruit spice puree, two cooked dishes and when the Temple existed, the Passover offering (m. Pesah. 10:3). At this point they mix for "him" the second cup. Next in sequence is the Passover haggadah, when the son asks the father the meaning of the various elements of the meal. Its place in the order the meal is not stated, although the logical place for it is before the guests begin to eat.21 At some point in the meal the first part of the hallel is recited (m. Pesah. 10:6; cf. t. Pesah.. 10:6-9) and Jub. 49:6). Nothing, however, is said about a blessing recited over the bread as representative of the entire main course (see Matt 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19).
When the meal has been completed, they mix for "him" the third cup, and "he" recites the grace after the meal (m. Pesah. 10:7). Whether each says grace individually or one says it representatively is not stated, but "he/him" more than likely refers to the paterfamilias (see Matt 26:27; Mark 14:23; Luke 22:19). Finally, the fourth cup is mixed; the hallel is completed (see Matt 26:30; Mark 14:26), and after it the benediction over the song is to be sung antiphonally by the children. No additional drinking is allowed between the third and the fourth cup, only between the second and third (m. Pesah. 10:7). Likewise, no dessert (!mwqypa)--such as nuts, dates, and parched corn--is to be eaten after the Passover meal (t. Pesah.. 10:11).
Since Passover was one of several types of festival meals, presumably what is said in the tannaitic literature about festival meals in general ought also to apply the Passover. According to t. Ber. 4:8, the participants arrive at the place of the festival meal; they sit in an antechamber where they await for the remaining guests to arrive. When all have assembled the attendants give each water to wash one hand. Then they mix and serve individual cups of wine for the participants, in accordance with their importance (t. Ber. 5:6), and each recites his or her own benediction over the cup. Next, the appetizers are brought in, and each guest says the blessing over them for himself or herself. Having completed the course of appetizers the guests leave the antechamber, and recline for the second stage of the meal.
At this point the attendants bring more water, and the participants wash both hands. They mix the second cup, but this time one person recites the benediction representatively, according to m. Ber. 6:6, where it is stipulated that if people recline to eat one says the blessing for them all. In t. Ber. 4:8, unfortunately, it is ambiguous whether the blessing is said individually or in common, although p. Ber. 10d4 states that the blessing is said in common. When the cups are refilled during the meal, however, the point is made that each recites the benediction for himself or herself (t. Ber. 4:12; m. Ber. 6:6), the justification being that one might choke if one attempts to respond with the obligatory "amen" to a common blessing (t. Ber. 4:12). (This, of course, implies that there was a previous blessing said in common.)
The servants then bring in the trprp (t. Ber 4:8). The meaning of this passage, however, is unclear. The term trprp could mean either "appetizers" (]!zmh ynplv trprp) or "dessert" (trprp ]!zmh rxXlv: if the former, then another course of appetizers is served after the second cup and before the meal itself; if the latter, then what is being referred to is the third course after the blessing after the meal.22 Whatever trprp means in this context one person says the blessing over the food constituent of it on behalf of the entire company of diners.
After the second cup (and perhaps another course of appetizers) the main meal would be served, and a blessing would be said over it, since nothing is to be consumed without first being blessed (t. Ber. 4:1). This blessing would likely be said over the bread as representative of the main course; afterwards the bread was broken and distributed. Although nothing is said in t. Ber. 4:8 about the blessing over the bread, it is doubtless an oversight. We find evidence in t. Ber. 6:1, 5 of a formalized blessing over the bread, the tph l[ $rb. The possibility of a blessing said over one food representative of all foods is allowed, based on the principle that what is the most important or is the best quality can exempt the other foods from needing separate blessings (m. Ber. 6:7; t. Ber. 4:14, 15). In m. Ber. 6:5, the blessing over the bread exempts the trprp from needing a separate blessing, implying that bread had become one such representative food. In t. Ber. 5:7, moreover, there is a reference to what is likely the blessing over the bread: the one who recites the blessing stretches out his hand (to partake of the food) and if he wants to bestow an honour on someone he allows that person to take the first piece of food from the common plate. What is on this common plate that is blessed and distributed is not said, but it is likely bread. The above evidence, therefore, in conjunction with the evidence of a blessing over the bread, its breaking and its distribution in the accounts of the Last Supper and other places in the New Testament (Mark 6:41; 8:6; Luke 24:30; Acts 27:35) as well as the reference to the blessing over the bread in the Messianic Rule (1QSa 2) leads to the conclusion that the blessing over the bread was understood as a representative blessing, both for a first-century Passover meal and ordinary, non-festival meals. The absence of any reference to the blessing over the bread in the m. Pesah. and t. Pesah. is not significant, since these texts evidently do not intend to supply an exhaustive account of the Passover meal.23 (Billerbeck and Dalman also find much relevant Talmudic material in this regard.24)
After the main course the third cup would be mixed, and the blessing recited. According to m. Ber. 6:6, the blessing over the third cup is said representatively. Although t. Ber. 4:8 says nothing about the blessing over the third cup, the grace after the meal, unlike m. Pesah. 10, there are data on this in other places within this tractate. It is taken for granted in the many texts related to the matter of the blessing over the third cup that it is to be recited in common (e.g. t. Ber. 5:6; cf. also m. Ber. 7:3, 5; 1 Cor 10:16). If the one appointed to say the blessing wished to honour another he would transfer the duty to that person (t. Ber. 5:6). Immediately after eating, however, and before the reciting of the blessing, the participants wash their hands and the floor has to be swept (m. Ber. 8:4; t. Ber. 5:28; t. Yoma 2:12-13). There were disputes between the schools of Hillel and Shammai about whether one ought to wash first and then sweep or vice versa, and whether one ought to place the napkin after drying one's hands on the table or a cushion (m. Ber. 8:3; t. Ber. 5:27).
At some point in the history of the festival meal, including the Passover, a single cup was probably used for the third blessing. T. Ber. 5:9 prohibits the sharing of a cup, probably for hygenic reasons; Dalman argues convincingly that this reference prohibiting the use of a common cup at meals implies that this was in fact the practice of certain groups at certain times (see also the common plate in t. Ber. 5:8). Dalman cites post-tannaitic sources to support the view that the cup of blessing was passed around, the rationale being that all who drank from the cup participated in the blessing over the cup. These strengthen his conclusions when taken in conjunction with the single passage from the Tosepta.25 Jeremias makes the further point that it is improbable that there would have been enough utensils in all Jerusalem for each person to have a complete place setting; so cups and other utensils might have had to be shared.26 It is likely that the cup of blessing was passed around by many haburot.27
The dessert (trprp]!zmh rxXlv), eaten after the blessing over the third cup, also requires a blessing (t. Ber. 4:4, 14; m. Ber. 6:7), although not every separate item; the saying of a blessing over one type of food frees another from needing a separate blessing. Incense is brought in with the dessert, and a blessing over it is recited (m. Ber. 6:6). There is no mention of the fourth cup in t. Ber., although there is in b. Ber. 6:6, which parallels m. Pesah. 10:7.
The seating arrangement for the feast is worth noting. Typical of ancient feasts, the participants recline for a festival meal. (Ordinary meals were apparently eaten in a sitting position.) This requires the use of couches, common items in the ancient world, each of which could hold three people.28 One's status would determine one's place at the table. If there are two couches, the greatest among them reclines at the head of the first, the next in rank reclines in front of him, and the third most important person reclines in front of that one (t. Ber. 5:5). The other guests are then arranged in order.29
The account of the Jewish festival meal in t. Ber. can be correlated with the accounts of the Passover meal in t. Pesah.. and m. Pesah.What is lacking regarding the order of the meal in the latter is supplied for us by the former. What follows is a reconstruction of how a Passover meal might have proceeded.
When all the members of a haburah have entered the antechamber, the servant gives water to each for the purpose of washing one hand, thus signaling the beginning of the first course. The first Passover cup corresponds to the cup given to the individual guests as they entered the antechamber of the house where the meal is to be held. Likewise, the lettuce and salad dressing in m. Pesah. seem to be the appetizers mentioned in m. Ber. 4:8. The innards pressed in salt are also part of this course of appetizers. The blessing recited over the cup and the day would be said individually, because the haburah has not yet reclined. Individual blessings over the food would also have to be said.
When m. Pesah. 10:1 states that the members of a haburah have reclined, what is probably meant is that they have reclined after having completed the first course of wine and appetizers in the antechamber. The existence of a first course makes sense of the son's question in the Passover haggadah concerning why on other nights they must dip only once, but on this night twice, i.e., why there is a first course during which they dip lettuce (m. Pesah. 10:4).
When the group has moved into the dining room from the antechamber and has reclined, more appetizers may be served. The second cup is then mixed, (m. Pesah. 10:3, 4); whether the wine is mixed first (t. Ber.) or the food is brought in first (m. Pesah.) is not certain. At this point the servant brings water for a second hand washing by the guests, which is not mentioned in m. Pesah.The blessing over the second cup is then said in common (omitted in the Mishna, but included in t. Ber. 4:8). Likewise, a blessing in common would be said over the bread as representative of all the food comprising the main course. The Mishna makes reference to the possiblility of a festival offering, which has to be eaten before the Passover meal, because the Passover meal has to be that which satiates.
When the Passover haggadah is recited is not certain, but it must have been sometime between the second and third cups. Jeremias and most others put the recitation of the haggadah prior to eating. This is the logical place for it, but the sources do not situate it exactly. The singing of the first part of the hallel also takes place prior to eating; at least this is the obvious place for it, as it would be difficult to sing with a mouth full of food.
When the meal has been completed, as all out sources report, the third cup is mixed and a blessing in common said over it. Possibly the cup is passed around. Afterwards, hands are washed again and the floor is swept; perhaps incense is brought in and a blessing said over it. Finally the fourth cup--mentioned only in m. Pesah.--is filled, and the last part of the festival meal begins. The second part of the hallel is sung, and a blessing is recited over it. No dessert is served at Passover.
Billerbeck questions whether a haburah at a Passover meal would have eaten the first course in an antechamber and then have moved into the dining room where they then reclined. The statement in m. Pesah. 10:1, "And even a poor person in Israel may not eat until he reclines," taken literally, forbids any eating until the haburah has reclined. In addition, the shortage of available space in Jerusalem would have made it difficult to procure a separate room in which to eat a course of appetizers. We saw that some haburot were forced to eat on roof tops and in courtyards. (In such cases obviously the celebrants would not have couches on which to recline either.) Billerbeck suggests that the first and second courses were both eaten in a reclining position.30 There is no indication in the synoptic accounts of the Last Supper that Jesus and his disciples moved from an antechamber to a dining room at some point during the meal, as one would expect if the Last Supper was originally a Passover meal or even if the Passover context was a secondary development.
Whether the appetizers are eaten in
a reclining position will have a bearing on a reconstruction of the Last
Supper. When Jesus and his disciples are said to have reclined (Mark 14:18
= Matt 26:20), is one to interpret this as a reference to eating the main
meal or to reclining for the course of appetizers? Similarly, when Jesus
is said to have taken the cup and blessed it, after he and the twelve have
already reclined (Luke 22:17), should one understand this as the first
or second cup? Since the blessing over the cup and the blessing over the
day said at the opening of a Passover meal can be interpreted as being
recited in common or individually--depending on whether the haburah
has reclined or not (see m. Ber. 6:6)--the answering of these questions
will hang on how much one relies on the regulations for festival meals
in general to influence our reconstruction of the Passover meal. In the
description of the festival meal in m. Ber. and t. Ber.,
the company is seated on stools in the antechamber when the first cup is
mixed, so each diner says an individual blessing over his cup of wine and
over the day. But if during a first-century Passover meal the diners ate
the course of appetizers in a reclining position, then the blessing over
the first cup would have been said in common (see also later).
3. Purpose and Meaning of the Passover Celebration
a. The Passover as Pointing to a Past Redemptive Event
This leads us to the third question, the meaning of the Passover festival for a first-century Jew--not the ultimate origins and the original meaning but the first-century meaning.31
(i) Passover as Memorial of the Exodus. According to the Hebrew Bible the annual Passover festival commemorates the past event of Israel's miraculous deliverance from Egypt. It is the means by which the Jewish people remember the killing of all the first-born of the Egyptians and God's passing over the Israelites. The particular aspects of the meal are not given individual meanings with one exception: the unleavened bread is the "bread of affliction," a symbol of the affliction that the Israelites suffered in Egypt and from which they were delivered (Deut 16:3).
The first-century Passover meal agrees with the Bible in this respect. Josephus understood the Passover as a memorial to the great act of God's deliverance, whereby a group offers the same sacrifice that the original celebrants did (Ant. 3. 248). Philo likewise says that Passover is a reminder and a thank-offering for the great migration from Egypt (Spec. Laws 1. 146). Targum Onqelos (Exod 12:27) states that the Lord had compassion on Israel because of the blood and subsequent generations are to celebrate the Passover as a "sacrifice of compassion before the Lord, because he had compassion on the house of the sons of Israel in Egypt" and Jubilees specifies that the celebration of Passover ought to be a joyous occasion for its participants (Jub. 49:2, 22), since it is a memorial to the fact that the Israelites were spared the ravages of Mastema, the avenging angel let loose on the Egyptians (Jub. 49:2). It was a time for lauding, blessing and giving thanks to the Lord for the deliverance from the yoke of bondage (Jub. 49:6). The proper observance of Passover year by year, moreover, ensures that no plague would come upon the people for that year (Jub. 49:15). The post-destruction sources make the same point. The Mekilta states that Passover is a memorial of the exodus (Mek. 12:14 [Pisha 7:96-103]). T. Pesah.., although lacking any reference to the meaning of Passover, nevertheless, states that it is the religious duty of a man to bring joy to his family and dependents during the festival, which is accomplished in part through the provision of sufficient quantites of wine (t. Pesah.. 10:4). This is consistent with an atmosphere of thanksgiving.
The Passover haggadah contained in the Mishna also interprets the meal as an occasion to explain the history of the Jewish people and in particular how the people entered Egypt and how they were delivered from the same (m. Pesah. 10:4). According to R. Gamaliel three things were to be mentioned on Passover night or else one had not fulfilled one's duty: the Passover lamb--because the Almighty had passed over the houses of the fathers in Egypt; unleavened bread--because the fathers had been delivered from Egypt; and bitter herbs--because the Egyptians had made the lives of the fathers bitter. The interpretation of the unleavened bread probably was suggested by the liguistic similarity between mca and the verb acy, "to go out."32 In every generation, according to R. Gamaliel, it was the duty of all participants to consider themselves as if they had just come forth from Egypt. This historical empathy with the original celebrants led to being duty bound to give thanks, to praise, to laud, to glorify, to exalt, to honour, to bless, to extol and to adore God. The feast, in other words, was to be more than the simple remembering of a past event; it was a joyous occasion wherein one celebrated one's own deliverance from slavery into freedom (m. Pesah. 10:5).33
(ii) Passover and Covenant. The celebration of God's deliverance of his people from their Egyptian bondage was also understood in terms of the covenant The exodus put into effect of the promises to Abraham; this interpretation is already explicit in the Bible itself. Abraham was told that God was establishing an everlasting covenant with him and his descendants who would inherit the land (Gen 12, 15, 17). This promise, however, was qualified by the proviso that Abraham's offspring must be enslaved in a foreign country for four hundred years before the promises would be realized (Gen 15:18). The exodus, therefore, is understood as that promised redemption and the beginning of the fulfilment of the promise of the inheritance of the land.
This point is restated and expanded in the Mekilta. In its interpretation of Exod 12 the Mekilta makes explicit that the Exodus was the realization of the covenant promisesto Abraham, although their realization was conditional upon Israel's merit (Mek. 12:14 [Pisha 7:96-103]). Israel's redemption from slavery in Egypt was a reward for good deeds, consisting of the putting into effect of the covenantal promises given to Abraham (see Mek. 12:6 [Pisha 5:1-65]). Before the exodus, according to R. Matia ben Herseh, Israel had nothing whereby to merit redemption, so God could not fulfil His age-old promise to Abraham to deliver his progeny. Because no reward could be given without religious deeds, and no religious deeds could be performed without law, God gave the command of circumcision (Exod 12:44) and the command to keep a lamb for four days before it was to be slaughtered. Without these two meritorious deeds on the part of the Israelites there could have been no redemption from slavery. So the exodus was made possible both by the covenant established with Abraham and the religious merit of the Israelites--the latter put into effect the former.
The Mekilta continues its midrash on Exod 12:6 by quoting R. Eliezer ha-Kappar to the effect that Israel had four virtues whereby it merited redemption: they were above suspicion with regard to chastity and tale-bearing; they changed neither their names nor their language. Their major fault--and it was enough to break off the yoke of the law, i.e., to annul the covenant between God and Abraham's offspring--was idolatry. For this reason the people were commanded to obtain a lamb four days before its slaughter. It is not stated explicitly what the connection between the obtaining of the lamb four days prior to Passover and the cessation of idolatry was, but presumably the Israelites renounced idolatry as part of fulfilling the command.
(iii) The Redemptive Quality of the Original Passover Offerings. The paschal sacrifice at the time of Jesus was not understood as expiatory. The Mishna classifies the Passover as belonging to the category of sacred things of the lower grade (m. Zebah. 5:6-8; Mek. 12:46 [Pisha 15:76-82]); this class of lesser offerings did not have expiatory value, unlike the offerings of the most holy sacrifices. Similarly, Josephus classified and explained all the various sacrificial offerings, but never referred to the Passover offering as having an expiatory purpose; it was a memorial of the original sacrifices, when God passed over the Israelites and struck down the first-born of the Egyptians (Ant. 3. 224-57; cf. also Ant. 2. 313). Jubilees likewise does not view the paschal lamb as expiatory; rather, it is an acceptable offering before the Lord and a memorial well-pleasing before the Lord (Jub. 49:9).
Yet, according to the Bible, the sacrifice of the first Passover lambs was redemptive. The blood spread on the door frames caused the angel of death to pass over the homes of the Israelites, sparing their first-born. The Passover offerings in Egypt were sui generis; they cannot be classified in accordance with the system of sacrificial offerings after the exodus. The original Passover lambs were qualitatively different from the Passover offerings of subsequent generations.
The redemptive value of the blood of the Passover lambs in Egypt was elaborated in the post-biblical period. Zech 9:11 states, "...In the blood of your covenant I will release your prisoners from the waterless pit," which is a cipher for the Babylonian captivity; Targum of Zechariah 9:11, however, connects the blood of the covenant, by which Israel shall be released from waterless pit, with Israel's redemption from servitude in Egypt. The phrase "waterless pit" is understood as meaning servitude in Egypt, so that the blood of the covenant was the means by which the Israelites were redeemed from Egypt and not Babylon. The blood referred to in the Targum is more than likely the blood of the Passover lambs and circumcision blood. The paschal blood, therefore, is the blood of the covenant; it is this blood that made possible the realization of the covenant promises to Abraham.
The Mekilta also connects Zech 9:11 with the exodus, understanding the reference to the waterless pit, as Targum Zechariah on the same verse does, as referring to the Egyptian slavery. The "blood of your covenant" is interpreted as both the blood of circumcision and the blood of the Passover lambs. Circumcision and obtaining and slaughtering the Passover lambs were the two duties given to the Israelites whereby they merited the covenant promises. Blood and covenant are mutually implicative concepts.
Early rabbinic tradition brings Ezek 16:6 ("Then I passed by and saw you kicking about in your blood, and as you lay there in your blood I said to you, Live") into relation to the shedding of blood in circumcision and in the slaughter of the Passover lambs. Both references to blood in Ezek 16:6 are actually in the dual form, so a more appropriate translation would be "in your two-fold blood." The interpreters exploited this peculiarity of the text. In the Mekilta the "two-fold blood" of Ezek 16:6 is explicitly identified as circumcision blood and paschal blood. Obedience in shedding both bloods merited Israel redemption from Egypt (Mek. 12:6 [Pisha 5:1-14]). Similarly, Exod. Rab. 12:22 (17. 3) and 12:43 (19. 5), asks why God protected the Israelite's first-born in Egypt; the response is that as a result of the two kinds of blood--the blood of circumcision and the blood of the Passover offerings--Israel was spared. Ezekiel 16:6 is quoted to make this point. Unlike the Mekilta, Exodus Rabbah does not say that the merit derived from the obedience in shedding both bloods was the cause of the redemption from Egypt.
Targum Yerushalmi I on Exod 12:5 likewise interprets the blood of the Passover lambs and of circumcision as the means of Israel's redemption from Egypt: "And the blood of the paschal oblation, (like) the matter of circumcision, shall be a bail for you...and I will look upon the worth of the blood, and I will spare you."
R. Meir is quoted as teaching that the redemptive benefits of the blood of the original Passover lambs was the expiation of sin (Exod. Rab. 12:1 [xv. 12]). According to him the first month was to be the time of redemption when God would cf. the blood of the Passover lambs and make atonement for the Israelites. Later a parable attributed to R. Meir is related, designed to explain the significance of the slaughter of the Passover lambs:
It is as if a king said to his sons: "Know that I judge persons on capital charges and condemn them; offer therefore presents to me, so that in case you are brought before my tribunal I may commute your sentences for something else." So God said to Israel: "I am now occupied in judging souls, and I will tell you now how I will have pity on you, through the blood of Passover, and the blood of circumcision, and I will forgive you.Forgiveness was obtained through the blood of the Passover lambs. That the Passover sacrifices expiated the sins of the Israelites is also implied in Josephus' re-telling of the exodus narrative in Antiquities. The Israelites purified their houses by the application of the blood of the lambs (Ant. 2. 312): "to purify" (a`gni,zw) implies the removal of guilt, and that term is used in the LXX to designate ritual purity. Similarly, R. Ishmael is quoted as teaching that the forefathers in Egypt had three altars: the threshold, the lintel and the two side-posts; the implication is that the blood of the Passover lambs was considered sacrificial and perhaps expiatory (Mek. 12:7 [Pisha 6:16-21]).
The data pertaining to the interpretation of the first Passover sacrifices in post-Biblical Judaism can be summarized as follows. The blood of the Passover lambs together with the blood of circumcision was understood as effecting the redemption from Egypt. Sometimes the blood was seen as meritorious as a result of the obedience to the command to obtain a Passover offering and to slaughter it (Mekilta). In other cases the blood appears to be understood as redemptive in its own right. Occasionally the blood of the Passover lambs was actually specified to have been expiatory (R. Meir).
(iv) Passover and the Binding of Isaac. At some point in the development of Jewish haggadah, the Binding of Isaac and its expiatory value was brought into relation with the Passover.34 The blood of the Passover lambs was viewed as efficacious as a result of Abraham's prior willingness to sacrifice Isaac and Isaac's willingness to be sacrificed.35 The Fragmentary Targum on Genesis 22 puts the following prayer in Abraham's mouth after he has sacrificed the ram caught in the thicket: "And now I pray for mercies before you, O Lord God, that when the children of Isaac offer in the hour of need, the binding of Isaac their father you may remember on their behalf, and remit and forgive their sins, and deliver them out of all need." The hour of need probably refers to the Egyptian slavery. Similarly, the Mekilta interprets the phrase in Exod 12:13 "And when I see the blood" as "(when) I see the blood of Isaac" (Mek. 12:13 [Pisha 7:78-82]). Later it interprets "blood," in the phrase "And when he sees the blood" in Exod 12:23 to mean the blood of Isaac: when Abraham named the place where he bound and was willing to sacrifice Isaac "The Lord will see," what he meant, according to R. Ishmael, was that God would see the blood of Isaac when the angel of death passed over the houses of the Israelites (Mek. 12:23 [Pisha 11:92-96]). According to the Mekilta, Isaac's blood was actually shed before the ram was substituted for him Genesis Rabbah (22:12), however, states that not a drop of Isaac's blood was shed; it was his readiness to be sacrificed that was meritorious. At any rate, Isaac's act was seen as being the basis for the expiatory value of the Passover lambs.
The same idea occurs in the poem of the four (Passover) nights in the Palestinian Targums, where it is specified that the binding of Isaac took place on Passover night. The occurrence of the Passover on the same night in which Isaac was offered up was not coincidental, but derived from the fact that both events belong together salvation-historically. Jubilees confirms this connection between Passover and the binding of Isaac, when it says that the incident on Mt. Moriah involving Abraham and Isaac occurred on Nisan 15 (Jub. 17/18); cf. also Exod. Rab. 15:11). Similarly, R. Meir brought Gen 22:8 ("God will provide Himself a lamb...," i.e., a substitution for Isaac) into association with Exod 12:5 ("Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year"). Previously, in his midrash on Exod 12, R. Meir said that the Passover lambs made atonement for Israel; by extension Isaac is really the expiatory ground of the Passover sacrifices (Exod. Rab. 17:3). Even the striking of the two side-posts is said to have been effective as a result of the merit of Isaac and Jacob; it was for them that God did not allow the Destroyer to enter (Exod. Rab. 12:22 [17:3]). The merit of Isaac likely was his binding. Not only did his binding render efficacious the Passover offerings, other sacrifices were intended to be a memorial of Isaac's willing offering of himself and they derived their efficacy from this event.36
Mt. Moriah, the place where Abraham took Isaac to be sacrificed, was identified in post-biblical interpretation as the site where David would later build the Temple. Josephus made this explicit (Ant. 1. 226); Targum Neofiti on Gen 22 also makes the connection between Mt. Moriah and the Temple mount, including the antediluvian altars built by Adam and Noah. Jubilees likewise makes a point of identifying the mountain of the Lord on which Abraham bound Isaac (Jub. 18:7-18) with the mountain on which the Temple would later be built--Mt. Zion (Jub. 18:13). The point is clear: the Binding of Isaac is related salvation-historically to the cultic centre of the world where the expiation of sin takes place.
The significance of the connection of the Binding of Isaac with Passover for Jesus' Last Supper will be dealt with later. Suffice it to make two points. First, in Jewish tradition, the sacrifice or willingness to be offered as a sacrifice of a righteous individual was understood as expiatory. Secondly, Isaac's expiatory act was connected with the Passover offerings both salvation-historically, insofar as both took place on Nisan 15, the night of redemption, at the place of the site of the future Temple, and culticly, insofar as it was the ground of the redemptive efficacy of the Passover offerings.
b. Passover as Pointing to the Eschatological Redemptive Event
The celebration of Passover speaks of a future event as well as a past one. The first-century Jew looked forward to a future messianic redemption as well as back to redemption from Egypt. The evidence for this is not as abundant as the evidence for the understanding of Passover as a memorial of God's redemptive work in Egypt; nevertheless, it is still there in the sources. Since most of the sources date from after the destruction of the Second Temple and some after the Bar Kokba revolt, it is likely that messianic-nationalistic hopes were played down in view of those recent diasters. Josephus, for example, said nothing about a future redemption, for obvious reasons: he wished to present his people to the Roman world as good citizens, so he consistently suppressed the messianic elements of Jewish religious and social life.
Nevertheless, in the LXX, the Mekilta and the Targumic material there is evidence that the Passover meant for its first-century participant both the remembering of a past redemption and the hope an analogous redemption on the same date in the future.37 LXX Jer 31:8 (38:8) places the restoration of Israel--and by implication the establishment of the new covenant--on Passover. Nisan 15, according to the Mekilta, is the designated time of redemption. On that date God spoke to Abraham at the covenant between the parts, the ministering angels announced to Abraham that Sarah would give birth and Isaac was born exactly a year later, and Israel was redeemed from Egypt. Some time in the future, therefore, on Nisan 15 Israel would be redeemed again. This is R. Joshua's interpretation of the phrase "a night of watching unto the Lord...for all the children of Israel throughout their generations": it was a night of watching and it continues to be for all Israel, for Israel will be redeemed in the future on that night (Mek. 12:42 [Pisha 14:113-121]). R. Eliezer, however, expresses a contrary opinion; he sees the future redemption as coming in the month of Tishri. His exegesis, however, seems to be idiosyncratic.
The poem of the four (Passover) nights speaks of Passover as the night of redemption on which God redeemed Israel out of Egypt and would act savingly again at the end of the world. The first Passover night was the creation of the world; the second Passover night the Lord revealed himself to Abraham; the third night saw the exodus of the Israelites, in fulfilment of the promise to Abraham; the fourth night is yet to come:
When the world reaches its end to be redeemed: the yokes of iron shall be broken and the generations of wickedness shall be blotted out; and Moses will go up from the desert. One will lead at the head of the flock and the other will lead at the head of the flock and his Word will lead between them, and I and they will proceed together. This is the night of the Passover to the name of the Lord: it is a night reserved and set aside for the redemption of all the generations of Israel.A Passover night in the future will be the night on which the final redemption of all the generations of Israel will take place.
Passover as the eschatological time
of redemption is also found in Exod. Rab. 12:1 (15:11) in an interpretation
of Exod 12:1, "This month is for you the first month, the first month of
your year." In this month Isaac was born, and bound as a sacrifice; in
this month, Jacob received his blessings and predicted that this month
would be the beginning of salvation; in this month God redeemed Israel
out of Egypt; finally in this month Israel "is destined to be redeemed
again, as it says: As in the days of thy coming forth out of the land of
Egypt will I show unto him marvellous things" (Micah 7:15).
NOTES TO CHAPTER ONE
1Roger Le Deaut, La nuit pascale (Rome: Institut biblique pontificial, 1963), chap. 1; Martin McNamara, Targum and Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972).
2See Jacob Neusner, Judaism: The Evidence of the Mishnah (Chicago: U of Chicago Press, 1981; id., Midrash in Context: Exegesis in Formative Judaism (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1983); id., Messiah in Context (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984); id., Torah: From Scroll To Symbol in Formative Judaism (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1985); Jack Lightstone, Society, The Sacred, and Scripture in Ancient Judaism (Waterloo: Wilfred Laurier, 1988); Baruch M. Bokser, The Origins of the Seder: The Passover Rite and Early Judaism (Berkeley: U of California Press,1984).
3Neusner, Messiah, 24.
4E.g.'s Dalman, Billerbeck and Jeremias
5Bokser, Origins, 89.
6E. P. Sanders, Judaism: Practice and Belief 63 BCE-66 CE (London: SCM, 1992), 133-34.
7Emil Schhrer's evidence that Jews did not slaughter the Passover offering after the Temple's destruction should be understood as meaning that they did not slaughter their lambs in the Temple in the prescribed manner; these lambs were not, in other words, sacrifices (The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ, revised by Geza Vermes et. al. [3 vols.; Edinburgh: Clark, 1973]: 1.522-23). But Jews continued to slaughter lambs to be eaten on Passover and may have prepared them in the way prescribed for the Passover offering. Jews may also have called these lambs Passover offerings, although technically they were not.
8Bokser believes that Jews celebrated Passover in the outer court of the Temple throughout the second-temple period, which would make the pre-destruction celebration very discontinuous with the Mishnah's depiction of the festival in a domestic setting and thereby support his hypothesis (Origins, 19-28). His view, however, is probably wrong, as I shall demonstrate later; the sources that state that Passover is to celebrated in the Temple (Jubilees; 11QTemple) either reflect past practice or an idealized future practice.
9Bokser argues that m. Pesah. 10:3 should be read as denoting two pre-desruction customs: 1. eating Passover consisting of lettuce, unleavened bread, the fruit puree outside of the Temple precincts 2. eating a Passover consisting of the lamb within the Temple precincts (Origins, 38-40). Even if he is correct in saying that the verb should be understand as present, Bokser's interpretation seems the least likely. There is no evidence that Jews celebrated two types of pre-destruction Passover meals. If, however, Bokser holds that the rabbis fabricated this piece of historical narrative, how many Jews would believe that a Passover meal could have proceeded without a Passover offering? I hold that m. Pesah. 10:3 purports to describe the pre-destruction festival from a post-destruction point of view. I should add that when m. Pesah. 10:3 says, "And in the wdqm they brought (or bring) before him the carcas of the Passover offering, wdqm should probably be interpreted as holy city rather than Temple--as it should in m. M. Sh. 1:5. Otherwise, m. Pesah. would be internally inconsistent because it assumes throughout a domestic scene for the pre-destruction celebration of Passover.
10See Sipre Deut. 16:3 (130).
11M. Pesah. 6:3 sets out three conditions for the valid slaughtering of a festival offering, offered at the same time as the Passover lamb, for the purpose of consuming it before the Passover meal: when it is offered on a weekday, when it is offered in ritual purity and when the Passover is insufficient to feed the haburah. Whether these stipulations were observed by Jews in the second-temple period is impossible to know.
12Joachim Jeremias attempts to calculate the approximate number of the inhabitants of Jerusalem during Passover (Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus [rev. ed.; London: SCM, 1969] 77-84).
13Joachim Jeremias, The Eucharistic Words of Jesus (3d ed.; London: SCM, 1966) 43, n. 2;55, 75; Jeremias, Jerusalem, 115-16.; Gustaf Dalman, Jesus-Jeshua (London: S.P.C.K., 1929) 93-95.
14Jeremias, Jerusalem, 46-51.
15G. J. Bahr, "The Seder of Passover and the Eucharistic Words," NovT 12 (1970): 181-202 and Billerbeck, IV, 611-39.
16Dalman, Jesus-Jeshua, 149.
17See Jeremias, Eucharistic Words, 17, n. 2.
18Sanders' conclusion that the Mishnah's description is impossible assumes that there was one priest per each offerer in each group (Judaism, 136-37). This means that for every lamb to be sacrificed there were two men present. But it more likely that there was not one priest per offerer. M. Pesah. 5:6 assumes that there was a contingent of priests significantly fewer than the number of lambs to be slaughtered who processed the Passover offerings as a unit, with different priests having different functions.
19Jeremias, Eucharistic Words, 69-70. The ambiguous references to "he" and "him" in the account of the Passover meal in m. Pesah. 10 creates a problem for the historian. This tractate uses the third person singular in its description of every aspect of the Passover meal, including the mixing of the cups and the consumption of the meal. Presumably, one is to interpret the third person singular as referring to the same historical subject in each instance. But this is not the case. The use of the third person singular in m. Pesah. 10 can refer to one person doing something on behalf of the rest (e.g., the saying of the blessing) or it can refer to what each person does for himself (e.g., eating or the saying of the blessing). The use of the third person singular in the description of every aspect of the Passover meal seems, therefore, to be stylized, and ought not to be taken as historically descriptive.
20Bahr, "The Seder of Passover and the Eucharistic Words," 187; Str-B, 2.64.
21Bahr's theory that the order of bringing in the foods and the haggadah are reversed in order in the Mishnah is without grounds (Ibid., 196). His first objection that there would be no occasion for the son to ask concerning the meaning of the various foods of the Passover meal since no eating had begun overlooks the fact that the food had already been brought before the diners, according to m. Pesah. 10:3, and would be visible to them. Besides everyone would be well-aware of the context of the meal. Bahr's second point that the haggadah must have taken place during the meal because it would take so long to recite it that the food would get cold is not worth considering.
22The polyvalence of the term trprp is no better illustrated than in m. Ber. 6:5. When used in conjunction with the prepositional phrases (]!zmh ynplV trprph/;]!zmh rxXlV trprph), trprp means "course"; the prepositional phrases serve to distinguish two separate courses, the course of appetizers before the meal and dessert. (See also t. Ber. 4:8 where a guest who arrives "after the third course" [trprp wlv rxa] is not to be admitted to the meal.) But the occurence of the term trprp later in the mishnah appears to mean "side-dish," in opposition to the bread (tph).
23The celebration of the Passover was more complicated when Nisan 14 or 15 coincided with a Sabbath, because certain requirements for the Passover took precedence over the Sabbath halakot. R. Akiba laid down the general principle that anything that could be done legally on the eve of the Sabbath did not override the Sabbath laws (m. Pesah. 6:2; t. Pesah. 5:1). Things lawful on the Sabbath included the slaughtering of the Passover, the sprinkling of the blood, the cleaning of the entrails and the offering up of the fat, but not the roasting, the swilling of the innards, the transporting it beyond the Sabbath's limit, or the removing of its wart (m. Pesah. 6:1). Likewise, on the Sabbath one was required to flay the lamb without using the hooks in the Temple (m. Pesah. 5:9). A festival offering could not be offered on the Sabbath along with the Passover (m. Pesah. 6:3). If one happened to slaughter the Passover lamb on the Sabbath, but did not properly designate it as such, one was liable to a sin-offering for performing a forbidden act of work on the Sabbath (m. Pesah. 6:5; t. Pesah. 5:4).
24Jeremias, Eucharistic Words, 56.
25Dalman, Jesus-Jeshua, 153-54.
26Jeremias, Eucharistic Words, 69-70.
27Heinz Schhrmann, in his various works pertaining to the Last Supper, argues that there was no single cup passed around by the paterfamilias. (See Der Paschamahlbericht [Mhnster: Aschendorffesche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1968], p. 60-61.; "Das Weiterleben der Sache Jesu im nach`sterlichen Herrenmahl," BZ n.s. 16 : 1-23; "Die Symbolhandlungen Jesu als eschatologische Erfhllungszeichen," Bible und Leben 11 : 29-41, 73-78; "Jesus' Words in Light of His Actions at the Last Supper," Concilium 40 : 119-41.) Jesus' decision to use a single cup and to pass it around to his disciples, according to Schhrmann, departed from the usual practice and was remembered by the disciples precisely for its oddity--it was an ipssissimum factum Jesu. His intention in using a single cup was to communicate a blessing to his disciples by means of the passing around of the cup. The blessing was a participation in the salvation-historical benefits of his death. Schhrmann appears to be wrong in this.
28As Bokser argues, Jews of the second-temple period assimilated many aspects of the Hellenistic symposium to the Biblical feasts, the reclining on couches being one of these (The Origins of the Seder, 50-66; "Ma al and Blessings Over Food: Rabbinic Transformation of Cultic Terminology and Alternative Forms of Piety," JBL 100 (1981): 557-74). See also Dennis E. Smith and Hal E. Taussig, Many Tables. The Eucharist in the New Testament and Liturgy Today (Philadelphia: Trinity, 1990), chap. 2.
29Dalman, Jesus-Jeshua, 115.
30Str-B. 2.56; cf. Dalman, Jesus-Jeshua, 115-16; cf. Bahr, "The Seder of the Passover and the Eucharistic Words," 191.
31See Fhglister, Die Heilsbedeutung des Pascha; Le DJaut, La nuit paschale.
32Jeremias, Eucharistic Words, 56.
33The ritual meaning of the unleavened bread appears not to have been fixed at the time of Jesus. The Mekilta understands the significance of the unleavened bread as a symbol of the haste in which the Israelites left Egypt, i.e., they did not have time to let the dough rise (Mek. 12:39 [Pisha 14:28-41]). Yet the same work preserves the Deuteronomic interpretation of the bread as bread of affliction. According to Josephus, unleavened bread was the bread of affliction insofar as the Israelites were forced to eat unleavened bread only for lack of other food during the thirty days after fleeing from Egypt (Ant. 2. 316). The Mekilta reasons that one cannot use second-tithe money to purchase flour for the purpose of making unleavened bread because second-tithe money is to be used only when one is joyful: the ritual purpose of the eating unleavened bread is not to be joyful, but to feel historical empathy with the sufferings of the forefathers (Mek. 12:20 [Pisha 10: 55-76]). R. Gamaliel's interpretation differs from both.
34See Geza Vermes, "Redemption and Genesis XXII," in Scripture and Tradition in Judaism. Haggadic Studies (Leiden: Brill, 1961); H.- J. Schoeps, Paul: The Theology of the Apostle in the Light of Jewish Religious History (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1961) 141-49; Le DJaut, La nuit paschale; Fhglister, Die Heilsbedeutung des Pascha.
35See Josephus, Ant. 1. 22-236; 4 Macc 13:12, 16:20; Sipre Deut. 6:5 (32); Pseudo-Philo, Bib. Ant. 32:2-4; 40:2.
36See Vermes, "Redemption and Genesis XXII"; Fhglister, Die Heilsbedeutung des Pascha, 210-15.
37For a more detailed study cf. Fhglister, Die Heilsbedeutung des Pascha, 219-26.