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The Dangers of Messianic Legalism II

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Question #1: 

Dear Dr. Luginbill, Well, that was some exchange you had on this most recent of emails on Messianic legalism! My head was spinning when I got finished reading it. It did bring to mind a question I have been meaning to ask you about the seven feasts of the Lord given to the Jewish people. My understanding is that Jesus fulfilled the first four or spring feasts; The Feast of Passover, Feast of Unleavened Bread, Feast of Firstfruits and The Feast of Weeks or also called Pentecost. In one of your studies I believe you said that Jesus would return in the fall. This being the case would Jesus return at the Feast of Trumpets? Scripture does say at the last trumpet He would return and rapture His Church. This is followed by the Day of Atonement when the earth will be judged and lastly the Feast of Tabernacles when Jesus will tabernacle among His people. Since He fulfilled the first four feasts it does make perfect since that He will fulfill the fall feasts as well. Is this why you said He would return in the fall? If this is the case would we each year look for His return on this Jewish feast day? As always, thanks for all the work you do and for your thoughtful answers.

Blessings in His name,

Response #1: 

Yes, what you say is essentially correct. The Jewish ceremonial calendar contains God's master-plan for human history (see the link). The spring festivals symbolize the first advent and so have been fulfilled. The gap between the spring and fall cluster of festivals represents the Church Age (see the link). The fall festivals are indeed fulfilled at Christ's return; however, Trumpets are the same as the warning trumpets of Revelation and thus represent the Tribulation rather than the Second Advent (see the link: The Feast of Trumpets and in CT 3A "The Trumpet Judgments"); the Day of Atonement represents the Second Advent when Israel will "look upon Him whom they have pierced" (Zech.12:10-14; Rev.1:7; cf. Joel 2:30-32; Matt.24:30; see the link: Yom Kippur); finally, the Feast of Booths or Sukkoth represents the Millennium, when Israel is finally regathered (see the link: Tabernacles). We should not imagine, that the present Jewish religious calendar will necessarily be precisely in sync with the actual return of Christ. Moreover, the actual Second Advent cannot occur until after the Tribulation has run its full, seven-year course.

For [the Second Advent cannot come] unless the [Great] Apostasy has first occurred and the man of lawlessness, [antichrist,] has [first] been revealed, that "son of destruction" (cf. Jn.17:12 of Judas), the one who will oppose and exalt himself against every so-called god and object of worship to such a degree that he will [even] take his seat in the temple of God and represent himself as being God.
2nd Thessalonians 2:3-4

Since the Tribulation has not yet begun (for my best biblical reckoning on when it will, see the link: in SR 5: "The Tribulational Overlap"), our Lord's return is yet some (short span) of years in the future.

Here is a chart which lays out the festivals in all these respect: "The Jewish Calendar" (it is hyper-linked to its proper place in SR 5):

Jewish Ceremonial calendar

Thanks for your interest as always!

Yours in our dear Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #2: 

It's been a while since I've written to you, but I do want you to know that I enjoy your website very much, and still read your research. I have another question....well two questions. I tried to find it on your site but I get lost in the sea of emails, lol....maybe you can send the direct links when you get a chance. I recently listened to this sermon about the 7 trumpet not being the last trumpet: http://www.shorewoodbiblechurch.org/Real/062710e.mp3

He makes a compelling argument for the mention of last trumpet in the NT not being the same thing as the 7th trumpet. He of course is going by the language of our English translations to make his case. When you have time, could you help me sort through his statements with perhaps a deeper insight to what the Bible actually says regarding the last trump and the 7th trumpet?

Also, I was reading what you said about the 7 seals, and the 7 angels being the archangels. Are you saying that the same 7 angels that have the 7 trumpets also seal the 144,000 and are the same angels who pour out the bowl judgments?

Could you help me with the wording of the texts that show this to be as you say?

Thank you so much for all your hard work in these matters.

Response #2:   

I would agree with this analysis as far as you report it. The "last trump" of 1st Corinthians 15:52 (cf. 1Thes.4:16) is the signal for the Second Advent, whereas the seven trumpets of Revelation 8-11 all predate that blessed event by at least three and a half years. The seven trumpets are announcements of warning judgments which characterize the first half of the Tribulation (see the link in CT 3A: "The Trumpet Judgments"), and the seventh trumpet begins (and is contiguous with) the Great Tribulation, the final three and a half years (see the link in CT 4: "The Seventh Trumpet").

I have not opined about who the "we" are in Revelation 7:3. Archangels are certainly a possibility! Thanks for the observation!

Yours in our dear Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #3: 

I do have a question that takes this a little further. Could you explain further why you think the 7th trumpet is different from the trump of the Lord, besides the fact that the 7th trumpet of Revelation has to do with judgment and warning and the last trump being a blessing. This is because from how I look at it, they could be the same with a difference in perspectives. The warnings would be to the unrepentant, while the same sound that is terrifying to the unrepentant would be a blessing to the saved. In I Corinthians 15 it says that we will be changed in a twinkling of an eye, and it comes after the last trumpet. The events that happen after the 7th trumpet:

Rev 11:15 And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign forever and ever.

Rev 11:16 And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshiped God,

Rev 11:17 Saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned.

Rev 11:18 And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth.

Rev 11:19 And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail.

And then after the interlude of seeing the full mystery of the devil vs the woman and the man child revealed, and then it continues with the events of that time of the end:

Rev 15:5 And after that I looked, and, behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened:

Rev 15:6 And the seven angels came out of the temple, having the seven plagues, clothed in pure and white linen, and having their breasts girded with golden girdles.

What I mean to say is the thunderings, lightnings, and earthquake occur at the 7th seal, and the 7th bowl, and the 7th trumpet also mentions an earthquake....which has me wondering if the last sevens all happen at the same moment, though the rest of the seals, trumpets and bowls might not be necessarily be running concurrently nor sequentially, but the final ones all end on the same note of the Lord's return. Does that make sense? 7 is final and complete, God ended our current creation on the 7th day, and the walls of Jericho came down with a shout and the 7th trumpet blast on the 7th day of circling around it (Joshua and his troops)

Anyway, I'm still inclined to think the Lord's trump and the 7th trumpet are the same thing....? Thank you so much for your quick response and I look forward to more of your thoughts on I Corinthians 15 and I Thessalonians 4:I6

Response #3:   

The Coming Tribulation Series is one of those cases of the whole being more than the sum of its parts. That is to say, I think if read as a piece, all of the individual parts (i.e., the individual interpretations) make even more sense because they mesh into a seamless whole. Naturally, every interpretation should also stand on its own (and I believe they do), but the fact that they also stand together is a strong argument for the individual parts being correct as part of an entirety which makes sense as a whole.

Part of the above is one of the most salient features of the correct interpretation of the book of Revelation overall, namely, that the book gives the outlines of future history in what is, generally speaking, a chronological order. It begins with a contemporary introduction (Jesus appearing to John); moves next to a history of the Church Age (the seven churches), and then, from chapters 4-22, proceeds seriatim through 1) an overview of the future (the seven seals; with the seventh seal finally opening the book and beginning the Tribulation), 2) the Tribulation's first half (wherein the trumpets warn of the judgment to come in the Great Tribulation), 3) the Great Tribulation (characterized by antichrist's persecution of the Church), 4) the Second Advent (which is preceded by the punitive bowl judgments), and 5) the eternal state (the New Jerusalem), with all these events occurring in their precise chronological order.

Trumpets indicate warning, and so are entirely appropriate to characterize the series of plagues meant to warn the world to repent before the Great Tribulation (begun by the seventh trumpet) commences. Also, the death of the two witnesses follows the end of the first six trumpets, and we know that their ministry occurs during the Tribulation's first half (complemented by the ministries of the 144,000 whom they direct). Directly afterward, that is, right after the end of the first half of the Tribulation, we have the seventh trumpet – with no particular plague ascribed to it (n.b., the lightning, hail and earthquake are instant and momentary calls to attention rather than long-lasting plagues). This absence of a seventh plague is because the seventh trumpet's plague is the Great Tribulation itself, the final warning to repent before the return of Christ when all those gathered against Him at Armageddon will be destroyed (along with all who have taken the mark of the beast, wherever they may be).

The particular description of the seventh trumpet you ask about, i.e., the earthquakes and thunder et al., is a sort of "divine punctuation" meant to emphasize the importance of the event which the sounding of this trumpet opens (i.e., the Great Tribulation). This sort of "divine punctuation" occurs at three of the major dividing lines of the end times: similar things occur at the beginning of the Tribulation proper (Rev.8:5: "peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake" NIV), at the beginning of the Great Tribulation (Rev.11:19: "And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a great hailstorm"), and also at the beginning of the Second Advent (Rev.16:18 and 21: "Then there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder and a severe earthquake. No earthquake like it has ever occurred since man has been on earth, so tremendous was the quake." ... "From the sky huge hailstones of about a hundred pounds each fell upon men. And they cursed God on account of the plague of hail, because the plague was so terrible.").

Note however that in every case these "divine punctuations" are of an ascending order of magnitude. The Great Tribulation's announcement has hail, whereas this does not occur at the commencement at the beginning of the Tribulation proper, and the earthquake has now become a severe earthquake. And the Second Advent announcement has the most severe earthquake, and a hailstorm which is of immensely greater severity than that which heralded the beginning of the Great Tribulation. So these are not at all the same events, even though there is some similarity between them. Each in this series of announcements is meant to make God's timetable clear to the world, acting also as a gracious warning, for all who are willing to take warning.

People often ask me how we can know the Tribulation is close, and my response is always the same: apart from the scriptural information that gives us a general forward-looking chronology, there is no specific prophecy to look to before it actually starts; however, thanks to these three cases of "divine punctuation" we will easily be able to tell that 1) the Tribulation has started; 2) the Great Tribulation has started, and 3) the Second Advent is imminent – all from these unmistakable divine signs, signs which will increase in their urgency and severity in proportion to the urgency and severity of the periods they herald.

Finally, on the seventh trumpet versus the final "trump of God" in 1st Corinthians 15:52 (cf. 1Thes.4:16), I would see them as distinct because:

1) The seventh is part of a discernible series; the final "trump" is described as unique and is not connected to any series in its contexts.

2) The seventh is a judgment and includes only negative things; the final "trump" is a blessing – the resurrection – and there is no sign of any judgment connected with it.

3) The seventh occurs without any additional announcement; the final "trump" is the third in a triplet of commands (something altogether different from a judgment, after all), along with "the loud command" from our Lord, and the "shout" of the archangel, neither of which are present in the case of the seventh trumpet of Revelation 11:15ff..

4) The seventh occurs close to the Second Advent but cannot be simultaneously with it: Babylon is destroyed as part of its scope, and there also has to be time for the world to suffer from the effects of the hail and the earthquake so as to be able to "curse God" before Messiah's return; the final "trump" however is followed immediately by the resurrection, by which time the judgments of the seventh trumpet have to have been concluded for some time already.

As I say, all of this is written up in detail in the various parts of the CT series. You might have a look at the following links for some specifics about the above:

Series of Earthquakes (in CT 5)

The Trumpet Judgments (in CT 3A)

Overview of the Tribulation: Scope and Methodology (in CT1 – includes "chronology" argument)

Earthquake and Hail (in CT 5 – includes "ascending severity" argument)

I hope this helps clear things up. Do feel free to write back about any of this.

Thanks as always for your enthusiasm for the Word of God and for all your kind words and prayers

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #4: 

Hi Doc!

Most of my friends believe and hope for a pre-trib rapture, but the problem I have with that is if that last trump in 1 Cor 15:52 is different from the one mentioned in Rev. 11:15-18, then what are the preceding trumpets of 1 Cor. 15:52, and they replied:

"Some midtribulationist and posttribulationists attempt to equate the " last trumpet" in 1 Corinthians 15:52 with the seventh trumpet in Revelation 11:15- 18. Revelation 11:15, does not say specifically " last trumpet." Instead, the Revelation passage says " the seventh angel sounded." The seventh trumpet is the seventh in a series of judgments. The seventh trumpet is the last in a series of trumpet judgments but it is not the last judgment in the series, seven more judgments (bowls) follow.

The " last trumpet" of 1 Corinthians 15:52 is singular, referring to one judgment, not a sequence of seven. Ellicott notes, " There are no sufficient grounds for supposing that there is here any reference to the seventh Apocalyptic trumpet (Rev. xi. 15), or to the seventh and last trumpet." [4] Henry Thiessen agrees:

If he had thought of this trumpet as one of seven, he would undoubtedly have said something like the following: " For when the trumpets will be sounded and the time comes for the last one to sound, the dead in Christ shall be raised." At any rate, there is no ground for identifying the " trump" in 1 Cor. 15:52 with the seventh trumpet in Rev. 11:15. Those in the Revelation introduce fearful judgments upon the world and mankind; this one calls the dead in Christ out of their graves and summons both the ones raised and the believers still living into the Lord' s presence.[5]

If the seventh trumpet in Revelation and the last trumpet in 1 Corinthians 15:52 are supposed to be a reference to the same thing, then why are there many more months of judgment that follow the supposed last trumpet in Revelation 11. The view that equates the last trumpet in 1 Corinthians 15:52 with the seventh trumpet of Revelation does not harmonize in any way.

What are the Trumps leading up to the "Last Trump"? If the rapture is pre-trib and it is proceeded with the "Last Trump," then what are the other trumps? If I come in first in the race, how could I be considered the last runner? I'm not, I'm the first. If I come in last, well, you understand the, operative word here.........logic. Also, Matt. 24, is for the most part referring to Israel, however, the end times will encapsulate the church also. Early church fathers up to the present have taught such a scenario. Regardless to who started it, pre-trib has only been popularized since the 1800's, especially in the last 40 years. "

Is this correct? thanks in advance!

Response #4:   

As to the citations above, I am not quite clear as to how they further your friends' position. As you know, I hold with a post-Tribulation, pre-millennial rapture, that is, the living resurrection of all believers still alive on earth when Jesus returns at the end of the Tribulation. For me, that is clearly what the Bible teaches, and, on the other hand, there is no evidence whatsoever in scripture for a rapture prior to the Tribulation (those who hold to the theory have to "interpret into" passages where it would not otherwise be obviously present). As you rightly suggest, the pre-trib rapture theory is a very recent view.

The "last trumpet" of 1st Corinthians 15:52 is the same as the "trumpet" of 1st Thessalonians 4:16. But there is nothing about this trumpet blast which is said to be a "judgment". The seven trumpets of Revelation chapters 8-11 are signals to begin the seven judgments with which each is associated (see the link: "The Trumpet Judgments"). These seven occur in the Tribulation's first half with the one exception that the seventh trumpet is synonymous with and marks the beginning of the Great Tribulation, the concluding three and a half years. The trumpet of 1st Corinthians 15:52 and 1st Thessalonians 4:16 is also a signal, but not a signal to begin a judgment; rather it is the signal for the resurrection.

This is a very important topic. Please have a look at this link where the issue is explained in detail:

The Origin and the Danger of the Pre-Tribulational Rapture Theory.

In anticipation of that great day of resurrection!

In our dear Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #5: 

I noticed something in Matthew 26:17-19. You know all that brouhaha over what day of the week Jesus was crucified on? Well, this part in Matthew has puzzled me. I thought the Feast of Unleavened Bread came AFTER Passover? Yet, Matthew says that Jesus' disciples came to Him on the FIRST day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Then, vs. 19 says that "they prepared the Passover. Now, when evening came, Jesus was reclining at table...". This sounds contradictory. Could you please explain it to me? One of our commentaries did, but not in much detail. If there is someplace on your website that explains these verses, then please just point me to them, so you won't have to repeat what you have written on your website. Thank you. God's blessings to you.

Response #5: 

The whole question of how the Jewish calendar was interpreted, applied, and described in Jesus day is somewhat vexed – as previous discussions show. Blessedly, it all has very little to do with anything much at all since 1) the symbolism of the calendar is the really important thing, and we have that very clearly set forth in the Law, and 2) the only major applicability in the NT is on the question of the chronology of passion week, and on that issue the gospels are very clear to my mind, notwithstanding the cavils of some. On the later, please see the link: "The Three Days"; on the former, please see the link: "The Jewish Ceremonial Calendar".

I thought you might be asking how Jesus could eat the Passover with His disciples and then be crucified before Passover. I don't remember if this came up in one of our previous conversations, but there were two calendars operative at this time, a northern one and a Judean one; being from the north, Jesus and His disciples followed the northern one for their Passover together; the next day He was crucified just before the sundown of the Judean Passover. The problem is that the Jewish calendar ran on lunar months so that every year they had to intercalate some days to keep in touch with the solar year. All ancient calendars of this sort had the same issue, and there is no guidance in scripture to suggest how the Israelites were to accomplish this process of intercalation. As a result, the system was apparently not standardized and we do not know precisely how it worked at the time (but the divergence between northern and southern Passovers during passion week is a symptom of this problem). If other ancient societies such as Rome and Athens offer any usable parallel, the decision of when to put in the extra day(s) and where (in the calendar) was probably made yearly by some appropriate official (probably the high priest). In such a case, it is easy to see how an area in another political jurisdiction (Galilee) might come to be out of sync with Judea in this regard.

As to your specific question, this is another one of those areas where the Law was interpreted and described in a way that is not particularly clear (and I would very much distinguish between what the Law actually says and how those in Jesus day were interpreting or how they were describing it). The lamb was slaughtered on the 14th, or at least that could be understood to be what the Law technically required, so that the Passover was then eaten on the 15th which began at sundown which was also then the first day of the feast of unleavened bread. So it was possible in a loose sort of way to describe the day of preparation as "the first day of the feast", since the feast was so contiguous with the Passover as to be considered a part of it. We can compare this to the "12 days of Christmas" which in the liturgical tradition of the church start at sundown on the 25th of December. So what we apparently have in the gospels is the correct and accurate description of a contemporary usage that does not line up entirely with what the Law suggests (at least as you and I read it today). That really should not be too surprising, should it? The Jewish tradition of our Lord's day had come to be a mechanical worship "made up only of rules taught by men" (Is.29:13; Matt.15:9); since the entire underpinning of Jewish religion was at this time devoid of true faith (as the rejection of our Lord makes abundantly clear) it should not come as a shock that there were traditional developments which deviated in some respects from the letter of the Law as well as from its spirit.

I think this is an excellent example of why your correspondents who are all het up about these issues of specific "special days and months and seasons and years" are barking up the wrong tree entirely (Gal.4:10). These might be interesting historical facts, but they are of little spiritual value, and in fact they are potentially spiritually damaging when they begin to lead people into present usage which is not in accordance with grace, as in the question of Sabbath observance (whereas in fact every day is our Sabbath rest: Heb.4:9), or re-instituting Passover for Christians (which amounts to "crucifying the Son of God afresh": Heb.6:6), or in regard to when to celebrate Easter (which is only a tradition and not commanded in scripture). I think all this is a perfect example of what Paul means when he says that it is unprofitable to "fight about words" (1Tim.6:4; 2Tim.2:14), not the defending of the truth in terms of important doctrines, but rather getting involved in disputes that have to do with an extra-biblical layer of pseudo-truth such as Gnosticism or, as in the case of your recent correspondent, hyper-legalism. I am certainly not suggesting that this is what you are doing; your question is a great one. My point is that those who are attempting to build their whole approach to Christianity on a superficial structure of falsely applying the yoke of the Law to the necks of contemporary Christians are deluding those who listen to them, if not also themselves.

So I thank you for this question since this is something I have wanted to say about these issues for some time.

In our dear Lord Jesus who is the focus and the substance of our faith,

Bob L.

Question #6: 

Thanks for your patience. Are you saying that because of the Lunar calendar, the Passover and Unleavened Bread feasts sort of overlapped each other, sometimes?

And you were right about asking you about this! :-) It is puzzling. I don't remember anyone bringing up the two different calendars, but I don't have time or patience to read all of their responses, esp. if they are not to me. So, while the North was enjoying the Passover, the South could be already starting the Feast of Unleavened Bread, or vice-versa, is that it? That is very interesting...But where is the "calendar " information found, in history? Just curious.

And I agree about the spiritual part. It is one of those "disputable things" Paul talks about that ultimately makes no difference in the long run. What busts my chops is when these Messianics say we are so wrong for not observing the correct dates (and most think it is wrong to celebrate Good Friday because they think it wasn't ON Friday that Jesus was killed) or Easter--because of the name, etc. I mean, if they want to believe Jesus was crucified on a Wednesday or Thursday, fine. I don't care. They are free to do so. But I just don't like it when they say we are SO wrong and dishonoring God by doing so, because it's not the right "date." I keep telling them we aren't celebrating a date on the calendar, but an EVENT--Christ's death and resurrection.

Thanks again for being my cavalry coming over the hill! Not that you personally are over the hill; it's just an expression...I had better quit while I am ahead...God bless!

Response #6:   

Not to worry. I am so far over the hill I forget what it looked like on the other side.

My point on the two calendars is that both the usage and the description of that usage followed extra-biblical tradition, the details of which are not recorded outside of the gospel descriptions. We know something about what came later from the Mishnah (but this dates to the period after the destruction of the temple, 3rd cent. traditionally, even though its "teachings" purportedly go back much farther). The flux in the calendar is an example of innovative usage; describing the feast as part of the Passover is also an innovative description. Both are part of the same trend and the same phenomenon. I think it is pretty clear what actually happened during passion week (see the previous links), and also there is no doubt but that the passage you ask about is describing events during the daylight hours of the Passover Jesus and His disciples celebrated on the eve of the Judean Passover (i.e., "Good Friday"). As far as historical sources for these variations of calendar, festival timing, and descriptive language, there aren't many (or possibly any, depending upon what one thinks about later testimony mentioned above), so that we are making informed judgments based upon what the Bible actually tells us. We know that there were intercalations into the calendar, for example, because otherwise in a mere 36 years summer and winter would become completely reversed (in calendar terms: 5 days off from 360 times 36 = 180), and there is every indication from both the Old and New Testaments that this was never the case. The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, in loc. "Festivals", suggests on the basis of 2nd Chronicles chapter thirty that this intercalation may well have taken place after the month Abib/Nissan, an eventuality I endorse as likely for various reasons (covered in the following link: "The Jewish Ceremonial Calendar"). So we would like to be basing all this on external evidence, I suppose, or at least we would like for this to be laid down specifically in the Law, but the fact is that the former is essentially non-existent, and it is not clear that the latter (which does not specify how everything should be handled, like intercalation) was ever followed precisely in the way intended. The observation and lack thereof of the Passover in Old Testament times is a good example of this (cf. 2Ki.23; 2Chron.30; 35), and these are pre-exilic situations.

I couldn't agree more with your overall assessment of these issues. They are important because everything in the Bible is important, but they are not nearly of transcendent importance (as is being alleged); in fact, to the contrary, to the extent that people try to put any weight of spiritual significance on specific day observation they are diverging (and causing others to diverge) from the message of grace to a slavish sort of legalism instead.

So don't let anyone judge you in regard to food or drink, or in the category of festival observances, be it of new moons or Sabbaths. All these things are shadows of what was to come, but the reality has to do with Christ. Let no one gain control over your life, desiring to [enslave you to himself] through a show of false humility and the adoration of angels, basing his approach on what he has [allegedly] seen while puffed up by his own fleshly thoughts, yet not embracing the Head [Christ]. For it is from this Source that the entire body [the Church] is [truly] supplied and instructed through [all] its joints and sinews, and [thus] produces the growth that God has given. If you have died with Christ to these false [pagan] principles [belonging to] this world, why are you letting yourselves be [wrongly] indoctrinated as if your life were of this world? In accordance with the commandments and teaching of [mere] men [these false teachers tell you] "Don't handle! Don't taste! Don't touch!", even though [we know] that all these [are only] things [which] decay with use.
Colossians 2:16-22

Always a pleasure.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #7: 

Dear Dr. Luginbill--I was wondering, concerning trying to determine what time of year Jesus was born. I have already written to Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum, a REAL Messianic scholar of the first caliber, about this, though I have not yet heard back from him, so I thought I would get your opinion on this. Here it is:

Event | When |

| John Conceived | mid to late June |

| Jesus Conceived(6 months later)| mid to late Decemeber(Hanukah) |

| John Born | Passover |

| Jesus Born | Sukkot |

What we know:


Zechariah was a priest in the Temple when the angel Gabriel appeared and told him that he and his wife Elizabeth were going to have a son. His son would have the spirit of Elijah (Lk.1:5-17).

Priestly Order

One very important pieces of information in this passage is that Zecharias belonged to the course of Abia (also spelled Abijah). Zecharias was executing his priestly duties when Gabriel visited him. What this means is that if we can ascertain when the order of Abijah served in the temple we can determine when John was conceived.

If we examine 1 Chronicles 24:3-19, we find that the priests were divided into 24 orders for serving in the temple. In particular, 1 Chronicles 24:10 (1Ch 24:10 The seventh to Hakkoz, the eighth to Abijah)indicates that Abijah was eighth in the order of service.

So far so good, but what does serving eighth mean. According to the Mishna (a collection of the Jewish religious law that was passed down and developed before 200 A.D.), each order served for two weeks per year. The weeks were not necessarily consecutive and began on first sabbath of Aviv or Nisan (two weeks before Passover), which is roughly March/April. All the priests also had to serve at the three major feasts: Unleavened Bread, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. So for Zacharias his order would occur, 8 weeks from 1 Nisan, plus 1 weeks for Unleavened Bread and 1 week for Pentecost, so a total time of 10 weeks, somewhere mid to late June. So we can conclude that Zechariah was serving in the temple mid to late June when John the Baptist was conceived.

John the Baptist's Birth

9 months from mid to late June gives us mid to late March, which is the beginning of Passover. The prophet Elijah is clearly associated with Passover, and we anticipate his coming by leaving a place for Him each Passover at the meal. Since we know that John came in the spirit of Elijah (Matthew 11:10-14), then this helps us affirm that John the Baptist was born during the Passover season.

Jesus - 6 months younger than John

According to Luke, in the 6th month after John's conception, the angel Gabriel announced that Mary would have a child. (Luke 1:36). Adding 6 months to John's birth places the birth of Jesus in the month of Tishri (September). This is the biblical narrative evidence that allows us to determine the month of the birth of Jesus.


It is highly significant that the feast of Tabernacles occurs during the month of Tishri. The feast of Tabernacles commemorates the time where dwell in a temporary booth, called Sukkah. It is therefore highly significant that the apostle John describes the coming of Jesus to earth as dwelling or tabernacle-ing among us. His name is called Emmanuel, or God with us. It is possible that the word manger is in fact a sukkah. The feast of Tabernacles is a season of joy, which matches the angelic announcement of Christ's birth "I bring you tidings of great joy".

Do you know anything about the priestly orders and which order Zacharias would have belonged to? I know it's not in the bible, but what about extra-biblical literature.

Thanks for any info you can give me on this. God bless.

Response #7:   

Let me begin by replying in a positive vein (I will treat the specific arguments below). First, I have great respect for Dr. Fruchtenbaum and his scholarship. The proposition that the births of John and Jesus come at prophetically significant times is an interesting one, but one I do not find sufficiently supported in scripture. The death of our Lord comes at a very significant time, prophetically speaking, namely, at the Passover, and that fact is made abundantly clear by the scriptures. Yet the scriptures do not tell us directly when Christ (or John) was born, and that is an important point. I am inclined to believe that if the day or month of birth were prophetically important in either case, that there would have been some mention of the same (indeed, the gospels are replete with observations about the fulfillment of prophecy that Jesus' life and ministry and death accomplished). Therefore the most likely reason to suppose that Jesus was probably not born during Sukkoth is that there is no mention of it in scripture (despite very detailed accounts of the nativity in Matthew and Luke).

Moreover, there is good reason to believe that this was not the case, namely, the evidence which supports a December birth month (approximately) for our Lord. To give an overview of the argument, John's ministry lasted three and half years and so did Jesus' ministry. We know that both officially began in the fall (at the time of the fall cycle of festivals – although Jesus' public phase of three years began six months later in the spring immediately following John's imprisonment) and ended in the spring (just before Passover). Since Jesus' baptism was in the fall and since He was not yet thirty at the time (Lk.3:23; see the links below for explanation), His birthday must have been somewhat later than the fall, and is thus consistent with a December birth. It is not the dates of birth that are important; it is what they did (and what Jesus did for us) that is important and significant, not the chronology of their birth. Moreover, the timing of their ministries' beginning and end is important for what that represents (see the link: the Jewish Ceremonial Calendar).

John began baptizing during the fall of 28 A.D. (i.e., the time of the fall cycle of festivals), and was executed three and a half years later just before the Passover in the spring of 32, one year before the crucifixion. Jesus was baptized by him in 29 A.D., the year following the commencement of John's ministry; thus both John and Jesus have three and half year ministries that overlap with a one year off-set. This was an important point as John, the first "celebrity", gave our Lord "cover" by being the focal point of legalistic opposition until his death. During Jesus' final year, after the death of John, we see our Lord facing death threats throughout up until the point of His crucifixion. Now when Jesus came to be baptized, Luke tells us that He was "just about thirty" (Lk.3:23), and that is a critically important fact. Thirty was the accepted age for priestly service, so that the active phase of our Lord's ministry would begin six months later, after His initial contacts with His disciples, testing in the desert, and move to Capernaum et al., and following John's imprisonment when He would have been "of age" (Mk.1:14). This allows for Jesus' birth month to be placed later, possibly in December, but significantly not at Sukkoth (since Luke implies that He was not yet thirty at that point). This chronology is also supported by the probable year of His birthday (2 B.C.) when compared to other chronological information (the arguments for all this are too detailed to repeat here, but please see the following link: "The Birth of Christ"). So while we cannot say dogmatically when Jesus was born beyond narrowing it down to a window of roughly late November through early April, we can rule out other possibilities. Significantly, as I say, scripture does not tells us when though it certainly could have, and that is key.

I am aware of the argument made from the priestly courses (John Calvin makes it in his commentary on Luke). Dr. Fruchtenbaum's development of this argument is particularly intriguing. Luke 1:5 does state that Zecharias "belonged to the priestly division of Abijah" (NIV). The priestly courses established by David are listed in 1st Chronicles 24, and we do see in Luke that even during the second temple period they have continued in some form. The testimony of the Mishnah, an extra-biblical source, has the virtue of being reasonable on this score. Tractate Sukhah in particular and other references to the priestly courses do suggest a situation such as reported, and, all other things being equal, would result in Zecharias' service in the temple taking place in June or thereabouts. It is true that scripture does not tell us whether the priestly order was maintained throughout the centuries, how long each course served during Jesus' day, or, even if we assume a continuation of the order and a two week period of service, accepting the Mishnah's testimony, what the start-point of service was originally and later on (this information does not occur in Sukhah). This last question is more vexed than it may seem, since no system of 24 courses would cover a year perfectly, there being an odd number of days. Israel apparently dealt with this problem in the past through the use of intercalary months (i.e., an additional time period added into the calendar when it began to get out of sync with the seasons). Whenever this happened, some adjustment of the order would be necessary, which, even if only modest, could easily grow over time.

That said, the most important cavil here is that Luke does not say that John was conceived immediately thereafter. He says that Elizabeth conceived "after these days" (Lk.1:24), meta tautas hemeras. In Acts 1:5, where additional limiting phrase "not many" is employed, this turns out to mean seven weeks. Without the "not many", we would be within our rights to double the time at least. Simply put, even if we accept this argument from the priestly courses for the time of Zecharias' service, a September/October birth for John is still well within the limits of conservative interpretation (and the particular one to which I refer in the first paragraph).

The other arguments are much less convincing. The manger has nothing to do with Sukkoth. In the Greek, the manger is not a barn in any case but a movable feed-trough (we have discussed this common, traditional misinterpretation before; see the link: "The Babe in the Manger"). But even if one wants to misread the text and find the traditional barn here, a barn is a permanent structure whereas the booths were temporary and that is the key point of their symbolism. Elijah's connection with the Passover is also extra-biblical. When he does return (with Moses) at the beginning of the Tribulation, the correspondence of the beginning of his eschatological ministry will be to the day of Atonement in the fall, not Passover in the spring. John and Elijah are clearly linked, but we see Elijah starting His ministry in the fall and this is precisely what John did as well. In contrast, it was Jesus who began the public phase of His ministry in the spring and it ended at Passover as well with the crucifixion and resurrection.

Hope this is helpful.

In our dear Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #8: 

Dear Dr. Luginbill--Yes, this is helpful. However, I have a couple of questions: first of all, how do you know that Jesus' ministry started in the fall? And also, you know where Luke 1 says, "Now, in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent..." etc. Does this mean the sixth month of the Jewish year, or in Elizabeth's sixth month of pregnancy, since it says right before this, that she kept herself in seclusion for 5 months, after conceiving. I have often wondered about this.

So, you think a December birth is possible? I do, too, but don't think it makes any difference if He was born then or not. We aren't celebrating a date on a the calendar, but an EVENT--Christ coming into the flesh to save us from our sins. Thanks for all your help.

Response #8:   

The fall scenario is based largely upon back-dating a putative, parallel three and half year ministry for both John and Jesus (see the links "The Date of the Birth of Christ" and "The Birth of Christ" for additional info on that – it's not everyone's "cup of tea", I understand). As to Elizabeth, yes, that is what is meant, namely, her sixth month so we know that John was about five or six months older than Jesus and thus could/would have been just thirty when he started his ministry. Finally, I agree absolutely about the event being more important than the date. That is why scripture relates the event in detail, but never gives us a date (when many other dates, notably the crucifixion and resurrection, are carefully dated).

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #9: 

Hello--Some people on CARM are disputing what you wrote below and on the other e-mail you sent me. One wrote:

WE know that Nisan 10 was on the first day of the week when Yeshua made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem and Sir Robert Anderson places that date on our calendar as April 6, AD 32, using Ezra and Daniel as guideposts. If one counts back 33 1/2 years approx, allowing for leap years and the 30 day cycle of the Hebrew calendar that will give us what Feast time and from there we can deduce an almost exact date. If the calculation comes on or very near a specific Feast day, we can be fairly certain when the Messiah was born according to our calendar.

I've never heard of Sir Robert Anderson. And I thought the Hebrew calendar was lunar, and would be in approximately 30 day cycles

Response #9: 

Anderson was a late 19th early 20th Bible teacher (fairly prolific in the books/pamphlets he produced) who came out of the Plymouth Brethren movement.

I'm not sure what to reply to this snippet otherwise, however. How do we "know" that Jesus entered Jerusalem on the 10th of Nissan (especially when not only the year but even the day of the week is disputed)? I am not alone in preferring 33 A.D. as the year of the crucifixion rather than 32. Perhaps if this person actually gave a date for the Nativity and laid out how he/she came to it specifically there would be something to sink one's teeth into. As it is, I don't see anything here of any particular substance that can be addressed any further. You are certainly correct that it is not just a matter of counting backwards since the lunar and solar years do not match precisely, and since as noted before that occasioned the need for intercalating additional days or months into the calendar according to some system to which we are not now privy. Perhaps that is why the person has not ventured to do so.

On the issue of the entry day please see the links:

The Triumphal Entry (in BB 4A)

Palm Sunday

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #11: 

I read your entire article on the dating of the Passover and will offer a small fact that will help the discussion along. It's found in Exodus 12:3. The Passover lamb was to be a lamb chosen on a specific day and killed on a specific day. Exodus 12:3 instructs Moses to instruct Israel to choose their lamb on the 10th day of Aviv and Exodus 12:6 to kill it on the 14th day of Aviv. If Yohoshua died on a Friday (that being the 14th), on what day would he have been chosen (that being the 10th)? As the "lamb of God, our Passover sacrificed for us", the selection would have occurred on the day the Israelites identified him to be their king in answer to Zechariah's prophecy: "Behold, your king cometh to you, humble and lowly of heart, riding on a colt, the fowl of a donkey". Which is why the very stones would have cried out had Yohoshua silenced his disciples. It was lamb-picking day. They must identify their choice to be killed. It would be the "King of the Jews"; identified on the 10th and killed on the 14th. So then if as most believe and teach:

Friday was the 14th (crucified) (Passover killed)

Thursday would be the 13th

Wednesday would be the 12th

Tuesday would be the 11th

Monday would be the 10th (Triumphal Entry) (sacrificial lamb chosen) (not Palm Sunday???)

Or was it:

Thursday – the 14th (crucified) (Passover killed)

Wednesday – the 13th

Tuesday – the 12th

Monday – the 11th

Sunday – the 10th (Triumphal Entry or Palm Sunday)

Things that make you go Ummmmm !?!

Response #11:   

Good to make your acquaintance. First, you should know that the most recent thing I have written about this is found in Bible Basics part 4A: Christology, section I.5.j, "The Last Passover". This contains a more complete treatment than the e-mail response you quote, along with the full context of the entire "passion week". Leaving aside the fact that there is other evidence given in both places for the chronology proposed which in my view stands on its own despite this issue you bring up, I will nevertheless attempt to address your concern.

First, John 12:1 explicitly states that Jesus came to Bethany, "six days before the Passover", and John 12:12 tells us that His triumphal entry occurred "on the next day" (which would then, of course, have to be five days before the Passover). According to your schema, then, if Thursday were the Passover, the triumphal entry would have to have been a Monday ("Palm Monday", as you put it), since Sunday is only four days before Thursday, not five.

As to the selection of the Lamb, the command in Exodus is addressed to believers in a ritual symbolic of Christ's death on the cross for us all. Those who sought to kill him were anything but believers, so I feel that your analogy falls short here in a very critical way. The ritual is to teach those willing to learn. Selecting and slaughtering the lamb is supposed to have a spiritual meaning for spiritual people. But who is the One who actually did select the Lamb, that is, Jesus Christ? He is chosen by the Father, not by those who reject Him and His sacrifice.

(17) This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: (18) "Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations."
Matthew 12:17-18 NIV

This is what I read in the Torah: "God will select for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son", and "On the mountain of the Lord, it [i.e., the sacrifice chosen by God] will be provided" (Gen.22:8 and 22:14 respectively). This symbolic event happened, of course, on Mount Moriah, that is, the very place where Jesus, the Lamb of God, was crucified (compare Gen.22:2 with 2Chron.3:1).

Finally, although I find no clear reference in the New Testament version of events that makes the adoption of the process of lamb-picking for the Passover even necessary as an interpretative tool on this issue (let alone the decisive piece of evidence that should trump all the other evidence), I need to point out that your chronology of those events which finds a four day window is not entirely correct. Exodus 12 should be read as giving a five day window. That is because while the lamb is selected on the 10th, and cared for until the 14th, it is not slaughtered until "evening" (NIV) / "twilight" (KJV). The Hebrew here is the phrase beyn ha'arabiym, and refers to dusk or sundown when the new day began in the Jewish system of day-reckoning (e.g., Passover begins at sundown). Thus, technically speaking, the lamb is slaughtered on the fifth day after selection, not the fourth.

Our Lord Jesus, of course, was crucified in the morning (the third hour; ca. 9 AM). And darkness descended on Golgotha (symbolized by the twilight in Exodus) about the sixth hour (noon), lasting until the ninth hour (3 PM). During those three hours of darkness, Jesus was judged for the sins of the world. Thus, one has to make allowances for the differences between the Levitical sacrifices which are symbolic and the realities they represented. But in this case, even if we wish to associate the triumphal entry with the choosing of the Lamb (something, as I say, of which I am not personally convinced), even so the chronology would "work", but only if we assume a Friday crucifixion.

In our dear Lord Jesus,

Bob Luginbill

Question #12: 

Hi Bob,

Thanks for responding to my recent post. I perceive you're a gentleman and a scholar (Greek and all). I've explored the Greek myself. Do you also have training in Hebrew? (Skillful craftsman can't be without the proper tools, right?) And we're building for the kingdom of God. I'm always on the outlook for fellow expert craftsmen who pay attention to detail. According to the Word of Truth ... Man is not to live by bread alone, but by every word ... And the Scripture can't be broken (into essential and non-essential). For ALL scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. Not one jot or tittle shall in any way be removed from the law (Torah) 'til all be fulfilled.

Now about that Lamb ... Is it profitable to know it was selected on a specific day and killed on a specific day? That reminds me of other specifics about the lamb. It was to be without blemish. Was Yahoshua without blemish? Was he inspected? No bone of it was to be broken. Was any bone of Yahoshua broken? (Jn 19:36) It was to be killed on the 14th of Aviv (not the 13th or the 15th). I recall Luke writing "That ALL things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses (Lk 24:44)(Exodus is a book of the law, right?). And when they had fulfilled ALL that was written of him, they took him down from the tree (Acts 13:29,30) So what are you saying about unnecessary, non-essential details ... (quote: I find no clear reference in the New Testament version of events that makes the adoption of the process of lamb-picking for the Passover even necessary) It's necessary to fulfill all things written in the law of Moses. So that's really my point. Overlooking details is often what hides our eyes from seeing the truth. And if the light in you be darkness, how great is that darkness.

So whatever we believe and teach, it must conform to "every word" that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. And that's how God removes the scales from our eyes. God uses little things to confound the wise. So what is the truth? "Thy Word is truth".

I'll respond to your other points later, once you've had a chance to digest this one. Overeating can cause indigestion.

Grace be to you,

Response #12:   

To answer your question, I took a Masters in Hebrew at Talbot Theological (following three years undergraduate study in Hebrew at the Univ. of Illinois) before my M.A. and Ph.D. in Classical Languages and Literature (see the link: Current C.V.).

Yes indeed, Jesus is the Lamb of God. And details are important. However, this reference is, of course, symbolic. The Passover is a shadow which represents the reality of the cross. Therefore all details are not identical in the type (a literal lamb) and antitype (The Lamb). A lamb is not nailed to a cross; the Lamb is not immolated on an altar. A lamb does not actually have any power to atone for sin by its death; the Lamb does. A lamb knows nothing about what is coming; the Lamb knew from eternity past. A lamb is not God; the Lamb is. A lamb is sacrificed every year; the Lamb offered Himself once and for all. Need I go on? My point is, that in order for us to say with authority that a specific detail of the Levitical sacrifice (the type) is definitively to be found in the occurrence of the antitype (Christ and His sacrifice), we need first to have some reasonable basis for doing so.

Clearly, there is nothing specific in the New Testament gospel accounts (and we have four of them, after all) or anything in Acts, the epistles, or Revelation, which make this connection you are making (i.e., between the day of triumphal entry and selecting the lamb/Lamb). I personally find the idea of some connection interesting and worth pursuing (since, as you say, all the details of scripture are there for a purpose). But because there is a delay between selection and sacrifice does not necessarily mean that the particular connection you are drawing here is one that scripture would have us to draw. My hermeneutic requires a bit more than that.

On the other hand, while I see no compelling reason from scripture or scriptural analogy to make the connection you are making, I do find two issues which for me are serious objections against that particular view. First, as briefly mentioned before, the correspondence between type and antitype are never exact (because they are different persons/things, of course). The Passover lamb was selected by the individual in all cases, many lambs, many people. There is only one Lamb, and scripture indicates to me that God is the One who selected Him, not mankind (and certainly not one small group of human beings; in any case, not everyone in Jerusalem had the same motivations or desires or attitudes toward our Lord, and the spectrum ran from unqualified support to unqualified opposition with many agnostics in the middle). The lamb is selected consciously and deliberately, but if the day of entry was a selection for crucifixion, this was certainly not something of which the triumphant crowd was aware. Moreover, if anything, scripture indicates to me that Jesus was rejected, not chosen, by His generation (Jn.1:11). Furthermore, even if we were to assume that the people might be said to be "accepting" Jesus during the triumphal entry, they are clearly accepting Him as their Messiah without the cross, that is, rejecting the notion of any necessity for any sacrifice whatsoever (i.e., the "crown without the cross").

Secondly, if there is any connection between the delay in selection of the type and the passion week of the Antitype Lamb, it would seem to have to be of a chronological nature, and here, as I wrote in the previous e-mail, I find a lack of sufficient concurrence.

So while as I say the idea of some sort of connection between the five day delay and passion week is an interesting one, just what that connection would be, in the absence of specific scriptural guidance, escapes me. I would be reluctant to draw the connection you suggest for the reasons stated.

Thanks again for your e-mail.

In our dear Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #13: 

Hi Bob,

Grace & peace from God the Father and from His son. I do believe the New Testament also establishes the fact that the Passover lamb was killed on a specific day.

Lk 22:7 - Then came the day of unleavened bread, when the passover must be killed. (cf Mk 14:12)

(This was the same day on which Yahoshua was killed as "our passover sacrificed for us".)

2Cron 35:1 - Moreover Josiah kept a passover unto the LORD in Jerusalem: and they killed the passover on the fourteenth [day] of the first month.

Josiah got his direction to kill the Passover on the 14th from Moses' writings which was found in the temple by the priests:

2Cron 34:30 - ... and he read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant that was found in the house of the LORD. v31 - And the king stood in his place, and made a covenant before the LORD, to walk after the LORD, and to keep his commandments, and his testimonies, and his statutes, with all his heart, and with all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant which are written in this book.

The same law given by the LORD to Moses was the law Yahoshua was said to have fulfilled.

"That all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning Me" Lk 24:44

Is it unreasonable to expect that our passover (Yahoshua) who was killed on the 14th according to the law of Moses was identified on the 10th according to the same law (is it not written in the law that the lamb for the passover was to be identified/separated out on the 10th?), In the likeness of identifying a lamb for the Passover, how was Yahoshua separated to be held up until the 14th to be killed? He was identified as "King of the Jews". It was this identity that he received on the 10th that caused his death on the 14th. "We have no king but Caesar".

In response to your 2nd objection:

quote: if there is any connection between the delay in selection of the type and the passion week of the Antitype Lamb, it would seem to have to be of a chronological nature, and here, as I wrote in the previous e-mail, I find a lack of sufficient concurrence.

Here I find there to be a close concurrence between the Passover lamb and the Lamb of God in the close inspection He endured throughout the week at the hands of the lawyers, the Scribes & the Pharasees to attempt to find a fault with the Lamb. They could not find any fault. He was a lamb without blemish. The chronology beginning with his entrance into Bethany (which was 6 days before the Passover) would, as you say, cause the Triumphal entry to be 5 days before the Passover; making the 11th 4 days before the Passover; the 12th 3 days before the Passover; the 13th 2 days before the Passover; the 14th the preparation day of the Passover (which it was; see Jn 19:14 And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!); and the 15th the Passover, which the Feast day had come to be called. Now the feast of unleavened bread drew nigh, which is called the Passover. (Lk 22:1)

And the fact that Yahoshua was sacrificed on wood is in keeping with the ram (male lamb) caught in the thicket that was sacrificed in Isaac's place. "And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood." (Gen 22:9)

I think that because it was written in the law of Moses, Yahoshua necessarily fulfilled everything, even the smallest details recorded.

I appreciate your comments.

Response #13:   

Let us begin with your conclusion: "Yahoshua necessarily fulfilled everything, even the smallest details recorded". However, not only is there the question of precisely how those details were fulfilled, but in fact, surely you must agree that not every detail is identical since Jesus is the God-man and not a literal lamb? Jesus throat was not cut as the lamb's was, nor was His body burned to ashes on an altar. This is an analogy.

Because this is a type-antitype comparison, one has to exercise care in the application of the similarities. For example, the lamb is without physical blemish; Jesus is sinless. The physical slaughter of the lamb is definitely a type of the spiritual death of Christ, just as the literal blood is a type of the figurative Blood of Christ (i.e., our Lord's expiation of our sin in the three hours of darkness by being judged by the Father for them in our place). Note that in this the most important point of correspondence between a lamb and the Lamb the actual difference between the two is astronomically large: a physical death of an involuntary animal which represents Jesus' wiping out of all sin through His voluntary spiritual death. This distinction is very important, because many people get confused about this sort of thing as in the case of the Roman catholic church and many besides who actually see the Blood of Christ as literal blood (rather than what it is: His suffering of spiritual death for all sin: see the link: "The Blood of Christ").

My point is that even if we take the step of saying "this five (or four) day delay must have spiritual significance in regard to the antitype", it is a long further step to then say "they chose the lamb / they chose Jesus", and an even longer additional step to say "that means Christ was crucified on a Thursday".

In regard to the former, the Hebrew verb laqach is one of the most common verbs in the Old Testament; with the preposition le it can mean something akin to the English "choose", but it means many other things as well. A translation which reads "choose a lamb" is far more suggestive of your interpretation than, say, the KJV which reads "they shall take to them every man a lamb". In English, "choosing" is a very personal act, and that connotation seems to me to be critical to your interpretation here; it is not so pronounced in the Hebrew (if present at all). There are also problems with the "king" argument you present: the lamb is not regal; and if the lamb is "chosen", it is chosen to die, whereas if Jesus is "chosen" (by the people? I don't find that in scripture) it would have to be that He was chosen to reign (without the cross), but it is when He is rejected as king in the end that He is then sentenced to physical death.

In regard to the latter, Christ died for our sins during the day time (albeit in supernatural darkness), and also exhaled His spirit before the day officially changed to Passover at evening (this, or course, is why the Jewish leaders wanted the legs of those crucified broken, i.e., before Passover officially began). The Passover lamb, however, certainly was not slaughtered "at noon" (i.e., the sixth hour: Matt.27:45). So regardless of what precisely beyn ha'arabyim means in Exodus 12:3 in terms of specific time; at the very least, it clearly refers to the time of the approach of evening, not noon to three PM. Therefore there can be no precise chronological terminator in this respect for the type and anti-type.

That is probably enough for present "digestion", except to say that 1) I never said that the NT doesn't agree with the OT feast chronology; my objection is with the equating of the Passover chronology with this particular interpretation of the antitype; and 2) I'm not sure I understand your "count down" argument which places Passover on the 15th – didn't you just get finished saying that Josiah followed the Law and held it on the 14th?

In Jesus, the true Lamb of God,

Bob L.

Question #14: 

Dear Bob,

I'm enjoying the process of our discussion on this important matter of Bible exegesis. Nothing is so satisfying as searching hard for precious gems and finding them. For me, the bottom line is really what is written in the law of Moses. Only the details recorded by Moses for the typical Passover lamb must find fulfillment in the anti-type, whether literally or spiritually. The literal details that met fulfillment included the fact that none of the bones of the Passover could be broken. So when they came to Yahoshua to break his bones, he was already dead, dismissing any need to break his bones and thus fulfilling the type. I don't see how a time specification could be fulfilled other than literally. Yahoshua answered every argument with "It is written". Thus it is written: "not one jot or one tittel shall in any way pass from the law (of Moses) 'til all be fulfilled. This detail could be considered a tittle in the law. Just a crossing of a 't'. And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail (Lk 16:17).

Have a good safe holiday weekend.

Response #14: 

Thank you for your e-mail, and I certainly appreciate its spirit. There is a lot written in the Law. When, for example, Paul applies "do not muzzle an ox who is threshing" to the necessity of providing for those who study and teach, it is certainly a case of "fulfillment", as you put it, but I'm not sure that this is a connection that I would have been able to come up with had it not been spelled out in scripture. Leviticus chapter 14 has fifty-seven verses on the regulations for identifying and cleansing infectious skin diseases and mildew. I am sure there is beneficial application to made from these things (along the lines of the need for purity and sanctification, et al.), but how is one to know that a specific interpretation is the exact "fulfillment" if it is not at least hinted at in some definite way in the New Testament? The example you cite of "no bone broken" is in fact specifically cited by the New Testament as a fulfillment (Jn.19:36). If we restrict the field of investigation to prophecies about the Messiah, well, that is still an extensive area. I, for one, do indeed find the tabernacle and sacrificial regimes to be filled with typology that is directly related to the teaching of the Messiah and His sacrifice, not to mention the structure of the heavens, the order of the divine construct of the ages (in the Jewish ceremonial calendar; see the link), etc.

So it is not that I am questioning the principle – far from it. And I do think you have a point. All this has been written "for our instruction" (Rom.15:4). The question is, precisely what is the lesson and how are we to determine it correctly?" You may have a point about the necessity for a chronological fulfillment since this is a chronological detail; I'm just not sure that the precise application is to be found in the details of Passion Week (especially since I personally do not believe a Thursday crucifixion is supported by all the other evidence). Days often stand for years in biblical prophesy (e.g., Daniel's seventy weeks; cf. Num.14:34). Jesus' earthly ministry lasted for three and half years following His formal "choosing" by the Father (at His baptism) and ending with His sacrifice on the altar of the cross. Just as the people had a chance to consider the lamb for a period of time, so they had ample opportunity to consider the Lamb before He was crucified. As I say, I am still looking for the scriptural signpost that would give me a bit more confidence here, but if there is a parallel, I would at present prefer to find in the three and a half year ministry rather than in the days of Passion Week.

In our dear Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #15: 

Hi Bob,

(Quote): I'm not sure I understand your "count down" argument which places Passover on the 15th -- didn't you just get finished saying that Josiah followed the Law and held it on the 14th?

2Cron 35:1 - Moreover Josiah kept a Passover unto the LORD in Jerusalem: and they killed the passover on the fourteenth [day] of the first month.

Clearly, the passover was killed on the 14th.

Now according to Lk 22:7 - Then came the day of unleavened bread, when the passover must be killed.

Mk 14:12 - And the first day of unleavened bread, when they killed the passover, his disciples said unto him, Where wilt thou that we go and prepare that thou mayest eat the Passover.

Now that the 14th had come, Yahoshua's disciples knew that the time had come to prepare the passover by killing it. They killed it and ate it that very night. Since they killed it on the evening of the 14th, they killed it on the evening that began the 14th. (since Hebrew days begin with evening)

Why do you suppose He ate the Passover that same night of the 14th? It was because he was following the example of Moses who caused the children of Israel to eat it the night of the 14th before the death angel "passed over". That's why Moses called the 14th the "Passover". But the Pharasees had come to think that Moses had instructed them to kill it on the 14th and eat it on the 15th. Thereby the Pharasees called the 15th the Passover, commemorating the day they thought the death angel "passed over".

John therefore recorded:

John 12:1 - "Then Jesus six days before the Passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead."

The reference John makes here to the Passover would have been understood to be the Feast of Unleavened Bread as in the context of John 19:14.

John 19:14 - "And it was_ the preparation of the Passover_, and about the 6th hour, and he (Pilate) saith unto the Jews, 'Behold your king'."

John identifies what he means by Passover. Yahoshua appeared before Pilate the morning of the crucifixion. The following day was the Passover (Feast of Unleavened Bread). This was the preparation day (for the Feast of Unleavened Bread) on which no labor was to be done. Luke further clarifies it by defining what Passover means:

Lk 22:1 - "Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew nigh, which is called the Passover."

So, "6 days before the Passover" translates into "6 days before the Feast of Unleavened Bread". And According to Leviticus 23:6 - "On the 15th day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread."

6 days before the 15th (Feast of Unleavened Bread) is the 9th.

6 days before Passover - came to Bethany

5 days before Passover - Sunday (Triumphal Entry)

4 days before Passover - Monday

3 days before Passover - Tuesday

2 days before Passover - Wednesday

1 day before Passover - Thursday (Preparation of the Passover-Jn 19:14)(the day of the Crucifixion)

Passover - Friday (Feast of Unleavened Bread called the "Passover") (rested according to the commandment of Leviticus 23:6,7) The first Adam was also put into a deep sleep on the 6th day (Friday} for God to bring forth his bride (Eve). Now God made the second Adam (Messiah) to sleep the sleep of death on the 6th day (Friday) to bring forth his bride (the church). Just as another time God also caused Abraham to fall into a deep sleep as He (God) walked between the cutting of the sacrifice to establish His covenant with Abraham (Father of many nations)(Gen 15:7). Abraham was a type of Christ (who is King of kings & Father of the faithful).

An important note also to consider is by contracting passion week by one day, there is now no need to account for a 'silent Wednesday'; a day of unrecorded inactivity.

Grace & Peace to you,

Response #15:   

As best I can tell, your argument here seems to depend upon the feast of unleavened bread beginning after (or contiguous with / not clear here) a Passover which took place on the Friday of Easter week, yes? In the light of the following, I believe you need to re-think your time-line.

The feast is clearly said to have begun before the crucifixion and so cannot have begun afterwards:

On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?"
Matthew 26:17 NIV

On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus' disciples asked him, "Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?"
Mark 14:12 NIV

Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, "Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover."
Luke 22:7-8 NIV

Therefore your statement, "6 days before the Passover" translates into "6 days before the Feast of Unleavened Bread", and referring thereby to Friday cannot be a correct assessment of what the writers of the gospels mean when they use this terminology.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #16: 

Hi Bob,

Did you notice that the NIV adds something to the translation that isn't in the Greek? In Matthew 26:17 the NIV reads "On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the passover? The Greek word for "Feast" (ἑορτη) is absent in the Greek text. It was added by the NIV translators. All it really says is "the first (day) of matza"

Same with Mark 14:12: On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus' disciples asked him, "Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?" Again the word "Feast" is absent from the Greek text. The text reads "the first day of matza"

Luke 22:7,8 is translated correctly: "Then came the day of unleavened bread on which the passover lamb had to be sacrificed." We know that this day was the 14th, as commanded by Moses and kept by Josiah. It is called a day of unleavened bread.

Though the 14th was considered to be a day of unleavened bread (the day on which the passover lamb was killed),the 7-day Feast of Unleavened Bread began with the 15th. We know this because it is written in the law that the passover lamb was to be killed on the 14th, which is the subject of these texts. We know The 15th began the 7-day Feast because the 7-day Feast began with a holy convocation and ended with a holy convocation.

Lev 23:2 NIV "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'These are my appointed feasts, the appointed feasts of the Lord, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies."

Lev 23:6 NIV "On the fifteenth day of that month the Lord's Feast of Unleavened Bread begins; for seven days you must eat bread made without yeast."

Lev 23:7 NIV "On the first day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work."

Please don't miss the point of Lev 23:6; the Feast of Unleavened Bread BEGINS on the 15th day. The 15th is a holy convocation, a sabbath day of rest. The passover lamb is killed on the 14th day. The 14th day is a day of preparation requiring regular work.

Expert translators proficient in Greek may be thinking they're giving us a clearer understanding by adding the word 'feast' in places where it doesn't appear, but in reality they've made it nearly impossible for anyone reading it without Greek glasses to come to a knowledge of the truth.

To further point out that the 14th isn't the first day of the Feast, Mark writes that the chief priests and the scribes had determined NOT to take Him on the "Feast" lest there be an uproar among the people.

Mark 14:1 After two days was [the feast of] the passover, and of unleavened bread: and the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take him by craft, and put [him] to death.

14:2 - But they said, Not on the feast [day], lest there be an uproar of the people. (The feast day is the 15th.)

So did they take him on the Feast day anyway?

And surely the Feast hadn't yet begun. Consider John 13:21:

For some [of them] thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus had said unto him, Buy [those things] that we have need of against the feast...

It was the preparation day for the Passover (Feast of Unleavened Bread), so they thought the Master was sending Judas to buy what was needed for the Feast day on which no buying or selling was permitted.

The preparation day (the 14th) proceeded the 7-day Feast. The preparation day was used to remove any leaven from all their houses so that no leaven was present during the Feast.

Ex. 12:17 - Seven days shall there be no leaven found in your houses...

Ex. 12:15 - Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses. Here it seems the 1st day is a reference to the preparation day when they were to search their houses for leaven and 'put it away'.

Housecleaning is one of the chores of the 14th. Because no servile work can be done on the 15th.

Leviticus 23:6 - "On the 15th day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

V.7 In the first day ye shall have an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein."

Response #16: 

The absence of the word "festival" does not at all mean that this is not what we should understand here.  Indeed, when what is to be "filled in the blank" is patently obvious, the absence of the leading noun to be supplied is a commonplace in ancient Greek of all eras. The word matza is plural, not singular, and generally refers to the feast in this construction (i.e., in the NT Greek usage there is no difference between these different descriptions). Bottom line:  the versions have it exactly right that it is indeed the Feast of Unleavened Bread that is meant (so that this is the correct way to translate the verse). 

But this is a red-herring. The point not to miss here is that by one calculation, Passover took place earlier than it did according to a different calculation (see below).

We seem to be talking past each other a bit here. If we are going to drop all my prior objections without comment on concentrate on the time reckoning in the gospels we should remember nevertheless that there are two things at issue: 1) Does the four day period allow us to argue for a Thursday crucifixion? And 2), Can the day of selection be shown to align with the day of triumphal entry? I have no doubts but that the answer to question one is negative. As to question two, I would also respond in the negative, and, in my opinion shared many times already by now, it is most likely irrelevant in any case, since the entry into Jerusalem is not, in my view, any sort of a selection process. But we do need to recognize that these are two separate questions, and that our answers to either one depend in great measure on the way we interpret just exactly what the gospel writers have to say.

The real underlying point of my last e-mail was, as I concluded before, that we need to get a "correct assessment of what the writers of the gospels mean" by their use of terminology. There were clearly two festival calendars at work during our Lord's day (see e.g., H.W. Hoehner, Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ). The lunar month does not fill up the solar year, so that there were always intercalations into the calendar, but there is nothing in scripture that specifies the manner or the time of doing so (see the link: in SR 5, "The Jewish Ceremonial Calendar"). The first day of the feast and/or Passover was the day before the crucifixion in the passages quoted in my last e-mail. Not only that, it was the day on which the lamb was slaughtered for the Passover which Jesus and His disciples celebrated, but not the one which the Jewish establishment of Jerusalem celebrated:

Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover.
John 19:28 TNIV

But Jesus and His disciples had already eaten the Passover the night before:

Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, "Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover." "Where do you want us to prepare for it?" they asked. He replied, "As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, and say to the owner of the house, 'The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?' He will show you a large room upstairs, all furnished. Make preparations there." They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover. When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.
Luke 22:7-15

John's chronology seems to be what is often referred to as the Galilean method of reckoning, whereas the other writers seem to be following the Jerusalem reckoning for that year (i.e., "14th and 15th" is one thing, but "whose "14th and 15th?" is the real question here).

A second problem is the issue of computing days. When does Thursday or Friday or Passover begin? For example, we cannot consider "Friday as Friday" in our way of thinking in the US today if in reality it becomes Saturday, the Sabbath, at sundown. But is that what is meant in the gospels?

The specifics of the Jewish ceremonial calendar are not easy to pin down for reasons that this discussion at least partly illuminates. There is disagreement in Rabbinical literature on precisely this issue of just what beyn ha'arbiym means at Exodus 12:3, and when precisely it would take place (please see what I wrote in our first and third exchanges). C.F. Keil's comment on this is illuminating: "... although the Israelites reckoned the day of 24 hours from evening sunset to sunset, in numbering the days they followed the natural day, and numbered each day according to the period between sunrise and sunset" (Commentary on the Old Testament, in loc. Exodus 12:6). This explains, for example, why there are different Jewish traditions when it comes to the calendar (e.g., whether "The Feast of Weeks / Pentecost" is to begin on the 6th or 7th of Sivan), and naturally so. The day of Passover is thus the 14th (as in Josiah's reinstitution "according to the Law"), but the time of the slaughter is late in the day, which should be reckoned as the beginning of the next day by all accounts (i.e., the 15th). The fact that the process of preparation is elaborate led to the naming of the day before the evening Passover meal as "the day of preparation", or in Greek, paraskeue, the word which still today in reflection of the Judeo-Christian heritage means "Friday".

So when Josiah's Passover lamb is "slaughtered on the 14th", the writer of Chronicles surely assumes that we understand "and they held the Passover meal that evening" (which would be the 15th). Scripture never goes out of its way to explain the import of beyn ha'arbiym, but since Christ was judged for the sins of the world during the three hours of supernatural darkness on the cross, the correspondence between type and antitype in this case is clear: the physical lamb dying physically in the dusk represents the Lamb of God dying spiritually in the supernatural darkness. There is no way to make these two events correspond completely in terms of time-lag, because the lamb dies at a time that is technically the evening of the Passover while Jesus died spiritually in the darkness during the daylight hours of Friday preparation (by the Judean calendar, at any rate), and gave up His human spirit before the sun went down (an additional problem for chronological correspondence).

Sunday was the day of resurrection (Matt.28:1), and the day before it was the Sabbath (Mk.16:1; Matt.28:1) including within it the concluding daylight hours of the Passover (Jn.19:31), which was in turn the day after Christ's crucifixion (Mk.15:42). Thus, if we take John 12:1 literally, "six days before" the daylight hours of the Passover would indeed be a Sunday. If, however, John means instead "the day whose evening would see the Passover meal", then the entry will have occurred on the previous Saturday. Finally, if John is in this instance calculating from the Passover that he and the other disciples celebrated with our Lord, then the chronology is moved back potentially to Friday. We have the same spread of possible interpretations for the day of selection, only here the problem is intensified, because now we are also dealing with the question of inclusive counting. According to our western way of thought, for example, "four days" would mean four complete twenty-four hour periods. In Jewish (and in Greek) counting, however, the inclusive method is the rule. Thus if the lamb were slaughtered on Friday for a Passover meal at sundown (Jn.19:14), that day, along with the preceding Thursday, Wednesday and Tuesday would constitute the "four day period". The only way to make "selection day" line up with "triumphal entry day" is to use one calendar for the one, the other calendar for the other, and ignore the problems of day reckoning and inclusive counting (this is the "magic" in your count-down calendar). But of course if there is any symbolism that is important here it would have to be linked to the actual crucifixion day: this day, by any true computation, is more than four days after the entry, since Jesus was crucified on the day whose evening saw the Passover meal.

In short, John's tagging of the entry into Jerusalem as "six days before Passover" means that selection day cannot possibly catch up with entry day (even with creative accounting). Secondly, since there is no definitive external calendar to which to link these chronologies, we cannot use the various descriptions of the gospel writers (who are apparently using two calendars and a somewhat variable terminology) to ground a chronology that would ever "prove" a Thursday crucifixion. Thankfully we don't need to do so. The Bible does tell us all we need to know on that score. It does provide us with a very clear relative chronology as to the days of crucifixion and resurrection. That relative chronology on the face of it and after all sorts of testing always comes back to the same place: our Lord was crucified on a Friday and rose from the dead three days later (inclusively counted) on Sunday morning.

In grateful thanksgiving for all He has done for us.

Bob L.

Question #17: 

Dear Bob,

Thank you for being patient with me. I hope the process can be worth the results we gain from it. Let's see if maybe we can create one immovable axiom. Shall we give it a try?

As you said, Jesus was crucified on the day whose evening saw the Passover meal.

Saying it another way, the very Hebrew day He ate the passover with his disciples he died. His death must have been on the 14th to fulfill the need to kill the Passover on the 14th and fulfill the type. He therefore died on what must have been the true Biblical 14th day of Aviv and not on the true Biblical 15th day of Aviv. And whatever is meant by /beyn ha'arbiym/ (between the evenings), he fulfilled it.

Are we in agreement so far? If so, this can be axiom #1: As our Passover sacrificed for us, Jahoshua died "between the evenings" on the true Biblical 14th day of Aviv, regardless of calendars in use at the time.

And based on axiom #1, Jahoshua would have also had his disciples kill the passover "between the evenings" according to the same law on the same day as he died, the true Biblical 14th day of Aviv.

Therefore according to the scriptures "between the evenings" must mean between the evening that began the 14th and the evening that ended the 14th in order for both activities of type and antitype to be in total conformity to the law.

Would it not be preferable to use the Biblical definition of "from even to even" to define "between the evens" rather than using conflicting definitions of rabbinical traditions?

Response #17: 

There were in fact and without argument two Passover celebrations that year: the one Jesus ate with the disciples on the night before the crucifixion (Luke 22:7-15), and the one the religious establishment was anxious to eat the next night after His death on the cross for us (John 19:28).  This took place due to a difference in computing the ceremonial calendar. The process of assigning dates based on when Passover occurs (if there is any value to that at all) must ipso facto first decide which Passover to anchor to. My preference would be for the latter, because that was the Passover the world saw and the one on the threshold of which the Messiah died for the world; in other words, the second one would be the one wherein the symbolism is clearly fulfilled for all willing to receive it. If this has to do with the day of triumphal entry (when the world say Him enter), it would seem that the second Passover should be the anchor for your purposes.

As to your assessment of "between the evenings", that is not my read of what the term means at all. The term is commonly understood to refer to dusk (see the last e-mail) and that is a very important part of the symbolism since Jesus died spiritually during the supernatural darkness that occurred while He was on the cross.

In Him,

Bob L.

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