When Did Easter Replace Passover?

Matthew 28:1, When did the early Christians first celebrate a day commemorating the resurrection of Yeshua?

Although the resurrection of Yeshua the Messiah is a biblical and historical fact, it’s celebration (known as Easter), is neither commanded in the Scriptures, nor was it celebrated by the original disciples of Yeshua. It is purely an invention of the church, which eventually replaced Passover! Here are the facts:

In A History of Christianity (vol. 1), Kenneth Scott Latourette states that notice of Easter as a festival occurs in the middle of the second century, but that festivals commemorating the resurrection of Messiah were presumably observed by at least some Christians from much earlier times (p. 137). Church historian, Philip Schaff, also attributes the beginning of the Easter festival to the middle of the second century (History of the Christian Church, vol. 2, p. 207). He states that the Christian Passover naturally grew out of the Jewish Passover, as the Lord’s Day (Sunday) grew out of the Sabbath. “It is based on the view that Christ crucified and risen is the centre of faith. The Jewish Christians would very naturally from the beginning continue to celebrate the legal Passover, but in the light of its fulfillment by the sacrifice of Christ, and would dwell chiefly on the aspect of the crucifixion. The Gentile Christians, for whom the Jewish Passover had no meaning except through reflection on the cross, would chiefly celebrate the Lord’s resurrection as they did on every Sunday of the week.” He notes that the early Christians commemorated the entire period between the death and resurrection of Yeshua with vigils, fasting, special devotions, meetings culminating in a resurrection feast celebrating the whole work of redemption. The feast of the resurrection gradually became the most prominent aspect of the Christian Passover (Easter celebration), but the crucifixion continued to be celebrated on Good Friday” (ibid., pp. 207–208).

Christians universally kept the Passover on the biblical date of Abib (also known as Nisan) 14/15, irrespective of the day of the week until A.D. 135 according to leading Sabbath scholar Prof. Samuele Bacchiocchi quoting the fourth century Christian historian Ephiphanius (From Sabbath to Sunday, p. 81). “This conclusion,” continues Bacchiocchi, “is supported indirectly by the two earliest documents mentioning the Passover celebration, since both emphasize the commemoration of the death rather than the resurrection of Christ. The Ethiopic version of the apocryphal Epistle of the Apostles [or Didache] says, ‘and you therefore celebrate the remembrance of my death, i.e., the Passover’ (ch. 15). In the Coptic version the passage is basically the same, ‘And you remember my death. If now the Passover takes place …’ (chap. 15)’ (ibid., p. 82). 

The second document that attests to the early church’s emphasis on the death rather than the resurrection of Yeshua is the Sermon on the Passover, by Melito, Bishop of Sardis (died ca. A.D. 190). According to Bacchiocchi, Melito provides a most extensive theological interpretations of the meaning of the Passover for early Christians. “Though Melito makes a few passing references to the resurrection, it is clear from the context that these function as the epilogue of the passion drama of the Passover. The emphasis is indeed on the suffering and death of Jesus which constitute the recurring theme of the sermon and of the celebration” (ibid., p. 83).

“The resurrection,” Bacchiocchi admits, “however, did emerge in time as the dominant reason for the celebration not only of the annual Easter-Sunday, but also of the weekly Sunday. The two festivities, in fact,… came to be regarded as one basic feast commemorating at different times the same event of the resurrection.” Bacchiocchi concludes,

It would seem therefore that though the resurrection is frequently mentioned both in the New Testament and in the early patristic literature, no suggestion is given that primitive Christians commemorated the event by a weekly or yearly Sunday service. The very fact that Passover, which later become the annual commemoration of the resurrection held on Easter-Sunday, initially celebrated primarily Christ’s passion [death] and was observed on the fixed date of Nisan [Abib] 15 rather than on Sunday, makes it untenable to claim that Christ’s resurrection determined the origin of Sunday worship during the lifetime of the Apostles. (ibid. p. 84)

 

From the Walking Dead to the Glorified, Immortal Children of Elohim

 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of Elohim, to those who believe in His name… (John 1:12)

Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of Elohim! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of Elohim; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. (1 John 3:1–2)

Passover is just around the corner. It is the first step in YHVH Elohim’s plan of salvation or redemption of sinful humans to reconcile fallen man back to him. Did you ever wonder how this process really works?

Let’s now look at this miraculous process of how to overcome sin in more detail through a spiritual magnifying glass. How do we go from being a lost sinner—the walking damned or the living dead—to becoming the glorified and immortalized children of Elohim?

It works like this: When we confess and repent of our sins, Yeshua will pass over or forgive us of our past sins (Rom 3:25); Ps 103:8–12). From this point onward, we must embrace a new mindset and a new spiritual identity and reality; that is, we must reckon our old sinful man as being crucified with Yeshua, in that we are now dead to sin, no longer slaves to sin, freed from the power of sin, and alive to Elohim in Yeshua our Lord (Rom 6:7–11). Yeshua is the one who victoriously defeated the power or sting of sin, which is death, hell and the grave at the cross and through his resurrection (1 Cor 15:56–57; Col 2:13–15). Through our faith in him and our legal identification with his death, burial and resurrection through the metaphorical ritual of baptism, his victory is legally applied to us by the courts of heaven, which is how he has made us more than conquerors over sin and death (Rom 8:37; 6:1–14) such that the power of sin and death will no longer have dominion over us (Rom 6:12–14).  He now gives us strength through his enabling and empowering grace to resist and overcome sin, that is, to not let sin control us any longer (Rom 6:12). He promises to give us a new, circumcised heart as he writes his laws or commandments on our hearts, so that we will be supernaturally inclined to love him by keeping his commandments (Jer 31:33; 24:7; Heb 8:10; 10:16; Ezek 36:25–27; Isa 51:7; Ps 40:8; 37:31; Deut 30:6; John 14:12 cp. Rom 7:22). What is that supernatural power that works in us to help keep us from sinning? It the Spirit of Elohim or the Comforter that Yeshua promised would come along side of us to aid us in the process of overcoming sin (John 14:16–18, 25–26; 15:26–27; 16:7–14). 

To summarize, this whole supernatural and miraculous process of being victorious over sin is activated when we first acknowledge our sin, confess our sin, repent of our sin and then place our faith in Yeshua’s death and burial. This occurs when we appropriate or reckon, by faith, our old sinful man to have been crucified with Yeshua, and then been resurrected in the newness of spiritual life with him. We now embrace the new identity that he has given us—a spiritual reality that he has imparted to us and has been legally recorded in heaven (Col 2:14)—that we are a new creation and are victorious over sin (Gal 2:20; 2 Cor 5:17), and have become Spirit-begotten sons of Elohim. This whole process is summarized from beginning to end in Romans chapters six through eight. The end result, if we continue in a right spiritual relationship with Yeshua the Messiah for the rest of our lives, is that our names will be recorded in Elohim’s Book of Life, and our physical bodies will be glorified—we will be given immortality—at the resurrection, which occurs at the second coming of Yeshua.

This whole process or chain of events that transforms sinful humans into glorified and immortal children of Elohim begins at Passover which symbolizes the first steps a person takes when he comes to faith in Yeshua the Messiah.

 

The Significance of Table Fellowship

Luke 24:30, He sat at the table. (See also vv. 41–43; John 21:12–13). In Bible times, when a covenant of friendship had been broken, as had occurred when the disciples forsook Yeshua prior to his apprehension, the broken relationship would be restored by eating together. After his resurrection, Yeshua had at least three meals with his disciples in order to renew loving covenantal relationship with them (Manners and Customs, pp. 78–79). 

In Hebraic thought, one’s table is a sort of sacred altar where familial and spiritual communion occurs. You don’t just break bread with anyone—only your close friends. Additionally, when a prayer of thanksgiving is made over a meal, YHVH’s Presence is invoked making the meal a sort of spiritual act where heaven and earth commune together. This is one reason why the Passover seder meal is of such serious significance. Only those of one’s spiritual family are to gather together at the seder where together they meet with Elohim. Furthermore, this is why Paul states in 1 Cor 5:9–11,

I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person. (emphasis added)

 

Communion or the Lord’s Supper Explained in Its Hebraic Context

The Importance of Memorials and Symbols

Obedient and truth-seeking disciples of Yeshua will want to love him by keeping his commandments (John 14:12), and by teaching and doing everything he commanded (Matt 28:20). They will be following Paul’s example to imitate Yeshua (1 Cor 11:1) as well heeding John’s admonition “to walk just as [Yeshua] walked” (1 John 2:6). The Passover communion service is an example of doing what Yeshua and his disciples did. How and when did he do it, so that we can follow his example? Let’s now explore this subject from a whole-Bible, Hebraic perspective.

With regard to obeying YHVH’s commands, symbols and memorials figure prominently in YHVH Elohim’s spiritual economy. Why is this? They are teaching aids. Physical humans need physical things to help them to comprehend spiritual truths and ideals. Using symbols, commemorations and memorials is a method of teaching and relates to pedagogy, which is “the method and practice of teaching, especially as an academic subject or theoretical concept.” A effective teacher endeavors to build bridges of understanding between what the student knows and what the teacher wants to teach the student— between the known and the unknown, between what the student understands now and what the teacher wants his students to learn. A successful teacher learns the skill of building bridges of understanding with his students to bring them to a higher level of understanding. The same is true of YHVH Elohim as we works with humans to teach them about spiritual things.

On a spiritual level, YHVH Elohim, our Heavenly Teacher, employes similar pedagogic or teaching techniques as he endeavors to bring men to a higher level of understanding heaven’s spiritual truths and realities. The use of symbols and memorials as teaching tools is essential to this process of teaching and learning.

Continue reading
 

Was Lord’s supper an actual Passover meal, and when should we celebrate Passover—at the beginning or end of the 14th?

Matthew 26:17, Eat the Passover. 

When did the disciples keep the Passover or the last super?Since Yeshua had to be hanging on the cross during the time that the Jews were offering the Passover lamb in the Temple, which was the same time that ancient Israel was killing their Passover lamb, it seems impossible that ­Yeshua could keep Passover with his disciples at this exact time. Yet Scripture mandates that Passover be kept on the fourteenth day of the first month. How do we resolve this difficulty?

Let’s look at some scriptures relating to this subject:

  • Matthew 26:17 reads, “Now the first of the unleavened bread the disciples came to Yeshua, saying unto him, Where do you want us to prepare for you to eat the Passover?” (italicized supplied words not in the original Greek have been removed). Mark 14:12 reads the same.
  • Luke’s account says, “Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover must be killed” (22:7).

The Scripture shows us that in the Gospel narrative the terms “Unleavened Bread” and “Passover” are synonymous and interchangeable (Luke 22:1). Furthermore, we see that the “Passover [lamb] was killed on the Day of Unleavened Bread” (Luke 22:7). In a strict letter-of-law Torah sense, this is impossible since Passover and Unleavened Bread were two separate appointed times falling on two separate days, though the days were adjoining each other. In the Gospel accounts, however, the writers use the colloquial term Passover to designate both appointed times—a common practice in the first century.

The Gospels further tell us that Yeshua commanded his disciples to go and prepare a place to keep Passover (Luke 22:8). The disciples asked Yeshua where to go to prepare for it (Luke 22:9). Yeshua reiterates that he will be eating the Passover meal with them (Luke 22:11). The disciples make the room ready for the Passover meal (Luke 22:13). And finally, Yeshua calls this meal the Passover. He tells his disciples in Luke 22:15, “With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” (Mark and Matthew’s accounts of these events corroborate this.) The word Passover (pascha, Strong’s G3957) in the Greek can refer to the Passover day, Passover meal or the Passover lamb. The context in which the word is used has to determine which one of its several meanings is applicable here. It seems that the context here would point to a meal.

John 13:2–30 offers further proof that the Passover meal that Yeshua was doing was not at the end of the fourteenth and the beginning of the fifteenth, which would have made it the evening of the Sabbath (Heb. erev Shabbat)—in this case, the high Sabbath or the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. When Judas left the supper (verse 27), the disciples figured that he was departing to purchase more supplies for the Passover meal, which was yet to come (verse 29). Furthermore, for them to think this means that they knew that the shops were open from which to buy supplies (and therefore it was not the Sabbath or Shabbat). This would not have been the case had the last supper been at the end of the Passover as it was approaching the beginning of the fifteenth, which was still 24 hours off. 

Since Yeshua could not partake of the Passover meal on the afternoon of the fourteenth, and since the Gospels tells us that it was evening when he celebrated Passover with his disciples, and since we know it occurred on the fourteenth of the month of the abib, when was the Lord’s supper or last supper? It had to have been at the end of the thirteenth and at the beginning of the fourteenth after sundown. They simply kept it earlier on the same day (at the beginning of the fourteenth rather than at the end). At the end of that same day, he was hanging on the cross as the Passover Lamb. After the Lord’s supper Yeshua and his disciples went to the Garden of Gethsemane where he was arrested by the Jewish leaders later that night. During the evening and into the morning he was put on trial before the Jewish leaders and afterwards he stood before Pilate, after which he was nailed to the cross sometime between the third and sixth hour (according to the Gospel accounts). At 3 p.m. (Luke 23:44-46), he proclaimed the famous words: “Eloi, Eloi …” and shortly after that exclaimed, “Father receive my spirit …” whereupon he died. 

Did Yeshua celebrate an actual Passover service or was it simply a memorial dinner, or a fellowship meal often referred to as the Lord’s supper? There are valid arguments on each side of this issue. Perhaps it doesn’t really matter. For us now, the big question is how could Yeshua keep the Passover (as he said he did) with his disciples on the fourteenth of Abib as Torah commands and still be hanging on the cross on the same day as the spiritual fulfillment of the Passover Lamb?

The Gospel accounts are clear about the fact that Yeshua was keeping a “Passover” meal, for he says so, yet we have seen that it had to have been an early meal on the same day. It was not the main meal that was to be held later at the end of the fourteenth into the fifteenth of Abib as the Torah instructs in Exodus chapter 12. 

Alternative “Passovers”

What was the precedence for such a meal? Does Torah make allowances for another Passover celebration at another time? The answer is yes.

Continue reading
 

Examine Yourself Before Taking Communion at Passover

1 Corinthians 11:23, This is my body. We are sanctified through the offering of the body of Yeshua (Heb 10:10).When we eat the bread of communion, we are “eating” Yeshua who is the incarnate and Living Torah Word of Elohim (John 1:14). We are announcing that Yeshua is the spiritual bread of life from heaven that leads to eternal life (John 6:48–51), and we are announcing our desire to live by the totality of his Word (Matt 4:4). 

The bread symbolizing the body of Yeshua was unleavened, which is a picture of Yeshua’s sinless life. By eating this bread, we declare our faith in his sinless life by which he was able to pay for our sins. We also declare our identification with his sinlessness as an example for us to follow.

Yeshua took the unleavened bread and broke it signifying our deliverance from our sin nature by the breaking or death of his sinless body. The unleavened bread broken during the Passover meal speaks of our deliverance from the power of sin by the death of our old man. The rite of baptism is a picture of this (Rom 6:4–13). This paves the way for us to live a sanctified (sin-free) life.

We become unleavened or sinless (known as sanctification) because Yeshua our Passover Lamb was sacrificed for us (1 Cor 5:7). Our body of sin died with Yeshua when we were baptized making us unleavened (or sanctified, Rom 6:6). Let us therefore live in accordance with the new man, or new spiritual creation we have become through Yeshua (1 Cor 5:8; 2 Cor 5:17; Gal 2:20). When we eat the unleavened bread at the communion part of the Passover service, we remember that we are sanctified by grace and that the power of sin (or Torahlessness, see 1 John 3:4 cp. John 14:15) has been broken in our lives.

In the first Passover, the children of Israel were delivered from the penalty of their sins by the blood of the lamb on the door, which pointed forward prophetically to Yeshua’s sin-atoning death on the cross. But when they ate the unleavened bread, this speaks of their being delivered from their slavery to sin and oppression in Egypt. They were now to leave Egypt (a spiritual picture of the old man and life) and go toward the Promised Land (a spiritual picture of the new man) taking with them, on their knees, the dough of the unleavened bread. This points to the fact that the redeemed saints are to walk in the newness of a spiritually unleavened or sanctified life as pictured by their eating the communion bread. When we eat the bread of communion, we memorialize the events surrounding the Exodus, and recognize the present reality of freedom from sin in our own lives.

1 Corinthians 11:25, My blood. By the blood of Yeshua we are redeemed, liberated or released from the bondage of sin (Matt 26:28; Rom 3:25; Eph 1:17; Col 1:14; Heb 9:22; 1 Pet 1:18; Rev 5:9) and from sin’s death penalty claim on us (Rom 6:23; Ezek 18:4) brought on by our disobedience to YHVH’s instructions in righteousness, the Torah (which defines sin, 1 John 3:4). His blood also sanctifies (or separates, Heb 9:13–14; 13:12) us from past sin (Rom 3:25) or Continue reading


 

Communion or the Lord’s Supper Explained in Its Hebraic Context

The Importance of Memorials and Symbols

Obedient and truth-seeking disciples of Yeshua will want to love him by keeping his commandments (John 14:12), and by teaching and doing everything he commanded (Matt 28:20). They will be following Paul’s example to imitate Yeshua (1 Cor 11:1) as well heeding John’s admonition “to walk just as [Yeshua] walked” (1 John 2:6). 

With regard to obeying YHVH’s commands, symbols and memorials figure prominently in YHVH Elohim’s spiritual economy. Why is this? They are teaching aids. Physical humans need physical things to help them to comprehend spiritual truths and ideals. Using symbols, commemorations and memorials is a method of teaching and relates to pedagogy, which is “the method and practice of teaching, especially as an academic subject or theoretical concept.” A effective teacher endeavors to build bridges of understanding between what the student knows and what the teacher wants to teach the student— between the known and the unknown, between what the student understands now and what the teacher wants his students to learn. A successful teacher learns the skill of building bridges of understanding with his students to bring them to a higher level of understanding. The same is true of YHVH Elohim as we works with humans to teach them about spiritual things.

On a spiritual level, YHVH Elohim, our Heavenly Teacher, employes similar pedagogic or teaching techniques as he endeavors to bring men to a higher level of understanding heaven’s spiritual truths and realities. The use of symbols and memorials as teaching tools is essential to this process of teaching and learning.

The Bible is full of symbols and memorials that represent or point to something else and act as teaching aids to assist humans in learning about Elohim and what he requires of us. For example, Continue reading