Saturday, November 5, 2011

An Interesting Suggestion about the Passion Chronology from Andrew Steinmann.

Issues, etc. has been running a series of interviews about the chronology of Scripture.  Andrew Steinmann of Concordia Chicago has been the guest and based his discussions on a book on the subject that he recently wrote.  I'd like to read it, but it's 80 bucks and I can't get it via ILL at this point.  Hopefully I will be able to obtain a copy in the future.  

In any case, the most recent interview was on the chronology of the Passion narrative.  Steinmann addressed the question of whether or not John has Passover on a different day than the Synoptics.  He makes several interesting suggestions: 

First, the statement that John makes that the Sabbath was a great Sabbath because it was the first day of the feast of unleavened bread should not make us think that Passover was on Saturday.  The terms "feast of Passover" and the "days/feast of unleavened bread" were used interchangeably with one another the first century among Jews.  This does not mean though that they were the same feast, since later comes after the former and is a distinct feast.  Moreover, since the feast of unleavened bread is after Passover in the Jewish calender, all John is actually saying is that Saturday is the first day after Passover (i.e., the first day of the feast of unleavened bread!)- he's not saying Saturday is Passover.  If we accept this interpretation, then John agrees with the Synoptics that passover was Friday that year.

Secondly, we are told by John that the high priest and other ruler didn't want to go into see Pilate because they were afraid of defiling themselves before eating the Passover.  This would suggest in the minds of many interpreters that Passover was that evening and therefore on Saturday.  Nevertheless, Steinmann makes the point that John highlights the fact that they came to see Pilate very early in the morning, that is, before sun-up.  What John is suggesting here, he argues, is that the rulers did not eat the Passover the night before because they were too busy arresting Jesus and putting him on trial.  Therefore, since the OT claimed that members of Israel had to eat the Passover in the evening/night or they would be cut off from the people of God, it was their intention to quickly have Jesus crucified so that they could eat the Passover before sun-up.  They did not accomplish this and hence John is telling us that they are now cut off from Israel.

Lastly, in terms of the year, Steinmann points out that the year must be 33 A.D., since this was the only one of two years that Passover fell on Friday between 26-36 (the years of Pilate's tenure).  30 would be too early, because Jesus was baptized in late 29 (15th year of Tiberius).  This is interesting because it coincides with Paul Maier's correlation of the events of the Passion narrative with political developments in Rome and the strained relation between Pilate and Tiberius after about 32.  Hence, the overall chronology fits perfectly with other historical and political factors that we know.

1 comment:

  1. I've read Steinmann's chronology (I just finished it a couple of weeks ago) and I have been thoroughly impressed by it. It's worth the money. In addition to the points you mentioned above, he also argues that John is no less insistent than the Synoptics about the feast Jesus celebrated with His disciples being a Passover.

    Steinmann doesn't exactly explain why the Jewish leaders hadn't been able to celebrate the Passover properly by the time that Jesus was arrested. After all, Jesus and His disciples had time to do so. Perhaps they had gotten word late in the day that Judas could betray Jesus that night since He was going to be in Jerusalem rather than in the 'burbs. Perhaps they were too busy mustering troops and waiting for the signal to come from Judas--which came later than they may have expected. Then their trial of Jesus took longer because than expected because they couldn't find witnesses that agreed--until Caiaphas cut through the red tape and questioned Jesus directly (contrary to law). The end result was that everything took longer than they had thought.

    The irony, as Steinmann points out, is that if they had entered Pilate's court and become unclean, they could have celebrated the Passover one month later and still been part of Israel. But because they kept themselves clean (but didn't keep the holiday), they were cut off forever.

    By the way, I would also add that his re-dating of Christ's birth is something that bears consideration.

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