Is the “Last Supper” in John the “Last Supper” in the Synoptics?
James Scott Trimm
In the Synoptic Gospels we read:
Matthew 26:17 “Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread…”
Mark 14:12 “And on the first day of Unleavened Bread…”
Luke 22:7 “Then came the day of Unleavened Bread…”
But in John we read:
John 13:1 “Now before the feast of Passover…”
Some have seen this as evidence that John is not depicting a Passover Sader, but another meal the day before the one recorded in the synoptic Gospels.
While there are many internal evidences that all four accounts are accounts of a Passover Sader, the simplest proof that they are all the same event/meal is by comparing them.
In the synoptic gospels Matthew and Mark relate to us Yeshua’s revelation that one of the twelve would him (Matthew 26:20-25 & Mark 14:17-21) which parallels the account in John 13:21-35.
The Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 26:30-35; Mark 14:26-31 and Luke 22:31-38) contain accounts parallel to John (John 13:36-38) of Yeshua forewarning Kefa (Peter) and the other disciples that they would fail him in his final hours before the cock crows (Matthew. 26:34; Mark 14:30 & Luke 22:34 & John 13:38)
Then after a lengthy discourse by Yeshua (recorded in John chapters 14-17) on Psalm 118 (inspired by the traditional reciting of Psalm 118 at the Seder, the “hymn” (Matt. 26:30; Mk. 14:26).
Most importantly, both the synoptic gospels (Matthew 26:1f; Mark 14:32f and Luke 22:39f) and John (18:1f) concludes with the whole group going to the Garden of Gathsemane, where Yeshua is arrested.
So there can be no doubt that these are a accounts of a single meal/event.
So how can these be the same event? Does John 13:1 contradict the synoptic gospels?
The answer is no. There are several variables that have to be considered.
To begin with there is and was conflict as to just what “Passover” is. Some understood “Passover” to simply be the Passover lamb as a sacrifice and a meal. Others understood “Passover” to also refer to the 14th of Nisan/Abib as a “Moed” (appointed time) as a Feast Day immediately preceding the seven day “Feast of Unleavened Bread”, creating an eight day festival complex.
By the first century it had also become common to refer to the Feast of Unleavened Bread as “Passover” or to those who understood this to be an eight day festival of two back to back feasts, the whole eight days as “Passover”.
We must add to this that the Hebrew phrase used in the DuTillet Hebrew manuscript of Matthew is וביום הרשון which Hugh Schonfield translated “the day before” in his 1927 translation of the DuTillet Hebrew text. The word רשון usually means “first” but in some places it means “before” (Number 6:12; Joshua 8:33b and 1Kings 13:6, for example, where the KJV translates “before”).
In fact the word might well be translated “foremost” or in this case “foremost day” which reaches to the ambiguity as to whether the “foremost day” of “Passover” or “Unleavened Bread: is the 14th of Nisan or the 15th of Nisan.
The same ambiguity exists in the Aramaic word קדמיא used in the Aramaic Gospels.
All four of the Gospels could be translated either “the first day” or “the day before”.
Therefore the variation between “first day” and “day before” is due to ambiguity of the text. A simple examination of the course of events, makes it clear that both John and the Synoptic Gospels record the same event/meal commonly known as the “Last Supper” as the same Passover Seder in all four Gospels.
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